Jon spaces out as Theon's voice gets whingier and his face gets redder. He should probably appreciate Theon's efforts of convincing him to join their annual beach trip. After all, this is one of those rare occasions his friend shows him love in a different way than just mercilessly ripping on him. Maybe he's gone soft, or maybe he currently thinks him too fragile for his teasing. He's stopped listening a while ago, so when Robb kicks him under the table, he's surprised to see that Theon is done rambling.
"You're not going to convince Jon with promises of sun kissed skin and girls in skimpy bikinis. That's why you come on this trip," his brother jumps to his rescue, as always.
"Has he said yes yet," his sister in law yells from the kitchen.
"Help me out, Margey, I've tried everything. He's just too fucking stubborn."
"He—is standing right here," Jon finally snaps out from his daydream. "Listen, it's not you. I just don't see the appeal of travelling to the other end of Westeros so I can sweat under the scorching Dornish sun when I could sweat here instead-"
"It's not that bad," Robb interrupts with an eye roll.
"—add to that the sand that gets everywhere , the humidity, the sea water that will probably ruin my hair, and—I can hear you laughing, Margaery. I'm being serious," he pouts, only half-joking.
"All I'm saying is you've been brooding more than usual and it's time you moved on, my sweet," she comes back on the terrace, with four gin and tonic on a tray. She looks at him, a concerned look and a warm smile on her face. Only Margey calls him that, and he loves her even more for it. She knows he won't be able to refuse now.
Theon suddenly snaps his fingers. "I got it. Two words: summer dresses."
"What does have got to do with-"
"Summer. Dresses." Theon enunciates each word, as if that should trigger some sort of epiphany.
He sees the exact moment it hits both his brother and his wife. "Yes," they say in unison. "Ah I knew underneath that fuckboy shell there was a reason we kept you around," Margaery says to Theon just as he pulls up his phone and starts scrolling.
"I'm officially lost. Is that code for something?"
"No code, no tricks. Just summer dresses. You'll see what I mean when we get there. Just make sure to bring your good camera. And if you regret this trip, then I promise next year I'll come climb the Wall with you."
Theon hates climbing, and most of all, he hates the cold. So Jon relents as soon as his brother and sister in law give him an encouraging nod.
He is so going to regret this.
Ok, maybe he has spoken too soon , he thinks to himself as they check in the luxurious resort by the beach, just a short drive from Sunspear. Even the flight was not as bad as he'd expected. He admits, he had been too quick to judge a region he had never visited. In just a day he decides that the Dornish not only know how to face the heat—from the type of food to eat, to what to drink and what to wear in order to be able to face the scorching southern sun—but they also know how to party.
Dinner is being served on a beautiful terrace overlooking the sea. The waiter tells them that on some days, the Stepstones can be seen in the distance, and Jon believes him. They eat some of the best food he has ever had in his life and they have cocktails on the beach as the sun sets.
The view is to die for, so he takes out his camera and starts snapping pictures as conversation flows as freely as the fruity beverages. He does this a lot, and by now, all his friends and family are used to being Jon's models; after all, they all seem to agree he takes the best portraits. He immortalises the way the twilight frames Robb and Margaery as the perfect couple, the way his eyes shine as he observes her laughing at Theon's crude joke, how their hands find their way to each other on instinct, and they join them without looking. He wonders whether he ever looked as happy with Ygritte. It's a bitter pill, because he already knows the answer.
A lone figure by the sea shore draws his attention as his camera clicks yet again when Robb touches his lips to his wife's temple. Through his lens, Jon sees her, clad in a long gauzy white dress; the breeze has the same curiosity as Jon, for it whips the flimsy material, trying to hike it up her legs. She catches the hem, hoisting the dress up to her knees so her feet could be kissed by the waves without soaking the fabric, her other hand hanging onto her big white hat. The light from the last sun rays passes through the already translucent material, giving it an almost otherworldly hue; he can even make out the shape of her legs as she takes one careful step after the other. Jon snaps a few shots, although he knows the lens isn't quite doing it justice. He can't see her face, except for the odd flash of the widest smile he has ever had the pleasure of eternising in digital format.
Cheers erupt as Loras and Renly arrive with a bang, like they always do, but his heart stops when they reveal that they brought Gendry and Arya along. For the first time in forever he feels happy and carefree. They drink and laugh until the sun comes up.
He forgets about the girl by the sea until the next day, when he wakes up in his room, surprisingly without a hangover, despite the countless drinks he had. As he gets dressed, his eyes fall on his camera and he remembers her . He goes through all the pictures he took the previous night, zooming in as much as possible, admiring the effortless impromptu photo shoot. He doesn't admit it to himself at first, yet when he discovers a small dragon tattoo on her wrist, he feels overwhelmed by a strange sensation. It's hope mingled with excitement in an invigorating cocktail, that he's experiencing as if for the first time. He has been searching for something to help him identify her, although he can't quite put his finger on the reason why he felt such a need in the first place. Excited for the day, he runs out to meet his friends and family for breakfast.
Despite the numerous women in the garden currently having breakfast behind sun shades hiding the evidence from last night's excesses, none bear the special mark on the inside of their wrist. He doesn't despair, maybe she's just already had breakfast, so he patiently awaits, iced coffee in his hand, sunglasses on the bridge of his nose, his heart brimming with hope.
They explore the city that day, get lost on narrow streets through tiny white houses and lemon and orange trees bursting with ripe fruits. Time flows differently here, he finds, somehow the hours are much longer, but not in an exhausting manner, so by the end of the day he feels more alive and invigorated than ever. Surprisingly, he is enjoying himself much more than he'd ever admit to Theon.
Arya drags them to the highest point of the city, where a wine bar awaits those who wander this far into the non touristic areas. The view is breathtakingly beautiful, and Jon thinks that the long trek up hill is worth it just for the belvedere; the wine and appetizers are yet another delicious surprise. He wanders a bit away from the terrace, to what looks like a small garden hidden just underneath the wine bar.
Behind the bushes, a girl in an emerald green short dress is pacing the balcony overlooking the sea. Her hair is loose and he wonders whether he's ever seen a colour quite like this; the way it glistens in the sun reminds him of the shine of natural pearls and of the way the moonbeams sparkle off the surface of the sea on a calm night.
The wind makes the short dress cling further to her curves, filling him with the type of yearning he hasn't felt in a very long time. It overpowers him and his feet move of their own accord towards her, curious, seeking, wanting. Her phone rings—she immediately picks it up and starts arguing in something else than the common tongue. He slowly backs away, unnoticed. Her tone makes him uneasy, it bounces off the walls of his heart and lodges into his throat. He is but a stranger, who has already imposed enough with his presence, so he goes back to his table.
She doesn't come up from the secret garden—and Jon has waited and looked for her, hoping that maybe he'll get the chance to at least speak to this girl. Granted, the previous night he wasn't necessarily looking for a hookup—and he still isn't. But it would be nice to get to hang out with another single person, now that everyone but him is too engrossed in their special other—except Theon, because he only just met the girl he's now passionately kissing on the dance floor. Still, something unknown had pulled him towards the girl with the dragon tattoo, from the moment his lens first focused on her. That same something had tugged him towards the silver haired girl, the pull almost irresistible. This time he would have said something, if only she hadn't answered her phone.
Or maybe this is all in his mind and the Dornish sun has finally fried his last two brain cells. But he can't stop thinking about her—both of them, the white and the green dress, the sun kissed skin and the hint of curves waiting to be mapped out by his fingers and tasted by his tongue. That night, he falls asleep to the gentle song of the waves, dreaming of soft lips the colour of blood oranges.
The sun rises with promises of new beginnings. There's no rush, he contemplates as he lays bare on the white sheets, eyes trained on one palm tree leaf being tickled by the morning breeze. It occurs to him that there's a type of calm taking over his mind that he hasn't felt in years; there's no deadlines in Dorne, nowhere to be and nothing to do but enjoy oneself. The smell of freshly pressed oranges is enough to get him out of the bed and out to the breakfast area.
He convinces the rest of the group to go on a couple's spa day, despite Arya still not being completely pleased with his decision, after one too many reassurances that he's fine and that he won't go back to being broody if left alone for a few hours. He’s relaxed, he has unlimited access to fruity drinks and if boredom should find him, he has a fully charged camera and an empty memory card. Not even the sand could annoy him on such a wonderful day.
It seems to be enough, for he is allowed to have this one day all by his lonesome. “Told you,” Theon says just as he takes his board to go surfing with Ros, the girl from the wine bar. If it were any other day and any other place, Jon would probably wipe that smug smile off his stupid face. But not even Theon could spoil his mood. So Jon picks up his camera and the book he had started reading on the plane and heads to spend the day at the beach.
Maybe in Dorne wishes come true, for the moment his toes sink into the fine white sand, his heart lurches forward, ready to burst out of his chest at the sight: the girl with the silver hair is by the sea shore, clad in a flowy blue dress, the material whipping around her body in a steady rhythm. At last he hopes it’s her—the only way he can surely find out is by getting closer... But not before snapping one picture of the moment. If someone were to ask him to describe summer in Dorne, he’d just show them this photograph.
He’s by her side in a few moments, his camera in hand, just as a small contingency plan, one last weapon to defend his heart against a summer crush. It is her , he realises; just as she turns to look at him. Something about her smile leaves him speechless and her eyes—Gods, her eyes—they pull him in and he falls into the bright blue ocean, but there’s no sinking, no drowning, no fear; there’s only the sound of the waves kissing the shore and his heart beating faster than he’s ever experienced.
“Find anything worth a good photograph,” she asks, briefly glancing at the camera in his hand.
There’s no witty comment he can think of, his mind full of her and only her—her eyes, her smile, her lips, her hair, her dress. “Maybe,” he says.
She keeps the conversation flowing, and for that he is grateful, sentences suddenly too difficult for him to form. It’s not as if they’re having a philosophical discussion; it’s probably what everyone else talks about the first time—right?
Are you a tourist, visiting for business or for pleasure, are you with your family or by yourself;
Ohh—you’re single; me too.
How it’s a bit boring in a resort when you have no one to share with all the couple’s activities;
Yes, but at least the view it’s worth it.
She pulls him by the hand, with smiles and promises of the best view in Sunspear. He wants to say he is already looking at it. They spend the day exploring the port—him taking pictures, her—his model. He finds it very easy opening up to her, shortly he is talking about his brothers and sisters and his plans for the future. He doesn’t know her name yet, nor does she his, but somehow he doesn't need to. She takes him to a small motorboat and then pulls him on board. It’s just the two of them, and like a fool, he trusts her; soon enough she starts the motor and they’re moving away from the shore.
“I promised the best view, didn’t I,” she announces as they come to a stop in a small gulf, a wild empty beach just for the two of them.
She lets him take all the pictures he wants—of her mostly—and when they’re done she takes off her dress, revealing a black bikini and sun kissed skin, and jumps in the crystal clear water. He’d never thought he’d do that, yet he puts away his camera, takes off his shirt and jumps after her. She’s playful and magical, and Jon feels like a kid again—blithe and safe.
He doesn’t know how much time it has passed, but by the way the light is steadily decreasing, it should feel like more than just a few minutes. She climbs back in first, offering her hand to help him up. There, on the inside of her wrist, where before a silk scarf matching her dress wrapped around it, the dragon tattoo shines under the salty water on her skin. Their eyes lock and the only thing that crosses his mind then is that he has never gazed into someone’s eyes for this long in his life. The hairs on the back of his neck stand as their hands finally touch. Maybe this is more than a summer crush, he finally admits.
She takes him back, clouds ominously chasing them back to the resort. But she has stolen the sun and locked it inside her heart, for when she looks at him, warmth seeps into his entire body, leaving him parched for her love.
They almost make it to the hotel when the rain starts. The short walk from the pool to his room is enough to soak them so their clothes cling uncomfortably to their bodies. He doesn’t think, just pulls her inside, laughing like two naughty children. But when the door locks behind her, the air becomes heavy, her pupils take over the blue in her eyes, her lips part and all he wants to do is taste her. So he does—no more thinking, just doing what feels good and right, and she meets him halfway, her hands lock behind his head, his go to her waist.
Gods—and how her body moulds itself to his, two uniquely cut puzzles pieces, meant to seamlessly join and make a whole. Her lips taste of fruity wine; her hair smells of the sea and her skin is as soft as the silk of her dress.
None of the cocktails he's had have gotten him as drunk as her body, her soul, her heart. They leave a trail of wet clothes until they stumble onto the bed. His heart may just explode just because she wants him as much as he wants her. There was urgency in their kisses before that, but now she stops and pulls back, panting, her eyes finding his in the dark. The light from the lamp posts outside his window illuminates half of her face, the rest of her—of them—bathed in darkness. There's no hesitation nor awkwardness, just something he'd thought impossible for himself to find. It somehow feels bigger than them, so he reaches up and claims her lips, just as passionately as before.
They moan in a hazy unison just as he finally enters her. Maybe it's the heat, or the thunderstorm raging outside, or maybe it's him moving inside her, slowly, deliberately, her hands resting on his chest, leaving indentations in the shape of her fingers into his muscles, their eyes locked again, unable and unwilling to turn away; time dissolves again around them, this moment—the only moment that counts.
Without hesitating, she joins their lips again, and he feels himself closer to the edge. His fingers press into her hips, leaving behind proof of their love—yes, love. It has to be love. His heart does a flip just as he grabs harder and turns her under his body.
On the next deep thrust, she falls over the edge, pulling him along, their hands somehow having found their way tangled together in between the sheets.
Afterwards, when his breathing turns to normal and his heart isn't threatening to push out of his chest, he holds her close. Outside, the rain has stopped. He kisses her until his lids grow too heavy and his body finally gives in to the exhaustion.
Jon jolts awake in the empty hotel room. Confused, he looks for something—anything to prove the reality of the events from yesterday. Just as he’s about to brood and reconsider the intensity of his own feelings, to wonder whether it was more dream than memory, he sees his bag. Inside, carefully wrapped around the belt of his camera, the silk scarf she had in around her wrist, and underneath it, a small piece of paper:
Find me if you can.
—Your favourite summer dress model XO
Although he has no idea how nor where to find her, he trusts the magic residing in Dorne. So far, it hasn't failed him. Even so, he has no time to think more on the issue, Arya bursting into his room, grilling him for having disappeared all day. Maybe it’s the stupid smile he knows he has plastered on his face that stops his sister in the middle of her interrogatory. Or maybe she sees the scarf; either way, she tells him to get dressed because they’re going on a day trip to visit the Water Gardens.
The palace is impressive, with its pale pink marble, its beautiful fountains and its blood oranges hanging from the numerous trees planted all around it. The tour guide starts the incredible story of the Martell family and as they go from room to room, Jon finds himself transported to another time, of princes and princesses, of dragons and wolves. He doesn’t notice her until her slender arms circle his waist, a light kiss placed in between his shoulder blades.
“Found you first,” she says, her voice muffled by his cotton shirt. He feels the words reverberate through him, straight to his once broken heart.
Jon pulls her so she’s standing in front of him, the group moving forward to another room, while they remain next to a big fountain with a red viper carved into the central piece. Her yellow summer dress makes her look younger, happier, summer incarnate.
“Jon,” he simple says, her hands in his.
“Dany,” she replies, her eyes boring into his.