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all i want for christmas is you

Chapter Text

moodboard 2

 

 

"Okay everyone, you have your five dragons, so you are free to purchase anything you would like from anywhere in the market! Remember, we are also using our mathematical skills and see how many things you can purchase for five dragons and count your change! Remember, everything is under five, so you can get one thing or multiple!"

The teacher was shouting over the heads of the group of thirty or so primary schoolers, trying to keep track and ensure none wandered off beyond the little holiday market. They had all walked over from the school, would buy whatever their gifts were, and then they would go have hot chocolate or cider with cookies, make holiday cards, and then go see a pageant talking about the Long Winter from a very long time ago.

Lyanna did not think these things were all that fun. She liked not being in school, especially since her dumb cousin was with her and Eddy was notorious for trying to rip her braids out or play tricks on her since he was the oldest. She had complained of this argument once to her father, who simply said Eddy was older than her by only two months so it wasn't much of an argument. "Besides, his father is only older than me by like six months, so it doesn't matter." Or at least, that's what he told her.

She clutched her five dragon bill in her hand, wandering from booth to booth, taking in all the various objects. Some of her classmates had zeroed in on the flashy objects for themselves, forgetting this was supposed to be for their parents or siblings or other family members. She was not sure what she should get for anyone. Her family was so big, there were way too many people for just five dragons.

Eddy had already used up his money, wandering over holding a bag with five friggie magnets in the shape of wolves. "I'm done," he announced. He showed her. "See? One for Mama and Dad, Grandma Cat, Auntie Arya, Uncle Bran, and Auntie Sansa."

Her nose wrinkled, irritated. "You forgot my daddy!"

"He's not my real uncle, Grandma Cat said so yesterday."

"Take it back, he is too!"

Her cousin held firm, shaking his auburn head. "Nuh-uh, that's not what Grandma Cat said. She says that he's a bastard and you have no momma, so you don't get presents."

Her teeth grit and she felt the familiar boil of anger when she heard things said like that to her. They always made fun of her because she only had a Daddy and not a Mama. Grandma Cat was also a mean bitch, that was what Auntie Arya said, so of course she would be mean and say those things, but she was so angry that Eddy would say them back! Eddy never made fun of her for not having a mama!

Hot tears gathered in the corners of her gray eyes and she growled, like her direwolf, and jumped at Eddy, knocking him backwards into one of the holiday tree decorations. "You take it back!"

"No, it's true!" He shook his hands at her. "Get off me!"

"Lyanna Snow!" the teacher yelped. She pulled her off, hauling her clear from the ground. "My gods, what has gotten into you! Stop that this instant!"

She swung her fists out; Auntie Arya always told her to punch first and ask questions later. Even though Daddy said to use her words...until she had to punch them. So, she used her words, she shouted at Eddy and now it was time to punch. "He said I don't have a Momma and I don't get presents," she cried. She tried not to cry; crying was for babies.

It just hurt. They all said things like that sometimes. Except she didn't like it, not now of all places. She marched off with the teacher, who sat her on a bench by the front door, ordering her to stay there until they were done and then she could buy her presents. "And you will apologize to Eddy. I know he is your cousin, but it is wrong to fight. I will have to call your father too."

Go ahead, she glowered, shooting the teacher a dark stormy glare. She kicked her feet on the bench, ignoring Eddy's gloating. Other kids gave her strange looks. They all were weird to her. They were mostly stupid, and they didn't understand how she lived her life. They thought she was weird. She had bright red hair-- kissed by fire-- like her mother. Her eyes were gray like her dad. They said she was a carrot-head. They made fun of her freckles. They laughed at her because she couldn't wear her hair in the braids like the other girls did-- Daddy tried but he was terrible at braiding hair.

Most of the time she just wanted to stay at home with her wolf. He was technically Daddy's wolf, but Ghost was a part of their family, he was like her brother and he protected her. Like Grey Wind was for Eddy. Stupid Eddy. She kicked her boot heel on the ground again. All the other kids lived in Winter Town and Eddy lived up at the big house at Winterfell Castle. Her family were the Starks and they were very rich and very famous. She wasn't rich or famous. Daddy lived far out, close to the edge of the castle and he said they were mostly closer to the free folk that way.

"Your mother was one of them, so you are also one of them," he told her all the time. "And they adopted me like one too."

She sniffed, wiping at her nose, which was running after she'd blinked back her tears. Crying was for babies and she was not a baby. She was a wildling, a free folk, and she could shoot an arrow and snowshoe in the forest and she even could ride on a direwolf. When Daddy wasn't looking of course.

There was nothing in this dumb holiday shop he would want anyway. She didn't know why she even asked him for the five dragons for the day's trip, but he gave it to her that morning, after he found the slip of paper in her backpack that said they were going there. He'd seemed a little sad but hadn't said anything when she simply told him she forgot. She hadn't forgot. She just didn't want him to know. It was always them. Just them. All the other kids would buy stuff for all their family. She just had Daddy. And Auntie Arya and the rest, but maybe not even now, not after what Eddy said.

What could Daddy even want for the holidays?

It was a celebration of some battle that happened so long ago she did not even know when or what year. Some stupid story. They gave each other presents under a tree. A fat man would come and put them, he rode a sled with reindeer and if you were good you got presents. If you were bad, he would put coal. She was good this year and she was always good, so she always got presents, but not as many as all the others in her family. Not as many as Eddy. Then again, Uncle Robb was rich.

She sighed hard. She needed to get Daddy something good. Something really special. Nothing that was five dragons. Maybe Santa-- he was the one that brought the presents-- could bring her Daddy something else. Something really special. Something that no one else could get him. Not even her.

"Are you alright?"

The soft voice of a woman beside her had her lifting her head. She smiled politely. You were always supposed to eb nice to strangers even if you weren't supposed to talk to them. "I'm okay. I'm in trouble."

The woman who asked her if she was okay was very pretty. Lyanna admired her braids; there was no way Daddy could do that sort of braiding, it was so complicated and long. Also, her hair was silver! It resembled the color of the moon after it first snowed. She blinked at it, almost wanting to touch, but that would be rude. She looked at the lady again, jumping slightly in her seat-- her eyes were purple!

"Oh wow, your eyes are really pretty," she blurted out.

The woman blinked, surprised. "Oh, well thank you. I do love your hair. It looks like fire."

"I'm kissed by fire."

"What a lovely thing to say. You know my favorite animal are dragons, I even have a few."

"Dragons!" Lyanna yelped. That couldn't be, all the dragons had died! She frowned, her little brows wrinkling, wondering what the trick was. "Oh?"

The woman grinned and pulled the sleeve of her shirt up, showing the three dragons she had tattooed on her wrist. They were so cool! "Yes, sort of." She sat beside her on the bench. "Here sweetling." She handed her a tissue she removed from her bag. "For your nose."

She felt instant relief when she wiped at her nose with the tissue, sighing and wrinkling it up in her hand and graciously accepting another. "Thank you."

"Can I ask what you did to get on the bench?"

"I pushed my cousin. He said stupid things."

"Oh, well maybe he deserved it but pushing is never right." The lady smiled again. Her smile was also very pretty. Her whole face kind of lit up like the twinkle lights all through the store. "But maybe he was sorry he said them."

"He said I have no momma, so I don't get presents."

The lady immediately wrapped her arm over her shoulders. It probably wasn't right, because she was a stranger, but Lyanna felt very glad to have her there. She looked up at the lady, whose bright purple eyes had turned softer, her smooth forehead furrowed. "Well," she whispered, leaning in so it was just the two of them in the conversation. Like they were the only two in the world. "My mother died when I was very young. I got presents when I was little. So, I think you will be fine."

"Did your daddy get you presents?" She thought of her daddy. He would get her some, but the rest all came from Santa. "Because mine does. He can't braid hair. Did yours braid your hair?"

The lady touched her hair. "Oh no, I did this, but no my daddy died too." She smiled wider, no longer looking sad. "My brother was like my daddy. He got me presents and he braided my hair. It sounds like your daddy is trying. That's a good thing."

"Oh good." She looked at the bag at the lady's feet. Inside she had some cookies and a few of the dragon ornaments that were all over one of the trees. "Do you like cookies?"

"Oh yes, I actually made these."

"Can I have one?" The lady seemed surprised, but nodded, reaching into the bag and removing the container. She offered her them. They were also shaped like dragons! Lyanna giggled. "Dragons are your favorite!"

"Yes, they are," she chuckled. She tapped the wolf necklace that Lyanna wore. "And you like wolves."

"I have one."

"And what is your other charm there?"

Lyanna tugged on the wolf charm and showed her the other one, proud of it. "It's a bow, like bow and arrow, my mother was an archer, she was very good." She sighed, looking down at her feet. "But she died when I was little. I don't know her."

"Yeah, I get that." The lady lightly touched her hair, smiling softly again. "But it seems like your dad is doing a good job. You're happy and healthy and even if he can't braid hair, he must love you."

"I guess. I think he's sad." She blurted it out, unsure why she thought that. Maybe it was because Auntie Arya said so a lot of time. That he was sad. He needed to smile more. Get a girl, she told him the other day. Uncle Tormund said that too. Always told him that he had to get a wife. It would make him happy. Even if for like an hour. Whatever that was supposed to mean, how could you get a wife for an hour? She shook her head. "But he sometimes always is sad anyway. He is a vet...vet...veternarian. He likes to help animals and people."

"Sounds like he's a good guy as well as a good dad." The lady handed her another cookie. "Here, for the rest of your time out. I have to go, unfortunately, but it was very nice to meet you."

"My name is Lyanna." She wanted to keep talking to this lady with the silver hair, purple eyes, and the dragons on her wrist. Who made really good chocolate-chip cookies in the shape of dragons. She frowned. "Where are you going?"

The lady shrugged her bag over her shoulder. "I'm actually on my way down to Kingsland, the capital. I live in Essos but was visiting for a bit. The North is so pretty this time of year."

"What do you do there?" Essos was very far away.

"I help people," the woman said. That could mean a lot of things., Lyanna thought, frowning. The woman chuckled. "I hope you have a better day Lyanna and try not to hit anymore people. Even annoying cousins."

She giggled. "Okay fine." She waved, watching the pretty lady walk away. She was wearing all black. That was her Daddy's favorite color. She waited a minute and looked down at the dragon bill still in her hand. She stuffed it into her pocket and bounced in place. She knew exactly what she was going to get her Daddy that year. Or actually, what Santa was going to get.

A new wife!

 

**********

 

"Lyanna."

Daddy hadn't said anything to her the entire drive home from school. He looked really tired; she wasn't sure why; he went to sleep after she did. Or so she thought. He was always awake before her. Either way, he was the bestest Daddy ever. He didn’t pick her up from school like some Daddies did, because he had to work. He always made her dinner though and he would tuck her into bed and read her a story and when she had bad dreams she could go crawl in his bed and he would hold her if she cried. Then he would take her back to her room and check under her bed and in her closet and make sure all the monsters were gone.

He sometimes got angry when she did something bad, but he never yelled. He only yelled at Uncle Tormund. Uncle Tormund lived with them and helped her. He knew her mother, they used to be in the same job. Sometimes she thought Uncle Tormund was really her uncle, because he was also kissed by fire. Except his hair was much brighter red and he had a big bushy beard too. He swore a lot and when he did, that’s when Daddy would yell at him.

She heard the sound in Daddy’s voice. He wasn’t mad at her, but he seemed sad. He’s always sad. She looked up at him, standing in the mudroom behind the kitchen. He took her coat from her and hung it up on the hook, passing her back her backpack. She had to write a few sentences about how it was not nice to hit people. “Eddy was saying bad things,” she mumbled.

“Eddy doesn’t understand. That’s not a reason to hit him.”

“But Auntie Arya…”

“No, you do not use what she said as an excuse, it still isn’t right,” he said, firm. He opened the door to let her into the kitchen. Ghost, Daddy’s big direwolf who was also her direwolf too, pushed against her, quiet as always, and she wrinkled her fingers into his neck, walking with him to the living room. It was a big living room with a huge fireplace and their holiday tree was in the corner, with all her handmade ornaments.

She dropped her backpack by the couch and kept walking. She didn’t want to be there. She rushed to her room, skipping steps including the top one that squeaked the loudest in the old house. Her room was the biggest and it had slanted ceilings which Daddy had painted to look like the nighttime sky. Uncle Bran was an artist and he had painted one wall with forests and wolves howling and snow falling all the time. She jumped into her big bed, with its blue canopy and buried her face into one of her pillows, tears flooding her vision again.

Ghost followed, jumping onto the bed with her. She sniffed, crying into his big neck. He licked her face, cleaning off her tears. “You’re the only one who gets it Ghost,” she mumbled to him. Ghost didn’t have a mother either. His mother also died when he was a little pup.

Daddy knocked on her door. She sniffed some more, wiping at her eyes with her pillowcase. He came inside anyway, holding something in his hand. He sat on the edge of her bed and reached over for her with his free hand. She crawled into his lap, hugging him. He kissed her cheek, whispering. “I know you were upset. I’ll talk to Uncle Robb about Eddy, but Eddy doesn’t understand. He has a mother and a father. He didn’t mean what he said, I’m sure of it.”

She hiccupped. “Did Uncle Robb say mean things to you too? When you were small?”

Daddy chuckled. “Your Uncle Robb was pretty mean to me too when we were little, but not on purpose. Just like Eddy. Once he understood, he was not mean anymore.” He paused, reaching to stroke lightly at one of her red curls. “You don’t usually get upset about your mother. Was it because it was the holidays?”

She nodded quickly. “Everyone got stuff and I didn’t know what to get you…and Eddy said I didn’t get presents. Because I didn’t have a mother.”

“You do have a mother,” Daddy said. He was firm again. That way he always was when he meant something very important. He folded his fingers together and pressed his fist against her heart, his eyes widening. He had the same gray eyes as her. “Your mother is right there. Always. That’s where she is. She’s with you everywhere you go. Do you understand?”

Not really. She thought about Uncle Robb and Aunt Talisa. They always hugged and kissed and then there was Auntie Arya and Uncle Gendry. She frowned a little. “Did you love Momma?” she whispered. It was weird to call her that. She never got to tell her that word in real life. It seemed like her mother was always someone who was there, but not really.

He smiled, that sad little smile he got sometimes. He turned over what was in his hand. It was a small framed picture. She leaned over to look at it closer, smiling and taking it when he offered it to her. “I did love her,” he said. He pointed to the picture. “This was not long after we first met. She took me to the Wall and made me climb it with her. We got to the top and Uncle Tormund took our picture.”

Her mother had bright red hair and a big smile, but she didn’t have her eyes. Her mother had bright green eyes. She was laughing in the picture. “Do you miss her?” she asked, wondering if maybe that was why he didn’t have a new wife. Or get her a new mother.

Daddy thought for a minute and nodded. “Yeah, I miss her because I wish she was here for you.” He seemed liked there was more to say, but he didn’t. He stroked her hair, twirling one of her curls. “I always have a piece of her though Lyanna. Because of you.”

She didn’t say anything else about her mother. Uncle Tormund was talking once and she overheard; she liked to listen in on what the adults said because they always said a lot more when kids weren’t around, even though she knew it was rude to eavesdrop. Uncle Tormund said once that her daddy and her mommy weren’t going to stay married for very long and that was why daddy was always so sad. You both were from two different worlds Crow; it was never supposed to last. Daddy hadn’t liked that. Told Tormund to shut it and never speak of it again.

She looked at the picture of her mother again. Other than her hair and her freckles, she really didn’t look a lot like her. Uncle Robb said that she looked like her grandmother, Lyanna Stark. It was why Daddy named her that. Because that was his mother’s name and he never knew her. She crawled over to her bedside table and set the picture, next to the one that Auntie Arya put there of the two of them with Ghost and Ghost’s sister Nymeria. “I can keep this,” she stated.

“Of course. I was meaning to give it to you when you were a bit older, but I think you need it now,” Daddy explained. He reached for her again and she crawled back into his arms, hugging tight around his neck. He squeezed her close, whispering into her ear. “I love you Lyanna. More than anything.”

“More than the moon,” she said.

“And more than the sun.”

“And more than all the stars,” they said at the same time. He tweaked her nose and she giggled. He ran his hand back over her hair, serious again, even if he was still smiling. “You better get back downstairs and write out why hitting people is wrong. Okay?”

She nodded, reluctantly climbing off her bed. “Fine.” They walked down the stairs, him following after her. She thought of the five dragons still in the pocket of her coat. “Daddy?”

“Yes?” He set her backpack on the kitchen table, removing her folder and pencil pouch.

“What do you want for the holidays? I didn’t get you anything at the store.” And she missed out on the rest of the fun stuff like the cookies and cider. Although…her eyes widened when he removed the cookie the nice lady gave her in the store, still in a napkin. She grabbed for it, before he could ask what it was. “My dragon cookie!”

“Dragon cookie?”

“Yeah. I got it at the store.” She bit into it, smiling as the chocolate chips melted on her tongue. It was really good. That lady is good at making cookies. She looked up at him again. “So, what do you want?”

“I just want you Lyanna. You don’t have to get me anything else. You’re all I want in the world.” He came around the big wooden table, wrapping his arm over her shoulders, squeezing lightly. A kiss dropped to her forehead. “Nothing else in the world can compare to you. So, you’re all I want and you’re the best present ever. Now.” He set the paper and pencil in front of her, ruffling her hair. “Write down why you shouldn’t hit people and I’ll look at it when you’re done.” He walked across the big kitchen to the sink, starting to put away and wash up their dishes from that morning. “Get started!”

I think he’s lying. There was no way that Daddy didn’t want something else in the world. She smiled and picked up her pencil, starting to write, but even as she wrote out her assignment, she kept thinking of what else. She kept thinking of what she would write when she asked Santa for the wife. Because Daddy clearly needed one. Especially when he started muttering about how Tormund made the biggest messes and he always had to clean them up. The wife could help with that!

Lyanna hummed to herself, scribbling out excuses she didn’t believe in about not hitting people, but she could only think of the pretty lady in the store. The pretty lady that made her think that Daddy needed a wife. He’d be so happy with her.

“What’s got you smiling like that?”

“Nothing,” she chirped. “Nothing at all Daddy!”

 

 

**********

 

That night Lyanna finished with her assignment, ate her dinner with Daddy and Tormund, and pretended she didn’t want to hang out with them—she liked to sit and listen to them talk about stuff while she drew pictures or read or played with Ghost—instead she rushed to her room and grabbed all her markers, pencils, and other supplies. She sat at her desk, swept the other art projects in progress to the side and pulled a piece of white paper to her instead.

She tapped her marker on her lips, thinking of what to write. She addressed her letter to Santa and then began to think. Well, the new wife had to have hair like snow. She began to write, muttering to herself. “And eyes like jewels,” she said. She switched colors here and there, when it might make the word stand out more. She even drew a little ring next to the word ‘jewels.’ Her spelling might be wrong, but Santa should know what she meant.

“And she has to like animals and help people,” she continued. This was obvious, because Daddy was a doctor for pets and he always helped people when he could. It was also a sign that someone was nice. That was what Auntie Sansa told her once. If you helped people you were nice. “And she has to like the color black.” That was Daddy’s favorite color. She frowned. “And red.”

Red was a given of course, because Lyanna had red hair. So, if you did not like red then you must not like her hair color, duh. She swung her feet back and forth, excited as her letter took shape. “And someone who is short because Daddy is short too,” she said. She thought of the lady in the store. That lady was really short. Like an elf! She grinned. “And has a good heart.”

That was something she heard Daddy say once. Arya was making fun of him for not going on something called dates. He’d said that he would only go out with someone with a good heart..

Obviously, the wife needed to like and want kids, because she was a kid and she wanted to have a brother or a sister one day. The wife had to like cookies. Lyanna pondered for another moment. “She has to smell nice,” she decided. What smelled nice? She liked the smell of lemons and flowers and the stuff you smelled at springtime.

Like sunshine

“Sunshine! Smell like sunshine and…” Her heart fell a little in her chest. She looked at the picture of her mother, the one that Daddy left for her. It was sad that she didn’t have a mother. Eddy didn’t get it, Daddy said. Eddy wouldn’t understand what it was like. No one really did. Daddy did, because he didn’t have a mom or even a dad. Tormund didn’t have a mom or dad either. There was also the lady in the store. She was so nice. She didn’t have a mother she said.

That settled it then. Santa had to bring a mother who didn’t know what it was like either. She had to know what it was like to not have a family. “Because we can be her family,” she whispered, almost done. She also liked wolves and dragons and stuff. So, the wife should be able to ride a dragon, because dragons were cool. Daddy said that a long time ago the dragonriders were the fiercest and the bravest of all the people in the world. The wife needed to be like that.

Once she was done, she wrote her name, carefully in big block letters. She took a deep breath and nodded, replacing her markers in the box. “This is perfect,” she announced. She folded the letter and placed it into an envelope she made out of construction paper and taped together. She wrote ‘SANTA’ on it in big letters and carried it downstairs. She intended to put it in her backpack and when she walked by a mailbox tomorrow near school, she would put it in the box.

Although…she nibbled her lower lip. There was only two more weeks until the Feast of Seven holidays and that was when Santa brought the toys, that night and then the next morning everyone opened them. “I need to go now.” She walked down the hall and into the living room, where Tormund was watching TV.

He yelled at something on the screen, muttering about stupid referees and saying mean things about their mother. She probably shouldn’t have heard it or should repeat it. Lyanna climbed up beside him. “Can you take me to the mailbox?” she asked.

“What for Little Crow?”

Tormund always called her Little Crow even though she looked nothing like a crow. He said it was because her father was Crow. Used to be King Crow then became Dr. Crow. Sometimes Lord Crow. She really didn’t get it. She supposed it had to do with when her daddy used to be in the army or something and yes, his big uniform was all black and he looked kind of like a crow, but she always figured he was more like a wolf. Tormund was strange.

She poked him in the rib, bringing his attention back to her and from the TV. “I need to send this.” She held up the envelope.

“To who?”

“Santa, duh.”

“Oh, well I know him.” He took the letter from her and got up from the couch, walking to his big coat hanging on the hooks with the rest of them. He placed it in the pocket and patted it, before he swung her up under her arms and smacked a kiss to her cheeks. She giggled; his beard was much scratchier than her Daddy’s. “I’ll take it to him tomorrow, don’t you worry. Now, ain’t it your bedtime? Where’s your Crow father?”

Daddy emerged from his study. He was wearing his glasses and had a bunch of thin books under his arms. She knew he read from them to learn all about the new ways of fixing dogs and cats. “Right here.”

“Watchoo’ reading Daddy?” she asked.

“New medicines for treating viruses in dogs, pretty boring stuff.” He glanced at his phone, wincing. “Ah…I’ve got to go. The wolf at the sanctuary is in labor.” He grinned down at her. “Means she’s going to have pups! I have to go help and make sure they’re okay. You going to be alright if Tormund tucks you in tonight?”

She nodded, beaming up at her Daddy. He took her from Tormund and kissed her cheek. She looped her arms around his neck. “Yes Daddy, go help the wolf. Can I have one of the pups?”

“You already have a wolf.”

“Yes, but Ghost is so big.”

Ghost stuck his head under his paw, lying in the middle of the hallway, waiting on her. He always knew when it was her bedtime. Daddy chuckled and kissed her again. “Not right now, but maybe one day. We’ll get a real dog, not a wolf. Now, go on, I’ll check on you when I get back, okay?”

“Okay, love you to the moon.”

“And the sun and all the stars,” he finished, grabbing his coat and car keys. He blew her a kiss. “Love you Lyanna.”

Lyanna waited until she watched his Jeep rumble down the snowy drive before she rocketed off up the stairs and to her room, hurriedly changing into her pajamas and brushing her teeth. Tormund never had to remind her. She always looked at his teeth and she never complained about brushing hers. Eddy always complained. Then again, Eddy was stupid.

She jumped into her bed, Ghost coming to join her. Tormund read her a couple stories and turned out the light. There was just one little light she kept on; she was not afraid of the dark, she just didn’t like when it was so hard to see. It was rotating images on her ceiling of wolves and bears and moose. She liked it.

One of the windows came right to the side of her bed and she peered out, bundled up in her blankets and Ghost at her side. The moon was full, glowing on all the treetops and snow around their house. They lived so far away sometimes she could see stars that no one else in town could see. The top of the old castle peeked over the pine trees and she smiled wide up at the moon. “I wish for this year to get a new mom,” she whispered, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath. “And a wife for Daddy. So, he can be happy.”

Ghost nuzzled into her side, leaning against her, heavy and warm. Her eyes fluttered shut, lulled to sleep by the hum of the rotating nightlight and the breathing of the wolf beside her. That night her dreams were filled with a woman with silver hair and purple eyes, who smiled and laughed and smelled like sunshine.

 

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Chapter Text

moodboard 2

 

“Sorry Trigger, but your parents don’t really want you running around knocking up the whole neighborhood again,” Jon muttered behind his surgical mask, patting the head of the big lanky mutt who was responsible for about fifteen puppies he’d had to help find homes for. His owners finally decided that the horny mutt needed to be fixed, although Jon had been on them for years that they had to do the right thing and get poor Trigger fixed.

The dog groaned as he came out of the anesthesia, whimpering. He winced, stroking his head lightly as his vet tech wheeled him from the surgery room. He pulled off his mask, tossing it and his gloves into the biohazard container, leaving one of the other techs to clean up the operating room. He had two more fixes he had to do that day, one on a cat and the other on another dog.

He yawned, hiding it behind his hand as he leaned on the door frame of the main reception area, where one of his techs, a young guy named Olly, was flicking through the computer, bored. “I thought I had an eleven?” he asked, crossing his arms. He frowned. “Or is checking for video game cheats more important?”

Olly snorted. “I don’t cheat on video games.”

“Hmm, sure you don’t.” He glanced at the empty waiting area. “No seriously, didn’t I have Mrs. Everett?”

“Canceled. Looks like you have a bit of a break, boss.”

He was about ready to open his mouth to tell him not to jinx it, when the door burst open, a tiny woman with a mass of hair around her face rushed in, holding a cat carrier in her arms. She kicked the door shut with a heavy boot heel, hurrying towards the counter. He blinked, taken aback by the sudden blur of her, unsure if he was seeing her correctly. Was he just tired or was her hair…silver?

She dropped the carrier on the counter. “Hi, so sorry to barge in like this, but my cat’s been coughing a lot lately and now I don’t think he’s breathing very well, I’m freaked out, any chance I can…” she trailed off, peering at him, her wide eyes blinking. She pushed the carrier towards him. “Dr. Snow, right? The lady at the inn said you were the best vet in town.”

He flashed a quick smile, before it faltered. Her eyes were purple. Who was this woman? He reached for the carrier, peering into it and seeing a giant black and reddish-brown cat, with large yellow eyes, yowling angrily in between little coughs. “That’s me, come on back, Olly let her in.”

“Um, sure, come on back.”

He strode down the hall to one of the trauma rooms, setting the carrier on the exam table. The woman ran in after him, throwing her bag, coat, and unraveling a long crimson scarf from around her neck. It seemed she really was as tiny as she appeared, the high chunky heels of her boots adding a couple images. She fretted around the carrier, cooing to the terrified cat, who was now hissing. “It’s okay Drogon, Mama’s here, there’s my little dragon, come on out.”

“His name is Drogon?” he asked, reaching into the carrier.

“Ah, yes but he really doesn’t like…” she trailed off, her voice faltering when the cat stopped screaming long enough for him to pull him gently from the carrier, holding him loosely in his arms. She laughed, a soft, pretty sound. Sounded like music. he shook his head slightly, feeling like an idiot. What had gotten into him? She was just a patient, he’d seen her all of two minutes and he was mooning like a lovesick puppy! She pointed, surprised. “He doesn’t like people. Especially vets. I was worried you’d have to tranquilize him or something.”

He smiled, lightly feeling along Drogon’s stomach, keeping him standing in place on the table. “He’s alright. Cool cat, is he a Maine Coon?”

“Um, maybe. I found him on the streets of Pentos.”

“You’re from Essos?”

“Passing through,” she said, not elaborating. She beamed that pretty smile, her violet eyes shining. Like jewels. “I’m Daenerys. Dany for short.”

“Jon,” he said, awkwardly reaching over her cat to shake her hand.

“I know, it’s on the sign out front.”

“Oh yes…”

“I suppose you could also have been Dr. Tarly.”

“Ah, Sam’s the human doctor,” he chuckled, nodding and lifting his gaze up to the ceiling. “We share the building. People drop their pets off with me and go see him.”

“Nice little system,” she grinned. She shifted on her feet, looking at her cat, clearly concerned. He understood that more than anyone. People took pets into their lives, they were family. It was clear this cat was very important to her. She reached and lightly touched his fluffy ear. “Is he okay? I couldn’t stand it if he was sick. He’s like my child.”

As he’d been talking, he’d felt along Drogon’s abdomen, which appeared fine. He placed him back in her arms and stepped over towards the counter, picking up his laryngoscope with one hand while he grabbed a tongue depressor. “Hold him tight, I’m going to check his throat.”

She cooed to the cat in an unfamiliar language. He tried to focus, leaning over her slightly as he checked Drogon’s mouth, the feline oddly calm when he carefully pried open his jaws. He was surprised; most cats barely let him get close without hissing and scratching, just to pick them up. This one was letting him practically stick his finger down his throat. He frowned, clicking off the scope. “Nothing in his throat. I’ll give you some medicine for him, it may be he has a hairball stuck. We’ll try that and bring him back in if it gets worse. I don’t want to sedate him unless we need to.”

The relief sagged on her shoulders. “Oh, thank gods. I was so worried.”

“Don’t worry, I think your dragon will be fine,” he said, smiling at her again. He mentally smacked himself. He was acting like a lunatic, he never smiled this much. He fumbled in the cabinet, removing a few samples of the medication, passing them to her. He dropped his hand back to Drogon’s head, scratching between the big cat’s ears. “You called him a dragon? I can’t say I’ve heard people refer to their cats as dragons.” Out of the corner of his eye he saw a tattoo of three dragons on her wrist. There was also dragons printed on her scarf.

I guess she likes them. The woman, Dany, smirked, still holding Drogon, swaying slightly in place. “Well I like dragons, kind of a family thing. It’s on our crest. Plus, you’ve never seen this guy pissed off at someone. It’s like he spits fire.” She nodded towards his scrub cap. “I guess you have a thing for wolves. There’s also one carved in the sign out front.”

He rolled his eyes upwards and realized he hadn’t removed the scrub cap from after the surgery. He reached and tugged it off, forgetting that he hadn’t tied his hair back, the dark curls springing loose. He scowled, flicking the tie off his wrist and taming them back while he spoke to her. “It’s a family thing,” he replied, teasing slightly.

“Touché,” she laughed. She set Drogon back on the table, the cat yowling and hurrying into the safety of his carrier. She kept stroking him, those pretty eyes lifting up to him. “I wasn’t planning on being in town very long, but I’ll stick around longer to make sure he’s okay.” She mumbled under her breath, locking the door in place. “Not that I have much of a choice.”

“Oh?”

She sighed, raking her fingers through that mass of silver hair. There were tiny braids scattered throughout, held back here and there with little shiny gold clips. It looks like the moon. Or snow. “Yeah I was driving through from White Harbor…my rental car broke down yesterday. Waiting on it to get fixed and then I’m heading back down south.” She scowled, crossing her arms over her chest. Almost accusingly. “And this tiny little town doesn’t even have a replacement rental!”

He shrugged, shoving his hands into the pockets of his scrubs. “Yeah well that’s Winter Town,” he said. He glanced at Drogon. “But I guess it’s good. You could get Drogon checked.” He lightly tapped on the carrier, clearing his throat. “Um…I noticed he has a couple bad teeth.” What the fuck are you doing Jon?

Dany nodded, sighing. “Yeah, like I said, he hates just about everyone. He almost took off his vet’s hand in Kingsland. I know he needs to get them cleaned.”

“Well…if you’re sticking around, I could fit him in for a cleaning.” He looked sheepish, unsure why he was even offering this. He barely knew this woman. “And I’ll give you a discount. Since it’s my idea and all.”

She suddenly brightened, her smile pulling up over her even, white teeth. “That sounds wonderful! I mean, you did manage to get much farther with him than just about everyone.” She made a face. “Even my ex.”

An ex? Oh? He ducked his head. There was no reason for him to even think of being interested in this woman. He had other things to think about. Women were never at the top of his priorities. They hadn’t been since the police called him and told him about Ygritte’s accident. From that moment forward it had been only about Lyanna. His daughter was the only thing he could think about. Supporting her, caring for her, and making sure she was as happy and adjusted as she could be. Women did not mix with single fatherhood.

He fiddled with the edge of the carrier, helping her lift it off the table. Their eyes met at the same time as their fingers brushed against each other on the side of the plastic box. He felt a slight shiver, immediately drawing his hand from hers. He shoved them back in his pockets. “I have a way. I like strange creatures,” he blurted out. He hesitated at her raised eyebrow. “Ah…not to say Drogon is a strange creature…I mean…” Gods, shut the fuck up Jon. He took his inner voice’s advice, snapping his jaw shut.

To his surprise, she was actually still smiling, walking ahead of him out of the exam room. She glanced over her shoulder, tossing back some of those ropy silver curls. “I saw the photos in your waiting room, you must like strange creatures, is that really your wolf?”

It had been Lyanna’s idea to put up all the pictures of Ghost. She took most of them, so they were a bit haphazard, definitely not the professional images that covered most doctor offices. He chuckled, tapping one as they walked by it on the way to the reception desk. “Yeah, that’s Ghost. He’s an albino, was the runt.”

She stopped in front of another photo, of all the Stark wolves piled together, tongues lolling out as they looked up at the camera. It was not a Lyanna Snow image, but one that Bran had managed to get last winter. She shook her head, pointing at it. “Are these all his siblings?”

“Yeah, um, each of my brothers and sisters has one too.” It was kind of hard to explain to people who knew them, least of all a complete stranger. He pointed out the wolves, naming each one in turn. “That’s Ghost, obviously. Grey Wind, Nymeria, Lady, Summer, and the wild one is Shaggydog.”

“Shaggydog?” she giggled.

He rolled his eyes. “Yeah, my youngest brother Rickon. I think he regrets it now that he’s in high school,” he laughed.

She set Drogon’s carrier down and reached for her phone, tugging it from her coat pocket. “So, before you think your family is crazy with all those wolves…” She trailed off and the smile on her lips pulled even wider, prouder. A happy mother showing off her children, he realized, when she turned to show him the picture she’d brought up. Drogon was standing in the center, flanked on either side by two cats. He was definitely the biggest, the alpha, and the one on the right was the smallest, a pretty mottled tortoise-shell colored cat and the other on his left a snowy white with tiny pale orange paws.

“Mother of dragons,” he said. He zoomed in on the white cat. “Huh, he has blue eyes. Is he deaf?”

Her mouth formed an ‘o’ of surprise. “Wow, how’d you know?”

“Most cats with blue eyes are deaf. Not always, but most of the time. That’s good you rescued him. Not many would take them on.” He pointed to the tortie. “I bet this one’s the worst.”

Dany took her phone back, clearly impressed. “You do know your animals. Rhaegal is a bit of a handful, he’s definitely the feistiest. Drogon puts him in his place most of the time. Viserion is deaf, but he’s the sweetest.” She shoved her phone into her pocket, following him with her pretty violet gaze as he walked around the counter and picked up the appointment book. She glanced at it. “So, when can we get my dragon his new fangs?”

He glanced at the appointment book, frowning. It seemed he was full up, everyone wanting to get their pets checked out before the holidays. Or because they had time off. He turned to the following week. “Unfortunately, I can’t get him in the next couple days. Monday, alright?”

“I’m sticking around anyway, so sure.” She took the little card he scribbled the date and time on, glancing it before she shot him a flirty smile. “Thank you, Dr. Snow. I guess I have your number now.”

Number? He felt his cheeks redden slightly, unsure what to say to her. “Um, yeah. I’ll…I’ll see you Daenerys.”

“Dany.”

He nodded. “Dany.”

They didn’t break eye contact for another moment, and he opened his mouth, unsure what he was going to say but wanting to say something else, his mind racing faster than his body could catch up, but Olly chose that moment to pass her the bill. She tore her attention from him, reaching into her bag for her wallet. He glared at his stupid assistant, stepping backwards when the bell above the door rang, a handful of retriever puppies streaming in, leashes tangling.

He heard their owner call for him, laughing as the pups yipped and jumped, tails wagging nonstop as they each tried to get to him. He turned back to say something else to Dany, but she had gone, her bright red scarf disappearing behind the edge of the door. Seven hells. He heard footsteps behind him, glancing to see his friend and one of his techs, Edd, coming up behind him. “Who was that woman?” he asked.

“I have no idea,” he murmured, still gazing at the closed door. Like a stupid idiot. He finally tore his eyes from it, reaching for the file for the retriever pups. “Just a new patient. Passing through.”

“Hmm, well for a new patient that’s the happiest I think I’ve seen you in fucking ages.”

He snapped the file shut, scowling. “I’m happy.” He always took offense to that. Always had to defend his mood. It wasn’t the first time Edd or Sam or Sam’s wife Gilly commented on his level of happiness. Tormund was notorious for it. Always trying to get him to go on dates and have one-night stands. Between all of them and his sisters and brothers he couldn’t get through a single week without someone chastising him for not getting laid often enough or not smiling enough. Not being happy enough.

He was plenty happy. He had a good job that he liked, who wouldn’t be happy playing with animals all day long? He had a house that was all his and didn’t belong to anyone else. He had friends. His family didn’t hate him and other than the occasional drama with Arya overstepping herself or Sansa thinking she could boss him around like he was a servant, they all got along. He left his stepmother/aunt out of that equation because she was never going to change, she’d always hate him.

Then there was Lyanna. He felt his smile pull at the thought of her. His precious little Lyanna, who was always smiling. He couldn’t afford to be unhappy because of her. She needed him. She needed him regardless of how he was feeling on a given day about anything. The day before had been hard. He closed his eyes, forcing back the overwhelming pain that he kept back, only exposing itself when there were outside forces that brought it up. He still had to talk to Robb about whatever Eddy said to Lyanna that had upset her so much. It wasn’t his nephew’s fault, he had two parents who loved him, lived together, and were always there. He didn’t understand what it was like to not have a parent.

It had never bothered Lyanna, so he wasn’t sure why it suddenly did. Even when they would have parents’ days at school or would celebrate mothers or grandmothers once a year, she hadn’t been bothered. Perhaps things were different as she got older. He hadn’t allowed himself to think beyond one year at a time. Arya and Sansa were always there for her when she needed a motherly influence. Although Arya was more of a big sister than mother. He just figured when he needed that help, he would have it there and Lyanna wouldn’t think anything of it.

The look on her face yesterday had been heartbreaking. He hadn’t slept last night, and it wasn’t because he got in late after helping out at the wolf sanctuary. He’d gone home, checked on her and made sure she was sleeping, and sat with her for a few moments, just stroking her hair on her pillow, listening to her soft little sleeping sounds, mumbling to herself as she dreamed. He’d returned to his room and promptly spent the remainder of the night tossing and turning over the sadness he’d seen in her gray eyes. The way she’d whispered if he missed her mother. The struggle to find the words to placate her but also tell the truth. Wrangling with the difficulty in trying to explain his complicated relationship with Ygritte to a little girl who had no idea about adult relationships beyond mommies and daddies got married and had babies.

He set his jaw, ignoring Edd. “I’m happy,” he muttered again. More to convince himself than to convince Edd. Because he was happy. “So, shut it Edd.”

Dolorous Edd, because he was so fucking chipper—not really, he was always sullen—followed him into the exam room to prep for the puppies’ vaccines and the removal of their dew claws. He smirked. “Okay sure, but you were looking at that woman like you’d never seen a woman before.” He laughed. “And if you didn’t have a daughter I’d wonder.”

“You know that’s something Tormund would say, not you.”

“Just saying. Ask her out.”

“I don’t even know her!”

Edd rolled his eyes. “You barely knew Ygritte and you two were immediately fucking.”

He shot him a dark look. “Watch it.” Edd held up his hands in silent defense.

Besides, with Ygritte… That was different. He met Ygritte when he was in the military. She’d been in the same unit as Tormund, a militia group that worked Beyond-the-Wall. She’d been an absolute nightmare from the get-go, he’d found her irritating, abrasive, and fucking rude. Then she’d locked her attentions on him and before he knew it, they were making out in a cave when they should have been on patrol. He’d broken all the rules with her, fraternization, disobeying orders, and gods knew what else.

After an accident with a riot at the gates of Castle Black, where he’d been stationed, including some of his own men participating in it, he’d left the military. Ygritte had popped in and out of his life after that, until she announced on one visit, she was pregnant. She didn’t want the baby, but she agreed to go through with it because she wanted him. She just supposed she’d learn to be a mother afterward. They’d married after she told him because he refused to have his child be tainted with the label bastard like him. The times had changed but he didn’t want it regardless.

It had been a pretty somber affair, for a wedding. Done in the godswood Beyond-the-Wall, with most of the Free Folk, members of her unit in attendance, since she didn’t have any living family. He hadn’t wanted his family there; he wasn’t sure why. He supposed he understood why after they’d had Lyanna. All they did was fight. She loved their daughter in a strange way he didn’t understand, but he knew she wanted to be free of it all, to be back in the wilderness where she belonged.

They were going to divorce. Had the talk before she left for her climb on the Wall. They’d file paperwork and figure out custody arrangements after the fact. Then she fell. He’d been there at the hospital, watched as the life left her. And he was a single dad. All because her foot slipped when she was climbing a fucking wall.

There was no way Lyanna would know that they were going to separate. He didn’t want her to think anything bad about Ygritte. She would know about her mother in the way that he first met her. Wild and free and adventurous.

He sighed hard, twisting the syringe in the bottle for the vaccine, setting it down next to the others he’d drawn out already. “Get the pups back here, we’ll just do it all at once,” he said.

Edd frowned. “You’re in another world. What’re you thinking?”

“Nothing.” About my dead wife and why now my daughter is all upset about her.

“You should get on Roar.”

“What?”

“Roar, it’s a new hookup app.”

He frowned, eyes narrowing. “What the fuck is Roar and why is that the name of a hookup app?”

“I don’t know, it’s from the Lannister Corporation, those fuckers are involved in everything. Look.” To his horror, Edd removed his phone from his pocket, showing him the app. He pushed on a button and the phone made a ‘roar’ sound like a lion. “See? If you like a chick, you ‘roar’ at her. She can roar back and then you match.”

“That is the most fucked up thing.”

“It’s super easy. Come on, we make a profile with your pretty curls and eyes and they’ll be roaring all over themselves.”

Clearly Edd had been drinking on the job or something. Or hanging out with Tormund. Gods, he hoped like fucking seven hells Tormund had not heard of that app. Or else he might already have a profile and not know it. He checked his phone to be safe. Relieved that it hadn’t been installed when he wasn’t looking, he shoved the phone back into his pocket. “That’s not how I do things.”

“No, you just wait until you’re head over heels in love and then wonder why she isn’t.”

He scowled. “That’s not true. I’ve dated.” Like maybe two or three women in the last six years.. They also weren’t even really dates. The minute he mentioned he had a daughter they were out the door. Or else they thought it was adorable and squealed over themselves like they could treat her like a doll. Nope, no way, and then he was running out of there.

“Fine,” Edd said, following him back to the waiting room to gather up the puppies. “But if you don’t go for that hot dragon lady then go for Val.”

“Val?” There was only one Val they both knew. Val Rayder. He frowned. “I can’t do that. She was Ygritte’s friend.” He wasn’t sure if they were friends, but they were in the same unit. Tormund would know the full story.

“Well she broke up with Mance Rayder and moved back to town. You know she’s had her eye on you for a while and she knows about Lyanna already. It’s perfect.”

It was not perfect. He scowled. “I don’t need a woman.”

“Suit yourself, but you were mooning after that cat lady like you’d never seen a pair of tits before.”

He punched Edd in the shoulder, before he opened the door to the waiting area, kneeling as a pack of golden retriever puppies assaulted him. He gathered up a few, carting them back towards the exam room, pushing any thoughts of dating and hookup apps and all that shit out of his head. He had to work.

Although…it had been a hell of a lot of time since he’d last had sex. It probably wouldn’t be a big deal if he just went on a few dates. Maybe just to…shake the cobwebs loose, he guessed. He thought of Lyanna. He frowned. “Stop brooding,” Edd chastised.

Not brooding. Of course he was brooding. He hadn’t seen Val in a long time, but he remembered she’d been really fun. Nice. She did know about Lyanna. He sighed. “Get me Val’s number.”

“I already texted it to you.”

He’d have to talk to Lyanna about it. Things were different now that she was getting older, asking questions about her mother. He checked his phone, saw the number and sighed again. He’d give her a call later. Talk to Lyanna that night.

Except he couldn’t get the mother of dragons out of his head.

 

**********

 

“Are you serious? There’s no rentals?”

“Sorry ma’am, it’s the holidays after all.”

“It’s two weeks until the holidays!” Dany grumbled out a ‘thanks’ and disconnected with the useless car rental location in Winter Town. She smacked her phone against her forehead, groaning. This entire thing had been a complete nightmare. It wasn’t like she had to get back to Kingsland before the holidays, but the sooner she could get out of the North, the better. The sooner she could start getting back to her real life the better.

Whatever that real life happens to be.

She flopped backwards onto the quilted four-poster bed, her feet hanging off the side. Her boots were kicked into the corner and she had changed out of her punk getup from earlier, a black lacy slip dress with a white long-sleeved tee under it, her favorite sparkling silver tights and her trusty Doc Martens. She liked to dress in a way that people didn’t expect. Especially when they found out she was a Targaryen. She should be wearing designer duds and rolling in her family’s old money, going into politics or working the charity circuit.

Although now she was wondering why she hadn’t stuck around for that. Her desire to get out from under her family’s less-than-desirable name and its piles of money was why she’d run from city to city in Essos. It was why she’d married young, divorced young, and made a few billion more mistakes.

And one of those mistakes was following fucking Daario of all people to White Harbor. “I’m so sorry I almost had you guys living there,” she apologized to her babies, the three cats situated around her on the bed. She rolled onto her stomach, scratching Viserion’s ears, her sweetest kitty nuzzling into her palm. She sighed, kissing Rhaegal who cozied up to her next. Drogon was still sitting to the side, standoffish and irritated she’d taken him to the vet.

The really cute vet.

She picked up her phone from beside her, where it was buzzing silently. “Hey Missy,” she greeted, her best friend in the world on the other end.

“Are you serious you can’t get a cab or something out of there?”

“No, the nearest airport is too far, it’s just not worth it. It’s fine, Talisa is here, and I’ve been hanging with her off and on.” Talisa Maegyr had been in medical school with her in Essos and she’d been in Winter Town for the sole purpose of visiting her as she made her head-clearing drive from White Harbor back down to Kingsland. She sighed, scratching Drogon. “Besides, Drogon got sick and I’m sticking around a few days to get him looked at. You will not believe this, but the vet here actually could pick him up and hold him and he was humming away like a little angel.”

Missandei barked a laugh. “Seven hells that is something. This vet must have the magic touch.”

Her cheeks pinked at the thought of Jon Snow having the magic touch. He did have nice long fingers. She blinked hard at the image, willing it away. “He…he was nice.”

“Hmm,” Missandei clucked. “What’s that sound?”

“Nothing! It’s me, realizing that there are other men out there.”

“Finally. You know I want Daario dead for what he did to you.”

“No, it’s fine, I keyed his car and dumped used kitty litter in the trunk.”

“Serves him right for cheating on you.”

Not only cheating on me but cheating on me after I agreed to quit my job and move several thousand miles to be with him. Daario had gotten a long-term security contract at the Port of White Harbor and she hadn’t thought they were in that place where they could just break up. Besides, things were serious between them, they practically lived together, and he cajoled her to come up with him, so she did. Where he promptly started seeing some woman with green hair. So, she dragged her kitties with her into a rental, drove a thousand miles to Winter Town to see Talisa and here she was. Stranded right before the holidays in a wintry wonderland with adorable animal doctors and a sick cat and all that that entailed.

She kicked back to her feet, wandering the room where she’d made her home the last couple days. “It’s fine Missy, this inn is pretty cute. The owner let me make cookies the other day. Talisa’s little boy was in school when I dropped to see her, but she’s invited me for dinner tomorrow with her family.”

“I cannot believe it has been like five years since we last saw her.”

“I know, she’s so happy up here. I mean, her mother-in-law is apparently a raging bitch, but she says her good-sisters are nice, and I guess her good-brothers are as well. One of them has a little girl the same age as her son, so it’s nice.” She felt sad all of a sudden, that pang of missing family shooting through her heart. She shook it free, blinking back the loneliness. “It’ll be fine.”

“I’m sure Talisa could find you something to do there if you absolutely need to burn something.”

She chuckled. Missy always referred to her need to do surgery as her need to burn. They’d met at the first hospital where she’d done her internship, in Yunkai, out in Essos. Missandei was the hospital’s translator. They’d become fast friends, roommates, and when she’d moved to Westeros, Missy had come along. She glanced down at her nails, picking at the peeling polish on her thumb. “I don’t have privileges at any of the Northern hospitals. Besides, Talisa has to drive clear to freaking Moat Cailin where the nearest hospital actually is located.”

They chatted for a few more minutes, until Missy had to get back to work. Dany needled her about whether Grey, her boyfriend of the last few years, would finally pop the question that holiday season, but Missy played it off. She really hoped he would, it was about time and when he did, she was going to be pissed she wasn’t there to celebrate the moment it happened with her best friend.

She tossed her phone to the side, scratching poor Drogon, who was still mewling pitifully. The medication hadn’t had time to work and she was ready to go racing back to the vet to make sure he was still okay. Drogon was her oldest, biggest, and her closest of her babies. She had found him when she needed him the most, when she was all alone and thought she’d lost everyone closest to her. “What did you eat, huh, you silly dragon?” she murmured, lifting him up to rest on her chest.

He pressed his forehead into her clavicle, kneading his paws in her chest, purring. The others weren’t to be left alone, Rhaegal cuddling into her left side while Viserion wandered up to rest on the pillow next to her head. She closed her eyes, drifting off into a brief nap, but it really, truly was brief, because just as she thought she would fall into a nice slumber, Drogon hopped off her with a dig of his claws, hacking on the floor like he was having a seizure.

She yelped, jumping off the bed, disturbing the others and fell to her knees next to Drogon, stroking him as he managed to get out whatever had been stuck in his throat the past couple days. She stared at the mess he’d made on the ground, before he yowled and hopped off to lick at his paws on the coffee table. “Gods, what did you eat?” she mumbled, standing and going into the bathroom to get some tissue to clean up the mess he’d made.

He continued to hack a bit, her poor baby. She picked up her phone and fingered the business card with the doctor’s name on it. Snow Veterinary Clinic. She’d done a quick Searcheros for him online, after she got back, and found that he was pretty well-respected. It seemed the only vet in Winter Town was also one of the only vets in the area and he not only treated your cats and dogs, but if you happened to have a horse, a wolf, a moose, or any other exotic creature, he treated them too.

The picture that had accompanied a news article about him had him leaning in the snow with that beautiful white wolf. He was ridiculously attractive. She shivered as she remembered the dryness in her throat when he’d taken off that scrub cap and his dark curls jumped out, wild as the North around his face. She was no stranger to men in scrub caps; she was a pediatric surgeon. She was constantly surrounded by men in scrubs, caps, and lab coats, and while many of them thought they became infinitely hotter with the paper bags basically pulled over their heads, she never found scrubs particularly appealing. They were shapeless and usually covered in body fluids.

The dark gray scrubs he wore had been almost painted on him, tugging across his broad chest and clinging to his muscles. The cap over his hair had wolves on it. He was just a guy doing his job, not using the trappings of it to get women. She got the impression he had no clue that he was as cute as he was. She hoped she hadn’t made a fool of herself. She was always pretty confident with men, but with him she’d acted like a teenage girl.

She dialed his office number, waiting for someone to pick up. “Dr. Tarly’s office,” a heavily Northern-accented voice greeted. “Gilly speaking!”

“Oh, I’m sorry, I was trying to call the vet’s office.”

The friendly voice on the other end breezed an apology. “Oh, it must be the phone connection, sometimes when the vet clinic closes for an hour or so their voicemail transfers up to us. I’ll just transfer you back to leave a message.”

Dany frowned, pacing in front of the bed. “The office is closed? I was hoping to talk to Jon…Dr. Snow.”

“They close for an hour for admin in the afternoons, but if you leave a message, they’ll get back to you. Jon’s good about that.” Gilly chuckled. “He’s actually very good about that.”

She found herself smiling. “Okay then, thank you…Gilly.”

“No problem! I hope your pet feels better.”

“I hope he does too, thanks.” She waited until the voicemail came on, his Northern burr soft around the edges of his words as he read off the standard voicemail greeting, saying he’d call back once he got the message, but if it was an emergency to call the emergency number as follows. She glanced at Drogon. He was now cleaning his tail. Probably not an emergency. She coughed, her voice cracking briefly when she spoke. “Um, sorry to bother Dr. Snow, this is Daenerys Targaryen, I’m the stranded traveler with the dragon…” She chuckled. “Ah…just wanted to ask some questions about Drogon. I’ll…I’ll call back, thanks.”

Ugh, you sound like a moron. She disconnected and walked over to pick up her boots, dropping onto the little couch by the fireplace, tugging them on. She’d go on a walk, clear her mind a bit. Maybe call and get Rhaegal and Viserion an appointment with Jon, hopefully whatever Drogon had wasn’t a contagious thing. She kissed all of them before she picked up her tote bag and jacket. “I’ll be back babies, don’t burn down the place.”

They yowled in response, which she hoped was an affirmative. She smiled and closed the door behind her, skipping down the hall and out the front door of the inn, built into an old series of stables and barns that had a sign out front saying used to be part of the old medieval town, where people gathered on The Long Night. That stuff was all just stories, she figured. No such things as zombies.

Although she did believe in dragons, so what did she know? She set off towards the town, a few streets away, huddling into her black coat as the wind kicked up, biting at her exposed cheeks and nose. She’d forgotten a hat, her silver hair tumbling around in the wind and she pushed it back, grumbling and wondering if maybe it was time to cut it a bit more. She found herself wandering down the main street, poking into little shops and here there.

The other day she’d gone into a Christmas shop, purchasing a few dragon ornaments she wanted to tie onto presents. Whenever I can actually get back to Kingsland to give the presents. That was where she’d met that sweet little girl, she remembered. She had been wandering around after she’d bought her ornaments when she saw the teacher place the girl on the bench. The poor thing had looked miserable. She didn’t think whatever she had done warranted getting put on a bench, but it seemed the little girl didn’t want to be there anyway.

Something drew her towards her, to listen to whatever her troubles were. When she’d said she didn’t have a mother, Dany had almost melted. She knew the pain that that entailed more than anyone. Her mother died the day she was born. It seemed this little girl was in a similar situation. Except she had a father who cared for her, that was obvious. The girl’s clothes were new and clean, and her bright red hair wasn’t tied back in braids but was brushed and pulled into a loose ponytail. Her gray eyes seemed familiar, now that Dany thought back on the interaction.

The child was sweet, she would be just fine. She’d been so happy talking about her father. Dany wished she’d had that type of love for her father. Aerys had been an insane lunatic who died in a massive fire that he likely set himself. She’d been too young to really understand, so her older brother became her father. It amused her that her father’s inability to braid her hair had been the sweet girl’s biggest complaint. Rhaegar had always been able to braid her hair but that was because he had long silver hair himself that he usually tied back in a braid.

She hoped that little girl didn’t get into too much trouble for pushing her cousin around. The way she spoke of her father, Dany didn’t think he’d be mad. She ended up in a little toy shop, purchasing a few things for Talisa’s little boy. He was six, if she remembered right, and Talisa said at the moment he was obsessed with anything that involved knights and horses and slaying zombies.

After she bought him a couple of plastic swords and a helmet with a wolf on it, Dany left the store, not checking where she was going when she turned out of the door, bumping into someone. “Oh sorry!” she exclaimed, jostling her bags and looking up at the poor person. She blinked, surprised. “Jon!”

Jon stood in front of her, reaching his hands to steady her as she swayed slightly. He smiled, that shy little half-smile. “Dany,” he drawled. He glanced at her bags. “Buying presents?”

“Something like that,” she said. She gestured towards the direction of the inn. “I called you a moment ago, your phones were messed up or something someone in Dr. Tarly’s office said that you guys take an hour of admin? I left a message but forget it, it’s no big deal.” Dany shut up, why are you rambling?

He shook his head, hands shoved in the pockets of his black pea coat. She noted that he’d changed out of scrubs into a pair of dark-washed jeans and a black t-shirt. Both of which also clung to him in ways the scrubs didn’t, but in ways she found very appealing. She licked her lips, nibbling on the lower one, shifting on her feet. “It’s no big deal,” he said, with another one of those little half-smiles. “I’m getting a cup of coffee.” He kind of blurted it out. She blinked. He shifted a little and she thought she saw his cheeks go pink—not from the cold. “Um…you…you’re probably busy but…”

She found herself smiling. Was he asking her to coffee? “I’m not busy.”

“Oh, well…you…you want to join?”

“Ah…” She thought of Talisa, who she had to call and the babies back in the inn, but… She smiled. She did just say she wasn’t busy. “Sure.”

He looked relieved, gray eyes brightening. “Cool. Um, so…what was your message about? Is Drogon okay?”

“He’s fine, I think whatever you gave him made him hack up some crap stuck in his throat.” Seven hells, Daenerys, you are talking about your cat vomiting, shut up. “I was a little worried, but it’s fine.”

He frowned a little, stopping in front of the coffee shop, holding the door open for her. She stepped inside, enveloped by the warmth of the small little shop. Her mouth watered at the smell of fresh coffee and pastries. It reminded her she hadn’t eaten that day; she’d been so worried over Drogon. “You were worried enough to call me, so what’s up?” he asked, stepping to the counter. He smiled at the man who came out from behind the bakery wall. “Hi Hot Pie.”

“Dr. Snow!”

It seemed everyone knew him, she thought, ordering a regular cup of coffee with milk. She laughed at the pastries in the display, shaped like wolves. It seemed the canine was everywhere in this town. She sat down in one of the over-stuffed chairs by the fireplace, dropping her bags beside her and watched as he sank down into the chair across from her. “Let me guess,” she said, pointing to his coffee. “Black. No sugar, no milk. Stronger the better.”

He smiled sheepishly. “Got me.”

“You were military?”

He blinked, surprised. “Um, yeah, how’d you know?”

“Searcheros,” she said, holding up her phone and smirking. She shrugged at his questioning gaze. “I have to know who the doctor is that I’m going to send my babies to you know.” She leaned back in the chair, crossing her legs. “So how does a guy who is military up at the Wall end up a town veterinarian?”

“I always liked animals,” he answered, shrugging off his coat. She blinked at the black shirt; it was stretched taut over his shoulders and she stared at the veins that crept around his biceps and forearms. The glasses he wore were thick black frames and with his jeans cuffed over his ankle boots and his hair tugged back in a bun, she was fairly certain that he was absolutely oblivious to how he looked. Fucking handsome.

They spoke about her cats for a few moments, she explained how she’d adopted them. Found Drogon in Pentos and then the other two not far after when she was out camping in the Dothraki Sea. He went to vet school after he’d left the military and she thought there might be something more. He seemed to indicate it had been hard, that he’d had other responsibilities. She understood that. She asked about his wolf; he launched into a story about finding the six pups when he was young, why he named his albino wolf Ghost, and the personalities of all the other wolves.

He took the top of his coffee cup off, swirling what remained around in the bottom of the cup before he tilted it back, draining the rest of it. “So, what does Daenerys Targaryen do when not stranded in the North?” he asked.

In their discussion, mostly about her cats and Ghost, she hadn’t spoken about herself. She smiled briefly, using her stir stick to twirl the rest of her coffee around. She watched it whirl around, like a mini storm in a cup. “I’m a doctor.” She smirked up at him. “Of people.”

“Oh, you’re not going to say how you’re better than me, are you?” He was teasing, of course, his arms crossing over his chest.

She chuckled. “I’m a pediatric surgeon.” She watched his face; not many men liked it when they found out she had such a high-level profession. Daario had never wanted to hear about her work; he always thought she could do something bigger with her talents. Go into hospital administration and run an entire network or something. She scowled at the thought of him. Pushed it from her mind and returned to the man who was sitting in front of her, briefly checking his watch. “I'm sorry, please don’t let me keep you.”

“No, it’s nothing,” he stammered. He swallowed hard; she watched his neck constrict. “Um.” He wrestled internally with something before he shrugged, quiet. “I have a daughter…she’s done with school; I just like checking the time…make sure I know when to call and make sure she got home okay.”

He has a daughter. She immediately looked at his left hand. “You’re not married, are you?” she whispered, her back going up. She really didn’t want to be having coffee with a married man, practically flirting with him.

“Widower.”

Oh fuck Dany. “I’m so sorry,” she blurted out. She reached over and lightly touched his wrist. He flinched, surprised and she drew her hand back, looking away. She barely knew this man! Her brow furrowed. “Um, if it…well…” She blew a hard breath and shrugged. “I used to be married, my husband died. Car accident. As I understand.”

He softened, leaning forward over his knees, fixing that intense gray stare on her. “It was six years ago.”

“Drogo died six years ago too,” she said.

“Drogo?” he repeated. He frowned. “Drogon?”

“Yes,” she chuckled. She bit her lip, crossing and uncrossing her legs. “Drogon is named after Drogo, I found him after he died. Rhaegal and Viserion are named after my brothers.” It was a sad story; one she didn’t feel like telling him. She didn’t want to bring him down, especially if he had to get back to work. She nodded to his watch. “You probably need to get back.”

He looked at the watch again, cursing. “Seven hells!” He stood, sweeping his coat back on, reaching to grab his phone from the table. He smiled, warmly, down at her. “It was nice talking to you Daenerys.”

“Dany.”

“Dany,” he whispered. He shoved his phone into his pocket. “Call the office and I’ll get you in for Rhaegal and Viserion.”

She beamed. “Thanks. See you later Jon.”

“Bye Dany.”

It had started drizzling rain and he flicked the collar of the pea coat up, stepping out and jogging across the street. He disappeared into a crowd of people on the sidewalk and she eventually tore her gaze away, looking down at her hands. They were clenched on her knees. She frowned, stretching her fingers out, watching the blood rush back into them. She hadn’t told anyone about Drogo in a lot time. Why’d she tell him? She barely knew him.

Her phone buzzed. She picked it up, looking at the message from Talisa, giving her directions to their house. Can’t wait to see you tomorrow!

Dany pocketed her phone and got up, gathering her things. She bought a wolf pastry on the way out, munching on it as she walked back to the inn, thoughts filled with the handsome vet and his sad story. Just like me.

 

**********

 

Daddy had been home for a few hours now and Lyanna was positive something was going on. She had shown him all the things she made in art class that day, including a picture of the Night King and a dragon melting him and she even put Santa in the corner. He admired it like he always did and put it on the fridge with the rest of her art.

He kept forgetting stuff, like her milk and her favorite bowl when he put her soup in front of her. He put her backpack in the wrong place and even Tormund was making fun of him for being distracted. “What’s wrong with him?” she asked, stealing Tormund’s bread from his plate. She’d already given hers to Ghost, who was sitting at her side, hoping for more.

“That’s a very good question Little Crow.” Tormund shouted to her Daddy, who was in the kitchen, putting dishes in the dishwasher. “Hey Crow! What’s wrong with you?”

“Shut it Tormund.”

He looked at her, blue eyes wide and red brows wiggling. “There’s something wrong.”

“I wonder if it’s about my presents.”

“Probably.”

Lyanna continued to watch her daddy throughout the evening, seeing how weird he was being. He kept messing stuff up. Even Ghost thought he was being weird. He’d left the back door wide open and Ghost had wandered in and out a few times before he finally had to close it himself, kicking the door shut with his back leg. She wandered from her room, after she’d gotten her bath, holding her hairbrush.

She went into Daddy’s room, which was next to hers. He was sitting on the edge of his bed, rubbing his nose with his fingers, which she knew was a sign that he was tired. “Daddy?”

He jumped up, looking over at her, smiling softly. “Hey. Sorry, c’mere, let’s get your hair.”

It was weird that he forgot that he always brushed her hair after her bath. She crawled up onto his bed next to him, holding her stuffed wolf in her arms, crossing her legs under her. Ghost jumped up onto the bed beside them. She looked back slightly over her shoulder. “Daddy?”

“Hmm?”

“Why are you tired?”

He sighed. “Oh, lots of things. Grown-up stuff. Don’t worry about it Little Wolf.”

But sometimes I have to worry. That’s what Tormund said, when Daddy told him not to worry. Tormund would tell her that Daddy would always take on more than he could handle. Then he would handle it. She wasn’t sure what all that meant. She took a deep breath and sighed heavily, pursing her lips and wondering what had Daddy all bothered. Maybe it was work. Maybe it was Ghost. Her eyes widened.

Maybe it was the wife.

Tormund had taken her letter yesterday. Could Santa have already gotten to it so fast? She thought maybe. They did live in the North. It wasn’t too far away from where Santa must live. She looked back a little as Daddy tugged carefully at a tangle in the bottom of her hair. “Daddy?”

“Yes?”

“Can you try to braid again?”

“You sure? I still don’t have a handle on it.” He ran the brush back over the hair at her forehead, tugging it back carefully. “But I can try I guess.”

She cocked her head a little. “Daddy?”

“Yes?” he sighed again. She smiled; he never got mad when she asked lots of questions, but she knew sometimes he would get that same look he got when Tormund started to bother him. She thought it was funny.

“You can tell me your grown-up stuff.” She turned her head completely, focusing her eyes on his. He looked so sad again. He’s always so sad. She crawled into his lap, her arms going around his neck and pressing her cheek to his chest. She closed her eyes; Daddy smelled like pine trees. “I can understand it.”

He hugged her tight, his cheek resting on her hair. His chest rumbled with a soft laugh. “Hmm, I’m sure you could, but…” He hesitated. His brow furrowed. She sat up slightly and patted his cheeks, pulling on his beard. She giggled when he removed her hands and kissed her palms. He wanted to tell her something. She knew that look. After a minute, he finally spoke. “I have something important to ask you.”

Her eyes widened. This was it; he was going to tell me about the wife! “Okay.”

“We talked about your mother, but we never…” He trailed off, still frowning. Tormund always told him that his face would freeze that way if he wasn’t careful. She pushed at his cheeks again, making the frown into a smile. He kissed her hands again. He sighed hard. “We never talked about how you would feel if I…if I went out with a lady.”

“A lady?”

He nodded. “Yes. How would you feel if I went on a…a date with a lady?”

“A date?” She wasn’t sure what that was. Maybe it was something grownups did. She blinked. “Okay.”

His eyebrows lifted. “You understand that? You would be okay if I took a lady out to dinner?”

Uncle Robb and Aunt Talisa went out to dinner. They called them dates. Aunt Arya and Uncle Gendry went out hiking and shooting and to the gym to beat each other up and Aunt Arya called those dates. Even Auntie Sansa sometimes went on something she called dates, but she always hated the guys that took her out on those dates. She grinned. Dates were what husbands and wives did! Like Robb and Talisa and Arya and Gendry! “Yeah!” she exclaimed.

He’s going on a date with the wife! Santa listened to me!

Daddy was really surprised. He grabbed her before she could bounce straight off the bed. “Are you sure? I mean…I wouldn’t bring her to meet you unless I was sure she would be nice to you but…”

“What color is the lady’s hair?” she demanded. Please be silver, please be silver…like the snow.

“Ah…blonde.”

“Like the moon? Like snow?”

“I guess.”

She squealed, jumping back to her feet and began to bounce on the bed. Daddy’s bed was much bigger than hers and he didn’t have slanted ceilings so she could jump all day long. “And her eyes?” she huffed, her red hair flying around her face as she bounced. “What color are her eyes?”

“Her eyes?” he asked, laughing. He got off the bed and swung her around under her arms, spinning in circles. She giggled, wrapping tight around him. “Well I don’t know.”

“Are they like jewels?”

“Jewels?” He thought a moment and shrugged. “I suppose so.”

The lady in the store had silver hair and eyes like jewels. So does this lady. Daddy is going on a date with the wife!

She screeched when Daddy suddenly chose the moment, she wasn’t paying attention to blow raspberries against her neck, pinning her back onto the bed and tickling her sides. She kicked out, laughing and grabbing for his neck, where he was the most ticklish. Ghost jumped up, dancing on the bed, trying to get involved as well. “Daddy stop that tickles!” she laughed, when he went for her feet next. She sprang off the bed and took off running, laughing when he chased after her.

Lyanna bounced into her bed and grabbed for the book they were reading, thrusting it into his hands. “Here! With the voices this time please.”

He made a face. “Voices? You know I can’t do the voices.”

“I don’t care.”

“Alright, fine. Get in there little wolf.” He tucked her under her blankets, making sure her feet were covered, since her toes always got cold the fastest. He flicked on her rotating nightlight and adjusted the curtains over the windows, so the moon wasn’t so bright on her. The light went out beside her bed and she cuddled into her pillows, clutching Wolfie against her as Ghost placed his head on her legs. She yawned, eyes closing as Daddy began to read, voice soft, from the book.

“And the Dragon Queen took to the skies with her biggest dragon, black and red, and her green one and her white one flew after her. The Dragon Queen was the greatest warrior the Seven Kingdoms had ever known,” he whispered, turning page after page, reading through the second chapter in the book about the Long Night and the Dragon Queen who saved them all.

Lyanna smiled, drifting to sleep, thinking of the lady with silver hair and her dragons and the letter to Santa. It was all coming true, everything she wished. And Daddy would be happy.

Because that’s all she wanted. For Daddy to be happy.

 

**********

 

They had to go to dinner with Uncle Robb and Aunt Talisa, which meant that Lyanna was going to see Eddy. She made a face, sitting in the back of Daddy’s car, annoyed that they couldn’t go out and get pizza like they always did on Fridays. “How come Tormund can’t come?”

“Because the last time he came he broke one of the suits-of-armor and he’s been banned from the castle for a few more weeks.”

“Oh.” She paused and frowned. “Well the suits-of-armor are stupid. They shouldn’t be there if Tormund can break them.”

“I agree, but don’t tell Uncle Robb.”

They pulled up into the driveway that led around to the part of the castle where her Uncle Robb, Aunt Talisa, and stupid Eddy all lived. The biggest part of the castle was for visitors and there were stores, restaurants, and tours that went on there, especially nowadays because of the holidays. In another part of the castle her Aunt Sansa lived and then Arya and Gendry stayed there with her when they were in town, but usually they lived in the south, at Uncle Gendry’s big castle.

She knew she was lucky, that her family got to live in these big houses and not everyone did. They did nice things for everyone. That year they were throwing a huge party and all the money was going to go to help people. Also, Aunt Talisa was a doctor and that was very good, she helped people. Like Daddy did. Except Daddy helped people by helping their animals. She waited, rather impatiently, kicking her feet as Daddy got her out of the back of the SUV. “Why do I still need that dumb thing?” she demanded, pushing angrily at her booster seat.

“Because you’re still too little, now come on.”

Eddy ran out the front door, wearing his coat, hat, and mittens, holding two new swords aloft. “Come on! Look what Momma’s friend got me! Let’s go hit stuff!”

“Daddy, can I?” she begged, grabbing him around his knees, pulling her teeth into a big, cheesy smile. “Please? Pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease?”

He laughed, prying her off his legs. “Fine, go play. I’ll come get you when it’s time for dinner.”

“Yay! Thank you!” She shot off after Eddy, waving at Uncle Robb who had just walked out to see them. “Hi Robb! Bye Robb!”

Robb laughed, waving in her direction. “Bye Lya!”

As she ran by him, she heard him say something to Daddy about one of Talisa’s friends being around for dinner, hopefully that would be okay. She didn’t think much about it, because she was going to beat Eddy. She grabbed one of the swords from him and they both ran around, hitting at each other and battling to see who the best was. She stood atop one of the large rocks, near the back door of the kitchen, waving her sword in the air. “I’m Aemon the Dragonknight!”

Eddy tried to knock her off, part of their favorite game. He managed to get up on the rock beside her. “I’m Daeron the Young Dragon!”

She pushed him off. “I’m the Lord of Winterfell!”

“Nuh-uh! You can’t be the Lord of Winterfell because I’m the Lord of Winterfell. Girls can’t be the Lords!”

She stuck her tongue out at him. “Well I’m not a Lady!” That’s what Auntie Arya always said, even though technically they were all Lords and Ladies. Except Daddy. He was not a Lord. He said he didn’t want it, besides, only the Starks could be Lords and he was not a Stark. He was a Snow. She made a face and tumbled off the rock and into the snow, kicking her arms and legs out to make shapes.

He fell down beside her. “What did you ask Santa for Christmas? I asked for a new bow and arrow.”

“I asked for Daddy to have a wife.”

“You what!?” Eddy jumped up, gaping at her. His hat had come off and his curly red hair was all over the place. Except his red hair was different than hers. It was way browner. “But…but…that’s not your gift!”

She grinned at him. “Yes, it is. Because then she can be my new mother.”

“Oh wow, do you think Santa will get you her?”

“I think he already is.” She was about to tell him that Daddy asked if he could go on a date and the lady, he was going to go on a date with had the same hair and eyes she asked for, when the back door opened, Aunt Talisa calling out for them to get inside and clean up before dinner. It was also getting really dark and they never let them play outside in the dark. Tormund did, but she wasn’t supposed to tell anyone that. She jumped up and dusted snow off her bottom. “Come on, I’ll tell you inside.”

They rushed in through the back, taking off their coats, hats, and gloves. Eddy stomped snow off his boots, Grey Wind rushing in to lick at the drops of ice. Ghost was still in the front room, so she ran ahead, stopping in her tracks when she saw the woman who was sitting in front of the fireplace on the couch beside Daddy, Ghost at her feet. She grabbed for Eddy, pointing and hissing. “That’s her! That’s the mother!”

Eddy blinked. “Who? Miss Dany? She’s Momma’s friend.”

“I saw her at the store too!” She smiled, eyes shining. It was coming true! She pulled him over to the corner, whispering as she watched the lady laugh at something Daddy said. Daddy was even smiling. Not his stupid little tiny smile that he always did, but the really big one that sometimes only she got to see. “That’s the lady I asked Santa for, the wife! I asked for hair like snow and eyes like jewels and I bet she even smells like sunshine.”

“What’s sunshine smell like?” Eddy wondered.

“I don’t know, but I bet she does. Also, she’s short like Daddy and she told me that she didn’t have a momma either, so she knows what that’s like.” Her eyes were as round as saucers, taking in everything. The pretty lady from the store had her hair in the same types of braids. She was wearing a really big red sweater with black tights and her feet were in heavy black boots. She had on lots of rings and her earrings had dragons on them. She’s so pretty.

Eddy pushed her towards her. “Go see her, she’s really nice, she got me toys!”

She walked forward, dusting off the front of her overalls. They were her favorite, they were dark green, and she was wearing a white turtleneck under them. The overalls made her hair look not as red. Talisa made her take off her boots and her socks had wolves on them. She came around the corner, staring at the woman, taking in everything about her. “Oh, hello,” the lady said, grinning at her. Her eyes brightened. They really are like jewels. Shiny purple jewels. “You’re the little girl from the store! Oh! I remember you!”

“Uh oh, I hope she didn’t say anything too bad,” Daddy laughed. He reached for her, drawing her up into his lap. She wrapped her arm around his neck, still watching the lady, who was grinning. He tickled her side and she smiled, giggling. “Why are you suddenly so shy? Lyanna, this is Miss Dany, she’s a friend of Aunt Talisa’s.”

Dany offered her hand, the rings on it shining in the firelight. “We met before.”

“Oh?”

She nodded. “At the holiday store.”

“It’s a pleasure to finally officially meet you Lyanna, your Daddy is very nice. He helped my cat yesterday and he’s going to check on my other ones too.” Dany took a sip from the glass in her hand. Lyanna thought it might be that adult juice they drank. She wasn’t allowed to drink it. Tormund always had adult juice before he went to bed, then he got drunk and then he snored so loud she could sometimes hear it in her room on the second floor.

Lyanna smiled. “You have pets?” Ghost and Grey Wind both jumped up, running into the kitchen when they heard Talisa open the oven. She giggled when she heard Robb yell at them to get out, nosy buggers. “What kind?”

“Three cats,” she said. She showed her them on her phone. They were cute! “And your Daddy helped this one, my big one, yesterday. He was sick and Jon made him feel better.”

Jon. She was calling Daddy by his real name. That was a good sign. “What do you do? Daddy is a pet doctor,” she said. Her heart thudded, it sounded like a drum, she didn’t know why she was nervous.

“I’m a doctor of humans, like your Aunt Talisa.”

“You help people?”

“Dany helps little kids, she’s a kid doctor,” Daddy explained.

She helps people too. Everything was coming true! She jumped out of Daddy’s lap, making sure they stayed talking to each other and rushed to find Eddy, who was being forced to help set the table, because he hadn’t done his chores from earlier. She grabbed a plate from him, putting it next to the seat at the table where her Daddy usually sat, at the very end.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“I have to make them sit by each other. That’s her, she’s the one! She helps people and she has the hair and the eyes, and she even smells like sunshine!” Dany smelled very nice, the whiff she’d managed to get of her when she’d leaned in to show her the picture of her cats. She smelled like flowers, like lemons and oranges…like sunshine.

Aunt Talisa leaned over. “Are you going to sit here Lyanna? I’ll make sure that your plate goes there. You don’t like peas, right?”

“No, I hate them,” she said. She pointed to the chair on the other side of the table. “I’ll sit there. Can Miss Dany sit here? Next to Daddy?”

“Oh, sure I guess.”

Eddy giggled, elbowing her. “This is the best. You’re going to get a new momma!”

Lyanna beamed, looking up when Daddy walked into the dining room with Miss Dany, both of them talking about something, looking very serious. Until Dany laughed and she saw her Daddy’s cheeks turn red. That’s a sign! Daddy never did that unless he liked someone! She tugged at his chair. “Daddy sit here! Miss Dany, here you sit here!”

“Well thank you Lyanna, you’re so sweet.”

She grinned, her gray eyes glittering with mischief. “I know.”

Daddy gave her a funny look, but smiled, sitting beside Dany. “What are you up to my little wolf?”

Oh nothing. She just smiled and exchanged a look with Eddy, who rubbed his hands together, laughing like the plan was all coming together. Because it was, because Santa had sent her the mother and now, she just had to make sure that Dany knew it.

And Daddy too.

Which she somehow felt would be the most difficult part.

Chapter Text

moodboard 2

“I was wondering if you were ever going to ask me out.”

The hot coffee choked down his throat, threatening to spur out of his nose, but Jon managed to swallow without getting third-degree burns. Or making more of a fool of himself than he probably already had. He smiled, still a little unsure over this entire thing, but shrugged, playing off Val’s comment. “Well I did.”

Across from him in the booth at the front of Hot Pie’s, Val Rayder smiled warmly. He hadn’t seen her since before she went on an extended assignment up Beyond-the-Wall a couple years ago. There had been a big reunion of everyone that Tormund dragged him to, saying everyone would love to see him. He wasn’t so sure. The Free Folk units weren’t always on the same page as the rest of Westeros, least of all his unit Night’s Watch. He had been surprised that she had even thought of him after all this time. If he remembered right, she had still been with Mance Rayder, the head of their unit. He’d spent that reunion getting shitfaced at Tormund’s request and then having one of his few post-Ygritte affairs with someone Tormund had introduced him to, a dark-haired wildling named Karsi. He remembered Val though.

They called her the wildling princess. She turned heads everywhere she went, her hair was a golden blonde and her eyes were bright blue. She was slightly taller than him, especially with the heeled boots she wore. He’d called her after Edd’s suggestion, intent to just do it so he said he could, but he’d been surprised that she had accepted his invitation. Ostensibly to catch up.

He looked into his coffee cup, the steam wafting off. Hot Pie had taken his request for extra-hot a little too seriously. “How long are you going to be in town?” he asked. Val wasn’t one for staying put, if he remembered correctly.

“Few weeks for now, but…” She licked some whipped cream off her stir stick, smiling slowly. “I could be persuaded to stick around a bit longer.”

Oh. His eyes widened in understand. Oh. He smiled and took another gulp of the flaming coffee. He coughed again, frowning. “You still in the military?”

“Trying to get out, but you know how it is.”

“Yeah.”

“I think you’d still be there if it weren’t for that riot,” she said, glancing at his chest. He instantly reached his arm over to place his hand on his shoulder, covering it self-consciously. She cocked her head. “Ygritte told me that you barely survived.”

A muscle ticked in his jaw. He wasn’t sure if it was the mention of Ygritte or the mention of the riot. “Yeah, well I did. Somehow.”

“Just so you know, Ygritte and I were friends, but it isn’t one of those friendships where you have to be weird about cheating on her memory or anything.” Val frowned, her slim blonde brows coming to a point. “I'm still so surprised at what happened. She was always so good at climbing.”

He nodded absently. He really didn’t want to talk about Ygritte. He fumbled to change the topic, dropping his hands to cup the coffee mug, feeling cold at the mention of his former wife. “Tormund says that you guys have been in contact.”

She laughed. “Yes Tormund. Gods, I cannot believe you still live with him. How has he not burned down your house?”

“Not for a lack of trying.”

They proceeded to spend the next several minutes laughing over shared Tormund antics, memories of their times up Beyond-the-Wall where the redhead had once accidentally slept with two sisters and not told the other, each one finding out when they proceeded to tell each other about their new conquest. He’d had to run for his lives, since one of them was a sniper for their unit. He smiled over at her as she was in the middle of another Tormund story, knowing she was really pretty. She was actually funny too, with a dark sense of humor. He supposed you had to if you spent as much time as she did in the snowy world Beyond-the-Wall.

After running out of some shared Tormund stories, Val picked at the edge of her scone, looking away from him. “So how is Lyanna?”

He choked again on his sip of coffee. “Ah…” He wasn’t sure if they were going to talk about his daughter. Isn’t that why you asked her out though? She knew about her already. He fought his urge to keep his daughter in a separate part of his life, away from the few romantic entanglements he’d allowed himself since the moment he became the only thing in Lyanna’s life, the only person she could count on because he was the only person she had. He took a deep breath, gazing out the front window to the main street. It had snowed the night before and everything was covered in white. “She’s…she’s good.”

“She’s in primary school now, first year?”

“Yeah.” He took another drink of coffee. Kind of wished there was whiskey in it. “First year. She’s in school with my nephew. Robb’s kid.”

“I remember Tormund showed me a picture of her, she’s got Ygritte’s hair. Kissed by fire. That’s lucky.”

If not having a mother is lucky, then sure. He reached to rake his fingers through his hair. “Yeah, lucky. She’s a handful.”

“I can imagine.” Val chuckled. She reached into her tote. “Before I came, I was going through some of my things. I thought you might want these. Didn’t know if you had them.” She opened up an envelope and removed some photos, handing them to him across the table. He took them gingerly, afraid of what he might find. She continued. “My mom died when I was young. Not as little as Lyanna, but I remembered that I always wanted a picture of her. Didn’t have a lot of those, not growing up in the wild like we did.”

He scanned through the pictures, a smile quirking at the corner of his mouth, seeing Ygritte laughing with Val and Tormund. He hadn’t seen these pictures; they were clearly before he’d met her. Although there was one…his mouth fell. He turned it to Val, frowning. “Where did you get this?”

“She brought her by the barracks, showing her off I think.” Val propped her head up on her hand, laughing. “I remember thinking that there was no way Ygritte had a baby, especially with you. I mean Jon come on, you sucked with women. Tormund teased you for a reason.”

He rolled his eyes. “I don’t suck with women,” he laughed. He looked back at the picture, smiling at it. He wouldn’t give it to Lyanna yet. He lightly touched the image of his daughter, her tiny face peeking over the blanket, wrapped up tight against the cold. Ygritte was looking down at her, smiling, and standing with most of the unit, who were pretending to fawn over Lyanna, each one of them wearing the heavy furs of the wildling uniform. He covered the picture up with the others, shoving them back into the envelope. “Thanks.”

“No problem.” Val cocked her head again. “So…” She was about to say something when something outside grabbed her attention. Her eyebrows lifted. “Who is that?”

“Who…” He glanced out the window, trying to see what caught her attention. Instantly a smile pulled on his face. “Dany.” He knocked on the window, startling Dany, who was standing outside, looking at her phone. He wasn’t sure why Val had been startled by her, unless it was the absolute insane way her silver hair was wound around in braids and the bright red coat, dress, and…even her boots were red. Shiny crimson with black laces, a dragon in black sequins detailed on the back of her red coat when she spun at the sound. He waved, once she looked at him.

She beamed, waving and hurrying inside, peeking around the booth. “Hi Jon!”

“Hey,” he greeted. He blinked a couple times, taken aback at how she stood out against everything. All red, black, and silver. “How…how is Drogon?” he asked. He had to reschedule the poor cat’s teeth cleaning for the following day, but he wanted to make sure that the beast was alright. It had been a few days since dinner at Robb’s house. He found that he wanted to see her again after that dinner, laughing and smiling with her, both of them spending most of the evening good-naturedly arguing over the purpose of the Long Night holiday, since Dany didn’t believe there was such a thing as the Night King and yet she thought dragons were real.

She glanced at Val, who was frowning over at him, but he wasn’t sure why. “Um…Drogon is fine.” She stuck her hand out. “Hi, I’m Dany. I’m one of Jon’s patients. Well, not me, my cat.”

Val shook Dany’s hand loosely. “Hi. Nice to meet you, I’m Val.”

“Well,” Dany said, glancing down at their coffee cups. She took a step backwards. “I’ll see you tomorrow Jon, for Drogon’s cleaning.”

“And then Rhaegal and Viseron’s checkups too,” he called, watching her walk away. He smiled, following her out with his gaze before he glanced back at Val. His eyes widened slightly. Uh-oh. He mentally slapped himself. Snow, you stupid fuck, of course she’s pissed. “Ah, sorry that was Dany. She’s…she’s a client.”

“Yes,” Val said, smiling briefly. “I see.”

“She’s passing through. She lives in Kingsland.”

“Pretty far North for a southerner.” Val wrinkled her nose. She sipped her coffee, scowling. “Southerners belong in the south, not up here.”

He frowned but didn’t say anything to that. It was the typical attitude of the free folk. They didn’t trust anyone who grew up south of the Wall. Well, most of them didn’t. He shifted in the booth. “How far north did you end up going on your last mission?” he asked, changing the subject to the military. It seemed to be a safe topic.

That got her to open up a bit more. He finished his coffee and leaned back in the booth, laughing at some of the stories she shared about the crazy members of her unit. They reminisced a bit more. Got into an argument over the merits of archery and swordplay. She still didn’t understand why the Night’s Watch used swords as part of their uniforms when archery was clearly the superior method of killing people as well as sporting.

Time went by faster than it had when they first sat down, for that he was grateful. He was about to suggest perhaps they have dinner, wanting to see her again, when the bell over the door tinkled and a very loud voice shouted: Daddy!

“Oh shit,” he cursed. He glanced at Val, who turned in her seat, eyes widening when Lyanna shot over to them. He laughed, grabbing his daughter around her middle, stopping her from crashing into the table as she clamored up, bundled against the cold and snow in her puffy pink coat and the hand-knitted hat from Sansa askew on her head. It seemed someone, he supposed his sister, who was walking in after her, had braided her hair, which whipped him in the face as she shifted in his lap, an arm around his neck as she peered at Val.

Sansa approached slowly, holding Lyanna’s backpack. He scowled up at her and she smiled, blue eyes twinkling. “Hello,” she said, but kept her hands to herself, smirking. “I didn’t realize you were…seeing someone Jon.”

“It’s just coffee,” Val said, arching a brow at him. She smiled again. “Although I hope not.”

Seven hells. He gripped Lyanna around her middle, his daughter moving to stand beside him, one of her feet almost making contact with an appendage that would warrant her sibling-less in the future. He looked up at her, smiling. “What are you doing here?”

“I wanted a cupcake. Auntie Sansa said I could have one.” She glared at Val, her gray eyes narrowing. She leaned into him, whispering loudly. “Who is she?”

“This is Val and remember your manners.”

Val leaned over, offering her hand, treating Lyanna like a proper adult. “It’s nice to meet you Lyanna, I met you a couple of times when you were a baby. I knew your mother.”

Lyanna ignored the outstretched hand, scowling, her little nose wrinkled. “Your hair is not like snow,” she blurted. She sniffed over at her, like the wolf she sometimes thought she was. “And you don’t smell like sunshine.”

His eyes widened. “Lyanna!” He flushed, embarrassed on behalf of his daughter, but Val just laughed, playing it off. He glared at Sansa, who was enjoying his discomfort. “What are you doing here?” he demanded, teeth grit.

“Lyanna wanted a cupcake.”

He told his sister to keep Lyanna away from the bakery because he didn’t want something like this to happen but seemed like Sansa had other things up her sleeve. She was too crafty for her own good sometimes, he thought, helping Lyanna off the booth, his daughter still glaring at Val. He had no idea what had gotten into her. He turned her face towards his, gently but firm. “Hey, be nice, apologize to Miss Val.”

“No.”

Even Sansa seemed surprised at her behavior. “Lyanna!”

Lyanna looked at Val’s dark green coat and scarf. “Do you like black and red?” she demanded.

“Ah…my favorite color is green,” Val said.

“And do you like animals? You don’t like animals, do you?”

What in the fuck happened to my nice little girl? Jon climbed out of the booth, lifting Lyanna up. He glanced at Val, apologizing. “I’ll be back.” He carted Lyanna, who had now started pushing at him, whining and kicking her feet. He dropped her down in the corner, turning her towards him by the front of her coat. “Hey,” he ordered. He frowned. “You are not being very nice. What’s wrong?”

“She’s not the one!” Lyanna exclaimed, pushing at him. Her gray eyes welled with tears. “No! Auntie Sansa!” She sobbed, rushing to her aunt. “I want to go! I don’t want a cupcake!”

He stood, torn between wanting to finish up his date with Val and running off with his daughter, but Sansa stepped in between them, holding Lyanna as she sobbed into her aunt’s knees. She shook her head slightly when he started towards her. “No, I’ll handle it. She’s upset with you.”

“But why?”

Sansa glanced at Val, who was trying not to look back at the debacle. She arched a brow. “I think you know why.”

She isn’t ready. “Just…take her home.” He ran his hand over Lyanna’s hair, but she turned away from him, refusing to look at him, her thumb up by her mouth. He winced. She hadn’t sucked her thumb in a long time. “I’ll see you in a bit, huh Lyanna?”

She sniffed, ignoring him, and walked off with Sansa. He sighed, closing his eyes and rubbing at his nose with his index finger and thumb. He had a headache. This was a mistake. He trudged back to the booth, where Val had gathered her things. He closed his eyes again, about to apologize once more, but Val interrupted. “Don’t worry about it Jon.”

“I have no idea what got into her, she’s never like that.”

She smiled a little, sad. “She’s probably not ready to share Daddy’s affections yet.”

“She said she was, she was all for it the other day.” He knew that was a stupid excuse. Just because the six-year old was on board with something she didn’t understand didn’t mean shit. It meant he might be ready, but his daughter certainly wasn’t. It was exactly why he kept this part of his life as walled off as he possibly could. He folded his arms on the table, still apologetic. “Let me make it up to you.”

Val smirked. “Are you asking me on another date?”

“Dinner?”

She laughed, climbing out of the booth with him, shrugging into her coat. “Dinner sounds wonderful.”

“Saturday?” He could barely believe he was saying the words.

She grinned. “Saturday sounds good. After that though, I’ve got to head to Hardhome for some stuff. I’ll be back in town by then. For a bit longer.” She tossed the strap of her bag over her shoulder, still grinning, rather sly. “And perhaps we could get breakfast when I get back.”

Now it was his turn to smirk. “Maybe.”

She leaned up on her toes, kissing his cheek. “Send me a text. I’ll see you Saturday.”

He watched her leave, frowning a little. She was nice, funny, smart…everything he liked. Or at least, of the few women he’d been with, that was what he liked about them. It helped that she already knew Lyanna. Already understood his…predicament. He looked down at the photos clutched in his hand, looking at Ygritte. He shifted on his feet and sighed heavily.

So why did it just not feel like how he thought it would feel?

**********

“Hey, sorry again about earlier.” Sansa leaned over to push a bottle of beer towards him, tilting her glass of wine towards him in apology. She crossed her legs, leaning back in her chair at the kitchen table. “I didn’t know you were dating anyone.”

Jon took the beer, sipping and making a face. It was the kind Tormund always kept in the house, the cheap stuff, and he hated it. Yet he took another sip. He shook his head, shoulders slumping. “It was just coffee.”

“Didn’t look like just coffee.”

“I knew her from the military. She was in Ygritte’s unit.”

Sansa squinted. “Which means she already knew about Lyanna.”

“Part of why I thought it was a good idea to give her a call.” Or so he thought. He looked towards the stairs, knowing he had to go up and talk to his daughter. He could hear her in her room, singing to herself and crashing around. It was the beginning of the holiday break; she would want to build a fort and read her stories with the flashlight. He promised her they could do that. He rubbed at his forehead, the headache from earlier now positively raging. “She’s got to go out of town soon for work.” He paused. “I’m seeing her again.”

“That’s great,” Sansa said, quiet. She was the only one he could really talk to about this type of stuff. Robb always gave him shit, Arya said she never wanted to think about him in any sort of romantic situation, and Bran was too young. So was Rickon. Sansa had had a few hard breaks in love, but she was still a romantic. He figured she would get it the most. She swirled her wine around, watching it for a moment. “I think it’s good you’re seeing someone Jon. You can’t keep the two lives separate for much longer. Lyanna’s getting older.”

“I know.”

Sansa continued. “It was one thing when she was a baby, but…you need to be happy too Jon.”

They all seemed to believe that. You need to be happy Jon. All the time. “I am happy,” he whispered. He glanced at her. “I don’t need a wife to be happy. I have Lyanna.”

“I’m not saying you need to immediately get married, gods no.” She shuddered. “No, all I’m saying is that even when you were with Ygritte, you only ever thought of someone else. It was making her happy, making sure she was alright with everything, but you weren’t yourself. You were someone else. We all know it. Then you were all about Lyanna because you had to be and trust me Jon, no one was expecting you to be dating while you were taking care of a baby, but she’s getting older and maybe it’s time you start thinking about yourself.”

He didn’t know what that was like, thinking about himself. He never could. Growing up he was the odd-one-out in the family. The kid without parents, the bastard, and the one who was taking up space in the family mansion, at least according to his aunt. She never liked him, always resented his father for bringing in another when she was trying to take care of Robb. He’d basically raised himself. He’d always been on edge, always hiding away so not to incur her wrath or ask for more than he was already offered.

Then there was Ygritte and Lyanna and…he sighed. “I’ve dated,” he mumbled, rolling his eyes. “You guys think I’m some sort of…septon or something.”

She rolled her eyes. “No one thinks that Jon, this isn’t a few thousand years ago, you don’t take vows of celibacy anymore when you join the Night’s Watch.”

Seven hells, I am not talking to you about this.”

“Oh, come on,” she laughed. “I’m not Arya, I’m not going to run off screaming. I swear she still thinks that Lyanna just appeared in the garden one day.”

He chuckled. “Still, you’re my sister.”

Sansa narrowed her eyes. “You need to be happy Jon. I know it’s going to suck because Lyanna isn’t going to like it, but she doesn’t get to dictate everything all the time. Don’t let her reaction earlier stop you. If you want to see Val again, you should see her again.”

“I am. Saturday.” He looked at his phone, turning it towards her. “See? I’m taking her to dinner.”

“Good.” Sansa got up from the table, carrying her wine over to the counter. She set it aside and began to clean up from Lyanna’s dinner. She tossed her hair over her shoulder, calling out. “I’m going to stay the night. I promised Lyanna I’d make her lemon cakes tomorrow morning for breakfast. Plus, I really don’t feel like driving out in that snow.”

He looked out the window, making a face. It was a pretty bad storm right now. He got up, leaving his beer and jogging up the stairs, knocking lightly on Lyanna’s door, which was already partly open. He leaned in, smiling at the sight of her in her plaid flannel pajamas, her red curls in the same kind of braids that Sansa used to wear her hair, in the old Northern style. She was humming to herself, flicking through one of her big picture books about the Long Night, and seated in a pile of blankets and pillows. She’d strung up one of her blankets over her desk chair and pinned it to her dresser with a bunch of books, using her flashlight to read. Ghost was lying on his side, stretched over most of the floor.

She looked up, grinning. “Hi Daddy.”

“Hi little wolf. Can I join you?”

“Yes please.” She waited for him to sit down beside her, stretching out before she cuddled into his chest, holding the book up. “Read to me.”

“In a minute, I want to talk to you.” He set the book aside, his arm loose around her as she sat against his chest. He felt her tense slightly. “Relax, you’re not in trouble.”

“Oh.”

He kissed the top of her head. She smelled like strawberries, from her shampoo. He took a deep breath. “Lyanna, you weren’t very nice earlier to Miss Val.”

“Hmm,” she hummed, turning the page in her book.

“I know you are a lot nicer than you were.”

She flicked another page, humming again. “I don’t like her.”

“You don’t know her.”

“I don’t like her, she’s not what I wanted.”

What was that supposed to mean? He pushed by it, continuing. “Well I want you to know that I am going to see her again for dinner. She’s a very nice lady. She knew your momma.”

“She’s not the mother.”

He pushed by that statement, unsure what it was supposed to mean. It was probably just her…jealousy. That’s what Val said. She wasn’t used to sharing his affection. He sighed. “Well you don’t need to like her, but you need to be nice to her if you ever see her again. Alright?”

“No.” She turned in his arms, holding the book up. “Read to me.”

He took the book, setting it down, unsure why he was going to start this fight, but he felt it needed to be done. He scowled. “Lyanna, I’m not joking with you. You need to be nice, even if you don’t like her. She was very nice, and you weren’t. That’s not how I taught you.”

Her brows slammed together, and he recognized the same face that he used to see on Ygritte when she wanted to fight. Uh-oh. “I don’t like her! I don’t want you to see her!”

“Well I’m going to see her again Lyanna.”

“No!” She climbed up, pushing at him and running off to her bed, throwing herself into it and shouting, hitting her pillow with her fists. “No! Nonononono!”

“Lyanna!” What the fuck was wrong with her?! He had never seen her behave like this before. He crossed his arms over his chest, looking down at her as she howled nonsense about wives, mothers, letters, and now Val wasn’t the one because she didn’t ride a dragon. He grabbed the stupid book about the Dragon Queen, tossing it onto her desk. She was clearly thinking he had to be with a fictional character. “Lyanna, stop it!”

“Go away! I hate you!”

His heart clenched in his chest. He frowned, sad. “You don’t mean that.”

“I do too! Leave me alone!”

Unsure what he was supposed to do, he left her, glancing over his shoulder as she cried into Ghost, who gave him a reproachful look. He shot back at the wolf, clueless about what he was supposed to say to calm her down. She was clearly distraught. He looked at Sansa, who appeared at his side. “What should I do?” he whispered. He was so confused; she had never behaved like this before. Of course, she had tantrums, she was a child, but they were usually over quickly and whatever she’d been upset about passed or no longer a problem. “She’s never done this.”

Sansa rested her hand on his arm, her voice soft. “Let her cry it out. She’ll come around Jon.” She paused, hesitated, and then pushed forward. “Please don’t let this stop you from going out with Val. I’m sorry I stopped with her at the store, she saw you in the window, I thought it would be fine. I didn’t realize…”

He shook his head, his arms crossed. “It’s fine,” he sighed.

“This stuff happens Jon. She’s confused, she’ll come around.”

He rolled his eyes. “I thought it was supposed to happen in like ten more years.” He walked away from the room, leaving Sansa to try to comfort Lyanna. It was clear his daughter did not want to talk to him. He went into his room, closing the door behind him and looked at his phone, seeing a text from Val.

Coffee was wonderful. Anything I should know about Saturday?

He smiled, sending back a quick message. My daughter won’t show up, so you won’t get publicly shamed.

Jon Snow did you make a joke? I didn’t know that was possible!

He was about to say something else when an unfamiliar number popped up into his texts. He frowned, opening it up, his heart leaping in his chest when he saw the message. He sat on the edge of his bed, smiling in spite of himself. I hope you don’t mind I got your number from the large redhead man who was at your office today when I dropped off cookies to thank you for helping Drogon. I wanted to thank you again. ~Dany~

Dany

He bit his lip and sent back a quick response. It’s nothing, really. That redhead was Tormund, kind of my roommate. I’ll see the dragons in a couple days, right?

The response he received was a photo of the three of them lined up in a row, peering at the camera. They can’t wait.

Jon tossed his phone aside, flopping backwards onto his bed, closing his eyes. Exhaustion overtook him, so fast he didn’t even bother changing before he passed out. He woke up a few hours later, to his bed shifting, as Lyanna crawled in, complaining about the wind keeping her awake. He sighed, kissing the top of her head as she snuggled beside him, before he drifted back off to sleep.

And for some reason in his dreams he saw Ygritte, laughing and shouting at him that he knew nothing. You’re right, I do know nothing, but why now? And what about?.

**********

The car rental place had a replacement. She’d declined it, opted to stay for a few more days. At least, until Long Night Eve. She scrubbed her face, looking at Rhaegal and Viserion, who were peering up at her from the floor, silently questioning her decision. “I don’t know,” she admitted, dropping her hands to her knees. “I don’t know why I didn’t take it.”

Rhaegal meowed. She nodded, continuing. “I mean, you guys have a vet in Kingsland. I don’t know why I made you an appointment. I mean, I should keep it. I know he kept changing it a bit, but it's fine...it's fine. Drogon should be done soon.” His teeth cleaning had gone well, according to the message Jon left for her, saying she could pick him up whenever. She glanced at them again. “What? Stop looking at me like that, he’s just the town vet!”

And it was clear that he had a girlfriend or something. The woman at the coffee shop yesterday. Or maybe it was just coffee. It is none of your business Dany! She groaned, grabbing her coat and jumping to her feet, snagging Drogon’s empty carrier. “I’ll be back with your brother. He’s going to be in a bad mood, I’m sure of it, so you’re both warned.”

Both of them meowed, jumping up onto her vacant spot on the bed in response.

She made her way to the vet’s office, pushing inside to find that there was no one there. It was almost the end of the day; she was probably one of the last people. She didn’t see the young kid that manned the front desk. “Hello?” she called, setting the carrier on one of the chairs and pulling off her gloves. “Anyone here?”

A tiny ball of red hair and smiles jumped up from under the desk. “Hi Dany!”

“Oh!” She jumped back, startled. She laughed, as Lyanna climbed into the chair, leaning on the front counter. “Lyanna, you scared me! What are you doing here?”

“No school, I get to hang out here.”

“That sounds like a fun time. Do you help with the animals?” She waited, Lyanna climbing off the desk and going around to open the door, bringing her back. She looked around, not seeing Jon anywhere. “Ah…where’s your father?”

“Somewhere. How long are you going to be here? Are you moving here?” Lyanna continued, not waiting for any response to her questions, climbing back up into the chair. She picked up some crayons, coloring in her book. “Because you should move here. It’s nice here. I think you will like it here.”

The little girl kept chattering, going on about living in Winter Town, that it snowed all the time in the winter but when it was summer it was nice and that her daddy took her to waterfalls to go swimming and she should come, because it was really pretty and Ghost liked to go swimming too. She leaned her forearms on the counter, smiling and listening to Lyanna chatter. She is such a sweet girl.

Lyanna took a deep breath, pausing finally and looking at her again, gray eyes wide. “So, are you staying?”

“Ah…just a few more days, I think. My car is still broken,” she lied. She really didn’t know why. It bothered her. All she wanted was to get out of the North, get back to her life down south, but here she was, continuing to pretend like she had no other options to leave the small town. If she was being honest, she did like it here. It was pretty and with the holidays around, everything was lit up in lights and sparkles. Talisa had been a breath of fresh air, reminding her of a time when she was happy, a long, long time ago. She loved Talisa’s little boy, he was adorable, and then there was Lyanna. She smiled again. “Well, rental car.”

“What kind of car do you have? We have an SUV. It’s big. Tormund drives a truck. It’s a piece of shit.”

She burst into laughter, covering her mouth with her hand, trying not to continue. Lyanna glanced at her, unsure why she was laughing. “Um…where did you hear that?”

“That’s what Daddy says. Oops!” She giggled. “I’m not supposed to swear.”

“No, I don’t think you should.”

“So, what kind of car do you have?”

“Ah…it’s a black car. I call it a dragon, because it’s sleek and shiny.” The sportscar had been a treat when she’d finished her residency and gotten her fellowship at the main hospital in Kingsland. It was still in her garage at her condo, since she hadn’t wanted to drive it North. She had been planning on shipping it, but was now grateful, since there was no way it would be able to get through the snow up here and she really would be stranded.

Lyanna’s eyes immediately widened, her jaw dropping. Dany frowned, not realizing that driving a black sportscar was worthy of such a response. “You…you ride a dragon?” she asked, voice soft.

“I guess you could say that.”

“And it’s black?”

“Yup. My favorite color. Well, red and black.” She reached to tug on one of Lyanna’s curls. “Like your hair. Which is such a pretty color.”

There was a look in Lyanna’s eyes that she didn’t quite understand, a mix of awe and wonderment, as though she was finally seeing her for the first time. She glanced up, tearing away from Lyanna when one of the doors opened to the exam rooms, Jon walking out, wearing scrubs and a white lab coat. He stopped in his tracks. “Dany!”

“Hey,” she laughed, lifting her hand in a brief wave. She picked up the empty carrier. “I was here to get Drogon. I hope he wasn’t too much trouble.”

“Daddy, can Miss Dany come to dinner with us?”

Both of them looked at Lyanna, surprised. “Um…she doesn’t want to come to dinner with us,” Jon laughed, mouthing ‘sorry’ at her. “I’m sure she is very busy.”

She cocked her head, smile tugging on her lips. “Well…I mean…” She shrugged. What are you doing Dany? He doesn’t want you to come to dinner. “I am available.”

“Still no cars?”

“Dany has a car she calls a dragon, she can ride a dragon,” Lyanna continued. She climbed off her chair, going to tug on her father’s hands. “Come on Daddy, please? She’s all alone!”

“I’m really fine.”

“No, I mean…” Jon smiled shyly. “Um, if you don’t mind pizza. We eat pizza on Friday.”

It had been a week since that meal they’d shared at Robb and Talisa’s, she remembered him saying that Lyanna hadn’t been all that happy because they had pizza on Fridays. Wow, it had really been a week, huh? She nibbled on her lower lip, her voice quiet. “Well…I don’t have a ride.”

“We can drive you to our house,” Lyanna volunteered. She poked at her father. “Daddy can you get Drogon? She can bring him home and then we can take her to our home, and she can have pizza with us.” She glanced over her shoulder, grinning, that little smile that went all the way to her eyes, her nose wrinkling. “Okay Dany?”

She looked at Jon again. He was smiling at her. It met his eyes this time. “Okay?” he asked.

It seemed like she had no choice, not that it was a difficult one. She nodded slowly; her voice quiet. “Okay.”

Somehow a few hours later, she found herself in a lovely home a few miles from Winterfell, which Lyanna explained had been an old barn but was now their house and she couldn’t wait to show her up to her room, so Dany went with her, marveling at the little girl’s space, with its large canopy bed, bookcases filled with books, and the murals on the walls and the ceiling. The big windows that looked onto the snowy fields, the mountains in the distance, it was downright magical. She showed her all her toys, knights and princesses and dragons and ice zombies.

They laughed through dinner, Lyanna questioning her nonstop about her life in Kingsland, about being a doctor, and about her cats. “Ghost is my best friend, are they your best friends?” she asked, mouth full of pizza, unable to stop long enough to take a breath or swallow before launching into another series of questions or stories.

Ghost, the gorgeous white wolf she’d met the previous week, rubbed his head against her knees, which Lyanna said was a sign that he liked her. “Or he wants food,” Jon piped up, from where he’d been quiet, barely eating his pizza, too busy trying to get Lyanna to not talk with her mouth full or put the vegetables back on her pizza when she picked them off.

“You can give him the crusts, I do,” Lyanna said.

“And you know you’re not supposed to.”

The dynamic between father and daughter was something she marveled at, but also felt a pang of sadness. She’d never had that with her father, not even with Rhaegar. Rhaegar had always been distant, despite his love for her. He was still her big brother, not her father. She helped with the dishes, cleaning up the kitchen, squealing when Lyanna flicked soap suds at her and then ended up fighting with the bubbles, getting them all over until Jon swung Lyanna up into his arms, dragging her upstairs for her bath.

She finished cleaning up the kitchen, her sides aching from laughing. It had been so long since she’d really enjoyed herself like that. She sipped the glass of wine Jon had poured for her at dinner, wandering through the house while Jon got Lyanna down for bed. She stopped in front of a series of photos on the wall of a study, a huge fire roaring in the fireplace. They were of Lyanna, from when she was a baby all the way to what was probably a school photo from earlier that year.

One photo in particular caught her attention and she leaned towards it, picking it up from the fireplace mantle, looking at the group of men and women in various uniforms. Some wore all black and some were in mottled furs. One woman stood to the side, a glare on her face and her red hair in a complicated braid over her shoulder. She held a bow in her hand and a quiver of arrows on her back.

“That’s Lyanna’s mother.”

Dany jumped, startled, immediately placing the photo on the mantle. “I’m sorry,” she apologized, face warming at being caught snooping. She gestured around at the pictures on the wall. “I was just looking and…ended up here. Sorry.”

“Don’t be,” Jon said, walking into the study. He looked at the picture she’d been holding, pointing to it. “That’s Tormund, obviously. Ygritte. Me. That’s Sam, the doctor I share the building with.”

He pointed out the people in the picture, explaining some of them. He paused at Ygritte, shrugging, voice quiet. “She didn’t really get a chance to know Lyanna before she died.” He put the picture back up on the mantle, his gray eyes dropping to meet hers. They weren’t as sad as they normally seemed. The fire made them darker, almost black. His lips pulled back into a slightly smile. “Sorry, you don’t want to hear this.”

“No,” she whispered, reaching to touch his hand, still on the mantle. She squeezed his wrist, still smiling, gentle. “It’s alright.” She glanced behind her and took a seat in one of the chairs facing the fire, waiting for him to sit beside her in the opposite one. He leaned over his knees, staring into the flames. She watched them for a moment as well, mesmerized by the way they danced at the stone hearth, before she followed the shadows, at how they played on his face.

The bags under his eyes were more pronounced, his hand scraping over his beard, rubbing at the back of his neck. She couldn’t imagine the stress he was under, trying to raise a daughter on his own. Although it seemed he had a good set of support in his family. From what she’d seen last week, they were close. She glanced into her wine glass, whispering. “Thank you for inviting me here. Lyanna is really something. She’s very sweet.”

“She’s a handful,” he chuckled. He rubbed at his neck again, leaning back in the chair, meeting her eyes once more. “She’s wildling to the core.”

Dany frowned. “Wildling?”

“That’s what they call the people above the Wall, we call them free folk, but…Lyanna’s wild,” he laughed. She grinned; couldn’t argue there. His smile fell again. “Like her mother.”

“What happened to her mother?” She wasn’t sure why she was even asking. It was none of her business. They’d shared dinner twice now, coffee once, and he’d helped her with her psychotic cat. He didn’t owe her anything and her she was asking something personal about his former wife. She closed her eyes tight. “Ah…I’m sorry. That’s none of my business.”

Jon shook his head. “No, it’s okay.” He took a deep breath, shoulders falling with the exhale. “Lyanna was…a surprise, you could say. We got married right after we found out and…and she died not long after Lyanna was born. Few months later.” He gestured towards the bow that was mounted on the wall. She blinked, surprised to see it. “That was hers. She was an archer. After the military she became a ranger, she took people out into the wilderness and stuff on these kinds of adventure trips. Whole thing, snowshoeing, archery, hunting, all that…” He trailed off, whispering. “She took a group up to the Wall, for a climb on a pretty dangerous part. She slipped and her ropes got tangled and…they weren’t properly locked on.”

Gods. She immediately reached for his hand, her fingers threading through his, squeezing hard. “I’m so sorry Jon.” Sorry for asking, sorry for bringing this up, sorry for…for everything. She bit her lip, before she blurted out, something so he could understand, understand it wasn’t just words. She always hated it when people said they were sorry, or they understood when they had no idea. He looked up; sad expression returned to his eyes. “I mean…I get it. My mother died when I was born. My dad not long after and…my older brother raised me, so I get it.”

Jon fiddled with her fingers, her pulse quickening as he ran them over her wrist. “Where is your brother?” he murmured.

“He died too.”

“I’m sorry.”

She chuckled, shaking her head and frowning. “We’re quite a pair, aren’t we? He had a heart ailment. Passed away when I was in high school. I think he’s party of why I became a doctor.”

“Do you have any other family?”

“One other brother, but we’re not that close. He lives in Essos.” Viserys was into some sort of business she didn’t understand. All she knew was that he always had money, was always getting into trouble, and somehow always getting out of it. He was sneaky like that. He wanted nothing to do with Westeros, not after what happened with their family. He was content to live it up out east, blowing through cash, driving fast cars, and never settling. She looked around at the pictures on the wall. “Your family is…Talisa says they’re all very close. You’re lucky to have them. Lyanna is lucky.”

“Yes,” he agreed. He let go of her hand and she pulled hers back into her lap, holding her wine glass against her. He smirked. “You met Robb and Talisa, but you haven’t met the others, have you?”

“No,” she said, frowning. “Talisa speaks of them though. I guess your one sister is married to the Lord of Storm’s End?”

“Gendry, no one calls him a Lord. He might have the seat in Parliament, but he prefers to work in his welding shop.”

“That’s something.”

“Yeah, kind of like Robb. He manages the family businesses, only goes south when they need him.” He raked his hand through his curls, snagging the tie that held them loosely at the base of his neck, reaching to tie them back a little tighter. “Their mother, my aunt, she’s a bit of a mess. She’s alright with Lyanna, but she hates me, so even though I’ve got them and all, it’s still kind of just Lyanna and I.”

“And your friend Tormund, Lyanna speaks highly of him.”

“Yeah I don’t know what to make of that, not sure it’s a good thing,” he said, laughing.

She grinned, unable to stop smiling. “Well you are doing a wonderful job with her, speaking as someone who barely knows you.”

“I feel like I know you,” Jon suddenly blurted.

They stared at each other for a few moments, the only sounds the crackling of the fire. She hesitated. There was something she didn’t understand between them. They were practically strangers, but…they couldn’t be strangers anymore. Not when she was here, listening to him talk about his daughter and his family and…and she shared with him about hers. She hardly did that with anyone. What is going on?

A lock of silver hair fell over her eyes. She pushed it aside, absently, unable to look at him, but whispering. “Me too.”

“I should get you back to the inn,” he breathed.

She nodded; she should go back, check on Drogon. Be with the kitties. Make a few calls and…try to figure out what her plans were. Except she couldn’t move, not yet. She wanted to stay a bit longer. She sipped her wine, swallowing hard before she cleared her throat. “Tell me how Tormund came to live with you and Lyanna.”

“It’s a long story.”

It was her turn to smirk at him, settling into the chair. “I’ve got time.”

They laughed through the story of how the giant wildling ended up becoming one of his best friends, moving in after Lyanna was born, ostensibly to help but then somehow it was like there were two babies that Jon had to take care of.

Neither one of them saw the movement behind the door, Lyanna grinning as she crept away, sneaking back up to her room.

**********

“Santa listened, I’m getting the mother,” Lyanna said, leaning over her cookies, red icing all over her fingers as she tried to blend it together to make purple on her wolf cutouts. She frowned, licking her thumb and rubbed it back into the one cookie, but it came out bluer. “Why isn’t this working?”

Eddy shrugged, licking icing off his fingers instead of focusing on his cookies to decorate. “Dunno.”

She squirted more red icing onto the cookie, continuing. “Anyways, Santa listened.”

“But how do you know?”

“Because the mother is here. You met her, it’s Dany, remember?”

“Oh yeah.” Eddy gave up on icing and just started eating his cookie. Through a mouthful of crumbs, he laughed. “I hope I get my present.”

“You will, because wishes come true.” She thought about Dany, who came to dinner with them. She was so nice, funny, and she made Daddy smile. She couldn’t believe it was all happening. She picked up her plastic knife, spreading icing over one of the other cookies on her plate. “I wonder what she’s doing now.”

Eddy finished one cookie and reached into one of the bowls for sprinkles, dropping a handful onto his other cookies. They were a mess, Lyanna thought, wrinkling her nose. He wasn’t even trying. “But Long Night is in three days. So how do you know she will be the real present?”

“Because she is, I know so. She likes animals, she has a dragon and she’s the right one.” They hadn’t seen her since dinner on Friday, but she knew they would see her soon. Daddy still had to take care of her other kitties, maybe tomorrow? She couldn’t remember when they were supposed to come to the office. She would have to make sure she was there, so she could make sure again that Daddy knew she was the wife.

Daddy didn’t tell her where he was going when he dropped her off at Uncle Robb and Aunt Talisa’s. He just said he was going out; he’d get her later. She really didn’t care, because they were going to decorate cookies and she loved to decorate cookies. She was trying to make one of her cookies into a dragon, so she could give it to Dany.

Eddy grinned, mouth stained blue from icing. “So, cool you’re getting a new mom!”

“And Daddy is getting a new wife!”

The pantry door behind them closed, forcing her to look up, seeing Uncle Robb looking over at her with a smile. He set down the roll of paper towels beside Eddy, looking between them both. Lyanna kept her mouth closed; she didn’t know he was behind her! She wasn’t sure if he would understand. Although, he was one of the people that was always telling her Daddy to go out more. “What did you say about your dad getting a new wife?” he chuckled, wiping off Eddy’s hands.

She licked her lips, nibbling the lower one for a second. “Well…I can’t tell you.” She returned to her cookies. “It’s a secret.”

“Oh, well then.” Robb glanced at his watch. “Your dad might be a little late, he called and said that he and Val are going to go to a movie after dinner. Might as well get you washed up and you can spend the night, that okay?”

What!? She blinked at her uncle. “Val?” she demanded. She hated Val! Well, she didn’t know Val, that was true, but Val was not the mother. She didn’t fit any of the things that she asked Santa for and if Daddy went on dates with her and went on dinners with her and all that, then that meant Dany might not know she was the mother! “No!” she exclaimed, climbing out of her seat. “No, no, no, no that’s all wrong!”

“Whoa, it’s okay Lyanna, Val’s a nice lady, I know her!”

“I don’t care!” She ran up to her room and grabbed her backpack, removing her phone. She rushed into the bathroom, closing and locking the door behind her. The phone was only for emergencies and there was only three numbers she could even dial, but this was an emergency. She pushed the top one, holding it up to her ear and ignoring Robb banging on the door, telling her to open up, he was sorry he upset her.

The phone rang once and Daddy answered, voice all rushed like it was when he was worried. “Lyanna? Is everything alright? Is Robb okay?”

“Are you with Val?” she demanded.

He paused. Sighed. “Yes, is this what you’re calling about? That is not what your phone is for Lyanna.”

“Come home now.”

“No Lyanna.”

“Yes! I want to see Dany again!” She didn’t mean to bring up Dany, but she had to make sure they could see each other some more. Dany had to stay so they could all be together. So, she could be her new mother. “I have cookies for her. Val doesn’t like cookies!” She had no idea if Val liked cookies or not, but she didn’t care.

Daddy sighed. “I am not having this conversation with you. I’ll see Dany tomorrow at the office, we can ask her then, okay? Now, I’m going to apologize for you to Val, because you are being very rude.”

“So are you!”

“Goodbye Lyanna.”

She hung up her phone, scowling and pulling the door open, glaring up at Robb, who held his hand out for the phone. She slammed it into his palm, making a face. “My daddy is stupid!” she yelled, stomping her foot. Robb would understand. Robb always was telling Daddy that he was dumb. She didn’t know why but now she did. She crossed her arms, pouting, her lower lip sticking out. “I don’t want to go home. I’m staying here.”

Robb was trying not to laugh, she could tell, but he crossed his arms over his chest and scrubbed one of his hands over his beard. “Well, I can’t disagree with you about your father, but I’m sure he has his reasons for what he’s doing.”

“She’s not the one!”

He frowned, his blue eyes sparkling. Even though Robb was her daddy’s brother they looked nothing alike. Well, they were cousins. They still didn’t look anything alike. “Not the one?”

“No, she’s not.” She blinked a few times, thinking about wives and mothers and stuff. She pulled on her uncle’s jeans. “Hey, Uncle Robb?”

“Yes?” He took her hand, walking with her out of the room and down the hall, towards the stairs.

Lyanna carefully took the stairs while still holding onto his hand. “How did you marry Aunt Talisa? How did you meet her and know you wanted to marry her?”

“Ah…well…” Robb shrugged, finally stopping on the landing and picking her up, carrying her the rest of the way. He patted her back. “I guess I knew because she made me laugh. In a way no one else did. I wasn’t really happy when I met her, and she made me happy. That’s how I knew.”

Daddy isn’t happy, but Dany makes him happy. “Is Daddy happy?” she whispered.

Robb set her down at the bottom of the stairs and knelt, so that he was her height. He squeezed her hands. “I think he’s happy with you,” he said, quiet. He tweaked her nose. “And that’s all he needs to be Lyanna. He loves you.”

“But he needs a wife.”

He chuckled, reaching to lightly pull on one of her red curls. “I don’t think he needs a wife, but let me worry about that for him, okay? You just keep being you.” He stood up, turning her towards the kitchen. “Come on, let’s finish with your cookies, unless Eddy ate them already.”

Eddy hadn’t eaten all her cookies, just a few of them. He watched as she carefully put her dragon cookies into the container that Robb gave her. “What happens now? If your Daddy is with someone not the wife?” he wondered.

Lyanna scowled angrily at her dragon cookies, wrapping them in the wax paper to keep them fresh. She shoved the top on, grinning when it clicked. “I’m working on it.” She’d see Dany tomorrow, when she dropped off her kitties to get looked at. When she did, she’d give her the cookies. Well, Daddy would give her the cookies.

And then she’d bring her back to the house for dinner. It was going to work. She wrinkled her nose, thinking of Val. Daddy would just have to see that Dany was the wife not Val.

“Lyanna! Tormund’s here! You want to go home with him or stick around here tonight?” Robb called.

Oh, this was perfect! She ran into the foyer and leaped up into Tormund’s arms. She kissed his scratchy beard and ginned. “Hey Tormund, do you have a girlfriend?”

Tormund blinked. “Uh…why do I feel like this is a trick question?”

Lyanna merely smiled, angelic.

Chapter Text

moodboard 2

There were days where Jon really, really, really didn’t want to come to work. Mostly administrative days where he was focusing more on ordering supplies and signing invoices than he was actually treating patients. He was also exhausted; he’d had to go at two in the morning to help a horse at a nearby farm give birth. He hadn’t gotten back until well after Lyanna was awake and she immediately demanded that they go get breakfast because it was a weekend and she wanted to come with him to work.

The other option was Tormund and she apparently had deduced that he was no fun at the moment. He didn’t want to know why she thought Tormund was no fun, plus he could get her to work for him by putting more gauze pads, cotton balls, Q-tips, and other things into the containers in all the exam rooms. It gave her something to do and it checked off one of his tasks. “Hey Lyanna,” he called, making a note that he could probably buy some extra stuff off Sam from upstairs. He spun around in his chair, hearing the sound of footsteps in the hall. They were heavier than Lyanna’s snowboots. He frowned, getting up when the owner of the steps peeked around the doorframe. He jumped back in surprise. “Val!”

Val emerged from behind the door, giving a small wave. She was in her Free Folk uniform, snow white and gray fatigues and thick white calf-high boots, holding her cover in her hand. Her honey-blonde hair had been pulled into a complicated knot on the base of her neck. “Hey, sorry for barging in like this.”

“It’s fine, I’m sorry I didn’t hear the front door.”

“Um, I’m not sure why but the bell was on the counter.” She lifted it up from where she was hiding it under the cover. She chuckled at his frown. “And I think the culprit also knocked over a couple of stands of brochures for vaccinations…they’re kind of all over the floor.”

He rolled his eyes. “That must be why she’s hiding.”

“I actually saw her running up the stairs outside to the top floor. There was a little boy with her.”

“Oh that’d be Little Sam.” Good, meant Lyanna could terrorize Sam and Gilly upstairs and give him some time to clean up whatever she’d gotten into up front. He took the bell from her and set it on his desk. He wasn’t sure what to do; he hadn’t been expecting her. He stepped towards her, reaching for her hand, but she took an obvious step back from him. Uh-oh. “Is everything…alright?” he whispered. He frowned. He thought their last date went well.

Other than Lyanna’s phone call, demanding he call off the date, it had been nice. They’d had dinner at the only nice restaurant in town, a Braavosi place, and then gone to see a holiday movie that was showing at the only theater. He’d driven her back to the apartment she kept, a place she shared with a couple others from her unit. He’d even kissed her goodnight. It was nice. They’d agreed to text and make plans for after she returned from up north.

Although…she hadn’t really insinuated exactly when she would be back. It had been a week, but she’d been vague a couple days ago. He took a deep breath. “Is this about Lyanna?” he asked, quiet. She had been sad after he’d taken the call, trying to play it off, but he knew she was a little hurt. Lyanna hadn’t been quiet, screaming into the phone loud enough that the table next to them probably heard her complaining. He began to stutter. “Because I have no idea why…why she’s like this…I mean…she was all for me going out and then…she’s got this crazy idea of what I need…I don’t know…I…I’ll talk to her…”

Val stepped towards him, covering his mouth with her hand. Her blue eyes danced. “Shh, gods Jon you are awkward sometimes.”

He really didn’t have a comeback for that, because it was true. Instead of saying anything he smiled shyly. She chuckled. “I wanted to talk to you before I left. We leave for Hardhome later today, I was on my way to the base. Look, I really enjoyed our coffee and our dinner and you’re seriously the only guy that I’d be interested in at the moment, but it’s too soon.”

Too soon? He furrowed his brow. “Look if this is about Ygritte, it’s been six years,” he whispered. He shook his head. “And you know we weren’t…we weren’t happy…”

“It’s not about you not being ready after Ygritte. It’s too soon for Lyanna.” Val pushed forward, before he had a chance to interrupt. “Your first priority should be your daughter and it clearly is. We had dinner and I loved hearing you talk about her, but after that phone call you were so worried. As you should be, believe me, I love that you care so much about her.” She smirked. “It’s part of why you’re so fucking attractive.” He flushed, unsure what to say to that. “No, I don’t think she is ready to share you with me because I think there’s someone else.”

He immediately shook his head, confused. “I have no idea…I’m not seeing anyone else Val.”

She laughed, lifting her brows. “Jon I don’t think you’re seeing anyone else, but I think you should.”

“What?” Now he was really confused. Gods this is why I don’t date. I am clearly not able to figure out the mysteries of it all. “I don’t get it. I like you Val. I called you.

“And I’m glad you did, but Jon when I date a guy I want all the attention, call me selfish,” she laughed. She reached and patted his shoulder, leaning in conspiratorially. “And I know what I was getting into going on a date with a single dad, believe me Lyanna’s fury is all Ygritte. That’s not what this is about. I’ll share you to the end of time with your daughter, but not with another woman.”

“But Ygritte’s been gone…”

“Not her,” she laughed again. She lifted her brows. “The cat lady.”

“Cat lady?” Who the fuck is the cat lady?

“Yeah, the woman you called into the coffee shop on our date. The one you couldn’t stop talking about. The one who texted you at dinner and you spent ten minutes talking all about her cat.”

Dany?

Jon opened his mouth to say he had no idea what she was talking about when he heard a soft voice call out into the waiting area. “Hello? Anyone here? It’s Dany!”

Val smirked. “See?”

“She’s here for an appointment with her cats,” he muttered, sheepish. Who the fuck are you kidding Jon? He hadn’t told Val about Dany coming to dinner, about how intrigued Lyanna was with her. He didn’t know what was going on between his daughter and Dany or what game she was playing. He was upset she couldn’t even be a bit friendly to Val, but at least Val understood it.

He held his finger up for Val to wait, pushing by and down the hall to the waiting area, where Dany was standing with one of the cat carriers, Rhaegal and Viserion looking out the grate, jostling each other for superiority. “Hey Dany, I’ll just be a minute.”

“No problem, um…did something happen? Were you robbed?” She looked around at the mess of papers all over the floor and a picture frame that was hanging askew on the wall.

Gods Lyanna, seriously. “Um, winter storm Lyanna apparently came through.” He turned, to go back to the office to try to convince Val to stay, but she was stepping out. His shoulders sagged. “Val. Hang on.” He opened the door, gesturing for Dany to step in. “Sorry it’s just me, um, exam room two. I’ll be in.”

Dany smiled at Val, stepping by quickly, her crimson boots squeaking on the floor as she headed to the exam room, the cats yowling in protest. He waited for the door to close before he stepped to Val, placing his hands on her shouders. “Please,” he whispered. “I’ll get Lyanna on board.”

Her eyes narrowed. “She’s six Jon. She doesn’t understand. It’s not that, like I said. I don’t think you’re ready with me.” She glanced over his shoulder, towards the exam rooms. Her lips curled, smirking again. “But maybe someone else.” She kissed him lightly, patting his chest, before she reached up to attach her cover to her head. “You should ask the cat lady out.”

Dragon lady, he thought idly. He felt like shit. “I’m sorry,” he whispered. He shouldn’t have bothered reaching out to her. He supposed she’d get over it. Val had no dearth of suitors. Everyone wanted to be with her. He shook his head again, arms crossing. “I’m really sorry for bringing you into this shit.”

“Nah, I’m just sorry because I should have made a move on you first before Ygritte.” She laughed. His eyebrows rose up to hairline, surprised. He had no idea she felt like that about him before. “But I was with Jarl, the loser. Should have dumped him and gone for you. Then again, Ygritte was taken a bit by the pretty eyes and curls.”

He rolled his eyes. “She hated them. Always said I looked like a crow.”

“Yeah well, you were into her before anyone else and ah…” She chucked her fist against his shoulder, stepping backwards towards the door, waggling her eyebrow teasingly. “I’m into taller guys.”

“Ouch!”

She grinned. “See you Jon.”

He sighed; she’d be fine. “See you around Val.”

“I’ll be around, you know I like a challenge and maybe if I’m not vying for Daddy’s attention Lyanna will be nice,” she grinned. She reached into her pocket and removed a patch for the Free Folk unit, the image of a broken wall with a bow and a flaming arrow crossing on it. “Here, for her backpack. She might live on this side of the wall, but that girl is all True North.”

That she is. He took the patch, lifting it and patting it against his hand. “Thanks Val.”

“See you around Snow.”

He waited for the door to shut, turning and staring at the mess that his daughter made. He took a deep breath, closing his eyes. The door burst open again, Lyanna crashing into the back of his knees. He swung her around, before she had a chance to say anything, tipping her backwards over his shoulder. “Hey look a burglar!”

She squealed, kicking. “Put me down!”

“I don’t know, I think someone broke in and made a mess of my waiting room.” He dropped her back onto the floor, ruffling her hair and turning her towards the front desk. “Since you made this mess, you get to pick up all the flyers.” He glanced at the patch in his hand. “Hey, come here.”

Lyanna stepped towards him, standing still when he dropped to her height. The patch had a Velcro strip on the back, which he removed. He tapped it against her sweater, where it clung instantly, helped along by the static she brought with her from the cold outside. She rolled her eyes down to try to look at the patch. “What’s this?” she asked, curious.

“That is a present from Miss Val.” He watched the flicker of confusion cross her face. “Ah yes, you wouldn’t know why she wanted to give you a present after you were so mean to her, but she did. Because she’s nice. This is from her military unit. Not many people have this, but she gave it to you.” He pulled his phone out of his lab coat pocket, holding it up. “And you are going to call her and thank her. Be nice about it. Because I know you aren ice.”

Her lower lip stuck out. “Okay,” she whispered, agreeing. She sniffed. “You gonna’ go on dates again with Miss Val?” Her eyes narrowed. “Because I think Uncle Tormund needs a date and maybe Miss Val can go with him. He says he knows her from before and I think that…”

Oh my gods she’s matchmaking Tormund. He stood, spinning her towards the hall. “I am not talking about this with you.”

“Why?”

“Come on, get started cleaning this stuff up. I’ll be in room two.” He didn’t tell her Dany was there; figured he’d give the poor woman some peace. Lyanna would attack her with questions. He went down to the room, knocking before he stepped inside, closing the door behind him before Lyanna could hear her voice. “Hey, sorry about that. Bit crazy just with me.”

Dany stood, smiling warmly. “It’s alright. Oh I wanted you to know I ran into Lyanna outside before I came in.” She chuckled. “She was telling me that you guys are going to have holiday dinner and invited me. I thought you should know. Wasn’t sure how on board you were with it.”

Dinner? He shook his head, realization dawning on him. Val said that he talked about Dany on both dates. He did, he realized now that was probably not the smartest thing. Their talk in his study had been…easy. It was nice to talk to Val, but…easier with Dany. He picked up Rhaegal, the tortie, who immediately molded into his chest, purring happily and licking his hand. “Lyanna is up to something,” he said.

“I gathered,” Dany teased. She licked her lips, her violet eyes shining, amused. “I had a lot of fun the other night.”

“Me too.”

“I would not be opposed to it happening again.”

I don’t think you’re ready with me but someone else. Val’s words echoed in his head. He barely knew Dany. He knew Val more, longer…except there was something he wasn’t quite sure about with this stranger from the south. He set down Rhaegal, reaching for Viserion, who was purring in her arms. His hands brushed against hers, a spark of static jumping between them. Her breath gasped, startled and he flinched. “Sorry,” he murmured. He took the cat from her and waited a moment, unable to tear his eyes from hers.

“It’s okay,” she breathed. She smiled again; voice soft. “I think my cats are getting antsy. You better get to work Jon Snow.”

All he could do was smile.

**********

“Sansa told me that you went on a date.”

Jon was wondering when his youngest sister would finally get involved in his dating life. Arya and him had a nice relationship when it came to those matters. They both pretended the other lived in a bubble and never acknowledged that there was such a thing as love, dating, or sex lives. He didn’t think about what she did even though she was married and she didn’t think about what he did even though he had a kid. It was exactly as Sansa said, Arya sometimes though Lyanna just appeared in a garden one day. He still didn’t like it when Gendry kissed her in front of him. Denial was a wonderful thing sometimes.

He stepped back from where they were sparring in the gym that she had installed in her part of the residential area of Winterfell Castle. Arya’s rooms were the smallest, just a kitchen, living area, two bedrooms and the gym. In one of the garages she’d made Robb put a space for Gendry to play around with his welding, which he much preferred to do than anything else.

Even though he had a guest room at his house with a treadmill and several sets of weights, he much preferred Arya’s. It was state of the art and even had a mat for sparring, boxing, and fencing. He dodged one of Arya’s fists, seeing her tell when she moved her weight to her left leg. Sometimes she got too emotional in the fight, started indicating where and what she was going to do. He ducked another one of her punches, falling back and spinning away on the mat, bouncing back up to his feet.

“Fuck you,” she cursed, launching and trying a roundhouse kick, but he deflected again. She scowled. “How’d you get this good?”

“How’d you get this sloppy?” He laughed at her fuming expression. He danced around, finally letting her lunge forward towards him, her arms wrapping around his torso as she yelled, trying to knock him to the ground. He dropped his weight, letting her take him down, only to flip back out, kicking her ankles aside and twisting, knocking her wrists to her sides, pinning her. “Yield!”

She writhed around, shaking her head. “Never!”

“Yield!”

“Ugh! You’re supposed to be soft and stupid and not remember any of this stuff!”

He grinned, finally letting go of her and jumping to his feet when the door to the gym opened, Tormund coming in. The big guy laughed. “He best you Tiny Wolf?”

“I am not Tiny!” She punched his shoulder, walking over to wiggle her fingers at Tormund, dancing in place on the balls of her feet. “Come on Red, let’s see what you got.”

“I’d love to see this,” Jon commented, crossing his arms over his chest. He was just glad that he got Arya off the topic of his dating life.

Except apparently he didn’t, because she pointed her finger at Tormund, realization dawning on her. “Hey, so apparently you didn’t tell me that my big brother went on a date!”

“Oh which one,” Tormund chuckled, leaning on the ropes surrounding the sparring ring. He wiggled his bushy brows, like the lech he was. “The one with the Wildling Princess or the one with the Dragon Queen?”

Fuck. He pretended he had no idea what Tormund was speaking of, ducking under the ropes and grabbing his bottle of water, squirting it into his mouth as he wandered over to the treadmill. He sank onto it, grabbing his shoes and tugging them back on. “Thanks a lot, thought you were my friend,” he grumbled.

Arya sprang over the ropes, jumping ontot eh ground and rushing to smack him. “You asshole! Two women? When were you planning on telling me this? Also, how come Sansa knows more about this shit than me?!”

“Because Sansa doesn’t constantly give me shit about it.”

“Well I’m married and she can barely go on one date.”

“Sansa’s picky.”

“That’s a word for it,” Arya muttered. She crossed her arms, squaring off on him as he finished tying his shoes and got up onto the treadmill, punching in random numbers and figuring he’d just run at whatever incline and speed he’d just jabbed in. She stood in front of him. “So how did it go with…let’s say Val?”

“Terrible!” Tormund yelled from across the room.

He shouted over his shoulder. “Fuck off!”

Arya smirked. “And how did it go terrible with her?”

“Nothing, we went on two dates, she dumped me yesterday. It’s no big deal.” He sighed, beginning to jog as the speed started increasing on the treadmill. At this point with all the snow outside, he hadn’t had a decent workout in weeks and he wanted to run. Lyanna was happily playing up at the big house with Eddy, so he had some time to actually enjoy himself. Blowing his heart out running at top speed for an hour seemed like a good way to spend his free time. He shrugged his shoulders, taking deeper breaths as he sped up his pace. “She said I wasn’t ready.”

“And are you?”

“Am I what?”

“Ready?”

Tormund came over, holding two massive weights, his arms straining as he grinned again. “He’s ready for the Dragon Queen.”

“Tormund I swear to the gods…”

“What?”

He glared at his so-called friend. “I’ll tell Lyanna that you didn’t like her art project she did for you last week and you broke it when it fell off the table.” It being a mangled painted clay pot she’d made in an assortment of pinks because it matched his hair. Tormund had loved it, of course, and been devastated when it broke, so he’d told Lyanna he took it to “work” and that was it.

Tormund scowled, eyes narrowing. “You wouldn’t.”

“Try me.”

Arya stomped her foot. “I want to know about this Dragon Queen. So it didn’t work out with Val, which I still need to find out about.”

“He talked about Dragon Lady on their dates.”

“Tormund!”

His sister’s mouth dropped in shock. “Seven hells Jon! That is rookie movie, why would you do that?”

“Because he’s in love with the Dragon Queen and so is Lyanna.”

He launched himself off the treadmill to Tormund, both of them knocking each other around for a few minutes before a good punch to the giant’s gut at him wheezing and a headbutt to his nose had him walking off with blood trickling down his face. Arya rolled her eyes, waiting for him to stuff tissues into his nostrils to stop the bleeding. “Are you done?”

“Yes.” He hadn’t had a good fight with Tormund in awhile, same as with Arya, he’d have to make sure that they could get in the ring for a bit later. He took a deep breath through his mouth, his nose all stuffed up now. “It’s not that big of a deal Arya. Her name is Dany, she’s a friend of Talisa’s, she’s got cats she calls dragons.”

“So that’s why she’s Dragon Queen.”

His voice dropped. “Lyanna likes her.” I like her. He closed his eyes, trying not to think of how she laughed or smiled or smelled. Like lemons and lavender and springtime. Like sunshine. Tried not to think of the sadness in her eyes when she spoke of her family or the humor when Lyanna teased her about her cats. The way her eyes shined and the way her eyebrows seemed to magnify everything she said.

Somehow Arya was still talking, saying he was an idiot for talking about another woman while on a date with someone else. It was guaranteed to end badly. He shook his head; well it did, so he supposed it was done now. She squinted at him. “Give me your phone.”

That drew him out of his thoughts of Dany. “What? No way.”

“Tormund give me his phone.”

Tormund had already riffled through his gym bag, sitting on one of the weight benches. “Ha! Got it! Your password still 1234?”

“No!” Yes. He tried to grab his phone, but Tormund tosse dit over his head, where Arya snatched it, punching in the code and bringing up his contacts. He turned pink when she found Dany clear as day, the last text message he’d sent. He’d asked about Rhaegal and Viserion after their check-up yesterday, making sure they weren’t too tired after their vaccines. “Give it back.”

“Nope. You’re asking her to dinner,” Arya said, texting away. “YiTi food, it’s the best in town that isn’t Northern swill.”

“What about Lyanna?” It was a dumb excuse.

Tormund snorted. “I’ve got that little Crow.”

“Ha!” Arya sent the message and threw the phone at him, grinning. “She says yes.”

“What?” Jon glanced at the phone, eyes wide at Dany’s response. I love YiTi food. Pick me up at the inn around 6 and then I’d like you to show me Winterfell. He stared at it for a moment longer, whispering. “She wants me to show her Winterfell.”

“There’s some sort of big light display tomorrow. Sansa was talking about it,” Arya explained. She grinned, making kissing noises while Tormund guffawed in the background. “So romantic! Walking hand in hand in the snow and lights. Like a fucking fairytale.”

He threw the phone aside and grabbed Arya, hauling her back up and towards the sparring pen. “You clearly need to keep fighting.”

“You clearly need the shit kicked out of you.”

“For so many reasons!” Tormund shouted.

Jon rolled his eyes and jumped into the pen, keen on getting out some of his suddenly nervous energy. A real date with Dany. And he had no idea why now he felt sick to his stomach over the prospect of seeing her.

**********

"You know for being this far North, the YiTi is pretty good."

Jon smiled around the bit of noodles he picked up with his chopsticks, shrugging as she tucked her pair into the takeout container, stealing some as well to go with her chicken. "I wouldn't know, I've never been there."

"Ugh, you should go, it's gorgeous. So warm," Dany sighed longingly, all bundled up in her red coat and dragon scarf. They were seated on the balcony of a tower in Winterfell, one that was closed to the public for renovations, but it had the best view of the light displays and the holiday show that one of the schools was putting on. It had been a bit of a whim, to order the YiTi for takeout instead of sitting in the restaurant, but she'd said she wanted to see a real Long Night pageant while she was up North at that time of year, so here they were.
He picked up one of the containers, tilting it towards her. "Last egg roll."

"This is a Westerosi thing, egg rolls aren't real YiTi," she said, snagging the last one. She snapped her chopsticks at him after she removed the roll from them, breaking it in half. "Here. It's only fair."

"You know if Lyanna were here there'd be no egg rolls. It's her favorite." He closed his mouth, mentally smacking himself again. Stop talking about your daughter. Except unlike before, when he kept that part quiet and removed from his dates, Dany positively lit up at the mention of the little girl. She's different. You don't need to separate the two anymore. He smiled, tossing the empty container into the bag of trash. "She has a map of the world in her room, did she show you? All the places she wants to go."

That broadened Dany's smile, if that were even more possible. Even in the cold, her nose red and the apples of her cheeks shiny pink from the wind, she seemed to radiate warmth. He even could feel it, the closer they moved towards each other. It was like she was made of fire. A real dragon. "She did show me. I think that's wonderful she wants to see the world so much. I remember at her age I was the same." She took a deep breath, gazing down at the pageant, watching as the King in the North slayed the Night King, sending him to dust. She applauded, even though they were too far for anyone to really hear. She leaned against him, her head dropping to his shoulder.

He stiffened slightly, unused to the type of familiar contact, but she didn't react, her gaze fixed on the pageant beneath them. The balcony was small, just large enough for them both. It wasn't so much a balcony as a former hayloft, high in the Broken Tower they called it. He'd snatched the keys from the main groundskeeper's office, shouting to Sansa that he'd get them back whenever. His sister hadn't been pleased; she ran the estate like a general.

They finished up the rest of the food, tossing the empty containers in the bags and setting them aside, the pageant concluding with a flourish and the beginnings of spring. She arched a brow, tilting her head towards his. "Forgive me as a southern girl, but how did a war against an ice zombie king end up being celebrated as a holiday with gift giving and cookies and all that?" she teased.

"Beats me," he laughed. He always wondered that himself. he shrugged. "I think it coincided with a Faith of Seven holiday. Kind of got all morphed together through the years."

"I do like that the Dragon Queen burned them all."

"You would." He tugged at the end of her dragon scarf. "Mother of Dragons yourself."

She giggled, pulling her scarf free and getting to her feet, dusting off her black tights. He couldn't quite figure her out, the pediatric surgeon who dressed like she was getting ready to go to a rock concert all the time. The Doc Martens she wore were patent red leather, black laces that sparkled. They matched her sparkling black tulle skirt and her short red leather coat. He stood, gathering the rest of the YiTi containers and followed her out, down the spiral stairs of the Broken Tower.

She leaned against the stone wall as he locked up, smirking. "Did you steal those keys Jon Snow?"

"I did," he confessed, tossing them int he air before catching them, grinning. "Perks of being one of the family here."

"It must have been something, growing up in a castle."

Not really. He dumped their trash and led her around the other side of the tower, opening another closed gate and letting her through before he closed it. They wandered through some of the back, narrow areas of the castle, off limits to the rest of the world. It was an intriguing place, full of mysteries and secrets that as kids he and Robb had been determined to unearth. He shoved his hands into the pockets of his pea coat, the collar tugging up around his neck. "Most of the castle is off-limits. It's either for tours and looks like it did a thousand or so years ago, or it's just inhabitable. Too cold, too old, too dusty."

"I understand, I spent summers at my family's estate. Dragonstone." She smiled briefly. He narrowed his eyes. Dragonstone? It was her turn to smirk, knowingly, and she rolled her eyes. "Targaryen, Jon Snow. Surely you know about my mad father." She continued, before he had a chance to say that he really didn't care about her father's madness or lack thereof. "My family managed to keep the castle, it's been in our family for so long no one could claim it, as much ss they wanted. it's a hotel now you know. Museum and hotel." She took a deep breath, sighing. "But like Winterfell, we still have a residence there. My brother doesn't visit much. Sometimes I try to go. It's warm."

"What's that like?" They shared a laugh, breaths coming out in heated puffs, feet stomping a bit as they walked through the dark coldness. He pointed up at some of the turrets. "They're shaped like that because hot water from the springs piped through the walls. Kept it warm even in the longest of winters."

"Fascinating." She smiled. "Dragonstone has hot springs too."

"Robb and I used to sneak to the Winterfell ones, but they're closed off now, too unsafe." He paused in front of one of the big gates, a sign posted telling people of the hallowed space beneath their feet. He fingered the keys in his pocket. Kind of morbid Snow, but if she's game... "You want to see the crypts?"

He wasn't sure why he asked; she immediately grinned and bounced on the balls of her feet. "Creepy, but of course."

They descended into the crypts, which had very little lighting, in keeping with the traditions of the Old Kings of Winter. He didn't have a lighter on him; he'd given up smoking for good when Lyanna was four and complained that his breath was "stinky." He picked up one of the torches that was nestled in a sconce, gesturing with it towards the dark corridor. "Usually we use these but..."

Leave it to the Dragon Queen. She flicked a Zippo, which naturally had a dragon engraved on it. She tossed it to him, grinning in the dim light coming from the entrance above them. "I'm never without fire."

Never. He felt his stomach clench at the implications of her words, whether she meant them or not. He swallowed the lump forming in his throat, dry as sand. There was something about this woman, something he couldn't place or understand. He felt different than his two dates with Val. Those were friendlier, awkward for sure, but more like what they happened to be-- people with a few shared experiences and friends catching up. Dany sparked something he hadn't felt in a very long time. Maybe ever. He lit the torch, the fire immediately lighting over her face, her violet eyes shining in respect of the fire. It warmed them both quickly in the small entrance cavern. They could have used their phones of course, probably would provide even brighter and clearer light than the old torch, but this just felt more appropriate.

They entered the first corridor, footsteps silent, muffled on the stone as he held the torch aloft, watching as it played over the stone faces of the old Kings of Winter. There was an exhibit outside, with photos, explaining that out of respect to recently deceased family members the crypts were off limits to visitors, but people could see replicas of the tomb of Torrhen Stark, the last King of Winter, the King Who Knelt. They could see the wolves that stood forever guarding the dead and the stone swords rested over their laps.

The ancestral sword of House Stark, a smoky steel blade called Ice, was kept in a glass case in the castle, along with the few remaining crowns of the former kings. Robb only ever brought it out for the once a year ceremonial events down in Kingsland, when all the Lords had to appear and make nice with each other. "Who is this?"

Her soft voice broke the silence, curious, peering at the only female statue that was placed at the end, with the statues of his uncles and grandfather. He held the torch up, the smooth face of the woman appearing, the sculptor having detailed sharp cheekbones and her curled hair. She held her hand out, a half-melted candle there. The wolf did not stand sentry, but curled around her feet, a sword on her hip, wearing a cloak like the others instead of a dress.

A smile pulled gently at his lips. "That's Lyanna Stark." He paused, taking a deep breath. "My mother."

Dany immediately lifted her head. "Your mother?" She looked back at the statue. "Gods she's beautiful, even in stone."

"She was the most beautiful woman in the world they say. She died giving birth to me." He heard the story, the very few times his father-- uncle-- would ever tell it. Undiagnosed heart condition, only appearing when in the stresses of childbirth. They hadn't been able to save her and him, so they saved him first. She died hours later. "She named me. Entrusted her brother to raise me. Ned did, just like his trueborn sons."

"He must have been an amazing man, to do something like that."

He swung the torch to the statue set back beside Lyanna's, the most recent addition to the crypt. "Ned Stark," he said, stepping sideways so she could see. He chuckled. "People think the Starks are morbid, burying their dead beneath their feet like this, but...Starks have always clung to tradition. My father wanted it this way, so we honored him. His brother and his father are also buried here. Robb will be too one day. All the heads of the family."

This is the weirdest first date. He blinked. Or is it a date? We're just friends, right? That's all this is? He really should have sought some sort of clarification. He frowned briefly. Daenerys was a visitor, she was leaving soon. It was nothing, he tried to tell himself. Just nothing.

Her hand reached out, lightly stroking along the base of the statue, gazing up at his uncle's stern stone face. "I should have liked to have known someone who raises his nephew as his son." She glanced at him, that tiny smile on her lips, her beautiful face shining like polished marble in the dim light. "Especially a son such as yourself Jon Snow."

There was something here. Something he didn't understand. He glanced at his uncle, wondered what he'd think of this whole thing. He cleared his throat; loudly. She stepped back a bit, allowing him to move by, back into the main corridor leading to the surface. He tried to think of something to say, after such kinds words as that. He chewed his lower lip, frowning. "He didn't know Lyanna. I think she wishes she knew him."

"I'm sure he would have loved her very much, especially you naming her after your mother. His sister."

"I think so. Eddy is named for him. Eddard."

"Eddy is sweet."

He chuckled, thinking of his nephew, who could be as silly as Robb was at his age, just with a hell of lot less to care about. He might one day become the Lord of Winterfell like his father, but he had a ferocity to him that only came from his mother. "We'll see. I think Lyanna gives him a run for his money. Most of the chaos comes from her."

"Like I said earlier, she's a good kid. You know when you were finishing up yesterday with the cats, she showed me drawings she made of what she thought Essos looked like." Dany crossed her arms against the cold, emerging into the night air. He closed and locked the gates to the crypts behind him, glancing at her when he turned back, her violet eyes once again sparkling merrily. "I told her I grew up there, spent most of my time jumping from city to city. Rhaegar never really settled, he always liked exploring. Closest I had to a home was Dragonstone." She frowned. "Well actually, this little house in Braavos. Had a red door and a lemon tree."

That sounds really nice. He thought of his house; it was technically on the Winterfell Castle grounds, so it belonged to Robb, to the Starks, but it was all his. He built most of it himself. Painted and sanded and put his blood, sweat, and sometimes tears into the place. a home for Lyanna. Where she could have the biggest room in the house while he'd had the smallest growing up. Where she could play and enjoy her life. He thought of the front door, lifting his head back to her, whispering. "I have a red front door."

That beautiful smile pulled on her lips once more. "I know."

"It's Lyanna's favorite color. Like her hair."

"So she's told me. It's one of mine as well."

Black and red. Favorite colors. Lyanna had said something liket hat to val, in her protests at the coffee shop. He smirked, walking with her from the private areas of the castle towards the godswood. It was closed right now, but would be open in the morning. It was his favorite place in the entire expanse of the estate, even more than his home. "My favorite color is black."

"That is not a color That is an absence of color!"

"It's always been mine." He led her through the thick entrance of the godswood, brushing through the bushes and mentally reminding himself to tell Sansa they needed to get trimmed back. They walked through the paths quietly, until he broke through to the main clearing, the truest part of Winterfell, he thought. The weirwood tree.

Dany's eyes turned to saucers and she broke away from him, striding to the tree, placing her hands on the wide trunk. She jerked off her gloves, placing her bare palms back onto the wood. She lifted her face, staring up into the knotted tangle of branches, some older than even Winterfell itself. Even in the freezing cold night of winter the leaves remained attached, blood red, matching the sap that dripped from the carved smiling face on the wood. Or laughing face, as Lyanna said. Sometimes he thought it was actually crying.

Whatever you want the gods to be in that moment.

She walked around the tree, still taking it in. It was a lot, he knew. "This is my favorite spot," he whispered. He didn't know why he was showing it to her. He followed her to a secluded little area between two of the tree's giant roots. The trunk of the weirwood was large enough that you would need probably an entire class of primary schoolers to link hands to wrap around it. He gestured to the face. "The Old Gods look on us through the faces."

"Jon it's gorgeous. I have never seen a weirwood." She stroked her finger over a knick in the trunk. "This is magnificent."

"All good things happen beneath the weirwood, we believe." He followed the path of her finger. "Lyanna was blessed beneath a weirwood after she was born. We still marry beneath weirwood trees. Old Northern wedding ceremonies at least. Robb was married in a sept, but Talisa grew up following the Red God in Volantis."

"My family followed the Seven, but I think that was just because it was politically advantageous." She tucked a strand of silver hair behind her ear, chuckling. "If they really were dragons they'd believe in the Fourteen Flames."

"What're those?"

They spoke for a bit, delving into the history of Old Valyria. The peninsula where you still had to get permits to travel, due to the danger. Archaeologists had spent years attempting to unearth the mysteries that still existed there, but it was supposed to be cursed. Only those with the true blood could travel unharmed, untouched, she explained. "Some think it's all a joke but I think it's true," she said. She ducked her head, breaking eye contact, her voice fumbling quickly. "I haven't been, but I'd love to go one day."

"You can take Lyanna," he teased. He looked up at the smiling face of the tree again. "She wants to see real dragons. Especially after meeting you."

Dany laughed, turning to face him fully. She was in his space, he realized, both of them having moved closer to each other while they were speaking. Maybe for warmth. What are you doing Snow? His inner voice was being annoying. It sounded a bit like Robb, Arya, and Tormund all at once, which was slightly horrifying. They really needed to get out of his head. He stepped towards her again, bold. He'd never been this bold before. He'd never wanted something like this before.

All the other times it had been mostly just basic need. Arya always said he was a prude, but he wasn't a prude. He just had always thought it wasn't something he should have. Catelyn Stark had always said a bastard was born of wanton desire, so he strove to never live up to that belief. His mother hadn't divulged his father's identity, not even to Ned, and all he knew was that she threw away a lot to run off with him. Seven hells, she basically died for it. He'd never wanted to father a bastard and he'd been very careful. Until Ygritte, until Lyanna came along, and then it was only her. Base urges were nothing when he had to be there for his daughter. The other times had just been blowing off steam. He'd realize it had been awhile, he'd find someone that he knew shared the same feelings he felt on the matter, kept Lyanna quiet, and then that was it.

Not like this though. Not this intense need for someone, his blood practically screaming for her, every nerve ending alight, overwhelming him with the scent of her and hearing his heart pounding in his ears as he moved even closer, their bodies bumping lightly. Her fingers tracked down his arm; even though the thick layers of his coat he shivered at her touch and his arm went around her waist, tugging her against him. He very rarely made the first move; Sansa said he was a gentleman like that. Robb said he was a stuffy maid.

Her neck tilted back, exposing a track of creamy white neck along the slim column, her plump pink lips parting as her breath quickened. "Jon I'm not staying very long," she husked. Her amethyst eyes had almost disappeared in the blown black of her pupils. Her other hand reached to touch at his shoulder, creeping to his face. "Just a couple more days and then I have to go....I...I've been delaying it."

"Why?" he whispered. He touched one of her silver braids, a tiny clip winking in the light from the moon above them, peeking through the branches. She furrowed her brow, perplexed. He clarified. "Why delay your trip?"

"Because...I don't know." She swallowed, her throat tightening. he wanted to kiss the pulse that had begun to jump there. Her voice cracked. "I think I know now."

Do it Snow. Take what you want, for once in your life, fuck the consequences.

This time the voice was all him. So he listened, blacking out everything else, focusing on the woman before him, the woman who did things to him that he didn't understand. made him laugh like he hadn't laughed in a long time, made him smile, clearly adore his daughter even when she had no reason to, who didn't look at him with the pity of Oh poor Jon, you single dad you or as simply a conquest before running off the minute the daughter part was found out.

Made him happy.

He pressed his lips to hers, quick, before he could brood further on it, swallowing her gasp as she enveloped him in her arms, her fingers gripping at his back as he swept her up, the toes of her boots brushing the snow beneath their feet. He lightly pressed his tongue to her lips, which gently opened beneath him and they tangled together, her light moan of desire muffled by his matching one. They stumbled slightly, the kiss breaking just long enough for him to hold her face in his hands, her cheeks still warm against his cold fingers. He kissed her again, sweet and gentle, and she smiled, returning it with a tenderness he didn't think a woman who wore shit-kicker boots and spoke of dragons could have.

Dany was quite a mystery. One he had really enjoyed getting to know. Even if she was going to leave in a couple days. "I"m going back to Kingsland," she whispered again, nose brushing his. Her breath was coming in shallow gasps, heat mingling with his. Their fingers entwined, squeezing lightly. "But I want to see you again."

"Tomorrow," he murmured. He wasn't sure what they would do. or where they woudl go, but he had to see her again before she left. If only to just say goodbye.

She grinned. "It's a date."

They should probably get back, he thought, knowing that people might find them, thinking the godswood was still open. He could hear the faint calls of the crowds that remained in the main keep of Winterfell, at the restaurant and lingering after the pageant and light show. They should go back out there, he should show her the rest of the displays, but when she wrapped herself back in him again, his senses swarmed by sunshine and jewels and hair like snow, he forgot completely about anything else.

**********

When Dany woke the next morning, she wasn't thinking about her date that evening. Just like she hadn't thought about the coffee she'd had spontaneously with the cute vet or seeing him with his family or the dinner at his house with his adorable daughter or the dinner they'd had at Winterfell overlooking the holiday pageant. Not one of those things had been thought out, she'd just done them. She hadn't fretted over her hair, her appearance, nothing, because there was nothing to fret about. He was a guy that she happened to meet on a whim when Drogon decided to be a foul cat and swallow something whole.

Leave it to her dragon to be the one to get her a date, she thought darkly, throwing her clothes throughout her bedroom at the inn. She was not this woman. Yes, she'd been a shy girl when she'd met the Khal, over in Essos, fresh out of college heading to med school and she had fallen. She'd fallen hard. It had been a shitty relationship from the get-go and she hadn't thought much about it at the time, until after she'd realized that he'd manipulated her into the relationship and she loved an idea of him, loved the comfort he could give her. Then she'd gone and married him after Rhaegar died and as they were going through divorce proceedings he'd gotten in a car accident. Stupid fuck had tried to race another one and crashed.

Then there was Daario. Ugh. There had been other men. She wanted to be in control after she hadn't been with Drogo. She had controlled him from the get go and he'd fawned over her. Until someone else came along with bigger tits and more money. Dick. All the others had been after her for something. She had used them for what they could give her. A nice meal, a quick fuck and release when she was stressed, whatever.

This was so different.

"I canceled my plans, I stayed for him!" she shouted at the dragons, who were lounging on the bed, watching her as she acted like a teenager, worrying over her clothes for a date with a man. She rounded on them, glaring and pointing at Drogon. "This is your fault. You got sick, I met him because of you."

Drogon hissed, baring his teeth. Then he meowed and walked over to lick her hand. She scratched him, sighing and sinking beside him. "I met his daughter first," she murmured, brow furrowing in memory. The sweet little girl swinging her feet on the bench. She'd been drawn to her. Dany didn't believe in gods or fates. She believed in herself. She always had. Yes, she'd been in awe of the Old Gods Jon spoke of, she had told him about the Fourteen Flames. Yet Old Gods, Fourteen Flames, the Seven, the Red God, it didn't matter, none of those entities got her where she was, just herself.

But Lyanna had dragged her in, with those cute red curls, freckles across her nose, and that beaming smile she realized last night was actually from her brooding father. Those intense gray eyes, too worldly for a six-year old, staring at her intently, mapping her and trying to understand her. A stranger from a faraway land to the little girl, Dany thought. that's what I must be.

Jon wasn't a stranger. There was a familiarity with him she had never felt with another man. He confused her too. He was blushing and stumbling over himself at coffee and all those other times, but then last night he had taken her into his arms as an experienced lover, confident in what he wanted. It had driven her insane with need. She didn't realize she wanted that. it was incredibly attractive on him.

The car breaking down had been one thing. waiting on parts was another. Then there were a few snowstorms. Then they got a car. Drogon got sick. Oh she might as well get those other two in for a checkup too. Oh Dr. Snow is booked up, just give me the first available, oh it's in a few days, fine by me I'll wait.

She smacked her palm to her forehead, falling backwards onto her bed, groaning. "I'm going back south," she announced to the canopy above her. The four-poster bed was so cozy she made a mental note to consider trading in her massive tufted headboard for one when she got home. Home. The south was home. Where it was warm. Where people didn't stare at her funny because of her hair or eyes or crazy clothing. She liked dressing in odd pieces she thrifted or found on her travels. All day long she spent in scrubs and lab coats. She enjoyed be feminine and fun.

Which is why I have no idea what to wear tonight.

She assumed they were going to dinner. Not that there were many options. She also meant to ask him about the woman she met him with at coffee. Val, her name was. She didn't fancy being the other woman. Although she was almost 100 percent certain Jon Snow would not cheat on anyone. The man turned pink when he got caught looking at her for longer than a moment. She liked it, she thought he was sweet like that.

She thought he was too little for her, just a brief moment, when she'd walked out with him from the coffee shop that first time. Just a flash, but that was only an excuse. Jon Snow was not little by any means. He had a big heart, she thought. She could see that clear as day. He helped kittens and dogs and wolves and gods knew what else. He was a single father who was trying his best to raise his daughter as well as he could without the influence of a mother.

"I have got to get out of here." She needed to talk to another girl. She gathered up some clothes, stuffing them in a tote bag and fumbling with her phone. It rang a few times, Talisa's Volantene accented voice answering just before it hit voicemail. "Hey it's Dany, I was wondering if you're free? Need to bounce some things off you and well you're the closest."

"Come on over!"

**********

"You are going on a date with my good-brother!" Talisa squealed, jumping and clapping her hands together, immediately diving into the tote bag of random clothing articles. She scattered them onto the couch in the formal sitting room, picking up a vintage band t-shirt. "Oh this is cute."

"I got it in Pentos," she said, snagging the band-- Bronn and Pod-- t-shirt from her friend and stuffing it into the bag, removing a few other things and dropping them. "And besides, I have no idea what I'm doing. I'm not staying here forever. This is a waste."

Talisa plucked through the clothes, holding them up one by one. "It is not a waste, I got to see you for the first time in years, you met my son and husband which was wonderful, and you managed to get your kitties all checked up so now they're happy and healthy." Her dark eyes scanned over, knowingly. "And besides, Jon isn't a fool. He isn't doing this to try to keep you here. Although I will admit with full honesty that this is truly a first."

She blinked. "First for what?"

"For us, Jon doesn't talk about his private life." Talisa tossed a sparkling red skirt to the side. Dany wondered if it was the reject pile. Her voice dropped, quiet. "I met him after Lyanna was born. I had already given birth to Eddy and married Robb. He came down with Lyanna from the Wall for Sansa's college graduation. I wasn't sure what to expect, Robb always made him sound like he was a saint. All I know was I did not picture the man who showed up." She smiled, sad. "He was so tired. You could tell just by how he carried himself. He loved Lyanna so much, I mean it was just pouring from him. Robb and I struggled with Eddy those first few months and we had each other. I couldn't imagine what he went through just on his own."

"Had his wife died by then?" she asked. She knew Jon said that Lyanna was a few months old, too little to know anything about her mother. At least Ygritte had a chance to know her daughter, even for a moment. That was more than Rhaella Targaryen ever had for sure.

Talisa nodded. "I never met her. Robb didn't either. Jon was very quiet about her. Robb didn't even know that he was seeing anyone that seriously until he called to say he was getting married. I asked why he would do something like that so quickly and Robb said that he had his suspicious. wasn't until we found out that Lyanna was on the way did Robb say that was it. Jon would never father a bastard, he did the right thing by Ygritte in marrying her, even though it sounded like that was the last thing she wanted. She did it anyway, for him." She picked up another dress and set it down, sighing hard. "I'm not telling you this to scare you off, I'm just saying that he keeps everything very quiet, very private. Even from his brother. I know he's dated women, he's not a septon."

No way, not the way he kissed. Dany smirked. "Yeah, I figured."

That got Talisa's curiosity up, her dark eyes shining as she smiled, wagging her finger. "What's that look about? What aren't you telling me?"

She turned pink, remembering medical school when Talisa said she wanted nothing to do with men, she was focused on her career, as a trauma surgeon, while Dany was trying to figure out what the seven hells her relationship with Drogo actually meant. Leave it to the one who wanted nothing to do with men to be the one who up and moved clear to the North for a man and her family. She was so glad that she had stayed in touch with Talisa enough to be able to just barge into her life like this. It was like no time had passed at all, she only wished Missandei were there too.

She fiddled with one of her rings, twisting the silver dragon around on her index finger. "Nothing...just..." She smiled shyly, which she never was, and peered up at Talisa, who was waiting impatiently. "Um, last night we...we kissed."

"Seven hells! Well this is serious!" Talisa dropped to sit beside her on the couch. "Look, he's super private, but those Stark siblings gossip like a bunch of old biddies. Never ask one to keep a secret, they'll go blabbing it to all the others. I think they try to one up each other on who knows the most. Anyways," She took a deep breath. "Apparently Jon went out with a woman he knew from the past, Val. Just a couple dates, nothing to worry about, and he barely kissed her, like peck on the lips stuff. So please, please tell me it was more than that."

The memory of his mouth on hers, the warmth in his arms, her back held up by the weirwood tree behind her had her smile loopy again. Talisa groaned. She tried not to keep smiling, but it was almost impossible. "It was nothing! Just a kiss!"

"And you already met Lyanna too."

"Who met Lyanna? What's all this stuff?" They both looked up at Robb, who walked in munching on chips from a bag. He frowned, looking at Talisa. "Is this all yours?"

"And if it was?" she demanded, eyebrow arching.

Robb flashed a smile. "It's nice."

Gods he's pretty whipped, Dany thought with a smile as Talisa merely grinned at her husband. She gestured to Dany. "Dany has a date tonight and I'm helping her pick out something to wear."

"Well good luck." Robb meant to turn around, but paused. He rotated on one heel, blinking in understanding. "You met Lyanna." His blue eyes widened, realizing. "You have a date with Jon?"

Dany immediately thought of the old biddies comment. "Uh, I don't know if it's a date," she blurted, trying to save Jon some face with his siblings.

Talisa glared at Robb. "You keep your mouth shut to him, unless he tells you first!"

"Yeah sure. Well shit, that fucker doesn't tell me anything anymore." Robb frowned at her. "You met Lyanna more than once too." He whistled low. "Jon is head over heels I guess."

Oh gods that's making this worse! She groaned and Talisa shouted for him to get out. Dany sat back up and fumbled with her clothes. "Forget this, I'll just go in jeans and something."

"You might as well go starkers, I don't think so. Here." She unearthed one of the nicer dresses that she'd brought with her, a red cap sleeve with sweetheart neckline that pinched in at the waist before flaring out in a full A-line skirt. It was rather retro, very classic and almost plain in comparison to her other clothes she'd brought. Talisa grinned, hands on her hips. "Jon Snow is kind of a mess with women, always has been apparently, but somehow he got Daenerys Targaryen speechless. So make him speechless now."

Dany glanced at the dress, smirking. I think that won't be too difficult. She bundled up the dress in her arms, frowning. "I'm still leaving," she murmured. She didn't want to hurt him. "I mean...you say he keeps everything so private. Doesn't let women meet Lyanna. Went on a date by all accounts but somehow I end up being the one he likes...I really like him too but I have to get south. I already moved up here for a man..."

"No one is asking you to move to the North for Jon Snow," Talisa chuckled. She rolled her eyes. "Missandei told me about Daario. Dickhead. Don't use that as a barometer for anything. You got hurt, you tried to clear your head...so you're clearing your head. You've stuck around here longer than you intended. Just ride it out. Whatever happens happens."

Two days, that's how long she had left here. She was heading back south, back to her job that she loved, back to her life. She nodded. Just one more date with Jon Snow, that was it. He had his life too, his daughter, and there was no way he'd want her to be messing it up either.

**********

The soft knock on the inn door broke Dany from her reverie. She twisted at her hands, glancing around the room. It was clean, her bed made up and all her clothes packed and shoved away. The kitties were relaxing before the fire in the inn's main living room, banished there on a whim, not wanting them flitting about their feet. She didn't know what else she expected.

She took a deep breath and tugged open the room door, revealing Jon Snow. He was wearing all black. Black button-down, black jacket, and black pants. His dark curls were loose. The buttons on his shirt were undone at the top, revealing a bit of his smooth chest. She felt a breath hitch in her throat. For all his quiet manner, almost too perfect, he looked like sin. She licked her lips subconsciously. "Hi," she whispered.

"Hi," he said, shifting on his feet, one hand going into his pocket and the other nervously running over the back of his neck. He gaped at her outfit, the dress clinging to her curves, her red heels matching it perfectly. She wore no jewelry save for the two rings she always wore-- her mother's dragon pearl one and another she got from Rhaegar when she graduated high school. Her silver hair was undone, swept back from one side of her face with a dragon clip. It was his turn to lick his lips. "You look..."

The smile she managed pulled over her teeth, her crimson lipstick the same color as her dress. "Thanks," she grinned. She pressed her lips together, her eyes still crinkled with her smile. She still didn't move, didn't make to grab her coat or her scarf. She took anotehr deep breath. "This can't go anywhere," she announced. It was all she'd been thinking about after that conversation with Talisa. Jon blinked, not reacting. She continued. "I'm leaving day after tomorrow." It was Long Night Eve tomorrow. She'd leave on the holiday itself, the traffic wouldn't be that bad. Sehe could prbably get straight throgh the Riverlands. "I...I need to get back to the south and I'm sorry, i didn't want to lead you..."

"It's alright," he whispered. He frowned. "I understand."

"I don't know why I feel like this with you, I mean we barely know each other." That was a bit of a lie. She'd shared more with him than she had anyone in recent years.

Jon nodded in agreement. "It's easier this way. I can't have Lyanna get attached..."

"I agree." She stepped backwards into her room, her hands reaching for his, tugging him in as he stepped over the threshold, one of his hands reaching to close the door. Her breath began to falter, her heart strangling her as she began to push at his coat, still walking backwards, trying to kick off her heels at the same time. His mouth started to track down her exposed throat, fingers tugging at the back of her dress. "Gods Jon."

He broke away from her long enough for her to see that his gray eyes had gone black, his breath as erratic as hers. "What about dinner?" he teased, his smile more of a smirk.

Dinner was the least of her concerns and it soon would be his. "We can order in," she replied, nibbling at his lower lip.

He kissed her back, lifting her off the ground again. They fumbled with clothing, falling backwards towards her bed, her knees almost giving out when she backed into it, but he prevented her from falling, arms around her keeping her steady, just for a moment. "Um...you know I have a kid and..." He sighed, frustrated, frowning. He chuckled, rolling his eyes a little, playing off his embarrassment. "It's been awhile."

She smiled, pulling at his belt buckle, notching his hips into hers. He hissed in response. "Don't worry, same for me." It wasn't like she and Daario were all that close before he left. Probably should have been her first clue. She snagged his mouth again, mumbling against his lips. "You're all i want Jon Snow. So have me."

That was all the encouragement he needed, her dress falling to the floor in one swoop.

Chapter Text

moodboard 2

Daddy didn't tell her where he was going, but she knew he was going on a date. She was positively vibrating with excitement, especially when he said that she would spend the night with Auntie Sansa, since Tormund had to go back up to the north north, like the True North for work. She didn't mind at all, Auntie Sansa let her stay up late and they painted their toenails and did their hair and watched fun movies. Sometimes Auntie Sansa even let her wolf Lady spend the night in her room, but Lady always was with Sansa, she didn't like to leave her alone.

She studied her book, flicking through the pictures, before she closed it and put it in her bag. Right now she was supposed to be packing up, but she didn't know why. An adult always came in and took out all the stuff she put in her bag and put in things they thought she needed. She turned back to her bed and gently placed her new patch that Miss Val gave her onto the book. She smiled. Daddy said she had to apologize to her, so she did. Tormund knew Val and told her that she was a nice lady too. She was glad. Tormund needed a wife. Daddy needed a wife too and that wife was not Miss Val but maybe Miss Val was the wife for Tormund.

She would ask Santa next year. Right now Santa was busy getting her new mother and Daddy's new wife. Which was Miss Dany. She was trying to figure out if Daddy was on a date with Miss Dany. He better be. He didn't tell her. Just that he had to go out. The adults weren't talking with her around. She hated that. She turned around and went back to her desk, picking up a marker and crossing off the day on her calendar. "Two days!" she exclaimed, counting the remaining boxes. "Tomorrow Long Night Eve and then Long Night Day!"

And Santa will make sure that Miss Dany and Daddy are together. She is the wife. My wish came true.

Lyanna heard a door open and close downstairs. She didn't know where Ghost had gone, probably was sleeping in front of the fireplace. He hated when they went to Auntie Sansa's because Lady always bothered him. She picked up her backpack and walked out into the hall, stopping at the top of the stairs and hiding behind the wall, watching Sansa walk over to Robb, who had come to drop off her hat, which she left. I was wondering where I put it.

She hovered behind the wall, something preventing her from running downstairs. Robb looked kind of sad. "Can you believe him?"

"Yes, Jon has never been one to figure things out on his own."

"She came to dinner like a week or so ago, he was smitten. I should have seen it."

"It's too bad she's leaving."

Robb frowned, leaning against the wall, his arms crossing his chest. He did not look very happy, in fact, she thought, cocking her head, he looked confused. "Yeah, I don't get it. Talisa said she was just kind of wandering through on some sort of head-clearing thing. then suddenly she wants to get out of town."

Sansa wrinkled her nose. "You think she's playing him?"

"No, I think she's probably scared of him too." He rolled his eyes. "Our brother sure can pick them."

"Well she did kind of just show up. Does she even have a job?"

"Talisa said she took a leave of absence to move North. Not sure what happened, but she probably can go back to it. I mean, she's a pediatric surgeon, a really good one Talisa says. No way she's going to find something that great up here, gods know the hospitals here need that." He seemed to think a bit, frowning. "Maybe that's something the foundation could look into."

"You and work," Sansa scoffed. She picked up the hat he dropped off, plucking at the furry pom-pom, her voice soft. "I just don't want him to get hurt again. She just shows up, seems like she's here for awhile and suddenly she wants to leave?"

"That's what I heard her tell Talisa. Anyway, what's the over-under that he's coming back tonight?"

"Well I hope he stays out the whole night, he needs it. He's been a mess lately."

"He wasn't a mess until she showed up. Suddenly he's going on dates with Val and then he's got two in a row with Dany."

Lyanna couldn't stop her smile, but she shoved her hands over her mouth, stopping the happy squeal. She fell backwards and kicked her feet up. Daddy was on a date with Dany! Daddy was with Dany! It was happening! It was really real!

Except she heard Robb speak again. "Shame she's gone in two days. I don't know if Jon can just treat this like his other attempts at being human. He seems happy when he mentions her. Couldn't stop grinning like a fool when he told me about walking her around Winterfell last night."

"Yeah, I'm worried he got Lyanna too involved." Sansa sighed hard, raking her fingers through her hair, sending it cascading around her face like a red waterfall. "Oh well. Come on, you said you wanted to also get those boxes from my car?"

"Oh yeah, thanks for remembering."

They walked off, footsteps fading but Lyanna couldn't focus on where they'd gone. The happy smile that had taken up her whole face, the joy in her heart, it had plummeted, sending her falling backwards and darkness overcoming her.

Dany was leaving.

No! No she can't, she sobbed, jumping up to her feet and fumbling with her bag, unsure what she should do. Dany was the mother! There was no question, she fit all the things she wanted, all the things that Daddy needed. Her hair and eyes and her favorite colors and she rode a dragon and she didn't have a mommy or daddy so she knew what it was like...she was perfect! Daddy was with her, but Dany wasn't staying? She didn't understand. They were supposed to be together!

Her feet felt like ice bricks, stumbling her down the stairs and she grabbed for her coat. She had to go find them. That's what she would do. She'd go into town and she'd find them. She'd convince Dany to stay, that she was the mother and she had to stay and be her mommy and marry Daddy. She grabbed her coat from the peg, falling a little from her standing position on the stool that helped her reach up. In her stumble, she knocked off Tormund's big heavy coat. It was too big for her to hang up by herself, but it fell on her bag.

She knelt and picked it up, her hand reaching into the pocket. The bright red caught her attention and her fingers closed around heavy construction paper. Oh no! A tiny sob left her when she realized what it was, slowly pulling the letter to Santa from his pocket. It was her letter, the one she wanted Santa to get! The wish for the mother and everything and he didn't get it! Tormund didn't send it!

Her hands gripped it tight, crinkling the edges. That's why Dany is leaving. Santa doesn't know. The wish can't come true. I have to get it to him. Once she got Santa the letter, she would be able to stay, that was it! Dany could stay and Daddy could marry her and they could give her a brother or a sister, she didn't even care. She nodded to herself and climbed off the stool. She put the letter into her bag and took her coat, being careful to zip it up over her scarf like she saw all the adults did.

Her boots were on and she double-checked the Velcro straps. She had her new patch, her Free Folk patch because that's what she was. She could go into the North like no one else and she would be fine. She had her book, the letter, and a blanket too, for sleeping. She put on her gloves and she took one of Daddy's hats because Sansa still had her other one that she'd left at Robb's. It was bigger than her hat and covered her red hair completely.

Santa lived in the Heart of Winter, that's what Tormund told her once. She would deliver the letter to him herself, if the adults couldn't do it. She could. She was Lyanna Snow. She wiped at her eyes, trying not to cry because the wish wasn't coming true. It would come true. It would happen.

She left a note, wrote it down on the pad of paper that they kept beside the door. Said she was going to find Santa. Left it at that. They could figure it out for themselves. They were the adults. Although she had to deliver the letter. That was her job now.

The door was hard to open herself, but she did it. She walked out of the house and into the back, beginning to trudge through the heavy drift, her arms around herself as she huddled against the beginning snowfall. Daddy always told her that she was a child of winter, she was born in snow and that was even her name. She was the blood of the First Men, he teased, she could handle anything. He said her mother was an archer and she even had the charm on her necklace and Miss Val said that she was Free Folk. So that's what she was. She could handle anything.

Even taking a letter to Santa.

She took another deep breath and trudged off to the forest.

**********

"Where are the cats?"

"Hmm," Dany hummed, turning slightly in his arms from where she'd had her back against his chest, her fingers dancing over one of the dark scars along his heart. She had paid particular attention to the worst one, courtesy of the riot that had forced him from the military. They had spoken a little about it after one of their sessions, before light kisses became deeper and then they were wrapped back up in each other, finding it easier to communicate that way than with their words. She dragged her thumb along the sickle shape. "Downstairs. I guess I had a feeling that we'd be here and didn't think you wanted Drogon staring at you."

He snorted, arm wrapping tighter around her waist, his fingertips skimming down her side. She shivered, which he delighted in, bringing her closer. "Thanks for that."

"No problem," she giggled. She propped her head up on her hand, elbow braced above his shoulder on his pillow, gazing down, her violet eyes alight with questions. It was his turn, he supposed, smiling and waiting. She tapped the scar, whispering. "For someone who said it's been awhile, you weren't' half bad Jon Snow."

His cheeks warmed. "Same can be said for you Daenerys Targaryen," he decided to tease. It had been awhile, but for some reason with her it felt different. For their awkwardness int eh beginning they had come together quite naturally. He didn't want to leave. Didn't want her to leave. He frowned, dragging his thumb over her lower lip, watching as she quivered again. "Do you ahve to go?"

Gods you sound like an idiot Snow. Shut up.

She hesitated. "My life is south...I...I came north for stupid reasons...I see that now."

"I'm glad you got stranded here...even if you are still leaving." He wondered why he was even talking. A part of his brain had clearly been disconnected. This was exactly why he didn't get caught up in this stuff. It was too difficult. He understood that he couldn't just bring women into Lyanna's world because they could leave. It would be hard enough to explain Dany's departure to her, when she'd gotten close to her already. He touched his index finger to her nose, smiling as she wrinkled it, her eyes crinkling in unison. "Well, whatever reasons you think for coming north, I'm glad you did." Even if just for a couple weeks.

It was her turn to nod, her voice faraway. "Do you need to get back?"

"Sansa is watching her tonight."

"Pretty sure of yourself Jon Snow," she murmured, leaning in at the same time he reached for her, sharing another sweet kiss. He pressed her back into the pillows, deepening the kiss. Gods I could kiss her forever. They broke a moment later, the need to breathe the only reason they separated. She dragged her fingers through his hair, which she'd told him should never be pulled back, she didn't care at all if it got in his face all the time. She started to speak, but stopped. He frowned, wondering what was on her mind. She wrestled with it and then blurted out. "I wasn't supposed to leave so soon, but...you...it's..." She blew a hard breath. He saw her eyes begin to fill with tears. "I don't get it Jon."

Gods me either. It was easier this way, her leaving. He didn't want her to. So tell her. He traced her hairline, the silver a pool beneath her head, flowing like silk. He dropped his forehead to hers, whispering. "So stay," he murmured. What are you saying? Shut up Snow!

"But Lyanna..."

"I'll handle Lyanna." It made no sense, he shouldn't be so involved with someone he had just met. Except feels like I've known her before. He kissed her again, her body molding beneath him, sliding against him, fitting in all the right places. He pressed over her, their fingers dragging together, squeezing tight on the pillow beside their heads. He mumbled against her. "You stayed this long. Stay longer."

She whimpered beneath him. "My job..."

"You left it already."

"Yeah but that was different I just..." She touched her forehead to his, tears leaking out of the corners of her eyes. She took a breath, rattling in her chest, her hands tight in his, squeezing so hard he felt his knuckles go numb. She laughed. "I just don't understand it all."

Me either. He was so careful with his life, so careful of Lyanna's feelings and making sure she was safe. Here in two weeks he'd almost thrown it all away multiple times. He didn't nkow what to think, how to feel, but gods...he always told everyone he was happy. He was happy. Happy with his life, with Lyanna, but...he realized now something was still kind of missing there. Maybe it's her.

They kissed again, words failing them both. There were still things to discuss, he thought, but now wasn't the time. He had the evening with her, even if that's all it was. He intended to make the most of it. Just in case.

**********

They still hadn't spoken about her staying or going or what, but Jon didn't think they needed to anymore. He stopped in front of his car, leaning against it as Dany stepped in between his feet. He looped his arms around her waist, dropping a light kiss to the top of her head. "I have to get Lyanna," he murmured. Sansa could keep her forever, she loved her niece, but he needed to get back to her. He didn't like leaving her for the evening.

She nodded, hands framing his face, lightly stroking his beard. "Yeah," she murmured, but still made little movement to let him go. She chuckled. "You got plans for Long Night Eve?"

"Thought you were packing up? Getting on the road and all," he whispered. His heart leaped into his throat. Was she staying?

Her lips twitched. "Might be convinced to stick around I think."

"Come to the house," he whispered. He kissed her again, more sure of it than anything. "Just...I don't know what to tell Lyanna."

"We'll take it step by step. She knows me as a friend, we'll leave it at that."

She's still going to have questions. Tons and tons and tons of questions. His stomach hurt at answering them. He nodded. They could keep going with that. Gods, he was so confused. He kissed her again. Again. One more time. She giggled when he finally broke free, pushing him lightly towards the car. He grinned, opening it and sliding in, realizing his phone was still sitting in the cup-holder.

He picked it up, checking to see if there was any messages and...his eyes widened. Over fifty text messages and twenty missed calls. "Oh my gods," he exclaimed, heart racing. Dany leaned into the car after him, confused. He fumbled, going through the messages, his breath stopping.

His worst nightmare. Lyanna. Missing. Oh gods. Oh gods.

Messages from Sansa, Tormund, Robb, and Arya. Even Bran. Everyone trying to get a hold of him.

Where are you?
Lyanna's gone, backpack missing

She left a note

We can't find her.

Sent the wolves out, storm hiding the scent.

Call us back, hurry Jon!

Where are you?

"Lyanna," he said. His voice sounded inhuman. He couldn't move. His hands shook as he tried to start the car engine, but it was Dany was pulling him from the front seat, pushing him into the passenger side. He pushed his hands through his hair, tearing at it, heart slamming against his ribcage. "She...she never does this...where would she go? Why would she do this? What if something happened to her?"

It had snowed last night, the wolves couldn't catch her scent with the fresh snowfall. Oh gods. Ghost was probably a mess. Sansa no doubt would be horrified with herself. He couldn't think of them, couldn't think of how they felt. He had to get his daughter, he had to find his daughter. He reached over and grabbed for Dany's hand. "Where would she go?" he sobbed out.

"I do'nt know, we'll find her, it's okay," Dany said. She drove wild through the streets, the SUV managing the turns and the fresh snow with ease. She squeezed his hand, bringing it to her lips. "She's going to be okay Jon, we'll find her. She can't have gone far."

But why?

It's because of me.

He didn't know why he thought that, but he was sure of it. Maybe it was because of Val. Maybe it was because of Dany. She seemed so happy about this, she was fine when I left...she was excited to see Sansa and...he couldn't breathe, his chest heaving as he tried to process. He had to find her. "If something happens to her..." He left the wondering hanging to the wind, unable to finish. He didn't know what he'd do.

He'd die. He'd die if something happened to her. His Lyanna. His little wolf. The only thing he had in the world that was just his. His family.

They managed to get to the house in relatively record time, the car not even stopping before he was surging out of the car, screaming and running into the house, Dany hot on his heels. "Sansa!" he screamed. "Robb! Someone! Where are you?!"

"Oh gods!" Robb exclaimed, running out of the living room, which had become something of a makeshift command station, the entire family waiting around, maps of the area spread out over every available surface. He grabbed him, squeezing his shoulders hard. "We've been trying to call you all night!"

"All night!?" I was with Dany all night. I left my phone in the car. Oh gods, my fault. This is my fault. He stumbled to the maps, staring at the squiggly lines and trying to come to terms with this. He grabbed at Ghost, who immediately was at his side, pressing and whining. "She's been gone all night...gods it was so cold last night."

And she's so tiny.

"Sheriff Clegane called it in to the Free Folk unit that's doing training in the area, they're on the lookout too," Tormund said, his voice gruff with emotion. He wiped at his eyes, pointing to the maps. "She can't have gotten far."

"Fresh snowfall..." he trailed off. He knew all the horrors the cold and snow could wrought on you. Lyanna was so little. He sobbed into his fists, shaking his head. "I have to go. I have to get to her." Wherever she is.

Dany reached for him, before he could run out the door like a madman, not even wearing a winter coat. She wrapped her arms around him, whispering, her soft voice calming in his ear. "We'll get her Jon, don't worry, we'll find her. Here." She turned him back towards the maps, pointing. "I'll go with you guys, I'm a doctor, I've got a medical kit back at the inn."

"I've got one you can take," Talisa said, jumping to her feet and rushing from the room. "It's in my car."

Arya was already geared up and ready to go. She pointed to a part of the map. "We're searching toward Winterfell, we think maybe she might have tried getting to Robb and Talisa's."

But why? Jon didn't understand any of this. He merely nodded, poiting to the map. "Dany and I..." he trailed off, hearing a sound from Tormund, who had just put on his heavy coat. He looked up. "What?"

Tormund was fumbling in the pockets of his coat. "The letter," he murmured.

"What letter?" Robb demanded.

"Tormund, what letter!" he almost screamed as Tormund just stared, blue eyes wide, processing something that clearly only he knew.

He patted his pockets again and rushed to the hooks along the wall in the mudroom, throwing things around, shaking his head. "I...she gave me a letter...for Santa...I...I didn't think about it...it's not here..."

Something dawned on Sansa. She grabbed for the little piece of paper, Lyanna's scribbly writing on it. "She went North, she said she went North!"

Jon put two and two together. "She's going to deliver the letter to Santa," he whispered. That was the only reason. But why? Why was it so important? He couldn't understand any of this. He turned, seeing Talisa walking in, her hands on Eddy's shoulders. "Eddy?" he wondered, looking at his nephew, who wasn't meeting his eyes. He glanced at Talisa. "What...what's he doing here?" They shouldn't have him here. There was too much going on.

"Tell them what you just told me," Talisa demanded of her son, her fingers tight on his shoulders. "Now Eddard."

Eddy drucked his head, reddish hair falling over his eyes. "She made a wish for Santa," he said, still not looking up. Jon fell to his knees in front of the little boy, lightly touching his hand, which prompted him to look up, his voice slightly stronger. He took a breath, holding it and speaking again. "She wished for a mother." He looked at Dany now, pointing. "For her. That's the letter. That's why she went."

They all looked at Dany, who was just as surprised as them. "For me?" she whispered, poitning to herself.

The mother. The wife.

Eyes like jewels and hair like snow. Smelled like sunshine.

Lyanna's horrible behavior to Val, screaming that she wasn't the mother, she wasn't what she wished. His heart surged forward again, choking him. Gods. "She wished for a mother," he croaked. He stood, almost falling, if Robb were not behind him to help steady him. He closed his eyes, understanding everything now. The way she'd acted, the fight she'd had at school and the talk they'd shared about Ygritte. Her questions about her mother. Animosity to Val, her sudden affection for Dany, a total stranger to her. Running away in the night to deliver a letter. In the cold, the snow, and the winter.

"I have to find her."

More than ever, he had to find her. He grabbed for one of the satellite radios sitting on the table, hearing Arya barking orders in the back of his mind. He had to get to her. Ghost bounded ahead of him, Dany on his heels.

Lyanna wanted a mother, but she had a father. He had to find her. He would find her.

Even if he died trying.

**********

It was so cold.

That was what she could think of, even wrapped up in a blanket, huddled inside of a tree trunk she'd found. It was a lot warmer in the tree than it was outside. She had walked a lot last night and then she found the tree. She wasn't sure where she was, or how far she was from the house. It had snowed a lot. The hole in the tree was hard to find, but she found it. She wondered if Santa would find her. She had to wait for the snow to finish. It had started again. It was morning time and she was really hungry and tired and dirty and sore. Her feet hurt and so did her ankle-- she twisted it falling into the tree hole.

She sniffed, wiping at her face, tears tracking down her cheeks. They made her colder, so she tried not to cry. It was all dark out from the snow clouds, the sun couldn't come out. She fumbled for her letter, looking down at the words she'd written, the request she made. She just wanted it to come true and now it wouldn't. "I wish Ghost was here," she whispered aloud, to nothing. To just herself and the tree and maybe the Old Gods. Daddy always said the old gods were all around them.

She was supposed to be a wildling, but right now she just wanted her Daddy. She wanted to hug him and have him hold her and make terrible braids in her hair and read to her at nightime. Daddy couldn't sing but he tried to sing her lullabies. She just ended up laughing. She wanted Tormund and his stupid scratchy beard rubbing her face when he tried to give her kisses and blow raspberries on her neck and pick her up and spin her around.

I want my mother.

It was a thought, just a little one, and she suddenly craved for someone to hug her and kiss her and tell her it would be okay. She wanted her mother to do that. Daddy and Tormund were good at it. So was Sansa and Arya and even Robb and Bran and dumb Rickon who was a kid too. They were all good but she wanted her mother to do it.

But she didn't have a mother, she thought, thinking of the lady in the pictures. The one Daddy said she kind of looked like because they had the same hair and she was a wildling too.

And now I might not even get the one I wished for.

Lyanna

She blinked, hearing her name. It sounded like her name. She shoved the letter into her backpack and stood, but the space she'd crawled into was really small. She made sure her hat and everything was on, crawling out of the tree, hearing her name again, wondering if it was Daddy, if they found her. "Daddy?" she called, trying not to cry. To be brave and strong like all the free folk and like her Daddy. "Daddy it's me!"

Lyanna!

The voice sounded like a woman. It didn't sound like Daddy. She managed to get out of the tree, falling a few times into the fresh snow. She got up, looking to see someone come from around the tree. She didn't know her. She frowned, looking at the woman, who wore the white and brown furs that the Free Folk did. The woman had red hair and freckles on her face. Her mouth opened slightly, staring as the woman came over and knelt in front of her, reaching to help her up to her feet. "Momma?" she whispered.

The woman that helped her up smiled, showing a few crooked teeth. She had a nice smile. Her eyes were green. "Come on, you need to get home," she said, her accent heavy, hard to understand. It sounded like Tormund's, she thought, stumbling a little. The woman's hand was firm in hers, even though she didn't wear gloves. "Come on Lyanna."

"It's snowing," she cried, tripping again. She was so cold. "I can't!" She began to cry, forgetting everything. Forgetting to be brave and strong and everything they always said she was. "I want to go home!"

Her mother knelt in front of her again and folded her fist, placing it atop her heart. "You can survive this," she said. She frowned. "Are you blood of the free folk or not?"

I am. I am one.

"You can do this, because you're strong and brave and you are Lyanna Snow." The woman smiled, reaching around her and squeezing, whispering into her ear. "You can do it Lyanna. I'm here with you."

I can do this.

She got to her feet again, taking a few steps. It was still so cold, but she felt like she could go more, she felt warmer. She pushed ahead, the woman helping her as she tripped through the snow, some of it blinding her as the wind pushing it off the branches, swirling it around her feet. All the while she kept walking, the woman leading her somewhere, but she didn't know. She thought they were going north, but maybe they were going home.

They reached a clearing, some of the trees breaking apart, and she heard a sound, a yipping noise. She sobbed, seeing the red eyes of Ghost in the white snow, the giant wolf bounding through the snow, tackling against her. She cried, letting go of the woman's hand and grabbing Ghost, feeling his warmth flood her. She didn't even say his name, she was so happy to see him, crying as he wrapped tight around her, bucking his head under her arm so she could hold onto him.

"Ghost!"

"Daddy!" she cried, hearing his voice and seeing him emerge from the trees in front of her. He screamed her name, grabbing her so tight she couldn't breathe, her feet lifting right off the ground. She cried, over and over, hugging him so hard she couldn't feel her arms. "Daddy," she kept repeating as he said "Lyanna" over and over again.

He cried with her and she had never seen him cry before. "Lyanna why did you do this? You could have gotten hurt or died, I could have lost you? Do you understand? I could ahve lost you forever and I can't lose you."

"I know," she mumbled, but she really didn't. She didn't understand, but she was glad he was here with her. She sobbed. "My ankle hurts!"

It was then she realized that Daddy wasn't alone, that Dany was with him. Dany! But she was supposed to leave? She felt something wrap around her, a weird blanket that was like aluminum foil. Dany was rummaging in a huge backpack with a big red cross on it, fighting with things, asking her if she was cold and where was she cold and where did her ankle hurt. She took her temperature and mumbled how it was a miracle she didn't have hypothermia. She wasn't sure what that was.

She sniffed back her tears. "I wanted to send the letter," she cried. "To the Heart of winter, to Santa."

"Oh Lyanna," Daddy sighed, kissing her temple, over and over he kissed her face, rocking with her while Dany checked her over. There were sounds of more people, she could hear them, and Dany was using a radio to call in things, to talk to others. She thought she heard Arya say a very bad swear word too on the radio. "You could have told me." He set her down and she showed him the letter. He looked at it and she thought he was crying some more. He showed it to Dany, who only smiled, before she put it back in the bag. He stroked her face, his hands warm on her cold, flushed skin.

Daddy stared at her for a moment and he reached to wipe at her eyes, tears still falling, her lips trembling from cold and emotion. "You could have told me," he whispered, trying to hold her close again.

"But it was a wish." You can't tell your wishes. "They won't come true now." She cried some more, unable to stop. She was so happy he was here. She was so tired. "I want you happy. I want a wife so you will be happy."

"Gods Lyanna, I am happy. I'm happy with you. My Lyanna."

She was so tired, she just wanted to go home. She sobbed into his chest, hearing a motor coming, seeing someone on one of the snowmobiles that the castle had coming up to them. "I want to go home," she sobbed.

Daddy hugged her tighter than he ever had, even more than a minute ago, and he picked her back up. "We're going home. Let's go home."

**********

At some point Lyanna woke up, forgetting where she was. She fumbled in her blankets, reaching and finding Ghost in bed with her, his red eyes never wavering as he stared at her. She reached for him and he pushed his muzzle against her, holding her to him. "I promise I won't leave without you again," she mumbled to him. She was back in her room, in her bed, because even though Auntie Talisa and Miss Dany said she should stay the night at a hospital, she didn't want to, so they let her come home.

They were all so happy to see her, making sure she was okay and not hurt or anything. She had some scratches and her ankle hurt but wasn't broken or anything, but the doctors took her in to be safe. Daddy never left her side, never let her go anywhere without him. She got new flannel pajamas and he put so many blankets on her that she woke up sweating. He even made her her favorite macaroni and cheese to feel better, although Dany said she should drink soup. They gave her a couple shots at the doctor so she also got hot chocolate too. She wanted ice cream, but Daddy laughed and said she had had enough of the cold for now.

She had to also have something they called an IV, stuck in her arm. It hurt and she cried, although she tried not to. Daddy held her the entire time, telling her stories and everything. Now she had a bandaid where it used to be. They said it was full of good things for her body so she could feel better. She did feel better afterward.

She wanted to find Daddy, so she crawled out of her bed, Ghost right after her. He even came into the bathroom with her now! She guessed he didn't want her to ever leave without him again. She crept down the dark hallway, the rest of the house quiet. Everyone had gone home, even Eddy who wanted to stay with her to hear all about her stories, but Auntie Talisa said that if he ever thought about doing what she did, he would be begging to stay outside because of what she'd do to him when he got back.

There were sounds from Daddy's room and the door was cracked open, firelight shining out of it. She tip-toed to the door and looked in, crouching low and watching. She smiled, seeing Daddy and Dany sitting on the floor by the fireplace. It was cool that Daddy had a fireplace in his room, she always thought. She bit her lip, frowning at how Dany was sitting in Daddy's lap, her arm around his neck. They were speaking quietly, but she could hear if she moved closer, so she did, just a little, trying not to make a sound.

Dany was wearing one of Daddy's shirts with her pajama bottoms, which she thought was funny. Daddy was just wearing his pajama pants, which she thought was weird. He must not be cold. She lifted her head listening close.

"I didn't know she wanted a mother so bad, I mean I always thought...but..." Daddy sighed, looking up at Dany. "I couldn't believe she went to these lengths. I should have known."

"I've told you all day, don't beat yourself up. Kids keep things hidden pretty well sometimes." Dany twisted her fingers through Daddy's hair, kissing his forehead, whispering. "Remember when you were her age?"

"I guess."

"I felt the same thing once. As wonderful a father as my brother was to me, I desperately wanted a mother. I would have done anything for one." She kissed him again, this time on the lips, smiling. "She loves you so much Jon. She wants you happy, she's such a good little girl."

Lyanna smiled at that; she was a good girl. She glanced at Ghost, who had his head on his paws, still watching her. She tried not to make noise, although she was so happy right now. Happy that Dany and Daddy were hugging each other and Miss Dany was giving him kisses too! She looked back over at them and Daddy was thinking, she could tell by how his face looked. Tormund called it brooding.

"I could have lost her," he whispered, his eyes closing. "Then what?"

"But you found her Jon."

"Fucking luck, right? I still can't believe it. They went over that part of the forest and didn't find her..."

"She was in a tree, she was smart. It kept her alive."

"Just can't believe it."

Dany played with his hair, turning one of the curls around her finger. "Maybe there was something more at play."

He chuckled. "Like what?"

"Magic," she whispered, leaning in and kissing him again.

Lyanna covered her mouth with her hands, stifling giggles. She kept watching, Daddy finally stopping the kiss to hug Dany. She moved even closer, pausing, hoping that she didn't cause the floor to crack, so she could hear him. Daddy touched Dany's heart and she squeezed his hand tight. "I almost lost her, but I can't lose you. I know that...I know it's fast and everything and we barely know each other and all that's happened with Lyanna and...and I have to focus on her, I know that, but..."

Whatever Daddy was going to say, Dany covered his mouth with her fingers. She shook her head, still smiling, sweet and gentle. "I'm not going anywhere."

"I can't believe she wished for you and here you are."

"I was here before she wished for me," she murmured, touching her head to his again. She tapped her finger to his nose, giggling. "Magic, Jon Snow. Maybe it is real." She waited another moment and glanced into the fire. They stayed quiet, the only sound the fireplace, and Lyanna wondered how they could just sit there and not talk. Until Dany looked back at him again. "You should check on Lyanna."

"Yeah."

Uh-oh! Not wanting to be caught eavesdropping, she jumped to her feet and ran back to her room, Ghost right on her heels. She dove into bed, hiding beneath the covers for a minute when she heard her door open again. The floor cracked and squeaked. "Lyanna?" Daddy called. "Are you awake?"

She kept quiet, pretending to be asleep, hearing him come over. The bed sagged a little when he sat next to her. His hand went to her hair, stroking it. It always felt so nice when he did that, she thought. After a long time, he finally spoke, his voice thick. It sounded almost like he was crying. Or was going to cry. "I don't know what happened to me to ever deserve you, but somehow the gods gifted me you." He took a deep breath, shaking and he coughed, righting himself. "And somehow they saw fit to bring Dany into my life...I don't understand it." He paused. "I don't know if it was your wish or what, but she's here. She's here for us both I think. I love you so much, I swear Lyanna, I'll never let you down again."

Let her down? He didn't let me down. She shifted and his hand stilled. She rolled over onto her back, pretending to rub her eyes and yawn like she was just waking up. "Hi Daddy," she mumbled.

"Hi baby girl," he whispered, leaning to kiss her head. "How you feeling?" He put his hand to her forehead, frowning. She never understood why adults did that. Like they could magically see how you were feeling just by touching your forehead. "How you feeling?" he asked, fussing over at her nightstand which had a bunch of medicines and things for her if she needed them. He sat on the edge of the bed, one hand still stroking her hair as he picked up the thermometer. "Let me check your temperature again, you feel warm."

Because of all my blankets! She scowled as he stuck the thing in her ear, waiting for it to beep before he frowned. "I'm fine," she huffed.

"Humor me."

She rose up onto her knees, hugging him. "I love you Daddy," she whispered.

"I love you too."

She thought of Dany, who was probably spending the night. She smiled into his shoulder. "Is Miss Dany here?" she whispered, wondering what he would say.

He pulled back slightly, studying her. His eyes narrowed. "She's spending the night. She was worried about you a lot." He suddenly looked upset, frowning and was worried. "Is that okay with you? I should have..."

"It's okay," she giggled. She was happy about it. She kissed his nose. He smiled and tapped hers in return. She cuddled into him, thinking of how she got out of the forest. Of the lady who came to help her. Momma. She fumbled with his fingers, which were playing with hers, his chin on top of her hair. "Daddy?"

"Yes?"

"Someone helped me."

"Hmm?"

She lifted her face up to his, their gray eyes meeting. "Someone helped me...in the woods...when I was lost. They found me."

"It was Ghost, he found you."

"Nuh-uh. Someone else." She pointed to the picture on her nightstand. Of her mother. "It was her. It was my real mommy." She smiled, whispering. "She was nice...she helped me up. She said I was brave. She said I could do it."

Daddy said nothing, he just held her and rocked her gently like she was a baby. Her eyes felt all droopy. As she felt like she was about to fall back to sleep, he said something very quietly, she wasn't even sure if it was for her. "I'm glad she was there for you. She's always with you." She smiled, nodding. That's what he said. She was gone but she was still in her heart. She just wanted him to be happy was all.

She took a deep breath, frowning, knowing that it was Long Night Eve. It was the night that Santa usually brought presents. Tomorrow would be Long Night Day, they would celebrate. She didn't know what he would get now. She sniffed, wiping her nose. "Daddy I didn't get you a present...Santa didn't get the letter." But Dany was there. Dany was still there somehow.

He held her closer than before, squeezing her tight in his hug. "I don't need anything Lyanna, all I want is you." He paused, smiling, and she thought it went all the way to his eyes, his happy smile. "And I got so much more. That's all I want."

She grinned. "Good." She stood, pushing at his arms and wrapped his arms around his neck, her legs going around him when he lifted her up, carrying her out of her room and down to the living room, looking out at the snow and standing by the tree in the corner. Ghost was right behind him and she saw Dany approach out of the corner of her eye. She grinned, kissing Daddy's temple.

I got all I wanted too.

END

Chapter Text

moodboard 4

"Whoo!"

The pop of the cork on the bottle of sparkling cider flew through the air, Ghost jumping and snatching it before it could smack Sansa in the face. She scowled, waving her glass of champagne angrily at Tormund. "Watch it! That could blind someone!"

"Sorry Red Wolf," Tormund apologized, but Lyanna did not think he was sorry at all. He poured her a glass, wiggling his eyebrows. "This is for the young'uns in the audience, but don't tell your dad, I'll sneak you some champagne."

She giggled again; he was not whispering at all and Daddy swirled around from behind her, shooting Tormund a dark look. "You do that and you're homeless," he warned, grabbing the glass from her and sniffing for a moment, taking a taste to be sure. He made a face. "Alright, you can drink this."

"Gross Daddy it has your germs."

"My germs are your germs."

Tormund poured her another glass and took the one that Daddy drank, downing it in two gulps before he reached for the adult bottle, champagne flowing freely as he guzzled it, getting the foamy beverage on his bushy red beard. "We celebrate! To the greatest matchmaker the realm has ever known! Lyanna Snow!” He clinked the bottle against the glass she held in both her hands, giggling when he slung his arms back around. “I've got me a spearwife!"

"You have a maybe spearwife," Val said, coming up beside him. He pretended to bite at her neck and she swatted him away, but laughed as he lifted her off the ground, spinning her. "Gods Tormund, you're embarrassing."

Lyanna grinned; she had succeeded! She was the greatest matchmaker. She didn’t know what that meant, but whatever it was, it was probably good. She made a face at Tormund and Val, who were making kissing noises at each other. “Yucky!” she yelped, gagging.

They laughed, Val pushing at Tormund and kneeling to her height, taking her glass and clinking it as well. She tugged on the velvet bow that was in front of Lyanna’s red and black dress. “You look very pretty tonight Lyanna. I really like your dress.”

“Thank you Miss Val.” She spun in a circle, some of her apple cider jostling out of the glass. She giggled, sucking on her finger where it spilled. She didn’t want to get it on her dress; it was really pretty, Auntie Sansa got it for her for the holiday party, she made it. “Auntie Sansa made it! It’s my favorite colors.” She frowned, a little confused by what Tormund said. “What’s a spearwife?”

Val chuckled. “The only way to get a husband. You steal a man away. It’s an old free folk tradition.”

That’s weird, I didn’t know that. It was curious, something new and she liked to learn new things. She blinked up at Miss Val, waiting for further explanation on what ‘stealing a man’ meant, but didn’t get it. Free folk tradition…hmm… She smiled, beaming up at her. “Did Mommy Ygritte do that with Daddy? Did she steal him?”

Both Val and Tormund laughed, with Tormund tugging on her braids. “No one knows what Ygritte saw in your Daddy, Little Crow.” He swept Val around. “But glad he didn’t take my woman!”

Blech. She made another face and ran off to find someone who wouldn’t be gross, but that did not leave her a lot of options. She found Eddy, who was glowering in the corner, refusing to be part of the party. She poked him, scowling. “Why are you mad?”

“Mommy!”

“Oh.” She nodded sympathetically. It seemed that no matter how many times Eddy kept wishing for a brother, he was stuck with a sister. She didn’t understand it, but somehow Auntie Talisa and Uncle Robb knew what the baby was inside of Auntie Talisa’s tummy and it didn’t change, no matter what you did or how much you asked. “Did she say it has to be a girl?”

“I hate girls. I wanted a brother! I asked and asked and asked and nope!” Eddy made a face again, sticking his tongue out and pretending to throw up. “Girls are gross.” He shrugged at her furrowed brow. “Well, you’re not all gross. But sisters are gross.”

“I want a sister one day. Not a brother.” She understood. She wondered when she would ever get a sister. She brightened a bit; Eddy might not have gotten his brother even though he asked, but he did get something cool. “You got that new archery set! And the hockey skates and even a sword.” It was a plastic sword, but it was still a sword. “And we can play archery together because I got one too.” It was a really nice one, Daddy even showed her after she opened her presents, she had a brace for her arm and everything.

But the archery set was not the best thing she got for the holiday. She pulled on Eddy’s arm. They ran out of the big room where everyone was and through the kitchen, to where her new present was sleeping. “Daddy told me not to bother her, but she’s sooooo cute!” She leaned over her new direwolf, the puppy sleeping sweetly in her gray fluffy bed in the laundry room, where she had to stay because she was still learning not to go potty in the house. She was happy for her new direwolf puppy, even if Ghost was not happy. She sighed, reaching to touch Nyra, named for Rhaenyra Targaryen one of her heroes, on the head. The puppy made a little sound in her sleep before cuddling closer into her blanekts and pillow. “I didn’t get what I wanted though. Not what I reallyw anted.”

“And what was that?” Eddy asked, petting Nyra’s head. He sighed. “You got a wolf. That’s cool.”

She grumbled, sitting on the floor next to the puppy. “Yeah but I wanted a brother or a sister. Definitely a sister. Except I didn’t.”

“But you got a puppy!”

“Yes.” Nyra was very sweet, she loved to give her kisses and fall asleep in her arms. She sighed. “Daddy said she can’t sleep in my bed yet. She has to learn that her bed is her bed and that my bed is my bed. I don’t like that.”

“You don’t want her to go potty in the bed. That’s what babies do. They’re so gross. You don’t want a baby, believe me.” Eddy gagged again. “And the new sister is going to do that. Mommy even showed me how to help change a diaper! I am not doing that. It’s disgusting.”

“Very disgusting.”

Nyra kept sleeping, so they got up and left her in the room, finding Ghost waiting on the other side of the door. Ghost did not like the new puppy, she guessed like how Eddy did not like his new sister. She wondered if Ghost thought it was gross that Nyra always wanted to go potty in the house when he always went outside. She held onto his collar and walked with him into the big room, Eddy breaking off and going to his mother, asking loudly if she was sure the baby was a girl.

She looked over for her Daddy and found him standing underneath the doorway from the big room to the smaller room that when it was warm they liked to sit in with the windows and the doors opened. There was a hunk of mistletoe hanging over him and she grinned, seeing Dany walk over to stand next to him, their heads bent together talking. She whooped loudly, drawing attention of some of the people, clapping her hands. “You have to kiss!” she exclaimed, running over and pulling on his hands. “Daddy you have to kiss her!”

“Yeah!” Arya yelled, probably louder than the others because Daddy had made her kiss Tormund when they got stuck under the mistletoe earlier. Uncle Gendry did not like that. “Kiss, kiss, kiss!”

The entire party shouted, and Daddy made a face, but he still grabbed Dany around her waist, dipping her like she was in a princess movie, her foot kicking up and arms around his neck, planting a very loud, noisy kiss on her lips. Like a movie!, Lyanna thought with sparkling eyes, clapping her hands together and smiling wide. “So magical,” she sighed, even though Daddy’s face was all pink and Dany was rubbing her thumb on his mouth, some of her lipstick now on him. She ran over and hugged Dany, while Tormund grabbed Daddy and dragged him towards where all the adult drinks were lined up. “It’s like a princess movie!”

Dany chuckled, kneeling down to her height and reached for her glass, which she had put on the table next to her before Daddy kissed her. She toasted it to her, smiling wide. “To you, my sweet girl. Without you, I don’t know if I would have found you guys as quickly as I did.”

She didn’t know what that meant, but she was glad that Dany found them. Or that they found her. She wrapped her arms around Dany’s neck, hugging her tight. “I love you Mommy,” she said, nuzzling her nose into Dany’s, taking a deep breath and smelling the flowers and the lemons. Sunshine.. She was wearing the same colors, black and red. Their favorite colors. She closed her eyes; she used to call Dany Miss Dany and then it became Dany and then Mama Dany and only for a couple of months she had begun to just say Mommy.

Because Dany was her Mommy now. She lived with them and she and Daddy got married in the godswood and that was when she got to be a flower girl and she walked down the aisle and spread blue winter rose petals all over the ground and got to hold the bouquet Dany carried in her hands. Daddy also sat her down after they got married, said that Dany was going to adopt her. That everyone knew Dany was her mother now, but they were going to make it official and that meant that she would really be her mother. She didn’t understand the difference, but it was okay with her.

Dany was her Mommy and Ygritte was her mother. She still kept all her pictures of Momma Ygritte, as she called her, and she knew that Dany knew that and was okay with it. She loved them both equally. Daddy always said he was very happy about that. He talked more about Momma Ygritte in front of her. He let her take Momma Ygritte’s bow and arrows and put them in her room on her wall. Next to the patch that Miss Val gave her, which Dany put in a frame with a picture of Momma Ygritte.

She nuzzled closer to her, frowning when Dany offered her some of her glass, with the sparkling stuff in it. “I can’t drink that,” she giggled, shaking her head. “Daddy said no.”

“It’s not the adult drink,” she laughed. “It’s apple cider.”

“Oh, do you not like the adult drink?”

“I love it, but I can’t drink it.” She took a few sips and handed Dany the glass. Dany kissed her temple, standing up and putting the glass on the table again, hands in hers. “Come on love, let’s dance! Maybe we can get your dad to dance too!”

Yeah right. “Daddy says he’s allergic to dancing.” She didn’t know if you could be allergic to dancing. Eddy was allergic to bees, but she didn’t know if dancing was something like that.

“Your daddy is crazy, let’s go catch him!”

Lyanna giggled, taking off with Dany and both of them jumping onto Daddy, who laughed and finally let them dance with him, saying maybe he wasn’t allergic anymore.

 

~/~/~/~

It was very, very, very far past her bedtime, but Daddy said she could stay up to finish the party with everyone. She almost fell asleep in the room with Nyra, but Eddy found her and they went and tried to get Uncle Robb to change his mind on the whole sister and brother thing, but he said it was done, no turning back, the baby was a girl.

Eddy fell asleep and they took him home. Tormund and Val went back into Tormund’s part of the house, and she was so tired she didn’t think she could walk up the stairs. She yawned, curling up into the corner of the couch, but Daddy came over and picked her up. She loved it when he picked her up and she curled into him, hugging his neck and pushing her face into his neck. She closed her eyes, sighing. “I’m not tired,” she mumbled. She didn’t want to be tired, she wanted to stay awake some more.

“Hmm, well don’t fall asleep just yet. We have one more present for you.”

That woke her up, her eyes widening and turning to look at him, but Daddy didn’t give away anything. Sometimes he was so good at not giving up secrets it was weird to her. “What present?” she demanded. Her heart beat a little faster, wondering what else they could have gotten her. She opened all her presents that morning and tomorrow was just a normal day. They were having a big dinner though with Auntie Talisa and Uncle Robb and all the family. Even Grandma Cat would be there.

Daddy took her upstairs and into his room, over to the big window he had that had a bench in it, where Dany was sitting. Ghost was asleep in front of the fireplace in his room. She was surprised, seeing that Dany was holding Nyra, who was chewing on her fingers. She slipped out of Daddy’s arms and onto the bench in the window, reaching for her puppy who crawled into her arms, yipping and licking her face. She giggled. “I love you Nyra.”

Nyra yawned and curled into her lap, immediately falling asleep. Dany laughed. “I think she was waiting for you.”

They both sat there, Daddy behind her, Dany in front, looking out the window fo ra few minutes. They did this before, she remembered, frowning. They did this when they said that they were going to get married and that Dany was moving into the house. They also did it when they said that Dany was going to really be her mommy on paper. Those were all good things. I hope this is a good thing too. She tried not to yawn, still holding her sleeping puppy. “I have a puppy, what’s my present?” she asked.

Daddy hugged her tight and she could feel him smiling; he was always so happy, always smiling these days. It made her happy too. “Well, it’s a present for all of us. You see…you’re getting a brother or a sister.”

Her eyes widened and she gaped, mouth falling open as Dany giggled. “What?” she blurted out. She looked up at Daddy, who was grinning wide, still hugging her tight. She looked over at Dany, who was still smiling, but she was also crying, her purple eyes all wet. “Really?”

“Yeah, there’s a baby in her tummy,” Daddy explained.

Dany lifted up her sweater and she covered her stomach with her hand. The pretty ring on her left hand winked up at them, capturing the light from the fireplace. She didn’t believe it, so she leaned forward and touched Dany’s stomach, which felt hard, but it was definitely like the side of a ball or a melon, curving up over her belly button and then down towards the top of her leggings. “Oh,” she whispered, feeling at the side too. Yup, it was round over there too. There was definitely something inside of her . She frowned. “It’s not as big as Auntie Talisa’s baby.”

They both laughed a little, but she didn’t understand why. “Not yet,” Dany said, pulling her towards her and letting her touch her tummy again, just to double-check. She stroked her fingers over her hair, whispering. “Auntie Talisa’s baby has been inside of her for a little bit longer, so her baby is going to come out first. Our baby is going to be a little longer. It still needs to grow bigger.”

Daddy reached into his pocket and he took out some black and white pictures, showing her and pointing. “See? These are pictures of the baby inside of Mommy.”

She looked at them, but even when they showed her the squiggles and stuff, she couldn’t see the baby. It all looked like a big blob. “I don’t get it,” she confessed after they kept trying to get her to see. “Where is it?”

“Maybe in a couple months it will be easier to see,” Dany said, kissing her head and cuddling her.

“When will it come out?”

“In about four months,” Daddy said.

Lyanna realized she hadn’t asked the most important question of all time. She squealed, jumping to her feet on the bench, bouncing for a moment and clapping her hands. “Am I getting a sister or a brother? Boy or girl? I want a girl! I want a sister!”

They both laughed again, Daddy shaking his head while Dany answered, apologizing. “We’re not going to find out like Uncle Robb and Auntie Talisa. We’re going to be surprised, we won’t know until the baby is born.”

“Well I want a sister!” Maybe if I let them know they can pick it beforehand.

Daddy helped her back down from where she was standing. “Well we don’t get to pick. The baby comes out anyway.”

She sighed, cuddling back into his chest, looking at Dany’s tummy, which now that she could tell was definitely bigger. She wondered why she didn’t notice it before. Maybe because Dany was always wearing big sweaters and stuff. “This is the best holiday ever,” she whispered, almost to herself, but they still heard her.

“Better than last year?” Daddy wondered.

“I didn’t get lost.”

Dany leaned over and kissed her head, hugging her and stroking her cheek. “No, thank gods, you are with us this year.” She let go, climbing off the bench. “Come on sweetling, it is way past your bedtime.”

Daddy picked her up, carrying her from their room, while Dany took Nyra and set her down on the floor in front of the fire beside Ghost, the new puppy curling against him, even when he grumbled. She smiled; Ghost was like Nyra’s Daddy! She sighed, head agaisnt Daddy’s when he brought her into her room and set her on he rbed while Dany rummaged in the dresser drawer for.a clean pair of pajamas. She kicked her feet on the edge of the bed, tugging off her big comfy socks.

What a second… She frowned, thinking of something. That didn’t make sense…hmm… “Hey Daddy?”

“Yes?”

“I have a question.”

“Go ahead.” They always liked it that she asked a lot of questions. Dany said it was the sign of a big mind.

“Well…if my mommy who had me in her tummy was Momma Ygritte and you are my daddy, but…but Mommy has a baby in her tummy and you are also the daddy too…” She frowned, peering up at them both; they had stopped what they were doing and were staring at her with funny looks. Well, Daddy looked like he was going to be sick, his face all pale and eyes wide, while Dany was shaking and her face turning red like she was trying not to laugh. What was so funny? She scowled, pointing at Dany’s tummy. “Then how did we get there? Did you put the baby there in Dany and put me into Momma Ygritte?”

Daddy made a funny sound, like a cough but also maybe like he was choking. She looked at him again, alarmed. “Daddy are you okay?”

“Daddy’s fine, love.” Dany kissed his cheek and walked over and hugged and kissed her. She set her pajamas on the bed and walked back over to Daddy, who was so pink he looked like he was going to turn into a tomato. I don’t understand what’s so hard about my question.. “Happy holidays Jon, this one is on you.”

Lyanna crossed her arms over her chest, scowling. “Well?”

“Umm…”

fin.