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SUMMER

 

Jon looked around the bare office, the mind-numbingly gray walls blending almost seamlessly with the stormy skies outside the narrow window. Most days, this place looked like a mere step above an insane asylum; today held little hope for being any different.

 

Olenna had been officed out of here, as head of HR, and as such things went it wasn’t a bad office, all things considered. He clicked out of the various software programs he’d reconfigured for the new user, figuring that whoever ‘targaryen’ was, at least they’d have a door, and not be situated in a fabric walled cubicle like the poor sods in accounting, or out in the bullpen with the idiot sales staff. The less said about the sad lot in R&D the better; he shuddered.

 

He removed a notepad from the drawer, the Lannister Industries logo emblazoned across the top, and jotted down the temporary password he’d setup for the workstation, the same as he did for everyone, along with the initial credentials the new head of Human Resources would need to access the Lannister Payroll and Accounting systems.

 

Jon glanced down at his writing, barely a level above chicken scratch, and pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose where they’d just begun to slide down, the light clearing of a throat barely registering from the doorway.

 

He looked up, quickly, just in time to see Tyrion’s brows raise, and as the short man stepped through the threshold, Jon felt the air in his chest flood out in one embarrassingly loud exhale.

 

“Jon,” Tyrion said, the barest of smiles on his lips, as though he knew exactly what had prompted such reaction, “this is our new head of Human Resources, Daenerys Targaryen.”

 

Daenerys Targaryen, he concluded--from her black high heels and her impeccably tailored black suit to a face that he was certain had been plucked from his most illicit fantasies--was most certainly not real.

 

She had silver hair, for god sakes. Like some sort of otherworldly celestial creature. And it was pulled back into some sort of twist he’d seen plenty of women wear, very professional, very tidy and neat, just a few tendrils escaping here and there. She peered at him through her own glasses, much more stylish than his own, designer frames by the look of them, not the tortoiseshell he’d been wearing since middle school.

 

Were her eyes purple? Surely not.

 

“Daenerys,” Tyrion continued, glancing up at the woman in question, gesturing grandly in Jon’s direction. “The King of our IT Department, ascended from his basement throne, Jon Snow.”

 

Tyrion had always had a flair for the dramatic, which Jon rarely appreciated, but as he felt a flush crawl up his neck he especially hated it today, fairly certain he looked like an absolute fucking moron, gaping like an idiot at the most beautiful woman he’d ever actually seen in the flesh.

 

He cleared his throat, coughing roughly, before standing and crossing the office. “Good to meet you,” he said, rather curtly even to his own ears.

 

The smallest of frowns crossed her pink, plump lips before Daenerys reversed course and offered him a winsome smile that made his hands begin to sweat.

 

“You as well,” she said, extending her small, slim hand to shake his.

 

Realizing that wiping his clammy hand on his trousers was probably worse than offering her his damp one, he took a step back, wincing at his own social ineptitude. “I don’t shake hands,” he explained awkwardly. He grimaced even as he said it, knowing he sounded like an absolute prat, but he wasn’t sure how to pull himself back from this particular ledge. When he looked over at Tyrion, he just shrugged at the man’s puzzled expression.

 

“You’ll have to excuse him, Daenerys,” Tyrion said, breaking the tension in the room, forcing a chuckle. “It’s dreary in the basement.” The silver-haired woman let out a bell-like laugh, and Jon relaxed slightly, compelling himself to stop acting like an arsehole and do his bloody job. He’d seen plenty of pretty women before, this one ought to be no different.

 

“Right,” he said, scratching at the back of his neck and pointing his other hand at the desk. “Everything you need to login is there. I’ll have your company issue laptop ready to go by the end of the day.” When his eyes dared to glance back at her, she was smiling at him, ever-so-slightly; he nodded sharply at his boss and the new girl, eager to leave the room before he embarrassed himself further. “Buzz downstairs if you need any more assistance.”

 

“Thanks, Jon,” she said, and now her smile reached her eyes, before she glanced around the undecorated room. “Will do.”

 

Jon gave one final nod to them both, ignoring Tyrion’s knowing smirk, and as he walked out of the room he couldn’t help but hear her next remarks, directed at their boss.

 

“It looks like solitary confinement in here, Tyrion.”

 

Jon smiled to himself, and retreated to his dreary basement kingdom.

---------

By the time the end of the day loomed and he was in the middle of the evenings data backups Jon had put his somewhat mortifying morning behind him.

 

A voice trilled out cutting through the whir of the mainframe. “Knock-knock!”

 

At his side, Edd looked up, his eyes growing so wide Jon worried they might actually burst from his head. “Bloody hells.” The slim man breathed the words out, staring over at Jon, mystified. “Who in the fuck is that?”

 

Jon glared at Edd, making a quick shushing sound before he answered. “Daenerys,” he said loudly, moving back to his desk and resting a hand on the laptop perched on the corner. “You must be here for this.”

 

Edd stared for a moment as Daenerys came closer, his eyes narrowing as he looked from Jon to the beautiful woman who now stood before them. “I don’t believe we’ve met,” he said, extending his hand with an ease and confidence Jon wished he’d exhibited earlier in the day, “Edd Tollett.”

 

“A pleasure,” Daenerys said, pushing her black frames up her nose, shaking Edd’s hand briskly before giving Jon a small grin. “So, I see someone in your department shakes hands, at least?”

 

“What?” Edd glanced at Jon, confused, and Jon just sighed in response, picking up the laptop and presenting it with a slight flourish, ignoring the weight of his assistant’s questioning stare.

 

He risked a small glare in Edd’s direction, before smoothing his face back into his normal, bland, disaffected mask. “Edd, this is Daenerys Targaryen.” When the man still stared at him expectantly, he continued. “Olenna’s replacement.”

 

“Ahhh,” Edd said, giving Daenerys a friendly smile. “HR, of course.” He leaned in to whisper loudly, “Can’t say I was too sad to see Olenna retire, a right grouch she was.” Edd cut his eyes to Jon. “Probably why this one got on with her so well, birds of a feather and all that.”

 

Edd laughed, and Daenerys laughed, and Jon wanted to deck the shorter man, but he settled for clenching his fist covertly at his side and thrusting the laptop in Daenerys’s direction again.

 

“All set,” he said, and when she finally took the computer, he rummaged around in his desk drawer, handing her the charging cable that went with it. “Same logins as your desktop computer.”

 

Thankfully, her laughter ceased, and she gave him a brisk nod of her head. “Wonderful. I’ll be off, then.” She turned, beginning to walk towards the door, her head turning to glance back at Edd. “Very nice to meet you, Edd.”

 

“You too, Daenerys,” Edd answered in a decidedly sing-song voice, his eyes never leaving Jon’s, at least not until the door had clicked shut behind her. “Well, well, well,” he started, and Jon rolled his eyes, huffing out a breath and heading back to the mainframe display. “Quite a pretty girl, wouldn’t you say, Jon?”

 

Pretty was insulting. Beautiful came closer—exquisite closer still—but he knew better than to admit it to Edd. “I suppose,” he muttered, not daring to look up from his work. “She’s also our coworker.”

 

“If I weren’t married…,” his voice trailed off, and finally Jon couldn’t help but glance in his coworker’s direction, strangely offended on Daenerys’s behalf at the way the other man wiggled his eyebrows suggestively.

 

“You still wouldn’t have a shot with someone like *her*, Edd.” Jon spat the words out with such force that he even surprised himself, and in a day full of awful decisions that might’ve been his worst, the slim man’s eyes starting to twinkle with newfound mirth as he sized Jon up.

 

The fluorescent lights above buzzed, and Jon could feel a headache starting in his temples, but he finished up his work with renewed interest, pointedly ignoring the way Edd kept making amused, humming noises as he logged off his workstation and gathered his things, ready to go home to his wife and children.

 

“Y’know, Jon, you aren’t so bad to look at when you actually put in a little effort,” Edd finally said, his bag slung over his shoulder, his hand on the doorknob, ready to depart. Jon let out a put-upon sigh, leaning back in his desk chair and glaring at Edd, but the man was nonplussed, shrugging off his manager’s aggravation. “Just saying, you aren’t single because of your looks, boss.” The man sniggered to himself, giving Jon a mock salute as he let himself out of the basement office. “It’s your personality.”

 

“Fuck off, Edd,” Jon called out to the man’s back, ignoring the fading echo of the man’s laughter as he blew out a harsh breath.

---------

The next day as he dressed for work, Jon noticed afresh the rack of ties hanging beside his button-downs, considering perhaps he should revisit them as a wardrobe option. He’d worn them plenty, when he’d first started, but they were a pain in the ass more often than not. Still, he reached for one.

 

Ghost sat beside the bed, watching him, and it was almost like he could feel the dog’s judgment.

 

“It’s not that big a deal, boy,” Jon said, watching his fingers shape the Windsor knot, then flip down his collar. He always wore the same thing, slacks and a button-down shirt, so surely adding a tie wasn’t overdoing it. Business casual. Sort of. No one would even notice.

 

He smoothed the striped silk down his chest, checking the length. Acceptable, he mused, knowing full well that if he spent more time fussing with it he’d just not wear it, and not wearing it was apparently not an option this morning.

 

He was certainly not taking Edd’s advice though. He was *not* trying to impress Daenerys Targaryen. He’d decided, in thinking it over the night prior, that she was probably the sort of unattainable woman he’d first imagined: painfully beautiful and most likely coupled up.

 

He was just being a bit more professional, today, that was all.

 

Jon smoothed his hair back, gathering it at the back of his neck, refusing to spend anymore time on his appearance.

 

“Right,” he said, turning and walking to the kitchen, where his coffee had finally finished brewing, by the smell of it.

 

The battery acid they called coffee at work turned his stomach so he rarely risked leaving the house without his own. He preferred to bank his money (his fairly spartan townhouse was evidence of that), but he did indulge in a nice bag of expensive beans from the market.

 

Grabbing his briefcase and lunch sack, and ignoring the nervous swirling in his chest, he glanced back at Ghost, who was settling himself in for his morning nap by the kitchen door.

 

“See you this evening,” he called to the hound, making his way out into the still-dark morning.

---------

Jon was used to arriving first, giving a wave to Davos at the security booth as he pulled into the parking lot, but today he noticed someone had beat him there.

 

He frowned; the little red sports coupe was not one he recognized. Having parked a fair distance away, he only just looked up as he walked by to see a silver head poking above the driver’s seat. Realizing immediately who it was, he walked a bit faster, not trusting himself to avoid embarrassment for the second day in a row, instead making a beeline for the employee entrance at the side of the building.

 

A melodic voice stopped him, as he entered the ugly yellow halo of the security light mounted above the door frame.

 

“Yoohoo, Jon, isn’t it?”

 

He bit back a nervous, terse response, her footsteps approaching at a rapid clip, and he turned to find her smiling up at him, this time in a neat gray pantsuit and white collared blouse, her hair held back in a long silver plait. Don’t be an asshole, Snow he made the mental reminder. His last girlfriend had accused him of much worse, but he felt that avoiding overtly asshole-ish behavior would suffice for today.

 

“Hello,” she chirped, far too cheerful for such an early hour, and he offered a small smile, gripping his silver coffee thermos tightly.

 

“Good morning,” he answered, eyeing her cautiously.

 

She smiled back, rather timidly. “I hate to put you out so early, but I wondered if I might ask your help.” She glanced over her shoulder, back to her car, and he did the same, spotting a large cardboard box through the passenger window. “Tyrion forgot to give me the door code, you see, and I didn’t fancy dropping all my things all over the lot on my second day.”

 

He relaxed, honestly a little relieved that she merely needed some help. “You want me to haul that in for you?”

 

She shook her head no. “Just wondered if you could punch in the code and hold the door.”

 

In this sickly yellow light that always managed to make people look jaundiced, she glowed, radiant as a princess, beautiful as she’d been the day before. And he realized with a start that he’d waited far too long to reply, just staring at her like a slack-jawed fool as she watched him expectantly.

 

“Sure,” he stuttered out, and she was off, darting to her car and pulling the box free, the edges of framed pictures peeking above the brown cardboard, things loudly clanking within as she nearly jogged back.

 

He punched in the code, cursing himself for not managing even one interaction with her that didn’t have him wishing he could just escape the onslaught of embarrassment and hide out in the basement, to retain some shred of dignity. He propped the door open with his foot, watching as she struggled through.“Are you sure you’ve got that?”

 

Daenerys gave a modest laugh at his questioning call, and he followed, noting that the laugh was cut short when she encountered the second, interior door. “I’m sure,” she finally answered, and when she faced him again he saw she was biting her lip, looking hesitant. “Although I don’t suppose you’d mind accompanying me to my office? The box I can handle, but I’m not entirely sure how many more doors there are on the way.”

 

He nodded immediately, rewarded by a brilliant smile, one that showed her teeth, and made his knees a little wobbly. “Sure,” he repeated, walking around her to grasp the handle of the next door and holding it open. “After you.”

 

Together they threaded their way through the cubicle labyrinth, an amiable silence falling that Jon found he rather enjoyed, pleased she wasn’t the sort for endless insincere prattle like the folks in sales and customer service, or the icy glares favored by the accounting department, who he believed to be even more antisocial in their tendencies than he was.

 

He stood in the threshold of her office as she placed the box down heavily on her desk, setting down her slim briefcase and the purse that had been slung across her body. She brushed her hands off and sighed, glancing up at the bare walls and throwing him an amused look. “Guess I’d better decorate this padded cell,” she tipped her head towards the gray wall nearest her and gave a little grin, “before things go ‘Cuckoo's Nest’ in here.”

 

Jon huffed out a small laugh. “Best hurry then,” he drawled, “the walls will start closing in sooner than you think.” He gave a little wave with his fingers, his coffee cup still tight in his grip, and made to leave, stopped once more this morning by her calling out his name.

 

“Oh, Jon?”

 

He stopped, turning back slightly, ignoring the lilting way his name sounded falling from her lips. He was a professional, after all, not some horny asswipe like Ramsey Bolton.

 

“Thanks for your help.”

 

Jon didn’t answer, instead offered her a tight smile and a dip of his head. He shoved his free hand in his pocket and began walking away again, and once more, she called out, but by then he’d reached the hallway. Turning back this time, he found her leaning against the door frame, hand resting on her cocked hip, and watching him. “Jon?”

 

“Yes?” He tried not to sound nervous, so he took a sip of his coffee and waited to hear what exactly it was that had caused her to stop him this time.

 

“I like your tie,” she said finally, pointing at his chest, studying it before meeting his eyes for a long lingering glance. “It’s very,” she paused, tilting her head, ”stripe-y.”

 

Gods, of all the things to feel like he ought to blush like a green boy over, this hardly seemed like it, yet he was: heat flushed his cheeks and he felt thankful that his short beard would cover whatever the darkened hallway failed to hide. “Oh,” he said, glancing down then back at her. “Okay.”

 

It was the wrong thing to say, so utterly inane, and he knew it as soon as he said it, but she only grinned and waved a hand in farewell, apparently finished halting his descent into his basement lair.

---------

Daenerys Targaryen quickly settled in to the office, by Jon’s approximation. Even Stannis in accounting seemed to tolerate her, which was saying a lot, as most people avoided him altogether, given his tendency to stare with unfettered dislike at his subordinates until they left his office near tears.

 

By the end of her first week, Jon had started wearing the suit jackets that went with his trousers, and Edd had the good graces not to take the piss out of him for it. Too much.

 

He also, to Jon’s relief, made sure to let Jon know when the third floor had a service call. That was Dany’s floor, after all.

 

She’d told him to call her that, after his fifth visit to her office, to troubleshoot why her email software wasn’t allowing her to download attachments.

 

“Call me Dany,” she’d said, paging through an employee file as he’d tapped away at her keyboard. “All my friends call me Dany.”

 

So, he reckoned, they were friends.

 

He *did* have friends, regardless of whatever the scuttlebutt was around the office. Not at work, of course. But there was Grey, and Pip, and Sam, and he saw them once a week for their poker night.

 

He didn’t specifically have any female friends, strictly speaking. Sansa and Arya were his friends, but they were also his cousins, so it probably didn’t count. Grey’s fiancée Missandei was more of an acquaintance, especially with all the weeks she spent traveling for work, and Gilly, Sam’s wife, was sweet but he wasn’t around her often.

 

In spite of being considered a ‘friend,’ he wasn’t quite sure what to make of Dany. He considered his Dany list. Because he at least had the self-awareness to own up to the fact that he had one. It had started innocently enough.

 

He had been carrying out a bin of electronics recycling when he’d stumbled upon her, crouched down beside a dumpster. She’d startled, dropping (and breaking) a saucerful of milk. Flushed and stammering, she explained that she’d started feeding a mangy stray cat that often hung around the parking lot. Of course he had helped her clean up the glass, even going so far as to buy a carton of milk from the cafeteria vending machine to replace the one puddled on the pavement.

 

That day, the Dany list began in the car on the way home as he tried to sort out why, beyond her obvious good looks, he found her enchanting.

 

When she laughed—really laughed—she snorted decidedly indelicately. She walked shockingly fast in towering heels. Her eyes shone with incisive intelligence. The nondescript black and gray suits of obviously expensive fabric had been well-tailored to her petite curvaceous figure—not that he’d noticed her figure. He was determinedly set on *not* noticing. Not the least reason being that he wasn't a barbaric cretin who objectified his female colleagues. He could appreciate her charms without hatching a plot like something out of those rom coms Sansa fixated on in secondary school.

 

And since his last romantic relationship had blown up spectacularly three years ago, he’d been perfectly content to stick to his coffee beans, poker nights, football games and Ghost, a good boy and a reliable companion. That was enough for him, still a little gun shy about starting over despite the constant nagging from everyone in his life about when he was going to date again—didn’t he want a family—wasn't he lonely. They tried. Relentlessly.

 

For his last birthday, Sansa had gifted him a month of online dating using compatibility testing (pass). His uncle had a suspicious number of friends who happened to have computer problems that required immediate assistance when their daughters stopped by (groan). Missy, Grey’s fiancée, kept trying to play matchmaker—sorority sisters, clients, coworkers at her firm. Without consulting him, Pip recently created Jon’s profile on the MeetMarket app; he deleted it as soon as he discovered it (HARD pass). He was a computer guy for fuck’s sake, did Pip really think he could pull that shit on him without Jon noticing?

 

Couldn’t they take a hint? He was fine. If he wanted to date, he would date. In the meantime, he’d managed to stop acting like a complete ass in front of Dany, so that was…something like progress, wasn’t it?

 

His phone beeped, shaking him from his musings, and a smile came unbidden when her voice came carrying through the earpiece. “Jon? Am I bothering you?”

 

“No,” he said, clicking a window closed and pulling up the batch reports he needed to start running to close out the week. “What’s up?”

 

“I’ve got this power point I’m working on, for next week’s presentation, and I wondered if I might have you take a peek at it. I don’t think I’ve got the animations set quite right.” She inhaled sharply. “But I don’t want to put you out, if you’re busy.”

 

Several clicks later and his reports were running, no longer requiring his presence. “I can spare a few minutes.”

 

“I really appreciate it.” She sounded as though she meant it, relief flooding her voice. “Do you want to pop in before lunch?”

 

He smiled to himself, until he saw Edd watching him from his own desk, and he frowned until the man focused on his own screen. “Sure, I’ll be up in a few.”

 

He hung up, rolling his chair back and rummaging for his sack lunch in his desk drawer. “I’m headed up to the…”

 

“Third floor, I reckon,” Edd finished, raising his eyebrows but saying no more, his gaze straying to the lunch in Jon’s hand. “See you after lunch.”

 

Jon skipped his jacket, leaving it draped across the back of his desk chair, not bothering to unroll his sleeves from where they currently sat just below his elbows. He was wearing his tie, at least, that was plenty for a Friday, as far as he was concerned.

 

He was blissfully alone in the lift, for one silent floor, but it stopped at the first landing to let on Tyrion and Shae, his PA.

 

“Jon,” the short man nodded, his eyes straying to Jon’s lunch where it was clenched in his left hand before punched the button for the fifth floor, the executive offices, and came to stand at his side, his eyes toward the lift doors. “Joining the land of the living for lunch today?”

 

The cafeteria was rather austere, more vending machines than fresh food, but there was plenty of seating, though Jon rarely ventured up, preferring his silent meals alone. Usually.

 

“Thought I’d try something different, I guess.” He put his free hand in his pocket, fighting the impulse to fidget. “Have a service call to tend to first.”

 

“Hmmm.” Tyrion raised an eyebrow.

 

Jon wasn’t sure what to make of the man’s hummed response, or the way he and Shae exchanged looks, so he ignored it, focusing on the lighted display indicating they were passing the second floor and on their way to the third.

 

“So,” Tyrion finally said, “how’s our new employee doing, do you think? Settling in alright?”

 

Jon shrugged, trying as best he could to keep his face impassive. “You’d be better off asking her.”

 

Tyrion offered a half-smile as the lift dinged and the doors slid open. “Naturally. Enjoy your lunch.”

 

Jon gave Tyrion and Shae a serviceable nod and exited quickly, wondering what exactly that was all about as he made his way to Dany’s office. She was on the phone, so he waited just outside her door, but when she spotted him through the glass windows that served as her wall to the rest of the office she waved him in with a smile.

 

Hanging up, she grinned widely, gesturing for him to sit in one of the upholstered chairs in front of her desk. “You’re a lifesaver, Jon. This will be my first presentation since I’ve started, I’d rather not muck it all up.” She whispered the last part loudly, as though she were confiding in him, and he couldn’t help but smile back.

 

“I’m sure it will be fine.” He sat his lunch sack down by his feet, watching as she pulled open her laptop and spun it towards him. “Let’s have a look.” But when he glanced at the first slide, his eyes widened, heart plunged. “Oh, dear God,” his horrified whisper escaped involuntarily.

 

“What?” Her eyes, definitely purple, he was sure of that by now, grew large as well, a frantic edge rising in her voice. “Shit. Have I made a complete mess of it? You’re only on the first slide!”

 

Shaking his head grimly, he clicked through each slide, slowly removing his gaze from the screen to meet her worried one. “Comic sans, Dany? ”

 

“What? The font?” She shrugged, screwing up her face adorably, obviously puzzled.

 

Did he think that? He couldn’t think that. He edited adorable from his Dany list. “The font.”

 

“So the font,” she repeated, clearly disbelieving him: her eyes twinkled with mirth.

 

Now with the twinkling eyes. She was killing him and he was just trying to do his job, dammit.

 

“Comic Sans is for ransom notes and prison correspondence. And,” he continued, turning the screen to face her and tapping a blunt nail against one of her headers, set in Comic Sans and, even more worrisome, in *bold*, “Tyrion hates it. Says its only meant for kindergarten teachers.”

 

She blew out a breath, pursing her lips and regarding him, one hand rising to adjust the black frames perched on her nose. “You’re serious.”

 

“Are you a serial killer? You’ve got to change it.” He was emphatic, tapping the screen again as she stared at it. “Seriously,”he added with just a drop of sarcasm.

 

She tipped her head to the side and peered at him like a curious bird. “I don’t believe I’ve known anyone to have such strong opinions about fonts before.” The sentence barely finished before she burst into guffaws, this time hard enough that she snorted and clapped a hand over her mouth as she doubled over at the waist

 

“Fonts are serious business,” he opined dryly

 

His remark provoked another bout of giggles. Her squint eyed, open mouthed laughing fit was horribly endearing, adding to the lengthening list of reasons he might be developing a crush on her. Repressing a chuckle, he leaned back in his chair, crossed his arms and regarded her as earnestly as he could. “Leave it like that and everyone will definitely think you’re moonlighting as a murderous primary school teacher.”

 

She planted her elbows on her desktop, cradling her head in her hands, her shoulders shaking with silent laughter, her face nearly scarlet when she peeked at him between her spread fingers. “You caught me,” she finally choked out, “we can’t have my secret identity being exposed or the FBI will finally find me. I’ll change the fonts.” She winked at him.

 

He hoped he didn’t blush.

 

Wiping a finger under her eye, she sighed, settling back in her own seat, and pointing at her screen. “Can you check out the animations on the third slide? They’re happening simultaneously.”

 

Finally tearing his eyes away from her, he willed himself to be less entranced by everything she did, but she was one of the only people he’d chanced upon whose dark sense of humor matched his own. “Sure.” He examined each one on the slide, realizing she’d neglected to check the box to signal them to cascade after each other, and quickly fixed the problem with a few keystrokes and clicks. “That ought to do it.”

 

“Good,” she said, still giggling a bit to herself as she watched him work, “I won’t have to kidnap you in my creepy stalker van.”

 

Jon rolled his eyes, pushing the laptop back to her. “I already know which car you drive. Good luck kidnapping anyone in that matchbox car.”

 

“My kidnapping van is in the shop,” she said dryly, saving the changes and clicking the cover shut on the computer. “I drive a sports car to throw people off my trail.”

 

“A respectable deviant wouldn’t admit all this to me. What if I have to testify against you?” He raised his brows at her, standing and grabbing his lunch. “I’m going to eat.” He made a show of eyeing her warily. “D’you want to join me or are you staking out parks for your next kidnapping?”

 

“Sure,” she chirped. “You know, everyone says you are a proper humbug, but I don’t think that’s the case at all.”

 

Jon shrugged, waiting for her to grab her insulated lunch bag, far sturdier than his brown paper sack, holding open the door for her to go first. “Maybe in my spare time I’m a party animal. Dusk to dawn. And I’m just all tuckered out during the work week.”

 

“Naturally. From all your socializing.” She nodded solemnly.

 

“Naturally.” He gnawed at his bottom lip as she strolled passed him--smirking--and he wished he didn’t want to kiss her so often--

 

Did he just think that about the kissing? He did. Shit.

 

She gave him a wink over her shoulder as they walked towards the cafeteria. “Your secret identity is safe with me—assuming mine is with you?”

 

He shrugged—and smiled.

---------

 

AUGUST

 

By the end of the first month, two things had become clear.

 

The first, was that Dany was probably the best person he’d ever met, and they got on so well that even Edd seemed shocked by the amount of smiling and talking that Jon now engaged in, though something prevented him from relentlessly teasing Jon about it.

 

He teased him some, to be sure, but at the end of the day Jon was still his boss (and thus ultimately responsible for his compensation), so he kept his razzing to a minimum.

 

The second thing he was sure of was that he was probably going to be in love with her before too long, if he wasn’t already. He was in a bit of a conundrum on how to address what would inevitably be unrequited longing. Women like Daenerys rarely bothered with decidedly unglamorous IT nerd basement dwellers like Jon Snow. It was only a matter of time before someone like Jamie Lannister with golden god good looks and charm came along and dazzled her. In the meantime, he would enjoy the opportunities presented him.

 

Sharing his lunch hour with her became routine. At least once a day she had a technical issue that resulted in him spending far more time in her office than he ought to. He didn’t tend to be much of a gossip, but between the two of them they knew all the best dirt; they each skirted the lines of full disclosure, only hinting at who they might be dishing about and allowing the other to guess.

 

Dany was fairly certain that Stannis was carrying on a secret affair with one of the other accountants, Melisandre, who was actually dating one of the salesman, Kevan, who was by all accounts completely ignorant of the affair.

 

Jon was certain that Tyrion was carrying on with Shae, and Dany had confirmed as much by coming to call at the CEOs office during his ‘private conference time’ with his assistant, making a beeline to Jon’s basement office and shooing Edd away impatiently before filling him in.

One of the biggest subjects of the office rumor mill came to Dany’s attention when Jon had a chance to watch the introduction. He wished he had brought popcorn.

 

As they were eating lunch together (Dany stirring up her yogurt and licking it off her spoon, seemingly unaware of the way the motion made him squirm in his hard plastic seat), she got her first introduction to Ramsey Bolton.

 

Most of the salesman travelled, and Ramsey was no exception. Jon thought it was best for everyone there, as the man was an insufferable prat who seemed to think every woman in the world wanted nothing more than to sleep with him. On several occasions after perusing his search history, Jon considered requesting a police welfare check on his stepmother. Ramsey was just that kind of thoughtful, friendly guy.

 

“Jon Snow,” he said, swaggering up to the lunch table that Jon and Dany occupied, “they finally let you out of the basement, eh?” He didn’t wait for Jon to reply, his gaze turning to Dany and sharpening as he leered at the silver-haired woman. “And who might you be, my dear?”

 

“Daenerys Targaryen. I’m the new head of Human Resources. And you must be Ramsey Bolton in sales.” She shook his hand curtly, and Jon was a bit taken aback by how icy her demeanor had become.

 

“Ahhh, Olenna’s replacement. Well, I must say,” Ramsey continued, dropping down into an empty seat and propping up his chin, his elbow planted on the laminate surface, “you’re much nicer on the eyes than she was.” He trailed his fingertip on the tabletop, near where Dany’s hand lay. “What do you say we acquaint ourselves better, perhaps over dinner?”

 

Jon snorted, earning a sneer from the other man, while Dany offered a glacial smile. “I’m afraid my boyfriend wouldn’t like that.”

 

The revelation rocked Jon, but he didn’t let his surprise show, watching the interaction with a scowl directed at the overly-cocky salesman. She’d never mentioned a boyfriend, but it wasn’t as though the revelation shocked him; she was breathtakingly beautiful and one of the few people would willingly seek out to spend time around. Of course she had a boyfriend.

 

Ramsey glared in Jon’s direction. “Well, I doubt your boyfriend would have much concern about you eating with this sad excuse for a man. But would your boyfriend care, Snow?”

 

That was Ramsey’s go-to line, since the Jon’s early weeks at Lannister when Jon refused to join in on catcalling one of the new assistants in the shipping department, instead threatening to shut the man’s mouth for him if he continued.

 

Dany looked at Jon, then Ramsey, her mouth set in a tense line, before standing. “Jon,” she said, pointedly ignoring the other man, “would you watch my lunch, please? I’ve left something at my desk.”

 

“Sure,” Jon answered, returning to frowning at Ramsey Bolton, waiting until Dany had left through the double doors to give Ramsey a half-smile. “Wonderful first impression, Ramsey.”

 

“Fuck off, Snow,” the other man said, still sneering as he stalked to the vending machine and buying a sandwich before leaving in a huff.

 

The minutes crawled by, but finally Dany returned, looking rather smug, considering how tense she’d been when she left. She dropped into her seat, looking around before giving him a sunny smile, which Jon struggled to return at first, his heart rolling sluggishly in his chest at the thought of this mysterious boyfriend, even as he chided himself for the resentment he now felt for a man he’d never even heard of ‘til now.

 

“He’s an absolute douche, isn’t he?” Dany’s jest made him laugh, and she returned to her yogurt as though they hadn’t been interrupted at all, but her free hand then emerged from her lap to drop a sharpie on the table between them.

 

“Aye, he is. Has been for years.”

 

She snickered at his response, regarding him closely as she swallowed her food.

 

“Although, for the record, I haven’t got a boyfriend.”

 

She smiled conspiratorially, leaning close. “Me neither,” she whispered, and he was a little ashamed at how pleased he was by the news.

 

“I’m not gay,” he clarified, just in case there was still any lingering doubt, not even sure why he felt the need to, knowing it might have been easier to just be her friend if she thought that he was.

 

Now it was her turn to laugh, and she looked away, scraping her spoon along the inside of the container to get the last bite of yogurt. “I didn’t think so.”

 

Jon glanced at the marker on the table. “What’s that for?”

 

There was a mischievous look in her eyes, and she smiled, more to herself than in his direction. “You’ll see. But, do me a favor, will you? Take that with you back downstairs.”

 

Slowly, he took the marker, slipping it into his pants pocket. “Alright. But why?”

 

Now she smiled widely, like the cat that ate the canary. “It’s evidence, of course. And as my lone partner in crime I’ll need you not to ask anymore questions.”

 

 

An hour after lunch, as he stared blankly at his screen, looking every now and then to her marker where it lay on his desk, he received a text from a number he didn’t recognize.

 

(Unknown): Someone has committed an act of slander on company property.

 

Jon glanced around, looking over at Edd, who was typing away, no cell phone in sight.

 

Jon: Who is this?

 

(Unknown): This is no time for questions! This is an HR emergency! Dispose of that sharpie as soon as you can!

 

He laughed quietly, pressing the button and adding the mystery texter into his contacts.

 

Jon: Someone’s been nosing around in the HR files. That’s an abuse of power. Crime number one.

 

Dany: Well, here’s crime number two, and I’ll remind you that you are now an accomplice.

 

He waited, and when the picture came through he laughed so hard he was doubled over at his desk, looking up at Edd’s sound of distress to see the man standing nearby.

 

“Are you choking, Jon?”

 

Jon pulled off his glasses, wiping under his eyes, struggling to catch his breath. “No,” he wheezed, “I’m fine.” He fought to calm himself, taking several deep breaths and smoothing his hand down his face, turning his phone face down on his desk, still chuckling as he addressed the other man. “Sorry.”

 

“What’s so funny?” Edd sounded mystified, glancing around, unable to locate the source of Jon’s sudden amusement.

 

“Nothing,” Jon said, waving a hand dismissively, “Just a joke someone texted me.”

 

Now the man looked skeptical. “A joke? Since when do you like jokes?”

 

Jon straightened. “I like jokes just fine, thanks.” He made sure to sound especially affronted, and it seemed to work, as Edd finally relented and returned to his desk.

 

“It’s like I don’t even know you anymore, Jon,” the man muttered, returning to work, frowning at his screen.

 

He picked up his phone again, looking at the photo and biting at the inside of his cheek, still chuckling. There, on his screen, was the photo Dany had sent. If he guessed correctly it was in one of the restrooms, the tile a familiar generic glossy sort. On the white ceramic, in large, bold, black letters, someone had scribbled, “Ramsey Bolton has a micropenis!”

 

He typed one word, before returning to work, the only response fitting such a fine display of vandalism such as that was.

 

Jon: Art.

 

—————

 

SEPTEMBER

By the time the leaves had started turning, they were really thick as thieves; it had just become something of an accepted norm that Jon rarely lingered in the basement.

 

He still did his job, of course and did it well. But while he’d previously frittered away extra time in ‘the Dungeon’ as Edd so lovingly referred to it, he found himself taking most of the floor tickets, though he still found small talk as utterly dreadful as he always had.

 

Except, of course, when it came to Dany.

 

But then, when it was with her it wasn’t really small talk, it was actual talk. And he knew he was playing with fire, because the more time they spent together, the more he looked for reasons to increase that time, including made up work games. ‘Match the pervert to the search history’ had begun when she asked him to pull data for employee evaluations. However Jon’s game of texting pictures of worker’s cubicles to Dany and asking her to guess who the workspaces belonged to began for no other reason than a desire to read her clever, witty comments when he couldn’t physically be in her presence. She one upped him by sending him excerpts from the oddest emails she received and asking him to figure out who sent them. Even in email they could talk about everything and nothing, Endlessly.

 

He liked her. Really liked her.

 

Like didn’t quite cover the breadth and depth of Jon’s Dany list. He’d like to know how her fingers would feel laced with his as they walked through the park by his house or cuddled on the couch watching movies. He’d like to touch his lips to hers and like for her cup his face in her hands and like to know how it would feel to have her fall asleep in his arms. Sure he would like to see her without clothes on. If his dreams were an indicator, that would be a fine day should that ever happen.

 

He was definitely certain he’d like for his clothes to be off, as well, in that situation.

 

The problem, the real issue at the core of it, that he grappled with every evening, with the TV volume low, talking to Ghost about what he ought to do, was she’d quickly become a fairly close friend, and he wasn’t sure he was willing to lose the friendship he’d found with her. He cringed internally, imagining the awkward looks and tense meetings that would ensue if he pursued her romantically and they crashed and burned. It wasn’t just about him—or her; they had careers to worry over as well, and he actually liked his job, most days.

 

Increasingly so, lately.

 

Sometimes he thought she might be flirting with him, but then she’d look away or change the subject, and the notion would vanish as quickly as it had arrived.

 

If he was *sure* about how she felt, that might be a different story. The only thing worse than fucking up their friendship for a doomed relationship was fucking it up for no relationship at all.

 

A holding pattern felt safest for the pair of them as they circled around each other, not daring to get too close, but remaining in each other’s orbit. Each day he learned more about her life, absorbing the little bits she’d share offhandedly, had stored it all away to ponder later.

 

She had a dog, for example, and she had been delighted to hear that he had one as well. Once she’d disclosed that her dog was a Pomeranian, she’d been less delighted with his running commentary for the remainder of the day that she didn’t have an entire dog, just a quarter of one.

 

Dany had taken her revenge. When she’d learned that she was still, as she put it, an extremely young twenty-eight, compared to his twenty-nine, she’d subjected him to a litany of text messages suggesting various elder care facilities he might want to look into considering his advanced age. She followed this up with emailed coupons for adult diapers and fiber for regularity.

 

He learned that she had been living in a residential hotel since she’d started at Lannister Industries. The day she’d told him she finally found a place to rent he could see the relief in her face. He hadn’t asked where—she hadn’t offered. He wasn’t sure if he should show more interest in this development. Was it too personal? Did she want him to ask personal questions?

 

Last go round in the dating-mating shitshow he’d fucked up. Hell, it fucked him up. He wanted so much to get this one right: he couldn’t remember the rules and he couldn’t remember how much he could or should ask her. If she’d wanted him to know, he figured, she’d have said. For now, he would just wait and see and hope he wasn’t as much of a fool as he suspected he was whenever it concerned Daenerys.

 

So, when he found himself, the last Saturday of her second month at Lannister Industries, at his neighborhood market, hers was the last face he’d expected to see.

 

He always went at 10:00 am sharp, of course, and later he couldn’t remember if he’d told her as much, or if it was some sort of cosmic push that brought them together that cold, windy fall morning.

 

Jon had been studying the back of a bag of Dornish dark roast, mulling over the description, when a cold hand on his neck so badly startled him he let out a terribly high pitched squeal, bumping into his metal cart, which then clattered loudly against the store shelf and knocked several bags of coffee beans to the stone floor.

 

“Shit!” He spun, scowling instinctually, only to find the woman that consumed his thoughts standing right behind him, grinning madly, apparently quite pleased with the reaction she’d gotten. “Fuck’s sake, Dany, why are your hands so bloody cold?”

 

“Good morning to you too, Jon.” She glanced at the floor, at the mess she’d helped make, and knelt to retrieve a few bags. He stood stock still, just for a moment, allowing himself one lingering, leisurely look at her when it wasn’t blatantly obvious, realizing he’d never seen her wearing casual clothes in the months he’d known her.

 

Normally she wore severe tailored suits, all planes and angles. But today, he thought he ought to be grateful that her prim office wardrobe covered her rather modestly. Watching her go up on tip toe to replace several bags of the Reach’s finest back onto high metal shelves revealed that Dany, as he had imagined, had more than a lovely face.

 

The black yoga pants (he thought they must be—Arya wore them incessantly) revealed soft, supple Dany. He had to wrench his eyes away from the curve of her ass and the sliver of milky skin displayed when she bent down to retrieve items from the floor—before he thoroughly embarrassed them both. This was the market closest his house, after all, and he didn’t want to be banned. He wasn’t Ramsey Bolton.

 

When she turned back to face him, her thin black zip-up hoodie allowed for a glimpse of a bright red, strappy workout top underneath—and an unexpected eye-popping valley of cleavage. Swallowing hard, his eyes jerked up: he hoped he didn’t dislocate his neck.

 

“You’re awfully jumpy this morning. Besides,” she said airily, taking a few steps to retrieve her own cart, bumping it playfully against his in the aisle, “you know what they say, cold hands, warm heart.”

 

Gods help him, he thought. He would need all the strength they could grant him to survive the way Saturday Dany looked with her high ponytail, her silver hair trailing down from it, curling just slightly at the end, coming down to the middle of her back.

 

He blew out a breath and attempted to muster an aggravated expression. “Is that what they say?” She gave him a cheeky smile in response. “Well, it’s too bad I know better, isn’t it? It takes a truly cold-hearted person to go around committing acts of vandalism, Dany.” When her smile transformed into an over-exaggerated frown he looked back at the shelf, finally grabbing the Dornish roast with a heavy sigh and tossing it into his cart.

 

“Now, now, Jon, my life of crime is meant to be our little secret.”

 

A finger poked into his chest, and he sucked in a breath at the contact, his look of surprise morphing into a heavier scowl as quickly as he could scrape it together. “And now assault? I’m going to have to report you to the manager of this fine establishment.”

 

She leaned her arms on her cart, smirking at him. “Don’t do that! I’d hate to be banned from the closest store to my *new* neighborhood.” Dany flashed a radiant grin, pushing her cart just ahead of his, making a show of studying the coffee selection herself before pulling down a bag, a fine Riverland roast from the looks of it, one he’d had before and had greatly enjoyed.

 

Then her words hit him, and he stopped dead in his tracks and did a double take. “Your new neighborhood?”

 

She almost seemed giddy. “I finally found a rental that wasn’t barely a step above a litter box or a crime scene.”

 

She tossed a glance over her shoulder to the wide windows at the front of the market. “It’s not far, a few blocks from here. Church Street.”

 

That was near his place. A block, maybe two. And his heart gave a very stupid, silly little flip at the prospect that they were practically neighbors now. He’d become reasonably good at hiding his foolish pleasure about Dany-related things, so he gave a grunt and a little half-smile instead.

 

“Must be a relief to finally be out of the hotel.” He might have imagined that her smile dimmed a few watts. She didn’t allow him any time to think on it, gripping her cart handle and shoving ahead, giving him an expectant look that clearly meant she wanted him to follow.

 

His gaze lingered on her ass for only a second. It might’ve been two, but it was far less than he would have preferred. There was nothing to be done for it, though, as he wasn’t sure he’d ever live down being a perverted creep ogling her at the grocers.

 

“It’s excellent. I enjoy not having to fight for a decent parking place or deal with the rowdy upstairs guests. I definitely prefer not having to worry about who is going through my personal items while I’m at the office—“ she flushed, trailing off as if she were reconsidering her next words.

 

Jon, for his part, could imagine what types of personal things someone might go through while Dany was at the office; he rapidly turned his attention to making sure he hadn’t placed any of the wrong items in his cart before someone reported him for leering.

 

They turned the corner into and he pulled out his phone, bringing up his grocery list and checking off ‘coffee’ as they began to make their way down the dried goods aisle.

“But now I have a pantry to restock, so,” she raised both her hands dramatically, “here I am!”

 

Jon capitulated, allowing some of his happiness show, giving her a toothy smile before reaching above her head to grab a box of pasta. “At least you’ve got somewhere to stow your creepy stalker van.”

 

Dany giggled, and it did strange things, made his chest warm in a way that ought to concern him.

 

“Exactly.” She grabbed a few bags of spaghetti without looking, tossing them into her cart, and added several jars of marinara with the same air of blithe neglect. She waited, with exaggerated impatience, as Jon took his time, getting precisely what his list called for, ticking off the items as he went.

 

Before he realized what had happened, she pressed into his side, peering at his phone screen. “Is that your list?”

 

He made a show of pulling his arm away. “Yes, nosy. Where’s yours?”

 

“Some of us live on the edge, Jon Snow. We live list-free lives.”

 

He’d seen her office. She might decorate in bright colors and with dramatic art prints, but her workspace, files to desktop, was neat, orderly and methodical: she most definitely had a list. Crossing his arms, he looked at her, a single brow raised.

 

Shoulders sagging, she relented. “I forgot it at home.”

 

“Some of us take advantage of technology.” He waved his phone at her, smiling smugly.

 

She narrowed her eyes—stuck her tongue out at him—and shoved her cart passed him with a sniff.

 

His jaw unhinged; he blinked, surprised.

 

Tossing her head, her ponytail flounced as she looked back over her shoulder. “You really are a grump, Jon. You’re like a disgruntled old grandpa, stuck in a deceptively young body.” She stopped again, and he just barely avoided hitting her with the end of his cart, when she wheeled around on her heel. “Speaking of, what are you doing down there in the dungeon, bench pressing CPUs in your spare time?”

 

“Huh?” He looked at himself over: annual corporate picnic t-shirt, faded jeans, ratty Chuck Taylors—and gave her a confused frown.

 

She poked his arm with her index finger, where his short-sleeve stretched against his bicep. “*This* old man.”

 

And there his imagination went into overdrive. Because it seemed, just for a moment, that she might be checking him out. “I like to stay in shape.”

 

“Hmmm,” she said, and turned quickly, clearing her throat before starting to walk. “Let’s get a move on, then, so you can get back to your rigorous workout schedule.”

 

Jon barked a laugh, checked his list and glanced around. “Next aisle, then. I need bread.”

 

On they went, him studiously following his list, her trying her best to remember what she needed while teasing him about some of his carefully curated purchases. She slipped random items into his cart (blue cornmeal, Dothraki honeybush tea, hemorrhoid cream) and prattled on about how his mind was clearly failing him: the items were absolutely on his list. In turn, he mocked her exorbitant taste in nut butter and cheese—she would have to ask Tyrion for a raise if she insisted on shopping so extravagantly.

 

He usually dreaded this weekly store run, generally fine avoiding the free-range children and harried mothers chasing after them, and the dreadfully long checkout line, but on this day the trip went rather quickly.

 

When they arrived at the frozen foods, he lost his heart completely. She reached in and pulled out two containers of Chunky Monkey, placing them into her cart with the sort of care one might use when handling a newborn.

 

That settled it. It was true love.

 

But he certainly couldn’t say that, and declare his love for her next to the ice creams and gelatos, so he settled for catching and holding the door open after she was done, snagging a container for himself and glancing at her. “Thank you for leaving some for the rest of us.”

 

She sucked on her teeth for a moment, studying him thoughtfully. Then with surgical precision, she removed the ice cream from his cart and added it to hers, the pint he’d grabbed joining the other two that she was clearly hoarding. “Did I?”

 

Jon’s eyes didn’t leave hers as he reached back into the freezer, just as slowly and carefully as the bomb squad would diffuse munitions , and grabbed the last pint, putting it into his cart and leaving his hand atop it, even as the cold stung his skin. “This is harassment. I’m reporting you to my HR rep.”

 

Dany rolled her eyes. After a head toss, she grabbed her cart handle, and strolled away with a decided sassy strut that he struggled to ignore. “Good luck with that,” she called out, rounding the corner and made her way toward the pre-prepared deli case.

 

He was in so much trouble.

Long after their shopping trip, he wondered, several times throughout the afternoon and evening, if he’d run into her again while out and about: would it be too obvious if he slightly modified his route with Ghost to increase his chances? Would she start patronizing the local library or brewpub? Had she found a vet—or a mechanic? He began considering what the line might be between taking a helpful neighborly interest and stalking.

It seemed he needn’t have worried, though, as by Sunday morning she found him.

He’d stopped off in the park that bisected the neighborhood to answer a text Grey had sent him about their upcoming poker night. Sitting on a bench, with Ghost on his leash placidly watching the birds, Jon waited for his friend’s reply when he heard his name being called, somewhat breathlessly, from down by the playground.

Jon looked up, spying a familiar head of silver hair being speedily towed down the sidewalk by a small puff of fur on a retractable leash. “Behave,” he muttered to Ghost under his breath, stowing his phone in his jacket pocket and waving a hand to Dany as she approached.

Her dog arrived before she did, making a beeline for Jon’s leg and hopping up, tiny paws leaving wet prints on his joggers from the morning dew. Her little curled tail worked furiously, a yipping string of barks signaling that this dog would very much like to be petted.

Jon stared into the dog’s little black eyes, finally swayed by the pitiful whine that issued forth from the ball of orange fur. “Hello,” he said politely, scratching at the dog’s head as Dany came to a stop by his knees, looking far more frazzled than he thought he’d ever seen her.

“Rotten little shit,” she muttered, without a trace of venom in her voice, and she nuzzled the dog’s face to her cheek as she picked up the tiny troublemaker, dropping down unceremoniously beside Jon on the bench. “She’s run the last block and a half like she’s training for the world games.”

Ghost’s curiosity finally seemed to get the better of him, and he plopped his head on Dany’s lap, a move that would no doubt leave behind a considerable amount of white fur and drool; Jon hoped she wouldn’t mind too much. Judging by the fluffy dog cradled in her arm, she was likely no stranger to shedding.

“Hello, handsome,” she cooed, using her free hand to smooth along Ghost’s head as he closed his eyes, tongue lolling over his lips as he blissed out.

When the hound groaned loudly as she scratched behind one floppy ear, Jon burst out laughing.

“What a beautiful dog,” she said sweetly, offering the pup a warm smile.

“That’s Ghost,” Jon said, more jealous of his dog than he’d ever been in his life. “He’s an enormous baby.”

She snorted, abruptly passing him her fluff ball so she could scratch at Ghost with both hands. “Well,” she said, “they do say pets resemble their owners.” She turned her face to gauge his reaction, laughing when she saw his screwed up face, his nose wrinkled as he studied her dog in turn.

“Rude,” he muttered, closing his mouth quickly as Dany’s tiny dog began licking his chin and nose. He tried pulling the dog back some, but it continued its steady attack, extending its neck as Jon attempted to create some distance.

When he peeked back in her direction he was surprised to see her soft expression as she observed her dog’s assault on Jon’s face, but when she noticed him watching her, she straightened up, proffering him a tiny grin.

“She likes you. I shouldn’t be surprised, though,” she said lightly, turning her attention back to Ghost who had again opened his eyes, fixing an adoring stare on Dany. “She has strange taste.”

Jon huffed out a breath, scoffing and tucking Dany’s tiny dog into his side. “Don’t listen to her,” he whispered to the orange ball of fur that was allegedly an actual dog, “I’m an acquired taste, that’s all.” Finally, that made her laugh hard enough to snort a little, which Jon usually considered an accomplishment, and he dropped his aggravated tone. “I guess you’re settling in alright in the new place, then?”

Dany sighed, leaning back against the bench, one hand still absently scratching at Ghost. “I suppose. I’ve still got about a million boxes to unpack, but it beats trying to do my laundry in the hotel sink.” She wore her hair in a ponytail again today, looking more twenty than nearing thirty, but he knew that if he teased her for it she’d unload every old man joke in her arsenal, which was considerable. He was still unsubscribing from the avalanche of senior citizen newsletters she had signed him up for. So he refrained, instead returning his attention to her dog who was now snuggling into his chest.

“What’s your dog’s name?”

She was uncharacteristically quiet, her face growing solemn, and she turned sideways, one leg curling under her, to regard him neutrally. “If I tell you, no mocking me.” She pushed black frames up from the tip of her nose, and he couldn’t tell if she was jesting with him or not, so he gave her a serious nod.

“Aye, alright. It’s just a dog’s name, Dany, I didn’t ask your wifi password.” She pursed her lips at him, smiling a little before biting at her bottom lip in a way that Jon had come to find outlandishly endearing.

As a rule, he didn’t usually find *anything* endearing, so whatever spell she’d managed to cast over him during the past few months had indeed been a powerful one.

“You’re going to think I’m the biggest dork.” She crossed her arms, still worrying her lip with her teeth; Ghost gave a sad, low-pitched whine at the loss of contact, still staring up at her.

Jon made a non-committal noise, shrugging but studying her with more interest than he usually allowed himself, wondering what exactly she could’ve named this tiny puff ball that would have her so worked up. “What if I already think that?”

“You’re lucky I like you, Jon Snow,” and he could see she was trying to sound cross, but then her very small dog began to whine, wriggling free of Jon’s hold and picking its way across his lap and into Dany’s waiting embrace. She whispered something, so quietly he couldn’t hear over the small dog’s happy panting.

“What’s that?” He mockingly cupped a hand behind his ear, leaning closer. “I didn’t quite catch it.”

Dany groaned in irritation. “Her name is Hedwig, happy?”

Jon stilled. “Like the owl? Harry Potter’s owl?” Dany nodded, a bit self-consciously, so he continued, motivated by reasons he didn’t really care to dwell on. “To be fair, I wouldn’t have known that unless I was—also—a big dork.”

“That’s true,” she said, narrowing her eyes and peering at him, smiling slowly when he frowned at her in response. “You’re definitely a bigger dork than I am, that’s for sure. You probably asked for the Harry Potter special when you ordered your glasses, didn’t you?”

She was probably right; odds were high that he was technically a bigger dork of the pair of them, but she was teasing him, as she seemed to enjoy doing, so he played along. “You know,” he huffed, standing and straightening his frames, “Ghost and I can do without the insults.” He looped his hand through the end of the leash, Ghost coming to stand as well, knowing after years of routine that stopping in the park was usually followed by the normal two-mile jaunt. “We’re very sensitive.”

She ignored his pretend annoyance, standing as well, putting down little Hedwig who began sniffing excitedly at Ghost, though she only came up to the bigger dog’s knee. “We’ll come with, if that’s alright?”

Jon had grown familiar enough with all the different ways she spoke to him, by now, that he knew she was being absolutely serious, that she really wanted to know if it was okay with him. If he weren’t so worried about the odds that he might completely upend what had become a rather satisfying friendship, he might tell her she could tag along as long as she wished, on the walk, to his place, his bed—to the rest of his life— if she wanted.

But he really liked her. He didn’t want to wreck it.

Yesterday he’d reached a decision after mulling over their grocery store visit. A few times he felt like she *might* have been flirting—friendly banter that hinted at something more. He’d stick this out, see where it went. If they made it to six months, as friends, and she seemed like she was still interested, he’d go for it.

Six months. That was the goal, and he was a man who enjoyed setting goals.

“Sure,” he said, in a voice also free of any jests or japes. “You can tag along.”

---------

That night, after her third straight text in a row of hyperlinks, he finally responded back.

Jon: Stop sending me sorting hat quizzes. I already know what House I’m in.

Dany: TELL ME

Jon: No, it’s more fun if you guess.

Dany: Not for me.

There was a pause, then she continued.

Dany: Probably Gryffindor. Utterly boring.

Jon: At your service.

Dany: I KNEW IT

Jon laughed, looking over at Ghost where he lay curled up on the bed beside him, the dog’s eyes growing heavy but still flying open every time Jon made a noise.

His phone dinged again.

Dany: You’ll never guess mine, not in a million years.

Jon: Horseshit. I can spot a Ravenclaw a mile away. Despite your regrettable font choices.

The text bubble that indicated she was typing appeared. Then it stopped. Then it started again, then stopped, and he wondered if he’d actually managed to offend her.

Dany: Damn you, how did you know that?

Jon: MAGIC

Dany: Alright, I know when I’m beat. Don’t forget, quarterly performance reviews coming up, I’m counting on those browsing history reports so I can silently judge people while Tyrion assesses their actual job performance.

He wasn’t sure why, but he could almost tell she when she was nervous, though she’d already hinted as much about this particular upcoming task over a few shared lunches.

Jon: You’ll do fine. Go to sleep.

Dany: Goodnight to you too, grumpy.

He smiled more than he should, plugged his phone into the charger, killed the lights, and went to sleep.