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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.

Chapter Text

OCTOBER

Jon Snow had spent most of his adult life living by a set of rules.

Rules were good.

Rules maintained order.

With rules, outcomes could be anticipated and every eventuality prepared for.

Even his last failed relationship had been dictated by a set of rules. Though he’d found Ygritte’s rules rather smothering, at least there was a comfort for him in that he knew exactly what to expect, no matter how miserable those rules might make him (1. drinks (not beer!!) & dancing once a week at a club; 2. take away and fast food is not a date—especially not at home. GROSS; 3. If dog ever naps on the bed = no sex.)

And when things irrevocably broke down, after months of her insinuations that he was too quiet, too somber, too much of a fuddy-duddy, that she needed a man with more ambition and charisma, his routines had kept him afloat, even as his heart had broken.

Everything ended eventually; rules softened the crash. The safety net of his neat and orderly life reduced the pain.

He had Ghost, after all.

He had his friends, his cousins, and his poker nights, and he had his work, and up until now it had seemed a lot less messy to continue on a course where everything happened as it ought to.

Because Jon Snow lived by a set of rules.

But then Dany had come along, and his rules blurred around the edges because she made him want things that were most definitely troublesome, or had the potential to be.

Since their run-in at the park, they’d found themselves bumping into each other every morning, their dogs getting in their exercise while she besieged him with an endless barrage of the worst ‘dad jokes’ she’d been able to find, because she knew how much they annoyed him.

She clearly enjoyed getting a rise out of him, and he found he enjoyed it as well, something about how tickled she became when he would grimace at yet another terrible pun made him feel like a different person.

He wasn’t sure he knew this Jon Snow, anymore, and he felt as though he had inadvertently set himself on a collision course with something he couldn’t control, couldn’t anticipate, couldn’t contain.

The disturbing part was that it ought to have worried him more than it did.

When he’d left his uncle’s house at sixteen, with just a rucksack of his belongings, and headed off to join the Northern armies, order had become the one thing that insulated him from fear, and homesickness, and he’d maintained that buffer from the awful shit the world had thrown at him ever since.

But now there was Dany, and he hadn’t planned for her.

So now he had his new set of rules, that he would adhere to as well as he could. Be her friend. Enjoy her company. Do not let his gaze linger on the way she looked in her joggers for more than five seconds, maximum.

Definitely don’t kiss her.

Not yet.

Six months, that was his mantra now, and he had a silent, mental countdown that ticked away each day.

Six months, he’d make his move, and hope for the best.

That was the rub, though, a truth he knew intrinsically: it was hope that could break your heart.

By the Friday of Performance Review Week, he was nearly aching for the weekend, rubbing the back of his neck as he stared at his monitor, starting when his email pinged, indicating he had a new message.

It was from Dany, of course it was, and he was already smiling when he opened it.

But then he stopped smiling, abruptly, and sat up straight as he read the contents.

We’ve got a problem. I’m on my way down, need your help with something.   -D

It couldn’t have been more than five minutes later that she was sweeping into the basement office, Edd looking up at the knock she gave on the open door, the other man’s gaze shooting to Jon before they both directed their attention to the petite woman who stood in the middle of the room, now, arms crossed and looking decidedly stern,

“Edd, could we have the room for a moment?” He hadn’t seen her this way, this icy demeanor, every word clipped, and he wondered just what had been going on a few floors above.

Tollett didn’t say a word, just nodded and grabbed his coffee mug, making his way out with haste.

“Jon,” she began, her tone softening a little as their eyes met again, “I need you to pull some things for me as quickly as you can.” She plopped down forcefully in the lone chair across from his desk, an ancient thing that let fly a little cloud of dust when she sat, the upholstery worn away in places here and there. “And,” she coughed, “you need new chairs.”

“That chair is vintage,” he said, wondering if he could coax a smile out of her in her current mood, “and older than me, which is saying something.”

He felt an acute sense of victory when her lips curved up, just a bit, and she shook her head. “It really is.” She was serious again all too quickly, though, her arms folded again as she regarded him. “Can you still access emails if someone’s deleted them?”

Jon examined her curiously. “Sure.” Rolling his chair closer to his desk, he pulled up a few programs, his eyes straying to her again. “Unless I clear them off the server there’s still a copy.”

“Good,” she said, sounding marginally more pleased than she had when she’d first come down. “I need every email Ramsey Bolton has sent to this email address for the past year, and I need it by 5 o’clock, if you can.” She reached into her pants pocket and withdrew a small square of paper, sliding it across his desk for him to take. He did, ignoring the way their fingertips slid against each other briefly in the exchange. “Tell no one. Show no one. Document your work in case we need to use it in court.”

“Aye,” he said, reading the email address and pulling his keyboard near, ready to start digging. “I’ll bring it up when I’m done. What’s he gone and done now?”

Dany blew out a breath, looking exasperated. “He’s gone and gotten himself grounds for termination, that’s what. I can’t elaborate, but Tyrion’s firing him this afternoon. I doubt he’s going to go down easily.”

He wanted to offer some sort of reassurance, if nothing else to make those stress lines between her eyebrows ease, but she was probably right: Ramsey Bolton was the biggest idiot he’d ever met, and that fucker would definitely stir up as much trouble as he could once he learned he was getting shit-canned.

“If he sent it, I’ll find it, I can promise you that.” It was all he could provide at the moment, but it seemed to be enough, and her features relaxed as she gave him a half-smile before she stood to leave.

“Thanks, Jon.” She took several deep breaths, in and out, as though she were composing herself, steeling herself to return upstairs to the unpleasant afternoon that awaited her. “Tyrion’s in a right state, I’d better get back before he decides to forego the formalities and taze Ramsey instead.”

Jon chuckled at the image. “He’s probably got it coming.”

Dany walked to the door, waiting until she’d stepped partway through before responding. “True,” she called out, “but it’s loads more paperwork!”

--------

Jon found the emails quite easily. For all his swagger and bluster, Ramsey was godawful at covering his tracks. And as he printed off sheet after sheet, he couldn’t help but take a gander at just what the man had been doing; he understood exactly why Tyrion would be in a ‘right state’.

Ramsey had been trying to sell information. To one of their competitors, no less, judging by the mystery recipients email address. Proprietary information, the sort that any number of Lannister Industries competitors might pay good money to get their hands on.

How Tyrion had learned of it, Jon couldn’t tell, but it was clear that Ramsey had been trying his level best to earn some extra cash, and had failed quite spectacularly.

Jon stood, stretching, checking his watch to see that it was almost 4 o’clock. Edd just spared him the smallest of glances; he’d told the man a little of what was afoot, with the promise that when he knew more, he’d certainly fill him in, and that had been enough for Edd.

He removed the last stack of papers from the printer, the pages still hot, and made his way upstairs, riding the lift all the way up to the executive offices.

Shae, nervously twisting her skirt in her hands, waited for him in the well-appointed reception area. Without a word, she escorted Jon back to the conference room, tapping her employee ID against the proximity card reader, and indicated that Jon do the same. When the door lock released, Shae waved him inside.

Under different circumstances Jon might have appreciated visiting the legendary Lannister boardroom with its Architectural Digest worthy interior.

Today, however, none of the opulence could dispel the funereal gloom. He’d been in cheerier mortuaries. Files tucked under his arm, he strode alongside the long, wide table, littered with stacks of documentation, to where Tyrion huddled with Dany in tense conversation.

“Ah,” Tyrion said, snapping Jon from his musings. “Jon, good.” He gestured to the files Jon carried. “Let’s see what sort of evidence you’ve found for us.”

Jon handed the papers over wordlessly, glancing at Dany who gave him a pained smile. “We’re really on a tree-murdering spree today.” She spread her hands wide at the rest of the table as Tyrion began to page through the stack, cursing every so often.

“Thank you, Jon. This is extraordinarily helpful—truly. That should be all for the day,” Tyrion said, not even glancing up, but clearly dismissing him.

“Of course,” Jon said, giving a nod to Dany and turning to leave.

He’d arrived at the elevator bank when he heard rapid click-clack footsteps approaching.

“Jon!” Dany skidded to a comical stop, nearly tripping over her own feet.

Even wearing short heels, she barely reached his shoulder, one of countless Dany facts that hadn’t escaped his notice. Whenever she stood at his side, he felt like he towered over her, but he also imagined that he could tuck her beneath his chin and she would fit like she belonged there.

He wondered if she thought about those things, too.

“I feel like I’m always asking you for favors.” She winced as she spoke, as though whatever it was, she was about to ask, she thought he might refuse. She could hardly know that she could ask for his kidney right now, on the spot, and he would offer her both.

So instead he gazed at her, straight-faced, removing his hand from the call button. “That’s because you are. It’s going to be a sad day for you when I call in all my markers,” he said, in a mock warning tone. “My car could use a good washing, you know.”

She snorted. “I’ve got another to add to the stack of favors, then. Maybe I’ll offer the wax in advance.”

Now, he warned himself, was not the time to picture her washing OR waxing his car. In a bikini. Wearing stilettos.

“Alright,” he sighed, “what is it?”

And in a blink, she sighed deeply, collapsing back against the wall and folded her arms, frowning, her posture slumped and tired. “This is likely going to take a while. That motherfucker Bolton has threatened a lot of witnesses and his enabling father thinks if he hires the most expensive lawyer he can make this felony a wrist slap— “

Unthinkingly, Jon stood before her and placed his hands on her shoulders. “Whatever it is, Dany, you’ll win. I’d say you’d take out his balls with those pointy toe shoes of yours but I suspect they’re the size of raisins and might be a bit hard to find.”

A smile—a wide, radiant smile that reached her eyes—animated her face. He couldn’t help but “smile” back with what passed for a smile where Jon was concerned which was more or less a not-scowl. They looked at each other for a long moment before Jon began to wonder if his six-month deadline could be in trouble if he didn’t act quickly and decisively. Awkwardly, he removed his hands from her shoulders and jammed them deep into his pockets as if he suddenly discovered he had leprosy; he dropped his eyes to the floor, examining the intricate marble patterns with newfound fascination.

“So…” he said.

“So..” she replied.

“You were going to take advantage of my kind and generous nature?” He deadpanned.

“Oh. Right. Do you think, if it’s not too much trouble, you could swing by and pick up Hedwig when you walk Ghost this evening? She’s in a routine nowadays, and I don’t know anyone else in town, really, and especially not anyone I’d trust with my address.” She glanced around. “Or,” she whispered theatrically, “the location of my spare key.”

“Well,” he said, making a big show of considering, tilting his head back and forth, “I reckon I could. But that’s definitely worth wash AND wax.” He tried to remain serious, but when her face lit up like a Christmas tree it was impossible, and he laughed when she clapped her hands together happily.

“I really do appreciate it, Jon.” She came close, laying a hand on his forearm and squeezing. “I’ll text you the address.” Then she paused, considering him with amusement. “No wild parties,” she said menacingly, “or you’ll be washing MY car.”

~~~

By 5:30 he was leaving his place, Ghost clipped to the leash in his hand, and headed for hers.

He pulled out his phone, double-checking the address she’d sent, wondering why he felt so nervous all of a sudden. For fuck’s sake, she wouldn’t even BE there.

The walk was shorter than he expected, finding 115 Church Street with little trouble, checking his phone again to see it was just over a mile taking the sidewalks, realizing it was probably even shorter if he cut through the park on the way home. He heard excited yipping and scratching at the door; he knelt, picking up the flowerpot nearest the steps to find her spare key, just as she’d instructed.

As Jon turned the deadbolt, Ghost’s tail began to thump and he arf’d in reply to Hedwig, having formed something of a friendship with the feisty Pomeranian over the past week. Jon, elbowed the door open, just barely preventing the orange fur ball from squeezing onto the porch. Ghost’s large body did most of the blocking for him as he leaned over to scoop up the yappy escape artist.

“Have to put your leash on first, little miss.” He backed into the door to close it; Ghost dutifully remained at his heel. Clicking on the lights, he looked around as he placed Dany’s dog back down on the floor and set off to find the leash and harness, he’d seen her wearing the past few days.

It was a classic brownstone on a block lined with them, and as he glanced around, he could see that the owner had completed some thoughtful renovations he’d only been considering at his own place. The great room kitchen and living room combination featured a craftsman style mantel and brick fireplace dominating nearly an entire wall in the living area. Another wall had built-in bookshelves with a larger open shelf to accommodate a flatscreen TV. The hardwood floors appeared to be original, but had been refinished and polished.

And the boxes. Boxes stacked everywhere, some half-open, all neatly labeled in the looping script he knew was Dany’s, all over the living area.

The gourmet kitchen was relatively clutter free, as though she’d started unpacking there and was working her way through the rest of the house, and there on the counter he found Hedwig’s leash, the harness still attached.

The pup in question danced and whined, trying to stand up on her hind legs when she heard the jingling chain of her lead. She held remarkably still while Jon fastened her up.

He looked at Ghost, who watched with doleful acceptance, the much larger dog simply heaving a sigh and walking to the door, his leash dragging behind him.

“Alright,” Jon declared, taking both leashes in hand and opening the door, “let’s see how this works.”

---------

By 6:00 the trio had returned to Dany’s, following the most chaotic dog walking experience of his life. Hedwig relished tangling her leash with Ghost’s, even when he held the lines separate, and so he’d finally had to put Ghost behind him, allowing Hedwig to lead the way, surprised at finally experiencing firsthand how hard the little beast could pull.

But by the time he returned to Dany’s, the tiny terror had exhausted herself, and he unlatched her from her leather prison to fill up the water bowl that sat on the floor beside the sink.

Gods, that dog could drink her body weight in fucking water. Ghost watched, whining at Jon until the man caved, tentatively opening the wooden upper cabinets in the kitchen in search of a bowl for Ghost to drink out of, before the dog nosed his way into a random bathroom and made do with the toilet.

It certainly wouldn’t be the first time.

Finally, his search proved fruitful, and he found a large mixing bowl that would work, filling it quickly from the sink tap and setting it down near Hedwig’s, where a grateful Ghost began to loudly slurp.

His phone buzzed in his pocket.

Dany: You still at my place? Has Hedwig figured out how to light matches and burnt it down yet?

Jon grinned, and began to type.

Jon: No. But she might be tunneling into the park to chase the squirrels. Have you shown her The Great Escape?

Dany: laughing face emoji:

Jon: We just got back from our walk. Your dog tried to kill me several times. You now owe me a carwash, a wax, and a new coat of paint on my front door.

When she didn’t respond straight away, he got a little nervous, and so he was typing again before he knew it.

Jon: About to head out, though, hopefully you’ve laid waste to Ramsey Bolton’s life once and for all.

He tucked his phone back in his pants pocket, checking to see if Ghost had drunk his fill before he made his way back home.

His phone buzzed again.

Dany: OMG you can’t leave yet, you won’t believe what happened. I should be leaving in about an hour and a half.

He smiled to himself, cutting his eyes to Ghost. “I guess we can stay a bit longer, right?” The dog didn’t answer, just stared at him as though he had lost his mind and went back to his bowl.

But just as he was about to respond she peppered him with a string of texts, in rapid succession.

Dany: I mean, if you can

Dany: I know it’s Friday

Dany: I shouldn’t assume you don’t have plans just because I don’t

Dany: It’s totally fine if you need to go, I understand

“That’s weird,” he muttered to himself. “What the…”

Then it hit him, but the idea seemed absurd, on the surface. Texts were tricky, he’d found, because it was just words, and gauging intent was bloody hard, but she *almost* sounded like he did, when he was trying to backpedal out of admitting something when he’d let on more than he’d wished.

She wanted him to stay. To hang out with her. Outside of work. At her place.

Then he realized it had been far too long since he’d answered and if he didn’t want her to get the wrong idea, he needed to get his head out of his ass and respond.

Jon: I mean, I did have a meeting at the senior center to plan our Yahtzee tournament, but I guess I can cancel.

The typing bubble immediately showed up, and suddenly his screen was flooded by about 20 laughing emojis, and he was flooded with relief that he’d read things correctly.

She sent one more message, short and to the point, before he was left to ponder exactly what he ought to do while he waited.

Dany: I’ll be there in a little while!

Jon just sent a thumb’s up, then laid his phone on the counter and looked down at the dogs who were staring at him silently.

“Well,” he exhaled, “what are we going to do while we wait?”

---------

Jon found the dog food in the corner of the pantry, feeding both dogs, though Ghost gave him a strange look when presented with the tiny kibble Dany had bought for her dog before plowing in.

Once they seemed situated, he wandered around the kitchen, then the living room, hands in his pockets in a concerted effort not to be nosy and poke through her things, finding the remote to the flat screen on the wall and settling on something random, a documentary about black holes on the Science channel.

He checked his watch: 6:15.

His stomach started to growl, but he wasn’t going to eat her food, so he ignored the rumbling and sat down on her surprisingly comfy sofa. He appreciated her taste—a warm tan-orange leather with embroidered throw pillows. Truthfully, he liked everything he saw of her decorating style: vivid, earthy colors; plush Essosian rugs with intricately woven patterns of vines and flowers; shelves full of books that clearly had been read instead of being chosen because the covers coordinated with the wall paint. Her reading material covered all genres from award winning novels to histories to science fiction. Every book choice revealed something intriguing about her mind; Jon couldn’t help but imagine the two of them, sitting on this very couch, reading books on a rainy Sunday afternoon. He sighed.

Five minutes later he was up again, pacing.

He went to the kitchen and snagged his phone, checking the scores from the football match he’d missed, finally giving in and swiping a beer from her fridge and leaning against the counter. He looked at her appliances, trying not to judge her too harshly but found she passed muster, having been wise in her selection of coffee maker, toaster and blender.

He checked his email. Nothing new, except a brief message from Tyrion that he’d have Ramsey’s system and laptop waiting to be wiped Monday morning, which he’d expected.

He checked his watch: 6:20.

He found the downstairs bathroom, just past the stairs that led up to the second floor.

Once he’d answered nature’s call, he peeked into the cracked open door further down the hall, discovering that she’d started to set up her guest room as a makeshift office. He clicked on the light and examined the pictures on the wall.

There she was, graduating from an all-girls private high school with a group of friends. He vaguely recalled hearing of several students from Dany’s school in Essos doing a semester exchange at his cousin’s school and knew it had an excellent reputation. Smart, wealthy girls from well-connected families.

In a photo of her university graduation, she wore the cords of a high honors graduate, a fact that didn’t surprise him at all. He squinted to read the writing on the diploma she held.

“University of Pentos,” he said aloud, answered by a yip from the open doorway.

Hedwig was watching him, Ghost just behind her.

“I’m just looking,” he said, wondering why the stares of the two canines made him feel a little guilty.

There was one more picture: Dany and an older woman who had to be her mother, judging by the silver hair and purple eyes, the resemblance remarkable. But in this picture, unlike the others, Dany looked much less happy, her smile close-lipped and forced, while the woman beside her beamed.

And hanging beside that photo was a framed diploma, also from the University of Pentos, but this one denoted Dany’s graduation from law school.

Another nugget of information to file away for later, Jon thought, his eyes straying again to the photo, to the fake smile and tense eyes of a slightly younger Dany.

“Interesting,” Jon said, and this time Hedwig let out a full bark.

Jon gave the little tyrant side-eye. “Alright, alright, I’m coming,” he said, and he left, thumbing down the light switch on his way out and making sure to leave the door just as he’d found it, slightly cracked.

He checked his watch: 6:30.

His stomach rumbled again, and he crossed back to the kitchen, looking out the window over the stainless-steel sink, noting the last vestiges of sunset in the wisps of pink and purple hued clouds still clinging to the sky.

Jon grabbed his beer again, taking another healthy swig. By 6:45 he knew his stomach was going to start cannibalizing itself. He gnawed at his bottom lip, opening Dany’s fridge and taking stock of the contents, opening the flaps of the few takeaway containers that sat on the shelf, her yogurts that usually made a lunch time appearance, sandwich meat and cheese tucked away in the drawer. She had a well-composed salad from their market’s salad bar that would likely serve both of them. The freezer didn’t offer much more, several frozen burritos and heat-up dinners stacked in one corner, a lone container of Chunky Monkey remaining of her previous hoard.

He shut the door, finding Ghost and Hedwig staring at him yet again. “I’m hungry,” he said, as though he expected a response that naturally wasn’t coming anytime soon. He opened up the pantry door, noting she hadn’t touched the pasta and sauce she’d bought on their shopping trip Saturday. An idea formed...

Maybe he shouldn’t. A choice that might be presumptuous. Possibly even rude.

He couldn’t make a full-on dinner. Snacking was one thing—he pulled a bag of pita chips out, crunching on them while he stared at the pasta. The noodles mocked him.

It was the sort of thing boyfriends did, he supposed. And he was not Dany’s boyfriend.

But Gods, he was so hungry.

He shut the door.

He checked the time: 6:50.

He ate another chip, leaving the bag on the counter, considered the dogs.

“It’s perfectly innocent, if I cook something. I mean, I’m hungry, I’m sure she’ll be hungry. It’s just dinner.” Hedwig yipped again and came over, her front paws jumping up to his knee. She whined until he petted her, and he gave her a few scratches before she was satisfied.

“So, it’s fine, right? Not weird.” He looked at Ghost. “We’re friends. Can’t a friend make dinner at another friend’s house? I don’t even have to stay and eat it with her. I can just make myself up a plate now, before she even gets back. She can owe me another car wash.” Ghost tilted his head at Jon, as if to ask the man who he thought he was kidding.

“You’re right, old chap. I’m not fooling anyone. I just like her WAY too much.” He shook his head. “Your judgement isn’t helping, boy.”

Jon’s stomach rumbled, and Ghost’s white, furry head tipped the other way.

He sighed, returned to the pantry, and started rummaging for ingredients. He wasn’t a chef by any stretch of the imagination, but he’d lived on his own long enough that he could make a few things for himself. She had some canned olives, and he found a little jar of capers that were of indeterminate age, but the seal hadn’t been popped, so maybe he’d be safe. No anchovies, but that wasn’t the sort of thing people just *had*, necessarily. A somewhat pruny onion sat in a basket beside a shriveling head of garlic. A bottle of quality extra virgin olive oil--he flipped the stopper and took a deep whiff, savoring the herbaceous aroma—nope, hadn’t turned rancid yet.

At least the sauce was a chunkier marinara, and not that smooth shit. Alright, he thought. I can do this. He grabbed the rest of what he would need and began to open cabinet doors, finding a lone pot big enough for boiling noodles and a saucepan that would work.

He noticed, lined along the far counter, beside her microwave, a large assortment of cookbooks, and as he skimmed the titles, he realized they were all remarkably advanced. Cuisines he couldn't pronounce and recipes on the oddest topics. Did anyone actually pay attention to the synergy between Bravosii spices and the Reach’s fruit and vegetable seasons? He glanced over his shoulder at the fridge and pantry and wondered how it could be that someone who owned these sorts of cookbooks would have so little to work with in her house, but chalked it up to recently moving in.

She’d told him she’d forgotten her list, anyway.

In a way, he was relieved, because a simple puttanesca wouldn’t be anything fancy for a cook like her. He filled the pot with water, setting it on top of the range, and set to work.

--------

Jon checked his watch: 7:15.

He looked at the finished meal.

He looked at the dogs.

He panicked.

It was too much, he thought.

He shouldn’t have assumed.

She probably ate at the office. Tyrion always ordered in horribly (and often horrible) expensive restaurant food.

He paced for a few minutes, gulping down another beer.

And finally, to be talked down off the ledge, he called Arya.

Of everyone he knew, she was the only one who wouldn’t ask too many questions.

His cousin answered on the second ring, and he didn’t even bother with a greeting. “So, hypothetically speaking,” he said in a rush, “if you were friends with someone, and they asked you to walk their dog when they were going to be late, and then they asked you to stay ‘til they got back, and you made dinner while you waited, is that weird?”

There was silence for a minute, then Arya spoke, finally, amused. “Have you got a date?”

“No,” Jon said emphatically. “It's a friend from work.”

Arya laughed. “It’s a girl, though, right?”

Jon shut his eyes, leaning on his elbow against the counter as he held the phone to his ear. “Yes. But it’s not like that, Arya.”

“Tell me how you ended up there.”

He told her the whole story, and then how he’d run into her earlier in the week walking Ghost, and then how she’d popped up at the grocery store, and before he knew it, he was all the way back to her first day there.

Arya, thankfully, didn’t comment, but by the time he’d finished speaking he could hear the laugh she was trying to suppress. “You’re clueless sometimes, Jon.” She sighed through the phone. “It’s fine. Not weird. I’m sure your *friend* will appreciate it.”

“You’re sure?” Jon looked back to the stove, where the puttanesca sat warming. “I’m about two seconds away from tossing it all out.”

Arya groaned loudly. “You’ve got it bad.” She didn’t let him protest, pushing him off the phone. “I’ve got to go. Text me later and tell me how amazing she thinks you are. She will you know,”

He hung up, punching the button hard, hoping she was right. And then the doorknob jiggled, and he and the dogs’ heads swiveled to see Dany burst inside.

“Holy shit,” she breathed, drawing out the words, pushing the door shut with her back as she grinned at him from across the room. “That was absolutely bonkers.”

Hedwig shot across the floor in an instant, an orange blur that jumped up on her mistress’ knee and begged for attention. Jon stood by the kitchen counter, diligently holding it down, not sure of his next move, when she made it for him.

Her eyes grew impossibly wide, and she sniffed delicately. “I smell food. Actual food.”

Jon twisted, pointing at the range top behind him, where his possibly disastrous idea sat waiting. “I got hungry,” he said, and then she was rushing him, giving him a hard hug, her breath whooshing out against his chest.

“You are an angel, Jon Snow.” She mumbled the words against his shirt, collapsing against him.

Every impulse in his body begged him to wrap his arms around her and bury his face in her hair, but he couldn’t for six months’ worth of reasons. So, watching her, memorizing every minute detail about her, he witnessed the moment her cheeks flooded with color and clearly embarrassed, she took a step back and removed her hands from where they rested on his waist.

He already felt the loss of her touch.

“Sorry,” she muttered, smoothing a hand back over her hair, “I get really excited about food.”

Jon remained still, smiling slightly, before angling his thumb toward the line of cookbooks along the counter wall. “I gathered,” he said, trying to lighten the mood, “though I doubt it’s as fancy as anything you’ve made from those, so don’t get your hopes up. It’s just pasta.”

She burst out laughing, so hard and so long that she was holding her sides, tears leaking down her cheeks before she finally stopped wheezing long enough to explain what was so bloody funny.

“Oh, Jon,” she gasped, “I don’t know how to cook.”

He squinted, confused, feeling his brow wrinkle as he watched her straighten and smooth a hand down her jacket and skirt, trying still to collect herself. “Then what are all those for?”

Dany rolled her eyes, shaking her head exasperatedly. “For that conversation,” she said dryly, “I’m going to need some wine. Lots of wine.” She crossed to the cabinet, pulled out a wine glass, then peeked at him around the door. “You’re going to stay and eat, right?” She gnawed her lower lip, seeming suddenly anxious.

For his part, Jon had an inkling that maybe—just maybe—Arya had been right.

“Have I kept you too long?”

Stirred from his thoughts, he shrugged. “It would be rather rude to kick me out after I did all the work, Dany.” And instantly the nervous tension in the room dissipated.

With a merry laugh, she removed another wine glass. “I wouldn’t dare,” she said, and rewarded him with a warm twist of her lips.

Something seized up in his chest, just for a second. At this pace, if his resolve survived until midnight, he would count it a miracle.

After removing two plates from a cupboard and placing them on the table, she flung open a drawer, the metal contents clanging as she pushed things about, until she let out a triumphant cry when she pulled two forks free. “Ah, my kingdom for a drawer organizer,” she proclaimed, waving the utensils around with flourish. Placing them atop the plates, she turned, suddenly raising a brow and resting her hand on her hip. “Don’t judge me by the state of my drawers, I’m still moving in.”

*His* kingdom for another fast phone call with Arya. If that particular double entendre was intentional, it wasn’t entirely obvious. However, he had seen inside her messy drawer already, having fished around in the jumble of flatware and cooking utensils while he’d been preparing dinner. He swallowed hard. He would take the safe route.

“No drawer judgment here, but any time before tomorrow I’m game to eat.” He tried to sound exasperated, but it was difficult when she looked so concerned about what he, of all people, would think of the state of her kitchen drawers. “If you want to get that dished up.”

Dany shook her head, clucking her tongue. “You know,” she called over her shoulder, “I really served up a softball there with the drawer comment.” She sat a plate full of puttanesca on the counter in front of him, tucking a fork into the food, before scurrying back to the stove to dish up her own. “Come on,” she said, handing him an empty wine glass before grabbing her own. She made for the small bistro table she’d situated into a dining alcove outside the kitchen, “let’s sit at the table like grown-ups.”

Jon followed her to the table, mindful of Hedwig who pranced around his feet, seemingly keen on tripping him. His eyes trailed after Dany when she dashed back into the kitchen, returning with a bottle of what looked to be fairly expensive wine and a corkscrew, and a few paper napkins tucked into the crook of her arm.

“Hedwig,” she snapped, when she saw the tiny dog’s antics, “knock it off.” They sat, while Hedwig curled up in the corner, pouting.

“Now,” Dany trilled, working the cork from the wine with practiced ease and pouring them each a measure before sitting back, looking well-pleased, “shall we begin?”

She dove in with gusto, twirling an ungodly amount of pasta onto her fork, and he sat back waiting for the verdict on his culinary efforts.

Moments later, he almost wished he had binned the lot of it when a moan escaped Danny’s lips he didn’t know food was capable of inducing.

She closed her eyes, sagged against her high-backed chair, and licked her lips thoroughly—deliberately—suggesting two very different courses of action to Jon. Either he was going to have to kiss her, or he needed to leave immediately before he had wine in his system and really made an ass of himself. Two beers in and already the way her pink tongue escaped to lick at the sauce that had clung to her mouth made him consider things friends just didn’t do.

Then her eyes popped open, and she gazed at him, awestruck. “You made this? Honestly?”

His own blush crept up. “It’s not that big a deal. Throwing some things from the pantry together in a pan.” He took a bite, his own hunger demanding satisfaction, and he found he was rather pleased with the results as well. It was quite tasty.

“It’s good, Jon. Really, really good.” A note of teasing usually persisted in her voice when they talked, but it had fled, replaced by a more earnest tone. “Really.” Her mouth curled into a little pout that ratcheted up his need to kiss her by a factor of a thousand. “I’m going to owe you so many favors, now.”

He took a sip of his wine, a full-bodied red that he savored before answering, before his mouth and mind divorced themselves from each other completely and he made entirely inappropriate adult suggestions of what she could do for him—or even better, to him. “I hope your painting hand is steady,” he teased, and she laughed, the unbearably cute laugh she did where she caught her tongue between her teeth and her eyes were squinting at him from behind her lenses.

“My debt to your door aside,” she said, waving a hand at him dismissively, “what do you want to know about first, Ramsey, or my unfortunate collection of cookbooks?”

Jon hummed lowly, took another bite and considered her offer. “Ramsey,” he said finally, taking another sip of wine and relaxing against his seat back, preparing to hear about the man’s epic death spiral “and no withholding the scandalous details.” He met her flashing purple eyes as she sipped at her own wine, effortlessly enchanting, as always. “That’s what dinner will cost you.”

------------

“And then,” she howled, her face cherry red as she fought to speak despite her infectious laughter, “he picks up the monitor in the reception area, and throws it through the glass doors!”

Jon’s own stomach had begun to ache, the tale of Ramsey’s downfall made all the more enjoyable with the way she spun it, complete with impersonations. “Oh, fuck,” he wheezed, wiping at his own eyes, his sides burning from laughing too hard. “So that’s one more piece of equipment to replace.”

“Oh, poor baby,” she said, pouring them each their third glass of wine, their dinner finished and their plates scraped clean. She’d even had seconds, proclaiming between snippets of her story that it was the best meal anyone had ever made for her, oblivious to his quiet pleasure on that topic. “Yes, but now here’s the good part. I called the police, while Tyrion buzzed down to Davos, right?”

“Alright,” he said, giving Ghost an errant scratch as the dog passed by, pressing against Jon’s side before settling down in front of Dany’s couch, “and?”

She’d shed her jacket by the time she’d drained her second glass, and so she was only wearing a black button down that skimmed her figure, the top two buttons now undone, a pale strip of skin taunting him each time she threw back her head to take a swig from her glass. She leaned on her elbows; her eyes wide. “Tyrion and I go down to the parking lot, and they’ve got Ramsey pinned to the ground! So, Davos says he took a swing at him…”

“Stupid move,” Jon interjected with a grin, the wine loosening him up. Davos might not have been as young as he used to be, but he’d been a boxer for decades before he hung up his gloves and started working security.

“Very,” Dany said, tipping her glass towards him, gesturing wildly. “So, then he looks up and sees us, and he starts crying, and going on and on about how we’ll be sorry, and we’re going to pay for this, no one does this to Ramsey Bolton.” She sat her glass down, apparently realizing she was on the verge of spilling. “And then he looks right at me, and screams, ‘I don’t have a micropenis!’ and I swear, Jon, I nearly died from laughing right there in the lot!”

Her impression alone had him in stitches, and he let himself relax into his laughter, not worrying about propriety anymore, enjoying himself, for the first time in—he couldn’t remember when. “And you didn’t get this on video, Dany?” He gave a mock frown, taking another sip. “I’m both shocked and ashamed.”

She wagged a finger at him. “Now Jon, that would have been very unprofessional.” She paused, chuckling softly, her hand dropping so that her slim fingers toyed with the stem of her wine glass. “But if I hadn’t left my phone upstairs, I would have tried.”

Jon leaned back, brushing a hand upon his jaw and giving a put-upon sigh. “Well,” he drawled, “you get an A for effort, at least.” He glanced at their glasses, and at the now empty bottle sitting between them on the table. “And we’ve killed that one. Are you ready to pay your dues and tell me about your collection of cookbooks that you have never used?”

Her amethyst gaze settled on him, weighted and suddenly maudlin. “My mother sends them to me,” she finally said, propping her head up in her hand and draining the rest of her wine in a quick swallow. “Along with passive aggressive notes about how since I’ve given up on my professional prospects, I ought to at least learn to cook so I can land a husband.” Her eyes didn’t leave her now empty glass, and she began twirling the stem between her thumb and forefinger, her earlier humor vanished. “Last week I tried a recipe out of Dothraki Specialties. How hard could it be? Rustic, eat with your fingers style food, right? Idiot proof. I nearly caught the stove on fire.” She groaned, covering her eyes with her hand, as though she was embarrassed to even look at him. “I’m such a loser, Jon. I’m nearly thirty,” she whispered, “and I can barely boil water.”

She looked so upset, nearing tears, and maybe it was the wine that had gone to his head, or just the company, or some strange mixture of the two, but he found himself leaning forward, gulping down the rest of his wine for a little courage, and leveled a stare at her. “I don’t know how to wash my own clothes.”

Dany straightened up and squawked a surprised “What?” When he nodded, she pursed her lips, her eyes narrowing as she studied him. “You’re not just saying that to make me feel better, aren’t you?”

Jon barked out a short, sharp laugh, shaking his head. “I wish,” he said. “I pay a laundry service. Have since I moved here.”

She still looked skeptical, but her melancholy had faded. Her lips parted, but no words escaped.

It had to be a fever, some virus creeping through his system, that made him want to press his lips to hers. To hold her and peel back those starched and pressed layers, to see the velvety skin beneath, to smooth his hands along her flesh until she trembled and moaned...

But they were friends, and coworkers, and Jon had rules.

Six months, he repeated to himself, as she gave him a bashful little smile. Six months. By the time Christmas rolled around, he would see what else this could be, this intoxicating blend of friendship and attraction that had taken root inside him.

She hopped up, wobbling a bit in her little heels before kicking them off haphazardly, her much more nimble hands grabbing their empty plates and padding barefoot back into the kitchen. She returned with another bottle of wine, and when he moved to check his watch, she made a frustrated sound.

“None of that, Jon Snow.” She snagged the corkscrew and her own glass, nodding her head towards the living room and beckoning him to follow. “It’s Friday night. You can’t leave yet, or I’ll be even more pathetic, sitting here drinking this wine all by myself.”

Jon tapped his finger against his chin exaggeratedly, as though it were even really a question what he was going to do. “Well,” he finally said, standing and taking his glass with him, following her to her comfy couch, noticing the room had grown much darker since the sun had fully set, “friends don’t let friends drink alone.”

His imagination did him such great disservice at times. In the shadows, light barely filtering in from the kitchen, he thought he saw her face tighten, thought he saw the barest grimace when he called her his friend, but then she was clicking on the various lamps scattered around the room, and she had a bright grin pasted on her face when she came to sit by him, perhaps a little closer than was appropriate.

“Exactly,” she said, and opened bottle number two with a flourish, pouring a very healthy measure of wine into each glass. She hummed quietly to herself, taking a small sip and tucking her bare feet under her, leaning back into the couch cushions. “I guess it makes sense. I’m sure your time in the Northern army didn’t really lend itself to doing your own washing, did it?”

He turned slowly, taking a deliberate swing of wine, his eyes never leaving hers, his curiosity growing by the moment. “I never told you that,” he said, watching as she most definitely flushed red, her eyes darting around before coming to a stop on Hedwig, who was quietly snoring away in the corner.

“Didn’t you?” He started to chuckle to himself at the forced airiness of her response, and she smirked at him, clearly relieved he wasn’t irritated, glancing at him from the corner of her eyes. “Hmmm,” she continued, “I must’ve read it in your HR file.”

Jon shook his head, trying to look disappointed and failing miserably, his smile refusing to budge. “What a gross abuse of power, Dany. You know, as head of HR, you’re supposed to use that power for good, not evil.”

“I confess I was curious,” she proclaimed, smacking a hand against his bicep playfully, the heat of her palm through the fabric of his sleeve almost enough to scorch. “Besides,” she sniffed, “I’m sure you nosed around here while I was gone.”

“What?! Of course not,” he screeched; Ghost and Hedwig’s heads popped up.

“You did! You did! Hahaha!” She wiggled around, as though inordinately delighted, sipping her drink. “Alright, spill it, Jon. What did you discover, you little snoop?”

He crossed his arms, angling his body to the side so that they faced each other. “Nothing that exciting,” he answered dryly, “the keys to your creepy van and your diplomas, *counselor*.”

She made an exasperated sound, but chased it with a good-natured grin. “Ah, yes, my sordid past, practicing law. The culmination of my mother’s dreams,” she said theatrically, raising her glass of wine in the air, as though she were toasting someone invisible, “and the ruination of mine!”

Jon studied her closely; this was obviously a tender wound, and he was familiar enough with those to know he’d best skirt around the sorest parts. “I would imagine that you were brilliant in the law. Persuasive. Clever. Stubborn.” He winked.

What the fuck, Jon! A wink? If he could have slapped himself silly, he would have.

She threw him a look that was indecipherable, her mouth a hard line for a moment, before she gave him a slow, pleased smile. “I was. For the record, Ramsey Bolton was not the first man I’ve made weep.”

The need to know her, everything he could find to understand her, possessed him. He had to ask. “Why give it up? Why move here to work in HR for Tyrion? Had to be a massive pay cut. And Essos is so beautiful—exotic culture, interesting people. Why leave?”

She sat her wine glass down gently on the coffee table in front of them, regarding him with equal interest. Scooting closer to him, she rested her arm along the back of the couch. She spoke, her voice low, gentle. “Why did you take your discharge? Seven years isn’t all that long. Why not stay in, get your full retirement? Why move here to work IT for Tyrion?”

Jon felt his jaw working, as he tried, in his alcohol-fuzzed brain, to fish around for the right answer, for the truth. He stared back at her readily, not backing down from her rather formidable gaze, as he finally responded. “It wasn’t the life I wanted.”

The corner of her lip tipped up, but her eyes softened by large degrees, and she nudged at him amiably with her bent knee. “Same.” She swirled her glass around, cupped in her palm now, staring down into the red liquid as though all the answers in the world were contained within. “It wasn’t really any life at all, for me. That’s why I never learned to cook. Between law school and then actually practicing, all the hours I spent anywhere but at my flat,” she trailed off for second, her eyes darting to his then away, “there wasn’t any time for living.”

Jon sat up, bracing his elbows on his knees, looking down into his own wine, contemplative. “The first time I tried to do my own laundry, after I left the army,” he said quietly, “I ruined the whole load. One red towel, and I was ready and willing to pay someone else to do the job for me.”

Silence fell, but it wasn’t the awkward sort. Rather it was one of his favorite things about being around her: Dany didn’t need to fill quiet with meaningless chatter. They sat for several minutes, sipping their wine and glancing at each other every now and then, something a little shy in her eyes when she cleared her throat, her lips falling open inevitably drawing his focus. “I have a solution, I think. A proposal.”

He took another drink. “Well, let’s hear it.”

“I’ll teach you to wash your own clothes, Jon Snow,” she said, leaning fractionally closer, her lips now stained red from the wine and becoming almost too tempting to ignore, “and you can teach me how to cook.”

He leaned in as well, close enough to see each eyelash, to be mesmerized by the way they seemed to flutter at his nearness, telling himself that it was likely the wine blurring the line between reality and fantasy in his mind. “Are you going to make fun of me the whole time?”

Dany nodded decisively. “Absolutely.”

Gods, he was so close now. Another few inches and he could kiss her. If he didn’t care about the repercussions, he’d find out if her lips were pillowy soft and wine-sweetened.

But he did care, and he cursed himself for it, but he backed away a bit, all the same. “That’s nothing new, then. And I’m just boring enough that I don’t really have any other plans to speak of, so,” he said, raising his glass and clinking it against her, “you’ve got yourself a deal.”

She laughed, brightly, but then made a scoffing noise. “You think I’m not boring? I can assure you, I am.”

He made a skeptical face. “Sure, Dany.”

She raised her brows, standing. “You don’t believe me? Come on,” she said, already walking, heading up the stairs, trusting he would follow.

He did. He would follow her anywhere and somehow, she sensed that.

At the top of the stairs there were only two doors. She opened one to reveal, to his surprise, a cozy little bedroom. He followed her in, but hovered close the doorway, not entirely certain he could survive the temptation of being in her bedroom in his current state. She rushed in, picked up a large embroidered bag with wooden handles resting on her nightstand, then turned and walked back to him with a concerned look on her face.

She finally said, “Behold, my deep dark uninteresting self!” and pulled the handles apart, wincing as she squinted at him, awaiting his reaction.

The bag was full of yarn, and some rather sharp looking metal objects.

He couldn’t hide his confusion. “What is it?”

She took another step closer. “My big, boring secret, Jon Snow. My knitting.”

“Your *knitting*.” He looked between her lovely face and the contents of the bag, and burst into laughter. “You call me an old grandpa, and you’ve been a closet knitter this whole time. The NERVE, Dany. The absolute cheek of it all."

Dany finally broke, laughing as well, tossing her bag onto the plush-looking comforter on her bed, a bright blue that made him think of the ocean, and grabbed him forcibly by the shoulders, turning him around and giving him a playful shove to push him out of the room. “Out, senior citizen.”

“Takes one to know one!” Her hands flat on his back, he allowed her to guide him down the stairs, steering him step by step; he dutifully harassed her every step of the way.

He hoped she hadn’t noticed that he was distracted.

Something caught his eye, hanging from the corner of her desk chair. He pretended he didn’t see it. It was burned into his mind, though, a scrap of lace and silk.

She probably didn’t even realize it was there.

After a goodbye that seemed to take much longer because of the alcohol sloshing around inside him, he blushed the whole way stumbling home through the park. For the life of him he couldn’t fathom why.

That was a lie.

He knew why.

He’d seen bras before. For fuck’s sake he was an adult male who had grown up in a house with females. He served in the military with women. And while he and Ygritte hadn’t lived together, she’d owned plenty, he was well versed in how best to remove them.

From the look of it alone, he knew Dany’s lovely lingerie was expensive. Her sexy secret worn beneath the serious, severe structure of a suit; or to tempt a lover, a promise of intimacy.

Seeing it in her bedroom...

He wanted to see it in *his* bedroom. To have his hands on the clasps and feel the wispy silk beneath his palms as he peeled if from her breasts. Maybe see it on the floor, maybe mixed in with his bedsheets, maybe dangling from her arm. He wouldn’t be particular in that regard.

Though he would prefer all three.

He would settle for seeing her and her alone.

He let himself into his dark house, shucking of his clothes and crawling under his covers in his dark bedroom, and fell into a tipsy sleep.

He dreamed of Dany, but that was nothing new.

When the harsh morning light came streaming in through the curtains he’d neglected to close, he woke up with a slight hangover. Out of habit, he checked his phone before leaving bed. Starting around dawn, he had received several text messages from Dany informing him of her death from wine poisoning, but asking if perhaps he’d meet her zombie-fied corpse at the grocery store around 10 anyway. He grinned. A stupid shit eating damn fool grin.

He was in so much trouble.

She was a friend.

They worked together.

Six months, he told himself again, getting up to splash his face with water and make himself presentable for their joint run to the market.

“Just make it through December,” he whispered to his reflection, texting her back quickly before he stepped into the shower. “Make it ‘til Christmas.”

---------

The rest of October passed in a blur of divided time.

Work existed as it always had, save the company he tended to keep these days.

Limitations always existed within those gray walls.

The hours after work had changed considerably.

His life had split into two chapters, he realized.

Before Dany, he had looked forward to work: he scheduled himself for as many hours as he wanted, worked overtime and weekends whenever it became available. He didn’t mind being alone; in some regard he was sure it suited him. Time passed more quickly when he was occupied.

After Dany, he looked forward to 5:00 p.m. Every afternoon they met at the main lobby elevator bank. They walked to their cars together. They drove the same road home. On Monday nights, she would give him a cheery wave when she turned onto her street and he kept on straight on his place.

Monday nights were poker nights, as they always had been.

Tuesday and Thursday ‘cooking lessons’ usually began with her scouring his movie collection for films she wanted to watch, exclaiming over favorites they shared; she seemed less and less surprised by how many they had in common.

Invariably, he would do the lion’s share of the labor, but she always watched closely, and asked a lot of questions. She wouldn’t let up until she’d figured it out for herself, though there’d been a few close calls with his well-sharpened knives and her somewhat haphazard dicing skills. He kept the tourniquets handy beneath the sink but he didn’t tell her that.

They would drink his beers, or she would bring one of her inordinately expensive wines, usually another manipulative maternal gift, and it was the sort of domestic scene that he thought many people might find boring, but because she sat beside him it was everything.

On Wednesdays, he would go over to her place because she had a washer and dryer and he didn’t. She would painstakingly walk him through sorting his clothes, what temperature he ought to use for each color, when fabric softener should be used, hat items should be hand washed, and what he could dry in the machine. He hadn’t realized it was all that complicated, but then, that’s why he hadn’t done it for himself.

She made him a color-coded spreadsheet and started quizzing him on it.

And on laundry night, they would order takeaway, and he would tell her about his time in the army. In turn, she would tell him about living in Pentos, and her bitter, unhappy mother.

Sometimes she would show him things she was knitting, like the sweater she was making for Ghost. Yes, she acknowledged that Ghost had plenty of fur. Ever the pragmatist, Jon made the point that it didn’t even get that cold in the Westerlands. But she’d sulked when he’d made that point and so he’d relented, stating unequivocally that Ghost would look exceedingly fashionable in a dog sweater. She liked Ghost very much; he was beginning to think his dog was as taken with Dany as he was.

He always brought Ghost with him to her place, and she always brought Hedwig to his, and he liked that, too.

Ygritte had hated Ghost. She’d hated all dogs, really, but she’d been uncommonly jealous of Jon’s love for the white, furry hound. He hadn’t been able to put a pin in why save that Ghost had been in his life first, and maybe that’s what had fostered such resentment.

Jon made a big show of grumbling about Hedwig, but he’d grown rather fond of the oversized fluff ball. She was a sweet natured pup in spite of being a hellion, and she listened to him (and obeyed) when he told her to leave it, to sit, or to go lay down, much to Dany’s consternation. Hedwig rarely listened to Dany. And when she did, she pranced away with such an attitude that Jon knew Hedwig was only humoring her human.

On Fridays, he would drive out to the nature preserve with Ghost and run, alone. Dany had a group meeting, but she would always text him when she returned, to ask if he’d gone to the 5:30 dinner at the diner around the corner with the other seniors—and did he need her to stop by and recharge his hearing aids. He could count on her to be thoughtful.

As had become their habit, they went to the grocery store together Saturday morning. Eventually it became easier for him to make one big list for both of them, especially because he was meal planning for both of them.

On Sundays, he made a roast, like he always did, and she would come by, if she wasn’t busy, and have lunch with him, before they parted ways to get ready for the work week to start all over again.

It occurred to him, by the time Halloween neared, that they were, for all intents and purposes, dating.

They didn’t call it that, and they didn’t talk about it, and for now, it was fine.

One week before Halloween, he was at his desk in the basement, reviewing some usage reports, when Edd shoved a paper across his desk.

“Did you see this, boss?”

Jon took a sip of his coffee, an exotic Valyrian blend Dany had recommended that he’d found very tasty. “What is it?” He picked up the paper, reading the top of the memo, immediately hanging his head and groaning. “Oh, god,” he whispered, his eyes shooting to Edd’s. “You don’t want to do this, do you? Tell me you don’t, Edd.”

The other man pointed at the bottom of the page. “Winning department gets a $100 gift card to Hot Pie’s, Jon. That’s Ros’s *favorite* restaurant.” A note of wheedling entered Edd’s voice. “C’mon boss, it’s just you and me, down here. I can’t win this by myself. It’s got to be both of us.”

Jon rolled his neck, his hand rising to rub at the back of it. “A costume contest, Edd? Really?”

“Please, Jon. I ask for so little, you know.” Edd was so earnest that it was impossible to refuse him. It was true. The man rarely took a day off, and was one of the hardest workers he’d ever seen, even if he did have the annoying habit of inserting himself in Jon’s burgeoning relationship with Dany. Edd Tollett, it turned out, was the king of unsolicited relationship advice.

If nothing else, he owed it to the man for picking up the slack since Jon had taken to spending so much more time upstairs.

Since Dany.

“Alright,” Jon conceded, “but nothing crazy. No face paint,” he ticked off his list of demands on his fingers, “no haircuts, and under absolutely no circumstances are we wearing clown costumes.” Jon shuddered. “You know I hate clowns.”

“Thanks, boss,” Edd said cheerily, clapping a hand onto Jon’s shoulder in thanks before he straightened and went back to his desk. “I really appreciate it,” he called, checking his phone quickly and sitting back down, preparing to get back to work. After a few moments, he spoke again, and Jon couldn’t help but think he was distracted by whatever was on his phone, but he didn’t press the issue. “Hey, boss, how about you be Harry Potter, and I’ll be Ron Wisely.”

“Weasely,” Jon corrected, absently, before his head shot up and he looked at Edd more closely. “Have you even read the books?”

“O’course,” Edd said, dismissively, beginning to tap away at his keyboard. “Good, it’s settled then. Back to work!” He began to type with force, and Jon watched for a moment, sure something was amiss, but not quite sure what. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it, so he let it go, knowing he needed to wrap up what he was working on so he could meet Dany upstairs for lunch on time.

He wouldn’t need much for that, as he already had the glasses. Just a sweater vest, maybe? A tie with appropriate colors? He doubted they’d pull off beating all the other departments, but it couldn’t be that hard to throw together a serviceable costume from things he already had.

Easy, he thought. Nothing to it.

The morning of the company-wide costume party, Jon definitely knew something was going on. Dany had been inordinately disinterested in what he would be going as, and hadn’t disclosed her costume either, raising his suspicions further.

She was the one spearheading the bloody party after all.

He arrived, letting himself into the basement office, pulling out a red and gold striped tie from his work bag and knotting it absently as he booted up his computer, waiting on Edd to arrive.

When he did, it was most definitely with a flourish. The moment he walked into the room the thin man grinned like the cat who’d gotten the cream, his hair a rather shocking shade of red, nearly offensive to the eyes.

“Edd,” Jon said, haltingly, not quite sure he believed what he was seeing. “Did you dye your bloody hair?”

Edd just laughed, setting down his briefcase on his desk, looking from head to toe like a rather scruffy, rumpled Ron Weasley. He had on a burgundy jumper, and it looked as though he’d affixed a crude ‘W’ to the front of it with masking tape, topping off trousers and trainers. He’d even smeared dirt on his nose, and he pulled from his pocket a stick wrapped in tape. “Ros did it. It’s just a rinse, don’t get your knickers in a twist.”

Jon glanced down at himself, feeling as though he’d misjudged the amount of effort that was expected of him, his sweater vest, tie and glasses really being all he’d thought necessary. He’d figured he could draw a scar on his forehead with a sharpie, if he needed to, Dany’s still tucked away in his desk drawer for safekeeping.

When he looked back up, Edd was studying him, shaking his head. “She was right, you’ve barely done anything.”

Jon frowned; his eyes narrowed as he stared at Edd. “Who was right?”

The office door opened, and the culprit emerged, looking like the convergence of innocent childhood novel and school boy sex fantasy. Edd let out a low whistle, and Dany froze him with a sharp look, striding in, making straight for Jon, several bags in hand. “Don’t start, Eddward, or I will call that lovely wife of yours again.”

Edd sucked in a sharp breath, and rounded his desk, booting up his own system and drumming his fingers. “Apologies, it’s just…” The man’s voice trailed off as he gestured to Dany, whose brown, curly wig started her costume tamely, but from the neck down a different tale was being told.

“I know,” Dany sighed, coming to stand before Jon and immediately tipping his chin up, squinting at his scar-free forehead through her glasses. “Did you know they only sell the cocktail waitress version of adult Hermione costumes at the shop? Found that one out the hard way,” she grumbled, reaching into the bag she’d brought along and pulling out various brushes and what looked to be makeup, not even bothering to ask permission as she set to work painting the familiar zig-zag scar just above Jon’s glasses.

“I said no face paint,” Jon finally squeaked out, incapable of tearing his eyes away from the cleavage bared by the straining buttons of the skimpy white button-down shirt. She ignored him, continuing to work, but he heard Edd’s chortle.

“Dany,” Edd sniggered, “didn’t you even try on the older child sizes?”

“Only toddler sizes remained, Eddward,” she growled, bunching the sleeves of the thin burgundy cardigan sweater she wore up around her elbows.

“I do like your manicure,” Edd said penitently, gesturing to her Gryffindor themed fingernails.

“Better.” Dany blew him a kiss, and returned her attention to Jon’s forehead.

Jon still considered that he might be dreaming. Fantasy Dany sat before him in her pleated skirt (*almost* knee length thankfully) tongue hanging out of her mouth as she concentrated. The sight of cabled knee socks hugging her shapely calves reawakened ideas dormant in his mind since secondary school. Inappropriate ideas.

It was going to be a long day, he thought to himself, trying not to squirm as the brush she was using tickled at his skin.

“Sit still, you,” she chided, but without malice. She worked quickly, then angled his head down, blowing gentle puffs of air to dry her handiwork. “There, that’s sorted.”

She stepped back, and he valiantly kept his eyes focused above her chin. Suddenly, her hand flashed and had removed the band that held his hair before he could say anything. His rather unruly curls, still damp from his shower, sprung free. She brought both her hands into his hair, finger combing it, arranging it just so. He almost forgot to breathe: the delicate dig of her nail in his scalp, the sensuous way she twisted a curl around her index finger.

“I think we’ll have to go with ‘Goblet of Fire’ Harry—his hair was messiest then.” She glanced over at Edd, and Jon risked a look as well, to find the man watching the pair with interest. “What do you think, Edd?”

“It’s your call, ma’am.” He gave her a stiff salute with his hand, and she chuckled, her gaze returning to Jon’s hair, her fingers apparently done with their tantalizing ministrations, now settling on his shoulders.

“Much better,” she whispered, grinning and leaning close. “No complaining,” she said, tapping her finger smartly against his nose before adjusting his glasses. She stepped back, clearly happy with the results, leaving Jon looking between the two of them, the realization dawning that he had been set up.

“How long have you two been plotting this, eh?”

Edd fell silent, his amused smile fading away; he swung his attention back to his computer, leaving Dany to answer. With an indifferent shrug, she turned, pulling a handful of long, burgundy material from her bag that she then shook out. House robes. Despite his usual resistance to joining anything, excitement tickled Jon with possibilities.

“A fair while,” Dany finally said, motioning for him to stand and settling the fabric around his shoulders, fastening the snaps and smoothing the material down his chest. “I knew you’d complain, so I thought it would be best to surprise you. Besides,” she continued on, when he gave her a deadpan look, “I’m a one-woman department this year, I couldn’t compete all by myself. It’s much more fun this way.”

“Is it?” The question hung in the air, and she giggled, even as he frowned in response

She crossed to give Edd his robes and then pulling a final set free, draped them around her own shoulders.

“You’ll see,” she said brightly, hiding her somewhat scandalous costume from whatever prying eyes might be peeping at her upstairs. After a glance around the room she clack-clack clacked across the floor to a darkened corner. Grabbing for the broom over by the mainframe, she thrust it into his hand, ignoring his raised brows as he studied the plastic head of the broom, bristles shooting off in all directions, the implement clearly well past its prime.

“This is hardly authentic,” he said, waving it at her as she collected her empty bags, and gathered up the makeup she’d used for his scar.

She twisted, brown curls flying around her head, settling around her shoulders like a cloud. “Jon,” she scoffed, certainly sounding as well as looking the part of Hermione as she chided him, “it’s Halloween, darling, you’ll simply have to use your imagination.” She gave a smart nod to Edd, who’d once again taken to watching them, like he was watching a table tennis match, his head pinging back and forth as Jon and Dany teased each other. “Gentleman, I’ll see you upstairs in a few hours, ready to win, of course.”

She disappeared as quickly as she’d come, leaving the two men staring at each other, Jon a bit dazed, Edd with a knowing twinkle in his eye.

“Yes, Jon, *darling*,” he emphasized, dodging the ball of wadded paper Jon launched at him, “use your imagination!”

And Edd just laughed heartily when Jon glared, frowning mightily, though he felt strangely light inside. “Shut it, Edd.”

---------

They won, of course. It wasn’t even close, their nearest competition being the accounting department who’d attempted, as a group, to dress up as farm animals. As their costumes were mostly taped-together and colored in messily, the joint departments of IT and HR won the vote for best costume in a near clean-sweep.

Jon and Dany walked to the parking lot together, as always, Jon twirling a cheap plastic trophy with ‘#1’ emblazoned in gold paint. “I won’t deny,” Jon said grudgingly, raising the trophy for her to see it as well, “victory tastes sweet!”

Together they watched Edd who climbed into his car, his wife in the driver’s seat. Even from their slight distance they could see him present Ros with the gift card they’d won. Jon and Dany had decided the poor man had certainly earned it on costume commitment alone, his hair glowing orange in the setting sun.

Dany smiled indulgently as she watched, and Jon couldn’t help but take one lone, solemn moment to look at her, there in the dying daylight, thinking to himself for the millionth time that it ought to be illegal, to be as pretty as she was, her glasses slipping down her nose, her eyes twinkling with laughter.

Then she looked right at him, and nudged him with her shoulder. “You should come by my place and help me hand out candy.”

This was the game they played: if one invited the other over with little justification, the other put up a half-hearted argument. She’d done the honors last time.

“I don’t know, Dany,” he huffed, “I bought full-size candy bars this year. I was going to throw them at the kids who dared step foot in my yard, like a proper grumpy old man.”

She laughed, the one he’d come to realize she only directed at him, and nudged him harder. “C’mon,” she wheedled, “I’ll throw in a scary movie and popcorn if you play your cards right.”

He leaned against his car, studying her, realizing with surprise again that she really wanted him to go, the hope he heard in her voice there in her eyes, as well. “Alright,” he conceded, “but I reserve the right to throw candy at children all the same.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

NOVEMBER

The first Wednesday of Dany’s fifth month in his life found him at her place, a beer in one hand, a bottle of detergent in the other.  It was their third laundry session, but the first in which he’d said to hell with it and brought the entire hamper. He refused to be embarrassed. They were adults. If this all went to plan, she would eventually be seeing more than his dirty socks anyway. In a rather bold move for him he’d canceled his laundry service the prior week; so it was now or never, no matter how strangely nervous he felt. Buying new packages of underwear every week wasn’t a practical option, though he’d considered it.

He stood before the washer, carefully measuring the detergent into the measuring cup as she watched from her perch atop the dryer.

The day before, Dany had absconded with his Lannister Industries sweatshirt when they’d been out walking their dogs and she’d gotten cold.  Today, the bulky hoodie swallowed her slight frame, a pair of black workout pants hugging her legs as she swung her feet and gave him instructions.

“Now, this load is whites, Jon,” she said, pointing her foot towards the waiting basket of the t-shirts he wore under his dress shirts.  “So what temperature are we using?”

“Hot,” he recited obediently, ignoring her saucy smile as he adjusted the knobs for temperature and load size, then pulled, the water hissing out and steam beginning to rise, fogging up his glasses.  He hastily removed them, wiping them on the hem of his t-shirt and slipping them back on, feeling her stare even when he couldn’t exactly see it.

He was nearly blind as a bat without his glasses.

When he slipped the frames back on his face, he saw he was right, she was eyeing him with an odd sort of interest, even as he tipped the detergent into the filling tub then tossed his shirts in.  Lowering the lid with a clang, he crossed his arms, finally too curious to ignore the look she was giving him.

“What?”

Dany smiled, toying with her phone, twisting it around in her hands as she looked away.  “Nothing.”

He squinted at her.  “No, spill it.”

She considered him, as though she was choosing her words carefully, and then she bit her lip briefly, before she finally spoke.  “Have you ever thought of getting rid of your glasses?”

“If this is going to be a lecture about how much better I’d look without them,” he said, perhaps a bit more crossly than he intended, “save it.”  Gods, he’d heard it his whole life, from his uncle to his cousins to girlfriends to co-workers.  He hadn't expected it from her, though—

“No!” She shook her head, clearly mortified at being misunderstood.  “That’s not what I meant.”  Her eyes kept straying to her phone, and finally, huffing out an aggravated breath, she pulled up the text log and tapped on a message, handing Jon her phone.  “Read that.”

Mother:  Daenerys, dear, I’m sending you several referrals for eye surgeons near you.  Gods know you’re never going to land a respectable sort of husband with those horrible glasses you insist on wearing.  You are a Targaryen. Your eye color is one of your most notable traits. If you aren’t going to show pride in your heritage, you could at least attempt to marry someone who will recognize value when he sees it. 

Already, she winced, the moment his eyes flew up to meet hers, only the smallest sliver of purple remained visible.  “Dany—“

“Maybe she’s right.” Dany’s words tumbled out before he could finish. “But I just can’t bring myself to get the surgery.  Hell, I won’t even do contacts, something about the idea of touching my eyes just,” she shuddered, trailing off.

Jon’s jaw tightened, and he read the message over once more, handing Dany back her phone and reaching beside her, where his beer sat atop the dryer near her hip.  She watched him, relaxing slightly, by degrees, it seemed to him, as she waited for his response.

“I don’t, as a rule, say much about my friend’s parents,” he said slowly, cautiously, knowing he was possibly about to be quite rude but not able to help himself, “but your mother sounds like a real bitch.”

Dany’s eyes grew wide, and her lips pressed tightly together, whitening with the force, before she started laughing, a giggle that grew into a full-throated laugh.  “She really is.  A huge one,” Dany said, taking a sip of her own beer and kicking her feet.  “So it’s not just me, then?”

“Definitely not.”  Jon heaved himself up to sit atop the washer, taking another pull from his beer bottle and scraped at the label with his thumb nail.  “And, for the record,” he said, trying to sound blasé, wondering if he was pulling it off, “I like your glasses.”

“You’re biased, of course,” she said teasingly, and for one heart-stopping moment he thought the game was up, that she was onto his enormous crush on her, that this little dance they’d been playing at, where they did all the things boyfriends and girlfriends normally did, except the most fun parts, had reached its end.  She reached over, the sleeve of his sweatshirt nearly obscuring her hand, and flicked at his own frames.  “Hardly a neutral third party on this one.”

“Well, you didn’t let me finish.”  He gestured with his bottle, the neck pointing to her black frames.  “They’re exactly the sort of glasses the owner of a creepy van would wear.”

She screwed up her face, trying to look affronted.  “Keep it up, wise ass. You’re clearly in line for a ride in that van, Jon Snow.”  She polished off her beer, hopping down lightly, glancing at the basket of his clothes that were still awaiting their turn in the wash.  “But at least now I know you’re a boxer-brief man.  Definitely qualifies you for abduction,” she said, snickering when he frowned and hopped down as well, pushing his basket behind his legs.

“Pervert,” he scolded, only barely suppressing the impulse to chuckle.  

Her brows shot up high and she snickered, waggling her now-empty beer bottle at him. “Yes, of course, Jon.  I’m honestly hurt that you just now figured that out.”  She threw a pout in his direction, dancing away as he snagged a pair of her socks from her basket and tossed them in her general direction.  “Do you want another beer?”  She didn’t wait for his response, traversing the short hallway that connected the room to her kitchen.

“I don’t know,” he yelled out, staying put so he could mull over the fact that she’d been pondering what sort of underwear he wore for one blissful, peaceful second.  “Are you going to drug me up?”

“Guess you’ll have to wait and see,” she yelled back cheerfully, “but I promise to be gentle!”

He shoved his hands in his jeans pockets, thinking hard for a moment about how he wanted to proceed, before he made his way after her into the kitchen.  “Well,” he finally drawled, coming to lean against her counter, watching as she bent to grab two more beers from the open fridge, thankful to whoever had the brilliant idea to invent yoga pants in the first place, “I suppose I’ll have to take my chances, then.”

Dany gave him a smug little smile, opening his beer and handing it over.  “Got to take a risk sometimes, Jon.”  It was hard not to hear the sort of meaning he wanted to, in that sentence, and he let out a quiet breath.

“Guess so,” he said finally, and reached over, clinking the neck of his bottle against hers, prompting another brilliant smile.  “Cheers to my impending abduction, then.”

She threw her head back and laughed, and she’d never been quite so beautiful to him as she was right then, in his sweatshirt, in the middle of her kitchen, teaching him how to do his washing.  “I’ll drink to that,” she said, smiling around the mouth of her beer and taking a long pull.

"Now," she said, smacking her lips in satisfaction and putting a hand on her hip, decidedly sassy as she regarded him.  "Prepare yourself, because the next load is *brights*, Jon.  I'm not sure you can handle the excitement."

---------

Before he knew it, Thanksgiving was upon them. Tyrion, generous boss that he was, had given them the Wednesday and Friday immediately preceding and following the holiday off.  A five-day weekend, Dany had taken to calling it, and she’d been especially giddy when he’d confessed that he wasn’t making the trip to north this year, his aunt’s caustic company enough to make him pass on the annual visit to Winter-hell.

After all, she would be staying in town.  And when she’d learned he would be as well, she’d been nearly over the moon saying that he was going to *have* to show her how they did Thanksgiving in the North. Across the Narrow Sea it was apparently little more than cause for more parties amongst her mother’s socialite friends:  a ‘free-range meat market’ in which Rhaella Targaryen tried to pair her only daughter off with the most eligible bachelors she could bribe with promises of expensive alcohol and appetizers.

Jon found himself rather thankful her awful mother had failed.

Starting a full ten days before the holiday, Dany began emailing him traditional Northern recipes like clockwork, dishes that she proclaimed were more befitting a ‘real’ Thanksgiving.  She included a few of her childhood favorites on her proposed menu: she had ambitious plans for her first holiday meal in the kitchen. (Jon made a mental note to make sure his first aid kit was replenished.)

When she’d proposed it, he protested mightily believing it would be far too much food for just the two of them, but she had been adamant, and so he finally relented.  She would come over to his place on Thursday morning; together they would simply, as she said, ‘make a day of it.’

Because, of course, that’s what “friends” did.

He was kidding himself, on that front, and truthfully the only question that remained was whether his self-discipline would carry him to his self-imposed Christmas deadline. Otherwise he was going to pin her against every wall between IT and the boardroom, illustrating each and every bullet point from the HR handbook of what constituted inappropriate sexual conduct in the workplace, giving absolutely zero fucks about who might be watching.

At least half the time he spent in her company, he was convinced that was precisely what she wanted as well.

His own doubts crept in the other half of the time, the worried whispers that plagued his heart, that made him believe that holding fast to his plan was the only way, that he needed more time to really be *sure.* Part of him couldn’t imagine how a woman as glorious as Dany would ever find a man like him interesting or attractive enough to pursue a relationship.

More time might have been spent obsessing over those questions. However, on the particular Tuesday before Thanksgiving, his throat began to itch.

He bore the awful taste of company made coffee, thinking it was just a tickle, perhaps the colder, drier air that had blown in with the cold front that passed through the night before.

By lunchtime, his nose dripped like a faucet, and he skipped his customary lunch plans with Dany to run to the pharmacy, certain that the wind had stirred up something in the moldering leaves.

By the end of the day, Edd watched him warily as he struggled to prop up his thousand pound head on his hand, his whole body aching. He would take an aspirin and be fine. Maybe ask to have his head amputated—but he’d be fine.

“Boss,” Edd chimed out, concern in his voice, “You aren’t looking so good.”

Jon attempted a dismissive sound but it emerged a wet mucus filled cough.  “Oh, no,” he choked out, “It’s allergies, that’s all.”

Edd remained silent, and Jon laid his head on his desk, the cool surface infinitely pleasing against his sweaty skin, even as chills began to wrack his body.

“Did you get a flu shot when the maester came in a few weeks back?” Edd shook his head. “Of course you didn’t. You don’t like needles.”

“It’s fine,” Jon whispered to himself, and darkness claimed him, until a cool hand came to rest on his forehead, much softer than Edd’s.

“Jon Snow!”  

Dany. He smiled, despite the fact that his clothes had turned to sandpaper and scrubbed away his skin, layer by layer, every time he moved.  

“You’re burning up!”

“I’m fine,” he croaked, not even bothering to open his eyes, Edd and Dany then engaged in a harried conversation in no language he knew.  Finally, they seemed to reach a consensus, and Dany was pushing gently at his shoulders, maneuvering him into sitting position, coming to crouch in front of him when he blinked his eyes open blearily.

“Hi,” he whispered, and she smiled worriedly.

She placed her hands on his forehead once more, clucking her tongue and shaking her head.  “Jon,” she said softly, “I’m driving you home.”

Jon groaned.  “My skin hurts. I can’t ride in your wee clown car. I’ll break.”

He heard Edd let out a laugh, but Dany pressed on, her gaze firm and unyielding.  “I’m going to drive you home in your Jeep, and Edd’s going to follow so I can get mine later.  Alright?  Do you understand?”  He nodded, his throat on fire.  “Where are your keys?”

Jon let out a whimper, painfully fishing his keys from his pocket, every bone in his body protesting the slightest movement.  “Here,” he said, dropping them as closely as he could to her waiting hand.

Dany grabbed one of his arms, Edd coming to grab the other, and the two slowly and painstakingly steered him out of the building.

--------

Everything was foggy, and fuzzy, and he couldn’t remember her driving him home, his only real memory was of collapsing face first onto his bed.

A tongue licked his cheek, and he certainly hoped it was Ghost, because if it was Dany, she had terrible timing. Then came a whine, and he was almost certain it wasn’t Dany: her breath didn’t smell like Wild Stormlands Venison and Rice dog chow.

With effort, he turned his head to the side, to see Ghost sitting beside the bed.  “Hey, boy” he whispered thickly, “I’ll walk you in a little bit.”

“No. You won’t,” came a stern voice from the doorway, and he exhaled an unintended sigh of relief.  Dany hadn’t left him to die alone, a pathetic wretch of a man.

She came over to the bed, kneeling beside Ghost and smoothing her hand down his back as she gazed at him, her face drawn with concern.  “Stay put,” she ordered.  “Edd’s taking me back to get my car, then I’m coming back over to walk Ghost, and force medicine down your throat.  Get your shirt and pants off, or I’m doing that, too,” she said briskly, oblivious to the images she sparked in his fevered mind.

He could only groan in response as his bedroom door clicked shut.  Then burying his face in his blissfully cool pillow, he drifted off to sleep, torturous dreams of marching ice zombies driving him slowly mad.

---------

When he next regained consciousness, it was like swimming through the darkest part of the ocean, resurfacing to find that reality had flipped itself on its head, and things he’d only dreamed of were somehow, now, happening.

He’d managed to roll over on his back, at some point, and when he cracked his eyes open he could see the sun dipped  low, the room darkening so much that a lamp had been lit on the nightstand opposite him.

Something remarkable was happening, and it wasn’t the fuzzy orange dragon perched on the pillow by his head. 

Dany might be tugging off his pants.

“S’not how I pictured this happening,” he slurred out, as she crouched over him, unlacing his dress shoes and tossing them onto the floor, then pulling his trousers down past his knees and over his feet. He fought through the fog and the hallucinations to make sense of what was happening. “Getting naked was supposed to be nice. Like a date. Kissing.  And no dog food or ice zombies.”

She had her tongue clenched between her teeth, but at the sound of his voice, her head shot up, and her frown of concentration became a doleful, wide-eyed look of surprise.

“Can’t rightfully say ice zombies made it into my version of things,” she finally said, and in his addled mind he thought he heard amused regret in her voice.  “But we take what we’re given, Jon.”  He closed his eyes when her fingers went to work on the buttons of his dress shirt, and every inch of his skin hurt like a bruise when she gently raised one shoulder, then the other, fishing his arms free of the fabric.

He whimpered, his brain scorching through his skull as though it were a thousand cotton balls soaked in burning gasoline.  “Dany,” he eeked out, “I think I’m dying.”

“No, you aren’t,” she chided softly, her cool hands glancing across his head again before she was trying to prop him up, pulling him as best she could into a sitting position, and placing a glass in his hand.  She opened his other palm and slipped some tablets into his hand.  “But you’ve got the flu, I think.  Take these,” she said, and there was something horrifyingly soothing about the notion that she was going to take care of him. “Tyrion’s Dr Feelgood messengered  over some good drugs. You should have gotten the fuckin’ flu shot, Jon.”

He tried to remember, as he swallowed the pills and fell back against his pillows, exhausted, when someone had last done something like this for him.

It certainly hadn’t been Ygritte, the germaphobe; she stayed far, far away at even the slightest hint of illness, though she’d had no problem ordering him around like her personal slave when she fell sick.  He had to stop comparing them, he thought dully, for though Dany wasn’t technically his girlfriend she was light years beyond his ex in every way that he could think of.  He groaned, pressing back into the pillows further, tiny little knives carving his muscles from his bones with every movement.

Dany snatched the glass of water from his hand, a move he felt, rather than saw, his eyes so leaden that it seemed impossible to keep them open.

Through slitted lids he saw her place the glass on the nightstand, her eyes darting back to him constantly, full of warmth and worry and concern.

“You don’ have to do this, Dany.”  Every time he tried to speak, he sounded drunk, but she didn’t seem to care, perching on the edge of his bed as she took one of his hands in hers and squeezed gently.

“I know,” she whispered, “but I’m going to anyway, and you’re too sick to stop me, so tough luck.”  She stood, leaning over him to work the covers out from under his body and sliding them up over him, the warmth a sudden remedy to the chills that were making him tremble.  

“Now,” she said, “I’m going to make some tea and a poultice.  No wandering around, falling down the stairs or passing out in corners, alright?”

He nodded, not trusting his voice. His chest squeezed in a fiery vice, overwhelmed by how much she seemed to care about him. She smiled, then removed his glasses from his face; things went blurry.  He heard her plunk them down to his right, on the nightstand presumably next to the water. 

“Get some rest, Jon,” she said quietly.

He heard the door close.

And then, tucked into his bed, secure in the knowledge that for once he wasn’t on his own, he fell into a fitful, feverish sleep. 

--------

Jon jerked awake, his teeth chattering together uncontrollably, chills wracking his body.  Oh, Gods, this was wretched! Every muscle tensed and cramped; his breath shuddering out in ragged bursts. In the dark of his room, he shivered, calling out for Ghost as loudly as he could, sickness making him forget that he wasn’t alone.

“Jon?” came the drowsy voice beside him. 

The bedcovers shifted; he sensed her. The sheets rustled and heard the soft thud when her feet hit the floor, the shuffle as she came around to his side of the bed. Warmth radiated from her skin as she hovered over him though to his eye she was nothing more than a shadow in the dark.

“C-cold,” he stuttered out, curling into himself and trying to draw the covers closer.  The room brightened, as she clicked the lamp on, though she was still blurry and out of focus as she leaned near, a beautiful moon-silver blur that felt his head and swore under her breath.

“Open your mouth,” she ordered. 

Something hard and metallic pushed under his tongue.  His unwell mind took a moment to register that it was a thermometer, and even then he wasn’t sure until he heard the beeping that might as well be claxons clanging for how the sharp tone pierced his ears. 

She pulled it free and cursed. “103 degrees,” she said, her voice tight.  She pulled the blankets higher for him, tucking them around his chin, caressing his hot cheek with her hand quickly before pulling away.  “You need medicine for that fever.” She left.

And he lay under the covers trembling, wondering if he would ever be warm again, each second dragging endlessly.

But she was back, quicker than he’d expected,

Then she was putting his glasses on his face, a mug steaming in her hands; he knew the contents from the smell.  He was genuinely torn between wanting to douse himself in the scalding liquid to bathe in that delirious warmth, and dumping the berry flavored donkey piss on the carpet. And they called this flu medicine. Bullshit.

Even as she placed the mug in both his hands, he screwed his face, bracing himself for the worst. Her eyes locked on him to be sure, he guessed, that he didn’t actually spill it all over himself. Or the bed. Or the floor. 

Jon took a shaky sip, flooded with warmth as the contents soothed his aching throat, and he took another tentative swallow, cupping the mug with trembling fingers.  His teeth chattered, but he kept at it as long as he could, under her watchful stare, until he’d finished half the contents. His nose was clogged, and he thought he might pass out, but seeing her there, hovering nearby, kept him as lucid as possible under the circumstances. He blinked heavily, taking a gulp and knowing he ought to finish off the drink before he passed out again, not sure if he’d be able to pull it off.

“Not much more,” she encouraged, leaning over to inspect how much he had left, her hair brushing against his face, making him sneeze.  “Sorry,” she whispered, pulling back.

“S’okay,” he murmured, “you smell better than Ghost.”  He drained the dregs, wincing at the bitter taste, thinly veiled by some godawful artificial flavor, and handed her the cup, tired and feeling as though his limbs were made of rubber.

He fell asleep, dreaming of moonlight Dany flying in to rescue him from a lake of fire. 

--------

Jon woke up coughing.

Harsh, stabbing coughs that pierced his chest and wrung moans from his raw throat.

And she was there again, her hands pulling him up to sit, rubbing at his back through his thin t-shirt, saying things he couldn’t make out in soothing, quiet tones.

Death loomed. 

He ached.  Everywhere.  His hair ached, dammit.

Spots danced in front of his eyes as he gasped for breath, and then she had moved, perched in front of him on the edge of the bed, thermometer in hand judging by the beep as she turned it on.

“Ready?”

He just moaned in response, not capable of words.

“Open.” 

 Jon obeyed, clenching his teeth on the device tucked under his tongue as chills began to make him shake again.  When it beeped three more times she took it back, and he knew it had to be bad when she let out a harsh breath, her hand sweeping across his forehead, pushing back the hair that had escaped the band that held it back. “Dammit. 104.”  

He struggled to focus on her, his glasses still on his face but askew, but he could see her clearly enough to see determination sweep over her face, and she studied him, eyeing his shirt.  

“You can’t have any meds for the fever yet.”

“Let me die in peace,” he murmured, flopping back onto the bed, his head tossing around as the pillowcase suddenly felt like nails dragging against his head, every point of contact painful. “Leave my body on a glacier for the wolves to eat.”

Her lips twisted wryly, and she disappeared from view, leaving him staring blankly at the wood-paneled wall of his bedroom until his eyes drifted shut again.

Time suspended in his delirious state: a week might have passed before she returned, or a few seconds.  He couldn’t quite turn far enough to look at his alarm clock without threatening to unscrew his head from his neck when he felt the mattress depressing next to him.

“Jon?”  

Her soft voice was beside his ear, and he thought about it, his eyes barely cracked open, wishing his nose could detect the scent of her.  Usually lavender—or flowers. But  he could barely breathe, sucking in breaths through his mouth that only irritated his sore throat, or his mostly clogged nose.

 “Can you sit up for me?”

He heard the worry in her voice and he so wanted to help her but he just couldn’t.“I’m so tired,” he whimpered, shaking his head.

“I know, darling,” she said, sympathetically, and she took his hands, leaning wonderfully close so that her head was nearly tucked into the crook of his neck, drawing his arms up and around her.  “Lock your hands together as tight as you can.”

Too tired to question her, he obeyed, and allowed her to pull him into an upright position.  Her hands were busy working, as well, putting something underneath him while she held him up. He tried to enjoy the sensation of being so pressed against her as much as his sick body would allow.  But when her hands gripped the hem of his t-shirt, her fingers like ice, he flinched and stiffened.

“What’re you doing?”  His words muffled against her shoulder, but she didn’t stop, and he felt panic rising in the part of his brain that wasn’t delirious from illness as she pulled the shirt as high as his chest before she pulled back a little, his arms still locked around her neck.  “No,” he groaned, protesting feebly.  “Don’t do that.  Don’t look.”

She shushed him quietly, gently working the shirt over one arm, then the other, making sure he kept hold of her as best he could, and pulled the shirt over his head as he finally let go and fell weakly back onto the bed.  The air itself seemed like it sliced into his skin, and he didn’t dare to meet her eyes, knowing what she would see, unwilling to witness her disgust, or pity, or whatever it was she would think when she saw his scarred chest and torso.

“Jon,” she said in a low voice. “I can’t *believe* you’ve been hiding such rock hard abs like these from the world.” 

 He writhed in discomfort against the rougher material at his back, realizing slowly that they were towels.  Why was he laying on towels? What was she doing?

“This is a crime against humanity. Womankind and gay men everywhere have been wrongfully denied,” she prattled on, tutting under her breath, and then he heard a splash of water, and his confusion outweighed his concern.  He opened his eyes, slightly, seeing she had a sponge in her hand, a big bowl of water sitting precariously on the corner of his nightstand.  Her eyebrows raised above her glasses, as she squeezed the sponge out and swiped it gently down his neck.  “The admin girls alone would be losing their minds if they knew you kept these under all those dress shirts.”

He coughed weakly, looking away. He tried to twist from the sponge, as she wet it anew and slid it across his chest, across the scars that marred his flesh, the remnants of his old life that would haunt him forever. Painful memories sliced through the delirium.   He was remarkably clear, considering.

Ygritte had always winced, avoiding looking at them or touching them. One time, when she was pretty buzzed on wine coolers, she suggested he have laser treatments so that her PR firm’s frequent pool parties wouldn’t be so awkward. Stories about elite squadrons being ambushed by IEDs were a ‘downer’ apparently.  After that first summer, unless the lights were off, Jon usually kept his shirt on; he knew how unsightly his scars were. Maybe her attitude making him feel like reheated monkey shit had brought on the self-consciousness that still plagued him years after the break-up.

The sponge slipped over him again, and this time he felt the tip of her finger, slipping free of the sponge, tracing one jagged line as she wiped gently.  “You know,” Dany said carefully, pausing until he grudgingly met her eyes, “some people find scars sexy.  Perverts especially.  They really dig scars.”

He shivered, the damp sponge unbearably cold against his skin.  “This isn’t real,” he whispered.  His teeth chattered again.  “*You* can’t be real.” 

“You never know,” she whispered back, dipping and squeezing and sliding the sponge across his skin, over and over, until he couldn’t keep his eyes open anymore.  She kept going, until she’d wiped down every spare inch of skin that was uncovered, taking his glasses off with care and smoothing the sponge over his forehead.

He then felt the press of her lips, a caress on his cheek, so quick that he might have missed it had his skin not been so unbearably tender, and then gentle hands were pressing the towel against his damp flesh, until she’d dried him off.

“Sleep if you can,” she said, pulling his covers back up.  “I’ll wake you up to take more medicine soon.”

“This is a good dream,” he mumbled, darkness creeping in to claim him again.

--------

She remained constant in his hazy fog, forcing water and Gatorade down his throat, urging him to take the medicine she brought regularly, rubbing his back when he would cough so hard he thought he might crack a rib.

Once, he was fairly certain she rubbed menthol cream on his chest, though that could have been one of many strange dreams that plagued him while the flu wreaked havoc on his body. Dreams of her hands and her voice and the press of her lips on his forehead. 

Day and night blended together, and he wasn’t even sure of the date, but gradually the aches in his muscles eased, and the jackhammer behind his temples quieted to a dull buzz.  Eventually, he could breathe through his nose again, and she gave him chicken noodle soup and juice, her relief that he seemed to be on the mend almost palpable.

Finally, he awoke, sweaty and tangled in his bed sheets, relief swamping him that he felt more alert than he had in days, his fever most definitely broken, though he was still tired and weak as he fought to free his legs from the linens bunched around them.

He fumbled on the nightstand for his glasses, sliding them on and blinking at the alarm clock, the curtains drawn in the room but dull winter daylight clearly filtering in around the edges.  8:30 a.m. Sick room carnage had been strewn over every surface: wadded up tissues, half drunk mugs of unknown liquids, blister packages of brightly colored pills, prescription antivirals that a quick check revealed came from Tyrion’s concierge doctor, and a nest of blankets and pillows atop a spare mattress on the floor by his bed that suggested that perhaps another human had been sleeping there. Dany. He smiled. Stupidly. 

Jon stood on unsteady feet like a newborn calf, light-headed and weary, walking with trepidation over to his dresser where his thin gray robe lay draped across the top.  He pulled it on, suddenly very conscious that he was only in his underclothes, looking around warily for any sign of life, listening intently to discern if he was alone in the house.

He caught sight of himself in the mirror on the wall, and recoiled slightly.  He looked fucking terrible: pale and wan, his hair an untidy cloud around his head, and he badly needed to shave and shower.  He shook his head at his reflection, and headed for the door, his stepping gingerly, his knees still a little weak.

Everything *seemed* quiet, as he padded across the landing and began to slowly make his way down the carpeted stairs, but then he heard a voice, chipper and cheerful.

Dany.

She was still there, and a wave of happiness swept him even as it sunk in that the scattered memories he had while he’d been sick might have actually been real.

Had she taken his clothes off?

He distinctly thought he remembered getting a sponge bath, and though his fever had left his cheeks grew hot, and he cursed that he didn’t remember events as specifically as he’d like to have. Particularly what types of horrifically humiliating things had he said while delirious. 

But then, as he reached the foot of the stairs, he heard another voice, peppering Dany with questions, tinny as though they were coming from a phone.

He looked across the living room to where Dany sat at the bar in his kitchen, perched atop a stool, with his phone propped up before her and Arya’s face filling the small screen.

Dany was in his house.  Facetiming with Arya.

Oh, no .  Feet frozen to the ground, he took a deep breath, embarrassed dread blooming in his chest.   Oh, no, no, no.  He willed his feet to move—no commanded them to walk—toward the kitchen.

“You’ve got to be OBVIOUS, Dany,” Arya proclaimed  loudly and emphatically.  “Jon’s really thick. He is so deep in Jon World that—.”

Another face popped up on the screen, as he came closer. Not saying a word, he  grabbed onto the back of the couch for support.  Sansa. Shit.

“Give it over, Arya—it’s my turn. Oh, my god, yes,” Sansa crowed, smiling broadly, as Dany watched and listened, twirling the silver end of her ponytail around her finger.  “Look at you,” his cousin cooed, “you look like a sexy librarian, no wonder Jon…”

She was cut off when Jon grabbed the phone, plucking it from over Dany’s shoulder, and Dany turned to face him, bemused and surprised, as his cousins immediately burst into laughter at the sight of him.

“That’s enough of that,” he said to the screen.  “What are you up to?”

Dany was biting her lip, looking at him sheepishly, but thoroughly amused as her eyes swept him.

“Happy Thanksgiving, Jon, even though it’s a day late!”  Sansa at least maintained some semblance of courtesy, and he gave a start as the words washed over him, realizing he’d missed Thanksgiving altogether, and made Dany miss hers, too.

“You look like shit, Jon!”  Arya was entirely too pleased with herself, grinning and giving him a knowing stare.  “Guess you were actually sick, by the look of you.”

“Is it really Friday?”  He tucked the phone against his chest and asked Dany the question, quietly, trying for a modicum of privacy.

She nodded, laughing a bit, her hand falling to Ghost’s head, the hound posted faithfully beside her, Hedwig snoring away under the legs of the stool.  “You look— better,” she said, a little apprehensively.

“She’s lying, Jon!”  He pulled the phone back to his face, frowning at his cousins.

“Shut it, Arya.”  He felt like the grumpy old grandpa Dany always teased him about being, and tried to scrape together some goodwill, inordinately nervous as to what, exactly, she and Sansa had been discussing with Dany.  “Happy Thanksgiving.”

“You’d better shower, Jon, you look like you need it.”  He stared at the screen, giving Arya a grimace of distaste.  “Maybe ‘Dany from work’ can wash your back for—“

He pushed the button to disconnect with his thumb, before she could finish.  The room fell silent, except for the growing sounds of amusement coming from Dany, whose shoulders were shaking, as she sat laughing as quietly as she could, her hand clapped over her mouth now.

“I’m so sorry,” she finally croaked out, around little bursts of giggles that seemed beyond her control.  “They’d been calling since yesterday, and I thought I ought to answer before they started booking flights or asking the police to come check on you.”

He sagged, dropping onto the stool next to her, letting his phone clatter down onto the counter as he folded his arms loosely and laid his head down.  Fingers tentatively rested, lightly, on his shoulder, and he turned his head to look at her.

“How are you feeling, really?”  She was serious, now, her eyes searching his.

He sighed, then pulled a face at the awful taste in his mouth.  “Better,” he muttered, “but I do need to shower.  And I think my teeth grew sweaters.”  He rolled his tongue across them, and heaved out a full, slow lungful of air, peering at her from the corner of his eye.  “What were you talking to my cousins about?”

Dany’s smile was the slow, mischievous sort that she got when she was about to be devious, and his prediction proved correct when she picked up the mug of tea in front of her, and took a nonchalant sip before she answered him.  “Oh, not much.  They were just telling me all the embarrassing stories they could think of about you.”

“They were not,” he replied, hoping it wasn’t true but knowing there was certainly a chance she wasn’t just putting him on.

“No?”  She scooted around to face him, leaning an elbow on the counter and resting her chin on her hand.  “Did you cover yourself in flour when you were younger and scare the absolute shit out of them in your family crypts, pretending to be a ghost?”

“Fuck.”  He let out a throaty groan and sat up, elbows on the counter, rubbing his hands across his face.  “Traitors, the lot of you.”  He smiled, even as he tried to scowl, when she gave him a disbelieving look and merely rolled her eyes, taking another sip of tea.  “And in my condition, Dany?”

She balled both hands into loose fists, circling them below her eyes and miming as if she was crying, trying to pout and failing miserably.  “You’re doing *much* better, so save the drama for someone who cares about your sob story.”  When she stood, he noticed something that had escaped his attention when he’d come down, as distracted as he’d been by his cousins likely well on their way to mortifying him being his primary focus.

“You stole my shirt.” 

She looked down at the shirt she wore, her eyes wide with faux confusion. With an innocent smile, she shrugged and walked to the sink to rinse out her teacup.  

She was absolutely wearing his shirt, a favorite, the logo for one of Arya’s boyfriend’s failed bands emblazoned on the front.  The band names all ran together—variations of angry animals having existential crises—but he received shirts whenever the inevitable breakup required inventory reduction.  This particular shirt he wore regularly because it was softer than the others and the tag didn’t scratch his neck.

It looked absolutely terrific on her. It would have looked better puddled on the floor, along with her standard weekend attire of yoga pants completing her current look.

“I had to sleep in something, Jon,” she said matter-of-factly, her grin growing when she noticed his mouth fall open, because he’d been fairly oblivious to what was actually going on around him.  But if she’d been here with him, the whole time he’d been sick, then she’d spent three nights at his place, and he could barely remember any of it.

In short, this was a tragedy of epic proportions, and not at all how he’d imagined things happening if she spent the night at his place.  And he’d imagined it.

A lot.

He cleared his throat, realizing, as she dried her mug and put it in the cabinet, that he hadn’t said anything, and he should, but his mouth and his mind weren’t cooperating.

“I should…,” he pointed upstairs, realizing how grimy he felt, and that a shower was definitely in order, “go get cleaned up, I guess.”  He wondered if he’d imposed on her too much already, if she’d had her fill of playing nursemaid and was ready to get on with what little remained of her five-day weekend, far away from him.  He really didn’t want her to leave, that much he was sure of.  

Her mouth opened, as though she were about to make excuses to be on her way, and he had to go for it, he realized, because she’d stayed here and taken care of him, and she wouldn’t have done that unless she cared, and it was dawning on him that she might care as much as he did.

“You could stay,” he said hurriedly, gratified and relieved when she gave a half-smile, doing that thing where she bit the inside of her cheek to stop herself from grinning, like when he’d given her half his pot roast sandwich at lunch one day last week, while pretending she hadn’t been prodding him for it the whole time.  “I mean, you didn’t get to do your Thanksgiving dinner.  We could still cook it, if you want?”

She scratched at her chin, exaggeratedly, her eyes on the ceiling as she pretended to consider.  “Well, I *suppose* that could be arranged.  But,” she said, smiling broadly at his relieved sigh when she agreed, “I’ve got to run home and grab a few things.”  She plucked at his shirt with her fingers.  “Like a change of clothes.”

“Right.”  He pointed up again.  “I’m gonna go shower, then.”

She nodded sagely, grabbing her keys from the counter, rounding it and brushing past him as she grabbed that pilfered sweatshirt of his and tugged it on.  “Please do,” she teased.  She stopped, just shy of the door, turning to look at him, a devilish gleam in her eyes.  “I’ll go home for some things, unless, of course, you needed someone to wash your back?”  She snorted a laugh when he gestured with his hands, adopting a frown he didn’t mean and shooing her out the door.

But he was struck with the need to give her a taste of her own medicine, to toss some of her relentless teasing back at her.  “I’m not opposed to the offer,” he began, watching her eyebrows quickly climb up in genuine surprise, “but only if you punish me for my overdue books while you scrub.”

For a long moment she stood in the doorway, blinking, flushed pink, and he was strangely pleased with himself, to see that for once he’d rendered her speechless. 

Finally she laughed, Sansa's earlier label that Dany resembled a 'sexy librarian' clicking in her mind. “I hate you. So much.” Shaking her head she grabbed hold of the door handle.

“Liar,” he called out as his front door closed firmly behind her, then he looked down at the two dogs who had now focused their sole attention on him.

“Things are definitely looking up,” he told Hedwig and Ghost, and although he still wasn’t quite back to full health, there was a little spring in his step as he headed upstairs to clean himself up.

And that was very true: things were absolutely, definitively looking up.

By the afternoon, she’d returned, and they were both toiling away in his overheated kitchen, throwing open the windows to siphon off the warm air that had accumulated from his oven, hard at work on the turkey contained within, and his stove top, which had a pan on every burner.

Every so often, he would twist around, to see her humming under her breath, her hair curling from the steam rising from a saucepan, and he would think that nothing would top the sight of her in his kitchen, sliding so neatly into his life that it was as if she’d been made to fit right into it.

And then she would look up, and give him a mocking scowl and tell him to get back to work, occasionally tossing a piece of carrot or a cranberry his way, and there would be a flurry of toenails on tile as the dogs would scurry to scavenge for the discarded bit of food.

He had to sit down, occasionally, his body still feeling weak and wrung out, but he felt better, in those hours, than he ever remembered feeling.

This was what life could be like, he thought, and it would steal his breath from his chest, because he hadn’t wanted anything so badly in a long time.

-------

That night, their plates full, situated on his sofa and making their way through every Harry Potter movie he owned, they feasted.

In his extremely biased view, the meal was a rousing success, save for his cranberry sauce, which he’d forgotten to sugar properly, and was far too bitter for human consumption.

Not even Ghost would risk it, turning away as politely as he could when Jon offered a bit to him on a scrap of roll.

But Dany ate it—told him it was the best she’d ever had. Even her lie dazzled him and he was so far gone over her that it terrified him.

He’d had to leave the room then, panic squeezing his lungs, making it hard to breathe. Now as he sat on the closed toilet lid, in the darkened bathroom, he realized what it was that burned his chest like fire.

He loved her.

Fully and completely loved her. 

She had become his best friend—made life bearable, even his worst days.  He hadn’t wanted to admit the extent of how much he needed her, even to himself, but there wasn’t any denying it.

And eventually, he thought he might lose her, might manage to fuck it all up the way he always did, and he wasn’t sure he’d survive it.

“Jon?”  There was a gentle knock at the door.  “Are you alright?  Do you feel okay?”  A pause, then her soft voice came again.  “You’ve been gone awhile.  Have I poisoned you with my awful cooking?” Another longer pause. “Do you need an antacid?”

He was an idiot. He sat here on the toilet lid, alone, worrying about theoreticals, while the most beautiful, brilliant, magnificent woman he knew worried about him.

He was an asshole.

“I’m fine,” he called out. He hurriedly stood up, washed his hands, and flicked on the light.  “Be right out!”

He stared at himself in the mirror, his hands braced on the porcelain sink top.  “You’ve got to tell her, old man.  Eventually, you’re going to have to tell her how you feel.”

His reflection looked terrified.

--------

Saturday morning, he woke up, confused, blinking at the sideways view of his back windows, and the door that led out to his little yard.  A yawn. He shifted, his eyes shooting up to the tv screen, realizing he was, indeed, in his living room. An unfamiliar but entirely pleasant warmth blanketed him. 

Dany’s face pressed into his neck, her silver curls fanning the couch cushion behind them. 

Their dinner plates sat on the coffee table, but were suspiciously licked clean, no doubt by one of the two dogs now piled up near the hearth, fast asleep. The light outside suggested dawn had been left behind by several hours. He had some vague recollection of letting the dogs out before the start of Deathly Hallows. When she had crawled up into his arms he couldn’t recall but he wasn’t complaining.

Sighing, she shifted, threading a leg between his and while his joggers grew decidedly more uncomfortable with her movement,  he wasn’t inclined to extricate himself out from under her and abandon the delicious sensation of her body atop his. Not yet, anyway.  For a long quiet beat they breathed together in unison. He closed his eyes. Inhaled her scent. Another body shift and she moaned yet again, hoarse and husky, throwing a leg across his hip.

But this time, she whispered his name. He felt it, her lips shaping the word against his neck, and suddenly what had been a most pleasant indulgence became a bit more problematic. The intoxicating feel of her breasts pushing against him surpassed any sensation he might have conjured: his imagination had truly failed him. 

His cock had none of the compunctions that he did about their current circumstances, and roared to life with a speed that would have surprised him, if the usual subject of his fantasies hadn’t been where she was, doing what she was doing and saying what she was saying.

He should get up before she moved the wrong way and acquainted herself with parts of him that very much desired a more intimate introduction.  Her thigh was about three inches from granting him the pressure he craved, but she was asleep, and that would be very wrong.  He would be the pervert he jokingly accused her of being and that was not even a little bit acceptable. He had some standards. 

Or he hoped he did.

He should get up. But Jon’s arm was trapped between the couch and Dany. The traitorous arm that had curled around her, and had played its part, in his sleep, of keeping her pinned close.

He *needed* to get up. If for no other reason than, practically speaking, it tasted like something had died in his mouth, and if this by some miracle escalated he wasn’t going to inflict that on her.  Maybe if he could just…

He shifted, just barely, and she sighed, pressing closer, her right hand curling tighter against his side.

Her thigh moved, this time, and he was *certain* he felt her hips circle against him, slightly, but it definitely happened.  But that certainty, flew out of his mind when her leg moved again, and brushed against the erection that strained against the grey fabric of his sweatpants, and then her whole body stiffened.

She was awake.

He froze.

Dany sat up, barely, her eyes, foggy with sleep, and glanced down to see what was pressing so rudely against her thigh.

“Good morning,” she drawled, her voice rough and low, her glasses tilted adorably as her eyes travelled back up his body to meet his, her hair sexily mussed.

He wasn’t sure what to say.

“Whoops,” he breathed out.

Whoops?  What the fuck was wrong with him?

He squeezed his eyes closed in embarrassment, as she began to giggle, her head falling against his chest for a moment before she pushed up, but otherwise remained close.

Jon sat up, as well, slowly, pinching the bridge of his nose and gathering himself before he dared to meet her gaze, wondering if she was just trying to break the awkwardness by laughing or if he’d really stepped in it with her. She squeezed his arm with a chuckle. 

When he finally dared to glance at her, she had risen from the couch, walking to the back door to let the dogs out to do their business. She turned back to face him, grinning,  obviously highly amused.  Stretching her arms above her head, she groaned and worked out the kinks in her back that she’d no doubt earned spending the night on his couch—

—on top of him.

He gave her a sheepish look, not sure how to dig himself out of the hole his awkward, one word response had landed him in.

“Oh, Jon,” she said, “you’re awfully cute when you’re embarrassed.”

He pulled off his glasses and rubbed at his eyes.  “Knock it off, Dany.”

“Now I’m *really* going to get my van fired up.”  

He laughed, not able to help it, wondering how it was she managed to make things better, when he just wanted to crawl into a hole and die of humiliation. “I’m going to brush my teeth, pervert.”  He stood, making a show of crossing his arms across his chest.  “Stop ogling me, I can feel you doing it right now.” 

He put his glasses back on in time to find her waggling her eyebrows at him suggestively.  “I refuse to stop.  But you can fill out a complaint form on Monday.”

Jon could feel her eyes burning into his back as he made for the stairs, the sound of her laugh chasing him all the way up.

On Saturday afternoon, she went home, after he profusely swore that he owed her, ‘big time’ as she put it, for tending to him while he’d been sick.  The favors she’d asked of him previously seemed tiny in comparison, and he declared her debt cleared, laughing when she said she’d let him know as soon as she came up with a way that he could do the same.

When she left, he immediately called Arya, and spent an hour prying information out of her about exactly what she’d said to Dany before he’d stumbled down the stairs. 

“Don’t you worry,” Arya said in a sing-song voice, for about the millionth time.  “I didn’t tell her anything she didn’t already know, Jon.”

He tightened his grip on the phone, his doubt in Arya’s ability to resist meddling only heightened by how smug she sounded.  “Besides embarrassing stories about me?”

“Well, naturally.”  

Jon tucked the phone between his cheek and shoulder, stripping the sheets from his bed as he talked, nearly tripping over a pile of blankets and a pillow when he crossed to the other side, the narrow strip of carpet between the wall and the bed.  He sighed.

“Jon?”

He sat down heavily on his bare mattress, his eyes straying to that nest that Dany had made for herself, no doubt while his fever had raged and she’d wanted to stay close.  “I’m in love with Dany.”  The words sounded strangled as they came out, but he felt as though a thousand elephants had been lifted from his shoulders as he spoke them aloud.

Arya laughed.  “No shit.”  Then her voice sounded again, more concerned than before.  “Oh Jon, you didn’t figure that out just now did you?”

He frowned to the empty room, looking again at his spare pillow that Dany’s lovely silver head had laid upon, knowing he was being stupidly sentimental and completely unlike himself.  “No.  I suppose I’ve known for awhile.”  He leaned down and picked the pillow up, looking at it like a fool before he tossed it up on his bed with his regular pillows.  “I just haven’t said it out loud like that,” he mumbled, wincing when Arya gave a loud, annoyed groan.

“Please tell me you’re going to do something about this.”  She didn’t let him respond, continuing on as though it was a command, not a question.  “She’s really sweet, Jon, and Sansa and I both agree: definitely your hottest girlfriend.”

Jon snickered, finally getting his legs working again as he collected the blankets Dany had used from the floor, laying them in a heap atop his dresser.  “True.  But,” he sighed sadly, “she isn’t exactly my girlfriend.”

“Jon,” Arya said sharply, her patience clearly dwindling, “you *do* know there’s something you can do about that, right?”

He blew out a breath, collecting the dirty bed linens and tossing them into the hamper of items he’d take to Dany’s on Wednesday for his next ‘lesson.’  “Yes, Arya, I’m aware.”  He leaned against his wall, looking out the window into the dark night sky.  “But I’m not going to just say, ‘Hey, Dany, you want to be my girlfriend’, for godsakes.  I’m almost thirty, not thirteen.”

There was a long pause, and as he drew his curtains closed his cousin finally responded.  “So, what are you going to do?”

That was the question of the hour, of the day, of the fucking year, really.

What was he going to do?

He had to do something.  Something big.  So that she would know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, how he felt.

“Jon?”  Arya’s voice sounded in his ear, and he shook himself out of his wandering thoughts.

“Sorry.  You know what, I’ll think of something.”  An idea was taking shape, just a small little thought, really, a little seed that was starting to grow in his mind.

Arya made a disgusted sound.  “Well, hurry up, a girl like that isn’t going to wait around forever for you to get your courage up, Jon.” 

Jon nodded to himself, in agreement.  “I know,” he said, switching gears and heading back down the stairs, nearly tripping over Ghost at the last step.  “I’m working on it.”

“You do that.”  When his cousin let out a devious little laugh he felt himself grow a bit worried.  “In the meantime, I’m going to dig through your old school pictures and send Dany all the funniest ones.”

“Don’t you dare!”  His hissed response went ignored as Arya laughed devilishly.  “You don’t even have her number, you little shit!”

“Yes, I do!” 

 Arya’s victorious declaration was the last thing he heard before she disconnected the call, and he was left alone with Ghost, his empty townhouse, and his thoughts.  It was lonely, now, lonelier than he remembered, now that she’d gone back home, and he was as he used to be.

It used to be enough; his dog, his place, his privacy, his overpriced coffee beans and his recorded sporting matches.

He turned that little nugget of an idea over and over in his mind, letting it spin and twist and turn and build, like a snowball rolling downhill, building in mass and momentum as it fleshed itself out.

Jon knew a lot about Dany.  It was one of the best things  about being friends with her, the only silver lining to not pursuing her romantically the moment his heart had begun to clamor for her. 

Other less gentlemanly bits of him might have been after her longer, to be honest.  She was fucking beautiful, and he might be quiet, and probably just as boring as he’d been told, but he wasn’t a damn eunuch.

But he hadn’t given into his baser instincts. He had paid attention. He knew what she liked, and what she hated, and her favorite yogurt, and her favorite color.  He knew which songs would make her change the station on the radio immediately, and which ones she would sing along with, loudly and occasionally off-key.

He knew some of her secrets, and she knew some of his, but he wanted to know all of her, and he was fucking tired of waiting.

So, his plan firming up in his mind, he pulled out his phone and began to text.

Jon:  I need your help with something.  And your discretion.  I need you to make sure I get Daenerys for Secret Santa this year.

He pressed send, gnawing on his thumbnail as he waited for a response, pacing as Ghost watched him from his post on the couch.

Finally, a response came, and Jon’s heart gave a heavy thump of joy.

Tyrion L.:  Consider it done.

Jon grinned, looked around and remembered it was just Ghost, there with him.  He called the dog over, and Ghost came willingly enough, taking several of Jon’s pets with a grateful whine, holding still when Jon knelt down and rested his head atop Ghost’s white one, their eyes even.

“I think we’re doing this, boy.”

Ghost licked his face.

---------

On Sunday, the last day of November, he tidied up around his place, gathering up the remainder of his dirty laundry for Wednesday’s washing, cleaning out the fridge, and the kitchen, and his bathrooms.

He missed Dany terribly.

But she sent him text messages every half hour, on the dot, and he knew that meant she missed him too.

Neither of them said as much, of course.

She had her own business to tend to; and it was nice, in a kind of depressing, lonely way, to have time to himself, to remember why he didn’t want to be alone anymore. 

Besides. He had an enormous romantic gesture to plan.

Very quickly, sitting at his desk in his study and waiting for her next text, he realized his was in over his head.

He needed reinforcements.  It seemed to him, as he reviewed his other list, the one he’d be absolutely mortified for anyone to find, the list he’d kept of all the times he’d thought (but wasn’t sure) that she’d been flirting with him, that he might be as thick-headed as Arya accused him of being.

Because when he looked at it, in totality, he’d been an idiot.

She had made her interest more than clear.

So he needed to do the same, and that wouldn’t be accomplished in just one task, just one gesture.  He needed to really go for it over the next few weeks.

He texted Arya and Sansa in a group message, and gave them their assignments.

Dany texted him a few minutes later, and though he knew his cousins hadn’t had time to ask their questions of her, he felt that same sweaty-handed nervousness he had the first day he’d met her as he pulled up her message.

Dany:  I’ve solved a mystery, Scooby Doo!

Jon:  This really explains the whole van thing, you know.

Dany:  Hilarious.  But I wondered about that beard of yours, if you’d had it long, if perhaps you were born with it…

Jon:  Yep, you’ve really cracked it.  I was the only newborn with a beautiful full beard in the nursery that day.

Dany:  Now I know...

She then proceeded to text him a picture that he absolutely hated, and he knew immediately where she’d gotten it.

It was his training school graduation photo: 16-year old Jon, in his thick black military glasses, and his Northern Army uniform, with his unfortunate soft baby face.

Dany:  LOOK AT THOSE CHEEKS!

Dany:  I’M SO SOFT RIGHT NOW!

Dany:  WERE YOU FIVE OMG I’M DYING PLEASE DISPOSE OF MY BODY BEFORE HEDWIG EATS ME!!!!!

He hated the picture, but he knew she only went over the top like this when she really liked something; perhaps she wasn’t completely just taking the piss out of him.  When she dropped lower case letters completely, she was really enjoying herself, so he decided to go with it.

All a part of the plan, now, to stop trying to hold himself back, and just do what he wanted, when it came to her.

Jon:  Ah, my old modeling photos...

Jon:  I knew my storied past as a male model would come back to haunt me one of these days.

Dany:  I can see it.  Got any sweet modeling pics from after the beard?

Jon:  Nope, sorry, my modeling stock plummeted once I was finally able to grow facial hair.

Dany:  Mine, too.

He laughed so loud that Ghost stuck his head into the study, to check on him.

Jon:  That’s what I like best about you, your mustache.

Dany:  Finally, someone noticed!

He was interrupted from further silliness by another text alert, this one from Sansa, and as his eyes scanned her long, nearly novel-length message he smiled to himself.  Sansa might have annoyed the shit out of him, but she’d make an excellent interrogator.  She could get information out of anyone.

Jon switched messages to see Dany had sent him one more while he’d been preoccupied.

Dany:  So what ELSE do you like about me, besides my magnificent facial hair?

Jon:  Your taste in Halloween costumes is right up there at the top of the list…

Dany:  You can’t see but I’m giving you a look of extreme judgment, you dirty wicked man!

Jon:  It’s a good thing I didn’t ask you to explain the Dewey Decimal System while you had that on, or my heart might have stopped completely...

Dany:  I’m unrolling a carpet right now to carry away your body, Mr. Snow. I hope you know you’ve brought this on yourself!

Jon smiled wider, toying with the idea of telling her to come over, but he cautioned himself to remember his plan.

The new plan.

Big, romantic gestures.

Jon:  Well, you did promise to be gentle, I’ll remind you.  Hey, are you free next Saturday?  That’s the 6 th .

Dany:  You mean besides going to the market with you?  Yes, I’m free.  I fear you are the extent of my plans, Jon.  Why?  Do you have something in mind?

Jon:  Yes.

When he didn’t expound further, he saw the little bubbling that indicated she was typing appear and reappear, as though she couldn’t quite settle on what she wanted to say.

Finally, she replied.

Dany:  Are you going to tell me?  Stop torturing me, Jon!

Jon:  It’s a surprise, and that’s all I’m saying.

Dany:  I guess I can live with that...

He took a deep breath, and typed out his response, his heart in his throat as he sent it.

Jon:  Good, then it’s a date.

Dany’s little text bubble did the same dance as before, appearing, then disappearing, a process repeated several times, and his stomach was in nausea-inducing knots when she finally answered.

Dany:  Just so you know I won’t consider it a proper date unless I get to make ‘is that a wand in your pocket or are you just happy to see me’ jokes.  My terms are harsh but fair.

Jon bit his lip, chuckling to himself, spinning around in his desk chair, dragging out his response until he knew she’d be nearly crazy waiting for him to say something back.

Jon:  The limit is two.  Just so we are clear.

Dany:  Crystal.

Dany:  I’m very excited.

Dany:  Are you playing with your wand right now?  It’s okay, Jon, it’s natural.  Nothing to be ashamed of.

He hung his head, shaking it, sweeping a hand down his face as he read the successive texts.

Jon:  Are you done?

Dany:  Not even close, I’m saving my really good ones for our DATE :) 

He smiled, and stood, excitement blooming in his chest and radiating outward as his heart pumped.

“Come on, Ghost,” he said, heading for the kitchen and grabbing the dog’s leash.  “Let’s walk.”

Chapter Text

DECEMBER

Jon tried to play it cool.

Really.

But as the weekend crept closer, his nerves started to get the better of him.

It wasn’t even really a proper, traditional sort of date, what he had planned.  And Saturday wasn’t even his *really* big gesture, his grand, sweeping statement that would surely show her exactly how he felt, and then magically their clothes would fall off, it would all go fantastically well,  and they would live happily ever after. Assuming he didn’t fuck it up.

The problem, to be fair, was that as far back as he could remember, his plans more often than not seemed to go to utter shit when it came to things like this. He didn’t doubt Dany even a little. Timing and logistics failed him often enough. But the biggest disaster was usually looked him in the mirror every day. He failed to say or do the right thing at the right time. Or he was too serious, too earnest, too reserved. He lacked the reckless charm of his cousin Robb—or the mysterious intensity of his friend Grey.  Too much of one thing and not enough of another. Before Dany it had been easy to shrug off his failures. If this didn’t work out he might never leave the basement.

Edd seemed to notice his growing anxiety, which wasn’t all bad, because Jon needed his help too.  And it wasn’t as though Edd hadn’t noticed that something was going on between Jon and Dany.  Hell, the man had encouraged it, not out loud, of course, but he had made it clear with each refusal to take tickets on Dany’s floor that the ball was clearly in his boss’s court.

As the days passed, Dany had become nearly frantic with the need to know, continuously flip-flopping back and forth between wanting to keep things a surprise and demanding, in no uncertain terms, that he spill his guts.

Thursday morning he checked his phone, taking a sip of his coffee as he did, finding she had sent him a series of texts that grew more and more desperate with each one.

Dany:  This isn’t fair, you know .

Dany:  I no longer care for suspense. 

Dany:  At least tell me what I should wear, Jon!

Sansa and Arya had continued to discreetly work Dany for the valuable intel he wanted, and he had Saturday all planned out now, a whole day of events sure to rank in at least her top ten dates of all time.  First dates were tenuous things.  He had a leg up, though, on any who had surely come before, considering the breadth of his Dany knowledge.

He was practically an encyclopedia, by now, regarding her.

Jon:  Aren’t you supposed to be bored stiff listening to Meryn Trant’s sales analysis?

Dany:  Jon, come up to the fourth floor and walk by the conference room.  You need to see this.  I’m serious.  It’s a situation that is URGENT.

Jon laughed as quietly as he could, setting his mug aside so he could focus on the task at hand.

Jon:  You’re trying to trick me, I know it.

Dany:  JUST COME UP HERE GRANDPA

He stood, his chair creaking, and Edd’s eyes shot up at the sound.  Jon tucked his phone away, grabbing a random notepad and pen, trying to pretend he wasn’t involving himself in something Dany-related.  It was one thing for Edd to be in favor of whatever this was between Jon and the world’s hottest HR manager, but he figured he ought to at least pretend that not everything was about her.

Jon gave a little wave, and headed for the door.

“Tell Daenerys I said hello!”  

Jon turned to find Edd grinning, though the man remained focused on his computer monitor.

“I’ll be back in a bit,” Jon said with a sigh, not even bothering to argue.

He rode the lift, blissfully alone, up to the fourth floor, where most of the salespeople were housed.  As nonchalantly as he could, he strolled slowly down the hall, his target on his left.  He spied Dany right away, her hair twisted up and away from her face, a tendril or two curling by her ears, the portrait of professionalism as she stared at something he couldn’t see, making diligent notes.

Then she saw him, and gave him the tiniest of smiles; she casually pulled out her phone.  He saw the usual faces around the table: Stannis from accounting, Tyrion, Shae at his side, and a scattering of salesmen he couldn’t identify solely by the backs of their heads.

His phone buzzed.

Dany:  You look really cute today for a grandpa…

Jon looked up and made a face at her, and she winked and typed another message.

Dany:  Walk really slowly past the windows, then glance back over your shoulder like you forgot something.  You need to see a slide of Meryn’s presentation.

Jon:  That’s why you told me to come up here?

Dany:  It’s worth it, you’ll see!

Jon gave her a skeptical look, but she had refocused her attention on the presentation, seemingly ignoring him.  He looked around, noticing he was garnering some odd looks from the sales staff, and started walking.

He tried to be casual, his eyes forward, as instructed, though he could see Dany turn her head every so slightly, her lips twitching as he passed her.

Then, he turned, and saw what they were all looking at, and gasped.

His eyes shot immediately to Dany, who was trying as inconspicuously as she could to catch his attention.

‘COMIC SANS’ she mouthed, then, clearly unable to resist, started making stabbing motions beside the table.

He barely made it around the corner before he was doubled over, trying to contain his laughter, his hands itching to snatch her out of there and take her to an empty office, to say to hell with his plan and fuck big gestures. She deserved more than gimmicks: she deserved to be shown in every way he could conceive of that he loved her—more than anyone, more than anything. 

He took a few deep breaths, ignoring the stares he got from the folks milling about in the bullpen, not daring to look at her as he made his way back to the elevator, knowing he’d lose his composure altogether.

His phone buzzed, as soon as he stepped off the elevator, back in the basement.

Dany:  I’ve alerted you to a madman in our midst, the least you can do is tell me what to wear on Saturday !

Jon:  Whatever you want, Dany .

Dany:  Are you sure about that?  Absolutely positive?  What if I want to wear a trench coat and nothing else?

Jon groaned as he sat  down at his desk, not even bothering to look up, sure Edd was watching him—again—vigilant as ever.  And now, for better or worse, he was stuck with the image of Dany in what she’d described stuck in his head for the rest of the day.

Jon:  Then you’ll freeze your ass off.

Jon:  Which would be a shame.

Dany:  AHA!  So we’re going to be outside?  Noted.

Jon:  Dammit Dany!

Jon tucked his phone away, out of sight, determined to get at least *some* work done before lunch, and he definitely couldn’t let her wheedle any more information out of him.  He’d already begged off dinner this evening, needing a little more time to prepare, to make sure things were in place as best he could manage.

She was a tricky little thing. She’d already spent dinner on Tuesday and the entirety of his laundry lesson Wednesday alternately teasing him and trotting out every trick in her lawyerly arsenal to break him like a hostile witness.

One more night of that and he’d crack: he knew it.

It was going to be hard enough focusing on work when all he could do now was think about her wearing nothing but a trench coat.

________

Winter in the Westerlands, wasn’t as a rule, especially chilly, but when Saturday morning dawned cold and clear Jon felt his excitement growing.

Warm weather wouldn’t suit at all for what he had planned.

He had several texts waiting from Sansa and Arya, and one from Edd, who’d talked to Ros about the next part of Jon’s great plan, his Secret Santa extravaganza, and wanted to assure him that his wife was firmly on board.

He answered all of them, then turned off his notifications, whistling for Ghost and jingling the dog’s leash.

Jon made quick work of their morning walk, making sure he took a different route so he wouldn’t run into Dany unexpectedly.

He wanted today to be perfect.

He needed to stick to his plan.

He’d told her he’d pick her up at 10:00 a.m. sharp, which meant by 9:45 she’d be ready and fussing about, anxiously waiting for him to show up.

Jon removed his black wool coat from the coat rack, his youth in the cold climates of his childhood leaving him well-acclimated to the wintry nip in the air.

Ghost stared in his usual way, likely picking up on the waves of  nervous excitement rolling through Jon.

It was nervous excitement or he was going to vomit. Or both.

“Wish me luck, boy!”

Ghost barked, then turned tail and headed for Jon’s study.

Jon gave a last glance at his reflection in the mirror by the door.

“Don’t fuck it up,” he told himself, and grabbed his keys, bound for Dany’s.

---------

He pulled his jeep up to her curb, ready to hop out and head to her doorstep, when her front door flew open. A silver streak skipped down the steps, raced down the walk, and was letting herself into his car before he could exit the vehicle.

“Hello!”  She was especially cheerful today, her hair a riotous mess of curls that tumbled down her back, a red knit cap jammed down onto her head, and a thick, downy red coat protecting her from a cold Jon hardly felt.  She buckled her belt, and sat back against the passenger seat, folding her hands in her lap primly.  “Are you going to drive faster than fifteen miles an hour in this thing?”

Jon furrowed his brow and frowned sourly. “That’s it.”  He pointed at the sidewalk, trying not to snicker when she looked at him with wide shocked eyes.  “Out.”  When she just stared at him, clearly trying to discern if he was actually serious, he grinned.  “That was too easy, Dany.  You’re off your game today.”

She crossed her arms across her chest, her gloved hands flexing as she tried her hardest to scowl, though the smile wouldn’t quite leave her lips.  “Mean.”

“You’re pretending to pout.” In the face of the truth, she grinned, full and bright, her frown melting away.

Dany gripped his forearm with her hand, squeezing with slight force.  “And you’re pushing your luck.  Now drive,” she said, “and let’s try to go the speed limit on our way to…,” she trailed off, eyebrows raised expectantly.

“You’ll see when we get there.”

Jon smiled at her irritated huff, but her displeasure didn’t reach her eyes, and she finally relented, twisting her hands together excitedly.  “I’m intrigued to see what you have planned, Jon Snow.”

He started the car, equally intrigued, to see if he’d gotten this right.

One perfect day for Daenerys Targaryen.

---------

He drove them to Casterly Rock proper, navigating the maze of side streets and shopping malls, every storefront glittery and glowing with bright, festive displays now that Thanksgiving had past.

Jon glanced at Dany, staring out the window, her face only visible in the reflection he could just make out.  She smiled, her eyes wide with wonder.

“Don’t get much Christmas in Pentos, I take it?”

She twisted to look at him, when he spoke, her smile faltering a bit as she thought for a moment.  “Not like this,” she said, and gave him a childlike twist of her lips, bouncing in her seat.  “Not at all like this.”

Jon said nothing, giving her only a mysterious smile and taking a sip of his coffee.

“What about Winterfell?”

She was ignoring the view, now, and focused on him.

“If we were in the North, there’d already be three feet of snow and we’d be making this trip by dogsled, probably.”  Jon let out a humorless chuckle.  “’Course, in the North, it snows in the summer, too.”

Her brow wrinkled adorably, as she assessed him with new eyes.  “No wonder you aren’t even wearing gloves.  You must be part yeti.  Not even a hat!”  She giggled when he pursed his lips at her, and narrowed his eyes.

“You get used to it,” he commented, his eyes straying to the road, their first destination approaching.  “But I suppose every family is different.  My aunt and uncle preferred more *austere* celebrations.  Nothing tacky, or garish.  Everything matching, coordinated, exactly how Aunt Cat wanted it.”  He sighed, pushing away the more unpleasant  memories of his childhood in the Stark house, trying to conjure up a few more enjoyable ones.  “But,” he continued, with forced cheeriness, “there are certainly plenty of places in the North where Christmas practically explodes on every square inch of space.”

Now it was her turn to frown, as he wheeled the Jeep around and found a spot relatively close to the store he’d been tipped off about by Grey at his last poker game, as his friend had been bemoaning being dragged here by Missandei to find suitable apparel for his fiancée’s holiday office party.

“Do you ever miss it?”  He tilted his head at her question as he switched off the motor, unlatching his seatbelt while she did the same. “The North,” she clarified, “your home.”

Jon shook his head, shrugging slightly.  “Maybe for awhile, when I was younger.”  He began to chuckle as she continued to peer at him, her amethyst gaze never wavering from him, even as they both stepped out of the car.  “But at my advanced age the fog of memory is making things far less clear...”

She hummed in response, coming to stand beside him on the curb, her eyes lingering on the signage at the front of the store.  “Kinvara’s,” she intoned, trying to peer through the snowy scene that had been painted on the wide, plate glass windows to see what was inside.  “Hardly a helpful store name. It could be candy store or a brothel.”

He chuffed a breath, pocketing his keys and giving her a half-smile.  “Are you at all capable of being surprised, or do you need to spoil yourself on everything?”  He already knew the answer, but his playful chiding hit it’s mark, as she crossed her arms and tried to glare at him unsuccessfully.

“I have an inquisitive mind, Jon Snow.”  She tried, he could tell, to glare, but her curiosity was getting the best of her and she struggled to maintain her offended act.  “It’s one of my best traits.”

Jon shook his head.  “You’re nosy, you mean.  A horrible, nosy pervert.”

She grinned, so wide it must’ve made her cheeks hurt, and to his surprise, reached out and grabbed his hand, lacing her fingers through his and squeezing.  She leaned in and whispered, “That’s the best kind of pervert, Jon.” She then tugged on his hand to pull him into the store.  “Now let’s go, grumpy, the suspense is killing me.”

Bells above the door signaled their entrance, Jon allowed Dany to pull him into the warmth of the rather strange establishment, and they were immediately beset by the only other person there, Kinvara herself judging by the name tag the red-haired woman wore.

“Greetings,” she said smoothly, eyeing them both before giving them a small, strange smile.  “How may I be of service?”

Dany looked to him, and so did the odd Kinvara, and Jon laughed nervously.  “We’re here for your ugliest Christmas sweaters, if you please.”

The silver-haired woman beside him let out a squeal so loud he thought his ear might bleed, squeezing his hand so tight it threatened his circulation.  “REALLY?”  She looked so thrilled that her enthusiasm was instantly contagious, and he laughed and nodded as her eyes danced around the store.

“Aye,” he said, as Kinvara watched them with amusement, “but there’s a catch.”

She laughed, her eyes twinkling, now oblivious to their audience.  “Oh, this I’ve got to hear.”

He raised a finger, pointing at her, trying to muster his most serious expression.  “You’re picking my sweater, and I’m picking yours.  So be forewarned,” he teased, as she grew even more gleeful, almost dancing around in anticipation, “you can pick whatever you want, but I will have my revenge for whatever embarrassment you decide to inflict upon me.”

“This is the best day EVER!”  Even Kinvara laughed lightly at Dany’s excitement, and the woman raised an arm to gesture grandly to the corner of the store that housed her rather overflowing selection.

“Right this way, then,” the woman said, the plastic Christmas lights around her neck flickering on and off as she led them to the racks.

--------

Jon had known Dany would most certainly go out of her way to find the most hideous, wince-inducing sweater she could possibly find for him.

He’d prepared himself for it, knowing how teasing him thoroughly entertained her, and if he were perfectly honest he didn’t exactly hate the way her entire face lit up when she thought she’d nailed him with an awful joke, or particularly focused jest.

But today, she was really trying to outdo herself.

She pulled another sweater from the men’s rack, flashing it at him to gauge his reaction.

He’d prepared himself for this, too, and was trying his level best to show indifference to each one she showed, not daring to let on which he’d find the most embarrassing.

This one, blue with an enormous reindeer buck on the front, with the word ‘HORNY’ stitched underneath, was enough to make him duck his head for a moment and let out a short, harsh breath.

“Really, Dany?”

She let out a loud, whooping laugh and handed the sweater over to Kinvara’s waiting hands.  “That’s a contender,” she told other woman in a loud, stage whisper, before giving him a knowing smile.  “Aren’t you having any luck, Jon?”

He just stared at her, stone-faced, desperately trying not to give himself away.  “I’ve already picked yours, nosy.”  He cleared his throat and straightened, gesturing to the sweater folded over his arm.  “Unlike you, I enjoy surprises, and I’m not spoiling this one by showing it to you until after I’ve bought it.”

She let out a mocking gasp, her eyes flying to Kinvara’s.  “See that?”  She pretended to be disgusted and shook her head, her hands returning to the racks.  “Time to bring out the big guns, I suppose.  He’s not playing fair at all.”

Kinvara studied him, almost long enough that he felt disconcerted by the woman’s attention, but then she smiled deviously and pulled Dany to another rack, their backs to him as she pulled a sweater out.

“Might I recommend this one?”  The shop owner’s voice was perfectly bland, but when Dany peeked at him over her shoulder, her eyes full of devilment, he knew he was in for something absolutely horrifying.

“It’s *perfect*,” she replied, answering the woman but her eyes steady on Jon’s.  “I’ll take it.”

She had the sweater off the hanger and in her hands more quickly than he’d anticipated, and he wasn’t even able to sneak a peek at what was on the front before she marched up to the front to pay, with Jon and Kinvara trailing behind.

“How bad is it?”  Kinvara just smiled at Jon’s worried whisper.

“You’ll see, sir.  You’ll see.”  Stepping behind the register, the woman rang up Dany’s choice discreetly, and when Jon made to pay Dany shooed his hand away brusquely.

“Oh, no, Jon, believe me, this is likely the best purchase I’ll ever make.”  She swiped her card, finally meeting his eyes, and he very nearly kissed her right then and there, but she turned abruptly to enter her pin, his chance spoiled.

He turned, when it was his turn to pay, shielding the sweater he’d picked for her from her relentlessly prying gaze, Kinvara’s lips twisting in amusement when she saw what Jon had chosen.

“A bold choice,” she remarked, and as she bagged the item he risked a look at Dany, whose face was a mask of intense curiosity.

Bouncing on her toes and grabbing his hand again, as naturally as though they’d always done it, they headed back to his jeep, climbing in and settling into their seats before looking at each other and laughing.

“Who goes first?”  Dany could barely speak, her voice trembling with excitement that practically poured off her, her hands crinkling the plastic sack in her lap as she flexed her fingers around it.  Whatever she’d chosen, he was certain it was going to make him blush like a fool, which tended to be her end goal.

“Hand it over,” he said grimly, bracing himself for his fate as he set aside his own bag and took the one she had been clutching, taking a deep breath and making a show of letting it out slowly as he gave her a wary look.  “How grumpy will this make me?”

She wheezed out a laugh, one hand clapping over her mouth as she twisted in the passenger seat to face him, ready to enjoy the view.  “Oh, very,” she managed, “probably very grumpy, now hurry up, I can’t wait to see the look on your face!”

Steeling himself, he parted the plastic, his hands grasping the thick knit and pulling the sweater out, his face falling incrementally as more of it was revealed.  His breath whooshed out loudly as he spread it across the steering wheel, a whine rising in his throat, unbidden.

“Oh, god, Dany.”  He screwed up his face, as though he were about to cry, but inwardly he was delighted she’d gone for it, not really doubting that she would but pleased nonetheless that she had.  It was truly hideous, a rooftop scene with a decidedly nude Santa, wearing only a hat and leaning on his side, with a gift strategically placed to preserve his modesty.  In bold lettering, the sweater proclaimed ‘I’ve got a big package for you!’, and though he’d browsed the store’s online inventory the night before, to prepare for any eventuality, seeing it in the flesh was a new exercise in garish Christmas vulgarity.

She nearly purred in delight, and he would’ve killed to hear that same throaty moan without all their damned clothes in the way.  “Oh, this is so good, absolutely worth every penny!”  Her shoulders were shaking, and when he looked back at her she was wiping a mirth-induced tear from the corner of her eye.  “Isn’t it awful?”

He wagged his brows at her, dropping her sweater, still in the bag, into her lap.  “You might not be laughing long, pervert.  Have a gander at that.”

Slowly, she pulled the sweater free, draping it on the dashboard in front of her as she crowed with delight, looking between Jon and the sweater with such unbridled glee that he shoved every doubt he’d had about whether this part of the day would be a good idea out the bloody window where it belonged.

There, set against a festive pattern of green and red stripes, in white, bold letters, Dany’s sweater proclaimed that she, the wearer, was surely ‘Santa’s Favorite Ho’, and she started laughing so hard and so long that she appeared to be struggling to breathe.

“Jon!”  She fought valiantly to contain herself, at least enough to speak, but it was several loud moments, her shoulders shaking with laughter, before she could scrape together the words.  “Oh, it’s perfect!”  Her face was red as a cherry, her eyes wet and warm when she finally managed to open them from the squint she so often had when she was consumed with merriment.  “I love it!”

She hugged it to her chest, closing her eyes and smiling so softly to herself that he was tempted to take her to a jeweler’s and demand she pick out a ring and marry him, so that he’d be the only one to see her like she was right now.  

Not that she’d require it, not that he did either, but he was convinced Daenerys Targaryen was the kind of woman that, once you had her, all of her, you never let her go.

He added the notion to his list of maybes to be pondered later.

“Jon,” she breathed, still chuckling lightly, “you realize what we have to do now, don’t you?”

Get married, he thought, and have lots of children with terrible eyesight—

A tempting proposition, but probably not appropriate for this particular outing.

Besides, he knew where she was headed, and he let out a groan she no doubt wanted to hear, trying to sound as put-out as he could.  “You want to fucking wear these, don’t you?”

She nodded, adamantly, and he sighed, shrugging off his jacket and motioning with his chin for her to do this same.

“I was afraid you were going to say that,” he grumped, as he pulled his sweater on.

--------

Jon bore the strange looks their sweaters garnered, particularly his, as they fetched hot chocolates piled high with whipped cream;  his heart thudded heavily in his chest with swiftly increasing hunger when Dany swiped her thumb across his upper lip to fetch a streak of white.  When she sucked it into her own mouth he knew he allowed his gaze to flit from her wet thumb to her lips far longer than a friend ought to.

She smirked, and didn’t seem to mind at all.

Their next stop, Quaithe’s Holiday Emporium, rendered her wide eyed and bubbling over with enthusiasm, her gaze flitting from shelves overloaded with glittering garlands and gilded pine cones to stiff plastic Santas with stoned expressions.

Fetching a cart, he ushered her into a maze of aisles and towering displays. “The mission, Daenerys, is ornaments,” he explained.

That little wrinkle of confusion between her brows was undeniably cute, and she looked around at the rows piled high with box after box of ornaments of every size and shape imaginable.

“Jon,” she said, a genuine edge of embarrassment in her voice, “I haven’t really got a tree to speak of.”

He offered a disaffected shrug.  “I might’ve heard as much.  Have you never really decorated your own tree?” Starting to meander past snow globes and tree skirts, he clenched the cart handle, pushing passed barely contained holiday chaos, giving her no choice but to follow.

She strolled beside him, befuddled, until a single eyebrow arched, indicating that she likely had resolved her confusion.

“You rotten snoop!”  She smacked his arm lightly, but he kept his gaze trained straight ahead, trying to avoid crashing his metal cart into the sea of shoppers milling the aisles of the big warehouse store.  “You’ve had your cousins hard at work, haven’t you?”  She grumbled at his side, but when he glanced over she flashed him a small, sweet smile.  She wrinkled her nose at him, trying to pinch his side, her fingers only finding purchase on the thick sweater and missing skin.  “I know when I’m being worked over, you know.”

“Do you?”  He made a show of leaning on the handle and narrowing his eyes at her.  “Well, it’s only fair, since you seem to have made my employee file your personal recreational reading material.”

She had the decency to flush, but waved her hand in the air dismissively, her eyes searching the signs on each endcap they passed.  “It’s my *job*, Jon.”  She grabbed the end of the cart, and pulled until he turned onto an aisle filled with silver and gold ornaments.  “Oh, look.  Aren’t they beautiful?”

“Sure,” he said, more focused on her and the way she would approach a box here and there, stroking her finger along the plastic, biting her lip in consideration.  “If you like them, get them.”

She stood in the middle of the aisle, squinting at him, puzzling away again, her mouth falling open to no doubt ask another question.  “I’m not telling you anything else.”  She attempted to frown at his words, but lost the battle, her mouth twisting into an indulgent smile as she bounced on her heels.

“You asked for it,” she warned, and began removing box after box from the shelves. Soon the cart began to fill, with boxes of many sizes, shapes and colors: frosted silver glass spheres, others dipped in gold glitter, some with lovely etchings of reindeer in motion, others with snowflakes scattered over the delicate surface.

Dany then marched to the front of the cart, grabbing the metal firmly, and pulled.  “Now colors,” she declared, and stepped up on the metal that rounded the bottom.  Hitching a ride, she pointed him to the next aisle, letting him push both her and her ornaments around the store.

She picked boxes of red stars and green, shiny pinecones, and package after package of braided gold garland.  She grinned at the little red cardinals with tiny clips on their feet, selecting several and laying them gingerly atop her stacks of boxes.

Finally, after they’d scoured most of the store, he flashed her a half-smile.  “You’re forgetting something.”

Eyeing the contents of the cart, she sighed.  “I don’t know, Jon, to be fair this looks to be enough for *several* trees.”

Jon tipped his head at her.  “Lights, Dany,” he chided teasingly.  “You haven’t chosen any lights.”

She climbed back up on the end of the cart, smiling winsomely at him.  “Onward, then, Jon Snow.  Santa’s Favorite Ho requires lights.”

Dany remained perched on the cart until they arrived at aisles lines vast arrays of Christmas lights, examining them with the intense focus he might apply towards, oh, purchasing a vehicle.

“Which is better,” she asked, reading the sales label closely, “the ones that are already multi-color, or the ones that can change color on their own?”

Jon scratched at his jaw, coming to peer over her shoulder at the choices.  “Well,” he said, noticing how she started when he spoke, wondering if he was standing too close, “the standard multi-colors are a classic choice.  But the programmable ones,” he tapped a box of them with his finger, “you can have those set to music, or whatever you like.”

“The programmable ones cost a lot more.” She straightened, and he did as well, drinking in how lovely she looked when she was indecisive.  

“Well, you are a Christmas light virgin,” he said.

She clucked her tongue at him and scowled, screwing up her face until he laughed.  “Maybe you ought to play it safe, Dany.  Nothing too wild.”

He knew his comments would push her to choose what she truly wanted; he was gratified to see he was right when her hands shot out and grabbed several boxes of the programmable lights.  

“I live on the edge, Jon Snow.  Risk is my middle name.”

Jon narrowed his eyes at her.  “I thought you didn’t *have* a middle name,” recalling how she’d bemoaned that state of affairs when she’d told him several months ago.

Dany sniffed.  “That’s beside the point.”  Surveying their purchases, she looked at him with raised brows.  “I think that’s enough damage for one day.”

He rubbed at his jaw with his hand, looking over her selections, throwing her a quizzical look.  “Are you sure?  No massive inflatable reindeer?  No light-up candy canes for your front walk?”

She giggled, trying again to pinch his side and succeeding this time, her laughter growing louder when he danced away from her questing hand.  “Maybe next year,” she said, linking her arm through his when he grabbed at the cart handle once more.  “Maybe next year.”

---------

By the time they’d stuffed Dany’s enormous load of Christmas cheer into the back of his Jeep, it was nearly 1:00 p.m., and his stomach was threatening to eat itself.  Loudly.

Jon found a burger joint around the corner that was predictably packed for a Saturday, and inwardly he groaned when they got in line, the chaos and crowds something he’d forced himself to become re-accustomed to, when he’d re-entered civilian life.

Still, sometimes the commotion was harder to tune out than other times.

He was gritting his teeth, counting backwards from 100 in his head as they neared the lunch counter, when a small hand once again joined itself to his.  When he turned his head, she examined him closely, her face absurdly close to his, and he was fairly sure he was going to get them both arrested for public indecency when she leaned up to whisper, “Too crowded?”

Jon shook his head, something innately soothing about the feel of her palm wrapped around his, and tightened his fingers against hers.  “It’s fine,” he whispered back.  “But I’ve got bad news, Dany.”  When her pretty brow creased with worry, he flashed her a grin.  “You’re buying.”

Her eyes fell to his extremely inappropriate sweater, then slowly travelled back to lock eyes with his, and she gave him such a cocksure grin that he thought an arrest for public indecency might not be so bad.  

“Just so you know,” she said, standing on her tiptoes, her lips barely brushing his earlobe, “when I pay, I absolutely expect my date to put out.”

Casting aside the images that flashed through his mind, and thankful this godawful sweater was long enough to provide some cover for the way he began to harden at the thought, he shook his head slowly at her, dragging his eyes back to the menu.  “I suspected you only came with me today because of my body.”

“Yes,” she said with an exaggerated nod, “I think it would look great in the back of my van.”

Whatever Dany meant to say next died on her lips when the cashier smacked her gum. She gave them odd looks as she took in their sweaters, and blithely entered their orders into her console, assigning them a number and shooing them away to the end of the counter.

“C’mon,” Dany exclaimed, pulling at his hand and weaving her way through the tables to a booth by the window.  “Over here!”

She motioned for him to sit, scampering off to find napkins and condiments, and he leaned his elbow on the table, watching her as she happily made her way back, her hands full.

Then, he sat stock still, a little shocked, when she slid into the booth beside him, her thigh brushing his, and nudged him with her shoulder.

“What’s next, Jon?  Going to take me to see Santa, maybe we’ll sit on his lap and find out which list we’re on this year?”  He shook his head, chuckling at her earnest question, reveling in her answering grin as she twisted a paper napkin around her finger.

“I’m not telling.  And no need for that, I think we both know which list you’re on.” 

She leaned back at his declaration, crossing her arms and pursing her lips.  “Rude.  I’ll have you know I’m extremely nice.  Almost all the time.”

Jon held up his hand, and began to tick off the more egregious events he’d borne witness to, in the time he’d known her.  “You committed a very hilarious act of vandalism.”  He held up another finger.  “You made a grown man cry in a parking lot.”  Another finger went up.  “At the Halloween party you mixed the bowl of M&Ms with the bowl of Skittles.”

“Hang on!”  She frowned at him fiercely, jabbing a finger at him in the air.  “You dared me to do that!”

He nodded, because he absolutely had, and fought the urge to snicker.  “True.”  He raised his hand again, ticking off another finger, watching her closely.  “You put Stannis’s stapler in Jell-o last month.”

“Jon Snow,” she gasped, “you gave me that damned box of Jell-o, you weasel!”  Her mocking glare grew even fiercer as she stabbed her finger in the air at him accusingly.  "AND you stole it off his desk.  Don't try to lay the blame at my feet for that incident, mister."

He blew out a breath, giving a nod to the clerk who brought over their food, waiting until it had all been delivered and they were alone again before continuing.  “You’ve clearly made me into a deviant.”  He looked askance, pretending to ponder.  “I guess we’re both on the naughty list this year.”

Dany hung her head for a moment in pretend shame, skinning the wrapper from her straw and stirring around in her milkshake.  “Well,” she said finally, scooting a little closer and pressing her leg more firmly against his, “in times like these, all we can do is embrace our truth. Naughty through and through.”

She lifted the straw, letting her tongue curl around the end, licking the sweet treat from the plastic with relish before she turned her head to face him.  “Don’t you think?”

He stammered for a moment, his thoughts only on what that tongue might do to him if she were feeling particularly naughty.  “I suppose you’re right.”  He unwrapped his burger, surreptitiously checking his watch.  Sam and Pyp ought to have completed the favor he asked, but he hadn’t received a text from them yet, and he hoped they weren’t behind schedule.

When he looked up again, he made a thoroughly disgusted sound, as she swirled a french fry through her milkshake then ate it.  “Oh my god, Dany.  You monster.”

She stared at him, silver curls falling in a gentle cascade over her shoulder, and he couldn’t stop himself from reaching out to sweep them back, before they dipped into the milkshake.  “It’s delicious, Jon,” she murmured, dipping another into the chocolate and presenting it to him.  “Try it.”

Jon shook his head emphatically, grimacing.  “Absolutely not.”

Dany brought the fry nearer to his face.  “Open up.”

“Never.”  He tried to lean back, but she only brought it closer.

“Do it,” she urged, “I dare you.”  She made the saddest pout he’d ever seen. “Trust me.”

They stared at each other, until he finally relented.  “Fine,” he managed to get out, before she shoved the fry in his mouth.  He chewed, slowly, swallowing heavily and giving her a half-hearted smile.  “Alright,” he breathed out, “I guess it’s not that bad.”  It wasn’t *good* necessarily, but it wasn’t as stomach turning as it looked, so he was at least thankful for that.

“There,” she said primly, with an elegant tilt of her head, “you see?  Stick with me, grandpa.”  She laughed quietly as he took a bite of his burger and glared at her.  “I would never lead you astray.  You just have to have an open mind, that’s all.”

He swallowed his bite, watching her as she tucked into her own burger, wondering if proposing to someone at a greasy burger joint was as tacky as it seemed in his head.  “Whatever you say, Dany.”

She grinned and settled against him, content.

---------

“Cover your eyes, Dany.”  Upon inspection, his eyes slipping from the roadway to the passenger seat, she had obeyed, though she huffed mightily.

“I’m not going to peek, honestly.”  She kept her hands cupped over her eyes, but was squirming in her seat, like Hedwig did just before she got to go on her evening walk, a bundle of nerves and excitement.  “But this is ridiculous.  Don’t you trust me, Jon?”

He laughed under his breath, heaving a quiet sigh of relief when her house pulled into view, the item he’d been hoping to see leaning against the gate.

“Not one little bit, Dany.”  He pulled to a stop at the curb, killing the engine.  “Keep them covered, peeker.”  He hopped out, rounding the jeep to open her door, unlatching her belt and guiding her out, his hands on her shoulders.  He told her when to step up, so that she wouldn’t trip over the concrete, and pulled her to stand in front of her place.  “Okay, open them.”

When she did, he heard her small gasp, watched the way her eyes darted between him and the tree he’d sent Pyp and Sam after, the tree stand wedged beside it, and waited for her to say something.

She didn’t speak, rather she continued staring at the tree, mouth open, until she covered her face with both gloved hands.

Perhaps it was too much. He was coming on too strong. He’d gone way overboard with all this, trying to give her the sort of Christmas experience he’d been told she’d never had.  She’d told Sansa that her mother had never allowed real trees in their ‘estate,’ being far too messy, and not worth the trouble.

He could smell it, even from a few feet away, the scent that reminded him of snow covered hills and cold wintry mornings in Winterfell.  Aunt Catelyn had killed his appreciation of them, usually tasking him with sweeping up the endless needles before he could go out and play with his cousins.  But now, he thought, he could come to appreciate them again, seeing them through her eyes.

Problem was she wasn’t saying anything.

At all.

“Dany?”  He cursed how unsure he sounded, trying, as Arya had urged, to be confident, to go with the flow of the day, to not overthink things.

Slowly, she lowered her hands, and faced him; he was mortified to see that her eyes were wet.

“You hate it,” he said in a rush, shoving his hands into the pockets of his jeans and wincing.  “It’s alright, I can run it over to my place, it was presumptuous of me, I just thought…”

“This is,” she said, her voice wavering slightly, “the sweetest thing anyone has ever done for me.”  She stood there, staring at him with watery eyes, and then, in a rush, she was in his arms, locking her hands around the small of his back, anchoring herself to him like ballast to a balloon.

Without hesitating, he mirrored her motion, the feel of her flush against him something he worried he wouldn’t be able to savor for too long;  as starved as he was for the feel of her pressed against him, food and water would eventually be required. 

She sniffed against his chest, then leaned her head back to look up at him.  “You’re the best.”  She sniffled again, grinning brightly, then grimaced in mock horror as she glanced at his awful sweater.  “Let’s take it in before I ruin your amazing sweater.”

She leaned up, before he could extricate himself from her arms, and pressed a lingering kiss to his cheek, setting his skin on fire at the brush of her lips.  “Thank you, Jon.”

All he wanted to do was tell her then and there that he loved her and he only wanted to assure her happiness forever, and that she could definitely thank him by pressing those gorgeous pillowy lips against his until he couldn’t tell where he stopped and she started. But such a request seemed a bit forward for a first date. 

“You might not be thanking me the first time Hedwig brings it down,” he said, mourning the loss of her warmth and her body against his when she reluctantly pulled away and smiled, clapping her hands together, giddy as she eyed the tree that stood taller than she did.  

--------

Daenerys Targaryen of Pentos decorated Christmas trees like she’d been born to the task, instructing him exactly where to hang the higher ornaments, eyeing the spacing and color distribution to get it *just right*, almost beside herself when he finally got the star put on top.

It was beginning to grow dark by the time they finished, but as she stood back, surveying their work, almost rapturous, he found it was easy to ignore his stomach as it began to growl.

He walked to the wall, grabbing the plug for her lights.  “Ready?”

Dany’s smile was so wide he thought her cheeks must ache.  “I was born ready.  Do it!”

He plugged them in, and her living room was filled with bright lights and colors, some preprogrammed mix of flickering that had already been set.  Hedwig scampered over, and Dany scooped her up, holding the little dog up to sniff at a random branch.

“Oh,” she sighed happily, “it’s wonderful!”

It was, he thought to himself.  She’d taken her mish-mash of selections and made her tree beautiful, but she was more beautiful still, with the lights changing and playing across her delicate features, and he found it impossible to look at her handiwork any more, captivated by the woman herself.

She looked askance at him, and he realized he’d been staring too long, and cleared his throat, shuffling his feet a little at being caught.  “Make sure you keep it watered,” he said, leaning down to check the level.  “They can be finicky little shits.”

Dany put Hedwig on the floor, walking over to him slowly and biting at her lip, staring up at him through her lashes.  “You’re really good at dates.”  She glanced down almost shyly, as though she’d caught herself, and looked at anything but him for a moment before trying to a more nonchalant air.  “For the record.”

He did the same, because there was the plan, of course, and the plan didn’t include confessing his undying love for her by this tree.  Not yet, anyway.  “Yes,” he said airily, “I’m pretty much an expert.”

She gave a little cackle and smacked lightly at his arm, brushing past him to grab her phone off the counter.  “Don’t go getting a swelled head, or I’ll have to grease the door to get you out of here.”  She waved her phone at him.  “Do you want pizza?  I’m starving.”

He pretended to consider, one more destination still in mind, if she was willing.  “We could,” he drawled, “but what if I told you there was a place near here where we could get passable bar food *and* listen to awful Christmas karaoke?”

“Good grief,” she spluttered, pretending to be offended, “why didn’t you lead with that, Jon?  But I’m not singing,” she said, waving a finger at him.  “Heckling only.”

He spread his hands, his smile growing as he looked at her, with exasperation.  “Naturally, Dany.”

“I’m in,” she said, crossing the distance between them and giving his arm a squeeze before grabbing her coat.  “Let’s go!”

--------

Tormund’s had a fair crowd, but it was early, still, by bar standards at least, and Jon was relieved to see the booths in the back were still available.  The giant bearded man gave him a cheerful wave, quickly chased by a nod of appreciation when he spotted the petite, silver-haired beauty who’d tucked herself against his side when they’d entered.

The small stage was ringed with a crowd of what looked like near-drunk party goers, all loudly whooping as one of their number painfully bleated out “The Little Drummer Boy.” .

Dany beamed as they slid into the booth, sidling right up next to him as she examined the laminated menu, their dark corner barely lit by the small sconces mounted on the walls.  Her glasses perched near the tip of her nose as she read, her lips moving silently as she perused the selections. “Any recommendations?”

Jon rested his arm along the back of the booth, wondering if he’d executed the move as casually as he’d hoped, gratified to see her immediately tuck herself under it.  “Well,” he said, “it’s all reasonably edible, but the shepherd’s pie won’t kill you.”

“Consider me sold,” she said dryly, sniggering as she flipped the menu over to look at the drink options.

“My, my, my,” came a loud booming voice before them, and Jon looked up to see Tormund himself standing there, notepad in hand, looking between the two of them and looking disturbingly pleased.  “If it isn’t Jon Snow.”  Looking about, he plopped down heavily at the edge of the seat nearest Dany, and gave her his most beguiling smile, which to anyone else might have looked fairly frightening.  “And who might this lovely lady be?”

Jon fought the urge to groan at the man’s obviousness as Dany extended her hand gamely, giving Tormund what appeared to be a very firm handshake.  “Daenerys Targaryen.  And you are?”

Tormund straightened, smiling appreciatively at Dany’s likely firm grip.  “Tormund Giantsbane, at your service.  Welcome to my humble establishment.”  He tossed his pad down onto the table, pen at the ready.  “You lovebirds ready to order?”

Now Jon did groan, staring daggers at Tormund, while Dany giggled at his side.  “Knock it off, Tormund.”  He glanced down at the menu, a cursory move.  “I’ll have the club sandwich and fries.”  He looked over at Dany, who smiled at the man and clasped her hands together on the table before her.

“I’ve heard the shepherd’s pie is good.” 

Tormund nodded proudly.  “Best in town, it is.  And to drink?”  He flipped the menu back to Dany, pointing out something in particular.  “Might I recommend the ‘Silent Night’?”

Dany tipped her head to the side quizzically.  “Why do you call it that?”

Tormund gave a loud guffaw.  “Because after you drink it,” he whispered loudly, leaning in, as though they were conspiring together, “you won’t be able to speak.”

Dany laughed deviously, risking a look at Jon and running her tongue along her bottom lip.  “We’ll take two.” 

Tormund clapped a heavy hand on her shoulder.  “A girl after my own heart.”  He took their order down, standing and pausing to give Jon a leering grin.  “Nice sweater, Snow.”

“Fuck off, Tormund,” Jon answered, blowing out a breath, smiling in spite of himself.  He at Dany, bringing his hand down on her shoulder to pluck at her coat.  “You know,” he remarked with a pout, as Tormund walked away, “to be fair, you really ought to lose the jacket.  I shouldn’t have to bear the burden of these sweaters alone.”

Her eyes widened, and she pulled away, shrugging off her coat hastily before she snuggled back into his side.  “You’re right.  How rude of me.”

Jon just rolled his eyes, letting out a heavy sigh.  “I fear I’m used to it by now.”

Dany craned her head to look at him.  “What a baby,” she muttered, dulling the sting of her jest by threading their fingers together.  She had done this a few times today and Jon had done his level best not to over think it—a formidable task for someone who made overthinking an art form.  Holding hands while they walked made it easier to keep pace with one another as they walked side by side.  Holding hands was a friendly way to demonstrate...friendship.

“Is this weird?”  She raised their joined hands, her eyes suddenly sharp and focused like a laser on his, her voice soft and almost tentative. “You can tell me if it’s weird, and only slightly hurt my feelings.”

He studied her, meeting her gaze directly. Jon’s free hand rose, and he rested his elbow on the table, drawing out the way he pretended to think, scratching at the back of his neck and he chewed on his bottom lip thoughtfully.  “Naah,” he finally said, laughing at the way she scowled at him for taking so long, “not weird.” 

His laughter died away as their drinks came, along with the loaf of bread Tormund always put out, big massive loaves that were simply meant to be torn off in chunks and consumed, like animals, the giant man always liked to say.

Dany eyed her shot glass of clear liquid, which Jon noted smelled *very* strongly of peppermint, a miniature candy cane sticking out and hanging over the side.

She raised her glass to her nose and recoiled.  “Fucking hell, I think I could run my car on this.”

Jon bared his teeth in a look that was more grimace than smile.  “Be careful with that.  He makes his own shit in the back, sneaks it in to cut corners.  It’s really strong.”  He looked on as she sniffed again at the shot glass, delicately, before nodding at him to raise his.

“Well, Risk is my middle name!”  She raised her glass in salute.

“Liar,” he answered, clinking his glass against hers.  “Cheers.”

They downed their drinks in one gulp, the liquid scorching it’s way down his throat and warming his stomach almost immediately; he gave a shudder as he pried his eyes open, to find Dany sitting there, primly licking her lips.

“Lightweight,” she said, leaning her head against his shoulder and pulling off a piece of bread.  “You should see what they drink in Pentos.”

-------

They were two more 'Silent Nights' each into the evening, and tucking into their food, Dany sneaking fries off his plate when she thought he wasn’t looking, when Tormund ambled over, scowling heavily.

“Hey Snow,” he mumbled, leaning down, bracing his arm on the back of the booth near Jon’s head.  “Red alert, near the stage.  Just thought you ought to know.”

Jon scoured his brain, now doused in peppermint liquor, trying to discern what the man meant.  When it crept in, his stomach sank, but for the first time in ages, since he’d found out she’d been fucking his friend behind his back and running up his credit card bills in the process, Jon couldn’t find a single ounce of hurt left inside him.

Now it was just mild discomfort, his eyes darting to Dany, who slid her hand to the edge of his plate and palmed another fry.  She didn’t look up until it was in her mouth, and she smiled even as she chewed.  “Too slow, Snow,” she said, smirking at him after she swallowed.  “What’s a red alert?”

Jon shifted in his seat, his senses pleasantly hazy, consumed by the way she slotted against him so perfectly, reluctant to spoil the mood.  He was shit at lying, though, so he brought his other hand up to fiddle with a napkin.  “He means my ex-girlfriend is here.”  He nocked his head towards the rowdy bar.  “Likely over there, I’m sure she’s probably good and shitfaced by now if he’s warning me.”

He hated the way she stiffened, thinking he’d just flushed the entire amazing day down the drain, but then, she leaned back, settling against the booth, and slipped her hand onto his thigh.  

“Poor thing,” she clucked her tongue, her fingers squeezing his thigh, and he looked down at her, wide-eyed.  Half of him hoped she’d pulled her wicked hand away, before she got them both into trouble, and the other half prayed to whatever gods were listening that she’d slide it up and he’d be left to wonder no more about how she felt.  “Some people just can’t handle their alcohol.” 

A pathetic patron staggered onto the stage and began butchering “The 12 Days of Christmas;”  Dany laughed loudly at the plaintive wail of ‘FIVE GOLD RIIIIIINGS’ that seemed to echo throughout the bar. “Many people,” she amended, stealing another fry and pointing it at him.  “Many people can’t handle their alcohol.”

They were nearly done, awaiting their final round of drinks before they called it a night, when Ygritte came stumbling over, teetering on towering heels, peering down her nose at him in that imperious way she always had.

He waited for it to come, that awful twist of betrayal in his gut, the hurt that had been so fresh and new years ago, but it was gone.  Now, there was just Dany’s hand on his thigh and her warmth at his side.  Now, when he saw her, he felt nothing at all.

“Well, well, if it isn’t Jon Snow!”  She was awfully loud, and Jon realized she was probably plastered, but she seemed to hold herself together well enough to take notice of Dany next to him. The redhead’s eyes narrowed as she stared at the woman tucked so closely against him.  “And you are?”

He wasn’t sure he’d ever seen such an icy, cool distaste in Dany’s eyes.  He could see in a flash what she must have been like to face in a courtroom, for despite her size the look she gave back to Ygritte was nothing short of formidable.  “I’m Daenerys.”

The hand on his thigh below the table slid a little higher, her grip growing firmer, as though she were teasing him and holding him in place all in one.

“Ygritte,” Jon ground out, struggling to be heard over the din as the singer on stage made his way towards the final day of Christmas.  He found himself struggling to dig deep, to muster as much civility as he could, knowing his ex would love nothing more than to make a scene.  She always did love that, big public displays of her distaste.  Once, in this very bar, unhappy with his Valentine’s Day plans, she’d tossed her drink on him.  Judging by her state of inebriation, Jon hoped this little visitation would be over quickly, before things got ugly.  “To what do we owe the pleasure?”

The redhead wobbled on her feet, ignoring him completely, her eyes never leaving Dany’s steely stare.  “Daenerys,” she repeated back coldly.  “What sort of bloody name is that?”

“An absolutely tremendous one,” Jon answered, his ire rising, alcohol loosening his tongue.  “If you’ll excuse us, though, we were in the middle of dinner.”  He waved a finger towards the group she’d come with, the rowdy party goers who were grouped at the stage, near the end of the bar, raising all sorts of ruckus.  “And I’m sure you’re in the middle of,” he paused, giving Dany a sidelong look, “whatever is going on over there.”

“Nice sweater, Jon.”  That edge in his ex’s voice, that told him she was looking down on him, finding him lesser than, as usual, crept in, and he clenched in jaw in an effort not to make a spectacle.  He would like to come back to Tormund’s at some point.  The way she looked between Jon and Dany, her eyes narrowed, crossing her arms across her chest even as she wobbled on her heels, was just about to push him to the point of saying some very unkind things. 

She focused on Dany, then, brazenly catty, bracing a hand on the table as she leaned in.  “If you’re sniffing around that trust fund of his, honey, I hate to break it to you,” she paused, her head lolling as she looked back to Jon, “but he’s the biggest fucking cheapskate you’ll ever meet.”

There is was, Jon thought, stiffening and letting out a sharp exhale.  That had been the redhead's biggest complaint, that Jon wouldn't spend the money he'd inherited as his dead mother's only heir, a little sliver of the Stark fortune that his grandfather had bequeathed him, when he'd passed.  He hadn't specifically told Dany about it, for this very reason.  He didn't think she was the type to let that sort of thing matter, but the woman before him now, drunk and belittling, had taught him a very valuable lesson when it came to making his tidy little trust fund known.  He didn't touch it, hadn't for years, had only tapped it to purchase the home he lived in.  A part of him had felt like it was the only part of his mother he had left, and there it sat, plunked in an investment portfolio, earning money as the years passed.  He wanted to let loose with a string of expletives, to get Ygritte *gone*, but then Dany stirred beside him.

The woman tucking into his side leaned in, suddenly, pressing a long, lingering kiss to his temple.  Her lips dropped, grazing the shell of his ear, and she hissed a whisper, barely loud enough for him to hear.  “Play along.”  He nodded imperceptibly, wondering what exactly she was up to.

Daenerys pulled up and away from him so smoothly he would never have guessed she was three shots into one of Tormund’s most potent drinks, and though Ygritte had half a head of height on her it was Dany who angled her chin up, smiling slightly as she stood and gazed steadily at the redhead.

“You know, we haven’t been properly introduced.  Silly me.  What was your name again?”

The redhead wobbled again, taking a step back, clearly surprised that Dany had moved to stand before her.  “Ygritte,” she bit out.

“I’m sorry, Ingrid, did you say?”  She sounded so awfully polite, as she deliberately misunderstood what the other woman was saying, that Jon had to bite the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing.

“Ygritte,” the redhead repeated, this time with a definite bite to her voice.  She was building a good head of steam on her anger, Jon could tell, but then she’d always been quick to get her back up.

Dany made a show of flicking her flowing silver curls over her shoulder, cupping a hand to her ear.  “It’s so *dreadfully* loud in here, Yvette, was that it?”

“Ygritte!”  This time it was nearly shouted, and Jon could see the way the taller woman’s hands shook with frustration.

“My apologies,” Dany replied, so calmly that it only served to make Ygritte look more foolish.  She extended a delicate hand, taking Ygritte’s in the sort of society handshake Jon had seen plenty of around Winterfell, when his uncle would throw his business parties, or Cat would have her ladies functions.  He might not have been born a high-society Stark, but he’d certainly grown up society-adjacent: he could see immediately how Dany was playing the woman.  “I’m Daenerys Targaryen.  It’s really such a pleasure to meet you.”

The falsity was delivered in such a sickly sweet voice that she left Ygritte little choice but to shake her hand, but then Ygritte gave a start, as though she’d been struck.  “Targaryen?”  She echoed Dany’s last name, squinting down to look at Dany more closely.

“Ah,” Dany said, with forced politeness, “of course you recognize it, you just aren’t sure where you know it from.  If I might suggest, once you stumble home and tuck yourself, alone, into your cold little bed, you check the tag on that dress you’re wearing.”  It was nice, Jon guessed, as far as those things went, a black cocktail dress that looked expensive.  “It’s from three seasons ago, but I’d know those lines anywhere.”

He watched with no small measure of amusement when Ygritte’s eyes widened, looking down at her dress before peering at Dany in confusion.  “You’re that Targaryen?”

Dany waved a hand, only the barest hint of a smile on her face, politeness falling away at last as she stared steadily at the redhead.  “My mother, sadly.  However, I can assure you I’ve a tidy little trust fund of my own.”  She giggled, swiveling her head to look at Jon, giving him the sort of full smile he’d come to love most, the kind where her eyes were nearly closed with the force of it.  “Is that what you’re after, Jon Snow, sniffing around for that Targaryen trust fund money?”  She flipped her hair over her shoulder again, leaning in drawing a line from Jon’s chest, up his neck, to the tip of his chin with her finger.  “And here I thought it was my body.”  Jon bit at the inside of his cheek, a strange relief flooding through his heart, though another part of him was beginning to throb at the prospect of the body lurking under that garish sweater she wore.

There was a plea in here eyes, to play along, and he couldn’t see any reason not to, throwing her a wink.  “It’s obviously both, Dany.”  His date seated herself again just as smoothly, sliding back against Jon with feline grace, finally looking again to Ygritte as though the woman were a mere afterthought.  For Jon, that was the absolute truth.

“But you’re right, Yvonne.  It is a nice sweater, isn’t it?  I think it will look absolutely smashing on my floor in the morning.”  Dany threw back her head and laughed when Jon’s eyes widened, nudging her knee against his under the table.  “Now, off you go!”  She waved her fingers as though she were trying to rid them of a rodent.  “I believe your friends are waiting and, as Jon said, we’re busy.”

When he finally managed to tear his eyes away from Dany, he glanced up, registering that Ygritte was still there, watching them.  He was numb to her now, he realized.  His skin was on fire from the feel of Dany’s lips pressed against him, something inside him blazing at the way she’d just dismantled the woman who’d been the cause of so much grief for him, and nothing else really mattered.  He moved his arm down, his hand falling on Dany’s shoulder and tugging her closer, where she curled up like a kitten, tucking her head under his chin, her eyes still on Jon’s ex who was silently fuming in front of their table.

“Always nice seeing you, Ygritte.”  He gave a wave with his free hand, before taking a sip of his drink and looking at the redhead expectantly.  “Enjoy your evening.”

-------

Dany insisted they each drink water, before their next round came, but one more round turned into several more. Tormund sent over a couple sticky toffee puddings; Jon took the hint that his friend wanted to make sure he was balancing his alcohol with food. He wasn’t drunk—merely pleasantly buzzed, floating on a cloud of contentment that was fueled by her close proximity. While her hand remained firmly on his thigh and his hand stroked  her shoulder, occasional twirling his fingers in her hair, they listened to Tormund perform a truly awful rendition of ‘Santa Baby’ that sent them both into fits of uncontrollable laughter.

Jon stirred his bourbon and coke, having declined anymore of Tormund’s suspiciously strong shots, and Dany had done the same, sipping at a vodka and cranberry concoction that she declared was still “festive”.  He wasn’t sure about that exactly, but it was hard to care with the way she had settled her lips near his ear, the noise level in the bar requiring such closeness in order for her to be heard.

“She’s watching.”  

He barely had a chance to understand what Dany meant when sharp teeth nipped at his earlobe, and he fought to quiet his moan at the sensation, arousal pulsing through him. Jon released a shuddering breath, slowly turning to peek at her, finding an impish smile on her face.  She loved to tease him, a fact he was well acquainted with, but tonight, the heady mix of his loosened inhibitions and her sudden boldness had him wondering what might happen if he gave her a dose of her own medicine.

It might be that she just wanted to aggravate his ex, though pinning down exactly why *that* might be only gave his partially-addled mind even more fuel, the realization that she was essentially marking her territory in front of Ygritte turning him on far more than it ought to.

She had no reason to be jealous of Ygritte, if that was even the case, but putting on a bit of a show to run his erstwhile girlfriend off for good seemed to be just the sort of cover that would allow him to indulge himself.

Just a little.

He shifted, glorying in the heat of her hand on his thigh; his own hand snaked from her shoulder to her waist, toying with the hem of her sweater.  “I think you’ve kept her from coming over for another chat.”  He leaned in, brushing the tip of his nose against hers, enjoying her apparent surprise, stiffening just a bit before she relaxed fully into side, her tongue giving a flick to the lobe of his ear again for good measure.

“Better safe than sorry,” she said, and that was all the warning he received before she fixed her mouth soundly to his neck, just below his ear, his eyes slamming shut as she suckled at the skin gently before releasing him with a quiet ‘pop’.  “She’s really awful.”

“Aye,” he agreed, his fingers now slipping under the fabric of her terrible, garish sweater, teasing the strip of skin he found between the shirt she wore under it and the waist of her jeans.  She gave a breathy moan, so quiet he would have missed it if she hadn’t been so near.  “You have no idea.  And, it should be noted, Dany,” he continued, lust clouding his mind as he struggled to find the right words, an almost impossible feat as he felt her tongue sneak out to lick discreetly against the spot she’d just claimed with her lips, “if you give me a hickey I’m definitely filing a complaint with HR.”

Dany snorted against his neck, the vibration tickling, and he shifted in his seat.  He drew back enough to look at her, watching as she glanced over in the vicinity of the bar before locking eyes with him.  “HR takes all such complaints very, very seriously, Jon.”  He tried not to laugh as she attempted to sound serious, solemn, even.  “Although, as your HR rep, I can assure you,” she whispered, leaning in so close that her lips nearly brushed his, “I would never administer a hickey where someone could see it.”

Her hand squeezed his thigh, her fingers digging in briefly before they began to draw circles against the rough denim fabric that separated his skin from hers.  “What am I,” she continued, “thirteen?  Give me a little credit.”

There was a challenge in her eyes, something hot and sparking that begged him to play with her, and he could do nothing but give in, the hand stroking against the soft skin of her side rising a little higher, pushing up the slick fabric of the shirt below her sweater and climbing slowly towards her ribs.  She blinked, slowly, something endlessly hungry transforming her face into a mask of predatory seduction.

He was harder than he’d ever recalled being, and he wasn’t sure he was going to make it out of there without embarrassing possibly himself, and probably both of them, as she pulled back just enough to take another sip of her drink.  “What kind of woman hates dogs?”  The question took him aback, for a moment, then he remembered who she meant, Ygritte having been cast into the dustbin of forgotten things the moment he’d felt her tongue on his neck.

“A terrible person.  A monster, really.”  He replied with a pout, while pretending his fingers weren’t climbing ever higher, just encountering the lace and silk of her bra.  She gave a little gasp, a small shudder, then smoothed her face into an expressionless mask, glancing back at the bar. 

He’d never been more thankful for the low lights in this private little booth, glad he’d picked it, though it was hard to argue this was just a show for his ex as she pressed her breast against him fully, now, the curve rubbing against the side of his chest with excruciating precision.  She was rubbing herself against him, shamelessly, and there wasn’t a bone in his body that wanted her to stop.

He pulled his hand free, just long enough to take another drink from his own glass, and he didn’t miss the little whimper that escaped her lips, at the loss of his touch.  Her comment echoed through his mind, and when he turned back to face her he noticed her lips tilted downwards, something he felt the urgent need to remedy immediately.

Jon dropped his hand to her knee, his fingers sliding slowly upwards, stopping mid-thigh as she blew out a loud breath.  He nuzzled against her ear, now, sampling the satiny skin of her throat briefly, glorying in the way she clutched at him as he whispered a question to her.  “Dany,” he breathed, his lips just tickling the lobe of her ear, noting the way she shivered at the contact, “how did you know she hates dogs?”

She let out a throaty chuckle.  “Your cousins told me, Jon Snow.”  She cupped his bearded jaw in both hands, forcing him to look at her.  “They told me all sorts of interesting things.  Especially about your terrible, awful ex.”  She made a show of licking her lips, while staring at his, then sent a long lingering look to the bar.  When her eyes returned to him, she pushed forward, grasping his bottom lip between hers, suckling gently at the plump flesh, a move he felt directly in his groin, now tingling with anticipation.  “She’s a tremendous bitch, that Ygritte.  If I didn’t think so before, I definitely do now.”

Jon agreed, of course, but it was difficult to focus on what she was saying when her hand was torturing his thigh, mere inches below where he would love to see what her hand could do.  Ceasing ministrations on her leg, he grabbed  at her kneecap and pulled  it over his own, trapping her leg with his knees.  His right hand found a new home at her neck, his fingertips tracing the line of her throat as she gave a little whine, her face tipped up towards his when his thumb found purchase just beneath her chin.

It was time to be brave, he thought, time for a new plan.  To just say ‘fuck it’ and follow his feelings. 

He kissed her, finally, his mouth colliding with hers, swallowing her tiny moan as his tongue traced the seam of her lips and begged entrance.  She acquiesced without hesitation, her lips parting and her tongue slipping against his, tangling and teasing playfully, as he gave in to what he’d wanted for so long, reveling in the taste of her, peppermint and cranberry and *Dany*, and she just as sweet as he’d imagined.

She pulled away first, her eyes searching his deeply for several breath-stealing moments before she gave him the slyest smile he’d ever seen.

Then she ran a knuckle up his thigh, just ghosting it across the hard length of him, trapped painfully behind his fly, and he gasped, loudly.  Her hand continued it’s motion, even as her eyes remained glued on his, watching his reaction, a hint of trepidation there, as though she were waiting on him to tell her to stop.

Not fucking likely, with the way his whole body began to throb, the only sound in his ears the pounding of his heart as his pulse began to race.  Jon snaked a hand blindly to the table, taking a gulp of his bourbon.  She let her devilish fingers dance at his waist before sliding her spread fingers, achingly slowly, up the tense muscles of his abdomen.

“I’d really like to see these again, Jon,” she purred, nudging her face closer again, this time capturing his upper lip and holding it for a moment before releasing it.  “Given my scar fetish.”  She chuckled, a low, languorous sound that made his eyes slam shut, just for a moment.

Surely, she couldn’t mean it.  He knew how ugly they were, the scars that marred his chest and stomach, but as her fingers danced up his skin, skating trails of fire into each slight depression, her eyes grew hungrier.

He was helpless to the pull of her soft, plump lips, capturing first her upper, then her lower, in a gentle pull that made her whimper and push herself against him in a decidedly *unfriendly* way.

When she pulled back again, her lips were red and swollen from his attentions, wet and glistening, and she nipped at his lower lip playfully before she turned, subtly, to take a sip of her drink, her eyes surveying the crowd surreptitiously.

“I think she’s gone,” Dany whispered, and then she was in his lap, straddling his thighs there in their dark corner of the bar, and every thought fled but the sensation of her pressed against his aching cock.

“Oh,” he uttered, his eyes unable to look away from her lips, his hands falling to the small of her back to hold her firmly against him.  When she rocked her hips into his, he moaned quietly, his head falling back into the cushioned back of the booth, his eyes mere slits as he watched her survey him like he was her prey.  “I guess our little game is over, then.”

“I stopped playing a long time ago, Jon,” she murmured, both her hands now climbing their way up his chest, glancing against his pecs, the sensation of her nails against his skin making him rock his hips against her.  “What about you?”  She leaned in, licking a wet trail of heat up the tendon in his neck, grinding the juncture of her thighs against his stiff length, just enough to make him burn for more.

“This is no game for me.”  He slid his palm to the curve of her ass, his fingers tucking themselves into the pocket of her jeans, as his other snuck around her side to tickle up her spine.  “How drunk are you?”

She laughed against his neck, the vibration reverberating against his chest, even though their layers.  “Not very, lightweight.”  She locked her hands together behind his neck, pressing against him harder, circling her hips against him in a pale imitation of what he wanted.  “Why don’t you walk me back to my place, since you’re such a gentleman?”

He returned her earlier favor, his lips dropping to the satiny skin of her neck, her quiet, warbling cry as he suckled at the soft flesh quickly ridding him of any doubts that lingered in his mind.  Gods, she tasted like hot, sweet bliss, and as she twisted against him, seeking purchase and pressure, he knew where they would end up.

He could hardly wait.

“Mmmhmm,” he agreed, against her skin, as she let out a light moan.  “That’s a fine plan, indeed.”  He raised his head, looking around the bar to find Tormund watching him with a cocky grin.  When Jon pointed to the door, the man nodded, clearly amused and pleased as punch.  Tonight was going on his tab.  “Let’s get out of here.”

Chapter Text

The walk back to her place was more of a jog; Dany laced her fingers with his, rushing several steps ahead of him. Every few feet, she would look back at him, wide eyed and grinning, 

Running with his cock this hard was not at *all* comfortable. Her brownstone couldn’t be more than another block, but it might as well be miles away.

“Dany,” he whined, “let’s just steal a car.”

She dissolved into giddy laughter, dragging him into an alleyway and pushed him against a brick wall, her lips seeking his in a starved kiss.  She teased her tongue against his teeth, dipping away when he sought to deepen the kiss.  “Resorting to a life of crime?  Oh, Jon,” she sighed, her breath fogging the night air, “we truly are destined for the naughty list this year.”

He laughed with her, the haze of lust that clouded his mind clearing for a moment to appreciate how beautiful she was, his hands exploring the curves of her hips as he held her tight against him again, letting her feel exactly how much he wanted her.  “Naughty to the bone,” he jested, his tongue tracing her lower lip before delving between her lips again, and he allowed himself several moments of indulgence to taste her—to nip and pull until she drew back, panting.

“Let’s go,” she said; her voice held no questions, about what was going to happen next, if they could manage to make it to her place before they started removing clothing, Dany obviously succumbing to the same hunger that had overtaken him.

---------

Dany fished her keys from her pocket, flashing him a hooded, wanton stare as she firmly threw the bolt and turned the handle.  She stood in her doorway, gazing at him in the circle of light cast by her porch light.

“Get in here,” she entreated.

Lacking any will to spar with her, he followed  her closely, his hands on the zip of her puffy, insulated coat the minute she tossed her keys on her kitchen counter, his mouth on hers before she could utter another word.

He made short work of her coat, throwing it aside while shrugging out of his own. When it fell to the floor he shuffled it out of their way with his feet.  

Hedwig seemed to know they didn’t want to be disturbed, letting out a small yip of greeting before settling back in her bed.

She panted his name, her lips slick as she pressed them against his over and over.  “I want you.  Now.”  

He had ached to hear such demands from her and his hands were at the hem of her sweater the second the last syllable fell.

“I want this, *off*,” he answered forcefully, grabbing the shirt she wore underneath as well, stripping them both over her head in the dim light of her entry way, his eyes starved for the pale, pearlescent flesh he’d revealed as he blindly tossed the garments away.  Gods be good, she wore the bra he’d seen hanging from the chair in her room, and the way the black lace and silk hugged the generous curves of her breasts made him feel lightheaded.

He slid a hand along one silky strap, his knuckles tracing the softest skin he’d ever touched before tucking two fingers under the band.  “This too,” he challenged, 

And she smirked at him, fisting her hands in the sweater he still wore and she plundered his mouth with a forceful, filthy kiss, her tongue and lips chasing his until he pulled away, desperate for breath.

“Your turn,” she said, a brow raising as she looked down his still-fully clothed body.  “I’m all about fairness.”  Dany tugged at his unfortunate sweater, the one she’d earlier proclaimed destined for her floor, and the black thermal he wore beneath, yanking them both over his head.  She nearly pulled his glasses off as well, the corner of the frames snagging, and he grabbed at them before they tumbled to the floor along with his clothes.

“Dany,” he chided, “stop trying to blind me so you can have your way with me while I’m helpless.”

She giggled, the tip of her tongue clenched between her teeth, and slid her hands across his bare chest, letting her fingers trail slowly down his abdominal muscles.  She hummed, leaning up on her toes  to nip at the skin just under his jaw, and he knew that if he didn’t check the urge to slam her against the living room wall and bury himself inside her he was going to waste this remarkable opportunity.

Because Jon Snow had another list.

An unwritten unspoken list. 

A Dany fantasy list that lived only in his mind.

All he wanted to do with her and to her. And right now he was faced with the fact that he could actually do some of those things.

With her.

To her.

And judging by the way she dragged her tongue along his collar bone, while her fingers danced over his torso and around to his back, she possibly had a list of her own.

There was still a fuzzy edge to it all, his blood still buzzing merrily with the drinks he’d had earlier, but focus was easy enough to scrape together, as he lowered his face to her chest, the tip of his tongue tracing a wet, slick line between the valley of her breasts, and he wrapped his arms around her just in time to feel her shudder; He moaned against the tender skin.

Keening his name, she arched her back, pressing against his lips. “Again...”

Jon complied gladly, gliding down once more, his jaw rasping against her breasts, his chin pushing the lace and satin downwards as he moved.  Her fingers threaded into his hair, pulling the band free, nails pleasingly scratching against his scalp when he turned his face, just slightly, to slide his tongue up the firm contour of her breast.

When she gave a harsh, broken cry, he couldn’t help but smile in satisfaction.

That sound was definitely on the list.

So in the haze that had settled around him, the smell of her skin lodged in his brain, the taste of her branded on his tongue, he didn’t notice her hands loosen their hold on his hair, only realizing something had changed when he felt an insistent tug on his jeans, where she’d slipped her fingers into his belt loops.

“C’mere,” she rasped, and it was pointless to resist; he needed to taste her again, to rid of her everything that hid her away from him, and it was a short enough journey to her overstuffed couch that the demands of his body quickly overrode his mind.  His cock had, with absolute authority, assumed control of the proceedings.

Slim hands pushed at his shoulders, and he sat, with a slight bounce, barely a second to breathe before she crawled on his lap, her thighs slipping to either side of his hips, pushing him further into the cushions.  “You know, Jon,” she said, whispering low, as though she was confessing some great secret, “I really love my tree.”  She said it so sweetly that he would have been thrilled at the success of his plan, to present her with the best first date she’d ever have, but then she ground her hips against his straining cock and all he could think was that this was definitely the best first date he’d ever had, and he really wanted to get that bra off of her, yesterday.

“I’m glad,” he choked out, his hips jerking up to meet hers of their own accord, and he would have been embarrassed, but a thoroughly pleased smile transformed her face.  One hand teased up the satin skin of her back, to the clasp that held that cloth barrier that he was desperate to rid her off.  “I really like this,” he said, and slipped his fingers under the band.  “It looks expensive.”

“It is,” she confirmed. Slipping her arms around his neck, she  pushed  her chest towards his mouth in obvious invitation and she laughed when she witnessed what he knew must be his goggled expression in response.

But her laughter ended with a thready moan when he captured one firm nipple with his lips through the lace;  his tongue teased at the peak and wet the fabric, rasping against her until she collapsed against him, gripping his hips more tightly between her legs.

“I would have said,” she breathed out, “that it was my favorite, but suddenly I hate it.  Get it off me.”  He pulled his head back at the command in her voice, checking his eyes to hers to see if she was teasing or if she meant it. 

Dany punctuated  her hungry demand by rolling her hips firmly against him, the ridge of his cock riding tight against the juncture of her thighs. 

Giving her what she had asked for, he pinched the closure of her bra between his thumb and forefinger in a deft maneuver. Always a military man, obeying her orders—anywhere, anytime—came second nature to him. He had dreamed of satisfying her every command and now he was here and the reality of Dany exceeded his every imagining. 

She kissed him roughly, her hands sifting through his hair as she devoured his mouth with hers.  As the straps slid down her arm, she pulled away again; her breath coming fast, her smile illuminated in the glimmering, shifting lights of the tree.  First green, then blue, then red, fading from one to the other, revealing, as she rolled her shoulders, the finest tits he’d ever seen in person.

“Oh boy,” he breathed, because it was the only idiot thing his lust addled brain could manage, and he didn’t even care when she laughed, because saying stupid things around her had been his normal since the day they met. Doing stupid things, however, was altogether different: no matter his plans, no matter his concern that this wasn’t the time for fucking her into the cushions of her couch, he would be a proper fool to stop now just when things had become so very fucking interesting.

“You’re adorable when you’re excited, Jon,” she said, her laugh dying off when their eyes met and she seemed to finally sense the full measure of how much he wanted her.

His own breaths coming fast, he licked his lips, the faint peppermint of their drinks still lingering, and grinned widely. She slid her hand firmly between them and popped the button on his jeans, making short work of his fly in the process; his stomach clenched.

Jon wasn’t sure, really, if it was possible to pass out from this sort of thing, the blood in his body seemed to flow straight to his groin, every nerve ending firing an alert that something excellent would be happening imminently, and to be at the ready.  But with the way heat fogged his mind, his grip on his self-control slipped; a real possibility that something terribly premature might happen loomed and he needed to get her hand off his cock immediately.

So he ducked his head with a quiet groan, instead, sucking a stiff, erect nipple into his mouth, smiling against her skin as her hand fell limp and a moan vibrated against his cheek, her back arching and her nails digging into his scalp as she forgot everything but what he began to do with his tongue and teeth.  He worked her hungrily, as much to sate his own need as to feed hers, his lips learning the shape of each rosy peak, the softness of her skin, how each rasping lick conjured goosebumps on her arms.

She was so bloody responsive it only sharpened the ache in his cock, but he needed her as ready and aching as he was, and he switched sides, one hand now lodged at the small of her back, keeping her close, the other toying with her slick right nipple as he sampled the left.  He thought, as she pulled at his hair, wildly writhing under his attentions, that he never again wanted to hear his own name unless it was warbled in her broken cries and gasps.

He checked that off his list, too.

Dany’s hand began to creep back towards his fly, and he knew he was running out of willpower to stop her, and he forced himself to hold tight to it while he still could.  This was going to call for more drastic distraction.

“Oh, no you don’t,” he muttered, releasing her skin from between his lips, enjoying her little whimper at the loss of contact and capturing and pinning both her wrists with one hand.  “You’re very cute when you don’t get your way,” he said, looking up at her, chuckling at her pout then twisting them both until she was flat against the couch cushions, and he was above her.  She kneaded her fingers into his flesh like a kitten, mewling like one as well when he dropped his mouth along her shoulders, down her sternum, nibbling and sampling her skin as he worked his way down her body.  Gods, she was so fucking gorgeous, her lips swollen and her hair a mess of silver curls, fanned out against the smooth leather.

“Jon—“ she gasped, her chest rapidly rising and falling. 

He paused from his glorious exploration, pausing just above her navel, to look up at her.  It was a funny thing, the curious look on her face, as though she wasn't entirely sure what he was up to, but she was intrigued all the same.

Gazing down at him, eyes wide, pupils blown, she stammered, “You don’t have to—I’m fine—“ 

He released her hands, reaching  up to caress her cheek, tracing the line of her chin with his thumb.  “Yes. I do.” 

“But—“ 

Pressing his palm against hers, he threaded their fingers together, feeling the barest of tremors in her hand.  Squinting up at her, awareness wormed through the fog of lust that clouded his mind, and he wondered if it could be at all possible that no one had actually done this to her.  Because now, she was trembling.

*His* Dany. Trembling. 

He pushed himself up and kissed her—deeply—willing  her to know everything he couldn’t say, to trust him. “*Yes.* I do, Dany,” he husked.  It was the fucking truth, as best he could tell, because if he didn't make sure she enjoyed herself, just now, he was taking a massive risk of leaving things to chance.  And this, at least, was something he knew he was relatively skilled at.

He released her hand and smiled.

She mirrored his smile. “If you insist…” she breathed out.  She still looked nervous, just the barest hint, but there was a hunger that was blooming hot in the depths of her eyes, a hunger he needed to feed, for the both of them.

She traced the shapes of the muscles in his shoulders as he resumed his slide down towards her abdomen, marveling that she was as soft and supple as he’d suspected. Dancing over her skin, he traced feather light patterns on her belly, his lips following along her ribs and downward; she shivered, circling  her hips.

“Patience,” he murmured, his smile returning at the way she narrowed her eyes, and he was distracted, just for a moment, at the play of lights over her face, at the way she clutched at the overstuffed arm of the sofa when he brought his lips to just above her navel, finally picking up where he'd left off.  “Surprises are fun—“

She gasped as he worked her jeans loose, pushing the denim open to reveal the matching black lace at her hips—almost certainly a thong. 

Motherfucking surprise.

And now, as he was crouched between her spread thighs, his heels bumping against the opposite armrest, she gasped and groaned beneath him, the complete embodiment of his dreams. It was almost more than he could process and remain in control so he stripped the offending denims down her thighs and past shapely, smooth calves.

Gooseflesh pimpled her skin as he ran his hands back up the smooth expanse of her thighs. He managed to tear his eyes away from her skimpy excuse for panties to discover her smirking at him.  Her earlier nervousness had finally, completely given way, replaced by wicked curiosity.

“See something you like?”

Her purring question only made him more devoted to the task at hand, to make her mindless for him, because he was fairly certain that once he was inside her he wasn’t going to survive Seductress Dany for long. His body reminded him that  it had been years since he had been with a woman and he would be an idiot to not ensure she enjoyed tonight's proceedings, as best he was able.

And so he gave her a slow smile, hooking his fingers under the fabric and tickling at her hip bones with his thumbs.  “I’d like it a lot more if these were off.”   He raised a hand to pinch at one pink, perfect nipple; she bit her lip moaning in response.

“If you’re determined to enjoy yourself,” she said thickly, one hand curled  into his hair, the other fell to her chest, pinching and pulling at the peak he currently neglected, “don’t let me stop you.”

And as he slid to the floor to kneel, he pushed her knees apart.  Gods, his heartbeat was pounding in his ears so loud he could hardly hear her, and when he reached up to pull the black lace down her legs, he tried to think of anything he could to cool himself off, because as much as he wanted to taste her, his cock threatened revolt if it wasn’t inside her, *soon*.

He tried counting backwards from 100, as he parted her thighs further and dipped his head, but the first swipe of his tongue over her folds nearly did him in, and he was almost embarrassed by how loudly he groaned against her slick, pink flesh.  His low growl was eclipsed by her sharp, resounding yelp when he reached her clit, the salt and sweet of her burning into his taste buds as her nails dug into his scalp.

His entire body thrummed alive. 

Frantically he searched his mind, for the worst things he could think of, even as he teased and toyed with her. Each suck and lick and plunging of his stiffened tongue into her core only compelled his need to rut like a pubescent boy against the front of her sofa as he devoured her, hoping against hope that he could get her there before he burst a blood vessel— or five.

Meryn Trant’s unibrow.

No, that didn’t do it, he realized.  His hands firmly gripped her hips, holding her to him as he circled his tongue around her clit before suckling at it gently. Hovering over her, his neck began to ache from the awkward angle, his knees screamed at being pressed into the floor, his cock protesting at his neglect.

But the way she’d thrown her head back against the leather cushion, bathed in shifting lights, her chin tipped up, her hands now teasing her tits in his stead..pushed all thoughts of Meryn’s unfortunate brow-grooming from his brain. 

Sandor Clegane’s paint-peeling morning coffee breath.

Nope, that wasn’t working either, but he tried desperately to focus on the way the man would closetalk anyone nearby after that first awful cup, the way Jon thought it would melt the beard off his face.  He tried, Gods knew he did, but Dany was so hot and wet and perfect under his tongue and  he freed his hand to push her over the line. All the while he tried  to commit to memory the way she begged him with each roll of her hips and writhing squirm.  Each call of his name and plea not to stop eroded the last of his control.

When he pushed two fingers inside her, his eyes threatened to roll back in his head at how fucking tight she was. His cock cursed and howled, still trapped and painfully pressing against the fly of his jeans. He knew he was almost at his limit. he pushed away everything, now, his focus only on making sure she came before he lost his fucking mind completely.

And as he fumbled around in his mind for one more terrible thought, to distract himself from how beautiful she looked like this, now cursing and bucking against his hand like a wild thing, he felt it begin, felt her tighten, saw her back bow, and then thank all the fucking Gods, she was there.  Her cunt clenched and spasmed around his fingers, and he pulled his mouth away, letting his thumb flick against her clit, to milk it all from her, every last rolling wave of her hips, every last drop of pleasure he could wring from her, and he watched it unfold.

She caught her breath, slowly, her features softening, her head rolling to the side for several long moments as he pulled his fingers free.

 And then she looked at him.

For the first time, he let himself believe, *really believe,* that she felt as he did. Because he was certain no one had ever looked at him like that before: an irresistible mixture of something soft and warm that looked a lot like the love that pounded through his brain with every beat of his heart, and something ravenous that made his pulse race as she slowly pushed up on her elbows, peering at him in the ever-changing light cast from her tree.

“Jon,” she whispered hoarsely, “if you don’t get those pants off this bloody minute and fuck me, I’m going to explode.”  She rose on wobbly knees, grabbing his hands and pulling, helping him to stand, the blatant want in her voice enough to make his toes curl into the thick pile of the rug under his feet.

This time, when she reached for him, he didn’t swat her away, but still starting when her hot fingers grabbed his jeans and shoved them roughly down his body, stalling at his knees.

She was too fucking beautiful, it was too fucking much, and he hauled her against him, mauling her mouth with his, slicking his tongue against her, as she slid her hand into his underwear.  He pulled away only barely, his breath hissing out past his lips, gritting his teeth at the first slide of her fist down his length.

It was like being electrocuted, he thought dimly, in the only part of his mind that allowed thought beyond the fact that this was Dany, stroking his cock purposefully, bewitching purple eyes locked onto his face, hungry and dark and gauging every reaction she wrought from him.  She licked her lips and gave him a slow, easy smile as she made another pass with her hand, and his stomach clenched as she tightened her grip.

“Nice to see your sweater was telling the truth, Jon Snow,” she whispered, before sucking his bottom lip into her mouth, stroking her tongue along it in time with each pump of her hand. And if it was fucking she wanted, he needed to make that happen, now, before he spilled into her hand like a damned green boy.  Even he had his limits, and finally, he’d found them.

His limit was precisely Daenerys Targaryen, naked on her couch, his cock in her hand and her mouth on his, in front of her Christmas Tree.

He created a new box on his list for this astonishingly perfect moment.

Jon kicked off his jeans, ridding himself of the boxers as well, until he was as naked as she was, an involuntary whimper escaping his throat when she released him, her eyes hot on him, examining his every inch as he stood before her.  He might’ve flushed, under her perusal, but then she was on him, her arms wrapping around his neck, her mouth taking his again, and she pulled.

He tried to resist, at first, not sure what she was up to, but as she finally managed to bring him down atop her, just catching himself on his hands so he didn’t crush her under his weight, he realized she’d claimed the victory she’d been after, as she wrapped her legs tightly above his hips and thrust her own upwards.  His cock was of like mind, glorying in the wet heat of her center, as she ground up and against him, wiggling as though she were trying to get him lined up just so.

“Greedy, greedy, greedy,” he chided, his low whisper making her grin wickedly at him as she repeated the motion.

“As if you weren’t well aware,” she hummed in response, and stuck her tongue out at him, only to gasp when he leaned down and nipped at the tip.  Her eyes widened, all of a sudden, and he wondered if he’d hurt her, but she merely turned her head to glance at his jeans, in a pile nearby.  

“Condoms?” she panted. 

He was stupid.  He was so fucking stupid.  No, he didn’t have any bloody condoms, because he hadn’t planned on fucking her, not tonight, and he mentally began to try to talk his cock off the ledge it was about to jump from as he moved to pull away, shaking his head.

She held tighter, locking her ankles together at the small of his back.  ”It doesn’t matter. I’m on the pill,” she whispered, and she bit her lip almost shyly.  “Okay?”

Jon blew out a breath, so relieved he thought he might weep and really embarrass himself.  He nodded and she writhed against him again, and he reached down to take himself in hand, aligning himself at her entrance, the head of his cock just bumping against her.  She nodded, like she was granting him permission to do what he wanted, to bury himself deep inside her like he’d ached to do for fucking months.

Her eyes flew shut at his first, slow thrust, her mouth falling open in a silent cry as he worked himself inside her, inch by inch, and now it was a race against his own traitorous desire, because she was so tight he thought he’d be lucky to get off a handful of thrusts if he wasn’t very, very careful.

Janos Slynt’s body odor.

He pulled his hips back, stroking back inside her again as his teeth clacked together.  She was panting, rubbing her nipples against his chest, her fingers digging into his shoulders as her thighs squeezed against his sides.

The second-floor men’s room after Taco Tuesday.

Fuck, this was hopeless, nothing felt as good as she did, ever, in his entire life, and he squeezed his eyes closed, because looking at her only made it more impossible.  Even then, in his mind he replayed the sexiest thing he’d ever seen the way she tossed her head against the cushion, her tits swaying when he leaned up and braced himself on his hands for more leverage.  Gods, she was so wet, so slick, it was almost incomprehensible that she wanted him as much as her body told his she did, but it was the best turn of events he’d experienced in a very long time.

He needed to concentrate, to hang on a little bit longer.

Jon planted a foot on the floor, their hips slapping harder and louder against each other even despite his best efforts to hold back. His whole body burned, and he was grunting and groaning; each time he bottomed-out inside her sent another sparking river of heat through him. 

She was keening out his name now, her hands once again teasing her own nipples, and if he believed in things like spontaneous human combustion this would definitely be the ideal conditions for it.  When she peeked up at him, a wicked glint in her eyes, he realized she knew exactly what she was doing, her provocative actions as much for his benefit as for hers, and he gave her a hard, quick thrust in response.

“Very naughty,” he bit out, his hands digging into her thighs for purchase as he sped up.

And she was arching and moaning even as she smiled in response, her eyes steady on his as she let one hand stray between them, through the silver curls  above her sex, teasing her clit as they fucked.

“And now—”  she gasped, her mouth falling open in pleasure.

The breath rushed out of his body as he watched her questing hand--his eyes now locked onto the way her fingers strummed against the bud, her fingertips slipping against his slick cock as he leaned back farther, watching himself fuck her, gladly succumbing to wantonness..

Gods, he could die happy, he thought, if this was the last thing he saw, and then he realized he was wrong, because then she was coming again, so loudly and with such force he wondered if she might alarm the neighbors.  He didn’t fucking care, really. He’d gladly explain the cause of the commotion--the entirety of his world narrowing to her cunt forcing him along right behind her, his balls tightening and his cock pistoning in and out of her so quickly that his eyesight blurred.

But he continued watching, and he checked another item off his list, as he finally let go: the pleasure balled up at the base of his spine expanded until he was jerking and shuddering against her, wave after wave of release spilling into her willing body as he pushed into her again, and again, until finally his sight steadied, his eyes fluttered closed.

His breathing, however, refused to calm and his heart  hammered so hard he wondered if he ought to be concerned, but then she was pulling him down to nestle in her arms, chest to chest, her heart thudding against his, her lips on his neck placing tender kisses on his skin.

Jon couldn’t fuck this up.  He just couldn’t, he thought, as he tucked his face against her neck, on his elbows to keep at least some of his weight off her, his cock still seated inside her as she smoothed his hair back from his head. 

“Jon,” she whispered at last, tracing along his jaw with gentle fingers, “I’m definitely giving you a glowing performance review next quarter.”  It was the last thing he expected to hear, and he laughed against the soft skin of her throat, kissing a line up her neck before he let his lips trail against her ear.

“Excellent,” he whispered back. “Finally. I’ll get that raise I’ve been wanting.”

She giggled, one of her hands lowering to grip the cheek of his ass, fondling the flesh boldly.  “That remains to be seen, I think.  Let’s go upstairs,” she said, smacking her hand against his skin lightly before laughing again.  “Hedwig’s looking at me like she’s judging me.”

Jon looked up and over to find Hedwig beside the tree, beady black eyes seeming to glare at them both.  He looked down, wondering what in the hell he’d done to end up where he was, the most beautiful girl in the world underneath him, his cock softening inside her as she teased him.

It was there on the tip of his tongue, the thing he felt but knew he shouldn’t say.

So, he didn’t, enough of his wits remaining that he managed to shove the thought away, knowing he wouldn’t be able to for much longer.  “Maybe she doesn’t care for you abusing your authority like this, Dany.  She probably thinks I ought to file several complaints, especially for your relentless groping.”

Dany just smiled, her legs falling away to allow him to sit up, and he winced as he pulled out of her, the cold air of the room bracing after her wet warmth.  She sat up, threading their fingers together and then she was standing, sparing a dirty look in Hedwig’s direction.  After releasing his hand, she waited at the foot of the stairs, meeting his gaze directly, the invitation in her eyes clear: stay.

 He could leave now, he knew, go home and sleep alone in his bed.

Or he could join her in her bed and see how many more items he could check off his list.

“Are you coming?” she asked, aloud this time.

He imagined he heard a longing--a plaintive note in her question. Jon raised a brow, his eyes trailing down her incredible body, and huffed out a laugh. Seeming to sense his response, she reached for his hand again, leading him up the stairs as he finally replied, “If we’re doing it right, Dany, we both are.”

She snorted in answer and rolled her eyes playfully, her hair a tangled mass of curls, her makeup smudged, her body pale and luminous as she tugged at his hand.  She was the loveliest thing his eyes had ever seen, and he wasn’t sure one night would be enough.  He needed her forever.

“C’mon, I have much more groping to subject you too.”  She turned back to him and waggled her eyebrows suggestively.  He thought, contentedly, as she brought them into her room, that this was definitely the best date ever.

__________

He woke slowly, like climbing through a cloud, surrounded by fluffy softness.  He didn’t remember his pillows feeling this plush against his face, couldn’t figure out why his sheets smelled like lavender and sex, but in his bleary mind it didn’t matter.

Because he’d had an excellent dream last night, full of milky skin and feminine curves and the best sex he’d ever had. He couldn’t help but cling to it a bit longer, stretching sore muscles reveling in the warmth of the morning sun streaming in.

Then he stilled, and drew in a sharp breath because the sunlight never hit his face in his bed.

Tentatively, he cracked open an eyelid, everything blurry as he touched a hand to his face and realized he didn’t have his glasses on.  He swept a hand out, blindly feeling along the nightstand beside his head, finally feeling the familiar shape, and hurriedly slid his glasses onto his face, peering sleepily at the digital alarm clock that definitely wasn’t his.

9:33 a.m.

He let out a low, slow exhale, and urged himself not to panic.

This was Dany’s room.

He looked around the tastefully appointed bedroom, taking in surroundings he’d only briefly seen before, and memories began to flood back.  They’d come up here after the most excellent fucking on her couch, and tumbled into her bed.  He could still feel the ghost of her flesh against his hands, her pliant skin warm under his as he’d curled up behind her and fallen asleep.

A  distinct memory returned, of her waking him in the middle of the night, her hand on his cock, her mouth on his neck, all too eager for another round;  he definitely remembered obliging, taking her from behind and fucking her into her bedsheets as her cries urged him on.

Jon had done himself a disservice, he thought, because none of his fantasies about what being with her might be like--if he would ever be with her--could  have compared with reality.  When  he glanced over, her pillow was empty but her smell surrounded him.  All too easily he  could get used to this--it would be like breathing air or slaking thirst. Nothing in his life had ever been as simple as being with Dany--it had to be a dream.

Jon glanced down, and pulled back the comforter and sheets that hid the rest of his body from view.

Yep, he saw immediately.  Still naked.

Naked and alone.

Fuck.

He pinched the bridge of his nose, wondering where she was, why she wasn’t still next to him, as exhausted and sore as he was.

His plan was fucked, he realized.

His big gesture still loomed on the horizon, and he gone and shot it all to hell by fucking her the first time he’d taken her out on a proper date. 

Without the plan, he wasn’t sure what to do next. Because clearly he had zero self-control. Why would she want to waste her time on such an asshole? 

Plans made him feel he stood a chance at  something working out for once.  Being  adrift, untied from the moorings that let him know what to do next—that rarely worked out for him.  He’d spent the better part of his adult life choosing a path that dictated his every move so he could  avoid being untethered.  Hell,  his whole  childhood he had sought stability—most motherless children did. And she had been running away from her family and all their rules when she died in the car accident that landed him within the cold walls of Winterfell as his uncle’s ward. Experience had taught him that impulsivity usually made things worse.

The army had given him the structure he’d craved, had made most of his decisions for him, had shown him the best way to operate.  Always have a plan.

Stick to the plan.

Stray from the plan, he’d learned, and you drive headlong into an IED, with half your chest blown apart, and your squad dead.

Fuck.

He’d been so stupid, so weak, and he wasn’t even really sure how she felt.

She had probably been more drunk than she’d let on. That was it. 

What if this was a casual hook-up for her—if  he had been a means to scratch an itch?

He was glad, suddenly, that she wasn’t in the room, glad he didn’t have to witness her regret.  In the harsh morning light, he could see the scars on his chest, could feel every doubt and insecurity creeping back in.  Panic knifed down his spine, churned his stomach.  Gods, what if he really had fucked it all up?  What if she just wanted to be friends?

He couldn’t just be her friend.

Fuck.

He glanced at the foot of the bed to see his clothes folded in a tidy pile, grateful but still unsure, worried at how awkward things might be when he ventured downstairs to find her. He pulled on his boxers then jeans, just standing to pull on the shirt when her door opened and a flash of white fur tackled him.

“Ghost!”  He yelped, surprised, still trying to zip up his jeans when his beloved hound jumped  up to plant his feet on Jon’s chest and frantically  lick at his face.

And then even that distraction faded. He pushed Ghost’s paws off his chest, urging him back down to the floor when a throat cleared by the doorway: there she was.

Wearing his oversized Lannister Industries sweatshirt.

Only his sweatshirt.

Like a damn fool, he gaped at her, his head swimming with the thousand things he wanted to say, his eyes searching her face for evidence that things were going to be weird and strained now, if she was pleased with what happened, if she was sorry—if she was indifferent—if she was nervous.

“Hey,” she said, leaning against the doorframe, her glasses inching down her nose as she studied him intently.  Finally, she offered him a hesitant smile, blowing out a breath and pushing up her frames with a finger.  “Look at you, finally awake.”  She gestured to Ghost, who was now sitting and staring at Jon like he was being a fucking idiot, which he was, but he wasn’t quite sure how to stop.  “I realized he was alone all night, so I went over to your place and brought him here.”

He struggled to get read on her; her eyes gave away only a little of the nervousness gradually becoming entrenched in his bones.  

“H-hey.” He absently reached for his shirt, dipping his head, suddenly bashful, which was fucking ridiculous. She was entirely too beautiful in the mornings, and he felt like a leering asshole when his eyes dropped to her bare legs, his aching muscles telling him to get a grip on himself.  He’d had her plenty last night, and early this morning if he wasn’t mistaken, but here he was, wanting her again.  “I guess I was really tired for some strange reason,” he finally said slowly. The nauseous twisting in his stomach  eased when  her smile grew the longer he talked.   Jon nodded towards Ghost.  “Thanks for getting him.  I guess I got distracted.”

Jon balled up his shirt in his fist loosely when she stepped into the room, her focus somewhat unnerving as her eyes never left his.  She gave him a meaningful look. “You did do most of the work.  I suppose I’ll allow it.”

He tried smiling  in response, his mind still racing with what to say--what to do--realizing belatedly that his silence only made things more awkward, but it was like his tongue had suddenly thickened,  and firmly lodged itself in the roof of his mouth.  Instead, he chuckled nervously.

Dany drew closer, tipping her head up to look at him, scrutinizing his face closely.  “Are you alright?”  She was close enough that he could smell minty toothpaste on her breath. Self-consciously, his tongue traced his teeth and realizing he badly needed to brush his own, he considered turning  his face away before he answered or he’d flatten her with his morning breath.  But that impulse warred with a desire to kiss her-- to tousle the hair she’d loosely braided, to see what it looked like all spread out on her soft comforter.

He settled on a nod because there was something reluctant in the way she held herself, just slightly wary, as if he might be a wounded animal and she wasn’t quite sure if he might  bite her.

She bit her lip, looking down at her feet, something strange crossing her face when silence fell between them.  Here it was, he thought, this was what regret looked like.  She hadn’t meant for last night to happen, and now she was going to tell him so.

“Listen, Jon,” she began, “about last night…”

He was going to vomit, he was sure of it, all over her lovely thick carpet.  Acid burned his throat; his whole body tensed, and a flood of extremely stupid things floated on the tip of his tongue, threatening to spill out of his mouth before he could stop them.  He couldn’t hear this, not now.

Not from her.

“Don’t,” he said bitterly, holding up a hand.  He shook his head roughly, vaguely surprised she had complied, her eyes popping open and her mouth slamming shut.  “It’s fine.  It was a mistake, okay, let’s just forget this happened.”  He should’ve known, he should’ve fucking known. He should’ve kept his hands to himself and his cock in his pants and just been her friend. Averting his eyes, he unballed his shirt, ready to pull it over his head,  when her voice, breathy and broken,  stopped him.

“That’s not what I was going to say,” she stammered out, and he let his eyes crawl back up her body, seeing how she clenched her fists at her sides, how her chest rose and fell.  When he reached her eyes, he was startled to see they grew wet, and she was blinking rapidly.  “A mistake?”  She stepped back, her hands now gripping the sleeves of his sweatshirt, the one she still wore.  “You think it was a mistake?”  She turned on her heel, stalking to a chest of drawers across the room, her hands hurriedly yanking out clothes.  “Oh my god,” she said under her breath, repeating it several times.  “Stupid, Dany, you’re so fucking stupid.”

She twisted around, clothes in hand, staring daggers at him.  “What was yesterday, Jon?  Was it all just to get in my pants?  I mean--” she charged ahead, a tiny whirlwind that spun and circled around the room, increasingly red faced..“They tried to warn me, but I thought this was different.  Thought WE were different.  But they told me, you know, the ladies in admin--Melisandre, fuck, it was even in your damn HR file.  ‘Jon Snow doesn’t date coworkers.’ That’s what they all told me, but I was too stupid to listen.”  

Jon was so bloody shocked he didn’t know what to address first: was it being flummoxed that she had clearly taken last night as seriously as he had, or confusion over what the fuck she was talking about.

Then she wheeled on him, and it irked, a little, that she was even more exquisite when she was angry.

 And at present, she looked absolutely furious and growing more so by the minute.  “But you’ll fuck them, is that it?”

“What are you talking about?”  On a good day, he was dense but right now he was completely baffled--and it only seemed to make her angrier.

“Get out.”  She shot him one final, venomous glare, then stormed into her bathroom, slamming the door behind her.

Jon stood there, for several beats, trying to figure out exactly what had just happened, and how it had gone to shit so fast.  He looked around, finding Ghost and Hedwig, who’d apparently snuck in, staring at him with distinct disapproval.

He walked slowly to her bed, hearing her bang around in her bathroom, and sat down heavily.

He needed to fix this.

Because, he realized with no small amount of surprise, she didn’t just want to be friends either.

She wanted to be more like he did.

And he’d made a mess of things as per normal.  He’d said something stupid, again, because that’s what he always did around her. He lost IQ points being in the same room as her so maybe his intellect could stabilize for a minute while she stormed around her bathroom.

Even though she was on the other side of that door, righteously angry at him, he felt a tremendous burden lift from him.  Standing slowly, he untangled the massive knot of confusion in his chest, strand by strand. One inexorable conclusion emerged.

She was furious with him because she was quite possibly in love with him, too.

This new mess he’d made, he thought he could fix, he *would* fix, because now leaving wasn’t an option.

In the past, he might’ve left.  He would have walked away and put it all behind him, shoved it all down and tried to never think about what it was like to touch her again.  But this was different.  She was different.

So he stood, and walked to the bathroom door, and knocked.

“Dany?”

He heard a loud bang, like she’d slammed a cabinet shut.  “I told you to leave.”  Her voice was raised, but he could hear the tremor in it.

“Dany, open the door please.”

Another bang.  “No,” came the curt response, her voice sounding closer to the wood that separated them.  “And you should know you’re the biggest asshole in the world, Jon Snow, and if you just wanted to be friends you should’ve said so.”  

Hedwig let out a little yip, and Jon cut his eyes to the small dog, frowning.

“That’s not what I want, Dany.”  He ran a hand through his hair, exasperated.  “I panicked. I thought you were going to tell me you regretted last night so I just…” 

The door flew open, her hair halfway unbraided, her eyes wild and hot. “Just what, Jon?”  Her sharp tone could cut glass.  “Just wanted to hurt me before I could hurt you?”  She moved to slam the door again, but he stopped it with his hand.  “Let go, Jon.”

“I’m trying to explain, Dany. Please come out here and stop slamming the door.”  He pushed against the force she applied, staring at her with pleading eyes through the open space between the door and the jam.

“No. It’s my damn door and I’ll slam it if I feel like it,”she said through gritted teeth, pushing again, only closing it about an inch, as he pressed his hand harder against it, keeping it open. 

 He really was a goner, because his heart gave a strange, lovesick twist at how cute she was, her face scrunched up, her eyes on fire.  She was so bloody stubborn, and he loved that, too.  “Dany, if you’d just let me…”

Again, she cut him off, her lips pressed tight, pushing harder against the door as she raised her voice again.  “I don’t want to hear it, I don’t want to hear about how we’re such good friends and you hope we can still be friends.  I just want to know,” she rampaged on, grunting as she yanked again, “why?  Why go to all that trouble?  I don’t do friends with benefits; I could’ve saved you a lot of trouble, if you’d fucking asked!” 

 He swallowed hard at the way her eyes grew bright, at the tears he saw welling in them.  He didn’t want to see her cry, ever, and especially not because of him. It was coming, that thing he could hardly even say out loud, that thing he’d tried to reign in for so long, but now it had seen the light of day and there was nothing he could do, his own voice raised, his hand pushing back, harder, against the solid wood, his face a foot away from hers.

“Because I’m fucking in love with you, alright?!” 

The next moment he fell, physically, as she let go of the door completely and he stumbled into her very cozy bathroom, his feet snagging on the bathmat, his hands flying up to the lip of a clawfoot tub to catch himself.  He sagged, relieved and terrified that he’d let it out, just like that. Not sure he wanted to see the look on her face, he turned and slid down to sit, his back against her tub.  Jon shook his head, exhaling frustratedly.  “I wasn’t going to tell you like this, though. I had a plan.  A really good one.”

She didn’t say anything, her breath coming in sharp pants, and he didn’t look up, drawing his knees up and resting his elbows on them, bracing his head in his hands.  “A big gesture, you know.  Big plans.”  He let out a harsh, mirthless laugh, raising his hands in the air helplessly.  “And no, I didn’t mean for last night to happen, but that doesn’t mean I’m sorry it did.  I just thought you were, and I fucking panicked, because I’m not good at this shit, and I guess it’s a good thing you found out now, before you wasted anymore of your time.”

Still, Dany remained quiet, and he dropped a hand to trace patterns on the bathmat, gnawing at his lip, until he saw her sit down beside him from the corner of his eye.  He held his breath, tensing until she nudged his shoulder gently with hers.  He finally turned and peeked at her--lips curved in a decidedly bashful smile--to find her face. otherwise, a mask of inscrutability. In that heartbeat, he wasn’t sure which he wanted more: for her to say something, anything, or for her to say nothing at all.  Dying of embarrassment here in her bathroom seemed like a good way to go in the grand scheme of things.

“Did I ever tell you I was engaged, in Pentos?”  At least she sounded much calmer than before, when she spoke, and it was so far from what he expected that he just shook his head, his brow wrinkling in confusion.

“No.”  He watched her now, her face in profile, her eyes anywhere but his as she let out a sigh.

“I was.  Arranged by my mother, of course.”  Even from the side, he could see her bitter frown.  Something brushed against his hand, and he glanced down to see her fingers skating ever closer to his, brushing against them again as she trailed them across the rug.  He caught them, on her next pass, and entwined them, his palm flat against hers.  “A mutually beneficial match, my mother called it.  That’s all they ever are, really, for people like that.  No one loves anyone, it’s all for money, or power, or standing.”

She shrugged, and turned her face to his, giving him a sad half-smile.  “I’m sure you’re familiar.”

As a Snow instead of a Stark, the product of his mother’s illicit love affair, he wasn’t a suitable candidate for a society marriage.  But such an arranged match had been what Lyanna Stark was escaping when she’d brought him into the world: a socially appropriate pairing where maybe, if the parties were lucky, they’d eventually care about each other.

He nodded stiffly, pushing down the old hurts from another life.  “Aye, familiar enough.”

Her cheeks puffed out, and he could see her jaw working delicately as though she were trying to figure out how to continue.  “We didn’t love each other, of course, but I was willing to try.  I’d already spent years irritating my mother by dating the worst sort of men, you see, ones I knew would piss her off.  My attempt at rebellion, I guess.  But when I graduated, and got on with a firm, she told me it was time to be serious, to settle down with the right sort of husband, and I guess I was tired of fighting her, so I agreed.”

Jon was irrationally jealous, all of sudden, of this nameless, faceless suitor who’d managed to find himself engaged to the woman sitting next to him, because it was all he’d found himself wanting as of late.  It was tempered, though, by the realization that it clearly hadn’t worked out, or she wouldn’t be sitting next to him on her bathroom floor.

A small comfort, but he’d take it. “You didn’t marry him.”  

At his quiet statement she shook her head slightly, her eyes on their joined hands now, and he squeezed hers tightly at the forlorn flash of emotion that crossed her face.

“No,” she said, a sour note creeping in.  “I might’ve, but one night, at one of my mother’s parties, I realized he’d disappeared.  So I looked for him, searched the entire manor, thinking something terrible must’ve happened.  I was trying, at least, to care for him, to try to build something, you know?”  Out came a shaking exhale, and then she squeezed his hand again.  Hard.

“Then,” she continued, her voice growing stronger, angrier, “I found him in one of my mother’s solars, fucking my friend Irri.”

His breath escaped in a hard exhale, and he squeezed his eyes shut, just for a second, because he knew that particular hurt all too well.  He’d never wanted to kill someone more than he had in the moment he’d let himself into Ygritte’s place, years back, to find his alleged friend Grenn fucking her on her dinette table.  He didn’t even wait to see if they stopped, rather he turned around and left, didn’t answer her calls or the pounding at his door that night.  He’d simply called her the next morning and told her, in no uncertain terms, to come get her shit and never speak to him again, that they were fucking done.

“What a piece of shit,” he bit out, and she let out a little pained laugh.

“It gets better,” she said, nudging his shoulder again until he met her eyes.  “He was fucking my friend Doreah, too.  At the same time.”  She licked at her bottom lip, tucking it between her teeth for a moment before giving him a tiny smile.  “Needless to say, our engagement ended that night.  Along with several friendships.”

Neither of them spoke for several moments, something understanding surfacing in her eyes that told him she knew about Ygritte, that she had been in that very same place, that maybe she understood why it had taken him so bloody long to tell her how he felt.

And, he realized, maybe it was why she hadn’t said anything, either.

Not that she’d said anything now. He was the one making declarations of love in the least romantic room of her house, but he saw something in the way she looked at him now.

Bit by bit, her words dug through avalanche of misery that had buried him.

“Do you want me to kill him?”  When he whispered the question her eyes bugged out, and a loud bark of surprised laughter escaped her.  “I could, you know,” he went on, more out of the desire to make her laugh than to follow through on any real threat.  “I’m only *really* good at a few things, and one of them is killing people.  In the interest of full disclosure, of course.”

She smiled indulgently, and slid a thumb against the top of his hand.  “You sure you aren’t a bit rusty?  I imagine it’s been awhile.”  She smirked as his face twisted in mock offense, her shoulders shaking in silent laughter when he pulled his hand away from hers and crossed his arms across his chest.

“It’s like riding a bike, Dany,” he huffed out, his lips twitching when she snorted and clapped a hand over her mouth. 

She shook her head, her hair still hanging loose around her shoulders, halfway undone from her earlier braid, her eyes still red and a little puffy, and she sniffed.  “Not necessary.  And not worth the trouble of bloodying up the inside of my creepy van in the event of our inevitable getaway.”  Her lips spread in the beginnings of a familiar, devious smile, and she gave him a knowing, sidelong look.  “Besides, there’s certainly other things you’re good at, that don’t require so much lawbreaking.”

He answered with a slow nod, fairly certain he knew what she referred to.  But as his declaration was still out there, hanging in the air above them,  he remained a little off balance and he wasn’t sure if she was even going to mention it.  To be safe, he chose a lighter approach. “I’m very good at Yahtzee, it’s true.”

Dany recoiled, as if struck, then proffered a smug little grin, and scoffed.  “Hardly, I beat you so soundly last time you accused me of cheating like the sore loser you are.”

Jon threw a playful glower her way, poking at the smooth skin of her thigh, still bare just below the hem of that overly-large sweatshirt, and only allowed himself a spare second to wonder if she actually wore anything under it.  “Horseshit, Dany, you cheated.  I just haven’t figured out how, yet.”  When she laughed at his put-out tone, he continued, eager to hear more of it.  “No one rolls three Yahtzees in a row, it’s statistically impossible.”

She rolled her eyes and pursed her lips, giving him a long, considering look before she rose to her knees, allowing him the opportunity, he realized, to stop her.  She straddled his lap,  tucking her knees against his hips and the bulky sweatshirt rode up to the tops of her thighs. “I didn’t mean Yahtzee, Jon.”

Sucking in a breath,  his legs shifted and straightened out fully beneath her, the meaningful look she gave him pinning his eyes to hers. His hands drifted to rest on her thighs.  “Battleship, then.  I absolutely destroyed you at Battleship, don’t deny it.”

She pouted, her bottom lip puffing out, her eyes narrowing playfully, even as she settled herself up against his groin, which had definitely woken up in the past few minutes.  “You sunk my battleship,” she whispered sadly.  “And it’s so rude of you to remind me.  You’re an even worse winner, if that’s possible.”

At the very slight pressure she exerted on his hips, his mouth fell open and his hands tightened on her thighs involuntarily;  it didn’t escape his notice that she bit her lip, let out the slightest moan.  Almost certainly--at most--she wore only  panties beneath the sweatshirt, but he wasn’t going to let that deter him.  “You can’t be serious,” he said, mocking.  “Dany, when we played Sorry!, who was it that danced around the room every time they landed on my piece?”

She averted her eyes, her lips twitching.  “Me.”

His hands inched upwards.  “And who laughed until they cried when they beat me the third time in a row?”

She sighed, smiling broadly now.  “Me.  That was a good run, though, you have to admit.”

“Dany,” he said, trying to sound as aggrieved as he could as she leaned forward and pressed her chest against his; he finally gripped her wiggling hips.  “You proclaimed yourself the Queen of Sorry! And said I was a mere peasant, who would never, ever claim the Sorry! throne from you.”

She collapsed against him, giggling ceaselessly, her face tucking into his neck.  “That sounds vaguely familiar, now that you mention it.”  Her arms were around his neck, then, hugging him tight. For several blissful seconds there was nothing to do but hold her against him, relieved that she hadn’t booted him out and told him he was out of his mind to think she’d ever return the feelings he’d given voice to.  But then she pulled back, her eyes had grown serious, and she cupped his face in her hands, scratching absently at his beard.

“Jon,” she said hesitantly, “were you aware that everyone we work with seems to believe you have some strict policy about dating coworkers?”  His brow creased in confusion, his head shaking slightly at the question, even as she continued.  “Even Olenna?”

He thought hard, trying to figure out why on earth the old HR head might have thought that, when it hit him.  “Oh, shit.”  He started to chuckle, even though Dany was frowning ever so slightly, watching him.  “I think I know why.  Gods, that was like two years ago, I can’t believe it’s some bloody rumor now.”  He tickled his index fingers against the fabric on her hips.  “I told a lie.”

She gasped in a pretend sort of disbelief.  “You told a lie?  To who?”

“Olenna.”  The Tyrell woman had been so unbearably pushy, a year after he’d broken up with Ygritte, trying to pawn off her granddaughter, Margaery, as a prospective date.  “She was trying to set me up with her granddaughter when she interned for Tyrion a few years ago.  I wasn’t interested, but I didn’t want to be rude, so,” he shrugged, “I told a little fib to get her off my back.”

Dany stared at him with wide eyes, starting to laugh quietly under her breath.  “Jon!”  She smacked a hand lightly against his shoulder.  “She definitely put that in your HR file.”  She leaned closer, so that their faces nearly brushed against each other.  “This whole time, I thought I had to win you over, so you’d drop your silly rule.”

Now Jon’s eyes bugged out, and he couldn’t help the ripple of pleased shock that coursed through him.  “*THAT’S* why you didn’t say anything?”

Her fingers returned to tracing along his jaw.  “Well,” she hemmed, “partly.”

Jon made a show of hanging his head in mock disgust.  “We’re tremendous idiots.”

She pressed her lips where her fingers had traced and nodded against his skin.  “We really are.  So,” she said slowly, with the barest of smiles,  leaning back to consider him, “what sort of big plans did you make?”  She tried to act innocent, eyes wide, voice perfectly unaffected, but he knew her too well to buy into it completely.

“Not yelling my deepest feelings at you in your bathroom.  That was definitely not on the agenda.”  He huffed out a breath, eyes darting around briefly before they settled on hers again.  “Like yesterday, but different.”

“Yesterday was really good.”  She pressed a quick, soft kiss to his lips, pulling back when he moved to deepen it.  “So was last night.  And everything up until the last twenty minutes or so, actually.”  She gave him another kiss, this one firmer, her tongue sneaking out to tease at his lips before she drew back again.  “Hmmm.”  She tipped her head back, as if deep in thought, her fingers still caressing his skin, her knees still squeezing against his hips.  “When you were planning on hatching this elaborate scheme?”

He narrowed his eyes. “The day of the office Christmas party.”

She stared at him, and he felt a flare of that old stupid doubt burn in his chest, but then she smiled saucily and nipped at his bottom lip.  “Eight days,” she mused, nodding decisively. Then pushing her hips against his in a manner that had to be purposeful, she offered him a coy smile. “Alright, I think you should go for it.”

He began to smile as well, even as he tried to settle on exactly what she meant.  “Go for what?”  He squeezed at her hips, and shifted against her again, raising a brow at her gasp.

“Your plan, of course.  I’m really curious, now.”  She pressed a series of quick kisses to his furrowed brow and at each of his temples, then the tip of his nose.  “And I’ll pretend you didn’t shout your undying love for me in front of my beauty products and toilet paper.”

“I panicked!”  His eyes grew wide, a frantic note entered his voice as he tried (and failed)  to glare at her.  “I’m never going to live this down, am I?”

She leaned her forehead against his.  “A do-over, just this once.”  Her hands began to toy with the hair at the nape of his neck.  “But,” she whispered, rolling her head to look longingly at her shower, then back at him.  “Since you’re here, already, and not even fully dressed yet…”

“I firmly believe in conserving water.  I think you should know that about me.  Also, I’m very good at washing backs.  And other parts.”  He wiggled his fingers where they bit into her flesh.  “Very thorough.”

Dany threw back her head and laughed, and he urged the parts of him not already imagining her slick and soapy and wet to remember it--how she looked, how she sounded, in this moment.  She stood nimbly, extending a hand to him to help him stand as well, but her altruism died as soon as he was on his feet:  her fingers began working at his jeans the moment both heels touched the ground.

“We’ll see about *that*.”

The pads of her fingers skirted just above his reawakening cock, as she tugged at the denim, and he grinned.

--------

Jon decided, very firmly, that every shower from here on out should be with Dany.

In the interest of water conservation of course.

Belatedly, he realized the environmental benefits from co-showering might be dubious because they’d showered until the water had turned cold. But he was proud to say that every inch of her was spotless.  He’d checked.  And double checked. With his tongue.

And he’d marked several other boxes off his Dany list so his earlier, mortifying episode aside, it was shaping up to be a fantastic day.

Now, absolutely famished, they sat in her dining alcove, eating sandwiches, with Dany perched atop his lap even though there were several empty, perfectly adequate chairs she could have utilized.  She’d plopped herself in his lap straightaway, munching thoughtfully on her food, occasionally offering him bites of his since his hands were delightfully full of her flesh, as he sought to keep her from tipping off her newfound seat.

“Y’know,” she said, swallowing and giving him a smirk, “we should’ve been eating lunch like this all along.”  She picked up his sandwich half, holding it close to his lips so he could sneak a bite and raising her brows at him while he chewed.

“I think we’d definitely have had several PDA complaints filed against us.”  

She pursed her lips and gave him a deadpan look, shaking her head slightly, trying her best to muster a serious face. “And as Head of HR, I would put those complaints in my very special filing cabinet, also known as the trash can under my desk.”  She flashed him a cheeky grin then took a sip of her drink.  “Where they belong.”

He cackled, picturing her doing exactly that, ever so prim and proper then tossing such slander in the bin tucked by her feet.  Of course, now that he knew how she mewled and whimpered, thoughts of her desk naturally turned to him being under her desk, preferably with her tucked into her chair, and parting those firm thighs of hers…

Jon was pulled from his thoughts by a tickle against his side.  “You’re thinking something wicked.”  She smiled knowingly at him when he shrugged, and held his sandwich up for him to take another bite, and the only part of this whole eating on his lap arrangement that he truly disliked was that they’d had to put their clothes on.

It was a dreadful shame, a crime against nature, for her to wear clothes.

“Never,” he answered.  “I am pure as the driven snow.  You’re the wicked one.”

She looked at him, nonplussed, and brushed some crumbs from his lips.  “Of course, I am.” 

 He sighed, happily, contentment settling deep in his bones at the feel of her on his lap and in his arms, the dogs piled up by the hearth and snoring.

There was something, though, that had nibbled at the edge of his mind, but had been shoved to the back when he’d climbed into her steamy shower. But the question returned, and he found he couldn’t help but ask. “What were you going to say, before?  When I woke up?”

Her eyes searched his for a moment, she tensed in his arms: her sudden case of nerves surprised him.  “Well,” she eeked out, squinting at him as though she was actually worried, “I was going to apologize for how I acted towards your ex. I don’t know what got into me.”

She was lying, he thought, with that bullshit about Ygritte. She knew precisely what she had wanted to say and he did, too, and it made something hot surge through his heart, flooding and filling the space inside his chest at the notion.  But he would play along, remaining mum about her real motivation, let her guard that confession for now, until he had the do-over she’d so magnanimously granted him.  Instead, he dropped a hand and cupped her thigh, pulling her back up his legs a little.  “No need to apologize.  She definitely had it coming.”

“No shit,” Dany sneered, clearly not holding back now that she knew she hadn’t crossed any sort of line with him.  “And more.”

“You know, don’t you?”  

She looked away guiltily, even as she snuggled deeper into his embrace. “Know what?”  

He doubted if even she was buying this ploy, because she clearly did know what had transpired with Ygritte, but the way she feigned ignorance was undeniably adorable.  She took a huge bite, surely to avoid having to answer further, chewing with slow precision and smiling at him around her bite, her cheeks pushed out like a squirrel.

“Why I broke things off with my ex.”  At his pointed look her shoulders fell, and she nodded slowly, knowing the jig was up.  “Which one of my traitor cousins told you?”

She swallowed heavily, taking another sip of her drink and clearing her throat before she answered.  “Sansa,” she said with a slight wince.  “But don’t be angry with her, I forced it out of her.”

Jon shrugged slightly, careful not to dislodge her.  “It’s not some big secret.”  His eyes narrowed, and he regarded her thoughtfully, until her cheeks flushed and she looked at him askance, brushing at her own mouth.

“What is it?’  She swept her fingers along her cheeks.  “Do I have food on my face?”

“No,” He answered, affection squeezing the air from his chest.  “Is that why you told me about what happened with the enormous piece of shit you don’t think I should kill?”

She chuckled, shaking her head and giving him an exasperated toss of her head.  “You’re so ridiculous.”  Then she nibbled on the inside of her cheek, he could see her working the skin, with her face so near.  Then her gaze was on him again, and she nodded, barely.  “That’s one reason I told you, I guess.”

He raised his hand and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, taking a moment to admire the way her curls tumbled down her back, wondering when would be an appropriate time to see if she wanted one more round for the road.  He wasn’t even sure he had it in him, but the curve of her ass as he swept his palm down to trace the line of her hip inspired a whole new flight of ideas.  “And the other reason?”

He knew: he’d been right before.  He knew in the way her face relaxed, how she melted against him.  She watched him, something warm and soft blossoming in the purple eyes that he’d become obsessed with, the only eyes he ever cared to see again—he knew.

Maybe he’d always known.  He hadn’t wanted to admit it, hadn’t wanted to believe it, because accepting that belief meant he could have her, and if had her, he could lose her—or that he could end up hurt. That, he decided, was a bullshit mindset and he ought to be done with it because the truth stared back at him from purple eyes, behind terribly sexy glasses.

She loved him too. 

And she was just as afraid of fucking it up as he was.  But she pushed forward, plunging ahead into the unknown in spite of her fear, and he wouldn't be left behind. She was worth it: worth his effort and his time and especially his heart.

“You’re a smart man,” she said finally, in a low, velvety voice.   “I bet you’ll figure it out.”

----------

When she finally shooed him out of her place Sunday evening, only a sliver of sun remained, and his knees felt like fucking gelatin;  he wasn’t sure if it was noticeable, but he thought he might be limping a bit.

And with Ghost on his leash, and her kiss still tingling on his lips, he whistled the whole way home.  He let himself inside, bubbling with the most remarkable sense of cheer he could remember feeling, noticing, as he passed by the mirror hung in the entryway that he was sporting a huge, goofy grin.

He didn’t care.

He picked up the house, fed Ghost and threw together something quick for dinner, and it wasn’t until he sat down to eat, Ghost curled up at his feet, that his mood began to sour.

He looked at the empty chair across from him, and frowned.

It was pathetic, he knew.  He could admit it.

He missed her.

He kept waiting for her to bang around the corner and sweep into the room, saying something ridiculous to make him laugh, and he chided himself to stop.

She wasn’t here.

She was at her place, and he was at his, and it was absolutely stupid to miss a person this much.  He’d just spent the night with her, for fuck’s sake.  It had only been an hour, tops, since the last time he’d seen her.

He puttered around his kitchen, finding it not the least bit gratifying because Dany wasn’t there nearly amputating her index finger with his favorite petite chef knife, or dipping into his brownie batter bowl for ‘just a little taste.’ 

Jon ate absently, wondering what she was doing, if it was at all possible she was as sulky as he was.  He washed his dishes, drying them without even looking, knowing if he caught another glimpse of himself, he’d see a morose motherfucker looking back at him in the mirror.

And then his phone dinged, and he dried his hands off on the dish towel, sprinting over to the dining room table and tripping over the rug in the process.  It was Dany, and his smile was back.

Dany:  You’re pouting, aren’t you.  I bet you miss me terribly.

Jon:  Please.  Ghost and I are having a fantastic time.  It’s so quiet without anyone constantly teasing me. We will watch sports, drink beer and belch in peace.

Dany:  You are a rotten liar, even in text messages.  Go to your front door.

Jon squinted at the screen, then looked at Ghost, who was watching him through half-closed eyes.  He walked to the door, looking around suspiciously.

Jon:  Why?  Going to club me over the head and roll me up in a rug like you keep threatening?

Dany:  Are you at your front door?

Jon:  Yes, and I don’t hear a loud engine running.

Dany:  Open it.

Jon gripped the handle, turning the latch, hoping he knew what was on the other side.

“Hi,” she said shyly, and gave a little wave.

 Hedwig scampered in, not bothering to wait for an invitation, snuffling around Ghost then curling up into a furry orange ball against a cloud of white.  Ghost huffed, gave Jon an eye rolling look, then curled around the small dog a little more closely and closed his eyes.  

He turned back to the door to see Dany looking surprisingly unsure.  “Can I come in?”

There was nothing to say.  There she stood, on his doorstep, everything in her eyes, shuffling her feet as though it was even a real question.  He grabbed her hand and pulled her in, sweeping her up into his arms in a hard, tight hug.

“I won,” he whispered.  “You caved first.”

She would protest, would come up with some excuse as to why she had to come by. He had anticipated it since he’d left her place, nearly unable to tear his mouth from hers even as he’d forced himself out her door, her last taunting call ringing in his ears.  ‘You’ll never outlast me,’ she’d hollered. But she’d given in first, and he was fucking floored by it.

So he kissed her, his tongue and lips telling her everything his mind had told him not to repeat, not yet.

She whacked a hand against his arm, then wrapped her arms around his neck, her tongue teasing against his, making him chase her, into her mouth, then suckling on it just like she had his cock in her shower.

He pushed his door shut, then pulled back, unwilling to release her from the circle of his arms.  “Can I help you, miss? Have you come to confess your frailty?” 

She frowned up at him.  “I realized I have to go to a stupid HR conference Monday and Tuesday, and that meant I wasn’t going to see your grumpy face for two whole days.”  She kissed him fiercely, her fingers digging into his neck, pressing into him intensely.  “And I missed you.”

He hugged her to him tighter.  “As long as we’re clear on who won, here.”

“You are the most aggravating man alive,” she said, but belied her chiding with a slow lick along the tendon in his neck.

“You should stay here tonight. A girl like you, out on the streets alone at this hour, all those surfaces primed for vandalizing?” he said, and she smiled so brightly that her eyes did that crinkling thing, in the corners, and he never wanted to do anything but make her smile at him like that.  “I mean, it’s not like we haven’t already let the genie out of the bottle already today.  Do-over starts tomorrow.” He drew away from her slightly, meeting her eyes.

“You missed me, didn’t you?” 

Now that he knew to listen for it, he heard her yearning, the partner to the thing that had grown wild in his heart and in his mind, and there was nothing in him that thought to refuse her.

Maybe they’d wait, and maybe he wouldn’t say it again.  Yet.

Maybe she wouldn’t either.  But he knew, and that was enough for now.

“Maybe,” he teased, and slid his hand down the length of her jacket, down to her ass, and gave a squeeze.  “Or yes, definitely.”  He couldn’t break free from her stare, something in it chaining him to her, this shared knowledge of the things they felt that remained unsaid—at least in her case. “Either way, you gave in first, so I win.”

She just laughed, and kissed the tip of his nose.  “If I’m staying, I’m not sleeping on your floor again.”  Swatting his hand away, she skipped over to the stairs that led up to his bedroom, and gave him a wink.  “I’d offer to race you, Grandpa, but I wouldn’t want you to break a hip.”

Jon quickly threw the bolt on the front door then stalked over to the stairs.  “You’re pouting because you caved first.”  He leaned down and picked her up, laughing at the way she smacked at the muscles in his back as he started up the stairs with her over his shoulder.  “But if I’m going to break a hip tonight, there’s other ways I’d rather do it.”

 




Chapter Text

 

THE WEEK BEFORE THE SECRET SANTA OFFICE PARTY

MONDAY

The next morning, he checked off another box on his very personal list, because he awoke to the feel of soft flesh pressed against him, her hair tickling his nose, her ass snug against his groin.  He lifted his head, glad that it was still dark outside, knowing his alarm hadn’t yet sounded.

Just a few more minutes, he told himself, and tightened the arm wrapped around her middle. She sighed and nestled closer into his arms.

—————

She was kissing him, even as she backed through his front doorway, a harried mess of silver hair and one of his jackets wrapped snugly around her.  “Okay,” she said breathlessly, gripping the handle of the door, reluctantly pulling free of his arms.  “I really have to go; I’m going to be late for this stupid conference.”

He exhaled, frowning.  “Let’s call in sick.”

She wagged a finger at him teasingly.  “No way, Jon.  And don’t forget, Mr. Big Plans, do-over starts today.”  She backed down his steps, giving him a jaunty wave, wrapping Hedwig’s leash more tightly around her hand. “Try not to miss me too much.”

He waved, frowning harder, trying not to laugh when she finally began to walk away, but then turned suddenly with a bright smile.  “If you get bored, send me some nu-des.”  The way she said it, trilling it in a sing-song voice, finally broke him.

“N-o,” he answered, attempting to match her silly tone, and was rewarded with a kiss she blew at him as she finally picked up her pace.

He watched until she and her little orange ball of fur rounded the corner, then walked back inside, finding Ghost watching him solemnly.

“They should move in,” Jon said to the dog, who tipped his head curiously.

“Too soon?”  

Ghost whined in response.  

“Yeah, you’re probably right, boy.”

He missed her already, and he wasn’t sure how he was going to make it through the day.

_________

By Monday night he was in a bad mood, but he tried to muster all of his negative energy for a greater purpose: winning all his friends’ money at their weekly poker night.

The usual gang had already arrived; Grey handed him a beer the minute he walked in.

“Thanks,” Jon said, earning a rare half-smile from the quiet man.  They had a lot in common, he and Grey, and the other man was one of the few Jon would trust with his life.

After all, Grey had saved his life.  He’d been on loan from a Ghiscari company, had been in the Humvee behind Jon’s when they’d been blown to hell, had pulled Jon to safety and tried his best to stop the bleeding until a field medic could get to him.

And he was the one person who’d faithfully visited Jon daily, had sat quietly by Jon’s hospital bed, had shared stories from his own shitty life, far shittier than Jon’s.

When Jon had been on the knife edge of despair, when he’d found out he was being put on fucking desk duty to train as an IT specialist, Grey had brought him a white bundle of fur, a puppy that had been wandering around their camp.

He owed the man his life.

But he was still going to take his money.

“Shuffle up and deal,” Sam said, when Jon sat down, tossing him the deck. “You’re late, Snow.  What happened, hot date?” He smirked.

For that smart-ass comment, Jon would take Sam’s money too. He sipped his beer.  “Maybe.”

Missy poked her head in from the kitchen, coming around the corner when she saw Jon and thumped him on the shoulder in greeting.  “You missed the boat on a *real* hot date, Jon.  Should’ve let me set you up with DeeDee when you had the chance, but too late.  She’s all snatched up now with some guy who looks like, in her words, a ‘sexy professor.’” She gave Jon a regretful look.

Jon shrugged.  “To be fair, Missy, I’m not sure someone who goes by ‘DeeDee’ is really my type.  Which is why I have continued to refuse.”  

Grey snorted, and took his cards as they slid across the table, sneaking a look at Jon as Missy shook her head and returned to the kitchen. 

“Excuses, excuses Jon. Your loss; sexy professor’s gain.” 

They wanted, and Grey glanced over his shoulder, making sure the coast was clear, before leaning in.  “DeeDee is really hot.”

Jon fanned out his cards, uncaring.  “I’ve got something in the works, but I appreciate the way you two persist in meddling in my personal life.”  He looked up to find them all looking at him, and took a long pull from his beer bottle.  “No need to look shocked.  I’m not a fucking leper.  I date.”

Pip gave him a bemused smile.  “It’s not that, LT, it’s just you’re so…”

“Picky,” Sam supplied helpfully.

Grey watched him with a small smile, and as the others began to study their cards he finally spoke.  “Good for you.”  He leaned back in his chair, throwing some chips into the center of the table and cocking his head.  “If you’re feeling brave, you can bring her to Game Night.  Couples only, you know.”

Jon’s brows raised.  Missy had politely banned him from Game Night ostensibly because he was not part of a couple, but also, according to Grey’s fiancée, because of his ruthless competitive streak.  He smiled, imagining the unlimited carnage Dany’s presence would insure.  The Queen of Sorry! was even more cutthroat than he was.

“When is it?”

Sam threw in, Pip folded, and Jon grabbed a few chips, considered, then raised.

“Christmas Eve,” Grey said.  “You in?”

Jon grinned, and tapped his cards soundly on the table.  “Absolutely.”

---------

He’d stepped away to relieve himself, and was making his way down the Grey’s back hall, when his eyes caught on something he couldn’t believe he’d missed before now.

Missy had decorated the hallway with photographs— of her with Grey, Grey in his officer’s uniform, family photos, the typical subjects.  But one picture, in a cluster with two others, set him rocking back on his heels.

He stood, for far longer than he ought to have, his mouth hanging open.

It was a graduation photo.

There was Missy, beaming in her cap and gown.  There was another girl, in the middle, a complete stranger to him.  But there, on the left, her silver hair trailing over her shoulder, her diploma hanging from her hand, was Daenerys Targaryen.

His heart pounded, and slowly, step by step, he made his way back to the table.

It couldn’t be.

He scratched at his jaw as he sat back down, not sure if it was more surprise or amusement that made him feel so suddenly off-balance.

Because Jon was confident that ‘DeeDee’ was Daenerys.

Daenerys was ‘DeeDee’.

And they’d been trying to fix the two of them up for months.

He cleared his throat.  “Say, Grey,” he said, trying to keep his voice neutral, “this ‘DeeDee’.”  He paused, waiting until the other man looked up.  “Is that her real name?”

Grey smirked.  “I thought you were working on something, Lieutenant.”

Jon nodded, trying on a patented Daenerys Targaryen innocent expression.  “I am.  Just curious, is all.”

The man’s eyes narrowed--did Jon imagine a smidgen of suspicion there? --and he ate a handful of chips, munching and staring Jon down. “Nah, it’s not her real name,” Grey finally replied.  “Her real name’s Daenerys.  Missy just always calls her ‘DeeDee’.”

Jon ran his tongue over his teeth, thinking, trying to pretend he was looking at his cards as his mind raced.  “Nice name,” he said, and tossed his wager carelessly into the pot.

In his mind, a scheme began to take shape.

He took another drink, and counted down the minutes ‘til he could call Dany, and spent the rest of his evening losing every hand.

The moment he made it outside, as soon as the door was closed, he walked down the sidewalk, took a picture of the house, and texted it to Daenerys.

Jon:  Tell me where I am right now

Text bubbles appeared immediately, and then her message came through.

Dany:  Monday Night Potluck Bingo at the senior center?

Jon:  So rude.  Look closer, DEEDEE

Dany:  IS THAT MISSY'S HOUSE

Jon:  Yep

Jon:  Although technically I was here to play poker with Grey.  Like I do every Monday night.  And have for two years.

Dany:  PLEASE CAREFULLY DRIVE HOME THEN FACETIME ME

Dany:  I HAVE SEVERAL QUESTIONS

Jon:  Can I call you DeeDee?

Dany:  Only if you aren't wearing pants when you call.

She then sent him about fifty winking emojis, and he climbed into his Jeep and started the engine.

His day had been shit, but things were definitely looking up.

 

TUESDAY

Winter half-light greeted him as he woke up, yawning and reached for his glasses, checking the alarm.

It hadn’t gone off yet.

He climbed out of bed, wishing time would hurry the fuck up, already. 

Six days to go, he thought, already sick of waking up alone, now that he’d had a taste of what it was like to wake up next to her. 

He slogged through the day, compiling his departmental budget data for a meeting with Tyrion later in the week, able to refrain from texting Dany until just after lunch, when he couldn’t take it another second.

Jon:  I’m dying of boredom.

She didn’t respond. 

Sulkily, he ate at his desk while he paged through endless expenditures. When his phone dinged twenty minutes later, a burst of unreasonably happy energy animated him. He resisted the impulse to cheer—or whistle—settling on a half-smile.

Dany:  Wish I was there

Dany:  Under your desk

Dany:  No clothes in sight

Wincing as if in physical pain, he groaned. Feeling Edd’s eyes on him, he cracked a peak at his colleague who speared him with a strange look between bites of a fishy smelling tuna salad sandwich.

He most definitely wished Naked Dany hid under his desk as well, although Edd and his pungent, mood-killing sandwich certainly wouldn’t be present. 

Jon:  It’s really mean to torture me like this when I’m trying to be a productive employee.

The text bubbles alerted him that she was responding, but in the spirit of being a productive employee he tried to tear his eyes away from the phone screen to look at his monitor and at least pretend he was working, but it was useless.

Especially once he saw her response.

Dany:  You’re hard for me right now, aren’t you?

Shit. He tried diverting his focus onto anything not Dany related but she had so totally permeated everything in the office, it was virtually impossible to find anything within a 500-foot radius that didn’t conjure a Dany memory. Closing his eyes, he inhaled deep lung-fulls of stinky fish sandwich smell. 

Better. 

Maybe he should ask Edd to bring warm tuna salad every day until the office party. A sandwich a day keeps the erection at bay. 

 He was truly beginning to regret this do-over, and was a heartbeat away from reserving a room in the hotel hosting the HR conference, marching into her session and throwing her over his shoulder, caveman style, to head upstairs, big plans be damned.  Calmer heads, and Edd clearing his throat prevailed.

“Uh, boss?” 

 Jon opened his eyes to find Edd studying him closely.  

“You feeling alright? I know the sandwich kind of stinks with the onions and garlic--”

“Fine, Edd, just tired. The sandwich is fine. In fact, it’s perfect. Keep the sandwich.” Jon scrubbed his hand down his face.  

“Mmmmkay.” Edd wrinkled his forehead, clearly disbelieving him; he chewed another bite.

Jon:  That’s beside the point.  We’ll continue this conversation later, though, when Edd isn’t watching me like he’s scared I’m going to pass out or puke on the floor.

Dany:  I’ll call you tonight.  Right after I take a bath.  Only wearing a towel.

Jon pinched the bridge of his nose and blew out a harsh breath, swiveling around in his chair so that at least Edd couldn’t see his face.

He grinned. Like a lunatic.

Jon:  I’m counting on it.  I have to run some errands, first, so save all your designs on my virtue for after eight o’clock.

Dany:  Big plan errands?

She was relentless, as always.  She’d been playing lawyer word games over the past few days trying to trick him out of intel, but he wasn’t giving an inch.

Jon:  That’s confidential information.

Dany:  Spoilsport.  Six more days!

She sent him several heart emojis, and he put his phone down, ignoring Edd’s pointed stare.

“Boss, you aren’t sexting, are you?”  The man looked so thoroughly scandalized that it was difficult not to laugh, but he was edging closer to the truth, so Jon tried his best to look affronted.

“Of course not!”  He scoffed, and began paging through expenditures again.  “Get back to work,” he said dryly, when he glanced up and saw Edd still watching him.

“Sure, Jon,” the other man said, and began typing.

Jon spent the remainder of the day trying to avoid picturing Dany wearing nothing but a towel, failing miserably and yet feeling strangely okay with his inadequacies.

---------

That evening, after a short walk for Ghost, he pulled into the parking lot of ‘Old Nan’s Knitting Corner’ beset by no small amount of nervousness.  Beyond a cursory online search, what he knew about knitting would fill a thimble.

But Dany loved it.  He knew, by now, that it was her nervous habit, something to keep her hands busy, knew that she found something very calming in the process of clicking those needles together, regardless of how it turned out.

So here he was, where she spent her Friday nights, from 6:30 to 9:00, every week.

A bell rang over his head, when he entered, but he was glad to see it was not crowded as he made his way to the counter, an old-fashioned register resting heavily on top.

“Just a second!”  A craggy voice called from the back, and Jon stood, looking around curiously, at the endless cubbies and bins of yarn, of all colors and textures, the knitting needles hanging on the walls, the books of patterns sitting on display racks.

“Well, now,” came the voice again, closer this time, and suddenly an old woman appeared, eyeing him closely as she slapped a hand down on the counter.  “What have we here?”

Her gaze was keen, and then she let out a little gasp, and leaned on her elbow.  “A Northern lad, eh?  Don’t get many of those in my shop.”  She let out a girlish giggle at his slight look of surprise, and Jon fleetingly wondered if this Old Nan was flirting with him.  “Don’t be so surprised, my boy, you’ve got the look, alright.  From the North myself, you see.”

“Really?”  His surprise continued to grow; he hadn’t run across many Northerners in the Westerlands, most he knew found anything south of The Neck too warm.  “Whereabouts are you from?”

“White Harbor,” she said immediately, peering at him more carefully.  “But you,” she said, raising a finger and poking in the shoulder lightly, “you look like a Stark.”

“I’m a Snow,” he said, growing a bit tense.  Everyone in the North knew exactly what that meant.  “Same blood, different name.”  He glanced around again, eager to change the subject.  “I need to buy some yarn.”

The old woman’s eyes lit up, her line of questioning hopefully forgotten, and she clapped her aged hands together.  “You don’t say.  What kind?”

Jon smiled sheepishly.  “I have no idea.  It’s for a friend.”

A knowing smile bloomed across the woman’s face.  “Ahhhh, a lady friend.”  She rubbed her hands together and turned, facing the aisles of yarn.  “What does she like to make?”

Blowing out a nervous breath, Jon wondered if he was treading too far, uninvited, into Dany’s private hobbies, if the woman would help an absolute stranger like him.  “I was hoping you could help me with that.  She comes here, every Friday, and I thought you might have some suggestions.”

Slowly, Old Nan turned, her eyes narrowed.  “What’s her name, then?”

“Daenerys.”  With the way the old woman’s face brightened Jon would’ve thought he’d told her he’d personally cured cancer, but he wasn’t surprised.  Dany had that effect on people.

Then she grinned, and he couldn’t help but notice the knowing gleam in her eye.  “You must be Jon,” she said, and raised her brows meaningfully when Jon ducked his head, realizing Dany must have talked about him.

Old Nan came around the counter, and took his arm, merry and suddenly friendlier than he’d thought she might be capable of.  As she walked with him deeper into the store, she patted Jon’s arm affectionately. “Oh, you just listen to Old Nan, now. I’ll give you everything she’ll need.”

An hour later, relieved of a surprisingly large sum of money and his arms laden with three large bags, he loaded up the back of his Jeep.

When he climbed into the driver's seat, he pulled out his phone.

Jon:  Are you done with your bath?

He smiled, waiting for a moment and starting the engine before he peeked back at the screen.

Dany:  Almost, but sadly I don't get my tits nearly as clean as you do.

Jon let his head rest on the steering wheel for a moment, the memory of doing just that almost overwhelming.  For good measure, he banged his head against the steering wheel a few times hoping to dislodge the vivid images from his thoughts.

Nope. Wasn’t happening. She lived right there in vivid color in his mind. 

Jon:  I'm on my way home, then you can tell me all about it.  In very explicit detail.

He took a deep breath, shook his head and hoped all the traffic signals between here and home cooperated. Or he could irresponsibly ignore speed limits.  Maybe he’d show the officer Dany’s picture coupled with her text and hope for mercy. Who could fault him—racing home for the most beautiful woman in the world?

 

WEDNESDAY

Wednesday, he woke up before dawn, sitting up with a start after a particularly disturbing dream involving him, Dany, and a conference room table.  In concept, it was a great dream. Until the rest of the office had arrived and begun taking copious notes and writing critiques as his dream self attempted to fuck Daenerys in a variety of positions he wasn’t sure he’d tried before and might not even be physically possible. 

Five days, he told his bleary reflection, and took matters into his own hands while he showered. Her conference completed, she would be at the office today, and he knew he’d better take the edge off if he stood a chance at resisting her. The notion that he might want to resist her was laughable, but such was his lot. 

His plan worked splendidly—

—until 2:15, when she pulled him into a supply closet and proceeded to devour his lips until they were both dizzy, the sound of the jiggling handle the only thing that halted his hand at the zip of her slim skirt.

He wasn’t sure who was more disappointed at the interruption, himself or her. Her pained expression as they parted ways consoled him somewhat. Whether it was as simple as misery loving company, or the fact that she was clearly as affected by him as he was her—Jon was staggered each time he realized what future might be theirs for the taking, 

After work, in the parking lot, he kissed her—hard—pressed against her sportscar. They hadn’t yet fucked in a car so climbing in her backseat seemed a promising, immediately available option. 

But… 

When he pulled back and saw her pout, he whispered “five more days” against her lips.

He went home, alone, persuaded more of his idiocy each and every day he remained parted from her. 

 

THURSDAY/FRIDAY

By Thursday and Friday avoiding her altogether seemed to be the most sensible strategy.

Because the moment their eyes locked his body would flush as if he’d caught fire, the burning in his chest matched only by the flare of desire that had him worried to stand up, in case he was in a state that would immediately reveal his baser inclinations.

Budget meetings didn’t seem the place to let loose with torrid emotions, neither did the cafeteria, so he kept his head down, and so did she.

But as his friend packed up at day’s end, he reminded Edd he’d be stopping by on Sunday, and the man seemed relieved that this whole ordeal was almost at an end.  He didn’t know many details, but he did know that Jon had enlisted Ros’s aid in wrapping some things for his ‘big plans.’

He rapped his knuckles on Jon’s desk at 5:00 p.m. on the dot.

“Better name your first kid after me, Boss,” he said, giving Jon a friendly glare.  “This tension’s almost too much to take.” He gave a mock salute, and left with a whistle on his lips.

Jon couldn’t help but think he was right.

He knew, as he went home, and tried to busy himself in every way he could think of, that Dany was likely at Old Nan’s, just like every Friday night.  So, he ate dinner, and clicked through channel after channel, his eyes not really even registering what was on the screen.  

He was pathetic, and he knew it.

He was so close, but all he wanted to do was walk over, Ghost in tow, and sit on her stoop and wait.

The problem, of course, was that doing that would likely lead to him going inside her place.

If he went inside, after this week of absolute torture, well, all bets were off.  He was going to have her again, if he went inside, of that there was no fucking doubt.  And  for some stupid reason—one that surely had made much more sense when he was still tangled up in her, his skin flush against hers, his tongue primed with the taste of her, his hands full of her flesh—he had convinced himself that he should wait, do things right.  It was only three more days, after all.

Now it just seemed like forever.

He walked to the fridge and grabbed a beer, but his living room looked too empty, too lonesome to return to, so he went to his office instead, figuring he could at least straighten up in there.  He’d been so busy with all things Dany that he ought to check and make sure he hadn’t been letting other things slide.

He sat at the old roll-top desk that had belonged to his Uncle Ned, long since relegated to storage until Jon had inquired about it, a relic from his childhood, and logged onto the banking website to ensure that yes, as always, everything was on autopay.  Jon let out an exasperated huff, leaning back in the creaking desk chair, eyeing Ghost.  “Well, boy, what are we going to do now?”

Ghost never actually answered, of course, but if the old hound could, he’d probably tell him to get off his ass and take him to visit his little orange napping buddy instead of sitting there alone, like a moron, on a Friday night, talking to his dog.

“Three more days,” Jon told himself, checking his watch and counting down the minutes ‘til she’d be out of Old Nan’s clutches, and he could call, and maybe she’d tell him what she was wearing.

 

SATURDAY

Saturday, he cleaned his place thoroughly, took Ghost for three walks, ran eight miles, and made a massive grocery store run. The distraction was nice, to be sure, and he smiled as he put three pints of Chunky Monkey into his freezer, fishing his phone out of his pocket and taking a picture of them before texting it to Dany.

She responded immediately, as she tended to.

Dany:  Are you trying to seduce me?  If so, it’s working.

He laughed, giving Ghost an apologetic look when the sleeping dog jerked away to stare at him.

Jon:  If I was trying to seduce you, I’d send you a picture of my scars, pervert.

He knew, if she were here right now, she’d laugh and her eyes would be scrunched up and she’d look so adorable that he’d need to kiss her...and proceed to fuck her on his kitchen counter.  

Probably just out of yoga class, he’d pay good money to see her ass in those tight black pants again...and he needed to stop thinking about her body or he was going to be making the short walk to her place, in record time, to wait for her to return home. Unless the Neighborhood Watch panicked and called the cops to remove the stalker from that nice blonde lady’s porch. 

Two more days. Both his heart and his cock had issued ultimatums and he couldn’t blame them; both grew angrier by the day that he was going through with this big plan instead of spending every damn night with her. 

He considered heading to the office to put all of his restless, unfocused energy into something useful, especially since there would be no big plan if he landed in jail.

He did know a brilliant lawyer, however. She’d surely negotiate conjugal visits.

When her message dinged, he glanced at his phone-- only to bury his head in his hands after reading it.

Dany:  In two days, I’m going to lick that ice cream off those scars, so don’t you dare eat it all before then.

Two more days, he chanted under his breath, while Ghost looked at him like he had lost his mind.  Two more days.

 

T-MINUS ONE DAY

On Sunday, he woke up early, gathering together the bags from Old Nan’s along with an assortment of items he had collected for the sole purpose of this one great, sweeping gesture.  He paced, drinking far too much coffee until he was convinced it wasn’t too early to go knocking on Edd’s door, then loaded his Jeep. The drive over became one long interior monologue as he  tried to bury all doubts: 1)she’d think the Big Plan was silly, 2) there was no way he was going to be able to outdo what he’d already done, 3)maybe she’d decided he was a boring old Grandpa Bingo Potluck after all and kick his sorry ass to the curb.

She was probably accustomed to the sort of debonair man who would fly her off for glacier skiing or to take her yachting in the Narrow Sea, her every whim attended to as he offered her a menu of all the decadent indulgences that women as successful as Dany tended to enjoy.

By the time he arrived at Edd and Ros’s, he reminded himself that if she wanted such a life, she would’ve stayed in Pentos and allowed her mother to pair her up with a prestigious pedigree.  But she left behind the private clubs and estates and she was here, living modestly in a quirky, urban neighborhood, entangled in HIS life—a bastard and the family scandal no less; he wasn’t sure he’d ever manage to unknot her from his thoughts, and he certainly didn’t want to. He suspected—he desperately hoped—she felt similarly.

Ros stared at him, wide-eyed, as he carried in bag after bag, curious enough when she nosed around in the bags from the knitting store, but decidedly odd look came across her face when he gave her a box filled with what, he could fully admit, was a strange assortment of items.

“Don’t ask,” he said, giving her a shrug and a bemused smile when she looked at him questioningly.

She shook her head and took the items, chiding their two girls as curious fingers began twirling through thick, soft strands of extremely expensive yarn.  “You’ve got it bad, Jonno,” she said dryly, her eyes dancing across everything he’d hauled in.  She gave Edd an accusing look.  “When’s the last time you’ve gone all out like this for me, mister?”

Edd sighed heavily, put upon and clapped his hand on Jon’s shoulder, leading him to the door.  “Time to go, boss,” he said forcefully, shooing Jon out of the house. Jon was part of the way down the steps when his friend poked his head out of the door.  “Good luck,” the other man called out with an air of cheer.

“Thank you, Ros!”  Jon hoped she could hear him through the swiftly slamming door.

He went home, the tangle of anxiety knotting his chest loosening some: Ros would have everything presentable and artfully wrapped, just as she’d promised.  He’d told them where Dany’s spare keys was, and Edd had committed to hauling everything over to Dany’s tomorrow while they were at work, before the office party started.

He made the last few calls on his list, confirming everything was ready and in place.

Then he laid on his couch, and stared up at the ceiling, and wondered what she was doing.

He missed her.

He didn’t have to wait too long, as his phone started ringing, and when he looked at the screen, he saw she was facetiming him.  He pressed the button to answer, and held the phone in front of his face, smiling involuntarily when hers filled the screen.

“One more day,” she said, but she sounded positively morose.

He frowned at her image.  “What’s the matter?”

Dany stretched, and he saw Hedwig’s head peeking around her, realizing she was stretched out on her couch, just like he was.  Although, the slight creak of the leather as she moved reminded him of other occasions he’d been on her couch, in particular, and those three words became a mantra in his head.

One more day.  One more day.  One more day.

“I’m pathetic,” she said, and pouted at the screen.  “I hate not seeing you all weekend.  I really hate going to the grocery store without you. I even made a list--you know how desperate I am if I made a list?”

Ghost had perked up at the sound of her voice, and shoved his large head between Jon’s face and the phone, and that was all it took to prompt a smile. “Ghost clearly wishes you were here.”  

She pursed her lips at him, and he could just make out the neck of his sweatshirt, the one she’d absconded with months ago.  If he thought too long on why she was wearing it, it would be too easy to walk out his door and make his way straight to hers, throwing himself on Dany’s mercy to do with as she chose. He suspected the Queen of Sorry! would gleefully negotiate the terms of his complete surrender and he would happily accept her terms. 

He was so close.

One more day.

“What about you, Jon Snow?” Her brow raised, and she gave him a tremulous smile.  “Do you wish I was there?”

“Hmmm.”  He pretended to consider it, rubbing a hand at the back of his neck while the other held the phone.  “I suppose only from when I wake up to when I go to sleep.  Maybe while I’m sleeping, too, the jury’s still out on that one.” He paused, considering carefully what he should say, deciding on the truth. “I only miss you when I breathe, Dany.”

She smiled at him, looking absurdly pleased, and snuggled her face further into the throw pillow she laid on.  “Until tomorrow , Jon.”  She blew a kiss at the screen, and disconnected.

One more day.

———-

Monday had finally arrived, the day he’d planned for, and Jon was horrifyingly nervous.

He dressed with care, opting for a full suit, choosing his only Christmas tie (with the Grinch on it) and studied himself in the mirror as he tied the knot.  It was stupid, the way his stomach twisted and convulsed.  He glared at his reflection, willing himself to calm the fuck down, to relax.

He didn’t need to be worried.

The rational part of his mind knew that, knew that she felt the same way he did, knew without her saying the words, because everything she did showed him.

But still.

His gut churning, he pulled on his suit coat, made his coffee, and left with a ruffling of Ghost’s fur.  He’d already told her he’d pick her up, part of his plan depended on her not going, alone, back to her place after work.  She hadn’t pressed him on it, but as he pulled up at her curb, he steeled himself for the onslaught of questions he was certain she was going to launch at him.

Dany climbed in, giving him a far more brilliant smile than anyone ought to have at 7:15 a.m., stealing his breath like she did every time he saw her.  “Big day,” she said, waggling her eyebrows at him as she latched her seat belt.  “Are you prepared to dazzle me?”

“Naturally,” he said, with slightly more confidence than he felt.

----------

Holiday parties at Lannister Industries were typically fairly tame affairs, and this year was no exception. Tyrion, several eggnogs into his party buzz, distributed Lannister logo polo shirts and coffee tumblers along with their holiday bonuses. Marketing raffled off gift cards. The admin pool forgot they were in charge of catering until lunchtime so they rushed to the closest warehouse club store for chicken croissant sandwiches and shrimp trays. Only sales went a little wild; having procured a few bottles of tequila, they snuck out to the shipping warehouse to do shots as everyone else exchanged their Secret Santa gifts.

Jon received a shower radio from Stannis, a nice enough gift, he supposed.  But the man barely cracked a smile when Jon had thanked him, his eyes straying to Melisandre, wearing a red sequined tube top, who sat perched on a nearby desk. 

After leaving something on Dany’s desk, he snuck back down to the dungeon to start the overnight reports and systems checks. The clack-clack-clack of her heels announced her arrival. When she came sauntering close to his desk, he forced himself to keep his eyes trained on his monitor, pretending that the entirety of Lannister Industries’ fortunes depended on the contents of his shutdown menu. Even knowing that the waiting period would expire shortly, his self-control dangled precariously by a fine thread. The mere sight of Dany in her claret red sweater, clinging tightly above just the sort of sexy librarian pencil skirt she’d deduced drove him mad, threatened to wipe out his remaining cognitive processes like a super magnet on a hard drive. Just the skirt alone--he swallowed hard, remembering his ride in with her--how it exquisitely hugged her hips and the curve of her ass… 

He’d never thought of himself as an ass admirer but hers was a work of art.

Sidling up behind him, she waved the piece of paper he’d tucked inside the envelope in front of his monitor. He turned to face her, gazing at her placidly.

“I owe you one grand gesture,” she read aloud, flashing him a coy smile.  “I suppose my Secret Santa has left my present offsite?”  She leaned a hip against his desk, her jacket slung over her arm.  “I have to say I’m extremely curious.”

Jon grabbed his own jacket, keeping his face neutral.  “Santa is truly a man of mystery.”  He took her hand in his, and led her out the door, her merry laugh trailing behind them.

----------

Two blocks from her brownstone, he handed her a blindfold, or a close enough approximation, some sort of sleep mask he’d found at Bed, Bath and Beyond.  “You’re too tempted to peek, so you’ll need to put this on.”

She winked at him suggestively, but obliged.  “This night gets progressively more interesting, Jon Snow.”  

He waved a hand in front of her face, satisfied she couldn’t see, then headed for her place, circling around the block a few times for good measure.  Dany was often far too clever for her own good so outwitting her took forethought.

He parked at the curb, peeking through the windshield, satisfied that he could just make out what he’d hoped to see in the growing darkness, excitement coursing through him as he raced around and opened her door. He took both her hands in his and guided her out of the car, over the curb and up onto the grassy park strip. “Okay. You’re going to have to do exactly as I say for a bit, which I’m sure will be a trial for you.”

She gave him a mocking frown, and crossed her arms around her chest, blind though she was.  “This level of suspicion from Secret Santa is completely unacceptable--you would think I’m a common criminal.”

“You are a common criminal, Dany,” he said reflexively.

Grabbing at his forearm, she felt around until she found bare skin and pinched. 

“Ouch!” he half-laughed, half-squealed.

She shook her head. “Next thing you know, you’ll be yelling at me through my door again.” 

“No yelling, Dany.  That much I can promise.”  He took her hands once again, and began to walk backwards, leading her onto the sidewalk, trying to go slowly despite his growing anticipation.  He stopped her, right in front of her gate.  “Stay put.”

He raced up her steps, to the entryway, where he saw the extension cord, unplugged as he’d requested.  “I was hoping for a little yelling, Jon,” she called, and he chuckled as he reached down to grab the cord.

She bounced on her heels, and he took a moment just to gaze at her before he answered.  “If you’re very nice, maybe I’ll yell—but only if you’re on your best behavior. Okay,” he said, leaning down, to where his hand hovered just above the power outlet on the wall.  “Blindfold off.”

Dany obeyed, pulling the eye mask over her head, blinking as she tried to find him in the dark.  “Jon?  I don’t understand.”

Then he plugged in the cord, bathing them in the glow of what had to be thousands of Christmas lights:  long strands of white icicle lights dangled from her roofline; ropes of multi-colored lights traced the shapes of her windows; garland sparkling with twinkle lights outlined her door.  Hell, the company he’d hired had even lined her walk with brightly lit silver snowflakes.  Everywhere he looked, as he walked down the steps a pace or two, there were lights.  He wondered if the lone lighting company he’d been able to find to fit Dany’s house into their hectic Christmas schedule might have gotten just a wee bit carried away.

But then he turned, and saw her face, and realized it was just right.

She had both hands over her mouth, her eyes wide and amazed, flickering from one lit light strand to another, for endless, quiet moments.  His heart in his throat, he waited for her to say something, anything, but even as her hands fell down at her sides, she remained silent, standing still, taking it all in.

Finally, when the quiet became unbearable, he waved a hand at the house and said “Surprise!”  

Dany managed to tear her eyes away from the bright display to stare at him slack jawed. 

As he walked back down the steps, he gnawed at his bottom lip, watching her forehead crease in confusion as she raised a gloved hand to pogint at the lights.

“You did this?”  Her brows rose when he shrugged, and she waited expectantly until he finally answered.

“Well,” he hemmed, shoving his hands in his jacket pockets and stopping in front of her, so close the tips of his shoes nearly bumped against hers, “I had it done while we were at work.  Pretty sure you’d have noticed me disappearing for hours if I’d tried to sneak off and do it myself.”

“But, Jon, I’m not allowed to have exterior lights.  It’s in my rental contract.”  A note of worry crept into her voice.

He smiled reassuringly. “I know.  Let’s just say I managed to convince your landlord to make an exception.”  A noise of disbelief escaped her parted lips, and still she stood, staring at him in wonder, remarkably speechless, which he found to be something of an achievement all on its own.  “But I did have to promise to have them down the day after Christmas, so you’d better enjoy them while you can.”

Her wide eyes refused to remain still, following the lights back and forth, up and down, taking them all in. “How did you know?”  

He witnessed the moment she realized the answer: that only a week ago, she’d been bemoaning to Arya the fact that she couldn’t have a cheesy, overdone light display because her asshole of a landlord strictly prohibited it.  The next thing he knew, she hugged him, fiercely, pressing herself as close against him as she could, leaning up to tuck her face against his neck.  

She sniffled, though whether it was from happiness or from the cold he wasn’t sure. “You’re a wizard, Jon Snow.” 

Jon leaned back, just enough to see her face peeking out from above the collar of her jacket, her smile far more brilliant than the twinkling lights at his back.  “So, you like it?”

“I love it,” she whispered; he grinned, relieved.

“Good.” He took her hand and led her up the walkway, his eyes never straying from hers.  “There’s more.”  He pointed at her door, motioning that she ought to let them in.  “Go see.”

“You really are trying to outdo yourself, aren’t you?” Shaking her head, she appeared almost bashful as she fished her keys out of her purse.   Just before she put the key in the lock, she hesitated, waiting until their eyes met again.  “You know you didn’t have to do all this, right?  I mean,” she stammered, “you don’t have to keep doing all these things for me, to win me over.” Her cheeks flushed. “You did that a long time ago.”

A furnace caught fire in his chest; he couldn’t remember ever feeling so warm, so alive.  No one, in the whole world, had ever looked at him like she did, and no matter what she said, he’d spend the rest of his life trying to show her the things that were so hard for him to say.  Jon rested his hands on her shoulders and pressed a soft kiss on her forehead; she sighed deeply and leaned closer. He pulled back and they exchanged shy smiles. Taking a deep fortifying breath, he then grabbed her hand, guiding the key into the lock and used both their hands to twist the knob and open the door.  

“Nice try, Dany, we both know you’re just after me for my abs.”

Dany frowned playfully in response, using her free hand to swat at his chest as she let out an exasperated sigh.  “It’s poor form to keep bringing it up, though. It reminds me of how shallow I am.”  Grabbing the collar of his jacket, she pulled him down for a kiss, a soft, gentle, lingering press of her lips against his.  “Let’s go inside.”

—————-

Ros had truly outdone herself.

That was immediately clear to Jon, as they walked, hand in hand, through Dany’s front hall and into her living area, her tree lit and shifting in color, each shade glancing of the bevy of items he’d left under Edd’s wife’s gentle care.

Scattered around her tree, now, were three large wicker baskets, each full of bundles of yarn and knitting accessories, each wrapped in brightly colored, Christmas-patterned cellophane sheets, gathered at the top with oversized, ornate bows.

The screech Dany let out would have been enough to make him wince, had her face not transformed from the sweet softness she’d shown on her stoop to sheer, wide eyed excitement.  “JON!”  She kicked off her low heels, her stockinged feet sliding on the floor until she made it to the living room rug, buzzing from one basket to the next like a bee.  “I can’t believe it!”  Her hands tore open one basket wrapped in red, decorated with candy canes, and she pulled out skeins of yarn, rubbing them against her cheek in delight, savoring the softness with closed eyes. 

He’d had no idea the staggering variety of yarns for sale: fibers hand-dyed by nomadic tribes in the Red Waste, wool from rare breeds of sheep, yarns colored with plant dyes, twisted variegated strands woven together by artisan communes to make stunning color combinations. Old Nan had guided him to buy books of rare folk patterns and tutorials for making elaborate cables and twists as well as hand carved bone knitting needles and needles of different lengths and widths. 

He had always heard it was better to give than to receive, and he’d supposed that was true, though he hadn’t actually experienced it so completely before.  But now watching her joy suffused his senses, like a euphoric drug rush that made him feel floaty. The way she looked at him with so much love: he thought she might collapse in happy tears or jump him right there on her sofa. If it were up to him, he knew which way he’d vote. The couch had been good to him so far...

Jon walked over to sit on his now favorite couch of all time, and watched her have a go of opening the rest of her gifts, his cheeks nearly aching with his own pleased smile.  She ripped into the green, pine forest themed basket next, that held still more yarn along with several sets of those glinting, sharp Valyrian steel knitting needles, ones Nan had assured him Dany had been coveting but couldn’t justify buying quite yet. 

 “Jon!”  She yelped his name again, drawing out a pair and pointing them at him.  “How do you do this—again and again? How in the bloody hell did you know?”

“I have my sources, Dany. You said it yourself—I’m a wizard. Maybe I used a time turner and followed you around.”  He attempted to sound mysterious.

Studying him through squinted eyes, she knelt on the floor before her tree, baskets sprawled around her, and cocked her head at him, lost in thought. “You charmed a certain old Northern woman out of my deepest knitting secrets.” She tried to look stern, shaking her head and crossing her arms across her chest, but she was close to losing her composure.  All the usual signs were there; the twitching lips, the way she forcibly squared her shoulders when she was trying to be serious and fighting back a laugh.  “I should have known.  Old Nan really has a thing for handsome Northerners.”

He answered with a crooked smile, fighting back a laugh of his own.  “So, did I get it right?”

Again, her eyes narrowed, but not in confusion this time.  She crawled forward daintily, her tight skirt limiting her movements, until she stopped beside his bent knees. Resting her elbows on his kneecaps, she threaded her fingers together under her chin, staring up at him.  “I have never wanted to fuck you more in my life in than I do right now, and believe me, that’s saying something.”

A loud laugh burst out of his chest. leaning forward to tap at the tip of her nose with his finger, he teased, “I bet you say that to all your Secret Santas.”  He couldn’t help but echo her sentiment: she had never been more beautiful. Her cheeks flushed; her eyes dancing; her hair beginning to escape the braids that held it back from her face, the long ends curling over her red-clad shoulder. It was hard for him to believe this smiley, animated goddess wanted him, cared for him—boring, solemn, serious Jon.

“Kiss me, Jon Snow.”  She licked her lips in anticipation, straightening to bridge the distance between them, closing her eyes and waiting for several seconds.  When he didn’t immediately comply, she opened her eyes and scowled.  “That definitely was an order, Secret Santa.”

He shook his head, smiling serenely and pointing under the tree, to the mid-size box wrapped in shiny red paper and decorated with snowflakes, with thick white ribbon and a glittery white bow affixed to the top.  “One present left.”

She caught one red-painted lip between white teeth, sliding her hands up his thighs.  “Jon,” she breathed, somehow still capable of surprise, her eyes darting between him and the last gift, “this is too much.”  She was tempted, though; he could see it on her face.  She was curious to a fault, and he watched it building inside her.  Dany really wanted to know what was in that box.

Jon shrugged, throwing her a knowing look and raising a brow.  “You know you want to open it, Dany.  Besides, that’s the best one.”  He tried, unsuccessfully, to fight a smile.  “As far as big, grand gestures go, I mean.”

Belatedly, she grinned and clapped excitedly.  “Let’s do it.”  She eyed his perch on the couch, then patted the rug beside her.  “But come down here.”

Jon obliged, hoping against hope that after all the other things he’d managed to put together, this final gift wouldn’t be a massive let down.  It was certainly the least expensive, in terms of actual cost, but it was the one he’d put the most thought into, the one that would hopefully tell her what she meant to him.

If she didn't get it, he thought, rising and grabbing the gift then settling beside her on the floor in front of the tree, he could always let her destroy him at Yahtzee a few times.

He sat, the gift box in his lap, and adopted a serious expression.  “Now, the thing you have to know about this one, Dany, is it’s not just one thing.  It’s several things.  And,” he tipped his head from side to side for a moment, “they may not make sense individually, but I hope you get it when you see it all together.”

Dany rolled her eyes, her hands grabbing for the box.  “Hand it over.”

She folded her legs to the side, placing the box reverently before her, flashing him a sweet smile as she pulled the ribbon and bow free.  His gut twisted nervously, as she pulled the top off, his eyes glued to her face as she pulled back the tissue paper, uncertain as to how Ros had layered things, wondering what she’d find first.

Her slim hand fished around, and she pulled free an empty Jell-O box, lime flavor, and gasped.  “Is this…” her voice trailed off, her eyes wide.

Jon nodded.  “The Stannis Stapler Incident.”  He chuckled, the memory of how red the man’s face had been, finding his stapler encased in green gelatin, how he’d gone on a five-minute rant while Dany and Jon giggled like children in an unused office nearby.  She’d been laughing so hard she cried, unable to even speak, grabbing onto his shoulders for support.  That had been a very good day.

“You saved it?”  She sounded almost breathless with surprise, and something else that made her whole face soft as she looked at him.

“I did,” Jon answered, his hands growing a little damp with nerves, and he gripped one on each knee, still not sure how to read her reaction.

But then she gave him a tiny, pleased little grin, and gently sat the empty box beside her, before turning back to the gift box.  “Let’s see what else you’ve got in here.”  She dug around, her hand rising from the tissue paper this time clutching a small, plastic trophy emblazoned with ‘#1’, and gave him a thousand-watt smile when she realized exactly what it was.

“Costume Contest!”  Her exclamation was followed with an exaggerated waving of the small trophy.  “They really didn’t stand a chance.  We were very convincing.”  She clutched it to her chest, staring at him theatrically.  “I mean, we really destroyed everyone else.”  Dany pointed the trophy in his direction.  “I have several excellent ideas for next year, by the way, so no weaseling out.”

Jon laughed.  “Wouldn’t dream of it, but my rules remain, especially the no clowns one.”

Dany pursed her lips.  “I’m aware.”  She let out a little giggle as she placed the trophy beside the Jell-O box.  She seemed almost giddy as she reached for the next item, already laughing as she pulled it free, knowing exactly what it was before she revealed it to him, judging by her amusement.  “My Sharpie!”  Her eyes looked to be growing a little damp as she cradled the marker in her hand.  “Our first criminal enterprise together.”

“Hang on,” Jon said, raising a finger, “If you recall I was an accomplice on that one.”  She began to chuckle, averting her eyes as though she knew a secret he didn’t.  “What’s so funny?”

Dany gave him a look of considering amusement, then waggled her eyebrows at him from behind her black frames.  “I have technically committed one other minor act of vandalism, that I have not yet confessed to.”

“Serial vandalism is no laughing matter, young lady.”  She let out a bright burst of laughter, swatting his hand away when he reached over to snag the Sharpie from her.  “You clearly cannot be trusted with permanent markers.”

She clucked her tongue at him, setting the marker aside, just out of his reach.  “I had to defend your honor, Jon Snow.”

Now he was confused, and a little intrigued.  “What are you talking about?”

She seemed inordinately pleased, and folded her hands primly in her lap.  “Well, you see, in the 3 rd floor ladies’ room, in the second stall, some disgruntled woman wrote ‘Jon Snow is a tight ass’.”  When he let out a surprised laugh, she continued, trying her best to look offended on his behalf.  “So, I made a minor edit.  I scribbled out the ‘is’ and wrote ‘has’ above it.”  She finally lost her composure with the last bit.  “If there’s going to be bathroom graffiti about you, Jon, it should at least be true.”

He crossed his arms, and tried to look stern.  “You could’ve just scribbled the whole thing out.”

Dany smiled serenely.  “Yes,” she drawled, “I could have.”  She turned back to the gift box, reaching inside, her brows furrowed in confusion at the feel of the next item, the look only clearing when she pulled it free.  “Jon,” she started slowly, looking at the t-shirt in her hands, “isn’t this your favorite shirt?”

He nodded, the memory still clear in his mind of what she’d looked like wearing it, standing in his kitchen on Thanksgiving, after spending days taking care of him.  “Yep.  However, sadly, I’ve found it looks better on you.”

Recognition flared to life, as she glanced back at it, and from her expression, he could see that she too remembered when she’d worn it.  Her lips twisted, and she spent several moments just staring at the t-shirt before her eyes met his again, definitely glassier than they had been.  She swallowed.  “I remember.”  She traced her fingertip over the band logo.  “This shirt is outrageously comfortable.”  She hugged it to her chest, and smiled.  “So, I won’t be giving it back.”

“Well,” he answered, “maybe I’ll just steal it when you aren’t looking, like you stole my hoodie.”

Dany shook her head, pretending an exasperation that was nowhere to be found in her eyes, and reached into the box again, leaving the shirt in her lap.  “What is…” she pulled free a small, framed photo, one that had been hanging in his home office, one he knew she coveted, ever since Arya had texted it to her.  “THE PICTURE!” She squealed so loudly that Hedwig was startled awake, in the corner, and the dog gave them both an annoyed look before circling and settling down again.  Dany ignored the dog completely, her hand tracing the image of a much younger version of himself, smooth-faced in his military glasses and uniform excitedly. “Oh my god,” she breathed, her eyes darting between him and the photo.  “I’m getting this put on a t-shirt, definitely.” When he winced, she started laughing, then shook her head. “No, wait, poster-sized, in my office, so I can see it all day.”

“This was clearly a mistake,” he grumbled, fighting his own laughter, still not entirely sure why she loved that picture so much.  He pretended to grab for the frame, but she held it aloft, still giggling.

“Nope, no takesies-backsies, it’s mine, and I will treasure it forever.”  She smugly set the picture behind her, where he couldn’t reach it.  “I can die happy now.”

Jon huffed out sigh.  “Why do I feel like I’m going to regret that one?”

She hummed happily under her breath.  “It’s going to look great in the creepy shrine I’m assembling to you in my bedroom.”  She winked, even as she reached her hand back inside the box.  “Since you’ve been such a good boy this year, I’ll show it to you in a bit.”

He laughed, holding a hand to his chest.  “No one’s ever built a creepy shrine in my honor, I’m so touched.”

With a flourish, she pulled free the last item in the box, and gave him a perplexed look.  “A lid from a Chunky Monkey container?”  She held it up, then let out an irritated gasp.  “Jon Snow, you rat!  Did you eat all the Chunky Monkey in your freezer?  I told you I had big plans for that ice cream.”  She shook her head slowly.  “I’m not angry, just disappointed.”

Setting aside the immediate images her words conjured up, he narrowed his eyes.  “No, for the record, I did not, and I am absolutely in favor of whatever you have planned for me and that ice cream.  But that’s not what the lid is for.”  This was it, the big confession he’d had planned all along, before life had intervened and he’d instead yelled his feelings at her in her bathroom eight days ago.  “Remember the first time we went grocery shopping together?”

She nodded, smiling widely.  “And I stole your Chunky Monkey out of your cart.”

Jon took a deep breath.  “Aye, you did.”  Their eyes met, and held, and he plunged ahead.  “That’s when I knew.”

Dany toyed with the lid, still grinning.  “About my secret life of petty crime?”

Jon shook his head.  “That’s when I knew I was in big trouble, and there wasn’t anything I could do to stop it.”  He pointed to the lid, as her eyes widened.  “That was the very moment I knew I was falling in love with you, right there in front of the freezer case.”

She sat, and stared, and didn’t say a word.

For a long time, he thought.  A very long time.  Maybe it wasn’t, maybe it was merely seconds, but it seemed like an eternity, and eventually he thought he ought to say something.  “You think it’s weird I saved all these things, don’t you?”  He gritted his teeth, shaking his head.  “It’s weird, right?”

“Jon,” she whispered, “stop talking.”

She stood, still staring down at him, smoothing her hands down her skirt then offering her palm to him to help him up.  “Come with me.”

Dany led him to the kitchen, hopping up on the counter gracefully, perching on the edge and crooked a finger at him. “Closer.”

He took a few steps, a nervous anticipation tingling his spine.

“Closer,” she entreated again, a small smile playing on her lips.

Finally, when he was flush against her knees, she grabbed his hands, and placed them on the counter on either side of her hips, then wrapped her arms around his neck, bringing their faces close enough that he could feel every breath that escaped her lips.

“Now, just listen,” she whispered, and he nodded, not sure he could say anything now if he wanted to.

“I love my gifts.”  She pressed her lips to his, gently, far too briefly, then pulled back.  “You are absolutely the sweetest, most thoughtful man I’ve ever known.”  She kissed him again, drawing away far too soon for his liking, relief swirling through him as she spoke.  “And I am far creepier than you could ever dream of being.”

Jon chuckled.  “Doubtful.”

“Just. Listen.” She shook her head, looking almost shy now, releasing a heavy breath.  “That day, when we ran into each other at the grocery store,” she paused, biting her lip for a second before releasing it, “that wasn’t an accident.”  She blushed bashfully.  “I asked Edd what store you shopped at and what time, and when he wasn’t sure I very politely told him to please find out.  Discreetly, of course.”

Jon tilted his head, the vague recollection of Edd’s odd line of questioning floating to the surface.  But he didn’t speak, instead pressed his lips tightly together, trying to contain his surprise.

She studied his face closely, still seeming a bit nervous.  “I sat in that parking lot for thirty minutes waiting, freezing my ass off, so that we could ‘run into’ each other.”  She looked away, even as his eyes widened.  “And maybe I walked Hedwig several times around the block until we ‘ran into’ each other at the park the next day.”

Finally, he grinned, unable to hold it back, and she started to relax.  

“That night that you came over to let Hedwig out for me,” she continued, her fingers beginning a slow caress on the back of his neck, “I could’ve asked Missy to take her for a walk.  But I didn’t.”  She kissed him again, lingering this time, her tongue teasing at his lower lip before she leaned back again.  “I wanted *you* to come over but, I just—I don’t know.”  She closed her eyes for a second, and everything was clear to him.  She’d felt the same way the whole time.  “I didn’t want to mess everything up. You had become my good friend—I looked forward to seeing you every day and making you laugh. Mocking people—”

“Especially mocking people.”

She pressed a finger to his lips. “No. Talking.”

He kissed her finger and drew an air “X” over his mouth. 

“Better. A trip in my creepy van is still an option, Jon Snow. I’m quite certain your cousins would testify on my behalf.”

He nodded solemnly, but punctuated it with a hint of a smirk.

“No smiling. This is serious business. Behave.” Her eyes narrowed, but the laughter within them belied her words. “I knew, before then, that I didn’t want to just be your good friend, Jon Snow.  But that night…,” She shrugged, trailing off as her brow furrowed, as though she was searching for the right words to explain what he already knew. 

It was a struggle, now, not to say anything, because he understood precisely how she’d felt, knew he hadn’t wanted to completely ruin their friendship by trying to make it more, not then.  He settled, instead, for shifting his hands up, letting his palms cup her hips, his thumbs rubbing slow circles against the tight fabric.

She grinned at him, tipping her head to the side, her eyes locked on his, even as she shifted her hips at his touch.  “When I came home, and you were standing here, in this very spot in my kitchen, and you looked so cute and nervous, and you’d cooked dinner for me,” she said in a rush, her eyes growing bright, “that’s when I knew.”

Dany’s hand trailed down to his tie, loosening the knot.  “That’s when I knew exactly how much trouble I was in,” she said, her voice low and breathy as she pulled the tie free and let it slither to the floor.  “I knew I was absolutely in love with you and I wasn’t sure what I should do about it.”

He couldn’t stop, then, couldn’t fight the urge to kiss her like he wanted to, now that she’d said it out loud, now that they both had.  He brought a hand to her jaw, his thumb tipping her chin up, and claimed her lips in a far less chaste kiss than the ones she’d been giving him, his lips and tongue greedy for the taste of her, for the wet heat of her mouth, for the feel of her tongue slicking and sliding against his.  She moaned quietly, both hands clutching at his shoulders to pull him as close as she could, one hand drifting down his back, her nails scoring against his skin through the fabric.

When he finally pulled away, needing to breathe, she was panting, her lips wet and red, and they were wearing far too many clothes for his liking.

“Can I talk now?” 

Dany shook her head, a silly grin on her face as she began to work on the buttons of his shirt.  “There is one last thing.”  She licked her lips, her fingers still hard at work, and demurely looked up at him from under her lashes.  “I have a present for you, too.”  When she’d freed the last button, she laced her fingers through his, bringing them to the hem of her clingy red sweater.  “But you have to unwrap it yourself.”

His brows climbed, and he let his fingers tease at the skin just above the waistband of the skirt he was dying to peel off of her.  “Am I going to like it?”

She arched a brow at him, smiling coyly.  “I’m pretty sure you will.  I’ve been dying to show you this all day.”  She raised her arms, waiting, and he didn’t prolong their suffering, taking the cashmere in both hands and pulling it over her head.  His mouth watered, because he’d really fucking missed this view, a shocking amount, really. And still, the sight of bare Dany reduced him to gaping like an idiot, as always, while she smirked at the dumbfounded look on his face. 

From glorious memory he thought he knew what he would see, but nothing he conjured mentally equaled her in the flesh. Resting on her hands, now planted on the counter, she leaned forward, shoulders curled in, silken black bra straps sliding down her arms revealing more pale skin. Scanty lace cupped her full, heavy breasts, the outline of black thread curves and curlicues barely clinging above rosy peaks.  But there, nestled in the valley of her cleavage, hanging around her neck on a red ribbon, was something else.

A key.

He dragged his eyes away from her chest, and flew up to meet hers.  He touched a fingertip to the warm metal, surely heated from being pressed against her skin all day.  “What’s this?”

He knew what he *hoped* it was.  It was a notion he’d toyed with, but had dismissed, finally, wondering if that would be too bold a step for now.

But then, Dany was the boldest in the pair of them.

“It’s a key, silly.”  She twirled a silver curl around her finger, enjoying his look of surprise.

He let his gaze fall to his fingers, and toyed with the metal, letting his knuckle brush against the curve of her breast.  “Yes, Captain Obvious, I noticed.  Although this,” he released the key for a moment, slipping his fingers along the scalloped black lace, teasing her by glancing against one stiff peak, “is very distracting.”  She shuddered, barely, still grinning though he saw her nostrils flare at the contact when he peeked at her face, heard her breath come faster as he lightly traced along the edge of the lace. “But the key to what, is the question.”

“To my front door, Jon,” she whispered blithely, as though it was the most obvious thing in the world.  “So you can let yourself in whenever you want.”

He nodded in satisfaction, his hands drifting up to untie the ribbon, the key falling into her lap until he claimed it and shoved it in his pocket.  “That’s a good gift, Dany.  A very good gift.”  She was untucking his undershirt even as he spoke, and he managed to shrug out of his button down fairly quickly, tugging the t-shirt he’d worn underneath over his head, smirking when her hands flew straight to his abdomen.

“Because it’s where you belong, Jon,” she said quietly. “With me.”

Her statement nearly squeezed the breath out of him, making him dizzy. Jon gripped her waist, picked her up off the counter and eased her into her feet, his hands winding around her waist to her back to find the zipper to her sinful skirt.  “I think—” he said lowly, her chest rising and falling even more rapidly as he slowly snicked her zipper down, “no, I know: your key is the best gift I’ve ever received.”

Dany stared up at him, her eyes wide and dark, her pupils so wide and fat there remained only a small ring of purple just around the edge, and flashed him a wicked little smile.  “Brace yourself, then.  You still haven’t seen the rest of your present.”  She shimmied her hips, helping him along as he worked the skirt down, his ears buzzing and mind growing numb to everything but what she’d been wearing under her prim, tight little number all day.

“Wow,” he whispered, and heard her chuckle at the exclamation that would join “whoops” and “oh boy,” in the pantheon of moronic Jon Snow comments. But he didn’t care. She—she—

She was glorious.  

In an instant his mouth was dry and he might have had to remind himself to breathe. Luxuriously, his eyes traced the lines of the garter belt she wore, the almost transparent lace that hugged her hips; and thin stretchy straps, ending in clips that attached to seamed stockings.  Barely there G-string panties matched the flimsy bra she wore. And it was a battle to look away.  A near-impossible feat: she looked smugly pleased when he finally managed to lift his eyes above her chin.  “Is this new?”  His voice sounded strangled, even to his own ears, but it was a difficult thing to speak, presented with fantasy made real.

Dany nodded, her hands wrestling with his belt, working the buckle free and unbuttoning his trousers with haste.  “I suspected a few gifts of my own might be in order, so I went out and picked up some  things I thought you might like. It was the least I could do, after all, with the promise of a big, grand gesture.”

She had deduced correctly.  Extremely correctly.  He had pictured her in these sorts of—lacy bits—more times than he cared to admit, such visions being among his favorite imaginings he had tormented himself with before, well, the Date. And now—

 Without warning, she palmed his unreasonably hard cock through his boxers: he hissed sharply, jerking involuntarily. 

“Seems I was right,” she cooed.  The air caught in his chest when she snuck her fingers inside the fabric, a thready gasp escaping from her as she fisted her hand loosely around him. “This pleases me.”

Jon nodded, near frantically, his teeth sinking into his lower lip, harder than was wise, the bite of pain the distraction he needed to gather his wits.  He backed away from her questing hand, only long enough to kick off his shoes and rid himself of the last of his clothing.  There was something satisfying, he thought, something more freeing than he’d ever felt about the way she looked at him, her eyes glassy with desire as she stared down at the evidence of how much he wanted her, his cock the one part of him that had no qualms or shyness where she was concerned.

“Jon Snow,” she breathed out, her hands skating along his scars then tracing circles above his navel.  “You have another present for me.”  She smiled saucily, leaning back against her countertop, her hands braced on the edges.  “Perfect for a girl on the naughty list.”

He said nothing, perusing her body languorously until her color heightened. His index finger traced down the line of the strap that held the thigh-high stockings aloft, filing away her answering gasp as he unhooked the clips in the front. When she reached to help him release the back clips, presumably thinking he wanted the whole ensemble off, he removed her hand and placed it on the counter, pinning her with his gaze. She blinked rapidly; her breath hitched.

He had other plans, as he often did when it came to Dany.

Taking her hips in his hands, he gently turned her around so she faced away from him; she leaned down, bracing herself on her elbows. He knelt down behind her, unfastened the clips from the stocking backs, then trailed his fingers slowly up the inside of her thighs, savoring her shuddering breaths as his touch raised shivers. Skirting the apex of her sex, he couldn’t resist pausing to cup her ass, kneading her flesh before hooking his fingers under the silk straps of the panties she wore. He peeled them off her hips and down her legs with aching slowness, not sure who he was torturing more, himself or her.  She stepped out of the skimpy lace, looking over her shoulder at him, lust and curiosity warring on her face. With the barest smile, he re-attached the stockings to the clips, running his thumbs up the seams from the back of her knees to the stockings’ lacy tops. He kissed his way up the inside of her thighs, grazing her skin with his teeth; she stiffened and gasped when he dragged his index finger through her folds. Fuck, he could smell her, and he was torn, wanting to taste her—

But for once, Jon decided to improvise.

Abruptly, he stood and, after spinning her around to face him, without warning, he lifted her back up onto the countertop, catching her by surprise. Her thighs parted of their own volition to reveal the swollen, slick folds of her cunt. With his hands, he bracketed her hip bones; she scooted closer to the counter’s edge, almost daring him to plunge his fingers inside her with a tilt of her hips, the hint of a thrust.

For a long moment they stared at one another—Dany flushed, lips parted as she tried to slow her breathing, her expression—open and longing and love...

Kissing her became as vital as air.

So, he plundered her mouth with his, a filthy kiss of teeth and tongues and exquisite glancing pain and hunger, Dany grabbed his hands, placed them on her breasts, arched into his palms, offering herself—demanding his touch.

Breaking the kiss, she reached around to release her bra clasps.  But Jon shook his head in the negative, then tugged down the sheer lace of her bra, tucking the material under the curves of her full breasts, before returning his thumbs to her nipples, coaxing them to fat, thick points. Crowding against her, his hardness barely pressed against her wet center, dragging deep groans from them both. He rocked his hips against her, purposefully, he dropped his palms and cupped her thighs.

Drawing her legs around him, her head fell back, and her own hands came up to lock around his neck. “Oh, gods,” she moaned, as his cock slipped against her, the head just nudging her sensitive clit, “I really, really missed this, Jon.  This whole week has been *torture*.”  Shifting her hips, she bucked against him, and his heart pounded so hard in his ears he believed his head would explode.

“I know,” he choked out, dipping his head to mouth her neck and suck lightly, his teeth digging in when she locked her heels at the small of his back, the pleasant friction of lace and nylon sliding against his skin almost more than he could bear.  He soothed the spot with his tongue, secretly hoping he’d leave a mark behind, then worked his way down her chest, finally giving himself permission to capture one hard peak in his mouth, his satisfied grunt at the taste of her flesh in his mouth muted against her heated skin.

Nothing dampened the purr of want that escaped Dany the moment his lips were occupied, and she buried fingers in his hair, nails pricking his scalp; she arched her back and held him to her firmly.  “Jon,” she gasped, her squirming intensifying as he gently scraped his teeth against the firm flesh he suckled, “I’ve suffered long enough.”  She panted, her chest heaving against his lips. 

Inwardly he agreed heartily with that sentiment even as he switched sides.  He wasn’t sure how much more he could last, either; his cock threatened a mutiny if he didn’t find himself inside her soon.  Rutting against her had eased the ache, but now it intensified with each passing second, her grunts as his mouth nipped at her eroding what little restraint he scraped together.

“Fuck me,” she whispered huskily into his hair. 

And that was all he needed. Straightening abruptly, his breath rasped as he looked from the wet trails he’d left on her skin, down to where the black lace framed her sex, aroused him more than he believed possible. Her fingers strayed, teasing herself as she fixed him with a sensuous pout.  “Please,” she moaned, her eyes, dropping to his cock, soaked in her wetness.

He huffed out a breath, taking himself in hand and nudging at her shoulder.  “Back,” he choked out, and she complied instantly, bracing herself on her elbows, tits swaying, as she watched him from beneath heavy lids.  

This was, by far, the best present he’d ever received. 

What few thoughts remained in his mind flew away as he pressed against her soaked center.  Gods, the way she parted her lips, her head thrown back, twisting and tossing as though overwhelmed by the feel of him; clenching his teeth, he pushed inside her, a smooth forceful stroke and she bowed with a sensuous groan.

Then he held still, just for a  few seconds, scrambling to ready a list of terrible things, wondering if he dared keep his eyes open: her silver hair pooling on the dark granite, glinting in the light from the Christmas tree; the sheen of sweat on her skin; her fingers stroking her belly, walking up her ribs to her tits. He squeezed his eyes closed, the tight, wet heat of her gripped him in a vice. “Fuck, Dany— “

“Gods, finally,” she grunted, releasing a long, drawn out moan at his intrusion.

Opening his eyes, he met her gaze, a mirror of his own desire staring back at him. His jaw clenched, as he withdrew and thrust again, the sound of his hips slapping against her seeming to ricochet around her kitchen. When he thrust again, she hissed, and again, her breasts swayed with each jolt, and with bruising grip he held her hips still, increasing his pace, again.  

“Harder,” she demanded, tossing her head, the slick sounds of their coupling joining the chorus of her heady moans and his effort-filled grunts as he chased her pleasure, trying to stave off his own release for as long as he could as she tightened even further around him.

She felt too good, looked too wanton, and he slipped a hand between them to swirl his thumb through her wetness, finding and circling her clit, smiling as her back bowed and she let out a loud cry as his hand and cock began to work her in tandem.  He fucked her harder still, faster than was wise, not sure how she managed to breathe through groans and grunts, knowing he could be satisfied only hear this for the rest of his life.  

His body tensing, he finally looked up to find her watching him, her face flushed and dewed with sweat, her thighs tightening around him as she broke, a loud cry escaped her as she jerked and bucked against him, her cunt gripping and releasing in frantic, pulsing waves that spurred him on.  Maintaining his relentless pace, his thumb circled and slipped against her, his cock pounding into her with abandon, until pleasure crested, releasing in rolling waves, her name, a chant, falling from his lips as he spilled into her.  A few more thrusts milked her release, even as she sagged back onto the countertop, her breathing ragged, her walls still spasming sporadically around him until a few more lazy rolls of his hips saw them both finished.  

“I love you,” she finally gasped, still wallowing in the haze of release that had enveloped them both.  “In extreme amounts.”

Finally relaxing, he grinned, bracing himself on his arms above her and still panting, he dipped his head to kiss in the damp valley between her breasts.  “Is it the sex?”  His whispered question sent her into a wheezing, giggling fit.

“Yes,” she answered, the fingers of one hand winding their way into the hair at the nape of his neck.  “It’s absolutely the sex.”  He glanced up, leaning back, and she pushed her way back up to her elbows.  “But I suppose you have other charms.”

Jon gathered her into his arms. With her ankles still locked tightly at the small of his back and still seated inside her, he picked her up.  “Let’s go upstairs,” he whispered, tickling his nose against hers, “and you can show me your creepy shrine.”

----------

By the time they both blearily blinked awake, their limbs tangled together under her down comforter, it was late.

He fumbled on the nightstand nearest him for his glasses, while she did the same, and checked her alarm.  “8:45,” he declared with a groan, his head dropping back onto the pillow.  He peered at her, knowing he would no longer be able to survive without seeing her sleepy face every morning, wondering how anyone could possibly look so perfect from the moment they opened their eyes.  “What should we do?”

Dany shifted to sit up, and he enjoyed the view of her bare chest with unrestrained satisfaction as she reached for her phone.  She held a finger to her lips as she punched in a number, playfully frowning when he tweaked a nipple; she brushed his hand away.  “Tyrion?”  She feigned several weak coughs, smirking at him as he gave her a skeptical shake of his head.  Totally unconvincing.  “I’m sick.  Very, very sick.”  She listened, forcing few more feeble coughs.  “Jon is, too.  I’m afraid it’s very contagious.”

He snagged the sheet still covering her, yanking it away, rubbing his hands together in a show of delight.  She tried to look stern but failed miserably, her cheeks reddening, shoulders shaking as she tried to suppress her laughter. Jon leaned closer to eavesdrop on Tyrion, who droned on; Dany gave him a good-natured shove and he flopped on his back theatrically.  He scooted up and sat against the headboard, waiting for her to finish. Tyrion loved to hear himself talk. 

“Mmhmmm.” A pause. “Yes. That works.” Finally, she chuckled, and said, “I’ll pass that along. Thanks for understanding.” And she terminated the call.

“You are a child, Jon Snow,” she said, giggling to herself as she returned her phone to her nightstand. She rose to her knees and crawled over to rip the sheets off him as well, before straddling him, her knees gripping tight to his bare hips.  “Mischief managed,” she said grandly, her eyes twinkling with amusement.  “Tyrion says to feel better soon,” she added. “and that he hopes, for everyone’s sake, that you finally got laid.”

Before Dany, that might’ve embarrassed him thoroughly, as he preferred keeping his private life separate from work.  But Dany was both, and she’d twined those two worlds together so closely that they were now forever merged.

Now, after Dany, he didn’t mind it much at all.

He reached up to tug at a silver curl that trailed down her shoulder.  “Well,” he said, in the best approximation of a serious voice as he was capable, “you can’t let him down, now can you?”

“You’re an animal,” she answered, “and so greedy.”  She leaned over, pressing a long, lingering kiss to his forehead.  “Let’s go get soapy.”

---------

Before this moment, Jon wouldn’t have considered himself the type to eat lunch, naked, in bed.  But here he was, and it was an excellent way to dine. 

Especially with a naked Dany next to him, popping grapes into his mouth occasionally, as the TV atop her dresser played soundlessly—some show about gold miners that neither of them paid attention to. 

He only paid attention to her, because it was impossible to do otherwise.

Perhaps he should look into taking Dany away to Lys; vacationing in a cozy bungalow with an adjacent private beach that would enable full time nudity. 

“Where’s this shrine I was promised, Dany?”  He looked around expectantly, even as she snorted.  “I’m beginning to think you only said that to lure me up here to seduce me.”  She shrugged, and held another grape in front of him, waiting for him to part his lips.

“It’s a work in progress,” she said lightly. “I still have to work on my timeline of inappropriate stalking. Cut out some letters from magazines to label it. Photoshop myself into all your personal photographs.”  She squinted, pretending to study the stretch of wall beside her bedroom window.  “I really want it to pop, you know.  I’m thinking full color maps, maybe blow up the page in your employee file where I found your address and accidentally on purpose looked for rental listings near you.”

Jon snorted, sitting up and propping a pillow behind his back.  “Did you really?”  He smothered a laugh at the look of chagrin on her face as she set aside her bunch of grapes, breasts swaying tantalizingly when she moved to snuggle up against him.

“Yes,” she sighed.  “I definitely did that.”  He tipped his chin down and she looked up, and she gave him a grimacing smile.  “I know, really creepy.”

“Nah.”  Jon shook his head.  “I was dying to ask you where you moved.  When you told me, that day at the market, I was already working on how to inconspicuously figure out where on Church Street it was.  And casually be outside when you were.”

Dany laughed, and rested her head on his bare shoulder, threading her fingers through his.  “That makes me feel better.  At least we’re both creepy stalkers.”  Her breath hitched, but whether it was nervousness or laughter, was hard to discern.  “I also might have unplugged my computer cables so you had to come up and fix them.  And crawled under my desk to do so.  So that I could check out your ass.”

A shocked burst of laughter escaped him.  “I *knew* you were up to something.”  He continued chuckling, using their joined fingers to tickle at the skin of her thigh, still hidden under the sheet.  “No one’s cables come unplugged that many times.”  She squirmed under his touch, then pressed a hot kiss to the skin of his shoulder.

“Oh, I was definitely up to something.”  Dany nudged against his side, until he looked down at her.  “And I will now confess that I facetimed with your cousins like, at least once a week, maybe more, since Thanksgiving.”

He pursed his lips at her, trying to scowl.  “Double agents, both of them.”  Jon didn’t know what to do with the way she made him feel, like his chest was too tight for his heart now, like he there wasn’t enough room inside him anymore to hold it all in, so he cupped her cheek with his free hand and kissed her, just because he could.

When they separated, she gave him a smile warm enough to melt all the snow in Winterfell.  “They love you, that’s all; they just wanted you to be happy.”  Under the sheets and blankets, he felt her draw her toes over his calf.  “We have that in common, it seems.”

He wasn’t going to fucking cry, not while she was naked and soft and smelled like her lavender soap and sex and pressed against him.  That was not a thing he was going to do.  But he felt something twist in his chest, all the same.  “Well,” he said finally, his voice sounding a little thick even to his own ears.  “I do love them, but I love you most.”  He pointed a finger at her, teasingly.  “And from here on out they can mind their own bloody business.”

When she flashed that brilliant smile that he liked best, he pulled her closer, leaning his head back as she began to trail her lips down his neck.  But then he remembered something, and sat up with a start.  “Ummmmm—wait. I’ll be right back,” he said urgently, standing and escaping from her bed, even her lips twisted into naughty pout.

“Where are you going?”  A trace of worry crept into her eyes.  “Off to dazzle some other secret girlfriends? Sell the story of our torrid affair to the tabloids? My mother would love that,”

Jon frowned, thoroughly disgusted by her suggestions, but ultimately softened his expression with a half-smile.  “No, I’m going to run home and get Ghost.  I had my neighbor’s kid on call to walk him last night and this morning, but he’s probably *very* lonely by now.”  

As soon as he mentioned Ghost, her face relaxed. “Hedwig will be pleased. She has seen enough of my bare ass today, and would prefer a companion of her own species, I’m confident.”

“Dany—I promise*I* will never see enough of your bare ass.”

She rolled onto her belly to grant him a peek. “Yes, well, you’re never allowed to cover yours, ever.  It’s a crime against humanity, every time you do.”  She snickered at his exaggerated eye roll, before squealing as he reached over to pinch lightly at the curve of her ass.

“And I have to fetch the Chunky Monkey in my freezer,” he continued. “I was promised certain activities involving that ice cream, and I expect you’re going to make good on them.”  He looked at her, pinning her with a challenging grin.  “Unless, of course, you’re all talk.”

When she realized what he meant, she straightened, her lips parted slightly, her eyes hot with intent as she eyed his naked body, standing beside her bed.  “All talk?”  She rose smoothly onto her knees, one arched brow raising, gloriously, blissfully bare to his gaze, and if he wanted to be able to pull himself away from her, he was going to have to go now, before he did something stupid like touching her and distracting himself again for hours.  “Go get that ice cream, Jon Snow.”  She licked her pink, plump lips and toyed with the ends of her silver hair, until her lips spread in a slow, devious grin that was as full of challenge as his had been.  “I’m suddenly in the mood for dessert.”

Jon raced downstairs, putting on his clothes faster than he ever recalled doing, stumbling into his trousers from the night before, the key to her place still sitting heavy in the pocket. He had never considered himself an artist, but imagined a few places on Dany’s body that cried out to be painted in ice cream.

And as he hustled down her steps, he smiled, knowing every iteration of *this* plan would end up with them in her clawfoot tub again, ridiculously messy and sticky.  He felt foolish, and giddy, and for once he didn’t care, not in the least.  He errantly wondered where they'd left that blindfold.

Because he had a plan.  And Jon was a man who liked plans.

 

 

 

 




Chapter Text

LANNISTER INDUSTRIES

Tyrion permitted himself a small chuckle, disconnecting the phone, a lingering hum of amusement passing his lips as he studied the view outside his tempered glass windows.

Life was generally nice at the top, but sometimes he still found especially pleasant surprises where he least expected them. Reaching into his top drawer, he withdrew a small key and crossed the room, unlocking a cabinet on the far wall. There was only one item inside, and he handled it gingerly, the leather-bound calendar containing certain information that he considered rather classified in nature.

Seating himself once more, relaxing back into his desk chair, he buzzed Shae.

“My dear, if you would, summon Mr. Tollett up for a word.” He steepled his fingers, deep in thought for the seven minutes and forty-two seconds it took for the slim, long-haired man who was Jon Snow’s second in command to appear before him.

When Shae made to leave, he waved for her to stay, giving her a slow smile and motioning for them both to be seated.

He spared them both a stone-faced glance before opening the planner and paging to the month of December, then over to the square that denoted the 15th. Inside that box were two sets of initials, T.L, and E.T., a highly contested placement, as the original rules of the office pool permitted no duplication of dates.

When engaged in speculation of exactly when Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen would finally give into their more...animal...impulses, there could be only one victor.

That had been his original plan, of course, and all the participants had in fact selected days towards the end of the year, betting increasing ten-fold after the pair’s antics at the Halloween party. But then he’d received a text from Jon Snow, and his gut told him that the usually taciturn man’s Secret Santa agenda, whatever it might be, was probably going to lead to some decidedly sweaty activities.

His subsequent wager, while ethically murky, was technically permissible. Unfortunately for Tyrion, shortly after his own claim on the date, Edd Tollet had cornered him in the breakroom with an extra $50 to place on December 15th.

What ensued was a standoff. Neither man budged until Shae rightly pointed out that Tyrion’s ‘insider information’ gave him a distinct advantage. Her insistence on fairness had finally broken the stalemate.

The situation became more interesting when Edd admitted that he *also* had much more than just an educated guess as to what was afoot, given away by the telltale darting of his eyes and nervous, shifting feet

A new strategy had been devised: they could share the date. If they were correct, they’d split the pot.

And they would never, under any circumstances, speak of their arrangement to anyone. Ever. Tyrion liked to consider himself a fair boss by almost every standard. He offered generous compensation, excellent benefit packages, profit sharing, and lenient work hours.

The last thing he wanted was to tarnish his reputation by being labeled a cheater.

He had cheated, though, and so had Edd, but Tyrion had done so on more than one front. He’d steadily nudged Daenerys in Jon’s direction since that first meeting in her office, the room so charged with combustible energy that he felt like he was watching one of Shae’s beloved romantic comedies unfold before his very eyes.

“Mr. Tollett,” he said smoothly,” I have very good news for you.”

When the man’s eyes fell to the December calendar open on his desk, he smiled knowingly, a light laugh escaping as he pumped a fist in the air. “Atta boy, Jon,” he cheered, as Shae stifled a giggle beneath her palm, “I knew he had it in him.”

“It would seem the heads of both IT and HR will not be in today. A mysterious illness appears to have felled them both.” He tried to sound grave, but it was impossible to hide his own amusement, especially when his eyes met Shae’s dancing ones. “It’s truly tragic,” he continued, but his voice trembled with laughter.

Edd couldn’t hide his own excitement, rubbing his hands together. “And what’s the pot up to now, Boss?”

Tyrion smirked. Straight down to business. He liked that about the man. And he had no doubt that his share of the proceeds would be well put to use on Christmas gifts for the Tollett family, en masse. “$2,000, my good sir.”

Edd’s eyes grew comically wide, falling back into his chair with a slight gasp. “Bloody hell.”

Tyrion’s eyes narrowed when Shae meaningfully cleared her throat, but he nodded in agreement, already knowing how he was going to proceed. Half the pot would be mere pocket change for him, but Edd Tollett’s wife and children were in for quite a windfall. He unlocked his desk drawer, pullout out the metal petty cash box he’d been keeping the wagers in, and set it atop his desk.

Shae flashed him a warm smile, then turned her focus to Edd, whose eyes were glued on that metal box as if the secrets of the universe were stored within. Tyrion popped it open, smiling wryly as the man let out another harsh, whooshing breath, and pushed the box across the desk. “It’s yours, Mr. Tollett.”

Tollett’s brow wrinkled heavily, his face a mask of confusion as he looked between Shae and Tyrion. “I don’t understand. We agreed to half, yes?”

Tyrion merely shook his head, and pushed the box ever closer to the thin man, who was, oddly enough, a rather kindred spirit after all.

A romantic at heart, just as Shae liked to accuse Tyrion of being.

“Merry Christmas, Mr. Tollett. I do hope you put this,” Tyrion eyed the stacked bills, “all of it, to good use this year.” Tyrion watched the man’s eyes grow glassy; his thin hands shook as they touched the winnings.

“But why?”

“Because,” Tyrion said dryly, “now, when I break the news to the rest of our closet romantic speculators, it’s you they’ll be cross with for winning the office pool, not me. Take it, and give your family a nice Christmas with it. That’s an order, Mr. Tollett.”

Edd seemed to recover his faculties fairly quickly, closing the lid and lifting the metal box, placing it under his arm and looking happier than Tyrion could ever recall seeing the man. “Merry Christmas, Boss.” He nodded at Tyrion, then twisted to Shae--another nod. “And you, as well.” Edd made his way out; Shae barely scrambled ahead of him, using her keycard to give him access to the public waiting room beyond.

When the door clicked shut, she turned, sauntering over to his desk with purpose, a rather lascivious glint flashing in her dark eyes. “That was very sweet,” she purred, trailing a finger up the length of Tyrion’s tie and flicking just under his chin. “You’re such a softie.” When he grimaced, she chuckled. “When you want to be,” she corrected, lips twitching.

“Well,” he answered with a sigh, ringing her wrist with his fingers and bringing the back of her hand to his lips for a kiss, “I suppose you bring it out in me, my dear.”

“What do you say we lock the doors,” she drawled, her eyes flitting from his lips to her hand as she came to perch on the edge of his desk, and excellent choice in flat surfaces for the ideas now springing to life in his mind, “and you show me all the *firmer* parts you’ve got?”

Tyrion raised a brow and smirked devilishly. “I say, it’s time to hold my calls.”

 

GAME NIGHT – CHRISTMAS EVE

Missy loved Christmas. It was her very favorite time of year. Sure, she loved the food—spiced nuts and cheeseballs, mulled wine, rich tortes, puddings, towering roasts, and more wine. She loved when her schedule at the gallery finally slowed down enough for her to be at home more than she was away, which was an extra blessing this year, what with a wedding to plan. But more than that, people tended to be a little more patient, a little more friendly and generally, easier to deal with. Having spent much of the autumn in Qarth, dealing with a pack of eccentric designers curating art for a castle, she was particularly grateful for “easier to deal with.”

She smiled, humming a carol to herself as she listened to the din of voices and television noise from the living room. She and Grey usually hosted Game Night monthly, but for December she’d wanted to make a holiday party out of it, so here she was, in the kitchen, arranging celery and tomatoes and carrots in the shape of a Christmas tree on a serving tray while she waited for the last of their guests.

Thankfully, everyone was there, save two of their closest friends and their respective dates. Even Grey’s quiet, solemn friend Jon had finally coupled up, although she still had her doubts as to whether he’d behave himself, reigning in his competitive streak for what was intended to be a just-for-fun sort of get together. She still wished she’d been able to set him up with DeeDee. Secretly, her cherished hope was that tonight’s introduction might spark something between them. Yes, she had met this guy she was bringing to Game Night, but there was no way he could be a better match than Jon. LT was just the type of man her very best friend needed.

In the years she had known her, DeeDee had dated more than her fair share of spoiled heirs and self-absorbed princelings. Even the “normal” men she had gone out with tended to be single minded career types who had little to no identity outside their work. The less said about that loser Daario the better. She didn’t count him as D’s “dating” material, rather more like “indentured betrothal.” Missy had even caught him looking down her dress at the engagement party. Good riddance, asshat.

Leaving her life in Pentos and coming here had been a hard, but brave and necessary choice for DeeDee. She needed a fresh start. Jon, a kind, decent, steady sort of man—like Grey—might help her find happiness in this new phase of her life. But Missy never even had a chance to make the match!

Missy knew something was up in September when DeeDee showed up for one of their rare Happy Hour meetups positively radiant. Turned out she was smitten by some mysterious man she referred to by the moniker “sexy professor.” No names, DeeDee said—she didn’t want to jinx it because they were, in DeeDee’s words, also becoming “best friends.”

But this mystery man, whoever he was, had swept the woman off her feet. She’d lost track of the times she’d received a breathless call or text with another story about this guy who managed to turn cooking lessons and dog walking into foreplay. Hells, she’d almost been a little jealous, remembering how that felt, the newness that came with falling in love.

Maybe she and Grey had succumbed to their settled status and had become boring. She sighed contented: she rather enjoyed ‘boring’—if boring meant sharing your life with someone utterly devoted to you and vice versa. Missy would take that kind of boring anytime. And it wasn’t like Grey didn’t still have a few surprises up his sleeve. He’d already surprised her with a trip to Pentos, just the two of them, for New Year’s and she was dying to tell DeeDee all about it.

If she ever arrived. Damn, but that girl was perennially late.

She checked the clock on the wall, and carried the platter out and placed it on the table beside the crisps and dip, cookies, mini meatballs in barbecue sauce and few plates wrapped in foil the other couples had brought. Glancing around at the other couples, she felt confident that this would be a *nice* group. Pyp and his girlfriend Alys and Sam and Gilly huddled together on the sofa flipping through the channels trying to find a Christmas movie. Grey, sipping on a beer, hopped up when he saw her.

“Need help?”

She smiled at his thoughtfulness and shook her head. “Nope, all set!” The words had barely left her mouth when the doorbell rang, and her eyes widened. “Maybe grab the door, I’ve got one more to bring out.” She busied herself in the kitchen, hearing a male voice besides Grey’s, realizing it had to be Jon. She was curious, to be sure, about what sort of date he’d brought, but she managed to stave off the impulse to rush to the door as she retrieved the cheese platter from her pantry.

“MISSY!” Grey’s shout gave her a start, and the ensuing laughter surprised her. “Get over here! You aren’t gonna believe this!”

Now she was beginning to worry, and she raced for the door as quickly as her feet would carry her. “Jon!” She beamed at him, noticing how much more at ease he seemed than usual. Typically, he brooded, broken up by moments of anxious tension, but tonight he seemed relaxed...and smiley? He waved, grinning at Grey then motioning over his shoulder with his thumb.

“You should meet my date,” Jon said merrily, then stepped slightly to the side.

Her heart nearly stopped.

“DEEDEE!” Her eyes bulged out of her head, pinging between Jon and one of her oldest friends, her mouth falling open as she screeched. “WHAT?!” DeeDee bounced on her toes in amusement, flashing Jon a smug smile as she laced her fingers through his.

“Surprise!”

She was going to fall over because her heart had stopped and she would ask Grey for CPR but that would require her to speak and wasn’t sure her brain could manage it. Passing out was only moments away because she had locked her knees and was feeling faint and there was no way this was really happening. Maybe she had already lost consciousness and this was a dream…?

“How…How did this?” She shook her head in disbelief, shooting a look at Grey who chuckled to himself as he looked between the pair. “What is going on here? Is this a joke?”

“I told you I was bringing a date,” DeeDee said in a sing-song voice, swinging the hand joined with Jon’s together between the two of them. “This is my date.” Then she looked at Jon, and Jon looked at her, and the fact that they loved each other hit her like a thunderbolt, and she wanted to jump up and down with excitement. She had been RIGHT. They were PERFECT for each other. Did she know her friends or what?

Then another realization struck her, and she goggled at DeeDee, hissing as quietly as she could to her friend. “JON is the sexy professor?”

“Oh, dear Gods,” Dany moaned, flushing and covering her face with her free hand while Jon snorted at her side. “Missy, I swear. I told you that in *confidence*.” Still, her friend laughed.

“This is shocking news,” Jon said, his eyes growing wide. “Dany, do we need to talk about your grades? Maybe come by my office for some private tutoring?” Looking sideways at DeeDee, Jon tsked, playfully nudging her elbow. “Ah, I’ve got it—extra credit.” He raised a single eyebrow; D blushed.

Watching the exchange with wide eyes, Missy couldn’t help her surprised laugh. Because she wasn’t sure who this man was, but it was definitely not the Jon Snow she knew. That Jon Snow wouldn’t be suggesting naughty role play within her hearing. Ever.

And now that she looked at him closely, she was definitely catching the rumpled academic vibe from him. She looked over at Grey and rolled her eyes. “Let’s get them off the porch before DeeDee starts stripping for grades—”

DeeDee flashed Jon an exceedingly playful glare as they made their way inside, shrugging off their coats as Grey and Missy looked on in an awed sort of wonder.

“You’re really the worst, Jon Snow, encouraging Missy like this. What a traitor.” Then she tipped her head, considering, and offered a coy half-smile to the usually taciturn man. “But I’ll definitely see you in your office later. You know I will do *anything* to pass—” DeeDee winked at Jon. “—and I’m a quick study.”

What. The actual. Fuck. The opening scene of a bad porno was playing out in front of her. Unable to stand it another minute, Missy grabbed DeeDee’s hand and hauled her to the kitchen, leaving Grey to escort Jon into the living room. She skidded to a halt at the kitchen counter, and speared her friend with a level stare. “SPILL!”

DeeDee offered a cheeky shrug, and walked to the fridge, snagged two beers and shut the door with her hip. “You already know everything.” She sighed, closing her eyes and smiling contentedly. “I love him—and so does Hedwig.”

“Well why didn’t you lead with that? I mean if Hedwig likes him what else matters?”

D smacked her arm good naturedly. “Besides the fact that he is kind, and sweet, and funny, an animal in bed and yet such a *generous* lover?” She relaxed back against the fridge, letting out a light groan. “And hot. Really hot. Like, astoundingly so, have you seen his abs?”

Her face wrinkled at the unfortunate picture D had begun to paint there towards the end. “First off, yikes.” Dany tossed her a playful glare, as she plowed ahead. “So Jon. This whole time.” Missy gaped at her friend, trying not to sound surprised, but she couldn’t help it.

DeeDee nodded. “I thought you wanted me to date him.”

“I did! I do! I just didn’t know he was so—dreamy. I mean, honestly, at this point I should have him give Grey some tips, I just…”, she shook her head, her voice trailing off. The serious, solitary man she knew was the romantic who’d been described to her over the phone. She had so much work through later… “Okay then. Wow. Moving on! How on earth did you meet him?”

The other woman’s smile grew wider, and softer. “At work.” Oh, she was a goner, completely and totally wasted over Jon Snow, of all people. A decidedly attractive man to be certain, but the rest of it? “Jon figured it out at his last poker night that we all knew each other, and that you and Grey had been trying to fix us up.” She snickered. “We wanted to surprise you.”

Suddenly, Missy’s eyes caught up with her mind, and the garish sweater D had been wearing grabbed her attention; she burst out laughing, “Oh Gods, DeeDee, where did you get that sweater?” She raised her brows. “Santa’s Favorite Ho?” Her laughter contagiously ensnared D and the two of them stood there, laughing until they wheezed.

DeeDee struck a pose, a beer in each hand. “Like it? Jon picked it out.” And they exploded into another burst of guffawing and snorts, echoed by the similar hysterical eruption from the group in the other room.

“This is so...weird, D. I mean I thought you two would hit it off, but Jon... double entendres...it’s just—"

“—weird?” DeeDee finished helpfully. She jerked her head in the direction of the other room. “Go get a load of Jon’s. Sounds like everyone else has.” Together, they walked to the living room to find the other couples and Grey examining Jon’s sweater with no small measure of mirth and ribbing. “Jon,” DeeDee called sweetly, “show Missy that lovely sweater I picked out for you.”

At the sound of DeeDee’s voice, Jon turned, his put-out frown wrinkling his entire face, though it didn’t seem like his heart was in it, because he smiled again the minute he laid eyes on D, even as his sweater declared that he had a ‘big package’ for someone. “Everyone,” he drawled, “this is Dany, and *she* picked this out. And also demanded that I wear it tonight. Because she’s bossy.”

“That sweater is 100% accurate,” Dany whispered in Missy ear, “in the interest of full disclosure.” She wiggled her eyebrows meaningfully.

“Holy shit, D—I did not want to know that,” she hissed in return, but paused, considering, and giggled. “But good for you.” She nudged her shoulder against her friend’s, then the silver-haired woman was gone, handing Jon a beer and sidling up to him to press a kiss to his jaw.

“Stop pouting, Jon. You look amazing in that sweater.” Then she leaned up and whispered something in Jon’s ear that had him smirking, and sliding his hand down to tuck into the back pocket of DeeDee’s jeans, and, if Missy wasn’t mistaken, grabbing her ass. She didn’t know whether to be shocked, mystified, amused—

—or jealous.

“Hi, everyone,” DeeDee said, looking around the room, utterly nonchalant at the confused, quiet stares puzzling over the pair. “I’m Dany. Jon’s date.” She gave a little wave then took a sip of her beer, while everyone looked on, a bit shell-shocked. “I mean, I guess I’m technically his girlfriend.” She looked up a Jon with a bright smile. “Right?”

“Yep,” Jon said, then glared at his friends in turn. “Go on, get it out of your systems.”

Pyp gaped at the pair like he’d been struck like lightning; poor Alys looked confused; and Sam and Gilly first stared at the two and then each other, dumbfounded. Finally, Grey spoke up, intensely studying the couple. “Well, no offense, Dany, but I think we’re all trying to figure out what you see in this old grump.”

Jon glared at Grey, but DeeDee smiled serenely. “Have you seen his ass?” She arched a brow. “It *refuses* to quit.”

Missy was certain this would finally embarrass Jon, but he pulled DeeDee closer, and this time she was *certain* Jon squeezed her friend’s ass. Again. “Any more questions?”

She had none, because she had seen Jon’s ass, and it was pretty remarkable; she met Gilly’s eyes and the other woman shrugged seemingly adding to the rapidly growing ass consensus. Otherwise, Missy remained silent, fairly certain Grey wouldn’t appreciate her chiming in her agreement.

She cleared her throat, clapping her hands loudly and regaining everyone’s attention, breaking the spell of intrigued confusion her friend and Grey’s seemed to have cast on everyone. “We didn’t come here to embarrass Jon, everyone.”

“Thank you, Missy,” Jon interjected gratefully.

She nodded in his direction, trying to erase the images DeeDee had placed in her head about both his ‘package’ and his ass. “We came to play, right?”

Everyone murmured in agreement, but Jon and DeeDee exclaimed their agreement much more exuberantly. A knot of dread bloomed in her chest.

If Jon was competitive to a fault, DeeDee acted like sportsmanship was for suckers. It was as if Rhaella Targaryen’s drive and ambition reimagined in her daughter was reborn as an all-around game tyrant. Daenerys Targaryen might have had a proper society upbringing, but her manners vanished when it came to competition: she never met a game she didn’t want to conquer nor defeated legions she didn’t want to stomp with her high heels.

When she realized what was about to happen, Missy sighed heavily, knowing it was too late to politely ask the amorous pair to leave.

“Shall we start?   Or do people want snacks and socializing first?” Her question hung in the air, for a moment, until DeeDee spoke up, a wicked gleam in her eye.

““Let’s do this,” her friend intoned, and she and Jon clinked their beer bottles together.

“Bring on the games,” Jon affirmed, sweeping the room with his narrowed gaze before turning to DeeDee. They nodded at one another almost imperceptibly, then smiled broadly.

Missy had a bad feeling about this.

----------

Halfway through Pictionary, it was already a bloodbath.

Everyone struggled to translate their words into drawings—almost everyone. Regardless of who went to the board when it was Jon and DeeDee’s turn, the clue would be guessed within seconds. Last round, DeeDee pensively watched Jon work for oh, maybe 15 seconds, and before he had lifted the marker from the board, she excitedly called out “Egg yolk!” Jon pumped fists above his head in victory.   To Missy, Jon had drawn what looked like a tipped over “E” paired with an oval. For good measure, Sam checked the slip of paper, showed the group the word and yes, indeed, ‘egg yolk’ was written down.

Pyp lodged an official protest saying no way an oval and E equals egg yolk and demanded Missy examine their phones for evidence of cheating. For her part, Missy had zero desire to scroll through text messages or—shudder—pictures. Had someone asked her several hours ago if her friend and boyfriend would exchange dick pics and nudes, Missy would have laughed. Now…? There were some risks she just wasn’t willing to take, not with these stakes. She pointedly shook her head no, sending Pyp sulking back to the loveseat where Alys tried to console him.

Even now, as they waited for their next turn, they exchanged conspiratorial whispers, cuddled in the recliner with DeeDee perched on Jon’s lap. The intensity with which DeeDee listened to whatever Jon said should have been reserved for battle planning not party games. Maybe she needed to go back to the courtroom and get it out of her system.

Missy was definitely beginning to regret inviting them both.

This party was supposed to be about friends enjoying each other’s company and holiday cheer—peace on earth, goodwill and all that happy stuff. And dammit if people weren’t happy, they could pretend they were for a couple of hours just to be polite. Those two clearly had no qualms about disregarding politeness. Laying waste to everyone in their path maybe. Take no prisoners. Fire and blood.

And if Jon Snow continued to undress DeeDee with his eyes, Missy would need a cold shower.

Grey nudged her, as Sam and Gilly struggled to score a point. “I think they’re pod people,” he whispered to her, as Jon sneaked his fingers under the hem of DeeDee’s sweater. “They’re totally different. I mean, except for trying to beat everyone. That’s familiar.”

Missy tipped her head against his shoulder, and let out a put-upon sigh. “No shit,” she murmured, as she watched her friend scratch her nails through Jon’s beard and whisper something that made Mr. Grumpy snicker. “But they’re cute, aren’t they?”

“Yeah,” Grey agreed, slinging his arm around her, his hand squeezing her shoulder warmly. “It’s almost disgusting how cute they are.”

Laughing at something Jon said, DeeDee leaned in and kissed the tip of his nose, while Jon stared at her, naked adoration in his eyes.

Frustrated, she groaned. “I just wish they weren’t so fucking *GOOD* at this game.”

----------

The newest couple in the group retained their substantial points lead as they started playing Charades. This round began the same as the game before with Jon guessing Dany’s pantomime of “hole puncher” in lightning speed. A collective groan went up.

Except for Dany, who began a victory dance around the furniture as Pyp tried and failed to help Alys guess the movie title he was desperately acting out.

The normally good-natured Sam finally stood up, stammering and pointing at Jon. “You’re cheating, LT, you have to be.”

Jon raised his hands. “Am not.”

“Are you texting each other the answers?” Sam would not be dissuaded.

Plopping back into the cradle of Jon’s arms, DeeDee showed her hands as well. “I-” she crossed her heart, “-solemnly swear, we aren’t cheating.” Twisting to better see Jon, she flashed him a toothy smile. “We’re really, really good at games.” She wiggled on Jon’s lap like an excited puppy, every inch the sore winner Missy remembered from college.

Jon, for his part, was equally as smug, leaning back into the recliner and taking a long sip of his beer, one hand settling on her friend’s thigh, almost high enough to make everyone uncomfortable. “We’re just winners, Sam.”

DeeDee sighed, and Missy wondered if she was actually about to swoon as she tucked her head under his chin, curling into his chest. “You’re so sexy when you’re demolishing your friends, Jon.”

Grey made an exaggerated gagging sound, and everyone chuckled, the slight tension broken, but the pair in the recliner ignored everyone but each other.

----------

By the time they finished two rounds of Catchphrase, the lovebirds had worn out their welcome. Each time Jon and Dany breezed through a turn, everyone, to a person, had rolled their eyes or huffed out exasperated breaths at least once. Missy should have seen it coming. Not even alcohol slowed them down, though Jon had begged off after his third beer, saying he was driving.

But Missy knew DeeDee, and DeeDee only became more bloodthirsty the more buzzed she became, and tonight was no exception.

Eyes wild with excitement, her silver-haired friend clapped her hands, looking around the room with glee. “Another round?”

Jon nuzzled his nose against her neck, and when the room, in large, let out a loud chorus of “NO!” DeeDee cackled, listening attentively while Jon whispered in her ear; she gnawed her lip and walked her fingers up his chest, toying with the collar of his sweater.

Missy was really starting to worry they might fuck in her guest bathroom. If they made it past the hall closet. She jumped up from her chair, grabbed a plate off the food table and offered it around. “Barbecue meatballs? Cheese board? Anyone? Jon?” She waved the plate in the general direction of the recliner, hoping to drag his focus away from D.

Sam raised a finger. “I’ll take a meatball if that’s all right.”

Abruptly, DeeDee hopped off Jon’s lap and pulled him up; he followed behind her, hands on her hips. As they headed for the kitchen, the pair of them laughed like children. Fun crushing, evil children—but still children.

As soon as they left, Pyp cursed. “They’re fucking cheating. I don’t know how, but they are.”

“That’s quite a tasty meatball, Missy. Can you give Gilly the recipe?” Sam said, studying the morsel on the toothpick.

Grey chuckled quietly, taking a drink and addressed Pyp. “They both think strategically. Dany was a famous trial lawyer in Essos and you both know what Jon was like in the army…” his voice trailed off. “Together they’re—"

“Merciless?” Sam finished helpfully. “Poor sports?”

Over the din of Christmas music and Pyp’s complaints, Missy strained to hear what was going on in the kitchen. The silence concerned her.

Sam’s sweet, even-tempered wife seemed to be the only one not pouting. “I think they’re cute. Did you see the way Jon looks at her? They look so happy.”

“Yeah, well,” he said, scowling, “it’d be a hell of a lot happier if they laid off us a little bit. Or got a room.”

Pyp and Alys agreed heartily, but Grey shook his head. “That’s like telling a fish not to swim. They’ll never back down.”

A loud clatter sounded from the kitchen. Missy shot up from her chair and raced into the next room to find her friend sitting on the kitchen island, locked in a tight embrace, with Jon between her knees and her hands on the Lieutenant’s ass. A stack of now broken plastic cups scattered across the tile.

“Seriously?” She stared at the pair, and was at least happy they both had the good graces to look guilty. “This is where people *eat* Daenerys—"

“Does she call you Daenerys when she’s angry?” Jon surreptitiously slid his hand out from under her sweater where Missy suspected he might have been feeling up his girlfriend.

“Sorry, Missy,” DeeDee said, bumping her forehead against Jon’s and pulling her hair over her shoulder sheepishly, twirling the end of her ponytail. “It was an accident.”

But then she saw it, there on the other woman’s slender neck, a patch of skin that had been hidden by the side swept hairstyle. “Oh my GOD, DeeDee, is that a hickey!?”

A hand flew up to cover the darkened, bruised mark, and then DeeDee pinned Jon with an accusatory glare. “You said it wasn’t even noticeable!”

Jon looked at her friend apologetically. “It *wasn’t*—,” he trailed off, looking between the two women, re-examining the offending mark again, “earlier, anyway.”

DeeDee rolled her eyes, then gave Missy a frown that even from where she stood didn’t seem the slightest bit convincing. “You should see all the OTHER ones.”

Missy covered her ears with her hands, wincing and shutting her eyes. “I don’t want to hear any of this, and I don’t want to see any of it, and don’t you dare fuck in my kitchen Daenerys Targaryen!” She finally lowered her hands and cautiously opened her eyes to find them standing a few inches apart, looking a bit abashed if not entirely contrite. But not wrapped around each other, at least, which was progress; she scowled at them. “You’re acting like horny teenagers.”

“You’re right, Missy,” DeeDee took a deep breath and sighed, resigned. And paused. Considering, “This isn’t the time or place.”

“I’m glad you’ve come to your senses.” But Missy didn’t like the glint in her friend’s eyes just then, nor the way her head whipped around to look at Jon, suggesting that she’d had a dangerous idea.

For his part, Jon looked surprisingly thoughtful—and intrigued.

Missy then had the terrible epiphany that all this winning had been an aphrodisiac, leaving them hungry to devour each other. But she would be damned if they acted on some newly discovered public sex kink and sullied her bathroom towels in the process.

“We’re being rude. We should go,” DeeDee whispered heatedly.

Jon seemed to sense a shift in mood as well, nodding decisively at the petite woman, then giving Missy a mock salute. “It’s been fun, Missy. you’re a great hostess. Let’s do it again soon.”

With barely a pause for goodbye, the pair hustled through the living room, offering brusque waves, oblivious to the somewhat sour looks from Sam and Pyp, and Grey’s bemused smile. Confused, the group stood to watch the surprise departure, muttering half-hearted farewells (Gilly) and few potent curse words (Pyp) as they watched as the pair yank on their coats.

“It was nice meeting you all!” DeeDee waved, looking like a marshmallow with a head in her puffy coat, sounding as polite and cheerful as ever. Nothing in her pleasant demeanor offered even a hint that she had tried goading Jon Snow into fucking her in the kitchen only moments before.

Shrugging, Jon grunted, then grabbed DeeDee’s hand, practically hauling her through the entryway.

And then the pair were gone, the door slamming shut behind them.

Alys looked around, confused. “What the fuck just happened?”

Missy shook her head. “You don’t want to know.” She glanced at Grey, who was watching her, his lips twitching. “If that Jeep hasn’t pulled away in 5 minutes, spray them down with the water hose.”

----------

It took thirty minutes before Jon’s Jeep finally pulled away.

The other couples, she knew, from watching through the window shades, had kept their distance from the fogged windows of the vehicle in question as they made their way to their own cars.

When Missy finally left her post, she found Grey sitting before the fire; she crawled into his arms. “They’re finally gone.”

Grey placed his chin atop her head and laughed. “You know he fucked her in that Jeep.”

She couldn’t help but laugh, too. As frustrating as the night had been, she was happy for them, blissfully happy, really. DeeDee deserved someone who loved her, and who made her unapologetically happy, and it looked like that someone was Jon ‘Grumpy Pants” Snow.

Stranger things had happened, she supposed.

----------

Three hours later, Grey nudged her as they finished cleaning up, handing her his phone.

“Have a look at this, Miss.”

He stood behind her, and rested his chin on her shoulder, reading along as she glanced through a series of texts from Jon.

Jon: Grey, sorry about tonight. Dany can’t control herself in public.

Jon: She says I should delete that, and that I’m the one who can’t control myself, but I refuse. She’s a dirty, nosy text peeker. She says this also isn’t true.

Jon: Okay, I’m in the next room. I know you guys are heading to Pentos soon, but ask Missy if she wouldn’t mind helping me with something.

Jon: I need her to come with me to the jewelry store, once you’re back.

Jon: I want Dany’s ring to be perfect.

Tears welled in her eyes, a high-pitched “Awwwwww” escaping, and she turned around to look at Grey.

“We were right. If nothing else, we were right.”

She kissed her fiancé, once, twice, then one more time. “I love being right.”

Grey wrapped his arms around her waist. “I know. You’re so good at it, too.”

“C’mere.” She backed away slowly, beckoning him with a crooked finger. “I want to see if YOUR ass refuses to quit, too.”

 

Chapter Text

JANUARY

--JON--

Jon fought the urge to pace in the limited sidewalk space in front of Cuppa Java, torn between checking his watch, checking his phone, and checking both directions in search of Missy. He was unbelievably nervous, and he wasn’t entirely sure why.

It was just a ring, right? The novelty would last for several years and then, once the newness wore off, it would become another sentimental piece of jewelry. Like a watch. Or grandmother’s earrings.

That wasn’t the fucking truth, he knew, but increasingly desperate attempts to stop the spinning maelstrom in his gut required a little self-deception.

It wasn’t just a ring.

It was an engagement ring. For Dany. The ‘Dany’ part perhaps a bigger deal than the engagement part. And the single thought racing through his mind was that he had to nail this one. All of it. The actual ring, the timing of giving it to her—introducing her to the idea of marrying him—

Maybe it was too soon.

He’d known her seven months now, been her friend for nearly as long. Surely the number of hours they had spent together compensated for not knowing each other for even a calendar year. Still, they’d only been sleeping together for a few weeks. A few absolutely extraordinary weeks, in truth, the best bloody weeks of his life. Since the night of the office Christmas party, they hadn’t spent a single night apart.

Practically speaking, they lived together at this point.

And it was fucking everything.

When he woke up beside her every morning, a mound of dogs at the foot of the bed, her legs tangled with his, her breath puffing out against his skin, he knew. Imagining his world without her in it was impossible, impossible to imagine that any life without her would even be worth living.

She was the answer to his everything. Not a single doubt remained. In the week before Christmas, he’d barely restrained himself from running out and buying the first ring he could find—including one he saw in a gumball machine. He had managed to talk himself out of being impulsive, managed to convince himself that he should wait and think it through. His Big Plan strategy had worked so far. Still, he wanted to make them official. For keeps.

Jon planned on buying one engagement ring in his lifetime. He needed her ring to be perfect for her, the way she was perfect for him. They weren’t perfect people, only a fool would think that. He knew better, he was no starry-eyed green boy anymore. But them, together - if it wasn’t perfect, it was exceedingly fucking close.

But the Big Plan also taught him he needed a co-conspirator. Someone who could compensate for his many deficits and call him on asshole idiocy if necessary. Perhaps most importantly, someone who knew Dany exceedingly well. The quest for the perfect ring required nothing less.

So, Jon did what a good soldier should do under the circumstances: he called in reinforcements.

And here she came barreling up the sidewalk, shooting a dirty look to the group that stood rudely in the thoroughfare and shoving her way through.

“Jon!” Missy waved, breathless, closing the remaining distance quickly. “Gods, I’m so sorry I’m late, Grey’s car wouldn’t start, and we had to jump the battery, and I--”

“Missy.” Jon held up a hand to stop the barrage of words, smiling gently. “It’s alright, I haven’t been waiting long.” He blew out a short breath, his lips turning down a bit. “Just long enough to wonder if this is crazy. Is this too soon? Is she going to think this is to soon?” He could feel worry rising hot and tight in his chest, squeezing like a fist. “Tell me the truth.”

Missy studied him, amber eyes softening as her lips curved into a tiny, wistful grin. “Lieutenant, there are lots of things I don’t know. But I do know DeeDee, and I know she’s absolutely crazy over you. You could propose to her with a Ring Pop and she’d say yes in a heartbeat.” The knot in his abdomen slowly began to untangle, in the face of Missy’s calm assurance. “Now,” she said cheerily, linking her arm through Jon’s and pointing to a nearby store, “let’s go get a ring, Jon Snow.” She examined him with curiosity as they made their way. “Do you have an idea of what you’re looking for?”

Jon did, in fact, have a fair idea. He’d tried to absorb every scrap of information he could find about quality, cut and clarity, though at this point the knowledge threatened to turn his brain to mush, but he gave a halting nod. “I think so,” he said, and ushered them both into the first store, a small, but well-known boutique jeweler with an eclectic mix of antique pieces and newer designs. “I like to have a plan.”

He realized, frowning, as they glanced in case after brightly lit case of rings, that none of them would do. This store had a reputation for one of a kind jewelry as art pieces that exuded personality. Jon had studied Dany’s taste in clothes and decor for hints of what might suit her. She usually combined contemporary design with classic, even primitive motifs from her native Essos. On the face of it, this store ought to be a good fit. But too many of these rings would overwhelm her hand and ‘wear’ her. This ring needed to be all about Dany not the reverse.

His phone buzzed, and he removed it from his pocket to find a text and picture from Dany, and for a moment, with a wry twist of his lips, he wondered if he dared to open it in public. There was no telling what she had sent, and that was one of the things he liked best about her. Every day with her was a surprise; there was no way to anticipate what she might say or do next: it made even the most mundane task something he now looked forward to, merely because she would be with him.

He eyed Missy, who scrutinized the ring selection a short distance away, then opened the message, chuckling as soon as he saw its contents.

Attached was a picture of Ghost and Hedwig, two blurs of motion, as they ran around the indoor dog park Dany had found about fifteen minutes from their neighborhood. Ghost could bear the cold of a Westerlands winter with ease, but tiny Hedwig was not so lucky, and so they’d tried to find other options to exercise the little devil. There was still a lot of puppy in Dany’s dog, and last week she’d chewed clean through the heel of one of Dany’s expensive shoes out of pent-up boredom.

“What is it?” Missy’s voice sounded over his shoulder, and he pointed his screen towards her, smiling even more widely when the woman grinned. “Someone’s having fun.”

Jon nodded in agreement, typing away a brief message, hoping to keep up the air of busy frustration he’d presented to Dany that morning, as a way of buying himself a little time apart to run this extremely important errand. She thought he was meeting Tyrion at the office, and overhauling their accounting software at Stannis’s adamant request. The hope being that the transition would be smooth once they closed out the fiscal year and switched to a new system.

That was a huge stretch, of course; *Edd* was, in fact, at the office, performing that very task. Jon was not, and had no plans to be. He only felt a minor twist of guilt; he’d offered to watch Edd’s girls in exchange, as apparently Ros had been very firmly demanding a date night, and those were the terms that had been offered. How hard could that be? And he’d have Dany there, which made the prospect nowhere near as terrifying. It couldn’t be much more complicated than the wild dog wrangling they now engaged in on a daily basis.

Jon: She’s going to have Ghost bullying all the other dogs for their lunch money, soon.

Dany responded right away, with several laughing emojis accompanying her message.

Dany: SHE IS A TYRANT, soon this dog park will be under her iron rule. Ghost just does her dirty work, like a good fluffy henchman.

Jon laughed, and tucked his phone away, giving one last look around the store before meeting Missy’s eyes. His amusement faded as he shook his head. There wasn’t a single ring here that snagged his attention, that leapt out from the case and screamed ‘DANY!’ as he’d hoped. The selection seemed limited to extremes: assertively quirky antique pieces, rings with stones so cartoonishly large they’d look like bowling balls on Dany’s finger, and others featuring settings with serious maiming potential. This wasn’t the place; he could feel it. “I don’t think we’re going to find her ring here, Missy. Let’s keep moving.”

Missy made no move to argue, just nodded amiably enough and managed to match him step for step, as they made their way out into the early afternoon. A silence settled over them, and it occurred to Jon that he wasn’t sure he’d ever actually spent time with Missy apart from Grey; he’d never had a reason to. He should try to make conversation, he thought, stop being so bloody awkward for once.

He knew how to talk to people, for fuck’s sake. It was just usually more trouble than it was worth. But Missy was Dany’s best friend, and so he would give it a try.

“How was Pentos?” Missy looked up at the question, a wide grin lighting up her face.

“Warm,” she drawled, “toasty hot. Just the way I like it.” With a devious glint in her eye, she waggled her eyebrows at Jon. “You ought to take Dany there some time, let her show you how nice the beaches are.”

She looked thoroughly amused, as though she were privy to some secret she thought Jon wasn’t.

He was aware. Dany crowed endlessly about the beaches of Pentos, wagering that Missy would coerce Grey into visiting a clothing optional spot, simply to see if she could.

Jon narrowed his eyes and scoffed, good-naturedly. “I’m not taking Dany to a nude beach. I’d end up throttling some poor man who happened to glance her way, and I hear the jails in Pentos are sweaty and crowded.” He clicked his tongue. “Not how I’d want to spend any vacation with her, stuck behind bars, bribing some bubba recovering from a bender to hold my spot in the toilet queue.”

Missy, to his surprise, burst out laughing, desperately trying to muffle it behind her hand, now clapped over her mouth. “Oh, Gods,” she wheezed out, “now I see why you and Grey are such good friends—you’re so alike!” She rolled her eyes, her laughter petering out into giggles, her eyes dancing. “I tried. Pulled out all the stops. But every time I insisted we go, he’d look at me and say ‘Missy, do you want me to kill a man in front of you? This is how I kill a man in front of you, you know.’” Her face was serious now, in a fairly convincing impersonation of Grey, until she cracked at the end and began to laugh anew.

Jon had no choice but to join in. He could almost hear the man’s voice in his head, knew exactly the stern, serious tone Grey had likely adopted, that flinty look in his eyes when he finally wouldn’t budge on something.

“I hear you got to meet the Dragon Lady in the flesh over New Year’s.” Missy had recovered enough to begin walking again, and nudged his arm as she spoke, regarding him with no small measure of anticipation.

Obviously, Dany had told her all about their surprise trip to Winterfell for Uncle Ned’s annual winter party. This year, however, had been very different. For starters, he’d attended—a major change from his entire life. Had Dany not arranged it all, he would have maintained his pattern of avoiding one of the most important events of the society calendar, the legendary Ice Gala. But she had come up with a perfect plan, and now, upon reflection, he was glad that for once he had let her surprise him.

The arrival of Rhaella Targaryen had been only the first of many surprises.

He eyed Missy speculatively. “Oh, I met her, alright.” A rocky beginning had given way to a tense middle, but by the time they’d parted ways Dany’s mother seemed to have developed a peculiar, begrudging respect for Jon; Dany assured him such behavior was VERY unusual. “It was—,” he paused, his eyes darting around as he searched for the right word, finally settling on one, “—interesting.”

Missy eyed him knowingly, a hand on his arm stopping his progress just outside the next store he’d planned on browsing. “How much did she offer you? To leave her precious Daenerys alone?” Jon gave a small start, his lips parted in surprise, but Missy smiled wryly. “It’s her go-to move, Jon. She’s been pulling that shit on Dany’s boyfriends since freshman year of college.”

“Ten million.”

Now it was Missy’s turn to look shocked, but then she squinted at Jon in something approaching disbelief. “You didn’t take it?!” The question obviously escaped her before she could stop it; she clasped a hand over her mouth when she realized.

Jon’s eyes widened, a little shocked Missy would say such a thing. Money messed with people’s heads: the more zeros the bigger the mess.

But then she blew out an exasperated puff of air and shook her head, clearly embarrassed. “Of course, you didn’t. But fuck’s sake, Jon. That’s a lot. Even by Dragon Lady standards.”

Jon gave a half-hearted shrug; Missy had no way of knowing why Jon wouldn’t even blink at that amount of money, not even Grey knew all his secrets. when he’d decided to try to build a new life for himself, far from Winterfell, he’d made a concerted effort to keep that part of his life well-guarded. Once, while drunk, he’d unwisely disclosed his tidy little inheritance to Ygritte. While he doubted Grey or his fiancée would ever expect him to be their personal piggy bank as his ex had, having knowledge of his considerable wealth still tended to make people act a little...strange. Never mind that the story behind his trust fund was an entirely depressing one, and he didn’t like how people looked at him once they knew the truth.

Dany knew all of it, of course, but he didn’t care. More importantly, she didn’t care: his history—the tragic, messy heap of it— didn’t define him where she was concerned. He wanted her to know everything about him and so he had answered every question. Despite the misgivings that the years had etched into his mind and his heart, nothing she learned changed how she treated him. It was a disconcerting thing to be valued purely for oneself but he thought, unable to repress a smile, that he could get used to it.

He knew he could. That’s why he was shopping for a bloody engagement ring, after all.

“I told her where she could stick her checkbook, actually.” He smirked, holding open the door to Bronn’s Diamond Showroom, “Strangely enough, after that, she warmed up fairly quickly and became almost pleasant to deal with. Almost.”

Missy walked through the doorway, sparing him an odd, searching look as she passed. “You’re just full of surprises, aren’t you, Lieutenant?” Abruptly, she began blinking, her eyes clearly struggling to adjust to the darkened interior as emerald green brocade curtains blocked all natural light. “What the actual hell?”

A multi-level chandelier of teardrop crystals drew Jon’s attention to an elaborate trompe l'oeil ceiling of harp playing cherubim and topless goddesses. The rest of the showroom seemed purposefully dark, ostensibly forcing attention to the illuminated display cases lining the walls.

Suddenly, a hand grabbed his, and pumped hard, a face materializing far too close to his.

Jon hated him immediately, from his weaselly, squinting eyes to his false smile. He fought the urge to rub his hand against his jeans, to rid himself of that slimy handshake, as the man eyed the two of them.

“Name’s Bronn, folks, and welcome to my *fine* establishment.” The man spread his hands wide, gesturing around, his eyes never leaving Missy. “Come to purchase the ultimate monument to your true love, yes? Well, you’ve come to the right place.” The proprietor left them no chance to correct him, immediately gesturing to a case beside him, housing dozens of glittering rings and bracelets, all heavily laden with diamonds and, here and there, accented with other colorful gemstones as well. “I’ve got something for everyone, a bauble for every budget, a gem for *every* gorgeous gal.” Bronn grabbed at Missy’s hand, now, kissing the top in what he no doubt considered a roguish manner; Missy’s lip wrinkled in disgust.

“We’re just looking,” Jon interjected coldly, snagging Missy’s arm at the elbow and pulling it away from the man’s grip, staring daggers at the man until he straightened.

Bronn, for his part, seemed to think he’d overstepped, which was good, because Jon was seconds away from throwing a solid throat punch, and it really wouldn’t do to get arrested before he could secure Dany’s ring. A plausible explanation, one that didn’t reveal why he would be downtown, with Missy, at a jeweler, didn’t exist.

The salesman raised his hands in mock surrender. “Be my guest, then. Everything you see is certified one-of-a-kind original, designed by yours truly.” With a flourish, he waved his hand towards another case, and then gave a stiff nod of his head, his eyes already on another couple who’d just entered.

The moment he walked away, Missy spoke, lowly, at his side. “What a fucking sleaze ball. I mean check out that ceiling—it looks like a brothel.” With roll of her shoulders, as though shaking off the feel of the owner’s touch, she took a deep breath. “Let’s see what we’re dealing with, here.”

It was true, Jon didn’t have the sort of trained, aesthetic eye that Missy surely did, given her line of work, but even he could see that the rings they were looking at were, well…

“Absolute garbage. Casino chic,” Missy hissed. “Ostentatious trash. I mean, Dany might like this,” she said, pointing to one particularly garish, comically large ring, “if she were a mob wife. Or a stripper. Or a mob wife stripper.”

“I think we’re looking to avoid both those, thanks,” Jon said dryly, giving Missy a tiny smile when she snickered in response.

He looked around, hoping the vulturous owner didn’t have them in his sights once more, when his eyes locked with a pair of hard, solid blue.

He knew those eyes.

Stannis.

It was him, Jon was sure of it, even the uncharacteristic hoodie and pulled-low ball cap couldn’t disguise him. But when he saw the flash of red hair from the woman at the man’s side, saw the fleeting flicker of panic in Stannis’ eyes when he realized he’d been recognized, Jon couldn’t help but feel a bit sorry for the man.

Over the years, he’d pranked Stannis incessantly as an outlet for his own frustrations. The tricks had only escalated when Dany had transitioned from extremely hot coworker to full blown partner in crime. He made a show of checking his watch and looking away, as though he hadn’t seen the man at all, and cleared his throat, dragging Missy’s attention away from yet another gaudy piece of jewelry.

“Let’s get out of here, Missy. There’s a place on the next block I want to visit.”

Missy nodded in agreement, grimacing at Bronn’s back as he assailed Stannis and Mel with his sales pitch, Stannis glowering the whole time. “Good,” she said, “that guy gives me the creeps, anyway. I bet half these rings are set with cubic zirconia.”

Jon let out a grunting chuckle, his eyes aimed straight for the door, but he spared Stannis one last look, and a dip of his chin, before he stepped back out into the bright sunlight.

Missy glanced around, looking down the avenue then back at Jon, expectantly. “Well, Lieutenant? Where to next?” She frowned, checking the time on her phone. “I promised Grey I’d try to swing by and bring him a coffee by four, so, better get a move on, buster.” With a playful poke of her finger on his shoulder, she grinned, and tucked her phone away in her purse.

With a tick of his jaw, Jon shoved his hands in his pockets and started walking, not saying anything until the pair stood before a plain granite and limestone storefront, labeled only with a small engraved brass nameplate announcing “fine jewelry.” Shoppers hurrying past the relatively modest window displays of demure pearl chokers and heavy gold chains draped on robin’s egg blue velvet might fail to recognize the famous premises. Such deceptive simplicity was intentional, Jon assumed—to keep away the “riff raff.” For his part, Jon watched with quiet amusement as Missy’s eyes grew impossibly wide, bouncing between his face and the powder blue awning.

“Jon,” she said, “do you have any idea how expensive this place is? I don’t even think we can afford to breathe in here.” Stopping just shy of the front door, Jon answered with a half-smile and a nod of his head, as he moved to open the massive bronze patinated door.

Missy continued to stare, clearly expecting him to ‘use his words’ as Dany liked to so helpfully put it, and he sighed. “Aye, I know, but it couldn’t hurt to look, right? Besides I’ll pay for as much air as you need, Missy.”

Missy patted his cheek maternally. “All right then, lieutenant. Let’s do this.”

Having done his research, he knew full well that this particular jeweler was the most expensive in all the Westerlands, the absolute pinnacle of what every bride-to-be secretly wished to receive. At least, that’s what the website said, and every reputable review site implied. Only the finest gemstones, sourced from Valyria and Dorne, featured in their designs.

Of course, that came with a price tag. But as the duo entered ‘Cersei’s, Jon could immediately see why.

The air *did* smell different in here—like...money. His uncle’s library. His grandfather’s club. His cousins’ elite private schools. From the centuries old cloisonné vases overflowing with orchids and beveled mirrors to every gleaming jewel, in every tastefully elegant showcase—each detail intended to inspire awe. One glass cube display atop a granite pedestal featured a necklace adorned with what must be 100 carats of diamonds and rubies; another held several million-dollar watches, displayed against a waterfall of velvet. The chandeliers glistening against the gold leaf ceiling silently judged Jon. Or maybe it was the ghost of every society matron who had sneered at him hiding behind the warm mahogany paneling, lying in wait to mock him. Among them would be Jon’s Aunt Cat who, over the years, had accumulated quite a stack of the store’s distinctive blue boxes.

“Dear Gods, pinch me.” Missy’s mumbled declaration accompanied her wide-eyed perusal of the showroom. Her gaze didn’t stop moving back and forth as they strolled off the marble floors onto a plush neutral carpet. “It’s like I’m in a museum of diamonds. Am I talking loudly? I feel like I’m being extremely loud.” Jon could barely hear her, and he shook his head, just as a blonde woman, angular and beautiful, dressed in an impeccably cut suit, approached.

“May I help you?” The question was asked smoothly, but Jon knew by the way the woman peered down her nose at them that she very much doubted a purchase would be made, didn’t miss the way the blonde’s eyes made a glancing pass at their decidedly middling wardrobe, her lips tightly pursed as she squeezed out a chilly smile.

Such appraisals, the polite disdain, had followed him everywhere while growing up in the North. Truthfully, her barely concealed contempt triggered a petty impulse in him, a vow that he wouldn’t leave here without purchasing a ring for Dany. From this store. From this pinch-lipped woman, who evinced enough of Cat Stark style snobbery that he mentally doubled his budget. Hells, he’d go as high as necessary.

He smiled widely, even as Missy startled. “We’d like to see your engagement rings, please.”

The woman’s eyes narrowed, but she pasted on a wide, false smile, and gestured with one slender hand towards a glass case near the window. “Right this way, then.”

Missy drew in a breath, as she eyed the contents within. Jon was less impressed. Certainly, he was no jewel expert, but his stepmother had maintained a rather extensive collection of baubles dutifully purchased by his uncle for each occasion, the next one always bigger than the last. Consequently, he immediately knew that this woman had led them to the cheapest items in the store. Trinkets, by her standards.

He pretended to look, even as Missy oohed and aahed over a few that, in truth, did look close to what he’d pictured in his mind as being the perfect ring for Dany, but they weren’t quite special enough.

“Too small,” he said, meeting the woman’s eyes, his voice tinged with regret. “I’m looking for at least two carats.” Missy’s eyebrows shot to her hairline; he answered her apprehension with a wink, willing her to play along “Unless this is the largest you carry, of course.” Jon tipped his head toward the saleswoman, considering. “What was your name?”

“It’s carved in stone above the door.” One slim eyebrow arched, and he watched the woman’s jaw tense. “I am Cersei, of course.” She narrowed her eyes. “I feel I ought to inform you that the rings in this display case are the most affordable options in my store.” She made a point of eyeing Jon’s wool coat, which, in truth, had seen better days. “I’d hate to show you something out of your price range.” There it was again—that slight sneer, that knowing look.

Jon held her stare, unwilling to be cowed, no longer at a place in his life where that sort of thing worked.

Especially not now.

“Two carats,” he repeated, allowing an edge of steel to creep into his voice. “If you please.”

Cersei heaved out a loud sigh, but obliged, striding over to another display case, and tapping with her nails along the beveled glass top. “Is this more to your liking?”

Jon looked from ring to ring, happier that at least she had complied, these rings far closer to the stone size he had envisioned, and then he saw it.

Third row down.

Fifth ring over.

Perfection. That was it, that was the ring. He knew it the moment he saw it; everything ground to a halt around him as he pictured it on her slender finger. That was the one, he was sure of it.

He took a deep breath, then another, willing his voice not to crack from the excitement coursing through him, then looked up to find Cersei watching him closely.

“Three down, five over,” he said, with authority. “I’d like to see that ring, please.”

Again, the blonde’s eyes narrowed, but she removed a small key from her pocket nonetheless, and unlocked the case, slowly selecting the ring and holding it out for his inspection, watching him as though she were half-worried he’d bolt from the store with it. When he looked to Missy for her input, she looked like she might faint, eyes darting between Jon and the ring now laying in the palm of his hand with something approaching shock.

“Are you serious?” Missy murmured, her lips barely moving.

He could hardly hear her low whisper, but Cersei certainly had, scoffing almost imperceptibly as she glanced at the pair.

Jon nodded in reply, even more sure now that it was in his hand, that this was the ring he had to buy. He pinched it between his thumb and forefinger, holding it up for Missy to inspect more closely, finally handing it over completely to his awestruck companion as his gaze returned to Cersei.

“That particular ring is our most sought-after setting, exclusive to my designs, of course.” She began to thaw, incrementally, as she moved further into her sales pitch. “The band is platinum, with four channel set diamonds on either side of the main stone, which is a carat and a half, on its’ own. With a color rating of ‘G’ and a clarity rating of VVS1,” she worked in a slight breath, “this is one of the most exquisite rings in my shop.” Her head ticked to the side and her eyes narrowed, slightly. “For under $100,000, at least.”

Missy found her voice, passing the ring back to Jon and crossing her arms as she addressed the proprietor. “And how much *is* this ring, then?”

“$60,000,” Cersei answered, clearly expecting to hear that they simply couldn’t manage such exorbitance. She proffered an open palm to Jon, suggesting he hand the ring over, but he didn’t budge, holding the ring up again to be sure, very, very sure, that this was the one.

He nodded. “I’ll take it.” When Missy let out a loud gasp beside him, he gave her a gentle nudge, his lips just barely twitching as he eyed Cersei. “Do you have the size, Missy?” That had been the one mystery for Jon, as Dany didn’t really wear rings to speak of, that he could measure against, and so he’d tasked her with discreetly finding out Dany’s ring size before their outing.

“Five and a half,” the woman at his side squeaked out, watching as Jon finally handed the ring back to Cersei, who gave him a cool stare.

“We don’t offer payment plans, Mr.,” she paused, clearly waiting for him to supply his last name.

“Snow,” Jon responded, fishing out his phone and seeing he’d missed another message from Dany, but avoiding opening her text in favor of opening his banking app and giving Cersei a tight smile. “I’ll be paying cash. I assume you are equipped to receive wire transfers, yes?”

His question seemed to knock the woman slightly off-balance, but she swiftly collected herself, answering him with a curt nod and strolled to the computer terminal near the register, not even waiting to see if the pair would follow, just expecting they would.

“Jon,” Missy hissed quietly, as they followed in the woman’s wake, “have you lost your bloody mind?”

He wasn’t sure, really. A part of him wondered if his good sense had departed him the moment his eyes had met Dany’s, that first day in her office. And if this is what losing your mind felt like, he was all for it.

The rest of him, however, didn’t care if he had left sensible Jon behind. Because he actually believed something better had emerged. The truth was, he felt like more of himself, now, with her, than he ever had in his life. A steadiness born of confidence instead of white-knuckle obsessive control. He’d never been so comfortable in his own skin, so at ease with who he was and where he was heading.

Now, there was a destination, and her name was Daenerys, and he didn’t really need anything else to make him happy, because she did it all so effortlessly. The hole that had been there, before her, had been shaped like her, fashioned in such a way that when she finally came into the picture, it was like placing the final piece in a jigsaw puzzle, the picture finally complete, and intact.

He felt whole. So no, he thought, he hadn’t lost his mind.

He’d just found his way, that was all.

He shook his head and flashed Missy a modest grin. “Go big or go home, right?”

Missy didn’t answer, but there was a strange look on her face, something akin to suspicion, as she studied Jon. Watching mutely as he filled out the sales receipt, she maintained her stare even as he initiated the wire transfer from his phone--providing the confirmation number to Cersei, who remained just as silent, until their transaction was complete.

She pulled a carbon copy from the receipt, handing it back to Jon. “I’ll have it sized and ready for pickup by Wednesday, pending completion of the wire transfer of course.” Cool eyes studied the information he’d provided, her interest sharpening and her eyes widening as she scanned the document he’d filled in.

“Lannister Industries?” Cersei’s eyes narrowed. “You work for my brother, then? Tyrion?”

This woman looked nothing like Tyrion, if she was indeed a Lannister, but she had the same look as Tyrion’s head salesman, his brother Jaime. He had no desire to continue their conversation, however, having absorbed enough politely-veiled disdain for one day. So he nodded, sharply, and tucked his receipt into his wallet. He rapped a knuckle on the counter, and replied. “I’ll see you Wednesday for the ring.”

Together, wordlessly, he and Missy left the store, but clearly his companion had regained use of her tongue by the time they reached the sidewalk, and tugged on his jacket sleeve, *hard*.

“Jon Snow,” she hissed, pulling him to stand one storefront down, out of the way of foot traffic, “explain.”

Jon furrowed his brow and tried to recall if he had done anything particularly vintage Jon Snow (aka vaguely idiotic/clueless) since being out with Missy. “Explain what?”

Missy closed her eyes and took a deep, calming breath, but when she again opened her eyes, they remained flooded with worry. “How did you get that much money? Are you--,” she glanced around, clandestinely, lowering her voice to just above a whisper, “some sort of contract killer? An assassin for hire? Grey told me you were in some elite group in the army, and—” When Jon let out a surprised laugh she frowned and slugged his arm. “I am NOT joking. that’s not the sort of thing Dany needs to be involved in, Jon. I’m serious!”

He snorted, one he couldn’t hold back, but held up his hands in mock surrender. “Missy, I swear, it’s nothing like that.”

In response, Missy put her hands on her hips and frowned harder.

Huffing out a breath, he patted her arm reassuringly. “My mother died when I was little, alright? So, when I turned 18, I received an inheritance. I promise I’m not a professional murderer.”

Missy’s face fell, regret twisting her features. “Oh,” she breathed out. “I’m so sorry, Jon.”

He felt a twinge of relief, that she didn’t push further, that he was spared from all the gory details he preferred to withhold. The only one who knew all of it was Dany, because she understood. She knew better than anyone what kind of world the Starks belonged to, what kind of life he was trying to avoid.

She had as little a taste for it as he did, and on his list of reasons for loving her, that ranked pretty high up there.

“It’s okay, Missy. It was a long time ago.” She was only slightly mollified by his words, though, and gave his arm a squeeze, before checking her watch and nearly jumping out of her shoes.

“Shit!” Her exclamation was punctuated by a frantic search for her car keys in the depths of her bag. “I’ve got to go!” Still, even in her haste, she spared him a warm smile. “Dany’s gonna love that ring, Jon. You did good, Lieutenant.”

He grimaced when he realized he hadn’t even talked to her about the plan to set all this in motion. A proposal that, even if it was not glamorous and flashy, would at least be a surprise. “Call me when you have some time, I had a surprise in mind for giving this to her, and I’ll need you and Grey to pitch in.” He ended the statement with a hopeful smile, and Missy rolled her eyes and nodded in agreement, backing away.

“I’ll have Grey call you later, then. The less I know, the better, you know how Dany is. If she gets wind of something, she’ll do her best to get it out of me.” With a cheerful wave, she took off down the sidewalk, leaving Jon $60,000 lighter and happier than he’d been in sometime.

He liked plans, and now it was time for a new one.

----------

When he arrived back to Dany’s a little before five, he found her in the kitchen, both dogs solemnly watching her as she continued what appeared to be a long-winded lecture. He waited near the door for a minute, imagining that this must be what she looked like addressing a courtroom.

With a finger only inches away from Hedwig’s snout, she paused, looking up to give Jon a sweet, welcoming glance, then she shifted attention back to the dogs, her expression immediately stern as she addressed the tiny dog. “You should be *very* ashamed of yourself. *Very* ashamed.”

Hedwig arose from her ladylike sit and made a half-turn, stopping when her tail end faced Dany, then sat down again; but Ghost whined and lay down flat, burying his nose under his paws, as though he felt guilty enough for the pair of them. Jon watched the unfolding scene, and slowly approached, inordinately curious.

“What happened?” At his whisper, Dany straightened, sparing Hedwig one last, stony look before she twisted around to wrap her arms around his neck, planting a noisy kiss on his lips.

“We’re banned from the dog park.” She exhaled a put-upon sigh, nuzzling her face against his neck as he chuckled. “They copied my driver’s license and everything.” She glanced over her shoulder, not relinquishing her grip, and he wrapped his arms around her back, holding her close as she muttered, “And it’s all thanks to that little orange devil over there.”

“Banned from the dog park,” he repeated, looking between the two dogs in surprise. “I didn’t know you could be banned from the dog park.” He met her eyes, mystified. “What in the bloody hell happened?”

Dropping her hands to her side with a frown, Dany crossed to the fridge and grabbed a beer for them both, gesturing towards the stools at the counter as she returned. “Well,” she began, taking a long pull from the bottle before she continued, “everything was fine until they said Ghost couldn’t be in with the small dogs, right? Which is ridiculous, because he is a large, fluffy angel, who never did anything wrong in his entire life.”

Jon raised an eyebrow. “That’s debatable. He used to piss in my shoes, when he was a puppy, and mad that I’d left him alone too long.”

Dany shook her head. “I’ll see your shoe piss and raise you six pairs of designer shoes otherwise known as the world’s most expensive chew toys. Anyway,” she drawled, “that meant we had to go into the large dog section, which was fine, I assumed, because Hedwig is fine with Ghost. But it turns out, she absolutely hates *other* big dogs.”

Jon glanced over at the orange fur ball in question, who docilely returned his gaze, her beady black eyes, innocent. “Are you serious?”

Dany leaned on her elbows, her face grim. “Jon, she tried to pick a fight with three other dogs who were just minding their business. Trotted up to them and snarled at them. Which would have been bad enough, but when they snapped at her, then Ghost tried to step in, and then things started to escalate, and the next thing you know, we’re being banned from the dog park for fighting. Banned for *life*” she said, swinging her bottle for emphasis. “It was so fucking embarrassing. She’s in doggy time out, like, forever.”

Hedwig whined, and Jon tried exceedingly hard to stifle a laugh. “Well, maybe I ought to take them from now on. She listens to me. Sometimes.”

“DEAL!” She clinked their bottles together to seal the deal. “Now,” she said, settling back and kicking her feet, “in other news, my landlord came by.” Her lips twisted sourly. “He is selling this place, so by March I need to find ‘other accommodations’,” she made air quotes around the words, “which really sucks, because I love living this close to you.”

Jon studied the label on his bottle, the solution there on the tip of his tongue. There were a thousand ways he could mess this up and scare her off, leaving him a wretch forever. But as he found himself doing more often in this new, post-Dany world, he went with his gut. “That’s simple,” he finally said after a few beats of silence. “Move in with me.”

His stomach clenched, roiling, when her eyes popped open wide, her eyebrows shooting up. Her lips parted, opening and closing for a few endless seconds until she managed to scrape together what she wanted to say. “Really?”

He didn’t see any reason not to do it.

And there were a million reasons in his mind why it was the perfect scenario; his mind flew to the receipt in his wallet. After all, this was merely another step in the direction he wanted his life to go. “Really.” When she pensively studied him in response, he felt the urge to explain. “Dany, we practically live together already, have since Christmas. Half your shit’s at my place, anyway, and half my stuff is here. Seems like the simplest thing to do is consolidate. Besides, your inappropriate use of my personnel file to stalk me served its purpose—we’re together. We don’t need separate places, do we?”

Her eyes softened, her lips curled up at the corners, and he knew she was pleased, wondered if that’s what she’d been thinking about, as well. Still, she forced stern an expression, stroking her fingers along her jaw, her eyes on the ceiling as she pretended to consider the offer. “Hmmm. Can I park my van in front of your place?”

Jon laughed, taking a drink. “Of course.”

She bit her lip, her eyes twinkling. “Are you willing to accept rent in the form of sexual favors?”

He mustered as serious a look as he could manage when faced with the offer of sexual favors from the woman who fulfilled his most fantastic dreams. “That,” he said, solemnly, “is the only form of rent I am willing to accept from you.”

Dany hammed up exhaling a loud, relieved breath, one hand wiping her forehead, as though she’d been worried. “That’s a relief.” Then she flashed him a devious grin, and reached behind her, pulling out something from her back pocket and making a show of twirling it around her finger. “Because I found that blindfold from before Christmas, and I had an idea.” He was already starting to harden, his heart began to pound, at the heated look she gave him. “Several, in fact.” She licked her lips and flicked a finger at the frames on his face. “Glasses off, Jon Snow.”

----------

FEBRUARY

--DANY--

Jon Snow was acting...strange.

She considered the evidence as she wandered the aisles of the grocery store, taking shopping duty on the first Saturday in February so Jon could take dog duty. Maybe strange wasn’t exactly right. Awkward was a given with Jon, so eccentric? Or suspicious? Suspicious wasn’t at all fair because he had been open and accommodating from the moment he suggested they live together. Had she said no, he would have been disappointed, but fine...eventually?

(For the record, she couldn’t imagine a universe that she would have said no.)

She paused, double checking that she had moved her bankcard out of Jon’s wallet and back into her purse after a trip to the video arcade. At this point, she wasn’t 100% sure where HER wallet was, this inability to keep track of items being a more or less constant issue since Christmas.

From the start, post-Big Plan life, however exhilarating, had been logistically complicated. Nomadic bed hopping was how she’d explained it to Missy: their tribe of Jon, Dany and canines migrated back and forth between two households, laundry at Dany’s, dinner at Jon’s. Duplicate dog beds and leashes at both residences. She’d lost track of how many times they’d be cozied up on her couch, hands, beginning to wander, when Hedwig would whine for her favorite toy of the week, which would inevitably be at Jon’s place from the night before.

Or, they’d be about to fall asleep in his bed, sweaty and sated, her skin pleasantly sticking to his, when she’d remember the shoes she wanted to wear with her pantsuit the next day were not, in fact in his closet, but hers. Her purse became the default carry-all for make-up, multi-step skincare regimen, and birth control pills. Her early morning dashes back to her place, and his, had become the only frustration in what had been an otherwise blissful existence, all things considered.

And now...

Though her lease wouldn’t be up ‘til the end of the month, she had moved over almost everything save a few overly large or especially heavy items. Tucking her things in amongst his, she wondered yet again, at how well they seemed to fit into each other’s lives. She’d given him the key to her place (and her heart as well) but there was something even more satisfying about combining the detritus of their separate existences and witnessing something wholly unique emerge.

Certainly, they had some good-natured disagreements over her many accessories and pairs of shoes and where she would keep them (the entire walk in closet in the guest room became her domain). Their combined book collection consumed an obscene amount of space. And she refused to go along with alphabetizing the pantry. Live dangerously, she urged him, enjoy the surprise when the anchovies show up with the kidney beans. He ceded her point but organized things when he thought she wasn’t looking. Dany found it charming—and made a point of hiding random items whenever the impulse struck, just to keep him on his toes.

Maybe she would start buying arbitrary, illogical things as well. She checked her phone, the grocery list he’d insisted on texting her pulled up, and grabbed two loaves of sandwich bread. The list had become endearing, even if she made a show of rolling her eyes whenever he made one. Truly, the more she thought about her life, the more guilty she felt about thinking something was off with Jon.

Even at her most skeptical, she believed things were *spectacular* and that was what scared the shit out of her.

Even as she reveled in the sweetness of waking up beside him—even as she gasped and moaned and clawed down his back like an animal—sometimes a twinge of fear would squeeze her heart. Because being perpetually happy was not the natural state of Daenerys Targaryen. Worry, that things would eventually fall apart, inevitably followed.

She bagged up several fresh tomatoes in the produce section, checking the flesh for firmness first, and smirked to herself when she selected several zucchinis, also on the list, knowing she would probably make several vaguely obscene gestures with them later. Oh, he would roll his eyes and sigh at her juvenile attempts at humor, but grumpy almost always gave way to tight-lipped guffaws, amusing her endlessly. Jon Snow appreciated a good dick joke and even many bad dick jokes. For this reason—among countless others—he suited Dany perfectly.

That was what really scared her, deep down. Everything was better with him. He made normal life an adventure. Laundry was a thrill ride, cooking dinner with him was theater, and if she pondered the loss of it, of him, it stole the breath from her chest.

She couldn’t go back to the way things were before.

And Jon Snow was acting strange.

That morning, when they’d finally pulled themselves free of each other he’d been almost frantic when he realized his wallet was laying haphazardly on the floor where it had fallen out of the back pocket of his jeans, into the clothes pile by the bed. He’d scooped it up, disappeared around the corner, and then come back to his bedroom much calmer, his wallet nowhere in sight.

He was hiding something.

And it was driving her crazy.

The rational part of her mind told her that Jon was planning a most excellent surprise that she would love. He had superior surprise skills. Of course, he would be exceptional at surprises being a surprise himself: a walking, talking, really hot surprise. Valentine’s Day was coming up, after all, and it wouldn’t be a stretch to assume he was planning a secret something.

But the fearful part of her mind, the woman who had been burned before, told her that there was still a chance, no matter how slim, that pain—inflicted by Jon—was inevitable. That voice she was trying to smother, because she knew better. Jon was no more and no less than exactly what he’d shown her, and that meant he was her perfect fit, and she was fairly certain she was past the point that her doubts, fueled by the ghosts of relationships past, could ever stand a chance in the face of the way she loved him.

Her tortured musings were interrupted by the chiming of her phone, and she smiled, finding a text from Jon.

Jon: So far, so good. No prisoners taken.

He followed his message with a picture of Hedwig chasing Ghost, no other dogs to be seen, and she grinned.

Dany: That’s how she operates. She makes you think everything is fine, and then BOOM! Keep your head on a swivel, Jon.

She switched back to her list, her worries fading as she bagged up a bunch of bananas, smiling to herself as she couldn’t resist taking a picture of a few particularly overlarge examples and sending them to him.

Dany: Check THESE out.

Jon was clearly typing something, almost immediately, but she needed both hands to man handle a sack of grapefruit into the cart, and so she didn’t see his response until a few seconds later.

Jon: I’m going to make an anonymous call to the grocers and tell them there’s a pervert on the loose in the produce section, being lewd with the merchandise.

She clapped a hand over her mouth to smother her laugh, her shoulders shaking as she reread the message a few more times, before she responded.

Dany: I’m definitely going to be lewd with your merchandise, Jon.

Jon: Try not to get banned from the grocers first, Dany.

Her fingers flew over the letters with force now.

Dany: That’s a low blow. And for the record, you got us kicked out of the movie theater last week, so I don’t really think you have any room to talk.

A long pause…. but finally, a text came back.

Jon: That was not my fault. I still had my pants on. That usher just assumed I didn’t. And that was at least fifty percent your fault. You definitely started it.

She snorted, looking around to make sure she wasn’t drawing unwanted attention to herself grinning like a fool by pyramids of oranges.

Dany: Oh, is that right? So, you didn’t pick the most boring movie you could find, in the hopes that the theater would be empty?

Dany: And you didn’t purposefully have us sit in the back of the theater for maximum privacy, to fulfill your deep, dark fantasies?

She watched her phone, waiting for the text bubbles to appear, listening to a sedating instrumental cover of ‘Push It’ warbling over the store’s sound system.

Then—

Jon: I reserve the right not to incriminate myself. I will not be answering, Counselor.

She exclaimed triumphantly, her fingers flying over the touchscreen.

Dany: I knew it. Play innocent all you like, Jon, we both know who the real pervert is in this relationship. Do you have any idea how filthy movie theaters are?

Jon: About 30% dirtier with us in it, if you ask that poor usher.

Cringing, she remembered the pimple-faced kid turning his high beam flashlight in their eyes. Was it horrible that she didn’t know whether to be embarrassed or aroused by the memory? She snickered; that boy got an education in a hurry.

Dany: I think he seemed rather impressed by our boldness.

Jon sent her a laughing emoji, which made her giggle harder, because he so rarely employed them.

Jon: Well, they say fortune favors the bold. Are you almost done boldly shopping for food so we don’t starve, or are you preoccupied fondling all the fruit?

She pursed her lips, typing one final message.

Dany: If someone stops distracting me maybe I’ll be done before you waste away to nothing.

She forced herself to focus, and finished in record speed knowing she’d probably beat him home—

—with enough time left over to engage in some low-key snooping.

---------

She did not, in fact, beat him home.

He was already there, out the door as soon as she’d shut off her car engine, and together they hauled in her purchases, lugging sack after sack into the kitchen until the counter was littered with them.

Dany saw Hedwig passed out by the fireplace, snoring as loudly as her little snout would allow, curled up against Ghost’s much larger form.

“How did it go?” As she set to work putting the cold items in the refrigerator and freezer, she peppered him with questions. “Has Hedwig claimed another dog park in her own image? Did Ghost have to defend her honor yet again?”

Jon laughed, the sound muffled with his head halfway in the pantry, as he stacked cans. “Not today, thankfully. We remained nonsense-free, but,” his head emerged, with a sheepish smile, “the day is still young.” He returned to his task of organizing the dried goods in the pantry, and she took the opportunity to sneak up behind him, running her hands down his shirt-covered back before she snuck a hand lower and squeezed his ass, giggling when he jumped.

“Jon,” she purred, leaning in to press against his back, “you know how much I love it when you use geriatric words like ‘nonsense.’ I know what you’re up to.” She could see his shoulders begin to shake as he stilled his hands, his head turning and his profile just visible as he eyed her.

“Shenanigans.” At his whisper she pretended to fan herself. “Goings-on,” he continued, turning completely and grabbing at her waist, lifting her up to sit on the corner of the counter not still covered by groceries and urging her arms up to loop around his neck. “Malarkey,” he finally whispered, heatedly, and kissed her firmly, his tongue barely slipping out to test her lips, meeting no resistance as her mouth fell open against his.

“You are definitely trying to seduce me,” she whispered, her breathing coming fast and heavy. She hugged her knees against his hips, holding him in place, but leaned back when he moved to kiss her again. “But first, tell me something.”

He tilted his head at her questioningly, silently asking her to continue, as his fingers toyed with the buttons on her shirt.

“What are you hiding, Jon Snow?”

Jon became perfectly still, his eyes flicking up to search hers for a very long moment, before he finally spoke. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“Hmmmm.” She leaned her head back further, considering him, noticing the way his eyes did everything but meet hers. “I think you know exactly what I mean.” Still, his eyes desperately searched everywhere but her face, until they settled on a nearby bag.

“You’re right,” he said gravely, pulling the bag open and stepping away. “I’ve just received bad news from the doctor, you see, and I wasn’t sure how to tell you. I’ve been diagnosed with Count Choculitis.” He shook the box of Count Chocula cereal he’d begged for, attempting to look absolutely morose. “And it’s terminal.” He let out a loud, heavy sigh. “I’m sure you can appreciate what a difficult time this is for me.”

She shook her head, trying desperately not to laugh. He really was funny, and the only person she’d ever met who got her jokes, and could give back as good as he got. She crossed her arms and scowled. “Nice try, Jon.” She narrowed her eyes. “What are you up to?”

Bless his heart, he tried to adopt an air of incredulity, but she didn’t let up, her knowing stare finally causing him to relent. “Okay, look,” he began, “it’s like this.” He braced his hands on either side of her, gripping the counter ledge, as he leaned down so they were eye to eye. “I am planning something. A surprise. And it’s very important to me, so I’m begging you,” a note of desperate plea entered his voice, “please don’t ask me anything else about it.”

Gods, he was impossible to resist when he gave her that sad, grey-eyed puppy look. Now it was he who did not relent, his face growing sadder with each passing second, until she gripped the sides of his face gently. “Okay,” she breathed out. “But can I make educated guesses?”

He pouted playfully, sticking out his bottom lip. “Absolutely not.”

“Wild speculation?” Her tongue darted out to taste the plump flesh.

“Dany,” he frowned mightily, “please don’t spoil it. You’ll like it, I promise.” He glanced down, studying his shoes for a moment, before mumbling under his breath, “I hope.”

Letting out a hissing breath, she pursed her lips. He wasn’t going to budge. She would live. She might hate not knowing, but she would live. As long as he wasn’t secretly trying to work up the nerve to tell her he *hated* living together, she could survive a little waiting. “One question, but I swear it’s not about the surprise directly?”

His jaw tensed, as the seconds ticked by, until he nodded. “Alright, one question, but I reserve the right to refuse to answer.”

She smiled, her hands sliding down his neck and settling on his shoulders. “How long must I agonize waiting for your surprise this time?” She could see him biting the inside of his cheek, clearly deciding if he could disclose the answer without threatening the secrecy of this surprise he’d planned.

“Valentine’s Day,” he finally muttered, watching her closely. His hands freed themselves from the counter to trace lightly up her thighs. “No more questions.” His voice grew gruff, his chin tilted down slightly, and she realized he was peeking down the neck of her blouse.

She couldn’t rightly blame him, of course. She had promised lewdness, hadn’t she?

When she didn’t answer, more focused on watching what his next move would be, he shifted, muscles bunching and moving under her hands as his fingers resumed their earlier task of toying with her buttons. “Say, Dany,” he said quietly, a hint of mischief in his voice, “guess what I found earlier?”

“What?” She asked the question absently, more taken with the way his fingers slipped the two top buttons free, easily, allowing for the hot slide of his fingers just above where her cleavage began. They dipped beneath the strap of her bra, and she looked up to find his eyes hot on hers.

“Our Halloween costumes.” A smile began to spread, and it was the wicked sort he got when he wanted to play, which had become one of her favorite pastimes. Gods knew he’d indulged her little professor fantasy more than once, and with great enthusiasm. “I thought we could play ‘Find the Horcrux’,” he continued smoothly, freeing two more buttons and spreading open the collar of her blouse completely, his lips and tongue tracing a wet path across her clavicle. “And I’ll give you a hint,” he rumbled against her skin, “it’s somewhere on my body.”

She sniggered, her thighs shifting together at the notion of exactly where he wanted her to look, her back arching to beg for more contact from his teasing mouth. “I bet I already know.”

He drew back, just far enough that he could peek up at her face. “You’re a clever girl Daenerys. 10 Points to Ravenclaw.” Suddenly, she found herself pulled flush against him, the evidence of exactly how much he wanted to see her in that costume making itself known with a firm press against her abdomen as her feet found the floor. “But we ought to check lots of places to be sure.”

Shifting around him, she grinned, backing away. Heading toward the stairs, she enticingly curled a finger in his direction, beckoning him to follow. “I’ll race you, then. Winner gets to check first.”

She turned and ran, his heavy footfalls on the steps trailing behind her, his hands on her hips, laughing the whole way.

-----------

The following Monday, while Jon ventured off to destroy his friends at Grey’s poker night, she met Missy for drinks at a restaurant down the street from Jon’s place, two doors from Tormund’s Pub.

Her friend had recently returned from out of town, and had thankfully decided to ditch the man-fest happening at her place. Dany was always eager to catch up and dish, though she was fairly certain Missy had a clear idea of what was going on with her.

She knew she was right, when, fruity cocktails in hand, Missy looked her over head to toe and giggled into her drink. “DeeDee,” she began, “I’m warning you right now. Let’s keep it PG tonight, I do actually have to be around Jon later, and I don’t need visions of your sexual— “she waved her hand as she tried to find the right word “—acrobatics—“

“Acrobatics?!” Though Dany had to admit *some* acrobatics were involved in what they did last night...

Missy persevered. “—polluting —“

“Really. Polluting? Acrobatics can pollute?”

“Okay fine. Corrupting then.” She took a long slurp from her straw.

“Corrupting. Honestly. What— “

Missy held up a palm. “Daenerys Targaryen I am not a witness you are deposing and I will not play word games with you. I do not want to look at your boyfriend and imagine the Naked Men of the North calendar edition of Jon Snow. End of discussion.”

“There’s a Naked Men of the North calendar? Why are you just telling me this now?” Dany used her drink straw to break up some of the slushy blend in her glass.

“DeeDee!” Missy half laughed, half groaned, swiping a chip off their Happy Hour nacho platter. “You know what I mean.”

Dany pretended to gasp, but smiled into her own drink, taking a demure sip and setting it primly before her, then eyeing her friend innocently. “Missy, I would never kiss and tell. I am sad that you would think so little of me.” When her friend let out a loud, disbelieving breath, Dany grinned, looking over the drink menu to see what ridiculous concoction she would try next.

“Sure, D. That line might work better on someone who hasn’t seen you get to second base on her kitchen island.”

Lips twisting, she shook her head. “That was hardly second base. He hadn’t even made it under my bra yet.”

Missy giggled uncontrollably, downing her drink and waving a finger at the waiter, shaking her head as she met Dany’s eyes. “I’m going to need so many drinks for this.” Her friend quickly checked her phone, then set it down on the square bar table, relaxing against the high-backed stool. “So, things are good?”

Dany knew what she meant, that she wasn’t asking in general terms. She meant between Dany and Jon.

And between Dany and Jon things were definitely good. They were breathtaking. They were orgasmic. They were absolutely, without a doubt, the best part of Dany’s adult existence to date. But she didn’t want to spend the whole night gushing over Jon’s sweetness, or thoughtfulness, or how cute he was when she beat him at Boggle and he would be grumpy for a whole hour after, or how she had come to believe that his ass had been carved from marble, so she settled for a brief affirmation.

“Just peachy,” she said, smacking her lips, tasting the sweetness of her drink.

Of course, she enjoyed the company of her dearest friend, but a part of her counted the minutes until she could return to Jon’s place—their place now—and snuggle against him while watching a movie.

Yes, there would probably be some sex involved; being with Jon had turned her into some sort of insatiable fiend, another first for Dany. And though Missy might suspect that part, she didn’t necessarily think she needed to admit that aloud either.

“So,” Missy said slowly, “I have an offer for you, but first, I need your word, Dany. Your most solemn vow. Your most sacred oath.” She held out a hand, pinky extended, not even noticing when her next drink arrived and was placed at her elbow. “You have to pinky promise.”

“This sounds serious,” Dany intoned, taking another sip and studying her friend’s hand. “What, exactly, am I promising?”

Missy gave her a tiny smile. “I am willing to lift the unfortunate Game Night ban I had to place on you and Jon after your *antics* in December--”

Dany let out a tiny squeal and bounced around in her seat, clapping.

“--BUT,” Missy continued, “You have to SWEAR to play nice. It’s supposed to be about fun, not total domination. And you have to try to control yourself, you monster. No more feeling each other up in front of everyone.”

Dany bit her lip, thinking. “So harsh, Missy. And no negotiation of terms I suppose?” She sighed. “When is it?”

“Valentine’s Night, and my terms are fair,” Missy retorted. “I think I started ovulating just looking at the two of your last time.”

Dany snorted loudly, and eyed Missy skeptically. “We weren’t that bad, Miss.” She finished off her cocktail and looked around, finding their waiter standing near the bar and raising her empty glass towards him. “We’re happy, that’s all.” Missy said nothing, staring at her with a single eyebrow brow raised, until Dany grudgingly linked their pinkies. “Alright, alright,” she relented, “I promise we’ll behave ourselves. But I can’t promise we won’t win.”

Missy rolled her eyes. “Fair enough, just try not to rub it in so much, okay? I thought Sam was going to burst a blood vessel last time.”

She smirked and gave the waiter a nod of thanks as her drink was delivered, stirring it absently as she disengaged her other hand from Missy’s. “Some people are just poor losers, Missy.”

With a loud sigh, her friend planted her elbows on the table, burying her head in her hands even as she laughed. “Oh, DeeDee, what are we going to do with you.” When her palms fell away, Missy still smiled, her eyes twinkling. “So, are you in?”

Dany reached for her phone, fishing it out of her purse and unlocking it as she answered. “I should check with Jon. He’s got something planned for Valentine’s, and I--”

“He told you?” The high-pitched question was abruptly muffled when Missy clapped her hand over her mouth, her eyes wide. “Forget I said that,” Missy rushed on, before taking a considerable drink from her glass. “I didn’t say anything and I don’t know anything.”

But it was far too late for those denials, and surely Missy knew her better than that. “Oh my god,” Dany breathed. “What do you know, Missy?” When her friend tried to avert her eyes, Dany stood, rounding the table and planted herself at Missy’s elbow, placing her index finger beneath Missy’s chin, dragging her face around until she forced their gazes to lock. “Missandei,” she began calmly in low, reassuring tones. “Look me in the eyes and tell me you don’t know anything.”

Her friend pressed her lips together tightly, attempting mightily to take smooth, even breaths, but eventually her shoulders slumped, and she looked away, defeated. “I can’t, D. I can’t say that.” She whipped her head back around, her eyes serious, begging. “But I can’t tell you what I know, either. It’ll ruin everything.”

She warred within herself. A part of her wanted to strip away Missy’s arguments, break her down like a hostile witness on the stand, and peel away the layers, one at a time, revealing the truth beneath. It was the only part of the job she’d enjoyed, in all honesty. Every time it was a small victory, and Daenerys always reveled in the win.

But the look in Missy’s eyes, the pleading in those golden depths, told her this was a victory she might not want. The greater part of her, the part that had longed for—craved— Jon’s touch for so many months, knew that Jon had given her no reason not to trust him. Especially when he perpetually surprised her in wonderful ways that made her dizzy: as though her heart might burst out of her chest because there wasn’t enough room for the way she loved him.

Before Jon, surprises came with dread. Surprises were being told which boarding school she’d be shipped off to the coming year, what course she would study at university, what career had been chosen for her, what she would wear, how she would behave, who she would love. What should have been her choice had been, in fact, a surprise because she wasn’t asked what she wanted.

Surprises were finding your erstwhile fiancé entwined with two women you thought were friends.

But now she made her own choices, living life on her own terms.

These days, she thought, flashing Missy a small smile and returning to her seat, she was coming to like surprises that involved Jon.

“Alright,” she said, raising her hands in surrender. “Keep your secrets.” Her lips spread into a grin when Missy relaxed once more against the back of the stool, staring at her with abashed relief and no small measure of —yes—surprise.

“Just like that?” Missy shook her head as though she couldn’t quite believe it. “Not even going to try to get it out of me?”

She gnawed on her lip, telling that tiny, niggling worm of doubt inside her head to well and truly fuck off. “Missy,” she drawled, resting her head on her hand as she studied her friend, her elbow planted on the table, “I don’t think you’d ever involve yourself in something you didn’t think I’d like, right?”

Missy squinted at her, obviously trying to see where she was going with this. “Right.”

“So,” Dany continued, “it only stands to reason that whatever subterfuge that you, Jon, and I assume Grey have involved yourselves in is something you endorse, right?”

Missy chuckled quietly, crossing her arms across her chest, smiling but staring at her with growing suspicion. “Right.”

Her phone buzzed, and she was unsurprised to see it was from Jon, so she held up a finger in Missy’s direction and checked her messages.

Jon: Do you want to do Game Night at Grey and Missy’s on Valentine’s Day? I have just been informed that we are officially allowed back, but we have to promise to, and I quote, “keep it in our pants.” Let’s just assume that means inside the house, though. What happens in the Jeep stays in the Jeep.

Dany laughed evilly, flicking her eyes up to find Missy watching her closely.

Dany: Sure, as long as I still get this big, super-secret surprise that Missy refuses to divulge.

Dany: I promise I won’t try to break her.

Dany: But I want you to know how easily I could.

Jon: Naturally, and I appreciate your restraint.

She giggled, only to gasp at his next message.

Jon: What a relief that you still have some.

Dany sighed heavily, before releasing a sharp bark of laughter, affection warming her chest and making her hands ache to touch him.

Dany: At least one of us does.

She dropped her phone in her purse, and gave Missy a winsome smile.

“We’re in.”

----------

VALENTINE’S DAY

Dany had never cared for Valentine’s Day. All those stupid fat babies with wings, overdone flower arrangements, cheap chocolates in garish colored foil, and cheesy cards had always made her uncomfortable, had made her turn her nose up at the holiday as a whole.

On the few Valentine holidays that she’d found herself in some form of relationship, the day had always followed a proscribed formula—love by rote. Receive predictable gift—check. Eat at fancy restaurant consuming food with supposed aphrodisiac properties—check. Sex, or a facsimile—check. Yawn.

But on this Valentine’s morning, love felt quite thrilling. She woke up with Jon’s arm wrapped around her waist, his chest pressed against her bare back—and a strange sensation on her toes.

It was a tongue.

For one drowsy second, she wondered if Jon was exploring a foot fetish in honor of the holiday. But then her brain kicked in and the logistics of his face being buried in her hair defied his tongue licking her toes.

She quickly sat up, the orange furred culprit dancing atop the tangled sheets and panting.

“Hedwig,” she hissed, “use the doggy door, you spoiled animal!” The dog just stood, panting, then Ghost’s large head popped up from the foot of the bed, obviously realizing something was afoot, and wanting to be included. She groaned, reluctantly leaving the comfy circle of Jon’s arms, missing his warmth when the chilly morning air hit her bare skin.

Grabbing her glasses off the nightstand, she pulled on Jon’s robe, the thin gray one he favored, knotting it loosely at her waist and trying to shoo the dogs downstairs before they woke him up. He always looked so peaceful when he slept—like nothing in the world could wipe the slight, content smile from his face. Today especially she didn’t mind rising before him. It was Valentine’s Day, after all, and she had a surprise for him, too.

Dany hustled down the stairs, finger combing her long, silver hair as she went, both dogs following closely. Clicking nails heralded their journey across the kitchen tiles and hardwood floors, and she opened the back door, smiling as the pair escaped into the small backyard, doing their business. She loosely braided her hair in one long plait, and left the door cracked, as Hedwig seemed to use the canine entry only when the mood struck her.

Walking into the kitchen, she approached the expensive, inordinately complicated coffee maker she’d given Jon for Christmas, and switched it on, taking a moment to rifle through the pantry to find his current favorite roast.

He’d smell it brewing, she knew, and come wandering down the stairs, eyes still bleary, hair still sleep-mussed, within minutes.

She needed to hurry. Her purse still hung on the tree by the door, so she hurried over, fishing an envelope from her purse, giddy as she ran her fingers over the stiff corners, prancing in a manner Hedwig would certainly envy as she walked back to the kitchen to pull down a mug for herself and Jon.

She filled her own cup, the envelope propped against Jon’s empty one when she heard his feet on the carpeted stairs. And sure enough, as she’d predicted, he emerged rumpled and adorable, a pillow crease over one eye, his fist rubbing at the other as he yawned.

“Did you make coffee?” At his sleepy question she shifted her gaze to the brew pot, now full.

She shook her head, laughing when he frowned in confusion. “Nope, must’ve been the coffee fairy.”

“Smart ass,” he grumbled, but wrapped her in tight hug where she stood beside the island, dropping a kiss to the top of her head. “And on Cupid’s birthday? Shameful.” He rubbed his hands up and down her arms, giving her one more lingering kiss against her hair before he shuffled over to the coffeemaker.

She knew the minute he saw the envelope, simply bearing ‘Jon’ upon the smooth, creamy surface. “What’s this, then?” He twisted, pointing a finger at the item propped against his mug, still apparently trying to blink the sleep from his eyes. His voice was still gruff and thick, one of her very favorite things about morning Jon.

Dany gave him a mysterious smile from above the rim of her own steaming mug. “I don’t know,” she said, nonchalantly, “maybe the coffee fairy left it for you.”

He snorted, palming the envelope and reaching out to snag the hanging ties of the belt that held his robe closed around her body, pulling her closer with each tug of the fabric, until there was barely any space between them. “The coffee fairy looks really hot in just my robe, I have to say.”

Smiling, he gazed down at her with such soft eyes, that the lump suddenly lodged in her throat made it difficult to swallow. She had no choice but to lean up and press a kiss against his stubbled jaw. “The coffee fairy looks hot in everything, Jon,” she teased, because when he looked at her the way he always did, she believed that might actually be true. His intoxicating stare made her feel desirable, as though his eyes existed solely to devour her, their singular purpose being to look at her and only her.

“She does,” he agreed. “Too bad she’s such a clothing thief.” He finally tore his eyes away from hers to study the envelope in his other hand. “Now, let’s see what she’s left me.”

Dany bounced on her toes, excitement buzzing through her, pressing her hands together, she tapped her index fingers against her lips as she watched him with mounting glee. She wanted only to watch him, absorb each minute expression on his face, and so she tried her best to remain silent as he painstakingly worked the glued flap along the back free.

His sluggish pace finally prompted a pained groan. “Jon, if you don’t hurry, we won’t have time to shower together before work.”

Jon paused to study her, clearly mulling the situation over.

“I’m not sure it’s Valentine’s Day if you aren’t naked with me in that shower in the next,” she glanced at the wall clock, “thirty minutes or so.”

Winking and tearing the back of the envelope free, he nodded sagely. “Excellent point.” She resumed her watchful pose as his fingers dipped inside, pulling out a small bundle.

There were four tickets, in all. Two plane tickets, one for each of them, to the Reach, for two months from now.

And two tickets to…

“The Wizarding World of Harry Potter,” he breathed out, in awe. He’d confessed, not long after they began spending multiple nights in each other’s company, during a cooking lesson in this very kitchen, that he’d always wanted to go, but he thought he might feel a bit weird wandering around the place alone. So he hadn’t.

There was a list, it seemed to her, of things Jon hadn’t done yet, but had always wanted to, and it had become a goal of hers to see that he did. She wanted to give him those things, to be with him when his wishes came true, because while it was true that he was in possession of what Dany liked to call ‘resting depression face’, he was capable of smiling. She wanted to see if she could make him smile, all the time, and maybe one day she’d manage it.

Here, in his kitchen, she felt like she might be off to a good start, what with his contagious excitement—the wonder in his eyes about to give way to what she was certain would be breathtaking joy.

“Dany,” he managed, his eyes glued to the tickets in his hand, “you’re the fucking best.” His face broke into a brilliant smile, just the sort that reduced her to mush, his eyes squinched so tight from the force of it that she wondered if he could even see her, and then he was hugging her, tight. “I can’t believe it!”

When he pulled away, he still grinned, his eyes quickly scanning the tickets, his empty coffee mug now forgotten. So, she stepped over and filled it, handing it to him as he no doubt checked the dates.

“I already cleared the time off with Tyrion,” she said, just as his lips parted, anticipating his incoming barrage of questions. “And Grey and Missy have agreed to watch the dogs while we’re gone. Everything’s taken care of, so we can go be huge dorks to our hearts’ content.”

He carefully put down the tickets, and his mug, and pulled her close, hands cupping at either side of her face as she came to stand flush against his chest. Then she grinned, because there were other enticing aspects to Morning Jon besides his sleep-addled, gruff voice, and one of her *very* favorites was pressed against her, now, his thin pajama pants and the barrier of his robe against her skin doing little to hide how very awake parts of him were, despite the early hour.

Suddenly, she was seized with the urge to see Jon in his large shower, hot water pouring over them, in the state that he looked his absolute best in: completely naked, preferably soapy. Soapy Jon was an excellent version of Morning Jon, but in reality, Soapy Jon could exist at any time of day. One of his many benefits.

“Would you look at the time?” Dany made a show of checking her eyes to the wall clock, sliding a palm between them and teasing her fingertips against the hard length trapped between them. “We’d better hurry.” With a smooth movement, she slipped her hand inside his pajama pants, closed her fingers around him loosely and gave a gentle squeeze that made him groan. “Someone’s gotta wash my back, after all, and I think you’re up for the job.”

He hissed out a breath between gritted teeth, as she gave a slow stroke, grinning cheekily up at him. “Throw in the front and you’ve got a deal.”

----------

She blamed the full moon for everyone collectively losing their minds. Especially Jon: absofuckinlutely nothing would budge the man.

“This is unfair!” Dany moaned, bouncing the back of her head against the headrest like a petulant child. She rolled her head over to look at Jon, who pulled the key from the ignition and gave her as bland a look as he could muster. “Do you enjoy watching me suffer?”

That earned her a tiny, mysterious smile.

“You are MEAN, Jon Snow.”

He laughed. “Are you five? Up past your bedtime?”

“Maybe.” She sniffed and tossed her hair for good measure. She would work this for all it was worth.

Jon glanced through his car window, up towards Missy and Grey’s, before he leaned over and gave her a chaste kiss. “Dany,” he finally said, breath puffing against her lips so teasingly that she barely repressed the impulse to tackle him. “Before the night is over, I swear you’ll have your surprise.” He pulled back, his eyes, encouraging, but tinged with a hint of a plea. He hooked a thumb over his shoulder, towards the house. “Now, let’s get in there and take your mind off the wait. There is no better distraction than crushing their souls.”

“Alright,” she finally conceded, her bottom lip curled into a pout. when he swiped at it with his thumb, she rewarded him with a smile. “Let’s see if we can make anyone cry tonight.”

“That’s the spirit,” Jon replied, and unlatched his belt, rounding the Jeep so quickly she’d barely freed herself from her own restraint when he appeared at her door. He might be a sneaky, horribly sexy prankster, but he was almost always a gentleman. His few decidedly not gentlemanly exceptions, she reasoned, were also endlessly enjoyable. As she hopped out of the Jeep and onto the ground, she laced her hand through his. He raised her hand to his lips and placed a kiss on the back. “Shall we?”

They strolled up the walk to the front porch. Jon rang the bell, peeking down at her with a subtle, but playful grin dancing on his lips. “Remember, Dany,” he said, squeezing her fingers with his. “Do try and behave yourself, or we’ll find ourselves banned again.”

“Poor losers, the lot of them.” Dany scowled good naturedly, pulling her hand free to sneak into his back pocket and firmly squeeze the cheek of his ass. Startled, Jon jumped, chuckling lowly and wagging a finger at her, which she answered by pinching at the flesh that sat below the denim. Her eyes widened innocently. “One more for the road,” she whispered loudly, just before the door was flung open, Missy greeting them with a wide, brilliant smile that slowly dimmed, then died away completely. Dany offered a sheepish grimace as she pulled her hand free of Jon’s ass, greeting her friend with a little wave.

“Last one, I promise,” Dany said, as Missy was joined by Grey, who looked between the two of them then at his fiancée’s scolding frown. “I pinky swore, remember?”

“Alright, you two,” Grey said dryly, “let’s all try to mind our manners this evening, eh?”

Now it was Jon, the traitor, who feigned innocence, as he ushered Dany through the door and helped her shrug out of her coat. He must’ve thought she didn’t notice the way he aimed his jaw towards her as he met Grey’s eyes; he shook his head in mock disappointment.

Oh, but she noticed, and she twisted around to squint at him, touching her index finger to the side of her eye, and then at him. “I’ll get you for that, Jon.”

They followed Grey and Missy into the living room, making faces at each other as they went, each more ridiculous than the previous one.

“I’m counting on it,” he said, raising his eyebrows suggestively.

As always, he seemed to take her half-hearted threats as a promise for lascivious payback. This was smart of him, because that was exactly what she intended. Why she found their teasing back-and-forth so unbearably arousing eluded her. Perhaps it was simply that it was another game—one where it was as much fun to win as it was to lose, the competition was for who chose the terms of surrender.

Blowing him a kiss, she turned face forward, obediently and a bit abashed, to the spot where Missy gestured the pair should be seated. Naturally the recliner was off limits. She would certainly enjoy being cuddled up on Jon’s lap, surveying the carnage as they obliterated their friends, but sitting beside each other on the loveseat would have to suffice.

Missy spared her one last, suspicious glare, softened by the way her lips twitched, and addressed the gathered couples. Dany leaned back, doing her best to maintain a semblance of space between her body and Jon’s as he slung his arm across the back and just touched his thumb to her shoulder.

She could do this. She had kept her hands to herself—under duress—for nearly six months. A couple hours should be easy.

And yet his thigh was right there, begging for her hand. She bit her lip, purposefully dragging her gaze away from the man beside her

No, she told herself. Behave. No one here wants to see you pawing your boyfriend. They were all very clearly jealous of their all around winning; she could see no other explanation for it.

Except maybe the full moon.

Missy, seemingly placated that Dany wouldn’t be shoving her hand down Jon’s pants again, smiled at everyone. Pyp and Alys sat on stools behind the sofa, where Sam and his sweet wife Gilly had made themselves comfortable. Meanwhile, Grey emerged from the kitchen, handing off a beer apiece to Dany and Jon before sitting the comfy recliner just opposite them.

“Now that we’re all here,” Missy said, sweeping her arms rather grandly, “let’s have some fun!” She pointed towards the wall, where she’d set up a folding table, festooned with red and white cloth and platters loaded with sliders and sandwiches and a massive assortment of finger foods and sides. “Tonight, Grey and I thought a new game might be in order, one a little less prone to rowdiness,” she cut her eyes to Jon and Dany with a smirk. “And, thankfully, one we can play while we eat.”

With a flourish, Missy stood, crossed to one of the built-in cabinets that framed their flat screen, and removed a box, holding it aloft. “Trivial Pursuit!”

Giddiness percolated through Dany, but she repressed the crafty smile that threatened to overtake her lips. Missy had clearly forgotten that Trivial Pursuit was one of her absolute favorites. Still, the lapse was understandable as they were usually pretty snockered when they’d played in college.

Beside her, she felt the couch shift, and she permitted herself a small peek at Jon; the way his lips twitched and jaw clenched revealed that he too was quite excited about this game choice. She was, perhaps, a little surprised. Jon’s strengths tended toward games that featured strong strategic elements, (which was why sadly, she had yet to best him at Battleship.)

As Missy explained their food and beverage choices, Dany, momentarily freed from surveillance, leaned as close as she dared, and whispered quietly from the corner of her mouth, “Big fan of Trivial Pursuit?” She smiled as his shoulder nudged hers and he dipped his lips towards her ear. His hot breath tickled her earlobe, evoking involuntarily shivers.

“When I was in the hospital, on base,” he intoned, barely loud enough for her to hear, “I was very, very bored. So, I memorized all the answer cards from the Trivial Pursuit game at the nurse’s station.”

Her eyes widened, a thrill shot through her as she anticipated of what they were about to do to this poor, unsuspecting group. Turning to him, her eyes lingered on his mouth for a long moment before they drifted up to meet his gaze. “Are you serious?” she murmured through tight lips.

He answered her quiet question with a confident nod.

Her shoulders slumped and she buried her face in her hands with a barely audible groan. Shit. He just had to go and be MORE perfect.

Jon touched her forearm and squeezed meaningfully; she knew that squeeze—asking her what was wrong.

Turning her face, still cupped in her hands, to the side, she quietly ground out, “I am so turned on right now.” And she battled the urge to drag him into Missy’s guest bathroom and show him exactly why he was her favorite game night partner.

Jon snickered; she kicked him playfully. Would that she was joking!

But because she’d promised Missy that she would behave, she sat up to face the room. “Jon, darling,” she said, smiling blandly at the group as Missy set to work getting the board ready, “Let’s destroy them.”

-----------

Dany quickly realized that Missy had likely orchestrated the evening’s logistics so that she and Jon would be forced to keep their plates balanced on their laps instead of allowing Dany to be perched on Jon’s. She supposed she understood their annoyance, imagining how extremely obnoxious they must have been on Christmas Eve. But as she watched Jon take their first roll as a team, she thought she’d be best served using her minor irritation to fuel their victory.

Tonight, luck was on their side, as Jon’s roll landed them on the space that would award them their first wedge in the History category (assuming they answered correctly, of course.)

Grey pulled a card from the box, and read their question. “Name the Maester responsible for recording ‘The World of Ice and Fire’, found abandoned at birth in an empty stall in Scribe’s Hearth.”

Dany and Jon turned to each other, each cupping a hand over their mouths. “It’s Yandel,” Jon whispered, nodding decisively. He was right, of course—Dany knew this one as well. But if they wanted to avoid arousing suspicions from the start over Jon’s immediate recall of every answer, they needed to pretend they were mulling it over.

“You look really hot in those jeans, Jon.” She tried her best not to laugh, especially as his eyebrows shot up. “Did I already mention that?”

He furrowed his forehead. “I don’t think so, but I’m grateful you told me. All night I’ve been wondering: do I look hot enough?” She wanted to snicker at his playful tone, but kept herself under control. “I’m so relieved.”

“Would you say you now feel secure in your current level of hotness?” She eyed him discreetly. “It’s legitimately off the charts.” He did look exceptionally tasty; his charcoal sweater and the dark denim jeans doing things to her insides that would shock and horrify Missy, yet again threatening the sanctity of her kitchen island.

He pressed his lips together tightly at her question, though he was somehow managing to keep a straight face. “Loads more secure, thank you.”

Jon turned to look at Grey, as though they had just worked out the answer. “Is it Maester Yandel?”

Grey nodded, as the room groaned collectively. Dany and Jon ignored them, high fiving heartily, and this time, when Dany relaxed back, she snuggled against Jon’s side, relishing the heat of his arm around her shoulders and tucking her head under his chin. “Off to an auspicious start,” she declared, taking a hearty bite of her sandwich, watching as Jon rolled again. They breezed through their next question, answering three in succession before Jon whispered to her that they ought to throw one, to make sure no one caught on.

Pyp and Alys went next, striking out and frowning after an incorrect answer, but Sam and Gilly secured a wedge between them before the turn went to Grey and Missy, who also went wedge-less.

This time, Dany rolled, and clapped gleefully when they landed on another wedge space, this time in the Sports category.

Missy took a card, watching the pair as they leaned forward eagerly, Jon rubbing his hands together in anticipation and shooting Dany a wicked grin. “What sports team has won the most consecutive King’s Cups in consecutive years, for a total of thirteen years in a row?”

Again, they ripped their heads together, and Jon whispered, “You know this, we just watched them play last week.”

Dany searched her mind. While she remembered that they had begun watching a football match, she was certain they hadn’t finished it, not once she’d stripped off her top and climbed onto his lap at halftime. She closed her eyes, trying to picture their jerseys. “Casterly Rock Lions?” She whispered the answer to him, and he nodded proudly, gesturing for her to answer for them.

Everyone groaned, louder this time, as they placed the yellow wedge into their pie-shaped game piece.

They managed four more correct answers, but the next wedge space continued to elude them, so they threw another question and finished their sandwiches while everyone else took their turns.

On and on they went, filling their pie piece by piece with Sam and Gilly nipping at their heels, until Jon and Dany had only one piece left, the Pop Culture wedge. Victory was within their grasp. As they waited for the others to cycle through, they relaxed against each other.

“Hey, Dany,” Jon whispered, while the focus was on Sam, who was tapping his fist against his head as he scrambled to conjure the answer to a geography question, “I’ve been thinking.”

“Dangerous,” she whispered back, laughing quietly when he pursed his lips at her.

“I have this recurring dream,” he continued nonplussed, his lips tickling her ear, as Sam cried out the answer and earned another pie peace, “that we’re fucking on the fifth-floor boardroom table.”

She prayed to any god that might be listening to help her keep a straight face, but she felt her cheeks heat, no doubt flooded with color by the mental image alone. She’d be lying if she said she hadn’t thought about it. Dany had survived several dull board meetings fantasizing about what she’d like Jon to do to her on that slick, lacquered wood surface.

“Intriguing. I like the idea in concept,” she replied quietly, not daring to meet his eyes, not trusting what she might do if she saw her own hunger reflected there. “But I sense you’re ready to move beyond theoretical.”

His thumb rubbed slow circles against her black, form-fitting sweater, right at the curve of her shoulder. “We’ve got to get our hands on Shae’s keycard.”

Now, she did sneak a glance at him, a sly smile stretching her lips wide. Satisfied that everyone had fixed their attention on Sam and Gilly, she brought her face dangerously close to his. “Leave that to me,” she breathed against his lips, seconds away from pressing her lips against his. “Petty theft is a hobby of mine. I’m considering forgoing amateur status for the pro circuit.”

He chuckled, his eyes dark and knowing. “My favorite criminal,” and she knew, from the set of his jaw, from the way his grip tightened on her shoulder, that he was about to kiss her, but then Missy’s voice snapped their heads around.

“It’s your turn,” her friend said loudly, and the pair looked away from each other to find all eyes on them, the dice sitting on the board.

Jon leaned forward, grasping the dice and raising them to hover just below her lips. “For good luck,” he urged, and she blew on them, not missing the flash of heat in his eyes before he threw them onto the board.

“Yes!” He pumped his fist as he saw they’d rolled a seven,

He moved their pie-shaped piece to the bright yellow wedge space, and together, they waited with baited breath while Grey drew a card from the box.

“Name the one hit wonder folk classic about a girl who danced with ghosts, made famous by the band ‘The Prophecy.’” Grey’s eyes met theirs, and he smirked, clearly thinking there was no way they’d secure the final piece of the pie.

Jon leaned in, but this time, his body was stiff with nervous tension. “Dany,” he whispered, “I don’t remember this one.” She blew out a breath at his admission, something achingly familiar about the description, and searched her brain for some semblance of an answer.

As a rule, she didn’t listen to that genre, but her brother had; she made herself recall every maudlin, campy song he’d played at max volume during his junior year of high school. Rhaegar might have been going through ‘a phase’, as her mother liked to call it, but Dany had been the one suffering being forced to listen to the same mopey songs, hour after hour.

She knew this answer.

She was sure of it.

“Is it Janice....it’s something like that, I feel like it starts with a ‘J’,” Jon prompted, his voice growing more desperate by the moment. His eyes searched hers, frantically. “What do you think?”

The answer came to her in a wave of undeniable assurance: she knew the song. Rhaegar had listened to it so often, that her father had banged on the ceiling with a broomstick, demanding he turn down the volume and do his homework.

She looked at Grey, and calmly said, “It’s ‘Jenny of Oldstones’,” and waited.

Grey tossed down the card in defeat. “Yes,” he said, and that was the last thing she heard or saw, because at that moment Jon stood, dragging her up with him and into his arms, dipping her back into a deep, fervent kiss that was sure to annoy Missy, but she gave no fucks.

Victory was a hot, pulsing rush of blood, and Jon’s kiss was sweet as honey, his tongue spearing between her lips and teasing hers, his hands locking at the small of her back, her body bowing as he mauled her mouth.

And when he pulled back, he looked at every single face, and made a rude gesture with his hand as he grinned. “Some things just can’t be helped,” he said dryly, and pulled Dany in for one more kiss.

Dany really, really loved winning.

But winning with Jon? That was the *best.*

----------

Trivial Pursuit, and then a round of desserts and drinks had dragged on so long that Missy proclaimed Pictionary would be their next, and final, game.

Dany pressed her thigh against Jon’s, tilting her head back from its’ place on his shoulder, and smiled. “Time to put the final nail in the coffin, Jon. We’re amazing at this one.”

When he suddenly looked trepidatious, she was surprised, but only a little. He liked to win every bit as much as she did, so maybe the pressure was messing with his head. She grabbed his hand, squeezing it tightly, encouragingly, and couldn’t help but glance down as she realized how *sweaty* it was.

With an odd look, she let go, watching him stand and grab the slip Grey give him, his first clue for Dany to try and guess. Grey spared a look at Dany, then the rest of the room, the timer in his hand, as Jon grasped the marker. “The category,” Grey announced, “is ‘Action’, you clear on that, Dany?”

Dany nodded, her eyes glued to the board, heart pumping as she readied herself to guess. But then Grey distracted her, and she screwed up her face when he spoke again. “This one’s difficult, guys, so I’m going to allow for an additional clue, which is - it’s a question. Got it, Dany? A question.”

She rolled her eyes. “We don’t need additional clues; I guarantee you I’ll have this in 30 seconds.” Her gaze flicked to Jon, who just swallowed heavily, then popped the cap off the pen. “Ready?”

Jon nodded to Grey, who flipped the timer, and she entered ‘the zone’, as Jon liked to call it, sometimes jesting that she became a mind-reader, her speed at solving his clues unmatched.

The room was silent as Jon drew the first picture, a hastily drawn cylinder, with a roof on it, and was he adding a hand crank? She nodded, appreciatively, when she realized what it was, calling out the answer hastily. “Well!”

Jon nodded, still seeming insanely nervous considering how well they were doing, and began to draw again, a fluffy ball, was it a cloud? No, not a cloud, clouds didn’t have feet, and her brow furrowed as she called out, “Sheep?”

Jon shook his head, gesturing for her to keep going. “Lamb?” Again, wrong, and he shook his head. “Ram?” He winced, his fingers pinching together, as if to say she was close. “EWE!” Jon nodded heartily and grinned, glancing at the timer and frowning immediately when he saw half the sand was gone.

His hand was a flurry of motion as he hastily drew a two stick figures who looked to be holding hands, standing before a box shape that quickly gained a roof, a crude cross at the top. “Church?” He shook his head crossly at the guess, groaning and circling the two stick figures, then drew flowy lines about one of the bodies, his eyes flying back to hers desperately. “Wedding?” He smacked a palm on his head, nodding but again, pinching his fingers together. Close, he meant, but not quite. “Get married?” He almost looked to be in physical pain. her heart thudded heavily in her ears as she saw the sand was nearly gone. Then it hit her.

“Will you marry me!” She yelled out, almost certain she was right, thrilled when Grey called out that she was, indeed, right. She pranced up to Jon, bumping fists with him as he pumped his other hand in the air victoriously.

Spinning around as if on a dance floor, she looked out upon the plebeians, the mediocre, those who could only aspire to their superiority, glorying in their downcast, defeated expressions—she paused—

—and then they suddenly stopped looking so unhappy, surprisingly okay about being squashed like bugs. Dany didn’t get it. Where was the OUTRAGE! She and Jon won AGAIN.

Every one, to a person, began to smile. Even Sam who nearly had an aneurysm last game night and Pyp! Sulky Pyp (and his determination to prove that they had cheated) grinned at her. And then Gilly squealed, making her wonder exactly what the hell was happening as the entire room seemed focused on something behind her.

She turned back to face Jon, and her heart stopped.

Because Jon Snow, down on one knee, held up a small blue box in his slightly shaking hands.

And she knew.

She knew IMMEDIATELY what he’d been hiding for weeks, and that he had spent far too much money. Because that box was from Cersei’s, and Cersei’s specialized in tremendously expensive and exquisite jewelry.

Her eyes dropped a bit lower, and the breath whooshed out of her completely. “Holy shit.”

Everyone laughed at her breathy exhale, but she couldn’t tear her eyes away from the most beautiful man she had ever seen holding the most beautiful diamond ring she’d ever seen sparkling in that box. “Holy shit,” she repeated, her eyes growing larger. She probably looked like a damn guppy, her mouth opening and closing and her eyes bulging out as she stared down. Every single piece of what was happening clicked together in her suddenly sluggish mind.

And then she realized she ought to say something, because Jon Snow was asking her to marry him.

She glanced up, and was instantly torn. She wanted to laugh, adrenaline fueled elation racing through her, her own hands trembling a little as she looked between him and the ring that probably could pay for several vehicles.

She wanted to cry, just a little, because of the worry and fear she saw in his face, as though there was a chance in the fucking world that she would ever say no.

“So,” Jon said, his voice so nervous and quavering that she wanted to hug him. He held out the box so as to be a little closer to her. “Do you want to? Get married?” It was the sweetest moment in her life, in the whole world as he knelt before her, pale and drawn like he might vomit chip dip all over the carpet. What he had done tonight—staging the most perfect proposal she could ever have imagined—won all the games and all the contests that mattered to her.

Her eyes grew wet and hot. She forgot everything else and everyone else, and raised her left hand until it was between them, hovering beside the blue box. overwhelming tenderness swelled in her chest as if there was almost too much love for him there. There was only one choice, truly only one answer to give.

She blew out a low, steady breath through her nose, then smiled, even as a tear leaked down her cheek. “Absolutely, I do,” she said, all the certainty she felt inside clear in her voice. She wiggled her hand. The urgent need to get that ring ON HER HAND in the next five seconds consumed her or she fully expected that she might spontaneously combust

Jon took the hint, removing the ring from the box and sliding it onto her ring finger, the last couple sliders he ate momentarily safe in his stomach, now smiling so widely she though his cheeks might crack.

Then she pulled him up to stand, and without a single lingering concern about what the rest of the room might have to say, she hopped into his arms, his hands flying up to support her ass as she wrapped her arms around his neck and her legs around his hips.

If they were going to be thrown out for bad behavior, Dany thought, her tongue winding its way between Jon’s lips, she would put on a show and earn it. Let Missy toss them out on their asses; Dany wouldn’t care a bit, not when Jon gave back as good as he got, his hands clutching her tighter, his pulse racing against the spot where her arm pressed against the column of his neck.

“We gotta go,” he whispered, before claiming her lips again frantically. Dany smiled into their kisses, giggles escaping each time they broke for breath. Time to head home, she thought deliriously. And if they couldn’t make it home, she’d make him pull over and she’d fuck her fiancé in his Jeep as nature intended.

Nearby Missy cleared her throat.

Jon and Dany reluctantly separated, the slow slide down his body as he lowered her back to the floor telling her *he* was ready to leave as well.

“Congratulations,” her friend trilled, then pointed to the door. “Now get out of here before you conceive your first child in my bathroom.”

----------

“Ow!” Jon touched the back of his head where it banged against his bedroom door, the result of Dany’s rather enthusiastic shove. She’d pushed him against it, eager to strip off his clothes and have him at her mercy. She giggled when he rubbed the sore spot and flashed her a wayward scowl before he practically ripped his sweater over his head. “Are you trying to get rid of me already?”

He kicked off his shoes before she could answer, advancing on her like prey, as she stepped backwards towards the bed. Aiming for sexy and wanton, Dany tried shimmying out of her slim black slacks only to trip over her pant legs and pitch over onto the bed with a startled yelp.

Jon laughed wickedly, the mattress dipping beside her as he clambered onto the bed and grabbed at the trousers twisted around her ankles, pulling them free and tossing them blindly over his shoulder. Kneeling between her now freed legs, his palms began long, slow sweeps up her calves and over her thighs, flirting with the edges of the red panties she’d slipped on before they headed out to Missy’s. Though Jon had proclaimed it her ‘color,’ her all-black ensemble of earlier had been a bit of a feint, hiding her most recent little surprise for him: another lacy set she’d thought he’d enjoy when she’d splurged before Christmas.

And it was worth it, when his face lit up, his hands slipping away to rub lasciviously together. “Well, well, well, what have we here?” His fingers dipped under the hem of her sweater, caressing her curves.

For her part, her fingers found each bump and dip of muscle on his chest, tracing lazy lines and shapes. Watching her left-hand move, the diamonds on her finger glinting in the moonlight, she errantly realized that this was *hers.* Desire swirling through her made her toes flex and catch in the comforter under her feet.

He toyed with the black knit, slowly inching it up her torso as she laid back, arching into his touch as he caressed her ribs. “Jon,” she said with a moan, letting her hand fall from his skin as he reached the underside of her breasts, “if you don’t get this shirt off me--” she tried to sound threatening, but her own ears only heard desire, her voice thick with want. “I will absolutely suspend your library card.”

“Oh dear. Not my library card,” Jon deadpanned against her skin, his voice gravelly. He obliged, all too happily, the stretchy black top pulled from her with haste, revealing the matching bra—if it even qualified as one. Lace cups cut so low against the upper curves of her tits that her nipples were barely concealed. She pushed up onto her elbows, almost preening at his heated look, savoring her power. He always appeared astonished, even stunned by the sight of her stripped nearly bare. Growing up surrounded by her mother’s models, all thin and tall perfection, she’d never imagined anyone looking at her the way the world looked at those willowy beauties. But this look on Jon’s face—like he could hardly believe his good fortune, that she was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen—she was addicted to that look.

Breathing heavily, Jon leaned back on his heels, still wearing his jeans, and studied her in the dim light, saying nothing for a moment as his eyes feasted on the sight of her splayed before him. “This is—“ he mumbled, and she could see the effort it took to bring his eyes back to her face. “I mean Dany—” his thumb traced down the valley between her breasts. “How many more of these—“ he gestured to the matching red lace set she wore, “did you get?”

“Many,” she teased, her foot sneaking along his denim-clad calf. “So many.” Meeting his hooded gaze, she raised an eyebrow. “I know I told you how hot you looked in those jeans, Jon, but I have to be honest…” She trailed off as she tickled her toes against his leg. “I now find them offensive. You should be ashamed.”

Jon winced, sucking in a breath, his hands left her skin and moved to unfasten his jeans. “That bad, eh?” Shaking his head sadly, he stood long enough to shuck them off his body, thankfully removing his underwear at the same time. “I guess we’ll have to burn them.” He kicked the denim to the side, not sounding sorry at all. “What a pity.”

She bit her lip, watching him crawl up her body, hips shifting of their own volition as his face pulled even with hers, his breath coming hot and fast. She tilted her head back to look into his eyes, breath stuttering out in heated gasps at the near absence of that steely gray, his pupils wide and dark.

“So,” she said, arching her back further, pushing her chest out so that he’d have no choice but to divert his eyes. “On or off?” Jon said nothing, for several moments, his eyes tracing every line of the lingerie, pondering it with serious consideration.

“On,” he growled, barely managing to get the word out before his mouth was on her, his tongue flicking against her nipple through the sheer lace, her head falling back at the wet heat of him, the way he knew exactly how best to touch her. As strength left her arms, she collapsed onto the mattress but she refused to cede all control so she gripped his head, holding him against her. He settled between her thighs, his cock urgently digging into the soft skin of her stomach as he toyed with her.

She squirmed, hips rising, twisting, coaxing him to where she wanted him, slick and aching to have him. but he raised himself slightly, even as he switched to her other nipple, the material damp and rasping against her as she moaned his name. No matter how many times she’d had him, she remained as helpless to his wicked mouth and teasing touch as she’d ever been; she whimpered as he drew back, licking his lips, smirking down at her.

“Oh, I’m sorry, Dany.” He thrust against her gently, her lingerie regrettably preventing her from the full effect of his slow slide. “Was there something you wanted?”

He ground against her, again, that mischievous smile never leaving his face, and she thought the best way to manage the situation was to give him a taste of his own medicine. She smiled demurely, one hand anchoring her at his neck, and she threaded her legs through his before he could make another move, flipping them and scrambling up to trap his hands above his head, her breasts just above his sinful lips.

“Well, since you asked,” she uttered, “Yes. Several things, you naughty tease.”

He managed about a second of offense before raising his head, kissing the skin just above the red lace on her chest. “Now, now, I never tease.” He thrust up against her, again, the head of his cock barely nudging the lace aside, but enough to make her feel as though she’d been set aflame.

“So that’s how you want to play this—” Leaning down, she licked and sucked down the column of his throat, believing in the interest of fair play, she ought to pay him back for the love bites he’d left on her skin over months of copious copulation. However, Edd would never let him hear the end of it; she refrained.

She settled for setting her teeth along his collar bone, her hands still firmly trapping his above his head, but she had to release him to taste her way down his abdomen, her tongue tracing and lingering on each and every scar. She hadn’t been lying to him: when it came to the raised shiny scars snaking across the landscape of his chest, she found them irresistibly sexy. When she first saw them, her mouth had watered, imagining what they tasted like, how they would feel under her tongue...

Now she knew.

She dipped her tongue into his navel, smiling against his skin when he squirmed away, knowing how it tickled him.

“Now who’s teasing, hmmm?” he grunted.

She didn’t reply to his question, instead she continued working her way downwards, his thick, hard length bobbing and brushing against her as she slid ever lower.

Taking him in hand, crouching between his bent knees, she flicked a heated look up his body, holding his gaze as she licked a wet trail from the base of his cock to the tip, stopping to suckle lightly at the head, as his whole body seized.

“Gods help me,” he moaned loudly, writhing at her touch. “You are trying to kill me.”

She released him from her mouth but continued, rubbing slow, torturous circles against the tight skin at the base of his shaft. She loved him like this, completely at her mercy, but tonight, wanted to feel his release inside her as she quaked and shook around him. Tormenting him a few moments longer, however, was entirely appropriate.

He groaned her name, a plea buried somewhere deep in those syllables, and she made up her mind. Though her hand fell away, she maintained contact with his skin, encouraging his erection to slide between her breasts, as she let her knees fall on either side of his hips, waiting until his eyes flickered open to find her staring down at him. She fisted him, saliva aiding her stroking hand. Anxiously, he tossed against the pillow, clearly fighting to contain the urge to thrust into her grip. She’d learned his body: what he liked, and what he *loved.* The things that drove him crazy and the tricks that made him gasp and moan her name were second nature to her now.

“Jon,” she breathed, low and sultry. “On” she lowered her hands to trace above the stripe of skin just below her navel, where her red panties (a negligible excuse for them) remained on her body, “or off?” Raising her hands to her chest, she tugged the lace down beneath her tits.

“Ah, fuck,” he ground out, his hips now driving against her, grinding his cock against the damp lace. “Get rid of ‘em.” And his hands had her bra off and on the floor before she could respond.

For her part, Dany eased off him, long enough to drag the scrap of red lace down her legs and eagerly kicked it off before she slid back atop him. both sighed in relief at the full contact, finally, of her soaked folds grazing his straining erection.

She savored the feel of him, his hot length slipping against her, bumping against her clit, each circling of her hips sending arcs of pleasure arc through her. But she’d been aroused for hours now, and wasn’t sure either of them could take much more of this tantalizing contact, so she fisted him again, holding him in place as she rose up on her knees, taking him inside her in a smooth, slow, sinuous roll of her hips.

His hands cupped her ass, helping her set a slow, grinding rhythm before they gripped her hips. She leaned slightly forward, shifting her angle, coaxing him to where he’d brush against her walls just the right way, a loud cry escaping when she found it.

There was nothing quite like the feeling of him inside her, stroking with each hip thrust as he matched her motion. His desire thrilled her: her name, a broken chant; his eyes locked with hers, straying only to watch her breasts sway. She allowed him to dictate their rhythm, his knees rising behind her, feet planted as he thrust up harder, his hands firm on her hips as he drove her down onto him faster and faster, a prolonged, lustful groan passing from his lips. Her hand rose to tease and twist her nipples; each gasp escaping her lips seemed to drive him further towards the edge. But when she dropped her other hand to toy with herself, her fingers slipping against the spot where they joined, gathering her wetness to slide against her clit, he let loose with a string of curses that might’ve made her blush—had she not been trying to provoke that very reaction from him.

Every muscle tensed, her head fell back; her back bowing and her fingers pinching and tugging as she finally broke, the white-hot knot of bliss unwinding. Between keening, urgent moans, she uttered his name, each spasm of her cunt pulling him along with her, her walls rippling and squeezing his cock as he maintained his relentless pace.

At last, his visceral groan, chased by the hot flood of his release spilling inside her, pried her lids apart, directed her gaze to his face, contorted in pleasure; his hips stuttered and jerked beneath her. As she rode the last waves of her own release, his hands fell away flopping onto the covers, slowing and gentling as he gasped for air, a blissful smile spreading across his face. Reluctantly, she shifted, letting him slide free, and curled into his side. She pressed her cheek against his sweat-damp skin, and rested her hand over his still-racing heart.

In a second, his hand covered hers, his thumb seeking the ring that circled her finger; he absently stroked the band. Raising their joined hands, the pair watched it sparkle in the moonlight for a quiet, still moment.

“Do you like it?” He’d barely caught his breath, but he could speak clearly enough, and she rolled her head back to look at him.

“Jon,” she sighed, leaning up to press a kiss to his lips. “It’s perfect. I love it.” She smiled wider, tugging her hand free to place over his heart, which still hammered away under her palm. “I love you.”

“That’s good luck, then. It’d be rather awkward if you were only, say, somewhat fond of me.” She wrinkled her nose at him and he chuckled, his arms circling and pulling her closer, further up his chest. He waited until her face just hovered above his, and brushed the tip of his nose against hers. “I love you, too.”

She gave in to the urge to kiss him sweetly, enjoying the plump press of his lips against hers, the soft sweep of his tongue as it tasted her lower lip; he smiled. When she pulled back, she saw such contentment in his eyes she thought she might cry at the joy of witnessing it.

“When do you want to get married?”

“Whenever you want. Yesterday.” She snuffled into the skin of his neck, wanting to be closer, always closer. “I guess we’ll have to find somewhere large enough for our families. And find a time that isn’t too close to fashion week.” She paused, her heart sinking a tiny bit.” Or the Ice Gala.” She felt his chest rise and fall with a heavy sigh. “I suppose we have to invite them, after all. And everyone from work, too.”

An idea formed in her mind, and she turned it over, and over. And over, just in case the post-coital rush had addled her brain. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, she thought. Maybe he wouldn’t mind. Maybe he felt as claustrophobic at the notion of sharing that day with a huge mass of people as she did. She leaned up on an elbow, giving him a hesitant, serious look.

And at precisely the same moment, in the very same breath, they uttered the exact same words.

“Let’s elope.”