Dany was tired. Exhausted. She was out of tears, too, and dehydrated from the effort. Viserion was gone. How many children would she have to lose to gain a throne that was hers by rights? She wondered whether he'd suffered long. The wound had bled viciously, maybe it had been enough to kill him swiftly, so he'd breathed his last breath before he'd hit the water. She had to hope the gods had done that much for her when they'd denied her so much already. She wondered whether he'd joined Rhaego and Drogo in the sky, protecting them for her while she waited to return to them.
Perhaps the old gods would be of more help, she thought. After all, she would be waging a war in their territory. The Seven had never taken root well in the North, she knew, except maybe in White Harbor. Jon seemed to have faith in the old gods, why couldn't she summon it? Because they didn't stop those things from killing Viserion, a dark part of her mind whispered. She didn't quiet it, knowing it was her true-self wishing she could bring fire and blood to the gods themselves. She'd have to settle for teaching the Night King to know the dragon. He haunted her dreams now, the most she could do was haunt his every moment.
She stared out the window of her cabin, trying not to relive the awful scene. Drogon and Rhaegal swooped and dove over the sea. Did they mourn their brother? She wondered. The dragon has three heads, and there were only two now.
There was a sudden knock at the door, three quick, sharp raps. Dany stood slowly, her mourning gown falling around her ankles. Since her house colors were red and black, it looked like mourning was always in effect, but now she could feel it in her bones. The ache of loss. She pulled the door open just a crack and saw the familiar serious eyes that haunted her better dreams. They were wide and searching, and so she pulled the door open all the way, and stepped back, inviting him in without saying a word or breaking her eye contact. His gaze was sad, steely, and somehow made her burn. The dragon doesn't burn, she thought, but he sets me afire. She wondered what her eyes held. Could he see what she was thinking of him, through her grief?
He stepped across the door frame and stared at her as he shut the door, his gaze intense, not a word on his lips. What had he said in the Dragon Pit? That maybe Mirri Maz Duur had lied, that maybe she could have children yet. Her heart ached. It was what she wanted more than anything, even the throne—she wanted home, family. She'd thought the Iron Throne might give her that. Maybe something else could, too. Someone else.
"My queen," Jon said, though he didn't bow as Varys or Tyrion might. He stood strong and tall, proud. Dany had to catch a breath.
"Lord Snow." Dany's throat felt hoarse, perhaps from the crying. She hadn't even checked to see how she looked. Were there still tears on her cheeks? She was so tired. She wanted to rest, but she couldn't sleep, couldn't see that monster, couldn't let Jon's eyes burn her and make her wake hot and aching. She wanted to call him Jon to his face, just once, to see if it brought him any joy to hear it. He had called her Dany once. She'd told him not to; Viserys had called her that. Don't wake the dragon. But now she wanted to hear him say it again because, through his lips, it sounded like a promise, not a chiding. She wanted to be Dany the woman, not Dany the child, the fumbling little sister who wanted to go home to the red front door and the lemon trees.
"Forgive me, my queen, but I wanted to see that you are well," Jon said. All Dany could see was sadness in his eyes now. She wanted to see him smile, to make him smile, as he had in the Dragon Pit.
"Yes, thank you. I am quite well," she lied, and he knew it. She could see that he knew it.
"Good, that's good." He hesitated, his errand done. Don't leave, she pleaded in silence. Did her eyes say it?
"Tell me about the North, milord," she said on impulse, gesturing to a chair. When she sat, he sat. "I only know what Ser Jorah has told me, but he left the North long ago."
"The North doesn't change, my queen. The North is… wild," Jon said, leaning his elbows on his knees, his scarred hands clasped in front of him. "Wild and beautiful and terrible and wonderful."
He hesitated, "Quite like you, Your Grace."
Dany cocked an eyebrow at him, but she saw the laughter in his sad eyes. Why was he so sad? "Terrible?"
"Strong. Fury and justice; fire and blood," he said. "But where you are those things, the North is hard, unbreakable, cold and ice. And it's summer snows, and wolf howls, and my home."
"You are very much of the North," she said.
"Thank you, my queen."
She smiled ironically; she hadn't meant it as a full compliment, but she'd known he'd see it that way. The North, his people, were everything to him. "Tell me more."
And he obliged, the smile working its way onto his face from his eyes as he spoke of his siblings, of his direwolf, of the Watch before they'd gone north of the Wall, of Tormund and Mance. She watched his face, watched the sadness come back when he spoke of his first time beyond the Wall. She couldn't fathom why, but she let it pass. When he mentioned a story of finding Arya up a tree, dropping snow down on Jeyne Pool, she stopped him.
"Sansa's childhood companion. She tormented Arya."
"Arya is not a lady, my queen, and a lady was all Jeyne wanted to be. How could she like someone who squandered the title?"
Dany nodded in understanding. "And Sansa let it happen?"
"Tormented her own sister?" Dany could imagine a person like that and suppressed a shudder. Don't wake the dragon.
"Harmlessly," Jon explained. "Petty little spats over needlework and clothing. Sansa wanted her life to be like the songs, and Arya was not the adoring little sister who fit that model."
"Sansa's life was not like a song, I hear."
"No, my queen."
"A forced marriage. Though both have assured me that it was not an unkind one. Unlike…"
"Yes, I've heard the rumors."
"All true, my queen. Theon—"
"Yes." She hesitated. Would Sansa envy her? Hate her? Everything was up in the air, waiting to crash down. Viserion.
"I hope, my queen," Jon said, his face unreadable, his eyes locked on the floor, "that you will feel at home in the North, with my sisters, with my brother, while we wage this war. The lords may be angry with me for bending the knee…but I hope my family at least will understand why I did when they meet you. I hope they… I hope that they will treat you as part of the family."
He turned his icy eyes on her then, and Dany felt the cold burn her as well as any fire might, were she not the Mother of Dragons. It felt like a proposal, those words, but all she could think of was having a family again. Sisters, brothers, children… a husband who loved her for more than her name. Her heart ached and she felt tears rising, so she stood quickly. Jon followed, unflustered as always, as unchangeable as the Wall.
"Thank you, Lord Snow, for the stories," she said, regretting standing. He was so close, so near she could reach out and touch him if she thought it wouldn't open a door she could not close.
"My queen," he said, his voice deep and rich. Goosebumps broke out on Dany's skin. He took a step toward her and took her hand in his. He was much too close now. Dany clung to his hand like a lifeline, following its path to his full lips with her eyes. He kissed her knuckles gently, never tearing his eyes away from hers. Where did he put his strength? Slowly, so slowly, she watched his expression as he lifted his other hand to her cheek and wiped away a single tear with his calloused thumb. Dany leaned into his hand, letting him cradle her, his strength holding up hers. She felt stronger in his hold, like a better person, a better queen.
"Lord Snow," she said, thinking she should dismiss him before it truly went too far.
"Call me Jon," he said. "Please."
And she broke.
"Jon," she breathed out like a sigh. He kissed her then, passionate and searching. Dany opened herself to him, letting his ice burn her. She pulled him to her, clinging to this shred of happiness when the world felt like it was ending, and all was nearly lost. She felt him suck in a deep breath and his arms encircled her, promising protection and warmth and love. Her fingers found the lacing at the front of his jacket and ran over the knot, pulling, tugging. She pushed the sleeves off his shoulders, his undershirt draping over the muscles displayed there. Their lips pulled apart as he tugged it over his head, but then they were back again, while Dany's fingers traced over his scars. He had so many scars.
Jon pulled away again slowly, coming back for gradual kisses before he turned her away from him. Dany saw herself in the mirror then, saw her flushed cheeks and her wild eyes. She almost said stop, until she saw Jon's face in the mirror, felt his fingers unlacing her dress. He was staring at the back of her head like she was precious, fragile, beautiful. Jorah looked at her like that; Drogo had looked at her like that when she'd finished the stallion's heart. My sun and stars. The thought came unbidden, and she caught her own expression out of the corner of her eye. She was looking at Jon like that. She didn't stop herself.
Jon finished with the lacing, looking up at her. He loosened the bodice, and Dany shrugged out of the dress, letting it fall to her feet. Dany watched as he pressed his lips to the crook of her neck, along her shoulders, pushing at the undergown that still hid her form. She let it fall as well and watched his expression as he followed her spine down. There was hunger in his eyes. She broke her eye contact with the mirror and turned to meet his gaze. He held her eyes, resisting the temptation of her body, searching her face for something. She shivered. Jon pulled her into the warmth of his arms and kissed her like he'd break her. He already had, but he was putting her back together, piece by piece.
She took the next step and worked at his other laces, which were strained. She took him in hand and felt his breathing sharpen. He kissed her neck and Dany shuddered. "Jon."
She said it like a mantra, and he kissed her harder before sweeping her up and carrying her to the bed. Dany felt small as he sat and then laid down, cradling her against his chest. He kissed her feverishly, and she responded in kind, holding his waist like he'd disappear. Her body was pressed up against his, and she ground her hips closer. She pulled back for a second to breathe him in before they were drawn back to each other again. Jon flipped her over and hovered above her, his lips barely touching her as he hesitated, then drove into her in one quick movement. He kissed her fiercely, tasting her skin, then froze, pulling back to see her face. Dany stared at him in near awe, searching his gaze, her breaths ragged. His eyes scorched her skin as they took her in, his hand cradled her face, and he took a few deep, shuddering breaths. His lips met hers again as he dove back toward her. He was holding her body against his, and when he pulled away, his intense eyes stared into hers, spreading warmth through her body in a new way. Not fire, not ice, but something more. He caught her lips, again and again, kissing them like a starved man. Dany held him tight, worried in a deep corner of her heart that if she let go, she might lose him, lose herself. She could feel herself rising to a mountaintop, and almost plunged over the edge. She held though, not willing to let go. She whispered his name against his lips and felt him pull her closer. She held on a minute longer and then released, panting his name over and over, silently, all of her voice stolen by her breath. She felt him stiffen between her legs at the rush and then the telling pulse, once, twice, three times. He was pressed against her, his nose against her neck, his breath quick, shaking.
She stroked his back, felt the risen skin of his scars, felt his breathing. "Jon?"
Dany shook her head against his shoulder. "I want to be Dany."
"Dany?" She nodded and felt him murmur her name again, against her neck, his beard tickling her there. He rolled off her and pulled her into the crook of his arm, and Dany felt safe there. No Night King would get her in his arms, she truly believed that. He pressed his lips against her hair, over and over, as gentle as a breeze. Dany curled into him and wove her fingers through his hair. Jon's chest rose and fell in deep, sleepy breaths. She wanted to tell him what she was feeling, that it was the first time she hadn't wanted to take control. She had wanted to be swept away, held, kissed like that every day. But she didn't know how to start.
"Ghost," he murmured after a time, falling into a dream. Dany envied him for a moment but contented herself with counting each breath. She lost track, fading into loose thoughts.
She only woke once, when Jon turned her in his arms, holding her back against his chest as if they did not have two feet of bed on either side of them to spread out. She couldn't have complained even if she had wanted to because she drifted off again after he kissed her temple and whispered her name. She fell asleep with his name on her lips. There were no dreams to mar the blackness.
Jon woke to the sound of Rhaegal screeching in the distance. It surprised him that he could hear the difference between their calls. He heard Drogon answer and then it did not feel so strange; where Rhaegal screeched, Drogon roared and broke the sky. Dany stirred in the circle of his arms, her children's voices calling to her even in her dreams. Her silver-blonde hair fell across the pillow, the color of moonlight. She looked like a girl when she slept, not the fiery woman who snarled and snapped just like her children. When she was in a temper, he believed she could have birthed them, but not here. Here she looked fragile, pale, worn, and young. He gently smoothed a piece of her hair out of her face, not wanting to disturb her first night's sleep since Viserion. My fault, he thought, all my fault.
She murmured something in her sleep and he held perfectly still so as not to disturb her dreams. He had dreamed he'd been in the Wolf's Wood, hunting on all fours. His little cousins had helped, had taken their fair share, and had brought news on their howls. Ice had fallen from the sky and snows were coming from the place where the sun rose. He'd lost the dream at the taste of warm blood, shifting into wilder ones with dragons and krakens and darkness. He wondered what Dany dreamed.
She reminded him of Ygritte, though this girl in his arms was more than kissed by fire. She was fire, through and through. Strong, brave, passionate, haunting. He watched her for what felt like hours, just breathing in and out, in and out. He could have watched her forever.
It occurred to him that he had very few doubts when he looked at her. Ygritte had made him knotted, pulled him in separate directions that he couldn't reconcile. Dany was the way forward. She was his hope against the Long Night, she was his heart's wish, and she was his duty. The Northern Lords would not like it, but they would get used to it when they saw her fly, when they saw her love for her people, perhaps even when they saw her face for the first time. She looked like a queen; Jon had never been a king.
She was stunning, so much so that the sight of her small breasts and her rosy cheeks aroused feelings he thought he'd never act on again. His vows to the Watch were satisfied, but his unofficial vows to Ygritte had held him. She still held him, but she would have laughed at him. You know nothing, Jon Snow. She would have told him that he couldn't very well love her if she was dead, so he might as well steal another woman. And she would have told him he must truly be strong if he could steal a woman who could burn him alive if she wished it.
Dany's violet eyes fluttered open, the long pale lashes brushing her cheeks. It took her a moment to get her bearings but when she did, she turned in his arms and laid her cheek upon his chest. Jon could feel his heat rising but pushed it down.
"Jon?" She murmured, holding tight to him under the furs.
"I'm here, Dany," he responded without hesitation; her name felt so natural on his lips. He couldn't think of her as anything else, despite her list of titles. He loved the way she said his name, tentative last night, confident now through the drowsiness.
"Is it morning?"
"First light," he said. "You should get more rest."
"What about you?" Her voice was a raspy half-whisper. She was vulnerable now.
"I slept well enough, and have been sleeping well. You have not." He'd seen the circles grow dark beneath her lilac eyes as each day had passed. My fault.
"I feel awake, refreshed," she said, though she huddled in closer and resettled her head on his arm, sleep not relinquishing her quite yet. Jon ran his fingers through her loose hair. When had she let it down? He kissed her forehead with the barest of touches, and she dozed again.
His only doubt was what his father would have thought if he knew Jon was in bed with the Mad King's daughter, wanting to give her the children she craved despite the curse that haunted her, wanting to give her the Kingdoms that his father had stolen from hers. All this, with the daughter of the man who murdered his uncle and grandfather for seeking his kidnapped aunt. Aunt Lyanna, stolen by Dany's older brother. He'd torn apart his land for a woman. Jon could empathize with the feeling a little. He'd given up a kingdom for Dany, just as she had given up a dragon, her child. Though Jon had not truly stolen her, as Rhaegar stole Lyanna. It was more that she had captured him, heart and body. He was hers now, he knew that. The past didn't seem to matter here; the past was dead, the future in danger of becoming so. Here, now, he was hers.
When she next woke, she pressed her lips to his collarbone and he shivered with wanting, hard with desire in an instant. She was still half asleep, he was sure, so he did not immediately push her into the pillows and kiss her like he so desperately needed. When she kissed his neck and her nails dug into his skin to hold him tight against her, he could no longer resist. He found her lips and kissed her hard. When she rolled on top of him and took control, he wanted to sweep her up, find a weirwood, and say the words for marriage in front of the old gods, his father's gods. I am yours, and you are mine. He wanted to sit in front of a roaring fire, watch their children play, hear their friends' stories, and pretend the snows outside were just summer storms. He wanted to hold her every night and every morning, even if it meant finding a warm cave, where their children's children might mingle with Grendel's beneath the Wall.
It was no longer dawn when they were finished with each other, at least for the morning. Jon helped lace her into a gown. She looked fierce in black and red. He brushed aside her silver hair and kissed the tender spot below her ear.
"I will send your handmaids," he said, to delay his departure.
"Thank you." She looked like she wanted to say more, but she was speechless again, as she had been when she'd opened the door the night before. There were parting words, and then Jon returned to the main deck. Dany's sailors were hard at work, only a few flinching still when Drogon flew overhead. Jon watched the distant shore pass by. White Harbor would be further north, but he looked for the landmarks regardless. Davos appeared at his side after a time and shared his silence. He was a man of few words when nothing needed to be said. Jon was grateful for his company anyway; outside that cabin, he felt the responsibility, felt the cold winds. What would he return to at Winterfell? What would he bring with him? Would it even matter? Were they too late already?
"You look rested, Your Grace," Tyrion said later in a strategic meeting, trying to needle Dany. Jon almost missed it, but her eyebrows twitched skyward, and he knew she was smiling internally.
"I am," she said, and then proceeded to shift direction on the discussion.
Near dusk, when he was leaning against the bow, she joined him, her hand sitting just next to his on the wooden railing. He wanted to pull her into his embrace, bury his cold nose in her hair, hold her against his chest and never let her go. He managed to stay decorous, though it took all of his effort.
"I used to want to be a sailor," she said, breaking the silence. "I told Viserys once. He told me I was a dragon, not a fish, and twisted my hair until I begged he stop."
Jon searched for the right words. He knew she still harbored some love for her brother, though it was tempered by memories of his later abuses. He also knew she took pride in being a dragon. "He was right; you are not a fish," he said after a long moment. "But perhaps a dragon could learn to sail when this is all over. Davos would be happy to teach you, I think."
He tried to pretend they could rely on their friends to be alive, that they themselves would be alive at the end of winter. She, at least, had to survive. Jon didn't want to think of the other possibility.
"Perhaps," she said, a small smile gracing her lips. He'd only seen her smile five times since they'd met. Each one was precious. "What will you do when this is all over?"
"What you command of me, my queen," Jon said, meaning it since he could not voice the secret hope that she would command his hand.
"Only that? No childhood dreams?"
Jon studied her flat expression. "I had some, Your Grace."
"What were they?"
"To be Lord of Winterfell. To meet my mother. And if I couldn't have those things, I'd hoped my father would give me a keep in the Gift below the Wall to help defend the North." He paused. "I got one of those wishes. I'm sure my mother is lost to me now that my father is dead. He never told me her name, never said it out loud. And, now that the wildlings are south of the Wall, by my own hand, there's not much point to holding the Gift."
"You need a new dream, Jon Snow," she said simply.
"Is it not enough to dream of life?"
"No, I don't think so. Life is intangible. You need something real, something you'll know when you have it."
You, he whispered in his mind. "Perhaps I'll learn to sail, too."
That lit a smile in her eyes. Did she hear the question in the words, the proposal? If she did, she didn't say. But that night she shared more of herself, sacrificing sleep to tell her stories, to hear his. She asked about his scars, talked of Drogo, of Daario. Jon gave her Ygritte, and Dany sat enraptured, staring into his eyes from her languid position, propped up on an elbow in the bed, worry marring her features. "I'm so sorry," she whispered.
"The gods have not been kind to either of us," he answered, and then pulled her into his arms and made love to her slow and gentle to ease away the memories. I am hers, and she is mine.