In Their Eyes
Few things in Daenerys's life had been as difficult as she found this moment to be. Appearing calm, serene even, so near to the woman who sat on the Iron Throne… The woman who plotted against her tested Daenerys in every way possible. Though she sat straight as an arrow with her hands clasped delicately together in her lap, her blood raced. It pounded in her ears, a mockery unbeknownst to those around her.
"Your capital will be safe," Daenerys stated simply, "until the Northern threat is dealt with. You have my word."
"The word of a would-be usurper," Cersei hissed.
Daenerys felt her adrenaline surge; blood pumped wildly in her chest, a deep heat threatening to unleash the temper she always felt boiling just beneath the surface. Only Tyrion's well-timed interruption kept it from boiling over. Her eyes met Ser Jorah's and while everyone else listened to Tyrion and focused their attention on the Hound's climb from the depths of the Pit, Daenerys felt Jorah's silent pleas. It served as a reminder that even those nearest her feared the dragon within. She gave a brisk nod and Jorah refocused his attention on the Hound.
An uneasy stir moved through those in attendance as the Hound opened the wood crate and stepped back. Daenerys cast a quick glance at Jon, whose hand rested on the pommel of his sword. Always at the ready, she thought to herself. His intensity gave her chills and she fought to control the fire in the pit of her stomach. It was always there now; low embers only slightly aflame when not in his presence. His nearness fanned them to life without fail, sometimes threatening to engulf her fully.
The Hound kicked the crate forward and the second worst sound Daenerys had ever heard filled the air. The Wight flung itself forward, scrambling frantically as it reached for the first thing it saw: Cersei. Jerked back at the last possible second by the Hound, it fell and began its efforts anew. The only sound that had ever given her more fear than Wight screams was the shrieks of her dragon as it was struck with a mortal blow; a sound that haunted her dreams and threatened her undoing daily.
"We can destroy them by burning them," Jon said, his voice loud and confident. "And we can destroy them with dragonglass. If we don't win this fight, then this is the fate of every person in the world."
Jon struck the Wight with the killing blow, the dragonglass blade entering it easily. A final shriek filled the air and Daenerys let out the breath she'd been holding.
"There's only one war that matters now – The Great War. And it is here."
"I didn't believe it until I saw them. I saw them all," Daenerys said, slightly annoyed with her former ignorance.
She tracked the conversation that followed, knowing they had done all they could; Viserion had not died in vain. Euron Greyjoy had fled with his tail between his legs and the Lannister twins seemed to finally take the threat as seriously as it required. Daenerys found herself watching Jamie Lannister. She saw real fear in his eyes. Cersei was scared, she could tell, but there was no vulnerability in her fear. She chose her words carefully as though it was a play and she had the starring role.
This is why she did not breathe a sigh of relief along with Jon when Cersei accepted a temporary truce.
"In return, the King in the North will extend this truce. He will remain in the North where he belongs. He will not take up arms against the Lannisters. He will not choose sides."
"Just the King in the North? Not me?" Daenerys heard the bite in her words, yet was unsure if she was offended that she was omitted from this demand or fearful that it would mean she'd spent her last day in the presence of Jon Snow.
"I would never ask it of you. You would never agree to it and if you did, I would trust you even less than I do now. I ask it only of Ned Stark's son. I know Ned Stark's son will be true to his word."
Despite her anger, the seething, writhing rage building within her, Daenerys said no more and instead turned her attention to Jon. He stood across the courtyard from her and she could see the turmoil twisting and clawing inside him. If they had been in her own court on Dragonstone, she would have sent the others away and they could have talked through it together, as they had become accustomed to.
Jon met her eyes and held them. A thousand words screamed forth from those eyes and she felt her heart constrict. He turned away from her and nodded slightly.
"I am true to my word. Or I try to be. That is why I cannot give you what you ask. I cannot serve two Queens and I have already pledged myself to Queen Daenerys of House Targaryen."
It was the first time he had publically declared for Daenerys and until this moment, she had kept his oath to herself. She hadn't even told Tyrion of Jon's pledge on that quiet morning on the sea. She had not told Missandei of how he'd taken her hand. The warmth she'd felt there and the way that warmth had traveled from her hand, up her arm, over her chest and head, clouding her thoughts since then with a desire for him. A part of her was disappointed, not only to have lost the truce they'd worked so hard to establish, but to now have to share her secret with the world. A world that didn't deserve to know Jon Snow was pledged to her.
Soft, brief murmurs rose around her. Cersei's last bit of restraint seemed to leave her as she rose from her seat.
"Then there is nothing left to discuss. The dead will come North first. Enjoy dealing with them. We will deal with whatever's left of you."
She stormed away, leaving Daenerys thunderstruck and Jon looking more sullen than she'd ever seen him. She could have kicked him, yet she wondered how much more furious she'd have been if he'd so easily broken his vow. She was glad that whatever the cost, at least she knew he truly would always be at her side.
"I won't take it back. Please don't ask me to," Jon said to her as they walked through the sand toward the ship that brought Jon and the others.
"I know," Daenerys replied. "I'm not asking you to. I wish you'd lied, or even just given her the damn truce, but I understand why you didn't. I can't help but wonder how many times I've heard the words, 'Ned Stark's son,' as though it implies the highest level of honor possible."
She cast Jon a small smirk and he glanced at her, but the tension did not leave his body. He was morose. Perhaps even angry. It had already cro ssed her mind that he likely regretted pledging himself to her that morning. If he hadn't, perhaps things would have turned out differently on this day.
"What now, Jon?"
He sighed and stopped walking, looking behind them toward King's Landing. He brushed a hand over his face and she saw him running through their options in his mind.
"We use every man on Dragonstone and mine the rest of the dragonglass as quickly as possible. That should be our focus. It should only take another week at most if we redouble our efforts. After that… I suppose we sail North, join the Northern houses and face Winter."
"A week?" Daenerys sighed. "Very well. Varys can start preparing the ships so we have all the provisions we'll need for the journey."
Jon nodded and gave a stiff bow before turning to board the ship.
"Wait," she called after him, stilling him. She stepped forward, half of her feeling as hopeless as Jon looked and the other half more focused on comforting him. Absurd, she thought. Of all the things to be concerned with right now… Daenerys walked past Jon and boarded the ship. Tyrion was already there waiting for her and she glanced over her shoulder at Jon before speaking.
"I leave my army and fleet in your command. Sail back to Dragonstone. They should have finished making weapons from the dragonglass in our absence. Mine what remains and have Varys direct the preparation of the fleet."
"Your Grace—," Tyrion began.
"Jon and I will fly to Winterfell. It's time he returns to his people and time I introduce myself to the Northern Houses."
Tyrion stared dumbfounded, the silence echoing around them.
"I'm not sure that's wise, Your Grace. You've already pushed Drogon quite the distance today. You'd have to stop overnight at least once without protection."
"Without protection? I'll have two dragons and the King in the North. What more protection could I need?"
"Two dragons?" Jon called from behind her, but Tyrion cut him off.
"You recently learned how vulnerable your dragons are, Your Grace, and while the King in the North is no doubt a very capable protector, it is foolish to—."
"I'd advise you to choose your next words carefully, Lord Tyrion."
Daenerys stared down at her Hand, understanding his fears and his desire to protect her at all costs. She tried to remind herself that she had named him Hand of the Queen specifically to be her voice of reason when reason failed her. She tried to control her anger. She truly did try.
Tyrion hesitated and then bowed slightly. "Forgive me, Your Grace. I was not implying you are predisposed to foolishness. I do, however, believe you are becoming more lax in your safety precautions. This will be the second time you have taken yourself from the protection of your armies and flown into dangerous lands."
"We will land and camp only in deserted lands. We will not linger longer than necessary and I will not leave the presence of Drogon and Jon."
"Tyrion's right, Your Grace," Jon stepped up beside her, putting his hand on her arm. "There's no reason to fly ahead. We will be in Winterfell soon enough. I would be better served overseeing the excavation of the dragonglass."
Daenerys looked up into Jon's face. His features had softened and the weight of his hand on her arm fanned the embers in her stomach to life once more. She stared up at him for a moment and then raised her eyes to the sky.
Drogon and Rhaegal screeched in the distance, flying over the water toward the beach. Rhaegal swooped, hovering just over the ocean. Daenerys watched as he scooped a mouthful of water, presumably filled with his mid-day snack. They landed on the beach with a ground-shaking thud and Drogon stretched out his neck, leaning gently into Daenerys's body.
"My dragons have never let anyone touch them before. Even Tyrion, who has come the closest and is most trusted, has not been able to. Yet Drogon allowed your touch. Any man on Dragonstone may wield the tools necessary to mine dragonglass, but only one man has the opportunity to learn to fly on dragonback."
Jon's hand fell from Daenerys's arm. He stepped back, looking at Drogon skeptically. He began shaking his head and Drogon let out a roar that would have terrified any man.
"Not Drogon," she said. "Rhaegal."
They both looked at Rhaegal who was still at the end of the beach, his head dipped into the Ocean.
"What makes you think he'll allow that?"
Daenerys chuckled and took Jon by the hand, only the second time she'd felt his bare skin against hers, and led him to the edge of the beach. Drogon let out a huff of warm air and stretched out in the sand, watching lazily.
"Instinct? If I hadn't seen Drogon allow you to touch him, I wouldn't even consider this. But Rhaegal tends to be a bit more inclined to listen to his mother than Drogon anyway."
Rhaegal pulled his head out of the water and swung around. Water cascaded over his scales, pouring from his mouth onto the sand below. He let out an ear-piercing roar and pressed his nose into Daenerys's stomach, pushing her back several feet. Jon steadied her, one hand on her waist and the other clutching her hand. She laughed and placed her hand on Rhaegal's head.
"Easy, my child," Daenerys whispered in Valyrian. She closed her eyes and released Jon's hand, laying both palms on Rhaegal's head. He, perhaps more than Drogon, had mourned for his brother. Viserion's death still pained Daenerys every moment, whether awake or asleep, and Rhaegal seemed to connect with her deeply in these moments.
With her eyes still closed, Daenerys reached back for Jon's hand. She laced her fingers through his and held their hands together in front of Rhaegal's nose.
"Friend," she whispered and opened her eyes. Rhaegal was staring at the two of them while he breathed in her and Jon's combined scents. Slowly, she allowed her hand to fall away, leaving only Jon. She stepped back, watching Rhaegal as he watched Jon.
"Drogon," she called and he stretched his wing out for her immediately. She climbed onto him and stroked his side while she watched Jon and Rhaegal for a moment longer.
"Say 'raqiros.' It means 'friend.'"
Jon stepped forward, closing the distance between himself and Rhaegal. He repeated the word, eliciting chills from Daenerys, and tentatively placed his hand on Rhaegal's head. Rhaegal blinked and then lowered his head and stretched out his wing. Daenerys heard herself gasp. Somewhere, deep in her heart, she knew this very moment sealed the love she had for Jon.
She watched as he stepped onto Rhaegal's wing and climbed gingerly up, settling onto Rhaegal's back. Having only flown with Daenerys on his back one time before, Rhaegal seemed to shift back and forth, attempting to position Jon where he wanted him.
"Daenerys," Jon called to her. His voice was filled with wonder and apprehension. She laughed and leaned forward, grasping her usual handholds on Drogon. "Fly."
Drogon raised into the air without hesitation. Rhaegal issued a screech and rose with his brother, nearly losing Jon from the speed of his ascent.
Together, they flew out over the water. Rhaegal dipped and soared needlessly and while Jon looked like he'd fall off at any moment, the elation on his face was visible even from a distance. Daenerys used her body to direct Drogon and they slowly climbed higher and higher, allowing Jon to see the world from a new view. Eventually, she brought Drogon to a stop and they hovered in the air, Rhaegal beside them.
"There is no one else I'd ever trust with him. His life depends on you while you're his rider, just as your life depends on him. The power you would wield from his back… There is nothing comparable, Jon. Imagine it: flying beside me as we burn the Night King and his army to the ground. You don't have to be on the ground with a sword in your hand to win this war. I'm giving you the best weapon you could ever ask for."
"Why? Why trust me?"
"If I had trusted you in the beginning, perhaps I'd have three dragons instead of two. If I'd listened and put my faith in you, everything could be different now. So I am. I'm putting my entire world, and myself, in your hands."
Jon stared at her, his eyes darkening in a way that made her pulse quicken. Her mind flashed and she imagined him pressing himself into her as he looked at her with those eyes. Those dark, burdened eyes.
"I hope I deserve it," he replied.
A smirk formed on her lips and she licked them before leaning down to speak into Drogon's ear. She directed them back to the beach and Jon managed to keep hold of Rhaegal despite the force of their impact. In the time it took Jon to climb down from Rhaegal, Daenerys was already on the ship with Missandei.
"I hope this is what you had in mind," Missandei said, holding up a fur lined cloak. The dark leather was patterned in what resembled dragon scales and was layered in a fitted cut. The dark fur, which Daenerys was secretly pleased matched Jon's cloak, covered the shoulders and gave way to an oversized hood. The accompanying gloves had the Targaryen seal and were soft and thick.
"Bear fur, Your Grace."
Daenerys nodded and pulled the cloak over her shoulders with Missandei's help. She fastened it at the neck and met Missandei's eyes.
"Do you think me foolish?"
"Not foolish, Your Grace. Willful, to be more precise."
She offered Daenerys a knowing smile which she readily returned.
"Be well, Missandei."
"Be well, Your Grace."
Daenerys turned to see Jon watching her as he slung a pack over his shoulders. Tyrion stood beside him holding a waterskin. He stepped forward and handed it to Daenerys before retreating onto the ship without another word. She strode forward, standing between Drogon and Rhaegal facing Jon.
Jon nodded and took the waterskin from her. He pulled a metal clip from the pocket of his cloak and used it to secure the waterskin to the chain draped across her chest. His gloved hand moved efficiently and more quickly than Daenerys would have expected, only lingering for a moment over her rib cage.
"Nice cloak," Jon said, throwing her an amused smile. "Looks familiar."
Daenerys felt her cheeks flush and she returned the smile.
"Can't go to the North without the appropriate attire."
"This is a really bad idea," he whispered, though she could tell he'd already resigned himself to it. "I can't talk you out of it?"
Daenerys shook her head slowly and stretched out her hand, brushing Rhaegal's side lovingly.
"You've met my family. I'd like to meet yours."
Jon grinned, a broad, excited smiled she'd never seen before, and nodded.
"I'd like that as well. I'll lead the way. I think I know these lands better than you. We'll have to go a few miles out of the way to camp in deserted lands."
With that, he turned and strode up Rhaegal's wing as though he'd been doing it his entire life and found his place on his back. Daenerys gave Rhaegal another pat and then mounted Drogon. Together with Jon in the lead, they lifted into the air and set off for Winterfell.
Jon looked to the side and felt a surge of both jealousy and attraction at the sight of Daenerys so relaxed on Drogon's back. Jon's entire body ached from trying to keep his balance and stay upright on Rhaegal. Daenerys was hunched forward against Drogon's neck, her head resting against his scales. She was facing Jon's direction, but her eyes were closed. He groaned softly and pressed forward on Rhaegal, guiding him into their first descent of the trip.
"We'll camp on the Isle of Faces," Jon called to Daenerys, prompting her to open her eyes. She looked below them, surveying the land, and looked back up at him, seemingly confused. "It's considered sacred lands. Myth has it the Old Gods send mist and fog to hide the island from any they don't want to find it. Harrenhal isn't far from here though, so I know we're close. We'll just have to see if the gods deem us acceptable."
Daenerys ran her hand up Drogon's neck and leaned forward, speaking to him in Valyrian. He followed Rhaegal down into the mist cloaking the water and, presumably, the Isle of Faces. Jon refocused his attention on their descent and within moments felt the mist envelop him.
The mist, though heavy and impossible to see through, was oddly peaceful and welcoming. Jon reached his hand out tentatively, gripping Rhaegal even tighter with the other, and ran his hand through the air. He pulled his hand back and examined the droplets forming on his gloved palm. He had never seen a mist like this before. He assumed the heavier the mist, the closer they were to the water beneath it.
Urging Rhaegal down more slowly, he called back for Daenerys, knowing she couldn't see him.
"We should break through and see either water or land soon!"
"I see it!" Daenerys called, somewhere below Jon, causing him to realize she and Drogon had pulled ahead of him in the mist. "Just ahead!"
Jon and Rhaegal dropped into a steeper descent and suddenly he could see Daenerys's stark white hair just ahead of him. Not far below her, he saw the edge of the island. Pulling up beside Drogon, they soared over the small, tree-covered island. Jon saw a clearing in the distance and directed Rhaegal toward it.
"It would appear we've been accepted," Jon said to Daenerys as they landed beside one another in the clearing. Drogon and Rhaegal each lowered a wing, allowing Jon and Daenerys passage to the ground. They then formed a wide circle around Jon and Daenerys, their bodies acting as a wall between their riders and anything that might threaten them.
Jon kneaded his sore muscles, attempting to work the blood flow back into them. Not far from him, Daenerys smiled and turned away, stepping over Drogon's tail to examine the trees surrounding them.
"The trees have faces," she said to Jon.
"Aye, they do. They're weirwood trees. Been here since the Children of the Forest and the First Men signed the Pact that ended the war between them. The faces are said to be the witnesses of the Pact."
"It's a bit… Creepy," Daenerys whispered, looking over her shoulder at him.
Jon raised an eyebrow in agreement and pulled the pack from his shoulders. He rifled through the contents and then looked around them at the trees.
"I suppose it would be ill-advised to harvest wood from one of these trees for a fire. I'll see if I can find some fallen branches and kindling." He stepped past Daenerys, brushing her hand as he went. "Don't let them fly off until I'm back. I can already feel Rhaegal itching to hunt."
Daenerys frowned at him for a second and then nodded, turning away.
It took him nearly an hour's time to find enough dry, fallen wood and kindling to build a fire large enough to see them through the night. By the time he returned to the clearing, Daenerys already had a small fire burning, over which she was roasting several fish.
"Don't worry, I didn't go far," she said, glancing up at him. "I just gathered what I could near the edge of the trees. Rhaegal scooped our dinner from the lake."
Jon glanced at Rhaegal who was stretched out in a crescent shape, his snout near Drogon's tail, enclosing them in a protective circle. He opened one eye and gave Jon a huff before resuming his well-earned nap.
"Odd creatures," Jon said before depositing his collection of branches on the ground. He knelt down beside the pile, building a stack that would allow enough airflow to fan to the fire and keep it going through the night. When he was satisfied with his build, and when he felt his already exhausted legs could no longer sustain the position, he stood.
"Daenerys," he said, prompting her to look up from her fire. "Can they control their fire enough to light this or would it just incinerate it?"
With a small, airy laugh, Daenerys rose and moved to stand beside him.
"Can you control the power behind the swing of your sword? Can you control the volume of your voice or the shallowness of your breathing? It's the same for them." She turned, looking at Drogon whose head rested on the ground nearby. "Drogon, dracarys."
Drogon lifted his head lazily and opened his mouth. Jon watched in stunned fascination as an orange light grew from deep within Drogon's throat and rushed forward, igniting the bonfire before them.
Daenerys smirked and turned toward Jon, raising her eyebrow in amusement. Jon chuckled in response and shook his head.
"Alright. I've got a lot to learn, haven't I? I've not got a lot of experience with dragons just yet. Nor have I with fish, but I'll tend to them now if you'd like. It's been a long day."
"For both of us," Daenerys said.
"Aye, s'pose so."
They worked together, a peaceful silence filling the night, until they had enough fish to feed themselves and even a small pile of cooked fish for each dragon as a treat.
"I think tomorrow we can push a little bit further than we did today. The safest place for us to camp tomorrow night will be in the Neck. There's an old castle there, Moat Cailin. I believe it should be abandoned at this point. Lady Brienne said Petyr Baelish marched his army into Winterfell long ago and they were the last ones to hold up at the towers of Moat Cailin. It's Stark territory, anyway, so we should be safe and from there it will be an easy journey to Winterfell.
"Are you excited?" Daenerys plucked a piece of fish from its bones and placed it in her mouth, looking at Jon with a sort of mischievous light that reminded him achingly of Ygritte.
"What do you mean, 'for'? To see Arya and Bran again! You know, the siblings you thought were dead…?"
Jon chuckled and nodded, glancing at Rhaegal.
"Honestly, I am. I have this vision in my head… Landing Rhaegal in Winterfell and seeing them both for the first time while riding a dragon."
He laughed harder and shook his head.
"It's madness, really. I know in my rational mind we'll have to arrive in Winterfell under the cover of darkness. I don't feel it would endear the Northern Lords to see you fly in on dragonback, however stunning the sight is. I fear it may cause a panic before I can suppress it. We're better served keeping your arrival a secret until I'm ready to reveal it. I won't have an opportunity to show off to my siblings, even if I want to."
Daenerys took a swallow from one of the waterskins and passed it to Jon. He took it from her and drank enough to abate the dryness in his mouth before passing it back to her.
"It's a stunning sight, is it? Me on dragonback?"
Jon looked up at her, feeling warmth rising within him.
"It is. You know it is. You yourself planned that entrance back at the Dragonpit. I believe you know the effect you have on those around you, whether riding a dragon or not."
"And what effect is it I have on you, Jon Snow?"
Jon hesitated, lowering the hand that was preparing another helping of fish. He stared at her, looking into her bright, vivid eyes.
"I believe you know exactly the effect you have on me, My Queen."
Daenerys flushed and looked away from him. Her eyebrows working gently as she struggled to keep her composure. Her eyes focused on the air above him and she leaned back on her palms.
"It's a shame we can't see the stars from here. The mist is too heavy for even the moonlight to break through."
Jon watched her, knowing she expected him to follow her lead and allow the change of topic. Instead, he leaned forward slightly, pulling her attention back to him.
"I'll never regret it," Jon said. "Pledging myself to you. We may not survive the Great War, but at least I can say I've done one thing right: followed my heart where it led."
"You look at me and speak as though you're pledging more than just fealty. Sometimes when you look at me, I feel as though you're… You're feeling some sort of affection for me."
"Some sort of affection?" Jon repeated with a chuckle. "How much has Lord Tyrion told you about my past? A lot, I presume?"
Daenerys nodded and Jon sat back, setting the rest of his meal aside.
"Then you must know how I came to be friends with the Free Folk. I broke my vow; went against the words of the Brothers of the Nights Watch. I fell in love with a girl and I used that love to rationalize my broken vow. I don't regret loving her, but I am ashamed of the way it happened. I carry that with me even now, long after she died."
He looked away from the fire and caught Daenerys's gaze. She was watching him intently with no visible emotion to give away her thoughts.
"Sometimes, when I look at you," he continued. "I feel some of the same feelings I felt with her. My pulse races, I feel the blood flowing inside me, and I feel as though my stomach might fall from my body. 'Affection' is not the right word, Daenerys. What I feel for you is much closer to what I felt for her, only without the shame and with an intensity and longing I could never have fathomed before."
Daenerys stared at him. Jon felt all those things now and was sure he saw some of them building in her eyes as well. Slowly, her lips parted and she smiled, a flush filling her cheeks.
"She must have been quite a strong personality to have influenced someone as noble as you; to have gotten you to step outside even the most flexible definition of honor."
"Aye," Jon said. "You'd have liked her. She didn't take any man's shit."
Daenerys laughed again and took a deep, steadying breath.
"And what do you see when I look at you, Jon?"
"Affection," he teased causing her to laugh loud enough to wake Drogon and Rhaegal.
"I don't believe that is the right word," she said, amusement lacing her words. "Perhaps we should come up with our own word."
Jon tossed the rest of his meal over his shoulder to Rhaegal and Daenerys did the same to Drogon. They sat across from one another, the flames dancing across the curves of their faces. Jon felt a certain lightness in his spirit that he could not remember having felt since he was a child. Perhaps the closest he had come was when he'd seen Sansa arrive at Castle Black those many months ago. Realizing he wasn't the only one left alive had made his heart soar.
Now he found himself, once again, feeling as though he wasn't alone.
"Devotion," Daenerys said, finally, bringing Jon's heart to an abrupt and irreparable stop.