Tyrion's words painting a brutal picture of blood-soaked liberations ringing in his ears, Jon eases the door closed behind him and buries his face against the wood. Nightmarish images of his siblings being dragged into the courtyard of a burning Winterfell to await execution play on his mind's eye. He swallows against the nausea rising in his throat and shakes his head to clear it.
He must find Daenerys. He knows he is not an eloquent man and as he strides past the row of Unsullied who line the decimated corridors of the Red Keep, he struggles to find the words that will bring her back from the abyss. He thinks of the bold and beautiful queen he had come to know on Dragonstone, the savior who flew her dragons beyond the wall to rescue him and his men, the girl he had come to love over long nights aboard a ship bound north. He has to believe that he can reach her. Has to believe he could not have been so wrong.
What is honor compared to a woman's love.
The frail, reedy sound of Maester Aemon's voice echoes in his head and he thinks of his parents. They had sacrificed their honor on the altar of their love and set into motion decades of horror resulting in the deaths of others in numbers too unimaginable to calculate in the countless wars and conflicts which had arisen as one faction after another emerged to try to claim the throne and the power it represents. The weight of his parents' folly lies over his shoulders like a mantle forged of chain linked metal.
He is the living embodiment of their reckless romance and he understands now that their legacy to him has always been a throne he has never wanted and the duty to end what they had begun.
He comes to a stumbling halt when confronted with the dragon curled up at the entrance to the keep like a sleepy guard dog. There is a small part of him that wishes the creature would challenge his passage and prevent him from climbing the crumbling remains of the stairs leading to the throne room. But weeks of growing familiarity with Daenerys' children – or perhaps the Targaryen blood which flows through his veins – allows him to pass unmolested.
He watches from the shadows as Daenerys approaches the throne. The gaping wounds in the walls and ceiling reveal the fires still flickering in the distance as snow and ash gently fall around her and he closes his eyes against the sight of the loving caress of her fingers over the pommel of one of the swords that comprises the hulking, ugly chair.
Please, he prays, to any god – old or new – who will listen. Please do not make me do this thing...
She turns and sees him as he steps out of the shadows.
"When I was a girl, my brother told me it was made with one thousand swords from Aegon's fallen enemies." Her face is alight with wonder.
"What do a thousand swords look like to a little girl who can't count to twenty?" She takes a step toward him and her laughing eyes meet his as she invites him to share in her childhood memory. "I imagined a mountain of swords too high to climb. So many fallen enemies you could only see the soles of Aegon's feet."
Her tone of voice is playful. Her smile one of infectious joy and he wonders how he can reconcile this incandescent woman before him with the one who had wrought the devastation in the streets below this ruined tower. Her cavalier tone is frightening in the wake of her destructive actions.
"I saw them executing prisoners on the street," he growls wanting to shock her into acknowledging what she had done. "They said they were acting on your orders." He crosses the stone floor, his gaze boring into hers, looking for any sign of remorse; silently begging her to deny it.
The easy smile drops away from her face.
"It was necessary."
"Necessary?" Incredulous, he takes one step back. "Have you been down there? Have you seen?" Shock reverberates in his voice as rage uncoils within him like a writhing snake. "Children!" he shouts. "Little children burned!"
The sudden rage gives way to a growing despair as he watches a blank expression come over her features.
"I tried to make peace with Cersei. She used their innocence as a weapon against me. She thought it would cripple me."
Her voice is soft. Reasonable. And he needs so badly for her to say something that will make him understand that for a moment, he almost wavers. But then the winds shift, bringing with them the acrid smell of the smoldering city below and his anger swells again.
"He conspired behind my back with my enemies." She moves closer to him, a look of pleading for understanding in her lovely eyes. "How have you treated people who have done the same to you?" she asks, her voice cracking with emotion as she seeks to connect with him. "Even though it broke your heart."
Jon thinks of Olly and of his own regrets and in that moment he is broken, his rage washing away beneath exhaustion and sorrow.
"Forgive him." Be better than me, he urges wordlessly.
"I can't." she whispers.
"You can. You can forgive all of them," he pleads. "Make them see they made a mistake. Make them understand." Help me to understand for I cannot. Grief weights his words. "Oh, please Dany."
He hears the naiveté, the childish plea in his voice and some part of him knows that his request is falling on deaf ears but then she looks away from him, conflict forming a crease between her brows and for a moment he sees her – the woman he fell in love with – and he thinks he is reaching her.
"We can't hide behind small mercies," she murmurs. "The world we need won't be built by men loyal to the world we had."
Her voice is soft and as patient as a parent counseling a confused child.
"The world we need is a world of mercy," he counters. "It has to be."
"And it will be." The beautiful smile he loves curves her lips. "It's not easy to see something that's never been before." She moves closer and her eyes are alight with the fervor of her own beliefs.
"A good world," she whispers, laying a delicate hand upon the boiled leather of his armor.
"How d'you know?" His northern burr thickens as tears fill his eyes and clog his throat. "How d'you know it'll be good?"
"Because I know what is good," she tells him in a tone so calm and sure. "And so do you," she whispers intimately.
"I don't," he tells her dejectedly for he cannot make any sense of a good world birthed from so much horror.
"You do," she croons. "You've always known."
She gathers him into her arms, one hand on his shoulder as she rises onto her toes to better meet his tortured gaze, until her lovely face fills his view.
His heart breaks then for he does know what duty requires he do and yet he is so tired he wants nothing more than to lay his head upon her shoulder and rest. He stares into her eyes and for one wild moment he wonders if he can simply take her from this place and find some quiet spot away from war and death – back to their waterfall where they can live the rest of their lives in peace.
But he sees that fervent light in her eyes and he knows that nothing he says – nothing he is – nothing he can offer – will ever be enough to pull her away from the lure of the throne she has chased all her life.
"What about everyone else?" he asks brokenly. "All the other people who think they know what's good?"
She settles back onto her heels, her expression placid and patient as she says, "They don't get to choose."
He thinks of all those people in the city below – the elderly and the infirm, the men, women and children who didn't choose to be pawns in this war between two queens. Cersei and Daenerys had chosen for them and he knows that Dany will not stop now. He thinks of his siblings. Of the North and of Winterfell. Of how he had worked and sacrificed and died to save its people from the threat beyond the Wall.
And in his heart he knows his home will be next. Knows the North and his family will be forced to submit or suffer the same consequences as this wretched place.
"Be with me," she begs, drawing his hand up to her face. "Build a new world with me. This is our reason," she breathes. "It has been since the beginning. Since you were a little boy with a bastard's name and I was a little girl who couldn't count to twenty."
His eyes rove over her beloved features and in her words he hears the distant echo of the queen he had pledged himself to in the belief that they could make the world a better place. He remembers the bastard boy of his childhood whose dreams had been to make something of himself and to find his own place in the world.
Bastard no more, he is both the son of a fallen prince and of the honorable Eddard Stark.
"We do it together. We break the wheel together," she breathes, love in her eyes.
"You are my queen. Now and always." Heart breaking, he has nothing left to offer her but this final vow before taking her mouth with his in one last kiss.
He feels the serrated gasp she takes against his lips. Hears the echo of Olly's blade penetrating his heart. Understands that the look of shock and betrayal in her eyes is a mirror of his own on that fateful night. He wants to beg for her absolution and knows he does not deserve it.
Weeping, he cradles her in his arms and watches the light fade from her eyes. He does not know how long he holds her as the snow continues to fall about them. The world is still and silent, the only sound is that of his own breath escaping in hitching gasps as tears roll down his face to soak into his beard.
Torn between his loyalty to her and his duty to the realm, his was the final betrayal.
"I'm sorry." He lowers his face to hers and whispers the words into her ear. "I am so sorry." A tear splashes from his cheek to hers in a final benediction. He presses one last kiss against her lips. He tastes the blood that trickles from the corner of her mouth and in that moment, he wants nothing more than to follow her into oblivion.
A/N: I have a handful of chapters already written as well as a slew of notes "scribbled" on my phone which need to be put into some cohesive form of writing.
I see this as an eventual Jon/Sansa pairing - but it will be a while before we get there. And in no way do I intend to vilify Daenerys. I have long loved her character and I choose to believe that too much loss and too many betrayals - both real and imagined - pushed her to a breaking point.
This first chapter is a re-telling of that final scene in the throne room as I imagined it from Jon's POV. The rest of the story will be original scenes.