A/N: Written for the Valentine's Day theme challenge at Valyrian_Forged on LJ.
You Loved Me Still the Same
I dreamt that suitors sought my hand;
That knights upon bended knee,
And with vows no maiden heart could withstand,
They pledg'd their faith to me;
And I dreamt that one of that noble host
Came forth my hand to claim.
But I also dreamt, which charmed me most,
That you lov'd me still the same.
(-"The Gipsy Girl's Dream," from The Bohemian Girl)
One by one, the men make their way down the narrow carpet that runs the length of the great hall, between the dragon skulls restored to their former glory, and lay their gifts before the Iron Throne.
The queen's silver slippered feet scarcely touch the floor, peeking out from beneath the folds of her gown of dusky rose-colored silk, though she perches at the very edge of her seat. She looks every inch the girl she is, seated upon the cushions with which Ser Barristan Selmy had padded her hard wooden bench in her pyramid in Meereen.
Few as her name days number, Daenerys is no child, and the men who bow before her are suitors. Their gifts were carefully chosen and presented on this, the Day of Lovers, imported at great cost from across the Narrow Sea to win the heart and hand of the Dragon Queen whose realm is cloaked in winter: Myrish lace and bolts of silk from Norvos to appeal to the feminine sensibilities of the most beautiful woman on earth; green nectar and pear brandy to delight her palate; tapestries made on the famed looms of Lys to beautify her Red Keep. Gifts any man might make to any woman, and Daenerys, notes the white-cloaked Lord Commander who looms at her right hand, eyes them without the sense of awe that had illuminated her violet eyes when such gifts had been made to her upon her first marriage, years before, to Khal Drogo.
The suitor who receives more enthusiastic thanks than all the rest presents her with a gleaming suit of armor: chainmail and plate, light of weight but strong as the girl-queen for whom it's been tailor made and polished to a sheen as clear as a looking glass, reflecting her fair visage at varying angles, the helm a crown of three dragons with bright ruby eyes more brilliant than those which the Usurper's war hammer hand pounded from Prince Rhaegar's breastplate. For a moment the Lord Commander's pulse quickens beneath his own immaculate white gorget, only to fall once more into its regular steady rhythm when the queen nods her dismissal to the armor-bearer, a slight smile curving the corner of his mouth at the spurned suitor's crestfallen expression. But are the muttered curses at the loss of Daenerys' hand, or the small fortune that would now protect some other man's lady wife?
Next come two page boys of the queen's own household, bearing between them a young potted tree. Of all the gifts that have been brought into the red marble hall, none has inspired so much murmuring or craning of necks as the hundreds assembled in the court vie for position to catch a glimpse of the first green leaves since the snows buried the forests and orchards of the Seven Kingdoms lo these many months hence.
As the tree is set below the dais, its willowy branches bow down to Queen Daenerys with more humility than any of her previous suitors, beneath the weight of the heart-shaped pink and gold fruit.
"Peaches," Daenerys says, her dainty feet finding the floor.
"From an anonymous suitor, Your Grace," says one of the pages.
The queen, notes the Lord Commander, flushes prettily as she peers down at the tree, her pale skin almost matching the hue of the peach, but her brow does not furrow even for a second in puzzlement at this mystery that has set her court to speculating and her suitors to scowling.
"Whatever suitor has brought this gift," her piping tones carry above the din of the throne room, though it is the Lord Commander who holds his breath for her words, "shall sup with me this night in mine own apartments."
When Jorah enters the queen's chambers that night, Daenerys' unlined face still bears no trace of surprise, not because his duties as Lord Commander of her Queensguard find him often alone with her, even here, but because she'd never had any doubt which of her suitors she had summoned. The gift that had pleased her most as Khal Drogo's bride had been the simplest, too: a stack of old books from her homeland, given by a poor exile knight.
"You brought me a peach," she says from where she reclines upon cushions across the vast room, as she'd been wont to do during their sojourn in Qarth-in Meereen, too. But Jorah mislikes thinking too much on Meereen.
"I brought you a peach tree," comes his reply, husky as he steps into the flickering circle of light cast by candles and hanging lanterns with colored glass globes that wash her skin in jewel tones, and sees that she is clothed much as she had been in Qarth, as well; neither of her breasts is bared, but both are only thinly veiled in a swath of sheer silk that covers but one creamy shoulder.
There it stands, Jorah's offering of love. So humble the sapling amid the treasures lavished upon her this Lovers' Day, yet taller than all of them. The shadow of its branches stretches across them like a protective hand, its fruit red gold in the candlelight.
"In Vaes Tolorro." Daenerys lifts one hand from where it rests languidly on a cushion to caress the velvet skin of the lowest hanging fruit-though she makes no move to pluck it. "I had thought we would perish in the Red Waste. But you brought me a peach."
Jorah thinks the glimmer in her eyes may be tears; his own throat tightens, and aches, as he swallows. "It was a small and shriveled thing, my queen. I had naught else to give you."
Her eyes flicker up from the fruit to meet his, startling him with their bright purpleness. "Naught else but your sword, and your heart? Naught but your service, your obedience, and your very life?"
Her fingers stray from the fruit, reaching out to brush the tips of his where they hang at his side. Jorah feels the calluses on them, on her palms, raised there by the rein when she rode with Khal Drogo, and then across Essos, conquering Astapor, Yunkai, Meereen; his eyes stray to her bare shoulders and note the pale scars made by the claws of her dragons, when they had been small enough to ride her. Daenerys has not become the Dragon Queen of the Seven Kingdoms because she rested while other men fought for her, and her grip on Jorah's hand is strong; she draws him down onto his knees before her.
"Small and shriveled and sweet," she murmurs, bringing his hand to her lips, her warm breath like a kiss upon his knuckles. "I have tasted a great many delicacies from exotic Eastern lands, but nothing so sweet as that peach in the City of Bones."
"You may now." Jorah's other hand leaves its customary place at the pommel of his sword to gesture to the tree. "Why have you not yet plucked one?"
"Because I would share it with you, my bear. Together we partook of the hope that we would not die in the hard heat of that desert. So should we taste together the promise that we shall not die in the cold of the winter."
Jorah need not say, Nor shall my love for you. Not even if you take your third husband or your second lover, for Daenerys knows it already. Upon her victorious conquest of Westeros, he the general of her army, she had rewarded his service with a choice: the lordship of his beloved Bear Island, or command of her Queensguard.
He'd chosen her.
And now, she chooses him.
With a rustle of leaves he picks the low hanging peach from the thin young tree, its rosy skin soft against the palm of his hand. He offers it to his queen, and she pushes up on her elbow to receive it. Rather than take it in her hand, her fingers close around Jorah's wrist as she tilts her head upward, sinking her white, even teeth into the yielding flesh as he holds it for her. The fruit is fully ripe, and as the juices shimmer on her lips and drip down her chin, he has a flash of remembrance of her pale face and teeth stained crimson; the blood had been a horse's, but it had been Jorah's heart she'd sunk her teeth into that night in Vaes Dothrak. But though Daenerys' eyes had then glowed with the fire of her success, she had not closed them in ecstasy as she swallowed, nor had a soft mmm emitted from her lips, drawing Jorah back to the present moment.
"Taste," she murmurs, her hands around Jorah's wrist guiding the peach toward his mouth.
"As my queen commands," he replies, and dips his head to eat of the fruit.
The familiar flavor of a peach fills his mouth, but not because he meets the expected fuzz of its skin or the pulp of its flesh, Daeny having leaned in at the last moment before he could bite into it to kiss him. Her mouth is slick and sweet and more to be savored than any food to pass between his lips; when her fingers leave his wrist to cup his cheek-the ruined one, forever branded with his shame no matter how white the cloak he is given or how high the position to which he is raised-he covers it with his own hand, pressing her palm so tight as not to leave a hair's breadth between her skin and his skin, as if to affix her love there permanently with the sticky juice of the peach to wear as a badge of honor.
Daenerys, however, has other plans for her hand, which reflexively goes out to cradle her head when she moves her supporting arm from beneath her to unclasp his cloak pin, pulling him down atop her on the silken cushions. As her nimble fingers make swift work his the various buckles and laces of his leather pauldrons and breastplate and bracers and his sword belt, a question flits through Jorah's mind about where she obtained so much practice at undressing a man in armor. He pushes it aside easily enough with the thought that in this moment, Daenerys' experience is all to his benefit; his jealousy is forgotten altogether when he catches sight of her hardened nipples beneath her gown.
He shifts his body down along hers to kiss the buds which, through the sheer silk, appear the same color as the ripe peaches on her tree. And, he finds when he slides the single strap down over her shoulder so he can take first one bare breast, and then the other, into his mouth, they taste at once like the lingering sweetness of the fruit upon his tongue and salty as only human flesh, slightly dampened with sweat, can taste.
When Daenerys' slight body squirms beneath him, her hands pushing against his shoulders, Jorah fears for a moment that he has overstepped the unclear boundary between them, that she has become aware of her actions and regrets them, as she had done the first time-the last time-he'd kissed her aboard the ship to Astapor. The tense lines of his face melt into a smile, however, when Daenerys tugs her half-shed gown the remainder of the way over her hips; he wastes no time stripping off his own white tunic and boots and breeches so that he may fully enjoy her nakedness by being nude with her.
"And here I thought you'd invited me to sup on peaches." He kisses her from navel to neck as he stretches himself over her once again, her skin mottled pink like the flesh of the fruit as his beard prickles over her softness.
"After you've worked up an appetite," Dany replies, breathless.
"I've had an appetite for you for years," Jorah says, nipping at her collarbones and back down the valley between her breasts, his mouth making its way back up over the mounds of her small breasts until his tongue swirls over the hard dark tip of one nipple while his fingers tease the other. "When it comes to you, Daenerys, I'm a starving man."
"Then be filled," she whispers, and her mouth captures his in a hard, deep kiss as her legs wrap around his waist. Her ankles cross so that her heels fit into the small of his back and pull him down into her, her tight wet folds giving way to his cock as easily as the flesh of the peach had yielded to Daenerys' teeth.
The first thrust is nearly enough to make him spill into her the instant he feels the jut of her hips pressed into his. But Jorah knows what it is to be hungry, and that he should not devour her too quickly.
Willing himself to hold back, he bites down. On her lip; the metallic tang of her blood mingles on his tongue with the peach that still lingers in her mouth. Fire and blood, he thinks, for his body burns for her as it never has in all the years of longing for her.
Slowly he withdraws, holding himself over her on arms whose muscles coil tight as ropes beneath his skin. Until Daenerys whimpers my lord, and then he rocks down and in, bearing against her mound until she makes a low sound in her throat, then pulls out again. Down. In. Her hips rise up to meet his this time, and they fall into a rhythm of pleasure that makes it seem to him as if they have been together like this for as long as they have been apart. Or longer.
Yet for all that, when Jorah does drive into her at a pace over which he no longer possesses control, his shuddering growl of completion all but swallowed up by her shriek that echoes off the marble floors and the vaulted ceiling of red stone, he wonders how it could have ended so soon. However, he takes no little satisfaction when he at last tears his eyes away from the naked queen panting beneath him and sees that the candles stand a good deal shorter upon their pillars than when Daenerys first bid him enter her chamber. Without any undue reluctance he slips out of her; at least, parting from her is a little easier to bear when she grabs his discarded white cloak of the Queensguard and wraps it around herself. The royal apartment is cold, gooseflesh prickling both their sweat-dampened bodies, and though they have partaken of summer fruit and warmed each other with the act of love, beyond the darkened windowpanes he can just make out a fresh white sprinkle of snowflakes.
"Your appetite for me," Daenerys says when she has caught her breath enough to speak. "Is it quite sated?"
"Never," Jorah replies, and her answering smile causes him to smile back at her. "But I would rather like that peach now."
He retrieves the bitten fruit from where it has rolled onto the floor, and, giving it to Daenerys, reaches to pick a second for himself off the tree.
"Wait," Daenerys' voice stays his hand, her eyes round and darting from fruit to fruit hanging from the sinewy branches of the young tree. "We shouldn't eat them all at once. We've a long winter ahead of us."
Jorah plucks the peach anyway and takes a big bite as he settles down once again close beside her on the cushions, to share his cloak with her. "We shall plant the pits in glass gardens. And grow more."
She opens her mouth, and Jorah silences any argument she might have made by touching his peach-slicked lips to hers. "We shall not die in this winter, my queen."