Jon didn’t know how long he and Daenerys sat in silence after he’d finished reading Ned’s letter out loud, trying—and failing—to grasp the magnitude of his words. He stared so long at the scribbled missive, the ink started to bleed together before his eyes, the parchment crinkling in his tightening fist.
They only stirred from their collective bewilderment when Torrhen’s and Nymeria’s voices carried from downstairs, the two bickering over whose turn it was to wash the dishes now that they’d broken their fast.
Startled out of her stupor, Daenerys abruptly sucked in a sharp breath. “What does he mean, war?” she demanded, her voice thin. “He wants us to go to war for—for—for what, exactly?”
Jon blinked slowly and loosened his grip on the scroll before he inadvertently destroyed it. “The throne, apparently,” he said hollowly.
Pale-faced and blank-eyed, she stared at him. Then a sudden bark of laughter burst from her lips, so unexpected, it gave him a start. He could only gape at her stupidly. “Oh, he can’t be serious!” she guffawed, sounding on the edge of hysteria. “He lied to us and about us for years! He drove us apart—supposedly to prevent a war, and now he wants us to do just that? Well, bugger him, and bugger that!”
His mind was still reeling, and it took him a moment to grope for a response to Daenerys' exclamation. “But...it’s true. What he said,” he found himself saying, not even sure he meant to defend Ned or agree with him. He was simply grasping at the tangible facts before him. “The throne is ours. The king knows it, which is why he wants you and your children dead.”
It was her turn to gape at him, eyes wide and unblinking. “Jon. Tell me you don’t mean—you can’t be thinking—” Struggling with her words, she gestured wildly at the scroll in his hand. “By what right is it ours? I’ve only visited the Red Keep a handful of times in my life. Seven hells, you’ve never even seen the bloody thing!”
Her point was valid, but it irritated him all the same. He sneered. “Aye, because I was secreted away to the North because my identity was that much of a threat to the Baratheons.”
She scoffed. “Yes, being Targaryens is what’s nearly gotten us all killed! Do you forget why we’re here, in Essos?”
He set his jaw stubbornly. “Of course not. We wouldn’t be on the run like this if we had the bloody throne. We could protect ourselves then.”
“Sure, never mind it’s the throne that got our family killed in the first place,” she said bitingly, crossing her arms over her chest, which made him scowl, her opposition frustrating him. How could she not see what he saw?
“No, the Lannisters and the Baratheons did that. If they hadn’t killed our family, we’d be in King’s Landing right now, instead of here, washing some fat noble’s clothes and fishing clams out of the harbor to eat. You wouldn’t have been forced to marry Robb, and I wouldn’t have been forced to the bloody Wall to rot for the last fourteen years of my life, and we’d be safe and happy with our daughter right now!”
At his outburst, silence fell between them. “And Torrhen?” she asked after a moment, her quiet voice cutting right through his surging anger. “What of my son? Where would he be?” Of course, Jon didn’t have an answer to that. She shook her head, her eyes turning wet. “I know it’s different for you, Jon, but...I can’t unwish any of this because if I did, I’d be wishing I never had Torrhen, and—I can’t do that. I just can’t. It kills me thinking of you on the Wall, what you went through, what happened to you, but I love my son. I can’t imagine my life without him or Nymeria.”
Swallowing thickly, he looked away. That was the crux of the issue, wasn’t it? Things had happened that were out of their control, and there was nothing they could do to change it.
When he finally spoke, his voice came out gruff. “I know. I wouldn’t ask that of you, Dany. I wouldn’t want that either. He’s a good lad.” A child wasn’t responsible for his father’s sins. Just like neither Jon nor Daenerys deserved what had happened to them because of their own fathers’ misdeeds. With a rough sigh, he glanced down at the parchment again. “It’s just...it’s hard not to wonder what would have happened with you and me…”
Softening, Daenerys unfolded her arms and scooted across the floor to sit beside him. “I know,” she said, resting her chin on his shoulder. “Maybe in another life things would have been easier for us.” She shrugged. “Then again, maybe they would have been worse.”
That was always a possibility, he supposed. The Baratheons or the Lannisters or any other house could have come for them eventually, and he and Daenerys could both be dead. At least, for now, they were together.
After a moment of contemplative silence, she made an amused sound. “You know...if our family hadn’t lost the war, if our siblings hadn’t been slaughtered, you probably would have married your sister, and I probably would have married my brother.”
Wrinkling his nose in distaste, he managed a chuckle. “Gods, our family is bloody foul. I can’t imagine being with Arya or Sansa in that way.”
She snorted. “If you’d grown up expecting it, you might feel differently.”
He swallowed a reflexive gag and shook his head. “Doubt it.” He turned his face toward hers, and she lifted her chin from his shoulder. “Now, if you were my sister...”
A smile spread across her mouth. “Now who’s the foul one, fantasizing about bedding his own sister,” she teased, brushing her lips against his. He kissed her, sweeping his tongue into her mouth, and the letter fell from his hand, momentarily forgotten. Twisting at the waist, he lowered her to the floor and crawled on top of her. She cupped his face to hold him close, fingers threading through his beard, and as he moved between her legs, she brought her knees up around his waist.
“Let me show you what else I fantasized about,” he murmured hotly against her mouth, tongue grazing hers. His hand reached for her skirts to ruck them up to her hips, but just then Torrhen yelled from downstairs, his voice a bucket of ice water on their lusty intentions.
“Jon! We ate and washed up, like you asked! Can we go outside and practice at swords now?”
Frazzled, Jon quickly sat back on his haunches as Daenerys shot up into a sitting position, narrowly avoiding knocking him in the chin. Hurriedly, she fixed her skirts around her legs, but fortunately they didn’t hear the accompanying creak of children’s steps on the stairs. Jon scrubbed his hands through his hair and blew out a breath, trying to cool his overheated blood before yelling back, “Aye, I’ll be there in a minute, lad!”
Her pretty face pink, Daenerys scrambled to finish gathering up the laundry. “I’ve got to get started on this.”
“When will you be done with the wash?” he asked, and she sighed wearily, getting to her feet.
“Probably not till supper, unfortunately.” She bent over to kiss him, her lips lingering on his before she pulled away. She stroked her thumb over his mouth, and he fought the urge to wrap his lips around it. “We can talk more about this tonight, if you wish? I’m sure hearing from Ned after so long is upsetting,” she said, eyes cutting to the letter. Her brow was furrowed, conflict in her expression.
Jon shook his head, not wanting to admit how rattled he was. “I’m fine.” At her doubtful look, he grudgingly amended, “You’re right. It’s a bit...disconcerting, getting this letter after all these years. But I’ll be fine. I promise.”
With a lingering glance, Daenerys hitched the woven basket onto her hip then strode out of the room. He listened as she ascended the steps to the roof, not letting out his breath until he heard the hatch close behind her.
Absently, he lifted the abandoned scroll from the floor, smoothing it out on his thigh to read again. I can no longer make your choices for you...It is for you to decide now, what you want to do with your life. At that part, his temper sparked once more, and he crumpled the parchment in his fist.
“Bloody convenient, that is, with you being dead and all,” he muttered to himself. Annoyed, he shook his head and dragged himself to his feet. He gathered up all the pieces of the scroll, including Benjen’s letter, and shoved them into his emptied sack. Daenerys was right. It was absurd, outlandish. What had Ned been thinking? How could the two of them even hope to take on the king and claim an entire kingdom for themselves? Even if that kingdom should be theirs…
No. It was too dangerous, not just for him and Daenerys, but for Nymeria and Torrhen, too.
Still, as he ventured back downstairs to tend to Nymeria and Torrhen, he couldn’t help but think that if they were in King’s Landing right now, instead of stuck here in Braavos, Daenerys wouldn’t have to leave her children every day to wash other people’s laundry. She could spend all her free time with them, like the family she—the family they both—deserved.
Jon was seated in the bath when a knock came on the door to his bedroom. He started to stand but thought better of it. “Come in,” he called, knowing only one person would be visiting him at this time of night.
The door opened to reveal Daenerys, as he’d expected. When she saw he was in the bath, she quickly slipped inside and shut the door behind her.
“Well, that’s a relief,” she said with a smile. “I thought you smelled a bit fishier than usual at supper tonight.” She sidled closer to the wood-and-copper-tub he’d dragged into his room and filled with hot water warmed on the brazier. Vogoros and Sirella only had the one tub they all had to share, and between the six of them, it was in use quite often. Jon usually waited till everyone else was in bed to take his baths.
With a sigh, he dropped his head back, his arms draped on the sides of the tub. “Aye, the Spotted Cellar reeks worse than the harbor.” Earlier in the day, he’d taken Torrhen there to watch the eel fights. In hindsight, it hadn’t been his best idea. At first, Torrhen had been excited at the prospect, but once he’d realized what an eel fight actually entailed, he’d started to cry, and Jon had whisked him out of there as quickly as he could, cursing his ignorance for his folly. Watching animals kill each other for sport probably wasn’t appropriate for a seven-year-old, but what did he bloody know about child-appropriate activities?
Thankfully, by the time they’d returned to the house, Torrhen had cheered up considerably and excitedly recounted their adventure to Nymeria as if he’d forgotten what had gotten him so upset in the first place. Nymeria had declined to accompany them to the Spotted Cellar—which was all right, Jon had told himself; some days she was still hesitant around him, but more often than not she was receptive to his company, though resigned might be a better word for it. However, as she listened to Torrhen’s tales, Jon had seen the flicker of envy on her face, and as nonchalantly as possible, she’d commented how she might like to see the eel fights one day. Between that and Torrhen’s meltdown, Jon considered the day a wash.
“I’m still sorry about scaring Torrhen,” he told Daenerys, sheepish. He’d already apologized to her earlier, as he’d made it a point not to keep anything from her, especially when it concerned her children. She’d assured him it was fine, but he still felt like a bit of a cur.
Daenerys perched on the edge of the tub. “I wouldn’t punish yourself too much about it. He’s seen worse. Robb tried to take him hunting when he was five, and he cried the entire time.”
Jon winced. Should he feel better or worse that he had as much paternal savvy as bloody Robb? “That’s how old we were when Ned took us,” he said, perhaps a bit defensively.
She dipped a hand into the water to test the temperature. “Well, that might explain a few things about you two then,” she said archly, flicking some water his way. When the droplets hit his face, he flinched and scowled, squinting at her through one eye, which made her grin.
He eyed her with sudden interest. “Would you like to join me?” He felt a bit shy asking; he’d never bathed with a woman before. Not that there’d been many opportunities to at the Wall, of course.
Amused, she raised her eyebrows. “In this little thing?” she asked, indicating the tub.
He crooked a suggestive smile at her. “I’m sure we can fit.”
Shaking her head, Daenerys stood up to strip out of her bedgown. He was appreciative of the fact she hadn’t bothered with smallclothes, which meant she’d come to him with the intentions of bedding him.
He held onto her hand as she lifted one leg over the side of the tub and stepped into the warm water. The other leg followed, and she let go of his hand once her balance was assured. Gripping the sides, Daenerys lowered herself into the other end of the tub, water sloshing over the sides as she shifted her body in between his legs, her steepled knees knocking against his. Awkwardly, they moved together, him going this way and her going that way, until their limbs were finally situated around the other’s.
“See? Perfect fit,” Jon boasted.
She pulled her braid over her shoulder, the wet plait laying across her bare breast. “The water’s gotten a bit cold.”
“Really?” His skin was still red from where the water touched it. “It feels amazing to me.”
“You’re probably used to taking baths in ice water,” she pointed out, and he chuffed.
“Most of the time, I suppose. The Night’s Watch also had hot stone tubs. Sometimes, if you were lucky, you could find one unoccupied.”
“And did your brothers in black help you wash your back?” she asked teasingly, and this time he was the one to flick some water at her, making her laugh. Abruptly, she stopped, pulling a face. “I think I’m sitting on something.” Squirming in the water, she reached a hand between her legs then pulled her hand out, triumphantly clutching the bar of tallow soap he’d dropped in the water earlier. Lathering it between her hands, she rubbed the suds up and down her arms, over her neck and face, then down across her breasts. All the while, he watched, his cock swelling despite the purely utilitarian purpose of her actions.
Daenerys splashed some water on her face and neck, rinsing off the soap. When she saw his blatant appreciation of her efforts, she rolled her eyes with feigned exasperation, a smirk teasing her mouth. “Have you cleaned yet?” she asked as she dunked her hand under the water, idly running the soap between her legs. She ogled his growing erection, as his bent legs did nothing to conceal it from her.
Jon shook his head. “Not yet,” he said, his voice deepening into a gravely husk. “Was just relaxing before you interrupted.”
She scoffed. “Is that all I am, an interruption?” He merely lifted his eyebrows at her as she brought the soap to his leg, rubbing it across his shin, up to his knee then down again, around to his taut calf. She repeated it on his other leg, and he closed his eyes, reveling in the feeling of her slippery hands on him.
Next, she took his cock in hand, gliding the soap up and down his shaft and over the head. He swallowed, the muscles in his neck straining. When she ran the soap down over his balls, fondling them in her hand, he groaned, his hips shifting restlessly. “Fuck, Dany.”
Daenerys hummed, the sound practically a purr, and wrapped her other hand around his shaft, stroking him as she ran the soap under his balls and farther back, until it pressed against the skin between his sack and arsehole. With a gasp, he jerked in the water, fists tightening around the wooden edge of the tub. Cracking his eyes open, he peered at her through the inky black fringe of his lashes, and she squeezed his cock, rubbing her thumb over the sensitive slit in the head.
“Dany.” He was already panting. “Come here.”
She laughed. “In here? Really?”
“You can sit on my lap,” he said hoarsely, already reaching for her in the water. Dubious but still willing, Daenerys released the soap and hoisted herself up, bathwater sluicing down her hips and thighs, so he could stretch his legs out some. Then she straddled him, carefully placing her feet on the outside of each of his thighs. As she lowered herself, he held onto her waist, and she gripped the wooden edge behind his shoulders, wedging her knees between the sides of the tub and his arse. It was a tight fit, and it took them a couple minutes of artless fumbling to get situated in a comfortable position, water splashing against the sides of the tub.
She held onto his neck, her cheeks flushed from the humid steam of the water. Beneath the water, Jon grasped his cock to angle it between her thighs, rubbing the head against her cunt along the silky split of her lips. Daenerys gasped as he ran his tip over her clitoris, and when she dropped her head back on her shoulders, he brought his face to her breasts, catching one of her nipples between his lips. He began to suck on it, laving his tongue around it until it was a stiff point, then he caught it between his teeth to pull.
She hissed through her teeth, nails digging into his shoulder muscles. “Not so hard,” she murmured, and he gentled his mouth around her, sucking lightly. With a sigh, she slid her hands up the back of his head to cradle him close, his curls slipping through her fingers.
“Jon,” she whimpered as he continued to stroke his cockhead over her clit. He turned his mouth to her other tit to tongue the nipple, sucking until it was tight and pink. She shifted restlessly in his lap, her hips swaying in rhythm with the strokes of his cock between her thighs, the water crashing in gentle swells against his chest. She gasped suddenly, that tell-tale hitch in her breath letting him know her release was upon her; angling his cock back, he notched the head against the slippery divot of her cunt and, pushing down on her hip, he thrust upward. She moaned as his cock sank into the slick heat of her channel. Her walls rippled around him with the contractions of her climax, his fat cock snug inside her, and he groaned, still mouthing at her breasts.
Breathing through her orgasm, Daenerys tugged on his hair to lift his face to hers and kissed him, slipping her tongue into his open mouth. Then she began to ride him, cautious swivels of her hips in his lap. Grabbing onto the side of the tub, she shifted her weight onto her knees and rose in the water, then lowered herself again, his cock pushing up inside her tight, hot channel, glancing against her womb. Jon held onto her hips to guide her, kissing her hungrily as she rocked on top of him, heedless of the water their lovemaking sent cascading over the tub to rain down on the floorboards.
It didn’t take long; maybe the heat of the water between them, cupping his balls, urged him to a quicker finish. When he came, he pushed her down onto his cock, shoving up inside her as deep as he could, gasping into her mouth. She sucked on his tongue and lips, clenching her inner muscles around his cock as he spent himself inside her.
“Dany,” he grunted into her kiss, and she moaned, rocking on top of him to aid him through the lingering convulsions. It should have disturbed him, how easily he’d warmed to the idea of spilling his seed inside her, but for some reason the thought always made him come harder, pleasure wracking through his body with every pulse of his cock.
With one last press of her lips to his, she settled on top of him, resting her head in the nook of his neck as she combed her fingers through his hair, made damp by her hands. They sat there for a while, skin turning pruney. Gooseflesh covered her skin now; even Jon could feel how drastically the water had cooled. He ran his hands up and down her sides to warm her. “Ready to get out?”
Nodding, she lifted her head and reached for the drying cloth on the nearby chair. As she stood, Jon kept his hands bracketed around her hips so she wouldn’t fall. Once she was safely out of the tub, he cupped some water in his hands and splashed it over his head, quickly combing it through his shaggy hair. It had gotten a bit longer in the weeks since Daenerys had cut it. Climbing out after her, he took the towel from her to run it up and down her body. She peered up at him, her eyes soft and adoring, and he paused to enjoy the moment, wrapping her in the towel and his arms. It was incredible they should be here, together, against all odds.
At that thought, another rolled in on its heels, as swift and unwelcome as a stormcloud: They could have had this, every day of the past fourteen years, if Robb hadn’t lied and Ned hadn’t conspired to keep them apart.
Daenerys noticed the shift in his expression. “What’s wrong?” she asked.
Unraveling the towel from around her, he shook his head and scrubbed it over his arms and legs to dry off. “Nothing,” he lied. “Let’s get in bed.”
She crawled into his bed naked, so he didn’t bother putting on his pants, sliding in beside her. The sheets were rough and scratchy on his skin, but when she snuggled up beside him, her skin felt like silk. As she rested her head on his chest, he wrapped his arm around her shoulder. He could probably go again, if she wanted to, but she didn’t instigate anything, and for the moment he was content to lie just like that, holding her close.
He stared at the ceiling overhead, the lone candle flickering and casting dim shadows around his room, and he found himself thinking of Robb and Ned again. His thoughts turned to Ned’s letter, as it often did these days. The scroll was still in his bag, tucked in the corner of his room, undisturbed but not forgotten. He hadn’t taken it out of his rucksack, busy as he was, whether at the docks or with the children or with Daenerys, but it hadn’t been far from his mind since the day he’d read it.
All through the land, people suffer greatly. They clamor for change, for something better. If they hear the dragons have returned, more might rally to your cause and raise their banners in your family's name.
“Jon.” Daenerys’ voice was quiet, crashing through his thoughts. He grunted absently in response. “I was thinking...maybe it’s time we look for our own place.”
He blinked, her words grabbing his full attention now. “Our own place?” he repeated.
“Yes. We can’t live here forever, can we? Sirella and Vogoros have been kind, but things are a bit...cramped as it is, with the six of us under one roof. And…” He felt her fingers dancing across his collar bone. “Well. I saw this one house, and it was rather charming. It had a red door and a lemon tree in the back. I’ve been saving my coin, and I know you have, too. I can probably take on some new patrons, do more laundry, and earn some more coin so we can afford to live on our own. What do you think?”
“I…” He cleared his throat. “It sounds nice, I suppose.”
At the silence that followed, she prodded. “But?”
Discomfited, he shifted underneath her. “Getting our own house sounds a bit...permanent, doesn’t it?”
It was her turn to be silent. After a moment, she lifted her head and looked at him, a frown furrowing her brow. “What’s wrong with that?” Her tone had chilled considerably now.
He licked his lips. “I just...I didn’t imagine we’d be here that long. Not forever, not the rest of our lives, certainly.”
She blinked at him, and her lips parted in disbelief. “Where exactly do you imagine us going next?”
He didn’t answer right away, and her expression changed, hardened. She pushed away from him slightly, braced on her elbow. “You’re still thinking about the letter, aren’t you? About going back to Westeros and, and—what, exactly? Deposing the king and claiming the throne for yourself?”
He clenched his jaw. “What if I am?”
She scoffed and sat up completely. “Jon. You can’t be serious. Overthrowing the bloody king—how? With what army?”
He glared at the ceiling instead of her. “Ned said it himself. There are men all over Westeros who would fight for us. For you, for your children. They’d rally to our side, the last Targaryens.”
“The last Targaryens who also happen to be fugitives!” she burst out. “You abandoned your post at the Wall, Jon! They hang men for that, you know! You think you can just march back into Westeros, and people will simply forget that?”
With a huff, he sat up, too. “I’m not that man, though. I took my vows under a false name and false pretenses,” he argued. “Why should I be beholden to them for the rest of my life? I’m not Jon Snow, man of the Night’s Watch. I never was!”
She looked at him like he’d sprouted another head. “So, what? Should we call you by another name now? What would you prefer? Aegon, perhaps?”
His face went hot as he glowered at her. “Aye, maybe.” Jon Snow was a bastard’s name, the name given to him by Ned Stark, a man who was not his father. That name had been used to shame him, to keep him cowed and unaware of who he truly was, what he truly was, and what rightfully belonged to him.
No—what rightfully belonged to them.
Daenerys shook her head slowly. “This is utterly absurd,” she muttered, crawling over him to get out of his bed. “I can’t believe we’re having this conversation.”
Incredulous, he watched her. “What are you doing?” he demanded as she snatched her bedgown off the floor and jerked it down over her head.
“I feel like I’m lying in bed with a stranger!” she snapped. “I lay down with Jon Snow, and all of a sudden he wants to be called Aegon Targaryen!”
He made to follow her, angrily pulling on his pants. “Seven hells, you're the one who suggested it! I'm not a fucking Snow, that's all I meant.” She huffed but said nothing, shoving her arms through the sleeves of her bedgown. Exasperated, he moved in front of her so she wouldn’t storm out of his room. “Dany, stop. Where are you going? You’re being dramatic!”
Her eyes widened comically. “Me? I’m the one being dramatic?” He winced, realizing that had most certainly been the wrong thing to say. “You’re the one fantasizing about riding into Westeros and claiming it like Aegon the Conqueror, as if it’s as simple as all that! Tell me, where exactly do you plan to get three dragons to help you?”
Well, when she put it like that, of course, it sounded ridiculous. Embarrassed, he scowled. “I’m not talking about bloody conquering.”
She gesticulated wildly. “No, you’re just talking about taking us to war, which will almost certainly get us and my children killed!”
“Nymeria is my bloody child, too,” he growled, and she looked at him imploringly.
“Yes, and you should want to keep her safe, just as I do!”
He gnashed his teeth in frustration. “I want to keep her safe, of course, I do! But I also want to give her something more, damn it!”
Daenerys fell quiet as she stared at him. “More than this? Because this isn’t enough for you, you mean?”
At the hurt in her voice, Jon faltered. There was a resignation in her face that shamed him. “No, that’s not—that’s not what I mean. Dany…” How could he make her understand? Helpless, he jabbed his hands through his hair. “It’s not about you or the children, it’s about me. I want to...I want to be something more, for you. For Nymeria and for Torrhen, too. I feel like...as Jon Snow, I’m nothing but a bastard, a foot soldier forced to the ends of this godsforsaken world because all I’m good for is doing someone else’s bidding. But...as a Targaryen...I could be a man that could provide for his family, in a way I can’t as just a simple bastard.”
Her eyes glistened with tears. “Jon Snow is the man I fell in love with,” she said quietly. “Jon Snow is the man who has my heart. He’s the man who gave me my daughter. What's so bad about being that man?”
Shamefaced, he dropped her gaze. He didn’t know what to say to that.
With a tremulous breath, she looked away. They were at an impasse, the silence stretching between them a delicate truce that would certainly be shattered by whomever spoke next. He did not want to be the one to break it.
Ultimately, Daenerys did. “I think I’m with child.”
Her words hit him like a punch to the stomach. “You—what?” he rasped. “With child? Right now?”
Exasperated, she turned her gaze back to him. “Yes, right now.” All he could do was gawk at her, head spinning from the revelation. Uncertainty clouded her expression then, her brow creasing. “I think I am. It’s not a certainty yet. But I haven’t gotten my moonblood in a month, almost two now. And...my breasts are a bit tender lately, which always happens when I’m pregnant.”
A month, almost two. That was only as long as he’d stopped pulling out. “My gods,” he croaked. His knees gave out underneath him, but thankfully the bed was at his back. He sat down on it, hard. “That was—that was rather fast, wasn’t it?”
At that, Daenerys scowled, crossing her arms over her chest. “Yes, that’s what happens when you spill your seed in a woman, Jon. I thought you understood that. I thought this is what you wanted.”
The sharpness in her tone surprised him, and he shook off his shock, bringing his gaze to hers. “I do! Of course, I—” Gods, why was he trembling? She was right; it was what he wanted. Still, it was hard to shed that deeply ingrained fear, the knee-jerk reflex that he couldn’t, shouldn’t father a child, another bastard like himself. He understood why she should be upset with him; truthfully, he was as frustrated with himself as she was. What a bloody, confusing mess he was.
“I’m sorry. I thought I’d have more time to—to acclimate myself to the idea of...You said it took a while with Torrhen and...you didn’t seem confident you could—that we could—that it would be possible,” he said, fumbling with the right words.
“I wasn’t confident,” she said. “But...Nymeria happened when we weren’t even trying.” Her arms slipped out of their defensive posturing, and she lifted them in a helpless shrug. “I didn’t want to say anything to you yet in case...well, it was around the two-month mark when I lost the others.”
At that, his eyes went round, not with shock but with fear. “Oh, gods, Dany. Should we not have—in the—” He gestured to the tub and then to her. “You should have stopped me! What if we did something to hurt it?”
Her face immediately softened, losing the edge their argument had placed there. Crossing to him, she tried to kneel down in front of him before he stopped her, grabbing her by her shoulders and guiding her to the bed. “Seven hells, Dany, don’t get on the floor!” he fretted.
Now she was back to being exasperated, albeit mildly amused. “Jon, it’s fine. Besides, the maester once told me that sex during pregnancy doesn’t hurt the child. Not that I ever put that particular theory to the test—though I suppose it never hurt Nymeria.” Her expression turned thoughtful. “Perhaps it helps, considering how easy that pregnancy was.”
“Gods, how can you even jest right now?” Jon felt like he was going to start climbing the walls of this room any moment now.
She huffed. “Women don’t lose their sense of humor just because they’re with child. And if I don’t make light of the situation, I might lose my mind, especially with the way you’re carrying on.”
With a pained grimace, he dropped his face into his hands. “Gods, I’m sorry. I don’t mean to worry you. I’m just—fucking hell, I’m scared, Dany.”
She placed a hand on his bare back. “Scared to be a father?” she asked, rubbing small circles between his shoulder blades.
He nodded into his hands. “Scared I’ll make a mess of it,” he admitted honestly.
Leaning close, she rested her chin on his shoulder. “Don’t be. You’re already doing a fairly good job at it now.”
Jon lifted his head, forcing her to sit back. “How can you say that? I made Torrhen cry, and Nymeria can barely tolerate me some days!”
“If you haven’t noticed, our daughter can barely tolerate me some days,” she pointed out lightly. “And I’ve already traumatized Torrhen plenty by dragging him across the Narrow Sea to a foreign city.”
“That wasn’t your fault,” he said automatically, and she gave him a significant look.
“And you want to drag them back to Westeros and put them through more hell?”
He flinched. “No. No. I don’t want to hurt them, or you.” He shifted his body toward her and took her face in his hands. “I would never do anything to endanger any of you. All I want, all I ever wanted, is to keep you safe and make you happy, Dany. I want to give you everything you deserve.”
“It’s what you deserve, too.” Tears glimmered in her eyes again, and she placed her hand over his. “I don't care what you call yourself, Jon, not truly. As long as I’m with you, I'll be happy. All of us, together.”
“That’s what I want, too. A life with you,” he said, and he meant it. He rested his forehead against hers.
“Is that going to be enough for you?” she asked, unconvinced.
He could kick himself for making her doubt him, making her doubt his love for her. “Aye. You’re more than enough, Dany. Nymeria, Torrhen…” Carefully, he placed his hand on her belly, his fingers trembling. “And this one, if the gods are kind. A family is all I ever dreamed of, but even if you—even if we couldn’t have that, even if it were just you and me, that would be enough. That would still be everything to me.”
Her bottom lip quivered, and she caught it between her teeth, tears sticking to her lashes. “I love you,” she whispered, and he pressed his lips to hers in a kiss.
“I love you, too,” he swore fiercely.
She clung to him, burying her face against his neck. He smoothed a hand down her braid then brought it to her belly again. It was as flat as he could remember it being. “You don’t feel any different,” he said tentatively.
Her soft laugh was muffled against his skin. “Not yet. Give it another month, gods willing.”
A baby grows inside her at this very moment, he thought in wonder. A baby they’d made together. And this time he would get to see her grow big and round with his seed; he would be there to see her bring their child into the world.
Yes, he decided resolutely. This was more than enough.
The next two months were taxing on Dany. Every day she woke, fearing that would be the day she lost the baby. Every minor twinge or discomfort sent her mind racing with terror. She found herself obsessively checking her smallclothes for blood or any other sign her body had betrayed her once again.
Only after the fourth month without her moonblood did she begin to relax, to accept she might be able to bear this one to term, after all. Jon still worried, however. More than once he suggested she stop washing laundry, afraid the labor would be too strenuous on her body, and while she had similar fears, she couldn’t, wouldn’t, let that dictate the rest of her life. And without the money she brought in, they would never be able to afford their own house, not on Jon’s earnings alone.
Although her worries receded with every passing day, Jon’s did not. To Dany, it seemed a miracle she should even find herself with child—with his child—once more, especially when she’d been convinced she would never bear another living child again. She couldn’t fault him for his anxieties; he’d never allowed himself to believe he would be a father. He’d been punishing himself for fourteen years for his perceived wrongdoings, and no doubt he believed the gods would exact their retribution by stealing this child as well. With those misgivings weighing on his mind, he was reluctant, even terrified, to bed her, despite her assurances that it would be fine.
So she tried not to push him, biding her time as he slowly worked through his fears. She slept in his bed, kissed him, but no more than that. She almost regretted telling him about the child so soon, but at least he hadn’t mentioned Ned’s letter or Westeros since.
Only once her belly began to swell did he touch her again—not with the carnal intentions she desired but with awe and reverence. It was only slight, but he could see and feel the difference now. As they lay in bed side by side, he would rest his hand on her stomach, caressing it lightly, and she would fall asleep just like that.
It wasn’t easy. Often she went to sleep with an ache between her legs and tears in her eyes. She knew the pregnancy was making her overly emotional; Nymeria and Torrhen had been the same. But deep down she also feared Jon might never want to make love to her again. She knew many lords who turned to mistresses and whores once they got their wives with child, as if their wives were nothing more than broodmares to bear them heirs. With Robb, Dany had had no concerns; having done her duty by him, the months of abstinence had been a relief, truthfully. But with Jon, she couldn’t bear it, not when her body craved his so desperately that even his scent, whether mixed with sweat or cut with soap, could have her cunt slick and pulsing within minutes of lying down beside him.
At her wit’s end, she couldn’t wait him out any longer. Most nights, he curled around her, his chest pressed against her back so he could cradle her belly in his hand. That night, when she felt the slight press of his cock against her arse, she didn’t ignore it as she had been. Instead, she began to shift her hips restlessly, rubbing her arse until his erection was straining against his pants, his hard shaft nestled in the cleft of her arse through her bedgown.
His breathing had quickened, and his hand curled around her hip then, maybe to stop her, but she refused to let him. Twisting in the bed to face him, she wriggled her hand down his pants to grasp his cock and stroke him. He was hard and hot in her palm, his breaths ragged and loud. He groaned, softly, and her heart swelled with hope, but when she went to kiss him, he turned his face away, his hand grabbing her wrist to still hers.
“Dany,” he murmured apologetically, almost chastening, and instantly, tears pricked her eyes.
“I want you,” she all but begged.
His throat bobbed. “We shouldn’t…”
She bit down on her lip to stifle the sob that hitched her breath. Stupid! she berated herself. She couldn’t cry now; he would think her silly and childish. “Tell me the truth, Jon,” she demanded, her voice shaky with tears. She tried to take a deep breath to steady it, but it was futile. “Do you not want me anymore? Is it the baby? Am I— am I undesirable to you now?”
Stunned, he stared at her. “Undesirable?” he repeated in disbelief. “What makes you think that?”
She wanted to shake him. “Jon, you won’t let me touch you, and you certainly won’t touch me!”
“Dany.” His voice was firm, unyielding. “I’ve never wanted you more in my life than I do right now. To me, you’re more beautiful than ever.”
At his words, relief washed through her, but confusion soon followed in its wake. “Then why don’t you want to make love to me?”
Sheepish, he averted his eyes. “I don’t want to hurt the baby, Dany.”
“I told you the maester said it was fine.”
“I know, but...it just seems too good to be true,” he admitted quietly. “I keep waiting for something to go wrong.”
Sniffling, she cupped his face. “I know. I understand, I really do. But before, even when I was careful, I still lost the babies. In the end, it didn’t matter what I did. You cannot know the gods’ whims, no more than I can.” She lifted his hand and pressed it against her belly again. “I’m already farther along than I ever was with those pregnancies. Only with Nymeria and Torrhen did I make it to four months, and they’re as healthy as ever.” She smiled faintly at him, tears spilling over and soaking into the pillow. “And with Nymeria, I jumped off a wall and broke my foot, and still nothing happened to her. Maybe she’s stronger for it. Sometimes, I think it’s the reason she’s as hard-headed as she is.”
Jon chuffed, just barely. “I’d rather you not make a habit out of jumping from walls when you’re with child.”
With a laugh, she wiped at the tears on her face. “You’re right. She obviously gets her hard-headedness from you, anyway.”
He brought his hand up to smooth her hair back from her face. His expression shifted, something shy and sweet tightening his face. “Gods, of course I want you, Dany. I’d like to see you naked, to see the way your body is changing with our child inside you, but...it seems wrong to ask.”
Without another word, she sat up and pulled her bedgown off over her head so she was naked before him. Lying down on her back, she widened her eyes at him expectantly. As he took her in, he licked his lips, gaze sweeping hungrily down the length of her body then up again, lingering on her breasts. They were a bit bigger now, tender, too, but when he finally touched them, she thought she might cry, her nipples so sensitive that even that slight graze of his thumb over them had her cunt tightening painfully with desire for him.
“Does it hurt?” he asked, apprehensive, and she shook her head frantically, cupping her hand around his to make him squeeze her breast harder.
“No,” she gasped. “Touch me, please.”
Emboldened by her begging, he stroked her nipples with his thumb. He was still too light in his touches, but he let her guide him, increasing his pressure when she encouraged him to pinch her nipples and knead her tits. Soon, she was writhing and moaning, and he brought his mouth to her breast, sucking her stiff, tender nipple between his lips. Gently, to start, as he swabbed his tongue over it, wetting it with his saliva, until she begged him for more.
As he lavished her breasts with his mouth, he slid his hand down her body, lovingly over the swell of her stomach, but he didn’t dwell there overly long, his fingers soon parting her nether lips. He groaned when he found her sopping wet, her cunt plush and swollen. His fingers pushed inside her easily, but he moved them haltingly, still hampered by his hesitation.
Growing impatient, Dany moved his hand away and pushed him down onto his back to climb on top of him. She got his pants over his straining erection and down to his thighs, then she took him into her mouth, making his hips jerk upward as she sucked his cock between her lips, tongue flattening along the underside until his tip hit the back of her throat, forcing her to retreat. She wrapped her hand around his root and stroked him while she suckled at his head, licking up the precum that beaded on her tongue. He groaned and panted, hips arching when she took him as deep as she could. Only once she was sure he was out of his mind with pleasure did she release him and crawl up his legs to straddle his waist. Reaching between her legs, she positioned his cockhead at her cunt. His hands tightened on her thighs, and he watched her hungrily, gaze fixed on the spot where they met.
Then she sank down on him, taking his cock inside her, and she threw her head back with a guttural moan, the relief and pleasure so intense, she felt the ripples of a faint orgasm shudder through her. Jon groaned loudly, gripping her hips, and then she was moving on top of him, chasing the budding pleasure. She rode him hard, hands braced on his chest, momentarily heedless of his pleasure as her climax surged through her, leaving her breathless and shaking.
“Dany, Dany,” he panted, her name sounding like a desperate prayer on his tongue. The rush of blood receded in her ears, and when she looked down at him, she saw his face was flushed, his dark eyes lidded and bright with hunger. She began moving again, angling herself forward so his cock could slide in and out of her cunt with the thrusts of her hips. She watched as his face scrunched up, his mouth hanging open as he grunted and gasped, and then he was coming with a deep groan, back bowing as he spilled inside her.
Once his breathing slowed, she collapsed on his chest, wedging her arms between him and the mattress. He brought his arms around her too, hugging her close, his softening cock still nestled inside her.
“Dany?” he murmured, and she hummed in answer, the rhythmic thrumming of his heartbeat quickly lulling her into a peaceful restfulness. “Will you show me this house you found? The one with the red door?”
Surprised, she lifted her head to look at him. They hadn’t talked about looking for a house in weeks. “Really?”
He nodded. “You’re right. I think it’s time we find a place of our own.”
On a day when neither was working, Dany took Jon to the northeastern part of the city, where many of her and Sirella’s patrons lived. The area was much richer compared to the rest of Braavos, the houses nicer, bigger and more spread apart.
As they crossed over the Canal of Heroes, already she could tell Jon was wary. She understood; there was no way they could afford residence in this part of the city. Still, it felt absolutely imperative that she show him this house; she didn’t know why, but she felt strangely drawn to the house with the red door, as if it called to something inside her, and she couldn’t ignore it.
She spotted the branches of the lemon tree first, the unripe lemons small and not fully golden yet. “Here it is,” she told him, hurrying around to the front of the house. There, the red door, the paint chipped and faded by the sun even as it was, stood like a beacon, calling to her. With a proud smile, she looked to Jon expectantly.
Under her gaze, he raised his eyebrows as he stared at the house. “It’s nice. Ah. A bit too nice.” He cast her an apologetic look. “It’s way too big for us, Dany. I’m not sure we’d have enough money, even between the two of us.” Her shoulder slumped. Even though she knew he was right, she couldn’t hide her disappointment. “Besides, I think this house is already spoken for.”
“Why do you say that?” Stifling a smile, he pointed to the clothes lines in the front, different colored linens billowing in the wind. Her face fell. “Oh.” With a beleaguered sigh, she rubbed at her forehead. “Others take me, I’ve been so absent-minded lately. The other day I returned some laundry to a patron but forgot to put the laundry in the bag.”
He slid an arm around her waist. “Someone probably just moved into the house since you last passed by it.”
“Maybe.” She placed a hand on her belly. Thanks to the high waist of her gown, the swell wasn’t quite visible just yet, but she could still feel it. “It was like this with Torrhen, though. I would forget or overlook the simplest things. I’d walk into the stables and have no idea what I’d gone there to do.”
“What else does one even do in the stables?” he asked, amused.
She cut him a look. “Exactly.”
Jon laughed. “Come here,” he said, wrapping his arms around her from behind and resting his chin on her head. Leaning back into him, she stared mournfully at the house. It had been a silly wish, she supposed. Jon was right. The most they could hope to afford is one of the cramped, squat houses closer to the harbor or near the fish market. Her life of luxury as a lady was long gone.
But if it was between being the lady of Winterfell or being here with Jon, it was an easy choice.
As if he could read her thoughts, Jon said, “It won’t be so bad. Whatever house we find, I promise to paint the door red for you.”
She smiled. “I’d like that.”
With one last look at the house, she and Jon turned away and began their trek back home. Sirella had agreed to watch the children for the afternoon, so Nymeria and Torrhen were helping her with some chores. Neither child had been happy about being excluded from Jon and Dany’s covert endeavor. But they rarely had any time alone together, in the daytime hours, anyway; it was nice to stroll through the city, hand in hand with him.
“We should tell them soon, don’t you think? The children?” Jon asked suddenly as they traversed the bridge back over the Canal of Heroes.
She didn’t need to ask him to specify. “Yes. I won’t be able to hide it much longer, not from Nymeria, at least,” Dany said. “She’ll be able to figure out what’s happening, since she remembers when I was pregnant with Torrhen.”
He blew out a breath. “She’s going to hate me, isn’t she? And just when she started warming up to me.”
Dany squeezed his hand comfortingly, though she shared his worry. “It will probably be weird for her,” she admitted. “We can tell them tonight. The sooner we tell her, the more time she has to get used to it. Before the baby comes.”
He glanced at her askance, gaze dropping to her belly. “When will that be?” he asked, and she could feel the nervous energy radiating from him.
“In five months’ time.” The rest she left unspoken: As long as nothing went wrong before then.
They were all seated around the table for supper—always a tight fit with six of them—when Nymeria forced the discussion. “What were you two doing today that Torrhen and I couldn’t come?” she asked.
Jon shared a look with Daenerys, letting her take the lead. “We were looking for a house,” she explained. “For us to move into.”
Nymeria frowned. “Why do we need to move? What’s wrong with this house?”
Jon cleared his throat, and Daenerys smiled tightly, glancing at Sirella and Vogoros, who continued eating their stew as if unconcerned. They’d already told their hosts their plans, though they hadn’t yet gone into detail about the real reason. He and Daenerys shared another meaningful look, and at his reassuring nod, she took a deep breath.
“Nothing is wrong with this house, and we are very grateful Vogoros and Sirella opened their home to us,” she began. “But it’s a bit crowded as it is, and...well, we think we need more space.” She hesitated before adding delicately, “For when the baby comes.”
Blinking rapidly, Nymeria dropped her spoon in her bowl and sat back in her chair. The silence that followed was palpable, and Jon found himself holding his breath.
After a moment, Sirella snorted, breaking the tension. “Only a matter of time, with how you two have been carrying on,” she said under her breath, and Vogoros chuckled into his stew. Jon’s face went hot, and, chagrined, he ducked his head as an also-blushing Daenerys pressed her lips together.
Confused, Torrhen scrunched his nose. “What baby?”
Daenerys gave him a soft smile. “You and Nymeria are going to have another brother or sister.”
He peered up at her with the wide-eyed innocence of a child. “But—Father isn’t here,” he said plainly, and Daenerys and Jon both flinched.
“No, he isn’t,” Daenerys said slowly, but Nymeria spared them from having to explain.
“Jon is the father,” she said flatly, leveling him with a narrowed-eye look.
He swallowed. “Aye, I am.”
She folded her arms over her chest. “Is this one going to be a bastard, too, then?”
He inhaled sharply, eyes cutting to Daenerys, who looked equally dumbstruck. “We don’t—I haven’t—” Gods, his hands were damp with sweat all of a sudden. He curled them into fists under the table to control the shaking.
“That’s not something we’ve discussed yet,” Daenerys hurried to explain, watching Jon struggle. “It’s not really—it’s not a pressing issue right now.”
“It is,” Nymeria insisted, her face reddening. “Because if you do, if you get married, then—then that means I’m the only bastard.” With that, she shoved away from the table and stormed upstairs, abandoning her unfinished supper.
Face pinched, Daenerys pushed back her chair. “Let me go talk to her.”
Shaking his head, Jon stood with her. “I should do it.”
Sirella waved them off. “You both go. We will watch Torrhen.”
The boy in question looked around the table wildly. “What’s a bastard?”
Daenerys sighed. “It’s not important, sweetling. Finish your stew.” Thanking Sirella and Vogoros, she nodded to Jon gravely. Together, they ascended the stairs to Nymeria and Torrhen’s bedroom. Daenerys reached out and squeezed Jon’s hand then knocked once on the closed door. She didn’t wait for an answer before opening it. “Nymeria?” she called, poking her head inside.
Their daughter’s voice was muffled when she answered, “I don’t want to talk to you.” She lay curled up in the fetal position, her face turned into her pillow.
Jon followed Daenerys inside and quietly shut the door behind him. He lingered there as Daenerys crossed to the bed, perching on the edge.
“That’s too bad because we’re going to talk to you anyway. I want to know what you’re feeling.”
With a huff, Nymeria rolled onto her back and sat up, glaring daggers at them. Jon winced. If looks could kill. “Why do you care what I think? You’re going to do what you want, regardless.”
Daenerys sighed. “Are you upset because you don’t want another sibling? Or is it that you feel like I’ve betrayed Robb?” Nymeria jutted her jaw out stubbornly, looking away. “Nymeria, whatever you’re feeling isn’t wrong. I want you to know I understand, and I don’t blame you for being upset. Neither does Jon.”
“She’s right,” he agreed, rubbing his thumb over his knuckles nervously.
Daenerys put her hand on Nymeria’s leg in a comforting gesture. “But you’re old enough now to understand certain things better. We can be honest with you, but you have to be honest with us, too. You have to talk to us.”
Shaking off her hand, Nymeria pulled her knees up to her chest. “It’s just...it hasn’t even been a year since…” She bit down on her lip. “It just seems so sudden.”
Daenerys folded her hands in her lap. “I know. It is sudden. I didn’t think—” She glanced at Jon, who widened his eyes at her for lack of a helpful response. “Well, we didn’t plan this, exactly. But we didn’t plan a lot of things.” She smiled slightly. “Like you. And you are one of the best things that’s ever happened to us.”
Nymeria stuck her bottom lip out. “But I’m a bastard. Nobody wants a bastard. It ruined things for you, didn’t it? I ruined things.”
At that, Jon stepped forward, sitting down in a chair across from the bed. “You didn’t ruin anything, Nymeria. You were a child, not even born yet—nothing that happened was your fault. Any mistakes we made were ours alone.” He swallowed thickly. “But your mother is right—no matter what happened, I’m so happy we made you.”
Nymeria looked at him, her eyes glossy. Her lip trembled slightly, and when she spoke again her voice sounded small. “But...what if you like this baby more?”
Daenerys made a sound of distress. “Oh, sweetling, no,” she said, pulling her daughter into her arms. She hugged her, pressing a kiss to the top of her head. “I love you and Torrhen equally, and I will love this child just the same. But you, you are my firstborn. You were a gift. You came to me at a time when I’d never felt so alone in my life, and you reminded me there were things worth living for. You gave me strength and purpose. Something as precious as you, made from the love between two people, could never be a bad thing.”
Apprehensive, Jon stood and sat down on the bed beside them. Daenerys gave him an encouraging look over Nymeria’s head, and he placed his hand on her back to rub it in soothing circles.
“But...he preferred Torrhen.” Nymeria started to cry against her mother’s neck. “I know he did, and what if it’s the same with this baby? What if you have a boy? Everyone prefers boys. What if you love him more?”
Jon understood then her fears lay mainly with him, not Daenerys. He brought his hand up to her head, stroking his palm over her hair. It was soft and silky, much like her mother’s. “I don’t think it’s physically possible,” he said quietly, adamantly, “to love someone more than I love you. Every day I look at you, and...I’m filled with awe. I didn’t think someone like me could have a hand in creating something so wonderful.” His voice cracked. His eyes met Daenerys’ again, and he saw her own glistening with tears. He cleared his throat, trying to ease the building pressure in his sinuses. “Well. If this next one is anything like you, I’ll consider myself the luckiest man—the luckiest father—in the world.”
Their daughter’s sobs quieted to sniffles, though she kept her face hidden. After a moment, she shifted restlessly in her mother’s embrace. Daenerys unwound her arm from around her shoulders so Nymeria could lean into him, turning her face into his chest. Momentarily caught off guard, Jon froze; she’d never sought comfort from him before. Despite his paralyzed brain, his arms moved of their own accord, wrapping around her. He stared down at her, though her face was concealed. His heart swelled, and when he looked at Daenerys, she was wiping her wet cheeks, smiling at him. The tears he’d struggled against pricked his eyes, and he hugged his daughter tighter.
Daenerys laughed suddenly, startling him and Nymeria both. When he glanced at her again, her violet eyes twinkled with mischief.
“Just wait until Jon has to change his first diaper cloth. He won’t feel so lucky then.”
“That girl of yours better?” Vogoros asked him over their usual midday meal of mussels and cockles down at the dock.
They sat on the edge of the quay, legs dangling over the side. Sucking down the slimy, briny creature, Jon tossed the shell back into the water, then he wedged the tip of his knife into the seam of the next shell and easily pried it open with a flick of his wrist.
“Aye, I think so. I think it’s just going to take some time to warm up to the idea of having another sibling,” he said, silently adding: Especially when the father isn’t the man you thought was your father, and the father is actually the man you had no idea was your real father until very recently.
Since their conversation with Nymeria a few days ago, she seemed like she was slowly coming to terms with the situation. She was still a bit moody, but, then again, that seemed to be her mood regardless. Daenerys liked to tease him that at her age, he’d been just as broody. Like father, like daughter. Which did make him smile a little.
“And you?” At Jon’s questioning look, Vogoros elaborated, “How do you feel? Being a father again?”
Again. He’d really hadn’t had a chance to be a father the first time around, had he? Jon took his time answering, slurping out the cockle and chewing it a few times before swallowing. After a moment, he said, “I’m still a bit shocked, I suppose. I thought my chance to be a father had long passed me by. Honestly, I didn’t think that life was meant for me.”
Which was equal parts exciting and terrifying. “I’m afraid I’ll be bad at it,” he admitted, embarrassed. Daenerys assured him that was a normal fear, but she had fourteen years of practice. What did he know about bringing life into this world, nurturing it? Really, Jon only knew how to kill things.
“That’s not true,” she’d argued with him the other night in his bed. “You’ve killed to defend us. You protected us. That’s what it means to be a father.”
Which was useful when they were running from sellswords, but when it came to things like this, when Daenerys was retching into a sick bucket in the mornings, or when Torrhen cried for his father—his real father—after a nightmare, Jon still felt pretty useless.
Vogoros chucked a shell into the water, dismissing Jon’s words with a scoff. “We all think that. I have three children, all grown, and I still fear I am bad at it. We all just,” he made a gesture with his hand as he searched for the right word, “stumble through it.”
Jon appreciated his friend’s words, even if he wasn’t fully convinced. “I suppose.”
“You found house yet?” When Jon shook his head, Vogoros said, “I will ask around.”
“You plan to marry her?”
Jon’s face warmed, despite the mild sea breeze that whipped his hair. He’d need another trim soon, or he’d be forced to tie it back again. “I would like to,” he said hesitantly. “I haven’t asked yet. But I don’t know how we would go about doing it here…”
Vogoros eyed him thoughtfully. “There is sept here. Faith of Seven. Yes?”
“Dany is,” Jon confirmed. “But I...in the North, we follow the old gods. When we marry, we say our vows before a weirwood tree. I don’t suppose there are any weirwoods here?” Vogoros shook his head, clearly not familiar with the word, and Jon sighed. “A sept would be fine then.”
“You could ask red priest,” Vogoros suggested. “There is a temple, and there are many followers of R’hllor in Braavos. That is how Sirella and I wed. You jump over a fire and emerge as one with R’hllor’s blessing.”
Jon almost dismissed it out right, but then he found himself considering it. In truth, the ceremony sounded a bit ridiculous, and Jon wasn’t sure about the legitimacy of such a wedding, but maybe the method didn’t matter so much as the gesture. After all, Daenerys had married Robb by way of the old gods, and look how that had worked out.
At that droll thought, Jon shrugged. “Maybe. I’ll ask her.” Suddenly, the prospect of asking for her hand and making her his wife truly hit him, sending his heart racing. Filled with an unexpected glee, he laughed out loud. “We’ll see how she feels about walking through fire to marry me.”
As it turned out, Daenerys was rather eager to do just that.
At Vogoros’ suggestion, they sought out a red priest at the Temple of the Lord of Light on the Isle of the Gods, but when they were asked if either was a follower of R’hllor, Jon and Daenerys demurred. Since neither was quite willing to convert on the spot, they left, a bit demoralized. Instead, Vogoros took them to see a red priest at the Happy Port who was more than generous with his presidings. Ezzelyno was a cheerful man, aided by drink and the company of the whores he kept, and he was happily accommodating when they asked him to perform their wedding ceremony (for a small sum, of course).
“The Lord of Light welcomes all,” he told them after accepting their coin, then he proceeded to grope a topless woman in his lap. As it was, he was doing little to inspire a full conversion to his religion in either Jon or Daenerys.
Still, Jon donned his nicest clothes—which amounted to a clean tunic and trousers—and Daenerys wore a simple lilac gown that she had to let out to fit over her growing belly. She dressed Torrhen in a nice tunic and his only pair of breeches without a hole in them, then she slicked his wild curls back with water and a brush. Nymeria chose a blue gown and asked her mother to plait her hair in similar fashion to the intricate braids Daenerys had woven into her own hair for the occasion. When Daenerys and Jon had sat her down to tell her about their intentions to wed, she’d been accepting if a bit downcast, but like with everything, Daenerys was sure it would just take her some time to get used to. It was a lot of change all at once for any child.
Once they were ready, the four of them walked down to Ragman’s Harbor, with Jon carrying Torrhen and Daenerys holding Nymeria’s hand. There, on the narrow beach under the wharf, waited Vogoros, Sirella and the priest. A small ditchfire, dug into a shallow trench in the sand, was already lit, the flames dancing wildly in the breeze. Jon’s heart began to pound, and when he looked sideways at Daenerys, he found her looking at him, too, her violet eyes made more vibrant against the color of her dress.
On the beach, Torrhen and Nymeria went to stand with Sirella. Vogoros stepped forward to take Daenerys’ arm, and Jon waited by the fire with Ezzelyno as Vogoros escorted Daenerys toward them. Jon’s hands were shaking so bad, he had to clasp them behind him.
“Who brings this woman to be wed?” Ezzelyno asked.
“I do,” Vogoros answered. “Now comes Daenerys Dayne before you.” Then he bowed to Jon before stepping back, falling in line with the other spectators.
Ezzelyno continued, “And who comes forth to claim this woman?”
As Jon stared at Daenerys, loose strands of silver whipping around her face, made pink and round by their baby growing in her belly, his throat tightened with emotion. He had to swallow a few times before he could speak. “I do.” He hesitated for a second, wondering what name to give, before finally declaring, “Jon Snow.” He was the man she had fallen in love with, after all.
“Jon, do you swear to share your fire with Daenerys and keep her warm when the long night is upon us?”
“I swear,” he promised her, reciting the lines Vogoros had him memorize. “By the red god’s flames, I will warm her all of my days.”
“Daenerys, do you swear to share your fire with Jon and keep him warm when the long night is upon us?”
She smiled at him, happy tears spilling down her cheeks. “I swear, he will never feel the cold again.”
Laughter bubbled in his throat, and he hastily wiped at his eyes. Ezzelyno grinned at them and beckoned. “Then come to me and be as one.” Daenerys stepped closer to Jon and took his outstretched hand. Together, hands locked, they faced toward the fire. With one last look at each other, they leapt through the flames, and a smattering of applause and cheers erupted from their small gathering of guests as they emerged on the other side.
With Vogoros’ help, they were eventually able to find a house in Silty Town. It was tiny and the roof leaked a bit when it rained, but it was affordable, and it was their own. Additionally, there were more neighboring families and children for Nymeria and Torrhen to interact with, something both had been sadly lacking since leaving Winterfell. It gave them something to do while Jon was at the docks and Daenerys was washing laundry. She still made the trek to Sirella and Vogoros’ house, but she often brought some of the wash to their house just to be able to keep an eye on the children.
As her pregnancy progressed, her workload lightened. After all, laundry was heavy, and transporting buckets of water from the public fountain was a lot of stress to place on a pregnant woman. But now that they had the house, thankfully she didn’t have to work as hard. Jon was relieved when she finally agreed to reduce her work load then eventually stopped altogether when her belly was almost as full as it was going to get. He spent a lot of nights rubbing her lower back or her feet; since she alone had to bear the responsibility of carrying and birthing their child, it was nice to feel like he could do something to ease her pain. Occasionally, they still made love, too, now that Jon’s fears were (mostly) alleviated—usually with her on her side or on her hands and knees, pillows stacked up under her hips to cushion her belly.
As promised, he’d painted the door of their house red, a gesture that had made Daenerys cry the first time she saw it—big, fat tears and heaving sobs. She’d said it was because of the pregnancy, but Jon was certain she would have cried, anyway.
The first time he felt the baby kick, she was about seven months into her pregnancy. It wasn’t the first time the baby had moved; however, it usually happened while he was at the docks, just minor movements that reassured Daenerys their child was alive and healthy. Sometimes, at night, she would wake him, claiming the baby was moving, and would place his hand on her belly, but he never could feel anything.
They were all sitting around the table, sorting and cleaning clams to cook for supper when it finally happened. Out of nowhere, Daenerys gasped, and everyone looked to her. “Oh!” Her hand went to her belly, and immediately Jon was on alert.
“What is it? What’s wrong?” he demanded, already out of his chair, but she only smiled at him.
“He’s kicking! I’ve never felt him move so much!” Daenerys had decided the baby was a boy, insisting she could just tell when Jon asked her how she could be sure.
As she had every time before, she grabbed Jon’s hand and pressed it to her left side, just under the swell of her belly. “Do you feel it?” He shook his head, and she pressed more firmly on his hand. “Just wait, he settled down slightly but…”
Jon was afraid it would be like every other time—but then he felt it, a flutter against his palm. Surprised, he sucked in a breath; he’d just convinced himself he’d imagined it, simply willed himself to feel something, when he felt it again, stronger this time. His breath left him in a shaky laugh. “Seven hells.”
Daenerys grinned. “He’s going to be a fighter, this one.”
Jon laughed again as the kicks continued, happy tears clouding his vision. Impatient, Torrhen jumped down from his chair. “I want to feel!” Reluctantly, Jon moved his hand and ushered the boy closer. Daeneys took her son’s hand and pressed it to the same spot. His blue eyes went wide. “Seven hells!” he parroted, and Jon and Daenerys laughed.
“That’s your brother saying hello,” she told him, and Jon ruffled his auburn hair as Torrhen stared at her belly in amazement. Daenerys glanced at Nymeria across the table. “Nym, do you want to feel?”
Fidgeting with a clam, Nymeria looked at her uncertainly. After a moment, she agreed with a nod. “I suppose.” She stood and shuffled around the table. Torrhen moved aside, and Daenerys took her daughter’s hand to place it on her belly. At first, Nymeria frowned, saying nothing, then she started, her mouth parting in quiet wonder. “Oh. Wow.”
Daenerys smiled at her. “You were just as active when you were in my womb. Sometimes I couldn’t sleep because you wouldn’t stop kicking me.”
Nymeria blushed, though Jon could tell Daenerys’ words pleased her. “Really?” Daenerys nodded, and Jon felt a pang that he hadn’t gotten to experience that with her.
Torrhen jumped in excitedly. “What about me?”
Daenerys laughed, releasing Nymeria’s hand to touch Torrhen’s cheek. “You were the easiest pregnancy, truthfully. Didn’t nauseate me, didn’t keep me up at night. You were as gentle then as you are now.”
He beamed at her then immediately went back to his chair, climbing on his knees to grab a clam from the bucket of water. “I’m hungry. Can we eat now?”
Nymeria rolled her eyes as she went back to her own chair, and Jon shared another smile with Daenerys before sitting down as well. “Finish cleaning them, lad, then we can eat.”
With the move, Jon had figured Nymeria might not want to spend much time with him anymore, given she had children her age to consort with. So he was surprised—but pleased—when she approached him one day, asking if he would keep training her on the sword.
“I want to be as good as Aunt Arya,” she told him, and he made a face before chuckling.
“I don’t know if I have the skills for that, but I can make you at least as good as me.” He gave her a stern look. “But to do that, you’ll have to commit. You don’t become good at something by only practicing it when you feel like it.”
Determined, she nodded. “I’ll commit.”
He didn’t have an actual sword to give her, but he shaped a sturdy stick into a semblance of one. He trained with her almost every evening as well as any days he wasn’t at the docks, and when he was at the docks, she worked on her own to perfect the moves he had taught her. He also told her she had to get stronger, or she’d never be able to properly hold a sword, so he had her lifting and carrying stones; when they needed water for washing or cooking, she would be the one to retrieve it from the fountain, running as quickly as she could without spilling any. Sometimes, by the time she arrived back at the house, most of the water had sloshed out, and she had to go back and try again. Daenerys worried the training might be too demanding on a fourteen-year-old girl, but Nymeria was tenacious, and she was proud every time she executed a new skill or attack.
The first time she managed to parry his strike and land a hit on his arm, she was so excited, she screamed, dropping her stick to fling herself into his arms. For his part, he was more shocked by the hug than by her hit.
Having heard her daughter’s scream, Daenerys came running out of the house to find them in the alley outside their front door, Jon spinning Nymeria around as they both laughed. “What happened?” she demanded, hand braced on her back as she caught her breath. Her belly was huge and heavy, the baby due any day now. She looked beautiful, even red-faced and panic-stricken.
Sheepish, Jon set Nymeria down, and she ran up the steps to her mother. “I hit him! I’m going to be the best sword fighter in Braavos!”
Huffing in relief, Daenerys rolled her eyes skyward. “Oh, gods. Is that it? You sound just like Arya.” Shaking her head, she leveled a look at her then at Jon. “That’s wonderful, sweetling. But please, just be careful. I can only run so fast these days.”
He grinned at her ruefully. “Yes, my love.”
Once Daenerys shut the door, Nymeria jumped down to the ground. “That was good, wasn’t it?”
She smiled, but the smile faded quickly. “I wish I could show Aunt Arya what I’ve learned.”
At the longing in her voice, Jon winced. “Aye, I know,” he said softly. “Maybe one day.” Though when, or if, Jon had no idea. It was an empty promise. They had no plans to return to Westeros; they couldn’t, not as things were now. They hadn’t discussed Ned’s letter or the possibility of returning since the night Daenerys had told him she was pregnant, and Jon had no desire to endanger their unborn child’s life, nor that of Nymeria or Torrhen. He’d die before he let anyone touch a hair on their heads.
But he understood Nymeria’s longing for home—for the family she had known. When he’d first left Winterfell, he’d been sick with it, even as he bade himself to forget about them all. Even now, Jon would like to see Arya again, and Bran and Sansa and Rickon. Benjen, too—though, of course, he’d never be able to set foot on the Wall again without them taking his head.
Jon had no idea what had happened to any of them after they’d left Westeros, had no way of knowing if they still lived. Had the king abandoned his hunt for the Targaryens? Would he hire more sellswords to track them down in Essos? Had the remaining Starks faced retribution for their association with Daenerys and her children, or for Ned’s treason?
It was maddening not to know, even though he’d spent fourteen years doing just that, forgetting everything that had made him a Stark, that had bound him to that family. While he felt he owed them very little, if anything, these days, Arya had helped them, and she hadn’t known of Ned or Robb’s lies; neither had his other cousins. They weren’t to blame for any of this.
When he’d said his vows to the Night’s Watch, Jon had abandoned the hope of ever seeing his family again. He’d let them go already once before, and yet, this second time saddened him all the same. Maybe even more, as this time felt more final than before.
The day Daenerys gave birth, Jon awoke like on any other day: before dawn, to start his morning at the docks. When he sat up in bed, he realized his wife was already awake, her silhouette poised on the edge of the bed.
“Dany?” he murmured, voice rough with sleep. He touched her back, and she glanced at him over her shoulder.
“I think—I think it’s time.”
He blinked, wide awake now. “How do you know?”
“My water broke.”
Jon couldn’t see in the predawn darkness, but when he touched the spot where she slept, it was damp. Alarmed, he flew off the bed to crouch before her on the floor. “What should I do? What do you need?”
“Sirella,” she said immediately. Daenerys had been scared to deliver without a maester, but the woman had promised to help her when the time came. She’d assisted in her other labors before and knew what to do.
“Do you want me to get her now?”
He could hear the raggedness of her breaths, the tightness of her voice. “Yes, please. I’ve been having some pains in my stomach for a couple hours now. They must be contractions.”
“Why didn’t you wake me when it started?”
“They didn’t seem so bad yet,” she said weakly, then he felt her tense up, breathing hard through her nose. He hovered, unsure what to do, but after a moment, she relaxed, her breath susurrating through her teeth. “They’re coming more frequently now.”
Panicked, Jon stood and started for the door but faltered, turning back to her. “Fuck. I don’t want to leave you alone like this.”
“Nymeria,” Daenerys told him. “Wake her, and then go get Sirella.”
Jon crossed back to the bed, grabbed Daenerys’ face in his hands and kissed her. “I’ll be back before the baby comes. I’m not missing this for anything,” he swore, and she nodded. Then he was flying out of their room, to the room where the children slept. He didn’t bother with being quiet as he threw open the door to rouse his daughter.
She came to quickly, confused and bleary-eyed. “What is it?”
“Your mother. The baby’s coming. I need you to sit with her while I get Sirella.” Nymeria’s eyes widened. “Now!” he barked, ignoring Torrhen’s mumbled inquiries. He’d already left the room before Nymeria could scramble out of bed. He didn’t bother with a shirt, grateful to have slept in his pants. At the door, he clumsily shoved his feet into his boots, then he was out the door, running up the alley to the street and over the bridge that crossed the canal.
He made the trek in record time, banging on the front door of Vogoros and Sirella’s house. Luckily, Vigorous was on his way out to the docks. With one look at Jon’s face, he went to fetch his wife.
She appeared a moment later, and without a word she followed him through the city. She knew the way to their house, so he didn’t slow to keep pace with her, running as fast as he could to Silty Town.
Back at their house, he didn’t bother shutting the front door behind him, taking the stairs two at a time. In their bedroom, Nymeria and Torrhen were huddled by their mother, who had stretched out on the bed, pillows shoved behind her back. The coverlets had been stripped and tossed to the floor, and Daenerys’ bedgown had been hiked up to her hips. Nymeria had gotten some water and some strips of linen, wetting them to put on her mother’s forehead.
At the sight of Jon, Daenerys groaned out loud. “Is she coming?”
Gasping for breath, he nodded and collapsed on the bed beside her. He took her hand in his, and she squeezed just as another contraction gripped her belly. “She’ll be here soon. You’ll be alright.” She gritted her teeth and dropped her head back on the pillows, her face damp with perspiration. At that moment, he wasn’t sure who was sweatier, her or him. Feeling helpless, Jon stroked her hair and hoped it provided her some comfort.
“When will I be a big brother?” Torrhen asked eagerly.
“Don’t bother her. She needs peace and quiet right now,” Nymeria scolded him, suddenly an expert in midwifery.
“How do you feel?” Jon asked his wife, and Daenerys panted, blinking her eyes open.
“A bit worse, truthfully. The contractions feel almost constant.”
Just then, Sirella appeared in the doorway, and Daenerys moaned in relief. Taking stock of the situation, she ordered the children to grab more linens and water. They hurried to do her bidding while Sirella dunked her hands in the bowl of water, grabbing some soap to clean them.
“Get her smallclothes off,” she told Jon. He reached under Daenerys’ bedgown and pulled them down her legs. As she planted her heels on the bed, Sirella moved between them to check her progress. After a moment, she nodded and sat back on her haunches. “You push now.”
Jon thought he might faint. Daenerys let out a small cry of dismay. “What? Already? It took hours before! I’m not ready!”
Sirella gave a curt shake of her head. “He comes now. You sit behind her,” she ordered Jon, shaking him from his stupor. Dutifully, he wedged himself between Daenerys and the pillows, guiding her head to his shoulder. Then he grabbed her hands, in case she needed something to squeeze. His whole body was shaking like a leaf; he was more terrified than he’d ever been during a wildling raid. Gods, he hoped she didn’t notice. He didn’t want to add to her worries right then.
Nymeria and Torrhen finally returned with linens and buckets of water from the kitchen, and Sirella told them where to put them. “Nymeria, take Torrhen to your room,” Daenerys wheezed, and Nymeria looked at her with betrayal.
“But I want to be here. I want to help!”
“I want to stay, too!” Torrhen insisted, though they both looked scared. Daenerys shook her head.
“Torrhen doesn’t need to see this,” she said tightly. “I need you to watch him, please, Nymeria.”
Sirella spoke then. “Heat water for bath. The baby and mother will need to clean later.”
Disappointed, Nymeria dutifully took Torrhen’s hand and led him out of the room, shutting the door behind them.
Suddenly, Daenerys squeezed Jon’s hands so hard, he heard his knuckles crack. “Oh, gods, I have to push. It hurts,” she moaned.
Sirella was between her legs, a bundle of clean linens laid out on the bed. “Push.”
So Daenerys pushed, and groaned, and cried, all the while clenching Jon’s hands and cursing his name. Dazed, Jon just murmured words of encouragement as Sirella coached her through the delivery, calmly but firmly. Finally, after what felt like no time at all, Daenerys hiked her knees up to her chest. Jon grabbed them, and with a guttural yell, she pushed one final time, then Sirella was pulling a slimy, pink thing from between her legs.
Jon watched in amazement as she cradled the baby in her arms, but Daenerys was struggling to sit up. “What’s the matter? Is he alright?” Her words jolted him, sending a shock of fear through him. Sirella didn’t say anything as she splashed her hand in a water bucket, and Daenerys pitched her voice higher. “Is he moving? Why isn’t he crying?”
Ignoring her, Sirella shoved her little finger in each nostril and wriggled her fingers between pale lips, then she flipped the baby onto its stomach, aggressively rubbing its back.
Finally, blessedly, the baby stirred, letting out a quivering, ear-splitting wail. With a sob, Daenerys deflated against Jon’s chest. “Oh, thank the gods,” Daenerys cried happily, and Jon let out a tremulous breath, sinking into the pillows.
With a smile, Sirella placed the baby on her chest. “You have a boy.” Another unhappy screech punctuated her declaration.
While Sirella tied off and cut the umbilical cord, Jon stared at the boy. His son. He was discolored and covered in a creamy secretion, his black hair matted to his misshapen head; his face was scrunched in displeasure, eyes pinched shut as he screamed and writhed with the injustice of being born.
And he was the most beautiful thing Jon had ever seen.
Daenerys was crying, her hand stroking up and down his back, cradling him to her breasts. “Jon, look at him, look at our son.”
He reached out a tentative hand to graze his fingers over the delicate curve of his son’s skull. As if by magic, he seemed to quiet at his touch.
Jon realized his face was wet. “He’s perfect.”
He didn’t know how long he sat staring at his son. Sirella had already left, having helped Daenerys deliver the afterbirth before bathing her and the baby. After that, Daenerys had nursed their son then quickly fell asleep, and now Jon sat in a chair next to their bed, cradling their son as he slept as well, firmly wrapped in swaddling cloths.
The boy had stopped crying once his belly was full of his mother’s milk, allowing Jon a chance to truly study him. He was so tiny, just a small little thing. Jon had never held a baby before, not even his cousins, as Lady Stark had refused to allow it. At first, he’d been scared to hold his son. Sirella had to reposition his arms to make sure his head was supported. But now he didn’t want to put him down, not even in the crib Jon had built with Vogoros’ help in the final weeks of Daenerys’ pregnancy.
His features were so delicate; his rosebud lips were plump and bow-shaped, his nose tiny and pert. Soft, inky lashes fanned across both cheeks as he slept, and while he couldn’t see them now, Jon knew the boy’s eyes were a light purple. The swirls of hair on his head were raven-black and stubbornly stuck up in some places, despite Jon’s attempts to smooth them down.
“What should we call you? Hm?” Jon asked softly. At his voice, the boy stirred but quickly settled, lips puckering as if seeking his mother’s breast. Jon shifted him in his arms and brought his little finger to his mouth, letting him latch onto that instead. “You still need a name, don’t you?”
Daenerys had told him he could name their son, since he hadn’t gotten the chance with their daughter. When he’d objected, asking what if she didn’t like it, she’d sleepily told him she trusted him to pick something good. But Jon wasn’t so sure. When he’d been young, he’d wanted to name any son of his after Ned or Robb. Now, those dreams were dead. Benjen, perhaps...he was the last man in his family who still meant something to him…
The last of his Stark family, at least. He hadn’t known his real father, but he’d known another Targaryen. A man he had respected, a man he’d admired. A man who had been his brother.
“I think we’ll call you Aemon,” he decided. “He was a wise man. Maybe you’ll be wise, too. How do you feel about that?” Aemon only suckled on his finger in response, and Jon smiled. “Aye, I like it, too.”
The door cracked open then, and Nymeria peered inside hesitantly. “Can we see him now?”
“Come in,” Jon said quietly. “Just be mindful of your mother. She needs her rest.” Nymeria and Torrhen shuffled inside, crowding on either side of Jon and the baby. Torrhen was wide-eyed and awed. “Meet your brother, Aemon,” Jon introduced them, taking his finger away so they could see his face better.
“Aemon?” Nymeria asked, perplexed.
“Aemon was a maester on the Wall. A mentor, and a great man, and one of the last Targaryens,” Jon explained. She nodded thoughtfully as she stared at the baby.
“He’s very wrinkly,” she said, and Jon chuckled.
“So was his namesake. He was very old. Hopefully, this Aemon lives just as long as he did.”
Scrunching his nose, Torrhen made a sound of disappointment. “He’s kind of ugly, isn’t he?”
Jon let out a loud laugh before catching himself, but Nymeria scowled at her little brother. “So were you when you were born! Leave him alone.”
“We probably all were, all squished and red,” Jon told them. From the corner of his eye, he saw Daenerys stir, squinting her eyes open, and he looked to her adoringly. He didn’t think it was possible to love her more than he already did, and every day she kept surprising him. “Except your mother. I bet she was beautiful even then.”
She smiled groggily at him as she tried to sit up in the bed, wincing slightly. “Lies. I was scrawny and awkward. You remember me as a child.” Rubbing her eyes, she looked at the bundle in his arms. “How is he?”
Jon got up from the chair to bring him closer, sitting down carefully beside her. Nymeria and Torrhen climbed onto the foot of the bed, sitting cross-legged at her feet. “Sleeping still, but Aemon will probably be hungry again soon.” He looked at her in question.
Surprised, Daenerys blinked at him. “Aemon?”
“Aye. Is that all right?” he asked nervously.
She gave him a soft smile, her eyes glossing over slightly. “Yes. Aemon. I can think of no better name for our son.”
Adjusting the sling across her chest, Dany checked that Aemon still slept then tugged the cloth over his face to shade him from the sun. Assured her brief stop to shift the weight of her load of laundry on her back hadn’t disturbed him, she continued her trek across the Canal of Heroes. Now that Aemon was a few months older, and her body had healed from his birth, she could assist Sirella with her work again. Jon couldn’t take their son with him to the docks, but he was at home as much as he could be—he would spend every hour of the day doting on their son if he could, she knew—and Nymeria was a big help in caring for her baby brother, too. But as he was still nursing, Daenerys couldn’t be too far from him just yet.
Aemon wasn’t a fussy baby, at least, and the heat of the sun and the warmth of the sling nestling him against her bosom kept him content while she went about her task of returning clean laundry to her patrons.
Today’s delivery was for Bessaro Reyaan, one of the Iron Bank keyholders. At the large front door to his manor, she knocked. When the servant answered, she immediately waved Dany inside. Puzzled, Dany hesitated; usually, the servant simply paid her and took the laundry from her at the door, dismissing her without so much as a word. Dany wasn’t sure the woman even spoke the Common Tongue.
“I have the wash,” she said, just to clarify, in case the servant didn’t recognize her. The woman only nodded and again gestured for her to come inside.
Reluctantly, Dany followed her. Once more, the servant beckoned her farther into the house. Bessaro was a rich man; he was a member of one of the few noble families of Braavos, so his manor was large. They passed other servants, but so far the man of the house was nowhere to be seen. He never was, not when Dany delivered the laundry, anyway.
Finally, the servant directed her into a room. Walking inside, Dany found it empty, but when she turned back to the servant, the woman only bowed her head and retreated, leaving Dany in confusion.
Relieving herself of the laundry, Dany shushed Aemon when he stirred and made a whimpering sound of protest. “Shh, sweetling. We’ll be home soon,” she murmured, cradling him closer to her breast with one hand under his bottom. I hope, she thought, gaze darting uncertainly around the room. What could Bessaro Reyaan want with her? Other than the day when Sirella had introduced her to him, Dany hadn’t spoken to him, and since the servants were the ones to pay her, she’d had no need to deal with him directly before.
Perhaps he disliked her bringing her son around and meant to tell her to cease doing so. In which case, the Others could take him. Sirella would just have to take this house from her route.
As she waited, Dany began to pace, rocking Aemon in his sling and murmuring softly. Behind her, someone cleared his throat, and she wheeled around to face the door. There stood Bessaro Reyaan, who she only vaguely recalled. Beside him was a man she did not recognize, however. A fat man, more portly than Bessaro himself, already an obsese man; this stranger had bigger teats than even her, and hers had grown rather round with milk. Instantly, Dany knew he was not from here. He was robed in silks that were far brighter and flashier than the usual drab colors the Braavosi nobles wore. His fingers were adorned in all sorts of gemstones, and his beard was dyed yellow and forked with oil.
The two men exchanged a few murmured words, before Bessaro nodded to his guest and left, without a single word spoken to her. The stranger shuffled farther into the room, surprisingly light on his feet for such a heavy man. He smiled at her, as if they were old friends.
“It is a pleasure to finally meet you, Daenerys Targaryen,” he announced without preamble. Her blood ran cold, and instinctively she clutched Aemon tighter to her breast. At her fearful movements, the man held up his hands in a placating gesture. “Oh, please. Don’t be afraid, Daenerys. I mean you and your little one no harm.”
“Who are you?” she demanded, backing away with every step he took. Oh, why had she'd stopped carrying her dagger with her? She'd gotten too comfortable, too neglectful. What a fool she was to think they were finally safe! “What do you want?”
“Forgive me. I should have introduced myself first.” Coming to a stop a few feet from her, he bowed slightly. “My name is Illyrio Mopatis, and I have traveled a long way from Pentos to meet you.” He stroked his forked beard. “It might surprise you, but your family has a very storied history with my city.”
“My family?” she asked.
“The Targaryens, of course,” he said simply.
She swallowed dryly. “I don’t know who—what does any of that have to do with me and my son?”
“Plenty, I assure you. Lady Daenerys—do you go by Targaryen these days? Forgive my presumption, but I assume, considering your new husband shares the same name, well, it would just be simpler, wouldn’t it?”
Her heart sank into the pit of her stomach. This man, this stranger, somehow knew everything about them, even Jon…
Aemon began to fuss then, probably from how tightly she clutched him. “Did the king send you?” she demanded, her voice eerily calm. She lifted her chin, despite the fear that coursed through her veins. “If you're here to kill us, I promise you, I won’t make it easy for you.”
Despite her threat, Illyrio still smiled pleasantly at her. “Oh, no, my dear. You misunderstand completely. I don’t want to kill you.” His eyes danced. “I want to help you.”