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            He’d been sitting at the edge of the sea for so long that the tide had lapped its way up to cover his boots. His feet would feel numb soon, but he was too deep in his thoughts to notice. The spot he’d chosen was much like the one he’d used to frequent on Bear Island. Jagged and heavy rocks, not stones or pebbles, formed the landscape behind him. It wasn’t a spot most people would have called comfortable. But it was the only place at Dragonstone that felt like home.

            Daenerys had questioned him about it earlier. “I see less and less of you in the evenings,” she’d said in the map room, the wind picking up her smaller curls and blowing them back in Jorah’s direction as he stood behind her.

            He had bowed his head, even though she couldn’t see him. The gesture was ingrained into his body by now. “It’s meant as no insult to you, Khaleesi. If I’ve offended you in any way-”

            “There’s no offense,” she’d said in her clear toned voice (so like hers) as she half-turned to him. “It’s only curious to me. I didn’t know you favored the sea so much.”

            Jorah had kept his head bowed. “I used to spend a great deal of time on the beach on Bear Island.”

            “Oh? Did you visit with friends?

            “No, Khaleesi.”

            “Always alone?”

            “Never too alone. I always had my thoughts. They kept me company while I waited.”

            “Waited for what?”

            My lover. My wife. Which one? Jorah chose his wife and didn’t need to close his eyes to see her golden hair flying back from her face as she stepped out of the ship and onto the shore for the first time. “For my bride to arrive.”

Daenerys had turned sharply, ringlets swinging, and in a head-spinning second it was Lynesse that Jorah saw fixing him with a stare that contained hard questions. Daenerys’s eyes had softened as she turned back to the window, but he knew her look would be etched in his memory as surely as every image of Lynesse’s angry and disappointed face was.

“I see,” she’d whispered. “Was she also-”

The sound of the wooden door creaking open. “Pardon me, my Lady. Ser Jorah. Lord Tyrion would like to see you in private, my Lady.”

“Thank you, my Lord,” Daenerys had said tersely to Jon Snow as she turned fully from the window. Jorah had known that she still bristled inside every time someone – particularly Jon Snow – did not refer to her as “Your Grace.” She had begun to stride past Jorah and the map table, but before she’d passed him, she’d laid a soft hand on his shoulder. The gesture had been fleeting, like an insect alighting and disembarking in the space of an eyeblink, but Jorah’s heart had constricted all the same.

A touch from Daenerys Stormborn. It was something that never failed to be new, and a miracle.

Now, thinking of the touch, he laid back on the sand and waited for the tide to creep up to his ankles. The sun was too low in the sky to hurt his vision so he kept his eyes open and stared at the slice of sky that was still blue. Blue that like dress she wore so often. He laid one finger on his shoulder and closed his eyes. Rocks of uneven shapes pushed into the fabric of his black cloak. Rather than ignoring them, he counted each one, kept still and let them settle into place against him. A different chain of memories ran through his mind. If he concentrated hard enough, the rocks almost felt like his fingers as they pushed into his back in pleasure as Jorah kissed along his shoulder…

            This train of thought began a reverie so engulfing, so like a gauzy mist surrounding him that he couldn’t have it blown away even if he’d wanted to. And he didn’t want to.

            Which was why the distant clap of feet among the rocks and the final scrape near his head made him inwardly curse whoever it was that tore the mist apart.

            He opened his eyes to find Jon Snow looking down on him. Confused. It figured. Behind his back, the others were always saying he looked confused all the time.

            “Apologies, Ser Jorah. I saw you flat on the sand and wondered-”

            “If I was alright. Yes, I’m fine.” The words came out more curtly than he’d meant as he pushed his bare hands into the thick sand to pull himself into a sitting position. The back of his cloak felt heavy with water but he had soaked it on purpose. The memories came alive more easily, the more water that surrounded his body. He crossed his legs and rested one hand on his sword while he waited for Jon Snow to be on his way. When he failed to hear the crunch of rocks that signaled boots moving, he looked up.

            Jon Snow was still staring at him, straight-backed and solemn. As Jorah met his gaze, the other man looked briefly out to sea and then down at his feet. “There’s dinner being prepared,” he said, gesturing to the castle. “Thought I’d tell you as I’m headed there myself.”

            Jorah tried to give him a gentle nod. “I appreciate it.” He turned his body away again, tugging his cloak more closely around him with one hand. You’ll catch chill and it’ll be all your fault if you fall ill and make me weep, he could hear his mother half-crying, the way she always did when he returned soaking wet from the beach at home. It would have been so much easier if he and Brandon could have met during the day. They could have walked in the sun, after their trysts, and dried off more easily. But sword lessons always took up too much time. It was only in the evenings that he could make the pretense of taking a walk for more exercise and instead meet Brandon in the sea cove. He’d wondered many a time if making love counted as exercise.

            Jorah sighed before he could stop the noise, the noise that always huddled in some chamber of his heart. He usually didn’t let it out unless he was alone. Which was why he began to bristle himself at Jon Snow standing by him.

            “Is there something else, my Lord?” he said as evenly as he could, although he felt his eyes narrowing.

            Jon Snow shrugged. “No. Nothing else. It just seemed odd, seeing you here. I imagine anyone would question why a man would willingly let himself be soaked to the bone in sea water.”

            Jorah closed his eyes before he could narrow them further. “Nothing a hot bath can’t cure afterwards.”

            “I know, but why do it?”

            “It’s a good refreshment. It’s good for my endurance.”

            “Doesn’t sword fighting have the same effect?”

            There was no getting rid of him.

            Jorah combed a damp hand through his hair. “It reminds me of my home.”

            He kept his gaze steady on the sea, waiting for Jon Snow’s response. When none came, he looked up again despite himself. The other man was watching the foam tumble around Jorah’s boots. Jorah couldn’t read his expression now. Jon cleared his throat and said, “Bear Island.”

            “Yes.”

            “I hear it’s beautiful. In a rugged way.” He kept his eyes on the surf. “I told my father I wanted to go, once. When I was much younger. Fourteen, maybe. I was going to take my sister Arya and my brother Bran. I thought it would be a nice surprise, for them to see the ocean. But my father forbade it.” He kept his eyes lowered as the wind picked at a hair that had come loose from his bun. “Very adamantly.”

            Jorah quirked his mouth and took a rock between his fingers, thumbing a pointy ridge. “I don’t doubt it. Your father was out for my blood years after I left. The last thing he needed was word getting out that his children were visiting my island. When it was my island.” To his surprise, there was no bitterness in his words. Bitterness had used to choke his voice like a rope around his neck when he’d talked about Bear Island in those early days of exile. Lynesse had shouted at him more than once to shut up if he was going to keep taking that tone of voice with her. There were so many things that time didn’t erode, he thought as he gripped the rock in his palm. Yet it had sanded down the bitterness in his voice to a mere tired resignation.

            Perhaps that was for the best, he thought as he put the rock down. The tide was sloshing around his ankles now. He realized how he must look through Jon Snow’s eyes: a grown man sitting in the uncomfortably rocky sand with his entire feet in the waves. He hadn’t sat like this for so long that he’d forgotten how strange it looked to others. Lynesse had sat with him at the water’s edge when it was sunny, the dark water washing over her slim white feet. He’d tackle her onto her back and she’d squeal with laughter, her body sinking into the soft blanket he’d laid out for her. He’d separate the waves of her hair with one finger before kissing her, both their mouths salty.

The water’s edge was what he’d missed the most among his time with the Dothraki. The Great Grass Sea had made his eyes blur with shades of green and brown. It wasn’t until Daenerys, with her silver aura, had changed the color of his life. And yet it felt wrong, somehow, to ask her to sit with him by seaside. He still felt the ground between them thin at times, like slate rather than the granite it been before she knew about his plan of betrayal. He’d kissed her soft hands when she’d forgiven him, the only part of her he knew he’d ever be allowed to kiss. He’d told himself it was enough. The ground between them was strong enough for now, but the water, for all its vastness, was somehow too intimate. He’d run by it with Brandon to their secret cove, he’d kissed Lynesse along its edge. That was enough for him. It had to be.

“It’ll be your island again someday. You know that, right?”

Jorah’s heart throbbed almost to the point of pain as he shot a glance up at Jon. “What did you say?”

Jon Snow met his eyes carefully. “When…everything is over. I’ll draw up the deed. It’ll be yours again.”

Jorah quashed a hitch in his breath and unconsciously started to push up from the sand. Jon Snow quickly waved a hand at him to stay where he was. “No, you’re settled. I’ll sit. I’m not that hungry, anyway,” he said, glancing vaguely at the castle. He lowered himself down and crossed his legs, then grimaced as the tide immediately soaked his shins.

Jorah hoisted himself up, droplets streaming down his ankles. “No need to sit here. We can walk.” He turned in the opposite direction of the fortress while he waited for Jon Snow to collect himself.

As they set off along sand so thick that it barely held footprints, Jorah said nothing, waiting for this man who called himself King in the North to elaborate. It had been the last thing Jorah had expected, particularly after being brusque with Jon Snow. He wondered why it was so difficult to think of the man as simply Jon. “Snow” seemed to inevitably follow when you said his name, something permanent and unalterable. “You’ve been reading more books I see, Jon Snow,” said Tyrion. “You would do well to recognize my claim to the Iron Throne, Jon Snow,” said Daenerys. “Jon Snow is the King in the North!” said Davos. “Jon Snow is a bastard, too, but we’re a good lot, really,” said Gendry.

Jon Snow. Jorah the Andal. Jorah the Exile.

He almost missed the start of Jon’s sentence when the other man said, in his usual serious voice, “I know my father was out for your blood, as you say, but if he could see the world now, he’d understand why I’ve made this decision. Whether or not you call me ‘King in the North,’ you’re on the side that’s fighting for the good of this world. You’re fighting to save all of us. There’s too much honor in that to deny you your homeland anymore. I don’t think you’re the person you were all those years ago.”

Jorah held back a rueful laugh. “You didn’t know me all those years ago. But your father did.”

Jon shook his head slightly. “But I’ve gotten the measure of you, even if only from other people. And I see you here, by my side.” He glanced quickly at Jorah and away again. “In every sense. Trying to hold off the darkness with me. You’re not doing it for money. You haven’t asked a single thing of me. And that’s how I know you deserve your home again. I don’t know if Lady Daenerys has already offered it to you.”

Jorah clasped his hands behind his back and looked down. “She did, once. Before…when I was in her favor.”

He sensed Jon nodding beside him. “Whether or not she does again, my offer stands. You’ll hold the whole island. You need never even see me again.”

Jorah smiled. “There would be an open invitation for you to visit. If I’m home again,” he added quickly.

Jon turned fully to him. For a moment it seemed that he might smile, but his mouth remained in a straight line as he said, “Then I might take you up on it.”

They looked at each other in silence for a moment. Jorah realized he hadn’t noticed that the blue sky was long gone and the dark was beginning to obscure his feet in front of him.

Jon seemed to sense it as well. “I suppose I’ll head back now,” he said, turning his face to the wind. It pushed the stray ring of hair against his cheek. Jorah watched for a moment. Jon had a lovely jawline. Everyone always laughed and joked over his hair, but it was the shape of his face that Jorah would have said was his most beautiful feature. He supposed he was saying it now, only without words.

Jon looked back at him. “Well.” He held out his hand. “If I don’t see you at dinner, I hope your night is well.”

Jorah bowed his head slightly. Would there ever be a time in his life when he didn’t owe someone a bow? But it was a small bother after what Jon had given him this night. He shook Jon’s gloved hand with his bare one, the leather of Jon’s glove a pleasant texture against his skin. “You as well, my Lord. I-” He stopped, trying not to let his search for words show on his face. In the end he settled for the simplest of all. “Thank you.”

***

            Despite Jon’s best wishes, Jorah rarely had a night that went well. He supposed he was lucky to have his own room, but Dragonstone was so vast and sprawled out that everyone had their own room, and none of the rooms were close together. He felt as if he might be the only person in the entire fortress. To sleep in a real bed was a luxury he hadn’t known for some time.

            Which made it all the more painful that he shared it with no one.

            He’d never thought that sleeping on a cot in a Dothraki tent or a swaying ship would be easier than a proper bed. It was strange, as the only person he’d ever shared a real bed with was Lynesse. Brandon had fantasized that after Jeor Mormont had taken the black and left the fortress to Jorah, that they’d sleep and make love in “a proper Lord’s bed.” Jorah had imagined so many times that Daenerys might finally part the curtains on her canopy and reach out her hand to him. When he first knew her, he had dreamed she would run her smooth hands under his shirt and unbuckle his belt with her nimble fingers. In more recent days, he only wanted to lay his head on her breast and be held in those soft, slender arms through the night. He reached for the ghost of her touch on his shoulder today, traveled back to that moment. He reached for the rocks that had pressed into his back, so like Brandon’s fingers. He reached for the tide wrecking itself against his legs, as it had in those moments with Lynesse on their soft blanket. He reached for Jon Snow’s handshake.

            Jorah rolled over onto his back. Lynesse, Brandon, and Daenerys all glided through his mind at different times during the nights here. What part did Jon have in this? He rubbed his eyes. Was he so starved for touch that a mere handshake with a man who’d been wearing gloves resurfaced in his thoughts in bed? He rolled toward the side facing the window, letting the crash of surf become louder in his ears. He had no illusions that the sound would drown out his thoughts, but if it would help him imagine that he was floating on the water, lulled to rest, soothed to quiet heartbeats…

            He nearly jolted upright at the sound of voices outside his door, his heart slamming itself briefly against his ribs. He cursed himself even as he strained his ears to pick out the voices. One sounded like Lord Tyrion. The other sounded like Jon. Of course. They were bidding each other good night. He heard the murmurs end on a slightly louder note and then they were silent, and the sound of two sets of boots going in different directions soon faded. Jorah let his elbows fall from underneath him and he fell on his back again. He reached to rub his eyes, realized he’d done that only a minute past, and ran his hand through his hair instead. It was a habit he’d had all his life, one his father had tried to break him of. “Stop it,” he’d bark gruffly to a teenage Jorah as his fingers neared his forehead. “You’re to be the Lord of this place. No boyish gestures.”

            Brandon had found the gesture charming. So had Lynesse. At different times they had both pried his hand away from his hair and run their own hands through it instead.

            Jorah rolled back to the window. Fleeting images winked in and out of his mind. A rock with pointed edges. Wet boots. A gloved hand. The line of a jaw. Jorah traced the line once, twice, three times in his mind just before sleep claimed him.

***

The wolf on the head of Longclaw remained impressively still as Jon Snow held his body (and his jaw) rigid as he faced Daenerys across the map table. Jorah watched the gleaming pommel in silence as he only half-listened to the noise being exchanged between Jon and Daenerys. That’s what it sounded like, at any rate. Not conversation.

“Evidence, my Lady, the dragonglass-”

“Not a shred of hard evidence beyond-”

“My experiences are evidence-”

“I’m supposed to believe that thousands of, what, creatures-”

Enemies-”

            Noise. Jorah thumbed his lip with one finger and kept his eyes on the wolf as Tyrion, Davos, and Varys interjected at various times, presumably with counsel. Missandei and the boy Gendry stood off to one side, Missandei calm and Gendry trying poorly to hide his discomfort as the volume between the King in the North and the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms rose. The pommel was so well-crafted and had a lustrous tint. Did Jon polish it regularly? Maybe he would ask. No, on second thought. Not right to make him feel awkward about owning Jeor Mormont’s sword in the presence of Jeor Mormont’s son. Jorah flicked his gaze up to Jon, then immediately flicked it back to Longclaw. Jon’s jaw was moving now as he jabbed a finger on the map. Jon’s jaw was a pleasant, easy sight to lay the eyes upon.

            Which made Jorah’s feelings all the more disturbing.

            “A strategically timed break, perhaps? Ten minutes? Fifteen? Lunch?” Tyrion circled widely around both Jon and Daenerys as he passed briskly through the room and out the door. Jon and Daenerys held each other’s eyes for a long, stony moment. Then Daenerys said, “Missandei, accompany me while the Lords take their meal.” She looked at Jorah and the stony cast fell from her face. “Perhaps Ser Jorah will represent my interests while I’m gone.” As she and Missandei filed past him, she gave him a fond look and the velvet-smooth cloth of her dress brushed his knees. Jorah’s eyes closed. When he opened them again, he was relieved to see that no one was looking at him oddly.

            “That was pretty bad,” Gendry whispered to Varys, probably assuming the whole room couldn’t hear him.

            “Oh, sweet summer child, it will get much, much worse. We have yet to see their winter.” Jon spared a withering glare at Varys, who folded his hands and glided out of the room, Gendry scratching his stubble and shrugging at Jorah as he followed.

When they were gone, Davos put his face in his hands. “If you’ll excuse me, your Grace,” he said between his fingers. “I don’t need lunch so much as a nice scream where no one can hear me.”

Jon gestured with his thumb to the window. “There’s a nice cave there that might serve. A cave with paintings in it,” he added bitterly as he scraped a chair back to sit down. He put his own head in his hands. Davos gave Jorah the weariest look he’d yet seen on the older man’s face. The map room door shut quietly.

Jorah inhaled quietly, the salt air wafting in from the window fresh in his lungs. He couldn’t see Longclaw from the angle at which Jon was sitting, but the sunlight was striking his profile and framing his head in a haze of light. Jorah’s eyes lingered on Jon as Jon sat completely still. Someone could carve his face in marble and it’d be more beautiful than the dragons on the wall.

Jorah squeezed his eyes shut. How Daenerys would have been perturbed at that thought – something more beautiful than dragons. Some one.

What did he know about Jon Snow, apart from the titles? Bastard, Lord Commander, King? Did anyone here truly know him that well? Most of his siblings were dead or missing. His father was dead. His mother was unknown. His brothers of the Night’s Watch were miles to the north. Did he feel alone here? Jorah had heard some talk from Davos Seaworth that Jon had infiltrated the wildlings and used the knowledge he’d gained to help save Castle Black during the siege. Was that before or after Jeor Mormont had been killed? Jorah resisted the urge to pinch the bridge of his nose. Memories didn’t exist in a timeline for him so much as moments that seized him when he least expected it. The shine of a new necklace around Lynesse’s neck, her proud and approving gaze as she kissed him. Brandon kissing him from the back of his neck and down his spine as they moved in rhythm. Daenerys kissing his cheek and softly asking, “Is that what you fear?” before she stepped into a flaming pyre. Kisses. Touches. The things that kept him up at night. The things that lay behind every heartbeat.

Did Jon Snow miss anyone the way he did?

“Has she always been this way?”

Jorah opened his eyes, dazed for a moment, and then straightened his back as he rooted himself in the present. Jon met his gaze and there was the same weariness in his eyes that Jorah had seen in Davos’s, but also a small spark of anger. For a man who wasn’t known for expressing his feelings, the glint surprised Jorah.

Jorah cleared his throat. “What way would that be?”

Jon looked down at the table and pursed his lips. “Obstinate. Her ears closed to any advice.”

Jorah couldn’t suppress a rueful smile. “She’s had her share of advisors. We’ve all tried to guide her. But she’s immoveable when-”

“When it counts the most?” Jon laid his palms flat on the table and looked back at Jorah. The angry glint flared for a moment, then burnt out as Jon shook his head. “Apologies. You don’t deserve my frustration.” He pushed back his chair abruptly and gestured out to the beach. “You seem to find the seaside soothing. Advise me about it.” His lips formed the smallest of smiles and Jorah felt something weaken inside him. The man about whose jawline he’d been fantasizing? The barricade against desire he’d been trying to sustain around himself wobbled.

Uncertain that words would hide the unexpected throb inside him, he merely nodded and held the door open for Jon. He kept his eyes lowered as they passed through the halls and down the walkway toward the beach. He gravitated naturally toward the water’s edge and Jon fell into step beside him. Seabirds shrieked and they were music to Jorah’s ears. The birds on Bear Island had always cried at all hours of the day. They’re crying for the summer that will end, the locals would say. Was that you or a bird? Brandon had once asked after Jorah had keened loudly as he came in the other boy’s hand. He’d splashed Brandon, who was soon shrieking as loud as the birds…

“She’s very beautiful. It’s distracting sometimes, when I look her full in the face. But then she’ll return my gaze and look like she wants to spit at me.”

Jon’s voice cut through the cries of the birds. Jorah sighed inwardly. He clasped his hands behind his back and looked up at a white gull sailing away from him. “I know that feeling.”

“It’s hard to imagine her looking like she wants to spit at you.”

“With all respect, my Lord, you weren’t there when she banished me.”

“I’m sorry,” Jon said, tugging the furs round his shoulders closer to his body. “She’s so affectionate with you, it’s easy to forget-”

“How much I bled to regain that affection. It’s no fault of yours.” The sound of their boots crunching pebbles on the hard sand was comforting. “Our paths have taken a long time to cross. Hers and yours. Yours and mine.” Jorah glanced briefly at Jon and was jolted to see that Jon was already looking at him. Jorah cleared his throat and turned his gaze ahead of him again before he could reach out and trace that jaw. He looked sidelong briefly and saw that Jon was now looking firmly ahead as well.

“May I ask something?”

“Of course.”

“Why did you do it? Return to her side? Apart from…” Jon waved a hand vaguely and shook his head. “Apologies. I’m going about this all wrong.”

Jorah smiled to himself. “It’s no secret, my feelings for her. You don’t have to step around the subject, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“It’s exactly what I was worried about.”

Jorah suppressed a laugh before breathing in deeply and keeping the dark cliffs in his view as he gazed ahead. “She was worth it. Every fight. Every drop of blood I shed. I was floating through life before I met her. She put me on solid ground again. I’d lost all purpose after…after my wife left.” There was a small waver in his voice and he cursed himself. Jon was silent, so he continued as steadily as he could. “But she grew into her powers before my eyes. I’d never met anyone with so much steel in her soul. I’m not ashamed to say that I’d still lay myself at her feet if she asked. In penitence, yes – I don’t know if I’ll ever truly forgive myself for nearly having her killed – but in her honor as well. She will be greater than even she knows someday. If she keeps her ears open, as you might say. Please-” He waved a hand as Jon tried to cut in. “It’s alright. She’s not perfect. I’ll admit it, as much as it would surprise most of those who know me. But I believe in her, in how she leads. And she’s shown that she still believes in me, too.” For a moment, he was gathering her hands in his own again, kissing them, devoting himself.

Jorah looked at Jon, who seemed to find the distant cliffs very interesting as well. “She’s very brave,” he said over a sudden gush of the wind around their bodies. “I can understand why she inspires people to stay at her side. It’s not only the dragons, is it?”

Jorah raised his voice to meet Jon’s. “No. It’s the woman.” The wind slowly subsided and Jorah realized they were almost at the cave. Jon stiffened and Jorah almost put a hand on his arm. Jon only sighed and turned to face Jorah.

“Maybe we should turn around.”

“We can sit, if you like. Not here, of course.” Jorah gestured back the way they came. “Plenty of places in the sun.”

Jon looked at him. “What about the edge of the water?”

“To sit?”

“Yes. I wasn’t very brave about it yesterday. But if you find it calming, I’d like to try it.” He gave Jorah another small smile. For a man with such a gloomy reputation, he certainly smiled his fair share. Perhaps people didn’t truly know Jon Snow as well as they said.

Or were the smiles for Jorah alone? No. What a selfish thought.

Their footsteps crunched back along the sand. Jorah assumed they were walking back to a place within sight of the castle and was surprised when Jon gestured to the sea line only a few moments after the cave was out of sight. “Here. If that’s alright. I don’t feel like being seen from a window right now.” He sat down and pulled his knees up as the foam crawled toward him. Jorah sat as close as he dared and stretched his legs out. “So this is where you would spend time on Bear Island? Why here?”

Jorah felt his muscles relax as the water ran over his calves. “There’s something soothing about the movement and the feeling of the cold. The sea is so infinitely powerful but if you sit in the right place, it will deign to touch you of its own accord. Or perhaps that’s how it seems at least. And the cold feels good to me, as strange as that may sound. It…makes my senses come alive. It’s what I missed most in Essos. Lynesse teased me for missing something so many others don’t…” He felt his blood freeze to the temperature of the water engulfing his boots. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d spoken Lynesse’s name aloud. Such a pretty name. Brandon had hated it, but he’d hated most things about Lynesse. Mostly her existence. Mostly that it meant the end for them.

“Ygritte.”

Jorah’s blood still felt icy as he turned to Jon. “I’m sorry?”

Jon untucked one of his legs from his arms and let it fall to the sand. “Ygritte. She wasn’t my wife, but that was her name. The wildling girl I loved beyond the Wall. She died in my arms during the siege.”

Jorah’s blood slowly began to flow again. “I didn’t know that. I’m very sorry.”

“I didn’t think you knew it. Which is why I wanted to tell you, since you mentioned your wife by name. I’ve never heard you do that before. I know I haven’t known you long, but I’m guessing she’s not someone you mention very much.”

Jorah traced a finger on the wet sand. “You would be right. It’s no secret either that she’s been living with another man for all these years.”

“Is it alright to ask if you miss her?” Jon let his other leg down and shot Jorah a quick glance. “I only ask because…well, Ygritte. I miss her. But I never mention it.” A wave somersaulted over their knees and Jon abruptly shifted himself toward Jorah. Jorah assumed it was because of the cold wave, but when he looked over, he saw Jon looking at him with something like desperation in his eyes. Jorah stared at him, feeling his eyes widen. “How do you cope with it? Not having her anymore? Lynesse?” Jon ran his fingers across his brow. “You’re the only one here I feel I can ask. I try to hide it. I think I do a decent job of it most of the time. I don’t think anyone would believe me if I said it keeps me up at night. Missing her.”

Jorah blinked rapidly and tried to compose his face. So Jon had emotions roiling inside himself too. Jorah felt as though he should have known. He carefully managed his own appearance to seem composed at all times. But his heart was wounded and limping at night, dreading the dreams, the memories.

“How do I cope with it,” he repeated. Jon nodded. Jorah let the cold water run over his hands. He allowed himself an inward sigh. After seeing the desperation in Jon’s eyes, he felt he had to offer advice. But honesty had been his standby for some time now, so he said quietly, “In truth, not well. That’s not what I imagine you wanted to hear. I find other pleasures in life, I suppose. Not in that way,” he added quickly, though Jon shook his head.

“I know what you meant.”

“Yes. It’s the things I still feel I can call my own that sustain me, I suppose.” He moved his hand in the water. “I’m a long way from Bear Island, but saltwater is saltwater and waves are waves. It’s why I rest here so often.” He closed his eyes. “It’s the only place I feel at rest.” He looked over at Jon and tried to read his face. The desperation still hovered in his eyes. “Does that help at all?”

Jon turned to him. “Yes, actually,” he said thickly. “I can’t say I feel rested anywhere than at Winterfell. I miss Sansa, my sister. I only want to sit by the fire with her and talk about anything but strategy. Yes, it’s surprising isn’t it?” he said as Jorah raised his eyebrows. “It’s all I do with my life now, talk strategy. And it’s important. It’s more than important. It’s what will help us win against the dark. But I don’t sleep at night. And it’s not only because my mind races with planning the future. It’s because I’m longing for the past. For her in my arms.” He closed his eyes and listed slightly to one side. Jorah wondered if he was aware of the motion. “I don’t sleep.”

“I don’t either.”

The words were off his tongue before he could hold them back. Might as well continue. “I miss them.”

Might as well stop.

Jon looked at him immediately. I’m sure he couldn’t help it, Jorah thought as his heart stumbled and he felt a slight dizziness push his mind off-kilter. But there’s no going back now. He pushed his hands firmly into the sand and watched the bubbles of the surf pop on them. “I had someone on Bear Island. Before my wife.” The words sent a shock through him. He’d never said them aloud, not even to Lynesse. Heart pounding, he pushed on. “We were lovers. My mother and father didn’t know. It ended when my engagement was arranged. I…I broke it off. I broke off the best thing that had ever happened to me. I broke two hearts when I did that. I’m still not at peace with it.”

He couldn’t look at Jon. The memory was ribboning around his heart but the fabric was of sorrow this time. How could you? Brandon had said in a broken voice, shoving Jorah in the chest so hard that Jorah had stumbled against the cove wall. We were a team. You always said we were a team. Don’t give me up for her. How could you?

“It’s alright if you don’t want to talk about it,” Jon said softly. Jorah swallowed as imperceptibly as he could, the ribbon tightening. It couldn’t keep the words inside, though.

“No. I should talk about it. I’ve never talked about it before. My wife never knew. Daenerys doesn’t know.”

“I’m surprised you’d tell me then, if I’m honest. Because we don’t know each other that well.”

“Don’t we?” Jorah hazarded a glance at Jon. “You don’t sleep at night either, do you? For want of someone?”

Jon closed his eyes briefly and opened them with a gaze shot through with longing. “You’re right.”

Jorah nodded. “More alike than you’d think.”

“Yes,” Jon murmured quietly. “Yes, you’re right.”

“His name was Brandon.”

“What?”

“His name was Brandon.” Jorah knifed a cut in his heart and the words bled out. “He was named after your uncle, Lord Eddard’s elder brother. He looked much like every other boy on Bear Island, fair haired, light eyes. But he was the handsomest. We met because we had the same blade teacher. I was quiet and he teased me every day. But I was only quiet, not dense. I knew why he teased me. I confronted him about it one day after practice and we spent the rest of the day kissing in a sea cove. It became our regular place to meet.” The water was so cold on his hands. “To love. We went every day after practice. It was the only place secluded enough that no one would find us. Or hear us. It was always cold and damp and with at least an inch of water on the sand but we didn’t care. He was always angry that we couldn’t be open about ourselves. ‘I’ll walk with you hand in hand down the beach one day,’ he’d say. ‘As soon as your father leaves for the Wall. By the Old Gods, I’d do it right now, I swear.’ He wasn’t an angry boy in general, though. He was the first person who was every truly tender to me. My mother fussed over me but she wasn’t affectionate. My father never touched me, never put a hand on my shoulder or an arm around my neck. I had no siblings to play with. I grew up starved for touch, I suppose.”

The sun was angling close to his face and he welcomed the opportunity to keep it down and put a hand above his eyes. He was about to continue when Jon said softly, “How long were you together?”

Jorah kept his hand in place. “Three years? A little more? The day the Hightowers sent word that they’d accepted my father’s proposal of me as a groom for Lynesse was the worst day of my life up until then. I’d never seen Brandon cry. He begged me not to leave him behind. ‘It won’t work,’ I told him. ‘You can’t enter the fortress. What am I to say to my wife if I’m gone half the day and have no excuse for it?’ ‘Just an hour,’ he’d beg. ‘An hour with me. It’s all I ask.’ I agreed at first, you know. I knew it wouldn’t be honorable, having a lover while being married. A male lover, at that.” The sun was hot on his hand. “And then Lynesse arrived. And she was a force of nature. She talked endlessly, and I was enchanted at how fast she moved, how she laughed and sang and danced in the waves in her bare feet. My wedding night…it was glorious. I didn’t want to fall in love with her. But I did. My father left for the Wall three days after my marriage.” It was too hot and he reached into the tide and splashed water on his cheeks. “Brandon went with him.”

He felt Jon turn his head. “I never knew a Brandon at the Wall.”

“I’m not surprised. It was years ago. I’ve not an idea what happened to him. My father never knew about the two of us, as I said. To him, Brandon was just another recruit. He never even told me he was taking the black.”

“You didn’t know?”

“No. I went to the sea cove for a few days to see if I could talk with him. He was never there. I heard one of my fellow blade students mention that he’d left with my father.”

“So you never got to say goodbye to him.”

The drops fell from his temples and onto his shoulders. “No. I didn’t.”

“I didn’t either.”

“What?”

“Say goodbye. To Ygritte. Not properly. I begged her to understand why I had to leave. She shot me three times and then a few weeks later she was dead in my arms. The last thing she said was that I knew nothing. I only said goodbye to her when I burned her body the next day. And even then I didn’t say it out loud. I couldn’t, somehow. I just turned away from the pyre and felt the feeling in my chest. The feeling of goodbye.” Jon had a hand to his forehead now but he turned to Jorah. “Does that make sense?”

Jorah nodded under his hand. “Yes. I did much the same. I didn’t have the words when I realized the extent of what I’d done. Lynesse followed me to the cove one day, the last day I visited, after I learned Brandon had left. ‘You don’t visit here, do you?’ she asked. ‘It’s so dark.’ So I lied and said I was only looking at it out of curiosity. And then we walked back into the sea and the sun.”

He heard Jon sigh softly and looked at him sideways from beneath his hand. Jon was staring adamantly at the glittering top of the sea but he looked unsettled. Disturbed, even. Something twisted in Jorah’s stomach and he quickly looked back at the sea himself. “I haven’t…I’d be very sorry if I had made you uncomfortable.”

“No,” said Jon. “I asked in the first place. It’s a relief to tell someone.”

The sun was moving off their faces. Jorah dropped his hand and chose his words carefully. “And you don’t mind what I’m telling you?”

“That you lost a lover too? Why would I mind, when I’ve shared my story with you?”

“Well.” Jorah breathed deeply. “There are some who wouldn’t want to hear about my losing another man.”

Jon was frowning as he dropped his own hand. “Were you worried about that? That I’d judge you?”

“I’ve been judged too many times in my life over larger matters than to worry about that. But I did wonder what you’d think.”

Jon looked in his lap and pulled his gloves off. Jorah watched in surprise as he laid the gloves aside and pressed both palms into the rocky sand. “I don’t think of it one way or another.” He scraped a rock out of the sand with one hand and then threw it with a crooked elbow into the sea. “No. That’s a lie. I do think of it in a certain way.” He continued digging through the sand and rubbing it between his fingers. Jorah watched in confused fascination. Jon finally pulled his hand out of the sand and squeezed his fingers into a fist. “I’m the same as you.”

Jorah felt a shiver tingle down his arms. It couldn’t be, surely? “I’m not certain I understand.”

Jon vigorously rubbed the sand through his fingers. “How I feel about…about men. I…they’re attractive too.” He stilled his hand. “No one knows I feel that way. I wouldn’t have been eager to tell anyone, either. If you hadn’t told me about yourself first.”

Jorah didn’t move. He felt a strange throbbing in his temples, a sense of unreality, as if the ocean had stopped rocking for a moment. Jon was completely still beside him, not even his breath audible. The sea birds were quiet for once. Only the slight waft of wind and lap of the tide filled his ears. Or were the birds shrieking after all? He couldn’t tell. He wasn’t even sure he was breathing. He took an experimental breath, let it out, and felt his stomach clench as the sound came out more as a sigh. He chanced the smallest glance at Jon out of the side of his eye. Jon was clenching his beautiful jaw. Jorah lost his breath again.

“It’s alright, you know.” His voice came out as a raspy whisper. “It’s perfectly alright.”

Jon wrapped his arm around his knees and looked ready to bury his head in them. Jorah half reached out a hand and then quickly dropped it into the surf. “You don’t have to speak. You don’t have to look at me. But listen to me. Please. It’s alright. You’re alright. There’s nothing wrong with you.”

“At Castle Black,” Jon said abruptly, nearly whipping his head up, his bun half falling apart. “They would have eaten me alive.” His voice cracked. “I don’t know what my father would have thought. I don’t want to know. I’m worried. I loved Ygritte. Lady Daenerys is very beautiful. But what if I never love another woman? What if…” He laughed, a disconcerting sound to the misery on his face. “People tell me not to look so worried all the time. That I’m strong enough to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders. They don’t even know what they’re talking about.” He cast his eyes at the sky, as if searching for some unknown beacon to fix them on. “They’d never look at me the same if they knew. No one knows me.”

Jorah turned and tried to catch Jon’s eye. It took a moment, but Jon finally flicked his eyes at him. “Do you want someone to know you?” he asked quietly. “Tell me. Tell me anything.”

Jon blinked rapidly but held his gaze. “I think I trust you. No, I know I do. I…I want something,” he said in a voice as quiet as Jorah’s.

“Tell me.”

“Will you…” He shook his head and turned away again, biting his lip.

Jorah kept his body turned to him. “Jon. Tell me.”

Jon slowly turned back and looked down at Jorah’s hand. “Will you just touch me?” he said, his voice barely louder than the last ebb of a wave. “Just…I don’t know. Anywhere. Anywhere you want. If you want. It might be too much to ask-”

Jorah’s heart was beating too fast for him to move smoothly but he laid his hand on the side of Jon’s face, thumb along that beautiful jaw. Jon moved his cheek shakily into Jorah’s hand and closed his eyes, mouth slightly open. The stubble on the side of his face felt infinitely better than the feeling of his gloved hand. Jorah held his hand still on the slight roughness and watched Jon carefully. When Jon finally opened his eyes, Jorah could read the question in them as easily as he could read the sky for rain. Was there comfort to be had? He pushed himself closer to Jon and took the other man into his arms. Jon gingerly moved his palms up to Jorah’s back, then grasped it. Jorah put one hand on the back of Jon’s neck and gently cradled it as Jon took a gulping breath with his chin on Jorah’s shoulder.

It had been so long since Jorah had held another man but Jon felt natural in his arms, one soul calling out to another, a ship docking after years of sailing. They didn’t move for seconds. Jorah didn’t count them. Time receded and bid them quietly farewell for what seemed like hours. Jon finally shifted in his arms and pulled back slightly. Time crashed into Jorah’s mind again and for a moment he feared the worst, that Jon would stand and walk away, never speak to him again, never even look at him again. Moments unhinged from time flashed like heat lightning. “Just leave.” Brandon choking out the words the very last time Jorah had seen him, Brandon flinging a hand toward the entrance of the sea cove and then turning his back. “Leave me. Get out. Now.” Lynesse fingering a polished stone in one pierced ear, staring Jorah down evenly, almost triumphantly, plucking up one corner of her dress as she ascended the staircase of another man’s house forever, her back turned for eternity. Jorah didn’t want to see Jon’s back turn on him, but his instincts told him to prepare for footsteps treading away, a black cloak billowing as it retreated.

Instead, Jon moved his face closer to Jorah’s and whispered in his ear. “Will you go to bed with me tonight? And only hold me? Just one night.”

Pure relief flooded throughout his body. “Yes.” Jorah held Jon’s cheek against his own. “Yes. Come to me any time. And I’ll hold you.”

***

            Jon sank one knee onto the bed, then hesitated. Jorah held a hand up to him and Jon touched the back of it before taking it and gently lowering himself into the bed. They faced the window, more so that their voices wouldn’t echo out toward the door, but also, Jorah liked to think, because Jon now found the ocean soothing. Jon shifted onto his side and glanced behind him at Jorah. Jorah draped one arm over Jon’s chest and felt for his hand. Jon took it and Jorah felt the tension in Jon’s body seep away. Jon took a breath and laced his fingers through Jorah’s. The moon shone a slice of beam on the stone floor near them.

            Dinner had been a surprisingly easy affair. Tyrion had plenty to say to both Jon and Daenerys, who had sipped her wine slowly. Jon had hardly touched his wine but he had an answer for whatever Tyrion quipped at him.

            “I assume I am still the only Lannister in your favor, Jon Snow.”

            Jon had touched his mouth with a napkin. “In all fairness, I’ve yet to meet your sister. And your brother didn’t have many complimentary words for me.”

            Tyrion had put up a hand. “In my brother’s favor, he knows he wasn’t shaped to the Seven’s mold. But ah, my sweet sister. She’s more of a misfit than she will ever admit to herself.”

            “Is there no other topic of discussion at dinner than the so-called queen?” Daenerys had kept her eyes on the meat she was cutting.

            “Royalty does have a way of infiltrating even the most banal of activities,” Varys lamented. “And in every single room, too. Why, not even the privy is safe.” He spared a forlorn glance at Tyrion, who had smiled mirthlessly and raised his goblet.

            “Death now enters our conversation as well.” Daenerys had put down her goblet with an audible clink. She turned in her chair. “Ser Jorah, did any of my dragons land near you with their game today?”

            Jorah had swallowed a mouthful and bowed his head. “They do not seem to favor the edge of the shore, Khaleesi. Most likely not enough sea creatures swim so close to the sand for them to be bothered with it.”

            “That makes a great deal of sense.” Daenerys had pushed her chair back. “Ser Jorah, you are a logical man.” She hadn’t looked at Jon, and Jon carefully had his head turned to the window. “Missandei, shall we retire?”

            One by one, the other men had emptied their goblets and scraped their plates clean. Jorah wasn’t particularly surprised when Jon stood up before Gendry or Davos. “I will see you all in the map room in the morning.” He’d faced Davos as he’d spoken, and Davos had nodded.

            “A good night to you, your Grace.”

            “I’ll try to contribute something this time,” Gendry had said.

            A quick smile. “You’re fine, Gendry. Good night, Ser Jorah.”

            “Sleep well, my Lord.”

            It might have been dinner on any other night. Jorah had spoken to Daenerys, as always. Jon and Daenerys hadn’t spoken, as always. Jorah had felt no tension between himself and Jon. So unlike the tension he’d felt with Brandon as they’d stood side by side in line in front of the sword-master. It had felt so thick, it seemed a wonder that none of the other boys had stared at them. Or glared at them. Jorah had kept his head held high until the moment he was able to roll it back as Brandon jumped on him in the cove and pressed kisses all over his neck. The snap of the tension and the rise of their passion had been the defining moment of each day.

            Now, as Jon breathed quietly with his back to Jorah’s chest, Jorah wondered at how they had slipped so easily from the edge of the cold water to the middle of the warm bed. They’d simply risen from the sand and made their way back to the fortress, no different looking than two men taking a refreshing walk. They’d exchanged no words, then or at dinner, but the silence hadn’t been heavy. Jorah had lain in bed, his head feeling slightly as if it were floating, until he finally heard one soft knock at his door. He’d opened it and they’d said nothing as Jon had taken his boots off and undraped his furs. He’d pulled his hair out of its bun with one hand and shaken it out while Jorah had pulled the covers back, and their own, private night began.

             The bed hadn’t creaked as they’d laid down. It was a change from the bed in his room at Bear Island, which, no matter how many times he asked the servants to see to it, creaked and groaned constantly as he and Lynesse had made passionate love during all hours of the day. He’d quickly learned to stop caring that the servants knew exactly what they were doing at exactly what time. He’s been so enamored of Lynesse, addicted to her endless lust for him all through the night, after breakfast, before lunch, when they’d returned from idylls by the sea. How she’d tear her dress off but keep all of her jewels on. How one of her rings occasionally nicked his chest. How he’d had to avoid pulling at the gems dangling from her necklace as he reached for her face while she rode him and gasped nearly as loud as the bed had creaked. It was all of a piece with their relationship.

            But he didn’t like the idea of a creaky bed here and now with Jon. It didn’t fit with the gentle flow of their bond.

            Maybe someday it would.

            Jorah banished the thought before it could take root. Jon had unlaced their fingers and was stroking the back of Jorah’s hand now. It felt lovely and somehow soothed Jorah and quickened his blood at the same time. Jon traced one finger past Jorah’s hand and up his wrist and Jorah couldn’t suppress a sigh into Jon’s hair. He remembered that Jon wasn’t inexperienced, wasn’t a stranger to making love. He was only longing for a man’s touch, a novelty.

            “You have goosebumps.”

            “Hmm?” Jorah adjusted his head. “I what?”

            “Goosebumps.” Jon turned back to him slightly and ran his finger more quickly up and down his arm. “Are you cold?”

            “No. Are you?”

            “No. It just means what I’m doing feels good, doesn’t it?”

            Not inexperienced. “Yes. Yes, it does.”

            Jon rolled around in Jorah’s arms and resettled, facing him. “I’m glad,” he whispered. “We’ve been starving, haven’t we? Both of us?”

            Jorah nodded against Jon’s forehead. “Yes. For a long time.”

            Jon nodded back and Jorah felt him swallow. “I know you look at me. My face. Which part of it? Not my hair, is it?”

            Jorah almost coughed in surprise. Jon laughed silently, still tracing his finger up and down Jorah’s arm. “I’ve been told I’m pretty thick. I know what they say about me. But I notice things. More than they know.” He looked in Jorah’s eyes. “So? What is it?”

            Jorah smiled, a fuller smile than he remembered giving anyone in a long time. “It’s your jawline.”

            Jon smiled back. “I can’t say I’ve ever gotten any compliments on that before.”

            “Perhaps not to your face.”

            Jon leaned his head up, his eyes still locked with Jorah’s. Jorah didn’t need to ask. He took the tip of one finger and moved it from the top of Jon’s jaw and down to his chin. The angle was gorgeous, the small prickle of the stubble exhilarating. Jon sighed as Jorah repeated the motion again and again. The beam of moonlight finally moved away from them and they were in near darkness.

            Jon breathed in. “Did you ever notice me looking?”

            Jorah paused his tracing of Jon’s jaw. “At me?”

            “Of course.”

            Jorah’s hand fell away. “You’re quite serious?”

            “I don’t make a habit of lying.”

            A sweetness began to flow in time with Jorah’s blood. He didn’t like to be caught unaware, but this was something altogether different than a sudden sword attack. “No. When?”

            “Always. Don’t gasp. Stop.” Jorah could feel Jon smiling against him as his breathing grew louder. “Be quiet and I’ll tell you. When you first got off the boat, in that beautiful black cloak of yours. When you speak to Daenerys. Your whole gaze is turned on her that you don’t seem to notice anything else. I suppose I was right. When you talk in council meetings. All the time. You never noticed?”

            Jorah swallowed and shook his head. “No. I’m too wrapped up in myself, it would seem.”

            “Unwrap yourself, then.”

            “Now who’s giving advice?”

            Jon stopped tracing Jorah’s arm. “I’m sorry.”

            Jorah frowned. “It was a jest.”

            “No. I mean, you’ve every right to be wrapped up in yourself. After what you’ve lived through.”

            “Ah. Well. It’s been a journey, to put it bluntly.”

            “One that I hope I’ll end. When you go home.”

            Then how often will I see you? The words were almost out of his mouth before he bit them back. The sweetness in his veins had abruptly slowed and fear was beginning to shake the stem of his heart. The thought of Jon at Winterfell, close and yet not at all near at the same time, wasn’t a pleasant thought. He hadn’t felt this way earlier, when Jon had told him he’d draw up the deed. All he’d thought about then was how much he wanted to sit in the tide on Bear Island. Jon hadn’t been in that thought. Why was it painful to imagine him absent now? How much do I still know about him? “Can it be my turn to ask you something?”

            He felt Jon nod against his shoulder. “Yes. Of course.”

            “Tell me something?”

            “Yes?”

            “Tell me anything. Talk to me. Who are you?”

            He felt Jon pull his head back. “Who am I?”

            “I know what all your titles are. But tell me more of what you want. You wanted to be touched. Start with that, yes? Then what else do you want? And no strategizing. You do enough of that all day.”

            Jon resettled his head on Jorah’s shoulder and breathed quietly again. “Alright. Fair enough. I want to be touched all the time, yes. I want a quiet life. I’m tired. I don’t want to go into battle again. I don’t want to die again. I want my sister safe and happy. I want to see her with a good man someday, when she wants it. I want to be with someone good. I want them by my side through the rest of my life. I want to sit back at the end of every day and take my boots off and sit by the fire. I always want a fire in the hearth. Even in summer. I want a fire like my father always kept. I want to honor my father’s memory. I want to be the man he wanted me to be. I want to be strong, but not so strong that I want more power. I want to always be able to tell the difference between strong and cruel. I want to be merciful. I want to take new vows that promise mercy and justice but not at the expense of a life. I want the life I imagined I’d have when I was young. I want people I love around me. I want one person to love the most. I’ve already had one great love. I only want one more. That’s all I want, really, when I boil it down. I want to fall in love again.”

            Jorah made no sound as Jon caught his breath. He’d been speaking so fast and his voice had been escalating so that Jorah had almost shushed him. But he had been too enraptured listening to this spill of honesty. He wondered how many people had truly seen Jon at his rawest. He didn’t imagine anyone else currently residing at Dragonstone had had the privilege. And what a privilege it was.

            “There,” Jon breathed. “Do you know me better now?”

            Jorah felt for Jon’s face in the dark and ran the back of his fingers down his cheek. “Yes,” he whispered. “And I’ll keep this moment safe with me.”

            “Thank you,” Jon said softly. A brief pause. “Since I seem to be expressing everything in my mind with no barriers to keep anything back, is it alright if I kiss you?”

            Jorah bit his lip and smiled in the dark. He wondered if Jon could sense how big his smile was. He didn’t have to wonder for long.

            “That’s a yes?” Jon moved his head and bumped his chin against Jorah’s. Jorah rolled to face Jon fully and took his face in his hands. But it was Jon who found his mouth first, placing his lips in line with Jorah’s and then pressing slightly. His hands crept up to Jorah’s face and he touched his fingers to Jorah’s cheeks. Heat bloomed in Jorah’s veins and he pressed his mouth softly back against Jon’s. They held the gentle kiss for a moment, before Jon broke it with a soft noise and then kissed Jorah slightly harder. Jorah moved a hand around to the back of Jon’s neck and stroked it gently. Jon made a small noise of pleasure in his throat and before Jorah knew it, Jon had moved fully to lie on top of him. Before Jorah knew much else, they were kissing faster and more desperately. Jon’s mouth was warm and soft and the sensation of kissing another man after so many empty years dismantled all of Jorah’s barricades. This might be paradise. He ran one hand up and down Jon’s spine and Jon shivered and laid his forehead against Jorah’s for a moment, before kissing down his face and finding his lips again. The darkness was meaningless. Jorah could picture every angle of Jon’s face, his closed eyes, his long fingers as they pressed firmer on Jorah’s face. It is paradise.

Touching someone with passion again. Finally.

            After an immeasurable amount of time, Jon broke gently away, breathing shallowly and swallowing. He moved down and laid his head against Jorah’s heart and Jorah shifted to hold him. He knew his heart was beating a quick thump but Jon didn’t seem to care as his breathing evened out. Jorah felt tears sharply pricking behind his eyes and he stared widely into the dark to keep them from falling. He lost the battle and they wobbled down his cheeks. Although they landed on his own nightshirt, Jon, with the instinctual bond that seemed to exist between them, turned in Jorah’s arms.

            “It’s not something I did?”

            “No. Not at all.” Jorah thumbed the wetness off his face and took a ragged breath. “It’s only-”

            “Been so long.”

            “Yes. So long. But it’s exactly what I needed.” He paused. “I don’t mean that…I’m not trying to say you’re interchangeable with any other man. I’m glad it’s you. I’m…” He felt too bare for any statements wrapped in eloquence. “I’m just so glad it’s you.”

***

            Jorah kept his eyes on the pommel of Longclaw. Jon had his head bowed over the map table while Daenerys gestured out the window. Jorah had seen Rhaegal and Viserion swooping and flapping in the distance, heard the distant sounds of their screeches as they plunged to the water and retreated with some type of meat in their mouths. Jorah didn’t like to think about what sea creatures they found and devoured. I’m sentimental about the sea, perhaps, he thought as he crossed his arms and watched the swords pommel move swiftly upwards as Jon straightened. Jorah didn’t bother to listen to the tactical disagreements. He knew they would be moving North soon. It was only a matter of time. He listened only to the sound of Jon’s voice, firm and clear, not soft and warm as it had been last night.

            After another hour of lying in each other’s arms and talking softly about how good it felt, Jon had dressed back into his furs and boots. “If anyone sees or hears me, I was visiting the map room. I spend enough time there. They’ll believe me.” After he was dressed, Jorah felt him pause by the door. “Will you be at the seashore tomorrow?”

            “Always.”

            “I’ll find you.” Another pause. “I might ask you something.”

            “You know that’s fine.”

            “Yes.” One more pause. “Yes, I do.” A smile in his voice. And then the door had closed with barely a sound. Jorah had lain in bed for another hour afterwards, running a hand through his hair. When he woke up, the sunbeam through the window a stark contrast to the moonbeam, he realized that this was the first sleep in many years after which he couldn’t remember his dreams. No Brandon, Lynesse, or Daenerys gliding through his mind, either touching him or firmly withholding their hands. He conjured up the feeling of Jon’s lips on his own, his head on Jorah’s chest, their hands on each other’s faces. The familiar sweetness spread from his heartbeat along his arms and down his back. It was such a pleasant feeling that he dallied in dressing himself and ended up being the last person to enter the map room. Jon had flicked his eyes at him, nodded, and then looked casually away, addressing Davos with some question. To Jorah’s relief, Daenerys had no logistical questions for him to answer this morning. He was desperate to walk to the beach. He waited until the room emptied slightly, then turned away without looking at Jon and hurried down the castle steps when he presumed himself out of sight. It took a force of will not to run along the surf as he made his way, wind buffeting his face and billowing his cloak.

Once out of sight of the fortress, he lowered himself deeper into the tide than usual. The cold water pooling around his legs almost made him shiver but he fixed his cloak around his body and laid back on it. He blanked out his mind to any sensation except the water washing him while he waited. He didn’t hear the body sit some feet behind him, but he felt it and pushed himself up, looking around. Jon was smiling with one side of his mouth. “Why don’t you just swim?”

Jorah combed dripping fingers through his already wet hair. “I could, I suppose. But can you swim?”

Jon shook his head. “No. There was nowhere to learn at Winterfell.”

“Then I’m not going to swim. I’m going to stay here.”

“Will you teach me sometime?”

“To swim? Of course.”

“That wasn’t my question, by the way.”

“What?”

“Last night. You remember?” Jon stood up and closed the distance between them, sitting as fully in the surf as Jorah was. If he was shocked by the cold, he didn’t show it. He licked his lips quickly and stared Jorah full in the face. “I said I had a question for you.”

“I remember. You can ask it whenever you like.”

“I will.” Jon put a thumb on Jorah’s jaw and moved it across the angle. “You have a beautiful jaw yourself, you know.”

Jorah chuckled before he could help it and looked down. “I’ve never thought I was very handsome. I’m not being humble.”

“You’re the most handsome man I’ve ever seen, and I’m not being polite.”

Jorah laughed and tilted his head back as Jon moved his fingers down to trace the shape of his neck. “I’m not being polite,” Jon whispered as he leaned in to kiss the spot he was tracing. Jorah let out a small breath of pleasure as Jon kept his lips against him. “I don’t want to be polite around you anymore,” he said into Jorah’s neck. “I’m too far gone for that.”

“Too far gone,” Jorah repeated. “Too far…?”

“You’re the best man I know.” Jon sat back and held Jorah’s gaze. What a difference a night seemed to have made. Jon kept completely still. He didn’t push his hand into the sand and run it through his fingers. He didn’t gaze out to the sea and back to his knees and back to the sea again. There was an aura of determination about him. “And I’m not exaggerating. I admire you. You’re loyal. You’ve a compassionate soul. I don’t care what happened in your past. You’re different now. I don’t care if I sound naïve saying that, and I don’t care admitting that I’ve only known you these past weeks. Yesterday, you listened to me run on about being lonely and starved for touch and you didn’t try to give me some sage piece of advice that would change my life. You only held me. I feel something between us. I feel like you’re under my skin. I feel like I’m under yours, too. Am I?”

Jorah stared at him but didn’t hesitate. “Yes. Undeniably.”

“Good. I want it that way. I’m not afraid of saying that now.” He leaned into Jorah’s ear. “May I come to your room again tonight?”

“Always.”

“Will you make love to me, if you want to?”

Jorah’s breath staggered in his chest. He nearly moved away but Jon kept his cheek pressed against his own.

“That’s my question. It’s the only one. If you say no, then that’s finished, and I won’t ask again. I won’t be upset. You’ve given me what feels like a lifetime’s worth of honest affection already. I will take it, if that’s all you want to give. I’ll take it gladly.”

Jorah tried to catch his breath as he stared at the cliffs beyond Jon’s shoulder, the sun flashing off the obsidian. Jon’s stubbled cheek against his own was the only thing he felt truly conscious of. If the birds were crying, he couldn’t hear them. If the foam was creeping further up his legs, he couldn’t feel it. He felt Jon swallow and realized he had no idea how much time had passed, if he was keeping Jon in an agony of waiting. He grasped the back of Jon’s head, pushing his bun askew. “Yes,” he breathed. “By all the Gods, yes.”

***

          Jorah had lit one lamp and placed it next to the bed, but Jon didn’t bother to stand by it and use its light as he shucked off his furs, stepped out of his boots, and started unlacing his shirt. Jorah held a hand over his mouth to stifle a chuckle and took careful quiet steps towards Jon. He held Jon’s hands at his shirt laces. “We can go slow.”

        “Oh. Did you want to?”

        “Not if you don’t. Perhaps another – time,” he managed as Jon leaned in to kiss his jaw while he undid the laces, then immediately started in on Jorah’s. Jorah couldn’t have kept his grin from spreading ear to ear if he’d tried. It faded slightly as Jon lowered his hands.

        “I have a lot of scars,” he said softly. “I thought I’d warn you.”

        “No amount could make me want you less.”

         Jon lifted his chin and smiled slowly. “Do you want to do the honor, then?” He gestured at his nightshirt.

        Jorah smiled as he slipped his hands under Jon’s shirt and pulled it over his head. “And what an honor. Your hair, too?” Jon turned and Jorah carefully undid his bun. When Jon turned back, the light glowed faintly on his chest. None of the scars were particularly prominent, but the sheer amount made him feel solemn. He looked back into Jon’s eyes and saw his reaction mirrored there.

       “I don’t care,” Jorah said, and lifted his own arms. Jon immediately pushed his hands up under the fabric of Jorah’s shirt and tossed it on a chair with his own. Jorah took Jon’s hand and led him to the bed, where he sat on the edge. Here, the lamp shone more clearly on Jon’s body. His bare shoulders, without their customary furs, were beautiful in their breadth and Jorah pressed a kiss to one before he could help himself. Jon wrapped his arms around Jorah’s back and leaned his cheek on the top of his head. “How do you want to start?” Jorah whispered.

       Jon nestled his face into Jorah’s hair and muffled a laugh in it. “I don’t actually know. Kissing, first, I suppose? That’s how I’ve always started before.”

      “Then let’s kiss.” Jorah tipped his face up and Jon bent down to meet his mouth. Jorah pushed further back on the bed and Jon knelt on either side of Jorah’s legs, hands on his shoulders, then on his back.

      “Your skin is so smooth,” Jon murmured between kisses.

      “You never saw me with the greyscale, thank the gods.”

      “I wouldn’t have cared. You’ll always be the most handsome man I’ve ever seen.” Jon kissed harder against Jorah’s mouth and Jorah relished the rush of pleasure down his spine and through his bloodstream. He licked Jon’s lips from one side to the other and Jon laughed softly in surprise and returned the gesture. He touched the tip of his tongue to Jorah’s and Jorah ran a circle around it with his own. Jon breathed harder and pushed Jorah onto his back so hard that Jorah bounced up slightly. They both had to muffle their laughter as Jon lay his body atop Jorah’s and they continued to touch each other’s tongues. Their kisses became rougher and Jon gripped Jorah’s face in both his hands, his hips beginning to move slightly. He stopped as soon as he’d started and breathed into Jorah’s neck. “How should we do it?” he asked again. “I don’t really know how men do it. I assume they…”

         “Remove their pants first?” Jorah suggested. Jon closed his eyes and smiled, then nipped at Jorah’s bottom lip. “I suppose we could keep them on,” Jorah continued, "but it’s easier if-”

         “Take them off me?”

         “Yes.” Jon kept his hands on Jorah’s shoulders and his forehead pressed against his, breathing heavier as Jorah’s fingertips touched his hips. He pulled Jon’s pants down as far as he could before Jon did the rest of the work and kicked them off. Jon was fully hard against Jorah’s stomach, but Jorah ran a hand down to the small of his back and stopped when he reached it. Jon was still, breathing uneven, not seeming to know how to proceed. “You’re the first man who’s seen me like this.”

        Jorah moved away and unrolled the top of his pants. “I’ll make it easier for you. Here. Do the same to me.” Jon slowly reached his fingers over and unrolled the top before Jorah bent his knees and pulled them off completely. He barely had time to feel the air on his bare body and his hard cock before Jon closed the space between them again and laid on top of him. Then he rolled off again and put a hand over his eyes, laughing softly again. Jorah leaned up on one shoulder and grinned, shaking Jon’s shoulder. “What is it?”

       Jon took his hand away and smiled ruefully. “I’m going about it like I’m with a woman,” he said. “Being on top of you, with you flat on your back. I don’t know what else to do.”

      Jorah stroked his cheek. “Were you never on your back? Did Ygritte never sit on top of you?”

     “No, she did, but…” Jon trailed off and looked at Jorah from the side of his eyes. “Are you saying…?”

     “That it’s possible for men to do something similar? Yes.” Jorah put a hand on his shoulder. “But that might be too much too quickly.”

      Jon raised himself to his elbows, his brow lowered, face serious. “No, it…do you like it that way?”

     Jorah tilted his head and smiled softly. “Yes. Very much.”

     “With you on your back?”

     “Either way. Both are pleasurable in their own fashions. If you’re the man on your back, you’re able to be inside the other man and feel him move up and down you. If you’re the man on top, you’re able to control how fast you move, and you feel the wonderful spot inside you touched again and again. And,” he lowered his voice, “the man on his back has your cock within full reach.”

     Jon grinned and bit his lip. “I like this idea. I think I like it very much.”

    Jorah’s cock was throbbing as he half-said and half-breathed, “Do you want to?”

     “Yes.”

     “I’ll move slowly on you.”

      Jon frowned. “What?”

      “At first, I mean. You can hold my hips and grip them if I go too fast or-”

       Jon shook his head. “No. I want to be on top.”

       Jorah stared at him, feeling genuine shock. “Are you certain? It’s not an easy position for a first time. It might hurt at first.”

       “Can I tell you something?”

      “Of course. You can tell me anything.”

      Jon sat up. His face was half in shadow but Jorah could see the earnestness in his eyes, could probably have sensed it even if they had been in total darkness. “I’ve been inside someone before. No one’s ever been inside me. I want you to be. It’s what I’d fantasize about, when I thought about being with another man. Although I assumed he’d be behind me.” He smiled but didn’t break Jorah’s gaze. “So? Yes?”

      Jorah looked at him in wonder. Being naked with another man was glorious but being stripped emotionally bare with him might have felt even better. It loosened the ribbon of weariness around his heart and although his breath was uneven, he felt a clarity in his soul. “I did ask you to tell me anything,” he whispered. “If it’s what you want, it’s what I’ll give you. But if you don’t like it, we stop immediately. Agreed?”

      Jon nodded. “Agreed.”

      Jorah heaved a sigh before he could help it. It seemed that was the way he did most things when he was with Jon – before he could help them. He acted as naturally as if he had never built a barricade around himself, never lined up shields around his true feelings.

      Jon touched his chest. “What was that sigh for?”

     Jorah laced his fingers through Jon’s. “Only happiness. It’s been years. I don’t just mean the position. I mean the intimacy. Of bodies, yes, but of minds.”

     “I told you that you were under my skin. I feel you in my blood now. That’s where I want you to stay.” Jon leaned up and kissed Jorah softly. “I’m happy. Now can we make love already?”

       The beauty of Jon’s words was moving but Jorah still muffled a laugh as his cock hardened again. He reached over the bed to the lamp on the night table. “We’ll need this.” He felt Jon watch in quiet fascination as Jorah carefully unscrewed the lamp to reach the oil. He waited a few moments for it to cool before turning back to Jon. “Always use something like this,” he said. “There will still be pain, but this helps beyond words.”

       Jon nodded. “I’m ready.”

       Jorah held out his hand to Jon’s. “Do you want to do the honor?” He gestured to his cock.

      Jon grinned and Jorah knew he’d never weary of the sight. Jon rubbed his fingers against Jorah’s and reached towards Jorah’s cock. He hesitated. “I’ve never touched another man’s. It’s beautiful.” He touched Jorah gently, almost testing the feeling, before wrapping his whole hand around and slicking the oil up and down. Jorah made a sound in his throat and felt his knees go weak. He could have come right then and there in Jon’s hand but he knew from years of experience how to hold out until the last moment. When Jon took his hand away, he reached back to Jorah’s hand and rubbed what was left of the oil on it. “I know some things,” he said. “Or I can guess them.” He laid back on his elbows. “You do me now.”

         The pleasure of the intimacy of the gesture warmed Jorah in a way that real heat never could. After he’d run his slicked finger around Jon’s opening, he’d gently slid a finger inside Jon and moved it in a circle. Jon seemed to lose his voice at this, the noises coming from him breathy and small and then softly keening as Jorah entered a second finger into him. Jorah moved his fingers gently around until he felt Jon loosen. Jon’s eyes were squeezed shut but he was starting to move his hips up and down Jorah’s fingers. He looked lost in the moment and the corners of his mouth were turned up.

“Are you ready?” Jorah whispered and Jon nodded before the words were completely out of his mouth. Jorah carefully slid his fingers from Jon and they moved on the bed so that Jon straddled Jorah’s hips. Jorah had thought to guide Jon through the movements but Jon seemed somehow to know what to do. He placed himself over Jorah’s cock and guided the head against himself. Jorah put his hands on Jon’s hips, thumbs on his hipbones, as Jon tried to move down on the head. “Relax as much as you can,” Jorah whispered, rubbing his thumbs in circles on Jon’s hipbones. “Relax. Only feel your arousal. Nothing else.”

       Jon nodded with his eyes closed and tried again. This time the head of Jorah’s cock slipped inside Jon’s body and they both gasped. Jorah tried to even his breathing but found it impossible when he gazed at Jon’s face, the unguarded look on it, mouth open, eyes closed, hair a tangle around his cheeks. Jon’s body was closed so tightly around Jorah’s cock that Jorah imagined he looked much the same way, utterly undone. Without thinking he took one of his hands away from Jon’s hips and ran it through his own hair. His own hips were rising and that was all it took as Jon pushed himself further down at the same time. Jorah was completely inside him and he bit down on his hand to muffle his cry of pleasure as Jon inhaled sharply and leaned forward, both his hands splayed on Jorah’s chest.

      “How does that feel?” Jorah managed to breathe out.

      Jon was still trying to catch his breath but he smiled as he whispered, “Incredible. I move now, right?”

      “As much as you want.”

       Jon lifted himself up slightly, then higher, and then sank slowly back down again. Jorah’s head fell back against a pillow and he only knew that his mouth made an o when Jon circled it with a finger. He arched his back and Jon moaned. Jorah quickly looked up at him and Jon was smiling like he’d seen the sun for the first time. “I feel it,” he said, a little louder than before. “The spot you said was inside me.”

      Jorah grinned and moved his hips up and down again gently. “I’m doing it right, then.” Jon grinned back, a grin with all his teeth showing, and Jorah felt a surge of pleasure in his heart. There was no joy to be had in lovemaking if he couldn’t bring the other person joy. It was a rule he had lived by with Brandon and Lynesse, and to give Jon pleasure was the only thing he prayed for in these moments. He reached a hand toward Jon’s cock. “Tell me how this feels.” He wrapped his hand around it and Jon made a loud, throaty noise that he didn’t quite manage to suppress with his hand against his mouth.

       “All the gods,” he whispered. “It’s…” he moved up and down again, never finishing his sentence as he and Jorah found a rhythm. Jorah gently lifted his hips and slowly pumped Jon’s cock with one hand while Jon raised himself up and down on Jorah’s cock, a little faster every few moments. Jorah continued holding out, but the feeling of Jon tight around him and the look of ecstasy on Jon’s face as he threw his head back again and again was bringing him closer to the edge. Even through his own ecstasy, he tried to think of other ways to please Jon. He took a few fingers and traced them around Jon’s balls, which made Jon move faster and moan louder. Jon bit his hand and opened his scrunched eyes a fraction. “How does…am I doing alright?”

      Jorah rolled his hips and managed a smile through the haze of pleasure sweetly alighting all his nerves. “Per…perfect.”

     Jon licked his lips and said through a ragged breath, “I think I’m close.”

     Jorah’s own breath hitched. “Do whatever you need.” Jon bit his lip, raised himself up, and came down harder on Jorah’s cock than he had before. It wasn’t long before he was heaving himself down in rhythm with Jorah bucking himself up to meet him inside. Jorah pumped Jon harder as they both panted. Jorah was vaguely aware of the sweat rolling down the side of his face and sheening his chest. He looked up at Jon’s chest and saw that both his nipples were hard. Thinking of an old trick that had sometimes been enough to tip him over the edge within seconds, he licked a fingertip and gently rubbed it back and forth on the point of one of Jon’s nipples. Jon cried out and Jorah rubbed his nipple side to side and then up and down. He did it in time with his thrusts and Jon’s downward pushes. He circled the head of Jon’s cock with a fingertip while he pumped it and Jon made the loudest gasp yet. Jorah felt his resolve to hold out weaken further and with one last look at Jon’s ecstatic face, he released all the tension from his body and simply thrust his hips up as he continued to touch Jon. Jon clenched his teeth and thrust himself downwards on Jorah’s cock one, two, three more times, before whipping back his head, mouth open, and keening his pleasure aloud as he came in Jorah’s hand. Jorah only needed to see his face and feel the warmth on his hand to experience the strongest throb of pleasure yet. His entire back raised off the bed as his hips bucked one more time and all his body shuddered and his blood beat the pulse of his ecstasy as he came inside Jon.

          For seconds he felt as though he couldn’t breathe as the afterglow of the pleasure still throbbed inside him and his mind reeled in glorious delirium. The word paradise floated through his thoughts again. At some point his back was flat on the bed again and Jon’s fingers were splayed on his chest again and they were both breathing unevenly but somehow in time. Jon’s face was a mess of curls matted to his cheeks and he was gorgeous in the openness and rawness of his face and body. He made no move to lift himself up from Jorah’s cock, which moved Jorah in a way he hadn’t expected. Yet he felt somehow he should have known better. Jon was holding onto their physical connection for as long as possible. Hadn’t that been his way the past twenty-four hours? Their way? The tidal pull between them moved smoothly and surely.

       Jon finally swallowed and Jorah reached up and unstuck the curls near his eyes. Jon gave him a small grin and caught his hand and kissed the palm. He placed Jorah’s hand over his beating heart and closed his eyes. “Thanks the gods I’m alive,” Jon whispered, his voice husky and lovely. “I’m alive. I’ve never been so happy to be alive.”

***

        Jorah didn’t bother to look at the pommel of Longclaw. As he thumbed his lip and feigned concentration in the map room, he kept his eyes on Jon’s face. He kept his eyes on it when the others addressed him. “North,” he would say. “Proof to show the queen in King’s Landing. It’s the only way. We’ve known this for some time.”

        “Ser Jorah, I-”

        “With all due respect, I see no other option, Khaleesi,” he said as he traced Jon’s jawline with his eyes. Jon was moving a piece on the map table but there was more than the ghost of a smile on his lips. He knew he was being looked at. He knew he was being adored. He was reveling in it.

          Jorah had doused the lamp and they’d spent the rest of the night naked in bed, Jon sometimes with his head on Jorah’s shoulder, Jorah sometimes with his head on Jon’s. Jon’s long arms wrapped around him, stroking his skin, raising goosebumps. Teasing and quiet laughter. Jon was as raw in rest as he’d been in passion. He told Jorah about Ygritte, about his own death, about his assuming the mantle of King in the North. He told him about running through the grass of the wide fields around Winterfell with his brother, Robb. He told him how he wished Robb would always have been King in the North if he’d lived. He told him how he sometimes struggled to hold onto his own soul, hold it and acknowledge all its truths, his soul as a human being, and not as a bastard or a king. He told him about how free he felt now that he’d made love to a man. And then he fell asleep in Jorah’s arms and Jorah had laid his cheek against Jon’s head while Jon had breathed quietly and evenly.

       Jorah had held Jon’s warm body to his own and listened to the sea move close and away, close and away. He told himself that he had no illusions that he’d be able to stay at Jon’s side forever. He could never be an official advisor at Winterfell. He would be by Daenerys’s side until everything was either won or in ashes. If it was won, he’d be lord of Bear Island again. He’d only be able to live there if he could bow out of Daenerys’s service, which would be exceedingly difficult to explain to her, or to anyone.

         Difficult. But not impossible.

         He’d make up the finest guest bedroom in the fortress at Bear Island. He’d supervise the building of the furniture, the choosing of the fabrics, the tapestries on the walls. Then he’d see to his own room. Would he scrap the creaking bed? Maybe not. Maybe he had no shame, no need for a private sea cove anymore. Of course, if Jon preferred sleeping and making love in the guest bedroom, well, he’d leave that entirely up to the guest.

       To his lover.

       “I want you to be my lover, you know,” Jon said after the council meeting as they walked by the rolling surf. “If you want to be lovers.” He’d squinted in the sun. “And it’s alright if you don’t want to be.”

        “I could think of no greater pleasure or honor.” Jorah smiled and looked sideways at Jon and Jon turned to him. He smiled back, warmth in his eyes, eyes that had a bright spark that had overlaid the earlier, weary cast. It might never leave him, that weariness. But Jorah would bleed for that spark to stay flashing and permanent if he had to. He’d get down on his knees in front of all the gods and ask for Jon’s happiness, safety, health, long life.

      His ecstasy.

     The next day, they were late for the council meeting. They’d spent the night with Jorah teaching Jon all the other ways that men made love. They’d tried a few of them before exhaustion forced them to sleep in each other’s arms again. Jon’s cock had felt gloriously large as Jorah had sucked it and it felt even better inside him as Jon had taken him from behind. They had both gasped in rapture as Jon had lain on his back and hitched his legs up and Jorah moved inside him, still not quite believing he’d been granted such fortune but knowing it was real with each and every moan of their joy. Jon hadn’t bothered to leave the room with the rising of the sun. He’d stayed with his head firmly against Jorah’s shoulder until there were the first noises of footsteps moving down the hall. Then they’d gotten dressed, Jon tying the laces of Jorah’s shirt and Jorah draping the furs around Jon’s shoulders. As they opened the door, Tyrion had walked by, whistling some tune. He’d halted in his steps and turned slowly toward the two men. Jorah glanced at Jon, who only looked mildly at Tyrion.

       Tyrion had raised his eyebrows and cleared his throat. “I see,” he said, drawing out the last word. “Well. Our Lady the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms and three dragons is irritated enough these days. Knowing you’ve taken each other as lovers will do little damage. Come.” He paused, shaking his head slightly. “No, I’m sure you’ve both already done that. Probably many times. A more appropriate word in this situation, as you are in my presence, would be ‘follow.’” And without a second glance he’d continued his walk down the hall and his whistled tune.

          Jorah looked at Jon again. Jon was smiling, half smugly and half triumphantly. As they followed Tyrion down the hall, Jorah leaned over and whispered in Jon’s ear, “You know, I’ll spread my cape out on the sand one day and we’ll make love on the beach in the sun. Or on Bear Island, if we don’t manage it here first.”

       Tyrion sighed and picked up his steps. “Flaunting it,” he sang loudly as he disappeared down the corridor to the map room. As Jorah moved to follow, Jon took his arms and pressed him up against the stone wall. He cupped Jorah’s face with his hands, then moved them slowly down his chest, finally resting them against his hips. He leaned in to Jorah’s ear. “Tell me something,” he whispered in the husky voice that Jorah reveled in when they whispered passionate words as they moved their bodies together.

       Jorah heard footsteps but didn’t bother to look for their direction. They’d move closer and recede as sure as the tide. It wasn’t a tide that mattered very much. Not when he laced his fingers with Jon’s during the night and felt their blood pulsing in time. A beat, then a pause. A beat, then a pause. Their own tide. “What would you like to hear?” he whispered back, awaiting the answer with the knowledge that he’d never want for human touch and connection again in his life.

      Jon pressed his forehead to Jorah’s. “Anything. Tell me anything. But kiss me first.”