“Okay,” Jon says. “You’ve got it?”
Dany grins. “I’ve got it,” she says. “The dogs are all bark and no bite. Your mum is proud of the house, your dad hates all Northern politicians, especially the Bolton campaign. Robb’s in love with his best friend, but he’s touchy about it, so don’t mention it. Sansa’s ex-boyfriend was literally the worst person ever, so don’t ask about her love life. If Arya wants to show me her fencing skills, politely decline. Pretend not to notice Bran smelling of weed. And don’t ruffle Rickon’s curls.”
“Okay,” he says, running a hand through his curls. “Let’s go.”
“And you’re sure I can’t bring my children?” she says with a stupidly adorable grin as Drogon crawls across her arm.
“Absolutely sure. They’ll nearly give Mum a heart attack - and please don’t refer to your lizards as your children, unless you want to actually give her one.
“Fine,” she says with a pout. “I’ll feed them now. They’ll be fine in the car for a couple of hours.”
“Alright,” Jon says and cracks his knuckles - Dany swats at him, he forgets how much she hates his habit. “Let’s go.”
The car journey to his parents’ home isn’t too bad, the traffic reasonably quiet for a Saturday. He pretends to be annoyed for the sake of his dignity when Dany switches to a Best of the 80s playlist, but he can only hold the faux annoyance for a couple of seconds before the chorus of Come On Eileen hits and he’s belting out the lyrics alongside Dany, who is somehow even more offkey than Jon himself.
They make it to the house with a good ten minutes to spare, but Jon can see from the cars parked in the driveway that he’s the last there, Robb’s Nissan parked dangerously close to the gate, Sansa’s Fiat tucked neatly into a designated parking space.
“Wow,” Dany says as she eyes the Stark manor. “Your house is beautiful.”
“I don’t know how much weight that holds,” Jon teases, “given you growing up in a castle, Your Grace.”
She groans at the nickname. “Don’t start.”
He grins and opens her car door. “After you.”
When they walk into the house, the smell of Catelyn Stark’s famous home cooked roast hits them, and Jon only realizes just how hungry he is. He barely has time to think of his hunger, when a cry of “Jon!” is heard, and a figure that just about cuts five feet flings her hands around his neck. She may be eighteen, but his little sister still has so stretch to manage a hug.
“Hi Arya,” he says warmly, returning her hug. He’s always so busy with work that he barely gets time to see Arya, their weekly Skype sessions notwithstanding. “How’s training going?”
Arya beams. “Syrio reckons I’m the best he’s had in years. Says I’ll walk the championship.”
“Don’t get too cocky,” he warns.
“Right,” she says, glimmer in her eye. “Because, I’m totally going to get struck down by a twelve year old. That’s definitely going to happen.”
Jon scowls, the memory of his own spectacular defeat still fresh. “Uncalled for.”
“What twelve year old?” Dany asks with interest.
“It doesn’t matter,” Jon says quickly. He pretends not to notice Arya mouthing I’ll tell you later at his girlfriend. “Dany, this is my little sister Arya. Emphasis on the little. Arya, this is Dany.”
Arya wolf whistles. “Punching above your weight, I see.”
Dany bursts out laughing.
Jon doesn’t rise to her jibes. “I take it the others are here.”
“Yep,” Arya says. “Robb arrived about an hour ago with Theon, who I think may have just sold Bran some weed. Sansa just got here a couple of minutes before you guys.” She grins. “You’ll never guess who Sansa brought with her?”
Jon gapes. “She’s seeing a new guy? After Joffrey? But I thought she claimed he had put her off men for at least a year.”
Arya cackles. “He did. You remember why they broke up?”
“Vaguely,” Jon says. “Wasn’t he cheating on her with that Tyrell girl? Margaery?”
“Yep,” Arya confirms. “But turns out Margaery had no idea about Sansa’s existence until after all the drama went down. So she invited Sansa out for coffee so they could talk things over, and one thing led to another and now ….” she trails off with a grin.
“Sansa’s dating Margaery?” Dany asks with a grin.
“Bingo,” says Arya. “Apparently, Joffrey had a very public meltdown over the two of them being an item. It’s glorious.”
“Well, good for Sansa,” Jon says feverently. “Tell me, has a certain other sibling of ours come to terms with his own homosexual tendencies?”
“Robb’s far in the closet, he’s just put a mortgage down on a house in Narnia,” Arya says cheerfully. “Oh well. He’ll figure it out at some point.”
“ - Arya, I think this one might be infected and - oh, hi Jon.”
Jon grins. “Hi, Gendry.” His old friend is looking worse for the wear, several cuts about his person that make Jon wince.
“What happened to you?”
Gendry grins sheepishly. “Arya wanted to get some fencing practise in and I offered to be her guinea pig.”
Arya shrugs. “Like he said. He offered.” She eyes Gendry’s neck. “That one does look bad. C’mon, I’ve got some salve upstairs I can apply.
Gendry allows himself to be led away. “See you in a bit. Bye Jon. Bye - “
“Dany,” Dany calls to him.
She grins at Jon. “I like your Arya. And Sansa too, based on what I’ve just heard.”
Jon grins. “Well, two out of five. We’re off to a good start. C’mon, you can get acquainted with my brothers and my parents now, if you’re still up for it.”
“Course I’m up for it,” she says. “Avoid the curls, the weed, the Boltons and the repressed gay love. Got it.”
When they enter the living room, the noise is immediately deafening. Rickon and Robb are screaming at a television screen as they manoeuvre their video game characters across the terrain, while Sansa’s squeal when she sees Jon could give Arya a run for her money. Theon is scrolling through his phone on the couch, and doesn’t take a second to acknowledge Jon and Dany’s presence.
“Jon,” Sansa exclaims. “Oh my gods, how are you?” She grins wickedly. “Still adorably small.”
“And still freakishly tall,” he quips back, hugging his sister.
“This is Dany,” he says. “Dany, this is Sansa. Sansa, Dany? And I don’t believe we’ve met?” he says, out of politeness, to a woman with bizarrely perfect curls who has her arm wrapped around Sansa’s waist. He can very easily guess who she is.
Sansa blushes slightly. “Jon, Dany, this is my girlfriend, Margaery.”
“Pleasure,” Margaery says charmingly. “Sansa’s told me so much about you. All bad, don’t worry.”
Sansa grins. “Don’t tease him he’s sensitive.” She picks up a cushion and flings it at the sofa. “Aren’t you two going to greet your brother?”
Her timing is impeccable, her cushion landing just as Rickon’s onscreen character decimates Robb’s and Rickon begins something that vaguely resembles a victory cry.
“Hi Jon,” Robb says. “Sorry, Dany was it? I’m usually a very respectable law student, but something about coming back home just turns me into a video game addicted preteen all over again.”
Dany grins. “So you’re out of practise. That explains why you’re so bad.” Theon actually looks up from his phone, if only to laugh at Dany’s remark.
“Hurtful,” Robb says. “But unfortunately, true. He curls up on the sofa beside Theon, resting his chin on Theon’s shoulder. “Theon, pay attention to me. Do you think I’m bad?”
“The worst,” Theon says in a monotone, and finally puts down his phone when Robb pouts. “Don’t you dare give me the puppy eyes, Stark.”
“What puppy eyes?” Robb protests, in mock innocence, as Theon sighs and stretches back on the couch, Robb curling further into to him.
Jon catches Dany’s eye. She grins.
“Jon,” he hears his mother’s voice call and he grins, hugging her tightly. There’s nothing like living away from home for college that really makes him appreciate his mother’s hugs. “Oh, it’s good to see you, darling. You look so skinny. Have you been eating well?”
He assures her that he is, which isn’t a lie. Having Sam Tarly what with his culinary skills as a classmate is one of the best things that’s happened to Jon. “Mum, this is Dany. Dany, this is my mum.”
“Pleasure to meet you,” Dany says warmly, shaking her hand. “Mrs. Stark, may I just say, your home is to die for. So beautiful.”
“Oh, call me Cat,” Mum insists, but Jon can see she’s pleased with the compliment. “Jon, find your father for me, and tell him dinner’s almost ready. I think he’s cutting firewood. And where are Arya and Bran?”
“Arya’s upstairs, Bran’s in his room with the Reeds,” Sansa supplies helpfully.
“Can we help set the table, Cat?” Margaery asks.
“Not at all, Margaery,” Cat says at the same time Margaery insists on helping, dragging Sansa along with her.
“And now for your dad?” Dany says. “Should I be worried?”
“Not at all,” Jon assures her. “He’ll love you.”
They find Ned out the back, smoking an old cigar, the wood already neatly chopped. He nods at Jon, not really being one for smiles. “Don’t tell your mother about this,” he says, indicating the cigar. “She’ll have a fit.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Jon says solemnly. “Dad, this is Dany. Dany, this is my father.”
“How do you do?” Dany says politely as she shakes Ned’s hand.
“Good to meet you, Dany,” Ned says solemnly. “Tell me, have you been keeping up with Northern politics?”
Jon inwardly groans and holds his breath.
“As much as I can,” Dany says swiftly. “I can hardly bare to look at Roose Bolton’s face lest I want to get sick. That man is a plague, not only to the North, but to the world.”
Ned gives her one of his rare smiles. “That’s good to hear.” Jon lets himself breathe.
“Mum wants to let you know that dinner’s nearly ready,” he tells his father.
Ned nods. “Thank you, Jon. These cigars build up something of an appetite.”
The three of them return to the house, where Sansa and Margaery have just finished setting down the plates in the dining room.”
Catelyn does a headcount. “Alright, where are - “
“I’m here, Mum,” Bran calls as he wheels himself into the room, closely followed by Meera and Jojen Reed. “Hi Jon.”
Jon waves at his brother, at the same time as Catelyn furrows her brow. “What is that smell?
“I don’t smell anything,” Dany says immediately, a tad too innocently, but Mum seems to buy it. Bran grins at Dany.
“Jon, sweetie, go up and tell Arya that dinner’s ready,” Catelyn says. Jon’s eager to get away from what looks like Rickon devising a mashed potato flinging strategy at anyone within his vicinity, and leaves at once, Dany alongside him.
“So,” he says as they head towards Arya’s room. “How are you coping so far?”
“Good,” Dany says enthusiastically. “More than good. I love your family.”
Jon grins at that and knocks on Arya’s door. When there’s no response, he pushes it open and immediately wishes he hadn’t. The sight of his sister straddling a very topless Gendry is going to take a while to erase from his memory.
Gendry is a very bright red, and Arya screeches at them. “Don’t you knock?”
“I did,” Jon protests, trying to look anywhere but at the pair of them. Beside him, Dany is very obviously trying to stifle her laughter.
“Dinner’s ready,” she manages to choke out between giggles. “How’s that cut, Gendry?”
Gendry turns redder.
Jon ends up sitting between Dany and Robb at the table. “Do we have to give Gendry a shovel talk?” he asks Robb.
Robb glances across the table, where Gendry is still blushing and looking anywhere but at Jon and Dany. “Probably,” he says. “But we’ll wait until after Arya’s fencing tournament is over. Give the lad a while to recover.”
“Agreed,” Jon says. They shake on it.
“Sansa darling,” Margaery says. “You’ve still got some mashed potato in your hair.”
Sansa scowls. Rickon smirks.
The food is everything and then some that Jon could have dreamed of. Perfectly roasted meats and vegetables, yorkshire puddings that are a million times better than the frozen store bought ones college life has acquainted Jon with, and an unending supply of creamy mashed potatoes, even after Rickon’s exploits.
Dessert is a sticky toffee pudding that just about melts in Jon’s mouth, and he’s seriously considering moving back home when Catelyn looks around in suspicion. “Where’s Rickon?”
Arya looks up from her fervent whispering with Gendry, while Sansa, Margaery and Dany temporarily pause their conversation about how unfortunate it was to grow up with multiple brothers. Bran and his friends look too spaced out of it to really care, while Robb briefly stops playing footsie with Theon under the table - Jon only knows a game was underway due to being the mistaken recipient of several eye watering kicks from Theon.
“Mum,” Rickon’s voice floats in through the door. “I just broke into Jon’s car. Look how cool these are.”
“How - “ Jon begins.
“I picked your lock,” Rickon says, coming into view. “Look at these.”
Catelyn gasps. “Rickon - what - “
“Oh, look,” Dany says mildly. “He found my children.”
The room descends into chaos, Sansa and Catelyn yelling at Rickon as Jon tries in vain to reassure them that the lizards that are crawling over Rickon’s body are mostly harmless. Robb and Theon have evidently resumed their game of footsie, while Bran decides that now would be a good chance to sneak a puff.
Jon catches Dany’s eye as the noise escalades.
“Like I said,” she says with a smile that makes Jon’s heart beat faster. “I love your family.”