Disclaimer: George R.R. Martin put way more time and energy into these characters than I have, and also he has them copyrighted.
AN: This was inspired by Dany's first chapter in ACOK, when she's in Vaes Tolorro. After the Awkward Character Exposition conversation, there's a bit about them waiting for the bloodriders to come back, and it mentions that "Dany tended Ser Jorah's wound herself, and it began to heal." I thought, "That must have been super awkward, since she just figured out he loves her and all." So then this happened.
The queen summoned him at midday, and for once Ser Jorah Mormont was dreading their meeting. His stomach knotted as he passed the rows of tents laid out under the shadow of the enormous ruined palace in the heart of Vaes Tolorro.
He feared he had said too much, when he'd left her tent the previous evening.
She looked a bit like you, Daenerys. What in the seven hells had possessed him to say that? He wasn't even sure it was true. After so many years, it was difficult for him to picture Lynesse's face clearly. She was a haze, a glossy outline of something he'd once thought he would remember forever. A ghost. She had been young and fair, he was certain of that, and perhaps that was what had made him think of the khaleesi. Though, truth be told, he'd never seen a woman who truly looked like Daenerys, and he suspected no one else in Essos or Westeros had, either.
The dragon, born into the world again, he thought.
The mother of dragons was sitting cross-legged on the floor when he entered, with Irri next to her. She was, mercifully, fully clothed this time, the pelt of the hrakkar draped over her sleeping mat. Her own silver hair was beginning to dot her scalp again, though it more closely resembled the fuzz on a peach than human hair.
She did look much less like Lynesse without her hair. And a bit more like a dragon.
The black beast – the one she called Drogon – cried at Jorah from its woven cage, as though in greeting. Dany turned from Irri and smiled at him.
Jorah cleared his throat. Don't say anything stupid this time. "Your Grace? You summoned me?"
"Yes. Irri has been bringing me bits of cloth, from the ruins. For bandages."
She had said it as though it were an explanation, but he wasn't sure what it had to do with him. "That is…clever, Your Grace, but what…"
"You have neglected your wound long enough," she interrupted, "Come, let me see it."
For a second he was confused, until he remembered that the wound Qotho's arakh had made in his side had never been properly tended. Panicked, he shook his head. "It is fine, khaleesi. It does not pain me." He tried to shift his weight to his other foot, to prove it, but couldn't stop himself from flinching.
And of course she noticed.
"Khal Drogo said the same, after we fought the lamb men," she reminded him, in a soft voice. The expression on her face made him feel instantly guilty.
"I will take care of it," he protested, but as always she ignored him.
"Come here, Ser Jorah."
"Your Grace," he tried, "I do not think…that it would be proper…"
She laughed. "There is no privacy in the khalasar, Jorah, remember? You found me in
the ashes of Drogo's pyre, naked as my name day, and you are concerned about modesty?"
I certainly haven't forgotten that, Your Grace.
"Surely," she continued, "you can sacrifice a bit of your dignity to ease the pain."
He couldn't tell her that allowing her to touch him would, in fact, make his pain much worse. Or that he had such little dignity left to him - now that he had become an exile, a sellsword, a spy, a traitor - that he would do nearly anything to guard what remained.
Instead he obeyed, easing slowly down beside her. His hip protested sharply when he made contact with the hard paved stone, and he couldn't help wincing again.
Daenerys held out her hand. "Shirt," she commanded.
He met her gaze, trying to plead with her silently, but she only cocked an eyebrow, glanced down at her hand, and then looked back at him.
Jorah sighed and peeled the thin yellow cloth over his head. At least he'd made an attempt at washing it this morning, he thought, as he handed it over to her. She put it aside and placed a hand on his thigh to steady herself as she bent to get a closer look at the wound.
When she gasped in shock, he wondered if he had missed something. It seemed better yesterday. Her hand had flown from his leg to her mouth, and he followed her eyes down to his side. The cut was jagged, and raw, and there was as much black as red in it, though it hadn't yet begun to spread through his skin the way Drogo's infection had. If he hadn't looked at it every day for weeks, he might have been a bit shocked as well.
He turned back to Dany, who drew her hand back and slapped him, hard, across the face.
"Were you going to tell me?" she asked, in the shaking voice that meant he'd woken the dragon.
"You watched my sun-and-stars die of a wound like this one, and yet you said nothing? Have you no regard for me at all, Ser?"
For you? Jorah wasn't sure what his wound had to do with her. He rubbed his cheek where her hand had made contact. Surely I'm the one who would suffer if it grew worse…
And then he saw her face, and understood.
The realization hit him harder than her fingers had. The queen had lost everything – her brother, her sun-and-stars, her child, even Doreah just days before. Another death would add to the ghosts that followed her now, and re-open the wounds that had barely begun to heal.
Even if it was only the death of a knight.
But her expression made him think – or hope, foolishly, perhaps – that his death might mean more to her than that.
He spoke quietly, and carefully. "Forgive me, khaleesi."
The queen did not respond. She turned her head up to Irri, who had been standing warily nearby. "Irri. Fetch me that cloth, and a basin of water."
The handmaiden did as she was told.
"And then leave us," Daenerys added.
Jorah wasn't sure whether to be relieved that one less person would be a witness now, or terrified at being left alone with an angry dragon.
She wet a strip of cloth and returned her hand to his leg as she dabbed at the blood congealing at his side. The queen was silent, her mouth set in a thin line. Jorah tried to maintain a humble pose, so as not to anger her further, but it was difficult not to imagine her tiny hand sliding its way further up his thigh…
That hand might kill me before the wound does.
He struggled to think of something else. Anything but her. But he had been failing miserably at that for months, because everything was her.
Perhaps if he closed his eyes he could pretend the soft palms were someone else's. Lynesse? But that was no good – the memory of his wife was just as painful, if not more so.
He had no idea why that name had come to his mind next. The thought of the mighty Khal tending to his wounds was absurd, and Jorah nearly laughed aloud at the image. But it was an apt replacement, indeed; he might as well see Drogo's face instead of Dany's, not only now but every time he looked at her. He could see it in her eyes plainly enough. Drogo had been her sun-and-stars, and she still mourned for him.
She is his. She will always be his.
Jorah had been at her wedding – at the betrothal feast, even. She had belonged to Khal Drogo from the instant he had met her, and he had watched her grow to love her husband as his own feelings for her took root, spreading like a disease. I must be the biggest fool in all of Westeros and Essos combined. He still couldn't believe he had allowed it to happen. Again.
No matter how he tried, it seemed he would always be wounded. And always by his own hand. The king of fools.
The queen's arms wrapped around his waist, startling him out of his reverie. He looked down and saw her winding a strip of cloth across his stomach to bind the wound. She tied it off with a sharp pull – more forcefully than Jorah suspected was necessary – and he gasped in pain. I deserved that, I suppose.
He knew he should get up and leave, now that she was done. But her hand was still resting on his leg, tethering him to the floor. She was looking down, away from him, but he sensed that she intended to speak, and so he waited. The silence hung like a weight in the air, stretching the seconds. He wished she'd remove the hand, at least.
He wished she would leave it there forever.
Her voice finally came, though her head never moved, and Jorah had to strain to hear it.
"My brother is dead. My husband –ˮ her voice broke for a second, drawing a dull ache from his chest. "Is dead."
"I know, khaleesi."
Dany looked up at him for the first time since she had struck him, minutes before.
"Do you remember what I said to you in Vaes Dothrak, when you told me Viserys had tried to take my dragon's eggs? The reason I defended him?"
I remember everything you've said to me, my queen. "That he was all you had," Jorah mumbled, regretting for the hundredth time that she had spent most of her life with no company but Viserys', with no one to protect her, to guide her.
"And you said that I belonged to the Dothraki. That in my womb rode the stallion who mounts the world."
He didn't know whether that part ached because her son was gone, or because she had remembered his words almost exactly.
"You still have your khalasar, Daenerys. You are still a khaleesi." He'd spoken softly enough that he hoped she would miss - or ignore - his use of her given name.
She did, continuing with a bitter snort. "Of what? Less than a hundred old men, women, and babes, with four warriors to sweep seven kingdoms from half a world away."
However much Jorah wanted to refute it, her count was accurate.
"And three dragons -"
"No larger than cats."
"They will grow, my queen. And burn kingdoms in their wake." As they did in his dreams now, the fire laying waste to Kings' Landing, to Casterly Rock, to Winterfell. And though the fires gave way to images of Daenerys, crowned and brilliant, sitting the Iron Throne, Jorah often woke sweating, or shouting.
"Kingdoms I have never seen but in my sleep. I have only heard of them from Viserys' lips, and yours, only read of them in the books you gave to me at my wedding. Without you, my knight, how could I begin to conquer, to plan, to win over a land I hardly know?"
He had stopped breathing. Her violet eyes were fixed on his, and though he wanted to look away, they held him still.
"You are all I have left of home, Ser Jorah."
The ache grew like a ripple in water, flowing farther and deeper. What could he say to her now? With each passing day he felt less certain they would ever reach Westeros, less certain that he could protect her, or that Westeros was truly their home, or that he had any notion of what "home" was, anymore. All his life he had thought that home was a place, that it was Bear Island and pine trees and his wooden keep. When he had fled with Lynesse, he'd told himself that she was his home, wherever they were together. When she had left, all his thoughts returned to Westeros again, to Maege and his father, Dacey and her sisters, though he had no reason to think they would welcome him, or forgive him.
But now there was Daenerys. His queen. The woman he had sworn to serve and protect, whatever may come. The girl he had betrayed, spied on, lied to. He could never tell her the truth, the thing that kept him awake night after night – that he was beginning to suspect she meant more to him than Bear Island ever had, or ever would.
The woman I love.
Jorah allowed himself to admit it, finally, irrevocably. His next letter to Varys would be the last, though he still did not know what it would say.
And only if we reach a city again. A living city. That wasn't certain either, but he had paused too long now, and he couldn't meet her eyes. He had to say something.
"We will go home one day, Your Grace."
Daenerys smiled, and some of the pain lifted. She moved her hand from his thigh to his cheek, where she had hit him, and let it linger there for a moment.
"I know you swore to die for me," she continued, "but… will you try harder not to?"
Jorah returned her smile. "I will. I swear it."
She nodded. The pause in the air held for a second, and Dany was the first to break it.
"You may go, Ser Jorah." Finally the hand was gone, and Jorah instantly missed it.
He raised an eyebrow at her. "Could I have my shirt back, first?"
Dany smirked at that. As she reached for the tunic and allowed him to take it from her, her eyes never left his.
Jorah didn't say a word as he pulled his shirt back over his chest. He'd said enough already. When he was decent again he stood and bowed his head to the queen, who remained cross-legged on the ground, watching him.
Daenerys nodded, still smiling. Jorah pushed back her tent flap and strode out into the City of Bones, the cracked ruins baking under the midday heat.
She had done a good job binding the wound; he noticed he could place more of his weight on his right foot as he walked. Perhaps it was starting to heal.
You are all I have left of home.
Jorah Mormont was used to having nothing left. No home, no wife, no hope. He had known for some time that his queen was all he had. She was the only thing that tethered him to life, the only chance for a life with any meaning. The only way home.
He had never considered that he might be her only way home, as well. That seemed a reason to hope, if ever there was one.
Perhaps both their wounds might one day heal.