While she sat on the Iron Throne, Daenerys glanced out the window again. How much time had passed since the last time? It felt like ages.
She should have heard by now. It had been more than a week since she sent scouts and a carriage, but so far, no word. She was beginning to worry. Had something happened?
Tyrion was looking at her, so she presented a polite smile, before she peeked at the window again.
Missandei entered, smiling sweetly at the Unsullied Commander as she passed, but not lingering with him, instead she hurried straight for the throne. Daenerys stood from her uncomfortable seat and stepped down to meet her advisor on even ground.
"Is everything alright?" she asked hastily, desperate for confirmation that nothing had undone her work.
"A report just in," Missandei began. She was careful with her words, knowing that only she and Daenerys knew of this. "Your guests are on their way. Another day or two and they'll be here."
This had everyone's attention. "Guests?" Tyrion asked. "I wasn't aware anyone was coming."
"Sansa and Margaery are going to be here next week for the celebration," she reminded everyone. "Since we were already having a feast, I decided to invite a few more people."
Tyrion was his natural curious self. "Who?"
Daenerys was saved from having to respond by Arya who pushed off the wall and came over. "Does it matter? It isn't as if the hall can't accommodate a few more people."
Happy for the distraction, Daenerys seized upon it. "Have you heard anything from your sister?"
"Not since the raven they sent before leaving Winterfell."
"Are you worried?"
Arya chuckled. "No, Brienne of Tarth found her way to Winterfell. She's accompanying them."
Tyrion whistled playfully. "I pity the bandits who try and attack them."
"Who is this Brienne?" Missandei asked, saving Daenerys from having to.
"She's skilled with a sword, or so they say," Arya explained.
"She much like our friend here," Tyrion continued, pointing not so subtly to Arya, "is the daughter of a nobleman who had no interest in becoming a Lady and prefers armor over dresses."
In a flash of movement, Arya had drawn a dagger off her belt and lunged forward, pinning Tyrion into his chair with her body and setting the blade against his neck. "I wouldn't have been able to do that in a dress, would I?"
As quickly as she was on him, she was gone. By the time Tyrion's heartrate had returned to normal, she was back to where she'd been, looking as if nothing had transpired at all.
"Well, I don't know about the rest of you, but I suddenly need wine, a lot of wine." He was halfway to the door when he called out. "I'll see you all later."
"Was that necessary?" Daenerys asked her lover without any malice.
Rather than answer, she held out her hand. "It seems we can all have the rest of the afternoon off."
Nearby Missandei giggled, but Daenerys could only shake her head. She wanted to be angry, or at least pretend to be, but it would have taken too much work. There were other more pressing issues to contend with.
Arya must've been thinking the same, because when Daenerys turned to kiss her, she found the guard already leaning in. It was hard to think clearly with Arya's lips on her, but the Stark did have a point. If Tyrion was retiring early, why couldn't they?
"Let's go upstairs," she suggested, talking into Arya's lips.
Had it not been for the promise she made Arya, Daenerys would have gone alone. As a compromise she took Grey Worm with her. She positioned herself near the main gate, and direct Grey Worm to stand several feet away. With luck, he would appear less like her protector and more like an average soldier manning the gate.
The castle was buzzing. The long whispered about celebration the Queen requested had finally come to be. As the staff cleaned and the cooks slaved away in the kitchen no one apart from Missandei knew the true reason for the festivities. She heard a lot of the gossip and most assumed the feast was to celebrate her rise to power, and how smoothly the transition had been.
Wrong though they were, Daenerys couldn't deny that it was a plausible idea. It had been almost half a year and despite a few minor issues, things were well, not only in the capital but across the Realm.
Her earliest problems had been largely solved. The Iron Islands were in the hands of her allies, which meant the seas also belonged to her. Walder Frey was happy with the extra gold she was giving him, and she suspected as long as that continued, she could co-exist with the slimy old man.
The Crown would also be doing additional trade with the Boltons of Dreadfort in the coming years. A relatively small price for ensuring Sansa reclaimed her family home without difficulty. To soften any hard feelings about losing Winterfell, Daenerys sent a messenger to Dreadfort with a chest of gold and a note of thanks and appreciation from the new Queen. She knew one day Roose Bolton would collect on the debt she owed, but that was a problem for another day. For the time being, she had peace in the North and a Stark once again ruled there.
Arya, Missandei, Tyrion, and Varys all praised her efforts at diplomacy. They raved about her creative ideas and early successes, but Daenerys secretly believed it was more luck than any attribute of hers. Things could have turned against her just as easily as they landed in her favor.
Since Sansa became her Warden and settled into Winterfell, she and Margaery sent frequent ravens. Arya too was making a serious attempt to keep in contact with her sister. Daenerys didn't say so, but she found it adorable when she came into their room at night to find Arya grumbling to herself as she tried to decide what to write.
She knew it wasn't only the Boltons she'd have to contend with in the future. Tywin Lannister had been one of the most powerful men in the Seven Kingdoms before Daenerys put her plan into action. He not only had immense wealth and ruled Casterly Rock, he was also Hand to a King who could scarcely dress himself some days. This allowed Tywin to wield real power. He had one son who was a member of the Kingsguard and another who was the Master of the Coins. Few outside the Targaryens themselves could aspire to such heights.
She knew better than to think he was just going to accept his losses and grow old in Casterly Rock. He hadn't gone back to the West empty handed, Jaime, who had once been forbidden from serving as Tywin's heir because of his duties to the Crown, was now free to replace his aging father. Cersei also returned to the Westerlands, seemingly finding little of interest in the capital now that her chances of marrying Rhaegar had dropped to zero.
Although she did not have the support of all of Westeros's Great Houses, Daenerys was allied to enough of them. More concerning to those who might oppose her were not the many men she could summon but the dragons she loved like children. They grew quickly and were now every bit as fearsome as the stories Daenerys grew up hearing. Word quickly spread from one corner of the Realm to the other that not only did Daenerys the Stormborn love her dragons but more terrifying, the feeling was undeniably mutual. Each could breathe fire, rattle the windows with a scream or disappear from view with just a few strong flaps of large wings. It gave her enemies pause and she was glad for it.
Looking to the sky, Daenerys wondered about Arya. Daenerys's lover had been tasked by the Queen to help train her new guards. Quite a few had deserted upon learning of Aerys's death, many more she dismissed from service because of their attitudes, bad habits or lackluster abilities.
There were far fewer guards walking the castle halls now, but with the help of Arya, Grey Worm and Loras, Daenerys was confident the ones that remained were loyal to her. She'd take that over the world's largest army any day.
She heard the horses first. Squinting against the sun's rays, she recognized the carriage. It was the one she sent for her guests. This was it. She was both excited and terrified.
The carriage was being pulled by two horses, driven by a single Unsullied. There were six more of Grey Worm's men on horseback, one of which was pulling a small cart.
As they neared the gate they came to a stop. She'd wager they noticed Grey Worm and not her, but that was fine. Swallowing past the lump in her throat, she wiped her sweaty hands on the front of her blue dress and approached. "Lord Stark," she announced in a clear voice, "I'm so glad you could make it."
There was nothing for a moment and then all at once the door of the carriage swung open. Daenerys's heart banged against her ribs as she tried to calm her nerves. She could do this. She had to, for Arya.
He climbed out of the carriage and though his eyes passed over her, he kept on going, having a look around. She noted the way his hand stayed near the hilt of his sword, and she smiled. Arya did the same thing. If the Lord Commander was anything like his daughter, he was sizing up any potential enemies.
When he was done, his eyes found her again. He didn't say anything, so she tried to dip her toes in. "Lord Stark, I am…"
She didn't get to finish. "I am not Lord Stark, not any longer."
His voice was rough, but easy to understand. Daenerys bowed her head respectfully. "Forgive me, is Lord Commander more to your liking?" She paused but he still gave nothing. With little choice she moved on. "I am Daenerys Targaryen, and I am so glad you could come."
He regarded her for a few torturous seconds. "You wrote the letters, did you not?"
Daenerys smiled. He was shrewd and clever, like his daughters. "I did. I wanted to speak to you about…"
"Does your father know what you've done?"
That took her by surprise. The Wall was quite a distance from King's Landing, but was it possible that he hadn't heard of what happened? She studied him, and he remained resolute, awaiting her reply. Daenerys took a breath. "My father is dead."
She looked. Stared really but couldn't tell if this information was new to him. He gave so little away. Perhaps if she knew him better, she'd be able to see the tiny hints, the way she could with Arya.
"Your brother then?"
"Both of my brothers are gone," Daenerys summarized firmly. "I am the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms now."
"And you wished to see me." It wasn't a question. They both knew he wouldn't have come without her invitation.
"Yes. She took a step to the side and gestured to the city beyond the wall. "You've had a long journey, please come. There is warm food and cold drinks waiting."
Waiting for Ned to move, she remembered he hadn't travelled alone. "Can I help you with Bran or would you prefer he continue to use the carriage?" Daenerys wanted to be useful, but admittedly wasn't quite sure how to be in this instance.
Ned's eyes widened ever so slightly when he heard Daenerys use his son's name. "The carriage is best," he acknowledged.
"Very well then. I will meet you at the keep."
She fully intended to lead the visitors through her city, but before she could get very far, Ned was there. "Why are you doing this?" he asked her.
She could have reiterated the things she'd said in her letters, or claimed it was about righting the wrongs done to his family by hers, but in the end none of that felt accurate. She went with the truth. "For Arya."
For the first time she saw real emotion on his face. "You were serious?!" he commented incredulously. "They really are here then?" he checked. "She's not in Sunspear? And Sansa?"
Daenerys was overcome with sympathy for this man. He had suffered. "Sansa is on her way. You arrived first, but she will be here by week's end."
Not even the mask he wore, nor his dislike of Daenerys for her Targaryen blood could conceal the hope in his eyes. "And Arya, where is she?"
Daenerys smiled. "Arya is the yard, doing what she does best."
Training Daenerys's men wasn't as fun as sparring with Aemon or clashing spears with Oberyn, but she enjoyed it.
There wasn't much she could be doing indoors anyway. In anticipation of the feast, Missandei was arranging the Hall, Tyrion was responsible for overseeing the food and choosing the wines and many of Grey Worm's men were assisting with manual labor. There was little Arya could offer that would be of help.
This however, this she could do. She could train these men and turn them into fierce warriors not only capable of killing for Daenerys, but willing to die for her also.
This group had only twenty. Arya had them paired off, and they were sparring, practicing the techniques Arya had taught them that morning.
As their instructor, she walked the length of the yard, commenting on each pair as she observed. She complimented one man's swing and corrected another's before she stopped near the third to last team. "Stop!" she shouted.
They did and all eyes turned to her. The man she needed to correct the youngest of the bunch. When she first saw him, she wondered if he could grow a hair on his chin. Now that she'd stood in front of him multiple times, she could confirm he was capable, if only just.
The young man, who held a circular shield in one hand, and his sword in the other sighed. "I did it wrong, didn't I?" he guessed, already dejected.
"You're far better than I was during my first week," she confessed openly. With her right hand she waved the others away, so she and this lad could have some space. "You have good instincts."
Wisely the boy knew she wouldn't have stopped everyone if that was all. "But?"
"But nothing." She turned so she could speak to the larger group. "I can teach you to wield a sword, a shield or a bow, but instinct, that you either have or you don't."
She drew her sword and held it out to the young man. "I'm going to strike just as your partner did, and I want you to respond."
He nodded. Squaring off against him, she held out her sword, planted her feet and took a simple downward slash. Before the tip of her weapon neared him the young man was already tense, pushing his shield toward her in an attempt to deflect the blow.
"You're too tight," she told him. "All your muscles are rigid."
"What should I do?" he asked, eagerly.
"Keep a firm grip," she directed, "but remember that there is more to combat that not getting hit. Once you stop my attack, you'll want to make one of your own, and that'll be hard to do if you can't relax."
"Okay," he said, trying to absorb the lesson.
"There is no one way to fight," she told them. "Some fight with overwhelming strength, others use speed and accuracy, some prefer to block and counter."
"How do we know which one we are?" one of the men asked for the group.
She chuckled and began walking along the same route she had been before. "Trust me, by the time I'm done with you, you'll know."
"Which are you?"
Arya stopped and smirked. "Attack me and find out?"
He hesitated, while a few of his cohorts chuckled and snickered. "Seriously?"
"I'll tell you what, bring a friend if you're scared." She was taunting him, but she was also trying to teach them something. When they attacked her, and they would – because she wouldn't stop until they did – Arya would use it as an educational experience.
While Arya was circled by the two men she was going to best, one of the others in the crowd called out to her. "You trained in Dorne didn'tya? That's what they say."
She nodded, without taking her eyes off her opponents. "They say right. I was taught by the Red Viper himself."
Several, who knew how immense that admission was gasped. "So ya must be able to use a spear then?" he rationalized.
"Take one off the rack and bring it over," she suggested. As she spoke the two men she was sparring with attacked. She ducked one sword and then took a step to her right, before dashing forward. The second man's sword came down exactly where she had been.
As they recovered, the recruit with the spear held it out to her. "Here ya go."
She shook her head, knocking a strand of dark hair into her eyes. "Don't need it. You use it."
When he was uncertain, she waved him in. "Three against one?" he asked in disbelief.
Since he needed motivation, Arya took a quick slash at his leg. He jumped back and stared at her for a moment before lunging for her, spear first.
She smiled as she heard the approaching footsteps at her back. This wasn't a bad life. The sun was shining, she got to swing her sword and when she was done, she'd seek out Daenerys and get the kiss she was aching for.
"Thank you, for sending your carriage," Bran said. "It was very kind and made the last days much easier."
He was sitting in this specially made chair. It had wheels and a handle on the back, so he could be pushed.
She paid careful attention when Ned lifted his one surviving son into the chair. The boy grimaced in pain but didn't make a sound. He was obviously no stranger to the discomfort that came with moving. Daenerys cursed her father internally. What he'd done to this young man was cruel.
"I'm glad it helped. I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to travel all this way. Consider the carriage yours, should you need to go into the city, or even on your return to the North."
"Oh, that is very nice, but won't be necessary."
"We will be fine," Ned added, almost at the same time.
They were trying to dissuade her. It wasn't going to work. Rather than instigate an argument, Daenerys attempted to find common ground. "Ready to go and see your sister," she proposed. Before anyone could stop her, she moved behind Bran's chair. "Stop me if I'm not doing it right."
She applied pressure, but was tentative, afraid of inflicting more pain. Still, they inched forward slightly.
"You can push harder, it doesn't hurt. I can't even feel it."
She tried again, doing as he instructed and sure enough the chair moved easily along the floor. She leaned down a bit, so she could share a private word with Arya's brother. "Tell me if anything hurts."
He tilted his head back, looking up at her as she hunched over. He flashed her a smirk not unlike Arya's when he said, "As long as you don't hit anything, we'll be fine."
Daenerys chuckled, although she stifled the full laugh that threatened, all too aware of Ned Stark watching her every move. It hurt that he took such an immediate dislike to her, but Daenerys was quick to remind herself that after what Aerys had done, he could feel however he pleased.
After the unscheduled sparring match, led to a decisive victory for the instructor, Arya got everyone settled again. Hoping to teach them how to use their shields as an offensive weapon, she summoned an Unsullied.
After a few words and the accompanying nods, the warriors separated. Arya approached the former slave and tried to strike at the center of his chest. Forgoing the shield, the eunuch brought his own sword against Arya's. Once they were locked, he used his shield to hit her in the ribs.
It wasn't particularly hard, and even knowing it was coming, it knocked her off balance, which is precisely what she wanted to happen. She thanked the man and then went back to her pupils. "Most are so worried about the blade that they forget the shield. If you're smart, you can learn to use that to your advantage.
She paired them up again. This time each man had his sword, but only one of the two had a shield. "Try it," she proposed, "and then once you're done pass the shield to your partner and switch."
As she walked the line and reviewed the techniques of her recruits, Arya noted that the youngest one was especially good with his shield. He'd taken her earlier instruction to heart and was careful not to tense up when the sword came toward him. It was progress and she was pleased.
She stood behind the lad and waited until she'd seen him complete the move flawlessly twice. As he readied for a third, she stepped in. "That's really good," she said, before he could assume he made another mistake, "but remember under his arm is not the only place left exposed."
She nodded, backing out of the way. "Legs, throat, balls, anywhere you can reach."
As their swords came together and the young man raised his shield Arya reached out to grab it. He was pushing the shield straight out, as the Unsullied had done to her, but that was only one useful method. She turned the shield slightly, so he'd be striking with the edge and not the face. "Try that."
There was a flicker of understanding in his blue eyes and he nodded. "Thanks."
She wanted to say something but didn't. She tongue was temporarily frozen. A tingle ran up her spine and without looking Arya knew she was being watched. More than that, she knew only one woman whose mere presence could illicit such a reaction from her body.
With a smug smirk carved into her face, she wiped her overgrown hair away from her eyes and turned toward her Queen. "Couldn't stay away, could…."
The words ended, suddenly so incredibly unimportant. Arya's world was spinning. She blinked incessantly, to steady it, but got no relief. Through glassy eyes she saw the woman she loved, exactly where Arya expected her to be, looking as glorious as ever. What she was far less prepared for was who was with the Realm's Queen. Daenerys stood in front of a chair, and in it a young man she'd recognize anywhere. His boyish features had shifted into a man's, thinning in some areas, widening in others. He was smiling at her.
Without meaning to, Arya's eyes went to his legs. They were covered with a thick fur, despite the Southern heat. The last time she'd seen him… She shook her head, rejecting that memory entirely. It didn't matter anymore. One of her recruits asked her something, but he sounded very far away right then.
Her feet moved, barely lifting, she shuffled them along, kicking up dirt as she hurried toward him. She didn't look away, terrified he'd disappear.
Falling to her knees in front of Bran's chair, she wrapped her arms around him as best she could. "What are you… How did you get here?"
"They came for the feast," Daenerys declared in exaggerated innocence.
"Hi Arya," he said simply, his voice wildly different from the one she heard in her memories and dreams.
She chuckled, ignoring the first tear and then the second. He said it as if he had seen her only yesterday, and not years before. He looked good. He looked happy.
How many times had she dreamt of this moment? How many imaginary conversations had she had with the brother she lost? It all caught up to her at once, so many things to say and ask. They poured out in a manner that matched her tears. "I love you so much. I can't believe you're here. I've thought about you everyday."
With a sad, understanding smile Bran touched the top of her head. "I love you too, and we think about you too."
Only when he said 'we', did she make the connection. Daenerys had said, 'they' came for the feast. Bran could not have come on his own. The journey from Castle Black to the Red Keep was hundreds of miles.
Holding one of Bran's hands, she was confident enough in his existence to take her eyes off of him for a second. Daenerys hadn't moved, standing behind his chair. She had tears in her beautiful violet eyes, but Arya forced herself to look away, to keep going.
He was there, several feet from Daenerys and Bran. Like Bran his face showed his age, with many more wrinkles and lines than she recalled from her childhood. His hair while styled in a familiar fashion, was lighter, with greys and whites mixed in.
He stood tall and proud, wearing the black cloak of the Night's Watch. Although imposing, he had a few extra pounds across his middle. He waited with his hands tucked neatly behind his back. On his hip, he wore a sword. It wasn't Ice, but it made her smile, nonetheless. In contrast to the rest of him, his eyes were the most amazing. It was as if they hadn't aged a day. She stared in wonder. Her father was there. Daenerys had brought her family back to her.
"Go," Bran whispered, so softly she almost didn't hear. "Go to him."
She was on her feet in an instant. She raced toward him, watching for any acknowledgement. Just before she arrived, his blank expression cracked into a warm, adoring smile and his eyes sparkled at her. "My Little Wolf grew up."
She chuckled because it was either that or sob. Ned opened his arms and she fell into them, marveling at the moment she was having. They fit together as perfectly as they had when she was a clueless girl with missing teeth and scabbed knees. "I missed you," she confessed, talking into his chest, "I miss you all so much."
"We are always with you."
For once, for possibly the first time in a very long while she allowed herself to just be. She wasn't concerned about her recruits, lapses in security or potential dangers. She didn't care about anything. Her father was hugging her. She never thought she'd feel this safe again.
"This is the last place I'd thought I'd find you," her father noted.
Arya flashed him an understanding expression as Ned guided Bran's chair up to the table. Once he was settled, he took one of the three available chairs. She knew they wanted the story, her story, but her eyes wandered to the doorway anyway. She had been hoping Daenerys would join them, but apparently the Queen wasn't coming. Knowing Daenerys as she did, Arya knew she likely thought she would be interrupting, but that was nonsense. Arya loved her, and wanted her family to get to know her, as Arya had.
"You were in Dorne right?" Bran wondered aloud, pulling her focus from her Dragon.
"I was sent to foster in Sunspear," she told him, still struggling to comprehend her reality. Her father and brother were there, in the room with her. It felt like a dream.
"How did you come to be here?" Ned asked, his tone showing an edge.
"The King and two of his children came to Sunspear on the day I finished my training," Arya explained.
Smiling at her brother, she looked pointedly toward the marking on her breastplate. "As I'm sure you know, in Dorne women are allowed to join the army."
Ned's eyes narrowed slightly. "You joined the army?" Before she could respond, he added, "Doran made you fight for him?"
"No," she insisted, "he didn't make me, I wanted to."
"You wanted to fight?"
Her father was incredulous, and Arya fought the urge to snap at him. She was born to be a soldier and she was damn good at it. Her lack of a cock hadn't mattered yet. She swallowed her annoyance and tried to make him see. "I didn't get to train right away. I had to wait years."
"Maybe you should start at the beginning," Bran recommended. His smooth, easy voice made it obvious that this wasn't the first time he mediated a conversation.
"From the day I got off the ship in Sunspear," Arya remembered, "Prince Doran had me working as a servant in the Water Gardens." Those years were some of the toughest, alone, far from home and forced into the life of a servant. She did her best to hide her feelings under a mask. It was over now. She was never going back.
"Fosters are supposed to receive a better life," Ned remarked, more to himself than his children. "He shouldn't have made you serve him."
Arya smiled, pleased that her father's sense of right and wrong remained. "You would have given a foster in Winterfell a better life, but not everyone is as generous."
"Did the Tyrells make your sister a servant too?" Ned was quickly becoming restless, as if he had too many questions and not enough time to ask them all. "The letters said that you'd seen her."
With her hand she reached for his. "I have seen Sansa," she assured him. "She's well, and she's happy. The Tyrells were good to her, you'll see once she gets here."
"When did you see her?"
She thought back. "Once I told Daenerys who I was, she immediately petitioned her father for the chance to go to Highgarden, so I could see Sansa."
Her audience wore matching confused expressions. "What do you mean?" Bran wanted to know.
"Who did she think you were?"
Arya sighed. This was a long, winding tale. It would only make sense if she started at the beginning. "It's a long story."
"We've got time," Bran promised.
Alright then. "I spent years sweeping floors, scrubbing dishes and changing bed sheets. By the time I arrived at the Water Gardens everyone knew who I was, but most quickly forgot. Before long I was just another servant."
"That sounds horrible," Bran said, commiserating with her.
Without releasing her father's hand, Arya reached for Bran with her other. "They are not my fondest memories," she admitted, "but it wasn't all bad. I did make a friend and because of him, everything changed."
"Who?" Bran and Ned asked together.
"Prince Oberyn Martell," Arya announced, smiling as she thought of the sarcastic, witty, former Maester. "He didn't give a shit about me being a foster, he enjoyed my company, and I his."
Seemingly relaxing somewhat, Ned waited to hear what came next. When it wasn't immediately forthcoming, he encouraged her "And then?"
Her smile widened. "Several years ago now, he invited me to join him on a trip to Essos. Before we returned, he offered me the chance to stay. He was willing to tell his brother I died." She could see the questions burning in her father's eyes. She tried to answer them pre-emptively. "He wanted me to live my own life, and he knew I wasn't happy in the Water Gardens, so he was willing to lie to give me a fresh start."
"You didn't take it."
It wasn't a question, but she didn't mind. It was clear she hadn't accepted Oberyn's proposal. "I didn't want to leave Sunspear, it was the only home I had left. I thought both of you were dead," she confessed in a low voice, "I didn't think I'd ever see Sansa again. I didn't want to be a servant forever, but I did not want to begin a whole new life for a second time."
"What happened?" Bran was listening intently. She could tell by the way he was tapping his thumb against the back of her hand as it rested in his lap.
"I told him I wished to be a soldier, to fight for Dorne, and he agreed to speak to his brother on my behalf." She shifted her focus to her father "He trained me to make certain I was ready and then I was allowed to join a group of recruits. Training lasted a full year."
"Congratulations, you obviously did well," Bran noted, nodding to her armor.
She couldn't keep the pride from her tone. "I finished first out of more than a hundred."
She nodded. "I was just days away from getting an assignment and beginning my life as a soldier."
She swallowed hard. Her father was not going to like this part of the story. "The day I finished my training, also happened to be the day the King and two of his children arrived in Sunspear to meet with Doran."
"You should go and see them," Missandei advised.
Daenerys was shaking her head, even before her friend had finished. "They don't want me there."
"You know that isn't true. Arya would always rather have you close by."
She wasn't foolish enough to object to that, but it didn't mean she would be inserting herself into the reunion happening down the hall. "Perhaps, but I highly doubt her father feels the same."
"Arya will want you there," Missandei predicted, fighting dirty by making it seem like she'd be disappointing her lover by staying away.
"Ned Stark lost everything at the hands of my family, his father, sister and brother, and then his wife and children, as well as his home, his titles and his lands. I do not wish to be a callous reminder of that."
"I understand," Missandei conceded, "but you had similar fears about Sansa and by the end of our visit, she was not only becoming your friend she was also glad you were with Arya."
She resisted the temptation to groan. Missandei was too smart for her own good. She was making arguments she knew Daenerys couldn't refute, because they were accurate. "Somehow I don't think Ned Stark will be won over so easily. He has every reason to hate me…"
Missandei wasn't having it. "All you did was invite him here to reunite with his lost children. What is it that Arya is always telling you?" she posed rhetorically. "You aren't at fault for what your family did. You aren't responsible for the horrible wrongs done to Arya's family, but you are the reason they are finding one another now."
Daenerys was immensely grateful for Missandei, her wisdom and her reassurance. Hearing her say that made it a little easier for the Queen to breathe. It was not enough to lift her out of her seat and send down the hall in search of Arya. "I want them to be able to talk without an outsider listening in."
Missandei's features warned of the impending counter-argument. It arrived on schedule. "You are not an outsider, not to Arya."
"I will see them later," she acknowledged, hoping to sooth her friend some. "Once they've spent time together, I will join them."
Although she didn't appear convinced, Missandei mercifully let the subject drop. "Do you know when Sansa will arrive?"
"Before the week's end I'd wager."
"And she doesn't know her father and brother will be here?"
Daenerys felt her face warming. "I wanted it to be a surprise."
"She will definitely be surprised."
"Is the gift I requested ready?" Daenerys asked. She didn't need it tonight. She'd make the presentation once Sansa and Margaery were settled in.
"I was just there, checking on it."
Daenerys exhaled a breath she'd been holding. She wanted this to go well. She wanted Arya's family to like her, but she could hardly blame them if they didn't. They had a lot of reasons to distrust a Targaryen. She didn't think she could buy their approval with gifts, but she did want to give them something, to make it clear that the Starks had her support. "That's wonderful, thank you. Can you have it placed in a box and stored until our guests from Winterfell are here?"
"I will," Missandei pledged, "but you need to do something as well."
She was out of her seat before she spoke. "You should go and inform the Wolves that dinner will be ready shortly."
She timed her words perfectly, so she was at the door when she finished the last one. She slipped out into the hall before Daenerys could formulate a reply.
With a sigh she stood. She pressed her hands against her face and scrubbed down. Was Missandei right? She usually was. Should Daenerys seek out Arya and her kin? She was right about one thing, dinner would be soon, and they'd need to be told.
She could've sent a servant, but all her fears aside, Daenerys did miss her woman and was anxious to be close to her.
Arya may have breezed by certain details, but she'd explained the most relevant ones. Now both her father and brother had a better understanding of her life in Dorne and how she came to be in the Red Keep. Now that they knew the basics, she would answer any lingering questions. It was what she had been doing for the past several minutes. Bran was next.
"The King is really dead?"
Ned elaborated on Bran's inquiry. "We heard rumors that he was no longer King, but we got no confirmation. Then when we arrived, his girl said…"
Bothered by the fact that he didn't use her name, Arya didn't permit him to finish. She told him bluntly that Daenerys had saved his life, and yet he seemed as opposed to her as ever. "Aerys is dead. So is Viserys, his bodyguard, and the pyromancer."
"And the Crown Prince?"
She could understand why Ned was asking about Rhaegar. He was the Targaryen her father had the most interactions with. "Daenerys exiled him, along with Jorah Mormont."
Mentioning the traitor brought a fire to the Lord Commander's eyes. "He was here? Did he know who you were?"
"Before he was sent away, he learned the truth."
"But didn't you say the Princess has known for months?" Bran lamented. "How is it no one else caught on?"
"Aerys told everyone we were dead. The only people who knew different were the ones in the room that day." She shook her head. "This castle is built on lies. Rhaegar was lying to Daenerys and Aemon, about Robert, Lyanna and the rebellion, Aerys was lying to Rhaegar about us."
The topic of the former Prince unnerved her father, but Bran stayed composed. "Aemon, the Prince's son, he told us he knew you and Sansa."
"He did," she confirmed. "We were friends. I gave him your pin," she said to Ned, "and told him to find you both when he reached the Wall. I wanted you to know Sansa and I were safe."
Whatever she expected might come next, it wasn't the strained look that passed between father and son. It made Arya wary. "What is it?" she asked with some intensity. "Is Aemon alright?"
Bran gave more. "We didn't know what to believe. We received the Princess's letters, but we were unsure if we could trust them."
Arya was growing tired. Why did everything have to be so hard? "I gave him the pin, I told him to seek you out, to tell you everything. I wanted you to know…"
"So you sent a Targaryen?" Ned snapped.
"He was going to the Wall anyway, I thought you'd want to know your daughters were alive and well."
Bran sought to smooth things out. "He took his oath and will likely be named a Ranger."
That brought a smile to Arya's face. She knew that was what Aemon wanted. "I'm glad. He's wanted to join the Night's Watch since he was a boy. Rhaegar wouldn't let him, so when Daenerys took over, she gave him a choice between the throne and the Wall."
"And he chose the Wall?" Bran verified.
Although he didn't contribute, Ned was looking at her, assessing her sincerity. She was telling the truth. Aemon chose being a brother of the Night's Watch over being King. "He didn't want the throne. He never wanted it. He wanted to serve the Realm at Castle Black, so Daenerys and I helped him do that."
With a newfound respect for the young man, Ned grudgingly admitted, "It has been a long time since someone so talented with a sword joined us."
It wasn't much, but it was something and Arya was pleased by it. It would take time, but she would help Bran and Ned realize that Daenerys and Aemon were not like other Targaryens. Arya wanted them to judged on their merits and not their blood.
She opened her mouth to reply but was stopped by a knock. Three sets of similar eyes turned to find the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms in the doorway. "Aemon's skill with a sword is due to the long hours Arya spent training him."
"You trained him?"
"I helped a little, but he was very good even before I got here," Arya stated honestly.
Amused, Daenerys took a step into the room. "Your sister is being modest. She trained with Aemon almost every day for months."
As happy as she was to see Daenerys, and her family together, she still needed to check and make sure there wasn't an urgent reason she knocked on the door. "Is everything okay?" she asked her Queen in a whisper.
"Everything is fine, and I apologize for interrupting, but dinner will be ready soon and I'm sure you are all hungry."
It didn't escape her notice that while Daenerys tried to appear calm, she was nervous. She met Bran's eye freely but steadfastly refused to face his father. In direct contrast, Ned stared at Daenerys relentlessly.
Before she could make her escape, Arya reached out for her. "Thank you." When the only response was a forced smile, she felt obligated to double check. "Are you sure everything is alright?"
"Of course, I just didn't want you to miss dinner." As plausible as the justification, Arya knew it was shit. She knew Daenerys too well to fall for that. "Come down when you're ready."
Having witnessed Ned carry Bran up the stairs, it wasn't hard to imagine how they'd get him down. She moved to stand behind her brother's chair. "Are you hungry?" she asked him. "Daenerys put Tyrion in charge of the food and drink, so it will likely be delicious and expensive." She leaned over his shoulder slightly so she could see his face. "Ready?"
Daenerys had fled to the hall but didn't go far. When Arya and Bran met her just outside the door she was her usual, generous self. "Can I help with anything?"
"Wait Arya," their father called, "I'll carry him."
"I can do it," she guaranteed. When she got to the top of the staircase, she left it up to Bran. "Do you trust me or should we wait?"
Standing in front of the chair now, facing Bran, she leaned down. Daenerys, in her quest to be of use, reached for and removed the fur blanket off his legs. Arya flashed her a smile and a 'thank you', before she positioned herself so that Bran could wrap his arms around her neck.
Her father was behind the chair, watching. He didn't object, but Arya could tell he was uneasy.
With Bran in the basket of her arms, Arya slowly descended the stairs. Daenerys was in front of them by several steps, walking backwards, so she could see them. "Do you like roasted pig?" she asked him conversationally. "If I'm not mistaken that's what's on the menu for tonight."
A recent memory fell into place for Arya. She thought back more than two weeks ago, when Daenerys innocently asked about the things they ate in Winterfell. Knowing now that her family was coming, it made sense, but at the time she didn't think much of it. "That's why you wanted to know," she accused playfully.
With a blush coloring her cheeks, Daenerys defended her actions. "I wanted to make something they'd like, but I didn't want to spoil the surprise."
Her hands were full, so all Arya could do was shake her head. Bran spoke for their family. "It sounds delicious."
Upon reaching the bottom of the stairs, she stood off to the side with Bran in her arms, waiting for their father to carry down his chair. Daenerys was there too. "Should I have another chair made, so we don't have to carry yours up and down?"
"You don't have to…" Bran started, but Arya was quick to cut in. She agreed with her lover. Anything that made Bran's life easier had Arya's favor.
"Daenerys is right," she told her brother just before she set him in his chair. "I'll take some measurements and get the finest craftsman I can find on it."
As she had the last time, she didn't let him resist. "I want to." She gave Bran a smile. "I'll take care of everything."
Daenerys passed her the blanket, which Arya carefully laid across Bran's damaged legs. Seeing them made her furious, even if the man who ordered him crippled was dead.
"Your brother is right," Ned cautioned. "We will be returning to the Wall soon, and there will be no need to keep such a chair here."
"You can take it with you," Daenerys proposed. Just before Arya could say the same thing.
"We can not stay long, it will probably take longer to build than we have."
Arya wasn't interested in opposition. She wanted Bran to have this. "I'll take care of it," she told them all. "I'll find the craftsman and pay him to make this his top priority. He will have it done before Sansa gets here."
Bran looked prepared to relent, but Ned had a little more fight left in him. "Arya," he began, "this is unnecessary."
In this rare instance, she wasn't above begging. She turned to her father. "Let me do this," she pleaded. "Let us do this," she said gesturing to Daenerys and then herself, "we want to. I want to help my brother."
That did it. "Very well."
"Thank you," she said to him, before shifting her attention to Bran and squatting down so she could see his eyes. "Now let's get you to dinner." With a smirk she looked at Daenerys and then back to Bran. "Why don't Father and I lead the way, and Daenerys can escort you?"
Likely expecting Bran to insist no one needed to go to any trouble for him, Daenerys had her counter argument ready. "I would love to."
She was in position behind the chair when Arya added, "She is much better company than I am."
"Arya," the Queen chastised as she blushed.
"I'm serious," she told Bran, "just ask her about her dragons."
Confident the woman she loved and her brother could get along without intervention from her, she straightened up and sought out her father. "Shall we?"
They were a few steps ahead. Far enough that she couldn't make out what Bran was asking or Daenerys's responses, but she could tell it was a lively exchange and she was happy with that.
"Dragons?" Ned asked, keeping his voice down so no one would overhear. "I didn't believe it when the rumors started."
"Believe it, they are no mere rumor. Daenerys has three of them and they are growing quicker than anyone anticipated."
"Be careful," he cautioned. "Dragons are dangerous."
Arya couldn't be sure, but she got the distinct impression they were talking about more than the three eggs Daenerys hatched and small winged lizards that crawled out.
Arya stuck her head in the room and smiled at what was there. Bran was sitting in his chair, under the window reading a book from the Red Keep's library and Ned was on his bed, with an impressive longsword across his lap. He was shining it, which meant he had already sharpened it to a deadly edge. Her father was a creature of habit. She imagined them in Castle Black arranged in much the same way.
Bran noticed her first. "Arya, there you are. We thought you might be busy."
She entered the room completely and went to him. "I am never too busy for you." With an intentionally gentle touch she laid her hand in his right leg before turning to their father. "How was your night?"
"Warm," he commented, "we aren't used to it."
Arya could relate. How many times had she said something similar after arriving in Dorne? "Sunspear was the best of both," she recalled fondly, "in the sun it was hotter than the capital but out in the desert, after dark, it was cold enough to remind me of Winterfell."
"I've read about those deserts," Bran remarked.
"Have you been to Dorne Father?"
"Yes, but it was long ago, before I joined the Night's Watch." He looked up from his weapon. "We have little need to go there."
That had Bran's attention, "Why is that? We get recruits from Sunspear, I remember meeting one."
Arya knew the answer. "You do," she confirmed, "but Dorne is so far from the Wall that Doran and the Lords arrange for their recruits to travel here, to Winterfell, or another closer place, to make them easier to pick up."
"I didn't know that."
Ned smiled at his children. "You have grown so much. My last memory of you was as a scared girl. I prayed for you every night, hoping the Gods would give you a good life."
Arya was touched. "I thought of you all the time as well. I missed you so much, and I am so glad that we can be together again."
"My little girl grew into a strong, honorable soldier," Ned continued. "Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought it possible."
The guard could only shrug. "You surely remember that I was happier in the yard with my brothers than I ever was sharing tea and cookies with Mother and Sansa."
Both men laughed. "I definitely remember that," Bran promised. He'd closed his book and used it to tap against her hand. She was afraid to hurt him but wanted to be close. She had gotten in the habit of initiating contact whenever possible.
Ned's eyes took on a glassy quality as he said, "Your mother would be so proud, of both of you. Just as I am."
She too had to blink back tears. She'd long since accepted that she'd never receive such a compliment from her father again. It was nice. "Wait until you see Sansa, she is so talented. She had her own successful business in Highgarden."
"Doing what?" Ned asked, visibly curious.
"She designs and makes dresses," Arya explained, thinking back to her time in the shop. "It took me years to find my place after I got to Sunspear, but Sansa, she found her footing right away."
"The Tyrells are good people. I'm glad she got to go there."
Arya couldn't disagree. "They are, Lady Olenna is one of a kind."
"Do you know when Sansa will be here?" Bran inquired.
Arya smiled wide. "That is what I came to talk about. The scouts reported in, she is close. She should be here tomorrow after midday."
"I can't wait to see her."
"Me either," Arya told her sibling. "I saw her a few months ago and still, I miss her." Addressing their father she went on, "Daenerys is planning a feast tomorrow night to commemorate our reunion.
As was fast becoming common practice, Ned bristled at the mention of Arya's lover. "She doesn't need to do that. All I care about is getting you all back."
"I know," she assured him, "but Daenerys wants to do this. She and Sansa are quite close." It was a slight exaggeration, but she needed something to strengthen her argument. Her father still ignored Daenerys when their paths crossed and ridiculed her in private. Arya loved her father, but she was tiring his attitude. Daenerys hadn't done anything but help him, and his hate persisted.
Looking up from his sword, which he had begun scrubbing harder as soon as Daenerys's name came up, his innocent reasoning fell away. He glared at his daughter. "I don't want anything from her!"
That was enough. Arya had reached her limit. She loved Daenerys and that would not change. She was trying to be considerate, to give her father time and space to realize Daenerys was not Aerys or Rhaegar, but he didn't seem interested in learning that for himself. As for Arya's Queen, she was nervous in her own home, in a way she hadn't been since Aerys and her brothers left. The Stark hated seeing it, but what was worse was knowing that the reason was because her father could not forgive.
She decided to start with logic, and see where that got her. "What has Daenerys ever done to you? She's the one who donated to the Night's Watch, who sent you letters, invited you here. Without her, we would still be apart."
Ned's anger softened some. "Don't expect me to forget or forgive!"
She took a slow, deep breath to ensure she didn't lose her temper. "What horrible crime do you feel Daenerys has committed?"
With a burning passion in his eyes, he replied. It was as simple as it was painful for Arya to hear. "She's a Targaryen."
She closed her eyes. "So what?" she snapped back. "I was a Stark and when I told her, she didn't know the truth about what happened to us. She didn't know anything, she thought Robert wanted the throne, that Rhaegar protected the Realm, that Aemon's mother was out there somewhere, and that the Starks fled Winterfell in disgrace."
Her statement caused Bran to speak for the first time since she and her father began their dispute. "What? How is that possible?"
Arya smiled and looked to her brother. She didn't want him to think she was upset with him. "The only people who really knew what happened, were the ones in the throne room that day." Arya did her best to recall that first day with the Stark men, hadn't she told them this already? She thought she had, but if they needed to hear it again, perhaps she was misremembering. Of course it was also possible that they hadn't really cared about some of the details Arya shared that first day, especially when they related to Targaryens.
"And everyone else?"
"Most were told we fled Westeros, Rhaegar thought we were all dead. Daenerys grew up on the stories her father and brother told, she had no reason to trust me. When I told her who I was, she could have gone to Aerys or Rhaegar, she could have yelled for any member of the Kingsuard and had me killed, but she didn't."
"I'm glad," Bran said to his sister.
"Me too," Ned allowed, "but it doesn't change anything."
"Doesn't it?" she pondered aloud. "She could have thrown me in the dungeon, or had me executed, but she gave me a chance. It's the only reason I'm alive." With her eyes locked on her father, Arya pleaded shamelessly. "All I want is for you to give her the same chance."
Any progress they made went up in smoke. "I am glad she was there to help you Arya, and you know I love you, that's the only reason I'm here. For you I will tolerate her, but don't ask for more than that."
Each word cut Arya deep, especially the kind ones. She loved her father too, but she didn't know how to make him see the truth. Daenerys was wonderful and Arya adored her. Countless times as she was falling for the Dragon, she tried to imagine her father's reaction. The reality was worse. She had no idea how to bridge the divide. At a loss, she pushes a hand through her shaggy hair. "She is important to me." Why couldn't that be enough.
Ned appeared torn. "I know that." He paused. "You ask why I can't accept her I question how you can? After all they did, to your mother, to your brothers, to you, how can you serve her and smile at her? How can you stand to be in the same room?"
"Aerys and Rhaegar taught her that all Starks were traitors. She believed it as deeply as the hate you hold for her family, but when I told her who I was, she looked past the blood in my veins and judged me on the things she'd seen with her own eyes."
"It's not the same," Ned insisted.
Arya sighed. Yes it was. "Please," she began, "as a favor to me, can you just try. Daenerys is nervous enough. Give her a chance. Please"
"It's not my job to make the Targaryen feel better. It's not my job to ensure she's safe and happy and protected."
Arya ridiculously thought she was prepared for this. She knew her father despised Rhaegar and Aerys, she knew the information she gave him about Lyanna would be difficult, but she foolishly imagined he'd eventually come around.
Out of reasoned, thoughtful positions Arya lashed out. She moved behind Bran's chair before she spoke. "You're right," she acknowledged. Reaching down over his shoulder, she lifted the book off his lap and set it on the table. "It isn't your job to protect Daenerys, it's mine and I will protect her from anyone, including my own father."
Her gut twisted, she hated herself in that moment. It didn't matter that this wasn't her doing, that Ned had chosen his own path, the guilt persisted.
Needing to escape she addressed Bran. "Come on, I'll take you to see some dragons." She didn't wait for a response before she was moving him out into the hall.
When the objection did come, it was from Ned and not Bran. "What are you doing? Come back here!"
She stopped near the top of the staircase and placed a hand on his shoulder. "I'm sorry," she said plainly.
Bran surprised her by smiling. "Don't be, I agree with you. Father has hated them for so long, he doesn't know how to stop."
She would worry about that later. "Dragons?" she proposed.
With a smirk, Bran waited until she was standing in front of him before asking, "Sure, are we going to see your Dragon or Daenerys's?"
What else could she do? She laughed, long and hard.
Daenerys was sitting at a table, across from Missandei, and with Grey Worm standing behind her back. She'd all but ordered Arya to take the day and be with her family, but the only way the guard would comply was if Grey Worm replaced her as guard. The Queen didn't think it was coincidence that Loras was lingering around far more than usual either. It was rather sweet that Arya was willing to go to such lengths for her.
The friends were working on a pile of paperwork. Missandei was there to provide translations when necessary, and also to give wise counsel when Daenerys was unsure. They worked well together, but the stack of issues seemed never-ending. She took a moment to stretch her sore back muscles and extend her arms over her head. A yawn followed.
Concerned, Missandei asked, "Trouble sleeping"
Clamping her lips tight, Daenerys willed herself not to blush. She hadn't done anything wrong. "I was up later than I planned," she confessed, hoping to sound casual.
Fighting a smile, Missandei got to the root of it right away. "Arya keeping you up?" she teased.
Daenerys sighed and gave up trying to preserve her dignity. "She's been busy with her family," the Queen justified, "we haven't had much time together lately."
"And you corrected that last night?" the advisor guessed.
Her face was burning, but she didn't care. Missandei wouldn't spill her secrets and she had nothing to be ashamed of. She spent the night with the woman she loved more than anything in the world. She refused to apologize for that. "Arya did actually, when I retired, she was waiting."
Missandei's lips parted, but before the words could come, the door opened, and a man entered. Grey Worm moved from his post to block his path to the table.
The friends shared a look as they realized who had come. "Lord Varys," Daenerys said, rising to her feet. "I wasn't aware that you were back from your trip."
"Just returned," he told her.
"And our interests in the Twins?"
"The Freys are happy and remain loyal." Walder Frey had demanded another meeting to discuss trade, using his support of Daenerys against her father to ensure she couldn't refuse. She sent the Spider to hear his requests and discuss terms.
"Very good," Daenerys praised him. "Go and get some rest. You must be tired from your journey."
"I will," he promised, "but first may we speak about something I heard while I was away."
Her eyes danced to Missandei, who was intentionally stoic. Something about this was making her anxious, though she couldn't say what. "Of course, what did you hear?"
"Did you invite the Starks here?" he asked, sounding incredulous.
This was about Arya's family? That was unexpected. "I did," she confirmed. "Sansa will be here tomorrow, and then we are having a feast to honor them."
"You need to be careful, your Grace," Varys countered. "The hate for all Targaryens is deeply engrained."
She was tempted to concede the point. Ned did appear to hate her, but Bran was pleasant and insightful. Lastly she thought of Arya, the woman who had spent more than an hour waiting in their bedchambers, for Daenerys to arrive just so she could show the Queen how deeply she was loved.
She shook her head. "The Starks are not a threat to me."
"I urge you to reconsider. You are the last of the Targaryens, without you the Realm will fall into chaos."
"What would you have me do?" She was asking more out of curiosity than anything else. She wanted to know his solution.
He had his answer ready and waiting. "Cancel the feast," he implored, seemingly desperate. "Allow the Lord Commander and his son to return to the Wall."
That was an interesting suggestion. "I will not deprive Arya of time with her family. She has lost too much of that already."
"Allow her to travel with them. She'd have several weeks to reconnect, and you'd be free of a man who hates you and wishes you harm."
"What of Sansa?"
For the first time since this started, he had to stop and think. He didn't have a response ready. "Let her stay, the Lady Stark is no threat to you."
"Thank you, Varys. I am not sure what I will do, but you've given me a lot to think about. Thank you."
He bowed his head. "I am here to serve."
She remained where she was until long after the door closed, and the three friends were alone again. Missandei broke the silence. "Are you going to cancel the feast?"
"Absolutely not." Regardless of what Varys thought, that was not an option.
"What's the matter?"
"Nothing, I was just thinking about something." She shook her head and forced a smile. She could examine the meaning of Varys's visit later.
"Thinking about what?"
Violet eyes met chocolate. "About why Varys wants Ned and Bran Stark gone so badly."
"What do you think?" Arya asked her brother. She was on the grass, sitting beside his chair, and together they looked out over the Dragon Pit below. Two of Daenerys's three beasts were there.
"I don't have words," Bran admitted. "We heard rumors of the things Daenerys had done, that she killed her father, and took the throne, that she brought dragons back, that she allied most of the Seven Kingdoms, but most didn't believe it."
Arya wasn't concerned about most. "Did you?"
He was thoughtful for a full minute. "I believed some of what we heard. A letter came addressed to Father, in it, Daenerys invited us to visit here and see both you and Sansa. It also pledged increased support in the coming years for the Night's Watch."
Arya couldn't make the appropriate connections. "Okay, and?"
"We got the letter just days after the first rumor found us," he elaborated. "She had to have sent it long before she actually had the throne."
In truth Arya didn't know when Daenerys sent the invitation, she hadn't known she sent any invitation at all until her father and brother were in the courtyard. "There was a lot going on then," Arya recalled. "We had meetings every day to plan how we were going to take the city and the keep."
"I believed she was Queen," Bran said, getting them back on the path, "I believed she'd allied herself to many other houses, but I thought the dragons were a myth."
It didn't escape her that he skipped over one of the rumors. "Did you think she killed Aerys?"
Bran looked away from the lounging dragons to meet his sister's stare. "I wasn't sure. I thought it possible but assumed she might've also put him in the dungeon."
A quick glance at their surroundings confirmed she had a measure of privacy. She leaned toward Bran's chair. "I killed him," she declared as she pictured that moment in her mind. "Daenerys gave the order, but I put my sword in him. Before he died, he knew who I was, and why I was killing him. I did it for Robb, for Mother, for Rickon and for you."
"Are you happy?" he asked after a period of peaceful quiet.
She thought about it, but deep inside knew the truth. "Yes. I didn't want to come here, and I never dreamt I'd stay, but everything changed."
Although his question was general enough, Arya noticed a flicker in his eye that led her to believe he already knew what he was going to hear next. Combined with the comment he made upstairs about Daenerys being her Dragon, and it would seem her brother was observant and intelligent.
"I spent all day with her, everyday," Arya recited, thinking back to those early rules. "If she left her room, I needed to be with her. It gave us a lot of time to talk and get to know one another."
"When did you know you loved her?" he asked naturally, as if there was nothing unusual about it. They were jumping over her relationship with the Queen and going right to the madly in love portion. It made Arya chuckle. "I don't know," she told him honestly. "Sometimes I think I knew the moment we met. Even under all my anger that day, she was stunning." She shook her head. "I could point to a dozen different moments."
"You're not going back to Dorne are you?" he predicted.
"No, I will be with Daenerys for as long as she'll let me."
"I don't see her sending you away."
The thought of being separated from Daenerys made her sick, but she pushed it aside. "Are you happy?" she asked Bran.
"Yes," he answered. She watched for signs he was lying but saw none. "I never would have chosen the Wall for myself, but I like it. I'm useful there. I like having a purpose even if…" he trailed off, looking suggestively toward his legs.
Suddenly it was of the upmost importance that Arya convince her brother that she was always going to be in his life. She didn't want him to feel alone, ever. "I am going to visit," she pledged, "I'll come see you and Father on the Wall. In the meantime, we can exchange letters."
He smiled at her, looking away from his limp legs. "I'd like that." He took a moment. "I'll talk to Father, see if maybe he can give Daenerys a break."
As grateful as she was, Arya couldn't' permit that. "I appreciate it, but this isn't your problem, Bran. We'll be okay. I love Father and I know he loves me. He just needs time to realize that Daenerys is special."
His reply was stolen from the air by a loud screech that echoed around them. Arya jumped to her feet, hand resting on her sword. The siblings looked at the dragons and saw that the third was returning. His arrival had spurned the others into action. Now two were in the air and one was stretching his wings.
"Incredible," Bran mumbled. "The night we arrived Daenerys and I talked about the dragons, she told me they'll be big enough to ride soon."
This wasn't a shock to the guard. She knew her woman liked the idea of travelling on the back of her winged friends, but as a soldier sworn to protect her, Arya was less excited by the prospect. "They are growing fast," she acknowledged, even though she knew her brother wouldn't understand how vastly she was understating things. He hadn't seen them when they fit in a palm or coughed little puffs of smoke with no flame. They were entirely different creatures now.
"Hey, you two," a voice called. Arya turned, smiling as the Queen approached. "If I'd known you were out here, I would have come sooner."
Arya put a hand on Bran's shoulder and squeezed lightly before she moved away, going to Daenerys. She saw Grey Worm several feet back. She nodded to the fellow warrior. "You're here now, that's all that matters."
"Having a good day?"
"It's improving," she said with a smirk, as she ducked in for a kiss.
For possibly the first time ever, Daenerys backed away. "Arya," she hissed in a whisper, "your brother can see us."
Unrepentant and undeterred, she leaned in again. "I don't care." She stopped short, with their noses touching. "Gods you are beautiful," the guard declared.
That did it. Daenerys closed the distance and brought their lips together for the first time in far too long. Once it was over, she snatched the Queen's hand. "Bran is as fascinated by the dragons as we are. Come on, I'm sure he'd like someone smarter than me to talk to."
Daenerys laughed as Arya pulled her toward her brother. The sound made the Stark feel light and free. She'd do almost anything to keep Daenerys laughing like that.
As soon as they were close enough, Daenerys engaged Bran in conversation about the dragons. Arya happily listened, pleased that two people she loved had found common ground.
"Want to go down and see them?" Daenerys offered.
Bran looked to Arya for approval. "Is that safe?"
Having been in the pit before, she knew the right response. "I wouldn't recommend wandering in there alone, but they know that Daenerys is the one that hatched them, the one that fed them and took care of them. As long as we are with her, it's perfectly safe."
His wide eyes matched his grin. "Yes then! Yes, I would love to. Thank you, Daenerys."
Arya smiled at her lover, mouthing a thank you of her own. Her father had been less than gracious, but Daenerys was still trying, still making an effort to connect with Bran and she was doing it for Arya.
She fully intended to push Bran's chair, but Daenerys nudged her aside and insisted she would do it. She moved with deliberate care, not taking a step until she reviewed the ground, she was about to push Bran across. Arya didn't think it was possible, but she fell even more in love as she watched from a half a step behind.
"What are their names?" Bran asked as they neared the first dragon. Two more flew overhead, but the biggest one, the black one waited on the ground as if he anticipated Daenerys's visit.
"They don't have names yet," Daenerys admitted in a low voice, "but they soon will."
Arya chuckled, because she already knew how the Queen was planning to name her dragons. She decided to ensure her brother didn't miss out on the unique strategy. "Ask her how she's choosing."
"How are you choosing?"
"I regularly visit the orphanage here in King's Landing," she said to get them started. "I know a lot of the children there quite well." She looked to Arya and added, "We both do."
Bran was listening but had yet to see the link.
"Not long after I became Queen, Arya, myself and a few of my advisors went to visit the orphans. They'd heard about my dragons and were very excited."
Looking at the scaled beast, Bran nodded. "I can understand why."
"They were so excited that I wanted to involve them somehow, so I told them that if they came up with a list of names, I'd select three of the best for my dragons."
Bran chuckled, with both of the women following along. "That is really sweet," he noted, once the amusement had passed. "I'm sure they'll pick great names."
Daenerys beamed at Bran as if he'd just given her the greatest of all compliments. It was breathtaking. She pushed him a little closer. "Come now, lets introduce you to Unnamed Dragon Number One." She reached out and petted the side of his face, before returning to push Bran close enough that he could do it, if he wished. He didn't delay it seizing the moment. "This is Arya's brother," she said to the mysterious creature, "so be nice."
Arya stayed back and watched, savoring the moment. She wanted to remember this forever.
She didn't have words. She simply didn't have words. Standing near the stables, with Margaery Tyrell the two young women watched the reuniting of the Starks. Her heart was racing in her chest. She'd never seen Arya so emotional. She'd seen Sansa before, spent time with her, it was the same with her father and brother, but for some reason this was different.
"I'm so happy for them," Margaery whispered to the Queen without taking her eyes off the action.
Sansa was fretting over Bran and having gotten to know a little bit about the young man, Daenerys had a pretty good idea of how he would react to such attention. "Me too," she told Margaery.
"She has been so worried about him," Margaery confided, "ever since Arya told her he was alive she's been worrying herself sick over how he is. She saw what they did to him." Daenerys did know and having heard the details from Arya, it took considerable effort not to gag at the topic. "She told me on the way to Winterfell that she can't imagine someone surviving what was done to him."
"Bran is strong. You are going to like him."
Right on schedule, she asked the one question Daenerys had been hoping to avoid. "And Ned?"
She peeled her eyes away from the happy family and lowered her quiet voice even further. "Just don't mention me and you should be fine."
Her expression apologetic, Margaery nodded to confirm she heard. "Sansa and I were afraid of that."
She shook off any negative feelings. Today was a good day. "It doesn't matter," she proclaimed, trying desperately to mean it. "I didn't bring them here for me, I did it so they could have this," Daenerys finished, pointing to the four Wolves.
"Still," Margaery countered, "after all you did to bring them together. It's not fair."
The Queen did not want to talk about this. "I should go and check with the kitchen. I want to make sure they have everything they need for the feast."
It seemed like Margaery wanted to object to her leaving but thought better of it. Daenerys was glad for that. Her presence wasn't required. She may not have been honest when she said Ned's attitude didn't bother her, but she was completely truthful when she said today wasn't about that. The woman Daenerys loved was happy and she'd been reunited with the family she thought she lost. That alone was enough for Daenerys to endure whatever Ned might throw at her.
Dinner was nearly finished, and everything had been going well. After their meeting in the yard, Arya, Bran, Ned, Sansa and Margaery all retired to a sitting room. Having already peppered Arya with questions about her past, now it was Sansa's turn.
She admired her sister's bravery. She held Margaery's hand on top of the table, in full view of anyone who cared to look. The Tyrell was equally smitten, leaning over to whisper in Sansa's ear more than once. Arya watched their father's face in those moments and saw nothing untoward. He didn't appear bothered by their relationship, which meant his problem with Arya's was who his daughter had chosen, not her gender.
While that didn't solve her problem, she was pleased it wouldn't prevent Ned and Sansa from bonding.
Dinner had been delicious, and Arya was enjoying the final few bites while those around her engaged in lively conversation. She didn't think much of it, until suddenly and without warning all eyes were on her.
She was just about to admit that she had no idea what was happening, when Sansa took pity on her. "I was telling them about the last time I was here," she announced, "Bran wanted to know about the dragons."
"Arya spent most of that day with one on her shoulder," Daenerys remembered with a laugh.
With her eyes locked on the Targaryen, Arya couldn't resist the urge to tease. "I needed my hands for other things."
Those who had been there that day were amused. Sansa chuckled and shook her head, Margaery laughed, Missandei giggled into a napkin and Daenerys bit her lip in a failed attempt to remain quiet. They all knew precisely what she'd used her available hands for that day.
"Like killing Aerys maybe?" Sansa pressed.
Arya had all but forgotten that this was new information, until she heard her father clear his throat. "You killed Aerys?" he checked. "I thought you said his daughter did."
Daenerys looked poised to jump in, but this was Arya's family and she'd take care of it. "I swung the sword, but she gave the order. I was serving her when I did it."
"Why would you kill your own father?" Ned asked Daenerys directly.
"He was sick. He had only gotten worse in the years you were at Castle Black, and I am ashamed to admit it, but yours was not the first nor the last family he ruined. It needed to end."
"He was your family," Ned pointed out hypocritically. He wanted Aerys dead more than anyone, so why was he bothered by Daenerys's choice to actually do it?
"Father…" she said to try and end this.
Daenerys held up a hand to stop Arya from continuing. "My family was not like the one you grew up in Lord Commander, nor was it like the one where you and your wife raised your children. My family did not love me, they used me. I did not matter, and they made no effort to conceal this fact. It wasn't until I grew up and made friends of my own that I truly realized how damaged and broken we all were. I don't need a family like that, and the Realm didn't need royals like that either. We needed to do better and that is what I'm endeavoring to do."
Arya was so very proud of her Queen. She'd faced Ned directly, with more respect than he deserved and answered his questions. It was hard to tell in the dim light, but she silently hoped that some of what Daenerys said was beginning to leak through.
Things were not horrible. Even her little exchange with Ned wasn't as bad as it could've been. Dinner had been great, everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves and that was plenty.
In order to give the Starks privacy, Daenerys had added additional space between the main table, and the rest of the hall. It would ensure they could speak without being overheard. She also decided that there would be fewer than usual seated around the main table. Typically, Daenerys and all her advisors and friends sat together, tonight though she wanted distance. That was why Tyrion was at another table, with Varys and Loras. She would make it up to them, but they were not her priority tonight.
Daenerys had been just about to stand up, to go and get the gift she had made, but she didn't get the chance. A rather general conversation happening down the table caught her attention.
"How long have you known Daenerys?" Bran was asking Margaery.
Daenerys smile to herself and thought back on the time they met. So much had been different then. Of all the things that had changed, none were as dramatic as Daenerys herself. She was quiet, fearful and eager to please when she first crossed paths with the Lady Tyrell.
Lost in the memories, Daenerys didn't immediately notice when the conversation took an abrupt turn. She picked it up in the middle. "… I'd never seen anyone so furious before in all my life," Margaery announced. "I thought she was going to spit fire like those dragons of hers."
Amused by her friend's assessment, Daenerys decided to join in. "When was this exactly?" she asked the Rose from Highgarden.
"With Payne," she remarked. Just mentioning the former torturer made her blood boil. She remembered being prepared to kill him with her bare hands before Oberyn stopped her. "I'd never seen you so angry, and it was as glorious as it was terrifying."
She had to look at Arya, had to see that she was okay, that they were okay. The memories were there, threatening to pull her under. He was gone, he couldn't hurt them anymore.
"He was a bastard," Sansa added, "and he deserved worse than what happened to him."
Ned who had been away from the table, returned. "Who is that?"
Sansa hesitated for a moment, so Arya answered. "Ilyn Payne."
Knowing who Payne was to Ned Stark, Daenerys wasn't at all surprised by the flash of murderous rage she saw on his weathered face. "What did happen to him? Is he here?" Was it her imagination or did he seem almost hopeful that Payne would be within his reach? If he was, Daenerys couldn't fault him. Arya's whipping was the fork in the road for her. If it hadn't happened, everything would be different.
"He's dead," Arya told her father.
"Did you kill him?"
"Oberyn did," Arya confessed. "He hurt me."
"He did what?!" Ned roared. He was holding his wine, but even at a distance Daenerys could see the knuckles turn white. He was livid.
"I'm fine," Arya promised, "but Oberyn took offense and not long after poor Ser Payne fell deathly ill."
Sansa gave more. "I know Oberyn said that he was in agony at the end, but I agree with Margaery, he was lucky Oberyn got to him before Daenerys did."
Daenerys wasn't sure what to say to that. She wasn't even sure what to make of Sansa saying it. At least not until the Lady of Winterfell met her eye and smiled warmly. That's when Daenerys knew, she wasn't belittling Daenerys's feelings, she was supporting them.
"If she'd gotten her hands on him, he would have suffered in ways far worse than what Oberyn did to him," Margaery predicted, echoing her lover's viewpoint.
"Are they right?" Ned asked her, putting her on the spot.
She could tell several people around her wanted to intervene, including Arya, but Daenerys's response came faster. It poured out without due consideration. "Yes, they are right." She let that settle and then continued. "I understand Lord Commander why you hate my family. Some things are unforgivable. To me, one such crime is harming Arya in any way. Any and all who do will have to answer to me. That is why I certainly would have killed Ilyn Payne if Oberyn didn't, it's why I gave Arya permission to execute my father, why I killed one brother and destroyed the other's life. Your daughter is important to me, and I won't let anyone harm her." She pushed the chair out from the table and stood up. "If you'll excuse me a moment."
Arya watched Daenerys leave and her heart broke. She'd done this. Daenerys had invited Ned, Bran and Sansa here for her, and it was causing her pain. She wanted to rush after her, but Missandei simply shook her head, as she followed the Queen out of the hall.
Each second felt like a lifetime as she waited for her woman to return. "Satisfied?" she asked the Starks at the table.
She wasn't upset with Bran, he'd done nothing wrong, but Sansa seemed intent on bringing up all manner of horrible events for discussion. Arya couldn't comprehend why.
As for her father, Arya worried that the day was fast approaching where she was going to have to choose, between the woman she loved and the family she just found again.
"You're supposed to be a Lady," Arya spat at the redhead. "Didn't anyone teach you that murder, poison and torture are not appropriate topics for a feast?" By the end her words were dripping with sarcasm.
To the soldier's surprise Sansa appeared sincerely contrite. "I'm sorry," she said at once.
"It's not me you need to apologize to."
She nodded. "I know, I plan to speak with Daenerys later. I was always going to."
Angry as she was, it took a little longer for Arya to pick up the clue hidden in that statement. "You did it intentionally," she realized. "Why?"
Sansa's response came with a pointed look toward their father. "He needed to see it," she justified. "He needed to see how deeply Daenerys loves you, how fiercely protective of you she is."
Even as she was beginning to see the wisdom in Sansa's scheme, she wasn't ready to forgive. "There are other ways you could have done it."
"Not really," Sansa whispered in her defense. "She's not a fool, she knows how Father feels, and because of that she's staying away." Arya knew it was true, but she refused to admit it. "Think about it," Sansa pressured, "before this week, when was the last time you two went more than an hour without seeing one another?"
She had a valid point. Arya had spent much of the afternoon in the sitting room and although she was surrounded by family, she missed Daenerys. "I'm sorry," she told her sister. "I shouldn't have snapped at you. I just hate seeing her upset."
"I know," Sansa said with a slight smile, suggesting that even Arya's anger and subsequent apology were part of the Wolf's master plan.
Instead of being annoyed, Arya was impressed. No longer hungry she pushed her plate away and turned her focus to her father. Had any of that helped to show him who Daenerys was apart from the name she carried?
It was subtle, and if she wasn't staring, she probably wouldn't have noticed, but Arya allowed herself to hope that there was something different about Ned Stark. He didn't say anything, choosing to look down at his food, without actually eating.
Maybe they were finally getting somewhere. If so, Sansa would never let her hear the end of it.
Daenerys and Missandei entered the room. The advisor was carrying a large box. Grey Worm, upon seeing her, hurried over to take the burden from her. Arya too got up. Her father tried to speak to her then, but she ignored him and rushed toward her Queen. "Are you okay?" she asked.
Grey Worm and Missandei went ahead, leaving the two of them alone. "I'm fine. I'm just sorry."
"Sorry," Arya repeated dumbly, "what in the name of the Gods do you have to be sorry about? My family is behaving terribly."
Shaking her head, Daenerys grasped one of Arya's rough hands. "I told myself it didn't matter, that it was fine if your father hated me. I promised myself I wouldn't ruin your night."
Arya was becoming dizzy. She hated when Daenerys spoke about herself so dismissively. It hadn't happened in months, but that only made hearing it now all the worse. "Stop, you didn't ruin anything. I love you, that is never going to change, so here's what's going to happen. We are going to finish our meal and then I'll make up an excuse so we can leave. You go upstairs and relax, and I'll take care of everything else."
Daenerys was stubborn. "Arya, your family is here."
She squeezed the hand she was holding. "My family is standing right in front of me."
"I do love you," Daenerys swore with tears in her eyes.
"I have never doubted that, not once." She used their hands to steer the royal the right way. "Come on, let's get this over with, then it's a warm bath and chocolate behind a heavy, locked door."
"You don't have to…"
Arya cut in. "That is exactly how I want to spend my night. I barely got to see you today."
"You were busy."
That hurt. Daenerys wasn't saying they'd both been busy or that she'd been busy in the throne room, no she was placing the blame for this on Arya's shoulders and the soldier agreed. She'd been so focused on her family that she forgot about the woman who brought them back to her. She wouldn't make that mistake a second time.
Standing at the head of the table with Arya on one side and Missandei on the other gave her strength. Her talk with Arya, brief as it was, was exactly what she needed. It reminded her that one bad night or tense meal wasn't going to change anything. She and Arya were still going to have the future they wanted.
"Before we call an end to this feast, I have a gift I'd like to present to my guests." She looked from face to face, at Sansa, Bran, Ned and then finally Arya. The last one was the most surprised, which only excited Daenerys more. "As many of you probably know, my father lied about what happened to House Stark. When I learned the truth, not only that Arya was a Stark, but also my nephew Aemon, I promised myself that I would do everything in my power to remedy it. Several months ago, I took the first step when I reinstated House Stark and returned to them their ancestorial lands of Winterfell."
She studied the shocked expressions both Ned and Bran wore. No one told them Sansa was the Warden in the North, or back in Winterfell. Daenerys wanted it to be a surprise. She'd gotten her wish, but she wasn't done yet.
"Lady Stark, please come here. Lord Commander, you can join us." Looking to Arya she whispered, "Go and get your brother."
She could tell Arya was burning with questions, but loyalty was one of her strongest traits. She did as Daenerys requested without whining.
When everyone was gathered together, including Margaery who Sansa brought with her, Daenerys carried on. "How are things in Winterfell?" she asked the couple.
"Good," they both said at the same time. Eyes meeting, they laughed before Margaery stepped back and gave Sansa the floor.
"Everything is good at home," she said, grinning as she uttered the final word. "The Boltons left it in poor shape, but we're making progress, one room at a time."
Daenerys was appalled. She had repeated talks with Roose and his representatives to ensure the hand over of Winterfell was as painless as possible. "Was their damage?" She was already imagining the letter she'd write, demanding the Boltons provide compensation.
"Not damage your Grace," Sansa told her, being unnecessarily formal. "They just…"
While Sansa struggled for the words, Margaery didn't. "Stole everything not nailed down."
With cheeks matching her hair, Sansa nodded. "Yes, that. Thank you, Margaery."
Daenerys let things settle from the playful exchange and then she took over. "Nothing can give you back the years together that were stolen from you, no matter how badly I wish otherwise. That said, I want you to know that going forward, House Stark will have a devoted ally in House Targaryen. If an enemy wishes you harm, you can be assured that they will have to go through me and my armies first."
With a deep breath Daenerys grasped the large box and slid it toward her Warden. "Thank you," Sansa said softly, just for Daenerys.
"I hope you take this back with you to Winterfell and place it somewhere you will see it often. Each time you do, I hope it reminds you of the bonds of friendship and of family that exist between us."
She nodded her approval and slowly Sansa lifted the lid off the box. She gasped when she saw it, which Daenerys could only hope was a good sign.
She had it made only days after Sansa left the capital. She knew her friend would be back and wanted to have something for her when that happened. It had taken time but was totally worth it when she saw the tears streaking down Sansa's cheeks. With Margaery's help she lifted the banner out of the box. They held it so that Bran, Ned and Arya could see it.
The top portion was a traditional Stark banner, the Wolf on the grey background, but beneath it she had made an addition. Stitched near the bottom were the words; 'In Our Memory: Catelyn Stark, Robb Stark and Rickon Stark."
After giving Margaery the whole banner to hold, Sansa wrapped her arms around the Targaryen.
"Winterfell may be miles and miles from King's Landing," she told Sansa as they came apart, "but your sister and I are always going to be here if you need us."
Since everyone was still watching her, she addressed the room. "That brings an end to the feast, thank you to everyone who came from both near and far to celebrate with us tonight. Please make yourselves at home and enjoy the rest of your evening. Thank you."
After she'd finished, she got yet another hug from Sansa. "We were right about you. You were made for this."
Daenerys blushed. "I'm just trying my best, one day at a time."
"I know what you mean. It's been like that since I got to Winterfell." She paused. "Daenerys, I owe you an apology for earlier…"
"Alright, enough sharing," Arya called out, "find your own, this one's mine!" By the end she'd ensnared Daenerys around the waist from behind, pulling her into the guard's chest.
Moments later, she was several feet away from Sansa, having been dragged backward. Arya's mouth was at her ear. "I love you and we are late for a pressing appointment."
As tense as parts of the night had been, Daenerys couldn't contain her smile. She wiggled slightly and turned so she could peek at her gorgeous lover. "Is that so?"
"Mmhmm, I'm going to fix you a bath."
Feeling bold, Daenerys lifted up and twisted to peck at Arya's lips. "Only if you'll join me," she bartered.
"Wouldn't miss it." Having settled their outstanding business, Arya swept Daenerys off her feet and carried her toward the exit. She clung on tightly and heard the amusement of their friends as she was escorted away.
Seeking out Sansa, intending to apologize for her rude departure, Daenerys's eyes landed on Ned instead. He was watching them closely, but she didn't see outrage or embarrassment on his face. She couldn't identify what he was thinking based on his features alone.
Once they were in the hall Daenerys tapped Arya's arm. "You had your fun, put me down."
In response Arya only tightened her grip. "Trust me darling, my fun is just getting started."
She grumbled as she kept her eyes closed and tried to go back to sleep. Adjusting her position, she tightened her hold on Daenerys and waited for a pleasant dream to take her.
It didn't happen. What Arya got was another interruption. This time, she recognized it for what it was. Someone was at the door. Fuck!
Carefully Arya untangled herself from Daenerys, doing her best to make certain the Queen could continue sleeping. Once she had covered Daenerys back up, she reached for the scraps of cloth she typically wears under her armor. They weren't the most modest of items, but they were what she had on hand.
When the third set of knocks came, Arya had to resist the urge to yell. Not only would doing so wake Daenerys, but her voice probably wouldn't reach whoever was out there, so it was fruitless.
With blurry eyes it took a moment to realize it was her father standing opposite her. "What are you… How?"
"Sansa told me this was probably where you were sleeping."
She was tired, and not in the mood for games. Moreover, after last night, it was rather obvious that Daenerys and Arya were in a relationship. She knew she'd need to talk to her father about it, she just didn’t expect he'd come calling before dawn.
"Is Bran okay?" she asked in a mumble. She wiped at her eyes and managed to clear her field of vision.
"Bran is fine," Ned assured her. "I wanted to speak to you about something else."
That wasn't vague. "Okay," she said, simply waiting to hear whatever it was.
"I'm sorry Arya. It was wrong of me to treat Daenerys the way I did. I can see that now."
Arya would need to thank Sansa and Bran, because she didn't believe for one instant that her father had come to this alone. He had decades of hate to work through and one awkward meal, did it? She didn't think so. More likely, both Bran and Sansa were encouraging him to give Daenerys a chance. Whatever the reason, she was grateful.
It was much too early for her brain to be working at the speed it was. She weighed her options and chose the one that felt right. "I appreciate that, and I accept your apology. You are my father and I love you. I have missed you every day for years, and we just found one another again, I don't want to lose that."
"You won't," he insisted immediately and with some force. "I just want you to be happy Arya, I know that is what your mother would want too."
It made Arya happy that by choosing Daenerys she didn't inadvertently estrange herself from her father forever. "I am happy."
"I know, I had a long talk with Sansa after dinner last night and she helped me see just how much Daenerys has done for you, and for all of us."
So, it was Sansa. She owed her sister a great debt. "I understand it's hard for you. It was hard for me at first too, but in time I learned to judge Daenerys on her actions instead of on the deeds of her family."
"Sansa said it was similar for her in the beginning, too."
Arya let out a chuckle. She wondered just how much Sansa shared about her initial dislike of Daenerys. "That is also true. I know we'll get through this I just don't want to disappoint you."
Before she'd finished talking, she was trapped in an embrace. He held her tight and squeezed and she melted into his grip. "You have never been a disappointment, not ever. I am today and have always been incredibly proud of you."
A weight she didn't know she was carrying lifted off her chest. Only right then did she truly comprehend that she'd all but given up on the hope that there could be a peace. "I love you," she told him, "I missed you so much."
When they parted Arya made an attempt to subtly wipe her tears. Thankfully Ned pretended not to notice. "Will you talk to Daenerys?" Arya asked, somewhat warily. "She thinks you hate her."
"I know," Ned confirmed.
"She invited you here knowing you were going to hate her," Arya informed him. "She knew and she did it anyway, for me."
She didn't have to spell out what she wanted to have happen, her father understood. "I'll speak with her later today. I'll apologize for my behavior and ask for a fresh start."
Arya smiled, imagining Daenerys's reaction to this turn of events. "I think she'd like that."
Assuming they were done, Arya was preparing to return to the warmth of her bed, but Ned wasn't finished. "There is something else I need to discuss with you."
By his tone alone, Arya could tell this was going to be even more awkward than their last topic. "I'm listening."
"I saw the Spider at dinner, does he serve here?"
Arya was at a loss. This was about Varys? She didn't know that her father knew him, outside of his reputation. "Yes, he sided with Daenerys against Aerys."
"You can't trust him," he said suddenly and without preamble. "You can't." When he saw Arya ready to speak, he blocked her with another claim. "This isn't like before. I am not judging him unfairly. I know him and you can't trust him. You and Daenerys both need to be careful."
"We don't trust him, but he's proven useful."
Ned shook his head. "That's his game. He pretends he is helping, but in the shadows, he is acting against you."
Arya thought of the Red Woman and her strange prophecy. She used a lot more words, but she was essentially saying the same thing. "Do you know Varys?"
Ned held out a hand. "Why don't you come to my room? This isn't a conversation that should be had in the hallway."
They were alone as far as she could tell, but she didn't disagree. This was probably not the best place for an in depth discussion about the Spymaster. He and his birds could be lurking anywhere. "Will you tell me what you know?"
She was already moving away from the closed door that had Daenerys behind it. The prospect of learning more about the illusive Spider was tempting. She and Daenerys had been watching him closely, waiting to see if he revealed any traitorous deeds, but so far there had been nothing. Did that make him loyal? Arya remained unconvinced.
"I'll tell you everything," Ned offered, ending Arya's debate.
Several minutes into a quiet lunch with Missandei, someone approached her table. It wasn't the last person she expected to see, but it was pretty close.
"May I join you, your Grace?" Ned Stark asked.
Somehow, she knew if she sent him away, he would go without comment or complaint. She didn't. "Please do."
The advisor and her Queen exchanged a look and Missandei nodded. "I'll give you both some privacy."
"Oh no, I didn't mean to interrupt, and this won't take long, you don't need to go."
"That's quite alright Lord Commander. I was planning to give Missandei the afternoon off anyway." She looked to her friend. "Surely you can find someone to keep you company for a few hours."
Missandei nodded and carried her bowl away. Once they were alone Ned was repentant. "I am sorry for intruding. I did not mean for her to leave."
"That's okay, is there something on your mind?"
"I owe you an apology," he said, shocking her so severely that she had to set down her spoon. "I should have listened to my children – they were always smarter than me. Arya told me you were different, that you weren't like your father or brothers, but I failed to see it."
This was only going to work if they were honest, so Daenerys started by proving she would be.
"Unfortunately, there is more Targaryen blood in me than I would like, but I am determined to be better, to continue to improve one day after the next."
"I wasn't fair to you," he admitted. "I thought you'd tricked or trapped Arya, and that she just didn't see who you really were, but…"
He stopped, so she nudged him for more. "But what?"
"I only have three children left. I have been with Bran almost everyday, but my daughters," he paused and exhaled sharply, "I missed so much of their lives."
There was one thing Daenerys wanted to make perfectly clear. "What was done to your family was cruel and it was wrong. I regret it deeply and wish I would have had the power to stop it before it happened."
Ned surprised her by smiling slightly, though the pain in his eyes remained. "Did you know my girls shared a room in Winterfell?"
"No, I don't think Arya mentioned that."
"They were so different. It was a cause for celebration if they made it an hour without fighting." He paused. "The girls I remember, they rarely agreed on anything, but they agree on you."
Daenerys didn't know what to say, so she said nothing.
"Even Bran who only met you the day I did seems to understand who you are. I don't have an excuse, there is no reason it should have taken me this long. You reunited me with my children, welcomed me into your home, treated me kindly and still I behaved poorly."
Daenerys shook her head in advance of her words. "You do not need an excuse. I can not comprehend the pain you must feel. I hate knowing my family was a part of it. I agreed to become Queen because we couldn't continue the way we had been. Something had to change."
"Arya was always a little wild. She bucked against the rules and wanted her freedom to do as she pleased. She reminded me of my sister in that regard."
The rapid changes in subject were dizzying but Daenerys tried to keep pace. "My brother was a coward, if he had told the truth, so much pain and hardship could have been avoided."
"How does he feel about his son serving under me on the Wall?"
"He's less than pleased," Daenerys said diplomatically, "but it wasn't his choice to make. Aemon is a grown man and serving in the Night's Watch has been his dream since he was old enough to have one."
Each of them chose then to taste their soup. Daenerys put her spoon down first, then Ned. "Speaking of the Night's Watch, if you speak with Tyrion Lannister sometime today, he will arrange a sum of gold and other supplies I wish to donate."
"That is good of you," he said, seeming to genuinely believe it.
"My father did not care about the Night's Watch, but I do. I see it as a vital part of our Realm's defense. I will be sending donations regularly and with your permission, I'd like to visit. I'd bring Arya of course."
"It would be an honor."
For a moment Daenerys just watched, searching for insincerity or some other hint of deception, but she came away wanting. Whatever had happened overnight, Ned Stark's opinion of her had been drastically altered.
"Speaking of the Night's Watch, during the time I've been Queen, I've kept all our prisoners in the dungeon. I have thirty-seven men I'd be willing to release to you when you go North, or if you'd prefer it, I could send some of my men North and you could send some of yours South to meet them."
Ned thought for a moment. "I'd rather not travel with criminals," he eventually said, "it's not that I'm not grateful, it is just that with Bran…"
She didn't need anymore. She understood and cursed her brain for not thinking of that sooner. "I agree, that would be dangerous. I will send a group of Unsullied North a week after you leave. You should reach Castle Black before they do. If you send a few of your men South when you get there, they can meet my troops and take possession of the prisoners."
"That is very kind. I will gladly take any you have, although thirty-seven is a lot more than we typically get."
Daenerys could only shrug. "When word of my father's death spread, not everyone here in King's Landing was pleased by the idea of having a Queen. Some rebelled and tried to breach the walls." She thought back to those first few chaotic hours of her reign. No one got close, but it had been tense. "Your daughter and my other commanders were rather busy for a short while."
"It's calmer now," Ned acknowledged.
"It is and I'm glad for that."
They fell silent, and although it was far from content it lacked a lot of the hostility and pressure that she recalled from their earlier encounters.
"I should let you finish your meal, I'm sure you have a long list of things awaiting your return."
Daenerys did in fact have quite a list. She gave the Lord Commander a smile, it was real and honest. "I appreciate that. Thank you for coming to speak with me, it meant a lot to me, and I know Arya will feel the same."
Ned stood, picking up his bowl of barely eaten soup. "You make my daughter happier than I've ever seen her," he said as he moved away.
He was too far away before Daenerys could muster a reply, but she said it anyway, knowing full well it was for her alone. "She does the same for me."
Four days, that was what the Gods saw fit to give Arya after her father and her lover made peace. For four blissful days Arya wasn't anxious, fearful of the next snide comment or harsh criticism. She got to enjoy the time with her family and introduce them to the Daenerys she knew and loved. By the time preparations were made for the others to head North, Ned and Bran had gotten the chance to really know not only Daenerys but Margaery too.
As their departure drew near, Arya tried to steady her nerves by constantly repeating that this wasn't like last time. Yes, her family was separating again, but that was all it had in common with their past experience. Aerys was dead, no one was going to keep them apart anymore. They could visit and exchange letters as often as they pleased.
Personally, Arya wasn't fond of writing letters. Her script was barely legible and sitting still made her restless. She'd much rather wield a sword or spear. Her feelings not withstanding, she was going to write as often as she could. A little discomfort was irrelevant when compared to keeping in touch with her family. They'd lost too much already. She refused to let them lose any more.
Seeing that Arya was struggling, Daenerys did what she could to make it better. The night before they were due to leave, after dinner Daenerys pulled Arya, Bran and Ned aside. She informed the two members of the Night's Watch that because her father used lies and manipulation to get them to the Wall, she was willing to release them from their oaths.
Arya was speechless. She was doing it again, she just kept giving and giving. She wasn't especially surprised when both Ned and Bran thanked her for the option but quickly decided to remain in the Watch. When the Queen inquired as to why, Ned explained that he didn't remain on the Wall because Aerys commanded it, he did it because he pledged his life to the cause and was a man of his word. It had nothing to do with the dead King, and everything to do with Ned and his sense of honor.
Listening to him, Arya was struck by a wave of awe. Her father was a good man, even after all the suffering he'd had to go through.
After the elder Stark was decided, all eyes landed on Bran. "You could stay here," his sister proposed.
Daenerys agreed immediately. "We'd love to have you, and I'm sure Sansa would feel the same if you'd prefer Winterfell."
"Thank you," he said with feeling, directly to the Queen, "but like Father I am going to honor my oath."
Strangely it was Ned who put up the resistance. "Just because I am returning, doesn't mean you have to," he told his only surviving son.
With a sad smile Bran shook his head. "There isn't much for me out here, I'll never marry or have children, I can't walk to the tavern for a drink or dance with a pretty girl. Out here I'm broken, but at Castle Black I can be of use. I have a purpose there and I'd like to continue."
Daenerys looked to Arya, silently asking if she should object, but the guard subtly shook her head. If Bran liked life on the Wall, if he felt the work he did there gave him purpose who was she to take it away from him?
Her favorite voice called to her, guiding her out of her memory. "It's not too late," she said.
Arya was confused. She had a look around and realized she was standing outside the stable a beat too late. When had Daenerys gotten there? She hadn't heard her approaching. "Hmm?" she hummed, having no idea what the Queen meant.
"Your horse is fast, you can go after them, you'd catch them before sundown."
Slowly the details came back. She'd come out and said goodbye to her family. Sansa and Margaery didn't want to leave Winterfell too long and were eager to get back. Ned purposefully arranged his departure to match his daughter's so they could travel together and have a little more time. Arya also guessed that he would benefit from having additional sets of hands for the majority of the journey. He and Bran would accompany Sansa and Margaery to Winterfell, and then continue on to the Wall alone.
Distracted, she almost forgot that she needed to reply. "The Night's Watch doesn't take women," she commented casually. She knew what Daenerys was really suggesting, but she didn't trust her voice not to quiver if she addressed the real issue, so she hid behind humor.
"They may not, but surely Sansa would benefit from a woman of your skills."
She peeled her eyes off the last spot she'd seen her brother. "Trying to get rid of me?"
"I know what you've given up for me Arya," she said very seriously. "I wouldn't love you any less if you chose not to stay."
She bit back a groan. Apparently avoiding this conversation wasn't going to happen. She stared into violet eyes and tried to organize her thoughts and emotions. When everything was in the proper order, she spoke. "I know you'd let me go, and I love you for it, but I'm where I want to be."
"I mean it," she swore, interrupting what was coming. "Aemon, Eliza, Sansa, Margaery, Loras, Missandei, the Unsullied, Bran and my father, you gave all of them the right to decide their own fates. I only ask for the same."
"I don't want you to go," Daenerys made known, "but if it's what you wanted, I'd let you go and love you from afar."
It was at times like this that Arya wished she had a talent for languages, like Missandei. She didn't know how to respond to something like that. Lacking the words, she chose action. She snagged one of Daenerys's hands and laced their fingers. While the Queen looked down at their joined hands, Arya leaned in. As soon as Daenerys lifted her head, she was met with a hungry kiss.
"What I want," Arya confided, "is to spend as much of my life as I can right here, with you."
Compared to how articulate and sweet Daenerys was, Arya's attempts were pitiful, but she must've done something right because Daenerys mashed their lips together as soon as Arya was done talking.
After the kiss, she trapped the Dragon in her arms. Instead of complaining Daenerys turned so her back was to Arya's chest and leaned against her, relaxing.
Arya's hands closed over Daenerys's stomach, and together they both stared into the distance. The carriage and horses with her family were long gone, well beyond the city walls now, but that didn't matter to Arya, and judging by her contended smile Daenerys felt the same.
"Want to stay out here a while?" she asked the guard after a long, easy silence.
Although tempted there was no reason for her to remain. Her family was gone. The visit was over, but there would be others. She'd remind herself of that as frequently as was required. "No, we actually have an appointment to keep."
Daenerys went stiff in her arms. "We do?"
"We need to deal with Varys once and for all."
Arya hadn't told Daenerys what her father had shared about his past with the Spider. She wasn't trying to keep a secret, she just wanted to enjoy the time she had with her kin before they had to go. Now that they were on their way, she saw no reason to delay informing Daenerys and holding Varys accountable.
"My father and Varys have a history," she said to get them started, "he warned me not to trust him."
"You wished to see me, your Grace?" Varys asked as he entered the throne room with Arya a step behind.
After hearing the story Ned told his daughter, Daenerys had been enraged. She sought out Missandei and asked that she gather up her advisors, then she sent Arya to collect the Spider.
She'd been unsure about what to do with Varys since she and Arya had that strange encounter with the Priestess. She was wary of him and his motives, but he'd also proven a valuable ally. With no clear evidence, Daenerys allowed things to continue unchanged. That was over now.
"Yes Varys, thank you for coming." As he went to his seat, Daenerys gave her woman a smile, thanking her for bringing him. "I heard an interesting tale recently, and I thought you'd be the best to confirm its validity."
"I'll certainly try," he promised with a friendly smile.
Bothered by his arrogance and insincerity she got straight to it. "Did you or did you not betray Ned Stark and his family?"
She watched him closely and could see that he was knocked off balance. Whatever he expected, it wasn't that. "I beg your pardon?"
"It was a simple question. Did you betray Arya's father and assist mine in destroying their family?"
Hearing the charge, Missandei gasped, covering her mouth with a hand.
Now that Arya's identity was common knowledge, there wasn't a person in the room who didn't understand the significance of the accusation. They also knew that if he didn't explain himself to Daenerys's satisfaction, Varys was likely to end up addressing Arya and her sword directly.
"Your Grace," Tyrion called out in a thinly veiled attempt to urge caution.
Daenerys would not be deterred. "Yes, or no?"
"No," he said, looking away from Daenerys to find Arya. "I never betrayed the Starks."
Nothing about the denial was unexpected, so she didn't need to think before posing the next question on her list. "So, you and Ned Stark weren't exchanging letters in the days and weeks before my father summoned him?"
"We did," he acknowledged, "but I did not betray him."
Daenerys opened her mouth, but it was Arya's voice that filled the room. "Did you tell him it was safe for him to bring his family to the capital?"
She held her breath while they waited. It occurred to her there was no good outcome. Either Varys betrayed Ned Stark, or Ned lied to Arya, neither was a situation Daenerys wanted to contend with.
"When I said that," Varys said, speaking to Arya, "I believed it."
Daenerys's lover looked to be working hard to not only keep a lid on her anger, but also avoid getting trapped in her memories. Daenerys stepped in for her, hoping to ease her burden slightly. "Did you tell him you'd ensure his family's safety if he honored the King's summons?"
He was still looking at Arya when he confessed. "I overestimated my ability to control the King."
The simple way he said it, as if he made a small, forgivable error annoyed Daenerys. She could only imagine it was much worse for Arya who suffered because of Varys's mistake. "If it was all a tragic misstep, why did I have to hear about it from someone else?"
Varys looked at her, his face expressionless. "Who among us enjoys talking about their failures?"
"Your Grace, Varys admits he made a mistake, he's been helpful to us here, before and since you took the throne." Tyrion was pleading for his friend's life. Daenerys understood why, she just wasn't confident it would work. She was furious. She'd given Varys the chance to show her he was committed to their goals, and instead of rewarding her faith, she finds out he played a major role in one of her father's greatest crimes.
"So let me make certain I understand," Daenerys went on, "you promised the Starks protection, encouraged them to come here and then when they did, you allowed them to be killed, maimed and fostered?" She winced as she heard the summary in her own voice. She'd apologize to Arya later.
"Your father was murderous," he justified, "he wouldn't listen to anyone, including me."
Having heard Arya's story in detail, Daenerys knew the answer, but she wanted the others to hear it too. "Did you say anything in opposition to my father? When he killed Robb Stark or Catelyn? Did you leave the room when he battered Bran, a young boy with a Warhammer? Did you offer an alternative solution when it became clear my father and his pyromancer intended to burn alive a child not yet old enough to talk?"
Missandei gasped again, her dark eyes looking to Arya, filled to the brim with sadness and sympathy.
"I…" Varys started.
"You didn't say a word!" Arya shouted at him. Everyone in the room froze as Arya drew her sword and held it out, aimed at the Spider's thick neck. He leaned back into his chair to avoid the sharp edge, but Arya moved with him, giving him no reprieve.
"Your Grace now is not the time to do anything rash," Tyrion pleaded.
Daenerys waved off his point. "Do you have anything to say for yourself Lord Varys?"
"I made a mistake," he announced, his throat bobbing against the blade Arya refused to withdraw. "I regret it, but since that day I've tried to be better. It is why I agreed to help you, why I enlisted Illyrio's support for you."
"This isn't the first time in recent months I've found out you were manipulating things in secret," she accused.
Not willing to let her go further, he interrupted. "Think of all I've done. If I had not brought Illyrio here, you would not have had the dragon eggs you hatched to take the throne. Without Illyrio's money, how many would have died fighting Aerys's Kingsguard? No one knows this Realm better than me. I have eyes and ears everywhere. How will you succeed if you lose access to them?"
Daenerys proceeded as if he hadn't spoken. "You were the one who arranged for us to be stopped on the return from Highgarden. It was because of you that Missandei and two innocent people nearly died."
"I explained my reasons, we agreed to move past it."
That wasn't precisely how Daenerys remembered it, but she went along anyway. "I forgave when it was a one-time occurrence," she explained, "I fear it is becoming a pattern."
Sensing he was on the losing side, Varys folded his hands together against his chest, just under Arya's blade. "This isn't right, your Grace, please. You know this isn't right."
Her reply was harsh and colder than a winter wind. "Why are you talking to me? Arya is the one you wronged, she's the one who suffered because of your mistake." She filled the last word with as much contempt as she could.
"I tried to make amends," he said to the guard, "I kept your secret, I told you about your father and brother. You wouldn't know they were even alive without me."
Daenerys didn't know how Arya was going to weigh her choices. The truth was, Varys's contributions were substantial, whether it was the list he just gave Arya, or the one that proceeded it he aimed at Daenerys. He had helped them, but was that enough to overlook the things he allowed to happen all those years ago?
"You're right, I am grateful for those things," Arya stated without lowering her sword. Relaxing some, Varys returned his hands to his sides. "Which is why I'll make it quick."
"You could send him away," Tyrion proposed in a rush, forcing the words out before Arya could claim her vengeance.
"He… he's right," Varys stammered, showing his fear for the first time. "I'll go, you'll never see me again."
Daenerys didn't need to consider it. She thought about exile and was against it. Exile would work for Jorah and Rhaegar, neither one had anything to come back for, but if she released Varys, Daenerys thought it probable that he'd take action against her at a later date. That Priestess warned that he'd replace her with someone else, someone more suitable. Even from Essos, a man with Varys's connections could do a lot of harm. She wasn't going to give him the chance.
"I don't believe you. I don't trust you, and I consider it likely that you'd try and damage the Realm from wherever you ended up."
Daenerys wasn't interested. "Arya, he's yours."
"N…" Varys started to protest but didn't get far. It was over quick. His large body sagged and came to rest at an odd angle. His previously pristine white robe dripped red as blood gushed from his open throat and poured down his chest.
"You shouldn't have done that," Tyrion complained.
"I couldn't trust him. I forgave him after he nearly got Missandei killed, but my mercy has its limits."
"We are still training the new Master of the Coins, now we'll need a replacement for Varys as well." He swallowed hard, his eyes landing on the dead man. "No one in all of Westeros had more informers than him."
Daenerys nodded. "Spread the word across the kingdoms that we are looking for a new Whisperer. Any who wish to be considered will come to us."
She guessed, he had more to say, but held his tongue. "I'll get started right away."
Daenerys took a moment to exhale and settle. It was done. Varys was the last piece of outstanding business from her father's reign. She would have accepted it, if Arya chose to let him live, but most of her was relieved she decided otherwise. They couldn't trust him, and that meant she'd need to question his every word and action. That was no way to rule. It would be better now.
Daenerys was coming down the hall with Missandei at her side. The two women were talking about something, both wearing matching smiles. Without knowing what was being discussed, Arya smiled too. The fact that they were distracted afforded Arya the opportunity to sneak up on them.
By the time Daenerys saw her, it was already too late. She had her arms tightly wound around the Queen's waist and their lips came together as Arya's tongue rolled around inside her lover's mouth.
They didn't break apart until they needed air. Daenerys refilled her lungs while chuckling. "Well hello to you too," she joked, earning a giggle from Missandei. "Please let me know what I did to deserve such a greeting. I'll make certain I do it again."
"You're just you," Arya confessed honestly.
"Being me earns me this?" she verified, gesturing to their bodies, so firmly pressed together.
"Being you can get you anything you want," Arya promised her, meaning it wholeheartedly.
"All I want is you."
At a loss for words, Arya kissed her again. It was even longer and more passionate than their last.
"Thank you," Arya said as she admired Daenerys's kiss-swollen lips.
"For what exactly?"
"Everything." Arya shook her head and fought off the urge to kiss Daenerys one more time. "I can't believe everything you've done for me. Before I came here, I didn't even know I had a cousin, and thanks to you I got to meet and spend time with him. I didn't know if my father or brother were still alive, and now I've seen them. I'd all but given up thinking that I'd ever see Sansa again, and you brought her back to me. If that wasn't enough, you gave us Winterfell too. You're remarkable." She stopped to collect her thoughts, there was so much she wanted to say. "You defeated your enemies, became Queen, freed slaves, brought dragons back to the world and still somehow still found the time to reunite me with my family. It's incredible."
"I had a lot of help," Daenerys admitted while blushing. "Without you two especially, none of this would have been possible."
Daenerys lifted up onto her toes to claim Arya's lips. "Before you, I was a completely different person. I didn't like who I was. I was scared, trapped and lonely, but I didn't know how to be anything else. You taught me to be the woman I am, the woman I want to be."
Arya smiled at her. She personally didn't think she deserved much of the credit for who Daenerys was. With or without Arya, the soldier was confident Daenerys would have grown into the fire-breathing Dragon Arya loved. She tried to speak, to articulate how deeply she felt for Daenerys, but words failed her.
"What is it?" she pressed, seeming to sense that Arya was trying to say something.
Still struggling, Arya boiled it down to its most basic. "I just love you so much."
Daenerys's responding smile was blinding. "That's good, because I love you too."
"Well," Arya wondered aloud, "since you're stuck with me, how about you let me know what's next for the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms?"
Daenerys's smile, shifted into a smirk. "For the Queens of the Seven Kingdoms you mean?" she amended.
She knew Arya didn't like being referred to as a Queen. Usually, she did it simply to illicit a reaction. This time, Arya grumbled but swallowed any other comments. "Fine, what's next for the Queens of the Seven Kingdoms?"
Violet eyes twinkled with delight when she answered. "Whatever we want," she said, leaning in for yet another kiss.
Arya kissed back deeply, clinging to Daenerys like the salvation she was. When the kiss was over, she repeated Daenerys's words in her head. They were hard to dispute. "Whatever we want."