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The Mandated

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When they realize the shit has hit the fan — the team leads have been abducted in a raid and four of their members are already dead — what was supposed to be a one day engagement gets stretched out across five tense days. Dany takes tiny micro naps on the tiny couch in her office for those five days, nearly going catatonic from the stress and sleep deprivation. Tyrion’s breath goes stale, from cold coffee and repetitive sighing. Yara’s clipped voice makes check in on the ground, like clockwork — they all know that she is especially worried. And Missandei’s traitorous mind wonders if this is going to be the first blight on her record, if this is going to be the thing that prevents her from being cleared to go in the field — a shaky foundation in judgement, they might call it.

Missy wonders who would be the ones to contact family members — Yara already knows — but who would be the ones to contact Grey’s next of kin. Would it be Dany?

She pulls up his file because she actually doesn’t know his family situation. She pulls up his school records, his childhood health immunization records — she learns he had perfect attendance and he also got measles when he was ten years old. He moved to King’s Landing for school at age 16. He was recruited his third year of college. He studied literature during undergrad in King’s Landing. And then he earned his master’s in criminal justice. His parents are both still alive, both school teachers in the Summer Isles. He has one sibling, an older brother.

So, these are the next of kin that will be notified if he is dead.

 

 


Once Drogo gets the official go-ahead from Dany’s disembodied voice in his earpiece, he signals an affirmative to Daario, Robb, and Sandor, who nod imperceptibly and whose gazes hit the closed door of a dilapidated, abandoned butcher’s shop in the northeast corner of the city of Lys. This is the second site.

Drogo readjusts his hold on his gun. Yara is also on the line, waiting, as they break the lock and push through.

As they enter the shop in formation, securing the front room where sales used to take place years ago — then moving to the back storage room — the smell hits Drogo’s nose first — fresh actually. Bright. Clean blood.

He’s the first to see Grey’s body. Then Theon’s. Then Bolton’s. They are all soaked in blood.

Into his comms, as his team rushes in, Drogo says, “Securing the back. We’ve got them. We need medical care right now. Status unknown.”

Robb is kneeling down on one knee, gently checking Theon’s pulse.

 

 


Initially, they are faintly alive. Blood loss and the trauma results in them being hospitalized and kept unconscious for additional long days. In that time Dany argues with the powers that be and urges them to let her notify Grey’s next of kin — his parents. Leadership will not budge though, stating that it is not protocol and they do not want to set a precedence. Dany’s argument that the Greyjoys already know something has happened to their son does not hold much water. The Greyjoy are connected to the work. The Torgos, in contrast, are just normal people with no security clearance.

Drogo personally supervised the transfer of their guys, from Lys to King’s Landing. He darkly mutters that it is racial and it is bullshit.

Dany tells him it’s not racial — trying to nip his shit in the bud. She tells him it’s protocol.

He says, “So it’s protocol to let him die without his family even knowing when or why or how because they are not rich and they are foreigners.”

Theon’s dad never visits him though. However, Yara, sits by his bedside for hours each day. She has taken a leave of absence from work for the time being.

And because there is no one to look after Grey because no one knows this has happened to him, they all take turns in between shifts or on their days off. Drogo reads him Penthouse letters out loud, even though everyone hates it — even though Grey would really, really hate it if Grey were awake. Daario takes inspiration from this and brings a romance novel to read to Grey. He leaves the book behind for Tyrion, Kojja, and the rest. Missandei just sits in silence next to him — because she doesn’t think this is particularly funny at all — and she generally just cries sometimes.

Ramsay Bolton dies in custody on the fifth day, with armed guards at his door. His body gives out. The damage was extensive, stab wounds that hit vital organs. They tried to save him so that he could stand trial. When Bolton dies, Drogo drives his fist through a wall and wonders out loud if it was all for fucking nothing then — if the loss their team members have suffered was just for fucking nothing then.

Protocol dictates that he, Daario, Robb, and Sandor visit and get cleared by the psych evaluator. It’s all a crock of shit. They all say the expected things. They all get approved to go back to work soon after.

Grey is first to stabilize, then also first to wake up. When he does, he’s drugged up and disoriented. He sees Daario’s face. He tries to talk but there’s a tube down his throat. No matter, because when Daario sees Grey’s eyes flutter open, he is shouting loudly to the nurses and ringing the call button.

 

 


Missandei apologizes to the both of them separately. She tells them both she knows this is not ideal, but she has to take down their statements now that they are conscious again.

Theon has been hit far harder by what transpired. Theon cannot even focus or talk for very long. He spends most of his days just staring out the far-away window, at patches of light. Missandei patiently says, “Theon?”

And he says nothing in response to her.

Grey, on the other hand, wants her to tell him what the fuck happened since he has been unconscious. She hesitates, unsure of what he can handle.

In her hesitation, he sighs in frustration. And then he starts talking. He says, “We were ambushed, and I shouldn’t have let it happen,” even though it is clear to everyone that what happened was not at all his fault. He tells her that they were drugged and then moved. He tells her about what it was like when he woke up again. He succinctly tells her about actions that amount to basically just torture. He tells her he was pretty sure he and Theon were dead around day four. And then probably before they passed out from blood loss, Bolton mutilated them.

She blurts out, “So you remember.”

In a plain voice, he says, “Yeah.”

She says, “I’m so sorry, Grey.”

He ignores her mean-nothing statement. Instead, he says, “Is everyone else dead?” He means — did anyone else from his team make it out alive?

She shakes her head, finding tears pricking the backs of her eyes again. She means that everyone else died. He and Theon are the only ones left from their team.

He sighs. And then he says, “I dislocated my thumb to get it out of the bindings. I grabbed his knife and drove it into his stomach, on the right side —”

 

 


He gets a hefty payout from insurance, for his accident. It’s a weird thing to call what happened to him an accident, because it was really the deliberate actions of a fucking psychopath, but accident is the term that they are using. They are taking his lead on this, because “incident” is a term that just gets in his craw. There’s a part of him that just fucking wishes people would just call a spade a spade. He was paid a sum by his job because his dick was cut off. It is a hazard of his vocation.

He gets offered a lot of therapy and a lot of counseling. He says fuck you no thank you to that. He gets a lot of paid time off — paid leave, actually. When he asks them when he’s supposed to come back, they tell him not to worry about it. Take as much time as he needs.

He asks Dany, “Am I being fucking let go right now? Are you firing me?”

She shakes her head urgently. She says, “No! Of course not!”

She tells him that he should take the time he needs to heal and to recuperate. He doesn’t really think he’ll ever really get over getting his dick cut off — that is like, a life-changing thing. But also, he can’t sit at home and just fucking wallow in it. They cannot take away the one thing that he is good at and was trained by them to fucking do. They can’t create the conditions for him to suffer this kind of “accident” and then suddenly turn their backs on him because he has suddenly become a liability to them.

Legal is tone-deaf. Leadership doesn’t understand that he is pleading for his life back. They are just really worried that he will make things hard for them. They insinuate that he should take his payout, and he should live out the rest of his life comfortably.

He says, “Where? If I don’t work, I don’t have a visa.”

His application to extend his visa due to extraordinary circumstances — another phrase he doesn’t really fucking agree with, but whatever — is denied. He is stunned. Drogo is stunned. Dany is stunned. Everyone is shocked.

Again, he asks if he is being fired.

Leadership tells him that he is not. He is just being put on an extended leave of absence.

He asks, “Indefinitely?”

They say, “No, not indefinitely. We just want you to take the time off that you need.”

 

 


So he decides to go home. Before leaving, he gets thrown a farewell party that also doubles as a “sorry you lost your dick” party of sorts. The second thing is never stated. Everyone is hysterically positive and trying not to trigger what they think is an impending mental breakdown. They bring in a really big cake. They don’t know his favorite flavor and he refused to tell them. So they got him a red velvet cake, which is actually a cake that he hates — and he tells them so, right before the big speeches.

Dany tells them all that he is the most wonderful person — the bravest and the most honorable. She recounts the story of them meeting — of his reputation preceding him, and of him actually impressing beyond his reputation. She tears up as she tells them that there is no one else like him.

Selmy tells them all about what Grey was like when Grey was 18 years old and a new recruit. Selmy makes jokes about how Grey was in the middle of reading poetry in the university’s quad — on the grass by himself — when Selmy walked up to him and told him that they have been watching him for years now. It really scared the shit out of him at the time — the idea that these white old men were just . . . watching him . . . for years. He was just a kid at the time.

Drogo tells them all that Grey is his best friend — which is actually completely news to Grey because they never like, hang out or anything outside of work. And actually, before his fucking dick got cut off, Drogo was actually a complete asshole to him because he’s not big like Drogo, he’s not muscular like Drogo is, and he isn’t as experienced in the same way that Drogo is. Drogo went up through the ranks. Was military before he joined. Up until Grey’s dick got cut off, Drogo seemed to resent him for not paying his dues in the traditional ways.

Drogo says, “I’m going to fucking miss you so much, man,” as he holds up a glass of beer in salute.

Grey looks around at his colleagues — at the rest of the personel. Their office is underground. There’s no natural light. Everyone looks bleak under fluorescent light. They are smiling maniacally at him.

He says, “I’ll be back before you know it.”

And they all seem like they are refraining from sighing at him, because he is so pitiful.

 

 


His parents do not have the clearance, so he cannot tell them what happened at all. They can only surmise that something terrible happened to their son because the person that they are getting back is not at all the person that left.

His mom cries about it more than he does. He actually can’t cry at all. It seems like his mom spends hours and hours clutching his face, staring tearfully into his eyes, sobbing, and screaming out what they have done to her beautiful baby boy.

He cannot say anything to console his mom — not that he doesn’t try. He does. He keeps saying to her, “Mom, I’m okay,” but every time he says this, she just descends further into pain.

His dad also gets weepy, all the times that he thinks Grey is not looking. Over dinner, over breakfast, over lunch, over the short walks in a nearby greenbelt, his parents keep obsessively revisiting the past and blaming themselves for what has happened to him. They keep crying and telling him that they pushed him too hard with school and with achievement. They didn’t let him be a kid, and they didn’t let him have a life. They were stupid and they thought that he was going to have a bright future. They were stupid and thought that he was a genius whose gifts had to be nurtured and fostered. They only thought this because they are teachers and they thought they knew what gifted looked like. They thought it was the right thing to send him to college overseas. They thought he’d have the best education in Westeros. They were elated when he called them to tell them he was studying literature. They talked amongst themselves and told each other that their son was going to be an artist and he was going to be a writer. They thought he was going to meet someone and fall in love. They thought he’d eventually settle down. They also thought he’d have children and they’d have grandchildren. That was their plan for him.

In the Summer Tongue, his mom keeps asking, what have they done to you?

 

 


Because of the payout, he no longer needs to work for money. After four months, he realizes that everyone is a fucking liar and a fucking coward. His messages are not being returned at all. People have forgotten him completely. He needs to move the fuck on and just live a stupid, pointless, ordinary life. He has an advanced degree that is completely fucking useless at home. He doesn’t want to fucking do anything else, other than what he used to do.

So to spite everyone — and to spite himself — he becomes a clerk at a grocery store. He slums it way below his capabilities. He runs a cash register. He gets verbally abused by old women who snap at him when he warns them against writing checks. He gets verbally abused by old men, when he takes too long in grabbing booze and cigarettes for them. He gets crumpled money thrown at him by twerpy teenagers. He rings up boxes of condoms late at night, as he looks into the face of some horny bastard who is about to go get some. Grey repeats to himself that that part of his life is over. His fucking life is just fucking over, actually. He should just fucking kill himself already because it is all pointless.

 

 


They both used to be D and G. That was other people’s shorthand for them. It used to be confusing actually, because sometimes they didn’t know if people were referring to Grey and Daario or Grey and Drogo.

But now, Drogo and Daario are called the “Double Ds” and as much as they both love boobs, they both fucking hate this fucking nickname.

But really, they just miss Grey.

“You never know how used to working with someone you get, not until they are gone. I wonder what he’s doing right now,” Daario says, orienting his words into his food tray. It’s food from their shit cafeteria. It’s weepy apple pie, a soggy chicken salad sandwich, and a mealy apple. He doesn’t understand why the food is so wet.

“Probably living his best life,” Tyrion deadpans. “No, just kidding. I stalk his brother’s girlfriend’s social media. And I stalk all of his cousins. There’s been three photos of Grey since he moved back home. One was wearing a nameday hat for a child and he looked miserable. He was smiling in the picture, but I know his eyes and joy was dying. The other pictures were just group photos. Joy was dying in them for him, too. His family is huge.”

“That’s so weird,” Robb says. “I thought he was an orphan for the longest time.”

“Because he never talked about his family,” Drogo supplies.

“Yeah.”

“How is Theon doing?” Sandor asks.

Robb frowns.

 

 

His parents set him up on a date with the daughter of one of their many friends. He doesn’t see the point in this because he can’t like, have sex ever again, so what is even the point in getting to know anyone at all? — his mother looks really alarmed when he casually says this — but he still goes along with it, just so his parents don’t start crying hysterically again. He is really tired of that.

Her name is Tiani, and she is really boring and nice. She wears glasses that are hipster. She is nerdy. She is insecure about her body even though she has a nice body. He can see it in the way she dresses, the way she slouches, and also the way she talks. He can also tell that she has totally been primed on his castration. Because she is super fucking awkward from the get.

They have dinner at a seafood restaurant. His dad gave him money for this date, even though he’s like, kind of well-off now. He imagines this was a selling point for Tiani and her parents. No dick, but guess what? Rich and will not rape.

They make excruciating small talk at dinner. He cannot talk about the last ten years of his life whatsoever, because of security reasons. He has only become acutely aware of how much of his life was taken up by work. He has nothing to say about anything outside of work. Tiani asks about his hobbies. He tells her he used to like to work out — because he had to be fit for work. And that is it. That is the extent of his hobbies.

She tells him that she likes to knit. And she also likes to collect beach rocks. He refrains from pointing out to her that that’s not really a hobby. At least, not an active one.

He is so fucking bored. He thinks, for the millionth time, about just killing himself so that he can escape this fucking life.

He is shocked when, at the end of the night, she suggests they go out again.

 

 


When Yara finally comes back from extended leave, she looks haggard and tired. There are dark shadows under her eyes. She tells them that they have lost Theon forever. Her brother is gone. He died in that fucking room. And what is left is this depressed shell who is just emotionally scarred forever now.

Because she comes from money, she doesn’t think the payout was worth this at all. Her brother’s life has been ruined, and she doesn’t think people care enough about this at all.

“So, are you going to quit?” Missandei asks softly, wondering if Yara is going to stand on principle.

Yara says, “Oh God, no. I can’t quit.” She shakes her head. She says, “I’m just so fucking pissed.”

The entire conversation about the loss of Theon makes Missy wonder about Grey and how he is doing.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

His parents’ dryer is broken, and they are insane so they refuse to fix it and they refuse to let him buy them another one. This is how Grey finds himself cornered in the backyard as he’s hanging up his wet clothes.

In his accent, his dad says, “Son, I love you no matter what,” with such seriousness.

Grey is like, “I know,” as he throws a white t-shirt over the line.

His dad adds, “Chana’s son — he’s an investment banker. And Yonni’s boy — he’s a dancer.”

“Like, a classical dancer?”

“No, dancer at a club.”

Grey blinks. “Ah, okay. So where you going with this?”

His dad’s stare is unwavering. “When my friends ask me what my son does for a living, I used to proudly say he’s a government liaison who works overseas. I used to say he’s a good boy with an important job.”

“O-kay,” Grey says slowly.

“Now I don’t know what to say to people when they ask about you, Nudho. Because you’ve been lying to your mother and me.”

“Dad —”

His dad’s eyes flash at him. “Are you in drugs?”

“I think you mean, am I on drugs. And the answer is no, not right now.”

It’s a joke. And in the past, his dad would be with it. However, today — and in the last few months — maybe for a few years now, his dad no longer finds Grey funny at all. His dad double-downs on sternness and says, “Are you trafficking drugs?”

Grey does another double-take, though he’s honestly not super shocked by this question because for days now, his parents’ comments have honestly been oriented in this direction. They have been wondering out loud a lot, how it is even possible for Grey to have suffered the kind of accident he suffered — on the job.

Grey still says, “No, I’m not trafficking drugs.”

“Are you trafficking people?”

“Uh, no.”

“Are you a prostitute?”

Grey blinks again. “Wow. No. But that’s not a bad guess — but yeah, no. I’m not sure anyone would’ve wanted to like — buy this.”

“Nudho!” his dad snaps, just fucking sick of Grey’s constant deflection and his constant hedging. “Why are you lying? You never lied to us before.”

And his dad means before he left for King’s Landing. His dad means that before Grey was sent off to start his really auspicious life, he was an affable, cheerful, happy young man who loved his parents, who was patriotic, who loved his country, who promised to retain citizenship because he was going to come back one day and bring back all of his talents and all of his knowledge and all of these resources to build his homeland back up. His dad means that before his son left, his son was an optimist.

“What kind of job — what kind of government job pays you so much to travel and meet people?” his dad asks — at this point, more to himself than to Grey, because Grey never answers straight anymore. “What kind of job leaves you with —” His dad is gesturing to the front of his pants. “With this kind of injury?”

“Dad, I’m sorry but I just can’t tell you about my job —”

“You are lying!” his dad snaps. “All you know how to do now is lie. That’s what your fancy Western education has taught you? To lie to your parents?”

Grey pretty much despondently says nothing after that — because he can’t actually say anything. He can’t say anything because he fears that something terrible will happen to his parents if they know the truth about him. Either he will be reprimanded or they will be reprimanded and it will crush him. Or maybe they will learn the truth and he will lose all esteem in their eyes and his dad will find that he was actually lying — just always fucking lying. And they will learn that his dad’s love for Grey is actually not unconditional and limitless. It has its limits.

And the truth is that a Western education did teach him how to lie. It also taught him how to manipulate and how to efficiently kill at the altar of an unseeable greater good.

 

 


After about three dates, he figures out why Tiani wants to keep dating him. It’s because she’s gay, completely closeted, and he conveniently has no dick to accost anyone with anymore.

He confronts her about this about as nicely as he can confront someone about this — which immediately results in her staunch, panicked denial. He tells her to relax. He doesn’t fucking care, and he's not mad that she is dating him under false pretenses. He gets it. Parents just don't understand sometimes. He is actually fine with continuing to fake-date her if it will keep both of their parents off their fucking backs for a while.

She relaxes after that — by a lot. She actually starts to confide in him because she is hungry for a confidant and has made a lot of wrong assumptions about him. She tells him about how she’s so scared of losing her entire family if her ultra traditional parents know this thing about her. She tells him that she’s actually never been with another woman before — she’s been too scared of being found out. She just has had crushes. She also doesn’t think she has any gaydar and her biggest nightmare is that she will try to kiss a girl and that girl is like, ew, get off of me. She tells him she’s under-developed in this respect because she’s so freaked out. She talks like her life is over and this is the end of the world.

Little by little, he starts telling her it’s not that hard to be with a woman. It’s just like the friendly rapport that they have — except totally different. Except sometimes in between rapport, people will take their clothes off and try to get each other off.

This topic of conversation scares Tiani. She worries that he is a sexual predator after all.

She is eight years younger than he is. He gets reminded that she is still very young every time she annoys him and every time she spends their entire “date” self-centeredly talking about herself and her insecurities and problems.

He thinks to himself that he shouldn't scare her with his matter-of-factness. He reminds himself this might be the first friend he has made outside of work in like, forever, and he can use someone like her in his life.

 

 


On his way back home after an engagement, Drogo capitalizes on a layover he purposely scheduled in the Summer Isles. He rents a car, puts on his sunglasses to block the red dust, and his foot is heavy on the gas as he bounces onto the main road that feeds the highway.

 

 


Grey’s mom reminds Drogo of his own mother, and this is partly why he’s so charmed and sweet on her.

He has to show Grey’s parents a photo of him and Grey together on his phone, to prove to Grey’s parents that they really do know each other and are friends. Drogo is pleased as he observes that Grey’s parents are a little paranoid and cautious — just like their son.

Drogo says, “Yes, ma’am,” whenever Grey’s mom offers him something — usually food or beverage item. He also says, “Yes, ma’am,” when Grey’s mom offers to show Drogo the house that Grey grew up in. Drogo looks at all of the pictures on the wall — he sees at Grey as a little dweeb, with a missing front tooth, mugging for the camera.

When Drogo mentions that he and Grey also used to work together, the entire vibe changes.

Grey’s dad straight up asks Drogo why they were given back a son who is broken and maimed. Grey’s parents press Drogo for details. Like, they wonder how could such a thing happen?

Grey’s dad is angry. Grey’s dad believes that they are all lying to him — and this is actually true. He has been lied to a lot. Grey’s dad looks upon Drogo with bitterness, sizing Drogo up with his eyes. Grey’s dad actually asks, “If you were my son’s partner and friend, how could you let this happen to him?”

This is something Drogo and the rest of the team have been asking themselves, over and over again.

Out loud, Drogo says, “I’m sorry I can’t give you anymore details. But I can tell you that your son is a very good man. He’s one of the best I have known.”

 

 


Grey is still in his work uniform — this blue apron with the grocery store logo on it and a name tag that basically says: Hi, my name is Nudho! — when he arrives home for dinner after his shift. It’s been nearly nine months since he left King’s Landing.

When he spots the rental car parked in front of his parents house, he kills his headlights right away and parks in front of the Kazzan house. He reaches under his seat and pulls out his gun. From weight alone, he knows it's loaded. When he first moved back, his mom almost found the other gun he stashed in his suitcase because she was trying to wash his underclothes. He ended up hurting her feelings by raising his voice at her to dissuade her from poking around in his shit. He ended up inspiring her to tell him she was sorry for invading his privacy.

He puts his gun in his waistband, under the cord of his apron. He pulls his light jacket over his shoulders. And then he steps in a muddy puddle and purposely walks into the house from the back door.

So he is mildly surprised when he sees Drogo’s thick body wedged on the couch, in between his mom and dad.

His first thought is, why the fuck are they sitting like that when there are like, three other chairs in the room?

He quickly realizes that it's because Drogo anticipated he'd enter the house like this. Drogo has positioned everyone facing him so that Grey can quickly see everyone is safe.

“Why did you come in from the back, Nudho?” his dad asks, his eyes narrowing.

“I need to hose off my shoe,” Grey lies, really effortlessly. “I stepped in dog shit.”

 

 


After dinner, after declining a third serving of food, Drogo follows Grey onto the back porch of his parents' house. There, Drogo tests the railing — it’s sturdy — before he flips around, leans against it, and pulls a cigarette and a lighter out of his pocket. He’s been trying to quit. For years.

As he lights up, he says, “Your folks are nice.”

Grey just says, “Yeah, they are.”

“I have to get going soon, but it was really good to see you.”

Grey says, “Was it?”

“Yeah,” Drogo says honestly, holding the glowing cigarette in between his teeth. “Because you should see Theon. Theon is just . . . destroyed. You are scarily well-adjusted.”

Grey just shrugs.

“You seeing a shrink here?”

“No.”

“Ah,” Drogo says. And then he clears his throat. “I suppose it’s hard to schedule in time with a shrink, what with your impressive new job and all.”

Grey rolls his eyes.

“It’s honestly painful for me to see you wearing that shit,” Drogo mutters, eyeing the apron. “It’s like, you get really comfortable with a partner — you have an established routine and a system down and a groove, you know? You have a lot of fun killing people together, and you’re good at it — and then one day, it’s all just gone.”

“Well, I’m sorry for your loss, man,” Grey says softly — sarcastically.

“Dany’s trying to get you back,” Drogo states flatly. “Been trying for months now. It’s just a bunch of bullshit red tape, and there’s the entire issue with getting you a work visa again and making sure you’re like, fucking sane. And it’s Dany, you know? She’s gonna make it happen eventually. So just — I’m saying. It wouldn’t hurt if you were to see a shrink. On paper. You know? Maybe join a support group. Show healing and shit.”

 

 


Grey brings a box of pastries to his first meeting at a room in the community center and finds that it’s a complete cliche. There are powder blue boxes of curried goat buns already on the table. Napkins are stacked next to boxes.

He introduces himself as his parents’ son, because the community already knows him from when he was a little boy. Gossip also spreads fast, so they also know about his injury. He himself knows half of the men here — distant friends and relations.

Uncle Matun — not actually related to him — is the defacto group lead. He introduces himself. He nods at Grey, with his eyes kind and soft. And then for Grey’s benefit, Matun starts talking about when he was first diagnosed with penile cancer, after years and years of feeling like something was wrong but not doing anything about it. Matun talks about how the strong denial was because of his upbringing.

Grey crams a goat bun into his face right before it’s his turn to talk — and he feels like he has to talk because he has to demonstrate his healing and he will probably need people to vouch for him if they end up doing a very thorough assessment of his mental health. So he telegraphs the appropriate signs of nervousness. He eats like he is nervous. He talks like he is nervous. He acts appropriately scared and unsure. He even kind of tears up a little bit, as he apologize for not being able to be detailed because of security reasons — but basically, what happened is that he suffered a terrible accident at work. And it has changed his whole life. He tells them that he has trouble sleeping. He sometimes feels phantom pains. He sometimes even experiences phantom erections. He tells them that, some days, he doesn’t feel like a man at all.

 

 


Missandei sweats through her blouse just minutes after getting off the plane. Dany specifically asked her to be the point person on this trip even though it’s pretty below her pay grade. Dany just wants to avoid looking too over-eager. Dany wants to not flag anything by showing up in person on a routine assessment. This is why Dany furtively sent her number one.

Daario grins at Missy and tells her that it is so fucking hot here. He is also dipping below his pay grade. He’s here as a glorified bodyguard, just in case. They have spent the last year reworking their processes because of what happened with Grey and Theon. Daario is also here because he has the time and he just wants to see Grey.

Sam starts turning pink right away, under the blistering sun. Those stories he heard about the ocean breeze driving the heat away were a crock of shit. He mutters that he’s from the north. He is not great with sun.

“Doc,” Daario says, trailing behind them. “Did you remember to pack sunscreen?”

They visit Grey’s childhood home first. Missy and Darrio are well aware that Drogo visited Grey and did a casual, informal pre-assessment assessment, to see if they should risk booking a real assessment for him. Drogo came back with the all-clear. Drogo said that their boy looks really good — scarily good. Like, he might not be human because he looks like he’s doing so good.

Tarly is unaware of their behind-the-scenes machinations — how they have stacked the deck in Grey’s favor because they want him back so badly. If Tarly knew, well, they’d all get reprimanded really swiftly and Grey would really get fucked and left in purgatory, maybe indefinitely.

They all meet Grey’s parents for the very first time. Grey’s parents continue to be surprised at how shockingly normal all of Grey’s former coworkers-who-might-be-drug-traffickers seem to be. They were shocked at how bright and friendly Drogo was. They are shocked at how charming and quick to laugh Daario is. They are shocked at how professional and sensitive Sam is. And they are shocked by how beautiful and wholesome Missandei looks. They tell her they didn’t realize that Grey had many female colleagues.

“Women are mostly in-office,” Missy explains to them. “There aren’t as many of us traveling in the field.”

 

 


The visit is a surprise to Grey because it has to be. They don’t want to give him time to prepare and to give the appearance of normalcy. This is why his jaw kind of drops when he sees the three of them walk into the grocery store that he works at. He is scanning a massive shopping cart full of frozen food when he spots them. He blinks and looks shaken — and he’s unmoving for a moment. He looks uncertain.

Sam doesn’t know Grey at all — that is the point. Sam is unbiased. And because Sam doesn’t know Grey at all, Sam does not realize that every move that Grey is making is completely deliberate. Drogo gave him warning. He’s been expecting them.

Sam has read his file though. Sam has pored over his profile. Sam already knows who Grey is and what Grey has done and what he has been capable of.

Sam gestures to Grey to keep going — to keep working. They will connect later. Sam chats with Grey’s coworkers, who all think he’s great.

 

 


“Wow!” Grey says, when he’s finally on break. He walks up to Daario right away to give him a dap that transitions into a warm hug. Grey says, “What the fuck, man! I didn’t know you guys were coming!” as Daario laughs and holds him tightly.

“Well, we’re actually here to work, not to visit,” Missandei says mildly.

“We’re here to hopefully help you get cleared to come back,” Daario says.

Grey also reaches out to Missandei. It’s the first time they have hugged or made any body contact ever. They have kept it very professional in the years that they have been colleagues. But now, he is grinning at her. He is saying, “Great to see you again, too! You look really nice!” as he curves his arm around her body and pulls her to him in a soft hug.

She smiles as best as she can, she also lets out this ridiculous laugh that is nervous and jittery. She pats him on the shoulder.

And then Grey lets her go. And then he gives his hand over to Sam to shake. He says, “Hey, good to meet you. I’m Grey. But you know that, of course.”

“Samwell Tarly.”

“So you’re my psych evaluator,” Grey says, sounding confidently casual.

 

 


No surprises get uncovered at all in the interviews. Grey’s parents are really worried about him in addition to being really angry at his former employer and confused about what kind of work their son even does. His dad especially does not want him to go back to work at all. His dad is pretty cool with Grey working at the grocery store — the kind of low pressure job that results in no one getting their fucking genitals cut off.

Daario secretly thinks that Grey’s dad is a riot.

Grey’s dad actually looks at the three of them — even beautiful Missandei — with barely contained anger at certain points. He accusingly says to them, “One day, I’m going to get a call, aren’t I? I’m going to get a call that my boy is dead. And you won’t even be able to tell me why.”

Sam frowns.

Grey looks distinctly uncomfortable. He softly says, “Dad, it’ll be okay.”

His dad snaps, “It’s not okay!”

His mom looks brittle, but also strong. She answers Sam’s questions succinctly and also resentfully. She doesn’t want her son to be cleared to work again, either. But she is honest. She tells them that Grey keeps a regular schedule. He seems to sleep fine. He eats normally — like how she remembers him eating. He has not displayed any signs of anger. He does not lock himself in his room.

And without being prompted, she also says, “He also is not the same. He is not the same at all. Sometimes I look into his face and I see a complete stranger because of what they have done to him.”

Grey says, “Mom . . . I’m still me.” And he seems to be at a loss. He doesn’t know what else to say to her.

Sam talks to Grey’s brother who bewilderingly says the same — that Grey seems really healthy and steady — it’s actually this line of questioning that is making Grey’s family more and more concerned. They keep looking at Grey, like they are wondering if he should be more traumatized than he appears.

Sam talks to Grey’s girlfriend — who tells them that she and Grey have not been intimate yet — and they probably won’t be intimate ever. She lowers her voice and confesses to them that actually, she is gay, and Grey is just a really, really great friend who is doing her a solid so that she can get a reprieve from her parents and so she can like, live her life in quiet for a while. She tells them that Grey is really caring and really supportive and just the best listener. She tells them that she and Grey have bonded a lot over like, what they have gone through.

Sam talks to the members of Grey’s support group who, with his permission, tells them that Grey has been just processing through a lot of trauma in group. The group tells them that Grey contends with issues of his manhood, of his identity, and of his future romantic prospects. The group members tell them that Grey is worried about his worthiness, the attractiveness of his body, and whether or not he will be loved. His friends then point out that Grey is young and has his entire life ahead of him. They point out that it took a lot of them so much more time to process their grief than Grey has. They say that Grey is amazing and inspirational — and they wish Grey the very best because that kid deserves it.

Missy and Daario see that Grey has primed all of the people in his life to tell the truth about him — without them even being aware that they were conditioned to do this.

Sam thinks that there is something strange going on here. It just all sounds too neat. He talks to Grey for more than three hours, going from childhood to adulthood. He discovers a man who is very intelligent, who had parents who loved and nurtured him and a community that believed in him — and he also discovers a man who is extremely, extremely repressed, but who appears open. Sam is actually looking for signs of psychopathy or a personality disorder, because there is something strange going on here.

 

 


In a lull during day two of interviews and shadowing Grey as he goes about his daily routine, as Sam continues chatting with Grey’s really concerned parents, Grey intertwines his hands behind his head, leans back against the overstuffed sofa in his parents’ living room, and he kills some time as the radio drones on in the background. He says to Missandei and Daario, “So, what’s new with you guys?”

“I bought that boat.”

“No way, man,” Grey says, grinning. “You were talking about that boat since forever! Have you caught any fish yet?”

“Not a one, man,” Daario says, laughing and slouching deeper in his chair.

“And you?” Grey says, directing his attention to Missandei. “What’s new with you, Missy?”

He never ever calls her Missy. He is doing so just in case Sam is eavesdropping.

“I’m doing more field work,” she says quietly.

“Oh, I know that was something you’ve always wanted,” Grey supplies. “Must be a dream come true.”

“Um, I doubt it,” Daario smoothly cuts in. He also lowers his voice. “Unless her dream really was to talk to perverts and lonely assholes while wearing next to nothing.”

“Oh,” Grey says. “Bummer.”

“We all start somewhere,” Missy offers.

 

 


So, Tarly does not clear Grey to come back to work — and when Dany gets the report, she flips out because she expected Grey to get cleared to come back to work. She expected this because when Missandei came back from the Summer Isles, Missandei said that everything looked great. He looked great. He said all of the right things. Everyone just vouched so hard for him and his healing. Like, he looked great.

This was why Dany expected the all clear.

She actually confronts Tarly in his office. Dany has her arms cross and without preamble, says, “What the fuck did I just read?”

Sam sighs. And then Sam says, “I’m not sure he’s ready, Daenerys. We can’t put him back in the field before he’s ready —”

“He’s ready.”

“Dany, we can re-evaluate in a few months —”

“Fuck you, Sam.”

 

 


So Dany goes over Sam’s head. Dany tries to make a case for racial bias against Sam — something that doesn’t hold water, but something that manages to really damage the respect and trust that they have built up with each other over the years — and in the end, Dany gets Sam’s evaluation tossed on bullshit technicalities.

Sam is replaced by another psychologist, Margaery Tyrell, who has to go to the Summer Isles to duplicate Sam’s work with Daario and Missandei.

This time, the outcome of the evaluation pleases Dany. Margaery’s report states that Grey is really well-adjusted, and she is confident that he is ready to go back to work again.

In one last bid for his case, Sam says to Dany, “Don’t put him in the field right away. Put him at a desk. And make therapy a condition of his employment. Please. I know you care about him. I know you all really, really care about him. And that’s why I’m urging you — care about him by giving him the support he actually needs. He thinks he needs to work. But he actually needs more time to heal.”

Dany glares at him.

 

 


When Grey learns that’s he’s finally being cleared — after more than a fucking year — to come back just to be on fucking desk duty — he fucking wants to kill himself and everyone around him. In a private conversation on their personal phones, on a secure line, Grey lowly mutters, “What the fuck, Daenerys? I thought you were going to take care of this.”

Dany says, “I did. You’re coming back. You should be grateful. Leadership thinks you’re a liability and shouldn’t be back ever. You don’t even know what I had to do to get you back.”

“Well, I’m glad leadership put me in a situation with bad intel that resulted in my fucking dick getting cut off by a goddamn psychopathic murderer. I’m sorry I fucking saved Theon’s life as I fucking laid dying on the ground. I’m sorry you broke my mother’s fucking heart because none of us can tell her why I almost died. But yeah, I guess I’ll come back to fetch you fucking coffee and to take notes for you.”

 

 


He says goodbye to his parents, who turn their back on him. Physically. His mother actually shows him her spine as she sobs into his father's chest. His dad shuts his eyes. And his brother's hand is heavy on his shoulder. His brother has car keys jingling. Azzie says, "Come on, little man. Let's get you to the airport."

He has tried to tell them that he loves them. He loves them all so much. But he is nothing without the job. He feels dead and empty inside when he is not working. He feels like everything he has done and has sacrificed has to be worth something and it has to hold meaning and amount to something big — because otherwise what is even the point in living? What is even the point in being so far away from them even though he loves them so much?

 

 


He does a shit ton of nothing on his first day back. He just fills out paperwork and gets his ID badge and stupid shit like that. He just listens to HR drone on and on even though he knows they exist to make his life miserable, and it was just a year ago that he was intimating to them that they are fucking useless paper pushers.

He has to have mandatory therapy during work hours. At one p.m., he knocks on Tarly’s door. He sharply takes in a really deep breath. He cracks his neck. And after Tarly says, “Come on in,” Grey enters.

He says, “Hey! What’s up! Good to see you again.”

Holy shit, he needs to dial it back a few notches.

So Grey clears his throat. He says, “Okay, so I hear you think I’m insane or that I’m on the verge of an emotional breakdown. Can I just tell you — I don’t believe in shrinks.” And then he smiles.

Sam looks at Grey. And he thinks that this is probably the very first, truly honest thing Grey has ever said to him. Even then, it is benignly manipulative. It’s supposed to be the first honest thing Grey is saying to him.

Sam says, “Why don’t you put down your things?”

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

After Tarly leads him upstairs and also outside, Tarly pulls out a plastic baggie full of . . . bird seed . . . and cracks it open with a quiet snap. He digs his hand in for a few finger-fulls. Then he starts tossing the small grains to the pigeons loitering near a circular, man-made pond.

Everything about this campus feels retro — like they should be wearing corduroy and velour, like they should be wearing sweater vests. Grey imagines that the design of this campus was already outdated even when it was new.

And Tarly looks like the hero of his own story. The ever-suffering champion of the broken and the left-behinds. A magic healer. Grey’s very own Patch Adams.

Grey rubs his right ear with the flat of his palm, blinking against the sun as he says, “You about to Good Will Hunting me?”

Sam doesn’t even pause in feeding the birds. He just calmly says, “Pardon?”

“That’s what this is, isn’t it?” Grey says, gesturing to the pigeons. “You’re Robin Williams. I’m Matt Damon.” Then Grey gestures to his face, like hello, obviously he is Matt Damon.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Sam says.

“Good Will Hunting, man,” Grey repeats. “It’s a movie.”

“I know,” Sam says mildly. “I’ve seen it. What about it?”

“Matt Damon’s an asshole-genius from the wrong side of the tracks, a rabble-rouser who doesn’t know love but sure knows the shit out of math. And then there’s Robin Williams, the unconventional, quirky therapist who teaches Matt Damon to cry and to open his heart up.” Grey pauses. “Like, that doesn’t sound familiar?”

“I know the plot of the movie,” Sam says, still unnervingly calm and really bent on feeding his birds. “But it’s just a movie, Grey.” Sam then clears his throat. “The way you summarized that was interesting.”

“Was it?”

Sam nods. “Yeah. It really was.” And then, rather than expanding on that thought, Sam looks to the imagined horizon. He says, “I like being out here because it’s quiet and no one ever ventures out here. And I like birds — I like animals. I know I’m not supposed to feed them.”

 

 


They actually spend an entire half an hour slowly circling the pond, talking about movies. Sam discovers that Grey has a surprisingly deep rolodex of pop culture reference points, what Grey self-describes as a few years uncool and behind. He tells Sam that Western movies made their way to the Summer Isles late, so by the time he discovered Ninja Turtles, the Western world had already moved onto Power Rangers. He’s always a little out of touch compared to his Western counterparts.

He tells Sam that he likes movies because his dad really loves movies. As Sam already knows, based on the hours Sam has spent with his family, his dad is a literature and writing teacher. His dad is really into stories and his dad always read him books or they watched films together. This is why Grey learned how to read at age three.

“You don’t think you just picked it up because you were a bit of a prodigy?” Sam asks.

Grey shrugs. He mutters, “I bet a lot of kids are prodigies, but they just don’t have parents who read them books.” Then he says, “Is this your version of play therapy then, but for an adult man with intimacy issues?”

“Stop trying to guess what I’m doing or not doing,” Sam admonishes. “Honestly, I’m just trying to build up some trust. I’m hoping we’ll eventually get to the point where you aren’t analyzing every question I ask and deliberating before every answer you give.”

The nice-guy, subtle accusation really rankles Grey’s nerves. Shrinks are fucking useless. The only purpose in having shrinks around is so their organization doesn’t get sued when some guy shoots his wife in the face for nagging too much, because he becomes an angry alcoholic.

So, after barely pausing a beat, Grey’s voice goes low. He doesn’t pause in his stride either. He just plainly says, “You want the truth? The truth is this is a complete waste of time. It’s offensive that no one believes that I am fine. It’s offensive people are always trying to tell me how I should feel. It’s bullshit that this narrative of victimhood is getting pushed on me. I just want to do my fucking job. So — what do I need to say to you so that you will fucking clear me to do my fucking job?”

 

 


Missandei kind of fucks up. She becomes a bit of a deer in the headlights when she aggressively gets leered at and is asked to show a little something-something — to show a tit, some nipple maybe. He calls it a hit — a taste — and her mind frantically fights to translate this lingo for a panicked second before she realizes that she is actually pretty bad at speaking criminal. She is especially bad with using and understanding slang in a natural way because she knows so many languages and studied them like a nerd.

She is so thrown by the request to show her boob that she actually makes a protective move — she covers her breasts by crossing her arms over her chest.

And the minute gesture results in the target screaming, “She’s a cop! This fucking bitch is a fucking cop!”

And as everything and everyone else buzzes into hyper-alertness, as her pulse slams in her chest, as she stupidly and instinctively tries to allay everyone’s fears by screaming back, “I am not a cop! I am not a cop! I swear!”

And then before the fever pitch breaks, before everything can erupt into violence or worse — Drogo’s team busts in and then extracts her swiftly. Robb’s hand is hard on her upper arm, pulling her and then tucking her into a car.

It happens so fast and she doesn’t learn about what happened to the target until later. Later, she learns that they unfortunately had to put him down because he drew a gun. Later, she is sitting despondently on a bench in a cold, concrete room with sticky dry sweat on her skin, as Alayaya pats and then prods Missandei’s bare shoulder. Alayaya laughingly says, “Everyone is pissed at you.”

Missy sinks her face into her salty, bitter hands. She doesn’t get why Yaya thinks this is somehow fucking funny at all. Missy’s voice is muffled, as she mutters, “I should’ve flashed him my boob. What was I thinking? Yelling that I wasn’t a cop?”

Yaya slams a locker open, pulling out a duffle bag. She says, “Well, hindsight is twenty-twenty, you know?” She slams the locker shut again, hikes the back over her shoulder, and then nudges Missandei again. She says, “Hang in there, doll. It’ll be second nature one day.”

 

 


She comes home these days very early in the morning, wearing baggy clothes, reeking of like, really cheap drugstore perfume. Her eyes must be haunted these days, because her dad gently rises from the guest bedroom, like he’s been waiting for her to come home, and he silently fetches her dinner — or breakfast. It’s food that he has cooked and has packed away in the fridge.

He heats up the plate in the microwave as he smiles at her and pretends that he doesn’t see what he is seeing. He whispers to her and asks her how her day was.

Missandei smiles tiredly. She softly says, “It was a good day. How was your day?”

“Very nice,” he says, warming his hand around a mug of tea. “I talked to your mother today.”

“Oh yeah?” Missandei asks, tilting her head to the side. “What did she say?”

Her dad’s smile turns sardonic and a little sneaky. He says, “She wants to know when you are going to settle down with a nice boy.”

Missy lightly scoffs. She says, “Of course she does,” as her gaze travels into the darkened living room, where she keeps a small altar with a plate of fruit and her mother’s photo over it. “That sounds like something she’d say.”

 

 


She’s back at work at nine in the morning, in time for her first meeting at ten. She dreads it — of course she dreads it — but she snaps the front of her blazer so it’s smooth and taut — and she tries to hold her head high as she walks into the conference room.

Daario is eating a powdered donut, after rifling around a box and touching every other donut before settling on a jelly-filled. He widely grins at her with his coffee cup held in the air. After getting one look at her face, he says, “Buck up, buttercup. You’ll be okay.”

She doesn’t even think that her face betrays that much emotion — and so she refutes his words. She says, “I’m fine. I’m completely fine. It ain’t no thing.”

“Oh, it’s most definitely a thing,” Drogo mutters, as he steps past the glass door. “Mornin’ darlin’,” he says to her as he makes a beeline to the donut box, before shaking his head and sighing.

The meeting starts right on the hour. The post-mortem is excruciatingly embarrassing and terrible. Barristan has read over Drogo’s report, so they gloss over details — they just jump right into what went wrong — so they just jump into this question that they have been going back and forth on for a while. Half of the people at the table do not think she is cut out for this kind of work at all.

Drogo is especially tired of indulging one woman’s delusions about her capabilities. He thinks he’s being really magnanimous when he says that Missandei is a fantastic analyst and she is a fantastic interpreter and she is an okay profiler. She is better suited to her previous job. One day, something terrible is going to happen — like what happened with Grey and Theon — and they are going to stumble across Missandei’s body in a puddle of her own blood — just because they refuse to face the fucking facts. She is just not good at field work. She is a slow thinker. She is not great at adapting. She is not quick on her feet. She looks like law enforcement trying to look like a hooker and not like, an actual hooker.

Drogo says, “I’m not trying to be cruel, mama. I’m just stating facts.”

Daario is in her corner — sort of. It’s just that they came up together, so they have a friendly relationship and he’s had to listen to her spout off a bunch of cliches about her hopes and dreams and motivations a lot over the years.

To Barristan, he says, “Man, it’s just optics. It’s just small tweaks. It’s no big deal. We can get her hooker-ready, Selmy. Trust me.” Daario gives his case for letting her stay in the field by saying that she doesn’t really have to be good to do what she is doing. She just has to dress the part, sort of act the part, and just stand there looking vulnerable and beautiful. Like, Missandei can master this, Daario is sure of this.

Daario says that they need a woman like Missandei. Yara looks so grizzled sometimes and is too busy. Brienne is like — duh, Brienne is out, and this isn’t what Brienne is good at. Kojja is too dark and too busy. Pia is great white supremacist bait, but she is just too busy with other work sometimes. And Alayaya was just promoted.

Daario says that Missandei is clean, her skin isn’t too dark, and she just has that look about her — that thing that just inspires men to want to like, abduct her and tie her up and leave her in a dark room.

Missy shuts her eyes. Because this is humiliating and not at all what she aspired to be when she was younger.

 

 


She spends the rest of her workday avoiding Drogo, because he is being an asshole to her at the moment, because he thinks that he can just neg her into obediently quitting and going back to what everyone else thinks she is good at.

She also avoids him because sometimes he is scary. She is scared Drogo will snidely say stuff about how they all have to indulge Missandei because Missandei is the boss’ BFF and fucking favoritism is going to kill them all.

She skips lunch and hits the gym instead. As she walks past the open door of the cafeteria in her workout clothes, she can hear the low drone of appreciation — of male whooping and hollering. She is guessing that people are really happy that Grey is back. For more than a year now, she has been listening a lot to stray comments here and there about how Grey is the greatest shit there ever was and how it’s such a fucking shame — what happened to him.

She runs into Brienne — sweating, pink, and breathing hard — at the gym, at the tail end of her workout. Brienne holds the ends of her white towel in her fists as she kindly says, “Hey, we all have bad days.”

Missy says, “Oh God, so you’ve heard, too.”

Brienne pulls a face, like she regrets saying something because she’s now scared that she’s going to have like, an entire conversation with Missandei about this. Brienne tries to kill any chance of conversation by saying, “Sort of. It’s not a big deal. Really. Okay, it was good to see you. I gotta run. Meetings. Bye!”

To the imagined puff of smoke that Brienne’s feet left, running out of there as fast as she did, Missy ruefully says, “Okay, talk to you later.”

She puts a quick five miles on the treadmill. She tries to blast music into her brain, so that she doesn’t think too hard about her failings and shortcomings. She actually goes a little meta and thinks that her problem is that she thinks too fucking much. Her problem is that she can’t quiet her traitorous mind enough to just be natural about anything.

 

 


She’s about to restart her run again when Grey walks in. He’s dressed for the gym. So it must mean he’s about to work out.

She is watching him in a mirror and she’s about to whip her head around to say hello to him real quick when she sees him gesture to his ears.

It takes her a second to realize that he’s asking her to take out her ear buds.

When she does, he asks, “Why are you running like that?”

Panting, she says, “Like what?”

“Why are you jogging?” he says, not clarifying at all.

And . . . Missy does not know how to answer this. Like, why not jog? She likes it. It’s just what she likes to do.

Finally, in between breaths, she haltingly says, “What should . . . I be doing . . . instead?”

“Not jogging,” he says blandly.

And then he goes to the fountain to fill up his water bottle. And then he generally just ignores her. And then she is like, what the fuck? Someone is in a fucking mood! And then she is like, realizing she is staring at him still. So then she plugs her earbuds back in, and just feels every excruciating bone in her body being scrutinized as her feet repetitively pounds against the treadmill.

Because of her shit day and the last couple of really shit months at work, she constantly feels like she has something to prove. She fucking loves that her parents scrimped and saved to put her through school so that she can be fucking bad at being a pretend hooker. She fucking loves that her brothers are supposedly too busy to return some calls from her and their dad, as if being busy is a good reason for abandoning family. She is fucking busy, too, but she manages to make time for the man. 

So it is meaningful to her and only her — when she increases the speed on the treadmill more than a few notches — she speeds up her run — and she just maintains and pushes herself to keep moving her feet so that Grey doesn’t get to feel like he scared her off with his weirdass commentary.

She also sneaks glances at his workout. It’s all weights. He moves without any hustle — not slow, but not particularly fast, either.

He’s done after only half an hour. And after he reracks weights, he swings his eyes right to hers, through the mirror. He’s smirking. He is signalling to her that he knows she was watching him like a creep. He gives her a short salute with a tilt of his head. And then he walks out of there. He crosses Yara on his way out, when Yara is on her way in. Yara grins widely at him and holds up her hand for a high-five, which he smacks his palm into. The sound is loud and stingy.

Missandei's pounding heart feels like it wants to give out, as she rapidly hits at a key on the treadmill, lowering the speed waaay back down. She yanks out her earbuds again.

Yara takes a big whiff, inhaling all the humid sweat and body odor lingering in the air. She's actually trying to smell a fart, so she can accuse Missandei of farting and embarrass the shit out of Missandei because Missandei is hilarious sometimes. Yara jokingly says, "It smells real sexy in here."

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 


Grey spends his first month back settling into his life — though he finds that nothing feels the same as it used to. He rents an apartment within walking distance to work, even though he actually cannot walk into work. It’s a secure campus, so he has to actually drive in — but he is kind of just comforted by the option. The campus is remote, so his apartment is in the middle of suburbia, just strip malls and a big chain store and people walking their dogs at night.

He sold all his shit when he moved back home with his folks. So his apartment is still pretty much empty, save for a mattress in the bedroom — a legit splurge because he loves sleep — and a couple of plastic lawn chairs in the living room. He bought two. Just in case he decides to bring a friend over one of these days.

See, this is why nothing feels the same as it used to — because before, he actually never even considered ever having a friend over. It wasn’t something that resonated in him — to care about. But Tarly keeps pointing out that he has zero real friends, and it’s starting to give him a bit of a complex.

Like, he defends himself. He says, “I have friends.” He pontificates out loud and asks the room, which is made up of just him and Sam, what makes someone a friend?

He answers his own question and says friends are people who are your ride or dies, people you can have a laugh with, that know a lot about you and you about them. Grey is thinking that Daario is his friend. He knows Daario is Tyroshi and that Daario’s mother was a real boozer who kept getting them evicted from apartments because she couldn’t hold down a job since she was so drunk all the time. Like, why would Grey know this information if Daario wasn’t his friend?

Grey thinks that Drogo is definitely his friend. Yara is his friend. Brienne is his friend. Alayaya is his friend. Missandei is his friend. Tyrion is his friend. Hell, even cranky Sandor is his friend. He actually has a shit-ton of friends.

“I know you are very close with your colleagues,” Sam says soothingly, trying to smooth over Grey’s anxieties. “It’s wonderful that you’ve built so much trust and a good rapport with the people you work with.”

In Sam’s point of view, he actually never really gets on Grey’s case for his apparent lack of friends. Sam just asked a question and Grey just went a little nuts and got defensive about it.

Over the course of a month, for fun, Grey picks up on a bunch of things that Sam is insecure about — like his body, his apparent lack of cool, his emotional nature, and his pervasive empathy for others’ feelings — and Grey just takes all of these qualities and uses the knowledge to torture Sam. Because if he has to see a shrink, then Grey might as well just make it terrible for the both of them.

Like, Grey tells Sam that therapy will never work for Grey because Grey has been coerced into it. Grey’s agency and voice was stripped away because the people in power decreed it so. Grey was already fucking maimed and ruined because of this unrelenting, cold-hearted job — but he has to constantly deal with the indignity of being dehumanized further and treated like a child. He can’t make any decisions of substance anymore. He pushes paper now because this is now his worth. He was just a tool that was used and then discarded. He grew up watching the legacy of oppression press down on his parents — and they had such fucking hope for him. So it is really rich that he is being debased like this and he has to constantly perform and try and prove his health because why even fucking listen to the words he is saying when everyone has already made up their minds about him? Because white people just know better always, don’t they?

“Do you think I don’t take what happened to me seriously enough?” he asks Sam. “I thought I was going to fucking die, man. As I laid there bleeding out, I thought that it was the end for me. And my entire life has just changed because of what happened to me.” He pauses, now shaking his head in disgust. “But I guess that is not enough. I guess you are not satisfied until you see me cower and cry over it. I guess none of you will believe me unless you see that I was broken because of this. I know that’s what you want from me, so that you can look at me pitifully and say, ‘Oh, you poor, tragic little asshole.’”

He is staring despondently into Sam’s face as he says these things.

 

 


Grey learns about the perils of a desk job and being middle management. Like, Grey spends hours each day putting up with Stannis’ constant chair and desk adjustments. Stannis is Grey’s manager and has a motorized desk that can transition from a sitting desk to a standing desk. Stannis likes to lecture on the dangers of slouching and bad posture.

Stannis likes to casually talk to Grey about workplace-related injuries — and for the first week, Grey is like — hey, is this guy a fucking asshole, or what?

But after the first week, he realizes that Stannis is not trying to be cruel-funny at all. Stannis is just one of those people who has no idea who Grey is and thus, has no idea about the accident Grey suffered last year. Stannis is neither creative, adaptable, or very empathetic and thus, he tends to assume that everyone views the world like he does. Stannis thinks that his new section mate and charge is just like him — has the same goals and desires, which is to work an honest job doing what is expected of him with unerring consistency, to put his daughter through school, to save for his and his wife’s retirement, until the age of 65, after which he can spend his twilight years tinkering around with his orchids and practicing the art of bonsai.

In his first month working for Stannis, Grey spots many areas in the workflow that can stand to be optimized for better efficiency. He wrote up a report and delivered it to his manager’s inbox, figuring that clarity in communication would be something Stannis would appreciate and value.

Stannis shuts down all of Grey’s ideas — every single one of them. And when pressed by Grey for why they don’t just automate certain data entry tasks, Stannis merely says that computers can’t always be trusted.

Which makes Grey internally go, what the fuck? Computers can definitely be trusted!

Outwardly, he doesn’t want to stir up shit with his manager in his first month back. So he just generally explodes in silent rage, deep in his soul and stuff.

Grey keeps trying to get a meeting with leadership — and with Dany. He keeps emailing her just enough, but not too much that he actually starts annoying her and then pushes her too hard in the wrong direction. He just wants to know what the plan is for him. He doesn’t even need to be spearheading his own future at the organization. He just wants to know the approximate timeline of his progression back into the field. He wants to know how many therapy sessions he has to go through, what milestones or metrics he has to hit, and he wants to hear leadership acknowledge his wants. He does not want to retire at a desk job in middle management.

His emails and meeting requests go without response. He starts to feel like he’s been ghosted and ignored, forgotten on purpose. Some nights, he goes home at night and pulls off his tie and sits on his toilet to pee in the dark, and he just gets so fucking mad and wonders what is even the fucking point anymore.

“Watch for forward head posture,” Stannis calmly mentions to Grey, as he sips from his navy mug. “I see it — your chin.” Stannis gestures to Grey’s face, as if Grey doesn’t know where his fucking chin is. Stannis adds, “I strongly recommend you see a chiropractor. It changed my life. Our insurance covers it. There’s a copay with each session. Very reasonable.”

 

 


His wife is ready to leap right out of her skin when Sam arrives home. She is frazzled and makes a quick beeline for him before handing him the baby. She huffs out a sigh and she tells him that the baby has been calling out for his father all day.

Really, Sam knows that what this really means is that the baby has been crying a lot. He leans over, gives Gilly a kiss on the cheek, and he gently tells her to maybe go draw herself a bath and relax in the tub for a bit. He says this because she smells a little greasy.

As the water runs, Sam calls out to her from the kitchen to ask if Little Sam has eaten dinner yet. Upon getting no answer, Sam swipes a jar of baby food and tries to feed the baby anyway.

Afterward, after Little Sam’s face is all wiped up again, the two of them relax on the couch, half-dozing. Sam feels around for his child’s heartbeat, as he holds his child to his chest. His stomach rumbles, but he thinks that this rare moment of peace is worth it. He smells his baby’s head and presses his lips to the baby’s face. He goes over it all again — his work day — in his head, and later he will review his notes after Gilly and the baby are asleep.

 

 


Grey gets Theon’s number from Yara, who reluctantly hands it over after throwing him a few suspicious looks. She doesn’t want him to stir up old shit with her brother, even if accidentally or unintentionally, because her brother has been doing better. She doesn’t want old traumatic memories to set Theon back.

But there is also the possibility that Theon might also actually just want to see Grey again, so that’s why she hands it over.

Grey meets Theon in the morning, when it’s still a little foggy, damp, and overcast. It’s cut into his workday, but it does not even fucking matter if he dicks off because it takes him three hours to do his work, and then he just spends the rest of his day just fucking wanting to die under Stannis’ passive aggressive comments about how Grey wasn’t at his desk. So at the very least, coffee breaks up the monotony of that.

Grey tries not to make it all about himself by opening up the lines of communication with a quick hug and a, “So, what’s new with you?”

Theon kind of laughs, with his hands momentarily squeezing Grey’s arms before letting go. It feels intimate, even though they weren’t really very close before the accident. It feels friendly.

 

 


Drogo honestly cannot take much more of this. Missandei fucking sucks at her job, and she fucking needs to go. She has a stunning lack of awareness of her body. She always looks scared and bewildered. She stutters. She even fucking says words incorrectly sometimes because she is nervous — and words are supposed to be the one thing she is good at.

He has diverted a lot of time — his own time and other people’s time — trying to train her for nearly a year now. He has been a gentle and supportive friendly supervisor, sitting her down and asking her what he can be doing to make her training better for her. And when that shit didn’t work, he has been the hardass boss who micromanages and erodes her self-esteem by correcting every perceived mistake that she makes and making the both of them go completely mental over this shit — and still — she doesn’t fucking improve.

He has pleaded with her. He has asked her where she envisions herself in a year — realistically. Like, are they going to still be fucking doing this in another fucking year?

She always looks so wounded and hurt. Her face makes him feel like a fucking monster. He feels like he has to be a monster, to drill it into her — that she is not fucking ever going to be cut out for this shit. Some people just aren’t. He doesn’t want her to fucking die out there. She is not good enough to keep herself alive. They are just running out this ticking bomb. He fucking cannot go onto another dark room and just hope against all hope that the people he cares about aren’t already dead. He just cannot do that again.

Sitting in Dany’s office, in front of her desk, Drogo is shaking his head. This is not the first time they have talked about this. This is probably their millionth time. Dany is decisive in all areas of work — except here. Here, Daenerys has been frustratingly soft and weak.

Drogo says, “I can’t do this anymore. She puts our people in danger every time she is out there.”

He then details a litany of incidents Missandei has choked on. He repeatedly points out that this isn’t even the fucking hard shit. This is basic shit. This is like, ‘stand there and look pretty’ shit. And she cannot even fucking do that.

Dany looks tired. She’s been having a lot of these sorts of conversations lately. Drogo is not the only one who expresses concern and skepticism when it comes to Missandei. Alayaya has expressed concern as well as Yara, Bronn, Sandor, Robb, and even Daario, on some days.

Dany finally says, “Okay. Let’s put her on a performance improvement plan. Write out the plan. Go over it with her. Give her a month to meet standard. If she doesn’t —”

“When she doesn’t,” Drogo corrects.

Dany shoots him a look, but does not comment on that. She just continues on. “After a month, you will evaluate. And then you can let her go if she does not meet standard.”

 

 


Dany breaks the rules and, over a bottle of wine and a bunch of takeout containers on Dany’s couch after work, Dany plainly tells Missandei that Missy is about to get put on a performance improvement plan. Drogo is insisting on it and at this point, Dany can no longer put this off or dissuade him.

Dany sips from her glass, leaning against the back of the couch, and says, “You have one month to improve, or you’re fired from that department.”

For Missandei, this isn’t really a shocking surprise as much as it is just like . . . sort of a wake up call? She knew she was doing pretty bad. She didn’t know she was apparently doing this bad. Her hands tingle as the new information sinks in.

“What are you thinking?” Dany asks softly.

And with surprising self-righteousness, Missy says, “I’m actually thinking that I don’t fucking think hooking should be the gateway to field work! I am good with people. I am good at asking questions and getting information! I have a lot of cultural knowledge. I know how to talk to people in nearly all the languages we use the most! I am weapons-trained! But yeah, I guess it fucking makes sense to test me for a year on how convincing I look as a sex worker, standing around half-naked in the dark, waiting for someone to proposition me for sex work.” Missandei is shaking her head. “Fuck Drogo!” she snaps. “He set me up to fucking fail.”

“Yeah, no, I agree,” Dany says, sighing. “I’m sorry. I can’t delay this much longer. He’s one of the heads of that department —”

“I know,” Missandei interjects. “I know you have been pushing hard for me. Thank you.”

“Hon,” Dany says flatly. “Can’t you just get better? At like, fucking looking like a sex worker? I feel like this is a real sticking point for that asshole. Just like, shut him up by just being good at it.”

Missy is shaking her head. Because if only it were that easy. She has spent the last year or so driving herself crazy trying to improve. She has talked to so many real prostitutes on her own time. She has burdened her pals for so many hours. She has taken not one, but like multiple improv classes in addition to everything else. She has studied the shit out of this — living and breathing it. She has recorded interviews, so that she can try get the lingo and the speech down. She has stopped giving many shits about how she dresses herself or how her body looks. She has even conditioned her poor conservative father into like, being cool with the crazy shit that he must be imagining is going on with her.

Missy shoves a bunch of shiitake mushrooms into her face and holds it all in her cheeks. She tells Dany, “At this point, I don’t even think becoming an actual sex worker and having sex with random men who give me money will make me any more convincing as a sex worker. Like, sometimes I get nutty and consider like, doing coke before work. I tell myself, hey, Missy, why not try heroin? Why not try crack? Maybe that is the silver bullet?”

 

 


He makes it a point to Skype with his mom and dad at least once a week, so that they can see that he is alive and well. The conversations remain really tense and his mom seems really resentful, like she thinks she can make his inevitable, devastating death less painful if she can prime herself to be permanently pissed at him. So it’s been really fun.

He tells his folks about his modest gains. He got a spiffy new apartment. He takes walks after work. He goes to bed at a reasonable hour. He went to the cinema on Saturday. He’s been catching up with old buddies. Like, his life is actually pretty normal and mundane. He tells them that they should consider visiting — because he wants these fucking psychos to see the state of his life for themselves so they will stop worrying so goddamn much — but his parents answer that like this:

“Is your work still mandating that you see Dr. Tarly?”

Grey ignores how heated his dad sounds asking a pretty simple question. He answers simply. He says, “Yes, I see Dr. Tarly on a regular basis still.”

“And he still thinks you’re unwell,” his dad says mutinously.

“He has never said that.”

“Nudho, do you think it’s normal for your job to force you to see a doctor?” his mom shoves in, with a lot of hostility.

“Okay, relax,” he tells his parents. “He has a PhD. He’s only sort of a doctor.”

His parents are glaring at him. Both of their angry faces fill up his entire computer screen. It’s funny — because at one point in life, they used to think he was cute, and they used to laugh at his jokes.

 

 


To get the fuck away from Stannis for a few minutes, because every fucking second away from Stannis is like a glimpse of sunshine after being molested in a dark dungeon for years, Grey leaves his desk and partakes in an organization-enforced morale-boosting activity. It is themed. There is tres leches cake in the cafeteria. There is also a taco bar with five different kinds of salsas. He knows this because some idiot woman from HR sent out a organization-wide email with shitty clipart. She accidentally cc’ed everyone instead of bcc’ed. So his inbox exploded this morning with a bunch of dumb assholes going, ‘Yay! Tacos!’ and a bunch of other dumb idiots responding-all to go, ‘Hey! Stop responding-all, people!’ The email from HR pimped the salsa bar.

It’s just as he suspected. It’s for white people. There’s mild salsa. Mild mango salsa. Mild green salsa. Pico de gallo, which isn’t really a salsa but okay. And there is spicy salsa for the adventurous eaters, which is actually just a regular type of salsa.

“Sup, baby?” Drogo says, suddenly appearing right beside him. Drogo’s paper plate is already loaded up with stacks and stacks of tacos. “How’s life with your boyfriend, Baratheon?”

It’s a joke. And it is hurtful. Grey says, “Shut up,” because he is kind of sensitive about this. He used to run a whole department. But sure. Now he spends all day listening to an old man sighing and grunting, when numbers don’t add up on a spreadsheet, which is like, how is that even possible?

Drogo sighs. “I’m going east next week for a few days. But you know what? When I get back, I’m going to start pushing for you to come back to us. It’s a fucking waste, having you do what you’re currently doing.”

“Nothing will move without the blessing of the shrink, man,” Grey points out, petulantly putting way too much meat over his one tortilla.

“I don’t get it,” Drogo gripes. “You are totally fine.”

“Man, don’t I fucking know it. I’ve been fucking trying to tell people this.”

“It’s management, man,” Drogo adds. “It’s leadership. Fuckers so out of touch, but somehow they get to make all of the big decisions that affect our lives and shit. Makes sense, right?” Drogo clears his throat. “Have you talked to your girl? Daenerys.”

“Man, she has been avoiding me I think.”

Drogo scoffs. “Sounds about right.”

When they set their plates down, Daario is already at the table. He has his arm curved around his plate, plastic fork in the other hand. He’s actually already moved onto cake. After taking a big swipe and shoving it into his mouth, he loudly says, “Oh my God! Why is this cake wet!”

 

 


Drogo hasn’t yet given Missy her PIP yet, so she’s definitely anxious and just going out of her mind preparing for just another terrible fucking conversation in which he tells her that she is a huge disappointment and cannot ever do anything right. This is why she skulks into the cafeteria as quietly and as inconspicuously as possible. She spots him right away, because her life is now about tracking Drogo’s whereabouts always, so that she can avoid offending him by breathing wrong — and failing at it.

She’s only got two tacos put together on her plate when Yara’s loud voice screams out, “Missandei! Over here! Saved you a warm seat, boo!”

What the fuck.

 

 


They generally do not talk about work in the cafeteria — because of security reasons. There’s too much inter-departmental mixing, and certain departments do not have high-level clearance. This is why eating time is generally socializing time. This is partly why Grey is convinced he has friends. Like, he is talking to his friends about his life. He is telling them he bought a badass mattress. It came in a box. It is like sleeping on a fucking cloud that lovingly hugs.

“Hey, guys, real question,” Bronn says. “I hear you’re supposed to flip those motherfuckers, like how you’re supposed to rotate tires for even wear and tear. But my fuckin’ mattress has a pillowtop. I’m not supposed to flip that, right?”

“Nah, man,” Sandor says. “Don’t flip, But you gotta rotate it every once in a while.”

“Really though?” Bronn presses. “What difference would it make?”

“I think it’s more if there are two people in bed and one person is just heavier or bigger than the other,” Drogo says. “You wanna rotate so your mattress doesn’t get lopsided.”

“Oh, so no problem for Bronny then,” Daario cracks. “No one ever sleeps with him!”

“Because I tell them to get the fuck out,” Bronn returns aggressively. “You know. After sex.” And then he starts laughing and waving his hands in front of his soggy, empty taco plate. He says, “No, just kidding. I’m a gentleman. I always ask nicely.”

“Here’s another real question,” Yara cuts in. “Memory foam or springs? Grey, already know where you fall on this, bro, but what about the rest of you?”

 

 


Missy pretty much spends lunch keeping her face shut as they all obsess over mattresses — even though she actually has opinions on mattresses because she has done a lot of research due to her dad’s back problems. She keeps her face shut because she doesn’t want to remind Drogo that he currently hates her.

She just quietly eats her tacos and her cake next to Yara as the table explodes in incredulous laughter, when Gendry straight up admits that he acquired his mattress on the side of the road. He just pulled over and loaded the thing onto the bed of his truck. Took it home and started sleeping on it and everything. It is great! It’s a good mattress!

When Grey’s phone buzzes repeatedly and he looks down to check it, the smile on his face just dies on the spot.

“What’s going on?” she blurts. “What happened?”

If he’s surprised by her nosy concern, he doesn’t show it. He just rises from his seat, picking up his empty plate to throw it away. He says, “Fucking Stannis is what happened. He wants to know where I am. He’s calling me.” Grey lets out a soft groan that transitions to a high-pitched whine. “Why does he call me? Why doesn’t he just text? Or better yet, just leave me the fuck alone and trust that I will make my way back to him eventually?”

Drogo’s laugh, in response to that, is deep and syncopated.

Grey feels a little bit of tension inside of him release — upon hearing that familiar laugh. He actually doesn’t realize how much he misses having someone laugh at his jokes. He has forgotten how it feels to have someone kind of just get him instead of just constantly telling him how he’s supposed to feel.

This is why Grey gives Drogo a quick pat on the shoulder, as he sighs and makes his way back to a world of fucking spreadsheets used all wrong.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 


When Drogo finally sits her down and shows her her failings, documented and written out in humiliating detail, well, she didn’t think she could have more feelings about this. But she does. She kind of wants to cry as she signs the top page, which declares that she understands that she’s gonna get shit-canned if she doesn’t step it up significantly.

He asks, “Do you have any questions?”

And she says, “No. It’s all really clear.”

In the first few months of this, when he had these tough talks with her, he used to end the tough talks by telling her that he believed in her — she can do this!

Now, he just ends these talks in silence.

She’s afforded some privacy — the meeting happened behind closed doors and she’s not sure anyone besides Barristan knows she’s been put on a PIP. But the rest of the team certainly knows that she’s been underperforming for months now. From the way she walks around the building with her head held low, she is pretty sure the team knows the end is nigh.

She’s exhausted all of her resources. She’s trained for months with Alayaya. She’s trained for months with Yara. She’s trained for months with Kojja. They’ve switched up and looped around so many different training styles. They’ve practiced exercises for hours and hours in presenting a false identity to an audience that is hyper-alert and hyper-suspicious, who can completely put a bullet in her fucking head over one slip up or an error in judgement. Missandei understands the gravity of it and the necessity of getting it right.

Alayaya and Yara, in particular, both have great talents in storytelling. They are good at talking. Yara is a good bullshitter. Alayaya is good at smoothly carrying on long conversations made up of lies with such ease.

Yara thinks that Missandei’s shyness and natural quietness and self-consciousness unnerves people and also prevents Missandei from being flexible under rapidly evolving situations or encounters. Yara is not sure this is something that is fixable — it might just be something innate and ingrained.

Alayaya knows that Missandei looks down on prostitution and thinks that she is better than sex work. Nothing wrong with that — but Missandei doesn’t believe. Alayaya thinks that this bleeds out of Missandei’s face. People can pick out that kind of rejection and judgement.

Kojja thinks that everything in Missandei’s past and everything about Missandei points to an aversion to deceit. Missandei can’t lie because she doesn’t believe in lying. That is a real problem in the work that they do.

The thing is, Missandei has solicited all of this brutal feedback. She knows that her colleagues — her support system at work — feel this way about her work. Everyone is feeling the frustration here. She is, too. She is not sure whether she should just finally eat shit and just fucking quit today, or wait out the entire month.

When Missy wearily tells Dany this, Dany is quiet for a long time.

And then Dany says, “You should consider talking to Grey. Ask him for help.”

 

 


She’s a really terrible cook — like, the worst cook because while she can read a recipe, the inherent ambiguity in between the lines of directions makes her a bad cook. Like when she is told to ‘saute onions until soft’ — like, how soft? ‘Beat eggs into stiff peaks’ — like, mountain peaks? Those are really like, rock hard and rigid. ‘Bake until a toothpick comes out clean’ — how clean is clean? Like, no crumbs at all?

She just has no interest in mastering this skill whatsoever. And in contrast to a number of her Naathi female peers who were whizzes in the kitchen from an early age, Missy’s parents did not really give many shits that she was bad at chores and in the kitchen. She was their youngest baby. Her older brothers took care of most of the chores. Her parents were older and more chill and also just run ragged by Moss’ and Mars’ respective rebellions against strictness already — so by the time they got their little girl, they were largely like, whatever. They noticed early on that she loved to read and she loved to learn. She was a little nerd from the get. So they looked at her and were like, ‘Oh shit. This one is actually going to be college-bound!’ They created conditions that made it easy for her to study. They didn’t force her to be any good at domestic skills.

This is why her freaking sixty-seven-year-old dad, a real manly man’s man in his youth, feels like he has to constantly follow her around with a broom and cleaning sponge. He constantly trails after her, picking up her clothes and her dirty plates of half-finished food that she leaves wherever she wants and strands and strands of her curly hair. He finds her hair in the carpet, all over the bathroom, in the drains. He often jokingly remarks that it’s a wonder she’s not bald, because she loses so much hair, and it makes her all paranoid and touch her head. Because maybe she is going bald in her old age.

He handwashes her bras without even thinking that it’s weird. He does so because he read the label on them, and the label said to hand wash in cold water and hang dry. So he was like, oh okay! Makes sense!

He hangs her bra on a clothesline, in the backyard. It’s real fucking old-school. And there actually a homeowners association rule against this — ditto hanging rugs over the railing of the deck — but her dad is old-school and old-country, so he doesn’t even give a fuck about rules that he doesn’t understand. He displays her bras in the sun for her neighbors to see. There haven’t been complaints yet.

She cooks though, whenever one of her brothers comes over to visit. It makes their dad too sad to cook Naathi food, so she has to step up and like, keep doing something to help constantly honor their mom in some way.

“What is this?” Moss says critically, but still slapping a spoonful of Missandei’s green mash into his daughter’s little bowl, rapidly breaking it up into pieces and mixing it up with rice. Missy didn’t expect her niece at dinner — otherwise she would’ve cooked one thing that was kid-friendly — her brother showed up with his daughter in tow and just started rifling through her fridge for a beer.

Rani is like, “Daddy, what is it?”

Moss blows off the question. He is like, “Just eat it.”

And magically, she just listens and starts eating.

Missandei is the one who says, “It’s — how do you say it in the Common Tongue? — it’s like spinach. But not. It’s rauden — how do you say it?”

“She gets the point, sis,” Moss interrupts. “It’s a vegetable.”

“This is . . . good,” their dad says, before even tasting any of the food. He’s carefully blowing off some steaming heat off of the root vegetable soup that Missandei made.

Moss chuckles. He says, “Okay, Dad. If you say so.”

“How is work, baby?” her dad asks. He always asks her.

She gives him a chipper smile. She says, “Good! Thanks for asking!”

Moss freezes for a second — kind of flicking his eyes back and forth between her and their dad. And then he snorts.

 

 


Grey already thought it was kind of weird when Theon invited him over — to Theon’s house — for a private dinner, just for the two of them. But then it gets way weirder when he shows up with a six-pack and then discovers that the table is set really nicely with real cloth napkins and heavy silverware and like, mood-lighting.

All of the blinds are drawn even though it is still daylight outside. Lying innocuously on the dark granite kitchen island is a handgun. When Theon catches Grey looking at it, Theon explains that he just feels more comfortable with his gun close by. Grey shrugs and basically conveys that he didn’t ask — he doesn’t care. He calmly says, “Now I feel like I should’ve brought my gun, so we can make it a real party.”

And then it get even weirder when Theon puts down a plate of like, insanely intricate and beautifully plated food. Theon explains to Grey it’s the first course. It’s a warm tomato salad with a basil oil and garlic puree, with burrata cheese that he made himself. Theon tells Grey he’s been experimenting with fresh cheese-making.

In response to all of this, Grey is like, “Oh.”

Theon keeps Grey’s wine glass filled during dinner — all five courses of it. Theon rolls his own glass and occasionally takes sips from the bulb, making a show of just really tasting it as Grey stiffly tells Theon about work because that is one of their two big commonalities. Grey tells Theon he’s frankly just fucking miserable at a desk and he just fucking wants to end it all, but he has no other skills. So he is stuck.

Theon chuckles. He says, “You can do many other things, you know? That’s what I discovered, at least.” Theon gestures to the empty plate in front of him. “I took a cooking class to distract myself from the thoughts of suicide. And then it was like, oh damn. Tell me all about raw milk cheesemaking.” He snorts. He adds, “But then, I was never in that job for any of the right reasons.”

“Yeah,” Grey says, just to fill up the space.

Theon straightens in his chair. “How do you go back there, man? How do you walk through those hallways and not just like, want to burn the whole thing to ashes? They allowed it to happen to us, man. We were collateral damage, man. Our lives were just expendable to them.”

Grey clears his throat as he makes a grab for his wine glass, now muddied with his fingerprints. He says, “I don’t know, man. It just doesn’t bother me like that.”

And he doesn’t say it out loud, but he has speculated to himself that the difference between him and Theon is that Theon grew up believing he was special and unique and destined for greatness. Grey grew up knowing he was just a person, like any other person. And people like him generally are not destined for greatness, as much as they just have to work their asses off to just get enough. Grey wonders if maybe this is the reason why he has apparently coped with the accident better than Theon has.

Theon made a passionfruit panna cotta for dessert, a really delicate little jelly with a wiggle, molded into a dome. It makes Grey burst out laughing. He has to allay Theon’s concerns and explain that he’s not laughing to be an asshole. He’s laughing because it’s so beautiful — and it’s so fucking crazy that Theon is about this now.

It’s when Grey is licking a streak of cream off of his spoon that Theon — who has been staring — suddenly asks, “Have you had sex with anybody yet? You know, since what happened to us?”

Grey freezes — and then he laughs again. It’s a combination of the wine, the utter bizarreness of his surroundings, the food he has eaten, and his dinner companion — that makes him laugh.

And then he says, “No,” as he slowly calms back down. “You?”

“No,” Theon says. “There’s a girl though —”

“Ah,” Grey says. “That explains the question. There is a girl.”

“A woman actually. In one of my classes. Um, she actually asked me out. We’ve gone out a couple of times.”

“That’s cool, man.”

Theon scoffs — but he is smiling. He says, “No, it’s not cool, Grey. It’s terrifying. Women get really freaked out when, for the first date, you’re like, ‘Hey, wanna come back to my dark hovel and hang out with me and me alone even though we don’t know each other that well? Oh, and my gun will be there, too.’ Like, that doesn’t really get the romance going. And beyond that — the thought of getting naked with a woman again — that’s fucking terrifying. And she doesn’t know about it yet. She just knows I have some anxiety leaving the house — she made the assumption that it’s agoraphobia and I’m like, just riding that out and letting her be misled so it can blow up in my face later. But like — when the fuck am I supposed to tell her? And how do I even fucking explain to her what happened when I am legally obligated to never talk about what happened?”

“Yeaaah, no idea, man,” Grey says, starting to smirk now. He doesn't know what everyone else is talking about. Theon isn’t that much of a mess. Theon actually seems pretty okay. All things considered.

Theon points at him. “You’re awful. You’re an awful listener.”

“Nah, man,” Grey drawls. “I’m good at listening.”

“Okay,” Theon says, chuckling now. “You scared, too, man? You scared of getting naked with someone again? I mean, obviously you have to be. You haven’t had sex in over a year!”

“Actually, longer than that,” Grey quips, leaning deeply back into the straight back of Theon’s dining chair. “I wasn’t really seeing anyone leading up to the accident.” He is sucking down the rest of his wine. Then he says, “And I don’t think I’m as worried about it as you are. It’s actually just not something I think too deeply or too often about. Also, I have no prospects.” He gestures at his body. “Like, no one currently wants this, so it’s a non-issue.”

 

 


She is so nervous about asking Grey for help that she blows an entire week just pumping herself up for it. She is scheduled to go back out into the field mid-month. She has been prepping with the team repetitively, like normal. She can all sense their tired non-belief in her. In between being really freaked out and guilt-ridden about that, she manages to find the time and energy to feel very vulnerable and self-conscious about approaching someone like Grey for this weird kind of fruitless favor.

She is nervous about approaching him because he is intimidating. He used to lead everything and everyone. She used to occasionally interface with him on things here and there, and he was always really stressed out and really, really busy. She has been conditioned to kind of speak really efficiently and really quickly around him, so she doesn’t unnecessarily waste his time.

She is nervous about approaching him because her stupid life and her stupid problems are small. Grey suffered one of the most gruesome experiences anyone has ever suffered in the organization — and lived through it — and here she is, a fucking twerp, bothering him because she is fucking terrible at playing pretend at sex work.

She is also nervous about approaching him because a lot of people keep whispering that he has been messed up by what happened to him — that he needs to see Tarly and he needs to work a desk job because his unpredictable emotional and mental state makes him a liability in the field. People have been sounding empathetic, as they talk about him behind his back. They say he’s so strong, but of course he has to be at least a little messed up. How can someone withstand hours of torture and watch their penis get cut off without suffering these deep psychological scars? How does someone even move on from that?

 

 


He kind of runs into Missandei again at the gym, after regular work hours. It’s kind of a chance meeting — because she totally did this on purpose. He can tell because her demeanor when she walks in is completely different from her normal demeanor — from the way she walks to the way she carries herself to where her gaze falls to the way she holds her hands.

She’s not upfront about it. She actually goes to a treadmill and starts punching buttons. He figures he can’t do anything besides just go along with the information he’s being given, so he just lies back down on the weight bench and carries on with his workout.

He finishes his workout in twenty minutes, to the steady thump-thump-thump of her footsteps on the treadmill. He can feel her watching him again.

He’s on his way out, when her soft voice calls out to him.

 

 


She’s babbling like a loon. She can feel herself giving him way too much information. She starts just telling him everything. She accidentally says, “You might already know — but I am terrible at my job,” and then she wants to kick herself over it because, you might already know? Like when? When would he even have the fucking time or inclination to look up the details of her stupid boring life?

As she’s feeling mightily embarrassed, Grey actually holds in a sigh and continues kind of absorbing the information patiently. He actually does already know. Because Drogo and Robb told him. He asked about her and how her training was going. Drogo told him that it is the biggest shitshow ever and she is just fucking awful.

When Grey ran the department, there was no fucking way someone like Missandei would last an entire year being this awful. He’d flush out underperformers fast. When he dryly intimated as much to Drogo, Drogo had stiffly told him that it has been hard to get around fucking Dany. This is Dany’s girl. Drogo just resented the implication that he wasn’t being smart about this or protecting his people well enough. Drogo felt kind of stung that it was coming from Grey.

“Hey, you should just resign,” he cuts in — interrupting her babbling. “You should quit and save everyone time and resources. That’s the right thing to do.”

 

 


Her face — her cheeks in particular — are just burning so hot. She feels so humiliated and embarrassed and just really hurt. Because he doesn’t really know her at all — not really. He doesn’t know how hard she works. He doesn’t know how much she wants this. And she doesn’t mean being fucking good at being a fake prostitute. She means how much she wants beyond just a desk job. She is more than just an interpreter. She is more than just a consultant.

He is despondently telling her to quit, and Missy’s mind is screaming out in pain, like what the fuck! She doesn’t understand why Dany directed her to this person, if this person was just going to crush the rest of her fucking self-esteem to bits.

With sweat droplets carving their way down her face, she says, “Um, I wasn’t really looking for advice on whether or not to quit. I was more looking for —”

“Oh, I know,” he says, talking over her, interrupting her. “I was just cutting to the end so we don't have to have a long heart-to-heart about it. You need to quit. So that you don’t get someone or yourself killed. That’s going to happen, if you keep pushing this delusion along. And you don’t want that on your conscience, man. Trust me.”

She softly scoffs. She says, “You don’t really know me — to say a thing like that —”

“Oh, I do,” he says confidently. “I know your type. Like, I know that you were a really good student. You were probably a really good, obedient little girl, growing up in Naath, doing everything that was expected of you and told to you by your parents. I know you studied real hard, got all of the As, went hunting with your pops, and tussled with your brothers. I get that you learned the shit out of krav maga or whatever. I get you achieved black belt status or whatever — and I think that’s super cute.”

 

 


When she starts to cry, it only confirms to Grey what he thinks he already knows about her. It confirms to him that she is not cut out for this work. She is too sensitive. She is too emotional. She is too anxious and nervous. She will crumble under any kind of stress. He barely applied any stress on her — and look — she is breaking apart right before his eyes.

He thinks that this is what Drogo couldn’t stomach. Drogo couldn’t get to this with her because Drogo cares too much about her. Drogo let it drag on too long, because Drogo couldn’t make her understand that she needs to get the fuck out, before someone fucking dies due to her weaknesses.

“Why do you jog anyway?” Grey asks her wet face. “Like, what is the point? To have the lung capacity to be able to outrun a bullet? Okay.”

“You’re a fucking asshole,” she says, through a sharp hiccup.

“I mean, obviously,” he says. “See, it’s concerning that you are just realizing this.”

Through her tears, she actually rolls her eyes at him.

He just grins.

She sees his smile — and she actually fucking wants to break his teeth from his face.

He sees her hand twitch.

His smile widens.

He cheerfully says, “Oh my God, am I about to see some krav maga right now?”

She mutters, “Oh my God,” in disbelief. He is fucking taunting her right now. She says, “Don’t test me.”

“Right,” he says, still smiling. “I’m really scared of you.”

“You should be.”

“Okay,” he says mockingly.

She pulls her fist back, and for a second, it actually looks like she is really going to punch him in the face. And then when she looks through the veil of her tears, into his eyes — which are just fucking eyes but they are deep and assessing and knowing and it’s just fucking throwing her the fuck off — she wavers and opens her fist.

He catches her hesitation. His smile turns victorious — like he just thinks he knows her and he predicted this and she is just devoid of surprises — that all she ever does is struggle to meet the very low bar that people fucking have of her.

“Are you going to hit me?” he asks her, his voice soft and his eyes very, very amused.

She says, “Fuck you. Are you asking to be hit, right now?”

“Don’t you know?”

“What!” she barks, with her hand still in the air.

“God, Missandei. Come on.”

“What the fuck?” she pushes out again. “What is this — is this — what!”

She really wants to randomly accuse him of getting off on this and making this weirdly sexually charged. Because this thing that they have going on right now, is really weird. And not normal.

Just to hurt him like he has hurt her, she really considers blurting this out, blurting out if this weird shit is what happens when a guy like him gets his dick cut off or what? Is this all he has left then? Just fucking pathetic power trips to get off on because he has no dick anymore?

She really thinks about saying something mean like that to him, just to get him back.

But she looks into his face and she honestly just can’t. She just can’t fucking say that to him.

In her ongoing hesitation — which he is following avidly and taking in — he softly says, “If you don’t throw the first punch, someone else will. That’s a lesson from me to you.” He looks at her open hand. “Is that okay with you?”

Fresh tears are coming out of her eyes as she stares back at him. She says, “What? Oh my God. What? What are we talking about right now? Are we talking about what I think we’re talking about?”

“Yeah,” he says easily. “We are talking about the same thing. Is it okay with you?”

She’s still staring at him. “Huh?”

He waits her out.

And as her heart jack-hammers in her chest, she says, “Okay, yeah. Yeah, it’s okay. I think. Yeah. It’s okay. Do it. Ahh! Yes. Do it.”

“Mmmkay.”

“Are we about to make out?” she suddenly blurts.

This actually throws him. His jaw drops, and he is like, “What?”

And then as he recovers from her blurt, Missy starts releasing a high-pitched, but very muffled scream as she tenses up her entire body.

And then fast as all fuck, Grey pulls his arm back to get the force he’s gonna need for this — he opens his hand because he doesn’t actually want to break bones in her face — and then before she can fully shut her eyes closed, he slams his hand right into the side of her face, right into her cheek. The force and shock and deafening sound of it makes her drop her own hand as her head snaps, as her body sways to the left. She exhales.

And then her face is in pain. Her ear is ringing from the loud sound of the slap. And then her numb hand feels like it’s fighting underwater, as she slowly reaches up to touch her face. She discovers she is bleeding a little bit, from inside her mouth. She looks at the blood on her fingers in bewilderment.

And then she looks back up at him.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 


He notes that what she has going for her is that she is really, really quiet when she gets hit. Some people are screamers, but Missandei clenched her teeth and just let out a soft gasp when he hit her.

“Hey,” he says, gently now, reaching his hands back up to touch her face — and when she sees the motion, she flinches and curls her body away from him instinctively. She shuts her eyes for a moment, like she’s expecting to get hit again.

He is thinking to himself that she is just so green, and he really hopes that she’s not going to fucking get herself killed because of her inexperience. He also thinks that this heartbreaking shit — her face, her eyes, her body language — that she constantly telegraphs all the time can either continue being what it currently is — a serious flaw. Or it can be an asset with a little more training.

He grabs her face firmly anyway, even though she is shrinking away from him. He’s pulling her closer to examine the mark he left. He says, “How does it feel?” as he looks over the darkened, swelling welt that his hand left on her face.

She looks at him with such wariness, even though she is allowing him to touch her like this. He knows that she is still trying to get over being hit.

She mutters, “It hurts. How do you think it feels?”

He smiles at that, as he experimentally runs the pad of his thumb over the welt on her cheekbone. “Does that hurt?”

“Grey!” she snaps, like he is slow. “Yes, it hurts!”

He pushes a little harder, smearing his thumb across her tacky skin. She whimpers a little bit as he does it. He explains, “I’m just breaking up more blood vessels, so the bruise will show darker.”

It sounds pretty comical to her. And the adrenaline that was flooding her body has waned a bit. Her heart is slowing down to like, just mere panicked levels. Also, this crazy shit feels way intimate. What the fuck, is he doing this on purpose?

“I’ve never been hit like that before,” she says, trying to sound conversational about it as her face just throbs.

He laughs softly as he continues massaging out more blood. “I can tell,” he says.

“Well, I mean, my brothers and I ‘tussled’ like you said. And I got slapped in the face sometimes,” she says. “But no one has ever hit me with like, that kind of intention before. Like, my parents loved me and weren’t abusive.”

“No physically abusive boyfriends either, eh?” he asks lightly.

She reaches up to grab at his wrist. Because it’s too much. It is seriously really painful. She squeezes his forearm and tries to gently pry his hand from her face. She says, “Ah, no. But you probably already knew that about me, didn’t you?”

“Nah,” he says, dropping his hand. “You’re right. I actually don’t know you that well. I just knew what to say to get you all worked up.”

She smiles uneasily at that. She says, “You need to stop flirting with me.”

This makes him laugh again. “You need to stop asking me to make out with you.”

“I did not!”

“You kind of did, man,” he says, taking a small step back and away from her now. “That was way weird, man.”

“I was trying to like, break the tension.” She is gesturing between the two of them. “Because it felt really like — you know.”

“Yeah, it was weird, how you made it super sexual.”

“What!” Her jaw drops.

And then he laughs again. Right at her. He’s swaying as he laughs, and she feels like a total tool about it because now she knows that he is messing with her. Again. The psycho.

Her face is heating up again — in embarrassment or shame or excitement or like, all three things, what the fuck. To try and cover up how awkward she feels, she changes the subject. “Can I put ice on this?” she asks. “It just freaking like — it hurts. Like, should I take aspirin? Or would that mess with what you just did here?”

She sees the amused look he flashes at her. She just generally shrinks inside to nearly nothing when she catches that look in his eyes. She feels silly and naive and small.

“See, that’s your main problem, babe.” He presses a forefinger into her forehead. She assumes that he’s about to tell her that she thinks too goddamn much, and she already knows this.

But actually, what he ends up saying is, “You just don’t trust yourself.”

 

 


He tells her he has another five minutes, then he’s gonna bounce. He announces his oncoming departure with expectation, with his arms crossed over his chest and his stare unwavering on her. Missy spastically is like, lost, for a few seconds. And then she understands what he is saying. She is discovering that this guy just loves communicating in subtext all the time, rather than explicitly. She is wondering if he does this because he is so well-trained, to never be transparent about what he is actually doing or what he is actually thinking or what he is actually feeling. She finds that she has to fight to read between the lines with him, constantly.

“Missandei,” he cuts into her thoughts. “You have four minutes left.”

Her mind basically screeches in panic — because there is apparently a countdown clock, what the fuck. And then she blurts, “What do you think are the quickest areas of improvement I can tackle, in the next week?”

 

 


Missy tries to hide her face from her dad even though he’s going to see it eventually, obviously. But she would like to not have it happen tonight. She tries to scurry up to her bedroom without him getting up from bed and meeting her in the kitchen — but he catches her, because he is faithful in how he looks out for her.

He takes in her face in silence — his eyes are just breaking her heart — and then he quietly says, “Is this what you really want?”

She tears up. Her voice is pleading and true and honest, as she says, “Yes. This is what I really want.”

 

 


Missandei shows up to the run-through early in the morning wearing a sad pastel baby doll yellow dress that she wore just like, last summer. These are her regular clothes. Grey told her that the sexy shit is not really her vibe — it’s not really what she’s about — it’s not a thing that she embodies convincingly because she ain’t Yaya. He told her to dress like herself — but as herself when she is trying to look pretty, but in a way where she’s too embarrassed to look like she’s trying so hard.

She actually knew exactly what he meant. And fuck him for that.

She tried to sort of protest against the sexy thing, because she is constantly embarrassed by his really incisive breakdowns of her based on like, two seconds of conversation. She told him that she can be sexy. Sometimes.

And he stared at her like, are you done now?

She generally shrank and sheepishly asked him how else he thinks she should adjust.

She's wearing very little makeup because he told her not to wear any.

So she shows up to the run-through in her dress, with very little makeup, and with a crazy black eye and a dark, mottled bruise that crawls down her face.

When Drogo sees her, he is like, “What the fuck?” And he is sure she has fucking lost her goddamn mind and she has to get pulled off of this like, right now.

It’s Yaya who grabs Drogo’s shoulder and stops him from like — blowing a gasket into Missandei’s fucked-up face. Yaya says, “Hey, hold on. There’s something here.”

 

 


They run through everything with everyone a few times, and it’s pretty much pitch perfect every single time. They run through several scenarios and it works, every single time. Missy can sense this — she can sense the complete bewilderment of her colleagues.

And she has literally done nothing differently. She acts like how she always acts. She still comes off a little nervous and a little scared and a little self-protective and self-conscious.

It just works today.

Missandei is so fucking hyped on the effectiveness of this adjustment that she starts slapping her own face hard over the course of the day, to deepen the bruise on her face and get it darker. When Yaya catches her, Yaya laughs fondly and tells her that they can like, do some things with makeup, actually. Missandei doesn’t always have to get hit in the face in order to do her job well.

Missy says that it looks realer when it is real. She says that there is something that is extra special about authenticity.

 

 


Drogo is not happy, even though everything went really well during the run-through. Robb told him that, holy shit, he thinks it’s going to work well this time. Drogo actually agrees, but he is still pissed about it.

He calls her into an empty conference room. She follows in behind him without shrinking, like she is confident in her abilities now. He thinks it’s a strange look on her. And after closing the door, he gestures to her face. Then he crosses his arms.

He says, “How did that happened? Who did this you?” And then he shakes his head right away, because he already knows. He just has to think it through. He spits out, “So Grey did this to you,” because this kind of shit, this kind of severity, has Grey’s fingerprints all over it.

“Um, it’s not what you think,” Missandei says softly.

“Uh, he assaulted you,” Drogo says heatedly. “And that is not okay.”

“Grey didn’t assault me whatsoever,” she says carefully. “Not even close.” She is being super careful not to say anything that will implicate Grey, because Grey will get into a lot of trouble if he is charged with like, assaulting a colleague at work. Like, that is a serious offense. “Um, I would rather you not . . . say that. Because it’s untrue.”

“Missy — fucking coworkers can’t go around beating each other’s faces in — to be helpful.”

“Um, no one beat my face in,” she says. “And you need to know, Grey has always been very respectful with me.”

“The fuck!” Drogo snaps. “You sound like — why do I feel like I’m talking to my fucking mother right now? And it’s just — I just want to shake some sense into you. But that would be assault, too.” He shakes his head. “We don’t assault each other, Missandei! That’s not we do here!”

“Yeah, we just kill people.”

“Oh my God!” he bellows. “You have Grey-jokes now!”

“Drogo,” she says lowly. A smile is threatening to take over her busted face. “I feel like . . . I am meeting the standards you set. Right? In my performance improvement plan?”

 

 


Many things about Missandei’s face and Missandei’s demeanor draws out these protective feelings from Drogo. He looks at her and he sees a reflection of a bunch of women that he cares about and loves deeply. He actually doubts his own judgement here — he agonizes over it for hours because Grey is his boy, and Grey has been through so much.

But then he thinks about what he would want done, if this had happened to one of his sisters at work. He thinks that it doesn’t fucking matter that the nature of their work is violent. He thinks that they must all treat each other with the utmost respect, because they are all professionals here and they all must trust each other with their lives. He thinks that if this had happened to one of his sisters at work, he would want someone to speak up for her. He would not want some asshole to protect an abuser just because they are boys.

Drogo thinks that often, perpetrators are also victims themselves.

Drogo hadn’t realize that it’d be so easy to flip him. He feels fucking terrible about this, because he’s been saying it for months to anyone who would listen. He’s been saying that everyone is wrong about Grey and he is fine and it’s pathetic and racist that none of them are giving Grey a chance again. Drogo has been putting his own reputation on the line, trying to get Grey back in the field, making all of these unrealistic promises to people in leadership, who just don’t care enough.

He knocks on Daenerys’ closed door. She is in there with Tarly, and that is why she tries to wave him off, through the glass wall, for a while. She tries to signal to him to put a meeting on her calendar instead of just barging in.

But it’s actually relevant that Tarly is in there. And this is serious. For one, he is pretty positive that one of their people assaulted another one of their people. This has to be reported — and then investigated internally.

He opens the door.

 

 


When Yaya, Kojja, and Yara ask her out for drinks after work, Missandei seriously looks around the locker room just in case there is someone else they are talking to — even though the three of them are staring her down from their standing positions. She quickly pulls her bra over her chest and squeaks out, “Me?”

Kojja laughs. She’s already dressed. She says, “Yeah, you. You busy tonight?”

Missandei’s heart feels like it wants to just burst out of her chest. Her face is sweaty and stiff because it is swollen. She nods eagerly. She says, “Yes! I have to call my dad though! So he knows not to wait up with dinner tonight!” Missy knows she sounds like a real fucking dork right now, but she doesn’t care! She doesn’t care at all! She never gets asked out for drinks by the ladies! Never! They always go out to drink without her! It didn’t really hurt her feelings that much! She gets it! But this is so cool!

As if reading her mind, Yaya starts cracking up. She can see the moony-eyed expression on Missy’s face. She jokingly says, “Don’t make us regret this, okay?”

“Okay!” Missy says, nodding vigorously.

 

 


Over drinks — over a martini because that’s what Yaya drinks and Missy was too shy to order her usual, which is a rum and Coke and is that not cool? — the ladies settle into their chairs and then straight up ask her how she got that gnarly shiner. Like, did she do it to herself? Did she have a friend do it? Did she drop something on her face? How did this magic happen? And how did she figure it out?

“Um,” Missy says nervously, still worried about implicating Grey. She is realizing how much of a risk it was for him, to hit her in the face. Holy shit. It actually displays a lot of trust in her, for him to hit her in the face and bank on her not telling on him.

“You can’t tell us,” Yara guesses. “Because it would get your buddy in trouble. Because . . . your buddy works with us.”

“Is it Drogo?” Kojja guesses.

“Nah,” Yaya says. “He is so pissed about this. It’s not Drogo.”

“Robb?”

Yara snorts.

“Sandy?”

“Nah, it’s not Sandy,” Kojja said. “He and I met up last night with Daario and Gendry. They have alibis.”

“Guys, why are we assuming it’s one of the dudes?” Yara says. And then her eyes widen. “Was it Pia?” And then she adds, “Why would you ask Pia to hit you in the face when you could’ve been asking me!”

 

 


So, now that she knows he did her a massive solid at professional risk to himself, she tries to thank him for it, in a for real way. She realizes that it’s hilarious that she wants to thank him for hitting her in the face and helping her stave off her execution for a while.

So like, with her heart pounding hard in her chest, and also with her shiner still looking just fantastic, she corners him at his car early in the morning, when he arrives at work. She’s been like, waiting for him to arrive and park in his spot. Like a fucking stalker.

He is not even startled when she pops out and says, “Hi, Grey!” to him as he’s exiting his car.

As he pulls his bag out of his car, he just asks her, “Why the hell are you waiting for me like this? It is really weird.”

She forces herself to blurt it out. She asks him, “Hey! Can I buy you lunch or dinner sometime? To thank you for just saving my ass and my job?”

She spent the previous night agonizing over this gesture because she wants to make it believably classy. They have a no-dating policy at work. None of them on the team can ask each other out and make gaga eyes at each other. That kind of stuff compromises the work. And it can easily turn into sexual harassment. And that is not cool.

But like, she isn’t sure if the policy actually is still relevant to the two of them since he works in an entirely different department now, and there are no power dynamics to exploit between the two of them because nobody is supervising the other person, but still. No-dating policy. It’s important to have one.

She totally doesn’t want this guy to think that she is like, trying to cross boundaries with him by asking him out to lunch or dinner. Like, she doesn’t want him to think she is like, into him just because they had a really bizarre and really sexualized encounter in the gym before he saved her fucking ass because he is kind of a genius, holy shit.

Yeah, so all of the obsessive thinking is for nothing. Because he seriously stuns her by rejecting this gesture. Grey takes in her offer with a grave nod of his head.

And then he is like, “Nah, it’s all good.” He says, “Don’t worry about it. It ain’t a big deal. Any time, man. If you need help that I can fit into five-minute increments, I’m here for you, man.” And then he laughs — at himself and how funny he finds himself.

She is like, “Oh, okay,” as she looks at him with uncertainty. “So you really don’t want to get a free meal from me?”

Like, this is a real question. Like, she really wants to know.

But he responds by laughing in her face. And then he reaches out and gently pushes her shoulder, like he’s joshing with her and saying, oh you! Like he thinks she’s fucking idiot trying to tell a joke for the first time in life.

She helplessly says, “No, seriously,” as he’s walking away, toward the elevators, as he’s chuckling still. His laugh is echoing in the garage. “Grey! Are we friends now! We are, aren’t we! So is that a yes to dinner?”

It’s fucking totally not. Shit!

Missy goes into work just really humiliated and embarrassed even though no one else witnessed this. He is just really great at making her feel this way.

Missy just goes into the office going, FML FML FML!

 

 


So she ends up buying him a present on her lunch break to get this debt off her back. She was raised a certain way, and that is with an awareness of debt and of preserving honor. Her parents taught her that when people do something nice for her, she should pay it forward and do something nice back. At minimum, good deeds should be balanced. At best, she should strive to go beyond the minimum.

The thing is, she has no idea what this guy even fucking likes or is into. She’s known him for years, but she has no idea what clothes he wears when he’s not working or what his favorite food is or what he needs in life.

It feels utterly stupid to give him cold hard cash — also doing so would put a clear value on how much his help is worth. It’s probably priceless to her, so she really can’t give him a gift card to a coffee shop and let him think that his invaluable help is worth three lattes.

She buys him a plant for his desk and a bottle of wine — as if this is any better. She actually just buys him a really nice bottle of wine in a panic and then supplements the bottle with a plant because somehow that felt a little better than just a bottle of alcohol?

She buys a stupid card after spending probably an hour reading every fucking card that exists at the grocery store near work. She picks the blandest card that says nothing and is blank inside. She agonizes for a while, trying to figure out what to write in the card. She eventually settles on, “Grey, thanks!” And then signs her name.

She wants to give him his shit in person, but when she walks by his desk, he is not there and his manager is like, “Hello, can I help you?” as he stares at her super hard.

Sometimes she forgets she has a black eye, and it freaks normal people out. She says, “Oh! Is Grey going to be back soon?” as she clenches the handle of her gift bag and hugs this peace lily closer to her stomach.

“I have no idea,” Grey’s manager grumbles. “He comes back when he feels like coming back.”

Oh, awesome. Awkward tension.

 

 


Grey can tell there is something off right away. And then it gets confirmed when Sam tells him to sit down, instead of telling him to grab a jacket because they are going on a walk.

Sitting in Sam’s office, with Sam’s face tired and concerned, Grey sighs. Because he already knows. He still says, “What’s going on?”

Sam says, “Grey, there was an incident logged —”

“Against me?”

“No, not against you. Just concerning you.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 


This might be the very first time since his accident that he questions his own brain — that he actually questions his sanity and the soundness of his judgement.

Because he made a stupid mistake and he acted impulsively, which goes very much against his nature. It was just — they’ve all done things while in the field, for the sake of maintaining cover or for the sake of building trust with a contact. They’ve all had moments when they were shown a weapon and told to prove that they are who they say they are.

And he supposes that in the context of his entire history, he just didn’t think it was a big deal to take a shortcut in helping Missandei look more like the part. He thought he was actually thinking about other people — her safety, her team’s safety — when he hit her.

But is he actually crazy? Would he have arrived at the same conclusion before his accident?

When Grey is asked by Sam what his response might be to these concerns of an assault occurring between two colleagues, Grey straightforwardly asks, “Can you define assault for me?”

Which makes Sam frown, because he is very, very worried about Grey. Sam softly says, “You know what the definition of assault is.”

“There’s usually an intent to harm aspect —”

“Grey,” Sam softly interrupts, to stop the flow of what was definitely going to be Grey’s very pragmatic rationalizations. “There are legitimate concerns that you physically harmed another employee. Do you understand that this is a very serious matter?”

Grey sighs softly. He says, “Yeah, I do.”

 

 


Sam tells him that usually when complaints get filed, an investigation is not automatically instigated. At the moment, Grey is not being investigated because while the allegation is very serious, the complainant in this was a supervisor and not the employee in question. Thus, what will likely happen is that an internal affairs representative will come in and conduct interviews with Grey, the employee in question, the supervisor who logged the issue, and others. After which, depending on findings, there are several options, which may span from informal like facilitation or mediation or formal — like an investigation.

Sam tells Grey this could result in termination, if he is found to have assaulted a coworker, especially on campus.

Sam gently asks, “Is there something you want to tell me?”

Grey wonders just what is bound here by doctor-client confidentiality. Certainly if he is found breaking any laws, that would go out the window.

So Grey stands up. He smiles. He says, “Nah, I’m good.” Then he clears his throat. “Our time is up, doc.”

 

 


She runs to quell her anxious, busy mind. Tonight is especially important, so this is why she hits the gym before the day is over. She walks on the soft padded flooring, bouncing a little on the way to the treadmills. She thinks about how she was just here last night — and a smile just tugs at her warm face.

She kind of thinks about him a little bit — she mostly just thinks that he is a very nice man, actually. He seems like he is a very thoughtful person, actually.

 

 


When Grey gets back to his desk and sees a wine gift bag with a bow on it and a plant, he looks at Stannis questioningly.

Without turning around or away from his computer, Stannis says, “A woman came by and asked for you.”

Clearly. Grey picks up a white envelope and flicks over the top tab. He pulls out the card — it’s a landscape photo of a lighthouse — and reads the inside of the card.

Then he drops the card and envelope into the recycle bin — he gets the general gist. He walks over to Stannis’ desk. He nudges the peace lily onto a corner of it. To Stannis, he says, “You like plants. Have this.”

Even Stannis has the good sense to say, “This was a gift to you, though.”

 

 


The sun is still in the sky, but warm, orange-y, and pink when she takes her post in the massage parlor with darkened windows. Her room is wired. Yara, Robb, and Sandor are also posted nearby. Daario is in the car with Drogo and Alayaya.

She touches her face, slick and bare. Grey told her that if she doesn’t wear makeup, she will look a fair bit younger. He told her to be quieter, that she is never going to have the gift of gab — that’s cool. He doesn’t either. That is why he is quiet a lot when he is working, too.

It doesn’t take long for the front door of the place to jingle.

She lines up against the wall with the other girls.

He says, “You’re new.”

She quietly says, “Yeah.”

 

 


Grey leaves work early.

Stannis gets on his ass for not naming files the stupid way that Stannis likes files named, and Grey just can’t fucking take any more of this shit today. He just doesn’t really see the fucking point in duty-fulfilling currently. They don’t fucking want him back, and it’s really fucking pathetic and unbelievable, that he fucking gave his life — like his entire life — over to them and they don’t even give one shit about him. He thinks it’s fucking ridiculous that he bled and he lost a significant part of himself for them and for a belief in greater purpose — only for them to throw this shit into his fucking face. He only got tortured for days before his dick was cut off, and he was left to bleed out on the ground as they just hemmed and hawed and debated over trading finite resources for his fucking life. It was not as if his dick could have been spared if they didn’t sit on their fucking asses debating over whether or not he and Theon were worth it.

So now he gets to be just a fucking freak who pathetically crawled back on his hands and knees to a job and people who do not fucking want him back, to people who will not take one fucking meeting with him. Now, they are trying to give him one last kiss off, with a fucking bullshit assault and battery allegation. He was just fucking trying to help her stay fucking safe. But he supposed he should have just followed the fucking bullshit rules that fucking rich assholes who know fucking nothing about what the dangers actually are come up with, because why even look at complex gray areas and look at people’s humanity, right? Why not just destroy the fucking very last bit of his reputation by villianizing him and branding him a fucking assaulter of defenseless fucking women? He should just fucking go kill himself because there is no fucking point in any of this.

So he actually doesn’t do anything drastic. Because he’s not really that suicidal. He still has the wherewithal to know that his death would really fuck up his mom, and he’s fucking done enough to his mom. If she dies early from stress or heartbreak, he will know it’s all his fucking fault.

He actually just despondently walks around town, in his suit and Missandei’s fucking present, what the fuck? He can’t fucking do hard drugs because he probably fucking shouldn’t, and it’s just inconvenient to go get some. He can’t cry because fuck that. He can’t go fucking beat the shit out of a person because hitting people and not keeping his hands to himself is exactly why he is in the predicament that he is currently in.

When he notices that the wine has a twist cap, he actually cracks it open and starts drinking it because he is thirsty. He looks at the label and, again, he is like, what the fuck is her deal? He wonders if she was the one who told on him to Drogo — and then bought him a fucking present? Why the fuck is he the only one in mandatory therapy?

When he sees the flashing of lights from a cop car, he tells himself that he is probably going to die now. Great. This will devastate and ruin his mother.

He brings the heavy bottle to his mouth and just tries to take down the rest of the wine, because why the fuck not?

 

 


While the parlor is actually really hopping, it actually takes nearly an hour before she gets picked. A lot of the guys pick out their regulars, women that they have a pre-existing arrangement or relationship with. While interviewing the girls, she learned about how sometimes, the most exhausting part of sex work is actually feigning emotional connection. They have told her that sex is just sex, and that’s work. But to like, appear to have to give a shit about some loser’s marital problems or his work stresses is like — it is sometimes a lot.

Missandei has probably actually had more training on the logistics of sex work from these ladies more than she got from work. There aren’t as many female field agents as male, and the division of labor remains inherently unfair in this respect. Drogo excitedly threw her into this kind of work when she first expressed an interest in field work. He didn’t really ask her what she envisioned for herself. But then, she supposes that her employer really isn’t about figuring out what the fuck is holistically fulfilling and rewarding for her and what will help her grow as a person. Her employer is really about how they can slot her into the holes that they need filled.

She recognizes him — she thinks — when he walks in. They have never met before, but she is pretty sure he is the one. He is skinny and white — young and a little jittery. That is why she is the best fit for this job.

He is also armed. There is a bulge under his shirt.

He looks into her face. He asks her, “How much?”

She says, “A hundred for an hour. Four hundred for the whole night.”

He looks as if he thinks that is expensive. He says, “Does that include anal?”

She actually has a visceral response to this on the inside, which shows outside as a very tiny flinch. She says, “No. That is extra fifty on top.”

“How much for a blow job?”

She says, “Fifty.”

He seriously looks like he thinks she is not worth that much. He frowns.

Usually she would say something — sort of try to make a confident case for like, her pretend-dick-sucking skills. But tonight, she just stays quiet and just waits it out.

“Okay.”

 

 


So Grey kind of gets arrested — not for the open container of alcohol. He actually only gets fined for that. And he’s also not getting arrested because of the public intoxication — the cops are making that clear to him.

He is getting arrested because he is being such a fucking asshole.

It’s because he refuses to stop drinking the wine when they ask him to. It’s because he’s refusing to put the bottle down. It’s because, even though he knows he should keep his fucking mouth shut, he starts mocking the officers for being fucking mall cops. It’s because he is actually at the entrance of a mall. There’s a fountain, and just a buttload of people staring at him. He fucking realizes that this is a thing, and he’s kind of in deep shit right now — but what does it even matter anymore?

He dares them to shoot him. He tells them that he is unarmed Black man — and for a split second, he actually questions whether or not that is true — and then he remembers that it is. He is not carrying his gun today.

He points to all the fucking people who are not minding their fucking business, and he tells the fucking mall cops that he has fucking witnesses. Not that it even fucking matters. Just fucking shoot him already.

 

 


They cannot legally arrest this guy unless a deal is explicitly made. However, when Missy holds her hand out expectantly, he looks at her palm and says, “After. I’m good for it. Right, Della?” He is talking to one of the other girls, who hums out an agreement.

Missy kind of freezes for a moment as she frantically thinks. At the fucking very least, she knows that screaming out that she’s not a cop is not the right thing to do here.

“Is there a problem?” He is looking at her — and his eyes are narrowing.

She shakes her head. Her heart starts to pound. There is a gun tucked in the room. She didn’t think this would go in this direction. She says to him, “No problem at all,” as her bare legs start pushing her body down the dingy hallway. She can hear him following her from behind.

 

 


Once they start to process him — which, unbelievably, this is the very first time he’s been arrested and he can’t wait to tell his parents all about it — they ask for his identification. He pulls out his wallet and hands it over. And then the fucking mall cops go away to tinker at a computer for a while.

And then they come back real fast. They look kind of distraught. And then they tell him they have to call their sergeant.

Grey is like, “Oh, shit, am I about to get special treatment? Y’all are corrupt.”

And one of the guys — this bulky white guy with tan hair — actually pleads with him. Officer MacMillan is actually like, “Can you please be quiet? Just . . . don’t talk, Mr. Torgo.” He is trying to give Grey a helpful tip. Because whatever Grey says can be used against him in a court of law. Like, that isn’t a joke.

 

 


Her heart is slamming in her throat as the door to the room gets shut. She has not gotten this far with a mark ever. Possibly in a past life, she might have ruined this a little bit by trying to press him to announce that he wants a blow job, for fifty please. But tonight, she keeps her mouth relatively shut.

A part of her anticipates him like, accosting her right away, so she is mildly surprised when he softly asks, “What happened to your face? Who hit you?”

 

 


After the mall cops talk to their boss, they tell Grey that they are going to let him off with a warning because his record is unblemished, and it would be a shame to mar it. They tell him that they can’t let him get into a car and drive though — because he has been drinking. They ask him if there is someone he can call to come and pick him up and ensure that he isn’t rowdy in public for the rest of the night.

Grey thinks that holy shit, this might the very first time in life he has actually blatantly benefited from privilege.

It feels so fucking wrong and weird.

As he starts making his calls on his cellphone, it gets kind of embarrassing. Because — okay — he realizes that he actually doesn’t have any fucking real friends. Because he calls Daario — nothing. He calls Yaya — nothing. He calls Yara — nada. He calls Dany — that bitch without any honor — nothing. He even fucking calls Missandei, that fucking narc probably — and nothing. All of the motherfuckers who are supposed to be his ride or dies are just —

Oh shit. So he remembers now. They are all working right now.

So he calls Theon, as the mall cops just stand around like sentinels, just like, guarding him now? He doesn’t even fucking know. He is eyeing his new friend, MacMillan, wondering if maybe he should just fucking admit to MacMillan that he has no fucking friends, and he’s gonna need a ride home actually.

Theon picks up though. And so Grey quietly says into the phone, “Yo, you need to come get me at the police station.”

And then after a long pause, one in which Theon is just asking a lot of questions and then making a lot of excuses for why he can’t fucking help a pal out, Grey is finally like, “Are you fucking serious right now, Theon! Just fucking take a valium and get into your fucking car —”

And then he casts a glance at the MacMillan. Holy shit, not amused at all.

Into the phone, Grey is like, “No, I’m joking. Don’t do that.”

 

 


A good lie is an inversion of the truth. A good lie butts up closely to the truth, so that there are fewer details that need to be tracked and managed. This is why she softly tells him that a guy hit her.

“One of your other clients?” he asks.

“No,” she says.

“Ah,” he says, reading between the lines. “It’s never right to hit a girl,” he adds in an apparent show of disgust. “Why did he hurt you?”

“We were arguing,” she says. “He wants me to quit my job — not this job — my day job — sort of. I actually volunteer and teach music at a preschool. But he — he was saying that it’s a waste of time, and I should just give it up. The fight kind of got out of hand.”

She is saying this because she saw a scraggly line of black marker dragged down his jeans when he came in. He has a young child.

 

 


They are in the midst of dinner and trying to get Little Sam to eat all of his peas when Sam’s work phone buzzes. Sam exchanges a look with his wife — he frowns because it is not a regular occurence, for this phone to ring after hours. Gilly glances at the clock on the wall — this cat clock with a swinging tail that sways with each second. She has to leave the house in twenty minutes if she is going to make her group.

Sam says, “Sorry, Gilly,” as he reaches for his phone.

 

 


They start just talking. He sits down on the bed and leaves a little bit of room for her. She didn’t anticipate this level of close contact or this kind of intimacy whatsoever, but she sits down next to him anyway. Her gun is tucked between the pad and the bed frame.

She tells him about how she wanted to be a dancer when she was a young girl — but her body type was all wrong — and she might not actually be a gifted dancer, actually. She tells him she still dances sometimes.

With a laugh, he tells her that he used to want to be a pilot — but he’s actually very much afraid of heights.

She lightly asks him what he does for work these days, if it’s not piloting airplanes.

He tells her that he is a businessman. He buys and sells product.

She teases him — or she tries to — she tells him that product is pretty vague. Is it something she would like? Is it like, goods from overseas? Like, she has a friend who buys and sells women’s handbags. Is it that?

He looks into her face and carefully brushes some of her curls away, as he tells her that it’s definitely not stuff for the likes of her. He tells her that she is actually very pretty.

He asks her, “How much for an hour again?”

She says, “One hundred.”

He asks, “And how much for anal?”

“Fifty on top.”

“Fifty?”

“On top of a hundred.”

He sighs — kind of wistfully. And then he says, “I think I’ll stick with the BJ.”

“For just fifty?”

“Yes, a blowjob for fifty.”

Then, Missandei makes the signal.

 

 


It takes Sam about thirty minutes before he makes it down to the station. When he leaves the house, he tells Gilly he wouldn't be leaving her in the lurch like this if it wasn’t an emergency. She presses her lips tightly together — because she has some bitter words about his job and how his job treats and pays him on the tip of her tongue. Sam ends up promising her that he will be as fast as humanly possible. She tells him not to speed — to be careful. Because they have a child now.

When Grey sees Sam’s concerned face break into the station, Grey calmly clears his throat. He is like, “Okay, so it’s not what you’re thinking.”

Sam is shaking his head. Because this person is just trying so hard to make Sam give up hope in him, and that is just something so terrible and sad. Sam says, “What am I thinking, Grey?”

“That I’m having a mental break.”

Sam is tired — of all of this. Of this labor-intensive, emotional back and forth. He stiffly says, “That’s not what I’m thinking at all.”

“Oh.”

 

 


So, right before the room floods with her team members, her mark figures out that he has been betrayed — and his first move is to reach for his gun.

She slides off the bed and shoves her hand under the pad and feels for her gun, grabbing it on the first pass because she has practiced this a thousand times.

She is on a knee. The safety is off, the gun is cocked, she has the barrel aimed at center mass. She shouts, “Put your hands up! Put your hands up or I will shoot!”

His hands go over his head as the door to the room flies open. Robb is first to rush in. And then Yara.

Missandei clicks the safety back on — and then exhales.

 

 


Sam does not have time to drop Grey off at home. He explains that his wife has a meeting to go to — she is a counselor at a women’s safety center. His wife works at night because they have their group meetings at night — so that the women can work during the day. Sam tells Grey that they have to go back to Sam’s house and take over with the baby so that his wife can go to work. She is already late.

Grey feels like utter fucking scum when he learns this. He says, “I’m sorry, Sam.”

Sam lives in a modest and cute rambler with a lawn that has not been cut in what looks like months. Grey silently trudges behind Sam, making his way up the skinny little walkway, to the front stoop.

Sam’s wife is holding their baby on her hip, waiting expectantly in the entryway.

“Gilly, this is Grey,” Sam says, making a grab for the baby.

Again, Grey says, “I am so sorry.”

And rather than throw his shitbaggery back into his face, because that’s what he’d do if he were in her position, Gilly actually says, “Nice to meet you, Grey. I’m glad you’re okay. Sam was worried about you.” And then turning to her husband, she says, “Little Sammy hasn’t poo’d yet.”

“Okay.”

 

 


Missandei kind of feels like she’s in a rap video. She kind of feels like someone should be fucking spraying champagne in her face and cleavage right now.

She is buzzing the entire drive back to campus. She is trying not to smile too widely, because it probably looks totally batshit insane, to be so happy over almost getting shot on the job and over successfully getting a man to offer her a very modest amount of money for a sex act that she finds to be completely disgusting when done with a complete stranger!

“You’re a fucking champion,” Alayaya says quietly, her nylon jacket rustling a little bit as she adjusts herself in the driver’s seat.

When they're back at headquarters, as Missy’s pulling her stuff out of her locker and checks her phone for the first time in hours — she sees that she has a missed call from him — and her face goes warm — and it glows against the screen.

He didn’t leave a message. So she calls him back right away.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

She stands up immediately when the door to the conference room opens. She brushes her hand over the front of her slacks. She specifically dressed herself extra professionally today. Two men walk in. Both older.

Introductions get made. She is told that one is Jorah and the other is Davos. She is told that they are here to look into an incident that was reported on her behalf, against . . . “Nudho Torgo?”

They actually know who Grey is. They are just uncertain of the name pronunciation.

“Um, Torgo Nudho,” she corrects — for what reason she does not even know. “You are supposed to say the family name first, in-language.”

Jorah clears his throat. He says, “Yes, of course. Torgo Nudho.”

“That’s going to get confusing,” Davos cuts in. “We should say his name like how it’s normally said — first name first. Last name last.”

 

 


She spends about forty-five minutes with the internal affairs guys. She basically just repeats herself a lot because they keep asking her the same questions a lot, trying to catch an inconsistency in her retelling.

When they gesture to the bruise on her face and ask how she got it, she tells them that she was hit in the face because she asked to be hit in the face.

This sounds utterly crazy to Davos, who is like, “Dear, why in the world would you ask to be hit in the face?”

She has to detail them her work performance issues — which is no longer embarrassing because she is now murdering it at work in large part due to Grey’s advice. She tells them about how she was put on a performance improvement plan, which led her to seek guidance and help from many sources. She tells them that she went to Grey because of course she did. He has such rich and specific experience and expertise, especially in leading teams and entire operations. She tells them that he gave her a number of pointers — illuminated many areas that can be quickly improved and flagged a few areas that will take time to build up.

She tells them that Grey also conveyed to her that she was approaching the work in the wrong way. He suggested that she alter her persona to something better suited to her natural talents and personality, so that she would not have to keep track of too many identity pieces. He conveyed to her that looking like a victim of abuse would be an easy and convincing way of circumventing the need to build context and identity verbally or physically, as that is not currently her strength. He conveyed to her that this was something easy she can do in the meantime, while she strengthens her weaknesses.

“And then after you agreed with all of this — you allowed him to hit you?” Jorah asks. He, too, is pretty thrown by this entire thing.

“Yes,” Missandei says. “He clarified repeatedly, if it was what I wanted from him. I said repeatedly, that yes, it was what I wanted.”

 

 


Grey is actually waiting outside of the room when she is done with her interview. He is waiting for his turn. He is wearing a suit and tie. He is being good and obedient because he is still reeling from the humiliation of being a fucking utter mess in front of someone whose respect he didn’t even know he cared about, what the fuck?

Missandei is not really expecting to run into him — her attacker — like this. It doesn’t occur to her how bananas it is, for the scheduler and for her employer to not really consider how traumatizing it could be to run into her attacker like this. Instead, when she sees him, her face just cracks into the softest, shyest, most bashful smile.

She can feel it. And she is still blissed out on her fucking recent win, so she feels like she’s on top of a mountain that she climbed. She feels like she wrestled a four-hundred-pound gorilla to the ground. She feels like she can do anything right now. She feels like she can leap across two tall buildings like how they do in movies and not go splat and die. She feels like she can fly through glass in a high-speed chase and not go splat and die. She feels like she can totally make this guy have a meal with her.

She has this very vague awareness — that she is starting to crush a little bit. She has the vague awareness that it’s totally ridiculous on paper. He hit her in the face — she got hit with feelings. It is like, so stupid. But he is really cool.

Grey actually has no idea why this fucking lunatic is looking at him like he is a puppy that she wants to steal. He is actually very worried about his job. And himself. He is worried everyone is right, and he is fucking very wrong. He is worried that he’s like every fucking insane person in a movie who doesn’t think they are insane, only to realize at the very fucking end that their entire life was a fucking figment of their imagination. He feels like Jim Carey when Jim Carey learned that his entire life was a fucking lie and he was living in a reality show. Grey is really worried about fucking getting drunk and then getting arrested — because that’s really not something he does every day. It’s actually not something he does, ever. He is really worried about getting fired because he has no fucking other talent or skill in life. His skill is gruesome. It is lying and manipulating and sometimes, it is killing. Like, is he going to become a fucking school teacher after this like his folks? Is he going to fucking teach fucking children math after this?

He is worried about gaining a reputation as the crazy guy without a penis — and so he doesn’t get why this woman is just constantly looking at him like this now. He is worried that his reputation is true — that maybe he is actually fucking insane now.

“Hey!” Missy says brightly. “How are you? I saw that you called last night.” He never answered her return calls. She optimistically figured that he was probably sleeping or busy because nothing can get her down right now!

She is currently blocking the doorway to the conference room. Everyone around them is watching — they are watching and waiting to see if Grey is going to punch Missandei in the face randomly for fun, probably.

Grey can see Seaworth and Mormont just waiting to interview his fucking ass until it bleeds to death. But okay, he supposes he can kill some time talking to the woman he apparently assaulted and has apparently Stockholm-Syndromed accidentally.

He mutters, “Yeah, I forgot you were working. I just had something come up.”

“Oh, and you wanted to like, chat about it?”

“Missandei, I’m late for my interrogation.” He makes a motion like he is trying to part the sea. “Can you like, let me through?”

 

 


By now — and clearly because of the internal affairs involvement — everyone pretty much knows that Grey was the one who beat Missandei’s face in. That is the gossip of the day. No one knows that Grey was arrested though. That bit of news managed to fly under everyone’s radar.

Yara throws up her arms when she makes the connection and says, “Of course! Duh!” and then she continues going about her day.

What is less clear is the fact that Drogo sold Grey out. What is also less clear is that Missandei wasn’t the one who sold Grey out.

This is why Sandor, Bronn, and maybe a few others get a little bit curt with her in team meeting because they believe in loyalty and honor. Sandor’s not outrightly an ass to her, but he refuses to look her in the face and he says only three words to her because he doesn’t think it’s honorable for her to solicit help from Grey and sell him up the fucking river just because she is ambitious.

Then there is Robb who, like Drogo, doesn’t think Grey should have hit her at all. And it’s not because she’s a woman. It’s because they shouldn’t hit each other, and Missandei is very new and impressionable. Like, it is up to all of them as a team to guide her and teach her and keep her safe.

Missandei is pissed at Drogo again. There is that one area of darkness in her victory lap. He said hello to her in the morning. He also said good job last night. It was really immature, but she just gave him the cold shoulder. She just stared at him for a beat and then said nothing.

She is annoyed that Drogo is such a fucking asshole. She loves his hypocrisy. She loves that all he thinks she can be good at is being a fake hooker. She loves that he’s been riding her ass and making her feel terrible for not being good in this very narrow box that he put her in. She loves that he thinks she is such a fucking weak woman. She loves that this fucking asshole didn’t even talk to her about this before he tattled on her behalf. She really loves that he went off and is trying to get her branded as a difficult bitch so that no one will want to work with her ever again. She loves that Drogo is trying to get his BFF fired, because it’s not like Grey hasn’t like, gone through a lot already.

 

 


Grey is not certain what Missandei said to the internal affairs guys — whether or not she demonized him, covered for him, or just told the truth about him. She was right when she told him that he actually doesn’t know her well enough at all.

Barring certainty, he just has to tell the truth. Because if caught in a lie, then he will be real fucked and most definitely fired.

So he tells Davos and Jorah that she came to him for help and advice because she was struggling in the field. Initially, he wanted to dissuade her from trying to improve because he heard about her performance informally, and she sounded like she was severely underperforming, which is concerning. He just wanted to get through to her and make her understand that she needed to quit because she was putting everyone’s lives, including her own, at risk. They had an argument about that. She conveyed to him that she didn’t want to quit, that she was determined to improve.

He egged her on and tried to get her to hit him, to test her mettle. The whole thing just got out of hand. Also, honestly, she was also just being really annoyingly short-sighted, and he was pushing her for that reason — because she was annoying him. He realizes he made an error in judgement here. He says that this kind of hazing is pretty common in their work and in team-building, but he understands that it’s inappropriate and unprofessional. He understands there are better ways to teach people than to push.

At this point, Grey is not even bothering to manipulate the situation much. He feels pretty down on himself. He is pretty fucking tired of fighting against the current — of fighting against apathy and against people who don't want him anymore.

So maybe this will just be the end and he will just leave and go do something else — like what his parents want for him.

Maybe he will work a normal office job and learn a new skill — and maybe he will eventually meet someone who won’t recoil away in horror and disgust over what happened to him — and then maybe he can spend his weekends having barbeques and talking about fixing the roof — and repeat that until he is fucking old and frail and just fucking die with his fucking boring wife by his side, having done nothing of significance at all.

 

 


Davos and Jorah are pretty old-school. Davos and Jorah used to work in the field, back when there was only one woman in the field — and she got a divorce and developed a substance abuse problem for many reasons — but mostly because this job is especially hard for women.

They understand hazing. It used to be much worse back in the day. Now, the conversations and the attitudes are much more different.

They also understand that there are complicated middle grounds, and that the organization has become more and more rigid and process-oriented as the years have progressed — that there is just not enough room left for their people to breathe sometimes.

So the incident gets closed pretty quickly — because the ‘victim’ here refuses to press charges or put in a formal complaint. She also avidly believes that she was not a victim of assault. So there’s not much they can do — to make someone lodge a formal charge. It would actually mean way more work for them, to press her do that. Davos just wants to do his job well, as expected. He does not want to make waves because that’s stupid and he’s not a hot-headed kid anymore. Jorah thinks there is something a little off about this entire thing, but maybe he is colored by what happened to Grey. He decides that most of it is normal. He also just wants to do his job well, and as expected.

Jorah writes up the report fairly quickly — by end of day — and sends it to Daenerys while also copying Missandei’s supervisor.

 

 


Missy is reapplying her tinted lip balm in the women’s toilets when the email comes through on her phone. The email is from Dany, stating that the matter has been closed. Grey will be put on one day of leave, without pay. The consequence of what he did is minor on purpose, but they have to do something. He really did hit a colleague while on campus. Whether he had Missandei’s consent or not, that is not something they condone. So he has to be disciplined.

Grey is at his computer and at his desk when the email comes through. He reads it despondently. His heart throbs a little harder when he reads it.

 

 


When Grey runs into Drogo — it’s clear it’s on purpose — because Drogo actually corners him in the hallway and grabs his arm.

Which Grey yanks away. And just to be mean, he says, “Don’t touch me. I’m not giving you consent to touch me.”

Drogo’s face falls. He looks like he’s just been punch in the face. Drogo says, “I’m so sorry.”

And Grey doesn’t understand how Drogo can act so butt-hurt when Grey was the one who got made an example of because of shit Drogo did.

And there are lots of things Grey would say to Drogo, if he even had any fucks left to give. He would say that he thought they were friends, like at one point, Drogo called Grey his best friend. And that was probably qualified under the umbrella of work, but still. It sort of meant something to Grey, to feel that Drogo was in his corner, trying to get him back in the field. It meant something to him, that Drogo was the one person who believed him and didn’t treat him like an idiot child, when he told every other asshole that he is fine.

Well, that was fucking stupid of him. Of course Drogo is not in his corner. Of course Drogo looks down on him and pities him, like the rest of them do. Grey is realizing that his judgement is just off right now, and he doesn't see other people for what they actually are at all.

Drogo says, “ You know why I did it, right? Maybe we should talk.”

Grey is walking off. He is walking away. He says, “Nah, I’m good, man.”

 

 


He doesn’t have an appointment, so he anticipates that this might just be terrible timing — that maybe Sam is busy with another looney tunes former field agent who lost his dick on the job through a terrible ‘accident’ and Grey is just going to feel embarrassed when he knocks on the door and someone else already has Sam’s time and attention.

But actually, Sam is alone, at his desk looking over his notes.

Grey clears his throat get Sam’s attention. He says, “Hey, you busy?”

 

 


They are outside, circumnavigating the pond like how Sam likes to, when Grey apologizes — again — for making Sam come to the police station to retrieve him when Sam had responsibilities to his family and was off the clock. Grey thanks Sam — again — for covering for his ass and for not reporting the incident, because if leadership knew about it, his ass would get canned so fucking fast. Grey says, “I know that I put you in a really tough position. I’m sorry for that.”

“I’m not going to report you on that ever,” Sam says mildly. “You can relax. I understand the circumstances around that. You don’t have to keep working me.”

Grey stops momentarily. He is frowning. He says, “I’m not trying to work you right now. I honestly just feel terrible. I honestly just feel guilt.”

 

 


They end up spending an hour outside, before the end of the work day. Grey thinks it’s so weird and awful, that this thing they have going is so one-sided. All they ever talk about is him. They never talk about Sam and whatever Sam’s shit is.

When Grey calls attention to this, Sam kind of smiles. He tells Grey that it’s not really appropriate for them to be friends. There are professional boundaries for a reason — and it’s so Sam can help Grey to the very best of his abilities. Sam says that he wants to do that, very much.

Grey tells Sam that he’s being put on administrative leave. Sam says, “I know. One day.”

Grey says, “It’s not the length of time. It’s — the punitive nature of it.”

“Grey, you hit someone at work,” Sam says gently.

“And work also sent her off to lure in armed criminals through sex work.” And then Grey sighs. He says, “I know. I know. I’m not trying to justify what I did — honest. And I’m not saying that it’s an eye for an eye. I’m just saying . . . I just feel so frustrated.”

Grey blandly tells Sam that he’s been thinking about quitting. He’s been thinking a lot about everything, and maybe it’s time to cut his losses — and he’s amassed so many losses already. Maybe it’s time to just fucking call it.

He tells Sam he’s kind of losing respect for himself. He sacrificed a lot for the job — like time with his family, having a personal life, having real friends, his fucking body and, some days, his sanity — and what is it even for?

He tells Sam that some days, it feels like there’s nobody that cares about him or even knows him at all. And that is fine — it used to be fine with him. But today, it just feels like a grind.

He tells Sam that maybe he’s just so afraid to move on because he’s afraid that if he tries to be something else, someone else — he will find that he is no good at it, because he has just been wrecked by this job. He speculates that this is why people stay in abusive relationships. It’s just easier to stay with what is known rather than risk and venture into the unknown.

“What do you like about field work?” Sam asks, during a lull.

“It’s the most direct way that I feel like I’m helping people,” Grey says. “I don’t feel like I’m helping anyone at a desk, looking at reports and numbers.”

“Why do you like helping people?”

“I honestly don’t know,” Grey says. “I just do. I could tell you a bunch of shit about my family — but you already know about that. I could tell you a bunch of shit about the outcomes of past work — but that’s just — that’s not why. I just don’t know. I just do.”

 

 


It’s half past five when he finally makes his way up to the garage and to his car. When he spots her leaning against his vehicle, waiting for him, he is like, oh my God, again? He squares his shoulders unconsciously, like he is worried he’s going to have to fight her and get into even more trouble, as he walks up to her.

He says, “Hey,” with a lot of suspicion.

She pushes herself off of his car. She softly says, “Hi. You headed out?”

She is still blocking the driver’s side door. Nevertheless, he still says, “Yeah, I’m headed out for the day.”

“I wasn’t the one who logged that bullshit,” she states. “I’m really sorry about everything though. You don’t deserve it.”

“I know you didn’t do it,” he mutters, skipping over everything else she said. “It was Drogo.” He tries to nudge his way to his door. He mutters, “Don’t even worry about it.”

She gently says, “Okay, I won’t,” her voice lilting up.

And then as he’s fiddling with his keys and trying to balance his bag and his coat in his arms and hands, he feels her reaching out, touching his knuckles with her fingertips — and then he feels her warm hand palming his car keys out of his grasp.

She is staring at him steadily as she presses the unlock button. His car quietly beeps.

And he actually groans. Because this energy that she keeps bringing to their interactions is fucking ridiculous.

If he didn’t fucking know any better, he would think that she is doing what it feels like she is doing. If he didn’t fucking know any better, he would think that she doesn’t know that his genitals are a fucking mess. If he didn’t know any better, he’d think that she was trying to fuck with him just for her own amusement — but instead, she is just staring at him with such fucking hope in her fucking eyes.

She smiles a little bit. And then she just says, “Have dinner with me,” as her gaze continues just pressing into his. “Seriously. We don’t work together. You’re in an entirely different wing of the building. We can — we can — just please have dinner with me.”

She is totally internally freaking out. Her outsides might be somewhat calm and collected, but her inside is screaming out in self-consciousness and fear. She is scared he’s going to use his brain and pick out something to say that will devastate her. Like, he might tell her that she is reading this entire thing wrong between them and he’s actually disgusted by her, not interested — like, get it straight. Like, he might tell her that he would never be interested in her in a million years, because she is just so unremarkable and boring and remedial at her job. Like, he might just insult her body and say that he is just not attracted to it because he doesn’t think it’s sexy enough.

As she freaks out internally over the longest pause in the history of all pauses, he groans again — in disbelief and maybe also in exasperation. He says, “Your face, Missandei.”

That face that he is referring to constricts out a bigger smile — and it’s gorgeous and bright and light and real — and it just generally guts him on the inside. She says, “Yeah, I know — you did this,” as she softly laughs.

“I like to think that we did it,” he quietly quips.

“Together,” she supplies.

And then he sighs loudly. “Why dinner?” he asks.

“Why not dinner?” she answers. And then a little bit of her bravado shakes. She feels vulnerable and self-conscious as she adds, “I just want to get to know you better.”

He looks . . . a little panicked actually. He asks, “Are you like — are you asking me —”

“Yes,” she interjects quickly, to put them both of out of their misery. “I’m asking you out on a date.”

“Oh,” he says. And then after another pause, he says, “Fuck.”

She blinks. “Fuck?” she says with uncertainty.

And then — really reluctantly and with his pulse hammering in his head — he tells her that he’s about to be cleared by Tarly. Tarly is about to recommend that he get put back into the field because they are optimistic that he is ready. Tarly says that he is professionally confident that Grey is ready. It’s this deep show of trust and stuff, because he’s been ranting on and on a lot about how nobody trusts him anymore. Tarly is gonna go out on a bit of limb for him. Tarly is writing up the recommendation to leadership like, right now. Right as they are speaking, right now.

Grey says, “Um, yeah. So. Yeah.” He swallows the lump in his throat. He says, “It’s really, um, flattering that you — that you —” He clears his throat, coughing out some discomfort. “Um, you seem like a really . . . neat person. But um — ah — you know? I’m like, um — we’re going to be colleagues.”

“Oh,” she says, breathing it out. “Oh. Yeah! So wow! So — so you’re coming back!” She blinks rapidly. “That’s . . . great! We’re gonna work together! That’s so crazy! And . . . great! We’re colleagues! Like, for real now!” She’s now nodding vigorously. “I know that you’ve been really wanting to come back for a long time now. Wow!” She blows out an exhale. “Congrats! Grey! I’m so happy for you!”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 


After a lot of deep thought and a few sleepless nights, Sam decides that he has to relinquish his control over Grey. Control is not really the word Sam would prefer to use, but Grey has made it clear that it’s how he feels about this.

And if what Sam speculates is true — that Grey suffers from depression and anxiety tied to his self worth and body image, that Grey no longer trusts the people in his life to show up for him or to support and care for him so he pushes people away and holds them at a distance subconsciously and consciously — then continuing to force Grey to go to therapy and dangle the carrot of field work is, at best, coercive, and at worst, irrecoverably damaging.

So Sam writes up the letter, fills out the paperwork, makes the recommendation, and essentially lets Grey go as Sam urgently hopes that he is doing the right thing here. So much of the work is unclear and uncertain, just like so much of life is unclear and uncertain. Sam wishes to God that he doesn’t later learn that Grey gets hurt, or worse yet, gets killed on the job because he went into the field too early.

But, Sam knows, Grey is right. It is dehumanizing to constantly be told about his own mental state by people who are not living in his mind.

Even though Sam’s door is always open, a part of him doesn’t expect to see Grey again because Grey has made it clear, how he feels about therapy. There is also that part of Sam that wonders if he just got played by a hyper-intelligent individual who was trained to manipulate and lie to people.

So Sam is mildly surprised — but very happily so — when Grey faithfully knocks on the door at eleven.

Sam says, “Come in.”

 

 


Grey doesn’t bother easing into it. He throws some sunflower seeds at the shyest, ugliest little duck hiding behind his mother, making it get swarmed by all the popular ducks, and then he tells Tarly that Missandei asked him out — like, on a date. And it was really weird because he didn’t think that she felt that way or saw him in that way at all — the weird part for him is that he didn’t anticipate it or see it coming. Usually, he can pick out these things.

Grey doesn’t voice out loud, all of the obsessive paranoid thoughts he’s been circling around in regard to his dick situation — like maybe she’s a creepy fetishist, like maybe she is asexual but not aromantic, like maybe she fell and bonked her head on a boulder and just forgot about his situation, like maybe he is a fucking idiot who is getting far too ahead of himself because all she fucking did was just asked him to go to one dinner with her, holy fuck.

Sam’s head swings back in surprise at this new development. He asks, “What did you say in response to her asking you out on a date?”

“What do you think I said?” Grey mutters, chucking more seeds at the wallflower bird, who is being a dope and just running away from the incoming pellets. “I said no thanks ‘cause I ain’t letting no hot bitch ruin my fucking life and all I’ve worked for just because I think she smells nice.”

“Wow. I hope you didn’t actually say that to her,” Sam says, sounding altogether too earnest, like he just met Grey yesterday.

“Nah,” Grey corrects anyway, even though he knows Sam is not new. “I actually said it very nicely and very, very awkwardly. I actually just told her you’re clearing me to go back into the field, and — you know — there’s that no fraternization policy. I’m by the book now. No hitting people I work with. No . . . fraternizing with people I work with.”

“I’m sorry, Grey,” Sam says.

“Why?” Grey says. “I’m going back in the field. I’m ecstatic, man.”

“I mean about Missandei. It seems like the two of you have really made a special connection recently.”

“Oh,” Grey says. “Nah. It’s cool. It’s not that special. And she didn’t like, die. We’re still buds and stuff. I’m probably gonna see her more often than I currently do. I’m sure I’ll get my fill of her Missandei-esque shit soon enough.”

And then, after a bit of companionable silence — one in which Sam refrains from saying a lot of the things that he wants to say to Grey about Grey’s fear of intimacy — Sam opts to keep it simple. He knocks Grey lightly, shoulder to shoulder. He teasingly says, “You think she smells nice, huh?”

“Oh my God, shut up,” Grey says immediately. “It was a figure of speech.”

“No, it’s actually not.”

 

 


It takes Grey more than two weeks to get fully transferred back over. He doesn’t know why it’s taking so long and no one really has answers for him.

He is not getting reinstated back into his old position. Drogo now occupies it, for one. For another, leadership does not think he is ready to handle the stress and responsibility. This is not explicitly said to him as much as he has to optimistically infer it when he learns he’s getting demoted. Like, by a lot. Currently, it doesn’t bother him as much as it could. He is just fucking happy he is going back into the field, so they can put him in his place however they fucking want. He will gladly go along with it.

And they kind of do put him in his place. It’s been a while since he’s done this sort of work. Due to the accident that he and Theon suffered, a lot of protocols and processes have been changed and updated, to ensure that such an accident wouldn’t ever happen again. Grey has to go through training again. It is like the last ten, eleven years of his life and his accomplishments have been erased.

After his transfer is finally blessed, he says bye to Stannis who is like, oh, you’re leaving? — and then Grey steals back his peace lily because he’s no longer ticked off at Missandei. He shows up to his new-old department with the plant tucked underneath his arm, to a roomful of applause as the other trainees look on in benign confusion.

“Oh my God, stop,” he says.

 

 


It’s pretty comical to the other agents, that Grey has to go through training again, but he’s actually being a really good sport about it — to the surprise of many. He gets partnered with Podrick and everyone initially feels sorry for Pod — the trainees who don’t know who Grey is feel pretty glad they didn’t get stuck with the old guy, and the ones who have heard of him feel bad that Pod got stuck with Mr. Walking Trauma. Some of the trainees start quietly muttering that about him behind his back as a joke. And when he overhears it one day, he freaks them all out by saying, “Oh, that’s very funny. That’s slightly better than Mr. Dickless.”

He knows that most of them will be flushed out within months.

To him, training feels like it lasts forever. But really, the type of training he has to go through again lasts four weeks. In those four weeks, he is real fucking bored and real fucking unimpressed with the new protocols and how much reporting they have to do now, so he distracts himself by teaching and mentoring Pod, who is a good sport and who is really obedient.

Grey starts to remember just how much he loves this part of the job, being part of a team, helping other people learn so that they can work better together, making decisions of substance.

Grey kind of assumed he’d fall back into some old dynamics, like Daario would say something dumb and Grey would sardonically correct Daario. But now, when Daario says something dumb and Grey sardonically corrects, there is awkward silence.

Selmy keeps looking at him with sad eyes, because Selmy also thinks it’s too soon for Grey to be back in the field. Selmy actually has a lot of new fears about his people now, fears that weren’t there before what happened to Grey. So Grey’s presence is exacerbating certain things for Barristan.

Drogo is now Grey’s boss. And that is perfectly fine. Grey currently has no problem with Drogo leading. He hasn’t actually been put in the field yet, so time will tell how he responds to Drogo calling shots. For now, he is cordial and polite and full of yessirs. The professionalism is really throwing Drogo, who also keeps looking at Grey with sad eyes, because this dynamic is probably not what either of them anticipated, when Grey came back.

Tyrion is actually the first one who treats him normally. Tyrion purposefully stands on a chair to ruffle Grey’s shaved head at the first team meeting. Tyrion says, “Great to have you back, you little rapscallion.”

 

 


Missy generally felt ultra humiliated for about three days or so, after Grey rejected her advances, citing work reasons. Her mind played tricks on her and told her that he was just using work as an excuse, and he wouldn’t ever go on a date with her in any universe. Her mind started to convince her that he is kind of out of her league, so that was a stupid flight of fancy that she had. Her mind embarrassed her, telling her that it was ridiculous that she thought a few flirty moments could be parlayed into what? Weekends at farmers markets? Was she going to spend her week playing hooker and then go home and be like, “Honey, what do you want for dinner?”

She is pretty much over her crush on him when he finally does manage to make it into their secure segment of the building. He looks fresh. Like, clean and well-rested. And that’s cool. Good for him.

The lily that she gave him sits on the corner of his desk. It sits on a plate that collects water run-off. Every time she walks by his desk, she faithfully thinks that she’s a fucking moron, and that was such a stupid gift to give a grown man who would end up being her officemate.

So she settles into work. The bruise on her face fades quickly, but work is still clicking along. Her PIP is over. Drogo can go fuck himself because she nailed it, but also, she deserved to be put in that position because she really was underperforming. So it seems like everything happened as it should. Drogo is still her supervisor.

In the locker room, Missy shoves her hand into her bra cups and lifts her boobs — not to make them more appealing, but because her nipples were sitting too low in her bra. She checks her gun before tucking it away under her jacket. It is too hot to convincingly wear a jacket, so she will be taking that off later and just going bare — which is really nerve-wracking but oh well. Such is the life of a fake prostitute.

 

 


It’s almost two months before they actually work together for real. He’s doing surveillance in the car with Alayaya, listening in. He listens as she switches back and forth between Low Valyrian and the Common Tongue, as she lays out terms to johns about how much the various kinds of sex cost.

Johns never really really get charged, and the predatory massage and spa owners that do are often from the community that they are preying on. This is why Missandei is on the ground now. It is because she perfectly fits the profile — racially, ethnically, culturally — of a human trafficking victim.

Trafficking is hard to prove, and it’s hard to charge someone with it, often because women do not testify against abusers. Women fear deportation as well as for the safety of their families back home.

Also, laws are lax. Spa owners often leave jail after only nine months after plea deals even though they originally faced a minimum of four years and a max of thirty-five.

“How much?”

“One hundred for an hour. Four hundred for the whole night. Fifty to get blown.”

“What do I get for the whole night?”

“Whatever you want. Except anal. That is extra fifty.”

“Really?” he balks. “It costs that much?”

“Yeah, man.”

“Nah, fuck that. Too rich. Sorry sweetheart. Not tonight.”

Missy thinks that she has reached the point where this work is starting to feel repetitive and pointless — but also still pretty terrifying, like she can get sexually assaulted and die at any moment.

 

 


As she shuts her locker, she jumps in fright when she sees Yara’s face pop out from behind the door.

Missy is touching her slamming heart with her palm as Yara says, “Heading home? Tired? Wanna grab a nightcap?”

“Ah,” Missy says reluctantly. “I think my dad might be waiting up for me.” Yara often likes to avoid being alone — for various reasons that Missy doesn't know because they aren’t that close — so Yara often asks people to grab drinks after work. Yara drinks a lot.

“Oh, cool,” Yara says smoothly. “Catch you some other time, then.” And then shouting down the row, Yara says, “Brie! You ready! D and G are waiting, and you know that Grey hates standing around with only his thoughts and Daario to keep him company! Come on!”

Further down the brightly lit room where Brienne’s locker is, she is grumbling and trying to contain her short hair with a tie. She is saying, “Yeah, yeah, just a minute!”

“Hey, actually, on second thought — I could use a drink,” Missy offers.

 

 


They can’t and don’t talk much about work — because they are out in public — but they do occasionally make vague statements about certain aspects of work. Like, Alayaya pulls her glass of beer closer, looks around the table, and sardonically says that she can’t help but notice that boss man wasn’t invited. Bronn mutters that no one likes hanging out with the boss during off-hours, after which, Tyrion remarks that he is present. Like, they invited him, didn’t they?

“Oh my God,” Kojja gripes. “You aren’t our boss.”

“Aren’t I though?” Tyrion says, sounding unnecessarily mysterious. “Don’t I kind of outrank you?”

“Oh my God,” Kojja says. “You better shut your mouth before I make you shut it. Rank don’t mean nothing. You’re desk, Tyrion.” She means that he has never been in the field. And she also means that she resents that, while very intelligent and talented, he got his job through family connections. She basically means that he will never be her fucking boss.

“Sour grapes,” he says, holding up his wine glass. He’s been drinking a fair bit — he is a bit tipsy and making dad jokes now. “Grey is here. So I suppose ex-bosses are allowed into the inner sanctum, then?”

 

 


As the rest of them lean in toward the center of the table, a bunch of bodies and elbows crammed in tightly in a too-small space, avidly chatting and cracking a number of jokes that she doesn’t get at all, Missy finds herself retreating inward. She finds herself mute again, just awkwardly trying to look alert and attentive as banter gets thrown back and forth and she gets casually ignored because she doesn’t have snappy retorts at the ready like everyone else — sans Brienne — does. Even Brienne fits in though. Even Brienne has enough experience accumulated that she can laugh at a recollection that someone else brings up. Like, she laughs when Bronn brings up that one time she really got under Sandor’s skin by handing his ass to him in hand-to-hand. Even though Brie is laughing, her mouth is saying, “Oh man, that was so stressful for me.”

He is eating a burger. And sitting across the table. So she has a pretty good view of him eating. He is wearing a sweatshirt with a hood and a cap with a bill. This is what he chose to change into once they were off the clock.

He doesn’t pause in his methodical eating. He is not one of those people who coquettishly covers their mouth while they are eating and talking — she is actually one of those people. He just talks out of the side of his mouth as he chews through his food. He just grins with his cheeks stuffed whenever someone says something that he finds funny.

She wonders if this what their hypothetical date would have been like. Like, would he have shown up in super casual wear? Would he have eaten without being encumbered at dinner with her? Would he have been constantly laughing and smiling — but directing all of it at her? Would she even have had the capability of saying something that made him smile?

 

 


Some of them have early morning meetings, so drinks fizzle out by nine. She’s had one glass of wine that she twirled and nursed all evening, so she is awkwardly sober and hyper-aware of her shyness as she quietly waves goodbye to her colleagues, explaining her incoming departure by mentioning her dad and how she should probably get home and check in on him.

“You live with your dad?” Grey asks, his face tilting up to look at her because he’s still seated at the table.

“Um, he lives with me. Get it straight.” It flies out of her mouth before she even has a chance to think about her tone.

Her retort actually makes Daario shift in his spot next to Grey, as a smile unexpectedly breaks out across Daario's face. Daario currently finds sassy Missy to be a novelty because it’s not what he expects from her.

“Ah,” Grey says. “My mistake.”

And now . . . it is a touch awkward again.

So she says, “Okay, well, bye!”

“Later, Missandei.”

 

 


She tries really hard to sneak in quietly, but it doesn’t matter. Her dad is waiting up for her. He pokes his head out of his downstairs bedroom when he hears the front door open. The house is dark, so he just looks like a moving dark blob to her.

She whispers, “Go back to bed, Dad. Sorry I woke you.”

Equally as quiet, he says, “I was up anyway. How was your night, baby?”

She’s kicking off her shoes — her thick-soled flats — with a hand braced against a wall. She then blinks hard right after her dad flips on the lights in the entryway. She says, “It was good.”

“That’s good,” he says, as his eyes scan over her face and body — that is why he turned on the lights — to check her over for new bruises or other marks of violence that she won’t be able to adequately explain to him. “Work was good?”

“Yeah,” she says, barefoot and a couple inches shorter now. “Work was fine.”

“That’s good, hon.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 


He ends up drinking way more than he should, way more than he typically does. He makes the decision to go for the fourth and fifth and eighth vodka drink with a drunk person’s logic of, ‘I am totally sober.’ He tells himself he is drinking extra because he is celebrating his first stint back in the field, and celebrating is what normal, well-adjusted people do.

He ends up getting hammered — and by the time it really hits, only he and Alayaya are left at the table, huge and engulfing now that it’s just the two of them. There are littered glasses stacked all in front of their hands.

They aren’t even talking very much with each other, before he looks over, touches the side of her face with his fingertips, and closes the distance in between their mouths.

 

 


Due to years of working together closely, a lot of their communication happens wordlessly now. He doesn’t have to ask her much. She doesn’t have to give him options. The kiss is sloppy and way too intentional to be accidental. And they are in a neighborhood bar, close enough to work that any of the people who work at the organization can accidentally see them.

So they settle the bill quickly — finding that Bronn forgot to pay his share — so they split that up too, before she rises from her seat and holds her hand out to him.

She pulls him into a cab and mutters out the address and some sparse directions to her apartment to the driver. She falls back against the seat with a flourish — then she spontaneously cracks up, holding onto her stomach as she rolls back and forth in her seat, knocking into him.

She starts kissing him again after the door to her apartment is shut behind them, this time kissing him comprehensively, with her arms around him and her hips tilted to his.

She is also very, very drunk. Her logic and motivation are currently pretty simple: Sure, she can stand getting laid tonight. Sure, he’s good at sex. Sure, she wouldn’t mind having sex with him again even though it’s been a while and a lot of stuff has happened. Sure, he seems like he needs this. Sure, he’s her friend, and she cares about him as a person. Sure, they can figure how to have sex again, together. It is not going to be a problem for her at all.

She pushes his back against her kitchen counter, as she leans hard into him. She groans before she dips back in, opening her mouth as she runs her mouth against his, tasting booze and salt.

Her hot breath is panting against his cheek as she teasingly tugs at the stretchy waistband of his sweats. Before he can react to that, her hand fully presses to the front of his pants, smearing up and down where his penis used to be.

This is when sobriety hits him like a freight train. This when it just feels awful and vulnerable and just all scary and wrong to him. This is when he realizes that this is just a fucking huge mistake that he’s making — what the fuck is wrong with him? This is when he grabs her wrist to still her hand. And this is when he sighs heavily and gently says, “Hey.”

 

 


So she sits him down on her couch, yawning widely. She leans her head against her fist and she says, “Are you okay? Like, really, are you okay?”

He adamantly says he is okay. He is about as okay as can be expected. He says, “I don’t know what everyone is wanting from me.”

“We just want you to be safe and healthy, Grey,” she says.

 

 


So she kicks him out of her apartment nicely. It is getting late. She’s drunk. He’s not putting out. He is currently a terrible conversationalist. There’s not much incentive for her to like, be around him right now.

She laughs softly and tiredly at his face, which is mildly perturbed and a little offended.

She snickering as she opens her front door, as she says, “You keep ranting on and telling people that you aren’t an invalid who needs to be treated with little kid gloves — but now you’re all sensitive about getting kicked out because I have no need for you since you’re being a prude? Pick a lane, honey.” She gestures to the exit. Like, he should be taking it right now.

 

 


His head is pounding when he shows up to work the next morning. Alayaya looks fresh as hell — smirking at him when she sees his glowering face. She is holding out a cup of fancy coffee for him. She gleefully says, “It’s pourover coffee and —”

“I don’t give a shit what it is,” he mutters, interrupting her even as he makes a grab for the cup. “Thank you.”

As he tilts his head back and starts sucking it down even though it is scalding and it must be just wrecking his throat, she is telling him to slow down and savor the taste, holy shit, rude. She tells him it was expensive — more to irk him than to really make him feel bad over the trouble she went through.

When he’s done, when the cup is mostly empty, he looks at her and he says, “Are we okay?”

She presses her hand to the center of his chest, feeling around for his strong heartbeat. The gesture is intimate-looking enough that Daario takes note, from all the way across the room.

Alayaya says, “Always. We are always okay. Are you okay?”

“Oh my God, how many times?” he gripes. “I’m fucking fine.”

 

 


So he refrains from telling Sam about what happened — or didn’t happen — with Alayaya. Grey rationalizes that it’s inconsequential, so Sam doesn’t need to hear it. To prove to himself that it’s inconsequential and that he has a host of other traumatic things that ought to be at the forefront of his mind, Grey instead tells Sam this gruesome story of how poor his family and their community was when he was little, so one day he came home from school and he found that some uncles — not his real fucking uncles — snuck into their yard and stole their dog while he was at school. And they killed his dog, roasted his dog, and ate his dog. He was pretty much inconsolable and sobbed his guts out when he found out.

Grey tells Sam, “I don’t think anything else I’ve experienced since has matched the . . . intensity of grief I felt when I was seven years old.”

“You are saying that feels worse than what Ramsay Bolton did?”

“Yes,” Grey says, looking blankly ahead.

Sam can easily pick out that there is something bothering Grey right now — but he’s being characteristically reticent. And characteristically, Sam does not push.

“My parents came home and found me losing my mind,” Grey adds. “My dad went over to talk to those men, but that’s my dad. He’s an intellectual so he intellectualizes. Anyway, nothing came of it. The men didn’t see what my problem was because my dog was just an animal and I was just a kid and they were my elders and they were hungry. My dad tried to explain it to me — but you know what I was thinking as my dad was sitting me down?”

“What?”

“That it wasn’t fair and it wasn’t right at all, that my dad didn’t protect me, that I wanted to kill those guys for what they did to my puppy, that I hated how I was made to feel — small and voiceless.”

“And that was why it was easy for us to recruit you,” Sam supplies, looking over to check Grey’s face.

His face is blank — but also grim. He says, “Perhaps.”

 

 


Through careful observation, Missy learns that Grey is a habitual feedback-giver. She watches him effortlessly amass supporters and fans among the trainees through his quiet brand of leadership. He softly reminds them to never pick up spent casings during shooting practice for instance, because it’s not good to train the body to do that — because the body is dumb and it will automatically bend down during a real shoot out if it’s been conditioned to do so during practice. That is actually why they all have to practice obsessively like it is a real-life situation.

And the trainees listen to him. They respect him. When asked to pick out the leads during team drills, they always pick Grey without fail. It is only after Drogo tells them they have to stop picking Grey because someone else needs to learn — that they stop picking Grey.

He has been politely asking Drogo when Drogo thinks he might be able to do more than surveillance.

Drogo and Barristan are torn — in difficult positions because their department is currently ultra-scrutinized, in part because of what happened to Grey and Theon. They worry about the optics — what it would look like to drop Grey into work whole-hog after a yearlong sabbatical, after an incident that left three of their people dead and two of them mutilated. Grey was leading that effort, too — and though the investigation cleared him of responsibility for the incident — his name is still attached to one of the most abysmal failures their organization has seen.

And then he came back and was attached to a possible assault allegation, which while he was cleared of it, that is also a blight that leadership currently has a hard time getting over. They do not think he is worth the liability that they are associating with him. They view him as a ticking bomb. They would rather he follow Theon’s lead and just bow out gracefully with the payout he was given.

Drogo has been sweating, trying to manage the expectations of leadership while also trying to keep the morale of his team high — while also trying to make the right decisions to keep everyone as safe as possible while doing the work — while also working against a clock, contending against limited resources and dealing with every fucking person who doesn’t know his job, who is fucking mad at him because he didn’t let them do exactly what they wanted to do.

So Grey mildly asks, “When?” again.

And Drogo quietly says, “I’m sorry. I don’t know. I’m hoping soon.”

Grey might actually be the one person who understands exactly what Drogo has to balance. Which might be why he nods silently and then exits out of the room without protest.

 

 


He has a lot of hours in the day to fill because he basically works a normal schedule of about forty hours a week. He jumps from task to task a little aimlessly, without any direction or control over where he goes next. He spends hours walking through the aisle of grocery stores before he goes home. He reads and listens to a lot of a books — on his phone while grocery shopping and also late at night. He starts to obsessively work out, because maybe he is preparing for something — or maybe because he can be better this time around — or maybe it’s just for nothing and he just needs something to do to occupy his time.

He thinks about Tiani for the first time in months. He thinks that maybe she was right about him, when she flippantly commented that he needed hobbies.

He spends many evenings Skyping with his parents. Their anger has lessened and worn down more as time has gone on — they probably got bored of the repetitiveness of their accusations and lectures, too.

They casually slip in that Tiani apparently misses him and inquires about him sometimes. His mom tells him that he left rather abruptly and probably didn’t properly end his relationship with Tiani.

In response to this, Grey is like, “Oh —”

And then his dad cracks a smile on the screen. His dad says, “She’s kidding, son. We know Tiani is a lesbian.”

Grey says, “Oh, so she told her parents. How did it go?”

“No idea.”

“Ah, okay.”

He talks to his parents regularly enough that the conversation has become a little stale. There’s only so much local gossip that they can update him on. There’s only so many things they can say about his brother. There are only so many times he can detail out the things he eats in a day to his mother. And when his parents ask him about Dr. Tarly, he tells them that as far as he knows, Sam is fine. They are not buds, so he actually has no idea how Sam is doing in life.

He gives his parents updates on the people that they know, because this way, Grey can pretend that he has real friends and that he can give something back to his folks after his folks spent almost an hour talking about their various students whose problems seem very quaint and pointless to him.

He tells his folks that Drogo is now his boss, and that’s a little strange, but eh, it’s like anything else. They are not as close anymore because it’s just weird now.

His mom says that Drogo is a nice boy and that it’s a shame that it’s weird between them now.

He tells his folks that Daario and him keep throwing around the idea of going sailing together on Daario’s boat one of these days, but their schedules haven’t synced up quite yet. He refrains from telling his parents that Daario probably threw out the boat thing as a polite courtesy offer. It is probably not real.

Grey tells his parents that Missandei is fine. They work closer together than they ever have, and it’s fine. She’s a nice person and is pleasant to work with.

This is the point in which his mom thinks is the right time to blurt out, “Nudho, if you are gay, it’s okay. You can tell us. I would hope that you aren’t scared to tell us like Tiani was scared to tell her parents. You know we are more progressive than most parents, right?”

 

 


He doesn’t even realize how angry he is at her until Daenerys finally shows her face.

It is while she’s making the rounds with some visiting VIPs, some dignitaries from Dorne, as he looks up at her from the crowd below and watches her speak serenely and tell them all that the organization is exploring some inter-agency collaboration and resource-sharing.

He thinks about how she hasn’t taken a meeting with him once since he’s been back — and it’s been months. He also think about she didn’t really visit him while he was healing, and he made excuses for her — like how he told himself that she is a very, very busy person.

He tries to catch her eye, but she is steadfastly unseeing.

 

 


Missandei’s microphone and earpiece is linked to them in the van — the link goes both ways — and it’s actually during prep for a run-through that she purposely overhears Daario giving Grey some grief about Alayaya.

The line is wide open, as Daario’s clear, teasing voice is saying, “You like herrr,” in a sing-song. “You want to hold her hannnd. You want to fall asleep to the sound of her breathinggg. You want to listen to her tell you all about her daaay —”

“Oh my God, shut up.” Grey’s low voice is clear and a rumble in her earpiece. “You don’t know what you’re even talking about, asshole.”

Daario is chuckling without any self-consciousness. Missy can almost hear his smile, as he says, “Okay, in all seriousness, man, I think you should go for it. You like her. She likes you. You deserve to be happy. Fuck the rules, am I right? Neither of you supervise the other. It’s all good, right? Back me up, Missy. Tell me I’m right.”

She basically behaves like a deer caught in the headlights — she freezes where she’s at, even though they cannot see her. Thankfully, they can’t see her.

She accidentally kind of hiccups a little bit — and the sound of it travels over the line. Then she recovers — after a lot of effort, a burning face, and a pounding heart. She says, “Y-yeah! Totally! Daario, you are so right. Grey, you do deserve to be happy!”

Motherfucking shit.

That was psychotically enthusiastic.

She is holding her breath now.

And sure enough, after a pregnant pause on all of their ends, Daario finally says, “Okay, what is going on here?”

And then, quick as a lightning bolt, Daario’s voice goes loud — and it cracks. He says, “Oh my God! You like him! Oh my God! You’re into him! Oh my God! You are jealous!”

And then he starts cracking up in all of their ears, mockingly, for like, thirty seconds straight.

Then he shouts out, “Oh my God! And he smacked you in the face and everything! Is that what it takes, Missy? Is that what it takes? Does that do it for you?”

 

 


After that, both of their lives are made miserable by Daario — and then by the rest of the team because Daario is not really great at being low-key. Her life is more disrupted because she’s more sensitive about this. Grey remains psychotically quiet whenever the conversation switches to his personal life — to all of the teasing.

In contrast, her face just freezes and her body freezes and she is just immobile and frightened by all of the teasing — and what comes from this is that Daario gets one look at her stupid face, and he guffaws. He points to her face and he is telling her that he’s nailing it. He’s really got her number. He is totally right, isn’t he?

Tyrion gets in on it. Kojja gets in on it. Yara basks in it. Even Alayaya is super amused by the entire thing.

It gets to the point where Drogo actually requests a short meeting with the both of them to talk about this. He looks really uncomfortable, like he would rather not be doing this at all. He gets right to it. He straight up looks into their faces and asks if they engaging in a personal relationship.

And Missy says, “Define personal.”

Right as Grey says, “No.”

Which is really mortifying to her. So everything continues to be awesome. She only asked because sometimes they go out for drinks as a group and that is friendly and casual and like, jovial and stuff. She was only wondering if that sort of thing counts.

Because she asked him to define it, Drogo says, “Are you two engaging in a sexual relationship together? Or, are you dating?”

This time, Grey waits before answering. Just so she can really bask in it.

She meekly says, “No,” casting a glance over at Grey, who is standing right next to her. She’s looking at him like she is hoping he’d be pleased that she is agreeing with him and corroborating him here.

His face reveals nothing.

Drogo then says, “Okay then.” He then awkwardly reminds them that they have a no fraternization policy because two people in a personal relationship can’t work together in the field because hard decisions get made there, and when there are personal stakes involved — the decision-making can get muddied. He tells them if that they were in a relationship, they have to report it to him and there might be some team rearrangement or some interdepartmental shuffling that happens.

This is when Missy decides is the right time to make a joke for the first time ever in life. She says, “Hey, does that mean that — if we’re dating — I get to be taken off of prostitute duty? Because I’ll do it if it means I get taken off prostitute duty.”

No one laughs. Because neither really get that she is trying to lighten the really heavy energy here.

Drogo is just staring at her tiredly. He asks, “Are you trying to tell me you are in a relationship?”

And then she gets embarrassed again. She shakes her head and says, “No! We’re not! I have no idea how this rumor became such a big deal!”

 

 


Soon after that humiliation, during lunch time, Grey actually walks up to her while she is eating by herself and yanks her pita wrap right out of her hands. He is holding her food as he stares her down from his standing position.

His face is serious, but not unkind, as he says, “Hey, some feedback — take it or leave it — but definitely take it. You really need to work on controlling how you exhibit anxiety. Because it’s written all over your face and all over your body. And people see it very clearly, and they are capitalizing on it. That is why we are getting so much shit right now. Yeah? That make sense?”

And then he is ripping a chunk out of her wrap with his teeth, chewing it and holding it in his cheek as he gives her back the rest of it. “I deserve that for what you’re putting me through,” he explains.

And then he suddenly smiles at her.

And then her heart starts to hammer, what the fuuuck.

He says, “I’m kidding. It’s fine. It happens. This is how we learn, so I’m glad it’s happening in a safe space versus like, out there in the field and you get your head blown off because of it. I’m actually pretty concerned about how much shit you give away in your face. Like, Missandei — you honestly really need to work on playing it closer to the vest. Your feelings are just bleeding out all the time.”

And just aghast and dejected now, she glumly says, “Are they really? Man!”

 

 


The ladies saw that she was called into the principal’s office and also, she’s had a bit of a week, so they pull Missy out after work on Friday to chill — to bowl, actually.

Yara has her foot propped up on a small drink table, her scuffed rented bowling shoe swaying back and forth to the pop music overhead. Yara is trying to chat with Missy — as she puts half of her attention on her teammate, Brienne, who is like, wildly great at bowling.

Yara thinks she’s being like, the most supportive bitch to her buddies — like Missandei needs to get laid so she will stop being such a fucking virgin, all cowering all the time like her butt is pristine when johns be asking her for anal, and Grey needs to get laid because he might be a psychopath now due to forced celibacy because of his penis shit — so they should smash a few times for the good of their mental health and for work!

Yara thinks she is making a lot of sense, as she is saying, “I feel like — all the fucking rules, man. It’s like, are we fucking adults who are fucking trained professionals — or are we little fucking hormonal children? It’s like — YEAH! Brie! You motherfucking beast! Fucking turkey that shit!”

Missy has to swing backwards so she doesn’t get swiped in the face as Yara excitedly stands up to high-five Brienne. Missandei and Alayaya are getting slaughtered right now. It was completely a mistake to go whites versus darks here.

As Yara flounces back down in her seat, as Alayaya takes her turn, Yara resumes her rousing inspirational speech. She says, “Like, check it — we’re friends. We’re all friends. We like each other enough that we hang out a lot when we’re not working. I think that our feelings for each other makes the team work better together. Because that trust is like, deep, you know? It was our feelings for Grey and Theon that kept them alive. Like, my brother could be dead right now if we didn't push so hard for leadership to sanction the retrieval. Like, it's nuanced, you know?”

Missandei doesn’t really understand why it feels like she is getting lectured at right now — save for the fact that Yara has been steadily working on a pitcher of beer by herself. Missy just nods gravely and says, “Sure.”

And then Yaya gets back to her seat, holding out her hand for a high-five, which Missandei automatically doles out — Alayaya picked up a spare, and they are still getting killed.

Yara yanks her feet off the table. Because it’s her turn. She stands up and cracks her neck.

Yara’s parting shot is, “And like — Yaya fucked the guy, multiple times, back when they were youngins. You don’t see her making poor decisions in the field just because they smashed, do you? Like, fucking leadership is so fucking — it’s bullshit, babe — thinking they can tell us how to live, man.”

Yaya is snickering as she leans back in her own seat. She is holding up her beer glass, like she is clinking Yara’s imaginary glass.

And as Yara is bowling, as Brienne sits down and digs her fingers into the cheese fries, Alayaya asks Missandei, “Are you really into him? He’s pretty fun in bed. Or at least — he was. I can’t tell you what’s going on now.” Alayaya is pointing at her head — at her brain.

Then she says, “Poor guy. I think he has major dick issues.”

Brienne sarcastically mutters out, “Oh my God, you think?” And then she goes pink. And then she starts needlessly explaining. She says, “I don’t mean small dick issues. So I don’t know what his penis looked like before — but I don’t mean his ego is immense. I mean that, when this happened to my face —” Brienne is gesturing to her face, to the scar. “It completely changed how I felt about myself — and it was already rough before. Like, no one puts me on prostitute duty. Which is fine. Prostitute duty sucks —”

“Oh my gosh, Brienne!” Alayaya says, laughing in excitement. “Are you drunk?”

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 


The teasing about Grey eventually dies down because people find other things to focus on.

Like, there is enough of a delay between when she signals them and when Robb and Brienne go in to pull her out that she is legitimately scared she is going to have to start blowing a guy to maintain her cover.

She handles the entire thing by the book — all the while, just terrified that she is alone in a room with a low-level but dangerous criminal and he is going to hurt her real badly when he figures out who she is. One hand is on his belt, undoing it, and the other is closing in on her gun when Robb and Brienne finally enter the room.

Afterward, she is pissed.

Daario tries to explain to her what happened by telling her that the comms glitched and they lost the signal for just a split second. She buys that, but she doesn’t like it. She snaps at him and tells him that it was for far longer than a second. He amends what he said and tells her maybe it was a few seconds. She stops herself from being overtly wounded about his lackadaisical attitude.

She also stops herself from saying that she is so upset because she was scared she was all fucking alone in there because they fucking abandoned her or something terrible was happening to all of them. She stops herself from conveying that she is still insecure and scared and under-experienced.

Instead, she tries to hold onto anger. She gets bitchy with Drogo in his office and tells him she is fucking sick of this fucking work.

He ominously tells her, “This is what you wanted, Missandei. This is what you’ve been clamoring for. No one said it was glamorous work.”

She says, “I know it’s not supposed to be glamorous! I just thought I’d be able to use my brain some of the time. But now I know all that fucking matters is that I have tits and an ass and my skin is dark and I know how to use a gun.”

 

 


Her meltdown becomes the new focal point. Sandor and Bronn think that she is being young, petulant, and precious. From their point of view, no one fucking feels fulfilled by the work they do — but they believe in the mission, so that is why they do the work they do.

Yara, Alayaya, Kojja, and Brienne understand how she must be feeling, but individually, they all convey to her that the way she handled it was not great. A hissy fit was not the right way to handle that. She has to be ever-careful to avoid being branded as a difficult bitch to work with. That kind of reputation will follow her in her career.

Drogo started his career at the organization on the streets, constantly posing as a thug or a drug-seeker. He hated that, too. But those are the optics, and they can’t fucking send fucking Robb Stark out to be a prostitute or a tweaker in South King’s Landing — they just fucking can’t — so he doesn’t know why this woman doesn’t get this. They all have to pay their fucking dues.

Grey actually goes up to her — as she’s headed out for the night. She hasn’t wiped her face so her mascara has smeared underneath her eyes. He says to her, “Hey, man, I’m really sorry we lost the connection with you. I know it must’ve been really scary to feel like you were alone in there or that you were abandoned by us.”

 

 

So he relents and reluctantly invites her out for a drink — just in case she wants to talk about stuff some more. He basically treats it like a dental appointment. He even tells her that she doesn’t have to take him up on it — it’s just a fucking idea.

He’s nervous that, based on how things have been going, that things will get out of hand between the two of them, and then his ability to do his job will be a little fucked. He’s nervous about getting to know her better because what if he learns that she is awesome? It is not like he can do anything about that besides feel terrible about it. He can’t date her for so many reasons, the most prominent being the fucking mess in his pants. The other big reason is that they aren’t allowed to. The third and fourth and fifth reasons are that he is terrible with personal stuff, he doesn’t have the time, and he ruins everything nice that he touches because when people learn who he really is, they are no longer compelled by him and they no longer want to be with him because they are horrified by him. He understands that she currently likes him because of how he presents — but that is superficial stuff and not really who he is.

She looks so tired and so happy when his offer registers in her brain. She looks up at him and meekly says, “You wanna get a drink? With me?”

He feels a lot of dread and a lot of sadness inside over this. He’s already projecting forward to a moment in time when that look on her face just dies.

He shakes it off. He puts a smile on his face. He makes his voice teasingly say, “Okay, you’re making me regret putting it out there already.”

“No!” she says quickly, her eyes widening, just being cute as fucking all shit. “Let me grab my stuff! I’ll be really fast! And then I’ll meet you — well, how do you wanna do this? Do you want to drive separately and meet there, or do you want to leave a car here and drive together?” And after a short pause, one in which her face lightly constricts because she’s feeling embarrassed now, she self-consciously adds, “Where are we going, by the way?”

 

 


She scrubs her face really fast with the soap that comes out of the soap dispenser. It’s a harsh soap and as she’s doing it at the bathroom sink, she is like, oh God, this is a bad idea. But she still finishes scrubbing and washing the soap off with hot water. Her skin, once it’s dry, feels taut and really raw.

She ties her hair back, and then loads all of her bags on her shoulders, as she tells her throbbing heart to just fucking relax. He is just a person. Just like she is a person.

She tries not to hit on him or flirt with him because it’s really verging on sexual harassment at this point — but she sees him waiting for her at his car, watching her, and she is like, “I think I had a dream about this once.”

Her voice echoes in the cavernous garage.

And then she is like, what the fuck oh my God!

He smoothly just ignores all the stuff that she happens to feel mortified over. He waits for her to put her bags into her trunk before he gets into his car. She is left panicked and unsure for a second — she doesn’t know if she’s meant to follow him in her car or if she’s meant to get into his car. Like, they haven’t hammered out the details of this at all. Like —

“Come on, Missandei. Jesus Christ.” His voice is floating out of his open window. “Get in my car.”

She scurries over. And once she’s inside and buckled up, she refrains from saying something super dorky about how his car is really clean and smells nice and how she likes the upholstery. She refrains from making a joke about prostitution and how it kind of feels like he’s picking her up — for a sex act. She just refrains from talking completely, because she doesn’t want to ruin this.

He reaches out to his console and turns on some music.

 

 


There is a shit ton of tension and a shit ton of awkwardness, even in the crowded bar. It’s pretty tiring for him. So after he puts the glass of beer that she requested in front of her at a small standing table, he straight up asks her, “Why do you like me, anyway?”

“You think I like you?” she asks incredulously.

He gives her a look. Like, a look that says — oh are we doing this now?

She shrinks sheepishly. She is just being a little grade school about it — just responding in horror and denial when her crush figures out that she is crushing on him.

Then her face gets hot, as she says, “Are you fishing for compliments?”

He is still staring patiently, waiting for her to answer for real.

“It’s that obvious, huh?” she asks.

“You bought me a plant,” he says mildly, taking a sip from his beer.

“That was the thing that clued you in?” Her face is still burning up.

“No, actually,” he says. “It was when you asked me out on a date. It kind of surprised me. I mean, good for you — that was assertive. But yeah, it was surprising. We don’t know each other well. Our interactions have been limited. And there was also that part where I hit you in the face. It seemed strange that things changed after that.”

 

 


She confesses to him that she actually thinks he is so cool. She whispers it over the top of her beer glass, kind of bending over the table and swaying a little bit.

He finds all of her mannerisms to be really charming, so that sucks for him. And his pulse generally throbs in his face and head and he feels really undeserving and misunderstood, as he listens to her shyly tell him that she likes how good he is at his job. She has always admired how dedicated and how deeply responsible he is to his people and to his work.

She tells him that she thinks he’s really funny — and it’s a really weird kind of funny. It’s not flashy and preening. It is like, kind of mean. And low key. And attractive.

She is stopping herself from saying that she actually thinks it’s sexy.

She is leaning hard on her elbows, squeezing her shoulders together as she plays with her empty beer glass, which he’s been eyeing. He feels like he should go and grab her another one, but he doesn’t feel like taking a break from her just yet.

She says, “You just seem like a really strong person. And you seem like you don’t fuck around — except with Alayaya, what the hell? I thought you were a big rule-follower.”

He is completely blindsided by the statement that he actually just freezes in stunned silence.

This is when she laughs — right at his face — and he is wondering if she is drunk already, but she can’t possibly be. This is when she snorts loudly in her laughing, and then is surprised by her own snorting — so she laughs harder — and he also finds himself feeling like it’s all just utterly perfect and lovely and he hates himself for it — he knew it was a mistake to go out alone with her.

He starts to stutter. He says, “How did — who told — what — okay, what — but — but it’s not what you think it is.”

“And what do I think it is?” she says to him, still smiling widely, still laughing, still teasing. “And why are you so concerned about what I must be thinking about it?” And then her face just glows — softly — before she self-righteously realizes it, before she confidently says, “You like me, too. You care about what I think of you.”

He neither confirms nor denies this. He just says nothing.

 

 


They end up taking a walk, even though it’s lightly drizzling outside. They aimlessly navigate through a lot of well-manicured, brightly lit blocks of shops, restaurants, and bars. He tells Missandei that he and Alayaya hooked up a few times during training — so this was seriously a decade ago. And it was a dumb move, but he was young. Also, it wasn’t a relationship. It was like — a really casual thing. He’s not even sure Alayaya is capable of feeling that way about him. She’s really fun and easy going and outgoing. He is . . . not.

He grimaces — before he reluctantly admits that there have been slip ups between the two of them now and then, over the years. But he’s probably fully kicked that crutch at this point — because of what happened to him.

So then they talk about that a little bit. He feels like he’s on the verge of jumping out of his skin the entire time — or he’s on the verge of vomiting his guts out.

When she gently asks him about it, he keeps it short. He tells her that it’s probably about what people would imagine it’s like. It was scary. It was upsetting. He wanted to die at a certain point and didn’t understand why he was made to keep on living. It’s been hard sometimes, to move on from it. But he generally tries really hard to move on from it.

Grey is shocked to see that she is crying — when he looks at her.

He ends up automatically trying to tell her to knock that shit off. He says, “Don’t. It’s not something — just don’t feel sorry for me. I don’t need it, and it bothers me.”

She quickly wipes her eyes with her hands. She says, “Sorry.”

 

 


Fucking hours have passed, and now they are just ridiculously trying to come up with new conversation topics and excuses to elongate the night. She tells him about her family and how her mom died from colon cancer three years ago — that’s why her dad lives with her. He was devastated because he loved her mom — but also, she thought that he wouldn’t know how to take care of himself because he’s had a woman taking care of him his entire life.

She tells Grey that actually, she was wrong. And now, her dad is taking care of her. That’s all her dad does, actually. He just makes her home life easy and he just worries about her all the time.

“Does he know?”

“About what I do?” Missy supplies. “Sort of. He was actually a high-up government official back in Naath. He was law enforcement, too.”

“Oh, wow. What does he think of what you do?”

“Oh, he totally hates it,” she says smoothly. “My brothers do, too. They think that I have a death wish because our mom died. They wanted me to stay an analyst.”

 

 


He’s the one that calls it. He’s the one who checks the time on his phone and tells her that it’s actually really late, and they should really go home and get some rest.

She’s the one that reaches across the car console after he puts his car in park, back in the garage at work. She grabs onto his hand, getting his attention, getting him to look at her. She straight up says, “I had a really nice time with you tonight. I’d love to see you again.”

He says, “This wasn’t a date, Missandei,” as he feels her hand tighten around his. He mutters, “Also we can’t.”

“Can’t what? Can’t date or we can’t see each other again?”

“Both,” he says. He pries his hand out of hers. This is exactly the kind of shit that he was afraid of. She is fucking amazing. He is a fucking mess. It’s unfair. They don’t have time for this. This is the wrong time and place. It’s not going to work out anyway.

“I mean, I’ll be seeing you tomorrow,” she offers.

He does not even have the words to verbalize how he is feeling — and he also doesn’t completely know how he is feeling. His general sense is that he needs to run far the fuck away because his entire existence is under threat. Everything in his life could be ruined if he makes the wrong decision right now. He tells himself that there are thousands of women out there that he could mess pathetically around with — and it wouldn’t make his career fucking implode.

As he is going insane trying to process, she calmly says, “I’m not saying I envision us meeting each other’s friends and integrating into each other’s family and hosting Pictionary night together on weekends. I’m actually not at all sure what I mean when I say I want to keep seeing you. You just seem like a nice and interesting person. I really enjoy talking with you. Can’t we keep on doing that? Why is that not allowed?”

 

 


So he says no. He feels really shitty about it — on many counts. She’s so fucking hot. He’s so fucking pathetic. She deserves better. This is not going to end well at all. Their jobs are also kind of at stake. They cannot be caught messing around with each other, especially after the hitting thing. He can’t give her what she needs. She’s going to eventually be so let down by him. He is just gonna die alone forever, and they need to accept this about him.

He says, “I’m sorry. But it’s just not a good idea. We work together. If it goes badly, we still have to work together.”

And then after a lengthy pause, she says, “Wow. This is the third, maybe fourth, maybe fifth time I’ve been rejected by you. I’m starting to lose count.”

It’s a joke. But it still manages to make him feel terrible.

 

 


She says goodbye to him with a handshake, because she doesn’t even think he can handle a hug right now. She is internally shaking her head — ruefully — kind of finding humor in all of this. She is definitely hearing his no, loud and clear. She knows he is serious. She can sense that he is very scared. She cannot tell how much of it is from the trauma he suffered and how much of it is just innately him. She feels bad that he is so scared of getting closer to her.

She still thinks that he is really cute. Now, she knows that he likes her back. She tells herself that — for now — maybe that is enough.

 

 


Her dad is a little concerned because she comes home far later than he expected. He asks her if she’s too tired for a nightcap — and at first, she thinks her dad is offering her booze and she is like whoa, at one in the morning?

But then she sees the tea kettle on the stove.

They have a chat, and she tries to tell him as much as she safely can. She tells him she had a bit of a rough time at work, for normal reasons that work is aggravating. She tells him that it feels like she always has to work so hard to earn her place — and she feels like it’s especially hard because she’s a woman, and also a woman of color. And then she gets upset about it sometimes because she is weak. And then everyone is telling her to shut up and stop up her feelings. Everyone is always telling her to wait her turn in line — but she thinks that she has been doing that — and sometimes waiting for her turn feels so abnormal, so she feels angry over it sometimes. Just sometimes. But that’s normal — it’s just normal stuff, isn’t it?

Her dad sighs. And he tells her that he’s stopping himself — with a lot of effort — from telling her to fucking leave that job because why is she just giving up her life to this. He tells her he’s stopping himself from telling her to take the lessons that he has earned and to save herself time and heartache.

She says, “Ah, but that’s the thing about how the brain and how the heart works. Sometimes we have to learn for ourselves, how it feels to be broken.” And then she smiles comically — goofily.

 

 


She generally tries to prove to the both of them that she can compartmentalize, by being purely professional with him at work. So she generally ignores him and doesn’t act like she thinks he is special at all.

He seems very relieved by it. He seems like he’s releasing the breath that he’s been holding in all night.

When Daario casually tells her that she wants to make the smoochies with Grey sooo bad — as she’s standing around bothering no one, drinking her coffee — she is sick of it.

She snaps and says, “Yeah! So what of it! So why don’t you fucking figure out your shit so that I’m not stuck debating over whether I have to kill a guy or blow a guy because you fucked up?”

Daario looks totally stunned.

And then he says, “Okay, fair.”

 

 


When they get pulled into Drogo’s office, Grey is really sure it’s so he can get punched in the face for the other night, for entertaining the idea of breaking the rules by getting naked with a colleague. Missandei is thinking the same thing, and her fist is clenched and she’s ready to punch Drogo out, because she’s really sick of his fucking intrusive shit. Just let her live her life, holy shit.

Drogo sees her fist and says, “Relax. You’re not in trouble.”

And then he says, “So I think I have a way for Grey to get off of surveillance, and I sort of have a way for prostitute duty to be more . . . mentally stimulating for you, Missy. So you both can stop looking at me like you both fucking hate me, okay?”

It’s probably the first time in months that they actually remember that Drogo might actually be a person. With real feelings.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text



For the first time in long weeks, maybe one and a half months, Missy gets together with Dany on a Saturday for a meal of salads and green juice. Dany is on some sort of restricted diet, and Missy sucks up her thick juice using a straw, sure her poop is going to be an ordeal later because of this.

They catch up a little bit — Missy picks up right away that Dany is a fair bit tense because of other factors. Missy asks Dany how work is, and Dany mutters that it’s the same — which means that it is still very stressful. Dany has higher security clearance, so there are things that Dany has to keep to herself and only herself. She vaguely tells Missandei that the Lannisters are real pieces of shit sometimes.

Missy asks how Dany’s brother is doing, and Dany says he’s also the same — which means that he is still reckless and causing expensive problems for Dany to clean up after.

When it’s Missy’s turn to share, she gives Dany all of the boring updates — her dad is fine, her brothers are fine, work is going a lot better — and in response to all of the mundanity, Dany says, “Tell me something fun and frivolous you are doing. Let me live vicariously through you.”

For one brief moment, it’s like they are back in college again — and Dany has half of her head shaved and is reciting a lot of pretentious philosophy and writing a lot of bad poetry. For a moment, it’s like Missy’s old friend is back, and not this severe person who is so tense all the time because she holds entirely way too much responsibility on her shoulders now.  

Missy says, “Um, okay, well — um — there is a guy —”

Dany perks up, right away. She exclaims, “There is a guy! Who is the guy! How did you meet him! Tell me all about him!”  

“Oh, it’s not like that,” Missy gently corrects, feeling a little sheepish now. And then she blurts, “It’s Grey.”

Dany kind of freezes. Then her brows knit together, creasing as she thinks. And then after a pause, she slowly says, “Oh.” And then she says, “Okay.”

“We’ve just been talking,” Missandei says quickly, now just bent on dropping this entire thing — it was a stupid mistake to bring it up. “Nothing big has happened. I just like him. He’s . . . very lovely.”

“Oh, he is,” Dany says, still trying to absorb this. “Um, you know he’s gone through a lot —”

“Yes,” Missandei says, nodding gravely.

“What he went through must’ve been so traumatizing.”

“Of course,” Missy says, now wondering where Dany is going with this.

She doesn’t have to wait very long, because Dany comes out and says it. She says, “I’m really surprised to hear this. I’m glad you like him. I just didn’t expect he’d be, um, capable of this already — given what happened to him.”

Dany is saying this out of unprocessed, repressed guilt. She feels that she is very responsible for what happened. The last conversation she had with him was not good. He was very unhappy and angry with her. They have not talked since. She keeps telling herself she’s been busy. She realizes she has been avoiding him because she is a coward. She thought that she could continue keeping her life demarcated, with her personal side on one end and her professional side on the other. This is why she is especially underwhelmed by Missandei’s update.

On the other side of the table, Missandei now feels embarrassed and vulnerable again. She worries her feelings are always going to be written on her face, and it will be a convenient thing for people to continue judging her with. She now feels stupid for sharing this with Dany, in the face of Dany’s caution. She should have kept it a secret. It’s not even a big deal or important.

She tries to end this part of the conversation by saying, “Um, maybe I’m reading him wrong.”

“I didn’t mean to bring the conversation down,” Dany says. “I’m just surprised, is all.”

“It’s okay,” Missy says. “I get it.”




He doesn’t want to spend time with her outside of work — not something he said directly to her, but something she has intuited. To give him a break from her good intentions — because they seem to freak him out — she just gives him a wide berth. She doesn’t ask him out for another round of drinks or for dinner. She either leaves the gym quickly with a small smile when she sees him entering, or she just continues running in silence, without making a big deal out of his presence.

Their schedules are too busy during the day. This is why they stay late on campus, ordering takeout, sometimes with Tal and Balaq taking part in the lessons and prep, too. Tal and Balaq don’t pick up things as quickly as Grey does, though.

And he picks things up scarily fast, almost inhumanly fast. He has a really great ear for languages, and he has a stunning memory with really good recall. Tal and Balaq actually learn really well and quickly, but they struggle in predictable ways. They are at a little bit of a disadvantage, too, because the are not as proficient in Low Valyrian as Grey is to start.

She’s basically teaching them her language, the Naathi patois. They will never pass as native speakers, especially since the time frame is so short, but she thinks that she can get them to sound like they are the children of immigrants.

They’re in a conference room late after work. Tal and Balaq have already gone home. She’s watching him dig out some dumplings that got stuck together at the bottom of a takeout container. She has also learned that he can eat, that he would be a pricey date because he can really put some food away. She imagines that he eats a lot because he works out a lot.

She says to him, “School must’ve been easy for you, right?”

Grey shrugs, as he shoves a dumpling into his mouth. His cheek is puffed out as he says, “Maybe academically. But the school system in the Summer Isles isn’t the greatest. So I’d probably be average if I went to school here, or if I went to a private school.”

She doesn’t understand why he always downplays his intelligence — whether it’s designed to be manipulative or if he just has an odd self-consciousness about it. “I doubt it,” she says. “Your memory is scary.”

He laugh-snorts. “Scary?”

“You’re so fast at picking up things .”

“Nah,” he drawls, now digging for another dumpling. “You’re just a good teacher.”

Then he smiles at her.




Grey doesn’t know what Theon’s game is, when Theon invites Grey over for a dinner party.

Yara is already at Theon’s house when Grey arrives, this time with a bottle of wine. She spots it, and yanks it right out of his hands, snorting and going into the kitchen for a corkscrew. Grey realizes that she is already drunk.

Their Ironborn friends are also there. Grey has met them a handful of times over the years. They are all — in a word — assholes. They are also drunk. And loud. So fucking loud already.

Ralf cuts in when Theon is trying to introduce a woman named Ruby to Grey. Ralf inappropriately announces, “And she doesn’t mind getting fucked with a strap-on it seems!” 

And Grey is mildly like, “Oh, cool,” just continually unimpressed with Yara and Theon’s asshole friends every time he sees them.

And then he tries to soften — because he feels bad for this woman. He holds out his hand to her. He says, “Hi, I’m Grey. It’s very nice to meet you.”

Her face is as pink as her hair. She is dressed haphazardly, in a large, patchy sweater that engulfs her small frame. The artificial dye in her hair was applied at home, and unevenly. He immediately assesses her as insecure about her looks, easily stressed, and probably a self-proclaimed feminist. She is not at all the type that Theon used to date before the accident.

She shakes his hand, and she tries to valiantly ignore Ralf’s and Dagmer’s snickering. She says, “Theon’s told me a lot about you.”

“Ah, all good things, I’m sure,” he says.

And then Grey has to put his hands out and slam them into the kitchen counter, because fucking Dagmer has body-checked himself into Grey’s back. Grey glares into the shiny granite, his eyes actually searching for Theon’s gun so that he knows that it’s around for him to shoot this fucker in the face later — but Theon has left no trace of his weapon anywhere.

Dagmer is laughing at Grey, and also groping him hard with his hands — on his back, shoulders, arms, butt, stomach — and when his rough hands start going lower, Grey shoves him away — hard.

“This asshole can’t take a joke!” Dagmer announces to the room, after he recovers. “I was just gon’ say — damn, Grey. You’ve been working out. I expected you to be frail and waiflike, like Theon. But I see that losing a dick hasn’t fucked you up like it did Theon. Good for you!”




Dinner is just fucking terrible. Theon made beautiful food again. His sister and their friends alternate between shitting on the pretension and mocking Theon for being effeminate now — as they scarf down the food without tasting it. Grey pretty much spends dinner holding the stem of his wine glass tightly, just in case he needs to break the glass and then drive a shard into the neck of an asshole Ironborn. Grey also spends dinner just in disbelief that Theon is stupid enough to think that this dinner could’ve been anything but this crazy shitshow.

But Theon is admirably unfazed. He doesn’t let go of Ruby’s hand ever. Sometimes, eating is actually awkward for them because they refuse to let each other go. They keep staring at each other — even as they eat. Grey observes this, and he thinks it’s wildly inefficient, and it’s also really gross. He is wondering why he is subjected to this shit when he could be sitting at home in the dark, doing nothing. Like, doing nothing in the dark would be better than this.

Grey tries to help clean up after dinner, but Ruby shoos him out of the kitchen.

So he ends up on the back deck of Theon’s house, as Yara and the Ironborn assholes all take a smoke break.

They offer him a cigarette. He nopes that. And Ralf snorts, because he thinks Grey is such a fucking uptight priss who is incapable of fun and Ralf doesn’t understand why Yara is even friends with this asshole.  

“He seems like he’s doing a lot better,” Dagmer says, crossing his arms over his chest, clearing his throat loudly around the cigarette. “That’s good.”

“Yeah,” Yara says. “It’s shocking, actually. I thought for sure he was going to kill himself within the year. But look at him now — he’s driving himself to the grocery store. He’s going to movies with Ruby. It is fucking crazy.”




He silently watches her crack her neck and stretch out her arms, wearing leopard print tights and a black tank top. He adjusts the cap on his head, pulls it lower, when she accidentally makes eye contact with him — catches him watching her. She smiles at him right away, but he cuts eye contact — a little uncomfortable and maybe a little ashamed.

It’s not even time for breakfast yet, but when they post her ad on the website, the hits come in right away — she is busy and gets calls right away because she has an innocent face, he thinks.

Robb and Daario are debating avidly about which country produces the greatest runners as Sandor and Bronn watch cable television — an infomercial for a blender — sitting on the edge of the bed. Grey is standing around just waiting, as Drogo hovers close by, chewing nicotine gum, alert and serious and stiff — which is different from how Grey remembers it feeling, working with Drogo like this.

They listen as she talks on the phone. She says, “Yes, that’s really me in the photo.” She also says, “Yes, I’d love to get together. Yes, it’ll be fun, I promise.”

She goes and waits in the motel room across the hall.

They are dead silent as they hang around and as Bronn watches the door to her room through the peephole. Bronn signals when he sees the john arrive and enter her room. Grey’s heart starts to beat a little bit harder after that — from adrenaline and also a little bit of stress.

Daario is listening to what is going on the wire. The electronic signal comes just seconds after that. He confirms the solicitation to them by saying, “Okay, it’s a go.”

They rush into the room. The john immediately freezes, paralyzed with fear. Drogo quickly cuffs him.

And this time, the john is very young — early 20s maybe. He actually starts crying with his face tilted into the carpet like his entire life is over.




After they confirm that the kid — he is a nineteen-year-old college student — is not armed, they uncuff him. They are in another room, separated from Missandei. Grey is now allowed to talk to people, but the language lessons she’s been giving him haven’t yet come in handy. This kid’s Common Tongue is very proficient — it’s his first language actually. And so they all understand him as he sobs and tells Grey that his parents are going to kill him. He only a sophomore. He’s studying engineering. He has a girlfriend. She wants to wait until marriage because she comes from a very traditional family. He wants to respect that. He is just weak. He wails to Grey and tells Grey, “My life is over!”

Grey says, “You know what you are doing is wrong and illegal, right?”

“I will never do it again!”

Grey wants to believe this kid, but Grey is also a realist.

Drogo decides to give the kid a break and just give him a ticket. Drogo decides not to have the kid’s car towed.  




The next guy they arrest is an adult man in his fifties with one gold front tooth. He is really angry and in shock that he is being arrested for this. He shouts various insults at them — Grey only understands a few of the terms, but he generally gets the gist. The guy is calling them useless, corrupt pigs. The guy is shouting that he has done nothing wrong. He also wants to know why they aren’t out there catching murderers and pedophiles and rapists. He wants to know why they are wasting taxpayer money on this fucking bullshit.

This guy has no criminal record. He gets hit with a ticket, his car gets towed, and he vows to them that after he pays the bond fee — he’s just going to go back out and buy sex again.

In the Naathi dialect, Grey basically asks the guy, in exasperation, if he is being fucking serious right now.



Because of its convenient position between Essos and Sothoryos — and because of the extreme pacifism of its inhabitants — Naath was a trading post long before the slave trade took hold, long before a military base was built by the Valyrians. The island didn’t practice the modern concept of marriage for most of its history. Sex work wasn’t particularly stigmatized for hundreds of years, not until the arrival of Valyrians.

After the Doom, the Valyrians abandoned their post in Naath. The Naathi government broke down and splintered among different political factions. People fled or they starved.

And these are some of the reasons why there is such a high percentage of sex workers in King’s Landing of Naathi descent. This is why Drogo excitedly placed Missandei in this operation. This is also why it’s important that Grey has enough physical features to pass.

After more than a dozen arrests the day before, their roles get reversed. Kind of. It’s his first time really out there, and she is kind of nervous and kind of excited for him. She tries to impart all of this knowledge she has accumulated, not yet realizing that he prefers to be quiet and introspective before he starts work. She tells him things he already knows — like that Naathi prostitutes are very savvy, yet comparatively uneducated, and their numbers are large enough that they can discriminate against outsiders and still make enough money.

Missandei reminds him to be careful with his vocabulary, to not use big words. She reminds him of the various slang words and phrases that she taught him. She reminds him that they can’t make an arrest unless the terms of the transaction is explicit and there’s a cost named. She is not even embarrassed at how silly and patronizing she sounds — because she is not aware of it.

On Grey’s part, he is patient with her anxiety. He tries to tune her out as he does his own prep in his head.

It’s actually Drogo who says, “Fucking shit, Missy. Can you get off his balls and let the poor guy have some peace and quiet for a second, yeah?”




Unlike her, he has no costume. He pretty much wears his clothes — a t-shirt, jeans, a jacket. His gun is in his holster, under the jacket. The car he is driving is wired. This time, she is the one listening in — and she is also in his ear with Daario and Drogo — just in case he needs a translation really fast.

It kind of all comes back effortlessly. It’s like putting on a well-worn glove. He immediately relaxes into it. He is actually good at this kind of work because he understands the nature of people really well.

He rolls down his window as his car slows next to the curb. He leans over, and he looks into the open air.

He says hello.

On the other end, after listening to him talk a little bit — in almost a flawless accent — Missandei pulls her face and her concentration away from the wire. She makes eye contact with Drogo and she shakes her head. Drogo raises his eyebrows at her, as if to say, I know.




It is during the third arrest that things go a little awry. When the woman realizes that he is law enforcement, and he’s about to arrest her — she loses it.

She actually starts beating her fists against him as he’s reciting her rights to her — and he doesn’t want to — but he has to cuff her. He’s trying to explain to her that she is going to be offered social services and also counseling and get resources for job training — if she wants it. But she is too busy screaming at him to really listen to him.

She calls him a fucking rapist — and he has to really bend her over the car and press her into it to stop her thrashing body from whipping into him.

And then she is sobbing as she continues screaming incoherently at him.

It’s Daario who gets really fed up with this craziness. In the Common Tongue, he snaps at her and says, “We’re trying to help you! Would you calm down!”

And her Common Tongue is actually very good. She snaps back with, “Arresting me isn’t helping, fucker!”




He is still damp from his quick shower in the locker room — and yawning — when he takes the elevator up to the garage. And he doesn’t even have it within himself to look surprised when he sees her waiting for him. His shoulders just slump as he trudges to his car with his bag hooked over his shoulder. He says to her, “What’s up, stalker?”

She smiles at him. She’s also exhausted. She wants to give him compliments really — she wants to tell him that he’s so fucking good at what he does and it is insane and she can stand to learn so much from him. She also wants to talk about how crazy their day was and how there was just so much crying and so much emotional stuff.

She also wants to tell him that she really hopes he doesn’t feel bad about being accused of being a rapist. That woman, Yiantha, has just had a rough time lately with her boyfriend and also there was a terrible incident with a shitty cop that she is kind of traumatized by and feels violated over.  

Missandei had spent half an hour having a conversation with the woman, after she calmed down a little bit. That’s why Missandei knows so much context.

She just wants to push it — and him — and spend some time dissecting everything that happened this week with him, because it’s relatively new and novel and very interesting to her.

As if reading her mind, Grey quietly says, “Miss — I’m about to crash. I need a bed, man.”

“Oh, I know,” she says softly. “I just wanted to say goodnight. And to tell you that I think you did such a good job tonight. Like, wow.”

After a heavy pause — one in which he is staring at both of their feet — he says, “Thank you.”




Chapter Text






They have noticed that Missandei is right about what she’s been saying about herself for over a year now — she is great at talking to people and at getting information from people through questions. He thinks that with more training, she could be a very useful profiler.

Contrary to some conventional wisdom, the best way to get information out of someone isn’t through intimidation or threat of violence. It’s actually through building a rapport with a subject and knowing how to ask questions in the right way.  

Through talking with Yiantha after arresting her, Missandei learned that Yiantha was brought over by a male cousin, who gave her the option of working in a nail salon or working in a massage parlor. The massage parlor pays significantly more. Yiantha naturally chose her best option, and was fine with it because she went into it with both eyes opened — this is what she righteously told Missandei, with her chin squared. But then she learned how much the owner was skimming off her wages just for her to ‘rent’ a room — so fucking awful and unfair — so Yiantha struck out on her own.

Their team is able to narrow down a geographic area — a few neighborhoods — based on the information Yiantha gave. They were able to cultivate a list of massage parlors in business in the area.

Grey, Tal, and Balaq — because they are less conspicuous — spend long days visiting all locations, collecting information. They all get upsold, but the policy is to only get shoulder massages, to keep the organization clean.

Nevertheless, Balaq bewilderingly reports back after the third day out and tells them that a masseuse grabbed his dick during a massage and played it off as an accident — but it was definitely was on purpose. Balaq laughs it off, but his eyes are wide and searching. He’s nervous about getting in trouble for this. They’ve all been under a lot of scrutiny for the past couple of years — because of what happened to Grey and Theon.

The incident gets faithfully logged. Daario and Tyrion joke that Balaq is a victim of sexual assault — they think it’s hilarious because Balaq is intimidatingly big, older, and the person who accosted him was probably a young little waif who can’t even lift forty pounds.

Balaq keeps grinning over this, but he’s patiently and strategically keeping his mouth shut. He isn’t going to make any jokes about this.

It’s Alayaya — fed up with their annoying shit — with her arms crossed over her chest, and her face serious and very humorless, who says to Balaq, “No, really. You were assaulted. You need to make an appointment with psych.”

He starts to groan over that — because he does not even want to waste his time with psych. But then he catches her face and then is like, “Yes, ma’am.” Alayaya is his boss — she’s been very by-the-book and process-oriented since her promotion — so of course he’s going to go and make an appointment with psych.







It does not even take that much to convince Yiantha to introduce Missandei to one of the parlor owners, a diminutive Naathi woman who doesn’t give a name but refers to herself as Auntie. Yiantha is pissed and bitter over how she has been cheated out of her wages and how she was made to just put up with it because she is new in this country. She is defiant, when their team cautioned her that she could be allowing more risk into her life because of this. She tells them there is nothing else anyone can do to her.

Grey refrains from pointing out that she can be killed. He just keeps that to himself.

Neither he or Missandei are wearing wires this time around. Their team is actually very, very lean because no arrests will be made. It’s actually just the two of them working together alone tonight.

Grey pays for her — for the whole night. Here, he has to hand over the stack to Auntie, who will fairly distribute Missandei’s wages to her at the end of the night.

Missy is surprised at how . . . little he acts. It seriously looks like he shows up as a version of himself and just acts like himself — quiet and nondescript — and everyone around him just accepts this as normal. No one questions him. No one asks him what his name is. No one wonders why he’s here or observes that he’s new. No one thinks about why he doesn’t spend too much time looking at other women. No one even wonders why he is such a baller, jumping straight to all-night sex without even taking her on a test run. Like, this wouldn’t be how she would buy a prostitute at all, if she were in his shoes.

Missy feels that, in contrast, she has to painstakingly hide everything about herself, when she is working.

After they shut and lock the door behind them, Grey stands at it for a long moment, listening. Then, his shoulders finally relax a little bit. Then, he clears his throat and turns to look at her. He says, “You good?”

She says, “I’m totally fine.”

He nods in confirmation. She turns on music on the old-school stereo — romantic Naathi pop music from decades ago — to give them cover to talk and also to hide the lack of sex noises.

Grey spends the first hour or so taking inventory of the room, looking for signs that someone lives in it, because sometimes what looks like sex trafficking is actually labor trafficking. Sometimes that is easier to prove. He kind of softly narrates out loud, what he is doing and what he looking for, for her benefit.

‘All night’ is probably going to be around three or four hours.

She watches him pull back the blanket and the sheets on the bed — and she winces as she watches him smell it. She watches him nod to himself. He mutters, “That hasn’t been washed in a while.”

She says, “Oh, ew.”

He says, “You can’t really catch anything from sitting on it,” right before he flips the blanket back over — and sits on it.

She is still standing in the middle of the room, just a few feet away from him.

And then he is smiling softly at her — his eyes kind of light in the dark room. His hands are folded over his lap. He asks her, “So, what do you think? About our second date. How are you enjoying it?”

She’s so struck by him and the ease in which he works, that she cannot even come up with a cool comeback. She cannot even start bantering with him. She cannot even blush over this. She just dumbly says, “Uhhh.”

 





Probably because of the events of the last few weeks and because of the irregular shifts messing with their sleep schedules — and because of the nature of the work — they both have sex dreams about each other.

She dreams about really unrealistic teleportation sex that morphs from one location to another seamlessly. She also dreams that she is being penetrated by him as she holds his body in a tight vice grip because she is scared of him disappearing right out from inside of her.

When she wakes up, with her heart beating fast and her body sweating in her sheets, she wonders how in the world she didn’t realize she was dreaming, in the dream.

She also feels ashamed — not because sex occurred in her dream — that was very nice. She actually feels ashamed that her subconscious conjured up a penis for him. Like — what is that fucking about?

She wonders if she’s just a fucking terrible person then.

Funnily enough, he has the same type of dream. His is more efficient and succinct — it feels shorter. He dreams about his dick sometimes — but this is the first time he dreams it with her. He dreams that he is having sex with her like how he used to be able to have sex in the past — and when he wakes up, he feels pain. Like — physical pain mixed in with this phantom ache. He is often made to remember exactly what it used to feel like to have an erection. Sometime it convincingly feels like it’s still there, and he has to look down to confirm to himself that it is actually not. He usually just ignores it and tells himself that over time — his body and his mind will fucking forget, and he will finally get some peace.

He rolls over, almost expecting for his hard dick to be in the way. It is not. He thinks about how far his fucking gun is from him — and then he spends a restless number of hours unable to go back to sleep.







Grey totally does not tell Sam about his sex dream about Missandei at all — because it is not important. It is just a fucking dream — and the manifestation of it make sense to him. They are colleagues working together closely, in the exhausting nucleus of sex work. Of course reality morphs into the unrecognizable, when he gives his stupid brain a rest.

Instead, Grey — who is very sleep-deprived — thinks that he is doing a great job pushing his healing forward, as he tells Sam that work doesn’t hold the same sort of thrill that it used to, and that is alarming because it’s like, in losing his dick, he also lost his ability to find joy in the small things. Grey tells Sam that prostitute duty is actually a little boring and a lot depressing. What he is doing feels kind of pointless.

Sam has the clearance, so he tells Sam that it seems the local police force has been sampling — engaging in borderline sex acts with the sex workers before not paying them, before arresting them instead. That fucks with their lives and ability to make money because then the sex workers have records. Grey can’t do anything about this obviously, because it’s not what his work is about, and he does not have the jurisdiction. There are also no clear laws against this, so there is actually nothing for him to enforce. This kind of thing is not typically a priority for leadership. He can only do what he’s been sanctioned to do. And right now, it feels pointless. He thought that work was going to feel different. He’s having a hard time that it’s not.

Grey tells Sam that it’s also been frustrating that a lot of the women don’t even want to fucking help themselves. They get pulled out and offered a path to like, legal work and a livelihood. And a lot of the time, they are like, no thanks. They would rather go back to abuse — like, what the fuck is that?

Sam is just listening because Grey is venting — and this sort of release is good — and Sam is observing that Grey has not yet made the connection, that his parents are similarly frustrated with him — for going back to his job when he had the option and the means to leave it.

Grey tells Sam that he gets it. He’s an immigrant too, so he gets it. He gets that a lot of the sex workers don’t speak the Common Tongue and were brought to Westeros specifically for sex work — so there’s that cultural brainwashing that they are contending with. Many of the sex workers don’t even believe they have been trafficked.

He also gets that going on the straight-and-narrow path is labor-intensive, boring, and there is risk that it will amount to nothing. He gets that, too.

He says, “It is all just really fucking depressing. It’s bumming me out.”

Then Grey silently congratulates himself for being so open about his emotions with another person. He has come a long way.

And when Sam refers to Grey’s compassion really casually in his response, it draws out this unexpected reaction. Sam says, “That’s the downside of your compassion. Sometimes it serves you well — like how easily you read and connect with people. Sometimes it can really bring us down, though, when we empathize too much with people. We start adopting their emotions as our own.”

Grey like, gets mad and really touchy about this. He doesn’t come right out and say that he is hurt or bothered or offended. He just starts shutting down, and he starts refuting and denying everything after that Sam says or offers. He starts saying, “You’re referring to affective empathy — I’m not an idiot. I’ve read a book before. And that’s actually not me. I’m not trying to be defensive. I’m just saying, you’re wrong. I’m saying that objectively, affective empathy is not a strong quality of my personality.”

With his brows furrowed, Sam asks, “What just happened here? Something I said upset you. I’m sorry for that. Can you tell me what just happened here?”

What ensues from that request is a tense moment of thought — and Grey is putting in the effort to think because, at this point, Sam has earned this kind of effort and this kind of work — Sam has his trust.

Then, Grey’s body and his voice is tight and controlled, as he says, “I’m not soft and weak — and it bothered me that you implied that. And I’m not normal or from here — and it bothered me that you talked to me like I’m like you. I’m . . . also not a good person. I’ve done things.”

In response to all of that, Sam carefully makes a decision. He basically risks blowback, as he softly says, “Grey, being compassionate doesn’t make you weak. It actually means you are strong. It also speaks to your morals —”

“Okay, that’s some white shit, right there!” Grey snaps heatedly.

“Do you think that the sex workers that you are coming across are weak and soft?” Sam presses. “Do you think they are abnormal for what they are doing, which is illegal under our laws? Do you think there is not any goodness in them, because of what they have done?”






Grey leaves Sam just fucking exhausted as hell, because Sam is such a crafty motherfucker. Grey ends up hitting the gym, so he can just beat out all of the thoughts and all of the feelings inside of him — because fucking Sam is actually right. Grey is actually secretly a bag of feelings. He just would like to fucking forget.

He remembers that he was less bogged down by this kind of ambiguity before he got his dick cut off. Like, beyond all of the obvious things, losing his dick has really changed him in ways he did not expect. He is constantly worried he’s bad at what he does now, because he is always second-guessing himself and he is always questioning his fucking purpose. He is worried that he is full of doubt now, because he’s been forever marked and scarred because of one fucking dead psychopath’s actions. He doesn’t think it’s fucking fair at all, but what does fair even have to do with anything?

He spends a quick hour in the gym. And then he is sweaty and ravenous — so he goes to the cafeteria before he bothers to shower.

He really wants to eat his shitty egg salad sandwiches by himself and just be the fuck alone — but Kojja is shouting at him to come over and is making a real big scene.

After he drags his feet over, she reaches out for a dap. She says, “Hello, brother from another mother.”

He says, “I wanted to eat alone.”

“Oh, we could tell,” she says, grinning. “I don’t care.” She kicks out a chair for him, this weird facsimile of chivalry.

After he sits down, Alayaya claps him on the shoulder heavily. She says nothing though. She is just trying to tell him, there there, cheer up.

“Oh damn, Nudho, it’s my nameday this weekend, remember?” Kojja announces, as if suddenly remembering herself. “You didn’t answer my email. But come through, okay? Xhondo is cleaning the house so it won’t look like shit threw up everywhere. My dad is cooking — you must be homesick for the food — starts at noon.”  She grins. “So show up at two.” She is smiling because Grey has a really terrible habit of being really punctual.

“I’m bringing punch!” Alayaya announces cheerfully. She means that she is bringing alcohol. And a lot of it.







When he arrives right at two, Missandei is a total girl about it. She didn’t really expect him, but she was really hoping he’d show up, and she’s been watching the front door a lot for that reason. Daario has been talking to her and telling her about his stupid boat. Tyrion has also been telling her about his hypothetical winery that will never realistically come to fruition. They both sense that her attention is just gone at a certain point. They follow her line of sight to the front door.

Tyrion patiently says, “Missy, your obsession is showing.”

Daario says, “Missy, if it helps you guys — I will volunteer myself as tribute, and you can close your eyes and pretend that I am him in bed. I will not be offended.”

“Um, I volunteer for that, too,” Tyrion says.

In response to this, Missy is already leaving them. She says, “Shut up! You’re both gross!” as she makes a serious beeline to Grey.

As they watch her leave, Alayaya pops her face in, letting them know she’s been eavesdropping a little. She says, “I like how she insists on playing hard to get. What a queen.” She looks at Daario. “Also, she is right. You’re gross.”







He’s still in the middle of taking his shoes off when she pops up beside him and starts pulling the case of beer out of his hand. She says, “Hi!”

And he laughs as he gives up the case so that he can pick at his laces. He almost says, what the fuck? But in actuality, he jokingly says, “Hey, man. What’s up? You’ve been waiting for me?”

She actually says, “Yeah!”

And he’s shaking his head — in mild disbelief. He’s trying not to look too directly at her face, in case it makes him smile like an idiot at her. He actually doesn’t get this at all. He doesn’t even get why she likes him like this.







It takes him a while to loosen up and to really convince himself that he is not currently at work — he’s at a party. The problem is that there are so many of his colleagues standing around him that he feels like he is at work. As he takes his beer back from Missandei, as he pushes through the crowd to load the bottles in a cooler or in the fridge, he ends up greeting like, a dozen people. He grins and touches hands with Yara, Alayaya, Balaq, Robb, Gendry, Sandor, and even Brienne, who he is surprised to see here.

He’s telling himself he’s allowed to mentally relax and not constantly track all of the consistencies and inconsistencies in the way people communicate. He’s allowed to answer honestly, when Tal pats him on the back and asks him what he’s been up to — outside of work.

But still, Grey automatically just starts smoothly deflecting and making himself sound normal by suddenly talking about how his parents are thinking about coming for a visit — when he realizes that Tal doesn’t even give a fucking shit about his lies. Tal also knows him — like, as a person.

So Grey clams up mid-statement. And then he clears his throat. He says, “Yeah, man, truthfully — I just bide time until it’s time for work again. I watch a lot of TV. I read. I work out. I eat. That’s about it.”

Tal is frowning. Because he thinks Grey’s life is sad.

“Seriously, man,” Daario says — now tipsy — now leaning heavily against Grey’s back from behind, his forearm curving down Grey’s chest. “I’m just saying — boat party? Boat party. Come on. Let’s do it. For real. Next weekend.”

“D and G stuck on a boat together — for hours,” Gendry says reasonably. “Yeah, sounds like a plan.”

“Okay, Waters, I hear yer asshurtedness — you wanna join, too. Fine.” Daario is slurring. “Shit. Waters! Boat! I just made the connection. It’s meant to be.”

“Words!” Gendry says, face flat and expressionless, save for that twinkle in his eye.

“Missandei!” Daario suddenly shouts — and she is not even that far away. She was walking behind Grey the entire time he pushed his way into the kitchen. She is standing right next to Grey right now. Nevertheless, Daario yells at her and says, “Do you want to sexually harass Grey on a boat next weekend!”

She actually appears to think about it. She looks off to the side and asks herself, “Umm, what am I doing next weekend?”  

Alayaya is cracking up. Because Missandei is just really committing to this character of Grey's female stalker, and it’s really great.

“Hey.”

It’s Drogo — his deep, unimpressed voice is especially unmistakable these days because that voice just instills immediate anxiety in all of them.

Kojja actually invited the boss because she felt sorry for him — to the detriment of the everyone else’s good time.  

Drogo clears his throat. Then he says, “Can we not make jokes about sexual harassment to each other? I would rather not do . . . any paperwork.”

Daario holds onto Grey tighter — and Grey awkwardly allows himself to be pulled backwards — this feels like some sort of statement. He feels like a pawn right now. He feels like a human shield between Daario and Drogo.

“Why don’t you tell us what we’re allowed to talk about then, on our personal time?” Daario says to Drogo, looking past Grey’s head.

“Oh, should I just go back home then?” Drogo returns, arching a brow. “Am I ruining your day?”

“Kind of,” Daario says.

They all expect Drogo to snap at Daario and just get all loud and angry — but actually, Drogo just appears to think it over for a little bit. And then he calmly says, “Okay.”

And then he turns around and pushes through the crowd — ostensibly leaving? Maybe?  

Grey feels Daario’s hold on him loosen. Grey winces as Daario shouts, “Other D! Come on! I was joking! Don’t be like that! Fuck!” And then to the rest of them, he rolls his eyes and says, “Why is he being so sensitive?”







Chapter Text




Bronn bugs Brienne into going and checking in on Drogo, presumably because she is closest to the porch door. She thinks it’s because she’s a woman and Bronn is a lazy asshole, so she gives him a hard stare for that — but she still goes along with what he wants anyway.

She comes back looking a little confused and bewildered. She tells them that Drogo is actually just smoking on the porch and joking around with Kojja’s dad and uncles. He is completely fine. He is not crying in a corner like what Daario was saying.





Drogo actually just doesn’t want to give a bunch of self-centered, petulant assholes the satisfaction of seeing just how fucking sick of this shit he is. He didn’t even want to show up to this party just to be a social pariah, but he got nostalgic. He remembers parties where a bunch of them got wasted together, burned furniture together, before picking themselves off the ground the day after to go hunt down some greasy diner food together.

A lot of things have changed since those days.

So he starts chain smoking. He also starts drinking in moderation. These are actually two things he has been trying to do less of. He was shocked after his last physical, when his doctor told him that his blood pressure and his cholesterol have been veering high. He told his doctor that that couldn’t be right because he works out like, all the time. He’s in really good shape.

His doctor told him that he appears to be in good shape, but that he is going to need to take better care of himself and make some lifestyle changes in terms of diet and also stress management. And Drogo didn’t know what the fuck to make of that. His entire concept of himself has been upended.

So he’s been eating bullshit food like a white girl lately — quinoa and kale, without salt. He’s been trying to let certain vices go, even though sometimes his vices are the only things that bring him joy in life. He’s been trying to integrate yoga into his workouts. He’s been trying to meditate. He’s been trying to achieve some sort of work and life balance. He’s been trying to compartmentalize and leave some of it behind when he goes home. He has been seeing a therapist. He’s been trying to spend more time with the people who center him — a term his therapist uses. He’s been trying to be with his family and be with his non-work friends more. He has found that he cannot relate at all to his non-work friends.

This is also why he is at this stupid fucking party.




While Daario is still holding onto him, Grey lifts up his phone, puts it in selfie mode, and takes a picture of them together. He sees Daario automatically smile at the camera — so Grey smiles, too.

Gendry, who is politely watching, asks, “Oh, do you want me to take a photo of you two?” in the most stunningly non-judgmental, non-interested way possible.

Grey says, “Nah, it’s all good.” And then because he is trying to be more open about himself — because Sam has been telling him that he should try — he offers an explanation. He says, “My parents get on my ass sometimes about, um, my life. They don’t think I have fun or have friends. I’m trying to collect proof that I can send them, so they will shut the fuck up.”

“Aw,” Daario says. “I like your folks. Will you tell them I said hello?”

“Okay,” Grey says, with his face pointed down at his phone screen. He is composing the message to his folks right on the spot. “My parents think I’m gay,” he adds. “So this picture is definitely going to cause them focus on that for a while and have some conversations between the two of them. This photo is gonna help me get a fucking break from them for a while.”

Daario laughs. He says, “Are you serious? You’re gonna get your parents hopes up like that and let them believe I’m going to be their future son-in-law?”

Grey just says, “Yeah.”

“Wow, okay,” Tal says. “So I’m standing right here, and you’re gonna act like I’m not standing right here? You’re gonna act like I’m not a viable candidate for being your pretend-lover? Like, we’re just not gonna address this at all?”

“Yeah.”

In response to Grey’s utter non-response to that bit of levity — Grey is still typing out his message to his folks — Tal leans over and smacks Grey in the arm. Grey doesn’t even flinch.

Tal says, “Nudho! Maybe instead of working so hard to appear human, maybe you should just actually be a person and laugh at my jokes.”

“Why don’t you actually be funny then? Then maybe I will laugh one of these days,” Grey mutters.

“I’m the top, by the way,” Daario announces to Grey. “You’re the bottom, obviously.”

“I honestly do not know why you’re friends with him,” Missandei chimes in, also talking to just Grey. She’s trying to keep her voice light and even, though in truth, she finds Daario extremely annoying when he drinks.

“Proximity and convenience,” Grey explains, as he finally hits send on his phone. “You’re friends with him, too.”





Grey is seriously all partied out after a whopping hour. He already ate all of the delicious food that Kojja’s dad made. He already said his hellos to all of the elders that he doesn’t know. And then he said hello to all of the coworkers that he does know. He has already made small talk with a guy about ice and how to freeze ice so it’s clear.

Grey has had enough.

He finds the aimlessness of socializing to be really uncomfortable and kind of anxiety-inducing. He doesn’t want to drink today because the last time he drank, he tried to have sex with Alayaya and that proved to be really unsuccessful because he completely freaked out. The time he drank before that he got himself arrested.

So he is kind of nervous about how not-well he operates under the influence these days.

He came here to prove something to himself and to his parents. He feels like he has fulfilled both missions, so he just tries to quietly sneak out the front door and just leaves before the cake is cut and before any presents get opened. He didn’t get Kojja a present anyway.

He steps into his shoes quickly and delays lacing them up because he doesn’t want to get caught. He’s already got his hand on the doorknob.

Nonetheless — because she’s been avidly watching him all night — she catches him with, “Hey, are you heading out?”

He freezes momentarily. And then he says, “Yeah, I’m tired.”

“I’ll walk you to your car.”





It seriously takes five seconds to walk to his car, where it is parked next to the curb in front of Kojja’s house. They cross the lawn silently together, with him feeling her cast this glance at his face as his pulse starts to speed up just a little bit.

He’s been thinking a lot lately, about a lot of things — but mostly simultaneously how short and how long life is. Life is short because it can be extinguished at any moment — and that is it. Life is just done. He thought he knew this when he was a college kid signing up for what he thought was a life’s purpose. But the thing about youth is how short-sighted and how much it lacks context and breadth and wisdom. He has had many close calls and he’s killed enough people to have known — but he actually didn’t realize how fragile life really is until death was immediate and right in his face. He is learning that is it hard to come back from that. It is hard to care about things, after that.

He thinks that life is long because he survived. And he is just useless now, and destined to just carry on as this person who has been maimed, physically and psychologically. Youth was a blessing because when he was young, he was too stupid to know what he stood to lose. Youth was also a blessing because when he was young, he was stupid enough to believe in the lies that they fed him. Now he knows better, and after knowing — what is even left for him — a paycheck? Something to kill the boredom? Is he going to do this for the next ten years? The next twenty? Or maybe just until he makes a grave error and just kicks the bucket randomly — because he is now a person that views life and death as random. None of it really matters. None of it actually holds purpose.

Sam keeps telling Grey that he is depressed. Even then, Grey doesn’t care. Though he supposes that is the nature of the beast.

He feels embarrassed by the way she looks at him sometimes. He feels embarrassed by how it looks — like, it looks comical, and it looks like he is being mocked or something — and he is left kind of wondering why she’d mock him like this, because all signs point to her being a pretty nice person. He also feels embarrassed by how she kind of makes him feel sometimes. He refuses to define or qualify it. He just has been telling himself he doesn’t like it, and it’s a little bit cruel and unfair.

This is why he quickly says, “Okay, well thanks. I made it to my car. That was harrowing. Thanks for being a friend.” His hand is reaching for the door handle.

And she ends up reaching out with her hand and pushing on his door, keeping it shut. She is staring at him.

He says, “Ummm . . . what’s happening right now?”

She is nonplussed by that response. She just asks, “Where are you going?”

“Home.”

She says, “Oh,” as she appears to think about that.  “What are your plans for the rest of the night?”

Honestly, he’s probably going to try to sleep early so that this fucking weekend will just end. Out loud, he says, “Just chill.”

“I mean, I have nothing going on for the rest of the night either,” she says.

He says, “Oh, cool.”

“We should hang out together.”

He is shaking his head. He is saying, “You’re funny. Like for real. Like, low-key funny. Like, it’s not a laugh out loud funny. It’s like, a half-smile-oh-you-amused-me kind of funny.”

Predictably — and it’s anxiety-relieving because often the things he says ends up offending women more than anything else — her demeanor and her face cracks and this loud, staccato beacon of light beams out. She’s laughing — she’s snorting, she’s trying to cover her face with her hand because the adorable snort surprised her — he’s reaching out to grab her wrist, to keep her face uncovered. He watches it flush — darken a little bit. He watches her eyes go shiny from exertion-tears.  

She shoves him with her free hand. His feet stay firmly planted on the ground, but he sways back a little bit. His hand on her wrist tightens.

She exclaims, “You’re not going to neg me into liking you!” Then she adds, “It’s too late anyway. I’m already a little too obsessed. Like, you should fear for your life. Like, you should be worried I want to carve out your insides and sleep in your skin like it’s a sleeping bag.”





They probably spend five hours talk-flirting out there by his car like that — or realistically, just five minutes. She loses track of time because she is trying to remember every fucking micro moment of this so that she can tell her journal all about it later.

He is working so hard not to give her the satisfaction of actually laughing at the things she says. She keeps telling him about the ways that she would murder and mutilate his body — with knives! — to get a semi-sexual release from it.

He keeps muttering, “Oh my God, what are you saying to me right now,” as he repeatedly breaks eye contact to look at electrical poles and power lines — just anything but her face because he’s afraid that he will crack up and condone this shit coming out of her face.

And then — watching his face — her tone and her mood flips really fast — it softens — she asks, “You studied literature in college — how come? Do you like to read?” She asks because she has been wanting to know.

His eyes widen in mild surprise — at the abrupt change in topic. His lashes flutter as he recovers. He realizes that she has read his file and she has apparently memorized parts of it, which actually isn’t that weird. He knows stuff about everyone else, too. It’s normal in their work.

And then he actually answers her. He says, “Yeah, I loved reading a lot when I was a kid. My parents are teachers — but you know that — and yeah. They had access to lots of books for that reason.”

She is smiling encouragingly at him.  

He clears his throat and blinks hard. He decides to reciprocate. He asks her, “When did you know you liked learning languages?”

“Oh!” she says thoughtfully. “It was through bootleg soap operas!”

She tells him that there were video stores all over Naath that carried pirated copies of foreign content, some dubbed, some subtitled. Her mother loved soaps, but Naath doesn’t have a robust filmmaking culture or the infrastructure and money to support that kind of business, so that’s why they pirate other content. She tells him she grew up watching soaps cuddled up with her mom. And that was how they all figured out she had a gift for language acquisition.

He thinks it’s a really, really cute story — and she thinks she might muster up the courage — again — to ask him to grab a cup of coffee somewhere.

And that’s about when Drogo's large and broad body appears from the backyard and marches across the front lawn. He takes in their presence casually, even though he didn’t expect to see them. He says, “Hey, guys. You heading out, too?”





Drogo is too in his own head that he doesn’t realize he is really aggravating Missy by being a major cockblock right now. He doesn’t see past her polite inquiries and her blank face at all — it is all too subtle for him — as he asks if it’s okay before he lights up a cigarette.

Missy is like, oh great, so he’s going to be here for a bit.

And then Drogo starts talking about work. His eyes are far away as he mutters out procedural things, as he mutters through the list of things he needs to get through in the next week.

Grey says, “Yeah, I don’t miss those parts of the job at all.”

“You were so good at it,” Drogo says, sucking in so the tip of his cigarette glows red, releasing smoke out of the side of his mouth and nostrils. “Fuck. I really need to quit. I’m apparently on a bullet train headed toward heart disease if I don’t cut this shit out.”

And with disgust, he sucks in another puff of smoke — he’s still got half of the cigarette to go — before he rips the thing out of his mouth, drops it on the ground, and extinguishes it.

Grey actually stoops down to pick up the butt. He explains, “I’ll throw it away in the garbage,” before he leaves them to head to Kojja’s bins.

Drogo just shakes his head, watching Grey’s departing back. Because he misses Grey.

Then he says, “What’s up with you, Missy? How is life when you aren’t being terrorized by your terrible boss?”





She was never bullied for real when she was younger. She had a good core group of friends and she was popular in her school. Her brothers occasionally hassled her, but they also fiercely protected her against any would-be bullies. Everyone in her grade were scared and in awe of her brothers.

This is why it took her so long to figure out that if she just leaned into the shit-talking, then it makes it way less fun for people and they will eventually shut up.

Everyone, even Daario, has been bugging her less about her crush on Grey because she has been strategically copping to it. She’s making fun of herself so that they don’t have to. She’s learning this old schoolyard technique way too late.

The downside of this is that even Grey thinks it’s a joke. Even she thinks its a joke sometimes.

Like, it’s five in the morning and they are about to part ways and just crash for hours to recover from stress-filled sleep deprivation. He has his bag hooked over his shoulder as he walks out of the briefing room and toward the elevators. She smells like flowery perfume and dried sweat as she follows behind him, her windbreaker rustling.

They tiredly ride up to the garage together. He yawns widely. She sympathetically yawns, too.

When the doors open, he lightly pats her on the arm before walking out. He says, “See you later, baby,” before he walks out and heads to his car without a backwards glance. It’s a joke. Because they are coming off a shift of prostitute duty.

She calls out with, “Have a good nap, lover!” because she knows it will make him cringe.





It takes her twenty-five minutes to get home. She sleepily stops at a gas station to fill up her tank and also to grab a carton of milk for coffee and tea. Her gun rests heavy against her ribcage as she makes polite small talk with the gas station attendant who is just starting his shift. He is not into her pleasantries, but he is nice enough.

The entire city feels like it’s still slumbering — the roads are clear and wet from the recent drizzle — as her feet feel heavy and gritty as she tracks a little bit of mud into her foyer.

Her dad is already up because he keeps early hours — which is regretful. She wishes he’d sleep in, but years of training has not left his body. The few people who know what her dad did — who aren’t in the same line of work — often ask her what it was like to grow up with him as a father. They imagine that his life was exciting and adrenaline pumping — that it must’ve been hard for him to slow down and be a father when he was around his family.

But he was actually a really, really good father. There were long days when he didn’t come home at all — and those days used to really worry their mother. There were weeks when he didn’t eat dinner with them at all, and their mother just had to hold it down by herself.

But when he was present, he was all-in. He was attentive and responsive, probably because he really felt that the time they had was really special and finite.

Missy understands that her dad is of a certain generation. And he does believe that this job is not made for women. He doesn’t think that she can have this job and a husband, for instance, because how can a husband put up with this schedule and the absence of his wife? Her dad also doesn’t think that women in this job should have children — because it’s really irresponsible and bad for the children to be so far away from their mother.

She doesn’t actually think her dad is wrong. He is probably very right. It’s a little unfair because he got to have a family and a partner. And her brothers both have families and partners. And it’s just . . . really hard for her to date anyone. Because her dad is right. It is unfair because the world is just unfair. The fact of the matter is that few men are willing to put up with this shit. She will probably have to make a hard decision for herself at one point — family and kids? — or her career?

Or maybe she will be killed on the job and the dilemma will become moot.

When her aunties ask about whether or not she’s lonely being such a single career gal, she’d laugh along with them and would secretly feel very lucky and slightly superior to them. They were stuck being housewives because it’s that generation. She has so many options and so much opportunity. She is not really looking for what they have at all.

But she is lonely. Sometimes. And she misses sex, which is funny because sex is in her face constantly through the work she does. But she does miss being close to someone else in that way.

She literally has no time to date though.

“Do you want some tea?” her dad calls out softly. “Do you want to tell me about your day?”

She laughs. And she’s exhausted, but she still drops her bag down at her feet before she trudges into the kitchen. Her face must be terrifyingly ghoulish to her dad — like, she must actually look like a sad prostitute to him.

She looks at the plate of biscuits, the tiny jar of homemade jam, and the dish of butter neatly arranged on the table. There is a folded napkin and a tiny plate and also silverware ready for her. She says to him, “Daddy, you’re such a good wife!”

He rolls his eyes at her.





Grey’s folks start asking after Daario, which is really fucking hilarious to him because his parents won’t come right out and say anything directly. His folks just keep inquiring about his friend and how his friend is doing. He keeps telling his parents that his friend is fine. He feeds the stupid fire by telling his folks that he and Daario are planning on going on Daario’s boat soon — finally.

On the side, he texts and video messages with his brother, who faithfully tells Grey the truth about what is actually going on at home — Azzie tells Grey their folks are actually freaking out a fair bit over their youngest’s latent homosexuality.

Azzie tells Grey, “Mom keeps saying weird shit about how maybe your work accident made you gay. And I’m like, ‘Mom, it doesn’t work like that. And you’re a teacher! Of young, impressionable kids! For Christ’s sake!’ And Mom is like, ‘I know, I know. That’s not what I meant.’ Um, baby bro, I think Mom and Dad might be slightly homophobic?”

Grey sleepily laughs into the palm of his hand. He mutters, “Who isn’t?”





Grey glances at her sardonically as he swirls the Chardonnay in his glass. He is backlit in buttery light. There is the cloudless sky and soft crests of hills patterned with rows and rows of vines behind him. He sniffs his glass, takes a sip, and then says, “Hm, primarily tart green apples with some underlying vanilla and oak. Rather ordinary, don’t you think, sweetheart?"

She is trying to keep her amusement down at giggling levels, not at belly laughing levels. She thinks that this is a very, very nice change from prostitute duty, though it does present certain challenges and certain downsides.

Her fat and fake wedding ring is glittering under the dusky sunlight as she pulls her own wine glass to her mouth and takes a modest sip. She’s trying not to lose her vice grip on sobriety here.

She near-silently whispers to him, “It tastes grape-y.”

“Aw, you’re embarrassing to me!” he says, his voice also low. Unlike him, she didn’t have the capacity or the ability or the talent or the brainpower to memorize the entire fucking wine catalogue.  






Chapter Text







They spend seven lengthy days touring different wineries, ostensibly on the first leg of their honeymoon. Her cover is as a marketing manager for a big-box store. He is a high-level investment banker at a large firm. This cushy job is a reward of sorts, from Drogo — for putting up with the long night hours on prostitute duty.

They both have done about a month of preparation for this ongoing engagement. It involves brushing up on pages and pages of updated procedures and protocols. It involves hours and hours of run-through. It also includes rote memorization on their backstory and jobs. This is actually why Grey is the primary on this job and Missandei is his support. Few people in the organization can absorb copious amounts of complex and technical information like Grey can. Missandei is his wife because she looks like she would blend in well as his wife, they happen to work well together, and conveniently, they have largely the same working schedule due to the ongoing prostitution job.     

She learned off the bat that this is not going to be fun at all. This is not a vacation at all even though they are in the beautiful Dorne countryside. She learns that there is zero budget for this, so she has to pull her nicest clothes out of her own closet. They are not armed at all. And any moment when they are alone or are not actively working, Grey has his face shoved in a computer or a tablet. He is constantly reading, preparing, and recommitting information to memory. He is also constantly going through case files, looking for inconsistencies or potential points of interest — potential leads.

He is an incredible workhorse. His focus makes her feel like lazy garbage all the time. She feels bad whenever her eyes start aching from staring at a screen for too long. She feels bad when she falls asleep on him in the hotel room and she wakes up hours later with her body tucked underneath the sheet and blanket, her laptop closed and charging on the nightstand.

She doesn’t know when he sleeps — because she never sees him sleep.

Their daylight hours are spent on an exhausting schedule. They get up early at sunrise and do group tours — outings in which she and Grey are constantly socializing and talking to people, trying to suss out who could be developed into an organizational asset. He does most of the talking — he talks intricately about wine, he talks about football with a stunning amount of authentic-looking engagement — and she knows he hates football because he told her so on the flight over — and he brags about his job and his ability to quickly secure equity financing for IPOs. He sounds ridiculously obnoxious and charismatic, and she can’t believe what she is hearing come out of his mouth sometimes.

His lies sound so naturalistic — and before this, she would think that it was effortless, but she has been seeing how he doesn’t sleep, so she now realizes that what he does actually requires a lot of effort and it is awe-inspiring.

“Taking a year studying abroad in Pentos really broadened my horizons,” Grey tells this older couple. “I highly recommend it for your son. It’s so valuable to see how other people live, you know? Beyond learning about other cultures, it makes you appreciate what you have so much more.”

“That’s funny that you mention that!” Jon tells Grey. “We were just telling our Robin about that. Weren’t we, darling?”

“We were!”

“Well, let me give you my card,” Grey offers, pulling out the flap of his blazer, grinning widely. “Let him know that he can call me anytime with questions. Also, anytime you need some Pentoshi food recommendations, feel free to reach out! I am pretty sure I ate my weight triple times over in lobster. They are known for this spiny variety that is very sweet and buttery.”

“That sounds absolutely amazing!” Lysa says.

“It sure was! Poor Jenny can’t eat any because she is allergic to shellfish,” Grey says, reaching out to touch Missandei’s hip, softly guiding her closer to his body. “But it’s okay! I eat more than enough for the both of us.”

“You certainly do, babe,” she says, smiling at him softly. And it is a real smile — she can tell he is exhausted and is just running on fumes right now. She presses a hand over his sternum, letting her fake diamond sparkle, before leaning over to give him a peck on the cheek.







Once the door to their hotel room closes, she starts kicking off her heels and undoing her updo. She asks him if it’s okay for her to shower first, even though he always, always insists that she go first.

He mutters, “Yep,” as he starts unbuttoning his dress shirt. He has been sweating all day underneath the blazer and acting like it’s not uncomfortable as fuck.

By the time she comes back out again — hair damp and dripping a little into her nightshirt, which is just a loose t-shirt — he is back to staring at his computer screen and sucking down water from a bottle. The laptop casts a blue glow over his face, reflected in his glasses.

She says, “All yours.”

He absently mumbles, “Awesome, thanks,” as his eyes stay glued to the screen.

She rubs lotion on her bare legs for about five minutes, sitting on the bed before he finally gets up, digs around in his suitcase, and then walks into the bedroom.

She speculates that because he has to expend such an incredible amount of energy and effort toward being socially adept during the day, he is just spent by night time. He typically doesn’t say more than five words to her after nine o’clock.

She’s lying down, in bed and under the covers, by the time he walks out of the bathroom. She has her eye mask already on, and her hands are folded over her stomach, on top of the covers. She puts her mask on so that she can easily sleep, so that he doesn’t have to feel bad about keeping the lights on as he continues working.







When they are finally back home — after a flight delay that left them stuck in Sunspear for an extra night — she fades back into her regular and repetitive routine. She gets up early for a jog, before the sun is fully up and the sky is still bleeding a little pink. She reads and answers emails first thing at work. She spends hours at her desk poring over data. She posts to her fake social media accounts — photos of her fake self and her handsome fake husband looking fake happy on their fake honeymoon. She rips the captions and hashtags from real accounts of friends from college that she is no longer close with because they have nothing in common anymore. Jojen has secured her hundreds and hundreds of fake friends and followers for the accounts.

Missy hits the gym for another run after that. And then she changes her clothes and goes from massage parlor to massage parlor, trying to cultivate new relationships with the owners. After that, she sometimes swings by a few strip clubs and talks to the bosses. On some days when she’s not fake prostituting, she gets her nails done with a new friend that she has made. And occasionally she has to do something weird. Like, once, she had to babysit a woman’s four-year-old son for like, three hours while his mom was off doing God knows what.

Back at headquarters on a Thursday, she sets her tray of food down in the cafeteria, between Daario and Gendry, Daario nudges her and jokingly asks her how her super romantic getaway with Grey went. They haven’t seen each other in over a week because he was working in Highgarden.

In response, she give him a withering look. She says, “He literally worked the entire time. I literally had no opportunity to sexually harass him. He gave me no opening.”

Daario chuckles appreciatively at that.

She keeps milking this joke because, sad as it is, this is the closest she has ever been to being one of the guys. She keeps up this joke because everyone except Drogo seems to enjoy it.

“Yeah, man,” Robb interjects, cutting a slice into his reheated lasagna. “I was based in Yunkai with him and Clegane for three months about five years ago? Let me tell you —” Robb pauses. “A fun time was had by all. His discipline is incredible.”  







Sam has suggested to him, many times, that he should work at having better life-work balance. He has told Sam that his work-life balance is as good as it’s ever been. He’s like, about to go on a boat with Daario. For fun.

Nevertheless, he tells his parents that he is going to buy them two plane tickets to King’s Landing during the school break. He’s going to put them up in a nice hotel. He will take a week off to sightsee with them.

They counter this. They tell him that they don’t want to stay in a nice hotel. They don’t want to do any sightseeing because they’ve visited him many times over the years already. They tell him that they want to stay with him, they want to take care of him, they want to cook all of his favorite foods and have it ready when he gets home from work, they want to see his life and how he has resettled, and they want to stay a little bit longer than a week.

“Like, how long?” he asks, through the screen.

“Maybe a month or two?”

“Like, the entire break?” he asks carefully.

“Is it going to be an imposition?” his dad asks — voice deep and targeted.

This sounds like a fucking test. So Grey calls their bluff. He says, “No. And sure. Come stay for awhile. It will be nice to be roommates again.”

“We’re not your roommates,” his mom says, her face and tone utterly humorless.

“We’re your parents,” his dad adds, completely clarifying needlessly.

“Oh good,” he says lightly, looking absently at the lone nail on his wall — a present that the last tenant of his apartment left for him. “We’re having a good time together already.” He is going to need to buy so much shit to populate this place. He is going to need to go to IKEA so that this place doesn’t look like a sociopath lives here.






Daario’s boat is crazy. And Grey should not have expected anything less. It is a rickety old thing that smells like mold, turpentine, and vinyl. Truly the person he feels especially bad for is Missandei, who shows up with a two-piece bathing suit under her clothes, expecting this to be like, a normal boating experience. Her face comically drops into a look of horror and disbelief, as Daario holds out his arms widely and says, “Ta-da! Welcome to Chez Naharis!”

Missandei says, “Oh my God.”

She says this at the same time that Gendry starts cracking up loudly and clapping his hands, saying, “Yes! Yes! Yesss!”

Daario throws a smelly lifejacket at her and then graciously offers her a seat as first mate — aka the seat directly behind him on the driver’s side. Grey and Gendry are both pretty familiar with boats, so they start untying rope and gently pushing bumpers as Daario starts up his engine with a loud roaring gurgle and a puff of smoke.

Again, Missandei looks horrified. Again, she says, “Oh my God.”

Daario has this ancient boombox — no lie — tied down with rope against a wall railing, to drown out the sound of the engine. After they back away from the dock, Daario starts blaring Dolly Parton without like, any shame or self-consciousness at all.

Gendry is standing in the hull, behind Daario, who is loudly singing as he drives a little erratically with an opened tallboy of beer in hand. Gendry is staring directly at Grey, who is still stuck on the bow, from where he pulled up bumpers. Gendry is covering his mouth to stop himself from laughing, to keep his composure. He is pretty sure that he and Grey are both thinking the same thing.

They are both realizing that their longtime colleague and friend is like . . . a redneck. Like all of the pieces are clicking into place. Daario’s nomadic, shitty upbringing. His shitty alcoholic mother. The way he dances and tries to rap.

“Torgo!” Daario shouts, swatting in the direction of Grey, who is kind of blocking Daario’s view. “Get in here! Come on, brother! It’s a party! Let’s party! Grab yourself a brewski!

“Oh,” Grey says, muttering more to himself than anyone else. “Okay.”







Daario’s earnestness, hospitality, and enthusiasm actually makes for a really, really lovely time. He slaps Grey on the butt and lets Grey drive the boat as fast as Grey wants — which isn’t really that fast because Grey is not really a thrillseeker — and Daario dramatically rips off his cutoff shirt, revealing a really fit, really athletic build — with a slight sunburn.

He catches Missandei looking at him — or glaring at him because she still has not gotten over what is happening to her right now — and he rakishly grins. He gestures to his torso and he says, “Try not to fall in love with me, okay? Try to keep your hands off, okay?”

Her frown deepens.

After they stop, Daario throws out a inner tube that he has tied to the boat. He is screaming over Dolly as he tells them that the tube can fit two people, maybe three if they get cozy. Then, with a whoop, he just runs and jumps off the boat, cannonballing into the water.

When he resurfaces, he shouts to Gendry. He shouts, “Toss me a beer!”

And Gendry faithfully does.

After that, Grey and Gendry just submit to this. They both start stripping down at a really leisurely pace, down to just their swim trunks. Grey mutters to Gendry that he hasn’t done this since his accident — and it’s vague enough that Gendry and Missandei don’t know what specific thing he is referring to — whether it’s swimming, taking off some of his clothes around other people, being on a boat, doing a cannonball?

He actually dives into the water.

And then he starts swimming around, really casually and naturally — it is immediately really obvious that he is a really excellent swimmer.

Gendry splashes in soon after.

And Missandei is left on the boat, gingerly holding the bright orange lifejacket against her breasts, telling them, “I don’t want to get my hair wet! I don’t want to get my hair wet!” before she begrudgingly ties it back with a hair band.







Daario feeds them hot dogs as they wait for the sun to set, hot dogs that he cooks on a gas grill in the back of the boat. Grey is snapping a picture of Daario cooking his dinner to send to his parents, as Gendry explains to them that there’s this delicious stew he grew up on in the Flea Bottom district. It was made up of cut up hot dogs, hot dog water, leftover kitchen scraps and trimmings, and stale bread cubes to thicken it up.

Gendry smacks his lips, at the memory, and says, “Yummy. And it’s never the same twice!”

“Well, that sounds disgusting,” Grey says, taking a big bite out of his hot dog and bun, holding half of it in his cheek.

“No, man, trust me,” Gendry insists. “I’ll have you over for dinner one of these days. I’ll make it for you. It will be romantic.”

“Oh, you think you can beat Theon Greyjoy in the romantic dinner department?” Grey asks, chewing through his food. “Wow. Cocky.”

Missy has been struggling to keep up with them all day. She’s been struggling to be comfortable on this really, really smelly boat even though she is disgusted just touching her feet to the wet carpet. She was uncomfortable sitting in a rubber inner tube. She’s been self-conscious over what a priss and princess she apparently is. She cannot think of jokes fast enough. She cannot think of funny quips fast enough. She is not even in the right frame of mind to jokingly hit on Grey — it is much harder with an audience.

She cannot banter with them. She cannot even carry her end of the conversation. She has just been rather quiet all day. This feels a lot like how it is when she is hanging out with her dad and brothers. Ever since they lost their mom, she’s kind of been odd one out.

The best that she can currently offer is, “Did you know that I ate a hotdog for the first time in college?”

There is kind of a pause after that pronouncement.

And then Daario says, “Oh, cool, Missy.”

And then Grey says, “D, can I have another?” He is talking about another hot dog.

“Sure, buddy.”







After her sub-tacular performance on boat day, after Daario caught Grey and Missy coming off a tiring operation the other night — after he watched Grey offer Missy his hand in a high five and saw Missy completely and totally miss hitting Grey’s hand in the five — well, Daario leans over her shoulder right before a meeting with Selmy and he boings one of her curls. He then whispers to her, “Hey, champ — a heads up, but I think you are friendzoning yourself pretty hard with that one, eh?” Daario directs his gaze to Grey, who is sitting across the table, looking down into his coffee cup. He seems weirdly perturbed by whatever he is looking at.   

Missy scoffs and gives Daario this look of disgust, because she does not even have time before this meeting to explain to him how insulting to women the term “friendzoned” is. Also, she is not getting friendzoned. She is still pretty firmly in the “more than” territory. She doesn’t even have time to explain this to fucking Daario.

“Okay, let’s go over statuses,” Drogo says to all of them, at the top of the hour.







So Missy ends up friendzoning herself real fucking hard with Grey in the cafeteria. From her vantage point, it is completely unexpected and it comes from absolutely out of nowhere — she couldn’t have anticipated it at all. Best of all, it happens with an audience, so there are many, many witnesses to watch her crash and burn.

It comes about when they are all ripping on one of their favorite topics: How much of a fucking boob Drogo is these days. Bronn kicks it off by telling them that Drogo completely got on his ass because he sent in his reports like, half a fucking day late. Yara says, “Oh my God,” and then tells them that Drogo has figured out how to write the most passive aggressive emails ever, because he’s been trying to be more . . . cheery? Alayaya tells them that Drogo is obsessed with the filing system —

“Actually, that’s important,” Grey cuts in. “Best practices need to be followed so that the files are organized and easily referenced —”

“Boo!” Daario says loudly, throwing his crumpled, used napkin at Grey’s face. “Boo!”

“I’m just saying —”

“Boo!”

Grey shuts his eyes as another wadded napkin hits his face. He cracks a small smile — he huffs out a short laugh — because he gets it. He gets that no one wants to hear him defend the boss.

He says, “Alright, alright. I hear ya. But come on — Drogo has a hard job, guys. He’s doing his best. And you know — it could be worse. Like, he could be Daenerys.”

“And what exactly do you mean by that?” Missandei interjects.

All gazes — including Grey’s — flip right to her. Half of the table is remembering that Missy and Dany are like, bffs. The other half of the table just never forgot this factoid.

So very deliberately, with months and months worth of resentment and bitterness pressing down on his shoulders, Grey waves his hand despondently in between their bodies. He casually says, “Well, instead of doing actual work, Drogo could be walking around in designer suits, parroting dumbass sound bytes to press about the state of the organization even though he doesn’t even have a fucking clue. At least Drogo isn’t doing that.”

What results is a lengthy, context-heavy, and awkward pause.

Missy swallows the lump in her throat.

And then she says, “Wow.” And that is all she says for now.

Grey’s eyes narrow just the teeniest bit. He says, “Am I wrong?”

She shrugs delicately.

And then she says, “I’m just surprised that you feel that way. I mean, if it weren’t for her — you — you wouldn’t —”

“I wouldn’t have a job?” he supplies, letting it roll effortlessly off his tongue. “Wouldn’t even be alive? Wouldn’t have gotten out mostly intact. Sure. I guess I was following some other person’s order to engage with Bolton. You are right, Missandei. I should be grateful.”

The entire table is like, so tense now.





She retains her composure for the rest of the day. She pulls on a stretchy, skin-tight tank top and skirt, and she stands outside on a street corner as he waits nearby in a baseball cap. She looked within herself and she has decided that she still trusts him — with her life. So they are carrying on with this.

At the end of the shift, he tiredly tells her, “Good job,” before he packs up his gear into his bag and heads up to the parking garage.

She makes the decision to wait a minute before she heads to the elevator, to go up to the same garage.

It’s when she arrives home, after her dad smiles at her with such gentleness and tells her that her clothes are folded and put away, that she kind of breaks down a little bit. Her eyes fill with tears. It’s probably dark enough that he might not notice. And she blinks them away furiously as she quickly thanks him, wishes him a good night, and trots up the stairs.









Chapter Text



 

 

She arrives on time and with a wrapped present, for her niece’s nameday party. It is an auspicious nameday — it is the first. In the old days, this marked a Naathi child surviving past the harrowing first year, back when babies were especially vulnerable due to infection, disease, malnutrition, and general lack of information. Nowadays, it’s a cultural ritual.

She bought her brother and sister-in-law a pricey juicer. Because maybe they can make baby Bee juices. Or maybe her sister-in-law will enjoy having a healthy glass of disgusting carrot juice as she breastfeeds Bee.

Missy tends to buy her family members expensive gifts, in a misguided attempt to get them to stop feeling so fucking sorry for her. There’s nothing to feel sorry about. She has a nice job. It pays her well so she has a nice place to live. She has a nice number of close friends, the ranks of which are growing by the day. And she is kind of incrementally and iteratively saving the lives of vulnerable human trafficking victims and sex workers, slowly but surely. Like, she is pretty heroic.

“Missandei!” one of her aunties says when she spots her. “I am so surprised to see you here, dear! Have you been sleeping? You look tired.”


 



Drogo “lends” Grey to Arya’s department because Sandor’s ice-fishing vacation to Bear Island comes at an inopportune time and cannot be deferred again — not after Sandor put down a fat deposit on a cabin, coordinated the schedules for this reunion of his ex-special forces buddies — not after months and months of Sandor’s expressed dissatisfaction and his reticence to renegotiate his contract in order to re-up. Arya tells Drogo that they need to keep Clegane happier or else Clegane is going to walk soon.

So Drogo reluctantly offers up his man whose potential is currently severely underutilized. Drogo does not think this is healthy for Grey, but Drogo is not the guy’s shrink.

He does talk to Grey’s shrink about it, who is frustratingly noncommittal, fucking saying shit like, “It could be bad for him,” and “Or maybe he will be fine. Just ask him if he wants to.”

It only affirms to Drogo the thing that Grey used to say to him all the time: That quacks are fucking useless.

When Drogo asks Grey if Grey would like to take on a quick engagement that will last two days max — under Arya’s command — Grey generally knows what the engagement is about. Drogo tells him that he will bank bonus time off for helping Arya in a pinch. The bonus time might help when Grey’s parents come to visit.

None of them ever spend all of their vacation time. It is hard to in their line of work. The organization knows it, and that is why bonus time is often floated as a reward. Grey knows this — he used to offer people bonus time in lieu of financial bonuses all the time. Budget constraints and all that — he knows Drogo is contending with much of the same. Nevertheless, he appreciate the thought. He knows Drogo is not trying to manipulate him. This is why he calmly says, “Sure. I can do this.”






So Missy ends up wading through hours and hours of people feeling mightily sorry for her stupid, sorry ass. None of her aunties have forgotten last year, when she had to skip her mother’s death anniversary because the fucking Ghazdaqi government was crumbling under a military coup — and she couldn’t tell anyone the truth about that. She just told them she was on-call and was just called in to work. Only her father and brothers know the type of work she is actually doing. The rest of her extended family members think she is a translator for visiting dignitaries — they think she follows diplomats and their children around museums and translates placards for them.

This is part of why her aunties keep lecturing her on her impending spinsterhood. They like to gesture to her brothers and their families — her chaotic nieces and nephews running around screaming their faces off — and her aunties like to ask her if it just isn’t time to settle down already.

This was a question her mom also had, when her mom was still alive. Even though her mom knew what Missy actually did for a living, her mom often wondered when Missandei was going to get serious with her life and find a man to make babies with.

She used to feel upset over this. She used to feel a sense of self-righteousness because her ego was bruised. She used to hold up her feminism and imply that everyone else was being sexist. But duh, obviously everyone is influenced by this patriarchal culture. Duh.

Now she’s just so fucking tired all the time. She’s been working 90-hour work weeks. She’s been travelling a fair bit. The pressures of her job are immense. She honestly has nothing in common with any of her contemporaries, any of her cousins. She doesn’t care about rising property taxes. She doesn’t give a shit about what the city is going to do with the increasingly visible homeless population and how that influences property values. She doesn’t care about pop culture and what latest crazy thing some dumb celebrity said. She definitely does not think that vaccines cause autism, but she does not give enough of a shit to have a debate with her cousin Meetha over this. She does not care about the latest cosmetics craze — her face just looks like this now.

The one thing that does manage to raise her hackles a little bit is the way everyone and their fucking mother fawn over her brothers. Her brothers are cops, both in narcotics. She loves her brother so much — they are wonderful, they work hard, and they are doing really valuable work — but it is still annoying to watch other people constantly kiss their asses and tell them what heroes they are and how they are both keeping the world a safe place — for the children.

Missy has been dealing with a variation of this, for probably her entire life. One of these days, she’ll finally get over it, maybe.

“I have a refill for you,” her dad says, walking up to her with another glass of red wine.

She is not even finished with her first glass — it is still half-full. So, without lifting her eyes off her brothers’ fan club, she lifts her glass to her mouth and starts chugging.

After she’s done, she wipes her probably-stained mouth with the back of her hand. Then she trades him her current empty glass for a brand new full glass. She says, “Thanks so much, Daddy.”

“A heads up, your aunt Petti has a very nice, very ‘lovely’ boy she wants you to meet.”






Outside of Karhold, in a small town, Grey walks into a big box hunting store. There is no waiting period policy here. Under a false name, Grey buys a .22 rifle with a telescopic sight. The salesman — a college kid who is just working during summer break — tries to upsell Grey by extolling the virtues of a cold-hammer-forged barrel. It is total BS — the kid doesn’t know what he is talking about. Nonetheless, Grey goes for the upsell because it honestly does not matter to his purposes.

Grey stations himself a little ways outside of Arnolf Karstark’s home, on a hill in the early morning, when Karstark is due to head to his cover job as a low-level sales manager at a farm machinery outfit. Karstark actually lives just a few buildings down from a police station.

Grey kills Karstark outside of his home with a single shot to the head. Karstark’s wife, his young daughter, and a nearby jogger rush to him, screaming and waking up the neighbors. Karstark is dead almost immediately. Grey has already dismantled his gun and has left his post to dispose of his weapon, by the time an ambulance and police cars arrive, eight minutes later.






Back home in King’s Landing, Grey fights through the fucking hoards at IKEA and contemplates murdering all of the people who are walking against the current, walking in spite of the direction of the arrows on the floor.

He loads shit into his cart blindly: an oven mitt, a potted plant, vases, a shower caddy, bath mats, a picture frame with a skyscraper photo. He also consults with an IKEA home expert and arranges for a sectional sofa, two bed frames, a mattress, and a dining set to be delivered to his apartment in the next week. He goes to the warehouse and pulls out boxes that contain bookcases and side tables and coffee tables and rugs.

He lays down a pretty penny for all of this useless, cheap shit. He methodically fits it all into the back of Gendry’s pickup, as he breaks a sweat and blocks out the sound of children screaming and families chattering.

After all of that effort, he is actually hungry. So he actually goes back into IKEA and buys himself a cheap meal of meatballs and mashed potatoes, and he eats it by himself in the IKEA food court, with his shirt still damp to the touch.

He spends his entire Sunday loading his new shit into his apartment by himself. He opens dozens and dozens of boxes. He ends up commandeering the entire set of recycling bins in the garage of his apartment building even though the trash will not get picked up until Tuesday. He assembles all of his new shit and arranges furniture so it looks like someone normal lives in his apartment.

He meets Gendry that night, slapping Gendry’s car keys back into his hand in greeting. Gendry tosses Grey his own car keys — because they traded for the weekend.

“My tank full, man?” Gendry asks, joking around.

“Oh, was I supposed to do that?” Grey asks. The tank is totally full. And the truck was washed, too.

“You eat yet?” Gendry returns. “Wanna grab a bite?”

“Yeah, sure. I can eat.”






Their vibe lately has been one of ultra professionalism and a lot of benign silence. He generally only talks about work with her now — because now he’s paranoid that every-fucking-thing he says to Missandei will be faithfully reported back to Daenerys. He has realized that he really can’t be friends with this woman, if he likes his life the way it is, if he likes being employed the way that he is.

She assumes that he does not like her anymore because she did not understand the gravity of what happened to him and told him that he should be grateful for only getting mutilated. She assumes that he hates her now, as he should because she’s a fucking scumbag.

They have lost that thing where he stares at her with a smirk in his eyes, and she suppresses a groan and stops herself from telling him all about these sexy naked dreams she sometimes has about him to shock him into laughing. They have lost that thing where his voice cracks from disbelief and stress, when she tells him that the best pizza in town is at Toroni’s. They have stopped reminiscing about that one time he slammed his hand into her face and made everyone question his mental state.

They pass the time in massage parlors together, silently on their phones. The Naathi languages lessons with him have died down because he picked it up too fast, as Tal’s and Balaq’s lessons have continued. She is often silent in his ear, as she listens to him pick up and have conversations with sex workers. She largely takes his empathy for them in stride now. It is no longer novel to her, how nice and kind he is to them.






She puts her fake wedding ring back on before they head to the airport to fly into Eyrie. There, he consolidates their rolling luggage and presses his hand into the small of her back, as he guides the both of them to the rent-a-car counter. Her stomach feels like it’s in knots, as he smiles at her and asks her which car she’d like. Rather than naming a model, she names a color. She says she’d like a shiny black car — which makes both him and the car attendant look at her with such indulgence. The attendant says that he has just the one.

Grey loosely holds her hand, as he leads her to their rental. He holds her hand and strokes her back, as they talk to the front desk woman, at the hotel.

He lets her hand go temporarily, when they finally make it Longbow Hall. He has to let her go so that he can raise up his arms and gallantly say, “Jon! Lysa! Look at your home! I love it! I love your entryway! Is this Bardiglio marble?”

“Why, yes!” Jon says, immediately greeting Grey with a crystal glass of amber liquor. “I can’t believe you picked that out! Good eye! You have wonderful taste!”

As Grey and Jon talk about how the presence of hematite in the calcite is giving Jon’s floor a slight blush — a slight pink tone — Missandei feels a short tap on her shoulder. She turns around.

“Hello, I’m Petyr.”






Shit gets a bit weird for her as Grey leaves with Jon, leaves her to get the grand tour of the house from Lysa and Lysa’s good friend, Petyr. Grey and Jon are presumably going off to talk about Jon’s strategic vision for Arryn Capital Holdings and what Grey’s ideas are, for investors to tap into, in order to raise growth capital.

As they go from room to room, she can feel Petyr’s eyes following her. And when she turns her head to make eye contact with him, he immediately smiles at her — in a way that wholly makes her uncomfortable.

By the third iteration of this, she smiles back at him, with her heart beating hard in her chest. She asks, “Do I have something in my teeth?”

With this silky ease, he says, “No. You are just very striking, you know. You must get told you are beautiful all the time though.”

She tries to laugh off the compliment — but her body goes a little rigid in the course of it. “Oh! No, not that much. Just my husband — but that is his job!”






He briefly touches the tip of his nose to her cheek and nuzzles it, as they walk by the hotel reception desk. She can tell that he is really fucking pissed at her, so she working hard to not to go rigid underneath his hands and his touch. He is saying a whole lot of nothing for the time being — there is just his steady hand on her back as he quickly waves at reception, as he continues guiding her to the elevators.

He drops it all — his hand — his smile — his face — the pretense — his patience with her — after the door to their hotel room closes behind them. He sees that their room has been cleaned by room service, so he quickly rushes around checking under the lamps, in the phones, in the other light fixtures, under the bed. And after he doesn’t find any trace of surveillance, he still runs the shower and he pulls her into the bathroom.

Sitting on the closed toilet seat, as the humidity in the room builds and builds, he whispers to her. He is actually also glowering at her. He asks her, “What the fuck happened while y’all were alone together?” He is avoiding naming the people — even though he is sure they are not under surveillance, even though he has obscured this conversation with the running shower.

She feels immediately put on the defensive — and she knows that she didn’t break any protocol at all. She immediately resents his tone of his voice.

He is the lead on this engagement, so he talks to her as if he is her superior — and technically, he is.

From his viewpoint, he was doing his job with Jon — and it was going like fucking clockwork. And all she had to fucking do was coo over drapery and furniture and make fucking small talk about colors or perfume or whatever other womanly shit Lysa is interested in. And that was it . So he doesn’t know why he came back to such a fucking tense and odd energy in the room. He doesn’t know why he came back to find his fake wife sitting silently and awkwardly at the dinner table by herself. He doesn’t know why Petyr Baelish kept grinning like the cat who ate the canary. He doesn’t know why Lysa suddenly just acted like his fake wife had caused grave offense by insulting the gaudy silverware or some shit like that.

He quietly hisses, “So please, explain to me what happened in the fucking five minutes I was not watching you.”

“It was more than five minutes,” Missy protests.

“This is the tack you’re going to take with this?” he demands.

“He was creeping —”

“How?” Grey cuts in. “He looked at you? Said stuff to you with your husband in the other room?”

“Well, yeah,” she says dumbly — she is feeling distinctly chastised right now.

“So?” he asks, as his eyes widen just incrementally. He can’t believe this is her fucking hang-up. He lowers his voice even more. “You literally have creeps asking you how much it costs to stick their dick up your ass all the time. You have to listen to that — all the time. You should be better at this, by this point. At this point, you should be able to handle some weird white guy looking at you and talking to you a little weird.”

He is angry that she does not seem to understand that every moment they call attention to themselves is a moment that could kill the both of them. He is angry that he has done about 90 percent of the heavy lifting on this operation and did his part pitch-perfectly, but he is only as good as his partner — and she is fucking up her 10 percent. He has encouraged her, believed in her, taught her, worked with her — for months now. And they are still at this fucking place.

Her cheeks are burning — because she feels so ashamed and so small right now. He is working so hard to make her feel stupid and useless right now — and it is bullshit.

There is a lot of stuff she can say about this — about how she wasn’t expecting the friend, she wasn’t expecting Lysa to turn the way she did, she didn’t expect that dynamic, she also didn’t expect for Grey to just leave her by herself — and this is seriously the very first time she has done something like this and she honestly has tried to prepare for all potential outcomes, but her inexperience is obviously showing here — and she is sorry for that. Give her a fucking break. Dinner was fine. It was weird at the beginning, but then it smoothed over. It is not Missy fucking fault that Lysa has some fucking weird shit going on with her childhood friend. She fucking tried to roll with it as best as she could.

Instead of offering him some stupid explanations that he will shit all over — she knows that her explanations will sound weak and not make him feel better about her and her abilities — she looks back at his face and she just says, “I’m sorry. I fucked up. I know I’m still not very good at improvising and adapting. I’m sorry.”  

In response to this, he mutters, “Well, I really hope I hear from Jon soon. I really hope we didn’t just lose months of work.”






They pretty much give each other space and just ignore each other the entire trip back to King’s Landing. She tests out the waters a little bit by offering him a piece of gum at the airport, after she buys sandwiches for the both of them. He cuts eye contact and tells her that he’s good on the gum.

She thinks that he is being a real asshole to her — over barely a mistake. She thinks that this is a really fucking bullshit part of his personality and working style. She thinks that sometimes people don’t become motivated with extreme negativity. She also thinks that he’s a fucking hypocrite, apparently so concerned with blowing cover, but who is now acting like he can’t even stand the sight of her — as her fat wedding ring weighs down her left hand.

He just thinks they look like a married couple in the middle of a fight. That is fucking normal enough. He just thinks he needs a fucking break from worrying about her life for just a fucking minute. He thinks that whenever she tries to smooth things over and act like things are normal, he just wants to hold it up as yet another example of how she is not taking this shit seriously enough. It is the same fucking problem, over and over again.

She struggles getting her carry-on bag up into the compartment on the plane, because she is wearing four-inch heels and also because she is not incredibly strong because all she fucking does is cardio. So he takes the handle of her shit from her — she resists for just the teeniest moment, before she gets massively self-conscious because she is holding up a line of weary passengers trying to get to their seats. She lets him have her luggage.

And he throws it up into the overhead bin for her.

“Thanks, babe,” she hisses, flopping into her window seat.

“Don’t mention it,” he says mutinously, before he clips in, in the aisle seat next to her.

The flight is four hours.

It is going to be great.






Grey is being a real fucking bitch to her — like she thought Drogo was bad, but it turns out Drogo was just a practice run for this new kind of judgemental hypercontrol and criticism — so she tells herself she needs to move the fuck on and fix her fucking brain so that it’s not so attracted to hot violent guys with deep-seated trauma-related issues because it’s like, is she trying to have sex with her fucking father, or what?

She texts the phone number that her auntie emailed to her. She is like: Sup?

And she acts like she’s a person that writes “Sup?” to strange men all the time.

Dany is too busy to meet up in person, so Missy has to text to tell Dany that she does not know what she is supposed to wear on her date. It’s a coy announcement.

It elicits about the kind of response that Missy expects.

Dany throws so much enthusiasm at Missy, through exclamation points and emojis. Wherever Dany is right now, she is making the time to be engaged and respond with the kind of girliness that was more a fixture of their friendship back in college. Dany is demanding to know all of the details — when the date is happening, where it is taking place, who is setting it up, what is his name, has Missy social-media stalked him yet, and is he cute?

Missy tells Dany that he is a software engineer. They are being introduced by her aunt. She has looked a little bit at his profile on social media. He looks like he likes to travel, and he likes to eat.

Missy takes a screencap of his picture from Instagram and then sends it to Dany.

Dany enthusiastically writes back: He’s so cuuute!!!






When he picks up his folks at the airport, he can smell home on them. They are carrying some of the scent of the Summer Isles in their clothes — his dad’s cologne is just barely masking the smell of anise, curry powder, and also fry grease. It is very nice.

He has to get out of the car completely and hold out his arms so that his parents can both grab onto him. He feels himself get lifted a little bit — by his dad because his dad is still physically strong. He feels his mom burying her face in his chest — and he has to say, “Mom, come on. Don’t cry. I am fine. I am clearly totally fine.”





 

Chapter Text



His home looks like a page out of the IKEA catalog, and it is annoying because he liked it best when his home comprised two lawn chairs, a mattress on the floor, a ceramic plate, and one silverware set. He liked it when his home basically conveyed that people needed to get the fuck out of his space and not linger too long.

When his dad sees his apartment, his dad says, “Whoa.”

When his mom sees his apartment, she intertwines her fingers together in front of her long jacket, and scrutinizes it silently. He told her that it is like, currently pretty hot and humid in King’s Landing because it’s summer. But she still bought a thick winter coat anyway, because she keeps misguidedly thinking that anywhere north of the Summer Isles is gonna be cold as shit.

His mom says, “Your furniture looks new. Did you just buy it?”

“A few months ago.”

“Okay,” she says. Her face is blank as she pops buttons out of holes, as she pulls off her heavy outer layer. She does not understand exactly when her son became a compulsive liar or what she did to allow him to become this way.

His mom’s silence is making Grey internally go: Fuck, fuck, fuck!

“Well, let me show you guys where you’re gonna be sleeping,” He says, quickly trying to smooth things over.   





Missy has had to cancel her first date with software engineer Paul two times already — each time citing an unexpected work situation that came up. The first time she cancels, it was because Drogo needed the ramped-up delivery of a report because the higher-ups are being unreasonable. Grey’s parents had just gotten into town, so instead of allowing him to cancel his dinner plans with his folks, Missy went ahead and volunteered to stay up all night writing up the report for the both of them. Grey never thanked her specifically for cancelling on her date — because instead of telling him she was cancelling a date, she literally told him, “I am not doing anything anyway! I would just be sitting at home bored anyway! You’re actually doing me the favor!”

She’s been working overtime, trying to get them good again. She really likes how each one of her desperate and transparent efforts looks real pathetic. She really liked the way Drogo and Grey gave her identical looks of patience, and said, “Sure — okay — thank you,” in unison.  

The second time she canceled on software guy Paul was because Yiantha had another fight with her shitty boyfriend and wanted to meet with Missandei because Yiantha was scared of what he might do to her in anger. Yiantha now has trust in Missy and believes that Missandei can protect her. This is a belief Missy is continuing to cultivate and reinforce.

When she finally meets with software Paul for dinner, she is wearing a tight, short, hot pink skirt and a modest white blouse — because she spilled coffee on her pants accidentally and the spill happened in the crotch area. She is wearing one of her hooker skirts with one of her regular tops. It’s not really an aesthetic she goes for in her day-to-day, but she doesn’t think this guy can put up with another cancellation from her — this time because of wardrobe issues.

When he sees her walk up, he recognizes her from her picture. And he starts beaming. It looks like he thinks he won the jackpot.

He says to her, “Looks like third time’s the charm!”   





Grey basically behaves like a teen boy again — sort of. He was actually a really obedient and non-rebellious teenager.

Now though —

He basically heads home from work at around 4 p.m. to have really early dinner with his parents and act like he is completely normal and not a fucking lunatic working an insane job. He makes yum noises and rubs his belly as he chokes down the food his mom cooks for him, as he listens to her complain about everything , from his stove to his lights, to the water pressure in his faucets and shower. They chat in the living room afterward with coffee and tea. Sometimes they do some reading. Sometimes they turn on the TV, but his parents hate TV, so mostly, it’s just quiet talking or silence. And then they go to bed at around eight or nine.

He installed a lock on his door. He has been locking the door to his bedroom after his parents go to bed. He has been climbing out of his window, climbing down the fire escape. He has been jumping down the last story every night, hitting the asphalt hard in the alley because he doesn’t want the rattle of metal to clue his parents onto his absence.

And then he goes back to work, from ten o’clock to maybe four or five in the morning, at which point, he has to climb all the fuck up the fire escape, back into his bedroom. He usually gets to sleep in until past nine, but since his parents are around and would think it’s fucking weird for him to get more than twelve hours of sleep at night, he has to stay awake and grab coffee and have breakfast with them each day. They read the news. They talk about it. They sometimes take a walk as he listens to his mom complain about the amount of trash that is on the ground. By the time he leaves for work again at seven-thirty — he has not fucking slept at all .

“How long do you think you can keep this up?” Sam asks him, raising his brows.

“Um.” Grey is pretending to think about it. “Indefinitely? At least two months.”

“Grey,” Sam says, in exasperation now. “Just tell your parents the truth.”

“Which part?”

“How about all of it?”

“The security clearance though.”

Sam gives him a look. “I obviously meant everything that doesn’t require clearance.”





So he assures himself of his own fucking sanity for the millionth time in life, and he starts just taking micro naps in the course of a day. He spends ten minutes scarfing down calories during lunch, and then he spends the rest of the time sleeping in his car. He wakes up drowsy and tired and feeling like he wants to shoot himself in the fucking head because he’s so goddamn stupid.

His colleagues start asking him where he is hiding these days — because he’s spending very little time socializing and hanging out with them in the cafeteria. Daario jokingly asks him if he is leading yet another secret life that they and his parents don’t know about. To counter this, Grey invites Daario over to dinner on the weekend. He reminds Daario that Daario is his fake boyfriend, so it would be great if Daario can do him a fucking solid and grab a free meal with the two cranky old people who made him from their loins.

Daario is actually not free. Daario also reminds Grey that Daario is not really at Grey’s beck and call — he’s not Grey’s fuckboy just because Grey is scared of his folks.





So Grey goes down the line of presentable people to ask to prove his sanity to his parents. He asks Tal to come over. Tal has plans with his girlfriend, who has been pissed at him for fucking months over Tal’s absence from her life because of his shitty work schedule, so Tal has to say no to Grey. Grey asks Alayaya to do him a solid — and she tells him it will cost him. He thinks that she means she will accept payment in sex, and he’s so delirious and so sleep-deprived that he is like, fucking fine about it.

But actually, she holds out her hand and expectantly waits for money to be put into it.

In confusion, he takes out his wallet and puts down a few bills — which she crumples lightly in her hand before she folds them and puts them in her bra. She tells him, “Thanks, Nudho! This will help me fix my busted AC unit!”

And as she walks away, he is saying, “Did you just rob me?”

Over her shoulder, she responds with, “Examine your life. Think about what you are doing right now.”

Missandei watches as Grey completely overlooks her on purpose and does not ask her to help him prove to his parents that he has friends and lives a normal life. She is close to feeling as blank about it as she ever has — when it comes to him. She is starting to get it. She is starting to understand the place that he would like for her to occupy in his life — which is at a distance.





When she walks barefoot down the stairs, with her sensible black shoes dangling from her fingertips, her dad is sitting in the den, in his recliner, watching sports highlights.

She bends over to give him a kiss goodnight on the cheek. She thinks that it must be a relief for him, to be saying goodbye to her as she goes on a date — to not be saying goodbye to her as she leaves the house armed and on the way to work a really dangerous job.

“That’s what you’re wearing?” he asks, as the TV screen glows blue against his face. It is dark and the lights are all off.

She looks down at her navy skirt and her blouse, buttoned up to her neck. She is wearing pearl earrings. She actually thinks she looks nice — like an adult woman who takes care of herself. For once. She actually thinks it’s really nice to be wearing her own clothes, to not be dressed as a hooker or dressed as some rich guy’s trophy wife, for once.

“What’s wrong with what I am wearing?” she asks, standing up straight and smoothing down imaginary wrinkles from the front of her skirt.

“Baby, you look beautiful,” her dad assures her — though his eyes are trained back on the TV screen. “But it’s not very sexy, is it? You’re all covered up. How will he know you like him?”

Her jaw drops.

And then she good-naturedly swats him in the arm. “Dad! I can’t believe you just said that to me!”

He is chuckling, as his hand goes to the remote. “I’m a liberal parent now,” he says, kind of sarcastically. “Your mom was holding me back, all those years.”

This results in a pregnant pause — one that is not altogether awkward or tense — but one that is still plaintive and a little bit sad. They are both thinking about the same things, maybe. They are probably thinking of the times a teenage Missandei had screaming fights with her mom over the length of her skirt or the times teenage Missandei had a male classmate call the house for homework help and her dad blew a gasket over that while their mom was tasked with talking to their daughter about acceptable behavior.

She pats him on the shoulder.

He says, “On our first date, your mom wore this red dress — and that was how I knew she was feeling a certain way about me. Because the dress had a tie —” He touches his stomach. “Right here.”

She is trying not to get all teary about this — so she is smiling at him like a psycho.

She says, “Dad, what does that even mean?”





His folks hate eating out because the procedure and rituals of Western dining bother them — it is foreign, and it is too intrusive to them.

Nevertheless, he takes his parents out to dinner on Saturday, because it doesn’t sit well with him, that his mom is constantly cooking for him and cleaning his bedroom and the rest of the apartment while he is at work. He knows it’s how she shows her love. But he has lived apart from them for a long time now. He has been independent since he was still a kid. It is hard for him to let his mom do things for him — even though he knows that it alleviates her worries about him.

He has to put eye drops into his eyes so they are less red, before they leave the house. He has had to blow off all of his parents protestations. They have told him that if he’s too tired from work to go out — then he should stay in and rest.

He has told them that they are fucking nuts. He is great! He is excited that they are here! They are going to have a great meal!

His heart is beating hard in his throat as they arrive at the restaurant. It’s because he is so tired and he might be slowly dying.

He blinks a few times to clear his head, as he hears his mom's surprised exclaim. She says, “Drogo! We didn’t expect you!”

“Surprise,” Grey says ruefully.

“Hi, ma’am — and sir,” Drogo says, immediately getting out of his seat at the table to grab onto their hands. “It’s been a while, hasn’t it! How are you guys liking King’s Landing?”

“I really hate it here,” Grey’s dad says bluntly, before breaking out into a short laugh.

“Yeah, me too,” Drogo says, gesturing for them all to sit down.





She doesn’t really feel that much attraction to software Paul — he is objectively handsome and fit — but he smiles too much and he is happy about too much. He also has a white guy’s name — which isn’t really his fault — that’s on his parents. But she has speculated that his white name has imbued him with a white personality. She finds his preoccupations a little entitled. She asked him what it’s like to be a Black software engineer. He told her it is fine — great! It's great to mentor others! It's great to be a role model! Representation is great!

And she was like, oh shit, for real? What the fuck?

But it’s their third date, so she still follows him to his apartment and kisses him there, after the door is shut behind them. She kisses him because she hasn’t had any sex in years and she would like to remember what sex feels like and what it is all about. She also kisses him because her dad’s undying love for her mother is just stuck in her mind — and it is messing her up a little bit.

She sits on his couch as he scrambles to clear away a . . . hookah, a bong, and some charcoal ash on a tech magazine. It makes her realize that he has been presenting. He has been keeping parts of himself hidden to her also. It also makes her realize that he apparently did not expect for this date to go in this direction either.

He nervously offers her some water.

Instead of answering him, she grabs the lapels of his blazer and she lays a kiss on him instead. She feels numb inside as he kisses her sloppily and wet, with his lips puckering and moving up and down against her relatively stationary ones. She can taste garlic from his dinner and the beer that he drank. She can hear and feel his heavy breathing that is verging on panting. She is wondering if his heart is healthy, if he does cardio in his workout.

She admonishes herself for her silly superficiality, as she unbuttons the top few buttons of her blouse. She slowly exposes her bra and her breasts, as she sits back and sinks herself deep into his couch.

He looks stunned.

And then he reaches out squeezes her boob really hard — she tries not to flinch over it.

He tells her, “You are so hot. You are so sexy.

And she is like, “Thanks,” about it.





They actually have a really nice evening together. He is absolute garbage — he is so tired that he can’t really focus that well and he can’t really tell good stories. He just subsides and sits there, as Drogo effortlessly charms the shit out of his parents with stories about himself and his upbringing — speculations about how coming from poverty and being raised by a single mother made him who he currently is. He plays to his audience a little bit, and he tells them about the value of his education and what a fluke that was — just him making it. He talks about the challenges and the pressures of holding it all together.

Drogo claps Grey on the back and leaves his hand there. He tells Grey’s parents, “He did my job better than I ever can. You don’t even know how smart and dedicated this guy is — how hard he works —”

“We do know,” his mom interjects. She vaguely gestures to Grey’s face. “We know. Because look at him.”

“Do you want to order coffee?” his dad offers — staring at him a little harder than necessary.

“Nah, I’m good,” Grey mutters.

He feels Drogo squeezing his shoulder. “Just get the coffee, bud. It will make us all feel better.”





When he puts his wet mouth on her chest, she actually flinches and recoils — at the way it feels. Her mind immediately shoots to her work — to the johns. She actually absently tells herself that this act would usually cost more than a hundred. But she is giving it away for free right now. Does it even make financial sense to give this away for free when she could be earning money for her troubles?

As Paul starts fumbling around for the clasp of her bra — and here, she is not helping him a lot — she actually thinks that she would rather be working right now — instead of doing this . Sex is not feeling like how she expected it to feel. The threat of sex is leaving her feeling rather empty inside. She is wondering if this is a side effect of her vocation — or if it’s the guy.   

And it’s when he’s running his hand up her bare leg, and in between them, heading strikingly fast toward her underwear — that she grabs his wrist.

And with her other hand, she wrenches his face off of her boobs.

He physically fights her on both counts — just a tiny bit. She tries not to hold it against him, because he is horny and he is probably pretty excited over the prospect of getting laid. But for the short moment that he resists her stoppage, she pretty much wants to beat his face in, by cramming her fist into it repeatedly. Her hand actually automatically tucked itself underneath his couch cushions — before she freezed, and it hit her hard. She just automatically looked for her gun. This is the training blaring out.

He looks dumbfounded.

She softly knocks him back — with a short shove. She says, “No. I change my mind.”

He says, “No?”

“No,” she repeats, more firmly.

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, super sure,” she says.

“How come?” he asks, frowning now. His lips are still shiny. “I thought we were having a good time.”





He also gives Drogo a hug because his parents did. His back cracks in the process, and he tiredly pats Drogo in between his broad shoulder blades. Grey is thinking that he should probably give Drogo a fucking break from here on out. That assault incident was months ago. And Drogo was just trying to protect Missandei.

After looping over it, again and again, with Sam, Grey now understands that he probably reacted the way he did — cut Drogo out of his life — because he was so upset when faced with the possibility that the one person he was sure was in his corner could waver in loyalty to him. He understands he was really hurt by what Drogo did, and Grey doled out the only kind of effective punishment he knew, to stop himself from being hurt again. It is all now pretty straightforward to him because he’s such a fucking basic bitch.  

“Night, man,” Drogo says, giving him one last squeeze. “This was fun. Thanks for the invite.”

“Yeah, man. Anytime you’re free.”

“Do you want to do lunch on Monday?”

“What the fuck?” Grey says, pulling away a little bit and squinting at Drogo.

Drogo shrugs. “I am free Monday for lunch. Are you? Do you want to eat together?”

“Wow,” Grey mutters, aware that his parents are waiting for him by the car. And that they probably now think that Drogo is his boyfriend because this goodbye is taking forever . “Yeah, sure,” Grey says absently. “I am free. But can I like, lie down on your couch in your office as we lunch?”

“Grey,” Drogo starts, sighing already. But then, thinking better of it, Drogo opts to say, “Yeah, sure. We’ll order in or I’ll bring in food.”

 



Without Drogo’s presence, the drive home is actually excruciatingly long and kind of tense. It starts when his dad insists on driving his car back to his apartment, because — according to his dad — it’s not necessary for them all to fucking die together because Grey fell asleep at the wheel.

His parents are frustrated with him. They are also insulted — that he doesn’t realize that though there are some really significant gaps in their knowledge, they still know him enough. Because of course they do. He is their son. They raised him. They watched him grow up. They know the mechanism of some of his behaviors. A lot of his behavior is repetitive and obsessive. They have been seeing that again. When he was younger and made a minor mistake on an exam or in an oral presentation to his class — he’d come home and beat himself up about it for a really long time. He would practice for hours and hours after the fact, even though it didn’t matter anymore. They used to hold up his work ethic as aspirational and ideal.

That was probably a mistake. They are seeing this now.

They are tired of arguing with him about his lies. He won’t admit his lies to them. But it is obvious he is lying to them — about every aspect of himself. It is obvious that he thinks it is necessary — and they don’t know his reasons, so they have to make up sinister reasons for him. It is obvious he is suffering, but there is not much they can do about this besides witness it. That is why they are here. They tried to prepare themselves for this before leaving home. They are finding it to be far more difficult to see than they anticipated. They have been hurting themselves, by talking among themselves, telling each other that they want to at least see him and be with him and make memories with him, one last time before something terrible happens to him and he is just gone to them.

“Do you want to put on some tea when we get home?” he asks them softly.

“I actually want you to fucking say something honest to me for the first time in years,” his dad suddenly says. “How about that?”





Her dad is still awake and trying to play it super cool when she gets home from her date. Her dad takes in her appearance and jokingly tells her that he didn’t expect her to come home at all tonight.

She scrunches up her nose as she leans against the wall to pull off her shoes. She says, “Daddy, you are creeping me out with how supportive you are being. Knock it off.”

“Did you have a nice time?”

“It was okay.”

“Just okay?”

She sighs. “The chemistry just wasn’t there. I didn’t show up in — as you put it — a red dress with a tie right here.” She points to her own stomach.

Then she leaves her shoes in the foyer and heads into the kitchen, leaving him to follow. She is opening the fridge door to look for leftovers. She is planning on doing a little bit of comfort eating.

With her head still in the fridge, as her hands dig around, she says, “Plus, my schedule is whack. It took forever for us just to sync up there. I don’t think I can date anyone right now. Like, it’s logistically impossible.”  

She grabs a jar of homemade pickles, of vegetables from her dad’s garden in the back. She freezes with a thought.

Then she says, “Dad, have you thought about dating again? I mean, you have the time. You are a catch. You need to hang out with someone besides me. I bet there is Tinder for old people — I bet there’s an app for this —”

She has uncapped the jar and is digging her dirty hand into it the glass as she spins around to look at her pops, with the door to the fridge still opened.

“Missy, no.”





She has coffee in her cupholder ready for him when she rolls up to his apartment for the first time ever. She doesn’t know how he drinks his coffee — but judging from the look of him and his general schtick, she assumes that he likes his coffee hot and black. Dark and bitter like his soul.

So she got him a soy mocha.

He is waiting for her at the curb when she arrives. He evidently does not want her to actually know where he lives with more specificity. He obviously does not want her to run into his parents. It’s cool. It’s not her first time meeting him. She is now pretty familiar with his work.

She rolls down the window to peer at him. She says, “Hey, baby. How much does your cute tushy cost for an hour?”

He scrunches his face super adorably and just snappishly says, “Ugh, gross,” before he crosses over the front of her car, tosses his bag into the backseat of her car, and then flounces into the passenger seat.

She presents him his coffee. She says, “For you!”

He smells it before he sips it. And after he does, he says, “Ugh, it’s sweet.”

Nailed it.  

“There’s also a bagel for you — in that bag at your feet. It’s an everything bagel!” She got him an everything bagel because she is pretty sure he likes plain bagels. Or whole wheat bagels.

“Thanks, man.”

“Don’t forget the cheese. You have to eat it with the schmear. How was your weekend?”

“Fucking awesome,” he says sarcastically, drinking from his cup as she puts the car into drive. She is looking up at his building, wondering which apartment is his, wondering which window is his.

He is digging into the food bag with his other hand, faithfully plucking up the bagel she promised him.

“Still having fun with your folks?”

“Yeah, just having a non-stop blast with those fuckers,” he mutters. “Thanks for picking me up.”

He texted her on Sunday night and bluntly asked her to cart his useless ass to work, because his psycho parents won’t let him rent them a car. His psycho parents would rather just camp out in his apartment for hours every day, waiting for him to come home from work like that’s fucking normal. He told her that the only way this fucking psycho parents will use a vehicle and go somewhere with it is if he leaves his vehicle and tells them that it’s no big deal. He had to lie and tell them he gets picked up for work by his partner all the time. That is completely a normal thing that fucking happens all the time.

“Grey,” she says, steadily, looking at him out of the corner of her eye.

“What?” he says warily.

“You owe me now,” she says triumphantly, as this grin spreads across her face. “You are indebted to me now.”

He says, “Oh my God.”






Chapter Text








On Monday, during lunch, Drogo wastes no time at all. He just wants to be square with Grey again, and he has spent the last half of a year just feeling like shit over what has become of them.

Drogo is holding a steak sandwich in his hands, as he says, “I’m real sorry about reporting you up and putting a target on your back with internal affairs, man. I really didn’t want to. It fucking sucked to.”

Grey is bad with apologies — specifically at accepting them graciously. He doesn’t want to talk about this anymore at all. He just wants for them to be over it, too. So he says, “Yeah, I get it, man. We good.”

And then he tiredly bites into his own sandwich.







She starts spending a little extra quality time with herself in the shower, to deal with the sexual frustration she is feeling. She was raised by stodgy, uptight immigrants who were deathly scared she was going to get teenage-pregnant and ruin her entire future, so she has some hang ups when it comes to sex. Like, she keeps her vibrator in a locked safe in her closet — where it goes utterly unused for months at a time — because she is so scared of her dad stumbling upon it while he putters around the house, while he is folding her clothes and hanging things up in her closet.  

She feels safer masturbating in the shower. There is no way her dad will interrupt her there. The sound of water running is a nice backdrop and veil of disguise for what she is doing. Plus, it is self-cleaning.

She pays a subscription fee to an app called OurTime. It is a senior dating app, and even though her dad blared a big fat no thanks to her on this front, she doesn’t think there is any harm in looking for him. Her mom has been gone for a few years now. Her dad is really healthy. He could have like, decades of life left. It seems like a long time to spend it without companionship.  

She starts swiping left and right on mature women. She mostly does this based solely on her own tastes, and not her dad’s. Because, well, her dad’s taste is her mom. And her mom is dead.

Missy vetos most of the white women — and there are a lot of white women on the app. She is sure they are all very nice, but she does not want a white stepmom, to be frank about it.

She saves the profiles of bohemian-looking, artsy-looking women. She also saves the profiles of active women — the ones who like to hike and travel. She bypasses women who express that they like to cook. Her dad is a really great cook. He don’t need competition in the kitchen.

Missy discovers that, wow, she really has a specific vision for her future stepmom.







To deal with the sexual frustration, with the lack of romance in her life, Missy starts to increase the intensity of her workouts — to burn off some energy and to tire herself out enough that she will accept that the johns and their compliments on her body are really the closest things she will get to being properly wined and dined.

She is also a little disturbed by how solid software Paul felt against her hands, when she shoved him back. She really needs to fucking get to the point where she feels secure beating the shit out of any given motherfucker that wants to assault her — with just her fists. She used to do martial arts, but she had let that fall the wayside because of years at a desk job.

So she incorporates weights into her workouts. She makes herself sweat and pant hard until the water soaks into her clothes and the salt stings her eyes. She ends each workout with a real hard sprint, until her lungs feel like they are about to burst apart like balloons, until she is gasping like she has just resurfaced.

“Hey, wipe your face and take a break from your emotional breakdown for a sec.”

Both of her hands are still grasping onto the handles of the treadmill as it slows down, as she pivots around and locks eyes with him.

Grey is grinning — apparently pleased that she isn’t just jogging at a leisurely pace anymore, that fucking asshole. “Selmy was asking for an update on Operation Grizzly Bear. I scheduled something for one o’clock.” He checks his watch. “It’s almost one. I put it on your cal. But you haven’t been checking?”

“You — you must’ve put it — in the last hour?” she says, gasping.

He nods. He says, “Yep,” as he starts backing out of the gym. “See you in a bit.”







For about two weeks, Missandei actually proves to be pretty helpful, in helping him manage the two sides of his life. She starts carting his ass to and from work each day — which actually involves an inorganic break for her at about four o’clock, just to take him home.

He starts to explain to her that he knows this situation is so fucking stupid and embarrassing, but she waves him off. She tells him she doesn’t need to hear it. She gets it. Parents.

She always shows up in the morning with coffee and a hunk of carbs even though he has already eaten breakfast with his parents. She drives them onto campus with morning radio turned down low, with very little conversation. All he has to do is look out of the window, as the buildings and trees whip by them silently.







She rolls her eyes at him when he slides into their work car, at their meeting place in South King’s landing. She teasingly tells him that he’s a little bit late — which is a lie, so it makes him refute her passionately. He tells her to shut up — fix her fucking watch.

And she laughs over how brutally he overreacts sometimes.

He always checks his gun before holstering it against his ribs, before he lets her exit the car. He sincerely hopes she knows that no matter how irritated he gets with her sometimes, that he will always have her back out there.

She has started bullying him into taking short naps in massage parlors. She sits vigilant, with a gun in her lap, as he reluctantly acquiesced and lies down on a really dirty bed and shuts his eyes. He promises her it will just be a short power nap — then he will be fresh as fuck again.

Sometimes, the sky is violet and red outside, when he opens his eyes again. Sometimes, he looks at her like she has betrayed him, and he tells her that she fucked up and she was supposed to wake him up — does she want to die or what?

She smiles at him darkly. She asks him if he knows that he snores a little bit — it’s very soft. She tells him, “It’s really cute.”

He generally ignores the growing confidence this woman has in herself and her skillset — and he lets her drive his ass back home so that he can get there faster. He lets her watch him climb on a dumpster, balance on it, and then jump for the fire escape. She watches him from her car the first time he does this show for her. She says, “Wow, Grey. This is a lot .”







During week three, he rewards her for all of her help. He shows up in her car in the morning with a small thermos and a bundle wrapped up in wax paper. He hands it to her without explanation. She has to prod him for answers. She has to say, “What is this?”

He immediately grumbles — he rolls his eyes and he mutters, “My mom made you a snack. And coffee.”

“Aw, your mom remembers who I am!” she asks, immediately brightening.

“Oh my God, calm down,” Grey says, picking up the mocha she faithfully buys for him every morning, from the cupholder between them. He takes a sip even though he already has done a round of coffee with his parents. He gets so jacked up on caffeine because of these people. “She doesn’t know it’s you. She just knows I’m getting picked up and dropped off by someone every day.”

Before driving off to work, Missy pulls apart the paper of the bundle to peek inside.

“It’s a curried lentil pastry,” Grey explains. “It’s like, really healthy for you.”







After a month of this insanity, it finally catches up to Grey. He finally sees the error of his terrible decision-making. He finally understands what Sam has been repeatedly telling him — and what Drogo has prophetically warned him of. The sleep deprivation is taking its toll. It degrades his cognitive abilities — makes him dumber — and it also slows down his reflexes and dulls them.

He is the midst of trying to talk to a girl through charm and maybe also money. He is exposed and out in the open — save for the dark wall of an alley behind him. He opens up conversation by telling her that a buckle on her shoe has come loose — and he watches as she stoops down to fix it. He grins and looks at her with sexual tension, as she rises again. He asks her for her name, asks her if she is new here.

He honestly does not get that far, before Missandei spots a dark figure advancing on them really quickly — and Missy is like, oh shit .

She kicks open the passenger door of their car open real fast, slams it shut, starts pulling her gun from its holster, and then lightly starts trying to catch up to them as quietly and as non-threateningly as possible.

By the time she gets there, Grey is already in the middle of this quarrel that is just catching him the fuck off guard. He is exhausted — and slow — so he has to fight to understand what is even happening. He was just going through the motions of work and expecting all of the predictable things to happen. He has having a hard time getting a grasp on this newness. He thinks this is a lovers quarrel that he was caught in.

Missandei understands though. The man is related to the woman somehow — not a lover, but maybe a brother. He is high — his words are thick and slurry — and hard to understand as he screams. He screams in anguish that she is a fucking whore — over and over and over again.

“Sir!” Missandei says, keeping her gun low. “Sir, please back away from them!”

He is screaming, “You’re a fucking whore! You fucking whore! Carla! I can’t believe this! I can’t fucking believe this!

Carla is wailing — just these anguished yells — and to Grey, it looks like she is sobbing and crying and breaking down — and so he relaxes his shoulders and evens out his breathing.

And then Carla just unleashes. She suddenly leaps forward with her fist clenched, and she is aiming it right at her brother’s face as she screams savagely and incoherently.    

She gets one good hit in. He stumbles back in surprise.

And then her brother starts holding up his arms to block the hits. He also starts to yell incoherently — and he sounds upset and sad, more than angry.

Missandei holsters her gun again — because the nature of what is going on has changed. She is switching over to verbal de-escalation now. She has her arms out, and she is trying to be heard over them. She is shouting, “Carla, it’s okay! Carla — you are okay! Carla, take a breath and step away. We won’t let him near you if you don’t want him near you.”

She pauses, for just a second.

Missandei’s heart is pounding.

And then Grey reaches his arms out — presumably to subdue Carla.

The movement catches Carla’s eyes — she sees that she has been betrayed and lied to by Missandei — and she just loses it again.

She screams, “NO!” as she throws her head back hard and throws her elbow back, knocking Grey into the wall — they can hear his feet scraping against gravel. And then Missandei sees him reach up to touch his mouth, as blood drips into his hand.

Well, fuck.







Grey’s blunder sets them back a fair bit. Grey’s presence becomes a trigger for Carla, so Missy has to send him away — just a few yards back so that he’s not within grabbing distance anymore. Carla starts hatefully calling him a motherfucking piece of shit pig as she cries — and Missandei tries to get her body in between the two of them, blocking him from Carla’s eyes. Carla’s brother has agreed to sit on the curb for a while, after Missy promised that no one will get arrested tonight as long as they all stay calm.

To Carla, Missandei keeps saying, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry that happened. He didn’t mean it like that. He’s a good guy. But I know that was really scary for you. I know that how that must’ve felt. I’m really sorry he scared you. That wasn’t right or nice. I know.”






After all that is said and done — after Missandei gives Carla and Rick, the brother, her business card and is somewhat assured that they won’t start fighting each other again — well, when she intersects with Grey again, he is mired in some real deep self-loathing. He is leaning against their car, watching her do her job silently. He is mentally beating himself down, for fucking up so royally.

He is telling himself that he is most definitely mentally compromised — he’s fucking losing his mind — he is fucking insane now — he can’t do his job anymore — as she quietly walks up to him.

She looks at his face. She says, “How are you feeling?” She gestures to the cut on his lip, that he is pressing a fat piece of gauze over, from the first aid kit in their trunk.

“I need to go to the hospital,” he announces to her.

Her brows knit together. She says, “What? Why?”

He wearily turns around. He reaches his hand around his neck and he points to a dark spot on his shoulder — blood.  

He says, “There was a nail or something sharp, on the wall.”







They have to go to the hospital because it is protocol to. He needs to be checked out by a doctor and get a tetanus shot. Even though they show their identifications, there are like . . . people dying in the emergency room that need to be prioritized ahead of them — so they wait.

In the midst of the waiting, she calls in the incident. She alerts the team of what happened and lets them know that Grey needs to be checked out and cleared by a doctor before he returns to work.

Sitting next to him, in the waiting room — as these waves of anger roll off of him — she gently touches his back — his spine. He is hunched forward because he doesn’t want to get blood all over the chairs like the piece of shit that he is. She has already pushed up his shirt and bandaged him up before they headed to the hospital so there’s not much seeping out anymore — but he is self-punishing.

She says, “Does it hurt a lot?”

He mutters, “I am fine.”







And hour passes in the waiting room before he re-realizes what he already knows — he is fucked. He is a moron. He is the one who is constantly just wrong here. He realizes what time it is. His parents are getting up soon. He will not make it back in time to pretend he was at home the whole time. He also cannot show up without a cut face just telegraphing all of the fucking lying he’s been doing to them. It is over. It is completely over. He is fucked.

To her, he says, “I need to go call my folks and tell them where I am and that I’m okay,” as he gingerly stands up. “I’ll be right back.”







When she drops him off, it is almost seven in the morning. The sun is up. She catches him looking up the fire escape — and, guessing what he must be thinking, she reaches out and grabs onto his hand. She gives it a hard squeeze — and he lets her. She asks, “Do you want me to come up with you?”

He kind of laughs — humorlessly. He says, “What for?”

“I don’t know. Moral support?”

“Nah, it’s all good,” he says quietly, touching the door handle with his other hand. “I ain’t scared of what they will do to me. Just of losing esteem in their eyes and stuff.”

She smiles at that — at his weak attempt to lighten the mood.

Before letting go of her, he briefly squeezes her hand back. He says, “Thank you. You saved my ass today. And I’ve been terrible to you.”

“I mean, yeah, you have,” she says lightly. “But that’s no reason to let you get your ass beat by a sex worker, though. I ain’t petty.”

This makes him laugh — for real.  

She catches him smiling at her.

Her heart pretty much stops beating at that. So that’s just great.

And in the course of letting go of her hand, he lets their palms and fingers run briefly against each other.

He tells her, “I’ll be in by noon today. See you later.”







When he opens the door to his apartment, he more or less expects for his mom to immediately start yelling at him. He actually expects the same from his dad.

But actually, what happens is that they are just silent and sitting on his IKEA sofa — as they slowly take in his face and he lets them. And then his mom starts to quietly drop fat tears down her face. And actually, his dad does the same.

He feels himself get emotional about this, too. He quietly says, “Hey, we should talk. I will talk. But I am just like — I haven’t slept in weeks. Do you mind — can I just go lie down for a little bit?”







Missandei pulls a Grey and just doesn’t go back to sleep. Unlike Grey though, she plans on going home early today and just crashing into her bed — after she gives her dad a great big hug and thanks him for being so fucking wonderful all the time.

Right now, though, she has to walk nearly fifteen minutes to the otherside of the campus, on the east side. She has bypass walls and walls of green glass and an abstract statue that look like Jenga blocks on the lawn as she scans her key card through three different checkpoints. She turn over her service weapon and let it get checked before she re-holsters and heads to the shiny elevator wall. She rides the elevator up to the twentieth floor with her crossed behind her back. She is trying not to touch anything, lest she leaves her fingerprints behind for someone to clean.

She is three minutes early. This is why Daenerys is still wearing her glasses and has her nose pointed at a computer screen. Missy lightly knocks on the open door, causing Dany to raise her face, eliciting this wide grin.

“Ah, it’s so good to see you!” Dany says. “Come in! Come in!”




 

 

 

Chapter Text





 

After getting three hours of sleep, he wakes up feeling like real shit — on the inside — but also on his face, his head, his lip, and his back. He sees his hand shaking when he goes to brush his teeth in the bathroom — so he starts rifling around in his pants for the container of painkillers that he was given.

As he chokes down a few capsules, he thinks it would be real great, though unlikely, if he developed a painkiller addiction from this bullshit. That would serve him right.

He finds that his parents are still sitting on the couch, with books in their laps and cups of tea and coffee laid out in front of them on his table.

He tiredly walks over to a shitty IKEA armchair and collapses down on it.  

He mutters, “So I do actually work for the government. That part is real. But I am not a liaison or an analyst. I am an officer. I can’t tell you the specifics of what I do for security reasons — I’m sorry for that.” He gingerly touches his fingers to his cut lip. He softly tells them, “I actually haven’t been lying to you that much.”





Over late breakfast-slash-early lunch in her office — because it is the only time Dany can fit in some quality time with Missandei these days — they poke around lettuce leaves and chicken in takeout containers with their forks. Dany is trying to make this as normal as possible. She even pulls out a cold bottle of white wine from her mini fridge and dumps its contents into plastic cups to make it a slightly boozy affair. She is currently giving her sore ankles and calves a rest — she is walking barefoot. She wears four-inch heels at work everyday to give herself height.

Dany is trying get all of the details about Missandei’s hot date with the nice guy software engineer — because in the short text messages Missandei sent after the last date, there were exciting non-contextualized words and phrases dropped like “made out on the couch” and “touched my boobs” and “licked my neck.”  

It all just sounded very promising, and Dany is excited for her best friend to have something for herself for once, not to always been at the beck and call of others.

“And he just started harping on it to death, when I said the embassy in Samyriana used black and white entry-and-exit forms,” Missandei says. “He just got nuts and started getting aggressive with me, telling me they are actually yellow and black, telling me that missing details like that will fucking kill me one of these days. And I’m trying not to challenge him in front of others, but it’s pretty much like — relax , you psycho. Do you really think that misremembering the color of some piece of paper is going to result in death? Really? Really? Really?”

“Wait,” Dany says slowly, interrupting Missandei’s diatribe. “The software engineer said that to you?”

Missy’s nose crinkles up. “Huh? No. Grey did. Grey is constantly freaking over the silliest things because he has been really stressed out ever since his parents came to town.”

Dany slowly says, “Wait. What happened with the cute engineer?”

“Huh? The cute engineer?” Missy asks quizzically.

“Yes, Missandei,” Dany says, raising her voice, getting a little snappish. “What happened to your promising date! Did you have sex? Are you going to continue seeing him?”

“Oh. You’re talking about Paul.” Missandei sinks back into her chair, slouching, finally refocusing on the topic at hand. “No, we didn’t have sex. Funny that you brought it up, because he’s been texting me and trying to schedule date four. And I’m like — for real, homie? After how date three went?”

“And how did date three go?”

Missy makes a face — like a grimace. “I don’t think I’m very attracted to him.”

“He seemed so nice and cute though,” Dany says. “He has a proper job. He likes to travel and eat. You like to travel and eat. He seems like a really positive force. You’re a positive force. He seems like a good match for you.”

“Yeah, I dunno,” Missandei mutters, swirling her cup of wine around. “I just don’t really feel like getting naughty with him. There’s something about him. And oh my gosh! He kept describing the Airbnbs he stayed at during our dates. It was really weird and unnecessary. It was like, dude, I don’t care how many bathrooms your rented house had or whether or not the AC worked.” Missy pauses. “Do you know that Grey barely sleeps? We’ve been working together for nearly eight months — stayed in many hotel rooms together. And I always fall asleep before him and wake up after him. And for the last month — oh my God , you don’t even want to know what he’s been doing!”






Grey’s busted face more or less confirms what his parents already know about him — that he works a really dangerous job for a foreign government. In this same job, he was mutilated and almost killed for reasons that he can never explain to them. He clearly has a death wish, because he won’t leave this terrible job. This job has broken him, because he won’t come back to them. Instead, he would rather keep breaking their hearts by putting his life on the line for a fucking foreign government.

Seeing the confirmation of this doesn’t really make it better for any of them. He tells them that he predicted this — he knew this. He knew that the truth wouldn’t be comforting at all.

His mother tells him he is missing the fucking point — that the truth to him is just a litany of facts — a list of information. His mother condemning tells him that this is how he rationalizes his lies. He gets to tell himself they are not lies because his mouth is saying factual information.

She puts her hand over her heart, as it beats hard. She looks at his marred face. She tells him, “You lie with your heart now. You don’t even care about what this has been doing to us. You don’t even know because you don’t ask. Do you think it is easy for us to watch you kill yourself? Do you think it’s easy to jump every time the doorbell rings because we worry it’s one of your coworkers coming to tell us you are dead? You don’t care about anyone but yourself. You are selfish. You break my heart, and you don’t care. I am done with you.”

He stares at her — blankly. He asks, “What does that mean?”






Dany listens and watches Missandei’s face as Missandei continues to avidly bitch about Grey and all the little things that he does that honestly sound fairly benign. She watches her best friend’s animated expressions, as this feeling of dread seeps into her responses — as hard as she trying to keep the judgement out of her face and voice.

Dany finally interrupts. She talks over Missandei and says, “Wow, you’re talking about Grey a lot.”

“Oh,” Missandei says, not picking up on Dany’s very quiet judgment. She is assuming it’s just a casual and innocent comment. So she explains. She says, “Well, we spend a lot of time together. We’re working together all the time. And it’s not like I can go home and complain about my coworker to my dad — you know, because of security reasons. And I can’t bitch about him to anybody else on the team because, you know, they all love him and think I’m the fuck-up. So, I mean, you’re it, Daenerys. You’re my only outlet.”

“Yeah, I know.” Dany pauses. “I remember when you guys first started working together — you had a little bit of a crush on him? How is that going.”

Missandei immediately starts cracking up, slowly wiggling back and forth on her chair with her arms cradling her stomach, with her salad balanced on her lap. “Oh, it’s totally great. I am totally over it. Because now I know he’s a freaking psycho!” She is giggling. “It’s like, do I want to hold his hand and make him take a cooking class with me so we can host a dinner party with all of our friends and talk about the latest fitness craze and latest juice cleanse? Nah, I do not want to do that. Can you even imagine?” Missy rolls her eyes, snickering over the very idea. “I mean, he’s so dour and inflexible sometimes. He’s almost totally right all the time, and I have never seen anybody commit so hard to anything the way he commits to his work. And he’s so smart that it’s so intimidating and awe-inspiring and sexy. And it’s like — do I want to see what he looks like naked and scare the shit out of the both of us by trying to do naked things with him? Yes, I really do. Fuck!”

Missandei bangs her forehead on Dany’s desk in front of her.

And then with her face still planted in Dany’s desk, she mutters, “I know. I know what you’re gonna say. I know I can’t. And I won’t. I won’t mess with him because I love my career. I know it’s just a bad idea. I love your hairpin by the way. Is it new?”






He tries to get his dad’s help — he looks to his father, and he wearily makes this silent plea — to have his dad stop his mom from doing this.

But his dad looks helplessly back at him — with red-rimmed eyes. And his dad reluctantly starts to help his wife pack up their things into suitcases.

His mom is currently really verbose, as she tends to get when she rages like this. She is shouting at him as she frantically packs her clothes. She tells him that she can’t stay here anymore — she can’t look at him anymore.

She gut-punches him by angrily telling him that she has no son anymore.

He deals with this life-breaking pain by bitterly saying, “Don’t forget, Mom. You still have one son. His name is Azzie.”

She starts sobbing at that — breaking down a little bit — or a lot — as she blindly shoves her wet clothes from the washing machine into her suitcase.

He just stands there and makes himself watch this happen. He saw it as inevitable, so in a way, he was kind of always preparing for this eventuality, in the back of his mind. He can’t be too hurt by things that he can predict. He already knows that this is why he lied and this was what he was trying to delay. He already knew that once they knew the truth about him, they would leave him because the truth about him is so horrible that they wouldn’t be able to accept it or accept him. He was trying to keep them close to him for as long as humanly possible, because he loves them , but he also knew that this was always going to be how this ended. They had a nice final month together, at the very least. They had a lot of meals together. They drank a lot of coffee together. Sometimes they laughed together. Sometimes he came home and saw that everything was perfectly neat and tidy, and he told himself that she must really love him, to do that for him.






Even though he told her he’d be in, she is legit shocked when she sees him show up at noon. Missandei actually scurries up to him and, with bewildered eyes, she says, “I cancelled all your meetings for you! I thought you’d take the rest of the day off!”

He narrows his eyes at her and holds in a sigh. He says, “Why did you do that? I told you I’d be in.”

“I didn’t believe you?” she says, uncertainly. And then she lowers her voice. She whispers, “I thought you’d be having an entire day with your parents — you know? How did that go?”

“Fine,” he says.






After what happened the other night — with Grey getting beat by a sex worker and a rusty nail on a wall — Selmy takes one look at Grey and is immediately annoyed and kind of pissed off because everything that happened the other night was preventable. Selmy does not even mince words or afford Grey any extra consideration or dignity — as he transparently barks at Drogo and tells Drogo to send Grey to psych — and then home so he can take a fucking nap.

Drogo’s eyes are torn — as he looks at Grey.

Grey waves it off — like it is fine. He gets it. He takes it upon himself to go down to psych.

There, Sam is busy, because this is outside of their scheduled hours. So Grey spends forty-five minutes waiting in that office, for a spot to clear up. He ends up getting a slot in with Margaery, who remembers him from nearly a year ago, from when she cleared him to come back to work. That was a complicated, political decision.

Grey tries to cut straight to the end. He tells Margaery that he knows he’s been working too much. He knows that he is sleep-deprived. He knows he made a stupid mistake on the job and didn’t read the situation right and didn’t follow the protocol for de-escalation. He knows he put his partner in danger because of his mistake. He feels terrible about it. He plans to take a couple of days off to rest and to get his head back on straight. He will schedule time with Sam and continue the work once he gets back.

Margaery is not his therapist — that is Sam’s domain. So all she can do is assess and clear him to move forward. In her point of view, as long as he really does take time off to rest, she can clear him.






He goes home to his empty and quiet apartment. The only trace his parents have left of themselves is this plate — this plate of food that his mom made. He touches the edge of the plate and spins it. He uncovers the foil and sees stewed meat in brown gravy, greens, rice, and a fried egg. This is one of his favorites.

He tells himself that this is pretty depressing. Like, he thought losing his dick and waking up alone and dickless in the hospital was pretty depressing — but this might have that beat.

He covers the food up again.

He walks into his bedroom — his bed is made and very neat — and he collapses down onto it, face first.






Missy is pulling a stretchy tube top up over her boobs as Yara pulls a bobby pin out from in between her teeth, gently pushes Missy’s curls away from her face, and starts pinning her hair off of her face. Missy is staring at Yara’s stomach, as Alayaya and Brienne get dressed around her.

Missy is regaling them all with the story about how a sex worker totally owned Grey’s ass and how stressful that was for Missandei. She is actually trying hard to make him look as good as she can in the story, but Alayaya and Yara are editorializing and snorting out laughter.

When she tells them that the woman, Carla, surprised him by knocking her head back, Yara lets out this cackle and says, “Oh my God! He was headbutted by a tiny woman! Classic!”

“Did he make this face?” Alayaya asks, pulling her expression into a really comical exaggeration of Grey’s WTF face.

Yara points at Missandei’s expression — which Missy is trying to keep even, trying to give nothing away. Yara says, “He did! He did make that face!”






After she finishes her shift, after she tiredly changes back into her real clothes and slaps a high-five into Yara and Yaya’s hands, after she jumps to hit Brienne’s hand — she is getting so fucking good at high-fives now! — she gallantly bids them all a good night with a little bow.  

It makes Yara snort and tell Missy that she’s such an adorable little goof sometimes.

Missy pulls out her phone and types out a message real quick. She is texting him, actually. He was supposed to be on the clock tonight, but they shuffled around and actually, Drogo ended up taking up his post tonight. It was weird to have Drogo doing Grey’s job instead of Grey. But actually — it shouldn’t be that weird. Because that is actually every day of their lives.

Anyway, there are a few funny little observation that she wants to make to him about what it was like having Drogo be him, so that is why she is texting him.

His response comes back quickly — which shocks her. It’s like, five in the morning.

He is basically asking her what she is doing right now.






She knows that this is way fucking weird — it is weird as hell — it is like — there is something going on. She knows this because she knows him. She knows that he would never just ask her to come over if he wasn’t like — if there wasn’t something big happening.

She is deeply curious — and a little apprehensive. Nevertheless, she texts her dad and tells him she’s running late — don’t worry. And then she stops by the only place still open for hot coffee. She stops at a convenience store and fiddles around with the automated coffee machine and gets it to pour some shitty, artificially flavored mocha into a styrofoam cup for him.

It’s a joke — she is pre-emptively planning out ways to cheer him up already.

He tells her his apartment number — it’s 306 — and she is holding his hot coffee as her knuckles rap on the door before the top of the hour.

She says, “Hey,” when he opens the door. She takes in his poor face, his eyes, his poor lip, his day-old stubble, and his clothes.

He says, “Hey,” as he opens the door wider, as he steps out of the way so that she can walk in.  









Chapter Text




 

The first thing she notices — of course — is that he is alone. His parents are not here at the moment. In fact, there is no trace of them at all in his place. She registers this with only mild surprised — because she kind of expected it. She kind of knew that he wasn’t inviting her over to say hello to his folks.

Her eyes curve downward and go sad as she looks at him — for just a moment — and then she strategically doesn’t ask about it or comment on it. She knows that he does not want her to, that it’s not why he asked her to come over.

Instead, she just holds up his coffee. She smiles at him, looks at his busted face and wonders why the key moments in their relationship involves a broken face. She softly tells him that she got him another one. She says, “It’s your favorite.”

He takes the cup from her. He hates this shit, but he always drinks it because she goes through the trouble — of fucking with him. He knows that she’s messing with him, and it’s been cute, so he’s been going with it.

He blows on it, even though it has cooled enough to drink. He sips the mocha through the hole, flinching around the swollen cut on his lip, as he watches her watch him back.

It’s godawful and tastes artificial. He still says, “Thank you,” after he lowers the cup from his face.  

Her smiles widens at that — she even laughs a little bit. And then she takes a small step backwards. She holds her arms out. She says, “So this is where you live!” as she spins around in place. “Gotta admit, it’s not what I was expecting, but it’s nice. Do you wanna give me a tour of the place?”






The tension between them is thick and maddening. She pretty much knows why she is here. She knew it from the moment she got his text message. All it said was that he was chilling. All it asked was if she was still busy with work. She could have easily ignored it and pretended she didn’t read the message until it was too late and the moment had passed. But actually, when his words flashed on her screen, she knew that she was down. She doesn’t even give a fuck. The rule is stupid and dehumanizing and so much of what they do is already dehumanizing. She is ready for this. She has been been dreaming about this, without realistically thinking that it would be a possibility like how it currently is. She is just waiting for him to make the next move.

Her shoes quietly shuffle against his hardwood floors, as slices of the rising sun break through the slats of his blinds and curtains, as she silently follows him from room to room, as she gives him these secret smiles into his back, as she bites down on her bottom lip and suppresses this groan, at the way this already looks.

They go through the guest bedroom really fast. It looks empty, and he tells her that he stores some of his extra shit in here and uses it as an extra closet kind of. He then leads her out and just gestures to one of the bathrooms. Then she follows him into his bedroom.






In his bedroom — he has shut all of the shades and covered them with his blackout curtains, so that it’s as semi-dark as it can be — he sighs. He is thinking better of what he is fucking doing right now. He is thinking that he is fucked up scum, and she deserves better than this.

On her end, she is observing to herself that he is so fucking hot . She thinks that he is so fucking yummy. She thinks over this fucking alternate universe where he was never cleared to go back into the field, where he stayed in his old department, where he agreed to a date with her, where she got a chance to prove to him that they have a lot in common and a lot of chemistry, like physical and sexual chemistry. She thinks about the many ways in which she can make him feel better about his body, because like Brienne said, he must have dick issues. And they must be part of the reason why there is sometimes such a distance between the two of them — beyond everything else. Like, their fucking jobs. Their fucking training. What they are told they are allowed to do. What they are told they are made for. What they are told they are good at. What they are told is their purpose.

He turns around and he says, “I’m sorry, man.” He sighs.  “I don’t even know why I texted you.”

“You texted back.”

“Pardon?”

“I texted you first,” she corrects, walking up so she is standing in front of him. “You texted back.” She holds her hand out, kind of hovering it over his chest. She is trying not to touch him just yet.

He mutters, “What the fuck.”

She smiles, pointing it at his neck, into his Adam’s apple. She says, “Man, it’s so weird, how you insist on making everything so sexually charged between us —”

He looks confused. He freezes. He quizzically asks, “You think it’s weird?”

She steps forward then — pressing the front of her body to his — pressing her breasts into his chest. Her jaw basically aches at that — at how it feels. She tells herself, oh fuck, she’s in trouble now. Like, a lot of trouble — as she runs her arms over his shoulders, as she presses harder to him — as he groans — as she says, “No. It’s not weird.”

And then she raises her face. She asks, "Can I kiss you?"

He actually appears to seriously think it over. In the semi-dark, she can see a twitch in his jaw. And then he nods. Almost imperceptibly.

And then she lays her mouth on him.






Her mind pretty much starts screaming and going apeshit in victory once he starts kissing her back. Her heart starts to pound as she realizes that this is happening to her, and it is fucking great . She starts losing the narrative — coherence — and just starts pulling yeses and pleases in and out of her consciousness, as he tilts her head back so far from the force of his reciprocity, as he jams his tongue into her mouth and starts just taking from her from the inside out. Her neck strains against the pressure of his kissing, as her hands dig hard into his shirt and his stomach — they are both flexing — before they both break their mouths away — wet and in shock.

He is touching his lip again — at the cut.

She is licking the outside surface of her mouth — tasting salt, tasting his blood. They had ripped open his tender scab together.

He is looking at the fresh spot of red on his fingertips, as he distantly says, “Oh. Fuck.”

And then she is advancing forward and just mindlessly pushing him — just shoving him backwards down on his bed. Her hands start going to his pants — to the closure — but she thinks better of it. Because she is gonna need to properly ask before getting in there.

Instead, she starts stripping off her own clothes really fast — because this fucking feels like a Halley’s Comet situation and she needs to be alert and she needs to be on it. She rips her clothes off in random order, as she starts to sweat, as her skin starts to burn up, as she pulls off her shirt, unzips her pants, takes down her underwear, kicks off her shoes, throws her socks off, and struggles with her bra for just a panicked second — before she remembers the fucking thing opens from the front.

When her breasts pop free, she briefly smiles at him — in relief and elation — she stares at the way he is staring at her — and it makes her exhale. It makes her chest go concave for a moment before she straightens her spine and tries to stop herself from screaming out something ludicrous, like, “Oh my God, I am naked!”

She sheds her bra and drops it on the ground. She mounts the bed and climb up his body, so she can crouch over his face and give him another sloppy kiss.

She feels him flinch underneath her wet mouth. She tastes his blood again. She actually giggles — and says, “Oopsie. Okay, so no kissing from you anymore. Your poor mouth.”






The pace of what is happening is punishing and really not very romantic or emotional — which is kind of not what he expected from her, through the many, many times he has accidentally allowed himself to think about what having sex with her would be like.

He is having a time. He really didn’t think it would be this easy and that she would be this down because obviously she knows that his body is just fucked up and broken. He thought that would be more of a barrier to this. He didn’t really think this was realistic. He really thought that maybe she’d come over and instead of being allowed to physically pour out his terrible and pent up feelings from deep inside through sex, she’d just sit him down on his sofa and would force him to use his words. Maybe that is why he texted her the way he did. Maybe he knew deep down that he needed someone to talk to about what just happened in his life — how he lost his parents because they found out who he is.  

As he stares up at her, as he continues taking in her fucking perfect body, he feels sorry for her — for an entire list of reasons. He’s sorry that she has to deal with his physical deformity, first of all. He’s sorry she has to deal with his mental and emotional deficiencies. He’s sorry he can’t even come close to being what she probably needs and what she deserves — which is a person who is capable of actual intimacy and closeness. He is sorry that he can’t even tell her what he thinks of her — when he happens to think positively about her. He is sorry he is not normal. He is sorry that he is a person who does this shit when he feels like he is losing the ground underneath his feet.

His lip is throbbing and feels like it is on fire — like it is getting burned. His shoulder is sore and twinges whenever he moves it. Both things keep bleeding — so that’s fucking gross and disgusting and he must be so fucking sexy to her right now — just lying down pathetically like this, bleeding out of two cuts.     

He doesn’t know how to tell her that he doesn’t know how to do this with her — he doesn’t know how to have sex with her — if he can’t even use his mouth. He doesn’t know what he’s supposed to do to make sex any good anymore. He doesn’t know how to tell her he hasn’t done this shit with anyone since his accident — but that must be obvious. It must be so obvious to her that it’s been years for him. And maybe he just can’t anymore.

So this seems like a brilliant plan, to test this fucking fear out with his partner and ruin every fucking bit of trust they have built up with one another. He is such a fucking piece of shit.

“Can I take off your pants?”






He tells her yes, it’s okay to take off his pants. He has an air of “whatever” about it. He acts like it’s an inevitability.

She makes quick work of it, as he lies prostrate on the bed and completely doesn’t help her at all. He doesn’t lift his hips, he doesn’t tug anything off for her — she just has to rely on brute strength as she peels off his clothes for him. His shirt is easy enough — she stretches the shit out of it. He groans when she accidentally touches the wound on his shoulder. She only gets to press her hands on his chest for a moment, before she gets to work on his bottom half. She takes his pants and his underwear down in one go — and she grunts triumphantly when his feet pop out of the cuffs of his jeans.

He almost starts losing it right here — maybe because he has lost his parents’ respect and their love — or maybe because of his shitty body — or maybe because he just has nothing fucking left to lose in life. He lies there and just waits as she looks at what’s left of him and his injury over. He is preparing himself for rejection. He is waiting for it just to be over already.

In the lengthy silence, he actually almost starts to apologize to her out loud. He almost gives her permission to back the fuck out because he understands that this not what anyone fucking wants.  

“Does it still hurt to be touched?” she asks, gesturing vaguely to his pelvic area. “I don’t want to . . . hurt you unnecessarily.”

“No, it feels numb and dead now,” he tells her. “It’s feels like scar tissue.”

“Oh,” she says softly. “Well, is it okay if I like — touch you? There?”

He blinks rapidly, staring up at the ceiling. He says, “Sure. Go nuts.”

And then he hears and feels her climbs back over him, straddling his body. And then he feels her position herself right on top of him, with her thighs clenched and pressed against his hips. He grunts in surprise as the corner of his eyes catch her reaching down in between her legs to touch or adjust herself — before she lowers herself directly onto him.

He lets out this unexpected gasp — he says, “Oh my God, what the fuck!” like he is actually surprised that just happened.

She laughs a little bit — the sound of it warm and fond.

He assesses. He observes that she is wet, really warm, really soft, and just brave as all fuck — what the fuck?

And he instinctively digs his hands into her thighs and butt. He is holding on hard because he is trying to understand what is happening right now.

She shifts herself a little bit. She twists her hips and rubs herself against him —

They both groan loudly.

She asks, “Are you clean?” a little too late.

He fights to understand what that means. And then he says, “Yeah. You?”

“As a whistle.”

He exhales, staring up at the ceiling. He asks, “Are you on birth control?” He asks because a doctor once told him he now has one prosthetic testicle and one working testicle — rather blandly, as if Grey’s entire life wasn’t just completely changed.

In response to his inquiry, she is like, “Aw shit,” as she grins. “Yeah, I am.” Because this is like, so legit right now. Like, this is happening right now.






It gets out of control pretty fast and pretty brutally after that.

After that, it’s just blind instinct — just blind touching and grinding and exhaling and gasping, as she tries to get herself off against his body as fast and as hard as she can, through delicious friction. She has already done a kind of emotional and mental preparation, through all of the fucking dreams she’s had about him — and all the ones after the first one have been accurate, physically.

As she repeatedly grinds against him, she runs her hands down her cheeks, and then down her body, down her breasts, as she mutters, “Oh my God, touch me.”

She actually means she wants more of his hands squeezing her body.

He totally does not do that. He is too dumb right now. His idiot brain is just silently correcting her in his head. He is confused and telling himself that he is touching her. Like, they are touching each other. Really intimately, holy shit.

“Oh my God, here,” she says, just taking charge and grabbing his hand and just planting it on her chest. She whispers out, “Fuck,” as she momentarily shuts her eyes, as she breathes out the way this feels for her. She can hear the repetitive sounds of his bed straining and stressing from what is going on right now.

When she opens her eyes again — she kind of smile-laughs — because she is in disbelief . She raises her hands to push her hair back and off her neck and face. She piles it mindlessly on top of her head, arching her back, mouthing something silently —

And then she asks, “Are you having a good time?”

He is like, what the fuck.

He dumbly nods.

“Good.”






Over time — as it builds and builds for her, she starts letting out high-pitched keening cries after she calls out his fucking name, as she continues fucking him nakedly and pushes heat and pressure into his body, hard and fast.

He keeps trying to hold on — and keep up — as he fights to keep breathing — as he constantly and accidentally lets go of her boob to try to grab her head to kiss her beautiful face. She bends over and acquiesces every time, humming sweetly against his mouth as their lips make contact. He keeps forgetting that kissing her sends shots of sharp pain up his face. He keeps whimpering out the hurt, every time he forgets.

She eventually comes loudly — with a lot of build up and a lot of considerate warning. She spends long minutes telling him that he feels so fucking good — and that it is happening — soon. Her communication and her body speeds up and becomes a little desperate and erratic the closer she gets.

She actually starts crying when her orgasm hits, as she scrunches her body up tightly and rolls with it. She curls over. Her forehead hits his collarbone. She lets out this really cute grunt as her entire body shivers — at the tail end of it.

And then she fully collapses on top of him.






It is immediately awkward afterward. Because there was something so visceral and so awe-inspiring and so humbling and intimate and beautiful about watching her orgasm that he immediately realizes that they have fucked up. Big time.

He says, “Oh, God — fuck,” as he starts blinding grabbing around for something to cover himself up with.

In a daze, she tries to wrap her arms around him, as she sweetly asks, “Grey, did you finish, too? I don’t think you did?”

He laughs out this lunacy. He repositions her body with his hands on her hips, so that she’s not fucking sitting so directly on top of him.






So he tries to kick her out of his apartment — as nicely as he can — but he is definitely freaking out and he is definitely shooing her so that he can like — get some space to think about this. She can tell he is losing his mind right now. She knows him really well at this point.

He has underwear back on. He can smell her on his body. He is shoving her clothes at her naked body as he nudges her out of his bedroom, and he is telling her that they really shouldn’t have done that. He tells her that they have both made a fucking goddamn mistake.

She says, “Uh, I don’t think it was a mistake at all.” She is holding her clothes to her chest. She is trying to get his attention. By snapping her fingers in his face. She says, “Grey! It’s okay! You’re okay! Just breathe.”

“Missandei!” he shouts. “No amount of deep-breathing is gonna make me feel okay about this!”






So she finally shows her face at home at around eight in the morning — probably three hours after her dad originally expected her. He is puttering around in the garden when she sluggishly drags her tired butt into the house. She walks onto the back patio and watches him pick out weeds from the garden bed, depositing the scraps into a bucket.

He raises his face and smiles at her. He doesn’t bother commenting on the overtime she must be working.

She answers for him anyway. She says, “Daddy, I am going to take a personal day today — and we’re gonna hang out. Is there something you’ve been itching to do? Do you wanna go to the spa after I take a quick nap?”







Chapter Text




 

Her dad doesn’t want to do an entire spa day because it is expensive and he thinks it is weird for a man who is not gay to go to the spa — so they go to a nail salon nearby instead.

As they get pedicures, as she presents three different bottles of pink nail polish for her dad to choose from — for her toes — her dad wryly grins at her and points to a random one. He says he wants to know why she is acting like she is on cloud nine. Did something amazing happen that he should know about, to have contributed to this good mood?

She doesn’t think she and her dad will ever have the kind of relationship where she can tell him that she’s in a good mood because she finally had some really fucking good clandestine sex — like, the forbidden kind of good sex.

So she just tells him, “I’m finally doing well at work! It is awesome!”






After he showers to get the damning scent of sex off his body, he tries to catch up on a month’s worth of sleep all in a day. He tries to stay as unconscious for as long as he can on his personal day off, because being unconscious is a great way to deal with depression. When he is unconscious, he doesn’t have to think that much about the words that his mother said to him.

And the thing about memory is that memory is wildly undependable. He know this from his training. And also from life.

He didn’t record his mom yelling at him and laying into him, so he doesn’t have a transcript of it. He just has the painful recall that is trapped in his mind, one that, iteratively, gets worse and worse as time wears on. He starts remembering his mom saying things she didn’t actually say. He starts remembering his mom wishing that he had never been born — because that’s the leap that he takes from the moment she said he was no longer her son.

He starts remembering his mom telling him that he was a waste of her love. He remembers her looking at him like he is despicable, like she knows that he actually kills people for a living, like he has to have a personality disorder because he is a manipulative taker who only knows how to put himself first.

He remembers barfing at school in the middle of biology class when he was a high school freshman. His mom had to leave work to come and pick him up. He cried when he saw her face pop into the nurse’s office because he was so relieved to see her. She took him home, gave him dinner, and then cuddled with him on the couch as he told her all about how it was so humiliating for him to barf in front of his new classmates at his new school.

He was only 12 years old at the time and puberty was still a few years away from starting. His parents were always worried about the tradeoff — of moving him ahead a couple of grades versus keeping him with his same-aged peers for his emotional development.

He bets his parents have regrets now — now that he is an ultra intelligent sociopath who can’t fucking form meaningful human connections because all he fucking knows is how to use people.

He tries to keep sleeping so he doesn’t have to remember how he messed up the very nice, very professional thing he had going on with Missandei. He keeps seeing her without her clothes on when he closes his eyes. He feels like a disgusting perv for it.

His memory twists and morphs here, too. The more he remembers the sex, the more lackluster it becomes to him. He remembers doing nothing. He remembers lying there like a cold fish. He even remembers her disappointment in him — when she saw him naked. He remembers her asking him why he didn’t orgasm like how a normal man would. He remembers being too chickenshit to tell her it’s probably because he can’t anymore.






He dodges his brother’s phone calls until the day before he is due back at work. He has like, ten voicemails from his brother that he’s probably not going to listen to because they are going to bum him out a lot .

He picks up the phone just so he can ask Az to just give it a rest. Grey’s going back to work tomorrow. He cannot have his phone ringing every five minutes while he’s on the job. He also does not want to have to block Azzie’s number because what if someone gets stabbed in the kidney and needs a new kidney? He would like to keep the lines of communication open for that possibility.

“Can you stop being so fucking dramatic?” his brother says into his ear. “It’s like talking to Ma all over again.” Azzie is sighing. And then he says, “Baby bro — what the fuck happened?”






Sam is all worried about him by the time Grey finally shows his stupid face in Sam’s office again. Sam tells him that Margaery reported clearing Grey to go back to work — and learning that was a bit alarming. Reading the report on what happened was also a bit concerning, to be honest.

They are spending the session indoors in Sam’s office today, because Grey is just over living his best life and doing shit like getting therapized around a duck pond. He is tired of this fucking farce. He is not getting better. He is never going to get better. This is as good as he fucking gets.

He wearily tells Sam’s very sympathetic eyes that his parents disowned him. He says, “Which is crazy because we’re a culture where you can be a heroin addict who robs and steals from your parents, but as long as you show up to family dinner, you’re cool and you get enabled.” Grey sighs. He says, “Like, do you even know what it means for my parents to disown me? It is a real big deal. I am like, their son, not their daughter. Like, my people don’t throw that shit around lightly. I am a few notches below heroin addict-thief. It’s so fucking awesome.”

“Grey —”

“And I slept with Missandei,” Grey cuts in. “I was upset about my folks. So I was making great decisions. I am a fucking idiot. We had sex once in my bed, in my apartment. It’s going to be great to see her later today. Because we haven’t talked at all since it happened. Fuck me forever.






He sees her at their first meeting together — a debrief and a status check in with the entire team. He fatalistically expects for there to be some sort of sign that she hates him now, but all that actually happens is that they run into each other at the donut box — on purpose because she saw him and she made a beeline to him — and she says to him, “Grey! You’re back!”

He is seriously like, what the fuck is this women’s deal?

She pats him on the shoulder gently — because she is concerned about the healing wound there. She smiles at him as she lightly clamps a long donut in between her front teeth. Muffled through her teeth and through the donut, she says, “There’s only one apple fritter left! Take it!”

And then she walks to the conference table and takes the empty seat next to Daario, who immediately steals a sip from her coffee cup and teases her. Grey can hear Daario asking her how it feels for her to have her boyfriend back at work.

She says, “Awesome! It spares me from having to look at your dumb face all day.”

It is a bit of a weak burn, but Robb still laughs in appreciation, on her other side.

All of the fun and camaraderie dies when Selmy and his severe mood walks into the conference room.

He spots Grey right away.

And with a look, Selmy is like, “Grey, are you well-rested today?”

Grey wants to kill himself right now. Instead, he gives a short nod. He says, “Yes, sir. I am.”






Besides the one time he was captured, tortured, and got his dick sliced off — conversations rarely revolve around his work performance. And those series of conversations after his accident were based around his emotional and mental stability, not his abilities or skill set. Usually, that shit, for Grey, is real locked down.

So it is a really fucking terrible novelty, for Selmy to call Grey into his office, for Selmy to shut the door behind them after he asks Grey to sit down.

After they are afforded some privacy, Barristan leans against the edge of his desk, staying close to Grey. Selmy is actually thinking to himself that he has known this person since this person was a child. He was watching and keeping tabs on Grey for two years before he approached and recruited Grey into the organization. He had to wait until Grey turned 18 years old, before it was legal to approach him.

After Grey signed on — he was just perfect . He learned fast. He followed procedure and protocol without erring. He had an encyclopedic ability to recall thick information. He made decisions on the job consistently and logically, as outlined in the trainings. He advanced fast in the organization because he was so perfect. It seemed that he was just made for the life and for the job.

Grey was following orders, efficiently and perfectly, when he and Theon were captured by Bolton.

Barristan remembers the hours and hours of discussion that resulted from that. He remembers pushing back at his superiors who thought that Grey was compromised, forever a liability to the organization, a tumor that needed to be cut off. Barristan remembers the months of going to the mat for Grey — because Barristan knows this person and he knows that Grey is not like Theon — Grey really needs this job. Barristan put his neck out on the line for this person — because he knows he owes it to him.

Grey’s time back has been concerning. They all know this. It is very apparent.

Barristan says, “We’ve witnessed your trademark good work — that never changes. When you’re focused and on top of it — you are our best. But son, you know that your time back has also been punctuated with episodes of volatility and just really poor judgement.

“I know,” Grey says quietly, staring into the wood grain of Selmy’s desk.

“I mean — I don’t want to hear confirmation of what I already know — I want to hear an explanation, Grey,” Barristan says. “Why? Were you not ready to come back to work?”

“No, I was ready,” Grey continues quietly. “I really wanted to come back. I — I’m sorry. I don’t know what is going on with me. I’ve been going to psych and doing everything the doc is saying I should do. And I’ve been, um, trying to take care of myself better — and trying to make healthy, smart choices — but —” He is sighing. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry I failed you. I’m sorry I have failed the organization. I will work harder — and I will be more cognizant of my deficiencies and weaknesses. Um, I will review, um, protocol and procedures again. I, uh, can undergo some more training or re-training. I can help you create a performance improvement plan for me, if you think it would help — to put me on one.”   






He is back in the surveillance van again — because he put himself there. He currently does not trust himself or his decision-making ability that much, and he doesn't want to potentially endanger the lives of his colleagues, so he does the right thing and he brings it up with Drogo and asks to be reassigned.

He listens to johns proposition her all night — he listens to them offer to buy acts and services from her. He tries to look within himself, to try and figure out if this feels different now, because of what happened between the two of them. He wonders if he is too personally invested now, and if that is going to be the thing that results in her being captured, tortured, and then killed one day.

After work, after they are dressed — he waits for everyone else to disperse. Everyone has given him a wide berth today because they know he is in a mood and that he had a difficult conversation with Selmy. He listens as Missandei jokes around with Kojja and Alayaya and promises to send them this email coupon for custom-made hair care products.

When he gets an opportunity, he briefly touches her elbow to get her attention, right before the elevator doors open. She looks over and she smiles at him.

He says, “Hey, we should talk.”

Her expression doesn’t change. She asks, “Like, right now?”

He looks startled. “Oh, I was thinking like — like not right now. But I mean, I’m not doing anything right now. Are you busy?”






They land at a diner — because it’s five in the morning, and this is pretty much their only option.

He completely bypasses the coffee because he is trying to learn from his mistakes. He is planning on sleeping properly after this. He orders himself a clear lemon-lime soda. He randomly asks the server for a straw, so that he can sip his soda that way.

She orders an entire breakfast plate, with bacon, sausages, hash browns, eggs, and a side of pancakes and toast. She tells him straight up that there’s no way she’s going to eat it all — so they are sharing.

She is watching him closely. She is looking to him expectantly. She is waiting for him to make the first move, because he took her out here after all. She can guess what might be on his mind.

He nibbles on a toast corner that she has buttered and jammed up for him, as he miserably says, “I’m sorry, Missandei.”

“What are you sorry for?” she asks evenly, as she breaks apart her eggs with the side of her fork. She reaches out for hot sauce and starts uncapping the bottle.

“For being so hard on you,” he says.

And this actually surprises her. She was totally expecting him to apologize for the sex and for him to tell her that it can never happen again. She was totally prepared to accuse him of being sexist and condescending — to tell him that she’s actually not just a teenage girl who freaking fell in love with him just because they slept together once — like, get over himself. She was prepared to tell him she’s a fucking adult woman — and that he can't dictate how she’s supposed to feel.

“I realize I was being a hypocritical fucking asshole,” he continues. “I know I was getting on your ass for the dumbest shit — just really minor shit. And then I go and royally fucked up and put you in just a terrible spot — and you responded to that by just being a really great partner and so professional. You were great. And you didn’t shove my face in it afterward. You didn’t heap on and make me feel worse. You took me to the hospital. You waited with me. You drove my fucking pathetic ass to work for weeks. You kept me fed and caffeinated. You made sure I got some sleep. I know you tried to cover for me and my mistakes a bunch of times. You have, honestly, just been so amazing. Thank you so much. I’m so sorry I didn’t express appreciation before now. I’m sorry I took you for granted.”  






He is being so serious — he looks so miserable and upset — and that tugs at her heart — so she reaches across the table and lays her hand on his forearm. She squeezes and then shakes it a little, to comfort him — and to get his attention.

He looks up at her with his brown eyes all soft and tired — and she smiles gently at him. She tells him, “It’s okay. We all make mistakes sometimes. I was making a lot of mistakes before you came on and started teaching me and mentoring me. You’ve helped me a lot, too. Like, I’m pretty sure you helped me keep my job.” She kindly rubs his skin with her palm. “Thank you for that.”

He lightly scoffs — not altogether in a self-loathing or unkind way. He just kind of releases a little bit of tension as she takes her hand back and starts diving back into her food, partitioning out bits of it, making him his own plate with a little bit of everything even though he has already told her he doesn’t have much of an appetite.  






They hang out at the diner for as long as it takes for her to finish eating some of her food — for as long as it takes him to finish the rest of it. It takes about forty-five minutes.

In that time, she lightens the heavy mood a little bit by rambling about her life outside of work. She tells him about how she’s trying to find a new stepmom for herself, through an app.

After Grey responds to that declaration entirely too straight and too seriously — like, he tells her he doesn’t think it’s a good idea for her to pick out a wife for her dad when her dad is not even aware — she rolls her eyes at him and she tells him she’s just messing around. Obviously she is a rational person and understands how these sorts of things actually happen — but right now, it’s just a fun little exploration — maybe even just a joke. She knows her dad does not want to date, but she wants to nudge him in that direction anyway. It will be good for him.

She tells Grey that her brothers are completely not into this at all. They are both pretty wrapped up in the idea that their dad can only love their mom and that their dad should go to the grave only having loved one woman in his entire life — and that is their mother. Missy tells Grey that her brothers are annoying and being narrow-minded about this, that they aren’t really thinking about their dad’s happiness. They are just thinking about their own lives and keeping everything the same so that they are never challenged with change. They are just wrapped up in the past and the memories of their mother. They also don’t live with their dad. They don’t see his life. They think it’s probably fun for their dad to have been a motherfucking badass professional for most of his life — and now to just be kind of a little emasculated and existing as her live-in maid and cook.

She tells Grey that she knows that her dad completely loves her and he’s really happy that he can take care of her — but she also thinks that he should have more in his life — he deserves to have something that is just for him and not about his kids.

She says, “Maybe his new thing to live for won’t end up being a new relationship. Maybe he will stumble upon the bestest hobby ever or meet the bestest friend ever or the find coolest volunteer work ever — I don’t know. But I do know that he’s not really seeking it out right now.”  






They say goodbye to each other in the parking lot of the diner. She is leaning against her car. He is actually parked right next to her, so he is holding his keys in his hand and kind of looking like he is trying pretty hard to stay cool about whatever is all going on right now. He looks a little out of sorts, actually. And she finds it to be completely fucking adorable.

She suppresses a yawn. She brings her fist to her mouth to cover it. Then she says, “Thanks for listening. You’re a good listener.”

“Thanks,” he says, looking down at their feet. “You’re a good conversationalist.”

She snickers in response to that. She says, “Do you know that I rarely get told that?”

He raises his face to look at her, in response to that. He smiles at her kind of sheepishly — because he didn’t mean it as a joke or a dig. He meant it honestly — like, in a for real way.

“I’ll see you at work later?” she asks.

“Yeah, man. Definitely.”










Chapter Text


 

 

Their sessions are less than an hour, once a week. This is why it takes a couple weeks just for Sam to plow through the facts of what has been happening with Grey. Grey doesn’t particularly want to talk about his parents — but he knows he must, because that’s what this pseudo-science requires.

He tells Sam that he has not reached out to his parents yet. His parents also have not contacted him. Why would they? He is not their son anymore. So things are actually going according to plan.

Sam asks, “Grey, how are you feeling about this — honestly?”

Grey swallows. He holds onto a moment of silence. And then, with a lot of effort, he tightly says, “It is fucking devastating. Obviously. I am fucking sad as hell about it. I don’t even want to think about it or talk about it — because it makes me so sad — that my parents don’t — that they don’t —” He cuts himself off, shaking his head. He mutters, “I can’t even say it.”

“I’m so sorry you are going through such a difficult time, Grey,” Sam says. “I am really sorry.”  

Grey arms are folded over his chest. He shrugs.

“I’ve met your parents — right?” Sam adds. “I’ve seen the house you grew up in. I talked with them for hours about you. The very apparent thing to me, in those conversations I had with them, was how much they love you. I think that’s why your job is particularly hard for them to accept — it’s because they love you so much.”

Again, Grey shrugs. He quietly tells Sam that he doesn’t know what he’s supposed to say in response to all of this. So his parents probably love him. So what? So he thinks he loves them back. So what? They don’t want to be in his life anymore. Probably because they don’t like him as a person. Love and respect are different. Love is probably a hardcoded, biological condition. They are probably conditioned to love him because there is an evolutionary imperative to, to further the species. They probably felt love for him so that they’d keep him alive as a baby, so they didn’t just throw him in a dumpster fire like how reptiles sometimes eat their young. Their love for him is probably a base mammalian mechanism.

And then he sighs. He asks Sam “Do you think sociopaths can ever be capable of love?”

“Grey,” Sam says patiently. “I really don’t think you have an antisocial personality disorder. And trust me, I’ve thought about this once or twice, when it came to you.”

“I took an online quiz though,” Grey says, his voice dry and flippant and moderated. “I checked off a lot of boxes. Manipulative. Pathological liar. Shallow emotions. Lack of remorse and shame. Incapable of love. Addictive behavior. Stimulation junkie. Impulsively violent. Sexually deviant —”

“Grey, I don’t think having consensual sex just once in the past year with someone you care about makes you a deviant —”

“Hey,” Grey says dully. “My sexual deviancy is handicapped ‘cause I got my penis chopped off by a psychopath.”

“And how are things going with Missandei?”

 

 

 

Grey understands that he cannot revert and go back to the way he was before his accident. He was a workaholic. All he did was live and breathe work. He spent all of his waking hours obsessed with his job and obsessed with optimizing his team, as well as ensuring that everyone followed protocol and was up to date on their training, so that they all stayed safe. He never took vacations. He had probably zero friends because he didn’t think it was appropriate to be friends with his subordinates. He was able to subside on that life because he felt, with his entire being, that he had a purpose. His purpose was to make the world a safer place for everyone, within a Western government entity that wielded the most influence — so he owed it to everyone to be at his absolute best. The people he was trying to protect deserved the best from him. He was capable of sacrificing and of giving it.

The difference now is that his purpose is shakier. It has no foundation. His impact is smaller and more nuanced and complicated. He is really just delaying death a little bit. Sometimes he tells himself that the labor has to still be worth it.

He has lost a lot of his conviction because sometimes all he sees — especially when a sex worker calls him “just another rapist pig” — is a lack of absolute answers these days.

He understands why his parents have lost respect for him. He doesn’t really have much of it left for himself.

“Oh my God, I fucking hate salads,” Drogo mutters angrily, staring down at his quinoa bowl.

“Yeah, man. Maybe get a different dressing next time. Lemon vinaigrette? Come on.”

“It’s not the dressing, man,” Drogo says hotly, glowering at Grey from across the table.

They have been trying to become friends outside of work. Drogo is leading the effort. They have been spending time together. It is awkward and not especially fun — they don’t know how to have fun with each other when they are not working.

They work out a lot — cardio, hilariously enough, to strengthen up Drogo’s heart. They go on silent runs together. They have been eating terrible lunches together — saying a whole lot of jackshit together. Grey can tell that Drogo is lonely, too. Because it’s lonely being the boss.

This fucking sucks. Grey remembers when they were both in their 20s and just traveling the world together, doing their violent jobs really well and not questioning any of it. He sometimes misses having youth and being stupid.

 

 

 

She logs in Yiantha’s call to her on a weekend in their book, and she also notifies Grey of the contact, as is part of procedure. They have a quick text about it on their work phones. She — with her limited experience and propensity to be a little naive, asks him what he thinks about her meeting Yiantha on her day off. She is concerned with Yiantha, who seems a bit distraught and agitated.

She asks him for his opinion even though she can generally predict his stances at this point. He generally stays by the book. They are cautioned not to blur lines with their contacts in the field. They are not to reveal real personal information about themselves — Missandei has already broken this rule many times over, in bonding with Yiantha because she is not the greatest liar, and it just felt wrong to lie to a person in order to get her help. They are not to engage in any illegal activity — which is not hard for Missandei to stick to. They are to set clear boundaries — which is something she is struggling with, because Yiantha has become a little emotionally dependent on her. Yiantha calls her a lot, just to complain and say really alarming things about the boyfriend.

Over text, Grey tells her: Your decision.

He writes this because he also knows that she knows his stance. They’ve already talked a lot about what he’d do. They keep realizing that his judgement is not the be all end all though.

 

 

 

Yiantha has a duffle bag filled with possessions to help her get by enough — and a black eye — when Missandei meets her outside of a coffee shop. When Missy arrives in her casual weekend clothes, Yiantha tears up a little bit and explains to her that they should probably go talk somewhere else. Yiantha has already had a thing with the employees inside the coffee shop. They asked her to leave even though she told them she was meeting Missandei. Probably because of how she looks.

Missy pushes her lips into a thin line as she crosses her arms, as she takes in Yiantha’s face. She says, “That’s bullshit. You didn’t deserve that. Do you want to stay or do you want to go somewhere else?”

“Let’s stay,” Yiantha mutters, kind of inspired by Missy's defense of her. “It will take more time to go somewhere else.”

 

 

 

Missy is not the kind of person who feels okay about making a scene in a crowded coffee shop just to prove a point. She is the kind of person that gives stern looks and adds extra emphasis to words when she is pissed off. She stares down the barista and tells the barista that she would like to buy a latte for her friend.

The barista is entirely unfazed. And the entire thing feels intensely dissatisfying to Missandei. She feels fucking lame. And useless.

After they sit down, as Yiantha twirls her iced coffee around in its plastic cup, Missandei takes a careful sip from her chai before neutrally asking, “What happened to your face?”

Yiantha shakily starts to tear up again — so Missandei can guess what happened to Yiantha’s face. That piece of shit.

Then Yiantha says, “I’m pregnant. I don’t know who the father is. That is why.”

 

 

 

So Missandei puts a hotel room on her credit card for the next week. She rationalizes this emotional decision and tells herself that the messaging that the world gives people like Yiantha is that all they deserve are shitty, dirty motel rooms. This is why it is meaningful, that Missandei takes this woman to a real hotel in a whiter part of town, because this woman needs to see what life can actually be, and she should see that her life has more value that what she has been told.

Missy gives Yiantha some money for food and for taking care of herself, while Yiantha figures out her next steps. Missy presses the key card of the hotel room into Yiantha’s hand and says, “Call me later — if you want to talk some more.”

 

 

 

They have to log all of these types of activities, and when Grey reads Missandei’s report, he looks over at her — sitting at her desk.

She feels his gaze, so she flicks her eyes up to look back at him. She sees that his face is even and blank — and she knows that he is not thrilled with the decisions she has made. She knows that he thinks she is being used — that she is being played by a hooker who is never leaving an abusive relationship. She knows that he thinks that this contact relationship is at the point of diminishing returns and that Missy needs to cut her off. She knows that he thinks that she is trying to save someone and — as he has repeatedly said to her in the long hours they have spent together in massage parlors: People can’t be saved when they don’t want to be saved.

She knows that he thinks that saving one woman does not matter — because what is inherent in their work is that they must always sacrifice one for the lives of many, whether they literally do this through hard decisions on the ground — or whether they do this figuratively, by giving up aspects of their own lives that others take for granted.   

He said it was her call though.

 

 

 

So she just carries on and hopes that her empathy isn’t the dumbest thing about her.

She does not even know what kind of bullshit she is currently witnessing and condoning because she is not speaking up. She keeps watching as her dad opens one bullshit present after another bullshit present. She watches her pops sit like he is the guest of honor in the middle of Mars’ living room. She watches as he opens up shitty homemade card after shitty homemade card from the grandkids, like they don’t freaking get allowance money every week that they can dip into and like, buy something for their grandpa. She is stunned that her brothers didn’t tell their kids to do better.

She also sees her dad open a box to reveal a coffee cup that says “World’s Greatest Dad,” from Moss and Safi, like they don’t fucking know that Dad is really particular about his coffee and has an entire procedure around picking beans, roasting his own fucking beans,  grinding his own beans. Do they really think that after hours of painstaking work, their dad would just pour that shit into a shitty, hyperbolic mug?

Mars and Zoya got him slippers, which while moderately better than a shit coffee cup, is so bland and so boring that it just says nothing about how much this man has sacrificed for all of his children.

She, in contrast, got her dad a custom-made leather wallet with his initials stamped into it — because she noticed that his current pleather one is in tatters. She remembers that back when their mom was still alive, the two of them used to have these date nights where they put the Mars in charge of everyone, got super dressed up, and went out dancing. With the benefit of hindsight, Missy now understands that their dad was showing love and appreciation to their mom — because she was the one putting up with his really long work schedule, the erratic hours, and the nights of lost sleep and worry.

Her dad used to look really dapper on his days off. He used to take really extra good care in his appearance. He has lost his ability to give a shit about fancy threads with the death of their mom though, just like how he doesn’t really eat Naathi food anymore.

Her dad is already feeling a certain way when he peels back the wrapping paper and sees the box that the wallet came in. He immediately says, “Missy, this is too expensive.” He does not sound particularly happy about this.

She is used to this. She doesn’t care. He deserves it.  “It’s not that expensive, Daddy. I got it on sale.”

That is a total lie.

It doesn’t get much better when he opens the box. He actually sighs. He says, “Honey — it’s too much.”

She ignores that, too. She ignores his awkwardness. She just reaches over and flips the wallet in his hands. She shows him his initials — like he doesn’t already know what they are. She puts up with it when her brothers grumble and lightly make fun of her for always trying to show them up. She refrains from correcting them — from telling them that it’s not about winning. It’s about showing respect and love. It’s about dignity. He is the man that raised them. Come the fuck on.

Her dad gingerly puts the wallet back into the box again. He softly mutters that it’s very nice, but he would rather she just save her money. She suspects that he’s not going to actually use it — even though she will bug him about it for a long time. He will probably just store it in his closet for years, where he keeps a lot of his other special keepsakes like photo albums and his wedding ring.

When it’s time to blow out candles and cut the cake — she sees that it’s a chocolate cake with a race car on it.

Her dad does not like chocolate. He is boring and his favorite cake is vanilla cake with lemon curd.

He also doesn’t particularly like race cars?

Zoya explains the cake by saying, “Kaden picked it out himself!”

Missy loves all of her nieces and nephews very much.

But what the fuck?

 

 

 

When Missandei gets flashed for the first time on the clock, she’s so surprised by it that her response is a natural response. She yells, “What the fuck! Put that away, sir!” as she puts her arm out — to ward herself against wayward penises — as she averts her eyes.

He is vigorously masturbating in front of her.

Begrudgingly, she gets to be the one that actually arrests him after that. She is so grossed out the entire time she puts cuffs on him — because he releases a groan when her hand grazes his forearm.

Nearly everyone is laughing at her — a lot — at the end of the shift, because she acted like that was the first time she has ever seen a dick on the job or something.

She keeps telling them it fucking was, but they don’t hear it.

Alayaya keeps cooing at Missy and telling her that she is just so precious — just so fucking adorable and innocent and sweet. Daario keeps gesturing at his own dick and threatening to show it to her. She thinks that’s kind of like, sexual harassment? But she is letting it go. Robb and Drogo are just straight up laughing at her, adorning their laughter with no jokes.

And Grey keeps letting these little smiles slip out, before he covers them up with his hand or throat clearing.

She tells them all, “Well, I need a shower after that. That was great, guys. Just a really fun time.”

And then Daario makes it massively weird by saying, “Why are you so scared of dicks, Missy? Is it because you’ve been dealing with this guy for so long?”

All of the laughter just dies in the room after that.  

Even Daario looks likes he really, really fucking regrets what just came out of his mouth. He says, “Grey —”

And Grey sardonically responds with, “Relax, man. I can handle a tame dickless joke, okay?”

 

 

 

He picks her up for their flight at her house. He pulls up to the address that she gave him, and he waits expectantly, watching her door. He waits for about a minute and sees no movement, before he texts her and tells her he has arrived. The door gets thrown open maybe 30 seconds after that, and she steps out in her wifely get-up, in heels and a tight charcoal dress that restricts movement.

With amused detachment, he watches her struggle hard with her suitcase, trying to drag the heavy thing from inside the house to her front stoop, teetering uneasily on her heels — she doesn’t wear heels often, so she probably doesn’t have the calf muscles for them. She always looks precarious on them.

He sees her lift her face up to make direct eye contact with him, her expression pinched and annoyed.

He gets out of the car then. He silently makes his way up the walkway and the three steps up to her stoop. He laughs quietly, as he takes the handle of the suitcase out of her hand and pulls it. He says, “Morning, sunshine.”

Before she gives him a dorky retort, a set of footsteps advances to the front door and a deep male voice says, “Sweetheart, you left your passport on the kitchen table.”

Grey blinks as Missandei’s dad stops and looks slightly startled by his presence.

“Thanks, Dad,” she says, pulling her passport out of her dad's outstretched hand, depositing it into her purse. “Dad,” she adds, face still pointed down at her bag. “This is Grey. We work together.”

Grey quickly lets go of the handle of her suitcase to lean forward and offer his hand to her dad, who shakes it firmly. Grey says, “Hello, sir. It’s good to meet you.”

Her dad starts chuckling at that. He says, “You know, you are the first colleague of Missandei's I have ever met. What a treat.”

 

 

 

As Grey pulls into the parking spot, he reminds her to definitely slap him in the face — if she catches him making a poor decision. He tells her that any decision is fair game. Like, if she catches him talking a lot about safety razors and buying one, just sock him in the fucking face.

She puts on her wedding ring after that. She didn’t want to put it on at home, with her dad around.

She nudges her rolling suitcase with her knees, after he pulls her luggage out of the trunk of the car and sets it in front of her. They do one last check in the airport garage. He flicks through all of their aliases’ identification documents to ensure that it is all consistent before pocketing it all in his inner breast pocket. They slowly make their way closer to the security line, her teetering on her stiletto-heeled boots. Belatedly, she asks, “Um, how does Mr. Smith feel about safety razors?” She is actually referring to him — to his alias.

“Oh,” Grey drawls, pulling his own suitcase forward. “Motherfucker loves them. Didn’t you read the folio?”

“You know I did,” she says, lowering her voice. “From top to bottom. No mention of safety razors.”

“Hmm,” he says, as the double glass doors to the sky bridge opens in front of them. A shiny row of ticketing machines blinks back at them on the other side.

He leans over and grabs her left hand — maneuvering his fingers around her wedding ring. He is holding her hand to keep her steady, because he does not want her to spontaneously tweak her ankle in the midst of walking and then bite it hard. He is also holding her hand because she’s supposed to be his wife.

He says, “Come on. I wanna eat a real shitty airport burger on the company’s dime already.”

“Hey,” she says, as she lets herself lightly get tugged forward by the hand. “When are you gonna switch to the sexy, stockbroker personality? I like that one. He’s nicer to me. He dotes on me.”

He snorts. He says, “Okay, rude.”

 

Chapter Text






He’s probably never been in a legit romantic relationship before. He was always too young for the girls in his grade — and he was an obnoxious know-it-all for the bulk of his childhood. He was and probably still is overly prone to constant verbal corrections and real-time feedback on performance — and shockingly, teenage girls really hated this shit from him.

Things evened out in college a little bit, once he got over the puberty hurdle. There were girls who called themselves his girlfriend, but he was always like, huh? He was initially really bad at reading the interest of women. He had to teach himself that over time.

He had two years of a normal college experience before he was recruited into the agency. He met Alayaya the first week they started. He was kind of really young still and hormonal — she was slightly older and really sexy — he thought he was an adult so they had sex in secret together. It was an obvious secret though, because neither of them had really learned what discretion actually looks like. He used to kiss her in these stolen moments while they were at work, because he thought it was what she wanted, that it was romantic.

He now knows it was just really fucking unprofessional and self-indulgent.

He is kind of taking this trip down memory lane because he feels similarly confused and disjointed again. He keeps bracing himself every time he reaches out to Missandei. He keeps wondering what he’s doing — if he’s doing it so much to really maintain cover or if he’s just fucking pathetic. He keeps wondering what she must be thinking — if she’s thinking that he’s doing his job or if he’s just being pathetic.

He reaches out and presses his hand into her shoulder, after the band comes back after intermission. He knows that she hates this shit. He knows that she is disappointed that the music is starting up again. He is trying not to grin too much at that — because he shouldn’t be so amused that she is so miserable.

She spins underneath his hand. She takes the small step forward and catches his eyes in her gaze before she smushes herself into his body. She holds him in a hug, laying her head on his shoulders, her heels evening their height difference a little bit.

He laughs quietly, as he pats her on the spine. He says, “Just a few more hours, okay?”

“A few hours?” she asks incredulously.

And they hear Jon’s warm chuckle next to them. Jon has told them that his wife also hates jazz. That is why she is not here.

Grey flashes Jon a smile —  kind of a shrugging smile — before he turns his attention back to her. He runs his fingers over her cheek before cupping his hand on the back her neck. He is swaying the both of them on their feet to this utterly rhythmless bullshit, as he gently says, “Okay, maybe one more hour.”

She pouts her lips as she lifts up her face to look at him. She says, “Promise?”

“Yeah, Jen,” he says. “I promise.”






Beyond the sporadic and utterly amazing hugs she’s been getting from her fake husband, which always serve to jolt her back to life, she currently finds this current job to be really, really tedious.

For all of the complaining she has done about prostitute duty, the one bright spot in it all is that it is never boring. Each night is different and gets her heart pumping — in good and mostly bad ways. Her emotions change by the second, from pity to empathy to revulsion to a resigned sense of duty to maybe straight up fear sometimes.

The fact that she is currently yearning for an adrenaline rush signals that something has changed in her. She used to be very adept at and comforted by consistency and routine. She used to visit her parents on her weekends, cooking with her mom in the kitchen or puttering around with her dad in their camper — this aging, aluminum monstrosity that they took camping and hunting when she was younger. Her parents used to live 30 minutes away in a large house where she and her brothers all had their own bedrooms.

She used to wake up at six each morning for a quick jog before hopping in the shower. She used to drink a banana and spinach oatmeal smoothie each day for breakfast. She used to work diligently at a desk job, compiling, organizing, and analyzing data for the organization, from eight in the morning until about six o’clock every night. She had a set of friends from college that she sometimes met up with for happy hour or dinner. She used to talk about the state of her pension plan as well as the upgrades and repairs she was planning on making to her house. She used to get pretty excited about a potential remodel — about picking out cabinet finishes and tiles. She used to create Pinterest boards of ideas that she shared with her mom, so that they could discuss and debate the merits of single-basin apron sinks in porcelain versus stainless steel.

And then her mom got cancer.

And then she just stopped giving a shit about a lot of things she used to care about. She was first really mired in her mom’s healing and her mom’s survivorship. And then she was mired in her mom’s death sentence and obsessed with the lack of time in life. And then she was mired in a fight with her brothers about how to say goodbye and what their mom would actually want if their mom was still conscious and cognizant. And then her friends stopped bringing her food and calling her to check in because she pushed them all away — except for Dany, who persisted in the face of her pain.

And then she was mired in her dad’s extreme grief and her fear that he would do something drastic — and funeral-planning in the midst of all of that. And then things just kept coming up, bit by bit: The sale of the family home, a sudden old-man roommate, a new job, a new kind of usefulness, a new set of friends, a new person.

Before she even knew it, she is now this. She currently just freaking wishes that some sad sack with a really dysfunctional and damaging view of women would just whip his dick out and taunt her with it right now, so that she can have the satisfaction of handcuffing him, listening to him call her an ugly fat bitch or an ugly Black bitch, laughing that off to seem cool in front of her new friends, and processing him so that he can make bail, get a shitty unscrupulous lawyer — and live to flash another woman on another day. She really wishes was she was doing that right now.

Her current self, she has discovered, hates contemporary jazz. It is boring noise. Songs go on forever. There are no beat drops or hype men telling the ladies to show their booties. The only people who seem to be enjoying this are drunk on fancy wine — and they are exclusively white and of a certain affectation. She has seen a lot of white crew socks at this festival. She has seen a lot of khaki capris. She is glad that she merely has to play the part of tag-along wife. Bored can be part of her persona. He keeps telling her to keep it as close to the truth as possible, so that it is easier to maintain.

“To a degree, that is pretty standard, what the funds in the firm will go into,” Grey says to Jon, looking a little bit funny standing around everyone in his dress shirt and slacks. “The difference with a venture studio is that they will take a higher amount of equity, and they will provide more hands-on support. They may have several VC funds or firms as partners in the studios, so they can increase the level of investments in these companies, to get them to a more rapid rate of growth, in preparation for exiting or acquisitioning.”

Grey learned that Jon was going to be at the Lemonwood Jazz and Wine Festival through some standard grade-A sleuthing: Grey’s fake account is Facebook friends with Jon. Jon posted about it on Facebook.






Grey is trying to be the kind of hot girl who leaves men forever changed through the strength of her sex appeal. Grey would like for Jon to want to be around him for his magnetism alone, for his aspirational coolness. Grey purposefully overdressed and had Missandei overdress for this truly terrible jazz and wine festival. He purposefully put on crisp slacks and a dress shirt so that he would stand out in a sea of sameness — a sea of white suburbanites whose children all go the same kinds of private schools, who all work the same kind of corporate jobs, who all golf a lot on weekends. Grey studied the shit out of wine even though he hates wine. He studied the past fifty years of jazz and jazz history. He learned music theory. He devoted hours to this shit after he learned that Jon likes this shit. He has mapped out Jon’s vacations from the past decade — as far back as Jon’s Facebook profile exists — and Grey has exclusively talked about having travelled through locales that are adjacent or similar to where Jon has been, just so Jon can marvel at him and say, “I have always wanted to visit!”

Just so Grey can pet Missandei and photogenically say, “Maybe we should go together sometime.”

He and Missandei excuse themselves and wave goodbye to Jon and his friends, because Grey would like to play a little hard to get. Grey is trying not to look over-eager and desperate for attention.

The stiletto heels of her impractical shoes have been sinking in the lawn all day.

This work used to be easier for him — less calculated and more instinctive. He can feel himself overthinking the shit out of everything. It is labor intensive and that is why he feels exhausted.

He squeezes her hand to get her attention. He says, “Do you wanna take off your shoes? Walk barefoot on the grass?”

“God, you are so obsessed with getting me to take off my clothes,” she tosses back, already nudging her feet out of her shoes.

He gives her a small, tired smile — because he’s a good sport — as he generally ignores that. He reaches over to grab the straps of her shoes, carrying them for her.   






“I thought this place was supposed to be a foodie’s paradise, what the hell?” Missandei mutters.

“This is a huge event with a bunch of event sponsors,” he explains to her. “You are probably eating the terms of a sponsorship agreement right now.” He kind of rolls his eyes at himself. Because he’s like, so fucking fun sometimes. With his facts.

“That’s so annoying!” she declares, digging around in her paper cup with her for a good chunk of squid or clam or fish in her chowder. “I heard that Lemonwood is known for just really bangin’ ceviche and fresh fish that is still twitching when you eat it because it’s so alive.”

He actually told her not to eat that chowder — because it’s not smart to risk food poisoning while traveling for work. He generally subsides on food from big chains while he is traveling. Or prepackaged food rich in sodium like corn chips and beef jerky.

She thinks it is utterly sad and ridiculous. She assures him that she has a stomach of iron — she can’t get sick. She nicely bullied him into stopping at some food vendors and trucks on their way out. She is trying to stuff his face with seafood that has been sitting on some really suspect melting ice for hours

“It probably has a great food culture,” he says reasonably. “Just not right here. You should just come back here on your own time. Then you can explore and eat whatever raw shit you want and get mercury poisoning.”

“Fun fact time!” she says, holding out this fork with dripping creamy orange stuff to him. “At home, you know, on the island, there was a legend about our butterflies and how they made people crazy and gave them this death fever that made their skins melt off. Honey, open your mouth.”

They are stuck in this in-betweenness, where they don’t have an audience to perform for anymore, but they also can’t just be themselves out in the open like this. This is why she doesn’t refer to Naath or to him by name.

This is also why he reluctantly but obediently leans a little bit forward toward her fork and opens his mouth.

She gleefully deposits a piece of overcooked shrimp onto his tongue.

“Why are you eating this with a fork?” he asks. “You didn’t think a spoon would make more sense?”

“Okay, how dare you,” she throws back right away, scraping around her cup for more seafood treasures. “They were out of spoons. And I’m actually not an idiot, babe.”

He suppresses a smile. “So what were you saying? About the butterfly fever?”

“Oh!” she says peppily. “Our people later learned it wasn’t the butterflies at all. It was mercury poisoning! From all the contaminants from industrialization that the Western world has introduced into the planet-wide ecosystem! My people eat a lot of fish. Children have a higher-than-average rate of developmental problems at home now! Science!”

She offers him another morsel from her shitty chowder, which he also takes into his mouth.

He says, “Hey, that was a fun fact. Good job.”






After she dumps her shitty chowder into the garbage, she convinces him to take another detour in their rental car — to a real legit dinner — because she is still hungry. He tells her they can stop at the grocery store to buy her sandwich or a box of crackers or whatever it is that she feels like she needs to eat to keep her figure.

The burn is so bizarre, so off-base, and also so oddly specific that it manages to be really funny to her. She giggles at him and asks him if he — a spectacularly intelligent individual — really thinks that sandwiches plus carbs are really the way that superficial women like her maintain their figures.

He smiles at that. He also tells her that they have a lot of work to do tonight, because they have ignored their emails all day. They have a lot of shit waiting for them on their computers that they need to get to so it doesn’t pile up.

She tells him that she fucking loves how he’s always all about work.

Not.

He asks, “Why are your comebacks always so old and tired?”

“Uh, because my dad is my best friend,” she volleys back. “And he loves my material!”

Grey’s about to tell her that she’s such a dork sometimes, but then she flashes him her phone — and he can’t fucking look at it because he’s driving — before she starts rambling on that this restaurant is really well known for its paella. She kind of trails off, leaving him to fill in the blanks of what she is angling at.

He says, “Miss, paella takes eons to fucking make, are you crazy?”

“I’m sure they have a system,” she says vaguely. “They’re a freaking successful restaurant! I’m sure it’s ready quick.”






He ends up agreeing to a real dinner instead of a quick stopover for calories that they can shove into their faces as they quietly work on their computers in their hotel room. He agrees because she ends up begging and pleading with him in the car. Her voice is syrupy and womanly — soft and kind of breathy, as she repeatedly says, “Please,” and, “Come on, Grey, come on,” to him. He gives up and agrees to dinner just to get her to fucking stop talking to him like that.

They don’t have a reservation, obviously, but it’s late enough that they manage to get a seat after fifteen minute of waiting. He is grinding his teeth over the fifteen minutes. She grabs his shirt in her hands and tells him that it’s just fifteen minutes. She tells him that the fifteen minutes will definitely be worth it.

Once seated and situated across from each other, at a small table — he learns that he was right. Paella does take a long time, even with a system. They are astractly told to allow for extra time for the paella.

He tries to order pasta after that — because that’s fast, right? But she fucks with his efforts by ordering paella anyway. She is warned by their server that it’s a lot of food, and she gamely says, “It’s okay!” as he thinks better of their choices and cancels his pasta.

After the server leaves, he looks her in the face. And he asks, “Did you just manipulate me?” He puts his arms out, gesturing to the entire restaurant — to the mood lighting and all of the couples around them and the utterly romantic atmosphere. “Like, did you orchestrate this?”

She actually didn’t — not entirely anyway. She honestly really just wanted real food. And she honestly read a really good review on this place.

She might have pressed hard on the things she remembers saying to him, though — in the middle of sex — to freak him out a little bit. She might have done that a little bit on purpose.

She smiles at him, evidently pretty proud of herself and where they are at. She whispers to him near silently — just in case anyone else is listening in. She whispers, “Third date.”






At some point during dinner, she realizes that she’s probably not going to be able to work tonight at all — because she’s loopily on her fourth glass of wine. He is obsessed with this because they were just at a wine festival with a stupid-high ticket cost, and she is waiting until now to sample the local offerings?

She giggles at him like a lunatic. She just shrugs in response to his words. She thinks that the heart is just irrational, and it just wants what it wants when it wants it sometimes. They can’t always predict how they will feel from one moment to the next.

When their paella finally comes, she digs in heartily — she acts like she hasn’t eaten in days. She lets out this guttural groan through her stuffed mouth. She asks him, “Wasn’t this worth the wait?”

He straight up says, “No, man. It wasn’t.”

She cracks up at that, spitting out a little bit of rice back onto her plate — and she catches him smiling at her for a really pure and bright moment — before he realizes what he is doing and he mentally punches it all back down.






Her bladder becomes an issue because of all of the wine. She leaves him to settle the bill as she goes to the ladies room — she avoids listening to him grumble about how dinner costs too much, and it’s not cool to let the organization foot this bill. She avoids telling him that in her old job, she once saw an officer spend a few grand on a few ounces of blow, so this dinner is fine.  

She has to pee again when they get back to the hotel room. She shuts the door to the bathroom behind her as she struggles with her dress again — pulling her tight skirt up her thighs, up to her waist, before she pulls down her underwear and plops down on the toilet.

After flushing, after washing her hands, brushing her teeth, washing her face —  she is staring at her face in the mirror.

She actually looks happy. She looks like she had fun tonight — for the first time in a really, really long while.

And then she pulls the skirt of her dress fully back down, before she unlocks the door and walks back out into the hotel room.






He is thinking that — based on how this night has been going — he should sleep on the sofa instead of getting into the king-sized bed with her.

He is already camped out on the sofa when she exits the bathroom — with his glowing computer in his lap and his shoes off. He has to try and walk past her to get to his turn in the bathroom.

She grabs his hand. She lightly pulls on it.






So he says no to her — again.

She understands the meaning of his no right away — again. Her face softens as she looks up at him — because he is still so freaked out — and she calmly asks, “Why no?”

He cuts eye contact and evasively says, “We’re working right now.”

“What if we weren’t working right now?” she asks. “Would it still be a no?”

His eyes flicker. She is staring at him hard. He is pausing with uncertainty — he is hesitating.

And that is all she needs to move forward from this.

She smiles a little bit. She reaches out her palm and she kindly pats him softly in the center of his chest a few times. She says, “Okay, I respect that.”

And then she names it. She says, “So no sex while we are on the clock. So we’ll wait.”






She knows it means something to him — and she knows that he was a really good sport and indulged her a lot tonight because of what he has learned in the recent past.

This is why she puts on her sweats and a t-shirt, piles her hair on top of her head, ties it up, puts on her glasses, and carves out this space for him to sit, next to her in bed. They can see each other's screens this way.

“Alright,” she says, cracking her neck. “I am pretty sure I type faster than you, and you are way more sober than I am — which is annoying, but it will help us accomplish this. So why don’t you dictate to me, I’ll drunkenly type, and we’ll bang this report out in no time?”






Chapter Text







He is a master compartmentalizer due to years of removing himself from the work that he was doing, so he deliberately shuts Missandei’s haunting words into a dark corner of his mind, shuts it down into the dark, and he just makes himself forget about it enough for him to continuing doing his job.

They spend another mind-numbing day listening to shitty jazz, sipping wine that tastes like wine, and nibbling on fried foods dipped in a mayonnaise dressing as if they are not both going to have go hard on the treadmill for hours to work it off.

Seeing an opening with Jon, Grey not-so-subtly brags about his golf prowess based on all of the articles he has recently read about golf, which impresses Jon quite a bit — enough to suggest that he and Grey play a round in the near future. Grey gives this enigmatic and chill half-grin in response to that, as his mind thinks, oh fucking great. He has to learn how to golf now.

He is so tired and so grossed out by himself that by the time they are set to head back to King’s Landing, he is only capable of putting out five words an hour. Most of his communication is in grunts and hums.

She is unfazed. She lets him stand around silently as she checks them out of the hotel. She lets him stand around doing nothing as she checks them in for their flight. She even drives their rental back to the airport and deals with the attendant as he quietly pulls their bags out of the trunk.

She lets him sleep on the plane as she watches a movie on the small screen in front of her, with his hand warmly sandwiched in her palms. He doesn’t pull away because he thinks that it would be hurtful to her, if he did that. He just lightly pinches her fingertips in between his thumb and forefinger. He feels her manicured pink blunt nails bite a little into his skin.

Before he completely fades away, he wonders to himself what they are even doing together and how long he can keep pushing off a difficult conversation with her.







Missy doesn’t think it’s smart to hold everything that she is feeling inside — but the problem with her job is that it disallows her from giving away these unsanctioned parts of herself. She cannot tell her non-work friends that she currently really likes a guy who is very complicated to like because of their work situation. She cannot sit there and listen to broad and overly simplistic advice about how she should just quit her job in order to pursue a relationship — or how she should give up the idea of the guy in order to not jeopardize her career. She already knows both of these things. She wants to talk about him with more specificity than this.

She is not altogether sure how appropriate it is, to casually invite just Alayaya out to drinks after work — but she still throws it out there. Missy primes Yaya by telling her, “It’ll be fun! We don’t hang out enough! Sisters gotta stick together!”

Yaya looks at Missy like, uhh, what the fuck?

But Yaya agrees to drinks anyway.

Missy’s general logic is that she cannot really talk to Dany about him because Dany is “the man” and Daenerys has also repeatedly warned Missandei to not have sex with the guy if Missy values her career, and not only did Missy completely not listen to that sage piece of advice — she pretty much went and had sex with him like, the day after getting said sage advice. Missandei can already guess what Dany’s disapproving response would be.

It’s probably the first time since they have met, that Missandei has willfully kept something from Daenerys.






Grey continues repressing his feelings and ignoring everything that is going on with Missandei and his parents, against Sam’s counsel. He already thinks it’s dangerous for him to tell Sam the truth like this, because Sam could just report him to leadership. Sam could just put in a recommendation for Grey to get moved to another team because his judgement is irrevocably compromised.

It just makes Grey feel sick — with how terrible putting trust in someone else sometimes feels. He feels sick and unguarded and unprotected, leaving himself open like this, like he is an idiot and like he was too stupid to take in the most important points of an entire decade of training.

Sam says, “Grey, it’s okay. You can put your trust in me, okay? I won’t betray it. I promise.”

Grey uneasily says, “That’s exactly what eventual traitors say, to ply you into believing that they won’t betray you.”

“I’m not going to turn you in for this specific thing.”

“Okay, that’s a really careful way of wording it.”

Sam sighs. “Well, I worded it that way because I would have to report you if I learn that you did something many levels up — like if you become coercive, if you become violent, if you abuse your power, if I suspect other kinds of abuse —”

“Awesome,” Grey cuts in, just gripping the pillow in his lap so hard. “Didn’t we just get done talking about how you don’t think I’m a sociopath?”

“Grey, you like someone,” Sam says, calmly recapping. “She seems like she is reciprocating — fairly strongly. That is great. That’s really big for you. And no one needs to lose their job just because of feelings, you know?”

“Yeah,” Grey mutters. “People only lose their lives because of feelings. No big deal.”







He knows he is just biding time. He knows he inevitably has to deal with his issues. He just figures that he’s in no rush to get any definitive truths hammered out on these things. He figures he can continue skating by a little bit longer. Like, right now he doesn’t need for his mom to tell him again — that he constantly breaks her heart by being what he can’t help but be. Like, right now, he doesn’t need to listen to Missy spew so much hope at him, based on a severe overestimation of who he is and what he is capable of. Like, what does she even want from him?  

Right now, he doesn’t need to dispel this myth about himself, because it feels nice — the way she currently looks at him. The way she currently respects him. The way she smiles at him. The way she inexplicably wants him.

He’s being a coward. He knows this.

He spends all of his free time outside of work trying to get passably good at golf. He does a quick check around and fairly easily learns that Podrick was on his high school’s golf team and continues to be a hobbyist. Grey offers to pay Pod for his time, to teach Grey how to play golf.

Pod is a soft-hearted idiot, because he tells Grey that he would gladly teach Grey for free — of course he would!

Grey would rather keep their relationship transactional and professional — he cannot fucking handle another personal relationship with someone he works with — so he tells Pod to not be an idiot.

He tells Pod, “Just fucking take my money.”







When Yaya shows up to drinks with Arya and Kojja in tow, Missy’s face falls.

Her expression is so blatant and honest that it makes the three other women laugh. Yaya gestures to Kojja and says, “What? She’s a sister, too.” And then she gestures to Arya. “She’s honorary.” And then more truthfully, Alayaya adds, “My meeting with these two ran over and I tried to cut it short by telling them I needed to be on my way out to meet you. They invited themselves. Sorry I ruined our date, babe.”

Missy says, “Of course! Of course! The more the merrier!” and quickly tries to be hospitable even though she like, isn’t even the host of this impromptu shindig. She barely knows Arya. Arya is head of an entirely different department — black ops.

Missy still pulls out chairs for Yaya and Kojja. She still leans over to apologetically ask the next table over if they are using the vacant spare chair that is just sitting there.

The male half of the couple jokes with her. He dryly says, “Yes, we are using it.”

And Missy’s face grows warm as she gets flustered. She says, “Oh, erm, okay. Well, sorry to bother you.”

She still has a tendency of apologizing too much when she is anxious and thrown off guard.

“I’m kidding!” he says loudly, reassuring — as he also laughs at her. “It’s all yours!”







Missandei doesn’t get to ask Alayaya shit about Grey because she is too self-conscious to do it in front of Kojja, who is also his friend, and Arya, who used to work on the same team as he did.

It is probably for the best anyway, because sometimes she doesn’t even recognize herself — this moony-eyed version of herself.

Instead, they all just talk shop in code. They mostly just gossip about the people they work with. Missy learns that she’s the least impressive of all the women at the table. Both Alayaya and Kojja are team leads. Arya is the second youngest director in the history of the organization. She is also the first female director. Missandei recalls that the first youngest director in the history of the organization was Grey.

Missy learns that Arya has some healthy or not-so-healthy competition going on with her brothers, mostly Robb. Missandei is like, “Oh, your brother’s nice,” all politely and casually. Because he is.

Which results in a snort from Arya.

Which makes Missy go, “Is he not actually nice?”

Which makes Arya blithely explain, “He is very nice.”

Which makes Kojja smirk and say, “He’s a peach.”

Which makes Yaya make a goofy face before saying, “He’s heroic.”

Which makes Missy feel very much like the awkward, unnecessary fourth wheel of a really cool tricycle that just wants to be a tricycle.







Grey doesn’t really need to talk to Drogo or Selmy or fucking HR with any explicitness to know what would happened if Grey tries to date Missandei. First, he’d have to be presumptuous. He’d have to take a risk with her and hope that she is down for the same risk as he is. And then he’d have to decide that what they have is serious enough to be reported — if there is longevity in what they have. And if he decides in the affirmative, he’d have to report it because that is the policy, and he’s on thin ice. He can’t ignore protocol because if he gets caught, he is just fucked.

After reporting a relationship, one of them would have to get reassigned. She has made it clear to everyone that she likes field work a lot, and she doesn’t want to go back to a desk. He doesn’t really have the technical background to work cyber. He doesn’t want to go into drugs. Honestly, the human trafficking team is a good racket for him and his skillset.

He doesn’t want to go back to black ops. He doesn’t want to constantly travel and constantly fight time zones. He doesn’t want to make his body adjust to different climates on a dime. He doesn’t want to go through the kind of heavy preparation that that work requires. He doesn’t want to worry about what it’s going to be like for his parents to get that visit from one of his colleagues, telling them that he is dead because he made some really bad choices. He doesn’t want to end up almost drowning in a pool of his own blood again. He doesn’t want to wake up physically damaged again. He doesn’t want to wake up only to learn that most of his team died under his leadership, because he had to make impossible choices. He doesn’t want to be forever haunted by his choices.

He doesn’t want to only be good at killing people. And he doesn’t ascribe much meaning to things, and he doesn’t ever qualify what he is currently doing as redemption because it isn’t — but he just thinks that he has finally found a nice middle ground it in all — doing the work that he currently does. He’s in danger constantly — but not like before. He is equipped and trained to handle the stress and the pressure of the work — but the amount of it is smaller, so it won’t break him like it did before. He has a nice apartment. He has a nice set of friends — including her. He has a pretty nice existence.

“Christ, what is with this boat?” Drogo grumbles, throwing his flip flops into said boat before he hikes himself into it. “Do you not get paid enough?”

“Thanks for inviting the boss, Grey,” Daario says, holding onto rope, wearing a captain’s hat that he probably got from a costume store.

“Yeah, don’t mention it,” Grey mutters, untying Daario’s boat from the dock.

As he told Sam early on in therapy — he just isn’t about letting some hot bitch ruin his entire life and everything he has fought so hard for — just because she smells so nice and is so fucking effortlessly amazing.

“You better not boss me around on my Saturday, other D,” Daario murmurs, as he navigates them out toward open water. “I’m the captain of this ship, ’mmkay? Beer me, first mate.”

Besides, it does not make sense for Grey to risk everything, just for a few weeks of bliss — before she realizes that he is not what she expected at all.







She pretty much knows that he is continuing to process that moment when she told him that they are going to have sex again, with such confidence. She speculates that he probably doesn’t get told stuff like that all that often because that was the first time in her entire life she has been so bold and so forward with sex. Usually, she has to shield herself from the desires of men. Usually, like with software Paul, she has to shove men off of her. Usually she has to stop herself from flinching in disgust, when men on the job proposition her with their money, as if sex is transactional and emotionless, as if she is only just a vessel for them to purge their secret base needs into — and not like, a full person.

She knows that Grey is trying to make some decisions — and she likes that he is taking a long time — because it means that the decision is a hard one for him.

She finds that she is a little bit more looser with rules than he is — and she honestly has always considered herself a huge rule follower so it is shocking to her, that she is turning out to be such a rule-breaker.

But she has been finding herself putting hotel rooms on her personal credit card because because she felt it was the right thing to do. She has been finding herself showing up to her colleague’s home and taking off all of her clothes in front of him, in his bedroom, just because she wanted to. She is constantly moving the line of propriety around in the sand. She just believes that people are individuals and individual considerations must be made sometimes, depending on the person. She just believes that they aren’t just all cogs in a machine.

She understands that this could be just her naivete blaring out. She understands she could just be one of those stupidly idealistic people who eventually gets beaten down by the coldness of life later on. She understands that she wasn’t disfigured and left to die on the job. She understands that her life has been cushy up until now and maybe she will never understand what he went through and how hard it is for him to let anyone in.

Grey is in her ear along with Daario, when another john asks her — again — how much anal costs.

She says, “Two hundred.”

And he recoils at the price. He actually asks, “Are you really good at it?”

She responds with, “How can someone be good at it, really? I just graciously accept the dick. Are you down? Two hundred?”

“What?” he says. “Well, luckily I just got a raise today. I am down, darlin’.”

“Two hundo for ass?”

“Yes, two hundred for your ass.”

“Great!” she says. “I’m looking forward to this!”

Then she signals her team.







Yara suddenly pops her on the ass like how Drogo occasionally pops his male team members on the ass — that is, really hard.

Missandei jumps and then yelps in pain as she covers up her butt with both of her hands, just in case Yara decides to go for a second round.  

Which is smart because Yara totally tries to go for a second round. She has her hand locked and loaded and is pulling back, right as Drogo watches this go down tiredly says, “Please stop assaulting Missandei — I can’t believe that’s not the first time I have to say this to you people.”

Yara gets another good hit in, on the uncovered side of Missandei’s butt, before Missandei squeaks and jumps away, before Yara starts cackling loudly and saying, “I love that booty. That’s a crime-fighting booty. That is the booty that will single-handedly free legions of slavery victims.” And then, as her laughter slows down into amused chuckling, Yara asks, “Did you give yourself a raise tonight or what? Two hundred?”

Missy is trying to stop herself from laughing too — because she is trying to do that cool thing that Grey does — which is maintain a straight face as he says really crazy shit. She is failing hard at this. She is giggling as she says, “I felt like I had earned it! I felt like I’m worth it!”

“Bitch, who are you?” Yara asks. “I love it.”







When he walks up to her at the end of the work day — at four in the morning — she smiles tiredly at him as she continues rubbing her sore butt. She is looking forward to going home and pulling down her pants in the privacy of her bathroom, to see what kind of damage Yara has left on her ass.

She also completely notices that he is walking up to her with such purpose.

She says, “Hey, what’s up?”

He does a quick check to make sure that nobody is around. Then he says, “Okay, so do you want to go on a date together like, for real? Like a real date?”

She starts at that. Her head lightly ricochets back as she says, “Do you really mean like, a real date?”

“Yes?” he says with uncertainty, because she is just repeating what he just said to her. And them more firmly, he says, “Yes. We’ll do that dinner you’re always bugging me about.”

She smiles at him — just so much.

He actually looks ill.

But it’s okay. She gets it.

She says, “When?”













Chapter Text





He pulls out his phone and checks his calendar before setting a date for their date. She blinks but tries not to look so stunned when he gives her a few days that are at the end of the month — more than two weeks away. He gives her a Wednesday, one Sunday, and a Friday.

She has a dinner planned with a friend on the Friday, but she lies and tells him that she is available that day. She makes a mental note to reschedule dinner with Irri because she’d like to go on her first real date with him on a night where they can stay up late and then sleep in the day after.

Right when she thinks this, right as she rationalizes her decision to herself, something small and quiet inside of her shivers. She is being so presumptuous.

“Cool, so the thirtieth,” he says, muttering into his screen. “Sending you a cal invite.”

“Oh,” she says. “Please send it to my personal account — not work.”

“Of course,” he says. And then after a pause, he says, “What is your personal email?”






He has these strict plans to be unapologetically himself, so that she will probably realize the grave error of her thinking. He has realized that he presents too much — and too well. He realizes that at least every aspect of him that she sees has been managed, from his persona as a ultra-confident, ultra-relaxed, ultra-cool banker husband who is gonna get good at golf — to his persona as a government employee who tries to be a team player, who looks forward to Taco Tuesdays each week.

She doesn’t get to see how boring he is and how his current favorite hobby is sitting around in the dark, watching infomercials at odd times of the day. She doesn’t see the pointless hours he has devoted to a game that he has discovered he hates a lot because it’s a low-contact sport. She doesn’t see the time he spends in front of a mirror, practicing his lies so that they will come off effortlessly and convincingly. She doesn’t see how he is bad at avoiding his real Facebook account. He keeps logging on and seeking out photos that his extended family post. He sees that his parents are perfectly happy without him, going to get-togethers at Auntie Mima’s house. Like, they do not look distraught and inconsolable at all.

She doesn’t see how much he sleeps on his days off, because he is so bored since he has nothing for himself besides his fucking job.

He asked her out on a date because it’s something that she has professed to wanting. He basically asked her out to teach her a lesson, so that they can finally be done with this shit. And just move on.






Over the next two weeks, he is calm and collected and she is just ready to jump out of her skin from excitement. She reads hidden meanings into every innocuous thing he says. Like he tells her that her fly is undone one day, after she comes out of the women’s room. She kind of beams at him in response to that, before she pulls up her zipper — which garners this look that makes her think that he thinks that she’s a nut.

She has no one to talk about this with. Their upcoming date is unsanctioned — it is forbidden. It is a huge deal to her that he has finally agreed to a date because definitely, in the year that they’ve been working together, she clearly has seen what a big rule-follower he is most of the time — save for that one moment he smacked her in the face.

She has no one to gush about this with. She can’t talk to her non-work friends because of the potential security issues. She can’t talk to her work friends because they all know him and they will tease her mercilessly and she only just became kind of cool to them. She can’t talk about this with Dany, because Dany strongly disapproves and Missy doesn’t want Dany’s disapproval just harshing her happiness.

So she kind of talks to her dad about it. He knows enough to know that he can’t ask a lot of questions when he learns that the person his daughter is excited about is a coworker. He does ask, “It’s not the fella that came to pick you up for your work trip, is it?”

The way she freezes and widen her eyes completely gives her away. It makes her dad seriously worry about just how effective his kid actually is, at keeping herself alive.

It also makes him worry about her judgement. He says, “Honey, isn’t he your partner?”

She tries to make a joke about it. She says, “Hey, it could be worse — at least he’s not my boss!” as she lets out this nervous laugh.

Her dad says, “Hon, are you sure this is a good idea?”

“No of course not,” she says firmly. “But I’m doing it anyway.”





As their date nears, they start texting each other on their personal phones, trying to nail down the details. He is excited for her to learn that he is really shitty at planning things in his personal life. He has to do so much logistical calculation and decision-making at work that, at home, he decompresses by becoming just the dullest, most noncommittal motherfucker ever.

He writes, “Yeah, sure,” and “Okay,” to her lengthy texts, which offer him ideas on what they can do and eat on their first date. He writes, “Sure,” right after she lists her first idea, and she has to explain to him that she actually has a list of many ideas. He can pick after he reads them all.

After he reads them all, he writes back, “Whatever you want,” and he really hopes that she is gnashing her teeth on the other end of this conversation.






So she takes all of his statements at face value, which is something she wouldn’t do with a guy she just met and was interested in getting to know better. She is only able to do this with him because she feels like she knows him so well at this point. She understands that when he agrees to something or tells her he doesn’t care, it is not a mind game. These responses are just the truth. He is agreeing. Or he would prefer that she pick for the both of them.

Which she has been doing. The only thing he vehemently vetoed was mini golf, because he has apparently been golfing a lot and he doesn’t want to be pissed off for their entire date.






She changes her outfit probably three million times — puts on a million dresses, including a bridesmaid dress and also a really sexy body-hugging dress with lots of cleavage from her hooker stash — before she settles on a white tanktop and her favorite pair of jeans hours later. Her logic is that he sees her in hooker-wear all the time. He sees her in wrinkled business casual all the time at work. He also sees her in her crisp and constricting wifely get-up all the time. He has never really seen her wear her actual clothes.

She lets her hair go loose because she always has it tied back at work or coiled in an updo.

Her dad actually says, “Whoa,” when he sees her descend the stairs with a light blush pink jacket clutched in her hand. He says whoa because he hasn’t seen her look like this in years.

She misunderstands and freezes though. She says, “What?” Then her face falls. She asks, “Do I look dumb? Is this too casual for a first date?” as she looks down at her outfit. “Oh my God, it is, right? It’s just — Daddy, I don’t own a red wrap dress that ties in the front.”








They meet at the movie theater because — he decided — he doesn’t want to pick her up and risk making small talk with her dad, and he doesn’t want to wait for her to pick him up. He also wants to drive his own car, so that he can make a quick getaway if he needs to — he doesn’t know why he’d need to, but he is comforted by the option.

He almost doesn’t recognize her at first — because he expected her to be decked out and overdressed for the movie theater. He doesn’t expect her to match his outfit of a well-worn t-shirt, a cap that obscures his face a little bit — because that makes him feel a little more comfortable, being out in public like this — jeans, and sneakers.

In fact, when she walks up to him, she is giggling and saying, “Oh my gosh! We match!”






She picked a movie so that he can have the first couple hours of their date to himself — to just chill and acclimate to the utter strangeness of it. She picked a movie so that he doesn’t have to talk to her at all, and she can just be close to him. She also chose a brainless action flick so that they will have something to talk about later at dinner, if they run out of topics.

She can see him gripping the tub of popcorn with a lot of tension, clutching it in his lap like it’s a lifeline. She steals a handful of popcorn from the tub, which makes him flinch a little bit, before she slouches in her own seat. There is a big soda in the cupholder between them, with two straws. They are sharing because it just makes financial sense to — and she doesn’t want to ruin her appetite. She also thinks that he probably appreciates the barrier.

“It’s so funny,” she says to him conversationally, throwing a few pieces of popcorn into her mouth. “I like watching movie trailers so much in a theater, right before a movie. But never on my own or on TV.”

He says, “Yeah, same.”

 




He has a hard time enjoying or focusing on the movie because, well, it’s not a very good movie. But also because he keeps catching the smell of her. She smells like whatever shampoo she uses and whatever perfume she put on.

His heart keeps throbbing in his chest and threatening to choke him out. He is really fucking anxious — he feels this inexplicable dread and this fixation on the utter weirdness of what is currently happening.

She’s eating all of the popcorn. He is too nervous to eat. So at some point, he just hands over the bucket to her and drops it in her lap. It just makes sense to, so she doesn’t have to keep leaning over to refill her handfuls.






Halfway through the movie — during a really intense showdown — he quietly whispers to her that he has to get up and go pee. Her response is to automatically ask him if he’s sure, because they are about to find out which guy is the real chosen one, and it’s really riveting shit — and he nods and whispers that he’s sure.

Then she reaches up and softly runs her hand down his back as he stands up and just fucking ruins this experience for about eight people, as he squeezes past them and momentarily blocks their views of the screen.

He really does need to go nervously pee.

And then the thought of pushing his way back to his seat, past those eight people again, just to get back to her is honestly just too daunting. If his work persona is bold and forthright because he has to be, his real life personality compensates by striving to be quiet and low-key.

So he just stays out in the lobby for the remaining hour of the movie and waits for her. He thinks that, for sure, the date is going to be over after this. He thinks that it’s going just as he predicted it would — that he is really shitting the bed here.






She ate way too much popcorn and she’s not hungry for dinner at all, goddammit. She is sucking on the soda as she exits the theater — her own bladder is ready to burst because she’s been consuming the lion’s share of their snacks and then she had to hold it all inside so she didn’t have to get up and miss the movie.

After peeing and dumping the rest of the food, she is wiping her damp hands on the seat of her pants as she spots him sitting on a bench in front of expansive glass walls.  

She asks, “Are you okay?” when she sees him.

He maintains his seated position, as he swings his eyes up to look at her. It looks like he is glowering at her — but really, he is just pissed at himself. He says, “Yeah, I’m totally fine.” And it sounds more than a touch sarcastic.

“Are you hungry?”

“Not really.”

“Me neither, actually.”






It started drizzling outside while they were in the movie, so some outdoor activities, like walking around, is limited.

He also doesn’t want to invite her back to his apartment because he has all of these shameful memories of what transpired there. And not really just the lackluster sex they had there — but it’s also the location where he had the most brutal fight he’s ever had with his mom. He doesn’t want to suggest going to her place either — that is like, really forward. Also, her dad lives there. He doesn’t want to feel like he is sixteen years old and hopeless with girls again. Except that he is still kind of is.

He’s about to suggest that they actually just go eat dinner somewhere, even though neither of them feel like eating — just for something to do.

But she interrupts his idea before he can even open his mouth.

She says, “Do you wanna go for a drive?”






She suggests a drive to give him something to do. She knows that he always prefers to do the driving when they are working. She’s been in enough cars with him, going to and from airports, going to and from hotels, to know that he is a really good driver.  

She has him drive her car, for the novelty of it. When he asks her what destination she has in mind, she tells him she has none. She actually tells him this short story, about how her dad and mom used to drive her and her brothers around all the time when they were kids. Her dad and mom would go to parties on her dad’s days off. She’d run around with the same-aged kids at these parties, trying to get her older brothers to play with them. She was always rejected because her brothers have always been each other’s best friend and they always found her entire existence to be boring and juvenile and girly. So she played house with other girls. Everyone fought to be the mom. She was kind of meek, so she often ended up being the dad because someone had to be.

“And then at the end of the night, our folks would take us home,” she tells him softly. “One of my favorite things is actually sleeping in a running car.”

He tries to engage with her on this. All he can do is dryly ask, “Are you saying you want me to drive you around as you fall asleep in the passenger seat?”

She smiles.  






Fifteen minutes into the meditative but largely silent aimless driving, he calls it out. He cautiously says, “This date isn’t going well for us, is it?”

She actually perks up in her seat — in surprise. She has her hands folded on her lap. She is being honest, as she asks, “You don’t think so? Why do you say that?”

“Missandei, I left you in a movie theater by yourself,” he says, sounding predictably ticked. “I’ve only said like, five words to you so far.”

“That’s okay,” she says, pressing the back of her head into the headrest, lolling it back and forth a little bit. “The movie wasn’t the best, so you didn’t miss much. And I mean, I already know you’re not chatty, so I’m not like, surprised by the amount of talking we’re doing — or not doing.”






So he allows himself to open up a little bit, too. He reasons that the date is going so terribly anyway, so nothing he does or doesn’t do will change that at this point.

He stupidly decides to go hard and fill up a lot of space, after saying and doing a shit ton of nothing for hours. He tells her something that feels safe — something that she already knows. He tells her that he likes driving. He likes the mechanics of it. He likes the control it affords. He likes machinery. He likes navigation. He likes assessing spaces and planning exits. He likes learning city infrastructure.

The words sound and feel awkward coming out of his face. He realizes that he is listing just fucking stupid random boring shit that he likes, and he wonders what she must think of him — how she must be recalculating her originally estimation of him iteratively, as this date has worn on. Like many others have, she must be realizing that he is not who she originally thought he was.

She actually says, with a laugh, “I know you like to drive. It’s very obvious.”

He asks, “It is?”

“Yep.”

“What else is obvious about me?”

“Hm,” she says, pausing to think. “You actually like moody, introspective movies with annoyingly open and ambiguous endings.”

“What?” He blurts this, because it is completely spot on. He really does like the kind of pretentious movies everyone else hates. “Why did you pick an action flick then?”

“Because I like them?” she offers. “Also, I thought you would enjoy getting ticked off and ranting on and on about how stuff is inaccurate and how Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson would die real fast in real life because he is clearly not following protocol.”

“Oh my God,” he mutters, tilting his face up to the ceiling of the car momentarily. “I really do fucking love doing that.”






So, high off of her couple of modest wins, she gets on a roll and excitedly continues telling him more stuff that he hates and likes — with this continuing specific accuracy that just stuns him.

She tells him that his favorite coffee flavor is actually really dark, really bitter, and really black. It is gross and she doesn’t agree with it, which is why she keeps trying to condition him to like more sweetness and dairy. She tells him that he and her dad actually have similar tastes in coffee. He probably likes fancy coffee that takes hours to make — that just tastes like dirt in the end.

She tells him that the look of his apartment was surprising to her because it was so trendy and so curated. She tells him that she honestly thought his apartment would look way weird, like maybe there is just a TV on the wall and a game console. And that is it.

She tells him that he probably likes white soft cheeses that smell like butt. She tells him he probably hates yellow hard cheeses. She tells him he secretly hates Taco Tuesdays. She is cracking up as she tells him that he has probably accidentally referred to Selmy as “Dad” at least once in the entire time Selmy has been his boss, and it was probably really mortifying for him, when that happened.

She tells him that he probably likes pie more than cake. He likes watermelon more than cantaloupe. He might be one of those weirdos that keeps a workout journal because he seems like one of those obsessive weirdos. She tells him that he probably competed with his older brother, athletically, when they were younger. It was probably not even a contest, academically. His older brother probably bullied him a little bit, because he got so much attention for being smart and his older brother felt jealous because of that —

“Stop,” he says.

“Stop?” she asks questioningly. “Did I get that last one really wrong?”

“No, you got it really right,” he says. “That’s why you needed to stop.”






He stops over at a taco truck that he actually likes — because this woman correctly sussed out that he hates Taco Tuesdays — based on fucking nothing. Based on how enthusiastically he eats shitty tacos at work?

He pulls up to the tiny gravel lot adjacent to the vehicle, turns off the car, and then he tells her that they are about to test her iron stomach. He snaps the car door shut as he leaves her to follow.

And then, over entirely way too much food — over piles and piles of tacos and piles of charred peppers — they knock their knees together a little bit, squeezing close together under a tiny awning to avoid getting rained on. He tells her what to eat and how to eat it — and she jokingly tells him she resents that.

He is sprinkling her tacos with hot sauce as he tells her, “You know what I’ve been thinking about you for a long time?”

“That you secretly really want to hit this, but you are just too scared to admit your true feelings to yourself — and to me?” she says, already starting to laugh at her own statement.

He rolls his eyes — at how discordantly dorky this beautiful-ass woman can be sometimes. He maintains a modicum of seriousness, as he tells her, “I’ve been thinking to myself that you’d be a really amazing profiler with more training and education — because think about it — you really like field work. But you suck so bad at lying, and I don’t think you are ever going to get good at it. But you also have such a gift for connecting with and understanding people.”

She is staring at him, with a half-eaten, dripping taco disintegrating in her hand. She is smiling so hard at him because she is bursting with confetti and sunshine on the inside, because he just said something so fucking nice to her — of course folding in a low-key insult in there somewhere — but she doesn’t feel bad about being a bad liar, not at all.

She tells him, “You know what? I’ve been thinking about that, too.”






Chapter Text



 

The way he experiences and responds to desire — sexual or otherwise — has markedly changed after the accident. He hasn’t had an opening to ask Theon about whether or not it is the same for Theon — Grey hasn’t had the guts, really — and Sam keeps throwing blanket statements over everything and telling him that the things that he is experiencing aren’t abnormal.  

He also hasn’t had the guts to talk to Sam about sex with any specificity. When Sam cautiously asked Grey how he felt about sex with Missandei — physically — he completely shut down and bullheadedly told Sam it was fine. He acted as if he was chivalrously offended by the breach of her privacy.

Grey may have been just embarrassed that even in his most intimate and honest relationship — with a psychologist — he can never fully escape reminders of the mutilation of his body.

He remembers how relieved he was to realize that his fake ex Tiani was into women and thus had no interest in burdening him with her feminine expectations. He remembers how he wanted to barf in her face when Alayaya put her hand on his injury, on what’s left of him. He also remembers how he laid there frozen and was very internal and fought hard not to panic as Missandei rubbed herself against him. He cannot forget how he often wakes up from his sex dreams — sex nightmares, really — with a painful phantom erection, his heart pounding hard, and his hand automatically reaching for his gun.

During his own private research, he has learned that sexual desire shares the same kinds of neurological and hormonal networks as fear and fear from trauma. He has learned that a moderate level of norepinephrine in the brain builds sexual desire, but a high level of norepinephrine drives fear. He finds that he cannot really stop desire from becoming terror.

When he drives them back to his car, in the movie theater parking lot, he is eager to part ways for the rest of the night. He leaves the car running as he reaches to undo his seatbelt.

She places her hand over his — to stop him and to get his attention. His face goes to fire — and it goes numb. He looks up to see her smiling at him softly — and encouragingly. He thinks that if they had gotten close like this earlier — like, before what happened to him — maybe things would be different for them now. He also thinks that she’s so kind and sweet and funny and lovely, that it must be so apparent to the other men that she knows. He constantly wonders, why him? He constantly wonders if she has a fetish for the broken and the maimed because maybe she’s a overly empathetic freak of nature. He also wonders if this is all a terrible joke, if what she is doing is dismantling his defensive mechanisms to get him falling for her — before she utterly destroys him by telling him she was just messing around — it was all just a joke. Or a test.

She pats his hand. She asks, “Can we go out again? Sooner rather than later? Are you free next weekend?”

He stares back at her with his heart hammering in his chest — and he blurts, “I seriously do not understand why you like me.”

Her brows furrow a little bit. She says, “You’re kidding, right?”

He is obviously not.

And when he doesn’t say anything, she fills in the space. She says, “You’re wonderful.”



 

He currently doesn’t have it within him to be verbose or to be completely honest. He is too scared to ask her all of these questions he has in his mind — because he doesn’t trust himself to listen to the answers. He doesn’t know what it even means, that she thinks he is wonderful, because what she knows of him is so limited and contained. He is scared to ask her to clarify her opinion, because he’s scared that she will reveal that she actually doesn’t know him at all — that this entire night was just some glamor designed to make him feel hope.

He doesn’t know how to ask her if she remembers what the fuck is going on in his pants — even though the question is idiotic because of course she knows. She’s seen it. He mostly wants to know if she is repulsed by his body because he can’t even stand the sight of himself sometimes.   

He doesn’t know what she wants from him because how does this even end? Doesn’t it just end in heartbreak. Isn’t she predicting that, too?

“Um, I’m not tired,” she gently offers, breaking softly into his anxiety. “Do you want to grab a drink or coffee somewhere and keep talking?”

“No,” he says. And then he opts to end it at that, even though it sounds rude.

“No,” she repeats lightly. “Okay. I hear you. So we’ll say goodnight right now.” Her own heart is pounding a little bit. Every act of bravery from her actually doesn’t come from out of nowhere. It always feels like a risk, and it always costs her something. She still moistens her lips by drawing them momentarily in her mouth. She still asks, “Can I kiss you goodnight?”

And again — he hesitates. He responds with lengthy silence as his mind runs through all of the perils of doing such a thing.

She loses some of her nerve in the silence. She whispers, “It can be on the cheek. It doesn’t have to be — you know.”

And in response to that, he takes in a long breath. And then he sighs it out. He quietly says, “Okay.”

She says, “Okay?”

He repeats, “Yeah. Okay.”

“Oh, okay,” she says, as her pulse stutters in her neck, as her fingers and her lips tingle in anticipation.

She presses her fingertips to his face before she cups his cheek with her palm. She runs the pad of her thumb over his cheekbone as she quickly gets herself ready for this — she doesn’t want to make this bad or awkward for his sake.

She has to do all of the leaning — because he is not coming to her at all. She doesn’t really mind. She just presses forward — until her seatbelt stops her — and then she laughs self-consciously, to disperse some of the tension.

She reaches down to unclip and free herself.

And then she leans all the way forward with intention. She smears and presses her nose into his skin — he smells clean, but also a little bit onion-y from the tacos — and then she puckers up and lays her soft lips on his cheek.  

As she softly kisses his skin and hears him quietly release out a breath, she thinks that they’ve always had such nice chemistry like this. She thinks that this was the nicest date she’s been on — ever. She thinks that he’s so brave, and it’s so impressive.   

And as she starts to pull away, as her hand slides down his face to land on his shoulder and her mouth retreats so that her eyes can get better look at his expression — she feels him shift underneath her touch. The sensitive skin of her lips drag against his face, catching a little bit of stubble — as he turns his face, as her eyes widen in realization.

His mouth is wet. And soft. And gentle. And heartbreakingly careful.

She lets him kiss her with her eyes accidentally open. It is dark enough and he’s close enough that everything is fuzzy and obscured.

By the time she readies herself to deepen the kiss — he has already pulled away. She lets her hand fall from his shoulder as he puts space in between them.

They are both breathing a little heavily from holding in their breaths.

And then she starts smiling — laughing a little bit, actually. Because he’s just so fucking cute. She quickly closes the distance between their mouths again — giving him a quick and chaste peck on the lips for emphasis before pulling away again.

She tells him, “Sneaky sneaky.”



 

Missy arrives back home just a little bit past ten — she doesn’t even make it close to midnight — which prompts her dad to dryly make a joke about her being Cinderella and inquire about whether or not she has her shoes.

She is leaning against the wall in the foyer, clutching her wallet and car keys, as she toes off her sneakers. She is realizing, not at all for the first time in life, that this is where her sense of humor comes from — it’s from this old man. She says, “Daddy, you’re so corny sometimes.”

“I am not,” he says simply. “You’re home kind of early. How did it go? Badly? Did you both decide that you’d be better off just as colleagues?”

“Why do you sound so hopeful?”

He shrugs. “Life experience.”

She walks barefoot into the kitchen, opening the fridge door before hunting for a beer. She asks, “Do you want to watch a movie together and have a drink?” with her head still stuck in the fridge.  

“Baby, it’s too late for me to do that with you,” he says, from somewhere behind her. And then after a brief moment of quiet, as she grabs the neck of a brown bottle and lightly clicks it against other refrigerator objects as she pulls it out, her dad says, “Missandei — did what I just said bother you?”

She pulls a spoon out of the silverware drawer to pop the cap of the beer bottle off — a trick that her dad taught her actually — before she replaces the spoon and throws the bottle cap into the bag of recycling. She brings the open bottle to her mouth as she shrugs — as she takes a slow sip.

She licks the littlest bit of froth off her top lip as she admits, “A little bit, but I get it.”

“He honestly seems like a nice kid. I don’t have anything against who he is as a person or what he does for a living. I’ve just known guys like that. And I also know that it’s tempting and alluring — to be with someone who understands the job and what you’re going through, day in and day out.”

She shrugs again — as she nods. She says, “Yeah, it is.”

“You know, sometimes I wished your mom was able to relate to me, on that level,” he continues.

“Yeah?”

“But you know I love your mom.”

He is still so prone to referring to her mother in the present tense — especially how he feels about her mother.

She rapidly blinks back her emotional response to that, as she takes a bigger, more bracing sip of her beer.

“She was the one who kept it consistent and stable for you kids.”

“Ah,” Missandei says. “I get it now. That’s what you’re worried about. You want me to find someone like Mom. You don’t want me to be with someone like you.”

“You’re like me,” he corrects, thinking that she is misunderstanding his point a little bit. “And I couldn’t have survived without your mom. I don’t think I’d still be here — if it weren’t for your mom taking care of me.”



 

These sorts of conversations are rare and thus awkward for them. She has barely ever faced any sort of disapproval from her dad — from her mom, yes. A whole shit ton. But that was because her mom was around the most and her mom was the disciplinarian. Her dad was her buddy who played with her, taught her how to take care of herself against all of the brutal potential dangers out there — and he was the one who believed that she could do little wrong because she was his perfect little girl.

He is still prone to believing that she needs someone to take care of her — not because she is a woman or his daughter — not completely — but mostly because he knows that her job is very hard. He also knows that he will not live forever. He will die one day, too. And he would feel better about it if there was someone taking over for him, who can make her life easier by loving her and supporting her in the way that she needs. Her dad knows that someone in the same line of work is not going to be able to be that person for her.

Missandei is having a hard time maintaining enough of her bearings to come up with reasons why she and her dad actually aren’t the same at all. She feels unease with her dad’s perspective, but she doesn’t know enough about her feelings currently to pinpoint why his words are so unsettling. She just knows that she likes Grey so much. She just knows that the thought of being with someone who is not like Grey, who is like engineer Paul, just fills her with so much fucking despair. She already knows that Grey is never going to be the type of person who will enjoy the mundanity of normalcy.

“Okay, so I’m going to bed now,” her dad says. “I’m sorry I brought this shit up. I realize that you just went on a fucking first date with the guy. How was it, by the way? Did you have a good time?”

She clears her throat, swirling her bottle of beer around in her head. She says, “Yeah, I had a really nice time.”

“That’s good, baby,” he says. “I’m glad you’re starting to date again. Your mom would be thrilled.”



 

He spits out the hot coffee that she gives him in shock — garnering all of these surprised looks from their colleagues all around office. He mutters sorry abstractly to the room, as he plucks up tissues from the box on Brienne’s desk and starts wiping down his own computer monitor and the now-speckled manila folders on his own desk.

“Now that is what I’d call a severe overreaction,” she tells him, hiking her hip up to situate herself on the corner of his desk. She is smirking at him.

“I was expecting more of your trash coffee,” he explains — needlessly.

“I paid good money for that gross coffee, you know. I had to wait like, forever, for them to make it, too.”



 

He was kind of irrationally afraid that she’d start grabbing his ass at work and calling him sweetheart in front of all of their colleagues — thereby torpedoing both of their fucking careers into the core of the Earth, but actually — she largely acts normal around him.

Her brand of normal still involves constant, awkward come-ons. She still says weird things to him about how she had a dream about him — not a sexy one, calm down — but one where they were running from the fuzz, not at all realizing that they are, in fact, the fuzz. The dream was kind of existentialist?

In response to her pointless rambling, as he in the midst of checking over his gun, he tells her that she seriously needs to stop sexually harassing him at work. He tells her, “If I were a woman, your behavior would be called predatory instead of what it currently is — which is amusing.”

Something flips in her at that — whether it’s something in his tone or something in the way he is articulating his point — or maybe her response is a little bit unrelated to him.

But she gets rather harsh and serious about it. She crosses her arms and she stares him down. She says, “Oh, so because I’m a woman, my brand of sexual harassment is not threatening at all because I’m too weak to actually ever hurt you? No shit, man. And no — I’m not a dude, so yes, I get away with it. No, it’s not a double standard. It is a cold, hard fact of life.”

In both of their ears — because Daario is listening in — they hear Daario say, “Whoa. Goddamn, Missy.”

“Chill, man,” she mutters, checking her own gun. “I’m not being hysterical right now. I’m just trying to get ready to do my job.” Then she reaches down in between her legs and tucks her gun in the holster around her thigh.

She says, “Sometimes I think about how crazy it is to have a loaded weapon so close to my vagina — but then I’m like, oh, blah blah blah insert dick joke here about how penises are like loaded weapons men are powerful! Ha-ha.”

“Oh my God,” Daario says in their ear. “Is she losing her mind right now?”

“Wow, more casual sexism,” she says, voice low. “And you think that my casual appreciation of Grey’s bouncy tushy is the systemic problem here? Okay.”

“Seriously, is she drunk?”   



 

He assumes that she is kind of pissed at him — for what he does not even know — so he gives her a little bit of space and assumes that their next date is off — that their personal shit is just cancelled forever then.

But she surprises him by texting him the day before their next outing, to cheerfully remind him that she’s going to pick him up at 9 a.m. sharp.



 

Missandei spends the entire first half of the baseball game just cowering behind her arms, sometimes into his shoulder. They are sitting behind third base and so a lot of balls get shot right in their general direction — but nowhere actually near them except for one time, when he almost gets a chance to catch a fly ball.

She pretty much keeps her eyes mostly shut, so she doesn’t have to watch what is going on anymore. She mostly just spends the game whimpering and making silly commentary about how horrible and slow and boring and dangerous this game is. She sees a batter break a bat into shards of wood shrapnel because he hits the ball so hard, and she is like, “What the fuck? Are we going to be okay?”

Grey pats her on the knee — and he generally finds watching baseball with her to be like — the fucking worst. He is not having a good time at all either. He says, “Miss, if you hate this so much, why are we even doing this?”

“So I didn’t know I hated it when I bought the tickets,” she explains, covering her face and watching the game through a gap in her fingers. “I’ve only watched my nephews play on their little league teams. And they suck, and they don’t hit balls with the same kind of life-ending force, okay? And I know you like this boring, terrible sort of stuff — and I wanted to do something with you that you’d potentially enjoy because I care about you, okay? Sue me! Why don’t you freaking plan a date and see how easy it is!”



 

He is mollified a little bit, after her ticked-off tirade. He gives her some money and asks her if she’d like to go buy beer and snacks from concessions — to get a break from “the life-ending force of balls flying in her general direction.”

He half expects her to be all insulted that he is giving her money and a task to do — but actually, she snatches the bills out of his hands and mutters, “Oh, shit yeah, don’t have to tell me twice. Be right back!”

She comes back after spending all of his money — and he gave her way more than she needed. She comes back with a smile — and with a paper tray of four exorbitantly priced light beers, nachos, and two hot dogs.  

She is only a few bites into her hot dog when her phone buzzes in her pocket and she checks it.

Then she says to him, “Shit. Grey. I have to go.”

“Oh,” he says, as he automatically starts pulling food and beer off of her lap. “Yeah, of course.”

“We drove here together,” she says, cramming the rest of her hot dog into her mouth.

“Take the car,” he smoothly says. “No big deal. I’ll figure out how to get home.”

“Okay,” she says through her muffled mouth. “Thank you.”

“Stay safe,” he tells her in goodbye, slowly tilting his face to offer her his cheek.

She turns his face the rest of the way with her hand. She kisses him full on the lips — as she holds half-masticated hot dog and bun in her cheeks.

The kiss is brief and tastes like ketchup, onions, and meat juice. She still thinks that it is fucking awesome

She continues chewing and swallowing, as she also quietly tells him, “I’ll call you later.”



 

When she arrives at the same coffee shop — the employees have become somewhat acclimated to their presence — Yiantha is standing outside of it. There is a light sprinkle of rain and wind blowing against Yiantha’s swollen, tear-streaked face.

Missandei says, “You went back to him,” as a statement, not a question.  



 

Chapter Text





 

She spots Yiantha’s alarming weight loss, her dry hair, her jittery hands, and the pervasive lack of eye contact — and that is mostly what Missy focuses on as Yiantha cups her barely protruding belly and tells Missandei that she just went to the doctor and got an ultrasound — and the baby is doing great.

Yiantha digs in her stained purse for a few seconds, rustling around in the disorganization before she pulls out a folded piece of paper — an ultrasound — and hands it over to Missandei, who silently takes it and barely looks at it. Because she knows that Yiantha is lying.





 

Warming her hands around a cup of cocoa, because — she says — caffeine is bad for the baby — Yiantha continues on with her precarious and brittle show. She tells Missandei that she’s been going to the center and making her meetings with her program manager. She’s been staying at the shelter. She’s been taking her prenatal vitamins so that the baby will grow strong.

For many years now, Missandei has sat at a dinner table and has listened to her brothers crack these dark jokes about the stupid and transparent lies that junkies tell. She has made many family dinners awkward because she got uppity and told them that the people that they are around are actually suffering, and that they should lead with empathy — the sake of being models for their kids.

In turn, her brothers found her wild condescension maddening and really insulting, so they mostly told her she doesn’t know what she’s talking about — having lived a cush life in a cush neighborhood with cush parents who sent her off to a cush university. They actually just straight up told her she lives in la-la land and is straight up annoying.

Those kinds conversations all took place before her job change.  

“You need more money,” Missy concludes, after listening to Yiantha ramble on about the high cost of good nutrition and school supplies for her courses.

“I normally wouldn’t even think of asking,” Yiantha says quickly. “But it’s for the baby.”





 

Yiantha pushes straight, constant denial at Missandei, when Missandei mentions her health, her appearance, her emotional state — the fact that she was crying when Missandei walked up. Missandei points out that the sonogram she was given looks like it was printed off of the internet — that the baby looks entirely too far long for this to actually be real.

Yiantha is now a shell of her former self — no longer the righteous and self-affirming young woman who proclaimed that she went into her line of work with both eyes opened. Yiantha ignores all of Missy’s statements and instead, just persists. She tells Missandei that she is trying to create a better life for herself and her baby.

Which makes Missy impulsively snap — because this is her first time going through something like this and she’s doing it based on pure instinct — possibly because she is realizing what Grey has been telling her — that Yiantha is no longer a valuable source of information, that the well has dried up a while ago.

Missandei coldly says, “You’re killing yourself. And you’re killing the baby — if it isn’t already dead already. Is that what you want?”





 

They are asked to leave the coffee shop by the manager once Yiantha becomes distraught and becomes a loud distraction, after Missandei tells her that she will not give her any more money. Yiantha kind of flips on the spot and starts to cry — and she starts to viciously accuse.

Missy is trying to field a conversation with the manager as she simultaneously tries to shush Yiantha for a moment. The manager is telling them that they have to leave right away — or else the police will be called. Missandei is trying to tell them not to do that, because that’s really the fucking last thing she needs.

She stands up and tries to guide Yiantha to her feet with a hand on the elbow.

Which Yiantha snatches away. She then hatefully calls Missandei a manipulative lying bitch. She tells Missandei that she’s just like the rest of them — but worse actually, far worse. Missandei is worse because she purports to be a friend — she purports to be one of them — but she’s actually just a user and a taker like all of them. She tells Missandei that they may come from the same place and they may speak the same language, but they are not the same at all. She’s not a fucking liar and a traitor like Missandei is. She tells Missandei that she knows all Missandei ever wanted from her was for her to risk her life and her baby’s life, just for Missandei’s job. Missandei is not a good Naathi girl. Missandei is actually just like the rest of them — the assholes in control of thei city and the country.

Yiantha says, “You don’t care about me! You’re not my friend!”

Missy spots various people in the cafe holding up their phones, recording Yiantha’s meltdown. And she is in disbelief at how fucking terrible people are. She pulls out her identification from her back pocket and flashes it at people. No one cares. They actually try to zoom in on her ID. Stressed out and clearly losing control of the situation, she says, “Sirs, ma’ams, please stop recording this.”

A few people start putting away their phones — until a white guy in business casual actually stands up and tells her, “You can’t make us do that. It’s not illegal to record you. It’s our right.”

Okay, that is true. But fuck him.





 

The local PD does get called and she and Yiantha get taken outside. Yiantha gets puts into cuffs while she calms down — something Missandei repeatedly asked them not to do — and Missandei does have to have an entire conversation with a condescending asshole who lectures her on how she should try not to disturb the peace. The officer is not at all impressed with her credentials — he is actually ticked off by it. And they are clearly not going to see eye-to-eye on this, so Missandei just tries to fucking end the conversation with the jackass by saying, “Yeah yeah,” to whatever dumb shit he is saying to her.

She pleads with them not to arrest Yiantha.

The other officer uncuffs Yiantha, as the asshole one tells her that she is lucky today. They just don’t feel like doing the paperwork for some drugged out hooker and her fucking green-ass handler.





 

She wants to know how Yiantha is going to get back to her sister’s house — because she is assuming that Yiantha will go to her sister’s house. But Yiantha just glares hatefully at Missy and tells her not to fucking worry about it anymore. Yiantha just walks off, down the street, leaving Missy to stare at her retreating back with her hands pressed on the top of her head.





 

He’s not even home half an hour — before his phone buzzes in his hand with a text from her. She wants to know where he is at.

He tells her he’s back at home. He tells her that the rest of the game was pretty enjoyable — because she wasn’t around yammering in his ear the whole time.

It’s clearly a teasing joke, but she responds to it way weird. She actually ignores it. Her text comes across perfunctory and blunt, as she responds by asking him if she can come over to his apartment —  “again.”





 

After he opens the door a crack, she pushes it fully open and walks into his home. She throws her wallet onto his coffee table before she turns around to face him. And then with surprising calmness, she says to him, “I want to have sex again. Do you?”

He is stunned. He is like, what the fuck? He is pretty sure she has lost her damn mind. He looks at her with his eyes bugged out. He says, “Like, right now?”

“Yeah, man,” she says, crossing her arms over her chest. “Do you wanna? Are you busy with something else?”

He responds to that with, “Uhhh.”

She says, “Grey, relax. Unclench, dude. Take the time to think it through.”  And then slower and with more enunciation, she repeats, “Do you want to have sex with me — right now?”





 

So he does take her advice and he does think it through. He weighs his options, and he thinks that he has been really worried about this, so it makes great sense to just jump head-in first again and see what happens what the fuck?  

Finally, after long seconds of silence, he tamely says, “You seem . . . in a mood. Did something happen?”

He half expects her to blow up at him over something he doesn’t understand — again — but actually, she just sighs.

“Grey, many things have happened,” she says, not altogether patiently. “And I don’t really need to listen to you tell me what you think is best for me. I don’t really need to hear a lecture on what mood I should be in, in order to have sex. I’m an adult. And that is insulting.”

“Oh, okay,” he says, setting his jaw now. So that’s how it’s gonna be. “Well, in that case, the answer is no thanks. I’m good on the sex.”





 

She is numb inside and actually taking yet another rejection from him rather well, all things considered.

She walks back to his coffee table to swipe up her wallet. She holds it in her hand and says, “Wonderful,” sarcastically. She says, “I’m glad I came over for this. I’m glad that it’s all gravy for you to booty call me after you have a fight with your parents, but I can’t do the same with you, after I have a fight with my sex worker friend. I’ll be going now.”

  




 

So he tries something new and weird for him — he tries to get her to talk to him about what she is feeling and what happened to set her on this trajectory.

She pretty much can’t believe this is happening — that he is trying to talk to her at a rare time when she is not at all in the mood to talk.  This is why she generally resists.

She resists by being petty and by throwing all of these things in his face. She tells him that it’s really rich that he is trying to get her to be honest with him about her current feelings, because he happens to be fucking terrible at that. She tells him that she really doesn’t feel like talking and having a cathartic heart-to-heart about stuff. She literally feels like fucking. Like, that is the sole reason she came over. She tells him that, short of explicitly telling him she is coming over to fuck and only to fuck, she feels that her text message to him was pretty clear. She tells him that while he is allowed to change his mind, it is annoying because it took like, thirty-five minutes to get to his apartment because there was traffic. She has to go sit in traffic for another twenty minutes now. That is annoying. She wishes he would’ve just spared her all of the driving, on the phone, by simply saying, no Missandei, don’t come over. I don’t want it.

She tells him it’s annoying that she has to go with her plan B now.

In response to all of that, he tightly says, “So you’re just going to meet up with some other guy then?”

She looks at him like she is simultaneously impressed and also under-impressed with him. She says, “No, man. I’m not going off to meet some other guy. Because I’m dating you, and I am actually not an asshole? Plan B is going home, changing my clothes, and hitting the gym. Because I can’t really masturbate unless it’s really late at night or I’m in the shower. Because I live with my father, and he’s a real boner killer.”





 

He grabs her arm as she makes a move to leave — and then he immediately drops it once he realizes what he is doing. He holds his hands up, and he says, “Sorry! I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to grab you. I just want to talk about this some more. Don’t go yet.”

She sighs. “Grey,” she says. “I told you. Repeatedly. I don’t feel like talking right now. You, of all people, should honestly be better about respecting that.”

So he makes the impulsive decision to take a step forward and kiss her, right then.





 

She tries to keep their sloppy mouths touching as she drags him backwards into his bedroom — and she remembers where it is with stark clarity — as her busy hands start tugging and pulling at their clothes.

Like the first time, it just goes really fast. They are just mashing their faces together and shoving their tongues into each other mouths as their hands start clawing and blindly, frantically exploring.

He hisses as she pulls apart the button of his jeans and takes down the zipper — he gasps as she shoves her hand down his pants and cups him right over his injury.

He grabs her wrist then. He holds her delicate bones tightly. And then he extracts her touch from his boxers. He tells her, “Don’t touch me like that.”

“Like what?” she asks, falling backwards on his bed, with her hands going to her own jeans. “Like, with neediness?”

“Without me saying you can.”

“Oh damn,” she mutters, shoving her jeans down over her hips. “Bossy.”

She licks her lips.

Then she asks, “Do you want me to take my pants off? Can I take my pants off?”

“Yeah,” he says, as his heart starts to ram hard against his ribcage, as he fights to keep his breathing even. “Take them off.”

She kicks her jeans off the rest of the way. Her faded cotton panties used to be blue, but they are kind of off-white from repeated washings. She just didn’t expect that she’d be showing off her underwear to him when she got dressed in the morning. After all, today was only their second date.

She says, “Do you want me to take my panties off?”

He is thinking, what the fuck, this shit escalated really quickly and got all sexy without much of his conscious input.

He says, “No, I’ll take them off.”

He climbs on the bed and he’s got his hands clenched around the edges of her underwear, stretching the material a little, the sight of that making her groan. He is tugging her underwear down her ass as she reaches out and softly runs her fingers and hand over his face and lips — as her eyes soften and kind of get shiny and wet as she stares at him.

Inspired by that — and also by how he feels inside upon seeing that — he tells her, “I told you not to touch me.”

She freezes. Then she drops her hand from his face. She says, “I honestly thought you meant the sexy hand-to-genitals kind of touching. I didn’t realize you meant all touching.”

“I meant all touching,” he says.

“Oh, damn,” she sighs out, lying back a little bit more. “Well, you’re lucky I am finding that hot. Congratulations. Goddammit.”  

He pulls her underwear to her knees, as he also tries not to look directly at the new exposed parts of her body — that feels like it’s too much — like, it’s really personal. He just refocuses on her knees and watches her pull them up so that it’s easier for him to drag her underwear the rest of the way off, off of her feet.

And once she is freed, she unconsciously or maybe even consciously spreads her legs a little bit — and he just looks down.

That’s definitely a vagina. That’s her vagina. It’s nice. Awesome. What the fuck.

And then he says, “What the fuck, Missandei?”

“Um, I sincerely hope you mean ‘What the fuck, I want to do sex stuff to you’ — and not like, ‘What the fuck, your vagina looks so weird.’”

“It’s the latter.”

“What!”

And then her shock devolves into a gasp and a moan, as he reaches in between her legs to part and then touch her.  





 

It’s been a while since she has been touched like this — by someone who isn’t herself. It’s been a while since she’s been on the receiving end of something like this — and she likes him a lot — like, a lot a lot , so getting felt up by him is like — it is like, really nuts and really interesting, powerful stuff.

She starts groaning and panting as he inserts a finger and lightly strokes her — and she is responding more to the emotional newness of this more than the actual tactile feel of it.

She keeps losing her mind and losing track of their game, as her hands instinctively reach out and tries to grab him, to pull him closer to kiss — because she is definitely that kind of woman.

He keeps pausing to slap her hands away and to remind her that she’s not supposed to touch him. She huffs out her frustration at that, burying her face in the pillow and twisting her hips with the motion. He tells her, “Stop moving.”

There are so many rules. He just fucking loves rules so much. He loves rules so much that he has a bunch of rules in bed because of course he does. What the hell?

She tries to tell him so — that he is so consistent in his love of fucking rules.

It actually comes out of her mouth like, “Dude, you are so fucking hot right now. What is even this mess? Are we about to have sex? We are, right? Like, that is where all this kinky foreplay is leading right? Like, Grey, can we get on the same page? Like, are you gonna take off your clothes soon? Like, get naked, dude!”

She reaches for him again — she grabs his shirt and tries to pull at it.

He starts fighting her. He starts prying her hands off of his body. He says, “Oh my God, stop moving. Stop trying to touch me. Stop trying to control this.”

“Why don’t you make me?”





 

So he gets out of bed to go pull out some rope from his closet, from out of his backpacking gear. When she sees the blue rope, it makes her look at him a certain way — like she is impressed but also a little wary and skeptical.

He tells her not to look at him like that. It’s not that fucking weird to have rope in the closet. It’s so it’s easy for him to choke women out in his bedroom before he kills them.

“Ha-ha, your jokes are funny and not at all terrifying right now,” she says to him, swishing her legs in his sheets and raising her arms above her head.





 

So he ties her hands together and also connects them tightly to his slatted headboard, as his mind is screaming out: What the fuck are you doing, besides having a fucking psychotic break, you fucking psycho!

As he mentally just flinches over his own takedown of himself, she tests out the knot. It doesn’t budge.

She says, “Wow, you are great at knots! I should’ve known. I mean, I saw what you did on Daario’s boat. I don’t mean like — how you pranced around half naked the entire day. I meant how you were good at buoys and casting off. Is that boat terminology right? Oh my God, what am I even saying right now? Grey, we’re about to have sex again!”

“Seriously, Miss,” he says. “Can you be a little quieter?”

“Um . . .”





 

After he tightens the compression bandage around her face, against her mouth — the ones he sometimes uses for his calves whenever he is close to getting shin splints — he is looking down at this woman that he has gagged and tied to his bed.

And he is thinking that this shit has completely gotten really out of hand — it has completely gone off the fucking rails and he definitely should be in fucking more therapy than he currently is. He needs to fucking get comfortable talking about this shit because clearly he is insane and a fucking ticking time bomb. Hitting a colleague at work? Getting arrested for public intoxication? Getting head-butted by a sex worker? Getting disowned by the only people who have ever truly loved him? Tying the same colleague to his fucking bed — naked?

He just feels fucking terrible and like he is a bad person. He’s about to untie her and apologize to her for the weird turn that sex took — but she pulls up her knees again. She spreads her legs again — like by a lot. Like, more than looks decent. Like, he can see a lot.

And it makes him feel this phantom pain and this phantom ache all over again.  





 

She starts automatically and instinctively ripping her wrists against the constraining rope, as he shoves one of his pillows underneath her hips, as he kneels and situates himself in between her legs, as he looks down and spreads her with fingers — before he lowers his mouth onto her without warning.

His bed rattles as she yanks at the knot holding her to his headboard, as she basically screams into the bandage wrapped around her mouth, as she arches her body, as he reaches up to palm her breast, as he starts giving her really great head.





 

She cries as she finishes — as he sucks her clit through the bone-melting orgasm — drawing it out and forcing her body to jerk uncontrollably. She cries as she holds his head tightly in between her thighs and tries ride out the wave without losing herself too much in it.

She’s sweating and exhausted afterward — and sore in multiple places — as he gently and quietly and shamefully starts undoing the knot at her wrist. And then the knot behind her head.

Saliva has soaked into the bandage, and her first words to him after all of that is, “Grey! That was really nice! Thank you!”





 

Once again, because he is really bad with women and a major sexually deviant psycho, he starts trying to usher her out the door, right after sex. He starts avoiding eye contact at all costs and he starts tossing articles of her clothing at her, like her underwear and her pants.

She is sitting up in his bed, with her hair all mussed up and her wrists all welted and red. She is smiling at him so hard, as she tells him, “Grey, take in some deep breaths. It’s okay. It’s okay. That was really fun! I would do that again!”  

“Hey, so I need some alone time,” he tells her. He also sighs. He says, “You got the sex you wanted. So . . . I mean, if there’s nothing else?”

“Grey,” she says solemnly. “Don’t make yourself sound like a prostitute.”





 

She leaves because she knows he really needs her to. She still squeezes his hand at his front door though. She still wraps her arms around his shoulders in a tight hug. She still kisses his neck and whispers, “Thank you,” to him.





 

They end up seeing each other again sooner rather than later — the next day actually.

The two of them and Drogo get a call from the over the line on their Sunday. She has to leave a family barbeque at Mossador’s house, to the grumbles of all of her adult female extended family members. Her aunts still think she will never land a nice young man. Her cousins who are pharmacists and accountants think that her job doesn’t pay her enough and that her life is lonely and sad. She takes a brisket sandwich for the road, because joke’s on all of them. She got laid real hard just the other day. So she is doing just fine.

On her way to the crime scene, over speakerphone, Drogo tells them what happened, according to the call that was placed to the local PD. There is a hum of human activity in the back of the call. He explains and tells them he’s at his mom’s house.

It’s actually her very first time at this kind of crime scene. She expected the sight, but she didn’t expect the smell. The sandwich she ate rolls in her stomach, as the officer on the scene fills her and Grey in on the details.

The massage parlor has been emptied out and coned off. The carpeted floor is stinky and sticky with congealed blood. They are told that she has been dead since at least 2 a.m.  

As Missandei stares into the face of a dead woman, Grey lowers his voice and quietly asks, “Are you okay?” He is trying to ask if she is traumatized seeing this. He knows this is her first time.

She says, “Yeah.”



 

 

Chapter Text






The cops start automatically making fun of Drogo when he gets there — in flip flops and a rainbow tank top — and tries to be all business. Drogo nods at Grey and Missy before his grim face takes in the crime scene and he starts asking about access to evidence logs and to get the paperwork started on inter-agency information sharing and collaboration.

The de facto lead cop — the homicide sergeant — responds with, “Bro, you cranky ‘cause you gonna be late for a Tiesto concert or something? I like your shorts.”

“Shut up, Kovarro.”





Grey typically would start teaching her or going over standard operating procedures again — more of a reminder because she actually knows procedure really well because she keeps reading their procedures over and over, obsessively memorizing, based on his direction — but today, once cleared to by the PD’s homicide sergeant, he just takes out his work phone and starts recording as he interviews the first officer on the scene. His internal logic is that they need to get a move on, to get in and get out fast to stay out of the way, and also she doesn’t benefit from constant hand-holding and coddling.

He does ominously tell her, “Spare no detail,” before he leaves her, which she takes to mean that he is definitely going to chew her ass out a lot later if she messes this up or if she forgets to dot an i. She briefly thinks to herself that this is probably why it’s a bad idea to have sex with a coworker.

She starts identifying possible sources of scene contamination as well as the location of evidentiary items that may later be lost or contaminated in the investigative process. She takes pictures of everything, records video, sketches things out in her notebook with measurements, and makes notes as quickly and as accurately as possible.

She tries to keep on task and not think too much about it — as she takes pictures of the pools of blood and the mess in the main office. Even though she is not an expert, she can guess that the killing of Auntie, the parlor owner, was violent and also maybe not very calculated.

When the medical examiner arrives on the scene, she tells them what they already know. She smiles at Drogo — at Drogo’s outfit really — as she tells them, “Cause of death likely from multiple sharp force injuries.”

“Stabbed and bled to death,” Drogo summarizes.

“Yes.”




Drogo feels kind of bad that he called them in to work on their day off, while Missandei was with her family and while Grey was . . . doing whatever it is that Grey does on his days off. So Drogo orders them lunch even though none of them are hungry at all. He orders paper boxes of noodles and fried meat doused in gravy.

Back on campus, in the office, Grey immediately starts logging and tagging the dozens and dozens of crime scene photos into the database, his interview with the first officer, and also goes over Missandei’s notes and recordings.

“You forgot to record the existing weather and lighting conditions.”

“Oh,” she says, blinking a little bit. “Oh, so it was sunny —”

“Don’t tell me,” he cuts in. “Write it down.”

“Sorry about the mistake,” she says, getting up from her seat, just to go to her notes that are sitting right in front of him, just to jot down the information that he himself knows and can log without her further contributions. She understands why this is a sticking point for him, though. This is definitely why people are told not to have sex with their coworkers.





While Grey takes a quick toilet break, Drogo spins to her in his office chair and, point blank, asks her, “Did you two have a fight? What about?”

In response to this, Missy says, “Seriously, Drogo. Do you regret putting a deposit down for the Fyre Festival, or what?”

“Oh, you got jokes now?” Drogo throws back. “And that doesn’t even make sense. You don’t put down a deposit. You just buy the ticket, man.”





It’s another two hours at the office before they are done. By that point, the barbecue at her brother’s house has dwindled down — Moss has already driven their dad back to her place — and Drogo reports that his niece’s unicorn-theme birthday party isn’t really shit he is in a hurry to get back to.

So he says, “What you guys got going on for the rest of the day? You wanna see a flick? There’s that new Dwayne Johnson movie out.”

Missandei says, “I’ve already seen it.”

Right at the same time as Grey says, “I’d watch that.”

The nature of their responses — how they were said in unison and so blandly gives Drogo pause. He stares at the both of them for a few seconds, his eyes flicking back and forth between their faces.

And then he calmly says, “You two are sleeping together.”

Grey says nothing in response do that — he just raises a brow — and that makes Drogo start to doubt his assessment, just a little bit.

But then Missandei’s face falls. She says, “How —” before she realizes her mistake and then clamps her mouth shut again.

Drogo realizes that he is actually completely right.

Grey then says, “Fuck. Missandei.”

She shuts her eyes. In shame. Because she is the worst.





Drogo makes quick work of this. He sighs and crosses his arms over his chest. He wearily tells them that he really doesn’t want to police their personal lives because it’s none of his business what they fucking do in their personal lives — but the organization has a non-fraternization policy, and they are all in deep shit if this becomes a thing. Drogo will get reprimanded for knowing and not reporting it up. Grey and Missandei will get reprimanded and then separated, for not reporting it up.  

At this millionth reminder over how her job is in jeopardy just because she is spending more time with someone she fucking cares about because it makes her happy, Missandei says, “I really don’t understand why it’s the organization’s fucking business — who I’m sleeping with. It does not affect how I perform my work.” She gestures to Grey. “It definitely does not affect how he performs his work. He is a freaking robot. Come on. This is bullshit.”  

And then her eyes get watery and her voice wavers a little bit, as she exhales and says, “So we’re supposed to break up? In order to keep our jobs? It’s not fair.”

Beside her, Grey releases a quiet sigh.

With his hands clasped together on top of his head, Drogo also sighs — but louder and with a lot of resignation. He says, “Oh, great. So you really like each other and this is a real relationship and not just a convenient sex thing. Fucking wonderful.”





Drogo isn't Grey, so he doesn’t feel right hitting a woman, so instead, he randomly and viciously shoots his hand out and smacks Grey in the shoulder hard with it. Grey recoils in surprise and looks at Drogo with such anger — before Drogo urgently says, “You fucking say nothing about this ever, okay!”

He turns to Missandei. And then, yelling at her, he says, “And for the thousandth time — you fucking need to get your fucking face under control!”

To the both of them, Drogo says, “I’d fucking start shopping around for potential new jobs, if I were you guys, you fucking morons.”

And then after another short pause, he adds, “You better get like, fucking married at the end of this, and I better get to make a speech at your fucking wedding — because I’m putting my ass on the line for this shit.”





Drogo makes the decision to cover for them — because Grey has been through so fucking much and has lost so fucking much because of this job, and he thinks that Grey deserves just a little bit of peace and happiness for all of his sacrifices. If Missandei is the person that makes Grey happy — then that’s fine. Drogo can help maintain that for the time being.

Drogo also makes the decision to cover for them because he feels he owes it to Grey, after reporting Grey to internal affairs.

Grey generally understands why Drogo has decided to cover for them, and he can’t really handle the meaning of it or the gesture of it in a healthy way, so he just shuts down inside and just fills the void with more feelings of unworthiness and self-loathing. He hates that he is putting Drogo in this spot. He hates that this has become such a fucking big deal. He hates that he is so fucking weak and pathetic. He hates that he is causing people so much trouble.

He can’t even say thank you to Drogo. It would just feel empty and insulting.

Missandei, in contrast, jumps on Drogo and throws her arms around him. He is a lot taller than she is, so she is hanging off of him. He has to press his hand to her shoulder blades, to keep her from sliding off. He has to begrudgingly sigh before he returns the hug, as she shoves out her gratitude.

She is saying, “Thank you, Drogo! Oh my God, thank you so much. Drogo, you don’t even know what this means. We won’t make you regret it! Drogo! You are the best! Oh my gosh!”





To reward Drogo for being amazing, Missandei makes the both of them watch Dwayne Johnson’s new movie — again — with Drogo. Drogo is actually pretty alright on it — he has decided that he really doesn’t need to spend personal time with the both of them that much — but she insists. She buys all of their tickets on her phone, and she cheerfully tells Drogo that it’s actually good to watch this again because Grey actually didn’t see the entire thing the first go-round.

At the theater, she asks Grey, “Grey! Do you wanna go pee before the movie starts?”





After spending a few days being a real dick to her and recoiling every time she even gets somewhat close to him, he finally gets a chance to tell a mental health professional about how he is a real piece of shit who demeaned a really amazing woman during sex because he is, for sure, a sexual deviant. Like, surprise! Now he fucking knows this about himself.

Grey tells Sam this because of a promise that Sam made to him — Sam promised that he would report Grey and protect Missandei from Grey, if Sam detected that Grey was being abusive or coercive or overly manipulative. He is telling Sam what happened even though he would honestly rather have fucking dental surgery than talk about sex, because he wants to ensure that Sam has all the facts so that Sam can do the right thing and have him fired or committed or put into some sort of rehab for sexual deviants — if it’s the time for that.

Upon Grey’s pronouncement, Sam is actually really worried and slightly alarmed. His pulse quickens, and he straightens in his seat. He asks, “Grey, what happened?”

It is terrible to recount because, it turns out, that he is not at all good at talking about sex. It’s not surprising at all. But the fact fills him with anger anyway. He feels really put on the spot and really expose, as he stutters and as he fights for terminology and euphemism, as he hates himself as he relives what happened — and he spends a slow ten minutes just trying to give Sam a general outline of what happened with her.  

Sam visibly relaxes after the recounting. He actually lets out a short, relieved laugh.

He also says, “You’re not a sexual deviant, Grey!” He laughs again. He says, “Wow, you had me going for a second there. I was so nervous! You got me! I have to admit, you got me today!”

“Doc,” Grey says, looking back at Sam, just fucking miserable.

Sam eases back into smooth calmness after that. And then he easily recaps back to Grey, what Grey just explained to him. Sam says, “Grey, you had consensual sex with your sex partner and did some sex play involving bondage. That is not paraphilial psychopathology. That is normative adult human sexual behavior.”

Grey is shaking his head. He is shaking his head a lot because he does not agree with this assessment. He knows that something fucking weird and fucked up is going on in his head. He knows that something has changed in him. He blurts out, “But I’ve never done that before. I never did that sort of thing during sex before what happened to me.”

This is the first time ever — that Grey has willingly brought up what happened to him, in a non-joking manner, without prompting from Sam.

“You think the two things are related,” Sam says.

“They have to be,” Grey says. “People just don’t wake up one day and just start doing the shit that I have been doing. Am I losing my mind?”





She, Grey, and Drogo have to go get cleared by psych because they looked at a gruesome crime scene and saw a dead person with their eyes, which can be very traumatic — plus, the organization wants to avoid being open to a lawsuit if one of them needs to be terminated because one of them happens to suffer a mental break or even something low-key, like pervasive depression that leaves them unable to do their jobs to standard. 

She get a slot in with Tarly. She knocks on his open door and says, "Hey, Dr. Tarly. It's been awhile."

He looks up at her from his desk. He says, "Call me Sam, please."





 

It takes a quick 20 minutes before Sam concludes that she can be cleared to go back to work. She pretty much just tells him the truth. She tells him that it was really terrible and upsetting to see a dead body — especially since she knew the person. She tells him that it is hard and bizarre, that professionalism requires her to act like seeing the death of a person means nothing to her. She tells him that focusing on work does help her compartmentalize a bit.

She is a little surprised when Sam tells her that her responses were very good because she thought her responses revealed that she is soft and inexperienced and maybe requires some more training. Sam just tells her that she can return to work.

And on her way out, as she brushes imaginary wrinkles from her pants, he catches her attention with a soft, "Hey," before he also says, "I'm always glad to be able to help, in any way that I can. But I think if when it comes to these sorts of assessments, if you can go to Margaery in the future, that would be best."

For a short moment, she actually feels hurt. She actually worries that she did or said something wrong.

But then it dawns on her. She says, "Oh! Because he talks about me! To you."

"Yes," Sam says. "I'd like to avoid creating breach of trust issues, if we can."

"For his sake," she supplies, rather needlessly. And then she laughs uncomfortably. "Oh, duh, of course for him. Not for me. You're not my therapist. Ah, okay. That's fine. I get it. And thank you. That's really considerate of you. He says nice things about you. He says you've been useful to him. Oh my God, is this what you are talking about? Was that a breach of trust? Oh my God, I suck."

Sam laughs at that, at her anxiety. And then to throw her a bone, he says, "He says nice things about you, too."

 

 

 

She shows her identification at the desk and quickly fills out a visitor slip at a chair before going back to the visitation desk to return her form. She is told to wait in a chair until she is called by the visitation deputy.

She feels like it’s pretty clear to every person that she has interacted with, that she has never been to a jail before. She is asking a lot of clarifying questions because she doesn’t want to get anything wrong.

After she is called by the visitation deputy, she is told that she cannot take her personal effects in — he is referring to her purse. And so, awkwardly and nervously, she asks him if she can run out to her car real quick?

Instead, he directs her to the lockers in the reception lobby, within plain sight.

She immediately apologizes for not seeing them — and also for wasting time with her inexperience — but he is patient and nice, so he tells her it’s not a problem, take her time.

She locks her stuff in one of the lockers before returning to him.

In the contact visitors area, Missandei spots her easily. Missy walks over to the table and sits down quickly.

She asks, “How are you?”

Yiantha scoffs. She gestures to their surroundings. And also to the jumpsuit she is wearing. She says, “I am doing great.”





Missy feels like a real impotent and useless asshole here. She asks stupid questions about whether or not Yiantha thinks she is being fed adequately — the answer is yes. She makes idiotic observations about how county jail is brighter than she expected — and Yiantha looks at her like she’s an asshole, because it is still jail.

Missandei shrinks a little bit at that, as her heart hammers in her chest. In some ways, she’s still struggling to piece together what happened in a way that makes emotional sense. She understands it mentally and logistically — but she is having a hard time reconciling that the person in front of her is her friend — and also an alleged killer.

Missy asks, “What happened?” even though she knows what happened.

Yiantha shrugs. And then she dully says, “She was stealing from me. She was stealing from all of us.” She says it tiredly, because she’s been telling a lot of people what happened. And Missandei, of all people, should already know.

“It wasn’t premeditated,” Missy says. “Did you tell your attorney that?”

“Of course I told him that,” Yiantha says. “That was probably the first thing I told him — that I didn’t mean to.”

Missandei flinches.

Then she says, “How is your sister doing?”

Yiantha kind of laughs at that — humorlessly. She says, “Fuck if I know.” And then upon seeing Missandei’s frown, she pointlessly says, “She hasn’t come by to see me — not since — you know.”

And then without being asked or prompted to, Yiantha adds, “He hasn’t come by, either. I try to call and catch him, but — my homegirl Anni tells me he’s been coming ‘round them with some fake bitch, some young plastic bitch.”

Yiantha reaches up to discreetly wipe the bottom of her eyes. “I told him our baby is gonna need him — but, yeah. Fucking men, right?”





She goes over to his place after work because she just wants to see him, after the shitastic day that she has had. After visiting Yiantha in jail, which was super depressing — shocker — she spent the entire night just getting hit with the angriest, saddest motherfuckers in the city because there’s something going on with the full moon or something — she spent the night just getting her physical attributes and her skin color insulted or leered at — one guy actually spat on her, at her face, once he realized that she was busting him for solicitation.

She tries to laughs that off — because everyone around her is chuckling over it — like, who among them hasn’t been spat on by a belligerent citizen in the midst of committing a crime, right?     

She tiredly scrubs her face with the shitty restroom soap at work afterward. She stares at her own reflection, at the dark circles under her eyes, and she thinks that today is one of those days when the job really does not seem worth it.

Yara slaps her on the ass on the way out. Yara tells her to cheer up, tomorrow is gonna be a new shitty day.

She texts her dad and tells him she’s gonna detour. Her dad pretty much knows what’s up by this point. Her dad already knows that she goes over to Grey’s apartment on the nights that she doesn’t come home right away.   

She honestly just wants to be held by him. She honestly just wants to curl up into him and breathe him in and just feel like everything is going to be okay for just like, a short delusional moment.

She actually starts dropping a few tears when she sees his face, because it’s hard for her to hide her emotions from him. And — as he likes to repeatedly tell her — she is also just a shitty liar.  

He guides her into his apartment and shuts the front door behind her. He asks her if she wants some water or tea or something.  

She grabs onto his hand. She tells him she is fine, she doesn’t need a drink.

She wraps her arms around him tightly — to try something new.

He thinks that it’s something familiar and something he is getting used to. He actually starts taking off her clothes.

She gasps — in surprise, not arousal. She actually didn’t come over for sex, and she starts to tell him so — she opens her mouth to tell him that she actually would just rather they cuddle together, that maybe she can maybe even sleep over a little bit, with him in his bed, this time around?

But she sees his face — and his determination as he unbuttons her pants — and she also feels his anxiety and some of his worries and concerns. And she just feels bad and sad about what he must be going through.  She feels terrible about what he has already gone through.

So she holds onto his head and she kisses him thoroughly, as his hand pushes the loosened waistband of her pants and her underwear down.





He kicks her out of his apartment after sex again — because he has some fucking intimacy issues. And she is the coolest bitch ever because she keeps tolerating this extreme rudeness. She takes her sore legs and her sore vagina back home all tired and emotionally empty — but physically fulfilled at least.

She kicks her shoes off in the foyer and, for just a short second, entertains the idea of picking up her shoes and taking them up to her bedroom herself. But her dad likes to hose them off and dry them before doing that, and she honestly does not have the fucking energy at five in the morning.

“Baby?”

He sounds weirdly cautious, which is why she matches his tone. She says, “Daddy?”

“Oh, good, it’s really you.”

She sees her dad put down a fucking butcher’s knife back on the cutting board as she walks into the dark kitchen. Her eyes go wide and she is like, “Dad, were you going to stab me, if I was an intruder?”

“You were so loud coming in today — it was uncharacteristic.”

“Okay,” she says blankly. “That totally makes sense. I see how you got to a knife in your hand, from that.”





She is chuckling sleepily around a hot cup of non-caffeinated herbal tea as she joshes around with her dad and tells him that he was probably just a real badass back in the day. Like, motherfuckers probably gave him a lot of space to walk by because his big dick energy was probably so immense. Like, he probably never got spat in the face by a creep with questionable oral hygiene.

Her dad is like, “Actually, I have.”

She says, “Oh, so it’s a rite of passage then,” as she rolls her eyes. “People are gross and terrible sometimes, Dad.”

“Oh, I know, hon,” he says dryly. “That is exactly why I hate your job.”

“But it’s totally cool for Moss and Mars to hang out with guns and bags of cocaine all day?”

“I don’t think that’s actually what they do all day?” her dad lightly quips. “I think they actually sit at a desk a lot and do standard investigative work? Besides, your brothers are idiots.”

She laughs at that — in delighted surprise.

“No, they’re not idiots,” her dad says, correcting himself. “I’m very proud of them, too. But they’re not like you. They’re made for the job. They’re —”

“Massive and muscular and tall and intimidating?” she supplies.

“Ah, no,” her dad says, now wondering what the hell his kid even thinks about him. “I was going to say they’re not kind and sensitive like you are. They can disconnect. You take the work home — I know you do.”



 

She spends a pointless series of long minutes trying to convince her father — the man who raised her and made sure she made it from infancy to adulthood in one piece — that she actually isn’t that sensitive or empathetic or such a bleeding heart. She tells him she can be cold-hearted and dead inside like her brothers are — sometimes!

He laughingly does not buy it.

She does not consciously realize that her dad is actually cheering her up — really effectively. She does not realize that the tightness in her chest is gradually loosening and her body is relaxing again.

And then completely randomly — but not really because he has been thinking about this a lot — her dad says, “You don’t always have to go over to his place, you know. It’s okay for him to come here and visit sometimes. I won’t make him uncomfortable. At least, not intentionally. I mean — I know you’re adults, and I know what you must be doing together — and that’s fine. You can do it here if you want. This is actually your house, baby. I just don’t get to see you as much anymore. And I would also like to . . . get to know him.”

Her jaw drops. She is like, “Uhhh.”





Chapter Text






He’s in the midst of trying something new and “normal.” He is lying down on his back and hanging out at home on his shitty IKEA sectional, during freaking daylight hours, with her sitting on top of him — on his stomach. They are just chatting and arguing good-naturedly about what proper breakfast food is, why her neck has been so sore lately, and whether or not it is necessary to RSVP no to invites or if damning silence carries the point across.

They keep skirting on the edge of something sexual — she keeps carrying the conversation she is having with him forward, as she also glances down to where his shirt has been pushed up a little bit by her shifting, as she internally debates whether or not to ruin this nice bit of domesticity by sliding her butt backwards and pressing their bits together — and he keeps lazily smiling up at her, rubbing his hands across her hips, sometimes getting close to the seat of her pants before retreating and making it respectable again.

“Naathi women are aiight,” he says, clearly baiting her. “But I am telling you, Summer Islander women are the really the most beautiful women in the world.”

“Okay,” she says gamely, leaning forward a little, thinking about whether or not to kiss him right now. “I don’t care. Feel how you feel. Think what you think. Also, there is more to women than how they look.”

“Yeah?” he says, his eyes going to her cleavage, which he is getting a better view of as she leans forward.

“You smell good,” she says, kind of randomly. “What soap do you use?”

“Okay, real talk? I don’t use soap. I don’t like how it dries out my skin.”

She pauses thoughtfully, pursing her lips. “So what do you use?”

“Water. And shampoo drippings, I guess.”

“Shampoo drippings,” she says carefully, as her mouth twitches in amusement.

“Yeah, I guess that’s what you’re smelling,” he says, as his fingertips lightly run down the sides of her bare thighs, drawing out goosebumps on her skin in their wake. “I don’t need a lot of shampoo so I buy a really nice kind. It has green tea and tea tree oil. It lasts for a long time.”

She is wearing shorts because she stopped at his place after going to the gym.

“You’re soft,” he adds. And then he finds it necessary to clarify for some reason. He says, “I mean — your body is soft. Not your psyche or the aura of your being.”

She snorts out a short laugh at that — she can’t help it — and then she really does lean down further to press her lips against his giving mouth, as he immediately opens up and slowly meets her tongue with his.

He’s gotten better at kissing her — or they have gotten better at kissing each other. They haven’t talked about whether he’s a supremely quick learner or if he’s been good in the past and all he needed was to relax into it a little bit — she suspects the latter because he’s good at oral and that doesn’t just come out of nowhere.

He used to kiss her during sex like it was battle and he was in a fight with her — pretty aggressively and as a means to an end. Or he used to kiss her inactively and submissively, just receiving her mouth and holding still. That kind of kissing made her a little nervous and unsure because he didn’t seem like he enjoyed affection.

Now, he kisses her with his hand brushing over her cheek, running down her neck. He kisses her with short pauses mixed in, so that he can look at her face and check in with her. He kisses her with variety, sometimes slow and soft and viscous like they are underwater — other times fast and hard and deep and then just gone and leaving her bereft and wanting — before he smirks at the expression on her face.

She can give up a lot of time just kissing him.

Against his lips, she says, “I’m soft because I’m serious about moisturizing. Do you wanna have sex? On your fucking IKEA couch?” She is quoting him. That’s what he always calls his perfectly normal and fine sofa. She laughs these puffs of air into his mouth as she amends her suggestion. She says, “Do you wanna fuck on your fucking couch?”

“Um, okay,” he says — pretending to waffle a little bit — before he grunts and heaves himself out from under her — as he rolls and flips her body over and puts her on her back.  

“Man,” she says, raising her arms up so that it is easier for him to pull off her shirt. “It is nuts how you make stuff like shampoo drippings super sexual.”

“Hey,” he says, after he pops her t-shirt off of her head and then starts working on her bra. “I’m really just sayin’ things in a normal kinda way. You the one who is hearin’ it sexy.”







He’s partially undressed and has her wrists locked in his grasp above her head, so she doesn’t distract him or freak him out by touching him, as he grabs her bare breast with his other hand, squeezes it, and then lightly bites down on her nipple before soothing it with a sucking wet kiss. She gasps, bucks up against him, pushes out a loud and long groan — and then whispers to him that he is so fucking yummy. Like, she really wants him to understand this.

And then his phone — the personal one — on the coffee table starts to ring and buzz.

His grasp on her wrists loosens — enough for her to pull her hands away to reach up to grab his face tenderly in both of her hands. She maneuvers it to keep it oriented at her. She says, “Grey, leave it,” as he makes a move to reach for his phone. “Check it after.” She tries to pitch up enough to catch his pout with her lips.

It’s too late. She only gets the corner of his mouth. He has already gotten a glance at the screen.

He immediately puts physical space between the two of them. Her hands run down his arm as he pulls away. He scoots to the far end of the sofa and tugs his pants up higher on his hips. His voice is hoarse and it cracks, as he quickly says, “Sorry, it’s my brother,” as his hand reaches out to squeeze her ankle in apology.  







He always picks up his phone right away when he gets calls from his brother because, these days, his brother is his only connection to the rest of his family, to his parents. He and his brother also have a hard time being available at the same time — though to be fair to Azzie — it’s usually Grey’s terrible schedule that is the culprit for their constant missed connections.

Grey also always picks up just on the freak chance that someone who shares his genetics is having a health emergency and needs a kidney or a blood transfusion or bone marrow or something like that.

He says, “Hello? What’s up, man?” as he casts a glance at Missandei, who is lying patiently and quietly on his couch, topless and tousled, with a hand digging into her curls as she watches his side of his conversation with his brother curiously.

He stands up then, to give himself more privacy. He starts pacing around a little bit, walking the short distance from his living room to his kitchen.







So no one is in the middle of having a medical emergency. Both of their parents are apparently totally fine — physically. Azzie is calling because he wants to know what Grey plans to do about the upcoming holiday. First, is he working the day of? Secondly, he is still catching a flight home, yeah?

Azzie says all of this with a hopeful air. He thinks that if he can communicate with mundane casualness, then he might be able to just trick his little brother and his fucking parents into having a conversation and reconciling.

Every year, Grey flies home around this time of year — if not directly on the holiday, then sometime within a month of it. Their family always moves the celebration of the holiday around according to Grey’s schedule. This year, so far, has been a real fucking bummer. Their mom has done no preparation for it at all yet. She only gets ticked whenever Azzie mentions it.







She lies nude and exposed on Grey’s couch, as she completely eavesdrops on his conversation with his brother — and that is his fault because he is completely having this conversation within earshot of her.

She realizes that he is kind of doing that on purpose. She knows that he has kind of been pushing himself really hard to be more open with her and to show more of himself to her. She generally feels pride and touched by his efforts because she knows it is hard. She generally has been falling deeper and deeper in infatuation with him. It’s getting obsessive. So at least that’s been happening according to plan and stuff.

She hears him say, “No, man. I haven’t bought my plane ticket yet . . . no, I’m not going to . . . because! Because you know why! They don’t want me there! . . . Az, why would I do that? . . . Well, if you miss me so much, why don’t you come visit me?”







After he gets off the phone, she tries to joke with him. She smiles at him and she asks him if he’s ready to go back to the sex now.

He gives her a short and toothless smile. He says, “Sorry.”

She sits up and reaches for him. She says, “Don’t be sorry,” as she grabs his fingers and gently uses them to pull him back down next to her. She reaches her hand up to cup his face, as she tilts her forehead against his cheekbone, as she presses her lips into the side of his chin. She gives him a series of short little kisses, as she feels his body incrementally relax.  







He never wants to talk that much about his family with her — but she asks anyway. She asks him if he’s okay, and he tells her that he is. He tells her he’s just a little bummed, as he pivots his face to meet her mouth full-on.

He kisses her softly and gently, simultaneously inhaling deeply.

He tries to smile at her in a reassuring way after he pulls back to stare at her face. He runs his thumb across her bottom lip and then also down her chin, as he holds her jaw lightly and looks into her eyes.

This is when she decides is a really good time to say, “Would you want to hang out at my place sometime? Like this? Okay, well not exactly like this. We can’t really be casually naked together at my place — because of my super old roommate. But like, we can do other hanging out stuff — like we can eat together, watch things together, and like have conversations and stuff, too.”

She is nailing this hard sell. She can tell she is nailing it based on the terror in his eyes.

He reluctantly says, “Missandei —”

And so she thinks it’s a good idea to just go for broke.

She says, “Honestly, my dad’s been asking after you. He’d like to spend more time with you. And my dad is like — so important to me. He’s a huge part of my life. And you know, you are also a huge part of my life — I mean, not just this — but I mean, we spend a lot of time together at work, too. And I’ve been seeing my dad less — because I’ve been seeing you more. I would like to consolidate the two things sometimes — you and him. It’s efficient? Also, if you’re not going home to the Summer Isles for the holiday, do you want to spend it with me — with me and my family?”







He honestly doesn’t want to keep kicking her out of his home every time shit gets a little too real between the two of them — but he honestly just would rather she not be around sometimes because her expectations of him sometimes just makes him want to start hyperventilating.

He’s trying to be better — he’s been on high alert and he has been tamping down on his crazy and he is been doing normal people things. Like, he’s been asking her about her day even though he fucking spends basically every waking moment with her already and he generally knows how a typical day for her breaks down. Like, he let her coyly feed him some pasta off of a fork recently even though all he wanted to do was slap it out of her hand and yell at her that he’s not a fucking baby who needs to be spoonfed. Like, he hasn’t done any alarming sex shit like holding her head down by her hair, suffocating her, or smacking her in the face as she comes. Like, he’s been pretty fucking good lately.

So he thinks that he has kind of earned this, when he bluntly points a finger at her face and tells her, “You need to fucking calm down — and stop trying to make me into your boyfriend.”

She thinks that she is being insanely chill about what he just said to her, because he really should get smacked with a fist in the face for what he just said.

She just calmly responds with, “You are my boyfriend, Grey.”

“What?”

She gestures this long line vaguely in front of her — it makes the both of them realize that she is still not wearing a shirt — and she says, “What do you think this is? What do you think dating is? What do you think being together is?”

Honestly, he hasn’t thought this far ahead.

Out loud, he says to her, “Honestly, I haven’t thought this far ahead.”

She does not look surprised whatsoever. She actually looks really unimpressed and a little bit annoyed with him.

“Hey,” he says. “Do you mind giving me some down time? I’d like to think about this. Alone.”







She doesn’t even want to drink, but she starts gulping down plastic cups of chilled rose to cope with being completely bamboozled into attending a four-year-old’s nameday party full of suburban moms and dads. Irri assured her that there would be interesting adults at the party, that it wouldn’t just be all kids.

Irri was sort of right. The party is half adults, half kids. The adults generally talk about scintillating things like their dairy allergies, how their kid’s fine motor skills are, what their kid did in the morning, what their kid did in the afternoon, traffic, the weather, the lawn, and how all grandmas have a recipe for baked beans.

Not Missandei’s grandma, but sure.

Missy generally sits by herself with a paper plate of salads and the aforementioned beans, and she darkly wishes that she was hanging out at the sight of another homicide or that she was getting spat in face by another piece of shit man with an unearned sense of superiority and dominion over her — instead of this .

“And how old are your kids, Melissa?”

In the ensuing pause, Missandei jolts to life because she realizes that the question was actually directed at her. She doesn’t bother correcting her name because she will probably never see these people again. She just says, “Oh, I don’t have kids. Just nieces and nephews.”

“Missy knows a dozen languages!” Irri announces, awkwardly trying to facilitate conversation.

“Oh! Gina is in a language immersion school right now! You don’t happen to know Valyrian, do you? Gina, say something in Valyrian!”

“Ah,” Missandei says, standing up from her seat, presumably to go dump her empty plate. “I don’t know Valyrian, unfortunately.”







Dany shows up two hours late and shows up empty-handed even. She breezes into Irri’s house in her designer heels, her perfectly glossy platinum hair, and her eyes hidden behind dark sunglasses. She looks ridiculously unrelatable within the context of this party.

And Missy smiles in relief.

Dany heads straight to Missandei. Dany says, “What is this shit? How long have you been here?”

“About an hour.”

“You look very pretty today, by the way.”







Dany has this combination of white lady entitlement, beautiful woman entitlement, rich person entitlement, and boss bitch in a man’s world entitlement. It is a scary mixture — Missy has seen Dany make a man two decades older than her cry — and sometimes it is also a hilarious mixture.

Dany spends the party further ostracizing Missandei from the rest of the guests just through her proximity. Dany doesn’t take off her glasses, yet still manages to look like she is rolling her eyes constantly. She complains constantly about where Irri and her husband live — so fucking far out in the middle of nowhere.

It is actually in King’s Landing suburb, just ten miles out of city center. It is not in the boonies. There is a Target and about ten Starbucks in town.







He has decided that he doesn’t want to meet Missandei’s family or spend time with her dad because it would make him feel awkward and uncomfortable. He reasons to himself that he didn’t think he was signing up for all of that . He reasons that he was signing up for one date. And then another date. And then sex. And then more sex. He reasons that he wasn’t signing up for an entire life together with her — because he likes his life just the way it is.

He is bad at talking about this kind of stuff, so he unconsciously just starts avoiding it and not mentioning it to her. He is pretty good at avoiding things he’d rather not deal with.

When Sam tells him this pointless allegorical story about how Sam really didn’t want to meet his wife’s really shitty father at the beginning of their relationship either, but he ended up doing so because he wanted to be there “for her” and to “support her” — well, Grey just thinks that he’s not an idiot so he understands the logic of why people in relationships do things that they don’t want to do.

He would just rather spend the holiday sleeping and watching a lot of TV.

But his colleagues are nosy busy-bodies, too. They find out that he’s orphaned during the holiday because they all go around chatting about plans during a break in their meeting.

Daario offers to take Grey with him to hang out with his mom and his mom’s new shitty boyfriend — spoiler, his mom will definitely hit on Grey aggressively after she gets drunk and her new boyfriend will definitely be a bigot — but Drogo interrupts them and tells them all that Grey isn’t going to wherever Daario’s mom’s trailer is parked, and he’s not going to the Iron Islands or to Casterly Rock or to Tarth — he’s going to go to Drogo’s mom’s house because Grey actually has met Drogo’s mom, so it will be somewhat familiar territory.

Grey just lets this decision happen — in front of Missandei’s face.

She reasonably gets angry with him afterward, when they are alone at his apartment. She crosses her arms defensively over her chest — to hide that she is actually hurt — and she asks him why.

“It just makes more sense,” he tells her.

He does not understand what she expected from him — did she really expect him to stand up in the middle of the meeting and loudly declare that he actually has to spend the holiday with Missandei because she is being really fucking clingy and is trying to commandeer every waking moment of his fucking life?

“It makes more sense . . . to go to Drogo’s mom’s house for the holiday rather than meet my brothers and spend time with my dad,” she says slowly.

“Yeah.”






 

Chapter Text





 

Neither of them particularly have fun during their respective holiday dinners, because they are in the midst of chaos — of a storm of activity and shouting and tiny little spats between her nieces and nephews or tiny little spats between Drogo’s sisters and their kids.

It is utter pandemonium where they are both at, and all Drogo is doing is parking his ass in front of the TV, slouching in an armchair with a bottle of beer and watching the game as all the women cook in the kitchen. Grey is sitting ramrod straight — uncomfortably, because this is the fucking worst time ever, what the fuck! — and he is simultaneously trying to block out all of the noise but also keeping his ears and eyes alert and open, just in case. Just in case someone starts to die and he needs to jump into action.

He is also in the middle of a tense text-fight with Missandei, who still cannot shut up about how she is feeling about him, so she has taken to explaining it to him over and over, through text messages. He already thought it was a lot when what she was feeling for him was positive and effusive and warm and sexual. He now knows that the pendulum swings both ways and it is still a lot now that what she is feeling for him is angry and confused and frustrated and petulant.

And when he doesn’t respond to her right away — she works herself up into greater rage, and it gets worse for him. Like, she starts calling him just so that he can send her straight to voicemail, just so she can leave him angry voicemails that he doesn’t listen to, but that get transcribed through his app. Her voicemails are telling him that he’s a fucking asshole. And that he is being really selfish.

And he is like — he knows. Obviously. He knows he is selfish. His mom already clued him onto this fact. Thanks for the reminder of shit he already knows, Missandei.

“Bud,” Drogo says, swinging his head over to look at Grey. “Your phone is just really blowing up. What did you do to her? You sure you don’t want to try and swing by her brother’s place later to make things good?”

“She is being fucking hysterical, and she needs to calm the fuck down,” Grey says heatedly.

Drogo lets out a low whistle. He says, “Yeah, I’m gonna definitely quote that during my toast at your guys’ wedding.”







So her brothers’ and sister-in-laws’ first impression and her dad’s second impression of Grey is pretty much that Grey is an asshole, so that is really awesome.

They also think she is being psycho, with how much she texting, with how her phone is glued to her hand — and also with the rolling waves of anger that is dripping off of her.   

Her aunties are trying to dispel the terrible energy she is bringing to their family gathering by making jokes about how her boyfriend is actually imaginary, and she’s just trying to cover it up with fake texting.

Totally a sick, badass burn. Respect. But their jokes are coming at a really inopportune time.

Mars pats her on the shoulder and says, “Sis, it’s cool. We’ll meet him some other time. No big deal.”

“No, you won’t,” she says darkly. And then clarifying, she says, “Because I’m going to fucking kill him. He will be too fucking dead for you to meet.”







He wants to climb into deprivation chamber after he is finally able to claw his way out of Drogo’s mom’s house. He is more than ready to get a break from the random screaming of the kids and the random screaming of Drogo’s sisters — just to fucking ask one another to pass a fucking plate of food, goddamn — and he is ready to get a break from the million of fucking questions that came out of Drogo’s mom’s face. She basically wanted to know every minute of what he’s been up to since she last saw him, which was years ago.

He wanted to tell Drogo’s mom that he’s been killing way fewer people than he used to, so that’s good. It’s good for his mental health probably. And he’s been hanging out with far more sex workers. Which might be bad for his mental health? He’s not completely sure. His brain is just completely fucked up because it is weak, and he was apparently traumatized by a fucking dead piece of shit who is just continuing to ruin him from the grave. So there’s no justice in the world. His parents don’t love him anymore. His woman won’t fucking leave him alone for one fucking second to let him breathe. Just normal life shit like that.

Instead, he just told Drogo’s mom he’s cool. He’s fine. Chilling and hanging out and stuff mostly. Normal stuff.

He’s not even home for an hour — the leftovers have not even gone cold in his fridge — when he hears rapid knocking on his door.

She has no fucking shame.

He says, “Oh my God, stop!” when he opens the door.







She starts laying into him right away. He thinks it is great and he definitely deserves this because he stopped texting her in order to fucking eat holy shit.

She tells him — again — that he is being selfish. She tells him that he really hurt her feelings. She tells him that she feels like he is disengaging, and that scares her. She tells him that she is really insecure sometimes because she doesn’t know how much he likes her because he doesn’t give her very much validation or words of affirmation. She tells him that she really fucking does not want to smother him, but she feels him pulling away and, clearly, it is making her completely psycho because she is so emotionally attached to him right now, dammit. She tells him that she just likes him so much and it’s so obvious, and she knows that there’s a part of him that finds that really gross. She tells him she’s pretty sorry for going nuts on him all day.

Then she shouts, “What have I become! Oh my God!”

In response to all of that — to her entirely self-aware, vulnerable, and honest assessment of herself — well, he just can’t handle it with elegance and class. He just shuts down inside. He tells himself that this is entirely too much for him — it is really intense — and he fucking knew this was going to happen.

He says, “So, does this means that neither of us will be requesting department transfers any time soon, then?”

Her eyes go wide — and after a second, they also go watery. She says, “That’s all you have to say to me?”







So rather than sobbing her guts out and telling him all about her feelings again — which is what he predicted from her — she actually musters up more energy to tell him off some more. She does cry a little bit, but they are kind of like, fortifying rage tears.

She tells him that he is fucking immature. She tells him that he actually doesn’t have as great of a grasp on human emotion and on human psychology that he thinks he does. He only knows people as archetypes and as statistics — and in a relationship, that is not enough. She tells him that she is clearly really upset right now, and it doesn’t even look like he cares, so it seems like he also has a fucking empathy issue. She tells him sometimes he is really fucking mean to her and she puts up with it because she cares about him a lot — but it is sometimes excessive! Sometimes he is excessively an asshole! She tells him that he has some psychological issues that he needs to work through.

He snaps at that. He snaps at her and he says, “No shit, Missandei! You think you are telling me shit I don’t know! I know!”

She visibly deflates at that. And then she says, “Do you even like me?”

“Sometimes,” he says. “You are so needy other times, though.”

The initial impact of that feels like getting hit in the face. So she actually flinches because it’s a lot of her worst fears confirmed. She’s probably falling for a sociopath. Wonderful.

And then she recovers. She angrily tells herself that this actually can’t be worst than getting spat in the face by some asshole who tried to buy her vagina. She tells herself that this isn’t worst than feeling like scum because she wasn’t even close to being able to help her friend enough. She tells herself that this isn’t worst than feeling helpless, because she isn’t able help people enough, in her job.

“Yeah!” she shouts. “I am needy! I am a person who cares about you and who finds happiness in being with you. I don’t know why! So maybe I need to go to a fucking shrink, too!”

She is referring to the fact that she cannot make herself feel attraction to seemingly healthy traits in men — like emotional availability and more advanced communication skills. She is referring to the fact that she is so disgusted and so bored by men who are perfectly nice and stable.

Grey thinks that she means that she has to be fucking crazy to be attracted to him. And he fucking agrees. He’s been telling this to himself since the very beginning — that this woman is fucking nuts. That she has some fucking bizarre fetish for dickless men who are only good at doing shitty things.

“Do you really think I’m needy?” she asks, her voice quieter now.

“Yeah,” he says.

“That’s a terrible thing to say to me,” she says despondently. “Do you want me to need you less?” And then after pausing — she’s tearing up again — she adds, “Do you want me not to need you at all?”

He doesn’t even know. He doesn’t know what that would even look like. Because he is an idiot. And he doesn’t know what to do or what to say that is still truthful — that wouldn’t be hurtful to her.

So he says nothing.







So they start having sex — without resolving anything else. It is all they have sometimes.

He signals to her that he would be open to sex, by turning around and walking into his bedroom.

She is stunned — because that is a very inappropriate response to this heartbreaking thing she just asked him.  

She follows him into the bedroom nonetheless.

There, she takes off her clothes because that’s probably all he wants from her — and the thought depresses her enough that she just starts crying for real, right there in front of him.

He reaches up to cup her cheek, but she responds to that just by turning herself around because she figures that he doesn’t want to look at her crying face. She automatically starts climbing onto his bed because this is usually how this goes.

He watches her shaking shoulders. And he just feels like shit.

And then he softly says, “We don’t have to do this — I — I don’t know what I was just thinking.”

She responds to that like how she thinks he would want — because she just wants to make him feel something for her. She says, “Do you want to go get the rope?”







He feels like he constantly wants to back out of this and prove to the both of them that he is not this person, even as he cinches the rope tightly around her wrists and watches her bend her body over — as he watches her sink her face toward his mattress. Her hands are tied behind her back and she is on her knees, facing away from him.

His heart is pounding in his chest, as he says, “Okay, we shouldn’t do this. What the fuck? Let’s stop.”

She lowers her face more and raises her bottom up higher — again, showing more of herself to him on purpose.

He shuts his eyes. He wants to ask her why she wants for him to humiliate her like this. He wants the answer from himself, too.

She says, “Come on. I want to.”







He tries to get her to just lie down on her stomach or on her side so it doesn’t stress out her neck — she’s still been complaining about it a fair bit — he thinks it’s because she uses too many pillows when she sleeps — but she doesn’t listen to him. She doesn’t listen to him on the pillows thing, and she also refuses to lie down right now. She resolutely engages a lot of unnecessary muscles as she bends over and hovers.

He says, “Missandei. Come on, relax. Lie down. You’ll feel better.”

“Dude, don’t tell me what to do,” she says snappishly. “And why don’t you just start fucking me already?”

“What does that even mean?” he mutters, as his hand gently palms her butt. He is referring the way that they have to have sex — and his injury.

“Put your fucking mouth on me.”







They have really terrible, really emotional, really good sex.

He was right. Her neck is killing her. Her head is bent far back and her neck is achingly sore as she shoves her tension-relieving screams into his mattress. She doesn’t want to prove him right by collapsing and falling down though — and she also doesn’t want to change positions and lose the hard, steady, consistent, delicious contact of her mouth between her legs.

She doesn’t know why they have to have sex this way all the time — and she doesn’t mean the rope. She actually means one-sidedly. She means with him keeping his pants on. She means with her never being allowed to give him any pleasure. She’s been too nervous to ask him, because he can’t even handle it when she asks him to have like, a meal with her dad.  

She starts crying into the bed because it is so good, and he is so good. She suffocates a little bit as she sucks in and blows out recycled air, again and again.

She almost passes out as she orgasms — because she bears down hard, bites down hard, and stops breathing all together — as her entire body clenches up.

She vaguely recognizes the feel of his hand, sliding underneath her hot, sweaty cheek, pulling her head up a little bit. Her neck strains — it hurts — she cries out vocally — and gasps in cool, clean air.    







After she comes down from her orgasm, she tries not to just collapse bonelessly into the bed. Because he would really love the confirmation of how fucking wrong she is all the time. She actually smacks her tied hands against the bottom of her spine. She says, “Can you untie me?”

His fingers are immediately on her, making quick work of it.

Then she says, “Thank you.”

He won’t look at her. Because he is shitty at looking at her face when they are done doing personal, beautiful, intimate shit together.

So she says, “Can you hand me my clothes? I can leave after I get dressed.







She has to go straight from prostitute duty to her flight. Her dad is a godsend and he is the primary reason she doesn’t miss her flight. She is still in a leotard and has smeared dark eyeliner around her eyes when she comes home and drops her gun on the side table. Typically, none of them would never be so lax with their pieces, but this is her dad. He is more strict and strident with guns than anyone else she knows — besides Grey.  

She leaves her gun for her dad to put away, because she doesn’t have the time right now. She just runs into the bathroom to find hangers of her wifey clothes already displayed over her shower, waiting for her.

She squeezes her sweaty body into the charcoal pencil skirt and vigorously rubs at her undereyes, removing the smeared makeup. All of her toiletries are already packed and stuffed in her carry-on bag.

At the foot of the stairs, she finally releases the breath she’s been holding in. She spies him with a mug of coffee and her rolling suitcase in the foyer. He puts coconut milk in it for her. She gratefully says, “Daddy, you are the best man in my life.”

He smiles. He says, “I know.”

Her gun is already gone.  

Her work phone buzzes.

She gives her dad a quick kiss on the cheek goodbye.

He tells her, “Hey, you be very careful, okay? There is always time to assess and go down the mental checklist, right? Remember.”

She pauses at that and straightens. She hands her coffee back to her dad, only having taken one sip.

She says, “Dad, I’ll remember.”

And then she kicks her front door open inelegantly in her heels — and she is stunned to see Grey walking up her stoop. He breaks his gaze away soon after they make eye contact, he is stooping and leaning down to grab her suitcase for her.

She fights him off, trying to put her hand right in his stupidass handsome face, which he lightly slaps away. She mutters that she’s fucking got it. She uneasily lifts the thing and then drops it down a step as she grabs her carry-on with her other hand.

He says, “Just give it to me, holy shit. I get it. You are an independent woman and you don’t need my help. But I also don’t fucking want to take a detour to the hospital after you crack your dumb face on the sidewalk. Like, that’s fucking inconvenient for me.”

He is cranky and sleep-deprived, too. He is annoyed that she tried to shove his face away with her hand.

And he totally doesn’t realize that her dad is just on the other side of the door. He totally doesn’t realize that her dad heard everything he just said to her.

She reaches behind her for one last squeeze of her dad’s hand. She says, “I’ll call you later tonight, when I get a moment, yeah?”

Her dad steps forward a little bit — a little sheepish that he accidentally overheard some of their . . . conflict. He says, “Yeah, when you can, honey.”

Grey looks startled. This is exactly why he didn’t want to have dinner with Missandei’s dad. It’s because he’s a fucking loser and not worthy of this man’s daughter.

Grey drops her suitcase from his hands. He says, “Oh! Hey! Good morning, sir. Oh, uhhh —”

“It’s okay,” her dad says, easily. “I know she can be pretty stubborn sometimes. It would be annoying to stop over at the emergency room. You’d both miss your flight.”

Grey cannot tell if her dad is joking or if he is serious or if he is sarcastically bitter and pissed and just hates Grey for being sexually deviant with his very nice daughter. So Grey just feels like he wants to barf.







His hand lightly and briefly brushes over shelf of her butt before his warm hand presses comfortingly into her hip. He deftly maneuvers the both of them through the gravel walkway as she stares at the golf cart in front of them like it is her lifeline.  

“Jon!” Grey says cheerfully, softly patting her bottom as she grabs onto the cart and heaves herself into the first empty seat.

“Joseph!” Jon exclaims, also holding his arms out. They are hugging friends now. “Your wife didn’t bring the right footwear!”

“I know. I tried to tell her! She just didn’t want to listen!”

She smiles through her teeth at that.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text





The months of obsessively practicing, golf channel-watching, and magazine-reading — plus Grey’s comparative youth giving him a significant edge over Jon in terms of endurance and power — pays off. It pays off enough that the dull shit coming out of his mouth is convincing enough to also bore their spectators to the point where Missandei gets to hop into a golf cart in order to speed off with Lysa for a “cocktail break”

Lysa flicks her nails at him and Jon. She says, “Continue chatting. We’ll be back with refreshments.”

He glances at Missandei, who doesn’t expect his attention, so her face is momentarily blank before she realizes he is staring at her. She gives him a small and shy close-mouth smile before she studiously averts her eyes.

She has been nervous around him all day — he’s been feeling like scum for far longer than that — and he is pretty sure that this is one of the many reasons why colleagues are not supposed to give firsthand knowledge of their weird sex shit with one another. He is pretty sure that it’s hard to erase the memory of getting tied up nakedly or tying up a naked woman before tauntingly issuing a challenge or before getting taunted for being such a shitty asshole fuck him forever.

Jon clears his throat — momentarily distracting Grey from the process of mentally listing out all of his bizarrely specific sex-related shortcomings — Jon has told Grey that he is coming down with a cold — before the man wheezily tells his wife to let one of “the boys” fetch drinks — referring to the staff of impossibly identical young towheaded caddies standing at the ready — but his wife waves him off as she slips an arm around Missandei’s elbow and tells him that they, the ladies, can do some girl talk while they take in a change of scenery.

Though Missy is a bit startled by the random and unpredicted familiarity, she tries not to show it on her face or body. Because she does not want to be lectured later in agitated whispers, in a bedroom of the vacation home that they are staying at, under the hospitality of the Arryns. She obediently climbs back into the golf cart that Lysa is directing her to.

Jon coughs before smiling goodbye to his wife, who hops into the driver’s side. Missandei holds on tightly to the edge of her seat as the golf cart jolts to life. Her calves flex as her toes press to the floor of the cart.  

“You two are a really striking couple!” Lysa shouts to Missandei over the initial bumps in the ride before they hit asphalt and the cart smooths out. The wind whips Lysa’s hair into a mess around her face as she asks, “How long have you been married again!”

Missy presses her hand to her chest to make sure that the tiny buttons on her blouse are still holding the material together. She hollers back, “About four months!”

“Ah! The beginning is always the easiest time!”





Missandei can’t help but let her shyness lead the conversation. She rationalizes this to herself. She tells herself that, like her true self, Jenny can also be rather reserved and quiet. Of the two of them, Joseph does most of the talking.

They have to wait for two martinis and a pitcher of sangria to get made — sangria is not a menu item at all, so the staff is frantically cutting up fruit and opening bottles of wine. The staff nervously insists that they will run over the sangria once they are finished making it, but Lysa argues for not being troublesome. She insists that they can take a pitcher in their golf cart without spilling.

Missandei does not think so, but she keeps her mouth shut on this.

She just stands around a little awkwardly, a little anxious considering how well her last conversation alone with Lysa and her friend went. She is sipping from her drink feeling her heels sinking into the turf and as Lysa loosely crosses her arms over her chest and brags more about her “brilliant” and “perfect” son who incites a lot of “petty jealousy” from his peers because it is hard for others to understand the pressures of upholding their family name — without any self-consciousness. Missy hums out sounds of agreement to punctuate Lysa’s humblebrags, in order to avoid potential offense.

“His father does not understand that he is a sensitive sort,” Lysa says conversationally. “Jon does not understand that young boys, as with young girls, must be nurtured and heard. Are you close with your parents?”

Missandei takes a cautious sip of her martini, trying not to spill her glass — as she says, “I am. Or I was. My mother passed away a couple — four years ago. It is just my dad and me now.”

“That’s a shame,” Lysa says. “I’m sorry about your mother. It is hard to lose a mother. I lost mine young also.”

“Oh, I’m sorry about that,” Missy says.

“It’s okay. My father didn’t know how to raise girls though,” Lysa continues, taking down the rest of her martini, which is still nearly half-full, down in one continuous gulp. “I suppose that is how I came to be married to such an old man.”





Missandei tries to imbue herself with grace and calm understanding as shit with Lysa continues to get way weird again — she is probably cursed or really terrible at this aspect of her job. She helplessly witnesses Lysa become completely shit-faced in no time at all, in one of Valyria’s most elite and exclusive country clubs. The staff brings Lysa crisp, fresh cocktails with an indulgent smile, as Missandei glances to the activity behind the bar, wondering when the fuck the sangria will be done.

Lysa asks Missandei when Jenny met her husband and under what circumstances. Missandei recites the memorized info from their book. She met Joseph through work. Her company was organizing an event for his firm. She was the lead manager. He asked her out to dinner just weeks into the planning. They found that they got along very well — and that was it. The rest is history. They haven’t been separated since. The story is adequately cute and really nondescript to the point of being forgettable.

Lysa wants to know if Jenny gets along with her in-laws. Missandei says they all get along very well, though her mother-in-law is a bit opinionated. But that is to be expected with mother-in-laws, isn’t it?

Lysa amicably shrugs and explains that she is curious because she never really met hers. They were dead long before she and Jon married.

Not for the first time, Lysa sloppily mentions that she is Jon’s third wife.

“How is he in bed? Your husband?”

Missy cannot hide the surprise from her face. She also can’t hide the choking she is doing on her drink.

She coughs into her wrist before she says, “Pardon?”

Lysa then laughs, reaching her hand out to lightly nudge Missandei. Lysa says, “Darling, you must excuse the intrusiveness that a few drinks will stir up.”





After catching back up to the husbands at the twelfth hole, Missandei watches Lysa pour and hand her husband a glass of red sangria before she figures that she should probably hop to it and do her duty. She basically copies Lysa’s actions and carefully hands Grey his own glass of fruity wine, with both of her hands carefully clutching onto the glass like she is afraid of spilling and getting his nice shoes wet — and that is because she is totally afraid of doing that very thing.

She hears him quietly laugh as he takes the glass from her with one hand, still grasping a club in his other hand. He says, “Thanks.”

He gives her a small cheers before he sips, before he grimaces a little bit and turns to explain to Jon that he typically does not like to drink so much sugar.

Jon teasingly asks Grey just why he is worried about sugar already, at his age. Jon tells Grey that, healthwise, it only gets worse, not better — as he winces and touches his own belly. Jon says, “Might as well enjoy life while you are at your healthiest, Joe,” as he blindly reaches behind him for his wife’s hand.

And with a softness that neither Grey nor Missandei feel comfortable with, Jon kisses the back of his wife’s hand — and she smiles serenely.





The sun is starting to set and Lysa had declared that they will dine al fresco because the bleeding sky is so beautiful. They have to hurry back to the vacation home for this reason — there is staff waiting.

“She’s unhappy in her marriage,” Missandei quietly tells Grey, when they are alone in the rental car again, as he puts the car in reverse.

“Yeah?” he says, swiveling around to look through the back window as he backs out of the parking spot. He’s not altogether surprised by the information because he has surmised the same. “Who isn’t though?” he mutters.

“My parents weren’t,” Missandei says simply. “Though perhaps it’s because my mom died before she and my dad could come to resent each other.” It’s a light and completely baseless joke — because sometimes she makes dark jokes on purpose to match him in tone.

He pauses to look at her — his eyes searching her face for a silent moment and his hand hanging casually on the steering wheel — before he says, “Come to think, my parents are happy with one another, too. I’m probably the one blight in their otherwise perfect and idyllic lives.”

“Don’t say that,” she admonishes softly.

That makes him smile — just very briefly and self-consciously — before he puts his attention back on the car and on driving them the twenty minutes back to the house they are staying in.





To Lysa’s utter annoyance and to Jon’s utter delight, Grey requests a grand tour of the property before dinner. Grey solicits a very comprehensive tour and even asks questions about the garage and the pantry because he noticed that the garage is well insulated, and he had noticed that the pantry’s pull-out drawers has dovetail joinery. Jon is impressed by Grey’s attention to detail and pulls out the drawers to reveal an old set of silverware, a utility draw full of miscellaneous items collected over the years, from gum to fishing wire to batteries, and a drawer of steak knives and butcher’s twine.

They are told long-winded story after long-winded story about the genesis of every little thing, with follow-up questions from Grey, as they dip in and out of each room. They ignore Lysa’s aggravation and her not-so-subtle statements about how dinner is getting cold.

They learn that this is a house that holds particular sentimental value for Jon. He repeats the name Jeyne to them as he shows them the unique features of each space. He would say things about what Jeyne’s favorite color for drapes were and what her preferences for lighting were.

It takes Missandei a few moments to realize that Jeyne was Jon’s first wife and from the way he talks about how he rented a sander to refinish the floors himself, she figures out that this vacation home was a property they scrimped and saved and acquired together, back before Jon’s company really took off.

“I like all of the brass,” Grey says smoothly, referring to all of the drawer and door handles.

Jon laughs at that — clapping Grey on the back before he says, “It was very a la mode back when this house was built.”  





Dinner is plates of inordinately large and decadent t-bone steaks laid down by a woman in a head covering — she is one of the few visible ethnic minorities in Valyria. Though Lysa is cross that the staff neglected to cut up pieces of her husband’s steak into tiny bites for him, Jon steadfastly remains in good spirits, as he sips from the glass of bourbon his wife continually gets up to refill for him. He tells them that the bourbon washes away the germs and that his taste buds are currently shit so it’s actually a waste of bourbon. He laughs and wheezes and jokingly tells his wife to break out the second tier whisky because it makes no difference.

Missy, who is not a fan of eating huge chunks of dead animal, politely oohs and ahhs over how well the steak is cooked before she shoves elegant-sized pieces into her mouth and hastily chews through it in order to be polite. She is wondering if she is going to be stuck on this shitty all-animal diet for the entire next week. Not without judgement, she also wonders if Jon’s apparent health is due to this diet.

About half an hour into the meal, Grey wordlessly reaches over to her plate and starts slicing a square chunk out from the middle of her steak.

It catches Jon’s attention, who says, “Joe, if you’d like seconds, we have plenty left over. We can get the cook to make you another —”

“The staff has left for the night,” Lysa interjects.

“It’s okay,” Grey offers quickly, pulling that chunk of Missandei’s steak onto his plate. “We like to share. She can’t eat that much — small appetite.”





The Arryns retire to bed apologetically early, with Jon wryly stating that he needs the rest in order to decimate Joe on the course tomorrow. Grey good-naturedly returns smack-talks in the corniest way, to the general tune of, “Oh yeah? We’ll see, old man!” That’s how Missandei learns that Grey cannot dish it out when he is not allowed to dip into the gallows for the hilariously petty things he sometimes says.

She goes about her bedtime routine quickly and silently — washing her face, brushing her teeth, wrapping up her hair, changing into her night clothes — in the locked bathroom as she frantically does the mental math and thinks about when the steak in her belly is going to come out as poop and stink up the bathroom in his presence.

She likes how she is not shy about bending over and letting him eat her out from behind, but she cannot handle having a bowel movement in a locked bathroom because of the risk of smells wafting out.

Kind of low-key mortified by many different kinds of shame, she pretty much run right by him and sneaks under the bed covers as he trades places with her, heading into the bathroom.

She is pretty sure his bathroom routine consists of peeing, washing his hands, brushing his teeth and flossing, because of course he is one of those people who have never had a cavity ever before in his life.





She only does this type of work with him so as he turns off the light, she wonders if Alayaya sometimes sleeps in the same bed as Tal — and if that is something that Tal ever feels weird about, since Tal is in a long term relationship. Missy wonders how honest Tal tries to be with his girlfriend — without breaching security or if he just completely omits part of himself from her. Missy also wonders when the hell she is going to get a real dinner date going with Alayaya so that she can try to bond with Alayaya and force Alayaya into being her new buddy.

Missandei has been really hyperaware of her apparently ubiquitous neediness — ever since he told her that it is disgusting because she is gross. Missandei has been trying to figure out where the hell it comes from — if it came from an absent father who worked too much, but who also bought her presents like a car when she got her license and who called her his little princess until she hurt his feelings and asked him to stop referring to her as such in public because she took one fucking women’s studies class in college and let it go way to her head.

She has theorized that maybe it came from being left out of all of her brothers’ fun shit. She has wondered if she is maybe misdirecting the loneliness that the loss of her mom left behind and trying to heal herself through sex with someone who doesn’t seem like he is even capable of emotionally availability.

She has also wondered if she is just fucking normal, and if he is just fucking gaslighting her because he is a bastard who has had such a difficult past few years that have left him scarred and unable to trust anyone anymore.





“Good night,” she says softly, lying on her back within a foot of the edge of the bed, with her fingers intertwined together on her stomach, and for a moment, she is met with silence. She presses her lips together as she inhales deeply and then breathes it out.

Then she belatedly worries that her sigh sounds petty and juvenile — she was honestly just breathing.

But then his deep voice quietly responds back with, “Good night.”

And then, unexpectedly, his hand finds hers underneath the blanket. He squeezes her fingers softly in his warm palm.

Then, he says, “Do you wanna . . . come over here?”

She doesn’t really believe that he is saying what he is saying — so there is a moment of hesitation and silence as she freezes.

It’s when she feels the light tug on her fingers that she immediately rolls over and, with hot cheeks, shyly and immediately tucks her head underneath his chin. She braces herself for the push away, because maybe she has misread the signs. After all, he doesn’t mix work with personal and he is strictly by the book while they are on the clock.

She shuts her eyes.

She feels his strong arms coming around her, enveloping her shoulders and her head in a squeeze that becomes tighter and tighter, as her cheekbone gets pressed hard into the cords of his neck. She breathes in the scent of him deeply — holding in the scent for a moment before she releases a breath. It sounds like another sigh.

“I’m sorry,” he whispers. “For what I said to you.”  

He has to keep it vague precisely because they are on the clock. But she still understands what he means. She starts rapidly blinking back tears as her heart starts to beat hard. She meekly says, “It’s okay.”

“No, it’s not,” he says, as his arms around her loosen. “I’ve been thinking about it a lot — and I feel . . . ashamed by the way I behaved. I’m sorry.”

She frees her arms from his hold, and she sneaks her hands up to cup his face in the dark. She repeats, “It’s okay,” as her heart pounds in her throat. She knows that she is forgiving him too quickly and too easily, but this is just honestly the kind of person she is.

She holds his cheeks and internally debates herself for a few slow seconds, before she decides to just risk it. She blindly searches for his mouth with hers in the dark, first catching his upper lip before she makes a minor adjustment and softly sighs out her relief as she gently lays her lips against his.  

She feels relief again, when he returns the affection, when he starts softly moving his mouth against hers, kissing her back.  

They lay in the dark like that, exchanging kisses silently, hands rubbing and squeezing each other’s bodies in comfort. She feels him go underneath the hem of her shirt, to press his calloused skin against hers. She returns the favor by grasping him to her body so tightly, squeezing.

She tells herself that she will not force him to meet her family. She will not ask him for too much because everyone needs to goes at their own pace. She tells herself she must be on her best behavior from here on out, so that she doesn’t scare him away with the enormity of how she feels about him.

On his side of things, he is being ever so careful not to escalate this and make it strictly sex- and goal-oriented. He lets himself be held by her and he lets himself be kissed by her and he tracks his own pulse and his own heartbeat — and he keeps telling himself that he is okay and that this is survivable, that this is very pleasantly survivable.

He has to amp himself to squeeze her body before pulling away from her kiss. He has to build up the confidence to say, “Maybe after we get home —” He is hesitating a little bit. “Maybe we can schedule some time for you and I to talk some things out — and maybe if that goes okay, maybe we can also schedule one dinner with your dad?”

She can’t see his expression in the dark — and she doesn’t think he can see hers either, which might be for the best, because she generally is a slow emotional learner. Her face is currently just bleeding out the kind of desperate gratitude that will probably make him uncomfortable if he could see it.





He wakes up in a sweaty sudden panic, with a phantom erection, and his movement restricted.

He finds her curled up right against him, with her soft fist resting on his chest, close to her mouth, with a leg thrown over his body, over his thighs, close to where his erection would’ve been — completely unaware of his anxiety.

The entire situation puts him in a shitty mood almost right away, and he has to work to mitigate his feelings about it because she is really doing nothing to him, besides existing and inciting his attraction to her by existing.

He tries to shift her without waking her up, so that he can get up and empty his bladder to see if that will help get rid of his distracting ghost boner.  

She groans as he attempts to move her. And then her eyes pop open — her face easily transitioning to a smile when she realizes that it is him she is looking at.

“Hey,” she says softly, as she softly smears her cheek and lips across the material of his t-shirt. “Morning.”

“Hey,” he says, gently pushing her leg down a little bit with his hand, getting it farther away from his injury. “Did you sleep okay?”

“I slept great,” she whispers, as she presses a really careful kiss to his sternum and then, noticing a small spot of her drool, she starts rubbing at the spot with the pads of her fingers. “You?”

“Pretty good,” he admits. “Ready for the day?”

“Yeah,” she says, sighing — stretching her arms and lightly groaning. “You look good in the morning.”

He tries to smile at her at that — he tries to accept the compliment like a normal person and not like a fucking psycho. He says, “Thanks.”

And then Missandei’s body jolts in surprise — as both of their ears prick up from the loud, anguished scream.





They both run down the hall in their bare feet — still wearing their sleep clothes. Missandei is slightly behind him, her pulse thrumming in her throat as her mind fights to remember her training.

Grey hesitates just the barest bit, when he stops at the Arryns’ bedroom door. They can still hear the screaming coming from the other side of the door.

Missandei is shouting, “Lysa! Are you okay?”

Then Grey is wrenching the door open.

When Missy sees Lysa in tears, on her knees, on her bed, in her canary yellow nightgown and her long hair plaited in a braid, with Jon still asleep beside her — Missy is momentarily confused.

And then Lysa screams, “He’s dead! My husband is dead!”







Chapter Text






 

Missy wraps her arms around Lysa’s shaking shoulders and tries to compress the other woman’s outpour of emotion — telling her it’s okay, it’s okay, it’s going to be okay — as Grey silently walks over to Jon and checks for a pulse — his fingers touching Jon’s neck and then also on Jon’s wrist. As Lysa sobs, Missy holds her breath and watches as Grey blankly stares down at Jon’s peaceful face — she thinks that he must be in shock.

Through her tears, Lysa is saying that her husband was fine and happy when they went to bed. Lysa tells them nothing was amiss at all. Her face crumples as she says, “Oh my God, how am I going to tell my son?”

“We should call the police,” Missandei says softly, orienting her voice toward Grey’s stationary body.

“What am I going to say to them?” Lysa cries.

“Just tell them the truth,” Missy says, trying to keep her voice calm and even. “It will be okay.”

“I don’t speak Valyrian!”

“I can help.”

Grey suddenly starts moving — Missandei’s eyes tries to catch his face — and she feels handcuffed and stuck because she can’t call out to him honestly and authentically as herself, to ask him if he is okay. She just holds onto Lysa’s anguished grief, and Missy wonders if the sight of Jon is bringing back just terrible memories for him.

She is stunned when he just exits the room.

Even now, she’s worried about blowing cover. Shakily, to Lysa, she awkwardly explains, “He’s probably going to look for a phone.”







He quickly runs back into the guest bedroom and unplugs and swipes his and Missandei’s phones from the nightstand. He messily types out a code and sends it before he drops the devices on the bed and starts stripping down to nothing before he yanks on his day clothes and shoves his feet into socks. He steps into his shoes and ties them before he pockets the phones, their passports, all the pieces of identifying information that he keeps bundled all together — and then he runs downstairs.

He goes straight to the utility drawer in the pantry and pulls out a serrated steak knife, a multitool, and duct tape. He then runs into the garage and pulls a hammer out of the tool chest. He pulls this nylon rope hanging off of a ladder and holds it tightly in his hands as he loudly runs back upstairs to the master bedroom.

He is panting steadily from the exertion as he directs his stare to Missandei and only Missandei. He asks, “Do you remember when the staff is due back here? Did she ever say yesterday?”

She stares back at him with her eyes wide, utterly confused and bewildered. Her training still kicks in. She still answers faithfully. She says, “She didn’t say.”

He reasons that it’s probably soon, and that they don’t have much time.

“Did you call the police?” Missandei asks.

He doesn’t answer her. He just says, “Let her go,” as he quickly starts untangling the rope. He then adds, “Go change your clothes quickly.”

She only hesitates for a split second.

And it’s enough for him to loudly shout, “Now!”







As she runs to the bedroom. Her heart is pounding so hard in her chest that she thinks she might be on the edge of a full-blown panic attack. Her mind is screaming out this confusion and this fear and worry — as her body jumps because she hears Lysa release a frightened, high-pitched scream. She hears Lysa scream, “No!” and “Don’t!” in the other room as her own gut lurches — as she feels nauseous and her shaky hands start digging into her luggage.  

Her eyes tear up as she listens to more of Lysa’s screaming — before it stops.

She runs back to the master bedroom in pants and a shirt, in time for Grey to flash a knife at her — in time for her to see Lysa’s wet, red face crying behind a silver sheen of tape over her mouth. She is lying on the bed next to her dead husband. Her hands are tied behind her back and then also to her torso. Her legs are also cinched together, connected to her hands so that her movement is severely restricted.

When she spots Missandei again, Lysa’s muffled screaming intensifies — snot drips out of her nose — and Missy cannot make out what Lysa is trying to scream — but she already knows what Lysa is trying to say. Lysa is pleading for help. Lysa is pleading for her life.

Grey walks into the walk-in closet and comes out with two scarves and a beach bag. He stuffs all of his items — the hammer, the rope, the tape, other things — into the bag and leaves it on the ground.

Then he says, “Grab that.”

Before he walks over to the bed — Lysa muffled screams get more agitated and her body thrashes when he lays a hand on her leg.

And then he presses the serrated steak knife to her throat, as he holds down her head so that she doesn’t accidentally impale herself. He says to her, “Calm down. Be quiet. Or I will kill you, and then I will find your son and slit his throat, too. Understand?”

He doesn’t even wait for Lysa to signal any agreement before he yanks her body up and holds her tightly to his chest, before he repositions the knife at her ribcage.

He starts methodically carrying her down the expansive staircase.

Missandei doesn’t even realize she is crying, as she stares at his back in disbelief, as thick air around her continues drawing out moisture from her eyes.

She blinks.

And then she unsteadily reaches down and grabs the beach bag.







Theoretically, how they are trained for this kind of incident is that leadership and their decision-making model is somewhat fluid. Leadership switches around according to who has the most technical expertise, experience — or just simply who is most equipped to lead in the moment. They are trained this way so that they are always primed for optimized decision-making and are constantly always assessing. If there is ever a moment where there is disagreement on who is to lead, then they should automatically default to the hierarchy, as time is often of the essence when in the field.

Really tight teams can switch off leadership rather seamlessly and almost silently in high-stress situations, having honed the action over years of working together. Grey’s former team was like that — before he told himself that the voice in the back of his head was just emotional doubt, a fallacy — and then led the majority of them to their deaths, based on orders from leadership.

That’s a niggling fact that he is kind of contending with, right now, as he loads Lysa’s tense body into the trunk of their rental car. Ever since he came back to work, doubt has just plagued his mind. He doubts his ability to make good decisions. He doubts his ability to keep people safe. He doubts his judgement. He doubts his sanity.

Behind him, Missandei says, “It’s too hot.”

Her voice has judgement in it. And he knows already knows that it’s too hot. He has planned to push down the back seat for airflow and also to be able to watch Lysa from the start. He opens the back door and hits the button to collapse down the seat. This way, she is obscured from other motorists, but she won’t suffocate from heat.

He attributes the friction and hard edges of his interactions with Missandei to lack of practice and also her lack of experience and expertise in this. He realizes that this is something he is just going to have to bear for the upcoming tense few hours or however long until headquarters gets back to him with directives and options.

Wordlessly, he takes the beach bag from her grasp and then he tosses it at the foot of the passenger seat. He wordlessly starts up the car — as the sound of the engine re-inspires Lysa to lose her shit again. She starts to scream through the tape over her mouth.

He swivels his head around. He waits for her to draw breath — for a pause in her ruckus. Then he calmly says to her, “You should be quieter. I’m asking you to. I don’t want to make you because you will not like how I do it.”







He drives strategically aimlessly, based on his training, in order to ensure that they are not being followed. A popular misconception is that they lose a tail through evasive driving and speed. They actually lose tails by boring them to death.

It is forty minutes in and out of city center — with Missandei constantly casting tense, scrutinizing looks at him, trying to figure out what the fuck is going on. They don’t really have the luxury of taking a sidebar so he can explain to her, in detail, what he thinks is going on. He will have to save the teaching until after this engagement fully plays out and they are safe.

He pulls up to a motel that he had previously scouted as a solid option for a safe stopover. It is in an urban area that is dense and cloaked, in the northeast side of the city with a large immigrant population. He and Missandei stand out less here. The buildings have entrances that are open to the outdoors so they don’t have to walk through a lobby or hallways to get to a room. They can pay in cash because the owner is evading taxes and the manager is corrupt and skims off the top.

“Why don’t you go get us a room facing south, on the second floor?” he casually suggests to Missandei. He wants a south facing room so he can see the road.

She casts him a look — pausing with her hand touching the door handle — and he will need to talk to her about this later. Her apprehension costs them time.

He says, “Go on.”







The front office smells like cigarette smoke and stale fry oil. The curtains are see-through and filter in dusty light as she sweats, as she bleeds out anxiety and nervousness — walking up to the counter. She has to wait behind a man with body odor as he surprises her by speaking in Asshai'i to the manager behind the desk.

She learns that the air conditioning in his room is broken and he would either like a discount or for it to be fixed.

The manager grumbles that the air conditioner was working last he checked, but he will send someone up soon — as he picks up a cellphone that is thickly wrapped in one of those old-fashioned indestructible cases. Then, into the phone, he tells the person on the other line to go to room 3B to check the air.

When it’s Missandei’s turn to step up to the counter, the manager is struck by her appearance — by how pretty she is but also by the color of her skin and her ethnicity — and she feels dread that he’s going to remember her because she and Grey are in the midst of committing just a bunch of crimes together.

She shakily pulls out her wallet, hides her fake identification from him like how she was taught to, and then lays a few bills onto the sticky, yellowing counter.

He jolts in surprise when she speaks to him in Asshai’i.







Grey is standing outside of the car and eating salted roasted peanuts out of his palm when she walks back up to him with a motel room key clenched tightly in her hand. The back windows are cracked behind him, for airflow. It is viciously hot outside today.

He gives her a dead smile when she gets within speaking distance. He raises his palm. He says, “Want some? We haven’t gotten breakfast yet. I found these in your purse.”

They are the nuts from the packets that the flight attendant had given them on their flight. He was sleeping next to her because he was exhausted so she took his packet for him and stored it in her bag for later, just in case he got hungry and wanted a snack.

“You looked in my purse,” she states, keeping her voice even.

“Yeah,” he says smoothly. “I just wanted to see if maybe you had brought something from home in there.”

He had wanted to see if she had accidentally fucked up and left a piece of identifying information in there from her true identity — like a parking receipt, like a restaurant business card, like a used notepad with indentations from her previous writings.

She knows that there is nothing in there that could incriminate them. She is really paranoid about that. She goes over the contents of her bag nearly every day.  

She can’t tell if he is pissed about the peanuts or not. She thinks that peanuts from their flight is okay. But maybe she is wrong.

“Alright, what room are we in?”

“2D.”







She expects him to untie Lysa’s feet so that Lysa can walk up to their motel room and make it look somewhat naturalistic. But surprisingly, Grey pops open the trunk, looks down at Lysa’s sweat-soaked face and body, and says, “I’m going to carry you again now. If you are good and stay still, I won’t have to kill you, okay?”

This is the moment that Lysa decides to call his bluff — she is mildly claustrophobic and that, coupled with the high stress of being abducted by people she previously understood were her husband’s friends — and her husband is dead now — well, she starts to scream and thrash around again, when he touches his fingers to her arm.

The car jostles from Lysa’s renewed panic — Missandei takes a quick look around and sees that they are alone in the parking lot. Grey parked on the other side of the building, butting up close to the side. No motel room has a view of them.

Missandei can’t help but let out a surprised gasp when she sees and hear Grey suddenly reach out and grab Lysa by the neck. She sees him squeeze her neck hard — and she sees Lysa shove her tear-filled gaze at Missandei, trying to plead with her — before Grey slams Lysa’s head back down to the floor of the trunk.

Missandei flinches — and then she turns her face away.

Lysa’s muffled screaming devolves into a whimper, as she sniffs loudly and swings her head to the side in pain.  

Grey says, “Seriously, shut up, okay?”







Grey makes quick work of carrying Lysa’s rigid but quiet body up to the second floor — no one sees them.

And Missandei can feel his strong energy just pointed at her, as her shaking hands fumbles with the motel room key, as she struggles to unlock the door.

She’s about to nervously tell him that the door is old and the key is stiff in the lock — when it miraculously turns — and then she is twisting the knob open as he kicks the door the rest of the way open. He has the beach bag dangling from his elbow.

She sees him walk in and drop Lysa’s body onto the bed. He grabs her by the wrists with one hand and then flips her over so that she is on her stomach.

Missandei’s heart lurches when he pulls out the steak knife again — when he points it down toward Lysa’s body.

“No! Stop! Don’t do it!”

The words are just carelessly out of her mouth before she can even think about them — her face goes unbearably hot as he orients his gaze to her. He face is blank but she knows that he is displeased.

And then wordlessly, he starts to cut the ties on Lysa’s arms. He leaves her feet tied.

Missandei holds her breath — just unsure and bewildered.

And then he flips Lysa back over. He looms over her.

Lysa is crying again — and she is using her freed, welted hands to try and fight him off — she is trying to hit and scratch him in the face — as he quietly and soothingly asks her to stop it.

He easily grabs her sore wrists and pulls them over her head as she continues to hopelessly sob again. He grabs the bundle of rope that is sitting innocuously on the bed and he efficiently ties her wrists together — over her head.

And then he loosely ties her hands to the bed — so that she has some movement, but she is still stuck close to it.  

Grey sits on the corner of the bed after that and patiently watches as Lysa somewhat calms back down and succumbs to just how trapped she currently is.

Then he reaches out and lightly slaps her in the face — he says, “I’m going to take that tape off your mouth so you can have some water. Don’t scream or else I’m going to hit you in the face really hard, okay?”

Missandei is having a hard time controlling her own emotions — watching him do this . Her eyes are tearing up against the expressed wishes of her brain as she watches him gently and gingerly start peeling off the duct tape from Lysa’s mouth.

Without looking at Missandei, he says, “Why don’t you go back down to the lobby and buy us some bottles of water and some snacks. Why don’t you also move the car around to the front of building before you come back?”







She roughly wipes the tears from her face as she runs back down the stairs, as she wonders, in a panic, whether or not she is meant to move the car first or whether or not she is meant to get water and snacks first. Her heart is jackhammering against her ribcage as she just wishes and wishes so hard that she was just at home with her dad or home doing her normal job and embroiled in her normal routine and not doing this.

Her mind just screams out and it is telling her that she did not sign up for this at all, that this is not at all what she fucking meant when she told them that she wanted greater responsibility. She didn’t fucking mean that she wanted to be responsible for someone’s life in this way.

She is starting to hyperventilate — and she knows that she needs to slow down or else she will pass out and he will be so mad at her if she does that. She presses her palm hard to her chest, as she starts to count to four — pulling big breathes in and out — and she banishes these thoughts of every terrible thing that she has heard people say about him — things that she adamantly told herself were not at all true and that the rest of them were all fucking heartless and callous. He is not broken. He is not irrevocably damaged. He is not mentally impaired. He is not dangerous. He is good at his job. He is really smart. He is really talented. He is a caring person. He is capable of empathy — she has seen it. She has seen his goodness.

When she goes to grab her forgotten purse from inside the car — she digs inside it for her wallet again. And then she realizes that she is missing her phone.

Because he took it.

She has no way to contact home.







Her eyes are somewhat dry and clear again, when she despondently floats back up to the room. She has to knock on the door because he locked it behind her. Hot air whooshes against her face before she gets to stare at him again.

He says, “Snacks? Water?” with expectation.

She mutely hands him all of her cold, dripping bottles — she got four — and a bunch of crinkly packages of Valyrian corn chips.

He takes them into his arms and drops all but one water bottle onto the bed, at Lysa’s tied feet.

He cracks open the bottle of water. Lysa’s face is marked from where the duct tape was. He smoothly sucks down a sip of the water to prevent it from overflowing in his grasp, before he orients it at Lysa’s face. She doesn’t want to drink at all. He is kind of insistent. She continues to refuse. She is alternating between avoiding eye contact with him in fear — and trying to make eye contact with Missandei.

Missy feels such shame right now.

Lysa softly says, “Please help me.”

Grey interrupts. He snaps his fingers in her face, making her release out a soft, fearful whimper. Then he says, “Hey, don’t talk to her. Talk to me.”

And then he pulls out the steak knife and holds it against her throat again, as she shuts her eyes tightly and tries to just sink into the bed.

“Okay, so you’re going to have a drink of water so you don’t die or get diarrhea right now,” Grey says conversationally. “Don’t worry. I just tested the water out for you. It’s not poisoned. It’s all good and clean. Anyway, after you have a nice drink, you’re gonna tell me why you killed your husband, okay?”







 

Chapter Text





 

He was actually the one who mentored her and lectured her at length on the best techniques for getting information out of people. He was actually the one who told her that threats of violence and intimidation don’t work well at all. He taught her that people will say all sorts of things under duress. It is hard to get a gauge on a consistent baseline.

He was the one who stopped short of bringing up his own personal experience with Bolton, when he emphatically told her that torture is scientifically proven to be a really poor interrogation technique. He was the one who encouraged her to continue honing her relationship-building and rapport-building skills with people because, he told her, that is the best way to draw out information from people.

So she doesn’t know what to make of it — or how to reduce the growing sense of horror she feels — as she continues to bear witness to the dehumanizing things he is doing and saying to Lysa.

He keeps force-feeding Lysa water — which she has to drink or else he just dribbles it down her nose, causing her to gasp loudly and cough, her body spasming against her restraints.

He keeps asking her the same question — why she killed her husband. She keeps sobbing and brokenly telling him that she didn’t kill her husband. She keeps rhetorically asking, out loud, why she would kill the father of her son? She keeps telling him that Jon was old and his health was failing. She woke up, and he was already dead beside her.

“Likely story,” he says, as he points the steak knife at her. “You oversaw and gave him all his drinks and food yesterday — why?”

“Because he’s my husband and that’s how I took care of him,” Lysa whispers, and not for the first time. And then she hesitantly adds, “Doesn’t your wife do the same for you?”

“Uh, not consistently. That would be weird and sexist, and I ain’t that sexist.” He swivels his head around to look at Missandei’s expression — and as usual, she cannot hide a thing from him at all. Her feelings are very clear on her face. He turns his attention back to Lysa. “Must be a generational thing.”







He must be trying to exhaust Lysa or something — and it’s an endurance test for Missandei, too. She has transitioned from hovering standing to resigned sitting at a small circular table next to the bed. She keeps trying to skirt the middle of her feelings. She is trying to shut them down and pay attention to her training — she is trying to go through the mental checklist and constantly assess, like her dad was telling her to. She is also trying to not numb herself so much that the pain of another human being just doesn’t resonate in her.

After long bouts of hesitation, embarrassment, and fear, Lysa finally admits to him that she needs to use the toilet — making Missandei realize that the woman they abducted didn’t even get a chance to brush her hair, wash her face, or use the bathroom at all before she found her husband dead and was pulled from her home.

In response to Lysa’s confession, Grey says, “So go.”

Lysa’s eyes tear up — and she is confused. She carefully whispers out a response that is so measured and near-silent that Missandei has to strain to hear it. Lysa says, “I don’t understand.”

“You need to go,” Grey recaps. “So just go.”

“In the bed?” she whispers.

“I mean, you don’t really have access to the bathroom right now, do you?” he tells her. “You haven’t earned it yet because you haven’t told me why you killed your husband. Like, why didn’t you just ask for a divorce if you wanted to be rid of him? Murder seems awfully drastic.”

“P-please,” she whispers, as her body starts to tremble.

“Please what?” Grey says, playing dumb, pointing the knife at her again, making her flinch and squeeze her eyes shut.

“Are you going to kill me?” she whispers.

“Probably eventually,” he says.

“Joe,” Missandei cuts in. “Come on.”







He tries to ignore her like how he has consistently been doing, but this time, she resists being ignored. She actually gets up from her seat, walks the short distance to him, and she lays her hand on his shoulder to get his attention. She casts a quick glance at Lysa before averting her eyes to the ceiling. And then Missandei risks.

She keeps her voice quiet and gentle, as she briefly touches his cheek with the side of her thumb. She tells him, “This isn’t you.”

He swings his eyes up to look at her for a moment. Their gazes connect — and for the briefest moment, she sees him in there. She sees the person she has gotten to know really well and has come to care for so much. His eyes soften and the corners of his mouth droop down into a frown —

Before the wall comes back down, and he blanks it all out.

And then he scoffs and lightly knocks her hand off his body, waving the knife dangerously close to her face, too. She automatically takes a small step back as her heart lurches at the flash of metal.

Then he says, “Hey, please sit your ass down and continue being useless while I talk to our guest, okay?”

She recoils away from him.







For the next several minutes, she wages this epic inner war within herself. Words and phrases and philosophies and methodologies conflict with one another in her gut and brain as she is trying to figure out what the right thing is. She can hear Lysa begging him to let her to use the toilet, as Missy sweats underneath the loud air conditioner and the pressure that she is under, as she tries to figure out which pearl of wisdom she’s been given by others is right.

When Missandei dated one too many assholes in college who only liked her for her body and cheated on her a few too many times — Dany got fed up with it and told Missandei that when someone shows her their true colors — believe them.

When Missandei was too slow to keep up with her brothers on their bikes and bit it hard going down a hill — spraining her wrist — her dad brutally chewed out her older brothers and took their bikes away, creating this resentment because in her brothers' points of view, all they did was relent and let her come along with them because they felt sorry for her. They learned that day that pitying her and being nice to her in that way was going to get them in trouble because she is weak and slow. She learned that day that tattling to someone more powerful than the enemy she is currently contending with works. It took her years before she was able to empathize with the position she put her brothers in constantly.

Her training ingrained her obedience. She is loyal to her adopted country, above all else. She is meant to work for the greater good. She is meant to preserve life. She serves the organization. She was taught to follow orders always — from all of her superiors, including him. She has figured out that she is forever the least experienced and the least qualified in every decision-making model. She has learned that what she feels and what she thinks is right does not matter to Drogo — and she had thought that it mattered to Grey, but maybe it doesn’t when what she feels conflicts with how he feels.

She can’t remove their personal relationship from this — and she can tangibly see why so many people have said that it’s a real bad idea to sleep with a coworker. She is really not supposed to, but she is applying the terrible fight they had in their personal relationship to this current situation — the brutal way he shut her down and told her she is needy just because she wants to care for him. She is applying the way they have sex with each other to this current situation, the way his eyes glint in victory and sexualized gratification and the way his body relaxes when he does the final tug on the knot at her wrist. She is remembering the way her vocalization — the groaning and the pleading and the begging — draws out greater engagement from him during sex — how he seems to get off on it in his own way.

She stands up from her seat. She slams her hand on the table to demand his attention.

She says, “You need to untie her and let her go to the bathroom. This is inhumane.”

“You need to shut up,” he easily throws back.







It is completely the wrong thing to do — she knows this — she knows that they are already in deep shit and she is making this worst —

But the fucking alternative is to just do nothing and to let this play out — and to what end? The stakes are higher here, and it’s not as simple as him getting hit in the face by a sex worker and needing to go to the hospital for a shot and a bandage. They can’t walk away that easily from this.

She starts to reason with him — in a slightly argumentative way. She starts to break protocol, because she thinks she has to. There are extenuating circumstances, because he is compromised right now.

She realizes that she thinks he is compromised.

She says, “I will go in the bathroom with her. I will watch her. Nothing will happen. I swear.”

“I honestly don’t get why you are so hung up on this,” he says, twirling the knife around in the air. “She is fine. She’s faking. She doesn’t really need to go.”

“I need to go!” Lysa shouts.

“Shut up,” he throws back at Lysa. And then to Missandei, with just a shit ton of condescension, he says, “She’s obviously trying to distract us from the fact that she murdered her husband. I don’t get why you don’t see this.”

“Who are you people?” Lysa asks, crying again.

“Okay, you people?” Grey says. “That’s a little racist, Lys.”

This is when one of the phones in his inner pocket starts to buzz. His brows go up in relief and delight — Missandei is staring at him like she doesn’t even know this person — and then, holding the knife, he gives them a just-a-minute finger and checks the screen.

Then he says, “Oh, hey, this is important. I need to get this.”

And then he lightly tosses the knife at Missandei, who basically internally screams, shrieks out loud, and then just lets the knife drop down to the carpet.

He sighs. He says, “You were supposed to catch it, babe.”

On his way out the door to grab the call, he leans over real quick to give her a kiss on the cheek.

Missandei does a full body flinch and then just forces herself to rigidly accept his kiss, as Lysa watches. This is really fucking convincing. They are totally in love. Awesome.







The second he is out the door, Lysa starts sobbing again — her tears have dried out and she has nothing left to cry except for the sound of anguish. It hurts Missy’s heart as Missy unties the loop keeping Lysa attached to the bed. Her hands are shaking — her body is actually shaking violently.

“It’s okay,” Missy says soothingly, helping to ease Lysa into sitting position. “We’ll get you to the toilet together, okay?”  

“Who are you!” Lysa shouts, even as she allows Missandei to help her swing her tied legs off of the bed.

Missy bypasses that question. She just says, “I can’t untie you. He will be so pissed if I do. But I can help carry you into the toilet and help sit you on it. It will be easy, I promise.”







There’s a time difference, so it’s really early in the morning in King’s Landing — with Drogo only just getting notified of Grey’s message. Drogo is still in his apartment, getting dressed in a rush, telling the woman that he met in a bar, who is lying in his bed, that she needs to leave real fast because he has a work emergency right now.

Drogo mutters sorry as he basically shoves her out the door, as Grey impatiently waits and grinds his teeth on the other end of the secure line.

Drogo is grabbing his car keys and is stepping into his shoes as he tells Grey, “I just woke up. I have no idea what is going on. Tell me what is going on.”

Grey tells Drogo that Jon Arryn is dead. His wife killed him. The local authorities have probably found the body right now and an investigation will probably be launched. All of his and Missandei’s clothes are still at the house and the house staff will report that they were staying with the Arryns. Grey tells Drogo that they need an emergency extraction. They need a flight out now. They also need a plane ticket for Lysa.   







Lysa is back in bed, with her bladder empty, by the time he returns to the room. Missy’s heart is throbbing as she looks at him expectantly, because she knows who must have been on the other side of his call.

He doesn’t explain it to her. He just swipes up the car keys from the table and then nods to the knife that is still on the ground. He says, “Watch her. I need to go see somebody about cleaning up the mess that this fucking murderer made. Be back in about . . . an hour? Maybe two. I’ll try to find breakfast, too. Or lunch, I guess. What do you feel like eating?”







His heart is pounding hard in the heat and his gut is just a wreck, as he leaves Missandei in the room with Lysa Arryn and walks to the car, as he mentally walks through all the pieces that he tried to put into place — as he tries to figure out if there was something that he may have missed in the preparation. There was just no time to go over this beforehand because he thought that this sort of terribleness would not happen for a while. He never thought that he’d have to work with her in this way. He thought that he would be able to sequester this part of himself away from her indefinitely.







“Are you okay?” Missandei asks softly. And then when Lysa weakly yanks against her restraints, Missy smiles grimly and says, “Ah, yes. I suppose you’ve had better days.”

“I don’t understand what is happening right now,” Lysa tells her.

“To be honest? Neither do I.” Missandei’s shoulders sink a little bit.

“Then why are you letting him do this to me?” Lysa asks brokenly.

Missy sighs. And then she says, “Um, this is going to sound really stupid — but I tend to just go along with what he wants.”

This results in a long pause — and Missy is thinking that she is just a fucking idiot right now, on more than one count.

But then Lysa says, “I can understand that, too. I was the same — with my husband. He — he ran the entire household.”

“Did you really kill him, Lysa?” Missandei asks.

The other woman’s face crumples. Her lips quiver.

And then she says, “He was just an awful husband — a really awful father. I just — I need to protect my son. I would do anything for my son.”

“I know you love your son very much,” Missy says softly. “You talk about him a lot.”

“Is he going to kill me? Your husband? But why?”

“I don’t know.”







He meets her out in public, in a busy quad of shops and cafes. He sits at a small table with a ceramic cup and saucer in front of him, with his eyes obscured behind dark sunglasses. He doesn’t express interest or surprise or anything resembling recognition, when she sits down across from him with a bag hooked over her shoulder. Her face is obscured, behind a headdress.

In Valyrian, he tells her that it’s been a while — a few years.

She tells him that she really didn’t expect to hear from him at all — not today. She tells him what he already knows — which is that he must be in some deep shit.

He readily and casually agrees with that. Yeah, he’s in some shit right now.

She asks him how Daenerys is — and to please pass along her regards.

In the Common Tongue, he mutters, “Will do.” And then he asks her if she has a present for him.

She hands over the bag.

From the weight of it, he knows that there is a gun in there. Valyria has strict gun laws, he can’t just buy one here. He also does not have the contacts here to procure a gun in his typical way. He has to call in this favor.

She tells him to be careful and to try to stay alive.

He asks if she doesn’t already know the outcome of today. Can’t she already see it?







He leans over and peers into the dead and pale face of Jon Arryn. They have already torn apart the room — finding nothing important or conspicuous missing. They have already torn through the guest bedroom, finding only luggage and clothing — a man and a woman’s. They have already talked to the staff, who merely just told them what they already know, which is that when the staff arrived for work in the morning, Ser Arryn was already dead and the lady was already gone, along with their house guests. The staff reported calling the police right away — and here they are. That is it. That is all they know. They do not know the name of the guests. They do not know where they came from. They were a husband and a wife — both dark-skinned.

“Let’s call him,” Alyn says, walking back into the room. “See if he’ll be up for a renegotiation of our contract now that things have deviated a little bit.” Alyn is grinning, already pulling his phone up to his ear.

Harry doesn’t particularly like working with Alyn — Alyn is irritatingly sloppy. But he is Valyrian.

“Boss?” Alyn says into the phone. “Yeah, she’s gone. Probably taken by the two agents. Would you like us to go look for her?”

After Alyn hangs up the phone with their employer — who agreed to the new terms — they walk down the staircase and past the living room, where two staff members, a maid and a cook, lie in a pool of their own blood. Harry predicts that a gardener or a groundskeeper will find them soon enough.

As he steps into the sun, he predicts that it will likely be another half hour, before the house is filled with local law enforcement.








 

Chapter Text







Missandei listens as Lysa easily confesses that she never wanted to marry Jon at all — that Lysa was never attracted to him and only married him for the stability that he provided. She tells Missandei she was desperate for her father’s approval of Jon’s family name and pedigree. She tells Missandei that she was young and stupid and plagued with low self-esteem. She also earnestly thought that she would grow to love him because that’s what people told her would happen.

Lysa tells Missandei that Jon had good timing. He awkwardly wooed her during a vulnerable time in her life, when she was feeling especially alone and unworthy. She tells Missandei that she was also in her thirties and just desperate to have a baby and be a mother because that is what she is meant to do on this earth. She was worried about time running out for herself so she made all of these concessions and all of these excuses even though a million red flags were blaring in her face.

Lysa tells Missandei that all of her friends wondered why and tried to dissuade her from marrying such an ugly old man. Lysa tells Missandei about Jon’s predisposition towards violence, and how she resolutely ignored all of the signs for years because once she became pregnant, she just needed to make it work with him. She told herself that he would never hurt their child because how can anyone hurt their own child?

Lysa tells Missandei she had been gravely wrong.

Lysa tells Missandei that she would’ve beared the punishment of a despotic bully because she made these marriage vows and she doesn’t believe in breaking vows — but she could not abide by what that man did to her son. She tells Missandei that the Arryn family is powerful and has the kind of influence that people like them can’t even imagine. Divorce would have ensured that she would never see her son again. Jon would have taken Robin away. Jon would have used his considerable influence to bankrupt and ruin her — and then turn her son against her.

“That’s why I had to do it,” Lysa whispers, her voice pleading for understanding. “I just had no choice.”

“You understand that you could go to prison for this?” Missandei says softly, frowning.

“I told you,” Lysa says. “I would do anything to protect my son.”







At headquarters, Drogo stiffly tells them what Grey is requesting. Drogo tells them all that he thinks that they need to talk to their embassy in Valyrian and prime the office to receive their two officers and Lysa Arryn as soon as possible. Drogo tells them that he needs they need to push paperwork asap, to make Grey and Missandei employees of that office on the books.

“Wait a minute, just wait a fucking minute,” Bronn says in irritation — pissed that he was pulled into work on his day off for this shit. He crosses his arms and stares Drogo in the face. “You’re telling us we should obstruct the legal processes of a notoriously insular country by housing someone who might have committed a murder with our cocks out like fucking cowboys — you are saying we should just come out and admit to Valyria that we are running covert operations within their borders ‘cause they just love that shit —  all because Torgo went off the fucking rails again?” Bronn pauses for all of one second — and no one interjects in that second — so he explodes with, “How many indulgences is that PTSD dickless asshole going to get just because he has a hunch? Holy shit. When are y’all gonna give me license to do whatever the fuck I want, just because I have a feeling?”

As Drogo glares heat at Bronn but says nothing because he always unproductively gets in such shit for saying things in times like these — Tyrion delicately clears his throat. He says, “Okay, so Bronn is a no on this. Noted.”

“Do we currently have anyone on the ground in the Freehold right now?” Selmy asks.

“No,” Arya says. “The closest is Sandor — he’s in Lhazosh. But that’s half a day out probably — and he’s not free right now. He’s engaged. It would be costly to divert him.”

“Daenerys, what are you thinking?” Selmy asks.

Before she can open her mouth to answer, Drogo interrupts with, “Missy is there with him right now, too.”

Dany’s eyes flash at him — angry that he is trying to be pettily manipulative — annoyed that he is implying that Grey alone does not warrant her full concern.

“I remember,” Dany says heatedly.






Alyn is loitering a little bit, taking a respite from the hard work of . . . standing around like a poncy piece of work, sucking down half a cigarette outside of a convenience store as if he needs a break from the three hours of work he’s had to do so far. Fucking Valyrians.

The car is sweltering. Harry is sweating underneath his clothes. He spends all of three minutes clutching the steering wheel and going over what he knows. He will not lose an extra day to this, because in essence, his fee would get cut in half. They don’t paid for time worked, but for the results. He has repeatedly reminded the Valyrian bastard that whatever opening they have, to just take it and put the Westerosi agents down and then get out with Lysa Arryn as quickly as possible. He doesn’t want incidents. He would like to be on an airplane by nightfall. They are already behind schedule. He hates this climate — too humid.

Harry checks his phone. The tracker on Arryn will get them as close as 30 yards. That’s enough to narrow it down to one or two buildings. The male agent is highly trained so their best shot is to just kill on sight. He didn’t want to take this job because he prefers not to engage with those who are highly trained, but Connington forced his hand.

He shifts uncomfortably in his seat, with his shirt and pants sticking to his sweaty skin. He pokes his head out of the window. To his partner-for-the-day, he says, “You done soon?”

Alyn mutters something dismissive in Valyrian, waving Harry off before flicking cigarette ash at him. And then Alyn mutters, “You Company men, so rush rush rush. So work work work. What is the point of life if you can’t stop and enjoy moments?”

Harry fucking hates this guy.







He comes back with a crusty loaf of bread, sliced cured meat that is leaking out oil due to the hot sun, and a smelly runny, melted wedge of cheese that has glued together the wax paper encasing it. She was right about him. He really does love this stinky shit.

He lays out all of his new stuff on the table, including his new gun, as he swipes a piece of bread through the gooey, warm cheese.

Missandei says, “Holy shit,” referring to the gun. She knows how strict the gun laws are in Valyria. She can only imagine what he has done to procure one.

He says, “Relax,” as he nudges the bread to her, signalling to her that she should eat something. “You act like you haven’t seen one of these before. Did you two have a nice chat while I was gone? So, did she tell you how she killed her husband and why?”







She can’t take this anymore. She pulls him into the bathroom, flicks on the overhead fan, and then urgently whispers to him, orienting them so that he still has a good look at Lysa. He has his new gun hanging loosely from one hand raised over his head, braced against the door jamb, as he continues eating a craggly sandwich of meat, cheese, and bread that he has made for himself.

Very quietly, Missandei tells him that Lysa did kill her husband. She was a battered wife. She was desperate. She was worried about her son. She really felt it was her only means to escape the situation she was in. Missy tells him it was a shortsighted plan — that Lysa believed that because she poisoned her husband slowly, that his death would be ruled an accident.

“Hm, interesting,” Grey says thoughtfully, chewing through his food. “Good job getting that information.”

Missandei stares up at him, pushing down the slight embarrassment she feels over his condescending tone, also pushing down the embarrassment she feels, over taking so long to figure out his what his intentions were with every shitty thing he has done today. She understands that he manipulated her the entire day and played her feelings and her empathy because he didn’t trust her with the truth. She understands that he thinks she is a shitty liar, so he just used her as a tool to meet his unspoken goals.

She whispers to him, “We need to hand her over to the local authorities and let the due process play out.”

“Oh no,” Grey says — in his normal voice volume so that Lysa can hear him. “We are not going to let her go.”

“You can’t just interfere with due process —”

“We can when the asset is valuable enough,” he interjects, cutting her off. And then he pushes off the door jamb. He walks back into the main room, as Lysa’s wide eyes avidly tracks him and continuously swipes to the gun in his hand. “You’re not just some rich guy’s bored housewife, are you?” he says to Lysa. “That’s funny. You even had me overlooking you for a while there.”







They all know that they do not have enough information to make a decision on this — whether or not to divert resources, whether or not to open the organization up to really fraught tensions with Valyria, whether or not this is as urgent as the SOS message that Grey sent five hours ago led them to initially believe.  

Bronn is a strict no because he thinks Grey is fucking nuts, and he doesn’t see much point in risking more lives in the course of listening to an insane man say insane things.

Drogo is a strict yes because he doesn’t think Grey is fucking nuts at all. He used to be Grey’s partner. He used to work and live and breathe the same air as Grey twenty-four-seven. He used to watch that guy painstakingly prepare and deeply consider all of his moves before he makes them.

Everyone else thinks that Drogo’s judgement is completely colored by his personal feelings for Grey. Everyone else thinks that Drogo has exhibited a lot of leeway-giving, when it comes to Grey. None of them say this out loud to Drogo.

The rest of them sway back and forth between the extremes of Bronn and Drogo. Grey could be just fucking losing his mind in Valyria. Or they risk losing years worth of work and labor because they are hesitating.

So Tyrion does what he does best. He proposes a middle-ground solution that is not actually a solution at all — but more a means to buy more time. He suggests, “We should talk to Missandei. It seems that the concern is clear here — we don’t know whether or not to trust Grey’s judgement, as it has been inconsistent as of late. We are not there on the ground with them to know if what he is saying is right. But Missandei is. Why not ask her?”

“Oh, great,” Bronn grumbles. “Sure. Let’s ask the president of Torgo’s fan club to give us her two cents on whether that fucker is batshit.” He looks to Drogo. “I hope you’re happy.”

Drogo frowns. And then he calmly says, “Fuck you. You’re an asshole.”  







Missandei refuses to let this go — she reaches out and grabs his wrist and tugs on it, to get his attention. He gently removes his hand from her grasp and he thinks about all of the fucking mistakes he has made, that has resulted in them being here, doing this. A subordinate officer is trained to not overstep like this. She already voiced her concerns to him. He has heard what she thinks. He does not agree with her. His experience and his sense for this supersedes hers. So they must move forward with what he thinks is best. He has already called it in. They are already waiting for word from headquarters, authorizing them to move Arryn. He already collected the information he needs for assessment, with her help, to arrive at this conclusion.

They do not have time to fucking have an entire discussion about this where he leads her from point to point like she is a child on her first day on the job. She has been doing this shit for years now and she should just know by now. They do not even have the fucking luxury of having an entire conversation about this in front of the asset.

This is why they are not supposed to sleep with one another. She thinks that their personal relationship is a good enough reason for her to constantly challenge his authority.

One of the phones ring in his pocket — a near-silent buzz. He temporarily puts his sandwich down directly on the grimy-looking tabletop, as he picks out her device. And then after answering it with a, “Hello,” and a pause — he holds out the phone to her.

And with blank eyes, he says, “It’s for you.”







Harry hangs back near the door as Alyn smoothly leans against the front desk counter and talks to the clerk in Valyrian. Connington had mocked him when he expressed that he would do this job on his own — no need to split the fee for something so straightforward. Connington had asked him if he’s even ever stepped foot in Valyria.

It certainly makes sense now. He doesn’t look Valyrian at all. He doesn’t speak Valyrian. The people all look at him with either mildly curiosity or mild aversion.

“Has not seen any dark-skinned persons traveling with a white woman,” Alyn reports back to Harry, after leaving the counter. “But suggested the next motel over. Apparently run by foreigners. They are all unscrupulous cheats, you know. This is why we need stricter immigration laws.”







She walks into the bathroom, turns on the fan, and shuts the door to get absolute privacy — mostly from Lysa.

When she gets on the phone, Tyrion immediately tells her that she is on speakerphone. He tells her that she is also talking to Daenerys, Barristan, Bronn, Arya, and Drogo. His voice then lilts up a little bit, and with a touch of grim humor, he asks, “How is it going over there?”

She resists sighing. She just tries to match his tone. She says, “Oh, you know . . . really good.” She is still a real dork that is terrible at comebacks, especially in tense situations.

Nevertheless, Tyrion politely chuckles. And then he gets right to it. He says, “We know you don’t have a lot of time. Grey wants authorization and support, to transport Lysa Arryn to King’s Landing because he thinks she is a worthy asset to the operation. Doing so would cost us considerably, in manpower, financially, and politically. We want to make the right decision here — we want to be able to support you two — but we are concerned. How is he?”

She starts at that. Because this is strange. She clarifies — she asks, “My partner?”

“Yes. Him,” Tyrion says. “He has been . . . a bit erratic since coming back to work. We want to support him — of course we do — but we also have a responsibility to all of the men and women who would be affected by the decisions we make today — including you, Missandei. And you are currently closest to him. Do you think that he is . . . compromised?”







Alyn behaves in a different way, with the foreign motel manager. Alyn holds a gun right to the man’s forehead and then watches as the man starts to cry and sputter out spit, as he starts to promise Alyn the entire world — mostly money, all the money he has.

Alyn asks about two dark-skinned foreigners and a white woman — have they been spotted here?

The manager sobs and continues begging for his life, as Alyn hits the man in the forehead with the barrel of the gun. He repeats his question. He tells the man that he doesn’t care about the man’s family.

The man gasps out that he hasn’t see two foreigners with a white woman. There was just — there was just one woman, with dark skin. She speaks Asshai’i. She has curly hair.

He raises his shaky hand up in the air, hoving it over his face. He tells Alyn she is about that tall.

Alyn asks which room she is staying in.

He tells Alyn that she is in room 2D.

And then Alyn laughs loudly and tells the man thank you — as he lifts his gun from the man’s face. It would actually be too loud to shoot the man. It would give the agents warning.

So he pulls out a knife handle from his pants pocket and flicks the blade open before he slowly slides it into the man’s stomach.

Alyn says, “Shh,” as he presses his hand over the man’s mouth and looks into his shocked eyes. Alyn tells the man that it does not matter if there is one less pig in the world. The man doesn’t scream as he dies — just cries — but one never knows how people will react to being killed.

Harry watches this from the doorway, frowning. He thinks, again, that the Valyrian is just sloppy.

Outside of the lobby door, Harry looks at Alyn. He quietly says, “I think we have about fifteen minutes at most, before someone finds his body and calls the police.” He is annoyed and displeased over this, over how this job was just pointlessly made difficult because his partner is a fucking psychopath. “Remember, shoot to kill on-sight,” he says, to Alyn’s smiling face. “Nothing fancy. Just kill them. Got it?”

“Yeah, yeah,” Alyn says, already walking away from Harry. “Who do you think you are? The boss of me?” Alyn actually doesn’t understand why he couldn’t have just done this job on his own, why he had to be paired with a slow, not-handsome old man who doesn’t look like he exercises enough.







Missandei’s heart throbs steadily in her chest, burning, as she wades through long silences — as she takes the time to think — as everyone on the other end patiently waits for her to process through what is asked of her.

She thinks about how his voice sounded in her head, right before he pulled his arm back and slammed his hand in her face. She thinks that he always has such great reasons for every bizarre thing that he does. She wishes that she had known him better before that terrible thing that happened to him, because then she could compare the two versions of him and track the consistency or the inconsistency.

She thinks about the bleak lessons he keeps trying to impart on her — that people don’t change and that people aren’t actually as good as they would like to believe — that people are often motivated by their own self-interests.

She thinks to the long hours she has spent in massage parlors with him, and how it was during those long hours, that her feelings for him just kept growing and growing.

She also keeps thinking to sex. She keeps thinking about his face — his eyes — his stare — the way he touches her. And also the way he tied her down and then pushed her out after they were done. She keeps telling herself that she cannot use this information in her decision-making. She can’t use how they have sex as a reason to not trust him right now. It is not fair — it is not fair.

She also keeps going back to the fact that a woman’s life is on the line right now — and she can’t take that lightly. She also keeps thinking about her own failures — her inability to do certain aspects of her job well enough, forcing him to always compensate for her because he cares about her. Missandei also thinks about how Yiantha is pregnant and in jail right now, because she kept going back to a man she loved, but who was clearly no good for her.  

God, she needs to separate her personal relationship with him from this.

“Missandei?”

And it’s Daenerys’ voice. So Missy also remembers how Dany told her to not to mess with him. Because nothing good would come from it.

Missandei realizes that she is likely killing her personal relationship with him on the spot, right now, as she says, “I think he’s compromised. I have been worried about his judgement.”







When she exits out the bathroom — slowly and sluggishly — he already knows what she has told them. His heart seizes and clenches over it — because he honestly did not expect this outcome. He actually thought that she knew him — like, he kind of thought that she knew him better than this.

He also thought that she was the one of the few people who believed that he isn’t crazy.

“We have to turn her over to the local authorities,” she quietly tells him. “Those are the new directives.”







Harry has his gun up, locked and loaded, as he quietly walks up to 2D, as Alyn silently follows behind him.  

He signals for Alyn to crouch down to cover him. The door is probably locked. They have to kick the door in. The agents will probably be disoriented for a second. He has that second to spot them and kill them. He will kill the man first because the man is the greater threat.

Alyn doesn’t fall into position. Alyn actually aims his gun at the glass window, pointing downward toward the floor, and then unloads several rounds into it, watching the holes in the glass build, watching the glass crack.

Then he shatters the window with his elbow.

They can hear screaming from inside — female. They can also hear shouting from the adjacent motel rooms.

Alyn grins at Harry as he reaches in through a hole that he made and quickly unlocks the door.  








Chapter Text





 

Her eyes squeeze shut and her hands automatically grab onto his body, to the sides of his ribcage, as he pushes her down to the ground and encircles her head in the cushion of his arm so that she doesn’t bang it into anything in the course of falling. Her body jolts in surprise at the successive explosions — and before she realizes it’s a gun firing, she thinks that it might be a bomb and that she’s about to die now — and so her arms end up holding him to her tightly, squeezing his body, trying to keep the two of them together — as he quickly and, with such strength, pries her off of him.

She tries to hold onto him — but he forces her to let him go. He firmly pushes her off of his body, and he slides her body forward behind the bed and wedged in between the frame and the wall. Her legs burn against the rough carpet as she slides.

“Stay down,” he says quickly. “Cut her legs free. First opening — run to the car.”

All she can do is get a nod in — even as she fights to comprehend what he even means.

And then, in this short bit of calm, he slides his gun to her, across the short distance between them. It’s hard to. With another partner, he’d play the odds and he’d keep the gun for himself because he can stand to do more work with it. With Drogo, he would probably keep the gun. But he is letting how he feels about her influence his decision-making right now. He’s probably going to die in a second. But he gives her the gun because he would rather she be armed running to the car. He rationalizes to himself that she really does need it more than he does.

Her hand comes down on the warm gun. She accidentally says his real name in the confusion of it all. She doesn’t understand why he is giving her the only gun either.

She says, “Grey —”

Then he’s moving.

He has to move fast because if he waits any longer, he is going to be dead sooner rather than later — and then she is dead along with him, too. His mind has already figured out that one of them needs to live so that all of this wasn’t for nothing, that all of the sacrifices that have been made aren’t for nothing.

His priorities are currently to distract in order to stave off her death.

He swipes up the steak knife that is still on the ground — and also the hammer in the beach bag lying at the foot of the bed. He stays crouched so there’s less chance of him getting hit by a bullet — and then he waits and watches as the knob twists and metal rustles — he watches as the door mundanely opens a crack and a slice of pure white sunlight temporarily blanks out the room.






Missandei is frantically undoing the knot tying Lysa to the bed before she gets to work on Lysa’s feet. Every cell is her body is on high alert — her heart and her mind is screaming out — screaming out that she is about to die — they are just all fucking dead now. She self-indulgently thinks that she had no fucking time to warn her dad about this.

But a deep part, deep inside her, dwelling on the edge of her subconscious and consciousness — already knows that he already knows that this is always a possibility. A part of her knows that he has already been preparing himself for this — and this is why he is always so sad — this is why she always makes him so sad.

She is struggling with the knot. She is temporarily handicapped, with the gun knocking against the headboard and Lysa’s wrist, before she lays it down on the bed because she realizes that she is panicking and that her body and brain are getting slammed with adrenaline. She makes shitty decisions sometimes when she experiences a high amount of stress. She has been trying to train this out of herself. She thought she’d have more time to get better at this.

She sucks in a breath and pauses — for just a moment — she lets the breath out. And then she goes back to work with slightly less shaky fingers.

The knot finally loosens.






Grey understands that their position is shitty. They are stuck in a room with only one exit out. He understands that the stairwell is slightly left and then straight down to the car. He understands that he fucking definitely should have procured two fucking guns but he fucking thought he was being overly cautious already because he didn’t realize that they are actually fucked like this. He didn’t think that this fucking asshole was going to murder her husband in the middle of what was supposed to be another info-gathering trip. He didn’t think that this fucking bitch was going to mess with Missandei’s mind. He didn’t think Missandei would let her mind get messed with because he thought that she trusted him more than this. He didn’t think that Missandei would turn on him, based on the words of a fucking stranger. He didn’t realize that he’d be so fucking distracted by how fucking butthurt he feels about it — that he is going to just let them all die because all he is ever fucking good at is letting people fucking die because he is so mired in his fucking feelings.  

He has no idea who is on the other side of the door. He understands, however many there are, at least one of them are armed. He understands that his best chance at getting Missandei and Lysa to the car is to counterintuitively get in real close to this fucking asshole.

When the door fully opens, he sees one — male — he also sees a shadow — so two — hiding behind the wall. He hears Lysa’s screaming behind him.

So he throws the hammer at the asshole in the doorway with a gun pointed right at him. He throws the hammer so the asshole has to drop his stance and lift up his arms to block the hammer from slamming into his face.

And Grey runs.

They don’t expect him to run right to them — which is the only grace he has in this because he is severely out-matched in every way. They are armed. He has a knife. They are larger and taller than he is. There are two of them. There is only one of him.

Grey’s running faster than the asshole can get Grey back into the sight of the gun. Once Grey gets past the threshold of the door, he reaches up to blindly grab at the second asshole. He grabs a handful of hair as he shoves his shoulder into chest and his knife into skin.

He pulls out fast and he blindly tries to stab the other one — he’s got the element of surprise on his side for now. He is trying to run them to the railing to clear a path for Missandei.

His head and face whip hard to the side — and his vision blurs and blanks out and goes fuzzy for a moment. He hates close combat. It is pointlessly painful. He starts to lose saliva and bleed from his face. He gets a punch in, a hit into a wall of stomach muscles clenched up — before he gets rammed hard — he stumbles back.

He gets hit again — this time from behind — because they are double-teaming him — and the force of it knocks his body lose, dropping him down to his knees. He also drops his knife.

He looks up into a pale face, haloed by the sun. There is a gun pointed at his face. This is not the first time a gun has been pointed at his face — but it still fucking sucks every single time. He is resigned to dying, every single time it happens, and this is probably why he never ends up crying over it or begging for his life. He is just sad that it’s going to be over. He is sad for his parents and his brother. It will be hard for them to learn that he died and to not be told why and how it happened. He hopes that they don’t have to see his body like this.

He looks into the gun and he tells himself that this is how it’s going to end. It’s not really what he expected when he woke up this morning — with her. He really hopes that she got out, at least.

Behind Grey, Harry is holding onto his stomach, from when Grey punched him. Harry’s rough voice angrily shouts at Alyn. He shouts, “Put him down!”




 

Alyn thinks that Harry doesn’t take enough enjoyment in his work — and what is even the point if there is no enjoyment. Work is something they spend a third of their lives doing. Alyn doesn’t see the point in being such a miserable and pathetic piece of shit all the time.

Alyn knocks the barrel of his gun into Grey’s forehead. A perk of this job that Alyn enjoys is that he enjoys exterminating dirty vermin from the world — he enjoys cleaning.

“You are not very big or strong,” Alyn tells Grey conversationally. He juts his chin to Harry. “He was worried. Now I bet he feels stupid. Look at you.”

Alyn sucks up saliva from the back of his throat and snot — and then he shoots it out of his mouth and into Grey’s face, who doesn’t flinch.

To Grey, Alyn says, “Valar morghulis.”

Grey looks up at Alyn — without feeling. He corrects Alyn. He says, “Valar dohaeris.”

Alyn actually laughs in delight at this — at the phrase and at the accent — because he assumed this fucker was generations-deep Westerosi, to have the job that he has.

Alyn chuckles because this is great. This is a fortuitous turn of events! It is like this is destiny!

He smiles widely and says to Grey, “You’re a slave!” like Grey has just made his entire day. Then he repositions his gun. “Do you want to say goodbye to your false god before you die, pig?”






Missandei has to fight against Lysa’s screaming, thrashing body, as her raw fingertips dig out his knots as fast as she can, as sweat burns her eyes and she starts abstractly counting down the seconds.

Her inexperience makes her neglect to secure Lysa — she doesn’t account for the volatility of responses in high-stress moments like this. She is just blindly following what he told her. Untie Lysa from the bed. Run to the car.

So Missy watches kind of blankly — in the span of a millisecond — as Lysa stands up from the bed with her arms still bound in front of her — as Lysa lets out another visceral scream and a sob — and then runs out the open door

Right to the armed men.

Missy sees Grey kneeling in front of a gun.

And her vision starts to go a little dark.

Lysa is screaming at them. She is viciously screaming, “Help me! Help me! What took you so long!”






Lysa’s screaming — and her surprising continuing state of aliveness — is enough of a distraction for Grey to recover enough to pick up his knife from the ground and drive it into the calf of the Valyrian — who shouts out in pain and then loses his footing. He accidentally drops his gun as he grabs onto the railing.

Missy sees Harry grimly start to hold up his weapon and point right down to Grey.

She doesn’t even think about it.

She automatically raises the gun in her hands and squeezes the trigger hard. The sound is loud.

Lysa gets pulled backwards, by Harry.

Missandei’s hands, wrists, and arms absorb the kick. As her ears ring, she squeezes out one, two, three more rounds — losing sight of everyone, as Grey shoves himself backwards, out of the line of fire, as the Valyrian hits the ground for the same reason, as his partner grabs onto Lysa and starts running with her.






Alyn is still alive — but bleeding out from his leg and also from his torso, from where Grey first stabbed him. For the first time in long seconds, there is a hush over everything — everyone in the building locked down when they heard gunshots.

Alyn is stunned that the tables have turned so quickly — and so quickly out of his favor. He starts unconsciously dragging his body backwards, after he raises himself to his elbows. As Grey slowly follows him forward, Alyn feels the familiar rise of anger and disgust — then he spits blood up at Grey’s body, as Grey steps on his right wrist and keeps it down, the one holding the gun.

Grey has to get in even closer, to pick the gun out of Alyn’s struggling hand. Grey knows that the guy is going to bleed out and pass out, if he doesn’t get to a hospital soon. He also knows that the police must have been called.

“Dirty pig,” Alyn rasps to him, with his teeth stained red.

Then he spits in Grey’s face again.

Alyn snaps, “Don’t you dare touch me!”

Missy watches as Grey silently takes Alyn’s gun, against Alyn’s weak struggling. The blood loss is taking over now.

And then Grey steps off of Alyn’s body and stands up to his full height. He hasn’t been sanctioned to kill at all on this engagement. There are always rare extenuating circumstances that make it necessary though — and Missy wonders if this is one of those times.

But then Grey looks at her real quickly — she’s still in the motel room, standing in the doorway — he’s trying to signal her that they have to go — before he jumps and hikes himself over the railing.

She is like — what the fuck?

They are on the second floor — so he lets go and lets himself fall the somewhat short distance between floors. He stumbles forward uneasily after his feet slam into the asphalt.

With a gun clenched tightly in her hand, Missandei starts running past Alyn, to the stairs.






This motherfucker just won’t die.

This is Harry’s current pain point, as he rushes Lysa by the arm to the car at the end of the lot. He shoves her at the dusty brown sedan and leaves her to figure out what the fuck to do next for herself — as he flips around to the sound of rapid footsteps and tries to take aim with his gun — before he realizes that the footsteps is coming from the female agent, not the male —

The realization comes entirely too late. The front of a car slams into the side of his legs, taking him down to the ground as he grunts in surprise.

He is wedged underneath the car, trying to grasp at his leg with both of his hands. He is trying to climb out against the raspy, hot asphalt as the driver’s side door opens. He thinks that this entire thing is just entirely fucked because of that fucking piece of shit Valyrian. This is so fucked. This so fucked beyond belief. He is so fucked.

“Who do you work for anyway?” Grey asks, squinting against the bright sun, looming, creating a shadow over Harry with a gun pointed at Harry’s head.

Grey realizes Harry is not just going to tell him this information, but it doesn’t hurt to ask, and it doesn’t hurt to give Missandei a second as she walks over to the passenger door of the brown car, finds it locked, and then angrily starts slamming the butt of her gun against the glass, cracking it as Lysa screams inside the car.

Not the most efficient way to do this — but again, she is new at this.






Grey is not sanctioned to kill, so he doesn’t. Killing so publicly would result in a greater political shitstorm than the current magnificent shitstorm they are already in the middle of.

After Missandei bodily rips Lysa out of the brown car, drags her stumbling a short distance, shoves her into the back seat of their rental car — before following in behind Lysa because finally she is following protocol perfectly without any lip — Grey looks down at Harry.

Grey says, “Your leg might be a little broken. The cops are coming. Make good decisions, okay? Don’t be like your partner. He is bleeding out upstairs. You should go help him.”

Grey leans over and picks up Harry’s gun, too, from where it fell out of his grasp in the hit.

Harry stares up at Grey, who walks backwards with a gun still pointed at Harry. Harry watches as Grey easily slides into the driver’s seat of their black sedan.

And then Harry suppresses a scream of pain as Grey reverses off Harry’s leg, tearing his pants.






Missandei first restrains Lysa down with a seatbelt pulled really taut so that it has no give left — because this fucking traitous bitch is the fucking worst — and Missandei ignores Lysa’s crying and wailing as Missandei reaches her hand around the driver’s seat and touches his chest tenderly from behind. She is unconsciously searching for his heartbeat.

Into the headrest — because this is as close to him as she can currently physically get — she mutters, “Are you okay?”

She is just utterly miserable. He is hurt. He almost died. No one is coming to help them. They have nowhere to go. They are stranded here. It is her fault. Because she didn’t trust him, and she told headquarters not to believe him.

“Are you hurt badly?” she whispers, clenching some of his shirt into her hand as she presses her fist and her knuckles hard into his chest, as she presses her own face and body as close to the back of his seat as she can, as she tries to hold the two of them together.

His voice is brusque and businesslike, as he removes her hand from his body with a hand on her wrist, as he responds to her concern for him by saying, “There’s a tracker somewhere on her. Find it.”








Chapter Text








Now that extreme imminent threat-of-death has passed, now that her world isn’t completely centered around not dying — she has lost some of her hyperfocus and her mind has started to drift a little bit.

As her pulse pounds from her body’s lingering fight and flight responses, a little bit of self-loathing breaks through. She understands that they are completely fucked, and it’s all her fucking fault.

No. It’s actually more Lysa’s fault.

They bounce a little in the backseat, as Missandei angrily holds a gun to Lysa’s traitorous head and demands to know where the fucking tracker is. With her free left hand, Missy grabs a fistful of Lysa’s night shirt and starts to yank at it, trying to ineffectively rip it up into pieces, as Lysa tries to fight her off with her hands tied. Missy thinks that maybe the tracker is sewn into the fabric. Maybe the tracker is in the nightshirt. This woman isn’t wearing a bra. Maybe it is in her underwear. Maybe she swallowed it, and it’s in her body. Maybe she shoved it up her vagina. Maybe she put it up her ass.

Missy is looking around the backseat for a makeshift blade that she can use to cut this tracker out of his woman’s fucking ass when Grey’s voice plainly cuts into her unproductive anger and her extreme guilt from the front seat. He says, “It’s in her wedding ring.”

Missy lowers and holds the gun against Lysa’s ribcage as she looks down and rips off the woman’s wedding ring. She flips it over in her palm

“Yeah, that’s a bug,” she says, looking at the underside of it.







Fuck the Valyrian.

This is all Harry can coherently string together in his mind as he crawls on his arms and elbows, pushing his body weight along with his good leg and foot, laboriously dragging himself back to the car.

The Company may be notorious for never breaking a contract, but Harry can see the return on investment on this engagement funneling down to fucking nothing by the second. He understands that this was what Connington wanted — to oust Harry from power by putting him on an impossible job with an unstable nut.

As Harry pulls himself up and into the car with a grunt, he puts a slight amount of weight onto his left foot and then immediately crumples back down the hot ground in pain. That is it. He’s fucked. It is fucking over.

He hears sirens in the distance.







By the time local law enforcement officers swarm the motel in great numbers, they have already been to the Arryn residence and they have already found the grisly dead bodies with slashed throats of the two household staff members and Jon Arryn. The mutilation of Jon Arryn’s body by Alyn, who was following orders, was designed to temporarily confuse the police.

It has the desired effect. The police have doubled their numbers to try and fruitlessly mitigate the outcry from citizens. Word has already spread on social media that there is a serial killer on the loose.

They find another dead man, an Asshai’i foreigner, in a hotel lobby. They find bullet holes, eye witnesses, and the bleeding unconscious body of a Valyrian man — late 20s to early 30s — lying next to a bloody serrated knife.






As their car slows to a stop at a light, he rolls down the back window and has her throw Lysa’s ring into the bed of an adjacent truck. Then he rolls up the window again and, for a freak moment, considers turning the child locks on so the both of them cannot cause him any more fucking trouble — before he realizes that in the event of another shitshow, Missandei cannot be trapped in the back of a car.

When the light turns green, he gradually speeds up again. He stares resolutely ahead. He’s been driving for fifteen minutes now. His darker skin kind of hides the dried, sticky blood and snot splatter on his face from the many times the fucking Valyrian spat at him, but he still feels dirty and demeaned, and he still feels disgusted with himself and with what he has allowed to happen to them all.

Grey’s hand still digs around in the dashboard for the leftover napkins that he shoved in there from their coffee stop the day before. His hands waver and shake a little — he is getting a little lightheaded too — as he uncaps a warm bottle of water and tries to drip a little onto the napkin.

“Let me help you,” she gently says to him, blindly reaching around from the back seat.

He doesn’t know how she’s supposed to watch fucking Lysa Arryn while she is playing nursemaid to his bleeding ass. So he snaps at her fucking ongoing terrible decision-making. He barks, “Pay attention to what you’re actually supposed to be doing!” as he spills more water than he wants to.

Missy purses her lips together tightly, sucking up whatever apology was tempted to slip out. She wants to tell him she is so very fucking sorry. She knows he does not currently want to hear it.

Grey takes the sopping brown napkin from the console and wipes his face with it, dripping pink water down to his navy shirt.

He gets a peek at himself and then her through the rearview mirror — his face is swelling up in places from when it was beaten in — and he finds that she is already staring back at him.

His adrenaline is subsiding. His pain receptors are working again. His stomach is throbbing sharpness, making him grit his teeth together hard with each bump and turn of the road. He experimentally touches the source of the pain, over his torn shirt. It is sticky and damp. He is bleeding out of a wound — a long, burning streak on his stomach. He was clipped by one of the bullets — likely even one of hers from when she was shooting. Which is great because he’s gonna have to deal with her fucking feelings on this later. He is lucky that he was not positioned another inch forward or else he’d be dead already, and she’d have to live with that for the rest of her life.

He is just bleeding slightly faster than he can clot. He feels okay for now. He is going to need to stop to tend to this or else he’s going to lose too much blood and lose consciousness.

He sucks down water from the warm open container.

He follows protocol — he has to continue forcing himself to trust her for the remainder of this engagement because she is still his partner. He releases a pain-filled groan as his hands tighten around the steering wheel. He says, “Okay, don’t freak out. But I was shot. I’m bleeding too much.”







She is lightly holding Callie’s soft, small body in her arms, with the back of Callie’s sweet-smelling curly head pressed against her lips — as she points out a new sprout — these tiny, chubby pair of leaves that pop out bright green against the dark, damp soil. She kisses her daughter’s head and quietly tells her daughter that they are looking at a baby flower.

Callie says, “Mommy, that’s not flower.”

“It’s going to be, sweetie,” she says. “It’s going to grow big one day like you, baby,” She mimes petals with her hands. “Like this.”

When Quaithe hears the telltale sound of crunching gravel underneath the spinning wheels of a slow-moving car — when she sees a shadow float behind the slats of her fencing — she stands up and picks up Callie in her arms. She hugs the girl to her body as her daughter’s arms come around her neck.

She runs into the house. She drops Callie at the foot of the stairs. She turns her daughter and pats her on the bottom. She says, “Go play upstairs in your room like we practiced. Turn the lock on your door. Don’t come down. Remember, only Mommy can come and get you.”

Callie hesitates. She says, “Mommy —”

“Do it now, please.”

Callie’s large brown eyes stares back at her — and Quaithe tries to soften the sting of her words. She gives her daughter an encouraging smile — and her gaze follows her daughter’s small back and her bouncy curls as Callie runs up the stairs to her bedroom closet.  

And before she forgets, she calls up, “I love you, Callie,” because — just in case.

Then, Quaithe’s heart is pounding a little hard as she goes to the closet, reaches up high to the top shelf that Callie doesn’t have access to for now, and she pulls out Heckler & Koch G36. She palms around for the clip, finds it, and then she loads a 30 magazine into it with a click.

She grips the rifle in her hands as she retraces her steps back out into her yard, her feet stepping into shoes on her patio.

She can see the car through the gaps in her fence.

She raises the rifle to her shoulder. She secures it. She looks through the sight.

And then in Valyrian, she calls out — she tells them that this is private property and they are not welcomed here. She also them that she has a gun, and she will defend her home. She tells them to state their fucking business before making another move.

A deep, male voice responds. He says, “Skoros morghot vestri?”

Quaithe exhales. She relaxes her stance a little bit. In response, she says, “Tubī daor.”

And then she says, “Fuck.”







When she opens the back fence door for him, she can tell that he is not okay, and he is also not alone. She can see that he parked the car backwards — which was what put her on high alert in the first place — she knows that he means to hide the plate. She knows that he must be in a lot of trouble to be here.

She can see that he is very hurt right away — his face, his body, all of the blood stains —

And yet she still finds it within herself to be just pissed at him.

He weakly jokes with her as his hand holds back the bleed coming from his stomach. He is standing alone because he thinks that she would be more receptive if he approached her alone and not with a screaming white woman. His breathing is labored as he tells her that he brought her back her gun. Plus two more. He has procured some presents for her.

“You know where I live,” she states. She does not like that he kept tabs on her at all.

“I’m sorry,” he says, actually looking regretful. “I didn’t want — I didn’t want to bring this to your door — but I —”

“I have a child now,” she tells him. “And you brought this to my door.”

His eyes go a little glassy at that. He softly says, “I know. I’m sorry. I currently have no other options.” He swallows — with effort — and he’s blinking against the hot sun as he sways on his feet. And then he says, “I’m so sorry. I have no one else.”







Missandei knows that there is a dark spot soaked with blood, in the cushion of the front seat — between his legs, where he was sitting.

Her eyes are dry and her skin is sweating — as she stares out the window and tries to somehow pick out what is happening right now and if he is okay.

Grey left them in the car and told them to stay and say nothing. She had wanted to call out to him and ask him to slow down and to explain to her what is going on so that she can help him — but she refrained from doing that. In case her fucking idiocy continues being the thing that ends up finishing him off and killing him.

Lysa jolts with a squeak when a knock against her window startles her. She and Missandei look over and see a woman, face and head covered, holding an assault rifle, staring back at them. The woman’s eyes don’t look happy to see them whatsoever.

Outside the car, Quaithe refocuses to the street with her rifle held down low. She knocks on the window of the car again. She says, “Get out. Follow me into the house.”

Missandei understands they have no choice but to comply. Grey left them to this, and this woman has a serious gun. Missandei quickly grabs her own handgun and secures her phone in her back pocket before she unlocks her door and gingerly eases herself out. She has to walk around the back of the car, getting lightly scratched by brush, as she meets Grey’s . . . friend on the other side.

This fact is confirmed to her from the way the other woman doesn’t shoot her dead on the spot, from the way the other woman is letting her keep her weapon.

Missy doesn’t know how to hold her gun right now — she doesn’t know how to approach this woman holding an assault rifle in a friendly and non-threatening way while also holding a death-inducing weapon of her own. They actually don’t have a protocol for this sort of thing.

Missandei pops the door open on Lysa’s side wordlessly. She awkwardly conforms around the tip of Quaithe’s rifle as she reaches in and grabs Lysa’s arm and then pulls Lysa from the seat roughly, as Lysa resists because there are just a lot of guns in her immediate vicinity, and it is freaking her out.

Missy self-consciously gets impatient. Because Grey’s friend probably thinks she’s a fucking moron since she is one. She yanks Lysa to her feet, shoves her forward a little bit. Then she says, “You heard the lady. Move your feet.”







They find Grey sitting at the kitchen table with a little girl, about three or four years old. He is still a bloody, violent-looking mess. She is tiny, pristine, and vulnerable-looking. There is a bowl of dry cereal in between them. She is picking out the green-colored ones because they are the best ones. She is sharing with him.

Quaithe immediately hooks her rifle around her shoulder, right there in the kitchen, and then she steps in front of Grey and she hurriedly picks her daughter up in her arms. She squeezes the little girl.

Then in agitation, she brushes her daughter’s hair with her hand she says, “I told you not to come out. I told you only when I come get you.”

“I needed to potty, Mommy. And then Uncle said he a friend.”

Grey looks at Quaithe, pulling his face slightly like — oops. And then out loud, he also mildly says, “She just believed me. She’s entirely too trusting. You need to teach her better.”







Her rifle and daughter disappear along with her, as they hear Quaithe’s rapid footsteps running up the stairs.

Missy doesn’t even have the time to be awkward with him — she is busy tying Lysa to a chair, with twine that she finds in one of the kitchen drawers.

Quaithe comes back downstairs with her daughter still in her arms and a bag over her shoulder — too fast to have been just packed, so she must have one at the ready for these situations — and also with an aluminum tin box — a first aid kit. Her phone squished to her ear and held there by her shoulder. In Asshai’i — because most non-Assahai’i people don’t understand or speak the language — Missandei overhears Quaithe tell the person on the phone that she is in the middle of an emergency, and that she needs for them to watch Callie. Quaithe tells the person it is urgent and she wouldn’t ask if she weren’t in dire straits. She tells the other person that Callie is currently unsafe with her.

Missy’s body and face constricts lightly at that — and both Quaithe and Grey pick out her sudden tenseness.

Still on the phone, Quaithe snaps the tin open and then slides it closer to Grey, who — of all things — picks out a tiny vial from underneath the organized gauze and bandages, and breaks the cap off, revealing a short needle.

He stands up.

Missy says, “Let me help you —”

Right as he lifts up a corner of his tattered shirt, pinches some skin at his hip near his wound, and stabs himself with it. He recaps and drops the spent needle back down the table in a neat bundle, in its wrappers.

He turns his body a little bit away from Callie’s curious eyes — orienting straight at Missandei and Lysa, and then he lifts up his sticky shirt a little bit more. Dried, clotted blood has glued bits of his shirt to his stomach. He tests out how bad it is by separating the shirt from his skin, from the wound. He lefts out a soft grunt as he looks down at the sight of his messy, blood covered flesh wound — okay, it fucking hurts pretty badly. It fucking looks like a real mess.

Even Lysa goes, “Oh.”

Missandei just wants to strangle this bitch dead already.

She walks forward, toward him with her hands held out.

Her dirty-ass hands.

He doesn’t let her help him because she’s probably just going to infect him with even more germs, what the fuck. He doesn’t even know where her fucking head is at right now.

He is so abstractly angry at everything. At her. At his fucking self. At this stupidity. At his own stupidity. At headquarters. At the fucking organization. At Dany. At Sam for giving him pointless hope in his betterment. At Theon for being smarter than he is and leaving. At his parents for being smart and leaving him. At her for her abandonment of him. At himself because he probably fucking did something to deserve all of this.  

When Missandei tries to pick out some alcohol wipes from the tin, he snaps at her and tells her, “I’ve got it!” and both she and Callie flinch. Missandei momentarily shuts her eyes in response. Callie is not used to sudden loud noises.

His tone softens immensely. And he says, “I’m sorry I scared you, honey.”

It takes Missy a beat to realize that he is talking to the child.

Missandei then watches him pour capfuls of alcohol onto gauze and feels stupid about it — as he takes the bundle and wipes his hands with it. There is so much dirt and so much blood caked onto his hands — and it makes her feel sheepish because she realizes that her hands are probably in a similar state.

She bites down on her bottom lip — in sympathy — as he wets some more gauze with alcohol and then uses his cleaned hands to press it at his wound. He starts cleaning away some of the dried blood so that he can better see what is going on. She realizes that the stupid wipes she pulled out wouldn’t have done anything.

“Call home,” he mutters to her, not lifting his eyes from his body. “Give them an update.”







Quaithe is off the phone now. Callie is on the ground. She was told to stay away from Grey — whether it’s because he is a threat to her or whether she will be traumatized by seeing him like this or whether it’s because Quaithe simply just wants Callie to stay out of his way as he tends to his wound — Missy doesn’t know.  

Quaithe has a pair of latex gloves snapped over her hands and is holding tweezers. The clip naturally got him over his shirt and shoved a bunch of fabric and dirty foreign matter into his body. Bleeding out won’t be his problem later — it will be infection. She kneels in front of him and gets in really close to his stomach. She starts to clean out his wound with the tweezers, as he wipes off dirt, as he hisses in pain but stays still.

Lightly and quietly, Quaithe says, “You know what this reminds me of?”

Missandei sees the corner of his mouth quirk in the briefest of smiles. And then she hears him mutter, “Shut up.”

Before Missandei ducks into the next room for privacy, she hears Quaithe say to him, “You need to be on a course of antibiotics.”







Drogo is tiredly and stiffly in the middle of other paperwork as he waits to hear back from the embassy in Valyria, when he gets notified that Missandei’s line rung in.

Everyone in the office is tense and on guard, as they all quickly siphon back into the conference room.

They haven’t heard from Grey or Missandei in over an hour.

“What is going on over there?” Barristan asks, after the line connects.

The first thing she tells them is that she was wrong — they do need an extraction with Arryn right away. She tells them that there are other field agents or mercenaries in play and there was an altercation at their previous location. She tells them that everyone is alive but Grey was shot and he needs medical attention. She repeats that they need extraction, medical care for Grey, and a security detail for Arryn right away.







He feels marginally better because of the morphine, as he rubs antibiotic ointment directly into his wound. He knows that the painkiller is just masking his situation. He knows that he needs medical attention and antibiotics — or else he is fucked. He knows he doesn’t have a whole lot of time.

He looks up and sees Quaithe holding her daughter in her arms. Her face is covered again. The loose, soft-looking bag is over her shoulder.

In Valyrian, she tells him she will be back in about an hour.

In Valyrian, he tells her again that he’s so sorry.

Before Quaithe leaves her house, after she bundles her daughter in her car, she takes a blue tarp and she throws it over Grey’s rental car.







They are all still on the line with Missandei, when Jojen gets them on another line — and it’s an emergency because he wouldn’t interrupt this meeting if it weren’t — and grimly tells them that they need to look at the screen that he is pushing through. This was flagged.

It’s the local Valryian TV news. They have a composite drawing of Grey. They list out his physical descriptions — his race, his gender, his height, his build, the clothes he is wearing — along with the fact that he is a foreign national. They state that he is a person of interest in multiple killings that have occurred in the last day. Five people are dead. A number of foreign nationals have died — the names are being withheld until next of kin can be contacted. One Valyrian is in the hospital being treated for life-threatening injuries. The news states that he has abducted one, maybe two women.

The news states that authorities are saying that Grey is at large, and he is very dangerous so he should not be engaged with. They advise that all citizens stay in their homes until further notice. They urge anyone with any information about this person of interest call their hotline.

“Fuck,” Bronn breathes out. “We have to get them out.”

“Get the ambassador on the line,” Dany says, directing her order to Jojen. And then she adds, “And get his face down.”

“I will start scrubbing,” Jojen tells them. He doesn’t need to tell them that it’s a near-impossible task, with how information spreads these days. He says, “I’ve called in extra staff to come in.”

“I’ll contact the Valyrian news stations,” Tyrion says — he also doesn’t think it’s going to do much good at all. He doesn’t think they will comply with what he asks of them at all.







When she walks back into the kitchen, he humorlessly asks her, “How bad is it?”

Instead of lightly joking with him and asking him if that’s actually supposed to be her line, she just silently walks over. She shows him her phone screen and lets him scan the news.

After a few seconds, he plainly says, “Okay.”

So it is worse than what he was thinking. He realizes that he is constantly fucking underestimating everything today. He realizes that he is just fucking up royally today, repeatedly.

“Are you all right?” she asks him softly, cupping his cheek with her palm, as Lysa watches them — but fuck Lysa.

Missandei wants to tell him she’s so fucking sorry. She wants to promise him that she will never fucking doubt him ever again. She wants to make him understand that she will do every fucking thing he ever asks of her from here on out, if it just fucking means that he makes it out of this okay.

He goes stiff underneath her touch.

He doesn’t want to drug himself out with too much morphine.

He takes her hand off his face.

He is thinking that this is just beyond fucked up. He knows that the entire city is locking down now — because the government has to manage the hysteria of its people. There is no way any other officer can get into the country without getting walked in. He realizes that every flight out will be scrutinized heavily. He realizes that it’s going to be next to impossible now to get extracted secretly. It is too late. The door has closed on that option. They are now assets stuck in a foreign land, and they will be discussed and information may be weighed and traded. Sacrifices might have to be made. This is also not the first fucking time he has gone through something like this.

He says to her, “No. I’m not okay. We are not okay.”







Raella is on break and eating from a styrofoam bowl of cup o’ noodles with the TV droning on in the corner break room. When the drawing of his face flashes across the screen — when the news anchor states that he is armed and extremely dangerous — Raella remembers the handsome man and his beautiful wife who picked up a car from her the other day. She remembers them clearly because she never usually sees people like them dressed the way they were in these parts.

She makes a grab for a pen and one of the car rental place's pamphlets. She writes down the number of the hotline.








 

Chapter Text



 

They have to wait for the next series of directives — or for more information. He supposes that headquarters is probably bitching him out for making a real mess of this shit — for not just letting Lysa’s ass go and letting his and Missandei’s asses get murdered so that there isn’t a fucking entire city shutdown because of his desperate desire to preserve life.

He has nothing left to do or to say — not to Lysa at least. He already knows that she’s a piece of shit liar who killed her husband for her own self-interests. He already knows that she is working with the fucking assholes that tried to put bullets in him and Missandei. It has been confirmed. Multiple times over. Like, there is no fucking ambiguity left here, on Lysa’s loyalties and her intentions — so he has nothing left to say to this fucking asshole anymore.

He just sits at Quaithe’s kitchen table and glares at her. Because he just wants to look into the face of the fucking asshole who has stolen his entire life away.

A deep and dark and quiet part of him unwillingly remembers that he did this exact same thing with Bolton. He remembers sitting and staring at Bolton and committing that fucker’s face to his memory because he wanted to die with that kind of hate imprinted in his fucking brain forever.

“You have to understand,” Lysa finally says — pulling in some calm in the long stretches of quiet that she is finally being afforded. “I did it for my son.”

“Shut up!” Missandei snaps, overreacting, still trying to process the fact that she actually believed this fucking liar over her partner. “Or I’m going to fucking kill you.”

Grey says nothing. Because it does not matter anymore. Nothing that happened in the past matters at all. They just have to wait now.



 

The ambassador in Valyria is pissed because he did not know about the operation at all. Dany doesn’t really think that it’s in his purview to know about all operations in Valyria, but she does not voice this opinion at this time.

He tells Dany that this is a huge embarrassment, and they have essentially just pulled down their pants and shown their asses to the rest of the world. He demands to know how this happened.  

Over the line, Dany mildly says, “We had incomplete information,” because it is the truth.

And then before he can continue huffing and puffing out his displeasure, she sneaks in her request. She says, “We need to push through our officers’ employment paperwork and get it on the embassy books as soon as possible.”

In response to this, he accurately states, “You want to secure them diplomatic immunity.”

“Yes.”




 

Drogo is immediately in her face the moment she opens the door to her office. He is immediately flaring his nostrils and acting like it fucking helps anyone. He stands up to his full height and tries to physically intimidate her in that bullshit way that he does. He says, “Well?”

“We wait,” she tells him — as if he doesn’t already know how this shit fucking works.

“We wait while they die?” Drogo pushes at her. “Grey got shot.”

She fucking knows. Facts are facts. Facts don’t fucking change facts. She can’t make anything move any fucking faster. An anonymous officer getting shot overseas during an engagement does not matter that much politically to their ambassador, and it matters not at all to the Valyrian government. The Valyrian government is going to find out soon, that Grey and Missandei are theirs , and then there will be a lot of discussion and bullshit about how they are conducting covert operations within Valyrian borders when there was an agreement for them to actually reduce their numbers.

They are going to want someone to take responsibility for this. They will want to see culpability. They will want to put a face to the killings that have instilled terror in the people. Dany knows the land and the people intimately well. She is sure that the tensions in that country will snap soon — probably violently. There are already decades worth of ongoing issues with the perceived displacement of Old Valyria by foreigners. Seeing a foreigner on the news, supposedly responsible for killing so many people — it is not good at all.

The fucking fact is that they are only at the start of this shit storm. Drogo throwing his pathetic weight around does not change that. Being reminded that she is about to fail Grey, again, does not change that.

“We have to wait,” she calmly tells him.

He looks utterly disgusted with her. Because he thinks she is heartless and that all she knows how to do is cover her own fucking Valyrian ass as the people underneath her die and sacrifice their bodies.

Drogo wants to know how many fucking times Grey has to bleed for her. Is she not going to be happy until he dies?

“This is the same old shit all over again,” he says to her, trying to control his voice. And then he yells — and practically everyone on the floor can hear him. He shouts, “This is the exact same shit as Bolton — all over again! They are trapped there! He is dying! Give a fucking shit, Daenerys! Even if you don’t give one fuck about Grey, remember that Missandei is there, too!

She doesn’t say anything in response to this. Because she doesn’t have the luxury of feeling terrible about it.

Tyrion breaks in anyway. Tyrion clears his throat as he walks up to them. He says, “We’re waiting for you. Time to hop on the line.”



 

All he fucking wants to do is sit and wait as infection grows inside of him, as he points a gun at fucking Lysa, so he finds it really annoying that headquarters is pulling him away from the thing that he currently wants to do the most.

Missandei lets him stay sitting — but he has to do it in the other room. She takes a kitchen chair in there for him. She also lets him keep holding his gun. She actually sits in the chair he reluctantly vacates with her gun and replaces him in front of Lysa, so that he can feel somewhat comforted by the fact that there is still a gun in Lysa’s face.

Grey resents that Missandei is being helpful, as he winces around his wound and then listens for the familiar voices of his people — and fucking Dany. They sound falsely cheerful — and its so fucking annoying and stupid because obviously this shit is just fucked.

When Tyrion asks him how he’s feeling, Grey says, “Uh, not great?” He is still kind of sour that they did not listen to him — that they listened to Missandei over him. He doesn’t understand why he’s even on this fucking call, if Missandei can relay all of the fucking shit to them herself.

In Grey’s ear, Drogo says, “We’re trying to get you out, buddy.”

In response to that, Grey grimly says, “I’m pretty sure I’m going to die here.”

In his ear, he can hear Drogo’s voice a little farther away. Drogo is needlessly telling the rest of them that Grey is just joking around.

In response to that, Grey says, “I’m not. I don’t find any of this funny at all.”



 

After the terrible pleasantries are done, Grey recaps the recent events in startlingly clear detail. He understands why he was called to. It’s partly to get this level of detail and clarity, and it’s also to give him back some of his say — some of his control and some of his voice.

The basic psychology of it is offensive to him, that is why he is so cold and so pissed off, as he details everything that happened, from the moment they woke up to this moment — as Jojen presumably records it all down. He is not even self-conscious or weird about it, when he tells them that he and Missandei woke up in bed at around five after eight and talked for a few minutes with each other before they both heard Lysa’s screaming in the master bedroom, down the hall and to the left.

He details the inconsistency in Lysa’s language — how she described her and Jon Arryn’s son as “my son” — and how there was a mirror on the bedside table — how her husband’s body was rolled over onto his back. How the covers were neatly pulled over him. How she had been feeding him drinks the entire day before — how she always handed Grey his own drinks instead of placing cups on the table.

He details that Lysa easily agreed to calling the police and was wrapped up how she was going to explain herself to them. He thought that was very strange. That’s why he made the decision that they had to leave the house right away.

He details that he thought she definitely killed her husband, but he needed to double check his judgement. Missandei was meant to double check his judgement. She did not come to the same conclusion.

He details the motel room. He details the contract killers — he felt something familiar about the procedure of the killers. The non-Valyrian is probably from the Company.

Grey details out how pure fucking luck saved their asses — the Valyrian’s volatility, Lysa running right to their captors, Missandei firing her gun. A stray bullet clipped him.

It’s when Selmy asks him where they are currently hiding out at — that he hesitates.

Because he doesn’t fully trust them anymore. He has already put a target on Quaithe and her daughter’s back by being here. He doesn’t trust that leadership won’t fuck this up. He hasn’t trusted them enough since they left him too long with Bolton.

“We are tracking your phone,” Dany reminds him. “We already know the coordinates. Who is helping you?”

She wants to know if the person helping him is trustworthy. And he thinks it’s fucking rich that Daenerys is so concerned about trustworthiness.

And then he realizes that it’s Missandei she is giving a shit about. He shakes his head slowly, because he is so fucking dumb right now.

“We’ve pulled Sandor,” Arya tells him. “He’s heading that way. He’s about four hours out.”

Grey says, “Why? He won’t be able to get in. He’ll need to be walked in. And no one will walk him in. How’s he gonna walk a known fugitive out of the country?”

And then after a pause — because fucking duh — God, his mind is so slow from blood loss and the drug — Grey says, “Oh. He’s not for us. He’s for Lysa. Because she’s not a fugitive. She’s my victim. Got it.”

“Son,” Selmy says, sighing because he is hearing Grey’s despondency loud and clear. “Please hang in there, okay? We’re coming for you. I promise.”

Grey shakes his head again.  



 

When Quaithe gets back — alone — she finds that Grey is irritatingly pessimistic about the state of his life — and it’s extremely not helpful and it is also self-indulgent. She throws some male clothes that she has procured for him — by buying them — and she tells him to go clean himself in the shower. It will make him feel better.

And then before he can grumble about that, she also tells him, “They know the make and model and the license plate of your car. It’s all over the news. I’ve removed the plates and tossed them for you.”

He says, “Oh, great. And thank you.”

“Go shower. If you’re going to die today, you might as well die clean.”

He points a finger at her. He says, “I’ve missed your honesty.”



 

He takes his gun with him to the bathroom because it makes him feel better, because nothing else about this day should be able to surprise him. He doesn’t bother locking the door because he will need to get out fast if it comes down to it.

He internally screams as he bends over to turn on the faucet.

As the water warms up and runs — he gingerly pulls off his shirt — it has restuck itself to his skin a little bit — amazing. His shirt drops to the floor. And then he woozily pulls off the tape holding his bandage to his body — already bled through — but not as alarming as before. He breathes through the fog in his head. He is realizing that he is more drugged up than he expected to be — that fucking Valyrian morphine. He absently and bitterly thinks to himself that white people just fucking love opioids so fucking much.

She must have sensed that he needs help — or she just wants to burden him with her feelings — because the door cracks open.

He picks up his gun. He leans heavily against the bathroom sink — he loads it — he aims — he waits —

She quietly says, “It’s me,” as her eyes spot the gun. And then in explanation, she says, “Your friend is watching Lysa for us. Don’t worry, there is still a death-weapon pointed at Lysa’s face.”

He breathes out as he lowers his gun.



 

She wants to start crying, now that they are alone and she is free to just feel the oppressive weight of everything. Her hand goes to her mouth as she looks at him — shirtless and with a leaking wound on his stomach. She has figured out that that’s her fault, too. She was the one who shot him, accidentally.

He doesn’t really feel like making her feel better about this. He doesn’t really feel like being the asshole who tells a pretty woman: Hey, it’s okay that you told people I was going crazy and then accidentally shot me to save me. It happens sometimes.

He also doesn’t feel like talking about this. He doesn’t feel like allowing himself to feel things. His world is currently very narrow by necessity. He is not here to be the epicenter of her guilt. He is here to clean the overly cologned stink of some ethnic cleanser wannabe off of his face and body.

“So I’m taking off my pants now,” he announces to her, as his hands to go to his zipper. And it’s pretty much a kiss off. Like, give him some privacy please.

She softly says, “Okay,” as she shuts the door fully behind her. They hear it latch.

With some impatience, he says, “Missandei — you’re supposed to be on the other side of the door.”



 

He is struggling with his slacks because they have stiffened from the dried blood and caked-on dirt. Every time he clenches his stomach muscles in the course of trying to push down his pants, his wound erupts in more leakage and also more pain.

It just looks sad.

She quickly walks up to him and starts helping him pull down his pants. He tries to kind of fight her off because he doesn’t really fucking want her to do this for him, but he is being careful not to actually hit her in a real way.

He is breathing hard, and he is probably a goner because everyone in the entire city knows what he looks like — so he eventually relents and lets her undress him the rest of the way.

He feels her struggling a little bit as she pulls his stiff pants and underwear down his legs. He doesn’t bother making a tension-relieving joke about the state of his fucking body — because it does not even matter anymore — what they used to have and what they used to do with one another.

Her eyes are watery when she stands back up and looks into his face.

It’s the exact kind of look that he has been wanting to avoid, so he tries to walk away from her.

He stumbles forward and reaches out to steady himself, using the glass door of the shower. He leaves a handprint there.

He feels her hands on his ribcage and spine, trying to keep him balanced, trying to help him step into the tub.



 

He doesn’t really expect for her to get into the tub with him — but she does. She quickly undresses herself down to her bare, naked body. Given what happened to them, she is remarkably unmarred — still pretty much perfect-looking.

He makes space for her in the shower, stepping backwards, even as he frowns at her. She is blocking a lot of the spray. She gasps a little bit against the heat of the water. The water running off their bodies is dark and brown.

It’s there — in the flow of water — in the intimate space with him — that she kind of allows herself to break down a little bit. Her hand goes back to covering her mouth — she clamps her palm to her lips tightly — she transparently stares at his bruised and swollen face — and also his damaged body — and she starts to cry.

She cries really hard — so hard that she has to press her hand even harder to her mouth to muffle the sound of it. Her body curls inward on itself a little — her face is pointed to where he was cut.

He doesn’t know what the point of this is. He doesn’t know why he is being made to watch this.



 

She’s crying because she loves him. And she doesn’t know why someone she loves has to be so hurt like this.

It takes her long moments before she can regain her composure, before she can lift her hand off of her mouth again.

He is holding himself up with his forearm braced against the tile wall — he is fairly concerned at how progressively weak is he becoming. He is wondering if it’s the morphine, if it’s the blood loss, if it’s the lack of sleep from the past few days, or if it's that fucking asshole Lysa Arryn who tried to have him and Missandei killed. He has forgotten that he had just one bite of food so far today. He has forgotten that he hasn’t been sleeping well for the better part of an entire year.

“I — don’t think I’m doing good,” he whispers to her. “I feel really weak and tired.” He admits this to her because she’s his partner, and she needs all of the information so that she can make the right decisions. Like — maybe she will have to leave him behind at some point because he will have become too great of a liability to her. Maybe she will have to leave him because he is dead weight that is just sinking her.  Maybe she had to give him a little bit up to leadership, as practice for giving him up completely soon enough.  

Her eyes are red, and she is crying quietly along with the shower, as she reaches up to hold onto his face. She raspily says, “No, you’re fine.” She wipes some of the water from his lashes with her thumbs. Her voice cracks as she repeats it. She softly says, “Look at you, you’re fine. Grey, you’re going to be just fine, babe. Of course you are. Okay? Okay? Don’t talk like that, okay? Don’t give up, okay? Stay with me. We’re gonna get out together.”

God, she’s so fucking delusional. Why is he always the only one whose mental state is in question?

He sucks in a deep breath — he sucks up a little bit of water up his nose, which stings and makes his own eyes water a little bit — and he tells her the truth — because that’s all they have left now.

He whispers her, “I’m not okay.” He whispers out to her something he’s been thinking in secret — that he already knows the outcome of this. He whispers, “I’ve been through this before. I know how this feels. It feels like this. I know what the end feels like. I know how much time I have left. And I’ve thought about this a lot — about what I would have done differently with my people if I had a chance to do it all over again.”

A really, really loud sob accidentally escapes from her mouth — before she squeezes her eyes tightly together and clamps her hand back over her mouth.

She’s crying hard again, so he can’t even be sure she’s even listening all that well right now, but he still works to hold himself up. He still says, “You gotta get outta here, Miss. Through whatever means necessary, okay? No one will hold it against you that much if you didn’t wait for new directives — they can take a while to come down. They are trying to get us into the embassy right now — but you know that there’s no fucking way my ass is going to make it to the embassy. Because my face is everywhere. But you can make it there — without me.”



 

She is completely not listening to him. In fact, she is just saying, “No,” a lot — in a muffled litany behind both of her hands as she continues crying.

He is so tired, that he has to sit down, on the floor of the tub. She tries to blindly grab onto him, but he slips out of her wet grasp. He just doesn’t think he should die in Quaithe’s house, either. It would be very complicated for her — with his body. He should probably get the fuck out of here while he can still sort of move, so that he doesn’t bring his tragic shit down on Quaithe and her daughter because they don’t deserve this.

He tiredly tries to wash himself with the run off that is coming down from her body, as she squats down and hot water hits him right in the face.



 

Her crying shuts down immediately once he starts passing out in the shower. He quietly tells her, “Fuck, it’s happening,” as he fades away.

She actually instinctively shouts out — she shouts, “Help!” as she shuts off the water, as she grasps onto his wet body and holds his head in her hand, lightly slapping his cheek and saying, “Grey, wake up. Baby. Grey, wake up. Grey, wake up. Oh my God. Grey. Grey.”

She hears a pair of running feet, coming up the stairs.

She is holding him to herself, sitting on the floor of the tub nakedly, as the door to the shower slides open, as Quaithe’s alarmed face and tall body looks down at them.

“What happened?”

“He passed out.”

“You sure?” Quaithe asks, reaching down to search for a pulse in his neck. She means — is Missandei sure that he isn’t just dead — and that makes the now-familiar thread of panic start to pound in Missandei’s head and her chest.

“Oh,” Quaithe says, finding a faint heartbeat. “I think his blood pressure is really low.” She sighs. “He really needs to go to the hospital.”

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text



Missandei is on the verge of unproductively breaking down and crying over this, which tells Quaithe many things about Missandei and Torgo Nudho. Certain things have evidently changed in the time that she has been gone from the organization. Also, Missandei is fairly green.

Quaithe authoritatively tells Missandei to get up and to go into the bedroom on the left to grab some clothes — Quaithe tells Missandei to go get dressed — and then go downstairs to check on Lysa.

When Missandei minutely resists this, by tightening her arms around his unconscious head and shoulders, Quaithe tells Missandei that it will all be fine. She will pull his body out of the tub and will let him continue sleeping in the bedroom. He probably passed out because his body knows that he needs to rest it.

Quaithe is talking to Missandei like she is a child.

And it is necessary, because Missandei’s entire face is transparently transmitting the fact that she is losing her entire shit right now.

Missandei starts to say, “Do you mean — is he going to be —”

“You can see him again in five minutes,” Quaithe promises.  





 

Davos keeps early hours, so he is already pretty awake and has been for a while, when he gets an unexpected call and is requested to come into work for a consult.

He knows something big is up when he is told that the meeting is in the big building. Then, he knows it’s pretty bad when he sees the people waiting for him in the conference room.

He says, “Mornin',” as he walks to the nearest empty seat.

“We apologize for interrupting you on your day off,” Cersei Lannister smoothly says. “But we’re in need of your expertise.”

“Of course, ma’am,” Davos says, sitting down, glancing at Daenerys, who is sitting stock-still, with her hands folded together on top of the table. Jon looks utterly miserable.

“One of our officers was seriously injured in an altercation,” Cersei says. “We believe at least one of the agents tracking our officers in Valyria are from the Company.”

“Ah,” Davos says. “I see. That’s unfortunate. Which officer was injured?”

Cersei leans forward to look at the papers in front of her. With a little bit of uncertainty, she says, “Nud-ho Tor-go.”

“It’s Torgo Nudho, actually,” Dany interjects, her voice clipped and her voice tight.

Davos does not like this kind of thick, aggressive tension — especially not from women because it is odd. So to dispel some of his discomfort, he clears his throat and gruffly says, “Ah, yes. Because you say the family name first.” He clears his throat again. “I know him. He’s young but really experienced, has a really good record for the most part. What happened?”





 

As she lifts his naked body and drags him into her bed — she notes that he has been mutilated — many things have changed.

She quickly pulls a sheet over his wet body, to preserve his modesty.

Quaithe thinks through her fairly limited options. She didn’t anticipate that she’d be mired in this today. She needs to cancel her dinner arrangements with her daughter’s father’s mother because Torgo Nudho really needs stronger antibiotics. He also needs fluid replacement pretty urgently. She can either break in somewhere and steal the supplies — but doing so will likely be discovered within the next 12 hours, if not sooner than that. It will mark his geographical location.  

Another option is to call in an immense favor to one of her nursing acquaintances. They would have to trust her enough to give her supplies and medication.

A third option is just let him die. She is not entertaining this option as a realistic one. But it is still an option.





 

The Company never breaks a contract, so Harry expects the absolute worse when he reports in. He expects to be excommunicated.

And he is — in a way. It’s up to him, how he is going to treat his broken leg and how he is going to get back to Braavos.

But Connington tells him that the client has terminated the contract. Connington snears and tells Harry that Harry fucked it up real nicely.

“I thought he really wanted to secure her,” Harry says into his phone, as he sweats in his car and winces around the throbbing pain of his leg.

“Don’t be fucking stupid, Strickland,” Connington says over the line. “Things have changed because you royally fucked this. The cost of going through the Valyrian government is too great. He is cutting her loose.”





 

Quaithe packs a handgun — the one that Torgo Nudho brought back to her — and then tells his partner that she will be back with better supplies — hopefully. She tells the woman to sit tight and try to eat something calorie-dense from inside the fridge. She needs her energy, too.

Missandei is dressed in another woman’s clothes. Her hair is wet and she is scared and she feels alone. She was promised that she could see him again by this point. She is having a hard time managing the stress and the continuing emotional toll of what has happened and what is happening. She is simplistically wary that she cannot trust another woman she barely knows because the first time she did this, Grey ended up shot — by her hand. She doesn’t have him in her sight — she is worried she is being tricked again and she is stuck in this nightmarish house with two liars. She does not care that this woman has a child, too. She has simplistically learned that women with children can be deeply flawed and terrible people, too.

“Where are you going?” Missandei asks Quaithe.

And in High Valyrian, rather matter-of-factly, Quaithe tells Missandei that he is dying upstairs and is in serious need of medical care. The local law enforcement is looking for him. What they really should right now do is give him up so he gets medical care, and also so that a world of pain doesn’t rain down on the rest of them. That is the prudent thing to do.

Quaithe hikes a bag containing her gun and bullets onto her shoulder. She tells Missandei that they are currently not doing the most prudent thing. They are going to attempt the harder thing, in order to try and keep him. She tells Missandei these things in a way to make Missandei understand the utter risk Quaithe is undergoing when she’s been out for years — because he used to be her partner at one point.

Quaithe tells Missandei that she has to trust her, for no other reason than it’s her only option right now. She tells Missandei that if she doesn’t come back within two hours and if he’s still unconscious, then take him to the hospital right away.

“Aren't you people healers?” Lysa asks Quaithe, not needing to understand the Valyrian to understand what is going on. She is saying this with a slight sneer, like she knows their customs are snake oil. “Why don’t you just heal him with your magic?” she asks rhetorically.

“Shut up!” Missandei shouts.





 

After Quaithe leaves the house, Missandei takes a gun and a knife — a bit overkill, but her hands are shaking even though she has crammed some cheese and some mayonnaise into her face — and she pulls Lysa and a kitchen chair upstairs.

In the bedroom, she ties Lysa tightly down to the chair with knots and a technique that he taught her, so the binding stays tight. She wants to keep Lysa in sight so that Lysa doesn’t escape — because otherwise everything they have done today would've been for fucking nothing. She is also determined let Lysa see what the fuck she has done.

After Lysa is squared away, Missandei walks over to him and cups his warm cheek for a moment — noting that he is maybe developing a fever — but relieved that he is warm and breathing and still alive. She lifts the sheet from his body and looks underneath it. She finds that he’s still naked and his body has made the bedding damp. His wound is also leaking, just a little bit, into Quaithe’s sheet.

She takes her gun and knife and quickly runs downstairs to retrieve the first aid kit.

Then, with him still unrelentingly unconscious, with her sitting cross-legged on the mattress, underneath the bedding, she pushes the sheet down to his hips and sets the first aid tin on the bed. She gets to work bandaging him up again.

She runs her hand down his arm and pulls his hand into her lap for comfort, as she tries to read the tiny writing on the morphine injection by holding it up to the light. Maybe he accidentally dosed himself with too much.

“Are you two actually married?” Lysa asks.

“Go fuck yourself,” Missandei shoots back.




 

 

In the course of creatively improvising a temporary solution — honestly not her strongest skill — she remembers that Valyrians love dance music from the many times she has observed how persistently annoying dance music is when she hears it on the streets. She also recalls watching a news story about dance clubs trying to maximize profits through questionable but not illegal practices. She wryly thinks that hers is not the only culture prone to snake oil cures.

The door is locked, naturally. She remembers that Khal Drogo used to be quick to break locks and break windows. She also remembers that Torgo Nudho used to hang back and be noncommittal in their methods sometimes. She remembers that Khal Drogo used to get impatient with how she skirted around buildings. Her desire to stay an undetectable ghost used to be annoying to him.  

She finds that a window was left open, though. One floor up. In the current heatwave, many Valyrians have left windows open for air circulation.

Quaithe starts to climb.





 

After she finishes covering his wound again, Missandei remains upright in bed even though she would rather lay down beside him. She sits upright in bed so she can keep her eyes on Lysa. She sits like this also so she can see the steady rise and fall of his chest, to ensure to herself that he’s still alive. She has his hand still in her lap, squeezing it tightly every now and then, feeling the warmth of his rising body heat. She wonders if he’s still in pain. She hasn’t given him more morphine even though he dosed himself correctly. She is hoping that the pain will wake him back up at some point. And then they’d deal with that together at least.

She has been typing out message updates for headquarters on her phone. They know that Grey has taken a turn for the worse. They know that he is unconscious. She has asked for updated directives in light of this new information. She knows that Jojen’s team is logging her messages because of how their system works. But there is still no word back from headquarters and leadership. While they are aware that he is in dire straits, there has been no response yet.

She remembers the last time this happened. She was a lower level analyst back then, so her clearance keep her looped in on the emergency as it unfolded, but she was not privy to the solution-building. She remembers Dany not sleeping for days. She remembers the beard that Tyrion grew because he never went home. She remembers being obliquely concerned for a man she barely knew, in that abstract way that people with ideologies feel when there is a casualty in the course of fulfilling ideology. She actually remembers being more concerned about her best friend and how Dany was managing the stress of potentially losing an asset that she had a close working relationship with. Missy had known that Dany was fond of him, and Missy remembers thinking that losing him would be really hard on Dany. So for that reason — she had hoped that Grey would make it out okay — at the time.

She remembers trying to figure out who would contact and tell his family members, if he died in the field.

She also remembers self-indulgently crying next to his bedside when they got him back, when he still wasn’t out of the woods. She was less concerned about his family then. She was actually more having a hard time seeing tangible evidence of the work that they do — with what happened to his body. That was the very first time she witnessed a consequence of the work that they do. She was wondering if she was making the right choice, by transferring departments. She was wondering if the same thing would happen to her. She was wondering if her dad would have to sit at her bedside and watch her fight for her life at one point in the future.

She sucks in a long sniff of air and holds it in her burning lungs for a moment, as she picks up her phone again and then, because she is so mad at herself that she might as well fucking tank her career right now, she writes:

So we’re just waiting for him to die now? What do you want me to do with his body after he dies? Do you want me to throw it away like it is trash?





 

They have spent more than half an hour circling the skies because there is an incredible clusterfuck backlog at the airport — because the airport temporarily paused customs and immigration and didn’t receive foreigners into the country for an hour or so, after news of the foreign serial killer broke. This has affected all international flights since. All passengers on international flights have been sitting ducks, either camped out in the airport as they wait their turn with an immigration officer — or stuck in the sky because they are not cleared for landing because there are too many planes trying to land. Some flights have had to divert to other airports. Others have been canceled. Most of the people around him have not been able to keep apprised of the latest news because they’ve been in the air and they haven’t had consistent internet access.

Most of them don’t know that this fucking city is run by overreacting idiots who are calling the clusterfuck at the airport precautionary measures in combating terrorism.

He’s been giving headquarters periodic update, even though they know where he is. He is stuck in the sky. He hasn’t slept in over a day.

The pilot gets on the intercom again and — again — tells them that he doesn’t know when they will be cleared to land. They have enough fuel for another half an hour before they have to divert to another airport. He tells this to them in Valyrian first — and the entire plane groans in unison — before he repeats it all in accented and broken Common Tongue. Sandor’s ears have to fight through the Valyrian muttered chattering around him, to hear the explanation.

Grey is probably dead. This is probably going to be the thing that finally does in Grey. Nevertheless, of course they have to fucking try.

Sandor shuts his eyes and tries to relax his mind and body for a quick nap. He would be better for Grey if he had just a little bit of rest.





 

Drogo sees Missandei’s latest update come in — and the level of how pissed off it is does not even register in him. Because he is already right there, too.

He’s been quietly whispering to Selmy. He’s been trying to figure out what their options even are, even if they weren’t bogged down by leadership and by an ambassador who is too pissed to be very productive with a government that is even more pissed — as their man is just fucking dying. They can’t do a military extraction — that is just fucking crazy and nearly an immeasureable cost of resources that the organization will never sanction. Neither of them have any relationships with the Valyrian government because neither of them are Valyrian. Dany is all they’ve got there, and she is maddenly blase and fucking slow-moving and Drogo just bets that she just wishes Grey would die so that he’d stop being this albatross that hangs around her neck all the time.

“Don’t say that,” Barristan says quietly. “Sometimes people don’t know you are joking.”

“Who says I’m joking?” Drogo asks challengingly.  

“The fact of the matter is — I don’t think there’s anything we can do for him right now,” Barristan says, his face grim. “Have you talked to her yet?”

“Missandei?”

“No.”

“Ah,” Drogo says, in realization. “Not yet. Haven’t been able to connect. I imagine she’s currently got her hands full.”

“Maybe try again in a bit,” Barristan says gently. “It would be good to gather more information.”





 

Her hands are tender and the muscles in her arms are quivering, as she lowers herself the final drop to the floor of the building. She’s out of practice because she didn’t think she’d be doing this kind of work again. She thought her life now was mostly about trying to enroll Callie into the right preschool — a non-Valyrian one. That was her mistake, thinking that she would ever be completely “out.” This became abundantly clear to her the second her phone started silently notifying her that a call with a disguised number is trying to get through to her. She realizes that her so-called liberation from them has been more smoke and mirrors than it has been reality.

She hasn’t picked up because she doesn’t want to listen to their orders anymore. She is also busy.

The light filters through the windows up high and she imagines this place looks more regal through the dark flare of red mood lighting at night. In the daylight, everything is a touch dusty and stained. She walks past the bar with bottles and bottles of premium liquor. She walks across a long dance floor. She finds another, smaller bar in the next room. She sees a winding staircase that go up to a row of sofas. There are velvet ropes sectioning off the couches.

She sees the toilets and smells bleach — this place must get cleaned fairly quickly after the end of each night — or morning. She actually hears the quietly conversation of two voices — in Low Valyrian, so probably immigrants, probably the cleaning women. They are on the second floor, in the toilets.

Quaithe is so fucking relieved when she sees a neat row of IV poles in a small room adjacent to the downstairs toilets. She silently rushes in there and spots the supply cabinet tucked in a corner of the room. She throws as many hydration bags into her purse as it can hold, along with double of everything, just in case: tourniquets, catheters, administration sets. She grabs a fistful of alcohol wipes even though she probably still has more than enough at home.

She quietly leaves out the back door — she assessed the place, so she knows that’s the door that the service people enter through. She cannot turn the deadbolt from the outside, but it’s probable the cleaning women will probably think they accidentally left the doors unlocked today. They might admonish one another, but they will probably think nothing of it. Quaithe is not sure how close of a watch the club keeps on their inventory of medical supplies. She thinks that it’s possible employee theft or drunk customer theft is a fairly common occurrence here.

She thinks that she has all of her bases covered — but again, it’s been so long since she’s had to do this work and she’s fairly out of practice.




 

 

Lysa reminds her — with this quiet sadistic kind of glee — when it’s been two hours. There is a digital alarm clock on Quaithe’s side table and Lysa has been watching it. Right at the two hour mark, Lysa smiles a little bit and tells Missandei that time is up. It’s time to call an ambulance. Lysa tells Missandei, “It looks like the both of us will have lost our husbands today.”

Missandei squeezes his hand in her lap. She cannot believe that she believed this fucking bitch who is clearly a fucking asshole devoid of morals over Grey. This will be the mistake that haunts her for the rest of her life — especially if he fucking dies knowing that she betrayed him like that.

Missandei doesn’t engage with her. She knows that Lysa is bored and so Lysa is trying to taunt her to get entertainment. She knows that everything Grey suspected about this woman has been proven more or less true. She knows that she was left behind by Grey’s friend because Grey’s friend knows that all she can be trusted to do is watch a woman who is tied up. She knows that this is probably the wrong fucking job for her and she should go back to what she is good at. If she had done that, he’d be partnered with someone who is actually capable, and he wouldn’t be dying right now.

She knows that she is fucking up, right now because it’s been two hours and ten minutes, and she just can’t give him up. She is a fucking piece of shit because she would rather he die in her arms, than give him up to the Valyrian government and give him a chance at living. For a little while longer.

All of her options are fucking terrible.

There has been no fucking word from leadership. They haven’t even been cleared for entrance into the embassy.

She wishes he were awake so that he could tell her what the best thing to do is. She realizes that he knows everything, and she is insecure and uncertain without him.

She wishes she could turn back time. She’d do her fight with him differently. She would apologize to him for asking too much. She would tell him that she’d accept any small part of himself that he is willing to give her, as long as it meant he was going to stay healthy and safe.

She rubs her face. Her hair is a mess, but it is dry now. She needs to get him to a hospital. She needs to take him herself instead of calling an ambulance because Lysa is a fucking shit. He would want her to preserve the peaceful lives of his friend and his friend’s daughter.

She gets off the bed. She leans down and holds onto his head again — just wasting fucking time as he slowly dies. She allows herself to kiss the side of his face, and she doesn’t allow herself to tell him she is sorry because that is self-indulgent and she has done enough to him. She wishes she could trade places with him. He doesn’t deserve this.

She’s about to untie Lysa from the chair and drag her downstairs and into the car — as the front door to the house opens, as she hears footsteps running up the stairs, as Missy picks up her gun from the side table and readies it, as Quaithe’s familiar body and covered face appears in the bedroom doorway.

Missandei relaxes, just the tiniest bit.

And then Quaithe runs to the bed.





 

Dany raises her face up from her laptop, when she hears a soft knock on her door.

She frowns when she sees who it is.

He is frowning too, in a different way. He holds up a plastic bag of takeout containers in explanation — she can smell fried garlic and guess that it’s probably pasta.

Daario gently says, “I figured you might be hungry.”

In response to him, she says, “You need to leave my office. Right now. This is inappropriate.”





 

He wakes up slowly — and with a throbbing headache that feels like the worst hangover of his life. He wakes up piecemeal, with consciousness flitting in and out of his grasp. He sometimes hears them talking before he fades away again.

He regains consciousness with more concreteness as she shakes him along. Her hand is on his shoulder, jiggling him and making him nauseous as he opens his eyes.

She looks stunned to see his eyes. His mouth is so dry that he doesn’t feel like he can talk.

She softly says, “Babe,” as she stops jostling him, as she transfers her hand to his face. She is still scared of saying his real name in front of Lysa, but she refuses to call him by his fake name anymore.

“Drink this,” Quaithe says, breaking into the intimate thing Torgo Nudho has going on with his new partner with one of Callie’s juice boxes. It is pure sugar, and it has a straw. She pokes the straw into his mouth and starts squeezing the box.





Chapter Text






When he wakes up, when he finally wakes up for good, his head is throbbing and his throat is dry. He finds there is a needle stuck in his arm and bright lights making his eyes sting.

His eyes tear up slightly — it’s a physiological response — as he blinks his vision back to life. 

“Alyn.”

He swings his eyes to the corner of the room. He sees their dark blue uniform. He sees the golden shine of a badge. He sees a row of neat buttons.

His voice cracks as he says, “Vagar.”  

His sergeant tells him that he’s in the hospital, that he was found unconscious at a motel, bleeding out from stab wounds. It’s now seven o’clock at night, the same day. His sergeant tells him the doctors say he will make a full recovery as long as he takes it easy for a few months. His sergeant asks him just what happened — why he was he at the motel? Why didn’t he carry his identification? There were casings from their department-issued firearms at the scene — but where is his gun? 

His sergeant apologizes as Alyn hacks out a cough. His sergeant says that he knows it’s a lot of questions and that Alyn just woke up. His sergeant stands up and fills a small cup of water from the pitcher a nurse left next to his bedside. Alyn gets handed the paper cup.







When she gets confirmation from their embassy in Valyria that Grey and Missandei papers were finally approved and pushed through and that they both appear on the embassy’s employees list, backdated to two days ago — she has to wait in tense uncomfortable silence afterward because Tyrion tells her that Drogo is taking a quick break and is on his way back up.

Their ambassador initially pushed for them being assigned to the consulate because it was an easier task. Dany pushed back and pressed for the embassy. The convention on diplomatic relations has a broader scope than the convention on consular relations. She will not have them stuck on a technicality, because blood was shed. She has learned from the last time this happened — she knows she needs to be more thorough and more extreme in her protection of her people. She has been telling herself that in the end of all of this, her people won’t remember that this took longer. She won’t be remembered for being a bureaucratic obstacle to progress. They will all just be ecstatic that they have Grey and Missandei back.

Drogo stinks of cigarette smoke when he appears at the door three minutes later. He doesn’t apologize for taking a break because he doesn’t think he should apologize for that. If anything, he actually grumbles underneath his breath about the fact that the elevators in the building are fucking slow. 

And then when he learns that they waited for him before moving onto next steps, he actually snaps at them. He says, “What the fuck? You haven’t told them they need to hustle their asses to the embassy yet? What the fuck are you even waiting for!”

While she understands where Drogo is coming from, Dany really resents being spoken to like this. She also knows this kind of heat does not help with Cersei. 

In response to his fit, she calmly and dismissively tells Drogo, “So why don’t you go tell Jojen personally then, if it concerns you this much?” 







“Enough,” he says, swatting at the piece of bread Quaithe is trying to shove into his mouth. She is forcing him to stay in bed to rest. She won’t let him get up. She won’t take the IV out of his arm. 

She responds to his refusal to eat by slapping him full-on, in the face. It makes him blink and shut his eyes in surprise. It makes Missandei release a gasp. 

Quaithe ignores both responses — she feels like she’s dealing with a child who is not her own right now — and she resents this. So she insistently says, “You need to eat. When was the last time you used the toilet?” 

Missandei sells him out on this. She tattles and says, “Oh, he hasn’t yet, today, I don’t think?” And then in a short jolt of realization, she says, “Neither of us have.”  

Calling attention to it for the first time makes her remember a need that she’s subconsciously suppressed all day. She really needs to pee. She stands up and looks at him expectantly. She holds her hand out to him. She says, “Do you want to go first?”

He bitterly resents being treated like a child. He resents being force-fed. He resents being swaddled in a bunch of blankets even though it’s the thick of summer. He resents being carried to the toilet like he is an invalid. He resents just being a fucking obstacle and a liability. He doesn’t even know why he woke up for this shit.

Missandei’s hands are on his face and then gently on his arms — when he shrugs her off. He doesn’t look her in the face because he feels inexplicably ashamed and weak. 

Without looking at her, he mutters, “No. Not you.” He nods quickly at Quaithe. He says, “You.” And then he adds, “Please.”

He knows he’s too weak to support his own weight. He knows because it takes gargatuan effort to raise his fucking arm. He knows that he is burning up and sweating up in the bed. He knows that when the sheets are lifted off of his body, he will be naked — and he will start shivering. He does not want this to be one of the last things Missandei remembers about him.

He adds, “Can I have some privacy?”







Missandei gets banished back to the kitchen with Lysa. 

After she is gone, with Quaithe’s help, he puts some clothes back on just so he can have pants to pull down once she plops him on a toilet seat. They don’t put a shirt on him because it would just get in the way of the needle stuck in his arm and the bag of saline solution attached to that. He grimaces as she slides a loose-fitting pair of pants up his legs. He feels generally humiliated and vulnerable. 

As if reading his mind, she says, “This reminds me of Mantarys — you remember that?”

Drogo had caught a blood-transmitted infection from a mosquito that he eventually got hospitalized and treated for when they got back to King’s Landing. But for about three days before transport, they were all holed up in a safe house, putting up with Drogo’s constant and very alarming bloody puking and bloody wet shitting. Drogo was a jackass to the both of them and refused help because he was embarrassed. 

So Grey loosens up a little bit, at the trip down memory lane. He gets her point. He gingerly holds onto his saline bag and slips his arm around her shoulders.

Once she’s got him on the toilet and gets his pants back down, with his help nudging back and forth on the seat, Quaithe crosses her arms and stands back to regard him.

He asks, “You’re seriously going to stand there and watch me pee?”

She doesn’t answer that — she doesn’t care. Rather, she responds with, “You’re sleeping with your partner. How come?” She means that it’s so unlike him. She wants to know if there is some other kind of consideration or angle here that she isn’t aware of. She wants to know if there is something important she ought to know about Missandei — and this matters because Missandei is in her house and knows about and has seen her daughter.

He slowly shakes his head. He says, “I don’t fucking know why,” as he reaches a free hand in between his thighs and pushes what is left of his penis down into the bowl. This is how he pees now, and she is the first person to witness this besides the nurse who taught him and the doctor who walked in on him and the nurse one time. Grey unpinches his bladder and starts peeing in front of her because why the fuck not? 

“How did that happen?” she asks — referring to his injury — her voice much softer now.

The carefulness in her voice touches something deep inside of him. It probably combines with how uncomfortably raw and open it feels to pee in front of her — because his eyes go a little wet. He looks off the side as he continues letting an alarming amount of urine out, as he feels so small, as he tells her, “How do you think it happened?”

She sighs. “I’m sorry, Torgo Nudho.”







She hovers near the stairwell uncertainly, stretching her ears and perking up a little bit in anxiety when she hears the toilet flush and the door reopen. Lysa has her eyes shut and is maybe trying to nap away the mundanity of being held hostage by the people she tried to have killed. 

When she sees his bare feet slowly and gingerly make their way down the stairs, she steps out and watches him descend with Quaithe’s help, with one hand gripping his IV bag and the other gripping the bannister. There is a knit blanket thrown across his shoulders. He looks like he’s lost an impossible amount of weight in the last seven hours alone. 

He looks terrible. 

Missy holds up her phone. She can’t help but let an encouraging smile slip out. She tells him, “We were approved. We need to get to the embassy asap.”







Sandor gets yelled at by a cranky customs agent who is underpaid and has been working a double-shift because of the emergency shut down. Sandor gets yelled at and insulted for not speaking any Valyrian, for going to a country with the audacity of not even knowing a lick of the language. The customs agent looks at Sandor’s passport — a tourist visa was the best he could do on short notice — and the agent spitefully tells Sandor he is stupid, in accented Common Tongue. 

Sandor generally says nothing. He generally refrains from slamming his fist into the face of this impotent power-tripping piece of shit in a dead-end job. 

The heat swallows up him once he breaks out into baggage claim. The air is thick and the doors are open. Even though it is evening, the sun is still shining brightly in the sky. The floor is a mess of chatter, bodies, elbows, and body odor, as people fight to get to their pick-ups or to hail cabs. There is congestion leading out of the airport.

Sandor thinks that it’s his overt foreignness and maybe his face, that is preventing him from getting picked up by a cabbie in a timely manner. And he is generally right — he just doesn’t realize the extent of it yet.

He looks up to the droning TV screen that is bolted to the wall. He looks up because he sees the composite drawing of Grey again. And then he sees a Valyrian being interviewed from a hospital bed by a swarm of TV news reporters — intercut with the drawing of Grey. 

He can’t hear what is being said, so he pulls out his phone and quickly searches for the news on his phone, in a language he can read.

He finds it quickly enough. It says that one of Grey’s victims was an off-duty Valyrian police officer.

His phone rings right after that. Arya.

He picks up. He says, “So. This is royally fucked. Am I still to make my way to them?” 







Quaithe draws all of the curtains and blinds on the lower level of her house and has her rifle out again, hooked over her shoulder so that it is always nearby, as she urgently speaks on the phone with her friend who is watching Callie in Asshai’i. She is peering out a crack in the curtains, surveying her front yard as kids a little bit older than Callie ride their bikes up and down the street.

Her friend wants to know when Quaithe is coming back for her daughter — tonight? Tomorrow? When? Quaithe keeps whispering and saying she doesn’t know when she will be back for Callie. She talks into the phone and says she will explain everything later, but right now, she is rather tied up.

Grey doesn’t speak Asshai’i but he knows what is happening. He forces himself to sit in it. He makes himself remember the many evenings he chilled with Quaithe and Drogo, during lulls on the job, and the many, many times Quaithe shrugged and told them that she is probably a lifer. She used to rhetorically ask them what she was even going to do if she were to leave the organization? What do her skills really amount to, anyway?

He sees evidence of Quaithe’s daughter all over this house, from the drawings stuck to the fridge to the dishware stacked in the drying rack to the toys that are strewn about. He is actually wearing one of Callie’s blankets around his shoulders right now.

The TV is turned on low in the background. He already knows that the Valyrian asshole is a cop because why not? Because of course he is. Grey already knows that protest demonstrations have broken out across the city, over the optics of a foreign national potentially murdering Valyrian residents — and not only them, but maiming cop who is a citizen on top of that? Grey has already watched that fucking blond asshole provide all of these elegant and heroic low-key anti-foreign power, anti-immigration sound bytes from his hospital bed. Grey knows it’s only a matter of time before the thus-far peaceful protests become violent riots. And the city is probably activating a bunch of on-call officers in preparation, as more and more protests break out. People are demanding answers. And justice.

Grey listens as Quaithe’s voice goes softer and more tender, and he guesses that she must be talking to her daughter.

When she hangs up, he’s about to apologize to her again — for the fucking millionth time because he is so sorry for bringing himself to her like this — but then her phone shakes again. She looks down at the screen and groans softly.

She picks up the line. She says, “M’ach.”

That’s how Grey knows that it’s Drogo.







Drogo starts slamming the flat of his hand repeatedly on Selmy’s back, when he finally connects with Quaithe. Selmy quickly shuts the door, locks it, and then Drogo lays his phone down on his desk, putting her on speaker phone. 

“Is our boy hanging in there?” he says to her in greeting.

Her voice is dry and droll and utterly serious, as she says, “Barely.” And then in their code — because she hasn’t forgotten, she also tells them that Grey is running a fever, his wound is going to become infected. He needs a doctor. He will not make it anywhere far for very long.

Drogo’s end of the conversation is secure, so he fades into old dynamics and he simply tells her, “He will.” She was always the fastidious planner who was slow. He was always optimistically improvisational who was fast, but chaotic.

Drogo also asks, “Can we talk to him?” 







Grey doesn’t expect to talk to Selmy — just to Drogo — so Selmy’s calm and plaintive voice coming through the line on Quaithe’s phone is like a hit in the solar plexus. His chest clenches up tightly, and it becomes hard to breathe for a moment. 

He starts to pull in breaths fast, pushing them out just as fast, trying to get his head clear and his emotions in check. He still profusely wants to start apologizing because he feels so terrible. He feels like he has failed and he’s been failing for a long time. He shouldn’t have gotten himself shot. He shouldn’t have made Missandei not believe in him. He shouldn’t have just assumed this was a routine engagement. He shouldn’t have overlooked Lysa’s capabilities. He shouldn’t have stabbed the Valyrian. It’s his fault that the organization is hemorrhaging right now, trying to get him and Missandei out. It’s going to be his fault if she becomes collateral damage because of his mistakes.

He tries to hide himself from the rest of them, even though he can’t even fucking move himself from the couch, as he says, “Sir —” before he pauses again, because he doesn’t know what to actually say.

Into his ear, Selmy quietly says, “Son,” and it makes him remember the first time they met and the first time Selmy tried to recruit him. 

And then Selmy’s voice tightens up into his professionalism. He starts to tell Grey what Grey is to do and what is expected of him. Grey takes a moment to absorb the switch, and so his mind fights the words. 







Quaithe tells Missandei that they have to leave the guns — they have to go unarmed, because they cannot carry and possess firearms illegally as they enter the embassy. Missandei’s heart is pounding hard, as she tries to look at him for confirmation of this, as he continues keeping his face turned away from her. He’s been mired in his own head. She knows he is concerned about staying awake long enough to get to the embassy. She knows that he will make it — and she’s been trying to tell him this silently. But he won’t look at her. She keeps trying to relay to him what she’s been told by Drogo, Barristan, and the organization. It’s finally happening. They are finally getting extracted. Sandor is on his way to get them. Sandor will transport them to the embassy safely. And then they will finally get to go home. 

Missandei looks down at the gun in her hand and then obediently nods and then reluctantly releases it from her tight grasp. 







Grey understands that this is the shittiest non-plan ever. He understands that they are all very attached to him so they are all following along with this stupid fucking non-plan and acting like it’s going to not fucking result in the deaths of them all. He understands that they are all scarred from what happened years ago with him, and they are trying to fix past mistakes by applying an emotional response to a situation that is completely different. He understands that Dany is doing her best — that Drogo, Selmy, Sandor, Arya, Tyrion — all of them — are doing their very best because they care about him. 

But he also knows that the deck that is stacked against him has been building up, higher and higher. He knows the situation is currently unwinnable for them. He knows that the conditions or rules have to change in order for them to actually have a chance. He cannot have more blood on his conscience. He cannot have more people die because of him. He especially cannot let her die because of his own shortcomings. 

Quaithe knows, too. She silently watches him detach the IV from his arm. She supervises as he gently pulls off the tape and then slides the needle out. He puts it on her coffee table, on a napkin, in a neat pile. He starts bleeding a little bit from the wound, and his blood is bright red, which is comforting. He holds up his arm for her to put the bandaid that she has ready for him. 

Missandei is gathering their items and typing out messages on her phone because she wants to know what the procedure is with Lysa, so she doesn’t pay much attention as Quaithe slides a white shirt over Grey’s head and helps him slide his arms through the holes. He grimaces out a smile in thanks for this.

And then, she puts the car keys of his rental into his hand when he holds it out to her. 

This is when Missandei pauses. She looks over to him from where she is standing in the threshold where the kitchen meets the living room. She says, “What are you doing? We’re waiting for S, remember?” She says it carefully, like maybe he has forgotten in his whooziness. 







It takes her a second to understand what he is planning on doing. But when she does — when she sees him push himself to his feet with effort, when she sees that his shoes are on and sees him reaching for a gun that his friend quietly hands to him after wiping off all other prints — it is the Valyrian’s gun that he lifted at the motel — 

Missandei immediately starts crying.

She starts shaking her head as her hand goes up to cover her mouth. She says, “No,” to him.

He slips the gun into his pocket. The weight of it drags down his pants. He leans tiredly against the arm of the couch. He holds out his hands and arms to her — and it’s the first time in what feels like ages — so she just runs over to him. She throws her own arms around him and holds onto him tightly.

He lets her hug him for a short moment, but they don’t have much time — or he doesn’t — so he moves it along by nudging her back a little bit. 

Then he grabs onto her face in both of his hands — they are clammy but her face is already wet. He is squishing her cheeks together and making her lips pout — because he can’t help himself. He leans forward and he lets himself kiss her mouth one last time. 

She cries as his lips makes contact with hers — and she kind of refuses to engage in this with him — in this way — because she knows that he is trying to say goodbye to her and she is refusing to say goodbye.

He still kisses her through the crying and also through her resistance — because this all they have left now. He continues holding her face, and he squeezes it hard. He forces her to kiss him back, because this is the last time. 

She whimpers and shuts her eyes as she crushes his body to hers again, with her arms. She presses her mouth against his urgently, letting her cries sneak out in between the gaps of their mouths.  

And after he feels her kiss him back, he makes himself break away. He softens his hold on her face — he brushes his fingers softly across her wet cheeks. 

He presses his forehead against hers. He hears her go quiet for a little bit — so he says, “Don’t punish yourself this over this, okay?”

She immediately starts sobbing again, pressing her head harder against his. She brokenly says, “No.”

“Listen,” he says soothingly, brushing his hand over her hair now. “Listen for a second, okay? Guilt is a poison. Self-hatred is a poison. Don’t do it yourself. You don’t deserve it.”  

“Grey —” 

“This would’ve happened anyway,” he whispers. “We were being stalked from the beginning. They had a tracker. Whatever you said to anyone, about me — it made no difference at all to the outcome. The borders would’ve gotten shut down anyway. My face would’ve been all over the news anyway. We would’ve been stuck like this no matter what. It’s not your fault, okay?”

“Shut up,” she grinds out, her voice tight and tense now. She tells him, “Don’t talk like that — it’s not the time to talk like that,” as she tries to hold onto him tighter — and she starts to cry again as she feels him start to resist her hold on him.

“You will probably have to wait a few hours — before the all-clear,” he continues on. “And then S will be here. And he will transport you to the embassy. It will be okay.”

“He’s going to transport us to the embassy,” she says, trying to correct him. “You have to hold on — he’s coming for us —”

“Listen,” he says insistently, before he lowers his voice again, touching her hair again. “Just listen, okay?” he says, as he knocks their foreheads together again, lightly. “I held on once and I followed orders to the letter before. Because that’s what you’re supposed to do.” He clears his throat. “And — you know — what’s done is done. Right now at least, I get to have some say in what happens to my own life.”

“So make the decision to stay and fight,” she tells him, transferring her hands from his body to his face. “Make the decision to stay with me.”

“Okay, you are not listening,” he tells her. “That’s just not an option, Miss. We all die — you, me, S, maybe even Q, and then what happens to her kid? — if I stay with you guys.”

“Then just me,” she says, negotiating, lifting up her voice into this painful cheerfulness. She is stroking his face, as tears drip down her cheeks. “Where are we going together, babe?” she asks him softly. “I’ll drive us there.”

“Hey, you don’t need to atone for anything,” he tells her softly, trying to wipe her face and her nose for her with his thumbs, because looking at it is just killing him inside. 

He tries to think back to the first time they met — and he can’t remember the exact moment because it was a long time ago and it took a while for them to become close. 

So instead, he thinks back to just this morning, when they were in bed together. He thinks about how scared he was that she was so close to him — that she was becoming so close to him. He thinks that he’s made a lot of mistakes with her — and hopefully she will forget them in time and mostly remember him fondly. He thinks that his fear of her closeness was a stupid problem that he used to have in life. And it was a really nice problem to have.  

So he whispers, “I want you have a nice, long, happy life.” And this is when he starts to lose it a little bit — he tears up a little bit and tries to vigorously blink it away. “These last few months with you — the last year with you, actually — it was all really nice. You made me happy.”

She starts shaking — as she suppresses sobbing. Her words comes out in short, controlled, quiet spurts, as her hands tighten on his clothes, as she says, “Grey — don’t — do this — don’t do this — to us.”

He resists telling her that it’s already too late. It is already done.

He is pulling her arms off of him. She is resisting and hanging on. 

She gets louder about it — more emotional and distraught. He responds by trying to mentally block out the sound of her screaming. She is starting to get angry at him now for wanting to leave her — and because she is scared of losing him. Her fist is tight and strong in his shirt. 

He is gently saying her name and telling her that she has to let go. He is telling her that he’s sorry — but that she will be okay.  

He has to rip himself out of her grasp, as she fights him — and Quaithe has to lay an arm across Missandei’s chest — holding her back — as he walks out of the back door, shutting it closed behind him.







He starts the car, pulls out of the driveway quickly, and then he makes it a lot further than he expects to. 

He almost makes it to the hospital before he gets pulled over. He momentarily entertains just finishing his drive to the hospital and seeing what happens — but he already knows what would happen. Death. Death a little bit faster.

So he pulls over. The Valyrian’s gun is sitting in the passenger seat. He holds up his arms and he places his hands high on the wheel. He looks straight ahead at the horizon.









Chapter Text






Quaithe avoids prolonged restraint of Missandei because it could result in the both of them injured. Rather, she lets Missandei go when she hears him drive the car away. And then she backs away with her rifle at her shoulder, blocking the backdoor. She is going to try and reason with Grey’s partner.

Missandei’s eyes are wet and wild, her face unevenly flushed. She is face-to-face with Quaithe again, as she viciously demands, “Move!”

“He’s gone,” Quaithe says quickly. “You don’t know where he’s going. You don’t have a vehicle. You won’t find him before the police do, and even if you do — you can’t help him against them.”

“I don’t care!” Missandei try to lunge forward, through a small opening through the door, which Quaithe sees and blocks.

She knocks Missandei back a small step with her body.  

“What if it was your kid!” Missandei shouts, bringing her fist up to her eyes to wipe harshly and clear her vision.

“It’s not the same thing,” Quaithe says softly and calmly. “He’s an adult. He made a choice. And if he makes it out of this alive, he’ll want to see you again — in one piece. He did this to keep us safe. Don’t throw his sacrifice away. Don’t make it worth nothing.” 





Drogo is in the midst of canceling his plans with his mom — and he only just remembered that he has dinner plans with his mom in an hour because his personal phone chimed and reminded him. His mother is used to his constant cancellations in the name of work — so she is still definitely ticked off at him, but she is not surprised. 

He’s in the middle of saying, “Sorry, Ma — let’s reschedule right now,” and he’s about to suggest Wednesday night or maybe Saturday lunch when he spots Jojen’s really pink, really sweaty face through the glass window of an empty office that he ducked into for some privacy. 

Jojen holds up a finger — which signals to Drogo that he needs to get right back into the conference room.

Drogo says, “Ah, fuck. Sorry, Ma. I gotta go. Bye!” And then he hangs up on his mother before listening for her exasperation with him or a return goodbye.

He books it out of the office and toward the conference room, behind Jojen as he pockets his personal phone into his back pocket.  





“What do you mean he’s gone?” Jon asks into the intercom. “Where did he go?”

There is a really lengthy pause on the other end, and it makes Barristan wonder if they lost connection with Missandei, so he asks, “Missandei, are you still there?”

It’s another second before her voice comes back on the line. Her tone is stilted and clipped, as she says, “I don’t know where he went. He took the car keys to our rental, and then he drove away. I could not stop him.”

There is another long pause as they wait for her to say something else, maybe something more specific, maybe give them more of an explanation.

“Missandei!” Drogo finally snaps — just in disbelief that this is happening, just fucking sick of her fucking long pauses, sick of her bland delivery, fucking sick of her ongoing fucking uselessness and shitty judgement. 

He is sick of the months and months that he wasted giving a shit about this person’s improvement and her feelings. Drogo is sick of being pressured by Daenerys for an entire year to make this shit with a deadweight work when he knew she was a ticking bomb. He is sick that Missandei’s vagina fucked Grey in the brain and made him do this crazy self-sacrificing shit. He is fucking sick of himself, because he didn’t have the balls to just stop this shit and their relationship from happening and now Grey is as good as fucking dead — again.

So he releases his boiling anger the only way he knows how. He starts yelling at her and humiliating her. He shouts at the intercom. He says, “How do you even fucking let your gunshot victim walk out the fucking house! You are telling us that after you fucked up and told us his judgement is compromised, after you went and fucking shot him — after a fucking year of innumerable resources diverted to train you — you just let a dying man walk out the door? Are you fucking working with Lysa Arryn or something and just forgot to tell us? Because how are you this bad at your fucking job!”

“Drogo,” Dany cuts in warningly.

“Fuck this!” he shouts back, slamming his fist on the table, making half of them jump. He gestures angrily to the intercom. He says this terrible thing that he’s been thinking all fucking day. He says, “He’d still be with us if it weren’t for her!”

Dany is about to talk around her migraine. She’s about to ask Drogo to just fucking leave the room because he can’t keep his composure, because he can’t be a professional right now — but she is interrupted by the sound that comes out of the intercom.

It’s loud and ambiguous at first — but then they hear Missandei softly say, “I know. I’m so sorry. This is all my fault. I’m so sorry.” And then they hear another sharp intake of breath — another hiccup as she tries to hold back for a moment.

And then she just loses it and starts crying in pain over the line with them. 

Cersei looks shocked by what she is hearing. Tyrion and Barristan look uncomfortable. Jon looks sympathetic. Drogo looks incensed because how dare she try to solicit sympathy from them after she fucking lost him.

Dany immediately gestures to Jojen. She quickly says, “Hang tight, Missandei. We’ll follow up with you on next steps in a bit,” right before the line gets severed.





After the meeting, Tyrion rushes out to try and secure a diplomatic note requesting for the release of their man back into their custody through his contacts. Tyrion assures Drogo that it’s actually going to be a thinly veiled threat, but that’s how these things work. Drogo angrily thinks that it’s completely shit that Tyrion is good at and it better fucking yield some fucking results this time around. 

Tyrion sighs before he gets back on his phone and runs to his car.

Drogo makes accidentally eye contact with Daenerys, right outside of the glass walls. For a split second, he isn’t scowling at her because he wasn’t primed for it. When he realizes who he is looking at though, his stare turns hateful. 





As Grey had predicted, news of his apprehension hits the secure comms channels about an hour and a half after he left. The Valyrian channels state that the person of interest the police have been looking for involved in the slaying of four, almost five people has been apprehended and is in custody. The news doesn’t hit the public right away — as the authorities process him.

Missandei learns that lockdown is loosening up through the secure text line with headquarters. She hears the drone of background noise as she has a very brief conversation with Tyrion about it. Tyrion simply tells her that Sandor just checked in with them. He is half an hour out from getting to her and Lysa Arryn.

In response to that bit of good news, Missandei says, “Okay, but what about Grey? How are we going to get him back?”





Quaithe doesn’t even move from her seat at the kitchen table, when Sandor casually walks in from the back door. He also does not look surprised to see her. He just does a quick glance at the house — at the neat row of dried dishes and a little sippy cup on the counter — as well at Missy and Lysa also sitting at the table in silence.

To Quaithe, he says, “Been a long time, huh?” 

She nods at him in acknowledgement. 

And then to Missandei, he quietly says, “How you doing, kiddo?”

She shakes her head slowly in response. 





As they untie Lysa from the chair and as Sandor clicks real handcuffs onto her, they learn through their secure channels that the Valyrian cop that tried to fucking kill them has positively identified Grey as his man who stabbed him. That and Grey’s possession of the cop’s gun is enough for the Valyrian authorities to start releasing the news out to the public — that the suspect in multiple slayings has been apprehended by the local law enforcement. They are quick about it in hopes of calming down public tensions. 

Sandor tells Missandei they have to move fast, before her mug gets shown on TV and proclaimed as Grey’s accomplice or something. 

When Missy goes to say goodbye to Grey’s friend and thank her — which feels awkward and terrible all at once — Missy realizes that she doesn’t even know the name of Grey’s friend who risked so much for them. 

“It was good to meet you,” Quaithe says somberly, shaking Missy’s hand. “Have a safe flight home.”





The ride to the embassy is pretty uneventful and goes by fairly quickly. Missandei spends the entire time looking out the window with her sore eyes, just in case she spots him.

Lysa is immediately apprehended and turned over to their officers stationed in Valyria, men and women that Missandei has not met before. 

The moment there is a lull, Missandei immediately starts asking Sandor questions about how they plan on getting Grey back. She asks him what is typically the procedure for this sort of thing.

He doesn’t know at all. He only knows that he was pulled out of his job in Lhazosh, and he had to quickly board a plane to Valyria to walk Grey and Missandei out of the city. He only knows what he has been reading — he’s been following the news, so he generally knows what is happening in the city. He didn’t think he’d actually get to either of them at all. He actually thought they were all just dead and that he was being sent on a suicide mission. 

He refrains from telling all of this to Missandei. She is too distraught. This is the first time she has gone through something like this. She doesn’t know that the stink of death permeates this entire job and this entire life. She wasn’t there the last time Sandor was sent to retrieve Grey. He had to wait for hours and hours — just like this time — before getting the go-ahead. He had to encounter the sight of the room and walk through their blood to get to them, as he did the mental math and easily figured out that it all could have been preventable.

He tells her, “Crying about it doesn’t help,” because he doesn’t know what else to say to her. 

“Yeah?” she says challengingly. “No shit, Sandor. Obviously I don’t think that crying will magically bring him back. I just can’t stop, okay?” 





For the next few hours, as the sky grows dark outside, her entire life at the embassy becomes focused on her phone and on the news. 

She is grimly waiting for news of his death, so that her entire world can just collapse in on itself. 

And she is looking for updates from headquarters. 

Sandor is eating a fucking sandwich by himself at a table, like he does not even give a shit about Grey — and she finds that now that she is safely in the custody of her embassy, she is no longer important. She is no longer a person that people are clamoring to get more information from. She is not at all a person that anyone needs to answer to. She is now just an asset that is left waiting as leadership does whatever it is that they are doing right now.

When she gets told that her flight is in an hour, she balks. She didn’t even realize that they were looking for a flight to her. She didn’t even realize that she was getting pulled out of Valyria this fast.

Sandor patiently asks her, “What were you expecting, Missandei? You called for an emergency extraction.”

“I was expecting it to take a fucking year,” she snipes, even as she knows that he is not at all the person she should be mad at. “Everything else that happened this entire fucking day led me to think that I just fucking live here now!”

It’s kind of humorlessly funny — and she is so pissed and so scared over Grey — so Sandor understands that. 

He presses his hand to her shoulder. And then uncharacteristically — and it’s uncharacteristic because it’s kind of optimistic — he says, “Kid, we got him back once. That means we can do it again.”





Drogo knows that everything that happens after right now is just fucking politicking bullshit. It’s not what he is good at. It’s not his area of expertise. He knows he is useless here right now — and he knows his anger is unproductive. He feels like he needs to do something. So he shrugs into his jacket, and he picks up his car keys. 

She is standing by the door that leads to the hallway of elevators. The office has grown busier and busier, as people voluntarily have come in on their day off to try and help, once they heard about Grey and Missandei. 

“Where are you going?” Dany asks — loudly — in front of everyone.

Drogo secures both of his phones in his jacket pocket. He claws some of his hair out of his face. He looks at her symmetrical one. He thinks she’s a real power-tripping bitch who is constantly worried about her own ass. And so he just tells her, “I’m taking the next day off so I can fly to the Summer Isles and tell his parents what happened to their son.” He says this loudly and straight up. He lets the insubordination sink in.

She purses her lips. She is tense as she says, “Drogo — if you leave — if you tell them —”

“You’re a terrible human being, Daenerys,” he cuts in on top of her. He says it matter-of-factly — because it is a fact. “You’re a selfish, self-serving person who doesn’t know how to care about anyone else.” 

The room around them freezes. 

“You just let this happen!” Drogo says, his voice louder now. “You made me hire her even though she is wildly unqualified to do this work! And you just knew that our boy —” and here, he is only gesturing to himself and Selmy, who is steadfastly avoiding eye-contact with the both of them, “— you knew he’d do this. You knew he’d give himself up for your girl. You knew that all you needed to do was wait him out long enough. Way to secure the embassy just for your girl, Daenerys. Fucking go to hell, bitch. Hope you’re proud of yourself and what you have done today. You finally got what you wanted. He’s dead now.” 

Dany’s eyes are cold and furious, as she slowly hisses, “You’re fired, Drogo.”

“No, I’m not,” he tells her — infuriatingly calm in his matching rage. “I’ll see you on Wednesday, boss.”





She is kind of catatonic on the flight home — because she cannot believe that she is this person. She can’t believe that she is the kind of person who left her partner behind to die. She can’t believe that he is really gone. She can’t believe that everything has changed in a day. She can’t believe that she was just holding onto him and contemplating a future with him. She can’t believe that her stupid fucking problems in life used to be that he didn’t want to meet her dad right away. She can’t believe that this has to end with him thinking that he is alone. 

Her eyes are raw and aching — dry because she is spent — when she disembarks the plane. She goes straight to campus, straight to the twenty fifth floor of the west building. She has Sandor scan her in even though he’s not supposed to — it goes against protocol and is a security breach — but he does it because he feels bad for her. She doesn’t have her card because she has just lost all of her shit in the course of running for her fucking life.   

When she sees Daenerys — and when Dany sees her — Missandei stumbles a step forward, as Dany runs up to her and throws her arms tightly around Missandei’s shoulders. 

Dany is sniffling. She is saying, “Are you okay?”

Missy hugs Dany back. And then she says, “What are we currently doing to get him back? How can I help?”





She gets told no details at all. She actually is told to go home and rest. And when she refuses, she is told that if she insists on working, what is useful is to get interviewed and do another info-download so that they don’t lose all of the work of the operation.





She doesn’t want to go home and create these half-truths that she will use to explain to her dad why she is home early from her business trip. She doesn’t know how to not break down and tell him that she lost Grey. 

So she takes a detour. Dany is still at work — camped out there for the time being while they try to figure out how to get Grey out — so Missy goes to another friend’s house. She goes to someone that she doesn’t need to lie to. 

Daario’s face is serious and devoid of any smile — for maybe the first time since she has known him. He has been keeping tabs on what is happening — because they all know that something terrible has happened. It’s their new protocol since the first time this happened with Grey. Everyone above a security clearance gets notified of this kind of incident when it happens now.

He sees her face. He says, “Hey.”





It is the crack of morning — six in the morning here, three in the morning back in King’s Landing — by the time he arrives at Grey’s parents’ house. He really doesn’t want to scare the shit out of them, but his options are limited. His presence is just liable to scare the shit out of them, regardless. 

They go to sleep early so they are already awake and drinking coffee before work. He has to knock on their door and disturb them.

More lights in the house flip on. He watches as Grey’s dad blinkingly peers out the side window and sees him. And then the door unlatches. And then the door slowly opens.

He sees Grey’s dad with an aluminum bat in his hand.

Grey’s mom immediately says, “Is he okay?”

And then Drogo loses his composure a little bit — because he is exhausted and sick with worry — and Grey’s mom sees that, so she starts collapsing to the ground and crying.





She doesn’t want to do much talking. She just wants to do a lot of sitting in silence. She refuses to sleep even though it’s so late. She has reasoned that sleeping would just be — it would be — she just doesn’t deserve to rest after what has happened. 

Daario has to tiredly put all of these words into her mouth around his own yawning, in order for them to kind of carry on a conversation. He tells her these moronically obvious things — like the job is fucking hard on some days, like today. He tells her tough decisions have to be made, and sometimes it’s a choice between a shit decision and another shit decision. He tells her that Grey is going be okay. Grey is the best. Grey is the best of them all. Grey is meant to survive this. Daario tells her that it’s hard to temporarily lose sight of a partner — but Grey will be back soon. He will be back before she even knows it.

It’s when Daario is getting up to refill her mug of tea, that she spots it.

It’s a metal hairpin in the shape of a dragon, sitting innocuously on his coffee table.





He wakes up in waves, with each iteration bringing more and more awareness. He wakes up fighting with the drugs, with his mind trapped in his body. He screams at his arms and legs sometimes, willing them to move, but his body is uncooperative.

When he wakes up comprehensively, he startles the armed guard that is posted next to his bed. He bewilderingly stares into the violet eyes of a Valyrian — he doesn’t know this person — and then he tries to raise his arms —

He learns that he is restrained. He is tied down to the bed, by his hands and his feet. He can’t speak through his dry mouth and chapped lips — because there is a breathing tube down his throat. He is in the hospital. He is strapped to a hospital bed.

He is not completely lucid. His brain is still messy and intoxicated from drugs and from nearly a day of fighting off the infection that tried to spread deep into his body. 

He thinks that he is trapped in a butcher’s shop again. He thinks that he is tied down by Bolton again. He thinks that he’s about to die again — 

So he starts to fight — and he starts to cry. He screams around the tube in his throat, and he yanks harshly against the bindings holding him down, rattling the bed — bouncing his body up and pulling out a thick crack from the sound of breaking plastic. He can’t see a thing clearly though the tears — Grey can’t hear the armed guard shouting at him in Valyrian, telling him to calm down or else he will be shot.

It’s an empty threat. They can’t kill him like this. 

Two nurses rush in the midst of his episode and then quickly increase his drip — not too much because that will actually kill him — and then they wait a few seconds for him to loopily drift back to unconsciousness. 

After Grey is under again, they laugh to each other — as the guard next to Grey’s bedside catches his breath and waits for his heartbeat to slow down.

The male nurse tells the guard that it’s a good thing they were nearby. The patient could have broken his own wrist with how hard he was yanking against the restraints. 

The female nurse has a damp sponge and is wiping away the remnants of the tears that streamed down his face as she checks his breathing tube. She mutters that he can probably be taken off the tube once the next round of drugs wear off. 





Chapter Text





 

 

She’s unable to hide her pain from her dad, so instead of trying to, she just stands in the foyer without her suitcase or Grey, and she tells her dad she hasn’t slept in over a day. She lets him take in her appearance — the clothes she is wearing, the mess of her hair, and her red eyes — and she asks him not to ask questions because she can’t answer them. 

His face falls a little bit, as he cautiously takes a step forward, with a dishtowel still hooked over his forearm. He was making eggs for breakfast — just for himself because he wasn’t expecting her home. He starts to says, “Honey —”

But then she starts tearing up. Her jaw quivers as she opens her mouth to apologize that it has to be this way.







Grey’s parents don’t feel right about calling in sick and getting substitute teachers assigned to their classrooms just an hour before they are due at school, so they have only a tight fifteen minutes to ask Drogo a bunch of questions that he obliquely answers at their kitchen table. 

The first thing they ask Drogo is if their son is dead. 

Drogo somberly tells them, “Not yet.”

They also ask Drogo where their son is. Drogo cannot tell them this with specificity. He just vaguely tells them that Grey is somewhere east. They want to know if their son is hurt in addition to being captured and imprisoned. Drogo confirms to them that their son is hurt. With hesitation, Drogo tells them that Grey got shot. But the bullet didn’t hit anything vital. It grazed his stomach.

None of it is actually comforting at all to Grey’s parents. 

As Grey’s mom says, “Oh my God,” Grey’s dad says, “What! What does that mean — how did that — how could you let this happen to my son? Again?”   

Drogo shakes his head. He says, “I’m sorry — I don’t know how this happened again. I am so sorry.”







They all want her to take some time off, probably because they are worried about her mental faculties — but fuck them all, she is going to work. 

She has to be cleared to go into the field again, so she makes an appointment with psych. She tries to strongarm her way into an early appointment even though there are no slots with Dr. Tyrell. The only schedule that gives a little bit is Dr. Tarly’s, so she grimly tells the scheduler that she would like to get evaluated by him as soon as possible. 

In his office, she doesn’t cry. Not anymore. She was relieved to be able to leave the house after lying down on her bed for a few hours. Her dad keeps assuming terrible things, and he keeps assuming wrong for the time being. 

He keeps acting as if she was sexually assaulted, for instance. She doesn’t have the capacity to correct him without giving away too much of what actually happened. It’s less of a burden on her to not be around him right now. She wonders if how she currently feels was how her dad felt — when he first learned that the love of his life was going to imminently be taken from him by cancer. She can’t ask him that, though. She just now knows that losing a mother feels different from losing someone like Grey. 

She only cries when she is by herself now. She shuts it down while she is at work and around other people because she owes it to Grey, to be better. She owes it to him, to be here and be ready and prepared because they are going to get him back.  

Her eyes are dry but still stinging, as she looks into Sam’s face and feels nothing inside, as he tells her that he’s so sorry for what she went through. She’s not sorry for what she went through. She’s sorry for what Grey went through and is continuing to go through. 

She can see that he is having a hard time with this himself. But she now knows that what Sandor said was right. Crying and being sad is indulgent and does not bring him back. 

So she starts. She says. “Yesterday morning, he and I woke up in bed together at about eight o’clock. We talked for a few minutes. And then we heard Lysa Arryn screaming from the master bedroom. He got out of bed first and started running down the hall.” 







While Grey’s parents are at work, Drogo nurses a cold cup of coffee, chainsmokes on their front porch, watches the road for cars, takes short naps restlessly, and stays tapped into the secure channels.

There is no news. There are no updates. He thinks that this is a lot like the last time this happened: frustratingly slow, frustratingly dehumanizing, and frustratingly mundane as his heart wants to explode from all of the waiting while Grey is dying somewhere far from them.  

Drogo thinks that the horizon and the sky is actually really pretty here. He realizes that he is never in the Isles for fun or pleasure — he is always here to grimly work. 







Sam tells her that he is on the fence about clearing her for work again, but he’s going to clear her as long as she stays at a desk for a little bit. Missandei is actually completely fine with that. She would rather sit at a desk and sift through a mess of data in the Valyrian language. That is probably going to be where she’ll be most useful until they get him back. She is going to see if she can get temporarily assigned to Jojen’s team.

She thanks Sam for his efficiency in this matter as she stands. His eyes are sad as he follows her up. 

As he walks her to the door, he tells her, “I’m going to take a day or two off myself. I’ve been thinking a lot lately — I’ve been thinking if it was the right thing to do, to clear him to go back into the field when I did. I knew he needed this job — and maybe I let that influenced me too much.”

“He needs this job,” Missandei corrects.

Sam pauses — a little confused.

“Present tense,” she succinctly says, squaring her shoulders. “Don’t talk about him in the past tense. And he is great at this job. You were right to clear him. Don’t think otherwise.” 







When Theon sees his sister for the first time in a week, he doesn’t know what has happened — there’s no way for him to know because he’s not employed by the organization anymore. So he smiles at her and he hands her the cup of coffee that he bought for her as he lightly blows on the mouthpiece of his cup. 

He and Ruby have decided to move in together. He’s excited to tell his sister because she’s been really impatient with the rate of his “healing.” She constantly compares him to Grey — and she doesn’t intend to be hurtful about it — she is just callous. She constantly tells him that Grey went through the exact same shit that he did, and Grey isn’t all fucked in the brain and scared of his own shadow because of it. She has been quietly calling him weak for the past couple of years.

And he understands that she is worried about him. He thinks his news will alleviate her concern.

He says, “Sis, guess what!”

“What!” she snaps, with the kind of viciousness that is completely unwarranted because he hasn’t done anything to her at all yet. “What do you want now!”

Theon says, “Whoa. Is everything okay?”







Missandei cannot stand the way any of them are looking at her and talking to her. Robb and Gendry look at her with their sad puppy eyes. Alayaya has been giving her short shoulder rubs whenever they pass each other in the hallways. Kojja keeps studiously avoiding the elephant in the room and instead, keeps calling her, “Champ.” Like, “You got it, champ.” Even Bronn is being extra nice to her.

She is pretty over it. She doesn’t even know why they are being so careful with her. Do they feel bad because she almost died? Or do they feel bad that she has lost him?

During lunchtime, she changes her mind about sitting with them. She picks up her tray, and she just moves to another table to sit by herself without saying a word of explanation.







Drogo straightens in his seat when he sees Grey’s parents’ sedans individually make their way back to the house — three hours earlier than expected. 

And then, in explanation, as Grey’s dad presses his hand to the burning metal of the hood of the car — he tells Drogo, “I can’t think about anything else, except for what you told me.” 

He is explaining to Drogo that they left their classes early because they can’t work right now. He tells Drogo that he and his wife have spent the entire day reading the news, trying to figure out where their son is being held — but the world is too vast.

Grey’s parents gather together some dishes of food — because they still feel compelled to be hospitable — and they make Drogo repeat himself over and over. They make Drogo tell them again, everything that he can tell them about what is happening with their son. Drogo breaches security a little bit, with the specificity in the snippets he is leaking out. He tells them that Grey was out of the country on an assignment that went south and became really dangerous. Grey kept his partner alive. And then Grey gave himself up for the good of the team. The organization is currently doing everything it can to get Grey back.

Drogo wonders if he’s lying to Grey’s parents — when he says that.  

Then, Drogo repeats it all over again, when Grey’s older brother arrives at the house and starts to tear open the wound again, by reacting and processing the news in real time — all over again. He is in disbelief at first, as his mother tells him that it’s real, that it really happened. He looks at Drogo as if Drogo is a stranger — and to be real, Drogo is a stranger to them. Grey’s brother keeps muttering that it’s so bizarre — how little they know about Grey now.  

In response to this, Drogo just says, “I’m sorry,” because he is sorry — that it has to be this way.

It’s hours and hours later, when they can finally move past the terribleness of what is happening — that they can start clearing dishes and talking a little bit about their memories. Grey’s mom breaks down a little bit, every time Drogo tries to give them something back about their son, every time Drogo tries to explain to them the kind of person that Grey is, at work and in personal relationships, so that in some way, they could have a little bit more and more of their son back. He tells them that Grey is funny. He tries to repeat some of Grey’s jokes, but they all just sound mean and unnecessarily cruel — and Grey’s parents don’t get why the jokes are jokes or why they are funny — but they see something of their kid in it all so they laugh out loud, too — in a sad kind of relief. And it makes Drogo laugh out this ache even though it feels wrong to laugh.  

His mom keeps saying, “It was a mistake to let him go,” over and over. She means that it was a mistake to send him overseas for school.  

She also keeps bitterly saying, “I’m going to go to the grave with so many regrets,” with tears in her eyes. 

She asks them, “What kind of mother loses her child like this?” and it’s a rhetorical question — clearly — but Grey’s brother breaks down over it and tells her that she is a good mother. 

She says, “I am not.”

 






Dany has been keeping tabs on Missandei — so she knows that Missandei has been in the office with Jojen’s team for fifteen hours straight. It’s late when Dany makes her way over to that building, with her ankles sore and aching from standing all day. 

She and Tyrion are due on a flight to Valyria in the morning to meet with their ambassador in person. She still has to pack. Nonetheless, she knocks on the open door of the office Missandei is working in. 

She says, “Hey, have you eaten dinner yet?”







Grey’s family members are so polite and so regimented — like how Grey is. They all thank Drogo before they retire to bed, before Grey’s brother leaves to go back home to his own house. Grey’s parents are also deeply responsible people. They are going to try to go to work again tomorrow.

Drogo feels like he just broke this entire family with his news, so Drogo doesn’t think he deserves their thanks. He and the organization keep fucking allowing this to happen to Grey. 

Grey’s bedroom is the only spare room that is made up for guests. Drogo can’t stand to sleep in Grey’s bed, so Drogo sleeps on the floor. 







Missandei was just planning on letting it go because it’s none of her business and people are allowed their secrets — but after she tells Dany that she’s not hungry and that she’d rather keep working — after Dany insistently tells her that she has to eat because she needs to keep her energy up  

There is just a sound or a quality in Daenerys’ tone that rubs Missandei the wrong way. 

Missandei tries again to end it. She flatly says, “I’m fine. Really.”

“Come on,” Dany says, trying to sound like she is cajoling and not like she is bullying. “I can order something for us. It’ll be quick. You should take a break.”

“I’m fine,” Missandei repeats. “I’m not hungry.”

“He wouldn’t want for you to —”

And that gets to her. “Please don’t talk about him like that,” Missy cuts in. “Please don’t assume what he’d want. Please don’t use him as a device to get me to do something that you want me to do.”

Dany is taken aback by this. She recoils a little bit.

“And please don’t talk about him as if you know him,” Missandei adds. “Because you don’t know him. Not anymore, at least.”







After he regains full and consistent consciousness and is not so fucking nuts anymore, after he can dependably breathe on his own because he’s not so drugged up — he is put into chains, with handcuffs connected to his feet — so that he can’t run past the armed guard that is always watching him. 

He is made to sit at a table with his hands tied down. 

He thinks this is a bit much. What do they think he is going to do?  

He also sees that it’s a bit historical. He tries not to draw too many parallels between his current situation and the centuries of enslavement his people suffered under the Valyrian empire. 

But this shit still just makes him so fucking mad.

A Valyrian female interviewer-slash-interrogator sits down across from him — she looks a lot like Daenerys, and Grey doesn’t know if this was done on purpose or if everyone in this country just looks the same — and in the Common Tongue, she starts asking him questions. She is good at her job, so he quickly understands why he is being placed in front of her. 

She tells him what his situation is. She tells him he is being charged for four murders and one attempted murder. She tells him that one of the people he is accused of killing is Jon Arryn, CEO of Arryn Capital Holdings. She tells him that there are multiple eyewitnesses who have spotted him together with Jon Arryn the day before Arryn was killed. She tells him that she knows he was spotted at a golf course, for instance. 

She tells him that the one lone survivor of his attacks, Alyn Valysar, is an off-duty law enforcement officer and there are multiple eyewitnesses that saw him attack Alyn Valysar at the motel where Officer Valysar was found. She tells him, “As you may have gathered, the Valyrian courts are not lenient on would-be cop-killers. At all.”

In response to that, he says, “Okay.”

Grey knows this is a bullshit dog and pony show designed to scare him. He does not plan on talking. He does not point out that fucking Alyn is a fucking dirty cop, and that it’s probably not that hard to press into his background to find the grime. They probably know he’s a dirty cop, but they are probably bent on protecting him because that’s how this shit works.  

Grey does not point out that the eyewitnesses were all hiding in motel rooms when Alyn tried to kill him and Missandei — so he doesn’t know how they were able to fucking see what was happening.  He does not point out that the eyewitnesses were probably bought off, and they will probably perjure themselves for coin because they are desperate and vulnerable themselves — and it isn’t a hard position, to come down for the Valyrian cop versus coming down for the dark foreigner in Valyria. 

Grey also does not point out that a toxicology report must have been done on Jon Arryn, and the results of that are probably just being withheld from him right now in the hopes that he will freak out. 

Grey knows that he didn’t kill anyone. He purposely didn’t kill anyone at all. He could have — but he didn’t.

He also knows that it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter at all what he did or didn’t do — not to them. He knows what they see what they look at him. He knows that he is fucked. He knows that he will pay penance for something he didn’t do because that is his lot in his life and he has been doing it already for years now. He’s been trying to proclaim his sanity for years to people in power. It did not matter because nothing he says about himself ever matters. Nothing he ever believes about himself fucking matters to people in power. And now he gets to fruitlessly speak up for his own innocence. Even though it does not fucking matter.  

“We also know what government you are employed under,” his interviewer says. “We know that you were in this country under an assumed name — doing unsanctioned work. Even if you hadn’t killed — you are not in a good position to begin with, sir.”

He doesn’t let how he feels show on his face. But he does quietly ask, “What are you wanting from me?”

She smiles. She says, “Just information. Firstly — just your name. Your real name.”

“No.”








Chapter Text




 

Missandei ends up apologizing to Dany. She tells Dany that she’s sorry for being so unprofessional just then. She awkwardly links her hands together in front of her body, as she makes this obvious statement. She tells Dany that she’s really, really worried about Grey.

This is the sort of thing that Dany does not really want to hear — not right now at least. Dany does not want to hear verbal confirmation of what she has already figured out too stupidly late — that this is really personal for Missandei because Missandei is in love with him. 

These kinds of conversations are hard to have because they require an embarrassing amount of vulnerability and Dany hasn’t really been about that for the past decade. They used to be on more equal footing when they were in college together. Things started to change even though they promised each other their friendship would never change once they started working — especially once they started working together — once Missandei started working for Daenerys. 

Missandei realizes that the flow of information usually only gets passed one way between the two of them. This is why it feels a little bit like risky insubordination, when she whisper-talks and asks Dany for the honest truth:

“Is it really the organization’s intention — to get him back? Or are they just going to put on a show before they — before —” Missandei pauses, blinking rapidly as she stops herself from saying the words.

“Jon wants him back,” Dany says, her voice even and calm and professional and a little cold even. “Cersei says she’s concerned about the cost of getting him back, but I think for now, she also sees that it’s prudent to move fast in securing him because he is a high-level asset, with what he knows about the organization and his security clearance.”

“Okay,” Missandei says softly, slowly, working over the really clipped and businesslike response in her head. It’s not what she expected, but she doesn’t know what she expected. 

And then cautiously, Missy says, “Jon doesn’t even know him.” Missandei is trying to ask Dany if Jon Snow’s allegiance could be a fickle thing, if Jon will change his mind and let Cersei cut Grey loose.

“Jon doesn’t need to know Grey to know what the right thing to do is,” Dany says simply.

“And you?” Missandei asks. “Do you want him back?”

Dany looks pained for a moment, before she says, “You know I do. Of course I want him back.”

“Okay.”

Dany’s about to leave when Missandei releases her parting shot. Missandei doesn’t really understand the logic of Dany’s hypocrisy — why Daenerys decided to dissuade Missandei against pursuing a relationship with him under the altar of professionalism and feminism and the stigma that follows a woman working in law enforcement who sleeps with her partner — when Dany was sleeping with Daario herself. At this juncture, with Missandei in her current mood, she just doesn’t give a shit what Dany’s reasons were. 

She just wants Dany to know. 

So she says, “I love him. I need for him to be back and safe. I need for you to get him back — and not for me and not because it’s what I want — but because he doesn’t deserve what has happened to him and what’s been happening to him. He’s a good person. And he has sacrificed so much. I don’t think it’s right for us to let him die thinking that we just abandoned him, that we didn’t do everything in our power to get him back.”

 




They are all exhausted and weary as they say goodbye to each other, with Drogo standing barefoot on the front porch and Grey’s parents heading to their cars with thermoses. Drogo assures them that he will call them and let them know of any updates on their son as the days unfold. 

Grey’s parents keep soliciting a timeline from him on just when his government will get their son back safe and sound. It’s completely an impossible question to answer with so many variables, but he understands that they need a glimmer of hope to look toward, so he has reluctantly told them that the last time this sort of thing happened with Grey, it took about five days to get Grey back. 

His mother whispered it back to herself in front of Drogo — and then again in the dark with her hand grasping tightly onto her husband’s hand. She has told herself that she can make it five days. 






After they get off the plane, after they tiredly push past the throng of people loitering around the gate, after Dany makes Tyrion watch her carry-on luggage as she goes pee real quick because she didn’t want to use the plane’s toilet — her gaze falls out towards broad windows outside of baggage claim that just reveal a lot of concrete and taxis.

“Any of it look familiar?” Tyrion inquires politely, raising his arm to flag down a cab.

“No,” she says. “I actually wasn’t born here. I never lived here.”






During the day at work, she works closely with Jojen and musters a remarkable amount of endurance, just sifting through pages and pages of data. She is being indulged in this because Jojen feels bad for her and Drogo isn’t currently around to yell at her for being a waste of space who took his favorite away and left him with her meager self.

Alayaya has taken her place on prostitute duty, until Missy gets reevaluated and cleared to go back into the field. She neatly runs into Yaya after hours, with Yaya wearing a skin-tight purple dress and black boots. She says, “Oof!” as they collide in the doorway. 

She feels Yaya’s hands on her arms, steadying her. Missy feels like she ought to apologize to Yaya for forcing Yaya to demote herself and go below her pay grade just because Missandei had a near-death experience. She is sorry for just inconveniencing Yaya’s life.

Missy mutters, “Sorry,” as in sorry for the bump.

“No big,” Alayaya mumbles, already moving on, already continuing down the hallway.






She patiently takes a seat on the left side of the couch as Tyrion occupies the right side in the seating area that they were directed to. Soon enough, a housemaid puts down a tray of small cups, a steaming iron teapot, and a plate of biscuits.

Tyrion hasn’t eaten in hours and he shunned the shitty airplane food, so he immediately reaches for a biscuit and is nibbling on it as Kevan Lannister arrives, thanks his housemaid, waits for her to leave the room, and then greets Daenerys and Tyrion as they stand up.

“Ambassador,” Tyrion says, shaking Kevan’s hand. “Uncle.”

The sounds of the honorific sounds a little loaded and implicating coming out of Tyrion’s sardonic mouth, so Kevan bristles a little bit. He touches his shirt with a hand as he gestures for them all to sit down. He says, “Tyrion. How is your father?” 

“He sends his regards,” Tyrion says.






His captors keep telling him that they are treating him well and he’s pretty lucky for it because murderers like him don’t usually get treated so well in Valyria, but they are magnanimous because they understand that the situation is delicate.

He is always chained up. He is constantly watched. He cannot even go to the toilet by himself. His guard has become pretty familiar with his anatomy and while his guards have been professional enough not to comment on it — his guards generally do not talk to him at all — he is pretty sure they are probably mocking him behind his back.

He gets to stay in a nice room though, with a bed and with a table and chair and a settee. He gets to lounge on plushy Valyrian upholstery in his chains, so that is nice of them, he supposes.

They feed him food that he has to eat with his hands, because they do not trust him with any utensils. He mostly eats bread, cured meats, and cheese. 

When he is sat down in front of her again, she knows his name, which he finds bothersome but it is probably the natural procedure of things. She is amused as she calls him “Torgo Nudho,” because she knows the origins of his name. To Valyrians, his name is telling and it relays a fair bit of information about where he comes from and who he comes from. 

He understands that she knows his name because his government had to reveal it to the Valyrian government in order to press for diplomatic immunity for him.

“What was your business here in Valyria?” she asks. “Why were you here? Why golf?”

She is trying to trick him into admitting that he was here for business reasons and not in his capacity as an embassy employee. 

He generally doesn’t answer her questions. His non-engagement with her has not resulted in clear punishment yet.






“They are unwilling to enforce the protocol,” Kevan tells Daenerys and Tyrion mildly. “They assert that he was here on a business visa. They noted that the staff list of the embassy was edited to include his name and his partner’s name. They believe that we are trying to pull the wool over their eyes.”

“What they believe and how they feel doesn’t matter now, does it?” Dany says. “The fact of the matter is that, legally, he has diplomatic immunity, and he needs to be transferred into our possession immediately, per the rules of the convention. It is clear-cut.”

 “They don’t see it that way,” Kevan says. And then, lowering his voice a little bit, possibly because most of his staff are Valyrian or possibly because he is empathizing with them. “It is already all over the news,” he says softly. “It’s going to look really bad for them with their people if they let him walk out scot free. He’s a foreigner — and you know how insular this country is —”

“Yes, yes,” Dany says dismissively. “They hate the idea of foreigners tainting Valyrian purity. They just want cheap foreign labor and none of the messy foreign genetics. I am familiar.” She barely takes a pause. “It does not matter. Legally, he must be given over to us. Are you conveying this to them?”

Kevan hesitates, which makes Dany think that he completely has not been conveying this to the Valyrians.

He thinks that she is being young, naive, and bullheaded about this. He believes that the situation is delicate and they have to do their best to preserve life and peace.

She sneeringly thinks that he is being a weak pacifist.

“I want to meet with the officials while we are here,” she tells him. “Please secure a meeting. I also want to see him.”

“Him? You mean —”

“Yes, Kevan,” she interrupts impatiently. “Torgo Nudho, our man who is wrongly detained for something he did not do.”






After the fairly disastrous meeting with the ambassador, Tyrion tries to cheer the both of them up by telling a taxi to take them to someplace with exorbitantly decadent food. 

In response to the look Daenerys is casting him, Tyrion holds a hand up and tries to signal for her to cool her jets. He tells her that he’s paying out of his own pocket, don’t worry. Also, neither of them have had a decent meal in days. He reasonably tells her that punishing themselves with starvation doesn’t help Grey any.

She thinks that his rationalizations are annoying and unnecessary for her to listen to. She just gazes out the window at the skyscrapers and she wonders if this was the sort of view her dad and mother gazed up at, when they were alive and young. 






They are keeping him really isolated. They have searched and scanned his naked body for any tracking device, subcutaneous or otherwise. They have put him in a nice-looking room with one window that is heavily frosted, so light comes in, but everything outside is blurred and unclear. He has no computer, no internet, no TV. He has no books. He just spends hours and hours with a guard standing at his door, watching him. 

“We also know what government you are employed under,” his interviewer tells him, trying to stir some panic in him. 

She is smiling at him. 

“We know your name now. How long do think it will be before we learn where you born — the hospital, the neighborhood? How long do you think it will be before we learn the names and addresses of your loved ones? What will they think about what you have done?”

He is looking down at the table, down at his hands. He thinks that this is utter bullshit. They currently don’t have much leverage over him, other than his desire to be free, so now they are threatening him in this way. 






She learns when Drogo is back in office because Jojen just comes out and blurts it to her as a warning. Jojen, who listened in on Drogo’s enraged breakdown of her failings across the secure conference line and listened to her subsequent emotional outpour over the same line, feels sorry and kind of worried for her.

She thinks it’s paternalistic. She is fine. She currently doesn’t give many shits about how angry Drogo is with her. What is he going to do? He can’t fire her. He just can force her on desk duty but guess what? Everyone already agrees — she should currently be on desk duty.

Drogo doesn’t even acknowledge her in the morning team meeting. Other than the tense and somber mood of it all — it is largely normal. They go over updates. They do check-ins. They discuss resources, budgets, and next steps.

When she arrives home to sleep for a while — her dad stops her at the stairs with his hand at her elbow. She’s only been back for a few days, but he has never been so scared for her before in his entire life. 

Her brothers are over at her house — after months and months of blowing her off when she asked them about dinner at her place with their dad. Her brothers are acting like they just casually stopped by to have a beer with their dad — acting like this is a normal thing they do. 

Her dad softly says, “Do you want to have dinner with us?”

“I’m tired,” she tells him, looking down at the hand on her elbow. “I think I’m just going to rest.”

“Just five minutes,” he asks, pleading with her a little bit. “Just have a quick snack and then you can go to bed.”






Their visit is completely overseen and supervised. It is crazy to him that the first time he gets to talk so directly with Daenerys in over a year is in this context. His eyes take in her blank face and her hair, which has changed in the time that they have not been in direct contact with one another. 

Tyrion tries to alleviate the tension with a soft statement. He says to Grey, “You look good.”

Dany snaps her eyes right to him. She says, “Is that a joke?” 

Tyrion’s eyes fall to the metal around Grey’s wrists and the drab uniform that he is being made to wear. He looks incarcerated.

It actually wasn’t a joke at all. It was actually a thoughtless statement about how Grey looks relatively healthy , how Grey doesn’t appear like he’s in the midst of healing from a gunshot wound. 

“They send a nurse to look at me once a day,” Grey explains succinctly.

“Are they treating you well?”

Again, another stupid question from Tyrion. Even Grey’s eyes fall down to the cuffs on his hands. 

Grey blandly responds with, “It could be worse.”

 




She doesn’t really know how she should act around him. He is a person who is actually a rather permanent and prominent fixture in her brain, but she would not qualify them as being especially close. It does not come naturally to her, to do what Tyrion is doing.

Tyrion is trying to comfort Grey with words. 

Tyrion is ducking his voice down, trying to afford them the smallest bit of privacy in this room full of people. Tyrion is telling Grey to hang on — to keep hanging on — because they know who he is as a person — they know he is honorable — and they are going to get him out. Tyrion tells Grey not to worry about a thing at home. They are going to take care of everything. 

It’s vague enough — by necessity — that Grey has to wonder what the fuck that even means.

Tyrion means that he put Meera in charge of maintaining the logistics of Grey’s life at home. Tyrion means that Grey will still have an apartment and his utilities will still be on and his mail will not be overflowing in his mailbox, when he gets home.

Their time together is too short — the purpose of which is just to show Dany and Tyrion that their man is fine. The minutes they have together isn’t enough for Grey to feel angry with Dany over shit that happened in the past and it’s not enough for Dany to give any sort of explanation for it. 

He has to ask though — because he can’t help it. 

His heart is pounding in his chest because he is preparing himself for the very fucking worst, as he softly asks, “How is everyone? Is everyone okay?”

This is when Tyrion realizes that of course Grey doesn’t know Missandei’s or Sandor’s statuses and of course he has to be wondering about his colleagues’ safety. 

Tyrion quickly says, “They’re fine. They made it back without incident.”

“Oh,” Grey says quietly. “Okay.”

“They miss you,” Dany breaks in suddenly, staring at his face now, making direct eye contact with him now. “They want you back very much. So please, hold on for them.”






She puts on a show at dinner, just for her dad and her brothers. For their sake, she puts up with the labor of sitting at a table with them and making conversation about her nieces and nephews and all of these reminders that there is an entire world that exists outside of the microcosm of her grief. She understands that they think they are being helpful by trying to distract her from whatever it is that has got her like this — but they are men and she finds that she really misses her mom, even in moments like this.

Because her mom would just know. If her dad got to sporadically pal around with her like she was his little buddy — her mom got to deal with her changing moods, day by day. Her mom got to see her struggles with making friends, with her own social awkwardness, with the various kinds of ostracism she experienced for one reason or another — and her response to it because she is sensitive. If her mom were still alive right now, her mom would know that she has lost something really meaningful and precious — and it’s not her virtue. 

At night in her bed, she tortures herself in the dark. She plays the what-if game a lot. She imagines what her life would be like now, if she never bothered him with her admiration of him. She imagines what his life would be like right now, if he was never burdened with her shortcomings. He would probably be at home, in his apartment or having dinner with friends, safe and happy. 

She remembers what his face looks like when he smiles — it glows — and she thinks that she is stupid for letting herself self-indulgently remember that.

She also just goes for broke — and she imagines what their life would look like, if they were just safe and happy together and he just allowed her to be in love with him. She could be the one who was having dinner with him, for instance. She could be the one who was hanging out in his apartment with him. She’d make him laugh. She’d crawl into bed with him afterward, and she’d hold onto him tightly all night. 






There is just a fundamental disagreement here — and many many years of history and context dragging them down. There are also a lot of years of excessive pride dragging them all down.

The Valyrians refuse to release him. They tell her they do not believe he has diplomatic immunity. They tell her what their people deserve — and that is to see their justice system play out. 

She stops herself from sneering. She stops herself from ruining this for him by getting angry and insulting them. She doesn’t tell them that they are fucking covering for a dirty cop because he is Valyrian and they are burning her man alive because he is not Valyrian. She doesn’t tell them that they are just cowardly fucks who are trying to save face by sacrificing a man’s life. 

In turn, they don’t tell her that she is arrogant and she dares to have the audacity to come onto their land and tell them what they have to do? She and her government have the audacity to continue conducting covert operations in Valyrian borders after the explicit promise and agreement that the numbers would get scaled back. They don’t trust her or her government because they don’t keep their word — they are honorless liars and opportunists.

Tyrion is running after Daenerys as she quickly walks to their waiting car. 

He is saying, “Dany —”

“Contact the state department right now,” she barks at Tyrion. “Tell them that we must cut off all communications between that department and the Valyrian embassy in King’s Landing. Today.”

“Don’t you think that is a little counterproductive?”

This — and the immense pressure and stress of the last few days — causes her to caustically snap at him. She shouts, “Does anyone in your family do anything besides cover your own asses!”

Impressively, Tyrion does not recoil at this. He also doesn’t take that much offense. 

He just makes it into a joke. To relieve some of his own stress.  

In a deadpan, he says, “Hey, we don’t just cover our own asses. Sometimes we ruin lives, too.” 






Missandei’s dad is surprised and also not that surprised, when he opens the front door after hearing the doorbell and finds Daenerys Targeryan standing on the front stoop.

He mildly says, “Oh, hello, dear. It’s been a while. How are you?” He tries to recall and he thinks that maybe the last time he saw her was the time after his wife’s funeral, before he moved in with Missandei.

Dany mutters, “Yeah, I’m sorry. And I’m fine.” 

She used to spend a lot of time with Missandei and her parents — even going on family vacations with them — when she was younger and less of a flaming dickwad asshole bitch. She used to feel really touched over being included because she was lacking in the experience of having a real family and they knew that and were trying to give her some of that.

“No problem. I know you’re a real busy person,” he says smoothly, stepping out of the way to let her enter the house. “Congratulations, by the way. I hear you’re just kicking so much ass — from Missy.”

“Ah, well,” Dany says — trying to figure out a way to end this conversation already because it is making her sad — and she also doesn’t have much time for this. She had to get back to headquarters right away and schedule meetings with Jon and Cersei.

Missandei’s dad intuits this. He knows that she’s not here to shoot the shit with him. He says, “She’s upstairs in her bedroom. She might be sleeping.”






Dany spent the better part of a year running away from her guilt and her own culpability in what happened to him — by avoiding him. She spent the better part of the year being a coward under the auspices of busy leadership. She engaged in an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate because she hated herself and sometimes she could let go of and forget this fact a little bit — when she was wrapped up in someone else.

She is here though, because she has to be better than fucking that , from here on out. She has to be better than who she has been.

She looks steadily at Missandei — who sits up in her bed with a book in her lap. Her friend’s eyes are red, and the room smells like it hasn’t been aired out in days. 

Missandei’s surprise gives way to confusion.

So Dany bluntly says, “I’m sorry. We were unsuccessful. They are not letting him go.”

“W-what?”

Missandei looks shell-shocked. So Dany repeats. She says, “We weren’t able to get him back. They insist on charging him for the killings.”

“What?”  

“I’m sorry,” Dany says, and all she can sound is perfunctory and blunt. This is why she often works with Tyrion. He is better at this kind of stuff — at delivering world-upending news to the loved ones of the people they have to leave behind. 

So Missandei starts to cry. She covers her face with her hands momentarily as the words sink in. Dany stands awkwardly at the foot of the bed and watches this. She listens as, out loud, Missandei talks to herself and insists that he is innocent and he didn’t do any of the things he is accused of. 

And here, Dany says, “Are you sure?”

Because she needs to know all of the facts in order to figure out the best way to get him back — because she didn’t realize that Missandei felt this way about him and if Missandei feels so strongly about him, maybe Missandei will lie for him, thinking that it’s the right and only thing to do — to get him back. 

Dany is not really judging or condemning exactly, but that’s how Missandei interprets it. 

Missandei turns furious —  all at once. She stares at Dany like she doesn’t even know who Dany is anymore. 

Missandei says, “How dare you say that.” She doesn’t even give Dany’s shitty question or Dany herself the dignity of a real response. She actually just says, “Please get out of my house.”






Dany walks down the stairs fairly quickly, her heels pounding on the steps and her legs flexing as she holds tightly onto the bannister. 

Missandei’s dad is surprised that her visit is over so quick and that she is leaving so fast — but he still grasps her elbows and pulls her in for a quick hug. He pats her on the shoulder blades and tells her, “Don’t be a stranger, okay?”

Once she’s safely ensconced in her car again — once she’s about two blocks away from Missandei’s house — that’s when the activities of the last week really catches up to her. Losing Grey the first time. Fighting Cersei at every turn. Dealing with Jon’s desire for more information when they don’t have the luxury of time. Drogo being a complete asshole like he thinks that he is the only fucking person in the world in pain over this. Losing Grey again. Losing Missandei’s respect. 

Her chest kind of cracks open a little bit while she’s at a stoplight — and just so much grief and regret starts flooding out — and she just starts sobbing into her steering wheel, so hard that she can’t even see anymore.

Long seconds pass, until the car behind her honks impatiently at her because the light has turned green.






The next week, when he is sat in front of the interviewer again, she looks so happy to see him, and he is like — fucking great. What now?

She tells him, “Your name is Torgo Nudho. You were born in Ebonhead, in the Summer Isles. You have a degree in literature and in criminal justice from King’s Landing University. You became a citizen at age eighteen, when you were recruited to work for their government. Your father’s name is Kamau, and your mother’s name is Sanaa. They are both schoolteachers.”


 

 

 

Chapter Text







Grey really doesn’t think it’s normal operations, for Valyrians to fucking threaten to send killers to his parents’ home and dispatch them in cold blood, but what the fuck does he even know what is normal anymore?

Outwardly, he continues to stay fairly non-responsive.

But in actuality, he is pretty pissed at himself and how fucking stupid he continues to be. He has finally realized that having a guard around him twenty-four-seven, in addition to the chains, is not at all to protect them from his weak, puny ass. It’s definitely so he can’t kill himself. They wanted to keep him alive so that they can fucking present him with this terrible shit, and he didn’t see it coming at all.