It was a necessary fabrication, to tell the Usurper’s son that his wife had been killed in the sacking of King’s Landing. Just as it was necessary to tell the little She-Wolf that her husband had been killed in the war. Dany needed to know their true intentions and, cruel though it may be, grief reliably brought about a person’s true nature. After all, Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen had become the queen, the woman she was today, in part because of her own loss and grief.
She had expected anger at this announcement from this Gendry Baratheon. For, as anyone could attest, the tempers of House Baratheon were legendary. Theirs was the fury, and all that. The She-Wolf, Lady Arya, formerly of House Stark, had been furious in her mourning. She had screamed, and raged for hours, destroying everything in the room they had locked her up in. Pillows were ripped open, spilling feathers everywhere, the sheets were ripped and slashed from a knife the girl had somehow managed to slip passed her guards, tables and chairs were overturned and splintered. And the Lady Arya herself was in such a state that the first maid brave enough to try to bring the Lady a meal screamed in fright.
It appeared, that in Arya’s determination to reduce everything in her room to rubble, she had begun hitting the doors and walls with her fists, bloodying her knuckles, and scraping her hands raw. Perhaps she intended to knock down the whole keep with her bare hands, Daenerys had thought, wryly, when she had come to survey the damage. In spite of the circumstances of their meeting, the Mother of Dragons found herself rather impressed by Lady Arya. She was resilient and fierce, if nothing else, and Dany admired that in a woman, especially one of noble birth. She thought sometimes, a bit wistfully, that, had things been different, they might have even been friends.
Instead, Arya only saw Dany as the woman at fault for her husband’s death. And the murder promised in the She-Wolf’s gaze whenever Dany came to talk to her was not promising. It was not in her nature to want to kill innocents. Though Lady Arya had put up a remarkable fight for one so small, killing several guards who had come in to capture the Almost Queen, and though she had destroyed every fine thing Daenerys had sent to her room after that first outburst, Arya Baratheon was still an innocent.
And pregnant besides.
Which made it all the more impossible to decide to kill her, dangerous to the new Queen’s reign as she was. Dany remembered what it was like, growing up being told the life you had was not the one you were born for. It was why she had come to reclaim a land she had no memory living in. She could not allow another child to grow up believing they had a rightful claim to what was hers.
But Daenerys had not won back her throne with the blood of innocents, and she would stain the beginning of her reign with it now if she could help it. So the pregnant wife of the Usurper’s son lived, and Dany watched as Arya screamed and raged against her, hoping that the woman would eventually calm, that she would see reason, that she would come to understand that she must bend the knee, if only for the babe in her belly.
Daenerys expected Gendry Baratheon to behave much the same, if not worse. She expected his own anger to dwarf that of his wife’s tenfold. She anticipated shouting, and fighting, and threats when she told him. When he was dragged into the throne room, struggling, and bellowing, Daenerys saw the very embodiment of House Baratheon. Ours is the Fury indeed.
Even in chains, and at the mercy of her guards, the former Crown Prince, Gendry Baratheon refused to kneel, glaring up at the Queen with a stubborn sort of anger. She thought, perhaps, he would swear his revenge on her in that moment, promise to kill her himself. Dany did not think she would blame him for that. She was directly responsible for the death of his father, and, she had just taken back the crown he would have been raised to believe was his by right. She had given him plenty of reason to hate her.
“Where is my wife?” He asked instead, and Dany nearly winced at the reminder that she was about to give him one more reason to hate her.
“Your wife is dead, Lord Baratheon,” she said, face impassive. “She died in childbed not long after we took King’s Landing.”
To her surprise, Gendry Baratheon did not yell and fight and threaten. Instead, his face became unreadable, and the man, previously so proud, even in chains, whispered so softly, Dany almost didn’t hear him.
“No,” He said, his face bloodless, his eyes taking on a hazy kind of wildness. “No, it isn’t true.”
Dany felt her face soften with sympathy without her permission. “I am truly sorry for your loss, My Lord.”
Gendry’s knees gave out then, and he landed on them with a painful sounding thud, though he didn’t seem to register it. “I didn’t even know she was with child.”
Dany sighed. “We did all we could. I want you to know that. I would never allow a woman to die in such a way if I could prevent it.”
“And the babe?” He asked, though he seemed to suspect the answer she would give him because there was no light of any hope in his eyes.
“Died with his mother.” The queen said.
A sob tore from Gendry’s throat, as he stared blankly in front of him, like he couldn’t quite register anything around him, like none of it mattered anymore. Another sob came, and another, until the man was openly weeping in front of the Queen and her guards. She had, mercifully, dismissed everyone else to give him this news, this lie, and now, she was very glad she had.
To say Dany was surprised at this display would be putting it lightly. Given Arya’s reaction to the news of her husband’s death, she had assumed that the two were fond of each other, which was a feat in and of itself. It was an arranged marriage, as most highborn marriages in Westeros were, and even Daenerys had heard tales of just how displeased the new Crown Princess had been. She wasn’t sure what she had expected, how she thought the prince and his wife’s relationship would be, but she certainly hadn’t expected this.
She hadn’t expected them to be in love.
For the first time, Daenerys wondered if she had made the wrong sort of play in this game.
The man was still weeping, his face in his hands, and it made Dany’s stomach turn with guilt. She could do nothing but watch as the man in front of her mourned.
“She was the only thing I ever truly cared about.” He said at last, staring at his hands clenched in his lap, the skin of his knuckles stretched white.
And that , Daenerys thought, unkindly, the words springing to her mind, unbidden. Is why you would have made a poor king.
Though she does not say them, the words were in her eyes, written in the furrow of her brow, in the slight purse of her lips. Gendry’s mouth quirked into a smile, though it was not a happy thing. “You probably think me selfish.”
Daenerys watched him carefully for several breaths, measuring her words. “I think you are a man who just lost someone he loved dearly. You may be pardoned for some selfishness.”
“I wouldn’t be if I were king.” He said softly, and Daenerys was once again surprised. Surprised that Gendry seemed so aware of his own shortcomings, and yet so unrepentant of them. Likely because he doesn’t have to worry about being king anymore. It felt like an admission of surrender, of acceptance. Dany was certain then. Gendry Baratheon would have never been a good king, but he was a good man, and maybe that would be enough to end the war, once and for all, without forcing her to bloody her hands again.
“No.” Dany said. “You would not. Or you should not be.”
“Do you intend on holding yourself to the same standard as Queen?” He asked, eyes flashing suddenly with anger, and Dany was bizarrely gratified to see a spark of the fury of the Baratheons.
“Yes,” she said simply. “I did not cross the Narrow Sea to become a tyrant. I am not my father.”
The anger drained from Gendry’s face as quickly as it had come. A hollow look entered his eyes. “Well, perhaps I can die with some peace of mind, then.”
Dany’s eyes widened. “Lord Baratheon, what do you mean?”
He met the Queen’s gaze steadily. “That’s how this ends, isn’t it? You’ll order my execution, and then the throne is yours, with no other claimants, usurper or otherwise to get in your way.”
“You truly believe I would do that?” She demanded softly, a dangerous note in her voice.
Gendry closed his eyes, like he was bracing himself for pain. “You say you did all you could for Arya.” He said, voice flat until it broke on her name. “Is that true?”
“Yes.” Dany replied, holding his gaze steadily.
He nodded carefully, his jaw working. “I believe that, I think. Though that might make me a fool.” His throat bobbed. “But I can’t bear to think of her leaving this world without anyone there to- to-” He cut himself off, overcome again.
“She had someone with her every moment,” Daenerys said, a half truth that burned her throat to speak.
He closed his eyes, a few tears escaping down his face, bt he didn’t bother wiping them away. “It would be easier for you to kill me.” He said, gruffly. “I don’t particularly care if you do. There’s nothing left for me now.”
“That isn’t true,” she said firmly. “I think you’ll find it would be much easier for me to keep you alive.” Gendry’s eyes shot up to meet hers, shocked. “Provided, of course, that you officially relinquish your claim to the throne for you and any children you may have, and you bend the knee to me.” Gendry’s mouth was hanging open, and Daenerys might have found it amusing, had the situation not been so serious. “In exchange, I will give you Storm’s End. You will be a lord and have a seat on my council.”
“That’s a generous offer,” he said bitterly, but Dany could tell she had stunned him.
Daenerys sighed, and came to stand directly in front of him. He was still on his knees, but he was tall enough that he nearly came up to her eye level regardless. “I will not pretend any of this can make up for the loss you feel now,” she said, as gently as she could. “And I do not expect us to be friends. But I do hope that, one day, you will come to understand that I did what was necessary for the good of the seven kingdoms.”
Gendry swallowed hard. “That won’t bring her back though, will it?”
“No,” she said, softly. “But it will end a war, and save many lives. Surely that would be worth something to her?”
Something in Gendry’s eyes hardened at that and he rose to his full height. “I don’t know what she would want in all of this.” He snapped. His nostrils flared as he took a slow breath through his nose, seemingly willing his voice to calm. “But I know I’m done with war. If you can promise peace, I’ll do as you say. I’ll bend the knee. On one condition.”
Dany raised a brow. “Condition?”
“Keep me off of your council. I want no part of it.” Gendry said. “Let me go to Storm’s End, and allow me to stay there. I never want to come back to this godsforsaken shithole of a city again.”
Daenerys furrowed her brow, deliberating her next words. “If that is your wish.” She said at last, unwilling to show how reluctant she was to grant such a request, no matter how temporarily.
Gendry nodded. “It is.”
“Very well then. Let’s have this done.”
It took three days to make everything official. Three long, arduous days in which Dany had to look in the faces of two grieving people and know that she was the cause of all of their pain. But this was the game she had chosen to play, and the round seemed to be ending in her favor.
Gendry publicly bent the knee, before herself and several chosen witnesses. Paperwork was drawn up and signed, and the newly renamed Lord Baratheon immediately began preparations to leave for Storm’s End. He was clearly eager to get out of the city he believed his wife and child to have died in.
She summoned him in the middle of the third day, eager to be done with the matter. She quietly entered Ayra’s rooms, not at all surprised to see that, once again, she had made a complete mess of it, likely in protest. She couldn’t understand how a woman so heavily pregnant could have so much energy.
Arya glared at her when she came in. “Can I do something for you, Your Grace ?”
Dany smiled at her, a pained, tired thing. “No. As a matter of fact, I have come to do something for you.”
Arya scoffed. “I don’t need another dress.”
“I’ve come to apologize.” Daenerys cut across the younger woman before she could begin a tirade.
Arya’s lips parted and her brows furrowed. “Excuse me?”
“Actually,” the queen said, steeling herself. “I’ve come to beg for your forgiveness.”
Arya narrowed her eyes at Dany as she slowly advanced, measuring her up. “I don’t understand.”
“Your husband is alive.” Dany blurted out, unable to keep silent for a moment longer.
The Lady Baratheon stumbled back a step, looking dazed. She shook her head. “No, no you said- everyone told me he was-”
Arya’s teeth came together with a snap. “You lied.”
Before Dany could blink, Arya was advancing on her, a knife materializing in her clenched fist. “I should kill you for that alone.” She snarled, unfazed by the Queen’s guards, even when they drew their swords.
Daenerys never found out if the She-Wolf would make good on her promise. At that moment, the doors opened and there was a startled, strangled gasp from the doorway.
Arya’s head snapped in the direction of the sound. “Gendry?” The knife slipped from out of her hand.
Gendry rushed to his wife’s side so quickly Dany hadn’t seen him move before he was lifting Arya up and spinning her, kissing every part of her face his lips could reach. Tears were streaming down both of their faces, as Arya laughed, hitting Gendry in the shoulder, though there was no real force behind it.
“Put me down, stupid!” Arya cried. Gendry paid her no mind, and only pulled her closer, his arms almost engulfing the small woman until she nearly disappeared. Her feet were still dangling off the floor, and Dany could hear Arya’s muffled curses.
“You’re alive.” He said, over and over again, like he was trying to convince himself it was true. “Oh gods, you’re alive.”
He finally loosened his hold on Arya enough for her feet to return to the ground, but his arms remained firmly around her. Arya, for her part, had let her arms slide from around Gendry’s neck to his chest, and her eyes were still teary as she felt for his heartbeat.
“So are you,” she said, her whole face open and soft, so unlike the fearsome She-Wolf she had been not even five minutes before. Dany’s heart clenched to see it.
“I promised I would come back, didn’t I?” Gendry whispered, laying his forehead against Arya’s.
“You bent the knee, then.” It wasn’t a question, but it was also surprisingly free of the judgement Daenerys was expecting.
Gendry brought his hand to her cheek, thumb grazing the underside of her eye. “If I knew it would bring you back to me, I would have done it the moment I was brought back to King’s Landing.”
“Stupid,” Arya said again, though there were fresh tears in her eyes.
“Arya,” Gendry’s brows were knit together as though he were thinking very hard about something. “They said you- that you were- that there was a babe and-”
“You really are stupid, aren’t you?” She asked, exasperated. Taking one of his hands, she practically shoved it between them, holding it against her prominent stomach. “What do you think this is?”
Gendry blinked down at her stomach, looking slightly baffled for a moment, like he truly had not noticed the bump separating them. Then his eyes teared up again, and his face split into a delirious grin. Laughing, he picked up his tiny wife again, twirling her one way, then stopping to spin her the other way.
Daenerys took that as a sign to leave them be. Everything was far from over, far from settled, and the queen imagined she would be tasked with cooling two formidable tempers in the all too near future. But for now, she could let them alone. They had much to discuss, and even more lost time to make up for. She would not stand in the way of that.
Everything that needed doing could be done on the morrow. For now, Dany could allow Arya and Gendry to celebrate this moment alone.
After all she had put them through, they deserved it.