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Dragonstone was a haven. The castellans of the castle and those who served it claimed it was so as well; Queen Elia, then only a princess, breathed life into it in the early years of her marriage, opening the shutters and clearing the rooms which had not been entered in years. The king, an apprehensive bridegroom like any other, had taken pains as well to make their new home as hospitable as possible, bringing the finest cooks, artisans, and musicians from the realm for his bride. And with the arrival of the royals the island sprang to life again.

Its gates had been open ever since. Though Elia had not returned since the birth of Aegon, within a few moons of her departure and at the height of the Rebellion the Queen Rhaella had fled to the island with Viserys and Daenerys still in her womb. It was not a joyous place then, not when the queen died in childbirth, but the birth of a new Targaryen was heralded as a sign of the rebirth of the dynasty, arriving at the same time as news of Prince Rhaegar’s victory swept through the realm. If Viserys had been heralded “as beautiful a child as King’s Landing had ever seen” then there were no words worthy to describe Daenerys. The kingdom had been plunged into a storm, but her birth would be the dawn of a new age, of peace and splendor.

The birth of another prince was not so celebrated. Jon, his mother had named him, because to call him Eddard or Brandon would have been an unwelcome reminder to the realm of all that had passed, and why the prince had not granted him one more worthy of his Targaryen blood no one knew. His birth would tear the realm apart again, they feared, and yet when it was revealed King Aerys had been found dead in the capitol, when Rhaegar rose as king and cloistered himself with the High Septon for days, the Stark girl was brought to King’s Landing and crowned a queen. 

News from King’s Landing ceased after that. The monotony of peace reigned once more, whispers of highborn schemes and plots falling away once faced with concerns of harvest and crops. Whatever the arrangement between the two queens, whatever easy or uneasy accord had been reached between them, was no matter so long as no more blood was shed. And in that, King Rhaegar succeeded.

Dragonstone was bleak. Daenerys had once loved her home, when Jon had come with his mother and they had stayed for a few years, when Dany had someone to chase after and take her lessons with. Dany was only a child of five then, had thought little of Lyanna, knew her only as one of her brother’s wives, was more concerned with her new playmate. She was a beautiful woman, Dany could see that, and not quite so old as what Dany thought the words “wife” and “queen” meant, with black hair that Jon was always pulled on and grey eyes that always seemed sad, even when they were looking at her son. Her sorrow left Dany wary, a child unused to anything but smiles and caresses, with an army of maids to coddle her in place of her mother, and whether it was Lyanna who kept herself apart or Dany’s caution she did not know.

Something shifted the day a raven came from Viserys, announcing his marriage and describing his wedding and his bride. Dany was only eight then, so much a child, and her brother had taken care to describe only that which would interest her, the dresses and the foods and the customs of the Dornish. Giddy with excitement, Dany shared it with Lyanna and Jon, prattling and pleased that she had received a letter all of her own that the maester had let her read, barely having to correct any jumbled words.

“When me and Rhaegar marry,” She’d announced, “I’ll wear a gown of cream and a crown full of gold and orange jewels, just like Arianne.”

Jon had laughed, said that gold and orange were Martell colors, that Dany’s crown would be red and black, but Lyanna only sat silently, smiling her sad smile. From that day on though, the queen had been kinder to Dany, bringing her and Jon to her bed whenever storms raged outside and the thunder frightened them, and sometimes even pressing kisses to her forehead when the septa said she’d been particularly well behaved.

They were happy, Dany thought, but soon after Lyanna and Jon had to leave, returning to King’s Landing and though Viserys promised to visit often, Sunspear was far off and he was to have his own family soon anyway. Dragonstone felt more like a prison then and when Dany flowered four years later, was told by the septa she was now a woman and grew bold at that, she wrote to Rhaegar and asked whether she might be allowed to go to King’s Landing then.

Instead of a reply to her request, the king sent word that he was to come himself, the first time he had been to the island since Dany was in the cradle. Her maids had fussed over her then, made her bath in rosewater and rubbed her in oil and sugar scrubs. The braids she had been allowed to wear since she was a young girl were pulled apart, her hair left to fall around her shoulders, her body wrapped in gowns of silk that left her arms and chest bare. Her septa warned her about being on her best behavior, made her recite the remarks she was to make about the books the king had sent her and the maester forced her to read.

She waited for him in Aegon’s Garden, a strange place she thought to meet, and when her brother came to her, flanked by two Kingsguard knights, dressed as finely as her, Dany wondered if he had a maester and maids fussing over him too. Her brother was in his thirty fifth year and though she had imagined an old man with grey hair and wrinkles, she saw instead he looked almost as young as Viserys and just as handsome, broader than their brother and with longer hair pulled back from his face.

He bowed to her, though Dany knew from her lessons it was she who should have curtsied, and pressed a warm kiss to her hand. 

“Sister, you have grown beautiful in my absence,” He stated, not letting go of her hand.

“I am pleased Your Grace finds me so,” She replied, repeating the words she had been taught, finally curtseying and it makes her brother smile.

He asked for a tour of the gardens (“I fear I do not know this castle as I once did”) and Dany understood then why he chose to meet her here. The gardens were her favorite place, a fact that she guessed he had been informed of, and she could more easily speak of it than any other place in the castle. And when they finally reached the boggy spot at the southeastern corner, Dany had reached down to pick cranberries and was pleased when her brother took some from her hand and ate them, seeming to relish the taste as she did. 

They passed their days taking turns around the keep, speaking of songs and stories, and every time he would walk Dany to her rooms and bid her good night, she would remember that he had not answered her request, in fact did not even mention King’s Landing at all. She would promise herself to ask again in the morning but would forget, distracted by his tales and the small trinkets he gifted her, necklaces and brooches finer than any she had seen, even the ones that were kept in Dragonstone and she knew had been her mother’s.

He stayed for half a moon’s turn and as his departure grew nearer, as did Dany’s sense of urgency. When they sat in his solar, her embroidery in her lap as he sat writing letters, she broached the subject again.

“Brother,” she began, because he told her she did not have to call him king, “I wonder if I may return to the capital with you. I have been preparing for months; I know the names of all the houses and their sigils, and all the steps to the dances.”

It was carefully phrased, she thought, wording which she had spent the night perfecting.

Her brother turned to her, and it made something gnaw at her stomach to see his frowning. He did not speak at first, instead walked over to the bench where she sat and took the embroidery out of her hands, setting it down on a table.

“You are a girl still, Daenerys,” He explained, his voice sounding sad, “You will have your fill of King’s Landing, I promise you.”

She frowned too at that, wanted to ask him what a difference a few years might make. She would not be married until she was sixteen, she knew, but did not understand why she had to wait in Dragonstone, not when she could be getting to know her nephews and niece, growing closer to Lyanna and meeting Elia. They were her family, she wanted to say, why must she be kept apart?

He touched her face before she could say anything, bringing it closer so she was looking at his eyes and something about it made her blush, made her want to pull away.

“Dany, have you been kissed?” He asked, smiling softly, “It is no matter if you have, we all have our childish dalliances. You may tell me.”

The only boy her age she had ever been around was Jon, and when it was explained to her that he was her nephew she had been as dictatorial as could be, wanting to feed him herself, wrap him in a blanket and hold him like a babe, until he protested and told her to stop. She had never thought about kissing him.

Dany shook her head, but thought she would have done the same even if it wasn’t the truth.

Ever so slowly, her brother pressed his lips against hers. She thought of the knights standing by the door and wanted to push away, then thought to endure it to be polite, but within moments felt herself melting against him. It wasn’t like in the songs, she thought, but all together more confusing, that made her yearn for something she did not know, made her feel ill and warm all at once. It lasted for only a moment before he pulled away, though he kept his face close, pressing another kiss to her forehead. 

When she met her brother the next day, the knights were gone. Her embroidery and his letters were at their usual places but he met her with a kiss instead, one that began much like their first but grew into something altogether different. It felt like sleeping, like getting into bed after a long day and sinking into the featherbed, came as easily as breathing, some skill her body knew and could put into practice automatically. She could hear the sound of their lips quietly smacking, feel the softness of his face, felt languid, like she could sleep in the feeling, and then he softly put his tongue in her month and she responded in kind and it changed again, became something hot and wet, left her struggling to breathe.

It had lasted longer this time, though an hour or a year she did not know. When he pulled away, smoothing her hair, she only knew she wanted to try it again.

He obliged her on the next day, his last day, kissing her more slowly than before but in a way that only left her somehow more anxious, her stomach twisting more painfully, until she felt his hands falling from her hair to her neck to her chest, cupping her through her gown before slipping inside, his thumbs at her nipples. It was not proper, she thought for a moment, but he was her king and her betrothed, surely he knew best. And then she did not think for much longer after that, not when he started palming her breasts, not when one hand slipped to her smallclothes and sent a shot through her, until she felt herself bucking, grinding and biting at his lips, until he moved his fingers further up and she heard herself moan, her hips shaking and her legs closing and opening involuntarily.

He held her after, putting her head into his shoulder, perhaps aware she would be too embarrassed to look into his eyes. When her breathing slowed, she finally spoke. 

“Will it be like that when we lie together?” She asked, her voice so small.

He brought her face to his then, “It will be better. But you must be patient. Stay in Dragonstone and listen to your septa, and when you are ready I will send for you.”

Rhaegar left later that day, and Dany prayed that her wedding day would come soon.

Chapter Text

She arrived in King’s Landing a moon’s turn following her sixteenth nameday, nothing left in her of the girl she had been when Rhaegar’s visit to Dragonstone.

He had not come again though the letters had not ceased since his departure, in the beginning only missives about her beauty and her kindness that left her heart racing and sent her to bed early, hands beneath her smallclothes trying to recreate the pleasure he had given her, struggling to remember his face and form as time went on. It was thrilling to have something all of her own, a secret she could keep, bury deep in her heart.

It was after nearly a year that the content of the letters changed. They spoke of love still but of duty too, a word which had a less sweet taste. I may ask things of you, he wrote, which might be difficult for you to understand but as your husband and your brother you must know that in all of the world I am the only person you may trust. That struck her as romantic, a girl of fourteen. She replied as best she could and something she said must have pleased him for his letters came more frequently, spoke of other things, things that – like he said – she did not feel she could ever understand.

Elia and Lyanna are able queens and kind mothers and will be kind to you as well, he explained, but do not seek them out for counsel, we will be each other’s comfort, you and I and children we will have

Children. That was what it came down to. Even in Dragonstone they heard of it, knew of his queens’ ruined wombs and the heirs the king still desired. When Daenerys flowered at eleven, asked her septa if her wedding would be soon, she explained to her that birthing a babe too early could be as dangerous as a babe which came too late in a woman's life. That was what happened to Queen Lyanna, the septa had said. Her brother had two healthy sons and Viserys would likely have many children; why her brother fretted after heirs, Dany did not know.

Her world had been transformed merely through words. It sustained her, the knowledge that she would leave the island soon, have someone to speak of the way Viserys spoke of his wife, enter a different world entirely. It was a world she did not understand, a world of men and motherhood, the prospect both exhilarating and frightening.

She was half a child when Rhaegar saw her before, still cooed and fussed over by her maids. She had changed, however. Her breasts, while still small, had grown larger, her hips wider and her thighs fuller, features more refined. The Lord of Driftmark, too familiar by far, had named her the most beautiful woman in the world when he first saw her on a trip to Dragonstone and she could see those words unspoken in the eyes of the men in the castle, from the stable boys to the castellan himself.

It was no different at King’s Landing. 

Ser Arthur and Ser Oswell had met her at the port, distant but polite, and brought her directly to the throne room. She had seen nothing of the city that was to be hers, nothing of the keep that was to be her home beyond a series of passages and hallways, empty except for the guards. There was no fear within her, not when she had been groomed for this moment since birth, been taught that she was the blood of the dragon, that she was claiming her rightful place.  She would be brave, as brave as Rhaegar told her she must be, let the knights lead her through the doors, kept her eyes focused on the throne as even as she felt the eyes of the lords and ladies following her, appraising her. 

The throne was a monstrosity in truth. Rhaegar had described it to her in his letters and she read about it in books but it was different to see it with her own eyes, the blades jutting in and out of each other as though reaching out to swallow everyone in the room. Her brother gave no indication that it may have pained him to sit on it but looked every inch the king heralded in story books and poems, beautiful and commanding all at once. Crowned and garbed in clothes as black as night, Dany wondered whether King’s Landing had ever seen a finer king.

When the knights at her side stopped so did she, curtseying deeply and looking up only when she heard her brother’s voice.

“Welcome to court, sister,” He announced, “We have long awaited your arrival.”

“I thank you for your invitation, your grace.”

To his right sat Elia and to his left Lyanna, and Dany could not decide which of them was more beautiful. They spoke of Elia across the realm as sickly, prone to fits of illnesses and bedridden on most days, but Dany saw none of that in the queen, saw instead a striking woman with brown hair that framed a lovely face, features small and delicate. Lyanna’s was a different sort of beauty, something wilder altogether, and with that same melancholy look in her grey eyes as she had when she lived in Dragonstone.

Each queen sat with her children. Aegon had his mother’s features but the Targaryen coloring, while Rhaenys her father’s features and Martell coloring, both beautiful, their expressions unreadable. Jon had continued to take more and more after his mother, and smiled warmly at Dany, who was tempted to smile back.

“Your journey has been long, princess,” Elia stated, her voice soft yet somehow carrying across to hall, “Ser Oswell will take you to your chambers.” 

And with that, Dany was led out of court.

Part of Elia thought to turn her husband away when he sought her chambers the night before he was to marry another woman. She might have, had they been in Sunspear, had the attentions of court not been fixed on her, watching for any sign of weakness, any chink in her armor. She felt it in the throne room, eyes like daggers moving from the young princess to her, doubtlessly hoping she would sneer at the girl, grow hysterical and fall apart. They would all know of it by the morning should she send him away, just as they had whispered about her in the days following Lyanna’s arrival, when she was foolish enough to fight with Rhaegar about her presence, said that the Dornish princess was a jealous thing, embittered by her empty womb and the young rival that had arrived at court.

She would not make that mistake again. Her position at court was secure, became even more so as Aegon grew into his position, proved himself to be twice the man his father was, as able as Rhaegar had been as a young man but with none of his melancholy, none of the weight on his shoulders. It allowed him to thrive, to excel. She could not risk that now, could not bear the humiliation of the court once more.

Elia had ceased being angry with her husband years ago but if there remained anything within her that hoped for more of him, she might have asked him why he did not think of the difficulty of her position, why he did not keep himself from seeking her company on tonight of all nights.

She allowed him to enter then, was grateful at first when it seemed he only wished to speak, lying in her bed beside her with a goblet of wine at hand. They talked of the children, as they always did, of their families and of matters of court, lulled into their normal routine, as though it were merely a night like any other.

He raised the topic deep into their conversation, when they had both grown lethargic. Always strategic, she thought, this husband of mine.

“She will be an able queen I think,” He murmured, and seemed to believe it, “She has been well-trained by the maester and her septa, she knows what is required of her and understands her place. It is up to the gods now.”

“She is as comely as they say,” Elia replied, simply.

In truth, that was the only thing she knew of the girl besides Jon’s half-remembered stories of their childhood together. She was young, that was what mattered, had been kept away from court and not permitted to develop any allegiances or friendships. He did it for his family and for the realm, Rhaegar claimed, so no other houses become involved in their affairs, no ambitious families clawing at each other to place their daughter on the throne, using her to tear apart at his children. Rhaegar did it for himself too, she suspected, so that Daenerys would submit herself to him and his will

He turned to look at her then and there was frustration writ plain on his face.

“It is out of duty I marry her, for the sake of the realm,” He retorted.

She had heard those same words years ago, on a night not unlike this when he had come to her shortly after Lyanna’s coronation. It was clear even then that she was not happy, would never be happy. Whatever excitement had appeared in Lyanna’s eyes the day Rhaegar dropped the crown of roses in her lap had been snuffed out by anguish, and Elia could see only grief and anger in its place. There was no love in them either, Lyanna barely controlling herself enough not to flinch when he touched her, paling every time she entered the throne room where her father and brother had met their fates. It had taken Rhaegar longer than Elia to recognize that, withstood even the birth of a son in place of a daughter he desired, broke only finally when it became clear no other babe would come. 

He had seen Elia’s inability to carry another child to term as a failure, no different than Lyanna’s. Elia had come to know her husband, however, understood that indifference chafed him. His second marriage was not a betrayal, he insisted, but a necessity, and to believe that was to believe in him. Lyanna closed herself off from him, from the world, and he had reacted in kind, treating her with coolness. Elia had made a show of loyalty, forced herself to stay near him even when she felt she could hardly look at him, ran his household and cared for his needs. Their relationship merely shifted then; she could not carry his Visenya but she would be a vessel for his hopes and his plans, the dreams he thought no one else could understand.

She thought of the girl, as beautiful as her husband was, so clearly eager to please him, not unlike Elia had been when she was first married. Her husband may have been a king, may have been a Targaryen, but he was a man like any other, with a man’s desires. And what man in all of the Seven Kingdoms did not want a girl as beautiful and keen as Daenerys warming his bed?

He continued, “You know this better than anyone, Elia. I take no pleasure in this.”

She would have scoffed at that had she been a younger, more reckless woman. Whether Rhaegar wished to convince her or convince himself, she did not know.

“I understand, my love,” was her practiced reply and as though he thought it might please or console her, he reached for her body.

 He spent that night with Elia.

It was strange, left her unsettled, knowing that from this day on she would be privy to that kind of information, know when Rhaegar was abed with another of his wives. There was a schedule, it was explained to her, each wife granted two weeks at a turn when the king would visit their chambers, although they were never permitted to go to his. The Hand of the King, Jon Connington, had told it all to her very solemnly. The queens, however, had kindly allowed some adjustments, he explained; the king would come to her and only her until she got with child, and then each queen would be granted a week at a time. It seemed so ludicrous Dany wanted to laugh but the grim look on Lord Connington’s face warned her otherwise.

Tonight would be her last night sleeping in a bed alone, she told herself as she lay in her featherbed, in rooms grander than any in the whole of Dragonstone, she must see it like that, a last night as a maiden before her life was changed forever.

Nonetheless, her sleep was fitful.

She was woken at dawn, made to bathe and soak in oils, not unlike her preparations the day Rhaegar had come to Dragonstone. This time, however, there seemed to be twice the number of maids fretting over her, three pairs of hands massaging her hair alone while six others worked on her body. They were in a happy mood, doubtless like the rest of the capital excited at the prospect of a royal wedding and the feasts that would follow for highborn and commoners alike. Their excitement was contagious, left Dany giddy, more tolerant of their talking than she might have been another time.

Elia’s presence put a stop to it, a hush falling over the room as soon as she entered. By then Dany was in her gown, a veil attached to her braids and pooling at her feet instead of a maiden’s cloak (because what was the use of replacing a red and black dragon with another?). It was not fear but respect that silenced the maids, Dany could see, and it left her feeling foolish at the liberties she allowed them. 

“You make a beautiful bride,” She stated, gently fingering the veil, and Dany was happy to see she was smiling, “The day will pass too quickly for you, I fear, soon you will find yourself back in these chambers.”

“Thank you, your grace,” Dany replied dumbly, wary of choosing the wrong words.

With a flick of Elia’s hand, the maids were hurrying out of the room, leaving them alone. Her smile seemed to waver then, if only for a moment.

“You are aware of your duties tonight, are you not?” Elia asked, still holding the veil, her brown eyes never leaving it.

Dany could not help but blush. Her septa had explained it to her when she was a young girl and Rhaegar had shown her some of what it would be like. She did not think the queen would wish to hear that answer.

“Yes, your grace,” She chose instead.

It was only then that Elia looked up at her.

“Pray for a girl,” was all she said, “For all our sakes.”

Elia was right. 

For all the years of preparation and planning, Dany hardly felt her wedding at all. It was as though she was in a dream, as though some force outside her was pulling her from place to place, moving her limbs and her mouth for her. One moment she was standing in the Sept of Baelor reciting her vows, feeling the press of cool lips against hers, and the next hands were pulling at her gown until Lord Connington himself pulled her from the rabble and deposited her on her bed, as naked as she was on her nameday, and left.

The rest of the night passed in much the same way, with only a few moments of true clarity. In her fantasies on Dragonstone, they were both clothed, as they had been that day in the solar, their hands reaching beneath smallclothes. It seemed foolish to her now but she had not thought of the mechanics of it, nor of a man’s naked form, only the same soft pleasure he had given her before. She could not help it then but bring her arms up to her chest when Rhaegar joined her on the bed, as naked as she was and yet seemingly with none of her apprehension. The feel of his arm brushing against her own was enough to leave her flushed, wrapping her arms more securely around herself.

“I missed you, sister,” He offered with a smile, and this close Dany could see he had aged since she last saw him, looking tired and she guessed not just from today’s events, “I hope King’s Landing pleases you.”

“It pleases me to be near you,” She replied shyly, and meant it.

There would be no more need for letters and parcels. He would be a mere walk away from her now, she could see him whenever she liked. The thought of someone there, of a keep filled with people to speak with and love, a husband in her bed, of never having to return to Dragonstone alone left her feeling warm.

He did not touch her body, instead moving his hands to hair, slowly undoing the heavy braids her maids had weaved, patiently pulling out pin after pin until her hair fell around her like a cloak. Only then did he reach out, moving her hands from her chest, holding them at her sides while he kissed her. It was sweeter than before, perhaps because she knew he was hers now, their lips merely pecking at first then nipping and biting until her chest was pressed against his, the sensation of skin and skin stirring her to wrap her arms even more tightly against him.

When he moved her onto her back, his hand reaching down between her thighs, she felt as though she were somehow under water. Not drowning but floating, letting the water drag her, knowing she would not sink.

He brought her hand to his manhood and she had been in too much of a haze, of a bliss, to feel ashamed. “Do not be frightened,” she thought he said, “I will teach you,” and had her grip him harder, move her hand up and down his length, and his eyes seemed darker somehow, his teeth biting on his bottom lip. He stopped her when his breathing grew erratic, had her spread her legs across the featherbed, entering her with fingers at first and then his tongue, tracing lines in her skin with mouth and hand, all the while she moaned and bucked and cried. She heard herself beg for something and only then did he move over her, settle between her thighs and reach down to guide himself into her. He held himself inside her for a moment, waited until she adjusted, bringing her legs up to wrap around him before he started moving within her, hands reaching up to her breasts as he rested his weight on his elbows alone, squeezing and pinching. The physical pleasure was not great and yet there was a different sort of intimacy to this, the joy of wrapping her arms around him, kissing his neck and shoulder, smelling his smell. She let him do as he wished and soon it felt as though he were on the verge of something when he suddenly pulled back, looking her in the eyes once more, his hair falling like a veil shielding them from anything which existed outside the world of their bed.

It was only then that he touched her where she desired most, rubbing his fingers against the spot he had discovered when they kissed in Dragonstone, the one she had touched countless times in the quiet of her room, left her reeling, crying out in a voice that did not seem like her own, all the while with him watching her with hungry eyes until his speed increased too, their bodies slamming against each other until she came apart with his name on her lips and he spilled his seed inside her.

Dany did not remember which desire was stronger after, the exhaustion of her body calling her to sleep or the need to have him within her again. He pulled the furs up around them before she could make up her mind, bringing her into his arms and falling asleep almost immediately.

They made love two more times, however, once when he woke her in the middle of the night and again in the morning, when the keep around them bustled with sound and he pulled her into her lap, hands on her waist, watching as she moved above him.

When it was time for them to part, he kissed her firmly on the mouth and asked her to go to the sept, to pray to the Mother for his seed to bloom in her womb. It was the second time someone had made that request of her. Dany promised she would.

Chapter Text

Lyanna thought that if her husband were not a king he would have locked himself in his sister’s chambers and had his way with her from dawn through dusk. He had duties however, responsibilities to the realm, but Lyanna suspected that it had as much to do with his pride as anything else, his desire to always be seen as the mighty and beloved Dragon Prince, the one the realm had loved in his youth, not a lustful man, hands reaching and clawing at his pretty young wife, younger even than his daughter. As beautiful as Daenerys had grown to be, Lyanna still half-expected her nursemaid to trail after her as she had in Dragonstone. Rhaegar had recently passed his fortieth nameday and while he may have looked like a man still in his thirties, that façade was harder to maintain when he stood by his young bride.

Doubtless, Rhaegar was aware of this as well. He treated his new bride with a cool courtesy at court but Lyanna could see the small touches, a hand on her arm as though to steady her when she descended down a step but that lingered too long, a kiss on her cheek that appeared to taste of more than duty. When the court gathered again a week after the wedding for the coronation, Rhaegar had looked as though he might devour the princess whole when she rose with the crown on her head, looking every bit the Targaryen queen he must have longed after in his youth, when he had to make do instead with women of lesser blood.

Elia may have suspected it, for who knew Rhaegar better than her, but Lyanna was sure she was the only one who could see it, the naked hunger of it all. He had looked at her the same had he not, all those years ago when he had first found her, named her wife and taken her to that tower. It disgusted her to think of it now, how ravenous she was for him, how for all the times he reached out for her she reached out for him twofold. He had opened something within her then, something that was stronger than any shame she might have had, any taught notions of the proper way a wife should let her husband behave in their bedchamber. He felt it too, she knew, or else he would have stopped making love to her once it was clear she was with child. Instead, he taught her the other ways in which a man and a woman might pleasure each other when she had grown too big to comfortably take him inside her, with hands and lips and tongues and breasts.

Lyanna vowed she would never let him touch her again once she found out the fates of her brother and father but she had been too weak, had let him into her bed again and again, grateful for the warmth of him, even as she hated herself after, even as she scrubbed at her skin in the bath until she drew blood and still did not feel clean. They both knew no child would come of it, the maesters in King’s Landing having examined her and judged she would never bear another child, and yet Rhaegar sought comfort in her body, those dark days when he began to question his prophecy once again, question his purpose. Elia’s pain was too raw then and all of King’s Landing knew of how she had barred her door to him, her brothers having arrived in court with the lords and ladies of the most powerful Dornish houses, as vocal a threat as they dared to make after the men they had lost on the Trident.

She offered him no comfort, no consolation, learned instead to use his body as he used her, wringing out her own pleasure from him, pushing him away when she had found her end and could not stand the feel of his skin against hers. He would look so glum after, a sulking child that had been refused something for the first time, did not withstand it for long, soon pulled himself away from her entirely and stopped demanding his rights. In the end, it pleased her to think the warrior who had struck the usurper down on the Trident, with the blood of Aegon the Conqueror coursing through his veins, a god as much as man, had been brought down by the scorn of a woman.

Lyanna watched it all from afar, as she had learned to do those many long years in King’s Landing. On the night of the coronation they were to feast in Rhaegar’s rooms, and Lyanna obliged his invitation, both for Jon’s sake and her own, to see how her always ingenious husband had arranged it all. The politics of the dinner table, she had called it when Jon was a young boy learning court etiquette, the considerations of placing a lord to his left or two his right, too close or too distant, the grievances and implications that came with that.

Rhaegar arranged for them to sit at a round table, a rather inventive solution. It was ordered by birth and marriage order. To his right sat Elia and to his left Rhaenys, Lyanna beside Elia on her other side and Aegon beside his sister, Jon placed beside his brother and Daenerys next to Lyanna. It was a diplomatic solution; Aegon and Rhaenys could converse among each other, as could Rhaegar and Elia, who was the seat of honor as was her due as a first wife, leaving Lyanna, Dany, and Jon to their own company. 

She gave her attention to the food that had been served and let them be as she had in Dragonstone, listening absentmindedly to their conversation of this and that lord of the Claw Isle who Jon remembered, filling in the years they had been apart from each other. Dany was always a gentle girl, Lyanna remembered, though sometimes too domineering of Jon in their games but her son had not seemed to mind, though now it was Jon who spoke more, telling her of the sights he had seen on his recent trip to the Westerlands. Aegon was pulled into the conversation then as well, adding his own remarks and memories. 

Lyanna scanned her eyes around the room, noticing another benefit of Rhaegar’s arrangement as Rhaenys and Elia talked across the table to each other. From his seat he could look directly at his young bride, watch as she talked to his sons. Lyanna was surprised the table had not risen, and laughed openly at the thought.

Rhaegar’s eyes snapped to her immediately, giving her a scolding look before turning pointedly to speak to his daughter.

“Pray tell, what is it that amuses you so?” Elia asked, “We could all use some laughter.”

Elia had seen it too though, she could tell, from the lines in her jaw, the tension in her body. Lyanna was grateful in that moment that she had learned apathy years ago.

“It is only that I am pleased to be with my family,” She replied with a smile.

The Red Keep was not only smaller than Winterfell but the lands around it were heaving with people, a far cry from the open fields and moors she had grown used to in her youth. It left her with far fewer opportunities to ride, so much so that over the years she felt the muscles in her thighs and stomach turn soft. It was not until Jon was old enough to learn to ride that Lyanna got on a horse again, was able to once again lose herself in the speed of it all, lose hours exploring and racing, lose memories in it. Jon took to it as well as she had at his age though part of her suspected that he did not ride so much for his own pleasure but rather did so knowing that if he did not take her, she would not be able to go.

It was too much of a risk, Rhaegar had told her, and he could not spare two of his Kingsguard for hours each day while she ventured into the Kingswood. It was different, however, when it was a crown prince, one who was encouraged to ride and hunt and hawk as all highborn men were. Rhaegar could not refuse his son.

Jon set a leisurely pace, likely for the sake of their guards today, Ser Barristan Selmy and Ser Jonothor Darry, neither of who were young men nor very able riders. It pleased her that her son had grown into a man so thoughtful, even as she itched to race.

They stopped at a clearing in the woods, resting in the grass and unpacking the food they had packed in their saddles, Ser Barristan and Ser Jonothor circling at a distance.

“Aegon says father may allow him to visit Braavos after his nameday,” Jon said, breaking the silence as Lyanna cut into an apple, “I think he may let me travel as well, he could not refuse me if he allows Aegon.”

Her son had grown restless lately, a thought that worried her. Restless princes, particularly second sons, had a limited number of paths. One was service to the realm, the Citadel or the Kingsguard of the Wall. The other was marriage and service of a different sort, that of providing heirs. Both would mean the loss of her son.

“Where would you like to go this time?” She asked instead, laying the apple slices in a handkerchief and handing them to him.

He smiled gingerly, at the age where he was embarrassed to be mothered, but took it nonetheless.

“I know I cannot go far, not if Aegon is to go to Essos,” He mused, lying on his back in the grass, “I thought maybe Dragonstone. Aegon has given up his rights to it and it would be good to return if I am to make it my home someday. Dany could come to,” and turning his face towards her, “And you too, mother, just like it was.”

Lyanna could finally return his smile then.

She was not unhappy there, truth be told. It had been her sanctuary when things had grown too difficult with Rhaegar. She could bear King’s Landing for Jon, bear anything for him, but not his own father’s ineptness. He loved him, that she knew and could not doubt, even in her darkest moments with Rhaegar, but he had not planned for a second son and could not figure out a place for him. Aegon was the Prince that was Promised, trained for it since he was born, and though Jon trailed after him he was kept out of his lessons, out of the training yard. She could not think of a worst fate for her son than to be raised thinking he was less than a brother because of a mere matter of birth.

Their trip to Dragonstone was only meant to last half a year but Jon was happy there. She could shield him from the difficulties of her marriage and for all that he missed his father, his brother and his sister, it was doubtless thrilling for a child that was always second best to be the sole focus of attention. And with Dany he was, a lonely child herself, with love to give and nobody to give it to. Lyanna had walked in on them playing in Viserys’ old rooms before he had been sent to Dorne to find Dany dressing in Jon in her brother’s old clothes, crown and all. It had been a sweet sight.

How strange to think now that that little girl who used to trip on her own gowns was now warming her husband’s bed.

“It was sweet to see her again, was it not?” Lyanna asked, resisting the urge to wipe a smudge of dirt from her son’s face.

Jon’s smile grew, “She has not changed much, although she’s not as bossy as she used to be.” He was quiet for a beat and then, “It’s a horrible custom, truly.”

“What is?”

He finally turned to face her then, sitting up on his elbow, with a look on his face that reminded Lyanna so much of Ned when he was thinking something through and did not know how to phrase it.

“I know that kings are not like other men,” He explained, slowly as though he were still picking his words, “But I think the Faith have the right of it. How is a man to be a good husband if he has more than one wife? It is like being ripped apart threefold.”

And what of the woman, she wanted to add, in how many ways is she ripped apart?

When she was a child, the nights were Dany’s preferred part of the day. She would be read a story before bedtime and when Viserys was at Dragonstone, sometimes he would recite it himself, and she could inhabit a dreamland of her choosing, journey to the ends of the world, meet whomever she wished, and awaken to find herself in her bed again. It was no different when she was married, except now she could live her dreams while awake.

Each night, Rhaegar would come to her and she would undress him slowly all the while he asked after her day, before he would join her in bed. She did not do much with her days in truth; while Elia and Lyanna both often had harried days, either joining their husband as he held court or meeting with Lord Connington to discuss matters related to the upkeep of the household, Dany had not been given the same duties. Rhaegar explained to her that she could not let her energy be spent on anything but ensuring that she comes to be with child and that the child is safe and healthy.

She was allowed no strenuous activity. When Jon invited her to ride around the city with her in order to learn its streets and its people, she had yearned to say yes but was made to politely decline, spending her day in her rooms instead with nothing but a handful of ladies and a musician from Essos to pass the time. Aegon visited her from time to time and though he was less quiet and reserved than he had been when Dany first arrived at the capital, he was harried, busy with the duties of an heir. Rhaenys had much of his temperament but Dany had been surprised to learn she spent most of her days in the training yard with her brothers. She could not imagine the princess, beautiful and gracious as she was, swinging a sword or shooting an arrow. Instead, Dany’s days revolved around maesters consequently, coming to visit her each morning to check after her health and though every day they told Rhaegar as delicately as they could that it was too soon, they would be back again.

It offended her, though she knew she had no right to feel affronted. A queen could endure things that would break other women, she had been taught, and must do so for the good of her king and the realm. And yet, to wake every morning and to feel the hands of a strange man on her body, to spread her legs so she might be examined and scrutinized like some animal, left a throbbing inside her chest, an angry itch under her skin that would not go away no matter how hard she tried to calm herself. Rhaegar’s presence in the room during her inspections comforted her at first, but after enduring a week of it she found herself looking at him, wishing he would put a stop to it, unable to keep the disappointment at bay when he inevitably did nothing. 

It had become unbearable to her, become difficult to hold her tongue after over a moon’s turn of the maesters’ attentions. The gods answered her prayers however, when the maester turned to face Rhaegar not with his usual expression, arms raised as though there was nothing he could do, but rather a smile.

“It is in the early days yet, your grace,” He explained, “But there is nothing to indicate that the queen will not carry the child to term.” 

It had been so sweet then, her husband sending the maester away before wrapping her up in her arms, bringing her onto his lap and layering kisses into her hair, his hand on her still flat stomach.

“I dreamed of our child,” He murmured, and Dany had laughed, delirious with joy, “She will the most beautiful princess the world has seen. I have men across the realm searching for Dark Sister. When it is found, it will be hers.”

Dany had been surprised by that but his bliss was plainly writ on his face that she did not want to ruin it.

“And what if it is a son?” She asked, pressing a kiss to her forehead.

He grabbed her hand then, the one that had been running across his chest and neck, holding it tightly, his eyes fixed on her face. His look was dark, not the burning looks he gave her when he found her in her bed, her body eager and soft, but an expression that was altogether different, one she had not seen before.

“It must be a girl,” and though his voice was no more than a whisper she could see that it pained him to see it, “It will be, the gods cannot be so cruel.”

Dany could not say anything, she knew, Rhaegar had told her that there would be things she could not understand, that she was too young yet to learn of. It would have frightened her had she not trusted him so, had the look on his face been so distressed, left her wanting only to comfort him.

“I will give you a daughter,” She promised.

They celebrated the young queen’s pregnancy in private though it had been announced to the court, presents for the babe already arriving in the capital from all across the Seven Kingdoms. So few knew of Rhaegar’s plans that it would not have done to herald the child’s conception as anything more than the birth of a fourth royal child. The realm was not ready, Rhaegar decided, to learn of its destiny and the role his children would have in its salvation. Elia agreed; the memory of the Mad King was fresh yet and it would not do for her husband’s hold on the kingdoms to falter now, not when her children would pay the price of it.

Some of it was hope as well. Hope that he would see reason, that he would remember the blood that had been spilled and realize that his path had only led to folly. There had been a time after Lyanna’s arrival in the capital that Elia believed, foolishly she knew now, that her husband had put aside his fantasies. He had grown more at peace after the birth of his young son, resembled something of the young man who had courted her in their youth. It lasted merely a few moons before he returned to his solar and his books, and fixed his eyes on Dragonstone.

His daughter had not even come into the world yet, Elia reassured herself, and it would be many years until she left her mother’s skirts, much less was able to be the Visenya he sought. There was time yet.

Her husband, as always, was willing to provide other, more pressing matters for her to fret over.

Elia could read the surprise on her husband’s face when she called on him in his solar with Lyanna at her side. They had reached a tepid coexistence years ago (how can I loathe someone more than they do themself, Elia had told Oberyn years ago but it was more than that, became easier to tolerate her presence when it was clear the younger woman had no interest in being her rival in any terms, whether it came to her status at court or their husband’s affections) but spent most of their time apart, coming together only when it concerned the children or Rhaegar himself.

Rhaegar had made a show of hospitality, offering his wives food and refreshment, ordering his cupbearers out of the room when they declined. 

Lyanna seemed as though she wanted to speak first but Elia stepped in, sure she could put it more diplomatically.

“Husband, you have no given us the pleasure of your company for many moons now,” She remarked, watching his face carefully, “The gods have blessed Daenerys with a healthy child in her womb, surely we can return to our prior arrangement.”

For Lyanna, it was for her son, so that he would not see his mother treated as something less than Elia and come to think of himself as less than his brother. She had not lain with Rhaegar in years, Elia knew, but the court did not. Elia could not begrudge her that; it was wise for Aegon’s sake as well, so no man might come between the brothers with whispers of where the king’s true favor lay.

For Elia, it was so much more. It was for her children and the counsel he asked of her but for herself too, for the husband who had been hers the longest, the one who had loved her first.

To her surprise, Rhaegar seemed embarrassed, if only for a moment before his mask of cool courtesy returned.

“She’s young yet,” He replied, “And pregnancy is no easy thing, as you both know. It comforts her to have me with her in the nights when the mother’s stomach keeps her awake.”

Lyanna reddened at that. Who was her comfort when she lay alone in that tower, Elia wondered, when she brought her child into a world with her kin dead and slaughtered?

Lyanna spoke up, “It is a trying time for a woman indeed and yet we must put our duty ahead of our pleasure, as you have taught us.”

He would have flinched at the word “pleasure” had he been a lesser man. It struck him to his core, Elia could see, the implication of another word, lecher, which his kingly pride could not bear.

“As you wish,” He conceded, turning back to his desk as though they were no longer in the room, already wishing them away.


It would be an easy birth, the maester told her, when he had bent down to examine her, touched her with cold fingers and remarked that she was opening up “nicely” for the babe. Dany had wanted to kick at him, to order him away, the pain coursing through her body coming in ever growing waves, but Rhaegar was still in the room, his hand in hers, and she would endure for him. 

“Will you stay?” She asked, when the maids began filing into the room, to her fear and surprise, carrying pots of hot water. 

Rhaegar kissed her but she could find no pleasure in it, not now.

“If only I could,” He replied, and though he tried to smile it did not reach his eyes, “A husband’s place is not in the birthing bed.”

You are the king, she wanted to say, you may do as you wish, but all she could do was scream as another wave of pain wracked her body. Rhaegar’s brow furrowed and he kissed her once more, whispered something in her ear and then he was gone, leaving her to a room of strangers.

She could not tell how long it lasted, whether it had been days or weeks that she shrieked and cried and clawed at the sheets, the maester telling her to push at times and then allowing her to rest, the maids pressing cool cloths to her head and forcing her to drink lemon water that she struggled to keep down. It was not possible, not right for it to pain her so much, she thought with whatever wits she had left, and she had tried to warn the maester he only told her she was close now, nearly at the end of it.

He must have said that ten times or more and she began to fear it would never end, the babe would not come and she would be trapped in this bed forever, bringing life to something and wishing for death all at the same time. She screamed for the mother she had never met, screamed for Viserys and Rhaegar, and though he did not come his child did, slipping out of her body and filling the room with its own cries to add to hers. 

Elia had told her that the pain of childbirth was forgotten as soon as the mother looked at her babe and Dany found it was true when the maid pressed the screaming bundle into her hands, when she clumsily wrapped herself around it, looking at its small face, eyes still not open, a tuft of silver hair on its head.

“I will go tell the king,” The maester said, washing his bloody hands in a basin and turning to leave.

“Is it a girl?” Dany asked, though she held the babe in her hands, delirious from pain and joy and the consuming ache in her body.

The maester shook his head, smiling, “A boy, your grace, a healthy boy.”

Chapter Text

Daenerys had wept in those early moons of her pregnancy when Rhaegar first came to her, explaining that it was time that he return to Elia and Lyanna, that they had taken offense at his neglect. It is a difficult life that the gods had chosen for her, he explained, but it had been nearly twenty years since he had taken on a second wife and there was a system that had been established, one which they had to grow accustomed to despite their reservations. She had known it would be so since she first arrived in King’s Landing, understood that she could not have him to herself all the time and though he had been gentle when he told her, she felt herself tear up despite herself.

It was the babe she knew, the maester having explained that when a woman was with child her moods were often more heightened than before, but it had been something more too, disappointment perhaps or realization that the cards she had been dealt were just that, something she could not change, only had to accept it.

It had been easy to push it away when he kissed her tears, when he lay her down on the bed and for the first time undressed her himself. He had kissed her between her legs again, the only time he had done so since their wedding night, licked and sucked until she was calling his name and even then did not pull away, touched her with his fingers instead and by the time he finally entered her she had already reached her peak twice. It had been easy to forget, when she could focus on the feel of him instead, hear herself whispering faster and harder into his ears and have him respond in kind, all the while kissing her, all the while calling her beautiful and perfect and wonderful.

It was harder to bear on those nights when he did not come to her, spent them instead with Elia or Lyanna and for the first time since she married she had to sleep alone in her bed. She wept bitter tears then, but he would come to her every morning, murmur to her growing stomach and on most days make love to her, pulling her into his lap as they sat together and it had felt so exciting, knowing they should not, knowing someone might walk in, her moans so loud at times he would laugh, put his hand gently over her mouth to stifle the sounds, though it only spurred her on more. 

It made it easy for her to forgive and yet she could not find that same sympathy in her heart when he did not come to her after their son was born. 

In truth, she did not think she would love anybody or anything as much as she loved her son in those hours after his birth. And he was easy to love after all, a beautiful babe with silver hair and her eyes, and though he fussed, he would calm when Dany held him in her arms. It was strange to be so fascinated by someone so small who could do naught but sleep or eat, and yet Dany could stare at him for hours, watch as he suckled at her breast or lay in her arms, dream about the man he would grow up to be, imagine what he would look like, which features would be Rhaegar’s and which hers, whose temper he would take after.

Her husband said he would come to her rooms as soon as the birth was over and yet even after she had been bathed and dressed, her bed cleaned, he had not come for nearly half a day. It left her with a hollowness that even her son could not fill, an aching that did not lessen even when he finally came to her, looking more weary than she had ever seen him before.

He sat beside her bed in silence before reaching a hand to caress her face, and then down to his son where he lay feeding at her breast.

“I was in the sept,” He murmured, as though reading her thoughts, and she noticed the redness in his eyes.

“Did you pray for our son?” She asked, and wanted to find a way to pull him somehow to her, to rid him of the lost look in her eyes, whether to kiss him or curse him she did not know.

She touched his hair but he did not seem to notice.

He smiled but it came out a crooked thing, “For our son and for ourselves, and most of all for the realm. I asked the gods for guidance, for the wisdom to understand when they lead us astray from our path.”

“And did they reply, brother?”

She could not keep the bite out of her voice then.

Rhaegar reached for his son and though he cried when Dany pulled him away from her breast, he quieted as soon as he was in her father’s arms. Her husband pressed a kiss to his crown as she laced up the front of her shift.

“They have not, though I know they shall,” He replied, his voice soft as though afraid to wake up the babe, “Have you thought of a name for him?”

She had thought of several, but it was a husband’s right to name his children and though she tasted anger, she did not wish to pain him, not truly, not when he seemed so troubled. He has burdens I do not know of, she tried to tell herself, and he so wanted a daughter, but somehow it did not still the dull the ire rising in her chest.

“Do you not wish to name him?” Dany asked but he merely shook his head and smiled again, and it seemed almost sincere this time.

She went on, carefully, “I thought of a few. Aelyx perhaps, or Aemon or Jaehaerys. It is your choice, husband.”

“All worthy names of a Targaryen prince,” He remarked, and it seemed as though he held their child closer, “We have not had an Aelyx in our bloodline since the days before the conquest. The weight of a crown is mighty enough, even for one who will not sit on the throne. Perhaps it will be good for him to grow without living in the shadow of a namesake.”

Dany liked the sound of that, though it made her ache to have her child in her hands again. Her husband seemed to sense it, most likely schooled now in the needs of mothers, and slowly moved the child to her hands again. They sat in silence, his eyes not leaving their child, and Dany willed herself to say something that might ease the tension between then.

It would do no good, she thought, for our son to come into the world with his father and mother at odds.

“I know you did not wish for a son,” She began, made herself continue even when his eyes flashed to her, the expression unreadable, “But the maester has said it was an easy birth, as easy as a birth can be, I suppose. I should have no trouble conceiving another babe, a daughter this time.” 

To her surprise, her husband lay his head down in her lap, his face turned toward her. It was so sudden, frightening almost, that Dany froze. Rhaegar was her king in public and her husband in private and yet she had never felt him to be her brother, never felt for him the kind of love she felt for Viserys. In that moment though, he was not her king nor her husband but her older brother and she his younger sister. Tentatively, Dany reached out to put a hand in his hair, smoothing it down, the repetitiveness of the motion calming her some, as well as his proximity to her.

“I will leave King’s Landing on the morrow for the Citadel,” He murmured, and Dany felt her heart lurch out of her chest, “I do not know how long I will remain. In the meantime you must care for Aelyx and heed Aegon’s commands in my place.”

Dany wished she had the strength to push him away but instead made do with what she could.

“You would leave your son, leave your wife on the day of his birth?” She hissed and he pulled back from her as though struck, Aelyx waking at her breast.

He became her king again, in just one moment, standing up as though to put as much space between them as possible, giving her that look he reserved for his subjects.

“I do this for my sons and for my wives,” He said, and suddenly he felt a world away, “I will write to you and you will write to me, tell me how you and your son fare. In the meantime, perhaps you will school yourself in obedience.”

She might have begged for forgiveness then, if she had the strength for it, or reached for him, embraced him as her brother and her husband, kissed the lines from brow but only felt heartbreak.

“Leave, then. What are you waiting for?”

And only when he was gone did she weep, her son’s cries drowning out her own.

It was quiet after Rhaegar left and though Elia had asked if she might join him in Oldtown, in truth she did not do it with much heart. In the past she perhaps might have looked forward to the opportunity to have him all to herself, away from it all, but she had grown tired lately, wearier with every day that passed and she watched Daenerys’ belly grow bigger and bigger, as Rhaegar grew more and more tender to his young bride. She had been spared the sight of it during Lyanna’s pregnancy; though in those long nights after her husband’s disappearance she had imagined every possibility, even the most ghoulish, she knew nothing could match the sight of him tending after another woman, dreaming of another child the way he had with her.

If she was a crueler woman she might have rejoiced in Dany’s inability to give him the daughter he so desired but her husband’s displeasure was not the displeasure of a man, but the displeasure of a king, and that could be a dangerous thing indeed.

Jon was to leave for Dragonstone after he returned from the Citadel she knew, and his mother likely along with him, and though she would not be with her husband she could be with her son at least, could guide Aegon as he sat on the throne alone for the first time, could help her daughter find some joy, free from the constraints her father put on her, the training she underwent. Her brothers could come as well, and though Doran had not left Dorne for many years now Oberyn had left as soon as he received her raven now. I will not step in that damned city so long as that bastard sits on the throne, he had sworn after Lyanna’s coronation, and he had kept his promise though Elia did not know who he intended to punish, her or Rhaegar.

He came though, nearly six moons’ turn after Rhaegar had left the city, and that was enough for her. Her brother was not as young a man as she had seen on her last visit to Dorne all those years ago but he had lifted her up in his arms all the same, as though she were still the little girl he had let push down in the Water Gardens and not a queen of the Seven Kingdoms. He likely would have done the same with Rhaneys and Aegon if her daughter was not holding her youngest brother at hand and Aegon not sitting on the throne.

In truth, the little boy brought joy to the keep.

He was beautiful, as beautiful as Rhaenys, Aegon, or Jon had been when they were babes, with violet eyes shaped like almonds and his father’s smile. Daenerys, likely desperate for company after Rhaegar’s departure or perhaps only proud of her son, let whomever wished visit the boy. Elia had been the first to go, for Aegon and for his throne so that there would be naught by good will between the brothers, but for her own curiosity as well, the need to see any child, anything, which had something of her husband in it.

Dany had been smiling, cooing over the child, and when Elia brought up their husband out of interest or as a test perhaps saying Jon had written of Oldtown and its people, she had been pleased, almost proud, to see Dany did not react, save for the tiniest quirk in her eyes. King’s Landing was an efficient instructor, though a ruthless one. Elia left her to herself; the girl did not look to her and though Elia pitied her, she would, could, provide no comfort besides an interest in Aelyx.

It was sweet not think, not to worry, and Oberyn had always been good for that, bringing out a side of her she thought had died that day in Harrenhal, mulched and rotted like that crown of blue roses. She had been quick to laugh in her youth, with a sweet wit but a barbed tongue as well, much like Aegon’s nature now was. Oberyn breathed life into her again, left her health the best it had been in years, her spirit fortified.

Aegon had taken to carrying Aelyx around and the child, though always eager to walk around now that he had finally learned how, obliged him, doubtless happy for the attention. They found him in the gardens today, Aelyx reaching out with still chubby and clumsy hands trying to catch butterflies, giggling every time he failed. 

“Be careful of the fennel,” She warned, pointing to the bees that collected around the yellow plant.

The child was coddled as only a Targaryen prince could be. When he first began to crawl, Dany had covered the floors of the nursery with pillows and cushions finer than those decorating the solars and chambers of the high lords of Westeros so that he not suffer any discomfort. Rhaegar assigned Ser Jaime as his personal guard before he left the city and Oberyn could not hide a smirk at the sight, the proud Lannister with a scowl on his face trailing after the toddling prince.

He skinned his knee for the first time a few weeks prior, taking a tumble as he tried to catch up with Aegon in the throne room, and though Aelyx had taken it well enough, barely crying at all, three knights had rushed to him all the same and he had spent half a day with the maester until his mother had been satisfied with his treatment.

It would do no good to have him return to her with a bee sting.

“He knows to stay away from them,” Aegon replied, smiling, his eyes not leaving his brother, “He’s clever, mother, he’ll be clever than Rhaenys even.”

Oberyn rolled his eyes at that, his distaste for the father not sparing the son. He had counseled Elia to send the child and his mother away, perhaps back to Dragonstone, while Rhaegar was gone but that was only folly. She had grown accustomed to her arrangement years ago, though she supposed her brother never would be. 

“Doubtless he will be, so long as he has you guiding him,” Elia said, standing on tiptoes and pressing a soft kiss to her son’s forehead before joining Oberyn on the chairs set amidst the rose bushes. 

Within a few moments, her son joined them, his little brother sitting dutifully in his lap, small fingers fiddling with some flower petals he had plucked. Elia watched as her brother sat up in his seat and said a silent prayer in her head that all would go well, looking around to ensure that her uncle Lewyn was the only Kingsguard member within hearing distance.

“It is time for you to take your stand, nephew,” Oberyn started, “The people are ready for it.”

Aegon cooed over Aelyx, though Elia could see he eyed his uncle wearily and remained silent.

Oberyn continued, “Your sister must be told as well, it is past time.”

“What you speak is treason,” Aegon murmured, and though he spoke with his father’s voice it was Doran’s words, “My father has intended for me and Rhaenys to wed since we were children. To disobey him would be to cast myself out of his favor forever.”

Oberyn looked at his sister beseechingly but Elia would not speak. This was his plot, since Rhaegar first took Lyanna as wife, and though it was for her children’s good, she knew, it would be for Aegon to decide should he choose this path. 

“The Faith will not stand for another incestuous marriage,” Oberyn explained, though he son flinched at the word, “Incest it is, Aegon, whether it is between commoners or princes and princesses. My friends from Oldtown to the orders of the Most Devout say it is so. They withstood your father’s marriages because the realm had bled enough and the favor of the smallfolk was with him but there has been peace for many years now. Dorne will not suffer it, neither will any other corner of the realm.”

There were other considerations as well, but even Oberyn would not be privy to those, and though Aegon said nothing she could see it all with a glance. Aegon was not to marry only Rhaenys but the Visenya who had not yet come. Rhaegar had waited to long already; their son was in his eighteenth year and their daughter in her twentieth. How much longer would they wait? How much longer will father remain blind, Aegon had asked her once. 

And what of her children’s happiness? Though there was devotion between them and though there was love, it was not the kind Rhaegar shared with his sister nor the type the Targaryens sustained generation through generation. It would be an unhappy life for both of them, and though she tried to stifle the feeling, the thought of her children laying together as man and wife left her feeling ill. Likely it did the same for them. 

She could not damn her children to life like her own, least of all her daughter. Aegon was kind and gentle but the crown did queer things to those who wore it. He could take lovers if he wished to give him what his sister could not and whether they remained in his bed for weeks or years, Rhaenys would not be spared that humiliation, would have to suffer in silence, never to love, never to know of the pleasure and happiness that could be found between a man and a woman.

“And who do you propose we wed, uncle?” Aegon asked, and Elia did not know whether to be pleased or frightened that he seemed to consider it, though he kept the bite in his voice.

“Willas Tyrell is to be Lord of Highgarden, Edmure Tully Lord of Riverrun, neither are spoken for. There are houses in Dorne as well, should she wish to look there, Qorgyle, Gargalen, Dalt. I would choose Starfall and Arthur’s nephew for her, though the boy is young yet, but a few years would make no matter,” Oberyn recited, leaning forward in his seat, “You would have the pick of any maiden in Westeros.” 

All alliances to be made, all ways Aegon’s reign might be strengthened and powerful families tied to the throne. If Lyanna managed such a match for her son, what would it mean for Aegon’s position, to have nothing but House Targayen and House Martell beside him when Jon might have Targaryen, Stark, and Tyrell or Velaryon or Baratheon?

“I will think on it,” Aegon said quietly, standing up with Aelyx again in his arms, “Though Rhaenys will need to be wed first. I suggest you speak to her before my father returns, uncle.”

His father had asked him to go with him to Oldtown, and Jon had been careful to school his features so as not to show his surprise. It pleased him beyond words to be chosen, not to be left behind in King’s Landing but to be trusted enough, loved enough, to accompany his father, him alone out of all his siblings. His mother had not taken it so well, warning Jon with a panic he had never before seen in her eyes that if it was a maester’s life his father had chosen for him, she would not stand for it, that he must write to her if he suspected as much and she would come herself. 

Those were not his father’s intentions, Jon soon learned, after arriving in the city. The king spent most of his days in the Citadel, poring over musty books and old manuscripts when he was not engaged with the managing of the realm, but did not seem particularly invested in Jon’s interest or lack thereof in the order itself. Jon suspected it might have something to do with the Old Man of Oldtown’s granddaughters, a new one arriving everyday in Hightower it seemed, but his father did not speak to him of marriage either, hardly seemed to notice them indeed.

Instead, they settled into a routine not unlike the one they had established in King’s Landing. Jon would train with the members of the Kingsguard who had accompanied them to Oldtown while his father met petitioners and talked with the Hand, and afterwards Jon would join him in the evenings to read by candlelight and discuss whatever histories and matters his father thought he must learn.

His mother had once told him that as a child she had been hungry for the attention of her father, one child out of four, and could only get it when she was misbehaving and in need of disciplining. Jon found himself doing much of the same and as it was not in his nature to misbehave, he would stay in the yard twice as long as Aegon and Rhaenys, ride twice as far, read as many books, sometimes by candlelight in his chambers when the castle was asleep. And still it was difficult to catch his father’s interest, not when he had two (now three) other children and a realm to care for.

In Oldtown there was no one to compete with and though Jon missed his siblings and his mother with an almost physical pain at times, it was sweet to be alone with his father, if only for a while.

His father had grown more distant as time went on, however, thinner and paler, and though he still called for Jon to join him the conversations grew shorter and more trivial until a day close to the end of their first year in the city. His father asked for him after sunset, as he always did, but his chamber was cleared of the books that littered the desks and were stacked upon the floor. Instead, his father held a single letter in his hands.

Jon sat at his father’s side as he had been accustomed to do, resisting the urge to look at the paper he held. He had been prone to doing that as a child, climbing into his father’s lap and grabbing whatever he held, at first pretending to read though he did not know how but when he was older reading it in truth, and his father would shoo him away laughing. You have curious eyes, he would say, but you must learn to grow subtle about it.

After a while, his father spoke.

“Would you like to remain in Oldtown?” His father asked, his eyes finally fixed on him, the expression kind.

Jon shrugged, “As you wish, father. I would not choose to stay here without you, however.”

He wished to ask if his father planned to leave but knew that would only earn him a chiding. It was not his place to ask after the affairs of the king, not unless that information was offered to him.

“You have done well here,” His father said, “You have done everything that I have asked, your mind grows sharper and Ser Arthur told me so had your sword. I had thought to stay longer for your sake, it has been good for you, but I believe our time here is over. 

Jon knew they would leave Oldtown eventually, that his would have to return to his duties in King’s Landing and a life for him in Dragonstone, but it did not make the disappointment at being parted from him any easier to bare.

He continued, “Your way is North, however. I should have sent you years ago, in truth, when your mother first asked me but I see now that you are ready. Would you like to go to Winterfell, Jon?”

Winterfell. He had thought much of it in his youth, of the cousins he had known of but never met, the family he might have known but his mother had talked less and less about her home as time went on, after it became clear that she would likely never return there. It seemed almost to pain her at times and so Jon had not mentioned it as he grew older, kept whatever dreams he had of visiting to himself. 

It seemed as though they were no longer dreams.

“I would like that very much,” He said, and though he was careful to keep his tone even he could not hide the smile. 

His father smiled too, though weakly, “You have blood on the Wall, your uncle Benjen as well as mine own great grand-sire’s brother Aemon. I will send books and letters with you, for yourself as well as for Aemon, and with time it will all become clear. You may visit Winterfell for as long as you wish after, acquaint yourself with your cousins before taking your place in Dragonstone. Does that please you?” 

“It does, father,” Jon replied, and whatever confusion he felt he kept deep down, beneath the excitement.

It seemed as though his father was lost in his thoughts once again and Jon made as though to leave. He was stilled with a hand on his arm instead.

“Today is your brother’s nameday. His mother brought him into the world a year ago and yet I was only there for a day of it,” His father murmured, “Your presence here has made it more difficult for me to forget that.” 

His father stopped as though to let him speak but Jon could say nothing. In truth, he did not know if he wanted to hear the rest, not when Rhaegar’s eyes looked as though they were somewhere so far away.

He has come undone.

Rhaegar continued, nonetheless, “I felt much the same after your birth and to my shame, it took me years until I learned that though the gods do not give each man a clear path, one can be made for him. Your brother will have a role, as you have had, in what comes next.”

“So you will return to King’s Landing?” Jon asked, because it seemed the only thing he could say when the room seemed to grow so cold.

His father nodded, “I will return. Gods willing, Jon, in some years Aegon and Rhaenys will join you at the Wall with my last little princess.”

Chapter Text

The morning of Rhaegar’s arrival, Dany had her son’s nurses lay out his finest clothing in his nursery. He was only a few moons past his first nameday, still slept in the cradle, but Dany did not want his father to think him a weak child, always clinging to his mother. Thus, when Rhaegar sent word that he was preparing to return to King’s Landing, Dany slowly encouraged her son to grow more independent. She began by allowing him to spend more time with Aegon and Rhaenys instead of keeping him always at her side, did not rush to his comfort when he misplaced a toy and seemed as though he would cry. It tore at her but her son was a clever child, gentle and not quick to tears, and he took it as best as a babe his age could. 

She had him pick out his own clothes that day. In truth, her son likely did not know what he was doing; Dany held up each item of clothing and he reached for them all just the same. It was only when he held on tighter to the black breeches and the black velvet doublet lined with rich red thread that she dressed him, lay kisses all over his face and could not help but smile when he giggled, clung to her hair until she lifted him in her arms.

It helped to keep down the bile that threatened to rise in her stomach each time she thought of seeing Rhaegar again, focusing everything on her son instead, busying herself with thoughts of whether he should wear a cloak or which crown to place on his head.

Elia and Lyanna seemed unmoved by his absence these long months, Lyanna more concerned with want for her son’s return than her husband’s. If they could share their sorrow, perhaps, it would lighten the load and yet they seemed not to be burdened by it. It left Dany feeling more alone than she had ever felt before, even in those days when everyone had left her on Dragonstone, stifling her sobs on her pillows at night, thought of how lonely her bed had become to her when it seemed only yesterday it was filled with her husband’s warmth and the sounds of their pleasure.

She had written to him, as he commanded, but their letters had no passion in them, no love, simply filled with news of the capital and of Aelyx’s progress. Each time she thought to reach out, speak of how she missed him or how she loved him still, she felt her heart hardening, thinking to how he had left her when she was still in her birthing bed. 

Her strength lost her as she stood by the holdfast in the king’s own rooms with the rest of their family and though they chattered on amongst each other, Dany found herself clinging tighter and tighter onto Aelyx, trying to make out the sounds of footsteps outside. It seemed like an age but  like a second when he finally walked in, alone and without his knights, looking somehow so much older than his years, wearier than Dany had ever seen him. He went to them one by one, giving Elia a kiss on her cheek and though she said some words to him Dany did not hear it, the pounding in her ears drowning it all out. He moved on to Aegon after that before going to Lyanna, who glowered, likely at his return with her son, but let him embrace her nonetheless.

Rhaenys was not here, would never be with them again if Dany knew anything of the will of kings and their wrath should their works be undone. She had left with her uncle and though Aegon swore he had not permitted her, Dany knew she would not have done so without his approval. There had been a raven, telling she had wed some Dornish lord, and when Dany had written to Rhaegar to inquire after her, he had simply responded that he had no more daughter. 

Finally, he came to Dany, kneeling on the ground so he was at eye level with Aelyx. Her son was smiling, one hand in his mouth and the other holding on to Dany’s, swinging gently from side to side. She was grateful her son had a pleasant demeanor and had not yet learned to fear strangers, looking at his father with hardly a trace of reserve.

“And who do we have here?” Rhaegar asked, and Dany was pleased that to see he was almost beaming, “What is your name, little prince?”

“Aelyx!” Her son declared proudly, and her husband’s smile grew.

“And what a handsome doublet that is…” Rhaegar began.

Her son interrupted, happily, “Do byself!” 

Dany could hear Aegon’s laugh and her husband seemed pleased by it too. She gave her son a little push on his shoulder, as they’d practiced with Ser Jaime, and he walked into his father’s arms, squealing as he lifted him into the air. 

Only then did Rhaegar approach her, their son clinging onto his neck, laying a warm kiss so close to the edge of her mouth that Dany had to resist the urge to turn her face fully towards him. The desire to be near him shamed her, even as she felt the anger she had held onto so tightly ebb in her chest. 

“You look well, sister,” He said, his voice quiet, “We will speak tonight.”

She did not remember the last time she heard Rhaegar yelling. 

He was not a man prone to fits of rage. He could be brutal in his words and ruthless in his actions, so single-mindedly focused on his aims, but he had never laid a hand to her, Elia, or any of the children, nor did he ever raise his voice in chastisement or rebuke. It drove Lyanna to madness in those early years when she had been filled with so much wrath, a fury that seemed an indispensable part of her grief, when she would cry and weep and try to bring that same emotion out of her husband. When she could not, she tried to hurt him, cursed him, his name, his family, screamed at him until she was hoarse and still he treated her with the same cool sympathy, the same tempered nature.

The only word that could describe her husband now, however, was furious, his eyes alight with a fire that she had wished for in those years, a fire that might have saved her, saved them if he had only let her see it.

Now, however, it was not an attempt to work herself into his skin, to wring out some reaction from him, some truth, no longer a game she played to win his affection, his love, his pain. It was not so trivial, not when it involved her son, not when she had to find out from him and not his father that he was to journey north, a raven sent from Maidenpool where he awaited his ship to White Harbor. She had dreamed of Jon in Winterfell more times than she could remember, imagined Ned taking them into his arms, Benjen teasing a smile out of him. She would take him to all the places she had loved in her youth, that spot in the Godswood where the red flowers grew on the ground and the paths she had tread, the places she had hid and ran and laughed with her brothers through the vast castle.

She had let those dreams die early on in her marriage, along with all her other ones, the remnants of the girl she had been on the way to her brother’s wedding when another choice was taken for her. Rhaegar had explained it all so calmly, so sensibly that it almost made sense; her brother, her Ned, was a rebel who had wisely bent the knee but there were people in his lands who still harbored dreams of a different king, harbored malice and hatred, and for Lyanna and Jon to go north would be an opportunity for them to strike, to use them in order to force his hand. Maybe when the realm was more stable, he had said, then they would all go together, and though hope bloomed in her heart for far too long, she knew better now. 

He wanted them close; she knew to protect them, could not deny him that, but it was to control them too she knew, to erase the likelihood of any other kind of life, even one that existed only in their dreams.

She had learned apathy, that much was true, but not when it came to Jon, never when it came to Jon.

Lyanna had waited for him in his solar, did not heed Ser Arthur’s stern warning that the king did not wish to meet anyone after so long a journey but she had known he would not forcibly turn her away so she had walked in anyway, sat behind her husband’s desk.

“You would take my only son away from me?” She asked, once he was in the room.

Whatever contentment he might have felt at his arrival and his return to the place he considered his home disappeared almost instantly from his face and Lyanna knew that if he were not a king, just any other tired husband, he would have left the room, left her to her dark mood.

“Not now,” He said, instead. 

She stood up, wished she had the strength to throw the desk across the wall, throw him across the wall.

“If not now, then when?” She snapped, “You lied to us from the start, you made it out to be some honor, taking him and him alone with you to Oldtown, when all you wanted to do was manipulate him, make it so that he returned to King’s Landing…”

Rhaegar interrupted, holding a hand up between them, as though it could stop the assault of her words, “I thought we had grown past this, enough. Jon will only remain in the North for a year or two and then he will take his place in Dragonstone, where he will marry and you will be free to join him and his bride should you wish.”

“His bride?” She asked, putting herself between him and the door, “If it is as you say, nothing more than your wish for him to grow accustomed to his mother’s home and the home of her remaining kin then why did you not tell me of your plan, why did you not write to them so I may join our son?”

Her son was going north, and Ned would take him into his arms, and Benjen would tease a smile out of him, but she would not be there. She would be in King’s Landing instead, a viper’s nest that would have swallowed them whole years ago had it not been for each other. He was out of her reach now, she feared forever, firmly in his father’s grasp, his father’s tool, and she knew even her brothers would not be able to shield him from that.

“Do you not believe I act in the best interests of our child?” He shot back, his tone still even, still untouched.

Lyanna scoffed, “The only interests you consider are your own. Though I suppose you have a new son now, another useless child with no place in your grand plans, why should you have need for Jon? You might as well have him take the black. That is what you kings do, is it not, when you wish to undo a mistake, you conceal it?”

That was when it happened. The coldness that her husband had worn like a cloak every day of their marriage was stripped away, leaving in front of her a man, not a prince nor a king but a man enraged, a man who was not thinking of what was proper or what was wise or courteous, a man not thinking at all.

“Do you think so little of me?” He hissed, “Do you think so little of the love I bear my sons? You insult him and Aelyx both.”

There could be no return now. 

“What you give your children is not love,” She retorted, and though she struggled to stay calm, not for his sake but for her own, knew how easily her anger gave way to tears and did not wish to allow him that sight, Lyanna heard her voice crack, “You love only yourself Rhaegar.”

He might have struck her then if he was a less prideful sort of man, a man who did not heed the words cruel and monstrous spat at him. He would always be gracious and good and chivalrous, if not in the eyes of others than in his own. It is the only matter that concerned him, she had learned, this need to always see himself as good, his actions as righteous.

“I love my children and that is why I do this for them…” He began.

Lyanna had heard it all before. The prince that was promised, the comet in the sky, the danger beyond the wall. How much cruelty could he justify in its name?

She interrupted, “You have left only hate in your wake, that will be your legacy, fire and blood and the tears of your children.”

It grew quiet at last between them, perhaps because of the tears streaming down her face or the words that had struck him too deep. I would be a good king, he had told her one of those first nights in their tower, I will be remembered as the savior of the realm.

He seemed weak suddenly, as though he could barely stand, as though it took all the strength of his body to breathe in and out. 

“Is that what lies between us, only hate?” He asked, and she was grateful at least he did not reach out for her.

“What lay between us was our love for our son,” She replied, wishing he would look her in the eyes, wanting him to meet her gaze, see what he had done, “And you have taken him away from me. There is nothing in it place now, neither love nor hate.”

He shook his head at that as though to argue but bit on his bottom lip instead, turned away from her and moved towards the window, unable to look at her.

“Go to Dragonstone, if you wish, wait for our son there. But if you leave King’s Landing, then from that day on you should consider myself a husband to you in name only." 

What do you think you have been to me all these years, she wanted to ask. He never understood though, never could, this man who saw only what he wished to see, saw a true marriage in place of the empty shell of a relationship, the rotting husk of something that had never been pure to begin with, never sweet.

She did the only thing she could, walked away, and left the man who had never been her husband standing alone.

Dany was surprised when she returned to her chambers that night to find her husband laying in her bed, boots hanging off the side, their son tucked into his arm, holding what looked like a new toy in his hands, a horse carved out of wood with gemstones decorating the eyes and a miniature feathered plume. It was a sweet sight, she could not deny, the similarities between father and son especially clear as they lay in each other’s arms, Rhaegar whispering something in his ears that had him giggling and babbling nonsense. 

She had heard of the row he had with Lyanna in his rooms, heard of how Lyanna had fled to her rooms after and called her maids to her, beginning to fill chest after chest with her belongings. Aegon had told her in hushed tones on his way to a Small Council meeting that she was leaving for Dragonstone as soon as her household could be prepared. Dany did not expect her husband to come to her, thought he would be too distressed.

“Mama!” Her son called, when he saw her enter the room, but did not reach out for her, content to be in his father’s arms.

Dany reached out to kiss him nonetheless, leaning over Rhaegar, shivering when she felt him put a hand on the small of her back and pull her onto the bed with them. She sat perched on the edge, maintaining as much distance as she could, hyperaware of the hand that still lay on her back, that had begun to move slowly up and down, grabbing a handful of her hair.

“He is not unlike you at that age,” He said.

“Truly?” She asked, wearily.

“I came to Dragonstone only once before our time there together,” He explained, his voice soft, “To see how Viserys was faring and to meet my new sister. He whispered in your ear, likely reminding you to greet you, and you flew into my arms, like Aelyx did. You could barely walk but you dragged me to your nursery to show off your toys and your gowns, and you wept when I left.”

Dany had no recollection of it but the thought somehow left her feeling sad. Rhaegar seemed to sense it, pulled her down to lie beside him and no matter how she stiffened, he lay a kiss on her forehead. Reaching over her, he rung the handbell perched on the table beside them, the maid arriving in the room within seconds.

“Take the prince to his nursery,” Her husband commanded, kissing Aelyx on the cheek and letting Dany do the same before handing him to the girl who hurried out, closing the door behind her.

She would go to her son later to sing him to sleep, but did not wish to correct her husband in front of a maid.

Dany had dreamed of their reunion, she could not deny it, in those times of the night when she was only half asleep, thought of being in his arms, smelling his hair, his skin (rosewater, always rosewater). More shamefully, she dreamt she could taste him on her lips again; he had only let her do it once, said he did not want to demean her, but in truth it had thrilled her, wrapping her lips around him, tentatively at first until he groaned and she began to trust her instincts, licking and kissing hungrily at him, touching parts of him with her hands she never had before, and when he grew restless and began moving his hips she had grown braver, taking him as far into her mouth as she could until she felt the warmth of his seed down her throat as she swallowed.

She thought of other things though, in those nights without him, thought of his face as he told her he would be leaving, thought of everything that had passed with her son that his father had not been there to witness; his first smile, his first step, his first word. And for what?

Rhaegar turned towards her so they faced each other on the featherbed, bodies pressed together, his hands still in her hair. He wanted comfort, she knew, but could not find it in herself to give it.

“We will go to Blackwater War,” He murmured, “Only us and Aelyx. The waters are treacherous but he might enjoy the sight of the river.”

They had already been together; Aegon had taken off his boots and rolled up his breeches, holding Aelyx just barely above the river, raising him up and down, in and out of the water, to her son’s obvious delight. It would do no good to disappoint his father, however.

A thousand things she might say went through her mind, until the truth prevailed.

“I wish you had not left,” She confessed.

He seemed to somehow grow wearier at that, though he did not stop caressing her hair.

“There were matters I had to attend to,” He said, as she thought he would, “I shall not leave you or our son again, I promise you. I mean to do things differently this time.”

She did not understand his meaning and before she could ask he had filled the silence himself.

“Has Aelyx been weaned yet?” He asked. 

Dany bristled at that.

She had been told three moons prior, not through her husband but the maester, the greying creature who Rhaegar let demean her by looking between her legs those weeks when all were praying for the conception of a child. He had come to her in her own solar, explained to her that so long as a child fed at his mother’s breast then it would be difficult for the mother to conceive another. It was the king’s wish, he declared, as though he knew anything of her husband, that more royal children grace them and therefore it was essential Aelyx be turned over to a wetnurse.

She had obeyed, as she had been taught to do, but it had broken her heart in truth. He was a young babe yet and there was a comfort, a contentment she found in having her son so close to her, depending solely on her, looking up at her with her own eyes as she nourished him.

She knew there must be more children, wanted it, brothers and sisters for Aelyx to play with, grow close as Aegon, Rhaenys and Jon were. Unbidden, she voiced her fears.

“Yes. But what if it is another son?” She asked, ashamed for how weak her voice sounded, “Will you leave us again? Will you grow to resent me, to hate me for it?”

For a moment it seemed as though she could see something like pain on her husband’s face before it was replaced with a look of neutral civility.

“I will never hate you,” He breathed, and it was so ridiculous, for him to think that is what she wanted to hear, that it would appease her, that she had to hold back a laugh, leaving it to come out a smile instead.

He took that as encouragement to continue.

“We will be as we were,” He whispered, as though it was a prayer, “It is our fate, the birth of our beautiful daughters.”

And when he pulled up her gown, kissed and teased her, entered her and spent inside before she could reach her peak, Dany did not know what she should pray for.