Chapter Title: Arthur Dayne
Fandom(s): A Song of Ice and Fire
Word Count: 2,479
Summary: Five people who loved Elia Martell in secret, and one who told her.
When the West Wind Moves
+i. Arthur Dayne
+i. Arthur Dayne
It’s been an unseasonably hot week, simmering everyone’s blood and causing the men to eschew shirts, the women to wear only their thinnest of dresses in attempts to allay the sun’s rays. In his case, Arthur sits beneath the shade of a blood orange tree, watching children and adults alike frolic in the pools of the Water Gardens.
His sister is among them, somewhere, but all he has eyes for is the princess. The relentless heat labors her breathing, causing her to sit rather than rollick around with the others, but it diminishes her spirit not at all. Arthur can’t help the smile that creeps onto his face when she laughs, when she gives a surprised shout as a gaggle of children splash her head to toe. Water clings to her eyelashes and her drenched hair sends rivulets down her neck, between her breasts, and lower. He notices the dusky outline of her nipples beneath the wet, flimsy fabric of her dress, and has half a mind to ravish her right here and now, never mind who sees.
For one terrifying moment, Arthur thinks it’s Princess Loreza, and nearly jumps out of his skin. But when he looks over, it’s Oberyn he sees, mimicking his mother’s voice to perfection. “I hate it when you do that.”
“Why do you think I do it?” Oberyn drops his voice back into its normal timbre and repeats, “You’re staring.”
“There’s much to stare at.” Most brothers would demand his head for taking their sister for a lover, but Oberyn had always been oddly encouraging.
The youngest Martell sits beside him and props his feet up on a stool. “Have you told her yet?”
“The Whore of Planky Town. Who do you think?” Arthur shrugs noncommittally, and without warning Oberyn punches him in the shoulder. “Gods, it’s a miracle she doesn’t know then. All the rest of Dorne does.”
“Not all of Dorne, surely.”
“Near enough.” Oberyn is quiet for a moment—a rarity in and of itself—and then continues more seriously, “You should, though.”
That’s rather easy for him to say. As far as Arthur’s concerned, that would risk too much, particularly since he doubts she reciprocates—nothing would again be the same once he spoke truth. And he very much likes things the way they are. “Maybe one day.”
“Fine. Suffer. But you’re not getting any sympathy from me when she chooses someone else to occupy her time who’s not such a craven.”
He leaves before Arthur can retort, venturing into the water and seeking out one of the serving girls. She’s pretty, Arthur will give her that, but he’ll gladly leave her to Oberyn. He’s bewitched by another, and anyone else pales in comparison.
Eventually, the sun begins to set and the children are ushered away by their mothers. As they disperse, he notices an obvious lack of both Oberyn and the serving girl, and lets out a groan. The prince has always taken the Dornish stereotype to heart, with great success. As long as everyone already thinks we’re wanton, why shouldn’t we be? was a response he was fond of using every time he was found in another’s bed. Princess Loreza had eventually learned to disregard it after many and more shouting matches with her son, so long as Doran continued to be the model heir and Elia remained untouched.
He shifts uncomfortably at that notion. He knows that the Princess is aware of Elia and him to an extent, but in no way aware of how far they’d gone, or else he would have been long since shipped back to Starfall in disgrace. That, or gelded. Elia had been the one who initiated the escalation in the first place, but he doesn’t think the Princess would appreciate the difference. Whatever the impetus behind it, all she would care about is that her only daughter had given her maidenhead many times over to Prince Lewyn’s presumptuous protégé.
He supposes it’s a minor miracle he hasn’t yet gotten her with child. He’d been adamant the first number of times they’d lain together that he not spend himself inside her, but it hadn’t taken long to abandon that practice. Initially, it had been merely an oversight; they’d been caught up and he hadn’t pulled out in time. And then it kept happening, until nothing less would satisfy. So far, nothing has come of it, and if history serves then nothing ever would. With each year that goes by, the sadness wedged in his heart grows at that very inevitability.
He’s so lost in his musings that he doesn’t notice her approach until she grabs his hand and pulls him up from the chair, smirking with a coyness he’s become quite familiar with. Powerless to do anything else, he lets her lead him into the palace interior, through the maze of hallways all crafted of the same pink marble. She bids a polite greeting to a passing maid, then shoves him into her room and bolts the door behind her. She’s deceptively strong when she wants to be; though, admittedly, he’s never made any effort to resist her either.
She stands in front of him, confident and sultry. Her dress is held up by a single knot, and when she pulls it loose the whole swath of silk falls to the ground, leaving her delectably bare. He knows she is often discontented with her figure, has unfairly compared herself to the likes of Ashara and other maidens around her, but he can find no such faults. Perhaps her breasts are smaller than most, and perhaps her frame has more angles than curves, and perhaps occasionally there’s a pallor to her skin that the sun can’t seem to fix.
But beneath all that, she’s got a harder spine than anyone he’s met, a wit sharper than any sword, and a sensuality that has nothing to do with what her body may or may not be. And what does he care what people say? How can he, when she can send him into peals of laughter with a few short words, or steals him away after training just to spend hours massaging out the knots in his muscles, or when his name on her lips can steal the very breath from his lungs?
No, he doesn’t understand it one bit.
Not that he’s told her how he feels, as such. He’d like to think she has some idea; with any luck, he won’t have to fumble out a declaration after all. She must—surely she’s caught on that at any given time, all it takes is a glimpse of her to have him eagerly whisking her off to the nearest flat surface. When he’s buried deep inside her, the very world seems to stop. There is nothing but him and her as one, as it should ever be.
Her faint snicker informs him he’s become sidetracked, and he utters a sheepish apology. She skillfully works off his pants, by now impeccably efficient with such a task, and tosses them aside. And then her mouth is on his, her breasts pressed against his bare chest, and he loses all coherence.
Unable to bear the torture, he carries her to the bed, forgoing gentleness when he enters her—a decision that has Elia arching into him and raking her nails up his back. Most days, he enjoys going slowly, wanting to draw it out for fear that this could end at any moment, but now the heat overcomes him and slow is the last thing he wants to be. Elia tightens her legs around his hips, silently urging him to get on with it.
He obliges, with fervor. Desperate to bring her to release before himself, he quickens his pace and wanders his hand down her body to where they’re joined. She cries out as she crashes over the edge, and he thinks not even Starfall’s summer sunsets could compare to the sight of her writhing beneath him. Immersed in his own pleasure an instant later, he only vaguely hears himself whisper, “I love you.”
He hadn’t intended for it to slip out. Hadn’t even determined when or if he wanted to express the depth of his feelings for her, let alone do it now, like this. He blames Oberyn for confronting him about it in the first place, for accusing him of being a coward. He’s about to retract it, to blither an explanation, except then she regards him in curiosity, those dark eyes boring into his, and the words stick in his throat. She’s silent for so long that he awkwardly climbs off her, begins to dress, and prays his humiliated blush isn’t as obvious as he thinks it is.
The longer she maintains her silence, the more he regrets his senseless confession, for what right did he have? She had taken him into her bed, but that meant little. She’s a beautiful woman with an appetite, and he was simply available and willing—gods was he willing. She is a princess of Dorne, and what is he? Nothing more than the second son of a vassal house with nothing of worth to offer her. No castles, no prestige, no legacy. A knight by her own uncle’s making, sure, but knights are nine a penny.
He fumbles with his breeches, trying to turn them right side out, and then a pair of warm hands covers his. He dares to meet Elia’s gaze, violet on black. “Did you mean it?” she asks, cocking her head. “I’ve heard sometimes men just blurt out things while they’re…you know.”
She’s offering him a reprieve, a rationalization for him to use to save himself the mortification. Except he’s never lied to her before, and it is not a lie that comes out of his mouth this time either. “Yes. I meant it.”
She bites her lip in consideration, then gives him a soft smile and an even softer kiss. “Then say it again.”
“Say it again.”
His heart beats so loudly he’s certain she can hear it echoing through the room. “I love you.”
Her smile widens, and there’s such happiness on her face that his head spins. “I’ve waited so long to hear you say that.”
Taking advantage of his disbelief, she tugs him back into bed and braces herself on his chest. His voice is little more than a croak. “You—what?”
She leans down and kisses him once more, deeper but no less sweet. “I love you, too, Arthur Dayne.” He knows he must look a fool, gawking up at her as he is, but it is she who’s uncharacteristically shy when she continues, “I would’ve said it ages ago, only I was afraid of ruining things if you didn’t feel the same.”
Part of him thinks she’s jesting, that of all the men in the realm it couldn’t possibly be him who holds her heart, but the rest of him doesn’t care, and when he takes her again (and again, and again), it feels different. Everything is different. How she looks at him, how he can’t get enough of her no matter how often they lie together, how there’s a light inside her no sickness could ever dim. Deep down, he knows it can’t last: the crevasse between their stations is too wide and her mother’s ambitions too high, but for now he lets himself get lost in her, surrounded by the love he could have never imagined.
He loves her still when he joins the Kingsguard after her suitors begin to come in earnest, each one more advantageous than he could ever be. He loves her every time he sees a tumble of curls the color of midnight or hears the clink of golden bangles; when he wins tournament after frivolous tournament not for fame, but in the feeble hope that she would be in the stands and he could tell the world what she is to him, to make them see what he does.
He loves her more when their daughter is born on dreary Dragonstone entirely in his image but for the brown of her skin and his mother’s eyes. Lying with Elia in the month before her wedding should have been free of consequence, as it was when they were younger; Rhaenys wasn’t supposed to happen, let alone now.
He hates that his sacred oaths have been shattered beyond repair—but when he holds her in his arms, it’s hard remember why they were so important. For suddenly the dream he’d thought impossible all those years back has materialized into a beautiful little girl, albeit one he can never claim for his own. He knows that he can only ever be her shield, never her father, he knows Uncle Arthur is as close as he can get, and that’s all right. Being around her, protecting her, that’s enough.
(If every day he weighs the costs of ripping up the white cloak that has brought him little more than misery and spiriting away the three of them somewhere the crown can’t find them…well. No one has to know.)
He loves her most when he’s a thousand miles away outside a derelict tower while war rages on, when he sees her fire in the she-wolf and her elegance in the Red Mountains and her warmth under the scorching Dornish sun. When Lyanna asks him if there’s someone he left behind, he denies it. It’s not a lie, not entirely—he left behind two someones.
When the end comes, the defeated Lord of Winterfell at Dawn’s mercy, he espies Stark’s diminutive crannogman with an arrow tipped in black nocked and ready. In that moment, he has the answer he’s been searching for. While life remains in him, he would never again feel Elia’s hand in his, would never see Rhaenys grow up happy and healthy. Revenge is all he’d have. Revenge, and an entire realm condemning him for the war predicated in part on his actions.
He studies Dawn, his familiar, steadfast sword all but weightless in his grip. Its ancient blade is more red than white now, stained with the blood of northmen whose names he doesn’t know, and he wonders to whom it would go next. Allem’s son, mayhaps, if he ever got around to having one. The young man kneeling before him tracks his movements warily, waiting for Dawn’s bite. He would die well, no bribe attempts or blubbering, but today is not his day.
“Would that we all had your honor, Lord Stark. I pray you never lose it.” He doesn’t understand, this boy who had once been so nervous he couldn’t ask Ashara to dance without his big brother’s help, but he would soon.
Arthur finds a kindly sort of knowing in Howland Reed’s eyes, and smiles.