If Rhaenyra had her way (as she often does—being princess does come with its occasional perks), she thinks she’d happily spend every day like this.
The day itself is pleasant enough. Sunlight arcs through the branches of the trees in the Godswood, golden rays dappling the floor and warming the air, unusually balmy for this time of year. The sky is the brightest blue, clouds skating lazily across it like the mortal coil of time means little, means nothing: a perfect backdrop for a promising ride, Rhaenyra thinks, mentally vowing to take Syrax up later on to stretch her wings.
But, if she’s honest, the company is what makes this day so splendid.
Alicent’s hand is gentle as it runs through Rhaenyra’s white-blonde hair, pale fingers dragging careful lines through the silver, pressing delicately into her scalp with every pass. The repetitive strokes and the delicious pressure of Alicent’s ministrations are impossibly soothing, threatening to lull Rhaenyra into sleep if she’s not careful. But she won’t. Sleep, that is.
Sleep would mean closing her eyes, and closing her eyes would mean not looking at her lady. And whilst Rhaenyra may be brash, may be rough around the edges, hot-headed like her uncle and stubborn as a mule, she’s never been one to deny herself the pleasure of soft beauty.
Alicent has been beautiful since the day Rhaenyra met her; a small thirteen years to her name, arriving in King’s Landing with her power-hungry father, all bashfulness and nerves. She still remembers how the other girl had introduced herself—the daintiest of curtsies and a shaking voice—and how she herself had immediately declared the Hightower her new companion. That day remains fond in her memory.
Alicent was beautiful at fifteen, growing into herself as a woman, starting to draw attention from suitors. Rhaenyra figures fifteen was when she herself first became aware of the difference between platonic love and what she felt for her best friend. Brought on by unexplainable jealousy and a fierce possessiveness Rhaenyra had not yet a name for in the face of Alicent’s potential betrothals, she’d realised that one’s best friend was not supposed to stir such emotion, such protectiveness from something all ladies of their age were meant to eagerly look forward to: marriage.
Fifteen is when Rhaenyra started to believe that Alicent Hightower was the most beautiful of all the Gods’ creations. It’s when she recognised the drop in her stomach, the tug in her heart, for what it truly was—love, of the purest and highest kind.
Alicent has been beautiful since Rhaenyra can remember; at thirteen, stammering through her own name, at fifteen, teaching Rhaenyra history in that exasperatedly fond way of hers. At seventeen, when Rhaenyra first tasted Alicent’s lips, first felt her words die and her smile grow against her own mouth. When she first discovered the skin she’s since spent hours worshipping, first heard her name fall from Alicent’s lips unencumbered by titles or formality—just ‘Rhaenyra’ in a voice bowed by hunger, affection, desire and love.
And Alicent is beautiful now. Eighteen and more sure of herself in her touch of Rhaenyra than in anything else the princess has ever witnessed, she is more beautiful than the day, more beautiful than the night, more beautiful than anything in all the Realm.
“What are you thinking about?”
Her voice breaks Rhaenyra out of her musings, soft and inquisitive as she gazes down at the princess who’s head rests comfortably in her lap. A smile crinkles round her eyes as Rhaenyra blinks up at her, the sun casting a halo around her hair.
“You.” Rhaenyra responds honestly, because she has never felt the need for anything other than truth with her lady.
Alicent ducks her head as a blush colours her cheeks. Rhaenyra grins—she always did love the effect she has on the other girl. She takes Alicent’s free hand in her own, tangling their fingers together as she brings their joined palms to her mouth, pressing a kiss to the back of Alicent’s.
Usually, such affection is reserved for the privacy of Rhaenyra’s chambers. The both of them know what could happen if anyone were to discover the true nature of their relationship—what could happen to Alicent. Rhaenyra would be somewhat protected by her standing as heir to the throne, but Alicent would be defenceless. She could be taken away, beaten, even killed if their love was to be revealed. A prince with a mistress was a juicy scandal; a princess with one was outrage.
Rhaenyra wishes it wasn’t this way sometimes. She wishes that she and Alicent didn’t have to hide, didn’t have to steal kisses under the cover of night in darkened rooms. Wishes they could announce their love to the Realm and have it rejoiced the way a marriage to a man would be. She wishes she could marry Alicent herself.
She’d told the Hightower as much, one night in the comfort of her bed. ‘If I were the prince, I’d have you as my wife’ she’d whispered to Alicent, tracing patterns on her bare shoulder as the other girl rested her head on her chest. Alicent had chuckled, still a little breathless from their previous exertions, and pressed a kiss to Rhaenyra’s collarbone.
‘You’d make an excellent prince, my love’ she’d said in return. And because Alicent was never one to linger on the melancholy, she’d then kissed the breath from Rhaenyra’s lungs and rolled them over, let the impossibility of their fantasies float away into the night.
But for all the secrecy and danger, Rhaenyra also knows she wouldn’t trade what she has with her love for the world. Their love is pure and kind, gentle and overwhelming. Rhaenyra would give up her throne, give up the Realm for Alicent. She’d surrender her royalty if only to fly over the horizon on Syrax with Alicent beside her. She’d burn it all down just to see her smile.
She’s blessed with that smile once more as Alicent leaves their hands intertwined, still stroking through Rhaenyra’s hair with the other. It’s rare that Alicent is this relaxed, this nerveless about open affection. Unless they’re behind closed doors, she usually pulls away with a gentle smile, that knowing look in her eyes both saddening and melting the princess.
But they’re in the Godswood today, under their tree, where nobody dares come look for them. This is their place, and today Alicent seems to revel in that fact.
“For all your talk of caring not for formalities, you certainly have the charm of a prince.” She teases.
Normally, Rhaenyra would scoff and joke, make some jape about being far more charming than any prince she’s ever come across, but right now, all jabs are softened by the adoration in Alicent’s eyes.
She smiles and squeezes at Alicent’s hand.
“Only for you, my love.”
The beaming smile she gets in return is worth a thousand kingdoms.
Later, she’ll have to return to her duties. There’s a war going on, after all, and her father will require her presence at the small council. There’ll be classes to attend and matters to deal with, all manner of things that Rhaenyra detests about being the princess.
But none of that matters here. In their place, with Alicent holding her like she’s the most precious of things, under the sun-dappled trees, none of it matters. All that matters is her lady, her love, looking down at her and smiling like sunlight. So Rhaenyra relinquishes all thought of later.
Right now, she decides. All she needs is right now, and so she closes her eyes and breathes.