The soft cries of a newborn babe fill the room and Rhaenyra’s entire body relaxes, her head dropping back against the pillows. It feels as if she’s out of her body. She’s barely aware of what’s happening around her, the sounds of the maesters and maids fading into the background. All she cares about is her child, relief flooding her veins that it’s finally here after two days of labor.
The babe is placed on her chest - “A boy!” Daemon’s voice, choked with emotion, breaks through the haze - and she tilts her chin to look down at the tiny face. He’s smeared with blood and afterbirth, but he’s perfect. There’s a dusting of sparse silvery hair on his head and Rhaenyra smiles, tears slipping down her cheeks. She whispers, “Aegon,” naming the babe in a moment of pure spite for Alicent.
She winces, knowing that she has to get up and present the babe to her stepmother, to prove that he’s legitimate. Clutching the babe to her chest, she groans, trying to get out of bed. A large hand drops down on her shoulder and keeps her in place. She’s about to protest, when Daemon’s face appears in her line of sight. His brow is furrowed in concern and he asks, “what in the seven hells are you doing? You’ve just had a babe.”
“I have to…” she breaks off with a cry, her womb cramping. “I have to,” she continues a moment later, breathing heavily, “show him to Alicent. Prove his legitimacy.”
“What?” Daemon’s tone goes icy and the commotion in the room stops. Rhaenyra closes her eyes - she’s so tired - and holds Aegon close. “Is that…she made you present the boys to her right after birth?” Daemon continues, sitting on the edge of the bed.
Rhaenyra nods, her head swimming with pain. “I have to, Daemon,” she winces.
“My love,” his voice is softer, his hand warm against her cheek as he cups her face, “you’re on Dragonstone. The cunt is far away and has no authority over you. Rest, please.” There’s an order in his tone too, and under normal circumstances, Rhaenyra takes orders from no one. But she’s so tired.
Her arms are still wrapped protectively around Aegon and the babe has started to root at her chest, hungry. Instinct takes over and she tugs down the front of her night shirt, guiding the babe to her breast. She winces as he latches on, sucking hungrily. Her body relaxes, sinking back against the pillows, until her womb cramps again and she nearly folds in half. She’s aware of Daemon’s eyes on her and she murmurs, “I was so out of my mind.”
Daemon’s hand is warm and heavy on her leg, keeping her in place in case she decides to get up again. “Of course you were,” he says, “you’d just given birth. Where was my brother? He was in support of that madwoman’s actions?”
Rhaneyra’s fingers stroke Aegon’s back as he feeds. She looks down at the boy, her heart tripling in size, and lifts one shoulder in a shrug. “He was…I am not sure. I never saw him until days later, when I presented the boys to him on my own.” She bites at her lower lip. “I think Alicent was always afraid one of them might have the Targaryen blonde hair.”
“Luckily,” Daemon comments wryly, “Ser Harwin’s dark hair was stronger than yours.”
“And Laenor always claimed them as his own,” Rhaenyra sighs.
“This one though,” Daemon reaches out to nudge the babe’s pudgy cheek with the knuckle of his index finger, a soft smile transforming his face. “All Targaryen.”
Rhaenyra nods and yawns. Daemon props a third pillow behind her head and says, in High Valyrian, “when he’s done, rest. Sleep and I will bring the children in to meet their new brother.”
Tears drip down Rhaneyra’s cheeks and she’s overwhelmed with joy and love. She loves her sons, but there’s something peaceful now, about being in her ancestral home with Daemon speaking their native tongue. Daemon wipes at the tears on her face with a gentle thumb and kisses her sweaty forehead.
“If anyone tells you to move for amy reason,” Daemon murmurs, a dark edge to his tone, “direct them to me and Dark Sister.”
Rhaenyra chuckles lightly and lifts her chin to capture Daemon’s lips with hers. “Thank you,” she whispers.
“I am so proud of you, little dragon,” he murmurs back, dipping to kiss the crown of Aegon’s head. “Now rest.” He slips out of the room and Rhaenyra is left with their son.
She looks down at the babe. He’s longer than any of her other sons had been, a reflection of Daemon’s height maybe. His eyes are closed as he feeds and one of his tiny hands is splayed out over the swell of her breast. Tears drip from Rhaneyra’s eyes and land on his head. She laughs wetly and smears at the spots with delicate fingers. “My little dragon,” she murmurs in High Valyrian, “my little prince. My little love.”
Aegon cracks one eye open, squinting at her as if to say that she’s interrupting his meal. Rhaenyra laughs again and kisses his head.
At some point, hours later after Aegon’s had his fill and she’s slept, Daemon returns to their room. He sticks his head inside and asks, “are you ready for guests?”
Rhaenyra laughs, delighted, “yes! Bring me my children!”
She’s slept and eaten and bathed. She feels human again, with her hair washed and pulled off her face, with color finally back in her cheeks.
The door falls open and four children tumble inside, scrambling for the bed in a burst of noise.
She opens her arms and laughs as the children land on the plush bed. “Hello, my loves,” she greets them, pinching Jace’s cheek and stroking Baela’s hair. “I’ve missed you.”
“Papa says we have a brother,” Rhaena says. “I was hoping for a sister.”
“Yes! We’re already outnumbered,” her twin frowns.
“Brothers are better,” Luke informs them, rolling around on the bed, laughing every time the other children try and stop him.
Daemon shakes his head, Joff on his hip. The boy has his head resting on Daemon’s shoulder, face still creased from sleep. Rhaenyra loves the sight of Daemon with their children. “You’re all behaving monstrously towards your mother,” he informs them on a chuckle. “Not one of you have greeted her properly.”
Daemon’s words set off a scramble of arms and legs as the children nearly pile onto Rhaenyra to give her hugs and kisses. She laughs, still sore, but delighted. Joff, catching sight of the commotion, starts wiggling in Daemon’s arms, “I wanna join!” Daemon settles him on the bed and he crawls into Rhaneyra’s lap, so she can wrap her arms around him in a hug. She presses a kiss to his brown hair, inhaling the soft scent of dirt that always seems to cling to her children after they’ve been practicing their swordsmanship.
“May we see our brother now?“ Baela asks, tucked up against Rhaneyra’s side.
“Is he going to be very little?” Jace asks, draped over Rhaneyra’s legs.
“He’s a bit longer than you were when you were born, in fact,” Rhaenyra informs him. “Papa will go get him and you can see.”
Daemon goes and retrieves Aegon from the attached room, while the children tell Rhaenyra all they’ve been up to in the last three days. “Here he is,” eh announces upon his return, the babe swaddled in his arms. The children all turn their attention to Daemon, crawling towards the edge of the bed to rise up on their knees and look at their brother.
“He’s very red,” Luke observes.
Rhaena coos, “he’s very cute.”
“And his hair is blonde, like ours,” Baela says, reaching out a tentative hand to stroke Aegon’s tiny fingers.
Jace is squinting at his newest sibling seriously. Rhaenyra notices and pats his arm, “what’s on your mind, my love?”
“When will he be able to play?” Jace asks, looking over at his mother. “We can play three a side once he’s old enough.”
Daemon and Rhaenyra laugh, sharing a smile over the children’s heads. Daemon shifts Aegon to one arm and ruffles Jace’s hair. “Give him a few moons and then he’ll be ready to follow you all on your escapades.”
Jace nods, seemingly satisfied with the answer, and then the girls are begging to hold the babe, Joff is whining for Daemon to hold him, and Luke is singing a song at the top of his lungs. Rhaenyra ends up with the twins on either side of her, watching Baela as she holds Aegon, Rhaena cooing over the babe. She looks up at Daemon, Joff draped over his shoulders like a sack of potatoes. He smirks a little at her, eyes soft, and Alicent and her father and King’s Landing all feel so very far away.
A low spark of anger coils in her stomach though, at the memory of being forced to her feet just after giving birth, of being forced to traipse halfway across the palace to present her sons to Alicent. She can almost feel the blood and gore dripping down her legs as she had walked, the violent clenching of her womb trying to expel the last of the afterbirth.
Aegon squeaks softly, drawing her attention back to the present. Rhaenyra shakes her head and shows Baela how to rock him back to sleep.
She is home on Dragonstone with her husband and children.