(The second part to Blood is Thicker, which is an AU where Stannis is Gendry’s father instead of Robert. This is basically just an excuse to write about my favorite Baratheons and give me lots of feels. This is starting to get so AU; that it’s not even funny.)
B L O O D I S T H I C K E R (Part II)
He was being stupid – he was being foolish – and if there was one thing that he wasn’t, it was both of those things. And yet here he was, in King’s Landing, when he was supposed to have been on Dragonstone. What am I doing here? That was a good question, one that he didn’t want to answer or even think about. As far as everyone was concerned, he was living curmudgeonly at his castle on an island that was a safe distance from this rotten city. Only a few people knew that he was here; and they were all people that he trusted to keep their silence.
Sometimes, it paid well to have a former smuggler at your side.
Stannis walked through the streets, keeping a close eye on his surroundings. It was dangerous to come here where there were spiders and birds in every corner that would whisper about his doings. No one was paying him any attention though. That could be just a trick to make him feel safe, but there was no way that Stannis would ever feel safe in King’s Landing. When he had lived here and done his position as Master of Ships, Stannis had known that almost all of his actions and words had been catalogued and watched by a spy for someone or another. Varys the Spider had seemed to know absolutely everything there was about him, which made Stannis wary even now. Ser Davos Seaworth was a good man and had been an even better smuggler, having saved countless of lives using his specific skill set, but it was still very possible that he wasn’t good enough to slip under the Spider’s nose.
Still, when Stannis had summoned Davos and asked if it was possible to get Stannis into King’s Landing without anyone knowing, Davos had said yes. He had also said it would be incredibly difficult, but he had done it before. He had also failed before too, but Stannis had done his best to ignore that second statement. There had been many of times when he could have changed his mind, but he’d pushed ahead with the plan. There had been no stopping this ship once it had sailed; and if truth be told, it had sailed many years ago, nearly sixteen to be exact. It was his fault that things had come to this in the first place, so it was his duty to ensure that the proper things were done.
He felt uncomfortable walking the streets alone, but it had been for the best. Davos had offered to accompany him, but Stannis had said no. It would make things painfully obvious. Everyone knew what man Davos Seaworth backed. He’d always had some sort of guard with him though, but this time there was no one but himself. If something went wrong, then he would only have himself to blame.
Robert is dead, you fool, Stannis thought to himself as he rounded a corner. You can bury your secret with him. He’d only been to his destination twice, but once had been enough to sear the route to it in his mind. You don’t have to do this. Go back to your ship. Go back to Dragonstone. It wasn’t like he would never return. His rightful place was on the Iron Throne. These simpletons might not have known that – most of Westeros might not have known that – but he did, and that was all that mattered.
The red woman had told him as much as well. She’d cautioned him against coming here too, but the moment she had told him that she had seen his little secret in her fires, he’d settled on the decision. By trying to warn him away, she’d helped push him into this. The Iron Throne was his, but this secret, this mistake, was his as well. He would not be the same king as Robert. There was one last thing he had to do before assuming the crown and ridding this city of those bastard Lannister children.
Stannis had to save his own bastard son first.
Tobho Mott’s armory stood in front of him, glaring and hot from the fire inside. Stannis looked at it, telling himself one last time that he could leave, but no, he couldn’t. It was far too late for that. He’d crossed a sea to do this. He could have had someone else do it – just paid someone to pay someone to pay someone to do this – but he had told himself that he could only trust himself with this job. It could somehow get back to him. He was the only one who he knew would not tell anyone. Of course Davos could have done it secretly, but he’d not wanted to explain to Davos why this boy meant anything to him. Davos knew about Stannis’ distaste towards Robert’s bastards, so it would have looked strange even to him. Edric Storm was proof enough of what Robert’s children looked like; he would not have need of another King’s Landing bastard.
No, this was his own doing – his own undoing – and he needed to fix it. This boy had already paid enough for Stannis’ mistake; he did not need to pay for his life as well when that Lannister woman tried to stomp out any proof of her treachery and the truth about Robert’s children.
Stannis pulled at the hood hiding his identity and then stepped inside the shop. Tobho Mott was inside talking to a customer. The boy was nowhere in sight, most likely in the back. Stannis hung to the side, looking at a few swords, until the other customer finished his shopping and left the shop. The two men were alone.
Mott walked up to him, all jovial and irritating. Stannis suddenly remembered why he’d let both Varys and Lord Arryn do all the talking the last two times he had come here. “What can I do for you, ser?” he asked, trying to peer under the hood. It had been easy to find clothing to put on that would make him look like some hedge knight. There were enough of those running around Dragonstone.
Stannis wasted no time in pulling out a coin purse and shoving it into the man’s hands. “The boy,” he said gruffly. “His apprenticeship with you is over. He’s to join the Night’s Watch. The coin should suffice you.”
“Wait there,” Mott said, holding onto the coin purse tightly nonetheless. “The boy does good work. I earn money from his apprenticeship. And he’s a good lad. I don’t see how he’s done anything to deserve being sent to the Wall.”
Would that Stannis could to just toss his hood off. Mott wouldn’t have argued with him for a second longer. But it was anonymity that Stannis required more than anything else; and he did not trust Mott to keep his mouth shut if push came to shove. He was a businessman. All someone needed to do was wave a better reason to loose his tongue for him to speak.
Stannis grinded his teeth. “He didn’t do anything,” he pointed out, already losing his patience, “but men will come for him regardless; and it will be better for everyone if he is not here when they do.”
“Men?” Mott seemed suddenly hesitant. If there was danger to his own being, then he would send the boy away, but if he could make a larger profit off of the men that wanted the boy, well… Stannis knew how men like Tobho Mott worked. They were greedy and only saw what was best for themselves. No doubt he had a bastard or two running around. “Gold cloaks or crooks?”
“Is there any difference?” Stannis snapped. Before Mott could argue any further, Stannis grabbed the other man by his collar and shoved him back into the counter. Mott looked more than startled; he looked like he might piss himself. No, this man would not be able to hold himself under any sort of scrutiny or pressure when the gold cloaks came for the boy. He’d crack the moment they stepped inside. “You will send the boy away. I don’t care what you tell him – be it the truth or a lie – just make sure he is gone by the morning. Should anything happen, I will find you and I’ll see to it that you suffer a worse fate.”
Stannis let go of Mott, wiped his hand off, and then stormed out of the armory without another word. His ship would be leaving soon. He knew that Mott would listen to him. The boy would be sent to the Wall. It was a cold and wretched place, but he would live. He may not have his freedom, but he would have his life. Stannis had spent the entire trip to King’s Landing pondering what to do. He’d even entertained the idea of bringing the boy to Dragonstone where he could complete his armory’s apprenticeship under another blacksmith, but that would’ve been foolish. Too many people would have asked questions. Besides, the more leagues in between them, the better it would be for the both of them.
When Stannis was halfway down the street, someone shouting, “Hey, you!” stopped him short. Pinching the bridge of his nose tightly and thinking of how much he wanted to smack Tobho Mott for being so stupid, Stannis turned around, only to see the boy stomping up to him. There was such fury written all over his face and the fire in his eyes burned brighter than the nightfires Melisandre cooked up on the shores of Dragonstone. Stannis looked around, but no one was paying them any attention. After all, Stannis looked like a hedge knight and the boy, still covered in soot, looked like a poor orphan from Flee Bottom. They were the least entertaining folks to watch.
“I have a ship to catch,” was all Stannis said as a greeting, starting to turn again.
“I don’t know what you think you’re doing,” Gendry growled, reaching out and grabbing Stannis by the forearm to stop him, “but I heard you in the shop. I heard what you said to Mott. He tried to tell me that I was lousy and he didn’t need me anymore, but I heard. You’re the one that wants me gone, not him.”
Stannis jerked his arm out of the boy’s grip. It had been a lot stronger than he’d expected. “Would you rather live or die?”
Gendry furrowed his brow. “What’s that supposed to–?”
“I’m sure you’ve heard about the recent…executions done by the gold cloaks,” Stannis interrupted. The reports that Davos had given him on the ship before they’d docked had confirmed Stannis’ fears. The boy looked less certain, but nodded his head anyways. “If you want to live, you’ll shut up, pack your bags, and head for the Wall.”
For a few minutes, Gendry seemed to be processing this information. The gold cloaks were killing Robert’s bastard children on the orders of the Queen. They were all unofficial, but everyone knew it regardless. Whispers in the street were sometimes more dangerous than a knife to the back. Neither of them said anything. They just stared at each other. Gendry wouldn’t be able to see his face, but he glared at the shadowy face. Finally, he muttered, in a very low voice that only Stannis could hear, “You said that I’d be able to smith for a better person if I kept working, but now you’re sending me to the Wall. You’re making me throw away my life in order to save it.”
It took everything in Stannis not to flinch, but he kept his composure as best as he could. “They have need of smiths at the Wall. You can serve there just as well as here.”
“Do you think that just because I’m a bastard that I might not want a wife or children when I’m a man grown?” Gendry questioned accusingly. Stannis had thought that keeping his life would be suffice enough, but he had not stopped to think that he was still dealing with a child. He may have been ten and five, but he was not quite yet a man. Even so, Stannis had not stopped to think that Gendry might have hopes and dreams like this. Gendry stepped back from him. “No, of course not, I’m just a common bastard. I’ve got no name to give a wife or any children I might have. I’d just create more stupid, dirty bastards.”
Like you, a voice whispered in the back of Stannis’ mind. Like Robert.
“You will have your life,” Stannis ground out. “That should be good enough.”
Gendry gave him a pleading look. “You could take me with you. I could serve you well.” Stannis could hear the way he wanted to tag “m’lord” on the end of everything he said, but Gendry seemed to know that he couldn’t say that. No one could know that this had ever happened. This conversation had to end before they started to draw attention to themselves. “I’d be good. I’d work and never complain and…”
“No,” Stannis said, shaking his head. “That cannot happen. You would not be safe even there.”
“You mean you wouldn’t?” Even though he sounded angry, Gendry’s shoulders slumped in defeat. “Why…why are you doing this? Why are you even bothering to save me? Why are you risking yourself?”
Because I’m your father. Because I owe you one thing since I left you with nothing. Because I’ll be damned if someone pays for my mistakes. Because it’s time that I own up to my responsibilities. How can I be a king if I cannot even be a father?
“It would not be right for you to suffer someone else’s indiscretions,” Stannis told him, before turning away from the boy and continuing down the street back in the direction of the harbor. The boy would be on his way to the Wall by tomorrow morning; Stannis knew that much for sure. He had seen the acceptance in the boy’s Baratheon blue eyes, but even after all of this – after completing what he’d set out to do – Stannis still didn’t feel any better. He still felt dirty, but it had nothing to do with the boy and much more to do with himself.
“You have king’s blood in you,” Melisandre had whispered into his ear just two weeks past.
And if Stannis did, then that boy had it in him as well.