Once at the door, he put his bag down for a moment to fish into his pocket for the key Stannis had given him. He had needed a key, after all, if he was going to be coming here at random intervals when there might be no one other than himself to let him in. But then again, there might always be someone around – Davos still wasn’t sure how being rich worked; did everyone really have guards about 24/7?
Shaking his head at himself, he slid the key into the lock and turned it, then nudged the door open with his shoulder. As it opened, he peered inside, but he couldn’t see anyone moving around yet. They’d be here anyway though, he knew that much, so he simply picked up his bag and made his way inside, shutting the door behind him. He tried to remember Stannis’ directions to get Davos to his office, and he remembered vaguely, so he set off, taking in as much as the manor as he went, trying to commit the place and layout to memory.
Finally, he came face-to-face with Stannis’ office door, and as soon as he’d stopped in front of it, he knocked a couple of times, then pushed the door open and slipped inside.
His “office” was not so much an office but a space he’d carved out somehow. If Storm’s End had ever lacked for inhabitants, it had never lacked for rooms that would’ve housed a sprawling family even though the Baratheons had always been very few. He’d first wandered into that room when he was five and thought, at that moment, with dust in the air and silence ringing in his ears, that he wished to never leave. It had been his grandfather’s game room. In the middle had been a pool table made ominous by the old sheet that covered it. The walls had no bookshelves, not like Steffon’s own office, and the large windows looked to the west. It caught the sun when it was already cool.
He was thirteen when he first changed anything inside. At first he’d been hesitant to sit on the armchair in the corner, or light a fire in the small hearth when it got cold during the winter. The hush was a secret he hadn’t wanted to betray. But when his parents died, Stannis felt that the secret had passed on to him, like a forgotten heirloom in a forgotten safebox. He’d gotten rid of the pool table first, and opened the windows for the first time. The first gust of wind had rifled his hair. Unlike the other rooms in the house, it didn’t smell like sunlight in the morning, but of dew the evening before. As if it aged slower than the rest of the house, and was more earth than stone.
Other than that, there was little else changed about it. The walls remained bare but for the dark wooden panels and the few stag heads over the mantle. Stannis had Cressen unearth a desk for him to use, but of its several drawers only one could be opened. He filled that with little things although years later, he wouldn’t remember what they were for. A receipt from a coffee shop in Oxford, an anti-Targaryen pamphlet handed out by the student unions that he’d read only once. The desk chair was old as well, one of the old pieces from his grandmother’s sitting room. Cressen told him that Rhaelle Targaryen loved to write, but Stannis had never seen anything in her handwriting but for haphazardly scrawled dates at the back of old photographs.
Many years later and the room had been spotless when he came in two days ago. The book he’d left on the table months before he left for the Navy was still there, even though Stannis would never remember the page he’d left, or what the book was about, or if he’d still read it now.
He was stood by the window when the door opened behind him. The curtains were drawn and across the rolling plains of the estate was the deep night that obscured it. A memory came to mind—or was it several memories rolled into one distinct emotion that was not quite nostalgia, but simply a recollection of something familiar? Of flashlights stuttering towards the distance, the barking of hounds and the neighing of horses, and Robert’s boisterous bellow, all of sixteen yet with the bearing of the master of the house, off to go hunting as if he was competing with the sun.
He turned slightly, found Davos by the doorway, and it took him several seconds to remember why he was there, or that his broad face and his sturdy jaw were not Robert’s at sixteen, and the sounds of his footsteps on the stone floor was not the clopping of hooves.
Memory shifted and was gone.
Stannis recovered quickly, and gave the other man a brief nod. “I was hoping you’d arrive earlier.” He gestured for the other man to come in. “If you’re not familiar with the area, it’s not recommended you travel at night,” he added. “You might wander into a neighbor’s hunting grounds.”
He took his measure of the man, an unspoken first order of business. He was much unchanged from the last time they’d seen each other. Tired circles around his eyes, the slight sloop of his shoulders, and looked just as complementary to the room as new beams propping up old stone.
“Sit,” he said, nodding vaguely to one of the chairs by the table as he walked to it himself and sank into his own chair. The uniform was not out of his bearing, dressed down as he was in a long-sleeved shirt and a pair of faded jeans. Even his brow was heavy with the seriousness of office that never quite left even as he stepped off a ship and into his home.