The night is dark in King’s Landing when Tyrion Lannister walks on the top of the Tower of the Hand and looks down at the gardens.
The night is also pretty quiet, all things considered. Well, it’s been quiet since the plague, of course, but what would you expect when most of the population is thrown into one single slum? He should do something about that, but it’s not like he can, not when Cersei is still watching his moves like a hawk. Well, as far as she can do that obviously, which is a lot less than she could before, and isn’t Tyrion happy about that.
He also supposes that he shouldn’t gloat at the card Cersei drew, or at the one his father drew, but he kind of can’t help it. After all, they spent their entire life laughing at him, so he supposes that his turn has come.
Sure, he can’t exactly tell them or anyone that he wasn’t as unaffected as they think, or as the realm thinks for that matter, but then again he was lucky for once and he’s going to keep this for himself as long as he can.
He smiles to himself as he opens the window of his room and then carefully takes off his clothes. He folds them and places them on the nearest chair, then closes his eyes and thinks, a golden one this time.
One moment, he’s standing there.
The next one, a small dragon with golden scales is flying outside the tower and across the sky, careful not to draw too much attention.
He really was lucky, drawing this specific card. After all, it’s everything he’s ever wanted, isn’t it? Maybe he’s not a full-scale dragon when he turns, but that’s better – he’s less noticeable and he can fly during the night without danger.
No, he’s not telling any of his relatives about it anytime soon. He wishes he could tell Jaime though – he knows that he would at least be glad for him. Since he was the only one knowing about how much Tyrion wanted to see a dragon. And he wouldn’t tell anyone else, except that Jaime isn’t here now. The only thing Tyrion knows for sure is that he’s not dead – Robb Stark wouldn’t have the means to keep such a thing hidden, so he must have survived the sickness. Tyrion needs to try and find a middle ground here – since he’s the one in charge, he will find some way to organize an exchange. After all, their illustrious father’s condition is worsening – the more time passes, the more he changes, and he already can’t be seen in public anymore. Who even cares about his plans and the whole backstabbing Robb Stark idea that he’s been brewing lately.
Cersei might back him up, since the point is rescuing Jaime, and she can hardly be seen in public either.
Tyrion wonders, though. If he survived, what card did he draw? It doesn’t take a maester’s chain to put two and two together – the cards aren’t random. They’re random in the way they change people. But in Tyrion’s case, his childhood dreams became reality, while Cersei… well, for someone so proud of her looks, she did lose a fundamental part of them. And his father looks like a thrice-damned skeleton these days, which is entirely too fitting, in a negative way.
Jaime – well. It’s no secret what everyone thinks. But Tyrion also knows that Jaime is a lot better than what everyone thinks.
He really would like to know what card he drew.
He hopes it was a good one.
“Wench, you know, if you used those, maybe we’d be in King’s Landing already. You ever thought of that?”
“How about you keep your mouth shut, Kingslayer?”
“Why, is that a sore point? One would think you’d like them.”
“Well, there is a part of you that’s nice to look at.”
“How hilarious. Keep walking.”
Well, he tried.
It’s not like Jaime wanted to rile her up too much, but damn it, after poor cousin Cleos passed away during their journey, it’s been entirely too boring and of course Catelyn Stark couldn’t saddle him with an escort with an actual sense of humor.
She did look a bit hurt at that, though. And well – fine. That was a particularly mean thing to say, and also not entirely true – she does have astonishing eyes, after all so the wings aren’t the only thing she has going for her.
Well, that she’d have going for her if she didn’t keep them hunched against her back. Pity, because he did see them spread a couple times while they were eating in the evenings, and the darned things are quite astonishing themselves. They’re huge, for one. And the same shade of blue as her eyes. She could have gotten it a lot worse, as far as the whole wild card business is concerned.
Surely he’d have picked wings over his own card, and good thing that it’s nothing people can see outwardly. With little effort he might just keep it hidden for good throughout the rest of his life without anyone ever finding out, and that’d better be the case since his image would be quite shattered if the truth were to come out.
Gods, better not even think about that. He should just try to rile the wench up some more, and good thing that at least Lady Stark saw fit to try and exchange him with her precious daughters even if her precious son probably wouldn’t have agreed with that plan.
“Really, what’s the point of wings if you don’t use them?”
“What’s the point of laughing at the oaths you swore?”
Damn, she really is stuck on the damned oaths.
If only she knew.
“If I waste my honor it doesn’t mean you should waste that. Do you know how many people would like to fly?”
“I can’t use them to fly, kingslayer. How about you save your breath now?”
This is going to be a long journey, he thinks, but thinking that Cersei will be at the end of it is enough to make him decide to shut his mouth and endure this.
For now, anyway.
She’s stronger than I am, he thinks as the wench matches each of his blows, and for a moment he thinks, what if I –, but then decides that it’s unbecoming of him.
He’s never won a fight by cheating and he’s not going to start now, especially considering how bloody embarrassing it would be. Never mind that he likes this. This is what he was born to do, match her blows while they blades kiss once and twice and then all over again. He’s never felt so alive as when he fights and it’s no wonder that finally for the first time in a year his blood is singing and even if he’s chained, he’s still good enough. She’ll provide enough entertainment.
Or at least, that’s what he thinks until he realizes that she’s not getting tired and not backing down, and this when she’s basically dragging those wings behind her like they’re not even there and pretty much making herself weaker. For a moment he thinks that if she only used the damn wings instead of dragging them around like dead weight she could be even better, and the thing is that she might be ugly as sin but she’s good, and with all her talking about being a knight and so on she could be so much better. If only she embraced the damned things.
Never mind that he’d beat her bloody if only his wrists weren’t chained –
And then she’s made him lose his footing and they’re falling into the stream, and she’s telling him to yeld and then someone laughs.
It’s what looks like a group of bandits.
“Well met, friends,” he says. “Seems like you caught me chastising my wife. Sorry if I disturbed you.”
“Seemed to me like it was the other way around,” one of the men says, coming closer.
Jaime moves up to his feet and he realizes these ones aren’t just bandits. From how they look, they must be mercenaries. Looking at them better –
Fuck. The Brave Companions, and fuck whoever it is that hired them. Seems like the sickness didn’t kill most of them. A few have some visible deformations, but that’s about it.
“Who commands here?” He asks, hoping to solve this nicely.
“That’d be me, Ser Jaime.” The man coming forward is so pale he looks like a damned corpse. “Urswyck the Faithful. At your service.”
“You know who I am?”
“You are a famous man, m’lord.”
Even worse. “Well, then you know I’m worth a lot and we always pay our debts. The wench is also highborn. She might give you a good ransom.”
“How fortunate. Too bad that I think you missed something while in Riverrun.”
“That we’re in Roose Bolton’s service right now. He’s currently Lord of Harrenhaal.”
“By what leave? Robb Stark’s?”
“Not our business.”
“Wow, and I have shit for honor.”
“Nevertheless, we are to bring you to Harrenhaal and see what are his orders.”
And before either of them can protest, a few of those bloody mummers move ahead and hit him in the damned face.
At least it takes four of them to take Brienne down, now that it’s a consolation since by the end both of them are spitting blood.
Jaime would have told her that she should have just fucking armed him, but he can’t because a moment later the only Brave Companion he had seen missing comes into his view. Fucking Vargo Hoat, he thinks. That piece of filth was never good for anything –
“What a coincidence,” he says. “I thall be glad to ask your father a ranthom. It’th nothing you can thpit on thethe days. However, maybe your father needs a methage. And we can’t have you running away, can we?”
No, Brienne shouts as she sees the man take out a large, curved blade.
For a moment, Jaime thinks, he just wants to scare me.
Then someone else grabs his wrist, pulls him forward making him crash on the ground, and his arm can’t move and the blade comes down –
And Jaime screams.
“Are you so craven?” She asks, her voice low but hard as steel, and his first instinct is spitting in her thrice-damned ugly face, but –
She’s right. Lannisters don’t let themselves die without a fight. She’s right. And now that he looks at her, he notices that the wings aren’t secured to her back anymore. They’re laying on the ground, limp, the feathers half-torn out, and damn if it isn’t a sad sight. He doesn’t know if that hurts or not. Could it hurt half as much as his missing hand does?
He has no idea, but he eats all of the sorry excuse for food they give him.
He vomits half of it later. His mouth still tastes of fucking horse piss. He stinks. The next evening he’s about to give up on that promise to himself, because he wants to live but this is too fucking much, and then –
He feels something soft brush over his cheek.
He opens his eyes and sees blue feathers.
He opens them some more and strains against the chains binding his wrists together to sit up just a bit and –
Yes. It’s one of her wings. It’s slowly moving up and down his cheek, and even if half of her feathers are ruined, they’re still soft as dawn and warm.
“Wench, what in the seven hells…?” He croaks. No one even hears him. All the Bloody Mummers are too busy getting drunk to pay attention to them.
“I didn’t know I could do it,” she replies, staring at the ground below her. “No one deserves what they’re doing to you,” she adds a moment later, and she has to stop when she hears one of their jailers shout that they’ll check up on them, but – it felt nice. It was the first touch that didn’t feel absolutely horrid and miserable that Jaime’s experienced since he left Cersei last.
He doesn’t know how to ask her to do it again when they have the chance.
When she falls asleep, she probably doesn’t notice the white butterfly perching over her brow for a handful of moments before flying away and Jaime doesn’t even realize it was there at all until it flies right in front of his face.
“Just go away inside,” Jaime hisses at her, and the stubborn damned woman says that of course she won’t, and Jaime wishes her card was seeing inside someone’s head because then he’d show her what he remembers of Aerys Targaryen’s relationship to his poor wretched lady wife, and then she’d think about going away inside all over again.
But what’s the point of crying over it? He knows she’s too proud and stubborn to do anything else, and he kind of maybe admires her a bit for it because the gods know he couldn’t last half a year without going somewhere else, and then he thinks about what they’ll do to her. He can entirely imagine Vargo Hoat holding on to those magnificent wings of hers, maybe tearing out the remaining good feathers, or maybe breaking them, and he thinks about all the times she’s reached out with the tips of her wings and touched him, or of the one time when she managed to wrap one around his shoulders for a bit before they could notice, and about how warm and soft they felt.
He screams sapphires.
Then he screams some more, and no words come out of his mouth. He feeds her the bullshit about Lannisters always paying their debts later and doesn’t tell her, I couldn’t let them ruin you more than you already are ruining yourself, because that’s what she’s doing, with all this running after oaths and knightly dreams.
Those dreams ruined him and they’ll ruin her as well, and as a red butterfly perches on his left hand and he doesn’t even try to make it go away, he thinks that it really is a damn pity.
Cleaned up and groomed a bit, those wings are truly beautiful.
They take up half of the tub where she’s sitting, and maybe he should have chosen another, but he felt like riling her up some more, now that he doesn’t feel like he’s going to die at every moment.
He doesn’t know how it goes from that to telling her why he slew his king.
He doesn’t know why he wants her to know. He doesn’t know why the story comes out of his mouth in front of her when he could never share it with Cersei or Tyrion or anyone else.
He’s pretty sure she doesn’t notice the ten or so butterflies flying around close to the ceiling.
Her eyes go wider and wider as he keeps on talking, and gods but maybe she’ll stop telling him that he has shit for honor after this, and he doesn’t even know why it matters even a bit that she’d judge him differently, but somehow it does and he can’t think about it any further because then he’s fucking fainting because it’s too hot and he can still remember Aerys’s insane, screechy laugh like it was yesterday, and then he –
He never falls.
Her wings catch him before her arms, and he finds himself kept up by soft, wet feathers before her arms close around his shoulders, so gentle, gentler than Cersei, and she looks like she’s calling for help but he shakes her head and tells her not to, not for now. She nods once and keeps on holding him upright, and he should probably care that they’re both wet and naked and that there are all at least ten butterflies perching on her shoulders, but he can’t.
Prince Rhaegar’s body is covered in dragon scales, he can’t see the faces of the other members of the Kingsguard except Arthur Dayne (whose armor shines so bright he can barely bring himself to look at him), and Cersei’s head is shaved as she turns her back on him and leaves.
“Don’t leave me here,” he screams, and then two things happen.
A pale pink butterfly lands down on his hand and Brienne of Tarth appears in front of him, her hands bound, naked as the day she was born and blue, majestic wings flapping slowly in the cold air.
“Give me a sword, ser, I swore an oath,” she says, and then her shackles fall down and a sword pulsing with blue light appears in between her big, calloused hands.
In this light she could almost be a knight, Jaime thinks as she comes up next to him. But gods, she is beautiful, he can’t help attaching to that stray thought. Maybe no one else would think her such, but her body is all lithe swordsman’s muscles, those pretty, big eyes are glowing blue in the dark along with those gorgeous big wings, the same shade of blue as her (his?) sword.
“I could fly you out,” she says, thoughtfully, and he wants to answer yes yes yes do it, please do it, I need to be out I don’t want to be here, I don’t -
He wakes up, the weirwood root pressing against his back, and he knows he can’t leave her behind.
“I left something at Harrenhaal,” Jaime says, and whatever protests come after, he doesn’t hear them.
So maybe jumping into a bear pit was a foolish idea.
Then again, Brienne is being even more foolish – never mind that the pink gown suits her horribly and is all torn into shreds, she’s been fighting with a tourney sword and carrying that dead weight that are her unused wings around – it would have been a miracle if she had lasted much longer.
“What are you doing?” She screams at him. “Get behind me, I have the sword!”
“No, you get behind me, or didn’t you notice that it’s not a sword at all?”
And she knows that, it’s obvious, and Jaime knows that trying to throw sand at that bear won’t do much good, but he tries anyway.
It fails miserably, of course, also because he misses, and the thing is, he had been hoping that Steelshanks and the other idiots in his party might kill the bear for him, but he can’t know for sure and it’s getting angry – he can see it.
He turns and sees that Brienne is staring down at her wings, looking panicked and with her hands clenched into fists, and –
Hells, she’s trying to use them, isn’t she, and obviously it’s not working out and he doesn’t have a sword, not that it’d do him much good, does he?
“Damn it,” he sighs, “I guess it’s time.”
“Not quite so, wench,” Jaime says, then he takes a deep breath.
You won, he thinks. You won, damn you all. Come on, show me you aren’t as bloody useless as I think you are.
For a moment, nothing happens.
And then a storm of butterflies rushes into the bear pit, out of who in the seven hells knows where, and they swarm all around the bear, covering its eyes and face completely, and even if the poor beast rages again, he can’t see where he’s going. It roars and even more butterflies come in, until there’s a swarm twice the size of the bear’s head around it.
“What –” Brienne says, but Jaime doesn’t let her finish.
“How about we get out of here instead,” he screams, and she moves at once, heading for the only viable way out of the pit – she climbs on the stairs, even if she’s stumbling in the tatters of her dress. He helps hoist her up and then she grabs his wrists and tugs them upwards until they’re safely outside, and just then the butterflies leave the bear be, dissipating away where they came from.
Jaime finds himself face to face with Vargo Hoat.
“Well, I got the not so fair maiden. Are you still one, I hope?”
“Yes, but –”
“Good, I only rescue maidens. And with this, Hoat, I will assume that you don’t want to let the realm know how that bear was defeated as much as I do, so how about we agree that no one in this pitiful public ever speaks of it again?”
Hoat grimaces and doesn’t try to stop him, and Jaime just shrugs and leaves, figuring that now he’ll have to answer her bloody questions and it’s the last thing on this earth he wants to do.
But then –
“Ser Jaime,” she says, and – wait.
How did she just call him?
“I am truly thankful,” she keeps on, “but you were well away. Why come back?”
Oh, if only she knew. If only. There are a lot of things he could say. He could tell her that he owed her a debt, he could blurt out one of the cruel quips everyone thinks are what he is, he could –
But he looks at her face, at her soiled pink dress, at her blue wings tiredly fluttering just a tiny bit in the air, and he sees the azure butterfly landing on her shoulder the moment she asks that question.
So he sighs once, shakes his head and says, “I dreamed of you.”
“So – your card –”
“Wench, don’t you dare.”
“I just –”
“You saw it. Yes, that’s it. Yes, I know it’s hardly becoming of the kingslayer.”
“Ser, that wasn’t what I was going to say.”
“… what were you going to say then?”
She looks at him, then down at her hands, then back at him. “That it kind of becomes you.”
“Ser,” she starts, and he can see her blushing hard, but she’s still holding his stare. “What you just did, not – not many people would think of doing the same for anyone. Least of all someone you don’t care for.”
He says nothing, but something tells him to tell her it’s not true.
What is he even fucking thinking?
“You told me something you never told anyone else,” she interrupts. “Didn’t you?”
He shrugs. “I might have. What of it?”
“May I do the same with you?”
“If you’d like.” It’s not as if he has any better option – they’re stopping for the night and he’s not feeling like sleeping anytime soon.
“When I picked up a sword, I wanted – to be like the knights in the songs.” And that, Jaime had guessed even too well. “I never thought I’d be the maiden.”
She didn’t say fair maiden, Jaime notices. He can imagine why.
“I think,” she goes on, “that care for your honor more than you let on. And that you have more of that than you think.”
“Ser, I can’t think of anyone who’d have risked their life for mine. Not like that. I don’t know what it says about you that you spent years letting people assume you have no honor nor care for your duties and then you – do something like that, but if it’s worth anything, I am sorry.”
“For thinking you were an insult to the cloak you wear without knowing the full story.”
Jaime doesn’t have a fucking clue of what he should say to that.
Hells, he’s forgotten completely that once upon a time he’d have wept in joy at the prospect of someone acknowledging that in front of him.
“And,” Brienne goes on, moving slightly closer, with the face of someone who’s gathering courage to do something they hadn’t thought they ever would, “thank you.”
She leans forward and presses her cracked lips to his cheek before moving away in haste and heading back towards her tent, dragging her wings behind her.
Jaime’s hand goes to his cheek – it feels as if he got burned in the point she did that, what was that – and when a blue butterfly lands on his hand, he doesn’t even bother shrugging it away.
She said, I never thought I’d be the maiden.
It’s somewhat sad and at the same time it makes him want to laugh bitterly that he forgot when he last thought he’d get to be a proper knight for real.
Probably it was when Arthur Dayne thought he had the potential for it.
Jaime doesn’t know how he should feel about that, or what does it even say about him, or if it says anything about his damned wild card.
He stands up and goes to sleep instead. Soon he’ll be back in King’s Landing, soon he’ll be back with Cersei and soon he’ll leave this entire madness behind him.
He goes to sleep thinking about finally seeing his sweet sister again after so long and doesn’t remember his dreams when he wakes up the morning after.
When they finally walk into King’s Landing, he can’t help noticing that it looks like a dead city in comparison to how it was when he left it.
Then he remembers that a good part of the people who survived the sickness got thrown into the former Flea Bottom, and the others probably don’t have many good reasons to rejoice or be happy in the first place.
My card might be ridiculous but good thing it doesn’t show, he thinks as he walks in front of a tavern where the serving wench’s skin has turned purple.
He shakes his head and walks forward.
He’s this close to his family again, he’s not going to dwell on what could have been any further.
Before he’s let inside, he recommends the guards to treat at least Brienne like a guest – the rest of his escort was already on Roose Bolton’s orders. His father will probably pay them, even if they were no fucking good for sure when it came to keep him safe or being an escort in the first place.
(While she told me to get behind her because I didn’t have a sword, a traitorous voice tells him.)
“I will ask them to free the Stark girl,” Jaime tells her before he’s to go to the throne room. “If they agree be ready to leave at once.”
“I will be ready,” Brienne replies, nodding. “You – you look happy,” she says, her voice suddenly soft in a way it has never been when talking to him before.
He shrugs. “You would be happy, too, if you had waited a year to see again the – they people you love.”
He doesn’t know why he’s telling her that.
“I suppose I would,” she agrees, but she sounds sad. He’d ask why, but Ser ( ) says that he should go in now, Lord Tywin and the Queen Regent and the Hand of the King are all waiting for him, and so he turns his back on her and walks as fast as he can manage without breaking into a run.
Finally, he thinks, finally I’m back.
The throne room is dark, he notices as he walks inside. It’s – strange. Why you can barely see any lights?
The first person he sees is Tyrion, who was sitting next to the throne and immediately leaves his seat and takes a few steps towards him as if he was about to run, and then he thinks twice about it.
“Hells,” he says, “I see that imprisonment took a toll on you, hasn’t it?”
Jaime could honestly kiss him for joking about it, but he just tries to not break down in relieved tears instead. “It wasn’t imprisonment,” he sighs. “It was – never mind. Roose Bolton’s men wanted to make sure I’d be no trouble. I guess.”
… That sounded like his father, Jaime thinks, and now he notices the man cloaked in black standing up from the other chair near the throne. He hadn’t noticed before, given the darkness.
“Yes, he had left them in charge of Harrenhaal. Good day, Father, by the –”
“Jaime, I have no time for foolishness. Lord Bolton will hear about this.”
“He will – how, if I may ask?”
“Right,” Tyrion says, “I am afraid no one’s briefed him on how Lord Bolton turned his cloak on Robb Stark while you were… coming back here, I imagine? By the way, no one had been expecting you. How did that happen?”
Lord Bolton turned his cloak – how fucking long did it take them to reach King’s Landing? He knew about the Greyjoys (or better, Theon Greyjoy) turning their cloaks, no one in Riverrun hadn’t discussed it, turnkeys included, but –
“Lady Stark.” Jaime has a feeling this is going to be harder than he had imagined. “She – she let me go with an escort of her choice.”
“You mean, that hideous woman people saw you coming back here with?”
Jaime’s first instinct is replying hideous or not she did bring me back here, but he bites down on his tongue and refrains from asking and where is Cersei instead.
Even if the question that’s really bothering him right now is, why are you all covered in black?
“The Lady Brienne as a better escort than most,” Jaime hisses. “This,” he says, nodding towards his wrist, “wasn’t her fault. Anyway, the deal was that I would be exchanged for her daughters. Or at least one of them.”
“And you accepted?”
Jaime doesn’t know if his father’s ever sounded this disappointed to his own ears, and it includes that time he informed him he was joining the Kingsguard.
“I was in mind of honoring that deal,” Jaime replies, and –
“Have you lost your wits?”
That wasn’t his father.
That was Cersei. She was standing behind the throne (why?) and when she finally arrives in front of him, he can see at once that she’s changed, too. She seems to have aged some five years at once, but that’s not the starkest change. She’s still wearing one of her red and gold dresses, rich in garb, but it’s a bit looser on her than it used to be, and there’s a few lines on her face, but that’s fairly understandable.
But her hair –
Well, he wouldn’t know. She has it covered in a golden cloth wrapped around her head and Jaime wonders, was that the sickness?
And her lovely green eyes
(the same as his own)
are cold. And she looks… disappointed?
This is not the reunion he had imagined.
“Cersei. Why would I have lost my wits?”
“Because Sansa Stark leaving now is absolutely out of the question.”
Since when has she sounded so cold? Jaime doesn’t know – she never was like this to him. He doesn’t ever remember her sounding this angry, not when she was talking to him at least.
“Actually, Sansa Stark leaving is entirely out of the question, period.”
“Out of it.”
He’s about to ask, what happened –
Instead he raises his right arm, forgetting about his hand for a moment, and he can pinpoint the moment Cersei’s eyes turn from cold to disgusted – she recoils back for a moment and then turns her back on them all and leaves the room.
What in the seven hells?
“Father –” Jaime starts, hoping he might be more reasonable.
“Forget it,” comes as an answer. The man stands, and takes a few steps towards Jaime, coming into the light for a moment, and –
Jaime wants to faint.
That’s his father’s face, all right. Except that he’s not just thinner.
His entire face looks like a thrice-darned skull, and the fingers barely showing from the long, large sleeves of the cloak Tywin Lannister is wearing are… thin. White.
“We are not in any position to lose any assets. Besides, if our plan is successful, her brother doesn’t have much longer to live.”
“Your brother will follow through with his duties as hand of the King and explain the situation to you. I should hope that what has just transpired can be justified with – the fact that you obviously feel tired and are not yourself right now. It better be justified with that, Jaime.”
Then he also turns his back on Jaime and leaves the room.
Jaime has a feeling that if the ground opened right now and swallowed him whole, it would be entirely less jarring and uncomfortable than the conversation he’s just had.
Then a small hand is tentatively touching his left wrist.
“Believe me,” Tyrion says, “I had a way better welcome in mind when I heard you were coming back.”
It’s probably a good thing that there’s no Kingsguard around them to witness Jaime pretty much dropping down into a crouch and pulling his brother to his chest.
Or that no one else related to them is around them to witness that, either, but at least someone is glad he’s back.
“What has Father planned?”
“I couldn’t dissuade him,” Tyrion sighs, pouring Jaime some more wine. “He might be giving me more leeway than he likes because as you’ve seen, I’m the only one out of us who can be seen in public, but when it comes to scheming I can hardly stop him. Believe me, I’m as convinced of this as you are. Anyway, since Robb Stark needs Walder Frey after having mucked up his alliance when he married the Westerling girl, the plan’s to lure him to the Twins with an excuse and then slaughter them all.”
“… Breaking guest right?” Jaime asks, and then downs his glass. Fuck this. He’s not sober enough for this.
“That was the plan. I suppose that with this premise maybe sending Sansa Stark to Riverrun isn’t in her best interest.”
Maybe, Jaime thinks, and then remembers the determined look in Brienne’s eyes when she had promised Lady Stark she’d come back with her daughter.
Seven fucking thrice-damned hells.
“By the way, how is Sansa Stark faring?”
“Better than Cersei,” Tyrion snorts. “Another reason why she keeps her locked in the Kingsguard tower.”
“She grew wings. Mockingbird wings. They’re pretty enough, admittedly. She had it a lot better than our sister, for that matter.”
“About that,” Jaime blurts after another drink, “what’s wrong with her?”
“Not my place to tell you.” Tyrion shakes his head. “Sorry, you will have to ask her yourself. I’m not getting in between the two of you.” He sounds bitter, of course he does. Jaime isn’t ever going to try and explain him why he loves Cersei, same as he has stopped trying to make them get along a long time ago. He can’t even blame Tyrion for not wanting to.
“Fair. I see you were spared, though?”
“Maybe. Were you?”
“… Maybe,” Jaime shrugs.
For a moment they look at each other. Then Tyrion grins, and it’s genuine even if it’s tired. “I see,” he says, “that we might have the same problem here. Does anyone know about yours?”
“Er, actually, Lady Brienne does.”
“The woman who brought you here? I should like to meet her… though maybe a few days from now,” Tyrion says.
“She only knows because I had to – to use it,” Jaime says. “I mean. What – it’s embarrassing.”
“Really? Mine is not. No one knows, though. Given how our illustrious father and Cersei took their card, I wasn’t going to say anything.”
“Fine. How about, I show you mine, you show me yours and we swear to not breathe a word of it to anyone else?”
“All right,” Tyrion agrees. “You first.”
“If it’s embarrassing, you might as well get on with it so you don’t feel like you won’t match up with mine.”
Has he ever seen his brother look this giddy in his life? Jaime doesn’t know, but – all right then. He sighs and moves towards the open window. He closes his eyes.
Come, you bastards, he thinks, knowing that they will regardless of how much he insults them.
He opens his eyes.
There are three red butterflies flying in through the window and perching on his hand, but then a few other orange ones come in and fly right through it, perching on Tyrion’s right arm first. Then another ten or so – yellow this time – come in and perch on the left arm.
“Yes,” Jaime says before Tyrion can ask, “I’m doing that. If you ask me how, I’ll reply fuck if I have a clue. Please don’t fucking laugh, it’s bad enough.”
Tyrion valiantly tries not to, but snorts once, twice, and then lets out the small laugh he had been holding in. “I can see why you would assume that,” he says, “but I could think of a lot worse.”
“Well, they were – useful, in an occasion or two,” Jaime sighs. “Anyway, that’s about it. It’s a mummer’s party trick, honestly, but I could have got a lot worse, I guess. So, I showed you. What’s your not embarrassing card then?”
“I am afraid we need to be in the Tower of the Hand for that.”
Jaime shrugs – no one’s here, he might as well do what Tyrion says. He follows him up until his chambers in the Tower of the Hand and locks the door when Tyrion asks him to. By the time he’s done, Tyrion is –
“Tyrion, what the hell –”
“Don’t worry, I won’t need to turn. I have just a question to ask you.”
“… All right. What?”
“Tell me a color.”
“A color? Fine.” Jaime has no idea of where this is heading, but it’s better than thinking about his current situation. He thinks about it.
“Blue,” he says, and what the hell, why he had been thinking about the exact shade of Brienne’s wings and eyes?
He needs to talk to Cersei soon and straighten things out, he thinks, and then he forgets all about it because his brother’s skin is turning into scales right in front of his eyes and –
One moment, Tyrion was in front of him. Now, there’s a small dragon with elegant, long wings and shiny blue scales all over its back.
“Tyrion?” He blurts. The dragon – Tyrion – flies just under his face before lowering himself down and nodding.
“You’re fucking japing.”
A second later, Tyrion turns to the side and breathes out fire.
All right, it was barely more than a flame good enough to light up a fire, but – gods. He might be a small enough dragon that it could perch on Jaime’s shoulder, but he has wings and a tail and can breathe fire and given how much Tyrion loved the fucking things when he was younger Jaime can’t help smiling openly for the first time in – he can’t even remember how long.
“Hells,” he says, “this is definitely not embarrassing.”
A moment later, Tyrion flies away and lands in the middle of his discarded clothes – Jaime looks away as he turns back and dresses again.
“No,” Tyrion agrees. “And – I saw that your escort also has a nice pair of wings?”
“She does,” Jaime agrees. “But she doesn’t use them.”
“Pity,” Tyrion declares. “Anyway, you should probably – try to get things straight with Cersei, but if you want to rest some first, you can take the Lord Commander’s apartments. They’re yours.”
“Joffrey sent Barristan away before Ned Stark’s execution. You’re the oldest member right now. And probably the only one who doesn’t have shit for brains. Since Sandor Clegane left –”
“Joffrey gave him Barristan’s place even if he didn’t want it. He stayed around a while, but after he recovered from being sick he just – disappeared. No one knows where he ended up.”
Too bad, Jaime thinks. Given who greeted them when they came into the castle, he has a feeling he’d rather have Clegane than anyone in the current Kingsguard.
He sighs. “Fine. I imagine there could be worse options to come back to.”
They end up having dinner in the Hand’s tower and when Jaime walks inside apartments that have been left deserted since Barristan left, first he coughs because of the amount of dust inside the room, and then barely even kicks off his shoes before dropping on the bed and trying to sleep.
Tomorrow he’s getting cleaned up, he’s shaving properly and he’s going to talk to his sister and they’re going to sort everything out.
(And what if you don’t? Will you send the wench back to Lady Stark with a warning? Would she even make it in time?, a small voice asks insistently. He tries to tune it out.)
The next day, he takes a long bath. Then he has his beard trimmed. Then he wears the clean clothes he had found in the wardrobe of the Lord Commander’s quarters – they’re all white. Figures. By the time he’s done, white cloak tied around his neck (by someone else – he needs to find something to replace his hand with before he dies of shame) and heart feeling heavier than he could imagine, especially given what he’s setting out to do, he feels like the worst jape in existence.
Him, commanding the Kingsguard.
As if. When he was fifteen, he might have dreamed of it. Right now he just feels like he has done exactly nothing to deserve it, even if he will never, ever regret Aerys.
He slams the door behind him and heads straight for Cersei’s quarters.
“Cersei,” he says, closing the door behind him. She’s wearing a black gown, one that fits her. It’s laced in golden thread, a contrast to his own white clothes. It’s cut low, baring her shoulders and the top of her breasts, and while she’s still thin and it’s plain weird to see her with her head still covered by gold cloth, she’s still breathtakingly beautiful, to him at least.
He wants to move forward and hold her, he does, but her eyes are cold and so he doesn’t even try.
Not after how she reacted to the sight of his wrist yesterday.
“Look at you,” she almost spits. Why does she look angry?
“Look at me,” he retorts, unable to keep the disappointment from his tone. “I have looked at myself plenty enough. And I was hoping – yesterday was not what I had imagined in this last year.”
“Poor you,” she replies, green eyes blazing with – anger? Why? “Surely I had not imagined you coming in and talking about freeing Sansa Stark as the first item on your list.”
“Given that it’s the reason why I’m here in the first place, and that we were in front of our father, I could hardly do otherwise now, could I?”
“And that was all you had to say. Not a word for your son.”
“Joffrey was my seed and you took care to remind me to never think of him as otherwise. Didn’t you?” Not that, in retrospective, Jaime thinks he lost much, but still, why is she throwing that back at him when it was her idea?
“It was to keep them and you safe! How would it have looked if you had played the father to the king’s children? What if Robert found out?”
I’d have killed him with my bare hands, probably. “What if? Do you think I ever felt ashamed of loving you? Maybe I’d have let kingslaying become a habit, as he was so fond of saying.”
She laughs, but it’s not a happy laugh. It’s ugly. It’s bitter.
“Oh, you never did. I imagine you think you wouldn’t feel ashamed now, would you?”
“What in the – Cersei, if it’s about whatever the sickness did to you, I don’t care.” He wouldn’t. He knows he wouldn’t. He loves her, and she’ll never not be beautiful to him, whatever it is that happened.
“So you say,” she replies. “Then prove it.”
“The situation is dire. Even if Robb Stark is taken out, Stannis and Renly are still siding together and Renly is – too bad – married to Margaery Tyrell. We have the Greyjoys on our side, sure, but it’s not enough. And Bolton turned his cloak once, you never know.”
“Very well. So what?”
“Father wants you to leave the Kingsguard and marry Sansa Stark.”
Jaime feels as if a bucket of ice was just thrown over his head.
“If you marry her and Robb Stark dies, and if his brothers are dead like Lord Bolton assures us of, then Winterfell is ours.”
“I’m not leaving the Kingsguard,” he replies without even thinking about it twice. He hadn’t known how much he didn’t want to leave it until right now, but the prospect of marrying Sansa Stark when he has crippled her brother (and doesn’t he feel ashamed of it now) and when it seems like his entire family bar Tyrion wants to plan the treacherous death of the rest of her family is making his stomach turn, and –
I am sorry for thinking you were an insult to the cloak you wear without knowing the full story.
Oh, he would be an insult to it now if he accepted, wouldn’t it?
“Jaime, it’s necessary. The Kingsguard –”
“I joined it also for you!” He surprises himself when he doesn’t even try to lower his voice, but he just – he can’t even conceive it. “I joined it to be with you, not to be with a girl not even flowered!” And because I wanted to be a true knight, but he doesn’t voice that thought. “I love you, I have never had another and I am not planning to start now. Seeing Robert with you was enough but I understand it was a necessary evil. I am not doing the same.”
“Well, too bad. No one would want me now and giving her to Tyrion would just cement his claim to the Rock, and neither I nor Father want it –”
“Oh, because he would be such a bad choice? And who said no one would want me now? I –”
She laughs again, bitterly and sad, and then she tears off the cloth covering her head.
Then, Jaime understands why she’s that bitter about her card, and why she covers the hair in the first place.
Instead of the long, luscious, long golden hair that used to frame her lovely face, there’s… an unruly mass of tow, of a hideous gray color and which looks completely unkempt. He moves closer, brushes his fingers against it, and – well, shit, for being tow it’s… tough. It feels like damned iron under his fingers rather than fabric, even if it bends if you push it downwards – that’s how it stays hidden, probably.
He has a feeling that any blade that might try to cut it would end up ruined instead, or Cersei wouldn’t have kept it. She’d have rather shaved her head completely, he knows, but –
But who in the seven hells cares? It’s just hair. It changes nothing. He thinks he understands why it affects her so, she always was so proud of her hair, but he didn’t love her hair. He loves her.
“I don’t care,” he says, after considering it a moment. It feels terrible to the touch, true, but who cares? He doesn’t have to touch her hair. He doesn’t care –
“Oh, really. Then why won’t you do the one thing that would help me when I need it the most?”
“You need it? How can you need me to marry fucking Sansa Stark? How can you need me married to someone else?”
“Oh, you would just have to make sure she has your child, and then you can be done with her for how much everyone would care. We need Winterfell, and we need to play the cards right. We aren’t winning this war. I already sacrificed enough for –”
“You sacrificed – Cersei, I gave up Casterly Rock for you! And because I wanted to be in the Kingsguard, but if I don’t have you then I don’t even fucking want the Rock. Tyrion can have it, for all I care.”
“But you would have me!”
“Oh, on the side, the same way you had me when you were married to Robert? Or the same way you’d have had me if you had married Rhaegar or anyone else? And I should put a girl whose family we all somehow contributed to kill in what’s been my position for years?”
“You didn’t have such scruples when you pushed her brother from a tower though, didn’t you? Something you wouldn’t have ever had to do if you had just gone hunting with them like –”
“Do you think I enjoyed it? I felt ashamed as I was doing it and I feel ashamed of it now, and I cannot be any better if I marry his bloody sister now, can I? Cersei, please –”
He reaches out with his right arm, not thinking, again, and his bandaged stump brushes against the top of her breast.
She recoils at once, a look of pure disgust passing over her face, and while a moment later she obviously schools her features into something more neutral –
He has seen it, hasn’t he?
“Cersei, you don’t need to pretend if it disgusts you so,” he spits.
“Jaime, it doesn’t –”
“Cersei, for – I saw it. It was obvious. I only ever saw you looking at Tyrion like that, but it was… not as much. You don’t have to lie.”
“What, you’re disappointed?”
“Given that I just told you that I’d have you regardless of whatever happened to you or your hair or your face maybe I am?”
“He sounds angry now,” she sighs, and then reaches for her golden cloth. She covers up her hair quickly, practiced, both hands tying the knot deftly. Something he could never do, now. “An angry cripple, how terrifying. A pity that out of all our father’s heirs, the only one who has what it takes is me. Very well, have it your way. Sansa Stark is not leaving this castle and her useless brother will die soon. See where your stubbornness leaves you. You can leave.”
“Gladly,” he spits, and then turns his back on her and slams the door even louder. Who cares if anyone hears him, there’s barely servants around – he has a feeling Cersei doesn’t want deformed people around the castle but finding any these days would be complicated. Wouldn’t it?
He runs down the stairs and heads straight for the gardens. He needs fresh air and to be alone for a moment because he’s really not feeling like talking to anyone right now, damn it –
And that’s when he almost slams into a curtain of blue feathers.
“I’m –” Brienne starts, turning towards him, and then she goes red in the face. “Ser – Ser Jaime.”
“Wench,” he replies, but doesn’t try to keep the fondness from his tone. Maybe he can handle being around her out of everyone. “I see you’re not keeping those things hunched?”
She shrugs, and he notices that she’s… wearing a dress? It’s blue, better than that pink rag Vargo Hoat had made her wear, and she has made holes in it so that it’d fit the wings, so she probably didn’t care much for it in the first place.
“I –” She starts. “When we were in the bear pit. I realized that if I just could have used them I could have flied out of there or flown us out of there. And instead I just thought they were some kind of jape and another problem on top of – more. You were right. So – I spent yesterday and today here.”
“And how is it going?”
“Better than I thought,” she admits, her cheeks still slightly red.
“Well, that dress also suits you better than the other one. Blue’s a good color on you, my lady. Goes well with your eyes.”
She glances down at herself, then shrugs. “Thank you. The septa said you sent her.”
“Figured it was the least, given that I’m afraid I can’t keep my vows.” It comes out bitter, though. Way more bitter than he had imagined.
For a moment he expects her to be disappointed, but instead those large, pretty blue eyes of hers take a worried expression. She moves closer.
“What happened?” She asks.
He wants to cry. She sounds – understanding?
“Nothing I couldn’t have assumed. My father and my sister don’t want to let Sansa Stark go lest they lose the last pawn they have over the Starks while Tywin Lannister is plotting to fucking murder Robb Stark and his mother and half of his army, and actually my sister insists that I should marry her so that Winterfell is ours whatever Roose Bolton decides to do with his alliances.” Shit, why, why is he telling her all over again?
She looks horrified at what he just said, but – she doesn’t seem disgusted at him, at least?
“They’re plotting to murder –”
“With Walder Frey. But I think it’s well-underway. And they won’t let us send any ravens, and if I let you go now – well, you wouldn’t get there fast enough. Never mind that I have a feeling I’d have to smuggle you out.”
For a long moment neither of them says a word. He’s expecting her to go or to be disappointed, and she’d have every right to be (since when he cares?) but then her hand tentatively touches his shoulder.
“That – that is not all, is it?”
“You – you said your sister wants you to marry the girl. From what you said in the bath – I mean –”
He wants to laugh now. Great. She’s known him for less than two months and she understands it at once while Cersei’s been separated from him for a year and she doesn’t even want to look at him anymore because of her dumb, irrelevant wild card?
“She – she always used to say we were one half of the same person. That we were mirrors,” he whispers, not even thinking about what he’s saying. “I – I think she’s not of that same mind anymore.”
“For – for that?” She says, looking at his hand. He shrugs.
“Maybe. I think – I think it’s because she lost another part of herself she was very attached to, albeit less useful than a right hand. I don’t know. I don’t fucking know.”
He doesn’t know why he’s telling her, damn it, he has no reason to except that she said, I’m sorry I judged you before I knew the full story, and she doesn’t seem too repulsed to stare at him right now, and then –
“I wouldn’t even know what to say,” she says quietly. “I – I have no experience with – in – the last time someone asked for my hand, it was on condition I gave up sword and armor.”
“What did you do?”
“I said I’d marry just someone who’d best me. I beat them bloody.”
That brings a smile to his lips. “Somehow, it’s not surprising.”
Her cheeks blush even further. “But – if you want a distraction – maybe – Ser, would you trust me for a short while?”
“Wench, I think that after that bear pit I can. Why? And yes, I can use a distraction.”
“I – I said I tried to… well, get adjusted to the wings.”
“Turns out… the moment I stopped fighting it, it wasn’t so hard anymore.”
She holds out her arms, awkwardly, and Jaime suddenly understands what she means.
She’s not proposing to –
He takes a couple of step forwards and walks right up to where she is. Her arm locks around his waist and then is joined by the other, and it’s an iron grip. But it’s not hard. It’s… gentle, but firm. The same way it had been in the bath.
“I think you should hold on,” she says quietly. He puts his own arms around her large shoulders – shit, they’re larger than his own – and grips at the back of her dress.
Then he sees the wings flapping once, twice, thrice, and then –
Then his feet aren’t on the ground anymore.
He looks downwards and –
Gods, they’re flying. The wings are keeping a slow, steady motion and Brienne’s not moving or going any higher, but they’re flying and – he thinks his head is spinning, but in all the good ways.
“Hells,” he whispers, “can you go higher?”
“I think I could,” she replies, sounding – pleased. “On my own, I could.”
“As long as you swear you’re not going to let me drop, I think you can try going higher with someone else, wench.”
She takes in a deep, long breath and then she does, still slowly but steadily, and – seven hells, it’s just – seeing the garden and the castle become smaller and smaller with each passing moment is somehow liberating, and fuck, it’s nice. It’s sort of cold up here, but Brienne is warmer than anyone has any right to be, her gorgeous blue wings are still flapping nicely and steadily and her grip on him hasn’t faltered for a second.
He needs to ask Tyrion if flying is always this breathtaking.
He’d probably say yes.
“Is the distraction working?” She asks, barely audible.
“Hells, yes,” he blurts back. “How long do you think you can do this?”
She shrugs minutely. “Jaime, I think I can do it for a very long time.”
He doesn’t tell her that he’s inordinately pleased she used his damned name without anything else attached to it for reasons he doesn’t even want to ponder.
“Good,” he says. “I think I can use being distracted for a while longer.”
Gods, his cloak is flying into the air, they must look ridiculous, but he doesn’t think he gives a damn.
“You know,” he says, feeling strangely lightheaded, “I hadn’t known I wanted to stay in the Kingsguard that badly until this very day.”
Her lips curl upwards in a sympathetic smile.
“You said blue was my color, before.”
“I might have. So?”
“I – I happen to think white can definitely be yours.”
And it would be yours more than mine, I fear, Jaime doesn’t tell her, and then he says nothing because he doesn’t want to say something stupid or do something even more stupid that might make her lose her footing, and keeps his mouth shut until he feels her arms shaking with effort and she glides down gently towards the garden.
When his feet touch the ground, he feels a lot better than he had before.
“Thanks,” he tells her earnestly. “Do go down in history as the only legitimate flying knight of Westeros or you’ll do any decent singer a disservice.”
She laughs at that, for real, not halfway, and for a moment he thinks, she looks a bit like she had in my dream.
“Very well,” she says, “I shall try. But I think we should do something else, instead.”
“Freeing Sansa Stark might prove impossible, but I am sure that in between the two of us we can find a way to warn Lady Stark, can’t we?”
She sounds so hopeful, and as if she trusts him to actually deliver on that, and fuck it all, he had wanted to keep that damned oath to Lady Stark, hadn’t he?
Never mind that –
“I think,” he says, “that it might be three of us.”
“My brother doesn’t like that prospect either. I should have introduced you before. Come on, let’s see if I have some last chance for honor or if it’s all in vain.”
Jaime had imagined that Tyrion and the wench would get along when introduced, so that’s not what surprises him.
What surprises him is that when she seriously tells his brother what their target here is, Tyrion first laughs and then smiles like someone who’s… honestly happy?
“I think,” he says, “that no one told you about this raven that I just read this morning. Thankfully they sent two copies.”
“What happened to the first one? And who sent it?”
“Robb Stark sent it, and Father ripped it into pieces. Here, have it. I’ll admit that I am very pleased to see his scheming backfire.”
Jaime takes the raven, and –
“Wench,” he says after reading it, “I think we can rest without regrets tonight.”
“Robb Stark somehow found out about Father’s plot, and he’s obviously rescinding all alliances with the Freys and whatnot. On top of that, Theon Greyjoy has again turned his cloak, or… well, I don’t know, but he’s definitely in Riverrun and it looks like he’s back on Stark’s side, which means that now our egregious King in the North knows at least some of Father’s plans.”
Brienne lets out a relieved breath, and as she does Jaime realizes something else.
“Damn,” he says, “I guess this is the nail in our coffin though, isn’t it?”
“Well,” Tyrion agrees, “if now Robb Stark does what any sensible person does and plays nice and allies with Stannis and Renly, we have no hopes to even put on resistance if they assault the city. Most of the army is dead and most of what’s left is useless, and the few people who aren’t – well, they didn’t draw any kind of card that would make us win a battle, especially against all of them.”
“I suppose neither Cersei nor Father will want to hear it, will they?”
“Are you japing?”
“Right. Wench, have you heard this conversation?”
“I’m right here…?”
“Good, because when they arrive here we’ll need you to testify that we were about to turn our cloak here. The last thing I want is Robb Stark taking my damned head.”
“That’s not amusing,” she says, looking as if she’s not really appreciating his poor jokes about the subject.
“Everything can be amusing with some effort. Well, then I guess we’ll just have to wait for our inevitable demise. And I am afraid I will have to introduce you to the rest of the court.”
“Good thing I arranged your daughter’s marriage to Trystane Martell,” Tyrion sighs, “at least she’ll be out of this disaster when we meet our inevitable demise.”
“Jaime, please, I know that, she most probably knows that and there are exactly twenty servants in the entirely of the Red Keep these days because finding any more without obvious malformations isn’t an option. If you had told me the day would come when Cersei would find someone else more abhorrent than me a few years ago, I’d have laughed in your face.”
Jaime doesn’t even try to tell him to tone it down.
Not after this morning.
His father does not show up for lunch, nor dinner, nor the next lunch.
Cersei is livid, and it only gets worse when Brienne joins them for the first time. She’s keeping the wings sort of kept back, but she’s not letting them drag anymore. Good.
“Oh,” Cersei says when Brienne introduces herself, “so you’re the one who brought my brother back here in one piece?”
Brienne openly flinches at the jab, but doesn’t fall for it. “I did my best,” she replies, her voice so steady Jaime admires her for it. “I swore an oath to and I did what I could to keep it.”
“I don’t doubt it. Well, you can stand. Those things must be heavy, aren’t they?”
“Less than one would assume, if one knows how to carry them,” Brienne replies, staring straight at her, and Jaime doesn’t know how she’s keeping herself this calm.
Dinner is a nightmare – poor Tommen is not even trying to give any input to the conversation, drowning in his cloak and with the too-heavy crown lying on the corner of the table and he obviously wants to be anywhere but here. Cersei keeps on making jabs at Brienne or her wings or both without even hiding it and Brienne just shrugs and goes on eating and only speaks when prompted, and at one point when Jaime’s served a full piece of steak he feels like dying of shame, because how is he going to cut it –
Brienne grabs her fork and nonchalantly sticks it in the meat so that he can cut it.
“How charitable of you,” Cersei notices, not even trying to let the two of them get away with that in silence.
Brienne shrugs again. “Given that he did manage to save my life while we were coming here, without a hand, I think I can afford to be charitable.”
Jaime’s so surprised by the outburst that he knocks over his glass of wine with his right wrist.
A moment later, Tyrion willingly knocks his own over.
When everyone else turns to look at him, he shrugs. “I thought you might appreciate some company.”
Jaime goes back to cutting his meat for everyone’s peace of mind and then he catches Cersei sending Brienne a look that’s pure envy mixed with something like resentment and –
Oh, he thinks, I think I know what’s wrong here.
After all, given how his sister has taken the state of her hair, maybe – maybe she’d rather have the wings.
Brienne said she thought they were some kind of jape and now Jaime thinks he can guess why. She probably assumed that it was some kind of cosmic jape that someone ugly such as she is would get the gorgeous, large wings, same as Cersei hates that that same cosmic jape ruined her beloved hair.
Jaime wants to laugh. He really wants to.
He concentrates on cutting the meat instead.
Throughout the next few days, things – go downhill. He leaves the castle to check the situation in the former Flea Bottom and comes back wanting to vomit and to ask both Cersei and his father what are they thinking letting jokers starve in there, Cersei keeps on keeping him at arm’s length and she can’t bear to look at him if she can see his missing hand, there isn’t a smith in King’s Landing who can make him a fake hand now because they’re all dead or turned and they lost their businesses, the rest of the Kingsguard is useless and on top of that, someone breaks into the kitchen and steals a lot of their food reserves.
Jaime isn’t surprised that the next day he has news that suddenly a lot of people in the former Flea Bottom found food in front of their doors.
Whoever that was, they must have been good since no one heard them coming in and out, and his fellow Kingsguard members are useless – three days later, they have no lead. His father can barely leave his rooms because if he runs into anyone they’ll scream at this point – he’s all skeleton at this point –, he’s ran into Tommen crying openly in the empty throne room more than once and he’s never felt so damned useless in his life.
And with all of that, Cersei still won’t let Sansa out of the damned tower nor let anyone near it.
The day they get a raven informing them that Stannis and Robb stark put an army together and are marching towards King’s Landing, he feels fucking relieved. Better to put an end to this mess, especially when they aren’t equipped for offering the people or anyone else better options.
He can see the campfires from the Stark/Baratheon camp on the evening when he calls Brienne in his quarters. He just wrote an entry for himself in the White Book just so that it’s put black on white that he has been a Lord Commander and just because she brought him here.
“Honestly,” he tells her, “I just want them to arrive here and be done with it. Hopefully they’ll let me take the black.”
She grimaces. “You might be wasted.”
“Given the state of my hand, they’d only take me because they’re desperate for men.”
She looks at him and shakes her head, then walks up to the window he’s standing next to.
“What are your brother’s plans?”
“Surrender and assure them that if they let him have the Rock he won’t even think about contesting their claims. He can be convincing. As far as I’m concerned, I doubt it’ll be that easy. I didn’t return Lady Sansa to her family now, did I?”
“What if I talked to Lady Stark?”
“And tell her what?”
“That you tried your best and you don’t deserve the Wall. Or to die.”
“You’re really convinced, aren’t you?”
She shrugs. “I know you don’t. And I know you’re a better man than you’d like to admit to anyone. Yourself first and foremost.”
He wants to ask her how can she be so sure.
But then she moves even closer.
“Jaime,” she whispers, “I don’t think you understand what it means to me that someone thinks that me not being in a song would be a crime against singers. Or what it means to me that you’d come back and jump into that bear pit for me. I will talk to Lady Stark.”
“It’s going to be useless,” he sighs, reaching out a hand towards her outstretched wing. She nods a tiny bit and he starts running his fingers through the soft, downy feathers. “But thank you nonetheless.”
“Oh, it won’t be.”
Good thing she’s so sure, he thinks. At least one of them does.
Turns out, Robb Stark is reasonable.
Of course, he has to leave the Kingsguard – because Stannis Baratheon wouldn’t have him, and being in Robb Stark’s would be fairly hilarious. But Brienne is convincing and Sansa Stark does vouch for Tyrion saying that he was one of the few people who hadn’t agreed with locking her in that damned tower, and of course the pacts require that Tyrion inherits. But it’s quite all right. Jaime can live without it – he never really wanted the Rock anyway.
Cersei ended up imprisoned in that same tower she had put Sansa in, for the moment. Jaime isn’t too surprised about that, either. At least both Robb and Stannis agreed to send Tommen with Tyrion to the Rock – he’ll be better off there.
He’s packing up his (fairly meager, all things considered) belongings when he hears a knock on the door.
Of course, it’s her. She’s wearing new, clean clothes, always men’s garb, and has her sword at her side but not the armor.
“Where are you planning to go?” She asks, softly.
“Fuck if I know,” he shrugs. “I have no bloody idea. Not here though. And I’m not feeling like going to Casterly either.”
She bites her lip. “I talked to Lady Stark and Robb Stark,” she says.
“I know, or I wouldn’t be here.”
“They – it seems like the ravens from the Wall were all true.”
“The ones about the white Walkers?”
“Indeed,” Brienne agrees. “I was – I was thinking, now that the situation’s calm here, maybe going there would be more useful.”
He should say, go and be the true knight you were always meant to be. Instead –
“Why are you telling me this?”
“I was thinking, maybe you would want to come along?”
She sounds…. Hopeful?
“What – you’re asking me?”
“I couldn’t think of anyone better.” She sounds serious, good gods.
“Brienne, I’m – seriously?”
“You can still be useful. You have battle experience. And honestly, your card isn’t so useless, as we’ve seen –”
“Don’t ever remind me,” he sighs, and then he doesn’t even roll his eyes when a few butterflies fly in through the window.
“It’s not,” she insists. The butterfly – all blue – go perch on her shoulder. Given that she has the wings out, she’s making quite an interesting picture.
And then – then her wings move and curl towards him, the tip covering the side of his face. Brienne goes red at once.
“Wench, what –”
“They’re doing it on their own,” she replies, sort of sheepish, and –
On their own?
Jaime takes a few steps forward, leaving the clothes he had been holding. The wings curl around his shoulders, not wholly, but –
“Brienne, on their own?”
“Yes,” she replies, sounding mortified.
And she’s not quite looking at him.
And she just asked him to pretty much go on a quest to slay mythical evil creatures –
Jaime doesn’t even think about it.
He steps forward, presses his lips against hers and at once the wings curl around the two of them and he’s engulfed in warm, downy blue feathers.
For a moment, she stands still.
Then she kisses back, tentatively but so sweetly his heart skips a beat or two, her wings still cradling him close.
Jaime smiles into the kiss.
Right now, he can’t think of a better option than going to the Wall with her.
He really can’t.