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The Lion & the Lady

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Lion and Lady

Part One: Gods & Monsters

"...In the land of gods and monsters,

I was an angel.

Living in the garden of evil,

Screwed up, scared, doing anything that I needed..."

~ "Gods & Monsters" – Lana Del Rey

Early March, 299 AC

Harrenhal, the Riverlands

Arya stood still as she looked down at the piece of parchment on the table. She easily recognized her brother's name on the page in the sharp, masculine writing.

Three weeks.

That was how long she had been serving as Lord Lannister's cup bearer. The Lord of Lannister had come to Harrenhal and if anything, the horrible stories that Eddard Stark had told her about Tywin Lannister had not lived up to the actual man himself. He struck fear in the hearts of men as well as admiration and respect. It was a conundrum of emotions that Arya did not know how he managed to elicit from his supporters. She'd listened to plenty of tactical planning between Lord Tywin and his commanders, but never enough to actually put a true picture together of what was happening around her. Arya had overheard her brother's name so much that she felt as though she could simply reach out and touch him. The commanders at Lord Tywin's table made it sound as if her brother was so close and yet, Robb seemed so far away. Hearing heavy boots on the wooden floor behind her, Arya stiffened and grabbed the plate of the untouched mutton that he refused to eat.

"Who taught you to read?" Lord Tywin asked as he moved around the table, his hands were clasped behind his back. Arya quickly scrambled to come up with a suitable answer.

"My father, my lord," she replied calmly as the Great Lion rested an elbow on the mantel of the fireplace and gazed at the dancing flames in the grate. Tywin Lannister was not as tall as the Mountain or his brother, Sandor Clegane, but he was taller than Eddard, Joffrey, and most of the men that had been members of her father's household. Arya imagined that he was only a few inches short than the dead king, Robert Baratheon.

"I taught my son to read. The maester came one morning after breakfast. He told me that Jamie wasn't learning. He couldn't make sense of the letters and kept reversing them in his head. The maester continued to tell me that he'd heard of these afflictions before and that we simply must accept it. After that, I sat Jamie down for four hours every day until he learned to read and write."

Arya watched the man as he thought about the memory. It was the last thing that she expected Tywin Lannister to admit, teaching his son how to read, but the more she had learned about Lord Tywin, the more it made sense to her. He prided himself on being a Lannister and he prided his children on being Lannisters as well. Reading was probably a basic requirement for being a Lannister, she imagined, and tried not to snort at the humorous thought. Before the conversation could continue, a knock sounded on the heavy wooden door bound in black iron and Tywin looked to her. Crossing the chamber quickly, Arya pulled against the aging wood that groaned and stepped aside. She recognized the man who entered the room easily as Ser Kevan, Lord Tywin's younger brother. Although he was not as tall as Lord Tywin, Ser Kevan's similar facial features easily marked the two men as being related.

"I had hoped to speak to you about the delicate matter we discussed late last night," Ser Kevan began easily once the door was closed behind him and his leather gloves were stripped off his hand. "As you are aware, Robb Stark's twin sister, Sansa, is still in King's Landing with the Queen. A letter from one of my informants in the capital tells me that King Joffrey has taken an interest in brutally abusing the girl. He has his guards beat her for his amusement. The other sister, Arya, is still missing. No one has seen or heard from her."

Lord Tywin was quiet for a moment before he stopped pacing the length of the room and stood in front of the table with the map laid out in front of him. He touched the small place on the map that marked Winterfell before looking up at Ser Kevan.

"As long as Robb Stark's twin sister remains untouched and marriageable, my plans are unaltered," Tywin declared as he turned away and rested a hand on the mantle above the hearth.

"You still plan to go through with it? After all that has happened, brother, might I suggest teaching restraint to the king first?" Ser Kevan observed and Arya's eyes darted quickly between the two men, desperate to figure out what they meant to do as she reached for the serving tray to occupy her hands. She had not always cared for Sansa, but they were sisters and understood that now better than she ever did before. Not for the first time, Arya wished that she could hug Sansa again, just to have a familiar person in her arms. Tywin Lannister often spoke about Robb, but hearing him talk about Sansa made the small hairs on the back of Arya's neck stand up with anxiety and fear.

"Once Robb Stark dies, I will not fight another war for control of the North," Lord Tywin said in voice of pure steel as he gazed into the fire. "I want the North under control and this war over as quickly as possible. Sansa Stark may be the only key to securing the North and I will not lose her to someone else. If marriage is the only way to secure the North than that is what I will do."

Arya felt her hands on the serving tray tighten so much so that blood was nearly drawn from her fingers. She wanted to speak out against such a match. Lord Tywin was old. Worse, he was a Lannister. Somehow, she managed to hold her tongue and slip away into the shadows with the letter that she had taken off the table when Lord Tywin hadn't been looking earlier. A lesser man would have been nervous from the tone of Lord Tywin's voice, but Ser Kevan simply nodded before sitting down in one of the vacant wooden chairs. Neither man spoke for several minutes, both lost in their own thoughts. In that time, Arya quickly gathered her wits about her and continued to silently wait in the shadows, listening for what would happen next.

"You're not marrying her just for control of the North, are you?" Ser Kevan asked calmly as pushed himself up from the chair and stood after several minutes, his spine straight despite carrying heavy armor. "We've been brothers long enough that I know when you're only telling half the story. You mean to marry the girl and produce more heirs, don't you?"

Lord Tywin tightly held onto the mantle and stared down at the red and yellow flames eagerly licking the log. He gazed down for several moments before he raised his head and turned to look at Ser Kevan. His face betrayed nothing, only the cold, hard look of steel that Arya had come to associate with the man.

"I have three children who are less than worthy of the name Lannister," he told Ser Kevan grimly. "I have a son who wants to live as a glorified bodyguard for my brutish grandson, a boy who is barely a king himself. I have a daughter, who drinks as badly as her dead husband did. Lastly, I have dwarf son that whores and drinks his way through Westeros without a care in the world. I have no son worthy to carry on the Lannister name. I have no son worthy to inherit Casterly Rock and its wealth and titles. I mean to fix that. In order to do so, I will have to bed Sansa Stark. I intend to have several worthy heirs by her before I die."

Unable to stomach the thought of poor Sansa being subjected to multiple beddings by Tywin Lannister, Arya slipped away into the hallway and leaned against the wall. In a heartbeat, she regretted every nasty curse she'd ever heaped onto Sansa. She had not always loved or liked her sister, but no one deserved to spend a lifetime as the wife of Tywin Lannister, not even Sansa. Taking a deep breath of air, Arya pushed herself up off the wall and quickly ran towards the kitchens before anyone noticed she was out of place.

Six Weeks Later

Mid April, 299 AC

The Red Keep, King's Landing

Sansa easily moved the dragon piece across the board and into position as Tyrion watched her.

It was a new game that he'd taught her shortly after his arrival in King's Landing and she was making progress at getting better. Learning meant that she could spend time alone in her room and not outside the walls, vulnerable to a beating from Joffrey and the kingsguards. Her ribs still ached from the last blow by Ser Meyrn Trant only three days prior. The binding that her new handmaiden, Shae, had wrapped around her slender chest hadn't helped much to ease the pain in her cracked ribs, but it only helped to remind her not to overexert herself. The layers of petticoats and the heavy fabric of the outer gown managed to hide her bruises and let the world see her as a refined lady instead of the king's tormented toy.

Setting her piece where she wanted it, Sansa hid the smile that threatened to grow on her face. She enjoyed this new game that Tyrion had taught her. It gave her something else to think about besides the horrors that had become her day to day life. Tyrion's brow furrowed and an unreadable expression came across his face that threatened to bring the smile to her lips again. She had finally bested Tyrion at the game he'd claimed to be a master of. It felt exhilarating, the wave of happiness that pulsed through her veins.

"My Lady Sansa, it seems that you have won," he pronounced as he laid his white queen down on the board. Podrick, Tyrion's squire, came forward and refilled their glasses of wine. Sansa didn't let the glee that was inside her escape or betray emotion on her face, but it was buried deep inside her. She'd learned how to control herself, how to suppress feelings and leave her face devoid of emotions. It had taken time, but it was something that she'd finally mastered. If anything, it was useful tool when Ser Meryn Trant or Ser Boros Blout wanted to threaten her with rape or something as equally horrifying.

"Thank you for this game, Lord Tyrion," she replied in an even, measured tone. "It has been an honor to play with you."

Before Tyrion could reply, the sounds of bells sounded in the distance. Sansa vaguely knew what that ringing meant. Moments later, a frazzled looking Podrick returned to the room with an equally unsettled Lord Varys. The small map room that was privately used by the acting Hand of the King became an epicenter of activity as Podrick quickly brought the armor that Tyrion would wear to battle. Sansa moved to stand at the balcony and gazed out into the blackness of the night, unable to fathom how anyone could see ships in the bay. The fog was too heavy and she could barely see the clock towers of King's Landing that were near the Tower of the Hand.

"I've always hated the bells," Varys lamented as he stood near her in almost a protective way. "They ring for horror. A dead king, a city under siege..."

"A wedding," Tyrion quipped as Podrick buckled his armor. Sansa supposed on any other day she would have laughed at that quip, but the air was too heavy with tension and fear to laugh.

"Exactly," Varys agreed as Sansa tried to watch the movement below in the courtyard and beyond the walls, but the fog was so thick it became almost impossible. "My Lady, do come away from the window. I'm not certain that it is entirely safe and I would not wish to see you harmed."

Varys offered her a slightly powdered hand and Sansa accepted, allowing herself to be guided towards a vacant seat at the table. The game that they had been playing earlier was still laid out, the pieces untouched and without thinking, Sansa righted the fallen queen. Lord Varys and Tyrion continued on speaking, but Sansa ignored them. She'd heard stories from her father about sieges and battles. With that single thought, a pang grew in her heart. It had never dulled as Cersei had told her the pain would. If anything, the pain at the thought of Eddard Stark was just as acute as it had been on the day he died. The sound of crinkling paper drew her out of her thoughts and she turned to see Varys laying a map on the table.

"There must be twenty miles of tunnel beneath this city," Tyrion said quickly as Podrick strapped armor to his shoulder. "How did you find this?"

"Never mind that, my lord. There are closer to fifty miles of tunneling," Varys corrected as Sansa leaned closer to examine the map with Tyrion.

She listened as the two men exchanged words about Stannis's fleet and the dark magic he was using to attempt to win the battle. Briefly, Sansa wondered exactly who the red priestess was and why she made Varys so nervous. In the short time that she'd known Lord Varys, she'd never seen him visible anxious or distressed. To see him almost panicked now was most alarming, Sansa realized as she continued to examine the map while listening attentively. Only minutes later, Tyrion and Podrick were gone, leaving Sansa and Varys alone in the map room of the Hand.

The doors were closed behind them, leaving the two occupants in the room alone with nothing but the breeze that blew and caused the sheer white window hangings to dance like unearthly entities in the night. Faintly, the sound of more bells tolling could be heard in the night as the chaos in the streets outside the keep grew, the people panicked and moving quickly. It slowly dawned on Sansa that she had nowhere to go during such a siege. It was too far to go to Maegor's Holdfast, she'd never make it before the drawbridge was raised. Spending the evening with a drunken Cersei Lannister was not how Sansa wanted to die, if it came to that.

"May I, my lady?" Varys asked as he indicated the chair beside her.

"Of course, my lord," she replied before he sat and pushed the map towards her. It was aged and the color of beeswax, but none the less, it was a beautiful map. The reds were faded, but once Sansa was sure the map had been richly colored once, a long time ago. Like all things, however, time had aged the map and stolen away its beauty.

"A gift," Varys continued before she looked up at him. "I trust no one with it more than you, my lady. There may be a time in the future when you have use of it."

"Thank you, Lord Varys. Will you stay with me?" Sansa asked, suddenly feeling rather frightened. "I'd rather not be alone now. I know that Queen Cersei would easily welcome me at Maegor's Holdfast, but I don't think that my legs could make the walk at the moment."

"Until the very end, Lady Sansa," Varys replied with a bowed head. "We will wait together."

Silence enveloped them as they sat together. There was nothing anyone could possibly say to calm the other's nerves. Sansa was terrified of what would happen to her. Varys was nervous about the red woman gaining control of the city with Stannis. Reasonable fears, Sansa reflected wearily. There was nothing that could be said to ease the burden was placed on their hearts and shoulders. Eventually, Varys reached for two wine goblets and poured a healthy amount of wine in each. He passed the goblet over to her and taking a small sip, Sansa closed her eyes tiredly. Varys gulped his down quickly before pouring himself another glass.

Beneath their feet, the ground outside seemed to rumble with the steps of hundreds of men and horses. It was not something that Sansa imaged they were supposed to feel, but they could. Sitting still, she set the wine goblet down on the table and folded her hands in her lap as Septa Mordane had taught her when she'd been a little girl. Her fingers clenched each other tightly before Varys reached over and rested a comforting hand on hers. Slowly, the tension left her hands as the night passed on. The map that had been shown to Tyrion was in front of her and she studied it. The weaving tunnels were confusing, but at the heart of the map was the Throne Room and the Tower of the Hand.

"Would we be able to escape if we had to?" Sansa asked softly, breaking the still night air. Drums could be heard faintly in the distance and she wondered where Arya was in the world. Was she in the city and terrified that she'd die or be raped by Stannis's forces once they breached the walls? It was a thought that sometimes floated into her mind, but that thought was floating near the front more than it ever had before.

"We wouldn't get far, my lady," Varys answered. In the distance, men yelled and suddenly, a burst of bright green light engulfed the horizon with a deafening noise. The floor beneath them rumbled and Sansa grabbed Varys hand as she jumped to her feet. For a brief moment, she held on tightly to his hand before letting go. She moved to stand close to the balcony, better to see the emerald light as it shot up into the air looking like arms reaching for the heavens. The light illuminated the bay and the ships that carried Stannis Baratheon's army.

"Wildfire," Varys told her breathlessly as he came to stand beside her.

The bright, emerald green light was awe inspiring to watch as it swelled and the fractured rays of light caught on the surface of the bay. Sansa had heard stories about wildfire. The fire melted wood and steel as it burned flesh right off the bone. She shuddered inwardly as she thought about the poor souls attempting to jump into the bay in hopes of fleeing the fire. It wouldn't work. Robb had once told her that wildfire could only be stopped by smothering the fire or letting it burn out.

"It's beautiful," Sansa said softly. "The color is mesmerizing. The beautiful things are often the most deadly."

"Very true, my lady."

Together, they stood and finally when Sansa felt that she could take no more, she turned to Varys.

"Do think Lord Varys that you would be able to escort me to my rooms?" she asked. "I feel as though I need to lie down desperately."

"Of course, my lady," Varys answered and offered a bent arm to her.

The Red Keep was empty of all life except for them as they walked down the empty hallways. Down the winding corridors, down two flights of stairs and passed the throne room, they walked arm in arm. Until they finally stopped at the door to her little room, she thanked Varys for staying with her before slipping inside. Bolting the door, Sansa leaned back against the carved wood for a moment and looked around the room. It was dark and pushing herself off the door, she fiddled around in the darkness. It only took a moment to light a candle and not burn her hands in the process. Hearing slight movement behind her, she turned and was surprised to see a drunken Sandor Clegane sitting in one of the chairs near the dead hearth.

"What are you doing here?" she demanded, startled at seeing him in such a condition. She knew that he drank often, but she'd never seen him so drunk that he could barely sit straight. Were they not in the middle of a battle? She could not think of one great lord that would tolerate such behavior at a battle.

"Not here for long, little bird," he grunted, raising his leather flask up to his lips again. "I'm going."

"Where?" Sansa demanded. "You're drunk and probably can't stand. They have closed the city walls. If you did somehow manage to escape the city, where would you go?"

"Someplace that isn't burning. Maybe I'll go to the North, where men aren't trying to burn each other alive."

"What about King Joffrey and your vow to serve him as a member of the kingsguard? Have you forgotten that?"

"That ugly little shit can die just fucking fine on his own and in whatever manner he chooses," Sandor scoffed before raising his wine skin to his lips for another swallow. "I can take you with me. I can take you back to your brother and your mother. Don't you want to go home?"

Sansa stood still for a moment and watched the man stand and struggle to stand upright. It was clear that Joffrey's dog was deep in his cups and she doubted that he'd make it out of the city on his own free will. He claimed that he could protect her, but no one could. Sansa had finally learned that the hard way. Pretty maidens and handsome knights didn't exist in the real world. No, the real world was filled with monsters like Joffrey. No matter where she went in the world, there would always be a new monster lurking in the shadows. If Joffrey found out that she'd runaway and he found her the penalty would be death. Weighing the options in her head, Sansa finally shook her head as she set the candle down on the small table beside her. It was safer to stay in King's Landing than to leave with a drunken man who would no doubt pass out in a few hours time, leaving her alone and unprotected.

"I'll be safe here, Ser," she murmured politely. "Thank you for your kind offer, but I must decline."

Sandor looked at her for one last moment before he swayed on his feet and left the room. Alone in the near dark, Sansa lowered herself to her knees in front of the bed and did the only thing that she could do in that moment. She prayed to the seven faces of god, old and new, for those who had died. She prayed that they all might find peace. Most of all, Sansa prayed to the seven faces of god that Arya, her mother, and her twin, Robb, were kept safe from harm in the war. At some point, her knees had begun to ache on the stone floor and she'd laid down on her small, narrow bed continuing to recite her prayers. It was a knock on her door several hours later that drew her out of her thoughts and prayers. Slowly rising to her feet, Sansa held the candle that was nearly burnt out and walked to the door.

"Who's there?" she called through the wood, her voice trembling slightly with fear.

"Varys, my lady," the familiar voice of the eunuch said, muffled by the door. "Stannis Baratheon has been defeated. The Lannisters are victorious with the help of the Tyrell forces."

Four Days Later

Mid April, 299 AC

The Throne Room, King's Landing

Standing on the balcony of the throne room to the right of the king, Sansa watched as Tywin Lannister walked his white horse into the throne room as Joffery proclaimed his grandfather the savior of the city. It was such a ridiculous gesture for both men that she held back a laugh. She wasn't sure who looked more foolish in her eyes, Joffery attempting to sit on the monstrosity that was called the Iron Throne and not cut himself or Tywin's horse, who looked entirely out of place in the throne room.

"I, Joffrey of the House Baratheon, first of my name, the rightful King of the Andals and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm, do hear by proclaim my grandfather, Lord Tywin Lannister, the savior of the city and the Hand of the King."

A servant carried a red velvet pillow with golden tassels up the steps of the raised dais where the Iron Throne was and carelessly, Joffery tossed the pin that the Hand of the King wore onto it. The servant bowed before stepping away, crossing the throne room, and bringing the pin to Tywin Lannister. With more care than his grandson, the man picked up the pin, looked at it for a single moment, before bowing his head in respect.

"Thank you for the honors, Your Grace."

Cersei and Joffrey both looked incredibly pleased with themselves as Lord Tywin turned his steed away. The horse nearly flicked one of the lowly lords with its dirty white tail and Sansa was unprepared for the next moment. As Lord Tywin turned the white horse, green eyes met her blue ones and for an entire moment, she couldn't breathe from the fear. It was like she forgot to inhale and her lungs screamed at her in desperation. His severe gaze was not as threatening as it possibly could have been, but it pierced through her and her armor. For a moment, Sansa wondered if he could see on her face that she thought the horse in the throne room was a ridiculous idea.

Seconds later, Lord Tywin broke their gaze as he bowed his head towards her in respect and acknowledgement for the briefest of moment before the horse was nudged forward towards the great doors of the throne room. The crowd steered clear of the beast and the man who rode atop the snow white creature. The singular gesture was significant enough that the courtiers around her turned and gazed at her as they whispered, frantically demanding to know why the Great Lion had singled her out. The hateful glance that Cersei flashed her way only confirmed that the Queen had seen the actions of her father and disapproved.

Bowing her head to escape the attention, Sansa only raised it a few minutes later when Ser Loras Tyrell was called before the king. The Knight of Flowers knelt before the king and began an impassioned speech about how he and his sister, Margaery, sought to join the great houses of Tyrell and Baratheon with the blessings of his lord father, Lord Mace Tyrell. The crowd gathered in the throne room burst out into louder whispers as more eyes turned to look at her. The flat look on her face that she had taken so long to perfect remained in place as she listened, delighted inside by the development that she would possibly be free of any betrothal to Joffery Baratheon.

"Is this what you want, Lady Margaery?" Joffrey demanded, eagerness easily seen in his face. He made no attempt to hide the desire that was brought to life by the sight of Margaery's indecently cut gown.

"With all my heart, Your Grace," she answered, her voice as sweet as honey and soft as the wind caressing a flower, and as seducing as a love slave from Lys. "I have come to love you from afar, my great king. Tales of your courage and wisdom have never been far from me, I cannot bear to go any entire day without hearing one of those tales. Believe me when I say that those tales have take root, deep inside me, Your Grace."

Sansa watched the false exchanges of King Joffrey and his mother with rapt attention as below her, Varys looked concern by the latest development playing out. He gazed up at her over his shoulder for a brief moment, his eyes holding a look of confusion and she nodded to him in agreement. The play that was unfolding did not make the least bit of sense, but it was happening. Silently, Sansa's gaze wandered from Cersei's to Margaery Tyrell's face, almost wishing she could tell the girl not to marry Joffrey. The crowd called out Margaery's name as Grandmaester Pycelle stepped forth and laid the groundwork for the dissolution of the betrothal Joffrey to the House Stark. The Queen and Joffrey seized upon the moment and within minutes, Joffery was declaring his undying love for Margaery and his wishes to spend the rest of his life married to Ser Loras's sweet sister.

Turning away from the spectacle, Sansa easily spotted Varys walking towards her in the crowd. He walked up the steps towards her and she waited for the single person who had become her one link to the outside world and one of the few that she felt comfortable enough to place trust in.

"My Lady," Lord Varys said softly as he nodded his head. "That could have gone better, I suppose. I had heard rumors, my lady...I apologize for not bringing them to your attention. I did not wish to raise your hopes."

"It is nothing to be apologetic about, Lord Varys," Sansa murmured back as they walked down the corridor together. The eunuch knew she desired nothing more than to be freed of Joffery and now, that desire had come true. Shae fell instep behind her and side by side, she left the throne room with Varys and her dignity intact.

"I can only pray for Margaery Tyrell's well-being now as well as my own," Sansa told him softly as they crossed the threshold of the throne room.

Varys hummed in agreement as they stepped into a different corridor. Looking down at her feet as walked, Sansa smiled to herself and nearly laughed with happiness. She was free from a lifetime of abuse with the monster that called himself king. Covering the smile on her face, Sansa lifted her head and nearly stopped mid-step halfway down the hall. At the end of the corridor, Tywin Lannister stood with his hands clasped behind his back. The severe expression on his face had not changed, although his horse was gone.

Maintaining the flat expression on her face, Sansa bobbed a curtsy towards the Hand of the King. He bowed his head towards her in acknowledgement and before she could come face to face with the man her brother was at war with, Sansa turned down a different corridor, Varys faithfully at her side. With each step, a feeling of doom settled over her. Two encounters with Lord Tywin Lannister in the space of twenty minutes that was almost too much to bear in her mind. The Great Lion was up to something, she could feel it in her bones and it made her shiver with apprehension. He was here to play the game of thrones and Sansa suspected that he was a far superior player than anyone else alive.

Two Days Later

Mid April, 299 AC

Tower of the Hand, King's Landing

Although only six days had passed, the Battle of Blackwater seemed almost like a bitter memory to Sansa as she walked to the Tower of the Hand. Having been summoned by Lord Tywin Lannister was almost as frightening as being caught by Joffrey in one of his rages. What was odd about the summons was that she was being escorted by four Lannister guards, two behind and two walking in front of her, as if she were a prisoner going towards her execution. Following the familiar path to the Tower of the Hand, Sansa pushed back the memories of her father that surfaced. Sometimes, the memories were so vivid that she thought all she simply had to do was open a door and Eddard or Arya would be on the other side of the door, waiting for her with a smile.

Forcing herself to focus on the present dangers, Sansa stopped when the two Lannister guards in front of her stopped outside a great wood and iron door. One soldier knocked and a voice from behind the wood bid them to enter. One of the soldiers opened the door and held back the doors weigh for her. The soldier bowed to the man inside and for a moment, Sansa wasn't certain that her feet knew how to walk forward. One of the soldiers behind her growled for her to move and she did. Slow, steady steps were the only way she was able to enter the private room that she recognized as a study. A great fireplace dominated the room as did a mahogany desk which was flanked by two chairs. Seated in a great chair behind the dark wooded desk, Tywin Lannister was writing a letter. The soldier that was holding the door opened behind her did not wait to be dismissed by his lord. He simply closed the door, leaving Sansa alone in the strange room by herself. Remembering her Septa's words about courage, Sansa took small, measured steps with a rigid spine until she was standing in front of the polished desk. The only sounds that she could hear were the popping and cracking of the fire burning in the great fireplace and the sound of Lord Tywin's quill on the parchment paper as he wrote.

Looking down at the desk, she was not surprised to see neat stacks of letters opened on one side and letter ready to be sent on the other. A candle was burning happily with wax melting in a small pot above the fire light, a seal nearby. Tywin Lannister did not look up at her, but the moment gave her a chance to examine him. He was tall with a straight back and the good posture of a man half his age. His shoulders were broad and his hair, a mixture of blond and silver was cropped close to his head. She could only see the top of his head and she knew better than to interrupt Tywin Lannister while he was writing.

"Sit," he finally growled out in a voice that was steely and sent a shiver up her spine.

Sitting as gracefully as she could, Sansa was sure that he could hear her heart pounding in her chest. She wracked her mind, trying desperately to figure out what it was that Tywin Lannister wanted her for. The minutes ticked by, her anxiety increasing until Sansa was certain that she'd jump out of her skin in a few seconds. Forcing herself not to look away or fidget proved nearly impossible as she sat in the chair until Lord Tywin finally reached for the wax. He lifted his head and emerald eyes with gold near the pupil pierced her. Sansa nearly forgot to breathe from the steely look as he narrowed his eyes at her for a moment. She felt like a small child being called for discipline and she hated the feeling. His attention returned to the sanded and folded letter before he sealed it. Returning the wax to its place over the candle, he sat back in the chair and stared at her. Even more anxious and uncomfortable, Sansa looked down at the hands folded in her lap before looking back up and meeting Tywin Lannister's intense gaze.

"You summoned me, my lord," she said softy, proud of herself for her voice not breaking in fright. She would not be weak before Lord Lannister, she would not allow him to have that advantage of knowing just how much he frightened her. "I did," Tywin acknowledged with a slight nod of his head.

"What do you know about your brother's war, Lady Sansa?"

The question confused her and panic grew in her chest as she frowned slightly, "My lord?"

"What do you know about your brother's war, Lady Sansa? I won't repeat myself again," he growled in a tone that booked no opposition.

"I know that my brother is a traitor to the crown," Sansa replied the practiced words evenly as she clenched her hands together in her lap. "I know that my brother and his men are at war with others and I know that your forces have met him for battle on a few occasions. I also know that my brother has captured your son, Jamie."

Unable to hold his gaze, Sansa dropped her eyes back to her hands and clenched them together so tightly that her nails nearly drew blood. She silently prayed that she had not been freed of one hell to be put into another hell with a different tormentor. That would be too much for her to consider and allow. She'd rather die first, Sansa reflected tiredly.

"Then you know that during times of war, alliances are made to end the war or produce better outcomes for certain houses involved," Tywin drawled and she nodded, fearing what was to come next. "I know that you're close in age to your brother."

"Robb and I are twins," Sansa said softly as she looked back up, blue eyes meeting emerald. "I have celebrated my sixteenth name day, my lord, as he has."

"You're old enough to no longer be a child in the eyes of many."

"Yes, my lord."

"You're old enough to be a wife and mother. Have you flowered yet?"

The question was too much, she decided. It would be humiliating to answer, but she suspected that the Great Lion already knew the answer to the question. In the next heartbeat, Sansa decided she would not answer. She looked down at her lap, unable to meet his gaze. Her hands trembling almost violently as she attempted to appear calm. Already, she feared that the outcome of the conversation would not be to her liking or enjoyment.

"Theon Greyjoy has captured Winterfell," Tywin told her and her head shot up in confusion. The news surprised her simply because Theon and Robb had grown up together and she didn't know what Tywin meant by bringing up Theon.

"Lord Lannister?"

"I will make it simple for you and not confuse you with the political winds of change. Your brother is going to lose this war and the support of the houses beneath him. Theon Greyjoy holds Winterfell and has your younger brothers as hostages. Once your twin brother dies, neither of your younger brothers will be able to inherit the North and rule as hostages of Balon Greyjoy. The only person remaining to inherit the North is yourself and you, Lady Sansa, are the key. I will not lose you to another house. Not when I've put so much effort into this war."

"And what do you mean to do with me?" she asked trembling, her voice nearly breaking at the end.

"I plan to marry you. As soon as it can be arranged," Tywin told her bluntly and for a brief second, Sansa closed her eyes. In her short life, she had known heartache. She had known pain that she scarcely could believe existed, but the shock that coursed through her in that moment swept all the other emotions away. The scraping of wood on stone forced her to open her eyes.

Gazing up at Lord Tywin, she realized that he wasn't asking her to marry him. There was no question involved. He was telling her what she would be forced to do. There was no choice. Tywin Lannister was not the sort of man who had ever been told 'no' in his life. Sansa wondered briefly if anyone at all had actually told him 'no' and lived to tell the tale. She had no response to give. What could she say? Protesting, screaming, and throwing the wax pot at his person would all end up with her either being beaten or murdered, possibly both. It would not change the man's mind.

"Dinner will be served soon and I expect you to dine with the King and Queen Mother," he told her and Sansa didn't trust herself to speak.

Nodding, she rose and followed Tywin Lannister's long stride. Down several sets of corridors and flights of steps, Sansa found her ribs burning as she tried to keep up with the man's quick pace. Doors were opened by Lannister guards and every soldier bowed his head in respect as did every lord and lady that was encountered. In one of the private royal chambers of the Red Keep, dinner was being served by several servants at a long table with only four chairs. Cersei was already standing, waiting for something. Knowing where she was to sit, Sansa found herself standing across from Cersei. A servant offered her a goblet of wine, but she turned it away. Instead, a goblet of water was placed at her place on the table.

"Where is his grace?" Lord Tywin barked and Sansa nearly jumped at his harsh tone. Cersei was unaffected by the event and continued to sipping out of the wine goblet in her hand.

"He'll come when he's ready," she stated as if the answer was most obvious. "He's the king."

Lord Tywin clenched his jaw tightly. Sansa could see the muscles in his neck tighten under the collar of his doublet. He looked exceptionally displeased and she imagined that he was not a man used to waiting for anything that he wanted. He looked over to her and Sansa quickly looked away, mortified to be caught staring at him. She touched the back of the chair as a maid came forward and placed hot food down on the table.

"The ladies may sit," Lord Tywin stated before a servant rushed forward and pulled back the chair for her. The maid looked as nervous as she felt, Sansa reflected. Seated, she looked at the food hungrily before looking back up to the man that she was supposed to one day call 'lord husband'. Hands clasped behind his back, Tywin Lannister looked like a lion hunting prey. His eyes were narrowed, watching the door at the far end of the chamber. After five minutes in tense, uncomfortable silence, the door was pushed open by a guard and Joffrey sauntered into the dining chamber, clearly pleased about something.

"How good of you to join us," Lord Tywin stated, his voice hard and icy. He was not mocking, not like Tyrion would have been. Sansa nearly shivered as Joffrey dropped down lazily into the chair at the far end of the table. Lord Tywin was the last to be seated as servants began to serve the food and drink, making certain to be far enough from Joffrey to leave the chamber unharmed should a violent rage overtake him at any moment.

"Won't the imp be joining us?" Joffrey demanded, ignoring his grandfather's comment. "I'd like to see his scarred face."

"Aren't you hungry, my sweet?" Cersei asked quickly, obviously trying to steer the conversation away from such a topic. Food was served and Sansa found quickly that she had no appetite. The food tasted bland in her mouth and she had no love for mutton. From the corner of her eye, she watched as Lord Tywin pushed his own mutton to the far side of the plate. If she'd had the energy to smile, she would have. Somehow, the idea that the great Tywin Lannister didn't like certain foods was amusing to her. It almost made him appear human and chipped away at his god-like status that had been carved out by so many.

"What is she doing here?" Joffrey demanded as he pointed his knife at her. The room became tense for several seconds as Sansa lowered her own fork and knife, her eyes on the blade that was in Joffrey's hand, the blade that was dangerously close to her shoulder.

"Put that blade down," Lord Tywin growled. "Lady Sansa is here tonight by my invitation. She has done me the honor of agreeing to be my wife and the Lady of Casterly Rock. Wish her joy, Your Grace." Cersei dropped her fork and knife, looking at Lord Tywin with barely concealed shock on her face. She reached for her wine goblet and guzzled down half the contents before allowing a serving girl to replenish the glass for her.

"Your wife, really?" Joffrey sniveled. "How silly, grandfather. She's the daughter and sister of traitors and probably a whore."

"She is the daughter of an eight thousand year old bloodline and will soon be my wife. Be very careful with your next words, Your Grace," Lord Tywin warned. No threat was made, but it lingered in the air like a bad smell. For several moments, grandson and grandfather stared at each other, one daring the other to say something. The tension in the air was so thick that a knife could have been drawn. Even then, the blade would not have been able to pierce the tension.

Abruptly, Joffrey threw away his knife and fork before storming out of the chamber. The door slammed behind him and Tywin continued cutting his vegetables and eating as if the king's outburst had never happened. Cersei held her goblet close to her lips and glared at Sansa from over the rim of it, hate in her eyes. Sansa barely was able to stomach any food at all as she slowly cut her food into pieces.

"When will this happy event take place?" Cersei demanded with spite evident in her voice.

"As soon as it can be arranged," Lord Tywin answered in between bites of food until his plate was cleared, leaving only the mutton in the corner. He stood and excused himself citing business and somehow, Sansa was disappointed that he left. He'd been the only one stopping Cersei with his sheer presence and now that he was gone, Sansa was slightly terrified of what would happen next.

"So, you're to be the new Lady Lannister," Cersei drawled, slightly drunk. A vicious smile crossed her lips and Sansa tightened her grasp on her knife and fork. Picking up pieces of food, she managed a few bites as Cersei watched her.

"Do you know what happens in a marriage bed between husband and wife, little dove?"

"I have had this conversation with my mother," Sansa answered dutifully. "I am aware of my duties."

"My father is not going to be some knight in shining armor to bring you pleasure," Cersei snapped as she set her goblet down and leaned forward slightly. "On your wedding night, he's going to come to your chambers, pull the blankets back and fuck you hard, not make love to you, little dove. You're going to bleed on the sheets and it is going to mix with his seed. You'll be breeding and bleeding for House Lannister soon enough, little dove. I don't imagine that my father will let you go very long without producing his prized heir. Jamie and Tyrion have been disappointments to him and I...well, he'd never consider me his heir. Think of that, little dove, him ruining and plundering your body without a care in the world. It'll hurt, little dove, burn like the worst pain you could ever imagine until one day your body simply learns how to except his cock."

Sansa set her silverware down, unable to process what exactly Cersei was saying. She knew from her mother what was expected of a Lady on her wedding night, but the way Cersei described it sounded like she knew that Tywin Lannister was planning to rape her.

"If you're lucky, he'll put you on your belly and take you like the brooding mare you're about to become," Cersei continued with a dark laugh. "He'll put his seed inside you often until you grow fat and round with the next Lannister babe. I imagine if your brother ever finds you, he'll slit your throat as a mercy for bring more Lannisters into the world. Breeding and bleeding, that's all you'll be good for in Tywin Lannister's eyes, little dove."

Cersei stood abruptly and as a sign of respect, Sansa stood as well and bobbed a curtsy. Without saying another word, the queen strode out of the chamber leaving Sansa alone. In the silence, she found some of her appetite. A few bites and indulging in a few sips of sweet wine, Sansa wondered at Cersei's words. She knew that she would be expected to have children with her husband, but she didn't think that Robb would slit her throat for becoming a mother.

Somewhere in the back of her mind, a voice taunted her that he would. Robb's hatred for all things Lannister was deeper than anything that she'd seen from her twin before. He would slit her throat simply because he'd consider her spoiled goods, ruined by Lord Tywin Lannister. Telling herself that she was being unfair to her brother, Sansa left the chamber, listening to the servants gather up the plates, forks, knifes, and goblets from the meal. Following the familiar corridor, Sansa was lost in thought about how her life would change.

Tywin Lannister had more gold than any man alive. Rumor was that he was richer than even the Iron Bank and King's Landing owed him more gold than the rest of Westeros combined. Sansa remembered briefly seeing the financial books her father had brought home during his short tenure as Hand of the King. Littlefinger had brought the Crown close to ruin. He borrowed and borrowed from the Lannisters until Tywin saw fit to cut him off and begin collecting the debts owed. In order to pay off the Lannisters, Littlefinger had begun borrowing from the Iron Bank and had created a mess that had infuriated her father to no end.

Marrying Tywin Lannister would make her wealthy beyond her wildest dreams, but Sansa doubted it would bring her any happiness. The man was cold and hard, not a comforting bone in his body and a marriage to him would be a death sentence. Her only consolation, she supposed, was that he was older and would die early in her life, freeing her to conduct her affairs as she decided. Perhaps she could even become the next Queen of Thorns if she played her cards right. The thought made her smile inside, if only a little. So lost was Sansa in her thoughts that she didn't see or hear the man in the shadows creeping behind her until it was too late.

Hard hands shoved her violently and Sansa fell forward. She caught herself on her hands before looking over her shoulder to see why she'd fallen. The towering Ser Meryn Trant stood over her and fear crept into her chest. His dark eyes were full of violence and she shivered as she scrambled to her feet. This knight was not like the knights of songs where they were chivalrous and all things good. No, Ser Meryn was just as much a monster as Joffery and he took great pleasure in beating her mind, body, and spirit. Joffrey appeared from behind the corner with a sinister smile on his face and a cross bow in his hands.

"I think it's rather funny, don't you?" he drawled as one of the members of the kingsguard grabbed her arm tightly. "You thought that you were going to marry a king. Instead, you get to be fucked by my grandfather every night. Someday, you'll lick his sagging ball sac and suck on his wrinkling cock. You'll like it, won't you?"

Sansa whimpered as the gloved hand around her arm tightened. Looking down at the floor, she imagined that she was anywhere but where she actually was. She painted green grass on the floor in her mind. They were standing in the middle of beautiful meadow with wildflowers surrounding them. The wind was caressing her skin and it was warm out. She desperately tried to place herself anywhere away from the horrors that she knew were about to take place.

The blow to her jaw sent shock waves up and down her neck. The force of the hit would have knocked her down if it had not been for the guard holding her up. A second blow to her healing ribs caused her to lose her breath from the rippling pain that shot across her chest. Being dropped to the floor only inflamed the pain as she fruitlessly wrapped her arms around her body in an attempt to soothe the nagging, biting pain settling into her sides.

On her knees, Sansa gasped for breath as she looked up at Joffrey. Unwilling to answer his question, Sansa cried out at the kick that was delivered to her back. Tears gathered in her eyes, but she refused to let them fall and instead told herself to try and remember what grass felt like beneath her knees. A rough hand grabbed a bunch of her hair at the nape of her neck tightly and forced her to look up. The creaking sound of the crossbow being drawn back sent a shiver up her spine as she was forced to watch, unable to look away. An arrow was place and holding it against his chest, the king aimed it at her heart. "Say it you bitch," Joffrey snarled as Ser Meryn reached out and grabbed her throat.

"Say that someday you'll like licking his saggy balls and sucking on his wrinkling cock. Go ahead, do it, whore."

The hand around her throat tightened ever so slightly and she closed her eyes. She wouldn't give Joffrey the satisfaction of hearing her say those words and she wouldn't look at him if he killed her. She didn't want her last image to be of him as she died. The hand around her throat slipped away, only to be replaced sound of a belt buckle being undone. Sansa wasn't able to suppress the whimper that escaped her and she tremble with fear. Eyes flashing open, she saw that Joffrey's crossbow had been leaned against the wall, but the terror was not over. Ser Meryn liked to whip her as much as Joffrey liked to taunt her. He never broke her skin, but he inflicted pain worse than she could have ever imagined. Hearing the leather of the belt snap in the air, she silently begged any one of the seven faces of God that Ser Meryn would be quick about this torture.

The first blow stung her skin and left her body humming with pain. She didn't know where it began and where it ended, but each subsequent blow after was enough to make her cry out. Tears flowed freely down her cheeks as two of the kingsguard held her arms and head still. Her nails drew blood from her palms as she clenched her fists tightly from the pain. She had learned long ago that begging only made the beating worse and that if she said nothing, the guards would grow bored with her and the beating ended sooner. Biting down on her lip, Sansa couldn't hold back the cry that escaped her lips from the last blow.

"I think you're too fat to wear a wedding dress, Lady Sansa," Joffrey drawled as she was pushed to the stone floor.

The guards laughed at her, but something distracted them. The sound of heavy boots on the stone floor echoed in the hallway. Turing her head slightly caused ripples of pain, but Sansa could see what looked like six red cloaks marching towards them. The familiar roaring lion breast plate was visible and she gasped in a mix of pain and surprise when four of the six soldiers formed a line between the king and his guard and her person. The man who appeared to be in charge stood over her as she lay on the cold stone floor, paralyzed with fear and pain.

"Enough," the Commander rasped.

"You would dare go against your king," Joffrey growled as his guards reached for their swords. The Lannister soldiers guarding her were quicker. They had their swords easily drawn before the members of the King's guard could think twice. For a whole tense moment, the armed men watched each other, the red cloaks waiting for an order from their Commander. Behind the line of soldiers that had been formed, Sansa pushed herself up to her knees and looked at the red cloaks that had interfered with Joffrey's planned beating. Joffrey looked like he was about to have a violent fit and she briefly wondered if there would be bloodshed in the Red Keep. Joffrey stalked towards her, but the Lannister soldiers kept their lined formed. The four men simply took a step back, their swords at the ready. Giving the king space, Joffrey paced in front of them before he stopped and viciously pointed at her.

"You're not allowed to be served food, Lady Sansa," he growled. "We can't have my grandfather marrying a fat cow, can we? Don't think that I will stop tormenting you. Everyone is mine to torment, you stupid whore."

The boy king stormed away angrily with his lackeys behind him. Sansa closed her eyes as the familiar exotic perfume that she'd associated with one person enveloped her senses. Someone she knew that she was safe with.

"Oh, my lady," Varys murmured as he helped her to stand. "I sent for Lannister soldiers as soon as possible. Forgive me, my lady. Forgive me."

Sansa could barely whimper in acknowledgement as she took a few tentative steps. Each step was worse than the last. The pain made her feel faint and just when she thought she'd collapse to the floor, the Commander who had stopped Joffery's torment step forward. Leaning on the Commander and Varys, Sansa somehow managed to walk to her rooms. Although she suspected that the Commander was actually very nearly carrying her towards the end.

When her door was opened, Shae was standing inside near the bed with a horrified expression on her pretty, dark face. Varys said something to the guards, something that she couldn't hear as Shae helped her to lie down on her stomach. Turning her head, Sansa was surprised to see Varys look at her with such concern on his face. Was the beating truly that horrible?

"Lord Tywin has instructed us to guard the door," the Commander said in his raspy voice that Sansa was slowly beginning to find comforting.

"Good," Varys replied as he watched her before Shae closed the door. The relief at hearing the Commander's words was almost too much, Sansa realized before she finally allowed herself to slip into the blackness that had been threatening to overwhelm her.

EDITED 05/17/2019 Beta'd by A.L.D.


Chapter Text

Part Two: Runaway

“…And I was running far away

Would I run off the world someday?

Nobody knows, nobody knows

And I was dancing in the rain

I felt alive and I can't complain

But now take me home

Take me home where I belong

I can't take it anymore…”

~ “Runaway” - Aurora

Two Weeks Later

Early May, 299 AC

The Red Keep, King's Landing    

The chair that had been brought to her for the dress fitting was by far the most comfortable chair that Sansa had sat upon in a long time. Her wedding was still a few weeks away, but Tywin Lannister had sent a note just after dawn. He’d instructed her to prepare a new wardrobe befitting Lady Lannister and to her surprise, she’d also discovered new handmaidens when Shae roused her. Ones that she supposed were loyal to Tywin Lannister and Tywin Lannister only. After breaking her fast, two soldiers had escorted in a dressmaker that was a short, plump woman. The seamstress talked quickly and moved like she was running out of time. Sansa had a difficult time following her, but Shae filled in what she missed or could not understand.

“It’s the latest fashion in the Westernlands,” the dressmaker explained with a smile that revealed she was missing several teeth. “The ladies no longer tie the gowns in the front like they do here in King’s Landing. Instead, they have shortened the bell sleeve and they heavily embroider and embellish the sleeves, but they’re not sewn closed. Women wear sheer white silk under the sleeve and a bow holds the sleeve together, letting the white sheer silk peak through. One ties the bows at the wrist, above and below the elbow and ends by tying three bows at the top of the shoulder.”

Sansa examined the fashion on the young girl that the dressmaker had brought with her to model the dresses. The style was beautiful and she admired the finery of the dress with a small amount envy. Lions were embroidered with wild flowers on the sleeves and the golden and bright colored thread was true craftsmanship in her eyes. Another one of the dressmaker’s girls came forward with a darker dress and Sansa liked how it looked. The long bell sleeves were gone, replaced by the cuff of the outer coat. Beneath, the dress's waistline ending just beneath the bust, and the upper arm of the outer coat had added fabric and embellishment.

"A perfect outer layer in case there is a chill in the air," the dressmaker boasted.

All the dress sleeves were almost reversed in fashion with most of the extra fabric gathered towards the upper arm and the body instead of at the wrist and falling to the floor. The collar of this particular outer coat was half way up the neck. With each passing girl, Sansa was becoming more and more convinced that these were the fashions that she wanted to wear. She particularly liked that the back of the dresses had billowing fabric that trailed after the dress in an elegant train that either was fastened at the shoulder blades or the waist of the dress. She didn’t want to look like Cersei Lannister anymore, she decided. She wanted to be her own person and carve out an identity that suited her and no one else.

“Do you think his lordship would approve of these dresses?” Sansa whispered to Shae, suddenly nervous. The idea of defying or angering Tywin Lannister in any way was too much. Another dress was shown and Sansa admitted to herself that she admired the soft blue silks and the gold embellishments together. The skirts of the gown gave it a fuller appearance and she was particularly intrigued by the fact that the waistline was directly under the bust instead of sitting lower by the hips. The gowns were freer flowing and the girls wearing the gowns moved easier in her opinion. They were not constrained by narrow bodices.

“I do not think that Lord Lannister will ever be overly concerned with the fashions of young women. Besides, he sent for the best dressmaker in all of the Westernlands to attend to you. If anything, I would take it as encouragement that he wants you to look like a Lannister bride,” Shae whispered back and Sansa nodded.

Her stomach growled and she closed her eyes. Joffrey’s punishment was almost too much this time and Sansa realized she’d almost been distracted from her hunger by the dressmaker. A wave of nausea and lightheadedness passed over her and she held onto the edge of the chair. It was not the first time she’d felt so ill and she suspected it wouldn’t be the last time. It only frightened her that the wave of illness would happen in the Great Sept of Baelor and she’d humiliate herself in front of all the guests by fainting at the feet of Lord Tywin. Pushing the thought away, she focused on the fabrics before her.

Within two hours, she had picked all the styles she’d wanted with beautiful silks, laces, satins, and buttons that she was the happiest she could recall being in such a long time. She had tried to ask after the cost of the first few dresses, but the squat youth that had been introduced as Lord Tywin’s squire, Jerion, had instructed her that no expense was to be spare and that she had nothing to worry about in terms of money. The notion was odd as she sat touching the swatches of fabric and looking at the book of different dress designs with the seamstress. Cost had always been her mother’s first concern. As a Lannister, Sansa reflected, cost would not be something she’d ever have to worry about.

Lord Tywin Lannister had gold mines with pockets that went deeper than anyone knew. Rumors claimed that Lannister gold had bought out the debt owed by the crown to the Iron Bank for a second time. Now, the crown was practically owned by the Lannisters, all six million gold dragons. Varys had told her that the news made many members of the Small Council and nobility uneasy. Littlefinger would soon be dismissed for his inappropriate borrowing and handling of money. He would need to be replaced. Sansa had told Varys that perhaps Tyrion Lannister would be the most appropriate choice. There had been a look in the eunuch’s eyes that told her that such a suggestion could easily become reality.

Varys had also mentioned several new taxes that had been proposed by various members of the nobility to pay the money back to the Lannisters over the next five years to ease the control the house held over the throne. Plenty of men were uneasy with the throne being controlled because of Robert Baratheon’s debts. Eddard had once claimed Robert to be one of the most foolish men in all the seven kingdoms and Sansa easily understood why. She heartily agreed with her father’s damning assessment. A knock at the door came towards the end of the dressmaker’s visit. Shae brought her the note in Varys’s recognizable hand. Breaking the seal of the note, she quickly read over the words on the page before she stood and tossed the note into the fire.

“I do believe that I am finished for the day,” Sansa announced, straightening her spine. “I’m feeling rather tired and I desire a walk with my handmaiden, Shae.”

As quickly as the appointment began, it ended. Sansa breathed a sigh of relief as she watched the flames lick the note that she had tossed into the grate until it was nothing more than ashes. Leaving her rooms with Shae, Sansa quickly crossed the castle towards the tower where Tyrion was being kept. The castle was an endless labyrinth of corridors and stairwells that to the untrained eye was confusing, but Sansa had lived in the castle long enough to know where she was going. She even knew some of the secret passages that allowed her to easily cross without being detected. Climbing the tower to where Tyrion’s new rooms were located, she paused on the final step .There were no signs of Cersei or her kingsguards outside the door as Varys had written about. Instead, Tyrion was walking towards her, freshly returned from a walk with a determined look on his scarred face. She arched an eyebrow at him as she stepped into the corridor.

“I’m pleased to see you up and walking about, Lord Tyrion,” she murmured as the imp opened his door with a key. “Are you feeling better?”

“Yes, much, thank you for your kind inquiry, Lady Sansa,” he replied, holding open the door for her. “Come.”

Stepping inside the dim room, Sansa looked around and was pleased to see that it was much cleaner than when she had visited last. Podrick had obviously taken her advice to him and cleaned up after his master. The air in the room didn’t smell of bodily excrements and stale air. Dishes were not piling up on surfaces and the bloody and dirty linens that had been thrown about the room were gone. Instead, the sheer window hangings danced gently in the wind, a testament that the window had been opened for some time. Several table surfaces had been cleaned and organized without the piling of dirty dishes and half drunken wine goblets. The bed was made with fresh sheets and there was no sight of old sheets and dirty, bloodstained tunics. Podrick cleared away a table quickly and placed a candelabrum on it as well as table cloth that had seen better days. A knock at the door came and Ser Bronn opened it, admitting two servants carrying food.  

“I requested a meal,” Tyrion stated as he invited her to sit at his table with her. The ax that he had wielded when she’d visited earlier in the week was placed beside him in the chair. She was too hungry to ask about the weapon as breads, cheeses, and cold cut meats were placed in front of her. Filling her plate, she attempted to retain ladylike decorum as she nibbled on the pieces. She had not realized just how desperately hungry she was until she’d smelt the freshly baked bread with its marmalade jelly that she was desperate to smother over the butter.

“When was the last time Joffrey allowed you to have a meal?” Tyrion demanded of her, the crease between his brows deepening as he looked at her with worry. Sansa swallowed the bite of food before grabbing a second piece of bread and smothering it with the orange marmalade that she dearly loved. Tyrion knew the answer, she realized. He’d taken the pains to make certain that one of her favorite foods was there and she didn’t bother to give him an answer.

“How is your face feeling? Do you need anything, my lord?” she asked before raising her head and looking over to examine the slice on that crossed his face that had ultimately cost him his nose. Tyrion shook his head as he watched her. He had not wanted to discuss the battle or how he’d gotten the injury, but Varys had been diligent in keeping her informed these days of what was happening.

“My sister came to see me earlier,” Tyrion drawled, pouring a generous amount of wine into a goblet. “She found out that I mean to speak to my father and panicked about something.”

“I heard about the visit,” Sansa pronounced calmly. “I also heard that Bronn and Podrick nearly brawled in the hallway with her guards. Or is that an exaggeration?”

“Does everyone know my business?” Tyrion demanded with an intrigued expression on his face as he waved his goblet in the air. Wine sloshed about before splattering one the stone floor and the poor table cloth.

“Does it matter how I know?” Sansa asked, buttering and spreading orange marmalade on another slice of bread.


“Lord Varys sent a note soon after it happened,” she said easily as if they were discussing the weather. “I was meeting with the dressmaker when I received his note and I thought that paying a visit would be ideal. Now, are you going to tell me, Lord Tyrion?”

“Tell what exactly, my lady?”

“Tell me who tried to kill you.”

Tyrion looked pensive about the question and raised his goblet of wine to his lips and took a long gulp. Sansa watched him carefully as she cut the cold meat on her plate. She had her own theory about who had tried to kill Tyrion, but she couldn’t prove that Cersei had ordered her brother’s execution. It could not have been Lord Tywin due to the fact that Tyrion had already fought on a battlefield with his father and had lived. Lord Tywin was not the kind of man that botched an assassination. Jamie Lannister wasn’t even a suspect. Sansa wondered if Joffrey had grown tired of Tyrion telling him what he could and could not do. The boy king was not courageous enough to kill a man himself, but it would be logical that he might have ordered Tyrion’s failed assassination indirectly though his mother’s command.

“It was a member of the kingsguard,” Tyrion said finally.

“Is he still alive?”

“No. Unfortunately for me, dead men don’t speak or he’d be squawking like a hen. Now, my lady, let us talk of nicer things besides who tried to kill me,” Tyrion insisted, clearly wishing to be done with the topic. “I’ve been having a conversation at length with Podrick as to whether or not I should call you mother. I thought that it would be best to ask you directly.”

Sansa felt a mocking smile form on her lips as she raised the goblet of wine for a sip. She hadn’t considered that by marrying Lord Lannister, she’d become Tyrion and the Queen’s stepmother. Seven hells, she’d be Joffrey’s grandmother by right. Suddenly, Sansa wanted to laugh. The situation seemed humorless, but if she didn’t laugh at the minor details, she’d cry over the entire picture that was shaping up to be her life.

“There is one matter of business to discuss before I allow you to call me mother,” Sansa said solemnly as she placed her goblet down on the table. “My handmaiden, Shae.”

“What about her?” Tyrion asked, shifting in his chair, suddenly nervous as he set his wine goblet down too.

“I know about you and her together, Tyrion. I want to assure you that I have no intention of dismissing her from her position once I marry Lord Lannister. I expect I’ll promote her to Chief Handmaiden. I have been gifted with more ladies-in-waiting. I want you to know that I will not tell your father about her and you will not speak to him about it either,” she stated with a cold, formal tone rolling off her lips. “That is the business I wished to discuss with you.”

“Thank you for your silence,” Tyrion said sincerely. “She and I both thank you.”

“I cannot stop him should he discover the truth, Tyrion,” Sansa continued softly. “You know this as well as I do.”

“Yes, I do. Let us hope that the Great Lion never discovers the truth, even though he shall eventually discover it.”

Sansa swallowed and nodded, “If it comes to that, let us pray that I am able to wield some influence over him to stop anything from happening to her or you.”

“Oh, Mother,” Tyrion said with a smile. “Let’s talk of happier things. Did you spend an exorbitant amount of my father’s gold today?”

Hearing him call her mother, Sansa did manage a chuckle. It sounded odd, Tyrion Lannister calling her mother.

Five Days Later

Early May, 299 AC

Tower of the Hand, King's Landing

Lord Tywin wrote the letter to his Commanders in the Riverlands as his youngest son waited for him. This was not an unusual position. He often kept anyone waiting while he wrote letters. In truth, he found it best to complete the task instead of stopping and starting. One could forget what they wanted to say or needed to do if distracted too long and Tywin Lannister did not believe in distractions. The tactic also allowed a man to quiver in his boots long enough that the fear could be smelt in the air. How many men had sat before him, nervous and shaking? It wasn’t his fist that broke them. No, it was the silence of letter writing that often did the man in. It was a tactic that worked over and over again, a tool he used often without fail. When Tyrion spoke about how well the Pin of the Hand suited him as he signed his name and title, Tywin looked up.

“You brought some nameless whore into my bed,” he replied with revulsion as he sanded the letter.

“It wasn’t your bed at the time,” his youngest son defended, mockingly.

“It will be my marriage bed soon enough. To think that the future of our great house will have been conceived in and shared the same sleeping quarters as a whore is enough to turn even my strong stomach.”

“There is always the Lady Wife of the Hand’s chambers. Those I left untouched,” Tyrion stated bluntly, defending himself. “I do believe the dust and white cloths are still covering the furniture as well as—”

“I am aware,” Tywin cut in roughly as he folded the letter. “I have been having the rooms aired and redecorated.”

He reached for the warm pot of wax that was over a burning candle and poured it onto the back of the letter.

“I sent you here to advise the king,” he said in an icy cold voice as he placed the seal of the Hand in the wax. “I gave you true power and authority. You squandered those gifts. You chose to spend your days bedding harlots and drinking with thieves. What do you want, Tyrion?”

“Can’t I simply visit with my beloved father? Enjoy these last few weeks of your bachelorhood before you seal yourself in matrimony again? I can’t come and sit with a beloved father, who somehow forgot to visit his wounded son after he fell on the battlefield? In fact, your betrothed has come to see me more than any member of our family,” Tyrion stated as Tywin set the letter aside.

“Grandmaester Pycelle assured me that your wounds were not fatal. As for the Lady Sansa visiting you, I am told that Joffrey is refusing her food. He has the kitchen wenches scared for their lives should she try and summon a tray. I believe that her motives in seeing you are more basic than you think. She wants to put something in her starving belly. Visiting you is a dual purpose on her part,” Tywin drawled in bored tone.

He was well aware of what his grandson was doing, but he’d also made certain that Lady Sansa wouldn’t die from hunger. It had been him after all that had been ensuring that every time she visited Tyrion’s chamber that a great meal was served. Did Tyrion believe that his table was set so well because he was simply the second son of Lord Lannister? Tywin's spies told him that the Lady Sansa's handmaiden often hid bread in her skirts to take back to the Maidenvault where his betrothed was staying until their wedding. After, she would move to live with him in the Tower of the Hand and she would not have to worry about hunger clawing its way through her. However, he had to acknowledge that Lady Sansa and her handmaiden were resourceful in finding ways to get a piece of bread, Tywin reflected. He’d give her credit where credit was due. Her handmaiden was a good accomplice and a loyal one at that.

“I organized the defense of this city while you held court in the ruins of Harrenhal,” Tyrion replied bluntly, his fists clenching with fury. “I led the soldiers while your grandson, the King Joffrey, clung to his mother’s skirts behind the walls of Maegor’s Holdfast. I bled in the mud for our family. As my reward, I was trundled off to some dark room where I have stayed in all the days since with only the Lady Sansa as my visitor. A lady who is not yet a member of our house and you ask me what I want. I want what is my due. I want my inheritance.”

“You are a Lannister. Do you think I demand a garland of roses and a barrel of wine every time I have been wounded on the battlefield?” Tywin demanded, his tone as hard as steel. “Tell me, what it is you want?”

“I want what is mine by right. I am your son and lawful heir.”

Tywin stood up from the chair, angry at the turn of conversation. He tightly grasped his hands behind his back and gazed out the window down to the courtyard, not truly seeing what was before him. For several tense minutes, silence held a tight power over the room until Tywin turned away from the window and looked at Tyrion, his expression unreadable.

“You bled in the mud for the success of our family. Bleeding is something that anyone can do. You, however, are a Lannister. That is one of the greatest honors in the seven kingdoms,” Tywin growled sharply. “Tell me, you spend all your time reading, have you ever seen any animal or baby being birthed? Have you read about childbirth in all your travels? No?”

Tyrion said nothing and Tywin continued, “Someday soon, Lady Sansa Lannister will bleed bringing the next heir to Casterly Rock into the world. She’ll scream and bleed as men do on the battlefield. Men fight on the field. A woman’s battle is childbed. They die on that battlefield more than men die on the theirs. Sheet after sheet will be removed from the birthing chamber. Enough bloody sheets will be removed to make a man think that she is dying. Just when you think that the ordeal is over, she’ll scream louder. She’ll beg and cry to the seven faces of god for the pain to end. She’ll beg for death instead of enduring more pain. Listening, you’ll wonder if she truly is dying and when it’s all over, a screaming, blood covered baby boy will by pulled away from her body and placed in her arms. She’ll weep tears of joy, all memory of the pain will be gone as she cradles her newborn babe to her breasts. Her trueborn son will anointed with the seven oils in the Great Sept of Baelor and he will someday be anointed the next Lord of Casterly Rock, the next Lord of House Lannister with those same oils after I am dead. That screaming babe in her arms will be the future of our great house, not you.”

“She is the daughter and sister of traitors.”

“She is the daughter of an eight thousand year old bloodline, the descendant of the Kings in the North, and one of the last living members of that once great house. She is the key to controlling the North, the Riverlands, and perhaps even controlling the Eyrie and ending this war in our favor,” Tywin explained tightly. “Must I make it clearer why she and her heirs are more worthy than you? Why she above all my living children is more worthy? Why she is more worthy to birth my trueborn heirs?”

Tywin could not bring himself to speak of the rumors about Cersei and Jamie, nor could he bring himself to speak about the true question of Tyrion’s sire. Joanna had died with those answers and although the rumor between his oldest son and daughter could not be proven, they were nonetheless damning in their very nature. There was no way to explain his thirst for a true born heir to Tyrion. He wanted a boy that was beyond reproach and Sansa could do that for him. The name Stark was rooted in honor and combined with his great house, their sons would someday control at least three of the seven kingdoms perhaps four. The House Lannister would succeed in being the greatest out of all the seven families. Their house would be unchallenged and unchecked, even by the Royal House of Baratheon. It was something that his children by Joanna could not see or understand in their minds.  

“Better accommodations will be made for you,” he stated. “As a reward for your accomplishments, you will be given a position on the Small Council when the time is right that is specific to your talents. That way you can protect the legacy of House Lannister, the great house that you bled in the mud to save from annihilation from Stannis Baratheon, should he have won the war. That is what your reward will be.”

A knock came at the door and Tywin called for the intruder to come. The Commander of the Lannister soldiers in King’s Landing entered the solar with a folded note. He read it briefly before looking at the Commander.

“Dispatch soldiers to protect those foolish girls,” Tywin snarled. “Go, now.”

Standing alone on the small dock with Shae as her only companion, Sansa watched the ships leaving the bay and thought about her brother, her twin. At fourteen, she had entered King’s Landing as a foolish girl. Now, she was sixteen, a woman soon to be married, she couldn’t help but to wonder about Robb. How had he changed in the time they'd been apart? Had he grown in the same ways she had? They had entered the world together at Riverrun, him minutes before her. Her mother had always said that she had been the smaller baby, delicate and sweet. Robb had been a large boy with a healthy pair of lungs, and a hearty, lustful cry. He was the reason she'd been fed by a wet nurse. Her brother had been a large as he'd been greedy and had always left their mother's teat with no milk for her.

No one could truly understand what she felt for her brother. Robb had been her constant companion from the very beginning. They’d shared a cradle together from their first night in the world until they had been five years old. Sansa could still feel the fear in heart she’d felt when they’d been separated as children. Those first few months had been horrible in her young mind. She’d crawled into her brother’s bed simply to sleep next to him at night, warm and safe, snuggled close to him. She couldn’t recall how many times Septa Mordane had found her curled next to Robb in the early morning and had scolded her for leaving her bed. Their lord father always expected to see them always together. Twice, he’d caught them napping in the stable lofts and had simply chuckled at them. He'd called them kittens that needed to be a part of a litter, a silly comment to make them laugh, just as he called Bran a squirrel for climbing the trees in the Godswood against their lady mother’s wishes. Overtime, the nightly pain and fear of being apart had lessened. Eventually, they had been able to sleep alone without needing the other.

At six, their mother had separated them for lessons and Sansa had cried for a fortnight, asking where Robb went during those few hours. Being separated from Robb while she slept had been different than being separated from him while she’d been awake. Two hours apart, everyday had felt like an eternity and Catelyn Stark had understood their attachment. They had been best friends since the moment they had understood what friends were, even before that they had been best friends…simply unaware of what to call such a bond. More than ever, Sansa missed him. She missed his calm, steady temper. She missed his smile and the way that he made her feel whole. Their relationship was not sick and twisted as the Lannisters, but pure and full of light and hope.

She would die before ever sharing a bed with Robb, but with him near her, she felt as if she were not alone. They had come into the world together, they had been together from the very beginning and somehow, she’d always felt whole when he was close by. It was as if they were attuned to each other. Sensing when the other was sad or angry. Sensing when something bad had happened or if something wonderful had lifted the other's spirits and dreaming of the other before something could happen. How many times had she dreamt about Robb being hurt and the injury materialized within a fortnight? Without him, Sansa felt as if there was an ache inside her that was growing. An ache that was extending to include missing Arya, Rickon, Bran, and even Jon Snow, her bastard half-brother.

Sansa stared at the ships and thought of them as being symbols of her life. Each ship carried a part of her. One was her childhood, one was her family, and another was her innocence. All were sailing away on the horizon, never to be returned to her the same or fetched back. Shade suddenly blocked the sun and she looked over her shoulder. Shae had opened a parasol made from Myrish lace. It blocked some of the rays of sun, but not all of them.

“You’re going to turn red,” Shae said simply, but Sansa gave no response.

She didn’t care.

She knew that her snow white skin was something that plenty of courtiers admired. Despite her status as a traitor’s daughter, in recent weeks several ladies had attempted to use lemon juice to make their skin as fair as hers. She recognized that the incidents were happening because she was the soon to be lady wife of Tywin Lannister. He gave her status in the eyes of those ladies and they were the ladies that she didn’t want to be associated with. The sound of boots on the wood planks of the dock forced her to turn around. The sounds were not Lord Tywin’s steps, those she had begun to learn, but the steps were familiar. Petyr Baelish walked towards her with a finely dressed whore from his establishment next to him. The whore was dressed in bright silks and the fabric whispered around her ankles as she followed Baelish. Sansa recognized her face from somewhere, but couldn't remember where.

“I will take it,” Sansa murmured reaching out and taking the parasol. She held it tightly in her hands as she dismissed Shae. Baelish walked closer to her until she could smell the minty scent of his person, the same minty scent that she sometimes smelt on Lord Tywin. Both men had a habit of chewing mint leafs, a habit she was most thankful for. Shae slipped away and stood back with the unfamiliar woman that had accompanied Petyr, no doubt asking questions to discover exactly who the whore was and why she was with Lord Baelish.

“My Lady Sansa,” he said in a flourishing bow as she bowed her head in acknowledgement. “My sincerest apologies for disturbing you on this beautiful afternoon as you gaze at the passing ships.”

“Your presence is never a disruption,” Sansa murmured, remembering Varys’s words about how quickly Littlefinger had betrayed her parents, all because of his pining for her mother and his thirst for power.

“I saw your mother not long ago,” he murmured and she held herself back from saying what she truly wanted to say to him.

Her mother’s grief over Bran’s fall had started the war that was happening know. Kidnapping Tyrion Lannister, insisting that he’d sent an assassin to kill Bran, taking Tyrion to her mad Aunt Lysa, her father’s inability to control her mother…all of it had led the events of the past few weeks. She had never been more conflicted when it came to Catelyn Stark. She wanted her mother’s embrace, but she also wanted to unleash her fury at her mother’s foolish inability to understand that actions had consequences. A lesson she was acutely aware of...her own actions having contributed to Eddard Stark's death.

“She’s very eager to see you and your sister, Arya, is with her.”

A lie, Sansa told herself. Varys had not heard one whisper about Arya and if he had, Varys would have told her immediately. Besides, if Arya was with her mother and brother, her mother would no doubt let everyone know. The Lannisters would know and no doubt, Joffery would have beaten her for it, claiming somehow that she was responsible for the reunion of her mother and sister.

“I want to take you with me,” Baelish said softly. “Tywin Lannister is giving me a mission. No doubt, he’ll be distracted with his responsibilities as the Hand of the King and not notice your escape, Sansa.”

Silently, Sansa wanted to laugh at Littlefinger. He didn’t realize that the parasol that protected her from the sun was a gift paid for with Lannister gold. It had arrived early in the morning, delivered by Jerion who had said that her fair skin would burn in the southern sun if she didn’t protect it, and that it was all a gift from her betrothed.

Sansa doubted that Tywin Lannister had sat and picked out the parasol she used, but the meaning behind it was clear. Lord Lannister had an eye on her at all times. Joffrey had not beaten her in weeks. The parasol was clear evidence he knew that she went out walking when the sun was high in the sky. Lannister soldiers that had been appointed to guard the royal family now guarded her as well. It was a laughable plan that would likely get her killed, Sansa reflected. She was already betrothed to the Great Lion of Casterly Rock. To retract her word would mean death.  

“Chaos is a ladder, Sansa,” Petyr whispered. “Many who try to climb it fail and never try again. The fall breaks them. Some are given a chance to climb, Sansa, and they refuse. They cling to things that don’t exist, the realm, the gods, and even love. Those are all illusions, Sansa, only the ladder is real. The climb is all that exists and I want you to reach out and take chaos, I want you to climb it. Climb it with me.”

Sansa listened to his words, but watched the ships, “What are you saying, Lord Baelish?”

“I am telling you that I have a ship and the opportunity to escape marriage with Tywin Lannister. Seize it, my lady.”

The tell tale sound of more people approaching caused Sansa to break away. She wouldn’t acknowledge Baelish’s plot. It was just that, a plot. She would, however, inform Tywin of Lord Baelish’s offer. She didn’t want to find herself kidnapped because of Petyr Baelish’s strange obsession with her mother and the familiar looks that they shared. Turning, Sansa curled her lips into a small smile. Lady Margaery smiled back at her and approached with her own handmaiden behind her. Dismissing Petyr Baelish, Sansa felt a shiver pass over her as she approached the Rose of Highgarden.

“Would you like to join me on an adventure?” Lady Margaery asked with a bright smile on her beautiful face.

King’s Landing, Flea Bottom

“Halt, stop!”

Sansa had never been beyond the walls of the Red Keep except to send Myrcella away and even then, the rioting had terrified her. Lady Margaery’s request to visit some of the poorest orphanages had surprised her, but Margaery had insisted that the future queen and the future Lady Lannister must be seen doing good works to win over the favor of the people. Sansa had never forgotten the stinking smell of Flea Bottom. She recited in the back of her mind the reasons that Margaery wanted to come to this place. The young woman had insisted that as a queen those who were the least fortunate deserved her help. Sansa heard Cersei in the back of her mind calling the actions what they really were, a power grab.

Lady Margaery could influence the court of the king by having the people’s love. She could keep the crown popular and suppress a rebellion simply by having the love of the people. Had Joffrey’s unpopularity already showed her what the people could do if they became hungry and angry at their king? The bread riots seemed like an important lesson looking back, but it was something that she would never forget for as long as she lived in both King’s Landing and at Casterly Rock. The litter that had been arranged to take them to Flea Bottom was set down. Without stopping, Margaery flung back the curtains and stepped out. Margaery grabbed Sansa’s wrist and she had no choice but to follow. The four Tyrell guards that had come with them stayed at the wooden beams of the litter, unmoving. The sight made Sansa nervous. The Lannister guards would have followed. The red and gold would have been enough to deter theft. Just the sight of the Lannister sigil would have made anyone wary to touch the litter.

Shae followed behind her as the small, blonde handmaiden that Margaery had brought with her looked anxiously around. Her narrowed eyes taking in the sights and sounds, Sansa prayed the girl didn’t make a sound or scream for help should something happen. It would only draw crowds of more people.

“We should have more guards, my lady,” the handmaiden called out as she followed behind quickly. Shae held onto the shaking woman’s arm and Sansa nodded to her in gratitude.

“Why?” Margaery demanded with a smile. Sansa shared a look with Shae as the handmaiden on her arm looked ready to cry. They had been escorted by the few soldiers of the Reach, and Sansa thought they looked more ready to battle at a tourney than to protect their party, should they be in need of it. A large burly man stepped in front of Margaery and Sansa grabbed her arm.

“Pardon us,” Sansa said softly before she pulled Margaery to the side. “This is not smart, Lady Margaery. If you want the love of the people, there are other ways, less dangerous ways.”

“It’s just here,” Margaery replied as a woman tossed a chamber pot out the window. It narrowly missed splashing them both as a baby cried from somewhere inside the building. Tywin Lannister would strangle her if he saw her standing before the pile of stink, Sansa reflected wearily.

“You’ll ruin your dresses,” the handmaiden said urgently, but again, Margaery ignored her. Shae said nothing, but nodded as Sansa looked to her with worry. Margaery pulled her into the building, narrowly missing the pile of stink on the ground and Sansa was suddenly grateful that she’d changed into one of her older gowns. She wouldn’t have been able to stomach ruining one of the fine new ones that Lord Lannister had gifted her. Down a dark, sour smelling corridor, Sansa followed Margaery until they came to bright courtyard where a Septa stood waiting for them with a yellow smile on her face. The woman smelt horrible, but seemed grateful for their being there.

It was only than that Sansa realized that she’d been brought along for moral support and possibly as a person to blame if things went wrong. Margaery could have easily blamed her if they were attacked and the thought made Sansa distrust the other young woman a little more. Inside a great circular room that was stone and brightly lit by sunshine streaming through various holes in the roof, thirty or so children played with each other. Many of the children easily recognizing Margaery as the next queen and it stung a little until a small girl with a stuffed lion in her arms tugged at her skirts.

“You Lady Sansa,” she said with wide eyes of admiration. “My 'rother has told me 'bout you, you ta marry the 'reat Lion of Casterby Rock. You ta marry Lord Tywin Lannister, ain’t you?”

“I am,” Sansa replied with a smile. “Who are you?”

“Alys,” the girl replied softly. "Dis is Harys, my lion.”

“He’s very handsome, although his ear is falling off a little.”

“Can you fix 'im?” Alys asked brightly. “The Septa don’t 'ave time for such things.”

Before Sansa could say no, she found herself sitting next to Margaery on the stone steps on the far side of the room. Broken toys that needed to be mended were brought to her as well as ripped dresses, tunics, and breeches. Shae managed to procure needle and thread from somewhere and brought it to her. Alys’ stuffed lion was the first thing that she fixed as a little boy, transfixed by Margaery told the story of how his father had died in the Battle of Blackwater. His story was so similar to so many children’s there. Sansa had lost track by how many pieces of clothing she’d fixed. Shae had sat down with her to help her keep up as she listened to the children tell her about the toys she was repairing or the dress or tunic that had been stitched by their dead mothers. The clothing was all they had left of their families, Sansa realized. She even helped Shae to let out the hems of the dresses or tunics to make them wider or longer for the children who had grown.

For hours she sat listening and talking softly to the children, she adored their sweet answers and kind eyes. She liked getting to see them smile with joy once a doll had been repaired or a new toy gifted. It made her realize for a brief moment how much she wanted to be a mother. It had always been a dream of her, but the thought of children with Joffrey had made her blood freeze. When faced with the thought of birthing him children, she supposed that she would have ensured that she remained childless for all her years. Now, when faced with the possibility of a different husband, she supposed that Tywin Lannister was preferable to Joffrey Baratheon.

Tywin wasn’t a warm person, but she had never seen unnecessary cruelty from him. She was not deaf to the stories about him, but he did not skin living animals alive to relish in their torment as they died painful, crying for their suffering to end. Varys had told her that the Westernlands heartily approved of Lord Lannister and supported him in all things. The bannermen who used to mock his father did not mock him. No, they fell to their knees and swore fealty to them. Lord Tywin was not a man that did something without thought. Marrying her meant that he intended to have new heirs and new heirs he’d have from her body, whether she wanted to be a mother or not. Thankfully, sitting with those children in the long, humid afternoon heat only confirmed to her that she wanted children in her arms.

Those children would be fathered by Tywin Lannister and she would be grateful to be safe from the abuses of the king, she told herself firmly. Her life could be much worse, Sansa thought. Her life could always be much worse than it was. Joffrey had taught her that and it was a lesson she would never forget. It had been learned through bruises, bleeding, and beatings. As their visit came to an end, Sansa followed Margaery down the dark, sour hallway. On the doorstep, the septas cried, thanking the two ladies and their handmaidens for all they had done.

Outside, the dank air was around them, but it hadn’t smelt as badly as it had before. It was the sight of red cloaks that gave her pause in the doorway. Margaery was behind her and it took several moments to realize that the soldiers before her were not royal guards, but real Lannister soldiers. The mark on their shields were different, there was no crowned stag and lion, but a roaring lion its tail curling. The Commander she recognized as having been the man to stop her being beaten by Joffrey and the kingsguard stepped forward and bowed.

“His Lordship sent us to keep you safe, my lady,” he said in raspy voice. “Where is your next destination?”

Sansa nodded; too shocked to say anything and at Margery’s urging, they wandered towards the market.

“His lordship must know where you always are,” Margaery whispered with a slight giggle. “That is a good sign, my lady.”

Sansa couldn’t find the words to tell Margaery the truth. Tywin was watching her to make sure she didn’t disgrace the Lannister name or try and run away from him. Pushing those thoughts away, Sansa found she enjoyed the walk. The cobble streets were cleaner as they passed out of Flea Bottom. People stared at them, pointing with glee and the noises around her made her feel alive. She could hear them calling out, already calling Margaery their queen. What surprised Sansa most was hearing them call her ‘Lady Lannister’ even though she was not yet married. They smile and shook red scraps of fabric from their windows above, smiling and waving happily. The soldiers formed a box around them, three guards wide and three guards deep. The Commander walked behind them in the box and there was enough space between the soldiers that they could see the marketplace clearly.

Margaery urged them to stop at a stall where necklaces were being sold and Sansa looked at the beautifully crafted silver pieces. One had a small pendent of a wolf’s face and she reflected sadly how much Arya would have liked it. Margaery bought a small pendant filled with sand and clasped it eagerly around her neck.

“What do you think, Sansa?” she asked happily, holding the small pendant in her palm.

“It’s beautiful, it matches your eyes very well,” Sansa replied, an easy, true smile on her face. Before Margery could reply, a commotion was heard and a small boy was grabbed by the wrist. The box of Lannister soldiers closed in on them as the crowd gathered some calling the boy a thief and others begged for mercy crying that he was a hungry boy and didn’t know any better.

“Thief!” the stall keeper roared. “I told you that if I caught you again, I’d take yer hand, boy.”

The apple that had been in his hand rolled towards them and Sansa slipped from behind one of the guards. He wasn’t quick enough to catch her as she ducked down and grabbed the apple, but the Commander was at her back in an instant. His dagger ready to strike anyone who attempted to hurt her.

“Go back to the guards,” he urged. “Now, my lady, go!”

Margaery’s words about the people floated into her mind and she pushed forward. She was being made new dresses and this was her chance to define the kind of Lady Lannister she wanted to be. Tywin Lannister was the sword, the spear that punished those who opposed him and she could be the shield she realized. She could be the protector, the one who showed that Lannisters could be merciful and kind. A sword and shield with roaring lions, she thought to herself. Breaking through the crowd, a hush fell as she walked towards the stall keeper and the boy struggling in his grasps.

“Would you be kind enough to release him?” Sansa said kindly, but with the hard, firm tone she’d heard from other ladies of great houses, a tone she’d heard Tywin Lannister use before. The stall keeper simply glared at her, but the soldier that had joined the Commander stepped forward.

“Do as my lady commands and fix your face. Your filthy glare is unwarranted. Do you know who my lady is?” he threatened as Sansa raised her hand out to stop the soldier from moving forward. Instead, she walked to the boy as he was released and fell to the ground in a heap of gangly limbs. Holding the apple in her hand, she helped the little boy to stand.

“Are you hungry?” she asked the child softly, crouching down in her fine silk dress. The dirt from the road would no doubt ruin it, but she did not care. The whole market was quiet as every eye turned towards her, the child, and the stall keeper that was demanding the boy’s hand. The boy, no older than four, nodded.

“Are your mother and father nearby?” she asked softly and the boy shook his head. “I get hungry too sometimes. Why don’t we pick out the prettiest, ripest apple together?”

She lifted his lean frame onto her hip as she had done countless times with Rickon and handed the stolen apple back to the stall keeper. The little boy was so light and thin that she realized he had no one. There was no one to care for him and keep him fed and safe. The thought broke her heart a little as she pointed out various pieces of fruit. Finally, settling on the largest and shiniest apple at the stall, Sansa picked up the boy’s apple and set him down.

“Here you are,” she told him gently. “Why don’t you run along and find a safe place to eat it?”

The boy nodded and took off like a blur. The crowd simply stared at her, shocked no doubt by what they’d seen. Her dress was dirty from the mud that had been on the boy, but she ignored it as she slipped her hand into a pocket hidden in her skirts. In her hand was the last gold dragon she had to her name, the last of her father’s money that she’d been able to keep secret and safe from Joffrey and Cersei. It was time to let go of that life, she thought with great sadness. She could only hope that her father would have been proud of how she’d spent his last gold piece. Handing over the gold dragon, she smiled slightly to the stall keeper and thanked him for his troubles before turning back. A small tug at her dress stopped her. She smiled at the little brown haired boy and an older boy that looked like he was out of breath from running. In the next moment, the older boy was bowing deeply and the cap that was on his head was in his hand.

“Than’ ‘ou, milady,” the older boy panted. “Benny don’t knows better than not to ‘ake the ‘pple. Me ma says ‘ou to be the next Lady Lannister, wife of Lord Tywin Lannister. Thank you, milady Lannister. Thank you. Seven blessin' to 'ou, milady.”

“And to you as well. You are most welcome, ser…”

“Jon Mortan,” the boy proclaimed proudly. “I ain't a knight, milady. My name’s Jon and this ‘ere is Benny, milady, my little 'rother.”

“You are most welcome, Jon Mortan,” Sansa told him with a smile. “I hope you have a wonderful day and that Benny shares some of his apple with you.”

The boy beamed with pride, “Thank you, Lady Lannister.”

Sansa didn’t bother to correct the boy, but watched him run along with his brother. The Commander and the soldier at her side turned when she did and made a path for her back to Margaery. All eyes were on them when Sansa linked her arms with the future queen’s.

“Shall we head back?” Margaery asked with a large smile on her face. “Oh, brave Lady Lannister?”

Sansa blushed prettily and smiled happily. She felt free and joyously nodded.

“I do believe that you will have a servant for life in that boy,” Margaery remarked. “I’m surprise that your beauty didn’t stupefy him into silence.”

Sansa laughed gaily at that comment as she walked down the cobbled streets towards the litter that awaited them. Nothing could ruin the happiness that she felt inside, nothing. She smiled all the way back to the castle, all the way to her rooms in the Maidenvault, near Lady Margaery’s. The smile, however, died on her face when her chamber door was opened by Shae. Both women were shoved violently into the room from behind by Ser Boros. Shae was held back from defending her by one of the kingsguard as she stood still, facing the king.

“My spies tell me that Tyrion has been feeding you,” the king snarled. “I told you that you were not allowed to eat. Ser Meryn, teach Lady Sansa what happens when she disobeys her king.”

Joffrey’s smile was the last thing Sansa looked at before Ser Meryn’s fist connected with cheek, splitting her lips. She could taste the blood in her mouth and silently prayed to the seven faces of god that his beating would be over soon.

King’s Landing, Tower of the Hand

Lord Tywin’s summons to dinner was not something that Sansa had expected and it something that she could not refuse. Her original plan of taking her last few drops of nightshade to suppress the pain from her latest injuries was delayed. She cursed herself for not considering that somehow Joffrey would discover that Tyrion had been feeding her meals when she went to see him. As she sat in front of the looking glass, her whole body ached and cried out for her to lie down. Her cheek had turned a dark red with small blotches of purple beginning to show. Her face hurt when she opened her mouth to speak. Shae had given her a remedy to help ease the swelling, but Ser Meryn had hit her hard enough that the whites of her eyes were spotted with red dots...or maybe that was from the strangulation. Her bruised jaw had turned a royal, dark purple with a small split near the corner of her mouth. Shae had attempted to summon a maester to see to her wounds, but Joffrey had forbidden anyone on the pain of death from helping her. Raising her head a little, Sansa could see the fingerprints on her throat. Ser Boros had taken a particular perverse pleasure in attempting to strangle her while Ser Meryn beat her and Joffrey encouraged them excitedly.

“You should decline the dinner summons,” Shae said softly, arranging her hair so that long pieces were over her shoulders, covering the majority of the bruises on her neck. “You’re tired and in pain. You need rest, my lady.”

“I cannot refuse Lord Tywin Lannister,” Sansa murmured, her whole body aching from just the act of speaking. She looked closer at herself in the gold looking glass and supposed that Shae was right. She looked exhausted and battered and she supposed that she was in mind, body, and spirit. Each day seemed to be more a trial than the day before and with the kingsguard haunting her every step, Sansa felt that it had been ages since she’d known peace. Slipping a dragonfly pin into her hair, Shae pronounced her ready for dinner and Sansa stood slowly, her whole body aching in protest. Her legs felt as if they would give out on her at any moment, but she pressed on towards the door. Shae gently wrapped an arm around her waist to help her walk.

Escorted by Shae and two Lannister soldiers that Tywin had sent, Sansa slowly followed the winding corridors towards the Tower of the Hand. Her ribs screamed at her to stop moving and she was desperate for something to ease the pain. She half considered having Shae deliver a note to Varys with a desperate plea for the attention of the maester to give her something for the pain. As they reached the double doors of the private dining chamber in the Tower of the Hand, Sansa squeezed Shae’s hand and forced a painful smile to her face.

“I’ll be alright,” she promised Shae as a guard opened the great wooden door that separated the corridor from the Hand’s private dining chamber. Entering the room, Sansa wasn’t surprised when he didn’t look up right away. She doubted that he’d even heard her admittance. He was reading a missive, his arm resting on the mantle of the great fireplace. Her slippers barely made a whisper across the stone floor as she walked closer. Her dress skirts swished and she felt pain in every step. She watched as he tossed the missive into the fire.

“I assure you there will be no mutton tonight,” he pronounced, his gaze on the parchment burning in the ruby flames. Her face was tingling with pain and her throat was on fire. When he heard no reply from her, he turned and fire was ignited in his eyes. Instantly, his was walking towards her. Sansa quickly looked down, trying not to cower as he moved closer. She could not take another man’s fury today. It had already been too much. The fire that burned in his eyes did not match his soft touch. Fingers pressed against her jaw and she whimpered from the pain as she raised her gaze to look up at him. There was no hiding the ruby red and royal purple marks from him. He looked at her cheek, her jaw, and finally, his gaze drifted down to her long neck and the finger prints there from Ser Boros.

“Who did this?” Tywin demanded his voice was gentle and calm. It didn’t match the fire in his eyes that she could see. The fist at his side was clenched and yet, the hand that cupped the side of her head was gentle and his caress so soft that she wasn’t sure he was even touching her at all.

“Kingsguard,” she whispered, her voice trembling with fear. “Ser Meryn likes to use his fist and boots. Ser Boros like to wrap his fingers around my throat until I cannot breathe. The rest of them watch, doing nothing. I no longer beg for their help.”

Information was power and she was giving Tywin Lannister power. Power, to do something about the abuse, power to take control and ensure that it never happened again and looking at him, Sansa wondered if he would be her champion and end Joffrey’s torment. The clenched fist at his side relaxed and his hand fell away from her face. Instead of leaving like she suspected he would, Tywin guided her towards her place at the table. Holding the chair out and helping her to sit, and he swept away from her towards the door. He yanked the heavy wood open and stepped out into the hall. Dispatching orders and summons, Sansa watched him with curiosity and awe. Servants were quick and soldiers scurried about, following commands and orders. Some of the dishes were cleared away by maids and a servant brought one dishes of familiar pastries out. A guard closed the heavy wooden door behind her betrothed as he stepped back into the dining chamber. At the head of the table, he sat next to her.

“Lemon cakes,” Tywin pronounced as she looked at the small pastries near the corner of the table between them. “I have it on good authority that they are your favorite. I thought we’d have dessert first. It’s soft and won’t hurt to swallow.”

Sansa’s throat burned when she nodded and spoke, “They are, my lord, but no one gives them without wanting something in return. However, having dessert first would spoil the meal.”

Tywin said nothing as he cut one of the lemon cakes in half. A servant brought forward a dessert plate and he slipped it onto the plate. Placed in front of her, Sansa eyed the cake wearily. She was never given anything without something in return.

“I thought we might discuss your cousin, Robert Arryn,” Tywin said as he took the other half of the lemon cake onto his own plate. Sansa repressed the bitter smile that threatened to overcome her lips. Tywin hadn’t given her the choice of lemon cake, he’d simply cut the cake and would demand answers. It was a different tactic, but it was nonetheless the same game. She didn’t bother to reach for the fork and sharp knife, sharper than any dinner knife she'd seen before.

“I intended to send Petyr Baelish to the secure the Eyrie for your cousin by marrying your Aunt Lysa,” he continued. “What do you know about your cousin?”

Sansa slowly reached for her fork and knife and began to cut the lemon cake. She supposed that she should be flattered that Tywin Lannister was seeking information from her, but he was clever man. Half of what she was about to tell him, he probably already knew. Silently, she reflected on the information that Varys had given her shortly after her father’s death. She knew the stories and she could hardly trust Petyr’s attempts to persuade her to leave King’s Landing with him. There was no going back from a betrothal to Tywin Lannister. He’d force her to marry him, rape her over and over until she provided him a son and heir, and kill her once the babe was out of her arms. He’d do all those things before she let him disgrace and disrespect the Lannister name by running away.

“Petyr Baelish is not to be trusted,” she murmured softly after a near minute of silence. “Do you know what happen at Riverrun when my mother and aunt were children?”

Tywin was quiet and dealt her a look. Clearing her throat painfully, Sansa sat up more in her seat and placed her fork and knife on the table. Turning slightly in her chair, she looked at him as he raised a piece of lemon cake to his lips.

“Petyr challenged my father’s older brother, Brandon, to a duel over my mother’s hand and lost. He’s been plotting and planning to get my mother back since that loss. He offered to smuggle me out of King’s Landing to save me from marriage to you this afternoon.”

The air shifted and Tywin’s eyes narrowed, “What did you tell him?”

“I would not be sitting here, beaten and bruised, my lord, dining with you if I had agreed to such a scheme. Nor would I be telling you of it if I planned to escape,” Sansa replied smartly. “I am telling you so that when Petyr Baelish betrays you, he will not drag my good name down with him. I want my name clear of suspicion. I’ve seen what happens to those who you deem as having tarnished the Lannister name. I want no part of that, nor to do I trust Baelish. He scares me just from the way he looks at me. He sees my mother and that is enough to turn my stomach.”

Tywin picked up another piece of lemon cake, “Smart girl.”

She didn’t get a chance to reply. The heavy dining chamber door was thrown open and bounced violently against the stone wall with a ‘thwack’. Lord Tywin was on his feet instantly, a look of pure rage on his face for a brief second as Joffrey walked into the room, purple faced with rage. He came closer until only the table separated them and slammed his hands down, the gold of his rings catching in the candle light. The table shook violently and Sansa pushed herself back and stood as her goblet of watered down wine topped over, nearly ruining the front of her gown. Her chair fell backwards, distracting Tywin Lannister for a moment as he glanced over at her briefly before his icy cold gaze turned back to his grandson.

“Why did you have them arrested?” Joffrey growled. “I want them released, now!”

“That is not possible, Your Grace,” Lord Tywin answered, his voice like cold and hard like ice.

“I am the king! Do as I command!”

No one said a single word as the sounds of white cloaks entering the room broke the still air. Lannister guards created a line of ten men to separate the white cloaks from Joffrey. Tension filled the air as the soldiers’ hands rested on the pommel of their swords, ready to draw their blades and defend their lord. The air become so heavy that a dagger could have cut through the tension. Joffrey’s eyes turned towards her and he snarled. Sansa felt fear pulse through her as she stared at the same expression she sometime saw mar Cersei’s beautiful face.

“You’re behind this, aren’t you?” he cried. “You twisted some story and caused the arrest. I’ll kill you with my bare hands.”

In a move so fast, Joffery had launched himself around the end of the table that his grandfather did not occupy and dove towards her. His fists were raised, ready to hurt her again and she would not allow that. As if by instinct, Sansa picked up the sharp knife that she’d been using to cut her lemon cake and pointed it at the king. The air in the room became still with several members of the king’s guard unsheathing their swords, ready to protect their king. Sansa’s hand trembled with fear as she realized what she’d done. Threatening the king was grounds for death and every eye was on her and Joffrey.

Joffrey stopped and snarled at her with a sick smile on his face, “You’d draw a blade on your king?”

It took only a moment to realize what she had to do and she did it without hesitation, walking backward towards the fireplace so that she could see all occupants in the room clearly.

“I draw the blade on myself,” she declared pressing the sharp knife to her throat. “If you come one step closer, I will slit my throat, Your Grace.”

“Acting,” Joffery scoffed darkly. “Slit your throat? I’d like to see you try, whore.”

Beside him, Sansa watched Lord Tywin take a step towards them. Several Lannister guards seemed to enter the room all at one in support of their fellow soldiers to subdue the king’s guards if needed. The cold, shimmering steel bit her skin and she felt a trickle of blood fall down her neck and down between her breasts.

“What do you want, Sansa?” Tywin asked, slowly stepping towards Joffrey. Each step of his was measured. He took her seriously, she realized with hope. He did not see a blade at her throat and think she was playing, he believed her to be sincere and her hands trembled with a mix of hope and fear, realizing that someone would finally listen.

“I want to never be hit or kicked or strangled by the king, Ser Meryn, Ser Boros, or any other member of the kingsguard,” she pronounced with a trembling voice and tears. “I do not want His Grace to hit me anymore or do anything to torment my days here. I want peace.”

“No one has done such a thing you little liar,” Joffrey snarled and he came closer. She pressed the blade down as he drew closer.

“Don’t doubt me, Your Grace,” Sansa replied, dragging the sharp steel across her skin. The blade bit and the warm trickle of blood down her neck surprised even her. She didn’t know how deep to cut, but she could tell from the constant, warm drop spilling down her neck that she’d cut deep enough. Tywin grabbed Joffrey by the back of the neck and yanked him towards the door. He said nothing as Lannister soldiers forced the kingsguard to leave, Tywin giving the Commander his own orders as Joffrey protested over and over, declaring himself the king. Only a few unarmed guards remained, Sansa realized as the sound of Joffrey and the commotion he caused disappeared down the hall. The door was still open and Lord Tywin walked back into the room with measured steps, his arms at his side, relaxed and nonthreatening.

“Lady Sansa,” he said calmly as he approached her slowly. “You’re bleeding. Why don’t I help you?”

“You can’t help,” Sansa said tearfully as she brought the blade away from her neck slowly. “No one can stop him from tormenting me. The corridors aren’t safe, the gardens aren’t safe…no chamber is safe. You can’t help me. You told me it would stop, but it hasn’t stopped.”

“I can and I will stop the abuses and torments,” he promised as he picked up two of the linen napkins that had been on the table. “I give you my word as the Hand of the King.”

“What if he doesn’t listen to you? He's threatened to rape me after you leave on the wedding night,” Sansa murmured feeling slightly light headed. “He’s the King of the Seven Kingdoms. He can do anything that he wants.”

“He’s a boy with an ugly gold crown on his head. That’s doesn’t make him a king,” Tywin said as he came closer to her. He was close enough to touch her and tiredly, Sansa nodded in agreement. In a maneuver so fast that she barely realized it had happened, Tywin taken the blade out of her hand and pressed the linen to her neck. His eyes narrowed and she could see fury boiling in his eyes. He barked for a guard to send for a maester and quickly as her knees trembled. His touch was firm, but not unkind.

“I don’t feel well, Lord Tywin,” she murmured, her knees feeling weak.

“Send for a maester, quickly. Guard, find someone who can help her,” he barked again at a different soldier. With one hand, he kept pressure applied to her neck. With the other hand, he pushed the contents of the table to the floor. The sweet smelling lemon cakes were forgotten and the glass from the goblets and dishes shattered into splinters on the stone floor. His hand added more pressure as he wrapped an arm around her back. One of the guards grabbed her skirts and ankles. Sansa didn’t feel her feet being lifted off the ground and barely felt being laid down on the table.

“Another scrap of linen,” Tywin barked at one of the soldiers. Above her, she watched as the blood soaked linens that had been on her neck were tossed away and replaced by fresh ones. His pressure was not too hard that she couldn’t breathe, but firm enough to try and stop the bleeding.

“Do you promise that he’ll stop,” Sansa murmured, fighting the urge to close her eyes.

“Get the smelling salts,” Tywin commanded a soldier, clearly a man who had once been in this position before to deal with bleeding. “I gave you my word, Lady Sansa. Do you doubt it?”

“Yes,” she replied bluntly, too tired to use her pleasantries as a shield. “You have not done anything to earn my trust in your word, my lord.”

“I will keep my vow to protect you from any more abuses if you vow never to do anything as reckless or stupid as this again or I will make Joffrey’s violence seem like child’s play,” he snarled down at her and when she attempted to nod, firm fingers kept her head still. The soldier returned with something in his hand and forced under her nose, she inhaled. Suddenly, she felt wide awake as she blinked at the high ceiling above. The feeling only lasted for a minute or two, but it was long enough to see that Lord Tywin was above her, an unreadable expression on his face as he reached for another piece of cloth. His hands were the color of Summerwine and she realized after a moment that his hands were stained with her blood, she frowned.

Why was there so much blood?

“I didn’t cut that deep,” she murmured feeling slightly light headed and faint.

“You cut deep, you stupid, foolish girl,” he growled, applying more pressure. “If you cut any deeper, you’d already be dead.”  

Sansa didn’t say anything, but closed her eyes. She felt like she was floating on water and couldn’t stop as the water pulled her further down the stream. It was the most pleasant feeling that she’d ever experienced and she didn’t fight it. There was no fight left in her, even if she had wanted to fight back.

Tywin Lannister had seen men die, but he’d never seen a high born lady nearly slit her throat. Joffrey had considered it playacting, but he’d known differently. He’d seen the panic in her eyes, the haunted tortured look of a woman who had been battered too many times. Sansa picking up the blade to defend herself had been purely instinctual and if she had not turned the blade on herself, Joffrey would have no doubt tried to accuse her of attempting to kill him. He had hoped to convince her to place the blade back down on the table and summon a maester to attend to her. The news that Joffrey had denied her care by scaring the servants into thinking that helping Lady Sansa would lead to their death was not an uncommon threat, Tywin was discovering.

He simply hadn’t expected Lady Sansa to actually cut her throat. When he saw the blade cut her delicate skin, he’d realized quickly the situation was escalating beyond Joffrey’s control and that there was a very real chance that Sansa would do just as she had promised. His personal maester came quickly followed by his out of breath squire. Maester Broots was an older man, but someone that Tywin placed trust in. The maester had never failed him and he didn’t expect that the man would start anytime soon.

“She slit her neck,” Tywin said quickly as the maester pulled back the cloth and examined the wound. “What do you need to heal her?”

“Hot water, my lord,” Maester Broots replied quickly. “Boiled water, if possible and the small basket in my solar, it has the tools to close the wound.”

Tywin dispatched a soldier to get the small basket and his squire to get the hot water. The bleeding was finally begin slow, he reflected as he stepped away from the table and allowed the maester to examine Sansa’s neck more carefully. It was a deep cut as he’d told her. She probably hadn’t realized how deep she’d actually cut, but the blade of the knife that she’d used was especially sharp. The wenches in the kitchen had only just sharpened the knives a few days ago. Tywin doubted that she’d even felt the cut when she made it. He watched as the maester frowned and began to look Sansa over more closely. Good, he reflected. Gods only knew that the girl needed a healer.

A woman pushed herself through the soldiers at the door and Tywin stared at her with narrow eyes.

“Who are you?” he demanded, his tone could have cause a lowly soldier to piss himself.

“Shae,” the dark haired woman replied quickly. “I serve Lady Sansa. I am her only handmaiden.”

The foreign woman didn’t ask to approach nor did she follow the customs of addressing him appropriately. Instead, she rushed to Lady Sansa’s side and worriedly began demanding the maester what needed to be done to save her lady’s life and help her. Maester Broots managed to calm the frantic handmaiden down and extracted the entire story of what had happened earlier in the day. Shae explained the visit to Flea Bottom with Lady Margaery, the Lannister soldiers escorting them back to the Red Keep, and Joffrey’s awaiting of them in Lady Sansa’s bedchambers. In vivid detail, Shae tearfully described the abuse that she had witnessed and Tywin felt his fist clench tightly as he listened.

He did not care for Sansa, but she was an extension of him. Soon, she would bear him children and she’d be cloaked in his protection in a matter of weeks. His house would become her house and what had happened to her was a blatant insult to him. Her abuse was an insult to the House Lannister, a testament to his inability to keep her safe from the silly guards that his grandson commanded. The lion within came alive as he thought about the slander and insult done to House Lannister. Did the guards not realize that she was his intended? Did they not realize that abuse done to her was abuse done to him by proxy? It was the handmaiden’s testimony that sealed Ser Meryn and Ser Boros’s fate. They would die for the injuries they had inflicted. It would be a warning to all the men under his grandson’s command. Should they hurt a Lannister, they would find their life forfeited as payment. It was the sound of Maester Broots talking that broke his thoughts.  

“She’ll no doubt have a scar,” the maester said quickly as he looked up from his patient. “She’ll live, however, the cracked ribs need to be set and I wonder I might inspect her neck to assess whether or not there is damage from the strangling. Was she hit anywhere else?”

“Her spine and belly are also bruised.”

Tywin turned and looked at the handmaiden, “She is your lady. Why did you not tell her to stay abed and rest?”

“I tried, but she would not listen, my lord. She told me that no one could refuse you and the thought of displeasing you seemed to frighten her more. She was determined to come to dinner.”

A blanket that the maester had demanded was produced and to keep Sansa’s modesty, Tywin dismissed the soldiers in the room leaving only the maester, himself and the handmaiden. A pillow was fetched to support Sansa’s neck and the maester turned her onto her side. The laces of the gown were undone and Tywin’s eyes narrowed into slits when he saw the dark purple bruises littering her pale skin. One bruise in particular looked like a boot mark and he watched carefully as the maester checked the alignment of her spine and her ribs. The maester’s hands went lower and Tywin kept his focus on the man examining his betrothed.

“Nothing seems to be out of sorts except her ribs, but from the feel of her spine, she’s had a prior injury?”

“A fall,” Shae explained softly. “The guards pushed her down a flight of steps and she was in bed for nearly two weeks. She lost sensation in her legs temporarily for two days. Her back still aches from time to time. Some mornings she has to massage her legs to return feeling to them. Some mornings, it's all she can’t do to get out of bed, the pain can be intense.”

The maester hummed before turning Sansa to lie on her back again. Her dress was stripped away and her maester used the blanket to provide modesty as he examined her ribs and bruised chest. Her arms were littered with dark purple marks and her belly had the distinct marks of boot prints.

“She needs bed rest,” his maester pronounced with the shake of his head. “There’s too much bruising to tell if there is any internal damage. I’d leave her here tonight. It’s too dangerous to try and move her. Come morning, I’ll reassess and we’ll move her to bed than. I’d prefer to see her rest for several days to help the healing process. By the end of the week, we’ll know if there is more permanent damage. I suspect the back damage...she will probably carry that pain for the rest of her life.”

Lord Tywin clenched his fists tightly. He had plans for the Stark girl and he could feel fury building inside him. If the young woman did suffer internal damage that prevented her from fulfilling her duties to him and birth heirs, Tywin vowed he’d have every head of the members of the kingsguard on pikes outside the Red Keep. The maester began to give out orders again and the chamber became a flurry of activity. His squire brought extra blankets and several pillows from a bed chamber. Maester Broots arranged Sansa in such a way that she’d be comfortable, but he also gave her a large dose of poppy milk to ward off any pain in the night. Mixed with the three drops of nightshade that he also gave, Lord Tywin doubted that Sansa would feel any pain. He was also certain that she’d sleep through most of the night, if not well into the next morning. The food on the floor was cleared away as was the broken glass by his squire and the fire in the hearth was attended to by the handmaiden. As quickly as the commotion began, it ended and Tywin found himself sitting in chair next to Sansa.

“Go to your lady’s chambers and bring back anything sharp enough to cause wounds,” Tywin told the handmaiden as she stood over her lady anxiously. “I won’t have a repeat of this incident.”

The dark haired woman left and in the silence of the room, he could only hear the fire crackling. However, it didn’t stop his mind from racing. Ser Meryn and Ser Boros would be lucky if they were alive come dawn. His commander had been dispatched with orders to subject the two men to the same abuses they had subjected to his lady. Come morning, if either man was still alive, Tywin planned to remove their offending heads from their necks himself with his sword. It would be a sign that no one could abuse a Lannister and not face the consequences of their actions.

EDITED 05/17/2019 Beta'd by A.L.D. 


Chapter Text

Part Three: Mind Games (Part One)

“…I believe it's true that you would screw me

If I let you in my bedroom

And if I did then do I try to move away?

'Cause I know you like mind games…”

~ “Mind Games” - Banks

Three Weeks Later

Late May. 299 AC

Tower of the Hand, King’s Landing

His new squire, the son of a distant cousin, had shaky hands Tywin discovered on the morning of his wedding. Standing in the hot pools of the bathing house that was reserved for the Hand of the King, Tywin used the thin blade from the shaving kit to trim the edges of his beard.

He had done this once before, the whole marriage game. He and Joanna had loved each other and despite the rumors that she and Aerys Targaryen had been lovers, he had married her. He could still remember his relief at taking Joanna’s maidenhood and ending the rumors in his mind that she had been close to Aerys. Of course, it hadn’t stopped the rumors in the end and Joanna had eventually been excused by the queen. For a moment, the old rage he felt boiled again inside his belly.

His marriage to Joanna had been a happy one despite the bad things that had happened. Joanna had known him well and had been his closest advisor, someone to turn to when he had no one else. She had loved him, but inside of the bedchamber, she had little interest in the physical intimacy of marriage. At first, Tywin had thought it was due to her sickly constitution. Joanna had always been frail, even as children she'd easily caught colds and chills. As the weeks had passed after their wedding, Joanna had slowly admitted that she found the entire physical act of coupling messy and a trial to be endured, not at all pleasurable. Tywin had gone out of his way to worship her body, to make his touch and kisses as loving and welcoming as they could to ease Joanna, but none of it had worked. His first wife had preferred discussing politics and current affairs over physical relations and that fact had privately infuriated Tywin to no end. It was all well and good to discuss politics and the affairs of the seven kingdoms, but he was a man after all. He had needs just as all men did and Joanna made it difficult to fulfill those needs.

When they had been blessed with Cersei and Jamie, Joanna had kept him away claiming that her body was not healed from the birth. For over a year, he’d been forced find other outlets for his desires. His morning sparing matches with the Commander of his Lannister guards had not become habitual by accident. In picking up live steel, he’d been able to work out some of the aggression and pent up frustration every morning before breaking his fast with his lady wife. He’d been young and full of energy and desires and Joanna had refused him almost every night. As much as he had detested his father for straying and taking mistresses, Tywin himself had broken vows to Joanna. He made certain that there was no possibility of a bastard child, the whores that were brought to him were always clean and they only ever used their mouth to pleasure him even in the years after her death. Tywin suspected that Joanna might have even known about the whores that had sucked his cock after everyone had gone to bed. The difference between himself and his father was that he never let the whores forget exactly what they were, whores.

Attempting to shave, Tywin reflected that tonight he’d discover if Sansa Stark was anything like Joanna or if she was different. It was something that he silently hoped for and would never voice aloud. He hoped that Sansa Stark was everything that Joanna was not. He hoped that she was eager for his visits to her bedchamber and he hoped that his children by her would be nothing like the children he had already fathered. Tywin was not deaf to the rumors that existed about his oldest children. One of the first things that he’d done as the Hand of the King was to retrace Eddard Stark’s final days as Hand before his arrest.

…Lord Orys Baratheon, black of hair. Axel Baratheon, black of hair. Lyonel Baratheon, black of hair. Steffon Baratheon, black of hair. Robert Baratheon, black of hair. Joffery Baratheon, golden hair…

The words on the page had haunted his sleep and made him certain of his decision to marry Sansa Stark. Eddard Stark for all his foolishness was an honorable, honest man. Admired in the North and by extension, his children benefited from that honor. The spies that were loyal to House Lannister had done enough listening to discover that there was nothing to tarnish Sansa Stark’s reputation. No whispers that she wrongly loved her twin brother. Not one rumor against her in the North, no rumors against her until she arrived in King’s Landing and became known as a traitor’s daughter.

Sansa Stark was the key to the North and the Riverlands, but she was also the key to ensuring that his true heir inherited Casterly Rock and carried on the Lannister name. Her good name and bloodline would protect her children against the same charges his eldest two were rumored to engage in. His stomach churned at just the thought of such a thing and Tyrion, Tywin wasn’t even certain he was the true father.

His sister, Genna, had once reminded him of the Targaryen history and the history of the deformed, misshapen Targaryen babes. It had been the one and only time, he’d ever spoken about his doubts in Joanna's faithfulness to him. Tywin had always meant to ask Joanna about the child…the timeline of conception was simply impossible in his mind. For the babe to be born when it was…it would not have been possible for his seed to have quickened inside her body. Either the child was too early and should have died or it was two months late, another impossible scenario. Both were impossibilities and he'd furiously stewed in that knowledge while she'd birth the bastard child that she'd brought into his keep. Aerys Targaryen’s lusting after his wife had never settled well in his mind, but before she could give him a true answer of what exactly had happened, she died. To protect Joanna’s reputation and the Lannister name, Tywin had claimed Tyrion as his own. Three children with Joanna and each child was a disappointment, a stain on the Lannister name. The rumors that surrounded his children and grandchildren were almost sickening. Incest, debauchery of every kind, whores and orgies, excessive drunkenness on Tyrion's part, and a vein of viciousness in his grandson that reminded him of Targaryen madness…they were all things that he wanted to hear nothing about.

Tywin conceded to himself that marrying Sansa Stark wasn’t just about securing the North and the Riverlands. It was about securing the Lannister legacy and how the world would remember him and his children. As his squire shook again, Tywin, standing in the hot water that went up to his chest, growled. He almost nicked his throat and he wasn’t going to be the bleeding bridegroom on his wedding day.

“Have you ever been to a wedding?” Tywin demanded of his new squire and the boy, Jerion, swallowed hard before nodding and answering.

“Yes, my lord, my sister’s wedding.”

“Then you know that appearances matter. Especially when two great houses are being united.”

“Yes, my lord.”

“Hold the damned looking glass still before I cut myself,” he snarled, but the boy only trembled harder, scared no doubt. The boy tried to hold the glass still, but failed miserably. Just as Tywin was about to send the boy away to retrieve one of the soldiers who wouldn’t quake in his boots, a familiar voice spoke up.

“I will hold it, my lord.”

Tywin turned in the hot water and stared at Lord Varys with narrowed eyes as the man glided across the marble floors. Rising out of the large pool of hot water, Tywin demanded his red dressing gown and shaving kit to be laid out by Jerion. The boy quickly obeyed, fearful to anger the Great Lion of Casterly Rock. Shrugging into the blood red dressing gown, Tywin gestured for Varys to come forward and the eunuch did. Neither man said a word as Tywin resumed his shaving and Varys observed. Towards the end, once all the soap had been rinsed off his neck, Varys cleared his throat and spoke softly so that no one but Tywin could hear.

“We both know what Robert Baratheon ordered. He got what he wanted in the end, my lord. Ser Jorah Mormont returned last night with the Targaryen girl’s head and her brother. King Joffery attempted to reward him, but Ser Jorah Mormont declined any such thing, but you know all this.”

Tywin said nothing as he slid the edge of the blade near his upper lip in one last sweep before he put the blade down next to him on the table. He had long known about Robert’s obsession to kill Daenerys Targaryen and he’d received the message in the early hours of the morning. Jarred from sleep, he’d read the note and burned it without second thought. The news had only proved to help Joffrey’s claim to the throne.

“What of this news?” Tywin demanded as he surveyed his face in the looking glass making certain that his shaving was even and close to his face, just the way he liked it.

“There are rumors that the king intends to present the heads of Daenerys and her brother tonight at your wedding feast,” Varys explained as he carefully put down the looking glass. “I know that you are not a man who enjoys such…entertainments like the king does. I am sure that Lady Sansa will not wish to remember her wedding feast simply by remembering a young girl’s head. It is an important night after all, my lord.”

Tywin ignored Varys prying and suggestion about what the evening would hold for Sansa. It was not as if the eunuch did not know that he would claim his bride’s maidenhead. In fact, Tywin was very much looking forward to claiming his bride’s virginity and all parts of the marriage bed. Tywin was also not a fool. He knew that Varys had become very much devoted to Sansa in the months after her father’s death. Varys used his little birds for Sansa’s benefit on countless occasions and it was Varys who had warned of Sansa’s abuse. Tywin was unsettled by the knowledge that he didn’t know what arrangements Varys and Sansa had made together.

“My grandson will no doubt do something idiotic this evening,” Tywin said evenly as his squire returned to help him dress for the wedding. Varys turned around when he stripped naked and began putting on his small clothes. “I make no move to stop him because that is his mother’s position, not mine.”

“He’s already done something detrimental to the wellbeing of your bride,” Varys said calmly and Tywin stopped lacing his breeches. Was this why Varys had come? To warn him of what Joffrey's depraved actions?

“Just what did my grandson do, Lord Varys?” Tywin growled, extremely unhappy to be caught off guard by Varys of all people. Varys snapped his fingers and a servant came forward.

“A gift,” Varys said calmly, indicating the silk shoes that rested on the velvet blue pillow. “Your bride will thank you once the ceremony is over. I have it on good authority that the king trapped Lady Sansa with shoes that are too small for her to wear and possibly lined with thorns. Unfortunately, there is nothing anyone can do to stop the King. He is at the Great Sept of Baelor and you are here, as is custom. Your future lady could not refuse such an offer of the shoes. It would offend the king and she would most likely be beaten before going to the wedding. King Joffrey escorted her to the Sept this morning where the Septas will see to her bathing and dressing, but the King insists on staying with me, making her wear the shoes.”

“And why do you give Lady Sansa your allegiance?” Tywin demanded as he shrugged his silk doublet on. The gold and red thread caught in the light and reflected in the mirror that Jerion was holding. The new doublet made him look commanding. He looked like the fierce Lord of Casterly Rock, something his father was never able to achieve. Fury boiled inside him at Varys's words, but he reminded himself that in a few hours time, Sansa would be under his protection and he'd carefully explain to his grandson that tormenting the Lady of Castery Rock would be an act of war that would lead to his losing the Iron Throne and his head. It was not a threat, Tywin told himself. It was a promise.

“Because she is a lady of two great houses and her line will be the line that will determine the future of our country,” Varys said cryptically as if he knew something about the future that no one else knew. “She will be a great lady, I feel it. She cares about the realm and the people that are beneath her. I can think of no one better to serve than the Lady Lannister and her children.”

Varys took his leave minutes later and Tywin carefully picked up one of the silk and lace slippers from the pillow that was resting on the table next to his shaving kit. It was smaller than he would have imagined and narrower. The cool silk was embroidered with lions in gold thread and the head of a direwolf in silver. The heel of the slipper was cut low and despite the extravagance of the slipper, it was practical and looked comfortable. He set the slipper down on the pillow and moved away. In a matter of a few hours, he would be a married man and it filled him a twisting feeling inside that he couldn’t explain. A feeling that he didn't want to examine.

The Great Sept of Baelor, King's Landing

Sansa cursed herself for believing that Joffrey would not hurt her anymore. It had been an absolute mistake to think that she was safe in anyway from the king. She should have known better and she chastised herself for not being more prepared. It was not a mistake she’d ever make again.

Crossing the Great Sept of Baelor was a miserable affair. The wedding was not a grand affair like the royal wedding would be. There could not have been more than three hundred guests in the Great Sept, but all eyes had been on her as she crossed the marble floor. Three handmaidens flanked her in a line on each side while a young girl named Alysanne, the daughter of a distant Lannister, walked behind her, careful to make sure that the train of her gown did not wrinkle or ruffle as she walked. The girl was sweet and paid her every attention and compliment that she could, but Sansa knew nothing about the girl and did not trust her. She half expected the girl to be paid by the queen to ruin the day or her wedding gown if given the opportunity.

The white and gold gown was her armor, Sansa told herself as she clasped her fingers in front of her as she walked. There would be no cloak of hers own to undo, no Stark colors upon her person. The heavily embroidered gown, with its sheer shift underneath that peaked through the areas of the sleeves that were not closed, only held together with bows, was all she came with to be cloaked in. No father would give her away and offer his consent with a smile and a kiss to her cheek. It was not a thought that Sansa allowed in her head. Thinking of Eddard Stark would make her cry and she would not cry on her wedding day.

As all eyes looked at her, Sansa forced herself to look forward. On the dais in the Great Sept, seven steps up from the open worshiping area, Tywin Lannister was a looming figure above them all. He seemed even greater than the enormous seven statues surrounding the Sept on all sides. Sunlight filtered through the great colored glass window, illuminating him with an unworldly glow. His back was straight and he kept to the tradition of the man not turning around to see his bride. He wore a red silk doublet that almost looked like it had flecks of gold sewn into the fabric as it caught in the sunlight. The rest of his clothing was onyx black and next to him stood an incredibly nervous looking boy holding a red velvet cloak. At the base of the steps to the platform, Prince Tommen waited for her and smiled warmly at her. The boy’s pure happiness filled her with warmth as she accepted his hand and climbed the seven steps to the platform with his assistance. Alysanne was behind her, situating the trail of her gown so that all could admire before slipping away to stand with the six handmaidens that had been her escort.

Standing next to Tywin Lannister on the steps of the Sept, Sansa did not dare to look over at him as the High Septon began a rambling speech about the institution of marriage as a sacrament of the seven faces of God. He did not look over at her and she was grateful. The shoes that Joffrey had forced her to wear pinched her toes and heel unbearable. Standing was a pain and the whole event was almost as exhausting. It was by sheer willpower that she managed to stand.

If there was one thing that she and Arya had in common as sisters, Sansa thought, it was their power of will. She would not disgrace herself or the House of Stark at her wedding. No one but her represented her great house and she would remain above reproach in all things, Sansa decided. She stared ahead at the small alcove just over the High Septon’s shoulders. The alcove was dedicated to the the mother and situated between the statutes of the mother and the father. Candles that had been lit by faithful servants seeking the mother’s mercy and compassion flickered and danced in the dim alcove that had been cut off from the sunlight. Focusing on the alcove was her attempt to forget the pinching pain in her toes. Joffrey had presented her with new shoes shortly before leaving the Red Keep. Unable to deny the king, she’d been forced to slip on the tight, uncomfortable shoes that were digging into her skin unmercifully. She could already feel the blisters forming on the back of her heel and soon, it would be too much.

When the moment came that Tywin Lannister was supposed to cloak her, Sansa forced every muscle in her body to relax. The young boy holding the cloak came forward and Tywin took the cloak. Sansa barely felt his touch as he laid it on her shoulders, Alysanne making sure that the cloak laid perfectly on the floor. The shape of the cloak kept it from slipping off her shoulders, the thick velvet heavier than she would have thought. As quickly as the rite began, it was over.

Standing still, Sansa allowed herself to slowly exhale, as silent as a mouse. He had cloaked her in the red and gold of House Lannister. She was no longer a Stark. Outside of Baelor’s sept, she'd be Sansa Lannister, not a Stark of Winterfell, but a Lannister of Casterly Rock. When the High Septon asked for their hands, Sansa offered her right hand willingly, proud that it did not tremble like she thought it would. Her fingertips felt like they had been exposed to the cold too long. They had gone numb and felt icy when her hand was place over Lord Tywin’s left hand. The Lord of Casterly Rock gave no reaction to her freezing hand touching him. The warmth from his hand seeped into hers and filled her with an odd sensation that she could not understand or explain. The High Septon wrapped an elaborate band of leather and lace around their hands, binding them forever as he clasped his sweaty hands over theirs.

“Let it be known that on this joyous day, Sansa of House Stark and Tywin of House Lannister are one heart, one flesh, one soul,” the High Septon said solemnly. “Cursed be he would seek to tear them asunder. My lord, you may repeat your vow.”

Tywin did not look at her and she did not look at him. It was better this way, Sansa told herself firmly. This was no romantic tale of fair maidens and handsome knights. This was the real, dangerous world her father had been desperate to warn her of, the world he’d been desperate to escape and leave behind when he found out the truth. If only she had not gone to the queen, if only she had been a better daughter, Eddard would still be alive. She could not bring herself to look away from the wall. She'd break down crying if she did. His voice was clear and hard when he spoke, but his tone gave nothing away as to what he was thinking and it was all Sansa could do not to tremble.

“Father. Smith. Warrior. Mother. Maiden. Crone. Stranger. I am hers and she is mine, from this day until the end of my days.”

“My lady, your vow.”

Sansa closed her eyes to ward off the tears that threatened to fall. Perhaps marriage to Tywin Lannister was her father’s punishment to her for causing his death. She could think of no better or fitting punishment than for her, the daughter who had caused her father’s death, to spend an eternity being known as the traitor’s daughter and the wife of the most brutal man she’d ever met besides the king. Did she not deserve misery in the end?

“F-father,” she whispered, her voice growing steadily stronger. “Smith. Warrior. Mother. Maiden. Crone. Stranger. I am his and he is mine, from this day until the end of my days.”

Sansa hardly remembered what had happened after that. The High Septon pronounced them married and the guests clapped and cheered politely. Her hand rested in Tywin’s as he led her down the steps of the platform where the marriage rite had been performed as the guests clapped politely. The six handmaidens flanked them, three on each side throwing flower petals of red and white. Sansa wanted to scoff at the ridiculousness of the petals being tossed. How could anyone look at them and see happiness? The petals were mocking the reality of the situation and she hated it.

Across the marble floor of the Sept, Lord Tywin guided her, her hand still resting atop his, only now she held onto the side of his hand, not the top. His thumb rested on the tops of her fingers. It was the oddest sensation that she'd ever felt. Every part of him looked foreboding, but his touch was not hard like she thought it would be. No, if anything, his hand was calloused from years of use, but his touch was gentle. Her feet screamed in protest as they walked up more steps and crossed the great atria outside the inner sanctuary. Lannister guards formed two great lines out the great double doors, one on the left and one on the right. The bells were tolling and the roaring of the crowd overwhelmed Sansa as they stepped out. The sunlight blinded her for only a moment before she was able to take in the sea of red that was around them. The steps down were cleared, the Lannister soldiers forming a wall of gold and red on either side as thousands of red flower petals from different flowers danced in the air, catching in the wind. No doubt being tossed from high above them in the bell towers. Further down, passed the steps and on the cobbled street, a second line of Lannister soldier kept the crowds back as other guests began to filter out of the Great Sept. The noise level only increased once the crowd caught sight of the Royal Family and the Tyrells. It was almost deafening to Sansa as her lord husband kept a tight grip on her hand.

Down the many steps, Tywin led her as she took in the many commoners of the city waving pieces of scraps of red fabric and crying out their joy at seeing the newly married Lord and Lady Lannister of Casterly Rock. They chanted the name Lannister, over and over again and Sansa was certain that she’d never seen such a sight in all her life. At the base of the steps, the procession that would take them all back to the Red Keep was beginning to come to life. The Tyrells entered their litters and Margaery climbed up into an open wheelhouse, the top and sides striped away so that everyone could see her. Pulled by four great black horses, Joffrey next to her with an uncharacteristic grin on his face as he handed her up into the open wheelhouse. In the middle of the procession stood two white horses, reins being held by two stable boys dress in Lannister red and gold. The stallion Sansa easily recognized as being Lord Tywin’s, but the beautiful white mare next to the stallion, she'd never seen.

The Lannister cloak that she wore was slipped away by a handmaiden as a others began to filter out of the Sept of Baelor, filling the steps. The wedding gown that she wore with its high waist, square neckline, and straight sleeves garnered many looks from those wanting to see her and many of the ladies that were serving her whispered how utterly lovely she looked. The crowd admired her, but Sansa did not feel lovely. She felt like a fraud as she wore a practiced serene, blissful look on her face.

“A wedding gift, my lady,” Lord Tywin said as the white mare stood docile as the stallion danced on the cobble stones. “The mare is yours. I’ll not bother you with the tedious history of her bloodline. She's the finest horse that can be created and gentle. An easy mount for a lady and suitable for leisurely walks."

“Thank you, Lord Lannister,” Sansa said demurely, reaching out and touching the velvet snout of the creature. “She is very beautiful. Does she have a name?”

“No, she's yours to name,” he said, his voice as unemotional as it had been in the Great Sept when he’d made his vow.

The mare was to be her transportation back to the Red Keep, Sansa realized. Not another word was shared between them. The crowd cheered happily when she was assisted into the side saddle with the aid of Lord Tywin’s hands. He made certain that the saddle would not slip before he stepped away from her. A squire dressed in the red of House Lannister stood holding the reins and it was clear that he was to be the one to guide the mare back to the Red Keep, not her. However, Sansa couldn't bring herself to care. She nearly moaned in pleasure from finally being allowed off her feet and closed her eyes briefly at the sensation. She opened her eyes when she felt one of her ladies stepped forward and made certain that her skirts were evenly arranged. Seated side saddle on the docile mare, Sansa found herself being carried through the winding streets of King’s Landing as Lord Tywin rode his great warhorse next to her. The crowds that had gathered happily cried out well wishes as the wedding party paraded its way through the city.

The Royal Family rode ahead of them with Joffrey and Margaery in the open wheelhouse. Several times, Joffrey stole a kiss from Margaery, sending the crowd into a wild frenzy of happiness as they cried out, cheering again for another kiss. The whole scene seemed entirely false and Sansa watched the scene with a sense of relief. She had once wanted to be in Margaery’s position. She had dreamt of being the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. She had believed in all the songs and ballads of brave and valiant knights. She'd believed in beautiful chaste maidens being saved and loving the hero. The stories were lies and watching Joffrey and Margaery, Sansa swore to herself that she'd never allow her daughters to believe in the stories as she'd once done. It was far better to see the world for what it truly was than to see it as an imaginary land of courtesies. She wondered if the woman truly knew what she was entering into with the king and the horror that awaited her in becoming his wife. As Lady Lannister, the abuse would end and Joffrey would have to soon find a new outlet for his violence and Sansa feared Margaery would be his next target.

As they moved through the streets that had been cleared, Sansa also noticed that on all sides, Lannister soldiers held a wide parameter. The men carried great lances, pikes, and spears, with the Lannister banner, a roaring lion, flapping in the wind. A silent threat, Sansa thought, as if warning anyone who wished to cause trouble of the power the Lannister's carried. Down the cobblestone streets they followed until they crossed the drawbridge that gave access to the Red Keep.

In the court yard, the parties broke and the sweet mare she sat upon was stopped by the stable boy. Lord Tywin dismounted his white warhorse and tossed the leather rains easily to a stable hand before approaching her. His horse snorted and stamped his hooves, clearly impatient for something. Gracefully, she allowed him to hold her by the waist and slip her down to the ground. Pain shot up her legs at being placed back on her feet, but Sansa managed to ignore it just long enough to step inside the keep with her new husband. She followed his slow and steady pace as he walked past several doors until he reached the one he desired.

Inside the room, a small alcove and a comfortable chair seated in front of the fire awaited them. Sansa barely said a word as Lord Tywin guided her to the chair, her feet screaming with joy as she was once again permitted to sit. Her lord husband snapped at his squire, but she was too focused on the sensation in her feet to listen to what he demanded. Sansa eased herself to sit in the chair near the fire, unable to comprehend that she’d spend the rest of the night dancing with such sore feet.

“It was a cruel trick of my grandson to ambush you just outside your litter this morning.”

Hearing her new husband’s voice, Sansa looked up from her lap and nodded, “Yes, my lord, but I could not tell the king no.”

The only sign that he gave that he heard her words was the nod he gave. He moved away towards the window as the squire, holding the door, allowed the soldier carrying a letter to enter. The Commander and her lord husband had a quick, quiet conversation before the soldier was dismissed. Lord Tywin broke the seal on the letter as he sat down at the elegantly carved table and chair set in the center of the chamber. His brow furrowed as he read the words on the page. It was a moment to observe him while he was distracted. His doublet was a deep, blood red with gold thread embroidering the collar and hem of his sleeves. He wore the pin of the Hand on his right side and his black boots were polished. It was odd for her to now think of the man as her husband, he didn’t seem like the kind of man that even wanted a second wife.

Minutes later, Sansa nearly sighed aloud in relief at seeing the familiar face of Shae come into the private chamber. A second handmaiden followed, carrying a basin of cool water and several piece of cloth. Tyrion’s mistress smiled at Sansa comfortingly as she dropped to her feet and congratulated her on becoming Lady Lannister. Without another word, Shae helped her to slide off the offending shoes that Joffery had presented her with and gently undid her stockings beneath her gown. The handmaiden never lifting the hem of the wedding gown too high as she slowly revealed bloody heels. Shae said something in a foreign language that sounded surprisingly like a curse and Sansa watched with curiosity as Lord Tywin’s eyes left the page he was reading as he briefly looked up at them. She wondered briefly if he knew exactly what Shae had said. Slowly, Sansa had been learning Shae’s language, Valyrian. The language was complicated, but learning the language gave Sansa a sense of security. She could have a private conversation with Shae and those who would want to listen to their talks would not know what was being said.

“Fetch my lady new stockings,” Shae said to the other handmaiden quickly before tossing the bloody white stocking into the fire. Sansa hissed in pain when Shae cleansed her bloody feet, but the handmaiden didn’t stop. Whatever was in the water helped to stop the burning pain and soothed her aching feet. Shae wiped away the blood and gently massaged the sole of her foot and ankle, relieving more of the pain. It was clear from the blistering on her heels that she would not be dancing at the wedding feast and she felt slightly disappointed. Dancing had been something that she had been looking forward to, perhaps the only thing she’d been looking forward to. The second handmaiden returned with the soft stockings just as the Lannister squire did carrying a pillow with silk and lace slippers upon it. The boy approached them with the pillow as her lord husband stood up, folding the note. Sansa was surprised to see new slippers and looked over to Lord Tywin with a frown upon her face.

“A gift from Lord Varys,” her lord husband pronounced before she could ask where the slippers had come from. The second handmaiden took the slippers off the pillow and Sansa inspected the beautiful embroidery as Lord Tywin held the letter out to his squire. The boy dutifully took the letter before he ran off to follow his master’s instructions about where to put the note. Shae slipped new stockings onto her legs and tied the bow behind her knee. The new silk and lace slippers were slipped onto her feet and it was wonderful. The slippers felt heavenly, Sansa decided. She felt like her feet had been wrapped in the softest silk she’d ever felt and she promised herself that she’d find Varys a gift for his wonderful slippers.

“The feast will begin soon. Best not to terry,” her husband continued. Without a second word, he left and Sansa looked to Shae, unhappy to have to stand and move again so soon.

The Red Keep, King's Landing

Tywin Lannister was not the horrible dinner companion that Sansa expected as they sat together at the table of honor on the dais. Below them, two long tables that ran parallel to one another in the Hall of the Hand were filled with guests happy to eat and drink. To the left of the table where Sansa sat with Tywin, Cersei and her children sat and to the right, the Tyrells sat, plotting and planning something.

The feast that had been arranged was nearly sixty courses long and Tywin didn’t even bother to eat a bite from half the dishes that the kitchens served under Cersei’s orders. Terrified of offending the queen and bringing more trouble to herself, Sansa dutifully took a few small bites from each dish. A minstrel played music as the voices of the many swelled in the hall. Another dish with mutton was brought forward and Sansa suppressed a sigh. From the corner of her eye, she watched Lord Tywin push the mutton to the far side of his plate before he forked a spear of asparagus and ate it. It was the third time that she’d watched him push the offending meat away and it made her curious.

“Do you not like mutton, my lord?”

He looked over at her for a moment and said nothing, spearing another piece of asparagus.

“My sister has a particular fascination with eating it,” Sansa continued as if they were simply discussing the weather outside.

“I could never stand the taste of it myself.”

“And yet, you’re eating it,” he commented in a bored tone.

“I am not a noble lord from one of the great houses, my lord. I have not had the privilege to refuse to eat a meal provided by my hosts,” Sansa said carefully, smiling slightly to make it look like they were having a pleasant conversation to the curious eyes that kept turning their way. She forced herself to swallow another bite of the mutton and quickly reached for her glass of wine. Swallowing down the gamey taste that she so despised.

“It’s a taste I’ve never acquired,” Tywin said after a few minutes of watching her miserably eat a few bites of the mutton. It was all for the sake of polite appearances, she told herself. Simply for Cersei’s benefit and nothing more. Once satisfied that she’d eaten enough to please the watchful eye of the queen, Sansa allowed the servant to take away her plate and refill her goblet with the watered down wine that Lord Tywin had requested. Washing the gamey taste away again, Sansa placed her folded hands in her lap again as she gazed out at the merry crowd of people. She could feel Lord Tywin’s gaze and forced herself to turn and look at him.

“It’s not something we eat in the north,” she told him. “I’ve never had mutton until I came to King’s Landing.”

“And what do you eat in the north?”

“Lemon cakes when we can,” Sansa said with a faraway look, dreaming of her favorite dessert. “They are my favorite to eat with a little sugar on top to dull out the sour taste. However, the cooks here never seem able to make it the way we did at Winterfell.”

Lord Tywin hummed in acknowledgement and they fell back into silence. Sansa examined the dancers on the floor and was saddened that Lord Tywin hadn’t asked her to dance. It was one of the few things that she enjoyed, but the ache of her feet reminded her that it was perhaps not the best idea. Her husband was probably of that same mind and it was why he hadn’t asked her to dance. Or perhaps, Tywin Lannister wasn’t a dancer at all. The silence between them was not uncomfortable, but silence always brooded bad tidings in Sansa’s experience. Tywin cleared his throat and turned to look at her.

“Cersei tells me that you’ve been learning to play cyvasse from my son in your spare time,” he stated, a questioning look in his eyes as he watched her carefully.

“I am. I enjoy the game. Do you know how to play?”


Nothing further was said on the subject as Varys and an unfamiliar man approached the high table. Behind the two men, two servants carried an oak case bound in bronze metal. Walking up to the dais, Tywin stood as the chest was laid to rest and the servants slipped away, bowing their heads and murmuring their apologies for interrupting Lord Lannister’s dinner.

“I apologize for the intrusion,” Varys murmured with a deep bow, one that unknown man mirrored. “I simply thought it best to give my gift to the Lady Lannister whist the king was distracted. It is not every day that one gifts the Lady Lannister with a far superior gift than one would give to the king. I, however, believe that she shall appreciate the gift far more than His Grace ever would.”

Tywin nodded and offered his hand to her. Standing, Sansa looked at case with confusion. She wasn’t sure what was inside the box and it intrigued her. The unknown knight opened the case and walking around the table, Sansa heard a hush over the tables around them as they watched. Nestled inside the chest on a bed of silk and satin were three of the most beautiful eggs that she’d ever seen. Each egg was different with patterns that shimmered in the light so much so that Sansa thought they were encrusted with jewels.

Dropping her lord husband’s hand, Sansa walked around the table to the chest and crouched down. Picking up one of the eggs in her hands, she gazed at it. She had expected the eggs to be blown glass or some fine porcelain or delicate enamel, but the egg was heavy. The surface was covered in dragon scales and as she held it, the egg simmered like polished metal. One egg was a deep green color, almost the eye color of her new lord husband, one egg was cream and gold like her wedding dress, and the egg in her hand was onyx black with hints of red when she turned the egg in the light.

“Dragon eggs,” she breathed as she looked up at Varys, stunned by the gift. Even her Lord husband looked slightly surprised to see that she'd been gifted dragon eggs on her wedding day. “Lord Varys?”

“Yes, my lady,” Varys answered. “From the shadow lands beyond Asshai. The eons have turned the eggs to stone, but they only grow with beauty as time passes. They will, however, never match your own beauty, but they are beautiful to gaze at. The second rare treasure the House of Lannister gains today. You being the first, my lady.”

Sansa had never seen anything so beautiful as she cradled the egg between her two hands and yet, she knew she had to let it go. If Joffrey saw the gift, he’d destroy it. She knew him well and quickly, she set the egg down in the silks and satins and closed the case’s heavy lid with help. Tywin easily assisted her to stand. He called for the servants who had brought the chest to come fetch it back and take it directly to Lady Lannister’s chambers.

It was such an odd phrase to hear on his tongue that she nearly corrected him that her bedchambers were in the maidenvault, but they weren’t any longer. Lord Tywin dismissed Varys and requested the presence of the knight he called Ser Jorah Mormont later to discuss some matter of importance as Sansa returned to her seat, eager to pick her husband’s mind about dragon eggs and what he knew about them. He’d served for twenty years as the Hand of the last Targaryen king, she was certain that he had to know something about the eggs and dragons in general. Just as he returned to his own seat beside her, Sansa saw Joffrey crossing the hall towards the dais where they say at the high table.

The look of pure determination on his face was almost too much for Sansa and she sank back in the chair, nervous for what the king would do. He marched up the steps and stopped before them, a smirk on his handsome face. She half expected him to demand to see what had been in the case and she was half afraid that he would want to smash the beautiful gift that Varys had given her. The words that passed his lips surprised her so much that Sansa felt nearly faint with relief.

“I was hoping for a dance with your new bride, grandfather,” Joffrey said with an expression of barely concealed delight that made Sansa incredibly nervous. “I won’t take no for an answer, grandmother.”

The look on Lord Tywin’s face barely concealed his annoyance as she stood once again on her sore feet. Moving through the small space between the tables, Sansa was offered a hand by none other than Ser Jorah Mormont.

“My lady,” he acknowledged politely as she held onto his hand and maneuvered the three steps to the floor. Joffrey followed and at the bottom of the dais, he gripped her hand tightly and pulled her along at a quick pace she could barely keep up with. He called out to musicians to change the dance to a fast one that would no doubt cause the blisters on her feet to reopen. Standing still, waiting for her turn to move, Sansa promised herself that she would not show weakness. Taking the step and turn in the dance, Sansa wasn’t surprised when her king began to speak.

“Congratulations, my lady. You’ve done it. You’ve married a Lannister. Soon you’ll have a Lannister baby. It’s a dream come true for you. Are you looking forward to your wedding night, dear grandmother?” Joffrey demanded with a twisted smile. “What a glorious day for us all.”

“Yes, Your Grace,” Sansa said as she moved through the steps of the dance. She could feel Lord Tywin’s eyes on her as she danced. She caught his gaze twice as she turned in the dance. He broke their look for one brief moment to nod at several Lannister guards and suddenly, Sansa felt incredibly safe under Tywin’s gaze. He had the pride of a Lannister and she was his wife. To slander or hurt her was to slander or hurt the Great Lion by proxy and it was something that his pride would never allow to happen. He may never come to care for her or love her, but he would protect her.

“Do you know, I think my grandfather has the sagging teats of a wet nurse and the flabby stomach of bitch that has whelped one too many litters,” Joffrey pronounced with a cruel, vicious smile on his young face. Sansa kept the blank, serene expression that she had long perfected on her face as Joffrey turned her into the next set of steps in the dance. Purposefully, he stepped on her feet twice and she kept herself from wincing in pain at the deliberate misstep.

“I suppose that it doesn’t really matter which Lannister puts the baby into you,” Joffrey continued, a look of pure excitement upon his face as he whispered. “Maybe I’ll pay you a visit tonight after my grandfather falls asleep. You’d like that, wouldn’t you? No? That’s all right. Ser Meryn and Ser Boros will hold you down.”

Across the hall, Lord Tywin’s gaze was hard as he spoke with the lord of a noble house from the Stormlands. Whatever it was that was being discusses was fascinating to the lord and entirely boring to her lord husband, although he looked as if he was beginning to show interest in the conversation as it progressed.

A few minutes later, the lord was scurrying back to his side of the hall, Cersei having replaced him. She watched the tense exchange between father and daughter, but the golden glimmering from the corner distracted her. Several servants were bringing in a great golden covered platter. Joffrey let go of her and clapped his hands together happily calling for the music to stop being played. The voices of hundreds that had carried about the hall died and silence filled the stone walls. Black leather boots echoed on the stone floor as Lord Tywin walked towards them, an unreadable expression on his aging face.

“You’re just in time, grandfather,” Joffrey exclaimed happily. “Come see my wedding gift to you. It will ease any burdens you may have about the future of the crown. It might even help you to perform better tonight.”

Not a soul dared to laugh at the joke, not while Tywin Lannister was in hearing range. The great gold platter that had been brought up from the kitchens was set down on a great table and apprehension filled Sansa. Joffrey nodded to one of the servants and the domed lid covering the platter was removed. The severed heads of a young man and a girl laid still, their eyes opened and unseeing. Their silvery hair was matted with blood and dirt with the hacking flesh around their necks barely stayed together. There was no mistaking that the heads belonged to the Mad King’s younger children. The smell of decay forced Sansa to turn away half afraid that she’d be ill. Tywin caught her before she could walk away completely, one hand on her arm. Forcing herself to turn back around, Sansa stared at the classical features of the young girl, the last of the Targaryen line. She could not have been more than fourteen years old, Sansa realized. She was just a child and her life had been brutally ended.

“Do you like it?” Joffrey asked her with an eager expression. “Do you like my gift to you, Lady Sansa?”

Staring at the heads before her, she couldn’t help but to notice that the hair color was the same white, silvery blonde as Tyrion’s hair. It was an odd comparison to make, but it was the first thought that had drifted into her mind. Before she could answer, Lord Tywin’s growling voice brought her back to the present.

“Get this out of my sight,” he snarled at the closest Lannister guards before he dealt Cersei a look that caused her to pale considerably. “The rotting smell is intolerable. Burn or bury, however you choose, just dispose of them. Open some damned windows as well.”

Red cloaked guards scattered about to do their lord’s bidding as Joffrey pouted like a little boy whose toy had been snatched away. Sansa couldn’t find the words to accurately describe any of what had happened. The only thing she was grateful for was that she was close enough to Lord Tywin to smell the lemon and sandalwood soap that he’d used to wash up earlier. Behind them, several Lannister guards opened windows in the great hall to allow fresh air inside. As the sound of windows being opened continued, gone was the look of a petulant child and what appeared was the look of a young man that would explode in violent anger in any moment. Sansa swallowed hard, scared to even move a single muscle. Not to have the moment ruined, Joffrey angrily threw up his hands and clapped again.

“Time for the bedding ceremony,” he finally called out when the last window was opened and not one soul in the hall moved to take either Sansa or Tywin’s clothing. She half suspected it had something to do with the number of Lannister soldiers stationed along the walls of the hall ready to defend their lord and lady.

“There will be no bedding ceremony,” Lord Tywin said coolly to the king, vividly remembering the last king that demanded a bedding ceremony on his wedding night. He looked with narrowed, angry eyes towards Cersei and the Queen hurried forward to distract Joffrey before a bloodbath could take place. Sansa wondered what would happen if someone tried to strip Tywin Lannister of his clothing. She suspected it would result in a fist to the face or a dagger to the heart. He did not wait for a response from the king and turned to where Sansa stood, an anxious expression marring her beautiful face as she watched the exchange between the queen and her son. Hoping that no swords would be drawn or blood spilled at her wedding feast.

“My lady,” he murmured offering her his hand. “It’s time to leave.”

The Tower of the Hand was not so much a tower, but a complex of buildings within the walls of the Red Keep just off the sea. Housing the Hand of the King’s household, an entire floor contained both the lord and the lady’s apartments as well as a chamber that connected the sleeping quarters. The central chamber of the floor was a large sitting area with a great view of Blackwater Bay and a fireplace that crackled merrily in the hearth as Sansa surveyed the room for only a moment.The breeze off the bay blew through the great windows that had been opened. The salty sea air was heavenly to smell instead of the heavily perfumed air of court.

The chamber that she supposed to be Lord Tywin’s was to the left of the fireplace, through a set of carved double doors that were already opened. Stepping into the chamber, Sansa stared at the foreign room with trepidation. A great four poster bed with red curtains dominated the spacious area. Opposite the bed was a fireplace with a burning fire in the hearth. Roaring lions were engraved in the metal screen that prevented a spark from escaping and lighting the rug that was situated on the floor ablaze.What drew Sansa further into the room was not the urge to explore, but the view from the open windows and the sheer white tapestries that hung above.

Her father had once told her about the beauty of the Hand’s garden, but she had been enamored with the prince and court life. She hadn’t cared about such a trivial detail, but stepping closer to the window, she gazed outside into the darkening night as smiled a little at the ivy growing up the stone wall and the purple flowers that intertwined with the ivy. The very beauty of it reminded her of the wild flowers that grew in the forests not far from Winterfell. Joffrey had known about her love of the gardens and for so long, he had expressly forbidden her from entering them. Guards had blocked her path and her desperation to escape the castle had resulted in more than one beating from Ser Meryn Trant.

“Clematis,” Tywin pronounced and she nodded in agreement, having heard of the beautiful flower before.

She resisted the urge to reach out and touch the precious bloom. Hearing his boots on the wooden floor boards, Sansa stiffened as she remembered why she was in the chamber and what the night held in store for her. She expected violence, she reflected wearily. She expected him to grab her hair, drag her to bed, and force himself inside her body…just as Cersei had described. She expected bleeding, and fucking, and pain, so much pain. It was her lot in life. She accepted it. She would not deny him her body as a lesser woman might. It took too much energy to fight a man like Tywin Lannister and she knew that he was not a weak man. Beneath his doublet hid a strong, powerful man that had killed plenty before her and he would subdue any fight that she put up against his advances.

She clenched her eyes tightly when he reached for, expecting to feel his hard fist. Lord Tywin didn’t do what she expected. Instead, he parted her hair.

Lord Tywin didn't do what she expected.

Instead, he pushed the locks over her shoulders, before slowly undoing the laces of her dress. Sansa felt goose bumps cover her shoulder blades. His touch was not brutal, but quick and measured. She barely felt his finger tips. The smell of lemon and sandalwood soap enveloped her, just as it had done at the Sept of Baelor. The scent wasn’t as strong, but it was familiar in a way that she couldn’t describe. Lord Tywin undid the ribbons that kept her sleeves connected and pushed the gown over her shoulders.The beautiful silk that had been admired by many guests fell to the floor around her ankles in a heap of fine embroidered silks along with the separated sleeves of her gown.

With the same efficiency as before, Tywin pulled at the strings of her corset until it was loose enough to slip off her body. It too fell to the floor and was followed by the sheer shift that had peaked out from the gown’s sleeves and her undergarments until she stood in nothing but the white stocking that were tied behind her knees with blue ribbon. The breeze from the open wind caused the sheer, white curtains to dance in the air, caressing the tops of her thighs like a lover. Standing in the dim light of the room, she could hear her own heavy breathing. Nerves were coming alive, eating the inside of her soul, and the churning her stomach. She could hear him behind her, moving away and removing his own clothing. It took her several moments to muster the courage to decided what to do.

Looking over her shoulder, she watched him sit down in the chair next to the fire to remove his boots, just as she’d watched Robb, Jon, and her father do hundreds of times. He stood again and methodically removed his leather sword belt from around his waist and dropped it down on to the wooden chair he’d sat in only moments before. He moved onto to the dark red doublet that he’d worn. Undoing the golden hooks that had kept the front of his doublet closed, the dark red silk fell open a little, revealing the white tunic he wore beneath. Golden and grey hairs were sparse on the small part of his chest that she could see and slowly, she turned around completely. He looked up from where he’d been undoing the buttons at his wrist that had kept his white undershirt from peaking out and she froze.

His hungry gaze was not on her face, Sansa realized, but he was looking at her body. His eyes were taking in the curve of her slender waist and hips to her breasts and in those eyes, she saw hunger, desire, something that she couldn’t explain. Whatever it was, it made her feel different, made her feel desired. Tywin looked back down at his wrists and undid the last of the buttons before looking back up at her. He pulled the tunic out from his beeches before he pulled it over his chest, revealing a solid wall of muscle. He looked like a man who had used a sword nearly every day of his life. His chest broad without the sagging teats and flabby belly that Joffrey had suggested, instead, his chest and stomach were muscular. A dark, discolored scar ran from across his ribs down towards his naval and she wondered about how he’d gotten such a mark. The wound looked raised as if the skin had not healed the way it was supposed to. She found the mark to be a curious discovery.

Looking at him, Sansa was reminded of the stable boys that she and Jeyne Poole had spied on years before in the bathing pools at Winerfell. It had been a clear summer day and Jeyne had convinced her to go spy. Curiosity had been too much and hiding behind the trees, the two girls had watched the stable boys strip down to nothing before diving into the clear pools of water for an afternoon swim. Sansa looked back down at her hands, embarrassed by the memory and swallowed hard.

“Your necklace, my lady,” he murmured, his calm, even voice breaking the air.

Nodding, Sansa forced herself to take slow, measured steps towards him. She’d never been naked in a man’s presence and the nervous, uncomfortable feeling that it brought with it was not something she enjoyed. Approaching Tywin Lannister like she would approach a snarling, wounded dog, Sansa turned again so that her back was to him.

“The c-c-clasp,” she whispered over her shoulder. “I don’t know how to undo it.”

His fingers were hard and soft at the same time, if possible, Sansa mused as she felt his hands rest on her shoulders before reaching for the necklace. He removed the necklace with ease and placed it on the mantle above the fireplace. She wasn’t sure what would happen next, but his touch was different from any touch she’d received before. The backs of his knuckles brushed over the ridges of her spine, as light as a feather’s touch. It was a touch she wanted him to repeat. The touch made her tremble in ways that had never happened before.

At sixteen, she was not entirely naïve as Cersei and Joffrey believed her to be. In the dark nights at Winterfell, she’d touched her own body out of curiosity. She’d examined her own changing body in a mirror before and understood that if Lord Tywin touched her in just the right way, it wouldn’t hurt. A man’s touch could feel pleasurable even to his wife. That was what her lady mother had told her when she had bled for the first time. The entire conversation had been humiliating, but she wished she’d paid better attention.

Sansa decided in that very moment, she wouldn’t let the notion of pleasure enter her head. Tywin Lannister would never give her pleasure. He was about to use her body for his own means. The physical act of mating with him was not about pleasure, it was about producing heirs and she would never forget that.He was moving again behind her and she realized that he was disrobing himself completely. She swallowed nervously.

Oh, she’d seen those boys naked in the hot pools, but that was just the thing. Those stable hands had been boys. Tywin Lannister was a man and had a man’s body. His chest was evident enough of that. Where those stable hands had been scrawny and thin, he was strong and muscular. His hands travelled over her hips and forced her to turn around.

“I don’t know what to do, my lord,” she murmured, half frightened and half intrigued to know what would happen next. She met his green eyes with her blue ones, half afraid to look down and see just how naked he was.

“Nothing,” he commanded. “Let your body command you.”

Nodding, Sansa chose to gaze at his face, to conquer her fear. His face was regal, a closely trimmed beard around his lower face and neck with hardly any lines around his thin lips. His nose was noble and suited him in her opinion. Arya would call it large, but she liked it. It was the lines at the corner of his eyes that intrigued her. She wondered how many men he’d had to gaze at with narrowed eyes to make the lines that etched his skin. They weren’t the laughing lines her father had begun to develop before he died. The lines on his face only betrayed learned wisdom, Sansa decided as she gazed at him. Just as the scar on his side was probably from a mistake that he never made again, a lesson learned, a piece of wisdom.

His green eyes never left hers as she examined him. They were not like Cersei or Jamie’s eyes. The Lannister twin’s eyes were softer, a sea foam green where as Tywin’s green eyes were darker like shining emeralds with a few flecks of liquid amber near the dark centers. The more she gazed at him, the more little details she noticed. His tan skin was everywhere and she spotted another scar just beneath his jaw. He didn’t look as frightening to her anymore and she felt herself slowly begin to relax. Her shoulder dropped their tension and her hands softened, no longer clenched in tight fists.

His eyes that had stared intensely back at her broke away and he lowered them. Standing naked before him with only her stockings on, Sansa felt incredibly conscious of how her body looked. It was as if every flaw that she disliked was magnified in her mind. She was uncomfortably aware of her breasts that had been deemed to large by Cersei. The rounded hips she disliked, making dresses fit her awkwardly according to the ladies of court. Uncontrollably, her nipples hardened in the cool night air and she blushed. As she moved to cover herself, Tywin caught her wrists and forced her hands down to her sides. His hand reached up and ever so gently, his thumb brushed over her hardened nipple and it felt unlike nothing she’d ever experienced. It was like he’d touched one part of her, but a different part entirely felt his touch and came alive.

“Beautiful breasts,” he murmured.

Sansa didn’t know whether to thank his lordship or disagree with his assessment. Cersei constantly told her that her breast were too large and ugly. His thumb stroked her nipple until her head fell back and she closed her eyes. Lips pressed tightly together, Sansa couldn’t have stopped the humming sound that escaped her when his other hand slid up her body and caressed her other breast. It felt incredibly good to be caressed and she felt dirty for just the thought. Shae had coaxed her to slowly believe that nothing was wrong with feeling her body and enjoying her wedding night and her marriage bed, but the sounds of Cersei and her mother’s voice still echoed in the recess of her mind, telling her to be silent, keep her legs open, and to do her duty.

He was as equally naked as she, Sansa realized as she lifted her head and looked down at his thumb as it brushed over her nipple. In fact, he was complete uncovered where as she still wore stockings. His manhood was prominent between his thighs. It slowly registered in Sansa’s mind that she was not entirely sure how he was going to put himself into her body. He seemed entirely too large to fit into the small area between her trembling thighs. He was gazing at her and it was then that she realized how impossibly tall he was. Sansa was used to looking down at Tyrion, looking directly at Joffrey and Varys, both of whom were the same height as she, but Tywin…he was taller than all of them. He was taller than her brothers and her father. She had to look up to see his face and when he lowered his head to kiss her, Sansa closed her eyes.

She had only been kissed once and it had been by Joffrey. His lips had been clumsy and the kiss had not been like the firm, power filled kiss that Tywin pressed against her lips. Warmth filled her body from head to toe and she hardly understood what she wanted, but her body yearned for something. His body was so close to hers and she could taste the watered down sweet wine that he’d been drinking on his lips as well as the unexpected flavor of mint. Somehow, Sansa found herself taking steps backwards as his arm wrapped around her slender ribs and his hand cradled the back of her neck as he kissed her lips.

He was kissing her because he had to, Sansa told herself firmly. He wanted her to welcome him willingly into her body and the small actions he was performing were weakening her defenses. Kissing was not required to produce an heir, but it was an enjoyable practice as she was discovering. Why he kissed her, she didn't know, but she couldn't object to the action if she tried. Each kiss excited her to no end and made her desperate for more.

The back of her legs hit the bed frame forced her to sit down, but his warm, firm lips never left hers. He simply lowered his body closer to hers and she touched his strong upper arms, desperate for something to hold onto. She felt the muscle in his arms tighten as he hooked his hands beneath her knees and lifted her further onto the bed. Pushed higher, Sansa felt a pillow brush the crown of her head as his lips left her and pressed kisses against her jaw. His whiskers tickled her skin as he pressed hot kisses down her neck and over her collarbone, leaving her breathless.

Somehow, his hand slipped between their bodies and travelled over her ribs, down her belly towards the thatch of dark trimmed curls between her thighs. His other hand pulled at the bow behind her knee, but let go of it before the bow was released. He moved his hand above her, gripping the bed sheets tightly in his fist. The hand on her thigh slowly wandered up the inside, his hard, calloused finger feeling different from anything she'd experienced before. Parting her thighs for him was something that she nearly had to force herself to, but his lips kept her occupied as they pressed soft kisses against her breasts. One suckle of her nipple with the added feeling of his teeth brushing against her was all it took for her to ease her thighs apart for his hand to comfortably rest there. He cupped her womanhood as he worshiped the undersides of her breasts.

She couldn’t stop herself from exploring his body with her fingertips. She desperately wanted to moan his name, but she bit on her bottom lip to stop herself. He teasing brushed his fingers between the wet lips of her womanhood and she couldn’t hold back the half moan that escaped her parted lips. Tywin murmured something to her as he kissed her jaw, words that she couldn’t understand and him gave a half intelligible answer. Whatever magic he was weaving with her body was not something that she wanted to be ended quickly. It felt glorious and any reserve that she’d had earlier in the night disappeared under his spell.

His finger tips brushed over and over the bundle of nerves that was a part of her womanhood and she gasped loudly at the feeling and couldn’t help the moan that escaped her as his mouth suckled at her nipple. Her legs fell completely apart in total surrender for him and the tight coils of something she couldn’t possibly understand blossomed between her hips as he continued to caress that particular spot between her thighs. It as was if he knew her body better than she did herself.

Her whole body felt like it was overwhelmed with a humming, pleasant feeling as it built. Every muscle in her body was tightening uncontrollably and it was like she was being hurtled towards the edge of a cliff, chasing some impossible feeling that she couldn’t comprehend. Like waves breaking on the rocks, the feeling hit and she gasped out loudly as light burst from behind her eyes and every tense muscle in her body relaxed like she was being submerged in a hot basin of water. Her body going limp from feeling that he’d given her.

Sansa barely had a moment to recover before Tywin moved to settle his body between her quivering thighs. She was horrified to realize her womanhood was slick and damp, but Tywin seemed pleased by the sight of her womanhood dripping with silky wetness. His hardness brushed against her and she tensed slightly in fear, but reminding herself of his order not to fight what was happening.

In a heartbeat, the horrible moment that both her mother and Cersei had described was over. In one swift thrust, Tywin had broken through her maidenhead and buried himself deeply within her. She gasped at the invasion, but it hadn’t felt like a ripping violent pain, more like a slight pinch. Her lord husband stilled above her, a look of utter pleasure across his face as he clenched his eyes shut before burying his head in the red covers beside her head. He balanced himself over her on his forearm and his pause gave her a moment to feel her body and his.

His body was warm and she could feel his hot, gasping breath against her neck. The forearm that kept him balanced above her didn’t tremble like she thought it might have had. No, she was the one trembling with desire and a need she had never experienced. He raised his head to give her a piercing look that she returned. The feeling of fullness that he gave her was foreign, but she was eager to experience more of what that feeling offered. He pulled her thighs higher up his body. She gasped at the result of the altered position and lifted her head off the bed, digging her nails briefly into his back before looking up into his emerald green eyes. His hips rocked and she could see the pleasure that she gave him evident in his face.

If she had not known he was in pleasure, Sansa would have easily assumed she was hurting him. The warm feeling that spread through her body spread even further as her body relaxed to accept all of him. The discomfort that she’d felt earlier faded and she gasped again as he rolled his hips. Her head dropped back down onto the bed and she focused entirely on the feeling of their bodies. The scent of their bodies and sweat clung to the air like perfume. Sweat made it easy for their skin to glide together, and the warm fire that he had ignited deep inside her burned with increasing hotness with each thrust. It felt incredibly good to her and she had no words to describe what was happening. It was all better than good, Sansa decided moaning at the wondrous feeling. It felt like pure heaven as he thrust into her, over and over again. The rhythm that he had set with his hips became less and less rhythmic and more frantic. His breathing became harsher and louder until his body tensed just as hers and he trembled and stilled, every muscle tightening just as hers had and she half realized in a blur of overwhelming sensations that he was experiencing something that she'd felt as well.

He rolled onto his back next to her, the cool night air replacing the heat of his body. Lying still on the bed next to him, she stared at the dancing lions embroidered on the canopy as a wave of exhaustion swept over her. The day had been long and difficult and it was almost too much. As their breathing slowed, she could hear the crackling sounds of the fire and the faint sounds of thunder, a storm coming into the bay no doubt.

Next to her, Tywin slowly moved after a few minutes of lying next to her. He stood and walked naked to the fireplace. She sat up on her elbows, watching briefly as he put his small clothes back on and place two new logs on the fire. He said nothing as he went to the doors, opened one, and disappeared into the darkness. The resounding thud of the door closing behind him broke the quiet air. Sansa slipped beneath the covers, naked and unsure. She waited as long as she could for him to return, but exhaustion caught up with her and she fell asleep in the early hours of the morning, warm and surprisingly content beneath the heavy blankets. 

EDITED 5/17/2019 Beta'd by A.L.D.


Chapter Text

Part Four: Mind Games (Part Two)

“...Do I ever have to notice?
I've been standing here and I don't know why
Did you ever even see me try?
Do you-oh-oh, see me now...”

~ “Mind Games” – Banks

The Next Morning

Late May, 299 AC

King’s Landing, Tower of the Hand

Sansa was not surprised to find herself alone in the four poster bed when she was awaked by Shae early the next morning. Sunlight trickled into the room and all evidence that Lord Tywin had been in the bed chamber was gone. The doublet was missing as were the breeches, sword belt, and boots that he'd left behind the night before. It was like he’d been a ghost, coming and going in the night with the firelight as his only guide.

The only true proof that he’d been in her chambers was the dried seed on the inside of her thighs and the memory of his touch that made Sansa blush. She was no longer a girl, she was a married woman and the terrifying prospect of the future had never loomed over her with such intensity. The last barrier of innocence had been stripped away and the pleasures that she'd learned about could not bring her to regret allowing Tywin Lannister into her bed.

Pushing him out of her mind, Sansa allowed Shae to guide her into the dressing room and to the steaming hot bath that awaited her. Any lasting pain that she’d experienced the night before was chased away by the hot perfumed water. As the traitor’s daughter, Sansa Stark, she’d been allowed only one handmaiden to help her. Now as Lady Lannister, she had half a dozen clucking little hens as handmaidens, sharing gossip and talking about the handsome courtly men as if she couldn't hear them. It was their mistake, Sansa thought as she listened, learning about each girl. Shae was her closest handmaiden and the woman rather enjoyed the new power she exerted over the other new girls that had been brought in from the Westernlands to serve the Lady of the Rock. It made Sansa almost chuckle at the irony, the retired whore ordering around the highborn ladies.

Her dressing room was nearly as big as her bedchamber with a small sitting area near a fireplace. Four large wardrobes lined the walls and a vanity was set up in the middle of the room next to a large copper tub with silver claw feet that could hold two grown men. Steam drifted off the top of the water and she could smell the rose and lavender fragrance that she favored in the water. The dressing gown that she wore was stripped away and with assistance, Sansa stepped into the tub and sank into the hot water. Around her, the handmaidens did various tasks as she was bathed.

Shae cleaned her legs and feet, before giving her a cloth for between her legs while the woman fetched fresh cloths. Shae soaped them up with richly fragranced lavender soap and Sansa watched as the woman started at her fingertips and ran the cloth up her arm to her shoulder and back down. The single moment of Shae helping her to bath was a moment of comfort in the unfamiliar world she now inhabited as Lady Lannister. One girl slipped into the bed chamber to change the sheets as the four other girls set out her clothing for the day, giggling with one another. Sansa narrowed her eyes as she watched them, already distrustful of them.

“You never told me what Petyr Baelish wanted all those weeks ago before you and Lady Maragery went to the orphanages in Flea Bottom,” Shae said carefully as the new handmaidens spoke and giggled between each other as they selected various shoes and dresses that Sansa might wear for the day. It was odd to think that someone would dress her and that she'd never have to worry about making sure that her stays were tight or if the lacing of her gown was even.

“Why do you ask?” Sansa murmured as Shae gently ran a soaped cloth up the back of her arm. “Have you heard something?”

“Lord Varys came to me last night,” Shae explained softly, looking over the rim of the copper tub at the new handmaidens, who had quieted down considerably as they set out her petite coats. “He suspects Littlefinger is up to something and wanted me to warn you to be vigilant.”

“I was interrupted by Lady Margaery that day, but he did make an offer,” she confessed looking over her shoulder at the handmaidens for a brief moment before looking back. “He didn’t get a chance to ask for anything. He just told me that he wants what is best for me because he loved my mother. He offered to take me away.”

“He didn’t ask you to do something for him?”

Shae dipped the cloth into the water as Sansa leaned forward and brushed her long hair over her shoulders. The cloth was squeezed tightly in Shae’s fist and the hot water trickled down her back. It felt good and Sansa briefly closed her eyes, the warm water felt almost as good as Tywin’s touch when he’d slipped his hand between her thighs. She would never admit such a thing aloud, but it felt good and she nearly smiled remembering the feeling his hands had provoked from her body. She had never believed that such pleasure could exist in the world.

“No,” Sansa replied carefully as she opened her eyes. “I wouldn’t do anything for him before you ask. I can assure you, Shae.”

“I have never doubted you, my lady, but if he does ask you for anything, or try anything, or touches you, I want you to tell me,” Shae whispered urgently. “Varys has constructed a way to get you a safely out of any entanglements Littlefinger might try and use you for. Lord Tywin is not someone to cross and Littlefinger is playing a dangerous game, my lady.”

“I’m in a different world, aren’t Shae?” she whispered back, her voice trembling with slight fear. “I have to figure out what Lord Tywin’s positions are, and defend them, now. I can’t have a private agenda, can I?”

“Only if your agenda aids his and supports the House Lannister. There is no going back. You are a Lannister, not a Stark.”

“I know,” Sansa murmured as she looked away briefly and then back at the handmaidens. “I’m beginning to feel like a piece of toast being scraped with a butter knife that has not enough butter to cover the bread. I feel stretched thin and there is only one way to cure it. Will you let Varys now that I wish to speak with him soon?”

Shae nodded and Sansa swallowed hard, her next question far more difficult to ask. The things Tywin Lannister had done to her last night...he was an educated man. He knew far more of the world than she did. Compared to him, she was child in the ways of the world and virgin in the ways between men and woman. She might be at a disadvantage in almost everything, but she didn't want to be disadvantageous in the matters of the flesh.

“Shae, will you teach me how to please a man,” Sansa asked as she blushed nervously. “Will you teach me how to…”

“I’ll teach you everything I know,” Shae said with a grin before she reached for the dressing gown and helped Sansa out of the copper tub.

Not another word was mentioned between them and Sansa was grateful. She'd blush the color of a turnip if Shae were to elaborate more on the topic in front of the new handmaidens.

Her hair was brushed and pulled back with several simple braids and a wrapped into an elaborate do at the base of her neck. A cream and gold gown with dragonfly and wild flower embroidery was laid out for her and the handmaidens applauded her choice in style. All their words were full of flattery and it made Sansa sick to her stomach. They barely knew her and yet, they claimed her to be the fairest, kindest, prettiest lady they had ever met. The false flattery tore at her nerves as she slipped into one of her newly made dressed and allowed Shae to lace her into the gown and shush the clucking, silly girls. The final touch that was added was a delicate dragonfly hair piece that was placed into her hair. She looked in her reflection and saw a very different woman staring back at her, someone she hardly recognized. This was what Lady Lannister was supposed to look like to the world, but she hardly felt like Lady Lannister. She still felt like Sansa Stark, the daughter of a traitor and a fraud in silk.

A knock at the main doors came and one of the handmaidens quickly went to see who was at the door and returned with the news that Ser Loras was asking to see her. Surprised by the early morning visit, Sansa moved easily from her dressing room to the large main sitting chamber where Ser Loras waited patiently with his hands clasped behind his back.

“Lady Sansa,” he said with a bow. “My sister invites you to break your fast with our grandmother, the Lady Olenna, in the gardens. May I escort you to them?”

The invitation caught her off guard for a brief moment before she nodded, not allowing her face to betray her feelings. Accepting the invitation, Sansa allowed Ser Loras to guide her out of the Tower of the Hand and across the Red Keep with Shae and another handmaiden walking only a few feet behind them. They ambled towards the King’s Gardens where the ladies were dining with ease. The dirt and stone paths that they walked on were even and Sansa wore a blank expression of serenity as Ser Loras praised her beauty and grace. She gave all the acceptable responses when needed, but she couldn’t help but to wonder if Lord Tywin was breaking his fast and where he’d spent the night after he’d left her. Would she even see him during the day hours?

Arriving at Margaery Tyrell’s breakfast party, Sansa looked around to see that many of the girls were maidens. Young and beautiful, they looked painfully naïve and it was almost as if she were looking into a reflection of herself before she’d come to King’s Landing. It was before the beatings and the constant threats of rape, before she’d begged for her father’s life, before Joffrey had forced her to stand and stare at his head for hours, before she’d been forced to lose everything that she’d held dear.

Looking at each girl, Sansa felt as if they knew only their sewing and pretty words. They knew nothing of pain and suffering or the darkness of the world. The girls were kept in comfort with nothing to threaten the joy in their life. Watching them, Sansa found that she didn't envy them. She was stronger than them, she realized. She was faster, cleverer, and she'd outlast these young maidens when it came to the games played at court. An overwhelming wave of gratitude enveloped her. Varys, Shae, and Tyrion had helped her to survive. She'd be dead without them. Suddenly, the girl rush forward to the old woman in a chair to show off her embroidery. The old woman dismissed the girl and the young woman looked like she would cry and Sansa pitied her. Sandor Clegane would tell her that the girls were all little birds in a nest surrounded by hungry snakes. Margaery Tyrell looped their arms together and cheerfully guided her further into the gardens. Shae followed the two ladies, her ever faithful shadow.

“Lady Sansa, it is my honor to introduce to you my grandmother, the Lady Olenna, of House Tyrell,” Margaery stated proudly as Lady Olenna stood.

“Lady Lannister,” she said, giving a shallow dip of her head.

“Lady Tyrell,” Sansa replied, giving the response appropriate for another lady of a great house. Septa Mordane’s voice whispered in the back of her head to straighten her shoulders and Sansa obeyed the voice. She was not a simple maid anymore, she was the wife of Tywin Lannister, the Lady of House Lannister.

“It’s so good to have another married lady visit me. I have been all alone with these foolish young girls. They all know nothing about the way of the world works. I was very sorry to hear about the death of your father, my lady.”

“Thank you for your kind words. They warm my heart."

A servant passed by them and Lady Olenna smartly called to him, “Do you mean to starve us? Bring breakfast and be quick about it. Come sit with me, Lady Sansa."

The old woman moved with surprising quickness as she abandoned the elaborately carved chair she'd been sitting in. The Queen of Thorns moved off towards a stone patio that was carved out of the cliff and the gardens, a canvas tent had ben erected to provide shade overhead, the walls were missing to allow the occupants to take in the beautiful views that surrounded them. Several handmaidens stood in the corners waiting to attend the ladies while a great circular table was situated in the center with three chairs. At Margaery’s urging, Sansa followed and found herself in a new den. It was not a den of lions, but a den with sharp thorns that could prick her and cause her to bleed. She easily recognized the situation for what it was as she sat down on the padded wooden chair that had been offered.

“I’m much less boring than those silly hens, fluttering about the yard,” Lady Olenna pronounced once they were all seated. “Have you had the chance to meet my son? The Lord of Highgarden?”

“I have not had the chance to meet him,” Sansa answered easily. “It has been a shame to be denied such a pleasure.”

“It’s not a great pleasure,” Olenna scoffed as Margaery attempted not to giggle. “He’s as much an oaf as my late husband, Lord Luthor. At least being married to Lord Tywin will not allow you to have such a horrible story of widowhood as my own. My late husband died whist hawking. Rode right over the cliff and those who saw it claimed that he was looking up at the sky as he rode. My son, Lord Mace, is doing the same. Only now he’s riding a lion, the lion of your house to be precise. And when this is all over, he will fall off the lion and the lion will have him by the throat, no doubt.”

Servants scurried over to their table in the canopies of the trees and set about the breakfast dishes. Hot cakes, sausages, porridge, and other various dishes were steaming, identifying their freshness from the kitchens. Foods that looked far too rich to be breakfast foods were laid out and choosing safety, Sansa reached for the porridge and spooned a small amount into her bowl with a small bowl of fruit.

“You’re young though,” Lady Olenna continued after the servants had retreated from the table. “And Lord Tywin will outlive us all. He eats well, exercises, and has all of his teeth, none of which have rotted away, I am certain. Your story of widowhood will be of him outliving you. After all, women have the hardest tasks in life, delivering heirs and not all of us are guaranteed that we’ll live through such an ordeal. Just look at the family history, his wife and mother both died delivering Lannister seedlings.”

Sansa reached for the morning tea that Shae had poured out for her and took a sip of the sweet tea. Raising the teacup to her lips, Sansa looked over the rim to Lady Olenna and said nothing to the woman's words. It was meant to be a slight and a warning, but Sansa would not raise to the bait. Had her own maternal grandmother not died in birth as well? It was not the Lannister seed that killed, it was every man's seed regardless of station, house, and alliance. Childbed would be every woman's battle, not just hers.

“Now,” Lady Olenna said calmly as she stabbed at her pork sausage. “I have a few questions for the Lady Sansa and I hope that you’ll be able to answer them. They pertain to King Joffrey and I thought who better to ask such question than his previous betrothed. Who else would know better? We’ve heard troubling tales about the King and wish to either have them confirmed or denied. We are all ladies, Lady Sansa. We have to look out for each other. No one else will do so, certainly not our husbands, fathers, or brothers for that matter. They are all more preoccupied with their manhoods and proving they are men than to care about the wives, daughters, and sisters they have.”

Lady Olenna’s words stabbed at her. She was hinting at war and about her family, of that Sansa was certain. Those words would have produced blood if words could. There were truth in those words, but Sansa suspected that the breakfast invitation was a cover. What the Tyrells wanted was to know the exact nature of the king’s violent tendencies and they had chosen her, the weakest and newest Lannister to pluck up into their garden. It was almost insulting, Sansa decided.

“Has he mistreated you at all, Lady Sansa?” Margaery asked gently.

“King Joffrey is fair as a stag and brave as a lion,” Sansa replied, spitting out the phrases that she’d uttered too many times to keep herself safe as she set her teacup down. If Lady Olenna wanted to play the game, Sansa would prove that she was just as capable of playing.

“Yes, all stags are fair and all lions are brave. Every time a Tyrell passes wind, it smells like a rose,” Olenna said mockingly, sounding slightly put out by her answer. “Tell me more, Lady Sansa. Does the king have a good heart, a gentle hand? Is he clever and like reading or is he a man of steel and enjoy sparing with others in the till yard?”

“I am to be his wife,” Margaery said softly. “I want to know what the means…what that could entail.”

Sansa schooled her features to show nothing, but behind the vale, she was disgusted and felt almost sorry for Margaery Tyrell. The girl would be trapped by family ambition and there was very little anyone could do about it, but a small voice in Sansa's head reminded her of the scene in the throne room, of Margaery's pretty words to the king and the sweet gestures she'd made to the people and the court. It was idyllic, Sansa decided. It was like a pretty painting that portrayed a calm sea, but it failed to capture the dark storm on the horizon that would surely come to port.

Upon their marriage, Tywin Lannister had promised her that she would never know abuse again and she believed him. She had not known what a fist to the side felt like or how a blow to the back rattled one’s teeth in since the night she'd tried to slit her throat. True Lannister guards had been her protection since the morning she'd woken up on the table with the Maester leaning over her, examining her bandaged neck. Now, a black velvet choker covered the scar and she'd forever wear black for her father. It had all come to pass because she had been Joffrey’s violent outlet, Sansa reflected. Without her, it was questionable as to where the king would turn to satisfy his brutal need to abuse and torment poor souls. It would not be her body that he tortured and no doubt, the whores would be fleeing King's Landing when Joffrey began to abuse and murder them. Sansa nearly shivered as she thought about the abuse that Joffrey had inflicted upon one the girls that Tyrion had procured. The inhumanity that had happened was beyond comprehension.

Looking at Margaery, Sansa almost pitied her. The fair, beautiful Margaery would not withstand the abuse, Sansa could tell looking at her. The bitter northern winds had forced her to be resilient and strong, but Margaery was a fair rose of Highgarden. Her stem would snap easily under the weight of Joffrey and his abuses. The cruelty would rob her of her beauty and no doubt, the crown the Tyrells chased would bear horrible consequence that could even cost Margaery her life. Sansa suspected that Lady Olenna already knew all of this, the Queen of Thrones did not need her to say anything aloud. There would be a debt to pay in order to secure a crown for the glory of House Tyrell and Magarey would no doubt pay the largest debt of them all to have the crown placed on her beautiful brown curls.

“All that we are asking for, my lady, is the truth,” Lady Olenna murmured.

“My father told the truth,” Sansa replied as she lifted her teacup and saucer again. “The truth was what caused his death and I know that he had the reputation of always telling the truth. I have told you all the truth that I can tell you, Lady Olenna. I have not lied to you, but know that the truth is either terribly dull or exceedingly horrifying. It's never both.”

And all her words were true, Sansa reflected sadly. Joffrey was fair, his hair was blonde and it suited him. He was also brave when he was a member of a pride. When his king’s guards surrounded him, he was brave enough to believe that he could say and do anything he wanted to anyone.

“I can tell you, Lady Olenna, that monsters exist everywhere especially in those that have fine things and were crowns atop their golden heads,” Sansa continued before pausing to take a sip of tea. “The tea is lovely, my lady.”

Both women nodded and lowering her teacup, Sansa sat still. Listening to Margaery and the Lady Olenna speak, she realized that she would never truly have friends. Not in the childhood sense, not like the relationship that she’d had with Jayne Poole. Lady Margarey’s invitation had raised her hopes and she felt them become horribly crushed under the feet of the two Tyrell women. Sansa refused to allow such feeling to ever take hold of her again.

She would have allies, those who’s goals, ideologies, and desires align with hers. People like Lord Varys and Shae would be close to her, but they would never be as close as anyone from Winterfell. Suddenly, Sansa understood how Cersei had grown so cynical that she only trusted her children. In the game of thrones, there were no friendships. There were only alliances and she had made hers. The Lannisters, Varys, Shae, Tyrion…those were the pieces that she’d been given to play with and in the chaos that was King’s Landing, those were her allies. Those were the people that she trusted and even then, it was with minimal trust, the barest trust. Perhaps in time she'd grow to trust Tywin, but even Sansa doubted the depth of that trust.

Lady Olenna and the whole of House Tyrell were not among those that she trusted. No matter how much Lady Olenna denounced Renly Baratheon and exclaimed over how cream could not be put back up a cow’s utter, Sansa did not trust the Tyrells or their words. Not when she didn’t know their motives.

Why had they come to King’s Landing?

It was one thing to seat a queen on a throne.

It was something else entirely to control that queen and by extension, control the king. It was a game that Tywin Lannister would have no patience or acceptance for.


Two Days Later

June, 299 AC

King’s Landing

The noon meal was always a trial, Sansa reflected as she walked into the chamber where Cersei had summoned her to eat.

On her third day as Lady Lannister, Sansa had hoped for a quiet noon meal in the garden under the canvas tent that had been erected with a lovely view of the Blackwater Bay. She'd hoped to spend some of her afternoon embroidering a new handkerchief while figuring out how not to make her roaring lion look like a yawning cat. Two white cloaked guards opened the great door to the private dining chamber and stepping inside, she looked about the high ceiling chamber that she hated with a passion.

Tommen was there, standing by the table with a small creature in his hands. The sight of him made her smile. Tommen was a young, sweet boy that did not deserve the sorrows he's been given in life. He was only a few years younger than her, but she loved him dearly like he was Bran or Rickon. Tommen was not cruel like Joffrey and she dearly loved getting to see his different pets and helping him to name them. Each new pet was wondrous and eased the pain of the last pet, murdered no doubt at Joffrey's hand. Next to Tommen stood the creature that had come to teach her that beauty was meaningless when combined with a horrific sense of honor and duty.

“My queen,” Sansa said, executing a proper curtsey before moving further into the chamber.

“Little dove,” Cersei replied, slightly slurring her words, a glass of wine in one hand. “I’m so pleased you could join the prince and I. Do sit down.”

Sitting opposite the queen, Sansa opened her mouth to speak, but the sound of a door slamming against stone caused the occupants in the room to jump to their feet. Joffrey was there, gleeful and grinning. The smile on his lips was just as cruel as his nature and it looked exceedingly out of place on his face. Suddenly, Cersei was distracted by her eldest son. She was quickly crossing the room before anyone could say a word. Whatever had happened that had delighted Cersei’s oldest child frightened Sansa. A tugging sensation on her sleeves drew Sansa her back to the present as she turned to look at a nervous Tommen.

“Will you keep him safe?” the little prince begged, showing her the kitten half hidden under the table. “Joffrey has threatened to skin him alive…just like he skinned the last kitten I had alive. I don’t want Lann to face the same horrible fate, Sansa. Here, slip the cat’s nip into a pocket, Lann likes it and he’ll follow you, I promise.”

“Lann?” Sansa asked gently, accepting the small bag of cat’s nip as she reached out and pet the top of the orange tabby’s head. “Like Lann the Clever?”

A furious storm of angry whispers broke out on the other side of the dining chamber and briefly, Sansa looked over her shoulder. She tried to desperately ignore what was being said as she slipped the cat’s nip into a hidden pocket in her skirts. Twice, she caught Joffrey gleefully whisper the words ‘dead’ and ‘celebration’. The news, whatever it could be, was not good news. Already, Sansa did not want to know what had happened. A horrible, twisting feeling inside her told her that it would not bring her joy, not the kind of joy it so obviously brought Joffrey. The only thing that made her feel better was the knowledge that her Lannister guards were in the corridor, waiting for her to exit the room and return to the Tower of the Hand. All she had to do was walk out the door and nothing would happen to her for fleeing the noon meal. No beating or starvation would be her punishment, but she shivered.

What kind of punishment would she face from Tywin Lannister?

“Yes, I liked the name," Tommen whispered. "Lann is awfully clever. He knows when to hide from Joffrey.”

Before Sansa could reply that the kitten was indeed clever and take it into her arms for protection, Joffrey pushed passed his mother. Cersei looked horrified and walked after him, begging him not to say a word about the matter. Joffrey ignored her. His crown was half tilted on his head as he sundered over to the table, and Sansa couldn’t understand why he wore it. Everyone knew he was the king and it seemed like a useless accessory to wear. Behind her seat, Shae stepped slightly closer to the table and Sansa could sense the handmaiden’s fear was as strong as her own. She swallowed, preparing herself for the unknown.

“They’re dead, my lady,” Joffrey said with glee and a look in his eyes that almost made Sansa wonder if he was as mad as Aerys Targaryen. “More dead Starks in the North. What a glorious day this is! More traitors murdered and I will see your once great house ended and banished from the pages of history.”

He stuffed the letter under her nose and forced it into her shaking hands. Urgently, Joffrey kept telling her to read the words on the page, but the words barely made sense on the page as she tried to make sense of what exactly the mad king was talking about.

Dead Starks?

What could that possibly mean? Robb was dead? Her mother?

She forced herself to look down at the written words on the page. Sansa could barely breathe as her hands began to tremble. She read the complete message twice before the contents actually sunk into her mind.

It couldn't couldn't be...

Theon Greyjoy wouldn't do what was written on the page, would he?

It had to be a lie.

It all had to be a lie.

“Summon the butcher,” Joffrey demanded of his mother. “I want our fattest calf to be slaughtered for tonight. I want to feast to dead Starks and dance with my future lady wife. Soon the heads of those brats will be here in the city. I'll have their heads put on pikes outside the city gates.”

A feeling of heaviness filled her as Sansa reached out and grasped the back of a chair. The world felt like it was on fire and she could barely breath as tears threatened to fall from her eyes. Somehow, she summoned the strength to remember herself and asked to be excused. Joffrey protested, but Cersei gave her approval. There was a look in the queen’s eyes that showed apprehension. Sansa didn’t dwell on it as she fled the chamber, the tabby kitten that Tommen had asked her to keep safe was following her, the cat’s nip safely hidden in the pocket of her dress. She had once heard her mother describe what it felt like to have news so horrible given to you that the world faded. Sansa barely focused on where she walked as she stumbled in the corridors, half blinded by tears. Shae took her by the arm to prevent her from walking into members of Joffrey’s court and guards. Her heart raced in her chest and she wondered if others could hear it pounding. None of it could be all had to be a cruel joke of some kind, Sansa thought over and over again.

None of it could be true.

The tears that had gathered in her eyes and fell down her cheek as waves of grief overwhelmed her. She didn’t care that people saw her tearstained cheeks and red eyes. Somehow, she broke free of Shae’s gentle grasp and ran, skirts in hand and her lord husband's Commander chasing after her, barely able to keep up in his heavy armor. She ran towards the Tower of the Hand blindly, her feet remembering the way better than her mind. Up the flights of stairs and down the corridors, and over a bridge, Sansa barely paid attention to her surroundings. Her feet carried her by sheer memory of the castle floors, knowing when to slow and where to turn with care. She crossed the sitting chamber floors that hastily crossed to her rooms, nearly knocked over a chair in her rush for solitude.

Bran and Rickon were dead, murdered by Theon Greyjoy.

The small kitten that she promised to keep safe slipped into her chamber before she slammed the door behind her and leaned back against it. A horrified sob escaped her as hugged herself, the note still in her hand. She could barely catch her breath as she crossed the room and retreated into the dressing room. Her brothers couldn’t be dead, she told herself, they were little boys. Innocent boys that were sweet and kind to everyone who knew them. Those boys were everything good in the world. Her heart felt like it had been stabbed over and over again and the grief she felt was no easier to bare than what she felt upon seeing her father wrongfully executed.

Crossing the dressing room, she collapsed down onto the window seat before jumping to her feet again and pulling the velvet red curtains that would block out the world. Sitting down again, she held the letter close to read the words on the parchment again. In her heart, she hoped that the sunlight would transform the written ink and it would erase every bad feeling inside her body. Her hands trembled so violently that she barely could read with each shuddering breath that she took.

...Winterfell has been sacked by the heir of Balon Greyjoy, Theon. He has ordered the mass execution of several members of the household including the maester, the master at arms, and the two Stark boys…Bolton’s bastard has invaded the fortress and captured Greyjoy, holding him hostage once again…over twenty eyes have identified the boys as being Stark's younger is without doubt that the would be heirs are dead...

Her corset felt far too tight as Sansa leaned back and rested her head on the wood paneling behind her. The gasping sobs that escaped her were violent and she couldn't have stopped if she tried. She had never liked Theon Greyjoy, but her father had fostered him. Her father had provided the boy with everything that he had in the world and had tried to teach him how to be a good man. Sansa felt tears fall down her cheeks and down her neck. How was any of this possible? She could still vividly remember the day that Theon had come back to Winterfell with her father. A strange, foreign boy, frightened and alone and the first thing Robb had done was to invite the boy to play with them. A single act of childish kindness and now, it had all come to this.

Her baby brothers were gone. Her father was gone. Arya was gone, mother, Robb…even Jon was gone. Her insides ached with acute despair as she dropped the letter and hugged herself. Would the pain never end? Was this what her life was meant to be? Heartbreak after heartbreak on a field of blood and despair? Memories of sitting with her brothers as her father told them a story in front of the hearth of the large fireplace in his great hall seemed like distant memory. As if they had all happened a lifetime ago. It felt as if the memories belonged to another person, her life was so different that it was unrecognizable to her. The small kitten on the floor meowed and she picked him up easily and allowed him to snuggle into her skirts. Tears ran uncontrollably down her cheeks and sobs escaped her lips as she looked out into the Hand’s garden. The green plants, the beautiful flowers, the blue sky on the horizon, the clouds in the sky, the happy picture it all created taunted her.

How could the world be so joyfully happy when she was breaking?

Her mind raced, desperate to remember if she’d hugged Rickon or Bran goodbye before she’d left Winterfell. She’d been different girl in the North. She’d been filled with hopes and dreams, and now, she was a full grown woman. A wife, and someday, she’d be the mother of Lord Tywin Lannister’s children. It amazed her that in one year, her life could be so changed. She'd give anything in the world to go back and warn her family. Warn them of the destruction and the death that Robert Baratheon would bring to their doorstep. Sansa would have pleaded with her father to never go south if she knew what would have happened. Stark men were not meant to go south. Uncle Ben had once told her that and he was right.

Sansa wasn’t sure how long she’d been sitting there. Outside, the sun had begun its descent beneath the horizon and the kitten napped somewhere in her skirts. Somehow, she’d managed to stop crying. Only a few stray tears escaped and fell down her raw cheeks. She'd cried all the tears that were left inside her and she couldn't even muster more tears to weep for her mother and brother and the heartbreak they no doubt felt. She envied them, they had each other to hug and dry their tears. She had no one.

At the sound of the wooden door to her dressing room being opening, Sansa stiffened and lifted her head. She had only known her husband for a small amount of time, but one of the first things that she'd learned was what his footsteps sounded like on the floors. Suddenly, the red velvet curtains were yanked harshly back and he stood above her, a hard, unyielding expression on his face as he clasped his hand behind his back.

"You missed the evening meal," he reprimanded, his glare hard and unmerciful.

"I am not a child," Sansa said as she looked up at him, her hands trembling with fear. "I am not hungry."

The look that Tywin Lannister gave her was cold enough to freeze sunlight in the sky and she suddenly wondered if he would be just like Joffrey and beat her for her infractions against the House Lannister. Perhaps, he was not a man of honor. He could break her under his fist. Suddenly, she hoped that he would. His fist would make her forget the pain of losing Bran and Rickon. It would be only for a moment and that was what she needed, a blissful reprieve into dreamless darkness.

“The Commander told me that you ran crying halfway across the keep and have kept yourself locked in this room all day. Whatever it was that the king said to you, tears are a weakness that Lady Lannister cannot be seen having,” Lord Tywin continued with his reprimanded, his voice as hard as a northern ice storm. “Nor will I have it said that the Lady Lannister runs recklessly down the halls like a small child. Sobbing and blubbering her way like a common woman. You’re a Lannister now, have pride in that name.”

Wordlessly, Sansa defiantly held out the note that Joffrey had shoved under her nose gleefully. She held back the hateful stare that threatened to escape her and she looked out at the gardens. The last thing she wanted or needed from someone like Tywin Lannister was a lecture about propriety. He took the note and read it over before folding the parchment back up. Sansa couldn’t bring herself to look at him. She wasn’t certain she could control herself. She felt the overwhelming urge to hit him or attack him with the fury that was beginning to build inside her heart. She didn’t care what he thought Lady Lannister should and should not be seen doing. He could not punish her for her tears, no one could. Sansa closed her eyes when she heard his boots on the floor again, walking closer to her. She was prepared for any blow that he would deliver. No physical pain could be greater than the pain in her heart.

“Is this what the king showed you?” Tywin asked.

“He was positively gleeful, my lord,” Sansa said mockingly, recklessly challenging the Great Lion. “He insisted that his fattest calf be slaughtered and a feast should be held tonight to celebrate the death of more Starks in the North. He wants to toast my dead brothers.”

There was just enough space on the window seat for Tywin to sit down and he did. Her skirts were a barrier between them and the volume of fabric was in his way, but she wouldn't give him the satisfaction of making space by rearranging herself like a true Lady Lannister would.

“They were betrayed,” Tywin said, his voice devoid of emotions. “War is everywhere and war is what happened in Winterfell.”

“They weren't betrayed. They were murdered by someone that they considered a brother,” Sansa whispered back as she turned and looked at her husband, not bothering to hide the tears falling down her cheeks. “My father raised Theon Greyjoy. Gave him food, shelter, treated him like a son. He never abused him…he treated him well. Theon has betrayed my father and all of us. He has betrayed the kindness that we showed him.”

“Your brothers were casualties of war, Lady Sansa,” Tywin bit back, the steel in his voice making the hairs on the back of her neck stand up.

“They were senselessly murdered,” she snarled back as her lord husband's eyes narrowed dangerously. “They did nothing to deserve death. Are you so cold a man that the deaths of innocent little boys, boys that are your brothers by law, mean nothing to you? Have you never lost someone that you love? Can't you understand that war means nothing to me and my pain?"

Sansa felt the hard, cold warning he gave her deep inside. It was all in his eyes as he glared at her. She'd hit a nerve and knew that she'd gone too far, but somehow, she couldn't regret it. She wanted someone else to hurt. She was tired of being the only one who carried pain and received pain. Her shoulders could not bare anymore pain. It would be too much.

But hadn't she thought the same thing when Eddard had died?

Now, the seven faces of god had managed to create more pain.

"What could Theon Greyjoy have hoped to achieve by taking Winterfell?" She whispered, her tone much gentler than before. "The war is in the south, not the North.”

“Perhaps, he sought to please Balon Greyjoy by trying to seize the North while it is poorly defended.”

“The Iron Born would not have succeeded. They have naval power, not land power. They don’t have an army to take the North. How does all that add up to murdering my brothers? They were no threat to the crown or anyone else. Bran was a boy of seven and Rickon, he was not even five. Bran was just learning how to shoot an arrow. He practiced so hard and never quite made it to the center of the target. Rickon…I was teaching him to write his name before I left Winterfell."

"They are victims of war simply because your younger brother held your brother's keep. That is what happens during war. Men die, good men and bad men," Tywin said as if he was speaking with an impatient child that simply could not comprehend the concept being presented. Sansa felt the wolf inside her coming alive, the heckles being raised, the claws ready to rip flesh.

"They did not deserve to die and I will mourn everything that they are. I am not crying, my lord, because they have died. I am crying because my brothers barely lived. I am crying because while they lived short lives, they had happy lives. They were loved, I love them. I can’t remember, my lord, if I hugged them goodbye. I can’t remember my last words to them. They were not men that died in war. They were little boys, murdered for no reason. You cannot justify their deaths, you can't.”

“Your brother inherited Winterfell and as the Lord of House Stark, it is his responsibility to keep those under his charge safe,” Lord Tywin said and his words made the ache inside her all the more fierce. The anger that she’d suppressed towards her twin brother came boiling to the surface and slowly, it receded as she sat in silence with him. '

"He failed your brothers in war," Tywin continued after a few minutes of silence. "He left them undefended and made the foolish decision to free his prisoner. That is an action in war. The only understandable cause of your younger brothers death is war."

Sansa looked over at Tywin with wide, heartbroken eyes and red, tear stained cheeks. He met her gaze with a hard, emotionless one that made her wonder how the man who caressed her body and kissed so sweetly in the four poster bed in the next room could be the same man before her. How could he be so hard and unbending and yet, so gentle when he touched her?

“Murdering Rhaegar’s was horrific, but that had meaning. It achieved something for you. My father did not believe that it was honorable, but it meant something to the king, it gave you something. What did murdering Bran and Rickon achieve, my lord? If this is war, actions have to have meaning. Nothing is done without reason and I can’t find an answer in all of this. How can you?”

Tywin's icy gaze lessened, but it was as if a chill had settled over her body and she couldn’t find warmth. She had no strength at all as she gazed out across garden to Blackwater Bay. She had known so much grief in her short life that the moment seemed like it would be permanent, but she knew better. The pain would fade, the memory would linger, and like a festering sore, she would slowly heal until a new pain broke the skin and she forgot about the newly healed sore. Life would bring plenty of sores to deal with she simply had to move on from them.

“I understand the pain you feel in losing your brothers and not understanding why,” Tywin said and Sansa's eyes flashed to him. His body was stiff and he looked as uncomfortable as he sounded. “I lost my own younger brothers years ago. Tygett died of a pox and Gerion was lost in Essos.”

He looked so uncomfortable sharing the information that Sansa was surprised that he sat so still. Yet, his word reminded her that she was not alone like she thought. No, she had thousands of brothers and sisters across creation. Everyone that had ever lost a loved one was her brother or sister. They knew her pain, they understood the loss and had survived it. She was not alone, she realized. Tywin had known loss as much as she had. The idea that such a cold man before her could acknowledge such a losses and tell her was almost beyond comprehension.

"You understand my tears are not weakness,” Sansa murmured as she looked at him.

"Tears are for children and dying men," he told her. "They will not bring your brother's back from the dead nor will they deliver a swift end to Theon Greyjoy. Weep all you like, my lady, but do not neglect your duty and do not let other see your weakness. They'll never let you forget those moments and use it against you when your defenses are low, driving it into you like a dagger to the back. If you cannot find meaning in the death of your brothers, make meaning and let that heal the wound. You're young and death haunts all our doorsteps, but it should never paralyze you from doing what is required for our name, our house, and the Lannister legacy. We're Lannisters. We're not weak. If your brother cannot do his duty to his house and his name, I will see to it that your brothers receive a proper burial. Perhaps that will give you some comfort." 

His words as hard and blistering as they'd been when he'd first walked into the room.

Any warmth that may have returned to her bones fled. Slowly, Sansa closed her eyes. She'd never felt so tired and hurt. She heard his words, but hardly comprehended the meaning. An empty feeling overwhelmed her and she nodded, an automatic response. She wondered if Tywin Lannister had ever cried or if he was so hard and cold that no emotion ever penetrated deep inside him. Opening her eyes, Sansa was reminded of the spear and the shield by the hard piercing look that he wore on his face. How could he understand her heart? He was hardened by the years. She was the shield, weak and easily damaged, but he was proof that a person could survive losses. Did not those lines in his face prove that and more? Hadn't she called those lines learned wisdom?

"Thank you, my lord,” she whispered back.

A second later he swept out of her rooms. The door was open behind him, his retreating figure as threatening and as looming as ever. Outside, she heard the door to her bedchamber close and his foot steps followed by the sounds him undressing. Shae appeared in the corner from a secret doorway. The Lorathi woman looked at her with wide, worried eyes, but Sansa said nothing as she stood. Lann, the small kitten that had been napping in her skirts, poked his head out from underneath the layers of silk and meowed softly.

“We should find you some cream,” Sansa said softly lifting the small kitten up and hugging it tightly to her chest as she crossed over to Shae. “Bran always said that kittens like warm cream. He liked to climb, just like you will, I suspect. Shae will take you.”

Carefully, Sansa turned the kitten over to Shae and the handmaid disappeared. The sun had completely fallen under the horizon and in the darkness of the room, she finally understood that duty was a noose around everyone's neck. If one fell off the stool, duty would hang them. However, the noose could still fit comfortably around the neck if one was surefooted and made certain that the ground beneath them never collapsed. Sansa took long deep breath before she began pulling at the laces in the front of gown. She was certain that the ground underneath Tywin Lannister never moved.

He controlled it all with an iron fist and an iron will.

The silk fell to the floor and Sansa wished that just for a few moments, she could lose herself so completely that she could forget about the day and all the days to come.

 EDITED 5/17/2019 Beta'd by A.L.D. 


Chapter Text

Part Five: Game of Survival

"…There’s no surrender
There’s no escape
Are we the hunters?
Or are we the prey?
This is a wild game of survival…”

~ “Game of Survival” – Ruelle

Eight Weeks Later

Late July, 299 AC

Tower of the Hand, King's Landing

The fire crackled merrily behind the grate and Sansa listened to it sleepily as she lay still. In the recent weeks, she'd come to realize that marriage duties were not as horrible as Cersei and her mother had made them out to be. She rather enjoyed Lord Tywin’s nightly visits to her chambers and she’d grown so accustomed to his touch that she wondered what she’d do when the night came that he didn’t come to her. Every night since her wedding night, he’d parted her thighs and spilt his seed inside her. It was a carnal act that Sansa did not oppose like some women did and her husband seemed to enjoy that fact. They never spoke of such things, but she could tell that he was pleased by her desires. Besides, how could such an act be wrong when it felt so good to be caressed and kissed by him? It was what happened after that had changed. The first nights, he'd take her and leave without a word and slowly, it had changed. He lingered now with her. Spoke to her and sometimes kissed her after. She didn't know what had changed, but it had made her grow more curious about pleasure and coupling. It had made her more curious about him. The man who came to her chambers at night was nothing like the man that controlled the seven kingdoms by day.

Lying in bed, she felt the sheets twist around her body, barely covering her hips. Their coupling had been passionate and quick, far quicker than Sansa would have liked, but Tywin had been filled with an urgency that she hadn’t experienced yet. Shae had been teaching her little ways to pleasure a man. Touch was something that every man craved and Sansa reached out to him as he sat on the edge of the bed, just as she’d been instructed by the Lorathi woman. Her finger tips ghosted over the ridges of his spine before her arm fell to the sheets and she turned herself to lie on her belly, elbows beneath her and her head resting on the pillows, creating the exact image that she wanted to portray. Lying diagonal on the bed, there was still enough space that he could lie back down comfortably and that was what she wanted.

“Do you have to leave?” Sansa whispered, the fire cracking in still air of the night.

Tywin looked over his shoulder and said nothing. He was not the old man that she imagined as she let her fingertips ghost over his back. There were signs of age, but there was also scars and several freckles that she’d never seen before. Moving her fingers from his back, she wrapped her hand loosely around his forearm and let her hand fall down to his wrist. She was tired, but not tired enough to stop in her attempts to coax him back to bed. She was not confidant enough to try and seduce him, but coaxing him to bed was a small start, a goal that she could achieve. Pleasure surged through her when he moved his arms and held her hand in his. Warmth filled her and contentment overwhelmed her as she laid there. It was such a small action, but it told her something about him and Sansa slowly was beginning to realize that she saw Lord Tywin in a different way than the rest of the world. She was the gatekeeper that unlocked a different man at night. The world would never believe that Tywin Lannister held his wife’s hand as gently as he did.

In the corner, there was slight movement and without thinking, her husband was on his feet. He withdrew a dagger quickly that he kept under one of the pillows. Sansa pushed herself up and looked towards the corner, knowing that Lann had escaped his little bed in the other room again. The kitten weaved it way around the chair legs before jumping onto the chair and up to the mantle above the fireplace. Lord Tywin slipped the dagger away and sat back down the edge of the bed, glaring at the mantle before looking over his shoulder and glaring at her.

“What is that?” he demanded gruffly, his emerald eyes piercing her soft blue ones.

“A kitten, Tywin,” she murmured softly, using his name gently as she now did when they were alone and in bed together. It had all stated when she breathlessly moaned his name weeks ago and he’d encouraged her to call him by his first name while they were alone ever since. She returned her hand to his and despite his frosty tone of voice, he held her hand. His thumb brushed over her knuckles and she closed her eyes, enjoying the feeling of his caress.

“And just how did it get to be here?” he asked again, his icy tone melting if only a little.

“I rescued him at the request of Prince Tommen,” Sansa explained softly. “Come to bed. I am certain that there are far more enjoyable things that we could do together than discuss the kitten and how it came to be here.”

Her words were bold, the boldest she’d ever said to him, and she swallowed nervous. He surprised her when he did lay back down with her, letting go of her hand and pulling the sheets up to cover his naked body. He pulled her body to curve his. Sansa was equally naked and nearly smiled when she felt his hardness against her bottom.

“What is its name?” Tywin demanded as he rested his head behind hers on the same pillow. Looking at the creature sitting on the mantel of the fireplace that her lord husband found offensive, Sansa let her finger trail over the bare arm that he’d slid under the pillow.

“Tommen has named him Lann,” Sansa replied and in a heartbeat, he moved like a quick lion.

Pinning her, the length of her body pressed against his, her nipples rubbing painfully against the bed sheet as his hips pressed hard into her. Their naked bodies were pressed together and she shifted her hips feeling his manhood swell with desire. Forced to turn her head, Sansa rested her cheek on the bed and nearly trembled with desire. Did he mean to take her face down? Shae had described in vivid detail all the ways a man could take a woman and with each description, Sansa had grown all the more curious with each passing day, trying to imagine them in her head when she was alone.

“He named a kitten after the founder of our great house?” Tywin snarled, his weight nearly crushing her, but spreading warmth throughout her body.

It wasn’t an unpleasant feeling, Sansa decided. It felt far better than it ought to feel. Before she could say anything, he was pressing unexpected kisses to her shoulder blades. He nipped at her skin, no doubt leaving a mark that her handmaidens would blush over in the morning when they bathed her. Sansa did not care, it felt deliriously good.

He pulled back suddenly and she nearly made a noise of displeasure at the lack of contact. Before she could, however, he grabbed her hips and without preamble, two pillows were pushed beneath her and Tywin forced her back down. The altered position caused her body to twist in a way that was not uncomfortable. Her thighs trembled with need and she bit her lip when she felt him probe her body with his fingers. It was far different from lying on her back, Sansa decided as he touched places within her that he’d never touched before. Places that made her thighs quiver with delight and she gasped, twisting the sheets in her hands when he touched one place in particular. Her body was still wet and slick from the fast, quick coupling that had happened only a little while ago.

She felt the rounded, blunt head of his cock enter her body and in one strong thrust, he was inside her again. It was deliriously wonderful, feeling him fill her. Pinned to the bed, she couldn’t move, only enjoy his tormenting her body with pleasure. She wanted to push back against his body when he withdrew, but his hard stroke back into her caused her to lift her head off the bed and gasp his name. Each thrust was deeper than the prior, Sansa realized. He was pushing deeper into her than ever before and she was faint with need. One hand held her hip in a bruising grip while his other hand did something unexpected. It slipped between her body and the pillow.

The pads of his two fingers brushed the most sensitive place and Sansa moaned at the humming sensation that filled her body. Slipping her hand between him and the pillows, she held tightly onto his wrist, showing him unconsciously just what her body needed. It was the slapping of his hips that caused her body to move forward and brush against his fingers. It was like a slow building hum that started in between her thighs and moved to overtake her. She could barely catch her breath and every muscle inside her tensed. His thrusts became without a rhythm, fast and hard as he chased the same feeling that she did. The tightening coil in her belly caused her toes to curl as she suddenly felt herself being flung, head first into the most indescribable feeling that she’d ever experienced.

His own release came after several hard thrusts and she felt him stiffen above her. Her face was half buried in the sheets when she felt him catch himself on his elbows, his body pressed tightly against her, their sweat mingling on their skins, drying in the night air. Sansa nearly shivered as she lay panting, still trying to catch her breath. He was still deep within her and she closed her eyes, barely able to breathe herself from what had overcome her. Her hand sought his as he buried his face in the junction of her neck and shoulder. Feeling his breaths, her finger tips tangled with his hand he squeezed them gently. She felt her whole body begin to relax as she lay pressed between her lord husband and the bed. The tension left her muscles and instead of feeling like something was missing, she felt sedated. It was the passionate release that she’d been missing earlier, Sansa realized and he’d taught her, shown her, what it could be like.

When Tywin did pull away from her, Sansa mourned the feeling of his body. He tossed the pillow away and stripped the other pillow of the covering before tossing it away. Using it to clean herself and him, Tywin tossed it away to be with the other pillow on the floor towards the dressing room door. Lying on her side, she was pulled close to him until she could almost feel his bare chest against her back. There was still space between them and she didn't dare scoot back. If he was staying, she would not do anything to push him away. He slipped his arm under the pillow and pulled the sheets over them. She let her fingertips trace over the skin of his inner arm that wasn’t covered by the pillow near her head as he breathing became rhythmic again, a quiet comforting sound in the night air.

“Which story do you consider to correct about Lann the Clever?” Sansa asked softly, her fingers stopping, curious to know what her husband thought of his ancestor. “I’d like to think he made the Casterlys believe that Casterly Rock was haunted. Although, that’s the story Tommen told me a long time ago.”

Tywin snorted in response. Looking over her shoulder at him for a brief moment, Sansa turned away and adjusted the pillow under head. He touched her hair and pushed her loose braid over her shoulder and out of his way as if it annoyed him in some way.

“I believe that Lann was married to the eldest daughter of Casterly and when all other male heirs died, he inherited the Rock and established House Lannister. I don’t believe the ghost stories,” he said pointedly and she couldn’t help the smile that came across her lips as she laid still. His head rested beside her on the large pillow.

Lann, as if knowing he was the center of the conversation, jumped from the end of the mantel to the bed. Slowly, he prowled his way up the sheets until he had situated himself next to Sansa’s pillow. She ran her hand over the orange fur as the young cat flicked its tail and jumped off the bed again. It padded towards the fire before slipping into the dark corner, no doubt planning to return to his bed in the sitting chamber. Tiredly, she watched the full moon outside as the fire cracked merrily in the grate behind its screen.

“Send that cat back to Tommen,” Tywin said softly, his voice sounding tired. “The creature will only get in the way here.”

“Tommen is terrified that Joffrey will skin the creature alive,” Sansa explained gently, as Tywin’s leg pushed her forward so that their hips were nearly pressed together once more. Their skin wasn't in contact, but she could feel the warmth radiating off of him.

“From the conversation, I gathered that Joffrey has skinned many of Tommen’s pets alive. I don’t think Lann deserves such a cruel fate and I don’t think Tommen could see another treasured friend senselessly murdered.”

“It will earn its keep in this tower by catching mice and rats,” he muttered, sounding annoyed and unhappy.

“Of course, my lord,” Sansa murmured a bright smile of victory on her beautiful face for the first time in a long time.

He snorted again and Sansa suspected he knew all along that she was smiling at his acceptance of Lann remaining in the tower. Drifting in and out of the edge of sleep, Sansa laid still, listening to the night. Within twenty minutes, her lord husband was breathing heavily beside her. Her own eyes grew heavy and soon, she was fast asleep. Sometime in the middle of the night, his hand moved to cup on of her breasts, and she floated back to consciousness for a few moments, enjoying the warmth of his hand as he pulled her to him and buried his face in her neck. The position was surprisingly comfortable and for the few minutes that he’d awoken her to pull her close, Sansa had felt warm and protected for the first time since she’d left Winterfell.

The Next Morning

Late June, 299 AC

When the sun broke over the horizon, Sansa felt the bed shift as Lord Tywin left. His warmth disappeared and she drew the covers more tightly around her. He was quiet, the only noise he made was to add a log to the fire and bring the yellow and red flames back to life. When he left, she could hardly hear the door open and close, but she nonetheless was awake. She only lay in bed for twenty minutes before rising and summoning Shae. Her giggling gaggles of handmaidens were not present. It was a small relief to have a quiet moment with Shae. It was when she was halfway through with dressing that she realized that she had no idea where her husband had gone after leaving her chambers.

“Is his lordship breaking his fast?” she asked quietly as Shae pulled tightly at the lacing of her corset.

“He’s in the yard, practicing with his soldiers and teaching the squire, Jerion.”

Looking over her shoulder at Shae, Sansa arched a brow. Tywin Lannister was not the sort of man who she imagined to rise at dawn every day and practice with a sword. However, Shae simply smiled back at her. It occurred to Sansa that she knew hardly anything about her lord husband’s daily activities. She learned plenty about him in the bed chamber, but he was a relative stranger once he slipped away from the sheets and blankets. Information would be easy to gather, all she’d have to do was ask one of the maids to tell her about the movements of her husband, but that was too simple.

Intrigued, Sansa demanded her lilac colored dressing down that was embroidered with wild flowers and vines. Her hair was pulled back in a simple braid and her underskirts and corset covered her nakedness. She didn’t bother to slip on the silk slippers she favored that had been a gift from Lord Varys as she crossed the great central chamber that connected her bed chambers to Lord Tywin’s. Shae was at her heels as she walked quickly towards the central yard where she knew the soldiers practiced. Her dressing gown billowed out behind her as she passed various members of her household. Many bowed their heads in respect and averted their eyes from her lack of dressing.

Two maids followed after Shae questioning if help was needed, but Sansa ignored them all. Through the corridors and down flights of steps, she followed the familiar path towards the vary yard that Joffrey had made her watch him practice in the unbearable afternoon sunshine. There was a covered bridge that overlooked the yard and connected the Tower of the Hand to the great hall and other various parts of the Red Keep. The sun had barely passed halfway over the horizon, but she could hear the clanking of steel meeting steel. Creeping to stand in the small alcove, she watched mesmerized at the scene below.

Lord Tywin was dress in black breeches, black boots, and a white tunic that was unlaced around the throat. The sleeves of his tunic had been bunched up on his forearms as he easily parried a blow from the Lannister soldier he was fighting. Sansa recognized the soldier as being the Commander of all the Lannister troops in King’s Landing. Dressed like his lord, she could clearly see that he was younger than she originally thought he was with dark hair and similar green eyes to her husband’s. The man was strong, delivering blow after blow with force, but where her husband was not forceful, Tywin was quicker.

She imagined that Jon Snow would be quite jealous of her husband’s footwork. She wondered if he was as great a dancer as he was a swordsman. His moves were quick and with a certain grace that she would not have expected from a man nearly forty years older than her. The blows that Tywin did deliver were calculating and ruthless, meant to disarm and kill a man easily. Neither man gave up the fight, neither bowing to defeat. Sansa was fascinated as she watched. The fighting wasn’t about winning, it was about endurance, she realized. The battle finally ended when Tywin’s opponent stepped out of the battle for drink of water.

“Well done, my lord,” the man panted after lazily swallowing a ladle full of cool water.

Lord Tywin gave no reply as he handed his squire his sword. He slipped off the one of the pieces of leather that had been wrapped around the palm of his hands and up his wrists for protection. Her lilac dressing gown must have caught his attention. A heartbeat later, Lord Tywin was looking up at her. His green eyes piercing every part of her that she felt as he were looking at her unclothed like he had in the early hours of the morning when the sheets had been kicked away and a fierce coupling had followed. Instinct screamed to break his gaze, to look away and run, but she didn’t. She held his gaze and watched as his stood, unlacing the leather that had protected his wrists. Sweat trickled down his brow, the tunic clung tightly to his body as he looked up her, his expression unreadable.

“You have agreed to break your fast with Lady Margaery,” Shae reminded her softly.

Sansa felt entranced like she couldn’t look away, but duty as Lady Lannister came first. It was something had been drummed into since she was a young child. Duty was the most important thing in the world and as Lady Lannister, she had many duties to attend to.

“I know,” she replied, her gaze never breaking away from her lord husband. “I should like a bath before I go and breakfast with her.”

“Of course, but you must stop gaze at him like he’s a fine piece of horseflesh.”

“He is a fine piece of horseflesh,” Sansa corrected a hint of a smile reaching her eyes. “He’s been mine every night since I married him. I think that gives me some right to stare all I’d like, Shae.”

The dressing gown fell down her shoulder and his gaze broke from her eyes, lingering on the soft, pale skin of her shoulder. She knew that he admired softness. He murmured it to her while kissing her breasts and palming them in his warm hands. He liked the smoothness of her unblemished skin and he pressed kisses on her collar bone when he was deep inside her. Sansa felt triumph pulse through her before she turned away, blocking his gaze.

“He’s battling Jerion next,” Shae remarked as the sound of metal began again. “He’s not going to go easy on the boy.”

“I don’t expect he will, not when I’ve interrupted his morning,” Sansa remarked, well aware of the fire that she’d seen growing in his eyes. It was a fire that boded pleasure for her and later in the day, she knew he’d act on it. He always acted on the fire that was in his emerald orbs like a man that had never been able to act on it before. It made her shiver with anticipation and delight.

“Satisfied?” Shae asked with a small smile on her face.

“I can now at least say I’ve seen my lord husband fight,” Sansa murmured back as they walked back towards the Tower of the Hand. The pace she set was slower, not so determined as she’d been earlier. She tied the sash around her waist so that no one could see as easily as they had under her dressing. The return to her dressing room was made in silence and when Shae opened the door to that particular room, her gaggle of gossiping handmaidens were there making noise over a package that had been delivered minutes ago. Dismissing the foolish girls with instructions to prepare a bath for her, Sansa sat down on chaise lounge near the window and quickly opened the gift.

“Hold this,” she instructed as she held out the small note that was sitting atop the red fabric.

Shae took it and Sansa inspected the red dress that Margaery had sent. It was every inch a gown from high garden. The back was nearly cut away entirely, roaring lions embroidered around the back of the gown.The red bodice of the gown was embroidered with gold thread. The tops of the shoulder were cut away with straps lower on the shoulder were meant to give the dress stability. It was the front of the dress that Sansa found truly revealing. A long ‘v’ shape was cut and she had no doubt that her breasts would be displayed in a way that they never had been before if she wore the gown. She was awestruck by the idea of wearing such a thing. Taking the note back that had been left with the gown, Sansa broke the rose sigil that had been sealed with wax and gazed at note written in sweeping, feminine hand.

Lady S. – I have heard that you are a great lover of archery and perhaps are one of the best in the North. Please accept my invitation to our archery match for I am also a great lover of the sport. Join me today for our own tourney of sorts. Let us show the menfolk that women are just as capable of wielding an arrow as they are. – Lady M.

Sansa was intrigued by the idea. Archery had not something that her mother would have ever encouraged had it not been for her and Robb’s inability to be apart for long hours as children. Ser Rodrick had taken her under his wing when he caught her standing outside in the cold, watching Robb and wishing that she could join him. The older man had been kind and given her the arrow and the bow, taught her how to stand and within a fortnight, she was better than her older brother of four minutes. When her father had found out about how much better she was than his heir, Eddard had laughed a deep belly laugh and kissed her cheek, telling her to keep her twin humble and not to let his pride grow too big.

In the years after her father’s discovery, she and Robb had spent many hours practicing archery. It had been their time together, to simply laugh and talk and shoot arrows at targets that were far across the field once they’d completed their duties. Wonderful memories flooded through her mind, warming her and bringing a bittersweet smile to her lips. As wonderful as the memories were, she’d never get to experience such a joy with Robb again. He was beyond her reach and she had slowly begun to accept that the odds of seeing her brother again were becoming slimmer with each passing day.

Shae poured the lavender and rose perfume that she preferred in the water as another handmaiden helped Sansa strip the offending clothing that she’d been wearing earlier off. Stepping inside the copper tub, she let the warm water caress her skin as she sat. She was suspicious as how to Margaery had came across such information, but Varys had taught her never to be surprised by such a thing. From her earliest memory of being in King’s Landing, everyone had known something about her. Shae dipped the linen cloth into the water and mixed in lavender soap before beginning to wash her skin. Leaning forward, Sansa hugged her knees and allowed Shae to wash her back and hair.

Lord Varys had simply been the first person to teach her how to survive, how to play the game, and with everyday, she was getting better. Under Varys’s watchful eyes, she was learning her place as Lady Lannister, and learning the secrets of court. Information, she had discovered was powerful, but it was not power itself. It was the information that others did not know or want others to know that was power. Moving information and how information was used against a person was key in the game and shaped the important decisions that were made. Many of the children from the orphanage in Flea Bottom had already become informants of hers. Telling her the comings and goings of members of court and anything that they had heard all in exchange for food and sweets, something that she could easily provide and Varys was teaching her more than she could ever have learned from a Septa.

He was a great mentor and she had learned that his dedication to the realm and its people were far more respectable than Petyr Baelish’s desire to simply climb the ladder of chaos and gain power for himself. She respected Varys for his desire to see the common people well situated and with him, she found that they shared that common interest. It made them allies in all ways and it also made her curious. She’d seen the heartbreak on his face when the heads of the Targaryen brother and sister had been revealed. The boy and girl Targaryen were dead and a monster sat on the throne. A monster that she believed would not be there long if the Tyrells had anything to do about. Even in Tywin’s gaze, she could see the threads of patience and restraint unraveling.

Letting Shae wash her hair, Sansa sighed at the wonderful feeling and when the bath was finished, she instructed one of the handmaidens to ensure that the fabric of her new gown was not wrinkled. Her hair was brushed until it shined and perfume was dabbed behind her ear, her throat, wrists and the lips between her thighs. It was a new place at Shae had instructed her to perfume and at first, Sansa had blushed, but she’d seen the way Tywin’s head had bent to smell every part of her before he drove himself into her body. Between Shae’s instructions on how to bed a man and Varys’s lessons on court intrigue, she felt herself changing into someone she hardly recognized.

Now, staring at herself in the golden looking glass, Sansa felt her breath catch in her throat. With each passing day, she looked less like a girl and more and more like a woman both inside and out. The dress was the most daring thing she’d ever wore, far more revealing on her body than she had ever imagined. A diamond shape was cut in the back of the dress, her shoulder blades exposed to the small of her back. Roaring lions were embroidered around her exposed back and the dress had three buttons on the back of her neck that kept the front of the gown together. A long ‘v’ exposed the skin of her chest and the lack of sleeves made for movement easy. The tops of her shoulders were cut away and exposed to the sunlight with only straps around her neck and lower shoulders to keep the gown in place. Shae had taken the hair from around her temples and pulled them back in a braid. The rest of her dark red hair hung down her back with a small lion hair piece pinned at the back of her head were the braids ended.

It was the most revealing dress that she’d ever worn and yet, it made her feel powerful. It made her feel like a woman who was in control of what was around her and she decided that even if it meant facing Tywin’s wrath, she’d wear the gown to Margaery’s competition. The dress emphasized her narrow waist and rounded hips, giving her a figure that even she was unashamed to reveal.

“One last thing,” Shae murmured. “I found this in your box of jewels yesterday.”

A simple golden lion pendant was placed around her neck and when clasped, it dangled between her breasts. Gazing into the looking glass, she felt as if there was still something missing and like a strike of lightening, Sansa knew what it was. It was something that belonged to Tywin and she’d seen him wear before, but it was something that she needed now. Crossing the sitting area that separated her chambers from his, Sansa crossed to the double doors that were opposite hers. Placing her ear to the door, she listened, nervously expecting to hear her husband in his chamber preparing for the day.

Taking a nervous breath, she slowly pressed down on the latch and the door opened. Peering inside the one room of the Tower she’d never been in, Sansa was surprised to see that his chambers were exactly like hers in both layout and coloring. The four poster bed in the middle of the chamber was larger than hers, but all the other elements of the room were the same, from the wooden chair by the fireplace to the window seat overlooking Blackwater Bay. Going to the dressing room door, she entered and again, she admired that the room was nearly the same as hers. There was no great copper tub in the center of the dressing room. She knew that her husband bathed in the Hand’s bath that was on the floor below with a heated pool that was similar to the pools at Winterfell. His chamber had only two wardrobes and opening the first one, she sighed in relief at having found what she was looking for. The long, red velvet fabric that her husband would wear across his body and over a shoulder, was folded on the floor of the wardrobe.

She had seen him wear it only once with his sword belt holding the sash in place. Picking it up, she closed the wardrobe and left his rooms like the silent thief that she was. In her own dressing room, she opened the velvet material and allowed Shae to help her loop the material around her arms. It was long and the fabric acted like a shawl, covering the middle part of her back and falling lower. The red velvet would trail behind, but she looked like a red and gold creature, colors she would have never expected to wear.

“Now I am ready to best Lady Margaery at archery,” Sansa smiled to Shae and the handmaiden smiled back brightly.

The place in the garden that Margaery had chosen as the place of their archery competition had a clear view to Blackwater Bay.

It was by far one of the most beautiful places in the gardens, Sansa thought. Behind them was a wing of the castle with a winding stone balcony that some lords and ladies stood on, already prepared to watch the competition below on the lawns. The sight of an audience made Sansa feel slightly nauseous and her stomach rolled so violently that she had to stop and close her eyes on the path. Shae was at her side in an instant making certain that she was alright. Once the nausea had passed, Sansa continued on the path to where Varys stood waiting for her with a slight smile on his face.

“Good morning, Lord Varys,” she greeted softly, still not certain that the nausea she felt had left her.

“A walk, my lady?” he suggested and offered his elbow to her. Taking it, Sansa allowed him to pick the path to the area where the party awaited them.

“Tell me this is a bad idea,” Sansa said gripping his arm tightly as she felt another bout of nausea pass over her.

“It’s a terrible idea, only if you lose,” Varys replied calmly, stopping on the path again as if sensing she was on the verge of being ill. They were alone except for Shae and Sansa nodded to her handmaiden, dismissing her.

“If I win, I could have great influence over Margaery by winning her respect. She already trusts me enough to have a weapon around her.”

Varys chuckled at her words, “Win or lose, you already have more influence over the girl. That is what exactly worries me, my lady. Queen Cersei has been…unhappy, with Lady Margaery’s growing influence over Joffrey and it will, no doubt, in her mind somehow be caused by her twisted idea that you are out to thwart her.”

“Cersei has been a like madman from the moment I arrived, Lord Varys.”

“Yes, but it is growing worse as her power over Joffrey, the court, and your husband lessens, my lady,” he explained. “She’ll soon find herself in a place of very little power and I do believe that would make everything worse. I only tell you this so that you may protect yourself, my lady…and your future children, who will eventually become not only targets of King Joffrey, but also Queen Cersei.”

Sansa closed her eyes as she stood on the path and nodded, “I understand.”

“I don’t mean to distress you, my lady. I only worry for your safety,” he explained. “Let us talk about a brighter subject, shall we?”

Sansa nodded and together, they walked arm in arm down the path to where Lady Margaery was waiting for them. The part of the gardens that had been picked was the most beautiful in Sansa's opinion. Overlooking the bay, it was the perfect place to spend the day. A single area had been set up in the grass, a line of perfectly clear sight to the blue water. Next to this area was a box filled with sand and several arrows standing in the sand, waiting to be notched in a bow and fired. Ten yards behind this green area that had been set up, a circular table had been erected in the shade of the trees. Sansa smiled slightly at the lemon cakes that were set out and Margaery’s beaming face as she stood. She felt relief that Margarey’s dress was just as scandalously low cut as hers as she embraced the woman and kissed her cheek.

“You’re warm,” Margaery pronounced with a frown. “You’re not unwell?”

Sansa didn’t dare mention the slight nausea that lingered in her belly. Instead, she simply shook her head and smiled, “I am only out of breath from hiding so that my lord husband did not see me leave the Tower of the Hand in such a gown. It’s beautiful, Lady Margaery.”

“Only the best for you, Lady Sansa. Come and sit, we’ll break our fast before the start of the competition. It’s wonderful to have another woman around who actually knows sport and doesn’t just sew with a needle and cluck like a hen,” the future queen murmured and the servants appeared with several trays of food. The sight made the nervousness in Sansa's belly grow, but she forced herself to sit. Margaery kept up most of the conversation, curious to know as much as she could about the North and its people. In lieu of eating, Sansa gave her lengthy explanations as her father and brothers would have done. However, when the topic changed to families, Sansa was quick to steer the conversation towards Margaery’s family.

“And your brother?” Sansa asked gently as she looked towards were Ser Loras was standing with Lannister guards, examining the bows that they would no doubt be using. It was thoughtful gesture to ensure that the bows were in proper, working order and Sansa was reminded of Robb. It was something that he would have done. A small part of her heart ached and she forced away. Margaery looked over her brother and smiled happily before she looked back at Sansa.

“He’s always wanted to be a kingsguard, but grandmother disapproves,” the future queen explained with joy in her face as she spoke about her family. “Willas is the oldest brother, the heir of Highgarden, but an accident has left him crippled. There is some question over whether or not my father will declare Loras the heir and disinherit my brother, Willas. Grandmother adores Willas and declares that she’ll poison my father if he ever tries such a maneuver that would lead to the disinheritance of my oldest brother.”

“How dreadful.”

“I think that my father is incredibly foolish for trying to disinherit my brother. His leg is broken, not his mind, or the parts of him that are needed for an heir. In that aspect, my brother lacks no willingness to do his duty. No, I think that Willas should inherit Highgarden and if my brother wishes to join a noble order of knights like the kingsguard, he should be allowed. However, Grandmother sees him as being marriageable and therefore, he cannot join the guard as he wishes. Now, enough about my brothers, tell me about marriage to Lord Tywin Lannister. You’re still here and in one whole piece, it cannot be as dreadful as the rumors say it is. Tell me, Lady Sansa, is Lord Tywin as kind and as honorable as my dearest Joffrey will be?”

That was what she wanted to talk about, Sansa sensed. Lady Margaery wanted to speak about marriage and the pieces clicked together in her head. Sansa understood why she was there and she smiled. Margaery wanted details and she would not give them. If anything, Margaery looked a little nervous for being so bold, but Sansa imagined that the thought of being wedded and bedded by Joffrey Baratheon was almost too much for Margaery. The girl wanted comfort that Joffrey would not be the only brutal husband in the land.

It was comfort that Sansa could not truly give. Yes, Lord Tywin was a hard man. He was cruel and reacted with violence. He was a man who was swift in defeating enemies and had created a name for himself that inflict fear on those who would oppose him. The Lannister song as Robb had called it, could make any man fear for his life. All those things were what other people saw. It all made it difficult to sometimes realize that others did not see the man that she saw. From their first days together, they had grown. He no longer simply coupled with her and left. On more than one occasion, she’d caught him staring at her for no reason, but that he could. Slowly, they were getting to know one another's body and she could see that as a sign of trust. Trust was slowly beginning to take root between them and given enough time, water, and encouragement, that root would blossom into a beautiful flower. Trust was the one thing that she would not violate. Tywin was many things, but he was not forgiving.

“He is everything a good husband ought to be,” Sansa finally said with a soft smile on her beautiful face. “What are the rules of our competition?”

For a moment, Margaery looked disappointed, but the look disappeared as quickly as it came. Sansa was pulled to her feet and forced to stand next to an excited future queen.

“It’s very simple. We have two hundred colorful wooden pigeons that will be launched over the bay down there,” Margaery explained as she pointed to a few men, thirty meters down the lawn of the garden and they bowed. “On the bay, there are two boats that will row about, retrieving the floating pigeons as they fall. Lord Varys will be our judge and we are only allowed to miss three shots before the other lady is declared the winner of our competition. Ser Loras will be declared my second, Lady Sansa. Do you wish to declare a second for the competition?”

The question caught Sansa off guard and she silently wanted to strangle Margaery for putting into such a position.

“No,” Sansa murmured with the serene blank expression wore as a mask. “I will be fine on my own. Thank you though for such consideration, Lady Margaery.”

Turning and walking back to the small table that had been set up for her, Sansa stood and watched Ser Loras help his sister into a bracer and laced it around her wrists carefully. The sound of a box being placed down the table forced her to look back at Varys as he opened the case carefully. Inside, a dark brown leather bracer rested on a sea of red silk well as a three finger archer’s glove that would protect her fingertips from becoming raw due to the bow string. A golden lion was embroidered into the leather of the bracer and she smiled at the gift.

“It’s beautiful, Lord Varys. Thank you.”

“For the pride of House Lannister,” he explained as Shae quickly undid the laces of the bracer and helped Sansa to slip it around her forearm and lace it back up. The leather was soft and didn’t chaff her skin as a lesser made bracer would have. It was a true work of art and the small, three fingered glove would no doubt protect her fingers throughout the challenge. Walking to where Margaery stood with her smiling brother Ser Loras, Sansa stood as each servant and soldier devoting their time to the match was given a small gift on behalf of both House Lannister and House Tyrell.

Soon enough, all were in position and she was called upon by Margaery.

Taking a deep breath, Sansa nodded at the Tyrell soldier who would be pulling the string that would launch the small wood pigeons as she reviewed the rules in the back of her mind. Margaery had already showed her where the pigeons would fall into the waters of the bay and the servants who would haul out the floating targets. Plenty of people would be keeping track of which lady was winning. All would be reporting back to Lord Varys, who would be the judge of the match. Each woman was allowed to miss three pigeons before being declared out of the competition, leaving the other woman as the victor. The rules were so simply, but her belly still churned with anxiety and nausea for some reason that she couldn’t fathom.

Two Lannister soldiers came forward carrying a case full of bows. Margaery easily picked which one she wanted and when Sansa approached the case, both soldiers bowed and muttered “My Lady Lannister” in respect. She nodded as a sudden bout of fear stuck.

Sansa examined the bows that were set out for her to choose from. She would lose and Tywin would hate her for losing. She’d disgrace House Lannister and he’d never come back to her bed. Looking down at the bows, her heart stopped in her chest, as she examined each. A memory struck her hard and she could clearly hear Robb’s voice in her head and see his smiling face. They had been practicing archery shortly before the King’s visit to Winterfell and she’d been complaining about Theon teasing her for her archery skill, calling her names, and declaring that no woman should be allowed to learn any sort of manly skill. One afternoon with her brother had changed her mind. His advice rang in her ears as she picked up one of the light bows that curved just the way she liked.

…None of the boys will ever beat you because you’re a wolf in sheep’s clothing. They look at you and only see a weak woman, who only knows how to sew. They don’t realize that you have claws and teeth, Sansa. That’ s your advantage in the world…

Once she selected a bow, Varys stepped forward and flipped a gold dragon to see who would go first. Sansa guessed correctly which side the coin was on and her heart pounded in her chest as Varys smiled at her. Margaery and her brother stepped back as Sansa realized that there would be no warm up round before their competition began. Standing in where she was meant to, she grabbed one of the standing arrows from the sand. Nocking the arrow to the bow, Sansa pulled back on the string as she prepared her shot. The sun wasn’t in her eyes, which was a good thing and slowly letting all the air out of her lungs, she nodded to the Tyrell soldier.

“Pull!” the soldier cried loudly and suddenly, the wood pigeon was hurled into the air. It took her all of ten seconds to release the arrow. It flew straight and true just as she wanted. Over the bay, it hit the pigeon, square in the chest and the smile on her face was something that she couldn’t hold back. For a whole moment, she was home again and the feeling overwhelmed her. Robb would be proud of her shot and hit, he’d pick her up spin her around and proclaim that she was the best archer in Winterfell. Lowering the bow, Sansa suddenly felt hope growing inside of her and she suspected that today would be a wonderful day. On the stone balcony behind them, lords and ladies clapped politely as Varys moved to stand next to her. 

“A very good shot, my lady,” he said softly. “Well done, Lady Sansa.”

EDITED 5/17/2019. Beta'd by: A.L.D. 


Chapter Text

Part Six: Believer

"….Pain, you made me a, you made me a
believer, believer
Pain, you break me down, you build me
believer, believer
~ "Believer" - Imagine Dragons

Lord Tywin Lannister walked across the covered stone bridge with its great archways that led from the Tower of the Hand to the King’s gardens. He’d heard about the competition between Houses Lannister and Tyrell all day from the whispers of passing servants in the halls. It had been Joffrey's sloppy note, summoning him to come and witness the future queen best a Lannister that had been the final disruption of his day. The blotchy note had sent his foul mood into an even blacker one and he wanted to strangle his grandson. The entire idea was stupid at best, reckless at worse, in his mind. He already knew who the mastermind behind such a ridiculous idea was. He strongly suspected that Olenna and Margaery Tyrell had left Sansa in a situation where she was unable to deny Margaery the request of the archery competition without losing favor and respect.

Seeing the King’s banners on the balcony overlooking the green area where the ladies table was, Tywin climbed the steps and followed the corridor. Lannister guards stood in each archway, prepared to protect their lord and lady and Tywin wondered if Joffrey realized just how easily he could seize King's Landing for the House Lannister, how easy it would be to declare his unborn heir the rightful ruler of the seven kingdoms and crush the Royal House of Baratheon. His grandson was more interested in being a bully than being a good ruler. The same mistake that Robert had made, the same mistake the Aerys had made. Pushing the thoughts away, Tywin walked through a grand archway into a spacious balcony area that was shaded by aging oak trees. Joffrey was sitting at a table with Tyrion and his second son looked ready to strangle the king. It was rare that Tywin ever agreed with Tyrion about something, but the need to strangle Joffrey was one subject they could silently agree upon.

“Your Grace,” Tywin said, bowing slightly as Joffrey poured more wine from a glass pitcher that a frightened serving wench had passed over.

“Look, Grandfather, watch your traitor of a wife miss this shot,” Joffrey grinned, drunk on wine and power. “My Lady’s second made the shot before while Lady Lannister missed hers.”

It was clear to Tywin as he looked down at the scene before him that Sansa had no second. Margaery’s brother, Ser Loras, was the future queen’s second. In the back of his mind, Tywin suspected that no one had told Sansa to request or bring a second to the match. Standing on the balcony with his hands clasped behind his back, he told himself that he’d stay to see Sansa miss the shot and finally lose the wretched competition, but that was not at all what happened. His wife was a far better marksman than he’d given her credit. Her stance and form was better than most men’s as she stood and waited for the soldier to pull the string that would send the wooden pigeon flying out over the bay. She took aim and the arrow flew, hitting the pigeon as it fell down towards the bay, a perfect shot.

She never looked up to see him, but in the scandalously cut dress that was fashioned from Highgarden, Tywin certainly saw her. He could see the soft outline of her breasts and her shoulder blades. When she turned slightly he could easily see the profile of the warm globes of flesh that he palmed most nights with his hands and mouth. Heat pooled low in his belly as he thought about the dusty pink nipples that he tugged and nipped at only hours before. His tongue had lavish attention on those pert nipples and he'd left marks from his lips and teeth on the undersides of those perfect breasts. He could hear in his head the sounds that Sansa made when he suckled at her hard nipple while he used his finger to test how slick her womanly folds were. His body could feel the memory of her body arching up to his when he'd easily slipped two fingers into her hot, drenched sheath and mimicked the motions his body had craved to perform.

Lions were embroidered on the back of the gown and the god bodice made her a most pleasing distraction to look at. A welcomed distraction from the other sights on the ground including a smug looking Ser Loras, no about confident that he'd win. Perhaps the biggest distraction of all was the roaring lion pendant that dangled between her two perfect breasts. Instinctively, Tywin felt desire flame inside him. He decided in that moment that he'd have her, he'd claim her body with her wearing that single pendant. Maybe he'd even teach her how to suck his cock wearing that pendant as she knelt before him on the floor, eager to please her lord husband. Joanna had never even touched his cock except on their wedding night and even than, she'd been uncomfortable by the sight of his naked body. Sansa was the exact opposite, she was eager to be naked and willing to bed him. It was a quality he had not been looking for in a wife, but it was a welcomed quality. He was more than willing to bed her and pleasure her all in the name of producing an heir and keeping his own desires satisfied.

“Another excellent shot,” Tyrion proclaimed happily as he clapped. “She’s a far better archer than your future bride, Your Grace. It’s only been sixty-two pigeons and the future queen has already called for her second.”

“How many pigeons are there in total?” Tywin asked, curious to know more about the silly competition that the Tyrells were responsible for. He needed to think about something other than the image of Sansa on her elbows and knees as he fucked her from behind. It was a position that they both enjoyed far too much and was too arousing to think about.

“One hundred for each lady,” Joffrey answered quickly and eagerly as he lifted his goblet of wine. “Bring a chair for my grandfather.”

A servant brought the ordered chair. Having no choice but to sit next to Tyrion, Tywin did as the king commanded. His Commander of the Lannister forces stood behind him, ever vigilant of any threats. The stone railing was just the right height to observe all flying pigeons and the arrows piercing them over the bay, but one could not observe the ladies. Five pigeons later, the king stood up and declared that he would go and offer words of encouragement to Lady Margaery during the slight break that Varys had declared so that the pigeon count would be accurate. Joffrey quickly left, eager to see his lady love, and Tywin wondered how soon Joffrey's supposed love would change into abuse and madness. Aerys had once declared his love for his queen, but it had not stopped him from descending into the same kind of abuse and madness that would claim Joffrey.

“Did you not offer to find Lady Sansa a second?” Tywin demanded of his son as soon as the king was out of earshot.

“Of course,” Tyrion said as a servant brought forward a tray of bread, cheeses, and cold meats. “That was twenty pigeons ago and she refused. I think that she was quite put out over the fact that Ser Loras has been the one shooting the arrow for the last fifteen pigeons. Joffrey has declared that he doesn’t want his betrothed to injury herself. He was quite vocal that Lady Sansa did not need a second for the match.”

Lord Tywin simply nodded and picked up a goblet of watered down wine that a serving wench had set before him. It was just like his grandson to find some way to cheat or cause intentional harm. The boy had a malicious streak, the likes of which, Tywin had never seen. In a few months, Joffrey would marry Margaery and any appetite that Tywin might have had for the noon meal disappeared. He had lived long enough to know that Olenna Tyrell would murder anyone who harmed her family including the fat flowered oaf she called son. The ruler of Highgarden that she detested so much. If Joffrey abused Margaery like Tywin suspected the boy would, there would be another war breaking out and he was of half the mind to declare with the Tyrells and unthrone his sick and twisted grandson. Cersei would cry and scream, but his mad grandson would need to be put down eventually. He was like a rabid dog. The insane creatures only lived for so long before they had to be killed.

Suddenly standing, Tywin watched the competition resume on the field below, his eyes only half seeing what was happening. In the back of his mind made comparisons that slowly allowed Joffrey and Aerys to morph into one person. With the Targaeryens, one always knew the cause of their insanity, the root of the evil that plagued them.


There was not enough variety between the couplings to prevent such an unnatural madness that existed within the family and for a brief moment, Tywin supposed that the rumors surrounding Cersei and Jamie were plausibly true. The madness in Joffrey could be easily explained by incest. Just as Jon Arryn's last words and the book that Eddard Stark had been looking at before he'd been executed confirmed that every Baratheon heir had been born with black hair despite having a blonde or red haired mother. Stannis Baratheon's daughter had black hair and it was enough to convince Tywin of his children's unnatural union. It was said that when a Targaryen was born, the seven faces of god flipped a coin. With Joffrey, no coin had been flipped. If the boy was the product of incest, he was doomed. No bastard could sit upon the Iron Throne and should the supposed truth ever become public knowledge, a rebellion would again ensure. Joffrey was not the kind of king who could hold the realm together. He was weak and spineless, hiding behind his cruelty and his guards. No, Tywin decided, even if the truth was as horrible as he feared, no one could ever know the real truth. He would place a new king on the throne and end the madness before it began.

His fists clenched tightly the more he thought about it and by the time that Margaery or Ser Loras, whichever sibling was shooting, missed their second shot, Tywin was convinced that there was no other reason for Joffrey's madness than that he was a bastard born of incest. The fury within him was close to exploding as he looked briefly towards his grandson over his shoulder. Turning back, he clenched his hands tightly behind his back and watched as Sansa stood from her sitting place next to Lord Varys.
Seeing his lady wife walk to the green where she’d shoot from, Tywin forced away the angry thoughts that nearly consumed him and dutifully watched her. She nodded at the Tyrell soldier and nocked her arrow. He could easily see from the shift in the sun that there would be no way for her to hit the moving target. She pulled back the string, but stopped and stepped away. He could see her hands trembling slightly as she gave a servant the bow and arrow to hold as she used a linen cloth to wipe away the sweat gathering on her hands. Margaery walked up to her and rested her hand on the pale, bare skin of her back. Sansa was looking down, but her gaze turned from the table and she saw him.

Her soft blue eyes looked up at him for a moment before she looked away. She slightly bit her bottom lip as Margaery spoke, a playful gleam in the woman’s eyes that he did not like. Sansa blushed prettily and said nothing as she looked back up at him. The way she bit her bottom lip reminded him of how she looked in the throes of passion. It reminded him of how her body arched and how her hips rhythmically moved up and down with the pads of his fingers when he pleasured her. She looked like an ethereal being when she was lying across the bed, her hair wild and free as she frantically lifted her hips and moaned out, begging for pleasure with both her body and her words.

“Fetch me a ready crossbow,” Tywin demanded to the Commander. “Quickly.”

“Are you not confidant your bride can make the shot, Grandfather?” Joffrey taunted as he raised a goblet of wine to his lips. Tyrion broke off a piece of bread and ate it as Tywin let his hands rest on the stone railing that kept a man from plunging to his death in the garden below. In the shade of the afternoon, he watched, curious to know what the two women were discussing. Sansa looked up to him, something in her eyes that he’d never seen before, a deep desire, a heat that was as dangerous as dragon fire. Tywin did not respond to his grandson’s taunting, partly because he wasn’t certain that Sansa would make the shot and he was too absorbed in lusting after her in the red dress. It was something that he'd never acknowledge.

He’d watched her make over two dozen perfect shots and this shot, this was the shot that could determine which woman won. It was almost too much. It would be a hopelessly blind shot, Tywin determined. The sunlight would be her downfall and he doubted that she was an experienced enough archer to know how to aim blindly. Joffrey would torment her about this loss in the many weeks to come and there would be no end of hearing about it. Breaking away from Margaery, Sansa reclaimed her bow and arrow as a Lannister soldier returned to him with a crossbow and a quiver of arrows. She nodded at the Tyrell soldier again, declaring that she was ready and nocked her arrow to the bow. Lord Tywin wasn’t sure how many pigeons the two women had shot, he’d lost track during the time that he'd spent watching. It was, however, obvious that Sansa’s shoulders were beginning to hurt from the activity. He could see tension in her arms that had not been there earlier as she prepared her shot. She was tried and having a second to relieve her would have helped to prevent the exhaustion. Her whole body was tense and she seemed unfocused to if her mind was far away, thinking of other things.

“Pull,” the soldier cried and the brightly colored wooden pigeon was flung high into the air over the bay. Sansa searched for her target and blindly let the arrow fly. The whole crowd held their breath for a moment and audibly sighed the next second. The arrow missed the pigeon and for a whole brief second, a cloud passed in front of the sun and the pigeon could be seen falling down towards the bay.

With a quickness he had not used in many years, Tywin lifted the crossbow into position and took aim. He didn’t know what Lady Margaery had said that caused Sansa to lose her focus on the shot, but Lannister pride was involved and he would not let it be ruined. Sansa nocked another arrow as quickly as he lifted the crossbow and she aimed again as he pulled the trigger. Their arrows hit the clay pigeon at nearly the exact moment. The pigeon cracked and splintered into dozens of pieces over the Blackwater Bay, the black dust from the innards of the pigeon was clearly visible against the blue sky, his arrow having hit the body of the pigeon slightly below hers.

Having seen the second arrow, Sansa turned around as he lowered the crossbow. Her dress was indecently cut he finally decided, but Tywin found himself drawn into her beauty. The look she gave him was one of decided annoyance, unhappy that he had moved to save her victory most likely. He simply nodded as he handed the crossbow back to a Lannister soldier. She turned away in a flourish of red and golden silk as Margaery smiled with delight at Sansa, but his wife paused and retreated to the Tyrell girl. Her lips were close to the Tyrell girl's ear and she whispered something. Margarey's composure slipped for only a moment before the Rose of Highgarden corrected and Tywin wondered just what had Sansa said to make the unflappable girl blush. The interaction lasted only a moment before Sansa turned away again and the future queen moved forward to take her own blind shot. Joffrey called for his own crossbow and arrows to save his lady, if needed, and Tywin suppressed a snort. He'd seen his grandson's archery skills. It would take nothing short of a miracle if Joffrey believed he could save Lady Margaery from losing.

He had decided that overall, Sansa was the superior archer and the decision was not made simply because she was his wife. No, both women had perfect posture, straight spines, and quick hands with excellent footwork, but Sansa clearly had more experience than Lady Margaery. She was a better shooter and because of that, her shots looked more effortless than Lady Margaery’s. Sansa returned to her chair that was draped with what he recognized to be his red velvet sash and sat. A servant stood not far behind her holding an ostrich feather fan, gently flapping it to create a light breeze.

Margaery nocked her arrow, and nodded to the soldier. In the space of a second, it all happened. The wood pigeon flew and Margaery’s arrow blindly flew towards the sun. Missing, she nocked a second arrow. Although not as quick as Sansa, Margaery shot and missed the pigeon again. It was her third missed shot and the judge of the challange, Lord Varys, dropped the third shining stone into the small jar used to keep track of how many shots were missed. Sansa was declared the victor as an out of breath kingsguard came running back with a crossbow and arrow for the king. The crowd clapped politely as Sansa was declared the winner and kissed Margaery’s cheek, a soft smile was on her face as the two women talked softly together and exchanged a gentle hug. Joffrey angrily stormed off, upset to have seen Margaery bested by ‘the whore sister of a traitor’.

“I do believe we’ve observed two queens today,” Tyrion said, clapping politely before talking a sip of wine. “The question is which one will succeed in the power struggle.”

Tywin didn’t say anything as Margaery offered Sansa a kiss on the cheek and smile for her victory. It was like watching a lioness hunt her prey. Sansa returned the smile with one that he could see didn’t reach her eyes. Sansa took her leave a few minutes later, taking the great red sash of velvet fabric and he recognized it easily as his own. The red sash he’d worn at Harrenhal, the same one he’d worn when presented with the pin of the Hand. She looped once around her arms and still, the fabric trailed after her as Margaery joined their arms together, already deep in conversation about another topic. Lannister soldiers parted like she was a beacon in the night as she crossed the sea. He couldn’t help the way his feet automatically followed as he watched her. She looked like a goddess in his house colors, a goddess having just won a great battle.

“She’s won the respect of the Tyrells,” he finally told Tyrion. “She has more sway and influence over the future queen than anyone now. That’s what you witnessed, a lioness conquering her enemies.”

A somewhere deep inside, Tywin Lannister was as proud as he allowed himself to be.

Tower of the Hand, King's Landing

Sansa stood naked in the private study of her lord husband, the red velvet bolt of fabric was still looped easily around her arms. She was determined to seduce him. Looking out the small window, she reflected on the lessons that Shae had given. Her handmaiden had told her that once she made her mind up to commit to the seduction, she had to follow through. Maybe her victory over Margaery had given her the courage or maybe it was the Summerwine, either way, Sansa was determined.

Her own nakedness was something that she’d never been comfortable with, but she’d grown accustomed to her body in the weeks since her wedding night. If Lord Tywin enjoyed her body, certainly she could learn to love it and enjoy it as well. He’d dispelled the beliefs that Cersei had planted about how a man wouldn’t like her body. The many things she’d thought he’d hate about her, he seemed to enjoy. Her breasts were one of those things and he had a particular fondness for them. He also enjoyed caressing her hips and her womanhood.

Hearing the door opened, Sansa stood still, naked in the sunlight and watched her husband walk in alone. She knew that the sunlight made her hair look like copper and gold and caressed her body. She looked ethereal in the light and had made certain to stand in just the right spot. She knew how she looked, Shae had taught her to make sure she was in the one in control. Tywin wore an unreadable expression on his face as he stepped into the private study. He closed the door behind him, locking it for good measure as he leaned back on the door briefly.

“It’s rather late in the day to work,” she said softly as she walked towards him, putting an extra sway in her rounded hips as Shae had instructed. The stone was cool against the bottom of her feet, a shocking contrast to the hot, desperate feeling growing inside her womanhood. “I thought perhaps we could do something different with our time rather than you writing letters and me embroidering some silly little thing that no one will use.”

No words escaped his lips, but his emerald eyes darkened as he gazed at her body. The sense of danger thrilled her as she stopped on the top of the platform that divided the room into a higher area and a lower one. Tywin took slow and measured steps towards her, his eyes never leaving her body, hard and unreadable. The breath stilled in her chest for a single second as his boots echoed on the stone floor.

Had she gone too far?

He was stalking towards her like a lion stalked its prey. Was she the innocent, doe eyed creature about to be killed? Before she could question herself anymore, Tywin stood on the steps so that they were eye level with one another. He reached out and caress the curve of her hips.

“What did Margaery Tyrell tell you that nearly made you lose?” Tywin demanded softly, his fingertips ghosting across her delicate skin. Fire burned in her pelvis and she forced herself not to rub her thighs together or clench her hot core. She would not show him just how much she wanted him.

“I did not nearly lose,” Sansa gasped when his other hand came up to caress her hard nipple.

“Yes, you did,” he said in an infuriatingly proud, emotionless voice.

His head bent and he sucked on her hard nipple. Sansa head fell backward as she moaned at the sensation of his tongue flicking back and forth against her flesh. It was like lightening pulses through her body and she'd never been more excited in her life. Her thighs felt slick from the silkiness leaving her body. All too soon, he pulled away. “You’re in my study, naked. You’ll answer my questions and sedate my desires.”

He turned her in his arms and forced her to walk to his desk. The red velvet sash was tossed haphazardly into the seat of his great chair and he pulled her to him so that his chest was pressed against her back. His fingertips glided over the trimmed, soft curls of her womanhood. Sansa’s thighs trembled, but Tywin’s hand stopped her from snapping her thighs shut and denying him what he wanted. It was becoming a question of just who was in charge of this seduction and Sansa had a sinking feeling that he was taking over and she was losing the control that Shae had told her to hold on to. When his fingers parted her folds, the cool air was such a sharp contrast that she moaned. His rough fingers caressed her and she cried out. His fingers moved higher until the touched the small bundle of nerves that brought her such intense pleasure. The pads of his finger applied just the right amount of pressure and movement to leave her aching for a peak and yet, unable to achieve it.

“What did Lady Margaery tell you?” he demanded again, pressing hot, open mouthed kisses to her neck and the shell of her ear. “Tell me.”

His fingertips caressed her in such a way that she nearly became a puddle on the floor. Her knees trembled and she held onto the edge of the desk to support herself. The pressure of his fingertips increased and she panted with need, her hips rocking wantonly with the movements of his hand. A rough hand grabbed onto her hip and pressed their bodies together. She could feel the hardness and knew that he was just as aroused as she was.

“S-s-she told me all the ways a man could use his mouth to, to p-p-pleasure,” Sansa gasped loudly at the indescribable feeling of the friction his fingers were creating and the pleasure that was resulting. “She distracted me with the thought of you doing such things.”

“And what did you tell Lady Margaery?” he asked, his voice low against the shell of her ear.

Sansa didn’t reply, but bit her bottom lip in a way that she’d seen Margaery and other ladies do and look over her shoulder at him. Silently pleading with him to continue caressing her body and the look had the intended effect. Tywin’s eyes darkened and let go of her to undo his sword belt. He sat it down next to her on the desk before he turned her in his arms. He easily lifted her onto the edge of the desk and stepped in between her open, welcoming thighs. He quickly undid the clasps of his doublet and shrugged it, tossing the dark leather to join the red velvet in his chair. His linen tunic was cast aside too and with quick fingers, he undid the lacings of his breeches and pulled himself out.

“Hold onto the desk and don’t let go,” he commanded, stroking himself twice before his fingers caressed the folds of her womanhood again and she moaned loudly. Sansa did as she was instructed, eager to feel the high that she had only recently learned her body could produce when coupling with him. Her breath caught in her throat as she felt him coat his manhood with the silkiness dripping from her hot womanhood. He stopped and grasped her hips tightly.

“Not one more sound or the guards will hear you outside,” Tywin growled softly into her ear. “If you’re silent, I’ll show you exactly what I can do to your body with my mouth.”

His words thrilled her and she pressed her lips together, nodding eagerly. She drew her legs up higher and he kissed her jaw. His hands held onto her slim thighs as she wrapped her legs around him, breathlessly wanting more. Her body tingled with need and a desire that she barely understood. In one swift thrust, he was deep inside her and her head fell back, suppressing the sounds that would have escaped her. Tywin held onto her body, balancing her on the edge while pushing his manhood as deeply into her as he could. He restrained himself just long enough before he began a hard and rough rhythm.

His hips snapped forward and Sansa couldn’t stop herself. She let go of the desk and wrapped her arm around his shoulders, holding her to him. He smelt like the lemon and sandalwood soap that she had grown to love and he kissed her. She could taste the mint that he’d been chewing only minutes before on his breath and gasped silently when as he cupped her breast in his hand. She’d be left with needing more, Sansa decided sourly as he rocked his hips uncontrollably. As good as Tywin felt between her legs, there was not enough friction for her to achieve the pleasurable outcome that she desired. Sensing that she must have come to that conclusion, Tywin broke their kiss, pleasure and triumph evident in his eyes as he softly grunted. Not achieving a peak was to be her punishment. She dug her nails into his back, a quick chastisement before he leaned down and kissed her again. Sansa could feel his own body straining to remain quiet. If he was going to torment her, she would torment him, she decided. Two could play the game he wanted to play.

“I told Lady Margaery that I might have not known the pleasure of a man’s mouth upon my body, but I had felt the pleasure of our bodies together. Fucking together in a hard, rough, and wanton way that she would never experience with another man in her entire life,” Sansa gasped as she whispered into his ear. “I told her how good you feel between my thighs every night and how every morning in my bath, it’s all I can do to not touch myself and remind myself how good a feeling you leave behind when you pull away from me. Harder, Tywin, please.”

He obeyed her command and she could sense that he was losing control, his muscle were tense and she kissed him. Her hands cupped his neck, and she was determined to have as much pleasure from him as she possibly could. She broke their kiss as his hips jerked frantically over and over again until he achieved his release. Every muscle in his body was taut and she gasped at the feeling of him spilling his seed inside her. He hugged her to him tightly, and his body shuddering from his release.

“Gods be damned, woman,” he panted, his lips pressed to the shell behind her ear. He slowly eased her legs down off his hips and she nearly fell forward. Sansa clung to him, happy that he kept her sitting on the edge of the desk. Her legs would have not been able to support her even if she tried to stand. Her body hummed with a needy disappointment that was uncontrollable as he pulled away from her a few moments later.

He said nothing, simply righting his clothing. She watched him, realizing that she’d never seen him dress. Tywin refastening his sword belt around his waist and grabbed the red sash out of his chair. Sansa found herself being wrapped in it as she slid off the desk, his arm securely around her waist. Under her arms, she clung to material covering the tops her breasts. The red velvet pooled on the floor, clearly too large for her petite frame. Sansa could feel his warm seed slipping down her warm, trembling thighs and she nearly blushed. She’d felt his seed before, but never the way she was feeling it now. It was primitive and yet, she found that she enjoyed the feeling of it. From the look in Tywin's eyes, he knew what she was experiencing and he seemed incredibly pleased by the fact that she felt his essence slipping from her body.

She wasn’t prepared for the kiss that he gave her. It left her breathless more than any kiss before as his lips caressed hers. His kisses were not the clumsy kisses of a boy, that she’d experienced with Joffrey. He kissed like a man in control of the world around him. He had the firm, passionate lips of a man, not a cruel boy. When he pulled away from her, Sansa’s eyes were barely opening, still enjoying the warm tingling sensation that encompassed her body.

“What in the seven hells possessed you into allowing Margaery Tyrell to convince you to join her in an archery competition?” he demanded, his voice harsh, but his touch soft. The man was a confusing contradiction sometimes that she enjoyed playing with and discovering.

“Decorum and not having the ability to decline her information convinced me to join,” she murmured, her body reminding her of her own desires that hadn't been sedated. Her womanhood tingled with need, desperate need and the urge to press her thighs together or rub herself against his hand again was overwhelming. “Half the things Margaery told me today would make you blush, my lord.”

Tywin hummed and suddenly, she was pulled off the edge of the desk. The Great Lion of Casterly Rock held on tightly to her wrist as Sansa clung to the red velvet to prevent her breasts from being exposed to the world as he walked across his study. He walked to one of the bookcase at the far side of the room and pulled two books out, dropping them to the floor without a care in the world. His hand slipped into the space that the books had occupied and a moment later, the bookcase swung back, revealing a secret passage.

“What are you doing, my lord?” she demanded, brushing her long auburn hair out of her face so that she could see clearly as he pulled her towards the darkness. The smooth wood steps were cold against the bottoms of her feet and she blindly reached out and touched wood paneling in the darkness. She could not see a thing in the darkness, but with practiced feet, Lord Tywin guided them both up the dark, spiraling steps. The door swung closed, plunging them into darkness and Sansa couldn't help the way she shamelessly clung to him in the darkness.

“You want to celebrate a victory,” Tywin drawled as the climbed the steps. “And celebrate a victory, we shall.”

Later in the night, thunder rumbled in the distance and the winds danced with the sheer white window panels. A storm was coming into port, but as Sansa lay on her belly, sedated and utterly exhausted, uncaring that the window was open. Tywin lay next her looking up at the canopy, just as exhausted as she was. Somehow, she found the strength to move and he didn’t stop her. A washing stand stood near the door to her dressing room and pulling open the small wooden drawer, she took out the small vial of oil that Shae kept concealed there. Her body ached, each muscle hurting and the activities of the day had not helped the soreness that had developing since the early hours of the morning.

Naked, she moved to sit on the edge of the bed. She could feel Tywin's gaze on her, his hard emerald eyes watching every move. The braid that had been in Sansa’s hair earlier was utterly destroyed and she pulled it over her shoulder exposing her back to him. She uncorked the small vial and Sansa instantly smelt peppermint oil. The oil would soothe her aching muscles and ease the growing tension.

“When did Margaery Tyrell send you this note about the challenge?” Tywin asked as she poured a small amount of oil into her hands.

She slowly rubbed the oil into sore muscles of her shoulder. She couldn't suppress the groan of discomfort that escaped her, but she was surprised when Tywin moved towards her. He took the small vial and uncorked it. A modest amount of oil was poured into his hand before he recorked the vial and laid it back down. Instead of rubbing her shoulders, he began pressing his hands into the base of her spine. He began there, applying slight pressure and it felt good, easing tension that she didn’t even know that she had in her back. He seemed to know where her tension was better than she did and it made her wonder if he'd felt the tension that was in her muscles before. He probably had, she reasoned. War was not a comfortable pastime.

“After I came back from spying on you,” Sansa gasped as he hit a particularly sore part of her back. “She sent the dress and the note and there was no chance of turning down the invitation. It would have been offensive to her if I had declined. Littlefinger was the one who told her about the archery.”

Tywin hummed as he moved his hands up towards her ribs and for a moment, he played with her hardened nipple. “And where did you learn to shoot like that?”

“My twin and I would practice,” she moaned softly closing her eyes as he tugged at her pert nipple. She found that she liked it when he was rougher with her. Gentle was all well and good, but pleasure was only attained by exploring and she'd found that she liked it when he tugged and pulled at her hard nipples. “Robb was never a good at anything besides sword fighting. Ser Rodrick, the master of arms at Winterfell, caught me spying on Robb during one of his lessons and allowed me to practice. He and I were the only children for a long time. There is a nearly six year age gap between Robb and I and Arya. It was the one thing we were allowed to do together.”

“And your father allowed it?”

“Only after he found out I was better at archery than Robb. My lady mother was horrified by the idea, but she let us do it. It was the only time that I was able to spend with my twin,” Sansa explained with a hiss as he hit another particularly sore part of her back. “Did I do the right thing, my lord? Or would you have had me turn the invitation down?”

Tywin’s hands stopped for a brief moment, but quickly resumed their movements, “You did not disgrace the Lannister name. Suggest next time that you and she embroider cushions for the royal apartments. Do not put yourself in harm’s way without justifiable cause, Lady Sansa. You’re a Lannister, and we’re not fools.”

The peppermint oil made her skin tingle and it felt cool. She had once seen her mother rub peppermint oil into her father’s sore hands. She knew that she’d hurt tomorrow, but the peppermint oil would ease her discomfort in the morning. She doubted that it would be a few days before she could lift her hands above her head. When he reached her shoulders, Sansa nearly jumped off the bed from the discomfort. His hands were gentle and he applied even pressure, knowing that it was painful. Sansa hissed, but his hands fell away before the pain became too much. His touch had helped and lying back in bed, the peppermint oil soothed and cooled her hot, aching shoulders.

“That feels good,” she murmured to him after he was finished and slipped back into be next to her.

Lying still, she could feel other parts of her body that would no doubt be sore tomorrow from his attention. She had not expected him to seriously perform her request, but he had. His head and hands had been between her thighs, showing her just what exactly a man could do with his tongue and hands to pleasure a woman. It had felt beyond anything that Margaery had described. He’d taken her on her knees after, showing her another way to bring their bodies together. When they were both exhausted beyond all limits, Tywin Lannister had made no move to leave her bed, making Sansa even happier as she’d fallen asleep.

“If this is how we are to celebrate my victories, how are we to celebrate your victories, my lord?” Sansa asked smartly, half asleep. The only response her lord husband made was a throaty noise that sounded something like a scoff and a moan.

Two  Days Later

Late July 299 AC

Tower of the Hand, King's Landing

Tywin didn’t pause in his writing on the late morning when Cersei entered his solar. Another active night of bedding Lady Sansa had left him in a good mood and he had no desire to spoil it by listening to Cersei’s complaints. If the thought of not wanting to talk to his daughter made him a horrid father, Tywin would gladly accept that truth. His day had progressed so far without catastrophe or complaint and he’d learned from his squire that his wife had requested to have her noon meal served to her in the gardens. For the first time in a very long time, Tywin was considering joining her. He hadn’t actually sat for a true noon meal with a lady in many years. He'd often had a tray of food delivered to him in his study and now, he was considering the noon meal as something perhaps to reinvest in for the future. He'd often had the noon meal with his first wife, perhaps it would be proper to continue on the tradition with his second wife.

Cersei sighed loudly and he dipped his quill in ink, as he thought over the contents of his next message to Walder Frey. He needed to end this bloody, costly war swiftly and a plan was formulating in his head. Sansa would not approve of the plan in any form and she’d most likely hate him for it, but he was losing money on something that would cost too much in the long run. The crown’s debts were owned by him and with the seven kingdoms warring, he could not collect on the debts that were owed to him. The Iron Bank was far away from them and was not a current threat, but Tywin meant to ensure that the next Master of Coin never borrowed vast summons of money ever again. No future Lord of Casterly Rock would provide the funds to pay for the crowns debts, he'd make certain of it.

“You wanted to speak to me about what, Cersei?” he asked, his voice was hard and he hopped that his daughter’s interview with him would be over quickly.

“Yes, about Jamie, Father,” she said quickly and for a brief moment, he stopped writing. His mind recalled the vile rumors about his children and he crushed the thoughts. Whatever the truth was, they would not be his heirs. Sansa’s children would be beyond such taint and legally declared his true children. Tywin supposed briefly that by disinheriting his first three children, he was breathing more life into the rumors that surround them, but he could not change course, he was wedded and bedded his new bride, an activity he found incredibly pleasurable and not at all a duty.

“What about your brother?”

“I wanted to come and ensure that you’re doing everything you can to get him back,” Cersei said as he looked across the desk at her as if she were a small, stupid child. Sometimes, Tywin wondered if she was in fact so silly and ridiculous.

“When my wife’s mother took your youngest brother, what did I do?”

“You started a war.”

“And if I would start a war for that lecherous little stump, what do you think I would do for your brother?”

“Everything you can.”

“Everything that I can,” Tywin echoed, doing his best to keep the annoyance out of his voice as he sealed his letter and grabbed a new piece of parchment. Cersei was wasting his time and he would miss the noon meal if he wasn’t quick about his next letter. He delivered his words forcefully, hoping that Cersei would leave him be to complete his work. Yet, she made no move to stand.

“Why are you still here?” Tywin demanded in a calm voice, hoping that by pacifying Cersei, she’d leave and do her duty as Regent Queen and attempt to teach Joffrey something such as respect and humility, although Tywin suspected those lessons would never sink into the boy’s mind and be retained. There was an evil, sadistic streak inside his grandson and he suspected that there was no erasing it from the boy. It was too late to pound out such a character defect through a man’s fist or a vigorous training with a sword.

“Did it ever occur to you father that I might be the one who deserves your confidence and trust, not your sons or your new child-wife?” Cersei demanded, her anger clearly evident on her beautiful face. She thought that she hid it well, but Cersei had not perfected the same serene blank look that Sansa was able to wear. He could still see her fury evident in her green eyes, eyes that looked just like Joanna’s, and her clenched fist. He paused in picking up the quill for his next letter as he watched her. Sansa would have never shown such emotions, she had mastered such things where Cersei had not.

“Years and years of lectures on the family and legacy, the same lectures over and over again with tiny variations, did it ever occur to you that your daughter might be the only one listening to them? Living by those lectures and standards that you set forth?” Cersei said her bitterness a biting edge on her words. “That I, your daughter, might have the most to contribute to your legacy as Lord Lannister. A legacy that you love so much more than your actual children that my lady mother bore you before she died? A legacy, where you would willingly set aside your oldest children, and secure it with children from a new wife who is barely out of the nursery?”

Tywin said nothing as he wrote the note and sanded the paper. His legacy would be secured by the sons that Sansa would birth him. Not by the children who were rumored to commit incest and share children…placing a bastard king on the Iron Throne, he reminded himself angrily. Sansa had done more to secure the legacy of House Lannister in her short tenure as Lady Lannister than Cersei had done in her lengthy tenure as Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. She had learned vital lessons that Cersei could not seem to comprehend and use to her own advantage, such basic things as well.

“Alright,” Tywin said as he sat back in the chair after sealing his correspondence. “Contribute.”

“The Tyrells are a growing weed in our garden,” Cersei proclaimed as she sat higher in her chair. “They need to be plucked out and the roots destroyed before they over take the garden.”

“The Tyrells saved this city and helped defeat Stannis Baratheon. The Tyrells saved your life, your children’s lives, Tyrion’s life, and Lady Sansa’s life. They helped to save this city from destruction at the hands of a would-be king. A king who would have taken your head and Joffrey's at the first chance he had,” he said carefully, his tone biting as it was meant to be.

He wanted her to think about alliances and why they were made. He wanted Cersei to show him that she understood why it was important to bring the Tyrells into the fold within the castle carefully. He was not doing because he wanted to do it. He was doing because there had been no other choice. Kings were as costly as wars and it cost just as much gold as it cost social capital within the walls to defend the city. Controlling the people was just as important as controlling the battlefield. Governing had to happen and in order to govern, people needed to be controllable. The food the Tyrells brought with them made it possible to avoid an all-out open rebellion within the city and avoided more blood being spilt in the streets.

“Margaery has her claws in Joffrey,” she stated softly. “She knows how to manipulate him.”

“Good for her, it’s an important skill of a wife’s to know how to manipulate her husband,” Tywin bit out, through clenched teeth. “It was certainly a skill you never succeeded at very well or utilized with Robert. More would have been accomplished to secure the Lannister legacy if you had. I am not concerned about Margaery Tyrell. If anything, I wish you knew how to manipulate the boy and the people around this court to do your bidding.”

Cersei’s cheeks turned red in anger as he continued, “I don’t distrust you because you’re a woman. I distrust you because you’re not as smart as you think you are, Cersei. You’ve always imagined yourself as some female version of myself. However, you will never be me. In attempting to be me, you’ve wasted your time. All that time is gone and you never developed talents that could have furthered our family and our legacy. What do you have to show for it…an unruly king and a weak second son with a brainless daughter to show off for her beauty?”

“What are going to do about Margaery’s hold on my son?” Cersei demanded, her hands trembling from rage.

“Nothing,” Tywin pronounced tightly. “Do you know what you and Robert Baratheon have left behind as your legacy? A stinking pile of shit. That is what my noble house must clean up as a result of your carelessness. Robert’s debts are astronomical. Instead of being a queen and attempting to control him and his seedlings, you let him whore himself out and drink like a madman. Your children run free as they choose with no discipline and little education on the positions they do hold. Now, as there is open rebellion and warfare, there are debts to be paid back to House Lannister and an unruly king to manage, as he is incompetent and unfit to rule. Tell me, where did I go wrong?”

Cersei was silent, her whole body shaking with rage as he continued. “I am not concern about Margaery’s influence over Joffrey because while you have been making an enemy of the Tyrells, Lady Sansa has been gaining influence over the Lady Margaery. She has been doing something to actively secure our legacy with her cementing alliances with other houses, not destroying the throne and those alliances that hold it all together. Lady Sansa has done more good in securing influence over Margaery and the common people than either you or Joffrey. People don’t cry out the name Lannister and praise you, you foolish girl, because you wear a crown. People cry out the name Lannister because Lady Sansa and I have ensured they would by securing their goodwill and safety for us. When was the last time you visited an orphanage and spent hours repairing the children’s clothing or feeding the poor? Never. I know you better than you think, Cersei.”

“That’s not important.”

“You’re missing the key of the lecture,” Tywin mused, displeased. “Lions do not concern themselves with sheep, but lions need the sheep to prey on. The sheep feed the lion and there is a relationship between the creatures. You’ve allowed the people’s disquiet over your son to grow in rioting. You’ve allowed that boy to ride roughshod over you and beat whomever he pleases. You’ve allowed the people to go hungry with no thought to any consequences of what might happen. It is impossible to govern when there is rebellion.”

“I thought a lion did not concern himself with the opinion of others.”

“Do you know what legacy is, Cersei? When I talk about the legacy, I am talking about what I pass down to my children and their children’s children. It is what will remain when we are long gone and dead. It is how people will remember us and yes, a lion does not concern himself with the opinions of others, only with the lion’s own opinions. Joffrey is going to be remembered as highly as the Mad King and you will be remembered as the daughter of Tywin Lannister, the queen who let massive debts be incurred, and who couldn’t control either King Robert or his tyrannical son. That is not going to be a part of my legacy. Do you not see the lesson that you have not learned? Do you not understand how all the pieces fit together?”

Cersei scoffed bitterly, “The only thing that I see is you setting your true born children aside for the children that will be produced by that traitor’s whore of a daughter.”

“Be careful,” Tywin warned his voice as hard as ice. “I am not in a forgiving mood.”

Cersei’s jaw tightened and she looked at him angrily, “The only reason that you trust Sansa Stark is because she’s playing with your cock and balls every night. Don’t think that people don’t know. This has nothing to do with legacy and everything to do with being fondled by a pretty girl whilst my mother rots in her tomb.”

Tywin felt fury build inside him and he stood up from his desk, “The only reason I haven’t cut your tongue out yet is because you are my eldest child. Do not test me. Get out of my sight. Clearly, all those lectures you believed that you listened to were not retained. Go before I beat the lesson into you, once and for all.”

He left his study without another word, deciding that he’d write the next letter after the noon meal. Across the corridor and down a stairwell, Tywin came out through a sweeping archway into the Hand’s garden. A looked across the vastness of the courtyard to see Sansa standing over the circular meal table, looking curiously at the second table setting as he approached her. The canvas tent that had been set up had no walls, but protected the occupants from the sun and from their position in the garden there was a rather impressive view of Blackwater Bay. The grass ensured his steps were silent and suddenly, he relaxed his hands as he approached. He’d let all the problems of the realm slip away, he decided. Sansa would not feel the burden or tension in his body. Taking a lemon cake of a platter from a passing servant, he slipped into the tent and stood behind her.

“Stealing lemon cakes, my lord,” she asked as she turned around and faced him. “You’re not as quiet as you think you are.”

She wore a happy look on her face, one that made her blue eyes look like sparkling sapphires. Her hair was in a braided bun, with only a few loose wisps of hair dancing at the base of her neck. A beautiful flower ornament was in her hair, making her look far more beautiful than any queen he'd ever laid eyes on. He took a bite of the lemon cake that was in his hands as the servants set a few dishes of cold meats, cheeses, and breads on the table.

“And what gave it away?” he asked, genuinely curious to know how she’d heard him. He’d been quiet as he always was and the sound of his boots had not given him away, the grass made certain that he was almost entirely silent. Sansa walked towards him, she was extremely close when she made to stand on her the tips of her toes. He leaned down slightly to hear her as he placed his free hand at the base of her spine to steady her.

“Your poor squire looks like he’s about to meet the Stranger himself when he sees you,” she whispered her lips brushing against his earlobe. “I knew you were walking out of the castle and I saw it in his face when you stole the lemon cake. You terrify the poor boy.”

Tywin broke the piece of lemon cake he had in half as she pulled away from him and lazily ate the piece.

“Good. Maybe he won’t betray me next time I come to join you for the noon meal.”

She must have known that he didn’t like smiles, but her eyes twinkled as if a true smile had come across her face. He finished his lemon cake as the servant arranged the lemon cake platter on the table. Sansa looked at it with noted disinterest before sitting down. Tywin pushed Cersei’s words out of his head as he sat down next to his bride. He had half an hour to enjoy the noon meal before the gathering of the Small Council.

It was a peaceful half hour, Tywin reflected, when his plate was cleared away by a servant. Sansa wore a serene, but tired look on her face as she looked out at the bay and the ships leaving port. He got to his feet and she looked up, her focus entirely on his person.

“No lemon cake today,” he stated with a pointed look at her untouched half of the cake that had been served earlier. She looked up tiredly at him and stood as well. He caught the scent of roses and lavender that was entirely her own. Servants moved forward and he offered her his elbow as propriety dictated. Sansa tucked her hand into the crook of it, her hand light on his sleeve. Lord Tywin set a slow pace back to the tower that he hated, but he suspected that she needed the small, slow steps.

“Not today,” she murmured as she covered his hand with hers briefly. “A nap will leave me feeling far more refreshed than a piece of cake will. I am sure that the Small Council will be far better company than I have been this afternoon.”

He left her in the care of two handmaidens not long after they returned to the tower and made his way to the small council meeting that would consume most of the afternoon.

EDITED 5/17/3019 Beta'd by A.L.D.


Chapter Text

Part Seven: When You Sleep

"...I could make you happy

I could make you love me

I could disappear completely

I could be your love song..."

~ "When You Sleep" - Mary Lambert

Early August, 299 AC

King's Landing, the Hand's Gardens

Sansa was attempting to stomach a bite of food without success. The morning was half gone and all she'd accomplished was her morning meeting with the housekeeper who oversaw the servants and aided her in running the Hand's household. The sour smell of the housekeeper had proven to nearly be her undoing during the meeting. Her stomach had rolled violently and it had been Shae's suggestion that she attempt to break her fast in the gardens. The morning air helped to calm her violent stomach, but she could not bring herself to eat the small spread of food in front of her.

"I know that you feel unwell, but you must eat something," Shae urged as Sansa dismissed another small plate of food with a wave of her hand.

It was all too much as she decidedly wished to go back to bed and sleep for a few hours longer. She could not understand how Tywin Lannister managed to bed her most nights and still be up at the break of dawn to train in the yard. How was he not as tired as she? Reaching for the small tea cup, Sansa took a sip. Tea was all she seemed able to stomach for the moment and it stopped her stomach from churning, if only for a few minutes. Hearing the raspy voice of the Commander, Sansa looked up from her tea cup. Across the open garden lawn, Sansa could see Lord Varys and Ser Jorah Mormont being escorted to her by a Lannister guard.

"Lord Varys and Ser Jorah Mormont, my Lady Lannister," the soldier said with a bow. Easily dismissing the soldier, Sansa looked at Varys with tired eyes.

"Forgive me for not standing," she murmured. "I am feeling decidedly unwell this morning, Lord Varys."

"I am saddened to hear such a thing," Lord Varys replied. "May I?"

He indicated his desire to sit down in the empty chair across from her and she nodded. Varys heavily perfumed scent reached her and Sansa raised the tea cup to her lips and sipped, desperate for something to relieve her nausea.

"Please, help yourself to breakfast, my lord. I find that I cannot stomach it. To what do I owe such an early morning visit?" Sansa asked looking at both the Spider and the disgraced knight.

She was feeling exceedingly confused. She had not seen Ser Jorah since her wedding day feast when Joffrey had presented the heads of the dead Targaryen siblings. It had all been too much, but she remembered Ser Jorah's assistance in stepping down the stairs to dance with Joffrey. She couldn't quite understand why he was in her small place of peace in the gardens.

"Ser Jorah Mormont has come to pledge himself to your service," Varys explained. His words surprised her and she looked up at Ser Jorah with raised eyebrows. The man said nothing, but looked at her with a steady gaze until he knelt before her, a gesture of respect.

"Is this true, Ser Jorah?" Sansa asked looking expectantly at the man her father had once banished into exile.

"Yes, my lady," he said, looking up at her and she could see the sincerity in his eyes.

"And why should I trust my life around you? Why should I someday trust you around my children?"

"You serve the realm, my lady," Ser Jorah answered. "I saw what you did for that boy in the street down in Flea Bottom. You are a great lady and just as the Hand will eclipse the King, you will eclipse the Queen. The Tyrells will not like that, my lady. You will wield far more power over her and the people. It will be something Lady Olenna cannot stand and she will no doubt wish you harm and attempt to discredit you or kill you. You have a good heart, a heart of a leader, and I would not wish to see you hurt. We are of northern blood, but we both cannot go home. I wish to serve you, my lady, and pledge my fealty to you and you alone. To protect and to serve you until my dying breath."

Sansa thought over his words a moment before setting her tea cup down. She knew little about Ser Jorah except that her father had banished him for attempting to sell poachers for some gold. She wondered if being Eddard Stark's daughter would cause disdain, but Varys would not have brought Ser Jorah here if that were the case. He spoke of Olenna Tyrell threatening her, but she couldn't credit his words as being truth, unless Varys knew something that she did not.

"I understand that you were offered a place in the kingsguard. Why did you refuse it?" Sansa asked carefully. She was curious to know his answer and when he spoke, his words surprisingly reminded her of something that Eddard Stark would have said.

"The king is not a man I would serve," Ser Jorah said. "I have done things that I am not proud of, my lady. I have made mistakes and have paid for them. I do not believe in serving a king who beat his one-time betrothed for sport and encouraged knights, who had taken vows to protect and serve the young, the old, and innocent, to partake in his violence. I cannot serve a man such as him and do as he would wish. I may have made mistakes and committed acts that I am not proud of, but I am not senselessly violent or cruel like the kingsguard has become. I would serve you with honor, my lady, and show you what a true knight and guard should be."

Her eyes flickered to Varys for a long moment before she gazed back at Ser Jorah as he knelt before her.

"If I accept you as my sworn sword, you may have to wear the red and gold of House Lannister," Sansa declared softly. "You will see though I am surrounded by Lannister guards, but I would accept you into my circle, Ser Jorah. Would you please give a moment with Lord Varys?"

"My lady," Ser Jorah acknowledged as he rose and bowed before stepping out of the tent with no walls. He stood far back beside Shae, waiting for her decision. Sansa waited several moments to ensure that they were entirely alone and that no one would overhear their words. Alone with Varys, she looked at the eunuch with an unreadable expression.

"Have you taken leave of your senses?" Sansa demanded. "Ser Jorah Mormont as my sworn sword? Tywin Lannister will strangle me in my sleep tonight."

"He will serve you and your children faithfully, my lady. He does not wish to join the kingsguard, the city watch, or be granted titles. He wants to serve faithfully and restore his honor. You are surrounded by Lannisters. Would it not be wise to be also surrounded by others with different opinions?"

Sansa stood and clasped her hands in front of her as she gazed out at the sea, barely seeing the blue hues before her.

"You have every right to be suspicious, my lady, but Ser Jorah is true. He will not fail you in protecting you. The Tyrells and Littlefinger are in league and as Queen Cersei's power dwindles, she will grow dangerous in her thirst to seek it out."

"She's a drunk, not mad."

"You know as well as I do that's she capable of violence and much worse. She's a Lannister. She knows the guards. She has the means to do you and your children great harm. A poisoned berry, a slip down the could kill a child, my lady. I have heard whispers that your husband plans to marry her to Willas Tyrell, but it will not curb her madness and desire to see herself on the seat of power. Ser Jorah's only loyalty is to you and you alone. He refused to serve in the kingsguard or accept gifts based on the knowledge that the King had abused you. He told me that he could not serve or accept anything from such a man and I believe him."

Sansa wanted to argue, but Varys was correct in some ways. A storm was coming into port with the royal wedding not far off. Power would be changing hands and Cersei would not accept the change and her lack of power over Joffrey and the throne. Tywin would dismiss her as being a woman and foolish, but Sansa knew what Cersei was capable of. Joffrey had learned his streak of cruelty from someone. It was under the guidance of the Queen that he had become the way he was.

And where did that leave herself and Varys?

The question loomed in her mind and Sansa recalled her wedding day and the dragon eggs, the beautiful creations were next to her fireplace in her dressing room. Displayed for her to admire while she was bathing and dressing. Why had Varys given her such a gift? Sansa was also reminded of her wedding day and the look on Varys's face at seeing the head of the Targaryen girl. Just the thought of it turned her stomach and she took a deep breath.

“There is one thing I have to know, Lord Varys, before I can accept such service. I saw your face at my wedding feast,” Sansa admitted as she turned and looked at him. “I saw the look of horror you wore when they revealed those heads. You cannot deny it, Lord Varys. Did you serve the exiled Targaryens?”

Varys’s hands disappeared into his robes as he held his hands together as he always did. He wore an expression of surprise on his face that morphed into an unreadable look. Sansa sat in the chair and looked up at the lord who had taught her to survive. He'd gifted her with the knowledge of how to survive King's Landing, but she could not be an ally with him if he were not completely honest with her. She needed to be able to trust him and with the storm on the horizon, she could not afford to miscalculate a move and have it end in disaster for them all.

“You have every right to question me.”

“I don't want to question you,” she declared. “But you cannot submit Ser Jorah in such a way and not expect me ask questions and not tell me why. You and I have always been honest with one another and I value that, but I cannot accept Ser Jorah without knowing.”

Varys paced in front of her for a moment gathering his words and she let him. She'd known him long enough to know that he was a man who picked and chose his words carefully. It was something about him that she admired and respected. There were few men that she knew of that did such a thing. Tywin was the same sort of man, careful with his words and calculating.

Under the canvas canopy of the tent she'd erected in the gardens, Varys looked over his shoulder for a moment before gazing back at her.

“I did support Daenerys Targaryen becoming queen and unseating Robert Baratheon,” he admitted calmly as he turned and looked out at the bay looking inconsolable. “She is dead, however, the Faceless men that Robert Baratheon sent after them in secret murdered her. Even I did not know of his plans. Never in my life have I felt like such a failure, my lady. I, the Master of Whispers, failed to stop Robert Baratheon's plot. I ordered Ser Jorah to return from Essos where I had sent him to influence the young princess and educate her about the seven kingdoms."

Sansa was quiet.

She could see his pain written clearly across his face. She could hear the pain in his words and she knew that Varys was not lying to her. Even he could not act the way he looked and sounded, there was sincerity in his eyes and she knew that he felt such a loss keenly.

"I believe that you and I have similar interests, my lady," Varys continued softly, attempting to compose himself again. "We both believe in doing what is best for the realm and survival is the key. I do not know if restoring the Targaryen Rule would have been the best choice, but it would have been better than the madness that the king will lead us into.”

"You sound as if we are discussing treason," Sansa pronounced softly. "I will not sit next to Tywin Lannister on the throne, if that is what you are suggesting. I will not be queen, Varys. I cannot do that even if you wished it. Besides, the noble lords of the realm grow weary with Lannister influence."

"They do not want the king to be easily bought," he said. "The astronomical debt that has been incurred by Robert Baratheon rests solely in the hands of Tywin Lannister and the half noble lords fear that if the money is not paid back, Lord Lannister will unleash hell for it. The other half believe that this is all proof that the king can be bought with gold and controlled. They see the Baratheon kings as weak and ineffective rulers."

"They are weak and ineffective, but do not tell the king those words," Sansa murmured. "There is no solution to make everyone happy, Lord Varys."

"It is not a matter of you being queen or who is king. The king and queen are simply puppets. Others pull the strings and command them. You and I believe in the good of the realm and its people. You wish for peace and prosperity as much as I do and I am not blind. I know that under Tywin Lannister there was twenty years of peace and growth. I also know that you have the love of the people. It is possible that the Hand and Hand’s Lady can eclipse the throne and subdue a mad king and a useless queen. Building a better realm for all, my lady. You and Tywin Lannister can do that. You can end the war, end the madness, put a king on the throne that can rule. You see the vision as well as I do, we simply have to create it and to create the vision, you must be kept safe. Accept Ser Jorah into your service and begin to build, my lady."

"Lord Baelish gave me a speech about chaos being a ladder. Building something out of chaos is not something that will be easy."

"Yes, he certainly loves his ladders," Varys declared. " But I am speaking of law, order, and peace. You may not wish to think of yourself and Tywin Lannister as sitting on the Iron Throne, but the common people view that the Hand and the Hand's Lady are far worthier to rule than the second mad king. It's whispers like these that incite rage in Cersei Lannister and Lady Olenna. Cersei wants the power for herself and Lady Olenna wants her granddaughter to be seen by the people as the queen, not you."

Sansa nodded, understanding his words, but Tywin Lannister would not as easily accept the situation. She would have to ensure that he saw Ser Jorah as a northern man. Someone that Sansa could relate with, someone that was not a threat to him. She would have to tell him in a careful moment and not use sex to ease the news. Wringing her hands together, Sansa realized that there was no easy way to tell Tywin Lannister anything. He'd strangle her in her sleep for accepting Ser Jorah, but the more she thought about the situation, the more she could see that it was a good idea. She turned and walked to the edge of the tent, looking expectantly at Ser Jorah. He came and knelt before her again.

"Varys speaks highly of you," Sansa said softly.

"Lady Sansa," Ser Jorah began. "I offer you my service. I will shield your back, and keep your counsel, and give my life for yours if need be. I swear it by the old gods and the new."

Clasping her hands in front of her, Sansa swallowed hard, "And I vow that you shall always have a place by my hearth and meat and mead at my table. I pledge to ask you no service that would bring you dishonor. I swear it by the old gods and the new. Arise, Ser Jorah."

Ser Jorah closed his eyes briefly, a look of peace crossing his face. He rose and bowed to her as she stepped back into the tent, his step behind her. Sitting back down at the table with the untouched food before her, Sansa looked at the grapes for a moment before returning her gaze to Varys.

"Did you meet with Lady Olenna?"

"I did, I also offered her the advice that she and Petyr Baelish would have much in common to discuss when it came to wedding plans. My little birds told me before I came that she was already seeking his council out."

Sansa nodded and looked down at the plate of fruit. It was good that Varys had made the arrangement with Lady Olenna and Littlefinger. Every day that passed, Littlefinger became more and more of an agent for the queen and the queen only thirsted for power, something that Littlefinger desired above all. If Lady Olenna was plotting something, Littlefinger would no doubt shift his alliances and aid the Tyrells.

Lady Olenna could offer more to Littlefinger. Cersei was the Queen Mother, her power was waning, but Margaery Tyrell would be the queen. A powerful position that would aid Littlefinger and motivate him to betray Cersei. Lady Olenna would not cooperate with Littlefinger if there was no benefit on her part. It was a half-solved puzzle, Sansa realized. What did the Tyrells want and what would Littlefinger do for them? He was out of favor with the Lannisters and the Small Council, but what benefit would he give to the Tyrells?

"I have a suspicion of what they're up to," Sansa murmured as she looked up at Varys. He wore a similar expression on his face and she wondered if he was thinking just as she was. "Let us not spook them before they have plotted and planned."

Varys asked to be excused shortly after and left her alone, sitting under the canopy of the red canvas. The Hand’s garden was beautiful and the breeze coming from off the bay was calming, but it did little to soothe her.

"What do you think the Tyrells are planning, my lady?" Ser Jorah asked, his voice calm and soft, barely intruding upon her thoughts.

"I cannot say yet, but it is not good. We need the Tyrells as much as they need us. Alliances are important and they make the world turn. King's Landing would not survive the coming winter without the aid of the Tyrells. They have brought food to buy a crown, but something doesn't feel right. I had breakfast with Lady Olenna and her questions...they left me feeling unwell. Varys has been listening for me and I suspect that the brutality of Joffrey is what makes the Tyrells uneasy. If Margaery Tyrell marries him and is beaten and raped, the Tyrells will withdraw their support and come winter, Joffrey and King's Landing will collapse. You can see the predicament we are all in, Ser Jorah."

Another feeling of unease overwhelmed Sansa as she sat. She barely knew Ser Jorah and she felt as thought she'd shared too much. Information was power and she was giving him it freely without thought. A wave of nausea overwhelmed Sansa. She felt incredibly ill and wondered if it was a good idea to summon Maester Broots. As soon as the thought came, she dismissed it. She was ill from the heat, nothing more.

Two Days Later

Early August, 299 AC

The Tower of the Hand, King's Landing

It was one of the few days that she was having trouble walking, Sansa reflected wearily as she laid on the chaise in the sitting room that connected her apartment to Lord Tywin’s. The gray, black skies that gathered distantly over the bay were ominous. They promised a storm and the cracks of lightning that flashed in the distance soothed her somehow. The sight gave her something to focus on besides her pain and the thoughts of Arya.

Margaery Tyrell had asked to break their fasts together in the gardens and Sansa had agreed earlier in the week. She could not have foreseen that on the morning of their planned breakfast her lower body would be in pain. It had begun shortly before dawn. Tywin had shifted in bed next to her, lying on his back. In her sleep, Sansa must have missed his warmth or the feeling of his arm around her waist, his hand cupping her breast. When she had moved to roll over and snuggle close to him again, the nagging, biting pain was what had awoken her. For a minute, she'd been terrified that she couldn't move her legs until her sleepy mind realized that it would be a bad day. She'd managed to force herself to sit up in bed, a large pillow stuffed behind her to keep her from falling. Pushing the covers away, she'd managed to massage enough feeling back into her legs that she could feel the horrible pins and needles feeling that traveled from her lower back to the tips of her toes. By then, Lord Tywin had awakened and pushed himself from bed. When he'd asked why she was awake, she'd only told him that something had awakened her, but she hasn't told him about the pain. From the look he’d given her, Sansa had wondered if he knew she was lying.

Shae had helped her to bath, but the walk to the gardens to meet Lady Margaery had been excruciating. Shae had tried to persuade her to use a litter, but Sansa refused. Instead, she'd gone and had been in so much pain that she'd been physically nauseated by the end of the meal. Unable to flee, Sansa had spent half the morning listening to wedding plans with the Lady Olenna and Lady Margaery. It had been horrible and for the first time in her life, she understood how Robb felt when he had been forced to listen to her talk about gowns and ribbons. Hearing sounds behind her, Sansa looked over her shoulder as the familiar thud of boots on the wood floor reached her. Lord Tywin walked into the sitting room with an unreadable expression on his face as he approached her. His hands were clasped behind his back when he moved to stand at the end of the chaise, blocking her view of the bay.

“Maester Broots said he gave you milk of the poppy,” her lord husband began without preamble.

Sansa looked up at him, half frowning. She should have known that Broots would not listen to her when she asked him to not tell Lord Tywin. It was a test of trust and the maester had failed, something Sansa would not forget. The pain had been so intense coming back from the King's garden that the chaise had been the farthest she could go. Shae had summoned the maester and he'd been quick to order bedrest and for her to drink the vile milk of poppy.

"Yes," Sansa admitted. "I am feeling much better. It was just an episode of pain in my legs and lower back."

“When did the pain begin?” Tywin asked sharply, sitting down on the edge of the chaise to look at her. He was close enough that she could smell his familiar soap, lemon and sandalwood. He was also close enough that she could reach out and touch him, but she didn't. Something held her back, a desperate feeling swelled in her. She wanted him to be the one to reach out and touch her.

"Sometime before dawn," Sansa told him. "I went to turn in bed and the pain woke me up. It's nothing anyone did, I simply turned wrong."

Tywin's eyes narrowed slightly as he looked at her, "You were in pain this morning before I left."

"No. I couldn't feel my legs," Sansa murmured.

A lie, but she didn't want the conversation to continue. The sinking feeling in her stomach intensified as her lord husband glared at her with an unreadable expression on his face. The more she stared at him, the more she could see annoyance written in his handsome features.

"We have a duty to perform in our marriage bed. That duty is to produce heirs for the House of Lannister," Tywin said his voice as hard as steel and as cold as ice. "Unnecessary pain and over exerting yourself puts that duty at risk. What if you are with child with now? You don't know what could have happen if you had fallen because your legs had given out on you today. You could have lost the supposed child or worse, be left barren. Still worse, you could fall down the steps again and this time break your back. Seven Gods know most women lose babes from falls. You will not take that risk. You will call Broots if this happens again without delay. You are a Lannister and we are not foolish like others.”

Sansa said nothing and forced herself not to allow the pain of being chastised seep inside. She didn't know what she'd wanted from him, but the words that came out of his mouth were not what she'd wanted to hear and it hurt. That pain was something that she refused to acknowledge and she only forced herself to sit up straighter, ignoring the stabbing pain as she gazed ahead.

“Answer me,” he snapped and her eyes flashed to his, anger turning her blue orbs to frost.

"You did not ask a question," Sansa murmured back through gritted teeth. “Yes, I understand, my lord."

The tension in the air was palpable and silence overwhelmed them. She wanted him to leave, but he didn't. They were both quiet for several moments until Tywin reached out and covered her hand with his in her lap. The gesture surprised her and without thinking, Sansa intertwined their fingers. How many times had they reached for each other's hands when coupling? How many times had he kissed her lips and their fingers intertwined? A sense of warm filled her as she raised her eyes and looked at him. His expression was not as severe and when he spoke again, his voice was not as harsh. “When did the original fall happen? Have you told Broots all the details so that he can manage the condition?”

“It was late one night after a feast, only a few weeks after my father had been killed,” Sansa said softly. “The white cloak shoved me so hard that I lost my footing and fell backwards. I don't remember the actual fall, just the feeling of it. I woke up in my chambers with a frantic Shae at my bedside, half convinced I’d broken my back. I did tell Broots this morning all he needed to know.”

Tywin said nothing, but Sansa knew that he was not unfamiliar with pain. The scar on his ribs and down to his naval was testament of that. He was battered like her, just in different ways. She shared a bed with him so often that Sansa felt as if she knew him deeply and yet, she didn't. The physical closeness that he gave her was not a substitute for the emotional closeness that she'd seen in her parents' marriage...something that she craved for herself. She could easily see the scar that ran across his torso in her mind. He'd been unclothed with her so many times that she'd begun to memorize his body. She knew every detail of that scar, except the origin of it.

"How'd you get it?" She asked softly without thinking and he looked at her with annoyance when she didn't elaborate quickly. "The scar that runs across your ribs and down. I've told you how I fell, now you share."

Tywin made a noise in his throat that was unintelligible and Sansa watched as he withdrew his hand from hers. He looked uneasy and she realized that sharing personal details was extremely uncomfortable for him. It was something that he hardly did and that was why he was uncomfortable with it, she thought. Sansa couldn't hold back the feeling that she wanted him to tell her little things, they were married. They would share children soon enough if the seven faces of god blessed them. Did that not entitle her to some details about him? His body was stiff as he looked at her with his usual, unreadable look.

“Aerys Targaryen, Steffon Baratheon, and I were at war. The Fifth Blackfyre Rebellion, the band of nine…the War of the Ninepenny Kings…whatever it is they call it now, I don't care. I received that scar on the battlefield. We were young, I must have only been seventeen at the time. I was a knight and Steffon told me that one of the enemy soldiers somehow managed to distract me long enough to deliver the blow. Steffon Baratheon saved my life that day. He was an excellent knight, however, his sons are not their father,” Tywin stated. “I don't remember the blow, but I remember soldiering on through the pain and waking up later in a tent with Aerys and Steffon worrying over me like clucking hens.”

"I suppose it's best that we can't remember the events that gave us pain," Sansa said, her voice sounding far away to her own ears.

The milk of the poppy that she'd been forced to drink was beginning to work, Sansa reflected as she lowered her head, chin on her chest. She didn't feel drowsy, just heavy. Her legs no longer hurt, but felt heavy like they were made of lead.

“There are whispers that you met Lady Margaery in the gardens this morning to break your fasts,” Tywin continued gruffly. “What did the Tyrell girl want?”

"She wanted to talk about wedding plans," Sansa murmured, not raising her head. "It was the dullest, most tedious affair I've ever been too. I feel as though I should apologize to everyone I've ever bothered with talk of ribbon and lace when I was a girl."

Tywin snorted loudly and shook his head, "This wedding will cost a damn fortune."

"At least they will only get married once."

"Was that all they talked about?"

A wave of sadness overcame Sansa as she raised her head and looked over Tywin's shoulder and out at the storm blowing into the bay. They had asked about her siblings as if knowing that her pain was raw. Lady Margaery had begun talking about her wonderful siblings, doting brothers, and it had been like a dagger in the heart. It had made Sansa bitter that Margaery would be so vicious with her sweet words about her brothers. Lady Olenna had begun to bring up memories and the whole conversation seemed entirely pointless, but Sansa knew that they had been testing her to see if she'd break.

They wanted to know just how strong she was, and she bitterly thought that Margaery Tyrell had no idea just how hard she was. She was made of ice and Valyrian steel, forged with death, bruises, and beatings. Losses, heartbreaks, and desperation had been the water doused on the molten steel to cool it and from the smoke and fire, she'd been reborn stronger than ever before. She only allowed herself to think happy thoughts about her brothers and Arya. The Tyrells would never see her cry in front of them, she was not weak like they thought her to be. She couldn't bring herself to tell Tywin all of this. He wouldn't care about the fact the Tyrells had asked about Arya and what was being done to find the girl. He wouldn't care that they asked about her dead brothers, Bran and Rickon. None of it would matter to him.

"Yes," she told him. "It was an entire waste of my morning."

Tywin said nothing, but the look he gave her was enough to tell her that he knew she was not telling the whole truth. He performed a mercy on her and stood without a word. He moved to leave her alone so that she could watch the storm coming in off the bay. When he was halfway gone, Sansa called him back. Something deep inside her urged her to ask him about Arya.

"Lord Tywin?" His footsteps stopped and looking over her shoulder, Sansa watched her lord husband walk back to her with his hands clasped behind his back. He looked down at her expectantly and Sansa found herself blurting out what she needed to say before she lost her courage. "At breakfast, they spoke about Arya. I don't know where she's at or even if she's still alive. And I wonder...have you heard any whispers about her? Is she safe? Is she even alive? Or is she lost forever?"

Tywin lowered himself to sit where he'd been sitting only a minute before. "I have not heard a whisper of your sister," he confessed. "She fled King's Landing, unprotected and alone."

"I know," Sansa breathed. "I know what you might say, but I've lost Bran and Rickon. I hoped...I hope that she's alright somewhere."

"I will put out discrete inquiries. I assume that she's attempting to return to Winterfell. It is possible that she is somewhere on the road. I cannot promise that she can be found, Lady Sansa. It is possible that she is not even—"

Sansa wasn't able to hold herself back. She quickly leaned forward, wrapped her arms around his shoulders, hugged him, and effectively cut him off from finishing his words. He smelt of lemons and sandalwood, as he always did. The smell made her stomach roll, but she thought it had to do with taking the milk of poppy and the sudden change in position. He was tense under her touch as if he were a rock on the shoreline, unbending, and she was the wave that caressed him in the summer sunshine.

"Thank you," she breathed, her voice cracking. "Thank you."

She knew that there could have been a number of responses that he could have given that would have made her believe that he was the cruel Tywin Lannister the world believed him to be. He could have pushed her away and withdrawn his pledge. He could have snarled at her and shamed her for touching him. Seven hells, he could have beaten her for her unladylike actions. Instead, his body slowly relaxed under touch just like it did when they were in her chambers alone. His arms that had been stiffly at his side reached and caressed her back like a wisp of wind. A second moment of insanity over took her and she pressed a kiss to his check. Laying back in the chaise, Sansa didn't smile. She knew that he didn't like them, but she wore a happy expression on her face.

"Thank you for trying to find her," she murmured. "I know that you can't promise that you will, but thank you for at the very least looking for her. It's means more to me than I can even being to tell you, Tywin."

Tywin wore an unreadable expression on his face and he stood. Fearing that she'd made a horrific mistake, Sansa nearly breathed out in relief when he assured her that his men would do everything to find Arya and bring her home. He left her laying in the chaise, wondering if the milk of poppy had made her mad. Her lips tingled from the chaste kiss she'd placed on his cheek and Sansa felt warmth fill her. The familiar warmth that filled her whenever he was close and she bit her lip as she thought about the night before. His visits to her chamber were so very different than the visits from the beginning of their marriage. He no longer came after she was already in bed. Several times, Sansa had caught him still dressed looking into the flames of her fire as if the dancing light had all the answers in the world to his heavy problems. He was still distant, but the distance was lessening every evening that he spent in her bed. She was no longer afraid to ask questions and listen to his answers. He was far smarter than her father had ever given Tywin Lannister credit for, Sansa reflected and she remembered the night they'd shared only a few days ago...

...Sweat clung to her body as Sansa lay on her belly, Tywin next to her still recovering from their coupling. Her body already missed his warmth. He’d pressed her into the mattress with pillows beneath her hips and he’d taken her hard. Sansa let her chin rest on her shoulder. She wouldn't blush at the memory of telling him earlier in the evening she liked it when he took her that way. That it felt so very different and in a good way. His body was as naked as hers, the sheets were tangled and looped around his legs.

Pushing herself up, she walked away from the bed to the small table near the door to the dressing room. Behind her, Sansa heard him kick the top pillow that had been under her hips to the floor. A basin of water was filled with linen rags nearby. Shae had made a habit of leaving it there for her in the night. Submerging the linen into the water, Sansa closed her fist around it and pulled it out, making sure to squeeze the excess water out. Briefly, she looked over her shoulder at him as she raised the balled linen to cleanse the skin of her upper arm. He was watching her. One arm tucked lazily behind his head and a knee bent. Just one glance and her body burned for more, something he seemed to enjoy and something he was more than willing to provide. It was something that he seemed to even encourage from her.

“Are you happy with the results of the decision of the Small Council and the King's approval of the tax plan to pay back the debts owed to you?" Sansa asked as she looked over her shoulder at him, unsure if he'd answer her. Varys had told her all of the meeting and even Tyrion had given her little tidbits of information when she'd had the noon meal with him. Tywin said nothing for several moments before he moved to sit up.

" I would have preferred that the money be paid back over a ten year period, not a five year. The taxes will nearly double and I don't think that the lords realize that it will lead to an economic strain," he finally told her and Sansa nodded.

She'd begun to grasp the concepts that her mother had never believed were important to being a lady. Economics, mathematics, politics, theories of government...between Tyrion and Varys, she'd begun to develop a solid understanding of the topics and she no longer read only poetry. There was a volume of economics and government in the drawer of her dressing room, hidden from Tywin. She didn't want him to know that Lady Catelyn had never educated her daughters. It was something that she was ashamed of, Sansa reflected with discontent.

" I think that they are more concerned with your influence," Sansa murmured. "Could you renegotiate the terms if it is too much of a hardship on the kingdoms."


"But would you increase the interest rate on the deal, increasing your revenue over the extended period?" She continued as she washed her body, "It would be the debt for not taking the original deal. The ten year deal would also benefit House Lannister in that you'd have a longer period of financial control over the crown. Which exactly what the lords are terrified of and wish to avoid by attempting to create a financial and economic disaster which will only benefit you, if you increase the interest when you renegotiate."

"I see you've been reading up on loans and banking," Tywin said, something in his tone told her that he approved of her knowledge. "Don't think that I haven't noticed books from the private library going missing."

Sansa blushed and looked down at her body as she ran the linen cloth over her low belly, "I hadn't realized you paid attention to such minor details."

"I play attention to far more than you believe me to. Just like I know that your handmaiden, Shae, is the whore sharing Tyrion's bed. You didn't think that you could keep that from me, did you?" His words made her freeze and Sansa nearly dropped the ball of linen that she'd been using to clean the drying sweat from her arm. Slowly, she dropped the linen into the cold water and rung out the excess water again before cleaning her other arm, her spine stiffening as she heard him move.

" I don't know what you're talking about, my lord," she said steadily, proud that her voice didn't waver.

She heard the wooden four poster creak as it always did when a person moved on it, and she imagined he was standing. His steps were light on the floor, and she felt him come closer. She could feel his warmth and his hands gently wrapped around her upper arms. He squeezed gently before his hands slid down her arms, warmth coming alive in her pelvis.

"If you're going to lie," Tywin whispered in her ear, his voice hard as steel. "Remember that you have a very easy tell. I am not an old fool nor a blind old man and your half-truths will not be tolerated."

His hands slid over her waist and one hand dipped between her legs, his fingers caressing the spot that brought her such pleasure. Sansa grabbed the edge of the table to steady herself, gasping at the feeling of his touch. He wrapped his other hand around her, pulling her body flush against his chest. She could feel his breath against her neck and felt his hardness against her bottom. The wash basin was forgotten and his lips were against her neck, pressing soft, warm kisses against her neck. His teeth nipped at her earlobe and heat flooded her womanhood. Hearing Shae's voice in her head, telling her that she should use this moment as the moment to convince him to ignore the arrangement. She'd have to be bold, she decided. It was the only way to convince him that Shae had to stay, but a thought stopped her. He'd expect that, Sansa realized. He had a cynical view of the world and he'd expect her to use sex to manipulate him. Sansa let out a soft breath as she closed her eyes. His touch felt too good to betray by soiling it with demands. He'd never used the pleasure he gave her as purposeful manipulation. Perhaps he had and she couldn't recall, but Sansa wouldn't use her body to manipulate him. Not when he so freely gave away warm caresses. Turning in his arms, she didn't touch him. She let her arms hang uselessly at her sides as she looked up at him with wide, clear blue eyes.

“She has saved my life,” Sansa said softly. "She risked her life on many occasions to see that Varys's maester could help me. She was the only who promised to help me and keep me safe when no one else would. It is more than just her undoing the lacing of my corset or helping with my bath. I trust with my life, and she has never shared my business with Tyrion or anyone. She is loyal and that is something that is very hard to find inside these walls. Does not a Lannister always pay his debts? I didn't tell you because she is my handmaiden.”

"She's a whore."

"She's your son's mistress and she is very good at soothing away the aches in my back," Sansa murmured as he lowered his head and kissed the top of her shoulder. "It can be an unspoken truth. There are plenty to go around, my lord."

Tywin made a noise, but said nothing as he moved to kiss her. His fingers tangled in the hair at the base of her neck and he kissed her before kissing down her jaw and neck. Sansa gasped loudly when he pulled her flush against him. Her hands automatically wrapped around him and somehow, she was back in the four poster bed and he was above her. She desperately wanted him in a way that made him as vital to her existence as breathing. The sheets were tangled beneath them and the pillows were in disarray, but none of that mattered. He produced a pillow from somewhere and pushed it under her. He knelt on the bed as her thighs parted and accepted his touch. She grabbed pressed the palm of her hand against the head board when he thrust into her with such force that her head almost touch the wood. His desperation was as deep as hers and each thrust was as hard and forceful as the last. Sansa clenched her eyes closed as the pleasure overwhelmed her. She would have never imagined that he could feel so good in her body.

“More,” she begged breathlessly. “Please.”

Tywin’s hips roughly jerked into hers and Sansa couldn't stop the sounds that escaped her lips. Fire burned through her and she couldn't stop the coiling feeling inside her as it grew. His grasp on her hips tightened as his hips surged forward. Fishing the bed sheets under her hand, Sansa felt the telltale feeling growing inside her, spreading at the base of her spine and hips. The tension in her body grew and with each gasping breath, the pleasure grew too until it was almost painful and she unraveled. A peak of pleasure slammed into her so hard that Sansa thought for a moment she’d faint. Her toes curled and she closed her eyes, half afraid she'd pass out or die from the wonderfully light feeling that enveloped her. She was so focused on her own release, Sansa hardly registered that Tywin’s body hovered over hers. As she fell back to the world, she felt his body tense from his own release and she clung to him. He didn't pull away like he'd first did. He allowed her to cradle him in her embrace and it was one of the few moments that Sansa could escape reality.

She wasn't Sansa and he wasn't Tywin.

They weren't a lord and a lady.

It was the few seconds that she allowed herself to imagine that his body against hers and the wonderful feeling that overwhelmed all her senses was what if felt like to make love to another person. In those few moments, they were simply a man and a woman, a washed in the glow of pleasure. It would only last for a second and she'd let go of the thought, reminding herself that he’d already loved a woman. He'd loved Joanna Lannister in a way that he'd never love her. He didn't even care for her, something that she desperately wanted him to voice.

Did he not feel the same deep feelings that she felt when he was with her?

The answer she came to was always painful and Sansa allowed the pain to wash over her as a reminder. No, he did not care for her. Joanna Lannister had been the love of his life and the only reason he needed her was to birth heirs. As if sensing her dark thoughts, he kissed her softly and pulled away. She stared up into his dark emerald eyes and felt the horrible feeling that she created inside her fade away to be dealt with later. He lowered his head again and she relaxed, enjoying his kiss. When he finally pulled away and collapsed next to her, Sansa’s heart had finally stopped beating wildly in her chest. She stared at the canopy for a few minutes before a chill overwhelmed her and she turned, seeking out Tywin's warmth. His body was always warm and it felt as though her head rested perfectly against his chest as she lay listening to his heart beating in his chest. Unknowingly, Sansa let her fingertips begin to ghost over the hair that sparsely was spread across his chest. It was soft under her touch. "

"She's allowed to say because of her loyalty to you, not because of Tyrion," Tywin told her tiredly, grabbing her hand and stopping her from using her fingertips.

"Thank you," she whispered. “Tell me one more thing. What is my tell?”

Instead of answering her, Tywin simply kissed the palm of her hand and released it, leaving her to wonder exactly how he'd know that she'd been lying…

Shae closed the windows the first drops of rain began to fall, pulling Sansa out of the memory. It had filled her with warm, but the heavy feeling the milk of the poppy gave her overpowered any desire. Maester Broots was at her side a second later, asking questions about the pain, but the memory of Tywin's pleasure still lingered in the back of her mind. Lady Joanna had been blessed, Sansa thought. The first Lady Lannister had her husband's affection in and out of the bedroom, something Sansa could never hope to achieve. Coupling with Tywin was wonderful, but he was not in her bed because he cared. He was there to father children and that was something Sansa reminded herself of constantly.

Two and a Half Weeks Later

Mid August, 299 AC

Tower of the Hand, King's Landing

Sitting on the chaise in her dressing room, Sansa barely heard the question that Shae asked her. The sickness she felt, the tiredness, the lack of bleeding…it all made sense, but she hadn’t expected to find herself in such a position so quickly. It had been the expected result from all the nights he’d been in her bed, Sansa reflected wearily. She hadn’t bleed once since he’d married her and she supposed that she should congratulate her husband on his potent seed. There was no way of truly knowing when he’d gotten her with child, but he had.

For the first time in a long time, Sansa wanted her mother. She wanted Catelyn to wrap her arms around her, hug her, and tell her that it would all be fine. There was nothing to fear and that a child would be a marvelous addition to the family, but that fantasy would never come true. Her mother would look at the child in her womb as an evil villain, needing to be destroyed. Robb would see the child as the spawn of a Lannister and no one would think of her child as being a part of her. For the first time in a very long time, she felt cold and alone. Her husband would no doubt be pleased, but Sansa couldn’t imagine having their child grow up in the cesspool that was the Red Keep. With Joffrey around, this was the last place that she wanted to raise a child. Sansa vowed to herself that Joffrey would never hurt the child inside her body. She would die first before allowing that monster to harm her little son or daughter. Standing, she crossed her dressing room and stepped into the bed chamber. All the doors were opened and Ser Jorah was standing guard outside hers.

In one closed door conversation with the Commander and herself present, Tywin had interrogated Ser Jorah. Sansa had declared Ser Jorah as her knight and under intense scrutiny, Tywin had questioned the man's loyalty. She had defended Mormont, but it wasn't until Ser Jorah pledged himself into the service of House Lannister that Tywin was satisfied. The ease with which her husband had accepted Ser Jorah after his pledged loyalty to House Lannister had made Sansa almost ill with worry. She kept expecting something to change, but nothing had. Her lord husband had accepted the northern man without a second glance after the closed-door conversation, instructing only that the Commander appoint Ser Jorah to be in command of her other two guards, Ser Petrick and Ser Samwell. Shae had told her how the Lannister guards had demanded to fight with Ser Jorah and that by winning in the yard, he was slowly winning the respect of other soldiers. Since that closed-door meeting, Sansa found herself feeling the shadow and protection of a guard ever since. Before Ser Jorah, she had once wandered with only Shae. Now, Sansa found herself with a guard at all times. She wondered silently if Tywin's acceptance of Ser Jorah was because her lord husband knew that she was with child already.

Looking out the open doors, she could see across the sitting chamber and into her lord husband's chamber. The great double doors of his chambers were opened. No doubt they were all attempting to find relief from the heat wave that had begun to terrorize the city. Tywin stood in his chambers near the door, a note was in his hands and he was reading it with an intense look of annoyance on his face. Turning away, Sansa went to the open window and looked out. She didn’t see the bay or the ships. Instead, she saw faces, familiar ones of her family and friends in Winterfell. Arya was smiling happily making a snowball, no doubt that she would be the target. Robb was joining Arya in making a fort while Bran climbed a tree and Rickon clung to her skirts, still uneasy on his feet. Unconsciously, her hand slipped down the front of her body and rested low on her belly. There were no changes yet, none that she could see in her body.

The only sign that her body was changing was the way her stays were a bit tighter as well as her corset. The cut of her gowns would hide any evidence of a child, but soon there would be a little being growing under her heart and moving. She could still remember feeling her own mother’s belly and being surprised at how strong Arya, Bran, and Rickon could kick. The idea of motherhood terrified her more than anything. Although she’d put more effort into rearing Bran and Rickon than her mother had due to the duties she’d been forced to take up as Lady of Winterfell, Sansa was terrified that she’d fail. Terrified that something would happen and Tywin would take his child away from her. She couldn’t stop the voices in her head and she closed her eyes attempting to block them all out as they called her a Stark Whore, a failure, and a horrible mother. Catelyn would never forgive her for giving birth to a Lannister and any chance of ever returning to Winterfell and to the arms of her family were dead as her body created a new life. Sansa was so lost in her thoughts that she didn’t hear the voice calling for her. Her mind didn’t calm itself until she felt his strong hands on her upper arms and his breath behind her ear.

“The maids have been calling for you for several minutes,” Tywin whispered to her, his voice hard and unyielding. “Stop daydreaming before the water gets cold.”

His words were sharp, but he gently squeezed her arm and slipped away. Sansa couldn’t stop the tears that fell down her cheeks as she gazed out at the bay and the ships leaving port. The only person she’d imagine would be happy for her would be her father. Eddard wouldn’t have cared who the father of her child was, he would have been happy to have been a grandfather. She could feel his arms around her and she choked back a sob as she hugged herself tightly. He would have smiled happily and hugged her tightly, whispering to her his happiness at the news. He’d tell her how good a mother she’d be, just as she’d been a wonderful mother to Bran and Rickon when their mother had been busy. A chill passed over her as she wiped the tears away and turned around. Lann was lying on the center of the four poster bed and the door to her chamber was closed.

“I sent them away,” Shae said softly behind her and Sansa jumped, the pain was raw inside her and she couldn’t bear to have anyone see it. “You haven’t told him.”

“No,” Sansa whispered, knowing what Shae was talking about. “I only figured it. I don’t even know how to tell him such a thing. What if all of this has been a game and the moment I am delivered of a son, he tosses me away like I am nothing to him?”

“He will not do that, Lady Sansa. He will want his son to have a mother around, always. He’s not that cruel when it comes to family. He started a war for a son he doesn’t even like. He would not toss you aside like that,” Shae murmured soothingly. “Let’s us get you a bath. I have a special oil to rub on your skin that will help to keep it smooth in the coming months. The smell of the oil will help too with the nausea. Lady Margaery will come looking for you soon. You and she are going to the orphanage today, I’ll find you something soft and comfortable to wear.”

Sansa knew that she was bad company as the litter carried her and Margaery thought the streets of Flea Bottom.

She wasn’t her normal self around the future queen and it showed. Margaery had been asking her every so often if she was alright and Sansa could hardly find the correct response. In truth, she wasn’t alright. Nothing was alright, but Sansa could hardly tell that to Lady Margaery Tyrell. Instead, Sansa simply told her that she felt under the weather, unwell with a slight headache. It was not far from the truth, she realized. Her head hurt from being up all night thinking about the possibility of a child as Lord Tywin had slumbered next to her. He had been unaware of the internal struggle that had kept her up half the night. Come morning, he’d left her bed like he always had, totally unaware that she’d only fallen asleep half an hour before. Her body ached already from the expedition and she wanted nothing more than to sleep in the warm afternoon sunshine on a comfortable chaise. Ser Jorah and Shae had both urged her to stay in the castle instead of accompanying Margaery and Sansa regretted her decision not to listen. Not even the loose, comfortable red gown that she wore helped to cool her. The plain cloth and gown was something that she never imagined that a Lannister would wear, but it was loose and she could wear her corset loose and her movements were not as restricted. She would have preferred to wear her night shift and be asleep in bed, Sansa reflected.  

A long nap was what she desperately needed at the moment, not the commotion and rambunctiousness of children. Flea Bottom smelt like rotting death, she decided as she exited the litter with Ser Jorah's assistance. Margaery pulled her across the street with Ser Jorah behind them plenty of Lannister guards flanking them. She thought that the poorest slums of King’s Landing had smelt of filth before in the litter, but now, her stomach rolled in protest at being near such horrible smells. Slop was running down the side of the street with chunks of human waste catching in the gutters. Bringing the perfumed handkerchief that had been dipped in peppermint oil by Shae to her nose, Sansa breathed it in. Little relief was given as they crossed the street to the familiar entrance that marked the orphanage’s place.

Down the dark corridor and into the courtyard, Sansa managed to smile seeing all the children standing and smiling happily to greet them as Lannister guards stood outside and Ser Jorah guarded the door. Hugs were given as were new toy soldiers and clothing. One of the Septas cried when a bolt of fabric was gifted to make new sheets and bedding for the children. Smiling seemed like a chore as she crouched down in front of the children and visited with each of them. She offered hugs, wiped tears, and listened with enthusiasm to stories of mischievous behavior. She laughed when she could and smiled until her cheeks hurt. Towards the end of the visit, Sansa felt a small tug on her skirts and she looked down.

A small boy that she recognized as being named Samwise held up to her a small block of wood. Upon closer inspection, Sansa realized that the block of wood that was no bigger than the palm of her hand was a poorly carved lion. One paw was slightly bigger than the other and one of the fangs had broken off giving the lion an odd appearance. The tail was only half finished, but just looking at it, Sansa felt her heart swell with joy.

“For 'ou, Lady Lannister,” the young boy said shyly. "I made it meself with Jon's 'elp."

Sansa smiled her first true smile of the day. It was crudely made lion that wasn’t quite roaring, but yawning tiredly, just as she felt. She suspected that this would probably be her last visit to the orphanage until her child was born. She couldn’t imagine Tywin Lannister letting her leave the safety of the castle for the slum of Flea Bottom while she carried his next heir.

“Thank you,” Sansa replied with a grin before she kissed the boy’s cheek.

It was a wonderful gift, a little lion, she decided. Holding it in her fingers, she decided that this would be how she told her lord husband. This small gift, crudely made, was like their child. Not quite perfect yet, still growing beneath her heart, not yet roaring. It would be the perfect thing to help her begin to share the news with her lord husband.

 EDITED 5/17/2019 Beta'd by A.L.D. 


Chapter Text

Part Eight: Hold Tight

"...But I swear on my poor heart
I will never tear apart
Just hold tight, hold tight
The damage has been done
Lost myself and all I was
Just hold tight..."

~ "Hold Tight" - The Sweeplings

 Mid August, 299 AC

King's Landing

The litter ride back to the red keep wasn’t as long as Sansa thought as she allowed the Commander to offer her his hand and help her out. Standing in the courtyard, she shook her skirts out before suddenly deciding that she would tell Tywin about the child without waiting. There would be no other way than to just tell him the news. She didn’t know how Lady Joanna had told him that he was to be a father when he’d been married before, but Sansa was determined that with the little lion in the pocket of her dress, she’d try and make the moment special. It deserved some kind of recognition. Walking down the winding corridors and flights of steps with Shae and Ser Jorah like ghosts behind her, Sansa found herself standing outside the private map room that her husband sometimes used as his personal study. He shifted between rooms and a simple inquiry to his squire was all that was needed to locate her lord husband.

Knocking on the door, Sansa heard the hard voice of her lord husband as he give his permission for her to enter. She lifted the latch to open the door and she stepped inside. The great map room had a long table down the center with cabinets that were on the long wall opposite the balcony. The cabinets had long, thin drawers were the maps were kept and she’d seen a few during the late afternoons when she’d sat and played cyvasse with Tyrion. The late afternoon breeze caused the sheer window tapestries to dance gently and the sunshine that poured into the chamber reflected off the fixtures giving an almost golden hue to everything. Stepping into the chamber, Sansa stopped after only two steps. Lord Tywin sat at the opposite end of the large table that dominated the room. A map and papers were strewn about the end of the table and from the stern look on her lord husband's face, she could tell he was displeased by something. It was the other occupant in the room that gave her pause and Sansa could feel redness growing in her cheeks.

Ser Kevan Lannister sat next to his older brother and when both men looked at her, it was unnerving how similar they looked. The only difference that was visible between the men was their build. Where her lord husband was tall and lean, Ser Kevan was shorter and flabby. The two pairs of emerald eyes that bore into her sealed her decision. Come night, she was going to strangle Jerion Lannister in his sleep. She didn't know which side of the Lannister family tree that Jerion belonged to and she didn't care, the boy was as good as dead. The squire had forgotten to mention that her lord husband’s younger brother was in attendance and it was humiliating to be caught unaware of the development of the new guest.

"My lords," Sansa said gently and bobbed a curtsy as her lord husband looked back down at the map. "I had not realized we had a guest. Are you well, Ser Kevan? Is there anything that I can see to for you? A hot bath and a meal?"

"Thank you for your kind offer, sister," Ser Kevan replied with a nod of his head. "I know that it was rude to not seek you out directly when I arrived to formally introduce myself, but the matters of war that brought me here are too important not to see my brother directly. Forgive me, my lady."
"There is nothing to forgive, Ser Kevan," she told him graciously. "I trust your travels were not too harsh?"

"No, the roads were not horrible, but the nights are getting colder."

"Winter is coming."

"You Starks are fond of saying that."

"I am not a Stark any longer, I am a Lannister now," Sansa told him. "Hear Me Roar are my words now."

Ser Kevan was quick to wish her joy on the wonderful occasion and begged forgiveness again for not having been able to attend the wedding. Before Sansa could tell Ser Kevan again that he did not need to beg her forgiveness, Lord Tywin looked up from the map. His emerald eyes pierced her and she felt her hands tremble with nervousness. Clenching her hands together tightly, Sansa wanted to shake herself. She was being silly today, shaking and trembling like a nervous maiden on her wedding night. She was not this girl and forcing herself to stand up straighter, she relaxed her hands.

"It's good you came," Tywin declared. "It saves me the trouble of sending the squire to find you. I have news that you might find interesting."

Walking, Sansa slipped her hands into the hidden pocket of her skirts and took out the small wooden lion as she went to her lord husband. Ser Kevan sat to his right and she moved to sit on the left. The map that was laid out on the table was a detailed map of Westeros, but she could only see rivers and forests. No towns, roads, or castles were labelled and the intricate detail of the map fascinated her. This room had been her safe haven from Joffrey's beatings and the maps had been her companions. How many hours had she stared that them? Imagining herself far away from King's Landing had been enjoyable as had running her fingers over the surfaces of the maps, feeling the scrolls and the indentations under her fingertips. Before she could lose herself in anymore thoughts, Tywin reached for a piece of parchment and offered it to her. Her fingertips brushed against his when she took it and she was forced to squint. The handwriting was atrocious and half the words were misspelt. She could make out the words 'Riverrun' and 'Kingslayer', but the other words were unintelligible to her.

"If you're asking for me to decipher what is written, I will fail you, my lord," Sansa finally said after several minutes of struggling to discern if the letter c's were e's and if the letters were written backwards or upside down.

"It took me an hour to figure out what the blasted man was trying to write," Ser Kevan admitted.

"And what does it say?" Sansa asked as she set the parchment paper down where Tywin had picked it up from. She knew her lord husband. Everything was in a place for a reason. Small, circular pieces of gold and onyx were placed on various positions on the map and she studied it for a moment.

"Your mother committed treason," Lord Tywin said without preamble. "She released my son from his prison in the middle of the night about a week ago."

Sansa's blue eyes shot from the map to her lord husband's emerald ones. He was looking at her, gauging her reactions, she realized after a moment. With ease, Sansa let her blank mask of serenity slip into place. Lord Tywin’s words shocked her. Catelyn had released the Kingslayer? She’d released Jamie Lannister from his prison? For what purpose could she have possibly done that? It felt as though she’d been struck by lightning as she clasped the small wooden lion in her hands.

She turned away from the men and walked towards the balcony. She stared unseeingly at the courtyard below through the sheer white tapestries as they danced and caressed the soft skin of her hands in the breeze. She hardly felt it, Sansa was only thinking of her mother. Word of Bran and Rickon's death would have no doubt reached her and Sansa knew her mother. If Bran's fall had led to Tyrion's arrest than her mother would no doubt be desperate and wracked with grief by the news of their deaths. But why release the Kingslayer? Why release Jamie Lannister? What purpose would be served?

A moment later, Sansa realized. Catelyn Stark prized her children above all else, but her mother was selfish. Catelyn would want her children free, regardless of the political landscape. Her mother was many things, but she was not a politician. Getting her daughters back would not end the war. If her mother naively thought that the crown would simply surrender her daughter, she was an even larger fool than Sansa thought before. This war was not about seeking revenge for her father's death. This war was about the throne and who would rule, who would have all the power. No one cared a fig what happened to Arya and Sansa Stark, not even her brother's bannermen. Those lords only carried about achieving freedom from the North and spilling blood on a battlefield.

Her father, herself, Arya... they were lost causes that her mother clung to and it filled her with sadness. The Kingslayer had given Robb an edge, an advantage should the war end. Exchanging Jamie could have been the difference between being killed and going home to Winterfell. Now, that bargaining chip was gone and for what? A slim, impossible chance that Arya could be found by Ser Jamie? Sansa couldn't count herself with Arya. She'd never be freed to go back with her mother and brother. Tywin Lannister was too proud a man to ever agree to such a thing. He'd kill her first.

Why in the seven hells had her mother done such a stupid thing?

“I don’t know whether that is a good thing or not,” Sansa murmured as she turned back around. “He is freed, of course, but how will he get back to King’s Landing or the West?”

“I think you should be more concerned for your mother’s welfare than my son’s fate,” Tywin bit out in a sharp tone. Sansa felt his words cut through her as she looked at him. He did not see her in that moment as his wife, she realized sadly. He saw her only as a Stark and she was the enemy in his camp. The thought hurt more than she would have liked to acknowledge.

“A very bad decision on her part, no doubt,” she murmured in agreement. It was a bad decision, but surely her mother had had a good reason? Something that gave her enough confidence to toss away all sanity and free a prisoner of war.

“If your brother was smart, he’d banish her back to Winterfell or flog her for her treason,” Ser Kevan stated with a note of worry in his voice. “Your brother’s bannermen think him incompetent. This will not boost morale in his camp, but it can work in our favor, brother. The boy won't do anything to his mother and his bannermen will see that as weakness at worse...hypocrisy at best. His men will grow with discord and with enough rope, Robb Stark will hang himself."

Sansa listened to the two men talk and it was horrifying to realize and yet, she was powerless to stop anything. Walking closer to the map table, Sansa understood that in terms of playing the game of thrones, Ser Kevan was right. She could be objective as she needed to be and understand that her mother’s actions would most likely have horrible repercussions on her brother’s command. Would his men mutiny against him if he didn’t punish his mother?

“My mother is no doubt sick with grief over the deaths of my brothers and the fact that my sister and I are gone from her,” Sansa said as she turned back to look out at the courtyard again. The white sheer paneling danced in the soft breeze and she grabbed hold of one and let the soft material slip between her fingers.

“You have more sense than Catelyn Stark,” Tywin objected. “You have more sense than your brother as well. Don't tell me that you didn't just stand there and make the same assessment of the situation. Your mother should be flogged for treason. It is no matter. The situation will soon be dealt with and life will go on.”

Sansa turned at looked at her lord husband.

The way he looked at her made her wonder if he knew something that she didn’t know. Did he know something about this cursed war that he wasn’t sharing? Looking back to the tapestry between her fingertips, Sansa dropped the sheer white linen a moment later and decided that she wouldn’t try to read Tywin Lannister’s mind.

“What’s in your hand?” he demanded and Sansa felt the hair on the back of her neck raise as she thought about the entire reason that she’d come to see him. The small lion was a sign of something that was happening inside her body. A promise for the future, and it was something that she wasn’t even sure that she wanted. She cursed herself for being silly. Of course, becoming with child was bound to happen eventually. Tywin Lannister had not come to her bed simply to keep her company at night, nor had he come simply because he was lonely in his own bedchambers. No, he’d come to her bed with one purpose in his mind and she’d let herself forget that. She’d slipped and now, the pain would come to remind her of reality. Moving back to the long table, she set the small crudely made lion down.

"For you," she murmured and swallowed seeing the anger flash in Lord Tywin’s face.

“It’s poorly made little beast,” Ser Kevan smiled with a chuckle as he reached for it and picked it up briefly. "Where did you get the poor thing from?"

“It was gift from one of the boys at the orphanage this morning,” Sansa murmured, all her courage leaving her as let her hand fall to hang limply at her side. Never had she felt more tired or taxed than she did in that moment. Ser Kevan put the little lion back down and Sansa wanted to cry for her stupidity.

“Take it back,” Tywin growled as he stared at it with disgust. “You didn’t pay gold for that, did you?”

“I cannot give a gift back,” Sansa whispered, suddenly terrified that he’d ask her to do the same thing with the babe she carried. What if it wasn’t a boy? Horror struck her as he looked at her with hard, unyielding eyes. What if the child she carried was girl? Would he dismiss her as easily as he dismissed the little gift? Suddenly, she realized that being in the map room with the two Lannister men had been a colossal mistake on her part. She should have stayed in the shadows until she’d had a plan of exactly how to tell Lord Tywin she was with child. Sansa turned to Ser Kevan and bobbed a curtsy.

“Please, pardon me for interrupting your conversation,” she said softly, practicing a phrase that she’d used plenty of times before. “I should not have caused you both such a disruption. Pray, excuse me.”

She retreated towards the door without making eye contact with her lord husband. It was not something that she could have done even if she tried. Courage had escaped her as had her ability to make good decisions, Sansa decided as she passed the soldier standing guard outside the private study. Ser Jorah and Shae were there, waiting for her as they were supposed to, but Sansa ignored them both.

Turning, she absently allowed her feet to guide her back towards her chambers. She should have known better than to give Lord Tywin such a silly gift. She chastised herself for being silly and imagining that he would understand what she saw in the crudely made lion. He only saw the poorly crafted creature while she saw the future. Eddard Stark had once told her mother that wives had a woman’s heart and Sansa finally understood what that meant. She had that same soft woman’s heart and she cursed herself for it. It was the sound of a familiar voice that stopped her steps in the corridor.

“My lady,” Varys murmured and Sansa turned, surprised to see the eunuch walking towards her. “Might we have a word?”

“Of course,” Sansa agreed. She followed Varys to the King’s Garden in silence. The warm breeze blew at her skirts and she could see the dark clouds hovering out over the water’s edge on the horizon. No doubt a storm was coming into port, bringing with it more than just rain. Turning down a path that was kept clear for the use of the royal family, Sansa looped her arm into Varys and walked slowly with him. Nausea still plagued her uncontrollably, but the fresh air of the gardens helped a little to push it back.

“My little birds have it on good authority that Littlefinger and Olenna Tyrell are plotting together. Just as we supposed they would, my lady. Littlefinger is still trying to curry favor with the Queen Regent and the King.”

“Good,” Sansa murmured unsurprised by the match that had been made. Varys had been the one to plant the seed of conspiracy between the two players. “They have mutual interests and together, they are more manageable. One player falls, they drag the other player down with them…in theory, I suppose.”

“Yes, one person, of mutual interest.”

“Littlefinger wants Margaery Tyrell gone,” she murmured. “With the Rose of Highgarden here, Cersei’s power wanes as does Littlefinger’s control. He was recently dismissed as the Master of Coin and Cersei is the only person close to the Small Council that he can manipulate. The Lady Olenna does not want her granddaughter to marry the king. It is best for Lady Olenna’s peace of mind and Littlefinger’s powerbase if Lady Margaery retreats to Highgarden.”

Varys nodded as they came to a garden fountain that spurt water from the center of flowers and the coiling snake that was the centerpiece of the carved creation. Looking down at the clear water, Sansa thought about the plot. She could not fault Lady Olenna for wanting to remove her granddaughter from King’s Landing. The castle was a pool of vermin that even she did not want to deal with on a daily basis. Men like Petyr Baelish didn’t intend to actually govern the realm, they only wanted power for themselves and it didn’t matter if the realm collapsed under the weight of their thirsts and needs or not.

“Don’t stop them,” Sansa murmured to Varys. “Let us see how this plot may play out before we kill it in the crib. I want to see what exactly it is they're planning because I think it may involve the king.”

Her words sounded hollow to her ears. The quip about the crib was almost too much to bear in her aching chest. It was something her lord husband would say, Sansa reflected with mild horror and disgust at herself.

“You don’t think that they will go that extreme?” Varys questioned, but as she turned and looked at the Spider, she could see that his own thoughts mirrored her own.

“Littlefinger will do anything to keep power,” Sansa replied softly. “Cersei has given him power. Joffrey is taking that power from her and giving to Margaery. If one is searching for power, Lord Varys, Tommen is far easier to control than Joffrey. It would an even better deal for Littlefinger. He wouldn’t need Cersei if he had Tommen in his pocket.”

Varys nodded in agreement of her assessment of the situation. She could almost see pride in his eyes, Sansa thought.

“I will have my little birds listen to their plots and keep you abreast of the situation, my lady,” Varys told her.

Feeling ill, Sansa raised a hand and rested it on her belly to try and soothe the feeling building within her body. She closed her eyes and nodded, slowly walking around the fountain. She could hear the birds calling to each other in the trees. She could hear the fabric of her trailing gown on the stones behind her. Opening her eyes, Sansa focused on other things that she could hear and feel besides the churning feeling of her stomach. The breeze felt good against her clammy skin and the shade that the trees provided helped her to feel cooler.

“Are you quite alright, my lady?” Varys asked his voice gentle and calm.

“Yes,” Sansa replied with a forced smile. “I simply haven’t felt like myself today. I haven’t felt well since I came back from the orphanage with Lady Margaery. In fact, I think Lord Varys I should lie down before I collapse at someone’s feet in an ungraceful heap of fabric.”

Leaving Varys in the garden to plot a counter move, Sansa walked back to the Tower of the Hand with slow, tired steps. Shae supported her slightly and Ser Jorah was her constant guard, and at one point nearly demanded leave to carry her back to the Tower of the Hand. In her bed chamber, large, fat tears rolled down her cheek as she sat in the window seat having dismissed all attendants. A sob ripped through her chest and Sansa covered her mouth so that no one would hear her. For the first time in a long time, she wanted her mother’s embrace. She wanted Catelyn Stark to hold her tightly and promise that all would be alright. To call her fears silly and promise that they would never come to fruition, but Sansa would never have that moment. Her fears were there because she’d lived through enough horrible things to realize that good things were never in abundance. It was easier to build a wall of stone around her heart and try and stop the pain from overwhelming her. Allowing herself to bask in such happiness only to have it torn away from her would be far worse than never celebrating the joy in the first place.

Resting her head on the glass, the pounding head ache that she’d had earlier returned. Desperate, Sansa rose from her seat, moved to the bed, and laid down. Silently, she begged the seven faces of god to have mercy on her for only a few minutes to stop the pounding ache behind her eyes. No mercy came. Instead, Shae came into the chamber twenty minutes later with a request from Tyrion Lannister, the newly made Master of Coin.

He apparently needed to see her.

The matter was urgent, he claimed.

“God be damned! How much will this wedding cost?” Sansa demanded as she stood in the middle of his chamber, an expression of complete shock covering her beautiful face. He was impressed that she knew such a word, Tyrion reflected with a grin. His lady mother wasn’t entirely innocent and he was proud to know that he was most likely the one who’d taught her such a phrase. They were seated on the balcony off his rooms. Drinking wine in the late afternoon sun, correction, he was drinking in the late afternoon sun. Sansa was pacing the length of the balcony attempting to process what he’d drunkenly told her.

The sunlight caught her dark auburn hair making it shine like copper that had been spun with gold. Her light blue gown made her eyes appear large and almost as clear blue as the Sunset Sea in the early hours after dawn. She wore gold in honor of House Lannister, a sapphire necklace around her neck and a lion ring on her finger. She was strikingly beautiful and was every inch what he imagined the Lady of Casterly Rock to look like. However, Tyrion suspected that most of King’s Landing, if not the realm, had an idea of just how beautiful Sansa Lannister was. She was almost as famous as him, if not more so. He’d heard that the Northmen sang songs about how she was lost to the North and the southern kingdoms sung songs praising her grace and poise in the face of adversity.

He rather thought it was all amusing.

Tyrion rattled off the sum that she demanded. It was his most recent estimate and Sansa grabbed the table to lower herself into the chair next to him. Had he been standing when he’d come up with the sum, he wouldn’t have been able to stand either. The sum was astronomical, far too much for any wedding, royal or otherwise.

“Gods,” she pronounced breathlessly. “What did you tell her, Tyrion?”

“I told her that the event was being described as extravagant.”

“It’s not extravagant, it’s costly. There is a difference,” Sansa snapped, looking distressed by the entire business. “Does not the Lady Olenna, the Lady Margaery, or your sister know about the idea of economizing in times of war?”

“Now that you mention it,” Tyrion quipped as he sat back in his chair. “I do believe that my sister missed that lesson the day the maester taught it. I believe she was with my brother and the seven faces of god only know what they were doing. It was activity that was heavily physical and involved mounting.”

Sansa ignored his words as she stood again and resumed pacing. “What did you tell her?”

“That we are at war and that war is expensive.”

“Why do I imagine the conversation took a turn for the worse?” Sansa said, closing her eyes and looking slightly ill.

“She called me a brow beaten bookkeeper.”

"How horrible for you."

Sansa was clearly in no mood to exchange jibes today. The look on her face told him that she was either exhausted, at her wit’s end, or both. Deciding to have mercy on the poor woman that bedded his father nightly if rumors were to be believed, Tyrion cleared his throat.

“I will get to the point. I would like you to tell my father that I have convinced the Lady Olenna to pay for half the wedding cost,” he said bluntly, putting his goblet of wine down.

“He likes you better than he likes me and your feminine wiles will ease whatever anger he has at the growing expense of this horrible fiasco that we must endure.”

“Lord Tywin will not be seduced by such feminine wiles,” Sansa snarled as she turned away from the table and looked out at the view from his balcony. “He’s not going to care if I stand before him in only a pair of stockings when I tell him how much this wedding is going to cost. If you’re trying to widow me before my seventeenth birthday, I applaud you for the efforts.”

“Thank you for noting my valiant effort, Mother,” Tyrion said smartly before raising his goblet as a toast to her words. He turned to watch his father’s wife as she stared off into the distance, her expression hard and angry. He could not recall a time seeing Lady Sansa furious about anything, but he supposed being married to his lord father was something that would be taxing to even the calmest, loveliest woman in the realm.

“Why is it that every Lannister man wants something from me?” Sansa demanded abruptly as she turned and looked at him angrily. “You want me to bear the burden of telling your lord father bad news, your uncle wants to eagerly discuss my brother’s mistakes on the battlefield, and the only thing your lord father wants is my body and for me to eagerly spread my thighs for him when the sunsets. Am I to have no peace around you monsters?”

Tyion winced at her words. He was not deaf to the rumors about his father's libido. Over the years, rumors had reached his ears about his father's marriage and his lady mother's lack of interest in bedding his father. No bastards had ever been fathered, but there always seemed to be a kitchen wench being dismissed or a wench from somewhere being procured to settle his father's needs with her mouth. Now that his lord father was married, Tyrion could only imagine his father's eagerness to experience putting his seed in a woman's warmth and not the mouth of some nameless girl.

No amount of wine could stop his debauched mind from wondering just what exactly had happened in the chamber. Podrick had been the one to discover the rumors that his father even gave his lady wife a lord's kiss when he bedded her. The squire had blustered and blushed his way through the tale that one of Lady Sansa’s handmaidens had told him. Tyrion shivered, desperate not to think about his father’s tongue in the folds of Lady Sansa’s womanhood. The idea that Lord Tywin would offer anyone pleasure was too much to think about. The axe by the door was beginning to look entirely to inviting as it called to him to smash his brains upon it so he wouldn’t have to imagine his father with his head between Sansa's trembling thighs.

Did his father even know how to twist his tongue and where to touch his lady wife to cause pleasure?

Tyrion gulped down several goblets of wine in quick succession.

“I will tell him for you,” Sansa pronounced. “But you are a Lannister—”

“Yes, yes,” Tyrion said with a hiccup as he nearly fell off the chair drunkenly. “I will pay my debts. You have my word, my lady.”

Angrily, Sansa yanked open the door of the chamber. The knight that followed her around, Ser Jorah, stood with several soldiers under his command outside the door. Her guards followed her as she swept away in a swirl of silk skirts and perfume. Bronn stood next to where Ser Jorah had been standing and studied the sight of the Great Lady Lannister of Casterly Rock leaving the chambers belonging to the lowly Master of the Coin.

“Whatever you did, I think that someone will hear about it, little lord,” Bronn quipped as he stepped into the room. “I thought fits of madness were supposedly on your side of the family tree, not hers.”

Tyrion grinned wickedly about the situation. If Sansa was angry about the Lannister men in her life, it was certain that his father had done something to invoke her wrath. His new lady mother was not a woman easily angered nor prone to fits of fury and madness. That meant that whatever Tywin had done was of colossal proportions and he was more than happy to watch his father hang himself.

“My dear Bronn, I did nothing to anger her. My father did something and he will no doubt be the one who will endure whatever punishment the wolf in her doles out. I wonder if she’ll take a dagger to bed and threaten to cut his cock off if he touches her tonight.”

“Oh, no,” Bronn chuckled as Podrick fetched more wine. “From what I hear, your lord father knows just what to do with his cock. It’s the only way that I can think to prove your legitimacy. You and him both know how and where to stick your pricks to please a lady.”

“I don’t please ladies, I please whores,” Tyrion said mockingly and Bronn grinned before chuckling.

Sansa felt lightheaded as she allowed Shae to dress her for the evening meal. She wore a light peach colored gown with gold trimmings and silk slippers. The gown was made to be loose fitting throughout the middle, but tonight, her breast ached unbearably. The constraints of the dress didn’t help the soreness she felt and halfway through dressing, Sansa briefly considered telling the king and her lord husband that she was feeling ill. As quickly as the thought came, she pushed it away. No doubt someone’s spies would find out and begin a closer inquiry about her illness. Besides, she reflected wearily, Ser Kevan Lannister was a guest and her lord husband would believe her absence to be a slight towards their house.

Allowing Shae to clasp the small diamond necklace around her slender neck, Sansa heard the familiar steps of boots on the floor boards and closed her eyes. Shae dabbed a small amount of peppermint oil behind her ears and on her neck as the steps stopped. Opening her eyes, Sansa turned and looked to see Lord Tywin standing in the doorway of her dressing room with an icy expression on his face. Not giving him a moment to bring up the gifted lion from earlier, Sansa quickly stood and haphazardly attempted to clasp the gold and emerald bracelet to her thin wrist. It was only as she stared at the bracelet did she realize how much the dark green gems reminded her of Tywin's eyes.

“Is it time for us to go to the evening meal already?” she asked, fluttering about the dressing room, unable to stand still due the anxiety racing through her veins. She had been dressed to perfection and her hair had been pinned up with a grand pin in the center of and elaborately braided bun. Strands of pearls pinned elegantly around her hair, all connecting to the jeweled pin acting as a sort of hair net, but something entirely exotic that Shae had been most eager to design. The Lorathi woman was determined that the court would see all the ways in which Sansa's beauty and refinement outshone Margaery and Cersei. Tonight, Sansa believed that Shae had finally achieved that goal.

“Yes,” Tywin replied in a clipped tone. “The King has also learned of Petyr Baelish’s dismissal and is infuriated that he was not consulted about Tyrion's appointment.”

“He’s in a rage,” Sansa stated softly as she froze in her attempts to fix her bracelet.


“And he’ll be at the evening meal?”


“And should I be worried about my safety, Tywin?”


“Why are you telling me this?” Sansa demanded as she finally gave up on trying to clasp the bracelet on her own. In three steps, Tywin was standing in front of her and reached out to do the clasp himself. He smelt like fresh mint and the lemon and sandalwood soap that he used. The combination was not unpleasant, but her body didn’t have the reaction that it always did to his scent and it confused her.

“I am telling you this so you will not make the mistake of congratulating Tyrion on his new position as Master of Coin. At least, do not do it in front of the King,” Tywin explained as he clasped the bracelet with the ease that her trembling fingertips could not manage.

“Yes, my lord,” she murmured. His emerald eyes looked at her with a hard glare that nearly made her resolve to attend the evening meal crumble. She felt like she’d been stretched too thin and for too long. She felt weaker than ever before and a wave of tiredness passed over her that was strong enough to force her to drop her head and close her eyes for a moment. Looking at her wrist, the gold bracelet was clasped around her wrist as was Tywin’s hand. His hold was not rough, but it was not the gentle touch that she’d somehow grown used to from him. Rarely did he ever touch her during the hours of daylight and the few times that he did, it was never like this. The man he became in her chambers at night was vastly different from the man he presented to the world. He was not cruel and his touch was neither rough nor hard like Cersei had once told her it would be.

No, Lord Tywin could be a considerate lover, Sansa reflected. His touch could be passionate and he could make her body sing with delight. His lips could brush hers and make her never want him to stop. She imagined what he did to her body was his own version of making love, but it couldn’t be that. He didn’t love her. He never would and that realization made her hate that she’d lost track of reality. He’d bedded her for the single purpose getting her with child. It was something that he’d tell her bluntly and never apologize for saying. Just as he would never admit that his caresses were gentle and his kisses soft and warm. She had been the one to lose sight of what his being in her bed and inside her body truly meant and why.

“We’ll be late, my lord, if we don’t hurry,” she murmured to him, raising her gaze and promising herself that she would not lose sight reality again. Tywin’s grasp on her wrist relaxed and became the gentle hold that it always was. He looked at her for a brief moment before he leaned down. The soft kiss that was pressed to her cheek surprised her. She closed her eyes for a moment as he stood close enough to her that she could feel he warmth that he radiated like a hot brick. It felt wonderful and every part of her relaxed for one brief second and all too soon, it was over. Tywin pulled away from her, not looking at her as he turned away. Sansa wanted to throw a small dish or something on the surface of her vanity at him. The man was an entire contradiction and she could not be strong and remember the reality of their situation if he kissed her cheek like he had. He had no motive and no cause to do so and it perplexed her as she followed him. The only two things the kiss had given her was confusion and a headache.

They were not the first guests to arrive at dinner. Tyrion was there, already looking particularly annoyed about something. Standing and waiting for the king to arrive for the evening meal was a tedious business, Sansa decided after waiting nearly twenty minutes. Annoyance hung heavy in the air, clinging to both Lord Tywin and Tyrion like the fine silks of their doublets. When the door opened again, a half-drunken Cersei arrived, leaving them to all stand and wait for the king.

Another twenty minutes passed before Joffrey sulked into the dining chamber looking particularly angry. Sitting between Tyrion and Tywin gave Sansa some measure of comfort, but an angry Joffrey still brought back violent memories she did not wish to relive. Tywin's glare at the king from his end of the table was enough to melt the icy wall in the North, Sansa supposed. The first course of the dinner was crab soup and the smell made her stomach churn.

It was difficult to decide who drank more during the course of the meal. Cersei or Tyrion? But drank they certainly did, Sansa reflected wearily. By the time Joffrey did arrive, he was close to pitching a raging fit as he stared at Tyrion with narrowed eyes. Dishes were laid out and thankfully, Cersei continued her drunken rambling about the wedding arrangements that still needed to be made. The list went on and on with only a few grunts of acknowledgement from Lord Tywin. Sansa half suspected that her lord husband wasn’t even listening. Tyrion looked as if he desperately wanted to stab Cersei with a fork as she ignored his comments about spending the king’s coin with frugality. She ignored him and the tension grew in the air until it was unbearable.

The food that one on the plate before her was, again, unappetizing. A dish of mutton had been set out before her and Lord Tywin. It was as if Cersei was daring them both to complain about the setting of her table. Tywin simply ignored the plate, opting instead for a large portion of figs and vegetables. Sansa did not follow his example and instead ate only small pieces of strawberry that had been set close to her on a small plate. She had no desire to appease the queen and eat the mutton. She wanted to order it away simply because of the god-awful smell.

“You’re not eating. Are you well, little dove?” Cersei half slurred as she turned to look at Sansa.

Tyrion looked at her with pity in his eyes and Tywin simply looked to see the strawberries on her plate were half eaten. Before she could reply, Joffrey threw his plate as hard as he could towards the fireplace, nearly missing the top of Tyrion’s head by a few whisks of hair.

“I am the king,” Joffrey growled as he stood up and pointed a finger at Lord Tywin. “You will not replace members of the Small Council without out my approval in the future. I am the king, and you need my permission!”

The look that Tywin dealt the king would have caused a lake to freeze over in the dead of summer, Sansa thought with a shiver. Joffrey pushed himself away from the table without a second glance. The kingsgurds followed him as he stalked out of the room, declaring to the guards that he wanted a whore to shoot his crossbow at. Sansa’s appetite disappeared further at those words and she set her knife and fork down. Cersei hastily followed, chasing after Joffrey attempting to calm him down to no avail. Silence passed over them for a moment before Tyrion pushed himself out of his chair and stood.

“Uncle Kevan is sleeping from his long journey and I have matters to see to as Master of Coin,” he announced as he pushed himself away from the table. “Pray, excuse me.”

He left without another word, taking his goblet of fine wine with him as a guard held open a door. Left alone with her lord husband, Sansa took a sip of the watered-down wine and felt herself slump back into the chair in a most ungraceful move. She pushed her untouched plate of food away and stared at the dish of mutton in front of her. The smell was rather too much and without thinking she looked to one of the servants standing in the corner, unfazed by all he’d seen, and crooked a finger at him.

“Take this away, please,” she murmured to him with a frown. “It smells like a dead cat.”

It probably was dead cat, Sansa reflected. Joffrey’s idea of a good joke no doubt. The servant did as she bid before she raised her goblet at took a small sip of the wine again.

“We have something of importance to discuss,” Tywin growled and Sansa closed her eyes, knowing what he wanted to talk about. It was not something that she wanted to talk about. Setting the goblet of wine down, she reached for a piece of bread and slathered a generous amount of butter on it.

“You want to talk about this afternoon,” she murmured, not looking at him as she reached instead for the tiny pot of orange marmalade. His fist came down on the table hard enough that several dishes were jarred and Sansa froze. Her heart pounded in her chest as her head snapped over to look at him, wondering if this was the moment that the lion would attack. She’d known a man’s fist before and she was not afraid of his violence, no matter how terrible it would be. She would die before she showed him fear. The blank mask of serenity she always wore covered her face and she remembered her words, the ones that would protect her like armor.

Lord Tywin procured the badly carved lion from a pocket somewhere in his doublet and he tossed it onto the table. The poor creature bounced before it fell into the open pot of marmalade. Plucking the gift up from the marmalade, Sansa used the small linen square that was across her lap to clean the lion. She had not realized how much it meant to her in that moment. It was ruined now by the sticky, sugary concoction.

“I will tolerate many things from you. You’re young and you’ve not lived. I expect you to say silly, childish things. I expect you to act before you think like your foolish mother,” Tywin snarled. “Childish, silly little gifts that make me look as equally ridiculous as you are not one of those things that I will tolerate. Do not bring me such a thing ever again or I will make you regret it, Lady Sansa.”

His harsh words were not unexpected, Sansa realized as tension ripped across the sore muscles of her shoulders. She had been expecting his words and more so, she’d been agonizing over what he’d say. The horrible tension that she felt was the anxiety of anticipating what he’d say. Nothing relieved the discomfort as she looked down at the steaming stew in the dish before her. Her appetite was as lost as was her mind. Not even a slice of lemon cake would tempt her into eating. She couldn’t conjure up the will to even lift her fork and pluck a piece of meat up. She physically ached and was too tired to fight him, she decided. His unborn child had sapped that strength from her. She cleaned the small figure and placed it back on the table, the marmalade staining the wood. It made her want to cry, seeing her little gift ruined.

“My gift wasn’t for you, my lord,” Sansa murmured softly, using the even practiced tone that she’d perfected during her months as Joffrey’s victim. “It was a gift from a little boy at the orphanage to me, not you. I thought it was a pleasant way to inform you of your impending fatherhood. You are the farther of someone that is not yet perfect, just like the lion statue is not perfect. It’s clear now that my actions were a mistake. The gift has been ruined by marmalade, my lord, a sure sign that I should not try to make such an announcement a joyous moment after all. I promised Lord Tyrion that I would inform you that the Lady Olenna Tyrell agreed that the Tyrells would pay for half the royal wedding. Consider this my faith execution of that promise. Please, excuse me, my lord husband, I find that I have no appetite this evening. Sleep well tonight.”

She didn’t wait for his response as she stood and bobbed a curtsy. She grabbed the piece of bread that she’d just smothered with butter and orange marmalade. She took a small bite of it as she crossed the chamber. She couldn’t even stomach the taste of anything anymore. One of the dogs trotted close to her, seeing the food and nipped at her fingertips. She gave the piece of bread to the hound bitch that Tommen liked, a beautiful black creature named Meera. Lord Tywin called her name, the chill in his voice from early all but gone.

She stopped on the threshold, hearing the legs of his wooden chair and his boots on the stone floor. The sound of the wood chair on stone reminded her of the great hall at Winterfell and the sounds would be echo in the hall during a feast. Suddenly, she was assaulted by her mother’s voice, echoing in her head, telling her that she was a whore and that no Stark would ever see her Lannister child as nothing less than a bastard, not fit to be a northern man.

It was all too much and she nodded to the soldier standing guard. He held open the heavy wooden door for her and she exited the chamber. She didn’t care if her lord husband saw her cover her mouth to hold back a sob, she didn’t care if she walked faster than a lady should at court and everyone saw her. Sansa didn’t care about any of it as she made her way through the maze of corridors that would take her back to the Tower of the Hand. Shae appeared from somewhere and easily wrapped an arm around her waist to support her as they walked side by side. Her stomach felt retched and twisted uncontrollably as they reached her dressing room. Her throat and eyes burned as the contents of her stomach was brought up in a pot next to the fireplace. She gagged and choked for what seemed like hours until her stomach rejected all the small bit of food that she had managed to swallow at the evening meal. It seemed laughable, the amount of energy that she spent on being ill compared to the small amount of food that she ate.

Shivering, Sansa didn’t hear Shae summon one of the maids to fetch hot water. Slowly, Sansa undressed and moved to sit in the window seat, dressed only in her shift and smallclothes. She was unable to stomach the smell of the fireplace. The window latch was turned and the panes of glass and wood swung towards her as she sat down, inhaling the fresh air. She could hear the faint sounds of castle life around her, but she was high enough in the tower that the air was fresh and clear. The smells couldn’t bother her as she looked out at the reflected lights from the heavens dancing on the surface of Blackwater Bay.

When the bath was declared ready by one of her handmaidens, Sansa wanted to protest that she didn’t need another bathing. The thought, however, of being able to loosen the tense muscles in her body allowed the protest to die in her throat. Shae helped her to strip naked once the rest of the handmaidens were dismissed and step into the copper tub. The tense feeling in her muscles eased only a little when she sank into the hot water.

“Do you want to talk about what is troubling you?” Shae asked, grabbing one of the linen squares near the end of the tub and dousing it in the water. The foreign handmaiden twisted out the excess water from the linen before cleaning Sansa’s arm and the moved in a slow, circular rotation.

“No,” Sansa whispered back and sat in the tub quietly. With slow, caring hands, Shae cleaned her arms and back. Care was taken to work out the knots in her muscles and ease the tension of her shoulders. Her body was so tense that it felt almost painful to relax. Strong thumbs and gentle finger tips were used until Sansa could no longer take Shae’s touch on her tender shoulders and asked her to stop. By the fire in the dressing room, Sansa dried her skin and changed into a shift before letting Shae loosely braid her back. The fire in her bed chamber was dying when Sansa pulled the heavy covers of the bed back. Shae did as she commanded, warming bricks in the dying embers before wrapping them in linen and hiding them in the sheets at the foot of the bed. The nights were getting colder, Sansa thought bitterly as she crossed the bed chamber to the double doors that were closed. There was a meowing and scratching sounds coming from outside and cracking open the doors, Sansa allowed Lann to slip inside the rooms before closing the doors again.

Weren’t her old words, Winter is Coming?

Lord Tywin had helped to chase away the chill in the air and in the sheets at night. His body was warm and when she slept beside him, he did not object to her seeking out his warmth. How many nights had she been unashamed to wrap an arm around his waist, rest her head on his chest, and listen to the steady beats of his heart? The thought was childish and uncomfortably reminded Sansa of the girl that she used to be before coming to King’s Landing. It reminded her of someone she no longer was and the innocence that had died when Eddard had been beheaded.

She didn’t know if there was another passageway into her room, but she did not want to see or hear her lord husband tonight. The key to her door was already in the lock as it had been since her wedding night and slowly, Sansa turned it until the lock clicked into place. Removing the key, Sansa set it on the mantle of the fireplace as Shae added an extra log to the happy flames. Climbing into the high four poster bed, she wrapped herself up and snuggled into the sheets that had been made warm by a heated brick near her toes. Lord Tywin would not keep her warm tonight, but Lann would keep her company as he leapt onto the bed. The orange tabby cat’s coat had grown out and the thick fur around his head looked as if he had grown a mane of hair like a lion. The thought brought a smile to her face as he rolled onto his back and showed her a white, fluffy belly.

Dismissing Shae for the night, Sansa laid still in the silence of the night with Lann as her only companion. It was no secret that in the Hand’s household, Lann was favorited by the guards and maids. A small red ribbon with a golden bell was tied in a bow around his neck, something that Sansa did not do. She rather suspected that Jerion the Squire was responsible for the accessory. Shae had informed her that the boy had taken a liking to one of the handmaidens and the ribbon and bell was probably a way of trying to impress the girl. At the time, the information had not bothered her, but now as she thought about it, she felt a surge of annoyance.

“Everyone thinks that you are theirs when you are truly mine,” Sansa whispered as the cat purred and licked her hand with his spiky tongue. Resting her head on the large pillow, Sansa closed her eyes. She was too exhausted to cry or be angry about Tywin’s words. In fact, she felt as if she’d been drained of all emotions and she had no room or desire to produce more. Lying in the still night air, she was reminded of the early days of her marriage, when Tywin Lannister would simply come into her bed and couple with her before leaving for the night.

How had she allowed herself to grow attached to him?

Sansa wondered about his touching her as she scratched Lann’s ears. She had desired closeness to the man. She had persuaded Shae to give her lessons about how to be closer to a man. Sansa couldn’t bring herself to regret those memories, but she wondered again if that course of actions had been wise on her part. She suspected that if she wasn’t careful, Tywin Lannister had a great deal of power over her and he could easily smash her feelings if he decided he wanted to. Being vulnerable emotionally as well as physically was not a position that Sansa liked. Silently, she promised herself that she would not let him even know that he had such power. He could not use it against her that way.
On the verge of sleep, she heard the door latch creak and her eyes flashed open. The latch only turned a little before it stopped. Frozen in bed, she barely breathed as Lann leapt from the bed and disappeared into his little corner. Outside her door, Sansa heard Tywin's familiar steps on the floor and climbed out of the bed when she heard Lann meow. Peering through the keyhole, she was surprised to find Tywin standing not far from her door, his hands clasped behind his back as he looked down at the cat with annoyed expression on his face.

“Your mistress will be missing you if you don’t return to her,” Tywin said, his hard voice was muffled. “Go, now.”

The cat simply stared at him before her lord husband began to walk away. From her small space, she watched Lann follow Tywin as he moved to sit in one of the chairs near the fireplace. The cat lay on the table next to him and the expression on her lord husband’s face would have sent any smart man running for the door. The cat simply flicked his tail and licked his paw like there was nothing wrong with the expression on Lord Tywin’s face. Sansa admired Lann’s bold courage. It was something that she couldn’t summon in herself, not even to face the man she’d married, a man that she’d soon share a child with. Tywin Lannister, Lord of Casterly Rock and the Great Lannister Lion, and Lann, the clever cat, stared at each other for several minutes before Lord Tywin reached out and scratched behind Lann’s ears. The cat purred happily and moved his head so that the fingers scratching him were in the right spot.

“I see you still have the ribbon and bell that Jerion procured for you,” Tywin said to the cat as if he were surveying a garrison of soldiers. “Try not to scare the kennel master again when you sneak down there to antagonize the dogs in their cages. That’s why you’ve been given the bell. Contrary to popular belief, good kennel masters are difficult to find. Killing mine from fright will not endear you to the dogs you torment by walking in between the cages.”

Sansa nearly smiled. It was such a silly conversation, but somehow it warmed her heart, the very heart that she was trying to frost to protect herself against her lord husband. The cat was truly a Lannister and maybe, Tywin was finally beginning to realize the cat’s place in their household. Standing from her position, Sansa crossed over to the high bed and slipped back under the sheets. She was too exhausted to think and simply closed her eyes. All her problems could rejoin her on the morrow, she decided. She could not bear to deal with them in her sleep.

Sleep, however, never came.

Fears consumed her as she tossed and turned in the darkness. She couldn’t quiet the fears as their voices grew louder and louder in her head. They ate her alive throughout the night hours and by dawn, Sansa had convinced herself that she would be cast aside once this child was born. Lord Tywin would have no use for her and all the things her mother’s voice taunted her with happening would happen. Her lord husband would have her murdered, or her child ripped from her breast, just as Elia Martell’s son had been ripped from her breast. Instead of watching her son be murdered, Sansa would be forced to give him up. Never to hold him or nurse him as any mother would. It was all too much and when she saw Shae in the early morning night, all the strength that Sansa had used to hold herself together in the long hours of the night disappeared as she broke down in tears, terrified of what would happen to her.

EDITED 5/17/2019 Beta'd by A.L.D.   


Chapter Text

Part Nine: Skye

"…Billow and breeze, islands and seas

Mountains of and rain and sun

All that was good, all that was fair

All that was me is gone

Sing me a song of a lass that is gone

Say, could that lass be I?

Merry of soul, she sailed on a day

Over the sea to Skye…”

~ “The Skye Boat Song” – Yara Yarbrough

 Mid August, 299 A.C.

Riverrun, the Riverlands

“Word of this can’t leave Riverrun,” Lord Edmure Tully said calmly as he stood near the great table. “These boys were the nephews of Tywin Lannister. The Lannisters pay their debts as they are always reminding us.”

“Would you make me a liar as well as a murder?” Robb demanded angrily as he rubbed the back of his neck.

Rickard Karstark’s murder of two innocent boys was almost too much to process. He was already losing the war, this would only be another blow to his disenchanted lords.

“It wouldn’t be lying,” Edmure tried to persuaded. “We’d bury them and remain silent until the war is done. It would buy us time, time that we badly need.”

Robb spoke elaborately about justice, but he could feel the control slipping from his grasps. His wife, his mother, and his uncle attempted to talk him out of delivering justice to Lord Karstark for the murder of the two Lannister boys before he dismissed them all for bed. He sat alone in the small chambers that he used as a private study at Riverrun and listened as thunder rumbled in the distance and rain fell steadily outside.

It was all wrong, every part of this war was wrong. He sat in the most uncomfortable chair he could find, staring at the dead golden-haired boys in front of him on the floor. He wondered what their father, Ser Kevan Lannister, would think of all the bloodshed that had happened.

Was this war worth the blood of young boys in fields?

He did not see Lannisters when he looked at the two boys. Robb saw children, two innocent boys. Both of whom had the unfortunate luck of bearing the last name Lannister. Their mother would no doubt weep over her loss of sons, the eldest son was Lancel and at least he was still alive to comfort his parents. Staring at the boys, Robb sighed, knowing what had to be done. There was no way to justify that treason had not happened.

There was no way to explain why Lord Karstark’s actions warranted mercy. There was no way of hiding such an atrocity from Lord Tywin, a man who had committed plenty of his own atrocities over the years. He was trying to fight for goodness and justice, but Robb realized that in war there was no such as honor and decency.

It was perhaps a lesson that Tywin Lannister had learned long away, but it was a difficult truth to swallow. Eddard Stark had taught him and his brothers that honor was more important than anything. It was better to die with honor than to live without it, Robb truly believed that. Every decision he made seemed to be the wrong one and only brought more suffering and troubles to his rule. He sat in the room until the bells chimed from the bell tower that it was four hours past midnight and he stood. There was only one solid course of action that he could see and he gave the orders that Lord Karstark would be executed at first light.


Executing Lord Karstark was the right, moral thing Robb told himself as he walked back to Riverrun as the sun broke over the horizon. Not one soul dared to stop him as he walked back to his private chambers. He tossed his heavy furs and cloak aside, still wet and dripping from the rain outside. He didn’t want company. He wanted to be alone and reflect on the fact that he’d just ended a man’s life.

It was a heavy burden and he finally understood his father’s desire to be alone in the Godswood with Ice after every execution that was performed at Winterfell. Robb ate the food that a maid had left out for him in silence. He’d done the right thing, he told himself.

He’d done the thing that his father would have done in the war. Still a voice in the back of his mind that sounded surprisingly like Sansa’s urged him to be careful. He was making costly decisions that could lose him the war and his life. When Tywin Lannister found out what had been done to his nephews, there would be no mercy. The man was known for his deep devotion to family, but he may not have loved the boys.

Robb doubted that Tywin knew what love even was, but the man would avenge the boys simply because they were his nephews and Lannisters. Sansa’s voice urged caution and he pushed the thought of her away as he stood and looked out to the rainy morning. He had not realized how much he missed her until he heard her soft voice in his head. They did not have the sick, twisted love of Cersei and Jamie Lannister. He and Sansa were proof of what a natural twin relationship was supposed to be like and even though they were apart, he missed the feeling of her presence.

Ever since they were children, Robb had always been close to her. They had never been far apart from each other and this war had been the longest time apart that they had ever spent. His own wife’s comfort would not be the same as Sansa’s. His bride could physically sooth away the stress, but she could not ease his mind like Sansa could. She couldn’t listen like Sansa could. She could think like his twin and tell all the little things about him like Sansa could. They were like two pieces of a whole, Robb thought. He and Sansa fit together like puzzle pieces and their minds were inseparable. She’d shared experiences with him that only they could share. They had a bond that no one could replicate and it haunted him, the depth of how much he missed her calm presence. Not since they were children had he felt such a pang of longing.

He only wanted to hug his sister and ask for her to tell him exactly how to fix the war swirling around them, but Robb doubted that Sansa had any easy answer for him. He wondered if she even knew what was happening outside of the Red Keep where she was prisoner. A knock at the door came and Robb allowed admittance to the person. His Uncle Edmure opened the door, a grim look on his face.

“Two notes just arrived by raven, Your Grace, for you.”

Taking the notes from his uncle’s outstretched hand, Robb started at the ink on the page of the first note that had been bled by the rain drops. He could faintly make out his name out the outside. No titles were written, only his name. The hand that his name was written in was not familiar to his eyes. Turning the note over, there was only a blob of red wax to seal the note and the seal was not broken. Nor was there any evidence that the seal had been broken and re-seal as some notes were. Breaking the red wax, Robb froze as he read the words on the page. Rage and shock pumped through his veins as he read the words over and over again with disbelief.

“Send for my mother,” he breathed to Uncle Edmure numbly as he put the note down on the desk.

It couldn’t be true, he reasoned as he waited for the familiar scent of his mother to embrace him. He needed her to tell him that it was all a lie. The contents of the note had to be a lie, there was no way that it was true. He’d known Sansa since they were formed in the womb together.

She could not have willingly been married to Tywin Lannister.

He heard his mother’s quick steps and the steps of his wife as Edmure bid both women to enter the private chamber. Catelyn Stark looked tired from the events of the day already and Robb regretted making her day worse, but there was no easy way to break the news. Silently, he held out the letter to her and she took it with shaking hands. From the look on her face, Robb suspected his mother knew that the note contained no good news. For brief moment, his mother stood still, rocking on her feet as she read the news before her sob caught in her throat. Her hand clasped her neck and Catelyn collapsed down into the window seat and cried out in anguish as she read the note.

“He…he married her,” she gasped, lowering the letter to her lap and looking at Robb with wide, tearful eyes. “How…how could she have willingly married him like the letter says? Who is this from?”

Robb leaned on the desk and shook his head, “I don’t know, Mother, but from the details in the letter, I assume that it is someone who is close and familiar to the situation.”

“If that letter is true she is no daughter mine!” Catelyn declared venomously as she jumped to her feet. “No daughter of mine would willingly lie with the man who nearly had her brother murdered! I don’t believe it! If it is the truth, Sansa will never be welcomed back as your father’s daughter. She's a traitor and should be murdered like one. No child of mine would ever do such a thing. Not with the knowledge of what the Lannisters have done to our family!”

Jeyne gently took the letter out of Catelyn’s hands as Edmure guided his distraught sister from the room. Robb closed his eyes, tired and feeling more lost than ever. His heart and mind were in a constant battle, trying to accept and digest the information that the letter contained. It couldn’t be true and yet, somewhere deep inside, Robb knew that the truth was written on the page. Sansa had done what had been needed by her to live and she’d made a deal that made it impossible for her to return to them. She was a Lannister. The wife of the Great Lion of Casterly Rock. She’d no doubt be mother to his children soon and it would be impossible to bring her home. There was no redemption for his sister and it caused his chest to ache painfully.

“We are at war,” Jeyne said softly as she touched his forearm. “It is possible that she simply did what she had to do to survive.”

“Either Tywin Lannister is raping her every night in her bed,” Robb murmured as he looked out at the waters of Riverrun. “Or she is willingly spreading her thighs and welcoming that lion’s seed into her womb. Either way, my mother will never forgive her.”

“Your mother is hypocrite,” Jeyne said firmly, her eyes narrowing slightly. “She calls your sister’s actions those of traitor while she herself released a prisoner, which is treason. You don’t have the full picture of why Sansa married Tywin Lannister. You don’t know, Robb. Your mother caused the start of this great war by kidnapping Tyrion Lannister. You know that in your heart and yet, you let her judge your twin for something that it is almost likely something she could not prevent. I do not believe Sansa had a choice.”


“Even if she bed Tywin Lannister willing, I am sure that did so with the full knowledge that if she did not do as she was told, he’d rape and marry her anyway. He’d force her to do those things. After everything that you have told me about the man, do you think that your sister had any ways to defend herself? You are here. She is in King’s Landing, alone and defenseless.”

“She’s not a virgin any longer,” Robb murmured, feeling ashamed of his own words and actions. “No lord would ever marry her. She’s been bedded and wedded by Lord Tywin Lannister. It’s enough to scare anyone away.”

“Is that how you measure her worth?” Jeyne demanded angrily tossing the letter onto the desk. “She’s your twin! You’ve talked about her as if she is the most treasured person in your world. Do not damn your sister simply on the basis of a single letter like your mother has. Do not cast her aside because you believe her broken and no longer of use to you. I have never met her, but she seems to be far worthier of my esteem than anyone in this castle. If you love her, you will not care about the contents of this letter and you will convince your mother the same.”

Without another word, his wife angrily left and the door slammed behind her. Robb said nothing as he tossed the second letter that had been received and gazed out the window. Jeyne saw only the good and didn’t understand that Sansa was already lost to them. She had been lost to them for a long time. Long enough that the North sang about his sister. A sad, haunting melody of the missing Princess Sansa, twin of the king, lost to the south. He knew the words to the song. He knew that the North considered her lost forever to the south…she sailed over the sea to Skye as it was in the song. It was the polite way, he supposed, of saying that she’d probably been beaten, raped, and married off to Tywin Lannister in a perceived political alliance that would result in the Great Lion's control of the North. Bran and Rickon were dead, he had no sons, and it left only Sansa as his heir by birthright. His mother venomously opposed his legitimizing Jon Snow to be his heir, but Robb thought about it again and wondered if it was the right thing to do.

Jeyne could not understand the implications of such a marriage. If he died in the war without leaving his seed rooted in her body, Sansa would inherit the North and it would be a crushing blow. In one swift, horrifying move, the Lannisters would control the North through his sister’s line and her second son would inherit Winterfell. A Lannister would sit in the seat that had been held by the Starks for eight thousand years and that would be the ultimate sign of power of the North.

It was the one thing that the North feared above all else and it was why so many already considered his sister lost to the North. She would never be able to come back now, he reflected. Tywin Lannister would keep her in the south. Bedding her and doing only what the seven faces of God knew what with her, Robb reflected with a shiver. He’d never hold his twin again, he realized sadly. Sansa was lost and never coming home. In his head, Robb heard the song’s chorus in his head, a haunting song that the soldiers sometimes sang at dusk.

A song he hadn’t the heart to ban, not when it was so true.

…Sing me a song of a lass that is gone. Say, could that lass be I? Merry of soul, she sailed on a day, over the sea to Skye…

King’s Landing, the Tower of the Hand

Mid August, 299 A.C.

Tywin stood in the doorway of her dressing room, watching her stare at the wall in the copper tub. Her hair was pinned back and Shae, the handmaiden, had long since finished helping her to wash.

He knew.

He’d watched the whole morning routine from the moment that the handmaiden had gotten her into the dressing room. He’d heard her sobs in the early morning and had taken his keys to unlock her door. He stood in the doorway of the dressing room and had watched the handmaiden strip his lady wife naked and help her into the hot water of her morning bath. Sansa hadn’t even noticed he was there. Her face was blank, but it exhibited the exhaustion that only a sleepless night full of worry could produce. Just looking at her, Tywin knew that her mind was far away from her tired body. He hadn’t seen such a look on her face in months, not since he’d first returned to King’s Landing. Now, she would be the mother of his child and he wished he could undo the harsh words he’d said to her the night before at dinner. He had not realized that she was trying to convey something that had great meaning in her life. This was to be her first child and he had ruined that moment for her to share that special news. Rarely did he ever feel regret, but Tywin felt it just under the surface. It was what he wanted and yet, her sadness made the event seem unreal. Shae moved around the dressing room and suddenly, Sansa spoke to her, breaking the silence of the early morning air.

“You can go,” she whispered. “I can dress myself. I am not helpless.”

“You should get out of the water now, my lady,” Shae murmured crouching down next to her. “The water is cold and your skin will start to prune or worse, you’ll catch a cold soon.”

“You can go,” Sansa repeated, her eyes never wavering from where she looked at the blank wall absent mindedly.

She lifted what looked like a bar of soap and set it on the great myrish rug that covered most of the floor. Shae left her alone and Tywin felt obligated to step into the room. He didn’t want her to need something and be alone. She said nothing when he crouched down next to her as her maid had done, dipping his finger into the tepid water. He gently ran the tips of his fingers over the bony outline of her shoulder blade as she hugged herself. She flinched at his touch and looked away from the wall and him. It was not an unexpected reaction, Tywin reflected. He was used to people flinching away from him, but in the weeks they’d been together, Sansa had become a part of his life.

She was like a flower.

Above ground, she stayed in one spot, blooming beautifully in the warmth of the sunshine. Beneath the ground, her roots weaved into the soil deeper and further than anyone would think possible. She was not someone he wanted to flinch away from him. The lion comb in her hair kept her golden copper tresses from falling down and he dipped his fingers in the water again and gently touched her lower neck and shoulders. She closed her eyes and swallowed thickly as she turned her head. She looked at the wall in front of her and he could feel the tension in her body grow under his fingertips. She slowly let her legs lay out in the copper tub, her arms hugging her body tightly.

A slight shiver overwhelmed her and he stood. She would not catch a cold, not while carrying the next heir of Casterly Rock…not when he could prevent it. He grabbed the sheet that the handmaiden had left by the fire. He turned as Sansa stood, and he examined her body. There was no visible change, he realized. He would have known if there was one. Long nights with her in their marriage bed had made him familiar with every part of her body as he held out a hand to assist her out of the copper tub, but she looked at his hand like it was the belt that Ser Meryn Trant had used to beat her.

“You won’t take the baby away from me, will you?” Sansa demanded tearfully, her large blue eyes filled with fear as she ignored his hand. “Please, don’t do that. It’s all I can think about, Lord Lannister. I don’t want to be the creature that fulfills a need and is tossed away like scrap meat given to the hounds. I know I sound pathetic and you hate weakness and tears, but…I can’t be strong, not today. Not with the thoughts in my head.”

“Never,” he told her softly. “Never would that happen. Put such thoughts out of your mind.”

Sansa shivered almost violently. The water droplets fell from her body and he wrapped a sheet around her. He kicked the bar of soap under the tub, ridding any chance of her slipping on it. She stepped out and he moved her to stand in front of the fire. He dried her skin as she looked down at the flames, tears still falling down her cheeks. He could understand her weakness today and he knew that being with child could change how a woman thought and reacted. Joanna and his sister, Genna, had both been perfect examples of sane women losing their minds and crying for no apparent reason. Joanna had been a fit to care for and Genna had been violent when angered while she’d been with child. He hoped that Sansa would not be as bad as either woman, but the possibility was there. Comforting scared and tearful wives was a skill that he lacked in, however. He didn’t think he could stand to see his lady wife cry all day and turn into a violent, raging monster at the spin of a gold dragon. It would be enough to drive any man mad and he would not relive that again. The handmaiden had also left the dressing gown to warm by the fire. Tossing away the damp sheet, he slipped the warm dressing gown around her shoulders and tied the sash around her waist. The last of her tears fell and she wiped them away.

“Thank you, your lordship, for your help,” she murmured before turning away and walking across the dressing room to a vanity with a myrish gold looking glass.

She sat down in front of it and easily unpinned the tresses that had been pinned up. Sansa said nothing as she quickly began brushing her hair out. Walking to her, Tywin placed the crudely made lion that the boy from orphanage had given her on the vanity before bending slightly and kissing the top of her head. His hands rested on her shoulders and for a moment, she closed her weary eyes.

“Sleep this afternoon,” he commanded her gently. “You look very tired, Sansa. Maester Broots will come and see you.”

He imagined with all the fears swirling inside her head that she hadn’t slept well the night before. Tywin left her dressing room with every intention of summoning his squire and making certain that she did lie down in the afternoon to sleep. Carrying a child was a taxing business and he would not allow her to jeopardize her health or the health of his heir. 

It was early in the afternoon when Tywin stared at the letter in front of him. He stood in one of the many archways of the small council chamber. The early afternoon breeze caught the sheer paneling that hung in the archways, making the fabric look like it was dancing. The small courtyard was quiet, not even the water fountain made much noise in the still afternoon air. Lann the Cat laid at the end of the small council table, licking his paws, the bell around his neck jingling every so often. The damn creature had been sent away by Sansa and the cat seemed almost lost without her and had deemed him the appropriate master to follow. A floor above, Maester Broots was examining the Lady Sansa to determine just how far along she was with child. He did not wish to be far from her when the maester came to give news. He was not permitted in the room during the examination, but it not mean he couldn’t be close by if Sansa needed him or something happened and Broots was forced to relay difficult news.

Tywin was not stupid.

He understood that losses happened in the early days of pregnancy. Joanna had been lucky enough to escape having such losses, but Tywin judged it was that way because he had not bedded her often enough that she fell with child regularly like some women did. Their marriage had been abnormal in that way. His own lady mother had lost many babes. She lost three children prior to his birth and he could remember being a boy and seeing the bloody sheets being carried out of her rooms on the several occasions when she’d bleed the child out from her womb. One distinct memory had haunted him as a young child, he and Kevan had only been boys, but there had been a stillborn child born before his youngest brother.

In the early hours of the morning, he could remember creeping down the hallways with Kevan and hearing his father’s sobs. His lady mother had been unconscious from blood loss and the body of the child had been quickly discarded at his father’s commands. There had been no bathing of the babe to wash away the blood and filth of birth, no red cloth to wrap the child in for his mother to see and hold him in. There had been no Septon to anoint the babe with the seven oils of the faith. All of the dignity and pride that came with being born a Lannister had been stripped away by his weak, cowering father who had wailed louder than his lady wife when she received the news of her stillborn child. His mother had wept for days, crying that she’d never had the chance to hold the child that she’d birth into the world. He’d been too young to understand, but as a grown man, he understood what why his mother had sobbed and cursed his weak father. His father should have done all the things required of him instead of weakly demanding the unnamed and unanointed baby be buried in an unmarked grave. Tytos should have been the one to cleanse the baby and wrap the dead child in red cloth so that his mother could have held her child while Septon conducted his ritual with oils. It would have been the Lannister thing to do, Tywin reflected as he put the letter containing the news of Lord Rickard Karstark’s execution aside.

The young wolf was beginning to make tactical mistakes where his twin was beginning to excel at the game. Sansa knew things before even he did. Staying in her bed late at night had first been to garner what she knew about people, pleasure had mingled with learning that knowledge. She proved to be a clever being, not telling him what he wanted to know until he’d sated all her desires. Some nights, she left him feeling distinctly like a Lys love slave and he snorted at such a colorful thought. The news that she’d supplied had been exceptionally useful in creating a union to bring House Tyrell further under the control of the crown. The sound of knocking on the door forced Tywin to concentrate on the present as he called out for the intruder to come into the chamber. Maester Broots entered with a kind expression on his face as he bowed. He closed the door behind him and waited patiently as Tywin folded up the letter in his hands.

“How is she?” he demanded as he stared out into the courtyard with his hands clasped behind his back, bracing himself for whatever news was to be delivered.

“She’s resting. It’s probably for the best not to disturb her,” Maester Broots said calmly. “She could barely keep her eyes open for the examination. I imagine that she didn’t sleep well last night.”

“And?” Tywin demanded, turning and tossing the letter he’d been reading down on the desk before him. He didn’t bother to ask about her tired state. She hadn’t slept the night before and he planned to ensure that she slept regularly in the foreseeable future. They would not have a repeat of another sleepless night, it was not good for her or the babe that she carried.

“She’s most likely three moons gone from my calculations. The child was most likely conceived the early weeks of your union, my lord hand. You should expect an early February birth the coming year. I would not have expected her to recognize the very early symptoms of being with child, but she is progressing as a lady should. I encouraged her to take long naps in the afternoon, if needed, and to make certain to exercise. Nothing vigorous, of course, simply walking in the garden will suffice.”

Tywin nodded, “She is not forbid from other nocturnal activities?”

“As I said, the only recommendation that I presented to her is that that she take naps when she tires. I see no reason that I see that she should not be able to carry the child to birth and recover from the birth quickly, my lord. There are no limitations on her activities at present. I have alerted her ladyship to any signs or symptoms that would require immediate attention by a maester such as bleeding or pains.”

“Good,” he said, clasping his hands behind his back. “I expect that you’ll see to her health and wellbeing as your priority in the coming months. I also expect that you will attend to her when the time comes for the birth.”

“Of course, my lord,” Broots said with a bow of his head. “Can I be of any more service?”

“You’re dismissed,” Tywin stated as the wooden door to the small council chamber opened. Tyrion paused in the door way with an arched brow as he looked from Tywin to Maester Broots. The maester excused himself as Tyrion waddled into the chamber. His youngest son stopped and stared at the orange tabby cat lazing on the end of the table for a moment before he placed his account books down on the table.

“I was not aware that you’d adopted such a ferocious creature into your household,” Tyrion said mockingly as he attempted to reach around Lann for the wine. The orange tabby hissed and attempted to swat Tyrion’s hand away. Maybe the creature wasn’t so bad after all, Tywin reflected.

“The creature belongs to Lady Sansa, a rescued animal courteously from Prince Tommen,” Tywin explained, clearly wishing to dismiss the topic. “She is indisposed at the moment and the creature saw fit to lay on the table here and wait for his mistress to recover.”

“And the Lady Sasna informed you of the Lady Olenna’s decision?” Tyrion asked quietly without preamble, flipping open his notes for their meeting regarding the finances of the crown…finances that Tywin had never seen in a state.

He was not oblivious to his son’s skill at excelling in positions that he did not want. One did not need to look any further than the drains as Casterly Rock or Lannisport to know that Tyrion had created the best drain system in the Seven Kingdoms. The crown owed the House Lannister half a kingdom and he planned to collect on the debt. He would not leave the crown owing his heir money. Tyrion would help to get that money back, one way or another.

“She did,” Tywin replied as he set the letter. “She was quite clear about your achievement. On behalf of the king, the crown thanks you for your service.”

His words surprised Tyrion and it clearly showed on the imps face as a knock resounded from the door. Tywin called for the intruder to enter and a kingsguard held open the door for Cersei to enter the chambers.

“What’s she doing here?” Tyrion growled, the praise that had been bestowed upon him all but forgotten.

It was obvious that neither of his children were particularly happy to see each other, not that they had ever gotten along. He did not care, Tywin reflected as he sat at the head of the table. He only hoped that Cersei would retain decorum and act like a lady when he delivered the news that he had. Delivering news about marriage to his daughter had never been an easy task and this was not a duty he enjoyed by any means.

“The business I have concerns her as well,” he explained as Tyrion looked down at his book with a tired expression on his face.

Cersei swept into the room, a smug smile on her face as she stared at her little brother. Whatever his daughter had been plotting in the shadows was about to fall apart before her very eyes. Tywin felt some satisfaction in that. He’d learned all he’d needed to know about the Tyrell’s plotting and planning and it had been worth the effort it took to extract the information in the end. Oh, Sansa had made him work for the information as she’d laid back in the center of the bed, but her words had proven more than useful enough in blackmailing Olenna Tyrell.

The look on the Queen of Thrones face had been priceless when he’d set out the terms for their accord. He’d left her with no choice, but to agree with his proposal. The meeting had been the most satisfying meeting he’d ever had with the woman and he’d actually left the chamber with the ghost of a smile on his face. It had taken quick thinking and snap judgment, but after so many years, he’d finally beaten Olenna Tyrell at her own plotting. It was the bickering of his children that ended the enjoyable feeling that had been building in his chest at the memory.

“Stop that,” Tyrion demanded of Cersei as looked at him with a gleeful expression. “You’re making me uncomfortable.”

“It has been uncovered in the past few weeks that there are several plots by the Tyrells to strong arm power away from us and to Lady Margaery,” Tywin began carefully. “They were plotting well before they came here to see Lady Margaery married off to Joffery. I recently learned that there had been plans to see Lady Sansa married to Ser Loras even prior to her marriage. I gift them with a royal marriage and learn that they had been plotting against us from the beginning. No matter, there will be other ways to bring the House of Tyrell to heel. They will soon realize what a mistake it was to try and steal the key to the North from under us.”

“Robb Stark is still alive, if I am not mistaken,” Tyrion pronounced.

“The boy executed his bannerman, Rickard Karstark. Karstark’s men have marched home,” Tywin explained in a bored tone as he pushed the letter he’d received less than an hour before across the table for Tyrion to examine. "The young wolf has self mutilated his army. His days are numbered. Lady Sansa’s younger brothers are dead, and she, by right, is the only heir of Eddard Stark’s left. She is the key to the North. With our alliance, we have secured the futures of the North, the Riverlands, and the Eryie, where her cousin Robert Arryn is Lord. He’s a sickly boy and easy to control if given half the chance. We must turn our gazes south to the Reach and the Stormlands. With Joffrey as the King of the Seven Kingdoms, the Stormlands and Dragonstone will be inherited by Prince Tommen, once he is of age to govern. This leaves only the Reach to be our greatest concern and I will see to it that an heir with Lannister blood is seated there as well.”

Tyrion shifted nervously in his seat, squirming as he understood where this conversation was directed before he pushed the folded letter back.

“While Tyrion has done his duty in attempting to figure out how to manage the mounting debt that Robert Baratheon left us with,” Tywin continued as he looked towards Cersei. “You will do your duty and marry Willas Tyrell, the heir to Highgarden. He is crippled, but I am assured that it will not impede his ability to procreate.”

The look that crossed Cersei’s face was an ugly one and her fists trembled slightly as they lay upon the table.

“You’re still fertile. You will marry again and breed.”

“I am Queen Regent, not some broodmare to simply have children when you—” Cersei snarled back angrily.

“You’re my daughter,” Tywin yelled, his voice echoing off the stone walls of the chamber and carrying into the open courtyard of the tower. “You will do as I command and you will marry Willas Tyrell. I have listened for many years to disgusting rumors about your children. I have listened to plenty of rumors about the bastards of Robert Baratheon all being black of hair and somehow each of his true born children having only golden hair. I have listened to these rumors tarnish the Lannister name for far too long and I will not hear of it anymore, not when such a rumor will impact the future of the next heir to Casterly Rock, my still unborn son.”

The room became deathly silent. Cersei, managing fake tears while Tyrion did not even looking up from the pages of his accounting book. It struck him than how different Sansa had been when he’d delivered the news of their impending marriage. She’d been battered and weak, but she’d still take the news better than his daughter ever had. The first fit had been when Rhaergar had rejected her as his bride. The second one had come shortly before her marriage to Robert Baratheon. Now, his daughter was angrily fighting him on a third match, one that would benefit her immensely. An offer of a match was something she would never likely receive again.

“Father, please. Do not make me do this again,” Cersei said tearfully.

“You are a disgrace to the Lannister name and every day that passes by as you besmirch the good name I have given you is one day too many,” Tywin growled back.

The tears stopped and a hateful expression unlike any that he’d seen before crossed her face.

“This is because of her, isn’t it?” Cersei demanded in low, dangerous voice. “You’re casting your true children aside because of her! That whore of traitor’s sister convinced you to marry me off to Willas Tyrell. Don’t think that no one sees how close those two bitches in heat have grown. Mother would be infuriated by your actions.”

Tywin leaned forward, their faces inches from each others, as he growled at her again, “The only part that Lady Lannister played in all of this was to reveal that Ser Loras had ambitions to be in the kingsguard and Lady Olenna disapproved of such a thing. Olenna and Margaery Tyrell have been looking for a way to keep Willas Tyrell the named heir of Highgarden for quite some time. I simply helped to convince the Lady Olenna that you were the best choice of bride for the heir of Highgarden if she did not wish to see Willas passed over and Ser Loras appointed to the kingsguard. As for casting you aside, I wish I could simply do that because everyone in the seven kingdoms believes that you are a brother fucker. I cannot allow the house name of my unborn heir to be sullied anymore by your vile actions. This is your chance to start over. Do not disappoint me, Cersei. Go, now. The Master of Coin and I have much to discuss about money, something neither you nor Robert Baratheon saw fit to concern your selves with.”

Tywin sat back in his chair and watched his daughter retreat angrily from the room as he reached for the letter he'd been reading before Broots had interrupted him. There was little doubt in his mind that she’d try to plot her way out of marrying Ser Willas, but he’d put safeguards in place to ensure that the marriage happened. Cersei would not get her way this time. Standing, Tywin stared at the seal of House Bolton as he walked towards the fireplace. Crouching down, he tossed the letter into the flames and watched the fire lick the letter. Robb Stark and his silly mother were losing the war. Catelyn was foolish and it amazed him that Sansa could be related to such foolishness. Bolton was not asking for much in return for winning the war and once the turn cloak had fulfilled his purpose, Tywin could easily toss the man aside, just as he’d toss aside Walder Frey in the end. The plan that began to form in his head was simple, but it would end the war in one swift blow. Thousands of men would not die on a battlefield, only a handful of men would die at a dinner table. He would let Robb Stark think that he could win. It would allow Tywin time to make all the necessary arrangements. He’d slowly begin to pull back his forces, giving Robb Stark the idea that he was losing men and ground. The young wolf would no doubt be eager to push forward and he would, until the day when it would all end. He watched the letter burn until it was ashes. Gone was the message and he’d reply first thing in the morning once he’d made his own plans.

There would be no trace of the plot anywhere in the tower. He would not allow any upset during such a delicate time while Sansa carried his next heir. Not one soul would speak of it, Tywin vowed. Robb Stark could not know what was coming his way. Walder Frey would be easy enough to turn, stroke the man’s ego and offer enough gold, and Walder would be in his pocket. Roose Bolton would be just as easy and he’d kill both men when they’d served their purpose. Standing up from the fire, Tywin turned back towards Tyrion.

"Will the crown be able to make the first repayment back to the House Lannister?"

"No," Tyrion said after a moment. "We will be twenty thousand pieces of gold short." 

Sansa heard his boots on the floor before she saw him.

For a brief moment, she looked up to see him closing her chamber doors behind him. He was as handsome as ever in his crimson doublet and black boots, but she could not summon a cheerful thought beyond that. Her exhaustion was still deep inside her, but anger that had been absent earlier was boiling to the top. His gentleness in the morning had surprised her and robbed her any anger that she might have been flung at him. Standing from her spot at the window seat, Sansa closed the small book that was in her hands. She was angry, but her mind was spinning in ten different direction. It was difficult to decide what she was angry about in the first place. Perhaps, she was angry at him for ruining her moment or maybe she was reacting from her own fears.

It didn’t matter, Sansa decided. She was angry and that was enough. Tywin moved to stand before her and clasped his hands behind his back. He was close enough that she could reach out and touch him, but she didn’t. Exhaling slowly, Sansa watched him mask the decided annoyance that his eyes revealed. She expected him to chastise her for reading instead of resting, but she hid her surprise when she heard his words.

"The stable master said that you interfered with the breeding of your mare," Tywin declared, his jaw flexing with irritation that was strangely absent in his voice.

Sansa kept her composure and walked around him. Going to the four-poster bed that she’d been sleeping in less than an hour before, she breathed out slowly and closed her eyes for a moment. Setting the book down on the bed linens, Sansa picked up the lace dressing gown that was laid out for her and moved away from Tywin as quickly as she could. Despite the summer warmth of the afternoon, the Tower's rooms were still drafty. She moved to stand in front of the fireplace were embers burned to warm her toes.

"I sent Ser Jorah down to the stables to make my wishes known," she murmured after a minute, looking at him over her shoulder. "She is my mare and I do not want to breed her with any stallion."

"It was my stallion she was to be bred with."

Sansa looked back down at the burning embers. She had known of the plan to breed her mare. Kindness was a currency that was in short supply around King’s Landing and it had only taken a few kind words to a stable boy to learn of Lord Tywin’s plans. She closed her eyes when she heard his boots on the floor and was breathless when strong, warm hands touched her upper arms. The warmth of his body could be felt though her thin lace dressing gown and nightshift. The simple braid that tamed her auburn hair was pushed over her shoulder and when his lips pressed a soft kiss to the junction of her neck and shoulder, Sansa wasn’t sure she could give him a coherent answer.

His hands slid down her arms to her hips. She made a sound of pleasure when his lips travelled up her neck to her jaw. She was like pudding in his hands, she reflected with annoyance. No part of her could tell him to stop and it was a weakness. Tywin pulled at the ribbons that laced the front of her shift together. He slipped his hand inside, warmly caressing her breast and letting his thumb brush over her incredibly sensitive nipple. His body was hard and she could feel his hot breath on the curve of her ear when he leaned down to speak.

"Are you going to give me an answer as to why you prevented my direct order from happening?"

She moaned when he applied gentle pressure to her breast and tugged at her shift. Her dressing gown was stripped away and her shift fell down her shoulder, exposing her breast to the afternoon air. He forced her to turn and she complied easily. He bowed his head, taking her nipple into his mouth and teasing it until she was filled with need that was nearly unbearable. His hand caressed her other breast though the thin material of her shift. Heat pooled between her thighs and an ache that only he could cure was beginning to overwhelm her. When his tongue rolled her nipple in a toe curling way she gasped and found her voice.

"My answer is no."

She was suddenly lifted and propelled back towards the four-poster bed. He was kissing her lips and for a moment, Sansa forgot about what they were talking about. The feeling of his warm embrace overwhelmed her. She hasn’t realized how much she’s come to depend on his touch. Her body and mind craved him...all of him. Laying across the bed with Tywin above her, Sansa moaned when her other breast was exposed and nearly purred with delight when he placed kisses on the undersides of her breasts, his whiskers giving a rough feeling that contrasted with his soft touch. His fingertips trailed over her ribs and lower across her belly. Feeling his touch brought reality crashing down around her and she remembered why she was angry. It wasn’t him that she was angry with. She was angry with herself. She’d been so weak and cried in front of him earlier when she’d begged him not to take her baby away from her. She was angry that her fears flared to life at his touch and when he moved his hand to the junction of her thighs, she stopped him.

All he wanted her for was sex and an heir, she reminded herself.

He didn’t care about her. Soon enough, he’d grow bored with her and toss her away like a used toy. The thought made her want to cry with pain because it hurt more than any blow the kingsguard had delivered when she'd been Joffrey's prisoner. At the same time, anger flared to life at the thought of crying. It was a maddening cycle that had no end. Sansa clenched her thighs tightly and held her knees together. She would not give him what he wanted, she told herself. A small voice in the back of her head warned that she was playing a dangerous game, but she didn't care. There was a thrill in denying Tywin Lannister exactly what he wanted and that aroused her more than any touch ever could. Tywin did not put much effort attempting to coax her thighs apart before he was glaring at her. Emerald eyes met blue ones as he looped his hand under her knee and gave a decided pull. He was unsuccessful and Sansa bit her bottom lip to suppress the sigh of pleasure that threatened to escape from the way his thumb caressed the back her knee. He lowered his head again and took his time, placing kisses on her dusty pink nipples.

Time seemed to stop as Tywin licked and kissed, alternating between each teat and pressed his hardness into her pelvis. Desire flared to life and burned hotly inside her. Sansa wanted nothing more than to let him into the cradle of her hips and hold him to her as they both found pleasure from the meeting of their bodies. Forcing herself to think, Sansa clenched her thighs together when he attempted to part them a second time. He was clever, attempting to coax her thighs open while she was distracted.

"Why should my poor mare be dictated when she should breed?" Sansa moaned, locking her ankles together to ensure that he would be unsuccessful. "Maybe she is not impressed with your war horse's behavior and does not wish to have him."

"That mare should be honored for the chance to breed with the Lord of the West's stallion," Tywin growled as he pinned Sansa's arms above her head.

He lowered his head again, pressing soft kisses against her jaw. He'd break her soon enough, Sansa realized with dismay. Passion would overwhelm her and he'd win. He'd have her and it would be awful to lose this battle. She knew the truth just from feeling the way his leather doublet brushed against her hard nipples. She was so hypersensitive that the leather brush was enough to make her mad with need.

"Why?" Sansa moaned, arching her back and pushing her breasts up towards his chest. She'd never been more desperate for the feeling of him against her breasts. "What has that rotten steed done to deserve her admiration and acceptance? One day soon he'll be too old to be considered useful and you'll put him to pasture with the sole purpose of rutting with mares in heat. The steed is handsome, yes, but he's old. Why subject her to an old war horse when she could have the seed of a young, virile stallion from greener pastures?"

Her words were the equivalent of frigid water being poured over his head and she let a smug smirk breakout from her lips. He tightened his grasp on her wrists, enough to cause discomfort as he tried again to wedge his knee between her thighs. She only clenched her legs together tighter, frustrating him to no end. Sansa's wide, innocent eyes looked up at him with deep satisfaction. She was talking about his war horse, but her words almost seemed almost personal, like she was challenging him to say something more. She had practically taunted him, calling him old and useless. Judging by the look on her lord husband's face, he understood her hidden words well and a smile threatened to break out across her face again.

"The entire purpose of the mare is to breed," Tywin bit out as he pressed his pelvis into hers.

Sansa closed her eyes and moaned at the sensation. Just calling him old and useless was enough to antagonize the man into rutting with her so hard and fast that she wouldn't be able to walk until the next day. She was beginning to understand Tywin Lannister. He'd do anything to prove to her that he wasn't old and useless, just like she'd do anything to resist his advances.

"But not with your war horse, my lord," Sansa corrected gently, forcing herself to be entirely indifferent to his actions. "As I recall, the mare was my wedding gift. She is mine to do with as I please. It does not please me to breed her with the stallion. She's not overly fond of him."

Her voice was calm and her practiced manners were back. It didn't matter that she was half naked with her breasts bared and her shift open down the middle, Sansa's tone was the same tone she'd use if they were discussing the weather outside. Each word killed her, she wanted nothing more than to give into the urges overwhelming her body.

"We'll put them together out to graze and let nature take its course."

"And how are you certain that she won't bite him? He has atrocious manners and kicks the wall between them when they're in the stables. It frightens her."

"It's his way of telling her that he wants to mate with her," Tywin growled, keeping her pinned beneath him. "It's his way of telling her that he wants to bury himself in her and never leave. He may be old, but it doesn't mean that he can't have desires and needs that only she can satisfy. The damn old war horse doesn't sleep well when he's not with her. I am sure that the horse knows he's a fool and made a mistake. Your mare is being unreasonable and won't give him the chance to correct it."

"Rutting with her isn't going to fix the problems the stallion has," Sansa declared, her eyes darkening with passion just the way that Tywin wanted them to. Her thighs relaxed, only a little and he used the opportunity.

In one swift move, he'd flipped them over. Sansa panted hard as she laid on her belly as he pushed down the lace shift to her waist. Hot kisses were pressed against her shoulders and he used the leverage he had to ground his pelvis tantalizingly against hers.

"If the mare wasn't so difficult--"

"If the stallion wasn't such an unfeeling ass," she interrupted hotly and half moaned her words. "The mare wouldn't object to the attention, but because your stupid stallion must show everyone how manly he is, the mare becomes disinterested and--"

Sansa wasn't given the chance to object any further. She was pulled up and twisted and kissed with such warm and passion that she couldn't breathe. His lips caressed hers and she lost herself in his touch. He was soft and hard, warm and cold, all at once. The shift that had become twisted was pushed higher up her hips until her bare bottom was flush against his breeches and her lord husband tugged at the shift until it disappeared from her body entirely.

His hand traveled over her as his lips said all the words that he’d never speak aloud to her. It was his touch that spoke a language entirely its own and she was slowly becoming proficient in understanding what he meant. This kiss was different from all the kisses he’d ever given her before…something behind it that she couldn’t understand. When he broke the kiss and pulled away, there was something in his dark emerald eyes that she couldn’t read.

"Alright,” she breathed heavily and spoke without thinking. "Your stallion can mate with my mare, but I haven't forgiven you for dinner or the map room."

As soon as the words left her lips, Sansa found herself on her back. Eagerly, she spread her thighs, welcoming his touch. They both managed to strip him of his doublet and eagerly, Sansa pulled his tunic out from his breeches. It was tossed away to join her shift and his doublet. Caressing his back, Sansa eagerly spread her thighs, allowing him to balance himself over her as he pressed burning hot kisses over her navel. Knowing what he was about to do, she eagerly spread her thighs wide. Resting on her elbows, Sansa could barely catch her breath as Tywin’s head dipped into the junction of her thighs. A cry escaped her lips as she fisted the sheet near her head. The feeling of his tongue on the most intimate parts of her made her toes curl instantly. His hot breath and his touch did nothing to quell the raging fire that had been sparked deep inside her. If anything, the fire burned hotter. Her thighs trembled and Sansa moaned when his tongue brushed against the bundle of nerves at near the top of her womanhood.

The overwhelming warmth that emanated from her pelvis only grew when he slipped two of his fingers inside her body, mimicking the motions his hips would be making soon. It felt better than anything Sansa had ever experienced. Practice and time had taught him just how to please her with his mouth and he did everything that she liked. Collapsing back onto the bed, Sansa closed her eyes and let the sensation overwhelm every sense she had. Her gasps and moans became louder the more he paid attention to the place that could make her tremble all over and tightened every muscle that she possessed. Tywin alternated between licking and suckling and it was all too much. The feeling that he produced was building and it was like she was racing towards a cliff's edge, ready to be flung over the edge into a sea of something indescribable. Every muscle was taut and her stomach twisted in such a pleasurable way that when the fire that he'd been stroking to life exploded, Sansa couldn't stop the way her hips rose and fell, begging for more.

Euphoria enveloped her as she tried to catch her breath.

Lying on the bed, Sansa opened her eyes and looked up at the canopy as she heard Tywin undoing the laces of his breeches. It didn't matter that she could hardly breath as she pushed herself up. Resting on her elbows again, she looked at him as the muscles in her legs began to slightly relax. His tunic was gone and that golden, silvery hair that was spares across his chest would no doubt feel heavily when it rubbed against her teats. His chest rose and fell as violently as hers did. A bead of sweat slipped down his muscular stomach and her eyes followed its progress down to where his cock was already freed from his breeches and the lacings that had once confused her. Moisture was gathered at the tip and she knew the pleasure that he could give her.

Sansa's body burned hotly from the memories of just how much pleasure Tywin could force from her body with just the jerk of his hips. It would be pleasure they would both bask in and enjoy. A heartbeat later, she forced herself up from the bed. Her whole body was overwhelmed with the pleasure he’d given to her, but her anger from before came racing back. She had vowed that she wouldn't give into his demands and seduction. Even though he'd given her a lord's kiss, she wouldn't let it go any further.

The painful memory of his actions came racing back as well as her own insecurities. She needed him to do something that proved she was more than a pleasant distraction, Sansa realized. She needed something and she didn't know how to voice what she needed. A horrible feeling was growing inside her and she didn't know how to stop it. It wasn't something that she'd ever experienced before with a man as the center of her problems. She hated herself for feeling weak and in the same moment, she desperately wanted her mother's help to understand what it was that she was experiencing. The feelings of weakness, anger, sadness, and fear was a cycle that her mind couldn’t break.

Was all she useful for was mating and child bearing?

It was the voice in her head that taunted her. It hauntingly sounded like her mother's voice and she wanted it to stop. Quickly gathering up her shift from where it lay on the floor, Sansa slipped it on and grabbed the book that lay near it. It was a silly book of poetry that Tyrion had gotten her last year for her name-day, yet it was one of the few things that Sansa cherished above all else. Before she could take a step, she heard his boots on the floor as he turned to sit on the edge of the bed.

"Come. Here.”

Each word was uttered as if it were a threat and a promise. The command made her nearly shiver with fear. Somehow, Sansa forced herself to move to the door that separated her chamber from her dressing room. Lifting the latch, she opened the door. Standing between the two rooms, Sansa clutched the small book of poetry in her hands. Letting him touch her and kiss her hadn't been the reassurance that she was looking for, Sansa realized. She needed something different. Something else that was entirely separate from Tywin's usual physical assurances. The man never directly said anything, but he used the physical closeness that they shared to communicate the words he'd never speak. In that single moment, Sansa knew what she needed and she turned to look at him. Walking slowly back towards the window seat, she placed the small book of poetry down. Her hands trembled with fear, but she clasped them together in front of her so that no one would see.

"If I mean anything in the world to you besides being a brooding mare and convenient woman to mate with, read to me," Sansa said softly, proud that her voice only trembled a little. He glared at her so hard that Sansa knew she'd be dead if looks could kill. She kept herself just out of reach of his reach. Humiliation stung her and made it nearly impossible to look at him, but she managed to spare him the briefest of glances. Tywin Lannister wore a look on his face that made her believe all the vicious rumors she’d ever heard about Lannister torture. She felt incredibly silly and desperately wanted to pick up her book and tell him to leave. A small voice was the only thing that stopped her. It firmly told her that she needed this kind of reassurance and somehow, she trusted it.

Escaping to her dressing room, she quickly walked to her vanity. Straining to listen to what was happening in her bedchamber, Sansa braced herself for disappointment. He would not do as she asked, she knew it in her heart. She grabbed her lion hair pin and pinned back the thick braid of red hair at the base of her neck. The copper tub was filled with water and there was no doubt in her mind that the water had gone tepid. Tywin had interrupted her second bath of the day and she'd been eager to relax in the hot water before he'd come to her rooms. Dipping her toes into the water only confirmed her theory. Her dressing gown slipped over her shoulders and fluttered to the floor with nothing more than a whisper of silks. Stepping into her copper tub, Sansa slipped into the water and let the coolness wash over her. Hugging her knees to her chest, Sansa held her breath and waited for what would happened next. She'd couldn't remember ever commanding Tywin to do something outside of their four-poster bed.

Sansa swallowed hard when she heard his boots on the floor. The wooden chair by the fireplace was moved and she nearly winced hearing the sharp scratching noise on the floor, but it went away as quickly as it had happened. She looked over her shoulder and was surprised to see her lord husband moving the chair and walking into the dressing chamber as he carried her book. After placing the chair next to the copper tub, Tywin sat down and Sansa heard the sounds of the book being opened, creaking from its age. He looked like a man going to his execution and somehow, Sansa was a little pleased by the expression on his face. The book was filled with Valyrian poetry and hymns that had not been translated. She and Tyrion had both agreed that poetry could only be read in Valyrian. For a brief moment, she wondered if Tywin could read Valyrian. As quickly as the thought came, the sound of Tywin's smooth voice erased her doubts as he leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees.

"Embar kesor, dekossa rizmot vujissis. Gelenkon embar glaeson. Donon ynot. Vestris hae donot averoti. S'ynot morghon. Tolmiot jagon, se morghul jagon. Kesir jaelon. Kirine iksan, yn iosre toli. Embor go. Yn skoriot iksan? Kempr' iedro go. Gimion daor. Yn sparos iksan? Zobryr embro, go nyk' ilan. Nuhor logor ojudan embrot se qrimbughen."

Tywin read each word from the page and his voice was deeply hypnotic to Sansa. His Valyrian was perfect and she had never heard someone speak the language so clearly and confidently as if it were a second tongue. Page after page he read and Sansa found herself captivated by just watching his lips. She let his words wash over her and suddenly, she was startled by Tywin standing. His clothing and boots were easily tossed away and she instantly scooted forward in the copper tub, understanding what he intended to do. The water cascaded over the sides of the tub and soaked the silk rug beneath it when her lord husband joined her. Tywin continued to read as he leaned back and held the book in hand. It was supposed to be a reassuring punishment, Sansa thought. Yet, she found herself laying back against Tywin's chest as he read. His voice had a dreamlike quality to it as she closed her eyes and listened. He spoke Valyrian even better than Tyrion.

Listening to Tywin read aloud was like listening to a master harpist play. Whether or not Tywin liked to read aloud, his voice was certainly pleasing to listen to. His chest vibrated against her back and she felt herself being physically lulled into relaxation. It was her mind that would not stop. Nothing seemed to pacify her worry. His actions only seemed to increase her unease and it clawed inside her until she could hardly sit still and listen. Leaning forward, Sansa hugged herself and closed her eyes. The only reason he was even doing this was so that she’d spread her legs willingly, she told herself. The reoccurring voice of doubt was impossible to block out and Sansa hugged her knees to her chest, trying to stop herself from breaking. At some point, Tywin had stopped reading, tossing the book to rest on the wooden chair nearby. It barely registered in Sansa’s mind, she was so far away. The only sound that could be heard was the water when Tywin moved his legs.

“Lady Margaery and Littlefinger are plotting something with Lady Olenna,” Sansa murmured, breaking the silence, unable to stand it any longer. “Varys spoke with Lady Olenna to see just where her loyalties might lie and those loyalties are not with us."

Tywin said nothing. His finger traced over her damp skin and Sansa could not deny that his touch felt heavenly. The warm sensation that overwhelmed her pushed back the voices of doubt. She enjoyed the touch and his touch was something that she had grown to crave...something that she needed to survive. Her body and mind were in constant battle, she needed his touch and yet, doubts filled her mind and heart.

“She sought Littlefinger out...interrogated me about Joffrey's behaviors…she knows something and I doubt that she’ll allow Margaery to marry the king.”

“Do you think that she is plotting treason?” he asked, his words quiet and his tone strangle to her ears.

“Are we all not plotting some kind of treason?” she asked and turned to look at him over her shoulder. “Plots are unacknowledged plans, they have not come to fruition, but it does not mean that it’s not dangerous.”

“We shall simply have to be on our guard,” Tywin murmured as he reached for her. Turning fully, Sansa wanted to forget about everything. She didn't want to think about her anger, his words, and she didn't want to try and examine her feelings. Too many emotions swirled in her head and she didn't have the strength to examine each and every conflicting response inside her.

"Touch me," Sansa breathed as straddled his lap. He wrapped his arm around her waist and she kissed him. "Please."

Tywin Lannister obliged her without a second thought.

Later when her lord husband had left to attend a meeting of the Small Council and she was left lying in bed naked and half asleep, Sansa realized Tywin had proved something to her. She'd asked him to read to her if she meant something to him besides being a brooding mare and bed mate and he had done as she asked. His action dampened the doubts in her heads, silencing them enough that Sansa found that she could fall asleep peacefully in the hours before the evening meal. When she awoke an hour later, a small velvet box had been placed onto the pillow next to her. Inside were two of the most intricately beautiful rings Sansa had ever laid eyes on and she smiled. One ring was gold with a beautiful castle atop it and the other ring was a golden band of flowers. Delicate and stunning, both rings slipped onto her middle finger with ease and smiling, Sansa declared to Shae that she would wear the rings to dinner.

Two Weeks Later...

Late August, 299 AC

Riverrun, the Riverlands

Robb Stark stared at the map before him and clenched his fists tightly. His men knew about the marriage between Sansa Stark and Tywin Lannister. Some claimed that she knew their cause was hopeless and had abandoned the King in the North for the safety of the lion’s den in the west. Robb felt his blood boil in anger over such words. Even his mother had not yet found it in her heart to try and understand how everything had happened.

In all the time that Sansa had been imprisoned, one letter had been smuggled out of King’s Landing. One letter had been smuggled to him, written in Sansa’s own hand. It was one of the two letters he’d received the day he'd found out about the marriage. He had read the letter and had nearly burned it. Reading it again, Robb understood that his twin knew him better than even Catelyn. The words jumped off the page now as if Sansa had foretold his doom.

The shock of her marriage had receded and deep down, Robb knew that Jayne was correct. Sansa had no choice in the marriage. He’d left his sister alone in King’s Landing, weak and vulnerable to King Joffrey. Tywin Lannister had perhaps looked like refuge to his sister, a place of safety in the darkness of King’s Landing. He did not know her reasons, but clenching his fist around the lion piece on the map, Robb understood in that moment that Sansa was a far better player at the games than he was. If he closed his eyes, Robb could recite her letter from memory...


I do not have much time to write this not, but I need you to understand that there are some things in this world, you cannot believe or trust. In this game of thrones, I chose to trust Lord Varys.  He is the only one who has kept me abreast of all the news. He has not led me astray and has helped me to live here in King’s Landing. His advice is something that I deeply respect and admire, but there are others who would seek to destroy our family.  Whatever may happen in the coming months, you cannot trust Petyr Baelish, Littlefinger, Lord Baelish…whatever you call him. Mother will tell you that his is a brother, a loyal friend, whatever she says to convince herself that he is not horrible. Varys, Tywin Lannister, the Queen, Joffrey, the Small Council…everyone will tell you this conflict began when mother took Tyrion Lannister and arrested him. I am not certain the extent of the role that Baelish played in mother’s decision, but he did  play a part and it was a catastrophe for everyone.

How do you think we have found ourselves in such a position?

One does not steal away a member of another house when members of one’s house are in the jaws of the monster, Robb. You may disagree all you like, but I am correct in this. Arya is gone. Father has been murdered and I am now married to your enemies. All because of rash actions and bad moves on an invisible game board and a mother’s crazed desire for justice. Bran should not have climbed and he fell because he climbed. Do not think that I am deaf to the rumors about the Queen and her brother, but I am not suicidal enough to declare such a thing in King’s Landing like Father was. Mother is looking for something that cannot be found Robb. There will be no justice for Bran. No matter how hard she searches, she is chasing something that she cannot have. I implore you to turn back to Winterfell with your soldiers.

The truth is either terrible or boring and the truth that I must tell you is both. Father is dead because he trusted the wrong man. Littlefinger saw to his arrest after siding with Joffrey, the one who holds supposedly holds the source of power in the realm. Unlike others, Baelish does not want what is best for the realm. He wants power and Eddard Stark was his way to attain it. The original plot by Baelish was to keep Joffrey on the throne and control the realm as father’s right hand. However, Ned Stark wanted to completely take the throne for Stannis Baratheon. An unfit ruler as anyone else, a religious fanatic, Robb.

I also caused father’s death.

I mistakenly trusted the Queen and revealed all to her, Robb. If anyone is to blame for father’s death, it is all of us who acted without thought. That is something that I will never do again, not when the stakes are so high and the treasure so valuable, Robb. Petyr Baelish betrayed our father because Eddard tried to do the right, honorable thing. Honor has no place in the world. Honor will get you killed in this war, Robb Stark. You cannot win against an enemy who does not even understand what honor is. You have to outsmart them. Sometimes you must shrug off the honor that father taught you to always wear. Honor will not save your life and the lives of your banner men. I cannot tell you how to win this war. I urge you to think. To be a man and not rely on mother's advice. She will not allow you to win. She is not as clever as you think and not the stateswoman you believe. I have heard the rumors of her meetings with Renly and Stannis. You need your men to see you as a THE king. Banish her, exile her, something to prove that you are a man, a king, someone who has a sword and can wield it for justice.

I urge you to go back to the North.

Do not threaten a lion backed into a corner. Tywin Lannister would willingly rip my throat open before losing this war.

Trust me and that truth before you trust your honor.

Your beloved sister,

Sansa Lannister

Robb closed his eyes.

He should have exiled or banished their mother when she released Jamie Lannister. Perhaps he would have looked stronger in the eyes of his bannermen. They would not have viewed him as such a weak leader as they did now. His inability to punish his mother had led to Karstark believing it was alright to murder the two Lannister boys. Removing Rickard’s head had been the right thing to do, but it made him a hypocrite in the eyes of his men. Sansa had been right on that account and her words burned him.

His mother had started this conflict…her role was great and he’d ignored that truth. Kidnapping Tyrion Lannister while her husband and daughters had been in the heart of the Lannister camp had been the ultimate act of foolishness and it had cost them. Sansa was never coming home because of that action and Robb wondered if she’d known that all along.

Was that why she’d willingly married Tywin Lannister? Did she know that he would never be able to bring her home?

Opening his eyes, Robb felt warm arms wrap around his waist and a heavy feeling settled over his chest.

“Come to bed,” Jeyne whispered and Robb closed his eyes again in regret.

She was the biggest mistake of all, he told himself. Marrying Jeyne had been a horrible idea and it had weakened his position even further. He’d angered the Freys with his marriage...the Freys who had been on his side prior to his break in honor.

“The Karstarks are gone,” he murmured. “Half our forces have marched home and Tywin Lannister knows that all he has to do is bed my sister and wait for this war to unravel.”

“Fight him then,” Jeyne whispered again, her lips brushing the shell of his ear.

“What can I do? Attack King’s Landing?” Robb demanded. “No, he’ll crush us in a day. It’ll be a blood bath.”

“March back north,” Jeyne suggested softly. “Take your lands back from Theon Greyjoy.”

Robb said nothing.

There had been a clear purpose in gathering his lords and leaving Winterfell and the safety of the North. Now, there was no clear mission. Even he felt as if there was little reason to fight anymore. Arya was gone, mostly likely dead. His father was dead. Rickon was dead. Bran was dead. Sansa was now a grand lady of the south. All that remained of the Starks were him and his mother, a woman so hell-bent on revenge that she could not even see how her own actions had led to the ruin of their family. His actions as well had ruined any chance of retrieving his sisters back and Sansa, alone and helpless, had been forced to make the ultimate decision of her life in order to survive the lion's den that was King’s Landing and court.

Never had he felt like such a weak man or brother, but as he looked at the map before him an idea crept into his mind. He could take Casterly Rock. It would be his sister’s home now, but if she was there, he could take the castle, end the war, and return her home as a hostage of war. Winter was coming and Tywin Lannister was not foolish to march north in the winter. No doubt the Great Lion would come for Sansa when summer came, but it gave Robb a chance to treat with Tywin and convince his mother that Sansa was innocent in all of this as she rightly was.

It was a perfect plan, Robb reflected sourly. It was his only plan and he hated that feeling.

In the back of his mind, Sansa whispered at him to go home and leave the war behind. She told him to go North and live his life as well as he could and bask in the knowledge that he would have plenty of children to fill the halls of Winterfell with joy and laughter someday. As quickly as the words entered his mind, Robb pushed them away. His mother would never allow such a thing. Catelyn would demand justice for Bran, her sweet, special boy. The thought turned his stomach, but he also knew that once the men went back to the North, there would be no return. He’d never get to march south again and avenge his father’s death. It was a bittersweet decision, but Robb made the choice.

He’d climb the ladder laid out before him and hope that it was the only ladder he could safely climb without falling to his death. Dawn would come soon and he’d tell Uncle Edmure of his decision and his mother as well. He’d also take Sansa’s advice and try to send Catelyn away. He could no longer look weak in the eyes of his men.

He was not a boy hiding in his mother’s skirts, but a man.

He was the King in the North.

Credit for the poem read by Tywin Lannister comes goes to Papaya and a writing competition that took place on in 2015. I do not own the rights to the poem and would like not to be sued. I did not create it! 

Link for Pinterest:

Link: Sansa's Song (Skye Boat Song)

Chapter Text

Part Ten: The Voice

"…I am the voice in the fields when the summer's gone
The dance of the leaves when the autumn winds blow
Ne'er do I sleep throughout all the cold winter long
I am the force that in springtime will grow..."
"The Voice" - Celtic Woman

 One Month Later

Late October, 299 AC

The King's Gardens, the Red Keep

The nausea that had been the bane of her existence had slowly begun to abate, Sansa reflected as the early afternoon sunshine warmed her skin. In the weeks since she'd learned of her condition, Sansa had been pleasantly happy that the smell of certain things no longer made her feel ill. If anything, the smell of Lord Tywin's soap only filled her with desires that she didn't even know her body could experience. It was something that her lord husband was more than happy to sedate it seemed. Although he never expressly said anything about it, his continued presence in her bed delighted her to no end.

Her bed it seemed was the only place where her delight began and ended. The war that raged through the Riverlands continued and her brother showed no signs of retreating home before winter came. The snow would make marching above the Neck impossible. In her desperate attempt to end the war and save Robb's life and Winterfell, she'd written to him. A note that had been brief and sent by Varys through channels to her brother. It had been a great risk to send such a letter filled with details about the happenings in King's Landing, but she knew that if she did not attempt to try and save her brother, she'd never forgive herself if something happened to him.

Tywin Lannister was not a man that would lose a war. If there was anything that she had learned about her lord husband it was that his pride did not suffer defeat easily. Like Tyrion, he remembered every slight and moment of disrespect and locked it away in his memory for later. He never forgave and he never forgot. Even if it meant losing her brother's respect and injuring Robb's pride and honor, fleeing was the better option for her brother. Tywin would not consider the war over until Robb was dead or had abandoned his cause. Disgrace was better than death, Sansa could only hope that her brother understood that concept and would not let his stubborn belief in honor result in his death.

"Do you know if my letter was delivered to my brother?" Sansa asked quietly as she walked beside Varys down the stone path. Ser Jorah and Shae trailed behind her and Varys, but they were close enough that should she need either one of them, they would be by her side in a heartbeat. A passer-by dropped into a curtsey and bowed her head in acknowledgement and Sansa nodded in response. Smoothing her hands over the front of her heavily embroidered gown, Sansa half wondered if the lady suspected that she was with child. Shae had taken great pains to transformer parts of her wardrobe. The style of some of her dresses had changed in an attempt to distract the court from her growing figure. Forcing herself to focus on Vary's, Sansa felt her heart jump up to her throat.

She'd sent the note without Lord Tywin's knowledge. A desperate plea to her brother to withdrawal his forces from the South and head back to Winterfell. In the weeks after she'd written that note shortly after Ser Jorah had been appointed her sworn shield, Sansa had hoped to hear rumors that Robb was retreating and turning back home. No rumors of any kind had reached her ears. Instead, her lord husband had become continually annoyed with her brother's attempts to push further south in the Westernlands.

"The letter was delivered," Varys said gently. "However, I do not believe that he took your advice, my lady. My little birds tell me that he has executed Lord Karstark and has lost half his army."

"Stupid man," Sansa murmured as she stopped at one of the many alcoves in the King's gardens that overlooked the bay. Sitting down on one of the benches, she sighed and shook her head. "And what of Lord Baelish? What has he been doing since his dismissal as the Master of Coin?"

Varys's calm expression changed to once of tense worry as he followed her into the alcove. Ser Jorah and Shae remained by the path, turning away those who would listen to the conversation. Varys sat down slowly next to her and cleared his throat before looking out at the bay.

"You have no doubt heard the whispers about the king's evening pursuits, my lady?"

Sansa nodded and suppressed a shudder. She had heard in detail from Shae the rumors that were circulating about Joffrey's nightly pursuits with various whores. The rumors of torture and rape were almost too much to hear about in detail. Sansa had always known that Joffrey possessed a broken mind, but even that could not excuse nor explain the violence that was talked about.

"In order keep favor with the crown, Littlefinger has been supplying the whores to the king," Varys explained with a far-off expression on his face. "Several of the women that have been killed were suspected by Littlefinger as being spies in service of others."

"They were some of your spies," Sansa concluded softly and Varys nodded in agreement.

For several minutes, they sat in silence. She had never liked Petyr Baelish, not after having learned that he was responsible for her father's arrest and the betrayal that led to Eddard's death. His fall from the powerful position as Master of Coin would no doubt lead to him doing drastic things to remain in the game. By supplying whores to kill to Joffrey, Littlefinger no doubt was able to curry favor with both Joffrey and his mother.

"I worry for you safety, my lady," Vary stated. "That he has allowed Joffrey to kill several of my own spies only proves that he is more than determined to win the game at any cost. It makes me fearful what he might do if the queen or the king desire to hurt you. He has not taken the fall from the Small Council as well as hoped and his dismissal from the Vale and courting favor with Lysa Arryn as Lord Tywin had originally planned has only made the sting of his dismissal worse."

Sansa said nothing. No words would soothe Varys worries. She had learned that many months ago and if anything, Sansa knew that she would be wise to share the Spider's worries. Cersei's had never liked her and marriage to Tywin had not endeared her anymore to the Queen Regent. If anything her marriage had only inflamed Cersei dislike of her. Hatred would be the more correct word, Sansa told herself. A hatred that Joffrey shared and used every opportunity to remind her. Carrying the heir to Casterly Rock would only worsen Cersei's hatred. The deranged woman was convinced that Jamie was the only suitable heir to the Rock and no amount of reminding her that Jamie had taken the oath to be a kingsguard would break that belief.

Looking to were Ser Jorah stood guard outside the alcove made Sansa let out the breath that she had been holding. She was beginning to realize that Lord Tywin's easy acceptance of Ser Jorah was not because she had favored him to be her sworn shield, but because Cersei had no sway over the man. Ser Jorah's clear dislike of the king easily transferred over to his mother and Tywin saw that as a way to secure her safety. She was far safer with Ser Jorah and the Commander who sometimes appointed her guards than she would have been with a gold cloak or an unfamiliar Lannister soldier. Cersei could not buy or fuck the Commander or Ser Jorah in exchange for favors. It was something that had clearly pleased Lord Tywin and contributed to his quick agreement of taking Ser Jorah in as her guard.

Standing, Sansa found herself rubbing the small of her back through the layers of petticoats and fabric. It did not pain her as badly as it had on previous occasions, but the familiar ache that was beginning to become constant in her life was blooming. Maester Broots had given her willow bark tea to drink stating that it would help with the pain and she drank it most mornings before even getting out of bed, but today the tea was failing her. She tried to focus on the bay to distract herself from the gnawing discomfort, but it did little to help.

"I have also heard a most troubling rumor that Ser Jamie has met trouble on the road back to King's Landing," Varys explained quietly. "He has been travelling with Lady Breinne of Tarth. They were captured and my little birds tell me that Ser Jamie's sword hand has been removed from his body."

His words made Sansa freeze as she looked out at the bay. Birds chirped and below, she could see other lords and ladies walking down the intricate paths of the gardens. All were enjoying the day and yet, a chill unlike any other took hold of her.

"Is my brother responsible for Ser Jamie's loss?" she asked, her voice nearly trembling. If Robb was responsible, Lord Tywin wouldn't care that her brother retreated and lost. Her lord husband would demand her brother's head on a spike.

"No," Varys replied and Sansa let out the breath that she hadn't even realized she'd been holding. "It was men who had been hired to find Ser Jamie and return him to King's Landing."

Sansa said nothing. The breeze caressed her skin and she found herself drawn to peaceful image of the water on the bay. Ser Jamie's loss would no doubt infuriate her lord husband, but she found herself pushing the matter away in her mind. The matter of Ser Jamie's hand, if the little birds were correct, would be dealt with in time. Lady Olenna, Cersei, and Littlefinger's plotting, however, was at the forefront of her mind.

Wildfire was being poured out recklessly and if no one was careful, it would catch fire and burn them all to death.

Five Days Later

Late October, 299 AC

The Tower of the Hand, King's Landing

It was early in the morning when the king summoned him and Tywin was not amused or pleased by the action. Rarely had he been roused out of bed in the past before dawn except if an important figure had died or if the queen was birthing a child and needed protection from Aerys's fury lest the child be a girl or stillborn. To his knowledge, no one had died and no one was birthing a child. In his annoyance, Tywin had grabbed the dagger that he kept under his pillow when the banging on the chamber door had continued. Sansa had sat up in bed on her elbow, her breasts exposed by the slipping sheet with an expression of annoyance that had mirrored his own. Neither of them had slipped their night clothes on after their hurried coupling the night before and quickly, Tywin has reached for his dressing gown. He had muttered for her to go back to sleep and she had simply turned onto her side, pulling the covers up to her chin and curling into a feather pillow.

The continued heavy pounding on the chamber door from a member of the kingsguard had nearly resulted in Tywin slamming a dagger into the man’s belly in pure fury. The sun hadn’t even crept over the horizon when he was told without the respect due to his name and position that the king was demanding to see him. His entire morning was thrown into chaos after that.

Jerion had hardly prepared for his demands and it was his wife’s handmaiden, Tyrion's whore, that had seen to his needs. She had done all of it after seeing that her mistress was sleeping again. Despite being his son's whore, the woman was efficient and faithful to his wife, he could not say that she wasn't. Within fifteen minutes of being awakened, Tywin had left the Tower of the Hand.

Walking down the main corridor to his grandson's chambers that had once belonged to the Targaryen kings and Robert Baratheon, Tywin listened to the steps of his guards. He had made certain to bring enough Lannister soldiers to easily over power the kingsguards that served the king. He did not trust that his grandson would not try to kill him or Sansa if given the chance. The boy was madder than Aerys and twice, Areys had tried to kill him.

Stepping into the apartments, Tywin was temporarily blinded by the morning light that brightened the chamber through the great archway that led out to a small balcony…a balcony that Aerys Targaryen had almost thrown his sister off of when she'd given birth to a stillborn son. The memory had haunted his dreams for years, still waking him up in a cold sweat. Pushing the nightmare aside, he walked further into the chamber, his own men flanking him and moving to stand around the perimeter of the chamber.

It was the sight of a young woman near the foot of the bed that caught his gaze. She was fair looking with black hair and wide amber eyes, but as she cowered on the floor, Tywin caught sight of a belt near her feet and saw the marks that covered her body. Some were bleeding and others were in various degrees of bruising. It was obvious to him that it was not her first night keeping the king company. There was something familiar about the girl and a moment later, Tywin was able to place her name and rank in the court. She was the daughter of a minor lord, no doubt trying to gain favor by sending his daughter to the king's bed. With a jerk of his head, the Commander stepped forward and freed the girl from the binding that had kept her tied to the bed's post. A small pouch full of silver and gold coins was given to her and sobbing, she fled the chamber.

Joffrey emerged from balcony, half dressed and it made Tywin's scowl fiercer. The boy didn't even have the manners to dress when receiving the second most important man in the realm, let alone hide the evidence of his depraved nightly activities.

"Your Grace," Tywin said, barely able to hide his annoyance. Joffrey was already wearing his golden crown and he wanted to knock the ugly monstrosity from his grandson's head.

"I would like a report on the meetings of my Small Council," Joffrey demanded as he twisted his signet ring on his pinky finger.

"You're welcome to attend the meetings of your small council, Your Grace. Any or all of them."

"I've been very busy of late," Joffrey defended hotly. "Many important matters require a king's attention. There is a wedding to plan and special attention must be paid to Lady Margaery."

Tywin swallowed back the rebuke of annoyance that threatened to escape his lips. Sansa probably spent more of her time productively helping the poor and orphaned in King's Landing than Joffrey spent actually ruling. He said nothing as he clasped his hands behind his back to prevent himself from reaching for his sword and striking his grandson down where he sat. He was a lazy and as useless as Robert Baratheon, Tywin decided.

"You've been holding the meeting in the Tower of the Hand, not the Small Council chamber," Joffrey drawled. "May I ask why?"

"The Tower of the Hand is where I work. The walk from there to here would take time, time that I could be using to complete important work," Tywin explained, choosing his words carefully as if he were speaking to a young child.

"So, if I wanted to attend a small council meeting, I'd have to climb all the stairs in the Tower of the Hand?"

Tywin took a silent, deep breath. He did not speak of Sansa's injury. He didn't speak of the fall that had damaged her spine and caused her to occasionally loose feeling in her legs or shooting pains that would wake her up in the night crying. Twice more she'd had episodes of pain since the first morning that she'd woken up in pain. Tywin suspected that as his child grew under her heart, the pain would intensify and walking would become more difficult. Maester Broots had already voiced his concern over her conditions and he had made certain that there would always be someone there to help her up and down the stairs if he could not personally attend her.

"We could arrange to have you carried in a litter," he growled, his anger barely concealed in his voice.

"Tell me what is being done about Robb Stark's army," Joffrey demanded, ignoring him and changing the topic.

"Nothing," Tywin claimed with an icy tone. He was lying, but he was not moronic enough to give Joffrey any details of his plan. The boy would brag about the plan to either his mother or attempt to cause distress to Sansa and neither option was an outcome that Tywin wanted. The less that Joffrey knew, the better.

"Nothing?" Joffrey demanded with a hiss. "He claims to be the king in the North! He claims that I am not the true king. You do nothing to stop him?"

"I do not need to do anything. The Young Wolf is an inexperienced leader. All I have to do is wait for him to make his own mistakes and let his bannermen remove him from power," Tywin proclaimed. "It's far less expensive than what I've been paying for this war and crown's debt."

Joffrey scowled and pointed a ringed finger at him, "I want Rob Stark dead."

"It will happen. Be patient. Join the small council meets and learn how to rule the seven kingdoms. Leave the destruction of Robb Stark to others."
Joffrey said nothing as he paced angrily throughout the chamber. It was only when he looked over to his bed did his frown deepen and rage flared to life in his eyes. He swung around and glared furiously at Tywin as he pointed over to the bed.

"Where is my whore?" Joffrey demanded. "Where did you send her?"

"Away from here with instructions never to return. You will not torment the ladies of this court," Tywin commanded, his voice as hard and as cold as the winter winds beyond the Wall. He glared at Joffrey and the boy ignored the warning in his tone.

"Everyone is mine to torment," he declared, but Tywin stepped closer, his hands clasped behind his back.

"No, they are your subjects. They are your allies, without them, you are no king. In order to rule, there must be people to rule and if you alienate them and force them into open rebellion, they will strip you of that gold monstrosity you wear on your head and murder you. Cruelty can win a war, but it cannot govern. You will not torment any of the ladies."

"You mean I am not allowed to torment your lady wife who will get fat soon?" Joffrey taunted with a malicious smile on his face. "I should congratulate you grandfather for putting a cub in her belly so soon. I thought at soon you'd come begging for help because the activity was too strenuous for you and the thought of having a king's son sit at Casterly Rock too enticing to turn away. Do you think that I do not know these things? I am the king."

In a single move, Tywin pinned Joffrey down to the table. The king's golden crown felt to the stone floor with a clank and his face was pressed into the wood as Tywin held his grandson by the neck. The boy cried and the Lannister guards that he'd brought with him moved to stop the kingsguards from helping their king.

"You will learn this lesson or I will beat the lesson into your body and your memory, boy," Tywin growled as he applied pressure to Joffrey's neck. "Your father may have whored his way through life and left the world scattered with his bastards, but you will not rape and whore your way through the ladies of this court. You will not torment them and you will conduct yourself as a king and a lord should. If you want to hurt something, go to the yard and fight a knight, but do not torment the weak and innocent of this court. If you do something to Lady Lannister that harms her or the babe that she carries in anyway, I will kill you myself for harming my Lannister heir. Do I make myself clear, Your Grace?"

"My mother will hear about this," Joffrey snarled like a child and Tywin applied more pressure to his neck.

"Do I make myself clear, boy?" He growled again and Joffrey nodded like the weak boy he was. Tywin let go of him and Joffrey fell to the floor rubbing his neck and coughing. The sight gave him a feeling of satisfaction. Let Joffrey feel the pain that he inflicted on others, perhaps it would make him less likely to act if he knew that the pain he gave others would come back to him. Leaving the king's bed chambers, Tywin walked back to the Tower of the Hand, determined to learn how Joffrey had learned of his unborn child and who exactly Sansa had told about the babe.

If Joffrey knew about the babe, Cersei knew about the child and others as well. He felt fury boiling in his vein. He did not trust his daughter, not after giving her the news that she'd soon be married to Willas Tyrell. If she knew about the child, it was possible that she'd do something to Sansa to sabotage her health and cause a miscarriage. Tywin was under no illusion about his daughter's sanity, especially if the rumors about her were true. She and her son were as mad as Aerys Targaryen.

“You’re beginning to show,” Shae pronounced happily as she helped Sansa to ease out of the shift that she’d worn to bed. It was true, Sansa thought as she looked down at her body. As if it had happened over night, the thickening that had been happening around her middle had changed. She no longer looked like a plump woman, but actually looked like she was with child. There was a gentle rounding of her body and she couldn’t help the small smile that came to her lips. The fears that plagued her were beginning to recede and she supposed it had more to do with being reminded that she was the Lady Lannister, the wife of the Great Lion…someone who could not be tossed away as easily as Joffrey had led her to believe that helped.

Shae carefully helped her into the tub as if her life depended on it, and Sansa supposed it did. She was not deaf to her husband’s promise of physical harm to her handmaidens should something happen to her well being. She knew that if something went wrong, he’d go after the ladies that waited on her as targets to blame. Sansa forced herself not to read into such a threat too much. It was not her well being that he was securing, but his unborn heir’s. Tywin Lannister didn’t see her as much more than a vassal to carry his assets and she would not let herself forget such an important point. She closed her eyes as Shae washed her back gently.

Sansa was nearly finished with her bath when the dressing door was flung open. In fright, she nearly jumped in the water as Shae quickly spun around, ready to defend her if needed. Her hand darted towards the lion comb in her wet hair. It was slim and looked like golden stick with a roaring lion at the top, but the comb hid the fact at a long thin blade was revealed if one unclasped the lion from the golden base. It was not the first piece that armored her against an attacker. Shae and Ser Jorah had ensured that many of her jewelry pieces would keep her safe with hidden blades should she ever need to defend herself.

Hearing her husband’s familiar steps as he prowled into the dressing room with a nervous Jerion behind him, Sansa sagged back into copper tub. Her heart was still pounding in her chest when he barked at Shae and her ladies to leave the room. Nodding, Sansa sat up in the tub and turned to look at her outraged husband, uncertain of what had ruined his morning. It was too early for the realm to collapse into chaos, she thought wearily. A kind person would not break that news until after luncheon.

"What happened, my lord?" She asked cautiously as she looked over her shoulder at him. The sound of the heels of his boots on the floor forced a shiver of fear to run up her spine as he walked over to her and glared down.

"Who did you tell about the babe?" Tywin demanded with a growl as his eyes narrowed at her.

"No one," Sansa replied quickly as she looked up at him with confusion. "Why would I? It's bad luck to tell anyone before a mother feels a quickening."

"I attended to the king this morning," he said as his icy glare pierced her. Sansa wasn't entirely certain what caused her to stomach to violently turn as if she were going to be ill, the cool air of the room or her lord husband's glare. "He seemed to be well informed about the child’s existence."

Seeing her opportunity to steer the conversation into a different topic, Sansa nodded and cleared her throat, "I was hoping that we could talk about the King today. Lord Varys is very concerned that Littlefinger is supplying some of his working girls for Joffrey to murder. There have been several reports about bodies being found with stag antlers imprinted into their skin, Tywin. The girls were beaten--"

"I don't care how many whores that boy kills. He can kill the lot of them for all I care. Who did you tell about the child?"

“I have not told anyone,” Sansa snarled back as she stood up in the copper tub, water dripping everywhere. “Although, my lord husband, the evidence of the circumstance that you have put me in as a result of sharing my bed will not be hidden much longer from the world.”

Tywin was close enough to her that he could easily hurt her and a small voice told her to step back, to run. He was a lion and she was the prey, but the wolf inside her would not allow her to back down. He had claws and sharp teeth, just as she had and perhaps, a smarter, lesser person would have backed away, but she couldn’t. He didn’t move, instead, his eyes moved over her body and she could see his own realization clearly in his eyes. His gaze snapped back to hers, hard and unyielding like the northern winds during a snow storm. Jerion stood in the corner of her chambers looking like a scared child that wasn’t sure what to do.

“Summon my lady wife’s handmaidens,” Tywin snarled at the boy, his gaze never leaving hers. "Send for Ser Kevan as well, boy."

“A dressing gown would be a more appropriate course of action before you leave,” Sansa hissed and Jerion flung himself towards the fire to retrieve her dressing gown. Tywin reached out a hand and the squire averted his gaze as the boy handed the dressing gown to his master. Jerion scrambled out of the room as Tywin dutifully helped her out of the copper tub and into the dressing gown. Sansa said nothing as she stewed angrily at his accusation that she’d somehow told someone of the babe in her womb. She had not said a word to a soul and the only person who knew besides her was Shae. Dread filled her as her ladies in waiting were shown into the dressing chamber. Ser Jorah was the last to enter and she felt relief fill her when he walked towards her. He would protect her should anything happen, Sansa thought as a warm feeling of comfort filled her.

"Are you well, my lady?"

Unable to find the words, Sansa simply nodded. He stood close by as each girl looked nervous expect Shae. She wore a calm, neutral expression on her face that made Sansa even more nervous. The ladies stood, some trembling, others looking confused and worried. When her lord husband moved to stand before the gathered women, Tywin's hard, unyielding glare was enough to make all the ladies look down at the floor. They were all to afraid to make eye contact with him and Sansa didn’t blame them. Even Shae looked down when Tywin’s hard gaze passed over her. He paced in front of them as Jerion stood at the door, waiting for further instructions. A minute felt like forever and Sansa tried not to shiver. Soon, her wet hair would curl in a most unflattering way and the thin, sheer dressing gown she wore could not replace the warmth of the petticoats near the fire, but Sansa didn’t dare to interrupt Lord Tywin.

Wrapping her arms around herself, Sansa silently prayed that he would not hurt any of her ladies-in-waiting. She was just beginning to train them to be quiet and they were beginning to learn how she liked things. Shae looked over at her briefly, but before anything could be said, her lord husband spoke.

"One of you shared information with the crown," Tywin growled as he looked down at each girl with narrowed eyes. "I was with the king less than an hour ago and he knew information that only a select number of people had been told. He bragged openly about having a traitor in my household and the only logical place for an agent of the crown to exist would be close to the person who the information pertains to."

As he paced in front of the ladies, he gave each lady an icy glare that would freeze the ocean over many times and made even Sansa shiver with fear. The room was silent except for the sound of Tywin's boots on the floor boards. The heavy sound of his footsteps made Sansa's heart race in her chest as she watched him glare at each woman. The quietness was broken by the sound of her dressing room door being opened. Everyone turned and looked, Sansa not feeling relief as she thought she would with the arrival of another party. Instead, her stomach churned with worry. The situation was rapidly getting out of hand and she hardly had any idea of what had happened to upset Tywin so much.

The sound of boots and more voices almost made Sansa sigh in relief as Ser Kevan came to stand in the doorway, his face was as expressionless as his brother’s when he stepped into the chamber. The younger Lannister brother said nothing as he came to stand near her. Sansa suppressed the shiver of fear that nearly consumed her as a hand was laid on her upper back between her shoulder blades and she nodded when Ser Kevan softly asked after her wellbeing.

"Tell me who you told and the punishment will not be death. If you do not confess and I discover who passed information to the crown, I will not kill only you and relieve the affliction of your head being attached to your neck, but I will extend the same courtesy to your family and extinguish your line from the pages of history."

A few of the girls sobbed with fear and shook their heads, denying any wrong doing. Fear was electric in the room and Sansa felt her own body begin to shake with horror as she realized that in order for Joffrey to know about her babe, someone had betrayed her. Someone had told the Queen or Joffrey about the babe and Joffrey had probably been silly enough to brag about such knowledge in front of Tywin. It was the only reason that she could think of why he'd be so angry. Joffrey had said something and it had not gone over well. The tension of the room was broken as Sansa watched one of the ladies, Lady Jana, suddenly throw herself to the floor at her feet.

A cold gust of air caused goose bumps to cover her legs as the girl tearfully and began attempting to kiss the hem of her dressing gown. Over and over, Lady Jana begged for forgiveness, but Sansa was speechless. She didn't know what to say or do as Ser Jorah tried to peel the girl's hands off her dressing gown. Her lord husband looked on with fury barely masked on his handsome, aging face.

All Sansa could think was that the girl was nearly mauling her legs, uselessly kissing her dressing gown, and her runny nose and tears would ruin the Myrish lace. It was a pitiful thought, but it was all her mind could conjure up. When Sansa tried to step back to escape the girl's grasp, Ser Kevan held her close to his side as Tywin finally grabbed the girl by her hair and yanked her back just as Ser Jorah disentangled the lady’s finger from the lace. It was as over as quickly as it began and the room was plunged into silent with the exception of Lady Jana's broken sobs. Ser Kevan let go of her upper arms once her balance was righted and stood behind her like the pillar of strength that Sansa did not realize she desperately needed.

“Did I give you permission to beg at your mistress’s feet, girl?” Tywin demanded with a bark, his voice as hard as steel and as cold as ice. “Who did you tell?”

“Littlefinger c-c-came to us on behalf of the Queen Regent, Lady Alys and I,” Lady Jayne blubbered, quickly clarifying as tears streaking her chipmunk like cheeks. “He promised to give us a gold piece whenever we passed on a good piece of information.”

“And how many pieces of gold have you been given?”

“T-t-two pieces,” Lady Jayne cried. “One piece for telling Littlefinger that you had begun to stay in the Lady Lannister’s bed throughout the long nights. The second piece when we suspected that Lady Lannister was with child, my lord. Please don’t hurt me!”

“How many pieces of gold does Lady Alys have?”

“One,” Jayne said as she trembled. "Please, my lord. Please, forgive me."

Lady Alys had been quick to drop to her knees and begin sobbing and begging for forgiveness the moment Lady Jana had implicated her. Both girls cried and Tywin looked down at them with disgust as he told Jerion to escort the other ladies in waiting out of the dressing room.

"Since Lady Alys has only received one coin, she may be present for your punishment," Lord Tywin told Lady Jana as three Lannister guards filed into the dressing chamber after Jerion had escorted the last innocent lady out. Sansa trembled slightly as she watched the scene unfold. She wanted to cry out for Lady Jana. She wanted to beg Tywin Lannister for mercy, but the words died in throat as Ser Kevan wrapped his slim fingers around her upper arms and pulled her back. When she was far enough away that Lady Jana couldn’t touch her, Ser Jorah moved to create a barrier between her and the scene unfolding, but she could still see what was happening regardless. One of the guards handed her lord husband a tool that looked like a pincher and Lady Jana began screaming for mercy as she struggled against the hands that held her. Lady Alys cried for mercy as the third Lannister guard held her back from interfering with the Lord Lannister's punishment. Sansa found herself equally disgusted and curious to know what would happen. She’d never witnessed such a punishment and she was unable to look away as Lady Jana shook her head violently with despair written across her young, beautiful face.

“I did your family a great honor in bringing you here to serve my lady wife," Tywin told her, his voice cold and controlled. "I did you an honor and you betrayed my great house. You do not serve the Baratheon regent or Littlefinger, stupid girl! You serve the Lady Lannister of Casterly Rock! You serve me, no one else and let your punishment be a lesson to every handmaiden that comes after you as to what will happen to traitors in this household.”

One of the soldiers forced Lady Jana’s jaw open by pinching her cheeks and with the pinchers, Tywin reached into the young woman’s mouth as she squirmed and screamed unintelligible words. Her tongue went deeper than Sansa suspected. She was intrigued and horrified at the same time. Her lord husband withdrew the dagger that he kept next to the four poster bed nearly every night from its sheath. In one swift downward cut, Lady Jana’s tongue was removed from her mouth.

The inhuman screams that came from the girl nearly caused Sansa to be ill as brightly colored blood soaked the front of the girl’s gown and the Myrish silk rugs on the floor. She felt dizzy from the sight and a strong arm about her waist propelled her forward. She passed poor Lady Jana, beyond her bed chamber and the sitting room, and into her husband’s chamber and dressing room. There, Sansa collapsed onto the window seat in the dressing room. Her hands trembled violently as she looked at the wall in front of her. There was no way to forget what she'd witnessed. Shae was there, next to her in a heartbeat, with comforting murmurs and promises of a proper dress to change into. Sansa hardly heard her commands to a second maid as a screen made of jade colored silk and beautiful embroidery was set up, separating her from Ser Kevan. The room was quiet for a moment, the only sounds being made by fabrics as Shae diligently worked to dress her in freshly warmed petticoats.

She'd never seen such cruelty from her husband. Sansa supposed that she'd always known that there was a darker side to him, a side that was willing to commit atrocities and violence. However, it was difficult to reconcile that the same hands that brought such pleasures, the same hands that gently touched over the place where their child grew beneath her was hard to believe that those same hands had just cut out Lady Jana's tongue. It was almost too much and she couldn't believe that the two actions belonged to the same man. It was the sound of Ser Kevan's voice that broke the still air and brought Sansa back to the present as Shae pulled at the lacings that would keep the back of her gown closed.

“I expect that this incident is upsetting to a woman in your condition. I, however, must remind you that my brother had to do it, Lady Sansa. That girl was a spy,” Kevan said calmly. “I don’t expect you to understand why my brother did it, but he did it to protect you and your children.”

“Tell me why he did,” she demanded softly from behind the screen. “I know he had to do something, but tell me why he did this. Why it was it vital to cut Lady Jana's tongue out of her mouth?”

Shae finished lacing the back of her dress and Sansa felt weak. Her knees felt like lead and her head felt like it was swimming. Her ears ringed and she motioned to Shae her desperate need to sit down. Demanding water from the other maid, Shae helped her to sit down in the window seat. A cushion was placed behind her back and for a single moment, she was comfortable and forgot about the whole morning. Ser Kevan's voice brought back the racing memories of the morning and the lightheaded feeling that had vanished returned.

“My father was a very weak man,” Ser Kevan explained as he stood before her, observing her drawn and pale features. “Tytos Lannister, he loved us all as a father loves their children. He was not a lord though, Lady Sansa. He was weak-willed and laughed more than a man in his position should. My brother has made it his life’s mission to restore House Lannister to its glory and to be everything my father was not. I remember when my sister, Genna, became betrothed. It was to House Frey, the second son, not even the first. Tywin was the only one to speak out. He was only ten years old and he was forced to be a man. He was forced to be hard where my father was too soft."

"Is that why he cut the girl's tongue out? To show that he's not weak like his father?" Sansa murmured as Shae brought her the water that had been fetched by the other girl. Taking a sip of it, Sansa let it cool down her clammy skin before looking up at Ser Kevan with wide blue eyes.

“My brother is capable of horrific acts, but he is not monster,” Ser Kevan told her calmly. “My brother is the only man in the seven kingdoms who can crush squabbles between great houses and lead the realm into peace and prosperity. He did it for twenty years as Hand of the King under Targaryen rule. He lifted taxes and rebuilt roads, trade prospered, goods were traded with the Free Cities. Everyone forgets those things. They see my brother as cruel, not a man who has filled pockets with gold, and hungry children’s bellies with food. They do not see the man that I see. The man that you see. What they see is what my brother wants them to see. Why would he cut three tongues out when he needs to only cut out one? Lady Jana’s actions were foolish, yes, but by punishing her as he did, Tywin won’t have to worry about other servants gossiping or being spies. He’s scared them all into loyalty and he only had to spill the blood of one girl to do it instead of killing both girls like he should have done for lying and betraying the House of Lannister."

"You're telling me that he's always been this way? That I shouldn't be shocked by his behavior or be appalled by his cruelty?"

"I am telling you that my brother is a man, not a monster and to judge him by his acts of cruelty alone is unfair. He has accomplished much more than any living lord has and yet, people remember him for Castamere and sacking King's Landing. Do not judge my brother and forget the parts about him that he does not wish for others to see, Lady Sansa."

Before she could say another word, a commotion could be heard outside the dressing room door. Jerion was speaking in a low, quick voice that made it impossible to discern exactly what he was saying, but her lord husband's clipped, icy voice reached her ear. Sansa let Ser Kevan's words sink into her mind as she heard familiar steps on the floor. Her lord husband appeared, looking like the scene in the dressing room had never happen. The only evidence that such a thing had happened was the drying blood on his hands and a few drops on his cheek. Tywin looked at them briefly before walking towards the side table where a basin and a pitcher of cold water sat. Sansa watched as he poured the water into the basin before looking over at Kevan.

“I would like a word with my lady wife in private,” he stated as he washed his hands in the water.

Ser Kevan quickly disappeared and closed the door behind him as he left. Tywin washed his hands and splashed water on his face before turning to look at her. Sansa could see that the flecks of blood that had been on him were gone. He reached for a linen cloth and wiped the excess water away from his hands and face.

“Come here,” he commanded, his voice as hard as steel.

Sansa stood obediently and slowly walked towards her lord husband. She wasn't sure what he was going to do, but she supposed that after having cut a woman's tongue out, the day couldn't get much worse.

"Lady Margaery's birthday celebration is next week," he said quietly as he tossed away the linen cloth. "We will tell the court about the babe then. For now, you will go rest."

Without another word, Tywin left her standing alone in the dressing chamber.

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Chapter Text

Part Eleven: Safe & Sound

" ...Don't you dare look out your window, darling.

Everything's on fire

The war outside our door keeps raging on 

Hold onto this lullaby 

Even when the music is gone


~ "Safe & Sound" -Taylor Swift feat. The Civil Wars

One Week Later

Late October, 299 AC

Tower of the Hand, King's Landing

Sansa stared down at the velvet bag that contained the jeweled bracelet that was Margaery Tyrell's gift. A seal of lead kept the pouch closed and soon enough, it would be placed inside a small, beautifully carved box that would keep it safe. For nearly a week, Sansa had pondered over what exactly to get the future queen for her name-day celebration until she'd realized in passing that Margaery rarely wore a bracelet. Having inquired about the lack of bracelets over the morning meal, Sansa had been surprised by Margaery's reply that she lacked such little trinkets.

Sansa had not bothered going to seek Tywin's permission for commissioning the bracelet. Her lord husband expected her to present the future queen with a suitable gift. It was something that he had little interest in and Sansa imagined that he'd throttle her for wasting his time with such a trivial matter.

It was difficult to decide if Olenna Tyrell knew that her name-day fell on the same day that Margaery's celebration was being held. Sansa was not the jealous type, she was simply curious. No one probably even knew that today was her seventeenth name day. Cersei had never made a celebration of it unlike Joffrey's name day or Tommen's. Even her lord husband's name day celebration had been festive in the weeks before he'd married her. They had still been betrothed when the celebration had happened and she could still recall the look of displeasure on the Lord of the Rock's face at being served mutton.

She hadn't known what to gift him then and Sansa supposed that she still wasn't certain what she'd give him. One thing that she had discovered about Tywin Lannister was that he was a great reader. Ever dutiful of his responsibilities as the Hand of the King, her lord husband would read in the evening while he waited for her to appear in the bed chamber. At first, she'd thought that he was bored, but when he continued to read from the book every night, Sansa realized he was doing it for enjoyment, not boredom. In fact, he was quick reader and within a week, he'd finished the tomb on the history of valyarian sword making. A topic that she had no interest in, but she'd asked after his reading as a good, dutiful wife her mother would have asked her father.

Sitting in her small alcove in her dressing room, Sansa had pulled the curtains. She wanted to be alone for a few minutes before she was forced to attend the celebrations. Just the thought of Catelyn made her heart ache in horrible pain. Now more than ever, Sansa wanted her mother's embrace. She dutifully corresponded with her lord husband's family including his sister Genna, a woman full of advice and reassurances as the child beneath her heart grew, but it was not the same. While she had forged something of a friendship with Genna in the past few weeks, Catelyn could not be replaced. Sansa found herself wanting her mother's reassurances and comfort that all would be well. That she would not die like Tywin's first wife, Joanna. In her mind, Sansa had already begun to pen a letter to her lord husband in the event that she did die. She could not bear the thought of her child being treated as Tyrion had been treated. In that letter, she would beg him to not consider her death murder, but consider that she'd given her life to her child.

The cut of her sapphire blue gown and the layers of skirts that she wore hid the fact that she was with child. It was a secret that she suspected that only few knew. Tywin had no doubt forced Joffrey and Cersei into submission with promises of retribution if they told anyone. The serving staff had known about the loss of Lady Jana's tongue and it seemed as though there was always someone watching her. The servants probably all knew and were terrified that if something happened to her, they would meet a similar fate to Lady Jana's. Sansa did not blame them for being afraid. Tywin Lannister could be frightening when he chose to be, but she saw a different side of him, a softer side to a hard man.

She never spoke to anyone about the night hours when he'd rest his hand her belly, asking if she'd felt the babe quicken during the day. Sansa hated to disappoint him and tell him that she had not, but he would make a humming noise in the back of his throat and tell her that one day soon she'd feel the babe. Her condition had not stopped him from sharing her bed. It was perfectly safe to continue relations with him and Sansa found herself wanting his attention more than ever before. She smiled ruefully to herself as she let her hand caress her rounding tummy. One day soon, she'd come to find him and wantonly demand his attentions. It seemed that all she wanted was to be touched and even the simple thought of his attentions made her burn with desire. Sansa blushed at the thought of all the new ways he'd shown her pleasure.

A knock at her dressing room forced her from her alcove and Sansa found herself standing and calling out for her guest to enter. When Lord Tywin entered wearing a black leather coat and embroidered with golden lions, Sansa paused to admire his tall figure and handsome face.

“I need not ask if you've procured a gift for Lady Margaery?" Tywin rasped as he closed the dressing room door behind him, the latch falling into place.

"She's receiving an emerald bracelet from us," Sansa replied as she walked towards her vanity and the small, beautiful carved box that she placed the velvet pouch inside. Closing the lid of the box, Sansa turned towards him with a growing feeling of nervousness in her chest. After tonight, everyone would know that they were expecting a son or daughter and instead of being comforted by the news it only brought dread. It was a dangerous game to steal away the attention from Joffrey and his bride. Sansa found herself in the middle of a game with no desire at all to be placed in such a position. Looking at her lord husband, she saw no flicker of worry or discontent in his gaze. If he did feel such a way, he hid it well and she envied him for it.

"Is it time to go to the celebration?" Sansa asked, desperate for something to alleviate her worries.

"No," Tywin said calmly as he made his way over to her alcove and motioned for her to join him. Following reluctantly, Sansa sat down with her knees inches from his. She was surprised when Tywin reached into his doublet and pulled out a small velvet bag. A lead stamp that was the exact same as the one on Margaery's gift proved that he was not the only one who had been to see the royal jewelers of late.

"I am well aware of what today means to you," he said quietly as he held the pouch out to her. "Just as I am certain that the Lady Olenna does as well. Leave it to that Queen of Thorns to ensure that all the attention is centered on her granddaughter when it is your name-day as well."

He placed the velvet pouch in her hands and Sansa felt a rush of something that she couldn't describe fill her body. She hadn't expected anyone to notice her name-day at all. She'd broken her fast alone and at the noon meal, Tywin had given no hint of knowing that the day was special to her. Instead, he'd been absorbed in a letter detailing the crisis that the Eyrie found itself in under Lady Lysa Arryn's leadership and that of her weak son. He had even left the meal early claiming that he'd have no time for affairs of state after the evening meal because of the celebration.

Solitude had not been a difficult burden to bare for Sansa. She had welcomed it as well as the sad memories that accompanied the quietness. Happy memories of her name-days at Winterfell had dominated her thoughts leaving no room for any other worries. Now, her mind could shake the horrible realization that others would know that she carried a Lannister heir. There would be little time before her mother and brother knew of her condition and it broke her heart. Sansa had always imagined that she'd be able to share in the experience of having children with her mother. Instead, she was entirely alone with only one or two books that Tyrion had procured for her on child bed.

"Thank you," she murmured as she pulled at the strings of the pouch after having broken the lead seal. Her finger tips touched the cold metal within and drawing out the gift, Sansa froze as she looked down at the beautiful diamond and aquamarine necklace in her hand. The stones were not obscenely large like some of Cersei's jewels, but they were modest and the beauty of the necklace was in the craftsmanship, not the stones themselves. Gold and silver mingled together with diamond stones and by far, it was one of the most beautiful necklaces that she'd ever laid eyes.

"It's beautiful," Sansa breathed.

"I thought perhaps the blue stones would look better with your blue eyes than rubies," Lord Tywin commented dryly. "I am glad to know that you like the necklace."

Meeting his emerald green eyes, Sansa parted her lips to speak, but a knock sounded on the dressing room door. The moment was broken and her lord husband looked exceptionally displeased to have been interrupted. He stood, pushing back one of curtains of her little alcove and called out his permission for admittance. The door was opened and Jerion stepped inside, looking as nervous as ever.

"The Queen Regent asks for your presence, my lord and lady," he said quickly. "The Tyrells have already gathered for the receiving line and the Lady Margaery wishes for Lady Sansa to join her as well."

Tywin said nothing, simply gesturing that Jerion was dismissed and the door was closed behind the boy. Standing, Sansa easily found the elaborately carved box that would be presented to Lady Margaery when the gift giving began. Slipping the velvet pouch that was sealed with a lead stamp of the Royal jeweler inside, she closed the box's lid before slowly making her way towards her own vanity. In the gold mirror that had come from Myr, Sansa could see her lord husband walking towards where she sat, attempting to undo the silver necklace that she wore. She heard his boots on the floor and felt his hands cover hers, undoing the clasp. His warm hands felt heavenly against her skin and she felt the cold metal slide away from her skin.

Opening the velvet pouch that contained her new necklace, Sansa aided him clasping the necklace around her neck. His hands rested on the tops of her shoulders as they both admired the gold, diamonds, and aquamarine in the looking glass. The necklace was wider than most, not so much as a choker as it rested at the base of her neck and shoulders. The diamonds rested atop her breasts and Sansa nearly blushed as she thought about Tywin's appreciation of her full breasts. He'd enjoyed kissing and nipping at them as much as she had and the fierce rutting that had happened afterward had left even her unquenchable desire sedated. His thumbs brushed against her bare skin gently in a circular motion that did little to stop the desires that were already building due to his closeness.

"Don’t stop," Sansa softly begged, not even ashamed by the slight whine of need in her voice.

"I would rather not face the King, the Queen Regent, and Lady Margaery's wrath for missing a silly celebration," Tywin quipped as his hands moved away from her. She knew that his dry remark was meant to be his best attempt at humor and it was on the tip of her tongue to make a retort about having a celebration of their own for her name-day in the bed chamber next door when she felt it. The slight fluttering that felt almost like a feather would feel caressing one's skin with slight pressure. The sensation made her freeze for a moment, a look of wonder covered her face as she looked down at the rounding belly that was cleverly hidden beneath layers of expensive silks. Her hand traveled to the side of her rounding belly and rested over the place that she swore she'd felt the flutter. The small nudge, reminding her that her son or daughter was very much aware of their father's voice. A smile grew on her face as she turned to look up at her lord husband.

"I felt the baby," she murmured and in an instant, Tywin Lannister surprised her.

Crouching before her, his hand covered hers as his other hand slipped to rest on the base of her spine.

"Here?" he asked, the same sense of wonder could nearly be heard in his voice. His face wore an expression of intense concentration and Sansa wondered if he was willing the child to move again within her. She couldn't remove the smile on her face. No matter how much she knew he disliked smiles, Sansa wouldn't let that knowledge ruin her moment. She slipped her hand out from under his and covered his hand with hers, hoping that their child would move again. She wanted him to feel it more than anything, but a small voice reminded her that the child might still be too little to have the movements felt by the outside world. As if determined to prove his or her mother wrong, the babe moved slightly again just under the spot were Tywin's hand was.

They were both quiet as the child moved again and Sansa couldn't quite describe the expression that covered her lord husband's face. He looked up at her a moment later and she could see the reverence in his eyes. Turning up the corners of her lips softly, she squeezed his hand affectionately. Tywin parted his lips to say something, but the moment was broken by a knock on the door and Lord Tyrion's slightly slurred words.

"I am not attending this party alone, mother!" He called through the door. "Hurry up, please! Cersei will send white cloaks to fetch us soon enough."

Tywin helped her to stand, but Sansa made certain to hold onto her lord husband's sleeve. The calm, peaceful look that had been on his face moments before had disappeared. In its place was a look of anger and loathing that she hated to see.

"He must not know that you're here with me," Sansa said gently. "Parties are not something that either he nor I enjoy. Joffrey will no doubt find some way to torment us all."

Tywin said nothing, but the look of anger in his eyes lingered

Margaery's name day feast was held in one of the smaller halls near the Maidenvault. Music was played and no doubt there would be dancing later in the evening after the feast and gift giving. Sansa watched as guests gushed over the flower displays that decorated the hall and had even commented to Varys that the roses suppressed the disgusting smell of mutton chops that were cooked in honor of Margaery. The fact that mutton was the future queen's favorite food did not endear her to Sansa. If anything, the smell of food made her stomach roll.

The two grand tables were long with Tyrells seated on one side and Lannisters and Baratheons seated on the other. A narrow space was between the two long tables so that servants could move with ease and serve food and drink. Apart from the two tables, a third high table was situated away from the guests. Margaery was seated next to Joffrey at the head of the table with Cersei to his right completing the table of honor.

The Lady Olenna was seated across from Tywin Lannister and next to him was the seat that Sansa found herself in. Across from her was the mysterious heir of Highgarden, Ser Willas Tyrell. He was handsome with a strong jaw and brown hair that slightly curled. She knew that he was a cripple, but even so, his chest was broad and his gold and emerald doublet only enhanced his grey eyes and golden skin that had been tanned from endless afternoons in the sun. By the ninth course, Sansa had decided that Ser Willas was far more handsome than Ser Loras. Side by side, she and Lord Tywin sat in silence. The only occasional comment was said by a very drunk Tyrion who sat beside her. Every time Lord Tyrion spoke, her lord husband's fist would clench and Sansa recognized that Tyrion's drunkenness was the source of Tywin's displeasure. The cold relationship already existed between the two men, Tyrion drunkenness only enflamed the situation.

With the smell of the food making her decidedly queasy and the tension in the air mounting between her lord husband and his son, Sansa decided that she needed something to focus on other than what was happening around her if she was to survive the night. Across the narrow space between the tables, Sansa listened to Olenna Tyrell attempt explain the family tree to her grandchildren.

"Their son will be your uncle. After you're wed to Cersei, Willas, you will be the king's stepfather and brother-in-law."

Ser Loras looked as unhappy as his brother, Willas Tyrell. The heir of Highgarden had come all the way to the capital to see his sister on her name-day and Sansa suspected that the man was exceptionally displeased with his engagement to Cersei. He was younger than her and Sansa wondered if he had a girl that he loved back in Highgarden. Was she waiting for him? She wanted to shake her head at the childish romantic thoughts.

"And when your sister marries the king, Joffrey's mother will become his sister by law and their son, Margaery and Joffrey's, will become your nephew? Grandson? I'm not sure. But your brother will become Margaery's father-in-law, that is certain," Lady Olenna decreed looking exceptionally pleased with herself for figuring out the puzzle. It was all done mockingly, Sansa knew that the old woman was not simple and understood the connections far better than most.

Another course was served for the dinner and servants quickly moved around to take away dishes that were no longer being used and replacing them with dishes that had been piled high with food. Vegetables were served with sugar roasted plums and dates as well as toasted bread smothered with honey butter. Mutton that had been drowned in butter, garlic, and rosemary was also presented and she looked at it with pure revulsion. Placed in front of her, Sansa couldn't stop herself from pushing the dish towards Tywin. Silver fork and knife in hand, he was cutting into the garlic and thyme venison that had been served when his eyes glanced at the mutton.

"You have barely eaten anything," Tywin commented quietly next to her as Tyrion drowned another goblet of wine, ignoring the food all together in favor of drinking. Her lord husband resumed his meal as Sansa looked over the food that was presented with little interest.

"If I eat that mutton, I shall be ill," she murmured back to him. "It smells like a dead cat, it smells like Pycelle."

Tywin raised a brow at her as if demanding to know if Pycelle truly smelt like a dead cat. Before she could reply, Tyrion waved his goblet in the air. Tywin's gaze shifted her to his younger son. Sansa could see the look of disgust on her lord husband's face and was reminded of Ser Kevan's story about his lord father. Tytos had been a drunk, smiling and happy, and Tywin despised anything that reminded him of his father. Tyrion's drunkenness reminded him of Tytos as did the whoring and Sansa wondered if Tyrion knew that.

"I am the god of tits and wine," Tyrion drunkenly declared as he pushed himself away from the table. By accident, he bumped the goblet of watered down wine near Sansa's plate. It was Tywin's quick reflexes that saved her blue gown from being drenched and ruined. He scowled at his youngest son as he adjusted the goblet and a servant quickly came to collect the dishes that Tyrion had left behind as well as mop up the mess from the wine that had been splashed on the table.

"Take this away," Tywin commanded the serving wench in a frigid tone. "Find something that isn't made with mutton and be quick about it."

The girl bobbed a curtsey and respectful 'milord' before scrambling away. Ten minutes later, a plate of fresh fruit was placed before them with several pieces of cold meat and cheeses on a separate dish. Sansa found that she could breathe in the smell of the fruit easier and eagerly reached for the rich strawberries that had been placed in a glass dishes. The berries were fresh and tasted sweet when she bit into the red flesh. Swallowing the succulent bite of strawberry, she looked to see Tywin reach for a handful of blackberries a pop two into his mouth.

"When is your name-day?" Sansa asked, realizing that she hadn't even known when Tywin was born. She watched him chew the dark berries for a moment before he swallowed. There was a slight look in his eyes of something that she couldn't identify as he looked back at her.

"The twenty-fourth day of January," he answered in a bored tone. "I want no pomp or celebration."

"And no mutton?" She teased, hoping that he wouldn't remain in the foul mood that he'd been in since Tyrion's interruption earlier. Tywin said nothing as he raised his glass of watered down wine to his lips and took several sips.

Sansa frowned slightly as she reached for more strawberries and looked away. She did not imagine her lord husband to be a man interested in dancing and feasts. Lord Tywin wasn't like King Robert and she saw evidence in that by how seriously he took his role as Lord Hand. When she'd been a girl, she'd imagined that being queen and holding court was about ceremony. She'd imagined it all being like it was in the songs and stories that she'd read. As a young wife, she understood so much more than before. Her lord husband wasn't interested in ceremony. He was interested in good governing and a strong economy. Something that Robert, nor his supposed sons had any interest in.

At one of the lower tables, laughter rose from the places near where Tyrion had seated himself. It was a roarous laughter that one expected to hear in a tavern, not a lady's name-day celebration. Sansa stiffened as she felt the tension coming off of Lord Tywin. They'd been having such a pleasant conversation and to have it ruined by an argument was not something she wished to see. Her lord husband tossed the linen cloth that had been in his hands onto the table and made to stand. Scrambling, Sansa attempted to touch his arm, but he brushed her hand away.

"No, please, Tywin," she tried to beg, but he ignored her as he stood. She watched helplessly as he moved away from her and frustration rose in her heart. Sansa clasped her hands in her lap as she watched her lord husband cross the hall towards a drunk Tyrion. The dwarf was telling a vulgar story and had several maidens blushing as lords laughed drunkenly around him.

Sansa closed her eyes briefly, the last thing she wanted was to have a scene caused at Margaery's name day celebration. Before she could come up with a suitable excuse to go after Tywin and stop him from interfering with Tyrion, the sound of a cane scraping on the stone floor forced her eyes open. Ser Willas Tyrell was hobbling towards her with a smile on his handsome face.

"I have not had the pleasure to meet a lady as beautiful as you," he declared as he leaned on his cane and limped. When he was close enough a servant helped him to sit in the seat that Tyrion had been occupying earlier and Sansa felt all thoughts leave her head. "I've seen such beautiful eyes. Blue eyes like yours are uncommon and that is what makes them infinitely more beautiful."

She felt her cheeks warm unexpectedly and fought against being reduced to a puddle on the ground. She was married to Lord Tywin, she reminded herself firmly. She was his lady wife and she could not allow Willas Tyrell's words to affect her in any way that would dishonor House Lannister, no matter how many times he praised her beauty. A small voice taunted her that it was nice to be called beautiful. None ever complimented her except Shae and that hardly counted.

"Thank you, my lord," she murmured looking down at her hands in her lap for a moment before raising her head again. "No one has said such a kind thing before."

Not recently, anyway, Sansa thought with a blush creeping down her neck. Lord Tywin was not the sort of man that gave compliments. She held no expectation of ever being told she was beautiful or anything of the sort. The only time he'd ever complimented her was on their wedding night when he'd declared her breasts beautiful and she hardly considered that a true compliment. Although Sansa thought that perhaps his compliment was not in his words. Tywin showed his feelings through physical means and the fact that he enjoyed touch and kissing her breasts only confirmed that he found that part of her desirable and attractive. Forcing herself not to think about coupling with Tywin was difficult. The thought alone simply ignited her body and she burned for him. Making certain that she put all her energies into focusing on Ser Willas, Sansa promised herself that she would be attentive to the conversation and not think about her lord husband.

"I should like to get to know my future sister-in-law better," Ser Willas said with a handsome smile that lit up his face. She could see that despite his unfortunate accident that had left him crippled, Ser Willas was a handsome young man with dark hair and blue eyes that matched Margaery's. Should Cersei marry Ser Willas as Tywin intended, there was little doubt in Sansa's mind that any children produced by the marriage would be exceptionally beautiful.

"Mother-by-law," Sansa corrected gently. "I shall be your mother-in-law when you marry Cersei. She is after all my daughter-by-law."

"I shall be the luckiest man in the seven kingdoms to have a beautiful wife and lady mother," Willas said, the smile never leaving his face. "Will you allow me to escort you on a walk of the gardens in the coming days? I am to be here for two more weeks and I would be honored to spend time admiring your great beauty, Lady Lannister."

Wordlessly, Sansa nodded in agreement, but couldn't help the amused smile that threatened to creep across her lips. Ser Willas was certainly a man who believed in flattery and gave a compliment every chance that he could. His eyes darted over her shoulder and following his gaze, Sansa saw Lord Tywin trekking back across the hall.

"Thank you for such a great honor," he continued. "Pray, excuse me, my lady, if I am away from my grandmother too long, she'll begin to worry about my well-being."

He stood up with the assistance of his cane and Sansa watched him limp away towards were Ser Loras was waiting, an eager smile on the young knight's face. She shook her head as she heard the steps her lord husband returning to his seat next to her.

"And what did Ser Willas want?" Tywin demanded as he sat, his words were cold and she turned to look at him, feeling a funny twist in her stomach. She could never imagine Tywin Lannister paying her the same compliments that Willas Tyrell had. It wasn't something that he did. In fact, only once had he told her that she was beautiful and that was on their wedding night when he'd called her breasts beautiful.

"He was kind enough to come sit with me when he saw that both my husband and son-in-law had abandoned me," she said as Tywin turned to look at her sharply. "He was very kind and said wonderful words of flattery that every woman should like to hear at least once or twice in their life. Was your conversation with Tyrion successful?"

"What exactly did Ser Willas say?" Tywin demanded again, ignoring her question. Sansa wondered if he was jealous that a younger man was paying her attention, but she doubted that Tywin Lannister was ever jealous of anyone or anything, least of all a crippled man who sat with his wife a few minutes. His emerald eyes lingered on her and she could feel herself growing warm in a very different way than the blush Willas Tyrell had produced.

"He told me that I have the prettiest blue eyes that he's ever seen and we talked about the Lady Olenna's attempt to understand the family tree."

"He'll be your son-in-law," Tywin said. "You'll be his mother-in-law. Is that what he had difficult comprehending?"

"What will that make you and the Lady Olenna?"

He looked at her for a moment before he answered, "Old."

Sansa couldn't help the snort of laughter that left her as she looked away from Lord Tywin. She knew that he was entirely honest and not trying to make her laugh, but his words were so sincerely honest that she couldn't stop herself. She reached for the watered-down wine that was being served and took a sip as Joffrey jumped up from his seat at the high table.

"It's time for the gift giving," the king declared after the music and noise had died down. "My Lady Margaery, come and see my gift to you."

Sansa watched as Margaery stepped down from her dais with Joffrey's assistance as a servant brought forward a small, elaborately carved box. Margaery looked pleased with her gift as it was set before her. She clasped her hands together and whispered something to Joffrey. The young king looked as proud as a peacock when she pulled away from him. Next to her, Tywin shifted in his seat as Joffrey began to give a grand speech, holding up his wine goblet and declaring that Margaery was perhaps the most beautiful queen the seven kingdoms would ever see. Sansa did not miss Cersei's displeasure at her son's words.

As Joffrey ended his speech, Margaery placed an affectionate kiss on his cheek and Sansa could almost feel the impatience that emanating from her lord husband. Stepping forward, Margaery easily opened the small lock of the oak box and pulled a purple velvet pouch out. Breaking the lead seal that kept the jewelry safe, she slipped her hand inside and pulled out a broach. A stunning golden rose was set with rubies and around the rose, the antlers of a stag was wrapped as if they were holding the rose together. Margaery gushed to Joffrey about how beautiful the broach was, but Sansa could tell from the look on her face that she disliked the piece. As a young woman of almost the same age, Sansa could understand Margaery's dislike and disappointment.

"She looks displeased," Tywin commented as the guest of the party clapped politely.

"A broach is not the romantic gift she was probably expecting," Sansa murmured back as she clapped. "A ring, a necklace, something personal would have perhaps been a better gift. A broach with a rose surrounded by antlers...I don't think she truly wants such a reminder that he owns her."

Tywin made a humming noise in the back of his throat and Sansa refocused her attention on the dais and watched as Margaery proceeded to step down and show her grandmother and brother's her gift. The Lady Olenna mockingly gushed over the golden beauty and to Sansa's trained eyes, Ser Willas Tyrell was the only person who managed to make an honest, genuine comment about the gift. He commented on the gold, declaring that it was the best quality that he'd ever seen. Silently, Sansa approved of Ser Willas Tyrell's words. He seemed like a good brother and a pang shot through her as she thought of her own brother, her twin. She tried not to linger on the hurt she felt missing Robb. A flash of color caught Sansa's eye and she watched Cersei Lannister stand and walk down the steps towards Joffrey and Margaery.

"I believe that it is time for the Hand and the Lady Lannister to present their gift to Lady Margaery," Cersei said gently as she stood and clasped her hands in front of her with a sickly-sweet smile on her face. The tension between Margaery, Cersei, and Lady Olenna was palpable as Lord Tywin stood and Sansa pushed herself to her feet.

"Yes, yes," Joffrey quickly agreed, gesturing with his hand for the Lannister gift to be presented. "I don't believe that anyone will be able to present a gift as beautiful as mine."

Margaery, Joffrey, and Cersei returned to dais as Sansa stood and waited. Shae brought her the small box that was lined with purple velvet. Holding it in her hands, Sansa was careful as she walked towards the dais. Tywin was behind her, his presence behind her was somehow comforting. Standing next to him, Sansa found herself standing next to Lord Tywin in front of the dais. It was such an odd position to be in that she realized that it was all wrong. From the tension that she could see in her lord husband's body, she understood that he was not used to being summoned so publicly by the crown and it was half humiliating for her lord husband.

Margaery's tight smile conveyed her understanding of Lord Tywin's displease, but Cersei and Joffrey seemed oblivious to the situation. Tywin held one hand behind his back as he gave a curt bow. Sansa followed his example and dropped into a low curtsy, but she was careful of making certain that no one could see her body as she rose. The thick skirts of her dress helped to cover the evidence of her frequent coupling with Lord Tywin, but she knew that standing hid the evidence. Curtseying was something that she had not attempted in the dress and Sansa silently prayed to the old gods and the new that no one could see any evidence of the child growing under her heart. A moment later when she rose, Tywin's hand gently gripped her elbow, steading her. As quickly as he touched her, Tywin's hand slipped away as if it had never happened.

Joffrey stepped forward with a mocking smile, "What gift do you have to present to my lady, my lord hand?"

Sansa watched as Cersei stared down at her oldest son adoringly. Margaery spared a glance over at Joffrey briefly before looking back at the Lord and Lady Lannister. The small box containing the jeweled bracelet was in her hands and stepping forward, Sansa held it out to Margaery.

"Our gift to you," Sansa murmured softly with a genuine, warm smile on her face. "Happy Name-Day, my lady."

Margaery accepted the box and pulled the velvet pouch out, breaking the lead seal of the Royal jeweler. Pulling the jewelry out of the pouch, she gushed happily over the bracelet inside. The emeralds and diamonds sparkled in the light emanating from the grand wooden chandeliers hanging above them. Quickly, the future queen slipped the bracelet on declaring it to be the most beautiful thing that she'd ever seen. Near Margaery, even Lady Olenna seemed impressed by the beauty of the gift. Sansa did not raise her eyes to meet Joffrey's but she could feel his intense glare filled with hatred. She was so lost in her thoughts about Joffrey's hatred and glare that she wasn't prepared for the embrace that she was captured in.

Margaery hugged her tighter than she thought would be appropriate for a queen, but she told herself to relax as the future queen thanked her profusely for her gift. The gesture caught most in the hall off guard as several Lannister guards stepped closer to intervene from their posts at the pillars surrounding the perimeter of the hall. Even her lord husband's commander and Ser Jorah took steps forward with their hands on their swords. It took Sansa a moment to return the embrace before Margaery was smiling with delight.

A second later, the embrace was broken, but Margaery still held Sansa in her arms. Sansa swallowed hard as the Commander made a hand gesture allowing the guards to stand down. A tight smile came across Sansa's lips all while knowing that Tywin would announce to the King the impending arrival of the new Lannister heir of Casterly Rock. The idea that everyone would know about the babe in her belly made her heart race with both fear and joy. Her eyes flickered towards Ser Jorah for a brief moment before looking to Lord Tywin. He ignored her glance as he stepped forward and the room fell silent. Not a soul dared to breathed as all eyes were on the Lord Hand.

"I should also like to share the news, Your Grace, that you and the Lady Margaery will have a new aunt or uncle come early next year," Tywin announced, his voice clear and commanding as it echoed through the hall. Not a soul spoke for a moment before rounds of cheers and clapping began. A happy look covered Margaery as she entirely forgot about the beautiful jeweled pin that Joffrey had gifted her and exclaimed that Sansa's baby would no doubt be the best gift anyone could receive. The future queen gave Sansa another brief embrace before pulling away a placing a kiss on her cheek.

"Oh, how wonderful!" Margaery cried happily as she pulled away. "A baby for the wedding party next year! I shall pray every day for your health, happiness, and the little one's wellbeing. How wonderful!"

Sansa was not given a chance to reply, it was Tywin's deep voice that caused Margaery to let go of her, the smile never leaving the future queen's face. Her lord husband wore an unreadable expression as he clasped his hand behind his back.

"Thank you, Lady Margaery, for your well wishes," he said in a stony voice.

Margaery hugged her again for a third time and over the future queen's shoulder, Sansa saw the malicious glare that covered Joffrey's face. A look that was mirrored by Cersei, who clung to her wine glass so tightly that Sansa feared it would shatter in her hand. A cold feeling trickled down her spine as Margaery pulled away again and finally let go of her. The sounds of music being played again reached her ears and talking resumed between guests. Margaery kissed her cheeks before moving away to show Olenna Tyrell the beautiful bracelet again.

Next to her, Sansa felt Tywin's presence and she swallowed hard, feeling only a little bit safer with her lord husband next to her. She repeated to herself over and over in her mind that Tywin would not allow anything to happen to her, but the looks on Cersei and Joffrey's face did not convince her otherwise. It felt like a bucket of cold water had been dumped on her as a hand was placed on the center of her spine. Down the steps of the dais, Sansa stood still next to Lord Tywin. The skirts of her dress were bunched behind her and overflowed behind her lord husband and as they stood side by side, accepting well wishes from Lord Tyrell. Quickly a line was formed and standing beside her husband, Sansa was reminded of the words of Lord Varys.

The Hand and the Lady eclipse the crown...

Sansa looked up at Tywin as various lords and ladies began forming a line to offer them well wishes. His face was a mask, but in his eyes, she could see that he was exceeding pleased with himself. Not even a jibe from Lady Olenna about his hips not failing him when she came to wish them joy could ruin her husband's mood. He'd stolen the moment away from Joffrey and instead of wishing the king and future queen well wishes, the court was flocking to the Hand and the Hand's wife. It was a power play that had worked exceptionally well as Sansa smiled and thanked another courtier for the kind well wishes. She became swallowed in a sea of courtiers and well wishes, but Tywin never let her far from his side.

It was only much later in the evening after the dancing had begun that Sansa was given the opportunity to speak with her husband. When she had discretely yawned for a second time, Tywin declared that they would leave the celebration. Walking down the empty corridor that was lined with the red cloaks of Lannister guards, Sansa slipped her hand into the crook of her lord husband's elbow as he clasped his hands behind his back.

"You should be very pleased with yourself if the goal was to make the king unhappy," she declared as they walked down the corridor together. Several fire torches were lit and she could see the pleased expression on his face as the fire lit danced on his face. Instead of turning towards the Tower of the Hand, Lord Tywin steered them towards the empty King's guards and the down the steps. Slowly, they wandered down the path that would lead them towards the Tower of the Hand.

"My aim was only to remind him who truly wields the power in this family," Tywin muttered as they turned down a flowering path. It was filled with flowering vines that climbed the wall of the castle on the opposite side of the path was a stone railing made in archways. The path was protected by Lannister guards that were stationed at every archway they passed. In the cool night air, Sansa realized that she'd been holding her breath for most of the night, waiting for a disaster to strike. The cool air soothed away those nerves and the night was bright from the stars and moonlight.

Whether it was because she was with child or because it was later in the evening, Tywin's walking pace was slower than usual. Whatever the reason, Sansa allowed herself to bask in the moonlight and enjoy the chirping noises that the night creatures made. The evening had not been a colossal disaster as she'd been expecting and coupled with the fact that every so often she felt the babe within her moved only furthered to brighten her spirits.

"I am certain that you made your point to Joffrey," Sansa murmured.

EDITED 5/29/2019 Beta'd by A.L.D. 


Chapter Text

Part Twelve: Goodnight My Angel

"...Goodnight my angel, now it's time to sleep

And still so many things I want to say

Remember all the songs you sang for me

When we went sailing on an emerald bay

And like a boat out on the ocean I'm rocking you to sleep

The water's dark and deep, inside this ancient heart

You'll always be a part of me..."

~ "Goodnight My Angel" - Celtic Woman

Late December, 299 AC

Riverrun, the Riverlands

...He was standing in the middle of the training yard, Robb realized as he looked around him, but he smiled. He was in the familiar yard at Winterfell and a few snowflakes were dancing in the air. He could see his breath when he exhaled, but it did not faze him. Robb was used to the cold. For as long as he could remember, the cold had been a constant companion. It no longer bit into his flesh or settled into his bones like it did to some men. No, the cold was familiar and he welcomed it as one would welcome a friend. Looking around the training yard, Robb froze for a moment when he heard the whispers of dress skirts on the cold stones of Winterfell. He half expected to look up and see his mother, but it was a different face that greeted him. She walked across the covered bridge and down the long, narrow stairs that led to the yard.

She looked like Sansa as she walked to him, but he could see delicate changes in her. There were slight lines around her eyes and forehead. A small scar on her neck was visible and she was slightly heavier in the breasts and hips from the last time he’d seen her. It was then that he realized she was older. Her hair was braided up around the crown of her head as an elaborate golden hair net tamed her red tresses of hair. A golden crown was atop her head, two lions roaring at each other with a large ruby dangled between their mouths. White fur was draped around her shoulders and the golden outer coat she wore. A red gown was beneath and he could see more golden embroidery of wildflowers and lions decorating her collar and bodice. She stopped on the outer edge of the yard and spun the diamond encrusted lion ring she wore on her middle finger.

“You’ve become a Lannister,” he said coolly, unsure of what to do or say around his twin sister. She was so changed and yet, her warm eyes were as familiar as the coldness that clung to him and just as welcoming.

“And you are dead,” she stated softly before a blow, seemingly out of nowhere, came and knocked him down. Robb quickly lifted his arms to defend himself against the blows, but in three quick moves, he was on his back, looking up into the cold, emotionless eyes of Tywin Lannister. The old man held a tourney sword in his hand, a second one by his side in his other hand. He dropped the second blade next to Robb on the ground before he turned away. “Again,” Sansa murmured as she walked around the white chalk like of the practice circle that had suddenly appeared. Grabbing the dropped sword, Robb picked it up. With the quick legs of young man, he charged Tywin Lannister. While he might have been quick, Lord Tywin had experience and strength on his side. He pivoted the blow and used the force of his body to knock Robb to the ground. Sansa halted for only a moment to look at him and nod.

“Again,” she repeated and began to walk, watching them closely. Robb got to his feet and lifted the tourney sword. He traded two blows with Tywin Lannister before the old lion managed to pin him on his back. Sansa stopped, repeated her single word, and began to walk. Three times he tried to fight Lord Tywin, three times he was disarmed by the Great Lion. Each time, the fight was not honorable, whether the lion kicked his legs out from underneath him or used a trick to win, Robb wasn’t able to best him. His body ached with pain and on the fourth time, Robb pushed himself to his hands and knees. His hard glare was no match for the cold, emotionless glare that Tywin Lannister dealt him.

“Again,” Sansa said, her voice not as gentle as it had been before. Picking up his practice sword, Robb charged Tywin with a roar of anger and frustration. He lost again, his footing being his downfall. Tywin had easily kicked his legs out from under him in a move that Robb declared was dishonorable. On his back, he called out Tywin's move, but neither Sansa nor the Lord of Lannister said a word. Silence filled the training yard and Robb clenched his teeth until his jaw ached, desperate to understand why this was happening. Sansa simply stood on the edge of the circle, her hands together in front of her and repeated the word that was beginning to drive him to distraction. 


Four more times, Robb lost to Lord Tywin and four more times, Sansa repeated the small word. It went on for longer than Robb would have thought. Each time he lost, anger roared to life inside him. Ser Rodrick had taught him to fight with honor and dignity, something that Tywin Lannister didn’t have and never would. The man fought dirty and was not the kind of man Robb ever wanted to be. He was on his hands and knees having taken a ferocious blow to the stomach with the pommel of a dagger that Tywin Lannister had produced from somewhere in his leather armor when it happened.

Tywin moved suddenly as Sansa stepped into the circle, a long thin blade in her hand. He didn’t know where she had procured such a weapon and before he could move to block her blow, she pieced him with the thin blade. He roared loudly as the sharp metal pierced his skin and fire licked his innards. He panted through the pain as she removed the blade, walking around him like a bitch hunting her prey in the woods. His shoulder screamed in agony from where she had stabbed him and he wondered if he could even lift a sword. He looked down at his bloody hand briefly before he forced himself back onto his knees.

“You expect your enemies to fight with honor and dignity," Sansa snarled at him as she pointed the small, thin blade at him. Blood dripped off the end and into the dirt beneath her feet. “You expect that every battle with be as swift and as easy as the ones you have fought on the field and won by pure luck! You know nothing, Robb Stark. You are a boy in a man’s body. You have claws and fangs and a jaw just as deadly as a lion’s, but you know nothing of how to wield it! No one taught you how to catch your prey in your jaws and rip its throat out. Honor will not win this battle, brother. Stand up, and fight like a man!”

Tywin Lannister stood behind her, his face unreadable as he held the long sword in his hand.

“Fight him again and win,” Sansa snarled, grabbing him under the arm and forcing him to stand. “Be a Stark, be a king. You’re not a little boy anymore. You’re not green like my sons.”

She had not damaged his sword arm, but nonetheless, his shoulder ached unbearably. He managed to match five good blows against Tywin Lannister before he was defeated not by a blow, but by exhaustion and pain. He collapsed down and looked up at his sister and the man he now was forced to call brother. Tywin said nothing as he stood as still as a statue. Sansa fetched a ladle of water and brought it to him. She held it out and for a brief moment, Robb was joyful. He wanted something to drink and he closed his eyes. Instead of feeling the cool water on his lips, he felt it splash across his face and he roared in anger.

“You have not won a drink of water. You look at him, my lord husband, and you see a weak man, an old man. That is what a lion preying wants you to see,” Sansa murmured as she walked around him as he sat bleeding on the ground. “You won’t knock him down or hit as hard as I think you could because you see him as old and your honor won’t allow it.”

“It’s dishonorable,” Robb hissed in pain as he applied pressure to his shoulder. “Besides, it is not a fight to death, sister. We’re battling with tourney swords.”

With speed that he didn’t know his sister possessed, she withdrew a blade of her own and crouched. It had come from the broach on her outer jacket, Robb realized as he looked at the sharp little blade that was behind the lion pin. It drew blood from where it pressed against the skin of his neck and he winced. The years had made Sansa’s eyes hard and the look on her face resembled the look of scorn and displeasure on her husband’s face.

“Every battle is a fight to the death. Honor is what will kill you,” she said gently as if they were talking about the snow falling around them. “You seem to have forgotten that lesson I tried to teach you when I wrote to you weeks ago. You didn’t care. You tossed that letter aside and my advice and you failed. Now, those mistakes will cost you. There are two kinds of honor, Robb. Family honor and personal honor and you seem to think that your personal honor is greater than our family honor.”

“I do not think that,” he spat at her. “You seem to have forgotten yourself, sister.”

“You married a lady that was not a Frey.”

“Because I bed her and marrying her was the honorable thing to do.”

Plenty of men bed highborn ladies that are not their betrothed and do not marry them,” Sansa snapped. “You let feelings cloud your judgment. Mother should have stopped you, but she allowed her feelings about Bran to cloud her judgment as well. Errors in this game of thrones can be made, but it is better to prevent them. You could have prevented it. It didn’t matter that you bed the girl. You think you’re love in with her. You let personal honor get in the way of your duties and that is why we are here.”

“We’re here because father is dead and you are missing as is Arya. I love you both and I have fought like hell to bring you back. Honor demands that I bring you and Arya home. How am I to do that alone?” Robb demanded angrily hopping to his feet and picking up the sword. He pointed it at Sansa, but she seemed unperturbed by the weapon.

“Do you love her?” she asked suddenly as she looked him in the eye. “Do you love your wife? Would do anything for her?”

“Yes, I love her. I would die for her,” Robb snarled angrily. Sansa returned her small bladed brooch back to her outer jacket as she walked around him slowly. She stopped when she was in front of him, a sad and tired expression on her face as she clasped her hands in front of her.

“Love will not end this war, Robb,” Sansa said her words as hard as ice, but her tone was gentle as if she were speaking to an injured child. “Love cannot sustain Winterfell, Casterly Rock, or King’s Landing. Love will not hold a throne and the power that comes with it. Alliances and keeping the honor of your family will see to those things. Love will not win and it will not end wars.”

“Why are you saying this?” he demanded thinking of Jeyne’s sweet smile and her laughter.

“Love is something that few are blessed with,” Sansa continued softly. “While it is a gift in life, it is not a necessity for a King of the North. Love comes after the conquests have happened, love happens after the battles have been won, and your enemies are defeated and driven home. Love happens after you children are born. That is when love will slowly creep into your life along with trust. Love is what the common people dream about to make their wretched lives less miserable. The great houses use such a silly idea to keep the people in line and believing such fairy tales. When my children one day are faced with a decision whether to respect the family honor or personal honor, it will be your story I tell them, brother.”

“And what story is that?” Robb snarled, anger rising in his chest at her offensive words.

“The story of the King in the North, who could have won the war, won the North its freedom, and everything that could have came with those honors. Instead, he chose love and it cost him everything. The crown he wore, his castles, his riches, his family…it eventually cost him his life,” Sansa murmured, tears pooling in her eyes. “You cannot think that Walder Frey will allow such a slight to go unnoticed? You’re a King, brother. One of his daughters could have been Queen. Instead, you throw a measly lord at them as restitution, a lord who is weaker than you. That will not give you the army that you want to march on Casterly Rock and seize it. It will not save you from his wrath, you know it. I know it. We all know it, Robb. Will you not be a man and wake up to what is happening around you, brother? Set aside Jeyne Westerling and marry the girl yourself. There is no child in that girl’s belly and you know that Walder Frey will not forget such a slight.”

“I love her.”

“That is the greatest tragedy of all, and the reason why I will tell my sons of your story. You can’t let your own personal feelings go and do what is best for your people and the honor of your family.” Sansa whispered before she dropped the dagger that had been in her hand as she backed away from him. Her finery gave her an ethereal glow as she back towards the setting sun, tears fell down her cheeks as he tried to reach out to her. The archway that served as the exit and entrance of the training yard showed just how low the sun was in the sky and it nearly blinded him.

“I can’t save you,” she whispered. “And since you are unwilling to save yourself, put three drops of Nightshade in your drink tonight. It will ease the pain and make death come to you quicker.”

The next moment, she turned and began to walk towards the setting sun beyond the archway, Tywin Lannister next to her. They moved like ethereal beings and never once did they say anything to each other, they simply walked next to each other, Sansa’s arm looped around her lord husband’s as they disappeared into the horizon…

The pounding on the door forced Robb to sit up in bed panting. Sweat dripped down his neck and a sheen of it covered his chest. Next to him, Jayne murmured in her sleep and turned onto her side. Pushing back the furs and blankets, Robb stood on shaky legs as the pounding on the door continued. He yanked the door open to see his mother on the other side in only a shift and dressing gown. She held a burning candle in one hand and wore a resigned, weary look on her aging face. Catelyn looked as tired as he felt. Stepping out into the corridor, Robb nodded to the soldiers standing guards, dismissing them. Once they were gone, Catelyn set the candle down on the window sill that was opposite Robb's door. The wind howled outside with promise that winter was coming for them all. Catelyn sat down on the stone bench that was carved into the wall beneath the window and folded her hands in her lap.

"I think that it would be for the best if I return to Winterfell after the wedding," she said softly. "You have no more need of me here and it would be ideal to see Queen Jeyne situated at your keep before the winter comes."

Her words shocked Robb and he clenched his fists in fury, "What?"

"I am returning to Winterfell," Catelyn repeated. "There is nothing left for me here."

His tired mind furiously worked to understand his mother's decision and as quickly as it understood, he rejected it.

"You encouraged this," Robb hissed as he yanked her upper arm and forced her to stand. "You told me to march south for father, for Arya, for Sansa—"

"I don't want to hear that traitor's name," Catelyn hissed back as she yanked her arms back.

"You are a traitor as well," he said, his voice growing cold and hard. "You released the kingslayer and walk freely around this hall by my grace and my grace alone. I did not punish you and I look weak because of it. I should have flogged you or banished you to a prison cell. I am hypocrite in the eyes of my men because of you and your games. Do not call my sister a traitor when you are guiltier of far worse crimes, Mother."

"She will bear the children of your enemy. How is she not a traitor?"

"Those children will be her blood as well," Robb said coolly as he turned away and tightly clutched the window sill, the scowl never leaving his face. "When we march to the Westernlands, you will stay at Riverrun under lock and key with Edmure as your prison guard. You'll get only one hour of leisure time outside a day. That's more than you deserve and that it me being a merciful King in the North. Good night, Mother."

He left her standing alone, and made his way back to bed. He couldn't listen to her ravings anymore. Arya was lost to them. They would never find her, he was certain. She was dead or worse. There was no way she would have been able to survive on her own beyond the walls of King's Landing. Sansa was even further out of reach and Robb could not bare the thought of knowing that he'd failed her.

That night, Jeyne sat next to him laughing at a story that the Greatjon Umber had told her, but Robb couldn't find any joy at the wedding celebration. Something felt wrong, but he couldn't explain it. Since his dream about Sansa and Tywin, he couldn't explain the unease that he felt. Music played and there was laughter. His men were enjoying the feast, but unease filled him. His haunting dreams wouldn't leave him alone as he thought about Sansa. He could see her clearly and yet, she was so far away from him. She was a lifetime away from him and the only thing that bonded them together were memories.

Around him, the guest ate and drank happily, but Robb couldn't bring himself to share in their joy. He'd done as Sansa had instructed him in the dream. He'd added the drops of nightshade to his goblet and slowly, they were beginning to take effect. His bones felt heavy in his skin and his muscle felt like jelly. Every part of him felt relaxed except his mind. A nagging worry had taken hold of him and he hadn't been able to push it away. Jeyne had tried to help him to relax and enjoy himself, but he'd only turned her away moodily. He'd disappointed her, he knew that. He'd hurt her feelings and he regretted it, but something was terribly wrong and he couldn't explain what was wrong with him.

Ever since he'd dreamt of Sansa and Lord Tywin, he'd been filled with unease. He hardly participated in the bedding ceremony when Lord Walder called for it. His uncle had looked most excited, but he'd hardly spared the whole fiasco a glance. Jeyne had stayed by his side for most of the night and he'd urged her to go to bed after Edmure and Roslin had left, but she'd refused. Instead, she'd whispered in his ear that he should come with her and Robb had shaken his head. Any other night he would have taken her up on such an offer, but the worry inside him had robbed him of any desire. The sound of the doors of the hall closing caused the hairs on the back of his neck to stand up and briefly, he looked over his shoulder. It was his host's voice that caused him to turn back around and stand. 

"Your Grace," Lord Walder Frey said with a crooked smile. "I feel I have been remiss in my duties. I've given you meat and wine and music, but I haven't shown you the hospitality you deserve. My king is married and I owe my new queen a wedding gift."

Suddenly, the screeching noise of wood on stone caused him to turn as he looked towards Catelyn.

"Robb!" His mother screamed as she smacked Roose Bolton as hard as she could.

The man went running across the hall with a bruised cheek. In a heartbeat, chaos erupted. Men were killed as arrows rained down upon those in the hall. Robb tried to save his queen, but she fell to her knees in front of him, an arrow piercing her neck. He barely had a moment to comprehend what had happened before an arrow lodged itself in his shoulder. He could hear his heart pounding in his chest as he looked around him. His lords, those loyal to the King in the North, were being slaughtered. A soldier attempted to subdue Greatjon Umber, but before the bear of a man could defend himself, a Frey soldier drove a blade into the Greatjon's back. He roared as blood trickled from his mouth and the second soldier stabbed Umber in the chest. His mind urged him to fight, but his feet were frozen to the stone floor of the hall. All the while, the Rains of Castamere played, reminding Robb who was responsible for this massacre. It was his mother's screams that broke his inability to move. Hearing Catelyn, Robb turned to see her standing with a blade in her trembling hands.

"Stop this madness, Lord Frey," Catelyn demanded, holding the blade to Lady Frey's throat. "He is my oldest son. My only living son and I will let your wife live if you spare him."

The words he wanted to say became lodged in his throat. Robb desperately wanted to reach and comfort his mother. It was too late for them. Soon they would join Bran, Rickon, and Father and there was no use in trying to bargain with Walder Frey. His wife meant nothing to him and the man himself easily confirmed what Robb had suspected. Desperate, his mother split open the young woman's throat and ruby red blood darkened his mother's hands.

A rough hand grabbed his shoulder and Catelyn began to cry. It was always meant to be this way Robb supposed as he looked into Bolton's eyes. Sansa must have known and accepted what he could not. There would be no peace. Tywin Lannister was not a man that ever called a truce. He was a man who conquered and forced his enemies to bend to his unshakable will and might. Sansa's letter had been her attempt, her begging him to retreat and sacrifice his honor to live a life in the North. Robb wanted to smile bitterly, but he couldn't. Sansa didn't understand that a Stark couldn't live without his honor. Perhaps, they had always been destined to be separated by fate.

He was a Stark and she was a Lannister.

"The Lannisters send their regards," Roose Bolton snarled before he slammed his blade into Robb's belly. White hot pain unlike anything that he'd experienced seized him and desperately, Robb looked towards Catelyn, but beyond her, he could see Sansa. She looked just as she had in his dreams, regal and noble as she stood tall in red and gold. Her lips moved far away, but he heard her soft voice in his ear.

"Close your eyes, dear Robb, I love you. It will be just like falling asleep. I promise, the pain will end and it will no longer hurt. We will see each other again someday."

He stumbled as he tried to stand, but he couldn't. He crashed to his knees before Catelyn, unable to move. His body felt cold and oddly numb as his lips tried to form words.

"Mother," he whispered softly before closing his eyes as Sansa had instructed.

Tower of the Hand, King's Landing

With a jerk, Sansa sat up in bed, panting with tears on her cheeks. She gasped, trying to catch her breath. The pain that woke her in the middle of the night was so intense that Sansa nearly fell out of bed as she tried to push the blankets away. Gasping for air as if she had been choking, Sansa clung to one of the two tall posts at the end of the bed and cried. Inside her body, a furious storm of kicking told her that her unborn child was most displeased with her sudden shift from sleeping to wakeful. Resting a hand on her ever expanding middle, Sansa tried to take deep breaths, but it burned her lungs.

Forcing herself to stand up, Sansa blindly grabbed the crimson dressing gown near the fire place and stopped as she turned to look at the four-poster. Tywin was gone, but the indentation on the pillow and the sheets were fresh. She could barely comprehend what was happening around her, her mind was so unsettled. She didn't care where her lord husband had gone, she only followed instinct and instinct told her that she needed to walk. Slipping her dressing gown on, she left the safety of her bed chambers barefoot and without thinking, let her feet carry her.

The corridors were empty with not a soul in sight. Only a few men stood guard and they were easy to slip passed as she made her way out into the corridor. The darkness overwhelmed her vision and only a few torches were lit as she made her way out of the castle. Her feet knew the way to the King's Gardens, Sansa reflected as she saw the shadows of the great archway that would lead her outside. The night air was warm and the sounds of the night creatures chirping and coming alive comforted her. Choosing a stone path, Sansa walked down it slowly as she tried to recall what exactly had awoken her. All she could remember was pain. She'd felt it in her chest, an overwhelming pain that was not in her belly. It had felt like she was being stabbed, but she hadn't been.

Stopping, she looked out at the moonlight dancing on the Blackwater Bay and felt her nails dig into the stone bannister that prevented a man from plunging to his death. Sansa thought for a moment trying to recall what she'd been dreaming about and it struck her like a bolt of lightning. She'd been dreaming of Robb and the first time that her father had let them ride their ponies in the bailey with the stable master as their guide...

...At four years old, Sansa liked to have her hair pulled back with pretty ribbons. She liked the way they fluttered in the chilly air around her and that morning had been no exception. A light, silvery blue ribbon kept her fiery curls back in a braid as she followed Robb down to the stables. They had each been gifted with a pony only a week before on their birthday and each day since, they'd gone down to see the beautiful creatures. She had decided to call her pony Ruby. The mare was a chestnut color, but when the sun reflected off her coat, bits of red could be seen.

Robb had laughed at her, calling the name Ruby silly. Sansa didn't think that the name for his own pony was better. Iron Sword was the gray color of iron and had an impatient temperament that matched Robb's. The pony sometimes liked to kick the stable boys when his stall was being mucked out, but never had the pony kicked Robb. At the door to the stables, Sansa beamed happily at seeing her lord father. Racing down the path towards him, Sansa held out her arms. Eddard caught her in a hug and smiled down at her as Robb approached at a slower, more dignified pace.

" Have you come to see our ponies again?" Sansa asked happily.

"No," Eddard told her with a gentle smile. "I've come to give you and Robb your first riding lesson. Jon will join us as well."

Her eyes widened with excitement that she could barely contain as Robb whooped with joy as solemn Jon Snow approached them with his hands tucked behind his back. Robb shared his happiness with Jon and Sansa couldn't bring herself to be unhappy that her bastard half-brother would be with them. Quickly, their lord father herded them towards the bailey where Ruby and Iron Sword had been saddled and waited with the stable master and a third pony that Sansa recognized as the dusty white and grey one called Stone. Eddard lifted her onto the pony while Robb and Jon boasted that they did not need their lord father's help. A quick lesson was had about how to hold the reins and how to urge the pony forward and make the pony stop. Sansa listened with complete attention on her lord father as one of the stable boys moved forward to hold onto Ruby's bridle.

Minutes later, she was on Ruby's back moving around the bailey and a smile was on her face. Never had she felt such freedom and happiness as she sat in the saddle, holding Ruby's reins delicately as her father had showed her. Behind her, the stable master held Iron Sword and Robb wore an identical expression of happiness. The wind blew in her hair as her father smiled and told her that she could move the horse a little faster after a few laps around the bailey. Ruby moved her head the wind caught her dark brown mane and Sansa imagined that Ruby would look beautiful with a braid in her mane, tied off with a ribbon. Her own ribbon was caught by the wind and tickled her cheek as the stable boy made another circle around the bailey. Sansa vowed that she'd find a matching ribbon for Ruby and together they would be the prettiest pony and lady that Winterfell had ever seen...

Gazing down at Blackwater Bay, Sansa didn’t care that she was alone and it was dark out. Even in the darkness, she couldn’t suppress her tears at the memory. It was one of her very first memories as a child and one of her very first memories of her father, Robb, and Jon together. Ruby was still alive, sequestered at Winterfell in the barn where her father had kept the older horses that had been retired from field work and riding. He'd once told her that even the older creatures that lived in Winterfell deserved to a few years of joy and peace before they died. She'd thought him silly for his ideas, but Sansa felt a sharp pang in her chest as she thought about Robb and Ruby.

As she'd grown older, she'd had less interest in riding. Iron Sword had fallen a few years after that memory, breaking his leg and the stable master had been forced to kill the animal. Sansa would never forget the memory of Robb trying to be brave as Iron Sword had been killed. In private, Robb had cried, but he'd told her that he couldn't let the others see him cry. He was the heir to Winterfell and instead of crying, he'd turned his attention to Ruby. Sansa had not cared that Robb had been the one to take care of the aging pony. He'd even promised to look after Ruby before she'd left Winterfell for King's Landing. Her lack of caring pained Sansa now. The memory brought with it an acute sting of guilt and heartache. Ruby had been a joyful part of her childhood and Robb's and Sansa wanted nothing more than to reach out and hug both Robb and Ruby again. She wanted to cry and beg Ruby's forgiveness for not being as attentive as she should have been to the pony and she wanted to cry and hug Robb. She'd shunned hugging him in public because she hadn't wanted to look weak in front of Robert Baratheon and his family.

Desperately, Sansa wished more than anything she could hug Robb again. To smell his pine soap and breath in his easy nature that made her feel safe and protected. More than anything, Sansa wanted that memory back. She wanted the easy happiness and the feeling of carefree freedom that she'd felt on Ruby's back. For just a moment, she craved those feelings. If she closed her eyes, Sansa felt them before they faded into doubt and despair and an unbearable ache for home and the life she'd left behind.

The starry sky gave enough light and finding a bench that was carved out of a wall. Two pillars were on either side of the bench and sitting down, Sansa leaned back against one of the pillars and pulled her feet up to lay out across the length of the marble. It was smooth and the cold easily seeped through her night shift and dressing gown, freezing her warm bottom and thighs. She didn't care. The cold was something other to feel than her aching heart. The cold that was beneath her was a like an anchor, holding her in the present and reminding her that no matter what, she couldn't change the past. She could hear urgent steps coming down the path, but she didn't move to stand. Sansa didn't have the strength and something told her that the footsteps weren't threatening. Moments later, the two figures appeared around the corner and a torch burned between them. She could easily make out the faces of her lord husband’s commander and Ser Jorah as they stepped forward.

Ser Jorah wasn’t wearing armor, only black boots, beeches, a white tunic and a hastily looped sword belt around his waist with his sword hanging precariously off his hip. The look of panic that had been on his face morphed into a look of relief as he dropped his torch into the circular iron pot that was not far from her feet. The oil inside ignited and flames came alive, dancing through the slots that had been cut into the black iron.

“Lady Lannister,” the Commander murmured with a bow. “It’s late to be wandering the castle.”

“Something woke me,” she confessed softly. “I needed to walk.”

It was a small lie, but Sansa reflected that it wasn't a complete lie. Parts of her body that had never ached before were beginning to ache from just the smallest things and she did often find herself needing to change positions. She looked humorlessly at her feet. When she stood, she could no longer peer down at them, the roundness of her belly prevented such a thing. It was good to see that her feet were as swollen as they felt upon the smooth stone.

"I will stay with her," Ser Jorah told the Commander.

The Commander nodded and returned back to the Tower of the Hand, no doubt to call off the search party that had been formed. He stood near the burning fire and she looked up at him curiously.

"Where is the Lord Hand?" Sansa asked softy after a moment of silence.

"The King summoned him on business," Ser Jorah explained vaguely. "Lord Lannister was most displeased when Jerion delivered the note. I believe that there is something about the Eyrie and the wedding that has upset the King so."

Resting her head back against the pillar, Sansa imagined that her cousin had replied to the wedding invitation and announced that he was not coming. Robert Arryn had never been in good health. Sansa had heard plenty of rumors about how he still suckled at his mother's breast despite being an older boy. She imagined that not having the Lord of the Eyrie at his wedding was insulting to Joffrey. The young king was shaping up to be the sort of man that took every little slight to heart and demanded retribution at all costs. It was not the sort of behavior that one wanted to see in a king, Sansa reflected. Especially if the king was demanding to see her lord husband at all hours to plan retribution.

Tywin Lannister was not a man that enjoyed being pulled out of bed before he was prepared to leave it. It was not difficult for her to imagine Tywin's anger at being summoned by the king so late in the night. The sound of Ser Jorah clearing his throat broke Sansa's thoughts as she looked up at her knight with tired eyes. Her body screamed at her to fall back asleep, but the racing of her mind and the uneasy, broken feeling that overwhelmed her couldn't be stopped.

"You told the Commander that something woke you, my lady," Ser Jorah said quietly. "May I ask what it was?"

Sansa closed her eyes. She was making the man stand out in the night with her and she supposed that he did deserve an honest answer. Taking a deep breath, she slowly exhaled as she opened her eyes and looked at the stars, twinkling like thousands of diamonds in the night sky.

“A chill like nothing I’ve felt," she confessed to him softly. "Something has happened, Ser Jorah. Something horrible and I think it happened to my brother tonight. I’m missing something and I can feel it. It’s like a part of me has faded and I can’t figure out where it gone and how to get it back.”

Ser Jorah said nothing and Sansa was grateful for the silence. She would never be fully alone, but this would be the closest that she would ever come. Her mind raced, but it kept coming back to one memory in particular. The last time she had seen Robb.

…The arrow whizzed through the air before landing in the center of the target. Sansa slowly lowered her bow and looked at the target with satisfaction as Robb stood next to her, aiming at his own target. A bundle of arrows sat on a table between them and in the silence of the archery yard, Sansa allowed herself to forget her sadness. She felt at peace with Robb and when he spoke, she found that her heart wasn't as deeply hurt as it had been earlier as she nocked another arrow.

Will you miss this place?” Robb demanded as he let the arrow fly.

It missed the center of the target and Sansa smiled wearily. Her brother had never been a good marksman. A blade in his hand made him dangerous, but an arrow did not inspire the same sort of fear. Pulling her own arrow back on the bow, Sansa let out a smooth breath as she released it and with a resounding ‘thud’, the arrow hit the center of the target.

“Perhaps,” she murmured. “I am to be queen and I most likely will not return here, Robb.”

Her brother made a humming noise in the back of his throat and she wanted to scowl. Ever since the announcement that she was to be the bride of Prince Joffrey, Robb had privately made his feelings known to her that the betrothal was a mistake. He firmly believed that they should speak to father about seeing the engagement broken, but Sansa had firmly told him not to interfere. She had always dreamt of being queen and living in King's Landing with servants and maids and grand tourneys. Robb had told her that it was all horse shit, but she'd shushed him.

"Joffrey's queen," Robb said with scoff. "I don't like him."

"You don't know him," Sansa defended.

" I see the way he looks at you. I see the way he looks at other girls, the maids, the serving wenches...he's got a vile streak in him. I can tell, Sansa."

"You know nothing, Robb Stark."

"I know that he's not going to treat you well and you'll be miserable. You're so desperate to be a queen and a grown woman that you've forgot that you're barely out of the school room," Robb said quickly. "I love you, sister, just don't grow up too fast and forget to learn what monsters look like in the real world."

Sansa lowered her bow and arrow and looked at him with narrowed eyes, "You're impossible and worse than Arya, if possible."

"Oh, be angry with me if you like," Robb continued as he raised a bow nocked with an arrow. "You know that I am right."

Angrily, she narrowed her eyes at him before letting the arrow fly towards the bull's eye. It hit its target and her fury boiled over as she childishly threw her bow down and marched away from Robb...

A tear fell down Sansa’s cheek as she closed her eyes. The thought of Robb’s smile filled her with a sense of longing, and overwhelming pain. Something that she couldn’t fathom or understand, but it existed and all she wanted was to hug him tightly. Not even when they had been separated as children had she felt such pain. How she desperately wanted to go back and talk to him about something other than being a queen. They had never spoken again after that conversation, not privately and she hated that their last conversation at Winterfell had been one of anger. He'd done his duty to her. Robb had warned her and she'd been silly and stupid about the whole thing.

There was no way to fix the past, but Sansa felt the aching sense of loneliness fill her until it was nearly unbearable. Her denial was strong, but she couldn't suppress the part of her that whispered that she'd never see Robb again. There would be no chance to tell him how right he was about Joffrey and she'd never get the chance to tell him how sorry she was that she'd been angry with him. Ser Jorah said nothing as he stood with her. The birds came to life, singing their early morning song in the gardens. Life was awakening all around her without a care that she was unwell. Sansa was reminded of her fathering once saying that nature never stopped for anyone and she supposed that he was right.

At some point, Lann found her and hopped up onto the stone bench, curling himself in her lap. Sansa didn't even have the energy to pet his orange fur. The sun slowly crept up over the horizon causing the sky to bleed colors of red, purple, and orange. All reflected on the water of the Blackwater Bay and the beauty took her breath away. She could not deny that she was tired, but she was unmoved by the heavy waves of tiredness that crashed into her. When the sun was halfway above the horizon, she heard the familiar steps that belonged to her lord husband. When he sat down on the stone bench beside her, she could smell his lemon and sandalwood soap. His hair was still slightly damp and he'd looked as if he'd shaved. His crimson doublet was embroidered with golden roaring lions and his sword belt was strapped around his narrow waist as it always was. Sansa imagined that she must have looked a fright in her night shift and dressing gown. Her braided hair was coming undone, strands blowing in the morning breeze and her feet still bare.

She didn't care.

Her heart ached as she fought the urge to set her head back against the stone pillar and close her eyes. Exhaustion overwhelmed her, but she couldn't bring herself to close her eyes and sleep. Tywin looked her over with a critical eye and a deeply rebellious part of her wanted to snarl at him and claw at him for judging her in any capacity. The depth of her feelings were so intense that it surprised her.

"Leave us, Ser Jorah," Tywin commanded and her sworn sword obeyed, slowly retreating to a respectable distance down the path.

"How was your meeting with the king?" Sansa asked, but he ignored her. Lann was picked up and promptly dropped on the stone path way at her feet. The cat hissed at Tywin and attempted to claw at his boots, but a kick that purposefully missed the cat sent Lann running back into the gardens.

Looking out at the bay, Sansa saw that the sun had fully risen and sighed. She'd have to push away her problems and face the day. That would be the speech that Tywin was about to deliver. She had duties to attend to and it was unseemly for Lady Lannister to be caught in the King's Gardens in only her nightshift. Bracing herself, Sansa put her chin to her chest for only a moment before taking a deep breath and lifting her head. Tywin's emerald eyes were still gazing over her and she swallowed hard.

"You should go back to bed and lie down," he told her. "Leaving the tower was foolish. There are plenty who would see harm done to you and wandering around the gardens in the early hours of the morning would give them prime opportunity."

His words surprised her. She'd been expecting a lecture, but his words were not hard. If she wasn't mistaken, she swore that she'd seen a brief flicker of worry behind those hard, unyielding emerald eyes. As quick as the flicker had been there, it was gone.

"Nothing happened."

"This time," Tywin growled. "You're not to leave the tower without an escort of guards. I've already spoken with Ser Jorah and the Commander."

"Very well," Sansa conceded. "I will do as you command."

Tywin said nothing as she continued, "I promised to meet with Lady Margaery this morning."

"I will send your regrets that you cannot meet with her. I'm sure that she will understand that you need extra rest," Tywin said as Sansa sat up and swung her legs so that her feet were flat on the stone pathway, the stone was cold beneath her bare feet and she shivered slightly.

"It would be rude to break such a meeting in order to sleep."

"I am certain that given your condition, the Lady Margaery would understand," her lord husband challenged, his eyes narrowing slightly. "Your health, not her wedding, is more important, Sansa."

She ignored his informal use of her name. Rarely did he ever call her anything informal outside of their bed chamber and she knew that he was attempting to coerce her into doing what he wanted her to do. Sitting on the edge of the bench, Sansa gripped his forearm for a brief moment when a wave of dizziness passed over her. A heartbeat later, Tywin was close to her. He dispatched Jerion to send for Maester Broots and have the maester meet them in her bedchambers. His hand was pressed against the center of her back as she bowed her head, silently begging for the dizzy feeling to leave her.

"I've been sitting too long," she told him. "I just feel a little unwell. When I stand, I will be well."

Her words sounded unbelievable to her own ears as Tywin stood. He held out two hands for her to take and the muscles in her legs screamed at her when she stood. Sansa had not anticipated how weak she felt upon standing. Tywin did anticipate her weakness and compensated for it by holding onto her hands tightly. She leaned towards him, resting her tired head against his chest for one moment before lifting her head. "I am fine," she pronounced to him, but her words had no sway over him. He looked unconvinced and when they turned to walk down the path to return to the Tower of the Hand, he kept both hands wrapped around her elbows. His grip was firm, but gentle and she supposed that he would be ready to catch her should she faint like a maiden in distress. She was too tired for the thought to amuse her as it might have.

"You will lie down for the morning and will leave the bed chamber when the maester pronounces your health sound," Tywin murmured to her as they entered a deserted corridor inside the castle. The guards that had accompanied her lord husband moved ahead of them and two soldiers walked behind them as they slowly made their way towards the stairways. It was a slow walk to her bed chambers with each step seemingly more exhausting than the step before. She said nothing, but Sansa suspected that Tywin knew how truly unwell she felt.

In her bed chambers, Maester Broots awaited them and Shae was there as well. Quickly, she was changed into a clean nightshift and helped to bed. Tywin surprised her by remaining in the chamber as Broots conducted his examination. He asked questions and she mostly lied in response. Sansa wasn't willing to give the man the whole truth. Instead, she told him that pain had awakened her and the need to walk had driven her out of the bed. The chest pain had diminished, but she'd felt far too weak to walk back to the tower and had found a place to sit. The entire exchange had been tense with Tywin standing at the foot of the four-poster with his hands clasped behind his back and an unreadable expression on his face.

"A fortnight of bedrest at the very least," Broots pronounced once the interview was completed. "I worry, my lady, that the stress and strain of court life have overwhelmed you. I suspect that the pain was the babe's way of telling you that more rest is needed. I will always give some dream wine to help you to sleep, my lady."

Sansa wanted to object to the idea of resting for a fortnight, but she felt too weak and the looming presence of the Lord of Lannister made her reconsider whether or not it was wise to challenge Broots openly. As Broots turned away to fetch the goblet of dream wine, Sansa dared to glance at Tywin. His posture was tense, but there was something in his eyes that she couldn't describe. She was suddenly overwhelmed with the need to reach out and hold his hand. She needed his unwavering strength and she wanted to reassure him that she was alright. Before Sansa could act on it, Broots returned with the goblet and she accepted it when he offered it to her. The dream wine was sweet as she downed the dose in one swallow. It was Tywin who took the empty goblet from her hand as he sat down on the edge of the four-poster bed after he dismissed Broots.

"What did Joffrey want this morning?" Sansa asked softly as she settled back into the pillows.

"Why did you leave the safety of this tower?" He demanded with a snarl and she did her best not to flinch. She berated herself for thinking that he cared. His only concern was the babe she carried and that concern did not extend to her well being. Settling back into the pillows, Sansa told her self that it was the combination of exhaustion and the dream wine that was making it difficult to stay away.

"I can't explain it," she murmured. "I just had to walk."

Tywin said nothing as he stood and left her alone. A moment later, Shae came into the chamber and helped her to get comfortable. Lying on her side, Sansa could see through the open double doors to where Tywin was standing over a table in the central sitting room. Her last thoughts were of curiously wondering why he was working from the room instead of his favored map room.

EDITED 5/29/2019 Beta'd by A.L.D. 


Chapter Text

Part Thirteen: Sons & Daughters (Part I)

"…And I will keep you warm
I will build a fire in this house
And I'll build a fire, you fetch the water
And I'll lay the table
And in our hearts, we'll still pray for sons and daughters..."

~ "Sons and Daughters" - Allman Brown

Three Weeks Later

Mid-January, 300 AC

The Red Keep, King's Landing

Tywin Lannister only ever answered to the summons of the King of the Seven Kingdoms and no one else. He was livid as he walked to the old private chamber that had been used as the meeting place of the Small Council under Jon Arryn and Eddard Stark. It was where Joffrey had summoned the various members of the Small Council for some mysterious gathering. The arrogant white cloak that had summoned him had nearly lost his life for failing to tell him what was happening. Tywin was not a man that liked being caught unaware of what was happening. He would concede that for the first time, he was caught and it infuriated him.

Sansa's time was drawing close and she'd been wincing from side pain every so often over the past few hours. For most of the late morning and early afternoon, they'd been together in the Hand's gardens. Shaded by a red tent, she'd assured him that the babe was simply kicking her as hard as it possibly could, but Tywin had a sneaking suspicion that she was lying to him. When she thought he wasn't looking, a panicked expression marred her face when she touched her side. He wondered if she was experiencing actual labor pains and the babe was coming early. It was not impossible. Maester Broots had predicted that the babe would be born in early February, but childbirth was not an exact science. Tywin had been around his mother and Joanna enough to know that babes rarely did what they were told inside their mother's wombs.

He'd watched his mother attempt to coax plenty of babes to stay where they were to prevent an early birth and only Gerion had listened to her. She'd died in the end, but his brother had been born hale and screaming as his mother had wanted. Servants had been posted outside the garden and he'd discreetly left Maester Broots with Sansa under the guise that the Maester was fixing his quills. Ser Jorah Mormont and his Commander stood guard over Sansa as well. Several handmaidens that would no doubt do exactly as they were told in the event something happened were also, present. They had descended upon his lady wife after the noon meal and would no doubt continue to annoy Sansa until she'd dismiss them as politely as she could. Shae had been the closest maid at Sansa's side, attempting to coax his lady wife into eating something. Even lemon cakes could not interest Sansa in eating and her dismal appetite had been noted by several members of his household.

Tywin had never been a man to enjoy the outdoors when trying to write. He enjoyed his peace and quiet, but when Sansa had arrived in the map room confessing that she wanted to sit in the Hand's garden and watch the bay while she knitted a blanket, Tywin accommodated her desire. After her episode of wandering around the gardens and the bedrest that had followed, Sansa was not allowed to wander as freely as before. Ser Jorah or the Commander were at her side constantly and he'd imposed strict orders about her movements. Sansa hadn't seemed to care about his rules and Tywin half suspected that it was simply because her health was becoming fragile. Maester Broots saw her daily and the pain in her legs was almost constant. The maester had voiced his concerns that Sansa's weakness would continue as the babe grew under her heart.

It was these concerns that had made Sansa's request to go outside all the more surprising. His lady wife didn't enjoy the stairs and she often spent her days in the sitting room that connected their chambers. However, her simple request could not be ignored. Surprisingly, he'd found himself telling her that he would join her. He told himself that he wasn't going to leave her alone. The morning had passed pleasantly and it had been during the afternoon meal that she'd had a sharp pain in her back. She'd brushed off his concern, but it had only hardened his resolve not to leave her side. He wouldn't leave her, not when her body was possibly preparing to bring his next heir to Casterly Rock into the world.

In the early afternoon, twice Sansa had looked on the verge of falling asleep and before he could command her to bed to rest, she'd raise her head and began working on her blanket again. His focus had been divided between watching his lady wife and writing letters. He'd found a good rhythm to accomplishing both tasks. He had even contemplated reading to her from the book of Valyrian poetry that she dearly loved if it persuaded her to return to her bed to rest.

It had been Joffrey's summons that had pulled him away from her side and he angrily clenched his fists as he walked towards the old Small Council chamber with several soldiers following him down the corridor. He disliked being summoned by any man let alone Joffrey. His little shit of grandson was grinning gleefully when Tywin entered the chamber and sat down at the head of the table as Joffrey pranced about the room. Varys was there as well and looked uneasy as did Grandmaester Pycelle.

"How is the Lady Sansa today, my Lord Hand?" Varys asked politely to break the near unbearable tension in the room.

"She is well and resting," he stated as Cersei did little to hide her look of utter annoyance. He dealt his daughter a glare that she shrank away from and kept her silent. He was well aware of Cersei's belief that his next child was not the legitimate heir of Casterly Rock. In her mind, only Joanna's children were legitimate heirs. What his daughter failed to understand was that the child Sansa carried would unite the North with the South and erase the tarnish that his older children had left upon the name of Lannister. There would be no rumors of incest between his children that Sansa bore him. Those children would be his legacy and above reproach.

Quietly, Tywin had been making plans to have Cersei sent away from King's Landing until it was time for her to marry Ser Willas Tyrell after the royal wedding. He had also been making arrangements for his new child to be guarded at all times with soldiers that were truly loyal to him and him alone. He did not doubt that it was beyond the realm of possibilities that Cersei would try and harm her sibling. Robert's bastard children had been murdered, all sixteen of them, and it had never been truly clear who was responsible for the idea, Cersei or Joffrey. Tywin Lannister refused to take any chances with his wife or child's life. He was well aware of how deranged his daughter and grandson were. The whispers he'd been hearing made the hair on the back of his neck stand on end and produced a shiver down his spine. There could be little doubt in his mind that Joffrey's madness was the result of incest between his children. Before anything else could be said, the door to the council chamber opened and Tyrion waddled into the chamber on his stunted legs. He hopped up into the seat at the end of the table and dealt Joffrey a look of clear disdain as he reached for the pitcher of wine and a goblet that had been set out in front of both Varys and Pycelle.

"Killed a few puppies today, Your Grace?" Tyrion asked as he sat at the end of the table looking just as annoyed Tywin felt. Joffrey ignored the jibe, he was too happy to care that he'd been insulted. It did not stop Cersei from dealing a look of utter hatred at Tyrion.

"What is this summons about?" Tywin growled, extremely displeased to be summoned, let alone being kept in the dark about what the meeting was about. He was a man who knew almost every coming and going of court and knew all the plots and intricate details of those around him. To be kept in the dark and unaware of what his grandson was doing was not something that he would tolerate in the future. The room was silent except for Joffrey's footsteps on the stone floor as he paced, muttering about how the day was glorious and deserved to be remembered with a feast.

"Your Grace?" Varys prompted when no reply came and Tywin turned to glare at Cersei with narrowed eyes. It was clear from the way his daughter uncomfortably shifted that she knew what the gathering was about. She had no doubt helped her son to orchestrate the entire gathering, but before he could press her and force her to reveal what she knew, Joffrey spoke.

"There is one more were waiting for and then I will deliver the news," he said gleefully with a clap of his hands.

For a second time in as many minutes, the double doors to the private chamber was opened by white cloaks. All eyes turned towards the doorway as Sansa walked into the room as gracefully as one could in her condition. Her head was held high despite the tiredness Tywin could see on her face. Her shoulders were not back as they always were and she slouched a little as she nodded her head at the white cloak who'd opened the door. Her expression was blank, but he could see the pain in her eyes. Tywin could hear the soft whispers of her silk dress on the stone floor as she crossed the chamber and approached the grand table. She was not dressed in the elaborate silks that Cersei was dressed in red and gold silks, but the white silk dress and grayish-green outer coat was no doubt comfortable. The sunlight caught the five silver clasps that held the outer grayish-green gown together and he could tell that the white gown beneath had golden strands embroidered just beneath the bust and down the length of the skirt.

"Your Grace," she murmured, bobbing half a curtsy. "You summoned me?"

"Yes! Ah! We are now a completed party!" Joffrey announced as Tywin stood, anger pulsing through his veins as Sansa made her way towards him. "What a glorious announcement I have to share!"

Tywin Lannister clenched his fists as he stood and glared at a shrinking Pycelle. In a heartbeat, he knew what news Joffrey intended to deliver and he would see to it that Pycelle never listened to his moronic grandson again. Explicit instructions had been given to the Grand Maester that when the raven arrived bring confirmation of Robb Stark's death, Joffrey was not to know about the news. Instead, the information was to be given to the Hand of the King and he would inform the King at a later time. From the nervous look on Pycelle's face, Tywin surmised that the man understood that retribution would be swift and painful.

"Is there reason you summoned the Lady Lannister to this meeting?" He demanded of Joffrey, his words biting, causing Pycelle to wince. He was going to clobber his grandson for forcing his heavily pregnant wife to walk from the Hand's Gardens to the Small Council chamber without his permission or knowledge. Just from looking at Sansa's pale face, Tywin knew that she needed to be in her chambers resting, not walking up flights of stairs and through corridors.

"It's a celebration, Grandfather," the king said with glee. "Everyone is invited including the fat woman."

He meant to insult Sansa, but Tywin suspected that she was too weary to even listen to the king. Pushing back his own chair, he made available the only chair for her to sit down in. He knew what news Joffrey meant to deliver and found it best that she should be seated. He would beat the boy later, Tywin promised himself, after he taught Pycelle a lesson. He'd put a sword in the boy's hand and yank him onto the field and beat the good sense that Robert Baratheon never beat into the boy.

Better yet, he'd take off his sword belt and make use of it as his grandfather had done to him when he'd been a boy. Sansa crossed the chamber with her head down and lowered herself to sit in the chair as Joffrey took out the parchment that he'd been waving around since Tywin had entered the chamber. She sank back in the chair and her hands were clasped tightly in her lap. The only outward sign of agitation that she revealed was the twisting of the pearl and garnet ring she wore on her index finger, a gift that he'd given her a few days earlier. Her knuckles turned white as Joffrey pranced about the room and finally stopped. Thrusting the letter under Tyrion's nose, Joffrey demanded that the Imp read it loudly and clearly.

Turning away, Tywin walked over to the empty fireplace and rested his foot on the grate. His insides seethed with rage as he looked into the blackness below him, his arm resting on the mantle. For a moment, Tyrion declined to read the note. It was the sound of a dagger being drawn that had him turning, hand on the hilt of his own sword, ready to defend Sansa and the babe at any cost. In a few steps, he was standing at her side, ready to put down his rabid grandson if the boy was foolish enough to threaten violence.

"Read it!" Joffrey raged, pointing the dagger at Tyrion. The dwarf took the letter and adjusted the parchment so that he could read it before clearing his throat. Beside him, Sansa stiffened and clutched the arms of the chair tightly. Her spine was impossibly straight and she looked weary as Tyrion glanced over the top of the letter at them both. Tywin nodded, knowing that there was no way to stop the information from being delivered.

"Lady Roslin had caught a fine, fat trout," Tyrion read aloud. "Her brothers have given her a wolf pelt and a fish's scales for her wedding gift. Signed, Walder Frey."

A moment later, Joffrey was whooping with joy, "Robb Stark is dead. He's dead! Pycelle, write back to Lord Frey and thank him for his services. Command him to send Robb Stark's head. I'm going to display it at my wedding feast. What do you think of that grandmother?"

The room was silent as all eyes turned to look at his lady wife. Tywin attempted to reach out and rest his hand on her shoulder, but Sansa suddenly pushed herself to stand. She was exceptionally pale and her hands shook as her whole body trembled. She tried to hide it, but failed miserably. Tywin moved closer by instinct. She looked like she might faint and fall, but she dodged him and stood at the window, looking out into at the blue-black water of the bay.

"Answer your king," Joffrey snarled as he stalked towards her. "You stupid wolf bitch."

In one step, Tywin intercepted his grandson, his hand on the hilt of his sword. His finger itched to pull out his blade and end the bastard king where he stood, but the scrapping of wood on the stone floor pulled him off the cliff where he teetered. He'd killed men for less and he wanted control of a situation that had been spiraling out of control long before he had arrived in the room.

"Step back, boy," Tywin hissed at Joffrey with an expression that would cause men to piss themselves. "I will cut you down where you stand if you take one step more."

"I am the king!" Joffrey declared with a snarl. "You would not harm me."

To prove his point, Tywin let the sound of his steel leaving it sheath echo in the room. Cersei was standing the next moment, racing to her precious little king to protect him. It only made Tywin growl with fury. Most men would have already died or ran from him in fright. Not Joffrey. No, Cersei clearly had more sense than her stupid son. She pulled Joffrey away and slowly, Tywin let his sword slip down into the sheath again. The room was silent again until Tyrion spoke up as he put the parchment down.

"You should sit, Lady Sansa."

"I am well," she lied, her trembling voice betraying her weakness. "I have no answer to give to His Grace regarding the matter of my brother's h-h-head."

"Your Grace, Lady Lannister is your grandmother," Varys counseled quickly as he shot a worried look towards Sansa. "It would be most inappropriate to do such a thing."

"Joffrey did not mean it," Cersei said dismissively as she looked at him with fear and worry. Tywin narrowed his eyes at her and dealt her a glare that would have killed her, if looks could kill. Joffrey was her son and she could not control the boy. "He simply meant it as a joke, Father."

"Excuse me, I feel unwell," Sansa said suddenly, moving for the door. Varys was quick to stand and go after her as Tywin glared harder at his eldest child. He'd let the eunuch tend to his lady wife for the moment and as soon as it was settled that Robb Stark's head would not be displayed at the wedding feast, he would leave and see Sansa back to the Tower and into the care of Maester Broots.

"I meant it," Joffrey declared as the air in the room shifted from unease to outright fear. "I'm going to display Robb Stark's head at my wedding feast."

"You will do no such thing," Tywin growled. His voice cast a chill over the room and not a soul dared to move except his mad grandson. Tyrion looked to Cersei and his daughter reached for her son's hand attempting to soothe the mad boy to no avail. Joffrey shook off her hands. His grandson quickly moved around the long table and pointed his ringed finger at him as Cersei shrank back from the look he dealt her.

"Yes, I will," Joffrey said again, his face turning red with anger. "I am the king!"

"Any man who must say, 'I am the king' is no true king," Tywin snarled as he clasped his hands behind his back, his knuckles turning white from the restraint it took not to beat and kill his grandson. "I'll make sure you understand that when I've won your war for you. You seem to have a history of making miserable choices and this will not be one of those moments."

"I am the king!" Joffrey yelled, his voice echoing off the stone walls. "My father won the real war. He killed Prince Rhaegar and he took the throne while you hid under Casterly Rock!"

In one violent move, Tywin stuck down Joffrey with a satisfying crunch as the boy collapsed to the floor and cried. Blood gushed from his grandson's nose as Cersei stood and quickly moved to help Joffrey to his feet. His grandson's glare could not match his own and the boy shrunk away into his mother's arms. A silence filled the room as Tywin's unwavering, piercing glare overwhelmed Joffrey and the king began to cry.

Tywin could feel the rage boiling over as he looked at his grandson. Taking Eddard Stark's head had caused a war and now, he was winning the war for the bastard. Like the king before him, Joffrey made poor decisions and Tywin recalled another king that made even worse decisions. He'd done everything to secure power for his family and to keep the power and the peace. Joffrey had ruined it all in one moment and Cersei and Jamie had only fueled the war with the rumors of their incest and three bastard children. He would not allow another king to act like Aerys Targaryen. He would not allow himself to be the Hand that was mocked again by a paranoid king and he would not allow his wife to be harassed in a similar way. His grandson was no king and with each passing day, it showed. The burden of governing for Joffrey was far heavier than the benefit, Tywin thought. It was not the first time such a thought had crossed his mind.

Had he known that Joffrey had planned to surprise Sansa with the news of her twin's death, Tywin would have ended the thought before it ever began in Joffrey's mind. She was fragile like glass and the seven faces of god only knew what the death of another sibling would do to her in her condition. Tywin had planned to tell her the news after the birth of the babe. The child would ease her pain and give her something else to focus on besides the overwhelming losses that plagued her life. That plan was gone and Tywin clenched his aching fist as he looked towards Pycelle.

"The king is tired," he said quietly, his even tone making the occupants of the chamber even more uncomfortable. "See him to his chambers."

"Come along," Cersei said, her own fear and nerves clearly written across her face as she pulled Joffrey up to stand. The boy wrenched himself away and glared at his mother as he raised his hand to stem more of the bleeding from his nose. It was obvious that the blow had broken the boy's nose and Tywin felt satisfaction in that. It was not even comparable to the amount of pain that Joffrey had inflicted on Sansa, but it was one debt that was being paid.

"I'm not tired," Joffrey declared childishly.

"We have so much to celebrate. A wedding to plan. You must rest," Cersei coaxed gently.

"See to his needs and give him essence of nightshade to help him sleep," Tywin told Pycelle before he moved to leave the chamber. His mind already turning to focus on the issue of addressing the death of Robb Stark with Sansa and seeing that her distress did not harm her health or the babe's.

Sansa had heard both Varys and Ser Jorah call her name as she walked as quickly as she could down the corridors and stairs. The pain in her legs was almost unbearable, but somehow, she managed to not fall down as she used the stone walls to support herself. She left the chamber of the Small Council and had not looked back. Her heart was pounding furiously in her chest as tears blurred her vision. She hardly knew where she was going as she reached out for the stone banister at the top of the garden steps to steady herself. The smell of the fragrant flowers and birds chipping barely registered in her mind?

Was there no end to the suffering in the world?

With great difficulty, Sansa somehow managed to retreat to the Tower of the Hand. The doors to the sitting room that divided the lord and lady's chambers were open. She stepped into the safety of the private chambers, taking a shaky, gasping breath. Shae came to her a second later, quickly ordering Varys and Ser Jorah who had been chasing after her to summon a midwife. The woman was meant to check Sansa over and silently, she allowed Shae to try and guide her to bed. Ser Jorah left claiming he was going to fetch Maester Broots when her protest died on her lips. She couldn't breathe as she stopped and grabbed at the back of one of the chairs close to her. Pain radiated through her body and she gritted her teeth, hardly knowing what seized her. She cradled the roundness of her belly as the gnawing, biting pain took over. The entire world faded as the pain became her only focus.

It wasn't the pain that she had grown accustomed to from being beaten by the kingsgurad. No, this pain was something entirely different. It was the kind of pain that took her breath away and made breathing seem like an impossible task. The sensation only lasted for a few moments before it receded, but Sansa couldn't catch her breath as Varys came to her. Fear and panic flooded her mind as she held onto the chair tightly.

"You have to relax, my lady," Varys said gently. "Worry and strain are not going to ease the discomfort. I will find a midwife for you."

He quickly disappeared, leaving her alone with Shae and together, they walked to the bed chamber. Her heart ached, her head ached...everything ached as Sansa sat on the edge of the bed, clutching the bed post to next to her. Shae quickly brought a damp cloth and laid it against the back of her neck. The cool water felt good against her burning skin and she let out a shaking breath while Shae rubbed her back gently. It wasn't as comforting as Tywin's touch, but it was soothing. The pain hadn't returned, but inside she could feel her panic growing.

It was too soon, she told herself. The babe couldn't be coming. The maester had assured her that the babe wasn't due to be born for another three weeks at the most. The discomfort that she'd been feeling earlier had been false labor pains, but the pain that she'd just experienced...that was not anything like the pains from earlier. The babe couldn't come. It would be too early and she knew what happened to babes that were delivered too early. It couldn't be her fate and yet, the sharp pain she had experienced was too much. Somehow, the combination of the cool cloth on her neck and Shae's soothing touch helped her to relax and opening her eyes, Sansa decided that she couldn't sit any longer.

"I want to lie down, Shae," she whispered brokenly. "I want to change and I want to lie down for a few hours."

"I think that lying down for the rest of the day would be alright," Shae murmured as she pushed a loose strand of hair behind her ear. "Perhaps a nice cool bath this evening too?"

Before Sansa could reply, the commotion of men's voice broke the tranquil silence of the room and Sansa suppressed her desire to tell Shae to close the doors and lock them until Varys arrived with a midwife. Sansa would always be grateful to the Maester Broots for saving her life, but she did not want him attending her. She didn't want any reminders of Tywin Lannister around. He was the source of all her pain, mental and physical, and she wasn't sure that she'd be able to control herself if her lord husband came to her.

There was no doubt in her mind that he was behind her brother's death. Joffrey was not smart enough to engineer such a plot and execute it successfully. She had been the only person in the room to be surprised by the news and her lord husband's anger at Joffrey told her all she needed to know about the situation. Before she could think any more on what had happened, the sound of Maester Broot's voice brought her back to the present. She looked over her shoulder and scowled as she saw a second maester behind him carrying a bag containing the seven faces of god only knew what.

"My lady does not wish for your presence," Shae snapped as she blocked Broots's admittance into the chamber. "Lord Varys has gone to fetch a midwife for her and she will be attended to by that Septa."

"I demand that you remove yourself from this room," Broots snapped back. "I am here to examine Lady Lannister and the child. Lord Lannister will no doubt wish for news of his wife's condition when he returns to the Tower of the Hand. I will not allow a maid to interfere with such an important task."

Shae squared her shoulders and glared back, "I am her ladyship's chief handmaiden. My place is at her side when she needs me and now, she needs me."

"What her ladyship needs is a maester and the care that only a maester can provide. I do not require the assistance of a maid, but the assistance of a trained and skilled maester," Broots said stiffly as he stiffened his spine. "If you do not leave now, I will have you physically removed and you will face the wrath of Lord Lannister."
Shae glared at Broots as she reached out a comforting hand rested it on Sansa's arm, "I will be back, my lady. Do not worry, I won't be far from you. I promise."

Shae's hand slipped away and Sansa wanted to cry as another familiar face left her. The woman's leaving should not have been as painful as it was, but Sansa's chest ached anew as she suppressed a sob. Alone, she looked over her shoulder at Broots's advancing figure and jumped to her feet. Her legs felt weak but somehow Sansa was able to support herself. By sheer willpower, she stood and glared at Broots as he continued to step closer to her.

Words of rebuke were on her lips when white hot pain reached out with its fist and grabbed her. It was a hot, biting, flash of pain that felt like she was being cut with a dulled blade. It was the kind of pain that wasn't intense, but it was still painful enough to catch Sansa off guard. Leaning forward slightly, she gripped tightly at the elaborately carved bed post of the four-poster and tried to catch her breath as the pain overwhelmed every part of her being in a vice grip that wouldn't release her. Closing her eyes, Sansa tried to force herself to breathe. It was the only way that she could withstand the pain, she told herself. One breath at a time was how she was going to manage birthing this child. She was not going to scream as countless women had before her.

No, she was going to breathe and somehow survive like a dignified lady would.

It was what she'd always done.

"I don't want you here!" Sansa snapped through gritted teeth, barely aware of anything else.

She held on tightly as a pain swept through her and dug her fingernails into the wood. Just when she wondered if the pain would never end, it faded away. Released from the discomfort, Sansa closed her eyes and let out a long, deep breath. The pain would only grow more intense, she understood that and it frightened her more than she would ever admit. She couldn't do this alone and yet, Broots was the last person that she wanted in her rooms. Opening her eyes, Sansa watched as the maester walked towards her. She knew that he was trying to be comforting, but the way he held his hands out to her only seemed threatening.

When her legs didn't feel like they would collapse under her, she slowly moved to sit down on the edge of the bed, desperate for Shae to help her remove her skirts. The urge to have her legs free from the constraints of skirts was overwhelming. Hearing footsteps, Sansa was reminded of the present company and Shae's lack of presence in her rooms.

"This is your first child, my lady," Broots said, attempting to sound warm and calm. "Allow me to help you."

When the maester reached for her, Sansa easily batted his hands away. She did not want to be touched by anyone that answered to Lord Tywin. Before Broots could say anything the else, the sound of voices in the large sitting room outside her doors changed Sansa's attention as Lord Varys appeared with a stout Septa at his side. The woman was plump wearing the dour gray gown that Septas favored and a white hood and cap that identified her as a nursing septa, not a teacher. In her hands, she carried a small sack with wooden handles and frown caused her hairy chin to become pronounced. Her brown eyes narrowed as the older woman took in the scene of the bedchamber.

"In the name of the stranger, what is happening in here?" The woman demanded with barking voice that reminded Sansa intensely of Lord Tywin. She didn't know whether to laugh or cry at her luck if the woman was in fact the midwife that Lord Varys had brought to her. She didn't know whether or not she could handle being barked and glared at as she brought her first child into the world. Never in her life had she wanted her mother as desperately as she wanted her now.

"How dare you interrupt!" Broots snapped back with an angry look on his face. "Lady Lannister is entering her first childbed and will need silence and care. Who are you?"

"I am Septa Mariyam and I was told that a midwife was required," the woman declared with a biting tone that made even Broots look nervous. "And who are you?"

"I am the maester to Lord and Lady Lannister," Maester Broots said with his chin turning up a little with pride. It was a great office that he held, but Sansa didn't want him touching her. He was Tywin's maester and she didn't trust him, not after everything that had happened. Suddenly, the thought of her mother nearly caused her to sob with grief. Catelyn had been with Robb and if Robb was dead...her mother was dead as well. It was all too much and sinking back down onto the bed, Sansa felt tears rolling down her cheeks uncontrollably as her shoulders threatened to shake violently.

"Why is she still dressed if you're the maester?" Septa Mariyam demanded as she dropped her bag on the wooden chair by the fireplace. "If you're the maester, you're supposed be helping the girl with the pains, not frightening her. Come, my lady, let me help you out of the gown and into something more comfortable. May I touch you?"

The question was so soft and kind, a complete contrast from moments ago, that Sansa couldn't stop herself from completely breaking down and sobbing. Quickly, the septa wrapped her in a comforting embrace, a mother's embrace, and promised her that all would be well. Sansa choked on her words as she sobbed violently, breaking for the first time since her father's death. Nothing would ever be fine again, she wanted to tell Septa Mariyam. Nothing was alright because her family, those that she loved, kept dying and it was all her fault forever wanting to come south to King's Landing to marry the king.

Her mother and Robb were gone and Joffrey wanted to serve his head at the Royal Wedding. Maester Broots had simply begun giving commands, never asking what she wanted and Shae had been hurried out of the room in favor of a second maester to assist. Through her tear blurred vision, Sansa could see Septa Mariyam shoot a frightening look to Broots as she gently patted her shoulders. Behind her, Broots stiffened and cleared his throat loudly.

"Her ladyship, needs quiet and minimal servants to focus on the birthing—"

"Have you ever birthed a child?" Septa Mariyam demanded suddenly with a feisty tone. "Have you ever pushed a babe out of your womanhood? No? That's what I thought. We'll do whatever Lady Lannister wishes to help ease the pains and make this a wonderful, meaningful moment in her life. I won't let two maesters, who have never had children themselves, dictate what can and should happen. You may take care of everything else in the Lord and Lady Lannister's life, but in birthing this child, you will not."

The Septa's words were sharp, but her hands were gentle as she began undressing Sansa. Her outer gray-green gown was removed after the silver clasps were undone and the garment was quickly discarded. It was followed by the loosening of the back of her white under gown and the loosening of the gold band just under her heavy breasts. The feeling of the heavy skirts slipping away eased her burden and suddenly, Sansa wanted Shae.

"I would like Shae, my handmaiden," Sansa stated, trembling as she sat on the edge of the four-poster bed. Shae was quickly brought back to her and Sansa felt more tears gather when she saw the dark-haired woman.

"Don't cry, my lady," Shae whispered as she brushed her hair away from her face. "I was never far away from you. I promise."

Maester Broots and his companion were promptly sent away from the chamber by the Septa Mariyam and new Septas were shown in and introduced to Sansa. All the women wore kind smiles, and spoke in a soft, gentle voices. A new shift was brought to her and Shae helped her to change before brushing her hair was a comb and braiding it back. The bedding was stripped from the four-poster and replaced with different sheets. Septa Mariyam explained that the thicker sheets would prevent them from having to go through multiple sheets later. The bedding was a heavy wool, four fingers thick and a silk sheet that was placed over mattress to protect her skin from the rough wool followed by several sheets on top of the bedding.

Sansa thought that the wool cover was most likely there to prevent her blood from ruining the feather stuffed bed underneath should something horrible happen. Several pillows were collected and once she was allowed to lay back down in bed, the Septa helped her to find a comfortable position. It felt like an eternity of anxiety until another pain came and one of the Septa's scribbled on what sounded like parchment.

"She's taking note of the pains, my lady," Septa Mariyam explained softly when Sansa gasped out her question through the pain. "The pains will get closer and more intense. We simply want to make certain that you're progressing forward with the labor. Now, slowly breathe and find something else to focus on besides the pain."
Sansa did as she was told and the pain that had wrapped its tight fist around her eased a little. The sounds of a fire being started distracted Sansa for a few minutes as she rested, trying to get comfortable. After a while, one of the Septa's aids, a woman named Septa Maro, brought her a cup of tea to drink. The contents tasted vile, but Septa Mariyam had promised that it would help her to sleep for a few hours and ease the pains. Choking down the tea, Sansa reflected that she was more than willing to do anything to make the pain disappear and for the blessing of sleep to overtake her.

All the Septas had urged her to try and sleep, saying that she'd need her strength, but Sansa couldn't imagine how she could possibly sleep. Fear still held a tight grip over her as she thought about her mother and brother. Robb was gone, dead. Just as Catelyn was gone too. She wanted to weep for him, but she had no more tears of sadness to bring forth. She had no more tears to shed for the heartbreaks that plagued her life anymore. Worse, she felt like a traitor to him, she felt too dirty to even try and mourn her losses.

She was not blind nor silly. She knew exactly where the order had come from to murder her brother to end the war. Sansa's position was now a direct result of sharing his bed. She was attempting to bring the man's child into the world and her brother had been brutally murdered at their uncle's wedding. It was not the first time she cursed the seven faces of god as she listened to the soft Septa's prays to the Mother as they worked around the room.

Why hadn't Robb gone back to the North?

He'd still be alive. He'd be at Winterfell, attempting to rebuild it and he'd be alive.

What had been the point of staying below the Neck?

To save her?

No, she'd made certain that Varys had sent a small note, detailing how she had willingly wedded and bedded Lord Tywin. The whole purpose of the note had been to torture his pride and allow his men to convince him to go back to the North. Even if he was defeated, he'd still be alive.

Had mother interfered?

Had Robb not listened to her and taken her council in the prior letter that she'd smuggled to him about sending their mother away?

Exhaustion finally overwhelmed her and at some point, Sansa’s eyes closed. Slightly curled in a comfortable position, the gentle sound of the fire cracking, and the whispering sounds of the septas's robes on the floor lulled her to a place that was difficult to describe.

She wasn't truly asleep. No, her body ached too much for that. Time was passing her by and a second pain caused her eyes for flash open. Septa Mariyam softly talked her through breathing and ways to cope with the pain. Her body seemed to hurt in new and different ways with each pain. They were similar and yet different from the pains before. It been of the same intensity, it hadn't gotten stronger like the septa had said it would. Sansa hoped that perhaps the woman was wrong, but the small voice of reason in the back of her mind told her that she was silly to think otherwise. The midwife, an older woman that Varys had procured for her was gruff, but kind in her urgings to sleep. The Septa had no doubt helped to bring plenty of babes into the world. It was foolish to think that Septa Mariyam didn't know what she was talking about.

Time seemed immeasurable as she laid there.

Had it been hours or day?

Perhaps minutes?

She wasn't sure, but Sansa felt her eyelids grow heavy. Every muscle in her body slowly began to relax and she no longer felt any pain or discomfort as a blissful, dreamless sleep overtook her. Sansa's last thought was that she liked how Shae gently was running her fingers through her hair.

It was calming.

Tywin stood alone in the large sitting room that connected his chambers to Sansa's, gazing into the empty fireplace. It had been nearly two hours since Sansa had fled the Small Council chamber and he wanted to know what her condition was. He'd come back to the Tower of the Hand to find that Maester Broots had been turned away from his wife's bed chamber in favor of a midwife and a small regiment of septas that would attend to her. Ser Jorah stood guard by the door and both of men turned when the door opened and an older Septa stepped out. She bowed to him and cleared her throat.

"For now, the birthing pains have stopped and her ladyship is resting," the septa announced and it took all of Tywin's will power not to knock the woman down. What right did this woman have to turn away a maester to attend to his wife? He'd lost his first wife to childbed and Tywin had done everything in his power to ensure that he would not lose another wife to child birth.

"Maester Broots will attend to the birth of this child and--"

"Have you ever birthed a child, my lord?"

Tywin narrowed his eyes dangerously and was suddenly transported to a memory of being a young boy. He'd been seven years old, perhaps eight, when he'd spoken out of turn. The Septa that served his mother at the Rock had nearly decked him upside the head. The old bat had only died a year ago, but she'd been the only person that had ever made him nervous in his life, even as Lord of Casterly Rock. The short, plump woman before him with the hairy chin reminded him of the septa and the same nervous feeling enveloped him. Tywin Lannister hated the woman on the single principle that she made him feel and remember something that he had no desire to ever feel again.

"I don't know why it is you men think you can control a situation that you know nothing about," the septa continued. "Her ladyship asked for a midwife and would like to have her child in the peace and quiet of her bedchamber, surround by familiar faces. She does not want to be delivered of her child surrounded by maesters and their apprentices while on display for half the room, filled with unfamiliar men and I do not blame her one bit."

Tywin clenched his jaw and said nothing. The urge to strangle the septa for speaking to him the way she had overwhelmed him, but a small part of his mind restrained himself. The situation that he found himself in was by his own doing. A better lord husband would have made certain that private letters never fell into the wrong hands as it had done with Maester Pycelle. He told himself that the most important part was Sansa's health and the health of their unborn child. Nothing else mattered.

Tywin also reminded himself that it had been Sansa that had asked for the midwife.

Maester Broots had attended to her without problem in the months leading up to this moment. What had changed was her learning that he'd arranged for the death of her brother. To her, Broots would no doubt be a constant reminder of her lord husband. Distressing Sansa was the last thing that he desired. If the septa before him could find a way to prevent an early birth or even find a way to keep Sansa calm enough to successfully deliver her babe and live, Tywin told himself that he could suppress his urge to kill the woman. He didn't have to like the septa, but for Sansa and his unborn child, he would allow the midwife to attend to the situation.

"Maester Broots will be close by in the dressing room should something happen and my lady wife need him," Tywin growled back at her. "If you have to make a decision between my wife and child, you will, in every situation conceivable, keep my lady wife alive. Am I understood?"

The septa stared back at him. Tywin couldn't tell if she was fearless or stupid, but the woman nodded. For a single moment, they stared at each other as if daring to engage in a contest of wills when the septa cleared her throat and clasped her wrinkling hands together.

"Am I understood?" Tywin groweld again, demanding an answer.

The septa nodded again, "Yes, my lord. Your lady wife is sleeping. The pains have stopped for now, but they will most likely return soon. I've given her a drop of nightshade to keep her calm and restful. You may go in if you wish to see her, Lord Lannister."

He scowled at the woman, but gave the orders to Ser Jorah to see to it that Varys ensured that Robb Stark's head did not find its way to King's Landing before he stepped into Sansa's chamber. The door was closed behind him. In the late evening sun, Tywin could see that several pillows had been propped around Sansa. Two supported her neck and shoulders as a third, larger pillow was propped behind her head. A hand was curled under her chin and her body was slightly situated onto her side with two pillows slightly tucked under her back and hips. She looked restful, he thought as he moved to sit in the chair that had been placed at her bedside.

Sitting, Tywin examined her features. Even in sleep, she wore a look of discomfort. A line was between her two brows and she looked as if she was frowning. Even in her exhausted and uncomfortable state, he thought she was beautiful. He would never share his thoughts with anyone, but he supposed her to be one of the most beautiful women he'd ever laid eyes. Watching her sleep, Tywin found himself thinking of another woman who had birthed his children. He'd been through the trials of childbirth before and he understood that not even he could stop Sansa from dying if the seven faces of god decided that her life was the payment for allowing her child to live. He was helpless and it was not a feeling that he was accustomed to or enjoyed, but Tywin reflected that he was always destined to end up in such a situation again.

Joanna's lack of interest in coupling had made the act feel dirty. He'd always thought that when he married her, he'd have passion with her, but his wedding night and the nights after had left him disappointed. He would not have dared to force Joanna to do anything, but he had never wanted his marriage bed to feel like a duty to be performed. He'd expected the same situation with Sansa. God only knew that her abuse should have made her skittish and weary of him. He would not have blamed her. It would have been only natural and on some occasions, she wore a look on her face as if she expected him to beat her senseless. She could never quite hide that look as well as she did others, he thought. The blank mask of serenity she wore made it difficult to discern what she thought of most things, but that one look of dread shared more with him than any words about her abuse ever could. She was like a riddle to him on some days and he imagined that she felt the same about him. However, once the sun had set and they shed their clothing, when he kissed her...

Tywin Lannister had never been a religious man, but he understood what men meant when they claimed to worship a woman better than the seven faces of God. Her lips were soft and the first time he'd laid with her, he'd expected her to lie still and stiff like Joanna, but she hadn't. She'd explored his body as he had hers and she had enjoyed his intimate touch. Joanna had always been mortified by it, but Sansa had encouraged him. She'd gasped with delight and it had made the whole situation feel less like a duty and more like the pleasure it was meant to be. It had made him want her even more and he'd finally understood what had been missing with Joanna.

The thought had been so unsettling that he'd forced himself to leave her bed that night. It had taken a week to come to the conclusion that he could allow himself to enjoy relations with Sansa. Joanna was dead and gone. Sex with Sansa did not mean that he had loved Joanna any less, he had simply loved her in a different way. His relationship with her was not physical like it was with Sansa. It was different because neither woman was the same. Joanna had been full of life and happiness, he remembered that clearly. She'd been interested in politics and policy. She had not known the great sorrows of life like Sansa had. Joanna had been frail where Sansa was resilient. Both were clever, but Sansa understood court intrigue better than Joanna ever would have. Life had hardened Sansa into an unbreakable diamond where it had broken Joanna down over time.

Tywin could recall the fights that he'd had with Joanna leading up to her death. She'd kept things from him and wouldn't explain why. She wouldn't explain why Jamie and Cersei's rooms had been moved, she wouldn't answer his hinted questions about the babe she carried, simply telling him that she'd explain it all once the babe was born. Those answers had angered him and he'd never recovered from that anger. She'd died with the answers to all the secrets she'd kept. Afterwards, he'd been torn between mourning her and hating her for abandoning him to raise three children alone.

Now, Tywin wondered if she'd known about the disgusting rumors about his oldest children. He wondered if she'd caught them doing something and that was why the rooms had been changed. He wondered if she would have told him the truth about Tyrion. Instead, all of it had died with her in childbed. Sansa had no secrets to confess. He'd ferreted them all out from her. When he laid with her, her secrets became his and somehow, some of his secrets had become hers.

There was something about the physical closeness that he shared with her. Her bed was not a trial, but a welcoming place of pleasure. He had never willingly slept next to a woman, not after Joanna's death, but the night she'd gently asked him to stay, he'd found it impossible to say no. He hadn't meant for it to become a habit, staying in her bed after lying with her. He'd meant to do it only once and never do it again, but he'd found that it was not unpleasant to have her against him. He'd slept better with a body beside him in bed. Tywin had been surprised by the news that he'd gotten her with child so quickly, but he couldn't forget that he'd shared her bed most nights and she'd been just as eager as him to be together. Duty and pleasure became intertwined in a way that it never had before. He'd forgotten on several occasions why he was in her bed chamber, he'd been so caught up in bedding her.

Watching her sleep, Tywin Lannister knew that he was beginning to feel something for her. She was bringing to the surface emotions that he'd not felt since Joanna. Feelings that he'd long assumed had died with Joanna, but they were beginning to stir deep down and he hated it. It was why he'd wanted to kill Joffrey for breaking the news about Robb Stark's death. The moronic king had jeopardized not only his heir's health, but Sansa's and he refused to be raise motherless children again. Tywin clenched his fists as he slowly stood. The next child that Sansa carried would be born in the bedchambers at Casterly Rock. There would be no reckless kings or malicious relatives around to cause her distress, Tywin swore. He would have a battalion of maesters to see to her wellbeing and he would cut down anyone who sought to cause her any distress or unhappiness.

Watching her chest rise and fall, he was struck with the fear that the same fate would be fall her that had befallen Joanna. Had he not fought with his first wife before she'd gone to childbed too early with Tyrion? It was as if history was repeating itself and with one last look at his lady wife, Tywin left her bed chambers. He could stay and wonder if it would be the last time that her saw her alive. He was weak and he clenched his jaw with anger, not sparing a look over his shoulder.

Tyrion was standing next to a side table and pouring himself a glass of wine when Tywin looked up. His youngest wore an unreadable expression on his scarred face as he placed the crystal top back onto the decanter. Lowering himself into one of the winged back chairs, Tywin watched Tyrion waddle to the second chair. He said nothing as the dwarf lifted himself up onto the chair and sat without spilling a drop of wine. A fire had been started in the fireplace and crackled, breaking the silence.

"How is she?" Tyrion asked quietly after a sip of wine. "Is the babe coming today?"

Tywin said nothing as he stretched his legs out in front of him. Lann lifted his head from the rug and looked at his master from where he laid in front of the fire. The orange tabby's coat seemed redder in the firelight than ever before. Tywin's thumb brushed back and forth across his knuckles before he answered.

"No one knows," he said quietly as he gazed into the flames.

Tyrion said nothing as they sat waiting. It was only in the early hours of the morning when he and Tyrion were waked by Maester Broots. They were informed that Sansa's labor pains had begun again and there was nothing that could be done to stop the impending arrival of the next Lannister babe.

EDITED 5/29/2019 Beta'd by A.L.D. 


Chapter Text

Part Fourteen: Sons & Daughters (Part II)

"...And it's all to come

For now, we're still young

We're just building our kingdom

But it's all to come..."

~ "Sons & Daughters" - Allman Brown

The sun had long descended beneath the horizon and in only an hour or two, it would reappear on the horizon. The castle was waiting anxiously for news of Lady Lannister. Servants had not been to bed opting instead to linger in corridors and gossip about the fate of Lady Lannister in childbed. His Commander had posted a garrison of soldiers around the Tower to prevent prying eyes and men like Littlefinger from gaining access to places where they were not wanted. Tywin had been quite clear to the Commander that he hadn’t wanted to be bothered by anything trivial. He only wanted to sit and await the news of Sansa’s deliverance from child birth. In the darkness of the early morning, only the fire illuminated the room and a few candles that Jerion had lit.

Ever dutiful, Ser Jorah guarded Sansa's door and every so often, the door would open, a Septa coming and going and beyond her, he occasionally caught a glimpse of Sansa. She was always lying down, a pained look on her face as one of the septas tried to help ease her pain. It was a futile effort, but Tywin supposed that some distractions must help or else women wouldn’t do such things. She was always propped up by pillows and twice, he’d seen her lying with her legs opened as Septa Mariyam stood at the end on the bed. Her shift was always pushed up past her hips, but beyond her pale thighs, he couldn’t see anything.

Joanna had birthed twice in her short life and each time he'd been close to her. Not in the room, but close enough that if something happened he could come to her. Tywin felt himself remembering other aspects of childbirth that he’d witnessed at Casterly Rock. Joanna had wanted a birthing chair and as far as he could tell, Sansa had made no such demands. Joanna had wanted to be surrounded by maesters, Sansa had demanded a midwife. The differences were striking, but the end result would be the same. This time there was no exception to his previous unsaid rule of not being far away. Standing with his elbow resting upon the mantle above the fireplace, Tywin gazed down at the flames dancing as they licked the logs. He would have preferred to have been alone to remind himself that Sansa would no doubt hate him for murdering her brother, but he wasn’t alone.

Tyrion sat in a chair not far from him, a book opened across his lap with a half-filled goblet of wine in his hand. Cersei sat in a chair near the fire looking bored and vaguely annoyed by something. Tywin had no doubt that she was hoping for something ill to befall Sansa and her child. It was not the company that he wished to have, but it was the company that had been imposed on him. Tywin would have preferred having Kevan or Genna with him while Sansa birthed this new Lannister heir. Genna was still weeks away from making the pilgrimage to King's Landing and Kevan was looking for Lancel. The boy had disappeared after the Battle of Blackwater Bay and had yet to be found. Kevan was bound to return from his searching later and they'd sit together in silence, waiting for news of either Lancel or the newest Lannister child.

It was the sound of a particular cry of pain that brought him out of his thoughts. Tywin looked up at the closed door as Sansa cried out again. The pains were getting worse if her cries were anything to go by. According to Maester Broots, Septa Mariyam had given Sansa a draft to progress labor when her pains had stalled out earlier in the night. It was clear that whatever had been given was working. Tyrion looked uncomfortable by Sansa's muffled cry from behind the doors. Tywin said nothing to his youngest son as his gaze turned back to the flames, her cries would only become worse. They'd become screams of agony as she gave life, her cries now were nothing compared to what they would become as the day progressed.

It was Cersei's presence that Tywin detested. It reminded him of Joffrey and the whole troublesome day that had happened. His mind swirled with murderous impulses at just the thought of his grandson's malicious actions. Pycelle had already been dismissed as the Grandmaester and replaced by Broots. His own maester would see to the wellbeing of the family and would be a man that was competent and not afraid to listen to the Lord Hand instead of the sniveling brat that sat upon the iron throne. Joffrey had purposefully delivered the news of Robb Stark's death to Sansa in an attempt to cause distress. The boy had achieved his goal, but it would result in misery for him. Tywin was a Lannister and Lannisters always paid their debts. It felt as if he’d been lax of late when it came to exacting those debts. Pycelle was owed a debt as well as Joffrey and Cersei. In time, those debts would be repaid, but Tywin couldn't bring himself to act as Sansa attempted to bring a child into the world.

When he'd been in her rooms earlier, she'd been resting and hadn't looked terribly pained. There had been no chance to talk about Robb Stark’s death and what had truly happened. Waking Sansa to distress her more had been the last thing that he’d wanted, but there were things that she needed to know. It didn’t matter that they had been quickly blessed. Sansa needed to hear and understand the truth and Tywin had always planned that he’d tell her after childbirth when her health wasn't so frail.

The truth was that Tywin had not expected to be a father again so soon. He’d thought that he’d have time to end the war and return to Casterly Rock with Sansa before they’d conceive a child. He'd not conceived with Joanna as quickly as he had with Sansa. Tywin nearly snorted when he thought about the difference. With Sansa, he'd never left her bed and that was probably the reason that she'd fallen with child so fast. He'd also attribute it to her Riverlander heritage on her mother's side. For the first time in his life, Tywin wondered if he'd kill her eventually as well. Sansa was young. She'd bear him child after child until she was either killed in the process or he died.

The thought of her dying struck him with a pain that he hadn't felt since Joanna had died. There was not a question that he needed as many heirs from Sansa as they could produce, but the thought of losing her was not something he wished to dwell on. She was destined to outlive him for many years to come and guide their children and their legacy after he died. Tywin tucked the thoughts of future children away. Sansa had struggled carrying their first child, he could not imagine that her body or her health would permit her to carry over and over again as nature intended without intervention. He was aware of the different means a man could employ to prevent his seed from quickening in a woman’s womb.

However, any planning would be for naught if he lost her. If she died tonight because of Joffrey, Tywin promised himself that he would strike the king down. He vowed that he would and he'd claim the crown for his own child should Sansa's babe survive. He'd take the crown as repayment for the life that was stolen. He clenched his fist so hard that he nearly drew blood from his palm before he relaxed his arm and turned to face his oldest child.

"Should something happen to my wife or unborn child because of the news Joffrey delivered today, I will unseat him from the throne and kill him myself for killing a Lannister," Tywin promised, his voice cold and hard like ice as it penetrated the silence. Cersei looked up at him, her eyes wide and her face grim. Fury morphed in her eyes for a moment before it was replaced by fear as she stood up and moved towards him. She reached for him, but he pushed her hands away. The knowledge about the possible truth between Cersei and Jamie was filthy and he could not stand to be touched by such filth.

"He did not mean harm," Cersei said softly, pleading with him as she stood before him. "He loves you."

"He's a monster and he did it because he knew that it would hurt her," Tyrion said quietly before Tywin could respond. The dwarf set his goblet of wine down and closed the book that was opened across his lap.

"You're a little monster," Cersei snarled as she viciously glared at her brother. "You read the letter aloud!”

“You’re only angry because I’m mother’s favorite,” Tyrion taunted with a smirk.

Cersei clenched her fists and looked like a serpent ready to strike its pray. Before she could reply, another cry pieced the night air. Tywin stared at the doors and watched as one was opened by a septa. She scurried out and whispered something to Ser Jorah. Beyond, he could see Sansa laying on the bed. Pillows had been propped behind her and she was looking up at the canopy, a look of pain and misery marring her beautiful face as she shook her head.

“No more. No more, please," she begged.

The door was closed again and he was instantly distracted by Cersei launching herself towards Tyrion with a murderous expression on her face.

"You caused this you little monster, remember that," she hissed, her face inches from Tyrion’s face. “You read the letter aloud. You killed mother and if Sansa dies, it will be your fault as well.”

"Out," Tywin demanded with a snarl. "Both of you."

Cersei looked at him with a fake expression of hurt as he glared at both his children to leave. Tyrion hopped off the chair and followed Cersei’s sweeping form out of the chamber. For several minutes, silence filled the chamber and Tywin moved to sit. Sending Tyrion and Cersei had been the right thing to do, he reflected as he sat down in the chair that Tyrion had been sitting in. Resting his elbows on his knees, he stared at the fire as another muffled cry came from behind the doors. He could hear the agony in Sansa's voice.

There was no way he could ease her pain and as a man of action, being helpless was not something he enjoyed. 

At some point in the night, Tywin had fallen asleep in the chair. It was the flick of Lann's tail across his chest that awoke him. The cat sat on the table with an expression on intense satisfaction at disturbing him. The room was too quiet and Tywin waited. A minute later he could hear Sansa's crying again and the sun was just beginning to creep over the horizon. He wasn't sure how long he'd slept, but he couldn't pace the room or sit in a chair any longer. Standing, he walked to the double doors that led out of the sitting area and summoned his Commander to meet him in the training yard. He needed to move, he needed to force away the anger that was just beneath the surface.

In a short amount of time, the Commander had arranged for soldiers to come and test their skills with him. In the training yard, Tywin didn't know who the men where, but one by one, he bested them. They thought him weak and old and didn't realize that behind his silver hair was a lion that was just as fierce and battle-hardened as any man. The first few men had been easy to fight and as his soldiers began to fight back like he was a younger man, the training became harder just like he wanted. The fear of clashing swords with him must have faded as the soldiers stepped forward, anxious to gain the glory of being the man that beat the Great Lion of Casterly Rock.

Hours later and breathing heavily, Tywin stepped out of the sparring ring and handed his blunted live steel to Jerion. He raised a ladle of water to his lips and took several gulps of the cold liquid. Behind him, Tywin could hear the silly trumpet that Joffrey insisted on using to announce his arrival at various times. Dropping the ladle into the water bucket, Tywin turned to see his soldiers kneeling to the king before standing and bowing their heads in respect. Joffrey was dressed in a ridiculous black doublet and cape that was embroidered with golden stags and roaring lions. Tywin resisted the urge to roll his eyes. His grandson presumed that he had the right to wear the sigil of House Lannister and it was a problem that Tywin meant to resolve.

"Your Grace," Tywin said in acknowledgement with a slight bow of his head. Behind Joffrey and his kingsguards, Tyrion waddled into the training yard with Ser Bronn of the Blackwater following him leisurely. It was Tyrion who stepped forward and politely enquired about Sansa.

"I have not been informed about her progress for the last few hours," Tywin admitted as he looked up at the sun. "She was still in childbed when Maester Broots approached me when the sun rose this morning. They will come tell me when the child is born and give no other information."

It was closer to the evening meal than the noon one, Tywin supposed as he looked up at the sun. He hadn't realized that he'd spent so many hours with his men in the yard, but he supposed that the Commander wouldn't stop bringing him opponents until he declared that he was finished for the day. Suddenly, Tywin could feel every ache and sore muscle in his body. He was not young anymore, but he reminded him himself that the discomfort he felt was nothing compared to what Sansa was no doubt experiencing. Turning away, Tywin walked towards where his master-at-arms had laid out various tourney blades and blunted live steel. He wrapped his hands around the pommel of one of the blades when Joffrey spoke.

"Has she not finished whelping her pup yet?" Joffrey asked with an arrogant look on his face.

"You mean birthing," Tyrion corrected as his eyes darted from Joffrey to Tywin and back. "Women birth babes, bitches whelp pups, nephew."

"I meant what I said. Grandfather, I mean to fight you. I heard that you've been besting your soldiers and I thought that perhaps you'd enjoy a swordsman of equal talent to your skills."

He looked over his shoulder to see Tyrion's amused expression as he walked towards the outer wall of the training yard where a cover bridge stood. It was the same covered bridge that Sansa had used as shelter when she'd wanted to spy on him, Tywin thought. He pulled out a second tourney sword and held it out to one of the kingsguards, a silent bid to give it to the king. If his grandson wanted to battle, Tywin had no objections to teaching the boy a few well-earned lessons.

"No," Joffrey proclaimed loudly and shook his head at the offered sword. "We'll use live steal. I don't want some silly tourney sword, Grandfather. Bring me my sword."

The soldiers that were gathered stopped speaking and not a soul said a word as the red Lannister banners flapped in the breeze. Tywin held the second tourney sword in his hand for a moment, testing the weight. His grandson wanted to give the soldiers a show. The boy thought that he would win their approval by beating his old grandfather with live steal and Tywin half wondered if Joffrey had been watching the fighting earlier. He had used blunted live steal with his soldiers, not true live steal like Joffrey was suggesting.

Putting the tourney sword away, he reached for a true piece of live steal before he handed off the second tourney sword to the Commander. Wisely, the younger man said nothing as Tywin stepped into the sparring ring as a servant bowed down and presented Joffrey with his sword. A great flourish was made as the king removed his sword and inspected it. Tywin knew what the blade looked like, he'd gifted the boy the blade for his tenth name day. Gripping the blade that he had in his own hand, he reflected that no one had yet to teach his grandson that the sword was not important. A truly great soldier was able to wield any weapon and not rely solely on his own sword in battle. Such a skill could be the difference between life and death.

Tyrion looked nervous as he climbed the steps and muttered something to the guards. Tywin was certain that the dwarf was sending someone to fetch Cersei and the thought almost made him happy. Let his daughter watch as he taught her pathetic son a lesson. Something no one was able to do in the wretched castle except him. Joffrey slipped jeweled leather gloves onto his hands and Tywin suppressed a snort. He’d never seen a more ridiculous waste of money. The straps of leather bindings on his hands protected his palm and wrist and yet, he could freely use his fingers and feel the sword in his hands. In the bulky gloves that Joffrey wore, holding his sword would be difficult at best. When the last servant retreated from the sparring ring, Tywin looked over his grandson and could see a weakness in his leather armor he wore to protect himself. It was good that Joffrey wore protection and he did not. The breeze coming off the bay was cool and through his linen tunic, he could feel it drying the sweat on his back. The protection would slow the boy down as would the ridiculous gloves.

Joffrey was the first to make a move.

He swung in a large arc and Tywin easily deflected the blow. It was not impressive by any standard and it was quickly clear that his grandson had no sense of pacing. Joffrey's muscles tired and the large arcing blows that had begun their fight turned into weak jabs. It was pitiful to watch and to think that the boy's father was possibly Jamie, the realm's greatest swordsman. The thought only further enraged Tywin as more thoughts arose about Cersei and Jamie's disgusting sin. Years and years of practice had honed his skills in swordsmanship and Tywin saw his opportunity against Joffrey. The young king's side was left undefended and in a move that he would have used on the battlefield, Tywin shoved his body weight into the king's shoulder with all his might and forced his sword down to clash with the king's.

Joffrey fell and a shrieking cry left his lips as several kingsguards rushed forward to only be stopped by a wall of Lannister soldiers. On the ground, Joffrey cradled his hand, his index finger missing from his hand, completely severed after the second knuckle. Crimson blood, the color of House Lannister, was trickling down his hand and pooling on the dirt. Crouching, Tywin pulled at the leather straps around his hands and freed one. He wrapped the leather tightly around Joffrey's wrist in a tourniquet to slow the blood flow before leaning closer, his face inches from his grandson's.

"If you seek to torment or harm my lady wife or her child again, I will relieve you of the affliction caused by the rest of your hand," Tywin growled, his voice like bitter icy winds. "If my wife and child die today because of your foolishness, I will relieve your shoulders from the burden of your head as a debt to be paid. Am I understood, boy?"

Joffrey said nothing as he shook. The pain clearly overwhelmed him. Tywin stood and handed off his sword to a soldier as he walked away from the sparring ring. Kevan was waiting for him at the top of the steps with Tyrion when he reached the landing. He looked over his shoulder to briefly see Cersei cradling Joffrey in his arms as Maester Pycelle was sent for to tend to the King's hand. There was another debt that had to be paid. Accepting a flagon of water from his brother, Tywin took a large gulp as a young woman that he recognized as being one of Sansa's ladies-in-waiting came running up to them breathlessly and bobbed half a curtsey.

"I've been told by Septa Mariyam to tell you that Lady Lannister has been delivered of her child only minutes ago."

Pain was all she could feel.

It was something that she couldn't understand and wave after wave of it stole her breath away. Sleep the day before had been blissful. Whatever the Septa Mariyam had given her had allowed her to sleep relatively undisturbed for several hours until it had worn off and the pain of a contraction had forced her awake. She’d been surprised to learn from Shae that Lord Tywin had sat with her for some time while she slept. He'd privately had words with Septa Mariyam and Shae hadn't known what they'd spoken of, only that they'd spoken. Sansa hadn't been able to dwell on such a thought, the pain had taken her away and it had been overwhelming.

At first, the pains had been manageable and she’d been able to rest while they happened. They had hurt and she’d cried, but as the night had progressed the pain had progressed as well. Septa Mariyam had encouraged her to close her eyes and try to sleep, but getting comfortable had become impossible. The change in pain came sooner than she'd anticipated. Sansa supposed the thing she’d like about the earlier pains was the rhythm. She’d been able to sleep in between the pains and time them in her head, but as the night passed, it had changed. The pains became longer and there was no rhythm to them. They lasted long and barely gave her a chance to breath in between the pains.

The abuse from the kingsguard was nothing compared to the pains she face now. Had she known that the pain would be so horrible, she would have never welcomed Tywin Lannister into her bed. He had caused this to happen, she thought as the pains faded a little. It had been his seed that had quickened inside her and had he not been given the chance to bed her, she would not be in such a position. As quickly as the thought came, the pain would fade and for a brief moment of clarity, Sansa would think about the pleasure of sharing her bed with Tywin. There was closeness and dare she say affection when she was with him. He kissed her and he'd become a man that only she was able to see. It was her secret to guard from the world. Tywin wanted others to fear him, to remember Castamere. He didn’t want others to see him as the man who always made certain that his wife enjoyed their time together as much as he did. If she could have smiled, Sansa would have and then, she was reminded of Robb and she’d start crying as her heart broke all over again.

Her beloved brother, murdered by her lord husband, a man that she’d grown to care for. It was a horribly tragic tale that her younger self would have found romantic. It was nothing romantic. Only heartache and pain filled her life, not romance and knights like she'd once believed.

Even in the pain, she found no reprieve. There was no place where she was not bothered by all the thoughts swirling in her head. The pain and those thoughts stole everything away from her. The pains were sharp and biting, long and tortured. It was like she was surrounded by knives with blades that burned like fire, stabbing into her while she lay in a field of broken, jagged glass that slipped beneath her skin. The pains were something inhuman and hurting in an unholy way, rendering her nearly senseless as she gasped, the sound breaking the still air in agony.

All thoughts quieted once the pain took over fully. She could hardly hear the septa’s voice encouraging her to breathe beneath the roar that was waves of pain, coming one on top of the other with barely a moment to breathe in between. Sansa wasn't even sure how that simple task worked anymore. Her chest expanded and would fall, over and over again, but the task seemed so incredibly difficult as the pain wrapped its fists around her and wouldn’t let go. Time seemed to be immeasurable to her. Sunlight flooded the room as the day progressed, the septa insisting that the sunshine was good for mother and baby despite Broots’s protest that the windows should be closed.

Little seemed to exist outside the wall of pain that had draped itself over her like a thick blanket. She couldn’t decide if she was thankful for the pain or if she wanted to scream. Thoughts faded into the background as the only thing that she could focus on was breathing through the pain that stole her breath away. However, in the moments that she wasn’t in pain. Her mind returned to the one truth she could not escape.

Robb and Mother were gone.

Murdered to end a war.

Each time she thought about it fresh tears would assault her and she hated herself. In truth, Sansa knew that she should not have been surprised. It had been a lie to tell herself that there was a happy ending in all the trauma and hurt. She had known the truth and had simply ignored it instead of facing the reality of war as she should have. In a war against the Lannisters, no enemy would live. History was a witness to such a truth and perhaps in some ways, she'd always known the truth. Why had she sent those letters of warning to Robb in the first place? She had always known the truth, Sansa realized. She'd simply ignored the other truth that Tywin was capable of unbelievable violence and cruelty. She couldn't change him and she'd been a fool to think otherwise.

In bedding him, she’d allowed herself to become blinded to his true nature. He was a complicated being. A man who could lie in bed and patiently await feeling his unborn child move and a man who could also organize the murder of an entire wedding party. How could he kiss her like he did? Sansa couldn’t stop the tears that rolled down her cheeks. She wanted to hate him, but she hated herself more. The night she’d felt pain and had been awoken from a dead sleep, that must have been the night that Robb and Mother had been killed. Something had been wrong and she’d known it.

Yet, she’d done nothing.

She’d gone on and even though some part of her knew, she’d buried her feelings. Sansa could still remember how after her fortnight of bedrest, she’d willingly allowed Tywin back in her bed. She’d welcomed him happily and she nearly blushed just thinking how she’d laid in the same bed next to him. On her back and him on his side, she’d eagerly spread her thighs and let his fingers touch her body. Sansa wanted to weep, she wanted to cry and scream at him. She'd been beginning to learn how to trust him and he’d smashed her. As another pain seized her, Sansa wanted to scream for everything to stop. She'd thought that she was ready for motherhood and sharing a child with Tywin. Everything was different now and Sansa wanted to laugh at the notion that she'd ever been prepared in the first place to have a child with Tywin Lannister of all people.

As pain overwhelmed her body, she let her thoughts fade away in favor of curling inward towards the pain. It was a little easier to breathe that way, but the thoughts never truly left her. Her mind ran wild, painting entire nightmares for herself of what would happen to her and her child. Robb was dead, Tywin had secured the North, the war was over...what use did he have for her now?

"I can't," Sansa cried, shaking her head. "No more, make it stop."

The entire process of birth was undignified, she thought as all of her was bared to Septa Mariyam and her septas. Nothing was like she thought it would be. Scooted towards the head of the bed, Sansa fisted the sheets as a particularly painful contraction seized her. She couldn't hold back the scream that escaped her lips, but it was impossible to resist the urge to bare down and push.

"Very good, my lady," Septa Mariyam cried happily with a smile. "When the next pain comes, do the same thing! Do it again and again and your babe will be in your arms soon!"

Soon, Sansa lost track of how many times she pushed with the pain. She couldn't think, couldn't count, she couldn't function. The world faded away around her with only Septa Mariyam's voice occasionally breaking the barrier. Time had seemed immeasurable throughout the birth. Pain was her ruler and she couldn't remember anymore what it felt like to not be in pain any longer.

With one last push, Sansa screamed as she bared down. It felt as if she were being burned in half by a white-hot rod and split in two by Ser Illyn Payne's blade. Just when she thought that it would kill her, she heard it. It was perhaps the sweetest sound that she'd ever heard in her life and suddenly, her baby was being placed in her arms. Red and filthy, the babe cried as Shae quickly wrapped a warm blanket around the little being. Sansa couldn't tell if she were crying or laughing, but she smiled as she looked down at the babe in her arms.

Her child was perfect with Lannister blond hair that was no doubt inherited from Tywin.

The late afternoon sunlight illuminated the chamber as he stepped into it. It had taken him only a few minutes to wash and change with Jerion's help. Ser Jorah stood guard outside Sansa's doors and Tywin closed the elaborately carved wood doors bound in black iron behind him. Sansa was propped up in the grand four-poster bed. Her hair was washed and freshly braided. She wore a new clean shift and her crimson dressing gown as she cradled her small, swaddled baby. Tywin knew that bathing her and changing her clothing was something that the septas had done to make her look better than she actually was for him to see. It probably made Sansa feel a little better as well, but nothing could hide the look of pure exhaustion on her face when she looked up at him.

Her cold blue eyes showed exhaustion and a weakness he had not seen in a very long time. Coming closer to her side of the bed, the small babe in her arms made a noise and she looked down at the child. It was as if she'd forgotten he was even in the room as she delicately soothed the baby into silence with the practice of a young girl who'd been left to care for her siblings more than a girl should. She was gentle with their child as she looked back up at him with weary blue eyes. Instantly, Tywin recalled her telling him that she'd taken care of Arya and Bran after her youngest brother's birth. Catelyn Stark had fallen into a fit of melancholy that had lasted months and young Sansa had been left to take care of her mother's babes while Eddard ruled his keep and the North.

"Did the ladies tell you anything?" she asked softly, her voice hoarse.

"No," he said quietly as he sat down on the edge of the four-poster bed. "I thought that any news should come from you and you alone, my lady."

For the first time in their marriage, Tywin saw a true smile cross her beautiful face as she gazed down at the child in her arms. He was not fond of smiles, but Sansa's whole face was illuminated with joy and happiness. It only added to her beauty and silently, Tywin promised himself that he would do all in his power to see her smile more. He felt exceedingly weak and foolish for making such a promise, but he could not forget the feeling that Sansa's smile created in her chest. It was something that he had not felt since Joanna had been alive and even then, he'd never felt such a strong emotion when Joanna smiled. Pushing the thoughts away from his mind, Tywin easily focused on taking in everything he saw and committing it to memory. He never wanted to forget this moment.

"I thought I knew pain before this moment," Sansa confessed when she looked up at him, her voice equally soft and tired. "I also thought I knew what love was, but now that I have my own child in my arms, I see that I am entirely wrong. Would you like to hold your son, Tywin?"

He did not have the words in that moment to say anything. The thrill of being able to hold his son and know that the boy was truly his rushed through him as he nodded his head. Leaning towards Sansa, he felt her wince as she moved to give him the boy. Carefully, they transferred their son between them, mindful of his head and just when Tywin thought that she'd pull away, Sansa surprised him and pressed a kiss to the little boy's forehead.

"He's perfect," she whispered as she slowly laid back against the pillows. "Have you decided what we are to call him, my lord?"

He'd held only a handful of newborns in his life, but one never forgot how to hold them. Supporting his son's head with the crook of his arm, Tywin held onto the life that had more than likely been created in the very bed where they sat. The same bed where at nights, he'd laid and felt the strong kicks that this little being created. It was as mystifying as it had been when he'd been a boy feeling his siblings kick in his mother's belly. Joanna had never been inclusive about such things. After having conceived Jamie and Cersei, she'd considered their need to share a bed ended and she hadn't wanted to be touched during the months when she had carried the children. She had not wanted to be touched either when she had carried Tyrion. His pride would never let him admit such a thing to Sansa, but this little boy was the first of his children that he'd ever felt nudge his hand while it rested against a mother's growing belly. A feeling in his chest grew as he made the connection that all along it had been his son that he'd been feeling under Sansa's skin.

"Tywin?" Sansa asked softly and he looked up at her. Her head rested back against several pillows and she looked weak. Not truly ill, but weak like she was holding onto the threads of consciousness as tightly as she could. He would not be surprised if she fell asleep at any moment.

"He was not too much of a trial, was he?" Tywin asked, trying to remember how a man was supposed to inquire about the health of one's lady wife after the trial of birth. "You're well?"

"The Septa tells me that his birth was not as easy as it should have been for my first child. She claims to have attended more difficult ones, but now that he is here and Broots has given me enough milk of the poppy to sedate a small pony, I am well. But do not think that I have forgotten about my brother, Lord Tywin. Have you picked a name?"

"Tyren, son of Tywin," he told her as he looked up from gazing into his son's face. "I had not planned for you to discover the truth about your brother in the way that Joffrey presented it. Had I known what he was doing, I would have never allowed you into the chamber."

"It does not matter how I discovered the truth," Sansa said coolly, attempting to keep back her tears. Her eyes were as steely as her voice when she spoke again. "My brother is still dead and nothing can ease that pain. There is nothing that anyone can say to explain away his death or my mother's. I know that she was at the Twins with him and Uncle Edmure. I also know that it was war and yet, you murdered them at a wedding party. Somethings only the Gods can forgive and this is one of those things. You owe me a debt, Tywin Lannister."

His son slept peacefully in his arms and Tywin watched him. He could not ease Sansa's pain, but he hoped that Tyren would be able to bridge the gap for her.

"Is it better to kill a dozen men at a wedding party or thousands of men on a battlefield?" he prompted, hoping that she would see his line of thought. When he looked up again, Sansa was looking at him and Tyren with a torn expression on her face. She looked at them tenderly, but she also looked like she wanted to cry.

"I feel as though I have traded one life for another," she whispered tearfully. "I have lost my brother and mother and gained a son. I am happy, but I feel consumed with guilt for my joy. Nothing you say can ease that or justify my brother's death. I know that he would have met it some way whether it was on the battlefield or sickness or even being murdered by one of his own men. You and I both know that my father and brother did not cause this war. You know the truth as well as I do and I will not allow my son to grow up in such madness."

"Your mother was spared," Tywin said quietly as Sansa's eyes were wide and tearful as she looked at him. "Not all were massacred like you think. Joffrey was not aware of my plot. The only person that was meant to be killed was your brother. Bolton and his men turned the murder of one man into a massacre. Edmure Tully was not meant to be killed nor was your goodsister, Lady Jeyne Westerling. Joffrey will remain in ignorance until Lady Catelyn arrives here."

"You spared her?" Sansa asked, raising her head from the pillow with an expression of true shock on her beautiful face. "Why?" 

"I killed your brother to end a war, what was the point in killing your mother as well? I am a cruel man, but not cruel enough to take away all those that you love. No, Lady Catelyn will live here and when our second son is old enough, he'll claim the title of the Lord of Winterfell. Eventually, if we are blessed, a third son will inherit Riverrun. Edmure Tully is dead. I meant to use him as an ally seeing as how you're his niece," he explained. "I had hoped to spare your uncle's life, but he inserted himself into the fight and was killed. Lady Catelyn will be free to live out the remainder of her days with you as a grandmother to our children at Casterly Rock."

"Just because you spared my mother does not mean that I forgive you for killing Robb, Lord Tywin."

"Nor would I expect you to forgive me. We'll speak more when you're strong enough." 

Sansa nodded and relaxed into the pillows even more as he looked back down at his son. Tyren was small and as Tywin pushed the blanket back to examine his head, he cupped it gently. Light blond hair covered his son's head. It was sparce on the boy's head, but it was as soft and silky as anything he could remember touching. It was his blond, Tywin realized. In his youth, he'd had a full head of shoulder length blond hair. Time had turned it silver and his headline had receded, but Tyren would have the famed Lannister blond hair. His son's features were too little to determine who he looked like, but his ears were perfectly shaped and his eyelashes were long.

Tywin imagined that being born was an exhausting business as his son slept, oblivious to the fact that he was being closely examined. Each small hand had five fingers and reminded him of the starfish that sometimes washed ashore on the beaches of Casterly Rock. He'd been fascinated with the starfishes as a child and even now when he ventured down to the beaches for a quiet walk to think, he was curious about the creatures when they washed ashore. The moment his thumb brushed over Tyren's palm, the boy had locked his little fingers around him in a vice grip that was surprisingly strong for someone so little.

He'd have a good sword grip, Tywin thought to himself as he stroked the smooth, soft skin of his son's arm with his other fingers. In sleep, Tyren's grip relaxed and Tywin moved to examine his tiny feet with five toes on each. The baby's feet were no longer than his thumb and someday, he'd be a grown man. It was strange to imagine and yet, Tywin could feel pride in the boy. He was little, but undamaged in every way. In his arms, he cradled the future of his great house. There would be no rumors of incest and no filthy rumors of whoring and drinking to sully Tyren's name, no malicious rumors that would disgrace House Lannister. No one would take his son away from him as Aerys had done, Tywin vowed as he cradled the sleeping child. Tyren would have the weight of the world some day on his shoulders, but he would shape the boy into being everything that the Lord Lannister of Casterly Rock should be and teach him how to carry such a burden. He would not fail Tyren as he had somehow failed his other children in teaching them what it meant to be a Lannister.

Looking up to speak to Sansa again, he saw that she had closed her eyes. Her chest rose and fell slowly and he imagined that she deserved the sleep that had taken her. She had looked so weary when she'd handed Tyren over to him that he was surprised she'd managed to speak for as long as she had. Standing, he walked to the bassinet that was not far from Sansa's bed. Tyren softly cried for only a moment when Tywin laid the child down in the bassinet and opened his eyes. They were as clear a sky blue as Sansa's, but Jamie and Cersei had also had blue eyes when they'd been born. Blue eyes that had turned to sea foam green like Joanna's. However, something inside him made Tywin feel that his children by Sansa would all have her blue eyes. Tyren blinked a few moments and taking the carved lion that he'd had commissioned for his son, Tywin laid it to rest by his boy's feet. His first gift for the boy.Tyren was a lion of Casterly Rock and it was only fitting that the boy have a little lion nearby. 

In the quiet of his lady wife's chamber, Tywin smiled down at Tyren for a moment before moving back to the four-poster bed. Leaning over Sansa, he pressed a gentle kiss to her forehead as she slept. Pulling himself away, he silently moved the elegantly carved wooden chair to the side of the bed and sat. Reaching out, he held Sansa's hand in his as his arm rested on the bed. In the distance, he could hear the seven bells from the Great Sept of Baelor in the distance. Tyrion had no doubt passed on word of his wishes to have the bells tolled at the birth of his heir. Closing his eyes and resting his head back against the chair, Tywin felt utterly content with the knowledge that he had ended the war with Robb Stark and that he had a healthy, newborn son.


EDITED 5/29/2019 Beta'd by A.L.D.


Chapter Text

Part Fifteen: If I Had a Heart

"...This will never end

'Cause I want more

More, give me more, give me more

If I had a hear I could love you

If I had a voice I would sing

After the night when I wake up

I'll see what tomorrow brings..."

~ "If I Had a Heart" - Fever Ray

Six Months Later

Mid July, 300 AC

Tower of the Hand, King's Landing

Tywin stood in his private solar overlooking the Hand's gardens and watched Sansa and Tyren together. In the shaded part of the garden, a blanket had been laid out in the grass, Sansa and Tyren could easily enjoy the breeze coming off the Blackwater that helped to soothe the unbearable heat wave that had taken hold of the city in recent weeks. In his little basket, Tyren laid looking up at Sansa as she played some childish game with him that involved her smiling and covering her face over and over as Ser Jorah and other Lannister soldiers stood guard around the parameter of the garden.

Tywin imagined that to Tyren, Sansa was the center of his small world. The little boy, despite being born a week or two early, was growing quickly and would be a tall man. He was hale and a quiet babe, but he was content in his mother's arms and liked to look curiously around at the world. The sight before him was something that Tywin recognized as being a gift. Instantly, he was drawn back into the moment when he thought he'd nearly lost them both...

...Tywin looked up when he heard the sound of silk on the stone floor.

It was late in the afternoon and he was surprised that Sansa was not napping. The morning had been exceptionally busy being the celebration of Tyren's sixth week of being alive. Consequently, his anointment ceremony had happened at nine o'clock that morning as well as Sansa's reception back into the Faith of the Seven. A breakfast reception for nearly two hundred guests had followed and by noon, Tyren had been exceptionally unhappy at being introduced to so many different faces. When his normally placid son had begun screaming, Tywin had nearly smiled in amusement. He'd felt the same way. It was all a silly tradition, but it had been observed for tradition's sake.

He watched as Sansa walked towards the long table with the mother's veil that she'd worn early noticeably gone. The gold lace veil had been embroidered with golden lions and soft pink and purple flowers. Until the Septon prayed the Mother's prayer, thanking the seven faces of God for delivering Sansa from her child, she'd been unable to remove the veil inside the Great Sept of Baelor. There was some silly, obscure religious tradition involved and Tywin couldn't remember what it was. The damned High Septon was a long-winded man who'd spoken for nearly an hour about the miracle and gift of life. Tyren had slept for most of the ceremony. He'd only squawked unhappily when oil was poured over the top of his head. Tywin had found his attention waning as the ceremony proceeded. Instead of paying attention as Sansa had done, Tywin had found himself watching her. In the weeks after Tyren's birth, Sansa had not let him near her. Standing shoulder to shoulder in the chilly sept had been nearly unbearable. Her perfume had taunted his senses and the way her skirts brushed against his leg when she shifted had tested his self-control in a way that it had not been tested in a long time.

Even now, he felt that all-consuming tingling sensation in his fingertips. Sansa still wore the elaborately embroidered gown of dark bluish green with golden underskirts that peak through as she glided towards him. She was as strikingly beautiful as she’d been wearing her wedding gown, but there was more womanly features to her. Her hips were rounder, and childbearing had darkened her red locks. Her waist was no longer as trim as it had been before, but he rather liked how she looked now. Sansa was not a girl anymore and her looks reflected that. She was a grown woman and a mother and his fingertips yearned to reach out and discover if her skin was softer than the silk she wore. He would have bet all the gold in Casterly Rock that it was.

You surprised me today, Lord Lannister,” she said to him in a delicately smooth tone that could have frozen over a lake. It matched the frigid exterior that she presented to the world and the cold look in her icy blue eyes. The warmth that she looked at Tyren with was gone when she looked at him. It was only now that Tywin realized that she'd looked at him with warmth in her eyes.

He did his best not to flinch. He’d become ‘Lord Lannister’ and ‘Lord Husband’ since the truth about the red wedding had come to light. She did not even call him 'Lord Tywin'. He no longer shared her bed, the door having been locked. Gone was the warm, soft wife that he’d enjoyed having. Sansa had replaced her with a frigidly polite and dutiful wife that made him want to grind his teeth into dust. He'd found himself grinding his own teeth in habit that uncomfortably reminded him of Stannis Baratheon. Every need was meet, every meal was attended, every courtesy given…Tywin could find no fault in her behavior or her attentions to his son and he hated every moment of it with a passion.

“Did I?” He answered in the smooth, soft tone that he'd practiced using around her at every moment as he clasped his hands behind his back to try and lessen the urge to touch her. It was weak and he was disgusted with himself for such weakness.

“Yes,” Sansa said as she clasped her hands together. “Your picking of Tyren’s second name. Why did you do it? Why did you pick that name?”

Tywin paused and looked over the railing down to the courtyard. He’d been watching the progress of the hired painter as the man drew a map of Westeros on the stone floor of the gallery way from the Tower to the gardens. Tightening his hold on his clasped hands, Tywin looked at the progress that had been made before he turned his gaze back to Sansa. He knew what she was speaking of. When the High Septon had asked what Tyren’s second anointed name would be, he’d only replied the best way he knew how.

Eddard, that was the name that he'd chosen.

Tyren Eddard.

In his mind, there was little harm in giving Tyren his grandfather’s name. It was tradition for the first male Lannister to have his grandfather’s name as his second name. He had been given the second name Gerold. Jamie had been named in accordance with that tradition, but Tywin hadn’t wanted to continue down that path. Instead, he knew that by naming Tyren after Eddard, it would be a small step in repairing his marriage. It would also show the North honor and lessen tensions in the future. If Tywin were honest with himself, he'd done it with his own ambitions in mind. It was a low emotional blow to give to his wife, but the trust between them was shattered. Tywin was not an emotional man and he hated anything that brought strong, intense feelings. He couldn’t deny that the break from Sansa hadn’t produced such feelings. It felt as though being around her was like waiting for a keg of wildfire to explode. He waited for her fury, her anger, the accusations…the revenge that she’d so desperately want against him. Nothing, however, had happened. If anything, she was so polite towards him it was nauseating. Picking the name Eddard was his only way to slip beneath the wall that Sansa had begun to build between them.

Before he could say anything, a knock at the door came. Tywin bid the intruder to enter. Jerion came into the chamber announcing that the Royal Art Guild had delivered the paintings that had been completed. A servant carrying a large canvas with the aid of another servant scurried in as a second canvas was brought in. Both paintings were placed on stands that had been erected by a fifth servant. The cloths that had been protecting each painting were removed before Tywin dismissed Jerion and the servants. Silence filled the chamber as he and Sansa stood still admiring what had been delivered.

Of the two paintings, the first one was of him. Targaryen kings had long demanded that paintings be done of their various Hands and placed in the Hall of the Hand. It was a tradition that the Baratheon House had continued with Jon Arryn. The painting on the stand before him was his second portrait as Hand of the King and it was darker than the first one. Tywin started at the painting only for a moment before his eyes swept over to the other painting.

The second portrait was of Ned Stark.

Sansa walked towards it slowly and reached out for her father. Her finger tips caressed the painted cheek of Eddard and she touched it as if the man in the painting were still alive. The now dead Stark patriarch sat in a dark wooden chair with a black background that somehow seemed hauntingly fitting. The slight lines around his eyes and mouth had been captured well by the painter and in it, Tywin could see the tiredness in Eddard Stark’s greenish-brown eyes.

"I watched him die. He was led out by the city watch and the people called him a traitor. I thought that Joffrey was going to spare him. I thought that my father would recant and all would be right in the world. He would be free and we could go home to Winterfell," Sansa whispered brokenly. "I was wrong. Joffrey declared that he wanted my father's head and so, Ser Illyn took his head. I screamed until I couldn't scream anymore. The last thing I remember before collapsing at Lord Varys's feet was Ser Illyn Payne holding up my father's head for the crowd to see and they cheered with joy."

Tywin said nothing as he watched the memory overtake her. She stared at Eddard's painting for nearly ten minutes without saying a word before she turned around and looked at him with eyes that were full of sorrow. He could tell that she wanted to cry, but she wouldn't. He knew her. She would not look weak in front of anyone. Cersei and Joffrey had beaten the ability to be vulnerable to others out of her and his betrayal had only solidified such lessons.

“There’s no way to fix what’s happened,” Sansa said finally. “My brother is dead. My family is almost entirely dead. Bran and Rickon have been murdered. My father is dead. Arya is all but lost and Jon is at the Wall."

"You have your son," Tywin said stiffly. His words were weak even to his own ears. Sansa stiffened in response and clasped her hands together in front of her so tightly that her knuckles turned unnaturally pale.

"You murdered my brother. You cannot pay back such an enormous debt owed to me without giving up your life. I think that you know that I would be well within my rights to collect such a debt."

Tywin looked at her and wondered if this was the moment he'd been waiting for. His fingers itched to grab the blade he kept on his sword belt, but he stopped himself. He was stronger than her and could easily disarm her. Any attempt could be stopped and he could easily pin her down to the table and protect himself while talking sense into her. He would make her see reason before he drew a blade on her.

"However, no such option exists," she continued and Tywin silently breathed out in relief and relaxed slightly, his hand was still prepared to grab a blade if needed. "You’re the one person keeping my son and myself safe from Cersei and Joffrey. I’m not stupid enough to wish you harm.”

"I fail to see how any of this makes the slight bit of sense," he growled, suddenly becoming annoyed with Sansa's vagueness. What was it that she wanted?

“Robb's honor is my honor," Sansa declared heatedly as she walked towards him, but she stopped when she was halfway. The afternoon light made her gown sparkle and he was nearly distracted by her beauty. "My father's honor is my honor. Robb was my brother and he was many things, but he did not rebel simply because he could. He rebelled because Joffrey murdered my father. I've had plenty of time to sit and wonder about how this war began. You've been so determined to end this war that you haven't thought about how this all began."

"How it begins does not matter. How it ends is all that I care about." 

"Everything matters. Every truth matters to know who our enemies are."

"Our enemies?" He asked with a raised eyebrow. Her phrasing was reassuring in some ways and it made him curious in others.

"Do you think that Joffrey was clever enough to decide to arrest Eddard Stark before executing him? That's too calculating considering this is the same king that cut out a singer's tongue in the Great Hall. Someone wanted my father dead for a reason. What's curious is that he's the second Lord Hand to die under mysterious consequences. Lord Arryn also died mysteriously. They said it was a fever, but fevers don't kill men the same way that Lord Arryn died."

Tywin said nothing as he continued to stand and stare out at the Blackwater.

He heard the skirts of Sansa's gown on the stone floor as she walked to him and he could smell the lavender perfume that she wore. It overwhelmed his senses, but he forced himself to ignore her. He had wondered about Jon Arryn's death at Casterly Rock when Cersei had received the news during her visit. It had all seemed to convenient to him that Jon Arryn would die just as the man had been attempting to decide where to foster his son. And for Robert to die so soon after Jon Arryn? He'd heard rumors that Robert had considered sending both Robert Arryn and Joffrey to Dragonstone to squire under Stannis Baratheon. Jon Arryn himself had written a letter to him at Casterly Rock suggesting the idea of fostering Robert Arryn. He could not bring himself to admit that he knew who could possibly orchestrate such a plot.

"And what do you know about Jon Arryn's death?" Tywin demanded of Sansa instead as he looked over at her. She looked down to the painter in the courtyard for a brief moment before raising her head and meeting his gaze.

"Before my father accepted the position of Lord Hand, my Aunt Lysa sent my mother a letter claiming that the Lannisters, your daughter and son, murdered Jon Arryn because he knew a secret about them. A secret that you know about. A rumor that people have whispered about since before the marriage of Robert Baratheon and Cersei. You know of what I speak," Sansa said softly. "She warned me to be careful in King's Landing and I did not listen. My father was suspicious of Lord Arryn's death and my mother made certain that I understood that Lysa was right to be worried. Only when my father began making inquiries into that secret did our lives change. Jon Arryn and my father both died for that secret. My father was declared a liar, dishonored, arrested, and executed a traitor. The North rose up in rebellion because of the murder of an innocent man. There is no way to fix what has happened. Now, Robb is dead and by rights, I should kill you for killing him."

"So,  you've said," Tywin drawled as he looked at her for a moment, as if daring her to strike out, before looking away again. "But you won't do it."

"No, that is not an option to consider. You're the father of my son and the only person standing between my son's safety and Cersei. Joffrey would murder both me and my son at the first chance and Cersei would be more than happy to see my blood pooling on the floor. That option is not possible. The only question becomes what can I do to avenge my brother's life? Kill you? No. Kill the Freys? No, they were following your orders and it would not be as satisfying. Kill the Boltons? No, they're traitors and the North remembers. Why waste the effort when the North will kill them eventually?"

"What do you plan to do?" Tywin demanded, finally turning his head and looking at her with narrowed eyes.

“It's not what I plan to do. It's what I want."

"What do you want?" 

"I want three things,” she explained softly. “Firstly, I want to leave this snake hole called King’s Landing. I don’t want to live here and raise my son inside the walls of this castle. You and I both know what could happen to him.”

Tywin only nodded. He understood her fear. He had plenty of his own concerns about Tyren's safety inside the castle. He had plenty of concerns about Sansa's safety as well. Joffrey and Cersei were like wild storms on the ocean. In their madness, they gained strength and destroyed everything in their path, not caring about who they hurt or destroyed. He doubted that his daughter or grandson had any capacity to care for another living soul.

“Second?” he asked quietly.

“I know you to be a man of considerable resources. I know that you have the means to discover what happened that began this whole war. The root of the evil that is happening now. I want you to discover what killed my father and Jon Arryn.”


"I am going to kill the one person who has tormented me and stolen almost everything from me," she vowed in a cold voice. "I want Joffrey Baratheon dead and you’re going to help me kill him. I can't avenge Robb, but I can avenge other things.”

Tywin said nothing. Regicide, was acts that he'd commanded to happen before. Sansa's proposal was not something that he'd suspect her of wanting, but Tywin supposed that seeing her captor, abuser, and boy who killed her father dead was something that she'd fantasized about to help her survive her long days.

“You can’t deny that you haven’t considered removing him,” Sansa whispered her lips nearly touching his earlobe. “You haven't thought about how satisfying it would be. Tommen would be far more suitable in both temperament and judgement as a king. Tell me that you have not considered such a thought. You've already taken Joffrey's finger.”

The truth was that she was right.

He had considered removing Joffrey and replacing him with Tommen. The younger brother of the king was not stupid enough to go starting wars with no way of winning them. Besides, it was only a matter of time until Joffrey's sadistic ways effected Margaery Tyrell. It would no doubt lead to a rift between the Crown and the Tyrells and even trigger a diplomatic crisis that could result in another costly war. No, there was merit in Sansa's idea because as Tyren would get older, Joffrey would no doubt attempt to torment his heir. The boy already tormented Tommen. Tyren would simply be another easy target.

It made sense as to why Sansa wanted to leave King's Landing. She wanted the freedom to be the true Lady of Casterly Rock without the threat of Cersei and Joffrey. She also wanted a safe place to raise their son. She wanted safety and security for herself. Tywin found himself unable to deny those wishes. They were logical and made sense.

It was her second demand that annoyed him.

"And if I uncover nothing in the mystery of Jon Arryn's death and your father's murder?" He challenged.

"You will," Sansa said as if knowing that he'd learn something. "You're like me. You say the truth doesn't matter, but you're troubled by the events. I saw it your face when I spoke of it earlier. I think you already have an idea of who is responsible for all of the chaos in the Seven Kingdoms. Half lies and half-truths don't settle well with you, my lord. I know that once you begin to look closer than before, you'll find yourself just as intrigued as my father was. Just as intrigued as I am."

She was right again and it annoyed him even more than before.

“Your debts to me will never be truly paid,” Sansa murmured. “I can live with that knowledge if you do this for me, lord husband.”

"And if the truth is something that you cannot accept?" He demanded. "What then?"

"I will accept any truths that you find. The question is can you accept the truths that you uncover, Tywin?" She asked softly using his first name for the first time in weeks. "I should go check on Tyren. He'll be hungry soon."

He said nothing as he watched her slip away from his side. She floated like an unearthly entity in her gown and the swishing of the silk was the only goodbye he received. Staring back out at the courtyard, he felt even more unsettled than he had before. It was obvious to him that Sansa had given plenty of thought to what she wanted from him, but her tasks were herculean. The first task was not a problem. The second task was a challenge, but not impossible. He could discover the truth, but to kill a one could know of their involvement. They would need someone to take the fall for the murder. As he stood thinking, Tywin could see the endless possibilities. If they were going to kill a king, they would benefit from it in every way possible....

A knock came from the door and Tywin turned, bidding the intruder to enter. The door swung open to reveal Jamie's tired face as he crossed the threshold. Moving to sit down in the chair, Tywin gestured for his son to sit down as he poured them both wine from a decanter. It had been over a week since Jamie's return and this was the first time that Tywin had seen his son up and out of bed. His hand was forever gone, but he was lucky to have kept his arm according to a Maester by the name of Qyburn.

"How is your arm?" Tywin asked quietly as he set one of the goblets down on the dark wood table.

"Throbbing and Maester Broots is unhappy that I am refusing Milk of the Poppy," Jamie answered as the chamber door was closed behind him.

"Broots is very good at managing one's pain," Tywin replied, saying nothing of Sansa's continued pain. Labor and childbirth had helped to ease the strain that childbearing had put on her back, but the pain still lingered. Broots did everything in his power to help ease her suffering, but Sansa would forever be in pain because of her falling down the stairs at the hands of Joffrey and his guards.

"I don't remember you having such a military presence in the city before I left," Jamie said as he walked further into the chamber. "You have what? Three thousand abled body men in the city to keep the peace and defend it. Plus, the ten thousand or so men you have in the Riverlands. Those are quite impressive numbers, Father."

"Once the Riverlands are stable and I have an able steward there, I will pull back those forces," Tywin replied, not elaborating on his plans further. He did not trust Jamie not to reveal his plans to Cersei and Joffrey.

"I understand. Peace will be well and good in the lands," Jamie said sarcastically as he pulled the offered chair out and sat down. "I've just come from seeing Cersei."

Tywin did his best not to flinch before he took a small sip of the watered-down wine. He'd known Jamie location from Sansa. She'd had a handmaiden deliver a sealed note to him hours ago with the news that Shae had seen Jamie entering Cersei's chambers.

It did not take hours for one to greet one's sibling.

"And how is the Queen Mother?" Tywin asked sharply as he set his goblet of wine down and looked across the great wood table to Jamie.

"She's quite upset and rightfully so," his oldest son explained. "She's told me about Tyren and how formally and for all to see, you've disinherited Joanna's children. She didn't seem to care too much about my hand. She was too worried about you forgetting our mother and her legacy."

Tywin narrowed his eyes. He was well aware of Cersei's beliefs. She'd done little to hide her disgust at Tyren's anointing ceremony months ago. Several ladies of the court had all stood around Sansa, gushing over Tyren, when Cersei had approached him. It had taken one swift and well-meaning threat to get her to behave the rest of the day. Since that day, the guards around his family had doubled and Ser Jorah rarely left Sansa's side. Tywin had not spoken to Cersei without cause since that day. The only times they spoke was when Joffrey had done something to deserve censure or his daughter attempted to insert herself into the Small Council. Both happened too frequently for his liking.

"You gave up your right to Casterly Rock," Tywin said quietly. "I've attempted over the years to restore that right to you, but you have always declined to take you place. Cersei is a woman and therefore, unable to inherit. I have been in need of an heir for some time. Sansa Stark was a suitable political match and she has proven that she can produce sons and do her duty as Lady Lannister. I fail to understand Cersei's anger."

"And Tyrion?" Jamie demanded, his eyes narrowing slightly. "What about my brother?"

Tywin clenched his fists and looked back to the balcony where he'd been standing. He could still see Sansa and Tyren thought the elaborately carved stone railing as they sat in the shade. Tommen had joined them as Septa Mariyam watched on. Sansa had been enchanted by the older Septa and had somehow, persuaded the woman to stay on. Tywin had only accepted the situation because it had pleased Sansa and he was in no position to object. The only person who disliked the Septa as much as he did was, ironically, Tyrion.

"Tyrion is the son of Joanna as well," Jamie continued bluntly. "Tyrion is my brother and has just as much claim to Casterly Rock as I do. We share the same blood, the same mother-"

"But I can't claim for certain that I fathered him," Tywin objected heatedly, finally spilling out the words he'd so bitterly kept hidden away. His words stunned Jamie into silence and woodenly, the kingslayer sat back in the chair opposite him. Tywin watched his son try to process the words, but each time Jamie seemed prepared to speak, he'd close his mouth. His son was a man grown, but he was blind. Jamie had always allowed Cersei to lead him without a question. He never thought for himself, Cersei had always done that for him. Now, Tywin was going to force him to think for himself.

"Your sister has this unwavering idea that your mother was perfection itself," Tywin said reluctantly as he rested his elbows on the chair and held his hands together. "Your mother was many things. Beautiful, clever, and had an aptitude for politics that rivaled any man's, but she was not perfect like your sister believes. Life's cruelties broke her down and she was frail. My physical relationship with your mother was nearly non-existent. It's a miracle that we were even able to conceive. She was not interested in the slightest in any part of the marriage bed. Joanna found it distasteful. You and your sister weren't born until three years after I married your mother. Your sister seems to think that during those three years your mother had two miscarriages. I don't know who gave her such an idea. Joanna was only with child twice in her life."

"I fail to see what any of this has to do with Tyrion," Jamie said coolly as he clenched the only hand he had left.

"You were born in 266. Seven years later, in 273, your mother gave birth to Tyrion."


"Aerys Targaryen had always had a sick fascination with your mother. He enjoyed making lewd comments and attempting to make a woman as uncomfortable as she could be. You were a memeber of his kingsguard. You heard what he did to his queen. It is impossible that I would be the father of Tyrion. Your mother did not share a bed with me often enough for such a result to happen."

Jamie said nothing for several minutes as he looked away. Anger was evident on his face as he processed what he'd just found out. If Aerys had raped Joanna, she was not the first woman to suffer at the Mad King's hands. She was not the first woman to be abused by the King sitting on the Iron Throne.

"You believed that she shared Aerys's bed?" Jamie finally demanded with clenched teeth.

"No, I believe that Aerys Targaryen forced himself on my first wife and Joffrey Baratheon tormented, abused, and nearly raped my second wife," Tywin said coldly with narrowed eyes. "Or is it more suitable to call him Joffrey Hill? The bastard son of Ser Jamie Lannister and his twin sister?"

For a moment, Jamie looked uneasy. The air in the room shifted, becoming so cold that Tywin wondered if winter had finally come for them. It took Jamie a moment before he righted his composure and straightened his spine in the chair.

"Did you challenge Aerys?" He asked, ignoring the pointed question. "Did you do anything to avenge her? To fix the wrong that had happened?"

"No, I cannot challenge a king on mere speculation. Your mother would not tell me the truth about Tyrion's conception. She kept repeating that she would tell me the truth about the children after the boy was born. She died with such knowledge. Despite what your sister thinks, I loved your mother. I gave Tyrion my name to keep her honor alive once she had died. However, there have always been questions that have been unanswered. The night before she died, she wanted to tell me something and I suspect that she was going to tell more than just about how Tyrion came to exist. Tell me, did she catch you and your sister doing something disgusting? Is that why she moved your chambers across the castle shortly before she died?"

Jamie said nothing and the moments slowly trickled by as Tywin waited. He could not deny the rumors anymore. He couldn't ignore them, not with Tyren already growing so quickly. The boy would be the next Lord of Casterly Rock and he hoped that by making Jamie see reason, Jamie would make Cersei see reason before something unspeakable happened. Tywin was not naïve about just how crazed his daughter could be.

In the past months, he'd begun digging into the past as Sansa had asked him and unlike Eddard Stark or Jon Arryn, he knew how to be discrete. The pieces of the puzzle didn't add up as to how and why the men had died. It was a troubling mystery that intrigued him the more he studied the game pieces. Someone with great skill had set up the game and one by one people fell into the traps like creatures in the woods stepping onto bear traps. His first step into the woods had begun with examining Jon Arryn's death. The matter was unsettling like an itch that couldn't be stopped. None of the servants had been ill. In fact, no one had been ill enough to pass on a disease that would have killed Jon Arryn. The details of Jon's death would have been documented in other places if an epidemic had taken hold of the city.

In the pages of an abandoned journal that had been turned over to him shortly after his arrival in King's Landing, Eddard Stark had documented all his findings about his investigation into the death of Jon Arryn. Detailed and neat, Tywin had easily read the pages and pieced together his own theory of what had happened. Tyrion had also done his own investigating into the matter, but those notes were not as detailed as Eddard's. However, it was the reports that Jerion had gathered about Lysa Arryn that had intrigued Tywin to no end. Only a handful of times had he met his wife's aunt and each time, he'd always found Lysa Arryn a little bit more unstable than she'd been at their previous meeting.

According to various reports, Lysa Arryn was quite close with Petyr Baelish, the man whom her father had fostered at Riverrun. The same man with a deep dislike of Starks and a deep, unsettling obsession with Catelyn Stark and Sansa. Somehow, Tywin suspected that Lysa and Petyr were as much involved in Jon Arryn's death as Cersei was involved with Robert Baratheon's death. He had no proof, only a feeling. Eddard's journals were as enlightening as they were damning to both Lysa and Peytr. Contained in the journal as well were various attempts to end Robert's life on more than one occasion had been noted by Eddard. It was also noted that Maester Colemon, Jon Arryn's personal maester had been able to improve Jon's condition before Grandmaester Pycelle had sent the man away. There was one common thread between the situtations...the supposed secret that both Jon Arryn and Eddard Stark had gone hunting for involving Lannisters. There was only one Lannister that Tywin could think of that would desire all three men dead and benefit greatly as a reward.


If his daughter had easily managed to kill her husband and two Lord Hands, Tywin could only imagine how easily she'd kill Sansa and Tyren. It was something that Sansa already knew and understood. If something were to happen to him, she'd be trapped in King's Landing as would Tyren. Unable to escape Cersei and Joffrey, mother and son would be dead before his body had the chance to even decompose. It made her request to leave King's Landing all the more reasonable in Tywin's eyes. By the end of October, Margaery and Joffrey would be married and they would be leaving King's Landing for Casterly Rock. It was the sound of his son's throat clearing that forced his attention to the present.

"I do not deny the rumors," Jamie finally said quietly and Tywin drew in a sharp breath.

"So, they are true?"

"Yes, but you knew that before you asked me. Didn't you, Father?"

Tywin said nothing for several minutes, only looked at Jamie with thinly veiled disgust. His son was right, Tywin had always known. He'd always allowed doubt to control him, but in searching for the truth for Sansa, he'd been forced to confront his own truths. It was this disgusting truth that he'd wanted to hide away from, but there was no escaping it.

"Tyren will inherit Casterly Rock," Tywin growled after a few minutes of silence. "He's the only heir of my body worthy of such a position. Perhaps that is what you should tell your sister. I won't let a sister-fucker sit at Casterly Rock or a brother-fucker rule with her crazed, bastard children."

Jamie said nothing, he didn't even flinch and it angered Tywin, "I have only one last question."

"If you're going to ask when it all began, we were children," Jamie said smartly and Tywin closed his eyes and clenched his fist. "Mother caught us. Cersei was touching me and Mother made certain that my chambers were on the other side of the castle after that incident."

"I don't want to hear any disgusting details about the two of you. I already will have to look at the products of your vile, disgusting fucking of each other and act like I don't want to murder you and your sister for the shame that you're brought upon the legacy of House Lannister."

"Tyren is your new legacy."

"Who caused Brandon Stark to fall at Winterfell?"

"And how do you know about that?" Jamie demanded with surprise clearly written across his face at the question.

Tywin said nothing as he glared unblinkingly at Jamie. He wouldn't reveal that he was looking into the deaths of Jon Arryn, Robert Baratheon, and Eddard Stark. He wouldn't reveal that he'd spoken with Tyrion at length about the dead king's trip to Winterfell to summon Eddard Stark to King's Landing. Sansa had only spoken about Bran and Rickon on the night she'd learned of their deaths. It was from Tyrion that Tywin had learned about Bran's fall and the story of how the boy had become a cripple. He had never asked Sansa about it, but Tyrion had claimed that everyone at Winterfell had been shocked by the boy's fall for Bran was a great climber.

"He caught Cersei and I in the tower together," Jamie admitted. "I pushed him."

There was no remorse in Jamie's eyes and Tywin said nothing as his son stood up from the chair and turned to leave. It was only when Jamie's hand was on the door did Tywin speak up.

"You're not going to tell another living soul about what happened to Brandon Stark. You're not going to mention to anyone the disgusting things you and your sister do together. You're going to wear that golden cloak for the rest of your life and defend that miserable pile of shit you call your bastard son," Tywin said quietly. "When Cersei marries Ser Willas, you will vow that you will never speak to her again on pain of death. You will end whatever sick relationship you have with your sister and devote yourself to the kingsguard as you have decided to do. If you do not meet these conditions, I will remove the burden of your head from your shoulders. Am I clear?"

"Yes, father."

"Now go do your duty, ser."

Edited 5/29/2019 Beta'd by A.L.D.  


Chapter Text

Part Sixteen: Love Me Again

"…Can you love me again?

It's unforgivable

I stole and burnt your soul

Is that what demons do?

They rule the worst of me

Destroy everything

They bring down angels like you..."

~ "Love Me Again" - John Newman

 Mid-July 300 AC

The Tower of the Hand, King's Landing

Sansa sat on the edge of the bed, combing her hair slowly as she stared into the flames of the fire. She'd only been in Tywin's bedchambers once before and that had been when Kevan had escorted her away from the sight of her lady-in-waiting's tongue being removed. Now, Sansa sat on the bed waiting, hoping that Tywin would tell her how his conversation with Jamie had gone. She's seen the anger in his eyes from the gardens when he'd stood on the small alcove outside his private solar. His whole body had been filled with tension and he'd glared out at the Blackwater like he was trying to conjure up a storm to wash away King's Landing.

The fire crackled and in many ways, life felt like it was the fire and she was the wood. It burned through her without remorse or care for what it destroyed. The weeks after Tyren's birth had been the most difficult weeks of her life. She'd wanted to laugh with joy and share every moment of happiness that she could with her little boy and yet, her heart was filled with immeasurable sadness. She'd been torn between desperately wanting to be happy and full of depression that had hung over her like the grayest cloud in the sky.

For a brief few hours one rainy afternoon when Tyren had been two weeks old, Sansa had contemplated joining Robb. Sitting in the small alcove of her dressing room on the window seat, she'd allowed her pain to overwhelm her and the urge to be with Robb again had been unbearable. She had never felt so low as she had in that moment and the only thing that had stopped her from cutting her wrists like she'd planned was Tyren's crying.

His unhappy wails had forced her to act and in a heartbeat, she'd abandoned any thought of leaving the world. Tyren needed her far more than she needed Robb. Besides, Catelyn was alive and she'd see her mother as soon as it was safe for Lady Stark to travel to the capital. There was still one person alive in her family and the love she had for Catelyn was deep and unshakable. It didn't matter how much had gone wrong, she still had her mother...only because of Tywin's mercy...

Everything in her life came back to Tywin Lannister. Sansa could remember in the first few weeks of Tyren's life, anger had begun to boil over inside and the only way she'd been able to stop herself from lashing out at Tywin had been to be like an ice queen. To be the polite lady she'd been raised to be by her mother...the beautiful, stupid lady with no guidance in the world. It had been impossible to ignore the bitterness inside her. Bitterness towards her mother for failing Eddard, bitterness at Tywin for his actions...bitterness at everyone and everything.

Her first thoughts had been of killing Tywin.

She'd imagined sneaking into his bedchambers late one night and driving a blade into his chest. Dreaming about such a thing had been fulfilling, but it wasn't a plan. Tywin was the only person capable of keeping Cersei and Joffrey in check. If he were gone, assassins and every murderer would be lining up to collect the bounty that Cersei would no doubt place on her head. It would also deprive Tyren of a father, Sansa had reflected. No matter what she thought of Tywin, Tyren deserved a chance to love his father. She didn't know what kind of father Tywin would be, but she couldn't punish her son for his father's sins. That plan was impossible and soon after, her mind had begun attempting to conjure up another plan. Sansa had planned escape King's Landing with Tyren on the night of Joffrey's wedding. She had planned it all in her mind, but she found that she lacked allies outside of King's Landing as well as the means to flee.

Who would help her to flee? Ser Jorah would serve her, but who else?

Baelish? No, he could not be trusted and he was too close to the Queen Mother.

Lord Varys? Yes, but his influence was already over extended, his resources stretched thin. Besides, Varys would encourage her to stay.

If she did succeed and escape the capital, who in the North could she turn to? The Bolton's controlled Winterfell and she had no allies to call for aid. The North sang about her, Sansa had heard the song from the singers at court. She had sailed over the sea in the eyes of the North. To them, she was a lost cause.

But, if she did manage to flee King's Landing with Tyren, who would keep them safe? Sansa was under no illusion about Cersei's feelings towards her and her son. The Mad Queen would be more than pleased to see her dead. The last thing Sansa wanted was to encounter a faceless man in the dead of night alone and unprotected. Her list of enemies was longer than her list of allies. That was what Sansa had realized one night when nursing Tyren. The Lannister name protected her and gave her power, both unintended consequences of marrying Tywin. In marrying him, she'd found protection and a power all her own. Tywin had never suppressed her having any power like Joffrey had. No, he'd encouraged her to nurture her power over the poor, the sick, and the hungry. In having power, she could change the lives of others for the better. The only down side was that in marrying Tywin, his enemies had become her enemies and becoming the most powerful man in the Seven Kingdoms no doubt had left him with far more enemies than allies.

On the morning of Tyren's anointment ceremony, Sansa had decided to abandon her plans to flee King's Landing. Instead, she'd stood in the Great Sept of Baelor thinking about what it was exactly that she wanted. Tywin couldn't bring Robb back. He couldn't bring back anyone in her family who had died. He didn't possess resurrection as one of his many talents, but he did have other talents. Standing next to him, it was horrifying to realize that she only had one place to go and that was forward. She couldn't take Tyren and hide like she wanted to and she couldn't viciously hate Tywin every day for the rest of her life. She didn't have the strength to do that. Every loss that she'd faced had stolen more strength from her than she thought possible. Weakness was not something that she openly shared about feeling, but that was how she felt. Weak and vulnerable and none of her plans would heal those feelings.

No, what she needed was closure to heal. She needed to somehow understand how all of this had happened. Why all of this had happened...that was what would help her to move forward. Being Joffrey's prisoner had given her plenty of time to think about how the war had happened. She'd spent hours trying to piece the pieces together of how her family's fall had come about. She wanted to know the truth, no matter what the cost was. 

It had been Sept Mariyam had given her the final push that she didn't know that she needed...

...Tyren seemed to always be a hungry baby when the sun was set, Sansa reflected as she sat in her bed nursing him. It was nearing midnight, but she had no problem nursing Tyren so late. Sansa had insisted on feeding him whenever she was awake and only used a wetnurse when she was sleeping or indisposed. Septa Mariyam had carried him to her and the weight of her son in her arms made her heart twist in such a way that Sansa couldn't even begin to explain what she felt.

"He's beginning to look more and more like Lord Tywin," Septa Mariyam said happily. "Ser Kevan saw the baby this afternoon and proclaimed that the little lord would look very much like his lord father. They have the same blond hair and green eyes."

It was true, Sansa thought. Tyren was growing to look more and more like Tywin. His blue eyes had slowly faded into a bluish green that was more emerald than aquamarine. He would be tall like Tywin, but he'd hopeful have something of her in him.

"Has his lordship been in to see the baby tonight?" Septa Mariyam asked. "He usually comes after the evening meal to look in on the boy. He sometimes will hold the little lord. Other times, he comes in and will just stand over the cradle and stare at the baby. Scared one of the poor nursemaids the first time he did that. She thought something was wrong."

"He's not here. Lord Lannister does not share my bed. He's probably at the whore houses by now," Sansa said bitterly as she stroked Tyren's cheek. The baby greedily suckled at her exposed breast and not for the first time, Sansa thought that he was beginning to resemble how Tywin must have looked as an infant. If Ser Kevan thought that Tyren already looked like Tywin, she imagined that he would be the authority on the matter.

"And how would the Hand of the King get there?" Septa Mariyam challenged in her harsh tone that Sansa had begun to find oddly comforting. It reminded her of Septa Mordane.

"I'm not ignorant to the tunnel that was built between this Tower and a whore house."

"You mean the tunnel that Petyr Baelish built for Jon Arryn to curry favor and win himself a spot on the Small Council? That tunnel?" Septa Mariyam exclaimed with mocking surprise. "The seven bless me."

Sansa was surprised at the septa's words and looked up, "What do you know about my uncle, Jon Arryn?"

" I know that I've attended three of the miscarriages that your aunt had while he was alive. I also know that there was great trouble in that marriage and I told the Lady Lysa that if she wanted a healthy child, she'd stop whatever she taking that was causing the miscarriages in the first place," Septa Mariyam said as she went about fluffing the blankets around Sansa as she sat against the head board. "Goodness knows that she was desperate to carry a child, but not desperate enough to keep it. It's no wonder why Jon Arryn wanted the comfort of a real woman every then and again. Littlefinger saw a need, provided the need, and Lady Lysa used her influence over him to get him his position. Or I suppose that Jon Arryn gave him the position as a 'thank you' for all the whores that had been provided."

Sansa said nothing for a long moment and the septa continued, "May I speak freely, my lady?"

"You already do," Sansa said quietly. "With or without my permission."

Septa Mariyam ignored her and sat down on the chair that was near the fireplace, "I don't think that Lord Tywin is the kind of man that would keep the company of whores and harlots. It seems to me that he cares about you too much to do such a thing."

"He doesn't care. He murdered my brother. He's never cared for me. I have simply been a distraction for him. A woman to keep his bed warm and a body to house his seed. He's never declared anything for me. I don't think he knows what love is."

"He cares for you," Septa Mariyam said confidently as Tyren finished feeding. "He told me when you were in labor that if a choice had to be made, I was to save you at all costs. He cared more about his lady wife than the fate of his child, Lady Lannister."

The Septa's words stunned Sansa and she sat back into the pillows, watching the other woman cooed over Tyren...

That night had been almost a week ago and it had taken Sansa several days to understand what the septa had meant. That her lord husband had asked that her life be spared if something went wrong was...different. Most men would gladly sacrifice their wife for a son, but Tywin would always be different from most. It was only as she began trying to think of different ways that the war could have been resolved did she understand that an outcome that left every party satisfied was impossible. Robb would not have been happy until she and Arya were returned and all the Lannisters were dead. Joffrey wouldn't be satisfied until every family in the North that had rebelled was dead. The bloodshed would have been horrific, Sansa realized. The truth was that no correct answer existed for a solution. It was only then that she truly began understanding Tywin's actions.

She'd already had given him her three demands months ago and he'd slowly been fulfilling those demands. Plans had already been formed that the family would leave for Casterly Rock, Tywin included. Ser Kevan was being commissioned to stay behind as acting Lord Hand. Tywin had also begun making discrete inquiries into the deaths of Jon Arryn and Robert Baratheon. He hadn't found anything that she already didn't know about the murders and she knew that the more he looked into the deaths, the more suspicious he became.

It was her third demand that had not been acted upon, but Sansa sensed that if Joffrey continued to act the way he did, there would be little difficulty in convincing Tywin to fulfill the demand. Her lord husband already looked murderous when Joffrey caused chaos. Sansa imagined that it would not take much to push Tywin over the edge. It was the sound of boots on floor boards that caused her spine to straighten as she sat up.

The door to the chamber opened and Tywin stepped in. Her lord husband was so engrossed in a letter that it took him several moments to realize that she was sitting on the edge of his bed, brushing her hair. There had been no intimacy between them since Tyren's birth and she'd grown to miss the solid mass next to her in bed, but she'd also heard from Jerion of Jamie's visit to Tywin's private solar and how her husband had kept himself locked in the chamber. It was late now and she assumed that he'd only left the solar minutes ago.

"My lady," he said quietly, clasping his hands behind his back, when he finally noticed her. "How can I be of service?"

His polite enquiry caught her off guard for a moment and she stood. Her hairbrush was forgotten on the bed and she nervously clasped her hands in front of her. She hadn't been alone with him in months and her heart was pounding nervously in her chest as he looked at her with slight impatience in his eyes.

"Did you eat anything?"

It was the silliest question that she'd ever said to him, but it was the only thing that popped into her head. Tywin raised a single brow at her as he dropped his opened letter onto the side table by the door and nodded. The sound of the heels on his boots against the wooden floor made her heart pound faster as he walked towards her. His emerald gaze was penetrating and she suddenly wondered what had possessed her to come into his chambers...uninvited. When he stopped in front of her, an arm's length away, Sansa was reminded of the fear she'd felt on their wedding night. She'd thought that he would hurt her that night, just like she thought he might hurt her now for entering his chamber without invitation. She took a shaky breath and reminded herself that he hadn't hurt her that night. More importantly, she was a wolf and a lion. She would not cower in fear from anyone, most especially her lord husband.

"Septa Mariyam said the most interesting thing to me a few nights ago," Sansa confessed as she straightened her back. Taking the final step to him, she slowly reached for the front of this doublet and began unclasping the elaborate golden hooks that kept it together. Her hands were shaking so badly with nerves that she was proud that she was able to undo the first hook. It was Tywin's warm, strong hands that steady hers and together they worked to undo the clasps and reveal the white tunic he wore beneath it.

"What did the septa say?" He asked once the last clasp was undone. With ease, he slipped the doublet off and tossed it onto the chair near the fire where Jerion would no doubt pick it up and see it laundered. Tywin moved past her to sit on the edge of the bed to take his boots off. She watched as he delicately moved her hair brush to the side table next to the bed next to the book he was reading about Valyrian architecture.

"We talked about the tunnel to the brothels," she said as he froze at her words, looking up. "Septa Mariyam told me that Littlefinger built the tunnel for Jon Arryn. Is that true?"

Tywin stopped his attempt to take his boots off and looked at her with vague unease in his eyes, something that Sansa had never seen before, "It's common knowledge among the males of court, yes. It's not a topic one speaks about with a lady."

He was trying to dissuade her and it only made her more curious about the tunnel, "Is it possible that the tunnel was payment for his position on the Small Council."

Tywin gave her a cold look, but she only raised her chin up in response. She wanted to know and Sansa believed that she had a right to know. If the tunnel somehow was connected with her father's death, she wanted to know the secrets that were being traded in the darkness that might have caused his downfall. She met his cold gaze easily and for a moment, neither of them looked away. Abruptly, Tywin stood and moved away from the bed.

"It is possible. The tunnel was completed shortly after Littlefinger's appointment to the Small Council," he conceded as he looked about the chamber for something. "Jon Arryn doesn't seem like the kind of man that would take a bribe, but anything is possible."

"He was investigating Robert's bastards," Sansa said softly. "It would make sense if he wanted to keep the investigation a secret. The tunnel would also be perfect for Robert to sneak down to the brothels without others knowing."

"The only problem with that theory is that the tunnel was built years before Jon's investigation into Robert's bastards and Robert had no desire to keep his whoring a secret from anyone," Tywin stated with a snort. "Therefore, I am more capable of believing that the tunnel was a bribe on Littlefingers's behalf and Jon was unfaithful to Lysa."

"Have you ever used the tunnel?" Sansa asked, half frightened to know the answer. "I...I know that it's been months since we...I would not blame you, if you have any point in our marriage so far."

Tywin stood near the edge of the bed and picked up the fine enamel comb that she'd been using from the side table. He examined the brush for several moments, thinking. She didn't know of what, but the secret tunnel intrigued her and she wanted to know more. Tywin moved and set the hair brush down on the mantle above the fireplace and shook his head, "I have never used those tunnels. Nor have I visited another bed but yours since I married you. Maegor built some of the tunnels when he constructed the Red Keep. Littlefinger only expanded them to suit Jon's needs."

Sansa silently breathed out in relief as he reached for the painting above the mantle. It was a dark painting of a woman floating in the water with her hands bound in front of her. To know that he hadn't been sleeping with whores the past few months made her joyful and yet, she couldn't explain why she felt so relieved. She wanted to hate Tywin for what he'd done, not feel something complicated that settled so deeply in her heart.

"It's an ominous painting," she murmured as he felt around the frame for a moment before a small click could be heard and the frame swung back. Behind the painting was a key hole carved into the stone and on a hook on the back of the painting was a black iron key.

"A warning to those that would reveal the secret," Tywin corrected as he took the key off the hook and slipped it into the lock. It took strength, but he turned the key and a gush of cool air filled the bedchamber as one of the wooden wall panels creaked open. Standing still, Sansa watched curiously as Tywin walked around her to the wall panel and pushed it open. He reached inside and grabbed a torch before he walked back to the fireplace and held the torch out until it caught fire.

"Follow me," he commanded before he disappeared into the darkness of the passage. Sansa stood still for a moment before she felt her feet carrying forward. She followed him and shivered as she stepped into the darkness. Instinctively, she reached out and held onto the back of his tunic with both hands. Tywin looked over his shoulder for a moment and her breath caught in her throat. The golden fire lit half his face as darkness shrouded the other half. Fearing that she'd offended him, Sansa moved to pull her hands away, but he reached behind and tucked her into his side. Heat radiated off of him and she found herself hugging him, desperate to be warm in the cold passage way.

Down the icy stone steps, they went until their feet found solid ground. It was so black that Sansa could hardly see her feet even with the fire lit. Tywin knew the way and he easily found what he was looking for in the darkness. A large brazier shaped like the head of dragon was attached to one of the walls and it came to life when Tywin dropped the torch into the iron beast's mouth. The circular chamber that they were in became illuminated with light and Sansa could see that they stood in the center of what could only be described as a junction where six tunnels met. On the floor was a mosaic of the sigil of House Targaryen done in black and red glass tiles.

"Maegor liked his secrets," Tywin explained as she examined the chamber closely. "He also liked to torture those who displeased him in anyway. He built these tunnels to hide his secrets. Generations after have only expanded and improved keeping secrets in these tunnels."

"This must connect to the other tunnels that Varys showed me on the map," she murmured to herself as he looked at her as if he already knew about the tunnels. He had no need for a map.

"It's a network that runs under the city," he told her. "It will lead an army out from under the city if it is ever attacked. The tunnels are dug deep to prevent anyone from finding them or knowing about the army's movements. There are no maps except the royal one that disappeared years ago."

She chose to say no more about the map that Varys had given her at the Battle of the Blackwater. Instead, there was a bench was in the middle of the room and gracefully, Sansa sank onto it and watched as Tywin began to pace around the chamber.

"Jon Arryn was investigating Robert's bastards," he explained. "Baratheon's have a trait of being all black of hair. That was in the book your father left behind."

"Joffrey, Tommen, and Myrcella all have blonde hair."

"Yes," Tywin said roughly. "I asked Jamie earlier today about the rumors involving him and Cersei. He did not deny that he was not the father of the children."

"Someone must have said something to Jon," Sansa concluded.

"It was Stannis who brought his concerns to the Lord Hand. Jon began looking into Robert's bastards and writing to Ser Willas Tyrell about breeding dogs."

"Breeding dogs?" Sansa asked with a frown.

"Something about dominant features like color of fur. Jon was building his case when he died."

"So, someone found out what he was investigating and murdered him."

"That is one theory, yes."

"You have multiple theories?"

"Jon was also trying to find a place to foster his son. Twice, he'd written to me about fostering Robert Arryn. He'd also written to Stannis before he died. Hell, even Robert Baratheon had been consulted on the matter. There was one who was exceptionally unhappy about the idea of Robert Arryn being fostered—"

"Lysa Arryn," Sansa finished for him, her voice nearly echoing off the icy stone walls. "I know that Lysa lost many children with Jon Arryn, but the Septa said that it was almost as if she were causing the miscarriages in the hopes that she would fall with child from another."

"Septa Mariyam is positive that Lysa Arryn was causing the miscarriages?" Tywin asked, looking mildly intrigued by the development.

"I don't know. Is it possible that she was getting rid of Jon Arryn's child and hoping that another would conceive a child with her?" Sansa suggested as she watched Tywin walked the perimeter circular chamber, his hands clasped behind his back.

"Who would this mysterious man be?"

"Petyr Baelish? Convenient that he would distract the husband while he slept with the wife, would it not? Jon Arryn would be at whore house, while Baelish was in bed with his wife."

Tywin stopped pacing and rested his arm on one of the pillars as he looked at her, "How familiar are you with your mother's family history?"

"Not very," she admitted. "My mother rarely spoke of Uncle Edmure and she spoke even less about Lady Lysa. I suspect that they did not see eye to eye on every subject."

"Before your father died, he documented that Lady Lysa's sanity was questionable. I have also heard rumors that Petyr Baelish and your aunt had a relationship prior to her marriage to Jon Arryn," Tywin said.

"It is possible that he killed Jon Arryn for Lysa."

"Jon's dying would be a stroke of luck for Cersei and Jamie," Sansa replied, carefully watching the way Tywin winced at the names of his children. "You blocked Baelish's leaving of King's Landing. He has fallen from the Small Council and yet, Cersei still supports his being reappointed. Is it possible that he has been currying favor with both Cersei and Lysa. Or did currying favor with Cersei come after he murdered Jon Arryn? Which side is he truly supporting?"

"Neither if he knows what's best for him and I suspect that he knows what's best for him," Tywin muttered. "Jon Arryn died first. Why didn't Baelish runaway with Lysa if he cared about her enough to kill her husband?"

"What if we're wrong? Cersei didn't murder Robert, Baelish did it for her. It would explain plenty. We already know that he's played a great part in Jon Arryn's death. He was also the one who arranged for my father's arrest. Varys told me that a long time ago...what if he murdered Jon Arryn and Robert Baratheon?"

"And why would he do that?"

"Do you remember when he approached me about leaving with was the day I tried to cut my throat." Tywin's eyes flickered from her face to the small, thin scar on her delicate neck that she always tried to keep covered with a black velvet choker. It would forever be a reminder of that awful night and Sansa felt a rush of warmth as she thought about that was a place that Tywin always made sure to place as many soft, feathered kisses as he could when they were naked together. He moved closer to her and Sansa couldn’t suppress the shiver of excitement that over came her much to her own shame.

"Yes, I remember."

"He told me chaos is a ladder and that I had to climb it. He's playing us all. He's playing Olenna Tyrell and Cersei against each other. He's creating chaos that only he benefits from."

"All avenues of investigation somehow fit Petyr Baelish into the scheme."

"If he's creating the chaos, is it not possible for the chaos to end with him?" Tywin stood before her and looked down, his hands were at his side and his fingers twitched as if he meant to touch her and stopped himself.

"You mean to use him as the scapegoat," he murmured.

"Someone must take the fall for Joffrey's murder. Fitting that it would be the man whom Cersei has placed so much trust in. Varys was telling me months ago that Olenna and Baelish are close as well."

"Olenna Tyrell would think that she's won. The Tyrells would grow bolder."

"We don't let the Tyrells think that they've won," she whispered back. "No, the only one that takes the blame is Baelish and we take the victory. What is the one thing that Olenna will have to preserve to keep Margaery marriageable to a king? She won't let her granddaughter marry anyone else, but the King of the Seven Kingdoms. She's already proven that. First, Renly Baratheon. Now, Joffrey. It doesn't matter who the king is. All that matters is the crown."

"Olenna would need Margaery's maidenhood."


"They would have to kill Joffrey at the wedding," Tywin said cupping her cheeks. "An expensive murder."

"A murder done with the whole world watching and no one suspecting that it was the bride's family. It's a clever plot. It's perfect. Someone else would take the blame and Margaery would win the next king's heart. Someone infinitely more malleable and naïve." 


"Yes, and there is one person who is at the intersection of every plot. Petyr Baelish. He killed Jon Arryn for Lysa. He killed Robert for Cersei. He'll Joffrey for Olenna and Margaery. It all makes sense. He probably framed my father for Robert's murder. Claimed that he was treasonous or something. I don't know to what extent Baelish played a role in my father's death, but I know he did it for political gain and that is unforgivable."

Tywin said nothing, only pulled his hand away from her cheek and offered it out to her. Slipping her hand into his, Sansa allowed him to guide her back through the dimly lit passages and back up to his bed chambers. It was only when he let go of her hand did she find the courage to speak.

"I am sorry," Sansa said softly once they were standing in his chamber again. "I want the truth and I am sorry that it will bring to light things that you'd rather be kept in the darkness."

Tywin said nothing for a moment as he clasped the mantle with both hands and stared into the fire. After a long moment, he shook his head.

"Never apologize, you're Lady Lannister," he said harshly. "My children are the only ones who should beg the realms forgiveness, not you and not any other Lannister. Their disgusting natures should have been stamped out long ago. There is a difference between knowing a truth and accepting it. I fear I've always known the sick truth about them. I simply could not accept such a truth until today...until Jamie told the truth without remorse or shame that he is the father of his sister's children."

Sansa reached out hesitantly for him, "Their sin...their natures do not make you a bad father. They alone are responsible for what they've done. I've seen you with will be a good father to him. We will raise him to be a great man, a true Lannister, Tywin."

He said nothing, but when she moved to leave him, he held onto her hand tightly. He would never say aloud that he needed her, but she could see it in his eyes. He needed more than just her presence and Sansa wanted to share that closeness with him again. She wanted to feel the warmth of his body and forget about the mysteries of their lives. He stood, never letting go of her hand as he reached for her body. Willingly, she went into his arms. His embrace was comforting and the overwhelming guilt the she carried over Robb's death was not as severe as it had been in the weeks after Tyren's birth.

His embrace was warm and his lips were warmer when he kissed her. The chill that had taken ahold of her in the secret chamber slowly slipped away as he tangled his hands in her hair and pulled out the pin that had kept a few locks back. He set it down on the mantle before he pulled her towards the bed and helped her to push away her robe and night shift.

One of the kingsguards stood back in the secret hallway carrying a torch as he approached the back of the painting. The small passage way narrowed so that only one man could fit into the small space. There was a small hole in the background of the painting that one could look through and spy into the bedchamber of the Lord Hand. Joffrey didn't know how the hole had come to be, but Petyr Baelish had told him about its location. As a result, Joffrey used it often to spy upon Tywin Lannister. Most nights, his grandfather was alone in bed, reading until he fell asleep and he was always alone. Unhooking the small hook that kept the hole closed, Joffrey was assaulted with the sound of a woman softly moaning and unconsciously, he rubbed the front of his beeches with his hand. Good, he wanted to see tits.

Tonight, the sight before him was different from all the other nights and Joffrey smirked as he peered through the small hole. Sansa Lannister was lying diagonally across the bed, her legs open and her breasts heaving as she moaned and panted, writhing in the sheets as Tywin hovered above her on his side. His grandfather's hand was between Sansa's splayed thighs. He alternated the pace which his fingers moved. Fast one moment before slowing and caressing her most intimate parts, teasing her and making her moan his name in frustration. Sansa's hands cradled Tywin's head as the older man began pressing kisses to her the underside of her breasts. Her nipples were hard and pebbled when his grandfather licked them before taking them between his lips. She gasped and fisted the sheets beneath her hand with every kiss until she was being mounted.

Joffrey grinned as he bit the ruby ring on his middle finger. He would have never been so romantic with her if he were her lord husband. Ladies like Sansa needed discipline and he would have used his leather studded belt to teach her lessons that she hadn't learned. Women like her needed to bleed and she needed to feel the pain and discomfort of his abuse long after he was gone. Joffrey could imagine keeping her on her knees and teaching her how to suck a man's cock with her pale, pink lips while holding his belt and hitting every time she was in error. He could imagine it in his head, Sansa with her hands tied behind her back, on her knees. She'd be as naked as her name-day and he'd hold his best with one hand as he held her head still with the other hand. He'd fuck her mouth and force her gag and swallow his seed. After, he would even have her practice on the Kingsguards, if needed. After she'd milked his cock and his guards, he'd fuck her holes until she bled and screamed at him to stop...and he'd keep going until she was hoarse from crying.

Perhaps...he still would find a way to teach her such a lesson.

He watched as their bodies move, Sansa still on her back and his grandfather fucking her. He was slightly disappointed in his grandfather. The act was not the kind of brutal fucking that Joffrey would have anticipated from the Great Lion of Casterly Rock. Instead, his grandfather was almost too gentle. He kissed Sansa as he thrust into her, letting his fingers tangle in her curls as he hovered above her on his elbows. When he wasn't kissing her, his head was tucked into her neck, and pressing soft kisses against the column of her neck. Sansa for her part was the same. She caressed his grandfather's back and raised her head to kiss him when she wanted. There was no pinning, no brutal fucking, no screaming on Sansa's part for him to stop...nothing like he'd imagined doing to her once she was his queen. Joffrey suppressed a snort. Of course, his grandfather was weak and unable to control his own wife. His grandfather didn't cum after a few minutes, the old lion lasted long enough to give Sansa her own peak again.

His grandfather pulled away and collapsed onto the bed beside Sansa. Joffrey grinned even more when he caught sight of Sansa's parted thighs as she turned on the bed. He could see her womanhood in all its glory and when she stood, he was just as intrigued as his grandfather at the sight of seed slipping down her pale, creamy thigh. Joffrey couldn't see her cleaning up, but he heard her. When Sansa returned to bed with a cloth for Tywin, she easily slipped her hands beneath the sheets and whispered something into his grandfather's ear. An expression of satisfaction morphed to life on Tywin's face as she wiped his cock clean under the sheets. It was a pity that Sansa wouldn't push the blankets down and show the world how she sucked the wrinkling cock of an old man.

Lying down with her back towards him, Joffrey could see the freckles that littered her back. None of the bruises and lashes that the kingsguards had put on her skin had left a scar and he was disappointed by that. His grandfather traced over her skin with his fingertips as they spoke in hushed tones about something. Joffrey couldn’t hear what was being said, but the feeling of something brushing against his legs startled him and unconsciously, he leaned forward, pressing his hand into the back of the painting. The painting swung forward nearly an inch before falling back onto the wood panel wall with a loud 'thwack' sending the occupants of the room flying up from the bed.

Sansa lay on her side, curled towards Tywin. He was facing her, their legs tangled together as her head rested on his extended arm beneath the feather pillow. With his free hand, his fingers brushed against her back and her whole body felt like it was impossibly relaxed. She didn't think that she could move even if the Tower was on fire. Her mind felt muddled from his touch and she couldn't decide if she should return to her own bed or not. Tywin made the decisions that she would stay when he pulled the covers over them.

"Your bed is not of soft as mine," she said sleepily as he brushed a loose strand away from her temple. Tywin hummed in agreement for a moment before she reached for the covers and pulled them up to her chest. He warmed her, but she was still slightly chilled. It felt as if there were a draft coming in from somewhere and she was tempted to look over her shoulder to make certain that Tywin had closed the secret passage, but she'd watched him close the wood panel door. He was warm and she simply moved closer to him, something he accepted without complaint.

"Why did you come to me this evening?" He asked softly and she raised her head to look up at him in confusion.


"Earlier, when I returned you were waiting on the bed. Why?"

"I thought that you might want someone to talk about your day," she said. "Didn't we once share such a thing? You'd tell me about the Small Council and something you were reading and I'd tell you all the gossip and royal court intrigues. I thought that maybe it was something that would help."

"You know that Jamie came to see me today."

"Yes. I thought that if we spoke of something else, you might sleep better tonight. Although, that plan did not happen. I am happy that I stayed here with you. "

"I rather like what happened instead."

Sansa was quiet for a moment before he leaned in and kissed her. His kiss was gentle and she let herself become swept away in the moment, not thinking about anything but the warmth of his touch and body. The kiss ended and it was Tywin's emerald eyes that consumed her.

“And the real reason you stayed?” He challenged. Sansa raised her hand and caressed his bearded cheek. Facing each other, she could see his shadowed emerald eyes. Behind him, the crackling fire casted strangle shadows on the wall, but in his arms, she felt secure. It was feeling that she hadn’t felt in a long time and instantly, the thought of Robb came to mind and sadness filled her along with a sense of guilt.

“I want Tyren to have a sibling to be close to,” she confessed softly. “I want him to be close to someone like you’re close to Kevan…like I was close to Robb. Besides, I miss your touch more than I would ever care to admit. Sleeping alone has been...cold.”

Her voice trembled on the last word and she blinked rapidly, trying not to cry. She hadn’t said her brother’s name aloud since his death. It hadn’t felt right. It still didn’t feel right, but the pain was lessening. Tywin’s fingertips traced over the ridges of her spine gently, distracting her enough that she was able to forget about her tears.

“And if we end up with a sibling rivalry?” He asked in a tone just as light and soft as hers.

“We won’t,” Sansa promised leaning closer to kiss him. They shifted and she found herself on her back, gazing up into his emerald eyes. There was a singular question in his eyes that she could read. His greatest fear that he could not put to words.

“Our children will not be like them,” she promised before kissing him. "I know that they won't."

Tywin returned her kiss as his hands roamed her soft flesh. Her hips cradled him and she brought her thighs up to his waist. She wanted him again and he wouldn’t reject her. He never had and never would. His hand slipped between their bodies, testing her most intimate parts before moving to line up his body with hers. She felt the head of his cock brush against her when a loud ‘thwack’ echoed throughout the chamber. Her heart pounded in her chest as Tywin looked around wildly. He pulled away from her as he looked around the room, ready to kill whomever had interrupted them. She’d never crawled out of bed so quickly in her life and grabbed her night shift. Quickly, she shrugged her gown on as her lord husband stood naked in the center of the room with his sword at the ready. She didn't know where it had been, but Tywin stood, scanning the room with narrowed eyes. Pulling her dressing gown around her tightly, Sansa crept towards him, unsure of what to do.

"Tywin," she whispered, half-frightened to breathe. The way that her lord husband held the sword and watched the wall made her heartbeat faster than it should.

"Give me your hairpin," he commanded so softly that she barely heard him. Creeping away from him, Sansa lifted the hair pin off the place on the mantle before walking towards him with a steadiness that surprised her. It felt silly to be afraid of anything. Tywin would not let anything happen to her, he'd cut a maid's tongue out for gossiping. Sansa could only imagine what he'd do to someone who tried to harm her or Tyren. She slipped the hairpin into his hand and he quickly slipped the outer sheath off revealing the sharp, needle-like dagger that the hair-pin concealed. He sheathed his sword and leaned it against the paneling beneath the painting.

He stood still, examining the painting with narrowed eyes. She wanted to question what he was looking for but he moved like a burst of lightening in the sky. The needle like dagger slipped into the painting making an odd sound as Sansa stepped closer. Instead of stopping and sticking out from the painting, the hairpin had gone completely through the painting, leaving only the ornamental side hanging out an odd angle.

"Go have Shae fetch Tyren," Tywin told her softly. "He'll spend the night with us in your bedchamber. I'll double the guard and have the Commander look into what's behind the painting."

Sansa nodded and quickly fled the bedchamber, desperate to know if Tyren was safe. Not even ten minutes later, Tyren was in the safety of her arms nursing as Ser Jorah and the Commander stood guard outside her rooms. Shae was laying down new linens in Tyren's bassinet and studying her carefully.

"Who do you think was watching?" Shae whispered softly as Sansa nursed Tyren.

"I don't know," she confessed, half numb and terrified that it was probably Littlefinger. Had he heard what she and Tywin had spoken about earlier. In silence, Sansa nursed as she thought about what had happened. Being with Tywin again, had been...pleasant. It hadn't had all the horrid tales that Septa Mariyam had warned her about and she had been honest with him. She wasn't wholly back in his bed because she wanted him, she wanted other children as well and he was the only person who could provide a solution to that problem. What she'd found was that she couldn't hate him when he kissed her. The intimacy that they'd shared before Tyren was still there. It was not as strong as it had been in the past, but the foundation was still intact. Sansa wasn't sure how she felt about such knowledge. Robb's death still felt raw and she felt a deep pang of guilt at having enjoyed Tywin's attentions.

The sound of a door opening broken the still night air when Tywin entered the chambers fully dressed. His calm steady demeanor made her all the more nervous as she watched him slip off his sword belt, placing it near the side of the bed should he have need for it again in the middle of the night. Shae quickly retreated as Tyren finished nursing. Somehow, Sansa managed to cover herself and gently began patting Tyren's back.

"How would you like to have a picnic tomorrow?" Tywin asked as he sat on the edge of the bed next to her and Tyren. He made a soft face at the baby and Tyren made a noise of recognition and hiccupped like he was supposed to.


"On the beach," Tywin said as he reached for Tyren. "I will have a garrison of soldiers on the beach to guard you both while my men search every passage of this tower. I wouldn't want the noise to interrupt your day or Tyren's naps."

Sansa nodded and watched as Tywin picked the little baby up and out of her arms. She shouldn’t think that Tyren was little. He was growing. He was far bigger than when he’d been born and everyday, she saw him make connections and reveal a little more of his personality. More and more, her son reminded her of Tywin. He cradled the little boy until Tyren fell asleep without a fuss. Slowly, he stood and moved over to the bassinet and put the sleeping baby down before turning to her.

“This was found behind the painting,” Tywin said as he held out to her a little ruby that had obviously broke off from a ring. Holding the ruby in her hands, Sansa saw the old inlay that she recognized with ease. A golden pair of antlers were embedded on the surface of the ruby and only one person wore such a ring.


“Tomorrow, the men will search every damned corridor of this tower and ever secret passage will destroyed. I won’t have spies in the shadows,” Tywin murmured as she handed back the ruby. "I won't have my bastard grandson spying on us."

“You don’t think anyone else heard us discussing the other matter?” Sansa asked archly as she smoothed the bed sheets across her lap.

“No, but we shan’t speak of it again. I have a better way of conveying messages between us. The flowered ring I gave you with the castle ring has a secret compartment. No one but myself and the man who made it knows about the secret. That man is across the narrow sea and now, only you and I know about the ring. We’ll make plans that way. Begin wearing it often.”

Sansa nodded and watched as Tywin began to disrobe. It was a familiar thing to see and something that she’d missed seeing. The act was comforting in a way after the night they’d had. 

Jamie walked across the hall to his sister's chamber and knocked. He waited and thought about what he'd seen. His father had been tearing apart the Hand's Tower, sealing passages and every nook and cranny that could be found. Tywin had told him that the tower was drafty, but Jamie knew from Tyrion over breakfast that someone had been spying on Lord Tywin and his lady wife. There were only two people that Jamie could think of were stupid enough to spy on Tywin Lannister and think that they wouldn't get caught.

Cersei opened her chamber door with a scowl on her face and he entered. As always, her chambers were warm and pleasant smelling with fresh flowers on the table next to an always filled decanter of wine. She slammed the chamber door behind her and Jamie winced a little hearing it echo off the stone walls.

"You've gone down to the beach to meet the little monster," Cersei snapped harshly as she walked past him and poured herself a goblet of wine.

"You mean I've gone to meet our little brother, Tyren, Cersei," Jamie corrected as he sat down on the edge of one of the settee in the chamber. "I had to go meet him at some point. It would be strange if I did not."

"And? What did you think of the little beast?"

Jamie was quiet for a moment as he stared at Cersei's angry gaze. Tyren had been a sweet child as he sat on the blanket with Lady Sansa. Tyrion had also been there and the little boy was on the verge of crawling, determined to get exactly what he wanted. When he'd gotten down on eyelevel with the boy, the first thing that Jamie saw were his father's emerald eyes. Tyren looked more like Lord Tywin than he or Cersei ever did. His golden hand had intrigued Tyren to no end and it had been enjoyable to sit beneath the scarlet and gold tent that had been erected on the blankets and simply spend time with Tyrion and their brother. Sansa had been gracious and welcoming and guilt had crept up on him as he thought about the vow he'd made to his father to never mention Brandon Stark or the dead boy's fall.

"Father asked me about the rumors between us," Jamie finally said quietly. "I told him that I would not lie and deny the rumors."

Cersei blanched and nearly dropped her wine goblet, "You did what?"

"He asked me and I told him that I would not deny the rumors," Jamie confessed again and he heard the smack before he felt the sting of her hand on his cheek.

"How could you?!" Cersei hissed angrily. "After everything that we have been though, how could you tell him?"

"It came up in conversation," Jamie mocked as he resisted the urge to rub his burning cheek. "I told him about your concerns about Tyren."

"I don't want to talk about that little beast," Cersei hissed again before taking a large gulp of wine.

"He's our brother."

"No, he's a little monster who will be taken care of the first moment that it can be arranged. The same goes for his little bitch mother," she snarled back and like a strike of lightening, Jamie reached out with his hand and grabbed her upper arm tightly.

"Do not do what I think you're planning to do," Jamie threatened softly as his twin glared back at him murderously. "You won't win and Father will destroy you if you try to kill his heir."

"Do you think that because you tell me that you met the monster and he cooed at you that it will change my opinion? No, Father means to destroy not only our mother's legacy, but the legacy of our children. He will ruin Joffrey and you've just given him a reason why he should unseat the king."

"If father wants to unseat the king it's because our son is mad." Cersei shook with fury as she raised her hand and pointed towards the chamber door, "Get out and do not come back until you remember that your loyalty is to me and Joffrey only and no one else."

Jamie said nothing as he turned away and left his twin's chamber.

EDITED 5/29/2019 Beta'd by A.L.D.  


Chapter Text

Part Seventeen: Hands of Gold

"...For hands of gold are always cold

But a woman's hands are warm

For hands of gold are always cold

But a woman's hands are warm..."

~ "Hands of Gold" Kerilene Reynolds

The day had been long, but it had been enjoyable.

Sansa sat in the shade with Tyren. He was getting to be so large and strong. Every day he amazed her by what he could do. His babbling would soon become words and every day, she hoped that he might say that first word. Tywin had been correct about spending time on the beach. It was peaceful and from the reports that Ser Jorah had given her, peace would have been impossible inside the Tower of the Hand. Tywin's determination that no one would ever spy on them again had so far resulted in more than a dozen tunnels and secret passages being blocked, the majority of them leading to and from the King's chambers.

Tywin's silent rage would dominate the Small Council and whatever else Joffrey tried to interfere with in the days to come, Sansa knew her lord husband well enough. The only surprise had been Ser Jamie's appearance on the beach. She hadn't expected to see the newly returned Lord Commander of the Kingsguards come trekking across the sand. His appearance had also, surprised Tyrion. The dwarf had joined her for a few hours to entertain Tyren with a puppet show. It was no great surprise to her that Tyrion enjoyed Tyren's company.

She had expected animosity between them, but given how well Tyrion treated his sibling's incestuous products, Sansa should have suspected Tyrion's caring nature. She half suspected that Tyrion like Tyren because the boy gave Tywin a new focus and in the past few months, the relationship between father and son had improved. Ser Jamie's arrival had been awkward and uncomfortable, but once he'd been introduced to Tyren, the Lord Commander had become just as silly as Tyrion in their combined attempts to make Tyren laugh. Her son was a quiet child, but he could laugh happily all afternoon with his brothers. In many ways, Sansa wondered if Tywin had once been the same way with his brothers. It was only later in the afternoon when she'd plucked up enough courage to say what she needed to say to her husband's oldest son. 

" Might you and I have a word together, Ser Jamie?" Sansa asked with all the courtesy that she'd been taught. Jamie nodded and followed her to the red tent that had been moved from the Hand's gardens to the beach for the day. Beneath the canopy was a circular table surrounded by chairs and pillow littered the ground as well as toys and two chests that contained all manner of things that might be need throughout the day. Ser Jorah moved to follow them into the tent, but Sansa dismissed him with a gentle nod of her head and he stopped outside, giving her and Ser Jamie privacy.

She stood still in the center of the red tent and watched Jamie closely. He looked slightly uncomfortable to be surrounded by opulence again and she wondered what life must have been like for him in captivity. The whisper of her dark blue and gold silk dress on the ground was all that could be heard as she stepped closer to him. When she was a few feet away, she stopped. Jamie watched her with the uneasy of beaten animal and Sansa was reminded of Lann and Tommen's desperate attempts to save his friend. Tommen resembled Jamie in many ways...both physically and in personality.

“I understand why you pushed my brother from the tower,” she said calmly as she clasped her hands in front of her gold and soft blue gown. “He saw something that he should not have seen. You were afraid he would tell someone.” Jamie was silent. He only looked more uncomfortable with the conversation as she stepped towards him. Her husband’s eldest child was years older than her and it was odd to think that he was her good-son, but she felt as though looking at Jamie, he was lost and needed some form of guidance. He was broken. His hand, the only thing that had defined him as a man, was gone. “My brother lost his ability to walk and you lost your sword hand. Fate has a way of working itself out.”

Jamie cleared his throat to speak, “I apologiz—“

“Don’t say that your sorry,” Sansa breathed out, drowning his words. “Brandon and Rickon are dead. Their lives are gone and my brother is in no pain. You have nothing to apologize for. I only want you to know that I forgive you for what happened at Winterfell. And I only ask that you look after Tyren as well as you look after Tyrion. The Queen Mother is very unhappy at the announcement that Tyren will be Tywin’s heir, not you. You and Cersei are close and I would beg you to help her to see reason. That’s why I asked for a private audience with you.”

Sansa watched Jamie as his gaze turned towards the blanket where Tyrion sat with Tyren. The little boy was sitting up on his own and babbling sounds to Tyrion as the dwarf was attempting to entertain by building a castle of blocks. Her son probably had no idea what his older brother was doing, but Tyrion looked determined to teach Tyren just how to build the perfect castle. It was the sound of Jamie's voice that drew her back to the conversation.

“I would be useless in a fight against a would-be assassin,” Jamie proclaimed as he held up his golden hand. “What use is a man if he can’t use his sword hand?”

“You’re not useless. You simply need to teach your other hand to be useful,” Sansa reasoned calmly. "You would be useless if you had no hands. I see for myself that you have one. Therefore, you are not useless. I would not ask a man that I believed to be useless to protect my son."

Jamie swallowed hard and nodded, but did not say anything for several moments before he cleared his throat, “I assume that you know the truth of everything. Tyrion’s birth, my failures as a son…you know it all.”

The breeze coming from off the bay felt warm as it caressed her ankles and blew at the hem of her dress. Sansa wanted to be disgusted with Jamie for what he'd done. She was a twin just as much as he was, but she'd never felt such disgusting feelings towards Robb. Grief wrapped its heavy fist around her heart and Sansa moved to sit down in one of the elegantly carved chairs that was at the circular table. She felt overwhelmingly weak and the urge to lie down was almost too much. Just the thought of Robb brought her to her knees with pain and not for the first time, she wondered if someday, the loss of her twin would be bearable.

“It doesn’t change anything," Sansa replied softly. "I am still asking you to be a part of Tyren’s life and protect him like a big brother would. Tyrion has easily accepted Tyren. I am asking you to do the same. Whatever has happened in the past between you and should have no impact on your ability to keep Tyren safe."

Jamie stood still and she wanted to reach out and hug him. He was broken and she could see it clearly written across his face. For years, Cersei had been the manipulator. She'd manipulated Jamie into doing everything that she wanted and Sansa pitied Jamie. The loss of his hand had damaged him in Cersei's eyes. She was not deaf to the rumors that Cersei had been less than pleased to see Jamie. There had been some commotion about the ordeal and nothing ever could be kept a secret in the Red Keep for very long. It didn't surprise Sansa that Cersei had turned Jamie away. She only hoped that by urging him to fulfill a different role, being a brother again, would heal the loss of his hand and show him that he was still a valued member of the House of Lannister.

“I will keep my baby brother safe,” Jamie vowed. “I won’t allow an harm to come to him or any other sibling of mine.”

“Thank you,” Sansa murmured with a soft smile as she stood up…

The sound of her name being called broke Sansa's memory.

She was sitting up in bed with an untouched book in her lap. Tywin was leaning against the mantle of the stone fireplace, holding onto a letter that had been sent from Dorne. Sansa was already familiar with the contents and had no wish to involve herself any further with the news.

Myrcella had married the Prince that she'd been betrothed to and was already with child. There was little doubt in her mind that once the news reached Cersei, the Queen Mother would slip further into madness. Tywin would no doubt break the news when he found it was appropriate, Sansa could only hope that he would not wait long.

"The rest of the letter contains the information that Prince Oberyn will represent Dorne at the wedding," Tywin grunted before he tossed the letter into the fireplace. He stood, watching the flames burn away the parchment until Sansa shifted in bed. His gaze moved to her and he crossed the room to sit on his side of the bed and began taking off his boots.

"It's meant to be an insult," Sansa murmured as she closed her unread book and dropped it to the floor beside the bed.


"Lady Olenna will no doubt try to pull him into whatever plot she's scheming."

"There is no doubt of that," Tywin murmured as he stood, stripping out of his tunic and starting to unlace his beeches.

Sansa watched with interest as tanned skin was revealed and she couldn't help herself. Crawling across the bed, she sat on her knees and helped him finished the last of laces until he stood bare.

"I think that it would be best if we found a gift for Joffrey on the morning of his wedding," she murmured to him, slowly pushing his beeches down over his hips. "Something that will exhaust him and prevent him from making a scene at the wedding."

"He'll make a scene if he's exhausted or rested," Tywin growled, his hand reaching up to cup her breast through her thin night shift. Sansa's eyes closed as she enjoyed his touch.

"Leave it to me, my lord," she half moaned as he lowered his head to kiss her.

The ring that he'd gifted her was still on her middle finger and with ease, Sansa slipped the ring off her finger and into his palms. Tywin looked down at the ring in his palm and scowled at her. She knew that he wanted to bed her before they spoke any further about killing the king, but she knew that any desire to talk about killing Joffrey would leave them both once he'd been between her warm thighs. With ease, he opened the panels of the ring and slipped out the message that she'd hidden inside earlier. It was a response to the note he'd given her, telling her that Joffrey's death would somehow have to either look like illness or an accident to prevent suspicion. Cersei would suspect murder no matter what, but to the world, it had to look like an accident. He unraveled the note and sat on the edge of the bed reading it as she stripped off her thin nightshift. She knew what the note was suggesting. Seeking out Petyr Baelish as a way to obtain deniability.

...Petyr Baelish can procure the Tears of Lys. I'll tell him that every wife must be prepared...

Tywin's emerald green eyes met hers and for a brief moment, Sansa felt as if she'd be consumed by those eyes. He stood and walked naked across the bed chamber to the fireplace. He easily tossed the note into the fire and gripped the mantle as he watched it burn. Sansa slipped under the covers and admired his muscular form as he stood. Cuddled under the warm blankets, she wanted to him to come back to bed. His touch was all that she desired and waiting for him felt like torture. When she thought that she'd be able to bear it no longer, Tywin let go of the mantle and slowly walked back to the four-poster bed. He surprised her by pulling two of the three sets of paneling closed, leaving only the paneling at the end of the bed opened. The setting was far more intimate when he slipped into the bed with her.

"A sensible course of action," he murmured as he leaned on an elbow and looked down at her. "But when I live, everyone will suspect something. What will you do then?"

Sansa wasn't prepared to have the blankets tossed away. Her legs were exposed the cool air of the night and she gave a small squeak when he grabbed her by the backs of her knees and easily forced his way between her legs, his hard manhood pressed against her thigh. Before she could protest, she was washed away by familiar pleasures that left her as breathless as they had the very first time.

"It won't matter, the Lady Olenna will simply move to marry Tommen to Margaery and the only one who will suspect murder will be Cersei and her madness will be our weapon against her," Sansa moaned as he kissed the tops of her thighs. Tywin simply grunted before he grabbed her hips and forced her to turn onto her belly. He reached for a pillow and the thrill of knowing what Tywin planned to do overwhelmed her as she gave into his desires and let her own take control.

Three Days Later

King's Gardens, the Red Keep

Late July, 300 A.C.

Her concentration was not the same as it always was when she spoke with Varys. The king's garden was alive with birds and Tyren clung to the front of her dress his head resting on her chest as he slept, exhausted from the excitement of seeing the pigeons and song birds that Tyrion had introduced him to. Tyren's laughter and fascination had been wondrous to watch, but her mind had been far away.

All she could think about was the pleasure that Tywin had given her the night before. Her body ached with need just thinking about the way his fingers had felt touching the most intimate parts of her. She'd been afraid after having Tyren that he'd have no desire for her, but it wasn't true. He desired her more than before Tyren if that was possible. Warmth came to life inside her and she could barely breathe as she walked with Varys. He was rambling about some court intrigue, but it was his next words that gave her pause.

"I heard a most...intriguing rumor about a dragon," Varys murmured as they turned down a secluded path that ensured no one would overhear their conversation. "I also heard a rumor about tears. I thought to be of assistance to you, my lady."

"What are these rumors of a dragon?" Sansa asked, clutching Tyren to her a little tighter. She still had the dragon eggs that Varys had gifted to her on her wedding day. That day seemed like a lifetime ago and the girl from that day seemed to be a stranger. She was not the frightened young girl that had been afraid to welcome a man to her bed. Now, she was all too eager to have Tywin between her thighs.

"You recall the story of Elia Martell's dreadful fate?" Varys said softly, looking from a sleeping Tyren to her and back again at her son.

"How could I forget it?" Sansa replied, clutching Tyren closer to her. A chill came over her even though the day was warm. Looking over her shoulder, Sansa spotted Septa Mariyam and nodded her head. Quickly, the woman came to her. Tyren was safely in the septa's arms when Sansa hugged herself. She watched as the Septa hummed a lullaby to soothe her sleeping baby. Only when the septa had disappeared from the gardens did Sansa turn back to Varys with the weariness of a woman twice her age.

"I once thought that I would face a fate similar to Elia Martell," Sansa murmured to him as she looked at the tulips that had been planted on the edge of the path before bending down and plucking one up. "I suppose that should the king or queen mother demand it, I still could face that fate."

"Lord Lannister would never allow such a thing to happen," Varys replied, but Sansa could sense the same unease in the eunuch that she felt. With each passing day, Cersei and Joffrey both sank lower into madness and there could be no true sense of where that madness would end. People grew restless with unease and Sansa could sense that even Tywin was prepared to end the madness at any cost as twirled the yellow tulip between her fingertips.

"What about a dragon?" Sansa asked again, clasping her hands in front of her and walking to the stone balcony to gaze out at the Blackwater. "I will not speak about tears, but tell me about the dragon."

"Rumors that Aegon Targaryen lives have drifted from across the sea. He's been gathering support from the Martells, who intend to see him upon the Iron Throne. They claim that it is justice for Princess Elia."

Sansa sat down on the stone bench against the wall and looked out at the peaceful bay, the light danced on the water and she wondered how many times Elia Martell had looked upon the very same sight with her children.

"I know that you plan for the king's demise," Varys continued softly as he moved to kneel at her feet. "I would only caution you, my lady, to have a plan to secure the throne. The realm cannot face another war. It will not survive it."

"When Joffrey dies, Tommen will be crowned king," Sansa told him, holding her head high. "We can teach him how to rule."

"Tommen will not last long as the king," Varys pronounced gravely. "He's weak."

"He's a boy," Sansa defended, but deep inside, she feared that Varys was right.

Tommen was too weak to rule and the realm would be plunged into chaos that she and Tywin would be forced to fix. Her lord husband was not an old man, but he was not young as he had once been. She doubted that he wanted to spend his last years cleaning up the messes that Joffrey and Tommen left behind.

"The king that sits on the throne is weak as well, my lady," Varys murmured. "Look at the chaos he's created. Your father, brothers...they are all dead because of Joffrey."

"What you're telling me is that another war is coming and that we will have to choose sides quickly, Lord Varys."

"There is no proof that the man is who he claims to be," Varys said quickly, but from the expression on the eunuch's face, Sansa knew that the words weren't true. Aegon Targaryen lived and planned to take back the rightful throne of his house.

"Dorne will support matter what happens. Who will support? Stannis Baratheon? He'd sooner kill us than allow us to support him. My father once said that his claim was the strongest. Maybe he was right and in some different lifetime things would have been different," Sansa said with a humorless chuckle.

"A seer once saw two different paths. The first, your father married you to Stannis Baratheon instead of Joffrey. You'd bore him a son, black of hair, and Joffrey would murder the child in the Great Septa of Baelor, shattering your heart into a million pieces. The people would have called you the Broken Queen. A queen born from grief. I know that could have been one future. Seers claim they are all gifted, but I have only met one seer who I believe was truly gifted. She told me that tale once and that there can only one true king to claim the Iron Throne."

"You're speaking in riddles."

"Prince Oberyn is coming to the capital. He is in contact with this man claiming to be the Prince Aegon Targaryen. There is no stopping that eventually there will be a clash of kings...Stannis Baratheon, Joffrey Baratheon, and this Prince Aegon."

"You want me to convince Tywin to declare for someone in the end," Sansa sighed tiredly. "There is no easy choice. Offend Highgarden and declare for Aegon Targaryen to appease a blood feud with Dorne? Choose Joffrey Baratheon and look like a fool? Tywin knows the truth. He won't declare for a bastard. His pride would never let him. Declare for Stannis Baratheon? What benefit would there be?"

"There is only one thing that Olenna Tyrell wants," Varys murmured. "It's for Margaery Tyrell to be queen. If she were to marry Aegon Targaryen-"

"The House of Lannister would lose power."

"The House of Lannister will soon control four of the seven kingdoms. Your children will inherit the Westernland, the Riverlands, the North, and I am certain that your lord husband is no doubt plotting some way to bring your cousin, Robert Arryn to his knees. I hardly call that a loss of power, my lady. Besides, I am certain that there are other ways and means to hold onto power. You're not as naive as people think you to be."

Sansa gazed out at the Blackwater.

Once Joffrey was dead, chaos would ensure. The Tyrells would seek to solidify their hold on the Iron Throne while Tommen attempted to take control as king. He was easy and malleable, but he was weak. She could see that clearly as she could see the blue sky. Tommen would fall prey to those who would seek to destroy the Lannisters and the Iron Throne. He'd no doubt fall victim to the Petyr Baelish's of the world. She could understand Tywin's unease with the situation. There was no true king to sit on the throne. There was no one strong enough to take command and understand the games of intrigue that happened daily. No one strong enough to play the game of thrones and win.

"Have you spoken to Prince Oberyn about this rumored dragon?" Sansa asked quietly. "Does he know or have you sought me out on his behalf?"

"I have sought only you out, my lady. Prince Oberyn knows about the rumored dragon. He's brought the man to Dorne in secret. With his attendance at the wedding in the coming weeks, I thought that perhaps it would be an opportunity to forge a fragile alliance with next king."

"Tywin will not agree to this. Not without his own demands."

"I would expect nothing less from the Great Lion of Casterly Rock," Varys sniffed. "He will no doubt wish to protect himself and the House of Lannister."

"You forget that Tywin holds the debt of the Seven Kingdoms," Sansa smiled humorlessly. "He'll want his gold back. It won't matter who is king so long as the six million dragons are paid back in ten years' time. That was the agreement reached by the delegates and the contract that was adopted. There will be many issues to amend, Varys. I hope that Prince Oberyn and Prince Aegon understand these things."

"I hope as well, my lady, but there is one last option that we haven't spoken of. It would be simple for Lord Lannister to reach out and seize the Iron Throne."

"That will never happen. We've spoken of this before, Varys. I will not give my son the burden of having to wear a crown on his head."

"As you wish, my lady," Varys murmured as he stood and bowed deeply to her. "I only sought to give one last option before I told you what my little birds have told me about these worrisome tears. Contacts from Lys tell me that Petyr Baelish has bought several vials of these tears."

"He's bought it for Cersei and Lady Olenna," Sansa guessed. "No doubt he hopes that they will poison each other. It would solve most of our problems, wouldn't it?"

"I suppose that there is one guaranteed recipient."

"Tread carefully, Lord Varys, there are eyes and ears everywhere in these gardens. What you say next may be treason," she warned with a pointed look at the eunuch. Varys gave a low bow of his head in understanding.

"I shall speak no more, my lady," he murmured. "Only I will be bid you a pleasant day, if you will permit me." They exchanged the courtesies of court and soon, Lord Varys left her sitting on the stone balcony where Ser Jorah found her.

Her mind was racing with the possibilities. Tywin would tell her to ignore the rumors, they were simply rumors and there was no way to prove this man was Prince Aegon, son of Rhaegar. Still, her mind couldn't let go of the thought. She couldn't decide what to make of the rumor. It was both good and bad, but most of all, it could be a path of redemption. It could be the one line in the sand that could separate Cersei and Joffrey from the Lannister legacy like Tywin wanted. It could be the chance to re-write Lannister history and show the common folk that they did not support a bastard king born of incest, but the return of stability in the form of Targaryen kings. It could be spun to their benefit, but a thought struck Sansa so hard that she nearly had to sit down.

Had Tywin known all along that the children he presented to Robert Baratheon were not the true Targaryen children? 

Had he planned all along that the red cloaks covering the children's bodies remain there to hid the truth that the children had escape?

Sansa desperately wanted to find him and demand answers, but a second thought stopped her.

What if Tywin already knew about this Prince Aegon?

One Week Later...

Late July, 300 A.C.

The Red Keep, King's Landing

Margaery Tyrell's wedding festivities were already beginning and it was still a month from the wedding, Sansa thought sourly as tucked her hand into Tywin's offered elbow.

As Lord Hand and the Lady Lannister, it was their responsibility to represent the king and their house at the ridiculous concerto that Lady Margaery and the Lady Olenna had arranged to honor Joffrey's name day.

"The gown is beautiful," she murmured to her lord husband as they walked slowly down the winding stone corridor that would lead them out to the garden where the concerto was being held. "Thank you for the gift."

Tywin's emerald eyes gazed down at her and Sansa faintly felt her cheeks warming under his intense gaze. She turned and looked out passed the stone pillars that gave light to the corridor. It had been a great surprise to find a new gown laid out for her to wear to their afternoon engagement. Shae had been more than excited to see the gown on her and carefully had selected jewels to match the exotic light pink silk and lace overlay. 

The gold lion faced bracelet on her wrist was also a new pieced that had been commissioned as a gift after Tyren's birth. A large diamond rested in the lion's mouth and as pleased as Sansa had been to receive the gift, the anger she'd felt towards Tywin after Tyren's birth had prevented her from ever wearing the piece before. 

Even now, the bracelet felt as heavy as her mind did. It seemed impossible to quiet her mind ever since Varys had told her about the missing dragon. She had yet to bring the matter to Tywin's attention and there seemed to be no way to present the topic to her lord husband.

As if sensing her unease, Tywin's hand covered her own on his forearm and she looked to him with wide, anxious eyes.

"This will be a waste of an afternoon," he murmured and she nodded in agreement.  There were far too many celebrations for a wedding and marriage that would end in disaster. 

"I plan to leave if Septa Mariyam sends word that Tyren is continuing to be unwell," Sansa told him. "He didn't sleep last night and he was unwell this morning. Maester Broots saw him earlier, but I want to comfort him myself if he's unwell again. They should have woken me the moment he was ill last night."

"He's a strong boy," Tywin replied. "He'll survive an upset belly. All children do."

"I am his mother. I won't have a servant comfort him when I can do it myself."

"A clever escape plot for the afternoon."

"Should I send for you after I've left?" Sansa murmured tartly. "I am certain that I can come up with some reason that I need you."

"Perhaps your reason will be finally telling me what you've been hiding since your walk with Lord Varys," Tywin drawled and Sansa's knees felt weak as she stopped walking.

He turned and faced her with an unreadable expression his face and she couldn't decide if it was a good or bad omen. The soldiers that had lined the corridor still stood at attention, not even acknowledging that their lord and lady had stopped walking. The guards stared ahead of them, but she still felt unease even speaking to Tywin with others around.

"I am sure I don't know what you mean," she finally said, holding her head high and attempting to sound haughtier than she felt, but his gaze practically cut through her.

"I am sure that you do know what I mean. Don't think that a man can't tell when he's bedding a distracted woman. That your distracted even, it must be something of great importance that you're hiding."

"Not here," Sansa murmured, dropping her voice and quickly looking around to see if anyone else was in the corridor.

No one could know what Lord Varys had told her, his words were treasonous and she could not allow anyone to associate the House Lannister with treason. Tywin's eye narrowed into slits as he looked at her and she could feel the coldness overwhelm her. It astonished her that the same man who made her feel as if she was burning with passion at night, could make her feel so cold in the sunlight.

"What did Varys tell you?" He growled harshly towards her and by some miracle, Sansa didn't flinch.

"We'll be late to the King's concerto if we don't hurry, my lord," she murmured to him gently, remembering all her practiced manners. "I will tell you all soon, but not here."

Tywin glared at her for a moment longer before accepting her words and again offering her the crook of his arm. She rested her hand there with as little pressure as possible and they began to walk down the corridor again. Tywin's pace was faster than before and twice, she struggled to keep up with him.

Across the great covered bridge and through the winding corridors of the red keep, it was nearly a ten minute walk before they were descending a stone stair case that led them to a stone paved path. It was only then that Tywin slowed his pace as they came around the bend of the path as it opened into a stone veranda.

Chairs had been arranged in under three overhanging tapestries to shade the audience as they listened to concerto and elegantly written note cards had been placed on the chairs to indicate where audience members were to sit. There seats were to the left of the crown's box and looking at their neighbors, Sansa wondered if Lady Margaery's intention had been to make them feel slighted. Tyrion was a few seats way, already looking bored with Ser Bronn next to him. Nodding to her good-son, Sansa sat down in her chair and was surprised when Tywin spoke to the commander about dismissing the seats of the lesser nobility behind them. Four Lannister soldiers removed the chairs and placed them elsewhere on the veranda.

"Her slight is not welcomed," Tywin grunted as he sat down beside her. "The Lady Olenna might think that she is clever and will have more power over the king soon, but she is mistaken."

Sansa said nothing. She knew that he was talking about Joffrey's impending death. But Varys's words about Tommen being weak sent a nervous energy through her.

What if the Tyrells were able to sink their thorns into him better than the Lannisters could sink their claws?

What then might happen?

He was weak boy.

He would not know why the Tyrells wanted him so desperately.

He would simply be flattered.

Sansa could almost imagine that Lady Olenna wouldn't care that Joffrey and Tommen were brothers. It was all about obtaining a crown and Lady Olenna would stop at nothing until Margaery obtained that crown. Whether it was through, Joffrey or Tommen, the crown would be the Lady Olenna Tyrell's.

"This won't be bloody enough for him," Sansa murmured as they sat in their high-backed chairs.

The breeze from the Blackwater caressed her upper arms that had been bared and looked down at the pearl sleeves that she wore to cover her shoulders. The gown was beyond beautiful, the material light and airy with layers of lace on the skirts that had been embroidered with flowers and hummingbirds.

Sansa was aware of the looks she was receiving from the ladies at court and she also understood Tywin's motive for having her wear the gown. To remind the ladies of the court who truly was wielded the power. The Lannisters were above rules and her gown only symbolized such a thing.

She, Lady Sansa Lannister, was not bound by rules of dress and modesty. She was the Lady of Casterly Rock and the wife of the Lord Hand. She and Lord Tywin wielded far more power than the crown and Tywin did not want others to forget who controlled the seven kingdoms.

"It's not meant to be bloody," Tywin replied as he turned his head and looked at her. "It's meant to be a waste of time and gold."

She could see desire in his eyes as his gaze drifted from her face, down the slender column of her neck. His eyes lingered on the thin scar that was hidden by a gold and diamond choker before traveling to her exposed shoulders. Sansa felt her body warming under his gaze and she would have acted on the impulses that were surfacing had they been alone. She could feel another's gaze on her and it was not the heated, wanton glances that Tywin had exchanged with her.

Turning her head, Sansa met the gaze of the king. He bit the gold ring on his stubby finger and the look he wore frightened her. Joffrey looked like he wanted to hurt her and as if sensing her unease, Tywin turned and sent a glare towards the king that left the boy desperate to look away. Sansa said nothing. She simply folded her hands into her lap and watched as a well dressed fiddler moved to stand in the middle of the stone patio.

Raising his fiddle, the young man slowly began to play the familiar tune that sparked fear whenever it was played. The only change was that the tune had been slowed down significantly and several other instruments had been added. Sansa found herself enjoying the piece far more than she thought that she might have. The singer, a young girl, no older than sixteen with raven black hair, began to sing the haunting song that revealed to the world exactly what Tywin had done during the Reyne-Tarbeck Rebellion.

It was a dozen songs later that Sansa felt her heart stop in her chest. She'd heard the melody of Tyrion's song before. Shae had thought the song silly and inaccurate, but nonetheless, her handmaiden had been forced to concede that the people saw her love story with Tyrion as doomed to end in heartbreak. It was anything but heartbreak, Tyrion and Shae saw each other often and Sansa knew for a fact that Tyrion wrote Shae sonnets every day. It was how her handmaiden had learned to read.

...He rode through the streets of the city, down from his hill on high O'er the winds and the steps and the cobble He rode to a woman's sigh For she was his secret treasure, she was his shame and his bliss And a chain and a keep are nothing compared to a woman's kiss...

Sansa was familiar with the words. She knew that the singer who'd written the song was now dead by Ser Bronn's hands after attempting to extort money from Tyrion. Shifting slightly in her seat, Sansa could only hope that no one else would recognize the song and its association with Tyrion. From the corner of her eye, she could see Tyrion's own discomfort a few seats down. The imp shifted nervously as he looked briefly at Cersei and then at Tywin.

Sansa had never told him that Tywin knew the truth about the relationship. It had simply never come up in conversation and she suspected that Tywin had never mentioned the relationship in the hopes of encouraging the continued discretion on Tyrion's part. It was as much an open court secret as it was an open family secret.

As the last notes of the song were played, Sansa sense of relief blossomed until she noted Margaery Tyrell desperately attempting to soothe the king. As beautiful as ever is a silk gown colored with creams and light browns, Margaery looked like a Queen, but the worry in face made her look far older than she was. Not even the jewels she wore could hide detract the viewer from the desperation in her eyes. 

Dread filled Sansa as her eyes met Margaery's hollowed gaze. The feeling sat heavily in her stomach like a pile of stones as several courtiers clapped polietly. It was what seemed to send Joffrey over the edge.

"How dare you sing such a song before you king!" Joffrey snarled as he stood up, swaying on his feet slightly as if he'd been drinking.

She could feel Tyrion's gaze on her and briefly they shared a look of worry before he whispered something to Ser Bronn and the knight slipped away, no doubt to ensure Shae's safety should something happen.

"My love," Margaery tried to soothe as she stood up, the skirts of her gown billowin around her like a tent. She gently rubbed his upper arm with her hands as if her simple touch could erase the problem, "They meant no offense. It's simply a song to sing."

Joffrey shrugged her hands away and walked forward onto the stone area that the singer and the fiddler used as their stage. The fiddler quickly dropped to his knees, shaking. His instrument breaking upon the impact of meeting the stones. He shook as the young girl who'd been singing trembled. She fell to her hands and knees, looking up at Joffrey with wide, terrified grey eyes.

"Why would you think to sing a song about the imp?" Joffrey snarled again as he came to stand in front of the singer. "Are that stupid girl? To sing about the imp to me?"

"No, Your Grace, I beg ye. I'll do a'ything ta make it r'ght," she cried, trembling with fear. "Please, my king, please."

Joffrey looked down at her with a malicious smile on his face. He moved to stand impossibly close to the girl, his belt bucklet bumping the bridge of the girl's nose. With one hand, his fisted her braided hair and forced the girl to look up at him as he squeezed her cheeks together roughly, her lips having no choice but to part.

"You'd do anything?" Joffrey sneered with a grin. "You'd suck your king's cock in front of your audience just to save your tongue, you stupid whore? Would you like that? Sucking your king's cock to save your life."

Everyone heard Joffrey's words and uncomfortably, Sansa looked down. She knew that it was possible for a woman to pleasure a man with her mouth, but she had always imagined it to be an intimate act, not something done with all the court watching.

Lifting her head, Sansa looked across the veranda to see Margaery sitting with her lips pressed together, a cold look on her beautiful face.

If Joffrey offended the Tyrells...they had been vital in winning King's Landing from Stannis Baratheon and they had been vital in ensuring that food was provided to the city. An offense could end the fragile peace that existed and Sansa swallowed hard, trying not to imagine what the end of such a fragile peace would mean for Westeros.

Joffrey continued to grin down at the girl, even rubbing the front of his breeches in the girl's face. Sansa felt a sigh of relief nearly escape her lips when Joffrey finally shoved the girl away, violent forcing her face to meet the stones. Blood flowed freely from the girl's nose as Joffrey stepped away and grinned.

"Seize them!" He cried pointing a ringed finger at the pair. "Bring me their tongues for their disobience to the crown!"

Several members of the kingsguard marched forward, swarming and grabbing both the singer and the fiddler by the arms and forced them to kneel with their heads at a most uncomfortable angle. Sansa couldn't stop herself from grabbing hold of Tywin's forearm as she watched the scene unfold. The lazy glance that Tywin gave her made her wonder if she should be concerned that Joffrey would commit any violence at all, but her lord husband didn't push her hand away.

"Please, Your Grace," the singer begged tearfully. "We meant no 'ffense! Honest, sire!"

"If you had not meant offense, you would not have sung a song about the imp and his whore," Joffrey howled in anger. "I am the King! How dare you offend me."

The whole veranda had gone silent, with the sound being the tapestries blowing in the wind. The flapping noise was eerie and memories of another singer having his tongue cut out in the great hall surfaced. She could still hear his cries for mercy and the image of Ser Illyn Payne cutting out the man's tongue proved to be her undoing. Tywin could call her weak later, but she could not stay and witness such violence again. Not when the memory led to another memory of being forced to stare at her father's head on a pike. The memory that she was thrown back into was too much to bear.

"I should go see to Tyren," Sansa murmured quickly and moved to stand.

She turned to leave, but the sound of Joffrey's voice stopped her. A familiar chill that she had not felt since marrying Tywin overcame her and for a brief moment, she remember the night that she had nearly cut her throat to prove just how willing she was to die before being subjected to Joffrey's torments.

"I have not dismissed you, traitor," Joffrey hissed as the heels of his boots clicked on the stone.

Slowly, Sansa turned and watched as he walked towards where she had been sitting next to Tywin. A gleam of madness was in Joffrey's eyes as he angrily pointed a finger at her.

"Sit down and watch me remove this pitiful creature's tongue," he hissed again. "I am your king and I command you!"

Fear kept her frozen in her place, unable to move away from the king or back to her chair.

"I am you king!" Joffrey roared, unsheathing the dagger in his belt. "You will do as I command, you insolent whore!"

Not a soul said a word, but the silence was broken by Tywin slowly standing. He gave a signal with his hand and moments later, the sound of soldiers marching was the most comforting thing Sansa had ever heard. Two lines of soldiers cleared an exit path for her before the Commander called out to them a second command that forced the men to turn and face inward and step back two paces. Ser Jorah stood behind her, his hand on his sword, ready to defend her if the king was stupid enough to try and attack her.

"The Lady Sansa will be leaving the concerto now," Lord Tywin said with an icy chill in his voice.

"I have not given her leave to be dismissed," Joffrey growled, taking a step closer to her. "She will leave when I allow her."

"She will leave to see to the wellness of my son," her lord husband growled back. "That is far more important than watching your attempts to butcher a man.”

Joffrey scoffed and his crown became tilted on his head, only adding to his look of madness, "You've gone soft, Grandfather. Concerning yourself with babes and nursemaids."

Had it been anyone else, Sansa was certain that the crowed would have laughed. Yet, no one laughed for fear of offending the Great Lion of Casterly Rock.

"It is hardly considered weakness to care for the wellbeing of one's heir," Tywin said in a voice so hard that Sansa wondered if Joffrey was simply deaf to the warning that was being issued.

Cersei stood up and attempted to move to intervene, but a single icy glare from Tywin stopped her. Joffrey twisted the dagger in his hands and a heartbeat later, he pointed his dagger at her again and stepped closer. Instinctively, Sansa took a step away from the king and found herself taking a step towards Tywin. She could see madness in Joffrey's eyes and when he lunged for her, Ser Jorah forced his body between hers and Joffrey. Like a snake striking, Tywin reached out and grabbed Joffrey's throat as he twisted the dagger out of the boy's hands.

"I will take another finger, if I must," Tywin hissed as he tightened his grip on Joffrey's throat. "On the day of my son's birth, I told you that I would relieve you of the burden of your hand if you sought to torment my lady wife and son as you have today and other days. Do not think that I am simple and cannot figure out who it was that spied upon her when she was with me. It is only by her grace and mercy that I do not remove you hand before all your court. You will cease this nonsense and the concerto being held in your honor will resume without disruption. I was enjoying the music before you ruined the moment. Return to your seat, boy, and apologize to your betrothed for sullying the day that she planned as a lord would do."

Tywin held onto the dagger as he pushed Joffrey back. Not many had heard the Lord Hand's words and Joffrey childishly sulked as he walked back to the great chair that had been established as being the king's chair. He muttered something to Lady Margaery and Lady Olenna before plopping down next to his mother and frowning. Cersei began in her attempts to soothe Joffrey as Tywin turned back and looked at her calmly.

"I will send word about his condition," she murmured softly, having somehow found her voice again.

"Of course, my lady," Tywin said quietly as he sat back down in his chair and tossed the dagger that had been Joffrey's onto the ground beside him. Sansa said nothing as she nodded and quickly moved down the path that had been created by the Lannister soldiers. Twice, she nearly looked back to see what was happening.

“Don’t look back, my lady,” Ser Jorah murmured as he walked beside her. “There is no point in looking.”

Despite his warning, Sansa could stop herself a third time. A single glance told her all she needed to know.

Tywin sat as he had been before the incident, ever vigilant to the performance that was beginning again.

Cersei looked as unhappy as her son, but it was Lady Margaery that caught Sansa's attention.

A look of pure desperation was on the young woman's face as she glanced over to the Lady Olenna. For a brief moment, Sansa pitied her. To be married to a monster was a fate no one deserved.

There was one person that seemed to surprise her and it was Jamie Lannister, Lord Commander of the Kingsguard marching to where several men stood with a furious expression on his face.

If there was one person who could help Lord Tywin rein in Joffrey's madness, it would be the boy's father...Ser Jamie. He had already vowed to protect Tyren and she hoped that slowly, Jamie would feel as though his honor was being restored. Tywin would claim that such a thing was impossible, fathering incestuous bastards had ruined all of Jamie's honor, but Sansa still had hope. 

It was late in the evening when she stood in front of the fire wearing only a dressing gown.

The evening meal had been a quiet affair with only herself, Tyrion, and Tywin present. Father and son had debated the new plans for improving relations with the Eyrie and the only sensible conclusion that had been presented was for a marriage between the Houses of Arryn and Lannister. The only difficulty would be finding a Lannister bride. Tyren's health had also been discussed and Sansa was able to share that the little boy had improved only a little. He was still fussy and eating little, but he'd developed no fever.

The sound of the doors opening forced Sansa to look up from the dancing flames as Tywin walked in carrying the most recent book he was reading. She could not understand how he found horticulture a fascinating topic to read, but it was perhaps the fifth book he was reading on the topic. He set the book on the mantle above the fireplace and stared at her hungrily. Her admission that she wanted another child had not driven Tywin from her bed, nor did he seek ways to prevent his seed from taking root.

If anything, Tywin was more than diligent about his duty to spill his seed within her. She wondered if men felt great satisfaction in knowing that their seed was within a woman. Twice, she had stood after their coupling and both times, her lord husband had been fascinated by the sight of his seed slipping down her thighs. Other times, he slipped a pillow beneath her hips so that his seed wouldn't leave her womanhood.

Neither moment had been uncomfortable, it had simply made her curious. It had made her just as curious as the moments where she watched Tywin stroke his hardening cock before he brought their bodies together. She nearly blushed when she thought about what he might taste like. He seemed to enjoy her body far more after he stroked or licked her to completion.

Would he find more pleasure if she returned the act and used her mouth on him?

He said nothing as he leaned down to kiss her. His lips were warm and he pulled her to him. His arms were wrapped around her and the leather of his doublet was cool against her heated skin. He deepened the kiss and she struggled to think of a way to stop him. It didn't matter that she was naked, Sansa realized. There would be no easy way to tell Tywin the news that Varys had given her. Tywin broke away a moment later looking angry.

"What was it that Varys told you? Tell me so that your mind will not wander while I'm bedding you."

Sansa felt her hands clutch his leather doublet as he tightened his embrace.

"Tell me," he commanded in a rough voice as his hand crept up and cupped her bared breast. The feeling of his hand messaging her breast was almost too much for her to think coherently. She gasped when he applied more pressure and his lips pressed soft kisses to her neck.

"He told of a rumor from the east," she murmured softly as his thumb brushed over her nipple and it sent a bolt of pleasure to her womanhood.

His hand slipped away from her breast and fingertips trailed over her body until two fingers slipped into her damp womanhood. In one simple stroke, he found the core of her pleasure and used the pads of his fingers to brush back and forth over the pearl that that he'd found.

"What rumor?" Tywin demanded as he lowered his head even more, pressing kisses to her collar bones. The pleasure was almost too much and she gasped when his lips descended even more, kissing and biting at her breast.

"He told me of the rumor that Aegon Targaryen lives and the House Martell plans to back the Prince in his returning to the Seven Kingdoms," Sansa gasped with pleasure.

A heartbeat later, Tywin's hand snaked around her throat so quickly, that Sansa had no opportunity to breathe before he was crushing her neck with his harsh grip. Rage filled his emerald eyes as gasped, clawing at his hands to let go of her throat.

"And how does he know I spared the Princeling?" Tywin growled at her with narrowed eyes. "How does his know I let Jon Connington smuggle the boy out of the Red Keep?"



Chapter Text

Part Eighteen: Compass

“…Compass points your home, calling out from the east

Compass points you anywhere closer to me

If we make it out alive, from the depths of the sea

Compass points you anywhere closer to me

Where you are, I will be…”

~ “Compass” – Zella Day

 King's Landing

August, 300 A.C. 

The sunny day was a vivid contrast to how she felt, Sansa reflected miserably as the litter moved down the narrowed streets of King’s Landing. Shae and Ser Jorah were with her, chatting happily about the wedding celebrations that were coming, but Sansa hardly paid any attention. She had hardly slept the night before and her throat ached horribly. Tywin’s reaction had not been what she’d expected and no amount of soft kisses pressed against the bruises in the aftermath of being choked could remove the pain that she felt just from breathing. It had been a trial to bath and dress that morning. Simply moving her head to look from left to right hurt and Sansa wanted nothing more than to lie down and rest. However, she couldn’t. There were demands that had to be met before she could close her eyes and sleep like she desperately wanted to. The truth was that her head was still spinning with all the new information that Tywin had bestowed upon her exhausted mind the night before and she doubted that she could sleep even if she wanted to.

She had never envied Tyren’s easily ability to sleep, but today she did. The overwhelming truth was that Jon Connington had smuggled the young Prince Aegon out of King’s Landing by the grace of Lord Tywin Lannister and Lord Tywin alone. Only a handful of people had known that her lord husband had allowed Connington to escape with the last heir to the Targaryen Dynasty bundled in a wool spun sack. Of the handful that had known about her lord husband’s plot, most were dead including Jon Arryn. It made Sansa all the more curious to know if Jon Arryn’s knowledge about Prince Aegon had only given more motive for his murderer to kill him. The list for reasons to kill Jon Arryn continued to grow and yet, Tywin was no closer to discover just who had killed the prior Lord Hand. Littlefinger was still their suspect, but did the man know about Prince Aegon as well and if so, how much did he know? Better still, did Littlefinger act alone or had someone else commanded him to murder the Hand of the King? The thought puzzled her as she recalled the night…

…Clutching her throat, Sansa fell to the floor in front of the fire barely able to breathe. Coughing, air burned her throat as she tried to catch her breath. Gasping, she looked up to Tywin as he stood gazing into the fire, a furious expression on his handsome face. Without a thought, Sansa kicked his leg as hard as she could. Like a pillar, Tywin stood still, absorbing the blow and doing nothing to stop her when she kicked him again.

You bastard,” Sansa breathed, a cough wracking her thin frame as she balanced on her hands and knees.

“Am I?” Tywin demanded with a drawl. “I think not.”

“I told you what you wanted to know.”

“Tell me more.”

“Not before you explain yourself,” Sansa snapped angrily.

He moved to help her, but she slapped his hands away as she forced herself to stand. The comfortable four poster bed called to her, but she resisted. Wrapping her dressing gown around her tightly, Sansa inched towards the window seat, desperate to put distance between herself and Tywin. His response had been one that she hadn’t expected and she was in no mood for anymore surprises. Being choked by the man that shared her bed was enough for one night. Tywin easily stripped away his doublet before grabbing his own dressing gown that was laid out upon the back of the chair near the fire. He slipped it on before moving across the bedchamber to her dressing room. Clutching the front of her own dressing gown tightly, Sansa attempted to regulate her breathing as he returned carrying a pair of her slippers. It was in moments like these she forced herself to remember that her lord husband was a ruthless, dangerous man and she meant very little to him.

If something happened to her...

“We can’t speak here,” he growled as he held out the silk slippers. “Put these on, now.”

Doing as Tywin demanded, Sansa slipped the slippers on before he grabbed her by the arm and dragged her towards his own bedchambers. She held her breath with each passing moment as he led her down to the secret chamber he’d showed her once before. Fire light from his torch danced on the stones around them as they descended the icy steps. It was only when Tywin dropped the torch he’d been carrying into brazier shaped like a dragon’s head did more light illuminate the chamber and the six tunnels around them. Sansa shivered slightly as the cool glass tiles that formed a mosaic of the sigil of House Targaryen beneath her feet absorbed any heat that had been between her toes.

"So it is true,” she breathed. “Prince Aegon lives?”

“Yes,” Tywin snapped impatiently. “Such knowledge was meant to stay a secret, but Lord Varys’s little birds learn everything in the end.”

“Why did you let everyone believe you murdered Prince Aegon?” Sansa demanded as Tywin moved to sit down on the stone bench.

He rested his elbows on his knees as he gazed up at her with glittering emerald eyes. They danced with anger and frustration, two feelings that she shared with him. She felt anger that he’d choked her and frustration that she didn’t understand what was happening to their simple plot of killing Joffrey and replacing him with Tommen. It was spiraling out of control and reminding her of…chaos.

“It was an insurance of sorts for the House of Lannister, if you will,” Tywin explained after several moments of silence. “Should Robert have lost the war, I could safely tell Prince Rhaegar that I saved his only son and heir from being killed while securing the city from his mad father. Should Robert have won, I assured him of my loyalty by killing the next heir to the throne and claiming King’s Landing in his name. To me, it was a simple decision that could be manipulated as needed. I knew the tunnels that Jon Connington would take. I knew how he would smuggle the boy out. I deliberately decided not to allow soldiers to man those tunnels. Instead, I sent a single soldier to Jon the night before the battle began with a letter explaining that I would allow one child to escape through the tunnels. By allowing Aegon to live, it was my key to winning the war.”

“And Princess Elia and her daughter?” Sansa asked harshly.

“Regretable losses…Ser Gregor was young and desperate to prove himself. His father had been arranging a match with minor dornish house for his eldest son when Princess Elia intervened and ended any chances of such a match. The match would have been beneficial to the House of Clegane and the Princess’s intervention made Ser Gregor unmarriageable in the eyes of many. The family was in desperate need of funds at the time and Princess Elia’s interference caused more debt to be accumulated. There was no stopping Ser Gregor in his quest to murder Princess Elia.”

“You are his lord. You could have stopped him.”

“I could have, but what would it have done? Dorne would have searched for Prince Aegon on Elia’s instance. She would have known that her son was missing from the sacking of King’s Landing. It would have only led to more bloodshed and an unstable throne. Elia would have tried to save her son while Robert would have hunted the boy down and killed him. He did the same thing to Targaryen children or did you forget being presented with their heads at our wedding feast?”

Sansa closed her eyes and let out a slow, shaky breath, “Who else knew of your plan?”

“Only a handful of men of the plot including Jon Arryn. My reward for convincing the oaf Robert that the Targaryen line was extinct was seeing my daughter married to Robert Baratheon. Jon Arryn convinced that giant oaf to marry Cersei under the guise that by marrying my daughter, the chance of my rebelling against the king in the name of the House Targaryen was lessened.”

“And now?” Sansa demanded, her heart beating wildly in her chest. “Now, what are we to do? What do you think will happen if the Martells back him and he brings an army with him seeking his throne? These kingdoms cannot afford another war. There are no more funds to be had, Tywin. Soldiers are tired, food will be limited, and winter is coming, my lord husband.”

“If we seek to depose one king, he must be replaced.”

“And when this Targaryen Prince seeks to depose Tommen after he is crowned?”

Tywin said nothing, but from the look in his eyes, she could see the wheels of thought turning in his head. Her husband was nothing if not a plotter, Sansa realized, and he had already considered Prince Aegon returning to the seven kingdoms when he agreed with her that Joffrey was meant to be murdered by them. He had played the game of thrones far longer than she had and he was man that wanted power, but he was not foolish enough to reach out and take the Iron Throne. It was a silly chair made of swords that meant nothing to him in the end. Power was influence and manipulation and understanding. It was a balance that he understood better than most. To have power, one did not need to sit on a throne. Her lord husband was evidence enough of that truth. He was the most powerful man in the seven kingdoms and no crown was placed upon his head. He could make and destroy kings with the flick of his hand and he was evidently choosing to place a Targaryen Prince on the Iron Throne.

“You mean to allow Prince Aegon to take the throne from the House Baratheon. You’ve meant for that to happen all along and you’ll exploit your past friendship with Aerys to do it. You’ll argue that you save Aegon for Aerys and never spoke of it to protect your friend’s grandson,” Sansa breathed with surprise. Why?”

“It is a move that will grant us power,” Tywin explained calmly. “I will not roll over and allow some boy from across the sea to simply seize power without limits and conditions. I mean to ensure that the Lannister name is not forgotten and that we remain the strongest family within the seven kingdoms. I mean to ensure that this Targaryen Prince integrates his seed so deeply into Lannister blood that after only a few generations there will be more Lannister blood in the Targaryen Kings than dragon.”

“And just what are you planning to do?”

“We will concede that Prince Aegon is the rightful king, but he cannot have the crown without limits and conditions.”

“Such as?” Sansa asked with an arched brow as she hugged herself in attempt to feel some warmth.

“Targaryen incest is to be stopped. Madness was the result of such disgusting breeding and it cannot be continued. Instead, Prince Aegon’s oldest daughter will marry Tyren and our oldest daughter will marry the Crown Prince. I plan to have marriage contracts arranged for my great-grandchildren by the time Prince Aegon seizes power. I also mean to see to it that the Small Council is restructured. Each house will be represented and will have the power to veto laws and decisions that the king attempts to enact. Each house will have a vote and it will reduce the king’s power by giving power to the kingdoms. We have suffered enough mad kings with unlimited powers. I would see the entire body of governing restructured to benefit our house and our posterity. Limit taxes paid to the king, end scutage, peers have the right to due process…no man will be forced onto a dais like your father was and be beheaded without trial. Not all power is gained on a battlefield, Sansa.”

His words enveloped her and she recalled the books that he’d been reading through out their marriage. He wasn’t simply reading something to enjoy it. No, he was reading to strength his arguments. To convince others to join him and he planned to out smart the boy prince across the sea. Tywin understood that sitting on the Iron Throne meant nothing. Power was what mattered and he was making a way to decrease the throne’s power and take some of it for himself.

Moving to stand between Tywin’s thighs, Sansa cupped his cheeks and forced him to look up at her, “Write down your ideas. Write down how much debt is owed to House Lannister. Are we not the House that now finances the crown? We have more power over the Iron Throne than any house before us. Make it a binding document that Prince Aegon would have to sign to avoid war. He’s a boy who wants a throne. I am certain he will do anything to obtain power even if it means stripping the very powers he craves from his crown, my lord. He won’t know that he is even doing it until it is too late.”

She knew that Tywin would write the document, but she also knew her husband well. He’d make loopholes that only Lannisters would discover. He’d write a document that benefited the great houses while hardly changing daily life for those in each region. It would not change how each House governed their kingdom, it would only allow the houses to assert more power over themselves. It was the beginning to seeing the end of the Iron Throne and the beginning of something else entirely, Sansa realized…

Tyrion’s eyes were wide as he used his scroll to hold back the cream colored fabric that concealed the interior of the litter. The cotton panel fell for a moment before Tyrion was pushing it back once again and walking towards her. Sansa watched with weariness as the dwarf seated himself across from her with an unreadable expression on his face.

“I take it you displeased my father,” Tyrion pronounced without preamble after the litter was moving again.

“I spoke out of turn,” Sansa demurred as she looked down at her hands contritely.

“I believe you screamed out of turn if the bruises are anything to go by.”

“It was my fault entirely.”

Tyrion simply arched an eyebrow, “And where are you taking me? Oh, don’t lie to me like you did just a moment ago.”

Sansa suppressed a smile as she gazed out into the marketplace. Her soldiers were unmarked and she had no intention of letting anyone know where she was going. She had already enlisted Varys’s little birds to plant misleading information that would be given to Lady Olenna and Cersei’s spies.

“I am on my way to see Lord Baelish,” Sansa replied. “I have a question for him. Where were you going?”

Tyrion huffed as he leaned back on one of the pillows and clasped his hands together, “I was attempting to find Prince Oberyn before he killed someone or several some ones. The party from Dorne arrived today and it was missing several guests.”

“I forgot about that,” she breathed. “The wedding is getting closer and guests are arriving.”

“Yes, I went to meet them at the city gates and Prince Oberyn was not a member of the arriving party. Instead, I was told that he’d arrived in the city just after daybreak.”

“And now you’re searching the brothels for him?”

“Well, when you’re famous for fucking half of Westeros,” Tyrion crudely with a shrug. “I figured that it was as good as place as any to start.”

“I see. Perhaps he’ll be at Littlefinger’s brothel.”

“Does my father now that you’re going to a brothel?”

Sansa simply smiled widely at Tyrion.

In truth, Tywin had no knowledge that she was going to Littlefinger’s brothel. He had been tied up with matter involving the Small Council and the monetary issues involving the royal wedding. Sansa had been quite disappointed when she’d woken up alone that morning, but the only evidence that had been left behind that Tywin had ever been in her bed was her ring sitting on the pillow beside her, a message tucked neatly inside. Procure Baelish’s Tears of Lys She had burned the note, but she understood it for what it was. A single confirmation from her husband to fulfill her plan of seeking Baelish out for the poison they would use to kill Joffrey. Varys had already agreed to keeping Baelish distracted while she went to his brothel and searched. She didn’t know what The Spider intended to do, but it wouldn’t buy her much time. One of his little birds, a whore of Littlefinger’s, had already passed information onto Varys about the location of poison. It was a simple plan. Swap the poison for another substance and yet, Sansa felt a heavy stone settling in her stomach. It was too easy. There was something that had to go wrong. Perhaps life had made her cynical, but Sansa couldn’t believe that such a task would be so easy.

As the litter traveled the narrowed streets to Littlefinger’s brothel, Sansa held her breath as they approached the yellow stone building with its large black double doors. A mockingbird had been carved into the stone next to the door, the only indication that the establishment belonged to Petyr Baelish. Soldiers dressed in rich yellows stood guard outside the brothel, a sure signal that Prince Oberyn was inside as well. Looking to Shae, Sansa nodded. It was the perfect cover to use to explain partly why they were visiting. It would not seem wholly unrealistic that the Lady of Lannister would personally search the Dornish Prince out to welcome him to the capital. Tyrion wore unreadable expression on his face as the litter was lowered to the ground. Quickly, the Master of Coin scrambled, Bronn waiting outside with his hand lazily resting on the pommel of his sword.

“Found your missing prince,” he said lazily before his eyes widened upon seeing her. “My Lady!”

Sansa nodded in acknowledgement before sweeping past both Bronn and Tyrion. Shae was close behind her and the pounding in her heart only intensified as Ser Jorah moved to follow. His hand was on the pommel of his sword, but she turned and stopped him.

“Stay here and make certain I come back within the next half hour,” she told him softly. “If I am not, you are to go to the Lord Hand and tell him where I am and what has happened.”

Ser Jorah’s expression was unreadable as he shook his head, “My lady, I should not leave your side as your sworn shield. It’s too dangerous to let you go inside unprotected.”

“I am not unprotected, Ser Jorah. You know that better than anyone else. Stay here, I will return.”

Ser Jorah looked as if he were ready to argue more with her, but she turned away before he could say anything. Tywin would tell her she was being reckless and silly leaving Ser Jorah outside, but she needed him there more than she needed him inside. Littlefinger would be less likely to speak with her if Ser Jorah was present. Shae was not as threatening in appearance and once she sent her handmaiden away, Sansa was certain that she could bend Petyr Baelish exactly as she wanted. There were three stairs up to the landing of the building and inside the entry hall of the brothel was dimmed with hanging red oil lamps giving off dim light. Rich, dark wood paneling decorated the hall and it surprised her how well it looked. Several whores were insides, but one in particular took notice. Her hair was a rich black and she rushed forward with her eyes wide. She was scantily dressed, but the fabric was beautiful, Sansa observed as the girl bobbed a quick curtsy.

“My Lady Lannister,” she breathed. “How may I be of service?”

“Show me to Lord Baelish’s study,” Sansa said quietly. “I have business to discuss with the former Master of Coin.”

“Lord Baelish isn’t here,” the whore murmured.

“Show me to his study,” she snapped. “I will not wait for him in the entry hall with whores.”

The young woman flinched and quickly, Sansa and Shae were led away from the group gathered in the foyer. With one last glance over her shoulder, Sansa watched Tyrion enter the brothel and begin questioning a second whore for the location of Prince Oberyn Martell.

The private study of Littlefinger was just as well decorated as the entry hall had been with dark woods and dark blues in the furniture. It was difficult for Sansa to remember that they were in a brothel, not the respectable home of a Lord from the Eyrie. The furniture, the set up of the room, the elaborate carvings…it all took Sansa a moment to understand why the room looked so familiar. The room had been modeled after the private study of the Hand of the King and for an ambitious man like Petyr Baelish, Sansa wasn’t fooled. It was clear to her that he had no higher aspiration than to rule the land.

“Please wait here,” the dark haired whore said softly as she held onto the knobs of the great double doors. “Lord Baelish will return quickly to meet with you.”

The doors were closed behind them and Sansa waited several heartbeats before she nodded to Shae. Quickly, the handmaiden moved to the double doors and cracked them open to ensure that no one was lingering outside before closing them quietly.

“We’ll have to be quick,” Shae breathed. “Littlefinger will no doubt know that we’re here. Lord Varys said that girl told him that Littlefinger kept the vial in a small box with a lid that sprung up when pressed on.”

Nodding as she recalled the note, Sansa moved around to Baelish’s great desk that had been modeled after the Hand of the King’s and began opening drawers. Shae also began looking around at the other pieces of furniture and silently they worked. Baelish was a sloppy man and it made the task all the more difficult to look for the box and not disturb his drawers. His desk was empty and so was the bookcase that was on the far wall. Shae began opening chests and the drawers of several cases by the fireplace. Sansa moved towards the windows and began going through the long line of chests there. It astounded her that a man could have so many pieces of crumpled paper.

Opening the bottom drawer of a chest near the windows, Sansa paused as she looked down inside. A small portrait of her mother looked back at her and she could hardly breathe. It felt like a lifetime since she’d looked at the happy face that so closely mirrored her own. Resisting the urge to reach out and touch it, Sansa closed the drawer and forced herself to concentrate. They were there for a reason and it was not to steal her mother’s portrait. Hearing Shae’s soft cry of happiness, Sansa went to her. The small dark wood box that had been described was in a large drawer filled with papers.

“He means to make certain that no one touches it,” Shae explained softly. “The papers are a trap, but we don’t have to remove the box.”

Instead, all they had to do was lightly press on top of the box for a secret compartment to be revealed. It was clever to have the lock on the front of the box. It made the thief believe that the valuable items were locked inside, not hidden in the top compartment. Easily, the top part that had been richly carved to resemble a mockingbird clicked open revealing a small slot with three vials in the compartment.

“How do we know which is?” Sansa breathed.

“Give me your bracelet,” Shae murmured. She quickly unhooked the clasp and held out the gold bracelet. Taking it, Shae broke off small link and opened the vial.

“Tears of Lys are tasteless and scentless,” she explained. “When the poison touches gold, it turns the gold purple. It’s why they always serve the poison in silver cups.”

Sansa held her breath as Shae dipped the gold into the clear liquid. Nothing happened and Sansa watched intensely as Shae closed the vial, replaced it and took the second one. Repeating the process, Sansa was amazed to see the gold bracelet turn a dark amethyst color when submerged in the second vial.

“This is the one,” Shae muttered happily. “Let me check the last one.”

Like the first one, no reaction happened. Two fake vials and one real one, Sansa realized with some admiration. A way to confuse a thief as to which vial contained the real poison. Quickly, Sansa retrieved her ring from her pocket and unlatched the part of the ring to reveal a smooth, hallowed inside. Shae poured a small amount into the hallowed space before taking the vial of water they had to replace the missing substance. Looking down at the ring, Sansa could see that it was already causing the silver insides of her ring to tarnish slightly. Closing to top of the ring and latching it, Sansa could feel her heart slowing in her chest.

“Tears of Lys are potent,” Shae whispered as Sansa slipped the ring onto her middle finger. “It will tarnish the silver, but gold it turns purple. When mixed to dilute it in a goblet, the tears aren’t strong enough to tarnish away the metal. It only happens when the tears are mixed with the metal without an additive.”

“Where did you learn this?” Sansa asked as Shae fixed the box and closed the drawer, erasing an evidence that they had been there.

“When I was in Lys, an alchemist was one of my regular patrons,” Shae explained. “He didn’t want my body for anything. He was a widow and he craved a woman’s attention. So he taught everything that he knew and I eased the burden of his loneliness. He was a dear man.”

Sansa found herself unable to say anything as she weakly patted Shae’s hand and moved to sit on the chaise near the window. Outside, she could hear the bustle of the streets, vendors calling out for people to buy their wears and women haggling the price of meat with the butchers. The stench of the city overwhelmed her and turned her stomach. Not for the first time, Sansa found herself grateful for the beauty of the Hand’s gardens and the flowery scent that always seemed to be around. She also found herself longing for the clean air from the North.

The cold, crisp air that always welcomed her in the early mornings…the same air that Robb and her brothers had breathed…the same air her father had breathed...

As quickly as those thoughts had come, Sansa pushed them away. Grief would not sustain her. If she fell into such sadness, it would be impossible to pull herself out of such a dark place. Silently, she reminded herself that Catelyn still lived. Her mother would be at the capital any day now to see her and hope and happiness swelled within her. To be embraced in loving arms again…Sansa could hardly contain herself as she thought about introducing Tyren to her mother. Tywin had given his permission for Catelyn to come and live with them at Casterly Rock. To have another mother with her, a person who had walked the difficult path of motherhood before her was a comforting thought.

The sounds of hurried feet on the stone floor broke Sansa away from her thoughts as she watched a flustered and out of breath Littlefinger appear in the doorway. He gave a deep bow and she stood, nodding in response.

“My Lady Sansa,” Littlefinger breathed as he entered the private study. “I had no knowledge that you would be coming to see me today. I would have come to you if you had wished of my presence. It would have spared you the discomfort of traveling to my establishment.”

“It was no great burden to come see you,” Sansa assured him “In fact, I was hoping for your help.”

“I see, my lady.” His eyes flashed in Shae’s direction briefly, but Sansa understood that she needed Baelish alone to convince him to help her. Smiling at Shae, she easily dismissed her weary handmaiden from the chamber as Baelish poured himself a goblet of wine.

“And how may I be of service to your ladyship?” He asked after setting the decanter of wine down and taking a sip of his red wine. “I shared a deep friendship with your mother. Anything I can do for you is no task at all, Lady Sansa. A glass of wine?”

“No, thank you,” she smiled. “I am happy that you speak so freely about my mother. I miss her dearly and it is very hard to remember your family when those around you don’t want you to speak of it.”

“If you’ve come to speak about your mother, I am all ears, Lady Sansa. I grew up with her. Catelyn and I shared a deep connection and if talking about her helps, I am more than willing to share.”

His offer was tempting, Sansa realized. He was giving her an offer to speak freely of the past. To speak about those who she loved…to breathe life into their memory and it was dangerous. Her purpose was not to remember her brothers and father. She was not there to talk about her missing Arya and her mother. She had a greater purpose in seeking revenge for their deaths and she reminded herself that Petyr Baelish played a great role in her father’s death, something that she could never forgive.

Sansa sighed softly as she sat down on the edge of the settee, “I am afraid that is not my reason for being here, Lord Baelish. You see, I wish to present King Joffrey with a gift on his wedding day and I hoped that you would be able to assist me with finding such a gift.”

If Littlefinger was surprised by her words, he gave no indication as he moved to sit beside her, his glass of wine abandoned. He let his arm rest on the back of the chaise, his fingers dancing uncomfortably across her covered shoulder. His breath smelt like mint, but it didn’t have the same effect that Tywin’s minted breath had on her. Instead of her heart beating rapidly in her chest, she felt discomfort grow in her belly at closeness.

“And just what do you have in mind as a gift for our dear king?” Littlefinger whispered to her softly as if they were lovers engaged in professing the depth of their love.

“You and I both know about his…nature,” Sansa whispered back, pushing aside her discomfort to play the game that needed to be played. “I know that Lady Olenna would be very displeased if anything happened to her granddaughter on the wedding night. I was hoping that you would be able to help me procure a gift for King Joffrey that would…exhaust him enough that he would still be able to perform his duty and not give into his sadistic desires.”

“You’re asking me to give over good merchandise for the king to ruin.”

“I am asking you to help me avoid war. Can you imagine the upset that such an incident would cause? Queen Cersei and the Lady Olenna are already on such bad terms. We wouldn’t want to worsen the relationship between the Reach and the Crown. There could be great reward in this, my lord.”

Her words had a noticeable effect on Petyr Baelish. He hid his response well, but she could see his interest in what the reward could be.

“I can speak to Lord Tywin,” she murmured to him, moving closer so that her lips almost brushed against his earlobe. “I can tell him what you’ve done. The idea will be all yours. I simply don’t want to see Margaery get hurt. I care about her too much to see her tarnished. I can do more for you than Cersei ever could, my lord.”

Baelish watched her from the corner of his eyes and she knew that her plan was working. Reaching out, she let her finger tips trail over the top of his thigh as she leaned closer to his lips.

“Will you not help me with Joffrey’s gift?” she murmured softly, her lips nearly touching his. His hands touched her and she forced herself not flinch as he drew her closer.

It was the sound of a man screaming above them caused Sansa to jerk away from Baelish and the whore procurer flew to his feet. Falling back slightly onto the chaise, Sansa watched as the man threw open the double doors of his private quarters and demanded to know what was happening. Shae looked in with a worried expression on her face as she rushed to helps Sansa stand.

“Quickly,” Sansa breathed. “I am certain that he suspects something more. He’s not stupid.”

Hand in hand, Sansa and Shae walked as quickly as they could through the winding halls that they had followed with Littlefinger’s whore. Every step made Sansa’s heartbeat quicker and it was only upon seeing the front entry hall and the black double doors that would lead them outside to safety with Ser Jorah did she breathe a little easier.

Before they could cross the grey stone floor, two men came into view and Shae stopped her. Palms damp, Sansa was surprised to find the tall, dark haired man standing with a soldier wiping his red hands. The scream from upstairs must have involved them. Blood stained his hands and ruined the yellow overcoat he wore. In fact, both men were dressed in yellow with the sigil of the House Martell displayed in different way. The soldier wore armor that had been imprinted with the sun and spear, but the man was different as he cleaned his hands with the cloth. His garments were made of the finest silks and small suns had been embroidered all throughout his yellow traveling cloak. A belt was wrapped tightly around his waist and a dagger was tucked loosely at his hip. If he was surprised at seeing a lady of her quality there, he said nothing. His face was handsome and his body was strong, she felt herself warming slightly under his gaze and reminded herself to breathe. Stepping out from her hiding place behind the corner, Sansa walked towards him and stopped when he looked at her.

“I apologize, my lady, if the noise disrupted you,” he said with a bow. “I am—”

It was Tyrion’s hurried entrance that stopped the man from speaking further. Silence engulfed the entry hall as Shae stood beside her protectively. Not knowing quite what to do, Sansa couldn’t help but to wish that she’d listened to Ser Jorah’s passionate pleading that he come with her to ensure her safety. It had been foolish not to listen to her sworn shield.

“Prince Oberyn, Sansa,” Tyrion said breaking the silence as he turned to look at her “How pleasant to know that you’re leaving as well and my father won’t have my balls in a vice for keeping you too long at a brothel.”

The man’s handsome face changed and instead of the open warmth that he’d shown her earlier, his expression became dark and unreadable. He tossed the stained cloth aside, his tan skin still red with dried blood, as he watched her.

“The Lady Lannister,” he growled, his voice dark. “How intriguing to know that he married the girl who was intended to wed the king. I’ve heard stories about you.”

“Prince Oberyn,” Sansa said with a curtsey, ignoring the blatant jibe. “I am pleased to meet a man that I have heard quite a bit about. I hope that your travel to the capital was not too terrible.”

“The roads were smelly and the capital reeks as it always has,” he said.

“Prince Oberyn, a word in private if you will,” Tyrion interjected quickly as Bronn returned, buttoning the front flap of his breeches. Prince Oberyn ignored Tyrion and instead walked towards her.

Standing her ground, Sansa easily allowed her mask of serene indifference to spread over her face like armor and she felt safer with it. The tall prince stopped when he was only a step away from her and she could smell the earthy smell of orange soap on him. It was a pleasant scent that overwhelmed the senses and she found that she wouldn’t have minded smelling him for the rest of the day. It was better than the city that reeked. She didn’t know how long she stood, waiting for the prince to finish his examination. What he was looking for, she didn’t know, but she must have passed his test.

“Lady Lannister,” Prince Oberyn drawled as he held out a bloody hand. “Would you honor me with a walk?”

Her mind screamed at her to refuse the invitation, but curiosity was too much. She couldn’t imagine what Prince Oberyn wanted from her and that intrigued her all the more. Reaching, she took his bloody hand.

“Of course, my prince,” she said with a curtsy. “I am yours to command.”

In the streets, Sansa walked at a leisurely pace with Prince Oberyn. He was an exceptionally tall man and she knew that the slower pace was probably irritating to him. She found herself enjoying Tyrion's discomfort as he looked around them cautiously; half convinced they were being followed by Littlefinger's spies. They most likely were being followed, but Sansa was not concerned with such problems. She wanted Littlefinger to know, she wanted him to question just where her loyalties laid. She wanted him nervous and unsure. As they walked towards the city gates, Sansa was slightly surprised to find them walking into a long abandoned Sept. The stone walls that had once been painted blue with stars and icons of the seven faces of God had been cracked and peeling. Plants grew from the cracked stone floor and the smell of stale urine permeated the air. Wrinkling her nose, Sansa followed Prince Oberyn into the inner sanctuary. The small circular room with its lopsided dias and broken pews spoke to a time of closed quarter worship. A time when a Septon only worshipped with a few followers in the belief that his message could be better understood with a smaller gatherings and close quarters.

“Quite the place for a social gathering,” Tyrion quipped as Prince Oberyn closed the double doors that looked like they were ready to fall off their hinges.

There was one chair that looked sturdy enough to sit in and Sansa quickly claimed the chair as her own. Folding her hands in her lap, she waited for Prince Oberyn to speak. She was curious to know why he’d brought them to this dilapidated Sept of all places, but she refused to show her curiosity and anxiety like Tyrion was doing. The sound of the Prince’s boots on the broken stone floor was rhythmic and almost hypnotizing to listen to as Sansa waited. After several minutes of watching the Prince pace, Tyrion looked almost bored and she could not blame him.

“Is there a reason that you’ve brought us here? I’m getting hungry,” Tyrion proclaimed with a mocking yawn at the end.

Prince Oberyn stopped and smiled slightly as he clasped his hands behind his back.

“Have you heard a rumor about a dragon?”

His words forced Sansa to look up from where she’d been playing with the ring on her middle finger. Prince Oberyn was playing a game, she knew it just from the look on his face. He knew that they had to have heard the rumors of a dragon, but Sansa stayed silent. She wanted to know what the Dornishman would say.

“The last time I was in the capital was many years ago for another wedding,” Prince Oberyn said with a far off look on his handsome face as he was temporarily lost in a memory. “My sister, Elia, and Rhaegar Targaryen, the last dragon...their wedding was a grand affair. My sister loved him deeply. She bore his children. Swaddled them, rocked them, fed them at her own breast…Elia wouldn’t let the wet nurse touch them. And beautiful, noble Rhaegar Targaryen left her for another woman…a wolf. Well, that started a war and that war ended in this very city when Lord Tywin Lannister took this city and butchered those children and Elia.” “We were not present for that,” Tyrion said uncomfortably.


“I have heard rumors about one last dragon,” Sansa interrupted as she stood up. “That’s why we’re here, aren’t we? I am sorry for the death of your sister and niece. I am even sorrier that it was my aunt’s foolish actions that caused so many people so much pain. However, there was one child that lived that night. You and I both know it.”

Tyrion looked at her with a puzzled expression on his face as he moved to plop down in the chair that she’d been sitting in only moments before. Clasping her hands in front of her, Sansa slowly walked the perimeter of the Sept trying to decide just how much to reveal.

“Jon Connington smuggled Prince Aegon out of the castle walls, didn’t he? And Connington brought Prince Aegon to you in Sunspear and with your brother’s help, you smuggled the last dragon out of Westeros to the East where you ensured that he was prepared for his role as future king with the best tutors and generals that your gold could buy. Am I missing anything, Prince Oberyn?”

“Keep going.”

“You’re here because now Prince Aegon is ready to take by his throne.”

“The Prince will have his revenge for what your husband did to his mother and sister,” Prince Oberyn declared as he crossed his arms over his chest. “I know that rumors of what happened to Elia. Gregor Clegane raped her and split her in two with his great sword.”

"But my husband saved him," Sansa replied softly. "Tywin Lannister saved Aegon Targaryen, the last dragon of Dragonstone. You and I both know that his support could win Aegon the throne. The House Lannister controls the Riverlands, the Westernlands, the Crownlands, the North...four of the seven kingdoms. You can't win a war with only one supporting kingdom."

"And if he had aid from across the sea?" Prince Oberyn challenged.

"Do you think that the people here will welcome such an invasion? No, they won't and it won't gain Aegon the support that he desperately needs," Tyrion interceded with a curious voice.

"With us, he will have the automatic backing of four kingdoms. Four is better than one if I am not mistaken, Prince Oberyn." She told herself with pride that they'd checked him.

Sansa could see it in his eyes that he knew the truth as well as she did. Even with a fragile peace, the seven kingdoms would see Aegon's crossing as another invasion and instead of fighting as individual kingdoms, they would rise as one against a threatening invasion.

"Varys said that I could trust you,” Prince Oberyn said quietly. “He said that you were both the most reasonable and smartest Lannisters. You are also the Lannisters that wish to see Joffrey unseated from the throne.”

“We openly do not acknowledge such a plot,” Sansa demurred. “Privately, Prince Oberyn, I believe that our interests can be aligned as needed. If we are to unseat a king, there must be a contender for the throne capable of fulfilling such a void that has been created. We are open to negotiate just who that contender will be. Lord Varys has already made mention of one such contender and I have found that I am not the only Lannister willing to support such a contender.”

“Allow me to introduce you to one such contender,” Prince Oberyn said as walked to a door that Sansa had barely noticed behind the lopsided dais.

"You brought him here," Sansa breathed with surprise, somehow managing to keep her composure as she clasped her hands in front of her. "I am all astonishment, Prince Oberyn."

There was no doubting the parentage of the youth before her. He was tall with silvery hair that fell to his shoulders in waves. The hair at his temples was pulled back and his black tunic and boots were finely made. Even the gray cape he wore was embroidered with silver three headed dragons. His dark violet eyes watched her with challenge and Sansa wondered if she was facing another mad king.

"A pleasure to meet you, Prince Aegon," she murmured, holding out her hand for the prince. With measured steps, Aegon Targaryen stepped forward and kissed the back of her hand.

"Am I not your king?" He asked, his voice deep sending a shiver down her spine. "I am not your prince, I am your king."

"You have not won the battle for the throne," Sansa declared. "You have shown me nothing that would support me calling you king. The conversation that we have today will end in two ways. The first, you gain my support. The other ending is that you lose my support. The choice is yours." "

Your husband murdered my family."

"Yes, he does not deny that."

"He murdered your brother."

"Yes, he does not deny that either."

"You would have me accept a murdering traitor's support? Allow him to live after everything that he's done?"

"Your family is not innocent either," Sansa breathed angrily. "Your father kidnapped my aunt before leaving her to die alone in Dorne. Your father let open rebellion rage through this kingdom and nearly destroyed us. Your grandfather burned my grandfather to death and strangled my uncle to death as he watched on and laughed."

She was gratified to see the smug expression wiped from the Prince's face. He was young and arrogant to think that she could not play the childish games he wanted to play.

"I could tell you stories about your royal line that would make you ill," Sansa murmured as she stood up from the bench next to Tyrion. "The past has died and can never be reborn. If you want to count the sins of the past, make certain that you know the sins of your own family first, Prince Aegon."

As she stepped closer, she could smell the same soap that Tywin used on the Prince's skin.

"You never gave the details of your proposal," Prince Aegon called and Sansa stopped walking.

Turning, she slowly made her way back to where the prince stood. "We have terms and conditions that you must fulfill."

"Such as?"

"I don’t think you understand the gravity of the situation.”

“Explain it to me, madam,” Prince Aegon said in a biting tone that she did not care for in the slightest. It was Tyrion who cleared his throat and clasped his hands behind his back.

“Joffrey Baratheon sold his debt to us,” he explained as if addressing a small child. “The House of Lannister has the majority of interest vested in the throne simply because we almost own it with the amount of debt that we have paid off for the crown. I believe the debt stands at nearly five million gold dragons. One million has already been paid by families not wishing to see my father gain power over the throne. Should you take the throne, the money is still owed by the crown. Death does not discharge the debts that are owed by the prior kings. The royal coffers are empty and every day, Joffrey and his mother borrow more Lannister gold to pay for their expenses. As you can see, the House Lannister has every right to lay down any terms and conditions to protect our monetary interests in the future.”

“And what are these terms?”

“We will acknowledge what happened to Elia Martell and we hand over Ser Gregor Clegane to face your justice without a fight,” Sansa said, remember all Tywin had told her. “We will also seek to limit your power, Prince Aegon. Checks and balances will be added to prevent a second mad king boiling one of his lords alive in his armor. A document will drawn up and it will be present in the future with all terms and conditions that have been decided upon by the seven kingdoms.”

“Four of which the Lannisters control,” Prince Oberyn drawled.

“We will also will insist that any and all Targaryen incest be ended,” Sansa continued, not bothering to acknowledge Prince Oberyn’s words. “It is our belief that Margaery Tyrell would be the most suitable option for Prince Aegon to marry and make his queen. In doing so, you secure the support of the Reach and will have the support of six of the seven kingdoms. All gained without a single battle or a drop of bloodshed.”

"And if I do not agree?” Aegon challenged.

“We will find another contender for the throne,” Sansa replied easily with a shrug of one elegant shoulder. “Make no mistake, Prince Aegon, King Joffrey’s days are limited. His brother, Prince Tommen, is weak and will not last long as king either. Restoring your rule and the rule of the Targaryens can be argued. There would be little trouble in arguing that the Baratheon line is unfit to rule. Rumors already circulate about the paternity of the royal family. It would not be difficult to use such rumors and use a desire to see the madness of the Baratheon rule ended. There can be a peaceful transition of power, my lord. There is also another path. A bloody path, a path that can only end with the fall of great families and blood turning fields and rivers red while the wails of widows and children echo throughout the land. It is my opinion that Westeros is not able to handle such a civil war, one has already almost destroyed it. Dorne will back your claim and we will back our own contender for the Iron Throne. Wars are costly, Prince Aegon. You don’t have the money to fund such a venture and even if you did, the Iron Bank will not give a line of credit to any heir of the Iron Throne. Robert and Joffrey Baratheon already destroyed the Iron Throne’s credit with that bank by borrowing money that they were unable to repay. You will find that the Iron Bank will not give credit to those who are unable to pay their debts or those who use a third party to buy out the debt that is owed to them. Such practices are frowned upon and because of Robert and Joffrey Baratheon’s spending habits, the Iron Bank no longer does business with the Iron Throne. You would have to find revenue for your war from another place.”

She could see in his eyes that he was young and inexperienced. Sansa knew that she’d given him more information than he was capable of processing in one conversation. Prince Oberyn had little difficulty following the situation and from the unreadable look on his face, Sansa knew that he understood the delicate political landscape that she had just described. There was a choice to be made. Aegon could choose to trust his perceived enemies and have a peaceful transition to power or he could throw away any and all caution and fight an expensive war that would not give him a guarantee of sitting on the Iron Throne. The final option was to simply do nothing and Sansa could not believe that a young man like Prince Aegon would choose to do such a thing. No, she could only hope and pray that he would choose the first option and spare them all more war and bloodshed. Walking to the doors with Tyrion beside her, Sansa stopped herself from opening the double doors and turned back to face the young man.

“Speak with your advisors, Prince Ageon. Speak with Lord Varys. Speak with your uncle,” she advised humbly. “Learn all the different facts and plot out every scenario that could happen. Draw every different conclusion and choose the path that suits you best. However, know that the Houses of Lannister and Stark can be your greatest allies or your worst enemies. The choice is yours and no one else’s. To be a king means that you will be responsible for such choices and those beneath you will look for a strong ruler who knows how to make the difficult choices set before him and generate the outcomes that bring peace and prosperity to his people above all else including a king’s own need for pride, vanity, and vengeance. Play your game of thrones wisely, Prince Aegon. I will surely see you at some wedding festivity, Prince Oberyn. Have a good day.”

Setting out of the crumbling Sept, Sansa could see Ser Jorah’s look of relief on his face as she emerged unscathed with Tyrion at her side. Outside, the sunshine was bright and the birds sang in the afternoon air. It was difficult to fathom that moments ago they’d been speaking of such a heavy topic. She understood Tywin’s position and hoped that she had represented him and his position as he would have had Prince Oberyn decided to speak directly with her lord husband.

“Why do I believe that Lord Varys set up that meeting?” Tyrion grumbled as they settled inside the litter.

“Because he did,” Sansa replied. “I imagine that he spent a great deal of time trying to convince Prince Oberyn that such a topic could even be discussed with Lannisters such as you and I.”

“Did you have any idea such a conversation would happen?”

“No, but I believe that we can trust Prince Oberyn. He is not the type to align himself with Lady Olenna or Cersei. Above all else, Lady Olenna craves a crown for her granddaughter. Why would the woman support and uncrowned king when there is already a king wearing a crown and it is much easier to acquire? As for Cersei, I can’t imagine that she and Prince Oberyn have anything in common that would allow their interest to align even for a moment in time. No, Prince Oberyn’s list of allies is astonishingly short and I am certain that Lord Varys worked very hard for this meeting.”

“Well, that was a successful interview,” Tyrion commented as the litter began to move, carrying them back to the Red Keep.

Sansa said nothing because he was right. Prince Oberyn knew that Prince Aegon needed more than just the support of Dorne to successful take the Irone Throne and Varys had known that as well. It was an interview to see if the past could pushed away just long enough to place a new king on the throne before the thirst for vengeance and hatred overtook all parties involved again. Leaning back against the pillows, Sansa suddenly felt incredibly exhausted from the entire day. She wanted nothing more than to close her eyes and sleep, but she couldn’t. The next step was to tell Tywin of what had transpired and listen to what his response was to the matter at hand. The heavy feeling of stones in her stomach settled again and for a moment, Sansa wondered what her lord husband would say. Had she overplayed her hand and revealed too much? The swaying of the litter did not help the feeling of nausea that took hold of her belly and breathing slowly through her nose, Sansa did her best not to allow her nerves to make her ill. Was it even possible for a dragon and a lion to plot together without claws being buried in each other’s flesh?

~ ~ ~


Chapter Text

Part Nineteen: Carry Me Home

“…Carry me home when the light in my eyes does fade
Carry me home when the shadow comes to take me away
Lay down my bones knowing I’ll be in a better place
Release my soul, carry me home…”

~ “Carry Me Home” – The Sweeplings

The Tower of the Hand, the Red Keep

August 300 A.C.

The air was damp and chilly as Sansa sat still on the edge of the cold stone bench. Tywin leaned against the stone wall near the dragon head brazier as it blazed in an attempt to bring light to the darkness. The light caressed Tywin’s face illuminating the lines around his eyes. They were more pronounced as he glared down at the dancing flames of the crackling fire as if a single icy, cold glare could snuff it out. She hugged herself, desperate to feel warm in the dim chamber. She wasn’t sure how long they’d been in the darkness, but it had been long enough that her toes had grown numb due to the cold. The soft chemise and light pink dressing gown she wore did little to retain any true warmth. Silently, Sansa promised herself that she’d never set foot again in these tunnels once Joffrey was disposed of.

The icy air reminded her too much of winter and when she thought of winter, she thought of Robb, Bran..Rickon...her mother…

“Are you not going say something?” Sansa whispered into the silence, half proud that she stopped her teeth from chattering. Tywin made a small noise acknowledging that he’d heard her. His tunic was opened at the neck and the leather jerkin he’d worn earlier was discarded as well as the doublet he’d worn under it. She’d barely been out of her bath and in her dressing gown when he’d come into her dressing room and dismissed her handmaidens. Perhaps the chamber seemed colder because her hair was damp and she envied his ability to withstand the cold. He’d taken her down into the chamber before insisting that she tell him all about her day.

And so, she’d revealed to him the events of the day from her meeting with Littlefinger to Prince Oberyn revealing that he’d smuggled Prince Aegon Targaryen into the capital. It all seemed to be too much and she desperately wanted Tywin to say something. She wanted him to say anything that would give her a clue as to what he was thinking. It was too difficult to tell with the blank expression on his face. She could deal with anger and violence, silence was a different animal entirely when it came to her lord husband. Silence could be both good and bad and she hated it.

“The North is on the cusps of full anarchy,” Tywin said after several moments of silence as he turned slightly to look at her. “Bolton’s bastard has been creating a havoc of his own. I have to install someone to govern the North and keep it secure until the heir of the North is produced. Prince Aegon’s return only complicates matters. So man