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Good-Brothers

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He came upon the Imp of Casterly Rock sitting before a fire with a goblet of wine in his hand. From the little Jon Snow knew of the man, he wasn’t all that surprised by what was before him. Tyrion Lannister was contemplative, Jon knew that from their journey to the Wall. Now, as Hand to Daenerys Targaryen, he was even moreso. A part of Jon didn’t want to interrupt him; the King in the North had come to appreciate contemplative aides. But, after his arrival on Dragonstone and his walk to meet the Mother of Dragons, there were some things he wanted to know.

“Have you figured out the problem of your dead allies and lost fleet?” Jon asked quietly, not wanting to startle the other man.

Tyrion turned to him and smiled. “No, but I am pleased you have at least accomplished what you sought from our Queen,” he replied, getting up to take another glass from a cart. He walked back to his seat, lifted the decanter and poured a second glass of wine before refilling his own glass. Tyrion offered Jon the second cup, which, after a hesitation, he accepted. Now Tyrion wore a smirk. “Thinking there is something nefarious is my offer of cheer?”

“No,” Jon denied, but not entirely truthfully.

“You have nothing to fear. If I were to kill you, strangulation and a crossbow are more my methods,” the Hand japed. Jon threw a sideways glance at him, for which he shrugged his shoulder. “A former lover who betrayed me and my father. Unfortunately, Tywin Lannister was no Ned Stark. He couldn’t accept a trueborn who was...abnormal.”

The mention of his father’s name made him lower his gaze. He had thought of his father often in recent months, what he would say about his bastard son being crowned King in the North. That thought naturally brought him to Sansa and how her maneuver worked better than she had originally choreographed. Remembering her was what had led him here initially.

“You mentioned about Sansa when I arrived, and that you were married to her,” he said, looking towards the dwarf.

Tyrion drank deeply from his cup. “Ah, is that what brought you out of your quarters in the middle of the night?” Tyrion asked.

“You said I was no prisoner,” he replied. “That I was free to move about the island.”

“I did,” Tyrion answered. “Before I answer your question, I have one of my own.” He turned to Jon, a line of worry upon his face. “Will you feel the need to defend your sister’s honor, should you think it was called into question?”

“You already said it was unconsummated,” Jon told him. “I don’t feel the need immediately to do to you, what I did to the man who did...consummated his marriage.”

Now Tyrion looked confused. “Sansa was married?”

“Sold into marriage, more like. To Ramsey Bolton.”

Tyrion looked away, as if trying to place the name. “I don’t know the name.” But then, he did remember a comment dropped in a council in Meereen.

“Ramsey was a bastard, legitimized by King Tommen,” Jon explained, taking another sip. “Littlefinger brought Sansa back to Winterfell and married her to Ramsey.”

Thinking of Theon Greyjoy for a moment, Tyrion had a pretty good idea about that wedding night, as much as it pained him. “Is that how he died? Killed by a brother avenging his sister’s honor?”

Now, Jon smiled, but there was no kindness, no humor in it. There was almost a sick pleasure in the memory of what he had found in the kennels of Winterfell after Sansa left Ramsey there with his dogs. “No. Sansa was the victim. It was only right that she pass the sentence and...preside over the execution. One of my father’s beliefs was that that the death should come from the person who ruled it so.” Another glance at Tyrion and he added, “Ramsey loved his dogs. In anticipation of victory in battle, he had starved them for a week, thinking they would feast of the bodies of his enemies. A starving dog doesn’t know the difference between its master and its next meal.”

“And Sansa saw it through?” Tyrion remembered how she had remained strong throughout her torment in King’s Landing. He had always wondered if she thought of ways to discard her enemies, namely Joffrey and Cersei. He was curious as to what the lady’s justice would be. Even though it had never fallen on the head of a Lannister, he at least had a picture to draw on.

“Enough to ensure the job was done,” Jon confirmed.

“Pity. I would have liked the chance to order my own punishment on his head.”

“The body is long burned. He is forgotten.” Now Jon turned to him, his full attention on Tyrion. “And you and Sansa? She hasn’t spoken much of her time away from Winterfell. I know there is still great pain in those memories. She did mention something of a marriage alliance before Ramsey, but little else.”

“What is that line on the oath of the Night’s Watch? ‘And now my watch begins’?” Tyrion smiled. “I said that to her on our wedding night...before falling asleep on a chaise in our bedroom. Thank the gods they made me a dwarf! It would have been most uncomfortable for the months of our marriage, for it was every night that I slept there.” He offer Jon a kind smile. “I swore to her I would not touch her until she wished for it. I’m not surprised she never did. But she had been hurt too much and I was not willing to be party to it, unlike the rest of my family who reveled in it. My father wanted us married so that our children would hold claim on the North.” Now Tyrion’s gaze fell. “A few months later, the next part of the plan was put into place to ensure that future for our children with the tragedy at the Twins.”

Jon tensed at the reference. Even though he had not witnessed the scene, his mind created nightmare images of the Red Wedding. Of a goodsister and nephew he would never meet. Of his father’s wife, as fierce as any wolf, blood flowing from her neck. Of his brother, stabbed through the heart.

Just then, the ache in his own chest flared up. It usually did when he thought of Robb’s death. Olly and the rest of the traitors, stabbing him one at a time.

“I have never felt so murderous as I did when my shit of a nephew laughed about it in a Small Council meeting. They created a whole slew of enemies that night. I warned them about it, but they waved it off. Later on, my father threatened Sansa’s virginity by warning that it would be taken, with or without my cooperation. It was only Joffrey dying that prevented that. Luckily for Sansa, she escaped the capital. Unlikely for me, I was accused, tried and sentenced for the crime. Thus ended any protection I could offer your sister.”

“And she fell into Littlefinger’s hands,” Jon concluded. “She didn’t want me to leave, and come here, for many reasons, but one of them was surely because Littlefinger is still ensconced at Winterfell.” Tyrion looked at him with alarm until he expounded on the comment, “Littlefinger was named Lord Protector of the Vale, for Sansa’s cousin, Robin Arryn. He offered and she eventually asked for the troops that aided us to victory against the Bolton’s. She has remained there, alone with him, save for a knight who swore fealty to Lady Catelyn.”

“I’d like to be there now, with Littlefinger. Offer him a piece of my mind. I just wished he’d run to my sister with my marriage plans for Myrcella instead of Pycelle.” Tyrion picked up his glass again, taking a thoughtful sip. “No matter. Sadly, Ramsey’s taking annulled my marriage to your sister.” He lowered his head, dropped his voice. “I took seriously my vow to protect her when I draped the cloak on her shoulders. Even though we are no longer married, I intend to keep it.” Now he looked back at Jon. “I vow this to you.”

Jon merely nodded his acknowledgement. He emptied his glass, deciding whether or not to continue with the conversation. But he was still restless, despite the long journey. “So, how did a Lannister become Hand to a Targaryen?” he asked.

Tyrion chuckled. “You’d have to ask my father that,” he said. When he noticed the younger man failed to understand the reference, “My father served as Hand to Aerys II for many years. They were friends, even. But my sister had images of being a queen next to Rhaegar Targaryen and when she and my father didn’t get their way, Father quit King’s Landing for the Rock. Didn’t return until he led his armies in sacking the city.” Then he looked down at his chest, the pin of the Hand tacked on to his tunic. “Ah, me you mean? Well, it involves a couple of murders, a sea voyage in a crate, enslavement and gladiatorial games and at last being brought before the Mother of Dragons. Wasn’t even sure I would get out of the encounter alive. She gave me a fine glass of wine though. If it was to be my last, I would have been satisfied. But, instead of killing me, she made me her advisor and later, despite nearly getting her city destroyed, her Hand.” Then Tyrion eyed his expectantly. “And you? Last I saw you, Jon Snow was going to take his vows as a man of the Night’s Watch. Now, you’ve broken at least one of them, holding a title. How did that come about?”

Jon stared into the fire, not wanting to think of all the vows he had broken since then. But Tyrion was waiting, expectantly. “There is but one way to be released from the vows of the Night’s Watch,” he answered at last.

“Yes, but obviously, that is not what happened,” the other man replied. Jon just stared at him and only then did he seem to understand. “Davos said…”

“Aye, I know what he said. Why do you think he hushed at my glare?” Jon let out a sigh. “It’s nothing I wish to discuss further. And I ask for you discretion in the matter with your queen.”

Tyrion gulped, but nodded in agreement. “There were stories in Essos of those with the ability to resurrect the dead. I thought they were just myths, but then again, until recently, I thought the same of dragons.” His eyes shifted from one side to the other. “The Red Priestess. She told us to bring you here.”

Jon stared straight ahead, not wanting to remember Melisandre. The woman who brought him back to life was the same one who sacrificed a young girl. The god who demanded a life had given his back to him. “She was here?”

“Yes,” Tyrion said, “but I have not seen her since your arrival. Did she anger you by bringing you back to life?”

“No. There were other crimes...other things that I banished her for.”

“Well, it was her word that convinced our queen to summon you here. She believes you to be important in upcoming events,” Tyrion said at last. Then he looked at his trousers, flicking off a piece of lint. “Since your arrival, I have not had the opportunity to express my deep condolences to you about your family that have died in recent years. Ned and Catelyn...they were good people who did not deserve the fates that befell them. Their deaths, and Robb’s, all came at the hands of my family. I wish to ask for forgiveness, not of Tywin or Cersei or Joffey, but of the rest of House Lannister. For the rest of us would not wish such a demise for as great house.”

Jon eyed Tyrion, unsure of how to answer him. In his heart, he knew the man before him was not a part of any of the tragedies that had happened in the past few years. He was standing against his own family now, against the band of madmen and murderers that had taken so much from the Starks. But who had he allied himself with instead? The daughter of another madman who had killed his grandfather and his uncle, whose brother had kidnapped and raped his aunt, foisting the realm into a war where his family had stood triumphant in the end. In truth, Jon had never known what to make of the dwarf, and he was still a mystery still.

However, in the end, he saw the horror in his own family. If he had that much sense about his own blood, did he have the same sense about Daenerys Targaryen? Was she the better alternative?

It didn’t matter, he realized. Stark, Targaryen, Lannister, Baratheon. There was little difference between any of them. And none that stood now, here on this island, knew of the true enemy, the one beyond the Wall. The Night King was the great enemy, the war he brought the true determiner for the future of Westeros. The crimes of one family upon another were meaningless against that.

Wordless, Jon shook the hand proffered to him. Then, with a bow of the head, he left the Hand of the Queen to his own musing in the darkness of the night.