A silence has settled over the Small Council chamber as the news is delivered. Across the table, Cersei's face is frozen, expressionless. Tyrion is sitting with a death grip around his wine glass, eyes darting between Tywin and Jaime, a smirk spreading over his face. And Tywin, the author of the chaos, sits calmly, waiting for one of his children to speak. Jaime has to lick his lips before he can speak.
“What?” he says. It's not exactly compelling. If anything, it just makes him sound like a half-wit.
“I said that I am taking this family in hand. Cersei will remarry, and you will marry Sansa Stark.”
“When Catelyn Stark released me, I promised her that if her daughters were still alive, I would return them to her. In regards to Arya Stark, you tell me she has vanished like a puff of smoke. Now you tell me to marry Sansa?”
“I don't care what promises you made to a traitor's widow. When Robb Stark loses this war – and one way or another, he will lose – and with her legitimate younger brothers dead, Sansa Stark will be the heir to Winterfell.”
“What about the bastard – Jon Snow? Ned Stark recognised him as his son,” Jaime said, rather desperately.
“Jon Snow is a bastard and a sworn Brother. He can no more inherit Winterfell than Varys can sire a child.”
“Kingsguard cannot marry either. I don't want Casterly Rock, I don't want a wife.” Tywin simply glared at him.
“Do you think I care a damn for what you want? Joffrey will release you from your oaths as a Kingsguard because I will tell him to. The moment you are free to marry, marry you shall. Then you will go to Casterly Rock and rule in my stead.”
“Then I should go with him -" Cersei tried. Tywin slammed a fist onto the table.
“You bloody well will not. You will remain here, with the King, whilst I organise your marriage. If it does nothing else, separating the two of you will serve to quell the vile rumours they repeat in every tavern from Dorne to the Wall. This is not a negotiation!” he snapped, as Jaime opened his mouth again. “It is done. You will marry Sansa Stark in two days time.”
Tyrion piped up then, the humour plain on his face.
“And I, Father? Who will you marry me off too?” Tywin's lip curled.
“For the time being, you shall remain unmarried. If we still had the younger Stark girl, you would be marrying her. Unfortunately we do not. However,, you will not continue to embarrass this family by whoring and drinking your way through the city. If you must fuck whores, you do so discretely. You will remain in Kings Landing after your brother returns to the Rock – where I can keep a watch on you.”
“Has anyone asked Sansa how she feels about this?” Cersei asked, almost idly. “About marrying a man twice her age?”
“Sansa Stark is the daughter of an arraigned traitor, with few prospects and as matters currently stand, no lands or wealth. She should be grateful for the match.”
“Ah yes, the uncle of the boy who ordered her father's head cut off with his own sword. I’m sure she'll be thrilled,” Jaime said, unable to keep the sarcasm out of his voice. Tywin sat back as his eyes swept over his children. When finally he spoke, there was an air of finality in his voice.
“Allow me to put this in terms simple enough for even you to understand. When you marry Sansa, and when she inherits Winterfell, a Lannister will hold the Rock, the North and the Crownlands. We will be the most powerful family in Westeros and this war will be ours. If you cannot bear living with her, then get a son on her quickly and send her away – send her to Dorne, send her to Braavos for all I care. Just do your duty with her first. She's a pretty little thing – it shouldn't be a taxing task for you. She comes from good stock – Catelyn Tully had five children, three of them boys.”
“The Northern lords will never accept a Lannister in Winterfell.They named Robb Stark King in the North, the boy didn't proclaim himself,” Jaime pointed out. It was his last hope.
“There is already dissent in Robb Stark's camp. You murdered a Karstark boy in your escape. He already openly opposes his so-called King as a result. Robb Stark will lose – and Sansa will bring us Winterfell. I have finished discussing the matter,” Tywin said, holding up a hand. “The three of you are going to do as you are told and that is an end to the matter. This family needs to be above reproach until such a time as Joffrey can be brought in line. The conversation is finished!” he barked, as Cersei opened her mouth to speak. “You are dismissed.”
Jaime walked blindly. He couldn't have said where he was going if anyone asked, or what he hoped to find there. Cersei had swept off, probably thinking or hoping that he would follow her, as he always had. Tyrion had ambled off towards his rooms, presumably to drink and count his lucky stars. He had simply stumbled away. In the end, he found himself in the cellar holding the dragon skulls, sitting next to Balerion the Dread.
It was Tyrion who found him in the end, and Jaime found that he was grateful – if he had to be found, Tyrion was probably the best one to find him. He didn't say anything at first, just sat beside him and passed him a flask of wine. Jaime drank deep, choking slightly on the bitter tang of cheap wine.
“That's disgusting.” He passed the flask back to Tyrion, who took a swig himself before he stoppered it.
“I know. But sometimes strength is better than taste.”
“What do you need strength for?” Jaime asked, resting his head back against the wall. “It isn't your life he's ruining.”
“I wouldn't say he's ruining it. Lord of Casterly Rock, Lord of Winterfell soon enough.That's far enough from ruined, wouldn't you say?”
“I don't want Casterly Rock and I don't want Winterfell. And I don't want Sansa Stark. If I had wanted marriage and lands I would have taken Robert up on the offer to discharge me from my services as a Kingsguard.”
“Well, there's a few ways we could get on with life,” Tyrion said pragmatically. “You can put on the armour and marry Sansa. She's rather beautiful; she isn't one of these fluttering, twittering ladies. She's braver and cleverer than she appears. You could do a lot worse than Sansa Stark. If you cannot find it in you to do it, I suppose you have options. You could ask to take the Black, you could take a ship to Braavos or to Myr or to Volantis and run away. You could cut your own cock off – even Father wouldn't make a eunuch marry.”
“Why don't you offer to marry her, if you admire her all that much?” Jaime demanded, conveniently ignoring the alternatives. Tywin wouldn't allow him to put aside his white cloak only to take up a black one in response and boarding any ship would be impossible to achieve without recognition and a party of men hot on his heels. And he was not yet so desperate as to attempt to castrate himself.
“Ah, if it were only so simple,” Tyrion rued. “But the disgraced child of a traitor and a rebel? The last thing the poor girl needs is a demon monkey as a husband.”
“But she apparently needs a man devoid of any honour. The Kingslayer's wife -"
“It has a ring to it,” Tyrion joked. Neither of them laughed. “Jaime, listen to me. I think we both agree that the poor girl has suffered enough. Since the day they cut her father's head off, she has been tormented and beaten -"
“Beaten?” Jaime repeated, a little alarmed. Tyrion shot him a surprised look.
“I would have thought Cersei would have reported on it gleefully. Joffrey has – or had, before Father got here – had her regularly beaten. Meryn Trant does most of it. He took her up on the walls and showed her Ned Stark's head. He had her clothes torn off in the throne room in front of the entire court, pointed a crossbow at her and told her to beg to be forgiven.” Jaime felt sick to his stomach. “I interrupted them and got her out of there. You might be interested to know the Hound gave her his cloak.”
“Nobody stopped this?” Jaime asked, his stomach cold at the thought.
“There was a point where she had fresh bruises every day.”
“Did Cersei know he was doing this?” Trion gave him a scornful look at that.
“Come, you aren't that blind to her, surely? Of course she knew. Cersei wages her own war against Sansa – with words instead of blows. The point is that her life here is miserable. Yes, she eats fine foods and wears silk. But she is as much of a prisoner here as you and I were to Catelyn Stark. You have the chance to take her away. To take her to the Rock and let her walk in freedom.”
“To take her to the Rock to be surrounded by Lannisters and for me to rape? Ah yes, what freedom.”
“You plan to rape her?”
“I can hardly envision her consenting, can you?” Tyrion was silent then.
“You could wait. Get her to the Rock, treat her decently, give her time.”
“And the morning after my wedding, when Father asks why the maids report no blood on her sheets?”
“Cut the sole of your foot.”
“Cut the sole of your foot. A little cut, it needs only a smear of blood. Drip it on the sheets at around her hip height. You'll prove your decency to her, Father will know no better and you can get her out of here. And women's bodies are a mysterious thing. It may take her time to conceive.”
“It's a good plan, Tyrion. But if she decides never to sleep with me?”
“I think you underestimate yourself. You'll have to share a bed to maintain the ruse. Let her see you, let her get to know you. Woo her - you're a handsome enough man. She is a woman, she knows a good-looking man. She'll accept you.”
Jaime had to wonder what had happened to his life that he found himself sitting next to a dragon skull discussing how to seduce Sansa Stark into his bed. He had to wonder if he could bear it. Tyrion stood then.
“You should make a start by being the one to tell her about the wedding. If nothing else, it'll give you a chance to observe her diplomacy.”
“Diplomacy?” Tyrion paused in the act of brushing himself off.
“After I got her away from Joffrey in the throne room, I attempted to commiserate with her. She replied to me “I am loyal to Joffrey, my one true love.” and walked out of the throne room with her head held high. Young as she is, she is clever. If nothing else, you will appreciate her mind.”
It took him some time to find her, once he’d eventually found the courage to leave the vault. It had taken more time than he would have wanted, and a lot more of the wine Tyrion had been kind enough to leave with him than he was strictly comfortable with, but he did go eventually.
She hadn’t been in her rooms; she hadn’t been in the gardens, or on the docks. She hadn’t appeared to be in the castle at all, and eventually he had been forced to ask a castle guard where she might be. He was informed that she went to pray every day and that she would be in the Godswood – or what passed as the Godswood in the castle anyway. There was no weirwood heart tree in the city, there were almost none at all once one came south past Harrenhal. There wasn’t one in Casterly Rock either, but there was a Godswood there, despite it not having been used in centuries. As he made his way down the largely unfamiliar path to the Godswood, he reflected. Praying, then. He didn’t think anyone was so devout these days as to pray every day. He certainly didn’t remember seeing her do so at Winterfell – but really, how much attention had he paid to her then?
At the entrance to the Godswood, he found Sansa’s handmaiden Shae sitting quietly on a bench, reading. She stood up and curtsied nicely to him.
“Ser Jaime,” she said.
“Is your mistress here?”
“She is at prayer, my Lord. She would not like to be disturbed.”
“I would like to speak to her,” he said coolly. “Can you tell her I’m here?” She didn’t really have a whole lot of choice, but it was quite obvious she didn’t want to. She was gone for only a few moments before she came back and gestured.
“My Lady says you may go in,” she said, curtseying again as he swept past her. Sansa was sitting on a bench inside the Godswood, before the stone that served it as an altar point. She was pale beneath the fall of red hair, and in the harsh sunlight, Jaime could see a yellowed bruise on her wrists.
“Ser Jaime,” she said, in her slightly nervous voice. “Shae said you wished to speak to me?”
“Yes. May I?” he asked, gesturing at the bench. She nodded, and he sat down beside her, his sword hilt scraping slightly against his breastplate. “I wanted to tell you something. I know your engagement to Joffrey was broken before I returned to the capital.”
“Yes,” she said, a little stiffly. “I understand of course that the King cannot marry a traitor’s daughter, so despite my own sadness, I respect his decision.” Tyrion had been right – she was diplomatic.
“Yes,” Jaime said quietly. “I spoke with my father this morning, Lady Sansa. He has proposed a marriage for you.” If he hadn’t been watching her closely, he would have missed the tiny tension that passed through her at that.
“I thought he might –“ She did not finish, but then she didn’t have to. She knew perhaps better than anyone that there was no chance that they would have let her go. She folded her hands in her lap and looked at him with a small smile. “Who am I to marry, Ser Jaime?”
“Me.” She said and did absolutely nothing. The smile became a little fixed and one of her hands twitched slightly, tightening the grip for a fleeting second before it relaxed again. When she spoke, it was not to protest or to question the whys and wherefores.
“I see, my Lord. When are we to wed?” She was taking it well, at least. At least in his presence she was. He was almost certain that the moment he moved out of earshot, she would let go.
“Tomorrow, the King will release me from my vows as a Kingsguard, freeing me to marry. We will marry the day after, I would assume at the Sept.” She nodded, and then stood. She curtsied, and as she did so he noticed the absolute grace of the movement. She was pretty, he supposed.
“I understand, my Lord. Will you excuse me? I have an engagement to meet Lady Olenna and Lady Margaery for luncheon.” It caught him off guard, he had thought that she would need reassurances that he would be kind, that he would be a good husband to her.
“Of course. I er – you should give your handmaid some warning.”
“Warning, my Lord?”
“To pack your things,” he answered. “We will not remain in Kings Landing after the wedding. My father is sending me to Casterly Rock, to rule there in his stead. We will leave the day after the wedding, perhaps two days. But you should be ready.” She nodded calmly, then left without another word.
Out of some idea of giving her time to compose herself if she needed it, Jaime stayed in the Godswood. It was peaceful here, the ornamental hedges and plants drenched in the sunlight. He could understand why she liked it here – it was probably the only place in the entire capital that she could rely on having privacy in. He rubbed a hand over his face, felt stubble scratch his palm. He needed a shave.
That night, he locked his door for the first time in years. He hadn’t seen Cersei since that morning, hadn’t attempted to find her and she apparently hadn’t attempted to find him. Perhaps it was all for the best. He still struggled with the information that Tyrion had given him- that Cersei had apparently sat by and done nothing whilst Joffrey brutalised Sansa on a shockingly regular basis. He did not want to believe it but the nagging thought wouldn't leave him – Cersei had never said no to Joffrey. He supposed Tyrion had had a point about Casterly Rock. Having Sansa there would at least be an improvement over having her here. He had no intentions of being cruel to her. She would be largely free at Casterly Rock – she could pray if she wished, read if she wished, sew if she wished. She could ride if she wanted to. It was almost certain that plenty of the servants would be reporting back to Tywin and she would know that, but he was also sure that she would be able to maintain the illusion for them. They would share chambers, share a bed – and Sansa Stark was a bloody good actress if this morning's talk had been anything to go by. She must have been shocked, probably frightened, almost certainly upset and not a single jot of that had shown on the pretty face. It had been rather like talking to a little porcelain doll – fragile yet blank. He had to wonder how much of the blank-faced child was an act; how far the blindly loyal, glass-eyed doll was a facade to hide the calculations. Perhaps everyone had forgotten who her mother was amidst the furore surrounding who her father had been. Ned Stark had been rough, open, forthright and honourable to a fault. But Catelyn Stark was smarter than that – and a great deal more ruthless. She had been born and raised as a Tully and old Hoster had been a calculating bastard all his life. Perhaps her daughter had learnt a thing or two at her mother's knee after all.
Sleep did not come easily to him that night. He tossed and turned for hours, turning the day over and over in his mind. Tyrion had been surprisingly well versed in what to do and how to do it in order to fool their father into believing Jaime was complying with orders. But sooner or later, he would need to consummate his marriage, at least attempt to get a child on his wife. Nobody would believe for a moment that a young, healthy girl was barren, least of all Tywin. They might perhaps have six months before questions were asked, if the Gods were good to them. Her Gods or his Gods – or were the old Gods hers? Ned Stark had kept them, but there had been a tiny Sept at Winterfell if he remembered rightly – perhaps it had been for Catelyn. Perhaps she prayed at the Godswood for the privacy, instead of for faith. He groaned and rolled onto his back, staring up at the darkened ceiling. He had to stop thinking about her so obsessively, had to stop thinking about her at all.
Eventually he got dressed again, giving up entirely on sleep. He went to the balcony, looked out over the Blackwater and the castle walls. Gods, he was exhausted. All he wanted was to sleep and forget, at least for the night. He'd never wanted anyone but Cersei, had never thought of anyone but Cersei. He never thought to marry any other woman, had never thought to consider how taking a wife would affect him, how much it would give him to think about. When Aerys had forced him into the Kingsguard, a part of him had been relieved. While it had meant he would never inherit, it had meant he would also never marry. He had been with her instead; at least once Robert had wedded and bedded her. He had been able to love her, his position giving him reason to be seen in her company more often than necessary and both of them had taken full advantage. Now it was over. He was being sent back to Casterly Rock, she was being kept here, for Tywin to arrange her marriage. He supposed it was inevitable – he knew that it was the worst kept secret in Westeros. With the family gaining power, becoming the first family, Tywin would need to ensure that the family name was above reproach. Sending his children away from each other, well that was just politics. Brutal politics, but just politics.
He never went back to bed, because he didn't see the point. He stayed on the balcony, staring at the Blackwater until the sun started coming up and there was no more avoiding it. It would be the last time he wore this armour and the last time he wore this cloak. Most would probably consider it freedom, but to Jaime, it was exchanging one set of shackles for another. He couldn't do this.