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Step Outside and See (Another World)

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Prologue

**

When Brienne was ten years old, she had to draw up a family tree for school.

She did her research and worked diligently on the sprawling diagram, printing names and dates of birth, carefully tracing the connections between various branches until she was finally done.

Her father looked at her strangely when she showed him the finished product.

“Are you sure, Brienne?” he asked.

She frowned at him. “This is you and Mama,” she said, putting a finger on the centre of the page. “And me and – and Galladon, and little Alysanne and Rohanne.” She paused, her mouth trembling, but continued on. “And up here are Grandpa and Grandma Tarth, and Grandfather and Grandmother Ashford.”

“Yes, I can see that,” her father said. “Very good. But what’s this…?”

“That’s Jaime and Tyrion,” she said, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. “You did say that foster brothers were just like real brothers.”

“Right. Yes, of course I did.”

“And this,” she said, tracing the lines and names connected to Jaime, “is Cersei, Jaime’s twin sister. Jaime’s father is Lord Tywin Lannister, and his mother was Lady Joanna Lannister. Lord Tywin has one sister and four brothers, and they all have children of their own, except his uncle Gerion’s daughter Joy is a bastard.”

“Brienne,” Selwyn said gently, “don’t use that word. It’s not nice.”

“But Jaime says –”

“Never mind what Jaime says. Use ‘lovechild’, or ‘illegitimate’. And besides, that sort of thing doesn’t matter anymore.”

She frowned. “Jaime says even though she’s a Hill, not a Lannister, lions always look out for their own.”

Selwyn sighed. Ever since they’d brought Jaime home from King’s Landing, he’d grown used to hearing the words ‘Jaime says’ from Brienne.

“What I’m confused about,” he said, tapping the box marked Jaime Lannister, “is his date of birth. Are you really sure he was born in 266 AC?”

“Of course!” she said earnestly. “Jaime said so.”

**

Chapter One

**

After Galladon died, Selwyn took Brienne to King’s Landing. The two years previous had been a succession of painful losses: first his two baby girls, Alysanne and Rohanne, and then his wife, and then Galladon. They needed an escape from their grief, and so Selwyn and Brienne went to the mainland.

They toured the museums and the art galleries and the great sept of Baelor. They ventured through the corridors of the Red Keep, enthralled by the blood-soaked history of dragons and treachery and murder.

It was in the throne room that they first saw the boy.

The air was unnaturally chill and there was a strange hush as they pushed open the great iron-barred doors, their footfalls echoing in the vast silence. Perhaps it was bloody history of the place, but the hairs on the back of Selwyn’s neck rose, and he tightened his grip on Brienne’s hand.

A strip of thick red velvet carpet lay over the stone floor, leading up to broad steps and an imposing dais upon which sat the great bulk of the Iron Throne. Selwyn knew the tableau; he’d seen it in countless photographs and historical dramas and movies.

But today there was something different.

A stray fall of light had illuminated the Iron Throne, falling over the figure seated on it wearing golden armour and a snow-white cloak. There was something – a sack, a bundle of clothing perhaps, leaking some kind of dark fluid – sprawled on the steps leading up to the dais, but Selwyn was distracted when Brienne drew in her breath.

“Look, Papa!” she said. “A boy!”

It was a boy, Selwyn realized, or at least a youth on the verge of manhood. His attention caught by Brienne’s voice, the figure on the throne stirred, raising his head. There was blood spattered on his pale face, his green eyes remote and haunted; there was blood on his – his golden armour, and soaking into – was he wearing a white cloak? There was a sword in his hand, blood dripping slowly from the blade – and suddenly Selwyn could smell the copper-bright scent of freshly spilled blood –

He caught Brienne up and held her tightly against him. She squirmed and protested, but Selwyn was trapped by that thousand-yard stare –

“You’re not Ned Stark,” the boy said, his voice distant and ironic. “Have you come to judge me?”

“Are you hurt?” Brienne piped up, with the pure, innocent concern of a child. “You look sad.”

There was a moment of terrible silence.

“I stopped him,” the boy said. Silently, without any change in his fixed expression, tears welled up and spilled down his face. “I killed him,” he said.

**

By the time the authorities came, the unnatural chill and the hushed silence had vanished, and Selwyn could no longer smell the copper-bright reek of blood. The sprawled form on the stairs was gone, and Selwyn was half-convinced he had imagined the whole thing. But the boy remained – the boy in the blood-spattered cloak and armour, blood on his face and his hands and his sword.

“There’s no body,” Selwyn heard a detective say under his breath. “The blood is fresh, but where’s the body?

“What’s going to happen to him, Papa?” Brienne asked, her eyes filled with concern. She was looking over to the boy, who was being checked over by paramedics.

“I don’t know, Brienne,” Selwyn said. “I guess it’s up to the police now.”

“We can take it from here,” a uniformed constable said, coming over to Selwyn and Brienne. “We may have to ask you some follow-up questions, but for now you can go back to your hotel.”

Brienne was still staring at the boy. He was ignoring the paramedics, his bright green eyes fixed on Selwyn and Brienne.

“We can’t just leave him here, Papa,” Brienne said.

And so they stayed.

**

Two days later, the police had still not yet found a body, and were forced to release the boy due to lack of any real evidence of a crime.

The detective on the case, together with a care-worn youth worker, called Selwyn into the police station and asked him if he was responsible for the boy.

“No,” was his instinctive response, but one look at Brienne caused him to reconsider. “Doesn’t he have any family?”

The youth worker shook her head. “He says his name is Jaime Lannister. But when we contacted Lord Damon Lannister, he said that there were no Lannisters of that name. When we described the circumstances, Lord Damon threatened to sue us if we didn’t stop playing foolish pranks.”

“What on earth does that mean?” Selwyn wondered.

The detective only shrugged. “The great houses still keep their secrets, even now,” he said. “If they don’t want to acknowledge him, he’ll have to go into the system, unless you…?”

Brienne tugged on his sleeve, looked up at him with big, beseeching blue eyes. “Please, Papa,” she said. “We have to help him.”

He knelt down before her. “He’s not a pet, Brienne,” he said quietly. “He’s almost full grown, and he could be dangerous.”

But Brienne was adamant.

**

A week later they took the boy – Jaime – back to Tarth.

Only he was not a boy, not really. He was almost fully grown, man-tall, stronger and more muscular than most adolescent boys, and no matter the lack of a body Selwyn was certain he had killed someone in that throne room not three days past.

If he was subdued and passive now, it was only because his eyes were still distant and haunted, and he seemed – confused – by every day things. It was as if he’d never seen a car before, or a train or an aeroplane.

The police had taken his blood-spattered clothing into evidence. The youth worker had brought him jeans and a white t-shirt and shoes, and Jaime had stared at them blankly until he’d figured out how to put them on.

He’d been wearing armour, and a white cloak, and carrying a sword as if he knew exactly how to use it. There had been that unnatural chill, and the strange echoing hush.

If Selwyn searched for Jaime Lannister and Kingsguard, what would he discover?

He was afraid to find out.

**

Brienne slipped her hand into Jaime’s, tugged. “Why did you kill him?” she whispered.

Jaime knelt down before her. “He was a bad man,” he said quietly. “He was going to do a very bad thing.”

Brienne looked at him solemnly. “Okay,” she said.

**

[“Here’s a strange thing,” said the pathologist. “This blood – the DNA shows strange markers. It’s more akin to the DNA found in the tombs of ancient Valyrian dragon-lords than it is to common Westerosi genotypes.”]

Chapter Text

To help Jaime settle in to his new life, and to fast-track his enrolment in the local high school, Selwyn hired a private tutor to help assess Jaime’s educational needs.

He’s a natural leader, the tutor reported to Selwyn. His social intelligence is very advanced; he knows how to read people and situations. He’s a very practical, hands-on learner, and he has a working knowledge of the principles of finance and practical mathematics. He can also play the lute and sing quite well. But –

“There’s no shame in it, Jaime,” Selwyn said. “It’s a common learning disorder, nothing more, nothing less.”

But there was a mutinous set to Jaime’s mouth. “Lannisters are not ‘dyslexic’,” he said, “nor do they have ‘learning disorders’, especially not common ones.”

Selwyn sighed. “Your father again?” he asked.

It wasn’t the first time Jaime had mentioned his father: Lord Tywin Lannister of Casterly Rock, Lord Paramount of the Westerlands. He’d seemed surprised Selwyn hadn’t heard a song called The Rains of Castamere.

Everyone knows the story, he’d said. My father made sure of that.

“He sat down with me every morning, forced me to practice until I could read and write to his standards,” Jaime said. “Between him and Maester Creylen, they managed to beat enough lessons into me that he was satisfied.”

He said it so casually.

“Any father would be proud to have a son like you,” Selwyn said.

It was true. Six weeks after they had brought him back from King’s Landing, the shadows in Jaime’s eyes were almost gone. The nightmares were growing less and less frequent, and Selwyn thought Jaime’s natural character was finally beginning to show through.

Beneath his golden looks – those curls! – Jaime was brave and fierce as a lion. He swam like a fish and climbed fearlessly, claiming – with a cocky smile – that the cliffs of Tarth were nothing to those overlooking the Sunset Sea. He was tall and strong and charismatic, a natural leader, and everybody loved him, especially Brienne.

Selwyn felt the old, still-painful wound of Galladon’s death. Would Galladon have been like him, had he lived to adulthood?

Does Lord Tywin mourn his golden son?

“Perhaps,” Jaime said. “He was a kinder, gentler man, before Mother died. At least to us. I remember –” he trailed off. “He used to take us fishing, sometimes. He taught us to swim. But after Tyrion was born –”

“Your younger brother.”

Jaime nodded. “After Tyrion’s birth – and Mother’s death – Father grew cold and distant. He refused to even look at Tyrion. He left us all alone.”

There was some rational, modern intellectual part of Selwyn that interpreted Jaime’s strange claims as an elaborate fantasy created by a too-sensitive boy to protect himself from some unknown, too-painful truth.

Jaime said that he had killed his first man when he was fifteen years old. He said that he was knighted on the field of battle by Ser Arthur Dayne. (One of the greatest knights of the mediaeval era, no less.) He said that not long afterwards, he was raised to the Kingsguard.

It was ridiculous, of course. But another part of Selwyn was not sure that Jaime was lying. He was restless, hot-blooded, impatient of restraint and sometimes horribly callous, but he was not a liar.

(Nor was he too-sensitive. Sometimes he could be devastatingly blunt.)

But to think that he had really – come from the past?

“Do you miss them?” Selwyn asked. “Your family.”

Jaime considered this. “Some of them,” he said. “Tyrion, of course. My uncle Gerion, and my aunt Genna. Cersei and I, we always said we were two parts of a whole. But she is to marry Robert Baratheon –”

“Cersei?” Selwyn repeated, curious. Jaime’s voice had gone soft when he spoke her name, had hardened into dislike when he spoke of her marrying.

“My sister,” Jaime said. “My twin.”

**

“You should bring your brother here as well,” Brienne said, later, at the dinner table, as if it was the simplest thing in the world. “If he wants. I wish I could get Galladon back.”

Tears welled up in her eyes. Selwyn swallowed painfully.

Jaime frowned. “Do you think he would like it here?”

“You said your father didn’t like him,” Brienne said. “Well – we can be his family, instead.”

**

It was a mad plan. Surely there was no hope of it working.

But Brienne had got her hopes up, and Selwyn hated to disappoint her.

And so they flew to Lannisport, and hired a car to drive up to Casterly Rock. Jaime looked around with wide eyes – spooked by the changes? – and led the way to the heavy iron-barred gates of the great fortress with deliberate nonchalance. But he held himself so tightly he was quivering with tension.

They passed through the gates and into the courtyard, and then into the castle proper. Brienne gawked at the sheer opulence of it all, grand chamber after grand chamber, all draped in crimson and gold and marked with rearing golden lions. There was a long portrait hall, where huge paintings of Lannisters past and present hung: every one of them golden-haired and green-eyed and beautiful.

Jaime led the way through the public areas, past a rope barrier and into the private inner halls.

And that was when the strange, unnatural chill came again, and the vast hush fell over them, just as it had done in the Red Keep. The walls grew rougher, elegant wainscoting and plasterwork giving way to rough stone and tapestries, and Jaime’s steps grew more and more confident.

Finally he led them to a chamber and knocked impatiently on the door.

After a few moments, it was opened by a young boy, shorter even than usual, with Jaime’s golden hair and wide, wary eyes, one Lannister green and one black.

“Jaime!” the boy said, rushing forward.

Jaime fell to his knees and embraced him. “Brother mine,” he said with a wide smile. “How you’ve grown.”

**

They took Tyrion back to Tarth with them.

Chapter Text

The waters of Tarth were as blue as sapphires, as blue as the girl Brienne’s eyes.

The air was fresh and tasted of salt and the sea; old, familiar companions of Jaime’s youth. For the last two years he’d been trapped in the Red Keep, caged by his white cloak and a prisoner of his vows –

Killing Aerys had felt like – freedom.

They were swimming in a bay under the walls of Evenfall Hall. The ancient stronghold was a crumbling ruin, now, and children played in the bones of the great hall.

“You’re in the future now,” Brienne said blithely. “There are no more knights. You can be whatever you want to be.”

But who was he, if not a knight?

**

It started with Tyrion’s tenth birthday.

Jaime was determined it was time he learned how to ride. “And Brienne too, I suppose,” he told Selwyn. “My father’s head groom put us on our first ponies when we were six years old.”

“That’s all very well,” Selwyn said, “but where are you going to get a pony?”

It was clear that Jaime had not considered this. “Surely there must still be horse-fairs,” he said slowly.

“Do you know how expensive horses are, Jaime?” Selwyn asked.

Jaime stared at him, uncomprehending. Though he was slowly becoming more accustomed to the differences between this time and his own, there still remained a number of surprising blind spots.

Tyrion had adjusted to the future with remarkable ease. He was young, intelligent, adaptable, and had been confined to the nursery for much of his life; with Brienne’s eager help he soon left the past far behind.

But Jaime was almost a man grown. His identity and sense of self were not so easy to shed.

He’d lasted only one week at the local high school. After that, Selwyn had arranged private tutoring for him.

“I’m afraid we’re not very rich, you know,” Selwyn said, almost apologetically.

“Are you not the lord of this island?” Jaime asked. “Surely you must have land, at least. Rents.”

Selwyn coughed. “Well, no. I mean we do have land but there’s little family money. I have a share in some of the tourist cafes and businesses, but –”

Jaime looked – not disappointed, but almost disapproving. No doubt Lord Tywin Lannister would be a demon at Monopoly.

“I’m almost afraid to ask,” Selwyn said ruefully. “Where does your father’s wealth come from?”

“Casterly Rock is built over a goldmine,” Jaime explained. “And Father took Castamere’s mines when he crushed their rebellion. We also have a fleet of trading ships, and Father loans money at extortionate interest.”

“I should have known.” Selwyn sighed. “Right. Well. In the absence of Lannister gold mines, armies and trading ships, I’m afraid you’ll have to earn the money yourself.”

“How do I earn this money, then?” Jaime asked.

“Get a job, Jaime,” Selwyn said. “Surely you have marketable skills.”

**

Tarth was a small island, with little in the way of trade, industry or manufacturing. Most of the money came from tourism; their famed white beaches and sapphire waters drew tourists from Westeros and Essos alike.

Jaime got a job on a tour boat, taking tourists out to local attractions and swimming spots and spinning outrageous lies about local history. He was increasingly popular with the young, attractive, college-age crowd, and even more so when he learned that whipping off his shirt and posing for smiling selfies with them could earn him more tips.

Brienne and Tyrion teased him mercilessly, as was their rightful due as younger siblings. But Selwyn could see his heart wasn’t in it.

(The boy was 17, 18 years old, golden and beautiful, and he showed no interest in tanned, bikini-clad beauties – or even buff, board-shorted hunks – pressing up against him. There was some unknown history behind that purposeful disinterest.)

One night, though, as they all sat around after dinner and watched an Essosi martial arts film, Brienne told Jaime about mystic eastern tournaments where rival traditions vied for supremacy, about blind swordsmen and drifting loners who inevitably turned out to be haunted by their bloody pasts.

“You should open a fighting school of your own,” Tyrion said eagerly. “You’re one of the greatest swordsmen in Westeros.”

He looked at Jaime with such innocent faith that Brienne snickered. Tyrion scowled at her, bristling in defence of his beloved elder brother.

“Right now, brother mine, I’m probably the only swordsman in Westeros,” Jaime said. “There are no more knights in the future.”

“I always wanted to be a knight,” Brienne said. “Maybe there are others, too. People who’ve read the old legends and want to fight with swords and ride in tourneys and – and dream about what it was like in the old days. You could teach them!”

**

And that was how Jaime opened the first sword-fighting school on Tarth.

Chapter Text

Time passed.

Brienne and Tyrion – whose namedays were just over a month apart – turned 10 years old, and Jaime taught them to ride on a little dappled pony. He was a surprisingly strict taskmaster; he made sure they knew how to feed and brush and care for the pony before he ever allowed them up on its back. He also commissioned child-sized daggers for both children – from Tarth’s sole blacksmith, a grizzled old man in his sixties – and began teaching them how to use them.

“Youth and innocence is not a guarantee of safety,” he told Selwyn solemnly. “It’s best they learn to defend themselves.”

Jaime seemed not to care – or even notice – that Tyrion was a dwarf and Brienne was a too-tall, awkward girl. He treated them both alike.

**

It was towards the end of the year that Tyrion cornered Selwyn in his study and told him it would soon be Jaime’s 18th nameday.

“Well,” Selwyn said, “what do you think we should get him?”

“The last time Jaime was at Casterly Rock for his nameday,” Tyrion said, “before he was knighted and joined the Kingsguard, Father got him a splendid suit of armour and a new sword.”

Of course he did, Selwyn thought.

“He gave Cersei a crimson silk gown and a golden necklace,” Tyrion continued. “That was when he still thought he could catch Rhaegar Targaryen.”

“Cersei,” Selwyn said, remembering the name. “Jaime’s twin.”

“Yes,” Tyrion said. “Jaime’s twin. They’re inseparable. You can still see it, even now – the way Jaime always says “us” when he talks about his childhood.”

In the end, they went out to the cliffs for a picnic. It was a wonderful day; the sky was blue and the sun was warm, and the air was so clear they could see all the way to Westeros. Jaime told them about picnics by the Sunset Sea with his parents, before his mother’s death, and Selwyn heard the way Jaime always said “us” and “we”.

Selwyn tried to imagine a mirror reflection of Jaime, a slender golden girl-woman in a crimson gown, with bright green eyes and a sharp smile.

“Do you think Jaime misses her?” he asked Tyrion. “He said she was going to be married.”

“Not just married,” Tyrion said. “She was going to be Queen.”

“You don’t like her,” Selwyn said slowly. It was Tyrion’s tone more than anything else, everything he didn’t say.

“No,” Tyrion said. “But Jaime loves her. So don’t say anything.”

**

The first and most determined of Jaime’s swordfighting students was Brienne.

She turned up to training every morning before school, bright and eager, and learned how to stand, how to fall, how to hold her sword and how to take a hit. Jaime didn't hold back; he whacked her when she dropped her defence and knocked her down when she overbalanced. But she got back up, every time, determined to continue. Selwyn soon became all too familiar with the clack, clack, clack of their wooden swords meeting as they mock-sparred, Jaime walking her through attack and defence, calling out instructions. Compared to the aesthetic grace and agility of the Essosi martial arts movies, mediaeval sword-fighting appeared to be all blunt impact and brute force –

“It’s not supposed to look pretty,” Jaime said, when Selwyn made this particular observation. “Broadswords are not subtle. Knights on horseback in full armour are brute iron-fisted killers.”

Selwyn hummed thoughtfully. “Jaime,” he said, “you’re not actually going to turn your students into brute iron-fisted killers, are you? Because the police frown on that sort of thing these days.”

A shadow flitted across Jaime’s expression, before his sharp, cocky smile returned. “Of course not,” he said. “I won’t teach them everything I know.”

As it turned out, it wasn’t Jaime’s classic blunt-force sword-fighting that drew the most interest. Nor was it even his looks – though a number of would-be students joined solely on that basis and soon left. It was the Dornish spear-fighting he introduced to teach them agility and complicated foot-work.

“Too much television,” Selwyn heard him mutter, as he watched his students twirling their spears in flashy circles. “Prince Lewyn would be rolling in his grave.”

Still. Tyrion’s YouTube video of Jaime – laughing, his bright smile flashing – working through a spinning, leaping spear-drill, every footfall quick and deliberate, did more to promote his school than any flyers or website.

Chapter Text

The great fortress of Storm’s End had fallen far from the days when it was the premier seat of House Baratheon. The huge curtain wall was breached in two places and the ancient stone was crumbling, but it still towered over the city that had grown up in its shadow and shared its name, a vast imposing presence dominating the landscape.

Though not, Jaime said smugly, as vast and imposing as Casterly Rock towering over Lannisport. Nor was the Rock crumbling, he said, or its walls falling down.

Still.

Brienne and Tyrion, at least, seemed suitably awed. But that might have been at the riot of colourful tents and stalls that had sprung up against the walls and inside the bailey of the ancient castle, and the sheer number of people who had come – many of them in costume – to attend the annual Westerosi historical fair.

**

When he opened his school, Jaime joined the Stormlands chapter of the Westerosi Swordfighting Federation. He’d been invited to attend the fair to meet other members from the Stormlands and across Westeros and to participate in a number of activities and networking events.

Brienne and Tyrion had begged to be allowed to come along, and so Selwyn, Jaime and the children decided to make a holiday of it: they booked accommodation in the city and they planned to pack as much sightseeing and activities into their trip as they possibly could.

On the first day, Jaime had to attend meetings in the morning. Selwyn took Brienne and Tyrion to the fair, both children almost bouncing with excitement, and they saw blacksmiths and armourers, minstrels and jugglers and puppet-shows, merchants selling everything from leather-goods to children’s toys to silks and velvets dyed in rainbow shades.

There was a man selling t-shirts printed with the arms and mottos of the ancient houses. Selwyn bought Brienne a rose-and-azure shirt with the suns and crescent moons of Tarth. Tyrion, grinning, picked out a crimson t-shirt for Jaime that featured a rearing golden lion across the chest, and the words “Hear Me Roar!” on the back.

(Jaime – and Tyrion, care of Selwyn – had been served with very nasty cease-and-desist letters from Casterly Rock’s notoriously vicious lawyers, demanding that they stop identifying themselves as members of House Lannister. Jaime’s reply had been short, pithy and unrepeatable.)

They toured the castle, shivered at the macabre tales of murder and treachery the tour guide recounted with ghoulish relish, and posed for a group photo on the very top of the highest tower, overlooking Shipbreaker Bay.

**

Jaime met them after lunch at the gates of the castle. He grinned when Tyrion presented him with the garish Lannister t-shirt, and immediately whipped off his own shirt to replace it with the new, crimson and gold one.

It was there, with Jaime present, that Selwyn felt the strange chill that had foreshadowed both their previous trips back in time. He looked around, the hair rising on the back of his neck, to see the ghostly outline of Storm’s End as it had once been, rearing and impregnable, with great golden banners emblazoned with the crowned stag of House Baratheon flying from the battlements.

He heard horns calling – not cheerful modern trumpets, but long, winding calls from within the castle-that-was.

He heard the dull thudding of hooves on packed earth, and saw a group of horsemen approaching the castle – not modern imitators in their carefully sewn bright costumes, but knights in full armour riding huge, muscular warhorses splashed with mud, the colours of their surcoats dulled by use and wear.

“What banners do you see, Brienne? Tyrion?” Jaime asked, as if these ghostly apparitions amongst the modern crowd were the most natural sights in the world. Perhaps for him – half in and half out of the past – they were. Jaime didn’t seem to feel the strange unnatural chill. “Who comes?”

He’d been teaching the children the sigils of all the great houses. Along with horse-riding, weapons training, dancing and etiquette and the laws of chivalry, he seemed to think knowledge of heraldry a fundamental part of a highborn education.

“The fox and flowers, House Florent,” Brienne recited obediently. Tyrion added: “The golden rose and the striding huntsman: Houses Tyrell and Tarly.”

“Excellent!” Jaime grinned.

Just then a great brazen fanfare sounded, and a huge wooden roundhouse trundled into view, flanked by a dozen outriders and three fully armoured knights in white-scale armour, their heavy woolen cloaks snow-white.

Just like Jaime’s cloak, Selwyn realized. The Kingsguard.

The white knights bore the banners of House Baratheon, but the outriders’ cloaks were as crimson as Jaime’s t-shirt, and the banners they bore were emblazoned with the rearing golden lion.

“The gold lion on crimson,” Brienne said excitedly, pulling at Jaime’s hand. “That’s House Lannister!”

“Yes,” Jaime said, slowly, his attention fixed on the roundhouse’s crimson velvet curtains – as it drew nearer to them, a slender white hand drew the curtains apart so that the occupants could look out on the world, and Selwyn caught a glimpse of a proud, beautiful face, golden hair and green eyes, Jaime’s own beauty mirrored in feminine form –

Tyrion gripped Selwyn’s hand with convulsive tightness.

For a moment, Jaime’s eyes locked with those of the woman inside the roundhouse. Something electric passed between them.

And then the unnatural chill eased and the warmth of the day returned, and the vision – if vision it was – vanished like mist burned away by the sun.

Still, Selwyn shivered.

**

That night, Jaime left the hotel after dinner and did not return until just before dawn.

**

There was no chance to talk to Jaime the next day.

They took the children to a great field below the castle to watch the jousting. It was as thrilling as any football match Selwyn had ever attended, a grand spectacle of colour and sensation, with banners flying and trumpets calling. The ground shook with the thunder of hooves as the horses charged headlong towards each other, the knights with their lances extended; the crowd roared as they came together with a great crashing and splintering impact, one of the knights reeling in their saddle and crashing to the ground as the crowd groaned and cheered –

It was, all agreed, a splendid morning.

As they were headed back to the castle for more sightseeing they heard hoofbeats behind them and an impatient voice call out to them to make way, make way fools!

Jaime, arrogant as ever, merely turned, his head high and his expression affronted –

Selwyn felt the chill and recognized the lilting Westerlands accent, even as he saw that the rider was wearing a sword and a crimson velvet surcoat and had Lannister golden hair.

Jaime and Tyrion both grinned as they recognized the strange horseman.

“Uncle!” Jaime said, laughing. Tyrion shouted and waved.

The golden horseman – certainly it looked like he could be Jaime and Tyrion’s uncle – pulled his horse to a snorting stop and stared incredulously at Jaime. And then, his eyes travelling down, he saw Tyrion.

“Jaime,” he said. “And Tyrion! How came you to be here?”

**

They stopped at a drinks stand for wine, and lemonade for the children. The proprietor gave Jaime’s uncle a strange look when he paid for the drinks with a golden coin, casually flipped in his direction; Jaime seemed to think nothing of it.

“Where have you been, Jaime-lad?” Gerion Lannister asked. “Tywin has been tearing the seven kingdoms apart in search of you. When Ned Stark finally took the Red Keep and made his way to the throne room, he found Aerys dead and no sign of you – some called you a traitor, and some a failure and a deserter. But Tywin and Cersei would not believe that you were dead.” He put his hands on Jaime’s shoulders, his expression openly relieved, his smile bright and joyous. “Gods, but it’s good to see you.”

He looked at Tyrion, knelt down before him and embraced him as well. “And you, too, nephew – when you vanished from the Rock, Genna and I thought the worst. But here you are, with Jaime.”

He frowned, looked at Selwyn and Brienne, seemed to see them for the first time – their modern clothes, the modern surroundings of Storm’s End.

“What is this strange place, Jaime?” he asked, standing up once more. “Where have you been since Aerys’ death?”

Jaime only smiled crookedly. “Here,” he said, “and there.” He laughed at his uncle’s expression.

And that was when a deeper, colder voice spoke from behind them.

“And so here you are, at last, ser.” A tall man, with a close-cropped golden beard and piercing green eyes, wearing a black doublet slashed with crimson and gold. At the sound of his voice, Tyrion shrank back against Selwyn’s legs.

“Explain yourself, Jaime,” the newcomer said.

Slowly, Jaime turned.

“Father,” he said.

Chapter Text

“I wish to have a private word with my son,” Lord Tywin Lannister said.

Selwyn couldn’t help himself. “You have two sons, Lord Tywin,” he replied.

Gerion Lannister whistled under his breath. Jaime gave Selwyn a Look. Lord Tywin merely fixed a withering gaze on him and lifted his brows.

“And who are you, ser?” he drawled.

I’m Jaime’s foster-father, he didn’t say – not in the face of Jaime’s real father. The resemblance was undeniable: not just the physical, but also the attitude – the haughty irony Jaime sometimes couldn’t resist, and the implacable set of his jaw.

“It’s alright, Selwyn,” Jaime said. “Look after Tyrion and Brienne. I’ll meet you when my father is done with me.” He looked towards Gerion, who nodded.

“No,” Selwyn said, “I’ll stay with you, Jaime.”

Jaime flashed his deliberate, megawatt smile. “I’m sure Father wishes only to rebuke me.”

“Nevertheless,” Selwyn said. He drew himself to his full height – almost a head above Jaime and Lord Tywin – and squared his shoulders. “I’ll stay.”

“Very well,” Lord Tywin said. “Gerion – look after the children. Jaime and Selwyn and I will talk.”

**

“Brienne, this is my uncle Gerion Lannister,” Tyrion said.

Brienne peered up shyly at the handsome golden god with jewel-green eyes. “Hello,” she mumbled, tongue-tied.

“Hello Brienne,” he said, with a flashing grin. “You have very pretty eyes.”

She blushed, a horrible splotchy crimson.

**

After Gerion put the children up on his horse and led them away to see the puppet show, chattering excitedly, Lord Tywin dismissed Selwyn with no more than a glance and led Jaime away to a private corner, out of the way of the crowd.

Selwyn followed, determined.

“When I found Aerys dead and you gone,” Lord Tywin said to Jaime, “I feared all manner of things. As weeks and even months passed with no word of you, Ned Stark and Robert Baratheon were all too happy to declare you dead or a traitor, but I knew – I knew you could not be dead. And now here you are. To see you safe again –”

He leaned in, cupped Jaime’s cheek in his palm.

For long days and weeks, Selwyn had woken every morning, expecting to see Galladon at the breakfast table, or to hear him calling out, his footsteps loud on the stairs.

If he’d had the chance to see his son again –

“What happened that day in the throne room, Jaime?” Lord Tywin demanded. “Who killed Aerys? Why did you flee?”

Jaime hesitated. And then he said, “He was mad, Father. He was shouting and raving nonsense. He ordered me to bring him your head.”

Selwyn started. Even Lord Tywin’s eyes widened.

“He had caches of wildfire all over the city, and he was going to ignite them all, leaving Robert nothing but ashes.” Jaime searched his father’s expression. “I had to stop him. I killed Rossart first, and then I killed the king.”

The words were spoken in a low voice, amongst the hubbub of a dozen other conversations. But the power of them sent chills up Selwyn’s spine.

He remembered Jaime’s remote, haunted gaze. I stopped him, he’d said.

“Well,” Lord Tywin said, his eyes narrowed. “Well. This can be turned to our advantage. We’ll get the tale out to the minstrels, and soon no man will condemn you for breaking your oaths in such circumstances.” He nodded. “I’ll see that you’re released from the Kingsguard, and you can return to Casterly Rock to take your rightful place.”

He said it with such casual authority.

“Father,” Jaime said, stepping away, “I don’t want to go back.”

“You’re nearly nine and ten, Jaime. You’ve had your moment of glory and your white cloak, and now it’s time to take up your responsibilities.”

“I don’t want Casterly Rock, Father,” Jaime said.

“Your sister has done her part. She’ll give Robert an heir soon enough.” Jaime flinched. “And when she does,” Lord Tywin continued, oblivious, “we’ll soon have an unassailable hold on the Iron Throne. We’ll establish a dynasty that will last a thousand years –”

“I don’t want your bloody Rock!” Jaime snapped.

There was a moment of terrible silence.

“Well, by all the gods, what do you want?” Lord Tywin demanded. “Tell me.”

Jaime set his jaw. Face to face and squaring off against each other, the resemblance between father and son was marked.

“I want to have a future of my own choosing,” Jaime said. “I don’t want to be tied down by my name or my birth or my vows. I want to run a sword-fighting school, or go to university, or become a sailor if I please. I want to travel through Essos. I want to explore beyond the Wall and see what’s west of Westeros. I want to have a choice.”

Lord Tywin only stared, uncomprehending. “We can’t choose our fate, Jaime,” he said – almost gently. “You’re a Lannister. You’ll always be a Lannister. You can’t just – walk away on a whim.”

“But I’ve been given that choice, Father,” Jaime said, his voice shaking. “In that throne room I was an oathbreaker with Aerys’ blood on my hands, but when I came into the future I chose to leave it all behind. And now I have a new life, and I can live it however I please.”

“Jaime,” Lord Tywin said. “Don’t be a fool. You’re my son.”

“You always forget Tyrion, Father,” Jaime said. “But no matter. I’ve brought him with me into the future, and we’re not going back.”

Lord Tywin’s eyes narrowed. Jaime squared his shoulders and braced himself.

Impasse.

Selwyn cleared his throat. Lord Tywin fixed him with his hooded gaze. In those cold green eyes, Selwyn saw the man who had crushed Castamere beneath his heel. He also saw a man who had searched for long months to find his missing son, never for a moment believing that he was dead.

“My own son is dead,” Selwyn said, his voice matter of fact. “Drowned, in a pointless accident. I will never see him again. But your boy is alive – in fact you have two fine sons, both strong and clever. In your place, I would rejoice. Let them live their own lives, make their own mistakes.”

As soon as the words were out, Selwyn knew that he had revealed too much. But before Lord Tywin could flay him to the bone, he heard slow hoofbeats and saw Gerion approaching, leading his horse as Brienne and Tyrion bounced in the saddle.

“Uncle Gerion says that your Papa was so worried about you, Jaime,” Brienne said, in her piping voice. “He was afraid the mad king had killed you. And Uncle Gerion says when Tyrion disappeared soon after you did, he thought Tyrion had been kidnapped.”

Lord Tywin looked – weary.

“Very well,” he said to Jaime, his eyes flicking over Tyrion. “You wish to stay in this – future of yours. Never forget that you are my son, and a Lannister of Casterly Rock.” He frowned, as though a thought had struck him. “Does the Rock still stand today?”

“Richer than ever,” Selwyn said, with some asperity. The cease and desist letters promised to be the opening salvo in a long, drawn out and ruthless legal battle.

“Hmm. And the current lord. What sort of man is he?”

Gerion’s brows flew up, and he smiled, a slow, wicked, curling smile. Jaime looked worried.

“Not like you,” Selwyn said truthfully. “Nothing at all like you.”

Lord Tywin only smiled.

**

Gerion embraced Jaime and Tyrion one last time, clasped Selwyn’s forearm and sent Brienne a jaunty smile that made her blush and stammer awkwardly.

Tywin cupped Jaime’s cheek in his palm and looked grave. “I will see that you are released from your vows, and ensure that you are not blamed for Aerys’ death. But do not forget who you truly are, in this future of so many choices.” He spared a glance for his younger son. “You, too, Tyrion.”

He looked at Selwyn. “You will look after them as if they were your own,” he said sternly.

Selwyn only nodded.

And then Lord Tywin Lannister and his younger brother walked back into the swirling crowd, and between one moment and the next they were gone.

**

“Well,” Selwyn said, after a long moment of silence. “That’s that, then.” He blew out a long, relieved breath. “I’m glad I won’t be seeing him again.”

Tyrion nodded in solemn agreement. Brienne looked disappointed.

But Jaime frowned. “Why not?” he asked. “He asked me to provide him with regular updates. He promised to help with –” he broke off, coughed. “Surely it’s just a matter of returning to Casterly Rock and waiting for the cold to descend.”

**

[“Jaime,” Selwyn began later that night, when Brienne and Tyrion had gone to bed, “that woman in the roundhouse. Was that Cersei?”

“Yes,” Jaime said, “that was Cersei. They were here for Stannis’ wedding to a Florent girl.”

He looked so very casual, so relaxed and indifferent. But Selwyn had seen something pass between the twins.

“And when you went off last night, was it to – meet her?”

Jaime merely looked at him and said nothing.

“Jaime,” Selwyn said helplessly. “Tell me you’re not –”

But there was something unyielding in Jaime’s eyes. Though he appeared to be relaxed, Selwyn had a sudden sense of his coiled strength; Selwyn was tall and strong, but beneath his golden smile Jaime was a trained and practiced killer.

“Do you truly wish to know, Selwyn?” Jaime asked pleasantly.

Let them live their own lives, Selwyn had said to Jaime’s father, make their own mistakes.

But surely not like this?

“No,” Selwyn said. “Forget I ever mentioned it.”

Jaime smiled, his charming, ironic, unyielding smile. “Of course,” he said. “Forgotten.”]

Chapter Text

“Gerion,” Tywin said, staring thoughtfully at a map of the world, “do you know what lies west of Westeros?”

When Arya Stark finally reached the New World, she found the Lannisters there before her.

**

When Tyrion was 11 years old, a group of older boys tried to bully him.

Brienne put a swift end to it. Pick on someone your own size, she said. She was taller, stronger and fiercer than even the oldest of the bullies; she clenched her fists and threw herself into the fray, herself against four older boys.

When the principal called Selwyn into his office, Brienne was bruised and bloodied and unrepentant. There was blood on her knuckles, on her clothes and her nose was clearly broken.

“They were making fun of Tyrion,” she insisted. “Jaime said I had to protect him.”

**

When Brienne was 12 years old, Ron Connington called her a sow in silk and humiliated her in front of her entire class on Valentine’s Day.

When she came home in tears, Tyrion did his awkward best to comfort her, before he hacked into all of Connington’s social media accounts and made his life a living hell.

This time Selwyn was called into the police station. Tyrion looked smug and unrepentant, a wicked gleam of mischief in his eye.

“He insulted Brienne,” Tyrion insisted. “Jaime said I had to protect her.”

**

When Jaime was 20 years old, he returned from a solitary trip to King’s Landing, uncharacteristically subdued.

“Cersei took another lover,” he told Selwyn, in the privacy of his study. “She said I’m always gone too long.”

Selwyn poured Jaime a drink. Jaime stared down into its depths, his expression strangely lost.

“It’ll be alright, lad,” Selwyn said. “You’ll see.”

What more could he say?

**

Time passed, filled with shouting children racing up and down the stairs and squabbling, with homework and after school activities and the peculiar difficulties that came with his too-tall daughter and his two Lannister foundlings.

Brienne was a natural with the sword, Jaime told him with pride. By the time I’ve finished training her, she’ll be a match for even the greatest of the Kingsguard.

Tyrion was far too intelligent for his age, and was currently engaged in long-distance correspondence studies with the maester of Casterly Rock, centuries in the past. His room was filled with ancient tomes, and sheets of parchment covered with his spidery handwriting shared desk-space with his computer.

Jaime’s swordfighting school was earning quite a reputation, and he seemed set on making Tarth into a haven for mediaeval arts, crafts and skills. On his last visit to Casterly Rock, he had chartered a flight for the sole purpose of returning with four trained warhorses, what seemed like half an armoury – swords, spears, bows, arrows, chainmail and armour – and two huge iron-bound chests full of gold bullion.

Seed money, Jaime had said.

That, Selwyn thought, was Lord Tywin’s doing. A few months later, Selwyn discovered that Jaime and Tyrion had somehow purchased, in Selwyn’s name, majority shareholdings in almost every business and industry on Tarth.

Tyrion was also playing the stock market.

Father and I are intrigued by the possibilities, Tyrion said. It’s quite fascinating.

One day Selwyn realised it had been five years since his wife’s death, and four years since Galladon’s. He still missed them, every day, but the crushing weight had passed and he could now think of them with fondness.

His life was too busy - and too filled with everyday joy - for loneliness and grief.

Chapter Text

“Ever since his return from Stannis’ wedding, Tywin has been acting strangely,” Genna declared, her arms folded resolutely. “Gerion, too.”

“He’s stopped searching for Jaime and Tyrion.” Kevan shook his head. “If he’s finally come to accept their death –”

“No, he’s hiding something,” Tygett said. “Not only that, he’s plotting.”

They cornered Gerion first. Their youngest brother tried to laugh off their demanding questions, but eventually he gave in – and the story he told them was utterly fantastic.

“What do you mean, the future?” Kevan demanded. “What madness is this?”

“They’re happy,” Gerion said simply. “They’re happy, and they’re safe.”

Genna sighed. “That fool boy,” she said, exasperated. “What use is happiness? Does he think any of us ever had the luxury of choice?”

They bearded Tywin in his study. When Gerion admitted that he had revealed the truth of their nephews’ continued existence, Tywin sighed and leaned back in his chair.

“Yes,” he said, “I found them.”

(Of course Tywin had found his errant sons, even centuries in the future.)

“Well, what do you mean to do?” Tygett asked. “When are they coming back?”

“Do?” Tywin asked, his brows raised. “I mean to do nothing. Jaime says that they don’t wish to return. I have no choice but to accept it.”

Genna made a disgusted noise. “Jaime may say what he pleases. It doesn’t mean you can’t drag him back by the scruff of his neck.” She narrowed her eyes suddenly. “You’ve seen an advantage in it.”

“Does this have to do with the recent shipment of gold?” Kevan asked.

Tywin looked sharply at him.

“Oh, never fear,” Kevan said. “Keep your secrets, brother. Only tell me – if Jaime and Tyrion are gone, who will inherit the Rock?”

**

“Father means to take another wife,” Jaime announced one morning. “He needs an heir for the Rock.”

They were eating breakfast on the sun-bleached wooden deck of Selwyn’s house, overlooking the windswept coast. The morning breeze tousled Jaime’s golden hair and made him look like a particularly dramatic romantic hero.

His ironic tone and the unhappy curve of his mouth only added to the effect.

Brienne frowned. “I thought he loved your mother,” she said. “You said she was your father’s cousin and brought no lands or fortune, but Lord Tywin married her for love.”

Jaime often told Tyrion and Brienne tales of Lady Joanna, trying to keep her memory alive. He had no pictures of her, no home movies; not even a portrait hanging in the picture gallery of Casterly Rock.

Selwyn had whole albums full of memories of his wife, of his daughters, of Galladon and Brienne. He’d started to fill them with Jaime and Tyrion too.

“No doubt Father will make sure his second wife has lands and fortune a-plenty,” Tyrion said dryly.

Jaime frowned at him. “Our mother’s memory –”

“I don’t think it means he loved your mother any less, Jaime,” Selwyn intervened. “Your father strikes me as a very – practical – man. With both of his sons gone, he simply needs an heir.”

Jaime looked troubled. Tyrion was unconcerned.

**

When Jaime was 21 years old, the Lannisters of Casterly Rock came calling.

For years there had been an ongoing back and forth between Jaime and Selwyn and Casterly Rock’s lawyers regarding Jaime and Tyrion’s use of the Lannister name.

Jaime said that they had every right to name themselves Lannisters. Lord Damon Lannister, through his very expensive legal representatives, demanded that Jaime prove it.

Jaime had offered to prove the truth of their claim through trial by combat.

(After some searching through the laws and statutes of the Seven Kingdoms, Brienne and Tyrion had been hugely amused to discover that the laws regarding trial by combat had never been repealed.)

The Lannisters had countered by suggesting a DNA test.

That had led to Selwyn sitting Jaime and Tyrion down and explaining what little he knew of genetics.

“They can determine paternity through a drop of blood?” Jaime asked, looking – worried.

“Well, I understand it’s usually a sample from the inside of the cheek,” Selwyn said.

The DNA testing had proven to be inconclusive. Certainly Jaime’s and Tyrion’s blood shared a number of markers with the current Lannisters, but then so did most of the people of the Westerlands.

(Though it might have settled the matter conclusively, Selwyn did not suggest exhuming Lord Tywin’s body from his tomb.)

The problem was – and Selwyn, being a reasonable man, found it perfectly understandable – that Jaime and Tyrion had simply appeared out of nowhere four years ago. They did not claim to be secret descendants – illegitimate or otherwise – of any of the current, sprawling Lannister family; they simply said that they were Lannisters and expected to be believed.

The birth certificates and ID documents that Selwyn had procured for them when they first came to the future had not held up under close scrutiny.

Finally Selwyn had said that the lawyers should come and meet Jaime and Tyrion in person to determine the truth or falsehood of their claim.

**

Jaime was in a nearby field, exercising one of the four destriers he had brought back from Casterly Rock-that-was. This one was milk-white, and – according to Jaime – from the best bloodlines in Highgarden; Brienne had named it Honour, much to Jaime’s amusement (the other three were Glory, Chivalry and Valour).

Selwyn was watching, curious; he’d always liked horses, had ridden a bit in his youth, but he’d never had Jaime’s skill. (I’ve been riding since I was six years old, Jaime said. A knight is nothing without a horse. And then he said Do you want me to teach you?)

The sound of a car drawing up almost spooked the horse, but Jaime calmed it with a low, murmured command. He turned it in a neat circle with no more than the pressure of his thigh.

Selwyn looked curiously at the sleek black car, at the woman who unfolded herself from the driver’s seat and emerged into the sunshine.

She was golden, as Jaime was golden; tall and sleek with her hair coiled in an elegant twist, her lips red as sin and her green eyes outlined with smoky shadow. She wore a perfectly cut business suit with killer heels, and held herself with all the pride of a queen.

She stopped in her tracks, just for a moment, when she saw Jaime. But then she regained her composure and continued up to the fence where Selwyn waited.

“Jianne Lannister,” she said, extending her slender white hand to Selwyn. He took it, automatically, caught by her low, smooth voice. “Lanniscorp’s chief in-house counsel. You must be Selwyn Tarth.”

“I –” he said, “yes. I am.”

Jaime dismounted neatly and approached, looping Honour’s reins over the fencepost. The white horse, recognizing Selwyn, nosed him and snorted; Selwyn laughed softly and gave him a few bits of apple from his pockets.

“And you must be Jaime,” Jianne said.

Their green eyes locked.

The resemblance was unmistakable.

“Jaime Lannister,” Jaime said, extending his hand.

She did not take it.

“You have no right to that name,” she said steadily. “The man who bore that name is dead.”

“And yet it is my name,” he retorted. “I’ll use it if it pleases me.”

**

“Long centuries ago,” Jianne said, “Tywin the Magnificent lost his two sons. One during the sack of King’s Landing, and the other simply vanished into thin air. It’s said that he mourned his eldest son bitterly, but that the loss of his second son caused him not a moment’s grief –”

“And what stories do they tell, of the son lost in King’s Landing?” Selwyn asked.

“It depends which narrative you choose to believe,” she said. “The Lannister histories say Ser Jaime Lannister was slain in a noble – yet ultimately doomed – attempt to protect his king from unknown assailants. For some reason his body was never found.”

“And what do other histories say?” Jaime asked, defensive.

“Ned Stark believed that it was Ser Jaime who killed Aerys Targaryen, before fleeing Westeros in shame. Others still said that Ser Jaime had deserted, leaving Aerys to his fate, or that he fled from the shame of failing to protect him.”

Jaime’s mouth tightened.

“In the end, the point was moot. Four years after Aerys’ death – after Lord Tywin loaned the Crown a substantial sum of money – Robert Baratheon declared Aerys slain by person or persons unknown, pardoned Ser Jaime of any crimes he might have committed, and released him from the Kingsguard in absentia.”

“Do you expect me to believe that you are that Ser Jaime Lannister?” Jianne asked, her voice smooth and cold and implacable. “That your brother Tyrion is the same Tyrion Lannister who vanished from Casterly Rock so many centuries ago? And you have both – what – somehow come forward in time?”

“Believe what you like,” Jaime said.

She paused. “Just over a year ago,” she said quietly, “you were observed on CCTV entering Casterly Rock just after midnight through one of the ancient hidden doors known only to the family.”

“You have your own home wired with CCTV?” Selwyn interjected.

She flicked him a glance. “Only the exterior and the public areas.”

Jaime looked puzzled.

“Two hours later,” she continued, “CCTV picked you up at the Lion’s Mouth with four unknown men dressed as ancient Lannister guardsmen, leading packhorses laden with weapons and two ironbound chests stamped with the mark of Casterly Rock’s mines. When you left CCTV range, satellite footage showed you and the guardsmen led these packhorses, and four other giant horses –” her eyes strayed to Honour, placidly grazing, his tail swishing idly – “to an unmarked plane in a deserted field and loaded them on. When the plane took off, the guardsmen and the packhorses simply – vanished. Despite our best efforts, we have been unable to find the origins of the men, the packhorses, the other horses, or the weapons.”

“The ironbound chests, however –”

“I did not steal them,” Jaime said, crossing his arms. “Father gave them to me. He noted them down in his ledgers.”

“Yes,” she said, “I found that. In the deepest, dustiest depths of the archives, I found that. And more.”

**

Jianne had spent long, long hours poring over the footage of the vanishing guardsmen and packhorses. Finally her mother had told her to stop obsessing.

“You’ve already spent years trying to discredit these impostors, darling,” her mother had said. “Why don’t you let it go? Go out, have some fun. There are more important things in the world than the Lannister name.”

Her father, however, had called her into his study and, coughing self-deprecatingly, had told her a fantastical tale, a secret kept by the lords of Casterly Rock, supposedly passed down from father to son for centuries on end, since the days of Tywin the Magnificent –

“I always thought it was a children’s nursery story, like snarks and grumpkins and the children of the forest,” her father had said. “And you’ll see why we make sure it’s not widely known. But – well – it goes like this.”

Ser Jaime Lannister was not dead, the tale went. He had gone – away, into another world, even into the future, and one day he would return. And when that day came, the Lannisters of Casterly Rock were to embrace him as Tywin the Magnificent’s true heir.

Chapter Text

They walked back to the house, Selwyn leading Honour and watching as Jaime and his newfound cousin – niece? – Jianne circled each other like – well, like prowling lions.

It was no more than a five minute walk from the field to Selwyn’s house, but it felt like forever. Selwyn made small talk about the weather. It was a lovely day; the sky was clear and blue, and the sun was warm. Jaime and Jianne looked like they had walked right out of a fashion shoot: Jianne for cut-throat corporate chic, and Jaime for the classic simplicity of blue jeans and a white t-shirt.

There was another car parked outside of the house. If Jianne’s car had been sleek and black, this one was low-slung and red and built for speed. The number plate was LNSTR1.

Jaime’s eyes lit up. Even Selwyn felt a pang of manly covetousness. Once, long ago, he too had been a young man with a need for speed.

“Dad! Jaime!” Brienne threw herself out of the front door to greet them, grinning widely. “Our cousins have arrived! Have you met Jianne yet? She said she was going out to the field to meet you.”

“Yes, my young apprentice,” Jaime said, throwing his arm around Brienne’s shoulders and ruffling her hair. She was growing so tall; at 13, she was almost up to Jaime’s shoulder. “I’ve met our good cousin Jianne. Don’t tell me there’s more of them?”

His eyes strayed once more to the shiny red car.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” a low, amused voice said. Another golden Lannister strolled out to meet them from the house, this one so like Jianne he could only be her twin. He was dressed in a superbly cut suit, and he smiled with all the confidence of a man born into billions.

“My brother, Jason,” Jianne said, dryly. “Please forgive him. He’s a golden man-child.”

“Dear sister,” Jason said, “I love you too.” He switched his attention to Jaime. “Gods, you really do look the part, don’t you?” He straightened up, unconsciously squaring his shoulders.

Selwyn couldn’t help but notice that Jaime was taller, his smile sharper.

“Jaime,” Tyrion said, coming out to join the gathering. There was something bemused in his voice, and when Selwyn looked behind him he thought he understood why.

There was a third Lannister standing with Tyrion. Where Jianne and Jason were perhaps five or six years older than Jaime, this man was at least 30. And unlike his younger twin siblings, who had what Selwyn had come to realise was the classic Lannister looks, this older Lannister had golden hair, but a long, severe face and solemn grey eyes.

“Ned Lannister,” he said, holding his hand out to Jaime.

**

Ned Lannister, it turned out, was Lord Damon’s eldest son and the heir to Casterly Rock.

Unlike quicksilver Jianne and Jason, he was calm, steady, and even-tempered. Every year, during the school holidays, he’d gone to work for Lanniscorp: he’d worked in the mines, toiling deep in the bowels of the Rock; he’d worked as an ordinary sailor on the cargo ships; he’d worked his way up the corporate ladder the hard way.

(“Father’s first wife was a Stark,” Jason whispered to Tyrion. “She didn’t approve of Southron luxury. Our mother, of course, is a Tyrell – charming, extravagant and flighty.”)

**

Selwyn invited them all to dinner.

What else was there to do?

“I must say, you’re being very calm about this,” Ned said, with a wry, crooked smile that warmed his grey eyes.

Jason had taken Tyrion and Brienne out for a spin in his car. Jianne was pacing back and forth on the wooden deck, talking to her assistant in Lannisport as she worked furiously on a wafer-thin tablet.

Jaime had taken Honour back to the stables and had gone upstairs for a quick shower and to change into clothes that did not smell of horse.

Selwyn laughed as he threw chopped up ginger and garlic into a wok – relishing the quick sizzle and the sudden sharp scent – and quickly diced some chicken. “I like having a full house,” he said. “And I’ve become accustomed to Lannisters descending on me with no notice.”

Jaime came down the stairs, his hair freshly washed. He checked when he saw Ned in the kitchen, something flashing across his expression.

“Jaime, would you chop some vegetables up for me?” Selwyn asked. He nodded to a pile of whatever he’d manage to pull out of the fridge.

Jaime took up a knife and started chopping. When he’d first come to Tarth, he’d not known what to do with a cooking knife – knives are for killing, he’d said, and don’t you have any servants? – but Brienne and Selwyn had slowly introduced their hapless foundlings to basic domestic skills.

Still. As he turned his back to throw the chicken in to the wok, stirring a little, Selwyn was half-aware that Ned Lannister was watching Jaime with curious interest.

“You’re not what I expected,” he said to Jaime.

“Oh?” Jaime kept chopping. “What did you expect?”

Ned frowned. “I read the police reports,” he said. “I know how and where Selwyn found you. If it’s true that you somehow came from the past –”

“Have you come to judge me, Stark?” Jaime brought the knife down with unnecessary force. “An oathbreaker with Aerys’ blood on my white cloak? You should be thanking me for what I did.”

There was a moment of strained silence, broken by the sound of Jianne’s indistinct voice outside and the low rumble of Jason’s returning car.

You’re not Ned Stark, Jaime had said when they first saw him. Have you come to judge me?

Jaime drew in his breath. “I’m sorry,” he said. “It’s just, you look so like – them.”

“Them?” Ned asked, gently.

Silently, Selwyn took Jaime’s chopping board and transferred the vegetables into the wok. He stirred them in, deliberately projecting an air of complete indifference to what was going on behind him.

“When Rhaegar ran off with Lyanna Stark,” Jaime said, “her brother Brandon raced south to King’s Landing and stormed into the Red Keep, shouting for Rhaegar to come out and die. Aerys accused him of treason and summoned his father Rickard Stark to court to answer the charge. Lord Rickard demanded trial by combat – perhaps thinking to duel one of the Kingsguard. Me, perhaps. But Aerys had him suspended from the rafters and roasted him alive, slowly, in his armour, and Brandon was forced to watch, strangling himself to death as he tried to save him.”

Selwyn abandoned all pretence of not listening. He turned, appalled, to see Jaime smiling pleasantly, as if recounting a mildly amusing anecdote.

“Five hundred men looked on in horrified silence, and did nothing. And I stood there, at the foot of the Iron Throne, and I watched –”

He stopped. Ned looked pale and shaken.

Selwyn coughed, deliberately, and took the wok off the flame.

“Well, dinner’s ready,” he said, as the front door opened and Brienne’s and Tyrion’s excited voices carried through to the kitchen, mixed in with Jason Lannister’s amused drawl. “Go and set the table for me, will you? I’ll round up the kids and grab a bottle of wine.”

Ned made a low noise of agreement. “I’ll round up my beloved siblings,” he said with a strained smile.

**

They sat down to dinner, all seven of them. The three Lannister siblings were good company, and with good food and good wine – half a glass only for the children – the talk was easy and free-flowing.

Jaime had regained his composure and listened with amusement to Jason telling Tyrion about his car. Brienne eagerly told Jianne all about Jaime’s sword-fighting school and how she was now learning to use a morningstar.

Ned shared some stories about his days working in the mines at Casterly Rock, and Jaime mentioned ancient ghost stories of miners lost in the endless dark. Ned laughed and said that they still told the same stories, even now.

(“What do you do?” Selwyn heard Tyrion ask Jason. “Do you work for Lanniscorp too?”

Jason laughed, his white teeth flashing. “Gods, no,” he said. “I’m a venture capitalist.”)

But eventually the food disappeared, the wine was finished, and Tyrion and Brienne began to yawn in their seats. Selwyn sent them up to bed and told them not to stay up too late reading – with a pointed look at Tyrion, who only looked innocent.

“And now,” Selwyn said, when there was only him and Jaime and the three Lannisters of Casterly Rock, “perhaps you’ll tell me what this sudden visit is all about.”

Chapter Text

“I’ll get straight to the point,” Jianne said. She turned to Jaime. “House Lannister wishes to come to an accommodation with you and your brother. We’re willing to allow you to keep the Lannister name. We will even admit that you and Tyrion are in fact the sons of Tywin the Magnificent, displaced in time.”

Jaime’s brows flew up. He looked – caught between amusement and insult.

“Why, that’s very kind of you, cousin,” he said. And then – “Tywin the Magnificent?”

Jason snickered. She ignored him. “In return,” she continued, “you both give up your claim to Casterly Rock.”

Jaime only sighed. “How many times do I have to say it? I don’t want the Rock. I never have. I gave it up when I joined the Kingsguard.”

“You were released from your vows,” Jianne pointed out. “Your titles and rights were reinstated by order of King Robert Baratheon.”

“Oh, very well.” Jaime shrugged. “So I will give them up again. Ned, you seem like a sober, responsible man – I’m sure our fortunes will be safe with you.”

Ned inclined his head, his grey eyes warming with amusement. “Thank you, cousin,” he said dryly.

“Perfect.” Jianne reached for a sheaf of papers – no doubt a densely written, ironclad contract. “If you’ll just sign here –”

“Wait,” Selwyn said. “Jaime’s not signing anything until he’s had time to consider.”

Jianne fixed him with a fierce look. “Mr Tarth, while I appreciate your input, Jaime is an adult –”

“Jaime traded his inheritance for a white cloak when he was a boy of 15,” Selwyn said bluntly. “Forgive me if I don’t want to see that happen again.”

Jaime shot him an unreadable look. Selwyn wondered if – like Ned Lannister earlier – he’d somehow managed to hit a nerve, all unwitting.

Later, Selwyn thought. But now –

“I’ll need to discuss this with Tyrion,” he said. “He’ll have to decide for himself if he wants to give up his claim.”

Jianne’s mouth tightened. “Very well,” she said. “In the meantime, you can find us at the Evenfall hotel.” She slid the sheaf of papers towards Jaime and stood up.

“No,” Selwyn said, “no, stay here. I don’t mind. I’ve got the room.” They stared at him, and he barreled on, recklessly. “You’re family. You should stay and get to know Jaime and Tyrion.”

**

They decided to stay. First, though, they had to go back to check out of their hotel and pick up their belongings. Selwyn promised to make some of his spare rooms ready for their return.

When the red taillights of Jianne’s car had faded into the distance, Selwyn went back into the house to find Jaime on the deck, looking out over the water.

“I’m sorry,” Selwyn said, “I think I might have offended you, earlier.”

“For a moment, you sounded just like my father,” Jaime said quietly. “It’s exactly how he would have described me. Throwing everything away for a white cloak – as if the Kingsguard was no more than a boy’s vainglorious folly.”

Jaime had been 15 years old. If it had been Galladon, Selwyn would have been beyond furious. On this, at least, he agreed with Lord Tywin.

“Wasn’t it?” Selwyn hesitated. “And was the white cloak your only goal?”

There was a moment of frozen silence. Selwyn remembered Jaime, unyielding, defiant –

“No,” Jaime finally admitted. “No, Cersei was part of it too. But I meant my vows when I spoke them. If Aerys had not been a monster, I would have worn the white cloak with honour for my entire life, and I would have stayed faithful to Cersei, never parted. What is Casterly Rock, to that? I would give it up a thousand times.”

“Jaime,” Selwyn said gently, “it may mean nothing to you, but it means a great deal to others.”

Jaime sighed. “That’s not me,” he said simply. “That’s not who I am.”

**

In the morning Brienne greeted her three new cousins with a blithe, welcoming smile, accepting Selwyn’s word that they had come to stay at face value.

Jason was seated at the breakfast table wearing a lightweight linen suit, checking the share prices on his tablet. A pair of thin black-rimmed glasses framed his green eyes. Jianne wore another killer suit – but with less aggressive heels – and Ned wore jeans and a long-sleeved shirt. His sleeves were rolled up to his forearms, exposing tanned skin and sleek muscle.

Selwyn drew Tyrion aside and ushered him into his study.

“I’m always half-afraid to come into this study and see my father behind this desk,” Tyrion said. At nearly 14 years old, he was experimenting with Jaime’s ironic manner.

“Gods above, don’t say that.” Selwyn shuddered theatrically. He sat down heavily behind the desk and waved Tyrion to a seat. “It is rather apropos, though. You know why the Lannisters have come, I suppose.”

“Jaime told me,” Tyrion said. “They want us to give up our claim to the Rock.”

“So? What do you think?”

Tyrion looked thoughtful. “I know what Jaime would say. I suppose I always thought that with him in the Kingsguard, Father would eventually name me his heir. But now that he has taken another wife and fathered another son –”

Selwyn considered him. “I didn’t think you cared so much.”

“Surprising, isn’t it?” Tyrion looked away. “We appear to have been replaced.”

“Well, think on it,” Selwyn said. “Your father is centuries in the past. Here in the future, you can determine your own fate. You can be anything – anyone – you choose. But I hope you know that whatever decision you make, I will support you.” He coughed. “Even if it means going head to head with Lanniscorp.”

**

After lunch, Selwyn took Ned, Jianne and Jason on a tour of the island. They drove up the coastal road to the ruins of Evenfall Hall, detouring past a few more historical spots before heading into the main city of Tarth.

“This is Jaime’s school,” Selwyn said. He parked just in front of a sizable white building, where a sign proclaimed the Gold Lion School of Swordfighting. The logo was the same gold lion rampant as the Lannister coat of arms.

Jason whistled, low and impressed. “Gods above. Did you know he was using our lion, Jianne?”

Jianne hissed under her breath. Ned put his hand on her shoulder. “Let it go,” he said.

They looked in through the window to see perhaps nine or ten students battering each other with the shields and blunt tourney swords Jaime had retrieved from the past. There was an even split between men and women; Jaime cared only about talent, not gender.

At the front of the class stood Jaime, in black sweatpants and a white sleeveless shirt, his golden hair darkened with sweat. He looked lean and quick and graceful.

“Do you really think he is who he says he is?” Jianne asked, her voice low and resigned.

“Yes,” Selwyn said, “I believe him. I was skeptical at first, but I’ve seen too much not to.”

“The Rock can handle more Lannisters,” Ned said. “Even past ones.”

**

In the end, the Lannisters stayed for another three days while Tyrion thought over his decision.

On the fourth day, Jaime and Tyrion signed away their rights to Casterly Rock.

Chapter Text

1. Tyrion (girlfriend problems)

As Tyrion’s fourteenth nameday approached, Jaime cornered Selwyn in his study.

“Do you think I should get Tyrion a woman?” he asked. “He’s almost a man grown. I don't think I should take him to a brothel – he’s too romantic for that – but perhaps an innocent crofter’s daughter in distress?”

“No,” Selwyn blurted out hastily. “No, absolutely not.”

Jaime blinked at him. “I’m his older brother,” he said. “I put him on his first pony and gave him his first glass of wine. Who else will teach him to be a man if I don’t?”

“Jaime,” Selwyn said slowly, “trust me. Don’t try to organize a woman for his birthday. That sort of thing will come when it comes.”

**

“Selwyn,” Tyrion said, one week before his nameday, “are you going fishing this Saturday? Can I come with you?”

Selwyn went fishing most Saturday mornings. He woke in the chill darkness before dawn and drove down to the local boat ramp, where he launched his little aluminium dinghy into Evenfall Bay. And there, in the hushed silence where the only sound was the lapping of the waves, he watched the bright stars fade and the sun come up over the Narrow Sea.

Sometimes Brienne went with him. Sometimes Jaime, in those first days after they’d brought him back from King’s Landing.

Tyrion had gone with him once or twice, but after the first few times he’d decided that he’d much rather sleep in on Saturday mornings and catch up on his reading.

“Of course,” Selwyn said, concealing his surprise. “You’ll have to get up early though,” he reminded him.

Tyrion made a face. “If I must,” he said. “Perhaps I’ll simply stay up all Friday night.”

And so they sat in Selwyn’s dinghy just before dawn on the next Saturday morning, Selwyn in a lurid orange high-visibility jacket and Tyrion in a bright red puffy jacket and a life vest. Selwyn settled his fishing rod into its holder and Tyrion cast a hand-line over the side.

Neither was particularly interested in catching fish. Catching fish was not really the point of going fishing.

“Jaime says Father took him fishing, once, when he was very young,” Tyrion said. “Father was Hand of the King, then, so he had very little time to spare for his children. But Jaime remembers it.”

“Do you wish he’d taken you?” Selwyn asked. “Do you – miss him?”

Tyrion laughed. “Gods, no,” he said. “Father never paid me any attention. It was always Jaime. And then – you.” He didn’t look at Selwyn as he said this, gazing quite deliberately away, over the water.

Selwyn felt absurdly touched.

In the long years since his wife’s death, Selwyn had often wished for some sort of guidance. What did he know of raising children on his own? Galladon’s death, following so soon after his wife and his two baby daughters, had been devastating. He’d felt lost, adrift, not knowing what to do for Brienne other than to love her.

Then had come his two foster-sons, and with them their own particular demons.

Sometimes he wished, fiercely, that his wife were still alive to laugh at him and tell him what to do.

“I wanted to ask your advice,” Tyrion said. “Jaime is – I don’t think Jaime will be of much use.” He coughed. “There’s a girl."

Selwyn waited a beat. “Oh?” he asked. “At school?”

“Her name’s Tysha,” Tyrion blurted out. “She’s – her father has a small farm, up in the hills. She’s got long dark hair, and she’s smart, and kind,” he continued, words spilling from him, “and when she laughs she’s never cruel. She’s – soft. And sweet.”

“She sounds lovely,” Selwyn said.

Tyrion looked apprehensive. “Father will never approve,” he said miserably. “A crofter’s daughter? He’ll be furious.”

Selwyn gazed thoughtfully at his fishing rod, at the calm blue sea and the slowly lightening sky. “Tyrion,” he said slowly, “your father is long centuries in the past. That sort of thing doesn’t matter any more. If you want to fall in love with a farmer’s daughter, he can’t stop you.”

“And besides,” Selwyn continued, “who’s going to tell him? Jaime won’t.”

Tyrion looked very uncertain.

“Do you really think he’d defy Father?” he asked. “Keep it secret from Cersei?”

“Yes,” Selwyn said adamantly. “Jaime would never betray you. Even if he and Cersei were still –” he couldn’t say it “– he’s your older brother. He’ll always look out for you.”

Tyrion looked as though he very much wanted to believe Selwyn’s reassurances.

“Trust me, Tyrion,” Selwyn said. “If Lord Tywin disapproves, I’ll stand up for you, and so will Jaime, and even Brienne. Because you’re like a son to me, and a brother to Brienne, and families stick together, no matter what.”

There was a moment of embarrassed silence, and Tyrion looked anywhere but at Selwyn, his eyes darting this way and that.

“Even though I’m a Lannister of the Rock, born centuries in the past?” he asked, his voice shaking and unsteady.

“Even then,” Selwyn promised.

**

For Tyrion’s fourteenth nameday they had their usual picnic on the cliffs. Jaime bought Tyrion a petrified dragon’s egg. Selwyn bought him a copy of Septon Barth’s Unnatural History. Brienne bought him an advanced chemistry set and a pair of plastic safety glasses that made him look like a mad scientist.

Tysha came, shy and sweet, and sat beside Tyrion and held his hand during the long golden afternoon, as they watched the sun go down over the Narrow Sea in a blaze of copper and rose gold fire.

**

2. Brienne (the Talk)

As Brienne’s fourteenth nameday approached, Selwyn went into a quiet panic. She was man-tall, broad-shouldered, her nose twice-broken, but her heart was still as tender and her eyes as innocent as the Maiden’s.

What would he do when he had to talk to Brienne about – about puberty? About – boys?

“Da-ad,” Brienne said, rolling her eyes. “We learned all about that stuff at school last year. And I’ve already had my first period. Jaime told me what to look out for.”

“Jaime did?” Selwyn said faintly. He groped behind him for a chair, sank down into it, his knees trembling.

“He said he and Cersei shared everything,” Brienne said, wrinkling up her nose. “Even all the female stuff. He told me about moon tea, how to keep track of my cycle and to make sure the man pulled out before he finished.”

Selwyn shuddered.

Desperate for a modern feminine opinion, he called the most competent woman he knew: Jianne Lannister. Stumbling over his explanation, he finally managed to beg her to give Brienne more detailed and up to date information on men and sex because she was Brienne’s closest female relation and he, Selwyn, was simply incapable of it.

Once she stopped laughing, she agreed.

**

And so Jianne came out to visit, sleek and composed even in jeans and flat shoes, and took Brienne out for a long and presumably informative walk.

Before she left, she gave Brienne a book that she said would change her life forever.

**

3. Crack bonus – Jaime

Just as, when she was younger, Brienne used to pepper her conversation with the phrase “Jaime said”, now she peppered it with “Jianne said”. She began to talk about gender norms and stereotyping and swore that she would not wear a dress to the upcoming school dance, no matter what the teachers said.

“What does Brienne mean?” Jaime asked. He and Selwyn and Tyrion were sitting out on the deck after dinner, listening to the crickets droning and the distant sound of the waves from the beach below. “Should I read this book of Jianne’s?”

The moon was high and bright, and Jaime sprawled lazily in a chair, content with the world.

Tyrion smiled fondly at his arrogant golden brother. “Do you remember when Father gave you a sword for your nameday, but gave Cersei a dress? That’s what she means. The gifts were meant to reinforce the differences between you.”

Jaime nodded thoughtfully. “Cersei was so furious,” he said. “She always hated being told that I could do things that she couldn’t, because I was a boy and she was a girl.” He ran his hands through his hair. “I remember that day as well – I used to have long curls just like Cersei, and Father made the barber cut them all off. After that Cersei and I had to stop switching places, because it was too easy to tell us apart.”

“You poor thing,” Tyrion said with mock-pity. “Your golden curls!” And then, as Jaime’s words caught up with him – “Hang on. What do you mean, you had to stop switching places? Don’t tell me you used to –”

Selwyn blinked. Surely not. Jaime was – Jaime was so –

Jaime looked a little sheepish. “Cersei and I used to swap clothes and take each other’s place for the day. We were so identical that no one ever noticed. Cersei would wear my tunic and breeches and learn to ride a horse and use a sword, and I would wear Cersei’s dresses and sit in the solar with Mother, learning to sew and dance and sing.”

Tyrion looked at Jaime in horrified fascination. “And did you?” he asked. “Learn to sew and dance and sing?”

“Of course I did,” Jaime frowned, mock-indignant. “Just as well as Cersei.”

**

[Brienne lent Jaime the book that Jianne had given her.

He read it, slowly, underlining key passages and scrawling notes in the margins.

When he was finished, he said, “Do you think Cersei would like to read this?”]

Chapter Text

One afternoon, out of the blue, Brienne came home from school and stomped up the stairs to her room with more vehemence than normal. The sound of her door slamming caught Selwyn’s attention; he peered up at the ceiling curiously.

He did not have long to wait to find out what the matter was.

“Boys are all liars,” Brienne announced, stomping down the stairs and throwing herself sullenly onto the couch. She glowered at world in general.

“In my experience, that’s generally the case,” Selwyn agreed neutrally. “What was it this time?”

“Ben Bushy gave me flowers,” she said, “and Mark Mullendore told me that I looked pretty.” She made a face. “As if I don’t already know I’m ugly.”

“You’re not ugly,” Selwyn protested automatically. “I think you’re beautiful.”

“Yeah, but you have to say that,” she said. “You’re my dad.” She waved her hand, dismissive. “Hyle Hunt said that I was a really good fighter and that he hoped I could teach him some moves.”

“Well, that sounds more promising than flowers and compliments.”

“And then he asked me to the school dance,” Brienne said plaintively.

Selwyn blinked. “But that’s great, Brienne.” He paused. “Isn’t it?”

She frowned. “Just something Tyrion said. He thought he saw them and a few others who have been nice to me lately whispering together, laughing and plotting something.”

“Oh.” Selwyn didn’t like where this was going. “And you think they were – what, playing some sort of game with you?”

“Maybe.” Her jaw set stubbornly. “Tyrion thinks they had some sort of bet going on.”

The thought made Selwyn’s blood boil. He took a moment to breathe.

“Never mind,” he said, deliberately indifferent. “You didn’t actually want to go with any of them, did you?”

“Of course not. I don’t need a boyfriend to validate my existence. But –” she paused, and just for a moment looked sad. “Just once, it would have been nice.”

**

Jaime offered to go with Brienne as her partner.

“At least you know I haven’t got an ulterior motive,” he said.

She scowled. “You’re too pretty. You’ll be ambushed by all the cheerleaders.”

“You’ll just have to rescue me.” He grinned rakishly.

Tyrion made a thoughtful humming noise. “What about one of the lesser Lannister cousins? There must be someone your age. Ned can bribe them.”

“I don’t want my partner to be bought and paid for.” Brienne scrunched her nose up. “You can’t just throw money at everything, you know.”

“Our father would beg to differ,” Tyrion said. Jaime snorted with laughter, and the two brothers grinned wickedly at each other.

“I don’t see why I need to have a partner at all,” Brienne said stubbornly. “I’ll just go by myself, or with Tyrion and Tysha.”

And so it was decided.

**

The next step was teaching Brienne and Tyrion to dance.

Selwyn was – well, he could sway from side to side, but that was it.

Jaime’s idea of dancing was either mincing court dances performed to the accompaniment of mediaeval lutes and pipes, or the type of whirling village dances seen at drunken harvest feasts.

Brienne put her foot down. “It’s a school dance, Jaime, not the cotillion or the minuet or whatever –”

Jaime looked confused. “What on earth is a cotillion?” he asked. “I’ve never heard of this minuet.”

Tyrion rolled his eyes. “Why don’t we look it up on YouTube?” he asked. “Unless – let’s ask Tysha.” He pulled out his phone and quickly sent off a text with a silly, affectionate grin. When his phone vibrated and lit up with a reply he clutched it close, fending off Jaime’s attempts to snatch it and read Tysha’s message.

“Get off, you barbarian,” he said, mock-wrestling with Jaime. And then, when Jaime laughed and surrendered, “She’s coming over now.”

In the end, it was Tysha who taught Brienne and Tyrion to dance like proper modern teenagers. She laughed as Tyrion twirled her, her pretty face filled with gentle affection, and she smiled warmly at Brienne and included her in the fun, and she didn’t once cast a longing glance towards Jaime.

She stayed for dinner, and they all sat down to their meal, laughing and joking and talking over each other, passing the food freely around the table.

**

When they saw her off, Selwyn put a hand on Tyrion’s shoulder. “I like her, son,” he said. “You should keep her.”

**

Finally the night of the school dance came.

Jaime had taken Tyrion to King’s Landing to have a suit properly fitted. “I’m your elder brother,” Selwyn had overheard him saying. “I put you on your first pony and gave you your first glass of wine. Who else should do this for you?”

After they’d returned, Brienne had told Selwyn that she wanted to wear trousers to the dance. “No one said that I actually have to wear a dress, Dad,” she’d said. “Jianne showed me photos of women wearing trousers, high heels and a tuxedo jacket*, sometimes with no blouse or bra –”

Selwyn had blanched at the thought.

“– but she said I have to wait until I'm older for that. For now, though, she can take me to her tailor for a fitting.”

And so Brienne went even farther than Tyrion, to Jianne’s tailor in Lannisport.

(Five years ago, before the advent of Lannisters into his life, he would not have dreamed of such extravagance. Brienne wouldn’t have cared for the dance at all, and probably would have worn something off the rack from the discount section. But the investments that Tyrion had made in his name were finally starting to pay off, and perhaps something of the Lannister flair for drama was rubbing off on Selwyn and his homely, hard-headed daughter.)

Tyrion’s suit fitted him perfectly. Brienne wore a slinky jacket and blouse and trousers that made her legs look miles long. Tysha had done her makeup and hair, and her eyes looked otherworldly blue.

Jaime grinned and said they scrubbed up well. Selwyn took endless photographs of them, individually and together, and when Tysha arrived with her parents took even more.

He finally ushered them out the door with a proud sigh.

Beside him, Tysha’s father (who, far from being poor, turned out to be a retired stockbroker who had taken up hobby farming) said, “He’s a good lad, Tyrion. We’re all very fond of him. You’re lucky to have such a son.”

“Yes,” Selwyn said, easily and without thinking. “Yes, I’m very proud of him.”

**

Chapter Text

In the middle of a crowded piazza filled with thousands of masked revellers, all laughing and talking and calling in strange languages, a Westerosi voice called out: “Ser Jaime!”

**

The year that Brienne and Tyrion turned 15 and Jaime 23, Gerion Lannister began to speak of travelling to Essos to seek out House Lannister’s fabled lost Valyrian sword, Brightroar.

“He says it was lost many centuries ago,” Tyrion said, his eyes shining as he read out his uncle’s letter at the breakfast table. “King Tommen II sailed with a great fleet of ships to ruined Valyria and never returned.”

“We should go and look for it too!” Brienne said. “We can travel the Free Cities and sail up the Rhoyne and camp out on the Dothraki Sea.”

“Perhaps we’ll even see a dragon,” Tyrion breathed. “I’ve always dreamed of seeing a real live dragon.”

Jaime grinned. “You mean you’ve always dreamed of riding one, brother. Like Aegon the Conqueror on great Balerion.” He buttered his toast and took a crunching bite.

“Or Queen Rhaenys and Visenya on Meraxes and Vhagar,” Brienne added.

Jaime nodded, conceding the point. “I don’t know about dragons,” he said thoughtfully, “but I’ve always wanted to see Braavos. I saw a water dancer fighting in Lannisport, once, and I always wanted to learn.”

Selwyn could see where this was going.

“Can we go to Essos, Dad?” Brienne asked. “School’s almost finished for the year.”

Tyrion turned his mismatched eyes on him. “It’ll be educational,” he said. “And Jaime will come too, so he can protect us.”

Jaime’s eyebrows flicked up. “Thank you, Tyrion,” he said. “It’s good to know my place in the scheme of things.” But he looked thoughtful. “I’ll close my school for the holidays. We can take as long as we like.”

Faced with their combined entreaties, Selwyn threw up his hands. “Oh, very well,” he said, with poorly feigned reluctance. “Let’s go to Essos.”

**

They flipped a coin, and Jaime chose to begin their wonderings in Tyrosh. The ancient inner walls were of fused black dragonstone – the city had begun as a military outpost – but long centuries of prosperity based on their trade in richly dyed fabric had brought wealth and ostentation. Men and women alike dyed their hair in garish and unnatural colours – Brienne marvelled at a man with his hair and beard dyed bright green, and a woman with her hair streaked pink and purple and blue.

Jaime insisted they take a day trip out to the Stepstones, the small chain of islands that was all that remained of the ancient land bridge between Essos and Dorne. “My father and uncle fought here,” he said, “in the War of the Ninepenny Kings. Ser Barristan Selmy slew Maelys the Monstrous, the last of the Blackfyre Pretenders in single combat.”

There was no plaque, no monument; only green grass and blue sky.

**

In the port, they saw great crimson-hulled cargo ships registered to Lannisport – part of Lord Damon’s modern trading fleet.

**

Tyrion won the next coin toss, and they went to Lys. “Lys is the most beautiful of the Free Cities,” Tyrion said solemnly. “The sunsets are said to be the most beautiful on earth.”

Brienne glowered at him. “Yes, and what else is Lys famed for?” she demanded.

“Its pillow houses are famed through all the world.” Tyrion grinned.

“No pillow houses for you,” Selwyn said. “What would Tysha say?”

Tyrion only sighed.

**

“The Summer Isles,” Selwyn said, when he won the next toss.

He and his wife had gone there on their honeymoon, and in a beach hut on the isle of Jhala, open to the air, they had made love with the sea breeze bringing them the scent of a thousand different types of flowers.

They had wandered hand in hand on the white sand beach, barefoot and wrapped up in each other, plucking exotic fruits from the heavy-laden trees and marvelling at the brightly-plumed parrots.

It was just as beautiful as he remembered.

**

Brienne voted for Old Volantis on the mouth of the Rhoyne.

Volantis was the oldest, richest and the most powerful of the Nine Free Cities, the oldest colony of the Freehold of Valyria. Gawking like the tourists they were, Selwyn, Jaime, Brienne and Tyrion marvelled wide-eyed at the great Long Bridge, strong enough to support the weight of a thousand elephants, at the huge Black Walls of fused dragonstone two hundred feet tall that enclosed the once-forbidden inner city.

In the vast harbour they saw more crimson-hulled Lannister ships.

From Volantis, they made their way at Tyrion’s behest to the Smoking Sea and the ruins of Valyria. The ruins of the greatest empire in the world were epic in their haunted grandeur; Tyrion recounted the story of the Doom with thrilling drama.

“Some say it was a natural cataclysm,” he said, “a catastrophic explosion caused by the eruption of all fourteen of the great burning mountains at once. Others say that the Valyrians brought the disaster on themselves for their godlessness and cruelty. They say that every hill for five hundred miles split asunder to fill the air with ash and smoke and fire so hot and hungry that even the dragons in the sky were engulfed and consumed.”

They did not see any live dragons, but many of the ancient temples and palaces had been perfectly preserved by the eruptions – archaeological excavations had uncovered whole skeletons of dragons buried in the ancient layers of ash and mud, complete even with intact wings and paper-thin skin.

Tyrion marvelled at the sheer size and impossibility of them.

Jaime looked at the great skull – and the razor-sharp teeth – and shuddered.

“There were dragon skulls in the throne room at the Red Keep,” he said. “The largest was Balerion the Dread – larger even than this. I could stand up between its outstretched jaws, and its teeth were as long as my arm.”

Selwyn had never heard of that. “What happened to them?” he asked. “They’re not displayed in the throne room now.”

Jaime only shrugged, supremely indifferent. “Robert probably smashed them into powder,” he said. “I would. The dragons are all long gone, anyway.”

But he spoke softly, so he didn’t spoil Tyrion’s excitement.

**

[When Brienne heard that the ancient Valyrians had done their best to preserve the ancient bloodlines – wedding brother to sister, uncle to niece and aunt to nephew – she wrinkled up her nose and said “Ewww, gross.”

Jaime’s face went – blank.]

**

Beyond the forests of Qohor was a vast expanse of windswept plains, gentle rolling hills, fertile river valleys, great blue lakes and endless steppes. This was the Dothraki Sea, where wandering khalasars had once traversed the grasslands conquering and plundering as they pleased.

Nowadays the Dothraki had mostly settled into towns and cities with running water and electricity. But there were still traditionalists among them who disdained modern convenience and spent their lives as their ancestors had, travelling nomadically with the wind.

Brienne wanted to ride like a Dothraki horselord and camp below the stars on the Dothraki Sea. And so they flew from Valyria to Vaes Dothrak, and there they found a guide to take them out into the wild.

They rode Dothraki horses under the wide open sky, the wind in their hair and the sun warm on their back. At night, they camped around a fire and slept staring up at the stars, diamond-bright in the night sky.

On their third day on the steppes, Brienne and Tyrion and Selwyn woke to find their guide missing.

“He must have gone off in the night,” Jaime said casually, gathering up the horses – all five of them.

“Why didn’t he take his horse, then?” Brienne asked.

“Couldn’t say.” Jaime shrugged. “Who knows what he was thinking.”

Tyrion eyed him narrowly. “Is there something you’re not telling us, Jaime?”

Jaime only smiled pleasantly. “Many things, brother mine.”

They packed up the camp and rode back to Vaes Dothrak. If Selwyn caught a glimpse of a bandage on Jaime’s forearm beneath his sleeve, if he noted that Jaime had a long dagger concealed on his belt, if he remembered that he had not quite liked the look of their guide when they first hired them, he said nothing.

**

Selwyn chose Pentos next.

The closest of the Free Cities to Westeros, trading ships passed over the Narrow Sea on an almost daily basis – Lannister ships among them. Everywhere they went they heard the common tongue of the Seven Kingdoms: at the bustling docks, in the crowded markets, in the popular tourist spots.

It was here, of all places, that Jaime’s time-slipping occurred.

They were passing by an ancient white-walled mansion with a red door when the chill descended and the hair rose on the back of Selwyn’s neck. For the barest moment, the crowds around them were dressed in tunics and breeches rather than jeans and jackets, and the smell of diesel and bitumen was replaced with the smell of sea-water and spices.

Selwyn saw Jaime looking up at a window on the second floor, and saw a pale face peering down at the street; a curious little girl of perhaps six or seven years old, with thick silver-white hair and great purple eyes.

Jaime grinned and lifted his hand to her in salute. She stared down at him in wide-eyed fascination.

“Daenerys!” A man’s voice called from within the house. “Come away from the windows now.”

The little girl startled guiltily, dropped the curtain and fled.

And then the chill lifted and the modern world returned.

**

Finally, they went to Braavos, sailing beneath the legs of the great Titan.

They stayed in an old, crumbing palazzo on the edge of the Grand Canal. When they looked out the windows of the hotel, they could see all of Braavos coming and going: sailors and tourists and locals alike, in long, narrow pole-boats or walking on foot; they could smell the salt water and hear the cries of hawkers in the market – oysters and cockles! Oysters and cockles!

Jaime sought out a water dancing school and watched, enthralled.

Selwyn and Tyrion and Brienne went exploring. In the market they learned that they were just in time for Carnival, and were tempted into buying fantastic leather masks. Brienne bought a sunburst in blue and gold. Selwyn bought a black and white harlequin. Tyrion, grinning, bought a red lion mask with a flaring mane, saying something about a cat with a different coat. They all agreed that they’d come back tomorrow so that Jaime, too, could pick a mask.

They went to sleep that night to the sound of water lapping at the foundations of the palazzo, to the laughter and chatter of a thousand voices, to the sound of ardent would-be lovers singing beneath the windows of their chosen loves.

**

Jaime bought a gold lion mask, grinning at Tyrion’s choice but saying that he had not the courage.

**

That night, as the sun set into the sea in a blaze of colour, the sounds of Carnival began. Lights came out, golden street lamps, carefully placed flambeaux, neon signs and the whirling bright colours of fluorescent tubes. The smell of sizzling street food rose into the air, and soon masked revellers began to spill into the great piazza. Live bands played, and people danced, and the sound of their laughter and talking filled their ears.

Selwyn made sure that he could see where his children were at all times, his attention split between marvelling at the atmosphere and the sights and keeping track of Jaime, Tyrion and Brienne.

They watched a group of street performers, jugglers and acrobats and mummers, and caught part of a play that appeared to be about an ancient war between five kings. They danced to skirling pipes and violins, Jaime whirling Brienne about as she laughed, then handing her over to Selwyn and collapsing beside Tyrion in a chair with a glass of wine.

It was there, as he took off his mask and shook out his golden hair, laughing, that a Westerosi voice with a strong Dornish accent called out.

“Ser Jaime!” it said.

Too late, Selwyn felt the chill.

He saw Jaime turn, saw the look of recognition on his face, saw him light up –

“Gods be good!” he said, scrambling to his feet and hurrying over to embrace the other man. “Ser Arthur!”

Chapter Text

**

Lady Ellynor

**

Lady Ellynor Lannister – nee Tyrell – was sunbathing by the large eternity pool on the balcony of her penthouse apartment in Lannisport, overlooking the bustling harbour below. Unlike her husband Lord Damon, Lady Ellynor had no taste for the Rock – a ghastly outdated white elephant, darlings – and so spent most of her time in the city.

Her hair was perfectly styled. She was dressed in a fabulous bikini with a large floppy hat and dark sunglasses, her fingernails and toes perfectly manicured; it was ten thirty in the morning, and she was drinking champagne mimosas.

She had been a supermodel in her youth. She was still glorious, even now.

“Good morning, Mama,” Jason Lannister said, strolling out onto the balcony. “You’re looking more beautiful than ever.” He brushed a kiss over her cheek, hitched up his trousers and sat down on the sun lounge across from her – a cosmopolitan sophisticate in a superbly tailored linen suit, effortlessly stylish as all Lannisters were.

Even poor, staid Ned, in his own way.

“Jason, darling,” she said with an indulgent smile. “What brings you here this morning?”

Her son’s smile turned quizzical. “Jaime wanted to meet you, Mama.”

She sat up, abandoning her languid pose, and stared at her son in astonishment. “Cousin Jaime?” she repeated, aghast. “Here?!”

“I hope I’m not intruding,” a smooth, pleasant voice said. “Jason and Jianne have told me so much about you – ”

Jaime Lannister of Tarth – the pretender who, if Jianne was to be believed, was actually the true heir to Casterly Rock – was not merely good-looking; he was devastatingly handsome. If he lacked Jason’s practiced elegant sophistication, he had a much sharper edge.

If the tales were true, he was an actual knight in shining armour – if the armour in question was a blood-spattered iron fist used to ruthlessly crush anyone who opposed House Lannister.

Tywin the Magnificent, her husband and children said with fond, proprietary pride in a bloodthirsty ancestor, had crushed all who stood against him, had made his daughter Queen and then put his grandsons on the throne, had won the War of Five Kings and had then turned his attention North, defeating even the great King of the Others – leaving behind an unrivalled legacy of peace and prosperity for Westeros. He’d died at the age of 80, surrounded by his sons, grandsons and great-grandsons, secure in the knowledge that his house would continue for a thousand years.

And now here was his son, with his sharp green eyes and bloodstained hands, come to –

What? Take Casterly Rock for himself? Jianne said that he had no interest in Lanniscorp or the Rock.

“Cousin,” she said faintly, holding out the hand not currently holding her champagne glass. “How good to meet you.”

He took it, and bowed over it with a devilish smile.

**

Jason

**

After they left his mother’s penthouse –

Does she always dress like that?

What, haven’t you seen a bikini before? I’ve seen those Instagram pictures of spring break on Tarth.

Yes, but –

– Jason took Jaime to a race-track on the outskirts of Lannisport. He’d seen the way Jaime had stroked his fingers over the gleaming red curves of Jason’s super-expensive sports car. He’d seen the wonder and the covetousness gleaming in those too-familiar green eyes.

Some things transcended space and time.

“Come on,” he said to this long-lost uncle who had reportedly loved to gallop headlong at other knights in full armour for sport. “Let me show you how fast she can go.”

Jaime’s eyes lit up.

Jason had been racing cars ever since he was old enough to drive a go-kart. He’d spent so much time at this racetrack that the owner had offered him a part-time job during the long holidays when he came home from boarding school. He’d worked there from age 12 until he turned 18, when the owner had retired and Jason had bought him out.

He showed Jaime how to handle the car at high speed on winding roads. The roar of the engine and the heart-pounding rush of danger made Jaime throw back his head and laugh for pure joy: a fierce and unfeigned delight in the reckless thrill of it.

The Lannisters of Casterly Rock were not all ruthless tyrants and corporate dictators. They had been kings, once, openhanded and magnificent; they’d had more than their fair share of daredevils and blackguards, explorers and adventurers, golden lions roaring larger than life.

“Now you, cuz,” Jason said, slipping out of the driver’s seat. “Take the wheel.”

Jaime took the wheel. His reflexes were phenomenal. He had no sense of caution, throwing himself headlong into the course; he drove with joy and abandon and delight.

He almost crashed the car. But what was a few hundred thousand gold dragons?

**

Ned

**

He waited for their arrival inside the great entrance to Casterly Rock, called the Lion’s Mouth. He heard the car coming before he saw it: the low growling of the engine, the squealing of the tyres on the winding road up the cliff. Jason had been racing the hills and flats and valleys of the Westerlands since he was no more than a boy; if Ned still worried, he had long since accepted that Jason would never change.

He was what he was: a Lannister. Hotblooded, reckless, wild and clever.

The red car came into sight, rushing into the final turn and squealing to a flashy stop just before where Ned was standing. The door opened, lifting upwards, revealing two golden heads: Jason, grinning and wind-blown, and Jaime, his eyes alight with laughter.

“Cousin Ned,” Jaime said, his smile twisting with a slight edge.

“Jaime,” Ned said politely. He frowned. Jaime was in the driver’s seat. “Did you – was that you, driving up the hill?” He shot Jason a Look. “You could both have been killed.” A thought occurred to him. “Do you even have a licence?”

Jaime only laughed. “Selwyn taught me in his very practical SUV. We drove around the backroads of Tarth going just under the speed limit – nothing at all like this.” He jumped out of the car, all lithe athletic grace, and shook out his golden hair – almost in slow motion.

Jason’s eyes met Ned’s, brimming with delighted laughter.

“Come on, then,” Ned said. “Our father is waiting.”

They headed into the fortress proper.

“Is it very different?” Jason asked Jaime as they walked through the public areas. “From what it was like in your time, I mean.”

Jaime only shrugged. “The stones are the same,” he said, trailing his hand over the grey stone walls. “The crashing of the waves and the echoes in the lower caverns. But it feels much emptier, now – there are less servants and guardsmen, less shouting, no ring of steel from the practice yard or bustle from the courtyard.”

As he spoke, Ned half-imagined that he could hear the ring of steel in the distance, hear bustling and shouting just out of sight. The hairs on the back of his neck rose, and as they walked deeper into the chilly corridors with Jaime he could see ghosts of servants and guardsmen rushing past.

“Jaime!” a voice called out.

Jaime exchanged a hunted glance with Ned and Jason. His eyes darted round, as though he were searching for an escape –

A tall, stately woman draped in crimson silk sailed into view, imperious and overpowering. She had golden hair and green eyes and an enormous bosom.

“Aunt Genna!” Jaime said with a charming smile. “How good to see you.”

Jaime’s formidable aunt pinched his cheek. “You look very well,” she said, looking him up and down. “Much better than when I saw you last. They must be feeding you well, in this future of yours.” She turned her attention to Ned and Jason, who were staring at her in awe. “And who are these two?” She frowned. “That one has the look of a Stark.”

“My future cousins,” Jaime said. “Ned and Jason Lannister. Ned’s mother was a Stark, yes.”

“And you?” Lady Genna Lannister frowned at Jason. “Your mother was never a Stark, boy.”

“No,” Jason said, grinning appreciatively. “She’s a Tyrell.”

“Hmm.” She subjected Jason and then Ned to a long look. “Well, there’s no doubt you’re a Lannister. You’ve got my brother Gerion’s smile, just like Jaime here. I’ve no doubt you’re just as wild and heedless. But you – Ned. You’re more like Tywin, I think. Much good may it do you.”

Ned blinked.

Lady Genna favoured them with a few more pungent remarks, pinched Jaime’s cheek again, and then strode away, majestic as a crimson-clad galleon in full sail.

Jaime smiled fondly after her.

The corridor was long, and Lady Genna was only halfway to the door before she vanished between one blink and the next.

The chill was gone, too, and the hair on the back of Ned’s neck finally subsided.

**

Lord Damon

**

When Damon was 13, his father had passed down to him the secrets of Casterly Rock: the way through the hidden maze to the great treasure rooms below the Rock; the secret passwords to ancient accounts with the Iron Bank; the prophecy of Tywin the Magnificent’s true heir. It had been – a footnote. A curiosity of history, just like the stories of grumpkins and snarks and the centuries-old belief that the blood of the last true dragon-king still survived, hidden in the North.

Damon had never actually believed the stories.

When the detectives at King’s Landing had informed him they’d found a boy named Jaime Lannister dressed all in white, holding a bloodstained sword in the throne room at the Red Keep, he’d thought it an elaborate hoax.

He’d continued to deny the boy’s existence – and that of his brother, Tyrion, where on earth had they got that obscure detail – for as long as possible, until Jianne brought him proof that made it impossible to deny the truth any longer.

This old tale, at least, was true.

There were treasure rooms under the Rock. Damon had seen them with his own eyes, filled with gold and jewels and ancient wealth. There were secret accounts with the Iron Bank dating back centuries, completely unknown to the tax office and quietly accumulating interest decade after decade. Damon had seen the confidential bank statements.

Perhaps there were even grumpkins and snarks and secret descendants of House Targaryen in the North.

And now Ser Jaime Lannister was standing before him, in the flesh. He didn’t look like the son of a ruthless conqueror. He didn’t look like a Kingsguard who had broken his oath and murdered a king.

He looked like a boy of 21. He looked like Jason. He smiled and shook Damon’s hand, and said all manner of polite things with a smile that said he couldn’t care less about the niceties; he looked careless, and carefree, and completely uninterested in seizing the Rock from Damon’s lifeless hands.

**

Jianne

**

Later that afternoon, after the introductions and the pleasantries and Jaime once more formally signing away his and Tyrion’s rights to Casterly Rock, Jaime stood on the great towering cliffs, looking down at the seething water hundreds of feet below. The great boom of the waves echoed like a dull roar.

“The young maidens of the castle used to reward the boys with a kiss if they made the jump from these cliffs,” he said. “If any boys were too afraid to jump, the rest of us would call them craven and make their lives hell.” He smiled reminiscently. “Children are so cruel.”

“And did you?” Jianne asked. “Jump?”

“Of course,” he said. “Cersei kissed me, afterwards, and then she told our father.”

He eyed the safety rail and the prominent warning sign with contempt, and climbed right over the rail to stand on the edge. He turned and grinned at her – that daredevil Lannister grin, golden and wicked and reckless.

“Will you reward me if I make the jump?” he asked.

Despite herself, she felt a flash of heat.

“I don’t swing that way, I’m afraid,” she said repressively.

He only laughed. And then –

He jumped.

Chapter Text

“By the Warrior!” the Dornish stranger said. “Ser Jaime! I thought it must be you, when I saw that golden hair and your smile. You have come to join us at last.” He held Jaime at arms-length and looked him up and down. “Gods, you’re a man now. Has it been so long?”

Ser Arthur Dayne – for who else could it be? – was dark-haired, with keen blue eyes and handsome features, and he radiated an extraordinary charisma. Whatever force it was that drew men’s eyes and commanded their attention, he had it in spades.

Jaime’s smile slowly faded. “Eight years,” he said. “A lifetime.” He reached up to grip Ser Arthur’s wrist. “You’ll have heard about the king.”

“I don’t believe it,” Ser Arthur said immediately. “Jaime –”

He stopped, warned by something in Jaime’s expression.

“Brother,” he said quietly, the words almost lost in the crowd. “Brother, come back with me to the others. Tell us what passed.”

Jaime’s eyes flicked to Selwyn, Tyrion and Brienne. “My family will come also.”

Ser Arthur’s eyes narrowed. “Jaime, are you mad?” he hissed. “After your father lay the children like trophies at Robert’s feet?”

There was a moment of frozen silence.

(The children were – a sore point – between Jaime and his ruthless father. Some things were best left alone.)

“Not my father,” Jaime said. “My family.”

**

Ser Arthur led them through a tangle of streets and alleys. As they travelled, Selwyn noticed them slipping in and out of the past, the passers-by flickering in and out of focus, their dress changing moment by moment.

Brienne, fearless as ever, peppered the great Sword of the Morning with questions. He answered her courteously, but somewhat distractedly; he seemed to be looking about him for unseen enemies, and he was clearly favouring his left side.

Finally they came to a small, nondescript house. Ser Arthur rapped on the door and spoke a passphrase of some sort, and another Westerosi voice called out a reply. Selwyn saw Jaime grow pale and swallow – another Kingsguard, perhaps? – before squaring his shoulders and following Ser Arthur into the house.

Two other men – both tall, broad-shouldered and brawny, in the way Selwyn was beginning to recognise as being characteristic of knights who wore full armour and fought with sword and shield – awaited beyond, and a young woman barely out of her teens, dark-haired and severe with cool grey eyes.

“Ser Jaime!” said the elder of the two men, striding forward to engulf Jaime in a great embrace. “By all the gods! You have come to us in the hour of our need, brother.”

“Your need?” Jaime asked, clasping hands with him absently; for his attention was distracted by the woman. “I know you,” he said slowly. “I saw you at Lord Whent’s tournament.” His eyes widened. “You’re Lyanna Stark,” he breathed.

At that moment, a young boy of perhaps six years ran into the room and threw his arms around the woman’s waist. He had thick dark curls and the same grey eyes as his mother, and he watched the newcomers with solemn curiosity.

Stark eyes, they must be. Ned Lannister had them as well.

“This is Prince Jon,” Ser Arthur said.

“By all the gods,” Jaime said. “Oh, gods be good.” He sat down heavily. “It can’t be.”

“It’s true,” said the third knight. “He is Rhaegar’s son.”

**

Ser Arthur Dayne, Ser Gerold Hightower and Ser Oswald Whent had fled Westeros after the sack of King’s Landing, taking Lady Lyanna Stark – Lyanna Targaryen – and her son with them.

Three such famous knights and a dark-haired girl with a baby could hardly hope to pass unnoticed; there had been assassins after them from the very beginning.

“We only just escaped the last attempt,” Ser Gerold Hightower said darkly. “Arthur suffered a nasty cut.”

There was a bloodstained cloth wrapped around Ser Arthur’s left arm, barely concealed by the sleeve of his tunic.

“They will never stop hunting us,” Lady Lyanna said. “Robert will never forgive, or forget.” Young Prince Jon turned his face into her skirts, his small face afraid.

Brienne made a sympathetic face. “I wish we could help you,” she said. She turned to Selwyn, and then to Jaime.

“Brother,” Ser Oswald Whent said. “Now that you have come –”

Selwyn, Brienne and Tyrion froze as the implications slowly sank in.

“Jaime,” Selwyn said, “might we have a word?”

He was conscious of Ser Arthur’s keen blue eyes as he drew Jaime aside. The other two knights were also watching, openly curious. Who is this stranger, not even a knight or a fighting man, he imagined them thinking. What influence does he hold over Jaime?

They had no right to judge, these brothers of Jaime’s who had left him all alone. Selwyn had faced down Lord Tywin for the right to call Jaime family. He would face down the Sword of the Morning too.

“Jaime, you can’t,” he began, but stopped. Jaime was 23 years old. Selwyn had no right to tell him what he could or couldn’t do. If he wanted to join his former brothers in the Kingsguard in protecting Rhaegar Targaryen’s heir –

“Selwyn,” Jaime said, hesitating, “this is – this could be a chance for redemption. Ser Arthur himself –”

“Jaime,” Tyrion whispered furiously. “It’s too dangerous. They’ll never stop sending assassins after you. And what about – what about Father? And –” he made a face like he had bitten into a lemon, “– Cersei?”

Brienne stared at him with her big blue eyes. “What about us?” she asked. “I thought we were your family.”

**

Jaime and Ser Arthur went out alone into the tiny courtyard, their heads bowed together in grave discussion.

Selwyn, Brienne and Tyrion sat down to drink wine and eat cakes with two knights of the Kingsguard and the widow and son of a Targaryen prince.

“We couldn’t believe it, when we heard that Aerys was slain and Jaime had fled,” Ser Gerold told them, his eyes flicking to the two knights outside. “He was our youngest brother, the brightest and most eager of us. Surely he could not be so false.”

“When we heard that he had disappeared and had been released from his vows,” Ser Oswald continued, “it became harder to deny it. Arthur said that there must be some greater truth behind it all. He would not believe that Jaime would so wantonly cast away his honour.”

“And now he is here in Braavos with you,” Ser Gerold said, “unarmed and unarmoured, travelling not as a knight but as one of the common folk.” He turned his gaze on Selwyn. “Will you tell us what happened?”

Selwyn thought of the boy in the bloodstained white cloak. He thought of that mad thousand-yard stare, and the horror in his voice as he’d told his father I had to stop him.

“The story of Aerys’ death is Jaime’s alone, I think,” he said quietly. “But afterwards, Jaime chose to remain with us rather than return to his previous life.”

Lady Lyanna smiled sadly and held Prince Jon close on her lap. “I wish I had such a choice,” she said. “If only things could be so simple.”

Brienne and Tyrion exchanged glances. “I don’t see why not,” Tyrion said. “You could come with us into the future.”

“The future?!” Ser Oswald said, staring.

The door swung open and Jaime and Ser Arthur came back inside.

“Yes,” Ser Arthur said, “the future. Jaime has told me – everything.” He frowned. “If this is true, Jaime, then perhaps it might be a very good thing. If we can take the prince to a place – and a time – beyond Robert’s reach…” he trailed off. “But you say you are still in contact with your father and your family. Is there some safe place in this future of yours that we might find shelter?”

Brienne stared at young Prince Jon, at his dark hair and solemn grey eyes. “I don’t see why anyone would look for a Targaryen prince in the future,” she said thoughtfully. “He doesn’t have white hair or – or purple eyes. If anything,” she said, smiling at Lady Lyanna, “he looks like our cousin Ned.”

Lady Lyanna started. “Ned?” she breathed.

“Oh,” Tyrion breathed, wide-eyed. “Oh, that’s perfect.

Chapter Text

“There’s a Mr Lannister on the phone,” the admin assistant said.

Ned Lannister did not look up from the contract he was perusing. “Which one?” he asked. “If it’s Jason, tell him I’m not letting him duck out of dinner with the family tonight.”

“Mr Jaime Lannister,” the admin replied.

Ned blinked. What on earth did Jaime want? Wasn’t he in Braavos? Jason followed Tyrion on Instagram, and was following their wandering progress through Essos with great interest.

“Put him through,” he said, curious.

She transferred the call to his phone.

“Jaime,” he said. “Is there something wrong?”

“Not as such,” his distant cousin replied. “I need a favour, Ned.”

“Of course. Anything.” Surely it wasn’t money. Selwyn wouldn’t let them run out while they were travelling. Ned hoped they hadn’t gotten themselves thrown into a foreign jail.

“I need you to acknowledge a bastard child,” Jaime said.

Ned blinked. He pinched the bridge of his nose, and drew in three deliberate breaths.

“Ned?” Jaime asked. “Are you still there?”

“Jaime, if you’ve got a girl in trouble –”

“The child isn’t mine!” Jaime said indignantly. “I’ve only ever – well. Besides, no one would believe it was mine. But he would be perfectly believable as your son.”

“And what about my reputation?” Ned said dryly.

“Never mind that. Men fuck whores and peasant women and father bastards all the time. No one thinks the worst of them for it.”

“Jaime.” Ned cut him off. “Why don’t you explain it to me from the beginning.”

And so Jaime told him of Prince Rhaegar Targaryen, long centuries in the past, who had run off with a fourteen year old girl and plunged the kingdom into war. How he had got a child on her and then gone off to fight, leaving her alone with only three knights of the Kingsguard. How the prince had died and the girl bore the child in secret, and the girl, the child and the brave white knights had fled to Essos with assassins on their heels.

“So you see,” Jaime said simply, “I have brought them into the future where they can be safe. And how better to keep the boy safe than to raise him as a Hill? No one would think to look for him at Casterly Rock.”

“I should think no one would think to look for him in the future, either,” Ned said dryly.

“Ned,” Jaime said with unwonted seriousness. “The boy is Rhaegar’s son. I swore to protect the royal family. I could not protect Elia, or the children, but I can protect this boy. We Lannisters pay our debts.”

There was a muffled conversation on the other end of the phone, what sounded like Tyrion’s voice impatiently hissing something at his brother.

“Will it help if I told you,” Jaime said, “that the child’s mother is a Stark?”

**

That night, he drove his sensible sedan up to the Rock and parked beside Jason’s red sports car and Jianne’s sleek black car. He passed through the ostentatious public areas, inwardly grimacing at all the marble and gold and crimson, and into the much more comfortable family wing.

He met Jianne in the drawing room, mixing cocktails before dinner.

“I need your advice,” he said bluntly.

She poured him a martini. “Go on,” she said. “What is it this time? Jaime hasn’t really got himself thrown into a foreign jail?”

“What would be the implications,” he asked, “of my having an illegitimate son?”

Of course, in that very instant Jason walked into the room.

“Why, Ned,” he drawled, “is there something you’d like to tell us?”

“Quiet, you,” Jianne hissed. “Ned. What’s all this about? There’s no way you’d be so careless.”

“Sadly, that’s true,” Jason said, throwing himself into a chair and grinning widely.

He told them Jaime’s story of a young prince in exile. “He says that if the boy is acknowledged as mine, no one would question the presence of security.”

“Sorry, just to be clear,” Jason said, “when you say security, you mean three knights of the Kingsguard.”

“Jason,” Ned sighed.

“And did you say the boy’s mother is a Stark? How are you going to explain her?”

“If it gets out, you’ll be on the front page of all the tabloids,” Jianne said, ignoring Jason. “Billionaire’s baby shock. Lannisport love rat.”

Yes, but will it hurt the family?” Ned asked. “What about the company?”

She only shrugged. “So long as profits remain steady, shareholders don’t care about your personal life,” she said. “But if I were you, I’d make sure to update my will.”

“Gods, yes,” Jason said. “And make sure you tell Mother and Father the truth first.”

**

Ned flew out to Tarth the next day.

Chapter Text

Ned found Jaime and Tyrion waiting for him at the airport. Tyrion was grinning widely, holding up a handwritten sign that said “Proud Papa”.

Ned only rolled his eyes. “Hilarious,” he said. “Whatever you’re thinking, Jason’s already said it.”

Jaime drew him into a manly embrace. “Thank you, cousin,” he said solemnly. “I owe you a debt that I can never repay.”

Ned coughed and patted Jaime tentatively on the back.

“That’s quite all right,” he managed to say. “All in the family.”

**

On the way to Selwyn’s house, Jaime told him more about Lyanna Stark, young Jon and the three knights of the Kingsguard.

“Hang on a moment,” he said. “She was fourteen?”

“Aha!” Tyrion grinned. “The penny drops. I told you, Jaime.”

Jaime glared at his younger brother. “She was a maiden flowered.” 

“She was fourteen!” Ned clutched at his hair. “And sixteen when the baby was born. Jaime, I’m ten years older than her. Even if she’s – what, 22 now? How on earth am I going to explain –”

Jaime merely blinked at him. “Why do you need to explain anything? The lion does not care –” 

“Look, it’s simple,” Tyrion interrupted. “Lie.”

**

Lyanna Stark-Targaryen had the dark hair, severe features and serious grey eyes of Ned’s late mother and his cousins at Winterfell. Her son Jon could have been her mirror. He peered at Ned curiously.

“Are you really Mama’s cousin?” he asked. “Your eyes are the same, but your hair is gold and curly.”

Ned winced. His hair did have a tendency to curl in the heat.

“My mother was a Stark, just like your Mama,” he answered the boy. “My father is a Lannister, like Jaime’s.”

“And where do your loyalties lie?” That was Ser Gerold Hightower, the leader of the three Kingsguard – thankfully unarmed and unarmoured, out of place in Selwyn’s worn and comfortable living room.

Ned blinked. “Loyalties?” He looked to Jaime for guidance.

“You’re a Lannister,” Lyanna said, her voice low and clear, her accent a surprising Northern burr. “And yet you would aid the son of a Targaryen prince.”  

“Who cares who the king is?” Ned asked. “It’s money makes the world go round.”

“Spoken like a true Lannister,” Ser Arthur Dayne said.

**

Finally they agreed that Lyanna, Jon and the three Kingsguard would live in one of Ned’s properties in Lannisport. Ned would cover all their expenses.

“We’ll need a birth certificate for Jon naming me as the father, and identification papers for all of you – oh,” he said, elaborately casual, “Lady Lyanna, would you mind if we pretended that you are 28, not 22.”

She frowned at him. “What difference does it make?”

“It will draw less attention to you,” he said with a blithe smile.

**

Two weeks later, the story was carefully seeded in the tabloids by Lanniscorp’s media relations office. LANNISPORT LOVE NEST, the headlines read, the highly speculative articles accompanied by blurry, long-range shots of “billionaire bachelor” Ned Lannister’s mystery mistress, a 28-year old distant cousin from the far north, and their gorgeous love-child. Just look at those curls! 

Lanniscorp sued and the story was quickly buried and forgotten.  

Jaime was right, damn him. The scandal only enhanced Ned’s reputation.