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Family, Duty, Honor

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Technically, the intention is for Jaime Lannister to marry Lysa Tully, but a few things happen to make that impossible.

(“Thank the gods,” he will say often in the years that follow, prompting a stern look from his wife, always followed by a poorly hidden smile.)

Jaime is sent to Riverrun to meet his potential betrothed, as if it matters whether they get along. Lysa’s sister, Catelyn, older than Jaime by several years, is more to his tastes both in looks and in personality, but she’s betrothed to the eldest of the Starks. Except then Brandon gets himself killed in a hunting accident near Winterfell that’s rumored to have actually been a fight of some kind, possibly over a lady. Catelyn is grieved in the way that you grieve for someone you’re supposed to grieve for but don’t know enough to care about, which is to say she keeps her pretty eyes lowered and her mouth in a grim line during dinner as her father and uncle and brother talk between themselves about who she’s going to marry now. Ned Stark, Brandon’s younger brother, is apparently the most likely candidate. Jaime feels sorry for her, as Ned is dour and uninteresting, but mostly he’s too busy feeling sorry for himself. Lysa’s attempted flirtations are awkward and uninteresting, and he can’t imagine ever agreeing to marry her, no matter what his father says.

Then the king, Aerys, dies rather suddenly, and Jaime’s father sends word that he’s traveling to Riverrun to hasten along the arrangement of the marriage with Lysa, with the end goal being so they can be back in Kings Landing in time for Jaime’s sister to marry the new king.

And then some serving woman catches Lysa at something that makes Tywin call off the betrothal. Jaime is never quite informed of the details, and he doesn’t care enough to ask. He didn’t want to marry her anyway.

In the end, Tywin Lannister is too shrewd a man to be cheated out of the alliance he wants, and so Jaime Lannister and Catelyn Tully are wed in a ceremony that manages to be grand enough to suit both fathers, even under the time restrictions.

Jaime supposes he should be happy that he doesn’t wind up married to Lysa. He has enjoyed Catelyn’s company in the time he has spent at Riverrun. She’s lively and funny and kind. But Jaime doesn’t want to marry anyone at all, unless it’s his sister.

 


 

He does his best not to mope through his wedding feast, but the wine doesn’t help, and neither does his stiff-backed Tully bride beside him. He keeps thinking of Cersei. Cersei warm and inviting and wanting. Begging him to join the Kingsguard to protect her. Why had he said no? He would have had to stand by and watch her with Rhaegar, but wouldn’t it have been worth it? She still would have been near, and they could have continued on in secret, the way they always have. They’re meant to be together. Hang what the laws say. The laws allowed the Targaryens to wed brother and sister for ages! Rhaegar’s parents were siblings! Why not Lannisters?

It was Cersei who first proposed that maybe Lannisters could be as divine as Targaryens. But when he said that they should run away to be together, she turned away. She was meant to marry the prince, she said. She was not meant to spend her life running from their family, living as refugees in some faraway land where no one knew them. She was Cersei Lannister. She would be a princess.

Now, she’ll be a queen.

The last time he saw Cersei, she was dismissive. Cold and almost harsh, and sometimes he remembers that. Allows that last memory to infect the warmer ones he usually chooses to dream about. Softer years, when they were younger and always playing together, loving each other for more than just what their bodies wanted. That was years ago now, but still he craves her. He wonders how she feels about his marriage. Was she jealous when she heard? Was she angry? Was it anything like what he felt when he heard she was betrothed to Rhaegar?

He can’t imagine it. He can only think of her coldness. That last time, when she was furious with him because he didn’t want to join the Kingsguard. He remembers her coldness now, at his wedding, sitting beside Catelyn Tully. Catelyn Lannister. His wife. She’s not any happier to marry him than he is to marry her.

The female guests carry him away to his chambers when the feast is near enough to finished, and the wine has addled his head so it’s almost terrifying, the way they strip his wedding clothes from him. But it’s terrifying afterward, too, when it’s just he and his wife in their room, left alone in the quiet, with only the ghostly sounds of the merriment elsewhere in the castle keeping them from true silence. Catelyn has already covered herself with a dark green silk robe, and she’s sitting on the edge of the bed, pulling her hair loose from her braid. She isn’t Cersei, but she’s beautiful all the same, and he admires the sight of her there. She looks peaceful.

“They took their time with you,” she says wryly. She gives him a look over that might be appraising, and Jaime finds his hand is shaking as he runs it through his hair to try and tame what the ladies have mussed. “Such a silly tradition isn’t it?”

He thinks she’s trying to make him more comfortable, so he nods and tries to calm his racing heart. He feels vaguely sick with nerves. He expected her to be the nervous one. That’s what all the married men said to expect. There were dozens of them, coming out of the fucking walls, trying to give him advice on how to make his wife less anxious “so she’ll let you fuck her good”, or whatever other horrible thing they thought he wanted to hear. “There’s a difference,” they all said, “between fucking your tavern wenches and deflowering your highborn maids”, of course not realizing just how little experience Jaime had with either.

 Catelyn is brushing her hair now, still looking at him curiously, and he’s the only one who seems at all rattled.

He can’t do it. He won’t be able to. His cock hasn’t so much as stirred, and he knows it won’t. It’s only Cersei, for him. Catelyn is pretty and fierce and he likes her. He genuinely does. She’s kind and funny. She’ll make a good wife.

She just…isn’t Cersei.

“We don’t have to,” he says. He remembers that he can be charming when he wants, and he flashes her a smile. “If you don’t want. We can wait.”

“Wait?” Catelyn asks. She’s amused, he thinks. She’s even prettier when she’s amused, and she’s prettier in the soft firelight here, the way it plays over her face and her hair and what he can see of her pale skin. But it doesn’t matter how pretty she is when she isn’t Cersei. “Why would we wait?”

“I know you were expecting to marry Brandon Stark,” Jaime says. “If you wish for more time to grieve…”

“I have no wish to grieve a man I barely knew,” Catelyn says. She is still so dry, knowing. Her eyebrows are arched perfectly, and he thinks she might be on the cusp of mocking him. “I know neither of us wanted the match, but I thought we would both at least know our duties.”

Duties,” he echoes, incredulous. But he supposes she’s right. Husbands and wives don’t choose each other. Not when they’re from the great houses. Jaime only knows fucking as an act of love between himself and his other half, but to Catelyn it’s the way to make the Lannister heirs that her father promised Tywin.

There’s something of Cersei that he can find in Catelyn now. Her detached amusement hides a quiet, simmering resentment. Not only because of him, he doesn’t think, but because of the fact that if she wishes to be the good Tully woman, the embodiment of those self-righteous house words, she will have to endure him. Fuck this man she doesn’t want and who now, apparently, doesn’t want her. Jaime knows it’s nothing to be pitied, but he does feel sorry for her. It isn’t her fault. It isn’t her fault Cersei is his other half, and it isn’t her fault that Tywin Lannister is ambitious and that her younger sister gifted her maidenhead to someone she wasn’t betrothed to and now Catelyn is forced to keep the promise that Hoster Tully made.

“I’m sorry,” he says.

“What do you need?” she asks, awkward and annoyed about it. Like there’s something she thinks she needs to do to make this easier for him. She’s trying to sound unflappable, and he has no doubt that there were women all around her during the preparations, telling her things the same way the men told him. He remembers the things Cersei used to complain about being taught. How to smile and laugh at a man’s cleverness, even if he didn’t have any. How to anticipate his needs. What about my needs? she had asked once, when they were both very young. Do you have to spend all day learning how to make ladies happy? Defiant, because she knew the answer was no.

Catelyn reminds him of that day now, how angry Cersei had been. His wife sits facing him like a man steeling himself for battle. Her shoulders are squared. If he didn’t know how to read men readying for battle so well, maybe he wouldn’t know that she’s hiding her nerves behind bravado.

It makes him feel a bit better, a bit more on even ground. After all, she has more to fear from him than he does from her. She’s a maid. She’s never done anything like this before. He knows it can hurt, sometimes, if the man isn’t gentle. Jaime’s done this with Cersei more times than he can even remember.

“I’m sorry,” he says again, because he is. “I’m not…you should know I’ve…before, more than once, I’ve...”

“You think I was expecting you to be…what was it that that Frey man kept saying? Pure as driven snow?”

Jaime laughs at the unexpected humor in her expression. He thinks it might be more from the relief than anything else. She’s still Cat. During that first week of his stay at Riverrun, she had been lively and engaging, trying to coax him into seeing her flighty little sister’s charms. All it had really done was show Jaime that she would be the better match for him by far. She had teased him when he was awed and too obvious about his admiration for her uncle The Blackfish. Lysa had simpered and tried to flirt with him, but with Catelyn he had developed a back-and-forth that sometimes, sometimes made him think of Cersei when they were younger.

Sisterly, he thinks. She had been sisterly. It almost makes him laugh, because yes, he thinks he probably can do this if he remembers who she is and that he really does like her.

And maybe it’s fitting, after all, that he and Cersei are both to be married off to other people. They mirror each other. Reflect each other. Everything else is the same. Why not this? Cersei will fuck Rhaegar. She will likely do it gladly, from the way she gushed about him before she and Jaime were parted. Why should Jaime not gladly fuck his own wife? His pretty Tully wife.

“I loved her,” he admits. “The woman I was... If I have seemed unenthusiastic. I didn’t mean to be so ungrateful. I…”

“Jaime Lannister, our fathers are, thank all the gods, not in this room with us,” Catelyn says. She stands up from the bed. He doesn’t think she’s even trying to be alluring. The robe falls around her legs, but he catches glimpses of her pale skin as she walks towards him. Her hair falls around her shoulders and down the front of her robe, and the firelight on it is enthralling. Almost golden. The glimmer of steel in her eyes is mesmerizing. She seems to grow stronger the closer she gets. He likes the look of challenge on her face. Her clenched fists. Her expressive eyebrows and the way they furrow disapprovingly at him. “You don’t need to woo me with pretty words. You need to consummate this marriage so that our fathers will be satisfied. And then you will need to lay with me, whenever the time is right, so that we may produce heirs.”

“Family, duty, honor,” Jaime says dryly, and Catelyn’s smile is sharp.

“You mock my house’s words, but they’re good words. And I live by them. I haven’t seen much roaring from you. Just bluster from a scared boy.”

Jaime’s answering smile tries to emulate her sharpness, but it feels strained. He is scared.

“I’m trying to be…I’m trying,” he says, and Catelyn places one cold hand on his chest. The other holds to his shoulder. She’s delicate about it. Much softer than Cersei has ever been. And he feels something new boiling inside him. Not want, because though his cock is finally at least showing some interest in the smell of her and the closeness of something so soft and lush and so Cat, he knows lust well enough, and he knows this isn’t it. It’s something older, something he had forgotten. Safety. Not physical safety. Not knowing his body wouldn’t be harmed. It’s something greater and yet smaller than that at once. Just knowing that he is safe with her, knowing that he can trust she won’t hurt him. He doesn’t think he’s felt anything like it since he was a child. Maybe it stopped when his mother died, or maybe it stopped when Cersei grew old enough to have ambitions and learned that the quickest way to quiet him was with cutting words. But Jaime feels a yearning for that feeling again, and with Catelyn’s hand soothing his erratic heartbeat, he knows that it’s so close.

Trust, maybe. On a scale he hardly remembers ever knowing, but he can have it. She’s offering it.

“Neither of us wanted this marriage,” she says. The sharpness of her words and her vaguely scolding tone are so different from the gentleness of her touch. “But we are married, and we must make the best of it. Old loves and old hurts won’t serve either of us anymore.”

Jaime kisses her, because her head is tilted up to look at him, and her eyes are mirthful and amused, and her hands are growing warmer on his skin, and he knows no better way to respond to whatever this trusting, wanting feeling is. Catelyn makes a sound of surprise, but she grips his shoulder tighter, and then her other hand slides up from his chest to his neck. He shivers and cups her face in his hands to deepen it.

His fingers slip into her hair, and he pulls her closer, and he begins to press her backward so she takes several delicate steps towards the bed, laughing when he breaks the kiss so he can see how close they are.

It’s easier when she’s laughing. Easier when he remembers that she’s not some unknown, unmet girl. Cat, who laughed at him and did a wicked impression of his gaping hero-worship for her uncle and who had taken pity on him more than once when she could tell he was overwhelmed by her sister's persistence. Duty, she said, and it would be harder if it was only duty, but it isn’t. He gently opens her robe once they reach the bed, and he exposes her. If she’s afraid, or bashful, she doesn’t show it. She stares at him with a challenge.

It makes him think of Cersei again. The jut of her chin. The daring in her eyes.

Little else brings his sister to mind after that. The softness of Catelyn, the way she looks in this light, extends to the feeling of her skin. The roundness of her thighs. The curved shape of her, her hips. Wider than Cersei’s. She has freckles on her arms, and on the skin of her chest, just below her throat. He can see them, and touch them, and bring his mouth to them as she makes delightful sounds that turn from quiet laughter to quieter whimpers.

He was left only in his smallclothes when the bedding was done, and he can see her eyes wandering with obvious nervousness to the hardening shape of his cock beneath the thin fabric, so he gently pushes her back, onto the bed, urging her toward the pillows.

“I need to,” he starts. He feels awkward, suddenly, saying it. He’d say any number of filthy things to Cersei. But Catelyn…“Get you ready,” he finally says.

“Oh,” she says, like she’s curious and amused all at once. “Get me ready? How?”

“Let me show you,” he answers. Her eyes go wide at that, and wider still when he urges her knees open and kneels in front of her. “If you don’t want to…”

“Do it,” she says, still curious, if slightly less amused.

He kisses her the first time he slips his hand between her legs, mostly to hide how nervous he is. With Cersei, this was easy. Cersei was always ready for him. It was the way their love evolved, from the time they were young. She always wanted, and there was no need to be gentle. He’s worried that he’ll hurt his wife, worried that he’ll shock her, worried that she won’t like something that Cersei did. It makes him more careful and gentler than he’s ever been, and he thinks that it might be what Catelyn wants. She sounds surprised as she breathes heavier, like she never thought it would feel good, and the first time she comes she gasps. She’s quiet, like Cersei, except she doesn’t need to be. It’s just some rigidity, some holding tight to herself even as he bends his head between her legs and licks her. Her fingers grasp at his hair, and he moans louder than he meant to, and he’s embarrassed at how hard he is now, but Catelyn is quiet all the while. He likes the sounds that come out, the ones she tries to stop. The way they sound so shocked and glad. Like all of it is a pleasant surprise.

 


 

Catelyn Tully had not wanted to marry Jaime Lannister. She hadn’t wanted to marry Brandon Stark, either, but at least Brandon Stark was serious and courteous, even if she knew the rumors of his fondness for women. Jaime Lannister is arrogant, unserious, more interested in hearing old tales of knighthood and glory than in getting to know Lysa.

And yet, through a series of things that are not in any way her fault, Catelyn Tully becomes Catelyn Lannister, and Jaime Lannister is her husband.

She’s surprised to see his arrogance vanish so quickly after the wedding. He turns into a nervous boy who can’t even muster up the courage to cross the room without being met by her first. She’s able to coax him into overcoming his fears and bedding her, and he’s gentler than she expected him to be. She supposes she isn’t so surprised that he has lain with others before. He’s beautiful, and eighteen, and has surely had plenty of offers in his life, looking the way he does. She is surprised when he claims his nervousness is because he loved the woman he used to be with. Catelyn imagines that this bedding must feel like a betrayal of her, whoever the woman was. Of low birth, likely, or at least low enough that Tywin Lannister wouldn’t entertain the idea of a marriage. She feels sorry for him, but she supposes she might also be relieved to know that she isn’t the only one dissatisfied.

She finds herself glad for his experience on their wedding night, when she finally understands why women marry even when they aren’t forced to. He’s gentle with her, and he kisses her and shows her what pleasure is. It still shocks her, days later, when she remembers the feel of his mouth on her, to say nothing of how surprising and good it felt, when he was fully inside her, after the initial surprise of such a foreign feeling.

What’s more shocking, as weeks pass and they travel to Kings Landing for his sister’s wedding to King Rhaegar, is how much she enjoys spending time with him. She had liked him at Riverrun, mostly despite herself, because he’s charming and eager to please and amusing despite his arrogance—and perhaps sometimes because of it. After their marriage, after their successful wedding night, it’s easier to remember that he’s more than just the man she was forced to marry.

He is irreverent and incorrigible and always mutters annoyances to her in a low voice that only she can hear. She is practiced in keeping herself from laughing (thanks largely to a childhood spent with an extremely mischievous Petyr Baelish) so she does, tamping down the urge. But the urge gets stronger because she’s relieved, as the days pass, to find that she gets along so well with her husband.

She heard all sorts of things before the wedding from nearly every woman she knew—every woman perhaps, save for Lysa, who wasn’t speaking to her, and who blamed Catelyn for stealing her beautiful golden husband as if Catelyn planned for Lysa to give her maidenhead to Petyr and then get caught doing it.

Every woman in her life, from the visiting relatives to the handmaids to the washerwomen had advice and opinions, and they all contradicted each other. Catelyn had no idea what to expect. There were warnings of harshness and promises of pleasure and whispered, giggled allusions that she hadn’t understood at the time. The one thing no one ever said was that it could be fun. Simply fun, if one’s husband had the right temperament. She’s surprised to find how much she likes sleeping with hers.

After that first nervous night, he becomes more confident. In their bed, she allows the laughter that she tries to stifle everywhere else. He mocks people they saw throughout the day as he kisses her, and she scolds him while his grin glitters at her and he makes some silly jape about ‘making it up to my lady wife’. She worries, sometimes, that it must be false, because he is so much more good-natured than she expected. She knows he didn’t want this marriage, and she fears that he is merely doing his duty better than she expected, but as the days pass, she begins to trust him. Why would he pretend so well if he cared nothing for her? What would he have to hide?

 


 

Kings Landing is not what she expected. It’s as if every person who has ever visited and gushed about its grandness forgot the filth and the stench of it the moment they left. The ladies at court wear heavy perfumes to keep themselves in a bubble of protection from the smell, and if anything it makes the stench worse. Everything cloying and false and overpowering. It makes Catelyn’s head swim. She misses the fresh air and the smell of the woods around Riverrun.

Jaime can tell she isn’t happy, and it causes a sort of giddy mania in him to realize it. He’s pleased, he informs her, because he doesn’t much like the city or the court, either. He’s irreverent and rude and even funnier in his bitter sharpness. Sometimes Catelyn feels as if she can’t keep up with him.

She meets Cersei Lannister as a sister only several days before the wedding to Rhaegar is to take place, and she finds her perfect for her new home. Glittering and beautiful and courteous and kind, but with a hollowness that feels threatening. She may be able to fool the women she chooses to surround herself with, who all worship her, gushing over her beauty and her cleverness and her graciousness, but she can’t fool Catelyn. Catelyn is a Lannister now in name, but she will always be a Tully first. She has no care for the jewels and gold that Cersei drapes herself in, or the mask she wears that can’t quite hide her distaste.

Still, Catelyn is polite. Dutiful. She and Cersei talk of the journey from Riverrun, and the grandness of the city, and how they both agree that Rhaegar will make a fine king. Cersei’s eyes are sharper than her twin’s, and more piercing. Catelyn knows the future queen is looking for flaws, but she doesn’t allow it to bother her. Cersei has nothing that Catelyn wants, and Catelyn has nothing that Cersei wants. They don’t need to think about each other beyond these few weeks. Why would it bother Catelyn at all?

Later, back at their rooms, Jaime is distracted. Almost anxious.

“What did she say to you?” he asks. For the first time since their wedding night, his voice has that odd quality to it. Vulnerability.

“She was very kind,” Catelyn says, because she doesn’t know what Jaime is asking. He seems relieved, and he nods.

Maybe he sees what his sister is, too.

 


 

Jaime loathes court. He loathes the games that his father and sister and even his little brother so enjoy playing. He loathes the people who fawn over him and Catelyn because they know it might gain them some favor with whichever other Lannister they are most eager to impress. He isn’t interested in any of these people or their absurd conversations. The only person he wants to speak to is his sister, but of course it can’t be that simple.

Cersei manipulates events so that they are never in a room together with fewer than fifteen people, which means she must be angry with him for marrying. Tywin, too, always seems to be between them, and the careful eye he keeps on them makes Jaime nervous. Tywin never gave a reason for hastening along Jaime’s marriage and eventual planned removal to Casterly Rock, and Jaime isn’t sure why he thinks that Tywin knows. There’s just something about the expression on his face, the way his head swivels from Cersei to Jaime and then back again. Jaime would have thought that his father would have lost his head at the first realization that there’s something beyond sibling affection between his two eldest children, but it’s too pointed, that Tywin is always watching them, to hope that it’s caused by anything else.

Jaime asks, but Tyrion knows nothing about Tywin’s thoughts, apparently. He laughs in Jaime’s face when Jaime asks if he might, and he’s less than interested in speculation. What he is interested in is spending time with Catelyn. She seems bemused by Tyrion’s joviality at first, but by the end of their first week in Kings Landing, she smiles every time she sees him. Jaime tries not to feel a little jealous about it, but he can’t seem to help himself.

“At least you married someone who can endure Cersei,” Tyrion says one morning at some sort of garden breakfast party Cersei’s throwing in anticipation of the wedding. They’re doing their best to avoid their father’s notice, standing in the shade of some trees on the outskirts of the gathering. From here they can see Cersei charming all her friends, though they can’t hear what she’s saying—which, Tyrion gleefully points out, is part of why he chose the spot. Jaime has trouble telling if his sister is actually happy or not, because she has erected a beautiful wall around herself. She laughs and speaks and smiles in unfamiliar ways, as if they have been years apart and not merely months. Jaime aches to speak to her. To tell her why he’s married. To apologize, even, if it will make her smile at him the way she used to, when they were young.

“She certainly doesn’t like our sister,” Jaime admits. Catelyn sits in the ring of Cersei’s admirers, a fitting position for a good-sister, but on the outskirts. She looks beautiful as ever, and seeing them beside each other gives him an odd feeling in the pit of his stomach that he doesn’t like, as if he wants to get Catelyn away from Cersei. Keep her from harm. She doesn’t look right with the women of Kings Landing. Not like she had looked when she first gave him the tour of Riverrun, when he was meant for Lysa and she was meant for Brandon and they were free to be as chatty and friendly as they wished. She looks awkward and out of place, and she always looks at Cersei like she’s trying to figure her out. Like Cersei is this beautiful species of bird that Catelyn has never seen before. Jaime wants to laugh at her and tell her not to bother, but he’s afraid to. He has married a shrewd woman, and he thinks she might see more than he wants her to if he so much as speaks his sister’s name.

“Not everyone has your appetite for cruelty,” Tyrion says mildly, and Jaime glares at him. Tyrion’s return look is unbothered and just slightly disgusted, and it deflates Jaime’s prickliness immediately. “Oh, relax. Your puffed up pride. You know how it makes me feel.”

Yes, Jaime knows how it makes Tyrion feel. He still doesn’t even know how Tyrion found out. It doesn’t seem very like Cersei to tell him; even if she were looking for a blow to strike against Tyrion, she is too paranoid about their secret getting out to let him know. But Tyrion has a way of knowing things, somehow. Jaime supposes it was only a matter of time.

The truth, Jaime thinks, is that Tyrion would be disgusted and disappointed by Jaime’s devotion to Cersei even if the twins never once touched each other beyond what’s appropriate. As long as Jaime can support Cersei, love Cersei, defend Cersei...it’s the one thing that Tyrion loathes about Jaime, but Jaime cannot stop loving one sibling to protect the feelings of the other. Jaime wants to remind Tyrion sometimes that Tyrion should be glad of that, because it would have been a difficult choice to make, and it may not have been one made in Tyrion’s favor.

“Do you think she’s cruel to Catelyn?” Jaime wonders. Tyrion snorts.

“Your wife is too smart to fall for Cersei’s empty courtesies, unlike you. She hears the words Cersei doesn’t say, and she knows their meaning. False kindnesses are a form of cruelty, when you know them for what they are. Trust me to understand that, at least. Luckily for you, I doubt your wife gives much of a shit about what our sweet sister thinks of her or your marriage. Still, it’s good you’ll be going back to the Rock soon.”

“Good,” Jaime scoffs. “I’ll be parted from Cersei.”

“Yes,” Tyrion agrees gleefully. “Good you’ll be parted from Cersei.”

 


 

Jaime’s favorite part of court is mocking it, and he’s fortunate to find that his wife is of a mind with him.

Oh, not outwardly. It takes him a few awkward dinner parties and inane gatherings to realize what it means when she presses her lips into a thin line and averts her eyes. At first he takes it for disapproval. It’s a bit annoying, because Cersei always disdained him for his lack of interest in court life and social politics, too. He had hoped that Catelyn would be more like Tyrion in this, since she seems to get along so well with his irreverent little brother.

But then one time he groans under his breath when he sees the approach of Lady Tanda, who always manages to make every conversation at least ten times more boring than it has to be, and he catches sight of Catelyn pressing her lips together, and she turns her head, and he sees that she’s smothering a smile.

He never leaves her alone after that. He sticks by her side, whispering his criticisms of everyone. When Rhaegar sits down at a harp in the middle of a feast, Jaime merely has to look at his wife with a blank expression before she’s hiding a snort behind a polite cough and a long sip of water. When she gets stuck talking to Maester Pycelle about whatever boring fucking thing that old cretin wants to talk about, she sends Jaime increasingly desperate glances while he laughs openly at her and snacks at the food table. When she’s finally able to slip away, she swats him on the arm and steals his wine glass directly from his hand so she can take an enormous gulp.

“That man,” she says. “Makes Walder Frey’s conversation seem enlightening. How has he remained Grand Maester for so long without anyone killing him?”

“Who would take the risk?” Jaime asks. “If he spotted the assassin coming, they may have to make conversation with him.”

“That’s why they invented crossbows,” Catelyn returns, which makes Jaime laugh loudly.

Cersei and Tywin both hate them, once they find their rhythm in public. Catelyn is still every inch a Tully. Dutiful and staid and polite, when left alone. But they are a lethal team when together. Jaime’s so glad to be able to make her laugh that he clings to it, makes more japes than he used to, spends his time thinking of clever things to say. A wooing, sort of. Not that he’s particularly interested in winning his wife’s heart. But at least he wants them to be friends, and he wants her to think he’s worth more than just his Lannister name.

His heart is Cersei’s, yes. He belongs with Cersei, and he knows he cannot love anyone else. He wasn’t made for it. But things with Catelyn in those weeks in Kings Landing are better than he ever expected. His wife has a softness that he craves, and she has a kindness that he appreciates, but it’s her sharp temper and her wit that make him want to be around her always.

Fucking his wife is no longer the difficulty he feared it would be. His cock has no trouble responding to her presence when they shut the door behind them and she lets down her hair. The more confident she grows, the more he wants her. And the more they get along, the more he enjoys it.

Cersei and Tywin glare at them when they whisper and laugh together instead of being Proper Lannisters with the right amount of gravity, but their disapproval cannot touch him once the door to his bedroom is closed and locked. They’re safe, alone. Weeks pass, and it becomes friendship and care even if it isn’t love. A happy marriage, Jaime thinks. Happier than most in their position. He knows they’re lucky.

It is still difficult to watch Cersei marry Rhaegar. To watch her smiling and awe-struck as she and Tywin walk to Rhaegar in his red and black finery. To watch that blasted cloak cover her shining gold dress. Catelyn seems surprised by his willingness to behave himself during the ceremony, and he feels a bit guilty for it, knowing that she probably thinks he’s being a good brother, refraining from mocking his sister’s wedding. She doesn’t realize he’s sulking because he’s heartbroken.

That guilt carries, and he feigns exhaustion the night of the wedding. He avoids his bed on the second night, preferring to stay up with Tyrion long after Catelyn has fallen asleep. Then he lies beside her in the dark and tries not to think of what Cersei and Rhaegar are doing, and he tries to be big enough to hope that Cersei is happy without him by her side.

On the third day, he receives a message from his sister, passed by her handmaiden, asking him to meet her in her old quarters so that she can gift him with some of their mother’s jewelry to give to his wife. She’s always sure to find some valid reason for them to meet. Jaime has always been so annoyed by that. They’re brother and sister. They’re twins. No one would think it odd if they sometimes supped together or talked even long into the night. As long as their conduct was unimpeachable when guests were present, there’s no reason Jaime couldn’t be a devoted, adoring brother who sometimes sees his sister in private. But Cersei never wants to hear that.

He goes to meet her at the appointed time, sneaking out of bed after Catelyn is asleep and finding his way to Cersei’s old quarters. She has managed to avoid any sort of guard escort, and she’s alone and dressed in a filmy red night dress and a black silk robe when he enters, sitting in a chair by the fire. She’s smiling at him, indulgent and soft and ready for him.

“Cersei,” he breathes.

It seems impossible now to accept that he could have any sort of feelings for his wife when Cersei is in front of him. Hasn’t he always loved only her? Hasn’t he always desired only her? How had he ever managed to trick his body into wanting anyone else?

“I wasn’t sure you’d answer my summons,” Cersei says lazily, and Jaime feels his whole body go stiff with wanting but also with tension, because he knows his sister well, and he knows what that tone means. He thought she summoned him here because she wanted him. When will he learn? She stands slowly from the chair, and her robe ripples around her, its movement casting shadows on the opposite wall that seem to grow from the black silk. It reminds him of a painting he once saw of The Stranger, bathed in shadow. “You’re a fool,” she says. “Coming here instead of heading for the Rock.”

“Father insisted I be here for your wedding,” Jaime says. It’s a faraway voice. He wishes he was farther.

“Father knows,” Cersei says, and everything snaps back into focus.

“What? He can’t.”

“He does. A serving girl told him, he claims. He confronted me, and you know how he is. He saw through my lie.”

“No one saw us. We’re always careful.”

I am always careful,” Cersei corrects. She’s standing in front of him now. Her chest is heaving with indignation, boiling towards fury. “Father knows, and he has brought you here to make sure you see that there is no chance. You should have joined the Kingsguard.”

“He wouldn’t have let me.”

“He wouldn’t have had a choice. Aerys would have done it just to see father squirm.” She’s even closer, her green eyes glittering with her anger. She wants him now. He knows what it looks like on her. It’s all he’s known for years. “Rhaegar will do anything I want. I could have him dissolve your marriage now, and beg him to let you into the Kingsguard, and he would do it.”

Jaime doesn’t dare say it, because he knows better than to contradict Cersei when she’s like this, but he’s not so sure of Rhaegar’s devotion as she is. He has no doubt that Rhaegar would go to many lengths to please his new bride, but what she’s talking about...it would be a scandal. An enormous scandal. The Tullys would be infuriated. Tywin would be infuriated. And the last thing Rhaegar needs is more trouble after all those rumors about Aerys and how mad he was getting in his final years. People are already wary of Targaryens and their propensity for fire. Such an erratic decision would make Rhaegar look flighty at best.

Cersei must know it, too, though she’s refusing to admit it. She has the stubborn set to her shoulders that brings Jaime back to their shared childhood and her inability to ever admit defeat.

“I can arrange for us to stay here,” Jaime suggests. “But we can’t dissolve the marriage. Father would be furious. He’d do worse than send me to the Rock.”

“Stay here?” Cersei asks incredulously. “In Kings Landing? With your wife so plainly miserable?”

“Well, I can take her to the Rock and then come back! Find some reason…”

“Gods, you never listen!” Cersei spits. “Even to yourself. If you think father would allow you to leave your wife at home without a babe in her belly and allow you to come back here...”

“Perhaps within a few moons she’ll be with child and I can send her back to the Rock then.”

“You think to stay here months?” Cersei laughs. She’s quivering with rage and want now, her chest heaving dramatically in front of him, stoking her own internal fire with her growing anger with him, and Jaime feels a helpless tug of pleasure, wanting to be closer to her when she’s like this. Wanting to touch her, because it’s always when she’s angriest that she wants him most. “And what reason would you give the gossips of court?”

“You’re my sister! My twin! There’s nothing odd in a brother wanting to support…”

“Nothing odd?” Cersei asks. Her hand surges forward, and he thinks she means to slap him, but she grabs his cock through his breeches instead. Not roughly, but hardly gently, either. It surges to life, and she surges with it, kissing him, insistent and hungry as she directs him back toward the bed. Jaime’s blood rises, relief filling him. Cersei is still angry. They’re still going to have to part. Things are still horrible. But she wants him, and he wants her too. “Fuck me,” she breathes. “It will be the last time for so long, my love.”

So he does, driven to desperation and need as Cersei writhes and moans beneath him. She’s leaner and more powerful than Catelyn, and familiar, too. He wonders how he ever thought he could want the softness of Catelyn Tully when the sharpness of Cersei Lannister exists.

After, as he’s dressing hurriedly, he says something of that effect to his sister. The impossibility of being with anyone but her. She laughs at him, cruelly. Incredulously.

“You’ll have to find a way, dear brother,” she says. “You’ve got yourself into this mess, so now you’ve got to fuck your way out of it, if you want to get an heir on her. Show father that you’re capable and willing, and maybe he’ll start to believe that the serving girl lied to him. It will be hard to doubt, once he realizes that his spy has disappeared from the castle and it becomes clear that she was paid handsomely to lie to him.”

She smiles, pleased with herself for handling it, and Jaime turns away, unsure how to respond. He never knows exactly what Cersei means when she says these things. Sometimes he thinks she means for him to carry out the threats she doesn’t speak, and he always wonders afterward who it was she got to disappear whatever nanny or cook or serving girl displeased her.

For the first time, it occurs to Jaime that he should perhaps be worried for the safety of his wife.

It’s an intrusive thought, and one that he hastens to suppress. No, Cersei wouldn’t do anything that might harm Catelyn. It would be a risk to the power she has gained through her marriage to Rhaegar, and Jaime knows that she wouldn’t. Not just to hurt him. Not even just to have the excuse to force him to join the Kingsguard. Right?

“Cersei…” he starts, feeling slower and more stupid than ever, trying to untangle the words in his head. How to warn Cersei without warning her? How to make her see how futile and cruel it would be to harm Catelyn without letting her know that he’s worried about that?

“Close your eyes and think of me, dear brother, if you must,” Cersei says. There’s something proud in her expression. “But the marriage must be consummated, and you must do your duty, or father will never let us be together.”

 


 

He thinks of that, on his walk back to his room. Before he was married, Cersei never would have entertained the idea of sharing him with another woman, but things are different now. She has an eye ahead to the future, and if she must be with Rhaegar, then maybe she has decided the same thing Jaime did: that he must do the same, and mirror her in all things.

But the fact that she thinks he hasn’t yet consummated his marriage…

How is it possible that she thinks he’s avoided fucking his wife thus far? He feels sick with guilt at the thought. Cersei thinks he’s still hers entirely, and meanwhile he has been laying with his wife nightly. He has been enjoying it. He has enjoyed her softness and her kindness and the wit that she keeps hidden from most people behind a mask of politeness.

He has enjoyed his marriage far more than he meant to, which seems impossible now that he has been with Cersei so recently. The hard-edged way Cersei wanted him. The anger rising in her, the way it always did before they fucked. Her wanting so possessive and all-consuming. How could he ever love anyone but her? How could he feel those strong, impossible, almost painful feelings for another person? He can’t. He won’t.

Catelyn is asleep when he enters their rooms, and he nearly sleeps on the long couch across the room, but he talks himself out of it. Cersei was right. He has to pretend.

He climbs beneath the covers, and Catelyn rolls over to look at him. Her eyes are heavily lidded with sleep, and she smiles a bit, and there’s a tug on his heart. A lurch of care. He’s an idiot. He likes her. His wife. He likes her and he wants her like this. Not to fuck, not so soon after Cersei. Not to touch, even, with Cersei still lingering on him. But he just wants her near.

“Are you all right?” she asks him. It seems an odd question. He only nods, as an answer, and then he turns on his side, away from her. He hears her turn the other way, too.