PART III

"Your betrayals, schemes, and deceptions are so numerous, I haven't been able to keep them all straight, Lord Baelish. How many times have you stood before the throne and fed false information, outright lied, and plotted for others to fall if it should benefit you? Your betrayal of Eddard Stark, whom I feel a great deal of fondness for, is perhaps only eclipsed by your betrayal of his daughter. You'll plead ignorance, I have no doubt, on every count. You'll claim you did not know of the Ramsey Bolton's penchant for cruelty, though his hunts were famous in all of the Seven Kingdoms. You'll say you had intended to return to Winterfell to free Sansa and name her Warden of the North. You'll say all of these things and more, I'm sure, while attempting to cover up your true intentions: ascending to the throne, by any means necessary."

The Queen rose from her throne and strolled forward, stopping before Littlefinger, who had been thrown to his knees before her. His hands were tied behind his back, his face downcast. Tyrion was thankful this meeting was taking place without Sansa present. To hear the details of the many ways in which he had betrayed her father, her House, and herself… Tyrion wished to save her that pain.

"You've committed several acts of treason against the throne, both directly and indirectly. Your mere presence in this room is an affront to the throne and all those who would serve it."

Daenerys put her fingers under his chin, tilting his head up to force his eyes upon her.

"I should have you executed the same way you watched Eddard Stark murdered. Perhaps I will."

Tyrion had already advised the Queen on how to handle Baelish, with the assistance of Varys who was able to fill in far more blanks than Tyrion would have known possible. The countless lies, plots, and betrayals overwhelmed Tyrion and also served to renew his distrust of Varys. The one thing he was sure of was Baelish was dangerous and could never be trusted, yet was also valuable given his influence on Robin Arryn and, therefore, the Knights of the Vale.

"You will leave King's Landing today. You will return either to the Eyrie or to Winterfell, depending on Sansa Stark's reaction to this information, which Lord Tyrion will give her later. Regardless of where you go, you will never return to King's Landing. You are banished from this place and prohibited from holding any standings or offices for any House. You will not own land. You will not command forces. You will not do anything more than exist."

Petyr Baelish stared up at the Queen, expressionless and void.

"In exchange for my mercy, you will convince Robin Arryn to pledge his allegiance to Sansa Stark and Jon Snow. This will be the last time you will advise a Lord or Lady in any capacity. If I receive word that you have violated these terms, you will be brought before me and publicly executed. Get him up."

Grey Worm and another Unsullied soldier stepped forward, dragging Littlefinger to his feet.

"Do you know," Littlefinger called back over his shoulder as he was dragged away. "What it's like to have nothing, be no one, but strive to be great? Do you know what it takes to climb from the bottom to the top, stepping on whomever you must to get there? I did what I did because I knew I could rule better than they could."

Littlefinger was drug from the room, still looking over his shoulder at the Queen. The doors swung closed behind him and Tyrion stepped forward.

"I need to speak with Sansa before she gets word of this."

Tyrion left the throne room in a hurry, running down the corridors toward Sansa's bedchamber. When he arrived, he was met by Brienne of Tarth, who was just leaving the room. Tyrion bent, winded and short of breath, stuttering his words.

"I need to speak with Lady Stark."

Brienne looked at him as though he were mad, but slowly and cautiously went back into Sansa's quarters. She appeared a moment later with Sansa at her side. Brienne strolled past Tyrion in the direction she had been heading when he'd found her.

"My Lord, are you alright?" Sansa gripped Tyrion by the arm, crouching in front of him. Tyrion took a deep breath, steadying himself and rose to his full height once more.

"We need to speak in private, My Lady."

Sansa pushed the door to her chambers open and Tyrion followed her into the room, immediately filling a cup with wine at the table nearest the door. He took a deep swallow and then turned to face Sansa's curious eyes.

"The Queen has banished Littlefinger. He's being drug from the Keep now. They'll wait outside the gates for your command. He's either to be taken back to Winterfell, if that's where you want him, or to the Eyrie."

"Banished? Why?"

"The list is long, I assure you, but the Queen has deemed him a traitor to the throne and untrustworthy. I quite agree with her decision."

Sansa strolled to her window and looked down, likely looking for Littlefinger, though she would not see him from this angle.

"Lord Baelish has done many vile things," she said, looking back at Tyrion. "But banishment?"

"He betrayed your father, Sansa. He knew of your father's plan to place Stannis, the true heir, on the Iron Throne and acted as though he was a friend. When the moment was right, he put a knife to your father's throat and turned him over to Joffrey and Cersei."

Sansa's face paled and she stumbled back, reaching for the post at the corner of her bed, but missing. Tyrion swept forward, steadying her before she fell.

"We have reason to believe he also used you as leverage in his own plan to become Warden of the North."

"Ramsay," she whispered and Tyrion nodded, his hand still on her arm offering support.

"There was a time," she said, "that I considered aligning myself to him by marriage. He was the only one I felt I could trust when we were in the Eyrie. He was clearly attracted to me and I admit, I became intrigued in him as well. I learned later not to trust him, but I didn't realize the extent –"

"There's no way you could have, My Lady."

Sansa took a deep breath and her expression cleared. She steeled herself, standing up straighter, and Tyrion released her arm.

"Send him back to Winterfell. I'll send Jon a raven. He can't be allowed to go to the Vale on his own. There's no telling what he'll do or what whispers he'll breathe into Robin's ear. At least this way, we'll be able to monitor him."

"The Queen has required that he convince Robin to pledge allegiance to you and Jon, now and in the battle to come."

"He can do so by raven then. I'll not have him set foot outside of my control again. Can you have your forces take him to Winterfell? I fear he may not arrive if escorted only by Knights of the Vale."

Tyrion nodded, deciding he could send a troop of Unsullied led by a Westerosi soldier to show them the way. He turned to leave Sansa's chambers and stopped, turning back to address her.

"I'm sorry. It seems betrayal is all you've ever known from potential suitors."

Sansa smiled sadly and shook her head.

"Not all, Tyrion. I was once married to a man of honor. He took me under his protection and treated me kindly even though it was his right to do otherwise. I think of him, of his kindness, often."

Tyrion stilled, seeing the young, innocent woman he'd once married take the place of the battle hardened woman she'd become. With all his heart he hoped she'd one day find peace. Tyrion bowed and turned, leaving her to her thoughts.

XXXX

Sunlight steamed through the window into the Hand's Study in the Tower of the Hand. Tyrion sat at his desk reviewing the finances, both those of Westeros and House Lannister. He was devastated to see the finances had not been handled well since he'd been Master of Coin. Fortunately, most of the debt was owed to House Lannister, which he was more than capable of forgiving. Still, they needed to become self-sufficient rather than relying on the Lannister fortune as Robert Baratheon, Joffrey, and even Tommen had done.

He groaned and sat back in his chair, running a hand over his face. Exhaustion overwhelmed him suddenly, despite the many nights of improved sleep since they'd arrived in Westeros. The days had been filled with meetings, planning, debates, and countless tours to see the damage done by Cersei and meet the people left behind.

Tyrion's eyes gazed out the window ahead of him, the brilliant blue sky a shade darker than he remembered it being. He allowed his mind to wander, thinking of the last time he'd been in the Tower of the Hand and how much had changed since then. It hadn't escaped him that it was his nameday, each year bringing him closer to the fourth decade of his life. It seemed many did not live much past their 40th nameday of late, which would have given Tyrion only a few more years if he were lucky. Still, he was determined to beat those numbers.

His door cracked open slowly and so quietly he would not have heard it had he still been immersed in the finances. He glanced over to see the Queen poke her head inside the room. Her eyes met his and she groaned.

"I thought you might be sleeping," she said, stepping into the room. She closed the door behind herself and strolled over to his desk. "I was going to rest with you."

Tyrion managed a small smile and shook his head as Daenerys slid onto the desk, pushing his papers aside. She moved so her legs dangled off the desk on either side of him.

"Too much to be done to take a mid-day rest, Your Grace."

Tyrion rested his hands on the Queen's thighs as he laid his head on the back of the chair.

"You look so worn." Daenerys frowned and put her hand on the side of his face, stroking gently. Tyrion felt his eyes close as he leaned into her touch. The warmth from her touch seemed to spread slowly, warming him in the otherwise cold room. Her thumb stroked the scar etched across his cheek and she leaned forward, kissing it gently.

Tyrion opened his eyes and watched as she pulled back, smiling down at him. He was reminded of just how young she was in that moment. He got peeks of it from time to time when they were alone and she allowed herself to relax. Her eyes shone brightly and she bit her lip almost shyly as his eyes explored her face.

"You're breathtaking," Tyrion said quietly.

"You're only saying that because you share my bed."

"True," Tyrion said, smirking. Daenerys gasped in mock offense and leaned forward again, kissing him slowly. Tyrion moved his hands from her thighs and around her back, drawing her nearer. When they separated, the Queen's lips were swollen and red, begging for more.

"Take a walk with me," she said.

"Where?"

"Does it matter? I'd just like to spend some time with you outside of the Keep, not dealing with political matters."

Tyrion frowned, considering it. "The Queen walking with her Hand implies, by its very nature, that we are open to be approached with political dealings."

"Just shut up and walk with me."

Tyrion could hardly argue with his Queen and pushed back from his seat. They walked from the study hand-in-hand and ventured down the vacant corridors of the Tower, taking their time. Just before they reached the entrance to the Tower, where people may be able to spot them, Tyrion kissed Daenerys's hand and released it.

They walked into the warm afternoon air, moving side by side quietly down the path away from the Tower of the Hand. Daenerys glanced down at him and then looked ahead again.

"Someday I'd like to be able to hold your hand in public. I imagine walking through the country side, the city streets, even a garden without having to release your hand save someone spot us."

Tyrion said nothing. He'd thought of it himself, but it was such a bizarre image, even in his own head, that he could not seriously entertain the thought. In fact, every time his mind strayed and imagined their relationship becoming anything more than secret lovers in the night, he had to push the thoughts away for the pure ludicrousness of them.

People moved to and from around them, always pausing to bow as they passed. Daenerys was a kind Queen, Tyrion thought. She always acknowledged those who acknowledged her, whether be it a smile or a nod. So often, King's Landing had seen royalty that kept their heads and eyes raised above those around them.

Before long, Tyrion realized the Queen was leading him out of the city, toward Blackwater Bay. He had not been back to the Bay since the day they'd arrived in Westeros and the sight of the Queen's armada filling the Bay took him aback.

"Did we lose any ships at all?" he asked, looking up at her.

"A few. There were some that tried to cross the wall of Wildfire in their urgency to assist us on the ground. Most of those men were rescued from the waters, but not without injury. The other ships took only superficial damage."

"I should have come sooner to see the damage for myself."

"Not much to see, my Hand. Besides, you've been handling everything else."

Tyrion said nothing as they stopped on the sand, staring out at the sea. Soldiers were stationed on each ship, guarding the fleet in shifts. This much he had thought to do. The last thing they could allow to happen was sabotage to the Queen's fleet.

A sudden roar filled the air above them and Tyrion looked up to see Rhaegal circling, his wings outstretched as he glided toward them.

"I thought we might take a ride," Daenerys said glancing down at him. A playful smirk crossed her lips before she looked upward once more. "To celebrate your nameday, that is."

"How did you—Never mind."

Tyrion should have known Varys would have told the Queen of his nameday. He couldn't decide if he was happy or disappointed. A part of him didn't want to remind Daenerys of the age difference between the two. Another part of him was pleased to be remembered and celebrated with sincerity for once.

Rhaegal swooped suddenly, taking a hard landing on the beach behind them. It was then that Tyrion saw the saddle strapped to the beast's back. He turned, eyes questioning, to face the Queen.

"He's yours now," she said. "I'm still his mother, but you're his rider."

"And how does Rhaegal feel about this?"

At the mention of his name, Rhaegal swung his head in their direction, roaring loudly. He puffed his cheeks and shook his head, his eyes holding Tyrion's.

"Let's just say, it took a bit of convincing," Daenerys said. Tyrion laughed as he felt that may have been an understatement. Still, the great beast stood before him, wing outstretched on the ground so Tyrion might mount him.

"Shall we?" Daenerys held her hand out for Tyrion and, despite the hoards of people gathering on the beach to watch, Tyrion took it. They climbed onto Rhaegal, Tyrion taking his spot in the custom-made saddle while the Queen settled in behind him. Her arms snaked around Tyrion's body, holding onto him tightly as Tyrion dug his heels into Rhaegal's side. They flew into the air suddenly and then they were soaring. Tyrion had never felt so much joy in his life.

Below them, the people of Westeros stopped whatever it was they were doing and watched as the couple circled overhead. Rhaegal couldn't help but breathe fire into the air once or twice, eliciting screams of excitement and awe from below.

They flew for what must have been hours. Tyrion directed them out over the sea, the only place prying eyes couldn't reach, and then back again circling the lands. It was the most exhilarating thing he'd ever done. He hadn't been able to enjoy his first time on dragonback due to the danger he and Daenerys had faced. This time, he took in every moment of it, including the warmth of Daenerys's body pressed against his back.

She spoke into his ear from time to time, asking him to identify a structure below or commenting on the beauty of the lands. Twice she ducked her head and kissed his neck as his hand settled over hers, holding them against his stomach. Tyrion felt alive, more so than he ever had, and realized this was what happiness was meant to feel like. For once, he felt joy without a sense of caution or skepticism.

When they landed, the Bay had nearly cleared as sunset approached. Only the soldiers guarding the fleet and a few Westerosi still remained. The second Dany had jumped to the sand below them, Tyrion grabbed her hand and pulled her against him, her legs pressed to the side of Rhaegal's tail.

He kissed her then, standing on the tail of his dragon, arms wrapped around the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. Her fingers tangled in his hair as she kissed him back with just as much abandon, holding him against her. Tyrion felt his heart swell in his chest, making it hard to breathe from all the emotions moving through him. When he finally drew back, she stared up at him as though she'd never seen anything more beautiful than him. It made his throat clench and his stomach flutter from nerves.

And then the clapping began. Slow at first, growing to a steady pace until it filled the air around them. Both their heads swung to the side, spotting Varys, Missandei, and Grey Worm. Beside them stood Jamie. He held his hand to his mouth, his whistle joining the applause of the others. Behind them, across from them, and beside them, several citizens had stopped, eyes wide and mouths hanging open.

Tyrion felt himself flush red-hot instantly. His instinct was to release Dany, push away from her and then high tail it out of there. Instead, knowing it was futile, he stood up a bit straighter and cleared his throat.

"I told you I rode a dragon," he said to Jamie.

"I never doubted you, little brother. I just didn't realize you weren't speaking of the scaled beast you stand upon when you said it."

Tyrion heard Dany inhale sharply and when he looked at her, it was her turn to flush bright pink. Tyrion made a mental note to kill his brother later.

Missandei stifled a giggle behind her hand and then strolled forward, lacing her arm with the Queen's.

"The feast is nearly ready, Your Grace. Shall we change into something more appropriate?"

"Feast?" Tyrion asked, looking from Missandei to Daenerys.

"Your nameday feast," Daenerys said. "And yes, Missandei, we shall."

The turned and walked away, leaving Tyrion standing on Rhaegal, who was starting to huff his impatience. Tyrion jumped down and landed beside him. He patted his side gently and whispered his thanks. Rhaegal shook his head like an indignant adolescent and lifted himself into the air, flying away before Tyrion could say anything else. Tyrion turned, walking to Varys and Jamie.

"We're having a feast," Tyrion said. "In my honor, nonetheless. And I doubt very much this one will end with a murder. Let's go."

Jamie snickered and he and Varys followed Tyrion while Grey Worm conferred with one of the Unsullied guarding the ships.

XXXX

They managed to get through the feast before Varys cornered Tyrion while he refilled his wine, his expression grim and concerned. Tyrion had indulged in several cups already and while he wasn't drunk, he was not sober either.

"Word of your relationship with the Queen has already spread throughout King's Landing. Several ravens have flown as well. We must develop a plan for how to handle the backlash this will bring."

"Plan?" Tyrion rested his hand on the wall, watching the Queen laugh with Jamie as plates were cleared from the feast table. "What plan can there be? The Mother of Dragons, the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, the Queen of the Andals and the First Men, the first of her – well you know the bit – is sleeping with the disgraced Lannister Imp. The Half-man. The Demon Monkey. The –"

"The only man in Westeros worthy of her affections."

Tyrion and Varys both turned to find Sansa Stark standing in front of them. She wore a lovely smile, her eyes meeting Tyrion's.

It was Varys who spoke first.

"Many have spoken of your brother –"

"Who has no interest in being King and still mourns the love he lost." Sansa set her gaze on Varys and even Tyrion, in his slight stupor, was taken aback by the intensity.

"Still, the Queen must have an heir."

Tyrion heard himself groan. How he hated hearing his own thoughts come from another's lips. It lent validity to what he had secretly prayed were the nonsensical ramblings of an insecure man.

Sansa laughed, a flighty sound that made Tyrion mad.

"And if the Queen wants an heir, I believe Lord Tyrion is well equipped for the task."

Tyrion groaned again, draining the rest of his cup before casting it aside. It clattered to the floor, silencing the conversations around them.

"By all means, please discuss my manhood as though I were not present."

"I only meant," Sansa said quietly, "that there is no reason why you could not provide said heir. You're a man. She's a woman. Seems to me the requirements have been satisfied."

Tyrion opened his mouth to respond when Varys spoke first.

"The question is not of whether or not the Hand can complete the task. The question is whether or not it is appropriate or the best political decision for the realm."

"I'm so glad it's not my manhood we have doubts about! That's a great comfort when the real concern is whether or not the Imp would sire a dwarf with the Mother of Dragons. After all, how could a dwarf ever prove himself worthy of being anything more than a glorified pet, let alone worthy of ruling?!"

Tyrion's voice had risen to a shout and the entirety of the Great Hall and grown silent. Tyrion looked around, his chest rising and falling with the force of his anger, and saw all eyes on him. Some were filled with curiosity, some with shock, and many more with pity. Daenerys had risen from her chair and looked to have been on her way to them when shock stilled her steps. Shame overwhelmed Tyrion. He had never felt so grotesque or inadequate in all his life. He gave Sansa a quick bow and then turned, fleeing the Great Hall.

"Tyrion!" Daenerys's voice called after him, but Tyrion could not bring himself to stop. He stepped out into the night and put his fingers in his mouth, raising a whistle into the air. He ran down the steps of the Keep and felt relief wash over him when he heard Rhaegal's wings flapping in the near distance.

Footsteps sounded from behind him and Tyrion just made it to the clearing as Rhaegal swooped, landing with a thud. Tyrion ran up his outstretched wing and barely had grasped the saddle when he heard Daenerys's scream his name.

"Get me out of here," he said to Rhaegal and Rhaegal huffed before flying into the air. Tyrion looked down to see Daenerys standing on the ground below them, her hair blowing on the wind.

XXXX

Tyrion could no longer feel his fingertips, let alone maintain his grip. The cold had taken hold of him hours before. After all, he had not thought to grab a cloak when he fled the Great Hall. Still, he had held on, allowing Rhaegal to go wherever he pleased. It was rather entertaining, the part of his mind that was not fractured noted, to see Rhaegal in his element. He feasted on life from the seas, soared higher than any mountain Tyrion had ever seen, and made sounds Tyrion thought might have been the dragon form of humming.

When he could bare it no longer, Tyrion guided Rhaegal to the ground, landing on the beach. He climbed down and walked around to Rhaegal's front. Rhaegal lowered his head to sniff Tyrion and he placed a hand on the dragon's nose. When he'd finished giving his silent thanks to great beast, Rhaegal shook his head defiantly and huffed, kicking off into the air.

Tyrion laughed and turned to make his way back to the Keep. When he looked up, he found Missandei sitting in the sand watching him.

"Gods but you startled me!" Tyrion exclaimed and took a moment to gather himself before walking over to her. "What are you doing out here?"

Missandei leaned back on her palms and looked up at the stars above her. She wore a heavy cloak, wrapped tightly around her body.

"What was it like? Being that close to the stars?"

Despite the cold, Tyrion took a seat beside her, drawing his knees to his chest.

"They shine much more brightly from the air. As though the gods themselves poked holes through a tapestry to allow the light behind to shine down upon us."

"Will you take me up to see it some night?"

Tyrion laughed and nodded.

"It would be an honor, my dear."

Missandei set her eyes upon him then. She stared at him, not a trace of pity or gentle understanding in her eyes.

"Who are you," she said, "to say such things in front of our Queen? She chose you –"

"To be her Hand," Tyrion said, interrupting.

"To be her everything. Her lover, her friend, her confidant. And yes, her advisor. She chose you, My Lord, for a reason."

Tyrion shook his head. He knew all this. He knew the Queen was sincere. He had never doubted her affections or how she would fight for him; fight to be with him. But in the great game, it mattered not what she wanted. It only mattered what was right for the Realm. Tyrion reached over and look Missandei's hand in his, patting it gently.

"You don't understand, dear child, what is at stake here."

Missandei put her other hand over Tyrion's and leaned forward.

"You don't understand, My Lord, what is at stake. Whom but you can the Queen trust? Whom but you would help her guide the Seven Kingdoms to peace? Whom but you would understand what steps must be taken to support Jon Snow's winter war? You may offer your guidance as the Hand without taking her bed, but you forget one thing necessary for a peaceful reign."

Tyrion cast a puzzled look at Missandei.

"A happy Queen."

Tyrion exhaled, rolling his eyes in the darkness.

"A nation is only as happy as its ruler. You make her happy, My Lord. You bring her peace and comfort. She feels safe as long as you are by her side. I know; she's told me as much. Would you throw it all away because you're afraid?"

"I'm not afraid. It's not about me –"

"It is and you are," Missandei said. "You fear giving in to what you want, allowing yourself to be happy, only to sire a –"

Tyrion held his hand up, stopping her.

"Please, Missandei. I can't discuss this again."

"If you're honest, truly honest, with yourself, you'll realize that is the thing you fear most. Siring another like yourself. You've been told your whole life how worthless you are, how much better the rest of your family is than you. You've been mocked in the streets and mocked in the courts. You don't want to give the Queen a child who would be subject to the same fate."

Tyrion released Missandei's hand and rose suddenly, his hands moving through his hair as adrenaline coursed through his veins.

"Of course I fear that!" He scoffed and turned away, his voice rising with the intensity of his emotions. "How could I do that to her? How could I give her, the Mother of Dragons, the Unburnt, the most deserving, wonderful woman I've known… How could I give her an imp for a child? She's already lost one child. I can't give her a tiny monster to rear."

Missandei stood, drawing her cloak tighter around her shoulders. She sighed, looking to the stars.

"You hide behind politics, using the realm's reaction as an excuse rather than talking with your Queen. Have you asked her what she wants? Have you asked her which is more important: Being loved earnestly, beautifully, and wholly – and being given a child to love the same – or marrying a man who would seek to use her for her power rather than love her as she deserves. Have you asked her?"

"We've talked briefly. She doesn't believe she'll bare children again."

"But have you asked her opinion on baring your child, should it come to it? Is there really any other opinion, yours included, that is more important than hers?"

Tyrion stared at the girl. She was maybe half his age, yet she spoke with more wisdom and empathy than he'd exercised that night. She smiled at him and then looked at the stars once more.

"It matters not what the world sees and calls beautiful, for that which is truly beautiful is often that which the world does not see at all."

XXXX

Tyrion entered the Tower of the Hand, blowing into his cupped hands as he made his way to his bedchambers. The torches were still lit in the corridors, though the Tower was silent and the workers within all sleeping. He pushed open the door to his room and closed it behind himself, immediately pouring a cup of wine. He took a deep, warming swallow, and then turned taking in the sight of the Queen sleeping in his bed. He stared at her, cup raised to his lips. The moonlight illuminated her features and cast her hair in a soft glow. It made Tyrion's heartache to look at her.

With a sigh, he set the cup down and undressed, discarding his clothes on the floor. He climbed into the bed and felt Daenerys lay her head on his chest immediately. He put his arm around her and rested his hand on her shoulder.

"I'm sorry," he whispered.

"Be sorry tomorrow," she replied. "Embrace me tonight."

XXXX

When Tyrion awoke the next day, well into mid-morning, his bed was empty. His hands ached from maintaining his grip during his hours-long flight in the cold night. He sat up, and ran a hand over his face. Time for a trim, Tyrion thought idly. His beard was going to begin to mimic the Dothraki style if he let it go much longer. Without delaying, Tyrion pulled himself from bed and dressed in the fresh clothes laid out by one of the handmaidens.

He paused by the door, eyes lingering on the bottle of wine and accompanying cups on his desk. He shook his head and turned away, deciding it was best to be sober for his conversation with the Queen.

It was Varys he found first upon his search for Daenerys. His expression was grim as he rose to greet the Hand.

"My Lord Hand," he said and Tyrion waved his hand dismissively, intending to continue past him on his way to the Queen's chambers.

"You won't find her there," Varys called after him. Tyrion stilled in his tracks and turned, casting questioning eyes on the Spider. "The Queen travels to Winterfell on dragonback."

Tyrion felt his blood boil. This meant she had gone unprotected, leaving her army behind.

"What do you mean she's gone to Winterfell?"

"A raven came for Lady Stark. It seems Arya Stark is alive and has arrived in Winterfell. Of course, Lady Stark sought to return to her home immediately and the Queen decided to escort her. She also plans to meet with Jon Snow and tour the North."

Tyrion was moving before he could process Varys's words. Varys kept up with him easily as Tyrion made his way out of the Keep to beckon Rhaegal. Just as he was about to whistle for his dragon, Varys stopped him.

"The Queen has commanded her Hand remain in King's Landing as acting King in her absence."

Tyrion spun on him.

"I'm to allow the Queen to travel unprotected in a land that has not yet fully embraced her? She leaves behind her army and her guards. Rhaegal and I can catch up with her quickly, yet I'm to remain here?"

"The Queen has traveled alone before and survived more dangerous situations – without her dragon. Sansa Stark has pledged fealty to the Queen. She has the protection of the North and, as I have been instructed to remind you, meeting with Jon Snow is critical to earning the loyalty of the Northern houses."

Tyrion allowed Varys's words to wash over him. The Queen would meet with Jon Snow. She would make a plan, a pact, an accord in the interest of peace. She would do so without input from her advisors, without his guidance.

"Perhaps it would ease your concerns to know Grey Worm has gone with her," Varys said. "He left her no choice, really. He's perhaps even more stubborn than you are."

Knowing this did help, but Tyrion felt his worry melt into something else. Sadness.

"Wine," he said and turned, seeking some out. Varys cleared his throat and Tyrion froze. "The Queen has rid the castle of its stores. She feels the King should be sober in order to properly fulfill his responsibilities to the throne."

Tyrion sneered and shook his head. He went back to his room and found the bottle of wine on his desk was empty. He groaned loudly and kicked the chair before sweeping from the room.

The day passed in a blur. Countless Lords and other citizens had requested audience with the Queen, though Tyrion found it blatantly obvious they did not expect to see him sitting on the Iron Throne when they entered. Many Lords requested help rebuilding the areas surrounding the Sept of Baelor and many more had lost sons and workers to the Wildfire. They now could not maintain their own lands or businesses.

Desperation surrounded Tyrion, drowning him. He couldn't drink to help manage the weight of it nor could he flee from the responsibilities set before him. All he could do was listen, empathize and attempt to do right by the innocents.

Nightfall came before Tyrion received the last Westerosi. He collapsed back on the throne as Varys strolled forward.

"It's not very comfortable, the throne," Tyrion said, scowling.

"I imagine it wouldn't be, Your Grace."

"Don't call me that."

Varys smirked up at him, his hands clasped in front of his body. He'd been there with Tyrion all day, acting as Tyrion's Hand, though not proclaimed as such. He lent advice where appropriate, and sometimes where it wasn't, and took the duty of explaining the Queen's absence to those who wondered about it aloud. Tyrion was thankful for him, though he still blamed him for the confrontation the night before.

"You managed to get through the day, acting King of Westeros. How do you feel?"

"Annoyed," Tyrion said, rising from the throne. "But, satisfied, I suppose. No one tried to murder me. Olenna Tyrell has yet to burst down the doors or poison me."

"Interesting, that," Varys said. "The Lannister Imp has been named acting King and riots have not broken lose. The Demon Money sits on the throne and the world has not come to an end. The Half-man –"

Tyrion held up his hand, silencing Varys.

"Your point being? You're the one, if I recall correctly, who was quick to point out the complications of my bedding the Queen."

"I've never questioned your ability to rule, Your Grace, nor have I concerned myself with whom you lay with. I only wonder if the decision is being made in the best interest of the Realm and of our Queen, should you sire a child with her."

Tyrion sighed deeply. It all came back to the possibility of him impregnating the Queen with a dwarf. He couldn't be sure that would happen, nor could he guarantee it wouldn't. The only way to guarantee the Queen would not birth a dwarf, should she ever be able to conceive, would be to marry her to another man rather than take her bed himself. Missandei's words from the night before spoke clearly in his head and he glanced up at Varys.

"It hardly matters what we think. Perhaps it's time we stop trying to make this decision for the Queen when she knows what she wants and needs better than anyone."

XXXX

Three days passed before the Queen returned to King's Landing. Tyrion spent most of his free time with his brother, but he had very little actual free time, he found. He'd developed plans for all contingencies depending on the outcome of the Queen's meeting with Jon Snow. He had mapped out how they would join forces with the North to fight the white walkers. He had created a list of Lords Daenerys could marry in order to expand her power, but no matter how he looked at it, the best option was Jon Snow, whom Sansa had said would not agree. He had even detailed a plan that did not call for any sort of union through marriage.

He had also come up with a budget and balanced the coin ledger. In the Queen's absence, he used his leverage as acting King to appoint Jamie as Master of Coin. He knew he may face the Queen's wrath on this point, but she had wanted to prove her point by naming him King in her absence. He merely did his job and appointed the best qualified person in Westeros for the job.

He was sitting on the throne conferring with the interim commander of the Unsullied when the Queen entered, accompanied by Grey Worm. Tyrion's eyes locked on the Queen's as she strolled forward. He removed himself from the throne immediately and knelt in front of it as the Queen took her seat. She looked at him once, expression blank, and then fixed her vision to ahead.

Tyrion rose from his knee and saw that Grey Worm had taken his place beside Missandei who stood behind the Queen. They stood close enough that their arms touched, though they did not greet each other in any other informal manner.

"I would like to confer with the Hand of the Queen," Daenerys said, her focus still trained on the entirety of the court rather than Tyrion.

Tyrion watched as the Throne Room emptied, leaving just him and the Queen. Still, she stared ahead. When she finally set her eyes upon him, her expression was cold as steel.

"Please report on the state of affairs during my absence."

Battling the absurd impulse to laugh, Tyrion shoved his nerves aside and told the Queen about the various issues brought forth by the Lords and other citizens. He told her of the manpower he had designated to clearing and rebuilding the Sept and surrounding establishments. He told her of the Unsullied he had lent to various Lords to help with upkeep on their land while he worked to find and employ workers for each of the Houses. He told her of his decision to name Jamie as Master of Coin, which he was surprised to see evoked no reaction. When he was done, she nodded and folded her hands in her lap.

"It sounds as though you found yourself perfectly capable of ruling in my stead."

Tyrion paused and then inclined his head in agreement.

"Mm," she said.

"Might I ask," Tyrion said, after several moments of silence, "how your trip went?"

"Productive," the Queen said and rose from her throne. "I met the Lords and Ladies of the Northern Houses, toured the lands, broke bread with the Freefolk, and held audience with Jon Snow and his council."

Tyrion waited for her to tell him the outcome of these meetings, yet she did not elaborate. Finally, Tyrion pressed forward once more.

"And what decisions were made at these meetings?"

"None," she said simply. "Other than what we'd already decided: we will join forces with the North when called upon. Winter is here. There's no denying it. Did you think I would agree to anything else without you there?"

Tyrion opened his mouth to respond, but thought better of it and shook his head instead.

"Unlike my Lord Hand, I don't make decisions alone with the input of those most effected. And if I were to do so, I surely wouldn't scream it about to a roomful of people."

There it is, Tyrion thought. He took a deep breath and looked up at her. She had moved to stand beside one of the windows at the side of the court, sunlight enveloping her.

"I'm sorry," he said. "I should have been honest with you. I had hoped that by not talking about it, no decisions would have to be made… We could just stay as we were. I was merely putting off the inevitable."

"Do you think me so pathetic, so weak and easily swayed, that I would have cast you aside for fear of what? Giving birth to a dwarf?"

Tyrion winced, but said nothing.

"How is it I can make love to a dwarf, sleep beside him, call him my Hand, hold his opinion in esteem over all others, and yet I cannot love one born from my own flesh? And why is it, Tyrion Lannister, that you of all people hold stature to be the most important quality in man? No one else cares, Tyrion. Armies follow your command. A Queen takes council with you. Nations flourish when you are there to lead them. Yet still you refuse to allow yourself to be loved."

Daenerys groaned loudly and pushed herself away from the window, turning to face him.

"Jon Snow has agreed to join forces by marriage."

Tyrion's jaw dropped and his heart clenched desperately causing him to take a step forward to steady himself.

"I thought no decisions were made?"

"And so none were, but his advisors know, just as well as we do, that our union would be the strongest chance of survival and peace for all. That's not to say he wants to marry me, in fact he argued every step of the way. But he agreed in the end."

Tyrion turned away, remembering the plans he had drawn which clearly stated Jon Snow should be at the Queen's side. It made Tyrion sick. His mind raced as his heart warred his strategic brain. He respected Jon Snow, liked him even. But how could he be expected to serve as Hand, watching them wed and rule together, when he'd fallen in love with her? He had a duty to the realm, he knew. And he wanted to fulfill that duty, but gods it hurt.

"I shall notify the kitchen, Your Grace," he said, turning to leave the room. "We must have a feast to celebrate your engagement."

Daenerys caught him by the shoulder just as he reached the door and spun him around.

"I didn't agree to marry him, you damn fool. I placed you on the throne for a reason! No one is more capable of ruling at my side than you. Jon Snow doesn't even want to be King. He just wants to lead his armies into battle. I don't believe he plans to survive much beyond that. Besides," she said, smirking, "he's too pretty for me."

Tyrion laughed out loud despite the misery he'd felt only seconds earlier.

"My child will be strong and commanding like his father with more empathy and understanding for the human condition than any other. He will have his father's sense of humor and thirst for knowledge. And he will understand what it means to love and be loved unconditionally."

"Your child? I thought you didn't believe you'd have children?"

Daenerys smiled and shrugged, lacing her fingers through his.

"I'm beginning to hope."

Tyrion kissed her hand, feeling relief flood him.

"I've missed you," he said and they walked from the throne room, hand-in-hand, into the light of day.

XXXX

Tyrion's relationship with the Queen had been met with far fewer protests than he had expected. There will still those who whispered in the shadows and cursed the Lannister name when his back was turned, but the city was on the rise. Commerce had begun to flow again under his plan and his brother's care. The Queen worked with her dragons and alchemists to create dragonglass, which would be crucial in the battle with the Night's King.

The Queen ruled firmly but fairly. She had given the North their independence, as she had given the Iron Islands to Yara Greyjoy (who had sent multiple ravens to the Daenerys proposing marriage). Operating under a set of proclamations set forth by the Queen, the Seven Kingdoms were enjoying the first months of peace they'd know in years.

Both Tyrion and Daenerys had flown to Winterfell on several occasions. On this particular occasion, they had brought Missandei, fulfilling Tyrion's promise to show her the stars up close. Now, Tyrion watched as the two women prepared for dinner with the Freefolk. Missandei pulled the Queen's hair back, braiding half and crossing each braid over itself before pinning it into place. It did his heart well to see them laugh together, even in this cold, foreign place. Winterfell had always chilled Tyrion to the bones, but now the winter winds were upon them.

Tyrion excused himself, leaving the ladies in the room he shared with the Queen. He wandered until he found himself at the same spot he had first seen Sansa and Jon many years ago when he'd journeyed with King Robert, Cersei, and her children. They were all dead now, yet Tyrion remained. He had Jamie still, for which he was thankful, but it was an odd feeling – missing a family that had always hated you.

"Your Grace," Sansa's voice called.

Tyrion turned and smiled, shaking his head.

"I'm not King yet, My Lady."

"But you will be," she said, smiling. "If I had known all along you'd end up on the throne, I would have been kinder."

"You weren't unkind," Tyrion said. "Not given the situation we found ourselves in."

"Well at least one of us will marry for love in the end."

Tyrion smiled sadly and reached out, taking her hand. He prayed to the old gods and the new that she might find happiness, whether independently or with a spouse. As though reading his mind, Sansa squeezed his hand.

"I'll be fine. It's not so bad really; at least this way I know I'll never again be hurt the way he hurt me. I can raise my child in peace, the way I want to, as a Stark."

Tyrion's eyes widened and he choked on his words. Sansa offered him a small smile and rested her hand on her stomach.

"He's part of me now. But it will be the most beautiful part of me."

Tyrion guided her to a nearby bench and they sat, her hand still in Tyrion's.

"Have you told anyone yet?"

"Just Jon. I told him the night I found out. He held me while I cried and cursed the gods. When I was done, he promised to help me raise him. Or her. I rather hope it's a girl," Sansa leaned in, as though telling him an even greater secret than she already had. "It'll be easier to raise a girl if Jon dies in battle."

Sadness cut through Tyrion. Words failed him, which they so rarely did, and all he could do was put his arm around her. Sansa leaned into his side and they sat in silence until Sansa sat up and looked down at him, taking a deep breath.

"Shall we go inside? I made lemon cakes."

Tyrion chuckled and nodded, kissing the side of her head before they rose. They walked together – comfortable understanding saying the words that lips failed to. When they reached shelter, Tyrion paused.

"Should he fall in battle, Sansa, come to King's Landing. We'll help you. You can raise the child there under my protection."

Sansa reached out and placed her hand on Tyrion's face, shaking her head.

"There must always be a Stark in Winterfell."

XXXX

Tyrion and Daenerys were wed 100 days after arriving in King's Landing. It was not a public ceremony; only a select number of guests were invited, including the Starks, Yara Greyjoy, Lyanna Mormont, Tormund Giantsbane, and the Small Council. Rather than have a wedding feast, Tyrion and Daenerys chose to have the food dispersed among the people. They then celebrated on the sea surrounded by the Unsullied and the Dothraki, just as they had on their way to Westeros.

Daenerys, Missandei, Yara, and Sansa danced in a circle on the flagship, music filling the ocean air. Tyrion spotted Tormund and Brienne on the neighboring ship, standing close enough together they might as well have been embracing. They passed one cup of Windling ale back and forth between the two of them. Laughter took Tyrion's attention from the almost-couple and he turned to see the women pull Grey Worm into the circle, forcing him to dance with them.

When the Queen's eyes settled on Tyrion and she motioned for him to join, he put aside his cup and moved with purpose, joining them. Before long, Sansa pulled Jon into the circle, laughing as he twirled her awkwardly. Tyrion quickly found himself lost in the laughter and joy surrounding them, and allowed himself to be completely carefree, dancing with his wife surrounded by friends and family.

Long after the wine and ale ran out, long after the music died down and the fires burnt to embers, Tyrion and Daenerys made their way back to their chambers. Daenerys threw herself onto the bed, stretching her tired body. Her dress, silver and white to match her hair, fanned out over the side of the bed and spilled onto the floor.

Tyrion watched as she sat up suddenly, setting her gaze upon him. Fire filled her eyes as she watched him pull at his clothes, stripping in front of her.

When he reached her, she pulled him onto her body, taking his lips with hers. Tyrion bit her lower lip gently, his hands pulling at the laces on the front of her dress. She breathed into his mouth and moaned when he tugged at the front of her dress, pulling it open. Her breasts spilled out, swollen and full. Tyrion felt his hardness pressing into his wife's thigh and he moved forward, laying his body on hers.

"My love," Tyrion whispered against her chest, his hands tracing her skin. He kissed her again and again, their bodies one as they moved together in the moonlight. Every place she touched seemed to tingle, leaving him hot and wanting for more.

"My King," she replied, arching her back off the bed as he kissed her stomach. There was not an inch of her body he had not explored, yet it felt as though he were touching her for the first time. Something had changed; suddenly what they were doing was not a shameful secret to be hidden away. He nibbled the inside of her thigh as his fingers grazed her sex eliciting another moan from her lips.

Tyrion's hands moved of their own accord: stroking, rubbing, exploring and gripping. It was only when he felt he'd explode from need that he filled her, the force of his thrust lifting her off the bed. Daenerys gasped and gripped the bedding, her eyes meeting his.

"Please," she whispered before her head fell back on the bed once more. She moved with him, her hips rising to meet his. Tyrion groaned, driving forward. Knowing he was too close, too overwhelmed by sensation and love, he drew away and rolled her onto her stomach. Her whimpers of protests made him chuckle as he leaned down over her body, kissing her shoulders. He covered her back with his lips as his hand moved between her legs, making her writhe beneath him.

When she could take no more, Daenerys drew herself onto her knees and pushed him down on the bed, straddling him. This time it was Tyrion who cried out when she lowered herself on him.

"Please," she whispered again and this time Tyrion understood her meaning. She gripped his hands, pinning them to the bed as she held herself up, rocking on him over and over.

"My Queen," Tyrion moaned, closing his eyes as he felt himself drawing closer to the edge. She leaned down over him and spoke into his ear, her breath hot on his skin. She begged him to fill her with his seed, to claim his wife and bind them together forever. She moaned as he pushed up into her hard and bit down on his neck.

Tyrion could hold out no longer. He released her hands and grabbed her waist as he held her down on him. Daenerys threw her head back as he pulsed inside her and then she felt him hot inside her, filling her. Her own climax hit as she felt her husband empty himself into her, promising her what she wanted most: his child.

THE END