Merry Tunes and Mountain Lions
Lyarra Snow had not expected a hand extended in kindness to be remembered. Now there was a lion knight loitering around the Wolfswood asking for her hand in marriage. "Why, Jory? Why can't any of my daughters have normal suitors?" fem!Jon, Jaime x Jon, Sansa x Domeric (side pairing)
The only positive trait that his goodbrother had, Ser Jaime Lannister decided, was his impeccable taste in wines. When coupled with his derision of 'counting the coppers' as it were, it allowed men of all walks of life to share that benefit. Normally Jaime wouldn't have been one of those men. He had gold aplenty to spend but there was precious little to purchase in the half-frozen wasteland called the North. The ale and beer being served in the Great Hall was too coarse for his tongue and even had it not been, Jaime would have scorned spending a moment longer than necessary in the company of Lord Eddard fucking Stark. No doubt had Robert deigned to release his friend's company tonight, the honorable Northmen would have been equally displeased to be hosting an oathbreaker in his home.
'Not that I had any choice to be here,' the lion knight thought sourly. He would have much rather been in King's Landing with Cersei but had been denied the opportunity by the Stag King and his whims. The plan had been to drop off the Greyjoy hostage in Winterfell and venture south soon after but upon closer reflection, the Baratheon had decided against it. Apparently the three moons spent waging war against Balon weren't sufficient to becoming reacquainted with his one true Northern love. Jaime suspected that had Robert been able to marry Lyanna Stark as expected, he would have advocated trips to his lady wife's home even more often than she did.
'I'm surprised that Ned Stark's sermonizing hasn't driven him off yet.' Robert had barely been into his cups before he started pawing at one of the bustier maids serving the royal party. It was evident that Ned Stark found this behavior discomforting but then he wasn't quite so innocent there either, was he? 'At least I'm off of guard duty for the night. Moore and Blount should be enough to guard the King and whomever he's disgracing my sister with for the night.'
The other men were at the lower tables congratulating themselves on their own feats of skill and valor, imagined or not. Jaime had opted to drink in solitude and darkness instead, in one of the abandoned lower courtyards near the library tower, where none could bother him. The cold, crisp air biting at his cheeks, he had worked himself through two flagons of wine already. Stronger than the stuff he usually drank, the lion still welcomed the sickly-sweet warmth it brought to his belly.
He didn't know how long it had been until a voice broke through the silence.
"Ser?" Jaime's hand moved to the pommel of his sword before he could think, could marvel at the person that managed to sneak up to him even in this inebriated state. "Ser, are you alright?"
The girl that stepped into one of the pools of torchlight carried a tome in her hand. It was braced firmly against her chest as a shield of sorts, her figure holding itself closely to the stone wall.
"Who are you?" Jaime demanded, words slurred.
The darkest eyes he had ever seen, not quite black but a deep, striking violet met his gaze evenly. "Lyarra Snow, Ser."
"Ned Stark's Bastard." It took a moment to place her with his dizzy head. Jaime's lips curled. A bastard younger than her own trueborn brother, presented to Robert mere hours after her father condemned him a man without honor. "What are you doing here, Bastard?"
Her eyes flickered briefly to her book, face eerily serene when it returned to him. "I was in the library, Ser. I saw you out here."
"So you did." The girl-child- the Heir was nine or ten namedays, was he not?- looked away, unnerved by his stare. "And what did you want then, Bastard?"
Her lips pressed closer. She didn't move away. "Have you drunk all this wine, Ser?"
"Why should it matter to you if I had?" Jaime took another swig of the drink, bringing it down and seeing displeasure on that pale face. So very pale, it would have been sickly, if not for the glow of youth. "Are you here to censure me for my habits, Bastard?"
"No, Ser." Lyarra Snow turned on her heel, form tall for her age and all the slimmer for it before she hesitated. Still in that torchlight that cast bronze on her dark curls, she gave him a measured look. "Does anyone else know that you're here?"
Not interested in answering her, Jaime continued to drink down his third jug. It must have been answer enough for her reaction was to release a small huff of air, a dragon's smoke ring in the Northern cold, and sink down to her knees. Ignoring him afterward, she focused on the book.
"You seek to keep me company in my drink? What for? You are merely a bastard, are you not?"
The child does not acknowledge this point and by now, his belly demands wine again, so Jaime allows it. He hasn't any interest in conversing with a dull Northerner regardless.
Yet curiosity and boredom compel him eventually. "Have you any reason stay here, Bastard?"
"It would be dishonorable to allow you to fall asleep in the courtyard, Ser."
"Oh good, a bastard that cares about her honor. I had hoped to meet one such exotic creature before my death."
The girl-child was not yet serene enough to hide the tension in her shoulders. Jaime needled her further. "Who taught you of honor then?"
There was a current of pride in her answer. "My Lord Father."
"He couldn't have cared too much for it, else you wouldn't be here."
A brief flash of violet eyes, a moue of anger on those bow-shaped lips. He would have thought that spurred an answer but she was more self-controlled than he had thought. They did say bastards grew more quickly than their trueborn counterparts. "Are you mute as well as sinful then?"
"Is there anything that Ser would like me to say?"
Jaime's gaze ventured down curiously. "Hmm, tell me of the book you are reading."
"A History of Naval Warfare in Westeros," was the polite if strained response.
"Of course. Dancing, sewing and the art of war. All important skills for a lady to know."
"I am no Lady, Ser." The words had an echo to them, as though she was repeating something heard before and often. "Are you done drinking?"
To spite her, he took another swig. "Are you getting cold, Bastard?"
The amusement was back now but it was softer, the wind nipping her cheeks into a bright pink color and adding innocence to the strangely melancholy child. "The winds will turn soon, Ser and you are not properly dressed for them."
The golden-haired knight looked down at his chainmail and armor, above which a thick cloak of fittingly enough wolf's fur had been thrown. It struck him as far more useful than the thin wool dress of grey that the child wore. "I'm dressed far more warmly than you. Mayhaps you should return then."
"My name befits me, Ser." There is a smile on her face, amused yet gentle, though the Snow child attempts to hide it behind words of war. Jaime thinks to steal it from her, for happiness warmed one better than any drink but he is not so unkind. He takes another swig to forget the bastard's smile, forget the castle, forget his circumstances, forget the white cloak around his shoulders…
The first shards of ice and snow are unknown to him. It's not until a wetness appears around the rim of his bottle, thin droplets of water sliding down his thumb, that he realizes. "It's snowing."
"Yes, Ser." He looks down at her, still sitting on the ground, face tilted up, a crown of ice forming from the droplets clinging to her dark hair. In this light, her violet eyes stir something within him. Jaime doesn't name this strange turn of emotion. "Would you care to go inside now?"
"You may, if you wish." His voice is softer now but the bottle empties even faster and Eddard Stark's bastard refuses to move. This flagon of wine makes his head spin even faster. He speaks not to keep his tongue from slurring, turns not to keep his hand from drawing her closer. What are those eyes that make him so melancholy? Who is this bastard that won't allow Jaime to suffer his demons in peace?
"I am Lyarra Snow, Ser." It's not until she speaks that he realizes the words said aloud. There is a concern to those eyes- pretty, so-very-pretty bastards shouldn't step outside of their father's shadow or their guardsman's sword- but a stubborn light as well. This is familiar and Jaime tries to recall why.
He steps back once, keeps both hands in her sight and watches as, almost imperceptibly, those thin shoulders loosen. "Your Father's name?"
The answer is prompt, defiant and proud. "Lord Eddard Stark of Winterfell."
"Your Mother's?" Where did you come by those violet eyes, Bastard?
The answer is still prompt, still defiant but no longer proud. "I do not know, Ser."
Jaime would have blamed the wine for his next words. "Lady Ashara Dayne, the Fallen Star of Dorne. Have you heard of her?"
It's evident by her reaction that she did. Violet eyes darken and she looks back down. Burying herself in the words of dead men to run from the speech of the living. Tyrion would have appreciated that.
"The rumors say Ned Stark stole her heart at Harrenhal, her maidenhead at the Eyrie and her babe at Starfall. They say he rode back to King's Landing after she threw herself off of a tower in her grief." Jaime studied the chalky whiteness of the child's skin and took a pleasure, hollow though it was, from the anger wrought there. Hadn't he seen the same fury on Eddard Stark's face when he stumbled into the throne room all those years ago? "What say you of those whispers, Bastard?"
The child regarded him with a cold expression. "The howls of men die in the winter winds, Ser."
"The southward winds are fairer, Bastard. You would hear the men well enough there." Jaime leans forward, intrigued by how she does not press back. The world was not a kind place for daughters or bastards and this child, carrying the weaknesses of both, had been done no favors raised here. Outside of the Quiet Wolf's carefully ruled domains, she would fall prey to all kinds of whispers. "Have you never cared to venture beyond the narrow walls and small keeps of your home?"
"Winterfell is hardly small, Ser." It doesn't address his other question and the lion knight thinks there to be curiosity in those eyes. Not unexpected for a child that cradles a history of naval warfare to her chest when the North boasts little of such power. "You're shivering, Ser."
"You're not." The snow is falling more thickly now, the cold winds finding the tiny chinks of his cloak and biting into his body. Jaime wonders why the bastard girl reacts to it with such aplomb. Is she made of snow and ice that the winter storms bring her no bother? "Are you a nature spirit?"
The words startle her into laughter. He leans back, unexpected hollows of grief and want panging through him. Jaime doesn't understand what it is, when she looks at him, pale cheeks flushed with blood, eyes bright. "No, Ser, I am not. As you said, I am merely a bastard and a cold one at that."
"I had thought your name befitted you." Jaime is shivering strongly but he is a grown man with a wolfskin pelt. She is a child in a wool dress; he would not be the first to venture inside. "A lie?"
"Yes," she agrees readily. "May we go inside now?"
The blonde knight eyes her critically. He reaches out a hand and rests it at the place easiest to reach for him, at the base of her throat, by her collarbones. The dark-haired child trembles before him but doesn't move, the skin beneath the pads of his fingers is heated. Jaime scowls. "You're lying to me."
There is reproach in her eyes though her voice remains steady and deferential. He remembers this from his childhood, Lady Joanna Lannister scolding her husband while acknowledging his authority. His mother had always seemed to get the better of those engagements. "The winds are howling, Ser. It would be wise to return to the castle now."
"Then I welcome you to leave." Jaime has never heard himself sound so petulant before and dislikes it at once. He is not a child that this actual child could take him to task over. "Go inside, Bastard."
Lyarra Snow does not move and they stay out still, him consuming more and more wine to stave off the cold, and her quietly reading. She turns to him occasionally with disquieted lips and complaints barely held back by a sense of decorum. In turn, Jaime spitefully empties his third flagon and then starts on his fourth. At some point, he is quite certain that the Starks had built a second well across from the and that the dummies in the courtyard were dancing to the music from the Great Hall. His shaking hands spill wine more than once, so he plops down on the unforgiving ground to keep it from spilling further.
'Shouldn't the voices be here by now?' They don't appear all too often but this deeply in drink, he should be visited Lewyn, Gerold, Oswell, Jonothor and Arthur. The last especially with his silver-white hair and aster blue eyes, more the Silver Prince's brother than Viserys had ever been, to regard him. If Jaime was lucky, they would be angry and if he were not, disgusted and ashamed.
The bastard girl takes this moment to loudly turn one of the pages, his head lolling to the left to look at her. Is she why the spirits of the dead haven't flocked to him now? "They call me the Kingslayer."
"I know." The words are clipped. She doesn't even look up. "You're Ser Jaime Lannister."
"You know my name?" Wait, should Jaime be surprised by this? He is one of the most famous names in Westeros and his white cloak, his golden hair, his emerald eyes, how would she not have known? "Why are you sitting out here for me?"
"It would be dishonorable to allow you to fall asleep in the courtyard, Ser Jaime."
There really was only was response that could be given for that. "You are undoubtedly a Stark."
It's not a compliment but Jaime bets the bastard would be pleased by the words nonetheless. He doesn't have the time to see her reaction, as he is suddenly, and quite violently, sick.
The snowy white wonderland created in their little corner of nowhere is marred rather tragically by the yellow-green bile spewed from his throat. He thinks a few flecks to litter his white cloak but the vast majority doesn't touch him. It's helped in this by small hands- calloused, why does a noble child's hands have callouses?- supporting his body, keeping Jaime's swaying body aloft while he vomits.
It's a mark of his own self-control that she manages it. For all that her hands pull upwards, his armor and weight is such that Jaime would fall over if not for his own iron will. When he is done, the lion knight finds himself gasping in fresh, pure, icy Northern air with a bastard girl pressed comfortingly by his side. He looks over to her.
"Boys," she says in such utter and total exasperation that even he is driven to smile.
The smile disappears when he reaches for his last jug of wine- the taste on his tongue is absolutely vile- and she kicks it away. It hits against the stone wall of the library tower and shatters. Dusky purple-red of a dry Arbor Red vintage stains the fresh snow as darkly as spilled blood.
"My wine," Jaime says mournfully. He is tempted to draw his sword and hit the bastard with its hilt.
"Tilt your head up and stick out your tongue," Lyarra Snow replies impatiently. She tugs on his shoulders, trying to pull him up and simply because she was a Stark and he felt like being contrary, Jaime sits down. His head is throbbing and this mayhaps adds to the golden knight's decision.
"I don't want to." His voice is pleasant. She glowers at him. Apparently, after a few hours of sitting quietly by his side as he drunk himself into a stupor, even this bastard's composure suffered. In comparison, his own spirits were high. They are high enough that he could look at this landscape of black and grey and white- black sky, grey walls, white snowfall- touched only by the light pooling from the library tower's windows and the bastard's violet eyes, and pronounce it tolerable.
Jaime does so, in such a generous fashion that Lyarra Snow looks tempted to box his ears in.
"I am going inside," she announces. Returning to her book- Jaime hadn't even noticed that it had been dropped on the snow- the slender figure turns on her heel and makes to stride off. He is particularly offended by this. They had just been having a moment, hadn't they?
He tries to struggle to his feet, staggers and sways, and nearly falls over but for the hands returned to his chest. Palms splayed against the metal of his chestplate look too small, too fragile to belong to the smug bastard in front of him. She hadn't moved that far after all and though tall for her age, slender and gangly, the Snow remains nearly two heads shorter than him.
Her smile is dazzling now. "I suppose that we are going inside then, Ser Jaime."
His reply is an unintelligible grumble that only makes that smile widen. It reminds him somewhat of his brother and he attributes his fondness of Tyrion to why he allows her to lead him back. Her feet unerringly head towards the Great Keep rather than the further Guard's Hall or the nearby Guest House. He inquires why.
"I'm a bastard, Ser, not an idiot," is the swift reply. She offers him a smile that is almost pitying. "My Father would grant the most luxurious room to his friend and the King will want his guards close."
"A man with a crown who wants the Kingslayer at his back?" He means to be acerbic but it comes out bitter instead. Not that the distracted hum of the bastard acknowledges it, as she slowly but surely leads him through the flurries of snow dusting their sight. Her palm remains strangely warm against his chest and on his sleeve.
By some curiosity, they pass no other soul on their way back, all others driven to the light and laughter of the Great Hall. Many would likely pass out on the straw or wooden tables there, even Robert and were Jaime to care for being his Kingsguard, he would have headed there. Though in his inebriated state, a child with a blunted tourney sword could have gotten past him.
"Your Father gave me that title, you know." His head is throbbing even more strongly now. Everything around him appears blurry but for the figure of the bastard, slender cut against the snow. "He walked in on me sitting in the throne room, Aerys' bloody corpse at my feet and named me oathbreaker."
She peeks up at him, surprise lit in her eyes. To shock her further, he adds, "I was laughing then."
Jaime doesn't know what he expects. Anger mayhaps, disgust and horror certainly, but not the concern by which she looks at him. They pause in their steady drudge, the bastard raising on tiptoes to press her hand against his forehead. "Fever," she mutters quietly.
"Aerys' blood pooled on the floor," he continues relentlessly. "He had fallen down the steps and those were stained red too. I took his position on the Iron Throne. I'll never know why people vie for that ugly chair. Hardly comfortable. Countless times can I recall the King being cut on the damned thing."
The bastard persisted in drawing him forward. They were at the cusp of the Great Keep now, her shoulder pushing one of the side doors open, rather than the massive red-painted ones at the center. The hallway inside is bare of servants but illuminated with torchlight and far warmer than outside. Jaime almost recoils at the heat suddenly replacing the iciness to her limbs.
"It didn't cut me, strangely enough," Jaime mused aloud. "Swords rarely do. I was the youngest knight to be raised to the Kingsguard, you know."
His own room should be higher up but she brings him to an empty one near the bottom floor. An empty bed and a lone desk greet him and, after pushing him onto the sheets, the bastard moves to start a fire in the hearth. In a moment's time, there is a softly flickering flame there.
"Aerys was no warrior. It was easy to kill him. Someone should have done it years ago. Mayhaps your Uncle and Grandfather would be alive if they had."
The bastard approaches the bed again, her features in greater relief from the light of the hearth. They cast a warm glow to her snowlit skin, as she studies him with a hesitant eye. Once, twice, her hands move towards his armor but draw back at the last moment, when she recalls the impropriety of it all. Jaime wonders why it should concern her now when she already brought herself into a darkened room with him- a bedroom, even. It's not as though his chestplate remaining would save her from scandal should they be found here.
Not that this is his concern. There is a matter of greater concern for him.
Jaime grabs her hand when she tries to move closer again. The bastard makes a squeak of surprise and tries to jerk it back but his own grasp is too strong for that. He brings her closer to the bed, notes the fear in her eyes and thinks well of it. She should learn to be cautious of men for not all of them would have the same intentions Jaime did.
Mostly he just wants to ruin any sort of sympathy she may have had for him, so that those melancholy eyes would be filled with disgust as a part of him insists that they must be.
"I do not regret," he says quietly. "It was my finest act."
Jaime releases her hand. She doesn't move from the bed but looks down, book clenched so tightly that her fingers seem bone-white. "Why?"
It's a whisper, an unraveling, a question that only his kin had dared to offer before. She's not a Stark then for Eddard Stark would have never been so fair. The world was as white and black as the snow and sky for these Northern wolves. "Why?"
"Why did you do it?" Tyrion would love this child. Her curiosity drove her past the limits of good sense or societal dictates, had her loom silently as a snowy spectre above the bed. "Why kill the Mad King?"
'Why ask me?' Jaime wants to say. Instead his mouth opens and he tells the truth. Of wildfire and alchemists, of mad kings and the five hundred thousand men, women and children that would have died for a dragon's pride. He speaks of men burnt at the pyre, of a gentle Queen's rape, of the Silver Prince's promise before he left a boy-not-yet-man to guard his family, of those hated words.
"We don't protect her, not from him," the knight recalled. "But if not us, then who will? Not her father, who married her off to this madman. Not her brothers, dead by the green fires of Summerhall. Not any courtier or knight or lord, for whom the word of his King is akin to the Gods. No one, no one would protect this pitiful Queen. The most powerful woman in the kingdom and raped every night with the finest and most honorable warriors in the land as her witness."
"This was the Order that I joined. But oh, how I loved my white cloak. You cannot imagine my pride to have been knighted by the Sword of the Morning himself. He was everything a Kingsguard should have been. Good and brave and just. Fighting for the innocent, defending the weak, inspiring the pitiful… and staying silent when those he was sworn to committed their own atrocities. We closed our eyes and ears and called ourselves honorable. We were fools. I was a fool."
"And when I killed him, I was an even greater fool." He looked at her with pain-filled emeralds for eyes. "A traitor, an oathbreaker, a Kingslayer."
"A hero," Lyarra broke in. "You were a hero."
"You're the second to call me such," he informed her. "The first was my brother, you see, and he is ever-partial to my feats."
"My father named you Kingslayer?"
"Your father named me many things, Bastard," Jaime snorted. "It was Kingslayer that stuck, though I believe that 'dead' would be his preferred term."
She steps back and he wonders briefly if she should strike him. Her hands are trembling, the pink flush disappeared almost entirely from her cheeks. Then, to his utter shock, she bends into a bow. When she stands back up, the Snow looks at him with a sorrowful expression, one of genuine regret.
"I am a bastard and my words mean little," Lyarra Snow says slowly. "But on behalf of House Stark, I would apologize for my father's actions. He was wrong. We all were."
Jaime closes his eyes, not ready to face her. "You're right. In the way of things, a bastard's words mean little."
There is silence from her end but also hands pulling his boots off. She leaves his chest plate and faulds alone but fumbles with the clasps on his gauntlets and the vambrace on his elbow. Even with eyes closed, Jaime is certain that her cheeks are burning when she reaches the cuisses on his thighs. Her movements are positively jerky when she draws the blankets up to his throat. The lion knight hears footsteps recede from him, footsteps come closer and yet more blankets are tucked around him.
"I prefer a glass of water to be available when I wake, Bastard."
"Good night, Ser Jaime," is her dry yet not unkind response. He opens his eyes one last time to see her looking down, violet eyes directing a certain depth of sympathy and admiration towards him, before she finally leaves. The bastard is well and truly gone when he whispers his own goodnight.
'I am going to regret this in the morning,' is Jaime Lannister's final thought before sleep claims him.