Author's Note: I'm back with another Modern AU. Hope you like it! Please let me know what you think :)
Jaime Lannister's assistant edged warily into his office, poised on her high heels like a gazelle ready to spring away from the lion before her at the first sign of danger. He wasn't in the best mood of his life, but he tried to foster an amicable, productive working relationship with his employees, especially Pia, who'd confided in him an unhappy past. She didn't deserve his ire. He forced his lips into a semblance of a smile.
"Yes, Pia?" he asked her, feigning a pleasant tone well enough to be impressed with his own acting skills. Thank the gods the day was almost over; he couldn't wait to get out of the office and go home.
"Your father's assistant called," Pia said miserably. "The OB just called a meeting in five minutes."
'OB' meaning 'old bastard' and referring to one Tywin Lannister, universally despised by family and employees alike. Any time Tywin's ego had even the tiniest dent in it, he would engage in his own, hellish version of 'fun' to inflate it once more, his favorite being the keeping his executive staff for hours after the end of business hours to harangue them for whichever of their imagined failings had brought about the problem in the first place.
Jaime had rather expected something like this, after stock prices had gone down that morning, but hope sprang eternal that something else would have occurred in the intervening hours to give the OB a boost and thus spare him and everyone else the misery of being penned up in the conference room with his father until long past dark.
"Are you serious?" he muttered and raked his fingers through his hair in irritation. "He couldn't tell me himself?"
Wisely, Pia remained silent, aware the question was rhetorical. Everyone knew that Tywin preferred not to issuecommands like this personally to his son, because then Jaime would argue with him, and time would be wasted, with the same result: inevitable compliance with the OB's demands.
Jaime swiveled his chair around to stare out the window. He'd hoped to get home on time, for once, so he could have more than just some cursory time with his twins before it was time for them to go to bed. At barely threeyears of age, Myrcella and Tommen spent their days with their nanny, Josmyn Peckledon, or as the children called him, Peck.
Peck was a grad student, a doctoral candidate who wrote his thesis at night so he could take care of the twins all day. If Jaime could get home by six o'clock, he could give them dinner so Peck could vamoose for his carrel at Crownlands University. Then he'd give the children their bath, read them a story or two, and put them to bed. There was always a lingering, guilty ache in the vicinity of his chest that he didn't spend more time with them. Bad enough they had to grow up without a mother; the least they could have was a father, except that Jaime was always being held up to put in even more time at a job he loathed, in a company he loathed, for a parent he—
Well. He didn't quite loathe Tywin. Not like Tyrion did, at least. But he sure as hell wasn't fond of the OB, either, and less so every time his father demanded his extended presence for some unnecessary bullshit by the artificial deadlines Tywin so dearly enjoyed foisting upon them.
Jaime knew damned well it was ongoing retribution for marrying Cersei. Wedding his first cousin had squandered a prime opportunity to forge a connection with some other hopelessly rich family, and even five years and Cersei's death later, Tywin still had not forgiven his eldest son for such an infraction. He had yet to even meet his grandchildren.
Fuck him, Jaime thought with sudden savagery. He wasn't going to hop to, just because the OB felt like tugging his leash that day.
"You've stayed late with me all week, haven't you?" he asked Pia, who'd been trying to inch toward the door unnoticed.
"Er," she said. "Yes. But I don't mind—"
"You should mind," he interrupted. "Ignore my father's order. Tell everyone to go home."
"But— Mr. Lannister will—"
"Don't worry about it. I'll take full responsibility. If he doesn't like it, he can fire me." Jaime launched to his feet. "I kind of wish he would."
Jaime could easily find another job. He'd been to Oldtown University, he had a supremely boring MBA specializing in economics from The Citadel. He had a half-dozen obscenely generous offers of employment every year. If Tywin fired him, he could take a few months off, spend time with his babies, spend time with his brother — he hadn't seen Tyrion in too long, and the twins were starting to forget their uncle — and then take his leisurely pick of which job he wanted.
Feeling invigorated by his disobedience and the opportunities it presented, he picked up his discarded suit jacket from the sofa and pulled it on, then grabbed his briefcase before setting it back down with a thump.
"No," he said, more to himself than to wide-eyed Pia, "fuck that. It'll hold until tomorrow." He grinned at her, hoping to make her lose the terrified pallor she'd acquired in the last few minutes. "Go ahead." He made little shooing motions with his hands until she preceded him from his office.
"Okay," she replied weakly.
He strode past her to the elevators. It was only a quarter to five; he'd be home a half-hour early. Maybe he could sneak in a few minutes with the twins in the little park down the block from their co-op between dinner and bath time. He caught the Q uptown just as it was pulling away from the subway station, and had no sooner taken a seat when his phone rang.
"Tyrion? How's Tysha? And the ranch?"
"Hey. Tysha's fine. The ranch, not so much." His little brother's voice, just as deep and wry-sounding as always, held a note of something that concerned Jaime a little. "I need a favor."
"You've got it," Jaime said, his response immediate. Tyrion almost never asked for help. Something must be wrong. "What's the matter?"
"Remember Margaery Tyrell?"
"Of course." Her family's preeminence in the New York social scene was second only in value to Tywin to their publishing company, Tyrell House, which had reinvented itself as the imprint for exciting spy thrillers and wickedly clever murder mysteries. They were raking in money hand-over-fist, and the OB had tried more than once to turn Jaime's attention to the only female Tyrellian heir. Jaime had dated her once, at the behest of their interfering parents, who seemed to think he and Margaery were a match made in heaven.
To Jaime's relief, and Tywin's consternation, Margaery had recently decided to vacation at Tyrion's dude ranch, met his employee, Bronn Flynn, and fallen head over heels for the cynical bastard.
"That's the one. Well, she somehow convinced him to elope. They're on their way to honeymooning in The Arbor at this very moment."
"Elope? Bronn?" Jaime repeated it, aware he was stupidly parroting Tyrion's words but unable to stop. "Bronn eloped? Bronn?"
There wasn't a man alive who was less likely to be seized by such a spontaneous and lighthearted fancy such as elopement.
No, that wasn't true. One of Tyrion's other employees, Sandor Clegane… he was less likely to elope. But Bronn was a very close second.
"Yes. Bronn," Tyrion confirmed, amusement plain in his voice. "You might want to buy a lottery ticket; miracles are happening."
"Shit. Well, that's amazing." Jaime paused, marveling over it all, but his brain, always busy, identified a problem. "Wait, if Bronn's going to be gone for a while—"
"Two weeks, minimum," said Tyrion, "and I've got a group coming in on Sunday."
"—then you're down a man," Jaime finished.
Tyrion's dude ranch offered guests the opportunity to ride horses, rope steers, and drive herds of cattle for as authentic a "Westerlands" experience as could be had in this day and age. At least three cowboys were needed for a drive: two to herd the cattle, and one to herd the guests. And due to Tyrion's physical challenges, he wasn't able to do it himself. His dwarfism caused a variety of problems, and he was only just healing up from a surgery on his legs from a few months earlier.
Jaime sighed, starting to realize where this conversation was going. "You want me to come out there and replace Bronn."
"You're just as good a cowboy as he is," Tyrion said right away. "Better, even, since you've been doing it your whole life, and he only came to it as an adult."
Uncle Gerion had left the Lannisterian fold to strike out on his own after his wife died, leaving his daughter Cersei to be raised at the chilly bosom of his brother, Tywin. Gerion had gone in search of a personal legacy, won a derelict ranch in Wyoming in a card game, named it Brightroar Farm, and proceeded to eke out a subsistence living— with his daughter and Jaime and Tyrion spending summers there providing reluctant slave labor— before dropping dead of mysterious causes.
To protect the 'dignity' of the family name, Tywin had taken over administration of the ranch, which meant he coughed up the bare minimum to keep it from being foreclosed upon by the government for failure to pay taxes, and just enough fuel to the generators to keep the pipes from freezing solid come winter. Cersei, upon reaching majority and inheriting it, saw no reason to deviate from that plan, and Brightroar continued to disintegrate until she died.
Jaime had inherited it upon her death, and sold it to his brother for the grand sum of a single dollar, since it would give Tyrion not only a business venture free of the OB's meddling and control but put him on the other side of the country. Jaime had learned that distance made the heart grow less hateful, where those two were concerned.
To say that Tyrion was keen to keep the business in the black, and thus prove his competence to their father, would be an understatement. Without enough ranch hands, he'd have to cancel the group, losing thousands in income.
Jaime contemplated what he'd be gaining, if he went. It would be cooler in Wyoming than it was currently in New York City, the higher altitude being both milder in temperature and less humid. The twins hadn't been to the ranch in a year. It would get them all out of the city during the worst, stickiest weeks of the summer, and it would get Jaime away from the job he was growing to dislike more and more by the day.
And maybe it actually would make the OB fire him.
"Okay," he said. "I'll do it. It'll take a few days to make arrangements— I have to book a flight— what will I do with the babies while I'm working? Aunt Genna is getting too old to chase after toddlers all day— and I can't bring Peck, he has classes—"
"I already booked you a flight. Aunt Genna, Tysha, and myself will take turns watching the twins. Everything has been arranged. You just need to pack and get your carcass to Baelor Internationalfor 10:15 tomorrow morning."
Jaime was speechless, but only for a moment; not much kept him quiet for long. He was a talker, it could not be denied.
"Well, then," he said, a bit anticlimactically, "I guess I'll see you tomorrow afternoon."