A/N: Written for a friend! She requested Jaime/Alistair for a three sentence fic meme, annnnnnnnd... well, everything didn't go as according to plan. Obviously.
"So, Westeros, huh? Never heard of it."
Jaime nodded to himself, prodding at the fire before dropping the stick into the flames. "Not many have, it seems," he replied with a cursory glance around the camp. No one he'd spoken to in the past month knew where Westeros was, much less King's Landing or Casterly Rock. When he explained that the former was the capital, he was given directions to someplace called Denerim.
A few drinks and a bar fight later and he was a hairs breadth away from being thrown into what he took for the city's prison. He was intercepted by a man called Duncan, taken to ruins to fight with the 'King' - a manchild who looked to be playing dress up in his gilded armor and not war, and forced to drink the blood of fiends. He had no choice in the matter, so he grabbed the goblet and took enough into his mouth to be made into one of them. He was a Grey Warden now.
Alistair was another of this realm's surplus of children in leather and chain. While Jaime could appreciate wit where he found it, the Senior Warden was damn near ridiculous.
Jaime somehow found his way from one war to another, though, and if he was put in a position of power, he was going to accept it for what it was and do his best to... diffuse the situation. These darkspawn were ugly and smelled of death in a way that even the rotting bodies he'd happened across in his years didn't. Corpses were foul, but he'd been close to retching up his breakfast the first time he came upon a darkspawn.
And now he was dreaming of them. Wonderful.
"What's it like there? Is it like Ferelden, or is it a bit fancier? Orlais, maybe? Without the poncy accent?" The two men smiled when they heard the fire-haired Chantry sister give a quiet noise of indignation. "No offense, Lel. It's only the truth."
"It's... likeyour Ferelden," Jaime conceded. "The weather is quite a bit different. Our seasons change very slowly."
Alistair perked up at that. "How slowly? Months?"
"Years," he replied with a quiet chuckle that continued when he heard Alistair murmured an ooooh. "I could be convinced to tell you more about it later."
Jaime encountered Cersei in the windswept and crumbling ruins tucked within the ragged Frostback Mountains. She appeared almost real to him as he stood there, flanked at each side by Alistair, the witch Morrigan, and Leliana. He knew it was a vision; Cersei was still tucked away and safe in King's Landing last he was sure. But he could feel a warmth coming off of her. He could see each fleck of gold in her hair, each facet of emerald in her eyes, and each inch of lovely skin not covered by the heavy velvet and ermine she often wore in Winter.
The first words out of her mouth were, "You're going to come back to me."
While he stood far enough away to not feel her breath, the sound of her voice echoed in his ears and they run true. True and real and she was standing there; he was sure of it. At the same time, he knew he couldn't touch her. His fingers twitched in his gauntlets.
Any other woman might have begged. If not begged, asked. Are you going to come back to me, my love? Will we be together again? But even as a spectre, she grew solid and unyielding as diamond, and her life shown just as bright with a backdrop of stone centuries old. She knew he would return to her. She would accept no substitute, and in the end, that was what drove him forward when everything grew more perilous.
"She was your sister," Alistair murmured into his pint many days later. They were in Redcliffe once again, but this time there was no destruction to meet them. They were heralded as heroes with Andraste's ashes and hope previously unknown bundled in Bodhan's wagon. "I'd recognize those eyes anywhere. They're yours."
A knot formed in Jaime's throat, but he choked back another gulp of ale all the same. "She is," he replied without a scrap of ornamentation. "My twin. My other half, even."
When Alistair didn't counter with his usual snark, Jaime glanced up from his drink to see his fellow Warden overcome by a contemplative look. It wasn't unusual to see him thinking these days. Their travels forced Alistair to grow, and part of that introduced him to a small measure of introversion. "It's complicated," Jaime ventured.
Again, they were feasted as heroes. Another day, another great evil torn from the world, and they are lifted among the ranks of gods for their doings. Never in his life had Jaime ever been so heavily lauded. There were men who agreed with where he stuck his sword, men who begrudgingly respected him, but he was never looked upon with shining eyes. The reputation that preceded him wasn't softly spoken or shouted in a voice hinged on joy. Not like it did here.
He and Alistair were given the largest aravel to share once the fire in the center of the elven camp turned to smoldering cinders. The sun hung low, fat, and pale orange between the trees by the time they picked their way through the tattooed elven bodies for sleep.
Sleep did not come for either of them, though it was more obvious in Alistair's case. While Jaime rested soundly on his bedroll, the other Warden shifted and stirred, finally coming to a rest on his side. "Jaime."
"Seven hells, Alistair," he hissed, though he somehow managed to sound good-natured all the way through. "Maybe if you shut up, you might go to sleep."
"You never told me any more about Westeros."
Pulling himself up on his arms, Jaime twisted enough to cast a look of disbelief in Alistair's direction. The sunlight creeping in from the split top of their little hovel shadowed his features, distorting his expression. Alistair didn't have to see it to know how his friend stared at him. "Now?" Jaime asked before turning over onto his stomach. "Now, of all times, you want to hear more about Westeros? Of all places? Pray tell, how was Templar training?"
"You're dodging the question. You alwaystry to get out of talking about Westeros, but you promised you'd tell me more about it eventually."
"Anyone else would realize that means I don't wantto talk about it."
"But why not?"
Jaime's head sunk down, forehead pressing into the flesh of his forearm. "Why would I explain my reasons for not wanting to talk about something when I said a moment before that I don't want to talk about it?"
Alistair made a quiet sound of contemplation. "I only want to know more about you," he murmured. "We're friends. Brothers, even. You know about me, about my heritage, my love of cheese. All I know about you is that you're foreign and have a sister."
"And that's all you need to know." Swallowing hard in an attempt to weather the rock stuck in his throat, Jaime slumped down to sleep. "Maybe I'll end up telling you. Later."
He told him everything.
They were locked in Fort Drakon with the vision of Queen Anora fresh in his mind, and Jaime told him. The fingers in his left hand were broken, but splinted; even their torturers knew the Wardens were to be kept in working condition. His wrist, elbow, and shoulder ached from where the bones were nearly pulled apart, and his back was scored with marks both fresh and barely clotted. They wanted a confession from him. They wanted him to come apart in their hands. But he'd seen worse than this. They were clumsy at times, and they didn't know how to work a man.
They wanted his words, but his confessions he gave to Alistair after they were tossed back into their shared cell. Once the bleeding slowed and the younger man's groans faded into a strained whimper, Jaime lifted himself to his feet and went over to sit by his side.
Jaime told him of Cersei first, of his beautiful sister and how he came into the world with his hand wrapped around her ankle. "She was always the strongest of us," he admitted, thumbing over the split in his lip and pulling the blood that swelled in his finger's wake into his mouth. "She still is. Everyone thinks she's cold as ice, but ice melts and my palms are very warm."
He expected Alistair to judge him for it. Anyone in Westeros would have. Alistair only smiled a little. When Jaime asked him why he didn't say anything, he grinned despite having no reason to. "I don't know how they do it in Westeros. It might be common as anything there. Plus, she sounds like quitea woman."
"You're right; she is."
The Queen reminded him of her, though Anora was softer. Storming the Arl's estate to free the Queen, Jaime never imagined he would end up here. In the months he'd been traveling with Alistair and their companions, he fell into the misconception that everything always, without fail, went smoothly. They were to be heroes. As a man born into a world where the heroes were no better than the villains and no less ordinary than the peasants, he'd foolishly allowed himself to rest his head and heart for the first time in so long. Having the wool torn from his eyes was refreshing, to say the very least.
"I have a... nicknamein Westeros," Jaime told him the next day as Alistair nursed the bruise atop his head from a fall. In frustration, one of the jailers pushed him from the rack; the man was beaten as one of the elderly torturers shouted that Alistair might have been killed. "My reputation's been marred, you might say. They call me Kingslayer."
Jaime explained everything to him, voice quiet as he leaned closer to him. The guards were growing restless with the two of them, and he didn't want to give them any reason to unlock that door before the morrow. Alistair listened, rapt, nodding at times to assure Jaime he was still listening. Again, he expected to be judged or hated or feared. He expected Alistair's opinion of him to change, to shift in disapproval for his actions.
But the honey-eyed heir only smiled a little. "Should I be worried, then? Rightful king and all."
In the end, the answer was yes.
While sitting in Fort Drakon, Jaime answered Alistair's question with a chuckled, "no," but situations change and they did.
He knew better than to think they could win the Landsmeet. He knew better than to think Alistair would make a good king, one who'd cut down the Blight and lead his country towards growth and prosperity. He also knew better than to suggest a marriage. He knew what happened to men not meant to be kings when they wed women born with crowns atop their pretty heads.
When Riordan stepped forward and explained the situation, everything was nearly said and done. Loghain awaited his sentence with the dull expression of a man who already knew his fate. Anora watched Jaime's face with her bright eyes, eyes that knew what every twitch of muscle meant. And Alistair was ready to accept the crown. No doubt he had some clever speech planned about how the Blight will likely kill him anyway.
But it wouldn't happen thus. Jaime nodded to Riordan and turned towards the general. "You'll go through the Joining, I think," he told him. It took no small measure of force to keep from focusing on the ripple that ran through the crowd. "We'll need the likes of you to cut down the archdemon."
Men who thought themselves dead breathed relief. Loghain stared at him with eyes of harder steel than the sword in his grip and curious. Anora remained silent and still, but he could see pink in her ears, pleasure spelled out in the flush of her skin. He could see Alistair out of the corner of his eye. He could hear the beginnings of protest, stammered out in surprise that cut Jaime deep.
Alistair ranted. He raged. In the months he'd known him, Jaime had never seen him so angry. He went on about the Wardens, about Duncan, about what the order meant to him and how inducting a man practically guilty of regicide was the last thing they ought to do.
With every word, Jaime grew more and more tense. He struggled to convince himself that Alistair was angry, and in his anger, he didn't think his words through.
When Alistair grimaced and shouted in frustration and stormed out of the room, Anora did not care for Jaime's feelings and attachments. She knew Alistair was the best friend he'd known since arriving in Ferelden, but she also knew that his friendship did not mean enough to him to hinder the good of the realm. She called for his execution. Jaime knew her reasons for it, and he knew better than to ask her to pardon him.
For so long, he'd thought things were easier here in Ferelden. They were black and white and pale gray while Westeros toiled in every facet of color. He was wrong. The tasks were simpler. The lives longer and the illnesses easily cured. The peasants were richer. The nobles were kinder. But in the end, the connection between him and Alistair had been just as deep as those he held dear back home.
He hadn't betrayed a king. He'd betrayed a friend. And while no one would judge him for it, while his own sword remained clean, the killing blow was more dearly felt.
When his blade sliced through the head of the archdemon, everything exploded into pure white.
During the time that stretched out before him, there was nothingness. His world was black and empty, and time had no marker. He did not dream. He didn't have control enough to even think. All he could do was breathe and drift and wait.
He woke to a familiar face and a fall of blonde hair over his chest. A slender hand rested on his face, a hand that moved when his cheek pressed upwards in a hint of a smile.
"You were missed," she whispered to him, her thumb stroking beneath his eye.
"Wasn't gone too long, was I?"
She found him, he discovered once his health was recovered and he was able to leave that damned room. Word reached Westeros of a far off land called Ferelden and a hero with pale blonde hair and green eyes called Lannister, and there were no lengths she would not push towards to get him back.
Weeks had passed since his body was discovered on top of Fort Drakon, but his waking thought was not of Morrigan or how she carried his child. His waking thought was of Cersei, and the biting memory of how dearly he missed her melted away once the Maester was gone and her lips brushed over his. While he might never be seen as a true hero, while he'd never been a man without his faults, he knew that he had someone willing to love him regardless.
And she loved him. She loved him for twenty-five long years, through thick and thin, good and ill. They saw three and a half more Winters together before his health began to decline, swiftly and without symptoms any Maester from far and wide could explain. Even Jaime had all but forgotten the Taint in his blood, shoved off to the very back of his memory and left unspoken between him and his sister.
Cersei knew. She knew that Jaime was going to die, and she knew his ills were brought on from his time in Ferelden. She couldn't explain what it was exactly, but she knew there would come a time - sooner, rather than later - when she would be forced to say goodbye.
When she sat in his bed with his head in her lap, his beautiful blonde hair came apart beneath her fingers. The strands were brittle, but the color remained, the color that matched hers. He did not eat. He sparred just outside the Red Keep, snow up to his shins like the rest of the men, but he did not always win. Whispers began circling King's Landing among the wind and snow and occasional sleet.
Everything was cold and ice was abundant and Cersei felt she might shatter into a thousand thousand pieces if she was not told the truth.
"Tell me. You have to tell me. How long?"
Jaime looked up at her. Cersei was standing there, her proud shoulders slouched due to more than the heavy red velvet draped over her shoulders. She looked so tired, but even at her age, he wagered he'd never seen a more beautiful woman. "Months," he muttered. He didn't want to deny the truth. "The Calling, the Wardens call it. If I was still in Ferelden, I might hear the archdemon calling me into the Deep Roads to die. As it is, I'm too far away. I can't hear a thing."
"Months," she echoed, crossing the chamber to sit at his side. She did not turn to face him. Instead, her hand reached to her right, fingers settling on top of his wrist. "What is it like? Is it painful?"
His answer drew her eyes to his face. "You suppose?"
"It might be painful to someone who hasn't felt worse." Someone who hadn't been tortured, who hadn't lost his hand, who hadn't gone through emotional pain as sharp and staying as all of his other wounds. "It's constant, so you get used to it. Nausea, headaches, sharp little pains in places you can't explain. The worst part's the dread when you realize what it is."
Cersei nodded her head, but lifted her hand only to curl her arm around his waist, chin resting on his shoulder. "It will get worse, won't it?" she asked. When he whispered yes, her eyes fell closed. "You'll want a quick and clean death. You always said you would not want to linger."
They were so close he could hear her swallow back her own tears. "Then I will go with you."
A fortnight later, on his command, she brought his suffering to a close.
And she went with him.