He's more than a little drunk by the time he arrives in the great hall of Winterfell, pushing his way past the revelers, most of which don't bother to notice him. He can feel the eyes of those who do, serving wenches and small children who've never seen anything like him before, only heard the stories of Tyrion the Imp, of house Lannister, the Queen's dwarf brother. He makes his way to the great table and hoists himself up on the bench next to his brother Jaime, who smiles and claps a hand on his back hard enough to almost make him lose his balance.
As cold as it is at Winterfell, inside the hall it is damnably hot, and too loud with all the shouts and laughter mingled with whatever lazy plucking of the lute they deign to call music up in the North, but there's food, and Tyrion is hungry. He watches the servant fill his plate with growing eagerness.
"You seem to be late, brother," Jaime says, grinning at him. "The feast began hours ago."
"And yet there's still plenty of food," Tyrion replies, taking a generous bite out of a roast leg of fowl and reaching for the flagon of ale.
He knows that his brother is perfectly aware of where he's been. He tries not to think mournfully of the girl he'd left, although the prospect of his empty bed within Winterfell's walls doesn't exactly cheer him. No one had seemed to notice his absence, any more than they noticed him taking his place at the table. Not that he expected they would. No one except Jaime.
"You do always have a way of appreciating the finer things," Jaime says, with humor, although Tyrion senses that his brother is mildly irritated at being left to feast with the Starks without him. Cersei sits several feet away, at the head of the table next to Robert and Ned Stark. Since they'd left King's Landing, Tyrion had watched the looks that had passed between his brother and sister, looks that said much more than their mouths ever did.
Tyrion gazes about the great, big room with its rows of tables, and the feasters laughing and eating and drinking and dancing with one another. A group of children runs past, and Tyrion sees Tommen among the two youngest Stark boys, and the younger girl, who seemed to be the rowdiest of the bunch despite having to lift up her skirts to avoid tripping over them. Arya Stark, he remembers. If she weren't wearing a dress, Tyrion might have taken her for a skinny boy despite her hair in braids.
When the children pass near the King's table, Lord Eddard plucks his youngest son up off the floor and in one movement sets the boy on his knee. The child, who isn't more than five or six years, giggles and squirms in his father's arms, his high child's voice echoing in the cavernous hall. Tyrion can't help but smile at that. He had taken Eddard Stark for a rather stern type. The man had smiled enough, especially with Robert by his shoulder to encourage him. The King roared with laughter at his own jests and spilled wine on his surcoat, and Lord Eddard seemed to take it all with good humor. Yet Tyrion thought he could see it in the eyes. The North was in him. These were cold men, and hard, and Eddard Stark was no exception.
Yet the Lord of Winterfell was smiling now, truly smiling, as he held his son in his arms, his laughter mixing with the child's high-pitched squeals.
It's in the small moments like these, Tyrion reflects, that you can know the measure of a man. Briefly, Tyrion wonders what it would be like to have a father who would smile and laugh, who would look down with love, but the thought makes him feel foolish and he shoves it away. He finds himself thinking of Jon Snow, the bastard, standing outside with a sword in his hand, fighting men made of straw and sacking in the dark.
Tyrion sighs, and smiles, and reaches again for his cup of ale.