Author's Note: A series of vignettes exploring the relationship between Lysa Tully Arryn and her sister Catelyn. Catelyn is my most favorite character in the series, but Lysa gets a pretty bad deal, and I do enjoy playing with the crazies! Their relationship seemed so complex, and I wish we could have seen more.
And Lysa doesn't even have her own character filter!
Warnings: Some (consensual) sexual themes, spoilers through the end of A Storm of Swords.
Disclaimer: All characters, settings, and themes are the property of George R.R. Martin. This work is recreational and no profit is being made. The beginning lyrics are from 'So Cold' by Breaking Benjamin.
If you find your family don't you cry
In this land of make believe, dead and dry
You're so cold but you feel alive
Lay your hand on me one last time
They are children of spring, but the elder of the two plucks white flowers from the soft ground, poking them in her fiery plait. "I am Lady Winter," she crows joyfully, spreading her arms wide. The sunlight darting through the trees catches on her fair skin and bright hair and makes it shine, and she is a goddess of spring, she is the Maiden, she is no winter lady.
"It's summer," Lysa declares, and she flops to the ground, her skirts falling around her, and she pouts in bad temper, the child denied a treat that her luckier sister received. "And you're not betrothed yet. You're no lady."
"Soon," Catelyn says stubbornly. She sits next to her sister, never minding the stains of dirt and grass and the scolding they will receive from their septa for them later. "And the North has summer snows."
Lysa frowns again, her pretty face creasing in her distress. They had been listening outside the solar, breathless from a game of hide and seek with their brother and Petyr, and craned to hear their father's words through the thick oaken door. The North for little Cat, he had declared, the North and Winterfell and its heir Brandon Stark. A great match, he thought, and certainly Lord Rickard would agree when he suggested the betrothal be made.
They heard no talk of Lysa, of where she might go or the life she may lead, but she is young, she knows. Someday, she will have a great match of her own and she will be a great lady, too, perhaps even grander than Catelyn who is looking so pleased with herself today.
Her sister's fingers are gentle through her hair as she tugs out the knots and begins to make a matching plait for Lysa. "Don't be jealous."
"I'm not," Lysa insists as Catelyn weaves flowers through her hair as well. Not white, white is for Catelyn though white flowers are flowers still and Lysa hears none grow in the North. No, Lysa gets blue and red in her hair, the colors of a Tully, the colors of their house. "I'm not jealous." Cat's hands are gentle, and Lysa closes her eyes lazily at the touch.
"Maybe you'll marry Petyr," Cat says and although her back is to her sister, Lysa can hear her teasing smile. "Maybe Father means you to be Lady Littlefinger." The heat rushes to Lysa's cheeks at Cat's words, and she remembers playing at kissing in the godswood and how much she longs for Petyr to tell Cat that he does not want her to play, anymore. That he only wants to play that game with Lysa.
She knows it will never be so, she knows by the way Petyr looks at Catelyn that he would never deny her anything. She will never be his Lady, Lady Littlefinger, and really, that wouldn't be a fit match anyway, compared to the Lady of the North.
She grasps a handful of the ground, always slightly muddy from the banks of the nearby rivers, smushing it into Cat's gown and laughing at Cat's yell of dismay and her own grasp for ammunition. "Take it back!" Lysa demands, and she is laughing, and then Cat is laughing, the petals in her hair falling at her feet, casualties of the newly begun war.
Winter seems very far away, in a summer castle.
Jaime Lannister is the most handsome man she has ever seen in her life, and her lord father puts him next to Lysa at every meal, and Cat whispers to her that he is hoping for a match. The butterflies she feels when she looks at Petyr are nothing compared to the tumbles her stomach performs when she sits next to the golden squire, and she dreams of being his wife. He is brave and dreams of being a grand soldier, and Casterly Rock is no seat to sneer at, and Lysa is breathless with excitement at the thought.
She should have had more faith, she should have known her father would make as great of a match for her as he had for Catelyn, and while Brandon Stark is handsome he is certainly no Jaime, and Lysa can barely speak around the lump in her throat. Her fingers tremble and she watches them, wishing for them to lie calm. I must learn to be calm when we are wed, she thinks, and her hands tremble all the more.
"Talk to him," Catelyn hisses to her, "dance with him." But she cannot form the words, and so she settles for laughing at what he says, and sitting prettily – she does sit very prettily, after all.
She listens to her uncle's battle stories for the hundredth time, and imagines what her children with Jaime might look like. She thinks they will have hair like the sunrise, Tully red and Lannister gold, and they will be beautiful and hers.
Lysa cannot speak to him, so Catelyn does, and she partners Jaime in the dance while Lysa partners Petyr, but for once her thoughts are far from him. They will be golden children, she thinks, and she waits for the announcement to be made in giddy delight.
The announcement never comes, Jaime is kind but does not touch her hand, and he casually inquires Lysa's father about her sister's hand, instead. Of course it is already promised, and Jaime accepts this and rides away without a second thought and without more than a cordial goodbye, and Lysa watches the banners and her hopes and golden children disappear from her window.
"He did not like me," Lysa snaps bitterly when her maid brushes her hair and inquires as to how the evening went. "He would have rather had Catelyn." As they would all, she adds in her mind, and it makes her sick.
They are children of summer, and children no more, truly. Lysa is not sure when it happened, but she sees it in the sway of Cat's hips in the dance, and the way that Petyr watches her. She can taste it in the sweetness of the wine on her lips, in the tingle that starts in her lips and spreads through her entire body and leaves a pleased hum between her legs as she, in her turn, dances with Petyr and feels his body close.
Cat spins in dizzy circles, with their brother, with Petyr, and Petyr again, and Lysa frowns at the joy on his face when he puts his hand on her waist. She is precious to him, precious to so many, precious to Lysa too but in a way that makes her want to tear out all of Cat's hair half the time.
My little lady of the castle, their father calls her fondly, and he loves Lysa, too, she knows, but she is not his little lady. And she will not be Lady Lannister nor Lady Stark nor Lady Winter, and there is nothing and no one for Lysa. She is no one's lady.
She could be, she thinks, she hopes, as she sneaks up into Petyr's bedchamber that night, she could be his, his lady, his love. He had reached for Catelyn downstairs for a kiss, but she can make him love her, with her hands and her lips and her body yielding to his. She drowns in his eyes and is reborn in his mouth, demanding on hers, and it hurts but the pain brings her alive when he is inside her, his breath hot and damp on her neck. He thrusts against her and she falls into him.
They are not playing anymore, there will be no whispered confessions and comparisons with Catelyn in her chambers that night. Tonight, he is hers and she is his and Lysa is the only woman in the world, the only Tully girl in the world, just as she so often wished it to be.
He whispers that he loves her against her neck when he is spent and there is blood and his seed drying on her thigh, and the room smells musty and sweet and she can still taste the wine on his breath. "I love you," he says, and he calls her Cat.
It twists like a dagger to her stomach at first, but it recedes to a dull ache like the ache between her legs after the surprise passes. It pains her, but she is his now, and she will be what he needs. She can be Cat for him. She can be anyone and anything for him.
He rests his head upon her breast and she twines her fingers through dark hair. "And I love you," she murmurs against his temple, and holds the words to her heart. Lady Littlefinger, she thinks, perhaps, and perhaps someday it will be her name on his lips.
She sneaks into Catelyn's chambers as though they are children still and crawls into bed next to her sister, her arm going around her waist and her cheek pressing to her auburn hair. Tully hair, though from tomorrow forth neither will bear the Tully name.
Their feet tangle together beneath the sheets, and Lysa remembers so many similar nights full of whispered, breathless secrets, as though saying the words quietly would keep them safe. Her heart is full of secrets, now, heavier and darker than those past shared, and sometimes they weigh so heavily Lysa thinks they will consume her heart and leave her bare. She thinks of Petyr far away at his seat, far from the familiar rivers that had become his home, far from her.
Cat thinks Petyr is gone in due to that stupid duel with Brandon Stark, but she is wrong. Sometimes Lysa wishes to tell her that she doesn't matter half as much as she thinks she does, but most of the time she does not think of that time at all, and does not question why Petyr would visit her bedchamber at night and then duel for Catelyn's hand.
It is easier, at times, not to think.
"I don't want to marry him," she whispers, her voice thick with grief, into Cat's hair. She wishes she were brave like a lion, like handsome Jaime Lannister, so that no one could make her do anything, or marry anyone, or drink anything. Her womb and bones ache with the loss, and she clings.
"Eddard says Lord Jon was as a second father to him," Catelyn says softly, her voice uncertain. "I am sure he will be kind." Kindness isn't Lysa's fear, she could fight unkindness with teeth and nails and sharp words, and at least maybe that would incite some passion.
At least it would be some other feeling other than the dread that had rolled through her stomach when she had laid eyes on her husband to be for the first time, hairless and almost toothless and with an odd smell, and tried to imagine bedding him. I shall pretend it is Petyr, she resolves, wiping her tear tracks against Cat's nightclothes. I shall pretend it is my love.
"And you will be a great lady," Catelyn continues quietly. "All of the Vale, and the great seat on the Eyrie." She is right, Lysa will be as great of a lady as Catelyn in the North, but she does not care anymore.
She shudders with another sob, tucking her knees into Cat's. "He's so old. At least your husband isn't older than Father and…" she breaks off when Cat gives a half-choked sob at that, and it only makes Lysa weep harder, for Cat never cries, she is the strong one, but she is hurting, too. Cat has lost something, too, and at that moment Lysa feels closer to her golden sister than she ever has. Cat cannot know what Lysa has lost, cannot know Lysa's hurt, but Catelyn is hurting still. "Oh, Cat, I'm sorry…"
Catelyn rolls over so that she can embrace her sister as well, her cheek pressing to the top of Lysa's head, and they cry together, quietly, for tomorrow there can be no more tears. Tomorrow they will do their duty.
They look like a family, Lysa thinks, and she watches them as though through a pane of glass, for she is not part of that family. Eddard Stark laughs with her husband, his eyes crinkled in such a way that she would not have thought possible, remembering his solemn face on the day both Tully girls were wed. Catelyn listens attentively; she is part of the family now, no longer would she lay and weep with Lysa for a life lost.
Lord Jon was as a father, Lysa remembers Catelyn's words, and what does that make her, she wonders bitterly.
Her sister's skin is winter pale now, and Lysa wonders if she misses the sun. Still, she looks radiant and lovely with her hair loose in the northern style, and is pregnant again, the soft curve just starting to show on her slender frame.
Lysa's own stomach is still swollen from her last babe, another babe that did not live, another fruitless attempt, another lost child. More disappointment on her lord husband's face, more tears to feed her pillow as she sleeps alone, longing for what was there and is now gone forever. Her father accursed her with poison tea, her lord husband is elderly and his seed is weak, and she will never have a child of her own.
She knows her maids whisper, whisper about Cat's big strong boy, the two pretty girls and now another child on the way, whisper and wonder what is wrong with her, that she should only bear their beloved Lord Arryn dead babes. She wants to shriek and scratch at their eyes that it is not her, it is not her fault, there is nothing wrong with Lysa.
Stark rests his hand on top of her sister's, their fingers intertwining over the curve of Catelyn's belly, and at the break in conversation he glances away from Lysa's husband to look at his wife with soft eyes. She calls him Ned and he calls her Cat, and it makes Lysa ill.
He loves her, she realizes with a start, and it makes her angry because of course he does. Of course he loves Catelyn, as they all do, as Petyr did and still does. Of course she is happy in her winter castle, kept warm by furs and hot springs and the love of her husband and the adoration of little children underfoot, and it was so much easier in King's Landing for Lysa to love Cat, when Lysa knew she was far away and she had imagined her so unhappy.
Say hello to my winter lady, Petyr had told her casually, so casually she could almost make herself believe that he did not long for her anymore. I do hope she is not too cold so far up there.
And she had pitied Catelyn, at that moment, Lysa in her summer castle, second only to the queen and new little princess as the greatest lady at the court. How sad and lonely she must be, she had thought and she had promised herself that she would be her sweet sister, her sweet confidante the way she had been when they were both young.
Maybe this babe will kill her, she thinks and for a wild malicious moment she wishes it. She wishes Catelyn dead, and the child she carries with her, and all her little ones, and her lord husband too for good measure. Lysa would bury her under the snow like the winter lady she proclaimed to be so many years ago in a field of sunshine. I hope she dies, and I hope it hurts.
She weeps later at her wickedness, keeping quiet so Lord Jon will not hear in his adjoining chambers, though she does not think he would come even if he did hear her cries. She cannot sleep but dreams awake, dreams that her thoughts alone struck Catelyn dead, and she shivers. She thinks of going to Catelyn's bedchambers, just to be certain, just to be sure that she has not laid a curse on her only sister, and to perhaps curl up to her back the way she would when they were young. But she does not know where Cat's chambers are in this monstrous winding castle, and does not know if she beds alone, and so she holds a vigil alone.
She comes down the next morning in trepidation, and there is Catelyn, still fair, still glowing and happy and healthy, and Lysa is relieved, so relieved she tells herself, and not disappointed at all.
They sit at breakfast, and so it is as it ever was, Catelyn drinks from a golden chalice and Lysa swallows misery and spite.
Ravens bring her the news that Catelyn is dead, and Lysa tears and scatters the note to the seven winds high on the Eyrie. They fall like so many snowflakes, Cat's summer snows on her winter castle. Catelyn is dead and her children are dead and her husband is dead, and it is as Lysa says.
I am the only Tully girl in the world, she thinks, and it is a satisfaction and pleasure as soothing as Petyr's touch on her cheek, and a pain that cuts as deep through her gut as the poison in her lord husband's cup. Catelyn is dead, that winter lady who tried to steal her love, who stole the babes meant to be hers, who stole the happiness that so eluded Lysa, who was so beloved by her husband and their father and their uncle and her children and their brother and Petyr, Petyr most of all. Catelyn is dead, her sister, who plaited Lysa's hair with soft fingers and wove flowers through it, who smelt of the river and the godswood out their window, who let Lysa curl up in bed with her to chase the nightmares away, who laughed and ran and danced and lived.
Catelyn is dead, and Lysa is safe and warm, tucked away high in the sky with her baby, and the winter bite had been cold for Catelyn Stark.
Catelyn is dead, but she comes again, so young and fair and she calls herself Sansa now, and Petyr loves her still, and plays at kissing the way they would when they were young, and he is hers but Lysa can feel him slipping away.
Catelyn is dead, but Lysa must kill her again, must kill her shade and her memory and be rid of her forever, must kill her in Petyr's heart and in Lysa's castle, and she pushes, and pushes, and pushes, and she holds to Petyr and her heart breaks. I will never be rid of her, she thinks. Catelyn is dead and I will never be free of her.
Catelyn is dead, and Lysa falls.
Hope you enjoyed – this went through several changes and rewrites! There may be a second edition, as there were a lot of vignette ideas I didn't explore. Please leave a review and make my day!