Title: The Lady of Casterly Rock
Summary: He resented his little wife at first, but increasingly, she has his attention.
Author's Note: Winner of best long fic in the Hear Me Ship Contest at gameofships.
I'm thinking of making this a two part fic, where this is part one. Yea or Nay?
The Lady of Casterly Rock
Jaime resented her at first. Resented being forced to marry her, being removed from the Kingsguard, being packed off to Casterly Rock, and being separated from his sister, and although none of it was her fault, she was a convenient target for his bitterness. He even resented how much the Stark girl openly despised him on the day of their wedding, when she wouldn't meet his gaze and vomited Dornish Red alongside the bed they shared before the wedding revelers hadn't even shut the door. Sansa didn't want to be his wife, and it made him want to hiss at her that he didn't want her either. That she was nothing to him and nothing compared to Cersei.
He didn't want her, and he refused to touch her, their marriage going unconsummated. His brother's fearsome scowls prior to the bedding were completely unnecessary. A blade to his palm on their wedding night and sharing her bed with his back to her a couple of times each turn of the moon once they were safely ensconced in his birthplace were all it took to keep his father from asking too many questions. As the empty moons dragged by, he barely even spoke a word to her, let alone touched her.
He was Cersei's and he would only ever be Cersei's, whether he was married or no. Because without the Kingsguard, without his sword hand what was he? Who was he? Being forced to marry this girl had taken away his identity, except that he was Cersei's and she was his.
Sansa Stark was a very poor replacement for a lion.
The first time someone—a white haired, hunch backed servant, who had served his family long before Jaime came into the world gripping his twin's foot—said to him that his neglected, little wife reminded her of his lady mother, he smiled his most winning smile and said, "She's lovely, Lady Lannister. Isn't she?" He hoped Sansa heard him say it too, for he knew how she hated the title.
But that was only the first time. Suddenly it seemed like everyone saw the similarity, and he was forced to take notice. Maybe it was her careful courtesies. Maybe it was her beauty, for though her hair was red and her eyes blue, she was of a similar height as Cersei at that age and not of a dissimilar shape—slender and graceful and beginning to look more like a woman. In a certain light, when he'd had too much sour wine and she sat in the dimming candlelight, waiting to be dismissed from table like a dutiful child, he couldn't help but look at her and admire her.
Or maybe it was her kindness. When Cersei sent Tommen to foster at Casterly Rock—following a raven with instructions to harden him up as best he could, so the boy wouldn't embarrass his brother, the king—the little boy sniveled and moped upon his arrival, and it was Sansa who comforted him. It was Sansa who thought to take him to the stables and show him the kittens that had been born a few weeks earlier, a solution that immediately dried his tears. She had no reason to be kind to his nephew, his son, or any member of the Lannister family, but she was, and after a few days, Tommen was smiling again, having named all of the kittens, and stuffing his already pudgy cheeks with lemoncakes.
No one would ever think to describe Cersei as kind, but his lady mother, his lady mother had been kind. He doesn't often think of his mother, but he remembers her well enough—her gentle voice, the feel of her hand in his boyish curls—and he remembers her very fondly. Joanna Lannister was kind and beautiful and sharp.
Cersei said Sansa was stupid. The morning of his farce of a wedding, he had stormed into Cersei's solar, and she'd laughed at him as he tore her shift, laughed at the stupid little wife he was being forced to marry. But he sees now that Sansa isn't stupid at all. As he looks around Casterly Rock, he realizes that his little wife quietly took over the running of this considerable household, made all the servants her allies, and avoided drawing his attention to any of it.
But increasingly, she has his attention.
He lounges against the wall, his arms crossed over his chest, when she steps outside of Tommen's bedchamber, pulling the door shut quietly behind her with her eyes focused on the floor. The light of the flickering torch on the wall lights her hair, so it is as bright as copper, and it falls over her face, a curtain shielding her eyes from him.
He startles her—he can tell by the jump of her shoulders—when he drawls, "Have I reason to be jealous?"
She blinks rapidly, looking up at him, and her vapid, "Ser?" would confirm Cersei's assessment of the girl's intelligence or lack thereof if he wasn't sure that it was an act.
He pushes off the wall, stalking towards her, as he nods at Tommen's door.
"You're very fond of the little prince. You spend almost all the hours of the day with him."
Her response is one of her careful little phrases, practiced for the benefit of Joffrey, Cersei, or whoever else happens to be listening. "I love Prince Tommen."
He raises his brows and gives her a little smirk. "I don't expect you love him, but you've taken prodigious care of him, since he arrived, which is very…gracious of you."
She pauses, and he can almost feel her weighing her words, when she finally says, "He's lonely."
Not for his mother, surely. Cersei barely pays him any mind, all of her focus on Joffrey and the power she longs to seize for herself. His beautiful sister despises their brother, but both of his siblings crave power and control, and in this one thing Jaime cannot play mirror. He would give up everything, even his name, for a place in this world where he could just be alone with his twin. Cersei calls these notions foolish, but she might not think them so farfetched if her affections were not so divided. He shares her with her ambitions.
He suspects Sansa thinks nothing of power. He suspects her wants are of a different sort.
"You understand that, don't you? You must be lonely too."
"I'm very happy, ser," she responds without inflection.
"Oh, yes. I can see that. The picture of youthful joy," he replies, reaching up to brush her hair back.
She flinches at his touch, and he frowns. "Have I ever hurt you?"
"No, ser. You've been very good."
He laughs at that, his laugh echoing in the stony corridor, because though he hasn't gone out of his way to make her miserable, he's also done nothing that might be considered good. Other than leaving her alone, he supposes. So he sends her to bed, and he doesn't join her, because as she walks down the corridor, he wonders why he's never at least kissed her, and that thought keeps him rooted to the floor as she disappears into the dark.
He doesn't make any real attempt to make a man of Tommen if that was Cersei's intention. The boy has no acuity for shedding blood, his disposition clearly more suited to being his little wife's companion than a real knight, one not from the songs, but one who actually kills with his sword, and that is really the only talent Jaime could share with him. But he is a good boy. His sweetness might seem a regretful weakness to Cersei, but as Jaime spends more time with Tommen, he finds that Tommen is a child he can be proud of. It is almost baffling that he and Cersei could have created such genuine goodness in this world.
He spends his days stretched out lazily, while Tommen and Sansa chatter, while Tommen entertains kittens, or while Sansa sings quietly—like his mother, he remembers his mother's singing when she came to him at night and sat on the edge of his bed—and he comes to notice more of his wife's wholly unexpected qualities. He is ready to find fault, but there is very little that is not praiseworthy about Sansa, and the more she mothers Tommen, the more he finds his eye drawn to her. Sansa, it seems, would be a very fine mother. Indeed, his father is beginning to send one raven after another to Casterly Rock, questioning why after Sansa has seen yet another name day pass, she is not yet thick with child.
Tommen has fled the room, chasing after a cat with a ridiculous name Jaime refuses to speak aloud, and he is left alone with the little Stark interloper. Jaime lounges with shoulders cocked, popping one red grape after another in his mouth, watching Sansa, who at least pretends to be engrossed by her embroidery.
"Come have some grapes, my lady," he says, clearing his throat.
She does not jump at his voice as she once did, and he takes this to mean that she is at least more familiar with his company, since Tommen's arrival draws them together more frequently. Nevertheless, he can see that she wishes she had some pretty excuse at hand so as to avoid his offer.
"They're veryripe," he says raising his brows over a feline grin and holding one out to her as she stands embroidery in hand and approaches slowly. When she stops before him and makes no move to take the proffered grape from him, he asks, "Would you have me feed it to you then?"
His taunt is enough to have her perch alongside him on the lounging sofa, his position on which forces her to bump his thigh with her own though she clearly does her best to avoid it. She takes both the grape and one small bunch from his hands without raising her eyes to him.
"Thank you, ser."
"Good, no?" he asks, as he watches her take a grape in her mouth.
It's fascinating to watch her, because he can see that she is completely unaware of her appeal. There is no intention to seduce, to enchant, no calculation at all as her fingers just curl past her pink lips and her tongue darts out for the juice of the grapes that clings to them afterward. He thinks for a moment what it might be like to actually feed her those grapes.
She covers her mouth with her hand, nodding as she swallows. "Very good. Thank you."
He's never seen to her comfort in the slightest, but he does know how to be chivalrous or at least to appear to be so. He frowns at himself: little gestures don't cost much.
"If I was to procure for you your favorite treat, your favorite thing to eat, what would it be?"
She examines a grape, letting it rock in the palm of her hand. "You don't have to do that, ser."
He rolls his eyes at her, frustrated that all of her empty responses lead nowhere. "No, I most certainly don't. Nor have I. But if I was struck by the whim to do something for you, what would it be?"
"Lemoncakes," she says, looking up through her fair lashes at him.
"Ah, lemoncakes. You have a taste for sweet things then. That would be something of a task: lemons are getting harder to come by now." It is as her house motto says, winter is coming. "But you had them made for Tommen."
She shrugs slightly, as she says, "I thought he might like them."
"Well, your efforts certainly were not wasted. You have without question cheered the little prince up." He lets his eyes rake over her, making no attempt to hide his appraisal, as he says, "You have a natural way with him. You'd be a good mother, wouldn't you?"
He only just sees how she flushes brightly before her head tilts away from him, as if he's said something obscene.
"You shock very easily. I suppose you think that was an invitation."
"I don't think anything at all," she whispers.
Except, Jaime knows that isn't true. Increasingly he thinks there's a great deal going on behind Sansa's icy blue eyes, and he owns he's curious about her thoughts. About her thoughts on everything, but especially her thoughts on him.
When Joffrey dies at his wedding banquet, Jaime curiously feels nothing as the Kingsguard rushes in and Cersei's screams fill the hall. Perhaps if he had been allowed to hold him. Perhaps if he had been allowed to be alone with him, the way he has been with Tommen these past few moons. As the hours pass, he has to keep reminding himself, my son is dead, though the reminder does little to evoke any feeling in him. Cersei sobs and tears at her hair, and he can't even attempt to comfort her, because she won't receive him.
It might be the excuse he made on Sansa's behalf—Lady Lannister is indisposed and cannot travel—that keeps her door closed to him. Tommen and the Lord and Lady Lannister were required for the wedding festivities, but Sansa stopped eating three days before it was time to depart for King's Landing, and finally, when he asked her in exasperation why she sat dumbly at table, she announced that she would rather die than return to King's Landing. She looked as if she was waiting for him to strike her, but Jaime was merely relieved, not displeased.
"You need only to have said something, Sansa. You'll stay here." With a false pregnancy.
How is he to tell Cersei that it was only ruse and that he still only belongs to her, however, when she will not receive him?
Of course, her grief cannot overwhelm her forever. There is a new little king now, who will require guidance, and Jaime watches as the Tyrells scramble to dig their claws into the round eyed, soft, little boy. Surely Cersei will awaken to the thorny threat at the door soon enough and emerge from her chamber the queen he knows her to be.
Jaime does not stay to see whether that is the case, however. When he leaves, Cersei still only concerns herself with the death of Joffrey, seeing enemies and murderers all around her, and he is not the only Lannister to depart in the wake of her misery. Tyrion, seeing that their sister's paranoid gaze is likely to fall upon him soon, comes to Jaime to tell him his plan to flee King's Landing. His brother's parting words, however, include other information as well. Information about Cersei.
Lancel. Osmund Kettleblack. Moonboy.
And now who is he, if he is not Cersei's?
He might have demanded to see her, might have beaten down her door, but in his rage, in his blinding fury, he remembers his little wife at home, and he thinks that a pressing need to return home to her is what Cersei would hate most of all. So, he leaves the next morning, only bidding goodbye to Tommen, and he rides hard for Casterly Rock.
When he finally arrives, he finds the household already in their beds. A sleepy stable boy assists him with his horse, and then Jaime strides through an empty, echoing castle, making for his wife's chambers, which he knows unlike Cersei's will not be locked to him. Weary and wet to the skin from his travels, he begins to shed his clothing before he even reaches her door. It is her practice to sleep with the window open, and it will be cool in her bedchamber. He'll welcome the coolness, he thinks, as he wrenches open her door with no attempt not to wrest her from her slumbers.
Her little form pops up in the bed, a tangle of red hair and a pale face clear in the moonlight, but he only sees it for a moment before he's blinded by his own tunic, which he pulls over his head before bending down to yank his boots off.
She silently moves to the side of the bed, making room for him, though he doubts she truly wants him here, and she averts her gaze when he undoes the laces on his breeches and steps free of them. He isn't sure what he intended, coming to her room like this, yet when he climbs in beside her and she smells as if she freshly bathed before going to sleep, he pulls her into his chest and just breathes her in. She's stiff in his arms at first, but as he continues to hold her and makes no move to do anything else, she rests her head on his shoulder.
Lonely: Sansa is lonely. He was right, but he doesn't take much pleasure in the fact that she'll even settle for him, an enemy of her house, so long as he does not seem like to hurt her, so long as it means she isn't alone.
"You showed no small sign of wisdom, skipping the festivities," he finally says flatly, as he smoothes her mussed hair with his good hand.
"I'm so very sorry," she begins to stutter softly, but he pulls back, taking her chin in hand.
"How about you stop lying to me? Hmm?" He moves her chin slightly, getting her to nod. "I'd rather my little wife didn't lie to me. You're not sorry Joffrey is dead. He was beastly to you, Tyrion tells me."
Her nostrils flare, as she says, "I'm sorry for you, ser."
"Ah, yes. The dear uncle's loss," he says, dropping her chin and flopping down into the bed.
She remains sitting upright, looking down on him. Her shift is a little too big on her and hangs off one shoulder, exposing a lovely expanse of smooth skin he could easily mark with his teeth and mouth, but it wouldn't make her his. Anymore than Cersei, who he thought was his other half, is apparently his.
"They say…" she begins, but trails off.
"Yes, they say what?"
She shifts on her knees, a symptom of seeming nervousness, and then whispers, "That you're not his uncle."
"You mustn't listen to rumor mongering," he sighs, and closes his eyes to signal that they are done with this conversation.
He can feel her move alongside him, her head meeting the pillow softly.
"I mustn't lie to you, but you may lie to me as you please?"
She's brave. Foolishly brave, for another man might crack her across the face for her pluck, but foolish bravery seems a very Stark characteristic.
"I didn't lie," he says, his eyes still closed. "Strictly speaking, I was being evasive. Why do you ask? Do you intend to question the succession or does it just repulse you to think of it?"
"No," she says, speaking more loudly. "It doesn't repulse me. I'd rather be with Robb than with you."
At that Jaime laughs. She has spirit. Add that to the list of qualities he finds appealing in his wife, and he's lonely too, so he doesn't sleep with his back to her. On this occasion, he rolls on his side, pulls her towards him, and wraps his arm about her waist. He falls asleep to the sound of her breathing.
He still hasn't really touched her, still hasn't kissed her, but he finds his way into her bed more often than not. She's a distraction from his troubled thoughts, which drift traitorously to Cersei whenever he is alone. Everything he hears from King's Landing seems to confirm the worst that he suspects about her, and while he would have wanted to save his twin once, he now wonders if that is even possible. Or whether he would be better off trying his best to fulfill his vow to Catelyn Stark instead. Lady Stark no doubt despises that he wed her daughter, but he has protected Sansa in a way. She is safer here in Casterly Rock than she was under Cersei and Joffrey's glare, and after the war is over and winter is passed, he might take her to her frozen North, where he suspects she would be happier, even with him. Such a task could define him once more, could give him purpose.
If only it wasn't so damnably cold in the North. Nearly as cold as her bedchamber with the bloody window open at night.
The thing about sharing a bed with someone is that there is an unintended closeness that develops. Unplanned, exposed moments that let you know some better who it is that lies beside you.
She never cries despite the news that Robb Stark's lust has resulted in his death and her mother's. She is a mask of ivory during the day, too proud to give in to outward signs of the wretchedness that must gnaw at her, but she cannot be guarded at night. He shakes her awake one night, when she cries and whimpers and thrashes, lost in a dream, her arm crashing into his chest, her small hand a tightly clenched fist. Her eyes fly open, wide with fear after two shakes, and he speaks her name, firmly so that she might know where she is. Her eyes flutter shut and tears roll down her cheeks, flushed pink from her nightmare.
It might have been the sour wine he drank that night—too much by half—which muddles his brain. But when he wakes to her cries only hours after he climbed into her bed, he finds himself kissing her. A kiss to each eyelid, a kiss to her brow, and as she slips her trembling arms around his neck, he places a kiss on her cheek. His thumb traces her lower lip, dragging at it slightly, and still she doesn't turn away. Eyes closed, she lies beneath him, her breathing evened out, her lips slightly parted, and he wants to kiss her. While he's wanted to before—even if just to try it, a new temptation—now he can't think of why he shouldn't.
It's only when his lips meet hers and they don't respond the way he expects that it occurs to him that she's most probably never been kissed by a man. It isn't that she doesn't respond in kind, but every movement of her lips is a half beat behind his—unpracticed and a little unsure, as if she is trying to mimic him. Married more than a name day's turn and never kissed, he thinks, and his hand follows the line of her jaw until his fingers slips into her hair. He sucks at her lip, tugging gently, and her hands clutch tighter about his neck. He likes the idea of being the only one. He hasn't had the luxury of being the only one in Cersei's life in years and it's soothing to think of this girl, who everyone in his household seems to admire, to compare to his own beloved lady mother, as belonging to him in some small way. He's never even imagined to think of her as such.
But he is her husband. Strange as it is to think of himself as such. It is not the role he is accustomed to casting himself in—Tywin Lannister's son, Cersei Lannister's twin, heir to Casterly Rock, knight of the Kingsguard, or the Kingslayer have all been parts he has played. But he thinks he might not mind overly much being Sansa's lord husband. He could even find some enjoyment in it if this kiss is anything to go on.
He stops before he loses his head entirely or before the twinge of arousal becomes hardened desire. He isn't quite ready for what that would mean. Though he wants to press his tongue into her mouth, to feel the drag of it against hers, he pulls back, waits for her eyes to open and then places another kiss on her brow.
"Shall I get you some wine?" he asks, rolling off of her.
"No." She catches his arm before he can rise from the bed, preventing him from leaving her. "No, thank you."
He stretches and scratches at his stomach, smiling to himself as her eyes dart to him and away. She is not entirely untouchable or unreachable, and seeking to build on that, he asks her of what she dreamt, but she shakes her head.
"I don't remember."
He doesn't believe her, but now doesn't seem the time to point that out.
Considering for a moment, she finally says, "Did you have anything to do with what happened?"
She doesn't need to explain any further for him to understand. It was grisly what happened to the Starks. Sansa knows they are dead, but he has attempted to shield her from the details of their deaths. If he ever finds that someone took it into their heads to rectify her ignorance, he will see fit to relieve them of their wagging tongues.
"No, Sansa. I had nothing to do with it and I knew nothing of it." He feels as if he lies, however, when a look of relief comes over her, and he finds himself confessing, "I would have tried to kill your brother though, if I had met him on the battlefield." Just like he tried to kill her little brother, the one who climbed too high.
He's torn between being disappointed that she expects as much from him and relieved that she is not clinging to romantic notions that would make her think any different about the honorless Kingslayer. It will cause her less pain in the future if she does not expect heroes in life, and yet, there is a part of him that wishes he could be that for her.
"I swear to you that I won't do harm to your family." What goes unspoken is that there is precious little left of her family. A bastard brother freezing at the Wall and that is all. So, his vow costs very little. He holds up his golden hand. "Although, the chances of my killing anyone are not great anymore."
"It's a blessing then," she says, reaching out to brush his lifeless hand with her own.
He smirks. "I'm glad it pleases you."
He is mesmerized by the movement of her fingers, which trace his permanently curved fingers one by one until she reaches the pinky and her hand drops onto her middle. Cersei ignores his hand or scowls in repugnance at it in turn. He's not sure what to make of her attentions, but they are not what his twin's would be.
"Is Tommen all right, do you think? I don't like to think of him in King's Landing."
That her mind goes to Tommen on the heels of their discussion does not escape him. If she thinks of Tommen alongside her family, maybe she is becoming used to thinking of herself as a Lannister. Or perhaps it is just her instinct to mother, to protect those that need protecting.
Tommen certainly needs protection. Jaime isn't sure that the new king is properly protected, because Cersei won't allow him near. With Stannis still papering the land with the rumors of Cersei's children's bastard origins, she thinks it a dangerous thing that Tommen came to be so fond of his uncle, that Jaime's fostering Tommen was a mistake.
"But, I wouldn't worry about the king," he drawls. "He has Loras Tyrell to guard him."
He frowns at the blush that arises on Sansa's chest and creeps up her neck before she curls onto her side. His little wife is enraptured with the Tyrell boy as well. That Tommen is so very attached to Loras is bad enough. There is nothing he can do about Tommen's affections, but he stretches out alongside Sansa and wraps an arm around her middle, pulling her firmly against his chest, so that she mightn't forget who it is she is married to.
"I miss Tommen," she murmurs. At that, he thinks once more of how sweet she was with Tommen and his irritation dwindles. "But, I don't want to go back to King's Landing. Ever."
Cersei would brave any place, no matter how terrible, for her children. Cersei is a lioness, and if she fails her children in some regards, no one can accuse her of not fighting for them. But then, Sansa is not truly Tommen's mother. She might be as fierce—a little shewolf—with her own babe.
"I know," he says, kissing her shoulder. Tommen is to marry Margaery Tyrell, and he will have to come up with another explanation for keeping Sansa at Casterly Rock after his last excuse never came to fruition. "I told…or rather, implied that you were with child the last time we were invited to a royal wedding."
She stiffens in his grasp, and he rubs his nose along the slope of her neck and places a kiss behind her ear.
"That was several moons ago," she rasps.
"Well I know it. And still your figure shows no signs."
It might be cruel to say it—he knows what it must sound like to her, a threat even—but after a few minutes more of his unrushed ministrations, she relaxes once more.
It's a shame, he thinks, that it wasn't real. Sansa is the sort of girl who shouldbe a mother.
It seems too insignificant a thing to give Sansa the lemoncakes she named as her favorite, when she can have them made for herself whenever she likes, but it has not slipped Jaime's mind that he intended to give something to his little wife. He settles upon having gowns and underpinnings made for her, for nothing she owns fits properly. She is either swimming in things too large for her or obscenely stretching the seams on things she long since outgrew. It isn't fitting that the Lady of Casterly Rock looks so poorly cared for, though she manages to look lovely in whatever she dons. It is not all unselfish courtesy, of course, for he certainly wouldn't mind looking upon her developing figure in gowns that were made to suit her.
When she appears at table, wearing for the first time one of her new gowns of blue silk trimmed in ermine, he decides he will share her bed that night, so that he might have the pleasure of unlacing her from the gown that dips temptingly low, exposing tantalizing glimpses of her narrow back as her hair sways with each turn of her head.
There is something else he has in mind to give her, something that has not yet arrived, but as she sits here before him, smiling over her goblet at him, he pictures it resting against the snowy skin of her graceful neck. That seeing it there will make Cersei flare with rage is at least half of the appeal.
Cersei may have no wish to see him, but she cannot ignore the raven he sent, asking for the wide, heavy, gold necklace he remembers his mother wearing. Graced with the head of a lion that nestled above the bust line of her jewel colored gowns, it would press coolly against his cheek when she pulled him into her breast in an embrace. Cersei has it. She has all of their mother's jewelry.
It is only right for Lady Lannister to have some of our mother's jewels, sweet sister.
It is a twist of the knife, but it is not entirely untrue. The comparison between his wife and Joanna Lannister is perhaps not so far off. He can see that now.
Regal. Sansa will look regal so bedecked, and he will take great satisfaction in it.
Jaime thinks Sansa is more talkative over dinner than she has been since Tommen's departure, but once they are alone in her bedchamber and he places his hand in the small of her back, she is as silent as their wedding night and he can feel the tremors that shake her body.
He did not intend for his gifts to come with expectations, but here he is breathing against her neck, his left hand fumbling with the laces of her dress, and he can see how his attentions must seem to her.
He is already disgusted with his growing arousal, when she whispers, "I can call for a servant, ser."
Perhaps his little wife only means to escape from his touch, which is irritating enough after all this time, but there is a chance that she has noticed how awkward he is with his left hand and she would rather an unmaimed serving girl help her. She might have this one thing in common with Cersei—scorn of that which makes him imperfect, and that thought makes his blood run hot. He pulls more roughly at her laces, determined to finish undressing her, and with each tug she makes a nigh on hysterical hiccupping sound that makes him tug all the harder. When she is bare, she might sleep alone for the rest of her days for all he cares, for he won't trouble her.
As the sleeves of her gown slip off her shoulder and she scrambles to keep it clasped to her breast, the light from the candlelight falls across her pale back. Jaime's hand freezes, his fingers tangled in the laces of her gown. What her childish gowns hid was a web of crisscross, pearly pink white marks—faded scars. He has slept alongside her, but she is demure, careful to hide herself, and perhaps it was more than just shyness that kept her from letting him see her body.
"What is this?" he demands, his hand smoothing across her bare back. "What are these marks?"
"Don't be stupid. Who did this to you?" he demands once more, his voice rising.
The sight of her body marred in this way makes his vision narrow, the way it does on the battlefield. Who would do such an unnecessarily cruel thing to an innocent? He thinks he knows the answer, and the possibility makes his gut twist. If he's right, he might as well have been the one to raise his hand to her.
Jaime's lady mother was never touched in this violent way.
"Sansa," he says, turning her around by her narrow shoulders to face him, while she clutches the loosened dress up to her collarbone in a tightened fist. He grabs her by the chin, so that she must look at him. "You'll tell me how this happened. Tell me who did this to you."
She shakes her head, her eyes wide, her pupils black pools of fear.
"I am your lord husband, and I must know who dared touch you."
"You won't like to hear it," she finally responds, her voice no more than a whisper.
"I already don't like it, Sansa."
Suddenly her entire posture shifts, she stands taller and frees her chin from his grip with a toss of her head. She looks a true lady, as she says, "Members of the Kingsguard. At Joffrey's command." She has no doubt said it before, but this time it is defiant: "I am a traitor's daughter."
Tyrion did say Joffrey misused Sansa, but he was not specific enough. Perhaps his brother thought Jaime already had seen the evidence of the boy king's crimes against her. He must have assumed that Jaime was not a complete stranger to his wife's scarred body.
Did everyone stand by while a young girl was beaten? His father? Cersei? Did no one think to protect Joffrey from his own worst impulses?
"Which of the Kingsguard?"
"It would be a shorter list to say who did not, ser."
"Damn it. Give me their names."
To her credit she does not flinch even though he is rigid with anger as he shouts at her.
"Ser Arys, Ser Meryn, Ser Boros, Ser Preston, and Ser Mandon."
It is not a short list, and yet, it rolls off her tongue as if she has long had it committed to memory. Perhaps these men are the demons that feature in some of her nightmares. It is no wonder she pales whenever the prospect of King's Landing looms before her like the maw of an open grave. Grown men could have done her grave harm, beating her like this. He is not surprised that Ser Meryn and Ser Boros grace the list. Nor is he much surprised by Ser Mandon's name. Evil, cruel, and unfit to be members of the Kingsguard, all of them; he supposes it must have required a great deal of courage for the lot of them to strike a defenseless maid.
More than half of the men on her list are already dead. Honor demands that all of them die.
"No one else?" he asks, his voice quavering as he attempts to cease his shouting.
"That was more than enough."
She is a sincerely modest girl, and the thought of her stripped and beaten…his wife. Do they laugh about it, as they must laugh about his hand?
He steps into her and draws her gown up about her shoulders to preserve her modesty here now before him, so she might not feel the same fear and shame she did then. It refuses to stay, slipping back down, unlaced as it is, but his hands easily cover her bared shoulders, as he tows her into his chest. Stiff as always, she complies nonetheless.
"No one will ever lay a hand on you in that manner again. Not as long as I live."
A sob catches in her throat, and Jaime repeats his promise—not as long as I live.
She lets her dress go and it pools about her widening hips, leaving her bare to the waist, as her fingers twist in his tunic. Life has taught Sansa that heroes are not real, but she softens against him, her breasts pressed against his chest, and it feels very much as if she wants to believe his promise.
"I'll bring you their heads."
Her head tilts up, her rosy lips slightly parting, while she searches his face for something.
"Ser Boros and Ser Meryn: I'll bring you their heads and you may mount them on the walls of Casterly Rock if it pleases you."
This is who he will be. This is who he will become. He'll be the man who rights the wrongs against Sansa Stark.
"Ser Boros is old and fat and a coward, and I am a better sword than Ser Meryn." Or he was, once, when he was a whole man.
"No, ser. Theywould never allow it."
It isn't that she doesn't believe in him or his abilities: it's that she doesn't believe in anyone.
"I'll demand justice for you," he says, stroking her cheek with the back of his hand.
The prospect of fighting, of seeing blood flow—just the promise of it—makes him feel alive. His body thrums with a pulse that has been absent for many moons. And to fight for Sansa would be the right thing to do, the honorable thing.
"They acted on the authority of the king."
"Tommen is king now," he says, pressing a kiss to her brow.
Tommen is very fond of his uncle's wife. Of course he will want to see Sansa's honor avenged. Even if Cersei and his father do not see the right of it, the Tyrells might take his side, seeing an opportunity for themselves in the whole business, a chance to side with the little king and drive a wedge between the king and his mother. Jaime does not have his brother's skill for game playing, but surely there are those he could play to his advantage if he puts his mind to it.
"Tommen is king, but I'm a Stark."
"You're also Lady Lannister."
It's never felt more real than it does right now. She's been so brave. He knows now that she has the heart of a lion. Nothing he could dress her in could make her stronger, braver, more a lion than she already is.
"You would really do it?" she asks, her words quick and sharp, an eager staccato. "You would throw them down and cut off their heads?"
She looks…feverish and beautiful. His hands slip down the naked expanse of her back, where he thinks he can feel the ridges of the scars now that he knows they are there.
"Yes, lovely girl."
She rises up on the balls of her feet and does not hesitate before bringing her lips to his. The surge of heat from anger translates easily enough into the heat of arousal, and he kisses her back with an intensity that makes her stumble back a step, but he holds her tight and she doesn't fall.
He won't let her fall and he won't fail her now that he knows once more who he is. Who he will become.