A/N: This is tied for "darkest thing I've ever written" with the story about Stannis starving at Storm's End. Apparently, my favorite characters experiencing great trauma during Robert's Rebellion is something I get great pleasure/intense pain from writing. Warning for violence to be on the safe side.
I stood at the foot of the Iron Throne in my white armor and white cloak…
Fire is a madman's weapon.
The king's tongue snakes out from his mouth, probing the air, wet and red against pale chapped lips. His violet eyes are lit from behind with an over-bright, maniacal glow. Aerys's hands clench in his lap, his fingers worrying at each other. Their nails are long and sharp as the fused swords that make up the Iron Throne, the swords that rake across his forearms daily as he squirms on his lofty seat, scoring his skin with fresh cuts and old scabs.
Jaime stands at the foot of the throne, between two of his sworn brothers, his eyes on the king. To his left, Ser Arthur stares straight ahead, his face blank and blanched as the vellum pages of a newbound book. The silver-white tip of his unsheathed sword digs into the Red Keep's floor. His hands tremble almost imperceptibly, sending a subtle quiver down the long blade. To Jaime's right stands Jon Darry, straight-backed, and silent, a statue of a man, his jaw tight as a coiled spring.
The pyromancers hoist Lord Stark high above their heads, like the condemned thief Jaime once saw hanged in the square at Lannisport. The gray-bearded man hangs heavy in his armor, the firelight from a cluster of braziers glinting dully off of steel. His voice hoarse from shouting, fear, and desperation, he calls out to his king.
"Your Grace! This is madness! Give me a champion to fight! Let me cross blades with one of your knights!"
All seven of the Kingsguard, from their old, barrel-chested Lord Commander to Jaime, young, delicate-featured, and easily underestimated, could defeat this grim-faced Northman in a fair fight, surely. But Lord Rickard's death would be swifter and far nobler than what the king proposes.
This is wrong, Jaime thinks, his stomach roiling at the thought. Let him down. I'll fight him. I'll kill him, and it will be over and done, and I won't have to watch this, oh gods, don't make me watch this.
But he looks at the king's mad eyes, the gleeful, childish laughter on his lips, like Jaime's little brother when he was a baby, and Jaime would stand by his cradle and slip him toys.
This is a game to him, a deadly game, and they're all toys to play with or break as he pleases.
Lord Rickard Stark will die anyway, whether his death comes by Jaime's sword thrust through his heart or the fires starting to kindle beneath him. And his son will die too, bound against the wall with a noose slipped around his neck, his struggles growing more frantic as the flames fan upwards. And if Jaime breaks rank, opens his mouth to say one word of dissent, he'll die with them.
Poison is a woman's weapon. Or a Dornishman's.
Wine spills across the marble table, deep red pooling on white. The last dregs from the king's hammered silver goblet, knocked over by a frenzied jerk of his hands.
Aerys pushes food around his plate, clumsy-fingered, almost palsied. Between his paranoia over poison, the tremors that often shake him now, and a lack of appetite, he hardly eats anything anymore.
Jaime doesn't feel like eating much either, but he doesn't understand the king's fear of poisoning. Who should poison him among the rebel lords clashing against royal forces as they make their steady way towards the capital, screaming battle cries in righteous wrath? Robert Baratheon has swords and anger enough to uproot the dragon king from his throne, but poison is rarely a strategy used by bullish, hammer-wielding storm lords.
But the king is mad, and madmen know no reason.
A treasonous thought, and one he must keep to himself, tucked away quietly in the hidden corners of his mind, among ugly memories of Rickard Stark's flesh burning on his bones.
As he stands by the door, Jaime's hand rests on the hilt of his sword, waiting for some unseen attacker.
Like what? A dragon of old, come screeching out of the past to devour its brother, something out of Aerys's night terrors? Rebel forces come to bring vengeance down on all of them? More likely he'll stab himself with his own fingernails, and what use will Jaime's sword be then?
When he had knelt at the king's feet at Harrenhal and been raised to his new post, his thoughts had been of glory and honor (and Cersei, of course, his thoughts were always with Cersei. To be at court with her, at her side during the day and in her bed at night). Jaime had never realized just how much standing and waiting a knight of the Kingsguard had to do.
To pass the time, he thinks of poison too, of how some plotting assassin would target the king. Aerys has a taster for everything, so deadly nightshade mixed into his pease won't work. He's heard tell that Princess Elia's brother killed a man in a tourney once, his spearpoint laced with some deadly salve. A thin coating of the stuff on the blade of Aerys's knife might work, since the king cuts himself on everything in sight. Or perhaps a deathly powder dusted across the cloth used to wipe the taster's spit from the king's glass.
No one will ever try, Jaime knows, but he is so very tired of standing, waiting, watching, silent as the grave.
Steel is a warrior's weapon.
His father's men lay the bodies at the foot of the Iron Throne, wrapped in scarlet cloaks, bright against the pale stone floor. Princess Elia and her children sprawl on the floor, the crimson cloth, unfurling slightly, spreading out around them like pools of blood. Jaime can see the darker stains blotted there, red on red.
He tries to make his eyes blind and his mind empty, but ugly truth hangs in the air like smoke, all around him. His breathing comes shallow and heaving, each gasp catching painfully. Jaime feels almost as if he was drowning, his lungs full of something thick and throbbing.
Everything in him wants to turn from here, bolt out of the hall, out of the keep, out of the city. He wants to scream until his throat is raw, and cry as he hasn't since he was a small child. He wants to run all the way home and bury his face in the softness of Cersei's hair, lose himself in her body and never come out.
Instead, Jaime stands behind the city's conqueror, playing the dutiful son as he played the loyal knight. He knows already he will never have the courage to defy his father.
(It wasn't courage that finally drove him to defy Aerys, really, only guilt and desperation.)
Jaime glances from his own blood-stained hands to his father's clean ones. He saved lives today, he knows that with wrenching certainty, even if he's equally certain that he'll never tell.
(So many lives, more than those he let die, but why does he still feel so unclean?)
But his father…his father's hands are spotless, but there's blood on the floor of the Red Keep at his feet and blood on the swords of his men. And there's blood against the soft brown skin of Elia's cheek, a long awful smear of it.
(And more on the other side of her face, so much more, but he will only let himself look at the half of her that's still pretty and not ruined.)
Jaime remembers standing guard outside her chambers, long months before, all pure in white the day they burned the Starks. He thinks of Elia, turning to him suddenly, as if possessed by some sudden burst of grieving madness, and touching his arm, her slim fingers brushing against him. She had stared directly at his face for a long moment, as if searching for something, and there was infinite sorrow in her dark eyes when she did not find it.
(Before Brandon Stark came to the Red Keep screaming for his sister, the princess had often spoken to Jaime, unlike many of the others. He had joked with her, and heard the high peals of her laughter, for a moment kindling light into her thin, drawn face.)
Jaime thinks of Elia, and her children, and despite standing behind his father, despite having seen fire and blood untold times, it takes all that is in him not to cry.
"I never thought he'd hurt them." Jaime's sword was burning less brightly now. "I was with the king . . ."