The inn is abandoned, half burned out with snow standing knee deep in the places where the roof is gone, but it was a warmer shelter against the night's cold than they've been accustomed to on the road. Jaime wished last night that by some trick of fate someone would have been left here amidst the rubble to serve him a flagon of sour wine and something hearty for the both of them to eat. The little Stark girl has no skill at cooking and his are rather limited. Finding something to fix becomes more of a challenge too, as even roots grow harder to free from the frozen ground, which means their stomachs speak louder than they do on their long, often silent rides, staring over frozen vistas.
But he's thankful they're alone, when she descends the staircase in the morning, holding herself erect, her fingers floating over the rough hewn balustrade as she moves as smoothly as water over glass to the floor below, where he sits waiting for her, his legs spread in the lone chair left behind by whatever marauders torched the place. He is remarkably glad there is no one to see his face. It's bad enough that she sees it and smiles with a glint in her eye that reminds him of the lions underneath Casterly Rock as they eye up a hunk of flesh ready to be thrown to them.
He grips his thigh with his one good hand and the muscles in his jaw tighten, while he attempts to dismiss the look of shock that she seems to delight in from his face. "Why would you do such a thing?"
She stops before him and pulls the blonde hair over her shoulder, her fingers running through its wavy, shiny length, so that the wintery light through the broken window catches the strands until it looks like spun gold, as it drapes over the plain homespun cloth of the gown she wore as Alayne and travels in as an unnamed girl headed north. She's not Alayne now.
"So no one would know me."
Cersei thought the girl stupid, but she's not. Jaime learned quickly enough that behind her vacuous smiles and pretty little phrases, there was something else, something sharp and finely honed at work. So he knows good and well Sansa understands that traveling alongside the Kingslayer, her freshly blonde locks are more likely to end in their being recognized than if she kept the darkened hair she's worn braided down her back since he stole her from the Vale out from underneath Littlefinger's nose. Whatever her reason is for altering herself, it has nothing to do with disguising herself from strangers. It likely puts them in more danger than they were already in, as they make their way deeper into the North, where Lannisters are not well loved. That fact can't have escaped her, and yet, she's done it just the same.
"How?" he demands, his voice shaking with the effort of not screaming at her, because as strong as she is, he's lost his temper with her before, watched her crumple under his glare and harsh words, and he didn't like the way it made him feel like the sham he knows himself to be.
Protect the weak.
Not weak, but certainly broken.
"Washed with water and lye made from the ashes of the barberry tree," she chirps, as though this isn't the nastiest kind of sorcery. "There was one just outside," she says pointing over her shoulder. "Burnt alongside the rest of this place."
She turns back to him, her mouth curving upward, and he half expects her canines to be as long as a lioness'. "It turned out well, don't you think?"
It turned out well if her intention to look like… To remind him of…
Tall, young, confident, golden haired, head held just so, long limbs graceful and sure, and with a grin that spoke of things only she shared with him, her twin, her other half. The vision of her, the way she always looked to him though nameday after nameday passed, flickers before his eyes, imposing itself upon the girl before him. It's a good enough fit to make his pulse pound, his chest burn, his stomach tighten, and other parts of him answer in a way that he despises her for, because he has given up Cersei once and he can't give her up again. If he does, he will be left as much a burned out shell as this inn. Surely she'll grow tired of taunting him and be rid of her fancy for golden hair, and the damage will already be done.
A part of him wants to wrap his hand around the thick of it and saw it off with his dagger as close to her scalp as he can manage, so that the resemblance can't take root in his soul. But that would take another hand he doesn't have and he doesn't imagine she would oblige him by holding it for him so that he might chop it off.
Another part wonders how it would feel twisted about his fist. If it would feel the way Cersei's did—thick and strong, cool despite the warmth of its shade.
"I wasn't looking for a recipe."
"What are you looking for?" she asks, her head tilting down, her lashes fanning her cheek, pink lips parted just enough to show a vaguely dangerous glimpse of white.
Nothing he thought Sansa Stark could give him. Nothing he imagined anyone in the world could give him now that his twin was dead. Even the honor he thought he sought in rescuing this troublesome chit seems a meaningless jape, and yet, he moves on, dragging the girl along with him to whatever miserable fate awaits him at her bastard brother's hand.
Unless. Unless he squints, and then, she might be what was lost to him, and in a world where nothing holds any charm, he's willing to grasp onto whatever might soothe the ache until his time on this bloody rock comes to a close.
"It looks as if you have some notion," he says, leaning back in the chair, lifting his chin and a brow to observe the effect she has created with a lazy, evaluative gaze.
I am dangerous too, he thinks, as his eyes linger on the tempting curves hidden beneath the roughness of her gown. Why should he let her have her fun and then be done with the game whenever she chooses? Women used to watch his every move and he knows the niceties of courtesy well enough to sink an admirer into the fiery pain of love. He hasn't attempted to be chivalrous with anyone in moons, but surely it can't be harder than killing with one hand. He can make her fall as hard as her little brother. The illusion will be better if she does. As well as Sansa plays a part, it will feel more real if she doesn't have to pretend to love him.
That much can't be accomplished in a few short moments. He hasn't been cruel over the course of their journey, but he hasn't been too kind either. There's no chance, even with a girl this broken, that he could convince her she was in love in the space of the next few breaths and prettily turned words. For now willing flesh and a play actor will have to do.
"Do you intend on taking this game any further, sweetling?" he asks, grinning back at her, as he pats his lap, a wordless offer and a pointed challenge.
She blinks, her eyes settling on his crotch, and the fairest, faintest blush appears on her cheeks. That's all wrong of course—maidenly shyness and shock at a standing cock trapped inside his breeches—but as she crawls over him with her skirts hiked up about her creamy thighs and her head settles against his shoulder, he doesn't have to look upon the evidence of the differences. All he feels is the firm warmth of youth pressed firmly against him and the sweet smell of woman.
He's noticed her before—she's a lovely girl, the kind of young lady Cersei would have been violently jealous of—and his body has reacted to her on occasion, being in close company for some time and watching her attempt to keep herself clean, pulling away her gown and sliding a dampened piece of linen against her skin, but as his good hand settles in the small of her back and the ends of her hair, as gold as his own, brushes over his knuckles, it's different than when he noticed her as Sansa Stark with traces of the bastard girl, Alayne, lingering. It's like having a ghost sit his lap. A beautiful, eager to please ghost, whose nimble fingers work at the laces of his breeches, as he charts the length of her neck with open mouth kisses and breathes in the tangy scent that seems to pulse with the blood in her veins.
"Yes," he hisses as her hand closes around him. The grip is wrong and stroke unsure, somewhere between completely inexpert and imprecisely knowledgeable. It is about as terrible as the touch of his left hand, but when he commands his left hand to perform differently, it doesn't, no matter how he curses, and when he tells her, "Firmer. I won't break," she takes direction rather well.
Yes, he could be lost in the fantasy, eventually, with a little coaxing. Except, for now her kisses to his jaw are too soft, the little noises she makes, as his hand maps the smoothness of her thigh towards the juncture of her legs too breathy, and her breasts too small compressed against his chest, so that he fears a loss of confidence, a literal inability to do what he's never done with another woman, unless he is inside of her soon and he might let his body overwhelm the objections of his mind.
Not soon. Now.
He lifts her pleasantly rounded hips—a move that requires his golden hand as well as his good, and she gasps at the coldness of it, but doesn't flinch away—to position her over his flagging arousal. The fingers of her one hand grip at his red leather doublet, holding fast, the other nervously flutters over the exposed flesh of his hip, as he slips his fingers between her legs. Wet enough. Not something a woman can fake, anymore than he could fake a cock hard enough to get the job done. Wet enough that he feels himself twitch and take heart once more, imagining the woman who always answered his arousal with her own.
Grasping himself, his head parts the wetness of her folds and in one hard thrust she's rocked forward, her lips finding his in a kiss that is almost rough enough to be right and once he tugs at her lower lip with his teeth, raking them over the tender flesh, it feels just as it should. Wild and unhinged with teeth clicking and tongues chasing. Even her little mewls suddenly sound deeper, and his cock is blind to all else.
The only two things that used to make him feel alive were fucking and fighting. Buried inside her hot little cunt, it isn't the thrill of pulse pounding life. No, it's as if he is a ghost too. They both are two spirits on another plane, reenacting past pleasures of the flesh, pleasures shared with another woman. It isn't the deadness of the everyday, the nothing, hollow ache of daily pursuit, since he heard his sister was no more, but it's an otherworldly sort of pleasure, unreal, and shimmering like a fever dream.
At least he feels something. At least his balls tighten. At least this can end in something other than unmanly mortification.
His left hand is capable of kneading the softness of her fleshy thigh and arse, but it fumbles to accomplish much else. There's no point in attempting to wring a reaction from her by pressing awkward fingers to the apex of her cunt. Although she is tight around him, she might stay that way for some time without ever falling apart; he doesn't know her body well enough to gauge how much is pending ecstasy and how much is the natural snug fit of her body around him. He is close, however, and finishing consumes his mind and his body, as his hips jerk up into her, bringing their bodies together with deep, wet smacks.
This isn't what he's been missing, but it's something. It's something to hold onto. Something to look forward to again.
Cersei, Cersei, Cersei.
He whispers her name against her saliva slicked lips, as he spills inside of her. Not Sansa. Though the syllables are close enough that if she was not pinned against his body by his unyielding hand, she might mishear. It's the name he's always cried, as he's reached completion, the name he will always speak, as long as she spreads her legs and he finds a temporary distraction inside of her, and if it makes the girl turn her head to hide shimmering tears, she'll have to learn better how to hold them back or everything will be spoilt. What did she expect, when she dyed her hair to match his own?
It's the tears though, the ones she wipes at with the tips of her tapered fingers, when he slips out of her, that make him wonder once again: Why would you do such a thing? But it doesn't matter. Not enough to ask twice