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Out the Sweeter Species

Chapter Text

The Wall stretched farther than Tyrion remembered, a shining blade of ice and stone under the new dawn. He stretched his arms as he walked, sideways, towards the edge, loosing his trousers and pissing in the direction of the wights, his daily defiance. He could imagine the wights, creeping through the springing forest, ice-blue and hungry. He shivered.

A guard on the next tower laughed, his voice like a hound's bark, and Tyrion gestured obscenely after lacing up.

"And good morrow to you, dwarf," the man called out. "How went the night?"

"It went," Tyrion grunted as the guard walked toward him. "As they all do."

The guard snorted, rested the butt of his bow against a broken stone. "And your lady?" He waggled his eyebrows, which looked ludicrous under the brim of his helmet. "She kept your tiny bones warm?"

"Your concern over my bones is touching." The guard smirked again, and Tyrion considered shoving him, but the moment passed as their paths crossed, then diverged. He spat on the ground, without vehemence, and the guard chuckled as Tyrion trudged down the stairs, into the relative warmth of the tower keep.

*

The hall was only warm at center, the heat of the roaring fire barely bleeding into the corners of the room. A steward glanced at him, signaled to a boy who scurried over bearing mulled wine. Tyrion breathed deep the halo of spices, took a sip and found the drink watery. He grimaced, but waved off the boy with thanks.

The central table was long, and at the edge, closest to the fire, sat Brienne, that odd parody of a knight, and his dear and newly-found wife. His gaze lingered on the lady Sansa for a moment, noting how the firelight shone against the red gold of her hair. She was, he thought, painfully lovely.

Then, Tyrion noticed them look in his direction, sidelong and sly, and he thought the guard on the Wall might be friendlier company. He took a half step back, but then the serving boy returned, setting a trencher at Sansa's elbow, and a plate of bread and pork, besides. He sighed and made his way over to the pair, feeling their judging eyes as he clambered onto the bench.

"Good morrow," he greeted, and gave them full credit for courtesy when they responded in kind. "I hope the night brought no new terrors." He'd grown accustomed to the howling of the night, but they were newly housed, and the wights were always creeping.

Sansa darted a look at Brienne before answering. "It was a quiet night," she said.

"And your quarters?" Adjacent to his, but separated by a stout door. "You found them comfortable?"

"Yes, m'lord," Sansa replied, and bowed her head like a princess. "Thank you." Then she raised her eyes, met his, and he shook his head at the silent question.

"No news of your brother," he said. At her crestfallen expression, he added, "None bad, and the silence is not over-long." He gestured to the room, nigh-empty. "These walls demand patience."

Brienne snorted, and Tyrion glared at her. "You are no comfort, dwarf."

Tyrion opened his mouth to retort, but Sansa interrupted. "Brienne, please." She glanced at Tyrion. "My husband is right." The words were carefully formed, but Tyrion appreciated the intention.

"Thank you, Sansa," he responded. "And if you don't mind, my gruel may freeze."

She smiled at him tightly, but it was courtesy enough, and he was hungry. He tore the small loaf on his plate, and dipped it into the gruel, and the women watched only a moment before returning to their half-murmured conversation.

*

Tyrion knocked on Sansa's door, a half-thought towards escorting her to the library, but when the door creaked open, Brienne stood behind it. She opened her mouth, then shut it. Pressed her lips together before acknowledging, "My lord."

He nodded, knowing the insult of her first impulse. "My lady." He felt unsure of her title after so many kingdoms overturned, thought she might prefer ser, but he'd never manage that without choking. "I search for my fair wife," he continued. "I trust she hasn't disappeared again?"

Brienne's thoughts were on her face, that uncertainty whether she should take offense. "Lady Sansa is watching the boys training," she explained. "She is well-guarded there."

"So you say," Tyrion replied. "But I've seen those children fight." Brienne stared at him, and he snapped, "Yes?"

Brienne hesitated, then shook her head. "You look very unlike your brother," she said finally.

"No." He laughed, as if it felt like a joke after so many years. "My visage isn't likely to inspire a maid, nor part a wench's legs." He narrowed his eyes. "As you might know."

Brienne's face slowly flushed, like an overripe fruit. Tyrion found her hopelessly ugly, but then again, so was he. For a moment, he thought of his hapless brother, and the courtly jests he might have laid before this one, so smitten.

And then he remembered he hated Jaime. It felt less true than it did a month ago, and a mere echo of that first flush of rage. Gods above, Tysha.

"I thank you for your time," he said, sketching a mockery of a bow. When he turned, the heavy door slammed shut, and he mused it was well that such a maid should guard his wife.

*

The courtyard was further than he would have wanted to trot, but he did find Sansa perched on the steps, her feet dangling above the new members of the Watch. Tyrion cleared his throat. "Are you mad?" he wondered aloud.

Sansa looked at him, tart and honest and not at all surprised. It was staggering, that look, and he didn't understand a whit of it.

"They called me Alayne Stone," she clipped out, "until I couldn't remember my own name."

"Baelish," Tyrion deduced, like a curse.

"Bastard little girl," Sansa sang. Anger flashed over her face, like a tidal wave.

Tyrion tried to quell the rage that answered it. "Did he--"

She turned her head, kicked her foot out, and the boys stumbled and fought below her. "So many plans," she mused. Tyrion watched her, found not one trace of the child he'd married. "Arya learned the sword," Sansa continued. "I never thought to envy her."

Tyrion stepped once, higher, but not too close. He could feel the tension of her body, and he wondered if she was asking him a question. Below them, the boys cursed, and their teachers cursed at them. The Watch was filled with rough men, not all unkind, but few polished enough for a lady's presence.

Tyrion watched her, girded for any hint of unease, ready to rebuke those below them, at his peril. But the laughter scattered over her, like water breaking on stone. She looked, he thought, much like her mother, but her mother was cold and mad and frightful.

In the courtyard below, Brienne strode out, and some boy tossed a sword to her, derision in his voice. Brienne did not reply, but attacked, suddenly all grace, and Tyrion grunted surprise. And he looked over to Sansa, and her mouth was curved into a laugh.

Tyrion found himself stunned a second time. And he thought to himself, my wife.