Tommen would have liked to have a brother to play with.
In truth he had one, but Joffrey was almost a man grown and didn't have time for children's games. And in the rare afternoons he accepted Tommen's insistent requests to play together he'd be bossy and push him and break his favorite toys. Tommen had already learned that he couldn't play with Joffrey.
Myrcella was a sweet sister and Tommen liked to play together, but mother didn't let Myrcella play at knights because she was a princess. So when they played together Myrcella would always be the lady and Tommen could be either the knight or the monster. In either case he could never play properly at knights and monsters.
One morning, while Bran and Rickon were playing with their direwolf puppies in the courtyard, Shaggy ran off and startled prince Tommen who was coming out of the castle door.
Rickon laughed at the sight of the pudgy boy trying to shield himself behind a tall Lannister guardsman and Bran had to remind his brother to call back the pup.
In the end Rickon clapped his hands together. "Here, Shaggy!" he called, and the black pup gave Tommen a last sniff before running back to his master.
"I'm sorry, prince Tommen," Bran said to the shaking prince and holding back his own pup. "They're good, they don't bite. Shaggy just wanted to be friends."
Tommen shook his head, blushed and ran back inside.
Tommen could hear the children's voices coming from the stables. They were playing together and laughing. He wanted to join them but the direwolf pups were there too. He lingered around the door for some time until Bran spotted him and motioned for him to come inside.
Tommed shook his head. "I can't," he muttered, trying to hide his fear. "Mother said I wasn't to go near the direwolves..."
Rickon laughed and Tommen felt his cheeks blush. He was about to turn around and leave, but Bran whispered something in his brother's ear and the laughter stopped. They had a short, whispered argument and Rickon didn't want to agree with his brother, but in the end he nodded reluctantly.
"Shaggy, go play somewhere else until dinner," he said, motioning to the black wolf. "You too," he added, shooing the brown wolf away.
Bran stroked his pup's head. "I'm sorry. I'll give you a treat to make up for it later," he grinned.
The two direwolves ran off together, and Tommen pressed against the side of the door to make way for them.
"Prince Tommen," said Bran. "Would you like to play at knight and monsters with us?"
Everyone kept telling Bran that the Lannisters were evil and everything was their fault.
Bran knew that it was the Lannisters who had killed his father and held his sisters prisoner, and that Robb was in the south fighting Lannisters and his mother was with him.
However when he thought about the Lannisters he couldn't imagine the faces of evil people who did bad things. He just remembered prince Tommen, who was the son of the evil queen but had been so nice while they played together.
Maester Luwin had explained to Bran that Joffrey was king now, but he had no right to the crown because he was not truly king Robert's son. Bran had asked if that meant that Tommen would be king next, but Maester Luwin had said that Tommen wasn't king Robert's son either.
Bran thought that maybe Tommen was sad at the thought of being a bastard. He thought that if he met Tommen again he was going to told him that it didn't matter, that even his brother Jon was a bastard but everyone still loved him. He also wanted to play together, but then he remembered that he couldn't walk anymore and grew sad.
Playing with the kittens was much more fun than being king. It wasn't like playing with a real brother, but they were soft and cute and never mean to him.
Tommen had been sad when Joffrey died and had cried a lot, but he didn't really miss his brother. They almost never played together or shared a joke.
He missed Bran Stark and his little brother much more, and often wished they were there in King's Landing to keep him company.
Since he was king he had thought that he could order them to come to court, but when he'd suggested that to mother she'd become very angry and had scolded him for saying such a stupid thing. She'd said that all Starks were evil and they had killed Joffrey and taken uncle Jaime prisoner, and all of them would be killed.
Tommen secretly prayed for Bran and Rickon to be safe.
Bran sat on the high-backed seat of the Lord of Winterfell, listening with a grave face as the man from the Night's Watch finished to deliver his report.
"They say that some Lannister and Tyrell rebels have moved north and are laying waste to the fields around Seagard," the Black Brother was saying. "We came on the Kingsroad and even then we had to be careful by night. Once or twice we were attacked and nearly lost some of the lads."
Bran nodded, making a mental note to send some ravens at Moat Cailin in case the rebels moved further north. "For the news you brought us, I thank you," he said. "You and your men are welcome at my table tonight. It will be poor fare, I'm afraid, but we will provide whatever supplies the Night's Watch needs to pass the winter."
"You'll have Lord Snow's thanks for this, my lord," the Black Brother said with a small bow.
After these formalities were completed, the men started to retire. Bran motioned for Rickon to come closer and whispered a few words, and his brother in turn crossed the length of the hall with quick long strides and whispered something to one of the ragged-looking men.
Tommen walked back to Bran's seat, looking uneasy. Even though he was the older boy, Rickon towered over him by several inches. Besides, the brown wolf at Bran's feet looked as if he could swallow him whole.
"My lord," he said, trying to hold his voice steady. The last time they'd met they had been children, knowing nothing of the long hate between their Houses and of the game of thrones.
He'd been king while Bran had been crippled and forced to flee north, but then House Lannister had fallen in disgrace as the sorts of the war changed.
Now he was the last survivor of his House, spared by the queen in exchange for taking the black along with a handful of his retinue.
Once more he envied Bran Stark, who sat calmly in his seat with his brother at his right hand surrounded by his people. At the same time the sight made him feel terribly guilty.
"For what my kinsmen did to your family I apologize, Lord Stark," Tommen said, going down to one knee.
Bran shook his head. "You don't have to take on the blame for what others did," he said. "I heard that during the end of the war you refused the advice of your uncle, and your decision prevented a terrible battle from taking place. If you wanted to apologize," Bran added, and smiled as Tommen glanced upwards nervously. "Apologize for being so formal. I think we used to be friends, a long many years ago, Tommen."
Rickon grinned and held out one hand to help him back to his feet. "I think you used to be fatter, but I agree with my brother."
For the first time in many months, Tommen smiled. "Thank you, Rickon. Thank you, Bran," he said.