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Where I follow, you'll go

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“I hope you have a good reason for summoning me at this hour,” Jaime grumbled as he entered what used to be Hoster Tully’s solar. The faint tang of sourleaf clung to the air, so Emmon must spend some time here, but Jaime's aunt, Lady Genna, looked completely at home seated behind the massive desk.

Genna glanced up at him and sipped from a goblet of wine. "I'll let you return to your companion soon enough." She managed to make ‘companion’ sound like ‘whore.’  

"I was alone," Jaime corrected. "If you meant Brienne, leave her out of whatever game you're playing here."

"She carries a Lannister sword and looks at you as if she'd kill anyone who dared to touch you. If you expected that to pass without comment, you've lost your wits."

Brienne would kill for him. She had. Jaime hadn’t seen everything that happened in that cave, he’d been too busy fighting, but Brienne had emerged splattered with blood, clutching Robb Stark’s crown. She hadn’t spoken for two days, hadn’t wept but once, when she stripped out of her bloody clothes and walked into the ice-choked Red Fork to wash away the gore. Jaime had dragged her from the water, wrapped her in his cloak, and held her all night to keep her from walking out into the river again.

"Is that why you've called me here, Aunt, to lecture me about proper conduct? That seems unlike you." Jaime asked wearily.

He'd seen the looks they got, noted Brienne's discomfort surrounded by Freys in the castle where she'd served Lady Stark, but he'd been preoccupied with the influx of news from all around them, little of it good. Ironmen reaving in the Reach, sellswords under a Targaryen banner in the Stormlands, the Night's Watch allied with the wildlings according to some reports and Stannis from others.

There had been a battle near Winterfell, but reports of the outcome were contradictory. Closer to Riverrun, the remains of the Brotherhood still attacked and robbed stray soldiers, and the wolves had gained a taste for human flesh, fed by the many men the Brotherhood hanged.  

Genna held up a scrap of parchment, and now Jaime could see the dark circles under her eyes, the grim set of her mouth. “We’ve had a raven from the Red Keep.”

His blood ran cold. King’s Landing was a dangerous place these days, filled with starving sparrows, the armed Warrior’s Sons, and as many gold cloaks as the crown could pay. It wouldn’t take much to tip the city into bloody battle. Jaime feared an attempt on Tommen’s life was imminent, if it had not happened already.  

“Myrcella is dead,” Genna said reluctantly.

Jaime collapsed into the nearest chair. “How?” Another child dead, and he powerless to stop it. He was sickened to find himself relieved, that it was only Myrcella and not Tommen.

Truth be told, he remembered very little about the girl. She was lovely like her mother, polite and well-spoken the few times Jaime could recall spending much time with her. What he remembered best was the disappointment on Cersei’s face when the maester said the babe was a girl.

“She was returning to King’s Landing with one of Prince Oberyn’s bastards and took a fever. Cersei wants to send the girl back to Prince Doran in pieces.” Genna shook her head. “Without Kevan there to temper her wrath, I fear she may do it.”

Genna was never much for sentiment, much like Tywin in that way. She cared for the family’s reputation, for her own comfort, and tolerated her lord husband and sons. Caring about the fate of a Dornish girl was unlike her. "Have you gone soft these last weeks, Aunt? I don't recall it bothering you overmuch when I threatened Edmure Tully's unborn child."

Genna waved off his accusation. "My dear boy, that only worked because Tully doesn’t know you. You were ruthless in battle, but you aren't Gregor Clegane. You couldn’t rip a new-born babe from its mother's breast to throw it over the castle walls."

Red-cloaked bundles at the foot of the Iron Throne. Squalling golden-haired babes Cersei held at her teats and out of his reach. A boy on a window ledge. A fierce little wolf girl. "I could. I’ve done worse.”

Genna considered him. “Why are you still here? There was a time when you would have rushed back to your sister’s side.”

Jaime rubbed his wrist, where the golden hand had chafed a permanent manacle of roughened skin. “I had a sword hand then.”

Genna pushed aside her quill and parchment. “She doesn’t need a sword now. We don’t need a sword, we need a strong Lannister lord to secure Casterly Rock and Tywin’s legacy.”

Jaime laughed. “The only ally we have left is fucking Walder Frey, and he turns his cloak as often as he weds. There are no more Reynes to slaughter. A handful of Tullys held captive, the Starks dead or fled, a single sickly Arryn. Should I go to the Eyrie and toss him through the Moon Door? Would that make us look strong again?” He was nearly growling now, the weight of his new lordship uneasy on his shoulders. The white cloak had lifted that burden for so many years he’d forgotten that Tywin’s legacy was just as heavy. Mace Tyrell was behind Jaime’s release, as well as the addition of new Kingsguards from the Reach, all loyal to Highgarden.

“Don’t be obtuse, Jaime. You’re no maester, but you’re bright enough when you aren’t thinking with your cock. You needn’t kill anyone. Let the Ironborn and the Golden Company weaken the Tyrells. You need a wife, heirs, to show them the Lannisters will survive as we always have.”

Jaime recoiled from that idea. Elia Martell, Lysa Tully, Margaery Tyrell. Every woman his parents had considered had come to a bad end. Cersei had escaped so far, but her own deeds were like to be her undoing soon enough.

“Father tried to foist a bride on me before Joffrey’s body was cold, and I refused him. I won’t let you put some simpering fool in my bed now.”

Genna rose from her seat, taking the wine goblet with her. Her round face was flushed; she’d been drinking for some time. “The longer you remain unwed the more strength you lend the allegations about you and Cersei.”

“She won her trial,” he reminded her. As if combat would reveal innocence or guilt. All it showed was who commanded stronger men.

Genna shuddered. “With a corpse in armor. If you think that endeared her to the smallfolk or the Faith, you’re a fool.”

Jaime didn’t like to think of that, how his sister had turned to Qyburn and his monster in her time of need. When Jaime abandoned her, turned his back on everyone and everything and chased Brienne into the Riverlands. Brienne, who was determined to make her way to the Eyrie despite the wounds she’d suffered, who burned with the same zeal and self-loathing Jaime saw in Lancel at Darry. One lie, and Brienne might never forgive herself. At least she did not scourge herself, did not spend her days on her knees in the sept, though she would if he asked her to. Jaime saw that every time he looked into her guileless blue eyes.

“The North has no options we might consider,” Genna mused, pacing the room. “The Vale has only Myranda Royce, a widow. The Reach will not treat with us, or you might take the Redwyne girl Daven was courting. Arianne Martell would solve much, but she is too far away. We must strike quickly. Perhaps one of the Riverlords' daughters, or another Frey to keep old Walder in line.”

“I said no. I don’t want a wife.” Jaime still remembered the endless parade of highborn maidens who'd visited Casterly Rock, their fathers seeking Lord Tywin's favor. Pretty, biddable girls taught to say all the right things and do what they were told. Arianne Martell was no doubt more like Genna and Cersei, ladies who listened, who gathered information, who tried to guide their lord husbands. Neither Cersei nor Genna had much success.

Genna raised an eyebrow. “And I didn’t want Emmon. You will not return to King’s Landing without a wife. You will not piss away everything your father worked for because you fancy yourself Aemon the Dragonknight.”

Jaime bristled, twenty years of denial coming to his lips automatically. “I don’t know what you—”

“Find a bride, Jaime. Quickly. There are plenty of maidens and widows here for Daven’s wedding, all of them eager to become the Lady of Casterly Rock.”

The corridors were quiet now, but during the day the castle was filled to bursting with guests, mainly Freys but also some Riverlords like Jonos Bracken. “I’ve seen them. No wonder Robb Stark bedded the Westerling girl instead.”

Jaime didn’t bother to hide his bitterness. For some reason he’d thought becoming Lord Lannister might mean he could make his own decisions, but his aunt wasn’t above trying to outmaneuver him if he balked at her commands.

Genna perched on the edge of the desk, a large woman despite her short stature, glowering down at him. “And Robb Stark died for his selfishness, along with hundreds of soldiers and most of his bannermen. You may not care if your line is extinguished, but I do."

"I care," Jaime protested, thinking of Tommen.

"Then do this one thing for your family.”