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the ghosts won't matter cause we'll hide in sin

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The raven announcing the betrothal arrives on the same day at the same hour to both households. They'll never know it, but it's something of note - a good omen, perhaps for those who believe in them.

And omens might be worth mentioning because no one would have believed that the girl betrothed to one and taken by another would wind up married to a third. Nor would anyone think the youngest knight to don the white cloak would end up married at all.

But, war changes everything and when this war is over, when the dragon banners fly high and Rhaegar Targarayen sits upon the throne, his first order of business is to give away his grand prize to the Lannisters.

He gives her to Jaime, a man who has been confined to the Rock, stripped of his white cloak for slipping a blade between the ribs of the Mad King. Jaime Lannister has committed murder and still the whole world knows of the caches of fire - of the plan to raze King's Landing to the ground and leave charred ashes for the next king to rule.

Men of honor would say the latter means little in comparison, that one man's life is worth more than a thousand. They will whisper kingslayer wherever Jaime goes and call for his head. Or maybe they will say it was an impossible choice to make and let it go. Jaime can’t be sure.

It's one of a laundry list of things that Jaime does not understand about honor or more importantly, honorable men and so he does not know if marrying the Stark girl is meant as a reward or as a punishment.

But then, Jaime, who has no honor to speak of these days, doesn't even know how to see it for himself, let alone what it was intended for.

---

"The King thinks he's a genius," Tywin says, eyes blazing and tongue curling around the name king with disgust. The way he speaks of Rhaegar is no different from the way he spoke of Aerys. As if nothing changed.

But it has - that's the problem. Rhaegar isn’t Aerys. He is wiser than the last king. He knows the Starks and Lannisters' weaknesses and has decided to play them against each other to placate his guilty conscious. He needed to find a husband for his mistress - someone with enough baggage that he couldn't say no to used goods, but whose name still meant something so it wouldn't diminish her status. Jaime had unknowingly played right into his hands.

He isn't exactly pleased with having to take a wife, but if it meant he got to keep his head, he couldn't complain. There are far worse things than being married.

"You got what you wanted, Father," Jaime says.

"Doesn't he always." Cersei’s voice sends a chill down his spine. She broods in the corner. Three years absence and they've only gotten to see each other for a few days before she heads back to King's Landing at their father’s request. Sometimes Jaime wonders if his father knows more than he'll let on.

"And what did I always tell you. Be careful what you wish for," Tywin sighs, before leaving the room, the servants following in his wake.

Jaime looks at Cersei. She stares right through him, brow cocked as if to challenge him. The air between them crackles – this was always the case, but before it was a welcome tension, a sizzling heat waiting to explode behind closed doors. Now it is more anger than passion. Jaime doesn't know what to say to make it better. How he can explain to Cersei that it was either this or death. And maybe deep down he's afraid she would have had him chose the latter if it meant keeping him all to herself. He cannot handle such a thought.

"This changes nothing," he says, and he hates how it sounds – as if he is trying to convince himself more than her.

Cersei smiles, but it's the placating smile she uses at Court, the hollow thing he's come to admire and hate all at once. "Of course, it doesn't."

---

i. the bedding

They had met before - once in passing - at Harrenhal, when she was just a girl from the North and not yet the Queen of Love & Beauty. Jaime never paid much attention to girls. He was far too concerned with swordplay and knighthood, and if he had wants, that was what Cersei was for.

But he remembers catching a glimpse of her, their eyes meeting briefly as introductions were made. He thought she might have been pretty. Might have even been beautiful. But it was not something Jaime dwelled on.

Lyanna Stark arrives at Casterly Rock with her younger brother, Benjen, a month after the letter is received. She is beautiful, there is no doubt about that now. Black hair and grey eyes. Grace in every step she takes, and a fleeting look that says at the young age of sixteen she still knows more of the world than those twice her age. Jaime cannot look away the way he did at Harrenhal.

She is introduced to the household, to Tyrion and Tywin, and Jaime watches how easily she interacts with all of them. It's not until she is standing right before him that he realizes he has been staring. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Lady Lyanna."

"The pleasure is all mine," she says. She is all smiles, all easy laughs. It's been five minutes and she's already charmed their Maester and the Master of Arms. Even Tyrion, grand skeptic that he is, seems to be softening towards her, but Jaime sees through it, sees the way her hand grips at her brother’s arm, the way her eyes dart to the horses in fleeting moments when attention is elsewhere. She would rather be anywhere but here.

Cersei taught him it's always the pretty ones that lie best.

---

The ceremony happens three days later. Most of it passes in a blur, though he remembers his hands shake when he removes the grey cloak from her shoulders and replaces it with his own. A sea breeze comes in heavy and she tugs the cloak close around her. He thinks it’s foolish for a Northern girl to get a chill here. It’s even more foolish that he should feel this nervous.

During the bedding, the cloak is the only thing she has left. It’s draped across her lap as she lies on her back, eyes watching him as he enters the room.

Do not say Cersei’s name. This is what he repeats to himself as he nears the bed, as he places a tentative hand on her hip, moving the cloak away. The skin there is as cold as ice – a token of the North, perhaps.

His hand lingers there but he makes no other move. He studies the skin beneath his hand. He can feel her gaze burning on the side of his face.

“I’m not a fan of playing pretend.”

The words blindside him. He glances up and finds her eyes narrowed at him. “Excuse me, my lady?”

“You know why I am here. You know that I have done this before,” she falters over the words, stumbling past a truth, and Jaime’s hand clenches against her hip. “There is no need for you to treat me like glass.”

He hears the challenge there. The unspoken taunt. Coward. It’s not the first time he’s been called it. Lannisters are lions. They are made to be fearless. Jaime’s father used to use the taunt of cowardice as motivation. But it is one thing to be called it by another lion. It is a whole other to be called it by some silly girl from the North.

“You shouldn’t speak to your husband that way,” Jaime says, but his words lack any conviction. This will not do, he thinks, but they are Tywin’s words in Jaime’s head not his own.

Before he can say anything, she’s sitting up. Her head is ducked, but he sees the beginnings of a smirk as she settles onto his lap and hears him gasp. Her curls fall forward, brush against his chest and he feels warm all over.

“There are many things I shouldn’t do, and yet, I will do them anyway,” she says, her eyes finally meeting his again. She wraps her arms around his neck and rocks against him, a slow roll to her hips that makes Jaime groan. “In this case, it’s to both our advantage. We might as well enjoy this.”

“Not even a day married and you’re already wearing on my nerves,” he manages to stutter out. Her thighs tighten around his waist, and she shifts her hips to take him inside her. He swallows any witty reply she can make with his lips, matching every thrust she makes with his own.

He lets her set the pace, lets her lead because it’s familiar enough that way. She keeps her face buried in the crook of his neck, and her hands pull at his hair. He wonders if she pretends the locks are a few shades lighter and a few inches longer. Or if it’s the exact opposite.

When she comes, there is no name on her lips. None on his either when he lays her flat on her back and finishes what she started. Just noise, like static that fills the room and keeps the awkwardness at bay.

He falls asleep quickly afterwards and awakes to an empty bed. She’s left tear tracks on the pillow. Jaime pretends he does not notice them.

---

ii. the silence

After the wedding, he sees little of her.

Partly because Tywin has left for King’s Landing to sit on the small council leaving him to run Casterly Rock and partly because she makes herself scarce during the day.

They share meals, though it is never just the two of them. It feels as though his father has more men than days in the year and all of them are chomping at the bit to spend time with the Kingslayer – as if they’ll learn his secret, as if Jaime had as secret as to why he walked away from King’s Landing with his head intact.

Lyanna doesn’t talk much during dinner. She prefers to listen to the conversation around her, the exception being when it is Tyrion who’s speaking. Tyrion does not like her silence, tells her so every chance he gets, and it is then that she will speak up and offer an opinion, usually a good one. Jaime is too often brooding to really follow the conversation, but he knows from their dinner companions’ constant grins that she is living up to the first impression she set.

She and Tyrion have formed a strange kinship since the wedding. They spend most afternoons in the library, discussing great literature. Jaime always had little use for books, but he had even less use for a wife. If Tyrion wants to spend time with the woman, more power to him. It’s not as though Jaime is getting anywhere with her.

She does not speak to Jaime. He wonders if he has done something to offend her, but it’s usually his mouth that gets him in trouble and he hasn’t spoken to her much either if he’s being honest. She doesn’t seem particularly angry, and when they part for the evening after dinner she always gives him a graceful smile and squeezes his hand. Jaime always thinks about following her, but never does. He has not been to her bed since their wedding night.

It bothers him as much as it doesn’t. He only took a wife to keep his head, and yet, a part of him is curious about Lyanna, the woman that almost tore Westeros apart. He can tell by the little things – the way she treats people, the easiness of her laugh or the look she gets when one of his father’s men says something ridiculous – that she is no ordinary lady. He keeps himself busy and that keeps him from really dwelling on the fact that she keeps him at arm’s length – that she prefers the company of his brother and the kitchen staff to him.

And then one evening he is out in the woods to the Northeast. There is a bridge northeast of the castle. The water has all but dried up below it and tree roots burrow into its foundation. Beside it there is his wife, sword in hand, practicing on the poor bridge.

He knew her brother Brandon when they were younger. He was a passionate man, tainted with what his father called wolf’s blood. Brandon often joked that his sister had inherited it too. Jaime saw a glimpse of it on their wedding night, but now he sees it in full force.

Her hair is pinned up loosely, the curls threatening to tumble out with every move she makes. She hacks away at the roots, twisting and slicing her way up and down the tree, harsh breathing the only sound to accompany her.

He watches, and it’s the most interesting thing he’s seen since they made him give up his white cloak.

---

This goes on for weeks.

Every day he goes to the bridge and everyday she is there practicing. He never says a word. She does not catch him watching but a part of her must sense an audience because every so often her eyes dart around the forest suspiciously. There are many times that Jaime considers making his presence known, but instead he waits until he can no longer bear witnessing her mistakes. Until he is sure he wants to be noticed.

"Your sword is too low."

He sees the flash of surprise on her face as he steps out from where he was standing, but it is here and gone as quickly as it came. Instead of feigning shame at being caught, she furrows her brow. "What do you mean?"

"Brandon taught you as he would teach a man. You're shorter than most men." He approaches slowly, and her eyes follow him every step of the way. He ignores the way she flinches when his hand touches her elbow. She is a bold woman, but sometimes she is skittish when anyone gets too close. He keeps his touch gentle, barely brushing her skin and she relaxes eventually. It makes his job easier. He repositions her arms, turns her shoulders.

"Here,” he steps back, “Now you swing like you were before."

She takes a strong hack and it nearly spins her around. "Like that?"

"Put more of your body into it. You don't want to tire your arms out."

Lyanna frowns, "I need to get stronger."

"Smarter not stronger." Jaime watches as she takes another hack, a slow swish cuts through the air. "Every one has their own an advantage, even if they don’t know it. Some may be stronger by nature, but you are quicker and sharper."

"How would you know that?"

"I've been watching you," Jaime says. He wonders if it’s the exertion or the comment that makes the blush rise on her cheeks. "You're quite good."

"You should see me joust." Lyanna smiles, a genuine smile he has not seen directed at him before. It makes something shift inside him. Lyanna sighs wistfully then. "I should have been born a man."

Jaime feels a burst of laughter escape. "My sister used to say such things."

The laugh turns quickly to a bittersweet smile. It hurts to think of Cersei sometimes. Especially when he is in the company of his wife. His sister hasn’t spoken to him since his wedding, since her own betrothal. His letters to her have all gone unanswered, and yet he keeps sending them.

Lyanna takes another swing at the tree. Her aim lowers out of habit.

"Higher,” Jaime notes.

Lyanna scoffs, "You're worse than Brandon was."

"That's because I'm better than Brandon was." Jaime steps forward and repositions her again. He dares to bend his head and whisper in her ear. “And if my wife is going to run around the Rock playing at swords, she’s going to do it right.”

She spares him a glance over her shoulder and for a moment they are inches apart. “It’s times like these that I am quite glad to have you as a husband.”

Jaime smiles, “It will pass. I’m sure.”

---

iii. the ghosts

It doesn’t pass.

They fall into a familiar rhythm, only now they ride out to the bridge together in the evenings and sometimes when time is sparse, he has her train on the grounds. No one dares question him to his face, but he does receive a few curious letters from his father.

He knows that he is not being a proper husband. Not by any standards, but as he tells his father in his replies, he was taught to always play to his strengths. He may not know how to traditionally woo a woman, but he knows how to swordfight and if that is something they can build on it should be considered progress.

Over their lessons, he learns that her biting humor and quick temper are more endearing than frightening. Her passion is admirable as well, but not blind. They both share a similar view of courtly life. It is all show and no substance. They’d both prefer a sword any day.

They both lost their mothers too young. Both lost in the birthing room, and neither of them can understand why their fathers blamed the birthed sons for it. Jaime never speaks of Cersei, not in depth for fear it would give too much away, but he mentions her often enough in passing that Lyanna realizes she is a part of him that he holds dear. Jaime begins to realize that she shared a similar bond with all her brothers, especially Benjen, her confidant. How similar a bond he can’t be sure. Not that it matters.

They talk about their lives growing up, their families and their homes, but they gloss over the giant elephants in the room. Robert’s Rebellion and Rhaegar Targarayen – these are words they don’t mention in each other’s presence.

And still, the melancholy of their situation manages to creep over them. Somewhere near the half year mark of their marriage Lyanna grows tired. Jaime sees it in the way she practices, but also in the way she barely keeps up with conversation during meals. She is far away and plagued. Jaime does not know how to fix it, doesn’t know if he even cares to.

“It is the anniversary of Brandon and Rickard Stark’s death,” Maester Creylen mentions, “She hasn’t slept a peaceful night in days.”

Jaime did not know Rickard Stark, though by Lyanna’s accounts, he was a trying father to have, a man who cared more about his oldest two children than the younger two. Jaime knew Brandon, knows him more vividly through Lyanna’s stories. She may not talk about the casualties of war but she cannot keep quiet when it comes to Brandon – the hero worship is always out on display.

He finds Lyanna in the godswood, or what is left of it. It is a rare occurrence. She never prays, not to the old gods nor the new ones. The women in their household find it appalling, but Jaime can understand it. He never had much use for the gods and felt pretending he did was more of a mockery than admitting the truth. He knows why she’s here now though. She clings to the only reminder of the North she can find.

"The Maester says you haven't been sleeping," Jaime says, taking a seat beside her. “I have noticed you are not yourself as well.”

Lyanna smiles then. It’s weak and barely reaches her eyes. Jaime sees her hesitate to speak.

"My family always said my impulsiveness would get me killed. I was okay with that. Better to live life than to cower from it - Brandon taught me that," Lyanna pauses, and soft, nostalgic smile flickering over her face before it fades back into emptiness. "But I never could have imagined it would do this to my family."

She turns to look at him and Jaime has never seen such pain before. "How do you live with it?"

"My circumstances are much different than yours," Jaime says, tries to shrug but fails to really deliver it. "The king was not family and he deserved to die."

It is treason to speak such words. Jaime’s never cared, and Lyanna doesn’t even bat an eye at his harsh words. She frowns instead.

"Does it make it any easier to sleep with?"

Jaime’s heart feels heavy, like a stone that has settled in the center of chest weighing him down. Not just now but always. He hates to admit it, but he is not like his family. He feels guilt; the tiniest bit of it follows him wherever he goes. Guilt that he was a silent witness to unspeakable things. Guilt that when he did act all he did was break more vows. Guilt that he will never understand honor, that it should be easy. Men like Lyanna’s brothers, like his fellow Kingsguard – they make it look easy.

"No," Jaime says honestly, "But when I'm awake, I can pretend."

"I cannot pretend," Lyanna says.

The wind picks up and Jaime feels it carry away some of the tension. He has never spoken such thoughts out loud. The relief feels monumental, like a silent vow. "Maybe it will get better."

"Maybe," Lyanna repeats, and then she smiles leaning up to kiss him on the cheek, "Thank you for not making any promises."

Jaime laughs at the absurdity. "These days I'm not in the habit of making promises I cannot keep."

Lyanna’s head is now tucked against his shoulder and her hand has found its way into his own. "That is an honorable quality."

"I have a few of those,” he murmurs, another small burst of laughter escaping at the thought of his name attached to honor, “Not enough to make much of a difference unfortunately."

"It makes a difference to me," she whispers as she squeezes his hand.

Jaime’s not sure what he feels in that moment, but it is something.

---

That night he crawls into bed with her. She watches him from the moment he enters the room, eyes following his every movement until he's laying beside her, face to face. They haven't shared a bed since their wedding night. The staff surely talks as do the bannermen, but Jaime has never cared and he sensed his wife didn't either.

"We might as well be haunted together," he whispers as if it’s enough of an answer. He can see a glimpse of her smile in the moonlight.

She sleeps soundly that night. So does he.

---

iv. the intimacy

For her nameday, he gives her a sword.

Tyrion laughs so hard he nearly falls out of his chair. This gives his father’s men the courage to laugh as well.

Jaime would feel foolish, but the minute Lyanna spots her gift her entire face lights up. The new sword is lighter than the one she has been using, the one she nicked from Winterfell’s armory before she arrived here. Its pommel is solid gold and carved ornately with winter roses.

She smiles, clutches it close to her like a small child would their favorite toy. She kisses him on the cheek and tells him it is wonderful. That wipes the grins off the rest of the onlookers, though Tyrion still seems too amused for Jaime’s liking.

She refuses to part with it, going as far as to bring it to their chambers at night. They have been sharing a bed every night since that first night he crawled into hers hoping to chase away both their nightmares. The bed sharing is completely platonic, though it has helped quiet the irksome whispers of his father’s men.

“What did you name it?” Jaime asks. The sword glimmers in what little light has made its way into the room.

“Dragon’s Whore,” she says, her eyes bright with mischief, “Your brother says you should own whatever name a man gives you.”

Jaime laughs and Lyanna joins in soon after, scoots closer so that their ankles are intertwined. He places a hand over the one she has curled on top of her pillow. She is still smiling when she speaks again. “Does it bother you what they whisper about me behind your back?”

He cares little about the past, cares little for regrets, and yet he does bother him that a woman so vibrant can be reduced to something so ugly by such careless words. He does not know if he should care – if that’s what she would prefer.

He wonders then about his own name – about the moniker that has made its way around the Seven Kingdoms. The one his own men tiptoe around. “Do you care that they call your husband Kingslayer?”

Lyanna’s eyes flicker away from his face, down to the hand resting over hers. “If I could have, I would have ridden to King’s Landing and sliced Aerys from neck to navel for what he did to my brother and father. There is no greater regret of mine than having missed the chance to watch that monster bleed out in front of me,” she pauses to take a calming breath, “I think Kingslayer is an honorable title in this case.”

She looks back at him and the honesty there is so intense Jaime almost looks away. It must show on his face because she smiles then, something shy and amused. “Why are you looking at me like that?”

“You are beautiful.” The words slip out of him without warning, but once they’re out in the open he finds he doesn’t want to take them back. He leans forward to kiss her and she is already meeting him halfway, pushing at his shoulder so that he is flat on his back and she can lie on top of him.

“There’s something wrong with us, Jaime,” she murmurs in between kisses.

Jaime’s hands skim along her sides, settle at her hips. “I don’t doubt it.”

---

Things change after that.

It’s no longer a friendship masquerading as a marriage. The quiet intimacy, the camaraderie, it still exists, but now there is a physical aspect. Just like everything else between them it comes easy. They are in tune with each other’s wants – just a look from her, or a touch from him and they find themselves slipping off to find each other. Jaime has not felt this connected to a person since Cersei.

The guilt is still there, as though he is betraying his twin by sleeping with his wife. It lessens over time, as Cersei continues to ignore his letters, as word comes that she is already with child – a child not his, as his father proclaims that Cersei is content – a word he would not use lightly and rather not use at all.

Jaime still misses being part of the Kingsguard, still hates the monotony of running Casterly Rock. The only times he feels alive are when he’s fucking or fighting and now that he and Lyanna are indulging in each other’s company, he finds himself half way towards being content.

---

v. jon targarayen

Their first child, a daughter, comes in the second year of their marriage. She is all their worst qualities and Jaime finds he loves her best. Joanna is all the makings of a ruler. She's got her mother's charm and wit and her father's scorn for rules. Cersei's hunger for power and Tyrion's ability to wield it properly. Tywin describes her as a force to be reckoned with it, but he says it softly, as if he would smile if he was known for such things.

From the moment they place her in his arms, Jaime loves her fiercely and unexpectedly. She barely resembles him, thick brown curls like her mother, the Northern smile and nose. But, she has his eyes, bright emerald green. And it's not just the color. Every time he looks at her he sees the same emotions flickering beneath them.

They will have other children after Joanna. They will have a whole household of heirs that will make Tywin smile and praise Rhaegar Targarayen for giving his son such a fruitful womb for a wife. Jaime will love them all.

But it's Joanna who changes him. This he always remembers.

---

When Joanna is seven, war is brewing with the Iron Islands. She is in Lannisport with her Septa when the city is pillaged and she barely escapes being taken hostage. One look at his daughter’s terrified face and Jaime has already called the banners. They will march with the King's support or not.

Lyanna is pregnant with their third child. Their second, Brandon, is curled up in Lyanna's lap. Joanna is nestled between Lyanna and Jaime, tears dried on her cheeks from the horrors of the day. Jaime stares at their daughter.

"I'm not used to this," he whispers.

"To what?" Lyanna’s hand finds his and he thinks of all the nights they have spent in this bed, all the secrets they have whispered here, all the smiles and gentle touches they have exchanged, how he’ll never get used to any of it.

"Worrying," Jaime admits, "I think about what could have happened and what might still happen after I leave. I don’t know if it’s because she is a girl or because she was our first, but I cannot stop worrying about her."

"You never will," Lyanna says softly. And there's a far off look in her eyes. Jaime has never thought about it before. They talked about the war every so often now, but they never talked about Jon.

He's always known there is a boy with grey eyes and a bitter smile growing up a Targarayen. Lyanna's first born. On Prince Jon’s name day he knows not to disturb her. That she will be out somewhere hacking at trees and wishing to be left alone. That she will come back at night and crawl into their bed and pretend that it’s just another day because it has to be, and he will go along with it for her sake.

He thinks of how much his first born changed him and feels a rush of pain thinking about what he would feel if he could never look upon Joanna again. To know she had made him a better person and never get the chance to show her how.

Jaime feels sorrow for his wife, but more so for her son – who missed out on knowing such a woman all for the sake of politics.

---

In the end, the King does support them. He orders men from Storm's End and the North to help with the battle. Jaime goes to war with Lyanna’s brother, Ned and Cersei’s husband, Stannis, both of whom put too much stock in honor and therefore have little respect for Jaime. It doesn’t matter. They may be family, but it is in name only. Jaime fights for the children he left at home, for the frightened girl who was almost taken from him in Lannisport. Nothing else matters.

Victory comes easy. Afterwards, the King holds a tournament outside of Lannisport to celebrate. A dark look passes over Lyanna when Jaime mentions it and when she asks politely if she may stay home instead of attending, Jaime agrees. He passes it off as her recovering from the birth of their third child. Jaime pays no heed to gossip, but he knows they whisper about his wife’s absence anyways.

Joanna begs to come with him and he agrees – partly because he cannot say no to her or more specifically the way her eyes light up, but more so because he missed his children, especially her, while he was away at war.

"You'll compete, right?" she asks as they make their way into Lannisport. Her hand clutches his tighter once they are inside the city.

"I don't know," Jaime says, picking up his pace.

"You must! You’re the best jouster ever," she says. She struggles to keep up with him and Jaime is always amused by both the blind faith she has in him and the fact that she has never met a challenge she wouldn’t take. Keeping up with a man who’s two feet taller than her being just one of those.

"I am," Jaime says honestly. He scoops her up when it becomes obvious she will not admit to needing help. "It's only fair to let the others have a chance, don't you think?"

"No," Joanna scoffs, as if it’s the most obvious truth in the world. "You have to win. And then you can bring the crown home to mother."

Jaime smiles, though he’s pretty sure the crown is the last thing Lyanna would want and says nothing. Joanna takes it to mean she’s won, which she has. He finally enters his name in the jousting competition.

He makes it all the way to the last match only to lose to Jorah Mormont.

He expects Joanna to give him grief for the loss especially since it was lost on such an easy pass, but when the dust settles she is no where to be seen. He finds her in one of the fields out West where he lets her sneak away to practice. She is not alone. She never goes off alone since what happened in Lannisport, but instead of her Septa accompanying her, it is the crowned Prince and his guard, Ser Arthur Dayne who nods as Jaime approaches, but otherwise stays blended in with the scenery like a good Kingsguard.

He didn’t think Prince Jon would make the trip with his siblings for the tournament. He does not often travel with his family – his own choice apparently or at least as much of a choice as one of ten can make. The boy Jaime has glimpsed before the crowds is a spitting image of his mother, but carries himself like his father - reserved and dignified with a touch of melancholy, but it is on the field where he watches Joanna train, that Jaime sees Lyanna in the boy's attitude. When he laughs, it is Lyanna's laugh and when he smiles, it is all Lyanna's smile.

Joanna notices Jaime’s presence immediately and runs full speed towards him, almost knocking him over when she collides with his shins, wrapping her little arms around him and squeezing tight.

"I'm sorry you lost," she says.

"There will be other tournaments," Jaime promises.

He notices Jon lingers behind her. He looks uncomfortable, as though he’s been caught doing something wrong. Jaime is sure that King Rhaegar had encouraged him to stay away from Lyanna’s child or if he hadn’t, the stories of Jaime’s past should have been enough for any Targarayen child to tread lightly around a Lannister. But Jaime knows better than anyone how persuasive Joanna can be.

Jaime tilts his head, smiles gently as he acknowledges the boy, "Your Grace."

Jon takes a long stride forward, "Ser Jaime."

"He trains here too," Joanna says oblivious to any of the tension. "He said I could stay."

Jaime raises an eyebrow. "Is that true, your Grace?"

"Yes, Ser," Jon laughs. "Your daughter is quite the swordswoman."

“Indeed,” Jaime admits. He turns towards his daughter. “Clean up your mess. We need to get back for the feast.”

Joanna frowns, but does as she is told. Jon turns to help her, but before he can move, Jaime catches his wrist. He sees Arthur Dayne reach for his sword, but Jon shakes his head. Jaime isn’t planning to hurt the boy. He only grabbed him out of impulse, but the boy’s unwarranted trust in Jaime makes his skin itch. The silly boy is too much like his mother, maybe.

“Lyanna sends her regards,” Jaime whispers to him, and when the boy’s face lights up, it’s as though Jaime is looking at Lyanna again.

“What is she like?” Jon asks, words rushing out of him before he knows better than to speak them.

Jaime smiles. He has no idea where to begin.

---

When they return home, Joanna runs off to find Brandon and tell him everything she saw at the tournament. The boy is barely four and will hardly understand a word of it, but that is no matter for Joanna. Jaime finds his wife in the nursery with their latest addition, a boy named Liam who has been unlike his elder two siblings has Jaime’s coloring and his mother’s gray eyes.

Lyanna hands him his son and asks how the tournament went. He tells her that he jousted. She tries not to look amused at the fact Joanna roped him into it, and when he tells her he almost won, she tells him almost doesn’t count, but smiles wide enough that Jaime knows she’s proud of him.

"I saw Jon," Jaime says finally. He waits for Lyanna to respond, but she says nothing, eyes trained to stay looking at their newborn son. If he didn’t notice her hands shaking, he would think she didn’t hear him. "He looks like your brother Brandon. Not a drop of Targarayen in him."

"That’s good," Lyanna finally whispers.

"He asked about you. I told him you were lovely and talented and brilliant." Jamie smirks. "I lied of course."

"Hush," Lyanna laughs lightly at him, but he sees relief in her eyes. "From everything I've heard, he sounds like a lovely boy."

Her hand brushes over the top of their son’s head, fingers resting in the curls there. Jon’s head was full of curls when he was a baby. Jaime is sure of it. He places their son back in his crib and they stand side by side watching him.

"He is," Jaime promises, "You need not worry about him."

He can see the tilt of her smile out of the corner of his eye. "I cannot stop."

Jaime catches his wife’s hand in his own. Their fingers intertwine easily. "I told him that as well."

---

and i.

Years pass. They add two more children to their brood, twins. He names his daughter Cersei, hoping it will be a gesture to his sister. It works. She finally writes to him again. The letters are cordial at best. They are an ache more than a comfort, but it is something.

Lyanna names their son Benjamin in return. Jaime watches them carefully from day one. Both children are more Stark than Lannister and for that Jaime is grateful. His own relationship with his twin was more heartache than it was worth.

Years pass and there are even more things that Jaime never gets used to.

He never gets used to not having a sword glued to his hand or the way the need to fight dwindles with it. It was such a part of him growing up. It was an all consuming need – the only thing that made him feel alive besides his love for Cersei and now both are gone.

He never gets used to being a father. To the pride he feels whenever Joanna or Brandon pick up a sword or Liam says something too smart for someone his age or the way his youngest two will always have each other’s backs. How they all look out for each other.

He never gets used to Lyanna, to the way she never gets used to him. They say for Lords and Ladies that love comes after marriage, but Jaime has always believed that is a fairy tale. What he’s known of love is that it’s not something you grow into. It is immediate. It burns bright and consumes a person entirely.

The love he feels for his family – for his children and his brother and father. The love he felt for Cersei. They were so much a part of him that he would say anything or do anything for them. There was no vow or promise greater than that.

He’s not sure what it is he feels for Lyanna – how much of it is fueled by complacency, how deep it really runs.

Until another raven comes announcing a betrothal sixteen years after their own and he gets his answer.

--

They do not have to attend. This is what Jaime tells his wife, but she is stubborn to a fault and refuses to miss her nephew’s wedding, not when the invitation came from her brother’s own hand. Ned had not written to her since she was sent to Casterly Rock. His wife had on his behalf, and Lyanna would often joke that Ned was not big on words, but deep down he knew it hurt more than she could say. So when Ned extends the olive branch in the form of an invitation to his son’s wedding, Lyanna cannot say no.

Even if Robb Stark is marrying Rhaenys Targarayen.

---

From the moment they arrive in King's Landing, they are watched.

Or maybe it is just Lyanna who is being watched. Since the Rebellion, since their marriage, Lyanna hadn't left the Westerlands. Every wedding or feast or tournament he attended was either alone or with his children. Jaime didn't have to ask why. There were a thousand reasons she could chose from and all of them would have been valid.

She is not the type to cling to him, but as they make their way around King's Landing in the days before the wedding, she keeps a hand planted firmly on his elbow or her fingers intertwined with his wherever they go. As the days pass that grip only gets tighter. The eyes that follow her do not fade and the names whispered grow louder. Queen of love and beauty, mother of the crowned prince, or in the crueler circles: the Dragon’s Whore.

Even with the gossip aflutter, the wedding goes smoothly not that Jaime had any doubts. Rhaenys and Robb are both nervous but they seem to like each other well enough. Robb stares at her constantly, as though he is surprised to be married to someone so beautiful. Rhaenys blushes whenever she catches him, and it's so sickly sweet that Jaime feels like vomiting. When he mentions this to Lyanna, she smacks him lightly on the hand and tells him to behave, but he doesn't forget the way she almost spits out her wine when he says it.

They spend their time mocking most of the other couples at the feast - paying a special tribute to anyone from Dorne because they have done nothing but glare at Lyanna all night. They both expected such hostility from the Queen’s people. Dorne’s memory is a good one.

Ned’s approach surprises them both halfway through the festivities. He makes small talk with his sister and Jaime can see how awkward it makes the both of them, how nervous Ned looks in front of Lyanna, even more so when he asks his sister to dance.

“Lady Stark put you up to this,” Lyanna blurts out and the way Ned turns red makes Jaime snort into his wineglass, earning him a contentious glare from his wife.

“She did,” Ned admits, with a grimace. He still extends his hand. “But I would still like to dance with you.”

Lyanna places a tentative hand in Ned’s. She pauses after a few steps towards the dance floor, turning back to Jaime, "Do not mock my footwork."

Jaime grins. "The only time I care to watch your footwork is when you're carrying a sword."

Ned looks between at the both of them as if they are the strangest thing he's ever seen, but there's a smile on his face which frightens Jaime. He never would have guessed that Ned Stark was capable of a lighthearted thought, but there's Lyanna's greatest asset – turning the world upside down.

She dances once with Ned and after that once with Ser Arthur. Then her nephews take turns bugging her for a dance. Little by little she comes out of her shell, until Prince Jon approaches and she looks so happy she could burst into tears. She is the woman Jaime sees at home. She is the beautiful, charming and witty woman who is larger than life, who the whole court stops to watch but not because they’re seeing the past.

All save one.

Jaime does not pay any attention to his wife's footwork. Instead, he watches the King watch her – the echo of a woman Rhaegar Targarayen once called wife.

---

They leave before the bedding approaches at Lyanna’s request. The twins are back at Casterly Rock and their eldest three have already been ushered back to their rooms earlier.

The streets are like ghost towns and their lodgings are just as quiet. The trip leaves them in silence, comfortable enough though Jaime feels a dull throb of anticipation underneath it. He has drunk too much wine and she is still flushed with the excitement of the evening. His hand his firm against her hip, arm curled protectively around her waist. She leans into his shoulder as they finally tumble into their quarters.

"Prince Aegon asked Joanna to dance with him," Lyanna says, "Do you think it means anything?"

Joanna, who had never been introduced to Court, had spent most of her time with her cousins from Storm’s End. Cersei’s children had not only greeted her with open arms, but introduced her to all of the ladies and lords-to-be present. Joanna had never been a fan of dancing, but when the time came, she seemed to revel in the attention it got her. Jaime couldn’t have been more proud.

"I don't know," Jaime admits. He perches on the side of the bed, tugging off his boots and pulling at his tunic. "Court procedure was always a weakness of mine. There are a thousand different meanings behind one gesture. It’s all a big guessing game."

"I guess we'll know soon enough," Lyanna says. She sits at the vanity and begins brushing out her hair. "Catelyn was telling me that Aegon will crown his intended bride the Queen of Love and Beauty when he wins the tournament tomorrow."

Jaime laughs, and it sounds bitter in his ears. "Confident boy."

"Targarayens always get what they want." Lyanna’s voice is quiet but worst of all, it is hollow.

Jaime meets her eyes in the mirror. It’s a fleeting glance though. Her eyes shift to her own reflection. "Are we speaking about Aegon or Rhaegar?"

Lyanna’s breath catches, and her gaze falls to her lap. "Jaime..."

They have spoken of Aerys Targarayen and Robert’s Rebellion. They spoke of Brandon and Rickard Stark. They even spoke of Jon, but the one name they do not mention is King Rhaegar Targarayen.

Rhaegar who wed Lyanna first, who lays claim to her firstborn son, who arranged their entire lives together. Rhaegar who has done nothing but stare at Lyanna since the moment she arrived in King’s Landing, who has no shame in watching her every movement.

“It’s not the first time a Targarayen’s eyes have lingered too long on a Lannister’s wife,” Jaime says, and he doesn’t know why the stories of his mother and Aerys have suddenly flooded his mind, but they only make him more frustrated, more angry at their situation, more silly for caring. “Of course, there’s a different history here though.”

Lyanna turns in her chair so that they face each other. “You never asked.”

“I should have.” When it becomes clear that Lyanna won’t answer him unless he actually asks the question, he swallows a heavy breath before he speaks. “What happened between you and Rhaegar Targarayen in the Tower of Joy?”

“I went willingly,” Lyanna says, but before Jaime can figure out whether he should feel relived or angry, she continues, “And when I got word that Brandon and my father had died, I wanted to go home.” She swallows and her voice sounds dead in his ears. “He wouldn’t let me go home.”

It’s as though the world shifts with the words and everything makes a little bit more sense. He had always assumed that Lyanna had been a foolish girl who had run off and been bitten by Rhaegar’s honorable streak, but now he realizes it was not that simple. The idea that she was the honorable one, the one who realized soon enough that they were making a mistake only makes the uneasiness inside him flare.

You were selfish, Jaime thinks, and you more than paid for it

“Is that why he set aside your marriage?” Jaime’s voice shakes as he tries to remain calm and unaffected. He finds that nearly impossible. “Because you did not want to be married to him? Because he could not handle your rejection?”

He can see the shiver run through Lyanna’s spine. How her whole body tenses at the thought. “What difference does it make Jaime?”

Jaime kneels before her hoping if he is low enough he can catch her eyes which are now glued to the floor. He brushes a strand of hair from her face, a thick curl that tangles itself in his fingers when he goes to tuck it behind her ears.

“He stares at you.”

Lyanna flinches, her eyes closing. She breathes in heavy at the words.

“I know,” she whispers. She pushes forward so that their foreheads are pressed together, so that every inhale he takes is her exhale.

Jaime sees the tears start to fall. Slow and methodic – an erratic rhythm to them. “Are you afraid?”

Lyanna laughs, pushes back so she can see him better, and wipes unceremoniously at her eyes.

“There’s nothing to fear, Jaime,” she says, “And even if there was, I am a lion’s wife. If you have taught me anything over the course of our marriage, it is that lions do not know fear.”

There is plenty to fear – they both know this. Even if she wishes to be brave in its face. The king could whisk her away to a tower with a snap of his fingers if he so wished and because he is king, it would be even harder for Jaime to usurp him than it was for Robert.

It is that thought that hits him out of nowhere – the revelation that if she were to be taken from him, he would not just sit back and let it happen. That he would call his banners in a heartbeat – that they would all come without a hesitation because she was the Lady of Casterly Rock and they all loved her.

Jaime loves her. She was the gift given for the death of his young promise and the symbol of all the faults that led him here, but she is also the bearer of all that went right from that moment on. She is the only person in the world who understands him for better or for worse, who knows the double edged sword of honor too well to not laugh in its face.

Jaime smiles, wipes at the few tracks her tears have made with the pad of his thumb, “I will prove it to you once more.”

---

He proves it to her the only way he knows how. He enters a tournament. It's fitting since their first real conversations took place when they both had a weapon in their hands. Lyanna doesn't say a word but she looks at him and he knows exactly what she would say if she'd let herself. She'd tell him that he was being foolish, that he had won plenty of tournaments before and had already proved his worth with a lance or sword.

It's not about the tournament itself. Even with a dominant hand that is crippled with aches and whose fingers do not bend completely, Jaime knows he could win the tournament with his eyes closed. He is that good. It's more about the feeling after he wins - the moment when he unseats Aegon Targarayen in the final round and breaks the hearts of every girl in the city who hoped today they'd be wearing a crown of winter roses.

It's about the moment when the crowd falls silent, not from shock but from history and for a split second, Jaime thinks the worst. He turns his horse back to make sure he has not killed another Targarayen prince. Aegon is being pulled up from the ground and besides a slight ache in his shoulder and a bit of a limp from twisting his ankle when he fell, he is fine.

It's the moment Jaime trots towards the king's box, looks Rhaegar Targarayen in the eye, and takes the crown of winter roses from him - trying and failing not to smirk all the while.

When he approaches his family with the crown, he beckons Lyanna forward and she goes without hesitation, though he sees her hands shake. He wonders if they shook before, if at fourteen she had been this nervous or if the childlike excitement of being noticed had quelled any good instincts. She is not the same girl that she was then - she is a woman now, but there is no doubt in his mind she is still after close to two decades, the most beautiful woman in all the seven kingdoms.

It's the moment Jaime places the crown on her head - seals the truth with a press of his lips to hers - that Jaime proves himself brave for her sake.

---

Lyanna is waiting for him when he returns.

She is sprawled out in their bed, hair mussed and eyes blinkly slowly as though she had just roused from a nap. After the tournament, he had been accosted by congratulators from all over the seven kingdoms and any other day he would have brushed them off, but today had proved harder than usual. His children had found him immediately after he had removed his armor and their pride in their father had led to him being paraded around for what felt like hours while his wife slipped off back to their room.

"You caused quite a scene." Lyanna says plainly. She stretches her arms over her head, arches her back like a cat. Jaime slides into bed next to her.

Jaime huffs, "I don't know why. It's not unusual to crown one's wife."

Lyanna snorts, a completely unladylike sound which Jaime admires. She pulls herself up so that she can lean against the headboard. Jaime props himself up on one elbow, admiring the profile of her face as she stares off at the empty space in front of their bed.

"It's the debauching one's wife in front of the entire court that is the unusual part."

"It was a kiss," Jaime insists.

"Not a very courtly kiss."

Jaime can't help but lean over and press his lips to the exposed skin of his wife's shoulder. Lyanna shudders the second his lips graze there. It's one of eleven sensitive spots that Jaime has come across, part of the mental map he keeps of his wife's body. "We're married. We can kiss however we like."

Lyanna’s laugh is a low rumble. She turns towards him, catching his lips in a brief kiss, the chaste kind that would have been acceptable earlier. Jaime’s sure it’s just to prove a point. "Maybe you should just have me carry around a sign that says Property of Jaime Lannister."

There's no edge to her voice, but Jaime pauses anyways before responding. "I could arrange it if you'd like."

Lyanna’s grin fades slowly and her hand wraps firmly around his wrist. "You shouldn't bate him."

It's Jaime's turn to scoff though a part of him knows she is right. He shakes her grip around his wrist, turning their hands so that they are intertwined. "A wise woman once told me that there were many things she shouldn't do and yet, she would do them anyways."

Something flashes in Lyanna’s eyes. She regards him, so tranquil and quiet that Jaime can hear each breath she takes, can feel the rise and fall of her chest against his elbow. Even at the strange angle, her eyes bore into his and he should feel uncomfortable but with Lyanna it never is. "You remember that?"

"And all the times after," Jaime says quietly. He pulls at their joined hands until Lyanna scoots down the bed and lies beside him. They twist and turn until their bodies fit together perfectly. Like pieces of a puzzle, his leg slips between hers and her arms wrap around him.

“What did I ever do to deserve someone like you?” Lyanna says, the smile returning to her face, and though there’s a hint of sarcasm present, there’s a warmness to the words that overshadows it.

"I think it was meant as a punishment," Jaime says, "For the both of us that is."

Her head finds its way into the crook of his shoulder and when she speaks the words are pressed against his clavicle. "Well then thank the gods no one knew us well enough to punish us then."

Jaime laughs. For two people who wanted nothing to do with marriage, they have made a fine match. Whether it was intended to be one or not.