Another day, more waste of time, Jon thinks as he gives up for the day and walks back inside the usual inn – you would think that finding some kind of work in this city when a new king takes power wouldn’t be too complicated, and instead he’s managed to find nothing for now and he doubts that when he goes back to the room he’s rented until three days from now Eddard will have found anything better.
Fine, he doesn’t have an arm, but that never stopped anyone from finding work, especially in King’s Landing.
He orders some ale, even if he should save money, but he’s so disheartened about this, he might as well drink on it. Gods, at this point they might as well leave, but he can’t certainly go to the Stormlands, and he doubts there’s anything to be found in Highgarten. Dorne, maybe, but King’s Landing is still the best chance as far as finding a way to earn some money is concerned. Maybe they should consider Essos, and now that would be hilarious because Jon had sworn to himself that he would never set foot there again, not when it brought him little good the first time around, but if there’s no better option –
He takes his ale and sits at his usual, lonely table.
He glances at the Red Keep through the window’s glass, wishing Rhaegar and himself a happy life, however it is that it’s supposed to go, and he takes a sip from his tankard.
Then someone sits in front of him.
“Ser Roland. Or should I say, Lord Connington?”
Jon immediately looks up and – wait, why would Jaime Lannister know?
Because that’s him sitting in front of Jon all right – he looks tired, and he has bags under his eyes no one of ten and seven should have, and he hasn’t shaved in a week, at least, but his eyes are clear and he looks a tad better than he did back in the Red Keep.
“Do you know because you figured it out or because –”
“No,” Jaime says. “Or better, I thought you and the Hand of the King looked suspiciously alike, but I figured I was seeing things. Then Brienne actually told me everything before she disappeared,” he sighs, and that’s when Jon notices the hilt of his sword.
“Is that –”
“Oathkeeper? Yes. She gave it back to me, whatever it is that she meant by it.”
“Well, you gave it to her, back where we came from.”
“So she said. Anyway, that’s moot. What I’m curious to know, is what are you doing here.”
Jon shrugs, takes another drink. “What has Brienne told you?”
“Before she went off and disappeared for the next seventeen years or so? That you were supposed to do the same as her, but that you had chosen to stay here rather than go back in time. Or, in the future. But she also said that she had figured that the prince – pardon, the king, might have recognized you and thanked you for your –”
Jon can’t avoid it – he laughs, almost spitting his drink, and he laughs very bitterly.
Gods, for how tough she looked, Brienne really could be too sweet for her own good. He misses her, for a moment, and then he looks back up at Jaime.
“He has definitely thanked… me for the service. Not me, though.”
“Oh, you mean – young you?”
“Exactly. As far as I was concerned, I think that your eye is better than our king’s, sad to say.”
“Wait, you mean –”
“No, he didn’t recognize me and I don’t think it even crossed his mind. And – well, I suppose I have nothing to lose, especially with you.”
“What do you mean?”
“My lord, where I come from, everyone knows that you used to love someone and that society would not look kindly upon that specific kind of love. I might have shared part of that plight, except that it was not my sister,” he whispers, and takes another drink as he sees Jaime’s eyes widen in understanding.
“Oh,” he says. “Well, I – I cannot say I never pondered it, but – I am sorry to hear it.”
“Thank you,” Jon replies. “I think I’m – learning to live with it. So, I came back here because it was as good as any other place, and I’m currently trying to find some work, and it’s not going as well as it could be. Does that satisfy your question?”
Jaime nods, staring in silence at him, and then he looks down at both his hands – they’re crossed on the table, and Jon can’t help thinking they look nothing like a nobleman’s. There’s a faint burn on the left, too – maybe it happened during the sack?
“I suppose you don’t know the news about… me, I imagine,” Jaime suddenly says.
“I know you arrested your father, and that’s about it. Good thinking, by the way.”
“Thank you,” Jaime snorts. “I’m sure my brother will appreciate, but – I had to. Never mind that. What you don’t know, then, is that after making whatever deals I had to with… your other self, Rhaegar and so on, I quit the Kingsguard.”
“You – you did?”
“As far as the realm is concerned, I killed Aerys.”
“Why, you didn’t?”
Jaime shakes his head fondly. “No, she did. So that I wouldn’t have to.”
“Oh,” Jon says. “Gods, I can believe she would. She couldn’t stand the idea of you having to do it twice.”
“I know,” Jaime replies, fondly. “Other than that, I – I hated being there with Aerys and I’m not sure I can be with Rhaegar, either. It’s not what I wanted. And she told me – a few things, before leaving, and she was right about all of them. I’m not spending my life doing something I hate, and I honestly don’t even want to be in King’s Landing anymore. Also, in order to spare my father’s life, the deal was that I would take his place, so I’m going back to Casterly Rock.”
“Congratulations,” Jon tells him. “Your – the you I met would approve of this choice.”
“Thank you. And I think this is where we might help each other, if you would like.”
Jon puts his drink away and swallows the last of the ale he had just taken – what?
“We could help each other?”
Jaime shrugs. “I know nothing about being a lord. My father did try to teach me, but I always was more interested in swords than books, never mind that –” He looks down at his hands. “I never was good at reading. And my father didn’t want to hear it, but that’s not the point – the point is that I don’t read as well as my brother and I know nothing of – accounting and running a castle such as the Rock never mind the Westerlands. Now, how do you fare as far as that is concerned?”
“I was my father’s only son,” Jon replies. “And I’ve been high enough in the Golden Company, and I was Aegon’s Hand, for however short that lasted. I can handle that, or I could teach you, or both, if you’d like. But – why me?”
Jaime smiles slightly, but he’s obviously not feeling it. “Because you would have absolutely no reason to backstab me, Brienne told me that lying about Rhaegar’s death was your idea so I would have an excuse to kill Aerys, and I saw you wanting to reprimand yourself when Darry refused to stay back in the Red Keep. That would be more than enough to get me to trust you. And – the thing is, Brienne, uh, I – she said she would come back at some point.”
“Hopefully,” Jon confirms. “Wait, you mean –”
“I intend to wait for her,” Jaime says, sounding so sure of it, Jon can’t help thinking, it was destiny that they should find each other. “And I know that it will bring questions – it would be ridiculous if I did not marry at this point, and I am absolutely in the mind of telling my sister that it’s over, but if I know her she won’t surrender without a fight, and I will most likely be surrounded by people who don’t want what’s best for me or the Rock or the Westerlands, and – I’m tired, and I had enough of it in King’s Landing, and I need to have someone around that I know won’t try to stab me in the back. And since you managed to find some way to not marry when you were your father’s only heir, you might be helpful with that, too.”
Jon considers it. It’s a good solution – no one knows him in the Westerlands, and he absolutely can run the place and do the accounting and the likes, and while it’s probably sad that Jaime should ask him when he should trust a relative or anyone else around the Rock more, in theory, it’s not like he would refuse on that account. Never mind that he has all sound reasons.
“I – that would be ideal,” Jon finally says. “There’s just one matter.”
“I – I might not be traveling alone,” Jon replies.
“While I was in the Red Keep before leaving for Stoney Sept, I might – have met someone in a place that Oberyn Martell recommended me a very long time ago if I ever needed to satisfy certain needs and not with women.”
“We might have run into each other now,” Jon goes on. “And – the plan was that if leaving was necessary, we’d go together, but I’m afraid he doesn’t exactly have accounting skills.”
Jaime snorts and shakes his head, then looks back up at him. “My lord, honestly, I’m the least person that could judge your tastes as you pointed out before, and the Rock is huge. I’m fairly sure that whatever skills this someone of yours has, we can find him something to do or he can find something to do in Lannisport, it’s hardly a problem. I’m leaving tomorrow, you both can meet me at the main gate at midday. I suppose you will still go by Roland?”
“I think I will, I’ve grown to like it,” Jon says. “And I think we have a deal.”
He holds out his remaining hand.
“Good,” Jaime says, his lips breaking into a relieved smile that makes him look his age and not fifteen years older, “then it’s a deal.” Then he reaches out with his own hand and shakes Jon’s, with a nice, firm grip.
Things might be finally looking up, and Jon’s not wasting any good chance this time around, he decides, and if doing Jaime Lannister’s accounts wasn’t what he had thought he would end up doing when he went back in time, he thinks he can more than live with it.
He definitely can.