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Peanut shells and spills from the beer had the staff of the bar bustling around non-stop. From the draft poured thick streams of beer that slipped like silk down the throat. Non-connoisseurs, who made up the crowd tonight, called for endless rounds of cheap beer.

Students from Riverrun Law occupied every square inch of the bar. They were at the tables, toasting once again to passing the bar. They were at the dimly-lit corners, sipping beer from each other’s tongue, or simply engaged in rough tongue tennis, couples and pairs who will just be for the night. They were at the pool tables, ready to make bets because their jobs were secure at last, and at the bar.

Catelyn Tully pushed herself off the wall, gasping and a little unsteady on her feet. Her dark auburn hair was mussed and smelled faintly of beer. Though she was clearly disoriented, her blue eyes were clear, sparkling at the promise of the life that lay ahead of her. She burst out laughing when she was shoved against the wall again, her lips coaxed open by the sure, wet kiss of her boyfriend.

“Let’s bounce, come on,” she whispered heatedly between kisses. He continued kissing her, hand slipping under the short skirt of her dress to fondle her hip and trace the curve of her underwear. “Petyr,” she giggled, planting a small hand on his chest to push him away. “If you want me naked you’d better put me to bed.”

“Ah. Looks like tonight is gonna be all about WildCat, isn’t it?” Petyr Baelish told her, taking another kiss from her mouth.

“You like WildCat.”

“Indeed. But it’s Cat I love.”

Catelyn put her arms around him, looking in his dark eyes. “Tell that to my Dad the next time you see him.”

He shrugged. “If he lets me within ten feet. He’ll sic your hounds on me, you can count on that. No father wants his precious baby daughter married to the coal miner’s son.”

“He might change his mind when he finds out you’re third in the bar. And that you’re the newest associate at Lannister & Lannister.” She smiled and kissed him back, her heart welling with pride and love. “Come on, take me home.”

They got their coats and flung their arms around each other on the way out. Catelyn pulled him to the parking lot and he shook his head. “What?”

“Cat, neither of us can drive. Come on, just leave the car here. It’s only five blocks.” Petyr said, trying to steer her away from the row of cars.

“No! Too far,” Catelyn complained, pulling him harder. “It’s only five blocks. What can happen between here and our place?”

“Alright. But you’re driving. I’ve had more to drink than you.”

“Pussy.” But she kissed him passionately, throwing herself in his arms and sending him toppling against a truck. Petyr kissed her back with equal fervor, hands slipping under her skirt and cupping her ass. She giggled and pushed away from him again.

“No! Fuck me in bed, Petyr!” She exclaimed before breaking into a run towards her car.

“I changed my mind. I love WildCat!” He called after her as he ran.

They got inside her car. He laughed when she failed to start the car, unable to stick the keys in the correct slot. It took her three tries before putting the key in and turning it to start the engine. They laughed as she revved up the engine before suddenly pulling out of her spot and swerving towards the exit.

The windows were down and Catelyn laughed at the kisses of the cold, evening hair on her cheeks. What a year this was. Law school was behind her. She’d placed twentieth in the bar. As of this afternoon, she had two firm offers from Stark, Manderly & Associates and Tyrell & Associates. She had until tomorrow morning to make her choice but she already knew where to go: Stark, Manderly.

She guided the car down the road, already imagining what lay ahead of her. In two years, she and Petyr were getting married, and she hoped, a year after that, to be pregnant. She hoped to make partner by the time she was thirty-five. Gods. Thirty-five. She was twenty-seven now. Eight years to begin and get her life in order.

As she fantasized about a big apartment in the city, Petyr’s hand settled on her knee then slyly crawled up. She bit her lip to stop a smile, but lost. Life was never perfect but there were moments in which she thought otherwise. This was one. She was a lawyer, at last, and would soon be Catelyn Tully-Baelish. Or Catelyn Baelish? Or—

The figure came out of nowhere. Petyr shouted first. She froze and in her panic, stepped on the accelerator rather than the breaks. She screamed as the body slanted to the ground, and screamed again hearing and feeling the tires bump and roll over the body. She let go of the wheel. 

“Cat!” Petyr yelled. “Stop!” 

“Oh my gods!” She braked, their bodies lurching sharply. She feared her ribs would crack from the grip of the seatbelt. Shaking, she pulled out the keys, feeling sick and numb. She gripped the wheel. A click to the side showed Petyr getting out of the car. "No! Petyr, stop!"

"Seven hells," Petyr was wailing as he ran toward the body. "Oh, gods. What have we done?"

Cat slowly got out of the car, her eyes quickly pulled to the slumped shape ten feet away from her.

A body. Her eyes were wide. She knew it was a person but right now she couldn’t reconcile the body on the ground with the idea of a person. Petyr fell to his knees beside it, checking for a pulse.

“Is it—is it. . .” she couldn’t say the words. Her heart was pounding so fast.

“He’s dead,” Petyr muttered, cursing under his breath.

Her hands flew to her mouth.

“Fuck.” He spat, shooting to his feet.

“I—I—“Catelyn looked around frantically. The street was deserted, though it was only half an hour before midnight. Why were there no lights in the windows? It slowly hit her that the buildings flanking the street were office buildings rather than apartments. She clutched her heart, its panicked beating rendering it a stranger, more like the violent fluttering of an animal in her chest. “Phone. Petyr. Petyr! we have to call the police.”

“What?”

“I—I ran over him and he’s dead. It was an accident---” She was going to be sick.

“No. No police.”

“What?”

She stared at him, aghast. The man who stood before her, with the dark hair she loved to run her fingers through, and the coat he had inherited from his father, was not. . .no. This was not the boy who sat next to her in Economics class that first day of college. He was not the boy who kissed her at the football field after picking out a star and naming it Littlefinger. This was not the person she had made love to under the stars, in her bed.

This was not the man she loved.

“We are calling the police,” she said firmly. “What the hell, Petyr?”

“Don’t be a fucking idiot, Cat.” The violence of his tone unnerved her. She reeled away as if from a slap. “Think. There’s a dead man and a car. What’s the first thing the police will do?”

“It was an accident!”

“It was fucking reckless! Gods damn it, Cat, we’ve both been drinking! I can smell the beer from your skin. You think we can still be lawyers after this?”

Catelyn’s jaw dropped. Shocked, her legs collapsed under her.

No. No. She will never be a lawyer. Eyes wide and her heart threatening to burst from her chest, she started to shake. Petyr gathered her in his arms. She burst into tears.

“It’s alright, Cat. It will be alright.”

She had killed someone. Petyr pulled her closer until her chin rested on his shoulder. Clinging to him, she could only stare at the broken, limp shape of the person the dead used to be. He. A man.

Someone’s father. Someone’s husband. Someone’s son. Gone. Because of me.

“What are we going to do?” She whispered, unable to tear her eyes away.

Petyr kissed her and glanced at the body.

“We live, Cat.” He suddenly grabbed her by the chin, his eyes sharp as they scrutinized her. She shivered from the coldness of his stare. “Do you hear me? No one can know. We can’t call the police or it’s shit for us, Cat. Do you understand? We come clean about this man and it’s over. Over. We will never be lawyers. I—“’ his voice broke and for the first time, she was reminded of the boy she had loved since college. “I will lose you, Cat. I can’t lose you. I love you too much.”

“I love you too,” she whispered. “I promise, Petyr. No one will know.”

Petyr nodded. She was the one to hug him this time. He was also shaking. “Hush. Everything will be alright.” She pulled away to kiss him firmly. “It’s a vow, Petyr. No one will know of this. You’re right. We will live.” Her eyes flashed. “We must.”

She stood up and stared at the body. He was wearing a coat over his clothes. Despite the lack of a proper light, she knew that the growing pool under him was blood.

“Come on, Petyr.” She turned back to him, offering her hand. He took it.

“Let’s go back to the car, Cat.” Petyr sounded tired.

She shook her head. “Not yet.”

“What do you mean?”

She glanced at the body again. “No one can know. Help me. We’ll throw him over Frey Bridge. The current will take him away.”

And then she walked, her boots thumping softly on the concrete as they led her towards the darkness cloaking the dead body,

She will live, and nothing will get in the way of what she wanted. She had worked too hard to let some body derail her.

Chapter Text

“Stop, just stop,” Jaime Lannister said gently from the door. Moving away from the frame he was leaning against, he picked up one of sweaters at the top of the growing heap of rejected clothes on the bed. Sapphire eyes clouded with frustration met his gaze as he walked to his wife, whose broad shoulders drooped deep.

“There’s honestly no way I can go back to work this Monday,” Brienne complained, running her fingers through her messy, pale hair. It felt greasy and tangled towards the ends, reminding her that two days had passed since a shampoo and longer since using a conditioner. She sighed and stared wearily at the turquoise sweater he held out to her. “I don’t know if that still fits me.”

Jaime smirked, glancing pointedly at her tits. Once faint curves, they now thrust boldly against her t-shirt. “Don’t women often long for big boobs? I don’t see a problem.”

She blushed and suddenly laughed. She snatched the sweater from him, shaking her head as more laughter erupted from her. “Big boobs, big ass. I don’t know,” she looked at the sweater as he hugged her from behind, brushing his lips on her nape. She sighed and leaned against him. “I’ve become fat.”

“I like your big ass,” he said, kissing her behind the ear. She giggled and pretended to pinch him.

“You know you should tell me I’m not fat.”

“You’re not fat, sweetheart. You just weigh a bit more than you used to.” She rolled her eyes. She still carried an extra thirteen pounds, and they seemed determined to stay. “You can weigh three hundred pounds and I’d still be crazy in love with you. I see nothing wrong with fat,” he said firmly, meeting her eyes in the mirror. She smiled, knowing this was true. “I love your body, but more than your body too.”

“Can I really do this?” She asked, tossing the sweater back on the bed.

Four months away from work had been hardly felt. She gave birth to their beautiful baby girl and with Jaime, took care of her. Work never entered her mind as she lost herself to breastfeeding, changing nappies, sterilizing bottles, pumping for milk, bathing her baby and more. She was tired, but not to the point where she wondered why on earth they decided to have a baby. Not yet, anyway.

She had been working since she was sixteen, first in fast-food restaurants, then as a teacher’s aide after getting her associate’s degree, her college studies interrupted when her father fell ill and needed round-the-clock care. She never went back to college, preferring to keep working and earning her own money. Her father’s death following a long battle with cancer had drained what little savings they had, so she also had no choice.

She started working as an insurance investigator two years ago. It required only grit, work experience, balls and certification. She liked research and surveillance, and kept herself updated on latest technological developments in the field. Before she took a leave to gave birth, she had convinced her company to start using OPEM, a device used to scan the memories of an insurance claimant and possible witnesses. Her company found a loophole in privacy and security laws so that they may use OPEM to verify claims and avoid frauds.

Her days revolved around her baby, and Jaime, of course. Her husband was one hell of trooper, stepping in without being asked, and, she had to admit, so much better than her in changing diapers and swaddling. She didn’t mind. After pushing a human being out of her vagina for close to twenty-two hours, she didn’t care if she achieved anything else.

Her boss at Baratheon Insurance gave assurances that she not only still had her job but also that she could expect a promotion before the end of the year. Brienne hoped so. Money was not a problem but it never hurt to have more. Childcare was expensive. At least when she returned to work, she wouldn’t have to worry about entrusting her baby to a stranger because Jaime worked from home, as a computer forensics investigator. Though freelance, local police and law enforcement from other states employed him regularly. He often had to turn down jobs.

But, though they have not really discussed it, Brienne wouldn’t be surprised if he longed working in an actual office someday. Whether that was a year from now or longer, it meant spending for childcare.

Her anxiety, she and Jaime knew, was not that she no longer fit in her old clothes. It was leaving the baby and being focused enough at work. She truly loved being with her family and hated to leave, even when she looked forward to the satisfaction of contributing with her paycheck again.

“Be Emma’s mom,” she continued, hugging his arms to herself, meeting his emerald eyes in the mirror. “Work. Be your wife. Still be me?”

“Is that what really worries you?”

She nodded. “Dare I say I think I’m good being a wife and a mom?”

“You’re better,” he assured her, kissing her firmly on the cheek. “Are you worried your work will suffer?”

“I think the fact that I had to leave means, to an effect, it has suffered. It’ll be like starting all over again. Not to mention hating myself for going back to work when I should stay home and take care of Emma.”

“You will continue to take great care of our baby,” he said. “What’s the point of marrying me if I don’t take over when you’re gone?”

She hummed. “Oh. I thought I married you so there’s someone who’s obligated to fuck me.”

He chuckled. “Fucking you isn’t an obligation, sweetheart. It’s an unlimited bonus.”

He squeezed her tits for emphasis, making her giggle. Sighing happily, she turned to kiss him, putting her palms on his chest to nudge him towards the bed. He fell right on top of her discarded clothes, wrinkling them, but neither cared. She crawled on top of him, tugging off her t-shirt before resuming their kiss.

He turned so she was under him, sending some of her clothes to the floor. She licked his slick lower lip before opening her mouth, inviting the slide of his tongue for a wet, sensuous sparring with hers. Her tits, heavy and aching with desire, began to leak milk. She moaned as his chest pressed down, his t-shirt getting damp from her milk. Her hands slipped underneath, caressing the firm, bulging muscles of his back, the long line of his spine. She hooked her leg around his hip, pressing him down, feeling the warm bulge of his cock under his jeans.

“That feels so nice,” she moaned throatily as his lips brushed back and forth, from one collarbone to the other. She buried her fingers in his thick, hair, her eyes half-closed from the brilliance of its gold color under the light. A sigh slipped from her as he nuzzled her neck. Goosebumps erupted from her skin. “Jaime, fuck me.”

“Gods, yes.”

His tongue was thrusting in her mouth, her hand cupping his cock through his jeans, when a soft cry came from the baby monitor. Jaime groaned, dropping his head on her shoulder while she sighed, unable to hide her disappointment. They looked at each other and she kissed him on the lips.

“Later?” She asked hopefully.

“It’s a guarantee,” he promised, kissing her back. “I’ll start on dinner.”

They smiled at each other then stood up. He cleared his throat, adjusting his pants, straightening his t-shirt. He handed her the t-shirt and she put it on, hissing softly as the cotton brushed against her tender nipples. She went to Emma’s bedroom while he headed for the kitchen.

“Hello, my love,” she murmured, her eyes bright with happiness as she peered over her baby. Round, clear eyes met her gaze. She wasn’t sure about Emma’s eye color yet—on some days, they appeared blue, and in a certain light, seemed green. Eagerly, she scooped her up from the crib, making soft, shushing sounds as Emma cried.

She rocked her gently in her arms, checking if her diaper needed changing. Nope. She wasn’t sweaty, didn’t seem cold. She thought to offer one of her tits but Emma just wailed, indicating she wasn’t hungry. Brienne kissed her on the forehead, laughing. “You sound just like your dad when I make him eat vegetables.”

She took Emma out of the room, and her wails softened to whimpers. When they reached the kitchen, she was no longer crying. She rested her head on her mother’s shoulder, her small, fat thumb in her lips as she looked at her father. Brienne noticed the difference right away.

“I don’t believe this. She was crying because she wanted to see you,” she remarked, giving Emma a gentle, playful slap on the bottom. Emma seemed to giggle and kept her eyes on Jaime, who was taking out chicken wings defrosted in the microwave.

“Probably to remind me that fucking leads to more like her,” Jaime said, winking at his daughter.

“Ugh, just our angel for now, please,” Brienne said, kissing her again and giving her a little squeeze. “Which reminds me, did you get condoms from the store earlier?”

“Of course. The jumbo pack.” He laughed at the tomato blush that exploded from her cheeks. “Come on. You know we always get the jumbo pack. Remember back in the day? It never lasted us long.”

“I’m not so sure about that now but I’m glad one of us is optimistic here.” Brienne teased him. Pregnancy hardly got in the way of their fucking. It just meant trying new positions that won’t harm her and the baby—they almost never backed away from any experimentation in the bedroom.

A month ago, they resumed fucking. But using condoms again was an adjustment. She’d been on the pill for years until they decided to try having a baby. Despite not really being able to feel the skin of his cock inside her, her orgasms were still intense—and faster now.

“How do you feel about barbecued chicken wings?” Jaime asked as he got the sauces and spices ready.

“One of the reasons I was right to marry you,” she declared. Firming her hold on Emma, she opened the fridge and looked inside. “I can make us a salad too.”

Jaime made a retching noise and she straightened up, holding a head of lettuce in hand. She said to Emma, “There it is. Now I really know he’s your dad, my love.”

“Bitch,” Jaime told her, kissing her on the cheek. She laughed. He bent a little so he was at Emma’s eye level. Speaking in a singsong voice, he said,  “Of course you’re mine, darling. You definitely have my nose, for starters. And my hair—”

“Jaime, we’re both blond.”

“But my blond is golden, like Emma’s. Now, where was I? Oh, when Mommy and Daddy first fucked, they didn’t leave the bed for a week. And Mommy said--”

“Oh my gods, Jaime!” Brienne exclaimed, covering Emma’s ear while hugging her close. “Don’t you dare!”

“Mommy said,” Jaime insisted, making his voice extra breathy, “`Oh, Jaime, no one has been inside me that deep.’”

Blushing furiously, she gasped, “Get out of here and start cooking!”

Jaime laughed, grabbed her face and kissed her hard on the mouth. She couldn’t help but grin, unable to get mad. He winked at her before turning to get the chicken wings and tucking the bottles of spices and sauces under his arms.

“Asshole!” She called after him as he kicked the door open to the backyard.

“Always!”

Brienne put Emma in her cradle and placed her on kitchen counter. In between getting the rest of the vegetables to make a salad, she flipped up her tablet to stream the local news.

She idly listened to reports about new shops, school policies, upcoming festivals. As she sprinkled salt on the chopped vegetables, her ears picked up a name: Catelyn Stark.

“Hey, Jaime,” she called out. “Come look. It’s Representative Stark.”

Keeping one eye on the screen then another at Emma, Brienne leaned over to adjust the volume of the tablet. Jaime entered the kitchen, tongs in hand. She raised in inquiring eyebrow at the long, orange-red splotch on his shirt. “I forgot about the marinade,” he explained sheepishly as she tried not to laugh.

“I hope the reporter asks her about the amendments to the privacy and security law,” she said as he stood beside her.

“It honestly makes me really uncomfortable. Looking into my head like that?”

“But it won’t be done without a good reason.”

A loophole in the law allowed Baratheon Insurance to use OPEM but there were voices still decrying that the use of such devices was an invasion of privacy. The legal team at work had to compose an iron-clad non-disclosure agreement regarding the memories they will be accessing. Brienne understood why a lot of people were suspicious but too many fraudulent claims had been plaguing the insurance industry for a long time. If the losses continue, she’d be out of the job.

On the side of law enforcement, once they allowed to use devices similar with OPEM, alibis can easily be verified, or crimes witnessed, criminals tracked and caught—which, Brienne believed, could hasten an investigation. As the law was written now, devices like OPEM could only be used by private companies and individuals.

Many legislators refused to amend the current laws, with the exception of the likes of Catelyn Stark. Brienne had voted for the other guy in the last election, although he lost. It was nice to see that her local representative believed in the same things as she did.

“We’re glad to have Representative Stark in our show today,” the host, a red-haired named Melisandre, was saying to the camera before turning to her. “Welcome, Ma’am.”

“I’m glad to be here,” Catelyn said. She had long, flowing auburn locks but styled neatly. Her make-up was natural. She wore a deep navy suit that brought out the blue of her eyes. The effect was as powerful and polished as it was feminine.

This was a woman you wanted at your side when things got ugly.

“Thank you for having me, Melisandre.”

“Representative Stark, Congress will be voting this Wednesday regarding the amendments on the Varys Bill. Would you mind enlightening our viewers regarding your stance on these amendments?”

“Not at all, Melisandre,” Catelyn said smoothly. “Allow me to give you the highlights of the current Varys Bill. It protects the privacy of Westerosi citizens, in public as well as in private, such as when you use your computer to browse online. So, while you can not be persecuted for what you do in private, and in your own time, criminal acts are the exception. But before getting permission or a warrant to look into your, for example, online activity, there must be clear probable cause. This way, the law and any other agency can not, and should not look into the activities you do with your computer. It allows the law to browse, but without going through several hurdles.”

“That’s very clear. Why is there a need to amend the law?”

“Because we live in a time where surveillance, such as CCTV cameras in shops, are not enough for prosecution. Images can be manipulated, enhanced, or a vital shot or scene can be deleted, either due to recklessness or for any other reason. Memories, on the other hand, can never be touched. They can never be altered. Which is very helpful in certain cases where the lack of undeniable proof of a crime can’t even bring forth charges against the perpetrator.”

“Could you give us a clear example, Representative Stark?”

“Of course. In the last five years, sixty-five percent of cases involving sexual assault have either been dismissed or thrown out due to a lack of proof beyond reasonable doubt in connection to the perpetrator. You can’t charge someone on hearsay, let alone pronounce a sentence. When a perpetrator uses a condom that’s DNA evidence law enforcement will never have. When footage is deleted, that’s evidence gone. Memories, on the other hand, will always be there. They can not be manipulated.”

“But will amendments to the Varys Bill single out only memories with regard to a crime?”

Brienne, who was standing next to Emma, crossed her arms. Jaime huffed. “Let’s see her answer that. Didn’t you tell me OPEM can’t control the memory you wish to access? You get a barrage of images.”

“We freeze only the memory in connection to the claim when found,” she murmured.

“Still, sweetheart. What if in between the memory of a guy hitting somebody and then driving off, there’s of him jacking off? That’s the kind of thing you’ll be seeing everyday.”

She gave him an exasperated look and gestured at the tablet. “Will you listen, please?”

“The Varys Bill makes the way for technologies such as OPEM, which stands for Open Memory, to be used legally. Just think, Melisandre. Should a victim be found unconscious, or, worse, dead, through the use of OPEM, the reason for it will quickly be found. If there’s a suspect the technology will show a face, a tattoo, a build, height, weight. Just think of the cases that can be resolved quickly. But until amendments are made to the Varys Bill, the use of OPEM is restricted for private use only.”

Jaime shook his head. “She didn’t answer the question.”

“Of course she won’t. She’s being smart.”

“Your stance on the bill is controversial, according to your constituents,” Melisandre remarked. “Don’t you think it might hurt your chances for re-election next year?”

“I don’t see any reason why not, Melisandre, as I firmly believe that the amendments will serve to protect the people even more and bring justice faster.” Catelyn Stark turned to the camera and Brienne couldn’t look away from the blue of her eyes. They clearly reflected the studio lights, like silver pillars or a beam of light in the darkness.

“People voted for me because they trusted in my pledge to protect and fight for their rights. Amendments to the Varys Bill protect their inalienable right to justice. That is the work I have been doing from the moment I ran for office, and will continue to do so until my last day. I never forget a vow I made, and I trust in the people to remember that.”

“Fuck,” Brienne breathed as Melisandre and Catelyn shook hands. “She just won.”

Chapter Text

Fifteen minutes of photo-ops and shaking hands followed the taping. When it was done, Catelyn’s Chief of Staff, Jon Snow, whisked her away from the crowd. She couldn’t be more grateful.

Jon Snow was in his early thirties, an ambitious lawyer who had clerked at the Supreme Court before deciding he could contribute to politics better by ensuring the right people were in power. He often wore a serious expression but among friends, let loose and his lopsided grin hardly left his face. He had dark, curly hair and dark, deep-set eyes and a trimmed dark beard. Catelyn teased him for being a hipster once and he had taken offense.

“You were incredible,” he told her as they walked away from the studio. “That was one hell of an argument for the amendment of the Varys Bill. I see a definite increase in your numbers.”

Catelyn laughed, throwing him a chiding look. “Jon, we’re not campaigning right now.”

“Ah, but that’s where you’re mistaken, Cat. You campaign to get the seat, you campaign to remain in that seat, and campaign to move to a better one,” Jon said, winking at her.

“You don’t know how to take it easy,” she remarked, shaking her head. “Go home to your girlfriend, Jon. See you tomorrow.”

“At least let me walk you to your car,” he offered.

He stayed until she was inside then went off to get in his car. As Catelyn started the engine, her phone buzzed. She swiped the screen and instantly regretted it.

Petyr Baelish: I saw the interview. You were great.

Catelyn was about to put the phone away when he sent another message. Please. Let me see you. We need to talk. It’s important.

She killed the engine, debating whether to ignore his message or call him.

The last time she had seen Petyr was more than ten years ago. It didn’t take long for their relationship to unravel from that horrible night. She loved him but couldn’t fathom spending the rest of her life with someone who could be so normal afterwards. He had started drinking too. She gave it a year then left.

Not long after, she started dating Ned Stark, the son of the founding partner of Stark, Manderly & Associates. He was not a lawyer, but an aspiring professor of history. His specialty was medieval history. His talk about knights and honor, rather than annoying her, had drawn her to him.

Petyr was hardly in her thoughts from the moment she left him. She knew he had lost his job and had become an alcoholic. None of the boy she loved grew with the man he had become. She couldn’t imagine how her life would be if she had stayed, had his children. Just the idea made her shudder.

Sighing, she scrolled through the address book for his name and pressed it. Two rings and his voice was in her ear. She stiffened upon hearing it.

“Cat?”

She closed her eyes for a moment then opened them. “What is it?”

Her cool tone didn’t affect him as she expected it would. “Listen, we need to talk. It’s urgent.”

“I’ve had a long day, Petyr. It’s really not a good idea for us to be seen together. I’m married. I have a child.”

“For old time’s sake, Cat, please.”

She stared helplessly at the night surrounding her. Except for the faint crescent of the moon, there were hardly any stars out. It was going to be a long, very dark drive home. “Petyr, I don’t know.”

“I know it’s late. Tomorrow. You name the place and time. I’ll be there. I just really need to talk to you.”

“I love Ned, Petyr.”

“I’m not going to ask you to leave him.”

“Good. Because I’ve had enough of your drunken calls telling me I made a mistake.”

“Catelyn. You have to let me see you.”

She sighed. “Where can I meet you?”

“I’m staying at the Eastwatch Hotel.”

Eastwatch Hotel. An old, run-down establishment located in what used to be the factory district but was now just a collection of dilapidated, boarded up structures that. Dead and gray in the day, it was the site of underground clubs and meet-ups late in the night and until the wee hours of the new day. She would have to be careful, but she couldn’t exactly have Petyr meet her on her side of the town.

“I’ll see you at noon.” She said woodenly. She could always tell Ned she forgot something in the office.

“Thank you, Cat. I’m sorry but it’s really important.”

She hung up, staring as the phone’s screen darkened. From the overhead light of the parking lot, she saw her face on the screen sunk in shadow. She tucked the phone back in her bag and stared at the night surrounding her. She didn’t like driving at night, no matter the time.

But there was no choice, as she head learned one fateful night a long time ago. She started the engine, waiting until she could back the car out of the lot and swing out into the night.

Home was a thirty-minute drive. It meant going through a long, empty dark highway flanked by the forest and the River Trident, a long stretch of water that flows into the Green Fork, a bigger body of water. Her headlights were the only sources of illumination in the lonely highway.

She lived in a modern house done mainly in glass with her husband and their seven-year-old son. At first, they were not too sure about being isolated. The highway was three miles away, for one, and nearly the same distance lay between theirs and the nearest house. But after a long day of making deals, making promises and breaking them to hold on to her congressional seat, and Ned bombarded by students, they came to appreciate their isolation. The stillness Catelyn equated to peace, to safety.

She glimpsed the lone, two-story structure of her house as she entered the street. It was the only light in the darkness. Ned’s car was already parked in the driveway. It was an hour past dinner—she had missed it because of the interview, but her family would still be up. She parked her car behind Ned’s and killed the engine. She took her bag as she slipped out of the car.

There. There it was. If not for the quiet, she would not hear the strains of the piano.

She opened the front door and was welcomed by clearer music from the piano. She used to play as a child before discovering cheerleading and student government. She could still play but never quite reached the level where she might have been quite the accomplished pianist.

“Hello,” she called out, just as a boyish voice made an excited gasp. She laughed and walked through the hallway, opening her arms as Robb leaped from the bench. He ran to her and she caught him, picking him up from the floor. He was going to break her back but she loved holding her baby boy. “Darling, that was some wonderful playing.”

“Mom!” Robb exclaimed, hugging her. They held each other for a moment before she put him back on the floor. As she straightened up, Ned approached, slipping an arm around her waist to kiss her on the cheek.

“Honey,” he murmured. “Long day?”

“Ugh, too long,” she complained, taking off her two-inch pumps and tossing them to the floor. “How was yours?”

Ned Stark was not classically handsome. He looked thuggish even in his tailored suits, but because he was broad and quite thick in build, without the fat. His hair was dark brown and his eyes were a deep, intense gray. He wore a solemn expression most of the time but when he smiled, he was quite good-looking.

Robb had taken after her in looks—wavy auburn hair and navy blue eyes. But like his father he often looked serious. He was quiet and had a few friends. Yet he seemed a well-adjusted child. Kids his age were more interested in video plays while he preferred to read and play music.

“I’ll tell you when counting sheep don’t put you to sleep,” Ned joked. “Come, I’ve kept dinner warm for you. Osha made beef stew.”

“She’s a goddess,” Catelyn declared. Osha was their housekeeper. She reported for work four times a week.

“Mom, do you want to hear me play while you eat?” Robb asked. He had a recital on Wednesday night.

“You know what, why don’t I eat here so I can hear you perfectly?” Catelyn suggested, ruffling his hair.

“Cool!” Robb said and dashed back to the piano.

“Let me have a word with your mother first in the kitchen, okay, Robb?” Ned said, taking Catelyn by the arm.

“What is it?”

He winked at her.

Open concept rooms were the rage right now but Catelyn still preferred divisions, partitions. She didn’t care if the former meant a wider, more welcoming space. Compartmentalizing meant order, not to mention privacy. Ned pulled her towards the dining room then the kitchen. As Robb began to play, Ned suddenly pushed her against the wall and kissed her.

Catelyn kissed him back hotly, opening her mouth and taking his jaw in her hand.

Petyr was the only other man she had been with besides Ned. Because he was her first, she would always compare her husband to him.

Where Petyr kissed her gently, like a prince from a fairy tale, Ned took her mouth with animalistic hunger. She sighed and groaned through their kiss, grateful that the piano was loud. She wished Ned didn’t kiss her like a starved animal, and would try for some finesse but she had learned to pick her battles. She could live, and learned to love, the man who stuck his tongue down her throat on their first date. Every time his cock thrust in her ass, she reminded herself of the stability his name and money had given her, and the power.

She shuddered, clinging to him as his hand delved under her skirt to palm her pussy through her panties. “I’ve missed you, Cat,” he rasped against her ear. “I need to have you.”

“But Robb—” she started to say before he kissed her.

“Now,” he insisted, pulling up her skirt. He pushed the panel of her panties to the side.

She sighed and nodded.

He fucked her against the wall, her arms and legs holding tightly on to him. She swallowed her whimpers of discomfort as his cock rammed in her pussy. She wasn’t very wet, and Ned was big. It was a small sacrifice to what she could ask of him later. That was the deal she had made with herself when she agreed to marry him. Her body and what passion and love she could summon for him in exchange for power. She had always known that being a lawyer was only the first step to a grander ambition.

Ned came with a soft growl, shuddering against her, his fingers biting painfully into her thighs. She let out a soft grunt, having experience some relief but not exactly a release. He kissed her on the lips, gently this time, but only because fucking had drained him. She waited until he set her back down on the floor before fixing her skirt. He zipped up, grinning at her with satisfaction.

“Go back to Robb,” he told her as she pulled up her blazer. “I’ll bring you the food.”

Ned was an animal but cared for her. Catelyn always had that assurance. Petyr, no matter how much he believed to love her, would in the end leave her hanging, or worse, in prison, if they had gone to the authorities about that night. In Ned, she was sure that he would not only kill to keep her out—he would even ensure that dead body will never be found. This was where she came to love him.

They listened to Robb play. Catelyn had a bowl of the stew on her lap, her legs up on the coffee table. Ned was sitting beside her, offering his shoulder as a pillow. Catelyn was thankful their boy was still too young to recognize the dazed looks on their faces, or that the scent clinging to them was of fucking.

Anyone looking in through one of the bay windows would see the perfect family. The protective father with an arm around his wife, watching with growing pride at his son’s talent with the piano. The beautiful, devoted wife, her expression serene because her life was complete. The wonderful, handsome little boy with a bright future ahead of him.

An image Catelyn never thought possible until she left Petyr. Perhaps she should have left him long before the accident. That was the problem with a first love. No matter how disappointing they were, there was always the thrill of the first kiss, the excitement of a cock entering her pussy for the first time. She had been ready to give her life to Petyr because she didn’t know any better.

In a way, she had to thank that man, whoever he was. He had come close to destroying her life but in death, he cooperated, giving her a new lease by staying under water. Embraced by the cold of an old sleeping bag and rocks, she could still see him as clearly as the night they put him there, and almost regarded him as a friend.

For the next hour, they spent time as a family. Catelyn treasured this time. No matter how hard her job got, she only had to look at the two men in her life to be reminded that every sacrifice she’d made was worth it. She loved Ned more out of necessity rather than passion, but she did care for him, in her own way. Robb she loved with all her heart. He was half of her. There was no choice.

She put him to bed later with a kiss, and a whisper that she loved him. He smiled at her as she drew the sheet over him. She turned off the light and went to the master suite.

Having been married to Ned for twelve years, she knew what some nights entailed. He was never satisfied with a quick fuck, more that they had been last intimate close to three weeks ago. Usually, she would make herself wet in the bathroom, fucking herself with fingers. There hadn’t been time for that tonight.

Sure enough, as soon as she was in bed, Ned put a hand on her thigh, and up it went. She smiled, knowing that this time he would be gentler, more like the kind of man she would have loved with all her heart, every fiber of her being.

They kissed, Ned settling himself over her, his legs nudging hers apart. She turned her head, shivering as his lips warmed the graceful line of her throat, hands cupping her tits through her nightie. She watched through half-closed eyes as he kissed down her stomach, pushing at the silk to bare the slightly rounded skin.

When his lips brushed against the faded caesarean scar, she felt that she truly loved him. Or could love him truer than she did.

He had been ready from the moment his hand settled on her thigh. His kisses and caresses ensured her pussy was wet enough, the tell-tale moisture on her thighs promising he won’t feel as brutal, there would be no discomfort. She turned on her hands and knees, raising her hips. Her long auburn hair fell over her shoulders, on the pillow as she submitted herself to the inevitable. His hands pushing up the silk. Tugging at her underwear. She raised her head, looking through the soft snarls of hair sheathing her eyes at the placid stretch of the Trident outside the window. How it flowed without trouble. Smooth. Almost silken. The currents taking things away.

Their isolation granted them privacy, and because the street was theirs, no one could simply go through it. As Ned fucked her from behind, she wondered what a bystander, or someone out on a boat ride would think if just happening to look up. There were no drapes to shield them from prying eyes, and Ned never fucked her in the dark.

She caught their reflection on the glass and looked away quickly. It was a turn-on for Ned, the possibility that they could be watched, and he teased her for being a prude. He couldn’t understand that it wasn’t the fucking that embarrassed her. It was the privacy they risked. Whether a local representative or a private citizen, she valued it, specially something so intimate, so revealing yet not the entire story.

But she knew people All it took was one narrative, whichever was first, to dominate and completely obliterate all the other sides. One look and the person would think she was helpless in the bedroom. One whiff of her breath from that night with Petyr and she would be labeled reckless, a criminal. Someone who belonged in prison.

She knew what stories had to be told. What should be in darkness.

As Ned huffed behind her, his hands bruising her hips again, she whined and struggled, trying to reach for the lamp switches on each bedside table. “What the hell, Cat?” He gasped, sunk in the throes of another orgasm to completely comprehend what she was doing. “What?”

She didn’t answer. She gritted her teeth as her arm stretched out, palm slamming on the switch to bring the first darkness. “Cat, damn it,” Ned swore, realizing what she was doing. “The lights—let me see you—”

She shook her head, her other arm reaching for the next lamp and plunging the room in total darkness. Now there was only the pale crescent of the moon, buried in the clouds.

“Cat—”

“Harder,” she cried out, grabbing the bedposts and pushing her hips back. “Do it harder.”

He shoved inside her, making her shout as she lurched forward. Gripping the bedposts, she swung her hips back, the curves hitting the hard surface of his thighs. His grip promised to ground her hipbones into powder and she whined in both pain and pleasure.

Harder he fucked her. Faster she fucked him back. Ned was growling. She was whimpering, moaning. In the darkness she knew getting fucked like this wasn’t submission. It was just another step. Another promise to getting what else she would want. The slide of his cock, the grind of his hips, were stamps of guarantee. Inescapable. Definite. True.

She could see it. Taste it. Power. There was more. And more would come with Ned. Only with Ned.

In the dark she was free. She was unleashed. She could be. It had been her friend since that night with Petyr.

Catelyn flew into her release with a scream.

 

Chapter Text

With a bottle of warmed breastmilk in hand, Jaime took charge of feeding Emma while Brienne put the plates in the dishwasher and cleared the table. She put the leftovers in stackable containers. There was enough for leftovers for lunch tomorrow, or dinner.

Since it will be a while before Emma would fall asleep, Brienne took advantage of the time. She listened to the soft, soothing guitar music of Jaime’s playlist, coming from Emma’s room. He would be dancing, softly shuffling his feet in random patterns all over the floor because the movements lulled their daughter to sleep.

Brienne used the time to put fresh sheets on the bed and to have a shower using her favorite bath gel. When she stepped out, there was no more music from Emma’s bedroom. She tightened the knot of her bathrobe and peeked inside.

“My sweet baby girl,” she murmured, standing over the crib and touching her soft, fluffy blond hair gently, to not wake her. “Am I cruel for leaving you?”

Working again made her excited—not surprising given that life had been pretty monotonous since giving birth. Wake up several times to feed, change nappies, check on Emma. Pump milk from her tits. Label then store them in the freezer. Fuck Jaime. Feed baby from tits. Sterilize bottles. Laundry. Prepare food. Visits to the pediatrician. Pretty much that routine, with variations. She could do them in her sleep.

She loved her job at Baratheon Insurance and took pride in it. It was regular, it put food on the table and allowed room for a few indulgences without much regrets. Her co-workers were nice, and her boss supportive. The base pay wasn’t much, truth be told. It was bonuses that helped buy the three-bedroom, two-toilet and bath house they lived in. Baratheon Insurance prided itself for being efficient and fast. The faster claims were verified and settled, the bigger the bonus. And Brienne worked fast.

Despite her excitement, she was terrified. Could she still do it? It was true—her priorities had changed. Jaime respected her job, but he wasn’t a fan when she started using OPEM. Invasion of privacy was not his top concern but her exposure to a lot of sick minds. Despite assurances from Baratheon Insurance that memories without a direct and clear connection to the claims would never be used, filed or stored in any way, Jaime believed people would be still fucking protective of their memories—to the death. There was also no undoing once Brienne herself saw them. She was bound to take them home.

And she had seen a lot of unpleasant, even disturbing things. It wasn’t memories of people jacking off that made her want to bathe in  hard-core cleaning agent. Some people were evil. She’d seen through their memories animals mutilated for fun, girlfriends beaten up. She saw someone slip a date-rape drug in a drink. The right thing would be to go to the police. Memories didn’t lie but they were subjective—and for that reason, the law couldn’t always step in. Plus, her use of OPEM and seeing these memories could be termed considered an illegal search, or a breaking and entering of some sorts. Unless she was actively looking for such memories, there was little to nothing that could be done.

But in her dedication to sieving through memories to find the truth, what would her daughter remember of her? Emma was still a baby but she could see, she could remember. She had memories. Once, Brienne had used OPEM on her and saw hers and Jaime’s faces feature prominently. There was no doubt that once at work, she would hardly grace Emma’s memories.

It hurt. And that was reason enough for Brienne to sometimes wonder why she still held this job when there were other things she could do. At what point will money be no longer worth her growing absences?

“Do you know how much I love you?” She whispered, looking at Emma, breathing in her natural, powder-and-honey fragrance. “Do you know what I’ll do for you?”

Emma slept on. “Anything and everything,” Brienne told her, pressing a kiss on her teeny, plump hand. “There is nothing I would never do. If you can’t. . .if you can’t remember me much then at least know that, Emma. It’s the truth.”

Another kiss, this time on the forehead, then she left. She found Jaime watching in the living room, eyes riveted by another Netflix show. He glanced up as she entered, nodding. “You look good. Come here.”

She smiled and sat down next to him. He kissed her on the neck. “You smell good too.”

“Thanks for taking care of Emma,” she said, stretching out her legs to put them on the coffee table. “You’re a god.”

“I should put that on a t-shirt,” he joked, throwing his arm around her shoulders.

“What’re you watching?” she asked snuggled against him, hugging him tight.

“Who the fuck knows,” he said, pressing the escape button to look for another show. “It’s all cooking shows and some dark documentary. Or a shitty Marillion. Maybe we should drop our subscription. There’s hardly anything good.”

“If it’s entertainment you want,” she murmured, her hand drifting to his thigh.“I know one.”

He was quick to catch her meaning. “Hmm,” he said, playing along. “Care to show me?”

As he spoke, her pulled her to straddle his lap. She laughed, kissing him on the forehead, around his eyes as he pulled at the ties of her robe. She stood so it would fall completely from her body, leaving her nude and limned by the weak light from the moon. She was about to straddle him again when he stopped her.

“Wait,” his voice was husky as he unzipped his jeans. “I just want to look at you.”

Brienne stood, her pale skin becoming a canvas of moving images from the screen, shadows and light. Jaime’s gasp was wet and rough as he fisted himself. She listened to the soft brush of palm on the tender skin of his cock, the rustle of pubic hairs.

She blushed as he stared hungrily at her mouth. The grave, intense look on his face suggested what he wanted to do to her mouth, possibly later. His gaze moved further down, lingering on her throat, at her tits. The tightening response of her nipples at his scrutiny was both of embarrassment and also eagerness. She will never get used to standing like this for Jaime, but the heat in his gaze made her stay.

She watched as his golden fingers clamped around his cock. He had a beautiful cock, long, elegant and pink. Not even porn showed a cock anywhere close to how pretty his was. He was big, a pillar of flesh at rest, a colossus as it rose at the sight of her.

A pity it was only his jeans he removed but he was still beautiful to look at. She stared at the chest muscles tensing under his t-shirt, the cords in his arms standing thick as he touched himself. When their eyes met, she knew what to do. She stepped forward, face reddening upon hearing the squelch from her pussy.

Jaime’s grin was feral. “You’re wet. Get over here.”

With a movement that was almost graceful, she straddled his lap.  

He kissed her. He still tasted of spice, of smoke, and the beer he had with dinner. She smiled, sliding her tongue inside his mouth, moving so he was leaning on the couch. Her tits, swollen from milk and lust, brushed his t-shirt. They groaned, and he gathered her in his arms, caressing her broad waist, squeezing her hip firmly. Slipping his hand lower, he coaxed her outer labia open and pushed a finger inside.

“Jaime.”

Fucking Jaime was always devastating in the best way. But the lead-up to it was just as good. The world tilting. Feeling lightheaded, her chest tight, her skin tingling. She grunted through their kiss as his fingers lodged deep in her pussy and in the unyielding passage of her ass. She felt as if stuffed full. The burn made her tremble. Her nipples, already swollen and firm, leaked milk, impatient for his kisses. Thick honey gushed from her pussy, plopping on his thighs.

As their mouths sparred and hands slipped between bodies to possess, her eyes, half-opening, glimpsed the window behind Jaime. The drapes were open. No neighbor would be peeking in, despite the lights from their houses that winked in the night. But she still stopped, with great reluctance. “Jaime, someone might see.”

“Hells,” he sighed, glancing behind him. With a hard, apologetic kiss, he put her on the couch. Her eyes shone as he dropped his pants, clearly not caring that someone might see him, and in the state that he was in. He strode boldly to the window, drawing the drapes closed.

“Only I get to see you like this,” he said as he went back to her, now pulling off his shirt. He raked her appreciatively, his eyes resting on her pale tits, at the milk gleaming from her nipples. “They can see me but not you.”

“What makes you think I’d want anyone to see your ass?” she teased as he once again pulled her on top. “I’d be punching women in the face non-stop.”

“We don’t want that. And you’re the only one I want to see me like this,” he said as she kissed him gently.

His lips traced the line of her neck as she caressed his muscled shoulders, pressed her palm on his hard, hairy chest. She hummed and cooed as he nuzzled her neck, his beard adding an extra, thrilling sensation that caused her nipples to stiffen painfully as milk began to drip from them, her pussy wetting his thigh. She arched her back, offering him her tits, her body, for whatever he wanted to do.

He kissed her tits, every freckle, laved tongue over these marks so they gleamed before taking one of her leaking nipples deep in his mouth. She whined as he sucked, rubbing her pussy alongside the hard, searing length of him. But he suddenly stilled her with hands on her hips, before one drifted to her nape and held her in place. As his lips moved to partake from the other nipple, his fingers pushed back inside her ass.

She cried out, quickly stifling it upon remembering her sleeping baby. Clutching at the edge of the sofa, she swallowed her sounds of pleasure as he suckled from her breasts, his kisses wet, loud, hungry. She pushed her face down his shoulder, opening her mouth to bite and suck on the supple flesh as his fingers fucked her in that dark crevice. The hottest, sweetest burn. His cock pressed, jabbed at her clit. Her pussy was pouring.

“Jaime,” she begged, her voice thick as if by tears.

“I know. Fuck. Brienne. So fucking good,” he grunted, sinking the entire length of his fingers inside her. There was no stopping her shriek this time, feeling her pussy squirt softly. He chuckled, kissing her firmly on the throat, right on the pulse.

“Condom,” he whispered, his other hand fisting her hair as she gasped. “Drawer.”

“You keep condoms in a drawer in the living room?

“We fuck everywhere, Brienne.”

She laughed and reached to the side, her movements loose, languid, as she pulled open the drawer open and found a strip there. “My good, naughty boy,” she remarked, grinning. She tore off a square, ripped it open. Jaime’s head fell back, revealing the bump of his Adam’s apple. She couldn’t resist rubbing him, squeezing his balls very gently as her teeth grazed the bob on his throat. Groaning while his hips jerked, she put the condom on him.

Jaime helped her, holding her as she fitted her pussy around his cock. Her eyes widened as she began to slide down him, remembering why she found this position to intense. Not only did Jaime feel a lot bigger in this position. He went farther inside her too. And she was wide from her orgasm.

Brienne grunted, sighed, clung to Jaime as she fucked herself on his cock. His fingers were under her butt, guiding her fast, desperate movements. She grabbed him by the face, needing his eyes on her. Green. Emeralds. Light. Hers.

She wailed against his shoulder as she came, biting him again as her body was seized with the aftershocks of orgasm. He hit his release seconds later, burying his shout in her mouth, his tongue intent on living in her throat.

In bed a short while later, Jaime’s head was pillowed on her chest. She smoothed his hair away from his face, kissed him. He sighed and licked her nipple.

Despite pleasure at his kiss, she couldn’t help but worry. “I hope we do that again soon.”

Jaime pushed himself up, frowning. “What do you mean?”

She bit her lip. “Alright, don’t laugh, okay? I know I’m being ridiculous but. . .I’m really excited about work. I am. I love my job. But just the idea of what awaits me, and what’s expected of me back here. . .I worry about getting overwhelmed. Of doing everything halfway.” She sighed impatiently. “It’s just that. . .nothing can be half-assed anymore, you know?”

Realizing that she had a serious matter that he had probably just set aside, Jaime raised himself from her breasts, lying down so he was directly facing her. The concern on his face just made her love him more.

“I don’t know if this makes sense,” he began carefully as she caressed his chest. “But. . .I think we have to accept the fact that given how hugely different things are now, doing things half-assed is inevitable.”

Brienne burst out laughing. Jaime rolled his eyes but he was grinning. “I’m serious! Fuck, Brienne. Come here.” She squealed as he grabbed her by the waist, removing the blankets covering her nude body. She hummed happily as she settled half on top of him, her chin resting on his chest.

“We’re not perfect but I think together, we’re great. Objectively speaking. We’re great. We made a gorgeous kid, for one. The fucking is out of this world—to say the least. We actually spend our money on real food rather than pizza, we have savings accounts. Brienne, we fucking have vegetables in every meal. We’ve invested in this fucking house. We haven’t done anything half-assed in years. I think it’s time we do, don’t you think?”

“Gods, when you talk like that, I can’t help but wonder at just the kind of lawyer you could have been,” she answered, admiring his take. “I get it. We’re bound to fuck up.”

“One of us might leave Emma in a coffee shop. I could turn in a wrong analysis. You could promise a client a substantial claim only for there to be next to nothing. We’re going to fuck up, Brienne. Like it or not. We’ll just have to look out for each other and just. . .keep loving, you know? And lots of fucking.”

“Lots of fucking,” she repeated. She smiled, throwing her leg over his thighs.

He smirked. “Absolutely. Clears my head, for one.”

Her heart quickened when he kissed her hand. “I do feel fantastic when you’re inside me.”

“Of course you do. My big cock touches everything.” He grasped her by the chin and kissed her hard on the mouth. A long thread of spit appeared between their lips as they parted. She sighed happily.

“I just want to be the best, Jaime.”

“So do, I. All of us. But we’re not going to be at optimum performance all the time. Except for the fucking.” He was firm. “That I can promise. My cock will always be hard and ready to fuck you into the next century.”

She smiled. “My legs will be open.”

She cuddled close, comforted from the warmth and scent of his skin, his beard rasping her cheek. “Okay, here’s another thing. There’s an actual human who depends on us for everything. Everything. She can breathe fine, can poop fine, eats fine. But beyond that, it’s all on us. And our baby is a never-ending money pit.”

“So fucking true,” Jaime agreed. “Thank the Seven she’s the cutest baby in Westeros.”

“Lucky baby, that Emma.” Brienne turned serious again. “We can give her the best life despite the fuckery we’ll end up doing from time to time.”

“We can. And we will.” He kissed her on the shoulder.

“I gotta start going after those bonuses. The Seven knows I’m the fastest investigator there. Which means bringing some of the work home with me.” She made a face.

Jaime kissed her. “Cheer up. I bring work home all the time,” he joked. “It’s the future. If you won’t bring home work, it shows up at your doorstep. At times with a hammer.” He shrugged. “Pound away until you get the bonus.”

“I’d like to be positive and say that when work is in our bailiwick, it comes with an envelope stuffed with cash.”

Chapter Text

 

The rhythmic, hammering sounds told Catelyn that Ned was at work in the garage. She watched him straighten a chair leg, one hand holding it steady while he pounded a nail into it with the other.

In suits, Ned’s rugged features and thick but trim build made him look like a thug, even the tailored ones. Shirts and jeans suited him better. She was standing by the door when he happened to look up, his lips forming a lopsided grin. She smiled back and went to him, a glass of iced tea in her hand.

“We could have just brought those to a shop for repair,” she chided him as the ice clinked in the while holding out the glass. He took it.

Three more chairs waited for treatment. They were from the dining room. Last night, Robb nearly fell off and that was when they discovered the wobbly legs on the chairs.

As Ned took a sip, Catelyn looked around. Their garage was organized. No overflowing boxes, no repository of old things only held on to by sentimentality. Ned had a small carpentry area where he did minor furniture repair. Behind him was a glass display that also functioned as a shelf. Tools were hung and labeled, so they were within reach and easy to identify.

“Too small a job for something I can easily do,” Ned replied after taking a sip.

“Listen, I forgot something in the office. I finished making lunch so you don’t have to worry about it. But I have to go back to the city and get a file.” Catelyn said, putting her arms around his waist. Then she pressed her breasts against his chest. “I promise I’ll be back long before you’ll even miss me.”

Ned sighed but he smoothed an auburn tendril from her cheek. “And here I thought you wanted us to go somewhere nice for lunch,” he said, looking pointedly at her clothes. She was wearing a white cashmere button-down sweater, white silk blouse and soft, gray slacks. She smiled and hugged him closer. Gray eyes twinkled back at her.

“I need to do my homework well.”

“I know. Alright,” he said, taking her chin and kissing her on the lips. “Don’t take too long.”

“I’ll be back plenty in time before dinner,” she promised, beginning to step away but Ned grabbed her for another kiss, this time plunging his tongue past her lips. She shuddered as he palmed her pussy, rubbing her firmly.

He had been fucking her for two nights a row. Ned Stark was the best of men but he was just like them when it came to needs. Fucking was an assurance. Their marriage was good but finding time for intimacy was becoming difficult.

Last year, he spoke to her about wanting another child. It took her a while to conceive because of the career she wanted to have. Having a son to pass on his name pleased Ned greatly but now he wanted another. Catelyn had promised to think about it but deep down, she knew the answer already. Robb was born soon after she was made senior partner. If not for her marriage to the son of the firm’s owner, she would have been cast out.

There was also her age. She was forty-two now, and about to run for re-election for her second term. Law firms may demand ten-hour work days but running a district was something else. Between her job, being a wife, and a mother, and projecting this image of success and aspiration, she didn’t have time for Ned grumbling about her refusal to have another, if she had told him. And he could be manipulative with his grudges. She had no energy for that.

She let Ned kiss and fondle her just enough so he was satisfied. As soon as his touches faltered, she stepped away and said her goodbye.

The sun was out despite the forecast of rain. Catelyn put her glasses on, making a face as the rays seemed to prick her pores despite the sweater. She got in her car with a sigh of relief.

Having to meet Petyr set her on edge. The two men have never met. She never identified him by name when the subject of past loves came up. What was the point? Besides, Petyr was best forgotten, to render him a blot in the neat, perfect life she had made. If only there was a way to erase that blot altogether, she thought, staring the engine.

The sun-drenched highway was disconcerting. She was so used to leaving in the gray, early hours of the morning and coming home on blackest nights. She was the only car again in this long, lonely stretch of road. People were either fucking or having their barbecues, she thought, adjusting the temperature levels of the AC to a cooler temperature.

She swung towards the city and kept driving past the cute little shops with bright walls and people bustling about because they had no struggles in the world. She envied them, wondering how they could look so happy, so easy with life. They didn’t have a bill to amend, constituents accountable to, husbands to handle and lie to, that’s why.

She drove faster, making the turn to the older part of the city. It didn’t see much activity, except for a few restaurants that looked gray and desolate. Old factory buildings have either been demolished or converted into low-cost apartments.

She spied Eastwatch Hotel. Petyr had texted her his room number last night, which she memorized and quickly deleted. At least he was smart enough to get a room, but he probably expected her to pay for it. She hoped she had enough money and not just credit cards. As she neared the hotel, she saw an ice cream truck parked across the street.

Instead of parking in front, she opted to drive past, making turn at the corner. She had looked up the layout of the street and knew there were areas at the back of the hotel where she could park and not be seen. She went there, glad to find some cars in the lot too. She would have to walk a bit to get to the hotel but at least she won’t be seen. From her bag, she retrieved her sunglasses then pulled her hair up in a ponytail.

Eastwatch Hotel was old, worn, as if just plodding through its last days. Though the atmosphere was not decrepit, Catelyn picked up an earthy, moist smell that made her think of the bowels of the earth, or the river at night. The lighting was weak, casting people in anemic pallor. She ducked in the elevator and punched the number four.

In the hallway, things were a little better. The lighting had the brilliance of candlelight and the carpet, though faded, muffled the tap of her heels as she walked on it. She spotted Petyr’s room and knocked.

The door opened a moment later. She started at the sight of Petyr Baelish.

The last time she saw him, he had put on some weight and had sagging bags of skin under his eyes. The man standing before her was the Petyr of her youth, older now. Some grays in the hair, on his trimmed beard. A haunted look in his eyes rather than a sparkle. He grinned, but hesitantly. She schooled her face from shock to stoic but it difficult to stop gaping at him.

He had lost weight. A lot of weight. The navy sweater he wore brought out the gray-green color of his eyes. There was something at peace with him, she noted.

“Cat,” he said, hugging her before she could say anything. She hugged him back awkwardly, his slim build a direct contrast to Ned’s stocky and firm body. “It’s good to see you. It’s been so long. Come in,” he said, pulling away and ushering her inside.

She continued to stand by the door as he tried to introduce some order in the room. It was modest and small, with a king-sized bed, messy at the moment, imitation leather bench at the foot. She noted the open closet and the suitcase stashed inside it. As Petyr straightened the comforter, muttering under his breath. As he futilely tried to make the room close to presentable, she kept looking around, her eyes jumping to random objects: the bulky lamp in the style from twenty years ago, the small bust of an exotic figure that looked like a Dothraki warlord, from the blue paint on his face, newspaper. Hearing Petyr sigh and give a soft clap, she turned back to him. She took off the sunglasses.

He was smiling again. “You’re really here.”

“You asked to see me.” She glanced at the bench before choosing to sit on a small, Andal-style chair with intricate gold curlicues on the frame and the arms. The vibrant crimson was garish in a room of white-on-ivory-on-cream-on-eggshell. Petyr pulled the drapes open and she opened her mouth to protest.

“Let me see you, Cat. You look fantastic,” he said, looking back at her. Finding that there was no other chair to sit on, he settled for the bench. He looked apologetic. “I’m afraid my room is too small.”

“It’s not like I will be staying here long. I saw your suitcase.”

“Yes. I will be in town for a while.”

“Not just for the weekend?”

 “I. . .I’ll be working in the public attorneys’ office.”

Catelyn was stunned. “You’re staying here?”

He nodded. “I start next week. Big-city law firms aren’t exactly looking to hire an ex-alcoholic.”

She just stared at him. Realizing that this news didn’t sit well with her, he cleared his throat. “Cat. . .I—I need a fresh start. I don’t have family anymore. Nor a lot of friends. Friends who don’t drink.” He stood up, pacing anxiously back and forth. “I—I know it’s a lot to ask but I was hoping. . .for old time’s sake. . .?”

“Petyr, you’re asking too much of me,” she said, squirming in her seat. “I—I assume you know---”

“Yes. I know what you are now.”

“I have to think,” she said. “People voted for me because of my stand on family and women’s issues. How would it look if I’m associated with—”

“With an ex-alcoholic?” Petyr was grim, pausing to look at her.

“I’m not saying I won’t help you—”

“’I’m not asking you to make a public endorsement of me, Cat. I just want. . .if you can. . .I’ve lost so much already. I regret them but not as much as I regretted losing you.” She jumped when he suddenly knelt in front of her. There, in the depths of his eyes, she saw the young man that once had her heart. “I’ve never stopped loving you.”

“Oh my gods, Petyr.” Shocked, Catelyn jumped from her seat, snatching her hand away as he tried to hold it. Her face was aghast as when she turned back to him, finding him slowly standing up. “I have a husband. I have a child. You should never say to me ever again. Oh my gods.”

“Cat, please—”

“No, Petyr. I came here because. . .like you said. For old time’s sake but that’s all. How dare you make such a declaration. I’m a wife, Petyr. I’m someone’s wife!” She started to head for the door when his hand closed around her elbow.

“Cat—look, I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Please. Don’t go. Don’t go.”

She heard a shuffle, turned and once again found him on his knees. “Please, Cat. I won’t say anything again."

“Get off your knees,” she hissed, snatching her hand away. Petyr nodded and got up, looking contrite.

“I’m here because of what we had, Petyr. Nothing more,” she said firmly, holding his gaze. “If I hear another word of how you still have. . .feelings for me, I walk. Is that clear?”

“Yes. Look, I asked you here because I wish to make amends.” At her dubious look, he flushed. “Clearly I did the exact opposite. I’m sorry. I—I know about your marriage. I shouldn’t have said anything. Never again. You can trust me on that.”

“Don’t disappoint me.”

“Will you please sit back down?”

Catelyn hesitated but did as he requested. Petyr sat back on the bench.

“I’m on the twelve-step program,” he began. “I meant it when I said I’m here to make amends. It hasn’t been easy. I’ve hurt so many people. A lot of them are unforgiving. That’s why I moved here, Cat. A fresh start, in a place where no one really knows me. Except you. We don’t have to be in contact again after this day, if that is your wish. I will respect it.”

“Good.”

“I am sorry, Cat. You’ve done so good with your life and for a long time I’ve been very bitter about that. But I’ve been taking responsibility for my actions. I pushed you away. I hurt you.” He said, resting his elbows on his knees. “Could you ever forgive me?”

Since she believed him when he said he will keep his distance and forget about her, she would. But she was still on guard. She should speak to Jon Snow about it as soon as possible.

“I forgive you.”

Petyr was relieved. “Thank you, Cat.”

She stood up to leave but he was still talking.

“There’s also another reason I asked you to come,” he said, looking at the floor then at her. “It’s. . .about that night.”

It was as if the Stranger had suddenly entered the room, given the ringing silence that followed his words.

“I have been doing research about the man.” He said, standing up. He reached in the drawer to pull out a folder and handed it to her. She stared, refusing to touch it.

“Please, Cat.”

“No.”

“Cat—”

“Petyr, he was a bum, okay? He’s a nobody. How are you even sure it’s him?”

“Because there’s a photo and I never forgot his face, Cat. We spent hours chopping him up into pieces to fit him in the case and putting rocks---”

“Stop!” Catelyn cried out, shutting her eyes in a pathetic attempt to stop her mind from going there. It was worse. She remembered them panicked in the dark, terrified that they would be pulled over and the police discovering the body in the trunk. Remembered running out of the car and throwing up when Petyr suggested hacking the body into pieces. His fingers pulling her hair back. He had a chainsaw in his apartment. . .

She opened her eyes, grabbed the folder and threw it to the floor, spilling news clippings about the missing man. Petyr gasped and quickly scooped them up. Catelyn was furious.

“Did you forget why we were silent? Did you forget it was your idea? Do you know what will happen to us if you told?”

“We made a mistake!”

“Coming clean won’t undo it!”

Petyr shook his head, his chin trembling as he hugged the folder and the clippings to his chest. “I’ve written a letter. To his wife.”

“What?”

“I never identified you. She will never know it was me either.”

“You fucking idiot!”  The violence in her tone had Petyr reeling back. “Mail can always be traced. Always. You don’t think she won’t get the police involved? That they won’t access surveillance footage? How could you do this to us?”

“I have yet to mail it.”

It was the ultimate betrayal. She had wanted to go to the police. He had scared her. Convinced her that by chopping up the body to fit the pieces in the duffel bag will fix everything. Her heart thudded, remembering the roar of the chainsaw and the wet sounds of flesh ripped before the machine groaned as it cut through bone. Meanwhile, she took care of the head, smashing it with the lug wrench. She heard the crack of bone when she broke his nose. Kept beating his face, tasting her bile and the blood splattered on her lip. His eyeballs popped at some point, soft, squishy balls that yielded under her blows like soft-boiled eggs. . .

“Us?” Petyr roared back. “You just told me there’s no such thing anymore.”

Realizing she made a mistake, she sobbed and threw her arms around him. “Petyr, please. Don’t. No. I beg you.” She cupped his face, stroked his hair. He still held the folder to his chest. “This is not the way to make amends. Do you think it would help her, knowing what happened to her husband?”

“She deserves closure, Cat. Peace.”

“She has it! She can’t still believe he’s alive!”

“She refuses to leave their house, Cat. She always sets a place for him in the table because she believes he will be coming back anytime.”

She was crying now, terrified, angry, desperate. “Petyr you said you love me.”

“Catelyn—”

It was easy to kiss him because their heights almost matched. She sank against him, kissing him wildly, thrusting her tongue, grabbing at his hair. He staggered under the force of her body, dropping the blasted folder and clippings to the floor to hold her. She moaned, knowing he would find it irresistible and because she felt true. Only Petyr could do this.

He caressed her cheek, pushed a hand under her blouse to cup her tits. She shivered, the old responses Ned had never been able to summon coming back with the rush of a tidal wave.

She was going to have to fuck her way out of this.

Petyr pulled away. She stared at him, startled that he didn’t fling her to the bed. When their eyes met, she saw pity in them.

“I still love an image of you that’s turned out to be long dead. I don’t know you at all.”

“Petyr—”

“Trying your charms on me, Cat? And haven’t you just been telling me you’re married?”

“You have to believe me—”

“That you still love me? You’ll have to convince me harder, Cat. The kiss was great. That hasn’t changed. Your husband probably worships you because you fuck like a whore. I never forgot that.”

“Petyr, I’m begging you—”

“I owe you nothing. Yes, it was my idea. I will always regret that. I will never be forgiven. But knowing that I can face the repercussions of that choice will help me sleep better tonight. You on the other hand. . .you’re a stranger.”

“You will destroy my life with your honesty!”

“What about my life? Hells, Cat, we’re in this together. It’s not just you that gets destroyed.”

“Petyr,” she tried again, trying to reach for him. He sidestepped her. Shaking from her sobs, she made a final plea, “Oh, gods, please think of my son growing up without his mother!”

Petyr shook his head. “He was a father of three. Aged fifteen, twelve and six. He was an alcoholic and could never hold a job. But he was their father.”

Sobbing still, she could only watch as he strode to the door. “You should leave, Cat. I don’t want to see you again.”

Her life was over.

She wiped the sleeve of her sweater across her eyes, on her cheeks and she got her bag. Petyr stood by the door, ready to open it. She was still sobbing as she approached him.

Once she was out of that door, there was no going back.

No, from the moment she had agreed to see Petyr, her fate was sealed.

Their shoulders brushed.

Cat looked sadly at Petyr. “I’m so sorry,” she whispered, before suddenly hugging him.

He hugged her back. She tightened her hold on him. “Cat.”

She began to squeeze.

Realizing what she was trying to do, he began to struggle. Desperation added to her strength, and she swung so she was between him and the door, her arms tightening around him that their ribs began to bump, brush, dig. Spotting the wall behind him, she determinedly moved him towards it, using the entire weight of her body to shove him against its unyielding surface.

She heard the crack of his skull on the wall. “What the fuck is wrong with you, Cat?”

As soon as he finished speaking, she grabbed the Dothraki bust from the table and hit him. Another crack, probably his cheekbone.

Petyr crumpled to floor, his eyes wide. She threw herself on top of him, her knees digging hard in his ribs as she brained him again. He gasped, swinging an arm and knocking it out of her hands. She was fast, slamming her arm down his throat and pressing.

“C—Cahh---”

Pressing some more.

He rocked against her, and it was just like old times. He loved it when she was on top. Loved to watch her tremble and moan from her orgasm. Catelyn gritted her teeth, her eyes dark pools as they reflected Petyr’s. His heart stuttered under her chest. The muscles and bones in his throat strained as he tried to catch air.

His lips opened, forming her name in silence.

His body began to soften. Catelyn bent, driving her arm to harder down his throat. She pinched his nostrils closed and slanted her mouth over his lips. She discovered a pool of spit.

She kept her mouth fused to his, firmed her hold on his nose.

As the air left Petyr for the last time and his body softened as if sucked of bone and strength, Catelyn Stark moaned and ground her hips against him.

 She gasped and slumped against his still form. Her chest was tight. Her heart hurt. She lay there for probably a minute, a few seconds, an hour. Maybe days. Just listening to herself breathe. Feeling the cold sweat coating her body. Petyr. Unmoving.

Gone.

Gone.

Slowly, she moved away from him, rising to her knees. His eyes were calm, unseeing dark pools. She pressed them close and rose to her feet. She took a deep, deep breath and stared out of the window.

It was over. Really over.

Through the glass, she saw that her ponytail remained tight. Her sweater and blouse still perfectly flat.

She was still looking out of the window when a loud thump followed by a cry came from the street below. She glanced at the young man on the ground clutching at his leg while the fat driver of the ice cream truck lumbered out.

Life goes on, she thought before turning away.