Two years down the line and a square terracotta manse on the outskirts of Pentos was somehow their home. Tyrion managed to embezzle a stipend for them from the royal coffers and all he had ever asked for in return were letters of progress—only from time to time. The neighbouring Pentoshi had never shown interest in the Westerosi couple that now lived quietly among their orange orchards, never bothered to listen to how they butchered Valyrian and how their features mirrored one another’s. Soon enough, that terracotta manse was as much part of the landscape as anything else, like it had always stood and housed a family—though, unknowingly to any soul, it was a family of the lost Lannister twins.
Jaime hadn’t expected a former queen to work, but he took to the city’s watch while Cersei battled with spices and adjusting to dresses that showed skin. His hand couldn’t serve so his knowledge of field tactics and stratagem seemed refreshing to lazy footmen needing a kicking up the behind. When they pressed of his name in japes, of his family, he told them he had only a wife and small daughter left in the world with him. Across the Narrow Sea, his brother would remain a secret, but they would always have love.
He strode back to the manse after sunset when his shifts finished like he ordinarily did, when most of the city were abed and only fireflies formed paths of light. His mind had buzzed all day with thoughts of Cersei—it was always buzzing with thoughts of Cersei. How she might have laughed in her throat that day, how she had probably dropped a bowl.
He fumbled slightly to undo the latch on the gated entrance to their modest home, and soon enough saw a little figure waiting on the steps.
Lelia looked like Myrcella had: golden curls, jade eyes alight with curiosity, fair skin, a rounded face, red lips. Then she rested her chin in her hands on knees scabbed from play and her expression was all Cersei, scowling and brooding with a narrowed, perceptive gaze.
The moodiness only lasted until she saw Jaime, which was when a grin split across her face instead, and she stood up triumphantly with her arms forward.
Her voice was sweet and young on the wind and unfettered by any pain or suffering.
“What’s my cub doing out here so late?” Jaime asked with a raised eyebrow. “Did mummy give you too many sweet beans, hm? Still awake?”
His daughter shook her head furiously and her hair bounced. She met him halfway in her nightgown and he scooped his good hand beneath her. Lelia curled against his side safely and a chubby finger pointed to him, like he should have known she would be there.
“Waiting,” she said. “Papa.”
“You were waiting for me so patiently.” Jaime kissed her head as he took her into the manse. She still smelled of milk, and the shore, and sweets, and everything else that was good. “Where’s your beautiful mother? Fast asleep, I hope. You keep her on her feet, don’t you?”
Lelia smiled bashfully and put her head against his shoulder as he took her up the stairs with little effort. There was a small stone landing, two rooms on either side, one separate room for Lelia as she grew older, one just for Jaime and Cersei. A family home like they had always envisioned to have to themselves with no intrusion, but truth be told, Cersei’s lingering paranoia meant their daughter slept more nights between them than elsewhere. She’d have flipped the roof had she known Lelia waited even on the patio for her father.
Jaime couldn’t mind. Lelia would be their last daughter now Cersei was past child-rearing age. She would be their very final chance and they would not squander it.
Cersei slept on her side with her palm on Jaime’s pillow, fingers outstretched and longing. She was half-naked and now her hair was bright cornsilk and flowing again, just slightly over her shoulders. He went carefully to the spare side of the bed and Lelia slid out from his grip to worm under the thin cotton covers instead, lifting Cersei’s arm to wedge herself into her mother’s hold. In a peaceful sleep, the sort of sleep she had always desired, Cersei only smiled and instinctually dragged a palm over the child’s soft crown of ringlets.
Jaime watched them with a smile of his own—his own wife, his own daughter settled into her. He had never been happier to be without title. The moonlight was allowed a decent breadth through the curtained balcony of their room and it reflected off his simple armour as he shed it.
He had never held Joffrey, or Myrcella, or Tommen. He had barely interacted with them when they were alive. Stone-faced, he hadn’t even played a fond uncle. It was for the best, Cersei had advised then, when they were in a different world where such things mattered and Jaime’s recklessness would have cost him his head. But he had held Lelia from the start, half-pulled her out of Cersei himself a few months after settling in the shadow of Pentos; Cersei’s screams remained fresh in his mind, and her cries of happiness after. He had passed Lelia to Cersei in those first days where the babe cried relentlessly for her mother’s breast, he had watched her sleep in a cradle just by the bed he was forever allowed to share with Cersei now, he had soothed tears sparked by imaginative nightmares, he had watched her learn to walk and start to chirp cuts of he and his twin’s speech…
Cersei’s voice was hoarse with sleep but she knew her brother was close. She looked at him with one eye open rather lazily and her smile hadn’t withered.
Jaime set aside his pieces neatly and hardly hesitated before going to the bed. He laid curled behind Lelia, remembering he had been the lion of Lannister once. This was his cub, and across from him was his lioness, wondering fleetingly if this simple life was worth it. But Jaime knew it was and so did she. If they had to be near paupers for this, a name meant nothing in comparison.