For how quickly it had come together, the sept was ready for the ceremony: a few large, classic flower arrangements that added color, candles for ambiance, and their families there to witness the marriage between Selwyn Tarth and Tywin Lannister. Jaime stood at Tywin's side, Brienne at Selwyn's. All of them sporting injuries and the exact same look of wide-eyed disbelief that they were here.
The septon finished his invocation of the Seven and gently cleared his throat.
“Normally I save this for the end,” he said hesitantly, “but if anyone has a reason to protest the marriage of these two men, let them speak now or forever hold your peace.”
Selwyn felt Tywin tense next to him, saw Jaime and Brienne staring in avid urgency at each other. This had gone way too far. He opened his mouth to speak.
Two Months Earlier
“Hi, Pumpkin,” Selwyn said when Brienne called him up for their weekly chat. She smiled and Selwyn looked her over closely. She looked happy, her cheeks flushed, eyes sparkling, her hair wet from a shower. In the background of the call, Jaime was on the couch, playing video games. “Hi, Jaime,” Selwyn added.
“Hi, Mr. Tarth.”
Selwyn sighed, but he didn’t bother to try to correct the lad. It had been ten years, nothing was going to change Jaime’s stance on that now. Jaime was obstinate on many fronts, the most frustrating of which was in regards to Brienne. He was there for most of their calls, and yet both of them insisted they were just friends. They were friends, and had been since middle school, when – as Brienne told it – Jaime had swooped in to save her from being bullied the entire year of seventh grade. Jaime always said he'd just known right away she was someone interesting he wanted in his life.
Jaime was often making pronouncements like that about Selwyn's daughter, and Brienne talked about her best friend more than Selwyn had talked about his wife when she was alive. But the two of them seemed stuck in the mud, unable to see any other possibility for what was happening between them.
It was aggravating to watch them flounder about, and Selwyn was going to see if he couldn’t use a little leverage to shake them loose.
He and Brienne chatted idly for a bit, catching up as they always did on their weeks, Jaime piping in occasionally from the background.
“I did have some news to share with you,” Selwyn finally said when the conversation lulled enough it didn’t seem forced. “For both of you, actually.”
Brienne gestured Jaime over, and he set down his controller and hovered over her shoulder, their faces pressed together at the cheek even though there was plenty of video space. His daughter’s free cheek went pink and it took all of Selwyn’s willpower to not roll his eyes. That would certainly blow his cover.
“It's been awhile since I've seen you and I was hoping we could all spend some time together. The two of you and me and my partner.”
Brienne blinked at him. “You have a new business partner?”
“No, darling, I have a new boyfriend.”
Both of them went wide-eyed and then Jaime beamed. “Congratulations, Mr. Tarth! Who’s the lucky guy?”
Selwyn took a deep breath. This was the key moment. “Actually Jaime, it’s your dad.”
Both of the kids’ mouths dropped wide open in shock. Selwyn quietly took a screen-cap to share with Tywin later when they were working out the rest of the details of their fake relationship. Selwyn would share it with the kids, too, once Jaime and Brienne figured out what everyone else in the world already knew: that they were head over heels in love with each other.
“Did that really happen?” Brienne asked, slumped back in her chair in shock after they'd hastily agreed to dinner and hung up. “Are my dad... and your dad... ?”
Jaime stared wordlessly at her.
“But my dad's so... and your dad is...” She wished she could remember how to finish a sentence, but the shock was damming up every thought except the mental image of their fathers kissing. “Do you think they've kissed?” she whispered.
“I hope so, if they're dating.”
“Jaime! Our dads can't kiss each other!”
He narrowed his eyes. “I thought you were cool with gay people?”
“It's not that. They aren't allowed to date because we're already dating.”
“Yeah but they don't know that, do they?”
In truth, no one knew it except her and Jaime. They'd been friends for a decade and then two weeks ago Jaime had cornered her against the kitchen counter, wild-eyed and desperate, and declared his love. Brienne had tackled him to the floor in enthusiastic agreement. Once they'd made their way to her bedroom and been curled together in the sheets, they'd agreed not to tell anyone yet. They didn't see their families that often, and Jaime and Brienne both were anxious that they not mess up the foundation they'd spent so long building with their friendship by introducing their notoriously meddling families into the equation too soon. If any Tarths or Lannisters found out, it would immediately be pressure to announce it in the society pages (Tywin) and get married (her dad), followed by talk of children and houses and where they were going to retire (everyone else).
It was too much. Brienne just wanted to enjoy discovering what her best friend was like as a boyfriend in peace (so far: even more physically affectionate than he'd been before; unbelievably romantic; obnoxiously generous with his gifts no matter how much she protested), and to figure out what she was like as a girlfriend (very interested in sex; constantly doing little things for him; weirdly giggly).
And now their fathers were dating each other. It beggared belief that they were at all, let alone that they'd publicly announced it.
“Did you know your dad was interested in men?” she asked.
“No, although he hasn't dated a woman since my mom died, so I suppose it's not that surprising. Yours?”
Brienne shrugged. “I had no idea.”
“What I really don't understand is why my dad would date yours,” Jaime said with a frown.
“Hey!” Brienne gently kicked his shin. “My dad is a great catch.”
“Yes, and he's different from Tywin Lannister in every single way.”
“Except for having a penis,” Brienne said, and she giggled, that high, loose sound she'd never heard herself make before two weeks ago.
Jaime tried to glare at her, but the line of his jaw was far too soft for him to be genuinely annoyed. “That is the only time I want to hear about our dads' penises for the rest of our lives. Deal?”
“Deal,” she said solemnly, although the rest of our lives had her heart buzzing happily. “You're not wrong, though, that they're entirely different. This probably won't even last between them.”
“It probably won't.”
“I'm still not ready to tell them about us yet,” she admitted.
“Good, me either. I just want to enjoy you all to myself for awhile longer,” Jaime said. He brushed the back of his fingers over her cheek, and Brienne leaned her head into the rough scratch of his knuckles.
“So what are we going to do?” she murmured.
He crouched down between her legs, balancing himself with his hands on her knees. “We're going to go have dinner with them. Two best friends whose dads are dating. One meal, that lets us see how deep this is between them, and then we let nature take its course.”
“What if they're actually in love with each other?”
“Impossible,” Jaime said. “Trust me, Brienne. One dinner and then everything will get back to normal.” He leaned into her, nuzzling into the crook of her neck. He was warm and golden-haired and hers now. The rest of their lives. She liked the sound of that.
“How can you be so sure?” she asked, though her voice had dropped and she was already wrapping her arms around him to pull him even closer.
“Have I ever led you wrong before?”
She shook her head, and was about to say more when he tugged her out of the chair into his lap and her father and Tywin became the furthest thing from her mind.
Tywin Lannister did not like intrigue.
He loved it.
He'd spent a lifetime running a corporation, and the best parts every time were the side deals and long nights developing intricate, multi-step plans to acquire businesses and take down competitors. Oh, he kept it on the side of the angels, in legality if not in spirit, but it never made the act less thrilling.
It had all turned a bit blasé, however, now that his reputation and his lawyers so easily preceded him. There was barely any fight left in most people. Pity, really.
So when Selwyn Tarth stepped into his office after arranging an unexpected meeting, Tywin had given him far more time than he might've even a year ago.
“Our children are in love with each other,” Selwyn had announced as soon as he'd lowered his bulky frame into the chair in front of Tywin's desk.
“I am aware,” Tywin had said.
“But they aren't aware. At all.”
Tywin lifted one eyebrow, his only response.
“We need to make them see,” Selwyn said with grim determination.
“Why not just let nature take its course? If they find their way, they do. If they don't, then it wasn't meant to be.”
“My daughter is far too shy and anxious to chance ruining her friendship with Jaime; it's too important to her. And I fear Jaime is the same. They need a push, and it's up to us to push them. We are nature taking its course.”
Tywin steepled his fingers and pressed the tips against his mouth. He did want to see Jaime married off and starting a family, and anyone could see that the only woman he would consider was Brienne Tarth. Besides, arranging a merger between two unwitting but willing parties was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“Very well,” Tywin said. “Do you have a plan?”
“Well... that's the tricky part,” Selwyn said, before launching into his proposed arrangement.
They agreed to dinner at Selwyn's place, but when Jaime and Brienne stood side-by-side at the door and knocked, it was Jaime's father who opened it.
“Good evening,” Tywin said in his regular voice, like he wasn't wearing jeans and a t-shirt for the first time in Jaime's entire life. Even more shocking was the box of wine he had tucked under his arm. “I was just about to open this, come on in.”
Tywin headed for the dining room table set for four, while Jaime stared, horrified, at Brienne.
“I can see his arms,” Jaime whispered.
“Have you never seen his arms before?” Brienne whispered back as they shuffled into Selwyn's apartment and closed the door behind them.
“Not sticking out of shirt sleeves. It's unnatural.”
“Hi, Pumpkin! Jaime!” Selwyn called out from where he was cooking in the kitchen. “Get comfortable, dinner will be ready in about twenty minutes. Ty, why don't you pour them some wine.”
“Ty?” Jaime squeaked. Brienne squeezed his upper arm, whether in comfort or warning he couldn't tell from the pressure of her strong fingers.
“Sounds good, Dad,” Brienne called back, dragging Jaime over to the table by her confusing grip on his arm. “Hello, Mr., um, Tywin.”
Jaime's father looked entirely comfortable opening up the wine box, as though this was a task he'd been set to enough times before that he'd mastered it. Jaime was positive Tywin Lannister hadn't even known boxes of wine existed before he'd started dating Selwyn Tarth.
“How long have you two been together?” Jaime blurted out while Tywin filled a glass with a rosy red wine. Nothing like the dark, blood-red he normally drank.
His father arched an eyebrow, but there was no jolt, no spilling of even a drop. He closed the spigot – a wine spigot, Jaime marveled – and handed Brienne the first glass. “Hello to you, too, Jaime.”
“Yes, hello, whatever. You're dating Brienne's dad?”
“Would you prefer it were her uncle?” Tywin asked, pouring another glass, entirely unperturbed.
He was joking now, too. What was happening?
“We were just surprised to hear it,” Brienne interjected, shooting Jaime an annoyed look. “We didn't realize you two knew each other that well.”
“Certainly not as well as you two know each other,” Tywin said, and Jaime tensed a little. Did his father know about them?
“That's what happens when you're really good friends,” Jaime said. “Best friends. For such a long time. But best friends' fathers don't usually hook up.”
Tywin wrinkled his nose. “We're not 'hooking up.' You make it sound so cheap using language like that. We are in a respectful, adult, emotional and physical relationship.”
Jaime took the offered glass of wine and chugged it down. “Give me another,” he said, shoving his empty glass at his father while Brienne sighed, resigned, next to him.
“I can't believe you've been wanting to date for so long,” Brienne mused, eying Selwyn over what he thought was her fifth glass of wine. Well, she was trying to, but her eyes were focusing slowly. Selwyn smiled fondly at his daughter. She and Jaime were sitting together on the couch, almost touching, their heads leaning towards each other. Everything was going perfectly.
“You know how it is when you've found someone you care about: you can't wait forever to tell them,” Selwyn said. He looked over at Tywin and gave the best gosh I love you smile he could to the other man.
But Brienne wasn't even looking at him anymore, she was staring down at her glass. “No, you can't,” she murmured.
“Life is short,” Tywin agreed and Jaime gave him the same befuddled, wide-eyed stare he'd been shooting at his father all evening.
Tywin and Selwyn had thought it would be more realistic if Tywin wasn't quite so... himself, that it would seem more believable that the two men had gotten together because Tywin was secretly not as much of a hardass as he wanted everyone to believe, instead of Selwyn being more of one. Not that Selwyn would have been able to fake that for more than a few minutes at most. No, Tywin was doing more of the heavy lifting here, and Selwyn would make sure he thanked the man appropriately once their kids were merrily on their way.
“I need another drink,” Jaime said, standing suddenly. But it appeared he'd had far too much to drink already, because his first big step forward was really more sideways, like a drunk crab, and he crashed into and then through the glass-topped coffee table.
“My head hurts,” Brienne groaned when her alarm went off for work the next day.
“My whole body hurts,” Jaime said from somewhere between his two pillows and the bedcover he'd mostly stolen in the night, just like he did every night.
She pressed her hands to her forehead, trying to keep her brains from spilling out of her pores. “Don't go jumping into coffee tables to escape your father, then.”
Jaime snorted and then moaned in pain. “At least we survived it.”
“At what cost?”
He poked her in the side and she giggled – all this damn giggling, it was embarrassing – and then immediately winced. Giggling later. Aspirin, a hot shower, and some sort of caffeinated beverage and greasy food first.
She left Jaime in a heap on the bed, and by the time she was functional again he'd graduated to one pillow and just the sheet, his injured leg and arm poking out.
Brienne handed him his own aspirin and water and he looked at her like she was the Maiden come to care for him. To be fair, he looked at her like that a lot, anyway. She didn't know what to do with it, except try not to smother under the blanket of tenderness it always made her feel. Sitting down on the edge of the bed, she ran her fingers gently through his messy hair.
“I think we managed to fool them, at least. They seemed pretty pleased with each other.”
“I'm not convinced that was my father. Are we sure your dad didn't build some sort of Tywin-shaped sex robot?”
“Ew, gods, Jaime,” she said, shoving him. He grunted a little, his face scrunched up. “Do not ever talk about my father and sex robots again.”
“Deal. No penises, no sex robots.”
“How much longer do you think they're going to keep seeing each other? That didn't look like two men likely to break up any time soon.”
“Trust me,” Jaime said, rubbing his hand down her back and then sliding his fingers under her shirt. “My dad hasn't dated in decades, there's no way he won't revert from whatever not-a-sex-robot form he's taken. You'll get a call any day now and then you're going to have to go play the dutiful daughter for a few days when you do. So in the meantime...” His fingers trailed down to the tie of her sweat pants and she laughed a little.
“I thought your whole body hurt,” she said, trying desperately not to smile.
“Well, not my whole body.”
“Nothing?” Tywin barked into the phone as he scrolled through his email inbox and tried to find some interest in any of the hundreds of urgent messages waiting for him.
“Nothing,” Selwyn said. “I called Brienne the next day and she said she'd taken Jaime home to recover and left him there with the leftovers we'd given them. Those were supposed to be celebratory leftovers! I shaped the foil into a swan!”
Tywin rolled his eyes. “Aluminum birds are not going to convince these two to get past whatever ridiculous wall they've constructed. Neither, apparently, will a homemade meal. We do it my way next time.”
“You're not going to give up already, are you? I thought Tarths were made of sterner stuff than that.”
“We are,” Selwyn said, and Tywin could just picture the man puffing up, his broad chest somehow expanding even further. “I thought perhaps Lannisters weren't.”
“Don't try to bait me, Selwyn, it's uncouth. The next date is mine to plan. Get Brienne and Jaime to agree to meet us Friday night at the restaurant that I'll text to you. The rest will be up to me.”
“I didn't know it was supposed to light on fire!” Brienne protested as the furious maitre'd ushered their party insistently from the restaurant. She was holding the torn and smoking fabric of her dress in one hand, and was dragging Jaime with the other.
He needed the help, because he was laughing so hard he couldn't see through the tears.
“What did you think a R'hollor's Burning Kiss was going to be like?” his father snapped, and the serious cut of his voice was enough to douse Jaime's laughter the same way Brienne had doused their elaborate, flaming dessert when their waiter had lit it on fire at their table.
It wasn't her fault, Jaime supposed, that she didn't know it was flaming oil, and that's why the water had only made things worse. She'd leapt in like a superhero with her dress, though none of it had been enough to salvage their evening at the five-star, world-famous, and now Lannister-and-Tarth-banning restaurant, Taste of the Free Cities.
A shame, really, since Jaime had only gotten to three of the nine Cities tonight.
“It's fine,” Selwyn was saying as Jaime released himself from Brienne's grip and wiped the tears off of his face. “We should have warned you.”
“If you'd brought her up with a modicum of society training, then you wouldn't have to warn her,” Tywin sneered.
“That's enough,” Jaime said sharply. “Don't insult my-” he swallowed down his first instinct barely in time. “My friend that way. This is why we never go to dinner with you, Father.”
“Perhaps it's for the best,” Tywin said, huffing a regal blast of air through his nose. Jaime had no idea how he managed to do that every time without once blowing snot.
“Perhaps it is,” Selwyn agreed, his bushy eyebrows knotted with a quiet and terrifying anger. Jaime did not envy his father being on the receiving end of it, no matter how well deserved it was. Selwyn had been mad at Jaime exactly three times in the ten years he'd known him, and Jaime remembered each time vividly.
“I'll take Brienne home. To her place,” Jaime added quickly, but neither father seemed to be paying attention to him at all.
Looked like Brienne had put out more than just the fire at their table. Finally. Two weeks was long enough to live in a world where Tywin and Selwyn were inexplicable boyfriends. Jaime missed feeling like the universe wasn't playing some giant prank on him. He bundled Brienne off while Tywin and Selwyn stood on the sidewalk, glaring at each other, and wondered how many minutes until the news came that they'd broken up.
“Meals obviously aren't working,” Selwyn said when he and Tywin met for breakfast the next morning. They'd gone their separate ways in silence the night before, but before bed that night, Tywin had texted Selwyn an invitation to this upscale diner and a curt apology.
“Obviously,” Tywin said, drinking an absurdly expensive mimosa. Selwyn stuck to coffee.
“I have another idea, but you're not going to like it.”
Tywin pursed his lips in a way that was starting to become familiar. “I suspect I won't, but tell me anyway.”
The carnival was loud and bright and crowded, and Brienne had a headache fifteen minutes into it. Yet she still didn't seem as bothered as Jaime, who kept shooting furtive, stupefied glances at Tywin, either because of the shorts he was wearing or because of the cotton candy he was eating. The first bite, Tywin had looked like a startled cat, but he seemed to be warming up to it now, and her own father was watching him with a pleased smile.
“I can see his legs,” Jaime whispered as they stared at Tywin as though he was parading around naked instead.
“Me too,” Brienne agreed.
“You're indecent,” Brienne said, tugging at the strap of his tank top. The amount of attention Jaime got just by existing in the world was mortifying enough; exposing a barely socially acceptable amount of skin – freshly adorned with sexy-looking scars on his bicep and calf – it felt like every eye was roving his way. It was wildly unfair that every one of his imperfections only made him more attractive. But he never seemed to notice any of the attention. He only seemed to notice her, and had for years and years.
Jaime turned into her, and it took all of her willpower not to slide her arms around him. They were still keeping their own relationship secret, until they figured out whatever the hell was happening with their fathers. Especially after dinner last time, Brienne was more certain than ever that Tywin would be disappointed that Jaime had chosen her, and she was afraid of what the weight of that would do to Jaime.
“I can be as indecent as you want,” he said with a sly grin, and Brienne had to actually push him away to keep from kissing him.
“The gods are testing me.”
“Seems only fair since I have to see that,” Jaime said, indicating Tywin behind him with a jerk of his head.
“They're just shorts.”
“You can say that because your father wears shorts. My father does not wear shorts, Brienne. He wears slacks. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, three hundred and sixty-five days a year.”
“Even to bed?” Brienne asked wryly.
“Probably. Almost certainly. I bet he has pajama slacks.”
“You have a problem,” she said, giggling. Brienne had stopped trying to fight the giggles, they seemed here to stay.
“Yes, and it's the fact that our fathers are still dating and my father is turning into a cotton candy-eating love machine.”
Brienne squeezed her eyes closed, because over Jaime's shoulder, she saw Tywin pulling the last of the cotton candy off with just his mouth and she did not want any of these images in her head. “I thought you promised no sex robots.”
“I said love machine, that's a totally different automaton.”
“You're the worst, you know that?”
He beamed at her. “I know. Is he done yet?”
“Yes, although- oh gods.” Jaime spun on his heel and they both gaped in shock as Selwyn took the empty cotton candy tube from Tywin and then leaned forward and kissed him on the cheek. Brienne was pretty certain there was even a little tongue.
“You missed a spot,” Selwyn said, his booming voice carrying over the noise of the crowds. He grinned over at Jaime and Brienne and then took Tywin's hand. “Come on, you two, let's find a trash can and then we can go on one of the roller coasters.”
“See?” Jaime said, gesturing at their fathers as they walked off holding hands. Brienne's feet were frozen, as though she'd gotten wrapped in cotton candy. “Indecent.”
“The carnival was a terrible idea,” Tywin said in a dark voice.
“It was working until... well, you know.”
Tywin glared at Selwyn over their plate of sandwiches. He'd never eaten at such an ill-kept diner before, but Selwyn had assured him the sandwiches were excellent and then ordered Tywin a grilled ham and cheese. Just looking at it raised Tywin's cholesterol, but he had to admit it was delicious.
“You were the one who decided a roller coaster after cotton candy was a good idea.”
“I didn't know you had such a weak stomach, old man.”
“Old man?” Tywin set his greasy sandwich down, ready to verbally attack and wanting his hands free for critical gesturing, but Selwyn was grinning at him. “Ah. You're joking.”
“Yes, Ty, I'm joking.”
“Tywin,” he said, picking up his food again. “The other is for when we're around the children.”
“Of course.” Selwyn picked up his own sandwich and lifted it as though in salute, before taking a big bite. He'd ordered a BLT, and the crunch of it was startlingly loud. “We keep this going then?” he continued around his mouthful of food.
“They're still not together, are they? It's far too soon to give up. We've encountered a number of unexpected deterrents at critical moments. We will not be defeated by coffee tables and ill-timed stomach sickness.”
“You have an idea,” Selwyn said. “I can see it on your face.”
Tywin hesitated. He did have an idea, he just hadn't had anyone pay close enough attention to read his moods since... it had been a long time. “This one we're certain to see to the end: a trip on my yacht. All of us can swim, I assume?” Selwyn nodded. “And the forecast this weekend looks clear. Unless we're capsized by a freak squall, a boat-side view of the sunset after a hand-picked tasting meal with champagne will provide the perfect romantic backdrop to encourage Jaime and Brienne to share their true feelings with each other.”
“Where will we be?”
“Down in the cabin, of course. Let them think we needed some alone time. It will add to the atmosphere.”
Selwyn grunted, and he didn't sound entirely onboard, but he shrugged his wide shoulders. “Romantic sunset yacht trip it is.”
The four of them clung to the mast of the tipped sailing yacht and stared at each other in the now scarily calm ocean.
“Well, fuck,” Jaime's father said.
Jaime had never agreed more strongly with the man on anything.
“Picnic,” Selwyn suggested over their now-habitual coffee the next day.
Tywin nodded, his mouth in a grim line. They both still smelled vaguely of the sea.
Brienne had never seen so many bees in her life. Or heard her father scream in quite that pitch.
“Wine-tasting,” Tywin insisted over a shared dinner while he worked late one evening. Selwyn had been bringing him takeout all week as he closed a major deal.
“It's worth a shot,” Selwyn sighed. His right eyelid was still swollen.
“I think our fathers' relationship has cursed us,” Jaime said to Brienne as they stood outside the winery and watched Selwyn carrying Tywin into the ambulance. The winery owner was fretting alongside them, apologizing profusely, hands flittering about like nervous butterflies and promising that whoever had let that empty barrel go would be severely punished.
“See that they are,” Jaime heard his father mutter. “Or I'll punish them for you.”
Selwyn gently laid Tywin on the emergency bed and then his hand on Tywin's chest. “Do you want me to ride with you, Ty?”
“I believe that would be helpful, yes,” Twyin said. Most astonishing of all, he added: “Thank you, Sel.”
Jaime watched the paramedics close up the ambulance before heading off at a leisurely pace. His father had only hurt his foot, nothing life-threatening, no matter how worried Selwyn was acting about it.
“I don't think they're gonna break up,” Brienne murmured and Jaime could only agree.
“So now what?” he asked.
“We're going to give up the game if we have to keep spending all this time with them. That or at this rate we'll die in some terrible zoo-related accident, like falling into a bear cage.”
“Then we cut them off?” Jaime suggested, all hope. He missed his lazy weekends in bed with Brienne. It was something every Friday or Saturday with their dads, and then inevitably they needed a day just to recover from whatever awful thing had occurred. It was exhausting and he was half their age. “How do we convince them to stop inviting us to stuff without suspicion or guilt?”
“We call in reinforcements,” Brienne said, as serious and determined as an army general.
Selwyn opened the door to his apartment and was immediately swooped into a bear hug by his son, Galladon.
“Gal!” he gasped as the air was squeezed out of him. “What are you doing here?”
“A giant birdie told me you have a new beau, and I wanted to meet him.” Galladon let him go and Selwyn's ribs expanded back to their normal places and size.
He took a moment to shut the door and offer to grab Gal a drink from the kitchen, while he collected his thoughts. It had been six weeks of attempting to get Jaime and Brienne to admit their feelings for each other, and it had failed consistently every time. But never because the two didn't have feelings – the way they always showed up and left together, how they whispered to each other when they thought he and Tywin weren't looking, all the signs were there – no, it was always because the gods had decided it would be funnier to screw with them.
Selwyn had had it with the gods and their sick sense of humor. But Galladon's unexpected vacation from his current job in Winterfell could be a gift, not an interference. Brienne adored her brother, and would listen to him, and Selwyn knew Galladon shared his opinion on his sister's relationship blindness. Selwyn and Tywin would have to keep up their charade a little more expansively because Galladon also had a terribly loose tongue, but it was a sacrifice Selwyn was happy to make in the name of his daughter's eventual well-being.
“I'm glad you've come to visit,” Selwyn said, giving his son a soda and a smile. “I can't wait to introduce you to Tywin.”
“Gal's arrived,” Brienne said where she was in bed scrolling through her phone. “He says hi.”
“How does he even know I'm here?” Jaime asked around his toothbrush.
“Because you're always here.”
Jaime spit out his toothpaste and finished his before-bed ritual. She watched his shadow in the doorway, before he turned out the light and approached the bed. He climbed in next to her, arranging his pillows as if they wouldn't end up scattered everywhere like they did every night. “How does none of our family realize we're already dating?”
Brienne shut off her phone and shrugged. “We didn't even realize it for years. Seems hypocritical to judge them for the same thing now.”
“Oh, I knew,” Jaime said, propping himself up on one elbow to grin down at her.
“You hoped,” she said. “That's totally different.”
“No, I knew. I was just letting you catch up to me.” He trailed his fingers down the inside of her elbow and she shivered.
“Maybe I was just letting you make the first move so you'd feel better about yourself,” she said, arching her eyebrow.
Jaime's smile turned from playful to wicked in an instant. “I do have a terribly fragile ego,” he said, shifting so he was hovering over her. “Won't you please tell me how good I am?”
He lifted her shirt and started kissing his way down the center of her chest and a sigh shuddered out of her. “You'll have to earn it,” she managed.
“I will,” he promised, moving lower.
“Father!” The cheery voice echoed in Tywin's spacious home office, followed by the ominous click of heels. His daughter strutted proudly in on tall, very expensive shoes. “I've come to visit.”
“I see that. Why?”
Cersei affected a pretend pout. “Jaime told me you'd been spending all kinds of time with him lately. Don't you wish to see your beloved daughter just as much?”
“Of course,” Tywin sighed. They embraced quickly and he watched her scanning the room with sharp eyes, before lighting on a small bear with a shirt that said Get Well Soon! that Selwyn had bought at the hospital gift shop. Tywin's foot had not been broken, just sprained, and he was hobbling around fine in the boot, but Selwyn had insisted on it and Tywin just hadn't gotten around to disposing of it yet.
Cersei plucked it off of his desk and smiled with almost malevolent glee. “What is this? Don't tell me Tywin Lannister has a trinket from his boyfriend.”
“It was a joke gift,” Tywin said, grabbing it out of her manicured hands and setting it back down on his desk. “What do you really want, Cersei?”
She huffed and rolled her eyes. “I wanted to see if what Jaime was telling me was true, and I can see that it is. You're not going to add this man to your will, are you?”
“Ah, so you're driven here by love of money, not family.”
“Both, Father. I want to be sure you're not being taken advantage of. It does seem suspicious that you two have known each other so long and he's just now shown interest in you.”
Tywin's brows lifted. “Am I so unappealing a partner?”
“You know what I mean,” she said, waving him off. She and Jaime were so much alike and yet so different all at once, and Tywin feared that while Jaime was all Joanna, Cersei was all himself. “When do I get to meet him to check him out myself?”
“You've met Selwyn Tarth before.”
“Only as Jaime's so-called friend's father, yes, and very briefly. We should all have dinner together. You Selwyn, me, and Jaime.”
Cersei rolled her eyes. “I suppose we must, since Jaime never goes anywhere without her anyway. Are they married yet?”
“They're not even dating.”
“What?” Cersei said with a high-pitched laugh as loud and brassy as a trumpet. “How is that possible?”
“They refuse to act on it.”
Cersei's eyes glimmered with the same interest Tywin felt approaching a hostile takeover. “We should do something about that.”
Tywin considered his daughter. She was very much him, and that wasn't entirely a bad thing. She couldn't be trusted with his and Selwyn's particular deception, but she would be a powerful force on their side to bring Jaime and Brienne together. And something she had said had given him the perfect idea. He gestured towards the kitchen. “Let me get you something to drink, and we can talk about just that.”
Jaime: DID YOU SEE THE EMAIL FROM MY FATHER?
Jaime: THIS CAN'T POSSIBLY BE REAL
Brienne: There's no way your father would joke about that
Brienne: Not from his work email
Jaime: WHY DID YOU STOP USING CAPS? THIS IS SERIOUS
Brienne: I'm not really shouting, are you?
Jaime: I'M SHOUTING IN MY SOUL, BRIENNE
“You're sure about this?” Selwyn asked Tywin again as Tywin drove them to the restaurant where they were holding their pre-wedding celebratory dinner.
“But a fake wedding, Ty?” Selwyn shook his head; even the sound of it made his stomach clench nervously. “Maybe we should just let this go. They'll figure it out in time.”
Tywin glanced over at him, his expression bland. “It's been ten years. I would like it to not take another ten.”
Selwyn sighed. “I suppose you're right. Where did we go wrong? Both of them completely lack our keen understanding of the world.”
“Perhaps they rubbed off on each other. We let them spend far too much time together growing up. And then that college fiasco.”
“Ridiculous,” Selwyn murmured, nodding. The kids had secretly worked together to avoid both of the colleges that their fathers had picked for them and ended up together at Winterfell University instead. “You said Cersei knows what we're trying to do?”
“Yes, though not about our relationship being fake.”
Selwyn stared out the window, hoping his vague sense of disappointment would disappear by the time they got to the restaurant.
“Can you believe it?” Cersei asked when she'd followed Brienne into the bathroom at the restaurant. They were both at the mirror, Brienne washing her hands and Cersei touching up her makeup. “We're going to be sisters!”
“I guess so,” she said, smiling thinly at Cersei's reflection.
“And Jaime is going to be your brother!”
Brienne's heart did a complicated, painful two-step in her chest. “He won't really be my brother,” she said, swallowing hard.
“Stepbrother then,” Cersei said as she examined her teeth. She ran her tongue over them and grimaced at herself. “Funny, really, I always assumed any Tarth-Lannister nuptials would be between you two, not our fathers. Life is strange, isn't it?” She clicked her little purse shut with an authoritative snap. “Good thing you and Jaime are only good friends. Could be awkward if there'd been anything more between you.”
She floated out of the bathroom and Brienne stared at her own wan face in the mirror. They had to tell their fathers. Not to keep them from marrying, but so everyone knew what was happening going in. It couldn't wait a single minute more, and she was certain Jaime would agree with her; he'd been in a state of near-constant agitation since they'd received the wedding e-vites.
Just the fact that they were e-vites had shaken him to his core.
Brienne squared her shoulders and nodded firmly at herself. She would march right out there and tell them all.
“Get behind me, Ty!” Selwyn shouted as the animal rampaged through the restaurant.
“I will not!” Tywin protested, taking a step in front of Selwyn's big body again. “It's just a raccoon.”
The raccoon in question was shrieking at a spine-tingling pitch, alternating with deep-chested growls that suggested more bear than raccoon. For such a small thing, it made an absolutely ferocious amount of noise, and it had upended the entire restaurant of otherwise rational human adults.
Cersei was screeching from the chair she'd climbed up on; Jaime and Brienne were arguing about gods-knew-what off in a corner; and Galladon was wheezing he was laughing so hard.
“I think we're cursed,” Selwyn gloomily told Tywin. Tywin just nodded and thew another dinner roll at the raccoon.
“The wedding is tomorrow,” Jaime said. “My father is wearing an ankle boot, your father is covered in raccoon scratches, and we're about to be step-siblings who date and nobody knows but us. Why do you still look so cheerful? Are you on drugs? You better share them if you are.”
Brienne was flopped down on their couch, her head tilted back against the cushions and grinning at nothing. She giggled – a delightfully sweet sound that had started when they'd begun dating and Jaime hoped never stopped – and lifted her arms up only to let them thud back to the couch again.
“What is there even to be mad about anymore? In the last two months we've survived fires and freak storms and stray raccoons. All of that and our dads are still getting married with the speed of teenagers where one of them just got pregnant.” She tilted her head his way, and her smile was warm and peaceful. “All of that and I wake up every day thinking there's no one else in the world I'd rather go through it with than you. They make a great couple, and so do we.”
Jaime sank down on the couch next to her and pulled her into his arms, kissing the side of her head. “We should still tell them.”
“I know,” she sighed. “I have no idea when to do it, but it needs to be before they get married.”
“Do you think it would make them change their minds?”
“No. But I'd just feel weird springing it on them after.”
“Okay. Tomorrow, before they get married.”
Jaime kissed her again, inhaling the scent that had been part of his dreams for as long as he could remember. Brienne was right: they'd come out of the last two months closer than ever. They'd get through anything as long as they were together.
“Gods I hope they stop inviting us out after this, though,” Jaime said, and Brienne giggled in his arms.
They had done everything they could think of, from making Jaime and Brienne ride to the sept in a luxury limo together; to Selwyn wishing out loud that Brienne could find the same happiness he had, and then Tywin walking in on cue with Jaime and the two fathers hurrying away before the kids could say anything; to Galladon on a mission to talk sense into Brienne and Jaime, without straight-up admitting what he was doing and why. None of it worked. And now Tywin was standing next to Selwyn and there was a septon in front of them and if someone didn't put a stop to this, their fake relationship was about to become a very real marriage.
“Normally I save this for the end,” the septon said hesitantly, searching the faces of the four vibrating people in front of him, “but if anyone has a reason to protest the marriage of these two men, let them speak now or forever hold your peace.”
Selwyn opened his mouth to speak when Brienne stepped forward. “Wait,” she said, sounding desperate. “I need to say something first. Please.” She looked at Selwyn and his shoulders sagged with relief.
“Of course, Pumpkin,” he said. “Go ahead.”
Brienne gestured to Jaime and they took each other's hands and stood facing Selwyn and Tywin. “Dad, Tywin, I know this isn't great timing, but we wanted you to know before you got married: Jaime and I are together and we have been for a few months now.”
Selwyn's initial elation plummeted back down to earth like someone had cut the strings of his parachute. “You're what?”
“A few months?” Tywin barked at the same time.
“I know we should have told you before,” Jaime said, “but we wanted to keep it to ourselves while we figured everything out.”
“We didn't want to ruin our friendship if we weren't good in a relationship together,” Brienne added, biting her lip nervously as she looked between Selwyn and Tywin. “And you two aren't exactly... pressure-free.”
Selwyn wasn't convinced he wasn't dreaming. “You've been dating this entire time?”
“Yes. I'm so sorry we lied to you, Dad.”
Hearing her earnest apology felt like he'd struck the earth. He couldn't be mad at Brienne when he and Tywin had been lying to them, too. “You don't have to apologize,” he said. “We have something we should tell you, as well.”
Tywin stiffened and turned to meet Selwyn's stare. He looked as regretful as Selwyn felt, likely because he knew the kids would be angry at them for their deception. Selwyn was regretful for reasons far beyond that, but that was a secret he would never tell.
With a slight nod, Tywin looked to their children. “We are not actually dating,” he said, his words loud and clipped. Everyone in the sept gasped, even the septon, who clamped his hand over his mouth in shock.
Brienne's eyes, as wide and blue as her mother's had been, went electric. “But you... we're in a sept for your wedding, Dad!”
Selwyn gave her a small, sheepish smile. “Things might have gotten a little out of hand.”
Jaime looked like he didn't know whether to be sick with relief or fury. “Why the fuck have you been lying about your relationship?” he directed to Tywin.
“We were trying to get you two to admit your feelings for each other. So really, this all starts with your own lie.”
Jaime blinked so fast Selwyn wondered he couldn't feel a wind from it. “Are you blaming us for all this?” Jaime asked, gesturing wildly around them. The septon ducked to avoid getting smacked in the face.
“Not directly,” Tywin said.
“What he means,” Selwyn jumped in when Jaime's disbelief turned firmly into anger, “is that all of us lied, but Tywin and I especially went too far, though we had the best intentions.”
“Boy am I glad I didn't miss this,” Galladon said from behind them, and Selwyn briefly shut his eyes and sighed.
“Septon,” he said, peering past Jaime to the poor, confused man. “As you can imagine, we will no longer need your services today.”
“Hold on,” Jaime said, turning his head sharply. “No one is going anywhere.”
The septon wavered in place, his gaze darting between the four of them like a scared rabbit surrounded by foxes.
“You two obviously put some effort into this wedding,” Jaime continued. “It's a shame to let it go to waste.”
Jaime didn't sound as though he were upset enough to try to force Selwyn and Tywin to marry, but Selwyn had learned enough about Jaime's father over the last two months that he knew the Lannister blood could run ice-cold in revenge.
“It's no trouble,” Selwyn insisted, quieting when Jaime held his hand out to stop him.
“Brienne,” Jaime said, and Selwyn was taken aback by how soft he sounded just in that one word. Though he and Tywin had not caused it, Selwyn couldn't help feeling some pride in the fact that he'd read their children's feelings for each other correctly.
Jaime and Brienne faced each other, their hands still linked. “There's no one else in the world I'd rather go through life with than you, and there's a septon right here.”
“There is,” she said, quiet and stunningly assured. It was like watching his daughter grow up in an instant, the way she smiled calmly at Jaime. “I don't have any plans for the rest of the afternoon, if you're free?”
“You know I am,” Jaime smirked. “We talked about it in bed this morning.”
Selwyn tried to control his surprise, but he couldn't control the slight, embarrassed blush he felt in his cheeks. When he glanced at Tywin, the normally harsh lines on the other man's face were gentled, his lovely green eyes were bright.
If Selwyn had to say, he would have said Tywin was happy. The look suited him.
“It would certainly keep them from pressuring us,” Brienne said.
“Do you want to do it?” Jaime asked intently. “We could still runaway to Essos.”
“Let's try it as a honeymoon spot first,” Brienne said, and then she smiled in a way Selwyn had never seen: a confident, loving, joyful look that made him inhale with the deep force of how happy and grateful he was to see his daughter this way. For all that he'd screwed up since her mother had died, aiding and abetting Brienne's friendship with Jaime was one thing Selwyn had done right.
Brienne and Jaime turned to face the septon, who looked relieved, back on familiar ground. Selwyn nudged Tywin with his elbow and they retreated to the extra seats with their other children, on opposite sides of the aisle. And though Selwyn was in tears of joy watching the beginning of this relationship, they couldn't quite wash away the pang of sadness at the end of his own, no matter how pretend it should have been.
“I still can't believe it was all fake,” Brienne said, curled up naked with Jaime in the fancy hotel suite Tywin had paid for for them.
“I still can't believe none of the bad stuff that happened was on purpose.” He trailed his hand over her back, and she shivered a little in response. “But here we are, married. Just as we should be.”
Brienne kissed his chest, rubbed her cheek against the sparse golden hair there. “If it weren't so impossible, I'd almost say they intended it to be this way.”
“No one is that much of a mastermind,” Jaime said on a laugh that rumbled under her hands on him. “Not even my father.”
She thought of the way her father had so tenderly carried Tywin to the ambulance. “Do you think, maybe... that they might have actually liked each other?”
“Like, in a sexy way?”
Brienne snorted, poking him in the stomach. “No, Jaime, I mean in a 'they really liked to hang out together' way.”
“I don't know. Probably. Seems like it would be hard to fake some of that.” He kissed her forehead. “Who knows, maybe they liked each other in a sexy way, too. Your dad is a big, burly dish.”
“Oh gods, I regret bringing this up now,” she said, burying her face into his side while he laughed. “No more talking about our fathers while we're naked in bed!”
“Deal. Can I talk about how much I like you in a sexy way?”
“As long as we continue to not use the words 'love machine,' then yes.”
He sighed. “There goes my first five minutes, I guess.”
Tywin looked at the little stuffed bear he'd brought in to his desk at work, sighed, annoyed at himself, and shut his laptop. His concentration had been shot ever since the wedding, though there was no good reason for it. His and Selwyn's plan had worked better than they could have hoped for. They'd ended things amicably and life had returned to normal.
Or what should have been normal. Except now there was a Selwyn-shaped hole in Tywin's life, and it gnawed at him. Their relationship had been purely a fiction; mooning over what had all been carefully fabricated was the act of a foolish boy, not a man like Tywin Lannister.
But when there was a knock at his door and Tywin looked up to see Selwyn in the doorway, a big, grease-stained paper bag in his hand and a tentative smile on his face, he couldn't escape from the sudden flood of relief.
“Selwyn,” he said in greeting. “What brings you here?”
Selwyn shut the door and took his customary seat in front of Tywin's desk. “Lunch,” he said, setting the bag down. It smelled unhealthy and delicious. Tywin's mouth was already watering.
“Is that all?” he asked, folding his hands neatly in front of him.
“That depends on you, I suppose,” Selwyn said. “I miss you, Ty. I was wondering if possibly you missed me, too.”
Tywin had walked this earth enough years, had been through the loss of his heart enough years before, that he knew second chances were rare and fragile at best. It had been in many ways a miserable two months, but Tywin hadn't felt that alive and near happiness since Joanna had died. Who was he to ignore an opportunity like this?
“That depends on what kind of sandwich you brought,” he said wryly, pleased when Selwyn's face melted from worry to elation. He reached out to start opening the bag.
“Let's not tell the children just yet, though,” Tywin added.
Selwyn laughed, a big, booming, familiar sound that made the ends of Tywin's mouth curve upward. “Deal.”
Jaime woke up in the middle of the night, his pillows scattered all over, and nuzzled more deeply into his wife's arms. They'd only just gotten back from their two-week honeymoon that day, and he wasn't even officially moved in yet, but he never planned to sleep anywhere else ever again.
He'd have to reach out to his father tomorrow now that they were back, to check on and maybe even thank him. Not that he and Brienne wouldn't have eventually gotten here, but Jaime knew they hadn't exactly moved fast in their relationship, and there had been no good reason to waste any more years when this was where they were both meant to be.
It was a shame his own father had lost this so many years ago himself, and potentially again so recently. It had genuinely seemed like he had found something new and good with Selwyn. As their disastrous outings had gone on, the feelings between his father and Brienne's had seemed deeper all the time; the wedding hadn't shocked Jaime because he didn't think it was true, but because it was so fast. And delivered via e-vite. They were two lonely men who seemed to have found welcome, fresh companionship and Jaime honestly wasn't sure whether they were physically attracted to each other, but it didn't really matter. They cared about each other, and they had fun together, when everything wasn't going to hell. Jaime suspected neither man would want to admit it, though. He and Brienne hadn't fallen that far from their respective trees.
Which meant it was only fair that they do for their fathers what their fathers had tried to do for them.
Jaime re-settled his pillows and grinned into the darkness. In the morning, he'd wake his beloved wife with a kiss or twenty, and then he'd convince her that turnabout was fair play. Then over breakfast they could make a plan to convince Selwyn and Tywin what everyone else already knew: they were made for each other.
What could possibly go wrong?