Lilith Morgana (lilith_morgana) wrote,
Lilith Morgana
lilith_morgana

Fic: Even to the edge of doom

Even to the edge of doom; pg-13; Lannister family!fic time with Joanna and Tywin and the twins; 7400-ish words; no spoilers for non-book readers.






A/N: I was, um, planning to write a drabble to welcome myself to the fandom and the communities and earn some points for the Lannisters. And then I remembered that I fail at drabbles and once wrote 70 000 words of build-up pre-romance fic for my favourite couple.

So, clearly Joanna/Tywin is the pairing that first comes to mind when you sit down and think “hmm, I want to write ASOIAF fanfic”. And clearly you can't just write a small drabble with some random scene. No, no, you have to involve the whole family. Truth is, I got obsessed with the way this marriage is being referred to, with Joanna as Tywin’s most trusted advisor and closest companion and the death-in-childbed and “the best part of him died with her” and the ouch.





Even to the edge of doom


Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks
But bears it out even to the edge of doom

Shakespeare – Sonnet 116



I.


Joanna has always liked the sky.

When she is a girl, her father often carries her on his shoulders so she may pretend to touch the clouds above. They're heavy and white, made of the finest silk and richest cream and painted by giants – or dragons, she has not made up her mind about their origin yet. The sky, she learns later, is full of superstition and myth; it’s a vault under which humans and other creatures have wandered in fearful admiration since the dawn of time. As a girl, when she knows nothing of this, she merely likes its shapes and the way it seems to last forever and still fit in the palm of her hand.

“Who lives in the clouds?” Joanna asks with her fingers curled around a shadow that takes a form in her imagination, turns into a lion or a stag or a bunny depending on her mood.

Her father doesn’t know but her mother does.

“Our dreams live there,” she answers every time Joanna asks. “Our dreams and our hopes, waiting for us to be ready for them.”

Her clouds are never thick with rain, not that she can remember. The sun never sets on the lions, her mother says many times during the long summer of Joanna’s childhood.
 

 
*


She’s a disobedient child. A summer child, steeped in that summer-beauty from the fairy-tales and songs. From the moment she can walk and speak, Joanna is a climbing, lying, sneaking, wilful girl who’s scooped up in comforting arms and sternly admonished by turns, drawing out deep frowns and exasperated laughs all at once. It’s not fair, her brother Stafford protests when she gets away with her adventures. He’s a coward, afraid of wild animals and heights and water. Joanna is not afraid of anything.

“When I am a woman grown, I am going to be a conqueror,” she tells him when they’re flat on their stomachs on the floor of the library, painstakingly making their way through the thick tomes of history. “Like Aaegon.”

“Don’t be silly.” Stafford is two years older; he always thinks he knows best. “When you’re a woman grown you will be somebody’s lady wife.”

“Will not.” She turns page in the book, eyebrows arched at the painting. A pack of mountain lions feasting on a direwolf and her stomach lurches with excitement, a jolt of happiness under her skin. When she’s older, her father has promised to take her hunting in the forests. The real forests. She decides that Stafford can’t come.

He sighs. “Yes, you will. Ask father.”

It’s not fair, she thinks to herself as the lets the pad of her thumb trace the outlines of the largest lion in the group who has his paws around the wolf’s neck. If she leans closer to the painting, so close her face almost touches it, she imagines she can taste the blood in the lion’s mouth.



*

 

The year when she is fourteen and bleeds for the first time, she often dines with her lord uncle Tytos and his children. Her cousins. Wedged in between Genna who never stops talking and Kevan who teases her incessantly, Joanna directs her attention towards Tywin across the table. Their eyes meet briefly. He seems misplaced among them, she thinks - too stern for a youth and not old enough to pass for a grown man despite all the tales of his prowess as a strategist and a swordsman. The heir to Casterly Rock is a strange child, they say. Nothing like her meek, ever-smiling uncle, he bears more resemblance to ancestors long gone, as though he himself is an echo from a different time. A joyless bastard, Stafford calls him once, but not to his face.

Joanna thinks him handsome, with strong, clean features and pale green eyes that can take the shape of the coolest ice. There is something hard in him, something austere and unflinching that you can rely on. It’s a soothing thought.

She knows even before her parents suggest it, that she is meant to marry him.
 


*



During the year that follows, Joanna’s father brings her with him to Casterly Rock for a fortnight and she spends the better part of the journey there wondering what she will talk to her cousin about. Her education has been vast and unconventional in parts - due to her father’s love for both the family library and the old maps of wars won and lost – and full of suitable topics but Joanna is fairly certain a lady isn’t meant to discuss the art of war with a suitor. She is equally certain that she will, at some point, but she has learned enough manners to at least pretend otherwise.

“You can see right into the sky up here,” is what escapes her as they arrive and it is not what she was expecting herself to say at all, but Genna giggles benevolently and takes her arm in a firm grip, dragging her off to the Hall of Heroes.

Later that evening, she bests Tywin at chess – twice – and thinks momentarily perhaps this is not going so well before she meets his gaze and notices something appreciative behind the layers of irritation at having lost.

“You are a clever girl,” he says with a curt nod. It makes him sound old and pompous and she feels a burst of laughter tickle the back of her throat but she knows better than to let it out. He has been laughed at enough for a lifetime.

“Yes, I am,” Joanna says instead, mirroring his nod.

Tywin observes her for a moment, without saying anything else. Then - so very quickly and briefly that it might not even happen - he smiles. He smiles and Joanna laughs, relieved.

There is no haste to marry young in times of peace, her lord uncle declares – if any of his vague statements can be interpreted as declarations - by the end of that year and Joanna realises she is disappointed.



*


War comes between them, another year when the autumn stretches as endless as the sea, its clouds grey and low, soaring right above their heads. Joanna grows restless in the lingering heat and the thundering storms; she wants out, longs for open roads and the crowded marketplaces of Lannisport. And her prayers this year – pleas to gods and clouds alike – rise like winding roads to the sky. She is a woman now, has outgrown her father’s house and as the moon rotates her mother begins to question the promised betrothal, begins to speak of Sebaston Farman because at least that match will take place in a near future. Joanna refuses to speak of the matter entirely, nursing her pride and hope like a mother nurses her children.

Tywin Lannister wages an uneven, unequal war for most of that year. No one in her family expects him to lose.

“A risk all the same,” her father tells her over his goblet of wine that she brings every night to his study. He sits there, pored over maps and old books. If she asks, he shows her the world in them. “But Tywin is determined, I give him that.”

“A lord must be able to trust his vassals.” Joanna walks up to the window, folding her arms across her chest as she stares at the landscape out there, dissolved by rain and darkness. “My uncle should to have seen to that a long time ago. The blood is entirely on his hands.”

Her father looks up at her and for the first time she notices how old he is, how the wrinkles around his eyes and mouth mark his face. Everybody says her father is a mirror image of his older brother and in this room she finds, much to her disappointment, that it is truly so.

“You speak like a general, child,” he says and she can almost taste the wistfulness in his voice.

“I speak like a Lannister,” she retorts, turning her back on him. You ought to do the same.

With the falling leaves that year, reports of the young lion’s success at mercilessly crushing the uproar travel between the towns and taverns. Those he does not defeat on the battlefield he hangs, spelling out their family motto in blood for everyone to see. Joanna listens to the stories with a lurching feeling of hope in her chest. We are rising, she tells the stars that are crisp and clear in the night skies. Finally rising after our long slumber.

With the first snow, Tywin himself – taking the place of his lord father in this matter, too - comes to ask for Joanna’s hand in marriage.



*

  

It rains on their wedding, pours from black clouds above their heads all day, covering the guests and the feast in a veil of grey wetness. And rain means good luck, someone tells her as though she would need it. It rains even as they are carried away to their bedchamber. Water darkens the stones around her, Joanna thinks, catching glimpses of it through the windows.

The darkness consumes Casterly Rock but in their room, candles are lit and fires are burning and she is released and placed in the middle of it, at its very core. Outside, she can hear the dancing and the singing continue with renewed force. A proper Lannister wedding much rarer these days than it used to be. They have good cause for celebration.

“Would you care for more wine?” Tywin asks suddenly and with strange politeness, looking over her shoulder at the generous feast that has been brought up from downstairs and put on a table near the fireplace. It had been the first thing she noticed when the cheering crowd put her down - the large plates full of sugared oranges and baked apples, of salted meat and roasted onions.

She shakes her head. “Not unless you wish to carry me to bed.”

He observes her, the flecks of gold in his eyes glittering. “I was under the impression that was my duty.”

She laughs softly. Somehow the air seems to grow warmer between them.

“I’m not a woman to be carried anywhere,” she says, sounding a little more prudish than intended and he gives an amused grunt that resounds in her, thudding against the sturdy walls of her heart. She blinks, startled at the realisation: everything past this, past the two of them, is out of focus, an unimportant blur of colours and lights.

“That remains to be seen.” He takes a step towards her and the space between their bodies is narrowed further when she does the same. It feels like one long movement – without doubts, without interruption, merely two bodies recognising each other.

After all these years, she would never have thought Tywin Lannister capable of gentleness, but he is. He is careful and solemn in a way that makes her chest tighten as he stands before her and she squares her shoulders, smiling to hide her fluttering nerves, wondering what he sees when he looks at her. Men look at her, she is aware of that. For years, men have turned to her with a special glint in their eyes, their gazes travelling up and down her body when they think it will pass unnoticed and she has found uses for it, the way a Lannister does.

And yet, Tywin’s gaze is the only one she truly values, she can feel it now like a low hum in her bones. She has been his long before tonight; he has been hers in thoughts and plans, as well. And it’s his open appreciation she will remember; it’s his silent way of taking her in that will resound at the back of her memory all those long nights when he is not with her; it’s the way his hand cradles the nape of her neck; it’s the touch of his lips on hers; it’s the way his body feels when pressed against her own.

Before, when he had draped his crimson-red cloak over her shoulders and sworn to protect her, he had given her one of his rare smiles and somehow it had made the whole feast easier to bear, made her resist a fourth cup of wine when offered, made her resist it again just now. This is long overdue; she does not want to misremember it in the morning.

"I am truly glad to be rid of all those people," she says breathlessly when he begins to remove her dress in all its intricate glory and shortly thereafter, she finds, the art of forming words somewhat escape her.

Much later, as the rain and thunder have subsided and they rest side by side in their bed, Joanna traces a small pattern of light across Tywin’s chest when the moonlight pierces through the curtains, thinking I will be good to you, I swear it.



II.

 
Everyone advises her to endure the first year of marriage. After that, they say, it will become easier.

Joanna finds her first year of marriage joyous - eventful and tiring, but joyous all the same.

Their first summer as husband and wife Tywin takes her hunting in the forests surrounding Crakehall; they ride with a small entourage and the long roads ahead feel like they belong to the two of them. And this summer that is theirs, the land is quick to burn, like it’s eager to soak up the light and the heat, to churn it out in long, warm evenings where the sun’s presence lingers in the air long after it has set.

They walk together on those evenings, keeping the others at a safe distance. She enjoys walking by her husband’s side, enjoys being near him and sharing her days with him; he seems to take pleasure in having her there, in being listened to or even questioned. They are fortunate, she concludes on a particularly warm evening when they find solitude in a glade full of blackberry bushes, very fortunate indeed.

“My father has all but ruined the family,” Tywin tells her one night. It comes as no surprise so she merely nods, listening to his thoughts on the matter.

“We ought to be relentless in our efforts to raise funds in the future.” She turns slightly so that they’re facing each other. It’s not until Tywin nods his agreement that she realises she says we without even thinking about it.



*



Around them, things change both subtly and abruptly.

Lord Tytos Lannister is craven, they say - if they speak of him at all. Lecherous and craven, a stain on the Lannister banners, more pitied than loved. With his children’s futures secured and the burdens of his duties released from his shoulders, he takes to unabashed drinking and whoring and does it so thoroughly that he is rarely showing his face unless forcibly dragged down to slumber through a formal occasion.

When Joanna’s father dies unexpectedly from a persistent fever, his brother holds a much too costly feast to accompany the ceremony and has to be carried back to his bedchamber right in the middle of it. There’s a tremble of subdued laughter behind his back as he stumbles through the halls and Tywin stiffens in his seat, his eyes hard as flint. Joanna places her hand on his arm under the table; he relaxes under her touch, but only for a second.

“You will have to excuse my lord father, I’m afraid,” Tywin says to her later, in their room. He sounds both tired and furious behind his composure, fragments of his true feelings slipping through small cracks of that steely armour. Sometimes she is amazed that she is the only one who can see it for what it is - a shield. “He is not much of a host these days. Or much of a man, for that matter.”

“Whatever his faults, he has raised a remarkable son.” Joanna says, suddenly more grateful towards him than she can say. “Nobody laughs at you, my love. I, least of all.”

A shadow crosses Tywin’s face at her words, as something in his features shifts slightly.

He is constantly changing this year, as well, growing darker and harsher in his role as Lord of Casterly Rock and Warden of the West in all but name. He works untiringly, Joanna knows, demanding near-impossible things from the men around him – and from himself. There is no man in the Seven Kingdoms he expects more from, no man he compels as mercilessly. At times, when she grazes her fingertips over the taut lines of his body, she imagines she can feel the whole extent of his ambition, pulsating under his skin, threatening to overthrow them all.

This is why she loves him: for being the cure for all the empty promises of their gilded halls and fabled ancestry, for being someone to be proud of and someone who is strong enough to endure it. For his pride. For his faults. For being bold and brave and burning.

When she tells him this, his hands come around her waist, his gaze clouded with ferocious need and she kisses him so fiercely she draws blood from his lips.




*



The moon turns in the sky and the world switches colours around them. The summer burns out into a long autumn and everybody speaks of the winter while the roads turn yellow and red.

Whenever it is convenient and she isn’t required elsewhere, she accompanies her husband as he works and quickly learns that he holds her opinion in the greatest esteem. On the rare occasion that she does not volunteer her thoughts on something, he asks her. Within months of their marriage, he has made her his advisor in most things and she is startled the afternoon she discovers that he has picked up her suggestion how to improve the trading routes to Lannisport and put his most trusted men on the task.

“You need not look so surprised,” he mutters over his trade maps and calculations when she mentions it. “I would not have married you if I thought you a feeble-minded fool.”

“I was under the impression that it was my stunning beauty,” Joanna retorts, in good humour, because even if no living soul would believe her if she told them, her husband happens to smile on occasion.

“It worked in your favour, I must admit,” he says if he is in particular high spirits. If he is not, her japes and remarks are met with cool silence.




*



And when they don’t see eye to eye, they fight. Like lions, if allowed.

Her husband is cold and cruel, she is furious and scornful. He manages to stay silent for days, nursing his grudges for all eternity; she makes rash decisions and storms off like a petulant child, raging violently but briefly. When she returns to the room, her anger washed away and forgotten, Tywin will still wallow in his own irritation and so they start over again.

“Ice and wildfire,” Genna says, rolling her eyes. “Seven save us all, dear cousin.”

“You have a way with him, though,” she adds, eyes twinkling like they share something secret, just the two of them. They sit by the large windows facing Lannisport, taking their afternoon meal together. Genna Lannister is an infrequent guest but Joanna has come to look forward to her visits, however sporadic; she has a brazen edge to her that matches Joanna’s own and knows how to converse about something beyond domestic matters.

“You make him sound like an untamed horse,” Joanna half-smiles.

“Oh, aren’t they all?” Genna reaches for another plum and swallows it in a large bite.




*




Joanna miscarries three times the year after her husband is named Hand of the King.

Twice, she stands in the Hall of Heroes and listens to the waves, feeling the seed of life inside her amount to nothing, slipping away with every step she takes, every heartbeat.

The third time, they are in King’s Landing and she isn’t strong enough to hold back her tears as Tywin returns to their bedchamber. It seems the air in the room is tinted with blood and her own failures; her hands shake uselessly as she turns away from his gaze. He is not a man who tolerates tears and she is not a woman who weeps but this, she thinks with her hands curled into fists, this is not right. There are some sorrows for which there is no compensation; there are some hollow hungers that cannot be sated.

“It seems I will not give you any sons.”

“You will,” Tywin replies, a little too quickly.

“And if I don’t?” Her breath catches around the question. If I can’t?

“You will.” He sits down by edge of their bed, loosening the buckles of his formal wear and starting to undress. Tywin Lannister, Hand of the King and mightier than the seven, she thinks with a stitch of anger colouring her thoughts dark as night. She wonders if he truly believes he can issue a command for this, too.

Joanna takes a deep breath, bracing herself for the words with sharp edges that rip her thoughts to shreds. There are no childless Lannisters, a voice says in her head. There are no childless Lannisters and there are always ways.

But Tywin will not hear of it.

“You are my wife and you will be the mother of my children.” He says it with such force, such uncompromising determination, that Joanna never brings up the matter again, even as the days pass by and her monthly bleeding returns, over and over.



*



The sky is pale blue and framed by the lightest of clouds the day she feels, for the first time, the beat of another heart within her body. A soft thud, a flicker, and she closes her eyes, commanding the child inside her to stay where it is, to grow strong.

You are every bit a Lannister, she tells it, pressing her fingers to the bulging stomach. There is lion blood in your veins and the sun, my beautiful child, does not set on the lions.

She is not surprised when Maester Pycelle tells them he can feel the movement of more than one child.

Everything has a price and they have paid for this thrice already.




*




She gives birth at Casterly Rock in the middle of winter. Afterwards, she cannot remember it; she knows it must have happened and she hears the stories of how it happened, but her own memories – or what would have been memories – are nothing but a long string of moments of darkness.
  
In the dark, she can see the clouds of her childhood again, dissolving like melting snow when she reaches out. She aims for them, her motions made slow and lethargic by the strange haze that fills her body, and they slip away.

She is brought back to life and light by hands tugging at her, voices whispering over her head, liquids slipping between her lips and trickling down her throat until she has to cough and then her eyes open, by their own making. The room seems strangely bright, as though Casterly Rock is on fire. Joanna frowns at the sight of Maester Pycelle. Have I been so gravely ill?
 
As if he can read her mind, the old man nods. "We feared we were going to lose you, my Lady.”

And then, softer: “You must not bear any more children, my Lady. It would be too great a risk. I shall personally brew you the finest moon tea henceforth.”

I have never cared for this man, she thinks irritably, smoothing out a wrinkle on the blanket she is partly covered by. But Tywin claims he is a stalwart.

“How are they?” Her words are weak, but she feels her body awaken with every breath; she is returning. “How are my children?”

“Both children are healthy and strong,” Tywin answers and the sound of his voice nearly brings tears to her eyes. I returned to you. “One boy and one girl.”

When she turns her head to look at him and sees him struggle for momentum, she knows the darkness has been real, knows that it did swallow her, that it was not merely her pained delirium. She was gone. For a little while, she had disappeared. There’s a streak of exhaustion in Tywin’s eyes, as though he has been through ten and forty days of war. She wants to reach out and brush over his cheek with her hand, knowing how little he sleeps before battle. You always win, husband.

Leave,” he commands those who are surrounding her bed and within the blink of an eye they have hurried out of her bedchamber.

"It takes more than childbirth to slay a lioness," she says to him when they're alone and she has seen the twins sleep, as intertwined as babies as they must have been before they entered this world. Hand against chest, foot pressed into the bend of a knee; they are the most beautiful things Joanna has ever laid eyes upon and she loves them already, feeling faint at the mere thought of their little bodies pressed together.

She gives her husband a grin, a sense of triumph engraved into her very body tonight. She is victorious, invincible.

Tywin doesn't smile back; he walks to the window to pull the curtains close, before sitting down by her bedside. Then he leans down to kiss her forehead and she closes her eyes as her hands find his broad shoulders and strong arms, stroking them through his tunic, thinking yes, this is where I belong and I will always return to you.
 
 
 
*


One year later, Tywin formally assumes the lordship of Casterly Rock.

He isn’t present when his father dies ignobly and Joanna and the twins are visiting her mother when the news reaches them. At the funeral they hold for him, Tywin betrays nothing of his contempt and scorn for his late lord father and Joanna stands beside him, their children in her arms and feels nothing but pride.

It belongs to them now. The future is theirs.




III.



Joanna has always liked the sky.

That remains the most wondrous thing about Casterly Rock, at least to her – the fact that you can almost trace the fluid lines of the heavens above. With Tywin gone, she stands by the windows and tracks him through the clouds, thinking of the long roads between here and King’s Landing and how all creatures merge under the same sky.

She tells her children the same stories her mother told her, sings the same songs, plays the same games.

“The sun never sets on the lions,” she tells them, meaning you shall have everything, in abundance.

“It does,” her daughter replies when she is old enough to distrust stories. “The sun always sets.”

Her husband finds her childhood stories sentimental and softening and unbefitting his heir and yet it’s Jaime who wants to hear them the most. Cersei urges Joanna to tell stories of brave knights and enduring maidens and her twin brother sighs dramatically but he always listens, much to his father’s annoyance.

“You cannot eat love, nor buy a horse with it,” Joanna overhears Tywin say to their son one evening. “Nor will it warm your halls on a cold night.”

She shakes her head as she walks into the room, kissing her son’s cheeks before she sends him off to his bath for the night. Tywin thinks coddling weakens a boy so she has taken upon herself to kiss Jaime for the both of them, tracing his perfect little face with her hands until he grunts and escapes.

Her husband sits by his desk and writes letters when she returns from putting the children to bed.

“I seem to recall how you gallantly rode all the way from Lannisport to ask me to marry you, once upon a time.” She stands behind him, one hand curved around his shoulder. “Odd for a man who does not approve of love, don’t you think?”

Tywin pauses briefly in his work, his hands resting on the desk. She bends down to kiss the top of his head.

“That,” he says in a clipped tone that means do not contradict me, “was an entirely different matter.”

“Ah, certainly.”

She sighs, caught between affection and frustration. He is an impossibly difficult man; there are times as of late when she has the distinct impression that he is disappearing behind his roles and responsibilities, and she reaches for him but to no avail. As the years pass, he grows more confident, more ruthless – it’s a change she has applauded in the past and she supports it, even now. Yet there’s a trace of worry in her. A small shadow at the very corners of her mind, like a too-heavy cloud about to burst with rain. Perhaps, she thinks sometimes, she is the one who has been weakened. Perhaps it is nothing.

“Don’t be so hard on them,” she mumbles anyway, her arms wrapped around his chest now, her mouth seeking the soft skin just around his ears. “Children need songs and stories.”

“King’s Landing has court jesters by the dozen. I fail to see why you wish to raise even more of them.”

Joanna chuckles, almost despite herself. “I love you too, dear husband.”

Tywin puts down his quill when she plants an open-mouthed kiss over the hollow of his throat, and lets out a low, exasperated groan as she comes around to straddle him. He is a remarkable man, this is true. The kind of man who leaves such an impression on the world he inhabits that people will talk about him for generations and generations to come, she knows. Kissing him, she tastes fire. Not the sort of fire that dragons breathe but the low, subdued fire of a flock of lions hunting their prey, a vicious rhythm in blood and bones, a prideful, magnificent fire that burns like gold in the sun. Even when he drives her to the brink of bitter tears, she loves him. Even when she dreams of clawing out his eyes, she wakes up with his arm draped over her waist and wants nothing else than that, just that very moment, drawn-out forever.

He is a remarkable man, this is true. But in his arms, she grows to his like; in his arms, she is the conqueror that never was and he breathes life into her with every movement, with each thrust, their bodies clashing against the shattered boundaries and confinements. Tywin presses his lips against the nape of her neck and she arches her back, thinking we are the same.

She likes to think, too, that this is the night when they conceive their third child.




*



 

They are in King’s Landing when she admits to herself what has happened. She sits in the courtyard among the rest of the women accompanying the Queen as that vaguely familiar wave of nausea storms her defences and she has to clasp a hand over her mouth.

Later, Maester Pycelle confirms that she is, indeed with child once more.

When he finds out, her husband looks as though he is ready to summon his bannermen and storm the wilderness; he is a statue of cold, barely contained fury and even the old man who never hesitates to spread his advice wherever it is not wanted shies away and slips out of the room.

“You have been given the moon tea?” he asks, sounding as though he wishes she hadn’t, so he has something to blame. Someone to punish.

“Yes, but it had no effect, it seems.” She says it without fear to mask how scared she truly is. I never dreaded a thing in life before, she thinks. But this new presence that brings a chill of terror down her spine is not life, it is something darker. “I’m afraid I took it too late.”

“I see.” Tywin’s expression hardens. “Then we must find another way to rid you of it.”

Her husband is a brilliant strategist, a masterful warlord and his words carry the scent of battlefields and blood even in their bedchamber. All the maps they have been studying together, Joanna thinks with a half-smile. All the long hours bent over winding roads and riverbanks, over deserts and great fields. She has never looked away from a hanging or a flogging, her advice has not been less violent than his deeds and there is a part of her that agrees with him even on this eve. Another part of her does not.

It rises as a whisper in her, the protest. A whisper growing to a roar as Tywin paces the room, the thudding echo of his footfalls filling her ears.

“No,” she decides finally.

He comes to an abrupt halt and looks at her with furrowed brows. “Joanna-“

“It’s our child,” she interrupts, thinking of Cersei’s meticulously detailed child-paintings and Jaime’s laughter. Her son’s toy swords and tall tales, her daughter’s frown born from the will to understand everything.

“It’s your death warrant,” he snaps. His face is pale, his eyes cold as ice. She has never seen him angrier in her life and it twists inside her, the way his grip of the wall tightens until his knuckles are snow-white. “I will not allow this.”

“You may think yourself the ruler over the Seven Kingdoms, Tywin Lannister, but you do not rule over me.” Joanna spits wildfire; she can feel her anger as a fever under her skin, a disease breaking out. “Not in this matter. Not ever.”

Her words seem to hit him like a blow. “Seven hells, woman!”

“And to you, dear husband.”

For a moment, neither of them speaks. Tywin stands in front of the window, staring out at something only he can see in the dark while Joanna remains where she is, leaning against the wall with her hands spread out over the plane of her stomach. When he turns around and their eyes meet, she gasps for air because for a second his anger subsides and his composure cracks wide-open before her.

“Joanna,” he says and she has never heard his voice like this, has never heard him speak the word that follows: “Please.”

She takes a deep, steadying breath as she’s walking up to him. Her fingers on his sleeve, her body trying in vain to bridge the distance between them; her hand around his wrist as she pulls him closer.

“You are the earth and heaven to me, my love,” she says softly. “But I have made my decision.”

Tywin shakes his head in what appears to be disbelief or disgust as he pushes away from her, all but shoving her out of his way.

He returns late that evening, carrying with him an uncharacteristic scent of wine; she stirs under the sheets to greet him but he doesn’t touch her, he blows out the candles and lies down beside her in one anger-quick motion and for a long time they are both silent.

“I’m sending you and the children back to Casterly Rock shortly,” he says eventually, just as she is falling asleep. “Maester Pycelle will accompany you.”

She cannot tell from his tone if it’s punishment or reconciliation.



*

 
 
A blood moon is rising the night when she first feels the child flutter inside her belly. Hunter's moon, an omen of strength some say. Tywin was born under one, her lord uncle had mentioned to her once when he had been drunk on wine. Like father, like son; if Jaime and Cersei are her children – and they are, they will forever be her beautiful little terrors - this one will be his father’s heir in all but name.

Smiling at her oddly prophetic mood, she leans back in her chair, feeling content.

"Come, feel it," she tells her husband but his face is caught in a stiff reluctance. This is a sliver of the world that he cannot control and yet he fights it as though he could, still. "He will be a winter child."

It's a boy, she thinks, her fingers spread over the curve that seems larger now, more prominent than she can remember from last time even with two of them inside her. I know it.

But Tywin Lannister already has a son and he has told her again and again, as she's dutifully taken her moon tea, that he does not want another. He is still angry with them both for not being cautious enough and there is love in that anger, she knows - a particularly fierce and unforgiving sort that cuts right through her every time and leaves her breathless. Reaching out for his hand to place it on her belly, she catches his gaze and holds it. For a second, there is nothing but despair in his eyes. She gives him a soft, slow kiss.

He will never forgive himself if this time is as frightful for her as the last one was, she realises, and for the first time since she found out about her condition, she feels a stitch of guilt.

“I am not going to die, my love.”

He doesn’t answer.




*




Back at Casterly Rock, her nightmares begin.

Twisting and turning in her bed alone at night she dreams of darkness, dreams of deep, dark deserts barren of everything but dark clouds closing in on her, chasing her across the endless plains.

Because she is a Lannister, she prepares for battle, leaving nothing unfinished.

“You will have a brother soon,” she whispers to her son who is all but squirming out of her tight hug, deeming himself much too old to be held like a suckling babe. “Will you promise me to take care of him, Jaime?”

There is so much of herself in this boy, she thinks, stroking his thick golden hair and breathing in his scent. A mirror of the child she once was, just like his sister. But Cersei, Joanna has learned, has much more of Tywin’s heart than her brother. She is wakeful and calculating, a serious, insatiable child who wants the whole world and stands ready to conquer it when the moment comes. Jaime lacks the patience to wait for anything, his restlessness outweighs his greed; he is cat-quick and fierce, a little lion cub with a rude mouth and a good heart. A beautiful handful, she had said to Tywin several years ago when Jaime had decided he wanted to be taught how to ride and promptly escaped into the stables, releasing all of the horses before he had been caught. He takes after his mother, Tywin had replied and she had noticed the flicker of a smile playing on his lips even as he berated his son.

“I promise, mother,” Jaime says and for a fraction of a second he sounds so much like his father that it aches in her, somewhere deep down where she expects the worst. You are too young for solemn oaths.

Cersei doesn’t promise anything when Joanna wraps her arms around her, refraining from burying her hands in her daughter’s golden locks that fall over her shoulders and back. She dislikes having her hair touched.

“I don’t want another brother,” she points out. “I have Jaime.”

Joanna embraces them both again, a little too long, and when they release themselves from her hug she has to blink away tears from her eyes.




*




The darkness takes hold of her again before she knows it. It’s too soon, but she knows her body cares very little for strategy and planning.

“It’s time,” she tells her maids, bending over slightly as a cramp rises through her body, leaving her breathless. “Send a rider to King’s Landing to notify my lord husband.”

Much later, she wakes to her husband’s furious voice, clashing against a more high-pitched one that she recognises as well.

“I won’t allow it,” the Lord of Casterly Rock states once more.

Maester Pycelle holds the answer in his mouth for a moment before he replies, keeps the words beneath his tongue; she knows this without opening her eyes. I’ve never liked you. You are the bringer of bad news. “My lord, I am truly sorry, but there is nothing else I can do. Lady Joanna has lost much blood and caught a fever that I cannot treat-“

“Then you are useless.”

“My lord-“

“Leave us.” Tywin cuts him off, harshly. “See that the children stay away.”

“If there is anything else my lord requ-“

“Leave. Now.”

When she opens her eyes, her husband sits by her bedside, resting his head in his hands. She can see the contours of his body beneath the thin tunic he wears, can see the ghosts of scars and marks on his skin, all the places she has mapped out over the years, conquered and claimed as her own. Suddenly she is furiously jealous, thinking of how he will remarry, how another woman will learn the same things about him and Joanna will fade away in his memory. I have never wanted another man , she thinks and have the decency to think of me when you bed other women.

It is a strange time to tend to wounded pride, perhaps. Or perhaps it is not. What can be more degrading than dying, after all?

“I was waiting for you,” she says. It’s what she’s always told him over the years, every time he has returned from a journey or a battle and she has waited up by the fire to be the first to greet him.

It seems appropriate now, her body is battered and worn and she has been betrayed by it; she has lost the fight, she can see it in her husband’s faraway eyes, in the way she can’t properly meet his gaze. I swore to always return to you, dear husband, but this time I’m afraid I cannot stay.

“How is he?” she asks, suddenly remembering the reason for this strange haze that is draining her of life. Odd how death twists your very soul, she thinks, how selfish it makes you.

Tywin looks out the window. He has never lied to her – this is a fact as firm and unchangeable as the clouds in the sky, the ground beneath their feet – and she cannot bear to think that he is lying now so she merely shoves every doubt away in the darkest corner of her memory.

“He lives,” he says after a long moment of silence, his words hoarse and raw, as though he has to force them out of his chest. “A healthy boy. You were right.”

Joanna tries to smile. “I always am.”

“You always are,” he echoes and she has to avert her eyes when she sees the look on his face.

There is so much left to say.

Be good to our children, she wants to say. Let them have songs and stories for a little while longer. Be good. Do not blame the boy. And most of all, because she knows him better than he knows himself: it’s not your fault.

She mouths the words but there is no strength in her voice, it no longer carries her.

Then it’s suddenly dawn and Tywin holds her hand as the bleak sunlight finds its way inside the room and showers her face. Her childhood clouds, she thinks. She can taste them on the tip of her tongue, feel them against her palms.

She smiles, startled, and then she closes her eyes again.
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