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at last I recognize you, heavenly goodness

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Well, Jaime decides as he’s shown the new sets, this year Tyrion has definitely lost his mind.

Or better: he lost it in the good way, but Jaime had thought he was joking when he said that since for the first time they weren’t in the red, this new season he would fucking stage all his favorite unknown titles.

He just hadn’t thought he’d go down hard on it, but not only the list in the yearly pre-season meeting had been fairly telling — there are just three cash-in titles, the rest is all minor or lesser known works from famous authors, Russian opera, 20th century titles and so on. Shit, there’s two Britten operas. Jaime just hopes that he made his calculations right because no one wants to be in the red again, but apparently Tyrion had been waiting for years for his moment to shine and to stage things he actually wanted and he’s not going to chicken out of it now.

That said…

He knows that his brother’s been writing that dragon fantasy saga thing for years when he’s not working. He knows Tyrion’s always had a thing for the damned lizards. He also knows Tyrion and Oberyn are fairly thick as thieves these days, so he’d be down with anything Oberyn would want to stage.

He also knows that he and Daenerys Targaryen share a questionable interest in dragon-related stuff which Jaime never saw the point of — okay, Discworld doesn’t count.

But listen, when Tyrion went and said they were staging Armida and that they were doing it properly, he hadn’t imagined that they’d stage it as some Tolkien-like high fantasy where Armida rides a black and red dragon.

Daenerys, who’s in the title role, immediately looks excited at the sight of the giant lizard on the stage — Jaime has to give it to Davos Seaworth, he built an incredibly well-made one, but still — and runs on it, looking at it in glee. “And I get to ride it? Best job ever,” she grins. “Lannister, please stage this more often, how about it?”

“Gladly,” Tyrion grins, in equal glee.

Thing is: everyone else in the cast seems to think it’s cool.

Except for Jon Snow — formerly Stark but not anymore since he and Ygritte eloped last month while they were staging Il matrimonio segreto, and Jaime was about the one person who found it funny since it seemed like they were going to miss opening night. Jon is staring at the thing while next to Jaime looking literally pained, and of course he would since he is playing Rinaldo and he has to actually ride on that thing more than once. The fact that of course this role is only slightly better to him than his usual light tenor comedy ones because at least it’s not… a comedy, doesn’t really seem to change the fact that he seems to not want to sing in this at all. Same as usual.

“Hm,” Jaime tells him as Daenerys marvels at how realistic that dragon looks, “seems like it’s just the two of us not liking this staging?”

Well, at least you’re only in Act One,” Jon groans, pained. “I have to be in it all the damned time.”

“How sad being the protagonist who’d rather pick virtue over loving a witch?” Jaime winks at him. Okay, it’s a little bit funny how much Jon seems to hate anything he sings bar that one time he subbed for Joffrey in Rigoletto last year when Joffrey flunked the first aria on opening night.

“Listen,” Jon says, “it’s funny to you, but I have to pretend I’m in love with my aunt that I’ve known since I was bloody born — and I mean, we’re friends and we’ve always gotten along and so on, but… it’s just weird. Also, I have to ride a fucking ridiculous dragon and I have more dumb love duets than I care for. Have pity on me.”

At that, Jaime doesn’t find it so funny anymore, not when if today he was cast to play lovers with Cersei he’d turn the part down regardless. He gives Jon a pat on the back that most likely won’t do anything to lift his mood.

“Okay, fair,” he admits. “But hey, this one opera in your CV? Not a bad thing whatsoever. And cheer up, you could have been me, when it came to play lovers with relatives.”

Jon, who is — same as everyone in this company — pretty much aware of the mess that he and Cersei used to be but who doesn’t know the details (and Jaime hopes it stays that way for about everyone who doesn’t know already), immediately blanches in sympathy. “Fine,” he agrees, “you’ve got a point. I’ll leave Robb to handle her, at least one good thing about not getting to sing dramas.” He does sound a bit wistful, but it is a point. Jaime honestly has pity on Robb most of the time since not only he can’t sing his beloved comedies but also ends up cast with Cersei half of the time because they have the right voices for all the cash-in Verdi drama, so there’s no upside to it. He just hopes that he gets to branch out this year without having Cersei in the cast.

As far as he’s concerned, though, Tyrion did come through this year.

Since that Fidelio was exactly what I thought it would be, Tyrion had told him on closing night last year, be sure that I’m making sure you pull your weight this year instead of feeling sorry for yourself, with Brienne or without.

Jaime hadn’t thought he’d take it this seriously, but — he actually did. He’s cast him in this Armida, where thankfully he’s only in the first act so he doesn’t have to endure the dragon madness for longer than that, then as Lensky in Onegin mid-season (and honestly, he’s glad he gets to sing again with Jon Connington, it’s been years since they starred together in anything but he did have a good time the few times they did), then he and Brienne are both doing Les Troyens as the second to last staged opera this season and honestly, he’s really, really glad that they cast her as both Cassandra and Dido so she gets the whole of her time to shine, and the fact that Cersei did want to sing Cassandra and Tyrion categorically said no might have cheered his mood during that meeting. Anyway, he’s doing three parts this year, he’s feeling great about all of them, he’s absolutely delighted that even if they only have three cash-grabs and he’s not starring in any of them he and Brienne got cast together again and that she also has other good stuff where they’re not co-starring this year, and patience if Cersei will have to stick with only one role.

Maybe he’s being too spiteful about this, but given that for years he gave up any role that meant not starring with her and sorely regrets it, maybe she can get a taste of her own medicine and they can give poor Robb a break.

Anyway, he feels like for the first time in years he will enjoy this damned season, so if he has to deal with the dumb dragon sets, well, he’ll deal. After all, he doesn’t have to ride on the damned thing.

“I’m not going to give you an argument on that, because you’re right,” he says. “At least Stannis looks as outraged at that dragon as we are.”

Stannis actually does look like he wishes everyone would just go back to regular, sensed stagings.

Jaime has an idea it’s not going to happen this time.

“All right!” Oberyn says, clapping his hands. “So, costumes will be ready next week, but since the sets are ready, we’re starting rehearsals using them from today onwards. We have another three weeks, but you’re all great, we’re actually staging this not rehashing half of the singers and the costumes are so good, you can’t imagine — Melisandre totally outdid herself.”

Jaime just hopes that whatever armor she cooked up for him won’t make him want to faint the moment he puts it on.

“So, since today Jorah isn’t here and we need the bass for acts one and two, so we could probably rehearse three. Jon, Dany, Gendry and Rhaegar can come up here. Jaime, Loras, if you want to take the morning off —”

Loras, who is only in Act One, too, says he’ll go crash the Midsummer Night’s Dream rehearsals so he can bother his sister who’s playing Helena (and Cersei is Hermia, Jaime is honestly glad he skipped on that one possible wasp nest of a production), but he has nothing better to do and Brienne is in the Convenienze e inconvenienze teatrali piano rehearsals, and he’s not going to crash them to bother her when he’s never seen the point and she also couldn’t wait to actually sing mindless comedy for once.

So he says he’ll stick around and see how that dragon fake-flies — he goes sitting in first row as Stannis shakes his head and goes in the director’s place and Oberyn starts ordering Jon, Rhaegar and Gendry on the stage.

Dany is still looking lovingly at the dragon.

Jaime has this idea that she’ll bring it home the moment this set is dismantled for good.

He shakes his head and settles down. It takes Oberyn a while to explain them exactly how they should move and what he wants them to do, and then Jon and Dany leave the scene while Gendry and Rhaegar start singing their part.

Jaime is admittedly a bit impressed — the whole high fantasy enchanted jungle thing Seaworth built actually looks pretty damned good even without the proper lightening, and at least the entire part before Jon has to show up and they have to convince him to come back to fight for the Crusaders goes without a hitch. Oberyn stops everything again as Jon is called back on stage, explaining him how the entire scene should go now that he finally has the magic mirror prop in which he should be staring at himself without realizing he’s been enchanted into that relationship.

“Hey,” Brienne says from Jaime’s right, sitting down next to him.

“What — hey,” he says after a moment of surprise. “What, you’re crashing my rehearsal?”

“Let’s just say that Theon monopolized mine.”

“What? Is Greyjoy turning into a primadonna now?”

“No, but you know that he has that aria en travesti?”

“Sure I do. So what?”

“Well, he's having a blast with it, so now they’re discussing how can they possibly embellish it and make it even more ridiculous, and it’s going to take them the entire morning, but then again it’s the big piece, so… everyone else but him has the day free and we figured we’d crash the other rehearsals, but I wasn’t going to Cersei’s now, was I?”

“Please, I don’t want to go to your funeral before I have a chance to propose.”

She snorts, her hand reaching for his. “Fair,” she says, “but see, your rehearsal sounded like a better option. Wait, is that a dragon?”

“This is the high fantasy staging,” Jaime groans. “Good thing I don’t have to ride it.”

“Come on, it’s… kind of cool.”

“No, it’s tacky, but next time you can sing Armida and ride it if you really want to.”

“Like hell,” she snorts. “No one would ever take me seriously.”

“Please, with the voice you have a and a nice armor you’d look badass on that thing.”

“Is this some kind of hint, Lannister?”

His fingers tangle with hers. “I don’t know,” he grins, “maybe I can convince Oberyn to have you as an extra just so I can get to see you in armor.”

“If you’re that interested we could just, you know, cosplay like normal people do —”

“Brienne, if you two want to make out bring it outside, we have to do the trio!” Oberyn shouts from the stage.

“Right, I’m keeping my mouth shut,” she grins, moving back in her seat. Jaime also leans back, figuring that they can just relax and see how Jon manages to make this sound tragic even if the music is everything but.

Admittedly, Jon does seem to take the entire thing with a bit more enthusiasm than his usual.

Even if he does look way like he’s overacting as he looks at himself in the mirror prop.

In quale aspetto imbelle io mi ravviso, oh stelle!... Qual di viltade oggetto!... Oh immenso mio rossor!

What is this powerless look that I see on my own face? How much of a coward was I, what shame!

Right. It’s dramatic enough for his tastes, Jaime figures. He hasn’t heard him sing that until now because he never was around for the act three rehearsal, but as much as he likes dramas, at least in this case it doesn’t sound too much like he does.

He’s suffering, Rhaegar sings.

He’s sighing, Gentry echoes him.

He’s feeling honor stirring inside him already… oh God! Please, favor our pledges, the both of them sing at once as Jon keeps on repeating his first line. The dragon is on the ground behind him still, even if according to what Oberyn said before it should start flying at some point.

That is, until Gendry breaks the impasse and goes to grab Jon by the arm. “Vedi qual reo governo di te fa un empio affetto?”

Look what holding love for something so evil has done to you?” He sings in Jon’s face as Jon pretends to recoil.

Jaime doesn’t know why exactly he squeezes Brienne’s hand at that, but — woah. He had forgotten that line. Somehow, he thinks he can relate and he really wishes he didn’t.

“S'hai cor bastante in petto resisti a tant’orror.”

If you still have enough strength try to resist this much horror.

Jon shakes his head. “Qual di viltade oggetto!... Oh immenso mio rossor!”

What an object of cowardice, how shameful of me! He keeps on repeating while the other two incite him to go back and fight for them, and then he shakes his head and throws away the mirror.

“Cessate... ohimè! Cessate... che barbaro tormento! Io vile?... No: rammento che son Rinaldo ancor.”

Stop, stop, what is this wretched torment? Me a coward? No, I remember that I’m Rinaldo, after all

Well, shit, that came out extremely convincing. Maybe the overdramatic acting is not such a bad choice. Jaime feels Brienne’s fingers squeeze his again, as those three circle each other, Gendry and Rhaegar urge him to leave with them all over again, Jon breathes in as he glances at the dragon with distaste —

“Unitevi a gara virtude, valore, per vincere amore che affanno mi dà… ma un raggio improvviso quest'alma rischiara... Ah! Sì, ti ravviso, celeste bontà… ah, sì, ti ravviso, celeste bontà!”

Virtue and bravery come together so you can win over the love that torments me.. but there’s a sudden ray that lightens up my soul, oh, yes, at last I recognize you, heavenly goodness, I recognize you, heavenly goodness!

Jaime almost whistles out loud at that because it really did come out good, if only Jon sang like that all the time now he wouldn’t look bored or too sad for his own roles whenever he’s on stage —

And then the door slams open and both music and singing stop because Cersei has just passed through it kicking it on the way back and is coming their way and —

Goes to stand right in front of them, looking fairly fucking pissed off, and considering that Jaime hadn’t seen her since the prep meeting, well, he could have done with not seeing her for a while longer, if you ask him.

“Cersei,” he asks, feeling fairly grateful that Brienne’s hand is not moving. “Can I help you, can they help you or you just wanted to check out the fake dragon for yourself?”

“It was because she was a virgin, wasn’t it?”

… What the hell, Jaime thinks.

He glances at Brienne, who looks mildly perplexed. Stannis, from behind Cersei, is looking even more perplexed. He’s halfway sure everyone on stage has to be.

“… What?” He asks, feeling like he’s just missed at least ten steps.

“Oh, don’t fucking lie. We were in pauses from rehearsals, Margaery was asking Loras if the two of you were still being the good kind of gross or whatever the hell it is she thinks you are, and he said you were and that it was a good thing since she,” she nods towards Brienne with distaste, “had people betting on being her first, and considering how she looks I’m sure you had to be her first. So what, you couldn’t want to fuck her just because she was a virgin, didn’t you?”

He knows that on some level, he should be angry or outraged or both.

But thing is —

It’s just so fucking ridiculous, he can’t even conceive it.

“I — I didn’t — what the fuck,” he blurts. “This is just so —” He starts, and then Brienne bursts out laughing, disentangling her hand because she has to wipe at her eyes for how hard she’s doing it.

“I’m — oh, damn it,” she wheezes, “Cersei, what are you even on to? I didn’t tell him and he didn’t know before we actually, like, did it.”

“I didn’t ask you.”

“I don’t know, since I am the subject I suppose I should have the last say,” Brienne wheezes again. “Come on, do you really think that I went around advertising that I was a virgin when the last time people knew they bet on who could fool me into giving it to them? He didn’t know until it was a done deal and I actually did fool around before. And I think if he had known he’d have cared less than I did.”

“Oh, because it wasn’t because she wasn’t younger and pure and whatever and you kept on bitching at me about how —”

“Cersei, never mind that I’d have rather spared anyone the details even if they knew, but you do realize that my problem was that you slept with other people assuming I wouldn’t care and lied to me about it and oh, wait, made sure I’d never know I had offers from other places to sing? If you had all that sex with me, I sure as fuck wouldn’t have had a single issue with it. We’re done because it wasn’t good for either of us and because it was all about you, and this idea that I actually would give a single fuck about whether she had been with others before me or not is just so ridiculous that I can’t even get angry at it. Now, since they were working, can you just — go back to your rehearsal, make peace with the fact that I’d appreciate not talking to you for the next ten years and stop trying to decide that we’re done for reasons that weren’t the ones I told you ten times already?”

“As if all men don’t want a power trip in that sense. I’m sure she’s such fun in bed, you’ll be delighted,” she goes on, and by now this is all so bloody absurd he can’t even conceive it’s happening, Brienne bursts out laughing again as if she can’t conceive that this conversation is happening either —

Then Jon clears his throat. Very loudly. “Jaime,” he says, “if you really wanted to sing my part, you could have just said.”

“… I can’t sing your part, I’d have to retire,” Jaime retorts, thankful for the change of subject. “But what does that have to do with this entire shitshow?”

He stands up. Wait.

Why is Jon sitting on the damned dragon?

Which now is just behind them because for this one staging there pit is in the middle of a circular extra portion of the stage… on which they perched the damned thing while they were arguing?

Also, why is Dany leaning against the dragon’s back looking like she finds this exchange absolutely hilarious?

“I don’t know,” Jon says, “now that she pointed it out, it’s obvious that Brienne over there is the heavenly goodness that opened your eyes to the horrors of carnal love and is bringing you to a purer, more saintly dimension.” Jaime doesn’’t know how he’s not laughing like a madman as he says that, but the moment he does, Brienne laughs even harder. Jaime is starting to worry that she’ll faint at this point.

“Jon,” she wheezes, “I don’t think you want to know what we were up to last night, because if you did you wouldn’t put me and those two words in the same sentence and you’d know he wants no such thing.”

Jaime thinks that for once she has managed to make him go red in the face.

“Come on,” Jon says, “don’t spoil it, heavenly goodness. You know, sounds about right, you should get t-shirts.”

“Anyway,” Jaime says, “there’s no purity involved in this relationship, so how about you all can it?”

“Yeah, I’ll believe it when I see it,” Cersei snorts. “She, not being such a damned virgin considering everything?”

Now she’s going to stand up and stop laughing, I know, Jaime has a feeling —

Brienne stands up a moment later.

Well, shit.

“I don’t know,” she says, sounding almost smug, and damn, he did rub off on her, didn’t he? “I didn’t particularly enjoy being one and I can one hundred per cent assure you that in the last six months I learned at least fifteen different ways of tying someone to a bedframe, I had to renew my birth control prescription real fast and most of the time if we try something new it’s my idea, but I suppose virgins don’t have imaginations according to you? Sad. Anyway, sorry if I don’t ask if you want to watch next time just to be sure about how I don’t think I’m such anything, but while I’m not a prude you’re the last person on the list of people I’d agree to have as an audience.”

Jaime thinks he’s going to either die laughing or of embarrassment.

Jon, on the other hand, is smirking more now than Jaime has ever seen him in twenty years.

What the —

“That said,” Dany interrupts, “I kind of wanted to finish rehearsing this since I am in this act, too, and Davos assured me that this thing can actually spit fire if you know how to do it.”

“Really?” Jon asks. “Now it’s ten times cooler. How?”

“There’s a button somewhere under the neck,” Dany tells him. “But never mind that, I also wanted to see if it really did and I can’t until you let us finish. Sad.”

“Honestly,” Jon says, “we were working. Can’t you just let Jaime and the heavenly goodness live and avoid informing us of, like, the details? No one was asking for them.”

Cersei looks at them, then at Jaime, then at the dragon, then she shrugs in a way that wants to seem dignified, and high-tails her way out of the room, still slamming the door.

For a moment, no one says a word because every single person in the room looks at a loss for words.

“I’m not sure what just went down here,” Stannis finally says, “and I don’t think I want to know that, one almost-aneurysm was enough as far as I’m concerned. Can we go back to rehearsing this damned trio and forget about heavenly goodnesses?”

Absolutely,” Jon says, jumping down from the dragon and going back on stage while Dany just shrugs and takes his place, saying she’ll wait until they’re done from that vantage point.

Jaime is really glad he’s only singing in the first act.

Jon goes back to singing about recognizing his heavenly goodness a moment later.

Jaime bends his head toward Brienne’s, his voice lowered to a whisper.

“I’m — I don’t even know,” he admits. “But, like, you know I don’t give a fuck?”

“I do,” she assures him, “and that was just so ridiculous I can’t even be offended. That said, do you think she needs lessons in making knots?”

He starts laughing again. Hard enough that Stannis sends them out, where they keep on laughing, and at that point when he finally has a grip of himself he looks back at her, and — her eyes meet his, and for a moment he’s taken aback all over again by how blue and large and clear they are, and now that they’re shining in amusement they look even fucking prettier, and — then he realizes that technically that heavenly, in the original, is a word that means sky blue, too, and it sets him off again, so hard that he pretty much has to sit against the wall.

“Hey,” Brienne says, wiping at her eyes and sitting next to him, “are you going to share the funniest joke in the world with the class or what?”

“I was just thinking,” he smirks, “that maybe she wasn’t that wrong about one thing. Or better, Snow wasn’t.”

“… What,” she says. “Are you still going about this nonsense —”

“Brienne, Brienne,” he says, moving closer, “you came here currently speaking in five different languages you’ve been studying for years just to sing them knowing what you mean and you’re telling me you don’t know that if we take that heavenly literally —”

“What, celeste? I don’t — oh, no.”

“Hm,” he grins, moving in between her legs, “seems like that goodness is also the color of your eyes, more or less, other than heavenly. Sounds like I might have to rename you on my contacts list.”

“Jaime, if you seriously rename me celeste bontà on your phone I’m —”

“What, dumping me? You wouldn’t,” he grins against her lips. “You haven’t dumped me for worst.”

“Excuse me —”

“Come on, given where I come from, if you’re with me it won’t be such a dumb thing to make you reconsider. That said, I mean, he wasn’t wrong about the rest, too.”

“I don’t think I suddenly appeared in front of you to drag you back from enchantment,” she snorts. “You were pretty disenchanted yourself when we met.”

“Maybe not,” he concedes, “but if I was the kind of guy who likes to hit on girls with cheesy pick-ups, saying that they’re my own special heavenly goodness would be a fairly damn good one, I think.”

“Jaime, come on —” She goes on, her cheeks turning red — good, at least he’s having his revenge.

“Hm, how did it go? Ma un raggio improvviso quest'alma rischiara…” He starts humming, his mouth inching closer to hers as his hands go to her neck.

“You’re not doing this —”

Ah! Sì, ti ravviso, celeste bontà —”

He never finishes humming it because she’s kissed him before he could and promptly made sure he’s not singing that again, and he’s absolutely going to kiss the shit out of her back as her thighs go around his hips and she drags him closer, and if anyone finds them making out on the ground, well, it wouldn’t be the first time.

But he’s totally renaming her celeste bontà on his contacts list the moment they’re done.

Then he’ll probably tell Loras so he can make sure Cersei is aware of that, but for now he’s not going to think about her or anything else that’s not enjoying the rather heated kiss they’re sharing.

He does have his priorities set straight, after all.