Jaime Lannister never, in a million years, thought that he would find himself where he was now. Helping his younger brother tend bar in the snow covered northern city that was Winterfell. He pictured him many places, in fact, in his 43 years that was very distinctly not here.
Running his father's company as CEO, safely tucked away in King's Landing with every amenity and need taken care of at the push of a button. Every fantasy and whim being taken care of before he even knew he craved it. He had a team of people at his beck and call whose sole purpose was to help make his life run smoothly.
He also pictured himself safely wrapped in the arms of the woman he loved for years until his dying breath.
His love. His best friend. His twin sister.
He supposed that last part was part of the reason that he found himself in his current position. They had carried on a relationship in secret, hidden from anyone that mattered since they were teenagers. Their relationship had felt as right as breathing to him. They were twins, of the same blood, from the same womb. It lasted through their college years, through Cersei's marriage to that drunkard Robert Baratheon, through his death at the hands of drunk driving. Her children, though they shared the Baratheon name were never Baratheon's. They were Lannisters. They were his.
Only in blood, though. Cersei, through the years, became more and more paranoid over being caught. After the birth of Joffrey, their firstborn, Jaime wasn't even allowed to hold him. She kept the children sheltered, and he only saw them from a distance. Although, for years, that was okay. That was doable. Because he loved her. So he stood beside and waited for her beck and call.
Until the accident.
It had happened one particular bad winter day. He was driving back home after a night with Cersei, when his car hit a patch of ice and he lost control. He woke up in the hospital three days later, a massive headache and no recollection of what happened, and his right hand no longer there.
The doctor had said that it had gotten crushed in the accident, and he was lucky that that was all that was lost. The damage was too severe and the hand could not be saved.
Following that fateful day, Cersei became closed off from him. Spitting venomous words to him about how the accident had been his fault, and the loss of his hand was merely him reaping what he had sowed. Her parting gift was a massively expensive golden fake hand. Saying that he was too pretty to be without a hand. It was then that his eyes were opened to his sister. Their relationship had only ever been for her benefit. His interests were never taken into consideration. Sitting in that hospital bed, he was suddenly slapped in the face with how cold and heartless his twin sister truly was.
She had refused to visit him after that initial time in the hospital, and when he was finally discharged and released from the hospital, that first person he called was his brother. Tyrion had long ago resigned himself to living away from the Lannister name. He had left all the connections of his family behind and went up north, setting up his own company and opening up a bar there that Jaime knew he still ran to this day. He explained everything over the phone to Tyrion, and the man had set up everything in a moment's notice. Jaime had a car waiting for him as he walked out of the hospital, that took him to gather his belongings at his home and then brought him to the airport, where he boarded a plane headed north.
His brother was there waiting for him when he landed, a smile on his face as he welcomed him with open arms into his home. Jaime still had access to his funds from his position in the family company, though Tyrion offered him a position in the bar helping him run it.
Which is where he found himself. Standing behind the bar as his brother helped him in his first night on the job. He found that he tripped up every now and then with the one hand missing, but his brother just waved it off with a shrug of his shoulders. Tyrion gave him the run down quickly, and Jaime found himself serving out beers and taking orders from the patrons as they filtered in. The night was going smoothly until suddenly, she walked in.
She seemed to appear out of nowhere, ushered in by a man with curly dark hair, who sat her down at a chair at the bar, shared some words with Tyrion before shaking his hand and embracing her before he quietly slipped away. It was quiet at the moment, so he found that he was transfixed by her presence.
He knew who she was. Sansa Stark had made a name for herself in the headlines in the north. The oldest Stark daughter, she was quite the socialite and stories of her travelings had filtered down from the north and even graced the news headlines of King's Landing. Although, that all had changed one day when the news reported that Ned and Catelynn Stark had been murdered along with their eldest son, Robb. Their killer was soon found out to be one Roose Bolton, a co-worker of Ned Stark, and his son Ramsey. They had invaded the home one night when the three youngest siblings were at a sleepover, and had murdered all the oldest members of the family.
Sansa Stark's name had been missing from that news story, and had been missing from any news story since then.
That had been a year ago.
To see her sitting at the bar, alive, had sent a shock through him. Her long red hair had been cut short, traces of black dye left behind at the ends but still present. He broke his fixed gaze on her as he saw Tyrion hand her a yellow drink in a martini glass and quietly move away. She made no noise, and know notion towards him. Simply quietly wrapped a hand around the stem of the glass.
As his brother walked back to his side, he looked down at him, quickly motioning for him to meet him in the back of the bar where they could talk in private.
"That's Sansa Stark." His words were firm, and seemed to hold a million questions behind them. Tyrion only nodded quietly before he held a hand out to him.
"Yes, it is. But I warn you, brother. Don't try to bring attention to her."
"What? Why? Sansa Stark practically graced every news story there was for years before she disappeared off the face of the earth after her family died."
Tyrion sighed before replying.
"That's not who she is now. She was in the house when he family was murdered."
That information made Jaime freeze in shock. She was there? In the house? He felt his jaw fall down in shock and could only imagine the look that graced his features. Tyrion swiped a hand over his face as he looked out at the bar, at Sansa sitting quietly sipping her drink. No one else in the establishment paid her any mind, almost like she wasn't even there.
"Nothing was mentioned in the news because her family paid handsomely to have her protected. They didn't want her to be dragged into this by the media. But she was there. Ramsey Bolton got a hold of her and threatened to do the same thing to her as the rest of her family. He held her down and raped her while his father killed everyone else."
The story his brother told made Jaime's blood run cold. His imaginary right hand tingled as everything froze. All he could do was blink in astonishment.
"She used to come in here every night with Robb. After the murders she didn't come in. Until five months ago when her cousin Jon came in alongside her and sat at the bar with her. He talked to her, but it was always one sided conversation. She never answered back. Every night they came in. He still brings her in, but Jon pulled me aside one night and told me how this is a routine for her. A comfortable place for her. She feels safe. Told me how she hasn't said a word since the night with the Boltons. She's become completely closed in on herself. So, he brings her here because it gets her out of the house. Everyone here knows to leave her be. I serve her Lemon Drop Martinis, her favorite, until Jon comes back to escort her home. He pays her bill and usually a little extra for allowing her to come and just sit."
Jaime scrubs his left hand over his face, trying to rub away the horrified look as he finds himself looking back to the woman. He can see now, where she used to appear in photographs as poised and smiling brightly, she sits folded in on herself. One arm was wrapped tightly around her middle, and her brilliant blue eyes shifted uneasily around the bar. The fingers of her right hand, which grasped the glass, twitched and tapped against the drink uneasily.
"Just be careful, Jaime. She's a shell of what she used to be. She needs kid gloves to be handled."
Those were Tyrion's final words as he returned to the bar. Silently he followed, taking up his post in serving drinks to customers. He kept his gaze fixed on Sansa out of the corner of his eye, and when he saw her drink was getting depleted, he made her a new one, silently placing it in front of her. Her eyes snapped up to meet his face, a stunned and scared look crossing them before her features solidified into a stony, emotionless expression. She didn't say anything, but her hand left the empty glass and went to the new one.
True to Tyrion's words, she was there every night. Jon Snow dropped her off every night at the same time, and came to collect her a few hours later. He shared words with Tyrion, and eventually began to hold conversation with Jaime too.
Every night, Jaime served her her drinks. Silently handing her martini after martini. He watched as the scared expression was soon replaced with a look of familiarity, occasionally the hints of a smile would turn the corners of her lips up at him.
That routine went on her 2 months, until one night, Jaime finally got the courage to say a few words to her.
He went to bring her a drink, her second of the evening, and he waited until her blue eyes floated up to meet his. His fake hand rested lightly on the bartop as he gazed down at her, a kind smile turning his lips up.
"I've been told I'm pretty good company, if you ever feel lonely or like you need someone."
He didn't wait for her reply, simply passed the message along and then returned to his job. Tyrion cast him a punishing look as he shook his head. But Jaime didn't care. Sometimes lost souls needed each other to heal together.
That passed for one more month, Jaime silently handing her drink after drink every night, catching and holding her gaze and sending her a reassuring nod every time. Until one fateful night a crack formed in the ice.
The bar was empty on this particular day, and Tyrion had left Jaime alone in order to attend to some ordering issues. Jaime was cleaning out some glasses and placing them back where they belonged, every now and then casting a glance to check on the silent girl at the bar.
Until he heard it.
He was lucky that the bar was quiet, because if there was any noise he surely would have missed it. It was barely a whisper, but he caught it as he walked past.
"Thank you, Jaime."
It stopped him in his tracks. Slowly he turned to her, a bright expression finding its way onto his face as he placed the glass in his hand on the bartop and reached his hand out towards her. He didn't cross over the imaginary line that split the countertop in half. No, the half towards her was her half, and he wouldn't cross that without an invitation.
"Whenever you're ready to confide in someone, my soul is as lost as yours. We can help each other find the sunlight in the darkness again."
It was barely there, but he caught it. A glimpse of a smile flashed across her face before it was buried down again. Slowly her hand that was always wrapped around her middle shakily came out, shaking fingers tentatively moving forward to lay on his fingertips on the bar. Jaime stared in stunned silence.
Two weeks passed by after that brief encounter, and Jaime never spoke of it to anyone. He watched as Jon came and escorted her home, giving Jaime a thankful nod. The routine continued for two weeks, until one night Jon approached him after he said his goodbye to Sansa. He reached over the bar and clapped his hand on his shoulder.
"I don't know what magic you have, but for the last two weeks I've seen smiles break across her face. Fleeting, but they are there. Keep it up, man. I'd love to have her back to herself again."
All Jaime could do was nod as he cast a look over to her. Where she had always been curled in on herself with one arm wrapped across her middle, she now sat with both hands across the glass of the drink on the bar that Tyrion had placed there. Small changes, but they were there.
Casting a farewell to the man, he returned to work, keeping an eye on the redhead as he moved through his movements. Eventually, when the bar quieted down and no one else was around except for the two of them, he found something to do to occupy his time until her voice rang out. There was more volume to it this time, but it was still quiet.
"Would you sit with me?"
His green eyes flitted over to her, and she was staring at him with a hesitancy, like he would lunge at her at any moment. Softly, he nodded and slowly moved around the bar to sit next to her. His golden hand rested on the bar as he turned to face her, making sure to always keep a safe distance between them. Her blue eyes flitted to the golden hand and held it in their gaze. He followed and looked down at it, moving the forearm slightly so the hand shifted.
"Car accident over the winter. Hand couldn't be saved unfortunately, at least it was just the hand though."
Jaime realized that was the first time he had ever finished the sentence in that way. He used to curse the day he ever lost his hand, get so frustrated when he couldn't perform basic tasks and curse the heavens as to why they didn't just kill him in that wreck. He turned his gaze away from his hand and back to her to see her gaze return to the yellow drink, her hands twirling the glass in a slow spin. Both eyebrows knitted close together, and her bottom lip was sucked in between her teeth.
"I feel guilty over their deaths. Like me living goes against their murders. I was in that house. Why should I still be alive?"
He could hear the anger in her words, and knew the question was rhetorical. He still reached his good hand out to gently brush across her shoulder, pushing the red locks of hair that were getting longer by the day back behind her shoulder. He noticed she didn't tense at his touch and stayed relaxed. The idea made him grin internally.
"You were left alive to ensure that their murderers were brought to justice. That their memory didn't fall into the shadows. Your survival is the bravest thing that could have happened. But you need to stay alive. You can't just be a ghost moving through life. That would kill their memories."
They sat like that for a while longer, sharing small sentences to each other every now and then but mainly sitting in silence. They were still there when they heard Tyrion's voice come into the bar and Jon Snow's voice reply in a conversation. Jaime self-consciously moved his gaze to see how Sansa would react to him still being next to her, but she didn't. She saw Jon and Tyrion take in the scene as they approached in shock. Jon approached Sansa, as he cautiously eyes Jaime and turned all of his attention to the woman. She looked to him, and smiled the brightest smile he had seen from her yet.
"Sansa, ready to go?"
She nodded, red hair bouncing as she got up from her seat. She cast him one more look, reaching out to touch his hand again.
"See you tomorrow, Jaime."
And with that, she left with Jon.
Their conversations grew in length from that day on. Each night he found time to sit by her side towards the end of her visit. Eventually she was laughing and sharing stories with him. Tyrion only watched in amused and stunned silence. Every now and then Jaime caught him shaking his head at the two of them.
Tonight, when he saw her come in, he immediately sat down next to her. A bright smile greeted him as Jon patted him on the back and left.
"How are you, Sansa?"
She nodded surely as she met his gaze.
"Much better I think, Jaime. Slowly but surely, right?"
He chuckled softly as he nodded. "Yes, slowly but surely."
A silence fell between them as she played with the drink in her hands again. Her lip got trapped in her teeth, a sign that there was something in her throat that was threatening to spill forth but she was worried about what would happen when it did escape. All he did was reach out and lay his hand on her chin, turning her head to face him as he stared at her with assurance.
"Sansa, you should know by now that you can say whatever you want around me. Anything and everything that is on your mind."
She let out a breath as she nodded. "Anything and everything?"
"Anything and everything."
Another beat of silence, blue eyes searched green eyes, hesitance covering her features. Slowly she brought a shaking hand to lay her open palm on his cheek, thumb rubbing absently back and forth. His eyes closed softly as he took in the movement.
"You've been a strength for me. A pillar that I can rely on. I'll forever be grateful for that, Jaime. I don't know how I can repay you."
"Just keep showing me that brilliant smile of yours, Sansa." The words came before he even knew that they were there. He was happy to see her smile light up at that simple request, though it was lost again when that troubled look returned. He softly leaned into her hand on his cheek, causing her to return her attention to him.
"Anything and everything, Sansa."
A shaky breath left her as she gazed around. No one was around. That was the only time these moments happened. Her gaze stayed off to the side as her voice returned. "I've kept myself locked away from everyone. My sister and brothers, Jon. Everyone has been left with a shell of myself. Jon has seen my uplifted moods after spending time with you, and has commented on it. But I found it hard to break out of that shell that seems to be so easily removed in your presence."
Jaime doesn't move. Doesn't breathe, afraid anything will break the torrent of words falling from her lips.
"For a while I've wondered why it was so easy to be normal around you. But I think I figured it out." Blue eyes returned to meet his green ones. A moments silence as her hand left his cheek to slowly run through his long blonde hair. "I think it's because I've fallen in love with you, Jaime Lannister."
The words took him by surprise. He knew his feelings for her. He knew the devotion he had towards his daily tasks were because of those feelings. He had slowly developed a love for the woman, and an inner part of him craved to see her healed and whole. Craved to see the woman that existed in the media headlines. He knew she was there just under the surface. But he never expected those feelings to be reciprocated. Her admission left him stunned.
Slowly he reached out to cup her cheek, leaning in towards her slowly. He saw the worried expression back in her eyes, fearful that her admission would be spurned. As he moved, he saw it slowly disappear as he cupped her cheek and drew her closer to him, slowly moving until their lips touched.
It was soft and ghosting at first, Jaime testing the waters out by the movement until he saw it reciprocated as she returned it. The kiss slowly grew in intensity, before they both pulled apart and leaned their foreheads together. Her blue eyes were closed as a full and joyous smile graced her features.
"You taught me the importance of staying alive. You gave me something to stay alive for, Jaime. And I thank you from the bottom of my heart."
He only replied by drawing her into a deep hug, resting his chin on her red hair as his eyes closed, a truly happy smile gracing his features.
At the entrance to the bar, they had an audience that went unnoticed. Jon and Tyrion turned to each other, giant smiles on each of their faces as they took the scene in.
"Looks like they found solace in each other." Tyrion simply stated, as Jon motioned for them to slowly move back out the door. On the way out, Jon flipped the sign on the door to say the bar was closed. The two needed a moment of being uninterrupted.