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The Pride of a Lion

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I.

It was the tenderness of his mother his memories would always cling to. Many of them were faded now, nearly dusty in the far corners of his mind, yet whenever he looked back on them, he would gently unfold them like precious silk. 

There was a point in his life when he had stopped searching for these memories. Under lock and key, he placed them in the farthest reaches of his emotional dungeons so he could never yearn for them; placed away from the wildfire and blood and mistakes so as to not tarnish her honor. 

Yet tender and treasured they remained, and tangible they again became. 

He felt the warmth and haze of the memory burst through his being and scorch his skin. The silk sheets that bled Lannister crimson draped on the bed and a mess under them, the morning rays of sun coming through the window and bathing his father in gold - and his father, with his disapproving gaze and too proud stance, standing at the foot of the bed and casting a shadow that appeared to fill half the room.

Tywin loomed over as Jaime and Cersei - hardly past the age of eight - lay pressed against their mother on either side, entwined in the sheets. Joanna Lannister lay heavy with child, a concept that fascinated Jaime. He was pressed to her right side, starring between his mother and father, as if they were in some unspoken battle. 

Finally, Tywin spoke, breaking the spell. “Make sure they tend to their studies soon enough. I’d prefer their heads not growing too soft in their coming years.”

Joanna smiled sweetly, her fingers grazing against Jaime’s hair. “Perhaps that wouldn’t be too unfortunate. Soft hearts can go far for lions.” She passed a look to Tywin that was something beyond Jaime’s years, a look that could only be understood between years of matrimony, and Jaime - for an instant - would have sworn he saw his father’s eyes soften at the look. With a curt nod and a flourish, his father’s shadow vacated the room. 

It was a routine Cersei and him often tried to keep up with: seeking out their mother’s warmth in the early hours and seeing how long they could be lavished by her affection. It was a game they were more prone to winning now that she was expecting. His mother’s attention soon turned to Jaime as Cersei slept on her other side. “What thoughts have you?” she murmured into his curls. 

Jaime shook his head, pressing his nose to her side. “Just of the babe,” he confessed, nearly sounding sheepish. The idea of another human fitting inside her did strike him, yet it was also with a sense of excitement as well. He would get to witness his new sibling being born into the world and grow, something he wanted to stand by proudly as an older brother. Cersei didn’t seem to hold that same fascination.

His mother, as tender as he could remember, grasped his small hand and brought it to her stomach. She pressed it flat against her and hummed quietly for a moment. He felt the pressure jump against his hand and Jaime’s grin grew aloof.

“I think he’s going to be an excellent swordsman,” he declared, confident in the dream of having someone to grow with, of a brother to train and teach. 

“You’re so confident they’ll be a brother?” He heard her smile as she stroked his hair.

“I hope so,” Jaime could teach his brother what he knew - teach him to be a knight of old, teach him how to rescue maidens.

His mother grew quiet as Jaime’s palm danced across her stomach, trying to follow the movement. After a moment, Jaime looked up to find her gazing at him as though he was made of gold. Or perhaps even the softest of flesh. 

He should have spoken then. Should have ordered any of the Lords and Gods to lock her away and keep her safe. To barter any gold or crowns for her well-being; to sell the sun to keep her whole. But Jaime Lannister, a boy of only eight, just curled blissfully against her and trailed after his sister into dreams. 

 

II.

He always wakes before her. It’s probably the only secret he’s withheld from her. 

Brienne was beautiful as she slept - not by any of the standards that lesser men held, but they were all weak and fools. Brienne’s beauty emanated from the very essence of her soul and caressed her form. Her freckles that plastered her skin (that he so meticulously counted and touched and loved ) covered her deeper and darker than before. More splattered her face, they danced across her even more crooked nose (that he makes sure to kiss as frequently as her lips), and ran across her chest (oh, and how he makes sure to lavish attention to her growing breasts, to count each freckle as though it were placed on a map), and he couldn’t have found them to be more perfect if the Seven themselves drew them out for him. 

So on the mornings Jaime wakes before her, he cherishes it more than any dream his subconscious could concoct. He lay against her body in silence, her slight snores the only sound filling the air. The pinkish smear of the morning sun had barely entered the room, allowing Jaime the opportunity to focus on his other senses; his handless wrist brushing across her newly swollen belly the only sensation available to him. 

The memory tugs at him like a string tied to a sore tooth. He’s unraveled the memory before him continuously in recent mornings, yet it’s one he can’t fully embrace. He has yet to dream of his mother since learning of the child he finally - finally - gets to call his own, and he often wonders about what pride she would have of him. If Brienne and his love were enough for his damages; if after all these years, his mother would still look at him as she did when he was a boy of eight. 

He was becoming an old man now: long, grey hair framing his face, wrinkles of mixing joy and worry marking his features. Somehow he was enough for his wife (his darling, beautiful wife who deserved more than Gods could ever give) and the white hairs that sprinkled his beard and peppered his hair, were appropriately held as a symbol of his growth - of his honor. 

He thought of the boy who held his mother so gently, and he wondered what he would say upon seeing his decrepit future self. The thought brought an absurd mirth to him, imagining the shock that would reach him. And again, his mind’s eye turned to his mother gazing at him: wondering if she would see how the wrinkles of his face that were etched with the kisses of his wife’s love, or how his missing hand - the crippled lion - was just another sign of his strength. How his pregnant wife was more than any he could pay tribute to. 

In the blur of his mother’s memories he didn’t even notice the change in the atmosphere. Jaime blinked as he registered Brienne’s fingers running through his scalp, with the same leisure he traced her stomach. “Thinking too hard?” she asked. 

Jaime smiled into her chest. “Did the sweat of my brow give it away?”

“Hmm. I’d say it was the wrinkles on your forehead; you remind me of the maesters in the Citadel, except they aren’t nearly as brawny.”

“I am an old man, wench! You should know to respect your elders.” He looked up and greeted her lips with a quick and smitten kiss. Her fingers were still curved to the side of his hair and her blue and bold eyes held his. 

“What’s wrong, my love?” she whispered against his lips. 

He pulled back a bit and looked down the length of her body to where his stub of a wrist rested. “I was thinking of my mother,” he confessed. 

“Oh,” she said with a tone of understanding. He knew she wouldn’t impose on the memory, that she would wait for him to come to her with his intimate thoughts, as she always had, as she’s always respected. He smiled at that. 

“Have you thought of any names?” 

She chewed her lip for a moment. “What do you think the babe will be?”

“Hmmm.” He ran his wrist over her belly once more, eyes closed and tongue out in concentration, as if he possessed mystical powers to foresee their future. “Ah. Truthfully?” He passed her a glance to find her grinning, “A girl.”

She pressed her hand over his stump. “I believe so, too.”

At the press of their hands onto her belly, Jaime’s heart felt ready to burst and it no longer mattered if he was going to be right or wrong about their future child. He was going to give everything to them: any story, or horse, or sword and armor (and how he dreamed of having a daughter who fought with her mother’s strength and heart), any sun or star, he was ready to pluck from the Gods and give every iota of his love to them. It didn’t matter what his mother would think of him physically, Jaime just wanted to grace his kids with all the affection he and his twin (and Tyrion as well because he deserved it the most) would have been given had the Stranger allowed her to live. 

Brienne’s voice filled the room again. “I’d like to name her after your mother, if you’d have it. Joanna.”

Jaime blinked and turned to his wife, his eyes full and round. Brienne’s own met him at full strength, and in that moment, he felt as if his skin was woven of gold. Before he could even vocalize his agreement - yes, yes, of course, if I could be so honored, My Lady - he had his mouth to hers before he could finish the thought. 

 

III. 

His own children (his young cubs, as he would proudly think of them) took immense pleasure in trying to wake before him. Countless times he would wake to blue eyes peering at him from the foot of the bed - or between the crooks of him and his wife - followed by the quick clambering of his twins (yes, his own, barely the age of three) climbing on top of him and giving an excuse for him to lounge in bed. And how he loved it. 

Unfortunately, this morning did not carry that luxury. As Lord to Tarth, certain liberties held him to the formalities of holding court and appeasing Lords, so it was a begrudging effort (so much effort) he changed into his lion coat and readied to leave the comfort of his den. 

Joanna and Galladon, sapphire eyed, freckled, and covered in beautiful blonde hair, were curled against Brienne, watching him get ready with a sense of disappointment. He countered with an amused look before crossing to them and pouncing - not too gracefully - on the bed. 

The twins erupted into squealing giggles and squirmed as he rained his tickling hand over them, a mocking mewl of a lion’s roar tearing from his throat. Swiftly, he turned his attention to his wife, pathetically making an attempt to bite at her shoulder. “It seems there is a lion in your bed,” he purred, a smug grin on his lips. 

Brienne, unimpressed with his attempt, pinched his nose and held him at arm’s length. “If I only I had a sword.”

In a swift grapple, Joanna pounced onto Jaime’s chest, aiming for his armpits in retaliation; Galladon followed after a moment, taking the opportunity to go for his neck. Jaime flailed about before gasping, “I yield! I yield! Back you beasts!” 

He peeled himself out of their grasps, readjusting his attire with flushed cheeks, and a grin on his face. 

Brienne leaned forward, smiling. “Who would have thought it would have taken two children to subdue one of the greatest knights in Westeros.” The twins were grinning in some sense of victory. 

“Ah, but they have the strength of lions.” He passed Joanna a wink, as she gave a flash of her pointed teeth. He paced towards the doorway and took one last look at the morning sun through the window, the rise of a crisp and clear summer morning. 

It covered the room, a glaze of gold reflecting off the bed, covering his family, and Jaime saw them, the gold his mother once thought him to be made of. He wrapped the moment, folded from the bed sheets that encased them; Joanna perched at the end, Galladon to his mother’s side, and Brienne tracing her fingers through their thick hair, and he pressed it to the heart of his memories, next to the one of his mother. It was everything to be proud of.