They’re a much smaller party when they leave Winterfall than when they entered it. The Stark girls obviously stay, along with Jon, Brienne, Sandor, and Gendry. It’s only Oberyn, Jaime, and Nymeria who leave, and they meet Obara and Tyene at the ship. Jeyne’s with them, with lighter circles under her eyes than the last time Jaime saw her.
She offers Jaime a shy smile and ducks behind Obara when she spots Oberyn.
“Let’s go home,” Oberyn says.
Muña curls up on a patch of sun on the upper deck and Jaime pats her head before she goes to help Oberyn.
Muña sulks for the first few days as if she’s missing Rhaegal but after that she seems to recover. Jeyne loves to throw fish as far as she can and watch Muña chase after them. She toasts them mid-air then swallows them before they can fall in the ocean.
Jeyne plays games with the girls and casts looks at Jaime and avoids Oberyn entirely. He doesn’t take it personally.
“She can join the Sisters if she chooses,” Oberyn says during their nightly chat. “She’ll never have to set eyes on a man again if she doesn’t want to.”
“That’s a question for her to answer in Dorne. She needs to recover before she plans for the future.”
Jaime smiles. She looks around to make sure they’re alone before she leans in to kiss him. He kisses her back instantly, cradling her head between his hands. She bats his hands away so she can take the pins out of her hair. Once her braids fall down, she takes the ties out. Oberyn gets with the picture quickly and undoes her braids until he can run his hands through her hair. He groans and tips her head back so he can kiss her deeper.
She grabs fistfuls of his tunic and yanks him closer. The long line of his cock presses against her thigh and she stills, panic and worry fighting for control. She loosens her grip, but she doesn’t have a weapon on her. She hasn’t carried once since they set sail, because she figured she wouldn’t need one.
Oberyn steps away from her. He looks sad which is better than angry, but she’s still wary.
“Kissing doesn’t do anything for me down there.” She motions between her legs.
“You like it, though.”
She nods. She always wondered if the gods made her wrong, because from what she’s heard there’s supposed to be a connection. Cersei talked about the weapon between her legs enough that Jaime got curious a few times, but it was one weapon she never learned to master.
“Would you trust me?” Oberyn holds his hand out to her.
Jaime thinks of his gentleness with her, how his infamous temper has never lashed out at her. She puts her hand in his and follows him down to his room. He motions for her to close the door, but he doesn’t say anything about locking it so Jaime leaves it unlatched.
“You can leave at any time,” Oberyn tells her.
It sounds ominous, and the feeling doesn’t go away when Oberyn undoes the laces on his pants. Still, she told him she would trust him so she stays where she is, curious as he takes himself in hand. She knows, of course, what he’s doing, but she doesn’t understand why she’s watching. Is he going to expect her to do something? Does he think if she sees his cock she’ll be overcome with a need for it?
Mostly it’s just...odd. He seems to be enjoying himself, his head tilted back as he works his hand faster and faster. Finally, he groans and spills into his hand. He slumps on the bed, his eyes half-lidded, lazy and content like a cat in a sunbeam.
He catches sight of her face, and her thoughts must be clear, because he laughs. “I can take care of myself.” He finds a spare cloth and wipes his hand on it. “There’s nothing I need I can’t do on my own.” He pulls his breeches back up as if he knows she doesn’t want to see his cock flopping about. “Kissing does something for me down there,” his eyes crinkle as he uses her words from earlier, “but it doesn’t mean you owe me anything.”
Jaime sits on the edge of his bed. “Thank you. I may have misjudged you when we first met.”
“Making quick decisions has no doubt saved your life multiple times. It’s better to be cautious than dead. Still, I’m glad we had a chance to meet again.” Oberyn wiggles until he’s only taking up half the bed. “Would you like to cuddle?”
He grins. “Wholesome touching only.”
She almost makes a joke about keeping a dagger under the bed but she doesn’t need to. Keep a dagger. He’s...safe. It’s a revelation, one that stuns her for a moment. Before Oberyn can lose his smile, she strips out of her bulky outer layers and slips under the covers with him.
They continue to kiss at night when the young ones are below deck. It isn’t every night, but it’s enough that Jaime begins to get used to it. She learns to let her hair down so he can run his hands through it. She learns that she likes to pin him against the railing or the mast when she kisses him, but she doesn’t like it when he does the same to her.
The first night they kiss in his bed, she doesn’t spend the night. The second time she does. The third time he asks for some privacy if she wants to stay, and she blushes but goes to visit Muña before she joins him in his bed.
It’s an odd sort of arrangement, but she figures as long as they’re both happy, it isn’t anyone else’s business. Except, of course, they’re on their way to Dorne which means it is someone else’s business.
“What will Ellaria think of this?” Jaime asks. It’s a cool night, one where she keeps her hair pinned.
“We’re both free to have other lovers in our bed. She won’t be jealous or angry if that’s what your worried about.”
And he’ll have someone else to satisfy his...needs with when Jaime doesn’t. So she’ll what, be the mistress of the Red Viper of Dorne? Her father is blindingly angry right now and doesn’t know why.
“And if you’d like to approach her, I would not be jealous or angry either.”
Jaime shakes her head. “I’m glad you’re happy together, and it isn’t a slight against her, but it seems like a lot effort to trust and like another person.” It took years with Oberyn, and she’s not sure she has the patience to do it again. Or that she even wants to.
Oberyn surprises her by growing smug. “I was worth the effort?”
“Ugh.” Jaime can’t even fault him the smirk since it’s her own damn fault. But he was, and she finds herself reaching for his hand. “You were available but never pushy. I keep waiting to be disappointed in you, but I don’t think it will happen.”
“I will strive to be worthy of your attention.” He raises her hand to his lips and presses a kiss to her skin. “I would like you to stay in Sunspear, to train and be trained in whatever weapons you wish, take walks on the beach with me, help raise my children, but I will not chain you to where I am. You will have the full resources of Dorne if you want to travel.”
“My age is catching up to me. I think it’s finally time to settle. There are worse places than Sunspear.” She tugs him closer and it’s her turn to press a kiss to the back of his hand. “Who would’ve ever thought, a Prince of Dorne welcoming a Lannister into his home.”
“A very special Lannister,” he says.
“And a very special prince.” She leans the rest of the way in to brush her lips against his.
Muña takes off a few days before they reach harbor, but Jaime isn’t considered. No doubt, she senses her sister or possibly her mother and wants to investigate. And if not, well, Jaime doesn’t actually have any control over the beast.
When they dock, there’s a whole welcoming committee. Daenerys in a shimmering purple gown jumps up and down and waves. Tyrion and Shae are more composed, but Tyrion still rocks up on his toes, giving away his excitement. A whole gaggle of Sands call out to their father and sisters.
Jeyne looks overwhelmed at the reception and sticks closely to Jaime. She looks alarmed when she spots Tyrion and tries to hide behind Jaime.
“He won’t harm you,” Jaime promises. “And he won’t tell anyone you’re here. Dorne is a safe place for many people. Princess Myrcella is here as well.”
Daenerys spots Jeyne and offers the girl a brilliant smile. “Have you brought me another sister?”
“Sister?” Jeyne asks.
“Did you meet Jon? I call him brother though we aren’t brother and sister. May I call you sister? Will you be living with us?”
“Jon married Lady Sansa,” Jeyne says.
“Is he happy?”
The question is directed as Jaime who pulls Daenerys in for a hug. The girl hasn’t grown since Jaime last seen her. If she’s done then she’s destined to be quite short. “They both are. I think Arya might be the happiest. She’d convinced both Jon and Brienne to train with her by the time we left.”
“He better be a frequent writer.” Daenerys links her arm through Jeyne’s and guides her toward Sunspear. “I was new to Dorne once. After having a life with a very strict plan, the amount of freedom here was overwhelming at first. I’ll help you manage it.”
Jaime hangs back so the two girls can become acquainted. It means she falls into step with her brother and his Shae.
“Wife, actually,” Tyrion says with a proud smile. “We were too impatient to wait. I hope you aren’t upset.”
“I’ve heard I’m bad luck for weddings. It’s probably best you did it without me. But congratulations to the both of you.”
“Uh, double congratulations.” Tyrion flushes, but he looks proud as Shae pats her stomach.
“I’m going to be an aunt?” Jaime asks. “I can’t wait.”
“I’ve been helping Prince Doran run things,” Tyrion says as they walk. “His health is failing, and I’ve got a good head for administrative work. Plus, I like to be busy. Shae, of course, is under very strict orders to be pampered. Ellaria’s been helping.” Her brother flushes again and Jaime does a poor job hiding her smile.
They keep things light the first night back. There’s a feast in their honor, and Oberyn twirls his daughters around the dance floor, but he always finds himself with Ellaria in his arms again. By the end of the night, they’ve abandoned dancing entirely and simply sway as they kiss on the dance floor.
Jaime expected herself to feel jealous. She’s glad when no such emotion stirs in her chest. Mostly she feels relieved. Maybe they can make this work. Loreza climbs into Jaime’s lap as the evening wears on. She curls an arm around Jaime’s neck and tucks her head against Jaime’s chest. Within minutes she’s asleep which makes a very convenient excuse not to dance.
Oberyn spots the pair of them and his face melts into a happy smile. Now, Jaime feels something, her own heart full, fit to bursting. She and Jon spent so much time on the run, on their own, she thought it was the only way she could enjoy living. But this, surrounded by family, it’s even better.
At the end of the night, she carries Loreza to her room and eases the girl into bed. She sleepily tugs as Jaime’s tunic as if to pull her into bed with her.
“You’ll be alright on your own, little one.” Jaime kisses her forehead and pulls the sheet up to her chin.
When she leaves Loreza’s room, Obara is leaning against the far wall. Jaime tenses for a moment, but she doesn’t have any weapons on her. It’s a sloppy habit for a soldier to get into, but Dorne makes her think she’s untouchable.
“You’re good with her,” Obara says, falling into step with Jaime.
“I like kids.”
“But you don’t want any.”
“I guess that’s why you and my father are a good match. He needs at least one woman he isn’t knocking up all the time.”
“I’ll gladly accept that role.” They pause outside Jaime’s room. “I’m not sure I ever thanked you or your sisters for coming north with me.”
“It was fun. But I need a different adventure. Father always liked Essos. I might sail for a bit not that I know there’s someone to look after the snakelings.”
“You don’t trust your father to do it?”
Obara scoffs. “He’ll spoil them too much. You seemed to do alright with Jon. If I ever have a kid, I’m giving it to you.”
“I’m flattered, I think?”
“Good night, Jaime.”
“Good night, Obara.”
The next morning, after they’ve slept late into the morning, Doran calls the adults together for business. He sits at a map of Westeros as they gather around him. “Ravens have been flying in and out for days. Stannis demands help or at least neutrality. Tywin tries to leverage Myrcella’s betrothal as a reason for us to come to his aid. There’s going to be a battle for King’s Landing, and it’s going to be soon. Stannis is drawing men to him as he marches south, and Tywin’s growing nervous.”
“He doesn’t have enough support,” Jaime says. “When Robb Stark marched south, Tywin used the boy’s inexperience against him. Twisted his allies and planted traps, until the boy got caught in it all. The Twins are favorable to the Lannisters, everyone else up there hates them. He won’t be able to pull the same tricks twice.”
“He’s crafty, though,” Tyrion says. “He always finds a way.”
“I should go to King’s Landing.”
Everyone turns to Jaime, but it’s Doran who speaks first. “Whatever for?”
“I was there last time it was sacked by Baratheon led forces.” She grips the table as she stares at Stannis’s numbers. He will win. It may take years and untold bloodshed, but he will prevail. “I could save Tommen. Margaery will be safe with a marriage, but Tommen’s a loose end.”
“Stannis is a stickler for honor,” Tyrion says. “He would allow Tommen to go to the Wall.”
Oberyn scoffs. “Might as well kill him, then. We already have his sister. Dorne can open its arms to Tommen. There doesn’t need to be another massacre.”
And this is why Jaime needs to be the one to go. She was there when this bloody mess began, and she’ll be there when it ends. Maybe this time, people might survive. She can take Cersei and Tommen to Essos where they’ll be safe. Margaery Tyrell doesn’t need to die, but who in King’s Landing now would stand between the girl and Stannis’s sword?
Jaime leaves Muña with Daenerys and says her goodbyes. Oberyn follows her out to the stables where he watches as she saddles up.
“I have to do this,” she says, preempting whatever he came here to say.
“I know.” He slaps her horse, sending her off on her mission.
It’s easier to slip into a city under siege than she thought it would be. From there, she isn’t sure what to do. She can’t turn back Stannis’s army, and she isn’t even sure she wants to. She wants this to end and she wants as many people to survive as possible. She isn’t naive. Her sister and her father would both see the city burn before they let it be snatched from their hands.
She can’t search the city for all the hidden caches. She can pray no one lights them or...the bells. An advisor begged Aerys to ring them, but he ordered the man killed for suggesting a dragon surrender. Jaime isn’t a dragon, and she won’t allow her pride to get in the way. She hurries to Grand Sept of Baelor.
The High Septon is a man who doesn’t recognize her. She doesn’t recognize him either.
“You need to ring the bells,” Jaime says. Davos told her Stannis was an honorable man. He won’t slaughter a city if it lays down its arms.
“And who gives this order?” The man is dressed plainly, thinner than she remembers the capital’s religious leaders to be.
“Jaime Lannister, daughter of the Hand, sister to the Queen Mother, and aunt to the King.”
“Clearly not. On behalf of my family and every innocent person in this city, ring the fucking bells.”
“You might be an imposter.”
Jaime takes a step closer. “I was here the last time this city was taken. I killed King Aerys before he could detonate his stashes of wildfire. Do you know what that means?”
“Kingslayer,” the man breathes.
Idiot . “It means the wildfire is still there. Do you know my sister? My father? They will light it to save themselves. Ring the bells and save the city.”
“Very well, but you should confess your sins before the Seven.”
“We don’t have time for that.”
Jaime glares at him until she hears the first ring of the bells. Then she runs to the Red Keep, because she remembers what happened the last time the city was invaded. Around her, men drop their weapons and children poke their heads out windows to see what’s happening. She takes a lesser known route into the throne room and skids to a halt.
Sitting on the Iron Throne is Cersei, Tommen gathered in her arms. His head is tucked against her shoulder. He’s quiet, peaceful. Jaime’s too late.
Cersei spots her and sneers. “Come to gloat?”
“No. I came to protect him. He would’ve been safe with Myrcella.”
“My daughter. You’ve seen her?”
“She’s alive and well.” Jaime approaches the throne. “She’ll stay that way. You could leave. Essos is far enough away. They won’t ask questions.”
“Who are you?” Cersei whispers.
“You don’t recognize me?” Jaime’s smile is sad. “We were once inseparable. But Aerys hooked his talons in me, and Father took you home to plot.”
“No. Father said you died.”
“He wished I had.” When Jaime reaches for her sister, Cersei pulls back, out of her reach.
“You never came home. Why didn’t you come back to me?”
“Ned Stark gave me Lyanna and Rhaegar’s son to raise. Father and your husband wanted him dead.”
“You chose them over family? Father was right. I was the only true Lannister he had.”
The woman’s eyes close, and she slumps on the throne. An empty vial slips from her fingers and falls to the floor before it rolls away. Jaime tucks her sister’s arms around her son. Her eyes fill with tears, but she can’t afford to shed them yet.
As she stands, a young woman rushes into the room. She gasps when she sees the figures on the throne.
“Queen Margaery.” Jaime clears her throat. “There’s still time to get you out.”
“It’s kind of you to offer, but my place is here. I am the Queen of Westeros. My people need me. Stannis will see the sense in the match.”
Jaime recognizes the determination in the set of Margaery’s shoulders. She eases the crown from Tommen’s head and holds it out. “When Stannis arrives, offer him the crown. It might spare your life.”
“What about yours?”
Her best hope is to escape the city before anyone realizes she’s here. Before she can, Tywin storms into the throne room. He spots Cersei and Tommen. His gaze slides to Jaime. “What have you done?”
“The city doesn’t deserve to die for your pride.”
Tywin looks ready to draw his sword on her. Instead, he turns to the boy with him. “Tell the maester to light the caches.”
“No!” Jaime shouts and the boy hesitates.
“Your king is dead,” Tywin says. “You will obey me.”
“No,” Margaery says. “You will do as your queen commands. You will not light the caches.”
The boy looks from Queen to Hand. Tywin growls. “I see I have to do everything myself.”
No. Not again . Her father heads for the main doors. Jaime chases him down, draws her sword, and drives it through his back.
“Jaime?” he asks, incredulous.
She lowers her sword, and her father’s body falls to the ground. The main doors open, and Stannis strides through. bloodied sword raised and ready to use. He falters when he spots Jaime standing over her father’s body. “You again?”
Margaery interrupts their staring contest by gliding over. Once she has Stannis’s attention, she kneels, crown raised up toward him. “The city is yours, your Grace.”
Jaime slips out as Stannis stares at the crown. Davos spots her, but he makes move to keep her from leaving.
“Stannis has the crown,” Jaime tells the men at the base of the steps.
They surge forward to see for themselves. Jaime steals Stannis’s horse and rides for Dorne. It’s a familiar journey, though she takes the shorter route this time. She rides and she rides, and no one stops to give her a babe. She rides some more.
She makes it to Yronwood before she properly stops. She looks a fright, blood splattered on her clothes, her face and hair dirty. There’s something wild in her eyes, she can feel it, and her welcoming committee shies away.
All but one.
Oberyn steps forward, his hands extended toward her.
She clasps his wrists, unwilling to dirty his silks. She takes a deep shuddering breath.
“It’s over,” Oberyn murmurs, his voice pitched only for her. “We received ravens. We know what happened.”
She’s absurdly grateful she doesn’t have to tell him. Maybe her father was right all along. She is a coward. Her father. Dead at her own hand. Her sister and nephew, dead because she ordered the bells rung. But how many lives because the city surrendered to Stannis instead of fighting?
“I don’t know what to do now,” she admits. Jon is settled, Daenerys too. Myrcella has Trystane. Tyrion’s building himself a family. None of them need her anymore.
Oberyn steps closer until she has to tip her chin up to meet his gaze. “Now, you live.”