Written for the ASOIAFkinkmeme. The characters belong to GRRM.
Tyrion Lannister sat at the bar in the pub, moodily sipping at his wine and gazing into the mirror behind the bartender. He could view the entrance to the pub behind him from where he sat—his sister-in-law, Brienne, and his brother Jaime were to join him for drinks and dinner. He had already booked a table for four—the pub did not have smaller tables, and his sister-in-law had said she was going to introduce him to a friend who she felt was perfect for him.
Tyrion would have been wary had it been anyone other than Brienne making that remark. But he had come to know Brienne well—she had been Jaime’s partner at the Yard. When his brother was forced to leave the force, after a psychotic drug dealer chopped off his right hand with a rusty old sword, Brienne took early retirement to help him with his recovery and rehabilitation. While Cersei, Jaime’s twin, who had always been close to him till that time, recoiled when confronted with his stump, Brienne took things in her stride, from helping Jaime select clothes that did not require the use of both hands to teaching him to write with his left hand. Their relationship had been based on mutual respect and friendship, which was transformed gradually to love in these adverse circumstances. They’d got married a month or so ago, soon after they set up their detective agency; Tyrion had been their best man.
Just then he saw a tall, beautiful, slender and shapely auburn-haired woman walk into the room. He almost choked on the wine that he was sipping—he was so shaken at the sight of her beauty. The other men in the bar were equally impressed—the hum of voices, which provided a pleasant background sound, suddenly ceased, as if someone had pressed a button or pulled out a wire. He was even more surprised when she walked up to him, swaying slightly on her stiletto heels. Her hair was swept up into a complicated arrangement that would have been the envy of a French countess at the court of Louis XV; she was wearing a beautifully cut blue dress that not only fitted her to perfection but matched the colour of her eyes--she had accessorized her outfit with a double-stringed pearl necklace and dangling pearl earrings. She smiled at him as she sat down on the bar stool next to him.
“You must be Brienne’s brother-in-law,” she said. “She’s been telling me so much about you. She wanted me to let you know that she and Jaime will be late—they have to hand over a crook to the police.”
Tyrion’s mind reeled in shock. Surely she must be joking. She couldn’t possibly be his date. “Thank you, miss...” he stammered, feeling tongue-tied.
“Sansa Stark,” the young lady supplied, without blinking an eyelid. “That’s my name. I work with them at the agency. Brienne’s been telling me a lot about you.”
Tyrion gasped, surprised. “She has?” he asked. And then his curiosity got the better of him. “What did she say?” he wanted to know.
She pursed her lips and then smiled at him. “She said you have a sharp tongue, an even sharper mind and a very quick temper. She also said that you’re a very nice person.”
Tyrion was surprised and touched to hear that. He said, “I’m grateful to know she thinks so well of me. But she didn’t tell me anything about you, other than saying that you and I would be perfect for each other.”
He looked at her anxiously as she smiled at him. “I don’t know how you and I would be perfect for each other. I’ve just graduated with a degree in journalism and I’m working as an assistant to Jaime and Brienne—I keep track of phone calls and keep the office tidy and so on. She told me you were teaching management students at Insead and you advise your father’s stock broking firm on the state of the markets. I’m quite in awe of you, I must admit, Professor Lannister.”
“Please don’t call me that—we’re not in a classroom right now, you know, Sansa. So how did you come to work for Jaime and Brienne?”
“Brienne was assigned as my mother’s bodyguard when my father became Robert Baratheon’s Chancellor of the Exchequer. That’s when all of us got to know her well—we all liked her a lot. Of course, she went back to detective work almost as soon as Daenerys Targaryen won the last election. I’d just finished at Uni when I heard of her setting up the agency with your brother and their getting married. Mother thought, and I agreed with her, that I should look in on them and offer to help out. “
Tyrion could hazily recall Cersei’s rage when she learned that Robert would replace Jon Arryn, his elderly professor at Uni and mentor, with his old friend, Ned Stark, instead of offering their father the post, “as he should have done, considering all that Father has done to fund his campaign.” Of course, as Sansa said, the incident took place almost ten years ago—Robert did not improve matters when he suggested that Sansa and Joffrey, then both still in school, should get engaged, because he’d never got over the death of his late fiancée, Sansa’s aunt, Lyanna. Luckily, that had not worked out; neither Cersei nor the Starks showed any enthusiasm for this arrangement.
“So how do you like it, working for Jaime and Brienne?”
“Oh, it’s quite exciting—I don’t suppose they tell you about the cases they’re working on?” When he shook his head, she continued, “Well, this case is practically over—they’re handing the crook to the cops, as I said—so I don’t see why I shouldn’t regale you with at least some of the details.”
She kept him entertained with a lively account of Jaime and Briennne’s latest investigation. Evidently, someone had been posting ads, on the web, in newspapers and in telephone booths, claiming to get jobs in movies and television serials for young men and women. The ads had many takers, since there were so many young people looking for work after graduation. “I thought of giving it a go, before mother suggested I see if Brienne needed help. When I visited her...well, the condition she’s in, I couldn’t just walk away, could I? But two people I know—classmates of my brother and myself—decided to call the numbers and see what this agent could do for them. They went for interviews and casting calls and then ... they just disappeared. And mother called me at work—lunch hour—to tell me the news. She said both Asha Greyjoy and Vayon Poole had come to see father, because Theon and Jeyne had been missing for ages, and she asked me to see if Brienne and Jaime could do anything.”
She would have continued with the story—she certainly had Tyrion intrigued—but Jaime and Brienne walked in just then. Tyrion noticed, with some trepidation, that Brienne looked noticeably plumper than when he had seen them both last. He recalled that she’d worn a Victorian dress to her wedding—perhaps she’d needed the concealment?
They moved from the bar to the table—Brienne and Jaime ordered their drinks. Brienne chose lemonade, which made Jaime smirk—and irked Tyrion’s curiosity. After they’d ordered dinner, the ladies went to the restroom, leaving the brothers to catch up with each other.
“Why were you late today?” Tyrion began, hoping he sounded more curious than petulant or angry. “Your Miss Stark said something about handing over a crook to the cops. And are the two of you about to become parents? You might have informed me—I was your best man, after all!”
Jaime grinned at him unrepentantly. “So many questions, so little time,” he said with a laugh as he swallowed his whisky and ordered another. “Yes, we put away a rather nasty man, thanks to Miss Stark who got us the case in the first place. The Yard was baffled—not that they would say as much to us. And yes, Brienne is in the family way—you should be an uncle in the next five months or so. Don’t look so shocked—I would have told you at the wedding itself, but Brienne thought you’d think badly of her if you found out.”
“Nonsense,” Tyrion spluttered. “I’m happy for you both. Now tell me all about the case.”
Jaime continued the story where Sansa had left off, when she brought the case to their attention. They’d needed help to locate the man who was posting the ads—they were able to get a series of addresses from credit card companies. “He was using three credit cards—one to pay for his newspaper ads, another to pay for his web ads and a third to pay his phone bills. He was using three different addresses—an isolated cottage in Norfolk; a vicarage in Lincolnshire and a barracks of a stately home in the Midlands. We had to match handwritings and signatures; get photograps... I would have given up if I hadn’t had my wife and her friend glaring at me every time I screamed with exasperation at the slowness of the investigation. It was nothing dramatic—nothing like the cop shows you and I watched when we were kids.” And Jaime smiled at him. “It was slow, tedious, painstaking, a grind—Miss Stark was invaluable. She kept the facts straight and simple; she could charm anyone into giving information, where I would have used my fist... And Brienne refused to give up. She knew these two kids—she’d seen them around Number 11 back in the day. Finally, we were able to get a fix on the guy—you’ll never guess who he was.”
“Who was he?” Tyrion demanded, as the ladies returned.
Sansa made a face as she sat down. “I guess you’ve been talking about the case,” she said.
“Yes,” Tyrion said, drumming his fingers on the table. “And I want to know whodunit.”
“He was a family friend,” Sansa said sadly. “He was at school with my mother and aunt. In fact, Aunt Lysa wanted to marry him, but my grandpa refused to hear of it. He would never say why, but he made her marry elsewhere. He was working for your father—that’s how he made his money. And he was investing it to set up brothels, if you please. He started out with young people on drugs—he’d supply them if they’d sleep with people. And then he used to blackmail the clients. Then he thought of this—of tempting young people with roles in movies and television to get them to do something so compromising that they would obey him or be ruined for life. I don’t know where he was planning to go with this, when he got caught.”
“He tried to bribe us,” Brienne said, a look of disgust on her face. She looked at Tyrion, who had a strange gleam of recognition in his mismatched eyes.
“Not Petyr Baelish!” he exclaimed.
“Yes,” the other three said, almost in unison. Then they laughed uneasily. “He’s in prison now,” said Sansa firmly, “and his victims will get all the help they need to recover. I know mother will see to that—she’s so enraged with Petyr. She feels he let her down with all he did. And he had the audacity to tell me how he’d loved no one other than her all his life, not even my poor aunt!”
By the time their dinner came, they had exhausted the topic of Baelish and his crimes, and moved on to more entertaining subjects. Sansa used her charm to good effect to get Tyrion to tell them what he’d been doing, trying to set the economy to rights. He had them in splits as he imitated the various people who were hindering him. The evening ended on a cheerful note—Jaime and Brienne went home, after getting Tyrion to promise to drop Sansa off to her flat.
Tyrion called Bronn, his chauffeur-cum-Man Friday, to bring the car around. When they stopped at Sansa’s flat, she invited him up for a coffee. Tyrion decided to take her up on her offer—he was glad he did, when he saw her apartment. It was small, but she had done it up tastefully. It felt lived in and still looked elegant, much like its inhabitant. She’d kicked off her high heels as soon as they walked in, and entered her kitchen to put the water to boil for the coffee. They talked of books and music, films and plays, as they sipped at their coffee. She laughed when she realised he’d read and enjoyed her favourite books—he had quite a few pointed remarks to make about the authors and how they’d tackled the issues they’d chosen to cover.
It was an hour or two later, as they fell into a relaxed silence, that she peeked out of the window, at his car.
“I hope I haven’t kept your poor chauffeur up all night,” she remarked.
Tyrion started guiltily. “I didn’t realise it was so late,” he exclaimed, getting off the sofa where he’d been lounging a moment ago.
She turned to him, a wicked gleam in her blue eyes. “Why don’t you send the
poor man home and spend the night here with me?” she asked, in an innocent-sounding voice.
“Why, Miss Stark!” Tyrion exclaimed, in mock surprise. “Is this a seduction?”
“No, Tyrion—I don’t seduce a man I meet on the first date itself. Send Bronn home to rest—tell him to call for you in the morning. I’ve a spare toothbrush you can use and a pair of pyjamas that belonged to my brother Bran. You can sleep here on the sofa and I’ll give you scrambled eggs and coffee for breakfast. How does that sound?”
“Sansa, you know the way to a man’s heart,” he exclaimed. He sent Bronn home for the night, telling him to come by at ten. He reckoned Sansa would be sick and tired of his company by then.
It was while she was making up his bed on the sofa that they realised they had a problem on their hands. It was one of those pull-out sofa-cum-beds, which immediately fell apart when Sansa pulled it open. She made a face, and then turned to him.
“There’s no help for it—you’ll have to share my bed.”
He sucked in his breath and looked at her, widening his eyes.
“No, Tyrion, this isn’t a seduction. Your virtue, such as it is, is safe with me.” She grinned at him. “I have a large enough bed—we should be able to share it without kicking each other at night.”
So that was how he ended up sharing a bed with Sansa Stark on their first date. They didn’t kick each other at night, not because they slept at opposite ends of Sansa’s double bed, but because they both ended up in the centre, with their arms around each other. Afterwards, Tyrion could not remember how this had happened—he had been fast asleep, and so had she—but it had. When he woke up in the morning, with her auburn hair tickling his nose, he realised that he’d slept well that night for the first time after Tysha’s death so many years ago. He looked up into Sansa’s warm blue eyes and lovely smile, recalling the sea and sunshine off the coast of his Cornish home. She kissed him and slipped out of bed.
“Scrambled egg, coffee and toast—would you care for bacon or sausage, Tyrion? Just say the word.”
“No bacon or sausage, thank you, Sansa—but a grilled tomato would be nice.”
It was as he was leaving the bedroom that he noticed the photograph. The face looked familiar—craggily handsome, except for the terrible burns on one side. The long black hair did little to hide that. He knew that man—he’d worked as Joffrey’s chauffeur-cum-bodyguard when Robert was PM. He recalled what had happened subsequently—Sergeant Clegane had rejoined his regiment in Afghanistan and died in an encounter with the Taliban. He wondered how Sansa had come to know the man—she and Joffrey had broken off their friendship a long time ago.
“I saw the photograph of a man I recognized in your room,” he remarked to her, as he sat down to breakfast.
“Oh, you mean Sandor Clegane?” she asked quietly, sipping at her coffee and nibbling a toast.
“Yes—how did you come to know him?”
“I used to spend a lot of time with Joffrey when Dad became Chancellor—you remember Robert’s crazy scheme? Of course, it didn’t work out; we were totally unsuited to each other. That’s when I came to know Sandor—he could really manage Joffrey well.” Tyrion winced—Robert used to ignore Joffrey, because he saw little of himself in his son; consequently, Cersei devoted herself to him and spoiled him shamelessly, to make up for his father’s neglect. Although Tyrion and his father tried to correct his behaviour, they soon lost patience with him; Sandor was the only one the boy looked up to, other than his uncle Jaime. Since Jaime spent little or no time with his sister’s children (in order to spend more time with her in private), Sandor did his best to improve the boy’s behaviour.
“So how come he allowed you to photograph him?”
“I don’t know—somehow, he seemed to like me and Arya. He used to be very gruff with Robb and the boys, but he got along with the two of us. Arya even got him to practice karate with her! I wasn’t as successful when I tried to teach him to meditate. I don’t suppose you know about his brother being in a maximum-security prison, do you? He was the one who did it to him—shoved his face into a still-smouldering coal fire when he was a little boy. They could do little for Sandor, although he lived...”
“He lost most of his family growing up,” Tyrion interrupted her. He recalled the man all too clearly. “He came to see us when he was about twelve—Gregor had inherited their father’s little farm and he needed to get to a safe place, away from his brother. My father offered him a place to stay, some work to keep him busy—I think he used to help out in the kitchen and the garden—and a chance to attend the local school. He was four years older than me—he joined up as soon as he was old enough to do so.”
“I don’t suppose your father could have brought charges against him—Gregor, I mean?”
“I know Dad told Mr Clegane—he used to breed hunting dogs—that Gregor had to see a shrink or else. I know he was quite firm about it.”
“We heard of his death, Arya and I—he listed us as next of kin, alongside your father. He must have felt safe with your family, out at the Rock?”
Tyrion sighed. “I suppose—he used to valet for my uncles, Tygett and Gerion, when they came home on leave. Both of them were with the commandos—I think that’s where he got it into his head to go into the army.”
“Well, we were there, at the memorial service, with Jaime and your dad. I
overheard your father rather irritably enquiring about you and Jaime mumbled something about chemotherapy.”
Tyrion stopped eating. “It was my wife,” he said quietly. “We’d met as kids at school—she was a farmer’s daughter. And then we went up to university together—she got a scholarship and she worked to pay for the rest. Of course, Dad disapproved of my marriage—she wasn’t the sort of person he wanted any of his kids to marry. But he could do nothing about it—I’d got a job teaching and researching at a university, and I married her on the strength of that.” He could not help but smile triumphantly as he said that—Sansa smiled back at him and squeezed his hand.
“The trouble started a few years later, when she discovered a lump on her breast. They got rid of that, and she went into remission. But it came back and she died after a long fight...” He choked up as he recalled all she had gone through; he soon felt Sansa’s silky but strong arms gather him into a warm and comforting embrace. She gently cupped his face.
“Perhaps I shouldn’t have brought it up right now, Tyrion—but I remember meeting her at the hospital. My cousin Robert used to suffer from leukaemia—Aunt Lysa used to get hysterical at the thought of chemotherapy, so I used to take him instead. That’s where I met your wife—she was really a lovely, warm person. She used to love talking about you—she loved you a lot.” She kissed him as she spoke gently, and then she held him close, rubbing his back till he was calmer. He could not share his grief for Tysha with anyone but Jaime, who had seen him at his worst. His father had been gruff and brief when expressing his condolences—Cersei had barely acknowledged his marriage. It was a relief to speak of her with Sansa, who had met and liked her.
“Brienne used to take me there, with Robert—both of us had to urge the poor boy to be brave. He hated being sick, the poor mite—Tysha would talk to him and tell him of ways to think himself better. She really was an amazing woman. “
Brienne was surprised to see Tyrion at their doorstep at twelve in the afternoon, his hands full with a bottle of champagne and a bouquet of roses. Jaime had gone to see his father, to tell him about the impending addition to their family and let him know how their little firm was faring.
“Why the celebration?” she asked warily.
“It’s not exactly a celebration,” he said quietly, “just a thank you. I spent a lovely evening with Sansa—we spent the night chatting...why didn’t you tell me she knew Tysha?”
Brienne sighed. “I don’t know—I was afraid, perhaps, of seeing you sad? Jaime said he never saw you more unhappy than at her funeral. I suppose Sansa told you about our meeting her?”
“Yes, she did—it’s that which made me realise how right you were to say that we were perfect for each other. She understood...she liked Tysha a lot. She’s a lovely, gentle girl—I hope she likes me as much as I like her. I don’t know how this will end, Brienne—whether we’ll both find out we’re in love with each other and get married and live happily ever after—but I must thank you for introducing me to her. She truly is a comfort and a treasure.”