The Stark family is desperate after Ned's death; Tywin desperately needs to marry his player son Tyrion off. Taking advantage to their financial he says if Sansa and Tyrion marry he will help them out. Somehow Sansa and Tyrion make their arranged marriage work and fall in love.
Sansa knew she had no other choice—she had to accept Tywin Lannister’s offer or else...
Her father, who had worked in Scotland Yard’s Special Branch, had died recently; she had since learned, from the family lawyer, that the value of his pension and savings, as well as that of their London home, had gone down substantially after the recession. She’d left university that summer of 2008, with high hopes of contributing to her family’s income; all such hopes had faded, as she and her friends saw firms reduce hiring, to cut down on expenses. She worked a shift in the local coffee shop, to pay her expenses; she was lucky to be living at home and could save on rent. Her mother ran the home on the salary she received as headmistress of a school; but she was due to retire in a few years. She, Robb and Jon had managed to complete their university education with the scholarships they had earned for their achievements in academics and sports—but scholarships took you only so far. Arya was discovering this, much to her sorrow—she had a year or two of university to finish; she’d received a scholarship as a fencer, but she also had to work part time in a martial arts studio to make two ends meet. Bran was to start university that year—while Sansa had chosen to study history and literature, in hopes of getting a job in publishing, he was planning to study information and computer technologies. Rickon, who was still at school, often threatened to become a professional footballer instead of going to university, a prospect that Sansa viewed with dread.
She had heard of Tywin Lannister, the media magnate; her father had spoken of him with loathing. He never liked to talk about the cases he had handled, so Sansa never pressed him for details. Tywin Lannister came to their home to pay his condolences; he had known both her grandfathers and her granduncle. Sansa would have avoided talking to him, had mother been home; but since mother was not there—Catelyn had gone back to work—she offered Mr. Lannister a cup of tea and prepared to listen to his words of sympathy with the appropriate grace. What she was not prepared for was a very direct offer of help.
“Ms. Stark,” he had said firmly, “I take it you’ve had all the condolences you can handle, am I right? You must have spoken to your lawyer and found out exactly how the land lies—pensions, savings, investments and property have all fallen in value because of this wretched recession. And you have not yet been able to get any work, despite having done very well indeed at university. Well! It’s the recession, you see—we’ve had to stop hiring people at Lannister Publications also. However, I have a proposal to make to you. You can reject it after you’ve heard me out.”
Sansa listened—he said he had a son, a well-educated but wayward young man. Tyrion Lannister was the finest financial brain this side of the Atlantic—he wrote a blog on stock markets for small investors--but he had a lifestyle that would have brought a blush to the cheek of Charles II. He needed to get this son married off, to a young woman from the right home, with the right background and breeding. She had to be well-educated enough to converse with Tyrion and his colleagues and she had to be well-behaved enough to rein him in, if necessary. He asked her if she was interested, and she asked him if she could have a few days to think it over.
“It’s Friday evening,” he said bluntly. “I’m leaving you my mobile number—you can call or SMS your answer to me before five in the evening on Monday. I hope you will agree—it would give me great pleasure to welcome a Stark into the family.”
Sansa was glad no other member of her family was at home when she saw him out—she would have had to answer a lot of questions. This was one time she was relieved that Robb was soldiering in Afghanistan and Jon was in Siberia, studying climate change. Bran and Rickon were visiting Meera and Jojen Reed; their father, Howland, had been her father’s partner at the Yard. Arya would soon be back from her stint in the martial arts studio; Sansa had to rush to get ready for the coffee shop—weekends were their busiest time.
Tyrion Lannister gazed moodily around the plush interior of the dining room of his father’s club; it was one of the last bastions of male chauvinism. Females, even guests or relations of members, were seldom allowed within its hallowed halls. Jaime had been a member here from his eighteenth birthday onwards, whereas Tyrion... his father had not extended that facility for him. Perhaps it had to do with his size and looks—Jaime was tall, blonde, green-eyed and handsome—the darling of London society. He was in the army and was known to be an excellent sportsman. Tyrion was four feet tall, with stunted limbs, a large head, lank fair hair that fell over his massive forehead, mismatched eyes and squashed-in features. He worked as a financial analyst—he’d spent the last few years talking of the bursting of the mortgage bubble, much to everyone’s dismay. He hadn’t been believed then; now, he was seen as a figure of doom and gloom. He didn’t think that Gordon Brown would be elected PM; he felt the British public had turned rather American in their taste for a telegenic prime minister.
He wondered why his father had asked him to dinner this Monday evening. It was the start of the week, and none of the ladies he was used to entertaining was available—which was why he’d accepted his father’s invitation. He’d enjoyed a fine single malt on his arrival at the club; the barman knew and appreciated his taste, even if his father did not.
“Tyrion,” his father said, after he’d finished ordering dinner and sent the waiter off, “I have something important I have to say to you. I think it is time you got married.”
Tyrion was glad he had finished his drink; otherwise he would have choked on it, or splattered an excellent malt on his best dinner jacket. “Don’t you think, father, you should have this conversation with Jaime first? After all, he is the elder—I’m sure his biological clock must be ticking like crazy. Mine seems to be ambling along just fine, thank you.”
“Jaime is fine, thank you very much, Tyrion. Jaime does not spend his time being photographed with every actress and model in town, week after week, in the redtops. He’s serving Queen and country in Afghanistan, while you paint the town red. Cersei says she’s embarrassed to meet her female friends—they cannot stop talking about your exploits.”
Tyrion grinned. “Perhaps she should introduce me to them...”
His father gave him a cold look, which made Tyrion shiver a little. He straightened himself in his chair.
“I think it is time you married—people might take your financial pronouncements with greater seriousness if you were to present a more respectable front. I’ve even found the right girl for you.”
Tyrion tried not to shudder. His father’s idea of the right girl for him, and his own concept of his ideal woman, did not meet. He recalled his ex-girlfriend, Tysha, with whom he’d gone steady from his last year in school till they’d graduated from university. He had never spoken of Tysha to his father, because by the time he’d got the right sort of job, both of them had realised his family would never approve of their marriage. She was the only daughter of a farmer; she’d continued to run the farm long after her father’s death. She’d married the local schoolmaster—she had invited Tyrion to the wedding. His father, on the other hand, continued to introduce him as a prospective son-in-law to other wealthy men, only to be snubbed by them or their daughters, who could not see beyond his height or his ugliness.
“Oh—who is she, Father? I hope she won’t up and run a mile from me, the way Arianne Martell did, when you suggested to Doran that I should wed his darling daughter.”
“I don’t think she can afford to do that,” Tywin Lannister sounded smug as he spoke. “She’s in a tight spot financially; her father, who worked at Scotland Yard, died suddenly. His pension funds, investments and property have all lost value due to this recession. She doesn’t have a job; her mother works as a headmistress and might retire in the next few years. She has two younger brothers, whom she has to educate. And yes, there is a younger sister still at university. Of course, she’s from a good family—very well brought up, well-bred—I knew both her grandfathers; served with them in the army...”
“You’re not by any chance suggesting that I wed Sansa Stark, are you, father? Do you know that Robert tried to arrange a marriage with her for Joffrey? Cersei talked him out of it, Jaime said. She told him she would not have her son marry the niece of two women who’d disgraced their families by making runaway marriages.”
“Sansa doesn’t take after her aunts—she’s more like her parents than like them. Besides, Lysa was the one who made the runaway marriage with Petyr Baelish—Lyanna had an affair with, and a baby by, a married man, who was killed by the Romanian secret police. She chose not to marry Robert for her own reasons. I don’t know why Cersei can’t keep her facts straight.”
“Jaime says she’s never forgiven Robert for loving the Stark girl—she claims he’s still fond of Lyanna; they exchange cards now and again. He says it’s the real reason why she did not want Joffrey to marry Sansa. And of course, there was the bit about her father not being wealthy or prominent.”
“So that’s why she’s so keen Joffrey marry the Tyrell girl? Good luck to her, then; Mace Tyrell might agree to the match, but his mother is a whole different kettle of fish. She’d never approve of Joffrey.”
They ate their soup, and then Tywin remarked, “I didn’t know Cersei’s opinion of the Starks would count so much with you, Tyrion—I thought you were your own man.”
“I am, father; I thought her opinion of them would count with you. She could make life difficult for any woman I chose to marry.”
“Perhaps, but you can ensure that your wife and your sister have little to do with each other—of course, they will meet on formal occasions. You don’t spend too much time with her, do you, even though you live in London? Jaime, on the other hand, does tend to spend a lot of time with her when he’s on leave...”
Tywin fell silent after this; then Tyrion asked him, rather bitterly, “How do you want me to proceed with regard to Sansa Stark?”
“Well, you could go call on the family, couldn’t you? You know Lyanna’s boy, don’t you? The one that’s gone off to Siberia? You could go offer your condolences; I went just after lunch—you should find Sansa at home then. I’ve a feeling she’d make you a good wife—her parents got along just fine, despite the fact that Catelyn Tully was to have married Ned’s older brother, who ran off and married Ryswell’s younger girl instead. He took over Ryswell’s stables—they have no children, so the family property will most likely go to the older Stark boy, Robb.”
They finished their meal in silence—Tyrion made a mental note to call on Ms. Sansa Stark the next day, ostensibly to offer his condolences.
He walked into the house without calling ahead; she was just about to leave, to do some grocery shopping. He was lucky to catch her then—she’d planned to lock up the house and go off. She invited him in and offered him a cup of tea or a glass of water. He selected the latter—it was a warm day.
“I think my father spoke to you a few days ago,” he began.
“Yes, he did,” she said, quietly.
He sighed. “I’m sorry you and your family should find yourselves in such straits. Your father was a good man.”
She responded with a rueful sigh. “Yes, he was—and he would have done everything to spare us all this, I’m sure. Unfortunately, market forces have little respect for people’s feelings, do they, Mr. Lannister?”
“Listen, Sansa, if we have to marry, as my father plans we should, don’t you think you should call me by my name?”
She seemed a quiet, biddable girl—rather unusual for the times, Tyrion thought.
“Just what has my father told you about me?” he asked suddenly, wondering how his father had got her to agree to an arranged marriage.
She said carefully, “He said you provided financial advice to investors. He said you used to work for a bank, and when that bank went into home mortgages after 2001, you quit to set up a blog.”
“Guilty as charged. I’m very conservative when I advise my investors—the bank wasn’t happy when I insisted they not put everything into the Internet bubble, and they were unhappy when I warned them about home loans. Did he tell you anything about my private life? That’s the real reason why he wants me to marry a nice girl like you—he wants me to turn respectable: stop dating actresses and models; stop appearing in the scandal sheets; become a model husband and father. You think you can help me turn over a new leaf?” he asked with gentle humour.
She pursed her lips thoughtfully. “Only if you want to,” she said finally. “I can’t force you to do something you don’t want to do.”
He laughed briefly. “Is that a deal then?” he asked, stretching out his hand and taking hers in it. “I marry you and endow you with my worldly goods. And we take care of each other till death do us part?”
She clasped his hand in hers and said, “Yes.”
He looked at her keenly and asked, “Why is that, I wonder? You’re a lovely girl; you should have the sidewalks outside your house lined with men who want to marry and protect you. Why are you willing to marry an ugly, dissipated little man like me?”
She said quietly, “Well—I used to be fond of someone in university. He was very good-looking, charming, popular and he claimed to love me more than life itself. And then I found out he was two-timing me, with at least three other women, all of whom were carrying his babies. It was quite a shock, to me and my parents. He was related to a family friend—it caused embarrassment all around. I decided that love was a highly over-rated emotion—it was better to think things through before I married.”
He was silent and then he asked, “Did he tell you why he went to these other women?”
She said softly, “Yes, he did; he told me he felt he had to be on his best behaviour with me always. He said he could never be at ease with me, like he was with those other women. He told me he felt I did not love him enough, because I was not willing to sleep with him like those other girls were.”
He bristled at the thought of someone—anyone—talking like this to Sansa. “What did you say to that?”
She laughed bitterly, “I told him I thought he’d been very inconsiderate—he should have made an effort to use birth control. I was furious with him—I could survive disillusionment—but what about those three young girls? They were all at school with him—and he left them literally holding the baby. He had no plans to provide financial support to them—he thought I’d be too broken-hearted to do anything about it. I got so angry I went and spoke to his guardian about it. They arranged to get blood tests done to determine paternity and then they offered the girls enough money so that they could take care of themselves and bring up the children. That was the last straw for Harry—he called me all the names under the sun. He even tried to turn my brothers against me—until Robb and Jon threatened to beat him up. Jon especially—he was so angry with Harry he threatened to shoot him on the spot. Both Mum and Dad had to pull him off Harry—he was going to throttle him!”
She ended the story with a startled gasp. “I shouldn’t have told you his name—he told me I was stupid and indiscreet and I...”
“Say no more about it,” Tyrion said. He could well understand Jon’s desire to beat Harry to a pulp. He would have done the same, had he been as big as Jon. How dared that little shit two-time this lovely girl, leave three girls pregnant with his repugnant offspring and then have the gall to blame her? “I think you did the right thing about those girls,” he said, “and I’m all for Jon beating Harry up. In fact, I wish I’d been there—I would have loved to rearrange his face. Without the benefit of anaesthesia, of course!”
She laughed shakily. “Both my aunts—Lysa and Barbrey—said I was behaving like a silly little prude. Only Aunt Lyanna took my side—she said I’d done the right thing. She said Harry was an insensitive brute and didn’t deserve me; she said I should wait for the right man to come along.”
“In that case, I’m sure she’d disapprove of me at once,” he said.
“Oh, I don’t think so; Jon spoke very highly of you to everyone. He told us about your visit to their climate research station in Siberia.”
“He did, did he?” Tyrion wondered just what Jon had thought fit to share with his young cousin in his letters home.
“He said you’d been very supportive—I read your article in the Times on their research.” She smiled at him.
Tyrion could not help but smile back. “Do you think,” he asked her gently, “you could be happy with me? I mean, I’m not the kind of man known for sweeping women off their feet, but I don’t treat them like a brute either. What I’m trying to say is this: I’ll do my best to be good to you.”
“Thank you, Tyrion—I think your best will go a long way. Yes, I think I could be happy with you.”
He was silent for a moment, and then he asked, “How should we break this to your family?”
She said, “I shall tell them you came to the coffee shop where I work to do your writing. We met and got to be good friends. And then, you asked me to marry you. I was going to get you to meet Father; only he had a heart attack before I could tell him anything. I known Jon will approve of you—he really appreciated the fact that you tried to understand what he and his colleagues are trying to do.”
He twisted his lips slightly. “You think they’ll fall for that line?” he asked, not unkindly.
She sighed. “I don’t want to tell my mother the real reason why,” she confessed quietly. “She’s taken Father’s death very hard; she misses him a lot. So does Arya. I don’t want to lay the burden of our financial situation upon them. It’s better that I tell them you and I are at least friends—they know how I got off dating after the Harry episode. I think they’ll like you a lot—at least, unlike Harry, you’re not playing a part.”
“I’m trying to become respectable—there are times when I think I’m perpetrating a hoax upon society by doing that...” he began, to be swiftly interrupted by her.
“You’re looking for a commitment, a full-time relationship. You’ve had your fill of dating exciting women and you’d like to settle down now. That’s the way I’ll put it to my family, if it’s OK with you of course.”
“As it pleases you, my dear—do go ahead. I will, of course, speak to your mother and write to your brothers, informing them of our plans to wed.”
“Of course,” she said, quite happily—he noticed her grin.
Tyrion did as he had promised—he wrote to Jon and Robb, telling them the story he and Sansa had settled upon. He took to visiting the local coffee shop where she worked as a barista—he made it a point to be there when she was on duty. When she asked why he did that, he told her he had to add verisimilitude to their story. “Rather like an actor preparing for a role, you know? If I tell your mum I met you here, then I want it to be as close to the truth as possible.” He also arranged to meet Catelyn Stark at a time when she was at home.
He could tell, from Catelyn’s manner, that she was less than delighted at Sansa’s latest swain, but he also realised that, being a very practical woman, she was unlikely to look a gift horse in the mouth. She welcomed him, politely, to the family. He received a warm welcome from Jon by e-mail; the only condition Jon made was that, if he ever made Sansa unhappy, he would find himself in Siberia, being mauled by a wolf. Robb, as an absentee head of the family following his father’s untimely death, extended Tyrion a rather stiff welcome. Arya was polite—he gathered, from Sansa, that she had heard rather lurid stories of his exploits and was not very pleased with her sister’s choice of prospective husband. Tyrion resolved that he would do his best to be a good husband to Sansa, to win her approval. As for Bran and Rickon—the latter, although very fond of his sister, was more interested in football than in her marriage plans; whereas Bran told Tyrion he was certain he would be happy with Sansa. When Tyrion asked him how he could be so sure, Bran replied:
“Sansa, for all her love of romance, is a very down-to-earth person; she’s very honest and open. That’s something Harry could not understand about her, but I think you get that, at least. She’s polite and courteous with people not because she’s a snob but because she would like to treat everyone the way she’d like to be treated. I think you’re just as honest and open and kind in your own way; you’re a lot more worldly-wise and will take good care of her.”
Tyrion was rather astounded at this bit of worldly wisdom from a young man of not more than eighteen years. He wrote to Jaime about his marriage plans; Jaime called him, demanding to know why he was playing April Fool jokes on his big brother out of season. When Tyrion informed him that it was no joke, but the truth, Jaime turned serious and began to reminisce.
“Do you know, I went to court her aunt soon after I graduated from Sandhurst? The Blackfish was visiting Riverrun on leave; I spent most of my time questioning him about his life as a commando. Catelyn had to practically drag me to the dance floor to do a waltz with Lysa. No wonder she ran off with Baelish!”
Cersei was at her sneering best, when she confronted him about his forthcoming marriage. Of course, she was thoroughly nasty about the Starks and the Tullys; she hadn’t a kind thing to say of Sansa, her mother or her aunts. He wondered why she had bothered to come and why she had to be so utterly disagreeable, until his uncle Kevan enlightened him.
“She thought your father would leave all his worldly goods to her precious Joffrey, especially because Jaime has never married. Now that you’re getting hitched—she’s livid. Don’t take it personally, Tyrion—you know what she’s like.”
Tyrion nodded—he was glad to see that Sansa, when she met Cersei, used her courtesy and good manners to great effect; his aunt Genna said that his mother Joanna, who had died of cancer when he was a lad of ten, would have been pleased to meet her.
Their marriage was as splashy as society marriages usually were; both of them had to endure popping flashbulbs and lurid headlines in the redtops. However, he was able to arrange a substantial settlement for Sansa before the wedding took place—it would help her to provide for her own needs, as well as those of her family. He noticed, while they prepared for their wedding, that Sansa continued to be a little melancholy—he wondered if it had anything to do with pre-wedding jitters. But he was reassured when he overheard Aunt Genna talking to her:
“Of course, Joanna and I helped Tywin set up Lannister Publications when he started out—he could not have risen so far without her help and advice. I think you should offer your services to Tyrion as his editor—he writes for the small investor, which in my humble opinion should include women as well. And when he starts doing a few columns for our women’s weeklies, he will have his hands full and need you by his side.”
Tyrion spoke to her soon afterwards.
“Why didn’t you tell me you were worried about work? I would have helped. “
She sighed. “I didn’t want to bother you....” she began, but he interrupted her, “Sansa, what does bother me is that you did not tell me how worried you were about getting a job. Please don’t keep things from me; you wouldn’t like me to have any secrets from you, would you?”
Her eyes widened and her mouth opened. “No, I wouldn’t like that at all. It was just that...Cersei said something about my being so very lucky to get a rich husband who would pay my way for life. She said something about my university education being such a waste...I could not help thinking about that. Aunt Genna was there; you should have seen how she looked at Cersei! I never saw a woman shut up so fast and slink away so quickly. If she’d been a dog, her tail would have been between her legs. And then Aunt Genna got talking to me about work and such; I told her how I’d wanted to work in publishing and then she suggested I work with you.” She stopped, giving him a shy glance. He nodded encouragingly and she continued, in a rush.
“She says she’s been thinking of your writing on investments for the women’s magazines your father’s company publishes—she says they cater to a very large market. I know what she’s talking about—I used to subscribe to quite a few when I was in school and at university. You know the ones I’m talking about—they’re mostly about fashion and lifestyle...but you could do columns on finance and investments for the teenagers and undergrads, the working women, stay-at-home mums and pensioners? They have a whole range of magazines to cater to all those markets. She says she’s been telling your dad about this till she got blue in the face—and then she decided to discuss it with me. I think it’s a great idea—I think you should go for it.”
He looked at her thoughtfully. “You know, Sansa, I might just do it—with you to help me out, of course. Tell her I’ll come to see her at work—and tell her you’re coming with me too. Don’t let my horrible sister get to you. Promise me that, my dear girl.”
She said nothing to that, but she got out of her chair, walked up to him and kissed him on the lips, very gently and sweetly. “I promise,” she said softly, as he stared at her, his head whirling...