life carries on and on and on [asoiaf; tywin x joanna; 1,500 words]
in the rot and the rust
in the ashes and the dust
life carries on and on and on and on
for lauren. again.
shock and denial.
He woke up, alone in his bed until he remembered that he was not—had not been since his wedding night and would not be again unless Joanna got cross at him and decided to make him beg for it. He closed his eyes and waited, patiently, despite the way the sun slipped in through the crimson curtains and glinted off of their gold trappings, for Joanna to roll into his arms and wake him up. Tywin waited for her, for what seemed like forever, his lips curved upward in what was not a lazy smile but rather an effect of gravity or a trick of the light or a consequence, as always, to the presence of his lady wife.
His eyes fluttered open, slowly. The page boy was standing by the door. To his credit, he looked very much afraid.
‘Your brother,’ he said quietly. ‘He’s ah—he’s asked for you.’ Then, quieter: ‘It’s already after noon.’
‘Very well,’ Tywin muttered. ‘Fine.’ He threw the covers off. Next to him, the bed was empty. The sheets were cold.
She’s in the other room, he thought. He was alone.
pain and guilt.
Her clothes were hanging in the closet where she’d left them, where she would have plucked them out one by one for days like today and yesterday and all the other that would follow those. There were the ones she never wore, buried in the back, that came as gifts from family and friends. Her wedding gown hung there, too, deep red and gleaming gold and gathering dust.
Missing was her favorite, which he had torn to ragged bits the night that they had he had planted their son in her belly. Tywin had gotten it remade, as he had promised her. There was a hole in the elbow that she had been begging him to fix for her for what seemed like ages. Tomorrow, he had said.
Tywin dressed in silence. Now she was buried in that gown, hole and all. And what could he say to excuse that?
anger and blame.
He passed the nursery. It was an honest mistake, an accident—truly—because there was nowhere else he wanted less to be. As he passed, he thought he heard a voice. It was gentle, female. He could remember, a thousand years ago, when he would pass and find Joanna sitting there, offering Jaime some thrilling tale of war or Cersei some tender, lilting song. They were babies, only, and she would talk to them for hours, and often Tywin would listen for just as long.
Now, he peeked around the corner quietly. Cersei was bent over the baby’s cradle, her long, golden hair falling forward to hide her face.
Tywin began to say her name, but the syllables stuck in his throat. As he watched, Cersei leaned forward and flicked the baby’s cheek, hard.
‘Your fault,’ she whispered, accusing, and flicked his cheek again.
Don’t, he wanted to say. But instead he turned away. Your fault.
For the first time that day, he breathed a little easier.
reflection and loneliness.
He screamed at the woman who washed his sheets. She changed the soap, just all of the sudden, and though she cried and swore that no such thing had happened, Tywin had her forcibly expelled from the Rock. He tore the sheets from the bed and slept on it bare. Then he slept on the floor. Then he tore Joanna’s gowns from the closet and slept on those. And that was how he discovered that the woman who washed his sheets had not changed the soap. The smell was the smell of her, of her hair, of her skin.
Cersei tripped and upset the dinner table that night because she was wearing a pair of Joanna’s shoes, which were too big and did not fit her and had messed everything up. He yelled at her for it, until she cried, and then he stormed away and left her there.
The wet nurse was holding Tyrion to her breast when he passed. ‘Your fault,’ he roared, and the startled woman nearly dropped the child.
‘I’m sorry,’ she said, though he hadn’t been talking to her.
Then, alone in a room that he had shared with her, once, Tywin thought about the fact that Joanna was gone, and that she had left behind only people who did not know what to do in her absence.
the upward turn.
Numbers still made sense. He could touch a handful of gold pieces and have these still feel warm in his palm. He could turn, sideways, to ask something of Joanna, and though there was no one there for him to consult, there was an answer, easy, somewhere just within his reach. Tywin threw himself into the numbers, into spending and gaining, into success and power, and somehow that made things easier. Though Jaime would hardly look him in the eye anymore and Cersei almost never left her room, there was a place for him to go, something with which he could fill his daylight hours.
And it got easier. Not better. But easier for him to get by pretending that things that didn’t matter really did.
He bought Cersei a dress, like he had once bought his wife dresses. He bought her a dress and she wore it. He bought Jaime a new sword and new armor and a new horse and that bought him a smile. And he would never realize that he kept buying things, and stopped talking to his children, and never noticed when they truly slipped away. Tyrion grew, and Tywin tried not to notice that too.
They lived much differently than they had before, though none of them remembered well what that had been. His hopes for the future had not changed, though the marriages that Joanna had begun to arrange for their children was lost. Jaime would one day be Lord of the Rock, and Cersei Queen of Westeros. If he did nothing else for his children, he would find for each of them something with which they could fill the hole that their mother had left.
The first time he slept with a whore, he was almost sick. He had never been with another woman; Joanna had been his first, and she had tasted like apples and victory and blood and sweet wine. This woman tasted as though she had been cleaned, carefully. Tywin opened his eyes after and found her fingering his signet ring, the face of the roaring lion.
‘Put it on,’ he said quietly. She did as he bid her.
‘My Lord,’ she crooned, in his ear. The ring, too big for her fingers, bit into his skin.
It was better this way.
The raven crowed. Tywin read the letter for a second time. The raven crowed.
War was brewing. He would sit at Casterly Rock and he would wait, and in his bones he knew that this would be the last great war of his lifetime. There was only so much blood that a single set of men could let. This would be his last, he assured himself, unsure if this made him happy or sad.
He missed the weight of his chain on his shoulders, found himself reaching for it in the middle of the night instead of the ghost of his wife. This, he thought, was progress, but then again, he tried not to think about it very much at all.
He’d strung it all together, these little men’s lives, into the fabric of a kingdom and now a war and it was all so lazily easy. It was times like this that he remembered her, and how it felt to have somebody watching all of the magnificent thing that he could do.
Tywin woke up some days to find that it was raining, or that he was sitting alone in a dark room. He discovered that you could wake up and not even have been sleeping, that the world could startle back into motion without you knowing it had stopped. He ate alone, over a pile of papers, with Tyrion sitting at the other end of the table like a statue, bent over his own books. There were lights, somewhere else, that he could picture vaguely when he wasn’t thinking. There were women, but their skin was always too rough, and it was less to him now without the chain. He worked, and waited, and tried on his armor and flexed to see how well it fit.
Mostly, he hated, fiercely, and passionately, and he knew that this was the closest to love he would ever come again.
He was alone.