A/N: This is my first ever ASOIAF fan fic and I’m fairly new to the fandom. I’ve never watched the show, and have only read the books. English is not my mother tongue, so please excuse any mistakes there might be
He sat near the window. It was his favourite place. He could see the snowy peaks of the mountains and the forests from where he sat, high up in the tower. If he looked down, he could see the bustling courtyard. He was feeling quite content.
A soft knock at the door.
“Come in,” he called.
It was a footman. “Your presence is requested, my Lord.”
“By whom?” He wondered if this was another attempt by Sansa to find a bride for him. When he heard of the party she was having to honour their new monarch, he had made it very clear that he would not be taking part. Arya was not so lucky. Though Sansa had pouted, she had seemed to accept his reluctance.
The footman fidgeted. “By one of His Grace’s entourage.”
Bran frowned. Why would any of the King’s men want to meet him?
“Hasn’t this person got a name?” he snapped, angry now. He’d need to send for someone to carry him downstairs. His disability no longer bothered him. But he knew just how uncomfortable it made those around him. Even the footman averted his eyes while speaking to him. As a child, he had not minded the pitying glances. As a man, no one glanced at him and it bothered him. Which was one of the reasons why he’d decided not to attend the party.
The footman cleared his throat. “He didn’t say, my Lord. He only said there was no compulsion. If you permit, he’d come here himself, if you can’t make it down.”
“Then tell him to come up here.” God! I sound like a querulous old man, thought he.
The footman fled, closing the door behind him.
Bran turned to the window, watching the setting sun turn the snowy peaks to red and the Western horizon into a riot of colours.
Bran had not wanted to come and stay with Sansa and her new husband. Though Sansa had changed, she still seemed to have a fanatic belief that everyone needed a spouse. Both he and Arya had resisted her match-making, Arya with rather more grace than Bran. Bran had got so fed up that he told her that no woman on earth was going to be willing to shoulder the burden of marrying a man who was tied to a chair. Sansa had gone pale, though she did not have a single thing left to say. But she had stopped her match-making.
But when the plans for this party were told to him, he’d wondered if she’d actually stopped, or was just holding them in abeyance for a more opportune moment. She’d still not protested much when he told her flatly he would not be attending and to make his excuses to the King and Queen. And now, here was some guest, wanting to see him. Bran could not for his life, think who would want to see him so badly they were willing to climb all these stairs. There were more than four hundred, Sansa had grumbled the last time she came to see him, though Arya had laughed and told her not to be such a baby.
There was another knock at the door, this time a servant bringing him his food. Normally Bran never stayed here in the tower. He had a room downstairs. But occasionally, he preferred to be away from Sansa’s fussing and Arya’s boisterousness. And of course, during parties.
Rickon had invited him to go with him during his last visit. Bran had been tempted. Rickon would leave him alone and not fuss over him. He would not throw eligible girls at his head, girls who tried hard to hide their discomfort. But in the end he’d turned Rickon down. Rickon lived in King’s Landing now. And Bran did not wish to ever see that place. Even though Rickon might leave him alone, there were a lot of people there who would wish to meet the famous Brandon Stark, the hero who turned the tide of the war. Most did not even know he was crippled. Like the silly girls Sansa tried to throw at his head. All their fascination with the heroic Brandon evaporated the minute they realized that he was a cripple. Bran had felt sorry for some of those girls.
As he ate, he thought that the guest who wished to see him might be one of those who wished to see the hero. Once the war was done, Bran had fled to the Reeds’ home where he’d stayed till Sansa had prevailed on him to come home.
Home… this was not the home he remembered. It was built from Sansa’s memory of Winterfell and though it resembled the original, Bran knew it could never be Winterfell. Winterfell was gone, like his parents, like Robb. There was no bringing it back.
The King had offered to rebuild Winterfell at its original site, but Bran had refused. He had not wanted the castle rebuilt. And even he didn’t know why. It seemed to him a desecration of the memory of the place to clear away the site and build a new castle there. Both Arya and Sansa had shouted at him for that, but Bran had been adamant. Surprisingly, Rickon had supported him. And the girls had given up, though not very graciously.
Sansa had got over her disappointment by building her own Winterfell. And Arya too had to be satisfied with the copy of Winterfell that Sansa built. But living in this pale imitation had made them see Bran’s point of not having Winterfell rebuilt.
Another knock on the door. A servant came to remove the plates and clear the table. His personal attendant would be here soon to get him ready for bed. Bran wondered absently whether the party downstairs was over.
He was already in bed when someone knocked at the door. Bran frowned. Who could it have been?
“Who’s it?” He asked, not bothering to hide his irritation.
“I’m sorry, I was told you would see me later. I can come back in the morning.”
Before Bran could collect his wits, he could hear footsteps receding.
He lay back, rather stunned.
Why did Jaime Lannister come to meet him?
Morning brought no counsel or ideas. But Bran had a nervous sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. He had not had nightmares about his fall for such a log time, but he had one last night. He had not thought of Jaime Lannister for such a long time. The man was no longer what he once was, if reports were to be believed. The loss of his hand had changed him, was what Bran heard. And now, he was a war hero just like Bran. And a cripple, again like Bran. But the similarities only made Bran sick. Jaime Lannister was the last person he wanted himself compared to.
Bran left the tower after breakfast, Hodor carrying him to the Godswood. Though Sansa did not follow their father’s faith, she had felt even a copy of Winterfell would be incomplete without its Godswood. This was the only part of the whole place that felt real to Bran. Probably because the wood was already here for such a long time. Hodor sat Bran near the Weirwood tree and wandered off. Hodor had grown old, but was still strong and Bran never allowed anyone else to carry him. A basket was no longer needed and Hodor carried him as one would a baby. Bran no longer minded.
Bran bowed his head, and though he was greatly tempted to reach out to the tree, he did not. He had not used his gift consciously since the war ended. Not once. He’d sworn to himself he’d never use it again.
The sound of a twig breaking under heavy boots broke into his reverie. He turned his head to see Jaime Lannister standing there. He did not look much different, though the gold in his hair was now mixed with white and there were deep lines etched on to his face. And of course, there was the hand. Or lack of one, rather. But his eyes held almost the same expression Bran remembered from his nightmares. Nothing.
That lack of any expression in Lannister’s face as he had pushed him out of that window was what had frightened Bran most in later years. Anger, remorse, contempt, fear- all those he could have understood. But there was nothing there. He was utterly indifferent. How could any man with a soul be that indifferent to a deed that heinous?
And Bran was seven again, staring into those eyes just before the man pushed him out of a window and changed his life for ever.
“Came to finish the job you started?” Bran was surprised at the venom in his own voice. “You botched that job then.”
Lannister did not even flinch. “I understand your anger. And I do not blame you. But I do wish you to know that I regret what I did. There were other ways of ensuring your silence. I shouldn’t have done something so drastic.”
“If that’s supposed to be an apology, you’re botching that too.”
Lannister shrugged. “Apologies are grossly overrated. I do not think you’d be satisfied with one. I regret what I did, but I cannot change it now.”
“No, you can’t.” Bran paused for a moment. “I wanted to be a Knight, you know. A Knight! I might even have admired you at one time. I don’t know, it’s so long ago now… Thanks to you, this is all I became. A cripple!”
“A cripple with such power that he could turn a whole army into gibbering idiots,” said Lannister drily.
A shudder went through Bran. “I don’t do that now.”
“So I’ve heard.” A pause. “However, I want you to know that Knights are fairly common. What you are now, that is rare. That is special. That helped you win a war, become a hero.”
Bran smiled bitterly. “Yes. It did. But I would give up all my gifts, and all those lives I saved when I stopped that army, if I could just walk again! Can you even begin to understand that?”
A muscle moved in Jaime Lannister’s face. “I do, believe me! I understand more than you think!”
Bran’e eyes went to the stump of Lannister’s right arm.
“I believe you do,” said he softly. “Though the way I heard tell, you are just as proficient with your left hand now as you once were with your right.”
“I guess, we both got our consolation prizes, then.”
“Why did you come to meet me?”
Jaime Lannister looked nonplussed for a moment. “I wish I knew.”
“I’ll take my leave of you then,” said Lannister.
Bran nodded as he turned his back on the other man.