Shireen does notice the quick duck of his head and the way Tommen looks faintly sick when she calls him by his full name, but it was easily brushed off when he smiles and laughs and tells her that he isn’t all that mature. There is a brief jolt of worry that weighs down against her chest and even if he seems alright (it was just a momentarily lapse into a thought, a memory that saddened him), Shireen can’t shake off the uneasiness that makes her uncomfortable. Combined with the aching head and nausea, she is quite surprise that she isn’t feeling as cranky as she normally would be feeling.
Settling with a small smile, she hums at his words about Jojen. Yes, Jojen was a very nice boy, friendly and warm from what she had gathered during those few times she actually had the time to sit down and get to know him better, but he was still a stranger. There was an ease about him that made her comfortable around him, comfortable enough to go into detail about her health, but there was also a small voice in her head that never allowed her to forget about his roots.
It was upsetting, to think that she was actually beginning to distrust someone that Tommen obviously cared so much about, but Shireen brushes it off and blames the medicine and the fact that it had been ages since she last spoke to him. Perhaps she would give him a call when she was feeling better.
“I miss going to school. But I’m still worried. Nervous.” she says softly, frowning against his shoulder. Shireen was afraid, the way her stomach would wound itself into coils whenever she thought of school and studying and being away from her parents. Something might happened, and then what? It was all so silly, so unnecessary, but it still frightened her. “Well, I tried to learn chess.” she says, mock serious. She actually did try, but got bored and stopped halfway. “They’re not so bad. I’m not allowed to paint though, not now at least.” Here her voice drops into a soft grumble. “I’ve been painting for years, I seriously doubt the paint fumes are giving me this headache.”
Shireen curls closer and Tommen closes his eyes, huffing a breath as he allows himself to sink into her just a bit. The music from Jojen’s mix is mellow, happy, and he tries to let it calm the racing thoughts in his head. He hates that he cann’t go more than five minutes without hating the skin he’s in, without feeling like he doesn’t belong anywhere, with anyone, ever. Tommen almost wishes he hadn’t learned everything he had this summer, that things had stayed the same and he’d remained blissfully ignorant of the truth. He knows he’ll probably be better off, knowing, but it hasn’t felt like that since he found out.
He frowns when she says she misses school, but she’s nervous; he knows it’s hard for her to be away from her family, for so many reasons. Shireen has always been a worrier to an almost extreme degree. Tommen worries for her, for how much stress she puts on herself, especially in her condition. He knows that London is growing more and more dangerous every day — how can he not know that? He panics when he doesn’t hear from Jojen between when Jojen leaves Margy’s flat to when Jojen arrives at Casa Reed, for Heaven’s sake — but he wishes Shireen could experience the world without the crippling fear he knows it’s hard for her to shake.
“Is tutoring nice, though? Myrcella said, last time we talked, that she was probably going to get a private tutor this year…” He trails off, heart plummeting into his stomach. He misses his sister so much that it aches. Not getting to talk to her, see her, ask her about her day and band together against the rest of the house makes Tommen want to cry more often than not. He’s having a harder time dealing with being away from her than he realized he would, when he left. He misses the two of them always being on each other’s teams. She feels a million miles away, now.
“Chess? I’ve always liked reading about chess, but not playing at it. I’m not a good strategist.” He laughs a little, shaking his head. He frowns again when she mentions not being able to paint and hums. “That’s awful. What about pastels? Those don’t have fumes. I could find you a nice set at an art store so you could still draw…”
Jaime huffed a laugh when Tommen asked about talking somewhere else another time. Jaime knew that wouldn’t happen; the reason he’d come here rather than just calling him was because he knew that Tommen wouldn’t agree to talk to him otherwise. Coming here was the best chance he’d get at speaking to Tommen, and if he agreed to what Tommen wanted then they’d never have this conversation. Jaime hadn’t come here for nothing, so he folded his arms and leaned in to speak again; he wasn’t going to let his own son get the better of him.
“No, we can’t do it another time,” he said calmly, a hint of amusement in his voice. “We both know you’d never show up.” Even if they arranged to meet, neither would show anyway. Jaime would, most likely, realise it was a bad idea and back out, and Tommen, well, Jaime could tell he really didn’t want to have this conversation. Like father like son, he supposed; he grinned wryly.
Jaime stayed silent for a moment before he spoke. “Well, if you’ll let me up I suppose you’ll find out,” he told him. Jaime didn’t see a way of getting to speak to Tommen right now without persuading Tommen to let him up, so he supposed that’s what he’d have to do. It’s for Cersei, he reminded himself. You’re doing this for Cersei. “You’ve got nothing to lose from it, and a lot to gain.”
Honestly, there wasn’t much to gain at all apart from Jaime telling him that his mother wanted him to come home, but Tommen needn’t know that until Jaime was already up there - when he was up there, he could convince him to come back home. He was good at convincing people to do things; why should Tommen be any different?
Jaime sounded amused and it made Tommen want to hit him. He’d never been predisposed to violence, but being mocked made him feel incredibly defensive, incredibly fast. With everything that Pyp had taught him, Tommen knew he could land a good punch; he also knew that if he tried to fight Jaime, he’d lose. He rolled his eyes and pushed the button on the intercom again. “Don’t act as if you know me, Jaime.” He spat the name, refusing to put ‘uncle’ in front of it and refusing even more to ever call the man ‘father’. The thought made Tommen’s stomach churn; he wondered if Myrcella had the same struggle, addressing Jaime now that they knew the truth. He hoped, someday, he could ask her about it.
He didn’t think he had anything to gain from letting Jaime up to the flat. Tommen snorted wryly and fiddled with his hair. He looked around Margaery’s flat for a long moment, considering his options. He could just walk away and let Jaime continue to yell through the intercom in the hopes of being let into the building. He could let him up and hear whatever he had to say. He could tell him to bugger off. But Tommen couldn’t help but be curious, despite himself. It wasn’t often that Jaime sought anyone out unless he was forced into it. Had Tommen’s mother put him up to it? It seemed odd on too many levels.
“I don’t think my flatmate would like having you here when she’s not home,” he said, holding down the mic button once more. Tommen furrowed his brow. “In fact, I don’t think she’d like having you here at all.” He bit the inside of his lip, trying not to laugh or cry or do anything else embarrassing or inappropriate (though what was appropiate in this moment, Tommen hadn’t a clue). He took a breath and spoke again, the words running together as he tried to speak fast enough so as not to be able to overthink them. “I’ll let you up, but not in. And if I don’t like what you’ve got to say, you have to leave. Immediately. Is that understood?”
”Yeah, there have got to be classes for aikido in London. It’s a popular form of self-defense. I looked into it once when I was younger, but ended up not having the time of it. It had this whole… philosophy surrounding it. Seems like something that would meld well with you. It’s all mind and body control— unity and… feeling the other person. It’s for intuitive people.” He smiled and shrugged, giving away a little bit more information as to why he never went into aikido. Loras wasn’t a very zen like guy, and he’d have no doubt come intro trouble with their ‘less brawn and more forethought’ frame of mind.
His question about his father’s reaction to quitting fencing made Loras have to actually think back to that moment. He couldn’t really remember his father’s reaction, but it obviously hadn’t been that significant. “I don’t remember him really being that upset, truthfully,” he began. “My father likes… he likes it when his kids are popular. He likes the prestige we can bring him. So long as I was still playing sports and getting active, he was fine with it. Besides, more people here pay attention to accomplishments in football than they do with fencing.” He’d considered going into football for a career when he was young, but it had quickly been shot down, the need to continue with the family business driving him toward journalism. He was glad for it, now. If he hadn’t done journalism, he’d have never have met the people he knew now. He’d have never have met Renly…
Just as Loras thought things were going better, Tommen was closing off again. His comment made Loras pause, and he watched as Tommen stared down at his hands, a tension in his stance as he just stared. Leaning forward a bit on the table, Loras cocked his head to the side and tried to get Tommen to look up at him. He didn’t want the kid retreating back to whatever dark corner he kept going to— he’d been spending enough time in said dark corner to know it wasn’t a pleasant place.
”Hands can do a lot of good, too,” he said. “They’re what lets us hold a pen and write beautiful words that lift the spirit and inspire. They let us hug our families and caress the jaw of a lover… Hands aren’t just for destroying, Tommen.” He raised his left hand then, showing off his wedding band. “See— capable of love, just as they are capable of hurt.”
Sitting back, he nodded as Tommen asked if they actually work. “They do. Just push down on your throat a little and you can already feel the discomfort. These techniques are to help you get away, though, and that should always be the goal. Get away— don’t keep fighting. Running away from a confrontation should be your first intention. Don’t go looking for a fight. But, if you get cornered… use those techniques. I know a few other things that might help you. Like, if someone’s got you pinned to the ground, I know how to get them off you.”
In a weird way, it was like Loras was complimenting him. He’d all but called Tommen scrawny, but he’d also called him intuitive, and Tommen knew that his intuition was something to be admired. He was tenacious and persistent and sometimes too intense for his age, but he loved his intelligence and he thrived on it. The fact that Loras seemed to think it was an admirable trait made Tommen blush a little. Though he hadn’t had a crush on Loras Tyrell in many months, Tommen still felt a little pang of hero worship whenever he received compliments from the man.
The mention of Loras’ father preferring that his children were popular and prosperous made Tommen grin, though it also made his chest tighten. All of the Tyrells — from what Tommen could tell — were obsessed with high society, even as they covered all spectrums of life at TMC. Margaery was one of the most fashionable, well-liked women in London, according to the headlines Tommen saw in the tabloids. He knew the Tyrells didn’t come from old money, the way his family did — the Tyrells had built their empire from the ground up. Tommen admired that; he could understand why it was important to Loras’ father that his children carry prestige with them. Image was important to their family. It hadn’t taken Tommen long to figure that out.
He wondered how his own family felt about its children. Tommen had run away when things had gotten too tough and Myrcella had battened down the hatches and stayed under their mother’s wing. Joffrey was gone. Tommen wasn’t particularly close to his cousins, though he knew that of everyone in his family, he was likely the only one who’d ever willingly abandoned home… Lannisters honored each other, even when they disliked one another. The thought tied Tommen’s stomach into knots. He curled forward a bit, arms wrapped around himself, and furrowed his brow as Loras continued to speak.
The words made sense. He knew that hands were capable of love; his own, in particular, and Jojen’s. Tommen felt his cheeks reddening as he thought of his boyfriend’s hands, long slim fingers and trimmed-down nails that caressed Tommen’s skin like he was made of precious marble. Tommen ducked his head, feeling the tension ease out of him once more, thoughts turning from his family and the mess he’d made to his boyfriend and the love he gave. “That’s true,” he said quietly. “I suppose hands are capable of lots of things.” He bit the inside of his lip and tried to shake the thoughts from his head, not wanting to reveal the nature of his thoughts. (He suspected it wasn’t any use — his cheeks were flushed and his heart was beating a rapid tattoo against his rib cage. Tommen couldn’t hide anything.)
He looked up at Loras, leaning back in his seat. Tommen ran his fingers through his hair — still shaking slightly — and quirked his mouth. “How do you get someone off of you, then?” It seemed odd to be asking Loras for this kind of advice, but Tommen couldn’t help but be curious. He loved asking questions and learning new things. “Have you ever—” He paused, frowning. “Have you ever needed to do any of these things? Do you think—” He took a breath. Do you think they would have helped my brother? “Do you think I’ll need to?”
Pyp’s glad Tommen leaves when he asks about his sister. His response it automatic. His face falls and his stomach sinks. People don’t ask about his sister. Margaery doesn’t ask, knows better than to ask. But of course, Tommen doesn’t know him. “She was younger than me.” he offers up and aches for a cigarette. He takes another drink of his coffee. It’s bitter and harsh and he loves it for that. It’s the perfect jolt to his system to pull himself together.
Tommen talks about not knowing how to cook and Pyp shrugs. “I’ll teach you sometime, if you want,” he offers, assuming this is where Tommen was heading. He’d rather not beat around that bush and make things even more awkward than they could possibly be.
Tommen pours sugar into his tea (he likes it sweet, Pyp notes and files the information away) before offering up anything else. He wants to be a reporter. Like Margaery’s brother. Of course he would. Because Pyp’s life is anything but ironic. Fucking reporters. His cheeks go red when he mentions poetry and Pyp laughs. “Wouldn’t have anything to do with that lad of yours, would it?”
He works his jaw, thinking over what he likes to read. “Russian stuff where everyone is miserable,” he finally offers grinning. He takes another drink from his mug of coffee, raising his eyebrows at Tommen over the mug.
The past tense hits Tommen like a bag of bricks and he sinks a little lower in his seat, frowning. “Oh. I’m sorry,” he murmurs. He watches as Pyp takes a sip of his coffee, unsure if he should keep talking or just slink awkwardly off to his room. It’s not often that Tommen puts his foot in his mouth, but when he does, he feels terrible about it for hours (and sometimes days). He pulls the tea bag out of his mug and sets it on the saucer, careful not to drip on the tablecloth. “I’m the youngest of my siblings. My brother was the oldest,” he volunteers.
Swallowing hard around the sudden lump in his throat, he leans forward to take a sip of his tea and sits up a little straighter. The past tense is only good in fiction, he thinks. In real life, it’s often terrible and tragic and sad, associated with things like death and destruction and past happenings that cannot be rectified no matter what anyone does.
The mention of Jojen makes his heart — which is pounding too hard already — skip a beat. Tommen flushes again and laughs, shaking his head. “We did a poetry unit last year, actually. Though Jojen has made some lovely recommendations.” His cheeks redden more as he thinks about when they first met, when Jojen was still in Scotland and Tommen had a crush on Bran Stark. They’d texted each other poetry and it hadn’t taken long for Tommen to forget about his feelings for Bran entirely.
He took another sip of his tea and grinned. “Tolstoy? Dostoyevsky? Selections from The Brothers Karamazov are on my reading list this year. I might try to tackle the entire book, if the prose isn’t too difficult.”
Tommen was speaking again. More importantly, he was looking at him. He could still see the tension in him, but it wasn’t as bad as before. The fact that he hadn’t just run off and told Lorad to go fuck himself was also a good sign. When Tommen mentioned he was learning to box, Loras quirked a brow, surprised. Why was he learning to box?
”Boxing? You don’t want to learn boxing— that’s a barbaric sport. It’s all about inflicting pain and damaging a person until they can’t even bloody think, let alone see or hear. You get into boxing and you’ll develope cauliflower ear. You need something that plays to your strengths, Tommen. You’re not a man who can use his brawn because you’ve got no brawn, frankly. You need something that highlights your strengths— which is your speed and your intelligence. Fighting should be a dance, and the only boxers who could dance have long since retired. Have you seen what boxing did to Muhammad Ali? It’s completely destroyed him.”
Loras realized he was getting protective of Tommen. It was odd, but there it was. He couldn’t believe someone was teaching him such a violent sport, though. The kid clearly wasn’t a fighter, and even less a bloody boxer. He was calculating and fast— his slight stature good for more subtle forms of self-defence. Loras didn’t want him getting hurt, and he knew he’d be hurt in boxing. “You need something like aikido— you know, a form of self defence that plays to your mental strength as much as your physical one, and that doesn’t injure your attacker, just gets them off you for a while.”
Bloody boxing. Loras wanted to laugh.
”Check into aikido, okay? Or something else. Just not boxing, alright? Don’t push yourself into a fighting style you’re not suited for.” Loras had been so into telling Tommen not to go into such a violent sport, he’d almost forgotten he’d asked about fencing. “I took fencing because I knew it would play to my strengths. Taught me to be quick on my feet and think while I was fighting. Thinking is key— knowing your opponents next move is critical when you’re in a fight; any type of fight. Fencing is all about reading another person. Fencing is a true dance. I got into it because my Dad wanted me to— it’s an ‘elite’ sport, and he figured we’d be more elite if I did it. I stopped in university, though. It was either fencing or football, and I prefered playing footie. Which, by the way, is another sport that is great for hand-eye coordination.”
Tommen shook his head. “Well, not boxing like the proper sport, more— how to throw punches and use my weight? What else am I meant to call it, other than boxing?” Loras told him he needed to learn something that didn’t require braun and Tommen scrunched up his nose, wanting to be insulted but knowing, ultimately, that Loras was right. Tommen was rail thin and still going through growth spurts. He’d grown several inches over the last two years and suspected he’d be growing even more, given that despite preferring his jeans baggy and his school trousers a bit long, he still had to replace them every few months or look like an absolute idiot. Tommen knew he wouldn’t always be small, or thin, or even fast. At some point, his metabolism would slow down and he’d stop growing and everything would thicken a bit. But he also knew that wouldn’t happen any time soon, and tried to pay attention to what Loras was suggesting.
It was odd, for his former mentor to be so vehement in his advice giving. Loras had always been open about his critiques and willing to answer Tommen’s questions, but he’d never been quite as intense as he was being right now. It was odd for Tommen — it was almost as if Loras was trying to protect him, which wasn’t out of character but wasn’t exactly normal, either. In the entire time they’d known each other, Loras had always been a professionally-distanced mentor or the boyfriend-cum-husband of Tommen’s uncle. They’d bonded, most certainly, but Loras had never been so expressive about a topic like Tommen’s safety. It was odd and a little thrilling, if he was being honest.
He couldn’t help but hear Pyp in the back of his head, though, telling Tommen that drunk fucks in pubs just want to hit — so hit them back. “Aikido? I’ll see if there are any classes available,” Tommen said slowly. He wasn’t lying — there was an odd sense of exhilaration that came from the kind of physical activity involved in fighting, even when he was only facing off against giant bags of sand or Pyp’s outstretched palms. Tommen wouldn’t mind learning other techniques for protecting himself, even if it did seem inevitable that presented with the situation, he’d probably have to really hurt someone to get free.
Tommen didn’t like to think about it too much, or what it meant for his life and how things had changed. Nothing was as it once had been.