Tommen is so far from her that she dares not reach out for him for fear he will bolt, run off and leave her standing there, alone. Not unlike he did that frightful day back at Lannister Street, when he spit truths in her face and she slapped him for good measure. He left her, back then, so she’s careful to keep still this once. No matter how much she wishes to pull him to her, and never let him go again. You’re mine.
But her son won’t look at her, his eyes trained on the glass in his hands, hiding behind his hair and a wall of frozen indifference, and of all the ice she’s had to deal with tonight (Rhaegar’s, Jaime’s) this is the worst. Because Tommen used to come into her bed when he was scared, and she would tell him stories, make up fairytales that would calm his nerves when the monsters under his bed were too big and scary for a child of four. Tommen used to call her mum, whereas Joffrey sometimes called her Sarabi. She has forgotten what that feels like: Tommen doesn’t need her now, and when Myrcella says the word, it’s always with a hint of resentment.
She turns to the waitress then, orders a vodka, straight, and the glass almost materialises before her eyes before she’s had the chance to murmur a thank you. When Tommen speaks again, it’s small talk. Compared to this, tonight she’s had warmer conversations with people whose names she can barely recall.
"Tommen, don’t treat me like a stranger," she says, shaking her head and frowning. "I’m your mother." The word itself is painful, and so is Tommen’s cold shoulder. She refuses to believe it doesn’t hurt, for him, as much as it does for her. That it doesn’t feel as if something has been ripped away from him, the way it does to her. "Are you quite done with this farce? I am getting tired of the rebellious act." Sweetness won’t get her anywhere, and if there’s anything she’s learnt from her father it’s that sometimes an iron fist will achieve more than a velvet glove.
She tells him not to treat her like a stranger, reminding him that she’s his mother — as though he could forget a thing like that. As though it doesn’t keep him awake most nights, knowing that even if he wants to run far away and never return, he can’t. Not really. He’s a Lannister by blood (just a Lannister, only a Lannister and the thought of that still makes him want to hurl). He’s Cersei Lannister’s son. No matter where he goes, no matter how long he stays away, he will always be her son. There was a time in Tommen’s life when that would have been a comforting thought — he’s always felt like his family members didn’t really want him around, though his mum less than the others. Now he wishes they could separate themselves properly.
"It’s amazing how one can be related to someone by blood and not really know anything about them," he says quietly. He bites the inside of his lip and tries to calm his racing heart; he’s still not used to biting back, to showing his claws and proving himself the lion he was born to be. He’s especially not used to doing any of these things to Cersei, though there’s a little thrill in the feeling, as well. "You might be my mother, but that doesn’t mean you’re not a stranger."
If possible, the air between them chills even more. Tommen disguises a shiver with a shift against the bar, taking another sip of his drink and focusing too intently on the way he sets the glass back on the bar, little drops of condensation catching in the lines of his palm and wetting his skin. Her next words have a venom in them that he doesn’t expect. He clenches his hand around his glass, pain catching in his chest so tight that he feels like he can’t breathe. It hurts, not wanting to belong to the family he’s always been desperate to understand. It hurts and it makes him nauseous and he hates the whole thing, but he doesn’t know how else to cope other than to stay away.
Finally, he looks away from his glass and directly at his mother. Their gazes catch and he feels his chest tighten even more; he wants to run again, wants to call for Margaery and beg her to protect him from the realness of this moment. But he can’t. He has to deal on his own, just like he’s been doing this whole time. He has to stand up to Cersei his own way and learn how to deal with this as Tommen.
"I hardly think it counts as rebellion if it’s not being done solely to spite you," he tells her. "Self-preservation surely counts as more than just acting out for the sake of it."
Jaime rolled his eyes at the statement; it was something children said. He would have pointed that out, but he didn’t think Tommen would take too kindly to that, and Jaime was keeping on his good side until Tommen let him in. After that, Jaime could tell him whatever he liked. He was the boy’s father, after all, he had that right.
He could suppress his smirk when Tommen called him Jaime; he knew this was serious business, the children finding out, but Jaime found it all incredibly amusing. So what? At least they were born out of love and all that bollocks, rather than out of a one night stand and left with an incapable mother. Cersei loved her children: they should be grateful for that, rather than running off like five-year-olds.
Jaime snorted at that - he knew that Margaery Tyrell would hate him being there, and he had to admit that pissing her off by coming up was something that appealed to him greatly. Tommen didn’t sound like he’d let him in though, so Jaime was just about to open his mouth and come up with some other way of getting up, but then Tommen was telling him he could come up but not in, and that was enough, Jaime thought, for now at least. Maybe when Jaime started talked, he’d even change his mind. “Oh yes, loud and clear,” he told him, the amusement in his voice as evident as ever.
At least he had a chance, even if he’d have to do it from outside the flat. It was more than he’d expected, anyway, so that was something.
Tommen pushed the buzzer to let Jaime into the building and immediately regretted it. What was he doing? Speaking to Jaime wouldn’t accomplish anything other than making him feel even sicker to his stomach; Tommen didn’t really have the time for a drawn-out, emotional conversation; he had plans and a beautiful boy waiting for him. What was he doing? He hadn’t a clue. Tommen ran his fingers through his hair again, distressed and irritated, and then went to the door to open it. If he met Jaime near the lift and kept him in the corridor, it might make the meeting shorter and less intense. Surely there wasn’t much Jaime could say if he didn’t want the neighbors overhearing the content of their conversation, right?
He walked down the hall to the lift doors and leaned against the wall, pulling his phone out and texting Jojen to let him know he might be running a bit late. Tommen didn’t want him to worry. He had no idea how long this talk might take, nor whether he’d be in an emotional state that allowed for travel through the city immediately afterward. Tommen silently cursed his mother’s twin for putting him in this position and tilted his head back, closing his eyes and swallowing hard.
The lift dinged a moment later and he opened his eyes, standing up and pushing away from the wall. Tommen folded his arms across his chest and took a deep breath, eyes alighting on Jaime when he stepped out of the lift. Tommen bit the inside of his bottom lip and then quirked an eyebrow.
"Well, you’ve been let up. What’ve you got to say that’s so important?"
Pyp blinks, a little thrown by Tommen’s question. Objectively, he knows the kid’s grown up in a family with the nation’s biggest stick up its ass. Of course the kid wouldn’t know that you’re allowed to act out of decorum, that you can access the hurt that builds like flame under the veneer of pleasantries. “I was hurt—I knew that she’d have a better chance with the family that adopted her, but she was all I had and I was pissed because she left and because I let her leave,” he says after a silence, circling the rim of his long-forgotten coffee with the tip of his index finger. “And of course, I hated myself for wanting to keep her all to myself.”
The kid has a look of sheer confusion on his face—maybe it’s not exactly that he’s confused by what Pyp is saying, but what’s going on under his own skin, yet Pyp elaborates. “So I got into fights, I fucked shit up and fucked myself up—I was lucky enough to get adopted by a policeman when I was doing my GCSEs or else I would’ve ended up in jail.”
Tommen throws Pyp a look of horror when he called Nietzsche ”almost Russian”. Pyp chokes on a laugh, throwing his head back, shoulders shaking with the force of his laughter. “You’re too smart for your own good, kid.”
“No but all those bastards were so unhappy and for the large part, I’ve been rather unhappy so I found kinship there,” he offers in explanation. “As for Nietzche, well—let’s do a formula type here—an unhappy man, who reads about unhappy men and feels as though there is no existence of mercy or a higher power, why might that person be interested in Nietzche?” He lets the boy mull it over for a moment before continuing, “God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. Yet his shadow still looms. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us?”
He’s a little shocked when Tommen says he doesn’t think he could hit things. “Everyone can hit things. All that’s really in it is conviction and keeping your thumb outside your fist.”
For some reason, the word ‘adopted’ throws Tommen off completely. The way Pyp had spoken, Tommen had assumed his sister had died — though he wonders if that’s what it’s like to lose a sibling to adoption, to be forced to give them up to another family other than your own. (Briefly, he wonders if he’s technically been adopted by the Tyrells, and what that means for his relationship with Myrcella. How does she see him now? Does she miss him? They’ve both lost Joffrey, but they’ve lost each other too. Just in different ways. Tommen isn’t sure how he’s meant to reconcile all of that, but he knows that it makes him want to cry every time he thinks about it all.)
He smiles a little when Pyp mentions the policeman who adopted him, glad for the fact that Pyp was able to find someone to take him in. He’s very gruff in his demeanor and Tommen knows that when Margy’s family find out who she’s dating, there will be lots of judgmental looks and snide comments because Pyp doesn’t at all fit the right mold. In that way, he reminds Tommen a bit of Jojen. He flushes a bit and tries to shake off the thought.
"I’ll take that as a compliment," he says with a grin. "I’m impressed you know that entire quote. You know it’s meant to be more about the idea of God than God Himself, though, don’t you? We have killed the base idea of God by establishing institutionalized religion. We’ve taken the word of God and bastardized it to suit our own desires and needs as humans. God is dead and we have killed him, but we haven’t killed the actual God — only what He is meant to represent.”
He sits back in his seat and clears his throat, feeling pedantic and embarrassed. Pyp is an adult; Tommen shouldn’t be correcting him or debating with him this way. It’s not proper, but he has to admit it’s a little bit fun. He’s not usually taken seriously when he debates these things; he’s always seen as just a kid with a nose in a book.
Pyp’s explanation of hitting things startles a laugh from Tommen. “I’m just not violent, really. I never have been. My brother was always quick to anger…” He trails off, considering, remembering the night Joffrey hit Myrcella and Tommen jumped into the fray. “I suppose, in a way, I am as well, but I’m still not prone to physical violence… I wouldn’t even know how to defend myself if I had to.” He frowns. “I’m not sure Joffrey knew, either.” His heart falls like a stone.
Tommen was calming, and Loras mentally let out a gigantic sigh of relief. He’d come to make things up to Margaery, not create more troubles with those around him— especially when the person he was pissing off was a Lannister and Margaery’s guest, not to mention a fragile kid. Loras had been his mentor once, and it felt good to make Tommen light up a little bit under his guidance— even if it was on how to take out a bloke and not interview him. He couldn’t rightly talk about journalism like he had an credibility anymore, but he could talk to Tommen about how to keep himself safe.
”If a guy has got you pinned on the ground, there are a few ways to get out of his grasp. First, if your arms aren’t pinned, get them in between the attackers arms and push out on his bent elbows. That’ll get him off balance and you can use your body to roll him off of you. You just keep your arms braced on the sides of his and roll to the side, almost literally throwing him off of you. As soon as he’s down make a break for it. If he’s got your arms pinned, you push up, right? And as you push up you’re going to force the guy to push down, making his weight more top-heavy. Once he’s pushing down, you sort of like… jerk your arms out to the side, spreading his arms apart and causing him to fall forward. As he falls forward, slam your head into his face.” He was trying to show Tommen some of the moves while sitting up, and he hoped they made sense, not sure if he really wanted to perform them on Tommen, lest Margaery come home to see him fighting her roommate.
”Anyways, once you’ve hit him with your head, move one of your arms back in tight against your body, making him bend his arm. You then sort of… hook your leg under his arse and lift your hips and toss him off to the side, like with the first move. When he’s lying beside you, you’re also going to have a good groin shot so you can just knee the bloke right in his cock and balls. Don’t be afraid to hit a man there. Also don’t be afraid to hit a guy under his jaw. You kick a guy at his jaw and it is going to hurt. You’ve also got a chance of making him bite his tongue.”
He could think of multiple ways to get away, really, but he was trying to stick with the basics— show Tommen that fists weren’t the only way to inflict damage. He’d learned how to defend himself thanks to his brother Garlan’s help, and he was grateful for it, having come out of scuffles with little more than a few bruises and the occasional pulled muscle. He was tall and lanky, but he didn’t have a lot of power behind his wiry muscles. He’d learned to use his body to his advantage, and not make it into something it wasn’t. He’d never been seriously hurt, and for that he was incredibly lucky.
Tommen asking if he’d ever been pinned down made Loras laugh, and before he could stop himself he made a remark he probably shouldn’t have, given the company. “Well, Renly has certainly pinned me down on more than one occasion, but that was always something I wanted.” He lost his smug smile when he realized that Renly was Tommen’s uncle. “I mean, yeah, of course I have. Just in a few scuffles here and there. I mean, when there is an actual fight going on, you usually forget all the fancy moves and tricks boxing and other places teach you, unless you’ve been practicing for years and it becomes muscle memory. In the real world, when it’s all chaos around you and you can’t rightly think, using natural reactions such as twisting and using your own momentum is whats going to get you out of a scrap. I’ve used these techniques to avoid losing a few teeth and breaking my nose.”
Tommen asking if he’d ever have to use his advice made Loras pause, finally piecing together where this had all come from. He was afraid the same thing would happen to him— he was afraid he’d be attacked like his brother and father. Loras felt like the biggest idiot then, having not realized sooner that this was about something bigger— something more serious than Tommen figuring he’d get in a few pub brawls in university.
”Hey, Tommen— look at me.” Leaning forward on the table, he ducked his head to meet his gaze, his expression serious but soft. “Your safe, yeah? I mean… no one is going to hurt you, okay? What happened to your father was really messed up and I know it’s messing with you, and I sort of know how it feels. When Renly got hit I… I freaked. I’m still… I mean, I’m still worried. Really, really worried. I’m actually scared shitless.” It was coming out now and Loras couldn’t stop it. He hadn’t told anyone about how scared he was for Renly and all his loved ones. About how he thought they were going to be taken from him at any moment; about how he stayed up for hours on end paranoid he’d receive a call that someone had died or that Renly would stop breathing next to him; about how everything was uncertain and how scared Loras was. But he was telling Tommen in an attempt to show him that it was okay to be scared so long as he kept moving. “B-But we gotta stay strong, yeah? You’re under the care of the Tyrells now, and we grow strong and we stay strong. Nothing is going to break us if we stick together, and nothing will break you, okay? We just need to… k-keep going. Not panic and just… keep going.”
Tommen’s eyes widened as he watched Loras awkwardly demonstrate what he was talking about, wondering when on earth it was ever likely that some bloke he didn’t know or want would somehow have him pinned to the ground. But realistically, he knew it was possible; he’d read and seen enough to understand violence and how it could be completely random. If ever he was in a situation like the one his former mentor was describing, it would be good to know how to get out of it. However, another part of him wondered if he’d even be able to recall this conversation — or any potential training — in the heat of a moment like that one. Tommen wasn’t instinctively a fighter. What happened if he was put into a situation and couldn’t get out of it, regardless how much preparation he had going in?
"How am I meant to remember all of that if I’m being attacked, though?" he asked seriously, his voice a little breathless. Tommen cleared his throat and sat up, shaking his head. "I mean, fight or flight kicks in at a certain point and instinct takes over, I know, but what happens if I just can’t think of what to do or how to protect myself? Do you think that ever happens to people?" It occurred to him that he was being a bit too paranoid for a hypothetical conversation about self defense, especially one that began with the mere mention of Pyp’s lessons, but Tommen couldn’t help it. Asking questions was in his nature and his imagination was always going at a million miles a minute. He created incredibly vivid pictures in his mind and then considered them, detailed them, brought them to life. So he was processing this information the only way he knew how: by imagining and inventing and asking a lot of questions. (He hoped, someday, these skills would make him a great journalist and writer.)
Loras made a comment about being pinned down by Renly that made Tommen blush fiercely. He’d been pinned down by Jojen on more than one occasion and liked every second of it, but he somehow felt like that wasn’t an appropriate response to Loras’ obvious slip of the tongue. Instead, Tommen ignored the comment, hoping his blush would die down. Loras’ answer to Tommen’s questions about what happens if he forgot what he’d learned made him nod, considering. He supposed there was a modicum of instinctual fight to everyone, regardless how bad they were at fighting or standing up for themselves in a physical sense. That gave Tommen a little bit of hope.
Then the conversation turned suddenly serious. The sharp tone of Loras’ voice startled him and Tommen looked directly at the man, meeting his gaze, which seemed to burn right into him. Tommen resisted the urge to tug at his hair or bite his lip; he knew that he was being utterly transparent and that whatever Loras had to say, it was probably important. Tommen swallowed hard and tried not to think about the way the mob had been described on the news or the images he’d seen blasted across the internet in the days following the event. Tommen listened carefully, his chest constricting at the way Loras stumbled over his words, so serious but clearly just as terrified as Tommen.
"I know I am," he said softly. "But so was Joffrey." He dropped his gaze and fisted his hands in the material of his trousers, biting the inside of his lip. Tommen’s insides felt twisted up and cold, like old pasta that’s congealed in the pot. It hurt and he didn’t want to think about it; he didn’t want to consider his own mortality in the face of his brother’s, in the face of everything. Tommen tried hard to blank out his mind, to forget the images and the footage and everything that haunted his dreams at night. He saw enough when his eyes were closed; he didn’t need to see in the daylight, too. Tommen took a deep breath and scooted back in his seat, sitting up too straight to be comfortable. Tommen met Loras’ eyes again and nodded once, jerkily. "Thank you. I’m really grateful to Margy for taking me in and for everything that your family has done for me. I won’t take it for granted. I promise."
It is easier to concentrate on the music, the beats and playing the game of trying to figure out what the singer says before he says it. It also helps take her mind of the pain and generally puts her in a rather mellow mood, better than the earlier tiredness and irritation she felt. Shireen isn’t comfortable enough to leave the warmth of Tommen’s side just yet, but his mention of Myrcella nearly makes her recoil back. There is an itchiness at her finger tips, something that reminds her of guilt, like the time she stole her mother’s lipstick and kept it under her pillow, pretending to be some sort of famous movie star and she wants to tell him about the meeting she had with his sister, but there is a stone in her throat that makes it harder for her to say anything regarding the subject.
Even Shireen can see how upset Tommen is over the whole thing and spitefully, she thinks that maybe he shouldn’t have left. Then she frowns because it was rather horrible of her to think such a thing. He was probably having some issues at home that she didn’t feel was appropriate for her to pry into. “Gosh, I keep losing.” She was supposed to ask her father to teach her, but there had been no time, with her falling sick and the constant need for his attention elsewhere. Pressing matters, she thought to herself, country matters. Chess could wait. “Oh Tommen, I couldn’t possibly tax you to get me a set of pastel. You’re busy too, I’m sure.” she says, but it isn’t his schedule she was worried about.
Did he even have any money? Of course he did, she thinks, Aunt Cersei would never let him go penniless, but she still worries and it gnaws away at her restrain until she finally cracks. “Why did you leave?” she asks softly, turning her head slightly to look at him. She hopes he can see the honest worry in her eyes and that he knows she doesn’t mean to pry. “I’m just worried about you.” I’m worried about Myrcella too, she wants to say, but somehow it feels almost insensitive to bring up his sister. “You don’t have to tell me.” she adds on quickly, settling her head back against his shoulder, just so he doesn’t have the feel of her staring at him. She doesn’t want to guilt him into telling her.
"Maybe you can teach me and we can learn how to win together," he suggests, laughing. Tommen presses a kiss to the top of her head and squeezes her gently, an affectionate set of gestures. When she tries to deny his gift suggestion, he shakes his head and squeezes her again. "Hobbit, please. Your art is beautiful. It’s not a bother. I wouldn’t volunteer if it was." He frowns, thinking about how utterly terrible it would be if she couldn’t continue to do art. She’s always loved it and Tommen has always felt that it helps her cope. He’s not good at art, himself, but there’s a vague notion in the back of his mind that if he ever writes a book, Shireen will be the one to do the cover art and illustrations. He wouldn’t let anyone else.
They’re quiet for a moment and Tommen feels his eyes drifting shut, the comfort and safety of being with his cousin making him want to sleep and just ignore the rest of the world for a while. But then Shireen shifts and he looks down at her, their eyes meeting as she speaks. His heart comes to a complete stop at her question; he isn’t expecting it, though he thinks he probably should be. Why did he leave? And why doesn’t he have a lie concocted to explain his disappearance from the family home, since there’s no way he can reveal to anyone the actual reasons for his flight?
Tommen takes a breath and looks away from her, furrowing his brow. Shireen is quick to say she’s worried, to reassure him that he doesn’t have to tell her. But he has to tell her something. And he’s never really lied to her. He’s not sure that he can do it even now, when the answer is so terrible. Tommen takes another breath, his lungs seeming to rattle with it. He meets her eyes once more, his own wide and guileless and terrified. Swallowing hard around the lump in his throat, he breathes a laugh and shakes his head, never taking his eyes from hers.
"I couldn’t stay," he says softly. It’s not a lie, but his heart still pounds, the words nowhere near enough to the truth for his nerves to calm. Tommen’s lifts a shaking hand to his hair, brushing it out of his eyes. "It’s… fuck. Shireen, everything got so messed up so fast and I couldn’t be there without my skin crawling every time I had to talk to anyone other than Myrcella." The words blur together, consonants dropping and making him sound a lot more like Jojen than like himself. Tommen barely notices; pulls at his hair, the pain grounding, and nibbles on the inside of his bottom lip. What can he say that has any substance? What can he tell the only person other than his sister who’s always been there for him?
I’m not really your cousin, he thinks, and feels his chest constrict so much that it feels like his heart is in a vice. If you knew, I don’t think you’d even want to be my friend. He isn’t a fool. He doesn’t expect anyone to react the way Jojen did, all calming words and soothing hands; Tommen still can’t quite believe that his boyfriend still loves him, doesn’t look at him and see only what he’s made of. Tommen swallows hard and takes several deep breaths, trying to calm his racing heart and uncomfortable thoughts.
"I don’t know how to explain it without sounding absolutely mad, but if I’d stayed, it wouldn’t have ended well at all."
Everything tells her to keep away, to mantain her position at Rhaegar’s side and smile, and shake hands. It’s her job, it’s what she is here for. A mission even, one her father takes seriously. There would be no forgivance if she were to fail. But when Cersei sees Tommen alone at the bar, everything seems to blur out and her face falls. She did not expect to see him there. Maybe she hoped he would not, because it might hurt to see him. And it does, now. She only manages keeping still for a few seconds, only half listening to whatever conversation Rhaegar is carrying. Her hand slides off his arm and she excuses herself. Rhaegar barely glances at her as she walks away. No one notices.
He is alone. Cersei looks around as she crosses the room, catching a glimpse of Margaery Tyrell talking to her brother; her steps grow quicker, one foot in front of the other, the gown swaying at her ankles. There’s no question her son is there with the Tyrell climber: trust Margaery Tyrell to parade Cersei Lannister’s son as a token of victory. Cersei’s stomach turns and she almost reaches into her purse to fetch her phone.
I’ll call Clegane. I’ll have Tommen dragged back kicking and screaming to Lannister Street. It’s not what he wants but it’s what I want, and in time he’ll learn to live with it. My decisions will be his decisions. I am his mother, I have a right to it. He is mine. He belongs to me.
Her son is engrossed in the small device in his hands, and Cersei halts at his side. She sees him stiffen, and she wonders what gave her away. Or maybe, it’s just that he could feel her there. Blood is ticker than water, that much she knows. She clears her throat and leans back against the bar, facing the ballroom instead. She keeps her voice low when she speaks, although she knows it’s a useless precaution.
“You know, Arianne Martell is a peculiar individual.” Back in Lannister Street, before the gala, she warned the rest of the family of Arianne’s filthy little tricks. She was a victim once, and she would never give that particular viper chance to sink her fangs into a Lannister again. Tommen would know, if only he’d been there with them before the gala. ”She likes to throw parties to mind other people’s business. She had no shame doing that at her own father’s memorial.” Glee fills her at the thought of Arianne Martell listening to those words: seething. “Each and every one of these people are in for a thorough metaphorical search, come the morrow.”
It’s a casual conversation, casual enough that no one would suspect otherwise. But what she really means to say is, watch what you say.
Watch what you say about me.
Cersei leans back against the bar, not facing him, and Tommen stares determinedly at the condensation gathering on the outside of his water glass. His hair falls into his eyes just enough that if he ducks his head, he knows his eyes won’t be visible if she turns to look at him. He does just that, tilting his gaze down, quietly slipping his phone into his pocket. It vibrates almost instantly and he ignores it, though it pains him. He had hoped to avoid seeing his mother tonight, but of course that isn’t possible. It’s never possible to avoid people at events like this one. Tommen should have said no when Margaery asked him to be her date.
The sound of her voice after so many weeks without is startling. Tommen’s heart rate increases, just a little; she’s talking about Arianne Martell, about spying and eavesdropping. Tommen knows that the conversation starter isn’t random. She’s warning him. He wonders if Myrcella heard the same speech, if grandad chimed in with his own opinions on the Martells and their bad habits. Tommen sucks in a breath and sits up, reaching for his glass.
He sips at his water calmly, slowly, taking his time. Then he sits up a little straighter, pushing his fingers through his hair. The bartender catches his eye as she walks past to serve another guest and he smiles at her, then drops the expression immediately. He folds his hands on the bar, fingers interlaced, and thinks about how to respond. A part of Tommen wants to reveal what he knows, wants to pitch his mother and her twin under the metaphorical bus. But the rest of him recoils at the idea of the entire world knowing the truth of his parentage, the truth of Myrcella’s and Joffrey’s. As much as it disgusts Tommen to know the truth, it terrifies him more to think that other people could learn the truth, too.
"I suppose they’d best be careful what they say, then," he says, still not looking at her. Tommen clears his throat. It’s enough, he thinks. I’ll be careful what I say. I promise. He thinks he might owe her that, though he doesn’t want to admit it aloud. “If the media captured any of the secrets this society holds, they’d have a field day.”
Tommen takes another sip of his water, resisting the urge to look at her. He isn’t sure what to say. Last time they spoke, he’d opted to leave home rather than listen to anything she had to say regarding what he’d learned about their family. To see him here with Margaery must be crawling under his mother’s skin like so many worms; he knows how she feels about Margy and how Margy feels about her. In some ways, it makes him feel absurdly victorious. This battle between him and his mother has only just begun and though Tommen has never been a soldier, he’s learning how to arm himself and fight.
"Are you enjoying yourself thus far?" he asks calmly, voice void of emotion. "It must be odd not to be the hostess for once."
The boy’s face goes dark when the past tense registers. Pyp instantly wants to retract the statement, remembers the boy’s father and brother’s faces blasted across the BBC not a few weeks ago. And then of course, to make the knife twist the kid tries to mention his brother in passing. The hurt’s raw and Pyp can see that. “When my sister… when we weren’t together anymore I did such stupid shit.” He wishes his coffee had whiskey in it. “But, I had to do it—because I had to feel it, you know?” He sighs and circles his thumb over the rim of his coffee mug.
The silence that hangs between them is awkward and heavy and Pyp drags a hand through his hair. “Tolstoy, mostly. A little Nietzche even though he’s not exactly a Russian,” he says lamely. He wants this conversation to end or maybe to offer the kid a drink.
“‘S why I read pissed off, drunk Russian men’s writing,” he says and aches for a cigarette but he’s sure Margaery would kill him if he smoked in here. “It’s okay to feel like hitting something or being angry.” Pyp shrugs. “Or to feel anything at all, really.”
Tommen furrows his brow, staring at the lip of his mug with too much concentration. “What do you mean, you had to feel it?” His voice is quiet when he asks, the words firm but still somehow hesitant. Tommen doesn’t know how to talk to people about loss, but this year, he’s learning. He has no choice. He’s sure the losses aren’t over — he’s known, objectively, that as people get older, important figures in their lives pass away. But violent deaths are different. Tommen doesn’t know quite how to deal with any of it, but especially not the violence.
As the conversation turns toward books, Tommen picks his head up and looks at Pyp with a frown. Then he laughs. “Nietzsche is German! You can’t say he’s ‘not exactly’ Russian. That’s ridiculous.” His laughter spirals, almost hysterical, but it’s genuinely mirthful. Tommen knows he’s more well-read than most, even people who are clearly older than him, but he can’t help it. It’s far too hilarious.
"Of course it’s okay to feel things, though Nietzsche didn’t really believe that, either. Pyp, have you actually read any of his work? It’s all very self-contradictory, but it’s interesting. Formative, for current philosophical thought." Tommen smiles wide and leans back in his seat. "I’ve never been much for hitting things… I don’t know that I could if I tried."