Written for Yuletide 2011 for luvscharlie.
The title is from Florence & The Machine's Howl, and the quote at the beginning from Richard Siken's Little Beast.
You could drown in those eyes, I said
so it's summer, so it's suicide
so we're helpless in sleep and struggling at the bottom of the pool.
She had flowers woven into her hair the first time he kissed her, and her mouth tasted of honey, and she was altogether too much for a boy who dreamt of dying with a sword in his hand and blood splattered on his lips. Lannister blood, blood stronger and better than the Targaryens', but when the madness did not flow through the blood it flowed through the heart, and Jaime could not remember a time when he could look at Cersei and feel completely comfortable.
Maybe it had never existed, maybe there was no place where one of them stopped and the other began; threads of experience wrapping around them hard enough to make separation hurt; and Jaime could never help falling into her like a dream, a prophesy, and he knew he was doomed for it, but it never mattered, it could never have mattered because there was never any other choice.
They were like mirror images of each other, except that when Jaime stepped to the side, Cersei didn't, stubbornly refusing to follow anyone, so that it usually fell to him to shadow her, running to catch up while he still could, until it became a familiar pattern; a walk to tread through the silent night.
He was still flushed from morning training, sweat pooling across his skin even though he'd removed the armour, when he found Cersei sitting on a low branch, her legs swinging idly beneath her dress, bright and colourfully stark against her skin.
The sun was shining, turning Cersei into a statue of gold, fluid in its own solidity, and for once he thought that maybe the smallfolk were right about their father, for surely the gold lining their pockets and treasuries had reached deep down by now, rooting itself in their veins, hardening hearts from within. Their father said that the two true Lannister children were gold personified, the future of their great House, but they were far too broken for that, and Tyrion was, in truth, far more a Lannister than either of them could ever be. But no one would ever admit that.
"Come down," Jaime called, leaning against the trunk. It was uneven, bumpy and curving as if straining to become Northern, reaching for far-off apotheosis, as if any of them could become something by virtue of wishing it, could have something for the taking the minute it crossed their mind.
To be a dragonking, perhaps, he thought, for the Targaryens married their sisters and no septon dared to mutter a word against it, and they were bold and as unforgiving of their enemies as Father, and being a Targaryen would have been easy in comparison.
But Father was just as unforgiving of failure, and wanting to give away your bloodline could be nothing but, no matter how happy it would make you, because happiness did not matter to Lannisters, only success and failure, winning displayed on both sides of the tossed coin.
"No," Cersei yelled down, because she never seemed able to grit her teeth and just give in, and it had gotten her into so much trouble with the septa responsible for her that Father had sent the poor woman away, because failure was never due to Lannisters.
So he climbed up instead, pulling himself up by thick branches, fully aware of her eyes on him the whole time, heady and familiar.
She leant her head against his shoulder when he'd manouvered himself into a fairly comfortable position, and muttered something he didn't hear about the annoying daughters of their bannermen.
"They're not worthy of you," he said anyway.
"Obviously," his sister replied, and slid herself neatly off the branch; one minute there and the next not, in a manner Jaime was going to get very used to in the years ahead.
He wasn't then, though, so he followed her instead, because if he could jump off the cliffs at Casterly Rock, he could do this too, even though it was nowhere near as fun.
Cersei was still there, leaning against the tree in a mirror of his earlier action, the sunlight streaming through the trees around them making her glow, an endless expanse of gold skin, and Jaime almost couldn't help it, pushing her back against the tree, and waiting for some sign.
She pressed back against him, the flowers falling from her hair. Her mouth was soft, but she kissed like it was a challenge, as stubbornly harsh as the knights on the training ground, as if every concession was a weakness she could never forgive herself for.
His sister, the perfect Lannister heir who couldn't inherit. Jaime was beginning to wonder whether the Seven secretly hated them; giving all the appearance of ridiculous favour only for their gifts to turn out worthless.
When he finally pulled away, she was flushed, her hair mussed and messy from his fingers, so he leant back in, smiling against her lips, because Cersei hated doing anything by halves.
She was perfect like this; warm and almost pliable against him, fingers tight and nearly painful in his hair.
This was all he would remember of that day, alone so many years later: that it was summer, and the sunlight made her hair glow golden, House colours against a pale face; that she was alone, and the trees cast shadows behind them, and that for once Cersei's smile was kind.
It was the last time he would ever be able to think of his sister as his sister, without knowing how she felt pressed up against him, growing fingernails sinking into the forming muscle at his shoulders, and wanting her all the same.
Jaime did not bleed, but the inprint of the marks remained there through constant renewal, and when they couldn't meet, he sat down in front of a mirror and tried to replicate them, stretching to claw at his own arm until there was shared blood beneath his nails, but the marks felt fake and entirely wrong, and he could not think of Cersei while looking at them.
Their next time, she scratched at him again, like an angry cat, a lion perhaps, and drew blood, tearing his feeble self-inflicted imitations apart, blood on both her and him just as easily as it flowed through them both.
He wanted to mark her as well, twin scars formed in twin passion, twin pleasure, like a patchwork of memories to remember each other by when clothing brushed idly past skin on a windy walk. But she pushed him away, spitting insults about secrecy, and excuses, and was he stupids.
No, he wanted to say; I am you, and you are me, and we are each other; because they came into this world as twins, and so they would leave the same way, with nothing else in-between. But Jaime stayed silent because her eyes were dark and narrowed, and she tossed back her hair and flounced out of the room.
He did not see her again that day; but like so many, the quarrel was forgotten in the morning.
Some days she came to him, just handing him her comb and turning her back, waiting for him to brush it through her hair. It never needed it, but Jaime did it all the same; blonde waves turning to spun gold under his fingers; though his work was undone soon after, Cersei heavy in his lap as she leant up to kiss him and kiss him, his hands cradling her head.
She pulled at his hair, running her hands through it and gripping as if trying to wrench it all out, but it was less obvious with him, and clothes were hard enough to pull back on urgently.
"Missing the skirts?" she laughed, arching her head back so it seemed almost as if Jaime were pulling her backwards by her own hair.
"Hardly," he replied, laying the comb aside and reaching out for her. "This is much easier."
Cersei shot him a wicked look over her shoulder, then turned around fully, her hands by-passing his and pushing him back against the bed instead.
Jaime let himself fall back, and it only took a minute before she was on him with a flurry of skirts.
"Easier, is it?" she asked, her hand falling down to his breeches, grinning widely as his head fell back with a slight moan. "Easier?"
"Yes," he insisted, trying to concentrate on staring up at her. "You could just slip your hand – "
She rubbed at him. "You know, if you were still unbreached, I could just slip my hand up," she lifted her skirts up by her other hand, then ran her fingers up her own bare leg to her cunt. "Like this," she said, slowly sliding them in through the light hair.
Jaime couldn't decide where to look; Cersei's smooth fingers sliding in and out of her already slick cunt, or her face, where bliss warred with mirth for dominance, her mouth gasping reluctantly open. Instead, he reached out with his own hand, wrapping it around hers, and moved with her.
Cersei twisted her fingers as if to pull away from him, angling them up, and moaned in sudden shock.
He snatched his hand away as abruptly as when she hit him. "Are you alright?"
She looked up at him, eyes wide, and Jaime realised with a shock how young they both truly were. "Do that again," she commanded, so he wrapped his hand back around her fingers, but slid them out instead, ignoring the way she mewled in disappointment. Then he pushed his own fingers in to replace them.
She was wet and hot inside, and moving his fingers in the slickness felt strange and constricted, but he bit his lip and kept them there, moving them slightly, and shifting to try to find the cause of her previous moans.
After a while of silence, he looked up to find Cersei watching him expectedly, and arched his fingers up on an impulse, trying to recreate the way she had done it. It must have worked, because she gave a soft moan, head falling back until Jaime was looking at the curve of her neck instead of the mirror image of his own eyes.
He repeated the motion until she was arching up, and her cunt clenching tight around his fingers. Then he pulled them out, and on an impulse stuck them in his mouth and sucked hard until all he could taste was the familiar tang of Cersei's skin, covered with lavender oils and sweat.
Cersei was watching him through half-lidded eyes, her hair mussed into a mane around her face.
"It'll be dinner soon," she said finally, slighty shrill.
"Will it?" Jaime asked, blinking at the non-sequitur. "How do you even know?"
"We've been up here too long," she said, pulling herself up and tugging her fingers through her hair in an attempt to neaten it. "If they catch us-"
"No one will," Jaime reassured her. "Father would never come personally, and all the servants knock."
"I suppose they wouldn't dare do anything else," Cersei said, but she didn't sound so sure. "Where did you put it?"
"My comb," she snapped, looking around. "My maid will ask, the twittering fool."
Jaime glanced around too. "I haven't done anything with it."
Cersei pursed her lips. "You had it last."
He shrugged. "It's your brush," and then, when his sister glared at him, added "Here," and pulled her close so that he could comb his fingers through her hair. It only took a few moments for Cersei to relax against him, head dropping to his shoulder.
"We have to get going before the servants arrive."
"Yes," Jaime agreed, but didn't push her away. The servants were too afraid of being dismissed from a lord's household to enter a room without knocking and waiting for an answer. It might have been inefficient, since it often led to them standing idly outside empty rooms, but at least it was safe.
"If I were a man," Cersei said, leaning back in his bed, red robe unlaced and falling off her shoulders, "we'd be utterly unbeatable."
She looked golden; her hair lightened by the warm glow of the summer sun, and her skin rapidly losing the milky-white sheen of their childhood.
"We would never be parted," she continued, one hand stroking her own breast slowly. Her smile was lazy and sated, with just a hint of perpetual mocking. Jaime couldn't look away. "Wouldn't you like that? We could both go to Crakehall."
It was unlikely that Father would have sent them both to squire for the same lord, no one being powerful enough to be worthy of two Lannister boys, but it would never happen anyway, so Jaime let himself smile.
"Of course," he said, turning over to kiss her again. "You're much better company than any man I've ever met."
"Well, you can't do this with them," she agreed, arching up to meet him halfway. For a minute, Jaime wondered whether to tell her of the men who did share such companionship, but her mouth was warm and soft, and Cersei tended to know things anyway.
Ignoring her muffled protest, Jaime shifted sideways, so that he was sitting back against the bed.
Cersei pulled away. "What are you doing?"
Instead of answering, he pulled her down to him until she was almost on his lap. The angle was somewhat uncomfortable, but it felt much too good for him to truly care.
"We could fight together." Jaime said. "You could even be my squire."
She pulled back and slapped him on the arm. "I'd be just as good as you!" she protested.
"Oh, I could be your squire too," he said agreeably, fingers playing with her hair. The curls were easy to wind around his fingers, and it usually made her smile.
"You'd do this with your squire?" Cersei asked, eyes cold as the jewels stitched onto their mother's gowns and twirled into her jewellery.
"I wouldn't do this with anyone but you," he assured her. "And if my squire hit me, I'd punish him."
Cersei didn't even look perturbed; just gave him that slightly mocking smile he hated. "Not going to punish me, then?" she asked, with all the confidence of a girl who would one day become royalty, her flesh thought sacred and every action carefully observed.
"Well, if you'd actually like to clean up after me," he shrugged, "who am I to stop you?"
"That's what the servants are for," inflicting the word with as much venom as she could muster. Being Cersei, it was an impressive amount, especially considering their activities.
"What else are the servants for?" he asked. "Some men take liberties."
"I won't play your servant girl," Cersei warned, digging her nails into his arm. "And you had better not even think about – "
"You're the only one I want to do anything with!" Jaime protested, though he sometimes wished his sister would actually listen to him for once.
"Good," she said, kissing him roughly, her teeth catching his lower lip. That kind of switch was undoubtedly the best and worst characteristic Cersei had. Even after so long of knowing and loving her, he still couldn't entirely predict them.
Sometimes he wondered if even she could; whether she conjured up these fits on purpose or whether they just seized hold of her, like anger following the grip of a sword.
"Fancy coming with me to see Maggy the Frog?" she asked, pulling away at last.
"The witch?" Jaime scoffed, still out of breath. "I'd wager you have more magical powers than that old crone."
"They say she can tell the future," Cersei said, blinking up at him, gold falling over green like glowing threads across a tapestry. "Wouldn't you like to know?"
"We'll make our own futures," he told her, and found himself believing it. "Together."
She sighed. "Fine, I'll go without you then," and slid off the bed to pull at the laces of her robe, tying them haphazardly back together. Jaime watched her in surprise.
"Now?" he asked, not needing to glance outside to see that it was already pitch-dark.
His sister gave a one-armed shrug. "What better time?"
"It's the middle of the night," he reminded her. "The guards won't let you out."
Cersei laughed at him, short and sharp, and more than a touch mocking. "The guards will be half-asleep. Sure you won't come?"
Jaime couldn't prevent the yawn. "No."
"Scared of what you'll hear?" she taunted, slipping her feet back into her slippers.
"I just want to sleep," he told her.
"The coward's excuse," Cersei answered, but leant forward to kiss him goodbye nonetheless. Then she pulled her hood up and slipped from his chambers.
Jaime watched her go with an eerie sense of foreboding, before getting up to close the door, still undressed, standing carefully behind it to avoid detection.
Unfortunately it turned out that Jaime had had a more than optimistic view about the servants at Casterly Rock. It was an unequivocally bad time to figure it out: he was fingers deep inside his sister when he heard anyone scream properly for the first time.
She was only one of the unimportant gossiping laundry girls who lingered in the corridors whenever any visitors came, but her voice was shrill and piercing. It seemed morbidly fascinating to watch her mouth drop open, and her face drain of all recognisable colour, turning pale as the sheets in her arms, so he didn't move until it was finally over, fingers sliding out of his sister with an audible plop.
Cersei had gone bright red, but she made no move to pull her skirts down to cover herself. In contrast, Jaime was fully dressed; as since his breeching it had become harder to make himself as presentable as swiftly as Cersei still managed.
They had come so near getting caught so many times before; leading to such instances as Cersei brushing down her gown and pulling on her smallclothes so fast they stuck to the wetness beneath, or Jaime stepping out and making a point of loudly enquiring of his sister's whereabouts.
After a few moments of tense silence, the woman fled, the door swinging shut behind her with a dull thud.
Cersei pulled herself up, brushing her hands down her gown and slid her feet back into her favourite shoes, a present from Aunt Genna on their last birthday. Her bottom lip quivered.
"She won't tell Father," Jaime said uneasily, wondering. Of course, they could deny it, but -
"She might," Cersei snapped. "By the Seven, why didn't you stop her?"
"You didn't either," he pointed out, standing up.
"Knights are always supposed to protect their maidens."
"I'm not quite a knight yet." And you are no maiden either.
Cersei scrunched up her face. "I should have been a man," she declared. "We could have done it together."
Then she added firmly, "I'll make sure she won't tell Father."
The next morning, Cersei was spreading strawberry jam over her bread, red, and golden from the kitchen oven, when she told him that their father had practically engaged her to the prince, breaking hundreds of years of unbroken bloodline.
For a mad moment, Jaime thought about asking her what she had done last night, and how it could have possibly led to this, but said nothing because their lord father sat at the head of the table, and his eyes and ears were always alert.
Instead, he bit his lip hard enough to taste the sharp tang of coppery blood, and made himself congratulate her. The words tasted like ashes in his mouth.
He had always known that he couldn't have her to himself forever, but it had never seemed quite so hopelessly real.
His knife cut straight through the bread, grazing the gilded plate.
It looked as if the bread itself bled for him, free to admit the failure he could not.