Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, 1920.

Detail of Gustav Klimt’s Goldfish (1901)

and you will know us by the trail of dead
a WESTERN game of thrones AU

LITTLEFINGER, THE PURVEYOR OF THINGS BOTH GOOD AND EVIL
Robb Stark hitting him had been less a question of if and more a question of when. So when it finally came, it brought with it little surprise beyond the very slight lift Littlefinger’s eyebrows and a failed attempt to pull the glasses from his face, for fear of them being ruined. Luckily, neither lens shattered or cracked, though the thin wiring that comprised the tines for his ears ended up bent at odd and inscrutable angles. They clattered to the ground and were soon covered in dust as Littlefinger spat up a red bloom of mucus and blood onto the slats of the boarding house’s porch. A dull ache found its way to the root of one of his teeth and when he went to investigate, he found the molar loose. Annoyedly, he wiggled it with his tongue and tasted copper and mud and the meat of his own gums.

Young Stark cast a long shadow as he leaned over him, but Littlefinger refused to look small (or at least smaller than he already was); he had spent most of his young life doing that already and had grown bored (or was it bitter) over the whole affair, having sworn never to return to it again.

"Frey accused my father of stealin’ those horses, even though they were his by rights," Robb said. "He had a deed to ‘em and everything — I saw it with my own eyes, signed and stamped, the whole lot." Littlefinger smiled tersely at that (oh the faith good men poured into things like paper and signatures and spit-sealed handshakes).  With his hands he worked at the stiff muscles of his jaw, where they’d cramped to hard seizing under Stark’s fist.

"So Frey lied." He went about retrieving his spectacles, re-polishing the glass with the front of his shirt and straightening out all the kinks. Only when they were perched neatly on the bridge of his nose again did Littlefinger continue, squinting up into the sub blotted out by the cattleman’s son, a beam of it haloing his unruly hair. "He wouldn’t be the first."

The leather of Stark’s glove creaked as his fingers tightened again into twin knots of muscle and bone but Littlefinger did not cower at the prospect of being hit again. What good was a fist compared to the havoc he could wreak with only a few well-placed favors? Besides, the boy and his anger was useful, just as his younger sister’s grief had been useful as well (useful and convenient and wretchedly beautiful; it made her eyes shine in the dark whenever he goaded her).  ”He used that lie to string my father up from that damned birch while everyone watched. Sansa said as much.”

"You’d do right to listen to her more often.  At least she’s got sense enough not to go charging to the Twins, guns blazing." The look that Robb gave Littlefinger as he pushed himself to standing was low-browed with confusion. Again it earned him that pinched, knowing smile. "Blood for blood, that’s the way of it, isn’t it? You kill mine, I kill yours, so on and so forth, on and on and on? Who’s to say Frey’s bastards don’t rally as soon as you shoot him full of holes?  What else have you got to lose, Mister Stark?  Your home, your land — a handful of siblings?

"No, better to sneak into his bed in the middle of the night—" Littlefinger brushed the dirt from his coat and then turned the same hand towards Robb, mimicking the gesture against the stained lapels of his jacket. "—slit his throat and be done with it. None will be the wiser." Young Stark bristled under the mockery of Littlefinger’s fawning for a moment, then two, then snatched the man by his wrist, the grip so tight that it shook slightly and Littlefinger’s hand began to prickle then grow numb.

"Is that what you told my sister, Littlefinger?  When you shoved her into that comely house at the edge of town, dressin’ her up like a doll an’ such?”

Yes, just that precisely, Littlefinger thought. He tilted his head so that his glasses refracted the light into Robb’s eyes and he had no choice but to flinch, his grasp loosening just enough for Littlefinger to pull free.

"I’ve a mind for blades," was his only answer as he tugged on the sleeves of his shirt.  He went to the pains of positioning each cuff at his wrist just so. "And I’ll tell you one thing, Stark:

"That sweet sister of yours — why, she’s the sharpest one I’ve ever seen."

and you will know us by the trail of dead
a WESTERN game of thrones AU

J. LANNISTER, THE HIRED GUN
A hot dry wind blew in from the flats on the evening that J. Lannister rode into town. He’d been riding for three days straight by the time he first caught sight of it, having put his spur to the rump of his dappled grey mare the minute word of new prospects and a possible job reached the Rock.  His father had disapproved, of course, but Jaime had learned a long while back that was what his father did best — even better than raising ungrateful children, which Old Tywin claimed loudly and frequently was his greatest achievement of all, and way better than all the prospecting and breeding cattle that had built the Lannister fortune.

Why shoot a man for someone else’s gain? Twyin had asked the first time Jaime had returned from a trip upon the western road. Don’t you have brass enough to kill for your own?  Jaime had brushed it off then, as he brushed it off now, but like mayflies waved from a carrion corpse, the sentiment would disperse, dissolve, but then quickly form again.  It afforded him many years of practice in taking his father’s word in stride, and like all things that J. Lannister put his mind to (though there were few), what he did with effort he did superlatively. (“I’ll take that as a good luck, if you don’t mind,” he had said and then rode off, away from the setting sun.)

Most of the town had already called it a night, the candles snuffed and the gas lamps turned out behind so many of those curtained windows. Only the saloons and brothels held signs of life — hoots and hollers and the clank of glasses, the purring catcalls of throaty voices from balconies. No one stopped to pay him much mind as he strode into the first bar on the right, the metal of his spurs jangling quietly under the roar of laughter and the twinkling of a piano.

"What can I do y’for?" asked the man behind the bar. Half of his face was twisted and scarred, though he wore his limp hair combed over one eye in an attempt to hide the worst of the damage. He had his hand shoved into the mouth of a glass, a damp rag cleaning the dregs of the last man’s drink out of the bottom of it. When Jaime spoke it was loudly, loud enough to be heard over the raucous and loud enough to silence those that stood around him, their faces turning to hear his words.

"I’m looking for a girl with red hair." He produced a coin from his pocket and rapped it twice on the edge of the bar. More faces turned to look at him, a whisper spreading through the saloon like ripples through water. Jaime smiled for the audience; he had very fine teeth. "My employer tells me her name’s Sansa Stark." He then raised the coin so that others could see it pinched there between his middle and index fingers, the edge of it catching the dull yellow light.

"Now who here’s feeling friendly enough to help a poor stranger out? The first round of drinks are on me."

and you will know us by the trail of dead
a WESTERN game of thrones AU

JOJEN REED, THE SWORN SON
"Thought I told you to get.”

The toe of Miss Red’s boot was unkind against Jojen’s side as she nudged him off the bottom step of the saloon stairs to standing. He stumbled at first, then caught himself, the dirty kicking up round his feet, tiny plumes of it dusting the legs of his pants and the thick dark felt of his coat. He’d meant to bow, to pull the hat from his head and show Miss Red the kind of courtesy a real lady deserved, but already she was shooing him onwards, out into the street where the buggies and carts threatened drag him under and straight out of town.

"Mornin’, Miss San—" He stopped himself before her hand found its way to the side of his face, but at least she wasn’t pushing anymore.  The traffic shuffled along behind him with the grind of gravel and the snorting of spent horses; it was loud here in the city, and the noise just made him miss the north more. "—beggin’ your pardon.  Miss Red.” A cowlick of hair stood up stubbornly at the crown of his head once he’d pulled off his hat and crumpled its brim between his hands. “But it’s like I said the day before and the day ‘fore that. My pa made a promise to your pa way back when, and now that the both of them’s gone to dust — god rest their souls — it’s only right for me to see it through.”

"I don’t need promises, Little Jo," Miss Red said. "They don’t mean nothing ‘round here. Both our daddies realized that, just ‘fore they died, and you should too, if you know what’s good for you." Then she went to turn, a bit of her skirt gathered between her slender fingers to keep the hem out of the muck and the dust.

He called after her: “How ‘bout a gun?” And although she did not look back over her shoulder towards him, Jojen saw how Miss Red had paused and how her white fist grew even whiter around that handful of sweet cream-colored cloth.  ”You reckon you need one of those, miss?”

and you will know us by the trail of dead
a WESTERN game of thrones AU

MISS RED, THE WOLF IN SHEEP’S CLOTHING
He found her months later in a billiard’s saloon, leaned against a bannister that overlooked all the tables, little Jojen Reed curled up at her feet with his puppy dog eyes and his puppy dog loyalty and his daddy’s Schofield revolver tucked into the back of his pants. There were feathers in her hair then, black and red. It made her look like the queen from a gambling man’s deck, not some northern ranch hand’s little sister, but Robb hadn’t been fooled, not even when she turned a freckled shoulder against him, turning from him and the name he had called her.

"Sansa," he’d said. "Sansa, baby sister.”

It was wrong, all wrong, how pale her skin seemed against that blue taffeta, the way her hair smelt like whiskey and chewing tabacco while the nape of her neck was sharp with rich lady’s perfume. She hadn’t hesitated to press a blade to his belly, its hilt hidden by the palm of her hand and the folds of her dress, its edge cold through the cotton of his shirt.

"They’ll have my hide if they hear you, shush.” Then the blade was gone again, replaced by warm fingers, an arm at his waist. It made Robb uncomfortable, the shape his baby sister’s smile took then as she touched the worn leather of his belt, the hilt of his gun, the collar of his coat - the one she’d sewn his name into the pockets of just the winter before. Sansa looked at him through the thick of her lashes, looked at him as if he were a stranger.

She asked: “Got a dollar, mister?”

Only then did Robb understand. Nodding awkwardly, he reached to take her by the wrist and said, “Yes’m. I sure do.”

and you will know us by the trail of dead
a WESTERN game of thrones AU

ROBB STARK, THE BOY WHO RODE SOUTH
It was warm in the south. Too warm, maybe, as the thick collar of Robb’s jacket had begun to stick to the back of his neck, a trickle of sweat running down the side of his face, making him look nervous and too small in his clothes. But his Colt was a solid weight at his hip, his .32 an extra boost of confidence tucked under his arm. He squared his stance and his shoulders and tried very hard to look broad, the way he remembered his father once did, back before they’d left him out to dry like an old workshirt abandoned on the line. “My father believed in justice, an’ so do I,” he then said but the man called Littlefinger didn’t look grave in the way Robb thought his words had demanded. Instead, Littlefinger looked as he always looked — smug and satisfied and full of nasty secrets.

"Oh, Ned Stark believed in justice, all right. Believed in it so much, he let it hang him." Robb had no answer to that. He felt as though he should have, but he didn’t, and his silence was a betrayal so acrid he could taste it like gunmetal in his mouth.  Littlefinger continued: "And so, here you are, with your northern drawl and your polished gun." His mustache twitched and Robb immediately knew the little man was laughing at him.

"Like father like son."

and you will know us by the trail of dead
a WESTERN game of thrones AU

NED STARK, THE DEAD CATTLEMAN
In the end, they couldn’t even be bothered to build a proper scaffold. Instead, they strung him up from the knotted and hankered down birch that grew in the middle of the town proper.  And for days the silhouette of his body hung in the windows of all the houses — a reminder of god and justice and the sheriff’s hand, swaying in the wind like a piece of rotted-out fruit.

an excerpt from a WESTERN game of thrones au
robb stark, sansa stark, littlefinger (or is it robb stark/sansa stark/littlefinger???)



A tiny brass bell rang as Robb Stark opened the door to the tiny office whose front windows faced out onto the main square of the town, and as he stood there, silhouetted against the bright yellow sky, some of that dusty landscape framed in that warbled glass came in with him. It swirled about his ankles in unruly eddies that painted ghostly patterns across the wooden slats of the floor, like footprints of the dead that hounded him in his sleep. At the sound of the bell the tidy man with the tidy beard and moustache did not look up from the ledger, splayed fat and open-faced on the modest desk. Instead, his nose twitched the once and his hand continued its writing.

“So you’re young Stark,” he then said, in a tidy voice, befitting a man of his stature. When he lifted his face, Robb could not see his eyes; the lenses of his wire-rimmed glasses caught the light and reflected it back at him. It made Robb trust him even less than he already did (and what a feat that was to accomplish). “The dead cattleman’s son.” The tidy man seemed to glean some satisfaction in saying this, the ‘dead’ part most of all.

“They tell me you’ve got business with my sister.”

“I lend money,” he said neatly. “I buy and trade. I sell.” His pen abandoned to its small well of ink, the tidy man folded his hands on the table in front of him as if he were some kind of gentlemen (though both of them knew that gentlemen didn’t exist in these parts).

The man’s mustache bowed to accommodate the tidy smile that grew beneath those glimmering eyes.

“I have business with everyone’s sister.  That’s what businessmen do.”  He gestured at the chair across politely.  It was finer than any chair Robb had ever sat in before in his life - its seat upholstered with cloth as rich as a bankerman’s suit.  ”So.  Take a seat, Mister Stark, and we’ll talk business.”  Then he took up his pen again and resumed his writing - rows upon rows of tidy numbers appeared beneath the quickly darting nib, the scratch of it audible to Robb’s ears over the sound of horses and chatter behind.

 ”And while you’re at it, shut the door. You’re getting dust all over my floor.”

You Think Too Highly of Me
catelyn tully/petyr baelish | written in collaboration with rog

—-

“I should have won. You cheated.”

Her cheeks burn but in a way that begs repeating - the kind of flush that only comes with effort or enthusiasm, and in truth Catelyn Tully had made her way through the godswood with both blazing in her breast as her hair came undone. (A red flash between the trees as it whipped behind her, laughter and Petyr’s name caught on the riverwind.) The bark of the birch is rough against the damp seat of her palm as she braces herself against it with all her weight, looking to catch her breath. She is much more used to being the one who is chased rather than the one who is left doing the chasing and so she flusters at Petyr’s declaration of I won, I won, her mouth pursing in a way that fails to be ugly.

With a giddy fingers, she tries to brush the hair from her face but only half-succeeds; an errant strand continues to cling to her cheek.

“Brand the day into your memory while you still can, Petyr Baelish,” Cat pronounces loftily, though she does not begrudge him his victory. He had so few to his name, after all, and there was a fondness in her for the look of pride that danced now in his eyes. “For I shall never allow it again.”

“I intend never to forget it,” is his response, and he won’t. Never, not even years later, when he’s scarred and embittered and holds Seven Kingdoms in his grasp.

Never, even though the boy – the man - will try.

(Seven hells, how he’ll try, and it will be the one failure that he’ll have no choice but to carry forever.)

—-

He calls it ‘the stuff of songs and legends’ - the day he bested Catelyn Tully. When Petyr threatens to pen the tune on the spot, Cat does not hesitate to threaten right back. “Give words to that song and I swear to you now, I will haunt you ‘til your very end of days,” she tells him. “I will make sure you will never know peace,” she grins and then buries her face against his shoulder to laugh.

The early afternoon sunlight dapples through the canopy onto Petyr’s cheeks and through Cat’s hair, and neither of them are aware of how irony gathers her words to itself, twining them into a ball of regret that it covets and holds for safe-keeping.

—-

In the end, the song is sung, and it is sung because Cat is curious and because she asks him for it. And when he sings, it’s lovely.

Truly lovely.

The way in which Petyr’s voice finds the notes, the way his mind produces the words and his mouth shapes the sounds. Most men, Cat imagines, go through their entire lives without ever having known true inspiration. And here Petyr Baelish was, the Tullys’ tiny ward from the Fingers, finding it within himself and with only her name to light the path to it. By the time he’s finished and the last refrain dies on his lips, Cat’s face is warm with a mix of adoration and embarrassment, modesty and flattery. With a shake of her head: “You think too highly of me.”

She humbles herself; humbles herself because there is no other response worthy of Petyr’s little song, as whimsical and as sharp-witted and as achingly earnest as it had been. No one truly loves another person as much as that, she thinks to herself as she brushes her fingertips against the inside of his wrist, so thin-boned and narrow, as delicate as a woman’s.

No.  Cat is certain then: Not a one.

—-

One day she will marry the brother of her betrothed and learn to love him so strongly and so fiercely, that she would tear down all of Westeros of keep him safe, to bring him justice, to avenge his death and those of his children. Not even her own death will stop her, then; vengeance will burn too brightly in her sunken breast. And in turn, Petyr Baelish will dismantle dynasties, uproot empires, supplant despots; move entire kingdoms through ministrations big and small, and all in her name, all to thrust that long-held adoration upon her by force. (Though still, years later, she will not take it.)

Only then will Catelyn Stark realize the error of her youthful assumptions; how wrong she’d been on that afternoon, that day they’d spent in the godswood, hidden by the shade of its trees.

Yes, she will then know, a person can love another as much as that.

And when they do, it is a terrible, terrible thing indeed.

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aklsdjf you guys ;__; I TRUNDLE OFF TO BED FEELING LIKE CRAP AND REJECTION and i wake up to a sea of hugs and emotions in my inbox.  please allow me to express my love and gratitude by way of DEAN WINCHESTER’S TEARS FACE.

i may be trapped in a glass case of emotions every once and a while BUT ONE OF SAID EMOTIONS WILL ALWAYS BE APPRECIATION FOR YOU GUYS.  OKAY?  OKAY.  so thank you thank you, so very much. <3333

The Girl in Red and the Grey Guardian
from IMMUNE | a Game of Thrones AU | written in collaboration with rog



One shot, every five days. In the future, that is the measure of salvation, the breadth of respite. (Simple, really.) The tip of a syringe, a pinch of the skin. It is a lesson that everyone knows, as elementary as the alphabet:

Every five days. Or burn.



The world is dying, and everyone in it.

There are parts of it that are already dead, huge swaths of the population who contracted the disease early on, who spread it too quickly and, when everything was said and done, who had no means to combat it. The cities fell first, then the outskirts, and then the rest of the world followed. As quick as anything, the great civilizations collapsed, as if the very strands of humanity that twined them together had suddenly, in one irrevocable moment, come undone. An exhalation, a spent breath – followed by nothing but silence. Some say there are places and people who go untouched, hidden away in the far, isolated places of the world, clinging to their gods and their remoteness as if it were an inoculation. But those stories are lies and those that tell them are liars and the hope they look to inspire is a poison - sweet and insidious and delusional.

The disease is in the water and in the air. It’s in the food (what’s left of it) and on every surface that’s ever been touched by skin or breath.

There is no escaping it. There is no cure.

No one is immune.

Except



(Trust no one.

That was the last lesson the woman had taught her before she had died, her red hair having dulled to a flat rusty brown, clumps of it coming loose from the scalp, brittle and calcified, her body withered from the inside by the fever that would ultimately burn her into nothing. A husk, the girl had thought as fingers 
— no, bone, bone upon skin, no meat  curled around her wrist.

Yes, a husk 
 not enough flesh to warrant any other label  but a husk that had once loved her well. It was painful to think of the woman as anything but a scrap, a cast-off of a life now abandoned, detritus and nothing more. Words like mother and father and sister and brother were barbs, worked deep under the girl’s skin and irretrievable; they tore at her whenever she thought them, so she hadn’t, just stared with her pale blue eyes and repeated over and over in her mind, husk, husk, husk.

“You must remember.“ The woman’s voice had been thick with mucus – the color of river mud, she’d wretched her weight in it just the night before. The girl had had a name then and the woman had called her by it as her eyes closed, closed to never open again. “My little wolf. Trust no one, mm? Only him. He’s sworn to look after you and the salvation you carry.” Then the woman had sighed, as if to say it’s over, though the last words she ever spoke were:

“Trust Petyr.”)



Daybreak brings with it that rosy sunlight of golden hour; slipping through the bombed-out canyons of concrete and steel, stealing down empty alleyways that fail to scuttle with even the hurrying of rats; the light paints the husk of the city skyline more warm and more beautiful than it aught to be. But even then that warmth — both fleeting and illusionary — is brief and stretched thin, like the haze of a passing fog: there and then gone again so quickly, you scarcely remember it was there at all.

The silence, like golden hour, like all things in the world these days, can only last for so long. When it leaves, it takes the stillness along with it as gunfire shatters the chill morning air — distant and sharp like a stuttered rupture of cracked lightning. It reaches the girl and her guardian at a distance and it’s a good sign, an early morning blessing. What it means is that nobody’s looking for them, or if they are, they’re looking in the wrong place. It buys them a couple hours, maybe even more if they’re lucky; depends on how many of the windows have eyes in this part of the city, how many people are scurried away in the cracks and the crevices with their ears pressed to the wall. This neighborhood is a barren landscape of grey on grey — gunmetal to plantinum wash — and the girl with her red hair is impossible to ignore. (It’s a wonder he hasn’t shorn her bare by now.)

At the sound she stirs, slowly at first, her nerve endings becoming aware of her surroundings at a even crawl from heel to fingertip; like a series of florescent bulbs flicked on in a long corridor or drives spinning to life in some complicated machine. Her biology is different than his or anyone else’s. Hers is unique. Singular.

(There is no one like her; there is only her. And that’s why the girl must live.)

Drawing herself up onto her knees, she looks for him (he’s always near). And when she finds him with her clear, shining eyes, the girl doesn’t bother to rise, just crawls over to him across the cracked and seamed floor, hands reaching for him, searching for his throat and his forehead, searching for the fever he never tells her about but that she can sense nevertheless. Like blood in the water, like a scent on the air.

(There is no one like her; there is only her. And this is the how and the why.)

“Hi.”

The girl does not answer his greeting, not with words or with voice, only with her eyes and the pausing of her hands — one now on either side of his face, gauging the heat of his skin beneath the stubble of his cheeks. Hi. Hi. She forms the words silently as if testing their shape in her mouth, as if pretending to taste the sound that never comes. Whether the girl is mute or silent by choice is a question that circumstance has not yet answered for the man; it’s an answer that perhaps will never come, though by the time everything is said and done there will be much cause for moaning and weeping on all sides.

She touches his mouth — hi — and then his chin — hi — and then settles back onto her haunches, staring at him accusingly from underneath her thicket of unruly red hair. Her understanding of his vaccinations is rudimentary at best, never having known the needle herself, but when the fever burns in him, it burns in her as well — not as pain or weakness but as irritation. You’re dying, you’re dying, is what her gaze tells him whenever he gets the shakes and the shits and can do nothing but bundle himself in what meager blankets they have and ride the sweats out until the next shot. On nights like those, she lays her small white hands on him, rummages through his pockets and his things until she finds those precious syringes. Take, take, says her touch every time as she urges the needle between his fingers; but he never does, he always waits.

He’ll burn soon. She knows.

The girl shakes her head; the man answers.

“Hi.”

Which means it’s time to go.



Five days since his last injection, another two before he’ll dose again.

It’s less a vaccination as it is a temporary reprieve, one that gets harder and harder to find as the supplies run thin and the survivors run desperate. Rumors have spread of the rich still held up in the south, stockpiling the stuff by the crateful, but the man knows the reek of propaganda when he smells it, so he ignores it and continues to steer them onward, towards the north.

(He’ll do it, even as he burns, because he’d promised. He’d promised her and the last word she ever spoke had been his name and how could he ever begin to repay such a debt.)

The sickness in him is only an ember now, but the girl beside him knows how well time fans that slow smoldering sufferance into a fire that does nothing but consume. It’s a flame that will never touch her body, but which she’s seen in other people — people who are now nothing but soot and ash, their corpses doused and set alight to prevent the rot from inspiring other, less deadly sicknesses. As they pick their way over wrecked street curbs and empty lanes of ruptured asphalt, the girl is aware of others watching them from above. Tucked away in abandoned apartments at the tops of all the buildings, they’re not unlike roosting birds in the canopy of the great urban forest. Only instead of birdsong calling to her, telling her the whos and the wheres and how many, it’s the fever she hears, clear and bright as any whistle.

(This one will die soon, this one will burn slow; this one is a baby. All of them, suffering.)

The girl lifts her face towards the sky as they walk, her free hand raised to cast a grey shadow over her eyes. She hopes to catch a glimpse of one of the strangers silhouetted behind bullet-struck glass, but she never does, only finds torn curtains swaying at a distance or the slats of blinds flickering shut after a moment’s pause. Proof of life is more extrapolation than direct observation these days. (They steer clear the companions, just as the companions wish to steer clear of them; only the gunfire follows after.)

For her, the sickness wears only one face, and that face is his. All of the ghosts that once pursued her have been long since burned from her memory, in effigy.



Her hand is small and fits perfectly into his, her skin cool as a riverstone (a comfort). There are days when she is reluctant, when she kicks at the dirt with her feet and tries to drag him away from the path, back down south.

(Stop burning, stop burning.)

Today she is quiet, docile and attentive. A flock of birds fly overhead and the girl stops to watch them disappear between the buildings. Wondering the entire time what it is they see, wondering if they’ll outlive them all.