He feels sick to the core now, Beric’s words only registering to him as a distant mumble. He didn’t want to hear it. He didn’t want to listen. He didn’t want to accept that everything they worked for was going to come to an end so soon.
A part of him told hint hat he could still save the brotherhood- but what use was the brotherhood without its heart. ( In more practical terms, the brotherhood would be ineffective, if not useless, without someone in Whitehall. )
He let Beric go, not because he wanted to- but because the strength in his arms had slipped away.
" Time," He repeated in a whisper, before a laugh choked out of him and he clapped a hand over his mouth, " That won’t make it any better,"
" The Brotherhood will have me," He said calmly once his cold hand left his lips and allowed him to speak, " I’ll do what i can for it, for the kids. Make sure that when Stannis does find us, he doesn’t destroy their futures at least,"
Beric sighed in relief, loudly, for he decided he had nothing left to hide, “Thank you”, he smiled widely and dropped his arms to his sides, “I’ll go see Jaime”, he smirked, “Ought to be fun, like I said, I won’t go out without a fight”, he took two steps back and looked at his best friend in wide view, he looked every bit the Director of the MI5 yet Beric could notice the distress on his features, the reluctance to go along with Beric. He loved him even more for letting him go, it meant he still trusted him, and it meant Thoros would have a chance.
"Once all of this is over, I’ll make it up to you", he turned around, feeling the weight of his legs lightening and the muscles of his shoulders relax. He knew he wasn’t going to get out of this once he revealed himself, the words he had spoken to Thoros were empty reassurance and even though he did not intend to go without a fight indeed, he was aware that it would most likely be useless. He would try nonetheless but the facts were there and he would lose Thoros forever. Once he was dead, Thoros would not be there with him.
If there was a hell, and Beric knew he was meant for hell, Thoros would not be there either. And if there was nothing, it meant he wouldn’t even be able to remember him. He felt sad and relieved and he wanted nothing more than to stay there and kiss him again and be with him, so reaching the door was certainly a challenge. At least Thoros would continue to go forward, even without Beric.
He looked over his shoulder once more, if only to memorise his figure, “I’ll call you later today”. And he stepped outside, leaning against the door once it was closed behind him, his palm was itching and his shoulder was in a pain greater than the day before, but he decided to leave and head for Thames House nonetheless.
He breathed as soon as he realised what he had just said- Did he mean it? He knew that he did.
Did he want to mean it?
Silence found him again, and he was just as speechless as Beric was by his own declaration. His mind raced, and he felt as if he had just stepped out of his skin and begun to analyse himself. Why did he say that? Was it truly because he loved him? Or was it only to stop Beric from leaving and abandoning their dream? Was he simply using Beric’s feelings, as he had done so many times with so many others over so many years? Perhaps it was all of the above.
Then Beric rushed towards him and a thought flashed across his mind- thinking Beric was going to kiss him and when he only wrapped his arms around him to hold him, Thoros felt a twinge of disappointment in his chest. Blinking, exhaling and regaining his composure, his body relaxed ( Sudden movements always made him tense up, due to the training and the experience ). His hands found their way to rest on Beric’s back, as he listened to him speak.
Then, his words grew quieter- but more determined, more Beric. And Thoros set his jaw and swallowed the emotions that threatened to take his voice, but the same emotions found their way into his bones and tightened his hold onto Beric’s body.
For the first time in years, Thoros was truly afraid.
The fear of the unknown- the fear of chaos, of things running, spiralling and crashing out of his control- out of his hands. It was a fear he knew all too well- but he never learnt to master it.
If Beric announced this- what would happen? Stannis Baratheon will have his head (and Thoros isn’t sure if he meant that metaphorically or literally). The people- He won’t know what the people will think (chaos). Will every brother and sister they had be hunted down and arrested? (Will Thoros be forced to step down?) Will Beric also expose the Faceless? ( He doubted that the Faceless will allow that- they will kill him before he does )
“ Dammit Beric,” He hissed through his teeth, “ Let me help you,”
“ I’ll let you do it if you let me help you,” He said, pulling back, holding his shoulders and looking straight into his eyes.
“ Don’t push me away,”
Reluctantly, he let go of the embrace, feeling a sharp pain in the shoulder from imposing strength he didn’t have, if he wasn’t careful he could open up the wound that had been fresh up until yesterday. He winced and sighed before looking up to see Thoros’ desperate frown, he was so close to his face he could almost taste the words, feel them. Tentatively, he reached out to hold each side of his face.
Maybe Thoros loved him, or maybe he was lying, he couldn’t tell but at least he valued Beric’s life, at least there was someone in this rotten world who would miss him. Death was easier to accept when he had that, he had everything. He wanted to kiss him right there, to launch himself to his arms once again and bring him closer, but all he dared was this intimate touch and his eyes penetrating the other’s with an intensity he didn’t know he was capable of. “I do love you too badly, I think I hate it”, he whispered, “I wish we could go back to America, I was happy there, I would be yours, I would do anything you ask me to, I would obey your every order; I would be happy again”, his eyes dropped for a mere second.
"But I can’t abandon everything, and I can’t lie anymore, this is what I need to do, what I want to do and I can’t, not this time, I can’t let you join me", he traced his cheekbone with his thumb and he knew he was stepping over a thin line that could lead to trouble, once again, but he couldn’t stop himself. Touching Thoros was exhilarating, his agitated breath was proof of that.
"If anything goes wrong, I need to know the Brotherhood has you, please, Thoros, please", he whimpered, "Let me go", then he smiled faintly, "We still have time, a couple of days, till I make my move, we can go back to the Founder’s Arms and reminiscent of the old times, we can - do whatever you want to do and then I’ll have to go".
His lips became a thin line, before parting to speak, “ Your world has revolved around this dream since you were nineteen. Everything either of us had done- you winning this office- it was all for this. To get to where we need to be to make a change- to fix things. That was your most important reason. Beric- For fuck’s sake. Listen to me!” He knew that he had already made his mind, he knew that whatever he said he won’t change his mind. But he had to try.
“ Can’t you hear yourself? You’re giving everything up! All we worked for- All we did. What changed, Beric?” His grip tightened on Beric’s arms, “ Was it the Lannisters?”
Was it me?
The three words Beric spoke next pierced through him like a blade and he took a breath to steady himself, but he could not find his words any more. All that was left was emptiness, the realisation that Beric was going through with this. That he truly was going to do it. That he was abandoning them.
He let Beric go, letting his hand fall to his side.
Then, before he reached the door, Thoros found his voice and in that moment of madness, he said, “ And what about me?”
“ What about me, Beric?” He looked up and looked straight at him, “ You’re being selfish! What about me? Don’t you get it? I love you,”
At that, he truly froze. Hand over the handle of the door, about to step outside, to do what he had to do. And yet he allowed Thoros to make him stop and turn around. Truthfully, he never expected to hear those words from Thoros’ lips, they seemed foreign, as if he had heard them only in a dream.
"Don’t hurt me like that, don’t say things you don’t mean", he whispered loud enough for the other to hear, he knew he had a pained expression he couldn’t hide, that he didn’t care to hide. Because he knew it wasn’t true, because Thoros didn’t know how to love, he had chosen to forget long ago and Beric had already accepted that.
And even if he knew, how could he love someone like Beric? He was a bad person, abusive, conniving, wrong. He wanted to move and push the door open but for a moment he entertained the idea of Thoros saying the truth, he parted his lips, looked down, fixed his gaze on the floor, and looked up again.
Then he rushed towards the other, closing the distance between the two of them once more, and embraced him tightly, as tightly as he could, as if he had lost him before and was now just getting him back and he felt decisive to not let him go again, “Still… even if you are lying”, he whispered softly, “Thank you, you make me so happy, thank you for being here, in my life”.
Thoros had always been annoyingly taller than Beric, he hid his head in Thoros’ chest, speaking against that safe place of his, digging his fingernails on his back, against the fabric of his suit. “Don’t try to help me, run away and hide and make sure everyone is safe, I promise I’ll figure something out, I won’t throw away my life so easily, but I have to do this”, he bit his lip, wondering if there was another way but at the same time, hoping there was none because he just couldn’t keep this facade any longer, it would kill him slowly and painfully and he would rather die a nameless death in some back alley by the hand of a random MI5 agent, than the one he was experiencing right now.
"I won’t let them dispose of me because I want to believe my life is important to you and somehow useful and I want to make sure you live, I’ll protect you, Thoros, and the others too, I still have to pay for my mistakes", he pressed harder against his body and he didn’t care to wonder if Thoros was reciprocating the embrace or not, he just wanted to make sure that Thoros existed in his life, that it wasn’t just a product of his imagination because how can Beric be lucky enough to have him, it didn’t make sense. "But you have to let me do this".
He shook his head, frowning at the words that were presented to him, yet no retort or reply came to his lips. He was speechless and stunned- between disbelief and denial.
His mind raced in circuits, looking for any reason he could put forward to stop Beric and return him to his senses. He can’t go down this road and they can’t open this door. Not now, not when they’ve already come so far and ignored it for so long. Was he scared? No. He was terrified.
It was one thing to be friends but-
The last time Thoros had a lover was a time he wished he could delete from existence. Love made him dumb and blind, because despite all the training, despite all the blood sweat and tears, his heart never learnt to shield itself against emotions, against love. This door was the only defence he had and he knew that if he loved Beric-
( No- Stop it. )
But before he could recover, Beric said the words he never hoped to hear, and Thoros reached to grab his arm before he could leave.
“ What?” He breathed, “ Beric- You’re not serious,”
“ Fuck- Listen to me, look at me,” He snapped, turning Beric to him, “ You can’t. They’ll throw you into prison, and Stannis will make sure every little bit of information is forced out of you- What about Ned and the rest-? Think of them- Think of what will happen to them,”
“ And what about our dream? We told each other that we will see it done- that one way or another we would see England restored. England needs dreamers, visionaries- She needed you. What’s the point of all this- the point of those people dying if it’s not for this- You can’t give up half way- You can’t throw it away,” His voice was trembling and he bit on his words, but they burst out of him anyway, and it took all he had to stop himself from yelling, “ You say that like you don’t care about what will happen next- the consequences- Why, Beric? What’s the point of that? What are you trying to prove?”
“ God- Don’t- Don’t make me the reason for this,”
Beric froze on his spot the moment he felt the strength of Thoros’ hand over his arm. For a moment, he didn’t turn around, he wondered if Thoros would be able to convince him to change his mind. He couldn’t remember the last time he did. It was always Beric making choices and taking them to places they shouldn’t go; it didn’t matter, he never wanted to step down from that role, he only wanted to make better decisions, to take firmer steps in order to protect them all.
And while he valued Thoros’ wisdom and opinions and they sure made him consider aspects he himself would never be able to see, Beric had always been stubborn enough to make the final choice.
So he turned around and listened to what the other had to say, his eyes meeting Thoros’ without hesitation for the first time, because he knew it was useless, Beric’s mind was settled. His expression softened and he smiled rather too gently, it was the sort of smiles that were never allowed between two men like them. “You still think that my world revolves around you, don’t you?”, he said with a gentleness that did not suit the crudeness of words spoken. “Like it was when I was nineteen… You are not my reason, at least not my whole reason and certainly not the most important reason”.
Somewhere along the conversation, at some point from the moment he put on a suit and drove to the Home Office, to this moment; fear left him, the fear of Thoros. He was glad for that, and sad too, because something had changed between the two of them and Beric did not care anymore.
"I love you", he repeated for the first time since the incident, "If I had the option to be with you I would, I’m not afraid to love you and I know what that makes me, I can’t stop thinking about her either.", he took a deep breath, trying to shake off the image of Allyria that threatened to cloud his mind, "But it is about me, not about you, I want to do this, I’m tired of pretending and if they imprison me, if they kill me, so be it… But at least I won’t have to lie anymore, I can’t keep doing this, I rather be executed, I would choose death and gladly". Beric placed his free hand over Thoros’ grip and squeezed softly, "You all don’t need me anymore, you are going to be fine, even without me, the HQ runs itself and when you have to take a life changing decision like the one I’m taking, you will be able to turn to each other for support because that’s what we created, the two of us". He clenched on his fingers, pulling slowly but sharply to free himself.
Then Beric began to speak again and Thoros glanced up at him to meet his eyes- and immediately regretted it when he heard the word ‘hospital’, “ Beric-,” He started, meaning to stop him, but the kid carried on, the words spilling out like water cascading through crack in a dam. He looked down to the various knick knacks on Beric’s desk- the pens, the note pads and papers gathered together on one side, the print too small and too far for him to read but he kept his eyes on them anyway.
But he did look up once, silence restraining his voice. He’s ended things with Allyria-?
( Why did that voice sound hopeful and happy? )
He let Beric finish before finding his words and speaking, “ Beric, you … you were exhausted and stressed when it happened,”
“ Even … even if it was real-,” Which it was, and still is, “ It… wouldn’t look good. You know that. The Home Secretary and the Director of MI6… even if we weren’t both…,” His hands waved a little, gesturing to Beric then at himself, “ You need to think about your life- your career. You’re young and you’ve still got a long way to go, and i… you don’t want me to ruin that,”
“ Even if this is real,” He paused for a beat, pressing his lips together, and taking the opportunity to breathe, to compose himself, “ It won’t work, and it’s not worth your career,”
But this was real.
"Ruin?" Beric asked more to himself than to the other. The words that had come out of his mouth seemed rather pointless, childish; for some reason he felt like he was talking to Arya and Gendry, trying to give them their place but feeling inadequate to take anything they said seriously. The fact was that Thoros was not making any sense and that he had been ruined for quite a while now.
He didn’t laugh, nor he felt an impulse to do so like he had felt before. He just stared at the other for a few seconds, before remembering he was expected to give a retort, although he had nothing in mind for that. His brow furrowed instead and he tilted his head slightly to the side, still standing on the same spot with the edge of the desk against his legs.
He parted his lips to speak and smiled. “You cannot ruin my life”, he said slowly, “And any decision I take, anything I decide to feel is my responsibility, it has always been like that. Whether you decide to follow me is your own choice, I will not make it for you but -“, he swallowed and found his eyes, “Don’t expect me to rely on you either”, he shrugged and found the main keys to his car, he didn’t want the service trailing behind and he figured he could manage his way out of his office and into Thames without them asking questions.
"I don’t expect you to reciprocate", he said, part of him wishing he hadn’t; part of him expected Thoros to do so, still, he didn’t dare to give up that easily. "But whatever I do with this is on my own, I was…", he stopped and looked down, breaking whatever eye contact they had kept.
"I am ready to do it, I don’t need the Home Office anymore", he said, almost whispering, "As soon as I get a confession from Jaime, I will hold a press conference and announce the truth, about who I am. Whatever happens after that I do not know, so you don’t have to worry about my future ", he walked around his desk and stopped by Thoros side, "I mean to throw it away, I wonder if you will feel something for me then", he rubbed his hand absently.
If he can consider himself to be a full blown traitor of the crown (and he does), then he can also consider himself to be a proper spy as for definition goes. He wonders if Thoros is proud of what they have accomplished, with him having all those years as an agent and now a double agent, he must see Beric and the Brotherhood as future bright stars. Or dead bodies, they cannot tell.
Beric usually takes pride in his job, whenever it is well done, and his new job, his real job, is sabotaging the government. He is very proud and days like today make it all even better, make it all worthy.
He is still half way through. An spy would have a mission in concrete and he has too many and more often than not, his vision is blurred by the offset lines that separate one from the other. Well, today he can focus on something in particular: to get Jaime Lannister to confess for the attempt. To get closer to Tywin Lannister, to finally win something over that family that has been causing them so much trouble.
Today is his lucky day indeed, the Lannister eldest son under any sort of suspicions regarding the death of Aerys Targaryen is something that he didn’t anticipated at all. Jaime was careful enough to avoid leaving behind any loose ends when they attacked Beric, perhaps he doesn’t have enough concentration to perform two tasks on the same week flawlessly, perhaps he didn’t have his sister whispering suggestions at his ear or perhaps he meant for this to happen. He has never put that much thought on the concept of Jaime Lannister. It was always Tywin and Tyrion, the political masterminds, sometimes it was Cersei, when she was parading at his buildings with that air of supremacy, of feign royalty. She’s a queen of lies and manipulation and nothing more. He thinks absently. But it never was Jaime.
For a slight moment he wonders what kind of man he is. Gold and immaculate and so very unreachable. Until now.
He could use the information, if his plan works and he happens to find Arthur in time, he would be able to ask some questions or better yet, to use Arthur to ask them himself without the need of Beric being overly suspicious. Still, he wonders; if perhaps it was a young Tywin Lannister the one who will greet him at the interrogation rooms of Thames House.
He pushes the memory of the last time he was inside those rooms; Cersei and Tyrion had been there that day too. They are everywhere, he thinks in anger. Like a plague.
And like the origin of a plague itself, he spots Tywin Lannister in the distance once he arrives at the operations floor of Thames House. He should have predicted that he would be interested in whatever mess his son has gotten himself in. Still, it is a rather big problem, Tywin has proved already that he has the means to go over any sort of authority, his or even Stannis’. He is fundamentally above the law in every possible way. It makes Beric’s anger raise. He has stopped his trail, he is not giving any consideration to whatever his assistant is telling him.
It doesn’t matter, the Home Secretary shouldn’t even be there anyway, he knows people would ask questions and if those people are Tywin Lannisters, those questions will be sharp and vicious.
But he doesn’t care.
He sends his assistant away with little explanation and takes slow steps towards the eldest Lannister.
In the past he has been cold and courteous but never rude. This time however, and specially after the conversation he had with Thoros a few minutes ago; this time he doesn’t care anymore if he insults him or even if he reveals too much. He is certain of one thing: he will not let Jaime go before getting what he wants, no matter how many strings Tywin moves, no matter how many questions people ask; Stannis himself can order Jaime’s release and Beric will not comply, he will see this through to whatever end he meets.
"If you are here to clean up your son’s mess", he raises his voice loudly at the back of the Lord, who was surrounded by his own people. He doesn’t try to hide the mockery and anger both that taint his voice, instead he smiles in derision and doesn’t wait for the other to turn around. "I recommend you to leave. It appears that his shit is all over the place, you don’t want to get any more of that on yourself".
There was a part of her who hated that she could be reduced down to a name, that her worth came from a rebellion far away, in a battle that she had never fought a day in. But the other part of her, a much larger, harder, deeper part, was proud. Even though she tried to push the thought away, to forget where she came from entirely, she was proud to be connected with her father and her brother, with all of Scotland. Arya knew little about politics, but if there was something that her family was fighting for - something that her father had probably died for - than it had to be right.
"I know. You don’t have to remind me to keep quiet," she said, leaning back on the couch and crossing her arms over her chest. He wanted to keep her contained, but Arya had her own reasons for not wanting to be caught, and she wasn’t about to flaunt her namesake on the streets of London.
Arya rolled her eyes, momentarily forgetting her anger to turn around and narrow her eyes at Beric. “No, I haven’t told him,” she said. Gendry had been poking around the mark, but he hadn’t managed to hit it yet, and Arya was doing nothing to encourage him. If she was honest with herself, there had been times when she wanted to tell him - she trusted him, despite her better judgement, she really fucking trusted him - but something had always kept her back.
Beric remained in silence, his eyes fixed on the back of her head, waiting for her to change her mind or her eyes to falter at the contemplation of a lie. She wasn’t that good at lying anyway, usually Beric could tell rather quickly when she wasn’t being honest. Yet their relationship had changed radically that morning and he couldn’t be too sure of anything anymore.
She remained instead with that annoyed gaze that matched her tone of voice perfectly and Beric’s smiles dropped completely.
"Good", he finally said, "We can’t disregard the possibility that he already knows, that he is working for the Lannisters or for Stannis and that he is using you, waiting for the right moment", to take her away. He licked his lips and pressed his forearms deeper against the back of the couch, lowering his tone, "If that happens, you may as well let him know that I am not going to lose you so easily and that he should reconsider his options".
He sighed, determined to lighten his tone somehow, “What I’m saying is don’t trust anyone outside the Brotherhood, the Starks are all in danger right now and friends are a luxury you cannot afford”, he paused remembering his latest promises, though they were hard to list, and harder to commit to.
Still, he wasn’t lying, he was not about to lose her, “We’ll find a way to get you back home, Arya”, after you are done with her, he reminded himself. Her name sounded foreign on his lips as he realised that he hardly ever used it. She was always the girl, you, a little shadow. Due to their circumstances she had become nameless. But a name carried a heavy weight, an important weight. It was more than just identity, it was the memory of her family and her home; something Beric had completely erased from his life. Somehow he didn’t want Arya to do the same. “So be careful”, he finished in a whisper.
They have some dirt on Cersei Lannister, three large piles of them in fact. Tyrion Lannister was more than buried in dirt, but Jaime had always been the goody-goody even if his suffocating arrogance did not advertise it. There was never any dirt on him, the Old Lion’s favourite. Thoros had suspected it was because Tywin made sure to clean after him, but now… If he was accused- if he was proven guilty over the murder of a former Prime Minister- and a Targ at that- no amount of scrubbing will ever get that dirt off.
And with all his three cubs used against him, they could get Tywin Lannister to bend and break. They can show England that their beloved and mighty Houses were corrupt. They can show that their government was sick- and only with the power of the people, can they heal it.
( Not only because he was pleased at the turn of events, but also because Beric was smiling. It’s been so long since he’s seen that kid smile that wide, that happily. He wondered if … )
( He pushed the thought out of his head before he could finish it. )
“ Will you be paying him a visit then?”
He kept his gaze down, looking upon the screen of his phone until Thoros spoke again. “Yeah”, he exhaled without hesitation, with a lighter tone than any he had used in the past month. Finally some good news, finally some silver lightning in their struggle, this was good. “Right away”, he said reaching for his credentials, determined to leave now. It would be odd for the Home Secretary to partake in this, they would think he had a grudge against the man, and while it was true, he didn’t want to seem too eager, too suspicious.
But Arthur would be there, he reminded himself, he could ask for a favour, he could even tell him more than necessary to gain some of his trust. To involve another member of Allyria’s family. He didn’t want to use those cards but it seemed that he had no option. Or perhaps he did but… this was not the time to cling to reservations, this was not the time to be shy and considerate anymore, he could be closer to Tywin Lannister and he would not give up the chance to get him, or any of his children.
He stood up but remained in his spot, fixing his watch that had been loose. Then he looked back at Thoros. “I’ve told you everything now, like I promised”. His smile vanished when he remembered they may have another thing to talk about but was it wise to do so?. He couldn’t tell, he could only decide to do something and face the consequences, he had lost the ability to foresee the future, perhaps that was the real price for his job, the real one.
"About what happened at the hospital", he began quietly, fixing his eyes on the surface of the desk before forcing himself to look at Thoros in the eyes, firmly even when he was afraid, decisive as ever, "I… shouldn’t have", though he wanted it desperate, he needed it, he didn’t truly regret it, "I wasn’t myself", he continued and it hurt, but - "I’ve decided to end things with her, at least for now, I hurt her too, and she doesn’t even know", he swallowed hard, part of it was true, that was the reason; but another part was hoping for something else, albeit impossible.
It was a subtle manipulation, a natural one. On the two of them, Allyria and Thoros both. He didn’t feel proud for it, but he didn’t want to stop either.
"But what I said to you, what I did", he whispered before pausing, reluctantly remembering, "It wasn’t a lie, none of it, even if it shouldn’t have happened, it was real, it still is-".
He listened solemnly and frowned, his finger absently rubbing his chin. Varys was too much of an unpredictable variable. Unreadable. He wondered if calling in favours from a few friends in the Thames House will help him in this, help him predict Varys.
“ I won’t let him,” He said, “ You know i won’t,” Those words came so naturally to him, that he quickly added “ Home Secretary,” at the end of his sentence to remind himself that they were not Beric and Thoros.
He blinked at Beric’s whispered words, his ears almost missing them. But he knew what he said, and he knew what he meant and his mind immediately ran back to the k-
He managed a smile in reply to that, before saying, “ What do you plan to do about Jaime?”
"I’ll have him followed until I discover something worth using", he said with an as a matter of fact tone, it was obvious. "I suppose kidnapping him and forcing him to talk is out of the question". That would be the easiest option but even the Brotherhood with their technology and access to information was no match against the Lannisters’ resources, it was incredibly stupid how powerful that family was.
They needed to be stopped. Jaime Lannister. Tywin Lannister. The image of Tyrion came to his head, was he still protecting her?. Did it even matter anything to Beric anymore?, Her?. He wasn’t kin on owing anything to a Lannister and if he wanted to, he could just forget about the past, about everyone in it too.
His phone vibrated over the desk, the one used by the Brotherhood. He reached for it and held it there for a few seconds before smiling widely, “Looks like I won’t have to do anything at all, he’s delivered himself willingly”, he said aloud and then looked back up, “Jaime Lannister is being brought to Thames House for interrogation over the death of Aerys”.