Brienne is not pretty and not kind, but she's as brave as any man and twice as strong as some, and Ser Jaime of House Lannister doesn't seem the type to require much in the way of positive qualities to get on alright with someone. He is courteous at every turn - even to that idiot Frey cousin of his - and it's not but hours into the journey when it starts to grate on her nerves.
"Call me My Lady one more time," she tells him from where she stands at the head of the ship, looking out onto the river, "and I'll have your eye out, Ser Kingslayer."
She watches him trying to sit up straight, chained as he is. "'Ser Jaime' would be preferable, if it please My - if it please," he says.
Brienne turns her head to level him with a steady glare. "What would be preferable," she says, "is for us to get far enough away from Riverrun that we might have a chance of not being taken by the Tullys and hanged for traitors."
She sees his jaw tighten at that, presumably fighting the urge to point out that she will be the only one hanged for a traitor - he'll be thrown back into his cell, most like, or maybe hanged, too, but even then, simply as an enemy. He doesn't say that, though, but holds onto his courtesies as strongly as he's famed for holding his sword. Even so, she can tell his patience is already wearing thin, and that it's only a matter of time before he'll grow tired of acting chivalrous and lash out.
If Brienne's honest, she can hardly wait. Maybe she'll get lucky and he'll be so violent that she'll have reason enough to cut him down. After all, Kingslayer-Slayer is a much better nickname than any she's ever had before.
But all he does is sigh and lean his head back. "Yes," he says, "that would suit, as well."
The first time she feels anything other than vague annoyance or bored tolerance for Jaime Lannister is when his sword crashes against hers. She sees the fire light in his eyes the same as she feels it in herself, that desperate desire to cut and slash and burn, to serve punishment to those who've earned it, and to serve it well. He fights with the sort of passion that he lacks in his speech, in the shine of his golden hair or the dignified way he holds himself.
He's been beautiful from the first, even filthy and reeking as he was when he first left the dungeons of Riverrun, but Brienne has very little appreciation for beauty alone. It's only when he blocks her thrust and makes a sweep for her legs - which she dodges expertly, mind you - that the stirrings of desire begin to appear.
Brienne may know little and less of love, but she knows enough of sex. Some of the men in Renly's garrison had made a neat little wager - which they had all found terribly clever, as men are wont to do when grouped together like packs of starved, stupid dogs - over her maidenhead. When Brienne had found out, she'd tossed her head back and laughed for a good minute, too amused to be particularly angry. She'd still beaten them all bloody, of course, so as not to get a reputation for being at all soft, but still - it had been a rather entertaining assumption on their part.
The next time she laughs that hard is when she's down in the mud with Jaime, knee pressed to his chest and sword poised at his throat. And the smile he gives her back is anything but a forced courtesy.
The Bloody Mummers cut Jaime's hand off in front of her, and all she can do is sit there helplessly and yell at the top of her lungs about sapphires and all the gold in Casterly Rock and, "If your cock comes anywhere near me, I swear to the Seven above, I will rip it off." That keeps her from getting raped, but it does nothing for the bloody stump where Jaime's sword hand used to be.
He passes out soon enough from the pain and Brienne lies where she's tied next to him. She feels like killing someone, like vomiting, like crying as she hasn't done since she was nine.
"I'm sorry," she says to Jaime's unconscious body, and for maybe only the second time in her life - but she's not going to dwell on Renly, she never dwells on Renly - she truly is.
They're in the baths of Harrenhal and he's a hand short and dizzy and practically falling into her lap, when she finally decides, why not, she's never been particularly moral in the first place - and kisses him. She tangles her fingers in the golden hair he'd refused to cut, even though it would greatly have helped his disguise, and tugs him toward her. He lets her, even reciprocates fairly well, but when they pull apart, he gives her a confused sort of look, as if kissing is a new and unlikely concept that she's just invented.
She tilts her head and almost manages a smirk. "I believe you're blushing, Ser Kingslayer," she says, not even trying to be particularly mocking.
"I - don't call me that," he tells her. After losing a hand, he's mostly dispensed with the chivalry, which she appreciates. He is blushing, though, and looking away as if he's not quite sure what to do with himself.
"Don't tell me you've never had sex -"
"I have," he interrupts.
"Because I wouldn't believe you," she finishes.
Jaime finally settles himself next to her, not very steadily and taking great pains to avoid hitting his bandaged stump on anything, and Brienne feels almost guilty for more or less taking advantage of him in the state he's in.
"I have," he says again, "but only, only…"
Brienne sighs. "With your sister?"
His hazy eyes immediately go focused and his brow creases like maybe he's going to deny it. "I -"
"Seven hells," Brienne says, rolling her eyes, "I'd wager every man, woman and child in the Seven Kingdoms has heard some version or another of Stannis' letter. Renly got quite a kick out of it."
He drops his head forward slightly, looking sad and sorry and wretched. Brienne feels that thing that might be guilt again and tries to quash it down to where she shoves all of the feelings that don't help her win out on the battlefield. It doesn't completely work. "Look," she begins, but doesn't get much farther than that, because Jaime is cupping her face with his left hand and kissing her again.
It's slower this time, Brienne thinks, maybe even gentle - if that didn't sound so pathetically romantic. Brienne of Tarth is not pretty, not kind, and certainly not romantic. She is however, tipping Jaime Lannister's chin so as to get better access to his mouth. No skill of hers is equal to her swordsmanship, but she does quite hold her own when it comes to other bodily activities.
This time he seems slightly more coherent and less shocked when they pull apart, although he's still having some trouble keeping his head up. "Why do they call you the Maid of Tarth?" he asks the wet skin of her collarbone where he rests his forehead.
"For the same reason they call me Brienne the Beauty," she replies, and pretends not to notice the way she's stroking her fingers through his hair. "Because I'm not. Clever, isn't it?"
"No," Jaime tells her shoulder earnestly, "it's cruel."
Brienne sighs once again. He's the one who's lost the hand, and she won't pretend her pain is anywhere near as great as his, but she is so tired. "People are cruel."
Jaime nods, gesturing at the stump of his wrist. "I've noticed."
She doesn't fuck him that day, even though she could have. He's too weak to fight her off and wants it enough not to try, but while she may not be good or just or kind, she is no monster, either. She just pulls her fingers from his hair and calls for the servants.
"I've named it Oathkeeper," Jaime says when he holds it out to her, a few days after they arrive in King's Landing.
"That's original," Brienne snorts, but she has to admit, it's one hell of a sword.
He ignores he comment. "I want you to use it on your search for Sansa Stark," he continues, pushing it toward her once again, and she's tempted, she really is, but he's not going to just trick her into this wild goose chase with fine metalwork.
"Jaime," she says, "Catelyn Stark is dead - it doesn't matter anymore."
"Of course it matters," he replies. "That girl is out there, Gods know where, and needs to be found by someone who won't turn her over to my sister. Besides, you swore an oath."
"You and your oaths," she sighs, but doesn't outright refuse, either, because it really is quite a nice sword. And that is clearly the only reason.
"Yes, well," Jaime says, "without this" - he gestures at his missing sword hand - "oaths are all I have."
And Brienne really shouldn't being doing this, should be out instead avenging Renly's death and fighting battles and shedding blood the way she's so good at, but instead she reaches out a hand and takes the sword, takes Oathkeeper, and says, "Not all you have."
She'll find Sansa Stark, but not to keep an oath to a dead woman. This is a different oath completely.