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The Lady & The Hound

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She suspected that Jaime had thought he would be rousing her out of bed, coming to her in the dead of night as he did...but Brienne wasn't sure how he could have assumed that she would be sleeping at a time like this. When Lady Sansa had not returned to the Red Keep by nightfall and Jaime had admitted to leaving her alone with Sandor Clegane outside its walls, all Brienne had been able to think was we have failed in our duty as her sworn swords.

And then Jaime had come pounding on her door and had dragged her from her room, saying nothing more than  "She's been found," and Brienne could have wept in relief. They'd collected Sansa from the Tyrells as quickly as possible, but Brienne could see that the damage had already been done.

"Jaime, please see that they release Sandor immediately. Tell him to return to his lodgings. I...I need my rest," Sansa had said, dully. Thankfully Jaime had obeyed - without question, for once - and Brienne had escorted Lady Sansa back to her chambers.

That had been several days ago, though, and still things were not right. Sansa refused to see Sandor Clegane, though she swore that he'd not harmed her in any way, and she threw herself into preparing for their return to Winterfell. Normally Brienne would have rejoiced over this, yet just now the general attitude with which Sansa was facing their leave-taking made Brienne feel...hollow. Still, she was shocked when Jaime took her aside and told her what he was considering...and the very idea made it feel as though he was sticking a knife in her gut and twisting it, just so. Yet in a way, his plan made some small sort of sense, and so Brienne agreed to back him.

Still, Jaime paused that morning before knocking on the door to Lady Sansa's chambers. "Courage, Jaime. Courage," Brienne murmured, laying a hand on his shoulder. When he looked at her she saw for a moment a nervous boy rather than a self-assured grown man. "I...I've never even considered matrimony," he admitted.

"Nor I," she lied, because it seemed the best thing to say just them. "Now remember, not a word about her unfortunate experience. You don't want to hurt her feelings."

"Aye, I know." Jaime rapped lightly on the door with his knuckles. "Sansa? Lady Stark?"

"Please, I don't want to see anybody," came their lady's muffled response.

"Now, now, my lady. Don't feel that way about it," Brienne called back.

"Of course not, Lady Sansa. You're one of the finest people I know, those Tyrells - "

"Quiet, you fool!" Brienne hissed.

"Please, Sansa...uh...we've come...with a...a proposition for helping you," Jaime stuttered. Brienne had never seen him so nervous...could it be that he actually cared for Sansa in that way?

"Help me?" They heard the scrape of a chair on the floor, followed by footsteps, and then Sansa had opened the door to admit them. "What do you mean?"

Jaime stepped into the room and Brienne followed. Sansa looked terrible - her face was pale, her eyes red-rimmed as if she'd gotten little sleep and done too much crying. "Well, now, you see..." Brienne made a helpless gesture and turned to Jaime. This was his idea and she wasn't sure she could bring herself to say the words, anyway.

"What I'm trying to say, Lady Sansa...I'm...I'm not as young as I used to be, but I'm still in the prime of life. You know that I prefer living at Winterfell...you know that with me you will be appreciated, my lady. So...to come directly to the point...if it's a home and a family you want, I...I believe that I could help provide that for you." Jaime stood tall just then, and though his nervousness was still obvious Brienne thought that he had never looked more handsome. How could Sansa possibly refuse a man like this?

But she did - and easily, it seemed, at that. "You're very kind, and I do appreciate it, but..." Sansa's shoulders rose and fell; shocked at this turn of events, Brienne looked to Jaime - and was even more surprised to see that he looked relieved. But before any of them could say another word, they heard a hoarse chuckle coming from the direction of the chamber door.

"Little bird. Kingslayer. Wench. Have I interrupted something...important?" Sandor Clegane rasped.