Chapter 1: Sansa I
The floor of the throne room of the Red Keep is just as cold and hard as she remembers it when she kneels before the Iron Throne, now occupied by Daenerys Targaryen, the First of Her Name, a tiny girl around Sansa's own age. Sansa has heard so many things about the dragon queen -- that she's a monster, that she's a saviour, that she's mad, that she's wonderful -- that she has no idea what to expect from her when she's haulled down from the reconstruction of Winterfell to see her.
Sansa is comforted, at least, by the fact that despite the fact that she's been made to kneel before the queen, the only other people in the room are Daenerys herself and Ser Barristan, the Lord Commander of her Queensguard. She -- or possibly Tyrion himself -- seems to have had the foresight to keep her Hand out of this particular meeting.
"Sansa Stark," the queen begins, "I apologize for having you brought down from the North for this. My nephew assures me that there is plenty of work to be done at Winterfell still." It's odd to think of Jon as the nephew of the queen, as her cousin and not her brother, but according to the Targaryens, at least, it's the truth. "Of course, for your family's role in my father's demise, I ought to have left it a smoking ruin, but both Jon and Lord Tyrion have assured me that I should leave your family be, that you've suffered enough in my absence from Westeros. And from the stories I have heard, I am sorry that Jon dealt with the Boltons before I had the chance, though I suppose he had the right."
Sansa has no idea where the queen is headed with this chain of thought. Surely she did not ask Sansa down from Winterfell to King's Landing simply to say horrible things about her family and remind her of the Boltons' atrocities.
"Of course, the real reason I have had you return from the North is not related to Winterfell at all. With your younger brother in place as Lord Stark and Jon acting as Lord Protector until he comes of age, it should be quite stable for the time being." She looks expectantly at Sansa.
"Yes, Your Grace," she says, simply for something to say.
"Therefore, it is time that a match was arranged for you."
Her heart seems to stop beating in her chest for a moment. What kind of husband would she suggest for Sansa, after saying that she wished Winterfell was still a burnt-out ruin? Surely she does not mean for her to wed Tyrion again; it took so long and so much work to have the Faith annul their marriage that she doesn't think she could take such a step again. While Sansa knows Tyrion had little and less to do with the deaths of her family, and most of the few kindnesses she remembers from her first years in King's Landing were at his hands, she can't forgive him for being a Lannister.
"A match, Your Grace?" is what she says instead.
"Yes, Lady Sansa, a match. You are ten-and-seven and unwed; it is time. This would normally be the duty of your lord brother, or your lord cousin as his regent, but I cannot trust Jon to put the needs of the realm before his affections for you and make you a proper match. So I, as mother of the realm, have taken on that responsibility myself."
Sansa is still dazed by the news. "Thank you, Your Grace."
Queen Daenerys smiles. It is much more terrifying than it should be. "I have already spoken with your betrothed, who has agreed to the match. He assures me that Highgarden is lovely this time of year."
"Lord Tyrell," she says, as though it were obvious. "We spoke briefly about his home before I informed him of my decision. He too should have been wed long ago, and as much as I would have liked to pull those roses up by the roots, I have been informed that Lord Mace's head should be sufficient, as he was the one responsible for their alliance with the Lannisters." She clenches her hand into a fist as she says the word Lannisters, as if the current Lord of Casterly Rock is not serving as Hand of the Queen right now. "Thus I have arranged a match between your two Houses. I'm sure you have much to discuss."
After the Queen has dismissed her from the throne room, Sansa returns to her chambers, desperate to be alone. A marriage as punishment for the two of us, she thinks. And with Willas Tyrell,of all people. Does she know about Lady Olenna and Margaery's plan? It seems so long ago that the ladies of Highgarden were plotting to spirit her away from King's Landing to wed Willas, and she still remembers how determined she had been to make him love her then, though of course events had transpired in such a way that they never met. She wonders if he is truly as gentle and scholarly as Margaery had tried to convince her back then, or as boring as Littlefinger had once said. Sansa no longer harbours any illusions about these matters; she knows that his true nature is likely between the two. She can live with that, she thinks. Better a slightly dull husband than a cruel one.
Their wedding will take place in King's Landing, under the queen's watchful eye. She is gracious enough to allow it to take place in the smaller sept of the Red Keep rather than in the Great Sept of Baelor as she had originally proposed, but a quiet word from Ser Barristan and Lord Tyrion had convinced her not to force Sansa to the site of her father's murder. Instead her second wedding will take place in the same room as her first.
"I am sorry about the venue," Tyrion says to her as they depart one of the queen's briefings -- apparently she is making a lot of matches among the Houses and is holding these meetings with each individual involved. "I know it likely holds some unpleasant memories for you, as it does for me."
"It is not ideal," she admits to him. "But I would rather remember that than the day Joffrey cut off my father's head while I am being married."
He looks at her then, a curious expression in his mismatched eyes. "I feel that you have changed a great deal since we last met, my lady."
"Sufficient time with Littlefinger will do that," she replies, remembering the grim satisfaction she had felt when Jon had thrown him down in the snow and taken his head off with his Valyrian steel sword. He had reminded her so much of Father, then, and she had cried later that night remembering how she had treated him in the past.
"Yes, I suppose so. Is it true your brother -- cousin -- kinsman of some sort took his head?"
"Yes," she says, and it is cold as winter.
Not unexpectedly, she does not meet Willas Tyrell until the day they are married, despite his status as a fellow (prisoner) guest in the Red Keep. Daenerys keeps them far apart, roomed at far ends of the castle and shepherded around the grounds by one of her Queensguard at all times. Her first sight of him is him standing before the altar of the sept.
He looks much as she expected, tall and thin like his brother Loras with the same curly brown hair and large amber eyes as his siblings. Unlike Loras and Margaery's constant smiles and carefree bearing, he looks unnecessarily serious, his face carrying a certain worn quality that likely speaks to his injury and the more recent stresses he and his family have faced. Sansa wonders if she has a similar look now. As Olenna had bluntly told her when she was a little girl, one of his legs is crippled; he stands with his weight on his other leg and a cane in his hand.
When he speaks his vows, his voice is so quiet that someone in the back shouts for him to speak up. He looks so shocked that Sansa nearly bursts into hysterical giggles, but he does finish his piece in a louder voice, and his hands are steady when he puts the green-and-gold cloak over her shoulders. When it comes time to kiss her, he hesitates, making a May I? gesture with one of his hands, and she smiles genuinely for the first time that day and nods slightly.
The kiss is surprisingly pleasant.
When Queen Daenerys tells him that she will be wedding him off, he is taken aback. Upon receiving the raven that asked him to come to King's Landing, he was convinced that it was to take his head, just as she had done his father when she arrived. As far as Willas was concerned, the best thing that could be said about her was At least she didn't use the dragons instead.
But instead she was apparently interested in his matrimonial prospects, or the lack thereof. He knows it's unusual for a man his age to be unwed or even without a betrothal, but around the time his father should have been arranging such, he had his accident, and then it was much more difficult to find matches for him, even as the heir to Highgarden. All of his siblings had ended up married before Willas, except Loras, and even Willas knew about him and Renly Baratheon and considered it close enough. Now he wishes he had married before, if only to keep the dragon queen from matching him up with an unwilling bride.
Later, she tells him the unwilling girl in question is Sansa Stark. When he returns to his chambers in the Red Keep after their meeting (the second best thing that could be said about Daenerys Targaryen is that she doesn't force cripples like him to stand for hours or try to kneel on the hard stone of the floor, instead taking him to the Small Council chamber and allowing him to sit in the Master of Ships' chair while she talked at him from her chair at the head of the table, three of her Queensguard arrayed behind her as if he was going to try fighting his way out of the room), he has to laugh, and he does, for a very long time. He remembers about four years ago, when Margaery and his grandmother had sent him those letters about her.
A sweet, sad girl with beautiful eyes and such lovely hair, Margaery's had said. A little slow and too polite, but valuable all the same, Grandmother's had read. He finds himself wondering what she's really like, having heard many tales of her in the interim, running away to the Vale with Littlefinger after poisoning Joffrey (he knows the poisoning part is all his family's doing, though they had told him little and less of the plot -- they never like to involve poor, honest Willas in most of their shadier dealings) and then taking back Winterfell with her newly-royal cousin and her miraculously-found brother and their two giant direwolves. The stories about her family are just as wild; there's her brother-cousin Jon Snow, refused legitimization as both Jon Stark and Jon Targaryen, former Lord Commander of the former Night's Watch, survived an assassination through sorcery, and then took the heads of both Boltons and Petyr Baelish all in the same day, now Lord Protector of the North in his young cousin's stead, and her youngest brother Rickon Stark, thought dead for years, but smuggled back from the shores of Skagos, of all places, with his massive black wolf and a wildling woman by Stannis' onion knight, and allegedly both of them are wargs and skinchangers. He has to admit he's a little terrified of the prospect of marrying into the Starks if even half of these stories are true. He'd rather it not be his head on the edge of Lord Snow's Valyrian steel, if he can help it.
He tries to get the knight that follows him around like a white shadow to tell him anything about Lady Stark, who she is, what she likes, even what she looks like, but he's inherited very little of the family slyness and he learns exactly nothing about the girl he's supposed to marry in a fortnight. He can't even sneak up on anyone to eavesdrop, because the clicking of his cane on the stone floors and the drag of his leg announce his arrival long before anyone else could.
The girl remains a mystery until the day of their wedding. Daenerys holds it in the Red Keep itself, apparently out of consideration for Sansa, but he himself is glad of the shorter walk from his chambers and up the aisle to await her; it's raining out and his leg is even more painful than usual. He tries to keep his nervous fidgeting to a minimum as he stands at the front of the sept, watching the guests file in, but he knows he's not doing a very good job of it. Garlan gives him a small wave from where he's sitting on one of the long benches set out for spectators, only to have his hand playfully slapped down by Leonette, who gives him a wink. Willas wishes that the rest of the family was here, but with Margaery and Loras given away to the Faith for their parts in the Lannister regime and his parents and grandparents all dead now, Garlan and Leonette are all he has left.
A few moments pass after the doors close and the guests are all seated. Willas stares intently at the candles standing just off to the side of the dais the altar stands on. They'll be right behind Sansa's head when she gets here. He tamps down the urge to fidget once again.
Finally, the doors swing open, revealing his betrothed (about to be your wife, he thinks, panicking slightly) on the arm of the queen. Apparently she had not invited Sansa's family, though he was allowed to bring his own. That seems unfair to Willas, but he's not about to argue these things with a woman who owns three full-grown dragons and what must be the best Queensguard since the last of her father's knights died in Dorne defending Lyanna Stark and Jon Snow.
Sansa is certainly as beautiful as Margaery described, tall and slender with big blue eyes and long, thick auburn hair that shines red in the candlelight. Her gown is white and grey, her House colours, reflected in her maiden's cloak. For her sake, he's glad no one tried to enforce a red-and-gold one instead, even with her previous marriage annulled by the High Septon himself. Willas realizes he's probably looking at her too intently, so he tries to school his facial expression into something other than what Garlan refers to as "The Stare", but he gets the feeling he's going to have to suffer his brother's impression of it at the feast later regardless.
When the septon tells him to speak his vows, his voice comes out so quietly that one of the guests closer to the back of the room shouts for him to speak up. He's sure he's a horrifying shade of red when he does so, but he manages to get the rest of his words out at a slightly more audible volume, and when Daenerys takes Sansa's maiden cloak from her he manages to swing the bride's cloak around her shoulders without any trouble, which he was worried about, since the maneuver requires him to take his hand from his cane, and his balance is precarious at best when it's not supporting him.
The septon prompts him to get on with kissing his bride and he makes an abortive attempt to ask her for permission that turns into a bizarre hand movement that makes him want to slap himself, but she gives him a smile and a nod, and he feels like his message got across to her anyway. He's never felt quite so understood.
I don't know about you, but I've always assumed Willas Tyrell was an enormous nerd.
"Kneel before the queen, Kingslayer," orders Ser Barristan as she enters the room.
Still Kingslayer, I see, he thinks, taking a knee as instructed. And after all we've been through.
Queen Daenerys Targaryen is young, only about nine-and-ten, and a pretty enough thing, he supposes, with her big purple eyes and long silver-gold hair, but she's far too small for his tastes. As if his opinion holds any weight with anyone in power these days.
"Jaime Lannister," she says, once she has ascended the steps and taken her seat on the Iron Throne. He notices her Hand is nowhere in sight. Mayhaps he shouldn't be surprised; he and Tyrion are still on uneasy ground. "I should have you executed for your crimes against the realm."
That's not why she called me out here? Jaime doesn't consider himself an easy man to surprise, not anymore, but the idea that this young girl with the Targaryen taste for blood doesn't want his head on a pike for his infamous kingslaying is the most shocking thing he has heard in a very long time.
"However," she continues, "in sight of your leal service to me in the North against the Others, and on the advice of my Hand, I have decided to lessen your punishment."
He hopes that doesn't mean she plans to chop off his other hand.
"You are hereby officially stripped of your rank of Kingsguard, and you still hold no right to Casterly Rock or any of its lands of incomes."
Was he still on the Kingsguard? Queensguard? Whatever she was calling the bloody thing these days? He hardly considers this a punishment, considering he was unaware he still held the rank at all, and had no interest in supplanting Tyrion as Lord Lannister. Now all that lies ahead is freedom, for true, for the first time.
"You will also be wed, to a maid of my choosing."
There go his dreams of freedom. He tries to take a mental inventory of who still has unwed daughters, but the realm's been in so much chaos for so long he has no idea. Some of the servants were whispering in the corridor this morning about Lady Stark arriving, and he hopes it's not her. She's already been married off to one Lannister; she hardly needs another one.
"Her father, one of my most loyal supporters has assured me that the wedding will take place without my further intervention. You'll leave in the morning."
Evidently the queen has no intention of even telling him who his apparent bride is going to be.
He finds out the next morning, when he's led to a ship by two members of the Queensguard. A ship bearing a flag with a very familiar star-and-moon device.
Maybe Tyrion's forgiven him after all.
When he arrives on the island, he manages to hitch a ride on a wayn of vegetables headed for Evenfall Hall. The farmer seems under the impression that he lost the hand fighting wights up north and doesn't call him Kingslayer once -- Jaime's not even sure the man knows who he is, and that's a nice change -- so when they arrive at the keep he tosses the man a golden dragon. It's most of the money he has left, but he feels like he owes the man, and a Lannister always pays his debts. Besides, he's nearly Lord Consort of Tarth, or whatever his proper title is; with a queen regent on the Iron Throne and Brienne being Brienne, he has no illusions that he'll be ruling through anyone, so simply "Lord of Tarth" would feel like some sort of deceit. At least Brienne's father is still alive, so he can remain "Ser Jaime" for the time being.
Frankly, he's waiting for someone to pinch him because this is clearly some sort of beautiful dream, the best he's had in years. Usually he dreams about wights and Others and dragonfire, and worst of all, about Cersei. He doesn't like to dwell on any of them, those dreams especially.
Brienne is standing by the gates of the keep, all dressed up in her best gown for the occasion. Blue, he notes. She looks well in blue. The sword ruins the effect a bit, though. He attempts to climb down from the farmer's wayn while she watches with a mix of surprise and amusement.
"My lady," he says once he's gotten down and dusted himself off a little, bowing before her, a wide smile on his face.
"Jaime!" she says. "What are you doing here? I'm supposed to be waiting for my new betrothed, to bring him in to meet Father."
Jaime continues grinning.
"Well, that's what the queen says. You could always take it up with her, if you like."
"No," she says again.
"Probably for the best -- I hear that big black dragon of hers has quite the taste for manflesh."
She punches him in the arm, but lightly.
"You're not going to make me fight you, like you did that Wagstaff, are you? Brienne, I'm an old man and a cripple besides. It's just not fair."
"I'm not going to challenge you, Jaime," she says, rolling her eyes. "Unless I have to."
He puts up his hand and stump in surrender. "You don't need to do any such thing. I'll be a good little lord for you."
"I can't believe Daenerys is punishing me like this. And after all Tarth has done for her and Aegon."
"You wound me, Brienne," he says, but they're both smiling.
It's good to be home again.
Lord Selwyn Tarth, the Evenstar, is a huge man. That's the first thing Jaime notices when Brienne leads him to the solar where he's working, presumably on the affairs of the isle. He's likely even taller than his daughter, though it is hard to tell with him sitting down.
"Brienne!" he booms as she walks in the room, Jaime tagging behind her like a favourite dog. "Did he arrive already?"
"Yes, he's right behind me," she says. Exasperated, but still fond. He thinks that's probably a succinct way to explain their relationship to this point.
"Isn't that --" Lord Selwyn starts.
"Jaime Lannister," he finishes.
"Where's your betrothed?" he asks, turning back to his daughter.
"Apparently, he is my betrothed."
Lord Selwyn looks at Jaime again, studying him. He wishes he had spruced himself up more for this meeting; he's still dusty and scruffy from the journey, and of course he's aged and scarred and handless from his years of misadventures both with and without Brienne.
"It's nice to finally meet you," he says, eventually. "Brienne has told me much and more about you."
"Is that so?" Jaime asks, and when he looks back at Brienne he can see she's flushed a deep red. "I think I've likely told more than my fair share of stories about her, too." He remembers one in particular, writing her name in the White Book the day he returned to King's Landing. She always belonged in that book more than he did.
"I'm sure," he smiles. "Well, when the queen said she was going to 'ensure loyalties' with Brienne's marriage, I can't say I thought they would be your loyalties."
What loyalties, he thinks immediately, but a deeper part of him knows that that Jaime is no more, that he shed that skin like a snake's a long time ago. An even deeper part of him knows exactly when and why, and the deepest part of all knows for who.
Writing Jaime is my new favourite thing. What a delightful asshole.
Chapter 4: Brienne I
"My lady?" says Tarwin, the young new maester of Evenfall Hall. "A letter's come for you from King's Landing."
"From King's Landing?" She frowns. Brienne doesn't know anyone in King's Landing anymore; last she heard, Jaime had left the city to return west, staying in Lannisport or at Ashemark with his friend Ser Addam, Sansa was back at Winterfell with her brother and her cousin, and ...that cleared Brienne's list of friends and acquaintances. She had not managed to remain in contact with any of the many other soldiers she had met battling the Others, just as she had expected.
"Yes," the maester says. "There was one for Lord Selwyn as well."
When she takes the letter from Tarwin's hand and turns it over, her heart sinks. Pressed into a drop of black wax is a three-headed dragon -- it's from the queen, or possibly Prince Aegon. What do they want with me? she wonders. I've done my part in their wars; I just want to stay home on Tarth now, with Father.
Lady Brienne, the letter reads. This letter is to inform you that a betrothal has been made on your behalf as a loyal subject of the Iron Throne. Your future husband is of uncertain loyalty and an alliance with a family such as your own would be instrumental in bringing him fully into the realm, which is one of our highest priorities. Should all things go to plan, he will arrive in approximately three turns of the moon.
It's signed Her Grace Daenerys Targaryen, First of Her Name, complete with her dozen titles, in a different hand and Tyrion Lannister, Hand of the Queen in the same hand that wrote the bulk of the letter.
A royal command that she marry, and to a man Her Grace and her Hand did not even see fit to name in their short letter. Mayhaps her father's contains more detail.
It does not; the only excess information is a cleverly-worded reprimand directed at her father for not finding her a husband sooner. She is angry on his behalf, as one of the things she has loved best about her father is that he has not tried to force any betrothals on her since the incident with Ser Humfrey. Lord Selwyn is an able lord and a good father, and the Targaryens back on the Iron Throne should be so lucky as to have his support, though of course Brienne keeps such thoughts to herself.
Brienne passes the next three turns of the moon in great anxiety. She can hardly throw aside a betrothal made by the queen herself, regardless of who the man may be, and he is apparently a rebel besides. A poor choice, she thinks, considering the queen's pets. There haven't been three dragons of such great size since the days of Aegon the Conqueror, and any man willing to go against their mother must either be a great fool or completely mad.
But she will do her duty, no matter who the queen has chosen for her future Lady of Tarth. It will please her father as well, she knows. He has always wanted for her to marry and have children. And now she has no choice.
Another raven from King's Landing arrives, saying that her betrothed has set sail for Tarth, which means that he will likely arrive on the island the following day. Brienne has her maid lay out her blue gown for the occasion, hoping it will make her look somewhat less hideous, at least, though she suspects any man being punished with marriage to her has already heard all about the Maid of Tarth's famous ugliness. At least some of the scarring on her cheek has faded in the intervening years, though it's still far too vivid for Brienne's liking.
It doesn't matter. She will still be an ugly woman married to a fool or a madman. I will have to outlive him, for Tarth's sake.
She waits by the gates of Evenfall Hall all morning, her maid lurking behind her as a chaperone, though the sword at her hip will be of much more use in any unfortunate situations that may arise. Not a soul comes up the road for hours, yet she still waits. She wants to be the first of them to set eyes on whoever the queen has sent after her, even if she has to wait all day and all of the morrow. The seas have been calm, however, and she knows, deep in her bones, that whoever it is will arrive today.
A whole procession, or at least a knight on a horse, is what she expects to see when someone finally makes their way to the keep, but all she sees is a farmer's wayn, bringing a fresh supply of food to the castle. As he gets closer, Brienne notes that there's a man riding on the back of the cart, holding onto one of the wayn's back posts with his left hand. When they get even closer, Brienne can make out certain details -- he is wearing dark and dusty travel clothes, and he has fair hair. Her heart jumps in her chest at that thought, and she quashes it ruthlessly without a second thought as to why.
When the cart is only moments from arriving, she knows it's him. She can hardly believe her eyes -- surely the queen knows that she and Jaime are friends; if she's trying to punish him, she did not think this through. Or maybe she did, says that insidious inner voice, the one that never lets Brienne forget what she is, not for a moment. You may be friends, but a man like Jaime Lannister could have any woman in the kingdom. She tries to shake it off and stop gawping like fish for when he turns around to notice her standing at the gate like a watchman.
He climbs down from the cart awkwardly, clearly missing the balance two hands would afford him, but when he sees her, he breaks into a great wide smile before bowing deeply.
"My lady," he says.
Brienne tries to say something courteous, something friendly, anything, but what she says instead is "no".
She doesn't know why she expected anything better of herself.
"Your father seems like a nice fellow," Jaime says as they leave dinner together that night, Brienne's maid still trailing a few steps behind. "I rather like him."
"Yes," she says. Lord Selwyn has something of a reputation in the Stormlands, at least, as being charming and amiable. She wishes her own reputation was as kind.
They walk a few more paces before Jaime wheels around on her maid. "You," he says, in his best Lannister of Casterly Rock voice. "You are dismissed."
"But, ser, --"
The girl gives Brienne a terrified look. Brienne just shrugs. She has possibly even less idea what Jaime is doing than the maid. She departs, ducking into the stairwell leading down near the kitchens.
"Jaime! What are you doing?" she hisses, once the girl is gone.
"I wanted to talk to you, preferably alone. I would have talked regardless, but it's better this way."
She eyes him warily. It's never a good thing when Jaime gets too evasive.
"Don't look at me like that. I'm not planning anything particuarly nefarious."
"I'd prefer if it wasn't nefarious at all."
He laughs. "It isn't, truly. Well, the queen might think so, but bugger her."
"Jaime!" she gasps, scandalized.
"Brienne," he says, abruptly serious. "I only wanted to ask you if you wanted this marriage."
She opens and closes her mouth a few times, feeling like a fish. Brienne has no idea what she intends to answer.
"You can say 'no'," he offers. "My pride will not be wounded. Or not particularly wounded. All right, it would be wounded, but I'd consider it a small price to pay."
"No," Brienne starts, attempting to backtrack. "You took me unawares."
"I never imagined I would ever marry, or if I did that it would be to a man who only agreed for my lands and title," she says, thinking of Ser Hyle. He was often unkind and she had never quite forgiven him for his part in the wager back at Renly's camp, but she did find she had considered him a friend, in a way. She did regret his death, back in the North. "Marrying you is hardly what I would have expected. But it is. Not unwelcome."
"'Not unwelcome'," he repeats, smiling. "You have such a way with words."
She feels herself blushing furiously and she is about to open her mouth to fight back, but Jaime is quicker, standing on the balls of his feet to even out their height difference. He kisses her, just barely, but he does it all the same. Brienne feels like her head is on fire.
"As for me," he says, walking down the corridor towards his new chambers, "I'm rather looking forward to it."
Chapter 5: Sansa II
The feast goes well. Tyrion wishes her luck and happiness before moving back to his own seat at the high table, placed as far from Sansa as propriety allows for the guests of honour and the Hand of the Queen, where curiously, he appears to be drinking nothing but water. Willas is polite but shy; he seems to be having a hard time looking directly at her. It simultaneously feels both irritating and empowering, as if she intimidates him too much for eye contact. But she has spent enough time as a scared little girl under the control of others to be able to take too much satisfaction from it; she still has a soft place in her heart for "cripples, bastards, and broken things", as Tyrion once phrased it to her. And when Garlan comes over to tease his older brother about his stoic facial expressions, she notes that he seems to have less difficulty with him, even as he turns a bright red, and that perhaps in time he will be that comfortable with her. She would like that.
In another consideration that Sansa feels is likely Tyrion's doing, there is no bedding. Some of the guests make disappointed sounds, but the stories about what the war has done to House Stark are well-known by now, and no one objects too strenuously. Willas offers her the arm he doesn't have to rest on his cane.
She takes his arm and the two of them leave the hall together. Their marriage bed, out of necessity for Willas' leg, has been set up in a chamber on the castle's first floor. It means the room is not as luxurious as it might have been otherwise, but Sansa cares less about those things than she did as a girl.
Once inside the door, she freezes. Still attached to him at the arm, she notices Willas has gone stiff as well, his knuckles white around the head of his cane. It seems the two of them have reached a point where neither knows how to proceed.
"My lord?" she ventures.
"Yes?" he says, turning his head in her direction, but his eyes are still focussed somewhere around her left ear.
"I am not certain of what to do next," she confesses.
"Unfortunately," he says, and he's gone back to speaking so quietly it's hard to hear him, "you may have married the only man in the Seven Kingdoms with equally little idea."
Sansa had been counting on him having more experience than her in these matters; despite her marriage and Petyr's unwanted advances and secret engagements that fell through when Jon and the power of the North swept through the Vale and rescued her along the way, she has little idea of what happens in the marriage chamber. Thanks to Myranda Royce, she has a good idea of the actual act, but she has no idea what happens between two people to get to that stage. She's reminded of her first wedding night, when she was even less knowledgeable and even more frightened, and that only heightens her apprehension.
"My lady?" Willas asks, shaking her from her musings. "Are you well?"
"Yes!" she says, immediately. "Quite well."
"I need to sit down, if you don't mind." He gestures to his bad leg.
"Oh! Yes, of course," she says, letting go of his arm. The only surfaces to sit on in the room are the dressing table chair, provided for Sansa to undress her hair, and the bed. He chooses the bed, first perching on the edge, but then shuffling about so that his bad leg is supported by it. Sansa takes a seat on the chair.
"I am sorry," he says, after a few minutes of uncomfortable silence. "I know that I was probably not what you were hoping for in a husband; most maids do not wish to marry a clueless cripple like myself, I would imagine. But I will do my best for you, I swear it."
Her face softens as she looks at him, awkwardly propped up on the bed, his fingers tangled together on his lap. "Mayhaps not most girls, but I have learned that a good heart is more important than anything else in a man. Or a marriage." She approaches the bed; he notices and shuffles further inward so that there is room for her to sit beside him, even with her gown's rather elaborate skirts. "And though I do not yet know you well, I do believe you are possessed of one."
Saying it reminds her of something her father once said to her, when she was still too young and foolish to understand. I'll make you a match worthy of you. Someone brave and gentle and strong. While she may be somewhat unconvinced of his bravery as yet, Sansa thinks her father would have approved of Willas Tyrell.
As if he heard her thoughts and is setting out to prove his courage to her, he takes her hands with his and maneuvers them both into a kiss, far more deftly than she would have expected from a man who seems almost perpetually off-balance.
"I am sorry for that," he says afterwards, his eyes huge in his thin face. "I should not have taken such liberties."
She just kisses him again. He seems to understand.
They leave for Highgarden after another week in the capital. It seems they are both eager to leave; Sansa has had a deep abiding hatred for the city since the last time she was there, a captive of the Iron Throne, and Willas just seems uncomfortable here, though perhaps that is just because he is still acclimating to her sudden presence in his life. She isn't sure yet. Even Garlan and Leonette, who seem to have few issues with King's Landing, are happy to be heading home.
Letters from Jon arrive two days before they leave, three of them, one for Daenerys, one for Sansa, and one for Willas. Her own letter speaks of indignation on her behalf, doesn't she know that you aren't property to be traded around to the highest bidder, I can't believe she did such a thing, I'm so sorry Sansa, while Willas' is full of brotherly threats about what, precisely, will be visited upon his person if he mistreats Sansa even slightly. Both have a small message appended from Rickon. Sansa's says I miss you, please come visit, even if you have to bring your husband. Willas' says simply, I have been to Skagos, accompanied by a crude drawing of a unicorn. Willas looks so baffled as he reads it that Sansa can't help but giggle.
She wonders what kind of message Rickon wrote for the queen.
The weather gets better as they ride south and west, as Sansa expected, and while she misses the North and her brothers (cousin) terribly, that part of her that always wanted to head south rejoices in the sunshine and warmer breezes. Though he is unsteady on his feet, Willas is an excellent rider, much better than Sansa herself, who was never much for the activity. She wonders if he was as good when he was in that jousting accident, because she has a difficult time imagining such a horseman being so easily unseated.
"What is Highgarden like, truly?" she asks, a few days into their journey. "I only heard about it from Margaery, and I fear she exaggerated when she was telling me."
"Most like. Margaery is prone to that sort of thing. Or was. I expect there's not much room for that in the Silent Sisters."
How could she have forgotten? Mentioning Margaery was such a foolish idea. He continues on regardless.
"Highgarden is likely near as beautiful as she told you it was, though since it's still winter it's not quite as nice as it will be in spring or summer, or if there were more people there. At the moment it's just the servants and I, since Garlan and Leonette are returning to Brightwater."
"That must be terribly lonely," she says without thinking, and slaps a hand over her mouth. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't say such things."
He looks at her, eyebrows raised. "I think if anyone is to say such things of me, it should be you. Not that other people should not say such things either. What I mean is, we are married now, I don't think there are lines to cross." He frowns. "I am making a mess of this."
"I think you are better than you think you are."
Every day he promises himself that he is going to do a much better job spending time with his wife.
He does not live up to these promises.
Sometimes it is because he is occupied with the business of the Reach, reading reports and writing letters. Occasionally he even takes visitors, though he suspects his bannermen usually try to keep them away from him because, unfortunately, his grandmother's incessant chattering about his shyness has given him a rather unsavoury reputation among the other Houses. Willas considers this unfair; while he knows his personal life is largely ashambles, his father did teach him how to be a lord, and he is surprisingly good at acting the part, even if afterwards he needs to sit alone in the library for a few hours.
However, most of the time, the problem is that he can't seem to speak to Sansa without making an utter fool of himself. Sansa doesn't seem to mind, but he still wishes he could be a proper husband and actually speak to his wife without doing something hideously embarrassing. He still hasn't recovered from the time she asked him a sudden question over dinner and he managed to flip his bowl of soup into his lap, and then leapt up in shock and promptly fell over because his leg gave out. It's times like this he is glad Garlan isn't around, because he knows he would laugh uproariously at Willas' complete bungling of the situation. Not that he could blame him, of course.
Sansa, however, had gasped in surprise and gotten one of the serving girls to fetch the maester to make sure he hadn't injured himself too severely. He's not sure if he prefers Sansa's gentle care or Garlan's "tough love" approach, but he'd take either of them over his maester's huff of "Again?" when he had entered the hall.
"'Again?'" Sansa had asked, her face hovering between amusement and fearing for him.
"He just means I am unfortunately accident-prone," Willas said, still lying on the floor because no one had helped him up. "Not that I have a long history of soup-related injuries."
He's been doing what he can to make Sansa comfortable here, even managing to wrangle a few lady companions for her from his bannermen, all of whom had been unduly surprised that not only had he returned from King's Landing with head still attached, but that he had found someone willing to marry him. Willas seriously considers finding some new lords.
While that may have livened up the largely-empty castle and given Sansa someone to talk to, it has not at all solved his own problem, namely, attempting to get to know his wife. If anything, it is making things more difficult, because now every time he goes into another room it seems like there's some strange woman in it. He wishes Garlan were here, or that Oberyn Martell was still alive, so he could ask one of them what on earth he's supposed to be doing, though he suspects Oberyn's advice would be something so salacious he'd have to burn the letter immediately after reading it. Most of his letters were like that. Even the ones about the horses.
About four months after their return to Highgarden is when he finally solves the problem. Young Lord Tarly has just been for a week's visit to complain about this and that and can't the Dornish stay on their side of the border?, which, of course, Willas has little to no control over, unless they're actually invading. Which they are not. He had hoped that when Queen Daenerys had taken Randyll Tarly's head for sitting on Tommen's small council that House Tarly would stop being such a pain, but if anything, Dickon is worse than his father, puffed up with the arrogance that comes with being the obvious favourite. Loras used to look like that, sometimes. As his father before him, he looks down on Willas as weak and insignificant, useless because of his leg, and he has to stare him down for hours just to get him to agree to anything. Luckily, he eventually bows to Willas' superior station, for which he is appropriately grateful, because he hates whenever he has to resort to "accidentally" hitting unruly bannermen with his cane, a trick he picked up from his grandmother.
So after he and his wife and his handful of retainers finally depart from Highgarden, Willas takes his customary walk to the library in an attempt to recuperate from the ordeal that is talking to a Tarly.
He doesn't expect to find Sansa already in there, standing by one of the shelves, book in hand.
"Oh! My lady," he says by way of greeting. "I didn't -- I can -- should I leave?"
"Not at all," she says with a smile. Her teeth are very white. "I should like it if you stayed."
He takes a furtive glance around the nearest shelf. "Your ladies aren't here, are they?"
"They've gone out riding, my lord," she answers, taking a look in another book. "It is quite a lovely day. I think spring is coming."
"You did not wish to go with them?" he asks, puzzled.
"No," she says. "After hosting the Tarlys for a week, I could rather use the solitude."
"I understand completely." Then he realizes something. "If you wished for solitude, why did you ask me to stay?"
"I know that you use the library every time a guest leaves, or every time you are cornered into a conversation with one of my companions," she says with a wry smile. "It is your space more than it is mine. Besides," she adds, "I think I would like it if we could read together."
"Not the same book, of course. I imagine that would be difficult to maneuver. But at the same time, in the same room."
I would be honoured, my lady is what runs through his head, but what he says is "Yes, that's -- we should -- let us do that." Willas puts a hand to his face. What is wrong with him? Even Loras was better with women than he is, and he had about as much interest in them as Willas has in moving to Horn Hill, which is to say very little indeed.
Sansa just gives him another smile and walks off towards the back of the room with her chosen book. He limps in her wake, a hastily-grabbed book of the history of the Iron Islands in his free hand, to find her sitting on the settee in front of the large window. Someone has moved a footstool in front of the other end of it -- presumably not Sansa, since he didn't hear it dragging as he made his way over -- obviously intended for his leg. She looks up from her book to see him looking rather uncertainly at the set-up.
"Are you going to sit down?"
"Yes," he says simply, feeling silly for having stared blankly at a piece of furniture for what must have been near a minute, and folds himself onto the settee, his leg on the convenient footstool. She reads with her book open in her lap, her hands moving to turn the pages surprisingly quickly. He realizes he's supposed to be reading, not watching her, and cracks open his own book. It's surprisingly dry for a book about the sea, he muses, but of course most histories are.
"What are you reading, my lord?" she asks after a time of silent reading.
"A history of the Iron Isles," he replies. "Surprisingly dull for something involving giant sea-dragons."
"Theon once told me that story," she says, looking sad. "Robb used to tease him because he learned most of his own history from the library at Winterfell. We had a very big one, in one of the towers, but it went through two fires and we lost it."
"I'm very sorry, my lady," he says. "It was terrible, what he did to your family."
"He's paid for it dearly," she says. "I cannot stay angry at him any longer." She must be referring to the Bastard of Bolton. Willas has never heard the precise details of what happened to Theon Greyjoy or any of his other countless victims, but what he has heard makes him wish Jon Snow could kill him all over again.
They return to their respective books, but when he looks at her again, her eyes are still shiny with unshed tears. He moves his book to one hand, using the other to take hers, tentatively. She looks surprised, but she tightens her hand around his, and he knows it is a welcome gesture.
He hasn't completely embarrassed himself this time, which he counts as a victory, but he did accidentally make her cry, which is much, much worse. Willas would take a hundred incidents with hot soup over this.
But regardless of his inadvertant insensitivity, it turns into something of a tradition. She silently joins him whenever he takes to the library, and the two of them end up curled up on the library furniture together, each with their own books. Sometimes they read parts out loud to each other, sometimes they argue over what books are better, and sometimes they have long, drawn-out discussions about history or stories or any other scrap of information that turns up in the pages.
He learns a lot from those times, and not just from the books. Sansa tells him about her home and her family, and he returns the favour, though of course she had known Loras and Margaery in King's Landing and Garlan still turns up often enough that she can make his acquaintance quite thoroughly. He learns what she likes and doesn't like, and that's how they wind up with a lot more lemon cakes and a lot fewer of her lady companions underfoot.
Months later, they're having another one of their reading sessions, Sansa tucked up against his side as the two of them study up on Daeron's Conquest of Dorne, when he realizes that he has fallen quite in love with her. He supposes it's only fitting.
with apologies to Disney/Pixar
Their wedding is a surprisingly large affair. It takes place longer after Jaime's arrival on the island than he was expecting, having previously thought he was going to be dragged to the sept at spearpoint immediately upon arrival, but he realizes that the time was necessary for all these lords and ladies to sail out to Tarth to witness the wedding of the Kingslayer and Brienne the Beauty. Even Tyrion shows up, apparently having been conveniently at Storm's End at the time.
"And how fares Lady Shireen?" Jaime asks Tyrion when he says as much, the night before the wedding proper.
"As sweet and gentle as ever," he replies. "I expect she's next on Daenerys' long list of lords and ladies to punish by marrying them off."
Jaime barks a laugh at that. "If she's handing these out as punishment, I can tell you that they are not serving the intended purpose."
"You mean you're not dreading wedding the woman you've been in love with for years?" Tyrion asks with mock innocence. The two of them have hardly spoken in years -- Jaime must be quite obvious in his affections if even he knows.
"Not me. She may be dreading having to spend the rest of her life trapped on this island with me, though." He grins. "Thank you, by the way. The queen mentioned you having something to do with this particular match?"
"And thank you for noticing. She wanted to cut your head off, of course, but I talked her down to the wedding. She seemed under the impression that after having been with our sweet sister for so long that you would be miserable with anyone else, least of all your big ugly wench. Not that I can speak to the subject, as a small ugly monster."
"An impression that you had something to do with, I expect?"
"Oh, yes, very much. I practically had to wrestle Ser Barristan out of the room when I proposed it so he wouldn't ruin the whole scheme."
"Very brave of you."
"Well, I am a lion, you know," he says with a lopsided smile.
"I heard Lady Sansa was in King's Landing when I was there," Jaime says conversationally. "Who did our gracious queen decide to marry her off to?"
Jaime snorts. "Him? I remember the time I met him he was so shy he said more to the ground than to me -- he was almost as bad as that squire of yours. How did you spin that one as torture to Daenerys?"
"Why do you think I had something to do with this one?"
"Because if you didn't, I'll eat my other hand."
Tyrion smiles. "You're much smarter than you look, brother. I told her about Joffrey's murder, that the Tyrells tried having her take the blame for it. Of course, gods know that the Tyrells would sooner give Highgarden over to the Florents than involve Willas in something like a poisoning, but she considered it terrible enough for Ned Stark's daughter."
"We're holding punishments for the offspring of the culprit now? If I'd have known I would have brought my sword with me to the Red Keep."
Tyrion scoffs at that. "Ser Barristan may be as old as the Rock by now, but he could still kill you without so much as blinking."
"But I've been practicing!"
"So has he."
Tyrion accompanies him to Evenfall Hall's sept the next morning, the both of them done up in their finest gold-and-crimson, Tyrion with his Hand's chain about his neck.
"I am glad you came," Jaime tells him as they enter the sept.
Tyrion shrugs. "Until one of us gets some heirs, we're all that's left of House Lannister."
"Father would have hated that."
"I'm willing to remain unwed just to spite the old bastard," agrees Tyrion. "Besides, it's been near twenty years and I've punished you for five. I don't think I'll ever forgive you, not for Tysha's sake, but I don't believe I've been accomplishing anything."
Jaime nods, and it is not because he fears speaking around the lump in his throat.
"Ser Jaime?" asks the ancient septon when he sees the two of them hovering around the sept's doors.
"The ceremony will be beginning soon."
"And?" Jaime asks, though he knows full well what the septon is implying.
The old man rolls his eyes. "Seven protect Lady Brienne," he says. "It's none of my business if you want your bride and her father to throw those doors open in your face."
"I like you, septon," Jaime says, finally walking to the front of the room. Tyrion hops onto one of the sept's wooden benches to await the rest of the guests and Brienne herself, the bride's cloak on his lap. Most of the Houses of the Stormlands have sent a representative to this wedding, it seems, as Jaime watches them all come in and take their seats. He recognizes some by face, like ancient Lord Estermont and young Lady Baratheon, his great-granddaughter, and others by the colours and devices on their clothing, like most of the rest.
Brienne is wearing another blue dress under her maiden's cloak, he notes as she walks in the doors on the arm of her smiling father. Lord Selwyn looks happier than the bride, as if he were being married today and not Brienne, but she gives him a nervous smile when she reaches the altars where he is waiting, and that's good enough for Jaime.
Soon it's time to trade her maiden's cloak for the bride's, but before Lord Selwyn can come up to collect it from his daughter, Jaime sweeps it from her back and around his own shoulders. A collective gasp comes up from the assembled guests. Tyrion's laughing so hard in the front row that he's using the corner of the unused bride's cloak to dry his eyes.
The old septon, apparently unfazed by this development, plows ahead with the ceremony. He looks equally unimpressed when Jaime gives Brienne what is likely the most inappropriate kiss this sept has ever witnessed.
"Quite the show, dear brother," says Tyrion as they walk out of the sept. "If Lady Brienne has this annulled before dinner, you may have a future in mummery."
"I am going to kill you, you know," Brienne says casually, over the music of the feast.
"For the cloak or for the kiss? I'd just like to be certain."
"The kiss, mostly. Though what were you doing with the cloak?"
Jaime's still wearing it, the length of it thrown over the back of his chair. "Well, you're not becoming Lady Lannister, are you? I'm becoming the future Lord of Tarth. Didn't make sense to do it the other way."
"You should have told me before."
"I would have, if I had known I was going to do it more than ten seconds prior."
"Lannisters," she huffs.
"I'm not a Lannister any more."
"Don't remind me."
They attempt some dancing, once she's given Jaime some forgiveness for causing a scene in the sept. He's been getting a lot of that lately. But Brienne's a poor dancer and Jaime's missing a hand and the whole situation is laughable.
"That's enough dancing," says Brienne after one song, her face red.
"I agree wholeheartedly," Jaime says, taking off his maiden's cloak and folding it up.
"Then maybe you should take it upstairs!" shouts some knight who's overheard the exchange. "A bedding!"
The cry is soon taken up by most of the hall, and before anyone can intervene, a veritable wave of ladies has swept Jaime away from the table and towards the stairs, tearing at his clothes as they go.
He hopes Brienne is all right.
The ladies of the Stormlands -- shy, quiet Shireen Baratheon included -- toss Jaime unceremoniously into the bedchamber, completely naked. Brienne comes through the other door a moment later, fully clothed.
"You know," he says from his place on the floor, "the winner of the bedding is usually considered the one with fewer clothes on."
"They only bedded you," she says. "I walked myself up."
"That hardly seems fair."
"I didn't say it was." She crosses the room to sit on the edge of the bed. "My father knows about what happened to me in the Riverlands. He was willing to oblige me."
Jaime's smile vanishes. "Yes, of course. I had forgotten."
"I had not."
"No, I don't imagine you would." He looks around the room, grabbing a blanket thrown over a chest to cover himself. "Despite my appalling memory, I would like to assure you that nothing will happen that you don't want."
"Won't they know? If we don't, I mean?"
"Probably not," he says, coming to sit next to her. "Just walk a bit funny and keep turning red every time someone talks to you and you'll be fine."
She tries not to blush, just to spite him. It doesn't work.
"Yes, just like that," he says, his smile creeping back onto his face. "Should I take this as a sign that I should put my breeches back on?"
"I don't think there are any in this room, and the ladies have almost certainly destroyed the ones you were wearing."
"Of course there aren't, and yes, they did. Well, I'll leave my charming blanket-skirt on and keep my distance; that will work just as well."
Before she can stop herself, Brienne squeaks out a "no".
"What?" Jaime -- her husband -- asks, clearly taken aback.
"No, you don't have to do that."
"You mean you want me to --"
She cuts him off before he can say anything particularly crude or horrible. "Yes," she says, trying to sound more sure than she feels. She is scared, more scared than she's been in years, but she knows her duty, and if she's being honest with herself, she does feel something beyond the bonds of friendship for Jaime, even if he does not. How could he, she thinks, the most handsome man in the Seven Kingdoms, even after all he's been through, married to me. The Queen must have thought it was quite the jape. But even if he does not love her, he seems to like her, and that's more than Brienne can say for most of the people she's known, and she never expected to marry any of them.
He looks at her then, deep into her eyes, as if trying to gauge her sincerity through them. "If you're sure," he says, leaning closer, "I am going to show you the time of your life, wench."
"Good morning," Jaime says when she wakes, the light streaming through the window into her eyes, his overly-cheerful voice in her ears.
She blinks a few times to accustom herself to the sunlight. When her vision adjusts, she can see Jaime propped up on an elbow next to her, a smug look on his face. Her jaw goes a bit slack as she remembers why Jaime Lannister is in her bed.
"Yes, it's still me," he continues, apparently noticing her amazement. "Unfortunately a kiss did not turn me into a handsome prince, nor did anything else we did last night."
There is no blood left in the rest of her body, Brienne is certain, because it's all in her face.
"I'll remove myself to the adjoining chambers to get dressed, shall I?" Jaime prattles on, clearly in complete disregard for her speechlessness. "I will return shortly, to accompany you to breakfast." He climbs over her to get out of the bed, his blanket back in position around his hips.
Brienne sighs as the door to the chamber swings shut, her hands moving to her face. Wedded and bedded, she thinks. No going back now. She sits up in the bed, slowly exiting its warm comfort to the cold air of the bedchamber. There's a dress in the chest Jaime took the blanket off of, waiting for this exact purpose, and she puts it on quickly, not even requiring the help of a maid. Brienne can't wait for all this pomp to be over and all these other lords and ladies to leave Tarth so she can go back to wearing her breeches and leave these dresses in her closet, where they belong.
As promised, Jaime returns to the chamber with a perfunctory knock on the door.
"Are you ready?" he asks, offering his arm to her.
"No," she says, but takes his arm anyway.
"It won't be so bad," Jaime says, patting her hand. "Just act as if you're more excited than any of them and you'll be fine."
"You seem to know a lot about weddings."
"Been to a lot of them in my day," he says airily. "They're largely all the same, unless they're held at the Twins."
"Do not talk about that abomination to me," she says, pulling Jaime to face her by the front of his doublet. It still hurts to think about Lady Catelyn, even after all these years and finally finding Sansa.
"Apologies, my lady," he says, looking at least somewhat remorseful. "But you knew I had a big mouth when you married me."
Evenfall Hall's great hall is full of yesterday's guests when the two of them arrive, arm in arm, and they erupt in cheers upon seeing the couple. Jaime raises Brienne's hand in his in triumph before leading her up to the high table.
"Good morning, Lord Selwyn," Jaime chirps, his chipper demeanour seemingly unruffled from his brief confrontation with Brienne shortly before.
"Good morning, Jaime," he says, his usual smile in place. "You don't need to use the titles now that we're family."
"Family? I rather like the sound of that, Selwyn."
Brienne rolls her eyes. The two of them have been getting on like a house on fire since Jaime sailed in, her father clearly relishing having both another man and a Great House member in the household, and Jaime's easygoing nature did not discourage Selwyn at all.
"Last night went to everyone's satisfaction, I trust?"
She drops her fork. "It was fine," she stammers out before Jaime can swoop in with something lewd.
"Better than fine," he says, not catching her signal. "There will be a herd of grandchildren stampeding around the castle before you know it."
"Jaime!" she hisses. "That is my father!"
"And I'm sure he's very excited about the prospect of more Tarths."
"You're impossible." To her left, Lord Selwyn is attempting to stifle his laughter.
"And I'm all yours."
"Do you think we should write to the queen?" Jaime asks her, some weeks later. She's sitting in her father's solar, looking over his correspondance while he is away at Griffin's Roost, meeting with one-armed Jon Connington.
"Why would we do that?" she says, not looking up from the letter.
"It was her idea to match us up. She might want to know how it's going."
"You mean you just want her to know for certain that this was not the punishment she thought it was."
"You know me too well, my lady," he grins. "But in all seriousness, do you think she wanted us to report back?"
"No," she says. "Daenerys is the queen, Jaime. She has better things to do than wait for letters from the heir to a relatively minor lordship."
"Mayhaps, but it will not stop me."
"Impossible," she mumbles as he drags a chair to the other side of the desk and takes up a quill.
"Your Grace," he narrates, quill scratching away awkwardly in his left hand. "May this letter find you in good health. I would like to report that I have learned my lesson about killing your father. Being married to the Lady Brienne on her beautiful island is assuredly the worst torture I have ever experienced, my time in the Starks' tender care and the loss of my hand included. Sometimes she refers to me with such words as 'impossible' and 'extremely irritating', which I in no way find endearing. She does not make me wish to be a better man and I do not wish to spend every waking moment in her presence. Yes, I have learned my lesson, and have absolutely not found love again. Yours, Ser Jaime Lannister Tarth."
"You can't send her that!" Brienne gasps.
"No, perhaps I should let you write it. This does seem to be more of a punishment to you than to me, which is odd. You didn't kill any mad dragons." He takes up the quill again. "But I can see you're busy, so allow me to write for you. Your Grace, it is I, Brienne of Tarth. I would beg your forgiveness for having wronged you, as I must have to be saddled with such a husband as mine own. While he is exceedingly handsome, he has not yet learned to keep his mouth shut. Though, on occasion, he has been known to put it to good use, if Your Grace knows what I mean. My father has in no way taken to him and we have certainly not formed a fair and equitable partnership in which I am allowed to follow my dreams. Yours, Lady Brienne."
"I am giving the maester a standing order never to let you near the ravens."
"Was anything in those letters untrue?"
"You said you loved me in yours."
"Brienne, while I know I promised you I would never say this again, sometimes you are incredibly stupid."
"Did you think this was just friendship, my lady?"
"I -- I --"
"You did!" he crows. "Believe me, wench, friends do not do this with each other." He leans over the desk to kiss her. "Shall we take this elsewhere?"
"Not until you burn those letters."
Wow, sorry this one wasn't as quick as the other updates! Real life stuff, you know.
She is sitting in her solar with Lord Tyrion when one of the Red Keep's various maesters comes in with the day's letters, setting a stack on either side of her enormous desk, one for her and one for her Hand. He leaves the room with a short bow.
The letters have been organized by the importance of the sender's House, so on top of the stack is another letter stamped with the white direwolf of House Stark -- no doubt another letter from Jon, complaining about something or other -- which she puts aside for later, and under that, one from a member of House Tyrell.
She unfolds it to find a short report of the goings-on in the Reach; apparently Lord Tarly has some concerns about Dornish movements that Lord Willas has dismissed as simple travellers, nothing to worry about, Your Grace. Daenerys notes that with approval, glad that her lords are putting down petty squabbles before they can erupt into something more, and that the new Lord Tyrell is attempting to foster better relations with Dorne and the Martells, who had been Dany and Aegon's staunchest allies when they came to reclaim the Iron Throne.
Willas' last sentences are the most interesting part of the letter.
I would also like to inform Your Grace that her match-making skills are exemplary. Lady Sansa and I are quite pleased with the arrangement and would like to pass along our thanks.
Below that is his signature, as thin and spiky as the rest of his handwriting, and Lady Sansa's more flowing and delicate one. Curiously, she has signed her name Lady Sansa Stark Tyrell.
"Anything interesting happening in the Reach, Your Grace?" Tyrion asks from across the desk.
"Possibly," she says. "It appears as though our plan to punish the Stark girl by marrying her off to one of the Tyrells may have had the opposite effect." Dany passes him the letter, and he reads it, a smirk crossing his face as he reaches the end.
"I do believe they are quite smitten," he says. "I must admit I am surprised by this development."
Are you, my lord, Dany thinks, but says nothing. Tyrion is the one who suggested the match in the first place, claiming that the Tyrells had wronged Sansa even more grievously than himself, and that marrying one would be punishment enough for her family's doings. She had had her suspicions from the first, only furthered by meeting Willas Tyrell himself. He had seemed shy and gentle, and not at all the sort of man that Dany would have picked to punish an equally kind-hearted girl as Sansa Stark. But the girl had seemed so shaken by the idea of marrying anyone at all that she had not felt it necessary to stop the plans or find a more intimidating suitor, and she had sent them off to Highgarden to be dull and quiet in each other's company, assuming they would never get past the stage of necessary courtesies.
It seemed that Dany was quite wrong. Tyrion meets her eyes, a look of sheepishness on his misshapen face, as if to say Who knew?
She returns to her letters. Midway down the stack is a letter with a sun-and-moon design stamped in blue wax. Tarth. After reading the letter from Highgarden, Dany is curious to see what, if anything, the heiress to the island has to say about her own arranged marriage.
Again, the letter contains all the island's official business first, but towards the bottom of the message is a very interesting piece of information. Lady Brienne does not seem to have allowed her husband to sign their missive -- evidently she has more steel in her than Willas Tyrell.
"What news from my goodsister?" asks Tyrion. Evidently he has been keeping a sharp eye on the seals of Daenerys' messages.
"It appears congratulations are in order, my lord," she says, slitting open the next letter in the pile. "You are to be an uncle."
He grins broadly. "Didn't take my brother long. I shall have to begin searching for a gift immediately."
"It was quick indeed, my lord. Surprising, considering what you told me of their relationship."
Tyrion spreads his hands. "It was all true, Your Grace. Those two are at each other's throats from sun-up to sundown, with only short breaks for meals. It simply seems that they are using a different sword for some of their disputes."
Dany barely refrains from rolling her eyes at his crude jape. "It is fortunate that you serve as Hand," she says, "as you would make a truly horrible Master of Laws."
"And an even worse King's Justice," he agrees. "The sword is larger than I am."
"Perhaps I should have had you arrange my marriage," she says without thinking, "since your attempts have proven so successful."
"Is aught amiss with Prince Aegon?" he asks, as if the court is not well aware of the distance between the queen and her nephew-consort. One of her most hated things about taking the throne has been all the things she has had to do for duty, like taking him as her husband in order to bring his sellswords, Stormlanders, and Dornishmen to heel. She would love to improve their relationship, if only to provide a better face to the realm, but Aegon is so frequently gone, to visit Jon Connington or Arianne Martell or his newfound brother Jon Snow, and when he is in King's Landing the two of them butt heads on every issue.
"No, he is fine. Forget I said anything."
"Yes, Your Grace," he says, and there's an edge of mockery in it. Sometimes she thinks she did the wrong thing, not feeding him to Drogon the moment he showed up in her khalasar back in Essos.
Instead, Dany returns to her letters, determined to find him a wholly unsuitable wife all on her own.
Well, that's it for this one! I was planning on more, but I don't have a lot of time for writing right now so I figured it was best to wrap things up. Thank you to everyone who read this and double-thanks to everyone who commented -- I had a lot of fun chatting with you all. Hope to see you on my next fic, whenever and whatever that happens to be!