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Overcoming the Past

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Sheriff Jaime Lannister slouched on the bar in the town's saloon. “Stage's in,” echoed through the room, big thing for a small place like this. It meant mail, guests, outside business. Jaime hadn't been sheriff but a few weeks, a small place in Kansas, away from the troubles of the cattle drives and rowdy cowboys. He'd been working his way West for a good year now, taking on security jobs and recently taking up the law. He could almost chuckle at that, given how renowned he'd been during the War of Northern Aggression for his reckless ways and dishonorable deeds. But the War was over, Dixie broken as much as himself; and a man who has skills with a gun and horse and was willing to help instead of hurt was all a town like this said they cared about.

The stagecoach driver entered, a tall, large man, still covered in dust, an Army Colt on his hip. Likely fought for the Union, Jaime thought. Tarth, everyone in town spoke well about the man, kindhearted and friendly, they said. Jaime took a sip of his whiskey with his only remaining hand, his left, still not as graceful as the right he'd lost late in the war.

“A whiskey please, Davos,” the driver said beside him.

Jaime cocked his head and took a good look. The words had been polite, educated, Northern, from New England Jaime reckoned, and feminine, very clearly that voice had come from a woman.

The stagecoach driver turned to him. Sparkling blue eyes glanced at the shortened stump Jaime rested against on the bar, the sleeve pinned back to hide the horrid scar left where his wrist should be, then her gaze rested on the silver badge upon his red silk vest.

“You're the new sheriff,” she said. Looking at her face to face there was little doubting Tarth was a woman. Oh, she was the largest woman Jaime had ever seen, and she was decked out in dusty pants, boots and a man's blue work shirt. Yet, her face was feminine, although a bit plain, nose broken too many times, teeth crooked in a large mouth with plump lips, a sprinkle of freckles upon her surprisingly pale skin. Her straw colored hair was cut short, sticking at odd angles from the worn hat she'd set upon the bar.

Jaime swallowed and straightened himself up. “Yes,” he answered. “Whiskey's on me, Davos.” The barkeep glanced between them, poured a glass for the driver, and backed away.

Tarth titled her head. “Is something wrong?” Her words were clipped and precise.

Jaime shook his head. “No. No one mentioned... you were... a woman.”

She raised a fair eyebrow. “Does that matter?”

Jaime shrugged. “Suppose not if you're any good with that gun strapped to your hip.” He glanced at her hips that did have a slight curve to them, leading to long shapely legs.

“You have only one hand, why do you need two guns?” She cocked her head.

He wore his pair of Remington new army pistols with the left butt backwards, and the right butt outwards, both to be drawn by his left. Jaime gave a wide smile. “So I have the same number of shots as the next man.”

“To be fired half as slow?” She scoffed and shook her head. “A one-handed rebel, that was the best they could find?” She tilted up her chin. She'd heard as much of the South in his voice as he'd heard the North in hers. Her tone cut, reminding him of ignorant Northerners poking their noses where they shouldn't.

Jaime frowned and emptied his glass. The whiskey burned down his throat. He pushed himself up tall with his stump, and found he was a good inch shorter and had to look upwards to her eyes, really a glorious shade of blue. “If I can do this one-handed, means I'm damn good.” Not that he wanted to think on the long years of killing men that had given him that hardness.

Tarth tightened her thick lips and scowled which made her plain face almost ugly. No wonder the woman wasn't married and settled down back East where she'd come from.

Jaime gave an easy, well-practiced smile, dipped his head and lifted his hat from his head. “Jaime Lannister,” he said as introduction.

Still, scowling, she answered, “Brienne Tarth.” She reached out with her right hand, before realizing as people always did, he had no right hand to shake.

Jaime's smile pulled tight on his face. He reached out his left and shook her right, his palm to the back of her hand. As their flesh touched he realized the intimacy in the gesture and withdrew his hand, trying to keep the smile upon his face.

“Actually, Miss Tarth,” he said, making sure to emphasis the miss, “I needed to find you anyhow. There's a payroll shipment your stage is carrying that I'm supposed to guard for the bank.” This wasn't near the rowdy cowtowns, but didn't mean the territory out here was safe. The war had made too many men capable with guns, given too many men no qualms on killing. “Shipment's day after tomorrow,” he continued. “Stop by for the rest of the particulars when you get a chance today.” Jaime turned to leave.

“How?” Tarth asked. “How do you mean to guard anything riding on the back of my stage one-handed?”

That stopped Jaime and turned him back around. He titled his head, his smile strained. He hated being a cripple, hated it more when someone outright reminded him he was one. Davos gave Jaime a wary eye. Large Brienne Tarth just stood her ground, back straight, head cocked, chin tilted up.

“I have two arms,” Jaime said. He waved his shortened right one to display it. He already hated the idea of hours using it to struggle without a good grip so his left was free to draw.

She nodded her head once stiffly. “Very well. I'll be by later for the details.”

Jaime gave her a smile, dipped his head and said, “Until then, ma'am.”

#

Dawn rose brightly on the flat plains, the town of Harrenhal a dot upon an unending horizon of tall golden grass and bright blue sky. Brienne turned back to her stage. The horses hoofed the dusty street, ready to get underway. Sheriff Lannister strolled towards her with a grin. He had the easy charm of a Southerner. The war had likely aged him, gray showed at his temple and speckled the stubble upon his chiseled jaw. Lannister was stunningly handsome in a way one rarely saw in person. Even his imperfections made him more handsome, his slightly crooked teeth adding to the charm of his smile, his missing hand adding to his manly arrogance.

“Mornin' Miss Tarth,” he said in a thick drawl.

Brienne tightened her lips. It was going to be a long few days. “Good morning,” she replied, because she had always been told to be polite, even to those she did not prefer.

The two of them watched as the bank manager, a portly man with a drooping mustache, loaded up the stage with carpet bags of bundled US government notes. Brienne kept her expression neutral while she mentally swore. Talk about taking to the countryside with a large target on her back. She spared Lannister a glance. Hopefully he was all he bragged about, all that the town's people already gloated about. Even then, Brienne was not certain they'd get out of this ride in one-piece.

“Thank you kindly,” Lannister gave the bank manager a wide smile as he closed and locked the stagecoach door. “Shall we, Miss Tarth,” he said, his head cocked.

Brienne almost managed not scowling. She gestured with her head to the back of the stage. “I put on an extra rifle for you.”

Lannister's wide smile flattened and stretched across his face. She recognized the expression as annoyance. She had again stupidly mentioned his limitations. How did a man fire a rifle well one-handed? She'd just thought the rifle would be better than the sheriff's pistols. A rifle had better range, which was why her own Winchester yellow boy rifle always rode loaded beside her on a run. Brienne mentioned none of this though, Lannister surely already knew it.

“I...” She couldn't push the apology on her tongue out of her mouth, even with the grimacing smile on his face. “Yes, we should go.” She patted her team horses once more, before moving to the front of the stage. “Let me know when you're ready.” Then, with ease Brienne pulled herself up to the driver's seat.

Lannister took a bit to situate himself on the back of the stage. She trusted he could manage keeping himself hopefully seated back there. It was a small seat and required one to hold the back grip the entire time. Finally he gave a ready and Brienne snapped the the whip to get the horses moving. From training, the horses knew to walk until they reached the edge of town. Another crack of the whip and they took off at a gallop. The road as it were was dry and deeply rutted. She bounced around as usual and only spared a quick glance behind her to guarantee Lannister still held on as best as he could.