Jaime felt numb in the days after Joffrey’s death. Cersei had sought to have Tyrion seized, only to find he’d escaped her clutches. Jaime had to think his brother hadn’t killed Jaime’s son; he couldn’t allow himself to consider otherwise. Even as Cersei descended into grief, even as they crowned Tommen and tried to soldier on, he told himself it wasn’t true, it couldn’t be true. Tyrion might do that to Cersei - he would do that to Cersei - but he would never betray Jaime like that.
But of course no one really believed him. Even Brienne, as he gave her Oathkeeper and tried to convince her to leave the capital, looked at him with baffled pity when he told her Tyrion hadn’t killed Joffrey.
“I know you love your brother,” she said carefully. “But he had reason to fear -”
“We all had reason to fear!” Jaime burst out laughing, hysterical, unable to stop himself. “I know he was a monster, damn you. I know. But he wouldn’t. He wouldn’t.”
“As you say,” Brienne said quietly. “But the Queen Regent thinks otherwise.”
She had already tried to remove Margaery and Sansa, one after the other, and she’d failed at both because her grief rendered her foolish. Jaime’s heart broke to see her these days, but any escape he sought only brought its own complications. Brienne had developed an awful habit of examining him with wary eyes, waiting for him to do something stupid.
“You should leave,” he said, not for the first time. “You know she’s not - she’s dangerous.”
“I cannot leave Lady Sansa, my lord,” she said, also not for the first time.
“And what will we do when my sister decides to kill the rival to her brother’s affections?”
Brienne’s eyes went wide. He had never asked that before. “Jaime.”
He couldn’t help but smile; he felt as though his entire world were crumbling to ask. “Exactly.”
“That won’t happen.”
“I won’t let it.”
He couldn’t lean into her. They stood on a parapet, where dozens of the Spider’s spies could see them. But he could close his eyes and let himself imagine it, her warm bulk, her comforting smell. “I hope to every god that you’re right, Lady Brienne.”
Neither of them got a chance to be proven right.
The Dragon Queen came the way winter hadn’t: suddenly and devastatingly, with no warning at all. The Iron Islands, they thought, were overwhelmed - and then they realized that Yara Greyjoy had given them to her, Daenerys Targaryen. The Red Keep was soon surrounded. The Dragon Queen sent them Stannis’s head, and then the Blackfish’s entire body. Tarth fell when Brienne’s father didn’t bend the knee; Father died when she stormed King’s Landing. They had no options. Her dragons and her Dothraki made Tyrell wheat and Lannister gold look like the poorest homespun.
So they surrendered.
“I’ll kill her,” Cersei breathed, after Jaime had sent the other councilors away and gotten her safely locked in her room. “I’ll kill her, I’ll kill her dragons, I’ll kill everyone who seeks to usurp our future!”
It truly was her fire he loved. “I know,” he said, trying to be as soothing as he could be. “I know, darling, but Tommen -”
“In a cell, that bitch locked him up, I’ll kill her, I’ll kill all of them -”
Jaime looked up to see Brienne standing in the doorway. “I thought I locked that.”
“You did,” she said. “I’m sorry; we don’t have much time. She’s going to come for your sister soon, and put her on trial.”
“I believe you’re mistaken,” Cersei said coldly. “I’m sure you meant to call me Your Grace.”
“Now is not the time,” Jaime ground out. “A trial - she could win; Tommen is the legitimate -”
“Tommen is a bastard. The Queen has been informed,” Brienne said. “And -”
“What, Brienne?” He was nearly out of breath from restraining Cersei; he wasn’t sure Brienne fully appreciated how close she was to having her eyes torn out. “Spit it out.”
“The Queen’s trials do not last long,” Brienne said. “Cersei will die by dragon fire if she stays here.”
He felt dread wrap around him like a winter cloak. “What are you suggesting?”
“Lady Sansa has allied herself with the queen. She promises me that if Cersei is - removed - from King’s Landing, that the Queen will not take action against her. She doesn’t want to kill her; she merely wants her somewhere she can’t cause trouble as the Queen re-establishes her family’s rule.”
“And you believe her?” Cersei snareld.
“The Queen? No. But I believe Lady Sansa, my lady.” She met Jaime’s eyes. Nothing had changed; she was still good and honest, strong and true, and dreadfully in danger of being killed. “Please, Ser Jaime. We don’t have much time.”
“Damn it,” Jaime said. “And damn you, too,” he added when Cersei tried to scratch him. “All right. What are we going to do?”
“You won’t like it,” Brienne said, and held up some rope. Jaime groaned and held out his arms, wrists pressed together.
It didn’t occur to him to ask until she’d loaded them into a cart and taken them through the walls of the Red Keep. “Wait, where are we going? Where has the Dragon Queen decided is far enough out of the way?”
“Tarth,” Brienne said from her position behind the carthorse.
Cersei’s screech of rage echoed off the still-smoldering bricks of King’s Landing.
“What do you want?”
“What do you mean, what do I want?” Cersei had to look up at Brienne from her spot in the cart, but she did her best to look down her nose anyway. “I want the Throne. I want Tommen back in his rightful place as King. I want Jaime to be a whole man again - I want you dead. Is that enough, or should I go on?”
“I can’t get your brother his hand back,” the great stupid beast said. “But I don’t think you want the Iron Throne. Not really.”
“Given it a lot of thought, have you?” Jaime said, voice heavy with irony.
But Brienne didn’t so much as blink. “Yes, I have. My lady, you want your children and your brother. I don’t think you care about anything else. Only you think the throne is the only way to secure a future with them, to be powerful enough that no one can touch you.”
She clearly thought she had it all worked out. The best thing Cersei could do would be to let her keep going and betray just how stupid she really was, so that Jaime would stop making cow eyes at her at last. But she couldn’t make herself hold back. “Are you going to try to tell me it’s not? What do the goat-herders of Tarth know of king and queens?”
“Not much, which is precisely my point. My lady, anyone who sits on the Iron Throne is a target. You’re powerful enough that no one can gainsay you, and because they can’t, they wait for the day they can put a knife in you instead. And they will. Especially since you’re a Lannister, and no one likes Lannisters, and your son’s the product of -”
She stopped there, turning red. Cersei felt possessed suddenly, mad with it. What did it all matter? Her children were captives under the Dragon Queen. Her lover had rejected her for a monstrous oaf of a woman. And now that oaf couldn’t even name the truth of what her beloved had been doing before he’d put his cock in her. “Say it. Say it, you coward. Name what lies between us, what’s going to be sharing your bed.”
Brienne gave her a flat look. “Incest. My lady. No one wants someone like that on the throne.”
“The dragon bitch’s parents were siblings fifty times over.”
“But she’s got dragons.” Jaime sounded drolly amused. “We don’t, dear sister. We’ve only Lady Brienne.”
“You couldn’t get your cock wet with a dragon, so I suppose you’re thankful for it.” She smiled when she felt Jaime flinch against her. “Fine, no one wants a Lannister babe on the throne. My children are still prisoners. How do you propose we solve that? There is only one thing that fends off the jackals, Lady Brienne. Power.”
“Distance,” Brienne said. “Diplomacy, strong allies. An island known for its defenses.”
“Tarth?” Cersei could scarcely believe the foolishness of it. “You think if we’re on Tarth, everyone will leave us alone?”
“I think they won’t care anymore. They don’t throw themselves against you for the fun of it.” Brienne shrugged. “Tyrion gets Casterly Rock, you and Jaime get each other, and you’re under the protection of a house with strong allies.”
“I’m not going to accept the protection of the Starks,” Cersei hissed.
“Suit yourself.” Unspoken was the other truth: they were going to Tarth anyway. Brienne had stolen them away, and even now Tommen rotted in the dungeons of the Red Keep.
When Cersei didn’t reply, Brienne turned back around again. The horse pulled the cart, and Cersei’s blisters grew worse by the mile. She scarcely noticed. She spent her time staring at the back of Brienne’s head instead, at her lifeless pale hair and her mannishly thick neck. Jaime would kiss it, she knew, the nape of it, probably whispering lies about how beautiful and perfect she was.
Cersei would never lie to Brienne. As soon as the opportunity presented itself, she’d touch Brienne’s neck, too. And then she’d slit her throat.
“Jaime, please. You have to make her listen.”
“If you didn’t realize it back at King’s Landing, surely now you know I can’t.” Jaime shook his head. “I’ve followed her my whole life, Brienne. She’s even more stubborn than you are. She thinks you’ve no idea what you’re talking about, and the second we send for Myrcella and Tommen, you’ll bundle us all up and sell us to the highest bidder.”
“Why would I do that when I -” She flushed bright red.
It was as unlovely as ever, and Jaime basked in it, the blotchiness of her skin and the ridiculous, dear way she bit her lip in agony. “You did tell her you didn’t care. Many times, in fact.”
“I was lying!”
“Cersei doesn’t know you well enough to know that.”
“If she’d talk to me -”
“She’d as soon slit her own throat.” She probably would, too, if Brienne hadn’t had them under guard.
“Damn it,” Brienne said, burying her face in her hands.
Jaime watched her with resigned interest. For a moment he wanted to propose they make his sister’s suspicions fact. He might be chained to the wall, but he could just have her sit on the table and bring her off like that, service her here in her ancestral home. As always, the idea had lurid appeal beyond justification. “I’m still not sure why you care about leaving her chained up forever.”
“Because I don’t want to have Lannisters in my dungeon for forty years!”
“We’d likely die before then. Damp, mistreatment, lack of exercise -”
“And if I only freed you, I know you’d get her and escape, because you do what she tells you. And if I freed her, she’d try to kill me, and then I’d have to stop her and you’d hate me for it.” Brienne shook her head. “She’s the one whose mind needs to be changed.”
“Let us go.” He felt mad even as he said it, but he needed to hear her refusal from her own lips, to understand truly why it had to be this way. “Just put us on a boat to the mainland. Who cares what happens to us then?”
“You’re the Lannister heir and she’s the former queen. If I let you go, the Dragon Queen will have you both killed. I had to beg Lady Sansa to spare you, and even then -” Brienne bit her lip and looked away.
“Why won’t you tell me what happened between you and Lady Sansa?” He had a sudden, horrible thought. “Are you in love with her?”
“I - what! No!”
That, at least, was the truth. “Then why won’t you tell me?”
“Because it’s none of your business!”
“As your guest -”
“- I think I ought to be well versed in who your house’s allies are.”
“We remain allied with the Starks, and I’m not going to tell you more than that,” Brienne said firmly. He thrilled at that adamant tone, as he always did. “Please try to convince your sister to agree to stay here. All I need is your word.”
“She won’t, Brienne. Not without the children.”
“Keep trying.” An order, not a request. Jaime inclined his head.
He thought for a moment that she hesitated as she stood. That she looked at him like she understood what he wanted, like she wanted it too. But the moment passed, and then he was alone in the dungeon once more.
“Aren’t you tired of climbing down here every day?”
“It’s not that far, my lady.”
“But it’s uncomfortable, is it not? And every day you worry that someone has brutalized us in your absence.”
Brienne looked at Cersei for a moment, silent, and Cersei thought she’d hooked her. But then she said, “I trust the men here not to harm you, my lady, no matter how much they might want to.”
Cersei hated her more than she’d hated anyone in a very long time. She forced a smile. “Well, I’m uncomfortable and miserable. This is hardly the way to earn the regard of House Lannister.”
“I wrote to your brother. He told me it was fine.”
“Jaime’s uncomfortable. Wouldn’t you rather visit him somewhere with an actual bed? He’s so ill-used, I fear when winter comes he’ll catch a chill and drop dead.”
“My lady, I’ve already told you both what will get you a more comfortable room.”
She had, and Cersei would rather die, would carve her own eyes out after she killed Jaime for getting them in this position. “I will not forsake my children.”
“I’m not asking you to -”
“You’re not a mother and you never well be, even if you manage to force my brother’s seed to quicken in you,” Cersei snapped. “But I am. I can no sooner forget my children than you can learn a lady’s graces.”
“Listen to me, please,” Brienne said. Her voice was quiet, patient, as though she were talking to a child. Cersei would find someone down here who hated her. She’d find a man who saw what an abomination Brienne was, or she’d get her hands on something toxic, and then this horrible, enormous bitch would be out of her way for good.
“I can’t get your children back from the dragon queen,” Brienne said. “I think we could negotiate for their release. But not if you’re going to run off the second you’re no longer under heavy guard. I can’t. Don’t you think I would, if I could? Do you think I want this?”
“I think you want my brother’s cock.”
Brienne met her gaze. “Not the way you do, my lady.”
Cersei recoiled. “Damn you. Damn you!”
“I just need your word. If you were to promise me -”
“May the Mother render you barren for the rest of your days,” Cersei spat.
Brienne’s eyes searched her face. Cersei didn’t know what she found there, and didn’t care either. Whatever it was, it wasn’t what she’d been hoping for. Brienne shrugged and turned to leave.
It was so dark and so damp, she hated it so much and she couldn’t plan down here. She could barely think. As Brienne began to ascend the steps, she called out, “Fine. I promise.”
Those enormous shoulders stopped, stiffened. “You promise what? Exactly.”
“I won’t leave. I won’t make Jaime leave. We’ll both stay here, and you can fail at diplomacy all you like.”
She didn’t understand why Brienne slumped then, why she looked so upset when she turned around. She’d gotten what she wanted, hadn’t she? “Thank you,” she said, cow eyes big with emotion. “I’ll have you both moved later today.”
She was gone back up the stairs before Cersei could request more details on their accommodation.
Jaime looked around the room, at the slightly too-small bed, the dark blue wall hangings, the enormous door opposite the windows that overlooked the sea. “Ah. I see.”
“So do I. Sub-par furnishings and a view that can’t come close to rivaling the Rock.”
Jaime thought Cersei might sneer at a dragon’s egg if it was Brienne who gave it to her. “These are the lady of the house’s rooms. Tell me, Brienne, if I open that door, what will I find?”
“Me,” Brienne said easily. “This way I can keep an eye on you.”
He pitched his voice to be teasing. “It’s a bit selfish, don’t you think, keeping the biggest bed all to yourself?”
Brienne blinked at him and didn’t say anything. It was Cersei who said, “Don’t be ridiculous, Jaime. She’s nearly as big as the two of us put together. She needs the space.”
“I hope you’ll be comfortable here,” Brienne said, meeting Cersei’s gaze with all the appearance of honesty. “If you need anything, let me know.”
“I’ll have to teach Jaime how to be quieter when we fuck.” Cersei smiled sweetly. “Unless of course you plan to summon him to your bed every night.”
“No, my lady. If I’d intended that, he’d be in the master bedroom.” Brienne left before Cersei could deliver another poisoned rejoinder.
Jaime laughed at the look on her face. “It’s not that easy to get a rise out of her.”
“Yes, we became good friends on our journey.”
“Friends. Is that what they call it?”
Normally, Cersei’s rage was second only to her tenderness in Jaime’s heart. Normally, his blood thrilled at her aggression, and he sought to return it in kind. But right now he was tired; they were far from home, their children under control of a bloodthirsty little tyrant-in-training, their father dead. It seemed pointless. He lay down on the bed and said, “Yes. I know you don’t want to believe it. I know you’d rather I was like you. But I never touched another woman when I was away.”
“You might as well touch her now. I certainly won’t.”
And oh, that thought sparked amusement. “You won’t touch her?”
“Don’t be disgusting. You know what I mean.”
“I do.” He touched his golden hand, always so cold. “How long will you punish me, exactly?”
“As long as my children are away from me, as long as they’re in danger.”
“Damn you, Jaime.”
Eventually she lay down next to him, but she held herself stiff, entirely apart. He wondered then if Brienne knew what a perfect punishment this was, giving them a stately room in which to rediscover how much they hated one another.
Of course she didn’t. She was too kind; she didn’t think in terms of hatred and selfish revenge. For that, he resented her almost as much as he did Cersei.
At least this godforsaken nothing of an island had wine.
The first few days after Brienne moved them, Cersei had waited for the trap. Perhaps Brienne would take Jaime into the master bedroom after all. Perhaps one morning Cersei would wake up next to Jaime and his throat would be cut, his blood soaking the sheets. Perhaps one day Brienne would drag Cersei into the master bedroom. Wasn’t that what they all said about women that large, that unwomanly? She was practically a man; surely she had a man’s lusts as well.
She sipped her wine as her mind returned to the concept over and over. Jaime’s remaining hand was strong, and though he’d been brutalized in his time away from her, he took good care of what limbs he still had. Brienne didn’t seem to care for herself at all. Her skin was patchy and disgustingly dry in spots, her movements ungainly; she’d be rough, Cersei thought, not because she didn’t care but because she didn’t know how to be any other way. Jaime had always been so diffident, even when he manhandled her, and Robert had been disgusting. Brienne might be something else entirely: desperate to please, yet utterly unskilled. When Cersei had trained Jaime to please her, they’d both been young and stupid. But Cersei knew what she liked now. She’d have to tell Brienne how to do it, smack her when she got it wrong. How tedious.
Poor Jaime, putting up with such a lumbering wretch in his bed. No less than he deserved for his failures, of course, but Cersei couldn’t help but pity him. She’d had such long practice dealing with the attentions of disgusting men, but Jaime had only ever had her in his bed. Going from his beautiful twin to a sow who looked like a man must be awful for him.
She smiled to herself. Yes, he must truly only endure it out of hopes that it would aid their escape. Her poor, devoted brother.
Every day she waited for the blade to drop. Their rooms were as extensive as any lord’s wife might expect, and though they weren’t grand enough for a Lannister, they were much more comfortable than a cell buried in the cliffs. Every day Cersei could bathe, dress her hair, and have wine and cheese brought to her. Every day she drank until the dull edge of pain blurred, until she could stop looking out the window and thinking of her children, lost without her.
She watched her figure. She was so careful. But Jaime still noticed, of course - and after awhile Cersei realized Brienne did, too.
Cersei glanced at the door, affecting as though she hadn’t heard Brienne knock. “Oh. It’s you.”
“It’s me,” Brienne agreed. “I’ve finished with my administrative work for the day, and I was hoping -”
“What work could there possibly be? How many people even live on Tarth? Do you manage each individual goat yourself?”
“- to take you and your brother down to the sword yard, my lady, for exercise.”
Cersei blinked. “Jaime’s not a fighter anymore. He doesn’t have a hand.” And if he did, Cersei wasn’t sure she’d let him duel against this lummox, who was likely to forget the rules of civil swordplay and stab him. She’d hit him, bruise him, bully him, because she was a brute who couldn’t help but be -
“He can still pick up a sword, my lady. You can as well.”
Her heart tripped and froze in her chest. She found herself staring at Brienne’s eyes. They were such an unearthly color. On a less hideous woman, they might have been beautiful. “You’re joking.”
“Why would I joke about such a thing? You’re too old to have real skill, but it’s good exercise.”
“So I can get big, ugly muscles like you?” Cersei laughed. “You truly have no idea what it is women do. Very well: I’ll go down to the yard. And you’ll allow me a servant to accompany me as I walk through the gardens.”
“Of course.” Brienne bit her lip. It did her no favors; they were already too thick and red, and that habit only made them look bigger. “I’ll ask that you give me your word that you won’t try to escape, or dash yourself against the cliffs.”
What exactly did she think a woman’s word was worth? “You’ll have my brother, Brienne. I would never endanger him so.”
Brienne nodded, courtly and mannish as ever. “Jaime’s down in the yard already. You’ll follow me.”
It was infuriating. But Cersei did it, setting her wine glass down and gathering her skirts, keeping her eyes on Brienne’s ungainly movements as they walked through the castle.
“Oh, stop it,” Cersei said, knocking his hand away. But her eyes were laughing and her expression alight, and as soon as she’d done so, she grabbed his wrist and pulled him in, kissing him.
It felt like a massive chasm had opened in his chest. He didn’t just want her, he needed her, needed this. She was beautiful and awful and he couldn’t help but pull her onto his lap, tugging at her dress until it slipped off one shoulder, exposing a single tight nipple to his hand - his mouth - and she moaned when he licked it, cried out when he bit her shoulder -
“Oh gods, I am so sorry.”
He saw Cersei’s smug smile before he looked up, and knew she’d planned this. Brienne stood in front of them, wearing only her nightgown, dagger in her hand. “I heard shouting,” she continued miserably. A glorious blush had swept down her body, blotchy and impossible to ignore. She was so transparent, he thought, and choked back a noise when Cersei shifted on his still hardening cock.
“Care to join us?” Cersei said, cruelty in every syllable.
Brienne fled, slamming the door behind her. Cersei burst into laughter, beautiful peals of it, not even muffling the noise as she kissed Jaime’s neck and tugged on his hair.
She was so beautiful, golden and perfect, but Brienne had only been trying to help. She was the most noble person Jaime’d ever met, and she hadn’t even pulled Cersei off him, despite how disgusted she must have been by them both. His loyalties caught between them for a moment, trapped and shining, and somehow the end result was him blurting out, “What would you have done if she’d taken you up on it?”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Cersei said, nails dragging against his jaw.
“I’m not. Come on, think it through next time. Do you really want -” He gasped as she pinched his nipple, moaned as she moved her hips against him.
“Do you?” Precise as ever, cruel as she’d been with Brienne. And somehow that spurred him on.
“She wouldn’t let you push her around, you know. She’s gentle, but she’s bigger than I am.”
“Hmm, that’s true.” Danger lurked in those words, he realized as Cersei gripped his shoulders and settled herself on one of his thighs, flicking her skirts up so that she sat wet and warm and nearly bare against him. “She’d let me do this, though. You never do. You get too impatient.”
He gasped when she started moving; he couldn’t help it. He reached for her, but she grabbed his wrist as quickly as a viper. “Don’t you dare.”
“Do you think I’d give her what she wants? Of course not. You’d just stare at her like a fool, you wouldn’t even try to make her be useful. It would fall to me to show her what to do.” She gripped Jaime’s hair again, tugged, fucking herself on him as she played with his nipples. “It would probably be just like this, too. I bet she’s flat as a board under there.”
“She’s not,” Jaime said before he could stop himself.
They were balanced on a knife’s edge of something very dangerous, but Jaime pushed forward anyway. “She’s a woman, Cersei. Get her clothes off and she’s like any other woman. She has hips. She has tits.”
“And ugly, beastly hands -”
“Strong hands,” Jaime said, “and she’d touch me with them, I know she would. She’d hold me. You too, if you let her.”
“She’s a fool.” Cersei’s voice was stuttering now; she’d started moving again, working herself against Jaime frantically. “She wouldn’t know what to do.”
“So you’d show her. And I’d help you. Just the two of us, breaking her down, making her want it.”
Cersei made a tiny sound, half a moan and half a snarl. Jaime took advantage of her distraction to get her dress down, pulling her back square on his lap so his cock rubbed against her.
“I’d put my mouth on her,” he said as he eased Cersei onto his cock, “same as I do you. Would you?”
“Would I what?”
“Lick her.” He moved his hips, a rough and ragged motion that nearly unseated her. “Fuck her.” He grabbed the base of her neck, holding her as he filled her over and over. “Make her scream.”
“Damn you. Damn you.”
He brought her off just like that, fucking her on his lap until she sobbed with it. Brienne never left them; when he placed his thumb on Cersei’s clit, when she muffled her scream by biting his shoulder, he said, “She’d let you do this. She’d let us make her scream,” and every time he felt Cersei’s reaction, desperate as she’d ever been.
After, they lay next to each other, not quite touching. It was strange, he realized suddenly: they’d never been able to do this before. There had always been secrets to keep. But everyone in Westeros knew, even if some of them still believed it to be rumors, and the lady of this particular hall both knew and - endorsed it.
Or at least wouldn’t stop them. Brienne the Beauty, honorable to the last.
“Stop thinking about her,” Cersei said tightly.
“I’m not -”
“If she ever thought to join us, I’d carve her up like a pig before I let her touch you.”
And she would, Jaime knew. It shouldn’t warm his gut to think of. But of course she never could do that with Brienne. In King’s Landing, Cersei could’ve killed her, would have killed her. But here…
Here, Brienne would stop her before she even got her hand on the knife. It was comfort of a kind Jaime had never known, the safety of feeling someone else could limit his sister’s excesses.
“But what about if she touched you?” he mumbled, half-asleep already. Cersei didn’t respond.
It had taken work, a few days of gritting her teeth and pretending she wasn’t disgusted by Brienne’s careful questions about her time outside, but she finally won the right to sit in the gardens more or less alone, with only a maid down the walk from her. She didn’t do anything with the privilege, didn’t try to escape or even look for something she might use to poison the Maid of Tarth. There was no point right now, and Cersei knew it. If she tried to escape she’d dash herself against the rocks; if she poisoned the Maid, her men would kill her before Cersei could even tell them she wasn’t a maid but a whore, and undeserving of their devotion.
But she could at least be alone, free of Jaime’s endless study and Brienne’s stupid attempt at chivalry.
Ugh. “Lady Brienne. I assume this isn’t coincidence?”
Brienne blinked stupidly before she realized what Cersei was asking. “No, my lady. I sought you out. May I sit?”
The bench was hardly large enough for two normal sized women, much less a hulking beast. But Cersei had no choice, so she nodded. Brienne settled next to her, moving lightly enough that she managed not to knock Cersei from her seat.
For a moment there was only the wind, the chirping of birds, and very distantly the ever-present sound of the sea. Then Brienne said, “Lady Margaery and Lady Sansa are to visit Tarth for three weeks.”
Cersei’s blood turned to ice. “Excuse me?”
“They will not be bringing your children with them.”
“Obviously,” Cersei snapped.
“But we will have dinner with them. You and your brother are honored guests of Tarth.”
“Why do you seek to dishonor the Starks you’ve sworn to serve? Unless you just want the little bitch queen to see how far I’ve fallen?”
“Neither of those things,” Brienne said. “And she’s not a queen anymore. She is simply Lady Margaery Tyrell. And I’m not sworn to the Starks.”
Jaime had told her about this tedious insistence. “You’re sworn to Sansa. Don’t be coy.”
“I’m not. Not anymore. She has released me from that set of vows.” She paused, took a deep breath. “Quite firmly.”
Cersei didn’t care about what blunder Brienne must have made for that to happen. “Fine. If I’m going to be forced to dine with them, I’ll need a new dress. I realize you never use a seamstress -”
“I do. My breeches wouldn’t fit otherwise. I have to have them custom made, or heavily altered.”
For a moment the mental image caught in Cersei’s throat, strangling whatever else she might say. She couldn’t even wear men’s breeches? How monstrous was she? But no, that wasn’t what she’d said; apparently the fit of her clothes, how tight they were around her thighs, was deliberate. How humiliating. She probably thought Jaime enjoyed looking at such things. “Then you’ll send her to my room, and I’ll have a dress made. Three dresses. How long are they staying? Five.”
“Your brother has sent an allowance,” Brienne said.
Cersei’s hands curved into claws. She wanted to rip Brienne’s eyes out -
“I didn’t tell you because we don’t really need the money, and I assumed you’d look at me exactly like that. But there’s more than enough for you and your brother to have clothes made. I’ll tell them to hurry; they’ll be here in only a month.” She frowned at Cersei. “Don’t say anything terrible to Jaime about it, please.”
“I’ll talk to my brother however I like,” she managed to bite out.
“I know. But he loves you, my lady. I don’t think hurting him really helps.”
Brienne left before Cersei could fly into a rage, could remind her that she knew nothing, absolutely nothing, of Cersei and Jaime, of what they were to each other. She left before Cersei could break all her promises and shove her off a cliff for daring to dictate how she behave with the other half of herself. Cersei spent the rest of the day imagining how she would - eventually, finally - make Brienne pay for it.
“I’m very worried she’ll try to start a war.”
“Does it ever occur to you, do you ever think about, how annoying it is that we spend half our time out here talking about my sister?” Jaime darted forward, trying for a lunge.
Brienne smacked his sword aside as though it were a fly. “No.”
“Really? I think about it all the time.”
“You think about her all the time.” Brienne frowned a little, watching him move. “Adjust your left foot. You’re leaning on the outside, it’s disrupting your balance.”
Because everything was mirror-fucking-image, and he was too old to re-learn swordplay. But Brienne knew all his complaints in that direction already; restating them would only annoy them both. He gritted his teeth and did as she said.
“You talked to her, though. Did she promise you she wouldn’t try to start a war?”
“No. She demanded five new dresses.”
Jaime smiled in spite of himself.
“She’s really awful.”
“She is, and to you most of all. You know why.”
“I’m not - we’re not. She must know that.”
Ah, here it was. The maidenly blush creeping up Brienne’s neck, rendering her distracted enough that for a moment it was almost something vaguely approaching a fair fight. “I did tell her.”
“You slept with her! I walked in on - and she still thinks -”
“She doesn’t, not really. She tells herself it because it lets her feel wronged.”
“Why not focus on the Dragon Queen?”
“Daenerys is far away and controls her children’s lives. Why do you think?”
“Your children,” Brienne said, very quietly. She’d stopped attacking, her guard down.
“Yes,” Jaime managed to say. “My children. Our children. Any day now we might receive word they’ve been killed. It eats away at her, and hating you is a pleasant enough distraction.”
“She seeks to hurt me.”
“It’s how she is, Brienne. How she understands the world.”
“And you love her for it?”
There was a question there Jaime didn’t really understand, but he knew easily enough what his truth was. “For it, in spite of it. Do you love your worst impulses? So it is with me and my sister.”
She didn’t reply. She only watched him, unreadable and still.
And Jaime found that he had to ask. “If we do manage to bring Tommen here, if we get Myrcella back from Dorne, will they be safe?”
“What do you mean?”
“Children.” Brienne’s voice was as sharp as a whip crack. “No harm would come to the Dragon Queen’s own get here, no one will hurt children in Evenfall so long as I am lady. I swear it.”
And because she was Brienne - brave, stupid, stubborn Brienne - Jaime believed her immediately. He nodded, and she fell back into a formal stance, and their fight continued.
Later, he found Cersei in their rooms, going through a stack of his letters to Tyrion. “You didn’t mention an allowance,” she said, not looking up.
“Well, Brienne’s our captor. I was letting her handle it.”
“I’m going to have gold thread on my gown. Lions.”
“And it’ll be red, too, I suppose? That’s a bit predictable.”
She looked up at him with narrowed eyes, but took his bait all the same. “Tell me how you think I should dress, then, brother.”
“Blue. As blue as the sea.”
“As blue as your ugly love’s eyes? I shan’t.”
He’d never mentioned her eyes in front of Cersei. He’d been careful not to, in fact. Perhaps noticing such things was inevitable for both of them, as natural as the blood they shared. “It would be lovely. You’d outshine them both.”
“I’ll outshine them both anyway.”
He walked over to the table, dropped to his knees. Put his hand on her thigh. “Blue, Cersei. Please. For me.”
“I don’t do anything for you,” she whispered.
It was a lie, and they both knew it. But - “For yourself, then. Let them know Brienne’s promise of protection is true.”
Her mouth tightened at that as he knew it would; mention of Brienne in their room always made her furious. But it also made her wet. She said, “She’ll look even uglier next to us, I promise you,” and let her legs fall open.
He didn’t bring her up again. He only licked Cersei, smiled against her cunt when she tugged his hair, shook in her arms when she scored his skin with her nails. But he felt Brienne’s presence anyway, a ghost, not between them but behind them, hovering with a question in those noble eyes.
Jaime left for two nights, to go with some of the local men and give his opinion on their defenses at the far side of the island. The first night, Cersei drank until she was sleepy with it and fell asleep dreaming of pushing Lancel away, of waiting for Jaime despite his utter unworthiness, his cowardly abandonment of her and their children. The second night, she found herself exhausted and still awake, staring at the dying fire flickering on the ceiling and listening to the waves crashing on the rocks below her window.
She was so tired and yet she couldn’t sleep. Somehow, though, she woke screaming, the fire having long since died down, strong hands on her arms.
Hands on her arms. Hands -
“Get off me!” she spat, and Brienne backed away from her immediately.
But it wasn’t enough. She’d tried - what had she tried? It didn’t matter. Cersei flew at her, scratching and trying to bite, slapping at her hands, drawing blood from her arms.
It only took Brienne a moment to get her restrained. Her arms locked around Cersei like iron bands, holding her still from behind. Brienne’s voice was low in her ear when she said, “My lady, it’s only me. You’re safe here, I promise. No one is going to hurt you.”
“Then why did I wake up to you -”
“You were screaming, and by the time I realized my mistake, you were waking up. I apologize.”
Her breath was disgustingly warm against Cersei’s ear. She burned down the length of Cersei’s back, as abnormally warm as she was enormous. “Let me go.”
Brienne obeyed immediately, taking a step back. Cold air rushed against Cersei’s back. She refused to turn around and let Brienne see her shivering. “You may leave now.”
“Is it Jaime? Are you worried about him? He’s safe with my men, I promise.”
Gods, but she was stupid. Nothing Jaime had ever said about her had prepared Cersei for her sheer, unrelenting stupidity. “I slept in a bedroom like this for fifteen years, you cow, and for fifteen years I found myself waking to a drunk rutting over me. Does that elucidate it enough for you, or shall I go on?”
The silence took on a different quality, one Cersei again recognized: pity. She would kill Brienne of Tarth, she vowed yet again, for seeing her like this, for not having the decency to just ignore it.
“And being with Jaime breaks that pattern.”
Being with Jaime felt like being whole for the first time since they’d been children, but Cersei would kill herself and everyone else in this pathetic excuse for a Hall before she admitted such to Brienne. “Go. Away.”
Instead, Brienne said, “Come to my room.”
“The bed’s bigger. You can -”
She turned around mid-peal of laughter, just in time to see Brienne shut her mouth in a mulish expression. “You hate being laughed at, so why do you say such things? How can you possibly think propositioning me would solve any problems?”
“I’m not propositioning you. I’m trying to comfort you. As a -”
“Sister?” She couldn’t push down another laugh. “Truly, you do indeed think highly of yourself. No.”
“Maybe it’s selfish,” Brienne said. “Maybe I just don’t want to be awakened by your howling.”
But it wasn’t selfish. That was clear as day, now that Cersei knew what she was looking for. She thought of Jaime telling her about Brienne. He’d insisted there were no deeper motivations to look for, nothing but pathetic courtly love and devotion to ideals. In King’s Landing, Cersei had figured her brother was just an idiot, a dupe for women as all men were. But Brienne was hardly a woman, and Cersei couldn’t be fooled. No, she really did mean it, and suddenly Cersei saw an opportunity for perfect revenge.
“Very well. But if you snore, I’ll hack your head off with your own sword.”
“Oathkeeper isn’t my sword, my lady. I’m only borrowing it.”
Cersei rolled her eyes. As if Jaime would take it back now, as if her brother had ever been anything but careless with his things.
They lay down on the bed together, several feet apart. The master bed was truly enormous. “Were all your ancestors oversized as well?”
A long pause. “No.”
“Your mother was attractive, then? Not a giantess, as they say she must have been? Perhaps she wasn’t your mother at all. Perhaps your father found you in the mountains, product of a goat and a -”
Brienne’s hand burned on Cersei’s mouth, heavy enough to press her down into the pillow. “Be quiet, please. I need to sleep.”
Oh, she itched to hurt her. Every limb of her body, every breath in her chest, burned to rip her to shreds. But when Brienne removed her hand, Cersei only lay there, fists clenched at her side, imagining in exquisite detail exactly how many strokes of a dagger it might take to saw her great ugly head off.
Brienne breathed softly and evenly next to her, asleep already. A true soldier, Cersei thought mockingly. She could poison her with this kind of foolish trust. She could make Jaime look at her face, white and bloodless, her soul fled from her.
He’d cry. No: he’d sob, and he’d beg her to take it back, and she’d refuse. Her other half, wholly hers once more.
Yes. Someday soon, she’d do it, and then she’d know peace.
Two days spent in the salt breeze of Tarth, asking questions about their naval movements and ground defenses, left Jaime feeling more like himself than he had since before he’d been captured by the Starks. Something about these dull island men and their by-the-books military movements was wonderfully invigorating. “It’s the air,” one of them, Dolan, said on the way back. A salt breeze had smacked Jaime in the face and he’d laughed about it, catching himself even as he’d done it.
“I’m sure I don’t know what you mean.”
“Aye, you’re a fancy lord and they ain’t got feelings like we common folk. You do. It’s lighter up here, better. You don’t need to care about dragons or kings.” He grinned broadly. “Or sisters.”
“Watch your tone,” Jaime said, his left hand going to his sword.
“Or what, you’ll fumble at me? I’ve seen milady fight you. You’re nothing as of yet.” Dolan shrugged. “I ain’t scared of you so I’ll tell you what all the others are thinking. You and your sister, it’s disgusting. Even Lannisters ain’t Targaryens. But here Lady Brienne is, where she belongs, with no lords mincing about making bets on her cunt.”
“Watch. Your -”
“Oi! I’m paying you a compliment. I’m saying it’s good you’re here, you lion bastard, I’m saying you’ll keep her here if you know what’s good for you.” And Dolan stomped ahead of him, muttering about golden fools.
His good mood had thus evaporated by the time they reached Evenfall. He found himself preoccupied by a question he’d never much considered before: what exactly did everyone else in Evenfall think of the Lannister presence here? Did they all believe the rumors? Did they all accept them? What sort of love must Brienne’s people hold for her, if they’d accept poison in Evenfall provided its antidote stayed there as well?
Brienne and Cersei greeted them at the gates, Cersei wearing a new dress and glaring, barely perceptibly, at the back of Brienne’s neck. Brienne gave no sign of noticing. She smiled at Jaime and said, “Ser Jaime, it’s good to have you back. I hope you haven’t uncovered any grievous weaknesses in our defenses.”
“I’m sure you already know I didn’t, my lady,” Jaime said. “Nymeria herself couldn’t have designed your patrols better.”
“I can’t take any credit. I inherited most of it from my father.”
Behind him, Dolan snorted.
“But I thank you for taking the time to look, all the same,” she continued. “I’ve asked the cook to set dinner out in an hour; we’re taste testing a few creations for when the Queen’s delegation arrives. Could I trouble you to join us?”
They walked into Evenfall. Cersei said, “Brother,” as coolly as he’d ever heard.
“I was only gone for two days,” he murmured. “What happened?”
“Oh, nothing.” She tossed him a knife’s edge smile. “Nothing at all.”
But he knew it as soon as he entered their room. She looked different. She looked - “Did you sleep well without me?” Have I been disturbing your sleep, he meant.
She pursed her lips. “I slept the same as I always do.”
“You look different.”
“Are you trying to tell me I look tired?”
“I think we’re all tired, aren’t we? Wars, kidnappings, invasions…”
“Fuck you, Jaime.”
He thought about it, Cersei on her own, the medicine he knew she’d had the maesters mixing up for her. “You get nightmares, don’t you.”
“My darling brother.” She turned a smile on him. “I’ll leave you to bathe.”
He knew he’d get no answers from her then, so he waited. When they’d all sat down to dinner - Brienne at the head of the table and Jaime and Cersei across from one another, like misbehaving children - he said, “Brienne, how were things while I was gone?”
“The same as they usually are, Ser.”
“Oh, come now, you can dispense with the formality.” He smiled at her, trying to be charming. He’d been charming once, he swore it. He just needed to summon it now. “Cersei already told me.”
Guileless eyes blinked. “I’m sorry?”
“Jaime,” Cersei hissed.
“She mentioned she’d been having trouble sleeping.”
“I don’t…” Brienne glanced between them. Cersei looked regal and impossible even to Jaime; he couldn’t imagine what Brienne saw. For his own part, he did his best to look innocently amused. “I don’t wish to be between this. Whatever this is.”
It took a moment for the words to sink in, by which point Cersei was already laughing. “You’ve never met a single person who wasn’t smarter than you, have you?” she asked Jaime. “I apologize for my brother, my lady. He thinks he’s uncovered some sort of fellow feeling between you and I. He thinks perhaps I’ve found myself the sister I never had.”
Jaime would have wagered all the dwindling gold in Lannister coffers that Brienne wasn’t thinking what he was just then: what exactly was sisterhood when Cersei’s brother was already her lover? But perhaps Brienne understood herself to be another Tyrion in this scenario Cersei had just proposed. Or perhaps - it seemed very likely - she simply thought her twin prisoner-guests had gone mad.
“Cersei had nightmares,” Brienne told Jaime. “I sought to offer her comfort. We shared my bed last night and she slept well and did not wake screaming.” She took a bite of her pheasant while Cersei stared at her, brittle, eyes filled with hate.
Jaime kept it together until they were back in their room, the lord’s wife’s chambers, a designation that had never seemed symbolic to him before tonight. “How many nights would it have taken, do you think, before you fell into bed with her for real?”
“Don’t speak to me of it.”
“I thought you thought she was ugly.”
“She is,” Cersei spat. “And she’d be dead if we didn’t still need her, if I thought her lackeys wouldn’t kill us before we managed to leave the family wing. Stop laughing. Stop it!”
“She is very comforting, I’ll grant you that,” Jaime said, full of a manic feeling he couldn’t rightly call joy. “She’s lovely to lay next to, isn’t she? So protective.”
“Shut up, shut up, you -”
He caught her hand before she could slap him. Her skin was warm against his, smooth as ever. Tiny wrinkles adorned her face, so small you could almost pretend they weren’t there. Almost, if he didn’t see the mirror of them every time he looked at his own face. “I don’t blame you.” He wasn’t laughing anymore. “Cersei - I don’t blame you.”
Her brilliant green eyes caught his and held them. He felt a surge of warmth as he always did, as he always had, since before he’d even known what it meant. He’d only ever been for her, until he’d met Brienne.
“I hate her,” Cersei whispered. “I hated - I was dreaming of Robert. I screamed. She came to get me. She had no idea.” Her lip curled. “A maid, or close enough, someone who loves you, someone who loves her honor. She knew nothing about what’s wrong with me.”
“Nothing’s wrong with you.”
“Everything is, and you know it. Don’t be a fool.” Cersei’s lip curled in disdain. “And don’t leave me with her again, damn you.”
He should have just left it at that, but he found he couldn’t. “Why? What are you afraid of?”
“It’s what you should be afraid of,” she snapped, and after that she wouldn’t speak to him, even as they lay down next to one another, even as the flickering candle light in the adjoining room dimmed, guttered, and died.
The Tyrell bitch and Sansa Stark arrived a week after Jaime returned. Cersei had done her best to forget about the whole matter. It hardly signified; she didn’t imagine Brienne would be sending the man she loved on errands very often. She’d been compelled to share a bed with a monster and once again lived to tell the tale, and that was all there as to it. She focused on ensuring her dresses were ready and her hair fashionably styled. She wouldn’t allow either of the girls to outshine her, not when every other person on this godforsaken island was wind-worn and ugly.
(Jaime likes Brienne well enough, her mind sneered. But Cersei knew it was a passing fancy. He’d been desperate and foolish, and she was punishing him for it. It didn’t need to go further than that.)
Sansa Stark surprised her by meeting her eyes immediately, not a scared mouse at all. “Lady Cersei,” she said, inclining her head.
“Lady Sansa. How you’ve grown.”
“Indeed she has. Lady Sansa sits on the Queen’s small counsel now.” Margaery Tyrell’s smile was as lascivious as ever.
“Oh? And who has the Dragon Queen whored you out to, my dear?”
She said it too quietly to be overheard, and smiled so that none would guess the poison of her words. She expected one of Sansa’s pathetic little flinches, but the girl didn’t so much as twitch. Margaery, for her part, inclined her head to acknowledge the blow. “I am a widow, my lady,” she said. “The Dragon Queen, in her bountiful wisdom, has chosen to respect my privacy.”
Which meant Tommen was unmarried, and damn her, unprotected. Cersei clenched her own skirts so tightly she half feared she’d rip the fabric. “I see.”
“I doubt you do,” Sansa said, very quietly.
“Be that as it may, I’m not your host, so I must pass you on now.” She looked up and met Brienne’s gaze, smiling broadly. “Lady Brienne, you mustn’t neglect your guests! Come here and listen to Lady Sansa’s tales of the Dragon Queen; they are so diverting.”
Brienne gave her a long, unamused look, but she did as Cersei bid. Before long she was absorbed in earnest conversation with her liege lady, and Cersei was free to return to Jaime’s side.
“Imagine swearing your loyalty to a stupid little sixteen-year-old girl,” Cersei said, watching them.
“Oh, yes, I can’t imagine swearing loyalty so young, and to a girl besides.”
“You swore to the Kingsguard. Don’t imply -”
“That I followed you? But I did. That I love you? But I do.”
She had always so loved how Jaime spoke, his arrogance and wit. Even before she’d understood what it truly meant to have him, the knowledge that she could have him, have all that deadly cutting humor and handsomeness, had thrilled her to the bone. But since he’d come back to her, he’d been so demanding, placing himself in front of her and baring his love to her, like he wanted to hurt her. How long and I came back to you and I love you and I’ll follow you anywhere. It was unbearable because she knew it to be false. She saw the ridiculous longing when he looked at Brienne, the way he flinched when Cersei called her ugly. It was ridiculous.
But she couldn’t say any of that - not generally, and certainly not now. “It’s not terribly chivalrous for someone like Lady Brienne to try to take Lady Sansa to bed. Imagine how she must cry.”
Cersei sipped her wine. “Stop what?”
“Brienne wouldn’t, and you were happy to let Joffrey torment her.”
“Don’t you dare speak to me about Joffrey.”
“You know he was cruel, Cersei.”
“Not everyone.” And again he looked at Brienne, again he gazed at her with that absurdly transparent worshipful regard. It was like watching a stallion pant after a mule.
“You disgust me,” she told him sweetly. She handed him her empty wine glass and took his full one, and went off to flirt with the Tyrell guards who’d accompanied the ladies.
By the end of the night, she felt half-mad. The only good part of the evening was how freely the wine had flowed. Brienne had done nothing a host might be expected to do; she spent half the night in a corner with Sansa Stark, no doubt plotting away at Lannister ruin. Cersei had found herself moving from group to group and being more or less charming because she had to be, because the actual Lady of the hall was a mannish freak who could barely make conversation with courtiers who had been trained specifically to speak to the reluctant and clumsy-tongued. Cersei went to her room exhausted, drunk, and angry.
She noticed it all in one go. The adjoining room’s door was open; Jaime and Brienne sat together on the chaise in Brienne’s chamber. She knew that look on Jaime’s face, she knew it. It had been directed at her more times than she could count, devotion and love and lust all rolled up in a single glance. It was disgusting that he should direct it at someone else now. She stomped into the room and said, “Jaime! What do you think you’re doing?”
But she wasn’t going to listen to his lies. “I already told you, you don’t need to whore yourself out to the Evenstar. We’re going to get out of here on our own terms. Come to bed.”
But Jaime didn’t budge. He didn’t even have the grace to look embarrassed. He said, “I’ll come to bed when I’m done talking,” and looked back to Brienne.
Lady Brienne, bright red in the firelight, her tunic straining at the shoulder seams. Cersei snorted. “Don’t bother. Warm her bed tonight.” She slammed the door behind her and fell asleep fuming.
She woke the next day to see Jaime sleeping on the floor by their bed, and to a summons on her breakfast tray. Lady Sansa wished to see her in the solar that morning, when she was feeling ready. She would wait until the bell sounded for tea.
“How lovely,” Cersei said. For a moment all she could see was Joffrey’s face, still forever, his beloved eyes shuttered. Her son. And Sansa had been glad - Sansa had likely encouraged Tyrion to do it. Oh, but she hated her. And now she was Lady Sansa again, reportedly with more political power than Cersei had ever touched, even as Queen Regent. “Damn her,” she whispered, and went to get dressed.
She half expected Sansa to greet her with a sword to the throat, or to order a guard to toss her into the waters below. That was what Cersei would do in her place: a carefully concocted story, loyal guards, and no other witnesses. Tarth was remote and few people liked her, after all. Lady Sansa could get away with it, could profit from it. But Lady Sansa was still just a girl; the Dragon Queen hadn’t beaten innocence out of her the way Cersei had attempted to. She met Cersei with her hands folded and greeted her politely, no more threat than a kitten given a bit of string.
“Are you enjoying your time here?” Lady Sansa asked, toying with the yellow flower she’d picked as she bade Cersei to sit.
Cersei couldn’t help but laugh at that. “Surely you jest.”
“I think it’s lovely here, and Lady Brienne is so kind.”
It occurred to Cersei that she could solve a nagging mystery, with the subject of it so open to conversation. “People are usually kind to their owners.”
Sansa frowned. “Lady Cersei, I don’t understand your meaning.”
“She serves you, does she not? She takes her oaths comically seriously.”
“I’m afraid you’ve been misinformed,” Sansa said slowly. “She did serve me, after my lady mother was murdered. But I released her from that oath. I had to, when she told me she was taking you two. I couldn’t allow her to involve me in - all of that.”
All of that. Cersei’s own treachery, Jaime’s oathbreaking, their romance and its issue. This was the secret Brienne had kept from them. Well, from her; she’d likely told Jaime, obsessed with him as she was. “I see.”
“But I was wondering if you liked Tarth,” Lady Sansa said. “If it suits you. Brienne mentioned she was doing her best to make you comfortable, but I thought I might ask you myself.”
And suddenly she understood what the girl wanted. “You can just tell me to beg, my dear. No need to stand on ceremony.”
Gods, she was almost as slow as Brienne. “You’re here to see if you can send Tommen and Myrcella here. Brienne has the space and her ridiculous oath to Jaime might lead her to accommodate us. I imagine the Dornish are ready to pitch Myrcella into a pit; she’s useless to them as a bastard, doubly so as the bastard of the pretender’s widow. Tommen, of course, is a threat, but keeping him locked up forever might not play so well with the kingdoms your Queen is trying to pacify. And her dragons can’t be everywhere at once.” She couldn’t help but smile a little, thinking of all that power, even if it wasn’t hers. “Ask me to beg, Sansa. You know I will, for my children.”
“I’m not like you,” Sansa said. “I never was. I think Joffrey might have liked me more if I had been.” She looked at Cersei, searched her gaze. Cersei doubted she’d find what she wanted: repentance? Shame? Joffrey might have been a monster, but no more than any other king. He’d been unusually lacking in tact, not unusually cruel.
“So like a Stark,” she said when she realized Sansa was waiting for her reply. “Very well: I yield. Please, Lady Sansa. Please give me my children back. Please, I beg you.” She didn’t have to summon the tears: they appeared organically.
“That’s not what I want!” Sansa sounded so alarmed Cersei almost believed her. “I’m trying to make sure you won’t return and try to take the throne! Brienne told me you were half mad and I didn’t believe her - I see now I should have.”
“Half mad? What do you mean?”
“With grief,” Sansa said, “and fear that someone will hurt you, or the children.” She stood, dropping the yellow flower to the ground. When she spoke, her voice was steady, calm. Not childish at all - not anymore. “I think it would hurt them more to be around you again. I think it’s only that Lady Brienne is so good, that she manages to withstand you at all.”
Sansa left her alone in the solar then, taking all the guards with her. Cersei was glad; she didn’t need reports making it back to the Maid of Tarth that she’d wept over her own empty hands.
Jaime had been awake long into the night, discussing with Brienne what House Lannister might offer the Dragon Queen to get their children back. He spent hours stunned at Brienne’s willingness to negotiate on their behalf. Cersei would have flown into a rage if she’d gotten wind of it, entreating him not to trust Brienne and verbally abusing him when he trusted her anyway, so they’d kept her out of it. But Brienne hated it, he knew. “She loves them,” she’d told him. “Even if she loves no one else - I’m sorry.” She touched his hand, warm and steady. “I didn’t mean it like that. But she’ll do anything for them. She deserves to know you’re trying.”
“I’m their father.” He’s forced himself to say it, over and over again, this truth he’d guarded so carefully even while the world went mad. “Of course I’m trying. But we’ll come to Cersei with a real plan, or not at all.”
“Sansa says it won’t be that simple. Daenerys isn’t willing to give Tommen up so long as he holds such value to a family that wants her throne.”
“It’s reasonable,” Brienne had said. “Or as reasonable as anything else about politics.” She shrugged, dismissing the whole of thirty years’ war in a single movement. “It’s why it’s important that you stay here. You need to appear unambitious.”
“You can’t tell me Sansa thinks my sister has no ambition.”
“She knows that your children are first in Cersei’s heart,” Brienne had said. She’d taken such care, not quite meeting Jaime’s eyes, not lying but not telling him the whole truth, either.
“Why are you doing this?” He’d had to know, then. He’d burned for it, for her. This wasn’t a desperate ride on horseback, it wasn’t Harrenhal; she had no reason to be loyal to him, and every reason to hate Cersei. “Why not just abandon us?”
“I can’t,” she’d said. A simple statement that explained nothing at all, and that had been the end of it.
So their children were still stranded, and he knew Cersei was angry. Talking with Sansa hadn’t helped that at all. Still, he hadn’t expected to see her produce poison on the delegation’s second night, moving her hand towards Margaery’s cup with every intent of killing her.
He was too far down the table to stop her. No one else noticed. No one was quite as attuned to his sister as he was. For an agonized moment he thought to cry out a warning, and he knew he wouldn’t, couldn’t, that the words would choke him in his own throat. But then he didn’t need to, for Brienne put her hand over Cersei’s, gripping hard. She spoke too quietly for Jaime to hear her, but Cersei - his beautiful sister, murderous and devoted, beloved and deadly - put the poison back in her pocket.
Oh, there would be hell to pay.
They bade Brienne goodnight relatively early in the evening, abandoning her to awkward conversation as they walked back to their suite together. For a moment, as Cersei locked the door, Jaime thought she meant to shout at him - to rail, to throw things.
Instead, she advanced on him as a cat stalks prey. He took a step back, she took a step forward, until he stood with his back pressed to the wall and she was kissing him.
It sent fire through his blood. She twisted his collar in her hand, braced cruel nails against his shoulder blade. She bit his ear and then his lips, tore at his shirt. She was furious and beautiful and his, once again his, not pulling away or hiding parts of herself. His other half, his soul.
“She stopped me,” Cersei breathed. “That enormous - I hate her. Jaime, I hate her.” She spun them so that she was braced against the wall, pulling him down to her. “I hate her, I want to kill her, she stopped me.”
“I know,” he whispered, and he did. He fell to his knees right there in front of her, knocking her legs apart, ducking beneath her skirts.
He did know. He remembered the terrible way it had hurt in the beginning, to fall under Brienne’s regard and fail to live up to her standards. He remembered how badly he’d wanted her to fulfill the promise in her disapproving looks and just fuck him, bend him over and force him to be whatever she wanted. Cersei’s knees trembled as he touched her and he knew, deep in his bones, that she felt what he had, that she finally understood.
“She wouldn’t like it,” he whispered. It was safe under here; she couldn’t see him. She could only feel his fingers teasing the wetness out of her cunt, his tongue against her lips. “She’d hate knowing we’re doing this. She’d think it’s wrong.”
Cersei shuddered against him. “Who cares what that great ox thinks?”
But he knew the heart of it. “She’d tell us to stop.” He drove two fingers deep inside her. She was so wet that he heard it, smelled it, felt her leaking around him. “She’d force us to stop.”
“No she wouldn’t. She’d watch. She’s pathetic, Jaime, I’ve seen her look at you.”
“I’ve seen her look at you.”
Choked laughter. “I hate her.”
“I hate her too,” Jaime whispered, a confession that meant the opposite.
Cersei didn’t answer; she only moaned, moving on his fingers. He gripped her thighs and licked her, sucked her, until she came around him; then when she’d fallen to the floor he rose over her and fucked her, first on her back and then braced on her knees, hard and fast and slow and cruel. He gripped his cock to keep from coming too soon, holding her tightly to him when she tried to provoke him into movement. She needed to understand, she needed to feel it. He had been loyal to her and she had been monstrous to him, and they were the only two people in the world, the only two who mattered. Except he carried a ghost in him now, reproachful blue eyes and monstrous honorable faith. I know you don’t mean that. I know you know better. He did, damn her, he did. But Cersei didn’t. There was no hope for her, unless Jaime could convince her of one more person, one more truth. Just one.
When he finally came inside her, she screamed. He didn’t think it was on purpose, but it sealed their fates anyway: Brienne would have heard, must have heard, for her room had shown light beneath the door for twenty minutes now, as Jaime had brought Cersei off over and over. She clutched him, bit him, even as he spilled inside her; when he was done, she pressed her thighs together, and he watched his seed drip out of her and onto the rug.
“The Dragon Queen demands we all bend the knee to her,” Cersei said in tons of brittle bitterness. “I think sometimes I understand her.” She looked over to Brienne’s door. “I’d like to burn all the world. I’d like to see them weep for my forgiveness.”
Brienne would never weep, not for that, Jaime thought, but he didn’t tell her. He couldn’t tell her. If his soul had stayed tender towards honorable knights, it was only because its other half had grown hard and cold, and nearly beyond his reach altogether.
Her people loved her, was part of the problem.
At first, Jaime thought it was only his own affection coloring his understanding of others. It wouldn’t be the first time; he’d thought Cersei universally beloved too. But Dolan helped his suspicions along, and being back in Evenfall confirmed it. Brienne was ugly, awkward, and shy; she was no lady of the house, and if he hadn’t known her as well as he did, he’d think she was shirking her duty as the Head of House as well. Yes despite all that, everyone he met was powerfully devoted to her. It made him jealous, in an odd way. He thought he’d found her, his own secret; he’d fancied himself the only person who really saw how valuable she was. It turned out that a whole island shared his sentiments, and rendered them significantly less precious in the process.
Her people loved her; he was jealous. And their love meant it would be nearly impossible to escape.
The delegation left without having directly broached the matter of their Lannister hostages. When Jaime asked, Brienne said she’d brought it up but hadn’t gotten anywhere. For someone so unskilled in statecraft, that could only mean abject failure. Still, it was nice not to have to peer around corners before he spoke frankly; he was relieved not to have to worry about Cersei doing something cruel. He hadn’t realized how free Brienne had allowed them to pretend to be until there had been Tyrells and Starks around to observe their movements. Everyone from Brienne down to the serving girls had changed their treatment of the Lannisters for those three weeks.
But now they were gone, and Jaime could breathe again, in theory.
In reality, Cersei had found some wine and was drunk and raving in Brienne’s room.
Jaime had chosen to stay in the lady of the house’s suite, for now. He told himself it wasn’t cowardice; Brienne could handle herself.
“Coward! I name you coward and traitor -”
“Traitor to whom?” Brienne said coldly. “My lady, insomuch as anyone is the rightful heir to the throne, it isn’t a Lannister bastard.”
“Tommen is not -”
“He is. Would you deny Jaime the ability to claim him? Would you deny your own love?”
“Tommen is the rightful king and I will deny anyone who seeks to take that from him.”
“Then you deny forty thousand Dothraki and three angry dragons.” Brienne’s voice shaded into impatience, and Jaime loved her for it, for not being as scared of Cersei as he himself often was. “Honestly, Cersei, you already lost. If only you’d admit it, they’d be here already.”
“Coward,” Cersei hissed, “coward, coward!”
Jaime was up and running for the door when he heard the crack of flesh; he’d known where this was going as soon as he heard Cersei’s tone. So he made it into Brienne’s room in time to see Cersei grab her, haul her down and kiss her, fingers biting into Brienne’s jaw exactly as they so often had Jaime’s.
But unlike Jaime, Brienne didn’t melt into it. She didn’t beg Cersei to stop and she didn’t beg her for more, either. Jaime had been right the first time; Brienne didn’t need his help. She grasped both of Cersei’s arms and pushed her away, held her at arm’s length. It was a deeply silly tableau, but Brienne only looked the same as she always did.
“Your son will never sit on the throne,” Brienne said. “You, too, will never sit on the throne. I do not love the Dragon Queen, but she sits on the throne, with the Iron Islands’ navy and the Tyrells’ wealth and the Starks’ wolves. She holds it all, my lady, and I cannot force her to give you your children. I can only write to Lady Sansa and beg her favor. Do you understand?”
“Damn you,” Cersei said, “damn you to hell - and damn you, too!” For she’d caught sight of Jaime, and her eyes narrowed, her expression somehow growing even more poisonous. “I’ll leave you to your whore,” she spat, and stomped back into their room, slamming and locking the door behind her.
Brienne sat down at her desk. “I am trying,” she said, her voice dull, her movements heavy.
Jaime nodded. “I know.”
“Why on earth does she think you’re - with me? You’re not. I hear you two practically every night, she should know you’re not!”
But I am, Jaime nearly said, but Brienne wouldn’t want to hear it - and he didn’t really want to say it. “She hasn’t been faithful, and she’d prefer if I hadn’t been, either, so that we could blame each other into our graves. It doesn’t concern you.”
She didn’t seem to believe him, but nor was she willing to pursue the line of inquiry for now. She said, “I’d like to be friends with her.”
Jaime laughed in spite of himself.
She frowned. “I’m serious!”
“Oh, I know you are. But it won’t happen.”
“She doesn’t have friends. She barely has allies. Surely you’d noticed.”
“She’s been desperate, pressed from all sides -”
“She’s selfish. Cruel. And she can’t stand the idea of others competing with her.” Jaime shrugged. “I love her; I wouldn’t lie to you about her character. She’s the other half of me, and she’s nearly a monster.”
He could tell Brienne already knew, but she had that stubborn look on her face that meant she wouldn’t admit it, or that she was about to behave foolishly. And then, right on cue, she said, “I just think that she could - she’s funny, sometimes. She’s pleasant to be around. She could have friends!”
“But she doesn’t want them, and therein lies the problem.”
“Not even for her children?”
“If she were kind to me.” Brienne licked her lips, set her jaw with noble determination. “Suppose I weren’t doing all I could to recover them.”
“But you are.”
“But suppose I weren’t! Then perhaps her friendship would convince me to work harder. I’m - you know what I am, I’m ugly and have no influence, I’m a maid and likely always will be. Someone like her could flatter me, seduce me. But -”
“Hasn’t she done just that?” Jaime would remember the image of that kiss until he died, after all.
“Not like that,” Brienne said hotly, two spots of red appearing on her cheeks. “I mean as a true friend, like Lady Sansa has been to me. You truly don’t see the difference?”
“Of course I do. One of them, Cersei’s willing to do. The other, she isn’t.” He shrugged, trying not to reveal how much it hurt him, how badly he wished his sister had ever learned to be kind. “It doesn’t matter either way. I know you’re not holding back. I know you’ll get us our children back if you can.”
“But you don’t think I can,” she said softly, searching his gaze.
He didn’t, and he was helpless in the face of her honesty, her goodness. “I’m sorry.”
The Maid of Tarth went back to her papers, and Jaime found himself useless. He wanted to reassure her, to kiss her, to draw her down onto that enormous, comfortable bed. He could do none of it without Cersei knowing, so he left her alone, and went to comfort his sister instead.
She couldn’t stop thinking about it, and she hated it.
It had been an awful kiss. She’d really thought, before she’d done it, that Jaime’d had Brienne at least once, maybe several times - maybe for months as they’d traveled together, a beautiful disgusting romance. Now she knew she’d misjudged them. If Jaime had fucked her at all, which she doubted, then he’d done it without kissing her, without holding her. She knew her brother. He hadn’t fucked her at all.
And she couldn’t stop thinking about it, this nothing, this hadn’t-happened with a maid who was barely a woman. She hadn’t known how to kiss, but she had understood how their bodies worked. She’d pulled Cersei away from her as you might pull a kitten away from your finest woolens. It disgusted Cersei to think of; she hadn’t even hesitated.
But Cersei had seen her looking. She had felt, just for an instant, the gasping and yielding that meant Brienne wanted it, wanted her. And she knew she wanted Jaime; everyone on this thrice-damned island knew she wanted Jaime. Yet still she had pulled Cersei off of her.
As Jaime slept next to her, she considered alternatives. What if Brienne hadn’t pulled away? What if she’d let Cersei take her, what then? Would Cersei have done it?
For her children, yes. For them she’d do anything. To spite Jaime - perhaps. For the sheer enjoyment of it? Hardly. But Brienne might think otherwise.
As Jaime continued to sleep, innocent as a babe, she reached down to touch herself. She was slick and hot and wanting just from thinking about bending Brienne to her will, making her enjoy Cersei’s touch. When she slid fingers inside herself, all she could think about was doing the same to Brienne. She’d weep from it, Cersei was certain, after so many years without anyone’s touch at all. She’d beg. Cersei was so sure that she could make her beg.
She came silently, shaking from head to toe, her ankle pressed against Jaime’s. It was a kind of treachery, she thought, wanting Jaime’s new love as she did. She hoped it hurt him.
The next day, she tried to make peace. Brienne had taken to spending at least an hour locked up in her father’s office, attending to the business that even the scion of a minor house had to pay attention to. She was writing a letter when Cersei walked in, and stowed it beneath a folio so smoothly Cersei almost believed it wasn’t of consequence.
“Correspondence with Lady Sansa?”
“Something like that.” Red crept up Brienne’s neck. Cersei thought she understood Jaime’s fascination with it now; she wanted to trace that blush further down, to draw blood and see if that made it worse. Or perhaps it would retreat; perhaps Brienne, in pain and rage, would forget to be shy.
“Can I help you, my lady?”
Cersei decided to let Brienne see the moment she realized she’d been staring. She flicked her eyes up to Brienne’s face and smiled. “Ah, no. I just missed you, I suppose. Jaime’s sparring with one of your men - Dylan? Doran? Something like that.”
“Dolan. He likes him.”
“How delightful for them both. But I’m bored, and I imagine you are, too. You didn’t get all those big muscles by sitting behind a desk.”
She saw the pain in Brienne’s eyes, just a little, shadowed by anger and frustration. “No, my lady. But I woke at dawn for swordplay, and I’ll be examining the fence in the south field after I’m done here. I’m not in any danger of wasting away, I assure you.”
“Good. You’re the only thing standing between us and the dragon bitch.” She smiled, leaning forward just a little. Brienne’s eyes never left her face. Cersei left the room with a simmering frustration, a lust she couldn’t slake. She’d have to work harder. Brienne had a weakness, she knew it. She’d just have to find it.
It took her nearly a week to realize her mistake.
The household had relaxed, the sting of a visit from the Queen finally dissipated. Jaime had received a letter from Tyrion that left him in high spirits, and Brienne had enjoyed a long ride with some of her men - old friends, she’d called them. Cersei had no reason to be happy, but she was content to pretend it if suited her purposes, and tonight it did. They sent the servants away and drank wine around the fire, and Cersei laughed when Jaime told one of his ridiculous stories about his days in the Kingsguard, before everything had gone to shit.
And that was when she noticed it. They were all laughing, but Brienne most of all; she gazed at Jaime as though he’d single-handedly delivered her poor dead Renly, reanimated and suddenly mad for giant thighs and a sow’s face. It was Jaime, it had always been Jaime; Brienne only looked at her in the context of her beautiful, powerful, male other half.
The wine suddenly tasted like vinegar on her tongue.
“Brienne,” she said, seized by horrible impulse.
Brienne froze. “Yes? My lady?”
“Call me Cersei.”
Brienne smiled uncertainly. It made her lips look twice as broad as normal, and four times as broad as might be considered attractive. She was so ugly, Cersei thought. It gave her a sick thrill to think of it. “I thought we might play a game,” she said, licking her lips and glancing at Jaime.
Her brother immediately divined her meaning, of course. “We don’t need to play games. Were you not enjoying the story? I have many more, if you’d like.”
“I’ve heard all of them, Jaime. I have a different activity in mind. Lady Brienne.” She said it imperiously, in the tone of a Queen who had never been denied. “What do you love, my lady? What pleases you in this world?”
Brienne glanced between them. She was too smart, damn her, stupid in every way except divining what Cersei intended with regards to her twin. “A happy home, my lady. Food on my table. Honor for myself and my family, if they will it.”
No doubt she thought it a safe answer. But Cersei had learned to seize on any sign of weakness. “Your family? But you don’t have one, do you? The Queen killed your father, and the men of Tarth assure me you’re a maid.”
She watched, mesmerized, as Brienne swallowed.
“Don’t do this,” Jaime said in a low voice. But surely he knew she must.
“Of course, you can make a family without ever experiencing an ounce of your own pleasure,” Cersei said. “One could even say it’s traditional. Is that what you want?”
Brienne didn’t answer. She looked like a deer, Cersei thought, or a great ugly boar, right before hunters ran it down.
“You look at Jaime like you think he could give you both of them. Pleasure in bed, and children from that pleasure.” She reached out, expecting Brienne to flinch. But evidently she didn’t have any sense of self-preservation; she sat still and let Cersei trail two fingers down her cheek and throat. “I had to teach him how to do everything, you know. He was just a clumsy boy.”
“But he gave you children.”
“Yes. And two of them are still alive, even. Presumably.”
“They’re alive,” Brienne said. Her low, firm voice sent a shiver down Cersei’s spine. What business did she think she had, promising such a thing?
“You can’t say you know for sure.”
“I don’t,” Brienne said. “But I have a promise from Lady Sansa, and -”
“Lady Sansa, Lady Sansa, once again you remind us all of your duty. It’s dull, you know.”
“Yes. I’m told I’m dull as well. I should probably -” She put her wine down and made to stand.
But Cersei was drunk and felt half mad. She grabbed Brienne’s wrist, her grip tight enough to be cruel, but nowhere near so tight that Brienne couldn’t have broken free. Gods, she probably couldn’t be overpowered by Jaime, either. What was that like? What was it like to be such a monstrous abomination that you expected to die a maid?
“My lady,” Brienne said, tone patient. Cersei realized she was staring at Brienne, clinging to her wrist like a girl catching hold of a queen.
“You’ll learn,” Cersei said.
Another of those dull frowns, ridiculous in how stupid they made her look. “Learn what?”
“This,” Cersei said, and slid out of her own chair, dropping to her knees in front of Brienne.
“Cersei,” Jaime said. She knew he could see them both; she’d considered it a moment ago, while she’d looked at Brienne. Big, dumb Brienne, who had agreed to sit in the chair positioned so that both Lannisters could watch her. Ridiculous Brienne, who was now looking down at Cersei with something like terror in her eyes.
“Cersei, damn you,” Jaime said again.
Cersei didn’t answer. She couldn’t, just then; all her focus was on Brienne. She hadn’t moved when Jaime spoke, nor had she looked over at him.
She’d been wrong earlier. Brienne might only want Jaime, in truth; she might not want Cersei at all. But she wanted pleasure. She wanted to know what it was Cersei hinted at with her sarcasm and innuendo, and Cersei was more than happy to show her.
“Push me away if you’d rather, my lady,” Cersei said, and put her hands on Brienne’s trouser laces.
She went slowly. She wasn’t worried about Brienne stopping her, but she thought Jaime might interfere if he wasn’t made to see just how much his Maid of Tarth wanted this. So she carefully, slowly eased the trousers down Brienne’s legs, watched her nipples pebble under her tunic as Cersei stroked her thighs. She took a deep breath, smelling how wet Brienne already was before she pushed Brienne’s legs apart and let Jaime see it.
“Have you done this?” she asked, trailing a finger over the seam of Brienne’s thigh, where her hair became curly and wiry. “Touched yourself? Brought yourself pleasure? Don’t lie; I’ll know if you do.”
Gullible Brienne shook her head, then nodded. She flushed all the way down here, bright mottled red, same as her face. Paler than her face, though. Untouched, unseen. “Only - only a little. Never…”
Red as maiden’s blood, her blush. “Never to completion. My lady.”
“Ah. But you know what completion is.”
“I’ve spent a lot of time in war camps. The men talk about it.”
“The men.” Cersei snorted. “Fooled by whores into thinking they know what a woman’s pleasure looks like.”
“Does Jaime know?”
It was an astonishing question. Cersei laughed in shocked delight even as Brienne closed her eyes and seemed to wish herself elsewhere. “Brother, I think your maid has been thinking of you more than you realize.”
“Cersei.” An agonized plea, for Jaime understood what Brienne couldn’t. He understood that this was Cersei torturing them both.
“Never mind all that. Here.” Cersei caught Brienne’s naive, too-trusting gaze, and held it as she pressed a single finger into her ugly cunt. She pushed until she felt the wetness she’d smelled, until her finger could slide down Brienne’s slit and rest against her hole. And then she held it there, warmth surrounding her, feeling the flutter of Brienne’s muscles as her breath caught.
“How does it feel?”
“I -” Brienne bit her lip. Cersei could feel it shimmering in the air between them, how badly Brienne wanted to look away, how uncomfortable she was. But she was wet, filthily so. She might be disgusted, she might be humiliated - but she liked it. She couldn’t lie to Cersei, not about this.
“Tell me,” Cersei said, and pressed her finger forward just a little, breaching what Brienne had admitted remained untouched. Virginal. Innocent, until right now.
“It’s not enough for me to say, my lady.”
Cersei froze as Jaime laughed behind her. But still Brienne looked at her, and now Cersei understood what was passing between them: a challenge.
Brienne really had no idea how to do this, what happened between women and men. She really was stupid.
“I see,” Cersei said, and used her spare hand to spread Brienne open. She was so wet that she glistened around Cersei’s finger. “What about this?”
Three fingers, with no preparation at all. She watched Brienne take them with obscene fascination; her cunt made Cersei’s hand look tiny, her fingers inconsequential. How much could she take? A question for another time; right now, she was tossing her head back and making pathetic little moaning noises, and Cersei knew she needed to keep going to prevent her from running away.
“Hush now. Try not to remind my brother what a great, ugly beast you are.” She said in quiet, almost affectionate tones. When Brienne flushed again with humiliation, she smiled and leaned forward, licking her from the stretch of her hole all the way up to her clit.
She sucked her - and then, when Brienne moaned, repeated the motion more brutally, fucking her hard with her fingers at the same time. Rough movements seemed to make her wetter, for she practically dripped down Cersei’s wrist when Cersei bit her thigh.
But it wouldn’t do for her to reach completion too soon. Cersei had no hope that she’d be able to convince her to stay when the edge had been taken off and a bit of the madness had fled. So she slowed down, curling her fingers inside Brienne and then sitting back and forcing her to rock her own hips, to fuck herself on Cersei’s hand. When she tried to reach down to rub herself, Cersei knocked her hand away.
“Brother dear, I’m a bit lost,” she said. She turned to look at him, knowing the firelight would show how wet her lips and chin were. He sat with his hand curled into a fist, staring at her like he wanted to strangle her. Good. “What should I do to her next?”
“Let her go,” Jaime said in a low voice.
Brienne moaned. “Please, I just -”
“I can’t do that. I think she might hurt herself if I did. See?” Cersei thrust against the spot that made Brienne moan, then did it again and again, until Brienne was close to wailing. “What should I do with her?”
“Ah, you’re right. There’s really only one way to end this, isn’t there?” She waited, buried deep inside the ugliest woman she’d ever met, waited as Brienne’s breathing almost evened out again, waited until Jaime’s face collapsed from confusion, to understanding, to resignation.
“Kiss her,” Cersei said, nearly a whisper.
“Wait,” Brienne said, and for a second Cersei thought she might get kicked in the head. But Jaime moved quickly, capturing her lips before she could humiliate herself further - and Cersei latched her mouth back on Brienne so that she couldn’t touch herself, so that this would be Cersei’s moment, her triumph. And Brienne came like that, screaming into Jaime’s mouth, her fingertips digging into Cersei’s shoulder.
As Cersei had predicted, she left right after, stuttering apologies to them both. Cersei collected herself and stood, watching her leave. “Anyone who sees her will know what’s happened.”
“How could you?” Jaime said. “You - taking advantage, forcing -”
“Does this look like force to you?” Cersei held out her hand. Her fingers were pruned, sticky and drying. The smell was everywhere. What more proof did he need?
“Damn you,” he said for the hundredth time that night, and grabbed her.
They didn’t kiss. Perhaps he didn’t wish to profane himself so soon after kissing his innocent sow-love. He shoved down onto the floor, close enough to the fireplace that she felt her skin tighten. He drove into her without hesitation, and oh, she was ready, she wanted all of it and more; she’d been wet for what felt like hours, since the moment she’d decided to torture them. She smeared the remains of Brienne’s release on his hair as she held him, and he bit down on the tiny, deep bruises Brienne had left on her shoulder. She came like that, gasping, as her twin cursed her name, their progeny, and himself.
He had to apologize, but what could he say? ‘Brienne, I’m sorry I stood by like an idiot and let my sister profane you’? ‘Brienne, did you actually want to fuck my sister, because if so, we have more in common than I’d realized’? ‘Brienne, does this mean you didn’t want me after all’?
“I haven’t said anything!”
Cersei looked over at him and rolled her eyes. She was wearing one of the dresses their allowance had paid for. The bruises he and Brienne had both left were perfectly visible, dark blue spots arrayed from her shoulder all the way up her neck. “You don’t need to talk to whine, Jaime. It’s all over your face.”
“We’ll be lucky if she doesn’t pitch us into the sea.”
“Why? She wanted it. We simply indulged her.”
“She’s a maid. She had no idea what you planned to do to her.”
“She’s still a maid, or close enough.” Cersei smiled. She was so beautiful, even now, clearly basking in her fresh cruelty. “We showed her how to enjoy herself. If anything, she should be thanking us.”
“We didn’t do anything! You -”
“You were there. You kissed her. You fucked me.” She moved a finger between them, then curled it in a perfect imitation of what she’d done last night. “We.”
Damn her, his blood heated just to think of it. He should have put a stop to it at the time. Brienne might think she understood, but she had no idea how cruel Cersei could be when she set her mind to it. It should have been Jaime who told Cersei to stop, who walked Brienne to her room and apologized profusely for his sister’s boldness. But he hadn’t been able to make himself move. The second Cersei had dropped to her knees - or earlier, even, watching Cersei watch Brienne with that awful, ugly, obsessive glint in her eye. They had looked perfect, a collision of everything he’d ever wanted. He’d been weak and foolish, and as ever, Brienne had paid the price.
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “I’m going to apologize. She had no idea what you were going to do, and it’s cruel to pull people who don’t want it into your games.”
“She did -”
“She wanted to be touched, because she had never been. How would you have felt in her place?”
It was the wrong question to ask, he realized. Cersei’s expression went flat, her eyes becoming flint. “Grateful.”
“I very much doubt that.”
Cersei shrugged. “I’m going for a walk. Apologize to the cow if you like, but don’t you dare imply I feel the same.”
He sat alone for a long time before he walked over to the adjoining door. His knees trembled like a squire’s as he knocked, and his heart flipped over in his chest when she said, “Come in.”
“Brienne,” he said, fumbling with the door and accidentally slamming it behind him. “I - sorry! I’m, ah -”
Cersei was bruised and Jaime knew he looked as tired as he felt, but Brienne looked well-rested and perfectly ordinary. It filled him with wretched, inappropriate hope that perhaps they hadn’t ruined everything, that Cersei hadn’t hurt her as much as he suspected she had.
“Ser Jaime,” she said. “Please, sit.”
Her voice was dull and wooden, and she wouldn’t meet his eyes. No, he thought, throat tightening. Cersei had hurt her exactly as much as she’d intended to.
He sat, and they didn’t look at each other. It was unbearable, tense silence broken only by gulls outside, until Jaime blurted out, “Brienne, I’m so sorry, I should have stopped her,” at the same time Brienne said, “I owe you an apology for my conduct, Ser Jaime, which was unbecoming as your host.”
They blinked at each other. Jaime suppressed the horrid urge to laugh. “You owe me no apologies, Brienne. Cersei behaved abominably.”
“I -” Brienne blinked, took a deep breath. “I let her. I encouraged her.”
“It’s not encouragement to not be able to stop my sister, I assure you.”
“Then you didn’t encourage her either!”
But he had, damn it, he’d been so hard he’d worried he couldn’t stand up. He’d been so furiously jealous of Cersei getting to lick Brienne’s cunt that he’d been halfway to madness. “I did. I let it happen. I wanted -” And his throat closed up again. He couldn’t make himself say it: I wanted you. I wanted both of you, I want both of you, and she knows it and wants to hurt me for it.
“No one’s wanted to touch me,” Brienne said. The words were as bald and bleak as the cliff outside her window. “I’m not stupid, I know your sister was only trying to hurt you. But she showed me what it could be like. Parts of it, anyway. I failed; I didn’t make her stop. I - encouraged her - because in the moment, it seemed like something I could have.” She shrugged. “Please convey my apologies to Lady Cersei. I’m afraid I must continue my correspondence now.”
Here, then, was Cersei’s revenge. Brienne’s eyes stubbornly on her desk, the distrust in her posture, the way she jerked back just a little when he stood, as though she needed to track his every movement. Cersei’s revenge and he’d done his part as always.
“Brienne. Please. I’m sorry.”
“Jaime.” She looked up meeting his gaze at last. He stumbled back a step in spite of himself. Devastation didn’t come close to describing what he saw in her eyes. “Please leave.”
He could do nothing but obey. He spent the day in his and Cersei’s rooms, trying and failing to think of ways to make amends. He’d half talked himself into simply turning himself in to the Dragon Queen when Cersei came back, carrying a tray of what must have been supper.
“Brienne was so worried about you,” she said, her voice a mockery of tenderness. “I assured her I’d care for you; what else is a sister for, after all?”
“So here we have bread, and three different cheeses, and ham just for you, to keep your strength up, Brienne told me. What a devoted oaf she is.”
“She didn’t say that. Stop it.”
“No, that’s true. She didn’t say much of anything, actually. Her heart is quite broken, it would seem. Did you know, she sent four ravens today? I wonder if she’s inquiring about her maidenhead.” Cersei laughed.
Jaime was on his feet before he knew what he was doing, his golden hand raised as though to strike his sister. But Cersei didn’t flinch, didn’t move at all. She looked up at Jaime with empty eyes and said, “Careful. If you hit me, no one in this whole castle will fuck you.”
“Why did you do it?”
“I’m bored. I thought I’d be doing her a favor, showing her what it’s like to be a woman. And of course, I do love to get my brother what he wants.”
“None of that is true. You were angry, angrier than you’ve been. Why?”
“I don’t think it’s any of your business, do you?”
“Yes it is! You’re my - sister, the mother of my children -”
“Your lover, and you can’t even say it here, on an island in the middle of nowhere -”
“And I care about Brienne, I don’t want her to be upset because you’ve decided to play with her -” And he realized it then, when her eyes widened and her jaw set. That was what it was. “You’re jealous.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
“Of her? How could you be?” He’d thought they were past this, after so long since he’d returned.
“Jealousy implies a good deal more insecurity than I’ve ever experienced,” she said coldly. “But yes, I see how she looks at you - and how you look at her, too. It disgusts me. I decided to fix it.”
“To fix it.”
“Yes.” She smiled at him, blithe and fucking evil. “Is that all, brother? Your food’s getting cold.”
“It’s ham and cheese! It’s already cold!”
But she didn’t care. She left him anyway, sitting in the window like a fool.
Brienne found her in the garden the next day, sitting among the sunflowers. “You should stop tormenting him.”
“You know who.”
“Perhaps I just like to hear you say it. Your voice is lovely, you know. It’s not like your face at all.”
“Insult me all you like, I don’t care. I know I’m ugly, and I know you don’t like me. But Jaime didn’t do anything to you. It’s cruel to treat him like this, when he loves you how he does.”
“And how is that, Lady Brienne?”
“He’d marry you.”
She laughed in spite of herself. “I doubt the Dragon Queen would appreciate our encroaching upon her Targaryen rituals that way.”
“He loves you. I don’t understand why you push him away, when you love him too. I know I - I know I’m foolish, I know you’ve noticed. But that’s not him. It’s not his fault, and it’s not his responsibility to make me stop feeling that way.”
“What would make you stop, then? I’d have thought a lurid encounter with your lordly love’s sister might, and yet, here you stand.” Cersei looked up at her. She was so broad that her shadow put Cersei entirely in the shade. “Did you enjoy it? Perhaps we should do it again.”
Another blush. Cersei was starting to find them beautiful; they meant Brienne was embarrassed, even miserable, and sent a thrill of triumph through her every time. “I don’t think that would be a good idea.”
“Why not? Didn’t you enjoy yourself? I’d thought by your screams that you did.”
“I know you meant to humiliate me,” she said quietly. “It worked, do you see? Everyone on Tarth knows I’m - undesirable. I’m not sure what you thought you’d teach me - that your brother loves you better? I knew that, too. But I don’t really care. I just want you to leave Jaime alone.”
Her breath felt stuck in her lungs. “How chivalrous,” she said finally, bitterness lodged in the back of her throat.
“Not really. I love Jaime. I want to preserve - what I can. For him.”
“Why? How could it possibly benefit you?”
For a moment she saw pity in Brienne’s expression. “That’s not the point.”
“Fuck you,” Cersei spat. “He’ll never love you. He’ll never have you. You’ll die an ugly maid, mocked by all, hated by all.”
Brienne nodded. “Yes. It seems likely, doesn’t it?”
Cersei hissed with rage, leaping up to slap the pity off her face. Brienne leaned back at the last moment, and Cersei kissed her.
It only lasted for a second. Brienne ripped herself away, taking two stumbling steps backwards. “Don’t try that again. No! Don’t come any closer. I - don’t.” She held out a hand. “Don’t.”
Cersei didn’t look at her, nor did she speak. She waited until she heard Brienne’s lumbering steps, and then she ripped every single petal off all the sunflowers she could get her hands on.
That night, she locked Jaime into their room. He knew as soon as he saw her what she intended to do, and he didn’t stop her. He was hard by the time she climbed onto his lap, but he was angry, too. He pushed her down into the bed, lifted her hips with ease, and fucked her without mercy, pressing down on the bruises Brienne had left, making her cry out.
“Do you want her to come in?” she said breathlessly, clinging to the sheets as he grabbed her hair and pulled her head up. “Is that what this is? Would you like her to fuck you, as you - ah!”
“Yes,” he hissed in her ear, and bit down again, on her other shoulder this time, hard enough to send real pain shooting down her arm. “Yes, I want her. Yes, I want her to see us.” He grabbed her tits and pinched them cruelly, reached down and rubbed her clit until she screamed in pain and need, so close to coming that she couldn’t hold herself upright. “Yes, I’d fuck her, I’d lay her down right next to you and fuck you both. Yes. Yes.”
She came just like that, with him rutting into her. The moment he felt it he pulled out, and even as she cried out in deprivation, came on her back, streaks that dripped down her as she fought to hold herself up with trembling arms.
And the thought bullied its way into her mind as she reached down to finish herself: what if Brienne were here, what if Brienne were beneath her, what if Brienne’s beastly arms held her up as she helped Jaime finish her?
She screamed again when she came. She knew Brienne must have heard it, and her heart sang to think of her discomfort. She hoped this whole fucking accursed island heard them.
“We’re going to King’s Landing. Do you need moon tea for your sister?”
Brienne stood in the doorway. Cersei was long gone; Tarth, or the misery of being on Tarth, had turned her into an early riser. She didn’t evince any impatience when Jaime blinked at her, nor did she seem distracted by his nakedness, despite the fact that their blankets barely covered his hips. “We’re going to King’s Landing. Does your sister need moon tea?”
“Well, at least now you’re not asking if I think I’m in charge of dosing her with it.” He tried to force his brain to work. “She always took care of it in the past.”
Three children. Two, now. It was the reminder of Joffrey’s death that sparked anger in him. “I assure you, Lady Brienne: if she hadn’t, Tarth would be absolutely packed with Lannister bastards.”
There was something so gruesomely satisfying about seeing a muscle in her jaw tense with anger. Gods, he wished she’d just let loose and hit him already. He couldn’t beat her in a fair fight, not anymore, but his blood thrilled at the prospect of trying. “Go on, say it.”
“There’s already one in front of you right now. One too many.” He smiled at her.
And then - oh. Oh. It was only a moment, barely that. But she looked at him, and then she looked down - and hastily back up. She wanted him still.
I’d lay her down right next to you and fuck you both, he’d said last night. Suddenly his mouth was dry, his cock stirring. “I’ll let her know you offered.”
“The tea.” He did his best to look gentle when she blinked at him. “I’m sure she’ll be grateful.”
“No, she won’t.”
His heart twisted with awful affection. She understood them both, and of course that was why it had all happened, but it still felt like a declaration of some kind. It felt right. “She won’t.”
Brienne twisted her hands in front of her. “I’ll - leave you, then.”
Maybe it was because he was tired, but he let himself look for a moment. She wore blue traveling clothes; the fabric was finer than what she’d had in service of the Starks, and gave her the odd appearance of glowing a bit. Her trousers weren’t tight, but they were well fitted across her thighs. He’d never really forgotten what they looked like after seeing her in the baths, but his memories were fresh now: smooth skin, a few scars, absolutely beastly strength. And her hands, of course, were strong enough to hold Cersei down. What would they feel like on him? On his cock, his ass - would she try to put her fingers in him? Tyrion had sworn it felt good, but Cersei had never been willing to try. Brienne was brave and had no idea what to expect in bed; she’d try, just to please him. Bend him over and -
Cersei’s voice jolted him out of his reverie. “Why exactly are there preparations being made for a long trip? And who didn’t see fit to inform me of them? Oh, good morning, Jaime; stop drooling over your ugly maiden and answer my question.”
“We’re to travel to King’s Landing, my lady,” Brienne said. “At the behest of the Queen.”
Brienne looked at Jaime, then back at Cersei. Her expression didn’t change, but somehow Jaime sensed bad news coming: his stomach dropped, and he climbed out of bed as though the Queen’s summons were something he could fight.
“I’m to be married to Gendry Baratheon, newly legitimized lord of Storm’s End, my lady.”
Silence. Jaime looked at Brienne in disbelief; Brienne looked at Cersei with placid calm; Cersei looked at them both and barely stifled a laugh. “Put some clothes on and stop embarrassing yourself, darling brother,” she said, and swept past Brienne into their sitting room.
Jaime looked down at his rapidly softening cock. Brienne, thank the gods old and new, didn’t. “I’ll leave you to prepare,” she said, and practically ran out of the room.
As soon as she shut the door, Cersei burst into peals of laughter. “Oh, this is too good. Gendry Baratheon. My husband’s bastard; we’ll be practically sisters.”
“Well, I know how much you like that in a bed partner,” Jaime spat. Where were his trousers? Why had he let Cersei ban the servants from their room? Everyone knew they were fucking, and no one cared - and soon no one would be around to care; they couldn’t stay on Tarth under Lord Gendry’s rule, he was sure. Damn it, it was all falling apart. “You shouldn’t be so jubilant about this. She doesn’t want to marry him.”
“What do I care what she wants or doesn’t want? King’s Landing is where Tommen is. Myrcella is either in transit, or has already returned. I’ll have our children again, and then you’ll figure out a way to get us out of there.”
Jaime thought it significantly more likely he’d learn to change into a dragon, but he knew Cersei wouldn’t hear sense in this kind of mood. He sighed and went to pack his things.
They rode out the next morning. Cersei had taken the moon tea and then sucked Jaime’s cock right there in the corridor leading to the kitchen, as though to emphasize what they both already knew: that she was on the knife’s edge of sanity, practically daring someone to call their actions wrong. Jaime should have pushed her away and he knew it, but as always, he couldn’t manage to make himself do it. It seemed they’d be going back to King’s Landing nearly exactly how they’d left it.
But only nearly. Brienne rode between them, wearing both Oathkeeper and the armor Jaime had given her. She looked noble and serious, beautiful, and Jaime’s throat felt tight with anger at the idea of this glorious, odd woman forced into a marriage with a man who’d deck her out in ill-fitting silks and likely forbid her swordplay altogether.
Gendry Baratheon. What a farce. A blacksmith, Cersei had told him, and a criminal, in the way that unlucky smallfolk often were during times of social turmoil. He’d won the Queen’s favor by offering to make more Dothraki weapons, which meant as far as Brienne was concerned, he was a traitor as well. Simply lovely.
At least he could be reasonably confident that she wouldn’t be bullied. Her time on her home island had been good for her; she’d gotten more sun and had spent half her days helping with manual labor or drilling in the practice yard. Her muscles were leaner than they’d ever been, the stroke of her sword stronger. No, neither Gendry nor anyone else would overpower her. Perhaps she’d even come to love him with time, and then -
But he had to stop thinking about it then. He was coming back to King’s Landing more selfish than he’d been, for now he understood the truth of his heart. Brienne loved him, and Jaime loved her love of him, craved it. The love of one woman, apparently, wasn’t enough. He knew so much more about himself now.
Perhaps when they were back in King’s Landing, he’d ask Cersei about it. Likely she’d known for a long time. She might lie to him, mock him, or try to manipulate him - but she might help him, too. Or he could beg an audience with the head of his House and ask Tyrion about it. The thought of bending the knee just to ask his brother for help with his romantic life made him chuckle into the mist.
Brienne glanced at him, but didn’t ask him to elaborate, thank the gods. He’d have been honest with her, and only gotten them all into even more trouble.
Cersei couldn’t stop staring at Brienne. She’d been distracted with panic when they’d left King’s Landing the first time; she hadn’t noticed anything about Brienne’s clothes or manner of carrying herself, and then she’d been on Tarth, where she hardly ever wore her sword and dressed the part of some kind of hideous hybrid of the Lord and Lady of her House. Now, she looked every bit a Lannister knight. Jaime’s armor and sword were most of it, but the hair didn’t help, nor did the way she watched Cersei and Jaime - not deferent, never that, but careful. If the horses were to startle, if everyone were to scatter, Brienne would follow them.
It was almost enough to make Cersei want to test her. To force her to show her loyalty. It would be delicious, she thought, to crush her like that. Maybe then, when she saw Jaime allowing his sister to toy with her, the bitch would finally understand to whom he belonged.
But every time she got close to doing it, she remembered the cheery future they had waiting for them. Brienne was to marry. Jaime’s heart would break, and Cersei didn’t care - no, that wasn’t true: she was excited. She’d be there to pick up the pieces, and he’d be hers again in the aftermath. Where they’d go, how they’d secure themselves, would have been problems anyway. At least right now, their biggest problem was removed.
Or, almost. Cersei still had to sleep next to her at night.
“This tent is too small for someone as large as you,” she said. “You ought to sleep outside. Or we could get an inn.”
“Cersei,” Jaime said.
“What? I think she knows I’m right.”
“I’m sorry, my lady, but you are technically still prisoners of the Queen. I can’t afford to lose you right now, nor can I afford the kind of rumors inns get you. You’ll be sleeping between me and Jaime.”
“Oh, I see. Him, you trust not to run off?”
“He knows the Queen would be displeased if I lost one of you. I trust him not to kill me.”
“Fool,” Cersei muttered, but of course she was right. Jaime was so weak for Brienne that he wouldn’t even let Cersei suck him off after she fell asleep. He cast wide-eyed, heartfelt glances over at her enormous form and shook his head, pushing Cersei’s head away. She was left to lie between them, burning from the abnormal warmth of Brienne’s body and trying to remember what a soft bed felt like.
They were a day’s ride out from King’s Landing, stopped for the night, when the bandits came. Cersei saw Brienne draw her sword first, and then they appeared as if from the mist. Four men and one woman, all of them wearing rich clothing that hadn’t been made for them. They were good at their jobs, Cersei supposed.
“Let us pass,” Brienne said.
“Can’t we just bribe them?” Cersei said. “You there, in the blue.” The man at the front of the group looked at Cersei. “I’ve three gold chains and a promise for more if you let us pass safely. Plus the mounts.” The horses were too far away to escape on, damn it all.
“I’ll take nothing from a Lannister whore.” He grinned, looking her up and down. “Not while she’s alive, anyway.”
Jaime had only a short sword, and his useless hand made Cersei fear for him every time he tried to fight, but he drew the sword anyway and moved in front of Cersei. “You shan’t touch her.”
“For you, Kingslayer, I’ll touch her while you’re both still alive to enjoy it.”
“Damn you!” Brienne shouted. She’d cut down one of the men before their leader could speak again. Cersei flinched, watching the woman in the group attack her with a dirty, mean-looking dagger. Brienne took a thwack to the back, but spun around and killed her. Jaime dispatched the man who rushed for Cersei, and Brienne threw off a bandit’s arm around her waist and cut him down, leaving only their leader.
To Cersei’s shock, it was Brienne who advanced on him, murderous rage in her expression. “You should have just taken the gold,” she said.
She was implacable in that moment, her eyes brilliant, her movements deadly. The man had no chance; Brienne slit his throat in one brutal stroke, and stood gasping for breath over his body.
It had only been a minute or two. Cersei had seen plenty of death; she wasn’t sure she’d ever been this close to it, nor had she ever seen a woman deal death so efficiently. She hadn’t really believed Jaime when he’d tried to tell her what Brienne was capable of.
“Are we going to bury them?” she said when no one said anything.
Jaime shrugged. “This is the Kingsroad. They’ll be found and identified.”
“We’ll tell someone at the next town,” Brienne told Jaime sternly. “No one wants to come across such savagery.”
“And yet, they do every day.” But Jaime bowed his head in spite of the comment, saying, “Of course, my lady.”
For a moment, furious jealousy burned through Cersei. He was taking her orders now, even as she could see the length of him in his breeches, hard and ready as he always was after a fight. Was this what he wanted, truly? An ugly killer? But she thought of the way Brienne had killed them, firm and furious, and the thrill between her own legs confirmed it for her. Yes, this was what they both wanted - at least right here, so far from civilization, held captive by a mad half-giant’s idiotic ideals of honor.
They were all in agreement that they didn’t want to sleep next to five bodies, so they continued down the road. Before twilight had truly become deep night, they found a town. Brienne flatly refused to identify them to get better rooms - “Everyone hates you, my lady, not just bandits.” - but she did make them stop to report the presence of the bandits, and then she dragged them up to the tiny room they were to share.
“It’s better than sleeping in a field, at least,” Jaime murmured to Cersei as Brienne left to find them food.
“It’s disgusting.” Oh, fine, the bed was clean enough, and there was a maid bringing bath water. But the bed was hardly big enough for Brienne, enormous as she was, and Jaime expected all three of them to fit?
“She saved our lives.”
“You would have -”
“Died,” Jaime said. “Heroically, I grant you, protecting my lady love.” He touched her jaw. “But I’d have died all the same. She saved us.”
As she had repeatedly this past year. Cersei hated it. The hatred burned within her like wildfire. She hated it, she hated Brienne, she hated -
“My lady,” Brienne said, letting herself in. Jaime yanked his hand away from her face, a cold breeze moving between them as he leaned away. “Here’s the bath, and food.”
Cersei looked up at her. Her face was streaked with mood and blood, and she positively reeked of horse. “You take the first bath. They’ll need to empty it out after you. Jaime and I will eat.”
She was so familiar with that dullard’s frown now. It meant Brienne didn’t understand, or was doing the tedious math she loved to work out the most honorable option. Apparently she saw nothing devilish in Cersei’s directions, for she nodded and said, “Very well,” and then began to take her clothes off.
Gods, she was thick with muscle and had scars almost everywhere Cersei looked. And a few fresh marks from today, too, great welts of red across her back. Claw marks on her shoulder, little nicks everywhere - she hadn’t noticed when she’d fucked her, she’d been busy with other things. But now she wondered if this was just the inevitable consequence of the unnatural life she’d led. Though Jaime hadn’t lied; she still had tits. They were tiny but unmarked, and they disappeared beneath the water as soon as Brienne climbed into the tub.
Jaime’s lips quirked. “Give the lady her privacy, sister.”
Cersei looked away, ruthlessly willing a blush down. “Why should I? We’re all to share this room. I haven’t done that since Tommen was a babe.”
“I’m not your son, my lady,” Brienne said. “Nor do I think you shared a room long, even with a newborn.”
She was right, but the correction still irritated Cersei. “You think I haven’t noticed that you’ve vices, my lady? You love to be right, don’t you? You’ll needle a Lannister and then act shocked when you get the lion. Gods, you’re dull.”
Dripping water, a single thick wrist above the water. For a moment Cersei pressed her thighs together and forbade herself to think about how it would feel, what it would be like. But she made the mistake of glancing over at Jaime; he knew, it was all over his face. He was thinking about it too.
Brienne had responded, but Cersei hadn’t heard her. To save herself from the burden of polite conversation, she took an enormous gulp of ale and set about tearing up the bread for herself and Jaime.
This trip was nightmarish. It almost made her long for the engagement parties; at least there, the ripostes would be civil, the danger clear.
She couldn’t look away from Brienne, even when she made a conscious effort. Her eyes kept straying back, watching the water fall over her beastly muscles, the movement of her strong hands against her skin. It had been overwhelming when Cersei had knelt for her; her presence had been so strong that Cersei had been viscerally disgusted, yet compelled to stay. Now, she remembered it all, the smell of her, the feel, and she wanted it again. She wanted more.
In the flickering candlelight, Jaime watched her. He ate like a dog now, with only the one hand, but she didn’t notice when he kept his gaze on her. She felt warm down to her toes - not happy, not content, but furious and hungry. She felt as though she were starving, and she knew to her bones that Jaime understood.
They didn’t speak of it. Much later, after they’d all bathed and Brienne had fallen asleep on the floor next to the too-small bed, Jaime reached for her.
It was disgusting, perverse. It should have been Brienne up here and Jaime on the floor, but Brienne had given them the bed because she knew what they intended to do. Cersei ought to have proven her wrong. Instead, she let Jaime grab her, let him slide his hand into her smallclothes, let him bite and rub and pinch until she was coming in his arms, shaking, not quite silent.
She hoped Brienne heard. She did. She hoped she heard it and feared her own future, her clumsy-fingered common husband, who surely would be just as repulsed by her body as Cersei was.
Jaime had expected to defend Brienne from censure on the throne, or at least to want to; he’d expected everyone in King’s Landing to greet her with contempt, as they had before. He found himself shocked beyond reckoning when the Dragon Queen smiled, seemingly genuinely, and welcomed her.
Then she turned her cold purple eyes on Jaime and Cersei, and everything was normal again. There it was: contempt. Had Brienne forsworn them, then? He hoped so. It would be the wise thing to do, which was why it hadn’t occurred to him that she might have done it.
“Your Grace,” he said, bowing. Beside him, Cersei curtsied, not quite shallowly enough for it to be an insult.
“How are you finding Tarth, Ser Jaime?”
“It grows lovelier by the day, Your Grace.”
“Hm. The days grow shorter there?”
“The days grow shorter everywhere as winter approaches,” Cersei said. “Your Grace.”
Jaime watched as she smiled her knife’s-edge smile, felt despair mount in his chest. Damn her, she was going to undo all of Brienne’s hard work with her reckless cruelty.
“Yes,” the Dragon Queen said. “So I’ve been told. What an odd land I rule.”
Cersei opened her mouth, no doubt to sign her own death warrant, and Jaime found himself paralyzed to stop her as always. He closed his eyes rather than watch the Dragon Queen decide to kill them - and then he opened them again when Brienne said, “The Lannisters lay claim to some of the finest maesters in the land, Your Grace. I’m sure Lord Tyrion would lend them out to you, should you wish to review plans for winter. You are wise to recognize how strange it is. Many before you did not.”
Jaime looked down and saw Brienne’s hand biting into Cersei’s wrist, half buried in her skirts and barely visible to onlookers. “Thank you,” he breathed.
“Perhaps I will. Thank you, Lady Brienne, and congratulations again on your impending union.” The Dragon Queen nodded, and just like that, they were dismissed.
It was an odd feeling, Jaime marveled as they were shown to their rooms. He’d never really entered the Red Keep without having the privilege to move as he wished, not since he’d been a callow boy. Here, he and Cersei were just another pair of courtiers. They didn’t even control the Rock’s interests.
“How far we’ve fallen,” Cersei said. She sounded brittle and angry about it, but Jaime could only feel relief.
Brienne sighed. “I know I can’t stop you from being horrible, but could you at least recognize that if you are horrible around me, I will always stop you?”
Cersei sneered at her. “Why should I?”
“I gave up my oath to Lady Sansa for -”
“My brother. Yes, I know. You’ve done many foolish things for my brother. I don’t see what it has to do with me.”
Jaime’s own heart twisted at that, and he knew from the look on Brienne’s face that she understood how such a thing hurt him. “Don’t say that. I know you care. You might kill him if you keep pretending you don’t, though.”
Cersei looked at him, only for a moment, but it felt like a physical blow. “Perhaps.”
“If you’re horrible around me, I’ll stop you.” Brienne was repeating herself now, but her voice was as firm as Jaime had ever heard it. I swore I’d take you to King’s Landing, and that’s what I’m going to do. “So please don’t make me. I don’t think either of us would enjoy that experience.”
She left then, no doubt off to drink wine with her betrothed and count her new holdings. But Jaime barely noticed. He was focused entirely on Cersei, her bowed shoulders, the very slight trembling of her hands.
He couldn’t tell anyone at all, much less Cersei, but he knew then that Brienne was wrong. She’d flay both of them alive before she admitted it, but if Cersei did something awful, if Brienne stopped her -
Oh, yes, she’d enjoy it. Very much.
Jaime discovered that Brienne wasn’t with Gendry Baratheon when the man himself was shown into their suite.
“Oh, it’s you,” Cersei said.
“Ah, yes, milady, milord. Her Grace asked me to see about fixing you up a new hand,” he told Jaime.
Gods, he spoke like the common bastard he was. Jaime was so absorbed in the coarseness of him that for a moment he didn’t hear the actual words the boy spoke. “Oh. Well. Ah. How kind.”
“He doesn’t need a new hand.”
“That’s not for me to say, milady. I’m only here to measure.”
“Ask your fianceé.” Each syllable pronounced with cruelty. Jaime wanted to tell the boy to run. “Jaime’s very happy with his hand.”
He’d never truly be Lord Gendry, Jaime thought, for right then he didn’t tell Cersei off for her impertinence. He didn’t even deflect her. He only said, “Yes, milady, as you say. Nonetheless, Her Grace has asked me to take a look.”
“You speak like a servant boy,” Cersei snarled. “This is who the Dragon Queen seeks to elevate to Robert’s seat?”
“Has elevated,” Gendry said. “Milday. It’s done. And I believe the Lannisters bent the knee, same as everyone else, or you wouldn’t be here.”
He was right, of course. Jaime couldn’t hold back his laugh. “He’s got you there.”
“Oh, shut up,” she snapped, and stormed off.
Gendry didn’t talk after that. He took the hand off, measured Jaime’s stump, looked at the condition of the cauterized skin around the end of it. It was an ugly bit of him, Jaime knew, though he could scarcely bring himself to look at it most of the time. “Can it support this hand?” Gendry asked. “It feels heavy.”
“It is.” He couldn’t say anything else. He hated it, of course, both because it was a constant reminder of his failure, and because it was incredibly inconvenient to lug around. But to say so would be a repudiation of Cersei, of his house. He couldn’t.
“Gold’s the worst thing you could use for this kind of thing.” Gendry tossed the golden hand between his own living hands, weighing it, feeling it move. “How do you feel about a hook?”
“You could have a hand for special occasions. Hollow, less heavy.” Gendry examined the hand’s leather straps. “Going lighter would make this easier to fit, too.”
“Why are you here?”
Gendry blinked. “I’m here to fit you for a new hand, milord.”
“No, stop it. She’s gone, so you’re not likely to die in the next ten minutes. You should be honest with me. The Queen didn’t send you here just to give me a new hand.”
“Milord, I really don’t -”
“You wanted to know why she did it.”
Gendry’s mouth opened, then closed, then opened again. Like a fish, Jaime thought, a very stupid fish.
“Lady Brienne has a sense of honor stronger than the Dragon Queen, stronger than you or me, stronger even than the Starks she’d sworn herself to. Does that answer your question?”
Jaime stared. Gendry flushed bright red, but he didn’t back down this time; he set his jaw and said, “Why could her honor possibly demand she host the two of you? Why not let you face the Queen’s justice? What honor is there in helping you evade consequences for treason?”
He thought of Harrenhal, of his rotting stinking hand about his neck, of the steadfast way she’d refused to be sent away from King’s Landing, even when he knew Cersei wanted to kill her. He thought of her dragging him into a boat, of her putting her own body between him and the Bolton men. Damn her and damn Gendry bastard-Baratheon both.
“I saved her life,” he said. I love her. “We nearly died together dozens of times.”
“That doesn’t mean she owes you anything!”
“I agree.” He smiled, forcing himself to be amiable. “But that’s why men like you and I don’t come even close to having the honor that we should. The honor that she has. Best understand it now, boy, for she’s young and healthy and you aren’t big enough to beat it out of her. You’re in for a long life, if you wed her.”
“When I wed her.” Gendry looked furious now. Good. “And it’ll be better for her, not to be tied to stinking rotten Lannisters.”
“I’ll ensure she can honor her oath to you when we’re married.” He threw Jaime’s hand to the floor. “But it won’t be in my household.”
And then he was gone.
“My, he truly is Robert’s son, isn’t he? All bluster, no balls.”
Jaime let his head fall forward. “Cersei…”
“He’s lucky you let him leave without a fat lip.”
“I don’t see why you care.”
“Oh, I don’t.” She moved to sit across from him, grabbing the golden hand and strapping it back onto him. “You sounded like a lovesick boy, you know.”
“I suppose you of all people would know.”
“You’re transparent. It was always the biggest risk for us.” She tightened the leather too far, past the worn notch marking his usual spot. He didn’t correct her. “And now you’re transparently panting after Brienne the Beauty. You’re shaming your family yet again, Jaime.”
“Why are we here?”
“Because your appetites -”
“No, Cersei, why are we here? Sharing a room with a maid of a minor house, cringing in the vassalage of the Dragon Lady, begging her to allow us to see our children one last time?” He stood. Pain shot up his stump, and he grabbed the leather and adjusted it, not bothering to hide his clumsiness. “You. Your choices, or lack thereof. Your hatred of Robert, your foolishness.”
“Your inability to do something about it!”
He hated how true it was. He hated looking at her and seeing someone too blindingly powerful for him to ever have stopped. He, the Kingslayer, a man without honor, was a man too weak to bring his sister to heel. “The two of us, then. It has nothing to do with Brienne. Would that the whole bloody court would pant after her; it would be a better way to spend their time than pretending fealty to a series of tyrants and fools.”
The slap rang out in the still air. Cersei didn’t seem upset; she shook out her hand and said, “Keep your treason to yourself, brother.”
“I can’t,” he said softly. “One’s in a dungeon, the other’s in Dorne. All I can do is try to stop you from making it worse.”
“Then stop me.” She grabbed him, kissed him. “Stop me.” She shrugged her dress off. The bruises Brienne had left on her shoulder were still there, light yellow now. Soon they’d be gone. “Stop me.” She sat in his lap and bit his lip, grinding hard against him.
He didn’t stop her.
Queen Daenerys desperately wanted to solidify her rule, and to force everyone around her to acknowledge that she’d done so. Consequently, Cersei was unsurprised to hear she planned to host a party ostensibly in Brienne’s honor, to celebrate her engagement.
“This is humiliation,” Brienne said when she got their invitation. She held up the paper with its enormous “Guest of Honor” lettering. “What does she think to do, how does she want me to submit? I’d do anything if it meant not having to attend this.”
Jaime, of course, looked ready to promise her his sword, his cock, and his very soul. Do anything, indeed.
“She’s a queen, you naive fool. She wants everyone beneath her thumb. I suppose you’re an example of that. Famously a maid, now about to be wed to a bastard she has elevated beyond all imagining, all thanks to her overwhelming power.”
“She is powerful,” Brienne said quietly. Her unearthly eyes were focused on Cersei as though she thought Cersei might pull a dagger out of her skirts. “I wish you’d remember that.”
“I’m sure I don’t know what you mean.”
“I mean you’re determined to make a fool of yourself, pretending the Queen can’t hurt you.”
Jaime laughed. “She’s got you there.”
“How exactly will I make a fool of myself? Tell me, Lady Brienne.”
“You’ll say something awful, and the Queen will disregard it, because she’s the Queen, and you’ll throw a fit.”
She was wrong, wrong, but Jaime was laughing anyway. Cersei scowled. “Just send your acceptance. I suppose she’s told you to bring us.”
“Yes. You’re the ‘and House Tarth guests’ of this invitation.”
It turned over something awful in Cersei’s stomach. She’d never in her life been an and guest, and she found she hated it. “Fine. Accept on all our behalf, then.”
That was how they found themselves sitting in the Red Keep’s biggest hall a few days later, at the end of a very long table, over which the Dragon Queen presided. Brienne undoubtedly would have preferred to be at the unimportant end, but the dinner was to celebrate her betrothal. As such, the Dragon Queen sat at the head of the table, and Brienne sat across from Gendry. Next to Brienne sat Cersei; next to Gendry sat Jaime. There was no escaping the dragon bitch tonight.
They made civil conversation, of course. Even Brienne, course and ugly though she might be, had been trained in how to make polite conversation with the high houses of Westeros. It was sort of pathetically alluring, really, how she tried to be charming and attractive despite her many flaws. Cersei drew a great deal of enjoyment out of watching her strive to answer Gendry’s well-meant questions and Jaime’s blatant flirting.
Then the gossip started. It was filtered, of course, this close to the Queen, but some minor daughter of a minor house still managed to say, “Lady Brienne, is it true you wrestled a pig at an inn in the Stormlands, and there Lord Gendry fell in love with you?”
Gendry’s mouth fell open, the rube. Brienne absorbed the blow more gracefully. Her ugly face grew blotchy and the hand clutching a fork trembled a bit, but she only said, “No, Lady Jocelyn. I had never met Lord Gendry before the Queen introduced us.”
Cersei tried to exercise restraint and found she couldn’t. “And why should she have?” she said, loud and amused enough that she knew her words would make their way to the lower tables. “Gendry - excuse me, Lord Gendry wouldn’t have been anything to her before the Queen elevated him. Long may she reign,” she added, with a completely correct nod in the little queen’s direction. “So why would she care?”
“Well, he’s beautiful,” said the minor daughter. “And she’s - my lady, you’re just so unique, I suppose.”
Titters rang down the table, malevolence Cersei well know. Brienne turned an ugly, dull red. What a useless fool, letting them know how they’d touched her.
“I don’t imagine she cares now, do you?” Cersei said brightly. “Imagine! She’ll be Lady of the Stormlands now. She can simply exile those who displease her. My own dear Lady Brienne, it feels almost like we’re sisters.”
And despite what crude jokes might be crafted from the statement, despite the fact that Cersei Lannister was a tarnished member of a tarnished house - despite the fact that people had begun to view Tyrion as a lucky accident, his deformity proof that he wasn’t like those other Lannisters - in spite of everything, Cersei’s luck or her reputation for cruelty held. No one spoke ill of Brienne for the rest of the night.
The three of them went back together. It didn’t occur to Cersei to think anything of until Brienne said, locking the door to the suit, “I’m a laughingstock, you know, and Gendry too.”
“For what? What could they possibly take issue with?” Jaime said.
“This.” Brienne turned around, back against the locked door, and surveyed Cersei and Jaime. They stood close together, Cersei not quite holding Jaime’s hand. She supposed they looked similar, in red and gold, twins as they were. But - “It’s good to have connections,” Cersei said. “You’re the head of a minor house. It’s only sensible for you to have social alliances.”
Brienne laughed, a hollow and bitter noise that hardly sounded like her at all. “The queen told me you’ll bring nothing but trouble.”
“The queen’s a naive idiot,” Cersei snapped. “Even you can’t possibly be stupid enough to trust her.”
But Brienne was too far gone on the poison that had been whispered in her ear that night. “I’m ugly. Why would anyone - why would the Kingslayer - keep company with me, unless I’m - unless -”
She couldn’t get the words out. Jaime was white with pain, knowing what she was about to say. Cersei found herself furious. “Say it. Go on, we both know what you’re thinking, so say it.”
“Unless I’m fucking him,” Brienne whispered.
She was flushed with wine and so was Jaime; Cersei, who drank during the day and every night, wasn’t drunk, but she wasn’t truly in her right mind, either. She was acting entirely on instinct and damned impulse when she said, “How do you suppose I came to fuck my brother?”
Brienne blinked. “I don’t - my lady, I don’t think -”
“I was but a girl. I knew I was to be married, and I wanted to understand. I was fascinated by it all, you see. So I asked my twin, the other half of my own soul, to help me.”
“Cersei,” Jaime said. The no was implied.
But Cersei had never cared about Jaime’s maidenish objections. Now was no different. “What do you think he did, when I asked him?”
Brienne knew. The certainty came to her with a savage joy: whatever else she was, a maid, a simpleton, a prude, Brienne understood perfectly what it was Cersei was trying to tell her.
“I’ve had too much wine for this,” Brienne said. “I’m sorry. I should - go.”
“But where?” Cersei forced herself to sound sweet, as sweet as she’d been when she first met Robert. “The Queen, wise as she is, gave the three of us this room to share. Do you propose to spend the night at the library?”
“Why must you behave this way?” Brienne burst out. “Wouldn’t it be simpler to be civil, at least some of the time?”
Cersei didn’t understand where Brienne thought she might have been more civil, so she didn’t answer. Instead she simply stood there as Brienne gave up on the idea of leaving, slumping back onto the chaise. She was so very flushed still, and Cersei watched her brother watch the Maid of Tarth as she tucked her feet under her and tilted her head towards the ceiling.
Jaime had only looked at a few people that way, with the sort of gobsmacked expression that meant he was ready to swear his sword, his cock, to her. Well, no, he’d only looked at one person that way: Cersei.
What humiliating company to find herself in. It would be a relief when Gendry took Brienne from them, destroyed her innocence and set her about her natural path of having children and playing house. Though of course it was tragic for her that she was too ugly for a man to have touched her before. It was truly sad that she’d roamed all of Westeros and never managed to get a cock in her. In fact -
“You should know what it’s like.”
Brienne stiffened. “I’m sorry?”
It was a mad impulse that had seized her, and the smart thing to do would be to back down, to urge Brienne to forget she’d said it. But -
Well, she was huge and ugly. Neither of those facts could be debated. But Cersei had learned not to fear ugly things, and she’d learned not to back down. So she said, “Fucking a man, you should know what it’s like. I know my dear brother watched last time, but it’s not really the same, is it?”
“Cersei, what the fuck do you think you’re doing?” Jaime said.
Cersei didn’t bother to look at him. Her blood hummed, her cunt throbbed. She wanted this - she was half gone just thinking of it. Of course Jaime wanted it too. “What you won’t.”
Brienne shook her head. “I don’t want to be between you. I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“Don’t you,” Cersei said, evenly, pleasantly. Brienne clearly thought it was her dismissal; she relaxed and looked away. That gave Cersei the opening she needed to reach over and grab Jaime, a fist in his hair, a hand pressing his legs apart. “Look at him, Brienne. Wouldn’t you rather learn on someone suited to the task?”
Jaime and Brienne gasped almost at the same time, the noises harmonizing with each other in the still air of their room. “I don’t think he wants that!” Brienne said with all the indignant glory of the self-righteous.
“All the more reason for you to take it,” Cersei said, “because he does, and you’re simply too much of a maid to understand.” She slid her hand up his thighs and pressed the fabric of his breeches against his hard cock, outlining it in all its brutal glory. “Look at this, Brienne. He doesn’t just want to fuck you; he’s desperate for it. Weeping for it.” She pressed her thumb against the slit of him, smiling when he gasped. “Don’t you want to give it to him?”
Stupid girl. “But you do. Don’t lie to me, Maid of Tarth. You want to spread your legs and let him rut in you, you’d like him to come in you. I’ve felt my belly swell with his child; I can assure you, it was all the better for knowing I’d chosen it.”
“I really don’t think that’s a good idea!”
“I’m inclined to agree,” Jaime said, but who cared what he thought? Not Cersei, for certain.
“The Baratheon bastard’s a green boy who’s been elevated to being a lord.” Cersei stroked Jaime’s hair, letting Brienne see how he tilted his head back, welcoming the touch. “What do you know of men like that, Lady Brienne?”
“You don’t have to answer her,” Jaime said.
But his tone was too breathy to really be authoritative - and anyway, Big Brienne apparently wouldn’t be led. “I know,” Brienne said. Based on the way she looked at Jaime just then, you’d think there were no other people in the whole world.
Then she turned that weighty regard on Cersei, who in spite of herself felt the breath leave her body. “I know very little of any kind of man, my lady,” Brienne said. “Less still of men who plan to actually lie with me, rather than just joking about it. But I don’t want you to offer up your brother’s body, like your father did with you. It’s wrong.”
Cersei forced herself to sound calm, steady as the sun on a summer’s day. “What’s wrong is the idea that you think I could possibly force him as my father did me.”
“Can’t you?” And now Brienne touched Jaime. Just his shoulder, but Cersei felt Jaime tense, heard his choked-back gasp. She hated them both for it. “He follows you. He’d do anything for you.”
“He’d do anything to fuck me. That’s a bit different.”
But Brienne shook her head. “That’s not it at all.”
“Tell her, Jaime.” She stroked his cock again, the fabric rough against her fingers. “Tell her what you truly want. I release you. Say whatever you like.”
“Cersei isn’t my lover,” Jaime said. “She’s my - other half. She is me, do you understand? I will never repudiate her.”
“Because she’s the one who was given to Robert,” Brienne said.
“Sold,” Cersei snapped, “for power and position.”
“You wanted to be Queen,” Jaime said, “and for that I don’t blame you. You wanted power, and I wanted you.” He took a deep breath, ragged, his chest heaving with the effort of it. “And I want Brienne. I want you both. Here, now. Brienne, she can’t make me lie. She already knew the truth when she touched me. She’s known the truth since the moment she saw us in the same room.”
Longer, Cersei thought but didn’t say. His divided loyalty had been clear even from the whispers of spies during their journey south.
“Touch me,” Jaime whispered, staring at her. “Please.”
He looked at Brienne like she was something else entirely, someone intrinsically better than himself. When Cersei had that feeling, she wanted to rip the person who’d made her feel it apart. Jaime only seemed grateful, in awe.
Still, he’d said it, I want you both. Cersei would hold onto him until they both died, as she always had.
“Touch him,” Cersei said when Brienne didn’t move.
“I don’t -” She looked at Cersei, her enormous eyes filling up. “I don’t know how, and I don’t wish to embarrass myself. My lady.”
Cersei knew what Jaime would bid her to do before he said it, before he managed to even start choking out, “Show her.” She rolled her eyes but did as she was bid, flicking his shirt up and pulling it off him.
“He’s much more delicate than you’d think,” she told Brienne. “He likes to be stroked and petted. Like a maid.”
Brienne bit her lip. “Is it - I mean, can I. Or you?”
“Go ahead. Figure out what he likes; I already know it all.”
She watched as Brienne dragged one broad hand over Jaime’s shoulder, down to his nipple. Brienne noticed, of course, the way Jaime jumped and shuddered at that, the gasp he barely held back. “Go on. Do it again; he loves that.”
Brienne looked over at her, then back at Jaime, then back at her, then back at Jaime. “What?” Cersei snapped.
“I’d like if you helped me, my lady,” Brienne said.
It seemed calculated to make her give in, that horrible combination of diffidence and blundering confidence. She saw Jaime’s eyelashes flutter and knew he was close to swooning like a green boy, so she said, “Oh, fine,” and reached out, viciously pinching him.
“See how he jumps,” she said, drawing Brienne’s attention again to his cock. “All he really wants is to be put into position and then used.” She tugged his hair and kissed him; she had to lean against Brienne to do so. Brienne, instead of staying still, touched Jaime’s side, then his nipples again. She could reach around Cersei easily, her monstrously long arm warm against Cersei’s side.
“Take these off,” Cersei said, tugging the laces of Jaime’s breeches.
“I have him throw me around,” she said as Jaime struggled to obey. “He likes to bend me over, don’t you, brother?”
“Cersei -” He groaned when he saw her expression. “Fine, fine, yes. I do; can you blame me?” That last directed at Brienne. “I know she won’t scratch my eyes out then.”
Brienne’s eyes widened. Cersei thought she might get just a bit addicted to that stupid rabbity look of fear. It was just so delicious to see someone understanding what they’d always had to keep hidden - that together they were twice as strong, twice as terrifying. They were only whole like this, when they moved as one.
“Kiss him,” Cersei ordered her.
Brienne did, and they began to move more naturally after that. Jaime reached for Cersei, of course, groaning when he touched her bare breasts, begging when she reached down and grasped his cock. She was so wet she could feel it on her thighs, but that was nothing compared to Brienne, flushed head to toe and gasping with need before they’d done much more than roughly fumble.
“Get on the bed,” she told Jaime. When he obeyed, Cersei nodded at his cockstand. “Climb on,” she told Brienne.
“I - what!”
She rolled her eyes and grasped the base of Jaime’s cock. “Don’t you dare,” she snapped when he moaned. “Don’t move. Brienne: come here.”
Brienne obeyed. She braced herself over him, then slowly lowered herself. She was so monstrously large that it was hardly a stretch at all, but Jaime didn’t seem inclined to complain. He gasped her name, then shouted brokenly when she moved.
“Very good,” Cersei said. “Jaime.”
He met her gaze, and a thrill went through her. He knew exactly what she wanted.
“Come here,” he said. “Sister.”
She went. She faced forward so she wouldn’t have to look at Brienne’s hideous face, swinging her leg over him and lowering her cunt to his mouth. He sighed into it, warm and almost offputting - almost, because then he put his tongue in her.
“Ride him,” Cersei commanded over her shoulder. “But try not to be too ungainly about it. I know you’re a lumbering beast, but -”
The hand on the nape of her neck appeared out of nowhere, and it burned. She stopped speaking immediately, and when those great calloused fingers squeezed, she dropped her head, gasping, clutching Jaime’s face with her thighs. She was coming before she realized what was happening, arching backwards into Brienne’s grip as Jaime eagerly licked her, fingers digging into her thighs.
She came back to awareness when Brienne said, “You may insult me later. But not right now, please.”
She dropped her hand, and Cersei bit her own lip until pain lit up her body so that she didn’t beg her to put it back. Instead, she climbed off her brother’s face and kissed him, smearing her own release on him, then looked up at Brienne and said, “Kiss him.”
Jaime laughed. “Are you sure you want to be the one giving orders, sister dear?”
“Kiss him,” Cersei all but snarled, and Brienne obeyed right away. Jaime, the fool, had hardly touched her; it fell to Cersei to find her clit and press against it, rubbing and biting her tits until she came shaking around Jaime’s cock.
And only then did Cersei say, “Very well, spend in her.”
“I - no!” Jaime struggled beneath them. It felt lovely, but Cersei braced a hand on his chest to ensure he stayed down.
“She’s not - I don’t - oh, fuck.” He arched his back, fucking into her wildly, his eyes rolling back in his head.
“Very good.” Cersei all but whispered it, leaning down to pet his hair, to press a thumb against the damp spot on his cheek. “You’re doing so well, darling brother. Look how happy she is. You fucked the nerves right out of her. She’d give you anything right now; if you asked, she’d even give you a child. Spend in her, Jaime.” She twisted his nipple viciously.
As ever, he was helpless to refuse her. He fucked Brienne wildly, and even as she peaked for the second time, he came, clutching her hips to him and crying out in that way he had. Cersei pressed her thighs together, the sense memory overwhelming her. There’d never been anything like Jaime coming inside her.
The two of them slumped together after, the very picture of spent lovers. Cersei lay stretched out beside them, not quite touching either of them. She watched them stroke each other and gaze into each other’s eyes. “Adorable,” she said when Jaime looked over at her. “Is that what you wanted to hear?”
“Not now, please,” Brienne said in that same patient, firm tone. The ghost of her hand on Cersei’s neck came back to her.
She’d figure out a way to use that perverse desire for control against Brienne later, she decided. Right now, the warm waves of her own completion were washing over her, dragging her down into sleep.
Shortly after Cersei fell asleep, Jaime said, “You must never tell her she did this.”
Brienne looked down at Cersei in her arms. “Did she not ever sleep with you?” she asked, the very picture of ladylike bafflement.
The contrast made Jaime want to laugh. Then he realized there was no one to stop him, and so he did. “We could never spend much time enjoying the aftermath. And anyway, she’d push me away.”
“Oh.” Brienne frowned down at the small, not-quite-snoring bundle in her arms. “She seems bigger when she’s awake.”
“She can’t lash you with her tongue when she’s sleeping.” Jaime couldn’t quite keep the fond smile off his face. “That’s the difference.”
“You love her so much.”
Brienne looked humiliated as soon as the words slipped out, of course. Jaime didn’t feel so good about it himself, but he only said, “Yes.”
“My life would be a good deal simpler if I could answer that question.”
“I had hoped to love. I suppose that’s foolish.”
You do love, you silly woman, what else could this possibly be? But he couldn’t say that, or any of the other wild thoughts racing through his mind. “You might still.”
She snorted. “I’m not sure I can love a pretty lord. And he likely can’t love me, either.”
She sounded so fucking accepting of the facts she’d just decided on - as though it were not just obvious but inevitable that she should go unloved by a jumped-up blacksmith who’d be thrice-blessed by the old gods and the new just to touch her. Jaime closed his eyes against the fresh rush of fury in him.
“Well, I’m not sure you want the sort of love I have,” he said. He tried not to sound exhausted; he wasn’t sure it worked. “It’s likely to kill me someday.”
“But it wasn’t what lost you a hand.”
She was so close to touching the truth that he knew she didn’t want to consider. “Not directly, anyway.”
“Did you ever - think about stopping? Did you ever try?”
“She is the other part of me.” He couldn’t help but reach out then, stroking Cersei’s hair. “It would be like losing another hand.”
Brienne was quiet for long enough that Jaime began to drowse. “I’ll never have that.”
“Well, you don’t have a twin. And if you had one, I’d advise not doing…this.”
“I think I understand. But I’m not…she’s awful, and she’s wonderful. Lord Gendry is only another man.”
It burned in Jaime like a brand. He wanted to ask her if he was only another man too, if she might - if she did - care for him. But he couldn’t truly say his love for her was the same as his love for his sister. He’d told Catelyn Stark that there were no men like him, and he’d meant it. He couldn’t imagine being a person who didn’t love Cersei to the border of madness and into the wild land that lay beyond. He had never truly tried to change, because he suspected there was nothing to change into. Not for him, never for him.
Gendry would be good for her. He’d bring her back into the world of ordinary courtly behavior, where she belonged. The whole world was mad right now, and Gendry wouldn’t be spared any more than anyone else, but he wasn’t in the maelstrom of it the way every single fucking Lannister was. He might save Brienne, in a way all of Jaime’s bear-related gallantry had never come close to doing.
“Another man can still give you children, a home. And he’s Lord Paramount. You’ll never want for anything.”
“Tarth is comparatively poor, Ser Jaime, but still I’ve never wanted.” She sighed. “But I must. I know I must. I only wish…”
He knew he shouldn’t ask her; he had no doubt he’d regret knowing the answer. And yet. “What?”
“I wish I’d never done this.” She looked down at Cersei. “I can’t undo it, and I’ll do it again if she asks. But I think it might have been simpler if I hadn’t started.”
His throat closed up at that. Damn it, but he knew precisely what she meant. Losing her was going to feel like losing another fucking part of himself, but he couldn’t push her away - he wouldn’t, not if his life depended on it, maybe not even if his House depended on it. “I’m sorry.”
The smile she gave him was sweet as spun sugar and ugly as a horse’s ass. “Don’t be.”
Between them, Cersei slept.
Cersei balled up the invitation and threw it into the fire. “Damn that old bitch. Yes, fine, we’ll be there,” she told the page, who ran away before she’d even finished talking.
Brienne was to be married in a week and two days, a deadline that Cersei unfortunately couldn’t help but keep track of. The Dragon Queen had mentioned her children every time Cersei had dined with her, and thus she knew that being able to see them was a week and three days away. And now, Olenna Tyrell, who sat on the Queen’s small council, had bade them to come for tea.
“Just the two of us,” Cersei told Jaime. “Not you, of course. I’ve never gotten the impression she liked men.”
“Imagine that,” Jaime murmured.
“I like men,” Cersei said sharply.
“Of course. Well, you like me.”
And Lancel, but she knew if she threw that in his face now he’d only sulk later. “At least your cow has dresses suitable for an audience with Tyrells.”
“Surely she’s your cow too, now.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
“Who’s being ridiculous? We’re in her room. She jumps when she sees you now, same as she does me.”
“I’m not the one who might have impregnated her.”
Jaime grimaced. “She took the tea.”
And she knew Jaime wanted to needle her as he had done in the past, to remind her that they had three children of her body. But one of them was dead, one gone, and the other rotting in a dungeon leagues beneath their feet. The truth lurked between them.
“Damn you,” Cersei said when he didn’t respond. She left him then, going down to the practice yard where Brienne spent the majority of her time.
She heard her before she saw her. Brienne had informed her that she grunted so much because it was a way of focusing her physical effort. It was a habit Cersei found repulsive, but it did make it useful for locating her. She was dueling Ser Jorah Mormont, and making a good show of it. As Cersei came to a stop on the edge of the yard, Brienne glanced at her and then dealt Ser Jorah an brutal blow, bringing him to his knees. “Yield, Ser.”
“I yield, my lady.”
He sounded downright infatuated. Cersei did her best to conceal how much that disturbed her. It was absolutely inappropriate for Brienne to be cavorting with one of the Dragon Queen’s pets a week before her own wedding.
“Lady Cersei,” Brienne said. “I assume you didn’t come here to watch me beat up Her Grace’s Kingsguard.”
Why, that almost sounded like flirting. How their Brienne had grown. “No, of course not. Olenna Tyrell has summoned us for tea this afternoon. I thought you’d like enough warning to ensure you don’t stink of the stables.”
“Yes, thank you. And Jaime?”
“Not invited.” Cersei shrugged. “Lady Olenna prefers to avoid the company of men.”
The exquisite innuendo was utterly lost on Brienne, of course. “Right. Well, thank you. I suppose I’ll see you there.”
“Don’t be absurd. The note was sent to our room. We’ll go over together.” Cersei offered her arm.
For a moment Brienne only stared at her. It made Cersei even more aware of the perversity of her, with her enormous armor and smelly, sweaty presence. She wondered what Brienne would do if she made Brienne service her like this, as a knight would. Jaime had fucked her after fighting, and he’d fucked her in his armor too, when she bade it. Would Brienne?
A thought for another time. “Come now, Lady Brienne.” She patted her arm.
Brienne finally took her elbow and let Cersei lead her back to her rooms. An hour of hurried bathing later, they were both presentable for Lady Olenna. Of course, as soon as the Lady in question saw them, she said, “You both look as though our Queen dunked you in the harbor. Sit down.”
Brienne the ever-stupid stayed up, hands folded in the perfect image of a biddable miss. Of course, Cersei knew the danger behind such a pose. She remembered Brienne standing just so, as she told Cersei all about her special love for Cersei’s twin. “Before I sit, I’m afraid I must ask the reason for this call. My lady.”
“I’m old and was feeling social, and my granddaughter’s still in mourning. Shall we revisit the reasons for that, or do you plan to behave?”
How dare she. How dare she, this jumped-up old bitch, this wheat-hoarding little -
“Cersei.” Brienne’s voice held neither guile nor mockery. Cersei curled her hands into claws, letting herself imagine just for a moment how Olenna Tyrell might react if Cersei were to scratch Brienne’s noble eyes out of her skull right here at this table. Let her try getting blood stains out of her fucking rose-embroidered tapestries.
“Cersei,” Brienne said again, and Cersei knew she’d already lost.
“Damn you,” she told Brienne, and sat.
“Fascinating.” Lady Olenna pushed tea at both of them. “You there. Boy. Get me olives.” The Spider’s spy thus dismissed, she said, “I must ask, Lady Cersei - you both seem so comfortable. Have you finally discovered you prefer the company of women? I always thought so, but my granddaughter wasn’t so sure.”
“Excuse me!” Brienne said.
“Fuck off,” Cersei said.
“Ah, so you did. Well, I congratulate you, then. And condolences to your brother, of course. He’s going to need to fuck his way through a lot of blondes to deal with this, I bet.”
Cersei rather suspected trying to kill the old bitch wouldn’t have stopped her. But Brienne sounded genuinely upset, as she always did, because she was just so fucking true all the time. Lady Olenna registered the same surprise everyone did when faced with an enormous, honorable fool. But then, to Cersei’s shock, she softened. “I apologize, my dear. I didn’t mean to embarrass you.”
Brienne kept her eyes trained on the table and didn’t respond.
“I dearly regret not having you killed when I had the chance,” Cersei said. “Though I suppose I do retain hope for the future after all.” She bared her teeth at Lady Olenna in a mockery of a smile.
“Well, then, there it is. I truly did not mean to embarrass you, child.” A wrinkly old hand patted Brienne’s battered one. “But you should be embarrassed, you know. More than a bit. Did you not consider someone a bit less cruel?”
“I - my lady, I don’t -”
“Oh, very well. Look! Olives.”
The rest of the tea was positively dull. Lady Olenna was capable of keeping up a stream of idle chatter just as well as any Lannister, but the civility and normalcy of it kept surprising Cersei. They’d had no such social events on Tarth; imagining Brienne trying to put one together was pathetically hilarious. Cersei couldn’t say she’d missed it.
When she finally released them, Brienne took off at a near-gallop for their rooms. Cersei gripped her arm and nearly knocked them both over trying to slow them down. “Let’s take a walk around the gardens.”
“For - why?”
“Because Lady Olenna’s love of rosewater cakes doesn’t agree with my digestion. And there’s sun, and I missed the civilized world, and my brother’s busy for hours yet.” Cersei smiled up at her, thrilling to see how quickly Brienne had to look away. “And because I wish it.”
“Fine,” Brienne said through gritted teeth.
“Lovely. You may escort me, my lady.”
They made it deep within the rose garden before Brienne’s patience wore thin enough to say, “What did she mean, finally? What was she accusing us of?”
“The same activities we’ve engaged in, I suppose. Though she’s not as smart as she thinks she is, if she imagines I’ve abandoned Jaime.”
“No one thinks you’ve stopped fucking your brother, my lady.”
“You sound so disapproving for a participant.”
Brienne’s animalistic whuffing noises sounded even more out of place in the delicate beauty of the garden. “I’m not -”
“Let’s not lie to each other, dear.”
“I’m not your dear.”
But you are, Cersei thought. She supposed if you were hulking and powerful and could beat the shit out of Ser Jorah Mormont without even needing your real sword, you might not find Cersei’s disapproval much of a threat. But Cersei had killed many people for crossing her. She would burn down the entirety of King’s Landing if she thought it would get her Tommen back. Surely Brienne realized that if Cersei didn’t enjoy this little game they played, she’d end it, and Brienne would pay with her life?
But then, perhaps Brienne thought she wanted to spare Jaime more pain. She was noble-minded enough for such a misunderstanding to be plausible.
“Anyway, she was just saying whatever she thought might upset us, because Lady Olenna believes there’s truth in what people do when they’re angry.”
“I think Lady Olenna’s a fool, and I’ll enjoy watching her die.”
They didn’t talk after that. They took another turn around the garden and then Brienne delivered her back to their suite, where Jaime waited with a book and a flagon of wine. Cersei got very drunk that night, drunker than she’d been since they’d left Tarth. She slept on the chaise; Brienne and her dear brother lay on the bed with enough room between them for two Cerseis, looking neither at each other nor at Cersei herself. Drunk, she found it hilarious. Hungover the next morning, she found it infuriating.
With a week to go until Brienne’s wedding, Cersei walked in on Jaime drunk in their sitting room at high noon.
“What’s the matter with you?”
“Nothing, nothing.” He couldn’t tell her that he’d been imagining Brienne wedding Gendry, the pain on her face, her gritting her teeth through her wedding night. He had intimate knowledge of such things from watching the Mad King’s rapes, and then Robert’s own use of his sister. Cersei didn’t need to know.
“Tell me what’s wrong,” she said some minutes later, rocking against his cock. Her smallclothes were already well on the way to soaked. “Anyone could walk in, you know.”
That little detail had nothing to do with his grief whatsoever, so he decided to run with it. “Very few people are likely to. Except for Lady Brienne, I suppose.”
Cersei gasped against him, and he couldn’t hold back his smile. “You like that?”
“She’s -” Cersei swallowed, undulating her hips. “Not as loathsome as most of your other options.”
“You like fucking her, admit it.”
“Sister mine, that’s not what I asked.”
“You didn’t ask -”
He caught her by the hair and tugged brutally, giving her a biting kiss. “Tell me you like fucking her, Cersei.”
“I - fuck - you know I do. She moves wonderfully. Now tell me what’s got you drunk and stupid.”
He pulled her dress off. She grabbed his balls viciously, a threat in the movement. “Tell me.”
“You’ll just have to guess.”
But his eyes strayed to Brienne’s trunk, and he saw the moment his other half understood. She snarled and took him inside her, riding him viciously, and they didn’t speak after that. Again he felt Brienne in the room with them, a ghost on the edge of his vision. This time, though, Cersei accepted it, even got off on it. He made her come speared on his cock, wet and needy, and her eyes weren’t focused on him at all. They were fixed on a point all the way across the room, the rack where Oathkeeper hung, a silent rebuke of all the ways they’d learned to drag Brienne down to earth with them.
Cersei swept into their suite. “You’ll never guess who I saw this morning in the sept.”
“No one, dear sister, as you only enter a sept when forced to.”
Cersei ignored him, as he’d known she would. She looked flushed with victory, and the traitorous part of Jaime wondered if it was because there were only four days until Brienne was to become Lady Baratheon. Only four days until Jaime would once again be entirely hers.
“A Martell,” Cersei said. “Which Martell, I’m not sure, but your wedding is shaping up to be quite the event.” She looked around. “Wait. Where’s Brienne?”
“The Queen’s seamstress arrived nearly an hour ago. She’s being fitted in the bedroom.” Jaime was writing to Tyrion, who had declined to attend the wedding of Lord Gendry Baratheon. He had a great deal to say about the Rock’s conversion to granite mining, and of course what he had interpreted as Jaime’s infatuation with Brienne. It was a long letter.
“And you didn’t accompany her?”
“Sister dear, I’m not her husband, her brother, or even her friend. It would be wildly inappropriate. Of course I didn’t.”
Cersei snorted. “You know the Queen doesn’t care about such things.”
“All the more reason for us to uphold them.”
Their argument was interrupted by the bedroom door opening. The Queen’s seamstress swept out, followed by four young women holding yards and yards of blue cloth. “Excuse me,” she said with a remarkably false-looking smile, and took her own leave.
“Do you know, sometimes I think the ordinary folk of King’s Landing would rather not speak to a Lannister at all,” Jaime said.
But Cersei never got a chance to answer his droll commentary in kind. She pursed her lips and made to speak, and from the other room they heard a very soft sob.
It felt like a dagger to the chest. Jaime was on his feet instantly.
“You should just let her cry,” Cersei said, looking between him and the bedroom. “She’ll be doing enough of that in a few days; she might as well get some of it out now.”
“Damn you,” Jaime said. “I know you don’t believe that.”
Cersei tilted her head. “Don’t I?”
“You threatened to kill Olenna Tyrell!”
“For embarrassing me. And for irritating me, really.” Cersei waved a hand. “I know you’ve grown attached to her. I don’t care.”
“You’re lying, and I don’t even have time to tell you how low it makes you seem.” Jaime left his sister standing there and made his way to their bedroom.
Of course, it wasn’t as easy as barging in and offering to slay dragons. Jaime understood that, even if he hated it, even if it seemed counter to his entire point - as a man, as a knight. He had to knock, and wait for Brienne to snuffle and say, “Go away.”
Then he had to say, “Brienne, please, let me in,” doing his best to sound charmingly cajoling.
But of course he knew Brienne was going to say no, and then what? He’d wait outside like a fucking one-man Night’s Watch, he supposed. She had to leave in four days’ time, if not sooner.
But instead, as soon as Brienne said, “I said go away!”, Cersei stood beside him, imperious and annoyed. She pushed the door open.
“Quit being such a fluttering little miss. Look at you. Why are you crying? Surely the Queen’s seamstress hasn’t displeased you that badly.”
Jaime found himself completely unable to summon speech. Cersei might not care about the fact that Brienne sat on the end of their bed in only her shift, blotchy and snot-faced from sobbing, but it wrenched Jaime’s heart. It was about the wedding, he knew; it had to be. Cersei would show her no mercy. She’d probably be crying even harder five minutes from now, and Jaime was simply too much of a coward to stop it.
“It’s not the dress,” Brienne said. She tried to wipe the tears from her eyes, but only succeeded in making herself messier. “It’s everything but the dress, damn the Queen’s seamstress. The dress is nice.”
“Here.” Cersei threw a handkerchief at her head. “Wipe yourself up. It’s the marriage, then?”
“Of course it is!”
“I thought we’d been over this already.”
“I don’t -”
“You’ll marry Gendry and become Lady of Storm’s End. You’ll be powerful and if people don’t love you, at the least they’ll have to pretend they do. And of course, Jaime will be sworn to you forever. Doesn’t that sound nice?”
Brienne was red as a tomato, Jaime saw, and she’d avoided looking at him altogether. He wanted to say it was just as well; what comfort could he possibly offer to crying maidens? But Cersei glared at him, jerking her head towards Brienne. When he failed to respond, she grabbed his arm and dragged him over.
Brienne looked up at them both. They were nearly at eye level even with her sitting, thanks to how tall she was, and Jaime’s breath caught at the hopeless expression on her face. “Brienne,” he said, stupid, helpless.
“You cannot change the queen’s will,” Cersei said. “She wills you to marry Gendry, and so you’ll marry him. But you do yourself no favors sniveling like this.”
“What else am I meant to do!”
“Find a way to live with it.”
Brienne sobbed. “I don’t -”
Jaime felt his twin’s intention a moment before she moved. She surged forward and captured Brienne’s lips with her own, climbing into her lap. Brienne made a strangled noise but didn’t push Cersei away; she gripped Cersei’s hair with the agonized determination of one trying to avoid drowning.
Jaime had seen Cersei cruel, and he’d seen her frustrated, and he’d seen her enraged. This was all of that and more. She bit Brienne’s lip and pushed her backwards, ripped her shift rather than bother helping Brienne out of it.
“Do not be a coward,” she snarled, and pinched Brienne’s nipples until she cried out.
“I’m not, I’m not.”
“You’re flat as a board and stronger than most men.” Cersei bit Brienne’s jaw. Jaime stopped midway through trying to join them, absolutely entranced by the way Brienne’s breasts could be completely covered by Cersei’s hands. But Cersei was wrong; she wasn’t flat. The muscles of her ass shifted gloriously as she moved beneath his sister.
“Jaime,” Brienne whispered.
She had the wingspan to reach out and catch him, pulling him to her side. He took off his shirt when she tugged at it, then bent to kiss her as his sister knocked her thighs apart, plunging her fingers into Brienne.
“It’s unlikely to hurt,” Cersei said. Her voice was still deliberately light, horribly mocking. “You’ll swallow his cock in here, you know. He won’t even realized what’s happened to him.” She did something with her hand that made Brienne gasp.
“Cersei,” Jaime said. “Don’t -”
“Don’t what?” She looked up at him. “Should I refuse to tell her the truth, as my septa did me? She already knows what it feels like, thanks to you.”
And of course he was hard, of course he wanted, but when she reached out and touched him - it felt more dangerous even than it had when they’d fucked in her marriage bed. “Cersei.”
“Jaime.” Mocking voice, mocking eyes. And still she moved her hand between Brienne’s legs.
Fingers with the strength of iron bands wrapped around his wrist. “Don’t be awful to each other,” Brienne said.
He felt the order in his bones, and for once he knew Cersei felt the exact same thing. She shuddered a little and looked away from both of them.
“I don’t want Gendry,” Brienne said, staring at the ceiling. She already looked so debauched, bite marks everywhere, her hair askew. And of course his sister’s hand between her legs, never stopping. “I want this. But I can’t - so.” She moved against Cersei, widening her legs, fucking herself on Cersei’s fingers. “Give me this instead. Just once more.”
“Four days,” Cersei said quietly. “We can do better than once more.” And then, as Brienne laughed hopelessly, she latched herself onto Brienne’s cunt, licking and thrusting and making her gasp against Jaime’s mouth.
Jaime kissed her, held her. He touched her hair and her great, strong shoulders, and he whispered comfort when Cersei wrung moans out of her. He was so close, plastered along her side, that he felt the moment she stiffened, before she said, “What are you doing?”
Cersei looked the picture of innocence, kneeling between her legs. “Fucking you.”
“What - what is that? What am I feeling?”
It was the wrong question. Wickedness, pure and spiteful, stole across her expression. “Jaime, darling, why don’t you come down here and tell her?”
Jaime could think of a thousand things he’d prefer to do. But he pulled himself out from where he’d been half beneath Brienne, moving until he could see -
“Jaime? What’s she done?”
Brienne surely must have felt his cock jump against her thigh. There was no hiding, not here with the three of them. “She’s. Inside you.”
“All the way,” Cersei said, and thrust.
Brienne shouted and arched her back, fucking herself on Cersei’s hand - for that was what it was. Jaime couldn’t look away from the way Brienne’s cunt stretched around Cersei’s wrist, the way her wrist glistened. He reached out and pressed his thumb on her clit, and Brienne shook head to toe, coming just from that - and then she began moving again, seeking more.
Cersei kissed him as they worked her together, vicious and selfish and wholly focused on Brienne. He couldn’t look away from them - Cersei biting Brienne’s thigh, her shoulder working as she fucked her, and Brienne moaning and begging and clinging to them both.
She came again, and a third time, gasping for mercy as Cersei slid out of her. And - Cersei’s hand was obscene, wet to her forearm. She wiped it on the linens and turned to Jaime, fierce and bright as Casterly Rock at the height of summer, shoving him backwards next to Brienne and climbing on top of him.
Brienne’s smell surrounded him; he felt her sweat against the spots they pressed together. Cersei slapped him when he looked at her too long, and that only made it better, pushed him ever closer to peaking. It only took a few minutes for them both to come, easy and familiar as it could only be between them.
And then Cersei looked over at Brienne and said, “Your Lord Paramount will never give you this.”
Brienne shook her head, closing her eyes. Cersei kissed her, then Jaime, then her again. Jaime felt scraped raw, useless and desperate. He said, “Cersei -”
“Only I can give you what you want,” Cersei said. “No one else can give you this. Him.”
Brienne looked at Jaime. For a moment she’d seemed herself again, but that moment had fled. Now he saw her fear and pain, the ways in which a forced marriage to a man she hardly knew made her small. He hated everything in that moment: himself, Cersei, the Dragon Queen. Even Brienne, a bit, for being so fierce and brutal and still, in the end, subjecting herself to a lady’s duty.
“Damn you,” Cersei spat, and climbed off Jaime’s cock. Jaime knew this routine too well, even after all these years. He didn’t look away from Brienne as his sister cleaned herself up and stormed out of their suite.
Brienne gave Cersei no chance to prepare. She simply appeared in their sitting room the day after Cersei had found her crying and, as Cersei poured herself another glass of wine, said, “My lady, I’ve received permission from the Queen to accompany you and your brother to see Tommen.”
She nearly dropped the flagon. “Excuse me?”
“I’ve received permission -”
“You were seeking permission?”
Brienne had the nerve to look surprised by that - shocked, in fact, at the idea that Cersei might have wanted to know that Brienne was meddling in her life. “I - yes, my lady, I had assumed you’d want to see him.”
“That is absolutely none of your business.”
“Your freedom is dependent on my protection.” Brienne spoke quietly but firmly, giving Cersei no quarter to protest. “I’m not going to apologize for what any lady might do for those dependent upon her. You’ve been given leave to see Tommen today over tea. We’ll be escorted there and back. Does this suit you?”
Cersei refused to feel chastened by honorable words and sad blue eyes. “Yes, fine. Does Jaime know?”
“I told him at breakfast, yes.”
Brienne and Jaime liked to eat with the soldiers. It disgusted Cersei. “Fine. I’ll see you then.”
She spent the rest of the morning frantically trying to make herself look as she thought Tommen might remember her. In truth, she’d grown gaunt and freckled in Tarth; she might still look like Queen Cersei from far away, but she knew the whole experience had aged her. Still, she could put on a lovely day dress dress and have a maid braid her hair in elaborate patterns, and she could rouge her face into a semblance of dignity.
“Are we going to a coronation?” Jaime said when he saw her.
“We’re going to see our son. You could stand to shave.” She really hated his beard; it made him look simultaneously aged and too young, as though some of Brienne’s naivety had physically transferred to him.
“Our son,” Jaime repeated softly. He glanced back at Brienne, who wore a plain blue tunic and looked more like the vassal of a great house than the fianceé of a Lord Paramount.
“I know who he is,” Brienne said. “You needn’t fear I’ll be squeamish.”
Squeamish. As though her beautiful son were a beetle on a tea cake, or a head on a spike. Cersei gritted her teeth. “If you were -”
“I know you’d try to kill me, my lady. But -” Someone knocked at the door. “It’s time for us to go.”
And Cersei hated her, she hated her, that condescending attitude towards the very real danger Cersei presented, that calm confidence that turned humility into arrogance. She wanted to fly into a rage, and she hated that she couldn’t, for it was Brienne who had convinced the Dragon Queen to let Cersei see her own child again.
Jaime silently took her hand, and they all left together.
She wasn’t looking forward to going into the dungeons of the Red Keep, and so she was on edge enough that she noticed the diverted route immediately. “This isn’t how you get to the dungeons.”
“No,” Brienne said. “Tommen’s under confinement, but he’s not chained up.”
Cersei’s heart squeezed her chest. He was safe, then. Not diseased, not dying. Perhaps he even saw sunlight.
Far down they went, into a corner of the Keep that Cersei had vaguely known housed servants. They stopped outside a room on the very edge of the building, almost buried in the cliff-side. The guard unlocked the door and said, “You get an hour,” then turned to stand with his back to them.
If Cersei had a dagger - but only Brienne had one, and she wouldn’t use it for that. So Cersei tapped the door instead. “Tommen? It’s me. Are you well? Can we come in?”
“Yes, mother,” Tommen said, and so Cersei took a deep breath and walked into her son’s prison.
It wasn’t as bad as it could have been. A room like this would house three or four scullery maids. It had small a window that looked out at the surf, and a sweet breeze blew through the bars set in the frame. Tommen himself looked pale but otherwise healthy, standing in the center of the room with his arms behind his back.
“Lady Mother,” he said, and bowed deeply. Cersei choked back a sob.
His eyes drifted over her shoulder, landing on Jaime. “My lord,” he said, bowing again.
The sob clawed out of her throat. She was shaking, she was a fool. But before she could scream or rage, Brienne was there, an enormous warm hand braced on her back, her bulk shielding her from Tommen. “Apologies, my lord,” she said. “It’s been - she’s just overwhelmed. May we sit?”
Courtly manners danced around Cersei as she cried, silently, shaking head to toe. It was unforgivable weakness, yet Jaime didn’t slap her and Tommen didn’t repudiate her. They sat around her, her lover and her son and Brienne of Tarth, waiting until the sobs subsided and she was able to breathe again.
“It’s good to see you,” Tommen said when she’d wiped her eyes. “I’m - happy - to see you well. I wasn’t sure, for awhile.”
Of course. The Dragon Queen wasn’t merciful enough to let Tommen know what had happened to his family. “Lady Brienne has taken good care of us, I assure you,” Jaime said.
“They told me she’s to be married.” Tommen looked between the three of them. A question lurked there, the sort of question she’d done her best to make sure he never knew to ask. Damn the Dragon Queen for ruining her plans, for nearly ruining her children.
“Yes,” Jaime said when Cersei didn’t answer. “To Gendry Baratheon.”
“Gendry…” Tommen’s nose wrinkled. “I don’t know of him.”
“Because he’s no one,” Cersei said. “A blacksmith bastard.”
“A kind of brother to you, my lord,” Brienne said.
She was hit with three Lannister winces at the same time. Cersei watched her flush, ugly and humiliated.
“My son knows the truth now,” Cersei said. “He’s no Baratheon, thank all the gods.”
“But all the same, I thank you for your kindness,” Tommen said. He was still every inch the little prince.
“Gendry’s a good lad, if also a Baratheon,” Jaime said.
“I’d rather not speak of it,” Brienne said. “I - forgive me, Ser Jaime. I’d leave you alone, but -”
“A condition of the visit was that the Maid of Tarth ensure we’re not plotting treason. Yes, I know.” Jaime looked nearly mirthful, damn him. And Brienne blushed in response, like the maid she wasn’t anymore. Cersei gritted her teeth.
“Are you being treated well?” she asked Tommen. “If you are being abused at all, we need to know.”
Tommen shook his head. “The guards are a bit rude sometimes, but they don’t beat me. They feed me. I only miss you, Mother, and Myrcella as well.” He darted a glance at Jaime. “And you, uncle. Ser.”
“We miss you too,” Jaime said softly. “I’m not sure when we’ll see you again.”
“I know. Well.” Tommen stared at the table for a moment, bereft, before he perked up. “I’ve been practicing my calligraphy. I could show you!”
It was heartbreaking, how perfect his lettering was, how much practice he’d clearly had. But the Dragon Queen hadn’t denied him access to books or paper; she apparently had granted his requests for small items like jacks and extra pen nibs, too. Cersei ended the visit with a tight knot of almost-rage in her chest.
“What’s the matter?” Brienne said as they climbed the stairs back to their suite.
“She’s been kind to him.”
“He’s just a child. And it’s not particularly kind to keep a boy separated from his parents.”
“And here I thought you’d defend your benefactress.”
“The Queen knows I’m loyal to her,” Brienne said. “But I never lied to her. I told her that Tommen should be with his family.”
His family: two hopelessly entangled sibling-lovers, a deformed uncle, and a rapidly dwindling supply of gold. “Well, then, I suppose I should thank you for interceding on our behalf.”
“You don’t owe me anything. Neither of you do.”
“And yet you’ll give us whatever you can. Truly, my brother’s ability to compel loyalty astonishes me.”
“Let her be.”
Something about Jaime’s exhausted command infuriated her. “You will not give me orders!”
“Thank you, but I’m fine,” Brienne said. “My lady, your brother earned my loyalty. It’s very different from compulsion. It’s my hope you’ll be able to see Tommen again soon, not because of your brother, but because children shouldn’t be separated from their parents.”
Cersei would have loved to hear a threat in her words. Damn it, she should have been able to, but she’d known Brienne too long to seriously think she meant to hurt Tommen, or Cersei herself. And certainly she’d never hurt Jaime; she was in love with him.
“I’m to be married in two days,” Brienne told Jaime as they ate their breakfast amidst the soldiers of the Red Keep.
Jaime hadn’t just been counting the days; he’d been counting the hours, an agonizing exercise in inevitability. “Yes, so I remember.”
“Before I - that is, before Lord Gendry and I leave…” She shoveled porridge into her mouth. Damn him for finding her alluring even now, with it dripping from her chin. “I just thought perhaps you’d like a bout.”
He blinked. “A bout?”
“Yes, I’d gathered that.” He’d already had plenty of the other kind of bout with her and Cersei.
Plenty, what a word. Not enough, never enough, but she was to be married and he was a bastard, in truth if not in legality. “Of course. Only let me finish my breakfast, my lady; I need every advantage I can get.”
She looked so fucking happy just then. Glowing, practically, smiling at Jaime like he’d performed a miracle. He ate his porridge and did his best not to scowl, and then he all but dragged her to the ring.
“Just remember, a practice sword’s not the same.” He quirked his brow at her. “Oathkeeper will help you where this bit of wood won’t.”
“I never much needed help,” she said, and came at him.
He’d managed to forget how powerful she was. She had a raw strength that he could only just match, and her technique had only improved in the last year. In truth it wasn’t much of a fight, but she drew him out, evaluating him as he’d once tried to do to her.
“Will you make the son of a vassal house duel you, in Storm’s End?”
She knocked his sword away viciously. “That’s none of your business.”
“On the contrary. Gendry’s going to fuck you day and night, I imagine.” He dodged her brutal kick. “And if you grow soft with child and then struck down by some third son of the Stormlands, my sister and I might be put out into the street. It concerns me very much.”
“You think you know everything about your future, don’t you?”
“Most of it.” Of course, he’d once imagined he’d die in the Kingsguard, too.
“You’re an ignorant fool,” she said, and disarmed him. “Again.”
He stared at her. She was red with exertion and blushing on top of that, furious and golden and beautiful. Everything he’d never been, everything he’d lost hope of having, stood in front of him, beating the living shit out of him. It was awful, and it was glorious.
“Why not just refuse to marry him?”
Brienne didn’t answer, only disarmed him. Jaime picked up his sword and said, “Is it because you’re scared of her? I’d have said you weren’t scared of anything.”
“I’m scared of plenty,” Brienne said, “and you know it.”
Sapphires. The girls hanging from the tree. Failing Lady Sansa, as she’d failed her other liege lords. Shadow creatures who murdered kings. “I suppose, but you’ve never actually let that determine your actions before.”
“You don’t know that.”
Thrust. Parry. Step forward, then step back, for Brienne was almost impossible to pressure. “Allow me the assumption that I’m only talking about your choices that I’ve been party to. Still.”
“The Queen wants an advantageous match. Refusing her would cause trouble for people I care about.” She knocked his sword into the dirt again, but this time she kept pressing. He stumbled and fell, right there in the dirt, hitting his elbow brutally. And she followed him, pressing him into the ground, huge and utterly overpowering.
“Please don’t ask me about it anymore. The wedding’s happening day after tomorrow. You won’t persuade me not to go through with it by being terrible.”
He could feel her breath on his cheek. He wanted, more than anything, to turn his head and capture her lips. He knew if he made the tiniest movement towards trying, she’d never forgive him.
“All right,” he said.
She got off him and made for the armory, taking his practice sword with her, and leaving him to the indignity of getting back to their suite with an absolutely miserable erection.
Their rooms were empty, so he called for a bath. He was halfway asleep in the rapidly cooling water when the door slammed and Cersei said, “What on earth has happened to your face?”
He smiled almost in spite of himself, for she sounded as she always did: angry that someone had hurt him, but also angry at him for making her notice. “Brienne.”
“What did you do to her?”
“Why do you assume I did anything?”
“She’s the most tediously honorable person I’ve ever met. She wouldn’t hit you without a reason.”
And she was right, damn her. “We were just practicing. Swordplay. And I told her that agreeing to a marriage with Gendry Baratheon was foolish.”
Silence. Then: “I’d have beaten you too, you fool.”
He sighed. “You mustn’t ever let her teach you swordplay. One woman who can beat me like this is enough.”
“You seem to enjoy it well enough.” Cersei’s tone sharpened, an exaggeration of a dearly familiar cruelty. “Anyway, can’t most middling fighters beat you now?”
“Brienne’s not middling.”
“I don’t care.” But of course she did. She sounded both contemptuous and jealous, of course she cared.
“She’s incredible. Brutal and beautiful. I’ve never wanted her like I do when I see her fight.”
For a moment he thought his twin might test her theory of his skill by trying to kill him herself. But only for a moment; then he felt cool fingertips on his cheek. “Get out of the tub.”
She spread him out on the chaise in their sitting room and rode him, pinching him when he tried to speak, holding his head back with a vicious grip on his hair. When he came, she locked her thighs around him and rubbed herself until she came, too, holding him inside her, not even letting him kiss her neck.
Brienne returned not too long after they’d finished. If she smelled the sex in the air, if she noticed their matching flushes, she didn’t see fit to mention it.
Cersei felt certain she had in some way been cursed, for after being in King’s Landing for weeks, it was only the day before Brienne’s wedding that Tyrion showed his ugly face.
“Jaime told me you weren’t coming.”
Tyrion toasted her mockingly with his wine. “I wasn’t going to. But Varys wrote to me and told me there were interesting observations to be made in the Capital. Only imagine my surprise when he meant that you and Jaime were both living with the bride-to-be.”
“Living with is a bit of a stretch. We’re living in the Red Keep, at the Queen’s sufferance.”
“In a suite with Brienne of Tarth, yes.” Tyrion studied her over his wine. He was as ugly as ever, and granite mining didn’t suit him. He looked stupider, too. “Cersei. What are you doing?”
She ripped her gaze away from him and cast it around the room. Not at the corner with Brienne’s armor, though, or the corner where Jaime’s cloak hung, and certainly not the wardrobe that Cersei knew contained Brienne’s wedding gown. She picked a particularly large bit of stone and fastened her gaze on it. “I don’t know what you mean.”
“Is Jaime fucking the Maid of Tarth?”
“She’d hardly be a maid then.”
“Gendry won’t care. It’s not a condition of the marriage.”
“Has he seen her? He might care if he realizes he can’t beat her for whoring herself out.”
“What does it matter? He’ll see her tomorrow if he hasn’t before. And then you and Jaime will be free to do - what, exactly?”
The stone she’d chosen was likely very old, rough-hewn and pitted in places from years of wear. This whole suite would be uncomfortable come winter; on the edge of the Keep as they were, these were rooms that had been created with summer in mind.
“Brienne of Tarth is sworn to Jaime, or he’s sworn to her; I’m not clear on the details, nor do I care.” She finished her wine and poured herself another glass. “All that matters to me is that my children are safe, and that’s only half true, if that.”
“I was told Myrcella was returning from Dorne.”
“So they’ve informed me. And yet, as you can see, neither of my children are here with me.”
“Will you take them back to Tarth, once they are?”
“If I ever get them back, we will return to Tarth. A place will always be there for us, or so I’m told.”
“I’d have thought you would try for the Rock.”
“Who came up with this scheme? You?”
She sneered at him. Brienne’s words were too fresh in her mind to respond properly.
“Ah. Lady Brienne’s.”
“Jaime’s not politically minded enough to mind the difference between a home on Tarth and a home at the Rock, and you are, which is why you’d provoke the Dragon Queen by settling your Lannister bastards in their ancestral home. Lady Brienne, on the other hand, has spent a considerable amount of time trying to work out how to keep our brother safe. Naturally, this extends to you and your children.”
“Our shared children,” Cersei said.
“Do you enjoy saying it?”
She enjoyed that no one could stop her, that Robert was dead and the Dragon Queen had sworn not to kill her children. She enjoyed the immunity she’d granted them with the choices she made; she enjoyed telling everyone that she valued her brother more than anyone, that she’d forsake everything for her family. “No.”
“Hmm.” Tyrion finished his wine and emptied the flagon into his glass. “Oh, look, we’re out of wine again.”
“For a Lannister, there’s always more.”
“It’s a ridiculous match, and the Queen’s a fool for making her do it,” Cersei said.
Tyrion couldn’t have looked more shocked if she’d proposed the two of them marry. “But you’ll have a home on Tarth either way. I’d think you’d prefer for her to be as far from Jaime as possible.”
“Marrying her to a bastard blacksmith dishonors her, regardless of which estate the Dragon Queen’s given him.”
“But you don’t care.”
“I don’t -”
“You do.” Delight suffused his voice. She sipped her wine and glared at the stone across the room. “I never thought I’d see the day. Why? How? Does Jaime fuck you both? Do you share him, or is it more that you two share an affinity for ugly virgins? If I go into the bedroom there -”
“If you continue speaking, I’ll gut you like a fish,” Cersei said, as calmly as she could manage. It wasn’t very calmly.
Tyrion held up his hands. “Well, I don’t understand how someone as upright as Lady Brienne can stand it, but I agree: Gendry’s a bad match. There’s very little to be done about it now.”
Cersei knew that. Why else would she have finished the wine? She was about to tell Tyrion as much when the page arrived. “A message from the Queen, My Lady,” he said.
She read it and felt the blood drain from her face. Damn it. Damn it.
“Don’t tell Jaime where I’ve gone,” she said, and rose to prepare herself for an audience with Queen Daenerys Targaryen.
“Your Grace, you summoned me?”
“Lady Cersei.” The Dragon Queen looked around the room. Her small council sat arrayed around her, including the Spider, who looked like he thought Cersei might be on the verge of regicide. How well her monstrous little brother knew her after all. “Thank you for coming. Wait for me outside, please, all of you.”
“Don’t do anything foolish,” the Spider muttered as he passed Cersei. If only he knew how stupid she’d been lately.
When they were alone, the Dragon Queen sat down on the Iron Throne and said, “I’d like to hear your honest opinion about Lady Brienne’s impending marriage.”
Cersei’s tongue turned to stone. “My -”
“As a woman. Your candid opinion, please, as honest as you can be. I know I’m your Queen, but I beg of you not to mince words.”
Fine, then. “She doesn’t want it.”
The Dragon Queen frowned. “I was told she had received no credible offers for her hand, and indeed was unlikely to, unless compelled by political expediency. Yet she agreed, she did not protest.”
“Lady Brienne knows nothing of life beyond honor and duty,” Cersei said. “She’ll marry Lord Gendry if you tell her to, and she’ll spread her legs and let him get an entire platoon of babes on her, and she’ll never complain. But she doesn’t want it.”
“I was sold into my first marriage,” the Dragon Queen said.
“As was I. And so I know you understand.”
“I understand why such a fate seems terrible to you, yes. But Lady Sansa, a trusted advisor, told me you never seek gain for anyone but yourself. So now, Lady Cersei, I’m afraid I must ask: what do you seek to gain, if I allow Brienne of Tarth to remain unwed?”
If she got her hands around the girl’s neck, she could snap it before any of her Kingsguard could stop her. For a moment it was sorely tempting, compared to being forced to discuss her motives. “I’d hoped to make Tarth a home for my children, Your Grace. It’s far enough away to be exile, and Lady Brienne owes my brother a debt. She’ll pay it by letting us stay.”
“But only if she has no liege husband to interfere. Yes.” The Dragon Queen stared at her. “I suppose Brienne didn’t tell you?”
“I’m at a loss, Your Grace, which means she must not have.”
“A condition of her agreeing to marry Gendry Baratheon was the return of your two children, of course, and an official pardon allowing you all to live on Tarth. I had assumed that to be your contribution.”
Cersei’s heart stopped in her throat.
“I can tell her the agreement is void.”
She wanted to protest. For her children - she would, she must, she’d kill the Dragon Queen. She’d drag Brienne into the sept herself. But she couldn’t make herself say it; the words caught in her throat. She could think only of Brienne’s fear and adoration as she stared at Jaime, as she looked between them. She’d been a maid, damn it, and she’d submit herself to the abuse of marriage for -
Two children, the get of a union she hated, mothered by a woman she hated. A woman she’d fucked. Damn her. Damn her.
“And now I see that Lady Sansa was wrong,” the Dragon Queen said, very quietly. “For you aren’t begging me to force her to honor the bargain. Would you lose your children to maintain her freedom?”
Cersei shook her head, fighting back traitorous tears, burning with hatred.
“Would you sell her to get your children back?”
“Yes,” she snarled, but it was a lie, and she could tell the Dragon Queen knew it.
“You’d have him killed before the wedding night was out, I think. Or me. Very well: as I said, I see my advisors were mistaken. I am known as the Breaker of Chains, and I came here to reclaim my rightful throne, not to tear families apart. I sentence you and your brother, Jaime Lannister the Kingslayer, to exile on Tarth. Permanently. Your children, too, I sentence to exile on Tarth. Lady Brienne is the lawful heir of Selwyn Tarth, and thus may marry or not as she sees fit.” The Dragon Queen waved a hand. “You’re dismissed.”
She walked back to Jaime in a daze. He met her at the door, caught her as she crumbled. “What’s happened? What are they going to do? Are Tommen and Myrcella -”
“Safe. They will be returned to us.”
“The Dragon Queen thought she was honoring Brienne,” Cersei said. “And that stupid cow let her think it. She bargained, Jaime. Her marriage, for our children.”
Jaime’s expression crumbled. “Gods, no.”
“We’re to be exiled on Tarth. All four of us.”
“And Brienne -”
“She cannot marry him, I will not see her raped, I will not -”
“I told her no.” Hysterical laughter bubbled up in her throat. “She thinks I’d kill her if she insisted upon it, actually, and so we are exiled and Brienne is to remain unwed. Or not, if she doesn’t wish it.”
Jaime stared at her with something approaching horror. “You risked our children for her.”
“No. I risked nothing, I refused to give up anything. And because it pleased her, she let me.” Bitterness lodged in her throat. “I hate it here, Jaime. I hate the Dragon Queen, I hate these halls, these people.”
“Well, we won’t have to stay here long. Not if we’re in exile.” He sounded bemused, and stared at her like she might even now decide to try her hand at fratricide. “Did you speak to Brienne about this at all?”
“The Dragon Queen’s summoned her, too.”
Vicious joy sang in her heart as he kissed her.
He expected Brienne to be surprised. Perhaps she’d weep, though not for the loss of being Lady Baratheon, he knew. He didn’t expect her to go white and look between the two of them like they’d tried to kill her. “You did what?”
“Stop being so missish,” Cersei said. “The Queen asked me for an honest opinion, and so, as her loyal vassal, I gave her one.”
“You’ve never been loyal to anyone or anything but a Lannister,” Brienne said. “What have you done? What’s to become of me, did you think of that at all?”
“You’ll go back to Tarth with us, I expect.”
He knew Brienne believed Cersei then - not her prediction, but her tone, that studied carelessness she was so skilled at affecting. He half believed her himself; it seemed like the sort of thing she’d assume without ever stopping to consider Brienne’s own wants or needs.
Except of course that she was his damned sister, the other part of his soul, and he knew better than to trust her lies. “I wasn’t consulted for this,” he told her. “I’d ask that you would - be patient. If you do want to marry Gendry -”
“Well, then, Tarth it is, I suppose.”
He knew the smile wasn’t fooling her, nor the warmth in his tone when he said, “That is, if my lady allows it.”
“Oh, come off,” she said. “Yes, fine, I’ll start preparations. By the way - your daughter’s here.”
It was a perfectly executed blow. Cersei gasped, but she couldn’t berate Brienne for not telling them that first, as Brienne was already on her way out. They had to wait there in agony for a servant to bring Myrcella to them, more tanned than she had been and tired from the road, and looking at Jaime like -
Like she knew, like perhaps she didn’t hate him. She’d been apart from Tommen from some time now, and they could no longer be counted on to have basically identical opinions.
“Myrcella,” Cersei said, rushing to her. Myrcella sobbed and let Cersei pull her into an embrace. “I missed you so much, darling, I wanted to bring you back sooner, I’m so sorry, we will fix this, I will fix this for us, the Dragon Bitch can’t take you from me again, I swear it. I swear it.”
She didn’t speak. She barely cried. It was only when Jaime joined them, when he tentatively touched Myrcella’s shoulder, that she looked up at him and said, “I didn’t want to go.”
For a moment he thought Cersei might slap her. He watched her fingers become claws, a vicious anger flash in her eyes. But the fight in her, for now, was dampened. She said, “I know, darling. But you are truly our daughter now, do you see? And that means -”
“A prince of Dorne is not for me.”
“Yes,” Jaime said. “But it also means you won’t ever be murdered for your potential claim to the Iron Throne: so you see, there are benefits as well.”
Myrcella pulled away from them, but only to look around the room. “Blue,” she said, taking in the wall hangings and Brienne’s own cloak. “What is this? They told me they were taking me to the maid’s rooms. I thought it was a joke.”
Of course the Dragon Queen’s men hadn’t bothered explaining anything. “The maid in question is the Maid of Tarth. She’s our…host.”
“Jaime’s liege lady,” Cersei said, muting most - or half - of the biting sarcasm she normally imbued the statement with.
“Oh.” Myrcella’s gaze moved between them. “But I thought - well. I know you’re…you and Mother -”
“It’s not something you need concern yourself with,” Jaime said, as gently as he could. “She is honorable and good; you can trust her.”
“That’s good.” She stepped away from them both. “I’m told there is a room for me. I’ll go there now, and prepare myself for dinner.”
And thus Jaime found himself summarily dismissed. “She’s grown,” he said.
“Girls always do, when they’re sold for parts.”
“That’s not what I -”
“Meant. No, I know. Nevertheless.”
“Can she and Tommen be happy with us?”
“On Tarth? They’ve scarce seen the like. I couldn’t say. They’ll be bored, certainly, and if they find Lady Brienne as infuriating as I do -”
“She’s not going to fuck our children, so there’s not much you can predict there.”
Cersei stopped dead and stared at Jaime with a look he’d almost forgotten: cold, angry, and heart-stoppingly dangerous. “I’m going to do us both a favor, and forget you said that,” she said.
He wanted to keep fighting. He wanted to say, will you? or you find me infuriating, too, and look how we’ve ended up, or just simply fuck me, let her walk in on you fucking me. But he knew people would be in and out preparing for their trip - servants, Brienne, maybe even Tommen, if they let him out of his not-quite-prison-cell. He bit back his venom and his flirting and said, “Tyrion told me that a few of our belongings from prior to the invasion were saved. You may want to see if you can find them, and ensure they’re brought back with us.”
“Anything of value?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Leave it,” Cersei spat, and stormed off.
He had no idea what he’d done. It was starting to become a distressingly normal state for him.
Later, he returned to their rooms to find Brienne sitting at her writing desk, scribbling something out with a scowl on her face. “Sailors acting up?”
She froze, a blush rising in her cheeks. When she looked at him, it seemed she’d had to exert great effort to do so - like he was a head on a pike, maybe. “Ser Jaime.”
“No, it’s not that. Hm. Maids stealing silver? Bannermen waging war for your hand?”
He realized it was a mistake right as he said it. She flinched and looked away. “That would hardly signify. It seems I’m not to be married after all; your sister saw to that.”
“Technically speaking, the Dragon Queen saw to it.”
“Do you know what she told me?” Brienne burst out, whirling on him.
His tongue felt stuck to the roof of his mouth. He could hardly dare speak. The way she advanced on him - it was like when they’d fought, like when they’d fucked, yet not at all like either of those things. He wanted her. Now, during her engagement, the first fucking time he’d seen her - he wanted her. It was only getting worse with time, not better, following an arc that was exactly like his love for Cersei and yet nothing like it at all.
“She told me I’d lied to her.” She said it like a snarl, the echo of a battle cry. “She told me that when I’d said, no, I have no family to object to the union, I have no ties that might make the marriage false - she told me she knew I’d lied, and when I asked how, she said Cersei Lannister was a tie, that Jaime Lannister was another tie. Can you imagine?”
He could, unfortunately, damn his sister and the Dragon Queen both. “Well. At least now you don’t have to marry that blacksmith.”
She stared at him, eyes wide, nostrils flaring. Even in her fury, Cersei was always beautiful. She made sure of it. Brienne wasn’t beautiful just now, only magnificent.
“Get out. Get out!”
Jaime obeyed with haste, before she took it in her head to throw him out herself.
She supposed it had been foolish to imagine Brienne would want to go back to Tarth. Cersei didn’t want to, after all, and her other option was a jail cell.
Still. It rankled, the ungratefulness, the clear fury in her gaze every time she looked at Cersei. Cersei had let her have Jaime! She’d saved her from a marriage with a ridiculous upstart. She’d done everything for Brienne, and in return, Brienne switched between stilted politeness and avoiding Cersei altogether.
She wasn’t cruel, though. When they returned to Tarth, Cersei and Jaime occupied a set of apartments clearly meant for a family; their children slept in two adjoining chambers, vastly less grand even than Tommen’s prison cell at the Keep, but nicer than most of the rooms in Evenfall. They were just down the hall from Brienne herself, so Cersei knew it wasn’t a snub. She could live here - not happily, she’d never be happy here, but it would do while the children recovered and she worked out what her next move should be.
If - if - Brienne stopped being so beastly all the time.
“I just don’t see what she thinks we could have done differently,” Cersei said one night over dinner. The four of them usually took food in their rooms; the few dinners they’d attempted in the hall had gone very poorly. Apparently Cersei and Jaime were a common enough sight that no one had much cared about seeing them together, but the addition of two children led to staring and whispers, even when Brienne ordered the servants to behave.
“Is that really an appropriate topic for dinner?” Jaime said mildly.
He meant, of course, that he thought they probably shouldn’t have fucked Brienne, and that they definitely shouldn’t be discussing it in front of their children. Cersei didn’t roll her eyes, because she knew how important good examples for the children really were. “Darling, I don’t want Tommen and Myrcella to be in the dark about why our relationship with your liege is so strained.”
“I hadn’t noticed it,” Tommen said. “She’s brilliant at teaching us.”
“Sure. Swordplay, knives. Of course, Ser Jaime is also skilled, but -”
“Brienne still has her sword hand,” Jaime said. He managed to sound drolly amused, as though he didn’t care - as though losing it hadn’t made him vastly less of a man. “Don’t worry; she’s keeping Myrcella to daggers, for now.”
“The most ladylike weapon would be nothing at all.”
“Oh, but I don’t want that!” Myrcella sounded downright uncouth. “In Dorne -”
“We’re not in Dorne.”
“Well, on Tarth, there are women who fight, and I’d like to at least know the basics. Please, Mama, it’s not as if I’m going to be married now that everyone knows we’re -”
“Myrcella.” That was Tommen, with the particular strangled tone that meant they’d discussed this very problem when their parents were out of earshot.
Myrcella stopped talking, but she sighed with that specific tone that meant Cersei would be hearing more about it later. Fine. “Do whatever you like,” she said, trying her best to sound uncaring. “I’m sure it doesn’t matter, as you said.”
Later, when they’d sent the children to bed, Jaime said, “You miss her.”
“You know who.”
“I missed you, when you were panting after her in King’s Landing.”
She was lying. She’d enjoyed it, and she’d wanted more of it. At the time, fucking Brienne had been diverting. But now -
She couldn’t miss what she held no affection for, and thus, she did not miss Brienne. “Fuck off, Jaime,” she said, and tried to ignore his laughter.
He’d planted a seed in her, though he likely didn’t realize it. She found herself annoyed with Brienne after that, and thinking about it every time she thought about her at all - which, since they were in Evenfall, was almost all the time. She simply disliked having been dismissed in favor of grunting around with farmers and conferring with common sailors. After all, when they’d first been here, Brienne had barely been willing to let them out of her sight. The children were an effective leash, Cersei would give her that, but the presumption of weakness positively rankled. She wasn’t weak; by extension, neither was Jaime. Brienne behaved incredibly presumptuously for someone with hardly any fortune, who’d had her marriage taken by a simple conversation between two higher-born women.
She hated it. She’d been furious with Brienne back in King’s Landing, and she’d carried that anger back to Tarth. It was the least Brienne could do, really, to stop being such a coward and let Cersei aim that anger at her.
Fortunately, Cersei had quite a bit of practice at hunting down people who wanted to avoid her. Brienne might be a wildly different target from Father, but the same strategies worked. It only took three tries before Brienne walked into the baths at the right time and caught Cersei riding Jaime in the very tub Brienne preferred to use.
“Oh, for - yes, hello, how many people did you have to bribe to ensure I’d be the only one who walked in?”
“Not many,” Cersei said, clenching around Jaime’s cock at the sight of Brienne’s hands curling into fists. “Keep going.”
“I don’t know how I didn’t suspect something like this. I really should have. You were so focused on fucking in here.”
“Keep. Going,” Cersei said, and slapped him for emphasis.
“I owe you an apology,” Jaime said.
Cersei looked over his shoulder at the recipient of Jaime’s lovely manners. She stood there half naked, ungainly. Ugly. Cersei’s whole body thrilled to see her.
“You should give it when you’re not -”
“Deep inside me?” Cersei supplied when Brienne trailed off. “Well, come in or get out; we’re not leaving.” And she bore down on Jaime, fucking him as hard as she could given the water.
“Why did you do that?” Jaime said once she’d gone.
“Don’t pretend you didn’t enjoy it.”
She grabbed a fistful of his hair, feeling him jump to attention inside her. “Don’t lie to me. I feel you, I felt you, not for one second did you become less interested in all this. Quite the contrary.”
“Just because I want -”
“Her, you want to fuck her, and she’s a stubborn ass who can’t even see what I saved her from. No, don’t speak.” Jaime closed his mouth with a click of teeth. “We’re here because of her. Maybe she ought to be made to understand what she should be getting from that.”
He gasped and came deep inside her. She wound up bringing herself off, still sitting in his lap, impatient to be done now that she’d gotten what she wanted: his seed, his obedience, and Brienne, her wide hurt eyes lurking in the back of Cersei’s mind.
“I really am sorry,” Jaime said the next day.
Tommen and Myrcella had been sent off after their usual lessons, but Brienne and Jaime remained, trading off footwork critique. It was Jaime’s turn, and he executed a backwards movement after lobbing his apology at her.
“You can’t help your sister. Weight’s still off, you keep pulling your knee out to your right.”
He’d done that with a sword in his right hand, and it had mattered much less then. He sighed. “Thank you. And I might not be able to help her, but it’s been a long time. I should have recognized what she was up to, and I didn’t.”
“Should you?” And oh, fuck, she looked hurt in a way he fucking hated to see, even more knowing it was his fault. “It has been a long time. She was always - you were always -”
“Hers? Brienne, no.”
She looked away.
A kind of madness seized him then. He had no sword, only a stick, but he knelt and propped it up anyway in the usual gesture of fealty. “I owe you my life. You’re not my liege in truth and we both know it; would you like to change that? I am hers and she is mine, but we are very thoroughly yours. You know that.”
“Get up.” Terror laced through her voice as clearly as if she were an fox chased down by the king’s dogs. “Stop that. Stop it!”
He hadn’t meant it when he’d knelt, but that had changed as soon as he’d started talking. Of course he’d swear to her; of course he could do nothing else. “Brienne of Tarth, Evenstar, Lady Tarth, I swear to you my sword and my hearth, all the wealth I have. Everything I am is yours. I will be loyal to you until I die.”
Jaime didn’t move.
“Damn you. Damn you. I accept your oath, now rise.”
He felt lighter when he stood, even though she was indeed upset, and he couldn’t comfort her as he might Cersei. He said, “Does that clarify things?”
“Not even a little.” She wiped tears from her eyes, blew a great honking sneeze into her handkerchief. “I think we’re done for the day.”
A thrill went through him when he realized that he couldn’t argue. He’d sworn an oath, after all. “Yes, my lady,” he said. He let her leave without him; she clearly needed some time to come to terms with what he’d done.
When he told Cersei, she looked at him with contempt she normally reserved for pageboys who spilled her wine. “You’re an idiot.”
“How? Why? I just made it clearer, it’s not like I wasn’t already -”
“But you weren’t.”
“I owe her my life. Your life. Our children -”
“Brienne of Tarth drank tales of Nymeria and the age of heroes from her mother’s tits instead of milk,” Cersei said, over-pronouncing every word like she thought he truly had taken a blow to the head. “She doesn’t care about informal arrangements. She probably doesn’t even care about your feelings. I’d wager she assumed we’d move on eventually, that your sense of obligation would fade. But now you’ve sworn an oath. That’s law to her. Stop being an idiot and think, you know she cares more about oaths than some unspoken, noble life debt between the two of you.”
Oh. That was a good point, actually. But - “I’m an oathbreaker.” He forced himself to smile at his sister, the only recipient of an oath he’d never broken. “Kingslayer, all that. So you see, it really shouldn’t matter. She’d be a fool to think I’d keep this oath, after forsaking so many others.”
“She loves you: she’s a fool.”
“And nothing I say can dissuade you of this?”
“Bring her to dinner. Let me see her look at you indifferently. I’d believe it then.”
Jaime knew just as well as Cersei did that Brienne wasn’t capable of looking at either of them with indifference. He sighed. “Well, what do you want me to do, then?”
She looked more like a snake than a lion when she smiled. “Break your oath. Take the children with me to Casterly Rock. Claim what’s yours by birth, what’s ours.”
“From Tyrion? I would never. He’s got a whole scheme to keep us rich, remember?”
“Take us anyway.”
It sunk in later than it should have. Break your oath. “You want me to say I’ll honor my oath. Why?”
“Why not? Won’t you?”
“Of course I will,” Jaime snapped. “I was discussing hypotheticals. I’m not taking the Rock from Tyrion and I’m not abandoning Brienne, either, but why make me deny it at all?”
“Maybe I just think it’s funny.”
“Your sense of humor isn’t that good.”
“True. I did want to hear you say it, though.” She kissed his cheek. “Dorne won’t bend the knee without a war, and Baelish seeks to convince the Arryns that the Starks have abandoned them. There are plenty of wars for you both to run off and fight. I won’t be made a widow on an island that stinks of goats because of your devotion to honor.”
“You’re already a widow.”
“Don’t argue technicalities with me!”
“What do you propose I do, then?”
“Convince her to fuck you again. She’ll stay if she thinks it would hurt her dependents to leave.”
“I’m not her -”
Cersei fixed him with a flat look. Oh, fine. “I’ll try. I can’t promise more than that.”
“Good.” She kissed him cruelly, with more than a hint of teeth. “I’ve sent her a note in your hand, saying we’re to dine with her tonight. You’ll dress handsomely and bring her a gift.”
“Where the fuck am I supposed to get a gift?”
“You’ll think of something,” she said.
She swept out of the room then, always loving a grand exit, leaving Jaime to feel like a fool.
Brienne had clearly grasped that dinner wasn’t just three adults eating in a room together. She wore a tunic with the sigil of her house, more finely woven than anything Jaime had seen her in before. Tarth’s color might be sapphire, but the tunic was a deep green-blue; it looked beautiful on her. Her breeches had been closely tailored and made her long, strong legs seem even more monstrously powerful than usual. On her feet she wore supple boots, again of the highest quality tailoring. Jaime lasted through the first round of wine before he said, “I didn’t even know you owned clothes this lovely.”
The turquoise of her tunic worked wonderfully with her blush, too. “Since I returned, I’ve been told it would be fitting of my station to be able to - dress the part.”
“I suppose any other woman would need to bind her breasts to convincingly play the Evenstar.” Cersei beamed venom across the table.
And Jaime decided that he hadn’t sworn any oaths to watch his mouth. “I recall you quite liking her breasts, small as they are,” he said. It was practically a whisper, but both women heard it - and to his delight, Cersei flushed with shock.
Brienne, of course, looked likely to catch fire. “Ser, I’ll ask you not to discuss that.”
Ask. Not order. “Of course, my lady,” he said. “I didn’t think it was a sensitive topic, since we’ve all…enjoyed them. But of course such things are best reserved for after dinner.”
“Jaime. What are you doing?”
He was positively overjoyed to hear her say his name. Oh dear. “Making conversation.”
“Barely,” Cersei said.
“I’m inclined to agree. Stop discussing my - my breasts, please.”
How could he, when he could see them peaking even now, betraying that she hadn’t worn any sort of undershirt - had probably thought she didn’t need it. “Of course, my lady.”
They made true conversation after that, awkward though it was, about Tarth’s preparations for winter, and Evenfall’s need for renovations, and Brienne’s own work with the long-neglected accounting books. None of the stewards had tried to cheat her father, she explained, but it had been ten months’ time between Selwyn Tarth’s death and Brienne’s own arrival, thanks to the chaotic nature of the Queen’s conquest. Bookkeeping had fallen by the wayside; there was much to do.
He was halfway through inquiring about her plans for trading with the North when Cersei said, “This is one of the most boring conversations I’ve ever had to sit through,” and kissed Brienne.
It was a mean kiss and Jaime hated how aroused he was, instantly, just from seeing Brienne gasp and Cersei dig her fingers into her shoulder to keep her from jerking away. His other half did what he couldn’t, playing the bully and the rogue as he’d once threatened to. It was bad enough that he thought it made a pretty picture, but Brienne loved it, he could tell she did. She moaned into the kiss, all her long, lean muscles tense as Cersei fucked her with her tongue.
“There,” she said, wiping her mouth on the back of her hand. “Now, you were saying? Something about trading grain for cloth. You realize the North has naught but homespun.”
“They’re good leather-workers,” Brienne said. “I had thought to equip our sailors a bit better, as the Queen is interested in increasing trade across the Narrow Sea, and - what are you doing?”
Cersei paused from where she’d been leaning into Jaime’s arms. “Kissing my brother. What does it look like?”
“Don’t -” But it was too late; Cersei’s lips met Jaime’s, and of course he couldn’t push her away. He felt her smiling against his mouth as she sneaked a hand down to squeeze his cock.
“I really don’t think this is appropriate.”
“Oh, stop being such a miss,” Cersei said. “We’re having a private dinner. No one can see us. We’re on an island so unremarkable even the Spider didn’t bother with more than a few informants. What are you so afraid of?”
Brienne looked between them and didn’t respond.
Cersei squeezed the back of Jaime’s neck. “Kiss her.”
“I don’t kiss the unwilling,” Jaime said, for that was how Brienne looked: frightened, annoyed, flushed not with arousal but with embarrassment.
“She’s not unwilling.”
“Cersei, don’t -”
“Don’t what? Lie? Brienne, do you want my brother to kiss you?”
“Answer the question, dear.”
Brienne stared at the table. “Yes.”
He could tell his sister no, he could, but perhaps not when it was something he wanted so badly. He did his best to smile as he said, “I have a better idea. Brienne, if you’d like to kiss me, please do.”
He was certain she wouldn’t do so. This was Cersei’s cruel game, not hers; he couldn’t imagine a version of Brienne who would steal a kiss from him, much less in front of his cruel sister.
But Brienne had always been so much more than he could imagine. Now was no different. She set her jaw mulishly - charming, it was always so charming, just like everything else she did - and grabbed him, strong fingers in his hair, broad arms pulling him forward.
It wasn’t as clumsy a kiss as it had been a month ago. His knees trembled by the end of it.
“Good,” Cersei said when she’d finished. “Now, go back to talking about your leather-working.”
Brienne looked utterly unconvinced that Cersei was done, but she did as Cersei bade. Jaime did his best to participate in the conversation, which even Cersei dropped interjections into every now and then. But he would die long before he admitted to Brienne that the whole time they spoke, Cersei’s hand crawled along his thigh, not enough to do anything other than keep him in a tortured state of need.
They fucked as soon as they got back to their room, unheeding of any servant who might hear. Jaime had Cersei bent over a table when she gasped, “What do you think she’d have done - if you grabbed her. Got on your knees. Ate her out right there.”
His chest lurched just to think of it, and he fucked her harder, brutally, biting the back of her neck. She moaned. “She’d tell me to stop. She’d want it. Fuck, she was wet. I know she was.”
“Next time I’ll tell you to do it.” She reached between them, touching herself, and came screaming on his cock.
He spilled inside only moments later. He hadn’t asked if she’d been ensuring she wouldn’t become pregnant. He almost didn’t want to ask; he almost wanted another child. One who’d grow up as his child, yes, and one who’d grow up on Tarth, knowing Brienne.
Damn him, curse him by the old gods and new. He wanted it.
After a month in Tarth, Cersei began to think that perhaps they wouldn’t need to leave as soon as she’d initially assumed. Jaime being sworn to Brienne helped, of course; Brienne was too dull to callously throw them out. But additionally, via her own correspondence with Olenna Tyrell and Jaime’s letters with Tyrion, she was discovering the convenience of a location too remote to bother with yet close enough by raven to still receive updated news. It might do for a few years, she thought, at least until Dorne had declared war or declined to do so.
And then fucking Littlefinger arrived.
Brienne hadn’t been warned; of that, Cersei had no doubt. Leaving aside that Brienne was utterly incapable of lying or even omitting information, everyone from Evenfall’s housekeeper to the lowest scullery maid was sent scrambling when they spotted his banner on the noon boat. Before he opened his pointy little mouth, Cersei knew he intended trouble.
“Lady Tarth,” he said, and bowed. “What a pleasure it is to find you here, surrounded by…friends.” He glanced at Jaime, so obviously they could see it from the Wall.
“It’s great to see you too, Lord Baelish,” Jaime said - quickly enough that Cersei knew he meant to prevent Brienne from speaking entirely, as a loyal bannerman might. “What brings you to Tarth? And don’t say ‘winter is coming’; I’ve been corresponding with the Starks too much not to see through that one.”
“You’re most amusing, Kingslayer,” Littlefinger said. “But I came to speak to Lady Brienne, of course; why else would I be here?”
“That’s up to you to say,” Jaime said. “Lady Brienne is here, as you see, but you didn’t need to bring fifty men to speak with her.”
This was Jaime as Cersei remembered him - devoted to protecting who he cared about, and diligent about protecting what he didn’t care for. He’d identified the threat and intended to make Littlefinger come up with a convincing lie. That lie would travel to the capital, so if they all wound up slaughtered in their beds, the Queen would know who’d done it.
Not particularly comforting. Cersei enjoyed her head attached to her shoulders.
“Ah, I see,” Littlefinger said. His wormy little eyes darted from Brienne to Jaime, up to the men on the wall, and finally to Cersei - who he immediately and obviously dismissed, the rat. “Well, I suppose there’s no sense in remaining duplicitous. Lady Tarth, Lady Evenstar, who defended my dear departed Lady Catelyn’s daughter Sansa, who stood against dragons and won the regard of the Dragon Queen -”
“Fuck,” Jaime muttered, and Cersei was inclined to agree.
“- I offer you my hand in marriage.”
Silence. Above them, gulls cawed.
“Is this a joke?” Brienne said. Her fingers had been resting on her pommel, as a knight’s might; now she curled her fingers around the hilt of her enormous sword, seemingly ready to play the foolish cutthroat. “Lord Baelish, I don’t know what they told you about me, but as you see, I’m not a marriageable miss. You probably ought to keep looking.”
“I was told very little about you, my lady, only that you were ugly and enormous and unsuitable for marriage.” Lord Baelish paused, clearly trying to give the impression that repeating others’ cruel words pained him in some way. Cersei, who’d used this maneuver countless times, knew he was waiting to see if Brienne flinched. “I see that such news was slander. You are very impressive, and eminently marriageable. Thus, I am here to court you, if you are amenable to such a union. I would beg a month of you to press my suit, no more.”
A month of feeding fifty-one men and enduring Littlefinger’s slimy advances was the sort of thing people declared war over. But Brienne was responsible and honorable; not a single person in this entire sad tableau could have imagined she’d deny him, Cersei least of all. And indeed, even as Cersei indulged in a fantasy of throwing him off one of Tarth’s many cliffs, Brienne bowed and said, “Lord Baelish, it would be churlish of me to deny you after you’ve traveled so far, with myself unmarried and desirous of a husband. You are welcome here.”
Damn it. “Desirous?” Jaime muttered next to her.
“She’s polite,” Cersei said, and smiled as Littlefinger again looked at her.
The game of thrones never really abandoned its participants, it seemed. But Tarth was small; the stakes were lower. Cersei looked forward to taking advantage of that imbalance. If Brienne married anyone, it certainly wouldn’t be the kind of man who was sure to throw Cersei and her children out on their ears. She simply would not allow it.
Jaime let himself in to Brienne’s study. “Don’t tell me you’re going to allow him to court you.”
“You already know what I’m going to say.”
“I told him I would entertain his suit.”
“No, you didn’t. You said you were desirous of a husband, that’s completely different. I’m desirous of a new hand, but I wouldn’t let someone sew a horse hoof on.”
Brienne shook her head. “There’s no way I can push him away now. Everyone on Tarth knows I’m unmarried. It weakens my position -”
“You’re the lawful ruler! You don’t need a husband. The Dragon Queen made sure of that.” And fuck, it had been one of the only things he’d thought laudable, something that gave him hope for the Seven Kingdoms’ future. If even Brienne repudiated it - no, he couldn’t think of that.
“Hosting him doesn’t mean I have to marry him.”
“And now you sound like the naive one.” Jaime shook his head, trying and, he was sure, failing to hide his disgust. “Littlefinger won’t courteously smile and bow out of the horse race when you reject him. He’ll try to kill you. He’ll attack your household - which includes my family. You’re endangering a lot of people.”
“And what do you think would have happened if I’d sent him away?”
“You’re right that he’s dangerous. Everyone knows that. He does not behave honorably. But what if I’d sent him away? It would be a violation of hospitality. It would be cruel to his soldiers. And he’d come back, because he is interested in women who don’t want him. I might be big and ugly, but I still have an island. And I have you and Cersei, which just makes me an even bigger target.”
He said the first thing that came to mind, unfortunately. “You don’t have us.”
“Don’t I? You’re sworn to me, and she’s -”
“Not sworn to me.” The words tasted like ashes in his mouth. “Not even a little bit, which we both well know.”
“Devoted to you,” Brienne said softly. “And devoted to her children. I know you think she’d leave you. I know she did leave you. But insomuch as she has a north star, it’s the children. And it’s you.”
Damn her. Damn him, too. Damn everyone and everything. He wanted so desperately for it to be true, even though he knew perfectly well that Cersei had no north star, not even her children. “That’s not the point. Littlefinger will press his suit; how do you plan to deal with it?”
“I’ll reject him. I’m well within my rights. Maybe I’ll challenge him to a fight and unman him.”
“Do you mean cut off his -”
“I mean disarm him!” She didn’t laugh, but he did.
“You think that will work? When you beat me, I was only more interested.”
“Littlefinger’s perverse in completely different ways.”
And that was the end of it, he realized wearily. She wouldn’t bend on this, and he couldn’t make her. He might want to bundle her up and carry her off to a sept, but he couldn’t -
“I have to go,” he said, and stumbled out of her study half-blind before she’d given her leave. It rang in his ears, throbbed in his blood, as he walked back to their rooms. He would carry her off to a sept. Well, he would and he wouldn’t; he didn’t want to do that to Cersei. But he would and gladly, if it would protect them. The three of them.
Fuck, fuck, fuck.
Cersei was writing a letter when he returned. “Cersei. Would you like to go for a walk?”
“Is this about Littlefinger? He’ll run screaming as soon as he realizes how easy it is to get lost in her cunt, don’t worry.”
“You ran screaming towards her when you realized that,” Jaime all but snarled. “And that’s not why! Just - a walk. Around the gardens. Please?”
“Do you think that’s wise?”
“I think a Baratheon ass will never sit on the Iron Throne again, so our actions don’t matter.”
Cersei pursed her lips. “A Lannister might.”
“If Tyrion’s issue marries into royalty, it’s hardly our concern.”
“You know that’s not what I meant.”
Jaime shrugged. Their children would be safe; he didn’t care about what happened to the throne so long as that was true.
“Fine; a walk. Offer me your arm.”
They strolled silently for a time. Jaime couldn’t get the image of Littlefinger pressing his suit out of his mind, and he couldn’t stop noticing the little changes since he’d shown up: Baelish retainers running to and fro, harried-looking servants working at double pace, and wary soldiers around every corner. Weeks, perhaps months of this. He wasn’t sure he could stand it.
“…doesn’t matter, does it? She’s in bed with both of them.”
Cersei stopped dead and, utterly silent, pulled Jaime behind a thick hedge. The men continued talking, only a bend in the path away from them. Jaime could hear them clear as day when one said, “That can’t be true. Both of ’em? You expect me to think the Kingslayer can be cunt-struck by anyone except his sister?”
Fucking Littlefinger. It was his men out there, and Jaime found his hand straying to his sword hilt before he’d even thought of it, preparing to step out and challenge them.
“Don’t you dare,” Cersei hissed, nearly silent. Her fingernails dug into his arm, the message clear: step out and she’d kill him herself. He was forced to stay there, trembling with fury, as the first man said, “I don’t pretend to know what’s going on in the Kingslayer’s head. Who’d sleep with that bitch of a sister of his, anyway? She’s not right in the head. But she must be pretty fucking sweet between the legs. That’s what they say, you know, I heard it from Lord Baelish himself. They’re all three fucking and the Tarth bitch won’t give it up for a dragon’s horde of gold.”
“Why’s we here then? There’s other unwed ladies.”
“None that control a fucking island, idiot. That’s why we’re here. He’ll make her see sense. Oi, is that a blueberry bush?” And finally, they were moving down the path again.
Cersei made him wait until they were long gone, wait until his cold rage warmed from the press of her body, wait until his cock was hard and desperate to prove that he wasn’t who they’d said he was.
Not that fucking Cersei would prove that. But it was the principle of it all. They’d made it sound so crass, dishonored Brienne so thoroughly -
“Let’s keep going,” Cersei said.
He knew better than to complain about his condition. He followed her lead, stepping back into the sunlight with her. She looked the very picture of serenity, golden and perfect. They’d dishonored her, too. He would kill them for it. He would.
“You’re not going to do anything,” Cersei said, soft and sweet. She might have been telling him about Tommen’s new calligraphy set.
“What he said about her, about you -”
“About you, too.” She smiled and tilted her face towards the sun. “It’s funny, don’t you think? Speculating on the state of my cunt is dishonor, but speculating that you’re cunt-struck is, what? A challenge?”
“I don’t care.”
“And I don’t care about them. But of course, I’ll kill them for you, darling.” At his scoff, she smiled. “Try telling Lady Brienne that she can’t defend you. What do you think she’ll say?”
And of course he knew the answer to that, as undeniably as he knew he was a Lannister. “Honor demands my defense; I’m sworn to her. But -”
“Stop arguing. Honor does demand it, and so we’ll pass this information on, and wait. And when those men meet a bloody end, you’ll know that it isn’t just men who take offense when their family is slandered.”
Jaime was a fool; he’d already known that. But he truly must have lost his mind between King’s Landing and Tarth, because suddenly all he wanted to ask was whether or not she meant Brienne, too. If he was cunt-struck, it wasn’t just by one of them. Would Cersei kill the men just for calling him so, or would she kill them for their slander of Brienne too? Did she understand how he felt? Would she let Brienne live if she did?
He couldn’t ask. He was too much of a coward.
It was a shame she couldn’t share her triumph with anyone else. By the end of their little walk, her brother was very convinced that she intended to murder Littlefinger’s men, rather than Littlefinger himself.
The rumors about their relationship had been circulating for ages now. At first Cersei had been enraged, as anyone would by the implication that they’d lower themselves to fuck a woman so ugly she was barely a woman. But of course, Cersei had fucked her several times now. She had refused the Dragon Queen’s attempt to make her sacrifice her. And Jaime was tied to her, damn him, damn them both. Rumors might continue to fly; there was more truth to them than the gossips knew. But Cersei would not allow Littlefinger, of all people, to make her feel threatened by rumors. Not again, not here, where little was at stake except a pile of rocks and some goat-herders.
But of course it would take preparation. None of the people Cersei might turn to for help in such delicate matters were available to her in Tarth. She had to go walking for several days, mingle with villagers, and finally bribe one - a woman named Juva, whose husband apparently thought Jaime Lannister wasn’t so bad as the others said - to direct her to someone who might help.
The person in question wasn’t a maester. She was a woman who lived at the base of the mountains, neither young nor old. A witch, Juva had said, and Cersei had smiled and not called her small-minded as she’d wanted to.
But just now she was reconsidering it, for the woman in question gave her a goblet that was smoking from some mysterious berry, and said, “Drink up.”
“Do you take me for a fool? I will not.”
“Then I won’t give you what you ask for.”
“Do you not care about the Lady Tarth? She’s in very real danger right now.”
“When that fancy lord dies they’re going to ask who had cause to kill him.” The witch shrugged. “You’ll find a way to do it. Most won’t be as safe as what I can give you. But I still need to make sure you won’t run tattling at the first sign of danger, after. I’ve heard tales of you Lannisters, you know.”
“So you’ll poison me first? No. I’m not going to.”
“Then leave. But it’s not poison; it’s a binding. You won’t be able to tell anyone of me for all your days.”
The implication hung heavily in the air. If Cersei was caught and beaten, if she was tortured and raped, she could never point the finger anywhere else. If Jaime were here, he’d do something stupid, laugh and try to steal from her or challenge her for implying Cersei was a liar. If Brienne were here, she’d hotly protest that she would never sell out someone she’d done business with. But only Cersei stood in the hut, and so she said, “Yes, yes, I understand. You’re right to be cautious,” and drank the potion.
It tasted disgusting but didn’t strike her dead. Mere moments later, she’d paid the witch and received a packet of powder in return. It was a slow-acting poison, which came with its own risks. If Littlefinger decided to order someone’s execution in the three days between drinking it and it killing him, she’d be powerless to stop him. But when it did kill him, it would simply look like his heart had given out. “Usually strikes ’em when they’re asleep,” the witch had said.
Cersei didn’t trust her. But she was out of options, and she did trust that the people of Tarth loved their ugly Evenstar. So she took the potion.
“I’m having Littlefinger for dinner,” she told Jaime that night. “Tomorrow. You should keep Brienne occupied during that time.”
He nearly choked on his food. “Occupied. Do you mean -”
The children were gone, so she let herself enjoy the moment as he blushed and stuttered. “Whatever it takes to keep her out of here.”
“Right. I can do that.” He frowned. “Wait, why are you having Littlefinger for dinner?”
“Perhaps I intend to marry him.”
He dropped his fork.
“Don’t be a fool, of course I don’t. I’m just hoping to help him…understand his position here.”
Jaime was so bad at hiding when he was feeling skeptical. “Right. What is his position? His men are acting like they already own the place, and he’s got more money than Brienne.”
“Not more than we do.” Tyrion had seen to that, one of the only decent things he’d ever done with his life.
“He might be able to change that.”
She couldn’t quite suppress her smile. “He won’t.”
“Cersei. What are you planning?”
“Nothing you need concern yourself with, dear brother,” she said, and kissed him.
Littlefinger answered her summons with assent, as she’d known he would. He arrived with three men, all of whom he ensured Cersei saw before leaving them to stand outside the door. Cersei had worn one of her newer gowns for the occasion, and had had her hair put up in the most complex style the maid knew. She was still a shade of her former self, reduced from the glory of the Queen to a dowdy backwoods pretender. But even on her worst day, she outshone Littlefinger, and she knew it.
“Lord Baelish, how lovely of you to come.”
“Lady Cersei. I’m delighted to see you.”
Liar. “Please, sit. Will you have wine?”
He would, of course, and she poured him some, into the glass on her own side of the table. Her own glass she filled even more than his.
He did not refuse her, as she’d known he wouldn’t. He didn’t refuse the meal she’d had set out either, great steaks of boar and rich, sweet bread. It was a meal beyond price in Tarth, which almost allowed them to pretend summer wasn’t fading.
His, of course, would taste a bit bitter. He’d likely blame the wine. Cersei had instructed her seasoning powder be distributed all over the boar on his plate.
“Tell me, Lady Cersei,” he said, chewing a slice of poisoned meat, “what do you hope to gain from this meeting?”
“What a question. I hardly know, Lord Baelish. I only sought you out since company is so lacking on this island.”
“Really? How interesting. My men tell me you’ve had quite a bit of company since coming here.”
“Unless you hired them when you arrived, I’m not sure how they’d know.”
“Word travels, my lady. I’m sure you’re well aware of that.”
“How quickly rumors travel often depends on how scandalous they are. I doubt rumors of my company are considered interesting. It’s a matter of public record now that Jaime and I are in love.”
“Well, that you fucked, anyway.” He smiled, narrow, pretending at friendliness in that way he did so well. She couldn’t respond in kind. Her face felt frozen in a half smile. You fucked, he said, about the relationship that had given her children. You fucked - she thought of Joffrey, of Myrcella nearly lost to them, of the pain in Jaime’s face every time one of their children had called Robert father.
“Be that as it may,” she finally managed to say, “those rumors aren’t new and they aren’t rumors. Why would they interest you, or anyone else, now?”
He didn’t answer.
She felt her throat close up. It had been years since she’d been truly young, years since she’d been transparent - to Robert, to her father, even to Jaime. Yet she had to fight to stay unreadable just then.
And she didn’t succeed. “You know of what I speak,” Littlefinger said.
“Leave Tarth. Run away, and no one will harm you for this.”
“For what? I thought there were no new rumors.”
“You seek to marry Lady Brienne. Surely you don’t wish to profane her.”
“Ah. So it’s true, then.”
“Of course not! Do you think I’d lower myself to fuck some horse-faced virgin whose father couldn’t even hold his arse-end-of-nowhere island against eunuch mercenaries? I’ve heard your men talking, so I know what the rumors are. They’re false. But you clearly think they’re true, and yet you’d marry her anyway. It’s pathetic.”
“What’s pathetic is that you think that’s a convincing argument, when even now you’re ready to fly into a rage. I’ll admit my…desire, for Lady Brienne and Tarth both, is a bit unconventional - but you, my lady, understand unconventional desires better than anyone, it seems. Truly your time together must be enlightening.”
“If you want titillation, Lord Baelish, go back to King’s Landing and spend some time in your brothels.”
“Imagining Lady Brienne rooting around you isn’t titillating, my lady, though I understand that it might be to you.”
She nearly threw her wine at his head. The only thing that stayed her hand was the cold knowledge of his imminent death - and, of course, the fact that he so clearly wanted her to lose her temper. Flouting Tarth’s hospitality would drive a wedge between herself and Brienne, from which Littlefinger could only benefit.
He was so transparent, and such a snake. But he was dead, she reminded herself. In three days’ time, he’d never wake up. All she had to do was wait.
So she forced herself to lower her glass and smile at him. She made herself say, “Lord Baelish, I don’t want harsh words to lie between us. Soon you may be my brother’s liege lord; let us finish today peacefully.”
He would never touch Brienne; he would never threaten Jaime. Her remaining children would be safe from his influence. It would have to be enough. They finished dinner quietly as she imagined the yellowing of his skin, the stiffening of his limbs, his servants finding him in a stinking pile of his own shit.
He’d really thought Cersei intended to kill Littlefinger, for all that she’d implied she’d kill his men instead. It was a disappointment to see the man still alive the next morning, standing at the edge of the practice yard while his men performed their subpar morning swordplay.
They were cutthroats; that much was obvious. Worse, they weren’t even as talented as Bronn. None of these men would ever be called Ser even sarcastically. He meant nothing good here, nothing honorable. Brienne knew it, too; he’d tried to explain it to her last night, only to be reminded of her damnable nobility when refused to be drawn into another argument.
Cersei would have never been like that. She’d have begun plotting with Jaime as soon as they saw Littlefinger’s banner on the ship. Brienne wasn’t Cersei - that was part of the appeal - but just now, for Tarth, he wished she was, even just a little bit.
But apparently Cersei wasn’t like Cersei either, for there Littlefinger stood, smug and unbearable as he watched his cutthroats go through the motions they’d presumably use to cut down every single able-bodied soldier on Tarth. He was positively the picture of health. Jaime didn’t understand it; he’d been so sure he’d hear the alarm that Lord Baelish had died.
“I really thought you meant to kill him,” he said that afternoon.
Brienne, who had been cajoled into snubbing Littlefinger for an hour, fumbled her teacup.
“You think a lot of wrongheaded things,” Cersei said. She was hardly paying attention to him, absorbed in the letter Tyrion had sent. He must’ve mentioned money, then.
“Yes, but -”
“This is not a conversation I would like to be witness to!” Brienne said.
Mischief possessed him. “Then come kiss me.”
Brienne huffed and glared at him, the very picture of startled honor. He smiled at her, cheeky, relieved to be distracted.
“I will not!” she said, too late to be convincing.
“You might as well.” Cersei pulled out a sheet of paper. “I’m going to be busy over here for awhile.”
The moment hung in the air like the sea-salt scent of King’s Landing after a decade of summer: indelible, unavoidable, not entirely pleasant. Jaime’s first thought was a kind of wondering at Cersei’s perversity. His second thought was that Cersei’s perversity was his, and gods, he wanted it. Wanted them.
And Brienne didn’t say no. Oh, she didn’t say yes, but she stared at Cersei and then Jaime with wide eyes, eager and repulsed in equal measure. Jaime wanted to yell then: choose us, say yes to us, let me touch you. But he couldn’t, he didn’t, and after a moment the suggestion became stale. Cersei said, “Pity,” and began writing her letter.
That night, he said, “What would you have done if she’d said yes?”
“You’d have to say yes too, you know.”
“I’ll always say yes to that. To this.”
“That and this aren’t the same, Jaime.”
“No, but my answer is.” He should say more - he needed to say more. He was desperate to ensure she understood, even though he knew it was impossible, that a soul split in half would never truly know itself.
“She wouldn’t have said yes, so it doesn’t matter.” A touch of viciousness there. “I won’t discuss it further.”
Jaime didn’t want to discuss it; he wanted to fuck about it. But Cersei had turned away from him; there was nothing else he could say.
In the morning, Littlefinger was dead.
They were awakened by shouts that started outside their door and continued inside it, as one of Littlefinger’s cutthroats made to kill Cersei. Brienne was there, sword drawn, and she yanked the man back before being attacked by another -
And Tommen and Myrcella ran out of their rooms, both armed, as Cersei screamed -
And Jaime drew his sword and killed the sell-sword as Brienne battled three more back and out of the room.
“Enough!” she roared as men of Tarth came running. “Arrest these men! And alert the Queen that Lord Baelish passed in the night, of heart issues, swear two maesters of his own retinue!”
It was an impossibly convenient heart attack, but Brienne wouldn’t lie, Jaime knew that. So it must be true; for once, they’d gotten very lucky. Brienne’s men dragged Littlefinger’s men away, and Brienne dragged Jaime and Cersei to her rooms. She closed and locked the door and turned to face them.
She looked at Jaime, a once-over to establish he wasn’t injured. He nodded.
She looked at Cersei, who raised her chin, proud and unashamed - of what she’d done, Jaime realized with awe. They weren’t so lucky after all.
Brienne’s face contorted. “You are a fool,” she said, and kissed her.
It was so satisfying to see Cersei as overwhelmed as Jaime was. Her hands clutched at Brienne and she went up on tiptoe to give as good as she got, until both of them were flushed and gasping as they broke apart. “I’m not going to apologize,” Cersei said.
“Do you think I don’t know where you got it from? Do you think I want to arrest you -”
“But you can’t,” Cersei said. “It was subtle and slow; I paid an awful lot a money for it, to someone who swore me to secrecy. I haven’t done anything at all, actually. And you can’t make me say otherwise.”
“You - you -”
“Is that all you have to say? Yes, me. I did this because you wouldn’t, because he couldn’t.”
“Hey,” Jaime said, though he had no real defense of himself. Killing Littlefinger via a sword to the back would have angered Brienne.
“He planned to force you into marriage, to take this island and everything on it - including us, including the children. You had to have known I wouldn’t allow it.”
“It hadn’t occurred to me you’d care!”
“Then you’re an idiot.”
And oh, Jaime knew that tone. She was furious and a bit hurt, and probably didn’t realize that Brienne was only relieved and determined to spare them harm again, honorable devotee to impossibility that she was.
“I might not have been much help dispatching our little problem, but may I point something out?”
“No,” Brienne and Cersei said at the same time.
“Then let go of each other and stop me. No? Well, here: the danger is passed. Quite literally, in fact. My dear sister has done us a favor, and all we really have to do is ensure other threats don’t deposit themselves on our doorstep.”
“Really?” Brienne shook her head. “You think someone who engages in something as dishonorable as -”
“I haven’t done anything -”
“Murder will just stop?”
“I was fixing something you’d failed to deal with. In the future, there’s a simple solution to your problem.”
“I was trying! I can’t magically prevent Tarth from being attacked!”
“But you can include us in your planning,” Cersei said. “Consider this a lesson in strategy, and a promise. I will not stand by while you play dice with my home. Do you understand? I don’t care if it’s also your home, or if your honor forbids actually solving the problem. Bend your honor enough enough to find a solution, or I’ll find one for all of us, and you will never, ever like it.”
It sounded a bit like a declaration of war, and gods, it made Jaime’s blood run hot. Brienne must have felt the same, because she dropped the argument and kissed Cersei again, desperately, wildly, tugging at the laces on her dress and urging her towards the enormous bed.
“Jaime, get over here,” Brienne said.
Jaime hastened to obey. Cersei lay beneath them, staring up at Brienne with an expression torn between lust and fury. It was an achingly familiar look, and he found himself suddenly feeling tender.
He kissed her, stretching out next to her with Brienne looming over them both. “She’s very impressive, isn’t she?”
“I am,” Brienne said. “And we all three know it, which is why I need you to listen to me.” She leaned down and kissed them, Cersei then Jaime then Cersei again. He was quite frozen by the time she said, “No one in this room kills anyone without discussing it with the rest of us first. But especially not you.” She nodded to Cersei. “But any of us - myself included. Not unless they’re coming at you, dagger drawn, and there’s no time to discuss. Is that clear?”
Jaime was all ready to swear to her; she was his liege lord, after all, and he only wanted her to be happy with him. So of course Cersei said, “That hardly seems practical. What if the reason we need to kill someone is you’ve been captured?”
Brienne shook her head. “You’d figure it out. Or I’d delegate to Jaime, but either way, the promise holds.”
“What if I want to?”
Jaime expected Brienne to remind Cersei of honor, or at least of the difference between right and wrong. Instead, she said, “Tommen and Myrcella are just down the corridor. Would you agree to flip a coin on if they live or die, because you want to?” She shook her head. “I can defend myself, but they can’t. If you won’t restrain yourself for me, do it for them.”
The air seemed very cold for a moment, as Cersei and Brienne stared at each other and Jaime tried to contain his desperate love for them both. Finally, after a moment so long Jaime felt he’d aged a thousand years, Cersei said, “Very well.”
“Thank you,” Brienne said, and kissed her again.
It was another kiss that bordered on being a fight; they didn’t grapple, but Cersei’s nails dug into Brienne’s jaw, and then into Jaime’s arm when she reached out to grab him. Jaime thought to join Brienne in torturing his sister, but then Cersei broke the kiss to say, “I think my brother’s had an easier night than he really deserves, don’t you, Brienne?”
Not my lady, not that great cow, not even Lady Brienne. The familiarity hit Jaime at the same time as Brienne; they both blushed, but only Brienne said, “I think he has, yes.”
“Wait just one moment, what exactly do you -”
Brienne didn’t just kiss him. She covered him, laying her entire body over his and pressing his hips down with her own as she took his mouth.
Cersei grabbed him, too, a slender hand knocking his thighs open and playing with his cock as Brienne kissed him, then moved on to his jaw, his neck. He was outnumbered and overwhelmed - and he loved it.
“Please,” he said, unsure exactly what or to whom he was pleading. Cersei, who knew his body like her own, pinched him, and looked to Brienne when he gasped.
“He’s a little too pushy for his own good, don’t you think?”
And oh, gods, Jaime loved them both, for Brienne didn’t react with adorable flustered indignation. Instead, she seriously considered the statement, then said, “Well, more than I’d be in his place, anyway.”
“He loves to play the conqueror with me.” Cersei kissed Brienne again, fucking her with her tongue. Jaime could only watch; Brienne and Cersei each pressed one of his arms into the mattress. “He’s so arrogant. But I think he’d like it if someone…conquered him.”
“You’re going to have to be plain with me,” Brienne said. “I was a maid before I kidnapped you two.”
He knew that look on his twin’s face, the predatory interest. It could be directed at no one better than Brienne. “I mean I want you to fuck him,” Cersei said warmly. “A finger or two in him, a mouth or cunt on him - he’ll beg for release, I promise you.”
Red, red, red, up Brienne’s thighs and around her peaked nipples. Fuck, they were so beautiful. “That - makes sense.”
“But I’m not trying to be sensible,” Cersei said, and proved it by putting her mouth on Jaime’s cock.
He’d never learned to be immune. He gasped and tried to fuck her mouth - failed, when Brienne caught hold of his hips.
“He needs to be wet, doesn’t he?” Brienne said. “Or I’ll hurt him.”
“You could hurt me if you wanted.” Oh no. He was already gone.
“If he keeps talking, you might, though.” Cersei reached under Jaime - under his pillow, the conniving witch - and handed Brienne a bottle of oil. “Use this.”
“Hold still, or I won’t do it,” Brienne told Jaime.
She sounded like she meant it. She sounded severe. He shivered in delight. “Yes, whatever you like.”
Cersei rolled her eyes and put her hand back on his cock - but she didn’t stroke it, only held him a shade too tightly as she said, “You should get on your knees.”
“Should he?” Brienne said.
“It’s easier. The angle. Plus, he’ll look so good.”
“Hm.” Brienne looked at him, bright inquisitive gaze, obscenely gentle fingers stroking his thigh. “Well - what about this?” And she lifted him, holding him up with his legs splayed obscenely as she shoved pillows under him.
The resulting position was flatly ridiculous, him flat on his back with his hips canted up towards the sky. He felt simultaneously silly and hotly vulnerable. His cock was leaking in Cersei’s hand.
“Yes.” But Brienne wasn’t asking him, he realized. She was looking to Cersei for direction.
“Much,” Cersei said. “Go on, then.”
Brienne looked at him. She’d been blushing for so long that it was a little hard to picture her skin its normal shade. “Tell me if you don’t like it or it hurts,” she said, and poured oil onto her hand.
He didn’t think it was possible for this to be anything but incredible, not when it was Brienne’s broad fingers pressing him open. She stroked at first, exploring, an oiled finger on his balls and then lower, holding him open so she could look and touch. She kept her free hand on his hip, right next to Cersei’s. He knew she meant it to keep him from moving, but fuck it: he moved anyway, just for the thrill of her frowning a bit and pressing him down, for the edge-of-insanity feeling of Cersei digging her nails into his ribs.
“Behave,” Cersei said severely, “or I’ll take her off and we’ll just leave you like this.”
“Please don’t. It would be a terrible waste of time if we stopped now.” Brienne’s earnest blue eyes blinked at his sister as she finally, finally, pressed her finger against his hole.
Against. But not in. “The mechanics of this are similar to what we’ve already been doing, you know.”
“I’m aware, thank you. But it’s still something new.” Slight movement, up and down, catching at him in the worst, most tantalizing way.
“Would it help if I begged?”
“I’d like to see that,” Cersei said. She twisted her hand on his cock, vicious and beautiful.
“It wouldn’t make much of a difference to me.” Brienne looked between them, something impossibly soft sneaking around her usual composure. “But you can if you’d like. If you’d enjoy it more.”
“I’d enjoy it more if you would just -”
She pressed inside.
She went slowly, of course, ever conscious of her own strength. But that was Brienne inside him, a blunt fingertip and an inexorable press. He moaned and tried to fuck Cersei’s hand, but of course neither of them would let him; they held him still as Brienne tilted her head and moved her finger, up and down in a parody of a thrust.
It felt better than it had any right to, especially when she found the right spot in him and noticed, immediately, when he gasped, going boneless. She pressed against it again, watching him writhe, then fucked against it, a smooth and strong movement that jarred his hips and made him moan.
“Fuck, please,” he said, “Brienne, please,” and she understood, she must have, for she nodded and pressed another finger into him, fucking him steadily.
“Tell me how it feels,” Cersei said. Her bright eyes were moving between him and Brienne with greedy almost-jealousy.
“Good,” he said at the same time Brienne said, “He feels small like this.”
Cersei laughed at him. “You’ll hurt my brother’s pride if you keep talking about him like that. So please, continue.”
“He feels…” She tilted her head, considering, obviously deep in thought even as she drove him closer and closer to the edge. “Breakable, I suppose. Look.” Her hand on his hip flexed. She could move him easily; she could, in fact, break him. The realization washed over him and he closed his eyes against it, straining to fuck Cersei’s hand.
“Ah,” Cersei said, and put her mouth on him again.
He couldn’t converse after that; he could barely even think. He’d become a creature of sensation, need and desperation overwhelming any of his higher senses. Usually he only felt this way immediately after being grievously injured. To have his mind overwhelmed by sheer pleasure felt like a gift of immeasurable value.
“Please,” he heard himself say, “please, Brienne.” She was wet against his thigh. “Cersei -” An answering pinch to his stomach before he could get further. “Gods, please, fuck me, harder - please -”
Brienne did something obscene with her fingers, curling them and driving into him brutally hard, and that was it for him. He came in Cersei’s mouth, crying out and shaking, dislodging the pillows beneath his hips as he moved, as they finally let him move. He didn’t realize he was shaking until Brienne stretched out alongside him, soothing.
Then Cersei said, “Do your job, brother,” and he remembered he wasn’t done yet.
In the end they both used his hand, his mouth. Brienne came from his fingers in her and Cersei’s mouth on her cunt, and Cersei took orgasms from both of them, using Brienne at least as brutally as he had. He felt that he might expire from sheer over-stimulation when they were finally done, falling back on the bed together, sweat-slick and stinking of sex.
He wound up between them, Cersei a small weight of warmth on one side, Brienne anchoring them both on the other. Awareness returned to him slowly: the sound of gulls outside, the muted noise of his sister’s sleepy breathing. He opened his eyes at one point to see Brienne watching them both, tender and unashamed.
He kissed her. He couldn’t help but to kiss her, and he kept kissing her until he fell asleep, pulled under by bone-deep warmth and contentment, and confident that they’d still be there when he woke up.
Brienne was very sure that it wouldn’t, couldn’t last. She only hoped it didn’t keep going long enough that the children would be hurt when she was inevitably removed from their lives.
Except, of course, she also wanted it to keep going for as long as possible - forever, if they’d have her. They wouldn’t. Eventually Cersei would tire of being told no, of being stopped, or Jaime would remember that Brienne was ugly even if she was also tLady Tarth, and would leave her. It had to happen, surely.
But it had been a little over a year since Cersei had killed Lord Baelish, and Jaime hadn’t kidnapped Cersei and ridden for Casterly Rock yet. Cersei hadn’t tried to kill Brienne. They were happy, Brienne thought, or as happy as they could be, given the news from King’s Landing: summer turning to fall, famine and civil war threatening. Brienne felt reasonably confident that when those ills came to Tarth, they’d face them together.
Still, when Cersei said, “You’ll meet us at the gates this afternoon,” her stomach lurched and foreboding fluttered in her.
“Tommen and Myrcella have arranged to have dinner with a friend of theirs.” Someone too low-born for Cersei to approve of, said her tone.
“But what does that have to do with it? Are we escorting them there?”
Brienne knew Cersei, maybe not as well as she knew Jaime, but still pretty well. She could tell from the set of Cersei’s jaw that she wouldn’t get more details, not even if she ordered Cersei to tell her as the Lady of Tarth. She’d have to just trust them, something that became easier by the day but still wasn’t quite natural. “All right.”
Cersei practically glittered with triumph. “Good.”
They’d changed in the year since coming to Tarth. Cersei was more tan and a bit more muscular, having taken to walking about the island with her children. Brienne would never tell her, but she looked like a Tarth native sometimes, sun-bleached and beautiful. Jaime had taken to swordplay again, with so much time only to practice, and now rivaled a King’s Landing cutthroat in his use of a hook - when he chose to wear one. And Brienne…
Well, she was still ugly and too tall. That much couldn’t be denied. But she thought she probably looked happier. She certainly felt happier, and if Jaime looked like he’d bloomed a bit, content and feeling safe, then surely she did too.
“Lady Brienne,” Jaime said when she met them at the gates. “You look lovely.”
She didn’t roll her eyes, quite. “You do as well.”
“Shall we ride out?”
“I still haven’t been told where we’re actually going, you know. What if I’d arrived on foot?”
“You’d have followed us like a goatherder, I suppose,” Cersei said. “We’ve miles to cover before it gets dark; come along.”
Brienne could have, should have, protested about being summoned like this, on her own island. But Jaime looked as excited as she’d ever seen him, and even Cersei looked - eager. Curiosity ate away at her. “Oh, very well.”
They rode out past Evenfall, taking the busiest road past pubs and homes, then farmland. There was something naggingly familiar about it all that Brienne couldn’t pin down, until after two hours, they came to a stately manor house set back among beautiful meadows full of fall wheat.
“I know this place,” Brienne said, wracking her memory.
“I’d hope so,” Cersei said. “It’s your own house, through your mother. According to your wretched housekeeper, you often visited here as a child.”
So long ago. She’d been no more than eight when they stopped going. “Oh.”
“Yes, oh,” Cersei said, not quite kindly mocking. “Shall we investigate?”
She felt - vaguely sick, almost tricked. But Jaime was still watching her with that keen anticipation, so she nodded and took her horse up the drive.
There were trees on the property, she remembered, apple and cherry and plum. In addition to the farmland, there’d be a stable - there it was. Only it wasn’t falling down or full of spiders. Someone had been here recently to freshen things up; the windows were intact, their sills free from dust.
This was their surprise? How had they even known? That wretched housekeeper, Cersei’d said. Had she been interrogating the poor woman?
“Come along now,” Cersei said, and Brienne, frozen-tongued and clumsy, followed them inside.
A fire was banked in the old dining room. She looked around to see the same furnishings she remembered from all those years ago, freshly aired out. The table was made up for three, and a picnic basket sat in the center of it. Jaime went over and pulled out their dinner: fresh bread, fruit from the orchards, cured fish and some kind of cooked vegetable, carefully stored in its own separate tin. Salty cheese, too, and crackers, and wine.
Brienne choked back a sob, and Jaime froze. “Don’t you like it? We can go back. I’ll have someone come get us, it’s not -”
“There’s no one around, this is the country,” Brienne said, “and what can you mean by this? How did you - when -”
“Evenfall is lovely, but it’s so busy, don’t you think?” Cersei swanned past her and took a seat at the table, picking out some bread and pouring herself some wine. “You’ve been over a year now putting things to rights, with hardly a break. Jaime thought we should take you somewhere lest you die of stress, or something. I wasn’t listening too closely.”
But she was lying, Brienne understood that now. She’d been the one to dig up information about this house. This had been a collaborative effort, to - make her slow down? Get her alone with them?
“We’ve enough food for a few days, and there will be servants coming every morning to freshen things up,” Jaime said.
Brienne looked at the fire, at the shining stone floors, at the carefully prepared picnic basket, and then finally at the two of them. They sat there, golden and perfect, waiting for her to make a decision that wasn’t really a decision at all. She couldn’t say no to them. Surely Cersei, at least, knew that.
“Everything will be taken care of,” Jaime said softly. “We made sure of that. The housekeeper, your man-at-arms, everyone has instructions.”
They’d acted in her stead, and the household had allowed it. Something deep inside her uncoiled. “I hope you didn’t give them too many bribes,” she said. “There’ll be no getting them to do their duties, if you did.”
“Just a few,” Cersei said. She toasted them both, looking smug as a cat that caught a bird. “Sit down, Brienne.”
It was a long, meandering meal, full of wine and laughter. At the end of it, Jaime dragged them to their bedroom in the guest wing. “Your family’s rooms have been refreshed, but we didn’t move anything,” he told her.
Which meant she’d be able to go back and get her father’s papers, her mother’s drawings. Her throat closed. “Thank you,” she said, and kissed him. “Thank you.” She kissed Cersei, then took Jaime’s cloak and laid it on the carpet before the fire. “Come here, please.”
They fucked right there, wine-drunk and laughing, before moving to the bed. Cersei ate Brienne out for what felt like hours, and she let herself moan as loudly as she wished; there was no one to know how easily the two of them could make her beg. And in the morning, hours later than she’d normally awaken, she kissed Jaime in the golden-soaked light and thanked the gods for her bizarre, impossible luck.