Actions

Work Header

A Second Chance

Chapter Text

Tyrion scrambled to his feet at the sound of footsteps approaching the door of his cell – an old storeroom, with a chest, a pallet on the floor and a bucket in the corner. Two days since Daenerys had sacked the city, one day since she had imprisoned her former hand for releasing his brother and – what? For no longer believing in a Queen whose reign was based on fire and ashes? For condemning her for mass murder of innocents? By dragging the chest over to the (small, barred, not an escape route) window, he’d been able to climb onto it to see a little of King’s Landing – what remained of it, at least. There appeared to be Unsullied guards everywhere – no sign of the Dothraki in the city, which was at least a relief; they were not a sight to quiet an already unsettled people. He wondered whether Daenerys had planned this assault all along – why else would she have hidden five thousand Unsullied from their alliance? And they were definitely guards – he had seen no sign of work parties to remove the charred bodies from the town, just a show of strength from the woman he had chosen – and loved – as a Queen. Had he been wrong to support her, back in Meereen? She had always seen herself as Westerosi, but was her otherness just too much, in the end? She had won the Dothraki by might, the Unsullied with love, Meereen as a liberator – but in Westeros she was an outsider. The people had suffered under Cersei’s rule, and Joffrey’s, Robert’s and Aegon’s before that (he didn’t count Tommen, who would have been a wise, if innocent, ruler), but Daenerys had chosen not to take them with love but with fire, bringing them fear and death rather than hope of a better tomorrow. He could only hope that Jon Snow had taken his advice and allowed his duty to overcome his love for the made Queen.

The approaching footsteps did not sound like his usual guards – they were a little out of step, a little hesitant. He wondered, almost idly, whether they were coming to fetch him for his own trial by dragon – trial by Drogon, he supposed it would be. Yet when the door opened it was not only his Unsullied guard but a small group of people, including one who appeared to be a Maester, carrying the damp and dirty body of a man.

Tyrion hurriedly stepped aside, as they moved to drop the body – with some care, he noticed – onto his pallet, huddled in a curve of pain beneath a thin blanket. Another man placed a flagon of water and a ceramic cup on the chest, and the Maester’s assistant carried a box filled with salves and bandages.

“You can leave us,” the Maester told the guard. “I will call when I am finished here.”

The guard frowned. “We should not treat a traitor’s wounds. Let him die.”

The Master glared at him. “He has the right of trial. Until then, I see no traitor here.”

The guard scowled, but ushered the other men out of the room. Nobody had yet even spared Tyrion a glance, although he wondered whether he was to lose his cell, his life, or possibly his wits, if they expected him to nursemaid some stranger.

Tyrion looked more closely at what little he could see of the man, who was mostly concealed by the blanket, and his heart leapt. It couldn’t be – but when the man groaned, the blanket moved back a little, revealing a blistered and bruised, but well-healed, stump where his right hand should have been. But he had seen his siblings beneath the ruins of King’s Landing, had cried over them for an hour or more, too devastated to even touch them, before making his way out amidst the rubble. He had heard that they had retrieved Cersei’s body but had failed to find Jaime; had assumed that looters had found his body and had taken it to remove that golden hand. And yet, how many one-armed men were there in King’s Landing, and how many of those were important enough to be thrown into a cell with the traitorous former Hand of the Queen? He took a step forward in hope, and the Maester threw him a glance.

“You’d best be helpful, my Lord,” he said. “We will need to get those wet clothes off him and try to get him warm, and I want to get a look at those injuries too. It may be too late for him – they found him in the water.”

Tyrion stepped forward and it was – it was his brother, returned to him.

“Can you save him?” he asked in trepidation. Losing his sister had been a jolt – surprisingly, as they had never had kind words for one another – but he wasn’t sure whether he was strong enough to lose his brother again.

“If we don’t try, we will never know,” said the Maester brusquely. “It’s hard to tell how much he has bled, but the salt water was clean and he was strong and well-fed. If anyone could survive this, it would be the Kings—”

“Don’t call him that,” snapped Tyrion. “It is not my story to tell, but you should know that the death of the Aerys was in service to the realm. If you are to save him, you need to call him Ser Jaime and trust that he is a good man.”

The Maester nodded slowly. Ser Jaime it would be.

Tyrion moved slowly to the pallet, looking once again on the face of his beloved brother whom he had expected never to see again. Tears came to his eyes, but he began to remove Jaime’s leather tabard as the Maester’s assistant worked on his boots. His brother groaned but did not regain consciousness. It would be quicker – and less painful – to cut his clothes off, but the nights were cold and the thin blanket was not enough to protect against the cold, even here in the South. Jaime would need all the warmth he could get.

Once they had removed his clothes, the Maester’s assistant dampened a towel to wash Jaime’s face and hands while the Maester examined what appeared to be two stab wounds. One, in his buttock, was shallow and of little concern, but the other appeared deeper.

“He is fortunate that it has missed his vital organs, but this will need to be kept clean to prevent against infection,” advised the Maester, spreading some sort of oily concoction onto the wounds. “I will leave you with clean bandages and this salve; it should be reapplied three or four times every day.”

Tyrion nodded. “You should know that I am a condemned man,” he said. “If I am – if I am executed, who will look after him?”

The Maester met his eyes, a kindly look on his face. “The Queen is dead,” he said, “- both Queens, that is. There are to be no more executions until a Council has been convened.”

Tyrion breathed a sigh of relief, mingled with sadness. Part of him had hoped that the Daenerys who had shown herself to be a fair and just ruler might have re-emerged after the chaos of the battle. It was hard, however, to be sorry that he seemed likely to live at least a little longer.

“Can you – my brother’s rooms were in the White Tower. Perhaps he has clothing and bedding there that would be warmer – not to mention cleaner and dryer – than what he has here?”

“I will see what I can do,” said the Maester. “I will return on the morrow to see to his progress. In the meantime, my assistant will bring him a clean shirt and you should try to dry the rest of his clothes. Keep him warm – use the heat of your body if you must – and keep those dressings clean.”

He thumped on the door and then left, leaving Tyrion alone with a ghost.

Chapter Text

Three nights passed before Jaime woke. Three days Tyrion spent caring for his brother, dribbling water and weak broth into his mouth, cleaning his wounds and changing the dressings; three nights holding him close to share the warmth from his body, sleep disturbed by moans and shakes. He told himself the groans were good, that they meant his brother was healing – or, at least, that he was still alive. More than once, he woke to stillness and felt for his brother to see whether he lived.

The Maester came when he could, and his assistant Rodri managed to collect some of Jaime’s things from his old room. It wasn’t much – they still slept on a pallet on the floor – but they were covered with a crimson and gold comforter that was mercifully warm, shared a feather pillow, and there were clean nightshirts to dress Jaime. Tyrion had borrowed two of his brother’s shirts – they were too long for him, and he had to ask Rodri to cut the sleeves shorter, but at least he could rinse them in the leftover wash water when they began to stink from too-long wear.

It was the morning of the fourth day when Jaime stirred. Tyrion was attempting to feed him when he saw him frown and shake his head gently, before opening his eyes.

“Tyrion?” he croaked.

“Shhh, rest now,” his brother said, tears welling in his eyes.

“Where am I?”

Tyrion chuckled. “I believe we are in a storeroom on the second level above the kitchens,” he replied, to his brother’s evident confusion. “The dungeons were destroyed, and this was apparently a suitable place for prisoners.”

“What happened? Whose prisoners are we supposed to be?”

“That is a very interesting question. How much do you remember?”

Jaime closed his eyes for a moment. “I – Cersei – I think she died?”

Tyrion looked at his brother and nodded gravely, unsure of his reaction. “Daenerys had her body burned, but I had asked to have her ashes sent to Casterly Rock. I found you with her” – he swallowed – “I thought you were dead, Jaime.” He reached for his brother’s hand, squeezing it gently. “I found the two of you beneath the ruins. I suppose I should have checked for a heartbeat but you were both so pale. I suppose it was the brick dust. Afterwards, when your body was lost, we presumed that looters had stolen it to take your hand.”

Jaime chuckled, then winced, pressing the stump of his right arm to his side. “I woke down there, beside Cersei. I crawled over the rubble and used the hand to remove some rocks, then went down to the beach. I thought you might come, so I waited beside the boat that you had left, but I collapsed as the tide came in. I don’t remember anything after that.”

Tyrion gulped. “I had left the boat there for you to escape, remember. Besides, by the time you were down there, I was theatrically throwing my Hand pin at Daenerys and being dragged here by a group of Unsullied. You were supposed to row yourself somewhere – to Pentos, or even just down the coast a ways. Alone or with Cersei, the point of the exercise was that you should not end up imprisoned in King’s Landing. This was my penance not yours.”

Jaime looked at Tyrion in puzzlement. “So the conversation we had in Daenerys’s camp – you were serious?”

Tyrion blinked. “Of course I was serious, Jaime. You were a prisoner, likely to be executed. You had travelled South from Winterfell to get to Cersei before she was killed. However foolish a choice I may think it, and the answer to that particular question is ‘astonishingly’, it was your choice. You helped me to escape King’s Landing after I killed our father; the least I could do was to help you save our sister.”

Jaime’s mouth fell open. “You thought I came here to save Cersei? After everything we had done, everything we had been? After the things that she did? After Winterfell?” and he meant Brienne, of course he meant Brienne, but he could not yet bring himself to say her name, maybe never in the same breath as his sister’s.

Tyrion reached for the clay cup, helping Jaime to sip the cooled broth. “I am beginning to suspect that I may have been labouring under a rather significant misapprehension. I look forward to clearing this up. But first,” he said, carefully tucking the coverlet over his brother’s shoulders, “you should rest.”

Chapter Text

Later that afternoon, after the Maester had bustled in and professed himself happy with Jaime’s progress, he had had some servants bring them proper mattresses and another thick coverlet.

Rodri washed Jaime, and dressed him in a clean nightshirt, even propping him to sit up a little against the pillow, leaving a skin of wine and a covered pot of rich soup as well as a plate of fruits, cheeses and breads.

“The Unsullied don’t know what’s happening in the kitchens,” he explained quietly. “They won’t permit you to have proper beds in case you break them to make weapons, or knives for that matter, but at least you can be fed and warm.”

A knock on the door was followed by a harsh “Time!” as the door opened and the Unsullied guard motioned to Rodri to leave. He shrugged, rolled his eyes, gathered together the Maester’s potions and bandages, and strolled to the door.

After they had eaten some soup, Jaime turned to Tyrion with a quizzical look in his eye.

“So, brother, tell me why you thought I came to King’s Landing.”

Tyrion was not accustomed to feeling foolish, although of late he had spent a considerable time regretting some of the choices he had made. He perched on the end of Jaime’s mattress and drew circles on the floor with the toe of his boot.

“I told you,” he said, “that night in the tent. I thought you had come to save Cersei and the child – which did not exist, by the way.”

“Tell me,” Jaime insisted.

Tyrion sighed, and shrugged. “You came back to die with Cersei, but were captured by Daenery’s soldiers, who recognised your golden hand. Or perhaps to save her – her and the child you believed she carried.”

Jaime looked at him for a long moment. “Drink.”

Tyrion looked puzzled.

“You got it wrong, so you have to drink. Probably at least three times.” Jaime grinned at him, and even though they were imprisoned in an old storeroom above a kitchen, it was the new Jaime – the happy, almost carefree Jaime he had seen at Winterfell even in the face of terrible odds – not the old, superficial, careless Jaime who had seemed to belong in King’s Landing.

“For starters,” he began, “that hand had a harness. And a close-fitting glove that sat over it. If I had not wanted to be recognised, I could have covered it or removed it.”

Tyrion nodded slowly. “You wanted it known that you had made it to King’s Landing.”

Jaime lifted his water cup. “I did.”

“You thought that Cersei would attack Daenerys, to rescue you?”

Jaime shook his head slowly. “No, I ceased to matter to Cersei a long time ago, at least as anything but a trophy. By the end, I think she hated me as much as I had ever loved her. I wanted her to know that I was here, though – and I wanted,” he swallowed briefly, “If things didn’t work out – and I was not at all sure that they would – I wanted it known that I had been here.” He didn’t need to spell it out further; he wanted Brienne to know that he was gone, not to wait in the futile hope of seeing him some day.

Tyrion took a sip from his cup. “Very well, you wanted it known that you were here. But that doesn’t answer the question of why you left Winterfell at all. I had believed – no, I knew that you were happy there.” His voice gentled. “Sansa sent a raven, you know. I know how you left, what you said – at least some of it. It was –” he paused to consider – “unexpected.”

There was shame in Jaime’s face as he nodded. “I couldn’t – She couldn’t follow me. I needed to know that she was safe, that she wouldn’t come here. Cersei would have made her a target, and Daenerys – I know that you believe in her, but I don’t trust her –“ he stopped at the expression on Tyrion’s face.

“That was – not one of my better choices,” his brother said quietly. “In the attack on King’s Landing, Daenerys proved that she was a Targaryen after all, and not through her wise and benevolent leadership. We heard the bells ring – I assume that was you, by the way – and thought that it was over, but she kept on and on, burning people and buildings and ultimately the Red Keep. Meanwhile her Unsullied slaughtered people in the streets. It was a terrible thing to behold.” He paused, remembering. “After it was over, after I had found you seemingly dead, I threw the Hand pin at her. I could not – would not – be party to that destruction. And from then –” he shrugged, gesturing at their shared cell – “I do not know what happened, but here we are, prisoners guarded by the Unsullied. I have been told that there are to be no executions until a Council has been convened, but what shape that Council will take I do not know. We can assume, I believe, that it will not contain any Lannister representation.”

Jaime’s mouth twisted. “I’m sorry.”

“For what?” Tyrion asked.

“I know that you believed in her,” Jaime said softly. “I am sorry that she was not worthy of that trust.”

Tyrion sighed. “I loved her, you know. Not – not like that, but I truly believed that she would be the one to save Westeros. She was a good ruler in Meereen – she freed her people, and they loved her for it. But something happened when she came West – that urge to conquer grew and grew. I learned later that she had hidden troops from me – from all of her advisers. The Dothraki and Unsullied were destroyed at Winterfell, yet she had more troops waiting to take the place of those who fell. It would be easy to call it a temporary madness, but it seems clear that she had planned at least a part of the slaughter.” He shrugged. “I suppose that must be one benefit of our incarceration; I won’t be making any more bad decisions about who should rule over us.”

Jaime bumped him awkwardly on the shoulder. “That and these palatial accommodations,” he joked, stifling a yawn. “And the benefit of my company for an unspecified period of time.”

Tyrion grinned. “Well compared to the last time I saw you, when I thought you were dead, even putting up with your conversation is an improvement. But for now, I think you should rest. We will have time enough to continue this talk later.”

Chapter Text

It was a couple of days before they resumed their chat. Not that there was an excess of entertainment in their room – Jaime wondered whether Tyrion, like he, was stretching out the conversation to relieve their boredom. He had continued to recover – the wound in his buttock was largely better, although his side still ached from Euron’s stab wound, and his broken ribs were knitting slowly but surely – but still slept more than he was awake. He’d managed a few steps – mainly to the bucket in the corner that doubled as a chamber pot – but the act of getting to his feet from a mattress on the floor was more painful than he relished.

There was little news from outside, although Rodri was happy to gossip about what he knew. There was to be a Council meeting, at some unspecified time in the future. As to who constituted that Council, Rodri was uncertain, although he did say that he had heard that some people would be travelling for weeks to attend. There was something in Tyrion’s face when he heard that, but Jaime was too busy going over it in his head to wonder. Weeks meant Winterfell – and maybe Dorne. And if Winterfell meant Sansa then it meant Brienne as well. He wasn’t sure what to think about that, but he knew that he would spend the coming weeks rehearsing every outcome in his mind.

“You’re avoiding me,” Tyrion said accusingly one day, as Jaime finished a bowl of stew.

Jaime rolled his eyes. “We are sharing a cell that is approximately one quarter the size of the chambers that each of us is accustomed to. You had to help me across it after I took a shit yesterday. I couldn’t avoid you if I tried.”

“Don’t remind me,” said Tyrion dismissively, as though he had not been there for Jaime through all the difficulties of the past week.

Jaime shrugged. “Now that we have established that I could not avoid you even if I wanted to,” he said crisply, all King’s Landing, playing the Kingslayer to the hilt, “what is it that you require?”

“Three drinks,” said Tyrion, as though that explained everything. “You said that I had to drink three times,” he expanded, “yet you only explained about the hand. So by my reckoning, there are at least two tales remaining. The first will explain how you did NOT come back to die with our sister despite the entire seven Kingdoms believing that you did; and the second – I’m unsure whether it will be about not saving her, or not believing in the child. You see me waiting with bated breath, brother. The floor is yours” He gestured to the floor between them, sinking onto his own mattress then, thinking better of it, picking up his pillow and crossing the room to sit beside Jaime.

Jaime took a sip of watered wine, collecting his thoughts. “Cersei and I – it was complicated. More complicated, perhaps, than anyone realised – certainly, than I realised at the time. I thought that she loved me – for a time, I did love her – but to her, that love was about control. We were 13 the first time anything happened between us. I was to go away with Father, and she said it would give me something to remember her by.” He swallowed, glancing at Tyrion before looking away. “There was never anyone else for me, after that, you know. Not until Winterfell. You always had a lead on me there.”

Tyrion nodded sadly.

“She wouldn’t let me inside her, of course – even then, she was saving herself for a King – but it was enough. To a randy 13 year old, it was everything. I could think of little else while Father and I were away, and was desperate to return to her. Every time I was to leave, she would give me that little bit more – never when I came to her, though, only when she needed something. She told me once that it was the only power she was allowed.” He smiled sadly. “Ironically, once I became her dirty little secret, I was less able, if anything, to advocate for her; we were – I was – always so afraid that someone would find out. It was exciting – the risk of being found out, the forbidden nature of it all – and the sex, of course, especially after she had married Robert and her virginity was no longer an issue – I couldn’t imagine ever not wanting her. But she was never kind.”

“And then there was this –” he waved his stump idly in the air. “Once I lost my hand, I think she hated me, although she still kept me on her leash. She was fucking her way through the Kingsguard, too – but you were here, you would know about that.”

Tyrion grimaced.

“She’d throw me a bone every now and again, when she wanted something, but that was it. The last time – it had been months – was after Euron Greyjoy brought her the Iron Fleet. He asked her to marry him and she agreed. I thought –” he laughed bitterly – “I thought she came to me for consolation, but now I believe she came to me after taking Euron to her bed. When she told me that there would be a child, I thought it was another chance. I didn’t need her to acknowledge me as the father – but I wanted to be able to know the child, to watch it grow, to protect it.”

Tyrion nodded. “You were always good with children. It seemed a shame that you were never allowed to really know your own.”

“Myrcella knew,” Jaime said. “Just before she died, she told me.” He paused, pinching the top of his nose.

“Anyway, you know the rest,” he said. “I left, Cersei threatened me, I went to Winterfell. I had a lot of time to think on the way, and to see what she had been doing – how easily she had manipulated me, for years. And then she sent Ser Bronn of the fucking Blackwater (of all people) to kill both of us.” His mouth twisted. “Maybe she fucked him too.”

Tyrion grimaced. “No,” he replied. “Bronn could never have kept that to himself.”

Jaime couldn’t help the grin that spread across his face as he caught his brother’s eye. “Queen Cersei and her golden cunt. He would have told that tale in every inn and brothel between here and the North.” An amused moment of silence lengthened into something more.

“So tell me, my dearest brother,” said Jaime, and if he was not quite the Kingslayer then he was certainly Ser Jaime and accustomed to answers, “Why would I come back to save Cersei?”

“Not to save her, then,” said Tyrion gently. “But not, I think, to kill her either.”

Jaime sighed. “No, not to kill her. And if there had been a child, then I would have tried to save her – that much is the truth. But I knew – I believed, from what I know of her – that she would have an escape plan. If I was here – if she knew that I was here – I thought that she would assume that she could manipulate me. That I would help to save her, to shield her from what was coming. Whatever her intentions, I planned to take her to Casterly Rock and to keep her there, in isolation, until we could find a place for her to be kept.” He grinned. “There’s evidence – I sent a raven there, before I left Winterfell. I told them to open Aunt Emily’s rooms, to freshen them, and to check the bolts.” Aunt Emily had been Tywin’s aunt, driven mad by the death of her lover at the hands of their father. Her screams from her secluded suite of rooms deep within the Rock had been a familiar night-time serenade to the Lannister children’s sleep.

Tyrion nodded. “A sound plan, although not one that would have met with Daenerys’s approval, I fear. But why did you not take her to the boat then? And why did you not use it to escape?”

A bark of laughter burst from Jaime, much to his brother’s surprise. “You left us a rowboat, brother. What did you think, that Cersei would take up an oar and paddle us to safety? Or that we would take a circular route?” He laughed and waved the stump of his right arm in circles as the truth dawned on the face of the smallest and – apparently – stupidest Lannister.

Chapter Text

“You should be dead!”

“And yet, here I remain, miraculously unscathed.”

Jaime lunged once more at his brother, as Tyrion ducked under his arm and strolled to a small table, where he poured two cups of water.

“You should rest, Jaime.”

Jaime scowled but took the proferred cup and sat down on his mattress, where he rubbed his side gently. Since being cleared by the Maester to start to exercise, he had progressed to mock-fighting – sometimes with Tyrion, sometimes with the empty storage cupboard in the corner of their room. The Unsullied still refused them even furniture, much less a wooden sword, so they had to fight in mime. The movement was of value, and if Jaime was honest he probably wasn’t up to holding a sword anyway.

After the first time Tyrion declined to practise with him (only Tyrion, of course, called it “playing knights”), Jaime realised that he could relive previous fights, practising his footwork against ghosts even as he tried to repeat his movements with his left, rather than right hand. Once again, he trained with the Sword of the Morning, tilted in Lannisport against Ser Jorah Mormont, fought Loras Tyrell and Sandor Clegane, won the tourney in celebration of Cersei’s marriage to Robert Baratheon. Brienne was his constant training partner, as he relived the many fights they had shared, including the last before his hand was taken. And if his movements were a little stiffer and slower, and he sometimes had to stop and rest before the end of an imagined bout, well both ghosts and lost loves were willing to wait.

Rodri continued to visit and to check Jaime’s wounds, which seemed to be healing well, although he had reopened the gash in his side the first time he had attempted to train rather than simply move gently. He was still resting more than he would like, but Tyrion didn’t seem to mind the quiet now that he had managed to fill a shelf with some books that had been brought up from the libraries. He seemed to spend a great deal of the day writing, although as prisoners (of whom, neither was entirely sure) he and Jaime were forbidden to send messages – not, Jaime supposed, that there was anyone left who would welcome a message from them.

Brienne was Jaime’s companion in the moments before and after sleep. She was with him in his dreams, and as he rested, he would think about what he could say to her when she returned. He knew that he had hurt her unforgivably in his rush to return to Cersei. If she hated him, it was probably for the best – but she had seen through his truths before. He clung to the faint hope that she had understood that he had had no choice, that only he could capture his sister and prevent her escape, even as he knew that that hope was doomed to disappointment.

“What will you say to her?” Tyrion asked one day, and it was futile to pretend that Jaime didn’t know who he meant.

“‘Ser Brienne’ seems a fairly safe option,” Jaime replied with a grin. “Beyond that, I’m not sure there’s anything that I can say.”

“Have you considered, ‘I love you, please take me to Tarth, marry me, and bear my giant children’?”

“Frequently. But I suspect she would rather feed me to her horse.” Jaime grinned, but in his mind he could see Tarth, could see those tall children playing with wooden swords as he and Brienne trained together, and a wave of longing filled him.

He’d considered “I’m sorry,” also, and “Wench,” and “I didn’t have a choice” but mostly it always came back to “I have missed you dreadfully” and “Please can I spend the rest of my life trying not to disappoint you again” and “It’s always been you”. But it wasn’t about him, was it – it shouldn’t be about him, it should be about her, and how he had hurt her, and how he could never make it up to her but he would happily die trying.

Of course he had done that already, when he went to Winterfell to die but instead, learned to live, and he had turned his back on it to save a city and to save someone else from having to live with the guilt of regicide.

He mourned Cersei, also – not the Cersei who had been, perhaps, but the idea of Cersei – the golden-haired sister he had grown up with at Casterly Rock. Now that she was dead, he felt free to remember her with fondness, as a sister instead of as his shame, and without the unsettling sexual awareness that had tinged their relationship since adolescence. He was grateful for this; he had always found it easier to love than to hate.

After about four weeks of their shared captivity, Rodri bustled into the room one morning, bursting with news.

“The council is to be held in ten days,” he announced. “All of the high Lords and Ladies should reach King’s Landing by then.” He glanced at the small window set into the wall of their cell. “You might even be able to see them as they approach!”

But it was not Jaime who spent many of the following days settled into the window seat gazing out the window. And it was not Jaime who coloured when his brother asked him whether he was waiting for anyone in particular.

It was, however, Jaime who surmised that there was something that Tyrion had yet to reveal to him.

Chapter Text

“Seen anything interesting?”

Jaime had to repeat the question twice before he could get his brother’s attention.

“Hmm?” Tyrion asked absently, his gaze still directed out of the tiny window.

“I asked whether you had seen anything of interest,” Jaime repeated. “You have spent the past four days looking out of that window, barely moving except to sleep and to piss.” In truth, although their confinement chafed, Jaime missed his brother’s conversation and company.

Tyrion shrugged. “More of the same, really. Lots of comings and goings, deliveries … I think I saw a Dornish banner this morning. They seem to have finally cleared the roads for the larger wagons.”

“And … Winterfell?” Jaime scarcely dared to ask.

Tyrion seemed to droop a little. “Nothing. Although if they travelled from White Harbour by boat, they would have entered the Keep from the other side. That might have been easier for Brandon than travelling in a wheelhouse, so it’s possible.” Jaime winced a little at the mention of the young man. “I’ve not seen any more Direwolf banners than usual, though, so I doubt that they have arrived.”

Jaime frowned. There were too many reasons to hate a Lannister, but the Starks – they might hate him, but surely they also had reason if not to love Tyrion at least to spare his life, if it came to it. If they were to be tried in as few as six days, he hoped for his brother’s sake that they would arrive shortly.

“I’ve been thinking,” he began. “About our chances. This Council – I assume it’s to be the surviving representatives of the Seven Kingdoms.”

Tyrion tilted his head. “None of whom have any particular love for House Lannister,” he added.

Jaime nodded. “There’s the Tullys – they have no particular love for our House. Although we did spare Lord Edmure at Riverrun.”

“YOU spared him,” Tyrion interjected. “If we are to have any hope of survival, you must own your good deeds as well as those that you are ashamed of.”

Jaime shrugged. “I took Edmure as a hostage, but the Blackfish was killed. If the rest of the Tullys are anything like Catelyn Stark was, they will hold that grudge forever.”

“Nevertheless,” Tyrion notes, “you may have some claim to support there. And, perhaps, from Dorne?”

Jaime shrugged. “The Dornish didn’t exactly love Cersei.” He swallowed, thinking of the death of Myrcella. It was not something to leverage, to negotiate with.

“House Greyjoy owes you a debt,” Tyrion offered. “You killed Euron. Yara Greyjoy must now rule the Iron Islands.”

Jaime nodded slowly. This, at least, was true. “But is it known?”

“We must make it known,” his brother replied. “And the Reach – it was to be Bronn’s. If he holds it, he might support us.”

Jaime laughed bitterly. “Or he might see it as a good opportunity to put an end to us, just as readily. He’s not precisely predictable. This is not sounding good, Tyrion.”

His brother continued. “The Vale will support the North, I believe. As will the Stormlands, although we perhaps have a hope of some support there from Lord Gendry.”

“So,” said Jaime. “A Lannister had Ned Stark killed, and Lannister allies murdered Catelyn. “

Tyrion smiled wryly. “Then I accompanied Daenerys to Westeros and you fucked and abandoned Lady Brienne, one of only two people who was glad to see you in Winterfell.” Jaime winced. “On the upside, you fought bravely against the dead.”

“And you cared for Sansa in the crypts,” Jaime added, intrigued by the blush that swept across his brother’s face.

“She told me my loyalties were too divided,” Tyrion said quietly.

“Too divided for wha— Oh.” Jaime stopped, looking closely at his brother. “You and Sansa Stark.”

“You and Ser Brienne,” Tyrion rejoined in much the same way. “No, not like you and Brienne,” he rushed to add, as Jaime’s jaw fell open at the idea that his brother and Sansa – no. “But maybe, if we had stayed. If I hadn’t been so blinded by Daenerys’s relentless ambition.”

“You couldn’t have realised this when you were married to her?”

Tyrion scowled. “She was a child, Jaime. I was more benevolent uncle than anything else. And I never laid a finger on her.”

Jaime crossed to Tyrion, laying a reassuring hand on his shoulder. There would be time to tease his brother later. After all, they had six days remaining.

Chapter Text

Four days later, Rodri told them that a party from Winterfell had finally arrived. The Maester’s assistant was unsure precisely who had arrived – “the noble ladies, and a crippled boy” seemed clear enough, but he had no further information. This was the last of the noble houses, he said, although “the lady with the boats” had yet to come ashore.

“A distinct lack of mountains,” Tyrion noted to his brother after the boy had left the room. “One would thing that a giant lady knight might be remarked upon.”

Jaime nodded listlessly. “At least your former lady wife appears to have arrived. Let us trust that she still cherishes a fondness for you.”

“And that your lady knight has not convinced her to bring back your bollocks – or any other part of you – to hang above her fire,” his brother rejoined.

Jaime’s brows twitched together and he returned to the blank page in front of him, trying – as he had for the past two days – to compose a letter to Brienne. He was unsure of what to say – unsure of what he wanted to say. When he had left Winterfell, he had wanted her to be free – to not mourn him – but now he was alive, even if only for a few days more, and he wondered whether he should have told her how she made him feel. That when she was with him, his body seemed hum in tune with her own. That he could imagine – that he wanted nothing more than to grow old by her side – as her Lord husband, if she would have him, as her sworn sword if she would not.

“What will you do if you live?” he asked Tyrion abruptly.

Tyrion frowned. “I confess to not having considered that particular possibility. I suppose … I have no desire to return to Casterly Rock. In my mind, that was always to be yours. I could stay in King’s Landing, perhaps – I find that I prefer the company of others to my own thoughts.” He bowed his head in Jaime’s direction, acknowledging the past weeks that the brothers had spent in such close proximity.

“And – the North?” Jaime asked daringly.

Tyrion raised one shoulder in a half-shrug. “A visit, perhaps. From an old battle comrade. Nothing more.”

Jaime made an inarticulate noise of protest. “The lady seemed to welcome your company at Winterfell –"

Tyrion stood for a moment, struggling down from the window sill on which he rested. “As a colleague, an ally. Do you imagine it differently? Hello Lady Sansa, would you like to fuck your former husband, a dwarf who is ten years older than you? Or to wed him, so that you could be a laughing stock for all of Westeros? Perhaps I could follow her around as a sort of steward, spending the remainder of my miserable life with a permanent cock-stand and no prospect of relief because she won’t ever look at me that way and even if I wanted a whore I couldn’t have one because she would know?” His voice cracked a little at the end, and he turned to climb back onto the window seat and look out the window once more

“Tyrion –” Jaime went to move towards him but his brother waved him away.

“I know what I am, and I know what she is. And she is not for me.”

Chapter Text

At dawn on the day of the Council, Rodri brought them clean shirts and buckets of warm water to wash in. Blades were still not permitted to them, so both men wore their beards and hair far longer than they would wish. They broke their fast with fruits and bread, then sat to wait in an uncomfortable silence.

“Tyrion –” Jaime began. His brother looked at him, eyes bright.

“I know, big brother,” he said thickly. “We always seem to be saying goodbye.”

It was mid-morning before they heard their door unlock. It was a group of four Unsullied soldiers led by Grey Worm. Jaime stood and nodded at him – they had been colleagues, of a sort, in Winterfell – but Grey Worm merely looked through him and pointed at Tyrion.

“Come with us,” he said briefly. Jaime moved to join them, but Grey Worm stayed him with a wave of his hand. “You, stay here.”

The brothers’ eyes met briefly before Tyrion followed the group out of the storeroom. Jaime heard their footsteps fade before he realised that there was no longer even a guard on his door. Idly, he considered attempting to break out of the room, but he had nowhere to go. He glanced out the window at the hustle and bustle of King’s Landing, then turned to straighten their room, rinsing their used bowls with leftover drinking water and placing the used wash water beside their slops bucket and worn clothing before straightening the coverlets on both beds and stacking Tyrion’s books beside his mattress. Taking the quill, he finally wrote on the page he had been contemplating for days –

Brienne
You were my guiding star, and the truest Knight in Westeros. Any honour I have found is due to you. I trust that one day you will remember me with fondness. Like Oathkeeper, I will always be yours. We may not get to choose who we love in this life, but I would always choose you.
Jaime.

Folding the page, he wrote, Ser Brienne of Tarth on the outside, and sealed it with wax from a candle. He set it on the windowsill, so that it would not be lost, then turned to the empty room.

When lying on his mattress failed to distract him, he took to exercising again. This time, his movements were not smooth and practised, but were the desperate slashes he had taken, protecting Brienne from the army of the dead. And when he collapsed, exhausted, he could see her smile, and knew that he had helped to save her that day.

 

---ooooo---

It was much later when he heard steps at the door, but they were not the measured steps of the Unsullied. Instead, the door opened to reveal his brother and Rodri, with no guards to be seen.

“It’s time to leave this place, brother,” said Tyrion – and for a moment, he thought it was the end, but no, his brother would not be smiling at him if that were the case. “I will tell you all about it later but for now, I think a change of quarters, a good barbering, and a bath might be welcome.”

Bemused, Jaime allowed Tyrion to lead him through the Keep to The Tower of the Hand, which appeared to have missed most of the devastation. Tyrion waved him to an antechamber, which contained a bed, some of Jaime’s clothing, and – wonders – a large copper tub filled with steaming water.

“I will leave you here,” Tyrion said, “while I go and clean myself up as well. Rodri here will check your wounds, and then perhaps we can meet to dine while I explain what has transpired.”

“You couldn’t give me a hint?” said Jaime, “Just moving me over here and leaving me to wonder?”

Tyrion grinned. “That is precisely what I am doing,” he said. “Surely you can’t begrudge a man a little pleasure.” He turned and left the room, leaving Jaime with Rodri.

“Will you bathe first, milord,” Rodri suggested, “and then I can check your wounds. I can help you with barbering also, if you wish. In the meantime, I can collect your things from the room you were in before.”

Jaime nodded, already pulling his shirt over his head and turning to the bath. “Don’t hurry back.”

---ooooo---

After a long soak, Jaime had dressed in loose cotton trousers and a shirt he recognised as his own, although his frame was much lighter than it had been. His chamber – he supposed it was to be his chamber – was blissfully warm. Although it had a large open window, the drapes were thick and the fireplace large, and a thick rug covered the flagstones. A tap on the snugly-fitting door heralded Rodri’s return, and Jaime succumbed to his attention to the wound at his side.

“I can shave you if you wish, milord,” the young man offered. Jaime paused for a moment, looking in the glass at the wild beard he had grown in his captivity. His hair, too, was longer than it had been since his imprisonment by the Starks – after his return, Cersei had had it cut short again, and had had him shave off his beard.

“Just trim it,” he told the young man, who gladly nodded and turned himself to the task.

Chapter Text

Sansa sighed as she looked around the rooms she had been given in the Red Keep. Part of the old Maidenvault, she had been accommodated here with the rest of the party from Winterfell – Bran, Arya, Brienne, Podrick, her maid Mara, and the trusted guards who had accompanied her. Her cousin Robin Arryn – older and more confident now than when she had seen him last – and Lord Royce, together with a company from the Vale, were in a neighbouring apartment. She felt safer now than she had when she had been to King’s Landing before, but she was nevertheless eager to return to Winterfell.

“So,” Arya said, bouncing a little on the balls of her feet. “We came to save the life of our brother, who was really our cousin, and now our other brother, who really is our brother (mostly) is the King and you are a Queen. Really not what I was expecting, even this morning.”

Sansa smiled, shaking her head slowly. “Nor I.”

“And we have your former husband to thank for it,” Arya added.

Sansa frowned. “I think that I had more than a little to do with the outcome –”

Arya grinned, making her sister smile as well. “You did indeed. And what of Jon?”

Sansa had insisted on being taken to see their cousin (brother?) as soon as the Council meeting had ended. She had been shocked to see him – his grief and distress were palpable, and his cell cold and dirty. She had stared down the Unsullied commander and had Jon moved to a room in her apartments; whilst still officially a prisoner, he would at least be comfortable and well-treated. The Maester had come and declared him exhausted, giving him a little milk of the poppy and bidding him sleep.

“He is resting now, and is confined to these apartments until he journeys North. But he will be treated with care and courtesy, as befits the brother to both the King of the Six Kingdoms and the Queen in the North.”

Arya caught her eye and giggled. “That sounds terribly grand for the annoying children I grew up with.” After a moment’s hesitation, Sansa joined in as well. Courtesy and grace – formalities and public presence – were second nature to her, but this sort of informal happiness was rare. There were vanishingly few people whom she trusted, and fewer with whom she was at ease – her siblings, Jon, Tyrion, Ser Brienne. Even Lord Royce, faithful supporter that he had been, was still an outsider to her. Happy as she was for Arya’s plans – her restless sister would not settle happily in Winterfell – she would miss her terribly. Bran had already suggested that he would ask Ser Brienne and Podrick to stay in King’s Landing and Sansa could not refuse. If she had not already realised that the lady knight was not suited to the cold, the fact that her perpetually pink nose had returned to its porcelain white shade as soon as they were south of the Twins would have revealed it all. She knew that being a monarch could be lonely, but had not considered before that it was something that she would have to do entirely alone.

Still, now was not the time to mourn but to celebrate. Jon and Tyrion were saved, and a peace was upon them. Daenerys and Cersei were dead, never to trouble her again. She was sorry for Ser Brienne, who had also lost a lover, and she supposed she was sorry for the loss of Ser Jaime herself. He had more than proved himself in battle at Winterfell and during the long days after, and Sansa had regretted the harsh words that had, she feared, driven him to return to his sister.

Movement at the door caught her eye as Podrick wheeled Bran into the room. She nodded seriously at him, unsure whether she would be greeting her brother or the Three-Eyed Raven.

“Your Grace,” she said, nodding her head at him.

“Your Grace,” echoed Arya with a small bow.

“Your Grace,” replied Bran to her, “Arya.”

Arya rolled her eyes. “It’s funny once but this is going to become irritating very soon.”

“It’s lucky you’re leaving then,” Sansa quipped, realising too late how that would sound. “I didn’t mean – I know that you need to leave.”

Arya’s grin stopped her. “It’s alright, I understood. Besides,” she imitated Jon’s voice, “You are my Queen.”

Sansa punched her in the arm. “Remember, sister, that I can have you executed for – well, for something. Insubordination? I’m sure that Podrick would throw you in the cells for me.”

Podrick coughed, turning red to his ears. “I serve King Brandon now, my lady. I can only throw Lady Arya in the cells for him.” He paused. “Besides, I don’t think that I could.”

Arya was openly laughing now, cleaning her nails with the point of her dagger. “The lone wolf dies but the pack survives,” she mused. “That’s what father always said. And here we are – our pack has survived, although now it will be spread more thinly. She poured a small serve of wine into the cups on the table, passing them to her siblings. “To our Pack!”

“To our Pack,” they echoed, and Sansa felt a stab of sadness. When would they be together again, she wondered. They were the last of the Starks – and would remain so, she thought. Arya was unlikely ever to settle down, Bran was unable to have children, and she – she would do her duty to the North with every breath in her body, but that was not and never would be part of her duties.

A knock sounded at the door and a servant entered.

“Your Grace, the Lord Hand is outside and would speak with you.”

Bran made to leave but Sansa stopped him. “You are the King, Brandon, but you are also my brother. I know that you are hardly settled anywhere yet. You are welcome to meet with Tyrion here; I can go to my chamber if necessary.” She turned to the servant. “Kindly show Lord Tyrion in. Arya, another cup of wine if you please.”

Tyrion entered, turning first to Brandon and bowing deeply. “Your Grace.” He turned to Sansa and repeated the gesture, with a solemn, “I owe you my thanks and my life,” before acknowledging the others; “Lady Arya, Pod.”

“It’s just Sansa when we are among family, Tyrion,” she said quietly. He smiled. “Arya and I can leave –”

“Not on my account, please,” he said. “I was just here to update His Grace on the state of the Keep. The Throne Room has been largely destroyed, and the Iron Throne has been melted by dragonfire. Maegor’s Holdfast stands still, but will need clearing. Apartments have been prepared for you on the main level, but the Council chambers and reception rooms will require considerable work before they are habitable.”

Bran nodded. “You have been busy,” he said. “There is much to do, but there will be time for that. You should rest now. You and your brother will play a vital role in the coming days.”

Sansa’s gasp was a split second before Podrick’s, but it was Arya who rushed across the room to confront her brother and his Hand. “His what?”

Brandon looked at her with those unsettling, unblinking eyes. “The Ravens told us Ser Jaime died with Queen Cersei, but they were false. Ser Jaime has been recovering in captivity in the Keep, with Lord Tyrion.”

“I was unaware that my brother’s survival had been kept secret,” Tyrion added apologetically, looking directly at Sansa. “Being a prisoner can be rather isolating.” She nodded, distractedly, her eyes meeting Podrick’s. Brienne would have to be told as soon as she returned from the armoury, which Bran had asked her to inspect.

“I am glad,” she told him, a genuine smile lighting her face. “He fought bravely in Winterfell, and I was sorry to hear of his death, although I take issue with the manner of his departure.”

Tyrion’s eyes fell. “That is his story, Sansa, and I would not presume to tell it for him. But there is more to it than there appears.”

She nodded. It was enough, for now, and it was not she who needed to hear Ser Jaime’s tale.

Chapter Text

She had gone directly to the armoury after the Council meeting, glad that Lord Bran – King Brandon, she must remember – had requested such a useful task of her. It had been many years since she had been called on to formally represent House Tarth, and her attention at the Council meeting had been divided between her oath to protect the Starks, her house’s fealty to the lords of Storm’s End, and her sense of what was right. Fortunately, in this, they had not been in conflict with one another; she wondered which of her oaths she would have been forced to break first, had they been. “So many vows,” Jaime had said when they first met. “They make you swear and swear.” She understood him a little better now.

Relentlessly, she forced back the thought of Jaime. She had wept when he left and again at the news of his death – but on the mornings that followed, she had presented herself to Lady Sansa and gone about her duties. It was only at night, when she was alone, that she could allow herself to think of him – of them – and to mourn. Once they had left Winterfell, it was a little better – by the time they passed the Twins, she could remember him without sobs, and by the time they arrived in King’s Landing she was at peace with his decision. It helped, of course, that the Jaime of King’s Landing had never been hers – he was the Kingslayer, all golden with arrogance, with his hair close-cropped and his chin clean-shaven – although that Jaime had given her his sword. Nor was her Jaime the man she had travelled with, all mockery and insults – although in the baths at Harrenhall he had told her his secrets and she had seen his promise. Neither was he the knight and battle commander at Riverrun – although that Jaime had been something more, the man who told her that his sword had always been hers. Her Jaime was the man who had come to Winterfell because it was right, who had faced certain death by her side, who had seen her and all that she had achieved and had made her a Knight. He was the man who had loved her, and who had allowed her to love him. And the Jaime who had left Winterfell had been a sad-eyed stranger bearing a terrible burden and a greater shame, unable to allow himself the joy that he had found there.

The armoury was in a terrible state. Weapons and armour lay on benches, unracked. Swords and daggers of all sizes mixed together, even spilling onto the floor. Bows, arrows, bolts and crossbows were heaped, the fletching on the arrows torn or bent. Tomorrow, she would find some people to help her sort out the mess, to mend and repair. For now, it was sufficient just to see.

“Lady Bri -- Ser Brienne,” a voice said from the doorway and she turned to see Gendry, newly the Lord of Storm’s End, surveying the room. “I wondered whether I might help you. I’m not good at the negotiations that seem to be happening around every corner, but I know weapons and armour. He looked around the room and grimaced. “And it looks like you could use some help here.”

“That would be very welcome, my lord,” said Brienne, bowing her head. He glanced behind him, still unused to the respect of people he had considered his seniors.

“Please, Ser – Lady –”

“Brienne is fine, my lord.”

“Then I am Gendry, as I always was. Before.”

He reminded her a little of Pod, in his uncertainty and desire to please. “When we are alone, or amongst friends, it shall be Brienne and Gendry then. But in formal settings I must be Ser Brienne and you the Lord of Storm’s End. And when I represent the Evenstar, it is Lady Brienne – but only then.”

Gendry thought on this a moment, then nodded, crossing to a bench and picking up a dagger. He grimaced at its blunt, ragged edge. “I could see whether any of the blacksmiths are around,” he offered. “They might be willing to help us here. There is not a great deal of other custom on King’s Landing at the moment.”

Brienne nodded. “I will need to find out what coin there is to pay them, but in the meantime, if they are willing to work for food –” there was not a great deal of excess in the city – “then they could come tomorrow at midday. That will allow us to prepare for them and to decide what must be done first.”

“I’d clear those racks first,” Gendry said, gesturing at the few remaining weapons that had been stowed in place. “Take everything out, check it over – how securely the hilt is set, whether the swords and daggers have scabbards – we might need some leatherworkers as well –” Brienne nodded – “what work needs to be done to the blades. Look for weak points and rust in the armour. There’s no point checking over this – he gestured to the tables and floors – if we rack them away with broken things.” The young man strode off, more confident than Brienne had seen him since the aftermath of the battle. Daenerys’s elevation of him may have been an opportunistic attempt to win over the armies of the North, but Brienne could see that he had the potential to be a good leader of the Stormlands. He understood the smallfolk and their cares, recognised and respected their particular expertise.

She closed the door of the armoury and turned towards the training yard. As she had expected, it was in even worse repair, with rats and mice running amidst the fallen training dummies, weapons and even wooden swords discarded here. There were stray cats all over King’s Landing – some would not go astray here, at least for a time.

“Are you the lady knight?” a young man bustled up to her impatiently. “Ser Brienne of Tarth?”

“I am,” she replied gravely, wondering where she might be needed. “Is Lady Sansa –”

“Oh, I don’t come from her. I’m assistant to the Maester here, and I found this letter. It’s addressed to you, Ser.”

Curiously, she took it from his hand. The paper was of high quality, although it appeared to have been torn from a book, but the writing was almost childlike, smeared and covered with blots. Her name was written clearly on the outside, and the paper was sealed with wax, but there was no seal to show who might have sent it.

“Thank you,” she said, then watched as the young man scurried away. She sat carefully astride a training bench, then slit open the wax seal.

It was there that Podrick found her, in the dusk late in the day, still staring at the page that she had read and re-read a thousand times over, one hand pressed to the hilt of her sword, their sword. He had gone to Cersei, but he had loved her, oh, he had loved her. And he had thought of her before he died.

Chapter Text

It was hours before Tyrion returned to their rooms. Jaime had napped after his bath, truly warm for the first time in months, then had occupied himself exploring their new apartments. Although it was milder in King’s Landing than it had been in Winterfell, the city was built for Summer, with its main rooms open to the elements. If he returned to Casterly Rock, he would commission thick drapes for all the main rooms to keep the heat inside the walls.

There were signs of them all in the Tower of the Hand – of Tyrion, even of their father – the books on the shelves in the study, a cyvasse set on a table in a corner of the room, even the chairs that seemed to remember the shape of his arse. If he looked through the desk, he wondered whether he might find old notes in his own hand. The rooms seemed hastily cleaned – there were remnants of dust in the corners around objects, although the surfaces showed signs of having been wiped and the floors washed, and a hearty fire burned in the hearth. He stood outside for a time, watching the ocean and the many ships that were anchored there, before he returned to the rooms, restlessly prowling around the room.

He would wait for his brother’s return, and hope to learn what had happened at the Council meeting that morning.

---ooooo---

Tyrion entered his chambers at the approach of dusk to find Jaime dozing in front of a blazing fire, feet on a footstool, a cup of water and a map of the Westerlands on a table beside him. He came awake immediately, springing to his feet and reaching for an invisible sword.

“Easy,” Tyrion said. “I don’t think I have done anything since we last met that would inspire you to kill me, although it can be hard to tell in King’s Landing.”

Jaime stretched. “After three weeks of sleeping on a worn mattress, not to mention camping in the woods as I came down from Winterfell, I believe I could forgive many things for the comfort of these quarters. Even –” he scowled at his brother – “being abandoned here for a day with no information about what has transpired.”

Tyrion chuckled. “I am about to leave you again,” he said, “but only briefly. I must wash – but then I will join you for a meal and will tell you what has transpired. For now, know that we are both free men.” He hurried off to his room, as a group of servants appeared and began to set the table. By the old standards of King’s Landing, the meal was meagre indeed – a dressed chicken, warm rolls, plates of fruits and cheeses, a platter of roasted vegetables, sweet pastries, and flagons of water, wine and ale – but in comparison to the fare of the last months it was a veritable feast. Jaime was delighted when Tyrion returned, and quickly prepared plates for both of them as his brother crossed to the table.

“Your meal is ready, and I am agog,” he said, sitting back in his chair and pouring them each a glass of the rich Dornish wine.

Tyrion took a bite of chicken, chewing it carefully, to a disgusted look from his brother.

“Would you have me speak with my mouth full?” he asked, around the partially-chewed chicken.

“I would have you speak,” replied Jaime. “I would have you tell me what has happened during our isolation.”

Tyrion drew a deep breath. “As you know, Daenerys did not listen when the bells were rung. She had Drogon destroy much of the city, including much of the Keep here. I was imprisoned when I resigned as her Hand. This much, we already knew.” He took a sip of his wine as Jaime nodded.

“Before we departed Winterfell, Sansa had told me the true identity of Jon Snow. He is not Ned Stark’s bastard at all, but is Aegon, the legitimate son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen.” Jaime blinked. “The young Maester, Samwell Tarly, found evidence of this and Brandon Stark has confirmed it. While we were at Dragonstone, Varys tried to persuade him to take the throne in Daenerys’s place. To my great shame, I saw this as treason and told Daenerys; she had Drogon execute him immediately. As events showed, of course, Varys had the right of it and I was a fool.” He sighed and sipped his wine once more.

“Jon Snow – as I think we shall continue to name him – came to see me in my cell one day, not long before you were found. He was clearly distressed, could not condone Daenerys’s actions, but neither could he bring himself to condemn her for them. I urged him to think of those he loved – of his sisters, and of what Daenerys would do to them. Sansa and Arya would never have bent the knee to her. Jon met Daenerys in the throne room and stabbed her through the heart. In the aftermath, Drogon melted the iron throne and took her body somewhere – we do not know where. Jon then –” the irritation in Tyrion’s voice was evident – “told the Unsullied that he had killed their Queen.”

Jaime scoffed. “The honourable Ned Stark’s nephew – as foolish as he.”

“Quite,” Tyrion continued blandly. “In any event, Jon was also imprisoned, although in a rather less pleasant cell than the one we occupied. Questions were asked and protests were sent, and eventually the rulers of the Seven Kingdoms agreed to convene a Council at the Dragonpit. The Unsullied were invited as a courtesy, as the occupants of King’s Landing. The Dothraki were not; they appear to have returned to Essos, although it seems that nobody is quite certain when they left or how. That was the meeting today, and it was to begin with my trial for treason.”

Tyrion sipped his wine slowly, collecting his thoughts. “I say was to begin because as soon as the Unsullied brought me out, Sansa went on the attack. How dare they deny a noble Lord of Westeros the comfort of even a razor, how dare they keep the Lords of Westeros locked away, denying the noble houses the rights of visitation? She even used your example, pointing out that Daenerys had forgiven you for slaying her father then had repeated his crimes herself. How could they condemn me, she asked, for supporting that which the Queen herself had pardoned? And how dare they imprison her cousin for those same actions of saving a city even at the expense of its ruler?” He permitted himself a small smile. “She was magnificent. By the time she had settled, the Unsullied had no choice but to remove my manacles – and then she stared at them until they fetched me a chair and placed it beside her own, so that she could see that I was well.” He chuckled. “Of course, a great deal of it was for show; whenever she felt that the meeting was not going quite as she wanted, she would make a great fuss out of asking whether I was too hot, or too cold, or whether I required food or drink, or whether we should take a break.”

Jaime grinned. Who would have thought that the young frightened girl he had first met in Winterfell would have become so astute.

“She had it all solved,” Tyrion said admiringly. “When we had talked ourselves in circles about who should take the Throne, she put forward a proposal that each Kingdom be ruled by its own, with a High King – or Queen – and Council, made up of representatives of all the ruling families, in King’s Landing.”

“And so we have Queen Sansa to thank for our freedom then,” Jaime said, impressed by the woman’s manipulation.

“Not in the way you think,” Tyrion replied. “Queen Sansa returns to the North, which will be a separate Kingdom entirely. I suspect that she may take the frozen North as a vassal state, although that lies in the future. Within the Six Kingdoms, we see the return of Queen Yara to the Iron Islands, and King Quentyn to Dorne. King Robin Arryn ascends to the Kingdom of the Mountain and the Vale. You will be relieved to hear that Highgarden and the Reach are to become a part of the Crownlands rather than a separate Kingdom, so we shall be spared a King Bronn, at least for now. And Lord Gendry – quite a change for that young man, but I believe he will do well – flatly refused any elevation for the Stormlands, although that decision may be revisited in time.” His expression turned serious.

“Which leaves you, Your Grace, ruler of Casterly Rock and the Westerlands.”

Chapter Text

“… ruler of Casterly Rock and the Westerlands.”

“No.” Jaime raised his hand and the stump of his right arm in front of him, as though to ward off the title.

“Yes and Yes, brother.” Tyrion was resolute. “This is a new beginning for us all. I am to stay in King’s Landing for now, as the Hand to the new ruler, but I look forward to visiting you in peace.” As little as Jaime wanted this title, he saw the sense in it, and its inevitability. As Lord of Cas- King of the Westerlands, he would build a legacy to pass on to his (tall, blonde) children. He knew that he would accept it, but he did not have to like it.

Jaime scowled. “And the new ruler? Are we all to bend the knee to Jon-Aegon?”

Tyrion shook his head. “No, the Unsullied’s one stipulation was that it not be Jon-Aegon, and really nobody disagreed. He is to be banished to the North – whether the far, frozen North, or the Wall was unclear. I doubt that he would wish to rule anyway, and if he wished to return to Winterfell I am sure that Sansa would grant him leave. It would not surprise me if he joined the Wildlings. But there was one person on whom they – we – all agreed. It is an unusual choice, but I believe a good one, with the abilities we need in order to ensure a lasting peace.”

Jaime thought, but came up with nothing. Surely not the Onion Knight – he was wise and gentle, but lacked the experience to rule.

“You will never guess, I assure you,” said Tyrion. And suddenly, Jaime knew and in his mind, he was back in the Godswood at Winterfell, apologising to a young man who had not only forgiven him but had seemed to have embraced Jaime’s crime against him as a hope for the future of them all.

“Brandon Stark,” he said, and Tyrion gaped at him, then nodded.

“Sometimes, brother, you still surprise me. The King has asked me to act as his Hand for at least the first year of his reign,” Tyrion added, “to help him to return Westeros to a peaceful existence, and to prepare for the Spring. After that, who knows? I might stay, or I might come to beg apartments in the Westerlands.”

“You are assured of my welcome at Casterly Rock and throughout the Westerlands,” Jaime said formally, suddenly aware that his new status lent a certain gravitas to the statement. Invoking the words of the age-old pledge of fealty, he continued more formally, “You will always have a place by my hearth and meat and mead – or a good Dornish red – at my table.”

Tyrion smiled. “I know,” he responded. “I am relying on it. And there is one other thing,” he added, “that should be addressed rather urgently.”

Jaime looked at him questioningly.

“It appears that in the confusion of all that has occurred, you were mistakenly reported as –”

The door crashed open, two guardsmen feebly shouting, “You can’t go in there” as Brienne of Tarth, wearing the armour he had given her, burst through the door and rushed towards him. Behind her, Podrick blocked the guards’ entrance, sword drawn. Tyrion motioned to the guards to step down and leave, reaching for the flagon of wine to refill his cup as he sat back, watching, a grin splitting his face from side to side.

Jaime stood, and she pushed her forefinger into his chest.

“Jaime Lannister!” she said, flushed and panting from her headlong rush to The Tower. “They told us – the raven said – that you had died when the Red Keep was damaged.”

He grinned up at her, delight written across his face. “It was close, but I survived. I trust this does not disappoint.”

Her eyes narrowed, sweeping over his body, noting the faint bulge of the bandages at his side. “Do. Not. Ever.” She punctuated each word with a jab at his chest, “Do. That. To. Me. Again.” He backed up, until she had him cornered against the wall.

“You left me, Jaime,” she said accusingly. “You left me, and you were an idiot and you made me cry and if you ever, ever do that again, I swear –” her face crumpled, and she hiccuped a sob as he pulled her roughly into his arms, burying her face in his shoulder. He nodded towards the door, gesturing for Tyrion and Podrick to leave.

“Do not think that this means I have forgiven you,” she said, glaring at him and swiping at her tears, after she had clenched her fingers in his hair and stroked his beard and lifted his shirt and patted his bandage and checked the bruises that still marred his ribcage. “I was merely – overcome. Momentarily.”

Jaime wiped her eyes and handed her his handkerchief, then led her across the room and seated her at the table. “Can I offer you some food?” he asked gently. “We appear to have plenty.” He took a plate and attempted to balance it on his stump as he served her food, but she snorted and took the plate from him, holding it out as he filled it then sat down to resume his own meal.

He saw her attempt to cover herself in formality. “It is good to see you alive, Ser Jaime – Your Grace, I mean.”

“I told you in Harrenhall, Brienne. My name is Jaime. Although I believe that for you, I should answer to ‘idiot’.” He smiled crookedly at her.

She scowled. “Stop being charming. You don’t need to do that with me.” She paused. “We’re not alright though. You left me, and you hurt me, and I don’t know whether I can trust you again. Not – not that way.”

“I do love you,” he said. “I know that we never quite said it in Winterfell, but I hoped that you knew –”

“I thought that I knew,” she said softly. “I think that I know it now. But I’m not sure that it’s enough to love. There needs to be trust as well.”

He nodded slowly. “I will do whatever I can to be worthy of your trust.”

She looked at him sadly. “It’s not just that, Jaime. You need to trust yourself. And you need to trust me, as well.”

They finished their meal in silence, then she kissed him gently on the cheek and left, the guards jumping aside as she passed. Jaime, a foolish grin on his face, raised his hand to his cheek then returned to his bed, kicking off his boots and settling on the soft mattress. And if his dreams were of lazy afternoons and of tall blonde children, only he would know.

At least, until he shared them with her.

Chapter Text

Tyrion waited until they were out of the Tower of the Hand entirely before he stopped and caught Pod’s eye. The two men shouted with laughter.

“I think that your Lady Knight might be disrespecting the new King of the Westerlands,” Tyrion suggested.

Pod snickered. “Between the two of you, I doubt that Ser Jai – His Grace will be in for a great deal of respect.” They grinned. “Where should we go now?”

“I’d like to see Queen Sansa, if she has the time,” replied Tyrion. “And I think you have more than earned an evening to yourself.”

With Arya who-knows-where and Bran settling in to his new chambers, Sansa was just settling down to a long and lonely evening when Tyrion knocked at her door.

“I was hoping that I might join you for a while. I don’t require much room.” She welcomed him with a smile, leading him to a pair of chairs and a chaise positioned to make a cosy sitting area in front of the warm hearth and pouring them each a goblet of wine.

“I bear tidings of interest to your realm,” Tyrion announced portentously. At Sansa’s raised eyebrow, he continued. “I have left your sworn sword shouting insults at the King of the Westerlands. I felt it best to leave them to resolve matters on their own.”

Sansa grinned. “Do you think she will forgive him?”

“I think so,” he said – “I hope so. But will you think less of me if I confess that I hope she does not make it too easy for him?”

She frowned. “There has not been a great deal of nuance in my relationships with men. I’m not sure that I understand your meaning.”

Tyrion gazed into the fire, swirling the wine gently in his goblet. “I am scarcely one to ask about relationships that last longer than a few hours. But as I see it, success in a relationship is as much about power as it is about lust. The lust brings people together, but the power determines how they will stay together. In the strongest relationships, that power is based on respect and on trust.”

Sansa looked at him closely. “Do you not think that Ser Jaime respects and trusts Ser Brienne? I have no great love for your brother, but I would have thought quite the opposite.”

“I know that he respects and trusts her,” Tyrion said slowly, “He would gladly spend the rest of his life making her happy, seeing to her every wish, but in doing so – I think he would lose sight of himself.”

Sansa nodded slowly. “I told you once that I used to think you were the smartest man in Westeros. You’ve made mistakes, Tyrion, but I think that you are very wise. And very kind, as well.”

“If we are to speak of kindness, Sansa,” he replied, “then I must thank you again for your actions today. I had not looked for such courtesy – even if I was then to become a helpless tool in your bargaining. I told Jaime that you were magnificent at the Dragonpit, but I realise that I have not told you the same. It was a masterful negotiation, and I was happy to be of such assistance as I could.”

Sansa flushed, and pressed the hand he had placed on the arm of his chair. “I had time to think about it as we travelled,” she said. “I rather enjoyed planning what to do. I suppose that Lord Baelish trained me well, but in this particular situation I cannot be sorry for it.”

Tyrion turned his hand over, clasping hers lightly. “Nor I, my lady.”

They sat in silence for a few minutes, as the fire hissed and popped in the grate. She did not take back her hand.

“What is next for you, Sansa?” Tyrion found himself asking.

“Do you ask as a friend or as my brother’s Hand?”

He smiled gently. “Earlier today, you told me that I might call you Sansa when we were among family. So I suppose that is how I ask – as family forged in battle.” His hand tightened a little around hers, remembering the last time that they had held hands, hiding in the crypts as the dead rose again. He had kissed her hand then – had been braver in the face of death than he was now with the prospect of living.

She sighed. “I will stay a week, until my brother’s coronation, but then I shall return to Winterfell. I have already sent a raven with a report of the Council’s meeting, instructing them to prepare for my own coronation, but there is much that I must see to upon my return, and it cannot wait. There are repairs to be made, and we must look at our inventories. The armies consumed much of our store of food and grain. We may need to ration, or to purchase food.”

“I have not discussed this with the King,” Tyrion said, “but I am sure that he would be happy to send food and anything else that you require. We owe the North a huge debt. But I did not ask what was next for the North, but for Sansa.”

She looked at him, frowning a little. “I am the North now, Tyrion. I must look to supplies for my people, and to shelter for them. I must call our bannermen and have them swear their loyalty, manage their petty problems, and prevent them from escalating. That is my duty.”

“And what of your pleasure, of your happiness? Your family is scattering, your friends as well. I cannot see Ser Brienne returning to the North, however her relationship with my brother may develop. Are you to be alone, then?”

She took her hand back then, although he did not think she noticed, worrying her thumbnail with the other. “I am not like other women, Tyrion. I do not know how much you have heard –”

He shook his head. “I have heard, but I have not listened. The story is yours, to keep or to tell. I make no demands.”

She took a sip of her wine, then drained the goblet and refilled it. “I think I would like to tell it to you, if you can bear to listen.” She stood and added another log to the fire, then sat herself on the velvet footstool beside his chair, leaning her head against the arm where his hand lay. “Nobody ever asks me, and now that Theon –” she stifled a sob – “now that he is dead, the story is mine alone.”

“Lord Baelish arranged the marriage,” she began. “When I met Ramsay, I thought him beautiful. He was kind, and attentive, and everything that I thought I wanted. I was happy to be returning to Winterfell, happy to be marrying.” She took a long draught of her wine, then stated baldly, “On our wedding night, he raped me, and he made Theon watch.”

Tyrion’s hand twitched, then moved to softly stroke Sansa’s hair.

“He had me locked in my chambers, and would come to me every night – sometimes during the day as well – to rape me again. Sometimes he made Theon watch, sometimes one of the maids. My own maid was flayed alive when she tried to assist me. He made me watch.

“When someone displeased him, he would turn them loose outside Winterfell and set his hounds loose to chase them down and maul them, to tear them apart. He liked to hurt people –” she shuddered. “He liked to hurt me. Eventually, when I truly believed he would kill me if I did not escape, Theon and I jumped from the walls of Winterfell –” Tyrion twitched, his hand catching in her hair before he settled again to stroke it. “There was snow to cushion our fall, and we ran. He had his men out after us as well as the dogs. We were fortunate to find Lady Brienne and Podrick in time to make our escape.” She fell silent for a time. “He killed my brother Rickon, for sport. Later, when we retook Winterfell and captured Ramsay, I fed him to his hounds. I would have torn him apart with my own hands, if I could have borne the idea of touching him. Then, I had them killed and burned, and the ashes thrown in a pit miles from Winterfell.” She paused, thinking. “I’m glad that I did that. Glad that I did that to him, glad that there is none of him in Winterfell – and glad that I burned their bodies, so they could not return.” Her head had moved to rest against Tyrion’s knee, his hand still resting lightly on her head.

“When you ask what of Sansa, you mean will I marry.” She signed, leaning in to his hand. “And this must be my answer, I think. I survived Ramsay because I was strong. And because I am strong, I have the power to choose not to put myself in that position again. He stole my innocence, but he left a part of me broken. I cannot abide a man’s touch, cannot bear the thought of a man once more looming over me, pinning me down. I once longed to have children, but the cost to me is too great. When I need an heir I shall look to my cousins. It is weakness, I fear, but my strength is that I have chosen this for myself, and I will not be gainsayed.” When she looked up at him, her eyes were bright, but it was his that had spilled over.

“Oh Sansa,” he said, as she wiped his tears gently with her hand.

“It is done now,” she said, “and I am safe. But I think that I will always be alone.”

A noise at the door drew them both to their feet to see Ser Brienne walk – or perhaps float – into the room. They both knew the unkind things that were said about her looks, although they were too kind themselves to think them, but in that moment she was radiant, a gentle secretive smile on her lips and a look of such happiness on her face that they were both transfixed. Lost in her thoughts, she didn’t even notice them as she passed through to her chambers.

“And what of that?” Tyrion asked, gently.

“I do not think that that is for me,” she replied steadily, then bent to kiss his cheek. “I believe you can return to your chambers now. Good night, Tyrion.”

Chapter Text

Jaime joined her for training in the morning. Not at first light, but well before midday. He could not train of course – he would struggle to lift a proper sword in his current state, she suspected – but he took a wooden training sword and made a few practice lunges before she took it from him and led him to a bench. She wouldn’t have him injuring himself again, she told him sternly, and he grinned at her and oh how she wished she could just kiss him and forget about everything that she – that they – still needed to resolve.

She trained with Podrick, who was good – very good, even, although he was no Jaime Lannister – and she saw Jaime trying to catch her eye. He wanted her to knight Pod then and there, she could tell, but she had a plan for that and she would wait.

She went to farewell Ser Jaime after training, then realised that perhaps there was a way to help him find a purpose and contribute to the rebuilding effort . “Will you assist us to inventory the armoury, Ser Jaime?” she asked formally. She was between him and the sun, and he had to hold a hand over his eyes to look up at her.

He stood, and bowed. “Lead on, Ser Brienne.”

His shock at the neglect of the space and of the weapons was palpable. She asked Podrick to round up some assistants, then turned to Jaime. “I had planned to clear this table in the centre and use it to sort the items, then replace them on the racks or store them for further work. Lord Gendry was arranging for some of the town’s craftsmen to meet us here at midday.” He nodded thoughtfully, eyeing the room. “We will need to sort the swords somehow.” Stepping outside the room again, he called to a passing servant. “Do you have empty tubs or barrels somewhere, perhaps in the kitchens?”

“Yes, my lord,” the young woman replied.

“Then kindly have them brought here, as many as you can.”

He returned to the room. “These weapons are blunt anyway. We can store them in barrels while we wait for them to be repaired. There is little need to worry about their edges or points now.”

She nodded. “I would never have thought of that. Thank you.”

He smiled back, then moved to sit on one of the benches. “What would you have me do here?”

She looked thoughtful. “I had not thought of the particulars. I saw you and thought you might be of assistance. And you have been – the idea to use the barrels will make this much easier.” She gestured around the yards, taking in the Keep itself. “You’re good at this. Perhaps I could pass this responsibility to you, with Lord Gendry’s and Podrick’s assistance? There are many other things that could require my attention.”

He went to brush it away, then stopped. “I lived here a long time,” he said, “and at the Rock before that. This was my life for many years.” He glanced down at himself. “Sadly, I’m old and injured, and will need to return to my chambers by mid-afternoon to rest. I believe, though, that I can arrange things. Will you dine with me tonight? I will try to frighten Tyrion away, but if I fail then we might have company.”

“I would enjoy that,” she replied gently. “With your brother’s company or without.”

---ooooo---

Gendry had done an excellent job recruiting not only the skilled craftspeople but their spouses and families as well. A large kettle of stew filled their bellies, and then the work began. The younger children were set to sorting the leather items – jerkins, empty scabbards and other objects – while the others filled the bins with daggers, short swords, bows, maces, and swords, matching them by size. Armour was laid out on the benches, helmets on one side of the room, pauldrons, gauntlets, chest pieces and other items on the others. A separate bench held semi-complete sets that clearly belonged together; they had yet to find even one complete suit. Other items were taken to Jaime, who sat at one end of the table supervising a group of older children who sorted them into tubs – one tub for clearly broken items, another for straps and yet another for unidentified items. As each tub of weapons was filled, it was taken to Gendry’s team of smiths who assessed the quality of each item, passing the few items that were still usable to Podrick, who returned them to the racks, and sorting the others according to whether they required sharpening or repair.

Jaime started to droop after a couple of hours. Brienne, who had come to see their progress, caught his eye and he grimaced, pushing to his feet.

“Thank you for today,” she said. “Would you like – do you need assistance returning to your chamber?”

“That would be welcome,” said Jaime. “Perhaps Podrick –”

Brienne rolled her eyes. “There is no need to disturb Pod. Come along, Jaime.” She led him back to his chambers, noting the slow pace he set and the slightly awkward way he carried his body. “Is there anything that you need?”

“To be honest,” he replied, “much as I would like to suggest otherwise, I don’t think that I am fit for anything except sleep right now. Would you have the servants ask Maester Tomwyn’s assistant to come to me in a couple of hours? And you will join me to dine this evening?”

She nodded. “I will ask the servants to call me when you are awake. And Jaime -” he looked directly at her – “Thank you for taking on the armoury.”

His smile was blinding.

Chapter Text

After Brienne had returned him to the Tower of the Hand, he’d barely made it into bed before sleep had claimed him. The servants brought him a bath not long before dusk, but he did not wish to linger. Rodri redressed his side, noting that the external wound was mostly healed although the muscles inside might take longer to knit. The Maester, he said, had suggested that Jaime might start to take a little more exercise and to stretch gently.

Clean and dressed, Jaime emerged to find Tyrion about to leave.

“The sleeper awakens!” he said. “While you have been lazing the day away, some of us have been busy working.”

Jaime grinned. “I spent much of the day sorting the mess that Cersei’s soldiers made of the armoury. It seems I still know a sword from a dagger. You are not the only Lannister to be lending a hand,” he said, “although at least you still have one to spare.” He gestured to the stump of his right hand with a rueful grin.

Tyrion smiled. “I had thought to leave you alone with your lady knight this evening,” he said, “but I can remain if you would prefer. Perhaps she would prefer more erudite company than your own.”

“I would not wish to banish you from your own quarters to wander the corridors like a displaced ghost,” Jaime said hesitantly, wondering whether this was in fact what he was requiring of his brother.

“Not that,” said Tyrion, “Tonight I dine with the North.”

“What, all of it?” Jaime quipped. “At once?”

“The Queen of the North,” Tyrion clarified. “As a representative for the rest of them. Perhaps Jon-Aegon and Lady Arya, if they wish.”

“The Siege of the North begins,” Jaime mused. “How is she, your lady?”

Tyrion glanced around the empty room. “Be quiet!” He snapped. “My feelings for Sansa have no place here. I am there as a friend, nothing more.” He smirked. “Besides, if you continue to annoy me, I won’t give you … this.”

He held something in his hand, in a small cloth bag. Jaime grabbed at it, but Tyrion ducked smartly out of the way. “Ask me nicely!” he said, moving quickly to the other side of the table.

“Please, o most beloved of my siblings –” Tyrion grimaced in mock horror, and Jaime quickly amended his request – “Best of my surviving siblings,” and there was a pang but not the searing grief that he would once have expected, “would the Lord Hand kindly share his tiny sack with his loving brother?”

With a glare, Tyrion handed Jaime the bag. Within it were contained five tiny silver pins. The largest, a starburst, was set with a sparkling pink sapphire; the smaller pieces, two moons and two further starbursts, were each set with tiny blue stones.

“They are not for you,” he said with a grin, “but for your giantess.”

“Not tonight, I think,” said Jaime, slipping the bag into his pocket. “But soon.”

Tyrion nodded. “Until later, then,” he said, slipping something small and green into his own pocket. He opened the door to leave just as Brienne approached, shiny-faced and with her hair still damp from her bath. She wore a simple blue tunic over loose cream-coloured trousers, with a sleeveless blue woollen vest criss-crossed and belted over the top. Jaime thought he had never seen her look so lovely, or so soft. He moved to take her in his arms, which she allowed for a moment before stepping – regretfully, he hoped – away from him.

“You look beautiful,” he said, reaching out to stroke a lock of hair gently back from her face.

“Jaime –” she said warningly. “We agreed that we wouldn’t –”

“I am confident that I would never have agreed to anything so foolish,” he told her, attempting to look innocent.

“Of course,” she said, “it must have been your evil t—” she stopped, clearly horrified.

Jaime laughed. “Speaking as someone who did, as it transpired, have an evil twin, I can say that my not touching you is precisely the sort of thing she would have desired. And given that we have agreed that she was evil and terrible, I think we must therefore also agree that not touching you is a terrible, evil idea.”

She sighed at this very Lannister logic, but let him embrace her once again. He breathed in the scent of clean Brienne, lightly stroking her back with his left hand as he held her close with his right arm. “There is so much yet for us to resolve,” she continued. “I don’t want to –”

“To what? To complicate things?” His breath tickled against her neck. “My very dear Ser Lady Brienne of Tarth, I believe that you and I might be the very definition of complicated.” He pulled back and grinned at her. “Fortunately, we are both excellent at resolving complicated situations.” He bowed deeply, and led her to the table.

They kept their conversation light as they ate. Jaime estimated that they had sorted around two thirds of the weapons in the armoury. The skilled craftspeople would return at noon of the following day. He noted that the remaining weapons might require more time to check, as they included a handful of older and less common types including pikes, halberds and flails, as well as jousting lances. Sorting the armour, too, was a slow task, as they tried to assemble the pieces into full suits of plate and chainmail, as well as thick leather garments. Once again, Brienne thanked Jaime for his assistance.

“I am enjoying the task,” he said, surprised to realise that it was the truth.

“It was more than that, though,” she said thoughtfully. “You are good at it. The coordination, the delegation. You kept people working, but made them feel valued. And you knew how to organise the activities.” She lent forward, looking him in the eyes. “Do not make light of this, Jaime.”

He paused, and thought about what she had said, taking a bite of a cheese pastry and chewing it carefully while he considered his answer, before swallowing it. “I suppose,” he said slowly, “that was what I was trained for. Not only to be a swordsman, but to command.”

“To lead,” she corrected gently, “I have seen commanders before. You do not merely tell people what to do; you show them the way. I have not always agreed with the ends that you have served, but now that we have achieved a lasting peace, you have the opportunity to lead in the way that will satisfy you.”

The meal finished, Jaime rose from his seat and extended his hand to her. Leading her to a chaise before the fire, he seated her before curling himself against her to rest his head upon her shoulder.

“She would have escaped, you know. Cersei, I mean. And then there would always have been danger. To you, as well as to others. I was the only one who could get close enough –” he stopped, and she pressed his hand.

“I know.”

They sat in silence for a time.

“Tyrion tells me that I’m to be a King,” he said, looking up at her.

She nodded slowly.

“How do you feel about that?”

“I think,” she said slowly, “that it will give you that opportunity to lead, and the chance to make wise decisions. Rebuilding – governing - will be good for you.”

“And what of you?” he asked, “What will you be rebuilding? Will you miss the thrill of the battle, Ser Brienne?” His voice was almost bitter, as it had been that first night in Winterfell, when she had accused him of letting his jealousy show. Jealousy, he realised, not envy. Even unspoken, they had recognised that they were connected, that they were meant. But this feeling that he experienced now was perhaps a form of envy. There would be no more thrilling battles for Ser Jaime Lannister, he knew – instead, he would be King Jaime of the Westerlands, First of his name, Rebuilder, Miner and Farmer.

She caught her breath. “That depends on many things,” she said, “but there are things that I do hope to rebuild, one day soon. And it was never battle that I sought, Jaime, but the chance to hone my skills, to become better.”

He kissed her then – how could he not – deeply and tenderly. It was long moments before she broke away to rest her forehead against his, breathing deeply.

“It will take time, Jaime,” she said, “before we can think of anything more. But – you did well today. I am proud of you.”

Kissing him once again, all too briefly, she slipped from the room, leaving Jaime – all too predictably – thinking of the more.

Chapter Text

He had sent her a note, earlier in the day. “Will you take a refugee this evening, Sansa? Ser Brienne is to dine with my brother and I would not be a third.” Her response had been a single word – Gladly.

She had wondered whether he might look at her differently after her revelations of the previous night, but she saw neither revulsion nor pity in him. He had arrived with a smile despite being obviously tired, even limping a little. She sat him in the chair by the fire and fetched him a plate of foods, with another for herself, then settled beside him on the footstool.

He asked about her day, and she sighed. Apart from the Maester’s visit to Jon, who remained sedated, it had been been filled mostly with list-making. She had lists of items that were required, and lists of items that might be required if she could find them, and lists of items that would be useful but were probably in short supply. A final, shorter list contained things that she wanted for herself while she was in the South – new silks for her embroidery, bound books to hold her diaries, inks and dyes and fabrics. Tomorrow she would go out to see what was available in the city.

“I could accompany you, if you wished,” Tyrion said. “I spent some time with the merchants today, and it is important for me to be seen in the city.” He reached into his pocket, removing a small bundle wrapped in palest green silk and tied with an emerald ribbon. “A small gift, to thank you for your company.”

Her face lit up with delight. “It must be years since anybody gave me a gift – and I think that then it was Lord Baelish, who only ever gave in the expectation of a return.” She unwrapped the silk, which was sufficiently long to make a scarf, to find a small glass dish speckled with green and a set of four silver hairpins, bedecked with winter roses. “Oh Tyrion,” she pressed his hand with her own. “They’re beautiful! I like them far too much – and I need not remind you, I know, that your company is reward enough.”

Tyrion smiled, retaining her hand in his own “They reminded me of you,” he said softly. “But I think we will not be seeking jewellery and decoration tomorrow?”

“Foodstuffs, primarily, and wine,” she said. “Chickens, if we can get some, although I am unsure how we might transport them to Winterfell. And we could use more goats for milking, and sheep for wool. Glass, to rebuild the glass gardens if we can – that will help us to have fresh fruits and herbs. And silver from our own mines, if I can find it – I would ask Gendry to make the North a crown, or to find me someone to do so if he cannot.”

“I will gladly accompany you to the merchants,” Tyrion said, “Or, if you prefer, I can have them call upon you here. I remember you were frightened in the streets, once.”

She squeezed his hand tightly. “How long ago that time seems,” she said. “You were not best pleased to be married to a child –”

“Nor you to a dwarf more than twice your age,” he replied.

She looked up at him. “I would not have been best pleased to be married to anyone, then. Even so, you were kind to me. You reminded me a little of my uncles.” He flinched a little at that. “You must know that I – I don’t think of your stature at all, now. I don’t think I even notice it, really. But then, I was afraid of everything.”

“And now, my lady?”

She laughed, rubbing her cheek against his hand. “And now, we are friends, I think.” He nodded thoughtfully. “Perhaps it was the war, perhaps your long absence, but you no longer seem so impossibly old.”

He chuckled. “but possibly still old, perhaps?”

“We are fellow survivors, now, and I am no longer frightened. When I see you, I see the man who fought beside me in the crypts at Winterfell. Not that I would not value your advice,” she hastened to add, sitting up straighter. “But I feel equipped now, to question it as I see fit.”

“And to make up your own mind, where once you sought the direction of others.” She nodded.

They sat in silence then, watching the fire together for a time.

“And what of your day, Tyrion? What has my brother’s Hand been about today?”

“I visited the merchants, as I told you,” he said, “and spent some time examining the Keep. I believe that more of it will be retained than we had thought, and will employ a team of builders to shore up walls and restore some of the rooms. I am working to set a priority for that work. It will be easier, when we no longer have so many guests that must be be accommodated.”

She nodded. “I saw your brother today,” she volunteered. “I thought to watch Brienne and Podrick train, and there he was. He looked to be in some pain, but he went with them to the armoury after.”

“It was a very near thing indeed,” he said quietly. “He will make a full recovery, or so Maester Tomwyn tells us, but he was close to death when they found him and closer still when they brought him to me. He has taken on the task of restoring the armoury; it is good to see him making himself useful. I believe that it will be good for him.”

A hand appeared between them, reaching for the flagon of wine, and they looked up to see Arya pouring it into a goblet.

“I’m thirsty!” she said, sipping at her drink.

“And I am tired,” said Tyrion, standing and bowing at first Sansa and then Arya. “I will come a little after midday,” he said, “should you wish to accompany me into the city itself.”

Sansa nodded, “And will you join us tomorrow evening?”

“Hmm, let me see,” he replied, “Watch my brother and his lady make sheep’s eyes at one another, or spend an evening in intelligent conversation with the most interesting woman in King’s Landing.” He grinned at her. “Expect me here, my lady.”

Tyrion raised her hand to his lips, so she bent and kissed his cheek again in farewell. Scarcely had the door closed when Arya turned to her, a mischievous look on her face.

“Tyrion Lannister!” she said with glee.

Sansa nodded. “He has been keeping me company in the evenings. I enjoy his conversation.”

“And his kisses!” Arya responded, to Sansa’s confusion.

“Only in farewell,” she said. “We are friends, nothing more.”

“Friends who spend long nights together holding hands by the fire!” her sister reiterated. “What happened to my sister who didn’t like to be touched by men?”

“Tyrion’s not – he’s not like other men.” She stopped before she could complete the sentence, rolling her eyes at her sister “It’s not like that, Arya. I feel safe with him, and I enjoy his company. I trust him.”

Arya looked at her thoughtfully. “I worry about you, O most interesting woman in King’s Landing. When I am gone, and Bran is in King’s Landing, and Jon in the frozen North. I know that you are prepared to be alone, but I worry that you will be lonely. Seven days is a short time to say your farewells.”

“I will not marry again,” said Sansa abruptly. “The thought of a man on my body, after Ramsay – I can not, will not do that.”

“And yet you willingly touch Tyrion, and even kiss him farewell. Perhaps you might reflect on that, dear sister. Winterfell can be cold, even with the promise of Spring, and the life of a Queen can be lonely indeed.”

Chapter Text

There were more people in the training yard that day. Nobody had officially taken charge of the training yet – Bran was yet to appoint a Lord Commander or Master of War, let alone to employ a Master of Arms – but Brienne and Podrick continued to train daily. Many had stopped to see the land’s first female knight training with her squire, but there were a few younger people who had found their own swords – or what passed for them. Jaime sat by the yard and watched them hit messily at one another for a time, before moving towards them.

“Drop your weapons,” he said sternly – and to Brienne’s delight and amazement, they did, literally. “Now take them and place them on the bench over there,” he added, waiting briefly until they returned.

“The first rule of sword fighting,” he explained, “is rhythm. You must find your pace and your pattern, or you will find yourself tripping on your sword and impaling yourself on your opponent’s.” In truth, one young man had very nearly done that very thing, and Brienne had wondered whether she should have a Maester in attendance at the training yard. She was surprised that Jaime had noticed as well; he must have been watching more closely than she had thought. He beckoned to a young girl, who had been watching from the side. “What is your name?”

“Becka, Your Honour,” she said quietly.

“Here in the training yard, I am just Ser Jaime,” he said, taking in all the young men as he spoke. “Becka, can you fetch two wooden training swords from the store over there?” The young girl hurried off, returning with a pair of swords. He took one from her, and bade the young men watch. “Hold up your sword, my lady.” Becka giggled, but raised the sword. “Now as I count, strike. One.” She lunged at him, waving her sword wildly. He tapped it away. “Two.” She tried again, and he knocked her sword aside gently. “Three.” She paused for a moment, before trying again, moving towards his right. He crossed her sword with his, blocking her attack. “Very well done. Swordplay is not just about strength, but about wits as well.” He paused to look at the seven boys who were clustered around. “Now fetch swords for yourselves.”

When they returned, he told them to divide into pairs. One boy stood sullenly beside two of his friends.

“You can train with Becka here,” he told the scowling young man.

“I’m not going to train with a girl,” he muttered sullenly. Podrick laid a hand on Brienne’s arm as she would have started forward.

Jaime froze. “Who am I?” he asked, in the voice that had commanded armies. The boy visibly quailed.

“You’re Ser Jaime Lannister,” he replied nervously. “The Kingslayer.”

“I am also the King of the Westerlands, and a former Commander of the King’s Guard. And did you see me moments ago, training with Becka?”

“Well yes, but –”

“But nothing,” Jaime ground out. “You are privileged to share this training yard with Ser Brienne of Tarth the finest Knight in all of the Seven Kingdoms. Who is to say that Becka will not surpass even her, in time? If you wish for me to train you –” where had that come from? – “then you will train with Becka.” He scanned the other young men, who were agog at this intercession. “And that goes for the rest of you as well.” He raised his voice a little. “For the next –” he paused briefly – “eight days, I will be here every morning at ten bells, and I will train anyone who wishes to be trained, for two hours at a stretch, as long as he or she works hard. And I shall make every effort to ensure that these sessions continue beyond those eight days.” The young man who had nearly tripped onto his friend’s sword moved over to stand beside Becka.

Brienne watched him closely as he called the beat for his students, starting them on the simplest of training exercises. He wandered between them, correcting a stance here, a hold there. “You realise that you will probably have to take over when he leaves for Casterly Rock,” she murmured to Podrick. “Perhaps you should go and assist Ser Jaime now.”

She settled herself on one of the benches that surrounded the training area, unsurprised when Jaime joined her a few minutes later. He sat down with a grunt and rubbed his side gingerly. “Are you alright?” she asked him quietly. He placed his hand beside hers on the bench, not quite touching, but close enough that she could feel the heat of him.

“I’ve overdone it a little, I think,” he said. “Not fighting the child, but trying to take on everything too quickly. Podrick will have to finish with the children today; I’ll be sore by tonight.” For once, there was no flirtation, no undertone in his words. “I can put in a couple of hours at the armoury, but no lifting I think.”

She nodded. “Lord Gendry and his team can help with that – actually, I wanted to speak to you about Lord Gendry.”

“Lord Baratheon has offered you something more than just his time? Strong, handsome young man, Lord Protector of the Stormlands …” he paused, waggling his eyebrows at her in mock jealousy, “TWO hands …”

She nudged him with her shoulder. “Stop it, Jaime. I want you to teach him –” she burst out laughing at the expression on his face. “I want you to help him. He is a good-hearted man, but he has a great deal to learn about being a Lord. Tarth is sworn to the Stormlands, but I think you have a great deal to offer him.”

Chapter Text

In the armoury that afternoon, Jaime set some of the newly-recruited craftspeople from the city to sorting the remaining pieces, while he and Gendry discussed how best to effect the repairs. Jaime had planned to use the Keep’s own forge, but Gendry pointed out that that would allow one or at most two smiths to work. If they were able to take the weapons to their own forges, they could all work together – and more efficiently, in the familiar environment. Jaime, however, was loath to arm a city so recently destroyed by the fighting of its rulers. Between them, they devised a system of chits that would allow each smith to take a small number of weapons at a time for repair, receiving payment for them immediately upon their return and inspection by him or Gendry. Gendry, meanwhile, would take charge of the Keep’s forge, making it available for others if they preferred to stay close, or if they had lost their own forge during the fighting. He wished to do some work of his own, he explained to Jaime, and this would keep him close to the armoury in case he was needed.

Unlike the smiths, the leather workers preferred to come to the Keep every day, perhaps because of the ready supply of food. They would use the large table in the armoury as their work space, with a hastily-cleared storeroom to hold their equipment. An industrious knife sharpener had brought his whetstone to the Keep, and took custody of a barrel of thin short swords before the Keep’s cook emerged with a series of knives and chopping blades for his urgent attention.

The craftspeople enjoyed the stew that they were fed before they started work – there were more today than there had been the previous day. With noon and evening meals supplied, they had agreed a fair daily payment for both their adult and child helpers. Going forward, the smiths would be paid for each weapon they repaired, with a lower price for those which could not be repaired and a higher rate for those which required more complex work. Jaime had thought to continue to pay them a daily rate, but Gendry pointed out that some would wish to take on other work as well, particularly as the city’s rebuilding efforts were redoubling every day. Indeed, Jaime heard one smith telling his wife that he would have his apprentices work in shifts to prolong the time that he could operate his forge. Coin could not buy loyalty, he mused, but honest pay for honest work would be a good start to build trust in the land’s strange new ruler.

After about an hour, Jaime winced, realising that he really had been working for too long. Excusing himself, he found Brienne standing nearby with a sheaf of notes and a scowl on her face.

“I thought that Lord Gendry and I had this under control,” he said, a little put out.

“I am not here to check on your progress,” she replied steadily. “King Bran has requested a list of all of the arms in the castle, not just those in the armoury. I’m trying to work out how many weapons we have, and what they are made of, to see how we can store them and to establish what else the Kingdom might need to complete its arsenal. But there are surprises everywhere. Earlier today, we found a Valyrian steel short sword tucked into a broadsword scabbard that had been strapped onto one of the suits of armour in the Hall. From the dust, I think it might have been there since Robert Baratheon’s time.”

Jaime nodded, as shocked as she at the state that the castle had been reduced to. “The armoury wasn’t ransacked; there is still an abundance of good weaponry here. It simply hasn’t been cared for, like much of the rest of the castle.” He staggered slightly, catching himself on a wall. “I had best take myself off now, however. Will I see you this evening?”

She looked closely at him, noting the tautness around his mouth. “Do you think that is wise, Jaime? Should you not rest?”

“I don’t give seven Hells whether it is wise or not,” he burst out heatedly. “I have spent the past two months or so missing you, as well as a great deal of the years before that, and I should very much prefer not to ever spend another evening without you. Or a night, for that matter, whatever that night may or may not entail, which would not be very much at the moment given my limitations. So don’t ask me what is wise or advisable. Ask yourself, rather, whether you wish to spend an evening with an old man who can no longer keep up with you.”

He turned and stalked away, only slumping when he was out of sight.

Chapter Text

After Arya’s comments of the previous night, Sansa was a little self-conscious when Tyrion appeared. She had tied the green ribbon in her hair, and blushed a little when she saw him notice it.

“I thought we could ride today,” he said as they strolled through the Keep towards the stables. “The streets are still a little rough, and I would feel more comfortable about your safety if we took some guards.”

She nodded. She wondered whether the limp she had noticed the previous evening was the aftereffects of too long a walk the city’s rough cobblestones.

“I would like to buy a couple of riding horses,” she said, “for when I must travel. I will not always wish to ride in a wheelhouse. My people must see me.”

He nodded. “You will need a saddle.”

She looked at him in surprise. “I have saddles in Winterfell.”

Lady Sansa had a saddle,” he said, “but Queen Sansa requires something more elaborate.”

She nodded in understanding. “Grand, but not too grand.”

“Exactly!” he said. “With a direwolf on every saddle cloth.”

She laughed. “That’s not much of a motto really: A direwolf on every saddle cloth. Although, Winter is Coming seems a little redundant now.”

“It won’t always,” he said, a little sadly.

He took her to the livestock market first. At his suggestion, they were only there to look today. “Perhaps I could charter a boat,” she said hesitantly, “to take the livestock north.”

“How many Halls are in the North?” Tyrion asked, “You could announce a market in Winterfell, say, in six weeks’ time. Make it part of the celebrations of your coronation, when you call your bannermen to swear their allegiance. The promise of customers should bring many merchants north – and then they will have to find a way to transport the animals themselves. Charge stallholders a small fee, and make sure that you spend that or more at each stall. You could repeat it every few months, or set up a permanent market day every third month, with visiting merchants welcome.”

“You’re good at this,” said Sansa admiringly.

“Some merchants you will have to invite directly, perhaps with the promise of an order,” he continued. “I doubt that a glazier or jeweller would travel all that way without expectations. But the prospect of further sales might tempt them to come sooner than they would otherwise.”

They stopped to look at horses. “Your Grace,” said Tyrion carefully, as the breeder neared them. “Remember that there will also be horses at the market in Winterfell.”

Sansa nodded. “And perhaps more suited to our Northern conditions. Although this mare is lovely.”

Tyrion turned to the trader. “Will you be at the Winterfell market in six weeks’ time, to celebrate Queen Sansa’s coronation?”

The man nodded. “I had not – that is,” he thought rapidly, “We had thought to leave in ten days, sir, after the King is crowned.”

“Excellent,” Tyrion responded. “You see, Your Grace? All the world will come to Winterfell. And perhaps this mare as well.”

She giggled quietly as they rode away. “That was wonderful! Now if only we can encourage the sellers of chickens and goats, as well. And wine, and oil.”

“Send your handmaidens and guards out on small errands over the next few days,” he suggested. “Let them spread the word for you.”

“I had best send word to Winterfell, also,” she said. “Our people will also have items to sell. We should give them time to prepare their goods to trade and barter. There are only six days until I must depart.”

They stopped to order wine and spices, as well as barrels of oil, for the kitchens at Winterfell. These goods were needed immediately and could not wait for the market, although Sansa hoped that they would follow. There were some goods, such as salted fish, that she would save to purchase in White Harbour, but she did order several sacks of salt.

As they rode on, she directed their party to a small stall that leaned against the side of a building. She dismounted, but told the guards and Tyrion to wait where they were. Tyrion could see her talking merrily with the stallholder, taking various pots and vials and smelling their contents, before she left with a large carefully-packed parcel bound in cloth, which she asked a guard to place in his saddle bags before carefully re-mounting her horse from one of the convenient mounting blocks that were scattered through the city.

Tyrion tried not to look too interested in her purchase, but she reached out one wrist merrily to him and invited him to smell it. The scent was her own, but with an undertone of roses. “Isn’t it lovely?” she asked. “The wine seller told me that that is the best place in King’s Landing to buy soaps and bathing oils and perfumes.” She smiled happily. “I fear that I have been greedy, but they were so lovely.”

They rode in silence for a while, until they reached a small shop with heavily barred windows. Tyrion swung his leg over his horse then dropped carefully to the ground, while a guard assisted Sansa to dismount.

“And here,” Tyrion said, “we have one of the secrets of King’s Landing. This is where the jewellers purchase their supplies.” He ushered her inside.

Some time later, they left. Tyrion was satisfied, Sansa a little horrified by the expense they had incurred. She had purchased silver, mined in the North, for a crown. Tyrion had two larger lumps of gold from Casterly Rock, as well as more Northern silver and a selection of gemstones: sapphires, emeralds, and rubies, as well as a trio of clear diamonds. She did not wish to pry, but supposed that these must be for his brother’s crown and – perhaps – for Bran’s as well.

A nearby block allowed them both to re-mount their horses, and they returned to the bustling Keep.

Dismounting, she turned to Tyrion. “Will you join me for tea?”

He shook his head. “I am promised to your brother, and we have a great deal of work to do.”

“Then I shall see you tonight,” she said, stooping again to kiss his cheek.

Chapter Text

Brienne hurried to Jaime’s rooms, dressed once again in the soft woollen vest that she had worn the previous evening. She had been concerned for him all afternoon, had even sought out Maester Tomwyn’s assistant, who she recognised as the young man who had brought her Jaime’s letter. Although he had reassured her that Jaime was well and merely required rest, she was earlier and more anxious tonight than she had been before.

The guards let herself in to his rooms quietly, and she was unsurprised to see that he was not in the main room. Knocking gently on the door that she presumed led to his bedchamber, she saw him lying asleep in the bed. He had partially kicked off the coverlet, so she could see that he wore his shirt still, together with a pair of loose cotton trousers, although his feet were quite bare. He had laughed at her thick woollen stockings in Winterfell, but had quickly learned that one or even two pairs were needed on the cold flagstones of the northern castle.

Pouring herself a cup of water, she sat in the low chair beside his bedside, watching him sleep. Tyrion looked in briefly, but she placed a finger to her lips to quiet him, and he did not question her presence. In the main room, she could hear the servants setting out food for their meal. He nodded to her and smiled, before leaving to change and then leave the rooms again.

As always, Jaime looked younger and more relaxed in his sleep, although he winced occasionally when he rolled to one side. She closed her own eyes, and rested her head on the back of the chair, thinking about how far they had come already and how far they had yet to go. In her own mind, she was certain that Jaime was the man she wanted – the man she loved. But was he as certain of her? He told her so, yet still she probed the ragged doubts in her mind. Cersei was dead, but did she still come between them? There was more there than she knew, but somehow she felt sure that the spectre of his twin had left them. He had even laughed about her the previous evening, showing none of the discomfort that had previously haunted any mention of her.

Which left Brienne. For all her life she had been told that she was ugly, graceless, awkward. But Jaime, who knew that she was ugly, believed her beautiful – he had wanted her in Winterfell, and he wanted her now, and for more than mere bedsport. Could she believe in this too, trust that it would not pass when he met someone more beautiful, more worthy of his golden adoration? In Winterfell, he had constantly touched her, stroked her, told her that he loved her. Whether they were fighting or making love, they were never awkward together; it was only when they allowed their doubts to surface that she became tongue-tied and Jaime surly. She could, she thought, even bear the mantle of formal dinners and Court visits with Jaime by her side. She would never be a wit, but her friends – friends she could laugh with, even drink with – had shown her that she would not always be found lacking due to her manners, her dress, or her height. But the crux of her questions remained: could she trust Jaime not to leave her again? Would he, someday, feel ashamed of his ugly warrior, longing for someone more beautiful and more elegant?

Jaime himself was, she thought, paralysed by his belief in own limitations. That was evident from his outburst that day in the armoury. He seemed at times to expect only the worst from himself, despite the respect that he had rightly earned from others. And, expecting the worst, he could live down to those expectations, never thinking to defend himself – only witness his embracing of the ugly title of Kingslayer. He judged his value solely by the measures that others had used to judge and to condemn him: golden lion, swordsman, Kingslayer, sisterfucker. Until he could see his own worth, she thought, he would struggle to believe in what others – what she – saw in him. But perhaps the other side of that coin was that if she could believe in him, could show him the Jaime that she saw, who was honourable and true, her Jaime, then she could help him to be that man.

 

She opened her eyes slowly to find him looking at her, a gentle smile on his face. “The Lady awakens,” he said. “And without even a kiss from her Knight.” He made to sit up, but she pushed him gently back. “You need to rest, Jaime.”

He settled back onto his pillows. “I wasn’t sure you would come.”

In the quiet of his chamber, there was no pretence in her. “I could not stay away,” she replied, looking him full in the face. “For all the days that you have missed me, Jaime, I have missed you. First, when you left me, and then again when you died. I think that I had just come to terms with it when I received your letter, but I still believed you dead. And then, to find that you were alive –” she hesitated – “and that we had been in the same building for four days without my knowing you were here … I may have overreacted a trifle.”

He laughed. “You burst in here like an avenging Goddess, Brienne, and if my heart was not already yours it would have become yours then. I have never seen such a beautiful –” he paused, then continued with a smirk “—or arousing sight as you, shouting at me, beating me back into a corner.”

She blushed, and he grinned, then looked horrified himself as his stomach rumbled loudly.

She held out a hand to prevent him from rising. “Let me build up your pillows here –” she bent to help him sit up, propped against the pillows, “– and I will fetch our meal.”

She hurried out to the dining table, assembling plates of fruit, cheese, meats, breads and pastries, taking them back into his room and resting them on his legs as well as on the table beside his bed. She fetched the water, topping up both of their cups, before returning with a plate of her own. Jaime patted the bed beside him. “I can hardly ravish you with my legs covered with plates,” he said with a smile, and she sat to remove her boots then crossed the room to sit beside him, sharing the pillows, not quite touching until he wrapped his arm about her and pulled her the last inch towards him.

He scratched his chin on her shoulder. “This is nice,” he said. “You and me, and a bed. I lied, you know.”

She stared at him, puzzled.

“I could absolutely ravish you with my legs covered in plates. I would, too, if I thought you would let me.”

“Oh, Jaime,” she sighed, eyes suddenly filled with tears. “I have missed you so very much.”

He kissed the top of her head gently. “And I have missed you. Unfortunately, despite my best intentions, I don’t think I’m quite up to showing you just how much I have missed you this evening … and loath as I am to let any such opportunity pass me by, right now these plates of food look almost as tempting as you do. Now feed me, wench. My hand is occupied.”

She giggled, feeding him a meat-filled pastry as he kept his arm around her shoulders. He used the stump of his right arm to try to swipe the crumbs from his beard, so she balanced a berry on top of it for him to eat next, and then another, which he fed to her, his eyes glittering at the sensation of her lips on the scarred tissue on his arm. He had to move his arm in order to hold drink, but they continued to lean together, joined from shoulder to hip.

When they had finished eating, he stacked the dishes on the chair beside the bed, wrapped his arms around her and whispered, “Will you stay?”

“I shouldn’t,” she said, and then, greedily, “I will. But not to –” His arms tightened around her. “No, Jaime,” she reiterated. “Not yet.”

He nuzzled her shoulder, holding her by her side.

“You have to let me go for a moment,” she protested. “I have … things … to do.”

“Things,” he rumbled against her shoulder.

“Yes. Things. Lady Things.”

“Not Knightly Things?”

She rolled her eyes. “Knights also need to piss. So yes, Knightly things.” He let go of her in mock horror, but also took his turn behind the screen (he called it “Kingly Things” of course) after she had relieved herself and rinsed her mouth with tooth powder.

She removed her belt and vest, trousers and tunic, folding each and placing it carefully on the back of the chair beside the bed, until she wore just her shift and small clothes, then settled into the bed beside where Jaime had slept. He returned, having discarded his shirt, placed a screen before the fire, and paused to look at her, a soft, happy smile on his face such as she had not seen since their days in Winterfell.

And it was then that she realised that her trust was not something that Jaime could earn. There were no promises he could make, no assurances that he could give her, that would quell her fears. Yet he had not betrayed her trust. Instead, he had saved her, armed her, knighted her, protected her, and loved her. And when he had left her, it had not been because of some weakness in her, but rather, because there was something that he had to do, that only he could do. And even if the manner of that leaving had been misguided (or, in fact, supremely stupid), it had been his error solely, not a response to any failing of hers. Now she saw that she was enough for him; more than enough, even. There were no promises, no certainties, but if she would not take this risk then the only certainty would be heartbreak.

Smiling, she opened her arms to him, and held him close as he fell asleep, head resting on her shoulder, listening to her heart beating.

Chapter Text

They did not sit beside the fire this evening. Instead, Sansa had set two seats opposite one another at the table. He wondered for a moment whether he had overstepped, then saw the sheaf of papers beside her plate and a third plate beside his.

“I have asked Jon to join us,” she explained in response to his questioning look. “There is to be a banquet in two days’ time, and the coronation three days after that. Jon must attend both – must be seen to be there. He cannot hide away forever.”

“It will not be easy for him,” Tyrion murmured, then remembered to whom he spoke. “You know better than most, dear Sansa, how easy it is to feel shame for another’s deeds.” She smiled sadly at him.

A door opened, and Jon emerged. Tyrion was a little shocked at the change in his appearance. He had lost weight, and his face was pale and drawn. Without the thick furs he needed in the North, he looked smaller and younger. Even his walk was uncertain, as though he expected to be turned back at any moment.

Tyrion smiled. “It is good to see you, Jon,” he said, gesturing to the seat beside him. Jon’s answering smile was brief and almost rhetorical, but he nodded and acknowledged his dining companions nevertheless.

They ate in silence at first, before Sansa gestured to the papers beside her. “I have been thinking about the Market,” she said to Tyrion, before briefly explaining the idea to Jon. “I should like to extend your suggestion that we repeat it every six months. Perhaps there could be a second market, south of Moat Caillin, two weeks after the one at Winterfell. That would attract people from the local towns and settlements and give the traders further reason to come North. And – as we discussed – I should be seen to visit many different locations in the North. I could travel south with the traders – or just after them – seeing my people along the way, and encouraging the sort of trade that has not been seen since before the war. There would be safety in numbers – both for me and for them – and afterwards, I could return to Winterfell more swiftly than I travelled.

Tyrion nodded. “By holding it near Moat Caillin, you will attract people from the other nearby kingdoms – perhaps even the Iron Islands.” The Moat Caillin market would provide the people of the region with much-needed coin, something that they would long be grateful for, that would allow them to rebuild.

“The Free Folk might have furs and other objects from the far North to trade sometimes, at Winterfell” Jon volunteered, showing interest in the conversation for the first time that evening.

“Then I shall send ravens to the lords of the North tomorrow,” said Sansa. “After Bran’s coronation, I shall sail to White Harbour and, from there, ride for Winterfell. All will be in readiness.”

Jon set down his ale and stood, bowing his head to his companions. “I should rest.”

Tyrion stretched a hand out towards him. “The last time we met –”

Jon interrupted him. “I don’t want to talk about it. I did what had to be done, but I don’t relish it, and I wish to forget. From now, I am just Jon Snow, a Northerner. I will live out my days with the free folk, beyond the wall.” He turned and left the room abruptly.

Sansa sighed. “He has taken this hard. We shall not see him this far South again.”

“Did I do wrong?” Tyrion asked her. “I used your name, you know. When I spoke to him, when I urged him to kill Daenerys, I told him to think of what she would do to you, to Arya. I told him that you would never bend the knee, and that she would burn you for it.”

She paused for a moment, then leaned forward, resting her hand upon his. “You were not wrong, Tyrion. None of us would have ever been safe from her. And if, perhaps, you used me to deflect his attention from his greater task …” she grinned, “you know that I would have done the same.”

He smiled at her, and they sat for a time, discussing what they had seen in King’s Landing that day. Although the markets and several shops were open, others were gone, entire districts razed by dragonfire. Tyrion hoped to take the opportunity to rebuild a better city, with more public open spaces and shared wells for the smallfolk. He proposed to commission statues, too, of kings and queens of legend, to remind the citizens of their shared past. Grinning a little, he told her of his plans to commission statues of all the kings and queens of the Seven Kingdoms – or, at least, of the five that were not to be crownlands protectorates. Although she grimaced, she agreed; the stories that would survive were the ones that were retold, and statues could give powerful inspiration.

Once again, she kissed his cheek when he left her rooms that night.

---ooooo---

Jaime’s door was ajar when he returned to their rooms. He pushed at it gently, thinking to have a quiet word with his brother. Instead, he saw his brother and his lady, holding one another in their sleep, resting peacefully together. He smiled to himself, and retreated to his own room, wondering whether he dared reach for such happiness himself.

Chapter Text

He woke, warm and cosy, in the bright light of the morning, with Brienne nestled in his arms, her long legs tangled with his. And oh, how he had missed this. Gently, daringly, he stroked her hair, hesitant to wake her, but knowing that she would wish to leave before she was seen.

She came awake quickly, as she always did, blue eyes alert and focused. “Jaime,” she breathed, and really, how could he not kiss her then, deeply and reverently.

“Brienne,” he rumbled, voice croaky still from sleep, gently stroking her cheek. “It’s after dawn. You should go.”

For a moment, her eyes clouded, as though he had once again said something cutting, calculated to hurt her, to obtain a reaction, before she recalled what he had been in King’s Landing before. “I shall go,” she said, quietly and clearly, “because I have commitments that I must meet. But I am not ashamed to be here with you, Jaime. I choose it.”

They had never said that before, had never discussed why they saved their affections for private moments. He had confessed to her in Winterfell that he had never slept a full night beside his sister; in that respect, at least, Brienne had been his first. He wanted to shout it from the rooftops, to announce it to the world: she had stayed. What was the use of being a King if he couldn’t issue a proclamation, to let all of Westeros know that the fairest and most honourable knight in all the Seven Kingdoms had chosen to be with him, Jaime Lannister, despite age, shame, and injury? Instead, he contented himself with drawing her close and kissing her once more, then letting her free to dress.

She kissed him again before she left, and he smoothed the crumpled collar of her tunic. “I’ll see you in the training yards, my wench,” he said in farewell.

---ooooo---

Four new children joined him and Podrick in the training yard this morning, a boy and three girls. Jaime recognised two of them as the daughters of one of the leatherworkers who had come to work in the armoury. He had had a servant bring a barrel to the yard and fetched an old, broken sword hilt from the armoury, which he used to beat out the rhythms for the children to follow: left foot, right foot, spin, hold. Brienne came by later in the morning, and it seemed natural for him to stand and kiss her cheek, before telling the children to put aside their swords so that he could demonstrate for them. He bowed, passing her a wooden sword. “If my lady will assist me”. He tucked another sword under his right arm, then held out his hand, palm down.

Looking for all the world as though they were leading the procession at a grand ball, she rested her hand upon his as they paraded onto the training ground, before they stopped and faced one another, dropping into their familiar stances. “Footwork, Ser Brienne,” he reminded her, “None of your tricks, now.”

She laughed, and their swords touched at the tip. She spun to attack him, and there it was – the dance they knew so well. More gently and more slowly than when they had fought – or trained – in earnest, she pirouetted around him, meeting his every thrust, playing with him for a time, until she pulled him in close and tapped him on the neck, and he froze because she was there, and so close – and then she turned and bowed to the applauding children, and he did the same, and she collected his wooden sword and laced her fingers through his and tugged him back to sit beside her on the bench while the children tried to copy their moves.

He had words of encouragement for each of the students as they left, complimenting their progress and correcting a stance here, or a grip there, and promising to see them again on the morrow. Briefly, he nuzzled his chin against Brienne’s shoulder, then stood. “I will see you at the armoury,” he said, “but first I have an errand. I will be there as soon as I can.”

---ooooo---

Arya Stark was a difficult woman to find when she wanted to hide, which was most of the time. He found her, eventually, outside her brother’s rooms, dressed in the dull clothes of a servant.

“Ser Jaime – Your Grace, I mean.” She grinned. “I feel that we have a few too many Kings and Queens in the Keep for my comfort. Fancy a little regicide? Perhaps you, Jon and I could team up and take care of a few. Proven Kingslayers, results guaranteed. Not Bran of course, you’ve already failed there …” her voice trailed off as she looked at him mischievously.

And there it was – the greatest stain on his honour, his deepest shame – and of late, it didn’t matter nearly as much as it had. Was this all it had taken? For others to know his reasons and accept them? To forgive him, so that he might – perhaps – forgive himself? How many years had he wasted, determined to live down to others’ preconceived ideas, when instead he could have been moving on. He shook his head slowly. “Actually, I was looking for something a little more mundane,” he responded. “I have begun to train some of the youngsters. We have been discussing footwork, and I hoped that you might come to show them your own fighting style.”

She stared at him in amazement. “The great Ser Jaime Lannister wants me, Arya Stark, to teach his students to fight? Are you sure you didn’t hit your head worse than you thought?”

He chuckled. “Tomorrow, ten bells. Try not to kill anyone before then, my lady.”

---ooooo---

Tyrion had sent his builders to the armoury today. The craftsmen had removed all of the remaining weapons and armour out of the room and it had been thoroughly cleaned and dusted. When Jaime arrived, they were testing the strength of the weapons racks by pulling themselves up to sit on them. When he queried this, they explained that while one blade is not excessively heavy, thirty blades – particularly those with scabbards – could start to strain. It was better, they suggested, to make the racks overly strong than to risk them collapsing and dropping the sharp weapons they bore, damaging either the weapons or the would-be wielder. Although one or two of the racks would need to be rebuilt or reanchored, the remainder held strong.

The room was to be freshly whitewashed and its door repainted a bold green. The table in the room’s centre was too large to remove – apparently it had been constructed inside the room – but a team of servants were scrubbing it, with beeswax ready to polish and seal both it and the benches that had been moved to the courtyard outside. In a corner, they would assemble smaller racks for individual suits of armour, and they had devised a series of open tubs to hold arrows and crossbow bolts. Others would hold soft chamois leather cloths, which the men could use to clean the weapons after use. A good Master-of-Arms would see that the armoury was kept in good repair from this point on.

Pleased with progress, Jaime crossed to the Keep’s forge, where Gendry was starting to build the hot fire that his work required. The leatherworkers and the knife man were set up outside today, and they talked a little as they worked at their task. He hoped that the young man would bring some of his confidence in dealing with weapons to protecting the Stormlands. Two smiths had already returned their first sets of swords, Gendry reported; he was satisfied with their work, although he had sent one sword back for further repair as it was a little loose at the hilt. He spoke, also, of his work as Lord Paramount of the Stormlands; he had begun, that morning, to meet with those Stormlanders who were gathered at the Keep. Wisely, Jaime felt, he had refrained from making any promises to them, choosing instead to simply meet with them as he learned how he might go on.

When Gendry returned to his forge, Jaime sat on one of the training benches for a quiet moment amidst the bustle of the weaponsyard. This was, he thought, the first day that he had felt himself since his injury some seven weeks before. He stretched experimentally, felt the tug of his new scars – but it was a tug and then the dull ache of under-used muscles rather than pain. Evidently, he mused, a night’s rest with his lady had been just what he required.

When he returned to his room, there was a note from Rodri, asking him to send one of the servants when his bandages needed changing. Jaime stared at it for a while, then sent a servant instead to find the Maester.

Maester Tomwyn came quickly, worried that something was wrong. Despite Jaime’s assurances, he insisted on checking his wound carefully, getting him to stretch and twist and bend as he poked and prodded him, before he confirmed Jaime’s own assessment of his progress. Rodri was acting as his assistant, he explained, but was not formally an apprentice; the boy’s father had been a friend, so he had taken him on as a favour although the young man had no patience for the potions and medical studies that were required of a Maester.

Jaime called for the young man then, reassuring him that he had done nothing wrong. Rather, he explained, he had been impressed by Rodri’s eagerness, and by the clarity and neatness of his script. He gestured at his stump. “I am in need of an assistant – a clerk. They would need to accompany me to the Westerlands and on my travels. I would require loyalty and absolute confidentiality.”

Rodri nodded. “I can ask around the city, my lo—Your Grace.”

Jaime sighed. Was he forever to be surrounded by people who failed to recognise their own worth? “I would like to offer the post to you, Rodri,” he said patiently. “I will be staying in King’s Landing for another seven days or so. Perhaps, if Maester Tomwyn would not object, we could trial our arrangement, to see whether we shall suit.”

Maester Tomwyn, having been privy to this plan, had no objections. “Until the morning, then,” said Jaime. “Do you have rooms here? Can you retain them?” He looked around Tyrion’s apartments. “We are not blessed with an abundance of space.” Assured that Rodri could stay in his present rooms, Jaime instructed him to meet him the following morning, before Jaime was due at the training grounds.

“Thank you, Your Grace,” the young man said with what was almost a creditable bow. Jaime wanted to tell him that Ser Jaime would do, but he knew that he would have to accustom himself to the Your Graces that his new rank required. His confidential clerk would be a start.

Chapter Text

She had spent the day doing Queenly things; the things that she had expected, as a child, that a queen would do. There had been meetings with seamstresses, visits from fabric merchants, and a chance to work on her embroidery. Her gift to Bran for his coronation would be a pale grey silken blanket to cover his legs, embroidered with direwolves and a crown. She had planned a similar pattern for her new saddle blanket, but her direwolves would themselves be crowned, interspersed with the rich red leaves of the Heart Tree.

She lunched with Gendry Baratheon. Together, they had sketched the direwolf crown that he would make from the lump of raw silver she had bought the previous day. He had promised to have it ready before she left for the North. Arya had told her of their encounter before the battle, which she had described as “pleasant enough”, and Sansa knew that he had cherished dreams which her sister would not – perhaps would never – fulfil. He seemed more overwhelmed by his new responsibilities than heartbroken over her sister, but he was willing to seek and take advice, which boded well for the Stormlands, which he was to hold and oversee as Lord Paramount, on behalf of the King. He would make a good ruler in time, just and fair, yet capable of making difficult decisions when called upon to do so.

“Tarth belongs to the Stormlands, does it not?” she asked him idly, towards the end of the meal.

He nodded. “Like the rest of the Stormlands, it will be held as part of the Crown’s territories, at least for now,” he said. “It’s a long way from the Westerlands, so I think we might look to make it formally part of the Crownlands rather than part of the Stormlands, if Lord Selwyn consents.” He grinned at her evident surprise. “I’ve been working in the armoury with King Jaime. It doesn’t take much to see what’s up there. And it would be odd to have the King of the Westerlands take the Lord of Storm’s End as his liege lord, even if it was just a formality.” She nodded her agreement, impressed by his insight. Of course, nothing had yet been settled between the knight and Ser – King – Jaime, but this would certainly simplify matters.

Afterwards, she had taken tea with Queen Yara Greyjoy, the new ruler of the Iron Islands. They spoke of her brother Theon, who had been a liege man to each of them. Sansa spoke of her memories of Theon as a young man, in times before the wars.

“I have few memories of him as a boy,” said Yara, “but I recall him always demanding something new – a toy, a fruit. As a babe, he would cry and cry until I walked to his crib to look at him, but then he would smile and coo.” She shrugged. “He was always a whore for attention.”

Sansa nodded. “When he first came to Winterfell, my brothers thought him a terrible show-off. He seemed to want praise for everything he did. I have wondered whether that was why he did the things he did.”

Yara huffed. “Our father was done with him when Ramsay Bolton cut off his cock and sent it to us on Pyke.” She sipped at her tea and looked curiously at Sansa over the top of her cup. “You had more reason than not to hate my brother. He betrayed your brother, seized your home and killed your people. He gave Winterfell to Bolton’s men and became his servant. He told me a little of your time there, also. Bolton treated you little better than he did my brother, but Theon was complicit in that. Yet here you sit, telling affectionate stories when by rights you should have hated him.”

Sansa Stark had watched her father executed, had survived King’s Landing under Joffrey’s rule. She had lived alongside Petyr Baelish, had been forcibly taken by Ramsay Bolton more times than she could count. Yara Greyjoy could not disturb her, particularly when she was so obviously trying to discommode her. Calmly, she set down her cup and smiled. “Your brother assisted me to escape Ramsay at Winterfell, then later returned to face the Night King. In the end, when it truly mattered, Theon fought beside us. I shall remember him kindly for that.” Yara looked away, a little ashamed of her attempts to needle the other woman.

Sansa leaned forward. “Theon fought bravely until the end. The King – my brother – told me this. We burned his body, as we did all the corpses after the battle, but I lit his pyre myself. The North will remember him kindly.”

Yara looked at her appraisingly. “You are tougher than you appear, Your Grace.”

Sansa raised her cup. “Your Grace, I do not believe that I am alone in that.”

---ooooo---

It was just she and Tyrion again that evening. Jon had promised to attend the banquet on the following night but was spending the night resting in his room. She had placed her embroidery in a basket beside the footstool that sat beside his chair, a flagon of wine and a pair of goblets on the small table beside it. It looked comfortable and home-like, and she realised with a pang that she would miss Tyrion terribly when she returned to Winterfell after Bran’s coronation.

They dined before the fire, then Sansa washed and dried her hands carefully before taking up her embroidery. Tyrion watched her with a smile.

“You are an easy habit to form, Tyrion Lannister,” she said. “I shall miss you when I return to the North.” Wordlessly, he toasted her, sipping from his goblet.

“I thought that being a queen would always be like this, you know,” she added, with a rueful smile. “When I was a child. Selecting fabrics and gowns, and working on embroidery, and supervising my handmaidens. Not chickens and goats and saddle blankets and spices. And certainly not convincing market traders to bring their goods to me, or rebuilding castles, or managing supplies.”

Tyrion chuckled. “And yet, here you are, doing all of those things.”

“That and more,” she said. “I took tea and wordplay with Queen Yara, after we returned from our visit to the city. It has been a strange day,” she said, feeling almost wistful. “Not unpleasant, but I know that tomorrow I must once again think trade arrangements and supply lines. I wish sometimes that I had been more like Arya – more interested in the things that my father did, rather than the things that my Septa taught me. I might have been better prepared for this.”

He rested one hand gently on her shoulder, so that she looked up at him and smiled. “I do not think that any Septa could have prepared us for what we have lived through,” he said quietly. “But you will create your own path.” She reached her hand up to touch his.

“We shall have peace now,” she said confidently.

“I believe we shall,” he responded.

When Tyrion went to leave that night, she bent as usual to kiss his cheek. He turned his head towards her, and for a few moments their lips clung together. His were surprisingly soft, his beard gentle and a little ticklish against her skin. After a time, she pulled away in surprise.

“I’m sorry,” she stammered, blushing. “That was – I did not –”

He cut her off. “That, Sansa, was something that I would very much like to explore further,” he said softly, looking up at her face. “But only if you wish it also. I am more than content to be your friend, but I would not pass up the chance to be something more.”

She looked at him, eyes wide. He bowed, and raised her hand to his lips, as he had in the crypt in Winterfell. “If you wish, we can discuss this two nights hence, as I believe we shall be otherwise occupied tomorrow. Or if you prefer, we can never speak of it again. It is your choice to make.” Her hand tightened briefly in his.

“Goodnight, Sansa,” he said as he walked to the door.

She found her voice just in time. “Goodnight, Tyrion,” she said, raising her fingers to her lips in wonder. “Goodnight,” she whispered softly as the door closed behind him, “my dear.”

Chapter Text

It was easier this evening. There was a calmness, a security in the way she came to him confidently, kissing him gently and then perhaps not quite so gently, and in the way they sat at the table together, filling one another’s plates and talking about their day. Their hands touched frequently. It was comfortable, homely and familiar – not grand and formal, as mealtimes in King’s Landing had been for him in the past.

“I’ve asked Arya Stark to come to the training grounds in the morning,” he said. “I thought we could give them some different styles of training. Focus on their footwork again, as we did today, before we start the usual exercises.” Brienne nodded her approval. “I never thought I would have to ask Lady Arya for a favour, though. She terrifies me, I think,” he added with a laugh, before regaling her with Arya’s tongue-in-cheek plans to cull the number of Kings and Queens in King’s Landing.

He told her, too, of the expansion of his household, and his employment of Rodri, whom she had found to be a very diligent young man. She knew that he had found writing slow with his left hand, and agreed that it would be advisable to have a clerk with a clear and legible script. Both felt it was wise to employ someone from outside Casterly Rock to handle matters that must be confidential, although Jaime hoped to find reliable people within the Rock to fill the other roles that he would require. And if he was sounding her out about her needs and the people she would like to surround herself with, for once he was subtle enough not to provoke her.

In return, Brienne spoke to him of the tasks that she had taken on to assist the King. She had been tasked with developing an understanding not only of the weaponry that remained in the Keep but also of the people who remained to use them. There was no sign of what remained of Cersei’s Kingsguard – perhaps only Gregor Clegane had remained of that once-auspicious group at the end – and no sign, either, of the Gold Cloaks who guarded the city of King’s Landing. Whether they had remained loyal to Cersei until the end, or whether they had run, was unclear; the effect was, however, the same. With so many noble families decimated by the wars, Tyrion and the Council were attempting to recruit some of the honest citizens of King’s Landing to take on the role of enforcing the King’s laws. As well as reducing crime in the city, the men would also be charged with an oversight role, identifying such buildings as were still at risk of collapse, providing assistance to those who had lost their homes and families, and even proposing opportunities to accelerate the rebuilding process through targeting particular areas. It was this last, they hoped, that would attract people with a genuine desire to rebuild the city rather than to bully its people, as had so often been the case before.

At Tyrion’s suggestion, she had requested Lord Bronn’s assistance, she said with a grimace, in finding men who might, at least for a time, take on that role. Apparently there were several who had worked as peace-keepers in brothels who were now in need of work; it was better, they agreed, to employ them than to leave them hungry and aimless. Those gathered at the Keep – those who had fought, and those who had come later to see the new King – would also be approached – younger sons of noble families had long been fertile ground for the Kingsguard, and the Gold Cloaks’ ranks might be swelled, they hoped, with excess men at arms. Finding a new Master of Arms and Commander of the City Watch would be more challenging tasks, particularly as they were becoming pressing. Jaime and Gendry’s work to rebuild the armoury was nearly finished, but who would take responsibility for it when they were done? A few people had begun to express interest in the roles; two had left as soon as they were told that the King himself would meet with them. Uncanny as Brienne found his strange abilities, they appeared to be helpful in gauging the intentions of these applicants. King Brandon had sent one applicant away almost immediately, but the four who remained – two younger sons of local halls and two strong men from King’s Landing itself – seemed likely candidates.

Later, curled together and sipping warmed spiced wine before the fire, they spoke of other things as well, of their lives before their meeting. Brienne told Jaime of Tarth, and of Evenfall Hall, high on the clifftops that overlooked the Straits of Tarth.

“Is it as beautiful there as they say?” Jaime asked. “I passed by once, when I sailed to Dorne. They call it the Sapphire Isle, but to me it seemed green and verdant.”

“I have not been to Tarth since I was sixteen,” said Brienne, “for that is when my father sent me to Storm’s End.” She sighed. “Perhaps I shall visit him again; we are not far from Tarth, here.” She told him of Galladon, her brother, who had drowned while attempting to swim at a rocky beach. She spoke of him pretending to be a bear so that she could beat him back from his attack on their shared nursery – and then she recalled his absence, the gaping spot where he once had been. Of her mother and her two sisters, she had no memory at all; for most of her life, there had been only she and her father. Her Septa had been frustrated by Brienne’s lack of interest in what she termed the ‘womanly arts’, and had become harsh as Brienne grew older and more plain. Nevertheless, she had tried to shield her from the truth of the constant stream of new ‘companions’ that her father kept.

“During my childhood, they were singers,” she told Jaime, “a new one every year. I would sneak out of my chambers to listen to them sing. It seemed that whenever I had memorised all of their songs, they would leave.” She smiled ruefully. “Until I was twelve, I thought that he brought them to Tarth for my sake.”

She told him, too, of Ser Goodwin, the kindly Master-at-Arms who had trained her to fight after she had begged him every day for the year following her fifth birthday, and of the confusion that this had brought her father as well as her Septa.

In turn, Jaime spoke of his childhood at Casterly Rock – of his joy at the arrival of his younger brother, and confusion as to the sudden absence of his gentle mother. He stumbled when he mentioned his sister, but Brienne knew that she could not be expunged completely from his life. He spoke of happy days spear fishing and diving from the cliffs, and of his pride and delight at being invited to join the Kingsguard aged just fifteen years, even though it had meant giving up his claim to Casterly Rock. He confessed, when pressed, that he was delighted at the prospect of a return.

“I think that you would like it there,” he said to her gently, and there was a world of meaning in his gaze.

He told her of his favourite cove, where the sand was as white as her pale skin. The land around the cove protected it from fierce winds, calming the waters and making an ideal space for young boys to learn to row and to enact fierce battles in landscapes formed from the sand. In turn, Brienne told him of Lake House, her father’s hunting lodge on the banks of Tarth’s Starlight Lake. With woods populated by rabbits and deer, it had been a favourite retreat of hers in the years before she left Tarth. She had spent hours hiding from her Septa on a ledge behind a waterfall which fed a small river whose water was clear enough to drink.

And when Jaime yawned, Brienne took his hand, leading him to his bed. She helped him to remove his boots and untie his shirt, before shedding her own outer garments and taking her turn behind the privacy screen. He stared at her in wonder when she emerged, clad in her shift and her smile, “I am hers and she is mine” ringing in his mind. And tonight it was he who held her as they chastely fell asleep together.

Chapter Text

Brienne dressed quickly in the cool light of the morning. They had woken this morning tangled together once more, and their sleepy morning kisses had progressed further than either of them had intended. It was Jaime who had brought matters to a halt, his hand circling her breast, looking down towards his tented sleeping trousers with an apologetic smile. “No time for that now!” he had murmured, “and besides, this fair knight is not ready for us yet.”

“Are you having a conversation with your cock?” she asked, frowning at him and attempting to look serious.

“Mmmm,” he laughed, pushing against her gently. “My sword is yours, my lady.”

For a moment, she considered taking a day for herself – for them, she acknowledged. But sleeping together was one thing; sleeping together quite another. And so, she rolled her eyes instead of her hips, kissed him quickly and patted his chest just one more time, then stood and dressed.

“I should like to be your escort for the banquet tonight,” said Jaime, and she understood the import of what he was saying. Not fully a commitment, it was at the least an announcement of interest, made public amongst the Kings and Queens of the land, as well as the many lesser nobles who were congregating in King’s Landing, eager to curry favour with the new King. She drew a deep breath, allowed the feelings of anxiety and anticipation to wash over her and settle, then smiled.

“You will find me in Lady Sansa’s apartments,” she responded, and took herself back to her chamber, leaving a warm and sleepy Jaime behind her.

---ooooo---

She saw him at training, of course. She had stopped by to watch Lady Arya demonstrate her swordfighting technique for the children. Armed with her sword Needle, Arya had beaten Jaime and his wooden training sword handily – handily, as Arya pointed out to the children until they understood her pun and Jaime chuckled. When Brienne arrived, the children were attempting to mimic her light, dance-like steps.

He smiled when he saw her, so she summoned her courage and crossed the training yard to drop a quick kiss upon his lips. If she was to do this – if she was to fight for what they were and what they could be – then there was no place for her to be fearful. He held her hand then, taking her around to introduce her to his charges. He had a comment for each – words of encouragement, tempered with advice for improvement. She squeezed his hand, told the children that Ser Jaime had told her a great deal about them, then hurried away, with a smile and a nod of acknowledgement for the young clerk who now accompanied him.

Sansa had insisted that she clear her schedule for the afternoon; had spent the previous day, in part, closeted with seamstresses. They were each to have gowns for the banquet and the coronation – and this was something else that was new to her. If she was to commit to Jaime – to be with Jaime – then she would need to embrace the long-neglected part of her that was Lady Brienne, as well as the stolid knight. He would be happy to see her whatever she wore, but she knew that such a formal event required her to be formal too, not merely for him but as a sign of respect for the King, the other guests, and the traditions that the event upheld – in this instance, for the crown itself and the links that bound the Seven Kingdoms. A part of her looked forward to the feel of fine cloth across her body, even as she dreaded looking a fool to others.

“You must have a fitting,” said Sansa, and she saw a seamstress uncover a swathe of deep blue silk before Sansa laughed merrily. “But you must not see!” Fetching a light scarf, she tied it across Brienne’s eyes. “You must strip to your small clothes for this gown,” Sansa instructed, “no shift,” and she had no time to feel embarrassed in front of the women who threw her new gown over her head. She felt the tug and drape of the fabric across her body as the seamstress pulled it into place. “A little tighter here,” said Sansa, “and a hem here, I think … Perfect. Will you look now, Ser Brienne?”

Brienne’s courage had never failed her before, but it did now. She would rather wait, she felt, than have to spend the rest of the day considering the gown and wishing that she were somehow more. She wriggled a little to help the seamstresses remove the gown, then removed the blindfold and retrieved her shift and clothing from the floor. Sansa passed her a soft blue housecoat – “you can wear this over your shift, if you wish. It will save time later.” She wore a similar wrap over her own shift.

There were new shoes, as well – slippers of the softest leather, dyed deep blue to match her gown. Sansa’s shoes were more ornate, with jewelled clips and ribbons, but Brienne was happy with her simple slippers. And there were new clothes as well for Jon and even for Podrick – Sansa had insisted that he was still a part of her household until she left, and that it was her responsibility to ensure that he was well dressed.

The Keep’s servants brought steaming water for baths, and scented soaps and oils, and Sansa sent her handmaidens to style Brienne’s hair, encouraging the gentle curl at its very ends. They rubbed cream into her skin, and scraped away the hairs beneath her arms and the dry skin on her feet, although with a blush she prevented them from lending their attentions to other, more intimate places. They could do nothing, of course, for the toughened skin on her hands and the scars at her neck.

Shortly before dusk, they brought her gown to her, and she closed her eyes as they threw it over her head and adjusted it. Another handmaiden brought her shoes to her, then “You may look now, my lady” – and she gasped. The gown was not cut to any fashion she knew, being long and straight, lightly flared from the knee down to allow her to move freely. It nipped in a little at her waist, with a draped neckline that moved as she did. It had no sleeves, but a floor-length cape fell from the shoulders. For warmth, they draped a matching, lightly padded stole across her elbows, with darker blue fringing at each end. She was no beauty, but in this gown she could almost pretend for the night; she knew that she had never looked so well.

Drawing a deep breath, she left her room to find Arya also waiting. Her charcoal grey gown was wrapped tightly across the bodice and shoulders, with a full, ruffled skirt scattered with tiny gems that shimmered as she moved. Arya’s shoes were similar to her own, allowing for easy movement.

Arya grinned. “For the two least likely women in Westeros to be wearing formal gowns,” she said, “we seem to have had very good choices made for us.” Brienne laughingly agreed.

Sansa’s own gown was a marvel, from the tight blue-silver bodice embroidered with tiny blue roses, to the cascading ruffles of palest green silk that perfectly matched the roses’ leaves. She wore her hair loose but for four silver hairpins, which she wore low on her head, and a pale green silk scarf was draped loosely over her arms. She smiled in pride at the sight of Arya and Brienne.

“The North will make a fine showing this evening,” she said grandly, before winking at them. “I can’t wait to see their faces.”

Chapter Text

He was going to be late.

Tyrion had spent much of the day with the kitchen staff, ensuring that all was prepared for the banquet tonight, which he viewed as a trial of the festivities to celebrate Bran’s coronation. A hurried conversation with Gendry, which had led to an introduction and five commissions, a brief view of Jaime in the training yard, consultations with the builders who were repairing the Keep and with those who were assessing the buildings in King’s Landing. An emergency in the kitchens. Countless calculations of too-high costs and too-low revenues. He hurried through the Keep, quickly taking stock of what was left for him to do.

Jaime was waiting when he arrived at the Tower of the Hand, wearing the new jacket that Tyrion had commissioned for him, all crimson and gold, with a creamy linen shirt beneath. His beard had been trimmed, but Tyrion noted that he had chosen to not shave it off and had kept his hair longer than he had been used to do. This would be his first formal appearance as the incumbent King of the Westerlands.

Jaime splashed some water into a cup and sat down at the table. “You have ten minutes,” he said sternly. “Your bath is waiting, there are servants to help you with whatever you need, but you are to be back here in ten minutes, dressed and ready to depart. I have an appointment with my lady and I will not be late.”

Tyrion hurried to his chamber, unfastening and shedding his clothes as he went. Usually shy due to his stature, this evening he had no patience for modesty, washing himself quickly but thoroughly as a servant trimmed his beard and hair. Hurriedly, he dried himself and dressed in the new dark grey trousers, padded jacket and leather boots that he had commissioned. As he left his chamber, he pinned the Hand brooch to the right side of his chest.

“Eight,” said Jaime. “Eight minutes. That must be a new personal record for you. Was the bath not to your liking?”

“As I recall,” replied Tyrion, “you were the part-lion, part-fish amongst us.”

Jaime grinned as they walked to the door. “Do you recall the man-maid?” Tyrion chuckled at the memory of the large fish with the long, gleaming tail, covered in colourful iridescent scales. They had seen it playing one day, out beyond the cove. With it as inspiration, Jaime had invented countless tales of the man-maids who dwelled beneath the sea to entertain his young brother.

They were still laughing when they reached Sansa’s apartments. Podrick was waiting nervously outside, dressed in a new brown velvet jacket and tan breeches, his hair slicked to one side. One of Sansa’s guards knocked on the door and then announced them.

He saw Brienne first – felt Jaime’s reaction beside him, before he rushed over to his lady, raising his hand to cup her cheek and simply looking at her, as though there were nobody else in the world. The lady knight of Tarth had never looked more lovely. When she smiled, an intimate smile just for Jaime that lit her whole face, she took his breath away. It felt almost too personal a moment to watch, but like the others in the room, Tyrion was transfixed. Jaime fumbled in his pocket for the little bag Tyrion had given him, passing her the set of brooches. He whispered something to her, resting his forehead against her own, and she blushed deeply. Tyrion turned his eyes to the rest of the room.

Lady Arya, petite and tiny, wore something dark that sparkled as it moved, but it was Sansa who drew his eye, in a gown that married the tight, restrictive Northern fashions with the looser, lighter patterns worn in the South. A familiar soft green silk scarf draped across her arms and she wore four distinctive pins low in her hair, in the sort of place that even a very small man might still see. He bowed low to both women, something that Jaime had forgotten in his haste, then crossed to her. Arya said something and he responded, although he wasn’t quite sure what either of them had said, and then he reached Sansa’s side. With a start, he realised that her bodice was embroidered with tiny winter roses that matched the pins in her hair.

She bent to kiss his cheek in welcome, as she had done many times since their reunion several days before, and he told himself helplessly that this meant nothing, was but a symbol of the closeness between the North and the Crown. And it was not when her lips brushed not merely his cheek but a corner of his mouth as well, and not when he tried not to look at the gentle swell of skin revealed by the low V at the neck of her gown, not when he breathed the scent of her perfume, but when her eyes met his and she did not look away, that he felt the nervous tension in his chest begin to unwind a little.

Brienne’s laughter interrupted their moment – was it a moment? He thought it was, or at least it might have been. Jaime had pinned the sparkling brooches to her gown (Tyrion did not wish to consider what else he may or may not have done) and she was glowing as they whispered together. She turned to Podrick, who did not seem to have noticed the difference in his knight’s appearance, and gestured to the door of her chamber. “I realise that this is unusual, at a banquet,” she said, “but His Grace has given me permission to carry my sword this eve. She looked down at her skirts, which did not seem suited for a belt and scabbard. “Pod, would you carry Oathkeeper to the banquet for me, and place it beside my seat?” The young squire hurried to do her bidding.

Sansa took a deep breath and smoothed her skirts. “Arya, would you fetch Jon please? We should go.”

Jaime wrapped Brienne’s hand around his arm and they moved towards the door as Podrick followed. And Tyrion took the hand that Sansa reached out to him, and walked by her side to the new King’s banquet.

Chapter Text

Left to his own devices, Jaime would have had Brienne in his chambers and naked in less time than it would have taken to enumerate the many things he planned to do with her once he had removed that gown.

Left to his own devices, he would never let her remove tht gown.

Left to his own devices, he would kidnap the seamstresses who had made it and keep them busy making gowns for his queen.

His Queen.

Instead, he stroked her cheek and murmured softly to her as she pinned the brooches to her gown, trying not to think about how near they lay upon her breast. And when it was time to leave, he wrapped her arm around his right arm and held her hand in place with his own, unwilling to lose contact with her body.

Arya kept the conversation light as they walked to the banqueting hall, meeting Yara Greyjoy and her companion (lover? Captain? Steward? Jaime wasn’t quite certain) as they entered.

“Your Grace,” Jaime bowed.

“Your Grace,” Yara replied, “Your Grace,” as she acknowledged Sansa also. “My Lord Hand.”

Jaime could almost find it within himself to feel sorry for Tyrion, forced to partner the woman he had acknowledged his unrequited feelings for during their confinement after spending the last two nights at her side. The seating plan had Tyrion in the Hand’s place to Bran’s right followed by Sansa, and Yara to the King’s left, followed by her lover, the new King of Dorne and his partner (lover? Captain? Steward?), Gendry Baratheon and Bronn, Lords of Storm’s End and Highgarden, and Jon, now officially once again the bastard brother of the High King. Beyond Sansa sat Jaime, then Brienne, Robin Arryn and Lord Royce of The Vale, with Arya beyond them. Various courtiers and minor lords and functionaries, as well as the parties that had accompanied the various kings and queens, filled the room, finding seats at the many tables that filled the room.

Tyrion stood, crossing to the front of the long high table.

“In the name of the High King of the Seven Kingdoms, King Brandon the Raven, First of His Name, I welcome you to this feast to celebrate our new and lasting peace, and invite you to join us once again in three days’ time to celebrate his coronation. Your Graces, My Lords and Ladies, I give you King Bran!”

The assembled company surged to their feet, cheering and raising their goblets to toast their strange new king. As the noise fell away and they sat once more, the King raised his hand.

“I have some tasks this evening, before the feasting may begin. First,” he said, without smiling, “I call before me Ser Jaime Lannister, King of the Westerlands.”

Unsure of what was to come, Jaime rose and moved warily towards the King, who looked steadily at him. “Ser Jaime has not always been a friend to me, but I trust the loyalty which he demonstrated when he came alone to Winterfell to fight the Army of the Dead. Ser Jaime, I have something of which you will shortly have need.” Reaching beside his wheeled chair, Bran raised a worn leather belt and scabbard. “A return is often seen as an opportunity to begin again. Ser Jaime, what is the name of your sword.”

There was a rushing in Jaime’s ears as he stepped forward, drawing his sword and kneeling before Brandon. “Lion’s Sun if you please, Your Grace.”

Brandon nodded, and Jaime stood and returned to his seat. Beside him, Brienne reached for Oathkeeper, positioned beside her seat, moving it to rest on the table and gesturing for Jaime to place his own sword beside it, before once more taking his hand and squeezing it firmly.

“Podrick Payne, step forward.” Brienne smiled, leaning forward. “Ser Brienne, Lady of Tarth, step forward.” Brienne stood and strode around the table to stand beside Podrick.

“Your Grace,” she said, “I would also call Ser Jaime.”

Brandon nodded. “Ser Jaime Lannister, King of the Westerlands, step forward.” Jaime walked around the table to stand beside his lady. She reached for the swords, drawing Oathkeeper and passing him Lion’s Sun, before she turned to Podrick.

“Kneel, Podrick Payne.”

A dawning realisation spread across the young man’s face as he knelt before his knight. Sansa was the first to stand and Tyrion the next, and the remainder of the high table and many of the others in the room followed, the room in silence.

“Will you join me, Ser Jaime?” she asked, raising her sword as he moved to stand on her left, carefully adjusted his grip, and raised his own. With Lion’s Sun resting gently upon Oathkeeper, the two lowered their swords onto Podrick’s right shoulder.

“In the name of the Warrior,” they said in unison, “I charge you to be brave.” They moved the swords to his left. “In the name of the Father, I charge you to be just.” The swords returned to his right. “And in the name of the Mother, I charge you to defend the innocent.” A sheen of tears blurred Jaime’s vision as he recalled the last time that he had said those familiar words. “Arise, Ser Podrick Payne, a Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.”

“To Ser Podrick!” cried Tyrion, echoed by Sansa and a hundred other voices. Jaime turned and placed his sword on the table, then gently took Oathkeeper from Brienne and placed it alongside. Brienne helped Pod to stand and hugged him, and they reached for Jaime also and embraced tightly.

Years later, he would ask her whether she knew, beforehand, what they would do. She had already planned to knight Podrick, she told him – she had told him as much, really, in the training yard – but she had not known that Pod’s knighthood would feel complete only if Jaime too were a part of it, until King Brandon had called him forward and returned his sword to him.

Chapter Text

Sansa was strong, and she was brave. She knew this. But somehow planning to be brave, as an abstract, hypothetical concept, was simpler than being brave.

Consider Tyrion, for example. She had considered little else since his startling confession the previous evening. His startling and – she had to admit – intriguing confession.

She had tried to be brave; she hoped that she had not been overly subtle. The seamstresses had worked all day to finish her gown, the pattern of winter roses a perfect match to the hairpins he had given to her. She would have them make skirts from the same fabric, in the Northern style, for her return to Winterfell. She carried the silk scarf he had given her, had positioned the pins in her hair for him to see. She had even – she blushed – tried to kiss him, a little.

She glanced sideways and found him watching her. She swallowed nervously, and smiled. He reached out and covered her hand with his own, squeezing gently, and she wished that he had raised it up to kiss it. Greatly daring, she turned over her own hand, linking their fingers. She was still unsure, still – could a queen admit to being terrified? She was a queen, and she was terrified, so she supposed that she could. But bravery was about facing your fears, not running from them, so she sat at the high table, with all the kings and queens of Westeros, her fingers laced together with the hand of the Hand of the King.

There was dancing, of course. Tyrion did not dance, but they sat together and watched as Ser Jaime and Ser Brienne danced the first set, moving in perfect synergy with one another. How could Brienne ever have thought herself awkward, Sansa wondered, when their bodies moved together as one. When they returned to their seats, Ser Jaime bowed to her, extending his hand, as Ser Podrick bowed and led Brienne back to the dance floor. Tyrion squeezed her hand gently, then released it, turning to converse with Bran as she rose and accompanied Ser Jaime to the dance floor.

“Be gentle towards an injured man, Your Grace,” he said, “This will be my last dance this evening.” She smiled and took his arm, standing beside him straight and true. He was an excellent dancer, controlled and deliberate in his movements, leading her confidently and gracefully through the stately measures.

“You are close to your brother, I think,” he said, more question than statement.

She inclined her head in agreement. “More of late than in our childhood,” she said, “I have become close to all my remaining siblings. We led separate lives for many years, but I have enjoyed the opportunity for us to spend time together. Family – pack – is important to the Starks.” He nodded.

“I also am close to my brother,” he said, and there was a vehemence in his voice that surprised her. “I esteem him greatly. The Westerlands would be concerned to hear that anything had … distressed him.”

She realised with a start that Jaime Lannister – without missing a step or changing his pleasant expression – was threatening her with an entire kingdom on Tyrion’s behalf. She liked him the better for it, she admitted to herself.

She looked curiously at him for a moment, unsure of what to say. She glanced at Tyrion, smiled when she saw him watching her and his brother, before turning back to her partner. “The North shares your concerns,” she said calmly. “We also wish only the best for the Lord Hand,” adding pointedly, “as we do for our friends from Tarth.” Jaime nodded slowly, and they finished the dance in silence. They understood one another, she thought, curtseying low in response to his deep bow and allowing him to escort her back toward her seat.

As they left the dance floor, they passed a small group of minor Lords from the Stormlands.
“I heard that it takes a crane,” said one, sniggering.
“And I heard that she sleeps in that armour,” said another. “Doesn’t even take it off to have a piss, only to fuck the Kingslayer.”

Sansa’s hand tightened on Jaime’s arm as he tensed. When he went to step forward, she swiftly kicked his ankle and stepped in front of him a little, making sure to step on his toe as she did.

“Good evening, my lords,” she said coolly. The young men gaped at her, then saw Jaime and blanched. “I do not have the privilege of your names,” she continued, “yet I know the names of all who bravely fought at Winterfell against the Armies of the Dead. Those names include that of your own liege, Lord Gendry Baratheon of Storm’s End,” Looking over at the high table, she caught Gendry’s eye. He smiled and nodded to her, and she turned back to the young men. “as well as the High King, my brother. When you have done as much for Westeros as Ser Brienne, perhaps you will have earned the right to comment on others’ behaviour. But if” – and she poured scathing doubt into that if – “you ever do as much for Westeros, I believe that you will learn that noble sacrifice is accompanied by protection from the ill-informed, over-hasty judgement of others – and, occasionally, by retaliation on the behalf of a beloved friend.” She paused, looking them over scornfully. “How devastating that we are to be deprived of your company so early in the evening. Your Grace, if you would?” – and turning her back on them, she gracefully took Jaime’s arm and towed him back to the table.

“Do not look back,” she ordered him sternly, the graceful and practised smile on her lips belying her fierce tone. “They are not worth it. You have already threatened the North this evening, Ser Jaime. For Brienne’s sake, I will not permit you to extend that threat to the Stormlands as well.”

As she seated herself, she reached for Tyrion’s hand once more.

---ooooo---

King Bran retired early, setting the scene for a host of departures. Jon left immediately, and the Dornish king and his companion were not far behind, Yara Greyjoy and her companion moved to join the rest of the Iron Islanders at tables that were both more humble and more noisy. Sansa could not recall when last she had spied her sister. Next, Jaime stood to leave, collecting Lion’s Sun, and Sansa was unsurprised when Brienne stood to join him. “Fuck subtlety,” she heard Brienne mutter quietly. “You are quite white, Jaime. You don’t look as though you will make it back to your chambers without assistance.” Lord Royce ushered her young cousin Robin Arryn away before matters became any more rowdy, although the look on Robin’s face suggested that he had rather stay.

Tyrion crooked a finger at Bronn and Gendry. “I must escort Queen Sansa to her chambers,” he said. “Discounting Queen Yara, that leaves you the senior lords in attendance. I shall rely on you to neither disgrace nor bankrupt your respective houses.” Bronn grinned, and Sansa hoped that he would not lead Gendry too far astray before morning.

Tyrion took her hand and led her to the door of her chambers.

“Will you come inside?” she asked, summoning her courage.

He looked at her gravely. “I told you last night that this could wait, Sansa.”

She flushed, glancing at the guards and opening her door. “I will not discuss this in a cold corridor, but I do wish to speak with you, Tyrion.”

Inside her apartments, she led him over the fire, settling them both on the chaise and pouring them each a goblet of wine.

“This is not easy for me, Tyrion,” she began. “You know my story.”

He nodded, regret shading his eyes. “I would not wish to –”

She interrupted. “It is not easy, but I think it is what I want. Or at least, I should like to explore whether it is what I want. With you,” she clarified. She took a sip of her wine, looking at him over the rim of the goblet. “If that is still your wish.”

“I think, dear Sansa,” he said thickly, “if you are quite, quite certain, that I should very much like to join your exploration. Have you considered you wish to proceed?”

She shook her head numbly, a little bubble of panic rising in her abdomen.

“Then, if I might make a suggestion,” he said, raising her hand to his lips, “perhaps we could start with kisses.”

“K-kisses?” she asked, relieved at so straightforward a suggestion.

“Just kisses,” he replied, lips lightly grazing her hand, and the bubble subsided.

“I think that I would like that.”

He turned over her hand, nuzzling her palm gently, letting her feel his lips as they explored her skin. Placing a cushion between their bodies, he knelt beside her, murmuring, “I like kisses very much, and I think that you will too” into her ear. She felt his breath, warm and welcome, and she sighed as he sucked the lobe of her ear gently into his mouth, caressing it with his tongue. She had never thought much about her earlobes before, but now she suspected that they might be her favourite – or at least, her second to favourite part of her body.

One hand lightly stroked the side of her face as he ran the fingers of the other through her hair. “Your hair is like silk,” he murmured, “so soft,” and she lifted a hand to his hair as well, and it was soft, and his beard tickled her a little, and she relaxed more, and smiled at him, turning to face him fully.

“Do you like this?” he murmured softly.

“I do,” she whispered, “very much.” He moved his lips to her eyelids and then to the tip of her nose, meeting her eyes before – ever so slowly – he lifted his mouth to hers. She giggled at the tickle of his beard, and he chased her laughter with his lips.

“I had not known,” she breathed in a whisper, “that this could be so joyous.”

Allowing her eyelids to drift closed, she pressed herself towards him, wanting more. His tongue stroked the seam of her lips, his mouth slightly open. She opened her mouth and his tongue met hers, and for a moment the sensations overwhelmed her.

He must have felt her hesitation, because he stopped immediately, resting his forehead against hers. His breathing was as ragged as her own. “Too much?” he asked, but no, this time it was her lips that captured his, that opened to allow his tongue entry, her tongue that duelled frantically with his own, seeking and stroking in a dance that was new to her but felt somehow familiar. Their kisses seemed to go on for years, alternately passionate and gentle, desperate and almost courtly, stoking a fire within her. She pressed herself against him, tugging at the cushion that he had placed between them, wishing to be closer to him – but his hand stayed hers.

“I am a man, Sansa,” he said quietly. “A patient man, who would not wish to importune you, but a man nevertheless. I promised kisses and no more, in this evening’s explorations, and I would hold to that promise. I fear that my body is already proof that I have enjoyed your delightful kisses rather more than you are ready for this evening,” he added gently, a tinge of red flushing his cheeks. She blushed, too, when she understood his meaning, but tonight she was intrigued; she felt none of the fear that she had felt when Ramsay would take her hand and place it upon his falls.

He interrupted her thoughts with a grin and another gentle kiss. “And, sadly, I am a man with a very great deal to do on your brother’s behalf in but a few hours. I should return to my chambers and rest –” he looked longingly at her – “before you make that even more difficult.” He kissed her once more, lips lingering upon her own. “I believe, however – although I will of course defer to your judgement – that we can safely say that kissing led to a very successful exploration, which we might perhaps be tempted to take a little further tomorrow, in a more private setting.” She nodded, blushing, and gently nibbled at her lower lip. With his index finger, he stroked a line down her chest from the base of her chin to the pointed vee of her gown. She held her breath, waiting to see whether he would touch her further, but he moved his hand once more to her hair, stroking it gently.

When she at last remembered to breathe, she replied, “I believe that you are entirely correct, My Lord Hand.”

He looked at his hand and waggled his eyebrows, and she laughed. He kissed her once more, firmly and with a promise of tomorrow, tugged at his jacket, climbed down from the chaise, and walked to the door.

She found her voice once more. “Good night, Tyrion.” She bit her lip gently, before continuing with a smile. “I shall look forward to our next meeting.”

“As shall I, my dear Sansa. Sweet dreams.”

Chapter Text

She left the banquet with Jaime, walking proudly beside him, carrying their twinned swords.

“Fuck subtlety,” she had said, and just as her presence at his side had marked her as his, her leaving with him had staked her equal claim on him.

There had been no pretence that she was to be anywhere other than with him, no attempt to revisit Sansa’s apartments. She nodded to the guards at his door – Tyrion’s door really, he supposed, and they settled by the fire, swords laid neatly on the mantle above it.

He poured them each a goblet of wine, taking a long swallow before turning to her.

“You must promise to wed me,” he burst out.

She raised an eyebrow, striving to appear cool. “And why is that, Ser Jaime?”

He scowled. “Because I promised myself that the next time I made love to you we would be betrothed. And if I don’t get you out of that gown very soon, I think that I might die.”

She stretched, feeling the heat of his gaze roaming over her face, her breasts, her hips, revelling in that very different, very feminine power over him. She tipped her head to one side, smiling.

“So …”

“So?” he responded eagerly.

“So what you are telling me is that simply by keeping my gown on, I might earn the right to join Lady Arya’s little club?”

He looked blank for a moment, before he remembered the Stark girl’s threats of regicide. “Or,” he suggested helpfully, “you could kill me with pleasure. I would even be willing to assist in my own demise.”

“There is a rather major flaw in your plan, Jaime,” she said. He frowned, waiting for her rejection. “There is no betrothal between us.”

Solemnly, Jaime rose to his feet, and lifted his scabbard with Lion’s Sun down from the mantel. He drew his sword, then laid it in front of Brienne, kneeling before it and her.

“No – Jaime – I did not mean that you must –”

He looked up at her. “No more vows, Brienne. You, the West, King Brandon. That’s all. In that order. If you will have me, if you will be my queen, my love, my knight, then I will gladly devote the rest of my life to pleasing you. I ask not only for a betrothal, for a marriage, but for your love, your guidance, your companionship. And in return, I offer you my fidelity, my respect, my desire, and my deep and abiding love.”

She reached her hand to caress his cheek, falling to her own knees before him.

“Jaime, I would offer you all of those things, would be your betrothed, your queen, your lover and your companion. I would love only you. I would walk beside you in this life and be reunited with you for all time when the Stranger takes us. There is nothing that I wish more than this. But you must not seek only to please me, but to do what is right, not because it pleases me but because you know it, in your heart.”

He scowled. “And if I know that this, that you and me, together, is right? If I know that in my heart?”

Her smile turned sultry. “Then you are wiser than you know, my love.”

He reached for her then, but stopped before he touched her. “My honour demands it, Brienne. There must be a betrothal.”

She closed her eyes for a moment, savouring the rightness of the moment, recognising its inevitability even as she welcomed it. “I think that there must, dear Jaime.”

He stood, helping her to her feet, a look of awe and wonder on his face. Returning Lion’s Sun to the mantel, he led her to his chamber, closing the door firmly behind them. Reverently, he reached for her, unlacing her gown, tugging it gently over her head and draping it over a chair. Standing in only her small clothes, she undid his jacket, pushing it off his shoulders, tugging eagerly at his shirt and pulling it over his head. Greedily, she ran her hands over his torso, pausing to gently explore the new scars on his side. He raised his hand to her face, pulling her towards him for a soft kiss, seemingly unable to turn his eyes from her.

“Our first kiss,” he said tenderly.

He unwrapped the band that covered her breasts, baring them to him, stroking gently about them with his hand, a look of awe and devotion covering his face. His hand was warm and gentle. She arched toward it, and he stepped closer still, pulling her towards him with his right arm and pressing his body against hers, his hand trapped against her breast, thumb stroking lightly against her skin. “Brienne,” he breathed reverently, and she could do nothing but kiss him once more, pouring her love for him into the kiss.

She was more impatient than he, and guided him towards the bed, stepping out of her slippers. When he sat, she helped him to remove his boots, then reached for the fastenings of his breeches, tugging them off as he dragged off her remaining smallclothes. He was ready for her already, but he tugged her down to lie beside him, kissing her deeply as her hands roamed across his chest and his back, reacquainting themselves with the man she loved so well. Propping himself on his right elbow, he began to explore her body with his hand, starting with the sides of her face and moving to her shoulders and arms, before moving to her belly and legs and then – finally – up to capture her bare breast in his hand. And ohh, her breast had only known his touch for those few short weeks in Winterfell, but it had been more than two months since she had felt him there and it was good, and it was right, and she arched towards him. He traced its outline with his finger, then squeezed gently, and it felt as though he was touching her everywhere. He stroked its underside with the back of his hand, before turning his attention to her pouting nipple. He stroked across it with his thumb, making her moan at the contact. Bending towards her, he captured the other nipple in his mouth, sucking and tonguing, shooting darts of desire through her entire body until she was moaning and arching upwards. Her hands fell unheeded to the bed; she was aflame with need for him as he worshipped her body with his mouth and with his hand.

“Jaime, please –” He hummed against her breast. “You must – I can’t –”

Smiling against her skin, he continued to plunder her nipple with his mouth as his hand slid down her body, pressing and caressing. He tugged lightly at the fair hairs that covered her mound, making her moan even more, before his fingers found her already wet and waiting for him.

She arched up to meet him as they slipped inside, gasping with anticipation as his mouth left her sensitised nipple. He raced hot, wet kisses down her body until, at last, he was crouched between her legs, two fingers curved deep inside her, inhaling the musky scent of her arousal. He blew hotly on the hidden nub of her pleasure, before his lips descended, kissing and tugging, swirling his tongue around her, as his fingers stroked and pumped in and out of her body. She felt the room begin to spin, unable to concentrate on anything but Jaime, her Jaime. There was no patience in him this evening, as he pushed closer, humming against her, driving her body relentlessly toward its release. She had dreamed of him like this, his mouth buried between her thighs, the stump of his right arm pressed against her leg, holding her open to him, hair flopped across his forehead, bright eyes watching her as he nipped and sucked at her core. His fingers sped up as her body pulsed around him. Brienne ceased to exist, reduced only to the places where Jaime touched her; she was a heartbeat, she was need, she was moulded by Jaime’s lips and his fingers – and she shattered, groaning his name as she convulsed around him.

He kissed her gently as her tremors ceased, then slid back up the bed to cup her face and kiss her. She could taste her wetness on his mouth, could feel it on his face and in his beard, and it only aroused her further. His erection pressed insistently against her hip and she reached for it, swirling her thumb around the tip and feeling the moisture that was building already.

“I won’t last,” he warned her, but there was joy in his voice and in his eyes as she pushed him back and straddled him, sliding him into her slick warmth. His mouth fell open slackly as she rode him, sliding up and down, twisting her hips to provide extra friction, working herself towards another peak as she embraced him with her body. “Brienne,” he groaned, “I can’t –” and she brought his hand to herself. He pressed once, twice – and then she was reaching that peak once more, clenching around him as he gripped her hips and thrust upwards, roaring his joy as he erupted into her.

Wary of his recovery, she rolled them to lie on their sides, clutching him close with her legs as he softened within her body. He buried his face in her shoulder, still quaking a little from his release.

“My love,” he murmured, softly stroking her hair. “My betrothed. Brienne. My true love.”

“My everything,” she thought, as sleep claimed them both.

Chapter Text

He had slipped out of her as they slept. The musky smell of sex filled their bed, the sheen of sweat across their bodies, the stickiness between their legs a reminder of the pleasures they had found together.

He slipped out of bed, diligently stoking the fire and taking a quick piss behind the screen. Brienne – his betrothed – slumbered on, although it was growing light outside. He dipped a cloth in the washing water, wiping it across his face and then his cock, shivering a little at the chill. As he returned to the bed, he noticed two small piles of Brienne’s clothing – shifts and smallclothes, tunics and trousers, as well as the warm vest she had been wearing – on a chest beside the dressing screen, clearly placed there while they had been at the banquet. He touched them gently, reflecting on how much he had missed seeing her things and his, side-by-side.

He slid in beside her and she stirred, wrapping her impossibly long legs around his and bringing his cold feet to her warm ones. Sleepily, she opened her eyes, and he cupped his hand around her cheek once more as he kissed her. He could see the memories of the night before flooding back. “Good morning, betrothed.”

Mirroring his, her hand came to cup his cheek. He nestled his beard into it, and she scratched it gently, just as he liked.

“Good morning to you too,” she murmured, for once making no move to rise and dress.

He drew her close. “What would my betrothed wife wish to do with her betrothed husband this morning?”

She looked thoughtful. “Well,” she said seriously, “you are committed to train with the children and Lady Arya this morning, and I would like to speak with Pod – Ser Podrick, I should say. But first, I have a small problem that needs to be dealt with.” He looked at her in concern, relaxing when she pulled him closer. “Oh,” she said in delight. “Make that a rather large problem.”

And if he had worshipped her body the night before, this morning, she took the reins. Her mouth and hands were everywhere, stroking his chest, licking and sucking his nipples, her body sliding against his. She kissed her way down his belly and to the joint between his thigh and his torso, licking and sucking on him in that tender spot until he bruised, massaging his thighs and pushing them apart until she could lie between them. Hotly, she breathed out onto his balls, stroking them lightly before turning her attentions to his shaft, now fully erect and straining. She drew tiny, feather-light kisses along his length, and swirled her tongue around the tip, taunting him with too-gentle touches, and he wished that she would do it forever. And then he was inside her, in the heated glory of her mouth, her hand at his base, stroking and squeezing, while he feebly tried to hold back from thrusting himself up into her hot depths. She lashed him with her tongue and with her lips until he was moaning, begging her to stop, to take mercy on him, before he spilled without seeing first to her pleasure.

“Please,” he moaned, and she took pity on him, sliding her body against his, and he had to recite troop movements in his mind to keep from disgracing himself at the friction. Her mouth met his in a tangle of lips and teeth and tongues and he grasped at her breast, stroking it urgently (archers should be elevated and protected) and then moving his hand down lower, sliding two fingers inside her where she was slick and still carrying traces of him from the previous night (pikemen at the front), massaging her nub with his thumb. She moaned and convulsed around him, and then he was on her and in her, and he could feel her still quaking and clutching him to her, pulling him deeper, and there was no stopping as he thrust and thrust and she clutched at his arse and clenched around him and he buried himself deep inside her and filled her with his seed, collapsing onto her, exhausted.

When he could speak again, when he could do anything except gaze at her with adoring eyes and stroke her cheek, and her hair, and her shoulder, it was to murmur little words like “Brienne” and “sweetling” and “my love” and finally, once his heart had settled to normal speed, “Two.”

She knew him so well, his beloved, betrothed wife, his affianced queen, that she glared at him fiercely and said, “Tell me you are not going to count how many times we make love, Jaime,” and he quirked an eyebrow at her and tried to look roguish and adorable, and she quirked an eyebrow at him and tried to look stern and severe, and he tried to look contrite but somehow got stuck at guilty, as he did so often with her. And she shook her head and said, “What shall I do with you?” and he opened his mouth to volunteer a suggestion but thought better of it and kissed her instead.

When they heard breakfast arrive, he opened the door and asked the servants to bring a bath. He asked her whether she would like him to shield her from their eyes, and she said, “I think it’s a little late for subtlety now Jaime,” and sat in the bed with the sheets around her as the servants filled the bath and Jaime hovered, trying to look unconcerned.

Afterwards, she sat in the bath and he washed her back, and then she turned around and washed his back and then his front, and then he washed her front. And when washing one another turned into more exquisite torture, she mounted him and rode him to completion once more, splashing cooling water across the flagstone floor, despite his complaints that she had worn him out entirely. “Three,” he said.

When she saw the two sets of clothing on his chest, she laughed, and he looked at her, puzzled. “I sent these,” she said, gesturing to one pile, “but I believe that these are from Sansa.”

Almost as though, Jaime thought, the North and the West were allies.

Chapter Text

Something was different.

Sansa woke and stretched, pillowed in her warm bed, wondering what had changed. She felt languid, relishing the slide of her linen nightgown and the sheets against her body, an unexpected heaviness in her breasts.

Tyrion.

She raised a hand to her lips, surprised when they were not swollen from the previous night. Her skin was sensitive – not sore precisely, but if she closed her eyes, she could feel where his whiskers had rubbed against her as they kissed.

“I kissed Tyrion Lannister,” she thought to herself, then, “for hours.” And then, perhaps more importantly, “and I liked it so much that I am going to do it again tonight, and more besides.”

She weighed that last thought in her mind. She wasn’t an innocent. She knew what had happened to Tyrion as they kissed, and what he could do with it – what Ramsay had done. But she knew Tyrion, had even chastely shared a bed with him all those years ago. And – this would seem ridiculous to anyone else, she knew – there had been the cushion, last night, that he had used to protect her – no, not protect, she did not need to be protected from him. To shield her, rather, from the evidence of his desire.

She washed quickly, then dressed, calling for a handmaiden to braid her hair. Her bedchamber was large, with a generously-sized bed and armoire for her clothes, a broad fireplace, a comfortable chair, and a large open area with a copper tub that the servants could fill at her request. Opening her door, she moved toward the table which had been laid with juices, fruits and sweet rolls, then changed her mind and turned to the chaise, picking up the cushion that lay on it.

“Had a good time last night?” asked Arya, and Sansa jumped, nearly dropping the cushion.

Plastering a smile on her face, she turned. “Yes, there were fewer tensions than I had expected. And it was lovely to see Ser Podrick knighted.”

“I heard you struck terror into the hearts of some Stormlanders,” Arya said with a grin. “And they say that I’m the scary one.”

“You are the scary one,” said Sansa. “But I had to step in or Ser Jaime would probably have killed them all. He had already threatened the Nor—”

“He WHAT?” snapped Arya. “That lying, snivelling, good for nothing –”

“Stop,” said Sansa. “It was – in passing. He didn’t mean it.”

“How does one threaten the North accidentally and in passing?” Arya asked.

Sansa blushed. “He – he was worried about Tyrion,” she blurted out, clutching the cushion to herself. Arya quirked an eyebrow at her inquiringly. “We might be – exploring things. Together. Physical things.”

Arya stared, although she was not, Sansa thought, concerned. “Physical things,” she drawled slowly. “With Tyrion Lannister.” Sansa nodded, blushing deeply. “Do I need to have a word with him?”

“NO!” Sansa burst out, then calmed herself. “No. No words. Just …” she bit lightly on her lip. “Maybe … do you think you could find somewhere else to sleep?” She blushed furiously, but Arya nodded slowly. “And don’t – don’t threaten Tyrion. OR Ser Jaime. King Jaime. It would be best if you said nothing. To anyone.”

Arya mimed buckling her lip closed, then made a series of indistinguishable sounds. Sansa rolled her eyes. “About me and Tyrion. Don’t say anything about that. You may speak normally about other matters.”

She crossed to the table, seating herself, pouring a cup of juice and and taking a sweet roll. Arya picked up her sword and headed to the door. “I shall be back later this afternoon. First, I need to fight Ser Jaime Lannister.”

Sansa choked. “Did you hear nothing that I said?”

Her sister grinned. “He asked me to, Sansa. It’s for the children that he has been training. I am to demonstrate my footwork for them.”

Sansa finished her breakfast and placed the cushion on a chest in her bedchamber. When the servants came to clear away the plates, she asked to have the chaise moved into her chamber, and the chair removed from the bedroom to the main hearth. It felt terribly conspicuous, as though she had first announced that “I am meeting my lover tonight in my chamber,” but she had given similar orders in the past and they had never been questioned.

Today, she would be a queen. She would finalise the orders of wine and cooking spices to supply Winterfell for the coming months and would meet with the seamstresses once again. She would meet with the new King of Dorne, as well as with her cousin of the Vale, to negotiate trade treaties and promise alliances.

And tonight, she would become a lover.

Chapter Text

They were early to the training yard, so they picked up a pair of wooden training swords and began to practise. “We should tell people that we are betrothed,” Jaime insisted for at least the fifth time, swinging his sword to attack.

“I must send a raven to Tarth,” she replied, blocking his swing. “I must tell my father before others.” She threw him off, and he turned, whirling the sword so fast it was a blur.

“We should tell my brother,” he wheedled. “And King Bran, the High King of Westeros. And what about Lady Sansa, to whom you are – still – sworn? And Lord Gendry – he is your liege, Brienne, Tarth belongs to the Stormlands.” He came at her high and from her left, and for a moment he nearly had her, but she tapped his sword away. He spun around, swinging towards her right side. “And what about Ser Podrick? Bran probably knows anyway, so it’s not as though it is a secret.”

She scowled at him, blocking his thrust and countering with one of her own. “No and no. And I refuse to believe that the King finds anything of interest in our bedchamber.”

He danced out of her way. “‘Our’ chamber is it? I like the sound of that. And for the record, it is extremely interesting. Especially when you –” She swung at him but he dodged by leaping backwards, then moved in close and followed her thrust with one of his own, bringing his sword to rest at her throat.

She beamed at him. “Well done! That move is new, I think.”

He lowered his sword slowly. “While Tyrion and I were imprisoned, I had nothing to do all day but think. And when I was not thinking about you, I spent some time thinking about fighting. Once I was sufficiently recovered for any exercise, I made Tyrion mock-fight me in our cell, and practised when I could.”

She giggled. “I cannot imagine Lord Tyrion enjoying that particularly.”

He stepped forward, placing his forefinger on her chin. “The alternative was to refuse to mock-fight me, and he would have enjoyed that less. And his name is Tyrion. Not Lord Tyrion, just Tyrion. He is to be your brother, Brienne.”

She nodded. “Jaime – this is still very new to me. I should like to keep our betrothal to ourselves for a little longer.” His face fell, and she hurried on, recognising that she was playing into his own fears even as she attempted to conquer her own. “Not forever, and not because I am unsure or ashamed about you or about us. But – you are a king now, Jaime. There will have to be a celebration, and guests, and gowns, and – that is new to me. Please give me a little time to await my father’s blessing. I promise you, we will tell Lord Tyrion and Lady Sansa –” he opened his mouth but she cut him off “— and Pod, and Lord Gendry and King Bran and even Lady Arya – before they leave King’s Landing.”

With that, he had to be content.

The children had assembled during their fight, and were standing waiting expectantly for their lesson. As Arya approached the training yard and Jaime prepared to introduce the children to the heroine who had slayed the night king, Brienne excused herself.

She went first to the Rookery, where she requested a raven to be sent to Tarth. On a clean page, she wrote briefly, “My dearest father, I do not know what news of the mainland has yet reached our beloved Sapphire Isle. I am well and am in King’s Landing with the High King Brandon Stark and our new Lord of Storm’s End, Gendry Baratheon. Last evening, Ser Jaime Lannister – who is to be to be King Jaime of the Westerlands – requested my hand in marriage. We love one another dearly, and I hope to receive your blessing. I trust that you and I shall meet again soon. Your loving daughter, Brienne.

After begging the Maester to send the raven with all dispatch, she hurried to her chamber in Sansa’s apartments, thinking to collect some spare clothing. Hurrying in, she found Sansa once again talking with the seamstresses.

“Ser Brienne, just the woman I was wishing to see.”

“Lady Sansa, how can I assist?”

“These women are assisting with our gowns for the coronation. I wondered – I thought perhaps you might wish for another.” Sansa was clearly hesitant, unsure how her request would be received.

Brienne felt a wave of emotion. This was, if not quite what she had dreamed of as a young girl, at least something close. Beautiful gowns, and a woman friend to share them with. She smiled at the young woman who had been her liege and companion. “Lady Sansa, I would like that very much. In fact, perhaps I should order several gowns, given the skill that these ladies exhibit.”

Sansa beamed. “There are some sketches, and samples of the fabric –” she watched Brienne’s face fall in doubt “—or I could select gowns on your behalf, if you would prefer.” Brienne nodded her thanks, and Sansa turned to speak with the women before they departed.

“Will you take tea with me, Ser Brienne?” she gestured to the fireplace, and the two chairs that now sat in front of it. Brienne sat, and could see that Sansa was struggling to say something. She leaned forward.

“Will you tell me what is troubling you, my lady?”

Sansa smiled ruefully. “That might take more time than I think either of us can spare,” she said. “First, Ser Brienne, I must ask you – am I correct in believing that you will not be accompanying me when I return to the North?”

Brienne blushed. “My lady, I would ask your leave to remain, now that the wars have been won.”

Sansa rose to stand before her and spoke formally. “Ser Brienne, Lady of Tarth, I thank you for your service, which you have performed with honour, and I release you from your vows to my mother, to my house, and to myself. You will always have a place at my hearth, and meat and mead at my table, should you ever seek or require it. This I swear by the old gods and the new.” She bowed her head, then sat and poured tea into the cups.

Brienne had tears in her eyes. “Thank you, Lady Sansa.”

“I think it should just be Sansa now, Brienne.” She looked hesitant. “There is something else that I would ask you, but I would not wish for you to feel obliged in any way to answer, if it makes you uncomfortable.”

Brienne nodded slowly.

“Your – connection – with Ser Jaime,” Sansa began. Brienne reddened, not knowing where to look, and wondering what Sansa wished to say.

Sansa reached forward, resting a hand on Brienne’s knee. “I do not judge, do not wish to question the choices that you have made.” She paused, fumbling for words. “I – there is no simple way to ask this but there is no-one else that I can ask – Brienne, when you are intimate, does it hurt terribly?”

Brienne stared at her in shock, then remembered what Sansa had experienced at the hands of her second husband. “My lady – Sansa – although I have never been with any man but Jaime, I can promise you that there should be no pain at all. Only – delight.”

“Delight,” Sansa murmured, then, “Is it – is it like kissing, then?” and she blushed a deep rosy red.

Brienne thought of Jaime then, crashing into her on that first night in Winterfell, all hands and tongues and teeth and lips. Of him holding her hips as he pounded into her, roaring his release. Of the tender, joyful look on his face on the previous evening when first he had seated himself within her. “It is like kissing,” she said, “but better.” She frowned. “At least, when you love the man that you are with.”

Sansa gasped, and then sat in silence for a time. “Thank you, Brienne,” she said. “This has been – informative. Helpful. I apologise for asking such personal questions.”

Brienne nodded, wondering what had inspired such curiosity. Perhaps a Northern lord had taken Sansa’s fancy after the Battle of Winterfell. “I came to fetch some of my things, to move to Jaime’s quarters. Might I return, though, to prepare for King Bran’s coronation?”

“Of course,” said Sansa. “I shall have your new gowns brought here, also. Even when I am gone, these apartments will be kept for the North. I shall instruct the guards that you may access them freely, and we shall keep your chamber for you until you no longer wish it.” She kissed Brienne lightly on the cheek. “You look happy, Brienne.”

“I am happy,” Brienne replied.

Chapter Text

“I am happy,” his betrothed told him, curled against him, discarded plates stacked haphazardly beside the bed and a fourth notch haphazardly carved into the wooden training sword that he had commandeered for “private training”.

“But think how much happier you would be if you were a queen!”

“I will be a queen one day,” she said. “One day soon. But I feel that I owe it to King Bran to help him to –”

“Brienne, my dearest love, look at me,” he said, in his calmest voice. “I am an expert at owing Brandon Stark. You owe him nothing. And especially not six months of your time and effort, when you could be spending that time and effort on me – and on the Rock, our home, and our own kingdom.”

She sighed. “And there’s Tarth. I am so close, I feel that I should –”

“If we need to visit Tarth before we travel to Casterly Rock,” he said steadily, stroking her shoulder, “then we will visit Tarth before we travel to Casterly Rock. It is what, four days’ journey from here? Do you wish to be wed there?”

She shook her head. “No, I – perhaps. It would be good for our people to see us, to be near. But what of the West?”

Of course she wanted to be wed on Tarth; how had he not thought of that? “We shall make our home in the West,” he said, “but the people of Tarth will need something of us. We must remain in King’s Landing until King Brandon’s coronation. We can obtain such supplies as are required and dispatch them to the Westerlands before we leave. Then, we can marry on Tarth before we set out on our journey.” He grimaced, kissing the top of her head. “There will have to be a coronation in the West, of course. I believe Sansa plans to be crowned six weeks hence; shall we share her day? If we leave for Tarth in a week, spend seven days there, then return here and gather our things, that will leave three weeks for us to journey to the West and prepare for our own coronation. Fortunately, my betrothed is an exceptional rider.” He grinned at her, inviting her to enjoy the double meaning in his words.

She shook her head, smiling. “It’s all so simple for you, isn’t it. Do this, be here, go there. I would spend a week packing and repacking my saddle bags and sending ravens, seeking leave of all concerned, but you just make it happen.” She kissed him. “You are right, Jaime, there is no sense in our waiting. And I would not wish to make you return to King’s Landing for our marriage after so little time. Let us wed on Tarth and not be parted.”

He shrugged. “I am happy to do your planning for you,” he said, “as long as you will use your sword to defend me. But you should think about what you will require. Handmaidens if you wish – and will you wish to take on another squire?” He paused, thinking a moment. “Will Podrick wish to accompany us? Is there anyone else that you would take?”

She thought. “Perhaps – I shall speak with Pod. Jaime, can we take some time to visit the shops and markets here in King’s Landing, perhaps after King Brandon’s coronation? There will be items that we need, that we should take with us. Perhaps you could send a raven to Casterly Rock to enquire whether they have wants?”

He did not tell her that he had sent that raven three days past.

“My managing bride,” he said admiringly, flipping himself onto his stomach and propping his head to look at her. She was propped lazily on the pillows, which put his eyes almost precisely at the level of her breasts. Noticing the direction of his gaze, she slid down the bed a little, although he pouted when she did.

“There is one more thing that we should discuss, my love,” he said, his tone more serious than it had been, “although it is not something that must be decided immediately.” She looked at him enquiringly, and he swallowed deeply. “We have not yet considered certain consequences.”

She frowned, not understanding him.

“We have scarcely been careful in our bedding, Brienne. If you do not wish for children, there are – steps – that can be taken.” Scarcely noticing what he did, he ran his hand lovingly across her belly.

She thought for a moment, speaking slowly. “I have never expected to have a child. Not since I was a little girl, and my Septa took away my dolls to punish me for playing with the boys in the armoury. I did not set myself against the idea, you understand, but nor did I expect it to ever be within my grasp.” She frowned. “I do not think that there is any reason why I could not conceive a child – my monthly flow is regular, and my frame is large enough to carry.” She paused, looking at him closely. “This is new to me, not something that I have considered, but I think that I would like to bear your children, Jaime, if you –” he caught her in his arms then, kissing her deeply and leaving her with little doubt of his wishes.

“I have fathered three children, to my abiding shame. But I was never a father to them, could only watch them from a distance. It would be the greatest honour of my life to see you grow round with our children, and to raise them with you.” He closed his eyes for a moment, overwhelmed with the promise of those halcyon times, touching her belly gently as though wishing might make it so. With a grin, he continued. “And it would be my greatest delight to create those children with you. How do you feel about five?”

“Five? Jaime, I think that we should start with one!”

“We did,” he said, reaching for the wooden sword once more.

Chapter Text

Returning to his apartments, Tyrion called for a bath and pulled out a change of clothes. He had seen Jaime briefly, but there had been no time for the brothers to have any conversation.

He sighed as he sank into the warm bath, dismissing the servants. In truth, he was tired, and his hips ached. There would be little opportunity to rest before the coronation, and what free time he had was occupied with Sansa.

He had made it back to his room the previous evening, grateful for the padded jacket that concealed his inconvenient cockstand from passing eyes. For the first time in many years, he had taken himself in hand, stroking himself to completion with thoughts of perfect skin and perfect breasts and memories of perfect, untutored, passionate kisses. He had dreamed of kissing Sansa again, of unwrapping her and touching her body, and had rubbed himself off once more amidst his bedsheets when he woke. Even now, he was half hard again at the memory. And yet, he was still unsure of what Sansa wanted. Did she simply seek to explore, or was she looking for something more? And if so, would she want it with him, or was he simply a convenient experiment? He laughed bitterly; even if that was all she wanted, he knew that he would still take it and be grateful for the time they had passed together.

He dried himself and dressed quickly but carefully, choosing a pair of flat slippers rather than boots. He gathered together a pile of old and unimportant paperwork, which he bundled together with two of the larger books from his study.

He approached Sansa’s door, more nervous, if possible, than he had been the previous evening. Her guards nodded to him, knocked, and opened the door to admit him.

Sansa was seated on a chair by the fire, wearing something soft and pale yellow, cut in the southern style, with a wide belt at her waist. Her hair was loose. She frowned, puzzled by the sight of the books and paperwork, but he flicked a glance at the guards. “The trade information you were seeking, Your Grace. I fear that we may be in for a lengthy negotiation this evening.”

“Ah yes, thank you Lord Tyrion.” She looked at the guards. “Lord Tyrion may be here very late this evening.” They nodded disinterestedly and withdrew.

Tyrion placed the books beside his chair. “Are you well, Sansa?”

She blushed and nodded. “I am –” she paused, considering. “If there is to be honesty between us, and I think there must be, then I must tell you that I have been distracted all day, and now that you are here I find that I am apprehensive.” She closed her eyes for a moment. “But if I were brave, I would also confess that I am eager to continue our explorations.”

He walked closer, reaching a hand up to stroke her hair.

“May I kiss you?”

She turned her head to kiss his palm. “I wish you would, Tyrion.” She sank down onto the footstool and they embraced, gentle kisses becoming more ardent until she moaned and sank her flushed face onto his shoulder. He tried to angle his hips away from her to hide his arousal, but she pulled him back towards her. “Don’t hide,” she said, “I like it. I like that our kisses have done that to you.”

He would have kissed her again, but she stood and took his hand. “I am not ready for everything,” she said softly, “but you suggested that we might enjoy a little more privacy.”

She led him into her bedchamber. The chaise had been placed near the fireplace, but the room was dominated by her enormous bed, draped in a coverlet of ice blue and silver. She stopped, unsure of where to lead him.

“Shall we start on the chaise,” he suggested. “We can move to the bed if you wish, but this might give you more control.” She nodded dumbly, and he looked at her closely. “Sansa, if there is anything that you do not like, or if you wish to stop at any point, you have only to tell me. You know this. You are under no obligation to me; we can stop this wherever and whenever you wish. You can send me away now, if you would prefer, or tell me that we should speak of nothing but trade treaties.”

She sighed. “I am sorry to be so difficult, Tyrion. I do not wish to send you away; I truly have been eager to see what this night will bring. I only trust that I will not disappoint you.”

“You are – Gods, Sansa, you are perfect.” He shook his head. “Let us see where we lead one another tonight,” he said, “but I will not yet make love to you fully.”

She sank down onto the chaise. “I trust you, Tyrion,” she said, “and I wish for this.” She reached for him.

They kissed for a time before he dared to move his hands, starting by stroking first her back and then her shoulders. She moaned, and he moved his hand down a little, tracing the V in the neckline of her gown. Daring greatly, he moulded the side of her breast with his hand, slowly sliding it around until he cupped her, feeling her pebbled nipple pressing towards him through the thin fabric. “Is this alright?” he asked her, and in response she smiled and arched her back, thrusting her breast more firmly into his hand. He squeezed gently, tracing circles around her breast, then sat back on his heels and brought his other hand up to mirror his movement on the other side. Sansa’s breathing hitched when he brought his thumbs up to trace her nipples.

“Do you like this?” he asked; “Yes,” she breathed.

“I should like to see you,” he told her, and her breath caught again. “There are scars,” she said quietly, and she took his hands to her belt. Looking into her eyes for any hesitation, he untied it, letting the dress fall open, leaving only her smallclothes to cover her, her breasts bared to him. Tiny white scars across the outsides of her breasts and her stomach told the story of her time with the Bolton bastard, and he closed his eyes briefly in shared pain, before opening them again to feast his eyes upon her. She flushed at his heated gaze.

Slowly, he trailed one hand up her side and across her left breast to stroke her nipple again, and she moaned at the close contact. He was already painfully hard, but was determined to take this as slowly as she needed.

“That feels so good,” she whispered. “I never knew.”

Leaning forward, he brought his mouth to her other breast, moulding it gently with his hand as he did. His right hand tweaked and caressed her nipple, as he kissed and gently suckled her, tickling the underside of her breast with his beard, then switched sides as she writhed beneath him.

“Tyrion, I –” she was panting, trying to press herself against him. He could smell her arousal, knew how to calm her, what she needed, but he wasn’t sure whether she was ready.

“You can choose, Sansa,” he said urgently. “We can stay here, or we can move to the bed and take this a little further. It is your decision.”

She stood then, allowing her gown to fall onto the chaise, then reached for his jacket. She undid it, sliding it off, then pulled off his shirt as well. When she bent and reached for his breeches, he stayed her hand, although he was powerless to resist the urge to press himself gently against her, just once. “Not tonight, I think,” he said. She pouted, moving to the bed and throwing back the covers before stepping out of her smallclothes and seating herself – now fully nude – on the edge of the bed. He climbed up beside her, gently tracing the scars on her thighs with his finger.

“Will you lie down?” he asked, and she lay back onto the soft bed. He kissed her again, stroking and then kissing her breasts, every touch stoking her arousal to flames. When she was writhing with delight, arching up towards him, he slid down the bed. Pressing her legs apart gently, he lay between them, resting his head on one of her thighs, kissing her and tickling her with his beard. With a finger, he gently traced the outline of her womanly parts, feeling the moisture that was leaking from her. He cupped her gently with his hand, allowing her to feel his warmth, before he parted her folds with a finger and began to explore.

He kept the exploration light at first – enough for her to feel, to become accustomed to his touch, then kissed her gently. She gasped and froze in shock, and he realised that he had perhaps been precipitous, resting his head once more upon her thigh and stroking her gently until he felt her relax. He worked her then with his fingers, using her own moisture to lubricate her nub, varying the pressure, stroking, circling and gently flicking until he felt her breath begin to hitch. “Let it happen, Sansa,” he told her, pressing more firmly, blowing across her with his hot breath, until he felt her shatter, shuddering and gasping.

Wiping his hand on her sheets, he crawled up the bed to kiss her once more.

“Tyrion,” she whispered, “is it always like that?”

“It should be,” he said, kissing her again, and she sighed into him. “I feel so light,” she whispered, “as though I might just float away.”

He caught her to him. “I shall anchor you here, keep you with me,” he murmured, “I will never let you go,” murmuring lovers’ words, and they kissed languidly, dreamily, for a time.

“I should leave you,” he said, and he kissed her again.

She rolled her body against his. “But you did not –”

“I did not,” he said gravely. “But you did, and I believe that is enough for this evening.”

She felt the length of him through his breeches, hard and aching. “Ramsay would have me work him with my hand and with my mouth,” she said. “I do not think this would be unbearable with you.”

He frowned. “Tonight was for you,” he said, although he rocked gently against her hand. “And monsters such as he have no place in our bed. I shall leave you, and if my hand and my cock must become reacquainted, then that is a small price to pay for the bounty you have shared with me.”

She pouted. “If I am to explore, should I not also explore what brings you pleasure?”

He groaned, dropping his head to rest against her shoulder. “Sansa, being with you, thinking of you, tasting you, brings me great pleasure. There is no “should” between us.”

“Is it so wrong that I would wish to watch and learn what pleases you, when you know so well what delights me?” she insisted. His cock twitched against her hand, and she reached again to unfasten his breeches, pulling them and his smallclothes down.

With her index finger, she traced the line of his cock from root to tip. Nervously, she bit her lower lip. “Show me,” she said. Be brave, Sansa, she thought.

His hand stole down his body, gripping his cock tightly. She propped herself on her elbow to watch, noticing his eyes on her breasts, and leaned forward that he might see them more closely. He began to slide his hand up and down, his eyes glittering at her. “Sansa,” he whispered to her, only to her, “you are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. Being with you is a fantasy sprung to life. I feel that I should pinch myself but I would not wish to interrupt this dream. The sight of you, the scent of you, feels almost more than I can bear. I have dreamed of kissing you, of caressing your breasts. Of sucking your nipples into my mouth, swirling my tongue across their tips. Of the taste of you, of bringing you pleasure, of the sounds you make as you reach your peak –” his hand was working faster now, following a rhythm of its own, his end approaching rapidly. Her eyes were wide, fixed upon his cock. Her breath was coming faster, her tongue darting out to moisten her lips. For a moment, he wondered how it would feel to have that tongue upon him, licking wetly. “Of your tongue, your lips, of sliding into you –” he froze for a moment, her name a groan on his lips, as his milky white spend shot out of his cock and pooled on his stomach. “Oh Gods, Sansa,” he said, looking up at her with an apologetic look in his eyes. “I did not – I could not –”

She smiled. “I wanted this, Tyrion. But tomorrow, you are mine.”

Chapter Text

Dispatching a second and third raven to Tarth was excessive, perhaps. Jaime had insisted on writing to her father himself that morning, complete with ink blots and left-handed smears, but it had not seemed a task that he could delegate to Rodri. Brienne had also written, telling her father that they would be there in ten days and hoped, with his permission, to be wed in the Sept at Evenfall Hall.

She had told King Bran that she would not be available to command the Kingsguard, and he had nodded as though he had known already. She blushed, remembering Jaime’s suggestion that he might have been privy to some of their more private moments. Instead, she suggested that Ser Podrick might take on that role – although there were many longer-serving knights who might have hoped to claim it, Podrick’s enthusiasm and – essentially – his loyalty were unquestioned. To Tyrion, she suggested that membership of the Kingsguard might perhaps become a limited appointment of perhaps five years – enough to build skills and expertise, but not requiring them to forswear their houses and embrace a life of chastity. He agreed to consider it, suggesting with a twinkle that, having been related to a Commander of the Kingsguard himself, he would be disappointed to see that chastity enforced. She glared at him then, and he smiled sunnily at her before she turned away.

“I’m glad, you know,” he said before she could leave the room.

She whirled. “But he promised –” she paused. “To what do you refer, Lord Tyrion?”

“You’re good for my brother. I was worried that he would fall back into his old patterns, living down to his reputation, or that he would use you as a crutch. But you have helped him to find new confidence, and have set him to tasks that he is well-suited to perform.” He looked at her curiously. “To what did you refer, Lady Ser Brienne?”

She blushed, flustered. “I could not say, my lord,” then made her escape.

She fled to Sansa, who had summoned her for a fitting of her gown for the coronation. More formal than the gown she had worn for the banquet, this was cut in a rich golden satin, with bands of fabric that caught at the elbow but fluttered open to show her arms. A sweep of fabric draped across her bust, giving her a womanly shape. Like her gown for the banquet, it was cut to emphasise rather than to hide her height, with a similarly straight skirt that flared lightly from just above the knee, affording greater freedom of movement. Rather than a cape, this gown was paired with a scarf that covered the scars at her neck and fluttered softly behind her. Brienne shook her head slowly as she stared into the glass, reflecting that if she had had gowns like this in her youth then she might never have rejected them quite so definitively.

“Do you not like it, milady?” asked the seamstress.

“I – it is beautiful,” she replied, smiling gently. “You are very talented –”

“Marisal, milady. It is a pleasure to dress you.”

Sansa nodded her approval. “And the other,” she added, biting her lip gently as she looked at Brienne.

If the golden gown was beautiful, ‘the other’ was spectacular. The heavy silk had been dyed in graduations, starting from palest rose at the top of the square-cut neckline and elbow-length sleeves, and darkening to a rich crimson where it reached the ground. Although the skirt was cut to appear slim at the front, it was fuller at the back, with a short train. A sash of crimson passed over her left shoulder, crossing over at her right hip, where her sword would usually sit.

Sansa gasped. “It is stunning, Brienne.”

Staring at herself in the mirror a moment, Brienne turned to Marisal. “Would – could there be embroidery here?” she asked, indicating the sash.
The seamstress nodded. “Was there something particular that you wanted, milady?”
“There will be,” she said, looking once more at her reflection. This would be her wedding gown.

Sansa coughed delicately. “We should remove the dress so that Marisal can finish her work.”

“There is one more thing, milady,” Marisal said hesitantly. “I took the liberty – I saw that you favour trousers and jackets during the day.” Brienne nodded. “I wanted to thank you – there is little custom in King’s Landing these days, and I was able to obtain some fabric that –” she reached into a cloth bag, removing a pair of trousers made of soft light brown wool, with a wider cut than Brienne had seen before. They fell to below her knee, but the added width and curved hem did not impede her movement, rather giving a more formal silhouette than the breeches she usually affected. A jacket followed, in a similar shade of blue to the gown Brienne had worn to the banquet. It fastened down her left side, rather than in the centre, and was cut slightly fuller at the top, so that it draped rather than pulled across her breast, and was lightly fitted to suggest a waistline and a curve at her hip.

Impulsively, Brienne turned to Marisal. “What keeps you in King’s Landing?”

Marisal was puzzled.

“Would you be willing to leave King’s Landing, if I could offer you work?”

“Milady, I have a daughter, but she is all that keeps me here. My husband perished in the flames. If – if I could take my daughter with me, I would gladly leave.”

Brienne nodded, avoiding Sansa’s speculative gaze. “I have never been a beauty,” she said, “but nor am I, I trust a fool. And I would be a fool if I did not avail myself of your skills. I sail for Tarth in four days; will you be free to travel then?” Marisal curtsied and nodded, and Brienne swallowed. “I shall need a great many things. Perhaps, after the coronation, we can discuss what you will need to purchase. I can give you coin. And –” she rushed her words, feeling Sansa’s avid interest – “I shall also require a handmaiden. Perhaps there is someone that you know, who would be suitable?”

Collecting her things, and singing the praises of her dead husband’s younger sister, Marisal left Brienne and Sansa alone.

“A seamstress and a handmaiden,” the younger woman observed archly.

Brienne blushed deeply, to the younger woman’s evident interest. “Please, Sansa, do not ask any more. I cannot – I must be going.”

She hurried to the rookery, but there was no word from Tarth.

Chapter Text

It was, perhaps, as well that he had little chance to think of Sansa during the day. Between increasingly specific instructions from the King, a puzzling meeting with Ser Brienne where he felt he was privy to only a part of the conversation, and interviews with Ser Podrick, who despite his inexperience was already interviewing potential members of the Kingsguard, there was little time for his meeting with Gendry or his hurried journey to meet the jewellers.

The newly-forged Crown of the Seven Kingdoms was spectacular. It was forged from three strands of yellow gold, rose gold, and silver from the North, twisted and linked together so that they could not be separated without destroying the entire piece. The crown symbolised the coming together of the people of Westeros – women, men, and children – and the hoped-for unity across the land. Deceptively simple in appearance, it was nevertheless beautiful, and the different coloured metals caught the light in the workshop. Tyrion’s other commissions were ready also, and he inspected them with as much care as he had the crown, before declaring himself satisfied.

“Do you go to the Queen’s market in Winterfell?” he asked the jeweller, as he paid him.
“I’m working on it, milord. It is a long way to travel, and I would need to hire protection. I had thought to take ship to White Harbour, though – that would be easier.” Tyrion nodded. It was good to see that news of Sansa’s market was spreading. He would be able to tell her that tonight.

Tyrion hurried up the hill to the Keep, and to his meeting with King Brandon. He felt that their roles had perhaps been reversed from the traditional relationship of the King and his Hand. Bran usually used the meetings to tell him things, rather than to listen to his advice, although that seemed to make his work as Hand much smoother.

His Grace was pleased to approve the crown, although he did not try it on his head. Instead, he had a message, delivered in that curious, flat voice: “Ser Jaime is to be at the docks at noon on the morrow. He will not require armour, but should carry his sword. The coronation will be held at two hours before dusk.”

Tyrion spared a moment of regret for his carefully-planned noon coronation. King Brandon the Raven would be crowned when he was ready, it seemed, rather than to a schedule.

The King continued. “My sister Sansa returns to the North after the ceremony. You should make sure that she takes what she desires before she departs.”

Tyrion nearly spluttered. Did the King really say what it had sounded like? Blushing furiously, he shot a glance at the young man, but Bran’s face was set in its usual disinterested expression. He bowed his farewell and returned to his chambers.

Jaime was there (of course, when was Jaime ever anywhere else, which was perhaps not quite fair because Tyrion had seen him at the training yard that morning with Arya Stark of all people). He must have bathed – his damp hair was sticking up in a cowlick at the front – and was sitting at a desk with his map of the Westerlands, making notes on a scruffy piece of paper.

“I thought that was what your confidential clerk was for,” Tyrion told his brother.

“What?” asked Jaime.

Tyrion began to repeat himself, but his brother cut him off. “You thought that what was what my confidential clerk was for? Only you see, I’m not entirely certain what he should be doing.”

“Writing things for a start, Jaime. You always had a terrible hand and your left is even worse.”

Jaime gestured at the map. “I am attempting to time a route back to Casterly Rock. Do you think twenty days would be sufficient?”

Tyrion stared at his brother. “What do you mean to do, fill the road with wagons and ride the sheep yourself? I happen to know that you have ridden it in eight in the past. With wagons and a company, as long as they are mounted, I would estimate seventeen. And you might be able to leave the wagons to follow.”

Jaime shifted uncomfortably. “There will be things to transport,” he said, “supplies and the like. I am trying to establish what will be needed at the Rock – and across the Westerlands – when I return.”

“Grain,” suggested Tyrion, “and seeds, and livestock. But I have something else for you, brother,” he continued, carefully inspecting the different packages in the inner pocket of his cloak, and holding one out to Jaime. He took it gingerly, then unwrapped the packaging, revealing the new crown of the Westerlands. It was more solid than Bran’s, a thick band of bright yellow gold. Around it were etched six lions, each with a ruby for an eye.

“You know that I had rather not wear it,” Jaime told Tyrion simply, “Had rather not bear the role. But it is quite beautiful.” He turned to face his brother, holding the crown still. “I shall do my best for the Westerlands – yes, and for the Seven Kingdoms,” he added, with a tone of incredulity. Jaime was not one for displays of fervent loyalty, but his guilt towards the new King would ensure his continuing support.

Tyrion placed his other parcels in a drawer of his desk. “I have been helping Sansa to arrange her supplies,” he said, “Perhaps I can assist with yours.”

He went to take the pages that Jaime was holding, but his brother shuffled them together and folded them, tucking them inside his jacket. “There is no need,” Jaime told him, “I have matters well in train.”

Tyrion shrugged. “Very well. Oh – and I have a message for you from the King. You are to be at the docks at noon tomorrow, carrying your sword – Casterly Tarth was it now – but wearing no armour.”

Jaime glared at him. “Lion’s Sun.” His lips twitched. “It is a terrible name, I know, but I could not abide Widow’s Wail. Better to be known as a fool than a murderer. Although perhaps I shall be neither, if the King can organise a convenient boathook to sweep me into the sea on the morrow.”

Tyrion glared at him. “Any more of this maudlin talk, and I shall play the role of the boathook myself. But for now, I shall remove myself to frolic in my tub.”

“Don’t frolic too noisily, brother,” said Jaime with a smirk, “I am expecting company.”

For a moment, Tyrion considered reminding his brother that, king or no king, this was the Tower of the Hand and was therefore his home rather than that of his brother and his lady knight. With so much damage to the Keep, however, there simply were no more apartments suitable for someone of Jaime’s status; and he did not wish his brother to ask too many questions about where he was spending his evenings. For now, he would continue to play absent host to his brother and his elusive knight.

Chapter Text

She was in Tyrion’s usual chair tonight, a needle in her hand and the blanket for her brother in her lap. It was almost complete now, but she was hurrying to finish it by the next morning.

They kissed their greeting – several kisses, in truth – but he seemed content to take the neighbouring chair and watch her sew.

“Can I fetch you anything?” he asked, but she shook her head, not wishing to risk slipping something on her gift.

“I had an interesting conversation today,” she told him. “Well, I witnessed it although I was not a participant.” He leaned forward, resting his chin on his hand.

“I – no confidences were made, so I have none to betray,” she clarified. “I had thought that all was well between Brienne and your brother, but now I wonder.”

“You find me all ears, my dear Sansa.”

“Brienne is to travel to Tarth in but a few days,” she burst out. “I thought that she would go to Casterly Rock, but instead she is to return to her childhood home.”

Tyrion thought a moment. “Jaime said nothing of this,” he replied, “but he was asking about slow travel to the West, with wagons, not planning to ride as quickly as he has in the past. I thought he was to travel with his supplies.”

She glanced down, setting the final stitch in her design and folding the blanket. “There is more. Today, Brienne hired a seamstress and handmaiden both.”

“For Tarth?” he said, incredulously.

“She sails for Tarth after the coronation,” she replied. “There was no word of your brother, although I had thought –” Tyrion nodded. “Lord Gendry has proposed that Tarth might become a part of the Crownlands, at least for now, rather than of the Stormlands.”

“He discussed it with me today,” said Tyrion, “and I am inclined to recommend that His Grace accept the proposal. We must speak with Lord Selwyn to gauge his thoughts on the matter before a final decision may be made. Meanwhile, I have been pleased by my brother’s progress, in both his health and his attitudes. He has hired a confidential clerk, yet carries with him a sheaf of papers in his own hand that he refuses to show to me. And Brienne sleeps –”

“in his chamber, yes,” Sansa replied with a blush, “although I have told her that she may retain her rooms here for as long as she wishes.”

“Then I am at a loss,” said Tyrion. “Let us hope that there might be a happy explanation. On a brighter note, I spoke to more merchants today of what they call the Queen’s market, in Winterfell. Several had already heard of it and are planning to attend.”

At this, she smiled widely. “And I met with the Kings of the Vale and Dorne today,” she told him. “I think that they will be happy to be focused on their Kingdoms for some time. We shall not have trouble from them. And how sit the plans for my brother’s coronation? I feel blessed –” she blushed – “doubly blessed by your company this evening, with all that must be done.”

“All is in train,” he replied.

“So then, my Lord Hand, you have no further plans for this evening?”

“I would not say that precisely,” he said gravely. “I did have some plans. With a lady.”

She dropped to her knees on the footstool at his side, wide-eyed and intrigued. “A lady, my lord?”

“Indeed,” he sighed. “A lady most fair. I had hoped to kiss her in the moonlight.”

She smiled, leaning closer. “And will any lady do, my lord?”

He sighed more deeply still. “No lady at all,” he replied, “She must be a queen.”

She kissed him, “And will any queen do, my lord?”

He raised a hand to cup her cheek, eyes bright with wonder. “There is only one queen that will do, and I have found her.”

She took him into her arms then, their lips clinging. “I have missed you all day, my lord.”

“And I missed you all night,” he replied, and if his voice shook a little there was only Sansa to hear it.

She took him to her room, where the coverlet was already pulled back on the snowy linen sheets, and they undressed one another slowly. “No more than last night, Sansa,” Tyrion warned, though her smile said otherwise. When they were fully nude, they lay together on the bed. Sansa traced the lines of Tyrion’s body, exploring the soft hair on his chest and the line of hair that trailed down his abdomen. With her finger, she drew soft circles around his nipples, smiling as his cock strained towards her. For all his small stature, he was larger than Ramsay had been, long and thick, emerging from the dark blonde hair with a glistening deep pink head. She gulped at the thought of his entering her, but remembered what Brienne had said: there would be no pain, only joy.

Touching Tyrion, she discovered, aroused her deeply; there was an ache in her breasts that she knew only her lover’s touch could satisfy. Recalling the delight that his kisses had evoked in her, she lowered her head and closed her lips around his nipple, sucking gently. Her hair spilled over his chest and he moaned at the sensation, so she moved her head gently from side to side, trailing it across his body.

“Sansa,” he whispered, and she slid up to kiss him, one hand reaching down until he stopped it with his own. “I won’t last if you do that, love. Let me pleasure you.”

She wanted to tell him that he was pleasuring her already, that the sight and feel of his body had aroused her to an almost painful degree, but she allowed him to push her gently back onto the bed. Reverently, he stroked the lean lines of her body, cupped her breasts, sucked and nipped at their rosy tips. She sighed at his touch, remembered the feel of his lips and the tickle of his beard in a way that was both new and familiar to her.

She was surer tonight when his hand moved lower, her body rising to greet him, to press her cleft against his hand, her legs falling open in welcome. He slid down the bed to use his mouth on her, and this time she welcomed it, revelled in the sensations that his lips and tongue brought, moaning her delight as he moved on her. His mouth was moist and hot, his tongue firm, stoking her body towards that elusive peak that they had discovered together. He kept one hand moving, caressing, even sliding a finger inside her body, while the other rested lightly upon her belly, anchoring her to him. It was a welcome invasion, filling an absence she had not recognised the night before, and he stroked steadily, in and out, in an intimate claiming. Caught in his rhythms, she thrashed and moaned, pressing her body against him until he flung her over that precipice and into pleasure.

She reached for him then, would have guided him inside her, but he had asked that there be no more than the night before. So instead, tonight, she kissed him fiercely and passionately, pressed her body to his, stroked his chest with her breasts, and worked him with her hand until he cried her name and filled her palm to overflowing with his seed.

Afterwards, they lay together, holding one another, kissing and murmuring sweet words of pleasure, until Tyrion regretfully murmured that he must leave.

She pouted. “Must you go?”

“I think I must,” he replied, as he gathered his clothing. “Sansa, I would not harm your reputation. As long as your guards believe that I am here to discuss trade treaties, all will be well.” He kissed her, more firmly this time. “I shall see you at your brother’s coronation.”

“And afterwards, my lord?” and the invitation in her eyes and on her lips was unmistakeable.

She saw him swallow, take a deep breath. “You honour me, my lady. Afterwards it shall be.”

Chapter Text

“I used to believe you had the finest arse in the Seven Kingdoms,” said the future Queen of the Westerlands to her betrothed husband as they prepared for bed. He twisted, raising his shirt and trying to catch a glimpse of it in the glass in his chamber.

“And now?”

She reached towards him, running her fingers along the new scar where he had been stabbed by Euron Greyjoy. “And now, my love, I find that I have no desire to compare your arse with that of any other man.”

He nuzzled her hair.

“I have grown our household,” she told him. “We are to be accompanied by a seamstress and handmaiden.”

Jaime looked at her. “If it is the seamstress who was responsible for that blue gown that you wore to the banquet, then I am certain that we are not paying her enough.” She giggled. “But a handmaiden, Brienne? You know that you need do nothing that you do not wish to – and I would be as happy for us to be crowned in armour as in more formal clothing.”

She smiled at him. “I know that, but there will be times when I shall have to don a gown. Shall enjoy it, even, when they are well-cut and do not make me look foolish. And it will be useful to have someone to assist me – I shall train her to help me to put on and to remove my armour. I am in no hurry to replace Podrick as my squire, although I hope that we might both find squires in the Westerlands.”

He nodded. Younger sons from the smaller houses frequently sought such roles to curry favour with their lord; when that lord was a king (or a queen), the interest was sure to be even stronger.

“Although I said nothing to her, I fear that I may have aroused Sansa’s curiosity,” Brienne confessed. “I told her that I could not tell more, but I fear that she will have questions.

“And where Sansa Stark is, my brother must also be,” Jaime chuckled. Brienne frowned, looking at him strangely, but would not tell him why. Why had Sansa been asking about intimate matters when she seemed to be spending her time either alone or conversing with Tyrion?

Jaime reached for her, kissing away her thoughtful frown. “Sansa Stark’s curiosity is not the only thing that you have aroused, my dearest love,” he said, tugging at her shift and rubbing himself against her side. She responded eagerly, as she always did, her nipples already budding with delight. He was playful tonight, peppering her body with hot open-mouthed kisses, tickling her, moving his hands so fast that she felt that he was everywhere. She tried to reach for him but he was quicksilver, avoiding her grasp, teasing her with his quixotic movements that never stayed for quite long enough. She was gasping by the time his lips engulfed her nipple, surging up to meet his body, arching into the heat of his mouth. His fingers were everywhere but where she needed them; she captured him with her legs, rubbing herself against his hip – but it was not enough. Her body prickled with desire, her skin crying out for his touch.

“Jaime,” she sobbed, “I need you now,” but he continued to lave her nipple relentlessly with his tongue and dance his fingers down her belly, tantalisingly close to where she wanted them to be. His eyes were dark with desire when he finally raised his head to stare at her. “Tonight, you are mine.”

He slid down the bed to lie between her parted thighs. “Have I told you how much I love your legs? They are so long, and so strong. I feel you could crack me open with them and I would die in bliss.” He kissed the inside of her legs, stroking her tender skin. “And the skin here is so soft. Do you think of me when your thighs touch? Of my head here?” He scraped his beard gently against her, moving closer. “Of my hot breath upon you?” She quaked. “I will kiss you there, my love. And then I shall slide my fingers up inside you until you convulse around them, and change them for my cock while you are still shaking. Do you want that?”

She was flushed, shaking with her want. “Jaime,” she told him firmly, although her voice was breathless, “stop talking and do it now, lest I finish from your words alone.”

She was open to him, pink and soaked with desire. He lowered his mouth to her and she jerked in delight, then he slid two fingers inside her and stroked as he devoured her furiously, their bodies a blur of tension. He sucked once, twice, pumping with his fingers, brushing her nub with the flat of his tongue as his lips tightened around her, and she screamed and quaked around him. He rose up and thrust into her then, and she grinned and flipped him over, riding him at a gallop until he grasped her hips tightly and slammed himself up and into her, shouting his release.

“I am to dress with Sansa and Arya tomorrow,” she told him, after a suitable interlude had passed and the wooden sword had acquired its sixth notch. “Shall we see you before the coronation?”

“You shall.” He looked at her, eyes alert. “Brienne, my dearest love, will you join me in the procession?” As the heir to Tarth, she had no official place in the coronation, but the kings and queens of Westeros were to take their seats on the dais at the formal coronation and to swear allegiance to the High King. Jaime’s invitation would establish her role as queen-in-waiting.

She raised her eyes to his, contemplating her answer. Then, “Yes, Jaime. And I think we must tell our friends of our betrothal, also. Will you tell Tyrion in the morning?”

Jaime squeezed her close. “I shall, with the greatest of delight. And I think you will wish to tell Pod?” She nodded.

He crossed to a chest, Westeros’s finest once again on display. “It’s not – it might not be to your liking, but I wished you to have a betrothal ring.” Seated beside her on the bed, he held out a flat band of gold, studded with a single ruby. To either side of the stone was a spray of silver, set with tiny blue sapphires. In his other hand, he held a simple golden chain.

“I was worried about you wearing it to fight,” he said, as he slid the ring onto her finger. “I would not wish for it to catch or for you to be hurt. You can slide the ring onto this chain, to wear it about your neck when you do not wish it to be on your finger.” He swallowed. “If you like the style, I shall have one made for myself also. The gold and the ruby are for Casterly Rock, of course, and the sapphires for Tarth. The silver is from the North.”

Jaime,” she said, gathering him close. “It is beautiful. I shall be proud to wear it on my finger at King Bran’s coronation.”

“And for years to come,” he prompted.

“And for all the years to come, my love,” she replied.

Chapter Text

Brienne left early the following morning, her betrothal ring hanging on its chain beneath her tunic. He had loved her again when she wore it on her finger, had driven her to completion three times before he had sunk into her and taken his own roaring pleasure, held fiercely between her strong legs. The ring marked him as hers and her as his; more than a symbol of their love, it was a demonstration of it to the world. She would wear it to Brandon’s coronation that day.

After washing himself, Jaime dressed and went to sit in the main room, idly tossing a small ball into the air and catching it. Breakfast had scarcely been brought to the table before Tyrion emerged from his chamber, fastening his jacket as he walked to the table.

“Good morning sleepyhead,” said Jaime loudly, making his brother jump.

“Jaime! Has your lady knight deserted you already?”

Jaime nodded mournfully. “She has, and I must make do with only your company to break my fast.”

Tyrion took a sweet roll from the table. “One hears,” he said cautiously, “that your lady is bound for Tarth, with a seamstress and a handmaiden to accompany her.”

“One does, does one?” echoed Jaime. “And which one might this be, brother dearest?”

“Sansa was there when she spoke to the seamstress,” Tyrion replied, reddening a little.

“At least I know what – or rather, who – you and Queen Sansa discuss so late into the evenings,” Jaime quipped. “I am delighted to provide you with such an intriguing topic for your late-night conversations.”

Tyrion shrugged. “Better your Lady knight than Cersei.”

Jaime nodded thoughtfully. “In every way,” he replied, a rueful – and slightly smug – smile dancing upon his lips.

They ate in silence, each lost in their own thoughts, until Tyrion rose to leave.

“Will you see Queen Sansa tonight?” Jaime asked suddenly, tearing apart a sweet roll with his fingertips. Tyrion nodded, unsure of his brother’s mood until Jaime suddenly smiled, dissipating the tension that had seemingly gripped him all morning. “Then you may have something new to discuss this evening. I am to present you with a new sister, Tyrion – an altogether kinder, gentler, more noble sister.”

Tyrion hurried to his side and hugged him tightly. “It is about time. Congratulations, brother, and my condolences to the lady. I do trust that you mean Ser Brienne? And may I say how delighted I am that this particular sister is not also your sister.”

Jaime cuffed him gently on the shoulder. “No more of that,” he said, “Cersei is in the past. She was my shame, but Brienne is my future and my love. If the king can spare you, we would be honoured to have you join us in Tarth, for the festivities. We have yet to hear from Lord Selwyn, but we hope to be wed there in around ten days’ time, before we leave for the West.”

Tyrion crossed to his desk, removing another of the parcels he had placed there the previous day. “This will be of use to you, then,” he said. Inside was a second crown. “I did not need the King’s powers to foresee this moment,” he added with a broad smile. “I could not be more delighted, Jaime, and so I shall tell your lady knight when next I see her.”

“Your delight pales compared to mine, brother” said Jaime. “Much as I wish to tell the world, however,” he continued, “please be discreet. My lady wishes to tell Ser Podrick and Queen Sansa herself, privately, before this becomes known.” He paused. “There is one more thing that you should know – she will process with me at King Brandon’s coronation today.”

Tyrion nodded. “Quite a public declaration. I shall have a chair set for her. And now I really must depart. I shall keep your secret for you, however keen you appear to be to reveal it.”

---ooooo---

The children were rowdy today, so he and Podrick set them to tight drills. They repeated the same steps over and over, then practised their grip on the wooden swords before being invited to combine the two. Then, Jaime and Podrick showed them how to match swords with one another, and they clashed happily until Jaime had to leave.

He had sent Rodri to the docks early that morning, to enquire whether there might be a captain looking to sail to Tarth within the week. One in particular seemed ideal; originally from Tarth, Captain Jakub had been planning to take a break for a few days’ shore leave when he reached the tiny island. With a little encouragement, he was willing to extend his stay before returning Jaime and his party to King’s Landing a little over two weeks after their departure. Rodri was writing notes as to the arrangements in the notebook he had taken to carrying with him.

A few minutes before noon, Jaime stood waiting, chatting with his clerk. A tall older man, in a fine-quality steel-blue tunic and followed by four men at arms, strode off a ship. “Excuse me ser,” he said, eyeing Jaime’s sword, “Can you tell me how best to reach the Keep?”

It did not take the chiming of the noon bells for Jaime to realise why the Raven King had sent him to the docks that day. Nor was it, he would later claim, the badge the stranger wore on his shoulder, showing yellow suns and white crescent moons quartered in rose and azure, although his queen would scoff and tell him that of course it had been this. It was, Jaime maintained, the all too familiar sapphire blue eyes that now met his. And Ser Jaime Lannister, Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, Lord of Casterly Rock, and King of the Westerlands, bowed low to the stranger.

Chapter Text

“Lord Selwyn Tarth, I presume,” said Jaime, as he straightened.

The man frowned. “You have the advantage of me, ser.”

“My name is Jaime Lannister,” he replied hesitantly.

The man’s face crinkled in a broad smile. “Ser Jaime Lannister. I believe that you have been a good friend to my little girl.”

Jaime straightened. “Ser Brienne and I –”

Ser Brienne>” Lord Selwyn exclaimed. “She used to tell me every morning that she wanted to be a knight. To think that my poppet’s dream has come true!”

“Have you had word from your daughter lately, my lord?”

Lord Selwyn frowned. “No. She wrote once from Winterfell, a line or two but no more. Said that the battle was won, but that there was a further battle to be fought at King’s Landing. When a ship docked at Tarth six days ago and the sailors spoke of a tall blonde woman wearing armour, I hoped that it might be my Brie. I thought at least to get news of her.”

“She is indeed in King’s Landing,” said Jaime, “and you are come just in time for the coronation of King Brandon the Raven, which is to be held today. But come, let me escort you.” Jaime turned to Rodri, giving the young man some hurried instructions, before leading Lord Selwyn and his men slowly towards the bustling Keep.

They were scarcely through the gates before Brienne came running, flinging herself into her father’s arms. “My little Brie,” he said, hugging her, before holding her at arm’s length. “Look at you! And a Knight, no less, Ser Jaime tells me. And tell me, do you have a special young man?”

Brienne blushed. Jaime cleared his throat. “Ser Brienne, might I suggest that your father might be assigned the guest quarters in the Tower of the Hand? I believe that the servants are preparing the room as we speak. Lord Selwyn, your men can be accommodated in the barracks. My brother’s quarters are well guarded and quite commodious.”

Her blue eyes widened, recognising the need for a short delay. “Yes of course, Ser Jaime. Do you think that Lord Tyrion would mind if I showed my father the training yard and the work you have done in the armoury, before we proceed there?”

Jaime nodded, bowing. “I shall meet you in his rooms, my lady. My lord.”

Hurrying to Tyrion’s apartments, he found that Rodri had recruited a large group of servants to clean out his room. His clothing and possessions had been thrown haphazardly into a trunk, which had been carried out into the main chamber, his bedding removed. Two maids were quickly making up the bed with new linen and covers. “What did you want done with this, milord?” asked another, waving the notched wooden sword. Jaime blushed and threw it into the trunk. His new suit of clothing hung on the dressing screen; he hurriedly took it and hung it on a chair in a corner of the main room, then returned to have a pair of servants remove his armour chest, which they stacked atop his trunk. The note he had Rodri write to Tyrion was short and to the point:

T—
Lord S has arrived from Tarth. Unexpected. Have offered him your “guest chamber”. I shall throw myself on Sansa’s mercy – or have B throw me upon it, perhaps, with a greater chance of success. Wish me luck.

He scrawled his name at the end of the note. “Find my brother the Hand and give him this, as quickly as you can. And can you ask the kitchens to send up a luncheon for three? No, make that four, if you see Ser Podrick. And have something to eat yourself.” Rodri hurried off, and Jaime sat in a chair, reviewing everything he knew about Tarth and fathers.

Brienne and her father arrived just as the luncheon did, and for a few minutes the room was filled with servants’ bustle. Jaime led Lord Selwyn to the ‘guest chamber’ and suggested that he have his men-at-arms bring his things to the Keep.

Once the servants had left, Lord Selwyn turned to Jaime and bowed. “Your Grace, I must apologise for not greeting you properly before. Brie tells me that she has sent ravens, but we must have crossed paths after I left Tarth.”

“Ser Jaime is fine,” he replied, seeking Brienne’s nod before he continued, “or Jaime, if you prefer. Lord Selwyn, I—”

“What Jaime is trying to tell you, Father,” said Brienne, drawing the chain bearing her betrothal ring out of her tunic, “is that we are to be wed. Our ravens will await you when you return to Tarth, but I am glad to tell it to you directly.”

Lord Selwyn gasped, then coughed a little. “I had not – Brie –” he paused. “Will you spare us a moment, Your- Ser Jaime?” He led Brienne into Jaime’s room.

A few minutes later, they emerged, a smile on Lord Selwyn’s face. “Jaime, is it. Brie tells me that you were the one who knighted her, also. Thank you for looking after her so well. You will make my little girl happy?”

Jaime was determined. “I will.”

The older man threw open his arms and hugged Jaime hard. “Then welcome to the family, son.”

Over lunch, they told Lord Selwyn of their plans. He proposed to return to Tarth on the second day following King Brandon’s coronation, with them following two days after. The ceremony was planned for the third day following their arrival. There would be a feast at Evenfall Hall, and then the newly wedded couple would retreat to Lake House, Lord Selwyn’s hunting lodge on the banks of Starlight Lake, for three nights. From there, they would return to King’s Landing and then travel on to Casterly Rock.

Tyrion bustled in just as they finished their meal. He had a bow for Lord Selwyn and a kiss for his new good-sister, his teasing mercifully muted by her father’s arrival. He contented himself with “It’s about time” and a cheeky “Are you certain you did not confuse my brother with myself, my lady?” then assured Lord Selwyn of his welcome before hurrying away.

Brienne was the next to leave, with a wary glance at Jaime.

“That’s right,” her father chuckled. “I know how it is with you ladies. All that primping and preparation. Off you go to your Lady Sansa, love. I shall see you after. You give your young man here a kiss goodbye – I am sure he has already stolen one or two from you – and go and make yourself pretty.”

She turned to Jaime, who wore a slightly bemused look. “Will you bring Father to Sansa’s apartments before the coronation?” He nodded, giving her a quick kiss on her cheek, lips quirking at the chaste embrace.

Once she had left, Lord Selwyn turned to him. “Well, I must say, Jaime, you’re not what I expected for my little girl. There are some very unpleasant stories about you, you know. But Brie wrote me a long time ago that the stories weren’t the truth that they claimed to be, and I know that you’ve known one another for a good many years now. What’s more, you both seem very sure of one another. It’s a better match than I’d looked for for my Brie, I can tell you, but I’ll say it to you straight: I will be pleased if you can make her happy.”

Jaime smiled. “As shall I, my lord. I wish for nothing more.”

Chapter Text

Hurrying away from Tyrion’s apartments, Brienne went not directly to Sansa’s suite but rather in search of Ser Podrick. She found him in the armoury, assisting Gendry to sort a newly-discovered cache of weaponry. The room was tidy and there were more weapons in the racks than she had seen before, although there were still a great many to be sharpened and repaired.

“Ser Podrick, might I have a private word?”

Gendry stood and stretched. “I was just about to return to the forge,” he said, “I have something to finish for Queen Sansa.”

Brienne watched the young man leave, then turned to Podrick; “Pod, there is something that I wish to tell you. You are the first other than my father and Lord Tyrion to know that Ser Jaime and I are to wed.”

Her former squire threw his arms about her, then stepped back awkwardly. “Ser Brienne, I wish you happy.”

“It is just Brienne, Pod.”

He smiled. “And shortly, Your Grace.” She scowled at him. “Very well then … Brienne. And may I say that it is about time?”

At that, it was her turn to grin.

She arrived in Sansa’s apartments just as her bath was being drawn. Hiding Jaime’s ring beneath her pillow, she stepped into the soothing warm water and sank down to rest, a warm cloth covering her eyes. She left the bath as the water began to cool, drying herself and donning a fine silken shift and the robe that Sansa had given her. A knock on the door was followed by “It’s Marisal, my lady,” and she bid the seamstress enter. Accompanying her was a tall, pleasant-looking young woman, introduced by Marisal as her husband’s sister Anali. She seemed capable and pleasant, and Brienne gladly agreed to take her on as a handmaiden, feeling that Anali would suit her well. She set to work immediately, shaking out the trousers and jacket that Brienne had hung on the dressing screen and brushing off the dust.

“Can you be ready to leave for Tarth in four days’ time?” Brienne asked the women, and they agreed. She gave them each some coin for their own purchases, as well as for anything that they would require for her, and bade them meet her again at noon on the following day.

They dried and curled her hair, then helped her to don her golden gown, pinning the brooches Jaime had given her to where scarf and gown met near her left shoulder. The ends of the scarf hung down her back, almost touching the floor, not quite a cloak or train, but more than simply a gown. She had fine golden slippers to wear with it, made of buttery soft leather. She took Jaime’s ring from beneath the pillow and dropped the chain about her neck, concealing the ring beneath the gown, then was ready to join the group outside.

As before, Lady Arya was waiting, this time in a gown of palest pink, deceptive in its sweetness. Nobody would see the trained fighter and assassin beneath the apparently sweet young woman. The cut of the gown was sleeker and plainer than the one she had worn to the banquet. Its tulip-shaped skirts and closely-fitted bodice emphasised the young woman’s tiny frame, although Brienne was sure that she saw the outline of a hilt at Arya’s right hip. Her brother Jon Snow waited in a chair near the room’s open windows, dressed simply in the blacks that he preferred, and Podrick was also present, although not yet wearing the uniform of the Kingsguard.

Sansa had chosen to dress in the whites of winter, her gown again combining the severity of the north with the softer, lighter fabrics of the southern climes. Her tiered skirts fluttered as she moved, while the fitted bodice with its high collar, deep v-neck and long sleeves clung tightly to her frame. Her hair was simple; mostly loose, with two narrow braids that were caught at the back of her head with a single blue winter rose, the four rose-shaped pins again tucked low. Against the warm white colour, her face seemed to glow with a new radiance. She had always been beautiful, but Brienne had never seen her look better than she had this week in King’s Landing.

“Ser Jaime will be here shortly,” Brienne told her and Arya. “And with a guest. My father has arrived from Tarth.” The ladies expressed their pleasure, then Brienne continued, with a blush. “Jaime has given Father his chambers, leaving himself without a bed. Might he –”

Sansa looked at her, an eyebrow arched. “You wish for Ser Jaime Lannister to stay with you in your chamber here?” Brienne blushed further, and Sansa grinned. “Of course he may. You had best have his trunks brought here once we leave for the coronation.”

When Lord Selwyn arrived shortly with Jaime, he was effusive in his gratitude for Sansa’s generosity towards his “little Brie”. Jaime crossed to her side, murmuring in her ear that she looked every inch the queen, a true golden lioness, and that he looked forward to removing this gown, much as he had the last. His own clothing – creamy light brown leather breeches and a darker woollen jacket, with a cloak of crimson silk over his right shoulder – was new and made him look once more the golden lion of King’s Landing – albeit with the longer hair and crooked grin that spoke of her Jaime. “We make a good pair,” Jaime murmured, “showing our colours together.” She had not planned it so, but wondered whether Sansa might have. Removing the chain he had given her, she passed it to him, unfastening it to remove his ring. Once more, he slid it onto her left hand, her right hand clasping gently about it.

“Will you, or shall I?” he asked quietly. She smiled at him. “When have I ever stopped you from speaking, Jaime?”

Jaime cleared his throat, so that the assembled group looked towards them. “Ser Brienne, the Lady of Tarth, has done me the great honour of consenting to be my queen,” he announced, and the room fell silent for a moment. “We are to wed at Evenfall Hall in ten days’ time.”

“Well it’s about time,” said Arya. Podrick glared, ready to step on her foot if she started to be more indiscreet before Brienne’s Lord Father, but he was looking on, an expression of doting pride on his face and a hearty kiss for Brienne and a hug and a clap on the shoulder for Jaime.

Sansa rushed by in a perfumed cloud to embrace Brienne and to admire her betrothal ring, and Podrick kissed her cheek and clapped Ser Jaime on the back. Arya looked at her, a little puzzled – “I did not know that this was what you wanted,” but Brienne replied clearly, “it is, very much,” and she was satisfied. Even Jon Snow wished them happy, although he clearly wished to be elsewhere, and his trunks had already been conveyed to the ship that would carry him North with the dawn.

Chapter Text

Tyrion had hurried more in the past day than he had ever hurried before. Countless small details required attention, and there were few in King’s Landing with the experience to direct what needed to be done. Now, though, it was time for the coronation.

The King sat in his chair on a raised dais at one end of the hall, the Septon beside him. To either side were seats for selected guests, with several rows of seats at the front of the room for such noble lords and ladies of the realm as had reached King’s Landing in time. He saw Podrick Payne escort Lord Selwyn to one of the front seats before taking his place to one side of the room, one hand on the hilt of his sword.

The music swelled, and the Kings and Queens of Westeros, together with the Lords of the new crown protectorates and members of Bran’s Small Council, began their procession.

Sansa was first – “Sansa Stark, Queen of the North” announced the Maester. She curtsied low to Brandon, then took a seat to the left of the dais.

Following Sansa were Robin Arryn, King of the Mountain and the Vale, then Gendry Baratheon, Lord Protector of the Stormlands, Quentyn Martell, King of Dorne, Bronn of the Blackwater, Lord Protector of the Reach, and Yara Greyjoy, Queen of the Iron Islands. Lastly, of the kings and queens, “Ser Jaime Lannister, King of the Westerlands, and Ser Brienne, Lady of Tarth and future Queen of the Westerlands.” They heard gasps and a rustle of whispers, but Jaime and Brienne walked calmly to the dais, bowed to the King, and took their seats beside Sansa. Jaime reached for Brienne’s hand, kissed it in full view of all the assembled lords and ladies of the realms, and held it gently on his knee.

Next, Lady Arya Stark, the Hero of Winterfell and Lord Jon Snow, Commander of the Night’s Watch, as Bran’s siblings, were presented to him and took their places. Following the high nobles were the officials and remaining members of the Small Council, before: “Lord Tyrion Lannister, Hand of the King”. He stepped forward and bowed to Brandon, then took the seat he had placed behind Sansa’s.

Tyrion’s eyes widened a little at the rose in Sansa’s hair, and the four small clips which she wore once again. He wondered what she would do if he reached out a hand to stroke it, to smell the rose’s heady perfume and to feel the soft weight of her silken hair. The High Septon droned on a little about a King’s responsibility to the realm and, predictably, to the Church. Tyrion had warned him not to mention procreation, so they were spared that at least. He wasn’t sure he could stand a lecture on procreation when he was quite this close to the Queen of the North.

Finally, it was time for the coronation ceremony. They had kept it short, constructing new oaths that built on those from the past. Brandon swore by the Old Gods and the New to offer his protection to the realms of Westeros, to keep their counsel, to ask no action of his that would bring them dishonour, and to offer the realms a place on his Council, and to be their liege. Then the gathered kings and queens of the seven kingdoms – including Brienne – joined their oaths to shield the king, to take no action to harm the peace of the realms, and to provide aid to one another against mutual threats. His officebearers, including Tyrion and Podrick, as well as the Lords Protector of what would be dubbed the Kingdoms of the Crownlands – Bronn and Gendry – swore a similar oath.

The King looked out over his assembled subjects and spoke. “As we have sworn, so will it be. There will be peace in Westeros,” he promised, before those assembled stood and cried, “Long live the King!”

Brandon signalled for assistance with his chair, and Ser Podrick Payne pushed him slowly through the crowds. He was followed by the Lord Hand, who escorted the King’s sister Queen Sansa, and by the other rulers of the nation. The Maid of Tarth, now Ser Brienne, walked to the left of King Jaime Lannister of the Westerlands, and the more astute amongst the observers noticed the new ring on her finger that proclaimed their betrothal, confirming the Maester’s earlier announcement.

There was a banquet and feasting, as was expected, but once again the kings and queens left early, leaving the other guests to their more rowdy celebrations. After escorting Lord Selwyn back to The Tower of the Hand, Brienne and Jaime made their way to Sansa’s apartments, where they joined Tyrion and Sansa, who sat conversing by the fire. The four talked for a time before Jaime began to yawn and make pointed comments about how tired he was, but Brienne refused to leave, casting pointed looks at Tyrion that even Jaime could recognise. Eventually, Tyrion ostentatiously stood to leave. He kissed his soon-to-be-sister’s cheek, clapped Jaime on the shoulder, and turned to kiss Sansa’s hand before she leant forward to lightly kiss him farewell.

After Tyrion left, Jaime and Brienne said their goodnights, and Sansa sat back in the chair to relax. A few minutes later, a stealthy noise at the door saw Tyrion re-enter, gesturing dramatically towards the corridor to Brienne’s chamber. “I thought they would never leave!” he whispered, “I think that perhaps my future good-sister was attempting to protect your virtue. Or perhaps mine.”

Sansa stood and took his hand. “I think we must hide ourselves,” she replied gravely, leading him once again to her bedchamber and across it to sit on the chaise. He rested his head against her briefly, then turned her head away from him. Sweeping her hair to one side, he leaned in to breathe the perfume of the rose in her hair, his beard softly sweeping across her neck. He kissed her there then, and on her ear and her cheek as she turned to face him.

“I have wished to do that since I sat behind you at the coronation. If this is to be our last night together, Sansa, then I want it to be perfect for you.”

She smiled tremulously. “It already is, Tyrion. You are with me.”

They kissed for what seemed like hours, lips nipping and teasing, whispering sweet words to one another. Her soft lips were a perfect match for his own, chasing his and pressing against them, stoking the fires of their need.

At last, when kissing had become touching and touches had slipped into caresses, they began slowly to remove one another’s clothing, no longer shy but caught up in their shared passion. The undoing of each fastening was marked with more kisses, more touching and stroking, and by the time they were nude they were aflame with desire, consumed by the carnal promise of the night. Tyrion kissed and licked Sansa’s breasts, then suckled gently at her nipples until she was writhing against him, her breaths coming fast. His mouth was hot and her skin was heated, and he – who had once boasted of having had every whore between Casterly Rock and King’s Landing – had never felt such need. When they moved to the bed, he could wait no longer, and buried his head between her milky white thighs. He captured her with his mouth, using his tongue and his fingers to relentlessly push her to her peak. She was not shy with him tonight, her legs falling open, her sighs louder as she pressed against him, knowing now what it was that she chased. And where her innocent hesitation had aroused him, this new Sansa, alive to pleasure, had him ready to spend just from the sight and taste of her. She buried her hands in his hair, holding him to her as she peaked, sighing and gasping and moaning his name, then tugging at him to move further up the bed to kiss her mouth once more. Her eyes glittered as he returned to her, her hands roving across his back and around to his chest. She was afire with her need for him, unsated even by her completion. “I want you,” she told him simply, “I want you wholly.”

“Are you certain, Sansa?” he asked, and her passionate kiss was his answer.

Fully ready, he raised himself above her and sheathed himself slowly inside her liquid depths, her face mirroring the desire that raged within her. Taking her nipple into his mouth, he sucked and nipped while she adjusted to his thickness, then he began to move within her, praying that he could wait – that he would not disgrace himself, reciting the alphabet backwards and desperately trying to think of anything but her and the way she had come apart at his kiss, the hot feel of her as she clung, slickly, about his cock. He thrust slowly at first – too slowly, and she mewled her need, rising up, begging to take him deeper. She was not silent, this Queen of the North, and left him in no doubt of what she liked as, together, they pursued their pleasure. As his movements became faster, he took his hand to her nub, pushing and stroking gently, then more firmly, until once more she shattered, clenching around him. Consumed by their loving, finally letting himself go, he thrust into her over and over until with a deep groan he pulled himself from her and spent against her soft belly.

He kissed her softly between her breasts, then moved slowly up the bed to take her in his arms. Overwhelmed, she tugged the coverlet to cover them. She turned and kissed him deeply, tears on her cheeks. “That was beautiful,” she whispered. “How could I not have known?” and then, “Will you stay with me, Tyrion?”

“I cannot stay all night,” he warned, playing with the hair that fell across her shoulder and gently kissing the top of her head, “But I shall bide for a time.”

They slept a little, then, holding to one another even in their dreams. When she awoke, she found him curled in her arms, a look of peace upon his face. “What am I to do?” she wondered, gazing at her lover in the moonlight.

They loved again when he awoke, slowly and gently. And if their first time had been about need, this was about reluctance – reluctance to press forward in what must be their last loving, reluctance to disengage from one another when it was done, reluctance to leave the cocoon of shared arms, shared bodies, shared coverlet. But it would be dawn soon, and the Hand of the King could not be found in the bed of a Queen, so he rose and dressed himself with all the resolution he could muster, turning to kiss her one more time.

“I shall not be at the docks today,” he told her, his voice cracking a little, “I do not think that I could bear it. We must say our farewells now.” She sobbed, reaching to hold him again. “These days with you have been –” he buried his face in her shoulder, a quake running through him. “I will treasure these memories.”

“Tyrion,” she sobbed, cupping his face in her hands. Her thumbs stroked his face as though to memorise it. “I—”

“I must leave, dearest Sansa, before I cannot,” he said, kissing her once more then turning abruptly on his heel and leaving her chamber.

Chapter Text

Jaime woke before dawn on the morning after Bran’s coronation. It was time, he knew – these past days had been an interlude, but now he must see to his arrangements – first, his travel to Tarth with Brienne and her bluff, cheerful father, and then their journey to take their place as rulers of the Westerlands. He should be there already, he knew, but both the coronation and his lady’s desire to be wed from her father’s home were paramount.

He pulled on his shirt and breeches, leaving Brienne to slumber, and took himself out to the larger chamber to sit and think by the fire.

Hearing a noise, he rose stealthily, wondering what intruder would dare to disturb a queen’s apartments – but he found no intruder. Instead, his brother crept towards the fire on stockinged feet, clearly having left the chamber of the queen, carrying his boots in one hand. His face was a mask of despair. Jaime sat once again and remained silent until his brother sat in the chair opposite, running one hand over his face, before beginning to don his boots.

“So …” said Jaime thoughtfully, and Tyrion jumped, shock evident on his face. “This is how the Queen of the North has been passing her time in King’s Landing. All those evenings of trade negotiations have certainly led to some form of exchange, although not perhaps the type that we had expected.”

Tyrion looked horrified, then pleading. “It is not – Jaime, you must say nothing of this.”

Jaime scowled. “It is not what precisely? I discover you leaving Sansa’s bedchamber at dawn, hours before I saw you leave her apartments to return to your chamber – tell me, brother, how is it not? Sansa promised me that she would not –”

“Sansa promised that she would not what?” asked Tyrion clearly, articulating every syllable. “What did you do, Jaime?”

Jaime sighed. “At the banquet,” he said, “several days ago, I suggested to Queen Sansa – very politely – that the West would not take kindly to the North trifling with the Lord Hand.”

Tyrion laughed. “Jaime, I am hardly some blushing virgin to be trifled with. What is between me and Sansa – what was between me and Sansa – is private. And it is over. And now,” he said, attempting to gather his dignity, “I must be about my day. Say nothing of this to Sansa,” he said. “She leaves today for Winterfell.”

Tyrion finished tugging on his boots, picked up a pile of paperwork, and left Sansa’s apartments, glaring at Jaime.

And Jaime sat, staring into the fire, thinking deeply.

---ooooo---

When Sansa joined Jaime and Brienne at the breakfast table several hours later, Jaime stared at her, a hard look in his eyes. Her eyes were red-rimmed, and she appeared to have been weeping. She had not yet dressed for the day but wore a long, belted robe over her nightshift.

“Did you sleep well, Your Grace?” he asked her.

“Tolerably,” she replied, although her looks belied her words.

“I did not,” he responded coldly. “I was up before dawn, sitting by the fire.”

She flinched, and Brienne looked between them, trying to understand what was not being said. “Jaime—” she said warningly, but the North and the West were not to be moved.

“I warned you once, Queen Sansa, that the West has a great affection for our brother, the Lord Hand,” he said coldly.

“As does the North,” she replied, and her hand and her voice trembled a little. “But the Hand of the King is required in King’s Landing to assist the High King.” Her eyes filled with tears, and her teeth worried at her lower lip.

He reached out to her then, stilling her hand with his own. “But surely not forever, Sansa. And even a queen must have much to discuss with a beloved brother before her departure.”

She took his meaning, rising from the table. “You are correct, Jaime. I believe – I believe I must seek an audience with my brother.”

Jaime smiled.

Chapter Text

She dressed quickly, leaving her trunks open. Calling for her handmaidens, she requested them to have them conveyed with a message to the captain of the ship that they would take north. As she looked around the chamber, her eyes lit on the cushion that Tyrion had used to spare her blushes that first evening, and she took it and buried it in her trunk beneath some of her gowns. A glint on the table beside her bed had her crossing the chamber. There, she found a silver necklet crafted in similar style to her crown, hinged at the back and with two direwolf heads crossing in the front. Each had a diamond set in the place of an eye. A note beside it read, simply, “Remember me fondly, Remember me fiercely. T.”

With dry eyes and steady hands, she tucked the note into her trunk and donned the necklet, concealing it beneath the collar of her gown. It felt warm against her skin, a reminder of the warmth of the man who had gifted it to her, who had lent her strength for what she must do today. She bathed her eyes with cool water until they were clear once more, then dressed in a simple loose gown in the southern style.

Jaime had already left when she emerged from her chamber, but Brienne sat there still.

“My father will leave today,” she said, “so Jaime’s chamber will be empty once more. I shall call the servants, have them return his things to Tyrion’s apartments.”

“I think that you should both remain here,” said Sansa. “If you wish, you may stay in these chambers until you leave for Tarth and the Westerlands. There seems little point in their being left empty, and even less point in your moving everything for the few nights that remain of your time in King’s Landing.”

“I shall miss you, Sansa,” said the knight.

“And I you,” she replied, moving to seat herself across from the knight. “Might I ask you another question, Brienne?”

Brienne nodded.

“How did you know? With S- – with Jaime. How did you know that you could trust him with your heart?”

Brienne looked at her, confused. “Sansa, I did not know. But I knew that it was already his, and that if I could not trust him with it, then his would never be mine.”

---ooooo---

Tyrion’s mornings were devoted to working with the builders to rebuild as much of the Red Keep as possible, so she knew that he would not interrupt them. Nevertheless, she watched for him as she walked to her brother’s chambers. The guards saluted and admitted her straight away, and Bran sent away his guard so that they might be alone. He did not wear his crown today, but his wheeled chair had a new, higher back, with a carving above his head which showed the triple-stranded crown.

She curtsied, as a queen might to a king, then moved to take his hands and drop a swift kiss on his brow, as a sister might do to her brother.

“Sansa,” Bran greeted her with what passed for a smile. “Is it today, then, that you leave for the North?”

“That was my intention,” she replied. “I must ask you, brother, whether your need of the Lord Hand remains great,” she asked.

He looked steadily at her. “I do not think that that is the question you truly wish to have answered.” He frowned, thinking for a long moment. “Nor is that answer yours.”

Her mouth twisted, and she looked away, her hands gripped tightly together. “Is there hope, Bran?”

“There is always hope, Sansa, for those who are brave.”

“Our uncle remains in King’s Landing,” she said, as thought to leave painful subjects behind. “You did not think to name him a king also?”

“He will have another role to play,” replied the King steadily.

She nodded slowly, and gently kissed him farewell, the Stark who would never return to Winterfell, then left to seek out her sister.

Chapter Text

Jaime refused to explain his strange behaviour at the breakfast table, but reassured Brienne that she owed Sansa no apology for bringing him to her apartments. “And if my own reassurance counts for nothing,” he said, rubbing his beard against her shoulder, “then consider that I first met Sansa Stark more than eight years ago, and she has never once, before this morning, called me Jaime.”

He trained the children that morning for what would be his third-to-last time. Some of them showed promise, some were less promising, but he was pleased that he would be leaving them better than they had been. The boy who had refused to fight with Becka that first morning now regularly fought with one of the girls; the others also had accepted their presence. He would make a similar change at Casterly Rock when he arrived, and felt a pang that called him there, for the first time in many years. With Brienne at his side, the Rock would become a welcome home rather than a dismal resting place for a washed-up one-handed swordsman.

At the end of training, Becka approached him. He sat, so that she could speak to him directly.

“Thank you, Ser Jaime,” she said shyly, holding out a square of cambric on which she had embroidered a red lion wearing an enormous golden crown, embellished with a plethora of coloured gemstones. “I have made you a gift. My mam says we are to leave King’s Landing, so I will not be able to return to your training. We are to pack up our things tomorrow.”

He ruffled her hair. “Thank you, Becka. I like this handkerchief very much, and I shall remember you whenever I see it. You can continue to train wherever you are. A young woman should always be able to defend herself.”

She nodded, then, “We are to go on a boat, Ser Jaime! Have you ever been on a boat?”

“I have,” he said gravely. “You must be sure to mind what the sailors tell you. Where do you go on this boat of yours, Miss Becka?”

She smiled. “Mam has taken work with a noble lady, she tells me, and we are to sail with her, mam and aunt and I, to an island called Tarth. But then we are to travel somewhere else before we reach our new home.”

Jaime grinned. “Can you keep a secret, Becka?” He paused. “No, it is no longer secret. Is it Ser Brienne with whom you travel?”

Becka frowned. “I do not know, Ser Jaime, but mam did say that she was a very tall lady, strong and wise, and lovely to dress.”

“Then I shall tell you, Becka, that I am also to sail to Tarth, where Ser Brienne and I will be wed. And then we shall travel to Casterly Rock, where she will become my queen. If your mother is indeed to travel with my betrothed wife, then you shall see the sea twice over, and perhaps you may continue your training.”

Becka gaped at him. “Ser Jaime, it is just like a story.”

“It is indeed,” he said, and asked her to lead him to her mother, as he had a request for her.

---ooooo---

Brienne summoned him to Tyrion’s apartments late in the afternoon. Arriving, he found her father dressed once more for travel.

“I shall farewell you both now,” said Selwyn, “We leave on the first tide. Tonight, I shall sleep on the ship, so that we may be away with the dawn.” He paused. “Your brother, the Lord Hand, and I spoke about the future of Tarth. It is a long way from Casterly Rock, but I would hope that you will find the time to visit from time to time. I will miss my girl, even if she is to be a queen. I am sworn to the Stormlands and to young Lord Gendry, and shall remain so, but when I am gone, Tarth is to be held by the Crown, in trust for such of Brie’s children as you may choose to inherit it.” He turned to Brienne. “You must try to calm your blushes, poppet, if you are to be wed. And you, young man,” he turned to look at Jaime. “Take good care of my little girl. I know that you respect her modesty.”

Brienne choked a little, which her father took as maidenly virtue. He patted her hand fondly.

Jaime nodded, managing – against the odds, he would argue – to keep a straight face. “I would ask – if I may – your support for your new lord. He has a great deal to learn, but we have fought beside him, and have worked with him here at the Keep. I believe that he will be a good and honest lord, but he could use a strong mentor.”

“He seems a good-hearted young man,” replied the Evenstar, “and Tarth is but a short distance from Storm’s End. I will gladly assist him.”

They walked down to the docks together, Lord Selwyn farewelling them both with a warm hug. “I shall see you in under a week,” he instructed. “I shall ensure that your chambers are prepared, Brie – and a guest suite for your young man – and will have Lake House thoroughly cleaned and prepared for your stay.” He patted Brienne’s cheek. “Your mother would be proud of you and of your betrothed husband, my dearest girl,” he told her softly, before wrapping first her and then Jaime in another great bear hug before he turned to board his ship.

As they strolled through the streets of King’s Landing towards the Keep, hands clasped, dusk rapidly approaching, Jaime murmured, “I think that I shall have to fight you on Tarth, and you will have to beat me very thoroughly.”

Brienne chuckled. “My father has always seen me as a little girl. I doubt that that will ever change.”

“He thanked me for knighting you!” Jaime exclaimed indignantly. “I told him that you were a truer knight than any in Westeros, and I thought he would pat me on the cheek and call me poppet.”

She giggled. “He will not change,” she said.

“In truth, I would not change him,” said Jaime. “It is just –” he paused – “strange, to see a father so fond. My own father never called me son, or hugged me.” He paused for a moment – “I do not criticise, you understand. But it is unexpected.”

She wrapped an arm around his, leaning close.

Fond is exactly the word that I would use for my father. It is well-meant, but can become wearing. I would enjoy a good bout, once you are fully recovered.” He reached across to take her left hand, stroking his thumb over the betrothal ring that she wore proudly.

“All of our bouts are good,” he proclaimed grandly, “though only a few take place in the training yard.” She smacked him gently on the shoulder as they returned to the Keep, where Jaime took his leave to look for his brother.

Chapter Text

After breaking his fast with the Evenstar, Tyrion had a little time before his first meeting of the day. Reaching into his desk drawer, he removed the final parcel that he had bought and returned to his chamber, opening the tiny bag.

The ring was spectacular, golden lion and silver direwolf entwined. The direwolf’s eye was a ruby, the lion’s a diamond. And yet, it was not heavy, like the first Lannister ring that he had given her, but light and strong. It would embrace, rather than encumber, her finger.

If only he had not been too afraid to offer her a fool’s dream.

She would have left by now. He knew that she had visited Bran that morning to say her farewells. She and her entourage – smaller than it had been when she arrived – would have gone to the docks, bidding their farewells to Jaime and Brienne, to Arya, and to others who had gone to farewell her. Jon-Aegon, he knew, had already sailed for the far North the previous night, not even returning to Sansa’s apartments after the coronation.

They would write, he thought. Short messages of trade and negotiation, with perhaps a few scrawled words of affection at the bottom. My regards to the Lord Hand and The Hand sends his best wishes – nothing that would ever match the depth of his feeling. He might visit someday, but how would he bear it if she were to marry now, to see her swelling with another man’s child. Even the thought was repugnant, although he longed for her to find happiness.

He scarcely dared even to imagine a time when they might have been together, when he might have touched her by right, rather than only behind closed doors. His breath caught at the lost dream that it might have been his seed that rounded her belly with child, his own infant that nursed at those soft white breasts. They had had so little time together, but his heart would forever be hers.

And what of when they met again, if she wanted him once more? Would he be able to push her away, to protect his tender heart from breaking anew? Perhaps he had been but a diversion, and she did not truly want him at all? He was unsure which option would be the worse.

Gently dropping the ring and its pouch into a small bowl beside his bed, he left his chamber to begin his day.

Tyrion busied himself with the work of rebuilding, meeting with builders and inspecting cellars and foundations of the Keep, determined to wear himself out. The king looked at him curiously when they met, late in the day, but thanked him for his effort in preparing for the coronation. “Now our true work of governance and rebuilding must begin,” he told Tyrion.

Tyrion lingered a moment after their meeting. “There is something you would ask,” King Brandon said, in a voice that brooked no argument.

“There is, Your Grace, but I do not know quite how to ask it.”

“Open your mouth and speak, Lord Hand,” said the king – and Tyrion was never certain whether this had been a joke or simply practical advice.

“Your Grace, when you appointed me as your Hand, we did not discuss whether this was to be a permanent appointment or whether it should only last for a time.”

The king looked at him steadily. “Happiness is there to be grasped,” he said in his odd way. “I shall require your assistance for six months.” He paused, then added oddly, “The North does not deal well with bastards.”

Tyrion frowned, puzzled by the King’s reference to Jon-Aegon. Would the young man prove a threat to Sansa? Tyrion could hardly believe it, although his heart rejoiced at the notion that he might be free, in a mere half year, to seek his own happiness. He continued, “There is one thing further. My brother and Lady Brienne are to be wed on the island of Tarth in a week’s time. I request your leave to travel there to celebrate with my brother, and to continue to Storm’s End to introduce Lord Gendry to the Stormlands.”

“You have my leave,” the king replied. “Now I must leave you.” Abruptly, his eyes turned milky white.

With nothing more to be gleaned from the king, and a lonely evening yawning ahead of him, Tyrion went to the dining hall in search of wine. Instead, he found his brother.

“Will you be returning to my ‘guest chamber’ Jaime?”

“I shall remain with Brienne,” his brother replied. “Sansa has given us leave to use her rooms until we leave for the West.”

Tyrion’s face twitched in grief at the mention of her name.

Jaime reached his hand out. “I’m truly sorry, Tyrion.”

“Never pity a fool,” Tyrion ground out. “Anything that I have done, I have brought on myself.”

Losing interest in his wine, he turned and stomped from the room.

He went first to the rookery, where he took a pen and wrote, before he could reconsider. “Sansa, I love you. I should have told you this. I am a fool. – T

After watching the Maesters dispatch the raven, he turned to leave, then returned to send a second winging after it. This one simply read, “I am yours, however you will have me.”

He watched this raven for a time, feeling a little of his bitterness lift. He had tried – and if he failed, then he would continue as he always had. But if he succeeded – oh, if he succeeded, then he would have the joy that he had never thought to reach.

He returned to his rooms a little after dusk, with no desire to join the evening’s carousing. Even in his rooms, which she had never visited, he fancied that he could still find traces of her scent. Tugging off his boots, he set them in a corner, then stacked papers neatly on his desk, recalling the ones that he had taken to her chambers as a ruse for her guards. With a curse, he swept them to the floor. Taking a flagon of wine and a goblet, he stalked to his own chamber for some privacy in which to drink himself to oblivion, even if only for the night.

With the drapes closed, his room was lit only by a fire, before which sat a gleaming copper tub. A woman lay in it – a woman with long red hair that from a distance was like to that of his beloved, a silken gown draped across the end of his bed leaving no doubt as to her nudity. Almost, he was tempted, although he had not had a whore since the last time he was in King’s Landing.

“Did Lord Bronn send you?” he asked harshly, setting the flagon and goblet on a table. “You have been misinformed. I take no delight in whores. I shall pay you whatever he promised but leave me now.”

She gasped, and turned her head, and it was she. He gaped for a moment, then crossed to her, looking into her eyes. “Sansa? I thought –”

She leaned forward, kissing him, first gently and then fiercely, possessively, running her hands over his shoulders before finding the fastenings of his jacket and beginning to undo them. Beneath the water, she was nude but for the direwolf necklet he had left by her bed. “I realised that I could not leave King’s Landing while so much remained unsaid, unsettled,” she told him. His shirt followed his jacket to the floor, and her hands moved to his breeches. “There is much that we must discuss, Tyrion, but … can it wait?”

He was naked now, climbing into the tub to be with her. The water was cooler than he liked, and he looked quizzically at her. She shrugged. “I did not want to miss you. I have been here for some time.” She showed him the wrinkled pads of her fingers, then ran them across his body. He washed quickly, her eager hands both helping and hindering his efforts, then they left the tub and dried one another before falling to the bed. Driven by their desire, they kissed and touched, stroking one another to new heights of desperation, before he rolled onto his back and positioned her above him. With a slide, he was inside her, and then she was riding him, slowly at first as she learned these new rhythms, and then more quickly, clenching and squeezing him. He was lost as soon as he was inside her, inside Sansa; the Keep could have fallen again and he would not have cared as long as she was with him. There was only her, only them.

She ground herself against him, arms stretched above her head, twisting and writhing and seeking their pleasure. Her luscious breasts bounced and quaked as she moved, as she met his thrusts, tightening herself around him. The diamond eyes of the direwolf necklet he had given her gleamed in the dim light. He could not look away, had neither seen nor felt the like of this. Their passion had flushed her skin a soft shade of pink, her lips rosy as she drew each shaking breath, her eyes focused on him. His fingers found her nub and she came apart, arching her back and shouting their passion to the world, clenching his cock in tight spasms, and he roared his release as he came inside her in waves that seemed to go on forever.

Lifting herself off him, she pulled the coverlet over them and snuggled close, her head pillowed on his shoulder. He could feel her heart pounding in time with his own, feel the sweat on her body and the little tremors that still took her. Mutely, he kissed the top of her head, resting his lips on her silken hair.

“I sent ravens,” he said, when he could speak again. “To you, in Winterfell. Although I believe your methods are rather more effective.”

She hummed. “I shall look forward to reading them, my lord,” she said primly.

“They are a little redundant, my love,” he replied, kissing her hair, then moving her to face him. “I do love you, you know,” he said ruefully. “With every part of my being. I know that you do not feel the same, but I would be yours in any way that I could.”

“Tyrion,” she replied fondly, her fingers tracing patterns on his chest, tangling in the soft hairs. “You may be the smartest man in Westeros, but I take back anything that I have ever said that suggests that you are not an idiot. I disrupted the plans for my return to the North so that I could remain in King’s Landing tonight and come to you. I enlisted my sister to smuggle me into your rooms, where I waited for you in a bath that was cold even for Northern tastes. I am currently naked in your bed. I have pleasured you with my hand, and have watched you pleasure yourself – with delight, I might add. I have made love with you three times when a week ago I believed that I could never be touched again by a man. I love you so much that I thought that leaving would break my heart. I dream only of you, you foolish, foolish man. Why would you doubt this?”

He gasped, his eyes filling with tears. He kissed her gently, reverently. “Your brother told me that he will release me from his service in six months’ time.” He rolled over, reached for the ring he had commissioned for her, “Will you wed me then, dearest Sansa?” He held it out to her, not on one knee but curled together with her.

She held out her finger, thoughtful, as he slid the ring into its place. “I will wed you then, by the old gods, in the Godswood at Winterfell.” She bit her lip, and whispered to him softly.

His tears fell then, and she held him close as he wept for all the love he had never felt, that he had never expected to find. She kissed them from his cheeks and held him close, his head pillowed between her breasts. And in the dark, the wolf and her lion whispered words of love and promises of their future until, at last, they slept.

Chapter Text

He woke to a pounding on the door of the room where he and Brienne were sleeping. Tugging on a pair of loose trousers, he hurried to the door, opening it to find his brother standing there, fully dressed.

“Tyrion – it is not even dawn, and you are disturbing not only me but also Brienne.”

“Hurry up and dress,” his brother insisted, “and your lady knight too. There is much to be done.” Jaime groaned, but turned the door to do Tyrion’s bidding.

“What is it?” asked Brienne sleepily, from their bed.

“One of Tyrion’s starts,” Jaime replied. “We had best see what he is about.”

They washed with cold water and dressed quickly, finding Tyrion and Arya awaiting them in the main chamber. To his surprise, they had been joined by Sansa, who had apparently not yet departed for Winterfell. Both women were simply dressed in plain yet warm clothing, Sansa wearing a thick northern cloak of dark grey with a roughly stitched direwolf emblem on it.

“Follow me,” said Tyrion.

“Is this really so important that you must disturb all our sleep?” grumbled Jaime.

“It is,” replied Tyrion, wrapping a warm red cloak about himself and leading them through the keep and into the small Sept. Jaime frowned, unsure why his brother would bring him here - perhaps, in a sudden bout of devotion, to pray for Sansa's safe travels. The High Septon, looking very much like someone who had been roused prematurely from a deep sleep, stood at the altar. Tyrion greeted him with a handshake.

“Walk with me, sister?” Sansa asked, taking Arya’s arm and leading – pulling, rather – her towards the altar. Arya gasped, a smile creeping across her face. Sansa let go of her sister’s arm when she reached Tyrion, and moved to kneel beside where he stood. The Septon said something to them, and Brienne squeezed Jaime’s arm, gasping when she saw Tyrion reach up and unclasp Sansa’s cloak, removing his own crimson one to reveal a golden lion, and settling it gently around her shoulders. Sansa turned to Tyrion with a soft smile and robed him in her own discarded cloak.

“My lords, my ladies,” proclaimed the Septon, “we stand here in the sight of gods and men to witness the union of man and wife. One flesh, one heart, one soul, now and forever."

Jaime looked at Brienne in shock. “Did you know about this,” he murmured, and she shook her head, wide eyed. “I did not even know that they –”

Taking an emerald green ribbon, the Septon tied a knot about their hands. As he did so, he intoned gravely, “Let it be known that Sansa of House Stark and Tyrion of House Lannister are one heart, one flesh, one soul. Cursed be he who would seek to tear them asunder.” The Septon continued, “In the sight of the Seven, I hereby seal these two souls, binding them as one for eternity.” He unwound the ribbon, and Sansa and Tyrion turned to face one another, eyes bright, as they recited the traditional words together. Jaime murmured them into Brienne’s ear as they did: “Father, Smith, Warrior, Mother, Maiden, Crone, Stranger. I am hers and she is mine. From this day, until the end of my days.”

“With this kiss, I pledge my love,” said Tyrion warmly, kissing Sansa deeply. Jaime murmured against Brienne’s back. “It will be our turn soon, my love. I am counting the days.”

“I told you so!” Arya squealed, applauding, rushing forward to hug her new good-brother. Jaime stepped forward to be the first to kiss his new good-sister, Brienne immediately behind.

“You didn’t tell me it was Tyrion that inspired those questions!” said Brienne, after she had kissed and hugged the bride.

Sansa blushed. “I was so unsure.” She smiled. “We shall be sisters, Brienne!”

Tyrion interrupted them then, kissing Sansa’s hand and holding it close. “There is a light meal for us all in my chambers,” he said, guiding towards his Tower.

After they had eaten and drunk the health of the newly wedded pair, as the day dawned, Tyrion suggested quietly that Jaime might encourage Arya and Brienne to leave. “My wife and I would like a little privacy. She sails for Winterfell at noon.”

“You are not –” Jaime began, unsure how to finish his question.

“The King and I have discussed this,” said Tyrion, attracting the attention of the others in the room also. “I am to remain in King’s Landing as Hand for six months, and then I shall step aside and take up my new role as Sansa’s consort in the North.”

“Not as King?” asked Arya in confusion.

“I think not,” said Tyrion. “The North is your sister’s, and I would not confuse that. Our children –” he blushed a little, and Sansa squeezed his shoulder – “Our children will also be Starks, I think. It would be rather confusing to have too many Lannisters running around.” Now it was Brienne’s turn to blush.

“I think it is time to leave my brother and good-sister to their farewells,” Jaime said, dropping a kiss on Sansa’s cheek and ushering Brienne and Arya towards the door. Arya paused for a moment “Does this mean that you and I are now also brother and sister?” she asked Jaime, glaring, before they shook their heads in unison. “That’s a relief,” she replied. “You have a bad habit with sisters.”

---ooooo---

Returning to their rooms, Jaime knelt reverently before Brienne. “In the Sept today, I wished that it was already we who were celebrating our love and joining our lives.”

She gently touched his cheek. “Jaime, my dearest, our lives have been intertwined since we met. Our time will come.”

Still kneeling, he wrapped his arms about her, staring up into her eyes. “I think that my queen will be very wise,” he said, “and very loved.” She giggled as he topped her, backwards onto their bed. “And I plan to work on that loving right now.”

Afterwards, they took the chance to nap for a couple more hours before rising, refreshed, to dress and start the day. Brienne looked over at Jaime, who was digging through his trunk with a concerned look on his face.

“The sword, I can’t find it,” he said with a frown.

“Lion’s Sun? Jaime, it is on the mantel beside Oathkeeper.”

“Not Lion’s Sun,” he replied, a concerned look on his face. “The tally sword.”

“The tally –” she broke off. “The training sword that you were using to track how often we made love?”

As one, they hurried to the training yard, digging through the bins of wooden swords until they came across the one they were looking for. After Jaime had carved a new notch, Brienne tucked it into her belt, giggling, and Jaime sent her off with a kiss before commencing his second-to-last session with the children.

Chapter Text

They did not immediately fall upon one another, although they knew that that was what their guests expected of them. Rather, they walked hand-in-hand to Tyrion’s chamber and curled together, fully dressed, on top of the coverlet. They had but a few hours to last them six months.

“When did you know?” asked Sansa, between soft kisses.

“In Winterfell, I think,” he replied, “I felt something when we met once again, but it was in the crypt that I truly knew. I thought it was hopeless, that I was bound to Daenerys, that we would die anyway. After, I believed that I was to be executed, so an ill-fated unrequited love seemed apt somehow. It was not until that night when we first kissed –”

“The night you gave me the hairpins with the winter roses –”

“—that I dared to dream that perhaps you might also feel something for me. And even then, even though I thought it mere experimentation on your behalf, I was helpless to resist you.”

“Arya spoke to me about you,” Sansa confessed, “the night before that kiss. She made me question why, when I was so determined that there would never – could never – be another man in my life, I was spending all my time with you. And then, when you kissed me, I could think of nothing but you. But – you will think me very slow, my love – it was only when you left me that last time that I realised that I truly loved you.”

He kissed her gently. “I think you very beautiful, and very clever, my beloved twice-wife, and also justly cautious. And – even though it will be but six months – I shall miss you with every fibre of my being.”

“There will be ravens,” she said, “and messengers.” He nodded, and she continued. “And every night, an hour after dusk, I shall sit at my window and think of you, beloved.”

“I shall do the same,” he rumbled, stroking her soft hair, “and wonder how I could be so fortunate.”

She slept then, for a time, while the Lord Hand watched over her. When she woke, they made love once more, committing their loving to memory until they cried out together in bliss. Afterwards, they dressed together, each patting and adjusting the other’s garments, strengthening themselves against the coming months.

“I will count the days,” said Sansa, sitting on the side of his bed, “until we meet again. Only let me know when you are coming, my love.”

“Yesterday, your brother said six months. That leaves 167 days before I can depart,” he said. “I shall make all haste.”

“And I shall await you eagerly,” she said, “in my heart and –” she blushed – “in our bed.”

He crushed her to him, kissing her passionately. “We must leave now,” he said brokenly, “or I fear that I shall never be able to let you go.”

Weeks later, at the Queen’s Market in Winterfell, Sansa and her people would hear the stories that the folk of King’s Landing told of the Lord Hand and the Queen of the North. How they walked from the Keep to the Docks as though in a dream, hand clenched tightly in hand. How, on the docks, after the Queen had farewelled her family, including her new good-brother and his lady, she fell to her knees in front of the Hand, sobbing two great heaving sobs into his shoulder before kissing him long and hard and sliding a pin from her hair onto his jacket. How, at last, she stood and pressed his hand once more before she turned, with straight back and head held high, to board her ship. How the Hand had hung his head in sorrow until the King of the Westerlands and the Lady Knight of Tarth had stepped forward, each resting a hand upon his shoulder until the ship set sail. And how the Hand had stood at the docks, staring after her ship until long after it had sailed from view, before turning, all purpose and practicality, to meet with the craftsmen who were rebuilding the Keep and to manage the King’s business.

And when she arrived in Winterfell, his ravens awaited her. “I will never not be missing you,” he had written on the third message.

Chapter Text

After farewelling Sansa, Brienne and Jaime wandered through the streets of King’s Landing. Armed with a detailed list from Casterly Rock, there were also a great many small things that they wished to purchase.

“Did I tell you that little Becka is the daughter of your new seamstress?” Jaime asked. Brienne smiled in delight. “You are already recruiting your future squires, Jaime,” she teased him, “Only give her another ten years and she will be helping you with your armour.” Jaime poked her.

“I have been meaning to ask you about squires,” he said seriously. “When we visit Tarth, we should look about for a likely candidate. It would be well for us to show that Tarth will be a part of our lives although we live in the West.”

Brienne glanced up at him. “You are right, although I had not thought of it that way. And perhaps there is a young Lannister cousin or lordling – boy or girl – who would take on the role for your queen?”

Jaime squeezed her hand, smiling happily. “They will be falling over themselves for the chance. We will deal well together, Brienne.” She nodded, recognising his truth.

They returned to the Keep with their hands full of parcels, with others to be brought to them. Jaime had a long list of supplies that would be required at Casterly Rock, including linens and fabrics for curtains and bedcovers, as well as food and wine and other, smaller items such as soap. He had these supplies delivered to Tyrion’s rooms at the Keep; they would have them packed into wagons on their return from Tarth. Finding a jeweller’s shop with a supply of tiny, silver, sword-shaped pins, Jaime purchased their entire inventory, planning to present each child with a small gift. Brienne laughed at his enthusiasm, feeling that without her intervention he would have purchased at least twice as many trifles, although she was unsure how Tyrion would respond to the pair of carved children’s toys he had found in the shape of a lion and a direwolf.

On their return, Jaime took himself to the armoury. Work was continuing, but already the room looked better. Newly whitewashed and with a table that smelled of beeswax, there was a growing number of weapons on the now-reinforced racks. He took down a sword to test its edges, which were sharp and straight. Similarly, the armour now appeared well cared-for rather than dusty, polished and with all traces of rust removed, the leather patched and cleaned. There were still tubs of blunt and damaged weapons in the storeroom, but Jaime felt that the intense effort to restore the space could settle for now.

“Oops, pardon me my lord, Your Grace.” It was Nathen, one of the blacksmiths who had been with them since the start. He was returning five gleaming swords, each honed to a fine point.

“Will you not take another?” Jaime asked, when the man went to leave.

“No sir, it’s time for us to leave King’s Landing. “We’ve a little ‘un on the way, and there’s little work here, barring your own, and that’s not going to last much longer.” The man sighed. “My wife’s parents have a smallholding, and we will stay with them until we’re back on our feet.”

Jaime spoke before he had even thought. “There’s a place in the West for you, if you want it, and your wife as well. I have a rebuilding program of my own to manage, and I could use more skilled craftsmen.”

The man gaped at him, and Jaime smiled. “I leave for Tarth in two days, but if you find my clerk Rodri tomorrow, he will give you coin to tide you over until I return. We travel West with supplies, so there will be a place in a wagon for your lady wife – and for you too, unless you prefer a horse.” The man shook his head slowly, scarcely able to believe his good fortune.

A clanging from the forge distracted Jaime, and he farewelled Nathen. Gendry was working on something larger than usual, but he stopped and moved to the door of the forge when he saw Jaime.

“Ser Jaime,” he greeted him – Jaime had made it clear that this was the way he preferred to be addressed by those he had fought beside.

“Lord Gendry,” he responded with an easy smile. “Have you heard this morning’s news?”

The young man looked at him blankly. “My brother and Queen Sansa were wed this morning, before she returned to Winterfell. He is to join her there in six months’ time.”

Gendry smiled. “I am happy for Lord Tyrion. And for Queen Sansa, of course,” he hurriedly added. “I wish them joy of their marriage.”

“I understand that you are shortly to sail for Storm’s End,” said Jaime.

Gendry nodded. “We leave in two days’ time. Ser Davos has agreed to accompany me, and I believe that Lord Tyrion plans to travel with us to Storm’s End.”

“A wise choice,” said Jaime. “Should you wish to break your journey, we would be delighted to welcome you on Tarth. Ser Brienne and I are to be wed in a sevenday. I know that Lord Selwyn would also value your presence.”

The young man blushed. “Thank you, I … I would like that very much.” He continued, “Although, to be frank, perhaps the possibility of delaying my arrival in Storm’s End is also appealing. I am unsure of how they will greet me.”

Jaime clapped his hand on the younger man’s shoulder, squeezing it gently. “Storm’s End has been beset with trouble since its sons first turned on one another. Robert, Stannis and Renly are gone now. You have the confidence of the King, and a trusted advisor in Ser Davos and – if I might say so – in my future good-father, who is but a short day’s journey from your new home. You understand the worries of the smallfolk and will be able to reassure them.”

Gendry met his eyes. “It is not the smallfolk who worry me, Ser Jaime, but their lords. I’m – I was a bastard. I grew up amongst the poorest folk in Flea Bottom. I can barely write my own name. I worry that they will look down on me.”

Jaime nodded. “Did we look down on you in Winterfell?”

Gendry frowned. “N-no. But I was there to do a job.”

“And you will be in Storm’s End to do a job as well. To rule – as best you can – in the name of the King. You may have been a bastard yesterday, or last year, but now you are Lord Gendry Baratheon of Storm’s End, veteran of the Battle of Winterfell. Remember your origins, but do not judge yourself for them. You have friends in the North and in the West, as well as here. Do not expect to do everything at once; focus on the most achievable tasks at the start.”

Gendry stood straighter. “Thank you, Ser Jaime.”

“I shall look forward to messages from Storm’s End,” said Jaime, “whatever hand may write them.” He grinned. “And watch out for lords with marriageable daughters.”

Chapter Text

Tyrion walked slowly into his chambers, a little after dusk. It had been a long – and rather surprising – day, and he still could scarcely believe that he was once again a husband. He called for a light supper, but would save his bath for the morning.

The door to Jaime’s room was open, and a pile of parcels lay within it. Tyrion made a mental note to have a storeroom allocated for his brother’s purchases – he had shopped with Jaime before, and knew how enthusiastic he could be. Better yet, perhaps he might fill a wagon and send it to Casterly Rock before his brother’s return.

At the thought of clearing out his brother’s things, he realised with a jolt that he would also have to clear out his own things before he left for the West. Many of the items in his chambers belonged in the Tower of the Hand, but others were his own or had been his father’s. He would need to either take them with him or leave them in Sansa’s – their – apartments in the Keep. He could foresee that he might require a storeroom of his own before he left to rejoin his wife.

Tyrion paused a moment, marvelling. His wife.

A mere ten days ago, he and Jaime had been imprisoned, had believed that they were to die. Tyrion’s nascent feelings for Sansa had been like dreams of Spring, something distant and longed-for, unconsummated and unreal. And now – he moved to the window, looking up at the stars that, somewhere, watched over his wife. I am hers and she is mine. Her skin was imprinted upon his. His ears knew her gasps and moans, his hands the pressure of her own, his cock the warm depths that were hers, only hers, but which she allowed him to share. She wore his ring as a token of their love, the direwolf necklet close to her heart. Gently, he stroked the hairpin that she had affixed to his jacket. They would grow old together, in the halls at Winterfell, corridors ringing with the sound of their children. And if he sobbed a little at his thoughts, and at the pain of missing his newly beloved, there were only the stars to see.

After a time, he wiped his face, and stood to move to his desk. On a piece of parchment, he inscribed a single number – 167 – and set it aside to take to the Rookery in the morning.

A knock on the door heralded the unusually polite arrival of his brother, a pair of goblets held between his right arm and his body and a wine skin in his left hand.

“Come to help me drown my sorrows?” Tyrion asked with a harsh laugh.

Jaime shook his head. “We can drown them if you wish, but I rather thought that we might celebrate our good fortune. Lucky in love is scarcely a Lannister trait, but it seems that our fortunes have changed for the better.” He smirked, reaching into a pocket. “A gift, from my lady.”

Tyrion smiled, bemused, at the carved wooden lion and direwolf that his brother passed him. His brother shrugged, moving the carved lion to first kiss and then hump the wolf before Tyrion smacked his arm with a shout of laughter. “Respectful as ever,” he noted.

Jaime grinned. “At least I have respect for your lady’s abilities and not merely her gender. My good-father seems a pleasant man, but his opinion of Brienne was formed around the time she was born and appears never to have changed since then. Can you believe he thanked me for knighting her, as though I had given her a pretty doll or a ribbon for her hair? I tell her that we shall have to fight when we visit Tarth, and that I rely on her to beat me convincingly.”

Tyrion chuckled. “I fear that I struggled to keep a straight face whenever he spoke of his little poppet. But he is a kind man, and a good ruler.”

Jaime nodded. “He is. I have advised Lord Gendry that he could do a great deal worse than to take guidance from the Evenstar.”

“I plan to sail with Gendry to Storm’s End,” said Tyrion. “Stopping in Tarth for your nuptials, of course. King Brandon has encouraged this.” He paused, then continued in a quieter voice. “I was glad that you could be with me and Sansa today. We are forging new families now, Jaime, in the North and in the West, but you will always be my brother.”

Jaime hugged him tightly. “You will always be welcome in the West,” he reminded Tyrion.

Tyrion smirked. “And you, I believe, in the North. Either my wife loves me very much more than I deserve, or you have grown on her, Jaime. We shall have a strong alliance with all the kingdoms of Westeros, but the North and the West will share the strongest of ties – and of affections.”

Jaime raised his goblet to that. “You told me once that you were happy that I was happy. Let me return that to you – I am delighted by your happiness, and I wish only the best to you and your lady wife.” He grinned. “Your very tall lady wife.”

Chapter Text

It was late when Jaime returned to Brienne’s chamber, and while he was not drunk, nor was he precisely sober. She was preparing for bed, and had just removed one of her boots.

“Let me hold you,” he said, drawing her into the warm circle of his arms.

“Jaime, you’re squeezing me.”

He hummed agreement into her shoulder as she batted playfully at his arms.

“I’m squeezing you because I love you. I do not wish to let you go.”

She leaned into him. “Jaime, I am not going anywhere. I am staying right here with you.”

He kissed her neck sadly, not moving away. “My brother must wait six long months to see his wife again.”

She sighed softly, wrapping him in her own embrace and cradling his head against her shoulder. “I am right here, Jaime. We are not Tyrion and Sansa, and we will follow our path together.”

“I love you,” he said, “Only you. Brienne. Lady Ser. My lady. Wench.”

She nodded gravely, and kissed him. “Then do not leave me standing here, half dressed and with but a single boot. It is warmer here than in Winterfell, but it is still cold.”

“You are right,” he replied. “What sort of sad and pathetic man would leave his beloved only half undressed?”

She laughed and ducked behind the privacy screen to finish preparing for bed. By the time she returned, Jaime had built up the fire, then taken off his jacket and shed his shirt and boots. Catching her looking at him, he cocked an eyebrow in her direction. “Like what you see?” he asked confidently.

“Very much,” she replied frankly. “Now come to bed and let me show you.”

Later, after Jaime had carefully carved a tenth tally mark into their wooden sword, he curled into her once more. “I never thought to be happy,” he confided, resting his chin upon her shoulder. “Not like this.”

She frowned, looking at him curiously. “You need not tell me if you do not wish to, but were you not happy when you were with your sister?”

“Never like this,” he said, ashamed that he came to her with such a tarnished history. “There was always shame and fear. She used me when she wanted me, and I was helpless to resist her.” He paused, thinking for a moment. “Actually that is not quite true. I never really saw the point in resisting her, not after those first few times. And the desire was honest, at least; she knew how to stir that in me. Besides, everyone thought that they knew. It was just easier to do what was expected. There was never another woman; I was honourable in that, at least.” He shuddered. “Oh Brienne, I wish –”

She kissed him gently. “I cannot say that I understand, and nor do I wish to. But she is your past, Jaime, and we have a future together. Do not hate yourself for your former choices. Learn from them, and live well.”

He reached his hand up to stroke her cheek. “Strong and wise. What a queen you will make! There will be great marble statues of you throughout the West!”

She blushed, uncomfortable with that prospect.

“And what a wife you will make! Beside me in daylight, with me in our bed. Queen Ser Brienne of the Westerlands and Tarth. Our giant babes will be fortunate indeed!”

She choked. “Our what, Jaime?”

He had not meant to say that aloud. “Just something that Tyrion said to me once.”

She glared at him, then giggled naughtily. “Sansa is not precisely small. Perhaps the North will have giant babes of its own.”

“That, my love, is precisely what I told him,” he said, drawing her to him tightly.

Chapter Text

Jaime’s last full day in King’s Landing was a busy one. It began with an early-morning meeting with Brienne and Rodri, whom he had tasked to see their things packed and delivered to the ship that they would take to Tarth. They would take only their immediate household to Tarth, but on their return would be accompanied to Casterly Rock by a small group of surviving Lannister bannermen and others who had fought for the North, as well as the wagons carrying the goods and supplies that they had purchased in King’s Landing. Rodri had lists of items to take to Tarth and lists of what must stay in King’s Landing to await them, as well as a register of what had been delivered and what they still awaited. There had been a few specific requests but there was little that Jaime had not already considered.

For the children’s final training session – for his final training session with the children, for Ser Podrick intended to continue them – he had arranged a tourney, with honey cakes to cheer them. On each child, he pinned a tiny sword, reminding them that they were the future of Westeros and that one day they might also join the King’s forces.

Afterwards, he hurried to the armoury, where he introduced himself to Ser Fretas, the King’s new Master of Arms. Formerly in service to Lord Randyll Tarly, the knight had served as Master of Arms at Horn Hill until he had retired to live with his married daughter. When the King had asked him why he chose to leave, he had said that he wished to serve, that he enjoyed teaching and had a good head for organising. Bran looked at him and said, “But you must tell me all of your reasons,” and the older man had confessed that after so many years alone, he struggled to accommodate his daughter’s regulations about what he might or might not do. The King looked at him searchingly, then nodded in satisfaction. “You will do well in King’s Landing.”

“You have done well to get the armoury this organised,” the new Master told him, “I had heard it was in a terrible state.”

Jaime nodded, and outlined what he and Gendry had arranged. He paid special attention to the arrangements for the sharpening and repair of weapons, which would be the Master’s responsibility, and also described the children’s morning training program. Ser Fretas nodded his approval, suggesting that he might also try them on other weapons, such as the bow.

When Jaime was done, the older man clapped him on the shoulder. “I heard what it was like, in the North,” he said. “And I heard from others what it was like to face the Dragon Queen. Thank you, Your Grace, for your part in this peace.”

Jaime gripped Ser Fretas’s arm firmly. “And thank you, for your ongoing role in maintaining the peace and protecting the King.” The older knight was to take on oversight of the King’s Guard until another suitable candidate could be found, while they still had so few fighting men to train.

Gendry stepped out of the forge as Jaime approached it, his leather smith’s apron covering a shirt and trousers that seemed finer than Jaime had seen the young man wear in the past. “You leave tomorrow, Ser Jaime?” Jaime nodded. “We sail on the morning tides, and will look for you on Tarth in six days.”

“I have a gift for you and Ser Brienne,” the young man said. “Well, two gifts, but I thought you might keep one on Tarth.” Turning, he retrieved a large rectangular piece of intricately-wrought iron which revealed itself to be a map of Westeros. An overlay of silver covered the area North of the wall. The West was covered in a thin layer of gold, with a golden lion depicting Casterly Rock; Tarth was likewise gold, with a starburst showing the location of Evenfall Hall. A tiny golden wolf marked the location of Winterfell. Elsewhere, tiny silver symbols marked the seats of the various Kingdoms, with a raven made of dragonglass depicting King’s Landing. As a piece of ironwork, it was a marvel. As an artwork, it was beautiful. But above all, the piece was a record of where they had come from and of what they had been.

Jaime gripped Gendry’s shoulder. “With such skill, it seems almost a shame that you must instead turn to ruling.”

Gendry grinned, “That’s what I told the King, but he just looked at me. He glanced away for a moment. “Working in the forge – it helps me to think things through. I thought that perhaps if I use the time to create something beautiful, rather than practical things, I might be able to continue to work with metal even after I go to Storm’s End.”

Jaime nodded. “In time, I think that you will be able to do both, but you are wise to start with beauty rather than utility. And I thank you for these beautiful artworks. I know that my lady will also wish to express her thanks, but it might wait until we see you again.” He directed Rodri to have one of the maps delivered to the store of items that they would take to Casterly Rock and the other to Brienne’s chambers.

---ooooo---

Jaime’s farewell audience with the King was mercifully quick. It was not merely his own guilt that saw him loath to meet with Bran – the young man had assured him repeatedly that he did not hold his earlier deeds against Jaime – but the King’s uncanny manner. Today, Jaime had assured Bran of his intentions to send a troop of fighting men to support the King’s defences but the young man had raised a hand to stop him, saying only that Jaime would have need of strong men to assist in restoring the fortunes of Casterly Rock, and that only after that work was completed should he send men to King’s Landing. “Convey my regards to Ser Brienne,” the young man had added. “Yours will be a successful and fruitful match.”

Jaime swallowed, echoes of Tyrion’s “giant golden babes” ringing in his ears.

“You have much to do before you leave King’s Landing, Ser Jaime. I would not hold you further,” said the King, gesturing to his attendant to turn him away.

Jaime bowed once more, then turned and left the King’s audience chamber.

He wondered whether Bran had known of his next destination, and what he thought of it if he did. Jaime’s feet led him down, into the foundations of the Keep, towards the chamber where he and Cersei had been trapped. There was nothing to mark the spot where the Queen had died, no marker of her passing. The rubble that had crushed her and had nearly taken his own life had been removed and the floors scrubbed, yet he could hear an echo of her whispered words of fear. “Please don’t let me die,” she had whispered. “I don’t want to die.”

Jaime had been powerless, hunting for a way out, a place where they would be safe. He had hoped to save her life and that of the unborn child that she believed she carried, had been focused on survival, before he took her to be imprisoned at Casterly Rock. “Look at me – just look at me,” he had said. “Nothing else matters. Only us.” Trying to distract her, prevent her from panicking, manoeuvring her towards an archway, keeping her moving. He had failed, of course – the roof had collapsed before he could pull her to safety – but he had tried. In retrospect, he thought, she might not have been sorry to have died – she had lived fiercely, and would have hated being imprisoned even in a place she had loved so well.

In the gloom, he hung his head. “I’m sorry Cersei,” he whispered. “We could never be good for one another. What we did together was wrong. I know that I never gave you what you wanted – if you even knew what that was. But, for whatever it is worth, you were my sister and I did love you for that. I tried to save you. I’m sorry.”

Had Jaime been waiting for a sign, he would have been doomed to disappointment. There was no cool breeze across his cheek, no waft of her perfume, no ghostly figure that appeared to offer him absolution. But none of this mattered, for he had already turned and left, having offered both his farewells and his apologies.

Chapter Text

Brienne’s last day proved a busy one. After meeting with Jaime and Rodri, she was walking to the training yard to watch Jaime with the children when Arya Stark appeared beside her and took her arm.

“I’m off,” the young woman said.

“Off … where?” asked Brienne.

“Exploring! I’m off to discover what is West of Westeros. I shall see The Lonely Light and the Targaryen Islands, then follow in the footsteps of Brandon the Shipwright, to see what I can find. I shall return one day, filled with tales of what I have seen.”

Brienne had heard of this plan, of course. “I had wondered …” she darted a glance in the direction of the forge and armoury.

Arya took her point immediately. “Gendry? He needs a wife who will anchor him to the Stormlands, someone comfortable; not someone like me, all edges. By the time I return, he will have forgotten me, and will be settled with a kind and gentle wife and a tribe of small Baratheons. I shall be a story – a distant figure who he once knew, but I am not the centre of his tale.”

“I think that you could have been, if you had wanted it,” said Brienne gently, and Arya nodded, a little sadly.

“I have longed to be home,” she said, “and I fought to return to Winterfell, but now – I was consumed, I think, by my own revenge. I must find a more peaceful way to be Arya Stark before I can think to settle down.” She shrugged, then braced her shoulders and smiled. “I wished to say farewell to you especially. If, in a few years, a ship should appear in the West, I trust that the Queen of the West – and the King too – will welcome a weary traveller.”

“Once, I would have thought to come with you,” said Brienne. “But I have found what I wanted. I wish you well, and will look forward to your return. You may be assured of your welcome at Casterly Rock, whether it is months or many years hence.”

Arya grinned and curtsied to her. “That sounded very queenly of you, Ser Brienne. Please give Ser Jaime my regards. Tell him – tell him that of all the people in Westeros to whom I could almost be related, he – and you – would be my choice. And when you see my good-brother –” she hesitated – “our good-brother soon, I suppose – tell him that I am very glad that he convinced Sansa to finally see him, and that I look forward to meeting a pack of nephews and nieces when I return to Winterfell.” She hugged Brienne quickly, then turned and left.

Brienne’s second meeting of the day was with her new seamstress and handmaiden, Marisal and Anali. Little Becka played happily in a corner while the women spoke. They had packed their possessions to travel, with some items to be taken directly to Casterly Rock and others to accompany them to Tarth. They would spend the night in the Keep before taking the boat with Brienne and Jaime. They had heard of her betrothal to Jaime and were excited that they would travel with the couple to Casterly Rock, after their visit to Tarth.

Marisal had finished the rose and crimson gown, which Brienne planned to wear for her marriage to Jaime. She asked her to embroider Lannister lions and the sun and moon of Tarth on the gown’s sash. When Marisal chuckled, the woman confessed that after hearing of the betrothal, she had purchased a great deal of gold thread for her embroidery. She had made Brienne two further pairs of trousers and jackets, as well as some fine new shirts and even smallclothes, and had commissioned the leatherworkers to make several new pairs of shoes and boots for her new lady. She had even made one pair of trousers with a skirt that wrapped across them, so that they appeared to be a skirt but would still allow Brienne to ride astride, and had sewn a soft blue woollen shawl and a warm cloak for her to travel in. At Brienne’s hesitant question, she confirmed that she would also be happy to sew new shirts for Ser Jaime, and that she had an adequate supply of fine linen to make them.

“I have not employed a handmaiden before,” Brienne confessed to Anali, “but as Ser Jaime’s wife –” she would not yet say queen – “I shall be required to dress more formally than I have been used to. I shall not generally require assistance dressing or bathing –” she blushed a little, reflecting that such assistance as she required would inevitably be offered by Jaime – “but I shall require assistance looking after my clothing, preparing for special events, and keeping my chambers in good order. And of course,” she eyed both women confidently, “I shall require your complete loyalty.”

The two women nodded eagerly, understanding the trust that must be between a woman and those with access to her bedchamber.

Moving into Brienne’s chambers, they began to sort her clothing, making a pile of that which was to be laundered, and sorting items that required mending from those that were beyond mending. At a cough from Anali, Brienne looked up; the woman was holding one of Jaime’s shirts. “Shall I – that is – would you like me to also look after your lord husband’s clothing, my lady?”

Brienne paused for a moment, thinking. She could not imagine Jaime wishing to hire a personal bodyservant; nor did she feel that such personal tasks were to be expected of Rodri. She nodded, and thanked Anali, who continued to sort and pack their garments.

Brienne set aside some of her new clothes and her cloak to wear on the boat, and asked Anali to find a change of clothes for Jaime also. His only cloak was from before – a beautiful rich gold, lined with crimson satin. She asked Marisal to create a thicker, dull-brown cloak for Jaime to wear when they did not wish to travel in state. Anali was puzzled when she found the wooden training sword that Jaime used as a tally, and went to put it aside, but Brienne stopped her, claiming that it was a sword that Jaime kept for sentimental reasons and insisting that it be packed. She had to show the women how the armour trunks were packed, but her new handmaiden quickly had the room looking bare before Brienne dismissed her with orders to bring breakfast at dawn on the following day.

Jaime returned after dusk, clear eyed and clear headed after saying his farewells to King’s Landing. Over their meal, he told Brienne of his day – his final session with the children, his meeting with Ser Fretas, and his meeting with the King. He showed her the gifts that Gendry had made them, and held her tight when she shed an unexpected tear of joy. In return, she told him of Arya’s plans – and of the kind words that she had left for Jaime. He laughed when she told him that her handmaiden would also look after Jaime’s clothes, but it was the kind laughter of a shared joke and not the unkind laughter of her youth.

When they had finished their meal, they each packed clothing for their travels – and one very special handkerchief – into soft satchels, then closed their trunks and called for servants to take them to the ship, where they would be stowed in the hold. Jaime rang for a bath, too, pointing out that there would be little opportunity to bathe until they arrived on Tarth, before they both sat to remove their boots.

With their trunks gone and the bath filled, Jaime locked the door of their chamber. Eyes locked with Brienne’s, he prowled towards her, only stopping when they were toe to toe. “This will be the last time we are truly alone until we are wed,” he told her, before pulling her to him and kissing her deeply. She moaned into his advance, then advanced on him, backing him to the wall without breaking their kiss. As he had on their first night, he tugged first at the collar of his own shirt before he undid the fastenings of her tunic. She pulled it over his head before she shrugged off her own shirt, reaching for the laces of his breeches as he reached for hers.

He was hot and heavy in her hand, his right arm holding her close and his left alternately stroking and tweaking her nipples. A hot pool of desire curled in her belly, fed by his touch, by his closeness. Their tongues duelled a slow and age-old mating dance, pressing and stroking, urging them on to new heights of passion. Still pressing him against the wall, she fell to her knees before him, holding his hips as she kissed him first with her mouth closed and then with hot, wet, open-mouthed kisses. He groaned, but she held him still, one arm pressed against his belly while the other gripped his cock, feeling the evidence of his desire. She held it firm while she sucked its tip into her mouth, then released it with a wet popping sound, looking up at him with the blue eyes he had loved since they met. He pushed towards her, but allowed her to hold him in place, and she lowered her mouth back onto his heated flesh. He tasted of Jaime – of the spicy soap he preferred and of desire, of need. She closed her lips around him, taking him deep within her mouth, using her tongue on him. When she slid it into the narrow slit at his tip, he moaned and thrust helplessly forward. She worked the thick vein that ran the length of him, moving her lips and her hand faster now, determined to give him no quarter. She hummed, vibrating her lips against him, feeling him twitch and swell as she licked and sucked him more firmly.

“Brienne,” he moaned, “I can’t –” but she would not stop. Insistent, she took him more deeply still, using her hands to pull him closer as she worked him urgently with her lips and tongue until, with a roar, he spurted into her mouth, chest heaving as though with exertion. With a final slurp, she let him go, sitting back on her heels and looking up at Jaime with dark eyes, a smear of his spend at the corner of her mouth.

Pulling her up and kissing her deeply, he spun her around so that she was now pressed against the wall. He lifted one of her legs to rest on a low bench, kissing and biting his way down her body. She would be marked tomorrow, but in places that only he would see. She would not complain; she revelled in it, panting at the touch of his lips, his hand. He paused in front of her, looking at her pink folds, until she pushed herself towards him, moaning his name and “I need you NOW”. And then his mouth was upon her and she was grinding herself against his lips, pushing against his tongue, riding his face as he thrust in and out of her with his fingers.

She lasted no longer than he had, shouting her pleasure to the world, dragging him to his feet to kiss him. And he was hard again, thrusting into her, wedging her between his body and the cold walls. She was grinning, pulling him to her, bruising his hips with the press of her fingers. Her inner walls were clenched around him, holding him to her as together they fought their way to a new peak. She could see the tension in his body, feel the tight cords of muscle in his neck, his shoulders, his legs, the tension in that perfect arse. She tasted the sweat at his neck as he pounded into her. He lifted his hand to her right breast and pinched at her nipple, then lowered his mouth to her left and sucked deeply, rolling it in his mouth as he had her nub. “Come for me,” he groaned, hitching against her, lifting her with his right arm and changing his angle slightly, and then there was nothing but him and she screamed as she convulsed around him for long seconds while with a roar he erupted inside her.

They bathed afterwards, both weary and a little sore from their exertions, then curled together to sleep for their last night in King’s Landing.

Chapter Text

They rose with the dawn and dressed quickly, Brienne wearing a new tunic and deep brown trousers that seemed somehow more feminine and better suited to her body than those that she had previously favoured. With a blush, she told Jaime that her womanly time was upon her, so there would be no repeat of the previous evening’s exertions, although – as they had in Winterfell – she hoped that he would stay with her, to hold her as she slept. He kissed her deeply and with love. “I told you that I never want to be apart from you,” he said, gazing into her eyes, willing her to recognise the truth that he spoke.

Assembling their small staff – Rodri, Marisal and Becka, and Anali – they walked through the quiet streets of King’s Landing to the docks, where they were to meet Captain Jakub aboard his ship, the Dawnseeker. In the dawn light, Tyrion and Podrick were there to farewell them, although they would meet again in less than seven days’ time. Nevertheless, Jaime hugged Tyrion fiercely – they had spent too many years apart for any farewell to be automatic or thoughtless – and gripped Podrick’s arm and clapped him on the shoulder. He fancied that the young knight was already carrying himself more confidently, and recalled a similar feeling when he had first been knighted.

There were three cabins, so Jaime and Brienne took one, allocating another to the women and a third, much smaller, to Rodri. Although they would only spend three days on the Dawnseeker, Anali bustled into their cabin, unpacking their satchels and making the bed up with linen and a coverlet that she had brought. Brienne looked nonplussed, but Jaime recalled travelling this way in times of peace, and reassured her that the handmaiden’s tasks were not unexpected. “Her consequence comes from ours now – and especially from yours – so we must allow her to build that up,” he murmured.

Although Marisal seemed busy, there was little for Rodri to do while they were sailing. Jaime suggested that he devote some time to studying his maps of the Westerlands, and to learning the names of the major halls and lords in the kingdom. Brienne often joined him for this, and Jaime told them stories about this lord and that as they worked.

They also spent time making plans for their coronation. Although messengers had already been sent to Casterly Rock with a broad indication of when they might be expected, there would be much to send to the West ahead of their travels and even more to do once they arrived. They planned to travel along the Goldroad to Lannisport, stopping at Deep Den to be welcomed by Lord Lewis Lydden, known as the Badger, whose family had been loyal to the Lannisters since their ancestor, Joffrey Lydden, had been rechristened Joffrey Lannister following a successful marriage.

“And who is your steward at Casterly Rock?” asked Brienne curiously. When he did not respond immediately, she prompted him: “Jaime?”

“I believe it is my aunt Genna,” said Jaime, “and her husband, Eamon Frey.”

“You believe?”

Jaime explained how they had abandoned Casterly Rock to the Unsullied, who had then moved on to Dragonstone with Daenerys. “It seemed more expedient than fighting them,” he said with a shrug. “We took it back after they left, and Tyrion dispatched Aunt Genna to take it over. Well, officially her husband was to be the steward, but nobody who has met Aunt Genna would ever believe that she was not in charge of the situation.”

Brienne stared at him. “Jaime, you have a castle and a kingdom, and you are not even sure who is taking care of it for you? Should you not be there, resolving this?”

He shrugged. “I had to be in King’s Landing for Brandon’s coronation, and you wished to be wed on Tarth. If there is a mess in Casterly Rock today, there will still be a mess in Casterly Rock when we get there. And at least this way,” he nudged her with his hip, “I have the best and most beautiful knight in Westeros to fight beside me.”

Rodri blushed and shuffled through his papers. He had become quite adept at not looking at his lord and lady.

“I am fairly certain that Genna is there,” Jaime volunteered, with a tone of confession. “Someone drew a kiss on the last message I received from the Rock. I doubt that that was the Maester.”

Chapter Text

My dearest wife,
Even the bustle of King’s Landing seems lonely without your presence. I miss you more each day, and have taken to wearing your hairpin in my buttonhole as a reminder of you. I am counting the 166 days until I can depart for the North, even as I juggle schedules to ensure that my work here will be done.
Your loving husband.

 

Dearest Tyrion,
They tell me that even a raven released on the sea will find its way; I trust that this is true. How quickly I have become accustomed to your presence and your company. At times, I fancy that I can smell your soap, that you might appear around the corner. Six months cannot pass swiftly enough, my love.
Sansa

 

My beloved,
I fancy that your perfume lingers on the pillows in my bedchamber. I will not allow the servants to change the linen as long as I feel you there.
Tyrion

 

My dearest love,
I know that you are shortly to travel to Tarth to see your brother wed. I feel triply fortunate as I have not gained merely the wonderful, loving, thoughtful and handsome husband of my dreams but also a handsome and noble brother (do not, I beg you, tell this to Ser Jaime! I fear that he is already sufficiently conceited!) and, shortly, a loyal and honourable sister, the knight to whom I owe my life. Not only did you open my eyes to love, you gave me family even as my own scattered to the four winds. It is my deep regret that I cannot be with you to celebrate as I am sure that you will, but I beg you, remind Ser Brienne of my warm regard for her, just as I would remind you of the very great regard that I have for you, my beloved.
S.

Chapter Text

Their voyage to Tarth went smoothly. Jaime particularly relished the evenings when he and Brienne would retire to their cabin, listening to the creaking of the timbers and sails and the distant words of the crew. Although she did not wish to make love while her flower bloomed, they lay spooned together in their bed, talking of the past and planning for their future. She had offered to relieve him with her hand and mouth – had seemed enthusiastic, even – but he would not use her in that way when she would not seek her own completion. “It will sweeten the anticipation for our wedding, wench,” he had told her one morning when she had reached for the hardness that pressed against her when they woke. In truth, he knew that she was still not as comfortable as he with their lovemaking, would blush at the knowledge that the sailors would hear the sounds of their passion. For himself, he did not care – was proud to have others know that Brienne had chosen him, that they lay together and loved – but that was not her way.

When the island hove once more into view, as beautiful as he remembered it, they retreated to their cabin to dress more formally than they had during their voyage. Jaime was all Lannister, in tan trousers and a darker golden brown jacket, his red and gold cloak swirling to the floor, beard freshly trimmed but his hair worn longer, although not yet as long as when first they had met. He would not wear his crown until the ceremony in the West. She wore new trousers in a dark grey-brown wool, with a blue tunic the colour of her eyes, upon which she pinned the moon and starbursts that Jaime had given her. Her blue woollen cloak – much thinner than those they had worn in the North – was fastened with brown leather in the same shade as her new boots, and her betrothal ring – his ring – sparkled on her left hand. Anali bustled about, doing something with her hair that made it look softer, more finished, and Jaime grinned at her in delight. Each wore their sword beneath their cloaks, although it was for decoration rather than in expectation of use.

“Are you ready, my love?” he asked, proudly giving her his right arm. She wrapped her hand around it, and they moved to stand on the deck, watching the island as they neared the bustling docks. They were good at this, he thought – their swords never tangled together as they walked, although his was on his right hip and hers on her left – yet they moved closely and in concert with one another.

Lord Selwyn was at the docs, waiting to greet them, with a small group of men-at-arms behind him. The town was built on a hill, with the clean stones of what Jaime assumed was Evenfall Hall above, blue and rose banners fluttering in the mild breeze. It was warm enough that he was tempted to remove his cloak – would have, if not for what it symbolised about his home and heritage. Appearances, he knew, were important.

He bowed low to Lord Selwyn when they left the ship. The older man drew Brienne to him, kissing her warmly, before reaching his hands to Jaime, ceremonially kissing him on both cheeks and bidding him welcome on Tarth. Jaime thanked him gravely, projecting his voice a little as he spoke formal words of the warm relationship between the island and the West, and of his joy at visiting the home of his affianced wife.

Lord Selwyn nodded in delight. “I left the horses in the hall today,” he said, “because there are so many people who will wish to welcome my Brie. I thought we could walk up.” He was correct; the streets of the town were lined with well-wishers. And if some were perhaps more curious than delighted to see the foreign king, the famous Kingslayer, others pressed his hand with delight, saying how pleased they were that their lady had found herself such a handsome young man. And throughout it all, there was Brienne by his side, laughing with the small folk who rejoiced at her return.

Either the hill was steeper than he was accustomed to or he was more out of shape than he had thought – or both, he suspected. He was glad to catch his breath when they paused before the Hall to look out over the sparkling waters of the bay. Brienne grinned at him, leaning across to murmur “we shall climb this hill every morning before we train” in his ear. He was glad then for the fall of his cloak, for he was half hard just at the thought of training with her once more, of the clash as their swords rang together, the sight of sweat beading her – “Lovely, isn’t it,” said Lord Selwyn, and Jaime wrenched his thoughts back to the view before them. “It is indeed as beautiful as Ser Brienne has told me,” he responded gravely, before they turned to walk into Evenfall Hall.

The wagon with their trunks and staff arrived soon after them, and Jaime introduced Rodri to the Evenstar, suggesting that he might learn what he could of Tarth during their stay. Jaime would have no other tasks for him for the next few days, he explained, suggesting that he might be of use to their host. Lord Selwyn’s housekeeper showed them to their rooms and arranged for their trunks to be brought to them. There was a little confusion when Jaime’s and Brienne’s single – shared – trunk appeared, but in the end it was taken to Jaime’s chamber, a floor down from Brienne’s, and Anali and little Becka fetched Brienne’s clothing. Although they were a floor apart, it might as well have been a continent; Brienne’s chamber was adjacent to Lord Selwyn’s, and a visitor would have to pass the lord’s door before reaching hers. Jaime reconciled himself to three more nights of waiting.

Brienne insisted on showing him around the hall, taking his hand as they explored together. He kissed her in the armoury, smaller but infinitely better-kept than the one they had found in King’s Landing, and whispered words of love in the stables. On the ramparts, he cupped her cheek in his hand and rested his forehead against hers, speaking to her again of his good fortune in finding her, the only woman for him, of his devotion, and of his delight that they would spend their lives together.

Over a simple supper of breads, vegetables, and roasted meat and fish, they discussed the wedding arrangements. It was to be a simple ceremony, held in the morning and followed by a noonday feast in the great courtyard of Evenfall Hall. Additional tables and tents were to be set outside the castle for those smallfolk who could not be fitted into the main space. Afterwards, Jaime and Brienne would ride to Lake House, where Anali and one of the Hall’s servants would bring food each morning; otherwise, they would be quite alone for three days. Their return to Evenfall Hall would be marked by another feast and then their departure on the following day. Jaime was adamant that when on Tarth he should not be referred to as King Jaime, preferring to be titled Ser Jaime Lannister, King of the Westerlands. In the future – the distant future, he trusted – he would be Ser Jaime Lannister, Consort of Tarth and King of the Westerlands when upon the island, just as his betrothed would be Ser Brienne, Lady of Tarth and Queen of the Westerlands in the East, with her titles reversed in the West. Following his brother’s example, Brienne, he said, would cloak him just as he would cloak her.

His betrothed was unusually silent when they farewelled one another, and unusually silent when she crept into his chambers later that evening. When he pressed her, she sighed. “You will think me very foolish, Jaime, but you know already that I am not womanly.”

An exaggerated expression of shock on his face, he reached to pat first her face and then her breasts and hips. “Not womanly? Have you been deceiving me all this time, Ser Brienne?” He lowered his voice. “You know that I find you delightfully womanly, in all your parts. Especially these –” he returned his hand to her breasts, daring to caress her a little – “and these,” he stroked the slight rounding of her hips. His eyes darkened. “And when you take me inside you, I promise, you are all woman.” He nudged her gently with his hips, showing her how much he appreciated her womanliness.

She sighed. “When I was a girl, my Septa had me sew my Maiden’s Cloak. I found it today, stored in a chest in my chamber.” She looked at his, anguish in her eyes. “Jaime, it is terrible. It will shame both of us. The stitching is awful, and moth has got into it so it is full of holes. If it were only for me, I could bear it, but you wish to be cloaked as well, and I would not –”

He silenced her with a kiss. “Discuss this with your seamstress on the morrow, love. I spoke with her in King’s Landing, and I believe that she has taken care of the matter.” He looked at her sternly. “But never believe that you will disgrace me; I am far more like to disgrace you with a thoughtless word or reckless comment.” He chuckled. “Or by being found here like this, with a barely-clad wench in my chambers when I am to marry the Lady of Tarth.”

She punched him gently in the shoulder before spooning herself around him to sleep.

Chapter Text

They woke early in the morning, and Brienne kissed him quickly before pulling away. “Meet me in the training yard,” she whispered. “We can bathe and dress properly afterwards.”

She crept back to her chamber, where she donned an old pair of trousers and boots and her padded leather jerkin, before buckling Oathkeeper to her side and walking to the training yard, stopping to ask a passing servant to bring rolls and tea for two. Jaime was already there, dressed much as she was, inspecting the edge on Lion’s Sun. She knew that he was nearly recovered from his injuries, although he was still much too thin.

They bowed and saluted one another with their blades, moving gracefully through the familiar training activities that they knew so well. When their breakfast arrived, they broke to eat and drink, before they returned to the familiar dance.

After a time, Brienne fetched a pair of blunted training swords, and they began to fight. Metal clanged against metal, drawing the attention of passers-by, as they clashed and feinted. Although Jaime was still out of condition, he was moving more consciously and carefully than he had in the past, fending her off not easily but without desperation. He pivoted once and then again, and he nearly had her, but at the last moment she knocked his sword away and brought hers to rest against his kidneys, near where he had been stabbed by Cersei’s crazed pirate. He knelt to yield, and she drew him up for a quick kiss, cheeks flaming at her own daring. Applause erupted around them, and they turned to see the Evenstar’s men at arms and many of the servants surrounding the training yard. Jaime took the swords to return them to the armoury as Brienne greeted others who she had not seen for many years. They complimented her on her sword play and it rang true – these were not empty words. She revelled in this recognition, particularly when it paired her with a legendary fighter such as Jaime who, even left-handed, could still more than hold his own with the best sword fighters in the realms.

When Jaime had retrieved their own swords from the armoury, they returned to their rooms to bathe and dress for the day. She had told him to prepare for riding and meeting people, and was pleased to see that he had chosen some of his newer clothing, as had she. Anali promised to wash and dry her older clothes so that they would be ready for her to train in again.

They broke their fast for the second time with Lord Selwyn, in his solar, eating rolls and cheeses and fruits. Brienne noticed that Jaime seemed to particularly enjoy the fruit paste that complemented the cheeses so well. Her father had heard of their fight, although he had not witnessed it, and merely cautioned her to “be careful, poppet, those swords can be sharp.” She remembered Jaime’s suggestion, and thought to invite her father to watch them train again on the following day.

Collecting a saddlebag from the kitchens, Brienne ushered Jaime to the stables where two horses had been saddled for them. After mounting quickly, they rode out through the gates of Evenfall Hall, Brienne leading him along a winding road that ran beside the coast before they headed inland towards a small farming settlement. The farmers greeted them happily and wished them both good fortune for their coming marriage. “To think,” said one older woman, “that our own Lady Brienne is going to be a queen.”

They rode on through farms and hamlets, greeted always with smiles and pride in the daughter of Tarth. They stopped for lunch in one of Tarth’s sleepy meadows, Jaime collecting wildflowers which he tucked behind Brienne’s ear once she had laid out a blanket and retrieved their picnic from her saddlebag. When they had finished eating, she whispered quietly that her time was past, and they loved quietly amidst the long waving grasses. He dozed when they were done, and she wove him a crown from the buttercups in the field then tucked herself against his side, writing her love upon his chest with a finger until he awoke to more lazy kisses and sweet loving.

They returned to Evenfall Hall late in the day, riding side by side, hands loosely clasped. To Lord Selwyn’s questions and Brienne’s blushes, Jaime told of the natural beauties of the island that he had seen, and the Evenstar was satisfied.

They slept later on the second day, and Brienne was barely in time to sneak back to her room before her father sent for her. The ship from King’s Landing that would bring Tyrion, Podrick and Gendry was due that afternoon, and Anali had already asked her to take some time to rest and have her final fitting of the rose and crimson gown that she would wear to be wed. Jaime was to spend the day with the Master of Arms, and they planned to spar before the evening meal.

After much humming and hawing, her father mentioned that he had asked his housekeeper to speak with her and it was not until much later in the day that Brienne realised what he had meant. Scarcely knowing where to look, the woman had explained that her father had asked her to prepare Brienne for her marriage, “but as we well know, my lady, that your bed has not been slept in these past two nights, it scarcely seems necessary. You are hardly the first to anticipate your vows, and your Ser Jaime is certainly a handsome enough man to turn heads. And never fear, nobody will say a word to your dear Lord Father, bless his innocent heart.”

The ship from King’s Landing arrived in the mid afternoon, and Brienne and Jaime were at the docks to welcome it, Brienne bowing low to welcome Gendry on his first visit to Tarth. In defence to Tyrion’s shorter stride, they had brought a cart, and the six – for Ser Davos was to accompany Gendry to Storm’s End – rode happily up the hill, Jaime pointing out where the best views might be obtained, much to Tyrion’s delight. Lord Selwyn was at the gates of Evenfall Hall to welcome his liege and the Hand and to take the measure of Ser Davos. He seemed confused when it was mentioned that Ser Podrick had been Ser Brienne’s squire, frowning a little as though unsure what to make of this news.

Sending the new arrivals to their rooms to wash and rest, they agreed to meet in an hour’s time. Lord Selwyn would take tea with Tyrion and Ser Davos on a balcony overlooking the training yard while Podrick, Gendry, Brienne and Jaime sparred.

They began with a simple bout, Podrick testing a tourney sword against Gendry’s axe. Although the young lord had not been trained, he was strong and enthusiastic, and it was valuable for Pod to test his skills against a different weapon. Nevertheless, the knight triumphed, and Gendry good-naturedly took himself off to join the others at tea.

Jaime was next, eager to try his skills against the young man who Brienne had trained. Although Pod had the edge on him in strength, Jaime’s years of experience stood him to advantage and he was able to slip between Pod’s defences to rest his blade against his breast. Podrick gripped Jaime’s arm, before he too climbed the stairs to the balcony and Jaime turned, eyes glittering, to face his lady love.

Brienne’s blood sang. This was what she and Jaime were made for, this was what had brought them together. She raised her sword and he met it with his own, sparks flying as metal met metal. A strike and a parry, a step and a retreat – their bodies moved together in perfect harmony, their swords extensions of themselves. They fought on, drenched in sweat, eyes never leaving the other’s body. They clashed close together and her body sang with need before she threw him off and spun, only to be met again by his parry. They were out of time, grunting and panting, until with a roar he beat through her guard to bring his sword to rest upon her shoulder, grinning fiercely and ohh, if they had been alone she would have been upon him then, her pride in him shining from his face. She bowed low, ceding the victory to him, yet she could not have been more delighted by a victory of her own. He pulled her to him and kissed her, a hard press of closed lips, heedless of her father and their audience, before he offered her his arm to lead her up the stairs to join their festive group.

“I do not think that I have seen you defeat Ser Brienne before,” said Tyrion to Jaime, and her betrothed husband nodded to his brother.

“I do not think that I shall do it again,” he said ruefully, “Perhaps the Gods were smiling on me.”

Lord Selwyn chuckled. “My Brie did once say that she would wed only a man who could beat her in combat.” She nodded at him thoughtfully.

“I must excuse myself,” she said. “My handmaiden tells me that I am hers from dusk until the morrow. Jaime, will you walk me to my chambers?” She reached out her right hand, clasping his left in hers and lacing their fingers together, bowing slightly to farewell the men who had travelled so far to join their celebration.

Chapter Text

“I will never not be missing you,” he had told his wife, and what had been true in King’s Landing was doubly true here on the beautiful Sapphire Isle. Jaime’s happiness – and his delight in his soon-to-be-wife’s ancestral home – was evident in the relaxed smile that seemed permanently fixed on his face these days. Even his elevation to kingship – something he had not wished for at all – scarcely troubled him. Tyrion had always loved his brother, and had always been proud of him, but this Jaime made it so easy.

Perhaps one day, my dearest, he wrote in his daily letter, we might visit the Sapphire Isle together with our brother and sister. Although I have seen little of the island, what I have seen only reminds me of your beauty. He would beg a raven from Lord Selwyn in the morning.

They dined in a small group in Lord Selwyn’s solar, just the newly-arrived party from King’s Landing, Jaime, and the Evenstar. Tyrion had brought messages from King’s Landing, including requests to purchase such supplies as the island could safely spare – primarily meat and grain, but also salted fish and fruit. King Brandon did not wish to start his reign with requisitions, but the Evenstar was happy to negotiate a fair price for some of the isle’s excess stored foodstuffs. He was also willing to accede to the King’s request for a small troop of men at arms, although he noted that he had hoped to send some men with Brienne and Jaime also. One young man, he felt, showed particular promise – and Jaime suggested that he might watch him train before he left.

Over the meal, Tyrion spoke of King Brandon’s – and his own – admiration for Ser Brienne, and her bravery in Winterfell. Podrick and Gendry added their own comments, Pod commenting on how well his Knight’s training had prepared him for his own Knighthood, and how Ser Brienne had impressed the virtues of a Knight upon him. Ser Davos added his own admiration. Jaime just smiled, more comfortable with praise for his Lady Knight than for himself. Tyrion hoped that Lord Selwyn had begun to understand how much the realm owed to his daughter.

After the meal, Lord Selwyn offered to show Ser Davos around the Hall, and the two older men left together. Tyrion eyed Podrick and Gendry sternly. “No women,” he warned them, “and no men either, although I do not think your tastes run in that direction. They are far more restrained here on Tarth than in the city, and you would not wish to make trouble in your lands or for our lady knight.” The young men nodded, abashed, turning back to their conversation, and Jaime reached out an arm to clap Tyrion on the shoulder.

“Come with me and let us leave these two to their gossip,” he said with a grin, guiding him through the hall to his own chambers.

Tyrion looked around Jaime’s chamber with a grin. “Bachelor chambers for you,” he observed, “although for the last time.”

Jaime shrugged, spreading his arms. “At least I gave my lady time to prepare for our wedding.”

He had a point.

“And how fares my new sister?” asked Jaime. “Have you had word?”

Tyrion shrugged. “Two ravens, sent from the ship. I trust that there will be more when I return to King’s Landing.”

Jaime nodded. “Between the two of you, you will require an entire flock – and we will need more to carry messages between Casterly Rock and Winterfell. Perhaps we should warn the Maesters to start to train them now.”

Tyrion raised his goblet, silently toasting his brother. “I told you in Winterfell that you looked happy. It has grown on you, Jaime.”

“I have Brienne to thank for that,” said Jaime at once.

Tyrion pursed his lips, thinking. “I do not think that is so,” he said slowly. “As much as she rescued you, I think that you have rescued yourself. And your lady as well, if I may say so.”

Jaime shrugged, and Tyrion continued. “Do you ever wonder what Father would have thought of all of this? It seems that we have come full circle at last. You are returning to Casterly Rock not merely as its lord but as a King; I am Hand to a King and husband to a Queen. And yet we were always such disappointments to him.”

Jaime laughed harshly. “Your king once told me that our pasts are what make us; that the decisions we make – even the poor ones – can enable great things. It is – a comfort.”

Tyrion nodded, wondering when his brother had become so wise.

“I shall miss you, Jaime,” he said quietly. “For all of the heartache and pain of the last months, it has been a joy to be by your side once again – and, for once, to have fought on the same side.”

Jaime chuckled. “It has indeed,” he said easily. “And now – even if we were so stupid as to become embroiled in another conflict, I do not think that our queens would allow any dissent between our houses.”

Tyrion laughed outright at that. “Sansa would kill me with courtesy and disdain, and I believe my good-sister would just kill you outright – although you did defeat her today.”

Jaime looked down, shuffling his foot on the stone flags. “I believe –” he hesitated – “I believe that she may have let me win. There was a hesitation –” his voice trailed off.

And if Tyrion had been laughing before, now he had to put down his goblet and wipe his eyes.

“There are songs, you know.”

Jaime looked at him in puzzlement.

“About us. Well, about our wives, mostly.” Tyrion paused. “I blame the Master of Coin.” Jaime shuddered theatrically, as he continued. “The truth – the truth of what you did to Aerys, what you did for King’s Landing – is out there. I know that you have not wanted that story to be told, but I think that it needed to be.”

They talked some more, sharing memories of their pasts and hopes for their future. And if Tyrion was perhaps a little maudlin and Jaime a little starry-eyed, even a former Imp could forgive that in the flush of newly-requited love.

Chapter Text

Jaime slept soundly even without Brienne at his side, assisted by the few glasses of wine that he and Tyrion had drunk the previous evening. When he awoke on the morning of his wedding day, he stretched and looked around the room before calling for breakfast and a bath.

In his soft saddle bags, he packed a full change of clothes, plus clean shirts and smallclothes, together with a gift that he had commissioned for his wife before they left King’s Landing.

After he bathed, he dressed carefully in deep red-brown breeches and high boots of the same shade. Above them, he wore a cream linen shirt with the seams picked out in crimson thread. His jacket was a pale tan, lined with crimson, and he had had Marisal embroider a lion on each breast, surrounded by the moons and starbursts of Tarth.

When Tyrion knocked on his door to tell him that it was time, he picked up his cloak. Made of crimson and lined in gold, embroidered golden lions prowled around the base of the cloak and up its sides, while the back of the cloak was covered in a single lion that had been cut from the same fabric as the lining. The clasp was shaped like a lion’s paw, and Jaime had practised several times to ensure that he could both open and fasten it with one hand.

Tyrion was dressed in deep grey and crimson, with the golden pin of the Hand worn on his chest. On his left hand, he wore a ring that was the twin of the betrothal ring he had commissioned for Sansa, a mated direwolf and lion wrapped together about his finger. Jaime looked down at the ring that he wore today for the first time. It was simpler than that which he had given Brienne, a plain ring of gold inlaid with a ruby, with a blue sapphire to each side. Gesturing for his brother to follow, he strode out of the room.

He was at the Sept before Brienne, of course, although their guests were already gathered. He strode inside, conscious of the gasps and whispered words, taking his place at the front with a nod to the Septon, who had already begun his prayers.

A sudden silence and then a spate of hushed whispers told him that Brienne had arrived. Shunning tradition, he turned, to see her walking in on the arm of her father, Ser Podrick forming an honour guard behind. Her gown was long, shaded from the rose pink of Tarth to the deep crimson of the Lannisters, with a sash that was embroidered with crawling lions, moons and sunbursts and ran from her left shoulder to her right hip. On her right shoulder, she wore the pins he had given her, together with a new one that he had sent her the night before, a golden lion with a ruby eye. In her hair, which curled loosely around her face, she wore a coronet of blue and pink wildflowers. Her Maiden’s cloak was long and blue – the blue of her eyes – and bore the shield of Tarth on its back. Expertly sewn, it bore traces of older, more naïve attempts at embroidery in two of its quarters, carefully sewn into the pattern. Marisal’s talent was evident both in the cut and quality of the stitching and in the way that she had skilfully incorporated Brienne’s own early efforts into the cloak.

She kissed Lord Selwyn on his cheek and walked the last few steps to Jaime alone, standing at his left. He reached for her hand – Gods, it had been nearly a day since he had last touched her – as the Septon welcomed them and the assembled guests. At his nod, Jaime and Brienne turned to face one another, and he reached for the clasp of her cloak. “I love you,” he mouthed at her; “I know,” she replied, as he caught her discarded cloak over his right arm and passed it carefully to Tyrion to hold. Unfastening his own, he swung it around her, clasping it around her own neck, breath catching in his throat at the sight of her now gowned in his colours. She took her own cloak from Tyrion then, swirling it about his shoulders and clasping it at his neck – there was more whispering from those gathered – before he once again took her hand and they turned to face the Septon once more.

“My Lord Baratheon, Lord Evenstar, My Lord Hand, My Lady, Your Grace, My lords, My ladies,” proclaimed the Septon, showing the priority that he, at least, placed on those assembled, “we stand here in the sight of gods and men to witness the union of man and wife. One flesh, one heart, one soul, now and forever."

Taking a crimson ribbon, embroidered with the moon and sunbursts of Tarth, the Septon tied a knot about their clasped hands. As he did so, he intoned gravely, “Let it be known that Brienne of House Tarth and Heir to the Evenstar and Jaime of House Lannister, King of the Westerlands, are one heart, one flesh, one soul.” Jaime’s hand gripped Brienne’s tightly. “Cursed be he who would seek to tear them asunder.” The Septon continued, “In the sight of the Seven, I hereby seal these two souls, binding them as one for eternity.” He unwound the ribbon, and Jaime and Brienne turned to face one another, eyes bright, as they recited the traditional words together. “Father, Smith, Warrior, Mother, Maiden, Crone, Stranger,” Jaime said, his voice ringing through the small Sept, “I am hers and she is mine. From this day, until the end of my days.” And “Father, Smith, Warrior, Mother, Maiden, Crone, Stranger,” said Brienne clearly, “I am his and he is mine. From this day, until the end of my days.”

“With this kiss, I pledge my love,” he said, reaching to pull her close and – at last – to kiss his wife, his queen.

Cheers rang through the tiny Sept, led by Podrick, Gendry and Tyrion, as they turned to face their guests. Brienne wrapped her left arm around his right and they walked together into the sunny courtyard, stopping to kiss once more as they emerged into the sunlight.

Lord Selwyn had set tables throughout the courtyard for their invited guests, with further tables outside for those who could not fit. Jaime and Brienne were to sit, with the Evenstar, Gendry, and Tyrion, at an elevated table, so they could be seen by all, with Podrick and Ser Davos close by. Many of the lords of the Stormlands had come, although Jaime was unsure whether it was the allure of a wedding or the chance to meet their new lord that was the driving attraction.

“Well, wife,” he said, as he led her towards the dais where they were to sit. “Very well, husband,” she replied demurely, and he shouted a laugh of joy at his new title, borne of their love. He stopped suddenly, and she turned to him with a puzzled expression, as though she was about to ask the reason for his hesitation. Pasting a sorrowful look on his face, he said, with as much seriousness as he could manage, “I do not believe that you have kissed me for at least ten steps,” and she giggled and dropped a fleeting kiss upon his lips before dancing away and tugging him towards the dais.

Later, Jaime would realise that he had no idea what they dined on that day, distracted as he was by the many people who came to wish them well. Old women brought them advice, pouches of herbs, finely stitched handkerchiefs and – his favourite, because they never failed to make Brienne blush rosily and peek at him with a shy grin – tiny knitted hats, socks, and mittens “for the babes, when they come.” Jaime bussed the old women heartily to thank them and made them blush and giggle, but left the younger ones alone; he would spare his wife any rumours of that nature. Loath as he was to leave his wife even for a moment, he walked with Gendry and Tyrion, making sure to speak more loudly than usual of Gendry’s heroism at Winterfell, and of the strong affection between the West and the Stormlands. The Evenstar joined them for a time, proudly introducing selected local lords to Lord Gendry and his Hand, Ser Davos “and my good-son Ser Jaime Lannister, King of the Westerlands.”

When Jaime had had enough, he returned to his wife’s side to cries of “A kiss! A kiss!” and really, what was he if not obliging? And when they had obliged at least a dozen times, Marisal appeared at Brienne’s side and asked whether she was ready to change. He kissed her once again, more fiercely this time, and murmured, “Save the dress for another day, but bring the cloak,” and she bit her lip and nodded, eyes sparkling.

She reappeared, dressed in one of her new riding skirts in a rich red-brown, a golden-tan jacket covering her shirt, the coronet of flowers still in her hair, his cloak upon her once again, and he stood to lead her from the dais. Lord Selwyn gripped his arm firmly. “Look after my Brie, Ser Jaime,” he said a little mistily, and Jaime nodded, surprising them both by hugging the older man before turning to grip Gendry’s arm and clap him on the shoulder. He knelt to hug Tyrion, kissing him formally on the cheek before they ruffled each other’s hair. “I hope that we shall meet again soon,” said Tyrion, and Jaime nodded.

Brienne kissed her father and her new brother, gripping Gendry’s arm and shoulder as Jaime had, before – with a murmured “best do this properly” – she kissed him affectionately on the cheek. Descending from their dais, they farewelled Ser Davos and Podrick and walked to the stables, where their mounts were ready, bridles laced with wildflowers, manes and tails beribboned, Oathkeeper and Lion’s Sun sitting across the saddles.

“Lead on, Your Grace,” said Jaime, and followed his wife out of the gates until they could once more ride abreast, hands clasped loosely together.

Chapter Text

She rode out of the gates of Evenfall Hall as thought in a daze, accompanied by the cheers of the wedding guests and smallfolk. Jaime followed, smiling and waving, and she was struck again by how good he was at this – not just at waving, but at making the people around him feel important. He had not always been such a good listener, she knew from experience, but even as a commander he had listened to his men and had, she knew, been valued by them.

They held hands loosely as they rode, reluctant to lose contact with one another. Brienne found herself sneaking peeks at Jaime – her husband – and knew that he was doing the same to her. The steady rocking of her horse was a constant reminder of the desire that concentrated between her legs.

Once they were out of sight of their well-wishers, they stopped for a moment, moved closer still, to kiss the way they had been longing to do all day, all hands and longing. “Is it far, this hunting lodge?” murmured Jaime, looking across at the meadows with a knowing look in his eye. Almost, she was tempted, but she led him on to the lodge that was only an hour distant from Evenfall.

Lake House sparkled – in more ways than one. Scrubbed from top to bottom, the old house gleamed. The sides of the path were lined with tiny candles, whose glow led them to a small stable. A groom waited there for the horses, a small cart with a tethered horse not far away.

“I’ll just rub them down and get them settled, my lord and lady, and then I’ll be on my way. There’s plenty of food and water for them, but we’ll be by each morning to check on them and to bring you your meals.”

Brienne and Jaime smiled and thanked him, then dismounted, taking their swords into the house. Anali was therealready; she explained that she had brought their saddle bags and had unpacked their things in the bedchamber – she blushed – and had set food in the kitchen. As arranged, they would serve themselves during their stay, with Anali and a groom bringing food and tending to the horses early each morning. She curtsied low – “And best wishes from me and Marisal and Becka, Your Graces” – before leaving and heading towards the stables.

Lake House was small and simple. Made of stone, the lower floor comprised a kitchen and scullery, with a large room with an open fireplace, a few books, and a cosy chaise for sitting. A short flight of stairs led to the open upstairs. Outside, a well and a privy sat at opposite sides of the garden, with a path leading to the lake.

“Do you think they are gone?” asked Jaime, coming up behind her as she looked out towards the stables. He wrapped his arms around her tightly and nuzzled her neck. “My wife and I are in need of some privacy.”

She turned to face him, encircled within his arms. “Even if they are not, dear husband, they will be shortly.” Suddenly shy, she buried her head at his shoulder. “Oh Jaime, this feels so strange.”

He hummed, smiled, kissed her cheek. “I trust that that is not your way of saying that you have regrets.”

She glared at him, kissed him once. “Of course not.”

Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a small bag made of crimson silk, which he passed to her. “A token for my Queen,” he said. Inside was a delicate golden necklace. At its centre were two golden lions, rearing up as though to fight, with a string of golden sapphires to either side. She gasped. “You will have to fasten it yourself, though,” he said, with a gesture at the stump of his right arm. “Also, you should know that they are not fighting exactly.” She giggled, and he nuzzled her neck. “Come to bed, wife, and let me show you.”

Taking his hand, she led him up the stairs to the large bed chamber that occupied the upper floor of the house. The large bed in the centre had been made up with fresh linens. A coverlet in the blue and rose of Tarth was pulled back to show the snowy white sheets, which had been sprinkled with flower petals that matched Brienne’s crown. Unlit candles sat on the window ledges and on the mantel, above the hearth where a merry fire burned despite the warmth of the day. Their clean clothes hung from hooks in the corner of the room. A metal bucket of water was sat beside the fire, another jug behind it.

Jaime turned to her, suddenly serious. “I feel like a maiden,” he said, with a wry smile. She kissed him gently, resting her forehead against his, holding his cheek gently with her hand. After a moment, he tipped his face toward hers. They kissed, long and deeply, before they began to disrobe one another, slowly and deliberately.

When at last they were naked, they stood and looked at one another, reverently, as the soft light of the afternoon filtered through the windows. Jaime reached out to trace the outline of her breasts, a hair’s breath away from touching them, nipples hardened in the cool air. She felt them swell at his almost-touch, longed for that contact, sighed as his hand moved down to skim the outline of her waist, her hips. She reached up to grip his strong shoulders, and he hissed at her touch, taking an involuntary step towards her. His hand mirrored hers, sliding down her back to cup her arse just as she held his.

“Wife,” he said, rocking gently against her.

“Husband,” she responded, leaning in to meet his kiss.

He spread the crimson lion cloak upon their bed, and they lay upon it. They loved slowly, each gasp a jewel, each moan a treasure. “I am yours,” he crooned as he entered her. “And I am yours,” she purred in response. When her breath hitched, it was to sigh his name; when his caught, it was followed by a cascade of words; “my true love, my dearest one, my heart.” He cried a little, afterwards, and she held him close. “Dearest Jaime, my beloved, my own.”

As dusk approached, they dressed once more and wandered, hand in hand, into the garden, along the path to the small jetty. A rowboat was moored there, oars laid inside. He chuckled, telling her of Tyrion’s plan for his escape from King’s Landing, and she smiled, resting her head against his own. “Perhaps while we are here, you can show me how well you can row,” she suggested helpfully. “Perhaps you can remind me how well you can row,” he said. “The last time that I saw you in a rowboat, you were headed away from me.”

They dined on cold meats, bread and cheeses, taking a crock of water and some pastries when they returned to their bedchamber. Jaime lit the candles on the mantel, and they lay together in their bed, filling the room with their soft laughter and softer kisses.

Chapter Text

Jaime was the first to wake in the gentle light of morning, and lay in bed for a time, watching his queen slumber. When she began to stir, he reached out his hand to toy first with the soft ends of her hair and then with the shoulder that lay beneath it. His name was on her lips as her eyes opened, and he gazed adoringly at her.

“Wife,” he said, trying to frown, “I believe we have a problem.”

She looked at him enquiringly.

“You have not yet told me today that you love me.” He nudged her with his shoulder, looking hopeful.

Looking thoughtful, she propped herself up on one elbow. “Husband,” she said, and his heart leaped a little, “I love you. I love every part of you. Even when you annoy me immensely, even when I am not yet fully awake, I still love you, and only you.”

He kissed her then – how could he not – but she pulled back with a small frown. Sitting up on the bed beside him, she ran her eyes over his body, smiling in sensual delight when she saw that he was already hard . When he was with her, it was as though he were a boy again, aroused by the smallest things as long as they were her. She reached her hand out toward him, but not for his cock. Instead, it was the ruin of his right arm that she held between her hands.

He tried to pull away, but she was stronger. “You never touch me with your right arm,” she said softly, stroking her fingers along it and over the scar where his hand had been.

He flinched, and she looked at him, eyes brimming with sudden tears. “I would not – it is not whole,” he stuttered. “I would be strong for you, Brienne, not crippled.”

Her tears fell then, anointing the stump of his arm, as she raised it to her lips and kissed it softly. “Jaime, this is part of you – it is part of our story – you lost it because of me –” she hesitated, and he took over.

“Brienne, never think that I regret it even for a moment. I would gladly give my other arm, my leg, if it would save you.”

She held his arm still, half forgotten, cradled between her breasts. “You need not do that, but do not be afraid to touch me; do not be ashamed of an honourable injury.” She kissed him there again, and he shuddered. She lay beside him once more, their bodies touching, one leg splayed across his groin, and kissed him deeply. She drew his wounded arm to her once more, this time towards her breast. “You can touch me, Jaime,” she said, “if you wish.”

He pushed himself up to sit beside her then, and reached for her. His left hand was on her right breast, pushing and tweaking the peaked nipple; with his right arm, he stroked the nipple on her left. She groaned a little, pressing up towards him, the musky smell of her sex becoming stronger as she reached for him. He moved away – this was for her alone. Daringly, he slid the stump of his arm down her body as she arched up to meet it, sighing when he made contact with her nub, pressing against her in the rhythm they knew so well. He could feel her dampness, knew that it would not be long, and moved his hand down so that he could slide his fingers inside her, stroking in and out of her tight channel until she shattered.

When she had returned to herself, she reached for him, turning him over and riding him, breasts quaking as she slid up and down, moving on him, clutching him tightly inside her. He reached his arms up to stroke her breasts, revelling in the feeling of being – almost – whole, of not having to hide that part of him that was maimed and ugly. When it became too much, when he felt his balls tighten, he reached for her hips, holding her down with his right arm and stroking her, pressing against her with his left, until she quaked and shuddered around him, squeezing him even more tightly and groaning her release. When she stilled, he rolled them over and thrust urgently into her once, twice, then erupted, collapsing on top of her with a sigh that was almost a shout. They lay together like that, boneless, until Jaime’s stomach gurgled and they fell into laugher.

He kissed her, then stood, offering her a hand. They washed quickly with the warmed water that sat before the fire, then dressed in the loose, old clothes that they had packed, and went downstairs to see what Anali had brought.

The table was set with breads and sweet rolls, nuts, fruits, cheeses, and roasted meats and fish, with a dish of vegetables beside. Small honeyed cakes from the wedding were also there, together with a jug of wine and sweet water, fresh from the well.

“How shall we spend the day, wife?” asked Jaime.

“I had thought to swim,” said Brienne, “as we do not have hot water to bathe. The lake water is fresh and clean. Perhaps we could walk for a time, then swim and row in the heat of the day.”

They walked and talked, telling tales of their travels, reminiscing about time spent together and sharing stories that filled the gaps between their meetings. When they returned, they trained for a time in the garden by the lake, although whether they trained at swordplay or at kissing was not always apparent. Afterwards, when they were dripping with sweat, they returned the swords to their scabbards and to the mantel in their room, took some soap, and walked to the lake, where they stripped off their clothes and swam naked as they washed, splashing and ducking in the cool clear waters.

When they had dressed, Jaime tugged Brienne towards the boat. “Show me how you can row, wench,” he said, adding in a low voice, “I have dreamed of this for years.” She took him for a turn around the lake, and for a time they each took an oar, each trying to outrow the other for a time, before they stowed the oars in the boat. He reached for her, stripping off her clothes and lying her down in the bottom of the boat before tugging at his own clothing.

“I have never done this before,” he said, with joy in his voice. “Let us hope that we do not lose the oars.”

They made love carefully, controlling their movements, wary of tipping the boat over. They rocked together as the clear waters of the lake rocked the boat, as though to make the lake truly their own, and peaked gently, passion lapping over them in waves. Afterwards, they rowed back to the jetty and bathed once more, then dressed to return to the house.

Jaime sighed. “I could be like this forever,” he said, “but duty will call us back all too quickly. We must return here,” he said fiercely. “We have nothing like this at Casterly Rock. Nowhere that is ours alone.”

She smiled. “Then we shall make somewhere, Jaime. And when we visit Tarth, we will come here together.”

Chapter Text

They awoke late on the second morning after they had wed, in a tangle of limbs, linens and coverlet, relaxed and sated from the previous day.

“I love you dearly, wife,” said Jaime, bussing her heartily, “but I think you have worn me out entirely. I may never be whole again.”

She grinned. “Shall we venture further today, husband? There is a place I would show you.”

They washed quickly, dressed once more in their old clothes, and went down the stairs to see what food had been brought. Jaime took his satchel, and they packed bread, cheese, fruits and meat, together with a skin of water and some pastries. He added an old blanket that had been thrown across the back of a chair, and they were ready to set out.

The forests of Tarth were green and verdant – the trees had kept their leaves even through the mild winter – and it was cool and quiet as they strolled along the path. Squirrels chattered in the trees, and Jaime saw some rabbits hopping about. The path was not wide enough for both of them, so Brienne walked in front, her left hand reaching back to lightly clasp his own.

“I gather that this is not precisely a well-inhabited part of the island,” he said questioningly. Brienne turned to look at him, shaking her head. “There is nothing nearby but Lake House,” she explained. “Father has kept this area as a wilderness, rather than turning it over to farming.”

He hummed his appreciation. Much as he loved the formal gardens of Casterly Rock, the natural forest reminded him of their travels together – although without the element of danger and intrigue that had accompanied them.

“I am quite glad that you did not tie me up for this journey,” he told her. “You were quite unpleasant to me back then.”

She whirled on him. “I was unpleasant? Jaime, you were –"

“Also unpleasant?” he volunteered helpfully, and she huffed and shook her head in defeat.

After a time, they reached a shallow river, which they followed until they reached a small pool at the foot of a waterfall that was at least seven times their height. Surrounded by flat stones, trees, mosses and wild flowers, the sparkling pool was everything that Brienne had remembered. She looked at him, eyes sparkling. “Shall we swim first, or eat?”

In response, Jaime pulled off his shirt, and Brienne felt a stab of lust at the sight of his lean torso, the crinkled nipples and gentle drift of hair that narrowed to a fine line, arrowing into his waistband. Already, he had started to regain the weight and muscle that he had lost during his convalescence. He toed off his boots, then stepped out of his breeches, revealing that she had perhaps not worn him out quite as much as he had claimed that morning.

“Like what you see, wench?” he asked with a teasing grin. She nodded blankly, swallowing a little, devouring him with her eyes. That her gaze only served to arouse him further was evident; her own arousal was scarcely a secret. Jaime alone could be overwhelming; Jaime alone, naked, erect, outside and beside a pounding waterfall, was something else altogether.

She nearly fell as she tried to pull off her tunic and toe off her boots at the same time. He caught her, kissing her firmly, reaching for the tie on her own trousers.

When they were both naked, she took his hand and led him around the pool and along the rocks to the waterfall – then pulled him through the cool waters into a tiny cave that lay behind. “This was my secret place where I used to hide from my Septa,” she told him. “If she had seen us here, like this, I think she would have expired on the spot.”

“Seeing you makes me expire on the spot,” said Jaime. “Not being inside you makes me expire on the spot.”

She took his hand, led it to that place between her legs where she was already damp and waiting. “I want to banish her, Jaime. I want this place to be ours alone.” She reached for his cock, and they stood together like that for a moment, touching one another intimately as they kissed. When she broke the kiss, it was to lick her lips, but he caught her when she would have dropped to her knees and taken him.

“May I show you something new?” he asked huskily, and she nodded mutely. He lay her down then, on her side, and sat beside her. He reached his hand to her, brushing through the curls to find her wet and waiting for him, and she took her hand to his cock. At her sigh, he lay himself down, facing her, burying his face between her legs, his cock at her face. She raised her leg so that he could better reach that sweet spot, resting her foot against the wall of the cave, and opened her mouth to admit him.

The sensation was overwhelming. His cock thrust inside her mouth, all hardness and sensation. She licked, sucked, tasted him, tasted the cool, sweet waters of the pool they had waded through. His lips were on her, working her hard, his arm wrapped around her, pulling her close, fingers thrusting inside in the rhythm set by his cock and her mouth. Around them, the waterfall pounded, the rocks vibrating with that primal rhythm: Jaime, Jaime, Jaime. He was everywhere, making love to her entire body, consuming her. She tensed, sucked in a breath, feeling her release approach, and he redoubled his efforts, humming against her, sucking and caressing with his lips and with his tongue. She screamed her release around his cock; he pulled out of her mouth, turned, and slid into her, groaning her name as he propped himself above her, his face a mask of concentration as he waited out her lingering orgasm before thrusting into her, fast and deep, slaking himself in her before collapsing, spent and shaking, onto her.

It was minutes – maybe hours – before either of them could move, lulled by the sound of the water and the faint tremors of the rocks. He lay atop her, head nestled in the curve of her neck and shoulder, his breath tickling her collar bone. She held him close, one hand around his shoulderblades, the other resting in the curve above his arse.

She shifted a little, rubbed her cheek against his hair. He lifted his head at once. “Am I too heavy for you, wife?”

“On this rock, perhaps, Jaime.” She blushed. “Oh, Jaime. That was –”

“Spectacular?” he prompted. “The best yet? Something we should aim to do here whenever we visit Tarth?”

She swatted at him. “I see that you need no compliments, husband, for you are quite adept at providing your own.”

He grinned. “All of those, then. I shall provide yours also, wife. You are perfect. Your legs are so long, they could wrap around me five times over.” He stroked her thigh, then slid his hand up to her belly. “Your belly is firm and so, so strong. It is a marvel. If others could see it, they would fall down before you in awe.” He hesitated for a moment. “And much as I love it as it is, the thought that it might one day swell with our child only makes it more of a marvel.” His hand slid up, gently teasing her breasts. “And these – perfectly formed and delightful.”

She frowned. “Jaime, they are very small.”

“But that does not dim my enjoyment of them,” he said, hand dancing across a nipple. “They are perfect."

His hand slid higher. “Your neck is so white, and so long. Your mouth is full of pleasure. Your nose shows your strength. And your eyes – I think that your eyes were the first thing I loved about you. They are so blue, I could fall into them and look at them for hours.”

She blushed, nuzzled his hand. “I do not have your way with words, Jaime, but I think that you know how beautiful you are. You are the most beautiful man I have ever seen.”

He shrugged, uncomfortable with her praise, and sat up. “Well, wife – shall we swim?”

She tugged him out through the curtaining water, and they played in the clear pool, splashing one another and ducking under the water. When they started to feel the chill, they returned to their discarded clothes, dressed, and shared a meal on their blanket, before turning for the long walk home.

Chapter Text

They stayed close to Lake House on the third day, taking time to spar with one another, and to swim in the lake in the late morning sun. Jaime floated lazily in the water beside Brienne, who had brought soap to wash first her hair and then his. The soap was scented with oranges – Anali had bought a supply for her before they left King’s Landing – and it left her hair softer and shinier than he had seen it. She ducked beneath the water to rinse her hair, and he kissed her as she rose.

“When I thought about our marriage,” he said to her softly, “I thought about the grand moments, and about getting to spare with you and be with you. I did not spend enough time anticipating this.”

She looked at him, confused. “This?” She lathered up the soap to wash his hair for him, running her hands across his scalp as she soaped him.

He smiled up at her. “The joys of just – being. Together.” He gestured to the shore, where their clothes lay in an untidy heap. “Washing. Eating. Dressing.” He grinned; “also undressing, of course. Knowing the ways in which you set out your clothes for the coming day. I underestimated the joy that those little things would offer.”

She splashed water carefully over his head, rinsing the soap from his hair, then turned her attention to his beard. He hummed his appreciation, pulling her down for a kiss that left soap all over her neck and chin.

She smiled at him. “We must be careful not to lose this. When you are busy being a King.”

“When we are busy,” he replied. “I want you with me, wife. I rely upon your counsel.”

“Rinse yourself,” she instructed, then continued, as he playfully blew bubbles in the water against her chest, “Jaime, I will do my best, but I do not know how to be a queen.”

“No more than I how to be a king,” he replied. “But we will work it out together.” He grinned. “Are we done here?”

She nodded, bemused by the change of topic. He took her hand and led her out of the water, stopping to tuck their clothes under his right arm before leading her, still naked, back to the house.

Inside, he led her up the stairs to their chamber. He shook out the red cloak he had given her when they were wed, and draped it over a chair.

“Sit,” he said, and turned to add a log to the fire. “Now, close your eyes.”

“Jaime,” she said, turning to him, laughing.

He shook his head. “Please. Close your eyes. Let me show you this.”

She closed her eyes, listening to him move about the room. He poured something into a cup, then went to the wall where he had left his saddlebags. She heard him remove something, humming to himself, then return to her.

“This is yours,” he said, placing something on her head. It was heavy, although not as heavy as a helmet, and round, and – her eyes shot open, to see her lover, her husband, wearing nothing but a gold crown embossed with lions and inlaid with rubies, a twinkle in his eye.

“Did I say you could open your eyes?” he asked with a grin, as she raised one hand to feel the matching crown that he had placed upon her head. “You are fortunate, then, that a queen can always gainsay her husband.”

She went to remove it, but he stayed her hand. “You say that you do not know how to be a queen; I offer the opportunity to practise. What would you have me do, Your Grace?”

She laughed. “Jaime, this is –”

“This is to show you,” he said, “to get you used to command. I am at your service, Your Grace. Only tell me what I should do.” He paused, then added, “And please, Brienne, keep the crown on. We will not wear them again until we are in the West, but when I look at you like this –” he looked down, smiling ruefully when she saw that he was hard once more. Between her legs, the cloak darkened with moisture.

She swallowed. “Will you kiss me, Jaime?”

He came closer. “Where should I kiss you, Your Grace?”

She reached for him, pulled him to her, kissing his lips deeply. Their crowns pressed together as well as their lips. When they paused, he smiled once more. “Lips,” he said. “Where else shall I kiss you, Your Grace?”

She swallowed, gesturing toward her breasts, pulling his stump to caress her there.

“Would you have me kiss you here?” he asked her, tracing fingers and stump around her peaked nipples. “On your breasts?”

“Please,” she responded, and then his mouth was replacing his stump, sucking her into his mouth and flicking her nipple with his tongue. He hooked a footstool with his ankle, drawing it towards himself, so that he could kneel upon it. He could do this all day, he thought, moving his mouth to her other breast and holding the dip of her waist on either side with hand and stump. He pulled back a little, tracing her nipple with his outstretched tongue, looking up to see her face, flushed and eager, the crown still atop her head. She sobbed a breath and he returned his mouth to her breast, sucking harder now, tugging gently on her nipple with his lips. He leaned his head against her, the gold of his crown cool against her breast, sliding it across her body as he moved his mouth to her other nipple. He could smell her arousal – could smell his own, for that matter, his cock straining towards her each time she let out a soft moan. He would remember this when he had to wear the damned crown in the West.

“Jaime,” she sighed, and he pulled his head away to look up at her, replacing his mouth with his fingers.

“Nipples. And now, how can I please you, Your Grace,” he rasped, voice thickened by his arousal.

She spread her thighs more widely, dragged his stump through the moisture there, arching herself against him.

“Would you like me to kiss you there, Your Grace?” he asked, and she moaned her assent.

Seeing her arousal, how much she was enjoying this despite her evident embarrassment, he continued. “How shall I kiss you, Your Grace? Shall I use my lips, or my tongue? Do you wish to feel my fingers inside you? Shall I suck on your nub, as I have sucked your nipples?”

Too far gone to complain, she pressed herself against him. “Do it all,” she said. “I need you now.”

He spread her open, using his stump to press her thighs apart and his fingers to open her lips, revealing her to him. He kissed her gently, humming his lips against her, licking and teasing until she cried, “More,” and he pulled her closer. He kissed and sucked, moving his fingers in and out of her, circling her with his tongue, pushing at her and into her until she shattered with a scream.

Grinning, he stood, sweeping his stump under her, using it and his hand to lift her and to turn them both so that she was sitting on his lap, his cock hard between them. He looked down, then back at her.

“And what is Your Grace’s pleasure?”

She glared at him momentarily, as though to say it would serve him right if she suggested they go hunting, or play a game of cyvasse, but her cheeks and chest were still flushed from her peak. She stood, leading him toward their bed, then pushed him down.

“You are my pleasure, Jaime,” she said. “What pleases you, pleases me. And now, I should like to please me very much.”

She kissed her way down his body, from lips to toes, nibbling and licking as she went. Jaime moaned as she made her way slowly up his legs, stopping to run her teeth over the tender inside of his thighs, repeating herself when she saw how it made him shake. He was nearly crying when she finally reached his cock, breathing hotly onto him before sucking him into her mouth.

In the harsh light of midday, she was relentless, sucking and tugging, using her hands to pleasure him, stroking his cock and scraping her fingernails lightly along his thighs and balls. He could feel the pressure mounting, tried to warn her, and she slowed and stopped.

Slowly, she straightened, balancing herself above him. With one hand, she guided him into her, then she raised that hand – that had just been pressing his cock into her – to hold her crown in place. She leaned forward, supporting herself on her other hand. He gazed at her, memorising the moment, her long, lean body rising above him, naked other than his ring and her crown.

She moved upon him slowly – too slowly, he would have said had he not been beyond words – then faster and faster until she too was sweating, twisting and clenching, propped above him wearing nothing but him and her golden crown. He stared at her in wonder, this wife of his – this Queen of his – who could outride him, outfight him, who was more than a match for him in every way and especially in this – feeling his passion rising until his control was gone entirely. With a shout, he arched towards her, feeling that he could spend forever as long as he was with her, inside her.

She kissed him gently as he softened inside her, then lowered herself to lie beside him, one hand still holding her crown in place.

“So this is what it means to be a Queen,” she said smugly, and he shouted with laughter. “It is what it means to be my Queen, wife,” he replied, reaching to remove his crown and place it beside the bed as she did likewise.

After they slept, they spent their last afternoon quietly, lying in the long grass between the house and the lake, kissing and touching gently, and talking of their future. These days apart had been idyllic, but in the morning it would be time to return to the world, to take on the mantle of their reign.

Chapter Text

Brienne and Jaime awoke early the following morning, as though their bodies knew that this peaceful idyl was to come to an end. They made love tenderly; there were no flower petals, no crowns, no pounding waterfalls or rocking boats, just two well-rested people, deeply in love, exploring their desire through kisses and gentle touches. Their peaks arrived with shudders rather than with shouts, as they held one another close, kissing tenderly.

Afterwards, they lay together, lost in each other’s arms, nestled amongst the bed coverings. Jaime softly stroked her hair and hummed his delight, his beard tickling her ear.

After a time, he stirred. “Reluctant as I am to disturb you, wife, I believe that my good-father will be expecting us at Evenfall Hall by noon,” he rumbled. Brienne hummed her agreement, but did not stir, instead snuggling closer and dropping a gentle kiss onto his chest. He threw back the covers. “Now, wench. Shall we wash here, or swim in the lake?”

She pulled him close, kissing him lovingly once more. “There is water by the fireplace, Jaime, and there will be baths at Evenfall Hall. There is to be a tourney this afternoon, for the trainees, and a feast this evening, with dancing.” She sighed. “We shall not be private again for some time – not like this.”

He stroked her cheek. “Little as I wish to share you, I must confess that I look forward to flaunting my wife before the world. I shall hoard your nights to myself, however.”

They dressed in the same clothes they had worn to ride to Lake House from their wedding, then went downstairs to break their fast. Anali was waiting with some bread, cheese and boiled eggs, ready to collect their clothes and follow them back to Evenfell Hall in the pony cart. Still eating, they walked to the stables, where they mounted their horses and departed.

They reached Evenfall Hall well before noon, and were greeted by Lord Selwyn. “All’s well, then,” he boomed, clapping Jaime nervously on the back and hugging Brienne tenderly. “I’ve had your things taken to Brie’s chambers, son,” he added, “and I’ll call for baths for the pair of you. The tourney is to start an hour after noon, so you have a little time.”

---ooooo---

With the guests from King’s Landing and Storm’s End returned to their homes, Evenfall Hall felt much quieter and more personal; all who were left were those who lived on Tarth.

The young trainees fought well in the tourney. The winner was Kit, son of Evenfall’s blacksmith, a natural with the Morningstar. But it was a young man named Edwyn who caught Brienne’s attention for his skill – albeit largely untutored – with the sword. Jaime sat up straighter as he watched the fight, looking thoughtful.

He leaned in to Brienne. “Do you suppose –"

She nodded slowly, then leaned over to speak with her father, who gestured as he responded to her. She smiled, and leaned back to Jaime. “He’s the younger son of a minor Lord who lives not far from here. The holding is not large enough to support the whole family, and his father remarried only recently. Father says he is a hardworking young man and suggests that we speak with him today – at worst, he might need a few days before he can follow us.”

Jaime looked at her enquiringly. “I have thought,” he said slowly, “that I should take on a squire – and the connection to my wife’s home would be welcome. But if you would prefer –”

“I think that is an excellent plan, Jaime. And I shall find someone in the West – as should you, perhaps, also. It would not be excessive for a King to have two squires.”

“Oh,” he said in disappointment, “I had thought to take three.” He grinned as she rolled her eyes at him.

Jaime gestured to Rodri and asked him to bring Edwyn to speak with them later that afternoon and before the feast. They watched the castle’s children perform a dance and shared a ginger cake with them, before they retreated inside to the library.

“Your Graces,” said Edwyn, bowing low. “I trust that I did not do something wrong.”

Jaime smiled. “Not at all. We wondered as to your plans.”

Edwyn shrugged. “I thought to ask Lord Gendry whether he was in need of a man at arms. I am not learned, but I am thought good with a sword.”

They nodded, then Jaime leant forward. “Edwyn, how would you like to come with us to Casterly Rock?”

The young man frowned. “Do you need Men at arms also, Your Grace?”

Brienne sighed. “What His Grace is trying to ask is whether you might be interested in travelling with us and training with us, with a view – if we are all of the same mind in six months’ time – to becoming his squire.”

The young man’s mouth fell open. “That – that would be –”. He fell silent, thinking for a moment, then frowned a little. “Thank you, my lady – Your Grace. I am afraid I cannot.” His shoulders slumped in sadness.

Jaime and Brienne exchanged a helpless look, before Jaime spoke again. “It looks to me as though you would like to accept our offer,” he said, and Edwyn nodded. “What is stopping you?” Jaime asked steadily.

“It is my sister, Your Grace,” he replied. When Brienne nodded enquiringly, he continued, “My father’s new wife and my sister do not get along. It is … difficult … and I think that I should not leave her.”

Jaime cocked an eyebrow at her and she knew what he was asking. With an inner sigh, she asked, “and how old is your sister?”

“She is just fifteen, Your Grace. My father’s new wife wishes for her to be wed.”

“And what of your sister’s wishes?” asked Brienne quietly.

“She would not wed him for all the gold on Tarth, begging your pardon, my la- Your Grace.”

Brienne knew what she had to do, even had Jaime not turned to look at her. “You may have the night to think it over and discuss this with your sister,” she said quietly, “but I would not be sorry to expand my household with another lady, and particularly one from Tarth. Your sister would be welcome to come with us also, and would be treated with the respect that her rank deserves.”

His smile seemed to stretch from ear to ear. “Th—thank you, Your Grace. I will speak with Liane as soon as I can.” He hurried away.

Jaime wrapped his arms around her, pulling her to him and lightly kissing the tip of her nose. “Have I mentioned lately how proud I am of you, wife? I know that none of this is precisely easy for you, but our motley household continues to grow. Soon we shall fill the entire Rock!”

She rolled her eyes and kissed him, her lips lingering, and he rocked his hips against her. “Jaime!” she said, in some shock, “we are not in our chambers!”

He hummed. “Kiss me properly,” he said, “so that I can get through this night.”

Laughing, she did so, then took him by the hand and led him upstairs to her chamber, where they called for a bath before the evening’s feast. “We are in our chambers now, wife,” he rumbled in her ear, one moment touching her, the next standing innocently behind her, his hand on her hip, as servants filled their tub.

“Will you need assistance dressing this evening, my lady?” asked Anali. She had hung out the blue gown that Brienne had worn in King’s Landing, together with the pants and jacket that Jaime had worn to match. A pair of red and gold cloaks were hung on a hook beside their finery, the wedding cloak cleaned and pressed since they had made love upon it on their wedding night.

Brienne blushed. “Not for now, but thank you. I will call if I need you.”

Anali nodded and left the room, closing the door tightly behind her. Jaime was at the doorway in a moment, dropping the bolt to keep the door closed. “I thought they would never be done,” he said.

She pulled off her tunic, dropping it over a bench, then bent to remove her boots.

“We must hurry, Jaime. I would not wish to be late for the feast.”

He was naked already – how had he done that? – clothes beside hers on the bench. And then he was behind her, nipping at her neck and tugging at her breeches, his cock pressing against her through the leather. She pushed them down, turning to face him. “Quickly, Jaime,” she repeated, and her shiver revealed her need.

He sat quickly, and then she was sliding onto him, hot and slick and warm around him, and Gods how she had missed this, although it was only hours since they had left Lake House. His stump was hot against her back and she leant backwards as she moved on him, rode him, affording better access for his clever fingers which worked her where they were joined, pushing her higher and higher towards that elusive plateau. His mouth swooped to wetly possess her breast, sucking and tugging at her nipple

On and on they raced, each pursuing the other’s pleasure. Tonight, Jaime was the first to fall, spending inside her with a hoarse shout as he hurled her over the edge to follow him in a whirlwind of lips and fingers and sensation.

They sat like that for a time as he softened inside her, squeezed by her lingering tremors, foreheads pressed together, breathing raggedly. “I shall think of this all evening,” Jaime murmured, “Of my seed inside you, making you even wetter for me.” She felt herself twitch around him. “It is fortunate that my jacket is so long, or I should shock the residents of Tarth with my desire for my wife.” She pushed at him gently, but did not rise.

A knock at the door was followed by Anali’s voice; “Your Graces, the feast will start soon.”

“We shall not be much longer,” Jaime called, and Brienne reddened. “Do you think that she –”

His eyes crinkled. “I am sure that she knows exactly what we have been doing, my love. And that I would gladly take you to that bed and keep you in it all night.” He was hardening inside her already, but she reluctantly stood, leaving him semi-erect and covered in their mingled juices. Almost, she reached for him once more, but then he stood also and led her to their bath.

Chapter Text

They bathed and dressed hurriedly, then pulled on the clothes that Anali had left for them. Brienne was still flushed, her hair tousled, and Jaime felt sure that all the men at the feast would envy him his Queen.

Anali was waiting outside their chamber, and she straightened Brienne’s hair a little and adjusted the necklace Jaime had given her at Lake House. Jaime admired the young woman’s carefully neutral face; she could have had no doubt about what they had been doing before she knocked. Years of campaigning had taught him the value of loyalty, and it was clear that Brienne’s honesty and compassion already commanded that from their small staff.

The feast that evening was merry, with many local minor lords and smallholders participating. Lord Selwyn gave a lengthy speech about his daughter, “Little Brie” and the “handsome husband” she had met, and Jaime responded with his gratitude to Lord Selwyn for his welcome, and to Brienne, “the most honourable knight in Westeros” for taking him to be her husband. He spoke of his joy at visiting Tarth – “my wife has already shown me many of the natural wonders to be found here” – and his joy at the prospect of a return in the future. And he spoke of the peace that had fallen over Westeros, brought about by the will of its people, and a desire to protect them from the horrors of war, and of the battle of the Long Night, where Ser Brienne had so distinguished herself.

When he finished, even the Evenstar looked a little shocked, but he gladly rose to his feet to propose a toast to his daughter and good-son, whom he had dubbed The Lion of Tarth, before they opened the dancing.

Later, when they sat to catch their breath, Edwyn came to them, a pretty young woman beside him. “Your Graces, this is my sister Liane. I told her of your offer.” The girl curtsied, and Jaime and Brienne both nodded to her.

“Edwyn said that I might come with you, to Casterly Rock, and be one of your Ladies, Your Grace,” she blurted to Brienne, as though if she waited she might never summon the courage to speak.

“If that is what you wish,” said Brienne, “then you will be welcome. But we leave at noon. That does not leave you much time to say your farewells.”

“Oh yes please, Your Grace. I do not need much time. She cannot have me married by noon.”

Brienne frowned. “Perhaps I should speak with your father.” She gestured to Anali, who was sat to one side of the hall, and the girl came running. “Anali, this is Lady Liane, who will travel with us to Casterly Rock and will join our household. Lady Liane, Anali is my trusted handmaiden. Should you need to come to Evenfall Hall tonight, you should ask for her.”

The girls smiled at one another before Anali dropped a quick curtsey and returned to her seat. Brienne stood; “Lady Liane, Lord Edwyn, will you introduce me to your father?”

Jaime followed, content to let his wife take the lead, as the two young people led them to their father, a middle-aged man who sat beside a woman who was dressed more like Liane than like a stepmother. She was pretty enough, Jaime supposed, but rather blowsy, in clothing that was both too tight and too young for her.

Edwyn tapped his father on the shoulder to get his attention, then returned his gaze to Brienne and Jaime. “Your Graces, may I present my father, Lord Walthun, and his wife, Lady Yanna.” The man and his wife sprang to their feet, bowing and curtseying as Brienne and Jaime nodded to them.

Brienne spoke first. “A pleasure, I am sure. His Grace and I were most impressed by Lord Edwyn’s fighting skills today,” she said, and Lord Walthun puffed out his chest in pleasure. “We – His Grace – would like to invite him to travel with us, with a view to possibly taking him as a squire to His Grace.”

Lord Walthun’s mouth fell open. “You honour us, Your Grace. Edwyn, make your bow and thank His Grace.”

Jaime smiled. “We are well past that, my lord. We have already spoken with Lord Edwyn, and trust that he will be ready to leave with us at noon tomorrow. Should our arrangement not be successful, we will of course return him to you here on Tarth.”

The man nodded and smiled, and his wife did the same, darting a look at Edwyn that warned him of dire consequences should the arrangement prove unsuccessful.

Brienne continued, “and having made the acquaintance of Lady Liane this evening, and not wishing Lord Edwyn to miss the comfort and company of his family –” she stood on the young man’s foot as she saw him open his mouth – “I should like to invite her to join me as one of my Ladies.”

It was Lady Yanna’s mouth that fell open then, and the man beside her stood and turned angrily. “Now see here –”

Brienne looked at him, one hand unconsciously moving to the space where the hilt of her sword would usually sit. Jaime took a step closer, compelled to protect her even as he knew that she was quite capable of protecting herself.

She arched a brow, looking him up and down. “I do not believe that I have had the pleasure.”

“It’s my brother, Your Grace, Sav Hutchins.,” replied Lady Yanna, continuing, “He’s Liane’s affianced husband.”

The girl shrank closer to her brother as Hutchins ran his eyes over her.

“Lady Liane?” asked Brienne coolly. “What do you have to say for yourself?”

“Nobody ever asked me,” the girl replied. “I don’t wish to marry him. I want to go to Casterly Rock, with you and Edwin and be one of your Ladies, Your Grace.”

Hutchins spat onto the floor. “Want to be the Kingslayer’s whore, is that it. Don’t think we don’t know about –”

The Queen’s fist was sharp and sure. Hutchins collapsed onto his seat, clutching his nose.

“The next time you call my husband that, it won’t just be your nose that I break,” she said crisply, as Jaime smirked from behind her shoulder. “Lady Liane, Lord Edwin, I shall have rooms prepared for you. I suggest that you go now to collect your things.” She nodded at Lord Walthun and Lady Yanna, adding, “As one of my Ladies, Lady Liane will of course be under my protection. You may join us for the morning meal tomorrow, to say your farewells,” before she turned her back on them, grabbing Jaime and pulling him into the dance.

She was breathless and flushed when they returned to the high table and a rather stunned Evenstar. “Sav Hutchins has had that coming for years,” he told his daughter in awe. “I rather think, Ser Daughter, that I have underestimated you.”

Beside him, the Lord Hand nodded owlishly. “You have indeed, Lord Selwyn,” he said solemnly. “Fortunately, I am here to tell you everything that you need to know.”

Jaime was still grinning when they returned to their rooms, arms entwined and his shirt already unlaced and wide open.

“Have I told you lately what a marvellous Queen you will be?” he asked her, nuzzling her shoulder with his chin as they walked.

“Frequently,” she replied dryly, “but I am not sure that I ever believed you until this evening.”

He chuckled. “There are not many women who would say that breaking a drunken sot’s nose made them feel more like a queen,” he told her, “but I am glad that I found you.” And then he was gladder still, as his glorious queen – who had that night defended his honour – loved him thoroughly.

The morning of their departure dawned clear and bright, and they dressed quickly, packing some older clothes in soft bags to wear on the boat. Jaime lifted the tally sword with its 13 notches, packing it carefully into their trunk. “A record of our betrothal,” he said with a grin. “It can become one of the Treasures of the West.”

Brienne glared at him. “It can NOT,” she said, then gave him a naughty grin. “Perhaps we could have it installed somewhere – in a headboard, or use it as the back of a chair?”

Jaime grinned at her. “You are a font of ideas today, wife,” he said fondly.

They broke their fast in the Evenstar’s solar, giving them time to say a quiet farewell. Jaime was surprised by how much regard he had developed for the man in the short time that they had known one another, and found himself issuing a genuine invitation to visit them at Casterly Rock. He wondered idly how his life might have been different with such a genial, loving father – and how the fate of the Seven Kingdoms might have played out in such a situation.

“Good choice that,” said Lord Selwyn of their decision to take Edwyn and Liane with them. “I don’t think much of that new wife their father has taken. Something shifty about that family. It’s good to get them away.”

They walked slowly down to Captain Jakub’s ship, which looked scrubbed and ready to depart. Liane was to share the second large cabin with Marisal, Becka and Anali, and Edwyn would take a second bunk in the small cabin with Rodri. Their small group had grown, but Jaime felt that the two young people would be a good addition to their household.

Jaime held Brienne’s hand in his as they stood together on the deck, watching the island recede as they sailed away from the island. When at last it faded from view, they turned to go belowdecks. “Are you sorry,” he asked, “to be leaving once more?”

She turned to him, her smile bright. “It will not be forever, Jaime. And how could I be sorry to be starting our new life, at your side?”

Chapter Text

Their journey to King’s Landing was uneventful, although low winds meant that their arrival took a day longer than they had expected. They used the time to work with their household – getting to know Liane, planning their wardrobes with Anali and Marisal, who had taken happily to the idea of looking after Jaime’s clothing as well, briefing Rodri on the lords and ladies of the West, and training on the decks with Becka. Jaime would have liked to train with Edwyn also, but the lad was struck with a bad bout of sea sickness, and the extra movement did not suit him well.

At night, they made love silently, the creaking of the bed the only clue to their activities. Jaime’s eyes would sparkle as they lay, giggling, in bed, listening to the sounds of the ship and whispering to one another of the things they might do if only the sailors and their household would not hear. One night, trying to keep himself from shouting, he bit his hand so hard that he nearly drew blood; after that, she kept an old shirt by the bed to bite down on to stop herself from screaming.

It was odd to be back in King’s Landing, even just to prepare for their next journey. With Sansa in the North and Tyrion at Storm’s End with Gendry and Ser Davos, there was only Podrick to greet them when they arrived shortly before noon – and he was mostly occupied with the King. Everywhere they looked, there was evidence of the rebuilding, with well-organised Goldcloaks patrolling King’s Landing and the start of a new Kingsguard at the Keep. Sansa’s oft-overlooked Uncle, Edmure Tully, had been returned to his former role as Lord Protector of the Riverlands and was working closely with his nephew. “Not the Hand of the King,” Podrick had murmured, “but the legs of the King. His Grace is sending him on more sensitive errands that require something more than a servant, but something less than the Hand.”

“As though he did not already have reason to loathe our family,” Jaime murmured to Brienne at the news.

Brienne frowned. “But surely that is an honour that he would welcome?”

Jaime laughed. “Not when compared to being a King – which is what he would be if his nephew did not require his services.”

Brienne huffed. “Then we had best be sure that he has no reason to hold a grudge, Jaime.” The fastest route between Winterfell and Casterly Rock was to take the River Road and join the Kingsroad at The Trident; there would be no conflict to prevent travel along that route.

They gave their household – even Edwyn and Liane – some coin and bid them enjoy what the city had to offer, asking Rodri and Marisal to keep an eye on the youngsters from Tarth, who had never been anywhere larger than the town that lay below Evenfall. “Just remember,” Jaime told them with a grin and a wink, “that you will have to carry anything that you purchase.” Edwyn would spend the night in the barracks and Liane in a guest room with the other women, but they would dine with Jaime and Brienne, whether at court or in their chambers.

Calling for a bath and a midday meal, they settled themselves in Brienne’s old chamber in Sansa’s apartments – they would only spend two nights in King’s Landing, and there seemed little point in disturbing their things. Jaime busied himself preparing plates for himself and his wife. “Once they are gone,” he murmured to her, watching as the servants set a roaring fire and brought buckets of water to fill their bath, “there will be nobody here to overhear us.”

Brienne flushed a little, but he continued, pressing himself behind her so that she could feel his hardness. “Nobody to hear the sighs you make when I touch your breasts, Brienne. That little sob you make when you catch your breath, when I kiss them, when I put my mouth on your nipples. When I roll them between my lips, and when I take my tongue to them. They will feed our children one day, but for now they are ours alone.” He nudged her, thrust forward a little, and she sobbed out loud. One of the servants looked at her enquiringly, and she hoped that she was not so flushed that they would guess what Jaime was saying – was doing – to her.

“How is the bath water progressing?” she asked, and was pleased that her voice sounded cool and collected.

“This is the last bucket now, Your Grace,” and she nodded as the man went to add it to their bath.

“The last bucket,” Jaime rumbled behind her. “All that water. It’s so very … wet.” He kissed her neck, moving his lips on her as though it was the nipple he had been describing. “I can’t wait to wash you, to take a soft cloth between your legs, to rub you there.”

“Only a cloth, Jaime?” she breathed, and she felt him twitch against her, and rest his forehead upon her shoulder, almost unmanned.

“Well played, wife,” he whispered into her ear. “Not only a cloth at all, but my lips and tongue, with my fingers sliding in and out of you, like my cock.”

She swayed, leaning back against him, letting him take her weight.

“If you wished,” he said hesitantly, pushing himself gently against her, “You could take my cock into your mouth while I did so, as we did at the waterfall. You would be on top, so you would be in control. Or you could do nothing and simply let me pleasure you.” He nuzzled her neck. “Or you could surprise me.”

She pushed him down into a chair, then turned and straddled him. “Shut up, Jaime,” she said, a little wildly, silencing him with a brief but passionate kiss. He slid his hand down to her breeches, caressing her through the fabric. She bit his tongue gently, then stood as she heard the servants return.

They were inside their chamber as soon as the servants had left the apartments, boots discarded, clothes dropped onto a nearby chair, naked and clinging. They bathed quickly, their touches caressing as they cleaned, then stood and dried themselves cursorily before falling onto the bed together, kissing and stroking one another as though they had not done this for months rather than mere hours.

When their breath was coming hard and fast, their fingers trembling, she broke their kiss to look at Jaime. “Did you want to – what you said –”

He groaned, buried his face in her shoulder, reached to help her turn. “Always. You know that.”

Turning, she lowered herself onto his eager mouth, pressing against him as he dove in eagerly, kissing and sucking. She was trembling already, moaning as she moved on him, wrapping her lips around his cock, feeling him shudder with need as he thrust upwards into her mouth. And then they were racing, each pursuing the other’s pleasure while greedily taking their own. The room was filled with the sounds of their passion – the smack of moist lips on damp flesh, the groans and sighs of their pleasure. They were greedy, chasing their joy, relentless in their shared lust. She was the first to find her peak, sliding over in fierce waves, riding out her pleasure against his lips. And then she could feel him approaching it as well, could sense the change in his breathing, and she turned and sank herself onto him.

He was spilling before he was fully seated in her, she had prepared him so thoroughly, shouting her name and quaking beneath her, the veins on his arms cording as he spasmed with pleasure.

When his breathing began to settle, he reached for her, running his hands slowly down her torso. “You are incredible,” he rumbled. “I will never tire of this.”

“Good,” she breathed smugly, leaning down to kiss him. “I would not have you be a neglectful king.”

They used the bath once more, although the water had cooled a little, then dressed for their afternoon tasks, quickly eating their midday meal. Tyrion had organised wagons and a cart for their party before he left, but they wished to check that all was ready for their departure. They inspected the wagons, and met with the men who would drive the cart and wagons, as well as with the Lannister men-at-arms who Tyrion had bid travel with them. They requisitioned additional riding horses, including some well-trained beasts that had, they suspected, come to Westeros with the Golden Company. They settled on two stallions and eight mares, with a pair of saddles for Rodri and Edwyn and a side saddle for Liane, although she would spend most of her time in the cart. The horses would form the basis of a breeding program (“while we work on our own breeding program,” murmured Jaime) to ensure that the soldiers of the West were always well mounted.

A message from Bran summoned them to an informal evening meal. They presented Edwyn and Liane to His Grace, but sent them away to dine in the great hall with the rest of their household while they sat with the King and his uncle Edmure Tully and discussed the state of the nations. There had been little news to date; the King of Dorne and the Queen of the Iron Islands had returned home and were settled in their new roles, although there was no news as yet from the Vale. Lord Bronn had travelled to Highgarden and seen that all was well, then returned to King’s Landing, preferring the bustle of the city and the court to the quiet of his new home. Tyrion remained at Storm’s End with Lord Gendry, although he was expected to return shortly with a report from the Stormlands. Meanwhile, in King’s Landing, work continued, with Ser Fretas’s Goldcloaks playing an important role both in keeping the peace and in providing a visible reminder of the King’s interest in his people’s wellbeing.

“You will need to consider,” said Jaime, “what you will do for an army, should you need one.”

“I had thought to call banners from all the Kingdoms,” said Bran.

“You would do better,” suggested Jaime, “to focus on the Crown Protectorates. The Reach, The Stormlands, even – he bowed to Lord Edmure – The Riverlands and Trident. If you take people from a kingdom’s army, they will remain loyal to that kingdom. If you take your own people, they will be loyal to you”

Bran nodded. “So we train them here, under Ser Fretas.”

Jaime nodded. “Let them train here and get to know one another as part of the Crown forces, not as representatives of their home. Nevertheless,” he added, “The West will gladly send some men once we have seen what there is to send.”

Bran nodded.

“And have you word of our Good-sister, Queen Sansa?” asked Brienne.

The King shook his head. “I promised that I would not watch with ravens in the North, so must trust that she has found her way. I hope that we shall hear shortly of Sansa’s safe arrival – and of yours in the West.”

Jaime could – very occasionally – take a hint. He rose, reaching for Brienne’s hand.

“As pleasant as this meal has been,” he said smoothly, “we leave on the morrow, and had best be seeking our bed. Our small party will depart before noon.” He and Brienne both bowed smoothly to Bran, nodding at Lord Edmure.

“Send word when you reach Casterly Rock, King Jaime,” said Bran “I shall not send my own ravens to the West”.

Chapter Text

Jaime smiled to himself as he surveyed the group that had assembled at the Red Keep’s stables two hours past dawn. As well as he and Brienne, there were Edwyn and Liane, Marisal, Anali and Becka, Rodri, the blacksmith Nathen and his wife Polla, some twelve Lannister Men-at-arms, three well-packed wagons, a cart, eight drivers, and thirty horses.

“Our small party,” his wife murmured beside him. “We shall require half a day just to pitch and strike the tents.”

He chuckled. “I had thought to seek out inns along the way, but we shall struggle to find any with sufficient space for us all. Now I see why Tyrion was so insistent that we carry provisions and tents with us for the journey.”

After seeing their group disposed – Edwyn with them on horseback, the women, Nathen and Rodri in the cart, and the four drivers who were not to drive at first settling themselves in the back of one of the wagons – they mounted their horses and set out for the Goldroad.

One thing Jaime had forgotten about travelling with a large – or even medium-sized – group was the sheer tedium that it could entail. After an hour, he was longing to take Brienne and ride ahead to Casterly Rock; after two, even his horse was tetchy. They stopped briefly – mainly so that the people in the wagons and carts could take a piss – and ate some cheese, fruit and bread. He took Becka up before him for a time, which helped a little with his boredom, but it did not offset the promise of nearly three sevendays of this. That was the time it took to reach Winterfell, travelling light; the journey to Casterly Rock should be much shorter. After more than two months in King’s Landing and Tarth, he was unused to spending so long in the saddle, and fidgeted a little, frustrated that it had taken a full day’s travel to go such a short distance.

Brienne nudged him with her knee, drawing him back to her. She looked at the sky. “We have about three hours until dusk, Jaime. Perhaps we could ride ahead with a few of the men, find somewhere to rest for the evening?” She stretched a little. “I would not be averse to taking a break from this saddle.”

He grinned. “My arse is not precisely comfortable either, wife.” He selected four of their men at arms and they rode on together, not racing but not tied to the slow pace of the wagons. After an hour or so, they came to a large flat area with a copse beside it and a stream running beside. He caught Brienne’s eye and raised an eyebrow. She nodded, gesturing to their men at arms to join them.

They led the horses to the stream to drink, then hobbled them in the grasses. Two of the men stood watch over their campsite while the other two went off somewhere – to piss, to wash, Jaime neither knew nor cared. Brienne stretched, sighed, rolled her shoulders, looking at the sun to assess how long they might wait for the rest of their party.

He caught her eye, drew Lion’s Sun a fraction, a question in his eyes. She met it joyfully, reaching for Oathkeeper, and they sparred together for a time. She won easily – of course she did – but having her blade at his throat set his blood to singing in ways that almost made up for the day’s tedium. He gestured towards the stream. “Shall we bathe, Your Grace?”

She looked uncertainly at the men at arms, who had all returned and sat watching them spar. Taking her hand, he murmured to her, “They can watch this area and look out for the remainder of our party. We should not be setting our own tents every night. We need to establish ourselves as their leaders, not their peers.” He grimaced. “I always hated this part, waiting around for someone else, but it is important.” She had not commanded an army, had always taken responsibility for her own accommodations, but in thinking back to her time with Renly, she could not recall his ever pitching a tent or setting a campfire. He continued, “If we leave them to it now, we can make any changes on the morrow, without having to watch them closely.” She nodded, and he stretched his arm out to her.

They walked over to the men at arms, and he gave them instructions on how to set the camp. He and Brienne would be farthest from the road, and the horses and wagons were to be set in the middle of the campground. The group’s captain – Taven was his name – seemed sufficiently familiar with the structure of an encampment, even suggesting where to place the cooking fire and a secondary campfire. Jaime left him in charge, telling the men that the stream was off limits as he and his wife were to bathe.

And bathe they did, although briefly. The water was cold, but Brienne’s body was warm, and even a fast loving could make up for the relentlessly dull hours they had spent on horseback. Afterwards, they splashed about and dressed once more, returning to find that the remainder of their party had arrived and their tent had been set.

“Remind me never to leave Tyrion in charge of tents again,” said Jaime, at the sight of the red and gold pavilion that towered over them. Inside, they found rugs, a table and two chairs, and a large bed with a thin mattress, sheets, a coverlet and even some northern sleeping furs. A clean shirt, stockings and smallclothes for each of them, as well as a plate of fruit and cheeses, spoke to Anali’s presence.

Brienne smiled. “It is rather ostentatious. Do they think that we have never slept outside, on the ground?”

Jaime pulled her to him, kissing her thoroughly. “At least we have privacy here.”

The remainder of the campsite was set up well. The women were together in a large tent beside Jaime and Brienne. Nathen’s wife Polla had chosen to sleep with the other women, rather than to take a smaller tent with her husband. Edwyn, Rodri, Nathen and the men at arms occupied three other tents, while the wagon drivers spread their sleeping rolls inside and beneath the wagon which had held their tents and cooking equipment. A stew pot bubbled away; they would need to purchase some more supplies or catch some game to supplement what they had brought, but for now there was ample food and a barrel of ale to keep their group happy, and they had refilled their water skins at the stream.

They rose with the dawn. With many people to help, the tents were quickly struck and packed away in the wagons, and they set off for the next day.

This quickly became the pattern for their days. Jaime or Brienne would train with Edwyn in the morning, after he had helped to strike his own tent, making time to work with little Becka also. After a few days, Liane joined them, and Anali also asked if she might join. Brienne was delighted, telling Jaime that the more people who knew how to use a sword, the happier she would be. “I’m always happy that you know how to use my sword, wench,” was his muttered reply.

It was ten days before they reached the Westerlands, having passed through the Crownlands, the Riverlands and the Reach, all Crown Protectorates. On their last night in The Reach, Jaime summoned the members of their household to their tent. Taven was there to represent the men at arms, Anali as Brienne’s handmaiden, Edwyn and Liane, and of course Rodri. They had sent a raven to Casterly Rock before they left King’s Landing, of course, and another two nights before. It had been many years since the Westerlands had had a king; he knew that the people would expect a show.

“Armour, I think, to enter the West” he said, with a grin for his wife. “Taven, we shall require a bannerman to ride in front and carry the standard. Swap the men out every hour – it can become tiring to hold the standard in place, and I do not wish for it to droop. Her Grace and I shall be next –” he raised Brienne’s hand and kissed it lightly –” followed by four men-at-arm, then the cart and the wagons, the horses, and the remaining men.” He turned to Edwyn and Rodri. “Lord Edwyn, you may take a turn with the standard if you wish, otherwise I would have you ride beside the cart. Rodri, if you wish to ride, I would have you by the cart also.”

He dismissed them with a nod, leaving them to sink into their beds, travel wearied but excited to finally be nearing their destination. There were still eight days to Casterly Rock, but they would be spent in the West, among their people.

“Apprehensive, wench?” he asked his wife.

She sighed. “A little. I am glad that we are to wear our armour tomorrow.”

He smiled. “It will never be wrong for you to wear your armour, my love. But – if you would – I would have us wear cloaks in our colours.”

She nodded. “Of course, Jaime. Our people need to know us.”

With a groan, he caught her to him, kissing her thoroughly. “Tomorrow, we must perform for our people. But tonight, wife, you are all mine.”

Chapter Text

Brienne woke early the following morning, pinned down by her lord husband. She breathed slowly, thinking about the ordeal – no, the task – that lay before her, as she would ride beside her husband into their new kingdom. She was pleased to see how Jaime was taking to his crown, and hoped that their journey through the Westerlands would go as smoothly as it had thus far. For his sake – and for her own, she acknowledged – she hoped that the Lords of the West would take kindly to the crown that had been bestowed upon them, although she knew that some would regret the loss of the Iron Throne.

She hoped, also, that the Lords might provide them with some congenial company as they inevitably joined them along the way. Jaime’s patience was clearly starting to wear thin as he chafed at the slow pace of their travel, and she hoped that the novelty of some fresh faces might help to entertain him. It had been a long time since the two of them had travelled any distance together, and they had not had a retinue then. If she was honest with herself, she would admit that this form of travel was certainly easier, however dull she found it.

Jaime stirred against her. When he opened his eyes, he pressed his lips to hers. “Happy anniversary, wife,” he murmured. “It is three sevendays precisely since we were wed. I believe we should celebrate.” His lips were not the only thing that pressed against her.

She demurred. “Jaime, we will need to get ready –”

He placed a finger across her lips. “Hush, wench. It is barely dawn, and nobody is stirring but us. And right now, you stir me.”

He rolled over, coming over her, trapping her between his arms and his legs. “We could run away,” he suggested almost wildly. “Just you and me, and our horses. We could get them now and ride off, with nothing but one another and our swords.”

She laughed. “Where would we go where we would not be seen?”

“We could live in the woods,” he said, “just you and me. We could find a cave somewhere and fade into legend. Hundreds of years from now, someone would find our bones and tell tales of the race of giant women and their sworn manservants who once lived in the woods of the west, protecting them from terrible things.”

“Terrible things?” she asked, trying to be serious.

“Mmmmm,” he hummed against her neck. “Terrible, terrible things. We might be overrun by a pack of 30-50 feral hogs?”

She rolled her eyes at his nonsense.

“Or perhaps bears,” he added, “licking their maidens fair.” He drew his tongue along her neck, making her shiver.

“And if I do not wish for that protection?” she asked gently, reaching to caress something that was not very terrible at all.

He sighed, pushing against her hand. “Then I suppose that we are doomed to our crowns.” He grinned at her, his face close in the dim early morning light. “Although, I have very fond memories of wearing those crowns. Perhaps we should keep them in our bedchamber, rather than in the throne room. And yes, wench,” he sighed, “just like that. Please.”

She spread her legs apart and slipped him inside her, letting him set the pace. He loved her slowly and deliberately, kissing and stroking her, moving her ever-closer to that tantalising peak. He was never not touching her – with his hand, his lips, his stump; today, he held her close and pressed himself closer still. And today, she did not fly over the peak, did not hurl herself from it, but rather slid gently over its apex, shuddering in the arms of the man she loved as he, too, glided into that bliss.

“A bed is definitely more comfortable than a cave,” she murmured to him as he lay on her, entwined with her.

He nuzzled her collarbone. “Warmer, too,” he murmured. “And we have people to clean for us and bring us food. Losing the cave is a sacrifice, wench, but if it will make you more comfortable then it is a sacrifice that I am willing to make. I shall be your bear, if ever you require one.”

She rolled her eyes at him, determined never to admit – although of course he knew – quite how much she enjoyed his ridiculous banter, then kissed him once again.

“We must rise, Jaime, and bathe,” she said quietly.

He tugged at the coverlet. “Can we not stay here just a little longer? Once we cross over into the West, we will be all show – there will be no more escaping to ride alone and spar.” He rolled off her, catching his right arm around her torso and pulling her close. “I like us like this, alone together.”

She sighed, snuggling into his embrace, letting him cocoon her in coverlet and sleeping furs and warm Jaime. “I shall miss this too,” she whispered, and let him hold her for a time.

When they rose, they washed quickly with a bucket of cold water, then dressed and buckled one another into their armour. Brienne wore the cloak Jaime had given her when they were wed; Marisal had made him another to match. Both bore the Lannister lion, crowned with a golden circlet. They wore no helmets, but buckled on their swords, which they had polished to gleaming.

Jaime passed Brienne a small bag of copper pennies, to carry before her and to distribute as she wished.

While the men at arms broke down their campsite, Marisal was hard at work. She had made crimson cushions to line the benches of the carts, and hung small banners with Lannister lions from its sides. Becka had collected bunches of wildflowers, which she used to decorate the cart, supervised by Polla. She presented one each to Jaime and Brienne, who wove them into the manes of their horses.

At last, they were ready to set off. The first two hours or so were uneventful, until in the distance they saw a lone rider turn and ride away from them. About a half an hour later, they saw a group of about twenty men waiting beside the road, all mounted. Brienne and Jaime both reached their hands towards their swords, resting on the hilt. One man on a reddish coloured horse broke away and rode towards them, bronze armour gleaming in the sun. Behind him, another man carried a banner showing an orange burning tree on a dull green background.

Jaime grinned, and relaxed. “I believe, wife, that you are about to meet one of my oldest friends.”

“Lord Marbrand?” Brienne asked, recognising his House’s sigil, and Jaime nodded. “His son, Ser Addam. We were squires together.”

They stopped to wait, as the knight rode closer, stopping before Edwyn, who was the second man to hold the banner. A handsome man with copper hair that hung to his shoulders, Ser Addam’s face was wreathed in smiles.

“Welcome home, Your Grace,” he called.

“Come with me,” said Jaime to Brienne, spurring his horse forward. Ser Addam bowed at Jaime’s approach, but Jaime gripped his arm and patted his back with his stump. “It’s Jaime, Addam. And it is good to see you again, my friend.”

“And you, Jaime,” Ser Addam responded.

Jaime turned to Brienne. “Allow me to present my good friend Ser Addam Marbrand, my love.” She smiled, reaching to grasp Ser Addam’s arm, but he caught her hand and kissed it. “Addam, my wife, Ser Brienne Lannister of the Westerlands and Tarth.”

“It is indeed an honour to meet you, Your Grace,” said Ser Addam. “Tales of your bravery have reached us here.”

Jaime grinned. “Just wait until you see her fight, Addam.” He reached his stump out and touched her thigh, evoking an answering grin from her and a pat to the stump. Brienne saw Ser Addam’s eyes follow the movement.

Ser Addam gestured behind him. “I come not only with my own men,” he said. “We met the Porcupine along the way.”

“How does Lord Serrett?” Jaime asked about the older lord of Silverhill.

“Fussy as ever,” replied Addam, “but loyal to a fault.”

“Then come,” said Jaime, reaching a hand to Brienne, “let us ride forward to greet him.”

They took their places in the convoy and began to move, Addam taking a place on Jaime’s left.

“I am to pass on best wishes from the Strongboar,” Adam volunteered as they rode. “He will meet us nearer to Casterly Rock.”

“Lyle Crakehall,” Jaime mused, “I have not seen him since Riverrun. He was angry with me then.”

Ser Addam chuckled. “That is long forgiven, Jaime.

Ahead of them, Lord Serrett and the assembled Serrett and Marbrand men at arms bowed as they approached. Breaking his convoy, Jaime rode to greet the older man, who formally welcomed him to the Westerlands. He would, Jaime thought, have sworn his fealty right then and there, from his horse’s back, had he received any encouragement. Instead, Jaime reached out an arm towards Brienne, who rode over to meet the lord. He bowed low, but looked at Brienne as though in some confusion.

“My love,” said Jaime courteously and formally, “Allow me to introduce Lord Owyn Serrett of Silverhill. My lord, I present my wife, Ser Brienne of the Westerlands and Tarth.” Lord Serrett bowed again. “Your Grace.”

Brienne nodded regally at him, careful to keep her face neutral. “A pleasure, my lord.”

“You would be welcome to come to us at Silverhill, Your Grace,” said Lord Serrett to Jaime, “but I fear that it would take you away from the road to Casterly Rock.” Jaime nodded gravely. “We shall continue along the Goldroad,” he said, “my wife and I are keen to reach the Rock so that we can see what must be done.” He continued gravely, “We would of course welcome your company, however we understand if matters at Silverhill require your presence.”

“There is nothing more important than the future of the Westerlands, Your Grace,” Lord Serrett replied earnestly. “We shall ride with you for Casterly Rock.” He gestured to his men at arms to fall in behind Jaime’s party, adding his banner beside the Marbrands’. Addam’s men did likewise, nearly doubling the size of their party.

“We thought to camp at Green Ridge tonight,” Jaime said to Addam, who nodded. There was no riding ahead today, though; instead, they walked their horses along the Goldroad, distributing pennies and the occasional silver stag to the common folk who gathered to greet them, cheering for Jaime and “a Lannister!”, then cheering again when Jaime introduced his lady wife. They gave them grain, too, and seeds for their crops; the promise of Spring and the relatively temperate Western climate had farmers already thinking of their next planting.

They did not spar at Green Ridge, instead spending time in conversation with Lord Serrett and Ser Addam while the men set the camp, adding an additional six tents to their group. They had several campfires, but only one was surrounded with chairs for the King and Queen and their companions. After changing out of their armour, they joined the men. Brienne was content to listen as Jaime regaled the men with tales of their travels. They were particularly interested to learn of the Long Night and the battle at Winterfell.

Characteristically, Jaime regaled them with stories of Brienne’s bravery, downplaying his own role, so she had to step in to emphasise his bravery. Ser Podrick – now the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard – was also praised highly.

“I have never been so surprised to be alive as I was that day,” said Jaime, “and I survived this – he gestured with his stump – and being stabbed twice by a crazed and murderous pirate. Not to mention having a building collapse onto me, and a trial by Daenerys Targaryen herself.” He looked at Brienne. “Now that I think of it, wife, you almost always seem to be there when I nearly die.”

She grinned at him, raising his hand to her lips. “And perhaps that is why they were only nearly, husband.”

Addam Marbrand’s eyes widened, as he looked from one to another. Owyn Serrett rose slowly. “I shall seek my bed, if it please Your Grace.”

Jaime looked nonplussed, so Brienne stood also. “And I too feel quite tired. Jaime, Ser Addam –” the knight rose to bow to her – “I wish you joy in your conversation.”

Chapter Text

Jaime and Addam watched as Brienne turned to walk into their tent.

“I was not sure what you were about with this marriage, Jaime,” said Addam slowly, “but I think I see now.”

Jaime quirked an eyebrow at his friend.

Addam chuckled. “No need for that stern face, my friend. It is plain that you love your wife and she loves you. You will be setting a new fashion for marriages, as your wife sets a new fashion for dress.”

“And for swordplay,” said Jaime proudly. “Wait until you see her fight, Addam. She defeated me before I lost my hand, and she defeated the Hound in single combat. She is a true Knight.”

“I shall look forward to that privilege,” said Addam, and the two men stared into the fire for a time, reminiscing about the past that they had shared.

Jaime stood, early, but not wishing to be apart from Brienne; they had fallen asleep together every night since they had been reunited in King’s Landing, save the night before they were wed. Addam scrambled to his feet as Jaime stood, nodding to wish him a good night.

Brienne was not yet asleep, but was nearly so. Jaime snuggled into the warm nest she had made in the blankets, curling himself around her and holding her loosely.

“Mmmmm,” she hummed, then “I like your friend, Jaime.”

“That’s fortunate,” said Jaime. “I like him too.” He paused. “We will need a Small Council of our own, my love. I had thought to name Addam Lord Commander of our forces.” He chuckled. “Without the vow of celibacy, which would not suit him at all.”

“Not your Hand, Jaime?”

He shook his head. “The Hand will need to live at Casterly Rock, with us, but Addam is his father’s eldest son. He will be needed at Ashemark.” He paused. “Ser Lyle Crakehall, who is known as the Strongboar, is another old and trusted friend, and is a second son. We will need to become reacquainted, but I hope that he might suit that role.”

She nestled back into him, yawning. “We have time, Jaime.”

They wore their armour again the next day. As they waited for the men at arms to strike the tents, Jaime nudged her. “Spar with me?”

She stretched, a broad grin on her face. “Gladly, Jaime.”

They walked over to a clear space a short distance from the tents, and drew their swords. By unspoken agreement, they started with simple exercises such as trainees might work through, stretching and tapping their swords together, easing muscles cramped from days on horseback. When they had worked through their cramps, when their bodies were singing, Brienne caught Jaime’s eye. He nodded, and she came for him, attacking so that he was forced to defend. He parried, spun, parried again, then slipped into an attack that glanced off her sword. Panting, he backed away, looking for an opening as they circled one another warily. He feinted, she stepped back; he attacked, she parried. Dimly, he was aware that they had attracted an audience, but his attention was all hers. He raised his sword to attack once more; she came in low. He knocked her away, holding his sword toward her, blade flat. She tapped it away almost playfully; he stepped back to give himself room but she stayed close, following his body with her own, coming in from the right, where he struggled to defend himself. He beat her off two, three times, but she was relentless, and when he finally missed her strike and she brought Oathkeeper to rest at his shoulder, they were grinning and sweaty.

“I yield,” he said, and if his voice was husky and spoke of bedchambers rather than of battles, she was the only one to hear it. She lowered her sword, and he kissed first her hand and then, lingering a little, her lips. “Well fought, wife.”

“Bravo!” said Addam from the sidelines, and Jaime turned to see his friend, Lord Serrett, their own household, and many of the men at arms standing and watching them. The tents had been struck, the wagons loaded, and the horses saddled. Jaime gestured to Brienne, encouraging her to lead the way, and they walked over to the lords. “Well fought, Your Grace,” said Addam, “It is clear why Jaime knighted you. And you, old friend. I had not thought to see you fight like this after the last time we trained together.”

Jaime grimaced, not wishing to remember his first attempts to fight with his left hand. “I am not the fighter I was,” he replied with a grimace, “but Brienne keeps me on edge.” He reached for her hand, squeezing it lightly and lifting it to his lips.

“Well,” said Addam, turning to walk with them to the horses, “if either of you wishes for a new challenge, I will gladly volunteer my sword.”

Lord Serrett rode beside Brienne that day. Their conversation was light, and mostly focused on the region they travelled through. He pointed, once, to a narrow road that led South, telling her that it led to his home, Silverhill. He watched her carefully but without hostility, observing the way that she rode astride.

“I knew your father once, Your Grace,” he volunteered, not long after they had paused for a quick noonday meal of bread and cheese. “He was a great one for stories.” Brienne nodded with a smile. “We were rivals, of a sort, although your Lady Mother never looked at another man. I was sorry to hear of her passing,” the man said softly. “I do not think that your father travelled to Court after that.” He paused, before he continued, “Would you remember me to him, when you write.

Brienne nodded. “I barely remember my mother,” she said, “but I remember that when she and my father were together, it seemed hard to know where one ended and the other began.”

Lord Serrett nodded. “That’s it exactly, my – Your Grace. Once she saw him, there was never anyone else for her.” To her surprise, he reached across to pat her hand gently. “I’m an old man now, my dear, and I was never a knight. But Silverhill stands with you and with your Lord Husband.”

They sent a troop of men ahead that day, to find a campsite and to prepare the cooking fires. By the time they arrived, the men had purchased and slaughtered a pair of sheep, which were roasting on a spit over the fire. The mood in the camp was light tonight; one of the wagon drivers produced a fiddle, which he played for them, and some of the Marbrand men sang songs of the Westerlands. “No Castamere, I thought,” Addam murmured, and Jaime nodded his assent.

When he saw Brienne yawn, Jaime rose and excused them, leading her to their tent. They had already changed out of their armour, so it was a simple matter to undress, extinguish their lantern, and climb into their bed, the sounds of the men’s singing and chatter in the background. Jaime tugged Brienne into his arms: “I have wanted this – have wanted you – since this morning.”

She stretched against him sinuously, meeting his touches with her own. “And I you, Jaime.”

He devoted himself to her then, making her body hum in tune with his own, conscious of the need to remain silent to protect his wife’s modesty. And afterwards, when she wrapped herself around him and they slept, his dreams were of sparring and then stripping off their armour and making love in the open air, as they had on Tarth.

Chapter Text

Their first few days in the Westerlands followed a similar rhythm. They would send a group of men ahead to find a campsite and secure food for their meal, then follow slowly, meeting the smallfolk along the way, distributing copper pennies, grain, and seeds. They wore armour to ride, Jaime content to follow her lead, and would spar after arriving at their destination while the men set up their tents. If there was a stream nearby, they would wash afterwards, sometimes taking the time to make love also, although it was colder in the West than it had been on Tarth, and they did not linger.

Evenings were spent with Ser Addam, who proved to be congenial and intelligent, and Lord Serrett, who was loyal and devoted to the Westerlands and, increasingly, to Brienne herself as well as to Jaime. She valued the support of the older man, who was careful never to overstep the tentative respect that they were building. Addam called Jaime by name, but both men called Brienne Your Grace, as Lord Serrett did Jaime, although he had called Brienne my dear more than once. The title still made her uncomfortable, but she was becoming used to it. She thought that perhaps she might invite Addam to call her Ser Brienne, but did not wish to draw a distinction between him and the more formal lord. When she tried to discuss it with Jaime, he laughed, and suggested that she save Ser Brienne for those who had bested her in a bout.

It was odd to see Jaime in the company of his peers, even if they were no longer his equals. She had seen him with his captors, and had seen him as a lord in King’s Landing. She had seen him command an army, had seen him fight the dead for their very lives; had seen him, she thought, at his best and at his worst. At Winterfell, he had relaxed into the company, gaining respect from the men and enjoying the companionship of Pod and of his brother, but had never been accepted by the Starks or by the Dragon Queen. In King’s Landing, they had become family – first in spirit, through a camaraderie among the survivors of Winterfell, and then in fact, through Sansa’s marriage to Tyrion. Kingslayer, Lannister, Lord Commander, Ser Jaime – he had had many names, but until very recently he had been Jaime only with her and with Tyrion (she would not think of what Cersei might have named him). She had known that he had friends, of course, but had not thought about what it would mean to meet them, what they might mean to him.

Thus far, she thought, it had gone well. Ser Addam was easy company, with a ready wit, although not one that he used at the expense of others. He reminded her very much of Jaime, although without some of the harsh edges that Jaime could catch on and also, it seemed to her, without Jaime’s essential softness. He caught on quickly to the tales they told; Brienne thought that he would be a good Lord Commander of the armies of the West. Lord Serrett, too, was a pleasant enough companion, who routinely sought her company as they rode. He told her of the villages that they passed through, and of the major and minor lords of Jaime’s – their – new kingdom, and she enjoyed his stories of the history of the realm and of her parents’ youth. In return, she spoke of Jaime’s bravery, particularly in the battle of the Long Night, and of his service to King Bran in the rebuilding of King’s Landing. She knew that these confidences would be repeated, and was glad to spread word of Jaime’s good deeds.

The mood changed on their fifth day in the Westerlands, when they were joined by more of the great houses. Lady Alysanne Lefford of Golden Tooth was an attractive young woman who Brienne judged to be in her early twenties. She rode sidesaddle, carrying a bow and a quiver of arrows strapped before her, and was accompanied by a score of men at arms who appeared well trained and disciplined. Brienne was unsure what to make of her, or of Ser Steffon Swyft, the Heir to Cornfield, or Ser Flement Brax, a younger son of House Hornvale. The numbers of their party had by now swelled to well over a hundred men and seven women, making it ever more difficult to find suitable places to camp, much less to feed and water the group. When Brienne heard Jaime snap at something Ser Flement had said, she realised that she would have to distract him.

Their advance scouts had purchased a cow and a pig that day – despite the depredations of both the war and the winter, the West remained comparatively well stocked with livestock – and the meal was well on the way to being cooked when they arrived at the evening’s campsite. Jaime was frowning, but turned as usual to greet Brienne after they had dismounted. She stepped forward and kissed him, then kissed him once more, lingering uncharacteristically until she felt his lips soften and his body relax into the kiss.

“What was that for, wench?” he asked with a quiet smile.

“Need it have been in aid of anything, Jaime?” she asked him.

He frowned slightly. “It need not, but I suspect that it was.”

She looked around uncertainly. “You appeared in want of distraction. Do you wish to spar tonight? There is quite an audience.”

He scowled. “What I wish – he broke off suddenly. “Never mind. Shall we watch the others today?” He pulled her to him, murmuring into her ear, “we shall exercise ourselves tonight, love.”

Pink and laughing, she stepped back, noticing only then that the eyes of the assembled lords and ladies were on them. To her surprise, many appeared approving, although some seemed puzzled. Jaime took them in at a glance, slipping into the urbane banter that she associated with King’s Landing. “My wife and I have provided enough entertainment for you all,” he said with a smile. “Who of you will spar this evening?”

Ser Steffon and Ser Flement declared themselves willing, and Lady Alysanne volunteered that she was a keen archer. Lord Serrett and Ser Addam sat with Jaime and Brienne to watch the men spar.

Their fighting, Brienne thought, was adequate and technically excellent, but uninspired. Jaime leaned to mutter, “You could take either of them, and probably both at once,” and she smiled. “As could you, husband, even with your left hand.” He lifted her hand to his lips to kiss it, then rested their joined hands on his thigh. When she tugged to pull her own hand back, he tightened his grip until she squeezed his hand back. He had relaxed a little, she thought, watching the fighting, no longer the cynosure of all eyes.

When the men had finished sparring, Lady Alysanne stepped forward. One of her men threw wooden discs high into the sky, which she shot with her arrows. A second man joined him, so that there were always two discs in the sky, and she shot all but one of them. Jaime and Brienne congratulated her on her shooting, and Brienne noticed Ser Steffon and Ser Flement both watching her admiringly. She said as much to Jaime that evening in their tent, and he chuckled; “They want her surely enough, but the real prize is The Golden Tooth. The lands are rich, and the lady has neither family nor heirs. I believe both to be married, but accidents happen, and there are always sons and cousins.”

“Then we must have a care for her, Jaime,” she replied steadily.

Chapter Text

Brienne and Jaime made a point of speaking with Lady Alysanne on the following day. The lady confessed that she was weary of a near-constant stream of suitors, and that at times, particularly when travelling, sleeping with her bow and even with a dagger seemed the only safe option. At this, Jaime scowled, but it was Brienne who suggested that Lady Liane might perhaps make an appropriate companion of similar rank who could share Lady Alysanne’s tent whilst they travelled. And it was Brienne who invited Lady Alysanne to make a protracted stay at Casterly Rock while they considered her alternatives.

They were joined that day by more lords of the Westerlands, come to welcome their King – or to see him, and to get a sense of the man who was to rule them. Many had fought beside him; others had followed his father’s lead. Ser Lyle Crakehall, known as the Strongboar, and his brother Merlon, were among the men swelling the ranks of their party, as were Ser Forley Prester and Ser Kennos of Kayce.

“They are sending the heirs and second sons,” Jaime told Brienne in an aside, when he could distract her from Lady Alysanne’s merry chatter. “The Lords will come later, to Casterly Rock.” Ser Forley was a man around the age of Owyn Serrett, cousin to the current Lord of Feastfires, who had not been blessed with children. Jaime and he had little in common, but Jaime respected him as a sensible, level-headed man, and had valued his advice in the past. Nobody quite knew Ser Kennos’s relationship to Lord Kenning of Kayce, but many suspected him to be the Lord’s bastard. He was widely understood to be the preferred heir to Kayce, although Jaime supposed that would be for him and Brienne to ratify now, and wondered whether he had it in himself to do so. He could not like Ser Kennos, who had a weakness for serving girls that had not always been welcomed; Jaime had stepped in to warn the man off on more than one occasion. When he saw the man waiting to greet them, he had had a quiet word to Taven, ensuring that the women’s tents would be well guarded and set well away from Ser Kennos’s party.

“Spar with me, wench?” Jaime murmured when they stopped for the evening. He was tired and out of sorts, sick of shallow conversation and of being watched by the new arrivals. There had been talk, he knew, about their choice to wear armour as they rode – was he returning to the Westerlands a Lannister or a conquerer? He knew – as did Addam and the others who had joined them at war – that he had fought to serve and protect the Westerlands, not to win them, but he sensed that others were unsure of this and that they did not know what to make of his wife, who was so unlike the gentle women of the West.

There were gasps as their swords clanged together, but neither was in the mood to hold back. Round and round they went, circling one another, pressing forward and dancing back, each focused only on the other. Brienne came in hard, and Jaime ducked under her sword, deflecting it with his own before turning to launch his own attack. He was seconds too slow, however; her sword was at his throat, demanding that he yield, and he did so gladly and flamboyantly.

He caught Addam Marbrand’s eye as he led her to a chair – “What say you, my friend? Will you spar with an old friend?”

“Gladly,” replied Ser Addam, drawing his sword.

Jaime had Addam’s measure almost at once; he focused his attacks on Jaime’s left, where he could deflect them, but Jaime could see that he had an eye to Jaime’s right. Carefully, he concentrated his efforts on his left, leaving his right side apparently undefended, until Addam could wait no longer. Turning quickly, he swung his sword at Jaime from the right, hoping to catch him off guard; but Jaime was ready with a trick he had learned watching Arya Stark. Spinning, he beat Addam’s sword away, then swung his own to his friend’s throat.

“Yield!” he said, with a grin, blowing the sweaty hair from his forehead.

“I yield,” said Addam, kneeling formally before Jaime. Jaime returned Lion’s Sun to his scabbard, then reached out his hand to help his friend stand, amidst the cheers of the onlooking groups.

Jaime crossed to Brienne, kissing her, even as she wiped his sweat away with her hand. “Well fought,” said Addam, panting slightly from his exertions.

“And to you,” said Jaime, “although I would like to see my wife beat you also.”

Addam looked admiringly at Brienne. “I should like that also,” he replied, and Brienne blushed.

“Another evening, perhaps, Ser Addam,” she replied formally.

There was no stream nearby, but Jaime and Brienne retreated to their tent to change out of their armour.

“I believe you have made a conquest, wife,” said Jaime in mock consternation. She looked at him enquiringly. “Addam Marbrand,” he continued, “is very impressed with my wife.”

She rolled her eyes at him. “Ser Addam,” she corrected, “is impressed with how well you wield that sword of yours.”

He moved closer. “And what of you, wife? What do you think of the way that I wield my ‘sword’?” His proximity left her in little doubt of his double meaning.

“I think that you have not always used it wisely,” she said with a smirk, then, seeing his face fall, stepped in to reassure him. “But those times are past, and I am sure that now you only use your sword for honourable causes.”

He kissed her neck, then her cheek, squeezing her to him with the stump of his right arm. “Honourable causes,” he hummed.

“Well, we are wed now, Jaime,” she said. “Honourably.”

The King and Queen were late to the meal that evening.

Chapter Text

She had wondered how Jaime would react as they approached Casterly Rock, especially once it became clear that their party would continue to grow. She had worried that he might retreat into himself – that he would “go away inside” – or that he might once again don what she secretly called his “Kingslayer attitude”. Instead, to her delight, he reached for her, holding her hand as he spoke with his lords and knights, squeezing it when she could tell he wished to say something cutting. She had feared that he might evade his responsibilities and leave governing to others – he had, after all, claimed not to know that his aunt was the Steward of Casterly Rock and therefore of the Westerlands – but instead she saw him embracing his new role, taking a genuine interest in the welfare of his people both noble and small. And if sometimes she had to kick him to remind him to hold his mocking for those who could take it, well, Anali had quickly learned to set their table with a cover that fell to the ground to hide those kicks and nudges.

Her concern that she would have to be his conscience, that he would rely too much on her, that he had become too fond or too dependent, seemed baseless. Instead, each day saw him growing in confidence, the brittle shell that he had affected in the past little more than a memory. Their partnership grew also, as they learned to lean on one another, drawing strength from the other’s presence by their side. Jaime had the respect not only of the lords and knights who accompanied them but also of the men at arms – and, to her surprise, Brienne did also. The tales they had told Lord Serrett had taken root, amplified by their own household, most notably Ser Edwyn and Taven; Anali told her stories from the campfire, of the ever-exaggerated tales of their heroism, of what they had accomplished together. When she told Jaime, mortified by the inflation of their deeds, he had laughed. “Let them tell their tales, wench. We know that the truth is better than any of their stories.”

Jaime had passed on his concerns about Ser Kennos, and had explained the precautions that he had taken to ensure that the man would be kept from the women. She, in turn, had passed these warnings to her household, asking the women to take care of one another. She found that she could not like him, and sensed that the feeling was mutual; he had a hard look in his eye, and she fancied she had seen his lip curl when he looked at her. She had little time with the Crakehall brothers, but liked what she saw of them; they had an easy and open nature, and their men were well disciplined and respectful while still spirited and merry. She had ridden beside Ser Forley Prester for a morning, and liked the older man very much. He reminded her of Davos Seaworth in his dedication not only to the good of the realm but also of all of its people. Like Lord Serrett, he told her stories of the West, of its heroes, and – above all – of its Lannisters. She had thought the Starks respected in the North – and they were – but in the West, the Lannisters were near-to revered. There might have been trouble for the new King, she thought, but returning rule to the West – to Jaime – had staved off that risk, at least for now. Slowly, they began to extend their trust to others – notably, Ser Addam, Ser Lyle, Ser Forley and Lord Serrett.

She fought Ser Addam the day after he fought Jaime. When they stopped to pitch camp for the night, Jaime asked her to spar with him. She suggested that perhaps she might instead fight Ser Addam, “with the victor to face their King.” He was good – perhaps the best-trained swordsman she had fought, apart from Jaime. The Hound had been stronger, and Arya faster, but Ser Addam was practised and polished in his moves. She thought he would beat Jaime once he had learned not to underestimate him, but it would be a good fight for them both. What he lacked – what Jaime had regained after months of painful practice and then again after he nearly died when the Red Keep fell – was the sense that his sword was a part of him, merely an extension of his arm; she sensed that Ser Addam remained conscious of it as a separate object.

He was underestimating her, too – although he had seen her fight with Jaime, he was still unsure. She feinted, he followed; she swung, he parried, but he did not come at her strong and roaring, did not hurl himself into the fight with glee, although she fancied he shared some of Jaime’s feral grace. He was cautious, testing her, and she was careful not to reveal too much until, with a glance at Jaime that he answered with a grin, she advanced with a roar, beating back Ser Addam’s parries until he lay prone, Oathkeeper’s tip at his breast.

She was Ser Brienne to Ser Addam after that, once he had picked himself and his sword up from the ground with a goodnatured grin, and she beat Jaime handily even tired from her first fight. The King and Queen had a lengthy and very private trip to bathe in the stream afterwards, Her Grace emerging pink and giggling from the forest, His Grace’s right arm about her shoulders, his smile easy and his eyes crinkled with delight. It was, after all, four sevendays exactly since their wedding; an anniversary celebration had been required.

The jokes flew fast around the fires that night, and Brienne was glad to see how gracefully Ser Addam took his consecutive defeats at the swords of the King and Queen. He and the Crakehall brothers – Ser Lyle and Ser Merlon – took charge of the conversation, deftly keeping it light and amusing, stepping in when a joke or tale seemed too confronting. Brienne noticed, too, how they would catch Jaime’s eye to take direction from him – a raised eyebrow or a nod was sufficient. The three men reminded her of Podrick in the way that they anticipated Jaime’s wishes, and she was glad to have them on Jaime’s – and on her – side. She did not really know them yet, but felt that she and Jaime would be well served with their support.

“Happy anniversary, wife,” whispered Jaime into her ear, as the conversations flowed around them. “I had hoped that we would have reached Casterly Rock by now, but as our ranks swell, our pace slows. At this rate, we will require a further two days to get there. I know that you are blessed with a great deal of patience, but I confess that I am chafing to sleep in a real bed again.”

She turned to look at him thoughtfully “Jaime, how long would it take us to ride, if we were alone?”

He shrugged. “Six hours, perhaps seven. A day’s travel, no more. It is the wagons and the waiting that slows us.” He paused. “What is it, wife? You are pondering something. I can see it in your eyes.”

She smiled at him, feeling reckless. “What if we were to ride ahead, perhaps with a small company of men? We could take Ser Addam and one or two of the other knights and reach Casterly Rock – or at least Lannisport – by nightfall. The rest of our people could follow and be there the following day.”

His eyes lit with mischief. “Tempted as I am to find a comfortable inn in Lannisport and while away a day – and a night – with my delightful lady wife, I confess that the nearer we come, the more I look forward to returning to Casterly Rock.” He caught the eye of Ser Addam and beckoned him over, explaining Brienne’s idea to him.

“An excellent plan, Ser Brienne!” the knight exclaimed. “You will want to leave some people with the main group, but perhaps Ser Merlon, Ser Steffon and I would provide an appropriate escort?” Brienne’s face fell suddenly, and Ser Addam looked concerned. “Or there are others who could accompany you –”

“It is not that,” she said. “I am responsible for Lady Liane and, to some degree, for Lady Alysanne. I do not think that the Lady Liane would be able to ride so far, although I am sure that Lady Alysanne would relish the opportunity.”

Jaime frowned. “But Lady Alysanne has her own men at arms to protect her, and Lady Liane’s brother is with our group. To take either one might be a problem, but while they are together I do not think that there is any issue.” He paused. “Perhaps we can allocate one of the larger tents for the women, with some trusted guards for their protection?” Ser Addam nodded, then turned to speak to his men at arms.

Reaching for Brienne’s arm, Jaime stood.

“Before my wife and I retire,” he said, “I wish to thank you all for your companionship –” he nodded to the assembled lords and ladies, as well as to his and Brienne’s household staff – “and your support.”

A cheer rang out from the men at arms.

Jaime continued, “My wife and I will ride for Casterly Rock tomorrow, with a small group.” He saw some surprised faces. “I would ask that you continue on as you have been accustomed.” He pulled a face. “It is some time since I have been in the West, and we may need to arrange for accommodations for you at Casterly Rock. We shall expect you to be a day behind us.” He reached for Brienne, who was beside him.

She added, “We shall take the forward party with us when we leave, and will seek out a suitable place for you to camp for the night. As always, His Grace and I will trust you to keep the peace and to represent the best of the Westerlands.”

There were some cheers and a burst of chatter, as they walked back to their tent. Brienne caught Anali’s eye, and the young woman followed them.

“We shall require saddlebags with a change of clothing,” Brienne told her. “His Grace may still have clothing at Casterly Rock, but I have nothing.”

“Just how I like you,” Jaime murmured in her ear.

Brienne ignored him. “I shall need at least two changes of clothes,” she said, “One for when we arrive, and another for the following day. And Ser Jaime – His Grace – will need clean shirts and smallclothes, regardless of what he may or may not have left behind.”

Anali bustled about. “Will you wear your armour, Your Grace?”

Brienne looked at Jaime. “You are returning home after many years, my love. What do you think?”

Jaime considered for a moment, before nodding. “We shall wear our armour, but will require a full change of clothes when we arrive.”

Anali took out a pair of Jaime’s breeches and two linen shirts, as well as smallclothes and stockings, packing them into his saddlebag. She conferred quietly with Brienne, before commandeering two saddlebags, which she packed with a pair of wide-cut pale beige trousers as well as the darker red-brown riding skirt and golden tan jacket that she had worn after the wedding, a well-polished pair of dark brown leather boots, three tunics, smallclothes, and a soft blue woollen vest and shawl. Beside the bags, she placed their crimson and gold cloaks.

“Thank you,” said Brienne, and Jaime echoed her. “We shall see you in two days at Casterly Rock. I have suggested that all the women share a tent on the morrow, to ensure that you are all well protected. Ser Addam’s men will have a care for you all.”

“Thank you, Your Grace,” said Anali. “We are eager to finish this journey, but one more night will not be overly much.”

“Clearly you have not spent very much time with –”

“Jaime!” Brienne interrupted him before he said something injudicious.

Chapter Text

They left camp early the next morning, riding with Ser Addam, Ser Steffon, Ser Lyle Crakehall, who the men called Strongboar, and Ser Kennos. Although neither Jaime nor Brienne enjoyed the latter knight’s company, there had been enough rumours about his past behaviour that neither was comfortable leaving him with the main group. They charged the younger Crakehall brother, Ser Merlon, to take especial care of their household. A small group of men at arms accompanied them, ready to secure a site for the evening’s encampment. They wore plain cloaks – Brienne’s blue, Jaime’s a warm brown – although they carried their golden lions with them.

They did not ride hard, but were away before the men had begun to strike their camp – a good hour or more’s start on their group. By mid-morning, Jaime estimated that they had covered one half the distance they would usually travel in a day. They had passed through several villages, however they had not brought the King’s banner, and were not recognised by the smallfolk. This close to Casterly Rock, they would be able to visit the village in the coming months, so Jaime was not concerned that he had missed an opportunity to get to know their people; in fact, he rather relished travelling this way. The relaxed smile on his wife’s face showed that she felt the same.

They left the men at arms at a suitable site not long after midday. There was a large inn nearby, and Jaime gave them coin to purchase a meal and ale for the group, offering a celebration for the last night of their travels.

They talked as they rode. The men were fascinated by their stories, in particular the tales of the Battle of the Long Night. Although tales had reached the West, carried by wandering bards and hedge knights, they confessed that they had thought them exaggeration or even downright fabrications. They were delighted, too, by Jaime’s stories of his travels with Brienne – and even more so by Brienne’s stories of the same.

“He was awful,” she told them, giving him a fond smile. “He never stopped complaining. Even when we were captured, he complained.”

Ser Addam laughed at that. “I remember when we were squires together, he was the same. Whether we were mucking out the stables or training with swords, he had a creative complaint for everything.”

Jaime shot Addam a mock glare. “And I suppose you were always eager to complete your chores?” he asked, to shouts of laughter from the rest of their group.

Ser Steffon looked at Brienne. “And you, Your Grace?”

Jaime interrupted before Brienne could get a word in. “My wife is diligent in all things, be they caring for an angry one-armed man, or fighting the undead hordes.” He paused, grinning and reaching his stump to pat her leg. “Sometimes I think that I should dislike her very much indeed.”

“Believe me, husband,” she muttered in return, much to the delight of their companions, “that feeling is definitely mutual.”

He had to kiss her then, crowding his horse closer to hers. If they had been alone, they would have had to pause to “rest” awhile, but instead he contented himself with a searing kiss that left both him and his lady just a little flustered. Ser Steffon cleared his throat loudly, they broke apart. Ser Kennos smirked.

“As delightful as it is to see you happy,” the Strongboar said, “we should press on if we are to reach Casterly Rock this evening. I suggest we skirt the edge of Lannisport rather than entering the centre of the city itself.”

The other men nodded, to Jaime’s relief. He had no desire to ride through the city, with all the formality that that would entail.

This close to Lannisport, the land was mostly cleared for farming. Fat sheep grazed beside the road, their fleeces thick and warm from the long winter. In the fields, cows lowed, and each smallholding seemed to have a flock of chickens and a sty. Jaime was pleased to see this prosperity, particularly when compared to the hardships that he had witnessed in the North. Although there were no crops in the fields, and many trees were bare, there were still apples in the orchards and even some winter vegetables in the ground still. They stopped to buy fruit from a farmer and rode on, snacking on the ripe apples as they rode.

The men spoke not only of the distant past. Ser Steffon in particular spoke of the aftermath of the Unsullied occupation of Casterly Rock – how they had abandoned it, believing the mines played out and the location of little strategic value. Lady Genna and her husband Emmon Frey had led the restoration, unearthing the treasures of the Hall of Heroes from where they had been stashed before the occupation and reopening the mines.

“Your aunt had barred gates made for the sewers, also,” Ser Lyle added. There would be no repeat of the so-called bloodless invasion. Ser Kennos sneered: “And a good thing, too. Who knows how much damage those foreigners wrought.”

Ser Lyle guided them through the streets of Lannisport, avoiding the bustling centre, to another gate in the city walls. They stopped at an inn for bread, cheese, pastry rolls and relief, and after the meal Brienne and Jaime washed in warm water. They would still be travel-stained, but at least they would not look – or smell – as though they had ridden all day without pause. Shortly after they left the city, they stopped beside the road to don their red and gold cloaks once more, spreading them so that the golden lions were clearly visible. Jaime sat straighter on his horse, glancing at Brienne.

“Are you ready, wife?”

She nodded, and they walked their horses onward, nodding farewell to Ser Addam who was to ride ahead and alert them to their approach.

Jaime had not expected to feel a rush of emotion at the distant sight of Casterly Rock. He told himself that it was perhaps the promise of a real bed with solid walls about him, rather than the tent that they had been living in for nearly three sevendays, but in truth the sight of the lion pennants that hung from the walls beside the great Lion Gate moved him. He turned to look at Brienne, sitting straight and true on her horse.

“I had not expected it to be quite so large,” she confessed as they approached.

“Then you and the West are well suited, wife; that is precisely what people say about you,” he said teasingly, distracting her before she could worry. She huffed at him, then twitched her cloak into position.

They ambled slowly along the road, giving the castle time to prepare for its lord and lady. Jaime pointed out familiar sights to his wife – the ocean, of course, but also the woods where he had played as a child, and the start of the River Road, which led to Riverrun and connected to the Kingsroad that ran between King’s Landing and Winterfell. “We shall take it when we visit our brother and sister in the North,” he told her with an easy – and answered – smile.

It was perhaps a quarter hour before they reached the Lion Gate, the soldiers bowing deeply as they entered.

They rode through the passage and up an internal road that led to a large courtyard, where they could see Ser Addam standing with an older, much shorter couple of perhaps sixty years and a younger woman who looked to be a little older than the Stark girls. The women curtsied deeply and the men bowed, and Jaime was off his horse and bussing the cheek of the older woman before they had fully come to a stop. She held him back at arm’s length – “Let me look at you, Jaime love –” reaching up to pat his cheek. He kissed her once more, a more formal kiss of greeting, then turned to offer his hand to Brienne as she dismounted. He led her over to the group.

“Wife, let me present to you my aunt Genna Lannister, her husband Emmon Frey, and my cousin Joy. Aunt, Emmon, Joy, my wife and queen, Ser Brienne Lannister, Lady of Tarth.”

The name was a little unwieldy, it was true, but he had been thinking it over in his head for the four sevendays or so since they had been wed, and it seemed the best reflection of her rank and her status.

His aunt and cousin curtsied once more and Emmon bowed, and Brienne bowed her head to them in a jerky movement. He knew how uncomfortable she was in such a situation, and reached out his hand to twine his fingers in hers.

“It is a pleasure to meet you,” she said in the clear voice that he loved so. “Jaime has told me a great deal about you all.” The pressure of her fingers on his reminded him that he had never actually told her about his cousin Joy, bastard daughter of his favourite uncle.

Genna looked at her appraisingly, then smiled. “Well you’re a tall one and no mistake,” she said. “You will do nicely for our Jaime.”

“I shall try,” his wife replied, and he could see that the answer pleased his aunt. She bent to kiss her cheek and that of his uncle, and to greet Joy.

Genna looked at him, a twinkle in her eye. “Addam tells me that your people are a day or so behind you,” she said, and Jaime nodded. “Well you haven’t left me much time,” she continued, “but fortunately I had your rooms prepared a week or so back. Do you have anything to wear besides that armour?”

Jaime gestured to the saddlebags, and Genna immediately motioned for a servant to take them. “To Their Grace’s rooms, quickly,” she said, “and have a bath sent up.”

“Aunt Genna has always known the way to my heart,” Jaime told Brienne with a smile, and she thanked her haltingly.

Genna smiled. “There now, I know how long it has taken for you to get here from King’s Landing. Now Jaime will want to show you around, I know, but that can all wait for tomorrow. You go and get yourself cleaned up and out of that uncomfortable armour, and we will have a quiet meal together this evening, in the family dining room. There’s time enough for you to explore tomorrow.” She turned back to Jaime. “And as for you, young man,” she continued, “King or no king, I could have used a little more notice. Are you still expecting to be crowned in four days’ time?”

Jaime never felt so much like a scrubby squire as when he was with Genna. “I am,” he said, realising somewhat belatedly that he had sent the saddlebag that held the Crowns of the Westerlands away with an unknown servant.

“I have summoned your lords,” she said, “and am expecting them two days hence. Tomorrow you may rest and show your wife your home, but on the following day I shall rely on you to play nicely. Now come along, my dears. You will wish to get comfortable.”

Turning, she took Brienne by the arm and drew her into their home, Jaime following closely behind. She led them to the apartments that had been his father’s – his now, he supposed, and opened the heavy door. The chamber was sparsely furnished, with a long low chaise and a desk, a tapestry on the wall, and a table with four chairs to one side. To his relief, Tywin’s things had been removed from the room already.

“I haven’t redecorated here,” said Genna, “because I wanted to discuss any decisions with you first.” She moved through the chamber, opening a door on the left hand wall. “I’ve assumed that you will wish to share a chamber,” she said, “although there is another chamber over there.” She waved her right hand vaguely towards a door on the opposite wall. The open door led to a large and well-furnished chamber, with thick carpets on the floor and a large bed, draped in creamy linens and a rich crimson coverlet. A blazing fire burned in the hearth, and through an open door to a bathing chamber, Jaime could see a group of servants filling a large bath. Other servants unpacked their saddle bags, shaking out their clothing and hanging it on hooks in a dressing room that adjoined their bedchamber. The window, which was surrounded by thick curtains, looked towards Lannisport.

Genna gestured for the servants to leave, turning to Jaime and Brienne with a knowing look. “The mattress is new,” she said, “And the linens. The carpets also, although we can move them if you would prefer. I’ll leave you now, and will see you in two hours in the family dining room.” She looked at Jaime with a twinkle. “You do remember the way, don’t you? Or should I send a servant?”

He grinned fondly. “Be off with you, aunt. Let us wash off this dirt and we shall see you again shortly.”

She patted his cheek with a fond smile, to his surprise doing the same for Brienne, then bustled away, leaving them properly alone for the first time since they had left King’s Landing. He turned, then, to his wife.

“Welcome home, my love,” he said to her, and was rewarded with one of her deep smiles. “I hope that we will be happy here.”

“I am sure that we shall, Jaime,” she said, “although I confess that I am glad to be alone with you once more.”

“Whatever do you mean, wench?” he asked playfully, but she waved that aside.

“Not that,” she said, as she unbuckled her sword, “although I would not deny us our pleasure. Merely that I value our time alone, and have felt the lack of it these past weeks.”

Chapter Text

Being old, travel-worn, and already four sevendays wed, they bathed before they made love. Jaime helped Brienne to reach the tight spots on her back; she washed his hair, scrubbing gently at his beard until he thought he might purr. They dried themselves quickly, then pulled back the coverlet, coming together as much in relief and celebration that their journey was ended as in passion.

When Jaime slid inside his well-pleasured wife, he sighed with delight. “Now I am truly home,” he said, pressing his body to hers. She kissed him, moving her tight body around him, stroking his shoulders and down his back and using her legs to hold him to her. They pressed and stretched together, quickly but not urgently, until she felt his body tense. She bit down on his shoulder then, and he was overcome, spilling deep inside her in waves of longing.

“I feel I could stay like this for days,” she said softly, when he had recovered a little. He kissed her greedily.

“I must join Genna this evening,” he said – betraying his age once more, he thought, for he was no longer the young Jaime Lannister who would gladly have sacrificed duty for love – “but you can remain here, if you would prefer. I can have a tray –”

She stopped him with a stern look. “Just because I could, Jaime, does not mean that I will. Your aunt has been caring for your home for years. I will not deny her our company.”

Our home,” he corrected softly, pressing his forehead to hers.

They lay together, holding one another for a few moments more, then she pushed gently at him. “We must dress, Jaime,” she said.

She chose softer, informal clothes for the evening – beige trousers and tunic and her blue woollen vest and shawl, which she belted around herself. On the vest, she pinned the sunbursts and moons that Jaime had given to her.

“You are wholly Tarth tonight, wife,” he said with an easy smile. She waggled her left hand at him, showing her betrothal ring.

“Not wholly, Jaime. And you had best rise unless you wish to dine naked.”

“Later, wife,” he promised, standing to pull on first a clean shirt and then smallclothes, stockings and breeches. He paired them with a tan jacket made of leather that matched his boots. He caught her scowling into a mirror, running her fingers through her hair.

“It always seems so easy when Anali does it,” she complained.

“Fortunate, then, that she will be with us on the morrow. In the meantime, I am very pleased by my wife.”

She blushed. “We should straighten the covers, Jaime.”

“Lest the servants know that my wife and I desire one another very much?” he asked mockingly. “I for one would shout it from the battlements.”

She rolled her eyes at him just a little, crossing to the bed and tugging the coverlets to straighten them a little. With a sigh, he moved to the other side and helped her. “I had not heard that arranging beds would be one of our duties here. We will only disarrange them again when we return.”

He led her to the family dining room, where they were joined – to Jaime’s relief – only by Genna, Emmon and Joy. “Jeyne and the twins are here somewhere,” said Genna, “but she can be tiresome. There are an assortment of other family members who have gathered also, however I thought it best to keep our numbers small this evening.” Jaime smiled at her thankfully. “There are matters that will require your attention,” she added, “but there is nothing that cannot wait a few days.”

Over the meal, they spoke of family and acquaintances who Brienne knew by name and reputation if not in person. Many of them would gather at Casterly Rock in the coming days, ahead of Jaime’s coronation.

“Do you plan to form a court here?” asked Joy, when the initial rush of conversation had died down. Jaime glanced at Brienne, and shook his head.

“I would avoid such formalities, at least as much as we can,” he responded. “We will require a small council, of course – Brienne and I have already discussed that – but we prefer to focus on governing rather than arse-licking.”

His aunt smirked a little at that. “Nevertheless, Jaime, it is important that there be a central place where your lords and ladies can meet. And better somewhere that you control than somewhere that they do.”

Brienne nodded. “Perhaps we could hold court for a sevenday every three months. That way, our people can come here to meet and celebrate and make their matches, but they will not feel that they must neglect their own lands to do so.”

Genna nodded, looking at Brienne appraisingly. “She has a good head on her shoulders, this one. You’ve done well, nephew.”

“So I believe,” he said, reaching to squeeze his wife’s hand. “And speaking of a good head, Lady Genna, what would you say to becoming our Mistress of Coin?”

Lord Emmon chuckled into his wine. “He has your measure, my love.” Joy smiled and ducked her head.

Lady Genna nodded. “He does indeed.” Turning to Brienne, she explained, “I have no patience for managing a household, but I am good with coin. You will find that we have an excellent staff here, for I have little sympathy with do-nothings, but I have left the running of the place to our housekeepers. You can of course step in if you wish, but otherwise, I will commend them to you; they run the place far more satisfactorily than I ever could.”

Brienne smiled, and Jaime thought that he saw relief on her face. “That will likely suit us nicely,” she replied.

“So,” Genna continued, “Mistress of Coin. Who else did you think of for your council then?”

“We plan to name Addam Marbrand Lord Commander of our forces,” said Jaime, “and the Strongboar as Hand.”

Genna nodded thoughtfully. “Good choices, both,” she said, “but you cannot name only your closest friends to your council. Use it to secure your alliances.”

“I had thought perhaps Ser Forley Prester,” Jaime said, “and perhaps one of the Farmans of Fair Isle – Cliftons, I suppose they are, one of Jeyne’s children.”

“Roads for Ser Forley,” Genna suggested. “A Clifton would be a good choice, although they are perhaps a little young for a Council seat. It is early days yet, and you can see what transpires as they gather here.”

“And Alysanne Lefford as Mistress of Archers,” Brienne added, to Jaime’s surprise, although he liked her choice and could see Genna nodding.

“And what of you both?” asked Genna. “Do you look to make this your home?”

Brienne nodded. “We do. We shall visit King’s Landing and Tarth, of course, but perhaps not even every year. I confess that I found the long journey both tiring and tiresome.”

“No retinues, the next time,” said Jaime. “Just us and perhaps a knight or two. We could have been here in half the time, whether we slept rough or used inns.”

Genna nodded. “And the succession? Do the two of you plan to produce some baby lions for us to enjoy?”

Brienne blushed, drinking deeply from her water goblet, clearly flustered by the question.

“Give us time, Aunt, and we will fill these halls” Jaime replied, leaning closer to kiss his wife, a stunned look on his face, as their companions laughed.

Scarcely were they back in their chambers before he was on his knees before his wife, pushing at her clothing.

“Did you think I could not count, wench?” he asked, before turning his head to drop soft kisses on her belly. “True, I had not thought to do so yet, but as soon as my aunt asked us the calculation was clear.” He returned his attention to her belly, stroking it with hand and stump. “It is my very great pleasure to meet you,” he said softly. “You will grow up to be strong and wise and honourable, just like your mother.”

“Jaime,” Brienne said, cautious as ever. “It is very early days. The child may not take – or we may have miscounted.”

He rocked back onto his heels, looking up at her with shining eyes. “We have been wed for more than four sevendays, and your time was past before then. We have not miscounted. And if –” he paused, grimacing – “if something goes wrong, then the babe will have been loved while it was here. I have never heard that loving a child too much can prevent it from taking.”

He made love to her slowly in their soft feather bed, kissing her thoroughly, teasing her breasts until she arched towards him. She peaked three times before he entered her – once as he caressed her with fingers and the stump of his arm, then again when he returned his lips to her breasts and slid his fingers inside her, stroking her nub with his thumb. The third time, as he lay with his head between her legs, pressing her on with his lips and tongue, her voice cracked as she cried out for him. He entered her then, burying himself deep within her, as she yet quaked around him, holding himself above her and staring at her face as though to memorise it. He thrust gently at first, clenching his body in an attempt to make their loving last, before he gave into his need and surged inside her with a hoarse cry.

“Only you,” he said fiercely, “Brienne. My Queen. My love.”

Chapter Text

He was holding her still when they woke the next morning, her head pillowed on his shoulder. Noises outside their door suggested the presence of servants; Jaime pulled on his trousers and shirt and opened the door, to see the table being set with breakfast foods. A maid curtseyed; “Would you like us to fill your bath, Your Grace?”

Jaime nodded, filling two plates with baked eggs and cheeses, soft rolls, fruits and pastries. He took them to his lady, and they sat in bed and broke their fast, before bathing and dressing. The bathing chamber was a luxury to which she could quickly become accustomed.

“Tyrion built the sewer system here,” said Jaime, as they dressed in the clothes they had worn after they were wed. “There are drains and pipes and all manner of strange contrivances, but the end result is hot water without making the servants carry buckets all over the Rock.” He had shown her the garderobe the night before – following his father’s death, they had closed off the facility in the Tower of the Hand, preferring to use a simple chamberpot, but here the garderobe was clean and free of ghosts.

“Come, wench, and let me show you our home.” Jaime took her hand, tugging her towards the door.

“Should we find Lady Frey?” Brienne asked.

“Jeyne?” Jaime said blankly. “I hate to put you off when we are so newly wed, wife, but I can safely promise that you would rather spend a sevenday with Edmure Tully than with Jeyne Frey.”

“I speak of your Aunt Genna,” Brienne said. “Is she not Lady Frey?”

Jaime cracked a laugh. “She would never answer to that name,” he told her. “Once a Lannister, always a Lannister, she always said.” He thought for a moment. “I shall send a servant, so that she knows where to find us if she must, but I think that we might take today to ourselves. We shall join her to dine, of course; I imagine that she will gather the entire family to meet you.” He grimaced a little. “But today, Lady Lannister, you are all mine.”

He showed her the family quarters first, the rooms where he had slept as a young man, and Tyrion’s rooms. They would refurbish them, they decided, with a view to the time when Tyrion and Sansa might pay them a visit. The rooms that they now occupied had been his father’s – his parents’, he supposed. Jaime waved down a corridor – “My sister’s room was over there,” he said curtly, “I gather that Jeyne Frey and her children have those rooms now.” Genna and Emmon were in the rooms that had belonged to his father’s father, with Joy in a secondary room in that apartment. Next, he led her into a large and airy nursery that had clearly been used as a schoolroom in the past. Smaller rooms for a Septa and for children led off the main room, which was well lit by large windows. They shared a secret smile, before heading through a warren of corridors, passing by the family dining room they had used the night before.

“The library is here,” said Jaime, “and my father’s study – my study now, I suppose – is beyond it.” He grinned at her. “I am avoiding it today, because I surmise that it might hold rather too many tasks that have waited until now and can wait one day more.” He tugged at her hand, leading her into a large open room. “The Great Hall,” he said. “We used it as a ballroom from time to time, but I suppose we shall hold our court here.” He danced a step or two, spinning her around and holding her close in his arms. The room was large and warm, lined with tapestries in the Lannister colours, with a slightly raised dais at one end. It opened to a series of terraces with views over the ocean, wrapping around a corner of the building to show the road leading up to the Rock. Fishing boats bobbed in the bay, and servants wandered through the courtyard.

“I hope that you do not wish to see the kitchens and the laundries and the attics,” said Jaime, and Brienne shook her head, a little dazed by the size of her new home. “He took her hand again, tugging her to follow him, leading her down and into the courtyard, along an alley and out into bright sunshine and a well-equipped training yard. It was clean and swept, and through a pair of open doors they could see that the adjacent armoury was tidy and well organised. A row of pell dummies stood at one end, benches lined two of the walls, and a central ring area was well scuffed. A dusty forge sat at one end, between the armoury and the stables, a tub of broken swords at its door; it was well that Nathen and Polla had come with them.

An older man in his mid 60s came bustling towards them. Dressed in fighting leathers, with a nose that had been broken at least once, the grin on his face seemed to stretch from ear to ear. “Well if it isn’t Jaime Lannister – Your Grace, I mean.” He bowed low.

Jaime had a merry look on his face. “Wife, this is Ser Benedict Broom, Master of Arms here at Casterly Rock. Ser Benedict, my wife, Ser Brienne Lannister, Lady of Tarth.”

Ser Benedict gave Jaime a confused look, before bowing low before his new queen. “Your Grace.”

She smiled. “Ser Benedict, it is a pleasure to meet you. Jaime has spoken of you.” He had not, of course, but it seemed it was the correct thing to say, as the older man’s grin widened even further.

Jaime wandered to a nearby bin and collected two tourney swords, then tucked one under his right arm and threw the other, hilt first, to his wife – to a gasp from Ser Benedict. She caught it easily, testing its weight in her hand.

“If you will give us a moment, Ser Benedict,” she said, and the older man moved to a bench, looking anxious.

His anxiety did not last, as he watched Brienne and Jaime spar. They were careful now, in deference to the maybe-child, walking through a fight rather than beating at one another, but the tourney swords sang as they moved. When Brienne finally pinned Jaime, holding her sword to his neck, and they lowered their swords together, Ser Benedict clapped slowly. “You have found a worthy bride, my lad,” he said fondly, “and you have fought far better than I would have expected with only one hand.”

Their household arrived late in the day, the men at arms, knights and lords clattering into the courtyard. Genna – or Joy, acting in her stead – had already assigned two young maids to assist Brienne’s own household of Marisal and Anali, and another to mind Becka. A desk had been placed in the library for Rodri, with another in Jaime’s study, and rooms had been prepared for those in their party. For the time being, Addam Marbrand would take Tyrion’s rooms and the Strongboar Jaime’s own old rooms, with Anali, Marisal, Becka and the Ladies Alysanne and Liane in what had once been the nursery.

Although Brienne urged Marisal and Anali to rest, they were eager to unpack her trunks and ready her clothing. “You’re our responsibility, Your Grace,” Anali tried to explain. Brienne thought of Jaime’s comment about her consequence reflecting on them, and thought that she understood. And if she was honest with herself, she was even a little excited to see what else they might have brought.

Chapter Text

They were to dine that night with the extended Lannister family. Both Anali and Marisal came to help Brienne dress, leaving Becka with Ladies Alysanne and Liane. “Don’t worry about us, milady,” Anali assured her, “There will be plenty of food for us, and plenty of time for us to seek our beds.”

“I shall undress by myself,” Brienne said with barely a blush. “If you will leave out clothing for me to wear on the morrow, then the rest of the evening – and the morning – are your own.” She sighed. “We shall dine formally in the evenings, at least until Jaime has been crowned.”

Her gown that evening was new – Marisal had had a great deal of time in the wagon as they travelled from Tarth. After the coronation, when the lords and ladies had returned to their halls, she would once again wear her trousers and riding skirts, but for now she and Jaime had to establish themselves as the rulers of the West. The new gown was simple and less formal than her other gowns, but nevertheless spoke to her new position. Simply cut in a soft beige linen, it skimmed her stomach, widening to fall to her ankles. A slash to the hip was filled in with crimson linen, the Lannister crest’s lion rampant embroidered in beige thread upon it. The hem of the dress was embroidered with a pattern of vines in crimson silks, alternating to beige on the crimson background, and the same vines twined around the shallow square neckline and the elbow-length sleeves. A shawl of crimson wool edged with the same pattern wrapped around her, giving her much-need colour. It was fastened with the largest sunburst brooch; around her neck, she wore the lion pendant. On her feet were low slippers in a soft tan.

“Your hair is growing, Your Grace,” said Anali, as she twisted it gently back from Brienne’s face and pinned it. For once, its length was not annoying to Brienne, perhaps because it had never seemed so soft before. She wiggled her shoulders experimentally, looking at the shawl to see whether it would fall. “I pinned it to your dress as well as to itself,” the handmaiden explained. “It is quite firm.”

Jaime came in from the bathing room, where he had chosen to dress, sparing the eyes of both Anali and Marisal. He wore familiar clothing – pale tan breeches, high boots, and a red leather jerkin that buckled down the front, with a new linen shirt in the same colours Brienne wore – and for a moment she was envious of how simple it was for him. The light in his eyes when he looked at her, however, made the effort all worthwhile.

“You are all lion this evening, my love,” he told her, bowing slightly to Anali and Marisal and commending them on their care for his wife. “I trust that we will not need our claws.”

A knock at the door heralded the arrival of Genna, and Brienne’s fears that she might be overdressed grew when she saw Jaime’s aunt in a simple dress of green linen. Genna’s face lit up, however, and she looked Brienne and Jaime up and down.

“Oh, you will indeed do very nicely,” she exclaimed, “you look marvellous, my dears. The lions are perfection.” She looked down at her plump body. “I always wished I were taller. Still, we manage with what we have, and I don’t know that Emmon would have known what to do if there had been any more of me.”

Jaime chuckled as he crossed to drop a kiss on Genna’s cheek. She looked expectantly at Brienne, who did likewise, feeling a little self-conscious.

“Now I have all the family there to meet you tonight,” Genna said, “at least, all that are here now. There’s me and Emmon, of course, and Joy – you met her last night. Then there’s Jeyne Frey – Jeyne Darry, she was. She’s the widow of our son Cleos and a more provoking, fretful –” she broke off. “Well that’s as maybe. She’s here with her boys, Tywin and Willem, convinced that they should have a claim to something, somewhere. Well, I say boys – what are they, Jaime, not much younger than Tyrion?” She shook her head. “Far be it from me to criticise my only grandsons, but they are still tied to their mama’s apron strings. You owe them nothing, my dear, and don’t let Jeyne tell you any differently.”

She paused, running over names in her mind. “You met Joy last night of course. She was your uncle Gerion’s get, although nobody seems to be sure whether he ever married her mother. I do hope that you might legitimise her. She’s a dear girl and has been a great help to us here.” She pulled a face. “By which I mean, she has managed the housekeepers for me, so I didn’t have to. We should find a husband for her. Your uncle Kevan’s widow Dorna is here also, with Janei.” Brienne blinked. She thought she would never keep the names straight, despite having spent days studying the Lannister family tree on the boat to and from Tarth, but that was one that she would not forget in a hurry. “Martyn is a page at Ashemark, but it’s time he did something else with his life. And then there’s Ermesande Hayford.”

Jaime frowned. “I suppose Tyrek never appeared?” When Genna shook her head, he turned to Brienne. “My cousin Tyrek – at the age of about thirteen – was married to Ermesande Hayford, an infant, to secure the Hayford lands and loyalty. He disappeared in King’s Landing, and was presumed dead. She must be what, five years old?”

“Nine,” said Genna, with a wry grin. “You could do worse than foster her here. Who knows what she is being taught at Hayford?”

“And what of my other cousins, your own sons?” Jaime asked his aunt.

“Lyonel is here,” Genna said, “with his wife Melesa, who was some sort of Crakehall cousin. They have no children, and Lyonel is growing fat with disuse. Try to find something for him to do, would you – he moulders. Red Walder is here as a page – I suppose he can be yours now – he prefers to be known as Wal, which is perhaps fortunate after what happened to old Walder. Never name a child after a relative, dear,” she said to Brienne, “especially a puffed-up self-satisfied miserable stick of a peevish pervert like Walder Frey. Emmon’s mother was a Royce of the Vale,” she continued, “and I always maintained she died of horror when she realised what she had married.”

Brienne could not look at Jaime, who was struggling to keep from laughing at his aunt’s description of her own family.

“Well come along,” she continued. “I think that we have kept them all waiting for long enough now.”

The evening meal was less horrible than Brienne had expected, given Genna’s candid dissection of her relatives – their relatives now. Wal was perhaps a little old to be a page – she thought he might be a candidate for a squire, although surely Genna would have mentioned it if his ambitions lay in that direction – but seemed friendly enough. Joy was delightful, although she was quite a bit younger than Brienne, closer in age to Lady Alysanne than to her noble cousin. Lady Ermesande was conscious of her dignity and determined not to disgrace herself, although the hour was clearly later than she was accustomed to. She reminded Brienne a little of Lyanna Mormont in the pride that she took in her house and in herself. The biggest surprise, though, was Lyonel Frey, who proved to be both warm and amusing. Brienne thought that Tyrion would like his cousin, and wondered whether she and Jaime might send him to King’s Landing on some manufactured errand.

She suggested as much to Jaime when they returned to their rooms, and he eagerly agreed. “And then on to Winterfell, with a wedding gift, perhaps?” he suggested. “I am sure that we shall find something suitably large to require a cousin’s stewardship.”

The following two days were fully occupied. They met with their household to discuss their plans, and to make final arrangements for their coronation. The Lords of the West descended on Casterly Rock and had to be greeted and accommodated. There were ravens to send – to King’s Landing, to Winterfell, and to Tarth. There were discussions with prospective members of their Small Council – Ser Addam, Ser Lyle, and Ser Forley gladly pledged their service, as did Lady Alysanne, who Brienne and Jaime had encouraged to plan an extended stay at Casterly Rock. There were household staff to meet and a castle not only to explore but to inspect. Nathen and Polly gladly moved into the rooms above the Rock’s deserted forge, beginning the long process of cleaning them out and of restarting the forge; Taven and his men moved into barracks rooms left dusty from disuse.

The stables, depleted, were called on to make room for the thirty horses Jaime and Brienne had brought from King’s Landing; pens were set up on the grasslands outside Casterly Rock to accommodate the many horses that visiting lords and their men at arms had brought with them. There were meetings with Maester Creylen, no longer a young man but not yet truly old. Ships arrived from Dorne bearing fresh fruits and fine wines, and the fishermen of Lannisport were kept busy meeting the needs of the castle’s guests. “Perhaps we should have brought sheep instead of horses,” Jaime suggested one day, with a shudder at how much longer it might have taken them to arrive if they had driven a herd of animals along with them.

For all her avowed dislike of housekeeping, Brienne never saw Lady Genna without a list in her hand. “I’m not one for housekeeping, as I told you,” the older woman confided, “but I took heed when my brothers were taught to provision an army. It was too late for a full Winter provision when we came here, but we are fortunate that the cold has not been too severe, and we are near enough to the ocean that we can always fish for food. The herds have survived well, although the animals are leaner than I would like. And chickens – I would be glad never to see another chicken. Nasty little pecking things.” She shuddered dramatically, and Brienne had to laugh. Lady Genna was very like Jaime in her love of exaggeration and dramatics.

The evenings’ formal dinners were a trial. Brienne wore her golden gown on the first night and the rose-to-crimson wedding gown on the second, always with the brooches and necklace Jaime had given her, displaying her allegiance to both Tarth and the Westerlands. Although she and Jaime sat at the high table, first with family and then – when they had announced the members of the council – with Ser Addam, Ser Lyle, Ser Forley, Lady Alysanne and of course Lady Genna, there was a constant stream of lords and ladies who sought to make their acquaintance. They held audiences each day before the noon meal, so that the members of their court could be formally welcomed to the West and could swear their allegiance to their Lannister king and queen, before retiring to their quarters to rest and eat a light midday meal.

And rest it was, truly – “much as I would love to use this bed for more enjoyable matters, wife,” Jaime said, “I do not think that I could move even a muscle.”

Brienne chuckled, curling herself around him and giving herself over to sleep.

Chapter Text

On their third day at Casterly Rock – the day before their coronation – there was a noise at the door of their audience chamber as they were greeting Ser Gareth Clifton, his wife Jeyne and several of their children. Joy entered, a young housemaid following her, weeping. Ser Lyle moved to speak to them, frowned, then hurried to the dais where Jaime and Brienne sat not on thrones but on a pair of high-backed wooden chairs with crimson velvet cushions trimmed with golden cord. The back of Brienne’s chair was carved with a rampant lion, starbursts and moons above him; the back of Jaime’s chair was inset with what appeared to be an old wooden training sword, with a series of notches down either side.

Brienne was greeting the Cliftons so Ser Lyle spoke quietly to Jaime, who tensed immediately, then nodded. The Hand came over to Brienne.

“I beg pardon, Your Grace, but there is an urgent matter that must be attended to.” He turned and ushered the Cliftons and the others out of the audience chamber, as Joy and the maid approached. Stopping at the door, he looked back at Jaime.

“Stay, Ser Lyle,” he said. “And send someone to fetch Lady Alysanne, Lady Genna, Ser Addam and Ser Forley.” He stood and walked to Joy, greeting her with a kiss on her cheek, before turning to greet the young maid, who bobbed a curtsey before he led her forward to present her to Brienne, who rose as they approached.

“I have called for the rest of our council to meet us here,” he told the girl, “but if you would prefer they remain outside –”

The girl looked at Joy, eyes wide.

“Or,” Brienne added gently, “our cousin can speak for you, if you would prefer.”

The girl bobbed a curtsey, nodding. “Yes please, if it please you m’la—Your Grace.”

“We shall need to be somewhat formal,” said Jaime gently, “but Joy will speak for you, and we can take a break at any time, if you wish it.” The maid nodded, and the audience chamber doors opened to admit the remainder of the council. Jaime and Brienne returned to their seats, twining their hands together once they were seated.

“Cousin,” Jaime said gently, once all were seated about the dais on a group of chairs that had sat against the wall. “You have something to tell us?”

Joy nodded gravely. “Tilla has been a chambermaid at the Rock for some time, and has proven a reliable and trusted worker. Today, as she went about her work, she was – interrupted – by Ser Kennos of Kayce.” Jaime’s hand tightened on Brienne’s as Joy continued. “He was attempting to enter your rooms. When she questioned what he was about, he placed his hands upon her, and attempted to drag her away. She was fortunate that she managed to escape when another maid entered the hallway.” Tilla’s face was white and her hands were shaking.

“Is this correct, Tilla?” Brienne asked gently, and the young girl stood, curtsied, and nodded. “It is, Your Grace. You can see here where I caught my foot in my skirts –” she gestured to her waist, where the stitches had come undone and her gown gaped a little. “And I have bruises where he grabbed my shoulders.” Joy reached for the girl, patting her shoulder.

“You have done the right thing to report this to us,” Brienne continued. “Jaime?”

Jaime looked at Ser Lyle. “Fetch Ser Kennos of Kayce to this chamber.” He turned, filling a cup with water and offering it to Tilla.

“Is this the first time he has done such a thing at Casterly Rock?” he asked Joy. “Have there been any other thefts or acts of trespass reported?”

“I do not believe so,” she replied, “although he has left the Rock every night.” With the large numbers of people now staying at the Rock, an informal village had sprung up at the bottom of the hill, with a number of tent brothels servicing primarily the men at arms and taverns offering ale and other entertainment.

“And what of you, Tilla?” Jaime asked. “Do you wish to return to your family, or to stay with us here at Casterly Rock.”

She looked at him, eyes huge. “I would stay here, Your Grace.”

“Joy,” said Brienne, “you say that Tilla is a hard worker?” Her new cousin nodded. “Then Tilla, in thanks for your bravery today, will you come and work for me and Ser Jaime – His Grace? We are in need of a trusted person to work in our chambers only. You would not be expected to work in any of the guest rooms.” The girl gasped and nodded, with a smile.

It was not long before Ser Lyle returned, holding the arm of a belligerent Ser Kennos.

“Now see here,” the man blustered, “what is the meaning of this?”

“Ser Kennos of Kayce,” Ser Jaime said, “you stand accused of assaulting this maid and of attempting to secure entry to Their Graces’ chambers. How do you respond?”

“She lies,” he insisted. “The little liar was probably where she had no business to be.”

“I never –” Tilla gasped.

“And yet,” Jaime continued coldly, “that is not what she tells us, or what the woman who interrupted you told my cousin.”

Ser Kennos spat to one side. “Your bastard cousin is probably just like her, stealing what she can and opening her legs –”

“That is enough.” Jaime’s voice snapped through the chamber. “That is no way to speak of any woman, much less those who are under my – our – protection. There will be no insulting the women of the Westerlands. Lady Joy is no bastard but the legitimate daughter of my uncle Gerion Lannister, and Tilla is our own chambermaid. I give you one further chance, what do you have to say for yourself?”

The man snarled. “I was only taking what any man would wish. And it’s not like you have some moral high ground. Everyone knows you were fucking your ugly whore before you married her.”

The room grew silent, even Ser Kennos quieting at the look in Jaime’s eyes.

“My love?” said Jaime in a measured tone, his eyes never leaving Ser Kennos.

Brienne took a breath, then addressed the man directly. “When His Grace knighted me,” she said firmly, “he charged me with certain tasks in the name of the Gods. For the Warrior, he charged me to be brave. For the Father, he charged me to be just, and for the Mother, he charged me to defend the innocent. It is my judgement that in attempting thievery and in assaulting someone unarmed and weaker than himself, this man has betrayed all three of those oaths.” Jaime’s squeezed her hand gently to convey his support. “It is my judgement that this man should be stripped of his knighthood and of the right to hold lands, for his moral cowardice.” Lady Genna beamed at her, as did the usually reticent Strongboar.

Jaime nodded, looking sternly at the man. “A fair judgement, wife,” he said. “What say you, Kennos?”

“You can’t – you have no right – Your Grace, it was only the word of a maid.”

“Quiet,” snapped Ser Lyle, twisting Ser Kennos’s – no, just Kennos’s – arm behind his back.

Jaime sighed. “Had you shown remorse, we could have left it there. But as it is, I would not wish to risk any others in your troublesome company.” He gestured to Ser Lyle. “He is to be sent to the Wall. His horse and sword shall be sold, with the proceeds to be passed to Tilla.”

“No –” shouted the man, taking advantage of the moment to escape Ser Lyle’s grip and running to the doors of the chamber. Ser Lyle followed him, returning a few minutes later looking grave.

“He ran up to the battlements,” he said, “hoping to elude me. I do not know whether he slipped or jumped, but he fell from the cliffs.”

Jaime slumped a little, relieved that the problem was at an end. Brienne’s hand was warm beneath his.

“Well there’s an end to it,” said Lady Genna briskly, “and probably the best end for him, at that. Young Tilla, you run along and speak to Her Grace’s handmaiden to tell her that you will be looking after Their Graces’ rooms for her. See if there is room for you with their other staff, in the old nursery; if there is, you may ask another maid to assist you to move your things.” The maid left, and Genna eyed Jaime. “Now what’s this about our Joy, Jaime?”

Jaime stood and walked over to his cousin. “I had intended to speak with you privately, Joy, but this would need to come through our council anyway. I wish to legitimise you, cousin. This mystery over my Uncle’s marriage has been allowed to linger for too long.” She smiled, and he embraced her, looking to his aunt and to Brienne, who gazed at him proudly.

First Ser Lyle and then Ser Addam and Ser Forley bowed to her. “Lady Joy,” they acknowledged.

Brienne’s stomach rumbled, breaking the serious mood of the moment and causing the men to laugh. It was past noon, and they had spent a full morning greeting their guests and dealing with the problem within their midst.

“My wife and I will retire to dine,” said Jaime, “but our people – and theirs – must know that the West will not turn a blind eye to these behaviours.”

Chapter Text

The fourth day after their arrival in Casterly Rock was the day of their coronation. There were ravens from Tarth and from King’s Landing – from Bran as well as from Tyrion and Podrick – from Gendry and Davos at Storm’s End, and from Queen Sansa at Winterfell, addressed to her dear brother and sister. A scrawled note from Highgarden enjoined Jaime to “not fuck this up”. Other, more formal letters had arrived from Dorne, from the Iron Islands, and from the Vale; Rodri would need to write formal responses to all of them in the coming days.

Anali and Marisal had prepared and ironed Jaime’s clothing and had hung it in the smaller second bedroom in their rooms – they would require the larger room to dress and ready Brienne. Jaime had vetoed silks and satins, selecting instead good fine wools and linen – “they will be looking at my crown, not my breeches,” he had insisted. At his request, Marisal had used buckles as fastenings on his newly-made outer clothes – he found them easier to manage one-handed than the more usual ties or lacings – but his fine ivory linen shirt nevertheless required lacing. His jacket was made of the same rich crimson wool as the shawl Brienne had worn on their first night in Casterly Rock, and was lined with a rich golden linen. Golden embroidery surrounded the neckline, hem and cuffs, the right sleeve hemmed shorter to cover – but not hide – the stump at the end of his arm, which was covered by a closed shirt sleeve. At Jaime’s request, Becka had been permitted to help with the embroidery, and if some of the stitches were less expert than others, nobody would be close enough to see. His trousers were a golden tan, his boots a reddish shade that was not quite crimson. His hair and beard had been trimmed, although he still wore his hair longer than he had been used to. The ride from King’s Landing had lightened it somewhat, so it once more had shades of gold, although they were mottled by the patches of silver that showed his age.

Brienne’s dressing required more time. Anali had put her damp hair in rags the night before, and caught it up now with ruby and gold jewelled pins, leaving fullness around her face and cascading curls down behind her head. She sprayed her with a scent that smelled of oranges and cinnamon, rather like the soap she had adopted. Afterwards, she dusted a little powder across her face, to combat her persistent flush, and brought her a new pair of slippers in a rich crimson satin, with ruby and gold clips in the front.

And then it was time for the gown. Another of Marisal’s masterpieces, this one was a sweep of crimson satin, almost floor length in front, with a sweeping train behind. The padded skirt was cunningly cut to appear sleep and narrow in front, in the style Brienne preferred, despite the fullness of the train. The bodice was closely fitted, and swept across low at the bust, fitting to the point of Brienne’s broad shoulders and leading down to sleeves that stopped at her elbow. A sparkling belt embroidered with tiny red glass beads spanned her waist; a thin row of the same beads edged the sleeves. She left off the brooches today, her only jewellery besides her hair pins her betrothal ring and lion necklace.

Brienne was reminded again of the wise decision she had made in entrusting her dressing to Marisal, and told the woman so. Initially nervous of the deep red of her gown, she had allowed the seamstress to persuade her. And indeed, in the room there would be few who would see her face, but many who would see her fine gown and her crown, and the Lannister colours in both.

Anali gathered her crimson wool shawl, folding it carefully in case it would be needed, then opened the door of her chamber. Jaime was waiting, handsome as ever, with a broad smile for her.

“Wife, you are magnificent,” he said, bowing deeply, and for once she believed him.

A knock at the door heralded Wal – Genna and Emmon Frey’s son Red Walder – to lead them to the audience hall. “The Lords are seated, Your Graces,” he said. “It is time.”

Jaime reached his right arm to Brienne, ready to lead her to the hall. Anali and Marisal hurried along behind, holding up Brienne’s skirts until she was ready to enter the room, with Becka trotting along behind. They would be seated to one side of the grand audience chamber, with the rest of Jaime’s and Brienne’s immediate household: Edwyn and Liane, Rodri, and Tilla the chambermaid. Taven the captain of their men at arms was also there – Jaime had a new role in mind for him, assisting Ser Benedict as master of arms, with responsibility for training the fighting men.

They paused before the doors of the hall, Anali and Marisal straightening Brienne’s gown. “Remember to turn inwards, Your Grace,” Marisal said, “towards His Grace, so that your gown does not bunch between you.” She turned to Jaime. “If you were to reach for Her Grace with your hand,” she said, “to help her to sit, that would position her skirts.” Jaime nodded and grinned, reaching for Brienne with his left hand and twirling her around once before leaning to press a quick kiss on her lips.

“Perhaps without the twirl, Jaime,” Brienne murmured, laughing and repositioning her left arm on the stump of his right as her ladies smoothed her skirts once more and Wal gestured to the guards to open the doors.

And so it was that the King and Queen of the West entered their coronation laughing merrily, sharing a joke together. And it was not Her Grace’s plain features or her excessive height that those assembled would remember of these moments, or even His Grace’s handsome face and missing hand, but the King and Queen’s evident delight in one another’s company.

The assembled company stood to welcome them, as they walked the length of the great audience chamber. When they reached the end and stepped up to the dais, Jaime quirked an eyebrow at Brienne, who laughed once more. “No spins, Jaime,” she murmured, as she took his left hand and seated herself in a swirl of crimson, as he sat himself beside her.

Jaime’s immediate family sat on the right side of the dais, to Brienne’s left. Emmon Frey and Joy Hill – Lady Joy Lannister, now – were there, together with others whom they had dined with some three days previously. As the family of the King, they would have a special role to play in supporting Jaime and Brienne in their rule. More distant family members, including Lyonel and Melesa Frey, as well as Jeyne Frey and her sons, lined the seats at the front of the room, with the Lords and Ladies of the Westerlands behind. Local dignitaries, including the Mayor of Lannisport and the local Guildmasters, were also present.

To the left of the dais – to Jaime’s right – sat their small council – the Ladies Genna and Alysanne, together with Ser Addam, Ser Lyle and Ser Forley. Each wore a crimson sash bearing the new arms of the West – the lion, crowned. Ser Lyle, additionally, wore the sigil of the Hand of the King, a golden hand embossed with the crowned lion, pinned upon his sash.

The ceremony was simple, conducted by a Septon with the assistance of Maester Creylen. Jaime had insisted that his Queen should share in his oaths, should not be treated as an accessory but as an equal ruler, so each of them swore to protect and uphold the laws of the Westerlands, to protect its people and borders, to treat wisely with their people, and to ask no action of them that would bring them dishonour. They further swore, as they had at Bran’s coronation, to take no action to harm the peace of the realms, to provide aid to the other Kingdoms of Westeros against mutual threats, and to aid the High King in times of need. As he recited his oaths, Jaime felt his cynicism deserting him, moved by a genuine desire to make the most of this life that he had so unexpectedly been offered to him.

The Septon called upon the Father to lead their justice, the Mother to lend them mercy, the Maiden to guide them in protecting the innocent. He asked the Warrior to grant them courage and protection, the Smith to lend them strength to bear their burdens, the Crone to give them wisdom, and the Stranger to remain distant, granting them a long and happy life together. Together, Jaime and Brienne were formally crowned as the rightful King and Queen of the Westerlands, to the cheers of those assembled.

Careful not to dislodge their crowns, they stood as all those present, including the members of the Lannister family, knelt to swear their fealty to their new monarchs, leaving Jaime, Brienne and the Septon the only people standing of all those in the hall. Rodri had prepared a book which their guests would sign after the ceremony, to confirm their oaths and further pledge their loyalty. As their guests resumed their seats, their King and Queen sat also.

One by one, the members of their Small Council rose to swear to support the reign of King Jaime and Queen Brienne of the West, First of their Names. When they were done, Brienne rose unexpectedly and reached behind her throne for the familiar scabbard that she had had Wal place there earlier that morning. She had not discussed this with Jaime, but felt that there was something more that she must do. Drawing her sword, she knelt before Jaime in a pool of crimson satin.

“I am yours, Your Grace,” she said clearly and confidently, echoing the words that she had once sworn to Catelyn Stark, her voice ringing through the hall. “I will shield your back and give my life for yours. I swear it by the old gods and the new.” Jaime stood, reached his hand to her to help her, and kissed her formally on each cheek before seating her once again. He had suspected that she might have planned some sort of gesture, and had been determined that it would not be one-sided. To her evident surprise, he too reached behind his chair, drawing forth Lion’s Sun and kneeling before her to repeat the same vows.

With tears on her cheeks, she stood and helped him to stand, then kissed him, to the cheers of the assembled men and women of the West. “Are you not glad, Your Grace, that we have practised wearing these crowns, with all this standing and kneeling that we must do?” he murmured to her with a loving smile that she met with a deep blush and a smile of her own.

Looking out over the many faces in the assembled crowd, they saw many who were already familiar, and others who would become so over the coming years. The people they had travelled with, those they had met since their arrival, friends and strangers, people whom Jaime had known in his youth and those whom he was only meeting now. Members of their family and of their household, and others who had journeyed considerable distances to be here, all coming together to share this moment with them and forge a new and united West under their guidance and leadership.

“King Jaime and Queen Brienne!” cried Ser Lyle, “The King and Queen of the Westerlands! May their rule be long and prosperous!”

And it was.

 

--fin--