She knows his real name, of course. There are only so many officers (one) missing a right hand, and still allowed to serve besides. She knows him by that other, more infamous name as well—he had come back from a disastrous mission, years earlier, to whispers of betrayal distilled into that one word. Classified information, the higher-ups at the Centre had declared about the whole affair, and his loyalty to the Cause was not to be questioned. One of the best officers to ever serve, and yet this name hung in the air around him, stale with the miasma of derision, even more so after he lost his hand ten months ago. But she has to forget that name, though it had clung to him since before she thought to join the Centre. He is her husband, now; for Cause, for country. That means she has to trust him fully, or try her very best to do so. She must keep her doubts about him buried deep, if she cannot dispel them altogether.
These are the facts she has at hand: this is her very first assignment, fresh out of training. She had been stellar, probably the best out of all the cadets in her cycle. She is also a woman, though her reflection in the mirror does its utmost to tell her otherwise, tall and broad as she is. Gender equality might be one of the fundamental tenets of the Cause—it is one of the reasons why she believes in it so resolutely—but both Cause and country are still young, relatively speaking. Her existence, her superiority, had been a hard pill to swallow for her fellow trainees, all men, only a couple as large or larger than her. There were incidents, in training; humiliation that she thought could be erased with the immense pride she did feel in having been selected for this assignment, for the Programme. But she is a woman, and she is to play—no, to be—wife to one of the Centre’s most notorious officers, who had been missing his right hand for the better part of a year. Who had already been assigned to the Programme with someone else, already had the kids to show for it. She didn’t even have to sleep with him, to bear his children. She will be his wife only in order to be his muscle.
These are the facts she has at hand, and there are dots there she doesn't want to connect. She floods her mind with a rush of renewed faith in the Cause. Infiltrating enemy territory in the most daring way possible. As a perfectly ordinary family.
She is supposed to call him Jaime, Jaime Lannister. The General (his father, she knows) had introduced him by that name, made no mention of his other name (names), as if his son’s reputation did not precede him, as if she and every other officer didn’t know they were related at all. Her name, her new name that is now also the name she was born with, is Brienne Lannister, née Tarth. The syllables feel strange on her tongue, her name and his; the accent she was supposed to emulate still slipped between the gaps in her teeth as she tried and tried to push her mother tongue back down her throat. They said it would become effortless, eventually. Soon enough, they said, her backstory would become her memories. His children would become hers, too. The closer she came to the first day of the assignment, to the first meeting with him—with Jaime, her husband—the more she had dreamed of her childhood on the island, running barefoot along its coasts, its meadows... Or was it Brienne’s island, Brienne’s feet on the sand, the sea, the grass?
She is sitting on a couch in the General’s office, next to Jaime. He offers to pour her tea, does so with his left hand, his prosthetic right anchored firmly in his lap. She notices that he stiffens when she glances at it; she looks away. Now he is telling her that they will meet the twins tomorrow, that he hopes she’s good with babies. She nods, remembers two baby sisters, long dead, that she’s not supposed to remember. She tries to forget Jaime’s two other names and the weight they carry, but most of all she tries to forget that he is golden, and beautiful, in all the ways she is not. Or maybe she tries to be okay with it, knowing that she has to lie next to this golden and beautiful man almost every night for the foreseeable future. She realises she has been gripping her teacup, tight, staring at the liquid within as if it could drown her. She finds the strength to look up into his eyes, too green for their own good, and thinks she must trust this man with her entire life, while lying to him about it at the same time.
She is Brienne Lannister, and he is her husband, Jaime.
When she walks into his father’s office, he doesn’t startle. This is their first meeting, but he’s read her file—read Brienne’s file. He knows she has a couple of inches on him, tall as he is. He has seen her face, in a black-and-white photograph, knows it is a compliment to call it plain. She is looking at her feet, nervous—who wouldn’t be, given the circumstances—and he thinks she is young, so much younger, feels the full decade yawn between them. An awkward girl at odds with a soldier’s—no, a warrior’s body. A year ago, maybe, before he lost his hand, he might have been tempted to ask if she is really a woman, if he is to gain a husband rather than a wife. It would have been a cruel thing borne of arrogance. Or even six months ago, when he was still reeling from the loss of his hand, Cersei’s reassignment. A cruel thing borne of bitterness. He still is, arrogant and bitter, but there’s some measure of resignation in him now. He invites her to sit on the couch, offers her tea, pours it out with his left hand. His stump itches beneath his prosthetic.
He thinks of Cersei. He had called her by another name most of their lives, but he finds himself thinking of her as Cersei, Cersei Lannister, the only name by which she might have been his wife. She is his cousin, but might as well have been his sister. He thinks that they loved each other so much and from so young that it might not have mattered even if she was. They had grown up together under the thumb of the General, his golden children, knowing all along that they were expected to not only serve the Cause and the country, but also lead, control. The General had ignored their relationship until he couldn’t—or until he could use it. They had a son, much earlier than they should have, who was now being groomed, the next generation of a golden dynasty. When the Programme was devised, the General strongly suggested his children for it. She was already pregnant again, anyway, with the twins. Might as well put that pregnancy to some use. A perfectly ordinary family. Jaime and Cersei Lannister, with their newborn twins Myrcella and Tommen.
Then he had to go and do the phenomenally stupid thing of getting himself captured, and losing his hand in the process. The last mission before their assignment was due to begin, just as the twins were about to be born, and goes and does that. By the time he had escaped, by the time the skin on his stump had begun to heal, Cersei was being reassigned. An embassy position, perfect for her particular disposition—manipulation and duplicity where her power could be exercised, witnessed. In his absence she had claimed she was unable to care for the twins, and they had been raised by a rotation of nannies practically from the womb. Well, they will still have their use, the General said. You will continue with the Programme, with a new wife. Someone skilled enough, strong enough, to replace his right hand.
His cover, his name, remained the same—Jaime Lannister. He wonders if the General meant to punish him somehow, for loving his cousin this way; the name Jaime Lannister, like his other names, carried weight, carried Cersei with it. He knows it is far more likely that his father just didn’t see the point in wasting time and effort on constructing a new backstory, and a paper trail to go with it, when this one hadn’t been used at all.
He comes back to himself, to Brienne, delicately sipping tea but with such a white-knuckle grip on the handle of the teacup that he almost laughs at the absurdity of the scene. He doesn’t know what to say, so he talks about the twins. He says, foolishly, that he hopes she’s good with babies. She finally seems to gather the courage to make eye contact, and he thinks about how he has seen her face only in a black-and-white photograph, and while it showed him that it would have been a compliment to call her plain, it had done no justice to her eyes, too blue for their own good. He sees the struggle there: some mixture of disdain—for his past, for the Targaryen incident, what else—and pity—for his hand. He realises she knows more about him, about his dark and distorted history, than he might ever know about her.
Brienne seems to decide that she must make an effort at conversation, because she is rambling on about Cause and country now, with a naive idealism he has perhaps never possessed. He thinks she is truly nothing like Cersei. Gods, you really do believe in it, don’t you? and she’s looking at him strangely now, and oh, he’s said it out loud. He reassures her that he does—it did neither of them good, at this point, to reveal any sort of disillusionment. Jaime Lannister is not a disillusioned man. He has a wife, Brienne, and twins, Myrcella and Tommen, and he has his entire life to look forward to.