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Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.

From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross’d lovers lose their life;
Whose misadventur’d piteous overthrows
Doth with their death bury their parents’ strife.
The fearful passage of their death-mark’d love,

And the continuance of their parents’ rage,
Which, but their children’s end, nought could remove,
Is now the two hours’ traffic of our stage;
The which if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.

 

“You will marry Sansa Stark in two weeks,” Tywin Lannister said to his oldest son.

Jaime nodded.

He had fought this, but the battle was over.

He had argued that he was too old, twenty years older than her, but Tywin only responded that it gave her plenty of time to give him sons.

He’d countered that he was a knight, a member of the prince’s guard, and he served for life, but it wasn’t true anymore.

Prince Dany, with a cold look in her violet eyes, had listened to him explain why he killed her father all those years ago. She nodded, she understood, she even offered her official forgiveness, and then she dismissed him from her service.

Jaime had expected that, but it had still been a blow.

And then there was the meeting.

It had begun with a street brawl, nothing new in the King’s Landing streets of late. Theon Greyjoy, Ned Stark’s ward, had provoked Lancel Lannister in the market. Or perhaps it was the other way around. They fought, a minor scuffle Jaime thought, they hadn’t even drawn blood, but the sellers had complained to the newly installed prince, and then more complaints poured in, and she had to act.

So she did.

She called in Ned and Tywin, and as they both reluctantly kneeled to their new ruler, Jaime watched her dragons fly outside.

I hope Tyrion can see this from his tower, Jaime thought to himself. I hope he’s smiling right now.

“This war between you is over,” Prince Dany declared. “You will make peace, and you will honor it or I will have peace through fire and blood. Do you hear me?”

Jaime hoped his face had been passive at the moment, but she hadn’t looked at him. She’d been looking at his father, then at Ned, who had both nodded. Jaime looked at Robb Stark for a minute, but his face was a stone mask.

“Find a way or I will,” she said. Then she waved them out, her guard ushering them all to the street.

And here, right now, was their solution, a marriage, giving both men a stake in the future of the match.

Sansa, at 15, would have been a better match for Cersei’s son, but King Robert had already promised the boy to the Tyrells, and the Tyrells would not allow a slight so grave. And Robert’s youngest was only 6, far too young for the match that needed to happen now.

So it was left to Jaime, who nodded solemnly at his father.

“The engagement party is tomorrow at dusk. Do be prompt.”

With a look down, Tywin dismissed him. Jaime walked away from his father, resigned to his fate.

He could have fought more, he knew. His father had banished Cersei to a loveless marriage thousands of miles away, and he had given Tyrion to the maesters, letting them teach his son what the father refused. Tyrion loved it of course, but Jaime suspected he would have liked to choose his own path instead.

“If you don’t marry her, I’ll have your brother killed,” his father had told him last night, as they argued for last time.

“Your own son,” Jaime said, incredulous as the thought filled him with rage.

“Yes,” Tywin said coldly. “And I’ll execute his killer and the world will see my remorse, but you will know that you are responsible.”

Then Jaime knew he would marry Sansa and give his father more grandchildren, and take over Casterly Rock when the time was right.

And when his father died, he would call his brother home, and they would both be free and safe at last.

He kept that thought in his heart that day and the next; it would be the thought that would sustain him for every misery that will come his way.

***
Brienne looked at the gown in front of her, and her frown threatened to spill over into tears as she thought of how she would look in it.

The proposal had come quickly. It was Lord Lannister’s idea, and Lord Stark had reluctantly accepted. The two men refused to negotiate face to face, but the ravens had eventually curried a contract that worked for both of them.

Ned was hosting the party tonight and the wedding in two weeks would be simple, family only, but then the couple would be gone to Casterly Rock.

Brienne choked back her tears again. How could she be upset? Her friend was thrilled, she’d waited so long to be married, and while the groom wasn’t her choice, this is what she had wanted. To be a wife, and a mother, to raise her family of healthy boys and girls, that was her wish.

But I'm going to miss her so much.

“Jaime is handsome, he’ll give me beautiful children,” Sansa said.

Brienne nodded, saying nothing, not wanting to ruin her friend’s happiness. Jaime Lannister was handsome, like a god on earth, but that was all he had. He’d killed his king, everyone knew it, and Prince Dany had forgiven him, but none of them ever forgot it.

How could Sansa want to marry him? How could anyone?

Sansa came up behind her. “How do I look?” she asked, and Brienne smiled at her. She was wearing a deep red gown with grey fur collars; the sash around her waist showed wolves chasing lions, then lions chasing wolves. It was simple, but perfect for young girl about to become a woman.

“You look lovely,” Brienne told her.

Sansa smiled then. “Do you think he’ll think so?” She looked so scared at the moment, and Brienne wondered how many other feelings she was keeping to herself.

“Of course, no one will be able to look away from you.”

Brienne turned back to her own gown, a dull blue that fits, but was deeply unflattering. She wished she could wear a tunic and britches, something that would make her blend in, but she knew better than to ask. This party was important; Lord Stark had told them all that they may loathe the Lannisters, but the prince had spoken, and they will be at peace.

It’s only for an hour, Brienne told herself. She had to attend, she was Lady Stark’s ward, but her presence would not be needed, she could slip away when no one was looking.

She looked outside, wondering if she had time for sword play today, but she already knew the answer. She would have to put on the gown soon, and she could not come to party red faced and sweaty from her lessons.

Her father had asked her if she wanted to live with the Starks. Lord Selwyn had not ordered her, he had asked. He had tried and tried to make a match for her, and his efforts still filled her with shame and anger. He told her he thought Lady Stark, her father had been a friend of Brienne’s grandfather, would have better luck.

“She’s a good woman, she’ll look out for you, but it’s your choice,” he had told her. And she knew she could say no, that he would understand.

“Can I still practice my lessons?” she whispered to him.

That’s what they called them; girls were not permitted to learn swordplay, but everyone had lessons, he told her. So what if her lessons took place outside with a sword in her hand? She learned history and the houses of Westeros while also learning a proper stance and how to find an opponent’s weakness. She learned to parry while also learning courtesies a lady will need.

Her father looked at her, his broad shouldered, mannish daughter who, despite her sex, had considerable skill with a blade. She wanted to please him, but she needed that too, to be able to do something she was good at.

“I’ll let Lady Stark know that you will need time for lessons.” He nodded at her, and the smile on her face was genuine.

It’s only one day. Tomorrow I’ll be back in the yard, where I belong, she thought with a sigh.

She looked at her young friend, her apprehension evident, but it wasn’t enough to dull her happiness too.

Brienne felt that ache in her heart, but she knew it would pass. That path is not for me, she reminded herself.

Not for me.

She grabbed her gown, too roughly, but it wouldn’t make a difference. She would look how she would look, and it was time to get ready for it.

Chapter Text

They are a striking couple, Brienne thought to herself. Him, tall and blonde, shining and beautiful, her, short and pale, with her dress setting off her fiery hair. 

They toasted each other, and their fathers made speeches over their heads, but Brienne didn’t listen.

Instead, from her table near the back, she watched the crowd around her. Theon, her fellow ward, was drinking himself sick, nursing the dark look on his face. She knew of his feelings for Sansa, he was quite the talker when in his cups, but they didn’t matter. There was no advantage to a match like that, and even Lord Stark himself couldn’t overlook that.

Robb tried to comfort his friend, but what could he say, Brienne thought. They were all in the same situation, they would all be paired off with whoever their parents chose for them. All they could do was hope, and in Brienne’s experience, hope was a useless force. 

When the speeches were done, the couple opened the party with a dance. 

Have they met before this? Brienne asked herself. They danced together as if they had only ever danced with each other, and Brienne heard more than one woman in the crowd gasp at the beautiful couple. 

Sansa was beaming in Jaime’s arms, and he wasn’t smiling, but his eyes were sparkling at his partner. They’re perfect, Brienne thought. Just perfect.

When the dancing began for the crowds, she knew this was when she could escape. She had sat through dinner, and speeches about a marriage with no love expected, and she’d heard more than one group snickering at her. But she would not let herself be made a fool of anymore. 

She stood up, gesturing to her empty cup. No one at her table would notice if she didn’t return, and it was the one shining grace in a night that had been excruciating. She casually, as slow as she could make herself, stepped into the shadows of the hall. They swallowed her up, and she let them lead her to the stairs, to her room where she could be free of the gown that itched and pulled at her muscles without mercy. 

She kicked off her shoes, and waited for the knock that would demand she return, for Lady Stark’s kind tone of motherly affection, asking her for one more hour. 

Then Robb, out of politeness, would ask her to dance, and she would have to say yes, and they would laugh about it later, but in the moment, they would both be waiting for it to end. And he would be the only one to ask, and it would be worse than if he hadn’t.

But the knock didn’t come. Lady Stark must be focused on her eldest daughter, or in keeping her younger children from sneaking down to hassle the guests.

With a sigh, Brienne freed herself from the gown, putting herself back in the practice clothes that moved with her, not against her. She looked at her sword in the corner, a beast of metal, tall and heavy, just like her. 

Do I risk it?

No, she told herself. If someone saw her sneaking around with that, it would be a disaster for the fragile peace of the day. 

But, she thought, the armory has the tourney swords. And the dummies too. If anyone saw me, I’m just a servant boy who lives here, no one would look twice.

She smiled to herself as she opened her door. 

No one will know.

Jaime leaned down to Sansa and kissed her cheek after their dance. She blushed, and a delicate shade of pink washed over her face.

It suited her, he thought. She is a maid, but even as a woman, she’ll never lose that look of delicacy. She’ll have this pale pose for an eternity, in her mind, if not literally.

She will make a fine wife, and a good mother, and it could be a lot worse, Jaime told himself. Cersei wrote to him about Robert from time to time, and there is a man who cares nothing for his wife. At least that won’t be us.

After their dance, they sat at the head of the table. Sansa looked straight ahead, her back an iron rod behind her. He wondered what words of his could break that level of concentration, but he didn’t have the heart to try. 

She’s too young for that sport.

And I’m too old for such games.

He poured himself more to drink, but he saw his father gesture to him, and he got up and followed him to a room off the side of the hall.

It’s a study, possibly even Ned’s study, and on the desk is a bundle covered by a blanket.

“Your wedding present,” Tywin told him as he pulled back the blanket.

Two swords lay on the table, both black with crimson threads through the metal. Tywin handed the longer one to Jaime, and Jaime felt a shock in his hands as he realized how light it is.

“Valryian?” he asked as Tywin nodded.

“I melted our sword Heartrender into these two. This one is for you, and the smaller one is for your firstborn son.”

If he was another man, with a different father, Jaime would be touched by the gesture. But he was Jaime Lannister, and this was his father, who had no use for a family heirloom except to control his remaining child.

“Thank you,” Jaime said, flatly, but he couldn’t take his eyes off the sword. The soft candlelight  seemed to bend around the sword as he moved it around the room. 

Tywin nodded, then walked out.

Jaime looked down and saw the scabbard and without a thought, he wrapped it around his waist, his new sword fitting next to his body perfectly. 

Within a second, he already felt attached to the new blade at his hip, like it was now just an extension of his body, not just heated metal.

The smaller sword had a scabbard too, and it didn’t feel right to leave it here, so he grabbed that too. He looked ridiculous, but when had he cared what other people thought of him?

I can’t go back like this.

The Starks had made a point of checking everyone for weapons as they entered. They had ruffled many feathers, but Jaime understood. Even with this wedding, it would be a long time before the Starks would trust any room with Lannisters in it, and any precautions were necessary.

If I walk into that room with two swords on my hips, present or no present, it’s unlikely I’ll be alive to marry my bride. Sure, I could take out many of them before they were a threat, but an entire room of Starks? And even if I could, the Prince will have me fed to her dragons before sunset.

He shuddered at the thought. Thank the seven her father hadn't had those beasts. He was mad enough with just regular fire.

Or wildfire. 

He pushed that memory down, down in the dark where it belonged.

As he stood in the doorway, Addam Marbrand walked by, walking with purpose until Jaime called out his name.

He wouldn’t call Addam a friend; if he had, surely Tywin would have found some way to get him out of Jaime’s life forever. But Jaime knew him, trusted him (to a point), and more importantly, so did the Starks.

Captain of the City Guard, Marbrand was a friend to every house, never taking sides, never choosing over the other, offering justice and mercy as needed. 

“I need a favor,” Jaime asked as Addam walked into the room. 

He removed the scabbards, and he felt the loss of them both, wanting them back more than just about anything else. 

“Can you take these to our carriage?” 

Addam looked at them, and for the first time, Jaime saw the pommels, both lionheads, both roaring.

“It was a wedding present from Tywin,” Jaime said. “But I can’t wear them out, and I don’t want them to see me carrying them.”

“Wise decision,” Addam said. “Hand me the blanket.”

Now carrying what looked like a only a bundle of bedding, Addam went off with a grimace. “I’m late for an appointment. You owe me Lannister.”

He didn’t say it, but he heard with brother’s voice in his head. “A Lannister always pays his debts, Jaime,” Tyrion told him as he left for the Citadel. “And I will.”

He shook off the memory as he left the room. He took one step back to the ballroom, but he couldn’t make himself take another.

I’ll marry the girl, I’ll give you grandchildren, but I need a break from pretending I’m happy about it.

Instead, he turned left, further into the castle. The Starks’ Verona home was much smaller than their official seat, but it was supposed to be temporary. But they’ve settled here, just like the Lannisters, and now with this cold war between them, they can’t leave until it’s over.

Two more weeks until then

He kept walking, not following a path, just walking at random, and he didn’t think he was going to find anything interesting, until he heard a sound he knew in his bones.

Thwack

A tourney sword hitting a dummy, he’d bet his life on it. He followed the noise, hearing that delicious sound get louder and louder until he was outside the armory, watching a man practicing his swordplay.

He’s big. Taller than me, broader too, but nimble on his feet. He’s not held back by his size, a formidable opponent

And Jaime could not resist a challenge.

He cleared his throat, and the man froze in mid-swing. “You’ll get better results practicing with an actual opponent.” Jaime grabbed a tourney sword, raised it into position. “Want to try?”

As he turned to him, Jaime had to hold his tongue.

She’s a woman, but just barely.

He gave her a quick once over, noting her men’s clothes that must be cut to let her fight so well, her meager chest, her broken nose, her many, many freckles, and those eyes.

Like piercing blue arrows

She took him in, still holding her tourney sword. 

And she nodded.

He lunged without a thought, but she didn’t hesitate, she blocked his thrust, then pushed him back. He attacked again, and again, but he could not reach her. She could block any move he tried against her, but she would not attack him.

“You can’t win by only defending,” he told her as tried again to move past her impenetrable defenses. 

She said nothing, not even a grunt as she dug her shoulder into his arm in a dodge.

She pulled back from him then, eyeing him again, almost like a challenge.

I did pick this fight.

He walked toward her, his sword raised, and she moved quickly to hit his sword arm. He dodged, that was foolish he thought, a second before she hit his side with the sword. 

“That’s going to leave a bruise, wench,” he said with a wince.

She nearly smiled then.

Then the scowl came back. “My name is not wench.”

Finally

“If you won’t tell me your name, I’m going to have to call you something,” he retorted. And again, more silence from her.

He thrust again, and she blocked him again, and he was about to accuse her of cowardice when she dodged to his left, hitting his shield arm. It stung, and while he was distracted with that, she hit him across the back with the flat end of her sword.

He couldn't help it, he reached back to soothe his muscles, and she took the opportunity to sweep his legs, and he was on the floor, her knee is his chest.

His heart fluttered at her touch.

Is this battle lust?

He didn’t really know, but her sword was at his throat.

“Yield, Kingslayer.”

He went cold at the name. He tried to buck her off, but she’s planted herself and she wouldn't be budged. She even had his sword arm pinned to the ground.

“I yield,” he whispered, astonished at himself, but mostly at her.

I must be getting old.

She got up, then held out a hand to him. 

He touched her, and he felt a charge go through him, like holding the sword earlier.

Her calloused palm is meant to be his to hold.

He didn’t let go, and she didn’t push him back as he expected her too. He looked at those eyes again, so much fear and longing buried in the blue ocean she sees with.

“Who are you?” he whispered, grasping her hand even more.

She yanked her hand back then, pulled her eyes from his gaze, and fled.

Chapter Text

Brienne heard him call after her, but that just made her run faster. 

Back in her room, panting, she looked down at her hand, the hand he had touched, the hand that betrayed her.

She had reached out, helped him up, and then she saw a flash as a blue light surrounded him. 

The man was naked and alone, standing in the water, reaching out for her. She was naked to, but there was no shame in this dream, none of the usual fear. She ran to him, and he handed her a sword. 

He looked behind him, and she followed his gaze.

“Doom,” he whispered. 

She pulled him behind her, keeping him safe from the approaching fog.

She raised her sword, and the fog turned into figures, ghosts, and they charged and she woke up.

She’d had this dream for ages, as long as she could remember, but she’d never seen his face. Who was this man, this helpless man who begged for her help. 

And now she knew.

The Kingslayer. I’m to help the Kingslayer.

She shuddered at the thought, but she remembered his face, that beautiful face as he felt her hand in his.

He didn’t want to let go either.

She had seen it in his eyes, he had wanted her to stay, but instead, she had fled. Her cheeks burned at her own cowardice.

Coward or not, he’s going to marry Sansa. No good will come of this. Let him forget me.

“And I will forget him, and that dream,” she whispered to herself as she blew out her light.

She was too tired to change, so she lay in her bed, but sleep would not come. 

Still feeling dazed, she went to her balcony. The moon was full tonight, and the light was enough to see by as she practiced her lessons.

Right foot, thrust, left foot, parry, hop back, dodge

She repeated the pattern over and over, hoping the repetition would dull both her mind and body, so she could sleep.

And then she heard it, a clink of metal, some hurried footsteps, coming her way. 

Without a thought, she ran into her room, grabbed her beast of a sword before heading back to the balcony. Notching the sword in her britches, she shimmied down the terrace, hitting the ground floor silently.

Have the Lannisters returned, with steel this time?

Her heart started to pound as she crept forward. Now she scowled at the moon, which was leaving very little shadows to hide in.

She heard the clink again, across the courtyard to her left. As she walked closer, she heard frantic whispers.

“...have to find her,” a man said.

“You have to find her, with these swords?” the second man responded. “And you’re sure this isn’t going to result in our untimely deaths?”

The man might have nodded then, his face was blocked from her. The second mad started shaking his head. 

“Lannisters,” he whispered, and that was enough for Brienne. 

She leaped out of the shadows, sword raised. “Halt,” she said, making her voice deeper. 

Maybe they’re just drunk, and I can get them to leave.

“Wench!” the man cried, and she felt her heart leap inside her chest. “You have saved us a considerable amount of trouble.” 

Jaime bowed to her, but she didn’t lower her sword.

“What are you doing here?” she asked, the anger leaking out of her voice. 

He motioned her forward and as she stepped toward him, she looked at his friend and she recognized him.

Lady Dacey’s man, Addam.

Addam had his hands raised and a surprised look on his face. “My lord, if you don’t need me, I do have an appointment.” He bowed to her and to Jaime, and scurried away.

Brienne saw the bundle at Jaime’s feet, and gasped as he pulled back the covering. 

Two swords, twins, the same black and red metal making up the blades. 

Brienne wanted to throw her own trusty sword away and take one of these. She wanted to hold this sword, feel it at her side during a battle for her life.

Instead, she bit her lip and just looked at Jaime, his excited face and starry eyes looking back at her.

“My father gave me these as a wedding present, and I’d like to test them. With you.”

She looked back down at them, saw the Lannister touches on the hilts, the rubies and the Lion heads, but that didn’t mar the beauty of the blades.

“You beat me today, but only with a tourney sword. How about a real challenge?”

She ran to him, and he handed her a sword. 

She couldn’t look at him, so she kneeled down and reached for the longer blade. It called to her, and when she held it, she felt that charge again. She looked at Jaime, and he had a look in his eye she couldn’t place, but he nodded to her and reached for the smaller blade.

Their swords touched, and she felt a shock through her arm, a sting with a pulse shook her arm. Brienne looked at Jaime, and she knew, he felt it too. 

Their blades met again, and it was the same thing.

She lowered her sword then as a longing overtook her. “These blades aren’t meant to fight each other,” she said. “We can’t make them.”

He nodded, but then his face lit up. He gently returned his sword to the covering, and grabbed hers. 

“Now, we’re even, I have yours and you have mine.”

He raised his sword then and she almost dropped hers.

What am I doing here? I should be in bed, not playing at swords with a Lannister, let alone this Lannister.

But she didn’t leave. Instead, she blocked his attack, again relying on her teacher’s guidance. 

“Let them come to you, exhaust themselves in attacking, and then you’ll be ready to strike.”

It had worked before, but she could tell, he was holding back, trying to get her to attack him. 

But she knew it wouldn’t last. She was patient, he was reckless, and he couldn’t hold back forever.

And he didn’t.

He lunged at her, and she blocked him, but she hadn’t known the sword was Valyrian, hadn’t known how sharp it was, and just like that, her trusty beast of a sword was in two pieces. 

Her heart broke at the sight. It was a fine sword, a gift from her father, it had served well in practice and sparring, and now it was dead.

She kneeled down and cradled the broken piece in her hands. It was foolish, she knew that, but she couldn’t help it, it felt like a part of her had been sliced away.

He sat down next to her, sympathy on his face. “I’m sorry,” he said. 

“Don’t you mock me,” she whispered, and she looked up at him, tears in her eyes.

A flash of anger came over him then. “I said I was sorry,” he snapped at her. “I should have warned you.” 

“You should have,” she said, but her heart wasn’t in the fight. 

He sighed then, the fight leaving him too. “Well, you are too good to leave without a sword, so take mine.” He picked up the sword she had dropped, and he felt the charge in his hand again, but he knew too, that it was the right thing to do.

She looked at him, still holding back the tears, and shook her head. “I couldn’t accept that. My sword isn’t even worth a tenth of yours.”

“The value isn’t important,” he said to her. “You loved that broken sword in your hands, and it’s broken because of me. It’s the honorable thing to do.”

She glared at him then. “What would you know of honor, Kingslayer?" She didn’t look at him as she said it, but she didn’t regret her words. Bad enough she’s been dreaming of this man, she will not be indebted to him too.

“I know that it is not honorable to stand by silently while your prince who calls himself a king would destroy his city to prove that he could.”

Brienne knew the story, every person knew it. Jaime Lannister, knight of the kingsguard, had killed Prince Aerys, who fancied himself a king over the citizens of Verona. King Robert let the word slide, as long as he kept himself in check.

And Prince Aerys did. Until he didn’t.

He had tortured people, at first only peasants who had looked at him without proper respect. Then minor lords who did not bow to him quickly enough. Then lords who called him prince instead of king.

His son Rhaegar had pleaded for him to abdicate, but Aerys wouldn’t. Rhaegar left to King’s Landing, to ask for King Robert’s blessing in forcing his father out, and when he had returned, with the king’s ruling in hand, he found Jaime, calmly sitting with his father’s dead body at his feet.

Rhaegar kept Jaime around then, but never too close, always outside the room. And he was a good prince, a just ruler; he married Lyanna Stark, and she was expecting when she died along with her baby. And Rhaegar’s heart died with them.

Daenerys returned to Verona from across the sea, with a cold look in her eyes and three dragons at her back. Verona must be ruled by a prince, the lords told her, so she chopped her hair off, wore only britches and declared herself one. 

And with a frightened look at her dragons, the lords agreed that Prince Dany was Rhaegar’s heir. And she had released Jaime from her service.

And in all that time, and all those princes, no one had ever heard why he had done it.

“I know what honor is, wench,” he said to her. “King Aerys, with his wildfire hidden throughout the city, would have destroyed all of us before ever giving the throne to his son. He would have burned his own people with a smile on his face. He had to be stopped, and I was the only one who could.”

He sat next to her then, her cradling her sword, him clinging to the gift he so wanted to give her. “Please, take it.”

Without a word, she held out her hand and felt that spark again as their fingers brushed against each other. 

He handed her a sword. 

She saw him again, surrounded by blue light, fear in his eyes, and relief on his face, the face she could never see until today.

“I dreamed of you,” she whispered, barely believing her own words. “You gave me a sword and asked for my help.”

She looked at him, and his face blanched.

“In a cave,” he said. “A cave, in my family’s home, you came to me and pulled me behind you, to keep me safe.”

“To protect you from the doom,” she finished.

He reached for her, holding her face in his hand. 

“Who are you?”

“Brienne,” she whispered. “Brienne of Tarth.”

He rolled her name around his mind, remembering Tarth, an island, surrounded by the Sapphire Sea. 

Her eyes, are they the same color?

“Marry me, Brienne of Tarth.”

He hadn’t expected those words to come out of his mouth, but he did not regret them. He heard his own proposal, and he knew that for once, his heart had overwritten his head, and it knew the correct way forward.

“Marry me,” he said again. “Tomorrow.”

She looked at him, those piercing blue eyes bored into his green ones, and she did not find what she was looking for. She saw no scorn or mockery in his face, nothing hard or cruel hidden behind kind words. 

His green eyes were wide open, not a hint of shadow to them, and looking at her as if she lit the world.

He’s in love.

The thought hit her first, and surprising even herself, she leaned forward and pressed her lips to his. She felt that spark again, a shiver in her belly as she touched him, and he pulled her toward him as they embraced, clinging to her as they kissed.

“Yes,” she whispered back.

She kissed him again, never wanting to stop, until she remembered.

“But, Sansa?”

Jaime tried to pull her back but Brienne wrenched herself free.

“What about her?” he asked.

“You’re engaged to her. She’s been waiting and waiting for a match, and she wants to marry you.”

“No, she doesn’t,” Jaime told her. 

Brienne tried to interject but Jaime stopped her with another kiss. “Sansa is charming and beautiful, and she will make a fine wife for any lord. She has been training her whole life for the role, and she wants to please her parents and she wants to get married, but she does not want to marry me.

He cupped Brienne’s face in his hands again. “Ned will find her another match. And I belong with you.”

She couldn’t stop the tears then. She wanted to believe him, to believe that she could have this secret dream, that Sansa’s life could also be her life. 

She nodded, pushing all her fears inside again. She kissed him again, clung to him as he held her, never wanting to let go.

“But she’s like my sister,” Brienne whispered. “How could I do that?”

“If you have doubts, talk to her,” Jaime whispered. “Tell her everything, and if she objects, then we can pretend this never happened.” It hurt him to say those awful words, but he knew Brienne needed them.

“And if not, marry me tomorrow.”

She nodded again as he held his face in her hand. 

He looked up then, saw the moon had set and the sky was lightening.

“I have to leave,” he told her with a quick kiss. “I’ll send you a message.”

He grabbed his sword, leaving her with the sword his father meant for him.

Brienne. My protector. My bride.

Chapter Text

Jaime tried to stop himself from pacing, but he had too much energy trapped inside him to not be moving. He thought about going outside, finding some hapless servant to spar with him, but no, he’d only end up hurting the poor man.

And he couldn’t leave, he needed to stay where Brienne could find him, to let him know her decision.

That dream

Jaime, as a rule, never remembered his dreams, except that one. He’d woken with a start and a cry when he was 15, startling his fellow knights as they traveled with the prince to a tourney in his honor.

They had teased him, a man nearly grown, screaming at a dream, and he let it go, but inside, it haunted him; he, the best swordsman in the land, gave his weapon to a girl, so she would keep him safe.

It made no sense, like most dreams, and he put it away from him, but he never quite forgot it.

But he had found her. 

He had no doubts. He thought of his father, and his wrath, but for the first time in his life, he didn’t care. He would marry the woman who he loved, and he would keep his brother safe from their father, and after that, nothing else mattered.

So he paced in his study. He drew his sword, the shorter of the two, but somehow it felt like his now. He thought at first he would mourn losing the blade he had given to Brienne, but he knew better now.

I didn’t lose it; I sent it home.

A knock broke his swing, and he felt his body tense as the knock repeated.

With a deep breath, he opened the door to see Sansa Stark, his set-aside fiancee, glaring at him.

She looks at me just like her mother does.

Without a word, Sansa stepped into the room and closed the door.

“Is what Brienne told me the truth?”

Stunned, he could only nod. 

“Because if this is a Lannister trick to humiliate her, do not underestimate the fury I will bring down on you.”

Where has this avenging angel been hiding?  

He looked at her then, and the image he’d had of her, the soft, smiling princess, docile and harmless, vanished and was replaced by the rabid mother bear in front of him. 

“It’s not a trick,” he said, trying to hold back the awe in his voice. “I intend to marry her, if she is willing.”

Sansa eyed him again, the girl he had met last night truly gone, maybe forever. 

“But in secret? You don’t want anyone to know?”

He paused at that, trying to think of a quip to avoid her steely gaze, but he knew it was time for honesty.

“I’ll be going against my father, and I’m willing to do that, but I need to take precautions first. There are...people at risk.”

She wouldn’t understand, she had a father who loved her.

That used to hurt, but not anymore. Jaime had bigger fears now.

“Does she ...,” he asked. “Do you agree to call off our engagement?”

She sighed then, something he hadn’t expected. “Brienne told me what you said about me, and it hurt, but it was no less true.”

She nodded to herself. 

“My father will find another match for me, and you have my blessing to marry Brienne.”

He smiled then, and he felt like a boulder had been lifted off his back. He could breathe freely, his bride would marry him.

“I’ll need to make the arrangements, but it shouldn’t be too long. Can you bring her to the sept at 3 bells?”

She nodded, then left him then.

Now he had a plan, he had to steady himself, he had to keep himself from running straight to Tyrion to ask for his help.

Running would only bring attention to himself, he had to be calm more than anything else.

He closed the door to his steady, telling himself he was only going to the markets, to get some fresh food for his morning meal, when his father spotted him.

“I saw your young bride leaving,“ Tywin said, leaving the challenge in his sentence dangling.

“She wanted to thank me for accepting her,” Jaime said, the lie rolling off his tongue. 

Tywin shook his head. “Northerners,” he muttered. “But it will be worth it when she gives you sons.”

Jaime nodded at his father, the man who was supposed to love him but never had, and left.

***

Brienne woke up from a doze, another restless sleep after a long night of restless sleep.

Was it a dream?

She sat up, and from her bed she could see the sword, that beautiful blade, blinking back at her. 

She couldn’t believe it. Still, couldn’t believe that that golden lion has kissed her, held her to him and asked her to marry him.

And she had said yes.

Sansa had calmly listened to her story, held her hand when she described the dream they shared, and she had even smiled when Brienne told her they had kissed. 

And with a knowing look in her eyes, a wisdom beyond her years, Sansa asked her if there was a chance he had been lying.

No

Brienne had wanted to shout that simple word out, to fight back against the doubt creeping into her room.

But she didn’t.

She had watched Sansa’s face grow hard with a cold rage and she said she would make sure this was no lie.

Sansa had kissed Brienne then, on her cheek, and told her if she was wrong, and that Jaime Lannister wanted to marry her, Sansa would help them find a way.

“Maybe father will let me marry Theon after all,” she whispered with a grin.

And then she left, leaving Brienne to worry.

Brienne let her mind drift back, back to Tarth, back to Hyle and those lords and their cruel sons.

Her father threw her a ball, her first dance. She spent hours practicing steps, and she could move as gracefully on the dance floor as she could during lessons.

But she was still her, tall and gangly, in an ill-fitting gown, looking hopeful for anyone to ask her for a dance.

The first night, she had sat alone for four hours before her father ended the party. She cried herself to sleep that night.

A month later, he tried again, and this time, the boys lined up to dance with her, and she didn’t understand why, but she loved it. They smiled at her, and she shyly smiled back as they held her and fought over who got to hold her next.

She kept that joy in her heart for three days. The boys who had danced with her, and even after the ball, they kept coming to her home, asking her father for permission to spend time with her.

He was happy then, she was happy, but it was a lie.

She’d heard the laughter as she walked through town, and she hadn’t meant to listen in, but they were so loud.

Hyle was the first one she heard. He had given her a book of fairy tales before walking with her along the beach. He had grabbed her hand to hold, and she had squeezed it. “Trust me fellas, I’ll get there first. She’ll open her legs and I’ll close my eyes, and that money will be mine.”

They slapped his back, but another man, Owen, she remembered dancing with him, he had kept trying to cut in, he raised his hand to pat Hyle on the shoulder. 

“If her cunt is as hard as the rest of her, that will be the last time you’ll do anything with your dick.”

More laughter, and a cold feeling gripped her insides. She couldn’t be sure, not yet, they could be insulting anyone.

But she had known. And Hyle had confirmed it all.

“Brienne the Beauty may be barely a woman, but her parts work the same as the rest. And only a few minutes of horror and I’ll find myself a rich man, thanks to you kind sirs.”

He smiled then, and she ran.

She thought she would cry, but instead she grabbed her sword and launched herself at the training dummy, cutting it to shreds as she imagined their faces splitting open under cold gaze.

She did not trust herself to see them again, so when Hyle came back, trying to collect his winnings, she had her servant dismiss him, with a warning to never return. 

He tried of course, but the door wouldn’t open again.

It was a cold revenge, but she was afraid she would kill them if given a chance, so she kept them away.

And then her father had asked her about Verona, and she had gone.

She blinked back the tears at those hateful memories. And she waited.

When Sansa returned, just past midday Brienne had nearly convinced herself, dream or no dream, that this was another bet to humiliate her.

But Sansa came into her room and smiled at her, an open smile full of love and no pity in site. 

“That man wants to marry you,” Sansa said. She pulled Brienne up, and she spun her around, her glee almost at the same heights as when her father had told her she was to be married at long last.

“You’re getting married, you’re getting married,” she said, in a singsong voice as she danced with her friend, her almost sister. 

“He said he would message me when the time was right, and I’ll get you there,” Sansa said. 

Brienne felt something inside of her break, and she couldn’t hold back her tears any longer.

She sat back on the bed, and Sansa put an arm around her. 

“You’re sure?” she whispered. “He wants this?”

She gestured at herself, and Sansa squeezed her tighter. 

“He does. He gave you a sword and now he’s giving you his hand, he wants you .”

She couldn’t believe it. 

But she swallowed back her tears. 

She was brave, in her heart, she could be brave enough to take this chance. Because there was always a chance she would be wrong.

She nodded.

“So we wait,” Brienne said.

“We’ll wait together,” Sansa replied, with one last squeeze of her shoulder.

***

Tyrion looked at Jaime, a hint of a smile on his face.

“So, you want me to convince my septon friend to marry you and a woman who is not your betrothed?”

“Yep,” Jaime said, with a gleam in his eye.

“And then afterward, the four of us will flee to her home, which you won’t tell me where it is, so our father won’t seek his revenge on me?”

“Right again.”

“Which was the entire reason you agreed to marry the Stark girl in the first place?”

Jaime nodded, and he couldn’t help himself, he laughed.

Tyrion laughed with him then. “As long as you’ve thought things through, who am I to stand in the way of true love?”

Tyrion raised his wine cup to his brother in a toast. 

“One more thing,” Jaime said before taking a gulp. “Can your friend marry us today, this afternoon in fact?”

Tyrion nodded. “No time like the present to begin our impending doom.”

Tyrion took another drink. “Father will never forgive you for this. Or me.”

It wasn’t a question, Jaime knew that, but he knew his brother too, knew he wanted to hear Jaime defend him.

“He can’t live forever. And he would never hurt me. And once we have children, the old bastard’s heart will thaw. A bit.”

Tyrion took another look at his brother. He’d never seen him like this; he’d been reckless before, dangerous even, and he’s spent his life defying his father’s wishes in small ways, but this, marrying a woman who was not chosen for him, that was something new, something unexpected from the golden lion.

“I hope you’re right brother.” He stood up and called out to a boy in the hall. “Fetch Septon Podrick for me.”

The boy ran off, and it could take minutes or an hour to find the septon, Podrick was always squirrelling himself away.

“Now brother, tell me, this place we’re going to live...is there wine?”

***

Brienne kept pacing. She’d gotten herself out of bed, put on her lesson clothes, tried to go about her day as if she wasn’t going to be secretly married at any hour, but it was no good.

She could not lie to her family, and the Starks were her family, just as much as her father was. And she couldn’t stop herself from smiling one minute, and crying another, so she kept herself locked up in her room.

Even Sansa, patient as she was, told her she needed to lie down before the wedding. Brienne didn’t blame her, her nervous pacing was enough to drive even the High Septon batty. 

Brienne looked at her dress from last night, and grimaced. She thought about wearing that again, but the Starks were not fools, whatever the Lannisters thought of them. They would know something was going on the minute they saw her. 

A knock on her door startled her so much she nearly squeaked, but it was only Sansa, blushing and holding out a note.

Brienne took it and her heart jumped.

 

My lady Sansa,

It would be my pleasure if you would accompany me on a walk around the Sept of Baelor this afternoon. 

If that pleases you, meet me at the sept at 3 bells. Feel free to bring a chaperone of your choosing.

 

Jaime Lannister

Lord of Casterly Rock

 

The time was nearly 3. Sansa squealed at her, nearly dragging her out the door, but Brienne held her back.

She grabbed her cloak, Tarth in a robe, her father had told her when he gave it to her. It was blue, like the waters she missed so much, with only splashes of roses on the back. And on the back, a sun and moon faced each other, smiling she liked to think, two lovers torn apart by a god too old to name.

She wrapped it around herself, wishing her father was here. Her eyes fell on Jaime’s sword, her sword now, and she grabbed it, wrapping the scabbard around her waist.

“I’m ready,” she told Sansa.

Sansa gave her a look then, a look of confusion. “It’s a wedding, not a war,” she whispered.

Brienne smiled back. “Depends on which side you’re on,” she replied as they left.

***

Jaime grabbed Brienne’s hand as they met outside the sept. He squeezed, and she squeezed back, even as her hand trembled as they touched.

Inside the sept was their future, their lives together, however the fates let them, would begin here. Sansa went in ahead of them, looking back at her betrothed and her near-sister with a smile on her face.

Jaime would not let go of his bride’s hand. He felt that charge again, that spark that lived inside both of them, drawing them to each other, binding them to one another for all time. The septon’s words were only words compared to that. He would say them, and he would mean them, but he knew the gods already favored them.

He stepped inside, walking to his future with his eyes open, when Brienne pulled him back outside.

He looked at those eyes, and there was love there, she loves me, he thought, but then he saw the fear taking root.

“Are you sure?” she whispered. “Please, if this is a trick or a bet, please, just stop it now.”

She pulled her hand back and hugged herself, and his heart clenched at the sight. 

He pulled her arms to him, his hands pressed into her forearms, and she instinctively grabbed onto his. 

“You feel that, I know you do.” He let that charge wash over him, and he saw her in his dream again, a knight but a woman too, with only the sword he gave her, coming to save him.

“You were meant for me,” he told her. “I was meant for you. Now, wench, let’s get in there and show the gods that we’re listening to them.”

He winked at her, and she blushed, her freckled face a deep red. She dropped his arms and took a step toward the sept, before turning back to him.

“But, what about after? What do we do, where will we live?”

He shook his head at her, and laughed. 

“Everyone always underestimates me, even apparently my bride.

He pulled her to him, kissing her and kissing over her questions. “We’re going to your island. You, me, Tyion and his septon friend. Will we be welcome there?”

Home, she thought. We’ll go home.

She nodded. “We can always use another septon. And Tyrion, what does he do?”

“Drinks, mainly, but we can find some use for him no doubt. Maybe he can be a nursemaid for our children.”

Children, I will have children.

Her eyes filled with tears at the thought. 

He held her again and felt the sword at her hip and he found a way to be even more beautiful as he smiled at her. “And of course, you’ll be in charge of teaching our little ones how to fight, both boys and girls.”

Her eyes widened at his words. 

“You are too skilled a swordswoman to not pass on that knowledge. And who knows, maybe we can even roam the island together, teach any bandits a lesson about causing trouble on our island.”

She smiled then, and she knew what he had tried to tell her, what Sansa had tried to tell her, she knew it was all true. He was hers, he was the one to make her happy.

They walked into the sept together, they said the words, he gave her his cloak, and in a burst of inspiration, she took her cloak and wrapped it around his shoulders. The septon hadn’t expected that, but he only smiled at the unlikely duo in front of him.

Jaime kissed her again, kissed his wife for a third time before letting her go back to her home with Sansa.

“I’ll meet you tonight,” he whispered to her. She blushed and nodded at him before kissing him again.

Her Jaime, her husband.

Chapter Text

Brienne held him to her, clutching his naked chest as if he might fade away with the morning sun.

She looked up at him, and he was sleeping, more likely dozing, in her bed. 

My husband is sleeping next to me.

She blushed at the thought, a maiden’s blush, although she was no longer a maid. She tried to hold the pieces of last night in her mind.

He climbed through her window, and he stood before her, a little damp from the rain. He shook his head and his golden hair caught the light and she gasped as the water fell to the floor.

He’s mine. I’m his.

He came to her then, holding her, kissing her. He asked her to undress, and he did the same, looking away from her, giving her the space she needed to be brave.

She wanted to cry as she looked at him, and when she caught his eye, she did tear up. She saw his love again, right there in his  emerald eyes, and she went to him first.

He was tender and kind and either one was more than she had ever thought to expect. When they joined, she felt the spark between them explode and she knew that no matter what happened next, this love would be enough to live on.

She felt her hand move as he stroked her back. She clung to him more as he kissed.

“I have to leave,” he whispered. “I have to, but I don’t want to.”

“Then don’t,” she said, with a laugh. “Stay here in bed with me, and when the servants catch us, Lord Stark will force you to marry me.” 

He laughed too, until his face darkened. He had thought about it, just like she did, but there was Tyrion.

He said nothing though and kissed her again as he crawled out of her bed. He grabbed the pack Tyrion had handed him, and was not at all surprised to find a new set of clothes waiting for him.

“He thinks of everything,” he muttered to himself as he put them on.

Brienne did not get dressed. She stood up next to him, slightly taller than him and pulled him to her.

“You may leave now, but promise me you will come back.” She kissed him again, and this time he clung to her.

How do I walk away from her, he thought. 

But he would, to protect his brother.

“If it is in my power, I will come back to you. I promise.”

And with another kiss, he was gone.

Brienne touched her lips, holding him in place in her heart. She felt a shiver then, as if a malevolent shadow had slipped into her room. She looked behind her, and of course, she saw nothing.

Her heart still fluttered, her eyes were still wide.

“I’ve never …” she started to say but he held a hand to her lips. He nodded, she didn’t need to say.

“I’ll tell you a secret,” he said as he leaned toward her ear. “Neither have I.”

She held that memory to her until the dread passed her by.

***

Jaime climbed down her balcony, with only a little trouble. Once down in the courtyard, he kept to the shadows, it was not quite dawn still. 

He saw her face again, her eyes filled with surprise when he kissed her, again and again, everywhere we could find.

He snuck over the wall, feeling the effort in his muscles, but no less grateful for having made the trip.

Last night was the memory that would power him through what came next. 

He told Brienne they would go to Tarth, and he would keep her and Tyrion and Pod safe there. But it was still a goodbye to everything he knew, to his father and the life he had built here.

It’s worth it.

And it was. But it didn’t mean it wasn’t hard.

So he waited outside the Stark mansion, waited for the sun to rise higher before charging up to the gate.

“I need to speak to Lord Stark and Lady Sansa,” he said to the guard, who nodded. He wasn’t exactly welcome here, but he was allowed to spend time with his betrothed if her father approved.

By the hard look in his eyes, Ned did not. Jaime tried to hold back his smirk, but he couldn’t help himself. 

Jaime bowed in a flourish, even twirling his hands with too much emphasis, knowing how much this irritated the old man was incredibly satisfying. 

“Lord Stark, I would like to have a word with you and Lady Sansa.”

Stark narrowed his eyes, but he motioned to a servant nearby and directed Jaime to his study. And Stark stood there, glaring at him as Jaime smiled without saying a word.

Sansa walked in, followed by Theon and Robb. Theon stood nearly in front of Sansa, shielding her very body from his gaze. Jaime saw the look of loathing in the young Greyjoy’s eyes, but it was nothing new for the Kingslayer. What was new was the hurt behind the rage.

Oh Stark, let them be married, let them love each other.

“Robb, Theon, I don’t believe you were summoned for this meeting,” Stark told them, and Robb nodded, but as he turned to go, Jaime pulled him back.

“Lord Stark, this is not a private meeting, they can be present.”

Sansa stepped out from behind Theon then, looking up at him with a soft look in her eyes. He thought he had seen a quick movement of her head, a shake to tell him not too, but he was here and it was time to do right by his lady.

My wife

“Lady Sansa,” he said the words with a bow, a true one this time. “I regret to inform you that I cannot and will not marry you.”

A silence settled over the five of them as they took in what his words meant. Sansa grimaced, but Jaime suspected only because her father was watching her.

“Very well, Lord Lannister,” she said. She pulled herself to her full height then, which did make her seem more commanding. “Please depart this house and do not darken its halls again.”

Can she do it? Can she get us out of here with only words?

He nodded to her, and he turned to leave, taking two steps until he felt a hand on his shoulder.

“You dishonor my daughter like this? And my house?” Ned took a breath then, the anger rising out of his skin like sweat. “But what else would I expect from the Kingslayer.”

She clung to him, held him close to her as they fell asleep, his hand on her smooth skin and she wrapped herself around him.

He smiled then, and nodded. He pulled himself from Ned’s clutches.

He walked out, back to the courtyard where he and Brienne had sparred, where she had kissed him for the first time, her first kiss.

Had he kept walking, things might have been different. He might have been spared. 

But instead, he stopped, to remember the look on her face as she bested him, him, and he loved her for it.

And as the thought brought a smile to his face, he felt the cold steel poking into his back.

“Turn and fight Kingslayer,” Theon said. “Fight and die.”

***

Brienne had tried to go back to sleep.

She laid in bed, the bed that smelled like him and her, and she tried to hold his memory in place of him.

Of course it didn’t work, and she hadn’t expected it to. So instead, she got up, ate some food she barely tasted then went back to her room.

If the Starks noticed her odd behaviour, she didn’t care. She could always tell them she was feeling ill, they would believe her. She had never lied to them before, and if she did here, it wasn’t exactly a lie.

She was ill, already after half a day as a married woman, she longed for him again, just to see him would be enough.

But it couldn’t be, not yet.

She drew her sword and practiced her lessons on her balcony. It was so light in her hand, it cut the very air around her.

I must be careful, I could really hurt someone with this.

But she couldn’t let it go, it was her now, as much a part of her as its former owner was.

She thrust and parried against her imaginary opponent when she heard Theon’s words drift up to her. 

She looked down at them and her heart froze; Theon had his sword at Jaime’s back and a rage on his face she’d never seen.

Jaime, what have you done?

Without another thought, Brienne ran downstairs, clutching her sword, praying to any god that would listen that she would make it in time.

***

Jaime raised his hands as he felt his heart start to race.

“Greyjoy, I have no weapon. I did not come here to fight.”

He turned to face the young man, and he had to hold back his usual smirk.

Here was a man in love, whose lady has been deeply wronged, and he is here to defend her honor. He saw himself in that boy just then, and he knew, laughing at him would only end in death.

“I have freed her. She is free now,” Jaime whispered, hoping the man before him would hear his words.

“You have cast her aside like a whore, like she meant nothing to you, and I will not stand here and let you get away with it. Draw your weapon!”

Theon had another sword on his hip. With his offhand, he pulled the sword free and threw it was Jaime’s feet.

He is not Brienne, I can best him. But is that what Brienne wants from me, to hurt her kinsmen, even if it’s only his pride? And what of Sansa, she doesn’t deserve this.

Instead, Jaime kneeled. “I yield,” he said. 

The fire in Theon’s eyes seemed to dim at that. He hadn’t expected that, who would expect the Kingslayer to yield, but he did not lower his sword, which was now pointed at Jaime’s neck.

“You yield, like a craven?” he snarled.

The things I do for love

“Yes,” he said. 

Theon took a deep breath, then another and he lowered his sword. 

“I don’t accept that,” he said coldly as he drew back his sword to swipe as him.

Jaime ducked and grabbed the sword at his feet, holding it up, blocking Theon’s blows as every turn. It wasn’t easy to get up from kneeling, but he was the best sword in the kingdom ( Second best), and he knew that if he could just exhaust the young man, the fight would leave him. Theon needed to make his point, and Jaime would give him that, and they could both walk away unharmed.

He blocked and blocked and blocked, and Theon grew angrier, but not stronger. He held him off, but it was frustrating keeping him in check.

Just a bit more, a bit longer.

It’s then he saw Brienne in the courtyard, watching them, standing by with her sword in her hand.

And that look cost him; he didn’t see Theon’s shift in stance, and he didn’t see the blade at his side until it was nearly too late. He stepped aside, and an instinct took over him, the very instinct that knew how to wound and kill any man that dared challenge him.

He lashed his sword across Theon’s back, and he knew the cut was shallow, it would bleed a lot until Theon got to a maester.

“Enough Greyjoy,” he said. “You’ve already dishonored yourself, do not make me best you too.”

A new fury, a cold one, came over Theon’s face as he raised his sword again.

“You’ll pay for that too, Kingslayer.”

Jaime wanted to laugh at him, wanted to scream at him, but instead he raised his sword to begin the fight in earnest, when a third blade met the two of theirs.

“Stop this,” Brienne said. “Theon, stop this.”

She looked at her kinsman, pleaded with him with her eyes. “Sansa doesn’t want this.”

Theon scoffed at her. “You may be talented with a sword, but you know nothing of loyalty. Sansa does not deserve what this filth has done to her, and by the end of this day, he will never forget that.”

Theon yanked his sword back and tried to notch his sword in Jaime’s side, but Jaime dodged, held Theon’s sword, and shifted the blade to the right.

This is the moment that will haunt Jaime, more than a shared kiss with Cersei, or the promise he gave her that he would never be with a woman he didn’t love, more than stabbing Aerys. He will tell himself later that he should have gone left, it would have been harder, but he’s Jaime Lannister, he could have done it. 

And yet, he shifted right, guiding the blade into Brienne’s side. The blade vibrated as it hit her hip bone, and she gasped. 

The world stopped at that moment. He saw Theon drop his blade and as it fell to the ground, Brienne’s britches began soaking up her blood. She held a hand to her wound, but she was already getting paler.

She collapsed while all Jaime could do was stare at her. She kept her eyes on him, and there was no anger, only fear in her blue pools.

She moved her head then, something to her left drew her attention. Theon was looking at her sword, picked it up, getting his hands on her sword.

My wife’s sword.

Jaime looked at him then, and Theon raised her sword, Brienne’s sword, and brought it down on Jaime’s wrist, severing his hand.

And Jaime screamed.

***

In his dreams, there was no pain.

She was alive and he was whole, and they were happy. He saw her again and again, on a beach with stunning blue waters that did not compare to her eyes. She laughed at him, she kissed him, she ran her hands through his sand-encrusted hair.

She did not hate him for killing her.

When he woke, his hand was on fire, which he knew didn’t make sense, because he had no hand. He looked at his stump, wrapped up in cloth, and he wanted to scream but he didn’t have the will.

Good. I’m glad it’s gone.

The hand that had hurt her, killed her, was banished from his body just as much as Theon was banished from Verona.

He’d been dozing, trying to let the milk do its work, when he heard the chatter from outside his room. 

His father was there, with his voice getting quieter, a sure sign of danger. Ned was there too, his voice grave but unbending.

And then the prince, her voice cold and crisp, silencing both of them so even Jaime could hear her.

“Your son is alive, Lannister, and Lady Stark’s ward might not be able to say the same tomorrow. Theon Greyjoy has been banished, and he fled the city before I’d ruled against him. What more justice do you demand?”

Jaime imagined those violet eyes of hers bearing down on his father, even if he towered over her. He imagined his father weighing the risks of his next words and then deciding on silence.

“Lord Stark?” the prince said. Jaime couldn’t imagine him at that moment, but like his father, he said nothing.

“Good,” she said. “I understand this complicates your peace, but hear me, this does not complicate my earlier warnings.”

He heard her walk away. Stark followed her, and Jaime closed his eyes as the door opened. He slowed his breathing down, willing his father to believe him asleep and to leave him to his dreams.

The man said nothing, did not move closer, before walking out again.

Jaime slept more and dreamed more and tried to forget the world.

He wanted to ask the maesters about Brienne, wanted to know if she was alive, but he could feel it, she was dead. 

I killed her.

I killed her.

I killed her.

***

It had been seven days, and Brienne was tired.

She was tired of being fussed over, of maesters, known and unknown, looking her over, poking at her body, trying to see all they could of her flesh to make sure she was recovered.

I’m fine, she wanted to scream. It had been close, she knew that, but it was over. The fever was gone, she had stopped bleeding, and now she wanted to scream at them to leave her alone and see to Jaime, but she knew they wouldn’t listen.

She had asked about him, on the first day, when she was feverish and in pain, and they had assumed her soft woman’s heart had gotten the better of her. They told her nothing (was he dying, was he recovering, was he feverish, was he talking?) and when she asked again, with a clearer head, they still told her nothing.

He’s my husband.

She couldn’t tell them that, not those strangers with their cold hands and colder eyes.

It was Sansa who finally told her what she wanted.

Her face was red and puffy, and there was a hollow look in her eyes that was not there before Brienne’s injury.

“Theon,” Sansa whispered. “He’s gone, he’s home. I’ll never see him again.”

She was a lady, she could hold back her tears if she wanted, but she let them fall. “He hurt Jaime for me, because he thought the man was dishonoring me. The fool,” she laughed, not even trying to keep the bitterness from her voice.

Brienne wanted to ask about Jaime, needed to know how he was, but she couldn’t do it, she couldn’t hurt her friend, her sister anymore. 

So she waited. 

“He’s been with us as long as you have, and I can’t bear the idea of being away from him. He didn’t even have time for a letter.”

And Sansa cried on her lap, letting all of her tears out as Brienne rubbed her back, soothing the girl with a broken soul.

Red faced still, the tear lines still running down her face, she smiled at Brienne. “I have your sword. In the confusion, I took it, I’ve kept it safe for you.”

She smiled at Sansa, stroking her hand. 

She’d forgotten. 

How could I forget?

But Jaime was not a sword, and neither was she. 

“And Jaime?” she asked, her voice above a whisper.

Sansa nodded. “I went to see him. He was dazed and in pain, but he’s alive.”

Brienne did hold back her tears, even though Sansa looked away to give her time to collect herself. Sansa squeezed her hand, and Brienne had to smile then.

Alive, he’s alive, he’s alive.

“I know what to do,” Sansa whispered to her. “I’ve spoken to Maester Tyrion. We have a plan.”

***

Jaime held the vial in his hand and thought.

Sansa had come to him again, with reddened cheeks and puffy eyes, and handed him the vial of poison for him.

“It was for me,” she confessed. “I was going to use it to get away from you, to run away with…” She paled at the thought of the man she wouldn’t name. She shook her head. “It will work, the maester promised me. And I’ve spoken to Brienne, she knows what’s coming. She’s ready.”

With a soft kiss on his cheek, she’d left him. He heard her outside, telling a servant they were no longer betrothed and she wouldn’t return. 

Sansa’s plan was simple; he would take this drug, fake his death, and Tyrion, Pod and Brienne would spirit him away to Tarth and they could live there forever free of his family’s reach.

Sansa’s plan was insane; how could they be sure this would work? In his weakened state, would it just kill him instead? 

Will I wake up at all?

He pulled the vial toward the light, casting a shadow on the wall. He smiled, remembering when he would play shadow games with Tyrion while Cersei just scoffed at her brothers and their fun.

She’s alive.

Sansa has looked away from him when his eyes began to moisten. He felt like she had stitched his soul back together with just a short sentence.

“She’s alive.”

Even the memory brought his tears back.

He looked at the vial again. He could have everything if this worked. His brother would be safe, he would get to live the life he chose, with the wife he chose, and their children.

He’d meant what he told her; he wanted a whole brood of young ones around him, both girls and boys, and he’d train them how to fight, or their mother would, and their Uncle Tyrion would tell them all sorts of bawdy stories they were too young to hear, and the children would love him for it.

And Brienne…

She will make a fine ruler, he could tell. She would best anyone who dared to question her rule, but she would look out for the small folk too, they would matter most to her.

And I’ll be there, Tyrion too, and we can keep the vultures away, let her know who to trust and who to scorn. 

He smiled at the thought. It wouldn’t be perfect, it couldn’t be perfect, but it would be home.

He opened the vial and drank.

And there was nothing.

Chapter Text

Brienne had not gone to his funeral.

There was no reason to. She knew the truth, and even if she hadn’t, there would have been no call for her to go. She didn’t know the man, they weren’t married, she did not carry the sword her gave her.

Instead, she waited.

She had told Lady Stark she would be returning to Tarth in the morning. The woman, like a mother but not her mother, nodded and held her gingerly, trying not to upset her injury.

Brienne had told her the morning, but it was night now, and as she sat on her bed, her travelling cloak around her shoulders ( Jaime’s cloak, she told herself ), she knew that she would be leaving tonight and not coming back.

Perhaps they would come back. Maybe after Lord Lannister’s death (my father-in law’s death), maybe Jaime could return and they could make the peace his father couldn’t.

Maybe that’s what the seven wanted from them, to wait and bring peace to this city on the edge of war. Maybe their love would be enough to heal the wounds of an ancient grudge that no one could remember.

Or maybe they would never come back, living their lives on Tarth until they died, never giving another thought to the city they left behind.

She heard two soft knocks on her door.

Sansa.

She opened the door and she saw the young face of her friend, her sister, and she pulled her to her in an embrace. 

“Thank you,” Brienne whispered. “Thank you.”

She held back her tears, but Sansa couldn’t as she held on to her. “Be happy, Brienne. Take him home with you and be happy. For me.”

“I will,” Brienne promised. “I will.”

***

Jaime looked like he was sleeping in a blue cave.

The candles around him were draped with shawls, giving the sept an icy light. 

But there he was, propped on an altar, as beautiful in death as in life.

He’s not dead.

Brienne shook herself, trying to cast off the unsettling feeling of seeing him dead, but with every limp she took down the altar, that shadow that kept haunting her pulled at her heart. She felt the dread seep into her, even before she saw someone step out of the shadows to address Jaime.

“You’ve killed me,” the man whispered. “You’ve killed me, and that will kill her, and if I could end you again, I would.”

She knew that voice, that heartache. She moved behind him, willing her steps to be silent.

“You had everything, and still, it wasn’t enough. Even in death, you keep us apart.”

Theon pulled a knife from his hip. “I cannot kill you again, but I can make your father wretch at the sight of you.”

He stabbed Jaime in his leg, and Brienne gave us her attempts at stealth. She drew her sword, and as he turned to her, the shock unconcealed on his face, she pointed the blade at his chest.

“Get away from him,” she said with all the malice she could muster. “You want a fight? I’ll fight for him.”

She could still feel the ache in her hip, but she ignored it as she stepped closer to his frightened face.

“He deserves it,” Theon whispered. “He deserves…”

His voice trailed off as the tears fell on his cheeks. Brienne used her sword to push him aside, putting herself between the two men.

“Go home Theon, Verona doesn’t need you. Better yet, take Sansa with you, she’ll go to Pike and be your wife, and her father may even forgive you when he holds his first grandchild.”

She paused as she saw the hope light up his tear-stained face. “But none of that can happen if you don’t leave now.”

Her arm was beginning to weaken, it had been so long she’d had her lessons, but she looked into his eyes. He nodded at her, dropping the knife at her feet and practically running out the door of the sept, running to his future.

Brienne turned to Jaime then, and saw his eyes open. 

“My knight,” he whispered to her. “It was always you.”

It was then she saw the blood pooling around his leg.

She dropped her sword as his eyes shut again. 

She grasped his wound, holding his skin together in her massive hands, the first time in her life thanking the seven for giving her this gift of a giant’s frame.

“Help,” she yelled out. “Help us!”

She heard the feet on the floor, rushing to her, but all she saw was him, slipping away.

Chapter Text

Jaime lived to see Tarth.

The sea voyage was as quick as the captain dared, 3 days along the coast for their unusual party, but he was well paid for the trouble. Tyrion saw to that.

Brienne never left Jaime’s side, holding him at night when the chills rolled over him or giving him water when the fever hit him. 

He was awake for most of it, not wanting to miss anytime with his bride and their new adventure.

He held her and kissed her as often as she would let him, which was often. She cried sometimes when looking at him, and he kissed away her tears. He held on to her when the pain was overwhelming, and she never flinched at his touch.

But they knew.

Tyrion was a gifted maester, but he didn’t know how to heal. And the ship’s healer was no maester, and they knew too, it was only a matter of time before the infection from Theon’s blade took over his body.

And in that time, they loved each other as much as they could.

When the ship approached Tarth, Jaime demanded he be brought to the deck. Brienne wanted to fight him, make him stay in bed, but she gave in and hauled him up to the deck as they approached the dock.

“The water,” he gasped. “It’s you, but not you.” 

She smiled. “Does my home disappoint you? We can go back.”

He smiled. “Never, wench. This is my home now.”

They stayed on deck until they docked. 

“Can you carry me?” Jaime asked as he pointed to the sand. 

Brienne nodded as she picked him up and carried him to the beach below them. She settled him in the sand, and as she went to sit next to him, he looked up at her. 

“Behind me, please,” he whispered. She nodded as she wrapped her legs around him, letting him rest against her chest. 

“If we have a girl, can we name her Johanna?” he asked her. “I like the sound of Johanna Brienne Lannister, do you?”

He ran his hand through his hair, and she kissed his head, feeling the sand on her lips.

“That’s a beautiful name,” she said. “And for a boy?”

“Galladon Arthur Lannister, has a nice ring.”

“Galladon Jaime Arthur sounds better to me.”

He laughed and she saw the blood on his lips. “Good idea, no seconds for me. No child should have to carry that name around.”

He coughed again and reached for her hand. He kissed her hand and squeezed as his breath left him.

“The water,” he said as he gripped her hand. “It doesn’t compare.”

Tyrion found them like that still, wrapped up together as Brienne stared at the sea and Jaime stared at nothing at all.

***

Brienne did not cry.

For one month, she did nothing. While Tyrion preferred to drown his grief, Brienne stayed in her room and did nothing. 

She would eat when prompted, and Podrick never forgot to bring her meals. Sometimes Tyrion would come to see her, sometimes her father would visit, but they agreed to let her be, only checking on her to make sure she was still eating.

The month after that, she would leave her room only at night, her sword at her side, to walk around her castle and long for the man who did not live to see it.

The month after that, she knew she was with child.

The child brought her back. The child, the last piece of her love, was what kept her alive.

She told Tyrion, and he put down the bottle long enough to congratulate her. He took his time coming back, but he was there for her too.

And for months and months, she carried their baby, and she loved it. She prayed she or he would look like his father, but would have her strength, and Tyrion’s wits and her father’s easy smile. 

Keep the best of us, little one, only the best parts.

She wanted to live for this baby, she wanted her baby to have the mother she didn’t get to. But the seven gave her a love and took him away, and when she gave birth to a daughter, the seven were no less cruel to Johanna Lannister.

Brienne felt herself slipping away, and with a surge of will, she urged her body back to life. In that moment, she was the strongest woman in the entire world, and not even a dragon could have defeated her in battle.  But will alone will not stop bleeding, and she held her daughter one time, and Brienne was gone.

***

Tyrion sat at his desk, wondering if he was doing the right thing. His niece, his goddaughter slept beside him.

What do I say?

He wouldn’t tell Tywin about Johanna, she did not deserve such a cold grandfather when she already had one who loved her for the jewel she was. 

And Selwyn had received a raven from Verona already; after his daughter's elopement, Ned Stark was ailing, Tywin too after his sons' disappearances. They had been punished again for their feuding, but this time by the same seven who took their children from them.

In the end, he sent a brief message, unsigned, to each house:

A glooming peace this morning with it brings.

The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head.

Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things.

Some shall be pardoned, and some punishèd.

For never was a story of more woe

Than this of Jamie and his love, Brienne