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Jaime was only nine when his mother died. One day she was large with child, happy and smiling. He remembered how she had told him before she went into the birthing room, sweat coating her brow and her eyes bright, “you’re going to be a big brother.” It seemed in the next moment she was in the Sept, pale and cold on a slab of grey-green rock and his brother’s squalling was echoing off the walls of the stone Sept.

It was the last time he saw her. He cried but his father, with Jaime’s new little brother wailing in his arms, pinched Jaime’s shoulder until he stopped. Cersei wept all day, wringing her little hands in her skirts with glassy, red-rimmed green eyes. That night she tried to sneak into his room, as she so often did, but he kept the door bolted.

The next day his mother’s cousin Lord Selwyn arrived.

Selwyn was the Lord of Tarth, a small island off of the Eastern Coast, and his mother had been Jaime’s grandmother’s sister. Lord Selwyn looked older than Jaime’s father, but he had a kind face. He brought with him his son Galladon and his little daughter Brienne. Galladon was two years younger than Jaime, he had brownish blond hair and freckles were sprinkled across his face like sand. His eyes were green like Jaime’s, they could almost have been brothers. Galladon’s little sister Brienne was a mere three years old and had the same dark blond hair and freckles. Her eyes, though, were big and blue and she made much less noise than Galladon, who was rambunctious and wild. Galladon said she had their mother’s eyes. Galladon’s mother had died not long after giving birth to Brienne but Galladon never blamed her and he told Jaime not to blame Tyrion. He’d said to Jaime, on a particularly clear day as they sat on the steps of the Sept that held the body of Joanna Lannister, “it isn’t Tyrion’s fault, how could a little baby kill anyone?”

Not long after the death of Joanna Lannister did Lord Tywin return to King’s Landing and Lord Selwyn return to Tarth. Galladon and Brienne remained at Casterly Rock, though neither Jaime nor Galladon knew why.

They both tried to convince Cersei, after their fathers had gone, but she didn’t believe them when they told her it wasn’t Tyrion’s fault. When Jaime caught her in Tyrion’s room, twisting his pale skin with her thin fingers and sharp nails, he and Galladon started taking turns guarding the nursery like knights. Eventually Cersei stopped coming but the boys kept on guarding the nursery, playing inside with Tyrion and Brienne whenever they found the time and weren’t training with Casterly Rock’s Master-At-Arms.

By the time Brienne turned four, and started following after her big brother and his companion in earnest, she started to come to the yard and watch as Galladon and Jaime trained. Galladon was bigger, taller and stronger than Jaime even though he was younger but Jaime was faster and more skilled. She would sit on one of the barrels in the corner of the yard, her long legs kicking haphazardly against the wood. She was only a foot or so shorter than Cersei already by that time, who was five years her senior. She wasn’t a pretty girl but Jaime never noticed. He and her brother would show off for her and she would always clap and holler whenever he or Galladon would make the other yield. It didn’t matter who the victor was.

Cersei never clapped. She would sit sullenly, doing cross-stitch and watching from an upstairs window with Septa Halisa. Jaime could feel her watching him, he always knew when she was, and would avoid looking up. He was afraid to meet her eyes. He had let her slip back into his room only a few months earlier and she’d taken to coming in every night. She would complain about Septa Halisa and their father, but she hated Galladon and complained that he wanted to steal Jaime from her. She said he treated Galladon and Brienne better than he treated her and Tyrion. Tyrion was three years younger than Brienne, so he remained in the nursery with his wet nurse instead of being able to watch Jaime and Galladon in the yard, but Jaime would have welcomed him anyhow.

Jaime didn’t think for a second that his sister cared for their little brother the way he did, or even the way Galladon did. She couldn't stand even to look at him with his mismatched eyes, dark hair and twisted frame. Still, Jaime denied everything. He told her how he loved her and he loved Tyrion. He would never leave them. Never. He promised this to her over and over as he clumsily kissed her lips and told her he loved her.

He loved her. He loved her. He loved her.

She never fully believed him.

Galladon of House Tarth was eight years old when he died.

Jaime, Galladon and Cersei had stood from the highest outcropping on Casterly Rock and looked down at the green swirling waters. Cersei was red-faced and angry because Galladon was not supposed to be there at all. This was Jaime and Cersei’s place. This was where they sat alone, holding each other and exploring each others differences beneath the glowing sun. Jaime had told Galladon though and the two boys, in a fit of recklessness, had decided to jump from the outcropping into the churning water below. Jaime had seen other boys, older boys, jumping into the waters on the very hot days when they weren’t needed in the yard or the stables. Cersei had followed them but Jaime didn’t mind his sister and let her come.

His head rushed and the wind whipped his long hair around his face and Galladon was laughing and smiling beside him. They asked Cersei to count to three but she refused so Galladon started running first and Jaime had to pick up speed if he wanted to catch the younger boy. Jaime was lighter, more agile, and jumped further out than Galladon without really meaning to. They both screamed as the fell.

Jaime didn’t hear the crack as Galladon’s head struck the rocks. He didn’t notice the red in the water when he surfaced because he was looking up at the sky, at Cersei. He wanted her to clap for them, for him, but she was gone.

She’d had gone to tell their father, who was at the Rock with King Aerys and many of the Lords of the Westerlands. When the Lord of Kayce fished Galladon’s body out of the Sunset Sea, his friend was swollen and bloodless. His eyes weren’t green any longer; they were milky white, like Maestor Durren’s, and set in a face that was thick and purple.

That night Brienne lay beside him, curled around him, her head buried in his chest and her long fingers delicately tangled in his golden hair. Her big, blue eyes were red from salty tears and his chest was wet from them. She was small, smaller than he and Cersei had been when their mother died. He tried to be strong for her, she was only four years old and her brother was the world to her, so he pressed kisses to the top of her head and wept into her hair only when she slept in his arms.

When Cersei tried to get into Jaime’s room she found the door once again bolted.

Every night Jaime would usher Brienne into his bedroom and fall asleep to her twirling his golden hair between her long fingers. Every day he would spar with the Master-At-Arms while the little girl watched, no longer laughing or clapping. Her eyes were narrowed and her brow furrowed as she studied. In the evening sometimes he would let her hack at him with a light tourney sword and give her all the advice he was qualified to give. Sometimes she still wept but only ever at night. Only ever with Jaime.

Cersei had long since quit knocking at his door, he kept it locked once Brienne was inside. She still watched him in the yard, sometimes he caught her angry glares, sometimes he didn’t. He always felt the burn of her eyes on the back of his neck when he fought.

Lord Selwyn returned to Casterly Rock to take Brienne home exactly two years after he left her there, just over one year from the day his son passed beneath the waves of the Sunset Sea. Brienne was sniffling sullenly beside her father and Jaime was furious. Cersei looked quietly pleased and Tyrion, who was only two years old and had never been without Brienne, was clutching at Jaime’s breeches and bawling. Their lord father was not present.

When Lord Tywin did eventually return to Casterly Rock, a sennight later, Jaime demanded to know why Brienne was removed from Casterly Rock. Lord Tywin told him the girl was now the only heir Lord Selwyn had and he wanted to keep her close to Tarth. She needed to learn to look after Tarth in the same way Jaime needed to look after the Rock. When Jaime asked if he would ever see her again, his father told him he wouldn't.

Cersei began sleeping in Jaime’s room again or he in hers, whichever was more convenient. They were once again inseparable until, not even a full year later, when they were both eleven and their father took Cersei to King’s Landing. Jaime was sent to Crakehall to squire for Lord Sumner Crakehall.

He wouldn’t see Brienne for over 20 years.