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Those Deemed Worthy

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This was no life, but it was the one they shared.

Jaime sipped his wine; it was old and sour. He hoped for more work, if only to acquire a better vintage.  He scowled and set the glass down, his eyes drifting over to Brienne who was sitting by the only window. She sat solemn and silent, sharpening her blade with a whetstone.  Beams of afternoon sun came streaming through the shutters, illuminating her fierce and scarred face, the light made the red veins of dark Valyrian steel glow brilliantly. Where Brienne of Tarth lacked outward beauty, her blade more than made up for it. The sword needed no refining; it was sharp enough to split a hair twice over. He thought of telling her so, but there was something strangely enticing in watching her large hands work the stone over the blade.

A knock came at the door. Brienne was the first to move. She sheathed Oathkeeper, setting it down on the table and opened the door slightly. “Yes?”

“A visitor.” The innkeeper’s wife was a weathered surly looking woman who never smiled. She seemed to care little for himself or Brienne, but they paid on time, and she had become accustomed to the occasional stranger requesting their audience. Knowing whatever services it was they provided kept their room paid for, she brought their visitors to their door.

If Brienne had it her way she would patrol the streets like a common city guardsmen, righting every wrong she came across.  She would collapse in the streets of noble starvation if he let her. It was better to wait for the jobs to come to them even if it meant stagnating in this cramped room in the inn.

A slight matronly woman was permitted entry; Brienne invited her to sit at the table and poured her a glass of water.  Jaime stayed where he was seated.  The woman’s eyes shifted nervously towards him and then back to Brienne. Her wrists jangled with golden bracelets, and she hid her expensive silks beneath a simple plain shawl.  Jaime’s hopes of a paying client rose.

“I need your help.  I was told to find you here, that you would help if you deemed it worthy.  Please.”

Ask for the coin Brienne… Jaime thought as he watched the scene play out before him. It had become their routine for her to hear the requests as they came, especially if it was a woman who came knocking on their door.  It was surprising the number of women who called upon their services. Unless the client was a pigheaded male who refused to deal with ‘the woman’, Jaime much preferred to sit back and let Brienne determine the worth of the deed being requested. He held much more regard for her honour over his own, she could do the deciding.

“We will try our best. Please tell me what you need from us.” Brienne spoke clearly. She directed her blue eyes at the woman. On her own face, Brienne wore an expression of concern.

“It is a business partner of my husband’s. I believe he wishes to harm my husband on their next voyage east.  I do not trust him, but my husband will not heed me.”

The coin.  Jaime thought again.

“What makes you so certain your husband is in danger?” Brienne asked.

“I overheard his partner speaking with someone else. It was in the alley behind our apartments’; I was on the balcony and I heard my husband’s partner say, ‘with him gone, we will split the profits two ways instead of three’.

Brienne asked, “Why didn’t you tell your husband this?”

Jaime interrupted whatever response was about to escape the woman’s lips, and he made his way to the table. He leaned forward and asked, “Do you have coin to pay us?”

The woman nodded her head and removed a small leather purse from her hip.  She handed it to Jaime.  

Jaime dumped the contents onto the table. Several gold coins and many more silver ones chimed as they fell against each spilling out over the wooden table. “This will do. “ He said as he dragged the coins back to their side of the table with his left hand. The stump of his right hung uselessly at his side. They’d sold the golden hand long ago.

Brienne guided the coins back into their purse. Jaime smiled at her appreciatively.  Holding the full bag in his teeth, he pulled the strings of the purse closed with his the fingers of his left hand. Once it was shut tight, he let the bag drop into his hand and said, “As you were saying?, Sorry to interrupt.” Jaime returned to his seat and set the purse down on the table beside him. He refilled his cup with the swill he had been drinking.

“Your husband?  Why do you not simply tell him of what you heard?” Brienne asked again.

“Because my husband would kill his partner first, and then he would be put to death. I do not wish to see my husband hanged over this wretch. His partner’s brother has powerful friends. It would be his death.  I know it.” The woman’s voice broke with gasps of emotion.

“Tell us where we can find this man,” Brienne replied.

 

Myr was thriving since the wars had ended. It was a bustling hive of commerce, with  the advantageous position of being centrally located to trade routes from the east and west. But where there was young wealth, there was also an abundance of crime. Jaime followed Brienne down the cramped alley ways, keeping his gaze watchful for any potential threats. It was a routine he had fallen into easily. He recognized this alley they were moving through. This was where they had first made coin from a kill.  Brienne had protested against taking the reward from the grateful man they had saved. Jaime did not protest, and took the offered reward. It was with that coin they purchased and ate their first hot meal in days, they also rented the room at the inn.  Brienne took the bed, as he laid out his bed roll upon the floor. They had been in many cramped spaces during their travel east, and grown accustomed to sleeping near each other. Even if they could have afforded a second room, he wondered if she would have wanted it. As he lay on the floor staring up at the ceiling the idea came to him that it might be viable to ‘help’ others in need. They were excellent killers, it was a skill they could offer.  It had taken some convincing, but in time Brienne agreed, setting the condition that it would be to the weak, innocent, and worthy of their blades.

They had been in Myr for a few scant months; he was escaping from the misery of King’s Landing, having refused to watch his sister be married off to some pretender dragon lord.

 

 


 

 

 He had gone to her rooms the night before the wedding.  He stood and watched her as she readied herself for bed.  Her golden waves of hair cascaded down her back, loose and free, like when she was a young maid. What a fool he had been, thinking that he could plead with her one last time to come away with him; to convince her with tender kisses and promises of happiness and devotion, that if they were together, they would  never want for love again.  He promised Cersei he would do all he could to make her happy, to fulfill her wants and desires. He would have killed anyone she asked, if only she would agree to be his again, to come away with him.  But when he looked upon her face he could see the truth, for the first time he could see it.  Cersei didn’t want saving; she wasn’t unhappy. She was content to marry this king, she wanted to be his queen.  Jaime had managed to endure her marriage to Robert Baratheon; it was difficult at times, but he knew she was disgusted by Robert, and she had despised the man on several fronts.  Jaime had lived through the torment of that marriage, knowing her affections for the man were fabrications, a necessary ploy to please their father.  She had always been his where it had mattered, but now, now she was getting her dragon prince like she had always wanted. And yet he went to her, like he had always done.  It began with a soft pleading hand upon her bare shoulder, “Cersei, don’t turn me away.”

“Jaime, I’ve told you, you must leave,” she hissed in annoyance.

He pulled at her, wrapping his right arm around the small of her back, pressing the gold appendage against her, as he brushed gently against the tendrils of hair at the side of her temple with the fingers of his left hand. “You don’t mean it.  I know you don’t.” His green eyes searched hers for the weight of the truth he knew was there, begging her to deny what she was saying.

Pulling herself free of his grasp she steeled her voice. It was cold and curt as she said, “Leave here now. I never want to see you again.”

She had said those words before usually in a flurry of anger, but he had never seen it in her eyes before. She was casting him out. He had lost her.  The pain of the rejection left him reeling. “Very well,” were his last words to Cersei.

Brienne had been the one to find him. He was sitting on a high balcony, his legs dangling our over the edge. “What are you doing?”She asked quietly as she approached him.

He had been drinking a lot. A wineskin was draped about his neck. It was nearly empty. He finished the flask and threw it over the edge, where it crashed soundlessly into the rocks and waters far below. Grabbing another skin beside him, he threw his head back and let the wine flow down his throat.  His head felt dizzy and his vision blurred. He could no longer feel the winds whipping at the numb flesh of his face.  He couldn’t remember the last time he had allowed himself to get so drunk.

“Jaime what are you doing?”She asked again.

“Go away, wench. Leave me be. Don’t you have small children to scare somewhere with that face?” Even in his drunken state he knew the words were cruel; he pushed the waves of guilt he was feeling aside and took another drink.

“Jaime, please come away from there.  You’ll fall.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, I would never fall, I plan to jump.”  Jaime laughed as he drank more.

“Stop it,” she hissed.

“You’ll catch me, won’t you? You always do.” What possessed him to say those words he couldn't fathom.

Her face softened, and she moved towards him, ever so gently she grabbed him by the shoulders and pulled him from the edge.

He wrapped his arm around her thick neck, accidently smacking her with the flask he still gripped. Supporting his weight she helped him down the dark corridors.

“You’re going the wrong way,” he mumbled. “The White Sword tower is that way,” he pointed with the flask.

“You are no longer a member of the Kingsguard,” she reminded him.

“Oh, yes, I quite forgot.” He could feel himself passing out.

“Jaime, wake up!” Brienne prodded him from his drunken slumber.

“Let’s just go to your room, Brienne.”

“Don’t be an idiot,” was the last thing he remembered her saying.

When he awoke he was still clothed, but he wasn’t wearing his boots and his privy pot sat beside him full of stagnant purple vomit.  Only fragments of the previous night flittered back, and then like a horriblecrashing wave he remembered the pain in knowing today was his sister’s wedding day.

Jaime retched. The vomit spilled out and splashed over the floor missing the privy pot completely just as a maid came in to deliver his clothes for the day. As well trained as the servants employed by the Lannisters were, even she could not hide the disgust on her face as the rancid smell of the room reached her nostrils.

The woman had the good sense to only part the drapes slightly, thus allowing the faintest sliver of blinding daylight to enter, but even that small amount caused his head to splinter with pain and forced his eyes shut.

The servant brought him a glass of water, which he took gratefully. Drinking it down, he shoved the cup back at her and gruffly demanded, “another”.

She poured a second glass and handed it over to him.

“What time is it?” The sound of the bells outside gave him his answer. Each clash and clang felt like thunder in his head, and a stab to his heart. It was done; his sister was the queen again. Happily wed. A feeling that he might be sick threatened to boil up into his mouth again. Jaime steadied himself as he leaned over his knees at the edge of his bed.

“Where is Lady Brienne?” he asked as he spied his boots sitting neatly on the floor under a chair.  She must have brought him here. She had pulled him away from the balcony, laid him in his bed, and he supposed, taken off his boots.

“The Lady Brienne has left for Tarth this morning, my lord.

“What?” Jaime reeled, as he spun to face the servant, the quick motion making his head spin.

“She left for the docks after breakfast.”

Jaime jumped from his bed and as quickly as his hangover would allow, dropped his breeches. The servant woman gasped as she whirled around in her haste to leave the room.

Brienne would leave without a word to me? Jaime asked himself as he threw his soiled tunic to the floor.  He threw water from the basin over his torso and wiped the mess he had made, He fastened his golden hand, and pulled a fresh tunic over his half-drenched form, he ran from the room.

 

The docks were bustling with activity people from all over the realm had come to celebrate the royal wedding.  With its promises of grand celebrations, feasting and drink, everyone hoped to make a bit of coin amidst the frivolity of the city.  Their stupid smiling faces soured his mood further.

In a panic he saw the line of boats bobbing at the docks. There are so many, how am I to find her? Then he spied her. One flaxen head towered over them all. The sun illuminated her in such a way that she glowed. She moved, and Jaime followed, pushing through the crowds, knocking into men and women.  

All around him people were shouting out advertising the various goods they carried and the bargains they were granting in honour of the royal wedding.  

I will not call out for her, like some common merchant, he thought, but when he saw her stepping up onto one of the planks leading to a ship he forgot his promises and yelled out, “Brienne!”

She did not turn.

He pushed through further, accidently knocking into a man carrying a basket of oranges. The man tumbled down with his goods; the fall sending the fruit rolling.  

“Brienne!” Jaime shouted again, ignoring the cussing from the fruit merchant.

Still she did not hear him.

“Wench!” he screamed. He grinned as her head turned to find him.

“Jaime.  What are you doing?” From the expression in her eyes, she was confused by his presence.

Jaime climbed aboard the ship. The crew cursed him and demanded he leave. He had not paid for passage and he was shoved rudely, but he refused to budge.  

“Jaime, get off the ship!” Brienne hissed.

When one of the crew members pulled a dagger, Brienne stepped in front of him, and grabbed Jaime by the arm and dragged him off the boat herself.  “What are you doing here?” She looked angry, but she delivered her words in a hushed whisper.

Jaime stared back into her questioning blue eyes, unsure with what he had just done.  Stupidly he uttered, “You can’t go back to Tarth.”

“We’re leaving.” A crew member yelled down to where they stood on the docks.“Now.”

“I’m coming!” Brienne moved towards the ship.

“What are you going to do back at Tarth?” Jaime spit out, “you’ll stagnate there, letting your skills go to rot.”

She didn’t pause and continued to board the ship.

He shouted out, “Don’t expect suitors to come to you; your reputation is sullied, Brienne!” He knew he was being an ass, but found he couldn’t stop the venomous words spilling from his mouth.  How dare she make me look such a fool? She won’t even look at me.  Finally feeling desperate, he yelled, “Come with me!”

Her head turned slightly, he had her ear.

“We’ll go wherever that boat is going,” Jaime said pointing to the ship behind hers.

She turned to him, her blue eyes shining.  Jaime held his breath she opened her mouth to reply, “Good-bye, Ser Jaime.” She spun abruptly and finished her climb up the plank.

Jaime felt weak and sick as he watched her tall form disappear beyond the railing of the bow. 

The plank was pulled away, and shouts from the boat could be heard calling for the anchors to be pulled.

Defeated he turned back and began a lost and bewildered retreat back to his quarters.  He was damned if he was going to watch her ship sail away. He felt as though he was swimming under a pool of deep water as he moved through the thick crowd of people packed on to the docks.  His head felt numb and his legs thick and heavy as he pushed onward.

Then like a clear ringing bell above the noise of a packed dining hall he heard her voice, “That ship is about to leave.”

Jaime spun, dropping his mouth open in disbelief.  She came back.

 

Chapter Text

The ferocious sea wind lashed at Brienne causing pale strands of her hair to whip against her skin and at her eyes. She pulled her cloak about herself and hunkered in between the nets and crates she had seated herself upon. She was more content in the chill of the salty breezes than within the cramped quarters of the room she shared with Jaime Lannister below.

Jaime was ill with the travel, stuck in a cabin, wrenching and heaving with each swell of wave.  He had been a mess when she saw him on the docks back at King’s Landing and he looked shades worse now. She felt craven hiding from him above deck, knowing he hadn’t the energy to seek her out.

If he chose to… Brienne was unsettled with the thought and unsure of how she found herself on a boat heading to the ports of Myr, and not back to the coasts of her childhood home.

 

Come with me, Brienne…

 It had been almost a plea.

 

The pull to comply with it was only strengthened by his actions the night before.  Brienne shivered remembering him as he draped his limp legs over the edge of one of the many balconies of the Red Keep—watching the wine skin slam into the waters soundlessly below. When she had pulled him back from the edge, her knuckles were white and tense and she held on to him firmly as he swayed in her arms. She half carried and half dragged him back to his quarters. When he fully passed out, she slung him over her shoulder and prayed no one would spy them.  She had not been so lucky; as she rounded a corner, she was greeted with two gold cloaks on duty. their eyes narrowed on her. Her ears were raked with harsh barks of laughter as soon as they recognized it was the Queen’s brother, the once former Lord Commander being carried like a sack of potatoes. It had been cruel of his sister to strip him of his white cloak, when he had fought so hard to return to her. Brienne cast her eyes down as she hurried by them, her ears burned and prickled with their guffawing.  She clutched Jaime tightly, cursing the day they met.

The chambermaid did not leave her waiting long.  Helping Brienne, she opened doors along the path to Jaime’s chambers.  Brienne threw him down on to the bed, removed his boots, and covered him with a thin blanket.  She spied a chamber pot beneath a chair and asked the maid to keep it by his bed.  

“Make sure he stays on his side through the night.” She remembered a northern soldier, who had broken into the stores and guzzled a half crate of wine to himself.  His face was blue from cold but it was his own sick that killed him in his drunken slumber.

“You are not going to stay?” The young girl looked nervous at the prospect of being left alone with him.

She felt a pain of pity for her. He was sure to be in a foul mood when he awoke.

Brienne allowed her eyes to drift to Jaime briefly before replying, “No. I’m catching a boat to Tarth in a few hours.”

She strode to the door before adding, “Do not wake him in the morning and give him water first thing when he does.”

The thought of leaving King's Landing filled her with a sense of immense relief and yet she did not yearn to return to Tarth.  Her father was gone now, leaving her his heir.  She would have a new duty that weighed on her greater than any other.

She had survived Stoneheart, the Blood Mumers, the wars, and the northern winter, and yet she would face them all again if only to avoid the prospects of unwanted suitors and eventual marriage.  To share a bed with a man she loathed, to do her 'duty' - the thought of lying still while he performed his made her weak and ill.

She had followed Jaime north to answer the call of the wall, an attempt to make amends for her betrayal.  He seemed indifferent to her presence, it proved to be more cutting than any sharp tongued barb.  As the days and nights carried on, she found herself wishing for his acknowledgement in some way, even an insult would have been welcome. She was tired of being a ghost in his presence. The other men gave her the same treatments she'd become accustomed to in other camps. Suspicious glances, petty insults, and contempt. In time they too ignored her, and for that she was grateful. 

It seemed Jaime made efforts to avoid her, but as their numbers dwindled, they were forced to travel together, spending long months drudging from one battle to another in cold silence, a gulf of guilt and malice separating them. The night she received the dark words of her father's death, the distance between them lessened. She had crumpled into the dirty snows of their camp and blubbered like an infant.  Jaime had been there. Of them all, he had been the only one to move and comfort her. Even through her grief she had been startled by his embrace, too startled to fight his arms away. She gave into the fleeting warmth he offered.

Frozen tears on a red cloak.

 

After that night, she would watch him each night they made camp, when he would join them by the fire. His beard had grown out, clumped with the snows of the north reflecting off the light.  The sparks of the fire would catch the gleam of green in his eye.  He would say something cutting to one of the men.   As sober and indifferent as she tried to remain, she had not been able to keep the occasional laugh from escaping her lips at his remarks.  His amused eyes would find hers, and she would always look away, and hide her ruined mouth into her scarves.

 One evening while gathering wood for a fire she had heard footfalls crunching into the snow. She unsheathed Oathkeeper, the blade slicing through the air.

“It's me,.” he announced, a huff of breath escaping from his lips.

“You startled me,” Brienne sheathed her sword, taking in the sight of him.  The moon was full that night, casting a pale light upon his golden locks.  Her breath caught in her throat, she thought no man had any right to look the way he did. It had been the first time she had been alone with him in so many months, and her heartbeat pulsed at her ears.

“I came to assist you,”

“I’m fine,” she replied tersely, her tone edgier than she intended. Sheathing Oathkeeper, she pulled an axe from her belt and hacked away at a brittle branch. It was pointless to search the ground for fuel.  

He ignored her and set to chopping at the dead elm with his own small hand axe. The sounds of their chopping away at its branches echoed dully.  

They laboured in silence until finally he asked, "Are you still maiden?"

Brienne stiffened and felt her face flame.  He had asked her that once before...

"That is no concern of yours."

"Who was it?"

She refused to answer him.

"I've heard rumours amongst the men."

"And you would believe them?" She gathered the pile of wood she had worked for.

"Come with me to King’s Landing," he said eagerly. 

Brienne felt her heart beat more quickly beneath her coats. She held her kindling close and tight to her chest, hoping it would drown out the sound of it.

"There will be better prospects for you there. I will make sure of it."

The cold of the air felt like a summer breeze compared to the chill in her veins at his words. It was difficult to swallow, let alone speak. She thought of her father, of Tarth, of her duties.

She steeled herself and answered him without falter, "Your help would be most welcome, Ser Jaime, I gladly accept it."

A strange expression had crossed his face.  His lips parted briefly before tightening."It’s settled then."

 

 

Her hair and clothing were drenched.  She began to shiver until finally the torment of the storm was too much to bear.  She decided to go down below to their cabin.

Brienne felt awkward and clumsy as she lumbered down into the hold.  Lanterns swayed and she had to brace her forearm on the wooden beams as she bent low to avoid smacking her head.

She pressed her palm to their door.

Jaime was spent.  He lay curled up, one hand gripped to the bucket next to him. He was asleep his lips were parched, mouth slightly agape.

As she did not wish to disturb him, she removed her wet cloak, wishing she could take off her wet tunic as well. She made her way over the hard slab of wood that served as her bed stumbling slightly with the movements of the ship.

Jaime groaned lowly.

She settled, hoping he would stay asleep.

This is madness… she thought.  She should be on a boat heading back home. Evenfall Hall was in ruins, but enough remained to be rebuilt. Instead she was on a boat in the middle of a stormy sea heading east with a drunken Jaime Lannister.

 Brienne closed her eyes and prayed the waves would lessen.

 Blessedly, by morning the ocean had stilled and with it so did Jaime’s stomach.  Brienne requested a bowl of weak fish broth. She was too afraid to give him anything else.  

 He took it with shaky hands and without thanks. He sipped at it gingerly with his cracked lips. Then he finished the soup and slept the rest of the way to Myr.

 When they arrived at port, Brienne was equally as glad as Jaime to leave the confines of the ship’s cabin.  As their feet touched the solid cobbled streets, Jaime's colour began to return to its normal hue.

The markets of Myr were dizzyingly busy.  Thousands of stalls were set up at the edge of the docks; merchants selling every imaginable item: crafted goods like the famed laces, carpets and glass, but also varieties of spices, beautifully bound books, and weapons.

"Brienne, we should seek out a room for the evening."  

She had not planned on diverting away from Tarth.  Her purse was light, and she knew Jaime had come with nothing but the clothes on his back. She had enough to feed them and house them for only a few nights.

"Put this in your satchel."  He removed his golden hand and placed it in her palm.

She did not question him and did as he asked.  It was heavier than it looked.  She still felt the guilt like a stab to this day, knowing she couldn't have protected him from the loss of his sword hand.

They reached an inn not far from the docks.  The figure of a dancing woman was etched into the sign above the door.  

The innkeeper shoved a roast slathered in gravy and accompanied by red potatoes before them.  Brienne was glad for the simple fare, not knowing what to expect in this foreign city. For the first time since their journey, Jaime ate with relish

"Jaime, I've only enough for a few days. What are we doing here?"

Jaime stuck a potato with his fork, considered it for a moment the plopped it into his mouth.  He chewed, swallowed, then answered, "We'll think on it in the morning, procure us a room."

The two days that followed he said the same: We'll think on it in the morning, procure us a room...

The third evening, when they were down to their last coin, a fight broke out in the inn between two gamblers.  To her surprise, Brienne recognized one of the men.  He was black bearded and fat around the gut.  His wife and young daughter had the room across from theirs. The wife said little and hid a bruised face behind a cowl and scarves.

"You fucking cheat!" the skinny older man shouted at the bearded one as he attempted to grab him by the throat.  Two others held him back.

The fat bearded man laughed and flung back insults as the skinny grey-haired man was dragged away.

Once the old man was removed, the accused returned to his seat and continued to play dice.

"The air is thick. Let us step outside," Jaime suggested, nodding his head towards the door.

Outside they found the skinny man cursing in the narrow alley, his sinewy hand held to his bleeding forehead.

"How much did you lose?" Jaime asked the man.

"What concern is it of yours?" the old man snarled back.

"He was cheating.  I've watched him two nights now. Same dice, always the same throws."

The man's glare deepened.

"Perhaps you'd like to get some of your coin back?"

Brienne did not like the turn of conversation, but bit her tongue.  Jaime made a deal with the old man to return what had been stolen, minus a fee for recovering what was lost.

Brienne waited until they were well away from the man before saying, "I do not like this. We are not common thieves."

"No, but he is. I did not realize you defended cheats and wretches who beat their wives." There was no anger or malice in Jaime's tone--he sounded as one who was resigned to complete a chore he'd rather not.

Brienne could make no argument.

 

Inside Brienne watched the man more carefully. He played three identical games, and managed to cheat three more unsuspecting men without incident.  When he was through he finished his drink and stopped to speak to the inn keep. Brienne's eyes narrowed as the bearded man placed a few coins in the palm of the innkeeper.

 "You see that?" Jaime asked, his eyes never leaving the men as he sipped from his cup.

 Brienne gave the slightest of nods.

 "Come, let’s follow him." Jaime squeezed her knee; it was the briefest of touches, fleeting and warm.

 Brienne brushed her fingers over the spot he touched before following him out into the night.

 

The black-bearded man swerved down cramped alleys and crooked streets until finally he rested against a wall near the water's edge. He chucked a glob of spit down from his mouth onto the cobbles.  Unlacing his breeches he sent a beckoning wave to one of the many whores who frequented the docks.

 "Take the whore, I'll handle the wretch."

 "I'm not killing a whore!" Brienne hissed at him.

 Jaime gave her a cutting glare.

 Realizing her mistake she tried to apologize, but he cut her off.

 "Just make sure she's quiet." Jaime pulled a borrowed dagger from his belt--the one she kept in her boot.  

 Jaime crept up behind the man.  The black-bearded man’s head was thrown back, his eyes were shutand he emitted a low growl. The whore was bent before him, her head bobbing slowly.  Brienne  wished Jaime had picked another moment to do this deed.  

 The flash of Jaime’s dagger was quick--a slice to the throat followed by a silent trickling of dark blood. All hesitation set aside Brienne grabbed the woman, putting her hand over her mouth before she could scream.

 Jaime cut the man's purse away from his belt, letting him fall to the stones.  He took out a gold coin and flashed it before the startled whore’s eyes.

 "Here, take it.  You can have another if you keep quiet."

 The woman took the coin with a surprisingly steady hand.

 Jaime kept his word and reached in to the stuffed leather purse, pulling out another for the whore.

 Brienne pulled her hand away. The whore kept silent as she pocket the second coin.

 She spun to face Brienne. Her eyes darted upward to settle on Brienne's face with a raspy chuckle she said, "by the crone’s cunt, you're a woman!" Without pause she asked. "What did he do?" Nodding down to the corpse.

 "He was a cheat who beat his wife and child."

 "That all?"

 Brienne nodded.

 The whore bit her coin and shrugged. "What do you plan to do with him?"

 It was a good question.

 It was clear Jaime had not thought of what to do after this point. "What does it matter? Let him be food for the sea fowl."

 "Give me another one of them coins, and I'll see he's taken care of. Better for you the wife and child think he ran off."

 Jaime considered the suggestion before reaching in for a third coin."What's your name?" he asked.

 "They call me Sweet Sherry," the whore grinned seductively as she played with the third coin Jaime handed her. "You come find me here if you get lonely, either of you." she pointed at Brienne and grinned.

 Brienne felt her skin grow as hot and red as an ember.

 "Don't worry about this one.  He'll be gone by morning."

 Sweet Sherry hummed a tune as she sashayed away from them.

 

When they returned to the inn.  The din of the music had lessened. A lone minstrel sat in the corner strumming a sad song. Only a few drunkards remained, sleepily draining what remained of their cups.  Brienne and Jaime moved passed them towards the halls of the sleeping quarters.  Brienne's eyes flitted briefly to the door across from their room where a newly-made widow slumbered within.

 Once inside the confines of their small room Brienne whispered, "We could purchase a second now."

 Jaime stared at her silently.

 "Another room," she clarified weakly.

 Jaime ignored her and dumped a few coins on to the table. He tossed the bag at her. As she caught it, he said, "See that the woman across the way gets this. Do it discreetly."

 Brienne nodded and did as he asked.

 Brienne rapped lightly on the door. She could hear someone shuffling about. The door opened two finger-widths and a small eye surrounded by purpled and yellowed flesh peered up at her suspiciously.

 "I'm sorry to bother you at this hour.  I have something for you." Brienne held up the leather purse, hoping the woman would recognize it as her husband's.

 The woman did.  She opened the door and reached her hand out to take it. "How did you get this?" she asked.

 Brienne stumbled for an answer.

 The woman did not wait for one, "Thank you," she whispered as she retreated back inside her room, closing the door.

 

When Brienne returned, Jaime was dressed only in his undershirt, sitting upon his blankets on the floor, his back leaning against the wall, a wine skin between his legs.  The light from a single lantern illuminated his face.  His green eyes were dark and a smirk touched his lips. Brienne shuffled away uneasily from his stare.  Ignoring him, she removed her cloak and hung it on top of his.

She could feel his gaze as she crossed the room, and climbed into the bed.  The creaks of protest from the wooden frame made her cringe.  She curled up her legs to her torso and hugged her knees.  Her back was to Jaime, but she could sense his eyes upon her. She shut hers and hoped he would say nothing.

 "We've enough for a few nights here, but I would rather find another inn."

 Brienne silently agreed. She did not wish to stay here.

 "You and I will continue to share a room.  It would be foolish to throw away the coin on a second. You need not worry, a maid you'll remain." 

 He extinguished the lantern, the room went dark and thankfully he said no more.

Brienne waited until she could hear his shallow breathing before she dared to turn over. Slowly she willed her limbs to move her to her side. His eyes were closed and the maddening grin that could mean mirth or foul humour was absent in his slumber.  His jaw was prickled with stubble. It had been days since he last shaved.  Brienne wondered if he would ask her to help him again.

 

"I trust you, and only you with a blade near my throat," had been his words on the Kingsroad heading south. She'd felt like smiling when he said those words, until he added, "Cersei would not like to see me looking like the backside of an ox."

 

Brienne closed her eyes and willed away unwanted and foolish thoughts.

 

Chapter Text

“Do you want this one?”

“No, I’ll keep watch.”

Jaime barely let her answer before leaving to head towards the water's edge where the man stood waiting--the man they were sent to kill. The docks were buried in thick fog; it crawled across the water like smoke. The night was moonless and scattered lanterns along the pier offered little light. Fate couldn't have been afforded a better night.

The man stood alone exactly where the woman said they would find him.  They would only have a brief moment before his workers arrived to load his shipment.

Brienne waited for a few paces before following Jaime, keeping a careful distance.  Her eyes shifted in the dark back to Jaime whose dagger was drawn, gripped in his left hand. Brienne listened for sounds of others. The fog was helpful; it not only cloaked them, hiding them from watchful eyes, but it also muffled the sounds of their footfalls.

Jaime glanced back at her briefly, his profile illuminated by the glow of a small lantern.

Brienne nodded, an indication that it was safe to strike.

Quickly, silently, he strode towards the man, snagging him from behind, choking him with his right arm.  Holding him in place, Jaime slid his dagger across their victim’s throat soundlessly, until the man ceased flailing. Jaime removed his soiled cloak and wrapped the man's face.  He dragged the dead man to the edge and with a push he delivered the body to the dark waters lapping at the rocks.

A tiny splash, barely discernible from the crashing waves.

Jaime continued his walk along the pier and Brienne followed.  She increased the pace of her strides until she was at his side. Wordlessly she handed him the spare cloak she carried.

He wrapped it around his shoulders. It would cover any spilt blood. It wasn’t until they were well away from the waters that he spoke, “Let’s get a drink.”

 

It had become a ritual.  They would complete the task, return to the inn, and Jaime would drink himself into a stupor.  Several times she had carried him up the stairs to their rooms, doing her best to ignore the laughter and jeers of others. It was not a routine that she particularly enjoyed.

Sounds of music and drunken revelry greeted them before they entered the inn. As they pushed the doors open, a burst of loud singing voices crashed upon them.  Brienne did not understand their language, but the drunks’ lewd gestures indicated the nature of the song. Brienne hoped that they did not break into any Westerosi songs. Jaime enjoyed joining in when given the opportunity and her resulting discomfiture.

“Two ales to start,” Jaime ordered. They settled in at their usual table close to the stairs away from the crowd. A minstrel started strumming a sweet song; he played and sang so beautifully even the drunken rabble calmed to listen.

Brienne felt foolish, even without knowing the words, his song made her vision blur.

“Are you crying?” Jaime asked.

Brienne used a knuckle to wipe the corner of her eye.  She steeled herself and waited for his ridicule.  To her amazement his expression was not one of mockery.  His green eyes were calm, almost soft.

“Dance with me,” he said--a whispered request that was also half a command.

Brienne stiffened at the notion. Her eyes continued to search his face for sincerity.  

Jaime’s lips parted slightly and licked his lips with his tongue.  He had let his beard grow; it was almost the length it had been when they had traversed the North.

A girl came with their drink and as their cups hit the table with a thud the song ended, and the noise of the inn returned.

The both drank deeply and all the sweetness that has been in the room was carried away with the start of another bawdy song.

Jaime barely finished his drink before standing abruptly from the table. "I'm turning in."

Brienne watched him climb the stairs, thankful she didn't have to drag him up them this evening.  She slunk down into her chair and ordered another ale.  To her right a man held a woman on his lap. The couples’ eyes were locked; she was caressing his cheek; he smiled; and then they kissed, long and lovingly. Brienne smiled sadly, finished her drink and headed to their room.

 

When she opened the door, she could hear his breath--low and even.  He was asleep on the floor. Brienne removed her cloak, sword and boots. His breathing changed as she crossed the room towards her bed.  One night when she had to climb out of bed to relieve herself, she had gingerly stepped around him, and he had moaned "Cersei," before grabbing one of her ankles... gently pressing his lips to her ankle before he would let her go.  The memory of it felt like a scar and she did her best to avoid his reach.

Tonight, she settled under the covers, removing her breeches beneath the sheets as his breathing returned to that of one in slumber. Brienne rolled to her side to face the wall. That night she dreamed of blue waters on a white rocky shore.

 

When she awoke, Jaime was gone.  His bedroll was still sprawled across the floor.  Brienne was thankful she could wash and dress in peace. When finished, she rolled up his bedding and put it neatly on the chair. She could hear him stumbling up the stairs long before his struggle with the door handle was followed by the pounding of his fist.

Brienne rushed to open it for him, afraid he would disturb the other tenants.

“Jaime!" She caught him as he crashed into her. "How in the gods name can you be drunk at this hour? The sun is barely up!"

"Your snoring kept me awake; I had to escape the sound." He clumsily pushed away from her, making his way to the chair. He tossed the folded bedroll to the floor. In his hand, he gripped a wine flask. Pouring himself a glass, he sat in silence, his fist tight on table.

She could sense his mood was darker than usual.  He thumbed the rim of his cup, silent and staring into the untouched wine.  Brienne was conflicted about staying with him. His shifts in temperament put her on edge.  She worried he would drink too much if she left him alone—not that her presence ever slowed his pace. 

Jaime picked up his wine and emptied the contents with one long gulp.  He reached for the flask and refilled. “If you insist on staring at me, at least say something. It’s unnerving.”

Brienne shifted her gaze to the floor.

“It’s our name day,” Jaime said as he cleared his throat.

Brienne said nothing.

“Perhaps I should send her a gift.” Jaime smiled ruefully. "Cherries for me, peaches for her. That was the routine."

He very rarely talked about his sister.

Jaime drank more.  Brienne decided it would be best to leave him be.

“Where are you going?” he barked at her as she crossed the room and opened the door.

“Out,” Brienne said, leaving.  

 

The markets were extraordinarily busy. Most of Jaime and her “work” was under the cover of darkness; it was rare she managed to make it out into these streets when the sun was so high.  The bright and bustling avenues were a startling contrast to the darkened alleys of the night.  Chickens clucked; merchants shouted out in many languages; the good ones usually knew at least three dialects.  Almost all she had come upon spoke the Common Tongue. There was one merchant she was particularly fond in visiting when she could. He was a dark-haired young man, her age, and he possessed an easy nature, always wearing a broad smile upon his lips.  He had the face of one who was untouched by war and loss--something that was so rare.

“Good day, my lady!”  The merchant flashed her a pleasing smile.

“Good day.” Brienne nodded. “Anything new?”

“I’ve been saving this one for you.” He unearthed a basket from beneath a table, holding a small leather-bound tome out for her.

Brienne recognized it before he handed it to her. Songs of Winter… she had a copy in the library back home at Tarth.  Thinking of those books and their fate after the Golden Company had taken her home left a hollow feeling inside her. “I know this one,” Brienne said as she gently rubbed her finger tips over the embossed leather.

“I thought you might like it.”  He seemed genuinely pleased by her happiness.

“I’ll take it,”

As the merchant wrapped the book for her in linen, Brienne noticed a fruit merchant shouting his wares. The words “ripe cherries” caught her attention.

“Thank-you,” Brienne said gratefully, dropping three silver coins into the man's palm. Two months' rent in the cramped room...

“No. One is fine.” The man nodded, pressing two coins back into her palm.

“Thank-you,” Brienne said, pleased with her find and his fairness.

Brienne made her way to the fruit merchant, she pointed to the dark red cherries, “How much for those?”

With her purchases in hand, Brienne decided she had delayed in returning to Jaime long enough.  She hoped the cherries would cheer him up.  Even if they didn’t, she would now have a distraction with the book of songs.  It was easier to ignore his foul moods when she was immersed in a new text.

 

Brienne stopped mid stride at the edge of the market.  A funeral procession was making its way through the street.  Four men carried a dark casket upon their shoulders. Women wailed in ceremony, one familiar face amongst them gave her pause. It was the woman who had recently hired them to dispense of her husband's killer.  She was dressed in mourning clothes, wailing the loudest of them all.

“Pity, isn’t it?” an elderly woman selling woven rugs said, shaking her head as she settled next to Brienne. “Her children all gone and now her husband. Killed by a thief in the night.” The woman clucked her tongue, and shook her head. “He was a good man, always paid a fair price.”

Brienne felt her stomach lurch, and her heartbeat quicken.  It was as though a weight was crushing her from the inside.  The enormity of what Jaime and she had done threatened to overwhelm her. And yet she asked the woman…. “Are you sure that she is morning her husband?”  We saved him…

“Oh yes.  Poor little family.  Poor woman.”

Brienne didn’t know if the elderly woman said more. Her heart seemed to be drumming at her ears. She left the market, pushing through the crowds.

We’ve killed an innocent…. we’ve killed an innocent….  Somehow she managed to find her way back to their room.

Jaime was sitting where she left him.  He looked at her, at first with a glare, and then with concern.

“What is it?” he rasped. “What has happened?”

“We killed an innocent.” She mumbled dumbly.

“What are you talking about?  What do you have?”  

Brienne looked down to the bundle containing her book and the small bag of cherries she had gotten for him.  

“It's nothing.”  Brienne put her purchases down near the bed.  

“You visited the market.  Bought another book?”  Jaime snarled the word ‘book’ like it was a curse.  She could never understand his hatred of the books she procured from the marketplace.

“Did you hear me? We killed an innocent.”

“Who?”

“The man on the docks.  He was not the business partner.  He was the husband,” Brienne said with emotion constricting her throat.

“You deemed the kill worthy.”  He couldn’t have chosen more hurtful words.  

The sting of them struck her hard.  It was true.  She had accepted the task. An innocent man was dead because of her.

Brienne grabbed the small bundle of belongings.  One she kept packed at the foot of her bed. Brienne couldn’t look at him, couldn’t speak.  The room suddenly seemed very small, unbearable.

"I'm going home.”

Jaime stared at her, still, silent and unmoving. It wasn’t until she put her palm upon Oathkeeper’s hilt that the came at her. Quick and sudden. He pushed her against the door, pinning her in. His gaze was searing.

Brienne glared back.

“Why don’t you?” He spat the words out at her.

Her resolve broke and a splinter of emotion crossed her face before she could force her features to be still.

Jaime pounced, catching her moment of weakness. “You don’t think I know why?”

“Jaime, let me go,” Brienne said. She had never wanted to flee from him so badly.  She thought about fighting him, pushing him away from her, striking him down. She knew she could.

“You think I don’t know you think about me?  That you dream of me?” He leaned in closer, the scruff of his jaw brushing against her face, an exhaled whisper at her ear. “That you desire me? I hear you call for me in the night.”

She shivered and her legs felt weak.

“You think I don’t know?” Jaime removed his hand from the door, he lifted some of her hair from her shoulder, twirling it in his fingers. “Ask me to make you stay, Brienne.” His eyes were no longer angry; in them was a touch of fear.

Brienne's heart fluttered furiously as he dropped her hair to grasp her chin, his thumb pressing against her bottom lip.

“Go on.  Tell me,”

She could feel a tear roll down the scarred ruins of her cheek.  The sensation of his closeness made her dizzy.  Yet she could not move.  She was trapped by his strange stare.

Jaime parted her lips with his thumb; he gave a small exhale, as she opened her mouth for him.He leaned in closer, pulling his thumb away, placing his hand upon her neck in a gentle but firm grasp.  “Tell me,” a low growl at her ear.

The tense warmth of his body pressed against her.

“Make me stay,” she weakly choked out.

He attacked her with his mouth--a hungry tongue pressing against her lips.  Wet and wanting, she returned his kiss.  She tried her best to mimic the manoeuvres of his tongue. Her thoughts were a muddling of confusion and a feeling of anxiety that she was woefully inept at this.  She had never kissed a man before.  The more his lips and tongue finessed hers, the more she drowned in his kisses.  Soon she could think of nothing else; she was consumed by his kiss, lost in the feel and taste of him.

“I knew it,” he choked out breathlessly. He bit the bottom of her lip gently and pressed into her. His hand gripped at the back of her head, pulling her hair, holding her in place.

She had a remarkable urge to feel his flesh beneath her fingertips; the strength of the desire overpowered her fear.  Brienne reached beneath his tunic; her fingertips slid over his muscled form--his rib cage rising with each of his heavy breaths.

Jaime helped her, throwing his tunic over his head. His eyes were dark and predatory; it was the same look he wore when they were in the middle of a particularly good duel. “Take of your clothes,” he commanded.

Brienne brought her arms in front of her body protectively.  She had no desire for him to see her naked.  She bent her head down.

Jaime reached for one of her hands, uncurling her fingers from the grip she had on her cloak; he brought her hand back to his bare flesh, and then slowly fumbled with the knot holding the fabric about her shoulders.  

Brienne fought with her desire to keep herself clothed, and to help him whenever he was in need.

The cloak fell in a pile upon the wooden planks.

Jaime loosened the laces at the front of her tunic with an easy pull of the string.  He exhaled slowly and ran his thumb over the smoothness of her neck, stopping briefly as he felt the scars left from the bear all those years ago.

Brienne reached up to her neck, to block him from touching her further.

“Don’t," he rasped.

She obeyed.

Jaime pulled her tunic at the collar, exposing more of her, leaving one of her shoulders bare.  He leaned in, his long hair brushing and tickling her skin. His lips met her scars a tender kiss at the ragged edges.  

The tenderness left her reeling and an unbidden sob escaped her lips.

Jaime paused, only to kiss her again, swallowing up her cries, this time more gently than before. The longer his kisses persisted, the more hungry he became.  Soon he was at her neck again with a series of licks and bites that trailed downward until he found her nipples.  Jaime tore at her tunic, leaving her right breast bare.  He took the nipple in his mouth. 

Brienne gasped at the sensation. Closing her eyes and leaning her head back, she ran her fingers through his hair as he continued to pleasure her with his mouth.

He reached for her right hand removing her fingers tangled in his locks. He kissed her palm. Licking it, he then told her “spit in it.”

Brienne furrowed her brow, shocked with his request--the words of protest caught in her throat.

He brought her palm to her open mouth and said firmly, “do it.”

She obeyed.  

Jaime licked his lips and guided her hand into his breeches.  Her fingers brushed over the coarse hairs, he let out a low growl as her knuckles brushed against the warmth of his hardness.

Holding him felt like the first time she had been allowed to wield a real sword--thrilling and dangerous. Unsure and leery of if she was doing this properly, she studied his face. Now he was the one with shut eyes. A soft hiss of his exhalations blew through his gritted teeth. Brienne tightened her grip slightly, and as she moved her hand faster, Jaime moaned in response.

He pressed his fingers into her arm. “Stop,” he growled.

Brienne froze.  “Am I not doing this right?”

“No,” He flashed a grin at her, breath heavy. “Too well.”

Brienne bit her lip to hold back a smile.

Too quick for her to stop him, Jaime knelt before her, yanking her breeches down to her ankles.

“Stop!” she cried out.

“Hush,” he said as he kissed her thigh.

Brienne stiffened as much as she was able--her legs felt incredibly weak. She could feel his fingers parting her hairs, and the sensation of his tongue sent a feeling of hot want through her.  She reached for the chair, hoping to brace herself.  As his tongue explored further, a small whimper escaped her, Brienne clung to his hair. She fought with the desire to push him back, but the urge to hold him in place was greater.

“Jaime…” Brienne panted in a panic. “Jaime,” she begged.  The moment was building; her breath felt stilted making her dizzy. He would not cease; the dance of his tongue worked at her until finally she cast all modesty aside as she let out one final cry of his name.

He caught her as she sank to her knees, hot and flushed, embarrassed by what he had done to her--by what she had allowed him to do to her, and mostly by her desire for more.

Jaime kissed her lightly upon her sweat-drenched forehead. Sweet kisses that trailed down to her cheek, the tip of her nose, then back to her mouth. “Come,” he whispered quietly as he helped her up from the floor to the bed.

The room felt foggy and the air thick, every brush of his skin against hers sent a tremendous shiver through her.

Jaime sat beside her, a satisfied expression upon his face.  There was no more malice in his eyes and his lips no longer formed a knowing smirk. Instead he stared at her in an unfamiliar, but not unpleasant way.  

He touched her lips again, cradling the back of her head with his hand, pulling her in for another kiss.

My maidenhead...

It was too late to go back to whatever this life was they had been living--not after what they had done.  What was her virginity?  A treasure no man wanted.  If she was to give it to a man, she wanted it to be Jaime… if he wanted nothing to do with her when the sun rose tomorrow, she still wanted it to be him.

Brienne knelt upon the mattress. She leaned with her face away from Jaime, nervous and unsure she prepared herself for him.

“Dear gods, Brienne, what are you doing?”

His words felt like a sharp strike.  She sat down, bringing her knees in tightly together, hugging herself once more. “I thought this was the way…” she said weakly. “My septa told me it was the only way a man would …” Her throat constricted with shame. She could feel her skin reddening as she burned with embarrassment, suddenly wishing she had never tried to explain.

“I’m glad that cunt of a septa of yours is dead, may she burn in the seven hells.” Jaime caressed her arm. He whispered in a hushed gentle tone, “I want to look at those eyes, Brienne.”

The day had been a storm of emotion and uncertainty, her fears and desires fighting in equal measure.  She was not prepared for kindness.  His words lifted some dark shroud that had enveloped her. Brienne turned to face him. He reached for her, and she for him.

She closed her eyes and he kissed her again. She ran her hands through his hair, his face, caressing and comforting him, hoping for what was to come.

Jaime lowered her gently until her back touched the mattress. Hooking one of her legs in the crook of his elbow, he entered her. The brief stab of pain giving way to a warmth she had never known existed.  

Jaime's thrusts became quicker.  

She could feel her cunt clenching his cock, her hips rocking into his, allowing him in deeper. She wanted all of him.

His eyes bored into hers hungrily and it thrilled her.  His hand pinched her nipple, making her cry out and clutch his wrist.  Suddenly, Jaime stiffened and grunted.  Then he became very still.

Brienne felt mournful… it's over.

Jaime lay upon her panting, his muscles relaxing beneath her fingertips.  

Brienne was afraid to move, unsure with what to do, she waited for him.  

“We can’t continue on like this,” he said as he climbed off of her and rolled to her side.

Brienne didn’t look at him. Instead, she focused on the dark wooden beams of the ceiling, a piece of wood that had long ago been attacked by some insect, a trail of paths cutting across the length of it. How many nights had she lay beneath this ceiling?  Listening to him breathing from the floor beside her?  

She could feel him staring at her, bringing her arms up, she crossed them around herself covering her breasts.  She wished for the blanket that lay beneath them.

“Now all those slurs they threw at you, they are true. What are we to do?” he whispered in the dark, his finger trailing across the skin on her arm.

Kingslayer’s whore…

Brienne found courage. “I do not know of what fate lies before you, Jaime, but I am leaving."

 

Chapter Text

“I’m leaving.” She repeated, her words firm.

“Leaving?” Jaime looked bemused.  

Brienne attempted get out of the bed, her skin brushing against his, sweat on sweat, a reminder of what they had done.

He clasped his fingers around her arm, halting her escape.

She opened her mouth to protest.

“No,” Jaime said. His eyes had become dark.

A startling crash came from the door splintering it off the hinges, four guards’ swords drawn smashed through. The table was upset and her new book flew to the floor scattering the cherries she purchased across the room.

Jaime was up quicker than she, as naked as his name day.

Brienne grasped the thin sheet and covered herself, her eyes darting to the foot of the bed where Oathkeeper lay.

“Do not move,” a large man with a scarred face ordered, his common tongue thick with the Myrish accent.

Three swords drawn on his command, pointed at their bare flesh.

“Get dressed and follow me,” the leader barked.

Jaime’s eyes flitted to hers briefly. They silently commanded her... do nothing, say nothing...

“Allow the lady some privacy,” Jaime said as he pulled on his breeches.

The captain ignored Jaime’s request and spoke to his men.  Seemingly on his order one of the guards gathered their weapons.  He unsheathed Oathkeeper and whistled as he inspected the blade. Brienne clenched her fist and willed herself not to move.

One of the guards bound Jaime with a rope, wrapping his arms tightly to his torso. With a shove they pushed him through the door.

“You may dress,” said their captain before leaving her alone in the room. From outside the door she heard him give command to his men. "Watch her."

The lack of a door and a guard watching, offered her scant privacy. Brienne scrambled into her clothes. Taking advantage of the guard's one quick glance away, she grabbed the dagger kept beneath the mattress. She slipped it in at her waist, hiding the weapon within the folds of her tunic.

Once out of the room a guard grabbed her roughly and pushed her down towards the common hall.

The usual busy room was cleared except for the captain, his guards and Jaime.  He must have angered one of them because his lip was busted open and bleeding into his beard.

“Sit,” the captain commanded, motioning her to the chair across from Jaime. Brienne did as she was asked. In silence they stared at each other. Waiting.

The door to the inn opened. A slice of sunlight stretched across the floor, quickly blocked out by another guard and a woman trailing behind.

“Well?” the captain asked.

“That’s them.” Sweet Sherry nodded.

The captain placed a small purse in to her palm, and she was escorted back the way she had come.

“I’ve been searching for you for some time now.  You’ve killed many important men in this city. Rich men with powerful families, all crying for your blood. Demanding it! You’ve made my life very difficult. What are your names?” the captain asked.

Jaime stared at her and said nothing.  The captain said a few words to one of the guards.  One slammed his  fist into Jaime’s jaw with a meaty thud. Jaime shook his head. The captain motioned for his soldier to hit him again.

“Stop!” Brienne shouted.

“Don’t.” Jaime gave her a warning look as he spat blood to the floor.

“He is Jaime Lannister,” Brienne said firmly.

Jaime sighed.

The guards looked at each other, the name ‘Lannister’ breaking the barriers of their language.  The captain squinted his eyes at Jaime. “Is this true?”

Brienne exhaled, relieved. The tone in the captain’s voice gave her hope.

Jaime glared at Brienne.  She ignored his anger and continued, “Look at his arm! It is he.”

The man took but a moment to consider before answering, “do you realize how many fair-haired cripples I arrest that claim to be the Kingslayer all in the hopes of dodging a sentence? This proves nothing! Take him to the cells!”

“No! He is Jaime Lannister! The Queen’s brother!”

Jaime hissed at her, “Shut up.”

“We do not have a queen in Myr.  I said take him away!” the captain shouted.

Brienne panicked as they began to drag Jaime out of the room “Please he is who I say! His sister will pay a fortune for his return!” A guard silenced her with a  smack across her mouth.

Jaime pulled away from the guards, only to be tripped and thrown to the ground. One placed his boot on Jaime's temple. “If you harm her, I promise you will see not see one gold coin.”

 “And who is she to you?”

Brienne froze, dread crawling up her throat.

Jaime looked at her dismissively, “Noting. A whore I met on the docks back at Kings Landing.”

The captain laughed.

“I was very drunk,” Jaime explained. “She’s an innocent. Let her be.”

The captain appraised Brienne, “No. I think not.” He grinned.  “What paying man cares if a whore requires privacy to dress? I do not believe she’s your whore.”  

“She is.”

The Captain raised his eyebrow. “Well, what is one less whore in Myr?”

With another command one of the guards drew his short sword and took three quick strides toward her.

Jaime yelled, “Stop!”

Brienne smashed the back of her head into the guard holding her; a gush of blood spewed across the wood. She grabbed the dagger from her waist and spun the injured man in front of her, using him as a shield.  She held the blade to his throat.

“Let him go, or I will kill this man,” Brienne demanded.

Of them all the captain was the first to regain his senses, “So be it. Kill him, I’ve plenty more men.”

Brienne felt defeated.

“What is it you want?” Jaime asked from the floor. He was still pinned, a knee now pressed to his back. “If you are who you say you are… I want enough gold to get me away from this city and those rich fucks who are demanding your head.”

“Done.” Jaime responded. “Now let us go.”

“I’ll let you go, but her…” the captain pointed to Brienne. “Her, I keep. If I do not hear from you in a moon turn… well.” The captain dragged his fingers across his throat and shrugged.

Brienne pushed the guard she was holding away from her and dropped the dagger to the floor. “Jaime, go.”

“Let’s find this man a boat,” the captain said with a smile.

Brienne gave a relieved breath as she watched Jaime being dragged away.

 

When she awoke her temples throbbed like dull thunder. Her breathing was uneasy and a hood had been thrown over her head. Her mouth was dry, and her shoulders felt tight from having her hands bound behind her back.

Jaime…

She manoeuvred herself up as best she could, sitting on the cold ground she listened, for voices or the sounds of others. It felt like hours had passed before she heard the scuffling of feet. One man's stride and the clanking of a key ring.

A door was unlocked and something was slid across the floor, landing at her leg, a cold splash upon her knee. The smell made her stomach clench. Food.

The hood was ripped away from her head.

Brienne blinked against the guards lantern light.

The Captain muttered, "eat.”

“How am I to eat with my hands tied?” She croaked.  

The Captain held a small wooden cup in his hand.  Without word he set it down and locked the door behind him.

Brienne left the bowl resting at her leg and wobbled on her knees over to the water. She bent forward and lifted the cup with her mouth, slowing tilting her head back... she did nothing more than force water up her nose and down her chin. A few cruel unsatisfying drops landed upon her tongue.

She was able to eat from the small bowl of gruel left for her. On her knees and lapping like a dog.  A watery stew of some kind, its chunks of salted meat were scarce, but she managed.  It was a delicacy compared to what they subsisted on in the north.

Sitting back against the stone wall she willed the throbbing in her head away. There was not much to observe in the cramped dark cell.  The only light coming from a single torch on the wall outside, a feeble light that was dimming.

Brienne lay on her side, trying to find a comfortable position on the dusty hay.  She wondered how long she’d been out.  She imagined Jaime on a boat, his cloak blowing in the breeze as he headed back to Westeros.  She closed her eyes and slept.

Brienne woke with a start.  Something had run across her hair and face.  

She rolled up to a seated position, sweating; the air felt still and thick.

A voice spoke to her from her left. Brienne jumped.

“If I take those binds off your wrists.  Will you behave?”

It was the captain.

Brienne nodded.

As he sliced at the ropes, she thought of a dozen ways to take him down, but as her binds fell away, instead she rubbed at the chaffed skin of her wrists.

“I’ve brought some more food and water.” He gestured to a tray which held water and the same gruel she’d had before.

"Thank-you." Brienne reached for the cup, bringing it to her lips she sipped slowly. The dryness of her throat abated, still without spoon she slurped at the thick porridge. She wondered if Jaime had made it to shore by now.  Where would he go?  His sister...

The visits from the captain became regular. It was difficult to determine alone in the dark, but she thought he visited her once or twice a day.  His short visits were the only interruption to her solitude. There had not been a sound from the corridors or the other cells. Brienne had never been one to seek the company of others, and she thought perhaps it served her well, but the hours spent in the dark were starting to wear.

“Do you know where you are?” The captain asked on one occasion.

A dungeon. Brienne shook her head.

“Not many even know this level exists.” The man ceased speaking while she finished her food, her dirty fingers pressing hard bread over her lips and into her mouth.

“I wonder what is it about you the Kingslayer sees. When I threatened your life he looked as though he wanted to tear my throat out. What hidden charms do you possess?”

Brienne’s muscles tensed.

“Or perhaps I've been made the fool and he is not coming back! And that thought... well..." The captain stared at her coldly.

Brienne chewed her bread and braced herself for a fight.

The captain smirked, "He has three more days. If he does not return in that time, you go to trial.”

“Trial?” Brienne finally spoke.  

“For your crimes. The murders.”

“Why not simply kill me?”

“Because the Kingslayer has severely angered me.  Here, the guilty suffer the fate determined by the victim's family.  I once saw a trial where two thieves were found guilty. One had to eat all the coins from a large purse while the other cut his middle open.  If he found all the coins, he was free to go.  They tossed a coin to see who would be fed, and who would hold the blade.  That was one of the tamer punishments".

Brienne did not flinch.

The man laughed. He left, taking his torch and the light with him.

 

The North had been harsh.  There were few men who survived the march south with all their fingers, noses, and toes intact. They slept in caverns dug into the snow.  Storms howling above them, burying them deeper and deeper.  It was common to sleep closely together, an almost futile attempt to keep from freezing in the night.  Jaime would lay beside her, head down into her shoulder, or hers into his.  She'd listen to his breathing slow as he drifted to sleep.  Once she dreamt she could feel his cold finger brushing against her cheek.  Some men would  go mad during those nights, stripping their clothes and running into the storm.  Once another had cut his wrists open, his blood had hardened into ice, slightly curved by the wind.

"Prepare him, then we keep moving," Jaime ordered.

She awoke hungry again. The mealy stew did little but ebb the raw ache of hunger gnawing at her guts.  It had been far too long since the captain had visited. Another rat scurried across the floor running through her hair. She slammed her fist upon it. Satisfied it was dead she drained its blood into a bowl and ate the meat.  

Still better than the north... She reminded herself. To live through that only to die here in this hole?

A  bitter ache in her throat throbbed as she fought away tears. If I was dead, he would stay away.

She fell back asleep, her dreams turned to Jaime the night of their arrest. His mouth at her throat, exhaling into her hair as he thrust into her, his fingers gripping at her naked thigh as he moaned her name. Brienne... Oh fucking gods, Brienne...

She awoke suddenly, eyes wide in the black cell.

She could hear keys jingling with each step.

She spilled the blood and it spread across the floor.

“Food.”

She did not move.

“Up!”

The captain cursed and fumbled with the keys at the door, unlocking her cell.

She could sense him crouching beside her, opening one eye slightly she watched his fingers dip into the rat’s blood.

Brienne drove her elbow into his guts as she pushed up from the floor, cracking her knee against his face as he bent over trying to gain his breath. Knowing he’d go for his dagger, she reached for his arm.  He screamed furiously at her, his mouth collecting the blood from his broken nose.  Brienne wrestled with him, holding his forearm, keeping the blade away.  She felt weak.

I’ve waited too long.

She clung on to his arm, her vision darkening, giving her head a shake she used what strength she had left and brought her knee up into his groin.  The guard collapsed with a groan of pain. He dropped his dagger to the floor.  Both scrambled for it, but Brienne reached it first. She flipped to her back, straight armed she braced herself as she felt his weight fall upon it.  

His eyes widened in shock.

“You bitch.”

Brienne pulled the dagger free, holding him by the shoulders she ran the blade across his throat. His arms flailed as he gurgled and died.  She lay there weak from the fight.  The captain's blood trickled out on her neck. Warm.

She shoved the man aside with grunt.

She grabbed the captains keys and his dagger, then proceeded to undress him.  

The worn linen was stained. She cursed at herself for being so careless with letting the blood spill so freely.  

Armed with his weapon, she gripped it in her right hand tightly, bracing herself against the wall of her cell briefly before moving beyond the door.  

She had never heard a sound from another, not a cough, or scuff of boot on stone.  She was certain it was her who dwelled on this floor alone.  Eyeing the stairs at the end of the hall, she moved slowly.  

She stood at the stairs and listened, the steps curved upwards, a single torch flickered - yet it was enough to cause her to squint at its light.  Slowly she climbed the spiral.  At the top was a gate of bars, and beyond it a long tunnel.  As quietly as she could she tried several keys before happening upon the correct one. The gate gave a painfully loud squeaking protest as she pushed it open.  She stopped still as the sound of men's voices echoed faintly from down the hall.  Brienne closed the gate and rushed to an alcove carved into the stone.  Once the voices disappeared, she proceeded in her escape.

She stumbled and a moment of faintness threatened to pull her from her senses.  Gripping one of the cell doors she leaned against it, hoping for the dizziness to pass.  A hand grabbed hers, startling her into a shock that made her heart thunder.

The man inside stared at her with wide eyes; he opened his mouth to speak, what came out was a garbled mess of noise.  His tongue had been removed.  Brienne pulled free of his grasp.  The prisoner screeched furiously.

"Stop!" Brienne pleaded "Please! Be quiet. I will free you! Stop!"  The man continued to wail.

She contemplated searching for the key that would open his cell - to get inside and silence him.

The thought was brief, as two guards rounded the corner.  They shouted at her in words she couldn’t understand.  Knowing her disguise was as weak as her legs she braced herself for a fight.  She collapsed to her knees before they reached her.  The sounds of the prisoners hooting faded as she fell to the floor.

 

Not dead.  Brienne thought as she blinked her eyes open. She was in another cell, one with a small window no larger than her hand. Her unbound hands felt the rough spun fabric she was now dressed in. In the room was a small bowl of food.  It was the same grey slop the captain had brought her.

"She is awake." a woman called out from beyond her cell door. She yelled again in the low Valyrian of Myr.

The familiar sound of keys at a gaoler’s belt came briskly down the hall.  Two figures stepped inside.

A pale wispy woman asked, "Who are you?"

Brienne played with the idea of giving a false name, to feign ignorance, to take the beating or torture that was to come for being difficult.  Instead she answered, "Brienne of Tarth. Daughter and heir to Lord Selwyn Tarth."

The woman repeated her words to the guard. After an exchange between them, the woman turned to her again. "How did you come to be in this prison?"

"I was taken prisoner by a guard.  I don't know his name."

The man sneered as she translated.

"You killed him?" the woman asked.

"I did."

"Why did he bring you here? What are your crimes?"

"My crimes are many." She said bitterly.

She told them everything.  The assassinations, the coin she received for it, and her capture at the inn.

As the woman recounted her tale to the guard his glowering face turned to a pleased smile.  He was sure to be rewarded greatly for her capture.

“You acted alone in all this?” the woman asked.

“I did.”

“He doesn’t believe you.”

Brienne moved quicker than she had any right to be able to.  She disarmed the guard, pushed him against the wall, his own blade at his back.  She dropped the sword to the floor and backed away from him.

“I did.” she reaffirmed.

 

The following day the same pale woman came to wash her and comb her hair.

Brienne wrapped her arms around herself, but did not protest. She sat on the small bench while the woman poured it over her, letting it splash down to the floor. The water was cool, and her flesh welcomed the feel of the dirt and blood being washed away. The woman scrubbed her with a cloth before dousing her once more.  The woman did not attempt to exchange words.  And for that Brienne was grateful. When finished with her chore the woman tossed a clean shift on the hay before leaving.

Alone again, Brienne went to the window her eyes feasting on the colours of the sun setting in the west. She watched the golden swirls of cloud change to pink, then red.  She tried not to think of what torture would be devised as her punishment for the deaths of all those men.  Instead she tried to be satisfied that Jaime would be safe.

 

In the morning she had no appetite for the food that was brought.  There was an uneasy stillness in the cells.

The only time there came a startling interruption to the quiet was when a man was dragged out of his cell by the guards.  He screamed and yelled what Brienne assumed was his innocence.  She wondered if there was anyone who would hear or understand her words.  

Innocence was not something should could claim.  

When two large guards came she knew she could have taken them both when she had been first brought to this place.  Now weak limbed and weary she allowed herself to be dragged down the corridor to her trial.

Up more stairs, down another hall, and up another set of stairs again, the men pushed open a door to a startling rabble of shouts, jeers and hisses.  Men and some women sat and stood along the walls of the court.  Most of them were attired in fine clothing and jewels.  Brienne felt like a child at Evenfall Hall again, too many eyes were on her.  With a push she was made to stand on a dais at the center of the court.  She wondered how beastly she must have appeared, covered in flea bites, sunken-eyed, and matted hair.  A brief moment of faintness threatened to take her again - she braced herself grasping at the wooden railing that encircled her,  her chains clanking.

Words were spoken, the high merchants of the city taking their turn to yell, spit, and rage at her.  The women who sobbed were the worst. Brienne felt the guilt like a nail being hammered into her.

One man in the middle of his tirade strode towards her, drawing a dagger from his belt.  He pushed past her guards.  Brienne decided she would not fight.  This could be her quick death.

The thrum of a bow string caught her ear.  The approaching man was halted mid-step - an arrow lodged into his skull.

 

Brienne whipped her head in the direction of the bowman. It was no one she recognized. Her confusion grew.

The quiet interlude of shock wore away quickly in the room as the sound of multiple swords were drawn, guards and high merchants were attacked.  A small army of men worked quickly, slaughtering every man in the room.  It was a brutal and bloody scene.  Not a single man was spared. Unable to escape the women screamed and cried, hovering over their dead.

Jaime moved through the mayhem, striking down a guard who ran up to his right. Pushing him away off his blade, he continued his stride towards her.

His face was sober, eyes steadier than she had ever seen.  

Jaime climbed the dais, and struck at her chains.  Once freed he dropped his sword to the floor and encircled her waist with his arm, the hard metal of his hand at her back.

Finding her voice she uttered, "Jaime, what have you done?"

His hand found her cheek. Warm...

"It would appear I have started a war for you Brienne."