Cersei had been alone for so long that at times she’d wondered if Jaime would ever come back to her. Perhaps he would die a clean, honorable death by the sword, she’d thought, a death any knight would envy. Or maybe he would be executed by their enemies. She’d prepared herself for the day his head would arrive, tarred and preserved, sent as a message to Tywin Lannister. Tyrion had pretentiously explained her that it would not happen, that the Starks would never risk the wrath of Tywin Lannister when Sansa Stark was a prisoner in King’s Landing. As if she hadn’t know that.
Either way, she’d never imagined this.
Qyburn had left and Jaime was sitting next to her, talking about staying close to her, whispering in her ear, touching her, but it made her skin crawl. The stump. Even though it was now covered by a golden hand, she knew it was there. And she knew what wasn’t. Jaime’s sword hand was gone. His power, his glory, his very self had been in that hand. When she’d thought she couldn’t take one more night of Robert’s grasping and rutting, she would comfort herself with the thought of Jaime bursting into the bedroom and saving her, like a knight from a song. When Robert would flop his fat body off of her and pass out, she’d go to the wash basin and clean herself, dulling the ache between her legs with a wet cloth. Robert had not been a gentle man when his blood was up. She’d squeeze her eyes shut and imagine it was Jaime cleaning her, taking her in his arms, keeping her safe.
But then Jaime had left her, and, while he was gone, she’d taken care of Robert herself. Now her brother had returned a cripple. She could feel the weakness radiating off him as he nuzzled against her neck. He was groping at her desperately like a drowning man, and he was going to pull her down with him.
Cersei stood abruptly and walked away from him. He was grousing now, something about when they were going to fuck. Was that all he could think of? It disgusted her
“You took too long,” she snapped. She hadn’t meant to say it but she did. You took too long.
Jaime’s face darkened like a stormcloud, but then her little maid knocked on the door and saved her from having to speak with Jaime further. She slipped from the room and closed the door, leaving Jaime behind.
“Thank you, girl,” Cersei said to the maid. She’d asked the girl to wait outside and interrupt if the conversation became tiresome. The maid was becoming quite useful.
“Your Grace,” she said and curtsied.
“What is your name, girl?” Cersei asked.
“Bernadette, Your Grace,” she replied. She had a guileless face and often looked at Cersei as if she were some goddess. Perhaps it would do to remember her name.
“Bernadette, you will serve me lunch later in my chambers.”
“Yes, Your Grace,” she replied, her eyes lighting up.
“Good.” Cersei gathered her skirts and headed to the gardens for a walk. She wanted to go back to her rooms and drink wine, but Jaime’s words burned in her ears.
You drink more than you used to.
Fuck Jaime. Fuck him and the fucking sow he rode in on: Brienne of Tarth, that monstrous beast of a woman who wielded a sword and wore armor as if she was entitled to it. She was the sole heir to Tarth, yet she clomped around Westeros without a care in the world. She’d be dead before winter, rotting in a field somewhere, forgotten by all except her stupid oaf of a father who let her run around playing a knight.
Margery Tyrell was just coming in from the gardens when Cersei reached the stone arch entrance. She was wearing one of her usual dresses in the Reach fashion, exposing too much skin to be practical for the coming winter. Margery flashed a closed-mouth smile, her lovely pink lips drawing up like a bow. She thought herself so beautiful, but Myrcella would have put her to shame were she here, and the reminder that Myrcella was alone in Dorne made Cersei even angrier.
“Your Grace,” Margery said and swept into a curtsy with such a flourish that Cersei knew it was meant to draw attention to herself rather than show respect to her. Cersei nodded to Margery and then continued on her way. Fuck Margery Tyrell too.
Later that evening…
Brienne was exhausted. She’d not yet recovered her strength or energy from her many months on the road, and now her first days in King’s Landing had been filled with pressing duties.
When she first saw the Tyrells from a distance, a cold dagger stabbed at her heart. Margery was as beautiful as ever but Loras looked older, his face sharper, eyes sunken. They will call for my head , she thought. She needed to tell Margery her side of the story, she would not rest until she did. The conversation went better than expected, and if anything Brienne was left feeling as if she were the only person still in mourning for their murdered king.
And then there was the trouble with Sansa Stark. She was now married to Tyrion Lannister, and with Catelyn Stark dead, Jaime was trying to squirm out of his vow to send her back home. He looked so different to her as they watched Sansa pray in the Godswood: freshly shaved, hair cut, and wearing the finest quality leathers. His stump was even covered by a golden hand, though he was doing his best to hide it from her for some reason, so she left it alone. So this is Jaime Lannister back in his element, she thought. But he still heard her out when he could have simply sent her away, or worse, thrown her on a ship back to Tarth with orders to stay put.
She was nearly to her room when she passed by a gaggle of ladies on their way to, well, somewhere that Brienne never went. They were decked out in the finest fashion, some wearing the skin-baring dresses of the Reach in an attempt to emulate their future queen. Brienne looked down at the stone floor, instinctively hunching her shoulders as they passed in a cloud of fresh perfume and bouncing curls. What would it be like to fit in? On her way to King’s Landing, she’d almost forgotten what a huge woman she was, but being back in courtly life really hammered home how much she simply didn’t belong. She reached up and touched the short hair at the back of her neck and frowned. It was more difficult than she’d expected, being back, and ridiculously and against her better judgement, she missed Jaime’s constant companionship.
Brienne had seen Jaime and Cersei from afar earlier, Cersei in her long, flowing brocade gown with golden hair streaming around her shoulders. She was perhaps the most beautiful woman Brienne had ever seen, and unlike the hordes of giggling girls that littered the court of King’s Landing, Cersei had sharp, mature features and was, quite frankly, terrifying.
When Brienne finally reached her room she was too tired to even bother getting ready for bed. She’d had a bath that morning and she felt cleaner than she had since she’d left Tarth for Renly’s camp. The maids had gawked at her, certainly, but they’d scrubbed her until her skin glowed and hair shone flaxen in the sunlight. So she kicked off her boots, flopped down on the blessedly soft mattress and breathed in the smell of fresh linens. Before long, her eyelids grew heavy and, with her sword tucked beside her, she fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.
The next morning, Brienne woke to a dark room. Strange, as she’d left the curtains open the night before. She enjoyed being woken by sunlight streaming in the window. Her bed smelled strange, like a fine Myrish perfume, and when she opened her eyes she saw a dark canopy draped around her. What in the seven hells. This was not the condition her room had been in when she’d went to bed, and she was suddenly afraid that someone else was in the room. She reached for her sword, but it wasn’t there, and then she broke out into a cold sweat, her nightgown clinging to her skin. The fabric was softer than any she’d ever felt, but she’d went to bed in her clothes the night before. She steeled her nerves and threw open the canopy curtains that surrounded her bed then swung her legs over the edge and stood.
Except the floor wasn’t there. Well, it was, it was just much further away than she’d anticipated, and she went sprawling face first onto the carpet. She groaned then hoisted herself to her feet. Where was she? Nothing in the room looked familiar. It was much larger and more finely appointed than the room she’d been given. Something kept tickling her face and she brushed at it, only to feel a long curl of hair. She reached up to touch her head and found her hands full of hair, golden blonde and silky. Her breathing quickened and panic set in. She was going crazy, certainly, or she’d been drugged, and she ran to the mirror to look at herself. When she saw the face of Cersei Lannister looking back at her, she fainted.
“Your Grace,” an old, gravelly voice said. Brienne couldn’t open her eyes yet, but she was aware of people standing around her. She was back in bed, and she felt light as a feather, her body barely sinking into the plush mattress beneath her. A cool hand took her wrist and felt her pulse, and she pried her eyes open.
Maester Pycelle stood at the foot the bed, looking down at her with his clouded eyes and sagging skin. He had his long, white beard thrown over one shoulder. Qyburn, the man who had taken care of Jaime’s stump at Harrenhal, was at her side. He was the one holding her wrist. He had a soft, calm expression but his fingers were sharp against her skin, as if she could feel the bones within them cutting into her.
“Ah, there she is,” Pycelle murmured. He looked like he’d just been given a stay of execution. Qyburn said nothing, but he held a candle up to each of her eyes in turn and, apparently satisfied with what he saw, nodded.
“What happened?” Brienne asked groggily, then reached up and touched her face. She felt smooth skin and a fine, regal nose beneath her fingers. Still Cersei’s face, then.
“You fainted, Your Grace,” Pycelle said.
Since when do I faint? Brienne had never fainted once in her entire life. Apparently not only had she acquired Cersei’s appearance but her stamina as well.
“Your Grace, I suggest you get something to eat. Preferably something with sugars in it. My girl, fetch the queen some breakfast,” Qyburn said to the serving girl standing at the side of the bed. She had been nearly wringing her hands with worry and she looked grateful to be given a task as she curtsied and scurried from the room.
“Well, I don’t know that sugar is the answer. The queen could have a the Waking Death or could be bleeding internally, or, or--” Pycelle sputtered.
Qyburn held up a hand. “In medicine, we must first think of both the most likely diagnosis and the most grave.” Qyburn stood up to his full height. He was going to assert his superiority, Brienne could sense it. Her adrenaline kicked in and she waited. “The most likely diagnosis is a lack of sugars, and the most grave would be intracranial bleeding. As she’s had no obvious trauma to the head and her pupils are reacting accordingly, we must arrive at the conclusion of low sugars first. If the treatment does not yield results, then we can explore your concerns of the Waking Death or whatever other obscure diseases you can come up with.”
Pycelle grumbled and gathered up his robes. “Well I’ve never. I will be writing the Citadel today to inform them of your obscene and depraved twistings of their teachings. You won’t be staying long here, I can tell you that with certainty.” Spittle flew from his shriveled lips, the old maester was so incensed. Qyburn did seem to know what he was doing. He’d taken care of Jaime’s stump and rid him of the infection that had set in. But Pycelle seemed to know of some reputation Qyburn had had at the Citadel. Brienne would have to tell Jaime about that, she thought, momentarily forgetting that she was most likely dreaming or drugged or dead because she’d been bloody Cersei in the mirror.
Just then the serving girl returned with a huge platter of bread, jams, bacon and juice. The bacon smelled heavenly, and Brienne pushed herself up in the bed and tucked into the food. The serving girl watched her with a curious eye, and then Brienne noticed she was expectantly holding a flagon of wine and a goblet. She swallowed a mouthful of bacon, and she looked from the serving girl to Qyburn to Pycelle. Each one of them was awaiting a command, she realized. And she needed to sound like Cersei when she gave it.
“Maester Pycelle, Qyburn, leave us. If I have further need of you, I will send for you.”
“Yes, Your Grace,” Qyburn said with an odd tone of acquiescence, and Pycelle grumbled something similar and the two men left the room. The serving girl still stood before her, and she had strange look in her eye, as if she could sense that something was amiss, that her queen was in fact Brienne the lumbering elephant of Tarth. She had to do something. Whatever happened, she knew she couldn’t be found out. They would behead her or burn her for blood magic if anyone knew the truth. Brienne felt her lip curl up. “What are you waiting for? Pour.”
Meanwhile, in Brienne’s room…
Cersei groaned and rolled away from the light streaming in her window. When she found out which maid had opened her curtains, she’d be swiftly demoted to cleaning the kennels. Her pillow felt rough against her face and smelled strange, like the outdoors, and her shoulders ached. Her entire body ached, actually, in a way she hadn’t felt since she’d been a child. It was the lingering soreness of physical exertion, and she wondered what in the seven hells she’d done last night when she’d been in her cups.
I’m not in my room. It smelled like a man’s room, with the faint scentl of oiled steel and leather and even horse and--Gods, what if she’d fallen into bed with Lancel again? She sprang out of bed and hit the floor with a resounding thud. Her body felt heavy but not in a bad way, just more substantial, more significant, taller. She touched her head and felt short, cropped hair, like straw running between her fingers and she gasped. Where the bloody fuck was she? She rubbed her eyes and looked around the room. It was plain except for a sun and moon sigil hanging limply on the wall. It looked like it had seen better days--the fabric was threadbare and faded from the sunlight. The stones of the walls were those of the Red Keep, so she was still in the castle proper. Then she looked down and saw she wore the clothes of a man. Her tits were gone and she groped between her legs half expecting to find a cock there. No cock, but there was a gigantic bush of hair. None of this was possible. I must be drugged. I need to find Qyburn, he will know what to do.
She was about to leave but stopped to look at herself in the mirror of the dressing table. It was of much lower quality than her own, and it took her a moment to make sense of what she was seeing in the foggy glass. Short hair, swollen lips, big teeth. Cersei reached up to touch her mouth. Her lips were rough beneath her fingertips. She ran her fingers over her forehead, stopping on a deep set wrinkle between her brows. Oh gods, I’m dreaming. It was face of Brienne of Tarth staring back at her, and when Cersei sneered, and Brienne’s face sneered back. Gods, she looked fucking terrifying.
Someone knocked on the door.
Cersei thumped over and opened it, and two little maids stood before her. They were so short she thought they were children for a moment, but then Cersei realized that it was actually her that was very tall. The maids looked at her, and Cersei could sense the attitude, the disdain dripping off of them. She clenched her jaw to keep herself from screaming at them. What were they looking at?
“Good morning, m’lady. Would you care for a bath or assistance dressing?” one said, her pert little mouth twitching, as if she was holding back laughter.
The other smiled at her, but it was more of a smirk, and Cersei saw she was carrying a stool. “We’ve brought a stepstool this time so we can reach your tunic laces without you having to kneel.” The other girl was biting her tongue to keep from bursting out into laughter.
Cersei felt a red hot rage boil up in her. How dare these maids laugh at their queen? “Don’t you know who I am?” Cersei said, her voice surprisingly deep and rumbling in her throat. Once these maids found out they were speaking to their queen they would regret the day they were born.
“Lady Brienne of Tarth,” one said in a confused voice, and then she quirked a brow at the other girl. “Are you alright, m’lady?”
“Perhaps you took a hit to the head in the practice yard,” the other girl said and then the maids looked at one another as if they were sharing a secret joke at her own expense. Adrenaline surged through her veins and Cersei advanced out the door, charging like a bull. The maids skittered backwards until their backs hit the wall, and Cersei raised a big hand to each of their throats, pinning them in place.
“You think I’m some sort of joke, do you?” she growled, her fingers creeping up their jaws, roughly turning their heads so they were forced to look at her. She could feel their heartbeats in the blood vessels of their necks, thudding rapidly, full of fear. Good.
“No, no, my lady. We are only here to assist you in dressing. Please, let us go,” she begged as tears well up in her eyes. Cersei wanted to crush their faces right there, but she took a breath to calm herself.
“Alright then, and if I am not a joke, who am I? Say my name.” she commanded, her voice a deep purr, loaded with threat.
“Lady Brienne of Tarth,” they replied in unison.
“Yes, very good.” Cersei’s index finger crept up the side of one of the girls’ faces to stroke at her cheek. A tear rolled down and wet Cersei’s fingertip, and she laughed. “You think your tears will save you? Tell me, if the city had fallen to Stannis Baratheon, what do you think your tears would have done for you? Do you suppose they would have saved you from rape and murder at the hands of his soldiers?”
The maid sniffled and Cersei saw the other girl grasp her friend’s hand.
“No. You would have died screaming, and I would have died with a sword in my hand. A clean, swift death.”
The maids looked sufficiently punished, so Cersei let go of them and they both collapsed to the floor, gasping for air. She’d lifted them clean off their feet without even noticing. They looked pathetic as they scrambled to their feet and ran off down the hall without another word.
Cersei smiled and walked back into her room, but her satisfaction was short lived when she caught sight of herself in the mirror again. Gods, she was the ugly. She reached out a long, beefy arm with the intention of swinging the hinged mirror closed, but instead she ended up turning the whole dressing table onto its side with a loud crash, like it was made of paper and not solid oak. Interesting. She stretched her arms up over her head and felt muscles in her back flexing that she’d never felt before. She looked around for something else to test her strength on, her eyes settling on the bed. Squatting down, she gripped the underside of the frame. Then, with an animalistic warcry, she engaged her thick thighs and strained, lifting the bed off the floor and then flipping it over onto its mattress. Gods, I’m a fucking aurochs.
Something had clattered to the floor, a sword. It must have been tucked in the bedsheets. Cersei strode over and picked the blade up deftly, tossing it from one hand to the other. Then she swung it and it moved naturally, like it was ane extension of her own body.. It felt like magic. Apparently she had not only acquired Brienne’s face but her skills as well. How convenient.
Cersei looked around the room for something to swing at, and the row of candles set out across the hearth caught her eye. She cut them down, slicing clean through each of them with the precision of a battle-honed knight. Then she went for the curtains, and finally with a two-handed thrust she stabbed through the bottom of the bed and into the mattress. Feathers flew in the air, wafting around her like snow, and she let out a cackling laugh. So this was that secret feeling that only men knew--of swordplay, of visceral power that could not be stripped away by anything but the death. Whatever power she’d thought she’d had before, it paled in comparison to this.
None of this made any sense, but she was certain that if she said anything to anyone, they would throw her in a cell and brand her insane. She wasn’t even sure that she wasn’t insane. Either way, there was nothing to do about it at the moment. And she was hungry, hungrier than she’d ever been in her life, like she could eat an entire roast pig.
She splashed some water on her face from the basin and rinsed her mouth out, then she strapped her sword around her waist and strode out in search of breakfast. Perhaps after that, she would try to find the practice yard and test her mettle against some of the squires. Or even a knight. She felt obscenely confident in herself, like she could take on anyone.
“Perhaps Loras Tyrell would fancy a spar,” she said to herself as she descended the steps two at a time, heading toward the great hall.
After Brienne had drunk enough wine to convince her serving girl that she was alright, she ordered the girl away and sat on the edge of the bed. The room swam around her from the drink, and she felt like a bird perched on a ledge, so light and delicate. She ate some bread with jam and was surprised when she was full after only one slice. It usually took a whole loaf before she felt sated. Next she sat down before her vanity mirror and began to comb out her hair, marveling at its length and texture. It was as if it were made of threads of silk, and each naturally curled into a most pleasing spiral. By the time she was finished with that, the wine was beginning to wear off. She felt naked in her nightgown and supposed she should dress herself for the day before anyone came to check on her. Normally Cersei would never dress herself, but Brienne wasn’t ready for the servants to return.
She padded into Cersei’s adjoining dressing room and her jaw dropped. Racks and racks of dresses of every fabric and color lined the walls. Necklaces, rings and ornate hair combs were laid out carefully on tables covered in velvet. Brienne ran her fingers along the fabric of the dresses. Some were made of thick wool, others intricate brocade, silk, and satin, all finely beaded and embroidered. Gods, she had no idea what to wear.
She pulled a one of the plainer gowns from the rack, made of red linen with lions embroidered at the fitted bodice and a full, flowing skirt. Brienne let her nightgown fall to the floor, and against her better judgement she looked down at Cersei’s body. Her breasts were full but they hung down much more than her own. She felt heat rise to her cheeks as she felt them, and they were surprisingly soft and almost shapeless compared to her own, and tipped with dark nipples. Her hands moved to her waist, so slender and petite, but the skin was loose with faint vertical lines zigzagging up and down. And she was soft where Brienne’s own body was hard.
Brienne pulled the dress up and managed to button the back, then she ran her hands down the bodice. It fit like a glove, and then she spun in a circle and let the skirt flutter out around her. Her body moved so elegantly, very unlike her real one would have. She felt like a princess from a song, delicate and perfect, and she quickly stripped off that gown and went to try the next one on.
After a trying on an exorbitant amount of clothing, Brienne finally settled on a blue and silver brocade gown with long sleeves, a high neck and a skirt that was full but not outrageously so. Blue was not Cersei’s color, she thought as she looked at herself in the mirror, but Brienne loved it. If she’d been born a foot shorter, this was exactly the kind of gown she would have worn. She couldn’t help but turn sideways and admire how the gown hugged her tiny waist, and then she nearly jumped out of her skin when someone cleared their throat at the entrance to the dressing room. She spun around and there was Jaime with a smirk on his face as he looked her up and down.
“Blue’s not your color,” he drawled. Her heart pounded in her chest as he crossed the room, pulled her against him and kissed her. Her first kiss. It was hard and needy at the same time, and it was nothing like she’d imagined Jaime would kiss. He would be slow and deliberate and he’d look her in the eyes, and then--she sighed against her own will and he froze. Had the spell broken? Did he realize who she really was and was now disgusted with the whole thing?
“Since when are you such a lovesick maiden?” Jaime said, but he looked almost happy about it, and then he leaned in and kissed her cheek tentatively. He was so hesitant, as if he was afraid to dote on her-- no, not me, Cersei, she reminded herself. He thinks I’m Cersei.
His hands were in her hair and she bit her tongue in an attempt to quell the heat rising in her belly. This was wrong, so wrong even though she wanted it so badly. She felt tears well up and then they were spilling over, running down her fair cheeks.
“Cersei,” Jaime said, and his face was full of bewilderment. His mouth fell open a bit as he looked at her, so taken aback she wondered if Cersei had never shed a tear in her life. “Are you alright? You don’t seem yourself. I heard about this morning. Qyburn told me.”
“I’m alright,” Brienne said. “I’m just a bit--I mean--” and she locked eyes with Jaime, the same Jaime that had revealed the secrets of his soul to her in the bath, had saved her from the bear. I trust you. “I just don’t feel like myself,” she finally settled on. She couldn’t tell him, he would think her mad. And where exactly had her body gone off to? Did Brienne of Tarth even exist in this world?
“Come, it’s alright You should lay down for a bit.” He took her hand in his and stared at her fingers, stroking each one at a time with his thumb. Full of reverence, gratefulness that he was allowed to touch her in this way. Gods, that was sad, she thought, as she allowed Jaime to lead her to the bed. He sat her down then laid her back and covered her with a soft woolen blanket. Then he sat back on the edge of the bed near her feet and looked at her. She felt a blush spread to her cheeks, and he squinted his eyes and tilted his head in evaluation. Oh gods, he was going to find her out right now, before she’d even had a chance to figure out what the hells she was going to do.
“You really don’t look like yourself either.” He smoothed his remaining hand down her leg and then leaned over her. “Are you sure you didn’t knock yourself on the head last night? I know you drank, and I’m sorry if I was pushy when we talked last. It’s just that what you said has had me wondering if--” he stopped and shook his head. “Nevermind.”
“I’m alright. I’ll be alright,” she whispered. He needed to leave now, because if he didn’t and tried to lay with her she didn’t know what she would do. She knew she shouldn’t, but if she didn’t would it make him even more suspicious? And she wanted to , well her body did anyway, and she couldn’t tell if that was something of Cersei left over or if the urge was all her own. It was so deceptive and so wrong, but what was this? None of this could be real, it just couldn’t.
“If you say so,” Jaime replied. “I have to relieve Ser Boros now,” he said and stood up. “I’ll be off duty at sunset...I could come to check on you,” he said. “Perhaps we could take our supper together. Certainly there would be much for the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard and the mother of the king to discuss in the lead up to the royal wedding. It shouldn’t raise any suspicions,” and he looked up at her from beneath his brows, hopeful, like a boy asking something of his mother, like a man who was expecting to be rejected, used to it even.
“Yes, that sounds fine,” Brienne said softly, and gods she knew that’s not how Cersei spoke, but she couldn’t help it.
Jaime smiled a crooked, amused grin. “Well, alright. I’ll see you later tonight then.”
Brienne watched him leave with a mix of confusion and excitement in her chest. She stared at the canopy of the bed, one hand on her belly, feeling the rise and fall of it with her breathing and the thudding of her heart. Jaime would be back tonight. What would they do together? What if--
Brienne threw off the blanket and angrily sprang from the bed.
“I am not some blushing maiden. I am Brienne of Tarth,” she growled, though in Cersei’s voice it sounded more like a suggestive purr. Cersei’s hair was tangled around her neck and she pulled at it in annoyance, then wound it into a bun at her nape. Gods, how could anyone stand having long hair?
With shoulders squared, some of the familiar bravery of her old self was coming back. Her body might still be out there, and if it was, she was going to find it and what it was up to.
Jaime felt light as a feather. Things had not been good between he and Cersei since he’d returned from the Riverlands, but the conversation he’d just had with her made him optimistic that their relationship could return to normal. Even better than normal, truly, if the way she’d allowed him to touch her and take care of her was any indication. Perhaps she’d just been angry with him before. Tyrion had told him that Cersei had prepared herself for the worst, that she’d been convinced Jaime’s tarred head would show up one day on a spike as message from the Starks. Perhaps if he took things slowly and showed her he wasn’t going anywhere ever again, maybe they could come out of this closer than ever. And strangely, he wasn’t even feeling sexually deprived anymore. The intimacy of the moment they’d just had together had replaced his frustration with a warm, tugging feeling in his chest.
He was grinning like a gods-damned fool by the time he found Joffrey and Ser Boros. They were standing on a covered balcony overlooking the main practice yard of the Red Keep. Joffrey leaned over the stone parapets and yelled down into the yard, completely distracted by whatever was going on below.
“Lord Commander,” Ser Boros blubbered and gave him a nod in greeting. The man was nearly as wide as he was tall and appeared to have no neck due to the rolls of chins covering it. What good would he do, Jaime wondered, in a fight to protect the king? What good would I do, for that matter? His stump throbbed beneath his golden hand.
“Ser Boros, you are relieved of your guard,” Jaime said, and at the sound of his voice Joffrey finally took note of what was happening behind him and turned to face Jaime. He wore a fine brocade doublet, swirls of black with red lions on the breast. His pointed face split into a grin.
“Uncle Jaime! You should have told me you brought a freak back from the Riverlands with you.”
Jaime’s heart froze in his chest. Gods, what the hells was Brienne doing? He’d told her to keep her head down, to not attract attention. Ser Loras had not happy to hear she was in King’s Landing. The other Tyrells held no ill will towards Brienne, but Loras was irrational, angry, and grieving. Jaime strode to the edge of the balcony and looked over.
Brienne was in the middle of the yard, watching two men help Ser Meryn Trant off the ground. Blood covered his breastplate and ran in rivulets down to soak the front of his pants. She stood over them, a satisfied smile on her own blood-smeared face, and if he didn’t know better he would have sworn she was gloating . She was a damn fool to attract attention herself like this.
“I’ve been watching her all morning,” Joffrey said and came to stand next to him. He was bouncing on the balls of his feet he was so excited. “She’s sent three squires and two knights to the maesters already. Now Ser Meryn can join them.” Joffrey leaned forward and yelled down into the yard. “Perhaps I should replace you with a woman, Ser Meryn. How can I have you guard me now?” Ser Meryn was too dazed to do much but nod his head in a bow to Joffrey as the men carried him off.
Brienne turned to face the balcony, arms held out wide at her sides, and gave Joffrey a exaggerated bow. Her eyes widened when she saw Jaime, but then she smirked, spit some blood into the dirt and wiped her mouth with the back of her sleeve.
Jaime’s mouth dropped open. What the hells had gotten into her? Was she mad about their conversation earlier regarding Sansa Stark? He had to admit he’d been short with her, but this was wholly unlike Brienne. He had to put a stop to this. He pursed his lips, feeling his nostrils flair and turned to the stairs that would take him into the yard. He had to talk some sense into her. This was foolish, dangerous, and quite frankly unworthy of her.
Joffrey grabbed his arm, stopping him. “Come, she’s just about to fight Loras Tyrell. I think she might actually kill him!” Joffrey’s eyes gleamed and a bit of spittle flew from his lips, he was so excited. “Mother would certainly be happy about that,” he added in his uniquely smarmy way.
Jaime spotted Loras. He was adjusting his gauntlets as he glowered across the yard at Brienne. She sneered at him as they approached each other in the center of the yard. Fuck, she was nearly foaming at the mouth she was so worked up. He knew they didn’t have a good history, but since when did Brienne hate Loras with such a fiery passion? A decent crowd had gathered by now, and then he felt someone brush up against him. It was Cersei, and she gasped when she saw what was going on below.
“Looks like you might not have to marry him after all, Mother!” Joffrey said in greeting. “Isn’t this great? She utterly destroyed Ser Meryn.”
Cersei looked like she was going to be sick. Her face was green and she held one hand over her tiny waist.
“Cersei, are you alright?” Jaime muttered. What the hells was wrong with her now? He figured she’d be delighted to see Loras pummelled even if it was by the “great sow.”
“I don’t feel well,” she said and clutched his arm.
Brienne charged at Ser Loras, and then they were at it. The exchange was fast and furious, and a cloud of dust kicked up around them. Brienne rained down blow after blow and Loras either deflected it or dodged it outright. She fought like she was possessed by some demon, wholly unlike her usual style, but her skill was still apparent. Then Loras misstepped and Brienne connected with a great, two-handed overhead swing. It was a dull blade, but it still made a harsh clank when it connected with the Loras’ left arm bracer. He howled in pain, and Jaime thought for a moment that his arm was broken, but then Loras squared his jaw and lunged unexpectedly at Brienne, and that sent them rolling in the dirt. Brienne finally got the upper hand and pressed her knee into Loras’ neck.
“Yield,” she snarled, but Loras wouldn’t. He looked like he’d rather die than yield, and he was going to get his wish if he didn’t stop being such a fool.
“Stop this, Ser Jaime,” Cersei whispered next to him, and Jaime looked over at her in bewilderment. She never called him ‘Ser,’ but he didn’t have time to think on it, because she rushed away from him and down the steps, her footfalls rapid and rhythmic on the stones.
Jaime took off after her and was only just able to overtake her before she reached the Loras and Brienne. He grabbed Cersei roughly and pulled her behind him, then put on his most commanding voice.
“Stop this you fools, by order of your Queen.” He grabbed Brienne’s arm and yanked her off Loras whose face was purple, and he greedily gasped for air when Brienne’s knee came off his neck. Jaime was expecting Joffrey to chime in any moment in protest at the match being called off, but Joffrey was only laughing where he stood up in the balcony. Apparently this was great comedy for him.
Loras wheezed and rolled to his hands and knees, then he coughed, producing bloody phlegm that trickled into the dirt. Jaime helped him to his feet and looked at his neck, Loras too weak to protest. It was darkened with bruises already and when Jaime glanced up at his face, he noticed broken blood vessels in one of his eyes.
“Apologies, Your Grace,” Loras wheezed and bowed to Cersei.
He’d been too preoccupied with Loras to notice before, but Cersei and Brienne had been staring at one another in silence for the past minute. Brienne had her head tilted to the side as if she were trying to figure something out. The little furrow between her eyebrows deepened. Cersei had her hands clasped daintily at her waist, one brow arched, an awestruck look on her face.
“You’re enormous,” Cersei finally said.
“I mean, I knew I--” Cersei stopped short. “I’d heard you were big, but I had to see you with my own eyes to appreciate it. And your swordwork… it’s impeccable. You move so well. I never knew…” and then she trailed off again and shook her head. Cersei was never one to give a rat’s ass about sparring technique, so this was a very bizarre observation on her part.
“And you are far smaller than I’d thought. A stiff breeze would knock you over,” Brienne said in her melodic, deep voice. Was that supposed to be a compliment? Jaime found that he was speechless. This conversation had gone on long enough. Fortunately, Joffrey called down to them from the balcony.
“Lady Brienne, I would have you fight my dog if he hadn’t run off with his tail between his legs. Now that would have been a match. He left behind an open position in my Kingsguard. I would name you to it.”
“That’s impossible, Your Grace,” Jaime spluttered out without thinking. “She’s...she’s a woman. And her father’s only heir.”
Joffrey smiled, lips thin like a knife. “Uncle Jaime, I am the king. Nothing is impossible if I command it. However, I will give the Lady Brienne an evening to mull it over, though I daresay I won’t take no for an answer.”
Brienne bowed to Joffrey then gave Jaime a cutting look. “I may be a woman but I am certainly more fit for a white cloak than you.”
Jaime ground his teeth together and held his tongue as he searched Brienne’s beautiful blue eyes for a sign that she was lashing out because he’d hurt her, called her a woman, implied she wasn’t fit for a knight’s duty. But there was none. Her eyes were cold as the winter sea. Something deep in his chest hurt; he thought it might be his heart.
“I can’t believe her,” Jaime raged once he was alone with Cersei. It was not wise to speak of another woman in Cersei’s presence, but at this point Brienne had done so much damage Jaime figured it wouldn’t matter what he said or did any more. And he was mad, real fucking mad, and he couldn’t keep it in. “After everything I did for her,” he said then rubbed his wrist as pain shot through his arm. Had Brienne been using him all along? To what end? Now she had secured herself an opportunity to join the Kingsguard, and he knew that Joffrey had phrased it as an offer but the little shit would not take no for an answer.
“I’m sure she is grateful, Jaime,” Cersei said quietly from where she stood on the other side of the room. She had her hands clasped before her tiny waist and she looked ridiculously nervous, wringing her hands together as she looked at anything but him.
“I’m sorry, Cersei, but what the hells is wrong with you?” He moved toward her and invaded her space. Her face softened and her eyes were deep pools of green, open and soulful with none of the wretchedness he’s seen in them only the day before. But she was no wilting flower, either. Her back was straight, shoulders square as if she were bracing herself for battle. All because he’d walked over to her.
“Nothing,” she replied. “I am fine. And Brienne is fine. She can take care of herself, though she should not have spoken to you like that.”
Jaime glowered and let out a mirthless laugh. “She is quite cocky all of a sudden. If I had my right hand still, it would be no contest. I would have her on her ass before she even knew what hit her.”
Cersei scoffed. “But you had two hands on the bridge.”
Silence hung in the air and Jaime watched Cersei’s face fall, guilt-stricken. Now, how would Cersei know about the bridge? No one knew about the bridge except for him and Brienne, and he certainly did not tell Cersei about how the flirtatious escape attempt had gotten them caught by Bolton’s men. And if he didn’t tell her…
“I heard it from one of Bolton’s men,” she blurted out and backed away from him.
“No you didn’t,” he said, his voice low in his throat as he advanced on her. He took her face in his hand and kissed her, her mouth yielding to his in such an innocent way he gasped against her lips. Her hands were in his hair, but they weren’t aggressive or trying to pull his mouth to where she wanted it--at her breasts or between her thighs. Her fingertips massaged his scalp and worked into the tight muscles at the base of his skull.
He slipped his right arm under her hips and went to push her up against the wall, but she protested.
“No, Jaime, I’m too heavy.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?” he murmured into her neck. She must have used a new scent of soap, because she smelled fresh and clean and good. And while his cock was hard and earnestly bulging against his pants, he was content to simply be close to her, to touch her and kiss her.
She whimpered when she felt his cock against her thigh, and then she put a hand on his chest. “I can’t do this; its wrong.”
“ Now it’s wrong?” Jaime asked, pulling back. He should have known Cersei was playing some game with him. The way he was feeling was too good to be true. He let Cersei slide back down the wall to her feet. His golden hand pulled on the scar tissue of his stump and he braced himself against the wall, his left hand next to her head. “It’s the stump,” he said plainly. “You’re repulsed by it.”
“No, Jaime, it’s not that at all, I just--” she stopped mid sentence and grabbed the puckered flesh of his right wrist and pulled it against her chest. Beneath her ribs, he could feel her heart pounding. Her eyes shone with tears, and Jaime put his hand against her cheek.
“What is it? You can tell me.”
“It’s not you, its me. I’m not myself .”
He thought he could see straight down into the depths of her soul, her eyes were so crystal clear. Wide and innocent and guileless and so much like...Brienne’s eyes. Her chin trembled, and then he knew. It was completely insane, but somehow it was Brienne who stood before him, not Cersei. Brienne who he’d kissed.
“You’ve never been too heavy for me. I’ve told you before I’m strong enough.” He narrowed his eyes and gauged her reaction. Her expression turned to one of horrified embarrassment and her hands went to her face.
“I feel sick,” she moaned and Jaime picked her up and carried her to bed. He laid her back on the pillows and pulled the blankets up. Her face was ghostly white with a sheen of cold sweat across her brow. “I can’t stand this body,” she mumbled. “I feel so weak.”
Jaime nodded. “Brienne I think you need a sip of wine.” Cersei had been drinking even more than Jaime had thought, and now her body craved more. He’d seen men reduced to sweaty piles of flesh, ranting and raving and screaming in agony if they didn’t get their daily drink. He poured a small amount of wine from the decanter on the bedside table into a goblet and helped Brienne hold it to her lips. She gagged once but managed to get it down. He wanted to smooth her hair from her face, but now that he knew it was Brienne in there, he was nervous to touch her. Even though she has already felt my cock jutting against her thigh. She’d made a little moan in her throat when she’d felt it--of pleasure or terror he couldn’t say.
“Jaime, you need to stop her,” she said hoarsely as she laid back on the pillow.
“You mean the other Brienne?” he asked, not quite putting it together yet.
“It’s not just another Brienne. It’s Cersei using my body, and I am afraid of what she will do next. I fear for Lady Sansa’s safety.”
Cersei was in Brienne’s body? Brienne’s behavior in the yard had been very Cersei-esque. He supposed that only made sense, as if any of this made sense, but gods, giving Cersei that kind of power was like was like giving a madman a cache of wildfire.
Brienne suddenly sat up and hauled herself out of bed. She had that stubborn tightness in her jaw that Jaime knew only too well. He was about to push her back into bed, something that would have been much easier to do with her trapped in Cersei’s tiny body, but she put her hand up to stop him.
“I’m going to speak with King Joffrey. We may not be able to return Lady Sansa to her mother, but we can at least get her out of King’s Landing.” She smoothed her skirts and attempted to fix the mussed curls of her hair then sighed in exasperation and abandoned the effort. “She would be safer at Casterly Rock, and the sooner the better.”
She was out the door and gone before Jaime could even muster up a protest.
Brienne was panting by the time she found Joffrey. Between the tight bodice of her dress that restricted her breathing and Cersei’s short legs, she wasn’t getting anywhere fast these days. Surprisingly, Brienne found him in one of the last places she thought she would, still standing on the balcony overlooking the training yard. He was watching two squires bash each other around with morningstars.
“Mother,” he said in greeting, barely turning to look at her. “Come to nag me about the wedding?”
What a little shit. “Can a mother not visit her son without reason?”
“Not you,” he answered, but his attention was on the boys in the yard below. Joffrey’s eyes were like daggers, sharp and dancing as he watched their every move. It reminded Brienne of Jaime, and even though the circumstances that had created Joffrey were so wrong, it made Brienne sad that the boy would never know his true father.
“I will cut right to the point,” Brienne said and stood next to him. “Lady Sansa is the key to the north. Her marriage to Tyrion is extremely beneficial to your reign. If something should happen to Lady Sansa before an heir is produced…” Brienne trailed off. She knew it would be better if Joffrey came to the conclusion himself.
“You’re saying she is not safe here in my court? That someone would have the audacity to murder a member of the king’s family?” Joffrey scoffed, and his head bobbed a bit as he thought on it, then his lips turned into a scowl. “They would be fools to try such a thing.”
“Certainly if a thing like that were to happen, we would repay the debt tenfold, but the damage would already be done,” Brienne replied. Her gaze had drifted down to watch the sparring below. The morningstars were put away and now the squires were using tourney blades.
“I will send them to the Rock,” Joffrey declared. “It will get that traitorous little bitch out of my sight, and then maybe Uncle Tyrion will stop fucking whores instead of his own wife.”
Brienne had to swallow back the urge to gag at his words, but she managed it. “Excellent idea.”
They watched the spar in silence, Brienne with her usual critical eye. The smaller boy was fast but kept bouncing around, swinging without thought. He’d wear himself out eventually. The bigger one was patient. It had been surreal to watch her own self sparring Loras earlier. She’d always imagined herself to look like a fool, like a huge, graceless oaf. So she’d been surprised to see that she actually looked quite impressive with a sword in her hand, and the sight had left her somewhat awestruck.
“I take the big one to win,” Brienne said without thinking. She grimaced internally the moment she said it. Cersei would never take interest in this.
“As do I,” Joffrey replied. “You have a good eye, Mother.” He even flashed her a smile. He was nowhere near as handsome as Jaime, but Brienne could see something of his father in him. As for personality, he’d inherited some horrific amalgamation of the worst traits of both his parents. Cocky and cruel to name a few. At least convincing him to send Sansa to Casterly Rock had been simple; she hadn’t expected that the be so easy. He seemed to enjoy swordplay, and it made her wonder something.
“Why aren’t you down there?” she asked.
“A king has people to do his fighting for him,” Joffrey replied flippantly.
“Your father was a brilliant warrior,” Brienne said. It was true of both Robert and Jaime. “He killed a Targaryen to secure the throne.” Also true. “Skill with a blade is something that must be earned and that no one can take away from you. Crowns can be stripped and lands lost, but you cannot take a man’s sword from him.”
“They took Uncle Jaime’s,” Joffrey replied.
Brienne had to give him that, it was a cunning answer, but she forged on. “The best thing for a king is to command the respect of his people. Leading his men into battle gives them reason to respect him.”
Joffrey turned on her, glowering. “ You’re the one who made me leave the battle.” His voice was icy and cut like a knife. “You made me,” he repeated and his face softened to one of confusion. “I should have stayed, and instead you made me look like a coward.”
She felt sorry for him, then. He was a cruel, vicious boy, but Brienne was starting to realize that he’d never had a chance. Someone had missed the opportunity to attempt to set him straight long ago.
“You should have stayed, I’m sorry,” Brienne replied. She wasn’t sure which battle he was referencing, but she assumed he meant the recent siege. “It’s not too late, though. Why don’t you go down there and spar. I’ll watch you. You could be great like your father.”
Joffrey shook his head. “I’m smaller than he was. I’m too small.” He ground his teeth together and for a moment Brienne thought she saw a tear in his eye. Gods, this was not what she had come down here to talk about, but she couldn’t stop now.
“Excuses,” she hammered on, “the crannogmen are small, some much smaller than you. But tell me, would you like to meet one of them in the field of battle?” The crannogmen had a strange style of fighting, but no one could argue the fact that they were fearsome warriors.
“No,” he muttered. He took a deep breath, then straightened his doublet. “Alright, fine, I’ll go down there. You will stay and watch me?” he asked. His face was so hopeful and open, like a small child looking for reassurance.
“Of course,” she replied.
He wasn’t half bad considering he’d not had as much training as he should have by his age. Brienne watched him for nearly an hour, and as the sun set she listened to him give the order for Tyrion and Sansa to be sent to Casterly Rock at sunrise. Tyrion was suspicious and Sansa was apathetic, but beneath her stoic exterior, Brienne thought she saw a glimmer of hope.
On her way back to Cersei’s rooms, Olenna Tyrell stopped her in the hallway.
“I hear our young king is shipping his uncle and aunt off to Casterly Rock before the wedding even takes place. I must say, that’s quite drastic, and a slight to my Margery.”
“How is that a slight to your granddaughter?” Brienne asked. She wasn’t feigning ignorance, she truly didn’t understand. Margery was a lovely woman, and Brienne was disappointed that this decision may have somehow offended her.
“Is this wedding not important enough to have the whole realm present?” Olenna raised an eyebrow and tilted her head for emphasis, but her reasons rang hollow to Brienne, and Lady Sansa’s safety was paramount.
“Lady Sansa and Lord Tyrion will be leaving first thing in the morning. I’m sure they will leave a wedding gift.”
Olenna scoffed, but then shook her head and toddled away. Brienne was left with the feeling that there was something Olenna was not saying, something else affoot, something that perhaps had just been ruined.
Jaime found Cersei in Brienne’s body in the royal armorer’s workshop. She was standing next to the suit of armor he had had commissioned for Brienne. It was now complete, though he hadn’t had a chance to come see if for himself. The metal gleamed a dark grey in the light from the forge, and when he drew closer he could see that the blue hue he’d requested was in there, subtle, but just as he’d wanted. Cersei ran Brienne’s huge hand down the breastplate then turned to face him.
“Lord Commander,” she rumbled. “This is a fine gift, though I’m afraid it will not go well with my new white cloak.” The cloak hung down her back, radiant as fresh fallen snow. Cersei might get the armor, but at least she would not get the sword. He’d planned on giving Brienne the Valyrian steel blade Tywin had given him, the one made from Ned Stark’s greatsword Ice. No one knew of that, though, so the it was safe from Cersei’s greedy hands.
“You’ve accepted the post, then?” Jaime asked. He’d hoped she wouldn’t. If there was any hope that this mess could be set straight, if they could be returned to their rightful bodies, he didn’t want the real Brienne to waste her life away in the Kingsguard.
“Yes, though I’m afraid I won’t be here for long. I am to go to Dorne in the morning by order of the king to be Princess Myrcella’s sworn shield. It was quite an oversight that she was left in Dorne alone among the vipers.”
“Leave us,” Jaime said to the blacksmiths in the room. They scurried to obey the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, though a few looked disappointed that they were going to miss whatever was about to happen between Jaime and the Guard’s newest member.
“Am I to be punished already?” she asked once the doors thumped closed. “I know it must be difficult, watching a woman don the white cloak. I may be the best sword you have now.” And she glanced at his stump.
“I know what’s going on,” Jaime said, then added, “Cersei.”
A smirked pulled at her plump lips. “Did you make this happen?”
“No! What the hells would I do that for?”
“I know you have feelings for Brienne. And perhaps you just couldn’t stomach the thought of fucking her in this freakish body she was born into. Now you have the best of both worlds. My body and her pathetically soft heart.”
“That’s ridiculous,” Jaime replied, and then a chill went down his spine as Cersei advanced toward him. It crossed his mind then that she could kill him easily with Brienne’s body. Cersei put a hand on his shoulder and pushed him backwards against the wall.
“Ridiculous?” she murmured and pressed the length of her body against him. Jaime felt the air squeeze out of his lungs, and then Cersei forced a thick thigh between his own. “I’m no fool. I see how she looks at you, and it makes me wonder if you look at her the same way.” Then she pressed her lips against his roughly. Jaime closed his eyes and tried to turn his face away, but he couldn’t help the way his body responded to Brienne’s. Her thigh rubbing against his cock had him hard, and her lips on his was something he’d thought of more than once. He felt his mouth finally yield to her, and for a sweet moment it was as if he was kissing Brienne, the real thing.
“You wanted to fuck her,” Cersei growled. “Even in this body, you wanted her.” Her hand cupped his balls and gave them a squeeze.
“Cersei, no, stop,” Jaime moaned, and he craned his neck up, trying to move his face away from her, but her lips just went to his neck instead, sucking on his flesh, biting. It would leave marks.
“I’d love to have the feel of losing my maidenhead again. Let’s take it.”
“No!” Jaime yelled and finally got enough leverage to shove her off. Brienne’s body barely moved, it was so heavy, but Jaime was able to slip under her arm and back away from her. He had no sword, otherwise he would have drawn it.
“I leave for Dorne tonight. I will protect our daughter, since it seems no one else can. And I’m taking the armor.” She glanced down at the bulge in his pants, and he suddenly felt naked before her. “Come find me in the White Tower if you change your mind.”
Jaime snuck back into Cersei’s rooms late that evening using the servant’s corridor that he’d sometimes utilize to enter unseen. He knocked on the door softly, then entered without awaiting a reply. He couldn’t linger and risk being discovered, even though he felt bad surprising Brienne like this.
She was in bed and had just pulled the blankets up to her chin to cover herself from whomever was entering. Her shoulders relaxed when she saw it was him.
“Ser Jaime, what are you doing here?”
“Cersei’s joined the Kingsguard,” he uttered. “I’m sorry.”
Brienne’s head hung down, Cersei’s long curls fluttering about her shoulders. The moonlight illuminated her stricken face; it glowed pale and gaunt. Jaime came to sit on the edge of the bed.
“What will my father think?” she finally whispered. “I meant to come back to him on Tarth and take up my duty as the next Evenstar. Now he has no one.” She leaned back against the headboard and stared into the darkness. Jaime stayed quiet, just giving her a moment as he put his hand on her calf beneath the blankets.
“Did she do that to you?” Brienne asked in Cersei’s quiet, purring voice. Jaime furrowed his brow, not understanding. “Your neck,” Brienne added and motioned to her own in demonstration.
Oh, the marks. “I went to stop her, and I found her in the armorer’s shop. She is going to Dorne to be Myrcella’s sworn shield. She tried to--” Jaime stopped to regroup his thoughts. “She pushed me against the wall, tried to get me to take her-- your-- maidenhead.”
“Did you do it?” Her voice wavered in her throat.
“No, gods no,” Jaime said adamantly. “I would never.”
“Oh,” Brienne replied, and she blushed and she almost sounded disappointed. “I mean, I know my body is...unappealing.”
“That’s not what I mean.” Jaime ran his hand through his hair in exasperation. “I would , gods I would, but not like that. That wasn’t you.” He’d said too much, but he didn’t care anymore. He leaned forward and put his hand on her hip; the rise and fall of her chest quickened. His hand snaked behind her back and he pulled her into an embrace. He felt her arms wrap around him in return. Then he kissed her, and when she returned the act, a heat bloomed in his chest so hot it burned.
“I won’t leave you until this is set right,” Jaime breathed. “I swear it.”
“Jaime,” she sighed, and it was just one word but it sounded more beautiful than anything Cersei had ever said to him. “You should go, we can’t be seen like this.”
Jaime nodded and kissed her once more on the forehead.
“Did you have any luck with Joffrey?” he asked before he left.
“Yes, Lady Sansa and Lord Tyrion are to leave on the morrow.”
“I’m impressed. Cersei always has difficulty getting Joffrey to do what she wants.”
“It was quite simple actually. He wants to fight, you know. Perhaps you should watch him, he has good instincts.”
“Really? I had no idea.” The last Jaime had heard of Joffrey fighting was when Arya Stark had disarmed him and thrown his sword in a river. Cersei had always told him there was no need to risk injury, that he would be king and have people to fight for him. Perhaps this was one thing that could be fostered for good in the boy. “Well, goodnight Brienne.”
The next weeks past in a whirlwind. Sansa and Tyrion departed for the Rock immediately the next morning. Tyrion was skeptical, but Jaime told him not to look a gift horse in the mouth. What Jaime would give to be out of this wretched city, away from all the politics and intrigue, and back in their family home. Cersei also left that morning in Brienne’s body wearing her blue armor and white cloak. She would be taking the Roseroad to Bitterbridge then cutting south through Prince’s Pass. Cersei had never liked travel by sea, and apparently even in Brienne’s body she still did not want to get on a boat. Her white cloak fluttered behind her as she road proudly out the River Gate. Jaime had to admit the armor fit her like a glove, and she looked like a knight off to save a princess.
The royal wedding went off without a hitch. During the feast, Joffrey announced his plans to lead a campaign into the Riverlands to restore the King’s Peace. Then, he surprised everyone by sparring with one of his squires. The squire even drew blood and won one of the matches, but Joffrey only grinned and wiped the blood from his face, ready for more. It seemed he loved the sight of even his own blood. Olenna Tyrell in particular looked pleased he would be leaving the capital, after he put an heir in her granddaughter’s belly of course.
Every day that passed, Brienne grew a bit more accustomed to Cersei’s body. Eventually she even weaned herself off her daily dose of wine. Jaime kept as close to her as he dared, but there were no more stolen kisses and she was still expected to wed Loras Tyrell. When that day came, Jaime had to bite the inside of his lip as he stood guard at the ceremony. At least Loras would not expect a bedding, nor would he want one.
Then one day, Brienne stormed into his room in the White Tower. Except it wasn’t Brienne. It was Cersei. She was back in her body and she was nearly foaming at the mouth she was so mad.
“You let me get married to Loras Tyrell?!” she raged.
“Oh, you’re back,” Jaime replied casually and leaned back in his chair, propping his boots on the table. “I thought I had everything well in hand here.”
“And Joffrey, our baby boy, is off in the Riverlands on the front lines. He could be killed.”
“He could be. But he probably won’t be, and perhaps the battlefield is the best place for him to be given his proclivities. How close were you to Dorne before you reappeared here?”
“I was just south of Skyreach. I was sparring two Dornishmen...I was winning.” Cersei’s eyes glassed over and he saw her right hand clench as if around the hilt of a sword. He did feel sorry for her. It was a great loss to lose the ability to fight, he knew. She would miss it for the rest of her life.
“Alright, relax and enjoy the capital. You and Margery have become quite good friends, by the way. She is expecting you for lunch later, and she wants your help picking out nursery fabrics.”
Jaime heard the glass she threw hit the wall and shatter as he damn near skipped down the towers steps. He had somewhere he needed to be.
One moment Brienne was walking through the gardens of the Red Keep, enjoying the last of the summer sun on her skin and the sea breeze through her hair. It reminded her of Tarth. The next moment, she was in the desert, the midday sun radiating an oppressive heat down on her and the harsh wind whipping sand into her face. She had a sword in her hand and she was facing off with two Dornishmen. They were mid-battle, a spar she realized quickly, but she wasn’t quick enough to parry the next blow. It struck her square in the chest.
“That’s match,” one of the black-haired men said in the accent distinct to Dorne.
Brienne looked down at her body, and it was her body . She nearly cried right then she was so happy. The feeling of the sword in her hand was so wonderful, such a welcome weight, and she felt whole again for the first time in weeks.
“Are you alright, Lady Brienne?” one of the men asked.
“Yes, I’m fine. Tell me, where are we?”
The two Dornishmen gave each other a strange look. She knew she sounded crazy, but it didn’t matter anymore. She was back in her own body and she felt like she could handle anything.
“We are near Hellholt. Three days’ ride out of Sunspear. Perhaps you should rest. I think the sun is getting to you.”
Brienne returned to what had to be her tent. It was an impractical pure white and the Kingsguard standard flew from the peak. She entered and closed the flap behind her. The tent was quite messy, the bed unmade and clothes were strewn about the floor. Obviously, Cersei was not accustomed to keeping things tidy for herself. Only the white cloak was hung up properly. Brienne cleaned up the tent then walked over to the cloak and ran her fingers down it. The material was soft and durable but not heavy. It would not weigh a fighter down in combat. She slipped it around her shoulders, and she would be lying to herself if she didn’t admit that it felt good.
Next, she tested out her body to ascertain the condition Cersei had left it in. She jumped, she lunged, she swung. Everything seemed to be in working order. Cersei hadn’t done too much damage then. In fact, she felt as good as ever.
Over the next couple of days, the shakes and sweats she feared would inevitably come from her body craving wine never came They crossed the Brimstone river with its sulphurous waters burning her nose and eyes. Once they reached the Greenblood, the river that cut east across the toe of Dorne and emptied into the sea at Plankytown, she said they should travel by boat for the rest of the journey. Her guides looked relieved; even they were tired of riding through the inhospitable desert.
Prince Doran Martell received her in his private garden. Blooms of red, orange and pink crowded every planter, and a simple fountain bubbled pleasantly at the center. A white stone archway opened up to look over the Summer Sea, and the heat of the sun was tempered perfectly with the breeze off the water.
“Prince Doran,” Brienne said and bowed to him.
“Lady Brienne, please, be at ease,” Doran said from where he sat in his wheeled chair. A large, black-skinned man stood at his side. He had a broad chest, stocky legs and a smooth, bald head. His face was unreadable, but he was watching her every move, a long halberd at his side. “We were pleased to find out it was the daughter of Selwyn Tarth who would be coming to guard our Myrcella.”
“It is an honor,” Brienne said formally. One night, lying in her tent in the middle of the desert, she had considered running back to Tarth, but she’d sworn a sacred vow, well sort of, and honor dictated she follow through on it.
“In Dorne, we have different customs, namely we see men and women as equals both in succession and in battle. Your reputation precedes you. I have heard you are a formidable warrior. However, if I am to trust you to protect my son’s future wife, I must see you fight for myself.” The black-skinned man stepped forward and gripped his halberd with both hands. Muscles bulged beneath his brightly colored tunic. “This is Areo Hotah, my personal bodyguard. He will test your skills.”
And test them he did. Brienne held her own for longer than she’d expected. His fighting style was foreign, and she was still a little rusty being back in her real body. She dodged left when she should have gone right and the blade of the halberd stopped just shy of the flesh of her thigh. She knew the second she did it that she’d moved wrong, and she mentally kicked herself for it.
“Well fought, my lady,” Areo Hotah rumbled.
“Impressive.” Prince Doran smiled at her. “Areo will give you a tour of the palace and then take you to Princess Myrcella. He will also give you a brief education in the poisons of Dorne, as it is imperative you familiarize yourself with them if you wish to protect the princess. There will be a feast tomorrow evening to mark both your arrival and that of the Ser Jaime Lannister.”
“What?” Brienne asked. Her heart leapt in her chest. She was lonely already, but how could he be here?
“Did you not know? Your Lord Commander wishes to inspect the palace and evaluate you. He will arrive by ship tomorrow.”
Of course, he is traveling by boat which was must faster than by land. Still, he must have left King’s Landing the moment Cersei had returned to her rightful body. Brienne briefly wondered how that was going for her. She would be glad to see Jaime for many reasons, but she also needed to thank him for the armor. It fit her like a glove.
Myrcella was tall and willowy with long hair that was a lighter, cooler shade of blonde than either of her parents’ own coloring. Her eyes lit up when she saw Brienne. Brienne kneeled before her and put herself in the girl’s service.
“Thank you, my lady. I am so happy to have you here. And Uncle Jaime is coming too, won’t thank be lovely!” She bounced on the balls of her feet and clasped her hands together. The girl had a pleasant disposition with none of the sharp, nasty edges of her older brother. “Perhaps we should invite your father to visit us, too. He must miss you terribly. It would be a lovely holiday for him.”
Brienne’s throat tightened at the thought of seeing her father. It demonstrated a deep empathy in the girl that she was so thoughtful to suggest it. Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad to guard the little princess after all.
“Lord Selwyn would be honored to visit,” Brienne said, struggling to keep the tears that were threatening to pool in her eyes at bay.
“Oh, good,” she replied. “Come, let me show you the beach. It’s my favorite place to be.” Myrcella gathered her skirts and excitedly led Brienne away.
The next morning, Brienne stood formally next to Myrcella on the docks, dressed in full armor with her white cloak fluttering around her shoulders. A Royal Navy cutter was being secured to it, and then the gangplank dropped onto the wooden boards of the dock. Ser Jaime strode down the walkway, dressed formally with a sword at his right hip and his white cloak about his shoulders.
“Welcome to the Water Gardens, Ser Jaime,” Areo Hotah boomed. “Prince Doran looks forward to seeing you at the feast, and he apologizes he could not be here to meet you.” Prince Doran’s health was failing, and he was in too much pain this morning to make the journey to the docks.
“I look forward to it,” Jaime replied, then he turned and bowed to Myrcella. “Princess Myrcella.”
“Uncle Jaime!” she shrieked, unable to hold back any longer. She ran to him and leapt into his arms, and Jaime smiled and hugged her close then put her back down on her feet. “I miss you all so much. I’m so happy you are here to visit. How long will you stay?”
“I plan to stay for some time. Everything is well in hand in the capital.”
Brienne couldn’t meet his eyes as Jaime walked over to her and looked her up and down. He was putting on quite a show, evaluating her, walking around her back. She could feel his eyes raking her and she had to bite her tongue to keep from reacting when he let out a little “mmm” sound.
“Lady Brienne, I would like a full tour of the Water Gardens. I trust you have surveyed it already.”
“Yes, Lord Commander,” Brienne replied.
“I will escort the Princess back to the palace, then,” Areo Hotah said. Myrcella waved goodbye to Jaime then skipped off down the path with Areo close behind.
“What are you doing here?” Brienne asked once they were alone on the docks.
“I wanted to see you,” Jaime replied with a shrug. “It seems like you have everything under control here.”
“I do,” Brienne replied as she led him down the dock and towards the palace. “It feels good to be back in my own body. I missed this,” she said, gesturing to the sword at her hip. “And thank you for the armor. It’s the finest thing I’ve ever owned.”
“I have something else for you,” Jaime said as they came to a stop next to a fountain in one of the many gardens that lined the entrance to the palace. They were all alone, Brienne realized, and her heart fluttered at the memory of his kiss. But that was all over now. Jaime unbelted his sword and proffered it to her. “Here.”
“What’s this?” Brienne asked as she grasped the hilt and pulled the sword from its scabbard. Valyrian steel shone in the sunlight, folded to perfection, and her heart swelled up in her chest. “Its beautiful. I cannot accept this,” she protested. Gods, the sword must be worth half a fortune.
“It’s yours,” Jaime said and put his hand atop her own where it gripped the hilt. “I insist. I meant to give it to you earlier, but then--” Jaime shook his head.
“Thank you,” Brienne said. She was too shocked to say much else. Jaime was so close to her now she could hear him breathing, and it was pure torture to be so near to him but still feel so far away. The memory of his lips on hers--no, on Cersei’s, she reminded herself--were etched permanently into her brain.
Jaime leaned in so that their noses nearly touched, and then he huffed and shook his head. “I want to kiss you, but I’m not sure if that’s allowed now that you are back in your own body.”
“It’s allowed,” she squeeked.
He grinned then leaned forward and kissed her, and it felt like a first kiss. She was awkward and unsure of how to respond now that she was back in her own body, but Jaime cupped her cheek and tilted his head so they fit together. It was only a kiss, closed-lipped and simple, but it was the most pleasant feeling in the world.
“How long will you stay?” Brienne asked as his lips moved to her neck, just grazing the surface of her skin and sending lovely shivers down her spine.
“I think for quite a while,” he murmured against her. “If you’ll have me.”
She tentatively put her hands up to his face and kissed him again. “You must promise to train with me,” she said.
“You are unrelenting, and I love it,” Jaime replied.
Perhaps Dorne would no be so bad after all.