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20 September 2012 @ 01:32 am
with one hand, i'm steel - (Jaime/Brienne; Game of Thrones)  
Title: with one hand, i'm steel
Characters/Pairings: Jaime Lannister/Brienne of Tarth
Rating: R
Word Count: ~3900
Warnings: Sexual content, language, mild violence.
Summary: “It's only normal that you're not going to be as adept with your left hand; you've used your right hand your whole life! Do you think you can just casually re-learn everything you spent your entire life doing the opposite way?” Brienne helps Jaime learn to fight without his sword hand.
Disclaimer: These characters don't belong to me, and neither does the world they inhabit.
A/N: This is part of the Made of Steel series, but can be read as a stand-alone fic. And I still haven't read A Dance With Dragons yet, so my apologies if there are any inconsistencies.

Spoilers ahead for all of the books.

(also at AO3)



She was no longer the Maid of Tarth.

Brienne, Jaime, and Pod had taken refuge under a willow tree as the storm started to slow. Pod was emptying the snow out of his shoes, as Jaime shook it out of his hair. Brienne just leaned against the trunk and watched.

It was still so surreal, everything that had occurred up until this moment. Their escape from the Brotherhood, her shouted promise to Lady Stoneheart as she'd climbed atop her horse and galloped away. Finding Jaime, Pod, and Ser Hyle underneath a tree just like this one. Jaime's face when he had seen she was still alive. And later, at the inn, unspoken realizations and – most unbelievable of all – losing her maidenhead to the Kingslayer.

But it didn't feel as though she had “lost” anything. She had heard so many tales of such intense pain, roughness, and blood from her septas and other women, and while it had certainly not been very comfortable, it was nothing compared to Jaime and his fingers, touching and caressing. His lips, soft against hers, beard scratching her chin. Her heart swelled, and she brushed her hand against her mouth absent-mindedly at the memory. She could hardly wait for it to happen again – that is, if he still even wanted to. She was finding it difficult to fathom that he was... well, feeling what she was feeling. Even though he had literally thrown Ser Hyle out of the inn after finding out about his participation in the contest to take her virginity. Even though they had made love twice the night before. Part of her still believed it to be part of some kind of elaborate joke.

“Should we get moving, ser? My lady?” Pod asked. His shoes had been emptied, and he was hastily strapping them back on his feet.

“Oh, yes, that reminds me,” said Jaime. “Brienne, may I borrow Oathkeeper for a moment?”

“What? Why?”

“I just want to see it.” His good hand was extended towards her.

He's not going to take it away, is he? Brienne reluctantly removed her sword from its sheath and placed it in his hand.

The Valyrian steel seemed even more beautiful in Jaime's grasp, his bright green eyes examining it closely.

“Please kneel,” Jaime said, his eyes meeting hers.

“Excuse me?”

“Kneel, Brienne.” He held the sword across his golden fist.

Utterly perplexed, she asked, “Why?”

“Just do it.” When she continued to stand stupidly in front of him, he groaned and said, “Gods, Brienne, I'm trying to knight you.”

Is he serious? Yes, she could not doubt it. He was looking at her expectantly, a hint of exasperation in his handsome features.

Almost as though beyond her will, her knee fell to the snow, her head bowed. As his sword – her sword – touched her right shoulder, then her left, she struggled to hold back the tears of joy she knew could escape at a moment's notice. Was this really happening? This was nearly better than last night... in some ways, it was better. This is everything I ever wanted, and all at once.

“I, Jaime Lannister, Lord Commander of the Kingsguard and Warden of the East, do hereby name you Ser Brienne of Tarth, from this day until your last day. Do you swear by the Seven to uphold the laws of the Seven Kingdoms, to honor your family, to honor your king, and to bring glory to his name? To protect the weak and the innocent? To die with a sword in your hand?”

“I swear.” Her voice was quivering.

“Then rise.”

Brienne shakily stood to her feet, overwhelmed to her bones. Jaime presented Oathkeeper to her, bowing deeply. She took it back and clumsily slid it back into its sheath.

“Jaime,” she said, tears trickling from the corners of her eyes, despite her best efforts. “Thank you. Thank you.”

“Come now, knights don't cry.” But he was grinning.

“Can you... can you do that, though?” Pod asked. He looked amazed. “Make a woman a knight?”

“I can do as I please,” Jaime replied.

Unable to contain herself any longer, Brienne threw her arms around him so forcefully they both fell back a little. Jaime laughed and hugged her back, and for a moment nuzzled his beard against the crook of her neck, before removing himself from her grip.

“I should've done it ages ago,” he said. He was still holding onto her shoulders, and he was looking at her with such affection that Brienne felt a rush of warmth throughout her whole body. “If I'd had any sense, anyway.”

Pod coughed loudly, and they sprang apart as though struck by lightning.

“I guess we should, uh, be going, huh?” Pod was smiling at them so widely Brienne was surprised his mouth did not extend past his face.

“I suppose so.” She looked up, the flurries of snowflakes still falling from the sky. “The question is, where?”

“Where were you headed originally?” Jaime asked.

“Riverrun.”

“Well, Sansa Stark is most definitely not there,” he said. “Or, if she was, she has somehow managed to change her appearance entirely, including her face, which I find somewhat difficult to believe. Is there anywhere else you were going to try?”

“We were going to go to the Vale at first,” Brienne said. “But Lady Lysa has been killed. It's unlikely that Sansa would have taken refuge there with her aunt dead.”

“Perhaps.” He looked thoughtful, but said no more.

“Shall we set for Winterfell, ser? My Lady? I mean, Ser?”

“It seems that's the only place left to search. At least until we find another lead.” She turned to Jaime. “What do you think?”

He didn't say anything for a moment. “Winterfell is burned to the ground. Sansa knows this. I find it far more likely that she's in the Vale than there. When she escaped the castle, Lady Lysa had not yet met her fate through the Moon Door. It's possible Sansa got there before this occurred, and is there still, maybe even under an alias, in order to allay suspicion.”

She had to admit that this made a lot of sense, and felt like an imbecile for not thinking of it earlier. “So, the Eyrie, then?”

“Yes,” Jaime said. “It's the best thing we've got to go on at the moment... until, as you said, we find a new lead.”

“Are you sure you're... do you want... doesn't the king need you? Or... the queen? Your sister?” Brienne stumbled over her words, a tremor in her hands.

Jaime's gaze turned cool, though she was reasonably certain the coldness was not meant for her. “Tommen shall get on fine without me, for the moment. As for my sister...” He turned away, his shoulders stiff. “I couldn't care less what she needs and doesn't need.”

“Oh. Okay.” What did he mean? Was it possible that... no, she was being stupid. Who would choose Brienne the “Beauty” over the actual, legendarily beautiful Cersei Lannister? If she looks at all like her brother, she must be something to behold indeed.

Wait, was she really in a situation where she was in romantic competition with her lover's sister? What in the world was her life?

She tried not to think about it any further as they gathered their belongings (sans the horse, which Ser Hyle had taken when ejected from their group), and began their trek to the Eyrie. There was no time to linger on such matters. Their journey was to be a long and perilous one, especially now that winter had come, and there were more important things at stake than if Jaime Lannister would rather be with her, or the queen (his sister).

It certainly didn't feel less important, though.

* * *

It was twilight when they approached another inn. It was a larger one than the last, but just as deserted.

“Not a lot of travelers on the roads these days,” Jaime observed.

“Can't blame them.” The war was really taking its toll on Westeros' population. She could only hope it would end soon, before the winter's frost became even worse. Who knew how many more lives would be lost if this war continued to drag on? She almost didn't care who won at this point. As long as it wasn't Stannis. I will still get my revenge, one day, she vowed to herself.

The trio went inside, the large oak door swinging shut loudly behind them – or perhaps it only seemed so loud because the place was completely bereft of people, save for a small woman behind the bar and a man sharpening an axe by a window coated with snow.

The pair immediately rushed towards them and chattered greetings as they ushered them further inside. Jaime tossed them a few coins, much to their apparent joy, and they pulled out seats at a dining table for them.

“We'll get a meal for you folks right away,” the woman promised, and followed the man into the back.

“This is a nice inn,” Pod said, and Brienne agreed. The ceiling was incredibly high, and a beautiful wooden chandelier hung from its rafters. Small, clear jewels dangled from the ends. The tables and floors were made of a rich mahogany, and the carpets were a lush red. The only ugly sight in the place were the piles of dust. This inn must have been for lords and other nobles at one point. Everyone had fallen on hard times, it seemed.

“Excuse me,” Jaime asked the man, who had just emerged from the kitchens, “would you happen to have a practice yard here?”

“We do, m'lord. Over by the stables.”

“Perfect.” He turned to Brienne. “I'll need your assistance after dinner.”

“With what?”

“Ser Illyn Payne was helping me – well, that is to say, attempting to help me learn to fight with my left hand. I'd like for you to take over this duty of his, since he is no longer here. If it pleases you, of course.”

“I'd be honored.” She wasn't sure how much help she could be – she'd never attempted sword-fighting with the wrong hand, and didn't know how to go about teaching him – but if Jaime wanted her to aid him, she would try in every way she possibly could.

After a filling dinner of salted cod and potatoes, with just a little red wine (which Jaime had accidentally spilled on the carpet, but everyone except her pretended not to notice), Pod went up to his chambers while Brienne and Jaime headed out to the practice yard. It was darker out now, and the smell of horse dung clung to the air. She wrinkled her nose at the foul odor. At least the snow had finally stopped.

Jaime had outfitted himself with his shield on his right arm and his sword in his left hand. It didn't look natural. He seemed ungainly and awkward.

Perhaps he's better with his sword than he looks. She hoped so. They both stood ready.

“On my count,” Jaime said. “One... two... three!”

Immediately Brienne could see that Jaime was not the fighter that he had once been. His swings were messy and inaccurate, he was unable to block her attacks effectively, and he constantly moved in the wrong direction. She was barely trying and she was giving him a hell of a beating.

She decided to change tactics, just to see if he could fight at all. She switched to merely dodging and blocking his sword as opposed to being on the offense. He was still terrible. He only managed to make contact with her once, and that was because she had stumbled over a sudden slope in the terrain.

This is pathetic, she thought, and instantly felt awful for thinking it, but it was still true. Sweat had gathered on Jaime's forehead, a heavy and determined glare fixed on his face. She found herself feeling such profound pity for him that she simply stood as he hacked away at her armor.

“Why aren't you fighting back?!” he demanded. His sword slammed against her leg, but she hardly felt it. “Don't just stand there! Give me your best!”

If I gave you my best, you would be dead. But she went back to slashing at him anyway, and could practically feel her heart break as Jaime tried and tried and tried but was unable to fend her off. This was not the man who had fought her so well at the creek that, had he not been in chains, might have managed to beat her.

Brienne could not imagine what he was going through. To be incapable of... he was just as much of a knight and fighter as she was. They both lived and breathed swordplay. She knew that he, too, was only truly alive with steel in his hand and an enemy's throat against his blade. His blood rushing in his ears and coursing through his veins.

It was clear he would never be able to feel that way again.

So much time passed. The moon was high and gleaming in the night sky, which was littered with stars. They were both panting, Jaime even more so, clearly exhausted. His armor was scratched to the seven hells and back, while Brienne was no worse for the wear.

“This is pointless,” she said, doubled over from tiredness. She cast her sword to the side.

“Pointless?” He looked so hurt and angry that it cut deeper than his sword had. “It's pointless?”

“I'm sorry, Jaime,” she said, and she was. “I don't think... you're not going to be able to do this right away. You would need years of training, and that's time we don't – ”

Jaime barked with cruel laughter, and threw his own sword onto the ground. It bounced and landed by the horses. “I see, wench, I see. I'm just a hopeless cause, am I? A helpless little cub? Gods, I should never have knighted you. You can't even teach a man to swing a sword!”

“You're not being fair,” Brienne snapped. “It's only normal that you're not going to be as adept with your left hand; you've used your right hand your whole life! Do you think you can just casually re-learn everything you spent your entire life doing the opposite way?”

But Jaime wasn't listening. He had sprinted over to the fence, which he was now pummeling like mad with his golden hand, wood splintering everywhere. Brienne watched as he punched and punched and punched, and battered the fence with his shield over and over, until finally the fence collapsed.

Her brows furrowed. Huh.

Jaime stumbled backward. His shield dropped onto the dirt, and he stood as though dazed and in a dream.

Brienne approached him slowly, and laid her hand on his shoulder. “Jaime?”

“I'm sorry,” he mumbled. “I shouldn't have... it's not your fault. I apologize.” He sighed heavily and ran his hand through his beard. “You were right. It is pointless. Just... forget it. Forget I ever asked you to do this.”

She bit her lip as he picked up his shield. His shield...

“Wait,” she said, and he froze, bent over and looking up at her, his shield in his left hand. “Stand up.”

Jaime obeyed, though he looked confused.

“Stay there,” she ordered, and jogged over to where she had thrown her sword. She picked it up and stood in a fighting stance. “Okay. Let's go again.”

“...Are you mocking me? I just told you that you were right! I'm bloody useless with a sword, okay?”

“So don't use the sword,” she said.

Jaime blinked. “What?”

“Don't use the sword.” Brienne shifted her legs and beckoned him over.

“And how, exactly, do you suggest I fight you without a sword? Do you expect me to just use my – ” Finally, he understood what she was saying.

She grinned at him. “Are you going to finish what you started or not?”

He didn't move for a few seconds. Then, suddenly, he was charging at her, shield held in front of him. She sliced at it, and as she did so he sprung to the right, and his gold hand hit her so hard in the side that she nearly fell over. That thing packed a hell of a punch!

Before she could get her bearings, Jaime was bashing her with his shield, and striking her in the back with his hand. She was kneeling on the ground now, and she swung her sword up at him again, but he blocked it once more. She stood up, assailing him with fury, but he was blocking almost all of her attacks. She moved in, he moved out, nimble on his feet and quick.

This was the Jaime Lannister she remembered.

They continued for some time, and it seemed to Brienne that Jaime was charged with a new life. It was apparent from his toothy smile and flushed face that he could do this for hours. Brienne, however, could not. She had gotten very little sleep as it was, and it was nearly dawn.

“I yield, I yield!” she cried, throwing her arms in the air. She was breathing so hard, it was like she could not get enough air in her lungs.

Jaime, however, didn't seem even a little tired anymore. “Aw, come now, Brienne!” He poked at her gently with the bottom of his shield. “We could go for a little while longer.”

“Maybe you can,” she said. “But I can't.”

Jaime pouted, but stopped. “Oh, fine.” He paused. “Do you really think... can I really fight like this? No sword, just a shield and a fake hand?”

“You already are. And with a lot of practice, you could probably take on the Mountain if you wanted.”

“Except Gregor Clegane is dead, but let's ignore that little detail.” Beaming, and with a strange look in his eye, he walked over and stood almost right up against her, and Brienne felt herself stir below. “I want you. Now.”

“What? Here?” Brienne's cheeks grew hot.

“Yes, here.” Jaime tossed his shield aside and pulled her closer to him. “Don't tell me you're not all riled up. I can see it, plain as day on your face.”

He wasn't wrong, but she didn't want to tell him that. “It's almost morning. We've been training all night. And we're outside.”

“I don't care. I want you.” His eyes drank her in, his lips slightly parted, and Brienne was about to brim over.

Oh, what the hell. “You have me,” she said.

She was too weary to do much of anything, so she allowed him to be the one take off both of their armor, and kiss her, and touch her, and slide his fingers in all of the places that made her shudder and moan and feel as though she were on fire. He was inside her, and on top of her, nearly crushing her, but she liked being crushed a little. Her back scraped against the ground as he thrust and grunted. She idly ran her fingers through his hair and held tight to him. Everything was aligned and synchronized, and her skin sang and sang and sang.

When it was over, Jaime curled up against her, and she wrapped her arms around him. They took in the sun coming over the horizon, orange and warm.

“What would I be without you, I wonder?” he murmured into her ear.

“You would probably still have both of your hands,” she quipped.

Jaime laughed softly, but then his voice became serious. “I'm not usually one for believing in fate and destiny and all of that nonsense, but... everything in our lives led us to each other. Do you ever think about that? How if even the slightest thing had changed... if I had been at the Trident, instead of leading the attack against Riverrun, and my father was the one captured by Robb Stark. If you had never fallen for Lord Renly, and never joined his Kingsguard. Hell, if I hadn't pushed the Stark boy out of the window, even. Everything else had to happen, for this to happen. Even losing my hand.”

Brienne pondered his words for a long time. She hardly knew what to say. He didn't seem to expect her to say anything, however, and she felt him falling asleep in her embrace. She soon followed.

* * *

They awoke at noon to the sight of the innkeepers and Pod gaping at them from across the yard.

“Oops,” Jaime said, as Brienne hastily covered herself. Their weapons and armor were scattered around them in a heap. “Good morning!”

“Good afternoon,” the woman corrected.

“Yes, of course.” Jaime yanked his undershirt on over his head as Brienne pulled the rest of her plainclothes on and began picking up their things. “So sorry for the mess. The horses didn't seem to mind, though.”

The woman just laughed, while the man shook his head in disapproval and went back inside.

“I'm sorry you had to see that,” Brienne said to Pod, who was walking over now that they were both at least somewhat dressed. “We should've been more discreet.” She threw Jaime a pointed look.

“Oh, I'm tired of being discreet,” Jaime complained, wiping the dirt off of his breeches as he stood up. “It's such a relief to not have to worry so much about being caught.”

“Remember, you're still Lord Commander of the Kingsguard,” she said. She needed to remind herself, too, before she got carried away.

His face grew somber. “I know.”

The three of them ate their lunch – well, Jaime and Brienne broke their fast – and before long they were ready to set out again. But not before Jaime purchased three of the horses from the stable.

“Should make it easier,” he said. “Oh, and since you're a knight now, we can officially make Pod your squire.”

A knight. She had almost forgotten. It still didn't seem real. None of this did. She was waiting for the other shoe to drop, for someone to jump out of the bushes and start pointing and laughing at her because she fell for it.

“I am still Tyrion Lannister's squire,” Pod said defiantly. “But... until I find him... I guess I can be your squire too, Ser Brienne.”

Ser Brienne.” She rolled the name around her tongue. “I think we're going to have to come up with a different title for lady knights.”

They climbed onto their horses – Brienne's a white one with a black mane, Pod's a sturdy brown, and Jaime's a majestic black beauty.

“We should have a new shield forged for you,” Brienne said to Jaime as they trotted down the cobblestone path. “One made of the finest steel, and sharp on the edges. Perhaps even with spikes, or the like.”

“A new shield? Why?” Pod looked at them curiously.

“Brienne has invented a new fighting style for me,” Jaime explained. “Apparently now I am going to use my shield as a weapon.”

“And your golden hand,” she reminded him.

“Yes, that too. It doesn't sound like an effective fighting technique, but it works surprisingly well.”

“I should like to see that,” Pod said.

“Maybe later.” Brienne clutched tightly onto her reins. Everything felt like it was going to float away, or be snatched from her at any moment. She had seen too much to still think that fairytale endings were possible, especially not for the likes of her and Jaime Lannister.

But she could still enjoy herself while it lasted.