Log in

No account? Create an account
02 May 2013 @ 11:26 pm
they who made you - (Jaime/Brienne, Game of Thrones)  
Title: they who made you
Characters/Pairings: Jaime/Brienne
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: ~6200
Warnings: Mild violence.
Summary: "To be honest, she didn't know what, exactly, was going to happen. But her main priority was to keep Sansa safe – and to stay alive, if she could. For Sansa. For Jaime. For my father." Brienne brings Sansa to Lady Stoneheart
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. Apologies for taking so long to update this!

Spoilers ahead for all of the books.

(also at AO3)

One. Two. Three. One. Two. Three.

Brienne counted her mule's steps in the snow, for no real reason other than it was a way to pass the time. It was too cold to talk to her companions, with the icy wind whipping at their cheeks, and they still had miles to go before they reached the Inn at the Crossroads. Sansa rode beside her, as did Jaime, with Pod, Sandor, and Mya Stone holding the rear.

“You're not taking my mules if I'm not with them,” the bastard girl had told them when it was finally time to leave the mountains of the Vale. And so they had somewhat reluctantly agreed to take her along, and she had proved a boon rather than a burden, with her knowledge of the mountains and how to properly utilize and care for the mules. And Sansa seemed to enjoy her company.

But Brienne was growing more and more apprehensive the closer they got to Lady Stoneheart. She, Jaime, and Sandor had slowly been preparing Sansa for what was to await her in that dark cave, so it wasn't as though she was completely unaware, but... well, Brienne had come to think of Sansa as though she were her own little sister. The idea of subjecting her to such horrors was a discomforting notion, though it had been her idea in the first place, as Jaime was like to remind her whenever she expressed her doubts to him.

“Besides,” he had said, “where else to take her now but the Brotherhood?”

Brienne turned her head to check that everyone was still there. Yes, behind them were three riders atop three mules – Sandor with his face of stone and scars, Pod and his cheeks pale from cold, and Mya Stone, yet another one of King Robert's bastards. She wondered how many illegitimate children this man had fathered.

“If Gendry is the oldest, his claim to the throne is more legitimate than Tommen's,” Brienne had said to Jaime before they had left the caverns.

“If the boy even desires to be king.”

“All the same, are you worried?”

“Not really.” Jaime never seemed to worry about anything. She wished she could be the same way, but never seemed able to quiet her own thoughts.

Sansa appeared to be lost in thought herself. Brienne wished she could know what she was thinking. Was it her mother and the monster she had become who haunted her thoughts? Was she wondering what to say to her, whether she would cry out in fear or run sobbing into her almost lifeless arms? Or was something – or someone – else occupying her mind?

For Brienne had noticed the extremely odd tension between Sansa and Sandor, and while she understood it from his end after all the stories he'd told, she was having trouble fathoming why Sansa would have such tender feelings for a man that, until very recently, was a savage beast known as the Hound. A man who had held a knife to her throat and demanded a song from her in the middle of a battle, something that, when Brienne had first heard about it, practically made her challenge Sandor to a duel right then and there, in the center of a holy island full of Septons.

I fell for a former monster myself, she thought, glancing over at Jaime. Perhaps I should not think too harshly of it.

And besides, the Hound was dead.

One. Two. Three.

* * *

“It is good that you've arrived now,” Thoros of Myr said as they all entered the Inn at the Crossroads. Only he and Gendry sat in the dining room. Brienne and Jaime exchanged a look after both of their gazes flicked between Mya and Gendry. Will they figure it out on their own? They certainly looked enough alike.

“Why now, especially?” Jaime asked. He was still bundled in his lion pelt, though a hearthfire was not far from him.

“I've managed to convinced most of the Brotherhood of our side,” Thoros said, gesturing to himself and Gendry. “But we need to act soon. Every second we waste is another second Lady Stoneheart continues to lead the Brotherhood down a path it will be unable to walk away from.”

“Should we burst into the cave all at once, or can we go in pairs? I claim Pod as my companion.”

“Now isn't the time for japes.” Thoros poured himself a glass of wine. “Brienne and Lady Sansa will be the only ones, at any rate.”

“Probably the wisest course.” Sandor took a chair. “Another massacre is not the answer. The woman will not harm her own daughter, I trust?”

“Stoneheart may not be Catelyn Stark anymore, but her wrath is for Lannisters and Freys, not her own blood.”

“Not even if her own blood was married to a Lannister?”

It was Sansa who asked this question. Thoros glanced at Gendry before saying, “No, my lady. She knows it was against your will.”

Sansa nodded, and took a seat by the fire, shaking the snow out of her long red hair.

“Is there any news from King's Landing?” Jaime asked.

“News of your sister, you mean?” Thoros gave a wry smile. “Cersei's trial went in her favor. Some mystery knight named Ser Robert the Strong fought for her, and triumphed against one of the Faith's knights. Margaery Tyrell was not so lucky. Your uncle was serving as Regent, but – ”

“What's happened to Margaery?” Sansa interrupted. She held her palms near the flames, and the light danced across her features. “What's going on?”

“Did you know her, my lady? I'm sorry to be the one to deliver such a sad message, but – Margaery Tyrell was executed not a week past.”

Sansa didn't say anything. Her face was as still as stone, and she turned her head back to the fire. Brienne remembered all of the wonderful things Sansa had said about Margaery Tyrell – tales Brienne had listened to patiently but reluctantly, for the wound from when she had wed Renly still cut deep. The girl had been one of Sansa's only friends. Brienne was about to go over and comfort her, when Thoros continued:

“Kevan Lannister is dead as well, along with Grand Maester Pycelle. Both were shot with crossbows in the dead of night. I'm sorry for your loss, Ser Jaime. ”

“Oh.” The lion pelt seemed to slide off his shoulders of its own accord. Suddenly he looked so small. Jaime... Brienne reached her hand towards him, but he walked past her and sat near Sansa, his legs pulled up to his chest. Neither of them looked at each other, or said a single word.

“And I'm afraid I must be the bearer of even more bad news. Much has happened in your absence. Lady Brienne, we hear rumors of the Stormlands falling to The Golden Company, which is being led by – well, these reports must be false if this is being said, but – the fisherfolk say Aegon Targaryen has returned.”

“What? Aegon the Conquerer has been dead for – ”

“No, I mean Prince Rhaegar's son. He was supposed to have died at the hands of the Mountain, but it's possible that... I never saw this in my flames. I cannot be certain. But the rumors say that Tarth has fallen as well.”

Brienne nearly stopped breathing. “Tarth? My – my father – ”

“Is alive, but has been taken prisoner. I am sorry... if these reports are even true. Which they might not be.”

I have to go home. I have to go back. Just to see that everyone was safe and well. That no armies had destroyed her home. That Evenfall was still there, that her father was still there, and all was well. Aegon Targaryen could not be alive. He couldn't. His head had been dashed on the wall when he was but a young babe. Tarth was fine. It had to be. But I have to go. I have to. After this, I have to go home. I need not stay there, but I must return to Evenfall as soon as I am able.

She was sitting between Jaime and Sansa now. The flames were warm, and melted the snowflakes from her boots. But if it's true...

Brienne looked at Jaime, and at Sansa, and was struck with the thought that all three of them were resolving to return home – she to Tarth, Sansa to Winterfell, and Jaime to King's Landing. She couldn't imagine being separated from them – especially not Jaime – but all good things in this world must come to an end, as she had already learned. But still, it pained her acutely.

You knew it could not last, Brienne thought, her eyes lingering on Jaime's face, his eyes, so green and bright in the light of the fire. But there had been a part of her that had hoped it would, at least for a little while longer. She jerked her head away, not wanting anyone to see the tears in her eyes – a silly young girl, still dreaming of impossible things.

The fire crackled, and Mya Stone wrangled the mules and carried all of their clothes and baggage upstairs with the help of Sandor, and Pod touched Sansa's shoulder and the two of them ate dinner, and Thoros retired to his chambers, and Gendry went outside to his forge, and Jaime and Brienne sat.

“I understand,” Jaime finally said, “if you want to go home.” There was something in the way he said this that made Brienne reach for his hand. Even now the touch sent a warm thrill through her body. His fingers absently stroked hers.

“I understand if you do as well,” Brienne whispered. It took all her will to keep her voice steady.

Jaime turned his head towards her sharply. “Me?”

“You're Lord Commander, and... your king... your sister is well... and your uncle is... don't you wish to mourn him with your family?”

He smiled at her. “I meant I would come with you, if you wanted me to.”

“O-oh.” She blinked rapidly and gazed back at the fire.

“Do you not want me to?”

“No, it's – of course I – well, it's only that... you'll have to go back at some point, won't you?” Brienne could feel her voice faltering, and wanted to slap herself for getting so sentimental.

Jaime chewed on his bottom lip. “I suppose. Sansa is safe now, but... I'm not sure you will be, should you decide to venture back to Tarth. If these rumors of assault are true, it would be incredibly dangerous.”

“I can take care of myself.”

“I know that. But you shouldn't go alone.”

“Are you sure about this?”

Jaime shrugged. “I don't want to think about you doing this all by yourself. I already let you go off without me on a quest once. I don't particularly want to do so again. And you returned me home safely. Allow me to return the favor.”

Brienne felt as light as air as she embraced him. His soft laugh in her ear rumbled, and nestled against her like a blanket.

“I love you,” she wanted to whisper, but didn't. She stroked his golden hair instead.

* * *

They woke up the next morning in front of the now-extinguished fire with their arms and legs entwined. Only Sansa and Pod sat in the room, beaming cheekily at them.

“Did you sleep comfortably?” Sansa asked. “The floor doesn't seem very suited for repose. I suppose the fire kept you both warm, at least.” Pod giggled behind his hand.

She was right – Brienne's back ached, and there was an imprint of the hardwood floor on her good cheek. She and Jaime disentangled themselves and sat upright, joints cracking. Jaime rubbed his neck and grimaced.

“We lost track of the time, my lady,” Brienne said.

“At least you weren't naked for once,” Pod said.

Jaime burst out laughing while Sansa and Brienne both gave Pod shocked looks.

“Pod! What would make you say such a thing?”

“Do you honestly think I forgot about that time in the practice yard? You two always wake up together in the strangest places...”

True enough. Brienne felt a pang of guilt, remembering that. The boy was so young, and had seen too much as it was.

“Did they really wake up naked in a practice yard?” Sansa whispered to Pod as Brienne walked past to go upstairs and change.

“Yes, and it was very awkward,” Pod whispered back.

When Brienne came back downstairs dressed in her armor and a fresh bandage, the atmosphere had changed from its previous light-heartedness to a deep somberness. Sansa was wearing her wolf fur once again, and the rest of their company was gathered in a circle. She could hear the children outside, laughing and playing in the snow.

Thoros of Myr stood up straighter at her entrance. “Lady Brienne. I trust you're ready?”

She held back a gulp. “Yes.” Sansa was trying put on a brave face, but was not entirely succeeding. Brienne suspected she looked the same.

Outside, Mya was feeding the mules. She could see Gendry still at his forge. He glanced up at her for a moment, but went right back to his work.

As Brienne was about to climb atop her mule, she felt Jaime's hand on the small of her back. She felt a shiver that had nothing to do with the cold, and looked over at him.

“Come back for me,” he said, and smiled.

“I shall.” Don't make promises you don't know you can keep, she thought.

* * *

They were nearing the cave, their entire journey having been spent in relative silence, when Sansa suddenly said, “Daeme.”

Brienne looked at her with confusion. “What?” Why was she referring to the alias Brienne had assumed at the Gates of the Moon – Daema?

“Daeme Brienne,” Sansa said. “Instead of Ser. You wanted a different title, did you not? To distinguish you from men?”

“I... I did.” Daeme Brienne. It sounded a little odd, but it sounded a little right, too.

It wasn't too long after when they had reached the cave at last, and right away Brienne noticed the lack of severed heads scattered about the entrance. Thoros' influence, she imagined.

“Pod had said there were heads around the entrance,” Sansa remarked as they dismounted their mules and tied them to the stake.

“He told you that?” She would need to have a word with him later... assuming everything went according to plan. “They've been removed, it seems. So much the better. You shouldn't see such things.”

“I saw my father's head,” she whispered. “My Septa's... Jory's... Joffrey made me look. I almost pushed him off of the walkway. The Hou – Ser Sandor stopped me.”

“You've never told me that.”

Sansa gave a small shrug, and nodded towards the entrance. Her hands were shaking, but other than that she gave no indication that she was afraid.

The pair climbed down the passage to the main room, except unlike the last time Brienne was here, torches lit their way. R'hllor's symbol was painted on the cave wall as well. Never had she felt so relieved to see a foreign god's insignia. Surely this meant they had at least a few allies down here.

It was not the welcome she had exactly been expecting. Only a few stood guard over Lady Stoneheart, who was still perched on her throne with Robb Stark's bronze crown. It was as though no time had passed for her. The shadows obscured her wretched face, and Brienne was grateful for that. She was also grateful that it seemed the refugees were either in another cavern or somewhere else entirely. She lightly touched Sansa'a arm.

“I have your daughter, my lady,” she announced. “I have fulfilled my promise to you.”

“Your promise.” Stoneheart slowly stood up. “Your promise was to kill the Kingslayer.”

“My lady – ”

“Bring my daughter here.”

“What is she saying?” Sansa whispered to her as Brienne guided her closer to Stoneheart. “How can you understand her?”

“Just follow my lead,” Brienne whispered back. To be honest, she didn't know what, exactly, was going to happen. But her main priority was to keep Sansa safe – and to stay alive, if she could. For Sansa. For Jaime. For my father.

Lady Stoneheart rose from her throne, crown still held loosely in her hand. The cavern was so silent, so still. Stoneheart's face came more and more into the light as she slowly, laboriously, walked towards them. Brienne felt Sansa stiffen next to her, but she made not a peep, not even a gasp of horror or revulsion.

“Sansa,” Stoneheart said. She was but a foot away from them now, and Brienne could smell the rotting flesh that hung from her face.

“M-mother?” Sansa stared, blue eyes wide and fearful.

Stoneheart gazed at Sansa, but little emotion seemed to pass her features. Finally, she extended her paper-thin, rotting hand towards her daughter.

“Come,” she rasped.

Sansa looked over at Brienne, who could only nod. She grabbed Stoneheart's dress sleeve and stepped behind her.

Lady Stoneheart turned her red eyes back to Brienne.

“Lay down your sword,” she said, “and accept your sentence.”

“My – ?”

“You chose the noose,” Stoneheart said, loud and high-pitched, “and you will hang. You slaughtered my men. You failed to keep your promise. Hang. Hang. Hang.”

Brienne grabbed Oathkeeper's hilt, but did not unsheath it.

“Mother, this is madness! Brienne has done nothing! She saved me, she brought me back to you!” Sansa cried, but Stoneheart did not even acknowledge her.

“Your sword.”

“Mother! Mother, please!”

Your sword.”

“I fulfilled my promise to Lady Catelyn,” Brienne said. “I don't care about any promises I made to you, Lady Stoneheart, who hangs young boys and butchers innocent people and won't even listen to your own daughter!”

“Kill her,” Lady Stoneheart screeched to the Brotherhood. “Kill her now!”

No, no... Brienne trembled, and looked at the party assembled around them. All looked, none moved.

“Uncle!” Stoneheart whirled and faced a man standing in the back corner, who Brienne had not noticed. “Strike this oathbreaker down!”

The Blackfish? Brienne had never met this man, though she had certainly heard enough stories. He, too, did not move. He stared at his niece with regret and sorrow in his eyes.

“Cowards,” she snarled. “Cowards, all.” Stoneheart reached under her skirts, and a long dagger was in her hands.


Before Brienne could stop her, Sansa had leapt in front of the dagger that Stoneheart was starting to thrust at her. The blade ripped through Sansa's furs and pierced her arm. Sansa screamed and screamed and fell down and screamed. Stoneheart looked startled and scared for a moment –

Brienne unsheathed Oathkeeper and severed Lady Catelyn Stark's head from her neck.

I swore a vow, she thought as the head rolled onto the floor, and the bronze crown fell with a clatter. I swore.

“Lady Sansa, are you alright?” Brienne scrambled over to where Sansa lay on the ground, clutching her arm. She could see blood pooling on her wolf furs.

She winced and whimpered with pain, and one of the men finally came rushing over, holding bandages.

“Let me see,” he said, and Sansa lifted her furs to reveal a shallow stab wound.

“It won't stop bleeding – it won't – ”

“Shh, you'll be just fine.” As the man applied pressure to the cut, Sansa buried her face into Brienne's shoulder. Brienne threw her arm around her, and held back the tears that threatened leave her limp and useless and dead. Sansa seemed to be doing the same, with her short and ragged breaths.

Brienne soothed her and tried to calm her as the man dressed the wound (which did, in fact, stop bleeding after a while) and gave Sansa a little milk of the poppy for the pain, and before long the business was done and now all there was, was the head of the ghost of Catelyn Stark and the sword that had done the deed.

Oathkeeper was lying on the ground, coated in dark blood. I killed her. I killed her. Brienne remembered the place she had pledged her life and loyalty to Lady Catelyn. She remembered Lady Catelyn walking in by accident as she sang quietly to herself, and how she had said she had beautiful voice. She remembered sharing meals with her, taking walks, long conversations about home and family, and one of the only friendships she had ever had. It was that old grief all over again, only increased a thousand-fold.

“Brienne,” she heard Sansa say.

“I'm sorry,” Brienne said, and now her head laid on Sansa's shoulder. “I'm so sorry. I'm sorry.”

“She wasn't my mother,” she said. “That wasn't her. You didn't kill my mother. You killed Lady Stoneheart.”

“I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I failed – I'm sorry – ” In the end, she always failed everyone and everything. I was never fit to wield that sword. I'm not a knight. I don't know what I am. “I'm so – I'm sorry – ”

“You didn't fail anyone... Brienne... Brienne, please...”

But she had. Oh, she had. And it was only a matter of time before she failed Sansa as well. And Jaime.

The Blackfish was crouched next to them now, his hand on Sansa's back. “My great-niece,” he said. “I'm sorry we had to meet this way.” He had picked up the crown, and was holding it before her. “This was your brother's.”

Sansa gingerly took the crown. She seemed to inspect the runes etched onto it, before turning her attention back to Brienne.

“I think I can stand up now,” Sansa said to her. “Can you help me? Can you help me rise?”

That much, at least, she could do. She lifted Sansa up, and as Sansa leaned on her for support, and Catelyn Stark's face filled her thoughts, and the cavern felt so cold, Brienne wanted to give up and give in, but knew she could not, not while Sansa still lived and still needed protecting and still needed help.

“You'll need to ride back to the inn and get Thoros,” the Blackfish was saying to her. “Some decisions are going to have to be made.”

“Of course.” Brienne could hardly process her surroundings, but Sansa turned and looked at her great-uncle quizzically.

“Decisions?” she asked.

“If you'll notice, the Brotherhood is now without a leader.” He smiled. “And there's several plans in motion right now that will need to be dealt with.”

“What kind of plans?”

“I will explain everything, my lady, as soon as your arm is more properly tended to. Lady Brienne, are you in need of a horse?”

“Daeme,” she answered. “It's Daeme Brienne. Not Lady.”

Everyone in the cavern muttered to each other, confused.

“Brienne is a knight,” Sansa announced. “The very first lady knight. And her title is Daeme, not Lady, and not Ser.” She said this with such firmness, such conviction, her back straight and head held high, that Brienne could not help but imagine a crown on her head instead of in her hand.

“I've never heard of such a thing,” the Blackfish said with a doubtful look, “but Daeme Brienne, there is a horse waiting outside for you, should you have need of it.”

“I don't.” With that, Brienne stumbled blearily out of the cave, the light from outside stinging her eyes.

* * *

“Where's Sansa?”

She had barely clambered off of the mule before Pod had sprinted up to her, Thoros of Myr standing in the doorway of the inn. Brienne could see Jaime in the window on the second floor.

“In the cave, with her uncle. Lady Stoneheart is gone.” She tied the mule to the post. She just wanted to sleep...

“When you say gone, what do you mean, exactly?” Thoros asked as Brienne made her way past him.

“I mean that I chopped her head off.” Her voice sounded lifeless even to her. Jaime was atop the stairs, his left hand clutching the railing so tightly his knuckles were white.

“Is all well?” he asked, attempting bravado, but the slight tremor in his words betrayed him.

“As well as it will ever be.”

Gendry and a few of the children had entered the room as well. More questions were asked, questions she did not have the energy to answer. She ignored them all and went upstairs, past Jaime, whose fingers brushed her arm, but she couldn't look at him. She wanted to get away from everyone, everything, all of this madness and pain. The child inside her wanted to crawl under her sheets and pretend the rest of the world did not exist.

But it did exist. The world existed, and so did she, and so did the horrible things she had done.

There was a small mirror on the wall, and Brienne, in a fit of rage, tore off her bandage and got her first real look at her disfigured face.

She was monstrous. She was terrified looking at her own reflection. She did not look real; she looked like some sort of hideous beast of a creature, her inner flesh exposed. She hastily grabbed a bandage from the bag next to the bed and wrapped it up, quick.

“Is this how you felt,” she said as Jaime walked into the room and closed the door behind him, “when you realized honor didn't matter?”

“Honor matters.” He sat next to her on the bed, and took her hand in his. “You taught me that. You reminded me of that.”

“I was stupid. I am stupid.” Stupid and naïve and foolish.

“Shh. You're not.”

She wished she could believe him. It was impossible for her to believe in anything good right now, while the memory of Lady Catelyn's head on the cavern floor was but still so sharp and fresh that it stung and cut worse than a sword ever could.

“Tell me what happened,” he said. “Please.”

She did, though her throat was so raw and dry that it was difficult to get out.

“You did it to save Sansa,” Jaime told her, after she was finished and shaking so hard that he had to wrap his arm around her. “It wasn't Lady Catelyn you slew. It was Stoneheart.”

“Stoneheart was Lady Catelyn. A twisted, grotesque version of her, but still her all the same. I saw her eyes... when she stabbed Sansa... the real Catelyn was still in there, somewhere, and I... I...” The tears were spilling out of their own accord – how was it that Jaime could always disarm her so, bring her walls down and leave her so vulnerable? – and Jaime's embrace was a comfort, but not enough of a comfort to make her forget. And she needed to forget it all, just for a while...

So she kissed him, fiercely, eagerly, and he kissed her back and she went to un-lace his breeches but her fingers went limp and her head fell against his shoulder.

“I want to sleep... I want to sleep...” she murmured against him.

“So we'll sleep.”

* * *

She dreamt of home that night, Tarth, but its waters ran red and Evenfall was split in half by a giant's blade. A dragon roared in the distance as her father floated on a small skivvy, out out out to sea. Brienne watched from the sky as her father sailed away from the castle wreckage and into a mountain of winter, where Sansa was waiting in a dress made of snow.

“Where is my daughter?” he asked her, on his knees.

“Away, my lord,” she answered. “Far and away.”

As her father wept, his tears sliced through the snowflakes.

* * *

“We had a visitor at dawn,” Gendry said the next morning.

Brienne, Jaime, Pod, and Mya all looked up from their meager portions of oatmeal. The children sat at the other table and chattered happily amongst themselves.

“A visitor? Who?” Mya asked.

“A rider. I was at my forge when he came. He asked if I had seen you.” He looked at Jaime.

Jaime chewed and swallowed. “Not a surprise. My disappearance must have the entire Lannister forces out looking for me. What did you tell him?”

“I told him that I hadn't, but – they weren't looking for you just because you're missing.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, apparently – he didn't tell me much, but – there's a warrant out. For your arrest.”

Brienne nearly choked while Jaime simply stared at him. “My arrest?”

“For treason. Deserting the Kingsguard. And for – ” He hesitated, his eyes shifting back and forth between the two of them.

“For what?” Jaime demanded. Brienne felt her stomach sink to her feet.

“For the... rape of Brienne of Tarth.”

Jaime dropped his spoon on the floor, where it fell with a great clatter. Their table fell completely silent, as the orphaned children giggled and played innocently. Brienne felt dizzy, and her oatmeal churned in her belly.

“The rape?” he cried incredulously. “How did – I don't understand – what even gave them the idea – where did they conjure up such a vile lie?”

“Ser Hyle Hunt.”

No. Surely that was not right. Ser Hyle had a small streak of cruelty in him, most certainly, but she could not believe that he would...

“You jest,” she said.

“He's leading the search,” Gendry said. “By order of Queen Cersei.”

Jaime fell back in his chair.

Brienne tried desperately to piece this information together in a way that made even a little sense. Why would he say that Jaime raped me? He knows that is not the case. Why did he not tell the queen the truth? Unless... He wanted her to be absolved of any blame. Of course. She would be executed as well if it was known that she had consented to laying with Jaime, especially with his sister controlling the executioner's axe. He still means to marry me. And now that her virtue had been compromised, he would now be the only candidate for her hand. He's a fool if he thinks this is going to work.

At least, if that was even his plan to begin with.

“You can't stay here,” Mya was saying. “You'll be putting everyone's lives at risk if you do.”

“There's nowhere else for me to go,” Jaime said through clenched teeth. His face had gone so, so pale.

“There's the cave,” Pod suggested.

“The Blackfish is there,” Jaime said. “As soon as he sees me, he's like to kill me.”

“What? Why?”

“Let's just say there's no love lost there,” he replied, but seemed a little pouty.

At that moment, Thoros and Sandor were descending down the staircase. “I will be riding for the cave as soon as I break my fast,” said Thoros. “Anyone who wishes to accompany me can do so. It is far safer there than here.”

“Is it?” Jaime downed his drink and slammed it back on the table, but accidentally knocked the glass over. “Seven hells...”

“If you're concerned about Ser Brynden – ”

“I'm staying here, for the present. Brienne, may I speak with you a moment?”

They made their way into the kitchen, and Jaime sent Hot Pie away before sitting down on a stool.

“Have you decided whether you want to venture home to Tarth?” he asked her.

Brienne froze. “I...”

“I'm not sure whether it would make this current predicament easier or more difficult, but whatever you decide, I shall be right there with you.”

You have little choice, was the first thought to enter her mind, but she knew that was unfair and so did not say it aloud. She thought about the dream she'd had, and knew that what she was about to decide, she might wind up regretting.

“No,” she said.

“No?” He looked surprised.

“No,” she repeated. “My place is here now. There is nothing I can do to help my father. I believe I remember someone saying I wasn't good enough to take on two hundred men all by myself?” She gave a hard smile. “There might be thousands on Tarth. There isn't... there isn't anything I can do. I can serve a greater purpose here, with Sansa. I don't... I don't have a home. Not anymore.” She suddenly recalled the Elder Brother urging her to go home, saying that she was lucky to still have one. Now I have nothing, except a promise and a young girl who needs my protecting. If I don't fail her also.

“Strangely rational of you. Almost too rational.”

“I suppose your good sense is rubbing off on me.”

“I doubt that. But, if this is what you want...”

It's not what I want. It is what is necessary. “It is.”

“Well.” He rose from his seat and stood very close to her, so close she felt warm between her legs. “I suppose that's settled.”

With that, he strode out, Brienne not far behind him, face slightly flushed.

“Sorry, but – I have something for the both of you,” Gendry said to them as they re-entered the dining area.

He brought them out to the forge, where he had three objects lying on his work bench – one was a large steel shield that shone in the sunlight. It had large spikes affixed to the center, and smaller ones studded around its edges. Second was a steel fist, also with spikes, that managed to match Jaime's armor almost perfectly. Brienne could picture it on Jaime's right arm, and if one did not know that he did not have a hand, they would merely think it was his gauntlet. Brienne remembered telling Gendry about the new fighting style she and Jaime had developed for him, and was amazed that he had actually gone out of his way to help him like this. Jaime looked shocked as well.

Third was a small piece of metal painted beige, with a thin, almost invisible string around the side.

“What is that?” she asked, pointing at it, while Jaime stared at his shield and steel fist with wonder.

“That's for you, m'lady,” said Gendry. “For your – your wound.”

“I don't understand.”

“You can wear it as a sort of... mask, to cover the bite. It's so you don't have to wear the bandages all the time. It'll be easier. Here...” He demonstrated how to put it on before handing it to her. “I dunno. It might be stupid, but... you saved our lives, way back. Figured it was the least I could do.”

Remarkable, Brienne thought, putting it on as he had instructed. It felt extremely strange, and she imagined it would feel even stranger without the bandage underneath it, but it certainly solved the problem of running out of the bandages the Septons had provided her with. And Gods know I cannot walk around with half of my face bitten off without terrifying everyone I come into contact with. Not even Jaime had seen the full extent of the bite.

“Th-thank you,” she stammered. He looked so like Renly that even now it was still a little difficult for her to look him right in the eye. Luckily Jaime didn't notice, as he was still too busy admiring his new weapons.

“You're not gonna be able to fight as well as you did,” Gendry said, “but at least you'll be able to defend yourself.”

“Or others.” Jaime gripped the shield with his left hand and held in front of him, turning towards Brienne. “Good?”

“Better than good.” The shield was extremely well-made and deadly. Brienne and Gendry leapt back as Jaime began to swing it back and forth.

“It's heavy,” he said, “but I'll get used to it.”

Brienne absently stroked her mask as Jaime continued to test out his new shield and battle hand, which Gendry had helped him strap on. A few of the others came outside to watch, Sandor included. He looked over at her and her new face and raised an eyebrow.

She turned and began to walk away, before stopping next to Thoros of Myr.

“You knew, didn't you,” she said to him. “You knew what was going to happen in the cave. You saw it. In your flames.”

Thoros only gave her a sad smile.

Why can't you see my father in your flames?! she longed to ask him, longed to shake him from his collar and lift him off the ground until he told her something, anything at all– but there was no point to it. Her father was lost to her, and so was Tarth, and that part of her life was over and done with and she must move on, she must always move on, she must adapt or she must die.

She put up her walls and closed the inn door shut behind her.