“You’re much uglier in daylight!” Brienne repeated the words her husband had spat out when he had set eyes on her. “That’s what your father told me when he first saw me.” Years had gone by and they had come a long way now, Jaime had changed drastically since their first meeting, but the snark in his voice and the contempt on his face when he had looked her up and down was still fresh in her mind.
Six year old Joanna turned to her father, green eyes matching his, glaring at him in disapproval. “That’s not a nice thing to say to a girl, father,” she admonished, scowling at him in displeasure. “Mother would’ve felt bad.”
“I know, and I’m no longer proud of it,” Jaime agreed with her, stealing a glance at Brienne as he tried to fend off his daughter’s accusation. “But your mother was no ordinary woman, either,” he told her, his eyes twinkling. “When we met, sparks flew!”
Brienne’s heart sank as she guessed where this was going. “I know what you’re hinting at,” she said, sensing a bout of sarcastic remarks to come. “If you’re trying to mock me--”
Jaime immediately became defensive. “I’m not, wench--”
“What’s a wench?” chimed Joanna, a questioning look on her inquisitive little face.
“A rather horrible thing to call a lady,” Brienne immediately replied, glowering at her husband. “Something which your father calls me even today.” Not that she had a problem with him calling her wench, but the thought of reliving their days in such a mocking fashion pricked her more than she had expected it to.
Jaime studied her face. “I thought you didn’t mind me calling you that.”
“I don't, but--”
She was interrupted by their son. “Wait for me!”.
Selwyn, who was older than Joanna and old enough to begin his training had been practising his moves a few feet away. It was obvious that he’d been eavesdropping on their conversation when he hurried across to his parents as soon as the discussion had heated up. “Tell us everything from the beginning,” he urged his father, intrigued. “If you hated each other so much, how did you end up marrying her?” The two children settled down by his side, looking at him with rapt attention.
“When we met, she spent months dragging me through the Riverlands,” Jaime began his story, a faraway look in his eyes as he spoke. “I was made to walk across half the country, bound in chains and pulled by a rope, treated like an enemy with your mother barking at me all the time.”
Brienne couldn’t allow him to present a biased picture to their children. “You were the enemy, and you’ve been the one to provoke me all the time!” she corrected him in irritation.
Jaime gave her his most charming smile, almost melting her anger away, but she maintained a stern expression. She knew him well enough to expect a taunt next. “You were always angry with me, wench. If it had not been for your vow, you’d have bitten my head off.”
Even more miffed with him trying to play the innocent victim, she turned to the children, determined to present her side of the tale, the truth as it had happened. “Your father was lying in wait for a chance to kill me and get away.”
“No you didn’t!” Selwyn exclaimed.
Jaime gave him a sheepish look. “I did,” he admitted. “All I wanted then was to escape, and killing Brienne was my best chance.”
“Did you fight her?” The excitement in his voice was more pronounced than before at the prospect of his parents engaging in combat.
“He did,” Brienne supplied, vividly remembering every second of that fateful day and what had transpired after that.
Selwyn eyed his father hopefully. “Did you win?”
“Don’t be stupid,” Joanna interjected, her eyes full of admiration when she looked at Brienne. “Mother won, ofcourse. No one can beat her.”
Despite her irritation, Brienne couldn’t help smiling at her daughter. “Yes, my dear, I did, but it was mainly because your father was weak and in chains,” she said, once again deciding to give them the facts as they were. “Had he fought with his full strength, I’d have had a tough time.” She went on, sighing deeply. “We soon realized that fighting each other was no use. We fought in vain for it turned out that your father wasn’t my enemy after all,” she said, a shiver running down her spine at the recollection of what had followed.
Two pairs of anxious eyes peered at her closely. “What happened after that?” asked Selwyn, his voice almost a whisper.
“We were captured and taken prisoners by the Boltons,” Jaime recounted, his voice hollow. “And when night came, they tried to--” he seemed to search his mind for the right words to describe her attempted rape “--hurt your mother.”
“Did you save her?” asked Joanna eagerly, her face lighting up. “Like a prince saves his princess?”
“I did,” Jaime revealed, his expression clouding. “But I was no prince, my dear. A prince would’ve fought for her, but what I did was far from that.”
All her anger and irritation now behind her, Brienne was filled with a sudden surge of affection for her husband. My prince, she thought, recollecting his impulsive but chivalrous act to save her, not once, but twice. My knight in shining armour…
“What are you smiling for, mother?”
Coming back to the present, she found Selwyn keenly observing her. “If your father hadn’t stepped in, I wouldn’t be here today.” She gazed at Jaime, still smiling. “He’s the bravest, most honourable man I’ve ever met.”
Joanna was bent on hearing the story without interruptions. “What did you do for her that day?” she pressed further, nudging her father for an answer.
Her smile fading away, it was Brienne who answered. “He sacrificed his hand for me,” she said dully, the guilt that she was the cause for his maiming returning to haunt her again.
Selwyn stared at his father. “You lost your right hand for her? What made you do that?” He posed the question that had been nagging her for years. “Minutes before you were captured, you fought her. You wanted to kill her, so why save her?”
Jaime scratched his beard, lost in thought for a moment. “I don’t really know. Maybe your mother’s influence rubbed on me, made me realize that I had the makings of an honourable knight after all. It was Brienne who forced me to live on after the trauma,” he confessed, smiling. “If she hadn’t stepped in, I wouldn’t be here today.”
“And after that, he did something which no prince would ever have done before,” Brienne went on, her voice quivering. “He saved me from a bear, leaping into a pit and putting himself in front of the beast to protect me, one handed and unarmed.”
Selwyn raised his brows. “You say you hated each other, yet you tried to protect one another--” the boy paused, frowning “--you’re strange!”
Brienne met her husband’s eyes, wanting to ask him something she should have confronted him with years back. “Why did you do that, Jaime? Why did you risk your life again for me?”
“Because he loved you,” Joanna squealed in delight, beaming at her parents. “That’s what princes do for the girls they love. You are a prince, father, and mother’s your princess!” she declared, looking at him proudly.
Brienne had to suppress a laugh at her innocent inference for she didn’t want to hurt the child. “He didn’t love me then, he--”
Before she could continue, they were interrupted by their Septa. “My lord, my lady,” she addressed them, stepping into the courtyard hesitantly. “It’s time for Lady Joanna’s needlework.”
Joanna groaned in disappointment. “But the story--”
“After that we fell in love and got married,” said Jaime, simplifying things beyond proportions. “And that was how it ended,” he finished, indicating the end of their conversation. “Off you go now.”
But Joanna refused to budge. “I want to learn how to fight,” she declared, looking at her mother beseechingly.
“Ofcourse you will, my dear,” Jaime promised her. “And I’m sure you’ll turn out to be a wonderful swordswoman, just like your mother.” That seemed to mollify the child a bit and she showed no resistance this time, walking away with the Septa.
Selwyn, however, seemed unconvinced with his father’s conclusion to the tale. “But when did you fall in love with her?” he tossed the question at Jaime. “You never told us that.”
“We battled the others in the great war,” Jaime told him. “By that time we just knew we loved each other. One night at a tent in Winterfell, in the midst of the battle I confessed my love to your mother and so did she. After the war, I married her and you were born a year later.”
“You ought to return to your chambers as well,” said Brienne, deciding that they were done for the day. “We can resume training tomorrow.”
The boy skipped after his sister without a fuss and Brienne was about to follow them inside when Jaime held her back.
“Wait,” he said, pulling her to a side. “Something’s troubling you,” he observed, searching her face. “I didn’t mean to mock you, wench, I just made a sincere effort to tell the children how we met. If I’ve offended you--”
Brienne pressed her lips together. “It’s not that,” she said, wondering if she should voice her thoughts.
She took a deep breath, trying to contain the sinking feeling that had brought her down a while ago. “If it weren’t for me--” she paused, looking away “--you’d still have your hand. You would’ve had a very different future, not the life of a cripple you’ve had to deal with because of me--”
Before she could finish what she was about to say, Jaime’s arms were around her and his lips on hers, warm and delicious, seductively intoxicating. As was always the case when he kissed her, she forgot the world, and her concerns just seemed to melt away, as did her guilt and anxiety. As usual, she surrendered to him, her lips, her tongue, her mind and her heart. She would’ve spent all day in his arms had it not been for the time and place they had chosen to succumb to their passion. Conscious that they might be seen, she pushed him away reluctantly.
“Later,” she promised him when he looked disappointed. “You didn't let me finish what I was about to say. If it weren’t for me--”
“--I’d still have been the Kingslayer, I wouldn’t have had a life.” He smiled, a smile so charming that it made her want to kiss him again. “I wouldn’t be the man I am today,” he said, tucking a lock of her golden hair behind her ears.
“Why, though?” she asked again, remembering he hadn’t answered her. “Why did you come back for me at Harrenhal?”
“I honestly don’t know,” he admitted. “A corner of my heart felt something for you, something I wasn’t aware of until months later. But there’s one thing I want you to know, wench.”
She waited, wondering what was on his mind.
“Losing my hand was the best thing that ever happened to me.” His eyes shone with love when he spoke. “It brought me closer to you, made me fall in love with you, made me a better man. Today I’m blessed with a happy life with the most beautiful woman in the seven kingdoms--”
“Don’t say that,” she stopped him, pain shooting through her. “Not you, not after all these years.”
He took her hand. “You are beautiful, wench--” he reiterated with no trace of mockery in his voice this time as well “--my lovely wife who’s given me two lovely children I can call my own.” A shadow crossed his face leaving Brienne realizing with a pang how painful having three children he couldn’t give his name to might have been. “You’ve given me the life I never knew I wanted.”
“I’d do it all over again, my lady,” he said softly, pulling her closer. “I’d gladly give my other hand for you, jump into a pit full of dragons for you, if need be.”
“Oh, shut up,” she chided him, gently pushing him away. “We both know how good you are with dragons, so that’s the last thing you should ever attempt. And don’t you even speak of losing your hand--”
But Jaime was dead serious. “I mean it,” he said, locking eyes with hers. “I’d do anything for you. I’d go through all the seven hells for you.”
Tears pricked the corner of her eyes, his words leaving her overwhelmed. “Stop saying such things!” she cried out, awestruck that he still loved her as much as he did the night he had confessed his love for her. “Don't you even dare try anything like that.” His recklessness and his tendency to act on an impulse worried her even today. “Gods, you can be an idiot at times!”
“I can’t help it.” He broke into a smile. “The things I do for love--”
“--have proven to be dangerous most of the times,” she scolded. Winding her arms around his neck, she didn’t bother to suppress the tears that rolled down her cheeks. “Why don’t you think of something normal for a change?”
“Your wish is my command, Lady Brienne.” He kissed away her tears. “How about we get down to something less dangerous, something you promised me a while ago?” he suggested, his eyes dancing mischievously. “How about a sparring session, my dear?" His voice was thick with desire. "Not here--” he quickly added, making his intention clear “--but in the privacy of our bedchambers, and then we could probably follow it up with something um… interesting.” He winked seductively, evoking a pleasant ache in the pit of her stomach.
“I’d like that very much, Ser Jaime.” Blushing deeply, she pulled him in for a kiss, a fire beginning to burn within her in anticipation of what was to come.