Word Count: 761
Rating & Warnings: PG-13
Summary: Post-ADWD. Brienne has made her choice, but she doesn’t know who the real monsters are anymore.
“I have no words for monsters,” she had told him, as they fled Riverrun. A hundred years ago, it seemed – a time when Lady Catelyn still lived, when her own face was merely plain rather than hideous, when she could look at Jaime Lannister and see only the Kingslayer of legend.
Yet she had no words for him now, either. It had been a long while since she had thought him a monster – had it been the moment he’d shouted “sapphires”, or the day he had jumped into the bear pit at Harrenhal? Brienne could not be certain. Nor was she certain of the moment she had stopped thinking of him as the Kingslayer, and begun to address him as Jaime. Only Jaime.
Was it folly to have cared so for such a man – a slayer of kings, a breeder of bastards, a would-be murderer of children? She had convinced herself that he was redeemed, but who was she to declare redemption? Not a god, not a queen, hardly even a lady - only a foolish girl who called herself a knight, and who had once believed that knighthood was a badge of pride.
“War makes monsters of us all,” the red priest had told her. Jaime had tried to tell her the same, in so many ways, and she wished she had understood long ago.
He rode beside her, as he had for days, but they had spoken little. She had little to say; she feared that if she opened her mouth, it would betray her, and that she could not allow.
Jaime had been doing enough talking for them both. When, in the beginning, she had answered him only with clipped, sullen responses, he had grown quiet – and if Brienne had not known better, she might have thought he seemed a bit hurt. But he must have decided she was merely depressed and in need of distraction, for now he blathered on about the war, about his brother, the news from Riverrun, and anything else that crossed his mind. He couldn’t possibly know how each word slowly tightened the noose around her neck.
She could see the walls of the Crossroads Inn rising before them now; it was a short journey from Riverrun, but somehow she had managed to believe they had more time. Her heart slammed against her chest, but whether it was for Jaime’s sake or at the memory of the grey woman and her cold, dead eyes Brienne would never know.
“We can rest here,” she said, willing herself not to choke on the words, “I’ve been here before.”
Jaime was looking at her strangely, but he urged his mount on towards the gates.
“As you wish, my lady.”
Why couldn’t he have called her wench, just one last time? Why did he insist on blindly trusting her, on riding into the inn with no suspicions?
You’re a fool. A fool and a kingslayer and a monster, she thought.
And so am I.
Brienne drew her reins and leapt from her horse as though it had caught fire.
“Get down,” she ordered.
“Get. Down. Now.” She knew if he hesitated any longer she would not be able to keep her voice steady, or her hands still, or the moisture welling in her temples at bay.
Jaime slid obediently from his saddle, and in two strides she was standing before him.
“Brienne, what in seven hells – ˮ
Before he could ask any stupid questions, she threw her arms around his neck and kissed him firmly on the mouth. To her great surprise he responded in kind, and for just a moment Brienne actually felt like a beauty rather than a monster.
A man in a yellow cloak strode from the inn’s gate. Even from a distance, she could see the grin spread across his face.
“I’m so sorry, Jaime. It was the only way.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Pod…They have Pod, they…”
“Kingslayer!” Lem called, his companions emerging around him. “We’ve been expecting you.”
Brienne wanted to run, to take it all back and take him away, but it was too late. She forced herself to meet Jaime’s eyes and accept his look of shock and hurt. It was what she deserved.
You will pay for your sins.
She did not look away until the Brotherhood reached them and their arms were around his wrists. She would stay through the end, she vowed, and remember what payment was due to a man like him – and a woman like her.
And so will I.