"Have you heard of that young Stark child being found hidden away at the Eyrie?" said a squat woman in an unflattering yellow gown to a younger, prettier thing that looked as though she would break even in the smallest embrace.

"One of Eddard Stark's daughters?" the slight girl asked, hushed. Jamie instantly forgot his prayers, his attention on the pair in the corner.

"Who else, Lady Hightower, who else!" the older woman said. "It was the eldest one, Sansa. The creature who murdered Renly Baratheon found her trapped in the care of Petyr Baelish." Jamie's temper flared at the name given to Brienne. He had called her far worse, but to hear her falsely accused of murder did not stand well. The Maid of Tarth did many things, but she never laid a hand on Renly, although she wished she could have, as his lover.

"Whatever was he keeping her for?" the young woman prodded.

"Elisa said he planned to wed her, but Myrini Tyrell said that he was keeping her as a mistress and slave."

"Gods watch over her!"

"They say she arrived safely, and still a maiden, into the hands of the Tullys."

"Mother be praised." With a muttered prayer, the woman lapsed into silence again. Jamie had heard enough. He gave a final word to the Warrior, stood, and strode quickly from the sept. He vaguely noticed the eyes of the women following him as his boot heels rang against the marble floor.

Brienne had kept her word. She had found Sansa Stark and delivered her to her family. Jamie could hardly keep from smiling. The wench had fulfilled her oath to him. He doubted seriously that she had quested for that reason alone, but perhaps it played a part in her determination. Brienne never stopped until she had done something the way she promised it would be done. It was good to know she still had fire enough to fight her way to end.

Jamie found no comfort in the conclusion of Brienne's quest, though. He wondered what would become of her now that she did not have a set purpose. That won't remain so for very long. Brienne of Tarth was not idle, and that was why Jamie worried about her.

Jamie was restless. The appointments of the new Kingsguard had taken all day. Landon Hightower, although a fool, would be loyal enough to command the whitecloaks in Jamie's place. With him came Ballion Tyrell, who took the place of his cousin Loras.

The Knight of Flowers had been more vexing than usual. At his father's insistence, Tommen and Cersei had released him from the king's service. He had told no one but the young king and the queen regent his true reasons for departure from the Kingsguard. Jamie suspected treachery, but he had neither the proof nor the spies to acquire it. He might have asked Cersei, but she would as soon release her guards on him as suffer his conversation.

She had not spoken to nor come anywhere near him since he had refused her as a bedmate a fortnight before. He found himself almost relieved at her absence. Other matters pressed at his mind than her or her pretty cunt. He drove his thoughts away from his twin. The amusements of their childhood were past. The consequences could not be undone, but future indiscretions could be prevented.

His fingers itched to drill with his blade, but night had already fallen and his squires were abed. He strode the length of his chamber tirelessly. A breeze came in from the window, drying the sweat on his bare chest, chilling him. He ignored the uncomfortable feeling of being trapped in the dungeon at Harrenhall. He glanced at the stump of his right hand. The flesh was red and puckered from the chafing of the golden cuff. He disliked wearing it, but preferred it to pinning his sleeve up.

"You should not pretend to have your hand back," the wench had told him as they stood together on the battlements of the east tower, after they had sparred. "You are hindered by its loss certainly, but you are not broken or crippled. You are just as fierce a lion as I ever fought." The words hung in the air expectantly, but Jamie could think of no reply. They stood in silence until the bells of Baelor's Sept rang, near sunset.

A vivid picture of Brienne of Tarth arrived in Jamie's mind. The last time he had seen her was when she set off on her quest to recover Sansa Stark. She had been garbed in her usual mail and leather, her broad form fitted to it. Jamie stood eye to eye with her, something not many women could boast. Then, he had been slenderer of build than her. But, when she returned...Jamie ground his teeth as she took shape before his eyes.

At Tommen's nameday feast she had worn an odd variation on a gown; it was made of swatches of thin blue muslin that formed a set of loose pants. A tightly laced bodice strewn with pearls was settled over them. It showed a good waist with wide hips and a wide chest. Her breasts were still small.

Her hair of straw was grown out past her shoulders. It was thicker than Jamie remembered, though bone straight. She was not a beauty, but she was not repulsive. She had nodded to Jamie, calling him, "Lord Lannister." She had bowed cordially to Tommen and Margeary, although the young queen gave her a mocking smile. Jamie wanted to beat the insolent little whore himself. She had overstepped her bounds as soon as she ascended the throne. Cersei had plotted to have to her slandered, but it had come to nothing. The commons loved her and her beauty. Jamie did not begrudge them their simple devotion, but he saw past her innocent smile and shy eyes. Brienne had given her an impassive look and turned away.

In the days since her arrival, Jamie had made sure he came across the wench every day, whether it be in the yard, the stables, at supper, or in the library. She was often reading, although the books were hardly worth the time. He had fought her daily. She was a fine a swordswoman as she had ever been. Sometimes he caught her running along the battlements at dawn, her long legs carrying her quickly. Although he had requested it, she refused to teach him the grappling tactics she had learned at Winterfell. Her freckled cheeks often colored when he mentioned it.

She was much the same, stubborn and brazen. She spoke her mind and didn't bother with deceit, something Jamie found refreshing in his world of trickery, led, of course, by Cersei. Brienne gave him her honest opinion, although it was not half so bitter as it had been when they first traveled together.

The clever, but common-born maid who kept her chambers provided her with clothes that fit properly and colors that became her. She dressed modestly, but Jamie had not forgotten the red bodice she wore the day she arrived in King's Landing. It had dipped low enough to expose the curves of her breasts.

Jamie felt himself stirring at the thought of trailing his hand across the flesh, slipping his forefinger into the cleft of her meager cleavage. He had tried to banish the idea since that first day, but had not been successful. His loins ached, but not for the known world of Cersei; he wished to map uncharted territory.

A heavy knock fell on the door. Jamie turned his thoughts, odd as they were, away from Brienne. He wore only his black silk breeches, so he pulled on his fur robe. "Enter."

As the door swung open, the burly guard announced, "Lady Brienne of Tarth." The wench strode into the room in four long steps. She nodded to Jamie, who bid the doorman go.

"Well, well, well," he said, "to what do I owe this honor?"

Brienne looked away from him, going over to the wine shelf and pouring herself a cup. She took only a sip and left the horn vessel on the table near the fire where Jamie's books rested. She was jittery, that was quite unlike her. Jamie decided to let her begin. He sat on a horsehair chaise, crossed his arms, and waited.

"Why are you wearing a robe?" Brienne demanded, looking at Jamie for the first time. "It's been warmer these past few days than it has all winter."

"There's quite a terrible draft in here sometimes," Jamie said dryly, "being a tower and all."

The wench laughed, a cruel sound that grated against Jamie's ears. "You're not so hard to see through, Kingslayer. Your lies become transparent when you are so out of practice."

Jamie's temper flared. He was used to her calling him by his dishonorable title, but she had hardly had a cross word with him since she arrived. "Who are you to judge, wench?" he snapped. "You parade about as if you are a woman of breeding. You may not be Renly's knight anymore, but you'll never be a noblewoman." He knew his words would cut her. They had in the past, now was no different. But, something in his own breast twitched at his cruelty. They had no reason to quarrel. He took pleasure in spending his days with his wench. Perhaps her moon's blood is on her, he thought, suppressing an amused grin.

"What makes you think I want to be?" growled Brienne. "To resort to treachery and foul lies, gossip and reputations? I wouldn't want to be like you, now would I?"

Jamie shot to his feet. "You are nothing like me!" he bellowed.

Brienne took a step closer to him, her face close to his. "All the better," she spat. "I came to bid you farewell, Kingslayer. I am leaving before sunrise." She smiled coldly. "I'm going Highgarden...and my betrothed will ride with me."

Jamie's rage turned white-hot. He breathed heavily from his nostrils, like a challenged stallion. "Who?" he snarled. When Brienne did not respond, he stalked over and grabbed her by the arm, forcing her to look at him. "Who?"

"Loras Tyrell," she said through clenched teeth.

So that's where he's run off to. "They plan to marry you to that fop?" Jamie laughed. "What a match! What a match, indeed." He trotted over to where Brienne had left her cup of wine. He lifted it. "To you, my Lady Tyrell-to-be. May it rain on the day of your wedding, may your horses' shoes fall off, may your marriage bed be bug-ridden, and of course, may your husband's cock be ever-flaccid!" He bowed with a flourish and downed the wine.

Brienne glared at him. "It's my duty to wed, as my father grows more ill with each day. Tarth must have a lord and Loras is my only choice." Her shoulders fell, a pathetic gesture, but she soon straightened herself and lifted her chin. "I thank you for your well-wishes, Lord Lannister, and I hope I never see you again." She made for the door, but Jamie beat her to it.

"You are my guest," he said, his left hand curling around the handle, barring Brienne's way. "I have treated you poorly."

"So like a high noble to act a fool," Brienne hissed, "then apologize prettily and expect to be instantly forgiven. I owe you nothing, Kingslayer, nor you me. And your fancy tricks will work naught with me."

Jamie savagely shed his robe, irritated by its weight. He advanced on Brienne. She took a few steps back, startled. He disregarded her shock and her eyes on his body. "I have given you the chance to toy with me, wench. I have not been half so harsh as I could be. I owed you that much."

Brienne backed into a chair, stumbling over it. Jamie crossed the distance between them in the time she wasted fumbling for her footing. She sat heavily down. Jamie slammed his fist against the arm of the chair and bent over her. "I have allowed you to command me, wench," he rumbled. "Perhaps I was a fool for doing so, but as my right for saving your life in the bear pit at Harrenhall, I will issue a command for you that must be followed."

"There is no task I can't perform, Kingslayer."

"Very well," he said, smiling. "Rid yourself of your promise to Loras Tyrell."

Brienne jerked. "I cannot go against my father's word."

"I did," Jamie said, leaning closer to her. "Where is your strength? You can face an army but you will not reject a suitor?"

"I have no suitors!" Brienne cried, her cheeks burning beneath her freckles. "A suitor contends for a maiden's hand. Loras is the only one who agreed to wed me. Our other offers went unanswered."

Jamie shoved himself back, pacing the room again. Brienne remained in her chair, her entire form tense.

"What would you do?" Jamie asked. Brienne asked his meaning, her brows knit. Jamie growled in frustration. "If you had suitors...what would you make them do to prove they were worthy of your hand?"

The wench waited to reply for a moment. "This has nothing to do with anything," she said.

"Would you make them fight in a tourney?" said Jamie. "Or compare their wits? Or perhaps it is the comeliest you would choose." Brienne remained silent as he strode over to her again. "Tell me, wench, would Loras Tyrell be your choice?"

She said, quietly raging, "He is my only choice. Why do you taunt me, Kingslayer? I am not your beautiful sister. I will never have lords line up for me as she did."

Jamie laughed. "Oh, wench, you are terribly innocent, aren't you?" He picked up the empty wine cup and threw it against the wall. The horn shattered. "My sister is whore! A plotting lioness that strives only to ruin all in her path. She is bitterer even than you." Words spilled from his lips, unchecked. "Cersei wanted to be me, a man, and so she made me a slave to her, a bed boy. She was my whore. I would have fought every man in the Seven Kingdoms for her hand." He pointed an accusing finger at Brienne. "It was you who showed me that I was a fool. You see, wench, you found the Kingslayer's weakness. A woman can tear a gaping hole in me like no other creature. I will do anything she tells me. And there is nothing I can do to resist, Cersei made sure of that." He licked his lips, breathing in. "You have made a man from a dog. Are you not pleased?"

The wench stared at him, still angry. "How am I supposed to be pleased with this great accomplishment when I never even set out to accomplish it? You've said yourself that I am not enough of a woman for anything. How can I be female enough to manipulate you?"

Jamie pressed his palm to his forehead. "That's just it. You are more of a woman than any I have ever met. Cersei yearns to be a man, so she plays what cards she has that can bring her closer. But, you just wanted to serve the king you loved. You never wanted to be a man so that you could be a knight. You became one anyway." The blood was pounding in Jamie's head. He knew that the Brienne's heart, a woman's heart no matter how much she denied it, had guided her sword to Renly, but he couldn't decide whether to pity the man or envy him.

"Will you never stop feeding me your fine compliments, Lannister?" Brienne fumed, jumping to her feet. "You expect me to believe a word of this when you have always told me different? I have come to terms with my state. I will never be graceful or gentle. I will always be more a man than a woman."

Jamie grabbed her wrist and pulled her roughly to him. She tried to push him away, but he held her against his side. "I have heard enough," he snapped. "You are a strong woman and a good one. You deserve far better than Loras Tyrell." She looked at him through her pale blue eyes. Without warning, she lunged forward and pressed her lips to his.

Jamie's body was set afire, every odd thought rushing back into his head. He pulled Brienne to him, her hands crushed between them. He parted his lips and sucked on hers until she opened them. Her tongue slid into his mouth, entangling with his. The blood in his head rushed to his loins. He thrust his hips against her, making her feel him against her thigh. She gasped and pulled back, breaking the kiss.

Jamie grinned and then swooped down to kiss hollow of her neck. He trailed his tongue along her throat to the edge of her chin, tasting salt and grass. She drew in her breath sharply and clung onto him, her hands pressed into the flesh of his back. Her spine arched, pushing her into him, as he licked and nipped her ear.

Absorbed in the kisses, Brienne hardly noticed as Jamie began unlacing her bodice. One handed, the going was slow, but when he pulled the last string free, fabric hissed against fabric and the bodice fell to the floor. Brienne broke a kiss to look down at it, and then back up at Jamie. Her eyes were wide, as if she has just realized what was happening.

"It's all right," he mumbled into her ear as he guided her head down against his shoulder.

"What are you doing?" she asked, pushing against his chest. "This is not a good idea."

"No?" Jamie replied, raising an eyebrow. "You'll have none of this, then?" He reached up to cup her breast, grazing the nipple with his thumb. She gasped, succeeding only in pushing her breast into his palm. Although small it was warm and heavy.

Before she should protest, Jamie kissed her again. He was enjoying her squirming—as only a maiden could—enough that the initial tug at his laces nearly made him jump. He pulled back. The edge of her mouth turned up.

Jamie lifted her shirt off over her head, replacing the fingers at her nipple with his mouth. He sucked gently, encouraging further squirms. She worked the knots and loops of his laces with blind desperation. When she started cursing under her breath, Jamie guided her hips far enough away so that he could get the remaining laces loose. His cock was straining painfully against them. He stepped out of the breeches at last, leaving him completely unclothed. He stepped back.

Brienne reached for him, but he shook his head. "Look at me."

Her eyes darted over his form, taking in the few bits she hadn't seen before. She quickly found the tangle of golden curls between his legs. Jamie smiled, but hid it quickly. "You approve, do you not?" She nodded. "Give me your hand." Her eyes widened as he closed her fingers around him. She was hesitant at first, but as she continued to touch him her curiosity increased. When he pulled her close again she rubbed her thigh against his cock, parting her legs.

He tore at the fastenings of her outlandish pants until they floated lightly to the ground. Falling to his knees, he buried his nose in the dark, curly hair of her mound. She cried out as he traced the dampness between her legs with his tongue.

Jamie was shaking.

"Your skin is burning," Brienne said, running her chilly fingers across his back.

"I'm well," he replied, standing.

She rolled her eyes. "I did not think it was sickness that heated you so. I am not a maid of twelve."

"You are a maid."

Her cheeks burned beneath her freckles. "Yes."

Jamie left her, sliding onto the bed's fur coverlet. She would make this choice for herself, of course. His charms, physical or otherwise, had no weight in her decision. Perhaps a little, he hoped. She turned and sprinted to the bed. Jamie caught her up in his arms. She kissed along his jaw, her tongue following her lips. He guided her legs to either side of his hips so that she hovered just above him.

Jamie groaned as he thrust himself into her. He felt her maiden's blood on him, adding to the warm wetness. She chirped in pain as she tore, but silenced her cries before a kiss could do it for her. She pressed her face against his. Her cheeks were wet. "Kingslayer." He would have preferred another title.

He moved inside her. She tightened as her body tensed, making Jamie sigh. Her fearful eyes met his. He grinned, rolling her onto her back. She winced as Jamie's thrusts became more regular.

She was so tight he had to move slowly lest he lose himself too soon. He kissed and touched her in every available place until she finally began to loosen her muscles...all of them. He could feel it as she started the rise. "Kingslayer," she whispered again in his ear. She took a firm hold on his buttocks "Oh! Oh..gods above, oh, Jamie!" She screamed his name as powerfully and femininely as any woman. He threw his head back and growled as he exploded inside her. A moment later he collapsed against her breast, both of them gasping for air. Their bodies were slick with sweat and seed. The heavy scent of sex hung in the air.

After a time Jaime slid out of her and rolled over. He draped an arm over her waist and pulled her against him. She entwined her fingers with his, against her breasts.

"Combat," she said, although it was more a sigh than anything. Jamie didn't answer. "If I had suitors, I would make them fight for my hand. I would marry the loser. I don't need his protection."

Jamie smiled. "You will have me lose to Loras Tyrell?" Brienne turned to him, eyes wide. "I will gladly kneel before him for the right to name you Brienne Lannister." He had decided on the battlements that he wanted her, but now he knew he wanted her for his alone.

"Brienne Tyrell sounds finer," she said.

Jamie heard the laugh in her voice and grinned. "You doubt me," he said, pressing his forehead against hers. "Do you not wish to marry me?"

"To carry the great name of Lannister and bear you a hundred sons? I would rather have all Highgarden at my command." He frowned, making her laugh. "A jest, Jamie, a jest."

"That's twice now you've called me by my true name. That is more of a wedding vow than a septon would read. You will have me, then?"

"I am betrothed," Brienne sighed. "And now I am not even a virgin."

Anger flared up in Jamie's breast again. "Would Loras have come to you as an unsullied boy? I doubt it. If it were me, I would have been glad to enter my marriage bed with at least one tussle under my belt."

She tried to glare, but her face softened. She rubbed her forehead. "How do you expect me to explain this away? 'Dearest husband, the night before we left for Highgarden I just happened to stumble into bed with Lord Lannister. Nothing to worry about, of course, I am the Maid of Tarth after all.' Somehow I doubt that will make up for the lack of maiden's blood on our sheets in the morning."

Sex always put Jamie in an excellent humor, and just then he was bordering on hysterical with glee. "You are welcome to take these bedclothes with you," he said, pointing to the stain by Brienne's thigh. "Or you can just marry me and be done with it."

"This is not a game, Jamie!" she snapped. "What am I to do?"

"Three times now," he laughed. "All I have to do now is fetch a cloak to exchange and we shall be wedded."

"Already bedded," Brienne grumbled despite the humor in her eyes.

Jamie kissed her. "I'll not let you be chained in Highgarden."

She looked down, tucking her head under his chin. "They need our mines."

"They want your mines."

"You certainly don't need them."

"I don't deny it."

"I despise Loras."

"As do I."

"You would have a wife like me?" she asked, her breath tickling the golden hairs on his chest.

"I'll have no other. And about those hundred sons you mentioned...I don't know that I have seed enough."

Brienne laughed. "If Loras challenges you to combat?"

"I'll face him," Jamie replied, smiling, "but I will not lose to him."

She exhaled, the corners of her mouth turning up. "I'd better find a handkerchief."

"I have a better idea." He sat up, crossing his legs under him. "Just here," he said, tapping the left side of his chest just above the nipple. "Bite down and suck as hard as you can." Her brows knit. "It doesn't hurt. Let me show you." He fastened his teeth down into the flesh of her breast and sucked. She sank down into the pillows at her back, blood already making its way back between her legs. A light bruise colored her skin when Jamie pulled back. "And now for your favor, my lady."

She gave him a similar mark in the appointed spot. By the time she had finished he was hard again. "It had better hurt less this time," she said as he slid into her again.

"I am at your command."