Disclaimer: I do not own A Song of Ice and Fire or any characters associated with the series. That honor lies with George R.R. Martin.
(For people puzzled at the title, that's my horrible attempt at cleverly changing the title of the song "The Bear and the Maiden Fair" haha)
A/N: I'm not very good at summaries, but this story will basically be what I imagine happened after Jaime went with Brienne to "save Sansa from the Hound". I currently have the first 3-4 chapters of this planned out, but I'm not 100% sure how much longer it will be beyond that or how far I'll take it… We'll see! It might evolved into a longer, full-length story. If nothing else, it will be a nice little mini-fic.
Please, please be gentle everyone haha. This is my first attempt at a "real" ASoIaF fanfic (not just a oneshot). I tried to keep it as in-character as I could, but please do not expect it to be perfect! Haha
The woman's feet crunched softly on the dead leaves that littered the ground as she dismounted rather ungracefully from her horse. A few feet away, she could hear her companion do the same, letting out a soft grunt as he did so. Brienne kept her large blue eyes fixed downward as she reached into her saddlebag, retrieving the meager meal they had brought with them from Pennytree.
She could feel Jaime's eyes on her the whole time, but didn't once look up at him. Not even when she handed him his share of bread and cheese and sat herself beside him, propping her thick frame against a large, dead tree. Brienne took a small bite from the hunk of brown bread in her hand, chewing slowly and fighting to remain calm as her mind raced with guilt and worry.
They had left the camp together at first light, and traveled for several hours in near-silence. Jaime had tried to speak to her many times, of course, the confusion and uncertainty apparent in his voice with each question – Where had the Hound taken the Stark girl? Was she hurt? What did Clegane want with her? What did he want with him? Brienne had replied to them all with one-word answers or claims of ignorance. For, of course, none of it was true.
The Hound was long dead, and perhaps Sansa Stark as well, for all she knew. But how else could she have lured Jaime away but with a lie? It had been much easier than she'd anticipated. Of course it was. He'd believe anything I say. He trusts me… A sickening, twisting sensation entered her stomach at the thought. Oathbraker. False Friend… Perhaps Lady Catelyn had been right after all.
"My lady," Jaime's soft voice suddenly reached her ears, snapping Brienne back to the present. Finally, she looked at him. "Are you alright?"
Why does he have to be like this? She wondered miserably. He was being so kind to her, and she hated him for it. Brienne would have given anything to have the Kingslayer back – The cruel, vile man who'd called her 'wench' and made her so angry she'd have snapped his neck if not for her sworn oath to Lady Stark. It would have been so much easier. But that man was long gone, and it was Ser Jaime who spoke to her now.
She hesitated a moment before replying. "I'm just… frightened, I suppose." That much, at least, was true.
Jaime appeared to be considering her words carefully as a deep breath passed his lips. For a few moments, he remained silent, seemingly lost in thought. Eventually he shifted his body, leaning closer to her as he spoke. "Listen to me." He said seriously. "You say you do not know what The Hound wants with me. In truth, my guess is as good as yours. But I do know Sandor Clegane, and I can tell you that he is not a man to be trusted. If anything should happen to me… Brienne, promise me you will not hesitate. When you have your chance, take the Stark girl and run. Do you understand?"
That did it – it was too much. His words were like a swift blow to the stomach. Brienne had reached her breaking point, and could no longer bear the weight of the guilt crushing down upon her. She tried to blink back the tears that threatened to fill her eyes as she slowly shook her head. "The Hound is dead." Her voice was barely above a whisper.
A few seconds passed. Jaime merely stared at her incredulously with wide green eyes. "What?"
"He's dead." The woman repeated. "And Sansa Stark still lost."
Brienne took a long breath, preparing herself to tell him the truth. She ended up telling him everything. She told him about Duckensdale and Pod, Maidenpool and Ser Hyle, Nimble Dick and the Whispers, Septon Meribald, Saltpans, the Quiet Isle, the inn, Rorge and Biter, the Brotherhood… She did not pause or falter until she tried to describe what had become of Lady Catelyn.
"It was horrible." Brienne whispered, her tears once again threatening to fall. "She was horrible. And I don't just mean her face…" She paused a moment, trying to calm herself. She'd finally reached the most painful part. "Lady Catelyn… she found King Tommen's letter," the woman explained. "And Oathkeeper. I tried to explain, Jaime. But she was deaf to my words. She accused me of breaking my oath, and when I swore I hadn't, she…"
"Sent you to find me." Jaime finished for her. There was no surprise or hurt in his voice, just understanding. He nodded slowly as he spoke.
It was a few moments before Brienne could break through her shock to find her voice. Does he truly believe I'd betray him so easily? "No, no, you don't understand." She continued. "I was given a choice… Be hanged… as a traitor," Her voice was soft and full of shame as she spoke. "Or bring her your head." A small sigh escaped her lips. "Of course I refused her. How could I not? When I made my choice, I knew what she'd do to me, but the boy… they meant to kill him, too." Her voice had slowly become more frantic with each word. "I tried to beg for mercy, but they wouldn't listen. The rope was around my neck, and I looked over at Pod…" A wave of nausea washed through her at the memory.
"He was dying. They were killing him, and there was only one way I could stop them." Brienne had turned away from him, staring at the cold ground between her feet as she spoke. "What choice did I have? I couldn't let him die, Jaime." A chilling breeze brushed across her scarred face, a sharp contrast with the hot, wet tear that now slid down her cheek.
"Please." The girl whispered, glancing nervously at the man beside her. Jaime's mouth was now a thin, hard line across his face, his brow furrowed in anger. "Please, forgive me. I would have died rather than betray you. I almost did, you must believe me. But I just couldn't let them – "
"Forgive you?" Jaime's voice cut her off, his words full of bitterness. "For doing something so unbelievably stupid?" He shook his head slowly. "You're trying to tell me that you even considered throwing your life away for the likes of me? I've seen you do some incredibly foolish things, my lady. But I believe this one trumps them all. Perhaps I was right about you all along – as stupid as you are ugly." He spat the words venomously at her, his hard eyes locking with hers for several long moments. Finally, his face softened slightly as he let out a deep sigh and turned away from her, running his good hand slowly through his hair.
Brienne simply stared at him blankly, completely at a loss for words. She'd expected anger, bitterness, hatred, even. But not like this. Was he really so ungrateful? Did he truly put such little value on his own life? Why doesn't he understand? "How can you say that?" She finally managed to choke out. He did not look at her as she spoke. "You honestly believe I would have done this willingly? I'd trade your life for mine, after all that's happened? Jaime, I owe you my life… and more than that." She shook her head. "I'd already lost Renly, I couldn't let that happen again… Don't you understand that I –" Brienne closed her mouth abruptly, a slight flush coming to her cheeks. Even now, she couldn't say the words. It was foolish, really. What did it matter anymore, if he knew the truth? Ser Jaime would be dead soon enough. She'd certainly made sure of that.
As her words hung heavily in the air, Jaime continued gazing off into the distance, saying nothing. After what felt like an eternity, he glanced back at her, looking at her curiously before he spoke again. The anger and malice had now been replaced with a strange sort of sadness. "I believe I do understand. More than you know." He said simply, his eyes boring deep into hers. "Yet another folly, my lady. A waste. Your life is infinitely more precious than mine. Never forget that." He raised his left hand and cupped her cheek for one fleeting moment, gently brushing away a tear with his thumb.
Brienne's breath caught in her throat at the touch. "Jaime…" She whispered, her voice thick with sadness and pain. But he had already lowered his hand and was rising slowly to his feet. After a beat, she found herself doing the same.
"How far are we from their camp?" He asked, his tone much more casual than she'd expected.
Brienne peered up at the afternoon sun in the bleak sky above them. "I doubt we'll make it by nightfall." She confessed.
"Then we'd better make haste." Jaime quickly gathered up the remains of their mostly-uneaten meal and headed back toward the horses.
"But…" Brienne bit her lip, unsure as he turned to face her. "That's it then?" She asked with a small shrug.
Jaime almost laughed in reply. "What exactly were you expecting? That I'd try to run? Attack you, perhaps? Not that I'd stand much of a chance…" He glanced briefly at his stump before he shut the flap of his saddle bag, giving Honor's neck a small pat. "They still have the boy, I trust?"
Of course. Pod… They'll kill him if I don't return. "Yes." The woman replied sadly, defeated.
"Then it would appear I have no choice. You may be foolish enough to risk your own life on my behalf, but I'll be damned if I let that boy die in my stead."
The Maid of Tarth mounted her horse in silence, more reluctant than ever to continue their journey. Somehow, she'd let herself believe that telling the truth would make things easier… How wrong she was. She tried desperately to shake her guilt and doubt, forcing herself to think of poor, innocent Pod, choking and dying beside her. That only made the pain worse.
After several seconds, she noticed Jaime eyeing her expectantly, waiting for her to once again lead the way. Brienne lifted the reins with slightly trembling hands and gently urged her horse forward. Jaime's mount quickly fell into step beside hers. Eventually, she willed herself to look over at him.
"Jaime, I'm so sorry." She said softly.
He gave her a small, sad smile. "I know."
And, like the first half of their journey, the rest was spent in silence.
A/N: Okay, so there was chapter one. I really hope that it wasn't horrible and completely OOC! I love getting reviews, so please just take a second to let me know what you thought, even if you hated it! (Though I'd much prefer constructive reviews over outright flaming haha). Thank you for reading! Hopefully the next chapter will be up soon! (It will be from Jaime's POV… yay!)