I've changed a couple of canon events, you'll notice. I thought it would mean more if Renly's army got to see battle, so I made it so.

Chapter 4

Jaime had made a habit of prowling the castle by night. He kept to his room by day, mostly, for he preferred not to deal with the all people milling about during the day. But cabin fever threatened to overcome him by nightfall, so he wandered its halls and grounds when most everyone was abed, save for a few guards.

As he absentmindedly strolled the halls, he heard the loud whacking sounds of metal on a wooden dummy as he approached the training yard.

He assumed it was some page who'd snuck out to practice away from the taunts of his peers, and walked on, intending to pass without comment. He'd done the same, as a very small boy, and had no desire to embarrass a young lad eager to prove himself.

When he glanced briefly to his left, however, he saw not a page, but the towering figure of the Maid of Tarth attacking the dummy with wild, angry swings. She was back in the men's garb she'd worn upon her arrival, and was soaked through with sweat.

He felt a wave of cruel delight wash over him at the sight.

"Imagining that's my head you're hacking off, are you?" he said, wryly, smirking as she gasped and whirled around to face him.

Her sword slipped out of her hand and fell with a clang. Jaime laughed. Even in the moonlight and at a distance, he could see her freckled face burning red.

"I- I was just...just...I'll go now," she stammered, bending to pick up her blade.

"By all means, my lady, stick around. Show me what you're made of," he said, raising his eyebrows at the fallen blade.

"No thank you," she said, through gritted teeth. "I take my leave of you, Ser."

"Oh, did I say that you could?" Jaime asked, affecting an expression of mild confusion. "I must have missed that."

She glared at him for a long moment, saying nothing. Finally, she forced herself into a half bow, and rose again, meeting his eyes with a pitiful attempt at deference.

"With your permission, Ser, I would greatly appreciate having your leave to go."

Jaime grinned. The wench may be the most transparent bloody woman I have ever met.

He wandered over to a wall where a number of tourney swords hung, and picked one up.

"The night is young, wench. Care for a round?" he asked, approaching her with the sword held out and hating how awkward it felt in his left hand. It did not feel quite as awkward as the homely wench looked, he noted.

"No, thank you," she said again.

"Come now," he said, circling around her with his blade. "Surely a woman can hold her own against a poor cripple, at least?"

"I have no concerns about that, Ser," she said with a forced calm. "I simply do not wish-"

Jaime, growing impatient at her attempts to remain calm, took a swing at her without warning. She blocked it, just in time, and turned to walk away.

"Impressive reflexes," he said with a low whistle. She ignored him, making her way to the end of the yard. He felt an unexpected desperation rise up in him, a need for her to stay that he could neither comprehend nor explain.

Though he didn't understand where it came from, he knew it was that which caused him to say, "You weren't quick enough to block the blow that killed Renly though, were you?"

As expected, she spun around, the expression of total fury making her unpleasant face even less so. "You don't know anything about that," she said sharply.

"Enlighten me, then," he said cheerfully, striding towards her. "I hear such strange tales of what happened that day. The young stag was in his tent, wasn't he? Recovering after his first battle against Stannis? Both sides took heavy losses. The green knights in Renly's service, perhaps more so, even though he had greater numbers at his call.. A blue-armored girl from Tarth was there too, I hear, and she-"

"Shut up," Brienne warned.

A weakness. Provoking this one'll be easier than I could have dreamed.

He laughed, and took another swing at her. This time she blocked it more easily and pushed back against him with more force.

"The wench had fought beside him on the battlefield, but she was unable to defend him in his own tent," he said, shaking his head sadly. "Too slow and stupid to defend the man she'd sworn to-"

She swung at him this time, hitting him hard on the shoulder, though not as hard, he suspected, as she might have done if she'd used all her strength.

Still, Jaime was finding more amusement in taunting her than he had at a single one of his dinners at the Rock, and was not ready to quit yet, despite the pain.

"Oh, forgive me, wench. Do I have it wrong? Perhaps you were quick enough and clever enough after all? I heard you were alone with him, when it happened. Were you perhaps clever enough to gain poor Renly's trust and then slay him when he thought himself safe? Quick enough to steal off into the night to avoid paying for your betrayal?"

"I would never," she cried, her eyes and blade both flashing in the moonlight as she lashed out at him.

Jaime lifted his sword to defend her blow, grinning maliciously.

The force of her blow reverberated up his arm, and he just managed to hang on to his sword. She slashed at him again, and he found himself impressed at her strength and form. Brienne was absolutely furious and his useless left arm could do little but desperately attempt to defend her attacks. Offense was out of the question.

Seven hells, he thought as she pressed her attack. Even if I had my good hand, she'd be a worthy opponent. She's fierce and focused and fights smart as well as strong.

"Struck a nerve, have I? Why did you kill him?" he taunted, though it was difficult to get the words out as he panted, out of breath and out of shape.

He knew, of course, that the wench could never have done it. She was as righteous as they bloody came and it was sickening. But Renly was clearly a weak point for her, and he was desperate to trip her up and land at least one decent blow before they were through with this little sparring session. He wanted to cease at least one small victory so he pushed on.

He grinned, "They say hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Was that it? Did you do it for lo-"

She swung furiously at him, and his grin faded when she sent his blunted blade flying across the yard. He realized, from the force of that most recently blow, just how much she'd been holding back before. His eyes widened.

He silently cursed his useless left hand, but could not resist continuing his taunts, even unarmed. He'd hit a sore spot with his words, even if he hadn't managed to strike her body. He knew it was borderline madness to do so, but he continued his verbal assault, reckless and cold.

"Did you love him, wench? Did it break your heart, to think of him buggering Loras Tyr-"

"Enough," she growled, and struck Jaime once- twice- thrice- until he was on his arse, his chest and arms aching from the force of her blows. She held her blunted blade pressed against his throat. "Enough," she said again.

Jaime stared up into her blue eyes and watched the fury in her large blue eyes turn to an aching sorrow. She spoke softly, more to herself, he thought, than to Jaime.

"I did not kill him. There was a shadow...a shade that struck before I could...there was nothing I do fight a shadow?"

Jaime saw the tears welling in her eyes and his eyes widened. He watched the fierce, capable wench he'd been fighting moments before turn into someone entirely different. Someone helpless and lost and defeated and young.

Something unfamiliar twisted in his gut, something akin to shame and pity. But that could not be. Pity was not an emotion Jaime Lannister experienced, save for angry self-pity directed inwards as he brooded in the darkness.

There was a thundering of footsteps and suddenly a half dozen of his guards were standing in the yard, shouting "Stand down!" and "Get back, woman!"

Jaime was grateful for their arrival, for it allowed him to break from her gaze and detach from the uncomfortable things it stirred inside him. She too, had turned to the guards and lifted her blade from his throat. As soon as she did, two of them charged forward, attempting to restrain her. The wench did little to resist.

"Let her go," Jaime said, hoarse from the pressure of her blade against his throat.

"It was only a tourney sword, you imbeciles. The girl beat me fair and square. Unhand her."

"Sorry, m'lord" one of them muttered, head bowed.

"Apologies, m'lady. We thought...we thought you was...looked like you was tryin' to kill-"

"She doesn't care what you thought," Jaime snapped, getting to his feet with a wince. "Go make yourselves useful. Elsewhere."

"Yes, Ser," they said and shuffled off in shame.

Brienne stood there awkwardly. All the grace she possessed with a blade in her hand seemed to dissipate as soon as she'd dropped it.

"I...I should not have...I'm sor-" she stammered.

"Don't apologize," Jaime said, getting to his feet with a wince. "I wanted a fight and I goaded you into it."

She stared at him without responding.

"I should not have said that, about Renly," he mumbled. "It was unjust and unfounded. I am sure you- sure you fought for him with great valor."

When the big wench continued to stare at him, saying nothing, Jaime pressed on, though he felt heat rising in his cheeks as his stumbled about for something chivalrous to say to make up for stirring up her pain.

"You're- you're very strong. You have considerable skill with a blade, my lady," he said.

"Yes," she said, eyeing him warily.

His good will and patience disappeared with her insolence, her refusal to give him any help as he floundered about like an awkward squire.

Annoyed, he spat, "I believe 'thank you' is the appropriate response when your lord pays you a compliment. I shudder to think of the kind of septas you have on your sapphire isle if that's how all the ladies of Tarth speak."

Her eyes sparked with anger for a moment and he interpreted the look as saying

'You are not my lord, Lannister.' But then she bowed her head and mumbled,

"Thank you, my lord. Do I have your leave to go?"

She spoke stiffly, full of tension and barely concealed loathing.

Jaime considered her closely.

Though his body already ached (and his pride was even more wounded) from her beating, even that brief bout of pitiful left-handed fighting had made him feel more alive than he had in months.

He longed to be as good as he once was, to feel as though the sword in his hand was an extension of his own body, to feel powerful and strong once again.

He doubted he'd ever get there, but for the first time since he'd been maimed, he felt a burning desire to try.

And the wench, who never spoke more than two words to anyone, would hardly spread gossip through the castle about how pathetic he was with his left-hand.

It was a ridiculous thought, but he could not stop himself from saying, "Yes. You have my leave. But I'd like you to come back here tomorrow night. I wish to practice using a blade with my left hand. I'd like you to serve as my partner."

"And why would I do that?" she asked, disgusted and horrified. Jaime almost laughed at her brazen response.

He was certain she was the only living soul in the castle who would dare to speak to him so, and he was sure anyone who heard the exchange would be flabbergasted. He should be angry, but he found he had no room for anything but amusement. She was truly something else, this beast of a girl from Tarth.

"Because I rule this bloody castle and I told you to?" he asked, and a small chuckle did escape his lips. "And if that's not enough, how about because even a useless cripple ought to be a better sparring partner than a wooden dummy, and no other man would deign to spar with a woman."

Brienne stared at him quietly for some time. Finally she asked, "Do I have a choice?"

Jaime was silent for a spell too before finally saying. "Yes. You do. But I hope to find you here tomorrow night just the same."

Without waiting for a response, he gave her a slight bow before turning around and leaving the yard.

Jaime had been pacing his room for almost an hour, debating furiously with himself, filled with self-disgust at his indecision.

It was bloody stupid, to be so worked up about...about this. He had never in his life felt quite so pathetic as he did right then, palms sweating as he agonized over whether or not to make his way down to the training yard.

She won't come, you fool. You spoke to her like she was lower than the dirt beneath your boots, you sent her father away without even a moment to say goodbye, you accused her of killing the man she would have died for and she thinks you've got shit for honor...She won't come.

That voice had been loudest in his head all evening.

But another voice had persisted through the evening as well, softer and calmer and full of vague hope.

But she's got a warrior's blood in her veins, it would say. You saw it in her eyes, that glint every fighter gets when they hold good steel. She feels alive with a sword in her hand, just as you once did. She may loathe you, but she loves to fight. She will come.

She won't.

She will. No one else in this damned castle would fight a woman, let alone the daughter of a traitor to the crown. She craves a partner, even if it's a cripple like you.

She's got too much hatred-

And then another voice had interrupted, full of scorn.

And what does it matter, if she doesn't? You've been scorned by your father and sister both. No one in Seven Kingdoms thinks you've got a lick of honor. Would the rejection of some ugly pig-headed girl really make a difference?

Yes. Yes, it would, he was forced to admit with a growl of disgust. If he were to make his way all the way down to the yard only to find it empty, it would bother him more than anything has since he's gotten back to the Rock, and he knew it.

Just get down there, you bloody coward. Are you a man or not?

With a feeling of dread, he threw open his door and stormed out of it.

Relief washed over him when he found her there, her broad back to him, standing up and tapping her foot in a nervous fashion. From behind, she could have been a man. Seeing her size again reminded him briefly of the beating he'd received the night before, but the fact that she turned up brought back all his typical cockiness.

"Well, well, well. Fancy meeting you here, my lady. What brings you here on such a chilly night?" he grinned smugly.

Brienne turned around to look at him coldly.

"If you're going to be flippant, I can just leave."

He bristled at that. No bloody sense of humor at all on this one.

"Relax, wench. I came to fight," he said, picking up a training sword. The sword he chose for himself was much lighter than any he would have chosen in his glory days, but he was long out of practice, and his left arm was always weaker than his right.



"My name is Brienne. Not wench," she said and she looks so disgusted he's surprised she turned up at all.

"My apologies, Lady Brienne."

"Brienne's enough," she mumbled stiffly. "I'm no lady." She reached for a sword as if to prove her point and he felt his mouth twitching into a smile, in spite of himself.

"Very well," he said with a little mock bow. "Shall we begin, Brienne?"

She came at him slowly and without much ferocity. He blocked her blow with ease and swung at her as fiercely as he could with his clumsy left arm. She parried it without any trouble and sent another light blow back at him, but Jaime had seen her in full fury and knew she was barely trying.

It irked him, to be coddled like some six-year-old page holding a sword for the first time.

"Come now, Brienne. I know you're capable of more than that."

She gave him an almost sympathetic look that plainly said "I may be, but you're clearly not." and struck a tiny bit harder.

"I didn't come here for your pity, wench, and I don't bloody need it!" he barked.

"Put some effort into it or you may as well go to your bed!"

She stared at him expressionlessly for a moment, and he began to fear that she would go, and he'd have to go back to his bed and his dull, bitter and swordless life.

Then she raised her arm and swung at him, full force. His sword went clattering into the dust.

"That's better," he said gruffly as he went to retrieve it, annoyed at the heat rising to his cheeks.

Jaime was grateful that he'd kept a beard since his captivity with the Starks. The moon was full, and the wench would hardly be able to miss the color rising to them if he was clean-shaven.

She waited until he had his blade poised and began to attack once again. Jaime caught the blow and managed to hold on to his sword this time, but it felt as though the bones in his arm were ringing from the force of her strength.

They fought hard for nearly ten minutes, and she sent his blade flying thrice in that time. His body had already been in agony from their fight the night before and she had him breathing heavily in no time at all. He fought as valiantly as he could, sure that he'd be unable to even move in the morning due to the bruises she was making.

He held on for as long as his pride could stand it, but eventually, he'd stepped back, panting hard and letting his blade drop to his side.

"Alright. Alright, wench," he breathed. "Perhaps...perhaps I need a little of your bloody pity."

Jaime thought for a moment that he saw the corners of her mouth twitching in a smile, but before he could confirm it, she was nodding solemnly. "Alright. Catch your breath and we'll begin again."

She scaled things back a bit the next round, still showing considerable strength and speed, but not enough to send his sword clattering across the yard again that night. She set the bar just above his skill level, and raised it every time he showed a little improvement.

Jaime lost track of time as they fought. It had been so long since he'd done this and even though he was clumsy and awkward and slow, he still bloody alive out there in the cold night air.

They didn't talk much as they sparred, and Jaime was fine with that. He spent enough time during his days making small talk with dullards. Grunting and panting and the clash of steel on steel was music to his ears, the only sounds he wanted to hear.

Even with the wench going easy on him, she wore him down and he had to marvel at her endurance. He was perhaps even more tired than he realized, because after they'd been at it for a couple of hours, he let an easy blow get past him and the flat of her blade collided with his nose.

It didn't break, but a steady stream of blood gushed out of it.

"Sorry," she'd mumbled, and came forward with her sleeve out, preparing to help him stem the flow of blood. It almost looked as though there was a look of concern in those astonishingly blue eyes of hers, and it startled him. Jaime found himself stepping back from her approach and when she realized he was pulling away, Brienne stopped short, looking embarrassed and dropping her arm.

"Don't be," he said gruffly, waving his hand. "I should have stopped us long ago. You've bloody worn me out, wen- Brienne." he corrected. "You really are quite the swordsman. Woman."

Mocking grins came easily to him, but genuine smiles had never quite suited his face. Still, Jaime made his best attempt at one to show her that there were no hard feelings.

"T-thank you," she said, staring at her boots. The difference in her tone from her thanks the night before was hard to miss.

"I think it best we turn in for the night. It'll be dawn soon and I believe I have some dull business to attend to in the morning," he said.

"Y-yes," she said, not quite meeting his eyes. "It is quite late. G-goodnight."

"Goodnight, my lady. Same time tomorrow?" he asked, still wiping at his bleeding nose.

She nodded briefly before turning around and quickly making her way across the yard to the passage that would lead to her chambers.

Jaime watched her go until she turned a corner and looked down at his bloodstained sleeve.

The proud young man he'd once been, the one who excelled at the sword and cockily challenged men with years of experience on him to fights would never have dared to imagine this would be his future.

If Jaime been told that one day he'd be a useless, angry cripple who had to depend on the kindness (or desperation) of an ugly brute of a woman-hostage to get any chance of swordplay in, he'd have laughed himself silly.

But the gods had a bizarre sense of humor, and here he was; handless, bitter and alone.

And as absurd as it was, Jaime found himself glad that if this was to be his fate, that Brienne of Tarth was here too.

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