Fic: Like Joan of Arc (Jaime/Brienne, Jaime/Cersei)
Fandom: A Song of Ice and Fire
Pairings: Jaime/Brienne, allusions to Jaime/Cersei
Word Count: 1,977
Summary: Jaime aims to start a new life with Brienne, but the source of his past sins troubles his efforts at every turn.
Author's Note: Beta by zoeiona without whom this thing would be full of canon errors as well as grammatical atrocities. Written for fiendishrogue during asoiaf_exchange's summer 2008 round.
“I don’t see what you are so afraid of. It’s not like she’s such a great catch and can afford to refuse you.”
Cersei laughed, radiant and insubstantial. If anything she was more beautiful than in life, vibrant and well defined and yet somehow wrong. Too perfect, more a painting than a woman, she was with him always. It had been like this since her death and Jaime couldn’t help wondering why she was getting the last laugh when her hands were as stained as his. If he’d had any doubt left about there being a lack of justice in the universe, this would have gotten rid of any traces.
“You don’t know her, sister. She’s not like you.” Jaime went to pinch the bridge of his nose, but had forgotten that the hand he was trying to do so with was dead. He sighed heavily in frustration, leaning despondently against the wall of the garden path.
“I could have told you that.” Cersei was scornful. “That hideous tramp couldn’t be further from being like me. Are you punishing yourself, dear brother? Is this your penance?”
“She’s a lady, I’ll have you remember, and a better one than you ever were.”
He turned away, willing her to vanish. Instead he missed Brienne’s approach and was caught off guard by her voice, eloquent but stark. Looking back towards her he was struck by the thought that she was the most solid person he had ever met.
“Are you well? You look as though you had seen a ghost. I trust Old Aerys has not suddenly returned to haunt you with his daughter’s ascent to the throne.” Her tone was brisk, neither overly personal nor formal.
She obviously had no idea that he really was seeing the dead, just as she didn’t know the truth about the relationship he had had with his sweet sister. Yes, she knew about the sister-fucking, and had once blamed him greatly for it. She’d met Cersei later though and he had to assume that had made a difference, because she’d treated him more kindly after that. Maybe she’d seen that Cersei wasn’t a damsel in distress, or maybe it was the way he’d turned from her in shame and horror. He’d left her to die; she’s probably seen it as his breaking free, rather than another act of paralyzed fear; Brienne had could never have imagined how deep Cersei’s hold on him was. What would she say if she knew that now, even when she was dead, Cersei haunted his every step? She’d think him mad or worse, so she must never know.
“And this is what you consider an honorable fresh start?” Cersei scoffed. “At least we knew each other for who we really were.”
“No, I was blind to your true nature.”
Brienne looked at him, confused. Damned Cersei! He must sound like a madman. Hastening to focus on the matter at hand, the one he’d asked Brienne to meet him with the express intention of discussing, he jerked away from Cersei, whose non-existent breath on his neck was as intolerable as it had once been irresistible.
“I was just thinking about how little I saw of who you were when we met. I had my own prideful notions about your nature and I ignored the truth in front of me.”
Brienne blushed; she’d been pulling at her skirts since she arrived, uncomfortable in them as she was out of the habit of using them. The severe grey, accented by the blue of her house and eyes, was a far better match for her than that infamous pink, but she did not notice the difference as he did. She was a shield maiden, comforted more by the dire necessities battle than the luxuries of peace. The velvet gown, well crafted in its own way, felt to her like a trap about to be closed around her. He had grown to suspect that she was just as uncomfortable in King’s Landing, generally speaking.
“Smooth one,” Cersei said without the least hint of conviction in her voice. “Soon you will be telling her you see the stars in her eyes.” Her hand raked through his hair, letting the curls fall one by one, pulling the occasional lock straight so that it was a about the length of her fingers, and it was difficult to ignore her.
“You have something particular to say, so say it.” Brienne’s manner was abrupt, but not in a way that offended. “You and I have too many quarrels behind us to bother with pretence. You did not request my presence in the most isolated part of the royal grounds merely to reminisce.”
Her eyes pierced though him, not dissimilar from her way of using her sword.
“I want you to leave King’s Landing.”
Now she looked as though she really did long for a blade to sink into his flesh. Obviously that had been the wrong place to start, though it had sounded clever in is head.
“I could have told you that, Jaime. You always were the simpleton.” Cersei seemed to be enjoying death a lot more than she ever enjoyed life. Her hands slid down his sides, threatening the lacings of his clothing, Lannister red because everything else he owned belonged on a Knight of the Kingsguard and would no longer do, with familiarity that reminded him he didn’t deserve Brienne. He pushed the thought aside, reminding himself that he was a changed man.
“And what concern of it is yours, Kingslayer, where I stay or go?” Brienne’s voice was proud, but he knew he had wounded her dignity.
Kingslayer. She might as well have said treasonous lover of his sister. She had softened towards him a great deal since her initial stance despising him for those crimes, but he began to feel he was a fool to hope she’d ever be able to overlook it enough to accept his request. Jaime tried to ignore Cersei’s taunts but his irritation may have crept into his voice as he replied to the woman who was her equal and opposite.
“After all we’ve been through, I thought I might give you some advice. I must leave myself, very soon, my presence being noisome to her highness, on account of that king-slaying . I am doing it now instead of waiting until a tangle of oaths crashes down on you.”
“So you’ve turned to prophecy now that you lack a hand for action? What is the doom you foresee for me?”
Cersei was the one to believe in prophecies, but in the end it turned out that she had misinterpreted them all.
“Daenerys, proud as she is, will soon look to have you take the White. She will not be able to resist the novelty of a woman in her Queensguard and you will have no recourse but to accept or be accused of treason. Trust me, wench, when I say that the White Cloak might as well be a funeral shroud for your integrity.”
“My name is Brienne.”
“And mine is Jaime, not Kingslayer, as you very well know.”
Cersei was reveling in his failure far too much. “I thought that you lost your manhood with your hand but now I perceive it was your courtesy.”
Jaime ignored her, waiting for Brienne’s reaction. Would she listen to him or had he taken it too far? She didn’t leave, and after a moment she replied without more than playful malice, “Assuming that I believe you, what is to keep the Queen from calling me back from Tarth at her leisure?”
Now was the moment, he’d planned it and his dead sister’s mockery wasn’t going to keep him from things any longer.
“Perhaps, if instead of going home to your father, you came with me to the castle Tyrion has been kind enough to secure for me, as my wife.”
“Clever Jaime, clever and cowardly to phrase it so, as if it is impersonal and altruistic, rather than saying what is on your mind. How like a woman you’ve become, brother.”
He held his breath. He was more nervous now than the night before he’d been knighted, more nervous than the night before the infamous deed that gave him his notorious title.
“Go home with you? I’m not sure I…” Brienne looked unsure whether to cry or strike him. She did neither.
“We could travel to Tarth instead, if you prefer; the location matters little. Once you are married, Daenerys cannot force you into that service without breaking all tradition.”
He wanted her to know that his intent was not to control her, not to take away her hard earned liberty. He’d grown to value and admire her as she was.
“So you’d marry me, merely to keep me out of her reach on a formality.” She was testing him, and he wasn’t sure if the truth would get him what he wanted, but he was done with lies.
“But you are lying to her right now, twin of mine. Lying to her in every moment you pretend not to see me.”
He shrugged Cersei off.
“No, Brienne. I would marry you for the love I bear you. I would marry you because you are the best woman I have ever known. Gods, you are the best person I have known for that matter.”
“So this isn’t about the Queen at all really?”
“Oh, she’s a sharp one, isn’t she? That’s what you want with her, someone new to guide your stupid slow head in the right direction. I made things too easy for you and now you are unable to function on your own.”
“Not as such, no.” Jaime felt like a boy caught at some juvenile trick and about to be punished, more than a one handed veteran of two wars proposing to a woman who was less of a damsel than he was. But he steadfastly ignored the way Cersei whispered in his ear. She wasn’t going to ruin this.
“And you really truly, want to marry me, ugly as I am.” Her straightforward, blunt, honesty reinforced all the reasons why this was a desire that should be followed through on, unlike that he was reminded of constantly.
“More than I can remember wanting something. Brienne, you know all my sins and faults. If you cannot love an aging one handed beast like me, or at least be content in my company, say so and I won’t push more, but please know that I have never been more serious.”
“Jaime I…” She seemed quite overcome, more so than he had ever seen her, more so than when facing a bear with no possibility of retreat.
“Yes or no, Brienne?” He paused, realizing how harsh that sounded. “Or do you need some time to think?” he added in a much more gentle tone.
“Yes.” Her answer was so quiet that at first he wasn’t sure he had really heard it, but then she added more strongly, “Yes I will marry you. I do not need more time.”
He kissed her. It was the first kiss he’d ever had where, if someone witnessed the moment, it would not mean death or worse. This was a love there was no shame in the world’s knowing. So he clung to her. He had to admit it was sort of awkward to begin with; she was taller than he was used to, and clearly not used to kisses at all herself. But the imperfections were in some ways more pleasing that the flawless embraces of his dead twin had ever been. When their lips separated, Cersei was nowhere to be seen.
But I’ll always live in your conscience, dear brother. You will never escape me, and you’ll only end up dragging her down with you, wishing you’d left her well enough alone.