Jaime Lannister’s kisses were not the worst way to wake up.
If Brienne was being honest -- and she almost always was -- she would admit that the experience of his lips on her neck was not entirely awful. She might even go so far as to say it was nice.
But she would be damned if she would let Jaime know this.
"Get off me," she grunted, the hard ground digging into her back as she attempted to wriggle away. He had surprised her; creeping up while she was asleep in the Kingswood and lowering himself over her, then wrapping his arms around her torso. She might have been startled, but even before she opened her eyes she could sense it was Jaime -- he always had that effect on her. Instead of fear, she felt surprise, confusion... and something else she couldn't quite name, something that burned, but not in a bad way. Normally her strength was a match for him, but with her arms pinned she had no leverage. She was helpless to this most affectionate assault.
“Good morrow to you, too, wench,” he said cheerfully, kissing her cheek light as a feather.
"Brienne,” she corrected groggily, not because she minded but for old time’s sake. The way the word rolled off his tongue gave her a slight thrill now. “Why are you here?"
"Did you truly think I would let you go off to Tarth without me?" he murmured against the skin of her face, causing little vibrations.. "After everything we've been through together? We make such good travel partners. Besides, I want to see your sapphire waters and see if they are as lovely as you claim. If they aren’t, I believe you should have to clean my mail."
Brienne’s mind was spinning as she lay beneath him. The sun's rays were just starting to stretch over the land, so Jaime must have ridden most of the night to catch up with her. But why? After the war ended and young King Tommen was secure on his throne, she had remained in King's Landing as she tried to decide her future. There wasn’t really a place for her except at Tarth, but she was reluctant to leave Jaime, one of the few true friends she had ever had. The end of the war saw a weight lifted from both their shoulders and she was surprised at how much she enjoyed his company as they learned more about each other. Some nights they stayed up in his solar, talking until the wee hours. When she told him about her betrothal to Ser Humfrey and how it ended with her nearly beating the life from the old knight, Jaime had choked on his wine from laughing so hard. Laughter was good; it distracted her from the feelings that crawled from her chest into her belly, feelings that made her uncomfortable and even ashamed. She remembered the sharp words from Septa Roelle, years ago - “a lusty woman is nothing more than a whore.” Sleepless nights had her thinking highly inappropriate thoughts of Ser Jaime, and though she would try to brush them off with denial or the echoes of her septa, they remained.
Then the raven from Evenfall came with news that her father had fallen gravely ill, and she was urgently needed at home. There could be no more stalling. So with an aching heart, she had bid Ser Jaime farewell the previous afternoon. He had appeared distracted as she told him, merely glancing at her with a dismissive shrug and promising to arrange an escort to take her to the port at Storm’s End. It appeared as though he didn’t care, even after everything they had been through, and that cut Brienne deeply. The news of her father already had her emotions in a weak state. If she had been hoping for some confession of feelings, she had been sorely disappointed. So why is he here now?
"How did you take your leave?" she questioned as he kissed just under her ear. The post-war dealings had given Jaime lordship of Casterly Rock, but forced him to retire from the Kingsguard. She suspected it was a brutal blow to him, even though outwardly he appeared content.
“No one shall miss me for some time. I’m rather offended, Brienne. I expected an invitation to come along with you. When I didn’t receive one, I decided to just invite myself.” He continued his petal-soft ministrations. Kisses rained down everywhere, except her lips which he seemed to avoid. Damn it all, he needed to kiss harder. She curled her hands into fists to prevent arching up into him as she desired.
Squirming, she lifted her neck as much as she could, peering over the covers. "Where is Stanhope?" Her escort's horse was gone, Jaime’s gray stallion in its place.
"Galloping straight to the nearest inn to drink away the coin I just paid him. Quite the lush, isn't he? It's barely daybreak."
It dawned on her at that moment... Jaime paying the escort he hired to leave them alone. "You had this planned all along!” Brienne accused. “That's why you didn't care when I said goodbye to you." She had wept as she packed the day before, cursing herself for hoping against hope. As if he would ever love a creature like you, she had scolded herself. Stupid, stupid girl. Now, everything had changed and she groaned in frustration. How could she want a man, and want to slap him at the same time?
“Clever wench, I can’t put anything past you.” He leaned in closer, his lips almost touching hers. "Now come, kiss me. I've not yet eaten and I want to break my fast on something sweet."
"I shall do nothing of the sort,” Brienne huffed, still exasperated.
"Why ever not? It isn't as though we haven’t kissed before."
She flushed at the mention of that night. The night after the war ended, the streets of King's Landing was full of citizens in revelry. Her usual sense of caution was dulled by the joy and the wine she didn’t normally drink, so when Jaime tugged her into a dark alley and pressed his mouth to hers, she responded with hunger. The next day he acted as though nothing had happened, so Brienne assumed he regretted it. The memory of the taste of him was almost constantly on her mind since then, having awakened something in her she never thought could have existed. And now this... her head ached with confusion. One day Jaime was warm, the next he was distant; it was a back and forth dance between them. On top of it all was the guilt and worry over her father... it was simply too much!
"I hate you," she mumbled, closing her eyes so she wouldn’t have to look at him while she lied.
Her paused between kisses to laugh into her neck, making her shiver. "You do not."
"No," she sighed. "But I wish I could. You are a most vile, detestable...ape. I can hardly abide by the sight of you.”
“Lies, all lies. From the honorable Brienne of Tarth!”
“Get off me!"
Jaime beamed. "I will on one condition."
The words along with the twinkle in his eyes made her suspicious. "What condition?" she asked slowly.
He nodded toward her sword which lay next to them. "Lay your hand on Oathkeeper and swear upon the Seven you don't enjoy this." He finally kissed her lips then, and it took all of her strength to keep from kissing back. She ground her teeth together. "Swear to the Maiden you have never imagined this." His fingers traced her jaw bone, neck, and lower.
A hiss escaped between her clenched teeth as his lips followed his fingers’ path. What he was doing felt good - really good - and there would no way she could swear to the contrary. But how could she admit it and give him the satisfaction of having power over her? If only she didn’t enjoy it so much! She had faced numerous foes and cut them down with a swing of her sword, but now she was in a war with her own body and it was betraying her.
Worse still, Jaime saw what it was doing to her and a great smug look crossed his face. "So will you swear to it, my lady?"
"I am not your lady!" she protested, turning her head to dodge another kiss.
"No, you are my wench."
"You forced Ser Roscoe to shovel out the stables for referring to me as a wench in your presence,” she reminded him.
"I said my wench. No one else's." His lips discovered the spot just below her ear, and he whispered, “Swear on the blade I gave you that you don’t desire me. That you have never thought of me while touching yourself.”
Blood rushed to her face at his suggestion. The night after their kiss, she had indeed gone back to her room unsatisfied, resorting to her own fingers for relief. "Jaime. I... it's...," she searched for the words. "I cannot do it. Sworn statements are not meant to be mocked in such a manner. I'm not saying that I do like it --ohh." He nipped her neck and she made a sound quite like a squeak.
“All you must do it declare honestly by Oathkeeper that you truly want me to stop, and I’ll release you.”
"Why are you doing this?" she panted. He was teasing her, and she wanted him so badly but Jaime was never serious. He could not want me. The old doubts overshadowed everything. “I don’t like it!”
"Don’t lie to me. I've only ever told you the truth. Well, except for that time in the bath at Harr--."
Brienne's eyes widened. The day he became Kingslayer, she remembered of the tale. "What you told me about Aerys was a lie?" If she had use of her arms, she would likely have punched him.
"Did your Septa not teach you manners? It’s rude to interrupt. The lie I told you was that I wasn't interested in what was between those purple and green thighs of yours."
To make his point, his hips ground against hers and Brienne swallowed back a moan. A warm flush spread through her body, there was an ache in her lower belly. To be desired... it felt strange. She wanted to believe his interest so badly, more than she had wanted anything in her life. Everything else be damned, I want him to want me.
Jaime shifted, propping himself up on his elbow and finally allowing her some freedom of movement. However, she did not attempt to escape. Instead, she reached up to run her fingers through his hair. He smiled at her, a true smile that reached his eyes. "I don't know what my future holds, but I know I want you in it, Brienne."
The words were such a shock that she had to struggle for a breath. He can’t possibly mean it. "Please don't jape. Not about this,” she begged. She had gone unloved long enough to be jaded. As strong as she was, the loneliness still hurt. One night back in King’s Landing, she had confessed to him about the contest for her maidenhead, and she thought of those men now. She simply could not stand it if he thought her a mere conquest, too.
As he so often did, Jaime read her mind. "Those wagering fools at Renly's camp," he spat. "Don't deny it, I know they hurt you with their cruelty. And like I’ve said, if you will just write out all their names, I'll track down each one and slice off his balls. Then I’ll see the smith at Casterly Rock and have them made into a nice necklace for you.”
She laughed, relieved that the moment was lightened. "Most women would prefer sweet poems or fresh wildflowers."
“I know you better than that. Besides, it would be nice to be known for gelding instead of kingslaying. Now, what do you say? May I accompany you on this journey, and perhaps for even longer?"
She sighed sadly. "But Ser Jaime, I am not beautiful." It was the truth, and she would never be.
He studied her almost too closely for her comfort, then shrugged as though she had told him that the grass beneath them was green. "No. What of it? Tell me, what do you think of my stump?" He waved his right arm in her face.
"It matters not. I don’t give it much thought." It made her sad, sometimes, but Jaime was still Jaime. He was still whole in her eyes.
"See? How you feel about my stump is how I feel about beauty. In fact, I’ve begun to believe beauty is poison."
It dawned on her: he truly doesn't care. None of it mattered; her scarred face, small breasts, crooked teeth... finally someone saw through them, and it was Jaime. Unbidden, tears sprang to her eyes. If he had tried to tell her she was beautiful, she would know it to be a lie. Instead, he had been honest , and that touched her more than anything else.
With a tenderness she had never experienced, he brushed away the tears with the pad of his thumb. "I've lost my sword hand, the only anchor I had in this slippery world. Now I am hanging on to you for dear life."
Suddenly, as though possessed, Brienne was kissing him. It was rough and wet and she didn’t really know what she was doing, so she just did what felt right. Jaime inhaled sharply in surprise, before sliding his good arm around her and pulling her closer. She allowed her hands to travel, to explore, to enjoy this man’s body. The weather was warm, so his tunic was blessedly thin, and she could feel his firm muscles flex beneath her palms. Her fingers stroked the skin of his stomach, just above the waist, and he moaned into her mouth.
Jaime always seemed in control, with his quick reflexes and even quicker wit. He had just used her weakness -- honor -- against her, but she found he had a weakness, too. Brienne realized she had a special power over him, now she wanted to make him sweat and beg and moan. These lusty thoughts made her giddy. How could something that felt so good be bad? Simple - it couldn’t.
Abruptly, he jumped off of her and began to walk to his horse. She whimpered at the loss of contact with his body just when she was getting to enjoy it. “Where are you going?” she called, near breathless with want.
“To deliver the Maid of Tarth to her father.”
She shakily scrambled to her feet, swallowing frustration as she followed him. If I remain a maid that long, it will be a miracle, she thought.
A soft rain pattered on the window of Brienne's bedchamber. Dawn had arrived in Tarth as gentle and gray as a kid goat. Jaime's elbow was digging awkwardly into her ribcage, but she dared not move, as she liked being the first to awaken. He was sweet when asleep, she thought, innocent even. In the pale morning light, she studied his features: hair sticking up messily, lightly rising bare chest, muscular arms. The intimacy of it gave her a shock sometimes, the thrill of realizing he was hers. He was her lord husband now; waking up next to him felt terribly strange but wonderfully so.
Lord Selwyn had been gone a week. When Brienne had arrived, his color was so pale that he looked like a ghost, and his voice only a scratchy whisper. His lungs rattled with each breath.
“He has no fever, my Lady, it seems something is growing from the inside. I have given him chickweed and fennel, but it only helps so much,” the Maester had warned her in the hallway. There was no need to ask for a prognosis, she knew the end was near.
Inside the room, she knelt by his bedside, touching his frail shoulder gently. He had aged so much in the time she was gone. “Father?”
“You came home,” he smiled weakly. Rheumy as his eyes were, he noticed the man standing behind them and raised an eyebrow curiously.
“Father, may I introduce Ser Jaime Lannister.”
Her father continued to study Jaime only for a moment, then turned his gaze to Brienne. “You’re in love with him. I could tell... from your letters.”
Heat rushed to her face. I will never live that down, she thought. She dared not look behind her, imagining the smirk on Jaime’s face.
“What will you have of my daughter?” Lord Selwyn asked.
Jaime cleared his throat and stepped forward. "My lord, I should like to marry Brienne. Will you give us your blessing?"
Jaime’s words caused her to grip the bedpost to keep from falling over. Marry? Had he gone mad? It wasn’t that she found the idea unappealing, it was just... rather sudden. She had never imagined herself a married woman, after all. It would time time to accept the idea that someone - Jaime - would want to marry her. Lord Selwyn, however, showed a brief hint of a smile on his ashy face as he nodded his assent.
"What if he had said no?" she’d hissed at Jaime out in the hallway, after her father had fallen asleep.
He pushed her gently up against the wall. "Then I would marry you without his blessing."
“What if I say no?”
He touched her chin and kissed her then. “Sweetling, lately the word you seem to like best is yes...yes.”
She blushed at what he was referring to. Biting her lip, she looked at the floor. “Don’t you worry what people will think of you? Marrying the likes of me?”
“What should they say, if I marry a high-born lady who is known throughout the realm for her courage and honor? Brienne, we make sense. Whatever life throws at us, we’re better together, don’t you agree?”
He was right. She would admit it...just this once.
And so it was that Brienne of Tarth married her knight in a blur. Her father had wished to serve as witness, so they, along with the septon, crowded around the bed on a sunny morning. The septon told them they should have another ceremony later, a public one. “The people of Tarth will be happy for it, my Lady. A celebration will bring joy to your people, after sorrow.”
Lord Selwyn has even managed a jape, murmuring to Jaime, “Good luck. She is like her mother. You’ll need it.” The affection in his voice was not unnoticed.
Their married lives began with them apart, as Brienne spent each night next to her father. Blessedly, Jaime gave her the space she needed, without asking questions. He spent his days exploring the island with Ser Rafferty, a knight he had established a quick rapport with. He slept alone in the guest chambers. Their marriage hadn’t been officially consummated, but in truth they had been man and wife in practice all the way to Tarth. By day they traveled, and by night... well, Brienne learned there was something even better than sword fighting. The sweet newness was overwhelming, and she wondered if she would ever tire of it. She even treasured the moments after, when Jaime -- sweaty and trembling and fast falling asleep - would whisper in her ear just how much he loved her. One night, he said so softly she could barely hear: “I lost my hand but got something better.” The thought sustained her as she spent lonely, cold nights on the floor.
As Lord Selwyn’s breaths grew shallow, and she counted the seconds between them, Brienne found herself talking to him even though he probably didn’t hear. “I feel like I let you down,” she confessed. “I’m sorry I was away for so long, instead of being here with you.”
He stirred, suddenly more alert than he had been in days. “Brienne?”
“I’m here, Father.” She squeezed his hand.
“I’m proud of you,” he whispered simply, and she cried too hard to respond. Those words were all she ever dreamed of.
She held his hand for another hour until his chest ceased rising and the life slipped from him, on an evening when the pink sky contrasted with the sapphire waters outside the window. She pulled the covers over her father’s face and resumed her seat on the floor, lost in memories. As though he could sense her pain, Jaime was the first to appear. He then summoned the Maester, who in turn called for the Septon. As people milled in and out of the room, Jaime led her by the hand to the guest chambers he had been occupying. Both fully clothed, they climbed into the bed and he held her while she fell into a deep sleep. He woke her in the wee hours, insisting that she needed sustenance. A groggy maid appeared with tea and cold biscuits from the kitchen.
“I’m not used to being taken care of,” she admitted, nibbling a biscuit even though her stomach was roiling. The sting of raw grief brought forth her old stubbornness. “I can take care of myself, you know.”
“Good,” he replied as he rubbed her back. “I don’t want you getting used to this.” The warmth in his voice said otherwise.
Now, listening to the rain and watching her sleeping husband, she marveled at how quickly change could alter the landscape of life. She was emotionally exhausted, still trying to grapple with the death of her father along with being a newlywed. And yet, there was a stirring inside of her that was comforting, content. Somehow, she could sense that all would be well.
“It’s impolite to stare, Brienne.” She had not noticed Jaime’s eyes just barely open. His morning voice was rough, low. It gave her a thrill that she was the only one to hear it. “What is my lady thinking about this morning?”
She tilted her head thoughtfully. “That day we first took off from Riverrun... if someone had told you that I was your future wife, what would you think?”
“I’d have leapt from the boat, swam back to Riverrun, and begged them to send me to the dungeon again.”
Brienne rolled her eyes. “If you like dungeons so much, we have some here that may suit you.”
“I’m quite content right where I am.” He yawned, stretching her out his arms and pulling her tight against him. “I’ve received a raven from Tyrion yesterday. It seems he is sending us a wedding gift.”
“Not a what, but a who. Your beloved Podrick.”
“He has no need for him? He was Tyrion’s squire first... although I do miss the boy.”
“The only thing Tyrion cares about is Tysha. I think they scarcely leave their bedchamber. Besides, we saved the boy’s life, he owes us his service.”
“He owes us nothing. But he is most welcome here. I can think of no better squire for me to have.”
“If he continues to call you ‘Ser’, I’ll have him flogged.”
“You’ll not lay a hand on him!” She laughed, slapping his chest playfully.
Jaime dropped his head to look into her eyes. His hand reached over to her face, his fingers tracing the line of her lips. “Your eyes get bluer when you smile. You should smile more often.”
“I intend to.”
He looked at her thoughtfully. “I don’t know what it truly means to be happy, but... I think we could be. Happy, that is.”
“I think so, too.” They were the Lord and Lady of Tarth now, as well as the Lord and Lady of Casterly Rock. Jaime's uncle had a firm hand on the latter, but their lives would be complicated for it. Many ravens, lots of travelling, and even time apart. Brienne was already going over options for a castellan. But for now, right now, on the dreary morning in the land of her childhood, warm under the covers and together, everything was all right.
“On second thought, I will make sure of it. Now that I am your lord husband, you will be expected to obey my every command.” He barely got the sentence out, and she could only glare for half a second, before they both dissolved into laughter.
I could get used to this, Brienne thought, before Jaime pulled her under the blankets and into sweet oblivion.