“Soldiers,” the cry came shortly after noon, “soldiers approaching from the south.”
Sansa looked up towards the battlements, and called out “Vale?” before glancing quickly at Brienne.
Lord Baelish , Brienne tightened her hold on the ornate hilt of Oathkeeper, as always when Littlefinger rode through the gates of Winterfell. Try as she might, Brienne could not quite forget the exchange she had with Lord Baelish on first encountering him on the road to the North.
“This woman, she swore to protect Renly Baratheon - she failed.”
“She swore to protect your mother - she failed.”
“Your Uncle?” Brienne could barely repress the note of disdain. She neither liked nor trusted the man, and disliked the preoccupation he appeared to have with Lady Sansa.
"Why would I want someone with your history of failure guarding Lady Sansa?" The man's cruel question haunted her still.
“No, not the Vale,” The man called back, his voice suddenly hoarse. “Lions, milady!”
Startled, Brienne turned, her attention caught by Lady Sansa moving quickly towards her brother as the White Wolf stepped into the courtyard.
Lions? Lannister lions? Her pathetic heart managed to flip and sink at the same time.
The cry went up to man the walls, Stark men scrambled to their posts, the great gates of Winterfell groaned shut.
“It’s hardly possible. I heard it said over and over that the Lannister forces have never ventured this far north,” Sansa lifted her skirts to keep up with her half-brother’s urgent stride. It was impossible to see the expression on his face, muffled as it was by the wolf fur collar that lined his cloak.
"The Lannister forces were firmly entrenched at Riverrun last time I saw them," Brienne reminded them.
“Aye that might be, but the fact remains, they are here now,” the King in the North replied, mounting the steps to the battlements two at a time, Sansa close behind, Brienne bringing up the rear.
In the distance a sizeable force with red banners could be seen on the horizon to the south.
“Lannisters,” King Jon observed as he finally reached the top of the steps and looked from the walls of Winterfell to the Lion sigils fluttering on the icy breeze as the occasional snowflake whipped and danced about their heads.
Brienne took a step back and a deep breath.
I am the one who has probably brought them here, Brienne suddenly realised. Jaime’s voice echoing so clearly in her head, as if the man himself was standing next to her. The words, “Of course my sister wants Sansa dead. The girl’s still a suspect in Joffrey’s murder. So there is that... complication .”
A complication sure enough, when House Lannister forces appeared at the gates of Winterfell on some undisclosed business.
“What the hell are you doing here?” Jaime Lannister had asked her at Riverrun.
Now Brienne felt the need to ask the same of him.
“I will protect you with my life, Lady Sansa,” Brienne sought to reassure her. Voice soft, sincere, as she watched the Lady of Winterfell’s mask of rigid composure slip slightly as she nodded in acknowledgement before turning back to her brother.
"It is surely madness to attack Winterfell with the snows starting to arrive," Sansa whispered, “ yet it is impossible to deny so many soldiers."
“I fear there may be more to come.” Was all her brother, the recently declared King in the North, replied.
Brienne held her tongue and followed their survey of the force below with a heavy heart. It's my fault, she admitted to herself, I told Jaime, told the Lannisters, that Sansa was still alive. That the eldest Stark daughter had not perished in the aftermath of her escape from King's Landing. That she was now indeed somewhere safe, and where that somewhere was.
She felt slightly nauseous, the faintest hint of sick on the back of her tongue. Swallowing hard, her hand unconsciously sought out the golden crest on the lion of Oathkeeper’s pommel, a leather clad thumb running reassuringly over the crenelations there.
It’s yours. It will always be yours.
Ironically, it was Jaime’s gift to Brienne that would be her means to defend Sansa against him. A valyrian steel sword to keep the daughter of Lady Catelyn Stark safe.
Ser Jaime Lannister. Lord Jaime Lannister
Surely it was Lord Jaime Lannister by now. He was now once more the Lannister heir if the tales of King Tommen’s last act on behalf of the Faith were to be believed.
And then there was the small matter of Queen Cersei to the South.
The sick feeling intensified.
“If he has been sent by Cersei… the... the Queen, I will not go back,” Sansa told her brother bluntly, “to King’s Landing. I will not. I will never go back.”
Her voice was calm, implacable. Lady Sansa had clearly been thinking long and hard about what Ser Jaime Lannister’s presence might entail.
“And I would not expect you to,” His Grace replied calmly. He then looked from his sister’s pale face to Brienne’s, and smiled briefly. “Indeed, I expressly forbid it.”
The same emotion that she had felt on reuniting Jon Snow with his sister at The Wall came back to swamp Brienne as she watched the King in the North reassure Lady Sansa that she was safe. Brienne kept her features rigid. If she moved but one muscle it was if her entire demeanor would crack. Her misery was such that, unbidden, a muscle in one cheek started to flicker slightly.
“Let us go down to the hall and eat,” he then advised them, “I am sure we will receive a message in due course as to what their intentions are. And I, for one intend to meet the Kingslayer’s men on a full stomach when they finally decide to turn up.”
A very diplomatic, if cryptic, message came much later upon the second day, clearly penned in an elegant script by someone other than a man missing his right hand.
Lord Jaime Lannister of House Lannister wishes to speak to His Grace, The King in the North, regarding one currently under his protection.
Brienne had snorted at Jaime’s characteristic discretion regarding his dealings with the White Wolf. He never had liked subordinates knowing too much about his business. Her hand squeezed the hilt of Oathkeeper so hard once more, she could almost feel the metalwork of the sword marking her palm.
“I will not go back to the capital,” Sansa reiterated yet again to her brother. Her movements were agitated as she paced the hall waiting for her brother’s response to Lord Jaime.
“And I will not send you,” His Grace replied promptly, watching her as she walked up and down, the letter still in his hand as he frowned over its contents.
Honour compels me to fight…
Brienne took a deep breath and sought to reassure Sansa as much as she could, although her heart sank to her boots at the thought of what such a promise might entail. “I will stand as your shield, Lady Sansa.” Brienne assured her, “they will not be able to force you to obey their wishes easily while I am armed and ready to defend you.”
Sansa reached out to gently touch Brienne's arm, "I sincerely hope it does not come to that."
“I will see what the Kingslayer wants,” King Jon sighed as he put the letter down onto the table and called for a pen, “and you do not have to be present Sansa,” he told her, “if it makes you uncomfortable or afraid, simply make yourself scarce.”
“Of course I will be present,” Sansa told him grimly. “After all, I am the Lady of Winterfell.”
It seemed that no sooner had the reply been sent, than Lord Jaime had ridden up to the mighty gates of Winterfell on the grey she had seen him use at Riverrun. He was followed by an armour clad cavalryman bearing the Lannister sigil fluttering in the chill winter breeze above the white flag of neutrality, and his companion-at-arms, Bronn.
As Jaime Lannister rode into the courtyard, Brienne took a hasty step back to be partly hidden by the heavy wood architraves. She ducked to avoid banging her head, strangely unwilling to face this latest incarnation of the man she had grown to know so well, what seemed like an age ago. A man that seemed even less like the Jaime she had known once. This creature clad in his glistening armour, sat upon on a white charger, bearing little resemblance to the long haired, bearded wretch that had lost a hand, saved her life and found his honour buried somewhere in the shit of the Riverlands during their grim detour on the way back to King’s Landing.
He reined in his horse and looked about the hostile courtyard expectantly, noting the lack of welcome with a clenched jaw.
She could hear his abrupt huff into the icy morning air.
"I'm beginning to think northern hospitality is vastly overrated," he drawled into the crisp silence.
"Of course northern hospitality does not include killing one's guest's under oath," Sansa muttered as she marched out to greet him, Brienne sidestepping to join in her wake.
She winced as Jaime Lannister caught her eye, his icy stare as cold as the sudden gust of wind that lifted his cloak and dropped a lock of dry stringy hair into Brienne’s eye.
He’d heard Sansa. Of course he had.
"Welcome to Winterfell, Lord Jaime."
The King in the North sat at the high table, Sansa to his left. All eyes within the great hall of Winterfell were focused on the man standing before them.
The notorious Kingslayer.
The silence that followed spoke volumes, and hung there until Jaime walked in the direction of King Jon and the Lady of Winterfell and stopped directly in front of them.
"Thank you for your welcome Your Grace, Lady Sansa." Lord Jaime paused in front of the northern king before performing a small, yet graceful, bow. Although it could be argued that it was a bow not quite as deep it should have been. It was a reminder that this man's sister sat on the throne to the south, and that not everyone would be happy with Jon Snow's newly elevated status.
There was a slight scuffle at the rear doors to the main hall as the guards were forced to re-open them. The doors were thrown back with a resounding thump to admit Lord Baelish into the hall, along with two knights of the Vale at his back.
He had the look of a man who had ridden hard to be there.
"My, my, we are busy," Jaime observed softly as he turned to watch Littlefinger approach the King in the North and his sister at the front of the hall.
"Ser Jaime Lannister," Lord Baelish marvelled, half in acknowledgement, half in observation himself as he clearly feigned surprise. "I find myself somewhat taken aback to find you so far north when your sister sits upon the Iron Throne looking to a threat from the East."
"Do you?" Jaime gave the smallest of deadly smiles and Brienne once more felt the urge to put a hand to her hip and Oathkeeper, "and please, Lord Baelish, I am answering to the title of Lord these days… Lord Jaime."
Baelish studied Jaime Lannister at length through narrowed eyes.
"Forgive me. I had no idea that your Queen had given you a new title."
Your Queen -
"She hasn't. It seemed the time to take something back, so I've taken back what's mine." Jaime replied smoothly.
"Well, after all, who is going to argue with eight thousand men," Baelish observed softly.
"Quite," Jaime allowed himself a small smile, "and it's actually twelve if we count those still in the Westerlands."
Brienne tried not to stare too obviously at him as she stood squarely at Sansa's shoulder. Lean, loose-limbed and as handsome as ever, Jaime stood before the main table in the hall. Gold hand resting against the sword on his right hip, a dagger on his left. As he had made his way to the front, Brienne had wondered now how much was for show, and how much more dangerous Jaime had become since she had last seen him at Riverrun.
Jaime gave Lord Baelish one last considering look before clearly dismissing him by turning his back on him.
"I thank you for your welcome, your Grace. It seems a long time since we last met."
"And now here we are, with you... as King."
"I've only ever met one other... King in the North that is," Jaime recalled mildly, "and it is fair to say that things did not end well for him."
"They rarely do, Kingslayer," King Jon replied softly, a half smile on his lips, "they rarely do."
Silence fell over the hall, tense, awkward.
Brienne glanced towards Sansa, before looking back towards Jaime. Whilst exasperated at Jaime's high handed manner, she still could not resist running her eyes over the whole of him. His face, his hand, his body clad in the armour of the Lannister army, some of it so much like her own. He looked lean, leaner - thinner. Had he lost weight?
"Why have you come?" The King in the North shifted easily in his seat, catching his sister's eye as he did so, "your message mentioned wanting to discuss a matter concerning someone under my protection. I can't think of any matter that I am prepared to discuss with you about anyone here at Winterfell."
"Your sister's wishes carry little weight here," Sansa told him bluntly.
"You think I have come north at Cersei's behest?" Jaime regarded her quizzically before turning his attention back to King Jon. “And you too?”
"Have you not?"
"I have come north as a matter of survival." Jaime's face lost all it's previous humour, "and I bring with me the security of eight thousand Lannister troops. Maybe more."
"And a lot of trouble."
"Trouble will come north with or without me," he told them.
"If you speak of Danaerys Targaryan," Baelish approached Jaime his hands behind his back, "why are you not in the south protecting your sister, the queen?"
The muscle in Jaime Lannister's jaw clenched in reaction to the words of Lord Baelish.
"She has made her choice, as I have made mine."
"Enough!" King Jon dropped his fist onto the wood of the table with a loud bang, "Enough. Why are you here Kingslayer? Are you seeking an alliance, what?"
“I am looking to prevent the extinction of my house,” Jaime finally admitted, his reluctance to answer the King in the North's question quite so publicly, clear. His voice bitter. “Be it as a result of my sister Cersei or Daenerys Targaryen - the future for House Lannister is looking a little bleak.”
“So what can the King in the North possibly offer you?” Baelish asked him. “What might the King in the North be prepared to offer you?”
Memories of wars past echoed into the silence.
"Marriage," Ser Davos of House Seaworth suddenly spoke from the shadows of the hall where he had been standing, quietly listening. "Only marriage would send out the sort of message that would distance you from Cersei Baratheon enough to convince King Jon’s allies that your intentions are true."
“I prefer the term alliance,” Jaime corrected him softly.
“So then a marriage in name only?” Ser Davos suggested.
“An unconsummated marriage is of no protection,” Sansa pointed out coolly, her expression as she glanced towards Lord Baelish was hard to read, “to anyone.”
Baelish threw his arms wide, neatly redirecting the attention of the hall back to Jaime who was studying the occupants of the high table at length whilst managing to avoid Brienne's eye.
“Marriage? It seems highly suspicious that you choose to come courting a bride with an army at your back, Ser... I'm sorry, Lord Jaime. The Lannister army has never come as far as Winterfell before,” Baelish observed, “yet I hear rumours of eight thousand men under your command. What kind of woman could you possibly expect to find that would match such a bride price?”
“One that would understand the need for an alliance,” Jaime replied. “One that would see a mutually beneficial alliance as a means to secure both her house and my own.”
“You are looking to align House Lannister with the North?” Jon sought to clarify Jaime’s intention with a quick glance at Sansa as he did so. “With us?”
“Unacceptable. And without precedence,” Baelish scoffed.
“You think?” Brienne could see the flash of wildfire green in Jaime’s eyes that revealed the limits of his patience were fast being reached.
“How can you trust him?” From beside Ser Davos, the deep booming voice of Tormund Giantsbane rang out. “This is the pretty man who fucks his own sister, no?” The disgust clear in the wildling’s voice.
“There has been much talk,” Sansa agreed, “but it was Lord Jaime who sent Lady Brienne after me. If I had listened to Lady Brienne on my journey north… I refused her help the first time of offering. The second time…” Sansa bit her lip, “she saved me from a fate truly worse than death. He swore an oath to my mother. I sit here now because of that oath. I will at least listen to him,” Jaime inclined his head towards Sansa in a polite half bow, “but I will not marry him.”
Jaime gave a start of surprise, then a brief snort of what Brienne thought might be laughter, which he skilfully turned quickly into a choking cough.
Brienne glared at him, and finally Jaime caught her eye, raising his eyebrows by way of reply. She was so busy frowning at him that she failed to notice Sansa tugging gently at her sleeve in an effort to get her attention.
Sansa wanted the water jug to pour Jaime a drink. Or expected Brienne to.
“Lady Sansa is not obliged to accept any offer made to her, Lord Jaime,” Brienne’s face was beet red, she could feel the scorching path of a hot flush trace its way from neck to cheek, “and if anyone thinks otherwise, I have sworn an oath…”
“Yes, yes,” Jaime coughed again and rolled his eyes before the smallest of smiles twisted his lips, “I know all about your oaths Lady Brienne.”
“Yes, well,” Brienne puffed slightly, finally reaching for the metal jug that Sansa had asked for, putting it down with a loud bang in front of the Lady of Winterfell.
The King in the North studied Brienne a moment before turning to Lord Jaime once more.
“So my sister will not have you, and I will not make her,” King Jon told him softly.
Jaime shook his head slowly, his green gaze flicking from King Jon to Lady Sansa as he did so.
“With all due respect to Lady Sansa, Your Grace, she is already wed to my own brother. I am not aware of any official efforts to put that contract aside.” With that Jaime looked at Petyr Baelish, an ugly expression flickering across his face. “I need a secure base for any agreement I might make. The truth is that we are already too closely related to risk using marriage as a foundation for such a sensitive alliance.”
Brienne remained on full alert. Her eyes narrowing as she saw Littlefinger’s shift in his facial expression.
Baelish looked… relieved. Relief? Did he truly fear an alliance between House Stark and House Lannister that much?
“I met and travelled with your brother for a time.” The King in North told him, his own steady regard in the direction of Lord Baelish enough to make that individual take a wary step back, “A man cut from a very different cloth to that of Ramsay Bolton.” He took a deep breath. “So, what do you propose? My sister will not wed you, and you will not have her. I have no doubt you’ve studied the occupants of this hall long and hard, Lord Jaime. There are few women here who could provide you with such a match but I will not lie to you. I would marry you myself if it secured eight thousand well trained troops.”
There was much laughter in response to The King in the North’s words, but the truth of it was they were in desperate need of fighting men.
“I did not come on a fool's errand, Your Grace.” Jaime told him, “I know exactly who I want to wife.”
Baelish suddenly gave a shout of laughter, “By the Seven! You don’t think to marry the Maid of Tarth?”
Brienne fumbled the pewter goblet she had been about to fill onto the table where it clattered against a metal plate, even as some of the men within the hall started to laugh at Lord Baelish’s jest, just as they had the King’s.
“Apparently sworn to Catelyn Stark, sworn to Sansa Stark. Originally sworn to the Stormlands. Kingsguard to Renly Baratheon, kingslayer to Stannis Baratheon.” Brienne carefully placed the drinking vessel on its base and straightened slowly to face a grinning Baelish, her hand moving to grip the hilt of the sword by her side as she flexed her fingers ready to draw.
Feeling the warmth of someone's hand, Brienne glanced down to see Lady Sansa place a calming hold on the wrist of her sword arm. The Lady of Winterfell accompanied it with the slightest shake of her head.
“The last surviving heir of the Evenstar, the supposed Maid of Tarth,” Littlefinger dropped his humour as quickly as he had assumed it, to reveal a twisted sneer, “also known in some parts as the Kingslayer’s whore.”
Brienne felt herself go almost puce with embarrassment as she squeezed the hilt of Oathkeeper until her hand went numb. She dropped her gaze to the table before looking miserably towards Jaime Lannister.
You’d think I would be used to such humiliation by now, Brienne thought desperately. It was one thing to be called someone's whore as an insult, but so blatantly to my face and in front of the man himself…
No. It was too much.
Jaime, however, was watching Lord Baelish with polite interest, a faint smile on his lips as he turned to regard the assembled court of northern lords, before looking back to Littlefinger once more.
The smile lasted briefly, clearly at odds with the expression in his gaze.
“I’d stop now if I were you Lord Baelish.” he lazily twisted his non-smile into a grimace, eyes glittering as green as emeralds and as deadly as wildfire, “I’ve often fancied slicing you open from nose to cock, to see is there is as much writhing inside your guts as I think there might be.”
The threat was all the more terrifying for it being stated in such a calm reasonable voice.
Baelish snapped his mouth shut whilst eyeing Jaime’s metal hand with an obvious expression of disbelief. As he did so, Bronn, Jaime’s companion-at-arms, took the opportunity to pull his dagger from its sheath and inspect the blade.
In a coat of gold or a coat of red,
a lion still has claws
“Lord Jaime, come,” King Jon climbed to his feet and indicated that Jaime should follow him as he left the table, “you need to explain this further to me. Ser Davos, if you would be so kind...”
Sansa was on her feet to follow her half brother instantly, “Lady Brienne, with me.”
Brienne stormed down the hallway after she was dismissed by King Jon, Jaime behind her.
“Lady Brienne!” Jaime broke into a run to attempt to catch her, "Brienne! Wait!"
"Why should I do that?" Brienne span on her heel to face him,“Why? When you humiliated me!”
“I did no such thing! I told them I want to marry you!”
“Why would you want to do such a thing? Why? Because it’s convenient?”
“You are anything but convenient Brienne,” Jaime caught her arm and turned her to face him.
"What about your sister?" Brienne hissed at him.
"But you love him..."
"My sister is dead to me. She's made her choice," Jaime's jaw clenched, his expression assumed a deadly mien, "though much good it will do her."
Brienne released a long furious sigh, "this is ridiculous!"
“Possibly, but I’ve been granted a se’nnight .”
“Convince you. At Lady Sansa’s request.”
A se’nnight? What did Jaime think he could do or say that could make sacrifice her armour for skirts? The beauty of Oathkeeper for the risk of the birthing bed? Her dignity for being a means to an end.
“Good luck,” Brienne turned to go, her face burning, cheeks surely bright red such was the heat, features held rigid, “you’ll need it.”
“Will I?” He had tucked his hands into his sword belt, as he often did as he was about to quiz her.
“Don’t mock me, Jaime.” Her harsh whisper rang hollow as Jaime backed her through a side door into a hallway, “men like you, don’t look at women like me.”
“Why not? You are still a virgin I take it?”
“I'm still not interested.”
“Of course you are.”
“Why are you even here? Is it really for... this?” Brienne waved her hand between the two of them to indicate his ridiculous request of King Jon.
“Well I thought that much was obvious. Important Lannister business.”
“Oh, of course. Your little joke.” Brienne smiled thinly as one of the Northern Lords passed close by where they stood, "I forgot".
“I don’t joke about matters of such importance.”
“Ser Jaime… Lord Jaime-”
“Yes, Lady Brienne?”
She struggled to maintain her patient tone in the face of a man determined to be at his charming best.
“A man like you doesn’t look at a woman like me,” she told him as if patiently explaining the obvious to the oblivious.
“How do you know that?”
“Believe me I know,” she replied dourly.
“What if I told you I want to do more than look? What if I said I wanted to do more than touch? What if I told you I want you… I want to move inside of you until the only thing you know, the only thing you can say is my name.” Jaime’s voice had lost some of the light teasing note of before and had acquired an intensity that made his suddenly disturbing words result in her wanting to shift from foot to foot.
“I’d say you were mad… or blind… or a liar.” Brienne replied bluntly, looking back towards the main hall, “So stop. People are watching.”
“You should feel safe then,” he said, his voice low, “what could I do in public that could possibly compromise the great Maid of Tarth.”
“You can stop now, Lannister,” she hissed into the breathing space between them, “no one is interested in me. Not even your good self if you stop and think about it properly.”
Jaime watched her for a moment, jaw twitching, before his face relaxed into the most calculating of smiles as he took her hand and raised it to his lips.
“Lady Brienne,” he murmured before grazing her chapped and broken knuckles with the softest of kisses. “I've seen you naked in the bath,” he whispered against her skin. " You’d do well not to forget that.”
Brienne snatched her hand back and glared at him. With a deep breath, she straightened her back and gave him a light shove to free herself, and then stalked round him to return to the main hall.
It was some time later that Brienne finally managed to escape to her room and slump against the door in the almost darkness. The only light coming from the small but hearty fire in the hearth. She eased her shoulders back in relief at the end of what had been an arduous evening of social wrangling and quiet words with her northern peers.
"The war isn't between a few squabbling houses... it's between the living and the dead."
Yet it was Sansa’s words that lay heaviest on her heart.
Eight thousand men, Brienne. Eight thousand! And possibly more."
Brienne could see how eight thousand plus Lannister soldiers would help keep Sansa from harm and make her less of a pawn in whatever game Lord Baelish was currently playing.
Find Sansa and get her somewhere safe . It was turning out to be a far greater undertaking than even Brienne had anticipated.
Thanks be to the seven that this day was done, Brienne raised her eyes to the dark ceiling and started to unlace her heavy leather and mail gambeson with a heartfelt sigh, letting it slide from her shoulders as she took a step away from the door, if I hear one more person mention the name ‘Kingslayer’, I’ll-
“About bloody time,” drawled a familiar voice from the fire lit darkness.
“Ye gods!” Brienne could not control the sudden jump both her heart and her mind gave as she recognised Jaime’s voice lilt from the shadows, “how did you get in here?”
If she screwed up her eyes slightly she could identify his figure sat in a chair by the fire.
“I’m a Lannister. Do you really need to ask?” He bribed someone.
“Why are you in here?” Brienne could not keep the incredulous note from her voice as she groped for a candle to light from the hearth.
“We need to have a decent talk, and we are not going to get that opportunity with every man and his bloody direwolf having their say in that damn hall,” the chair creaked as Jaime moved from the fireside, “how you manage to function in this drafty barn of a keep I have no idea.”
“It is Lady Sansa’s home, it is Winterfell , and it is fine as it is.” Brienne responded primly, “What do we need to discuss?”
“You… me,” Jaime materialized suddenly from the shadows to stand right next to her, “us.”
“There is no us,” Brienne growled and Jaime grinned in response.
As her eyes adjusted to the half light, she could see his teeth gleam and his eyes twinkle as he leant in close to whisper in her ear, his tone chiding, “Of course there is.” His breath whispered against her cheek as he spoke, “you just haven’t realised how much...yet.”
“And where is Podrick?” Her squire was suspiciously absent.
“I sent him away.”
Of course he had, and could. He was Jaime Lannister and Podrick had been deferring to Lannister lords and lordlings since he was little more than a child.
Brienne simply snorted and turned away from him to shoot the bolt shut on the door.
“Ahhhh…”he observed, “a wise precaution My Lady. Wouldn’t want us to be...disturbed.”
“I don’t particularly want the awkward questions that would result from people asking what Ser… I mean, Lord Jaime Lannister, is doing in my bedchamber,” Brienne replied crossly, “so… talk.”
Pushing herself away from the door to stride over to the fire, she lit the candle and placed it on the rough wood of the mantelpiece.
“So romantic,” Jaime also stepped away from the door to follow her across the room, his infernal grin illuminated clearly by the single tallow candle, “would you like me to go down on one knee…
“No! I would like you to explain why...” Brienne suddenly turned to him, halting his progress abruptly with her body. “Why come here to Winterfell and… and make such a ridiculous request. Your proposal of marriage to me created almost as much amusement as King Jon's proposal to you."”
The laughter immediately left his eyes.
“I’m not here to make you look ridiculous Brienne, or humiliate you. I’m here to secure you as my wife.”
“It’s the same thing,” Brienne rubbed her tired eyes with one hand, “Littlefinger sees it.”
“Littlefinger is a cunt,” Jaime responded equably, “and is a bigger risk to Sansa than anyone.”
Brienne looked at him for a moment, “Are you blaming me?”
“I blame no one,” Jaime took a step closer to stand toe to toe with her, "but I represent a solution."
“I would be a terrible wife,” Brienne suddenly blurted out. "An awful mistake.”
“What makes you say that?”
“I have no accomplishments,” she dropped her gaze to the floor, to the point at which his boots abutted her own. “I’m clumsy, plain. I would make you look a fool.”
“Why?” Jaime seemed genuinely bewildered.
“Because I am me, and you are so… so...” Jaime pulled a face as Brienne forced herself to choke out, “beautiful!”
He started to laugh, really laugh.
“It’s not funny,” Brienne responded hotly.
“Why should that be a problem?” he twinkled at her, obviously relieved that her main objection seemed such a mundane obstacle.
Brienne lost all patience at that point. She crowded into him and grabbed a thick handful of his beautiful golden mane and pulled it so hard his head snapped back and brought them nose to nose with each other.
“Ow,” Jaime protested.
“Does it hurt?” she spat, “good!”
She hoped it hurt. Hurt even a tiny bit as much as her heart felt at his unsympathetic laughter. Hurting as if someone had seized that pathetic organ in their hand and had squeezed it hard.
“You don’t even see it do you?” Brienne took a deep breath, doing her best to ignore the burning pain in her chest, “but people laugh… they jest and snicker… already people are laughing at the prospect of you even considering me. I can already hear the cruel, spiteful whispers that stop suddenly when I walk into a room. They wonder if you’ll...”
Jaime’s laughter had died in his throat even as he looked at her, his gaze deadly serious as he studied her face. “You no longer need to concern yourself with the opinion of sheep,” he told her.
“Would that I could ignore people quite as well as you seem to do!” Brienne exclaimed suddenly releasing his hair and pushing him away, leaving Jaime looking deliciously ruffled. Damn him!
“And what do they wonder I’ll do?”
“B..bed me… ever care for me.”
“And what do you think I would do, Brienne” His voice was so soft that the crackling of the fire in the grate almost drowned it out.
“All I know is that I've been ignoring ‘them’ all my life. It’s bad enough having to turn a deaf ear to the slights and insults that come because of my size, because I look more of a man than most men. "Freakish big," Septa Roelle used to say, "and mannish" . So what will people say when you have had enough of our marriage? What other unkind things will they find to say about me, Jaime?”
“I will remain true to our alliance Lady Brienne,” Jaime insisted. “I swear to you that I will.”
Brienne dropped her hands to her sides, and looked down into the fire before releasing a long sigh.
“I remember my father would have a new woman every year by his side. I never really wondered why when I was younger. I never questioned why so many women came and went, all I knew was that they were not my mother.
Some were nice, some were horrid to the little girl that reminded them that their Lord had been wed once. But as I grew older, I could see it in their eyes when they knew it was over. When their turn to leave Evenfall Hall and the Evenstar was due.” Brienne glanced up to look Jaime straight in the eye as she spoke. “Everyone knew when he had tired of his latest companion. She didn’t have to tell us that she was about to leave and that it was only a matter of time before he introduced us to his new love. We just knew.”
“Brienne, I am not your father.” Jaime reached out to grip her by the shoulders and hold her, his voice grim, his eyes flashing wildfire green in the candlelight. “I will remain true to our alliance. I will remain true to you.”
She went to speak, but he stopped her mouth with his hand. “I will remain true, I swear it.” he repeated softly and with that he replaced his hand with his mouth. Brienne released a sob of surprised bewilderment as he angled his head and ran his tongue along her lips, easing them open with gentle persistence, staggering back to fall against the solid wood mantel with a thud. Brienne suddenly found herself surrounded by Jaime as he leant on his forearms against the mantel wall. The feel of him, the smell of him, his hair in her eyes, his tongue in her mouth. He continued to push her back, one strong muscular thigh insinuating its way between her own sturdy legs.
“Lady Brienne?” At the first knock on the door, Jaime covered her mouth with his good hand and continued to softly brush one side of her face with his nose as they listened, “Lady Brienne… His Grace, King Jon, wants to know if you wish to have a guard on your door.”
A tiny huff of laughter brushed her cheek, “Do these people know you at all?” Jaime whispered softly in her ear.
Brienne glanced at Jaime out of the corner of her eye, and allowed herself the slightest grimace and the tiniest shake of her head.
“I thought not,”Jaime grinned, breathing the question into her ear,”So, do you want a guard?”
“Why would I need a guard?” she breathed back.
“Oh I don’t know,” Jaime pressed his leg hard between her own, so hard that it made her jerk in response. “What could I possibly do in one night, in this room, that could make you change your mind without one of the mighty Stark retinue watching over you?”
Brienne could only stare into his eyes as he spoke. She swallowed once, twice, “I need to tell him to go away,” she told Jaime.
Jaime studied her in silence for a moment.
“Do you trust me Brienne?”
“Of course I do,” Brienne insisted, her hoarse whisper lifting a lock of hair that had fallen against his forehead. He truly was the most beautiful man of her acquaintance, she realised, gazing at him with unabashed hunger, not even the startling jut of his erection against her trapped thigh deterring her. Then she looked into his eyes and realised that he was looking at her in exactly the same way. I ought to be shy, I ought to be more ladylike, I ought to be more modest, she thought, knowing that she was beyond being like that with this man. Tentatively she extended a hand to touch his body, to discreetly slide her hand inside the soft leather of his gambeson and run her calloused palm over the linen-clad muscles of his stomach.
“I thought you might feel it too,” he murmured, gathering her even closer for a deep satisfying kiss, his mouth working over hers. His hand pulled her shirt loose then went to the laces on her breeches, then her brais, tugging them undone so that they sagged around her hips. Leaning on his right forearm left his left hand free to wreak havoc across her skin. Fingers doing things to her breast and to her nipples that made her grimace and moan, and as she arched against him with a muffled squeak of surprise once the fabric of her shirt was pulled to one side, his teeth nipping one tense bud between his teeth.
Jaime! She caught at his head, her fight roughened fingers snagging and threading into his glorious golden mane, but he was still moving. Down, down, his mouth hot and wet now on the muscles of her belly. “Jaime?” she finally spluttered in a rough whisper.
Under his tongue, his mouth, occasionally his teeth, her flesh was sensitive, responsive as she tried to move. Only his arms had moved to encompass her hips as he had descended, taking breeches and brais down with him, even as he steadied her.
Where are you…? Jaime!
“Jaime!” She gulped, swallowing his name as a near silent squawk.
He was nuzzling into the thick blonde curls at the apex of her thighs and it was all she could do not to whimper at the wet, hot aching need that burned within the guts of her. It was the most shocking thing she could imagine. And then it became even more shocking as his tongue tip found something, found her, and teased and stroked while his shoulders eased into the space between her legs. His fingers searched, probed and traced the swollen, wet folds there making her writhe and want what? She didn’t know.
Bang! Bang, bang, bang.
“My Lady… Lady Brienne? Are you well?” The voice, still at the door, called out.
The guard was still at the door!
Brienne looked down at Jaime between her legs, and then sank back once more against the mantel piece, her heart thudding in her throat.
“I… I’m fine,” Brienne took a huge heaving breath, “fine.”
More than fine...
“Do you need a guard? The King wonders…”
“No, no,” she felt ridiculous standing there in her drooping clothes, one of the most breathtaking men in the land crouched between her legs, his face split into an unholy grin, eyes twinkling in the most disturbing way.
“By the gods, it’s not funny!” She hissed down at him.
“Sorry Milady? I didn’t quite catch that,” came the voice in the hallway outside.
“It’s not necessary,” Brienne raised her voice to her best training ground volume, “tell King Jon I will sleep with my sword at my side.” Jaime’s shoulders started to shake with quiet laughter as he buried his face into one muscled thigh to touch her there, biting her gently on the skin he held in his mouth, a shuddering sensation running through her as a result, “W… what I mean is, my sword, Oathkeeper, will be by my bed.”
Surely my voice sounds so wrong, too high…
There was something of a pause, until finally the reply came. “Of course My Lady. Good night.” and with that, footsteps could be heard moving away from her door.
Brienne shut her eyes with relief, sagging slightly against the shoulders of the man before her doing shocking things to the inside of her thigh, her voice reluctant “Jaime, you have to go.”
“Are you sure?” Jaime slid down a little more, easing her thighs apart and kissed her. Brienne opened her mouth but no sound emerged, just the long rasping whine of wicked pleasure as his tongue foraged into the partially hidden folds, teeth nibbling, lips sucking and kissing until…”Oh!”
Oh! Oh, oh.
Brienne dug her fingers even deeper into his hair and did her best to pull him back, thrown completely by the unfamiliar sensations sweeping her even as Jaime hung on to her legs and continued to insist on feasting upon her. Only coming back to herself as Jaime finally pushed himself to his feet, his legs still between her spread thighs as he straightened. “That was…”
“Good, isn’t it?” He grinned his wicked grin, obviously pleased for both of them.
“I… I had no idea. I thought you just…” She blushed, she could feel the prickle of telling heat sweep her cheeks. “Um, put it in…”
“We can do that next, unless of course you want me to go.” He shifted his hips and something pressed against her. She shook her head briefly, “no, please don’t go.”
Don’t leave me alone when I’ve just found you again.
Jaime frowned as Brienne wriggled self-consciously against him as she struggled to keep her balance. “It might not be so good, not the first time, you do understand?” He gently disentangled himself from her legs and took her by the hand, leading her away from the hearth and into the room.
Brienne didn’t know what to say. Jaime had frequently rendered her speechless, but this was the most unexpected of his methods to date.
“Are you going to put Oathkeeper by your bed as you said?” Jaime was moving towards the huge bed that now seemed to dominate the room, throwing back the covers before sitting down to toe off his boots.
“I’m sure there is no need really,” She told him, awkwardly studying the floor. “I don’t think I really am in any danger.”
People are just being kind. Like you. I’m not that important.
“Hmmmm,” was all Jaime replied as he unbuckled the front of his black leather gambeson, and proceeded to shake off the coat and then remove his shirt.“Coming to bed then Brienne?”
“Are you sure?”
Jaime pulled her gently forward until she was chest to chest with him, the smile on his face wry. “You are a remarkable woman Brienne, and you are even more remarkable naked in my arms. Of course I'm sure. I might need some help with the laces on my brais though.”
“You seemed to have no trouble with my lacings,” Brienne observed tartly after a moment of watching him fiddling with the troublesome fastenings on his breeches before pushing his hand out of the way and undoing them herself, before then turning her attention to his hand and the lacing there.
“ Come then, let me help you with your shirt,” Jaime insisted, “there, almost done. Just let me...” Her shirt was pulled over her head and left to cling precariously to one shoulder as Jaime’s lips followed the line of muscle there. Jaime smoothed her hair back from her face, the palm of his hand brushing her nipples, then stilled it as she made a faint, involuntary sound. He dropped his hand to sit steady on her sturdy waist as she stiffened, and then softened into his hold.
It was frightening, yet blissful, and somehow delicious all at once. She could feel every movement of his lips, the teasing nip of his teeth, the soothing stroke of his tongue not only on her shoulder but deep in her belly and between her thighs. Brienne caught at his shoulders, off balance with desire and confusion as he pulled her onto the bed and then tugged her down to him, gathering her whole body against his lean hardness as he rolled her onto the soft covers. She pulled him clumsily against her, hands running over his shoulders, down to his narrow waist and further to the muscular swell of his buttocks. I should be ashamed of being so eager, the strict words of her Septa from long ago echoed in her ear, but she didn’t care. Everything ached and sang and wanted more. “Tell me what to do,” she whispered urgently in his ear, "tell me."
“Do whatever you want, or just let me take care of you.” His hand slid between her naked thighs as he spoke and she parted her legs instinctively, almost arching off the bed with the pleasure of it and the embarrassing discovery that she was so wet and hungry for him that his fingers were sliding inside her and that it felt so good . They were doing more than sliding. He was focusing all his attention on one spot, teasing, caressing until all she could think of was how he was touching her until the sensation became impossible and then unbearable and then everything disintegrated into something far more than simple pleasure.
Brienne was vaguely aware of being on her back, of Jaime’s weight bearing down on her, his lips on hers and then… “Ow!” Shocked at the sudden discomfort that shattered her otherworldly bliss, she squeezed his shoulders hard. It didn’t hurt hurt. Not like an arrow wound to the leg or a sword to your thigh. It was uncomfortable, and not a little awkward.
“I’m sorry Brienne,” His voice was husky, with a note of pain clear in his voice as he crumpled slightly beneath the strength of her hands, “I’m sorry, but it will get better. Give it a moment, just a moment, I promise you. Trust me.”
“Are you sure?” The pleasure and heat were rapidly ebbing as a result of Jaime’s intrusion.
“Yes, my Maid of Tarth,” He smiled at her.
Brienne pulled a face.
“Why couldn’t you be fast, so I didn’t need to think?” She grumbled, but she didn’t push him away.
“Fast?” he replied as he began to move again, slowly into her, edging deeper. “I’ll give you fast.” She closed her eyes unable to cope with the sight as well as the touch and sound of him in complete disarray. Brienne opened her eyes once more to watch him, eyes closed, face contorted in his effort to slow things down as much as he was able and as her heart swelled with her love for him, the pleasure flooded back. Different to before, even better than before.
“Come with me Brienne,” he whispered as he opened his eyes to meet hers, wildfire green yet slumberous, deep and completely focused on her.
“I don’t…” she whispered back, but then she felt the sensation build as he continued to rock into her. Like a sneeze it continued to build, and build, undeniable until something in her broke, unleashing a ferocious sensation and she came with a hoarse cry, lost in the shocking bliss they had created.
I love you, was all she could think as she lay there listening to the crackle and pop of the fire. I will show you how much Jaime if you would just give me the chance.
Brienne turned her head to discover Jaime looking as if he had fallen asleep. His clever, cynical face relaxed, vulnerable. He looked so much younger, a wayward lock of hair falling forward onto his brow, the mocking mouth softened into a half smile. She reached down to pull the covers up and over their bodies and left the candle and fire to burn themselves out.
“Should I go?” He finally mumbled, one green eye opening to look at Brienne as she burrowed back against him, “What do you think will happen if we are found abed, my love?”
“We will be made to marry I should think,” Brienne whispered against the skin of his chest, “you have seduced the Maid of Tarth after all.”
“Good,” Brienne heard him mutter as her eyelids drooped and she felt sleep claim her to the beat of his heart beneath her ruined cheek, “I won’t need those eight thousand troops to surround Winterfell after all.”