“Are you ready, my lady?”
Brienne’s hand flew to her chest. Unsure if the gesture had been a futile attempt to still her rapidly beating heart or hide her bosom, she squared her shoulders and did her best to hold Lord Lannister’s striking green eyes in the manner she had when they first met: through the reflection of her vanity. She wondered how he had managed to scale the balcony with his right hand in its current condition and lamented that Lord Renly, trusting soul that he was, would have welcomed the slayer through the front door with the rest of his nightly guests. It had already happened more than once. Both men were beyond stubborn, Brienne thought; she would have to speak slowly. “I told you, I am not—"
“—Mine?” Jaime interrupted, stroking his beard to hide his amusement. He thought to tell Brienne that the color of her wide eyes was comelier than any the popinjays waltzing below, that the way she so easily and thoroughly flushed only proved his earlier argument that it was unsafe for her to stay here. But Jaime was weary of fighting of that sort. The longer he regarded the would-be guard he had come to know as his wench, the further his teeth bared in a smile. He could not help himself. “Not yet. Not for a sennight, at least.”
Brienne rose so quickly that her knees near crashed against the underside of her vanity, though the little tarnished silver baubles had shifted on its dusty surface. Jaime thought she looked glorious, her blue eyes blazing and large hands fisting the golden brocade of her skirts. Her face was as plain as ever, her lips twisted in a sort of trembling scowl, but Jaime admired her all the same. At first it had been grudgingly, once he had been witness to her fierce loyalty to those who did not deserve it, her steadfast sense, of justice, and her damning innocence. Now, he could almost imagine her at Casterly, after they were both well away, a golden hilt in her hand, instead; he licked his lips to think of all the new ways to fight they might discover together. Jaime raised his undamaged hand in surrender. “Forgive me, wench, I did not mean to frighten you prior to the wedding night. Wishful thinking on my part; at the very least we’ll be allowed a fortnight.”
Brienne took a single step forward, with the intent to make Jaime listen, but then feared she might wrap her hands about his throat and then he would feel the sweat on her palms and recognize it for what it was. “You-you will tell him that there’s been a misunderstanding, that you couldn’t possibly,” she reasoned, her pitch beginning to rise as Jaime started to slowly shake his head, and she loathed herself for the weakness, “… th-that this is all a mistake. You must tell your father…”
“He knows,” Jaime said calmly, momentarily stunning the other monster-slayer to silence and taking the opportunity to cross the distance between them. She was shorter without her boots, Jaime noted; though he couldn’t see what lay hidden beneath the skirts of her gown, it was fine enough material that Jaime knew it was likely slippers or something considered as equally fine to the other high-borns. Renly Baratheon was quite fashionable, but Jaime knew the fairer sex was wasted on the young vampire and wondered if Loras Tyrell had a charitable hand in seeing to it that his lover’s lumbering, yet maidenly bodyguard, found her way back to the land of the living, where she belonged. “It doesn’t matter.”
“I don’t believe you,” said Brienne. She couldn’t, not after the hell in which she and Jaime had been thrown together, culminating in the cold tower of fury that was Tywin Lannister, whom she had never before met, looming over the battered, bloodied body of his only child and the ugly maid that shielded it and refused to let him go.
For nights on end, she’d had nightmares of the incident. They had begun innocently enough: Jaime, the night they met, having scaled the Baratheon castle’s wall to her humble chamber; the similar shock reflected in his gaze to find another living creature, someone else with a reflection; her question to his presence, her knife to his throat paired with his laughter of, 'Gods, are you a woman?' She had dreamt of the bravado he once had, strutting the upper levels of the Baratheon, proclaiming himself an expert monster-slayer, out for the blood of Renly Baratheon, whom he relentlessly dismissed. Brienne had dreamt of the first time that Jaime had found her outside of the Baratheon castle and proclaimed her much uglier in the daylight and how it was within that light that another slayer and his filthy band had caught them both off-guard in the surrounding forests.
She had repeatedly dreamt of how a foul, lisping man had strut over them at night, how Jaime had saved her, and how he’d gained a boot to the face for it in hopes to make him just as ugly as his companion, prior to a vicious stomp to his wrist. They hadn’t stopped there and likely wouldn’t at all, if the Lannister family secret had not been revealed in a whorl of blood and screams. To this day, Brienne could not be sure what had attracted the quasi-vampire to their location, whether it be the scent of his heir’s blood or sound of his name being yelled, over and over.
Jaime drew Brienne back to the present with a chaste kiss to her cheek, his beard either softly scratching or tickling her sensitive skin; she could not be sure. It was the continuation of what Jaime hoped was a careful siege on the maiden's heart, and he paused after a subtle scenting of Brienne's pale hair. If she were to follow him, he knew that she could wear it as short as she liked without mortal danger. Before Brienne could congratulate herself on winning the battle against winding her arms about the older man, Jaime pulled her close and sighed in comfort. This time, she did not protest, but almost reveled in the feel of his heartbeat, pressed against her chest and how he felt deliciously warm.
“My father may live only a few more years. Or, because of a particularly nasty bite a few years back, he may live centuries. But I certainly won’t, and I’ll be damned if I leave you to die here."
Brienne shook her head. “Don’t be ridiculous, I’m not—” Her words were quieted by a pair of soft lips, warm, wet, and insistent, and she decided that it wasn't worth the protest -- not this. Jaime placed another peck to Brienne’s lips in apology, similar to the one he had dropped to her cheek, now being caressed by a gentle, calloused hand.
“Father doesn’t like anyone, but he doesn’t begrudge your existence, so far,” Jaime said, stroking her cheek, no longer bruised, with a careful thumb. “Just this once, I think sees the value in what I do, what I want.”
“Which is?” Brienne asked, sighing in almost content. She had done her duty, guarding the Baratheons for years, after the majority had drown. She had so carefully watched the kindest and youngest of them throw lavish parties, inviting so many dangerous fellows night after night. There was always food enough to last them days, though Renly could no longer stomach what he had been able with a beating heart. When Jaime had begun to invite himself in secret, Brienne had unconsciously sought to guard him too. At first, Brienne's task had been to prevent the finnicky and self-proclaimed slayer from reaching Renly, who showed no interest in the so-called threat. Perhaps it was fortunate for both Brienne and Jaime that they had become rather attached during that time, if even unwillingly at first. At this point, both of them knew that they would be unwilling to let the other go so easily.
Jaime smiled hopefully. “You and I… A nice, cozy fire to make a stuffy old castle liveable. Not this dead charade. Mostly you, speaking of honor to your large heart's content. Play your cards right and you might even be able to yell at Father again. It did help that you were on top of me; perhaps that's the trick to it."
“You and I, falling asleep, old and well-lived. Our ten children…”
“Ten! You’d be lucky to have just one,” Brienne exclaimed, then sputtered to explain herself, worried she sounded now far more presumptuous than Jaime had ever dared try.
“I’d be lucky to just have you,” Jaime said earnestly, tucking a piece of nearly-tamed hair behind Brienne’s ear. “This has nothing to do with my father,” he explained, though he doubted Tywin Lannister would let such a dream escape them all, no matter if it was what Brienne wanted, no matter the homely look of Brienne’s face. He chose to push that uncomfortable fact away and concentrate on the sweet and stubborn maid within his arms. “Haven’t you noticed I only come for you? Say ‘yes’ to me, wench.”
“You don’t belong here, Brienne. You belong with someone who loves you.”
“Jaime.” Brienne uttered his name with such thinly-veiled reverence and innocent-want that it made Jaime's heart ache in return.
“I swear it,” Jaime fiercely whispered, vowed, looking deep into beautiful eyes and allowing the vulnerability to shine in his own. “The choice is always yours. It… it’s yours. I am yours, if you will have me.’
Brienne’s mouth opened. It closed, and her brow furrowed, even as she unwillingly pulled the infuriating man even closer. She couldn’t begin to explain what Jaime did to her and didn’t know if it was worth it to try.
“Yes,” she said, and they sealed that simple promise with a kiss.