It was hard to tell which one of them was supporting the other; they more or less took turns going down and hauling the other back up. Even when he was on his feet, Jaime had no idea where they were. The world was a solid white whirl of snow coming in savage gusts of wind from every direction at once, trees looming up once in a while and fading away again. For all he knew, they were just walking around on the battlefield in circles. The dead were still close. He could hear their shrieks blown in on the wind, now and again.
And then, too close, a distant grey shadow moved and turned two glowing blue eyes on them. Brienne saw it too, and lurched them into a staggering run. Jaime pressed his hand to his side and limped onward with her as fast as he could. He’d lost his sword somewhere along the way; a pity, that. His dagger might still be in its sheath on his thigh, he couldn’t see that far down and he couldn’t feel it one way or another. He didn’t take the time to reach for it and find out. Brienne was half dragging him now. He clenched his teeth against the pain in his side and tried to move quicker; damned if he was going to let her get pulled down because he was too slow.
He knew the wight was there before he saw it because he felt her move: her sword hissing out, her low grunt as the Valyrian steel carved it into a heap of rattling bones. It was carrying a sword; he bent and grabbed it as another one came flailing silently towards them from behind; two more were coming with burning eyes, as if the snow was condensing into their bodies; the whole bloody army of them might be just steps further away. He punched the wight in the face with his metal hand and managed to hack the thing’s legs off, turning to help her get the other two down.
They stopped gasping for a moment, bent against the wind, and then another figure started to take shape out of the snow, shambling in their direction. Then another—and another— She caught his arm and turned him away. They started staggering onward, not in much better form than their pursuit. A gust of wind briefly cleared a larger shadow on his left, and he grabbed her and pulled her towards it; a few moments later it came clear: the face of a jutting outcrop of rock. There was a hollow in the snow near the bottom, beneath an overhang. She turned to cover him as he dropped to dig out some more of it: there was a real opening, not quite a cave but not just a dip, either. He shoved his arm inside as deep as he could reach and heaved out just enough snow to make a space, then grabbed her arm and waved her down into it. He glimpsed shadows moving towards them in the distance.
She sheathed the sword and rolled herself inside, then he lay down across the mouth of the opening, and together they hauled him in. She reached around behind his back with the hilt of her dagger and jabbed the lower edge of the heaped snowdrift until it fell in behind him.
They lay there together breathing hard with their mouths open, trying not to make a sound, listening. The light filtering in was brightening: the useless fucking blizzard was picking now to slack off. He couldn’t see around behind him, but her arms tightened on him, her face going hard and still. Their eyes met and then he heard it, the death-rattle of bones moving against each other. A faint crunching of snow came, then another, and another; irregular steps. Another, so close that a little more snow fell in behind his back.
Her mailed hand curled silent and cold around the back of his neck, drawing him in closer. He shut his eyes and leaned towards her, their foreheads together, their slow breath mingling between them. He was glad he was in front. They’d pull him out first. He wouldn’t have to see.
And then another step—further away. He opened his eyes just as she did. Their gazes held as the slow lurching steps crunched onward, growing more faint.
For a long time, they still didn’t move. The wind whistled clean and empty outside, against the stone, and the light dimmed; the snow had thickened again. The last faint rasps and shrieks faded. The rigid tension eased out of Brienne’s body only little by little, and when the last of it went, she was trembling against him. He was trembling, too. It had gotten warm enough in the hollow that he could smell them both: the stink of sweat and piss and shit and sour fear, the stink that meant they were still alive, somehow. He had no idea whether anyone else was, whether they’d won or lost. Maybe they were the only two people left in the entire fucking world. His arm was around her; she was still holding him.
He didn’t kiss her. He only moved his head a little towards her, a yearning. She caught her breath and looked at him stricken, and then he had to kiss her because he couldn’t bear to meet her eyes any longer, a quick brushing of his dry, cracked lips against hers. He stopped there, shaking. She breathed out against his mouth, and then she drew his head in close.
Something more like terror than any other feeling he could name rose in him as he kissed her and kissed her, his hand fumbling and awkward between them, hers too as she worked, both of them getting knots untied, buckles undone; he couldn’t get one until she put her other hand down and undid it for him. He made a small desperate noise at the brush of her fingertips against the bare skin of his thigh; it sounded frightened to his own ears. No one else, Cersei had demanded, before she let him, the first time. No one else. Promise me, Jaime. He’ll sell me to someone and I won’t be able to stop it, I’ll never be able to stop it, but you can, you can stop it, promise me, only he couldn’t, he couldn’t stop; another vow he was going to break. Brienne looked—so startled when he touched her. She was frowning a little, her broad mouth puzzled, and he wanted to be in her the way he wanted to be lying on warm grass, in summer; he wanted it like he wanted his hand back, like something impossible.
They’d fought their way together up a hill during the battle, a dozen men around them being winnowed away by the clawing dead, until it had been only the two of them at the summit with the three White Walkers there turning to face them; he’d fought them with sword and dragonstone knife, Brienne beside him swinging Valyrian steel, the sword he’d put in her hand.
He brought that hand, her sword hand, to his lips; he kissed it, mouthing over the thickened knuckles, the calluses, tasting dirt and sweat in the palm of her hand. She gasped out and moved against him, an instinctive jerk, and he left her hand pinned beneath his head with kisses while he put his hand back between her legs. He slid his fingers into her heat and rubbed his thumb against her until she was moving with small frantic jerks, clumsy, making hitching breaths, so wet it was running over his knuckles, and he grunted helplessly and his own hips jerked when he took his cock in his hand and put himself into her.
She was panting through her nose, blowing out snorting breaths as he pushed into her; no resistance, only sweet wet yielding warmth, and it was impossible, it was utterly impossible, only it was happening anyway. He cupped her face, his thumb leaving a glistening wet streak over her scarred lip as he leaned in and caught her mouth again. She had her arm around him, her hand in the small of his back pressing him deeper into her, giving him the rhythm; he was gulping for air, his breath whining in his throat like a dog, trying to hold on and trying to throw himself over the cliff at once.
She was shaking against him, her eyes shut, as if she didn’t dare to look and make it real. He understood; he would have closed his eyes too, only he couldn’t bear to; he had to be here, with her, and he wanted, he needed her to be here with him, with selfish, desperate hunger; he wanted, he wanted, “My name,” he choked out, thickly, a whisper, a plea. “My name, Brienne, say my name.”
She said, “Jaime,” against his lips; so faintly, waveringly, he barely heard it. He shut his eyes and shuddered, and she said, “Jaime,” again, more clearly, in her strong deep voice, and he grabbed her head with his hand and pulled her close, crushingly close, trying to devour her mouth. He’d never imagined it for himself, saying the words, I am hers and she is mine. He’d taken the white because he couldn’t imagine it, because he wasn’t whole; he belonged to the other half of himself only.
Except that other half was gone; he’d cut it away like carving the rotting flesh from the stump of his sword-hand so he could survive. He hadn’t thought he could go on, he hadn’t thought there was enough of him left over to bother with breathing, but here he was, somehow, here alive after a battle with wights and demons, alive with Brienne, and if she’d be gloriously fool enough to take what was left of him, he’d for once dredge up the wisdom to let her.
Brienne was starting to move against him harder, with rising assurance. “Jaime,” she said again, urgently, and he groaned and said, “Yes. Yes, my lady.” She gave a small choked gasp of air, as if she’d only just realized what she’d let herself in for, and he laughed a little, drawing her head down to him, kissing her, stroking his palm over her short-cropped head, the sweat-damp back of her neck, and she shivered in his arms and then caught his head with both hands and kissed him ferociously, his lady, his magnificent lady, his.