He waits for her by the window.
The snow started falling hours ago – big wet flakes that stuck to the cold ground, pretty at first, but more concerning as time went on and Brienne hadn't arrived home. Jaime doesn't mind being the one who waits for his beloved to return, but he minds when she's late and he knows she's tired and it's a snowy night.
She'd texted him she'd be home late, that they'd had a last emergency before she was off for the holiday.
I love you, she'd added, because she knows him. Knows how much he needs to hear it. No one in his life had understood the way Jaime feels words like a physical touch – not until Brienne.
So he sits in the window seat he'd insisted on when they'd been house-hunting and he watches the snow collecting in piles at the corners; the fresh, unmarked snow on the street. Everyone else is home already, and no one's going out in this. Just Brienne, working tirelessly as ever to save their corner of the world.
“If I don't, I can't expect others to,” she tells him when he tries to lure her back to bed the mornings she goes in early. Her ethics are infuriatingly impeccable but they were the first thing he loved about her, so he doesn't fight, much.
Mostly because he knows she loves him so much she'll let him win if he does.
Brienne's circle of prioritization is this: those in need at the center, then those who want in the middle, then herself at the edge, wide and strong and capable of wrapping herself around all of them. What it had taken Jaime time to realize was that she put the people she loved at the very core of it, their well-being above all others. It's a weighty responsibility, knowing what she would do for him, what she would sacrifice. He tries every day to treat that devotion with the tenderness and caution it deserves, like being granted guardianship of the world's most precious jewel.
In return, Jaime takes care of her, because she's too busy to take care of herself. Tonight is supposed to be a night centered entirely on her, if she can just get home to enjoy it. He's half-tempted to text Podrick and make him lock her out of the building, when he sees headlights turn onto the street.
Jaime's boiled the water for the hot toddies three times already and is loathe to do it again, but he hurries to the kitchen and flicks on the electric kettle in the hope that these lights are Brienne's. When he emerges back into the front room, it's lit up in bright white as her car pulls into the drive and he exhales noisily in the quiet space.
He allows himself one quiet “Thank god,” in relief and pulls on the nearest pair of shoes – hers, he thinks by the way they feel a little too roomy on his feet – and his jacket, and he steps outside to welcome her home.
She unfolds her body out of the car, like a pop-up book expanding outward as the page turns and sets it free, and she stretches in the falling snow. Brienne looks up and sees him at the top of the driveway, hands shoved in his pockets, shoulders hunched against the cold.
“Hi,” she says, her voice carrying low and warm through the silence.
“You made it.”
“Barely,” she replies, but she's still smiling so he doesn't worry. It makes her anxious when he worries about her, and he keeps himself busy enough that he mostly doesn't, but nights like tonight it's difficult to be the one waiting.
“Come inside,” Jaime tells her, “it's much warmer and I've got something for you.”
She tucks her arm through his as she walks up. It's cold, but they take their time heading back up the walkway, their sides pressed against each other, their steps automatically falling in time. “Is the something in your pants?” she asks him. Brienne's face is narrowed with gleeful distrust, her eyes shining, and Jaime's feels like he's swallowed the entire kettle of hot water, his heart burns so fiercely for her.
“If I tell you, it will ruin the surprise,” he says, tapping the side of his nose.
They shuck off jackets and shoes when they're inside – Brienne removes her socks, too, and a second layer of outerwear because she's been outside far more than he was today. Her cheeks and the tip of her nose are very pink and Jaime tugs her close to kiss each spot.
“You're freezing,” he chides her and she rolls her eyes but lets him wrap himself around her and share his heat.
“It's snowing. White fluffy things falling from the sky.”
“Don't be rude when I'm trying to warm you up,” he says mildly. She's had a long day; he can feel it in the tension in her shoulders, in the way she breathes through his fingers digging into the tight muscles of her back. The kettle stopped while they were still outside and he hopes he doesn't have to boil the water a fifth time. “Go sit by the fire and warm up while I get drinks.”
“Yes, sir,” she says against his neck. She delivers it dryly, but there's no bitter snipe of sarcasm to it, not like there had been when they'd first gotten together. Jaime's whole life had been people expecting him to be in charge – because of his money, his name, his broad shoulders and height. There have always been expectations he's tried to fulfill in and out of the bedroom. Brienne doesn't expect anything out of him but his happiness.
Their first time had been awkward and nearly disastrous because of it, until they'd both slowed down and realized that their fight wasn't with each other, but with the ghosts of everyone they'd left behind. They've discovered that Jaime likes when she tells him what she wants and what to do; she likes that he trusts her to know herself and ask for what she needs. Even better, now she feels comfortable enough with him that sometimes she'll give herself over and hardly question him at all, and on those nights Jaime realizes the incredible privilege of being the one taking control.
She kisses the side of his neck, just once, open-mouthed and hungry, just enough that he sighs in pleasure and has to let her go. “Go,” he tells her firmly, or else they're not going to make it out of the foyer.
Brienne must be tired because she does without protest, and he hears her happy hum of pleasure when she steps into their warm living room. By the time he's got the hot toddies mixed, she's lowered herself to the rug near the fireplace, draped the top of her body over the ottoman that she's pulled close just for that, and is staring dreamily into the flames. There's so much of her and she's unselfconscious about it around him in a way that had taken time to earn. Her legs are a marvel in her wrinkled khakis and her torso takes up half the large cushion; her arms easily take the other half. She looks like a painting, or an imperfect marble statue brought to perfect life.
She looks up at him when he enters, her skin glowing like the fire is burning under it. “Exactly what I wanted,” she says, stretching her long arm up to take her drink before he sits down next to her. His knees creak only a little, for which he's grateful.
Jaime clinks his glass against Brienne's. “To time off,” he tells her and she repeats it with vigor. Even she welcomes rest sometimes.
They talk quietly about their days as they finish off their hot toddies, and during a comfortable lull, he reaches over to the coffee table and pulls out the sprig of mistletoe he'd bought just for this.
“Is that--” she says, cutting herself off with a giggle. Not drunk, but pleasantly tipsy, beaming at him like he's giving her a diamond bracelet.
“It is. I thought we should kick your vacation off appropriately.”
“I'd prefer inappropriately,” she says, biting down on her lip in delight at her own joke. Jaime thinks his heart must fill the entirety of his body the beat of it is so loud from his toes to his head.
“Ms. Tarth,” he gasps in feigned shock. “Are you suggesting that I would take advantage of a respectable woman such as yourself? I'm not the protagonist of 'Baby It's Cold Outside.'”
Her plush lips press together and the hazy light in her eyes sharpens. “You know, the woman in that song knew exactly what she was doing,” she starts, and he can't hide his own grin because he knows her feelings about the way the song has been interpreted in modern times, how she fights for some mythical woman's agency the way she fights for everyone. Jaime used to wonder how Brienne wasn't exhausted from taking on every battle, until he realized sometimes she was, and that was why she needed him.
It's not why she loves him, though, which is the greatest gift of his life. He makes her tell him why she does love him sometimes – too needy, he worries, but she never complains. “Because you're kind,” she usually begins. “Funny. Smart. Principled.” That one usually chokes him up, so he breaks it with a joke. “Handsome?” he'll offer and she'll hem and haw until he tickles or kisses or, occasionally, fucks agreement out of her, depending on what she wants.
Jaime constantly tells her why he loves her, making sure he's louder than anyone else in whatever rooms she has in her head where he can't protect her. It's the easiest thing he's ever done, because Brienne is so very easy to love. No more than when she's like this: cheeks flushed with purpose, eyes sparkling with energy, long-fingered hands gesturing in expressive waves.
He holds the mistletoe up over her head just as she's really getting going and she stumbles to a stop. “Are you trying to kiss me into silence?” she asks.
“I'm just trying to kiss you,” Jaime tells her. “You don't have to be quiet.”
The flush spreads down her neck, disappearing beneath her button-up shirt, and her lips part while he inches his mouth closer to hers. They have kissed hundreds – perhaps thousands – of times by now, and every time there is still a moment where Brienne looks like she can't believe he wants to kiss her. Jaime wonders if she knows he feels the same; not disbelieving, exactly, but stunned with gratitude.
This kiss isn't anything special, on the surface of it: her mouth moves under his as she tilts her head to the right the way she always does; her lips are soft and full and maybe a little more eager than usual; her tongue is very eager and he meets it with his own, tastes the hot toddy. But it shakes him how much he wants just to kiss her, how his body surges against hers when she palms his hips. Years of fighting and friendship and fucking and still she undoes his bravado and arrogance and sharp edges with one simple kiss.
Jaime nips gently at her lower lip and then pulls a breath away. “Let me undress you,” he murmurs. Brienne's nodding, her pupils are wide and her mouth is moving like she wishes they were still kissing. He sets the mistletoe aside and starts at her shirt. It takes a bit, but Brienne is patient, letting him work out the kinks in his injured hand. He can hold drinks and awkwardly grip silverware, but dexterity takes effort and focus. Usually she does the difficult tasks before he even has time to feel badly about how slow he is, and he's grateful for it. But he wants to do this for her, so he does.
Brienne's not frozen while he fumbles. One hand combs through his short curls in a way that makes him want to purr like a cat, and the other rubs slow circles on his thigh in a way that makes him want to do other, dirtier things like a human. As he unbuttons her shirt, it exposes the pale pink bralette she's got on underneath. Jaime pauses to kiss the even paler skin of her chest above it, his tongue drawing borders around the clusters of freckles there. Brienne's breathing goes erratic and he tries to hurry at the buttons, fingers slipping and struggling. He's almost ready to ask for help when he gets to the last one and then her shirt blessedly falls open. It slides off at his insistent tugging, so he can see and kiss and suck at the round curve of her shoulders and the hard line of her collarbone and the delicate skin at the base of her throat while she whimpers under his mouth.
Her hands are tugging at his own shirt, now, impatient, and Jaime lets her pull it off of him. He'd hoped to get her completely naked first, but the fire has leapt from her to him and his unbuttoning work has already pushed him much too close to the edge for what he'd intended. But Jaime's always been good at adapting, and they've got more ingredients for hot toddies and all night ahead of them and Brienne's hands are already working at his pants.
Jaime covers them and murmurs, “Hold on – you first.” She huffs, a sweetly annoyed sound, but her fingers retreat.
“Why not together?” she asks. She's pouting, a very un-Brienne-like thing to do, which delights him. These moments are when he can most feel her trust in him, because she is not like this with anyone else in the world. Even the idea of Brienne pouting, her face scrunched up in a grumpy, needy frown, is like expecting the moon to burst into song. But she does it with Jaime.
“Because we're celebrating your vacation,” he informs her. Her pants are much easier to get off so he starts at it, with her lifting her hips up to help. Brienne's underwear are pedestrian and very Brienne-like and he loves this part of her, too.
“If we're celebrating for me, then I want you to fuck me,” she says, and Jaime inhales sharply against the overwhelming desire to rip off the rest of their clothes and do just that.
“I will, woman, hold on,” he tells her, his voice rough to his own ears. He pats the ottoman. “Up, please.”
Brienne does and Jaime sits back on his heels, his hands resting on his knees as she sits before him, legs slightly open, wearing bralette and panties and the heat of the fire.
He clears his throat to try to talk around the lust and love raging in a heady mix. “Panties off. Bra, too, while you're at it.”
“Are you going to draw me like one of your French girls?” She arches one pale eyebrow in what is probably only a seductive move to Jaime, but it works so who the hell cares.
“If you want to take even more time before getting to the fucking, I can,” he says with a shit-eating grin.
Brienne makes a face but she's naked a few seconds later. He can't tell if her skin is rosy from the heat or the desire or her latent shyness at being so openly admired by him. All three, probably. Jaime wraps his hands around her ankles – no dexterity needed for his – and slides them up to her knees. He pulls her legs further apart and shuffles in-between them.
There is one part of this plan that he's not ready to forgo, and he looks around quickly, finds the mistletoe he'd set aside. Brienne starts to lean forward to kiss him and he holds up his other hand. “Ah-ah-ah.” Jaime uses his best Teacher Voice and stern look and Brienne licks her lips. “You'll use this to show me where you want me to kiss you.”
He holds the mistletoe out to her, and she looks at it gripped between his fingers, then to his face, then to the plant again. “Anywhere?” she asks.
“Anywhere,” he promises. “Everywhere.” When he'd thought of it, he'd hoped for the latter.
Brienne takes the mistletoe from Jaime's hand and holds it near her hip. He leans forward and presses a tender kiss there, goosebumps rising to meet his lips. She stretches out her leg and flexes over it with an easy grace that nearly undoes all of his good intentions in a flash, and holds the mistletoe over her foot, with a curious, challenging look. Jaime kisses the top and rubs long grooves in the arch with his thumb, which she seems to like even better based on the moan it elicits.
She's playful with the game at first, and he's quick to follow the sprig as it dances over her body – elbow, ear, the upper curve of her ass, her pinky finger. They're both grinning a little, until she holds it over one nipple, and then the other, and he nibbles and sucks a little longer than the mistletoe is strictly there.
Brienne doesn't tease him for rule-breaking. Instead she leans back on one arm and uses the other to drag the sprig down the center of her chest, her belly, to the thatch of hair already gleaming wet in the firelight. Jaime's lips and tongue follow eagerly and though he wants to keep going downward he stops when she does. She presses the mistletoe into his hand.
“I want you to choose,” she says softly.
He does – inner thigh, the tender skin of her wrist, the column of her neck, and down, finally, to where her pelvis is rolling towards him, to her slick cunt.
He throws the mistletoe aside then and spreads her open and licks and sucks, nuzzles and strokes until she's writhing and crying out, her thighs steel under his hands, her fingers gripped a little too tightly in his hair, holding him in place so he gets where she wants him. Jaime's no stranger to the sound and smell and sight of her like this but it's a revelation every time, her softness and force as she lets go for him. This is when he knows she trusts his strength, because her powerful legs are straining against his hands and shoulders as she comes; she's wild and loud and free. She used to hold back even in this, when his head was between her thighs and all he wanted was her mindless, but she couldn't believe he was strong enough, that she would hurt him if she wasn't careful. In these moments, he doesn't want her careful, and she's not, not anymore, not now.
Brienne flops back on her elbows again once he's wrung all he can from her. Jaime's head itches a little from the lingering ache of her fingers, but he sets his wet chin on her pubic bone and smiles at the dazed look on her face. “Good?” he asks, all false innocence.
Her foot limply nudges his side. “You know it was,” she says breathlessly.
Jaime scans for the mistletoe, but he's not sure what direction it went. “Another drink?”
“No.” Her foot slides up his thigh, towards where he's very hard in his pants. “I think it's your turn.”
“Not tonight,” he says. He kisses her belly button and sits back, gently urging her back down to the rug with him. It's warm here near the fire, and her forehead shines with sweat; he leans forward and tastes the salty trickle of it along the inner swell of her breasts.
“Jaime,” her voice is high and pleading, her hands are iron bands pulling him nearer.
“What do you want, Brienne?” he whispers along her ribs. “Whatever you want is yours tonight.” Every night, if he's being honest. Jaime had met her when he'd been broken from a lifetime of disappointment and bad decisions. She had not put him back together – instead she'd looked at him and said there was a man worth fighting for. So he had fought for himself, and in the process he'd fallen hopelessly in love with her, just by her being herself.
Fortunately for him, she'd fallen for him, too, for the man that she'd known was there all along.
Her hand slides to his cock in answer and he stifles a groan at the pressure. “How do you want me?” he pants.
Brienne strokes him idly through the fabric as she considers it. The combination of her thoughtfully furrowed brow and blunt nails running along the head of his cock is almost enough to make him come right there, and he stills her wrist for a moment. Her eyes drift back to the ottoman, and he can see the instant she decides, the little puff of air that passes from her pink lips. She squeezes his cock once more and then turns her back to him, resting her arms on the cushion and then looking back at him over his shoulder, the invitation clear.
“Oh, fuck,” he moans, hurrying at his pants. Jaime never asks her to turn from him when they're fucking; he wants to see her, always, and he also knows how it's been used against her in the past by assholes that didn't deserve to kiss her dirty shoes. But occasionally she asks for it and the sight of her – the long plain of her muscled back stretched out and shifting before him, the taut roundness of her shapely ass, her calves coiled tight in anticipation – is enough to drive him nearly senseless.
Jaime's completely graceless getting out of the last of his clothes, but he can't take his eyes off of her to pay attention to himself. The firelight licks hungrily along one side of her, the darkness along the other, and they meet down the valley of her spine. He kneels behind her and kisses the merged line of light and dark, his cock nestled heavily between the slick lips of her cunt. Brienne's making small, eager little noises already, rolling back against him, and he palms her hip to try to keep her still before he has a chance to make it to the nape of her neck. He nudges her hair aside with his nose and nips at the curve of her shoulder and she rears back against him.
“What are you doing?” she demands, and Jaime grins and tugs at her ear.
“That wasn't what I asked for.”
“Technically,” he says, kissing the top bump of her spine, “you didn't ask for anything.”
“Jaime.” She's nearly growling and he wonders briefly if he could push her far enough to use some of that energy on him. But this is about her tonight; he'll work that angle another day.
Without another word he leans back and positions himself, and then thrusts into her in a single, smooth stroke that makes them both hiss in relief.
“Finally,” she keens, clenching around him, intoxicating heat and pulsing grip and he is lost to her body undulating beneath his hands, her skin slippery against his palms. Every time he drives into her she looses a sharp little ah and pushes back to meet him stroke for stroke. Curses tumble from his lips, and praise, and declarations of love – I love you, you're so goddamn strong, you're my everything, I want to taste you all over, fuck, I love you, Brienne, I love you – in a mad jumble that he cannot control. Brienne's trembling and he has enough awareness left that he finds her clit with his good hand, brings her to an orgasm that leaves her crying out and shaking as he comes hard on a wail he couldn't hold back if he tried.
When he blinks back to existence they're draped together over the ottoman, and he's softening inside her, and they're both breathing hard, his chest pressed so tightly to her back that his skin sticks a little as he shifts off of her. They slump together to the ground, curling into each other's bodies, and Brienne laughs a little.
“How long did you wait for me to come home?” she asks, her voice worn out but happy.
“My whole life,” he says softly, and she leans into him further, letting him take her weight. Jaime settles himself back against the ottoman and pulls her in, relishing in her heaviness, the way she trusts he'll hold her up.
“Oh look.” Brienne stretches just enough to grab something from the rug, and then rests against him once more. Her voice is sleepy and sated, but she's grinning when she says, “I found the mistletoe.” She lifts it above his head and kisses him tenderly.
“Hold onto that, we might put it to use later.” She snorts a little but tucks it carefully on top of the ottoman behind them, and then lays her head on his shoulder, her breathing going slow and even.
“Nap first,” she says, the words falling in slow drops from her lips. “Here ok?”
“Perfect,” he says, kissing the top of her head. It has taken years and a hundred difficult conversations and a thousand moments of doubt and worry to be Brienne's safe place to rest. Jaime will never let her down when she's given all of herself to his hands.
She falls asleep in his embrace, and Jaime rests his cheek against her hair. The fire crackles and pops, the snow continues to fall outside. Brienne breathes, deep and peaceful. Content, he waits for her to wake.