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among the wreck

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He is branded Kingslayer. He expects punishment, the Wall or worse, but instead, his father sends him out of the city in the dark of night. There is a ship waiting to set sail for Essos. Only there is a storm, so fierce it is as if the wind itself reached down and picked up the ship, like it weighs nothing. They are tossed in the violent sea for hours, then the sudden noise of the sharp, jagged rocks bursting through the hull. The inky black water rises, slowly consuming them.

He wakes, choking on salt water, the sun so bright it hurts his eyes. Gulls squawk over head and seaweed is tangled around his leg.

He does not remember how he finds clean water to drink, only that he does. He waits until nightfall to explore this place, stealing an axe from a tree stump, more clothes from a line in someone’s yard.

There are thick woods to hide himself in. He chops down branches, fashioning a small shelter for himself. Hunts his own food. Wandering up into the mountains, he finds springs of cool water and bathes, his ears listening for any sound of other humans crashing along the path.

He does not know how long he is there, sleeping in his shelter, taking walks on the beach, and exploring the coves and caves. There is no evidence of the shipwreck and it all starts to feel like a distant dream.

There are things about his life he should miss, but he is quite content here. Sometimes, he vaguely wonders if his father has sent out people to search for his missing ship, if his siblings mourn him, but most of the time, he hardly thinks of them at all.

His dreams are more vivid. There are dozens where he slays the king, only to find the king is his father, and still others where he is wandering the beaches here and spots a lone girl along the shore. She has blonde hair, like him, and she is crying. Every time he is able to draw close, intending to ask her what is the matter, he wakes. One time he is able to reach out to her, touch her shoulder, and she turns towards him, but then the dream is broken. He slams his fist upon the ground in frustration.

One evening, he chases a rabbit a little too far, nearly to someone’s door. It bursts open, two men spilling out into the warm evening air. Jaime hides around the corner of the cottage, frozen but listening. One of them mentions the Evenstar.

Tarth.

He’s been so close to home this whole time. Jaime forgets about supper, returning to his shelter and planning how to get home. Perhaps he could slip onto a ship unnoticed. Maybe the crew would not recognize him and he could offer to work in exchange for passage. The next night, he goes farther than he’s been before, past the cottages and houses at the edge of town, quiet as a cat, drawing closer and closer to the center of town. There is a blacksmith and he snags a blunt blade.

The next morning, he shears his head, the golden locks falling around his feet, resting on the forest floor like a halo of sunshine. Jaime sweeps them into the bushes, hoping the birds will use it for their nests.

Lately, the wind through the trees is growing cooler, so he cautiously wanders out to the beach. His pulse jumps. Standing alone on the shore is the girl.

Her cries are louder than in his dreams and it takes him a mere moment to realize she is calling someone’s name. Rushing across the sand, he sees a speck in the water, very far out, getting pulled under over and over again. He does not even stop to talk to the girl, simply dives into the water, swimming so fast and for so long that his lungs burn, reaching the figure, a boy, and dragging him ashore.

The girl stands over him, still crying, as Jaime tries to revive the boy. He slaps his cheeks, rolls him over onto his side and slaps his back, trying to shock him awake. It works, finally, the boy choking on the water he swallowed, his body thrashing against the sand, and Jaime collapses, so relieved he almost cries.

The boy hugs his sister and thanks Jaime. The girl throws her arms around Jaime’s neck and he pats her back, as he stays sitting on the beach, dripping and cold from the sea.

The next day, the boy and his sister are waiting on the beach for him. The girl has a bunch of wildflowers collected in her hand, which she presents to him. “Thank you.”

“What’s your name?” she asks.

He thinks about lying, but instead says, “Jaime. What’s yours?”

“Brienne.”

The brother is Galladon. “Do you live nearby?” Jaime gestures vaguely towards the woods but when Galladon asks him to come home with them, he shakes his head.

A few days later, Jaime is returning from a hunt to his shelter in the woods when he sees a grown man sticking his head inside. A horse whickers nearby, the reins tied to a branch of a tree. The man wears a finely made cloak and Jaime’s chest aches with familiarity. “Oh, hello.” The man says once he emerges from the shelter. “Are you the man who lives here?” He does not feel much of a man, some days, but he nods. Perhaps he should be frightened, this man could be sent by his father, come to carry him back to King’s Landing. “I wanted to thank you for saving my son.”

He does not know what to say. There is the coldness of the Iron Throne seeping into his skin, the angry look on Ned Stark’s face. He saved them all, and no one had ever thanked him.

“I came to invite you to dine with us tonight. The children have talked of nothing but you since it happened. My daughter thinks you are some knight out of the songs.” A warmth swells up in his chest and his eyes begin to burn as he holds back tears. He gives a simple nod to the man. “Good.” The man hands him a scroll. “My daughter drew this for you. A map to Evenfall. If you get lost, do not be afraid to ask for help. No one here will harm you.”

The man is the Evenstar. The castle is as fine as anything at Casterly Rock. It has a beautiful, glittering marble entrance, but it feels homey and lived in.

His eyes grow as big as saucers at the spread of food before them. Brienne is seated across the table from him and she giggles at his face. He tries to be polite but piles everything onto his plate, stomach rumbling, but then is only able to eat a small portion of it before beginning to feel ill.

Afterwards, they retire to a room with a giant fireplace already lit with a roaring fire, and the Evenstar begins to ask him questions about how he ended up here, but when the children drag Jaime down onto the floor to play a game with them, the questions stop, and they all spend a very pleasant evening together.

It takes him weeks to begin to trust the Evenstar and just when a tentative understanding seems to be reached, the Evenstar sends half a dozen men into the forest to build a better shelter for him. Jaime does not have a way to repay the man and refuses to return to the castle. He enjoys his life here because there is no duty, no one to obey.

*

As the years pass, Brienne comes to the beach more and more often. He is happy to be her confidante. She tells him of her frustration when her father stops her from doing all the things Galladon is allowed to do, tells him of her loneliness when her brother is sent away to squire, and tells him of her sorrow when her awful septa fills her head with cruel words. Jaime puts an arm around her shoulders and she turns into him, dampening his tunic with her tears.

The next time she shows up on the beach, she has brought two tourney swords with her. They practice together, and he can see the determinedness in her eyes as her hair whips about her face as she dances away from him. She is strong, her footwork a bit weak, but it’s something she can learn.

“Where did you learn?” she asks him afterwards and he is too afraid to say.

“Come back again tomorrow, if you wish.” She nods.

The next morning, she is there, and they spend nearly the whole day together, sparring and when they get too hot, swimming. “My father said I may be allowed lessons with the master-at-arms.”

“Good. You are talented, my lady.”

“Will you really never tell me where you learned?”

“Someday,” he promises.

He misses her when she stops coming to the beach as often, but is glad her father has finally allowed her to do what she wishes: learn to fight.

Or, at least, that is what he thought until she turns up on the beach again. It is the first time he has ever seen her in a fine dress, the skirt blowing about her ankles, but her shoulders are hunched forward. She is crying, cannot even tell him what happened through her tears, but he notices blood trickling from her hand. There are small cuts across her palm, as if something has pricked her. He ushers her to his cabin, cleans the wound and applies a salve. “You may rest here, my lady.”

The next morning, she tells him what happened. Jaime escorts her back to Evenfall and waits to speak with her father. “That septa has crushed her spirits. You should get rid of her immediately.”

“Am I really to listen to the man who let my thirteen year old daughter stay the night?”

“I am not the one who is trying to marry her off. I am trying to protect her.” The man splutters behind him, but Jaime does not wait for his response before storming out of the hall.

*

The next time Brienne shows up in tears at his door, it is because Evenfall’s master-at-arms died.

A day later, there is a letter from the Evenstar, asking if he will serve as Tarth’s new master-at-arms.

Jaime does not respond. Brienne knows where to find him. He does not wish to step foot in the castle again, not after what her father had accused him of. “Has your father set up another betrothal for you?”

She looks angry at the question. “No. And he never shall again.”

But he does.

By then, Jaime is the master-at-arms, and he knows how well Brienne is trained for this fight. He lets out a shout of unbridled pride when she brings old Ser Humfrey Wagstaff to his knees. The man’s face is nearly purple with rage.

Instead of a lesson the next afternoon, he packs a picnic and they walk to the beach. The day is unbearably hot and after they eat, he strips off his tunic for a swim. Brienne is content to wade into the water up to her knees. Jaime swims out to a rock, pulling himself up to sun himself on it for a while.

When he swims back to shore, emerging from the surf, Brienne sits very still, her eyes trailing down his bare chest before she glances out at the sea again. His stomach lurches, blood pumping lower. He turns away from her.

He is too old, closer to Ser Humfrey Wagstaff’s age than to hers.

*

One night, he tells her everything. Who he is, that he killed the King. She does not speak to him for weeks, does not come to the yard to practice. He thinks of leaving, finally taking a ship to Essos like his father planned for all those years ago.

*

Galladon is lost to the war. Killed with the rest of Renly’s men.

Her father dies, and Jaime is glad he stayed.

She serves as Evenstar, serene and calm for her people, but out of the public eye, she still mourns her family, channeling all of her anger in the yard. She is stronger than him now.

Her twenty-first nameday, she comes to his chambers. Opening the door to find her on the other side makes his gut churn. He lets her inside and when he pours her a cup of wine, she says she has never been kissed.

“Don’t ask that of me, my lady.” he sighs, standing, eager to put distance between them.

“Do you not want me to ask because you do not want to or because you do?” He wants to drop to his knees in front of her.

The quiet stretches between them. “If I kiss you, I would not be able to stop there.”

She nearly chokes on her wine, coughing until he pours her a glass of water. Once she has regained her breath, her blue eyes watch him, ever curious. “Why did you not-”

He can barely look at her, feels like a lecherous old man. “It’s improper.”

“How is it improper if I want the same thing?”

It is Jaime’s turn to feel as if the breath is knocked out of him. He can hear the sound of her wine cup being placed on the table, her footsteps soft across the floor as his heart hammers in his chest. The heat of her body as she draws close is too much to bear. He turns. His arm slides easily around her waist, pulling her nearer, nearer, his lips brushing across hers ever so tentatively. Brienne presses a hand to his cheek, her mouth seeking his, and he emits a low sound when she is the one who kisses him.

At first, their kisses are soft and slow, but then they grow feverish and hurried, hands rucking up fabric, fingertips exploring skin.

“I have wanted you for so long,” she murmurs and the yearning in her voice is enough to bring him to tears.

He can only breathe out her name, scruff scraping over her delicate skin as they undress one another. “I told you I would not be able to stop.”

She shakes her head, smiling. “I am glad of it.” Brienne lifts his tunic over his head and lets her eyes sweep across his bare chest. It reminds him of the way she once looked at him at the beach. Her fingertips dance across his muscles, startling him when they slip under the waistband of his breeches. He sucks in a breath over his teeth and covers her hand with his. “I told you I did not wish to stop,” she is practically smirking, and he kisses her hurriedly, their breathing is ragged when they finally part. When her hands tug down his pants and she lowers herself to her knees, all the breath is sucked from his lungs again. Her blue eyes sparkle as she takes him in her mouth, and gods, he wonders when she became this woman who is so easily able to stir his blood.

It would be easy to give himself over to the sensations over her mouth, her tongue, but he cannot stop thinking about what she might taste like, and directs her to the bed, showing her how they might pleasure each other at the same time.

He is so effective with his mouth she nearly crushes him with her thighs, but both of them laugh as he extracts himself, pushing himself up on one elbow to kiss her properly. Her eyes dart away from his shyly for the first time that night. “What?” he asks, voice gentle.

“Will you do it again?” she finally says, fingertips tracing along his collarbone, her eyes still averted.

Gods, yes.” He rolls over onto his back, tugging her towards him to straddle his face, his hand tracing up her spine as she writhes above him, coming much quicker this time. “Again?” he chuckles, licking his lips as she breathes heavily.

She threads her fingers through his hair. “Yes, please.”

He presses her down into the mattress this time, wanting to trace the rising color across her skin with his mouth, but instead slips his hand between her thighs.

“Oh.” Her head falls back as he slips one finger inside of her, then another. When he crooks them inside of her, Brienne’s body arches, pelvis grinding against his hand. “I’ve thought of you.” She means to kill him, he is sure of it. “I would think of you and touch myself.”

Brienne.” As he exhales her name, there is the gentle tang of her on his tongue.

His fingers stroke her as she curls around him, begging for release. “I want to know…” Brienne glances up, blue eyes burning into his. “What you feel like.” She runs a hand down his chest, lower, close to where his cock is hard against her thigh.

“Yes,” he grunts, removing his fingers and sliding into her with a groan. Tries to be gentle, but her hands trace over his chest, hips shifting and rolling and taking in more of him and he is shaking, trying to hold back for her because if he lets go, he will come apart. His fingers tangle in her hair and he kisses her over and over as they move together.

Afterwards, even when her body is tucked alongside his, he keeps murmuring her name. He cannot quite believe it and she only chuckles, pressing her lips along his jaw.

*

She comes to his room the next night and the next. They grow bolder. He begins to visit her, as long as he returns to his chambers by morning.

Facing her in the yard is the biggest challenge, because every movement she makes, every cry, has him remembering how she sounds in a different position. The same heat must rise within her, because she drags him into the armory afterwards, sweat beading between her breasts as they fuck on the sawdust floor.

A few weeks later, he is in the yard, when a strange man appears, asking if he’s the master-at-arms. Jaime notices the sigil on the man’s tunic and nods. The next day, there is another man, and then yet another the next.

When he visits her chambers that night, he cannot hold back his anger. “What am I to you, Lady Brienne?” She steps back to let him in, a frown creasing her brow. “A kept man? Merely practice until you can secure a match?”

She reaches for his wrist, but he jerks away from her and strides across the room. His hand shakes as he pours a cup of wine. “My advisors thought-”

“Oh, your advisors,” he practically spits. “I’m sure they would be thrilled to hear you are fucking the missing Lannister heir.”

“Jaime.” He stops, looking up to see tears glistening in her eyes. “I love you.”

“But-” She crosses towards him, stopping an inch or two away.

“My advisors thought it was wise to appear as though I was considering others, assuming of course, we are to announce a match soon.” Her eyes search his, steady but hopeful.

“A match?” He cups her face in his hands, pulling her close for a kiss. “I’m sorry, I thought-”

“I should have told you,” she whispers, stroking a hand through his hair.

“I know my history does not make any of this easy.”

Brienne shakes her head, pressing a slow line of kisses to his jaw. “My father knew who you were all along, did you know that?” She asks, drawing back to look at him.

His eyes prick with tears. “No,” he whispers. “I did not realize.”

“When you told me...I already knew, but hearing it from you…” She trails off, her voice choked when she speaks again, “You saved the city, Jaime, and no one ever knew.” He presses his forehead to hers, breathing her in.

“I love you,” he tells her, already tugging her towards the bed.