She was disgraced in her own eyes. Hunched over and dejected. Could scarcely stand to look at him for the shame. It irked him. The longer she kept her eyes on the ground, the longer he would be deprived of their beautiful blue.
He sat beside her on the old straw mattress the shabby cottage boasted as it’s own. He had been told endlessly that he was not allowed in here. But that had not stopped him from slipping inside and baring the door.
“I lied to you, ser.” She said stating the obvious. At least her eyes were on him again. Such boundless blue. They were steeped in sorrow. Imbued in a desperate guilt. He’d seen her eyes reflect such agony before. When she first heard of her Lady’s death while they traveled the King’s Road down to King’s Landing. He’d seen her eyes reflect all manner of emotion. Contempt. Anger. Steely resolve. A fierceness that burned like wildfire. He’d even seen them calm. But never happy. Never brightening with joy the way a young girl’s eyes should.
“Yes. You lured me away from my forces under false pretenses.” He agreed. “And there was no true Hound. And no Sansa Stark. Only an undead corpse and a merry band of outlaws eager to watch me dangle from a tree.”
His words caused her to flinch.
“It was betrayal most foul. You did not deserve it, ser. But if you could find it in yourself to believe me now, know that I did not wish it. I would have hanged to spare you from her noose, but the boy...”
“I believe you. I’ve seen the bloody rope marks around your thick neck. You did hang. And I’m not fool enough to believe you lied to save yourself either. You haven’t enough sense for that. Pray tell, my lady, what made the life of some green squire worth more to you than my own?”
“It’s not that.” She said shaking her head. “Podrick is just an innocent child. Kind-hearted and loyal. He had no hand in this. I could not see him hanged for my failures.”
“But you could stand to see me hanged?” He asked out of some perverse need to hear her deny it. As if he hadn’t heard and seen enough of her regard for him.
“Never.” She cried. “You saved me, Jaime. More than once. You've showed me a kindness no one else ever has.”
“You broke an oath to protect me. And slew your Lady, or what was once your Lady, to save my life. Do you think that lost on me?”
“I... I do not know.” She sputtered. “All I know is that I’ve wronged you unforgivably, ser. I own my actions and will not begrudge you yours.”
“You let me judge what is unforgivable.” He hissed.
“Very well.” She conceded. “That is for you to decide. But I will not ask for a pardon I do not deserve."
"Wench." He pleaded abandoning the formality they had recently adopted when speaking with each other.
"I cannot beg forgiveness but only speak of my repentance and regret. If there is any amends I can make? Any act of penance I can preform? I will do it.” She vowed solemnly.
Now that was interesting.
“And what reparations do you think are due me then?”
“Anything.” She answered reflexively.
“Anything?” He questioned liking the sound of it too much. She was either too thick or too innocent to realize that a maid should never make such an offer to a man.
“Yes. Anything that is within my power. I will return you to your men, to your lands, back to King’s Landing to your sister if that is what you wish.”
“But I do not wish it.” He said bluntly. “Think of something else.”
“Something else?” She asked in confusion. As if there was nothing more he could possibly desire than to be returned to an infernal city that stank of shit and was ruled by lunatics. “Please Jaime, simply tell me what you would have of me.” She beseeched.
What if he asked for her cunt? Her maidenhead? Would she grant him that? Mayhaps. But that was a gift that should be given freely and he no longer had it in him to wound her as he had wanted to. And he had wanted to. For a moment. He had hated her for lying. For betraying him. For leading him to his death. Yet the desire to punish her had died with Stoneheart. The wench’s sacrifice too great to overlook. It left him fevered to think of how she’d pleaded for him. How she’d fought, and scrapped, and strived to save his miserable life. As if everything inside her body, soul, and mind needed him to survive. As if the whole world would fall into darkness if he were no longer in it.
Did she love him?
“I’ll have a kiss.” He answered belatedly. The words leaving his mouth before the thought had fully formed in his mind. All at once it hit him how badly he wanted her mouth pressed to his.
The look of incredulity writ on her face was beyond comical. He would have burst out laughing had he been in any mood for humor. But he was not in the least. All he had now was impatience and hunger of a different kind.
“You mock me cruelly.” She accused.
Irritated, he had every intension of calling her a stupid wench, when abruptly she crumpled further into herself. As if she somehow deserved his ridicule. As if he were even mocking her at all. It hurt him. The pain and humiliation etched on her face. The way she bent her head and yet again took her eyes from him. It all tore at him. But thinking back, hadn’t it always hurt to see her diminished? He liked her to be strong. As she was meant to be.
“You owe me a kiss.” He insisted. “More than one.”
“How do you figure?” She asked genuinely perplexed.
“When a knight does a lady a good turn, he should be rewarded with a kiss. I’ve done you many a good turn and have yet to receive a single one." She gaped at him. "Frankly, you’ve been quite miserly with your kisses, my lady." He chided. "Likewise, when a lady wounds her knight with a falsehood she should atone by offering him her lips.” Where he’d come up with all this he could hardly say.
“This is a jape.” She asserted. “Jaime, I know this is a jape.”
“But you can’t… I mean… I’m even uglier than before.”
There was no denying that. She was battered and bruised. The bandage on her cheek hid a ghastly wound. But her eyes were even prettier than he’d remembered. And every part of him screamed to be close to her.
His fingers went to her unmarred cheek, gently caressing her skin. Quick as a cat, her large hand clasped over his. But if she meant to halt his touch, she could not bring herself to do it. Instead she held him to her. Just the warmth of her skin had him aching with need. His mind flooding with the memory of her arms warped around him in the baths at Harrenhal. Her gentle touch on his body.
“My kisses,” he urged.
“How many would you have?” She asked in a small voice.
“All that are due me.” As many as I can get. “When I protected you from Vargo Hoat’s men… How many kisses was that worth? Two? I forestalled two attacks against you. And what of the time I slew the Mad King and prevented all of King’s Landing from being burnt to the ground? I made that heroic confession to you. Surely, I deserve a maiden’s kiss for that valiant deed. And how about when I returned for you and pledged to pay your ransom. And when I jumped into the bear pit desperate to give my life for yours if need be. And when I gave you Oathkeeper. And another to make up for the lie you told me. What is that? Seven?”
He had slowly been edging closer throughout his entire accounting. His hand slipping from cheek to the back of her neck, his right arm wrapping around her waist. He wanted her to know what it felt like to be held by a man.
She shook her head from side to side. “This is madness, Jaime. A jape. You can’t…”
He brought his face to hers, leaving but a hair's breadth between them.
“You don’t really want this.” She mumbled before her lips met his.
Even offering that smallest of pecks cost her greatly. She was braced for laughter. For rejection. None came. There was only him wanting her. That seemed inexplicable to her. She made some small sound of disbelief. Her eyes doubting everything. He waited craving more. Finally, she rewarded him with the second timid brush of her lips. No honey or wine and clovers could ever taste so good to him. He would show her what it was to be kissed. He took her lips as a man dying of thirst would take water and drank her up with a need he neither cared to temper nor disguise. His kisses were claiming, searching, coaxing. He wanted her fierceness, her passion, her love. The gentle sweetness she kept within herself. Everything.
She pulled away gasping, her great blue eyes wide.
“A kiss must be returned.” He replied smirking.
“That was one then.” She said unsure. It did not cut him that she counted. Those were the rules he had set.
“Give me the next.” He demanded.
Her lips met his. Still shy but not nearly as hesitant as before. Her hands were on him now. Touching him. He needed more of that. He moaned against her plump mouth, enjoying how she moved her chapped lips over his. He began to tease and play, finding it easy to draw her in deeper. To suck on her bottom lip until she sighed. And then to slide his tongue effortlessly into her mouth. She griped him hard, allowing him to kiss her breathless. Clinging to him as only a swooning maiden could.
Gods be good, he was so greedy for her. Drawing out each interlude for as long as he possibly could. Stringing nine or ten kisses together and pretending they were but one. So that they were still on number two many minutes later.
They broke apart, panting this time.
“More.” He insisted. Barely giving her a second to catch her breath.
She came back to him quickly. Kissing him. Making him whimper before allowing him to claim her again and again. Letting his demanding tongue slip inside her mouth as often as he pleased. Fuck. His cock was so hard now. When she slid her tongue into his mouth he thought he might come. It was impossible not to press up against her as she kissed him. The pleasure of it had him trembling in her arms.
It went on and on. Four. Then five. But the higher the count grew the more he became plagued by a foolish panic. Would this be it? Would she leave him once her debt was paid. Should he save some?
Yet six came and he could not hold off.
All he could do was kiss her and demand that each kiss last as long as he could possibly make it. She had to fight him to breath. He would not let her go. He was too rough, he thought. She had been badly hurt. Her cheek. He tried to calm himself. But the seventh kiss came and it was … He kissed her as if he would die the moment her lips left his. For her part, she returned his kisses deliciously. Too deliciously. With a mixture of furious desperation and heartbreaking sweetness that left him intoxicated. Never stop. His mind begged. He could not be without these kisses. It was a violent need that shook him and stabbed straight through his heart. Bitterly he released her, but only after having pushed things past the point of madness.
“That wasn’t the last.” He warned the moment he was able to speak again.
“You like this.” She whispered in wonder. It was a statement.
“Fuck. Yes." He concurred emphatically before dipping back to reclaim her lips.
"But how could you after all I've done?" She inquired holding him off.
"Is it wrong to want the maid who fought so bravely on my behalf to be wrapped up in my arms?”
“She lied to you.”
“Because she had to.”
“That is no excuse.”
“It very well fucking is. And I’ll thank you for it until the day I die. Do you think I want you dead and lost to me forever?” He demanded savagely. The thought alone twisting his gut. “I’ll thank your bloody squire too. For looking so damn pitiable as he dangled. For forcing you to choose sword over noose. If it weren’t for him, you’d be hanging from some damn tree now, dead for weeks.”
“No more.” He said silencing her. “Whatever happens now, you are not to leave me. You say you want to make amends, then do it. Search for Sansa Stark with me. We’ll go to the Vale. Just as you said to Stoneheart. I agree with you, it's the closest place to start looking and may prove fruitful. I can tell you for certain that Sansa Stark has not been with the Blackfish. As we know she has little family left. Her aunt may be dead, but her cousin is Lord of the Eyrie. He may be hiding her."
"You still think it possible to find the girl?"
"We'll never know unless we try. Don't tell me you've given up?"
"I will continue to search for her, but you..."
"It was my oath too, was it not? We will find the girl and make her safe. We can look for Arya Stark too, if you are so certain that she still lives. Afterwards, you will return with me to King's Landing. I have to go back for Tommen and Myrcella. You'll come with me.”
“Jaime.” She said softly.
"I will leave the Kingsguard. It is for me to help Tommen rule until he comes of age. I had not wanted to see it until now, but I can serve him better as Regent and Lord of Casterly Rock than as the cripple Lord Commander. Help me protect my children. They are innocent too, Brienne.”
"A Kingsguard serves for life." She noted.
"No longer." He informed her. "Barristan was relieved of his duties due to age. I shall be relieved of mine due to my maiming." She nodded taking it all in. "And once I've changed my white cloak for red, I shall be free to take a wife."
"I must have a wife. Who better than you?"
"Me? I am unfit." She said turning away blushing.
He turned her face back towards him, his hand holding her chin as his thumb began stroking her bottom lip.
"A high born maid is perfectly fit to wed a Lord."
"But I was not made for such things." She insisted.
"You were made for it as much as any other woman." He bit back. Dropping his hand from her face, he braced himself for her refusal. "If you do not wish to marry me just say it."
She was shocked by his outburst. Her gentle hands went to his cheeks to soothe him with her caresses. Her fingers threading themselves through his beard. Any time she had her hands upon him now, he found himself moaning in gratitude and delight.
"I wish it, Jaime. I wish it." She told him in a voice thick with wanting.
"Then say yes. Search for the Stark girls with me. Return to King's Landing with me. Be my wife. My children will not bother you, Brienne. They are good. Tommen is a tender-hearted boy. Myrcella a sweet girl sent off to live in Dorne. Their mother will have no place in our lives. The entire realm may have gone mad, but we''ll have all the Lannister might to protect what is ours." The selfishness of his requests was not lost on him. King's Landing was such a hole. It sickened him to ask her to return to such a place. He wished to take her back to the Rock to wed her and bed her. To keep her safe and happy.
And to ask her to stay by his side as he cared for children who were not her own. That was most selfish of all. But where any other woman would respond with jealousy at such a request, Brienne would respond with kindness and understanding. He already knew.
Yet they would not stay in King's Landing forever. They could set things to rights, then make their home where they wished. Be it Casterly Rock or Tarth. They would have a gaggle of blue-eyed babes. He'd hold each of them tight in his arms. He'd be a good father. The loving husband she deserved. He'd make her happy. It just felt so right to him. He needed this. He felt himself taken over by an optimism he had not known in decades.
"I will never fear or resent the love you have for your children, Jaime." She told him tenderly, generously. "They are yours and must always have a sacred place in your life. What I do wonder is what has changed between you and your sis ... lover?"
"That is done." He told her firmly. "She is not who I thought she was."
"Just some days before you came to me, she sent a raven to inform me of her arrest by the Faith Militant. I knew her to be guilty of every charge laid against her. She begged me to go to her. Expected me to die for her, I'm sure. But I did not go. Then you came with some tale of Sansa Stark and the Hound. I abandoned my army to follow you. The truth of it is I would have followed you anywhere. Even when I was sure I was following you to my death. Even when I felt I hated you for it. I could not turn back. I could not leave you. Repay me in kind. Never leave me. I have chosen you. Of that there can be no doubt. You saved my life. As I have saved yours. Now let us join them together in the eyes of the gods. Let us live and love each other for the rest of our days. That is all I want from you."
She'd listened intently, well moved and well wooed if the gods were good.
"Then I shall remain by your side and wed you and be your wife." She vowed. Her eyes bright even behind her unshed tears. She sealed her promise with her kiss.