The snow was melting.
Or so the wench had decided it was two days previously. Jaime had yet to see or feel the signs of spring, for it was still hopelessly too cold in his opinion.
Instead of being inside the warm chambers of Winterfell, his nose was tinged pink by the open air. Jaime had pulled his furs right over his ears and tucked his hands under his armpits, still wondering where in the seven hells the Northerners had found their love for this frozen wasteland.
Brienne seemed to have adopted their love for the snow.
She was seated next to him, with her head bobbing from the movement of the cart. She had her knees tucked against her chest and her chin resting on gloved hands. Jaime amused himself by comparing her to a squirrel or some similar woodland creature. It was only her feet (protruding out in front of her in two boots) that reminded Jaime that she was the Knight from Tarth, the mannish warrior than demanded respect with her talent for scowling at people for long periods of time.
But she looked peaceful in the weak sunlight. He hesitated, delicate even.
Though the memory of his warm cot in the Stark’s keep seemed ideal now, Jaime was relieved to be away from it. The much anticipated Long Night had in fact been a few Long Months of fighting ice zombies. Although to Jaime it had felt like two whole years of marching up and down the Wall’s length; checking for monsters and traveling beyond to the Great White Unknown with the constant, unending panic of death.
They had lost so much. It was unbearable thinking that he and Brienne had escaped it all.
There had been Davos Seaworth. Bronn. Jorah Mormont. Even the Hound. Jaime felt the grief swell in his throat when he thought of all the dead children he and Brienne had trained. He neglected to learn their names, but their pale eyes still swam in front of his face when he attempted to sleep.
And then there was Pod.
If he had to pinpoint the exact moment that he saw Brienne let down her cool, steely demeanour, it was when the bitches took Podrick.
There had been a yelp from across the battlefield, a hair-raising screech that Jaime had heard once before in the Riverlands. He saw something flip inside her once she looked up from kneeling over Pod’s corpse. She had picked up Oathkeeper and stormed directly into the blizzard. Like a madwoman.
She was barbaric. With her teeth barred, her blonde locks flew wild as she bellowed out in rage, casting wrights down one after the other. It was almost like she was one of them. And it would have been impressive it if wasn’t so terrifying.
Once the cluster was defeated and the corpses stacked onto a pile to burn, she went on slashing her blade – cutting into the snow and at an innocent tree. And then he saw her break.
All the hot rage replaced with an emptiness. Her usual upright posture slumped, her clear eyes clouded with doubt.
He had held her when she sobbed that night. She had help him like he was the last thing left over.
They were far beyond where anything living should be when that lack wit that used to be Bran Stark had informed their regiment of news at Winterfell. His sister had arrived with an army, which was sweet relief until the boy said that she was not to support the war beyond the wall.
“She is in the Great Hall.” The boy had said, “In there with the Dragon Queen.”
Jaime tensed, hanging onto his lips along with fifty-something other fighters gathered around the campsite.
“The Dragon Queen is walking up to her. She is raising her hand. There is a dagger in it.”
Bran had turned directly to Jaime when he said his next words: “Your sister is dead.”
“What happed?” Jaime asked.
“No one killed her.”
“Speak up, boy!” someone from behind demanded.
“No one has closed green eyes.” Bran voiced aimlessly. Then his eyes rolled back and turned white, not to open for a week or two.
Jaime wasn’t surprised that she was dead. The Cersei he knew had died along with her children. What surprised him was the Stark boy’s odd phrasing. For months, marching through the frozen wilderness, he had tried again and again the pressure the boy into explaining what he saw in his vision.
Was it the Dragon Queen who had slit her throat? Was it someone else? Jaime didn’t believe that Cersei had simply dropped dead on the spot. Many of the Northerners concluded that a Southern Queen was not near strong enough for biting North. But every time Jaime was met with the same answer - “No one has killed your sister.”
Only once they returned to Winterfell, there came the news of not one, but two dead queens. The Dragon Queen had slit Cersei’s throat, and Bronn had in turn avenged his Queen Cersei. Then a Dothraki struck down Bronn before the commotion was stopped by Stark men.
Jon Snow was renamed King of the North that night. Weeks later, when the last scout returned with no new sightings of the wights, a council formed to choose a new ruler. Tyrion was named Hand of the King. Sansa Stark was named Queen of Westeros, of everything except the North, which was now independent.
Sitting in the cart, watching the forest creep by, Jaime realised that he wasn’t angry. He wasn’t disappointed. The politics and the warmongering seemed far away. He was stunned by how little he felt about his twin’s death at all.
Cersei had betrayed him, so he abandoned her. She had gone mad like Aerys himself, but he couldn’t bring himself to kill her. He was grateful that someone else had done it. Yet he still wandered why he didn’t grieve the person who was once his. That lover who he once would have died for.
“You must talk about her.” Brienne urged him one night.
It had been feasting time in the Great Hall. Laughter was ringing about. Sansa and her half-brother sat beside each other in their crowns. Brienne was seated across from him. She had reached out and placed her had on his arm to get his attention.
“What is there to say?” Jaime told her.
She frowned in disapproval, “At least talk to Lord Tyrion about… her. If you won’t talk to me.”
“Tyrion is marching down to King’s Landing tomorrow.” Jaime mumbled, “He is basking in victory over an evil I helped create. There is no place for me with him or Snow or anyone. Even you are one of them.”
“One of them?”
“The good guys. The heroes in the songs. Part of this dream of spring.”
Brienne sat silent, setting aside her cup of water.
“I will not be marching with Queen Sansa tomorrow.”
Jaime was astonished, “What? Aren’t you her Queensgaurd? Where will you go?”
“We’re going to Tarth.”
The wench had said it so clearly. It was not an option. Jaime had tried to convince her to be in King’s Landing while the new laws were being written, but the wench was stubborn. She wanted to go home. She wanted to see her father before he died. For some reason, she wanted him to go with her.
And the days had rolled past, sitting hunched at the back of some merchant’s cart on the way to White Harbour. They had played word games, they had polished their swords. Brienne had spoken at length to the merchant about his experiences in the war and everything before that, and Brienne shared her own stories about Sansa and Podrick. Jaime mostly listened. And watched.
The wench had white eyelashes. Long, thick things that contrasted against her pink cheeks. Jaime was baffled how after all the time they had spent together, he had somehow not spotted them before.
“There’s the ocean.” The merchant announced. Jaime watched how Brienne jumped awake from her nap. It was comical. She rubbed her eyes, concealing a yawn and gasping at the long blue line of the horizon.
“Would you look at that? I haven’t seen it that blue since the days of Ned Stark.”
They paid the merchant for his troubles. Brienne wished him good fortune for the future. And then the pair of knights wondered through White Harbour, in search of an inn. Jaime walked past the stone buildings and pebbled streets, galloping onto a pier.
“You will slip on the ice!” Brienne shouted at him.
Jaime laughed at her horrified face when she caught up with him.
“You worry too much, wench.”
“You were the one that didn’t have the urge to live a few days ago.” She raised an eyebrow in suspicion, “What got into you?”
“I dunno.” Jaime said, throwing his arms in the air, “Look at this place. Look at that iceberg! The sea is so calm and the water...” He turned to her, “The water is as blue as sapphires…” he trailed off.
Brienne gave him a soft look, a look of shared moments long ago. Jaime reached out and grasped her hand in his, running his thumb over her back of her palm.
“It is good being here, away from everyone. And we are heading South.” He smiled, “To warmth and wine!”
Brienne shook her head at him, her gaze slipping into his. She seemed bemused underneath her shyness.
“Your eyes bluer than the waters and sapphires in this light.” Jaime declared.
He stepped forward. Jaime felt like a desperate man. An crippled old man longing for a million things. The wench twisted out his grip.
“Why are you being so nice to me?”
Jaime blinked, “I am always nice to you, aren’t I, wench?”
“I am being serious, Jaime. You can’t just-”
Brienne’s mouth hung open for a bit, staring at him like he was a monster.
“Some days I think that you just don’t see me. And other times you’re like a child, whimpering for any sort of attention.” She was not stern this time, but dejected, “Some days I - I think that you cannot see that I love you.”
Jaime took a step back, looking like a kicked dog. The wench stood tall still, but gave the impression that he could break her if he wanted to.
“I-“ he started, “I don’t know what to say to you.”
“You don’t have to say anything.” Brienne said, “I just thought that you should know. It’s not just you that you hurt by hiding away.”
“Hiding away?” he called after her. She was walking back to the village. “Who’s hiding away now?” he countered.
She whipped around, fierce and disgusted.
“Brienne I’m sorry.” He said. “I am sorry. I did not mean that! Half the things that I say are shite, you know that.”
“Podrick died. Cersei died. Bronn died. Tyrion is also gone now, in his own way. We’re starting over with this world and that scares me shitless. And for some reason the gods spared me you. And I still don’t know what to make of that.”
He had his good hand on her shoulder now, pausing her movement.
Though they were both wearing armour, and most of her was hard and clanky, he pressed his nose into her neck and wrapped his arms around her waist. After a while she held him back, exhaling tightly.
“I always see you Brienne. Some days I just don’t think you should waste your time on me.”
“I will not give you up so easily, Ser.”
“Stupid cripple?” he chuckled, and Brienne laughed with him.
Her laugh was wide and all-consuming. She threw her head back, and he caught her, pulling her into a kiss.
He withdrew moments later, gazing upon her quiet face.
“I love you too, Brienne of Tarth.”