Jaime felt utterly and entirely miserable. The sky and the sun had conspired against him, sparklingly blue, glimmeringly pretty. Normally, this view was his most favored, the wonderful weather made him forget all the cold. Now it seemed to mock him, ignore the way he kept shivering. He had had enough of shivering, not only was it painful, it also made him appear weak to Brienne, who had probably never shivered in her life. She did not seem to be the type that caught the chills, no ser, Brienne only fell ill in ways that made her seem, if it were possible, braver. She had been sitting at his side for days, listening to him. She did not say many a word and yet, if she left, he would feel entirely sorrowful. She had told him that it could be worse and Jaime did not agree, seeing as she was not the one so affected. He would behave the way he deemed fit, and that meant constantly complaining that all his limbs hurt so much, Brienne dearest, what did I do to get so ill and other dramatic statements.
Jaime, Brienne thought, had a propensity for exaggeration. He was not as sick as he said, she was sure of it, although he acted as if no one in the kingdom had been harmed thus before him. She had, after all, seen him when he was most tormented and nothing could ever compare to that. Sometimes she would wake up, remembering. Jaime had been so unwell at the end, she had wondered how he could not weep. Brienne had not considered herself the caring type, the kind of motherly sympathy that women seemed to have, and yet then she wanted to do something to help him, if only a word that could take him a step more. Maybe already then, she had begun to like him in some way, or perhaps not, maybe it had gone beyond like-ability in one fell sweep and she knew absolutely naught about it.
Oh Jaime, and how she loved him.
‘I have never suffered so,’ says Jaime, from his window seat and then Brienne wondered if she’d been duped into having any affection for him, because he was a difficult patient. Maybe she should challenge him to a duel and no matter his ailment, he would quickly attest and then she’d win so wonderfully, that Jaime would plan his revenge, sulking quietly. She had always preferred silence to useless chatter.
‘You don’t have a proper bedside manner,’ Jaime continues, ‘when you look after a patient, you’re supposed to indulge them, comforting words and good food. You’re abrupt and you always put things down noisily.’
Brienne has not thought of these before, mostly because she’s never experienced them. It has not occurred to her. She vaguely remembers getting colds as a child, servants that did not notice, her father perhaps visiting. Jaime, evidently, had once had a life that was very opposite to hers and she knows that he misses it. It’s not in a particularly mean way, and whatever he yearns for is harmless, and he hardly ever mentions it. Yet, it has been years and Brienne thinks it is somewhat strange that he still remembers it.
‘Knights are not meant to bother with such trivialities,’ she shrugs, ‘I know naught of it and I grew tall and strong. Perhaps because you were indulged so, you were unable to grow taller.’
Jaime laughs. He has not laughed in some days, and Brienne has missed it. She never wants to forget Jaime laughing, even if she ages a century. Perhaps this is what it’s like to not want to let go, moments that make you feel warm and safe, loved.
‘Why, when we have any sort of discussion, do you always mention your height?’
‘Wouldn’t you do it, if you were not so short?’ She might not have talents in setting things down with decorum but here he cannot best her.
‘Oh, I’m wounded,’ he lies down, hand on his heart, ‘you insult an ill man, sweetheart, I might not recover.’
Brienne rolls her eyes.
‘See, you cannot speak to a patient like that. Calm, consoling words are to be used instead. If you said beautiful, delightful, charming Jaime, it would make me want to recover.’
Brienne kicks him. There is no worthy quality in him besides being beautiful. Although he is sick, it is apparent even now. The sun has always become him. He looks healthy and bright, years younger than he is. Brienne kicks him again, very, very lightly, and almost laughs when he claims his leg has already bruised.
‘Actually, I’m glad you’re here. You’re the most entertaining nurse I’ve ever had.’
‘It’s my pleasure,’ Brienne almost rolls her eyes and involuntarily holds a hand to his forehead, finding it cool and not at all warm. She’s relieved, although she does not say.
‘Do you mind that we live here?’ Jaime asks, softer this time.
Brienne looks at Jaime, almost always in his window seat. The sea and sky beyond him is vast and immeasurable, seems to melt away all of the history he wishes so much to forget. It is neither bitter nor angry, the weather is constantly pleasurable, a dwelling in which to heal. Jaime had chosen it as a place of retirement. They are his lands by right and too far out for any ruler to remember.
She shakes her head. Brienne remembers feeling adrift, moments before loss and after victory, when Jaime had taken her hand. She had followed. He knew more than her sometimes, only sometimes, mind, and so she had learnt to trust him.
‘You can go, if you want, you know. I mean, if you’d like to travel over the seas, visit new countries. I wouldn’t be cheerful company, people still do not like me much, and I cannot do it anymore, I’m sorry, but if you want to, you could go.’ Jaime’s words are unclear and confusing. He never sounds incoherent and it’s unsettling.
Truth be told, Brienne wants to go absolutely nowhere.
‘Would you miss me?’
‘You’re sly, wench,’ Jaime smirks, ‘I would not miss you at all, of course not. You’re not very good company and you’re usually so quiet, I’d barely notice your lost presence.’
Brienne thinks about the way Jaime calls for her when she leaves him for more than an hour. He is constantly afraid that she might be hurt. The village has no citizen younger than sixty, none of who are strong enough to snatch her away and although she has tried to reassure Jaime, he refuses to stop worrying. It has made her feel somewhat irritated and mostly happy that at least, there is someone who cares.
‘You’re a liar, Jaime.’
Jaime finds this amusing. Anyone else would be offended at being called untruthful, but for some strange reason, he does not. She had always thought that he was somewhat peculiar and she comes to the sudden realization that since she stays with him, she is too. It is an unsettling thought. She has only ever wanted to appear as righteous, nothing more.
‘Brienne, Brienne, do you remember when I met you? You could not say a word to me that was not insulting. You were so disapproving of me. I had never met someone with more ire and it irked me. I do not know when your judgments of my character became praises.’
‘I thought your throat was so sore, that, and I quote you, drinking water is as painful as crunching a hundred shards of colored glass, yet you have so much to say and it hurts you not at all.’
‘Talking to you distracts me from my misery, that’s why. I like you being here,’ Jaime smiles at her, it seems sincere, although she thinks she’ll need years to understand the meanings behind Jaime’s smiles, they’re a language all unto their own. A life of harsh untruths has kept him from smiling with random joy. He has suffered, although no one seems to see.
‘It’s my pleasure,’ and then Brienne remembers, ‘the maester recommended that you should have those medicinal herbs every two hours instead of three and you’ll be well soon.’
Jaime glares at her.
It’s unfair, honestly. She is neither the maester, the herbs and nor has she made him ill. She does not deserve to be treated so.
‘Those herbs are so bitter, they are making me sicker. I detest them.’
‘It cannot be that bad.’
‘You have them then.’
‘Close your eyes and swallow.’
‘Don’t be so mean, Brienne,’ Jaime used to call her Brienne of Tarth, but he does not anymore. He says they are now Jaime and Brienne who belong to no land only this brilliant sea and its beautiful sky. They belong to each other too.
‘I’m leaving you,’ snaps Brienne and she goes.
Jaime recovers and Brienne falls ill.
She does not speak of it and tries to live as though she is unaffected. Jaime decides that Brienne is too determined for her own good. There is no need to be so strong, especially not with him.
Jaime looks after her. Brienne sleeps with one pillow, Jaime decides that she needs four more, and annoys her by fluffing them up. He brings her tea and feeds her soup. He leaves the room and returns so quietly, afraid to disturb her at all. He speaks so gently, Brienne is not sure it’s the real Jaime. Sometimes he reads to her, softly and comfortingly. It is an extraordinary feeling to be so well cared for. Although you don’t think you deserve it, someone finds you worthy enough to lavish all this kind attention upon you.
She wakes up one morning, feeling wonderfully healthy and the room is bright and lemony. Jaime is sitting in his window seat and he seems entirely content. She has never felt better.
‘Jaime,’ she whispers.
‘I would miss you.’
'And I, you.'
(The next time Jaime gets sick, Brienne hits him with all five pillows).