A pained scream rang through the air, jolting Jaime from his sleep. He took in his surroundings as he looked for the source- he and Brienne were in their tent, on the first night on the King’s Road. He nearly got up, but another terrified scream stopped him- it was Brienne. He turned to her and saw the lines of pain in her face, the tears that were falling even has her eyes squeezed shut.
“Brienne, what is it?” He asked, reaching for her shoulder with his stump. He called out again, but only her screams were an answer, and he realized she was still asleep.
He began shaking her, calling out louder, “Please, Brienne, darling, please, wake up.”
Finally, Brienne’s eyes snapped open. She searched out Jaime’s face, as her scream faltered. She sat up quickly, hands flying up to hold her head as she breathed, trying to calm herself. One hand fell to cradle her stomach.
Jaime held his hand on her shoulder, rubbing circles. Every few seconds Brienne would look over at him, as if to remind herself he was there.
“Brienne, are you alright? What do you need?” Jaime asked softly.
For a moment she refused to look at him, as she asked quietly, “Can you please find Podrick, see if he’s awake?”
“Pod- what? why? I’m here, what can I do?”
“Jaime, please-“ Brienne started, but then the flap to their tent was opening and a disheveled Podrick was stepping in, clearly having just woken up.
“Brienne,” his expression was worried, and Jaime was taken aback by the familiarity- he had never heard Podrick call Brienne anything other than ‘my lady’.
Brienne looked to Pod, and something unspoken passed between them. Podrick rushed the few steps towards her to clasp her hand.
Podrick looked to Jaime, “I’m sorry, Ser Jaime, could you give us a moment?”
Jaime furrowed his brow, about to say no, when he caught Brienne’s eye. She gave him a slight pleading look and nodded.
“Alright- I’ll be just outside if you need me,” Jaime said quietly, shooting a worried look to Brienne as he stood.
Jaime paced outside of the tent, breathing heavily. His breath turned to mist in the cold, but otherwise he barely noticed the temperature- he was too worried about what happened- what was happening- with Brienne. He ran his hand through his hair and looked around, trying to find something to do, a way to use his nervous energy. He froze when he saw Sansa moving towards him.
“Is Brienne alright?” She asked- concerned, but not surprised.
“I- I don’t know, Pod just went in there and told me to leave and-“ His tone must’ve held the thread of jealousy he felt, as Sansa picked it out right away.
“You have no right to be jealous, Ser Jaime,” She started, disgust in her voice. She rolled her eyes, “And no reason to be- you know she thinks of Pod like her own son.”
“I’m not- I know he would never- it’s just- I don’t understand-“ he stammered out.
Sansa laughed unhappily, “Of course you don’t. The only reason she’s been relying on Pod like this is because of the nightmares she’s had since you left. Ser Brienne fought the dead, and yet it was you who broke her.” Her voice dropped to a sad, half-whisper, “Pod was there to pick up the pieces. First, on the night you left, when he found her, frozen in the courtyard, staring absently out the gates. Then, nearly every night for a fortnight, waking her from the nightmares, helping her calm down until she could sleep again.”
Jaime blinked away the tears that blurred his vision. “Thank the gods for Podrick.”
“Yes,” Sansa answered, having grown fonder of the squire over time- he seemed to be the only one who cared as much for Brienne as she did. “Brienne would say she was fine, not wanting his help, but he was adamant. She only listened because he mentioned that the stress could hurt the baby.”
There was a silence as Jaime put the pieces together, “When did Brienne find out she’s pregnant?”
“The day after you left,” Sansa said, breaking Jaime’s heart further. “Once he said that, she listened. She didn’t want to lose the only tie she had left to you.”
Jaime let out a choked breath. He had incorrectly assumed it was only recently she found out- but she had known the whole time he was gone that she was pregnant, that she would have had to raise their child alone.
Sansa eyed him wearily, taking in his reaction. “I understand that people make mistakes.” she said, “But you, abandoning Brienne for King’s Landing- that’s the only one your allowed.”
Jaime opened his mouth, but Sansa cut him off, “I’m aware you’ve made mistakes in the past, but because of Brienne, you won’t be tried for those mistakes again. But from the time you came to Winterfell until now, leaving Brienne was your fatal mistake. The only reason you’re still alive is because you brought back Arya- clearly you hadn’t lost all of your honor. But from here on out, you don’t get another chance. This is it.”
Jaime nodded solemnly, not daring to break the silence Sansa created when she stopped speaking. So they stood, outside of his and Brienne’s tent, listening to the softening sobs, and gentle words coming from the inside.
Eventually, Pod came back out, gave a sad smile to Jaime, with a flick of his head towards the tent, letting him know to go back inside. Pod nodded to Sansa, then walked back to his own tent.
Sansa turned to leave as well, but first looked to Jaime, “You’re on thin ice, Ser Jaime. I have faith in Ser Brienne, and because of her choice to take you back, I suppose I have to have faith in you. But if you hurt her again, make no mistake, winter will come for you.” She nodded to him, “Goodnight, Ser Jaime.”
Jaime eventually turned from the space Sansa vacated, and faced the tent. His thoughts spun out, surrounding him in self-hatred and disgust. But a sniffle from inside the tent broke through to him, and he reigned in all those thoughts. They weren’t helpful- his self-hatred wouldn’t help Brienne- only his presence, affirming his continued place in her life, would soothe these wounds.
Heaving a heavy sigh, Jaime allowed himself to feel that shame course through him once more. Then, he swallowed his pain and stepped into the tent, thinking of nothing but the woman in there- the woman he loved.