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Words of affirmation

He tries to stay off the Kingsroad, wearing the dark blue cloak she gave him before he left.

Afraid to keep a fire, he barely sleeps, spending long nights on the hard ground.

With Sansa returned safely to Winterfell, one oath kept, Jaime could not turn his thoughts away from his youngest son. When he told her, his mouth fumbling over the words, the news of potential attacks on the city, Tommen still alive and at the heart of it.

They parted outside the gates. He kissed her, held her close. She had not said anything, only brushed a kiss to his cheek and stood there watching until he disappeared over the horizon.

Close to the Twins, he hears news. They’ve breached the city. It is too late. Too late. He thinks about riding onwards but it feels even riskier to return when his son is likely dead or at the very least, has been spirited away, gone into hiding.

There is someone else waiting for him, and she does not deserve to hear news of him being caught and hanged (or worse). She has already been through so much.

They both have.

It was foolish of him to choose his family, yet again, over the one person who loved him for what he was. Who told him to live.

He wants to live his remaining years with her.

As he returns North, he hears of the Wall, hopes he is not too late. Prays. Rides through the night.

When he finally rides through Winterfell’s gates, he does not stop, shouts and commotion rising up in the yard. The Northern men rush from the gatehouse to demand the unmasking of him. He slides off his horse, arms in the air, and there is a rush of footsteps behind him.

“I know none of you Northern men look favorably upon me, but I did deliver Lady Sansa here myself.” Then she is in front of him, looking as austere as ever, but those eyes. His face shifts from an outraged grimace to a warm smile. “Ask Lady Brienne. She will tell you.”

“What Ser Jaime says is true.” She nods. “He delivered Sansa Stark here upon her mother’s, Lady Catelyn Stark, request.” Her hand lands on Oathkeeper’s hilt, a comfort when she is nervous, a gesture he knows as intimately as his own. “He is not your foe. Besides, we have a far greater fight waiting for us.” The Northern men have not warmed to either of them, by the looks on their faces, but they listen. Their backs are barely turned before Brienne steps forward, a shyness in her gaze, but a smile pulling at her lips. She reaches up and pushes back the hood of his cloak (the dark blue one, hers), her fingertips fluttering over his jaw before she kisses him.

His arm wraps around her waist, pulling her closer, because yes, this is all he wanted. Their journey through the Vale and then North, those weeks they had been happy. Content. Then they arrived here and began sneaking into each other’s rooms at night, like it was some illicit thing. But she is not ashamed of him, and she is proving it, right there in the middle of the courtyard.

“I did not want to hide any longer,” she murmurs against his lips, but even as she says it, glances away.

It makes him smile and press a kiss to her cheek. “I should have never left. Ever since I kissed you at the gate and rode away, I have not been able to stop thinking about how callous it was. I have not been able to stop thinking about you.”

“I love you.” It is said so softly he thinks he dreamt it.

“You do not have to admit such things simply because we are a day from battle.”

“Jaime,” she speaks over him, her gaze solid and steady now. “I love you.”

His heart stutters in his chest because of course he loves her. And he wants everyone to know. To see. He pulls her towards him for another kiss but he murmurs against her lips, over and over, IloveyouIloveyou.

*

A day later, he stands beside her in battle.

The two of them fight back to back, like something out of the songs.

**

Gifts

A few weeks before his wedding, he receives a parcel. His sword, wrapped in a soft cloth and laid in a finely crafted wooden box, and a note from her. He has to brace himself against the desk as he reads her words: May this protect your home and your betrothed.

When they parted, he left Widow’s Wail with her. “I have-” He pressed a finger to her lips to quiet her. Tears pool in her eyes. They are likely to drown him.

The cavern of his chest has been ripped open, watching her go, sacrificing love for duty. “Please,” he can scarcely speak as he presses his forehead to hers, his tears landing on her cheek. “May it serve you well, my lady. Protect your home.”

After the war, he returned to Casterly, the Lannister reputation in shambles. It was all he had. He spent a decade rebuilding, returning a sense of justice, decency, and generosity to the family name.

Now he is to be wed, because when you rule fairly and display kindness, the people of Lannisport will not be satisfied until he finds his own happiness.

And yet the woman he loves is a continent away.

*

Ten years later

He is watching Willem in the yard when Peck arrives by his side, nearly breathless. “You have a visitor, my lord.”

Jaime frowns, wondering if it is someone from Lannisport coming to air their grievances. He had cleared the day to spend time with his son. “Put them in the blue room and offer them refreshments. I’ll be up in a moment.”

“Ser, I really think you should come now.” He has watched Peck grow from a scrawny teenage boy into a man, happily married and with children of his own, but he’s never seen the man this out of sorts.

“Is the Queen here?” Jaime intones with a rather hollow laugh.

“No, ser,” Peck exhales. “Not the Queen. The Evenstar.”

The Evenstar. The title echoes in his head for a moment, his legs feeling weak. “Willem,” he calls to his son, but the boy is so fiercely attacking one of the straw men in the yard he doesn’t hear him.

“I’ll fetch him.” Peck offers.

“Thank you.” Jaime thinks he manages to say before he brushes past him and slips inside the Rock. His wife has been gone nearly two years now, leaving Willem scarcely older than Jaime had been when his own mother died.

He has heard little of Tarth, as consumed as he was in transforming the reputation of the Lannisters and the Westerlands. Perhaps he has not wanted to hear. But now he wonders if these past twenty years have found her fulfilled, found her happy.

She is standing in the blue room, but the color of the walls are not anything when compared to her eyes. “Brienne,” he whispers from the doorway. She looks as strong as ever, but holds herself differently somehow. Her spine is straight, her shoulders pulled back, proud and dignified.

“Jaime,” she smiles fondly at him, tears pooling in her eyes. He crosses the room to her, pulling her into a hug. He is unable to act like a stranger with her after all these years, not when she remains the one person who knows him so well. “How are you?” she asks.

“I’m well.” He sits, smoothing his hand over his thigh. Years ago, he stopped wearing the golden hand, and simply began having the sleeves of his shirts sewn up. “You’ve traveled a long way. Is everything alright?” Jaime does not voice what they are both thinking. She has never visited here, just as he has never visited Tarth. It would have been too painful.

“I--” she lets out a shaky breath from her seat on the chair across from him. “I’m realizing now this is all a bit foolish.”

He leans forward. “Whatever your reason for being here, I doubt it is foolish.”

Brienne runs a hand across her stomach, a gesture so small he might not have noticed it, except it has been so long since he’s seen her, he wants to soak up every moment in her presence. He recognizes the gesture as the same way his wife used to touch her hand to her stomach when she was pregnant with Willem. “There is a man who claims to be a Tarth heir. A baseborn son of my father.” She presses her hands together in her lap. “Which could be true,” Brienne whispers.

“Are you not older than he?”

“Yes, but I am a woman.” Her gaze flickers up to his and then away. “My father never declared me formally as his heir. That was always Galladon.”

“It was a given.” Jaime says brusquely, offended on her behalf. “You stepped in when Tarth had no leader. You have been through so much.”

She nods and even though she appears as strong as always, he can see how the weight of the years has worn away at her. “I’ve written to Sansa about it and she assures me she will uphold my claim, but I am worried…” She lets out a sigh and stands from the chair, starting to pace around the room.

He has spent the past two decades trying not to get involved in the politics of the kingdom, instead preferring to concentrate on his lands, his people, but he is glad to hear Brienne has a friend in the Queen. “Do you think he will try to claim it by force?”

Brienne dips her chin. “Yes. I am worried about...the children.” She stops her pacing and looks at him then. “I have twins. I do not know if you had heard.”

His voice is hushed when he replies, “I hadn’t.”

“They are almost old enough to defend themselves, but they are still so young. Twelve.” Her hand trails across her stomach. “Their father died a few months ago.”

“Brienne…” he murmurs, uncertain what to say. “I am sorry.”

“It’s alright,” she replies. “I...I am not afraid to take on this man, if need be, but Sansa, the Queen, suggested I might shore up my defenses. If I could find someone who wields enough power to command men, who would be loyal to me, my island.”

Jaime thinks he understands what Brienne is suggesting, but is frozen in shock in his seat. “Are you...asking about a political alliance? With me?”

“I trust you.” Her voice is small, barely above a whisper, and he itches to cross the room and take her in his arms again. “I do not even know if you have men you could send or-”

“I do. I would come myself, too, if you have a need for a battered one-armed knight.” Her gaze is focused on the fireplace, but he waits anxiously for her answer.

“I always have need of you.” She turns towards him, and the familiarity of her, standing before him, flesh and blood after all these years apart stuns him speechless.

He stands then, taking a hesitant step towards her, then another, and even as he is slipping his arms around her, he expects her to draw away from him. “Brienne, are you asking me for more than an alliance?”

She bites her lip. “I would not...except this man and I--” Brienne sucks in a sharp breath as Jaime draws even closer, his nose pressing against the shell of her ear as he places a gentle kiss at her temple. “Jaime…” she murmurs, her eyes filling with tears again.

He did not even realize how much he longed for this moment all these years, dreamt of it. “May I kiss you?”

She cannot answer, only nods through her tears. He presses gentle kisses to each of her cheeks, extra soft over her scar, kissing away her tears before pressing one to her lips. Her mouth is soft and warm and opens eagerly to his and they cannot get enough. Brienne grasps his hand on her cheek and they stop, breathing hard against each other, Jaime letting out a soft laugh. “There is one other thing,” she tells him, her thumb stroking over his. “I am with child again.”

His eyes widen and a broad grin spreads across his face. “I will swear it is my own if that is what you wish of me.”

“Are you certain?” Her blue eyes blink, momentarily in doubt.

“I have never been as certain about anything else in my life as I am about this, my lady.”

She smiles, as soft as her kisses. “You will have to come to Tarth.”

He laughs again. “I realize that.” Brienne kisses him then, and yes, he would do anything for her.

*

Every anniversary, Jaime teases her about the pretender, saying he should write the man a thank you letter. “Or perhaps it is Sansa who I should thank.” He says, grabbing at the soft flesh of his wife’s side as she passes by. Brienne brushes at his hand ineffectively, landing in his lap even as she tries to push him away.

“It would have been rather impolite to show up on your doorstep and ask you to marry me without a royal decree,” she chides.

“I would have said yes no matter what.” He nudges his nose into her hair, breathing in deeply. “It has all been a gift.” Their marriage allowed him to be a father three times over. First to her twins, Arthur and Alys, then to their daughter, Rosaline. Brienne allowed Willem to drag her out to the yard every morning, laughing when Jaime pretended to take offense that his own son preferred sparring with her.

Their home is alive with the sound of their children’s voices, laughter, even sometimes with a mock swordfight or two, all of it so full of love.

He would gladly do it all again, wait a lifetime for her, if it meant it would earn him all of this.

**

Acts of Service

They are at the Rock, Brienne playing with their children in the surf of the Sunset Sea, when he receives the message from his brother.

He crumples the paper in his hand, watching his wife’s hair swirl around her face as the wind picks up. Her breeches are rolled up to her knee, exposing those long legs, her pale and freckled skin. Jaime hears her voice raise as Arthur swims out a little too far, a momentary tremor in it. The image strikes too close to his wife’s heart. Her brother.

He trudges down the beach, not even bothering to pull the legs of his breeches up his legs before entering the water, the salt and brine filling his nostrils, his hand landing on his wife’s back. “I thought you might need some help.”

“Thank you,” she breathes. “Keep an eye on him, please.” Their daughter, Lelia, is paddling around their ankles and Brienne bends down to hoist the girl up on her hip.

“It’s a beautiful day.” He murmurs, his hand rubbing along her lower back.

Brienne smiles and shifts her weight towards him slightly, leaning into his shoulder. “It is.”

“Swim, mama.” Lelia tugs at the laces of Brienne’s shirt which she manages to untie with her very small hands.

“You’re making your mother indecent,” Jaime remarks, making a face at their daughter.

Brienne smiles, setting down their daughter again, and then retying the laces. “You’ve seen it all before, my darling.”

“Doesn’t mean I love them any less.” He presses a kiss to the blush rising in her cheeks. “I got a message from Tyrion.”

His wife raises a hand to her forehead, shading her eyes against the brightness of the day. “About…”

“Yes.”

She touches his arm. “And?”

“He expects a battle.” Her hand slides across his shoulder blade, fingers lazily caressing the back of his neck. It makes his skin prickle and Jaime draws closer to her.

“And you want to go?”

“I believe I should.” He knows he is not a strong fighter anymore, but it feels like the right thing: to be with the Lannister men, even if he is no longer a commander.

The waves lap gently at the shore, a reassuring rhythm. “Maybe I should serve in your stead.”

Jaime laces his fingers through hers and brings their locked hands to his mouth, where he presses a gentle kiss over her knuckles. “I’ll be fine. The men will not let me fall.”

“You don’t know that.” She steps forward, calling out to Arthur again, but Jaime does not let go of her hand.

“You’re right, I don’t. But I’ll be…” he doesn’t know how to explain it to her, how thinking about them, about their family, drives him in a different way than he’s ever been driven before. “I want to come home.”

“Are you trying to make me cry?” her voice is strained as she steps into him, wrapping her arms around his neck. “I love you.”

He spends the rest of the afternoon and evening cataloguing all the gentle ways she touches him, reaches out, communicates through a look.

The children are scarcely tucked into bed when he is the one reaching for her, dragging her down the hallway towards their chambers. He presses her against the door, his good hand untangling the laces of her tunic, showing her how much he loves the taste of salt on her skin.

When he drops to his knees, she lets out a gasp, her body arching against the door as he slips her leg over his shoulder. Afterwards, her grip on his hair loosens, fingertips sliding along the back of his neck as he rises to kiss her. She murmurs something against his mouth and he parts enough to hear the words. “I do not want you to go.”

At Winterfell, they had been together weeks before the battle, and when it was clear they would have to fight, a dull ache echoed in his chest for days. Yet they never talked about what would happen if. Everything was still new between them, neither of them were prepared to lose the other so soon. It was the promise of all the things that could have been between them and to have that ripped away was heartbreaking.

But now, Brienne clutching him against their bedroom door, it is a much deeper, sharper pain. The thought of them not living out their years together, the idea of their children growing up not knowing their mother or father, or either of them having to hold their family together when the grief threatened to swallow them whole. He does not even want to begin to imagine it.

He would be lost without her.

“I should go,” she whispers into his neck. “I am younger.”

Jaime wants to tease her about implying he’s an old man and had he not just shown her otherwise, but instead he holds his tongue and allows the moment to slip away. “I love you. Let’s speak of it tomorrow.” Tonight, he wants to fall into bed with her and catalogue all the places where her skin is kissed by the sun.

*

In the end, he is the one who goes. They are a day's ride away from the city, the icy grip of uncertainty settling around his neck like a noose. He is not commander anymore, but he wields enough power to toil over the battle plans, standing over the wooden desk in his tent until his back aches.

He hears a clamor outside and brushes back the tent flap quickly, fearful of a potential ambush. Instead, he spots a lone rider approaching the camp and men drawing their weapons. The dappled gray mare seems familiar and his eyes fall to the man’s cloak, the combined sigil. “Sheath your weapons. That is no enemy soldier.”

It is his wife.

Brienne pulls up on the reins and in a fluid motion slides out of the saddle as he pushes through the crowd. Her feet have barely hit the ground before he is gathering her up in his arms. Their armor clashes together, but he does not mind the noise, only longs to hear her sharp intake of breath and the way she sighs his name. “Jaime.”

“You did not have to come.”

“I wanted to.” She smiles at him. “We fight beside each other.”

“We do,” he manages to say, tears threatening to spill over.

Brienne squeezes his hand. “Besides, they are my men, too.”

To see her embrace all of him--his past, his family, his name--without a second thought makes his heart swell. “That they are, my lady.”

**

Physical Touch

Riverrun

Negotiations with the Blackfish are at a stalemate.

This was a thrice damned stupid mission anyway. Emmon Frey could not command a mouse. Perhaps Jaime could install Aunt Genna in his place.

“There’s the Tarth woman,” Daven suggests as a last resort. The sun is starting to set and Jaime was expecting to pick up negotiations the next day, but he perks up hearing her name.

“Yes, bring her. Now.” Brienne is the one who convinced Catelyn and Robb Stark that they might get more out of him if he wasn’t held in a dank cell for a year. Being able to bathe, change into clean clothes, and eat regular meals did not do much for the Starks in the long run, but it served him quite well. He tried to swallow the smirk stretching across his face.

When Brienne is delivered to his tent, he has an assortment of food laid out across the table. “I’ve heard Riverrun’s sources have been severely depleted, so I thought you might wish for a real meal.”

There’s almost a snarl in her voice when she replies, “I am well fed, ser.” Her stomach quickly betrays her, letting out a loud growl.

He bites back a laugh, gesturing at the table. “Have a seat. Would you care for some wine?” He is already tipping the jug towards her cup when she covers the goblet with her hand and wine splashes across her skin. It runs down her arm, a red splotch appearing on the sleeve of her tunic. Jaime apologizes for his clumsiness, sitting down beside her, and taking her hand in his own to carefully clean it with a napkin soaked in water. Glancing up, her blue eyes burn into his, a different kind of hunger building there. Good. When her hand is washed clean, he slowly stands, stepping behind her chair and leans over her shoulder, mouth near her ear. “Should we get you out of this shirt? It will stain, my lady.”

Brienne makes a choked noise in her throat. “You are in quite a hurry, ser.”

“Am I? Perhaps the letters you wrote have not sated me.” The familiar blush rises in her cheeks. “Did mine sate you, my lady?” his voice dips low, breath along the back of her neck.

“Not as well as your mouth, my lord.” Jaime lets out a delighted laugh because gods, he has missed her. She pushes back her chair and then steps into him, their bodies colliding. It is fierce and harsh, teeth and tongues, and the familiar fire burns in his belly.

His hand fists in her hair as she nips and nuzzles at his neck. “Do you have, ahh,” he sucks in a breath over his teeth. “A proposed offer?”

She chuckles against him, lips buzzing along the column of his throat. “After,” she hisses, biting down on a tendon in his throat.

“Fuck,” he breathes in sharply through his nose. Jaime loves the marks she leaves. They may be stuck on opposite sides of this war, but they are well-suited at discovering all of the ways they can still lay claim to the other. Brienne sucks at the skin, tongue darting out to soothe the bite.

When she pulls away, Jaime presses a bruising kiss to her mouth, knocking them back towards the table, where a dish crashes to the ground. They both freeze, expecting one of Jaime’s guards to rush in and catch them in each other’s arms. But no one comes.

“I suppose I should talk to my guard,” he finally says. “It seems they want me dead.”

Brienne laughs. “Maybe it was only loud to us.”

“They will have no doubt about who is being loud in a few minutes, my lady.”

“If you mean yourself…” she trails off, a playful look in her eyes which stuns him speechless before he is kissing her again. and guiding her towards his desk.

Brienne perches on the edge, widening her legs so he can stand in between them, untying the laces of her tunic and leaving a mark of his own along her collarbone. She runs her fingers through his hair, his head bent intently to his work when she wraps her legs around him, pulling him close enough to feel the heat of her cunt. He moans against her skin and she rocks her hips against him, the hard ridge of his cock digging into her thigh. “My lady,” he breathes, her movements forcing him to momentarily stop his admiration of her freckles, her skin.

Her hands fall quickly to the laces on his breeches. “You did not let me finish my meal,” she chides him. His trousers pool around his ankles and Brienne’s tongue darts out to wet her lips. Seven hells. “Perhaps I am still hungry.” Her eyes travel up to his as she takes his cock in her hand.

Brienne,” Jaime hisses. “Not here.” The desk is directly across from the opening of the tent and anyone could see, but there is a chair and an area underneath which would be hidden from view. “You test me,” he murmurs against her lips, catching her in an open-mouth, hurried kiss. Tugging at her wrist, he brings her around the desk, gesturing to the space underneath.

“You do like to play games.” But she obeys him, fitting herself into the space. Seeing what she is willing to go through to be with him only makes him want her more and by the time he moves his chair closer and finally sits down, he is nearly crawling out of his skin.

There is less light streaming through the tent now with the sun dipping below the horizon, but Brienne more than makes up for it with touch, taste, and feel. She smoothes her hands over his thighs, trying to relax and soothe the tension from his muscles, a sweet gesture that she has to know she will undo in minutes. Her thumb strokes along the underside of his cock, his whole body reacting to her touch. already prepared to slide under the desk with her. He can make out the lightness of her hair, her pale skin as she flicks her tongue across the head, making him clench his ass against the wooden chair, a contented yes already falling from his lips. When she finally takes him in her mouth, he grasps the arms of the chair and stifles a groan.

He can easily imagine the pleased look on her face, her head bobbing up and down his length, the wet pop as she releases him. There is a deep inhalation of breath in the moment before she takes all of him in. Her other hand caresses and gently squeezes his balls, causing his hips to thrust towards her. “Sorry, sorry,” he mumbles, hand reaching for her hair, fingertips running gently through it.

Her breath is hot along his shaft, tongue darting out to taste him. “Wait,” she nudges at the back of his knees, her strong hands pulling him towards the edge of the chair. It feels precarious, but he trusts her. She presses a kiss to the top of his thigh. “Try again.”

This time when she takes him in her mouth, it unleashes a growl at the back of his throat. His fingers fan out along her jaw, feeling it move as she does, wet and warm around him. “May I?” She nods and his eyelids flutter closed as he thrusts forward. “You are so good, so good,” he murmurs, getting closer and closer as he slides in and nearly all the way out of her mouth, hand grasping at her hair when he thinks she is going to let go of him completely. Brienne murmurs in understanding and the buzz of her mouth sends shivers up his spine.

All of it is so much better than what he imagines when he reads her letters, much more satisfying than when he takes himself in hand, trying to remember what she felt like wrapped around him, what she tastes like when he is buried in her cunt.

The heat in his stomach unspools faster now, in time with her mouth and his hips twitching against her. His muscles tighten in the moment before, begging, “Now, now” and then he is spilling into her mouth. She hums as she licks him clean and when she emerges from the darkness of the desk, the corner of her mouth ticks up into a satisfied smile. “I’ve missed you.” His muscles feel like putty but he reaches for her. He will always reach for her, no matter how many enemy lines he has to cross.

“I should go back,” Brienne tells him softly.

He shakes his head, thumb stroking the inside of her wrist. “Not if you spent the whole night negotiating.”

A pleased expression crosses her face as she bends her head to kiss him. “If that is what it takes.”

“It most certainly does.”

*

When he wakes next to her in the early light of dawn, they have come to no better solution. He peppers her neck with kisses, waking her slowly, gently, until the two of them are moving together once again.

If he is to send the Tullys to the Rock, she will travel with them and he will return to King’s Landing. He clings to her tightly, knowing it may be the last moment for some time, trying to memorize her, so he may carry her with him somehow.

“What if…” she says, lying next to him, hand tracing down his chest. “We use the Stark girls to negotiate.”

“How? We do not have them.”

“We could. You and I.” The promise they each made to Catelyn, which Brienne tried to get him to uphold when she returned him to King’s Landing. Her generous offer to travel with her, a way for him to escape the city for even longer. He had wanted to then, but even more so now.

Jaime covers her hand with his own, fingertips circling over the rough skin of her knuckles.“I could not hold the men here.”

“Then send them onwards, to Pennytree or Blackwood or wherever you are ordered to go next. Daven can command them.” It sounds so simple coming from her, such an honorable plan, but there will be questions he will have to face. She is worth it.

“If this works, my lady, you will forever have my utmost respect.”

Her eyes flash. “I did not already?” She clicks her tongue as she sits up and swings her leg across his hips. “That will not do, Lord Commander.”

As she runs her hands up his chest, he is already coming apart at the seams. “You do. Brienne, you do.”

**

Quality Time

All he remembers is holding off the man in the Hound’s helm, Brienne’s shout of warning, but the sharp pain was already clamping around his middle.

When he finally wakes, there is a thatched ceiling over his head and a weight near his leg. His hand brushes over fine hair. Brienne. He closes his eyes, allowing his fingers to stroke through her hair again. The simple touch feels like a luxury.

She is sitting in a chair next to his bed, her upper body pitched towards the mattress, her head resting atop one of her arms.

His fingers stretch a bit farther, brushing gently along her scalp. Brienne wakes slowly, squinting at him for a moment, as confused as he felt a moment ago. “Jaime?”

He tips his chin down to look at her, fingertips brushing along her arm. She stands suddenly, moving out of his grasp, and his stomach burns. He looks away. Has he mistaken her?

But then there are her fingertips warm on his cheek, her movements still a little stilted, but make him smile all the same.

It is not the first time they have done this. She cared for him after he lost his hand. Even through the fog of pain and later, milk of the poppy, he still remembers her gentleness.

But it is the first time they have done this since they confessed their feelings. There is a difference in her eyes as she searches his, a softness, but her touch is tentative, like it may be unwanted. “How long has it been?”

“Three days,” she replies quietly. “How do you feel?”

“Better now.” He means upon seeing her. His stomach feels as if it is on fire, but he does not want milk of the poppy. “Where are we?”

She draws the chair closer to the bed, her hand resting on his arm. “Safe. The Quiet Isle.”

“You snuck in my cabin to see me? How touching,” he teases.

“Sort of. You’re on the women’s side.” A small smile pulls at her lips.

Jaime tries to laugh, but winces at the pain.

*

The next time he wakes, the sun is setting and the door of the cabin is propped open to let in fresh air.

They sit together, not talking, Brienne’s hand in his, for what feels like hours.

The sun is sinking behind the trees when she finally speaks. “There are men looking for you…” Even in the growing darkness, he can see the shimmer of tears in her eyes.

“Here?”

“Near Maidenpool. Someone told one of the brothers.”

“Then we should go. We should leave. Tonight.”

“You are still healing,” she says softly. “Besides, where would we go?”

He squeezes her hand. “Tarth, my lady.”

“You jape,” she breathes, studying him carefully.

He shakes his head. “I am not.” She will object because there are still the Stark girls to find, but his only wish is to spend the rest of this stupid war with her.

*

A few days later, they leave the Quiet Isle and settle into a small cabin near Saltpans, intending only to stay for a short while before they head north towards the Vale. Brienne goes out to try to hear news of those looking for Jaime, ever cautious.

He has healed enough that their evenings together are not as quiet as they were on the Isle. His new orders, he declared one night, are to map every freckle of hers.

*

He cherishes every moment they spend together, but in some ways, those early days were his favorite. They were delicate and careful, just beginning to learn one another. Eventually, he would get his wish, they do return to Tarth, and in a sense, start a new life together. (Even though he would argue their life together had already started, far before the war ended.) He loves their expanding family more than he could ever have imagined back then, but some days, all he wants to do is be back in that cabin near Saltpans with Brienne.

Their eldest daughter inherits the title of Evenstar and when she marries, they move into the old master-at-arms’ quarters to give her and her new family privacy.

A few days after his most recent name day, (he has stopped counting, but his family insists on celebrating every year), he and Brienne are taking a walk together through one of the denser areas of the forests which surround Evenfall. There is a small cabin, which looks as if it has been there for years, the roof overgrown and weighed down with moss. He exchanges a look with Brienne, who tries to hide her knowing smile. “I cannot believe I’ve never seen this place before.”

“Neither had I, one of the children showed me. I thought…” The sunlight stretches lazily through the trees, brightening her already luminescent skin and his chest seizes up at the sight of her.

“You thought?” he prompts her, threading fingers through hers.

“It will need some work. But I thought perhaps it would be a good place for us. The master-at-arms’ quarters are small, really only meant for one.”

“You need space from me, my lady?” A slow grin spreads across his face. “I knew you would tire of me eventually…”

“Stop,” she laughs, batting at his shoulder. “You always talk of that cabin in the Saltpans.”

“I do.” He cannot describe to her, even after all these years, how much more he fell in love with her there. But perhaps, as with most things with Brienne, he did not need to explain, because somehow, she simply knew.