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Words of affirmation

emotional support or encouragement

She has never known the moment when Jaime began to trust her, when he might have begun to look upon her as someone other than his captor, but his belief in her abilities, her honor, is there the day she leaves King’s Landing.

Brienne rides the bay mare he gives her across the Riverlands and at her hip, she wears the Valyrian steel sword he gifted her. When she grips the lion’s head pommel, it is a constant reminder of his faith.

When her search for Sansa is fruitless and she rides into Jaime’s camp, watching his face as he scrambles to his feet, she wishes she had been hanged. She would rather die than see Jaime realize she had betrayed him, watch the hope dim in his eyes.

There are still patches of snow on the ground and they spend the night on the floor of an abandoned shack, each of them taking turns to stoke the fire. Brienne sleeps with her back to him and there is more warmth in his body heat than in the flames a few feet away. She is unable to muffle her choked sob.

“What is it?”

She tells him, in bits and pieces, of her journey. All she has ever shown any talent for is swordwork and she wanted to wield Oathkeeper, to carry out her duty and fulfill her oath to Lady Catelyn. To Jaime. Yet she has failed.

“You are more honorable than most true knights. I trust you with my life.” He lays down on his bed roll next to her, his fingertips brush through her hair, tentatively at first, afraid his touch might be unwanted, but when she does not pull away, he continues to stroke her hair. “You have not failed. The Stark girls are still out there and if anyone can find them, it’s you.”

She is stubborn, unable to absorb his kindness as her heart aches thinking of all those she’s failed, the list of names cycling through her mind, but the repetition of his fingers running through her hair coaxes her back to sleep.

**

Gifts

it’s less about the gift and more about the thought that comes from it, which communicates emotional love

Brienne has been away in King’s Landing. Her third time in the past year. She is beginning to feel confident in her duties as Evenstar, but the travel and the capital exhaust her. When she steps foot onto Tarth’s shores, it feels as if the soil itself is rising up to greet her. In being home, there is a sense of calm which she never expected to feel.

There is someone she wants to see far more than Tarth’s cliffs, verdant hills, and sandy beaches.

As she searches Evenfall for him, she grows increasingly frustrated. He’s not in his study, the library, their chambers, or her study. (He claims it has better windows, but he simply likes to sprawl out and watch her work.)

She’s crossing the yard to the armory when she spots Pod. “Ser, m’lady.”

“Have you seen Ser Jaime?” He teases her about how she still calls him Ser in mixed company, as if everyone did not know they were lord and lady.

“He went into town almost an hour ago. I thought he was off to meet your ship.” She frowns. It would be the sort of foolish romantic thing he would do.

As Brienne is walking back into the hall, fretting over how they could have missed each other, she slams directly into a warm, familiar body. He catches her arm, even though she retains her balance. “Miss me?” His eyebrows quirk upwards, green eyes aglow, and she draws an arm around his neck and kisses him. “I have something for you,” he tells her when they part for a moment.

She chuckles. “I can surmise what it might be.”

Jaime gasps in feigned shock. “There may still be a few mysteries to this old man yet. I am full of surprises.”

That certainly can be said, and she is glad for it. Marriage is never dull with Jaime.

*

As they lie together afterwards, Brienne grows chilled and sits up, pulling on one of the tunics she often wears to sleep. She tucks herself carefully next to Jaime and his arm circles her waist. “What was your surprise?”

He lazily blinks open his eyes. “What if I already showed it to you?” He points to his mouth.

Jaime.” She shoves his shoulder, frustrated, but then he is playfully pinning her to the mattress, threatening to show her again. “How will I ever survive such wifely duties?” She teases, grinning, and he surges forward to capture her lips with his own.

His hand grips her hip afterwards, as if to ensure she is sufficiently flushed and sated. Still breathing hard, Brienne lies back against the pillows, eyes fluttering closed. The weight of the mattress shifts, Jaime moving away and then the heat of him returning.

When she opens her eyes, a small package wrapped in brown paper and tied with a simple piece of string sits between them. With all of her travel, Brienne hopes she has not forgotten an important day. She asks cautiously, “What’s this?”

“Open it.” He encourages her, even though his hand is currently tracing soothing patterns along her skin.

She unwraps the paper carefully and can practically feel Jaime’s impatience in his exhaled breath. Inside is a leather sheath, clasped closed by a delicate pearl button. When she unbuttons it and lifts up the leather flap, her breath catches in her throat. It’s a beautiful silver dagger, similar to one Jaime owns, and which she has admired. “It’s gorgeous.”

“An Evenstar should have the finest weapons to suit her station.” She can scarcely imagine what is finer than a Valyrian steel sword, but this might be a close second. “Take it out.”

Brienne does so, carefully, and only then does she catch the glint of the sapphire in the hilt. “You…” she starts, but he indicates for her to look at the other side. A ruby. Her husband really is the most romantic fool. “I love you.”

“Except for when you do not,” he teases. “That is why you have this.” She laughs and places the dagger carefully back in the sheath before sliding her hand up Jaime’s bare chest and kissing him. “Welcome home, my evening star.”

**

Acts of service

acts of service is not about household chores, it’s about trust and real needs; a good act of service should communicate “I got you”

She cannot believe she traveled across the whole kingdom in her state to attend a wedding, but the Lord of Casterly Rock deserved celebration, so she was here.

At seven months pregnant, her stomach precedes her everywhere. There’s a dull, throbbing pain when she wakes and trying to roll over onto her back is a feat these days. The man beside her stirs, his eyes blinking awake as she’s finally able to get comfortable sitting up against the pillows. Seeing her breathing heavily and frustrated so early in the day makes his forehead wrinkle with concern. “Are you alright?”

“No,” she sighs, tears springing to her eyes. Once she’d gotten past the months of nausea, the tears had begun. She cries at everything now. Releasing a frustrated noise in her throat, she wipes angrily at her eyes. “I’m tired.”

“I know,” he murmurs. “But the baby will be here soon and then it will be over.”

Somehow the thought of her being responsible for a tiny human being is not reassuring. “Oh gods.”

“Well, this part will be over,” he amends quickly. “The rest of it…”

She shoves his shoulder. “You are not helping.”

He sits up beside her, reaching to tuck a piece of hair behind her ear. It’s grown long, nearly past her shoulders, too busy with her duties as Evenstar and preparing for their child to cut it. “You’re going to be amazing. You are amazing.” His hand smoothes across her swollen belly. “We’re very, very lucky to have you.”

His words are making her teary-eyed again. “I love you.”

“I know,” he smiles, his green eyes twinkling. “I love you.”

“I love you so much,” she breathes. “Though maybe not enough to do this again.”

“Fair enough,” he laughs. “Let’s get you dressed.” Jaime has taken to helping her in the mornings. She can do it on her own, but it takes her twice as long around her stomach. He lifts her nightshirt over her head, pausing a moment to let his eyes linger on her body. Her instinct is to hide herself from him, so unlike the knight she used to be. He drops a kiss to her stomach and another to her mouth before he retrieves a fresh tunic and breeches for her.

She has kept the seamstresses on Tarth busy, always needing ever larger items of clothing. “Like dressing a giant,” she murmurs as Jaime bends down, pulling the pants up her legs.

“Beautiful and strong, as always,” he says softly, stepping in to press a kiss to her forehead.

Brienne tugs on his sleeve, keeping him close. “Thank you.” He has been nothing but understanding and helpful over these past months and his gentleness, his unwavering love makes her feel ungrateful.

When she found out she was with child, she kept it from Jaime for several days. Brienne wasn’t unhappy, exactly, but there had been little excitement on her part. Only nerves. She was scared of what might happen during the birth, scared of how her body might change after she spent so long honing it in the yard. Brienne did not remember her own mother, Jaime had lost his when Tyrion was born, and her father was distant for most of her childhood.

As uncertain as she was about her own abilities as a parent, she had none about Jaime’s. He rarely spoke about his children, but she knew he wished he’d been involved in their lives.

When she finally told Jaime, there had been an excited smile on his face, at least until she’d unexpectedly burst into tears. He gathered her in his arms, making soothing strokes up and down her spine until she calmed down. “Will you talk to me, love? Please.”

There is really nothing except time and experience which will make her feel prepared to be a mother, but his reassurance, all the little daily acts of love that he thought she didn’t notice, but she very much did, eased her worries. Brienne hates asking for help and the past few months, she has not needed to, because he has anticipated so many of her needs. Perhaps not all of the strange cravings, but he made many trips to the kitchens in her stead.

The wedding ceremony is not until the late afternoon and as much as she encourages Jaime to go off and see the grounds or do whatever he likes, he refuses to leave her side. “You’re stubborn. When is the next time we’ll be at the Rock? You should spend time with your brother.”

I’m stubborn? I am? Do you have any idea what it’s like being married to you?” She should be offended, but she simply laughs, the loud, braying laugh she tried to hide for so long. Jaime is grinning and reaches to help her to her feet. “Come, wife,” he teases. “I should quite like a bath before the ceremony.”

*

His lips brush the shell of her ear and it makes her feel as if she’s coming out of her skin, fingers clutching at the fabric of his tunic. His fingers unlace her breeches and she sucks in a breath over her teeth. He keeps drawing near and then pulling away again. His mouth nips at her neck, teeth dragging across her lower lip, but when he steers her away from the bed, Brienne is confused. “What are you-”

“I wanted a bath, remember?” At her hesitation, he takes her hand, leading around her the screen which is set up in front of the metal tub. Jaime pours the steaming water from the large kettle which is resting over the fire into the tub. He strips off his clothing and sinks down into the water with a groan that makes her knees tremble. “Brienne,” he waves her over.

“I can’t fit, not with you.” She rubs the swell of her stomach absent-mindedly. Some days it feels as if she cannot even stand up straight. Everything feels heavy. The weight of her stomach, her breasts heavy, her shoulders rounding forward.

“Nonsense. Come here.” He stands, the water splashing around his legs.

He is somehow leaner than when they married, the planes of muscle from years of fighting have barely softened at all and she cannot tear her eyes away from how the droplets of water roll down his skin.

Jaime climbs out of the tub to help her in and then settles himself behind her, his legs wrapping around and pressing against her own. She sits forward, but he demands in a kind voice, “Lean back, please.”

“I’m too heavy.”

“I want to hold you.” His fingers trace along her shoulder.

“I can barely be held.”

He sighs, knowing her well enough to know that sometimes her stubbornness simply needs time. “I will wash your back then.” He scrubs gently and she allows an approving noise to escape when his hand travels up her spine. “Your back hurts.” It’s not a question, but she nods slowly. “Where?” She points to her lower back and her shoulders. His stump at her hip, he tries to massage the spots with his left hand, her appreciation murmured in grunts and sighs. Jaime rakes his hand through her hair, fingers smoothing through the strands along her neck. “There are times when I think I cannot be more in awe of you but you always prove me wrong. Did you know that?” She shakes her head. “Come here.” He pats his chest and she leans back against him, allowing him to carry some of her stress.

As the heat of his body wraps around her and she is in the solid weight of his arms, her worry begins to melt away into the water.

“Ever since I found out, I never doubted that you will make a wonderful father. Did you know that?”

“No.” His voice is barely above a whisper.

“Never doubted it for a moment.” She pulls his arms even tighter around her.

“Thank you,” he murmurs, tucking his chin into the curve of her shoulder.

**

Physical Touch

there are both intimate and non-intimate touches that can and should be used to show your partner love

The singing and camaraderie of the soldiers’ camp has quieted for the night. Brienne keeps the lantern in her tent burning low. When a hooded figure lifts one of the tent flaps, she doesn’t startle.

“Never at rest.” He clicks his tongue. “You should sleep before the battle tomorrow, elsewise you might fall off your horse.”

She nearly replies that she does not ride a horse. “Are you here for a detente, Lannister?”

“You know what I’m here for, Commander Tarth.” Jaime lets the hood he’s wearing drop, revealing that ingratiating smile she knows so well, but which still makes her stomach swoop. This is not the first time they have crossed enemy lines to be together, not even the fourth or fifth, but they have found a firm line, at least for now, between duty and passion.

He approaches the desk where she spends many a late night, working or writing letters to inform Sansa and others in the North of their movements. She sends letters to Tarth, too, hoping one day for an answer. Last she heard, pirates crawled the shores, the island invaded by a pretender who claimed to have Targaryen blood.

His hand brushes down the long column of her neck, making gooseflesh break out on her arms. “So much tension here,” he murmurs, fingertips tracing at the juncture where her neck and shoulders meet. The muscles there are swollen, from her heavy armor, and from all the burdens she carries from commanding men. This job makes her posture strained, her body stays tightly coiled.

Jaime’s touch is capable of washing all of the stress away. She has become addicted to it. His fingers push against the muscle, rolling it between his fingers as Brienne lets her head fall to the side, giving him more room to work. He drops his mouth there, warm and gentle.

He has barely begun and already she vibrates with want. It quickens in time with her heartbeat, threatening to break free of her physical body. Brienne pushes back her chair, standing and embracing him, the heat of him so close quelling her desire for a moment, igniting it the next. They strip clothes from one another, fumbling fingers accompanied by soft laughter and contented sighs.

The most alive she ever feels is on the battlefield with a sword in her hand, stepping forward to defend others, to do her duty, but being with Jaime makes her feel alive in a whole new way. At first, she hated herself for it, but knowing he feels the same way, it gives her a sense of power when they are together.

When he drops to his knees, her legs tremble in anticipation. She says his name, only once, and his breath burns along her inner thigh as he shakes his head. They cannot use each other’s names, although to claim they are quiet would be a lie. Her hands rake through his hair as his tongue makes her whole body quiver in pleasure. His left hand grips her leg, holding it away from his head, but as she gets closer, her thighs begin to tighten around him. He lets out a grunt of approval and the sensation of his lips buzzing against her cunt sends her over the edge, hips moving of their own accord, a long cry falling out of her as Jaime continues to nip and suck at the tender skin of her inner thighs.

She grips her fingers in his hair and pulls his head back, forceful but not rough. He blinks at her, a bemused smile spreading across his face. “Do you want me to stop?”

“No, I...” she falters and his grin grows even wider that he’s made her forget herself. “Come up here and fuck me.”

“I thought that’s what I was doing,” he replies innocently.

“You’re not…” A smirk slides across his face as he pushes himself up off of his knees. “You’re incorrigible.” It is meant to sound stern, but she laughs as he steps into her, arm slipping around her waist and presses her back against the mattress as he kisses her.

*

Her gut tightens when she sees him across the battlefield. He always rides in on horseback, his crimson cloak swirling around him, looking like someone out of the songs.

She is a foot soldier, and standing ground with her men, loses sight of him in the fervor of fighting, the singing of steel. The battle feels like hours, but it may only last a few minutes, all she knows is the next time she looks up, most of the Lannister troops have fled the field. All except one, his blond hair flecked with mud and blood. He drops to a knee in front of her. “I yield to you, Commander Tarth.” Brienne is so shocked she does not know what to say. “It would be an honor to serve under you, my lady.”

Later, she shows him exactly how best he can serve her.

**

Quality Time

quality time is all about how you spend the time that you have together. No matter what you are doing, if you are attentive and focused, your partner will feel loved

“Perhaps I should go to King’s Landing with you.” He says it so easily, but Brienne’s hands freeze against his laces.

Jaime struggles with some tasks, still, too proud to accept help, except for this one thing he allows her to do. She helps him dress every morning and undress every night, fingers nimbly undoing the laces of his tunic, his breeches.

She raises her gaze to his, taking in a breath. “You do not have to.” The last time they visited the capital was shortly before they sailed to Tarth. The shock in his eyes upon seeing the city in ruins has haunted her since.

As she steps away from him, rounding the bed, he asks. “Are you embarrassed of me?” His question slams into her, like an unexpected attack from behind.

Brienne turns, startled. “No, I thought you…” she lets out a sigh. “I was not sure how easy it was for you to be there.” Jaime holds no love for the Targaryen queen. Brienne is not sure what to make of her still, except she allowed him to live. If she had not done that...

After the war’s end, Jaime was the one who gently suggested he might accompany her to Tarth. She was not certain what the island might look like after being ravaged by pirates and the Golden Company, and part of her was scared to return, to pick up her father’s mantle. Brienne never expected him to stay forever, but she’s happy to provide Jaime a refuge here. Wherever she is, he is always welcome. “You are embarrassed of me,” he states, as if it is fact.

“Jaime.” He’s being petulant. “I am not embarrassed of you.” It would be unusual to have the Evenstar show up to conduct business with the new Regent with a guest in tow, but they are far beyond worrying about society’s gossip.

“Is it because we dishonor the gods?” She almost laughs because neither of them has much use for religion, but he is whispering as if they might hear him. “Because you have taken me into your bed? Perhaps we should marry then.”

It falls out of his mouth so easily, so quietly, as if it is an afterthought. Yet it rattles her as much as a strong hit to the head, the type that leaves her ears ringing. “What did you say?”

His eyes are twin emeralds, dark and dangerous in shadow, but softer and more beautiful in the light. “You heard me, Lady Brienne.”

She never expected romance, but that was hardly--“It was not even a question.” The irritation rising in her chest manifests itself in her shaking hands. They are standing across from each other, the chasm of the bed between them. “If you mean to command me, then I shall take you out into the yard and make you prove your worth.”

He lifts a sole eyebrow at her. “If that is what you wish,” he draws out lazily. “But you already know I am worthy, do you not? You have broken me in, like that pale gray palfrey you ride.”

“Jaime.” This time his name is meant as a warning. He is rarely sharp and bitter like this. Not anymore, not with her. He is hurting, somehow. “I haven’t--you’re not...it’s not like that.”

“Then what is it like? You let me into your bed every night, sometimes you even want me in the afternoons. What would you call that?”

She’s never considered it before. Not precisely in the way Jaime is asking her to. It’s always been them. It’s how they are, what they do. Things between them have been this way since before the Battle of the Long Night. Coming together to comfort one another during the very worst of circumstances, but now it has continued for far longer than she dared to imagine it might. “I like having you here, but I never...I expected you to return to the mainland. To rebuild your life somewhere, like all of us have done.” Her words are blunt and unvarnished, like a wooden tourney sword, but they are true. Or at least they were when they boarded a ship together and sailed towards her home. In all these months, they have never spoken about what it means that he is still here.

“I see.” She wishes for a glint in his eye, searches for some small sign of expression, but there is nothing. His gaze falls from hers and for a long moment there is silence between them. Then Jaime moves away from his side of the bed, his feet padding across the marble, stepping slowly towards her. “You never once thought I might want to rebuild my life with someone by my side? The person who fought beside me against the wights, who has seen to it to salvage my honor?”

He is standing in front of her now, so close she can feel the heat from his body, yet she demurs. “I did not do as you say, ser.”

“Brienne.” Now he is the one who sounds frustrated with her.

“Let me finish,” she barrels onwards, a bit unlike her, but she wants him to hear it. “You did that, the honor part, all on your own. You do realize that, don’t you?”

His eyes soften. “And yet you still do not understand why I might want to spend the rest of my life with the person who sees the best in me?” A tentative smile pulls at his face.

No, she does understand that. Jaime sees her for who she is and loves her anyway. She thought he knew she felt the same about him. She loves him for who he is, has for the longest, longest time. “Marry me,” she whispers.

He steps into her, his mouth warm on hers, his arm sliding around her waist. “Do I still need to fight you in the yard?” he murmurs.

She shakes her head. “No.”

“It might be fun.” His face slides into that teasing expression she knows so well.

“It would be,” Brienne agrees, a little breathless.

He reaches up, dragging his thumb ever so gently across the scar on her cheek. “Yes,” he whispers. “That is my answer. Yes.”

She cannot resist teasing him. “To the yard?”

“To marriage, you stubborn woman,” he practically growls in her ear before they tumble down onto the mattress.

When she arrives in King’s Landing a few weeks later, Jaime is by her side, and as they enter the Throne Room, they are announced as Lady Brienne, the Evenstar of Tarth, and her Lord Husband.

 

Chapter Text

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.