Brienne leaned against him, warm and slack. “I should –”
“Stay still. You should stay still.”
She sighed and turned her face against his shoulder. “Thank you.”
He chuckled. “For what, exactly? I got off as well.”
“For ….” She took a deep breath. “For not being kind. For wanting me.”
“Neither of them a hardship,” Jaime said, and smiled when she laughed a little.
“I feel so good,” she said, and the note of surprise in her voice had Jaime wanting to kill Kyle Cunt all over again.
He pressed a kiss to her hair. “I and Lord Hornington are happy to make you and Princess Peasecod feel good whenever you want.”
She giggled. “I shouldn’t find those silly names hot, but I do.”
“Formative teenage wanking experiences, I expect,” Jaime said. “And speaking of teenage experiences, I really need to clean myself up and change out of these pants.”
Brienne found him another pair of her sweatpants while Jaime cleaned himself up with ardour-reducingly cold water.
“Did you leave your entire wardrobe up here?” he asked as he pulled the pants on.
She nodded. “It was all stuff … that I’d had at the Citadel. And I thought maybe it would be easier if I didn’t have to see it, maybe I’d be able to not think about the thing so much.”
Jaime paused. “And now I’m wandering around in clothes that only remind you –”
Brienne smiled a little. “Actually, you wearing them doesn’t remind me of anything unpleasant at all. And it didn’t help, anyway, I did keep thinking about it, all the time.”
He held out his hand to her, and when she took it, drew her closer to him so he could wrap his arms around her. “Does anything help?”
She leaned against him, shrugging a little. “Time. Work. I think work was my walking.” She smiled at him, her lovely eyes soft. “Once I could peel myself off the bed, anyway. Meditation, yoga, when I can find the time. And then, you. I didn’t know that you didn’t know what had happened, just that you were too much of an asshole to treat me nicely because of it, and enough of a gentleman not to make fun of me over it. Pretty much everyone else I know can’t help but treat me differently, one way or another.”
Jaime snorted. “Ah yes, the mockery-pity continuum. Very well aware of it. I’m having the urge to kiss you again, just so you know.”
Her smile grew wider. “Then maybe you should.”
So he did.
Her plump pink lips were soft and sweet and the way she moaned as she parted them for his tongue completely undid the work of the cold water and the fact that he had to lean up to kiss her when they were both standing was even more of a turn-on. “Can I touch you?” Brienne whispered against his mouth.
“Better not,” Jaime murmured. “Or I’ll be in danger of messing up a second pair of pants.”
Her lips curved against his. “Your arm. Can I touch your right arm?”
He paused. “Why?”
“Because from the feel of Lord Hornington, you’re enjoying yourself.” Brienne pressed her lips against his again. “I want you to learn that being touched where you have scars can be part of feeling good.”
Jaime raised his eyebrows. “Is this a Citadel approved technique? Because if so, I imagine there must be a fair few outraged parents – ”
She chuckled. “It’s supposed to be massage. And you don’t have to say yes.”
She hadn’t flinched from his stump before. She’d touched his scars, and then she’d still kissed him. His right arm had been wrapped around her when she’d moaned and cried out and come so gloriously he’d been unable to keep himself from following her. She won’t flinch now.
Still, he hesitated. “Brienne …”
“It’s okay.” She put her hands on his cheeks, stroking his beard gently. “You don’t have to. Only if you want to.”
“I think maybe I need more time,” he whispered.
“That’s okay, too.” Her hands moved to his hair. “Jaime. That’s okay. Come here.” She drew his head down to her shoulder, fingers running through his hair. “You’re okay.”
Her arms were strong and solid and holding him so carefully and he wanted nothing more than for her to hold him like that forever and he desperately needed to get away from her – “Brienne,” he said, voice shaking despite his best efforts.
She dropped her arms and stepped back. “Okay,” she said gently.
“I’m sorry.” He raked his fingers through his hair and then scrubbed his hand over his face. “I don’t know why … I’m sorry.”
Brienne smiled at him. “Your mum died when you were a little kid, your father packed you off to a no-doubt hyper-masculinized boarding school, I’m guessing your only consistent physical affection was from your inappropriately sexualised relationship with your sister. Gee, it’s hard to figure out why you’re freaking out.” She raised her eyebrows. “You’re not that complicated, Jaime. Hot, and funny, and irritating, but not all that complicated.”
“Well, thanks,” he snapped, scowling at her. “Glad to know I’m so easy to analyse.”
Brienne’s smile grew wider. “Tell me again how my taste in erotica connects to the dynamics of my family? Maybe neither of us is all that complicated.” She shrugged. “Maybe we’re both just garden-variety fucked up.”
There was nothing but kindness and sincerity in her face. Jaime sighed. “I did like it,” he admitted. “Before, too, when you touched my … my scars. As well as feeling really uncomfortable with it.”
“Yeah, I got that.” Brienne took a deep breath. “So I’m now panicking a little bit over here because of all my own issues, is there any chance I could have a quick hug?”
“Fuck.” I’m a cold-rolled steel asshole. “Brienne, it was nothing to do with you.” He stepped closer and wrapped his arms around her. “You’re hot, and funny, and irritating, and probably a lot more complicated than I can understand. And whether it’s garden-variety or glass-house special fucked up, I am fucked up.”
She put her head down on his shoulder. “Mmm, that’s nice. You’re hot, and funny, and irritating, and you give great hugs.”
“We could go sit on the couch and cuddle and snog for a bit?” Jaime suggested.
Brienne sighed. “I’d like that,” she said. “But I promised Gall I’d check my phone twice a day, so I need to head down the road and find reception.” She raised her head and kissed his cheek. “You could come with, and text Tyrion again.”
Jaime shook his head. “Tyrion only needs to hear from me once a week. I’ll set my tent up while you’re gone, maybe get dinner started.”
“Tyrion might want to hear from you more than once a week.” Brienne rubbed her cheek against his. “And you can charge your phone in the truck.”
So Jaime found himself bundled up in his coat in the passenger seat of the truck as Brienne steered carefully down the track, the headlights illuminating the twilight. “Still no bars,” he said, checking his phone.
“It usually takes a few days for them to get the towers up if they come down in a storm.” Brienne stopped the truck. “This is the highest point of the track between here and Baelor’s Beard, it’s the best chance for reception.”
He grinned at her. “From the top of the truck?”
She smiled back. “From the top of the truck.”
Once Jaime had clambered onto the truck with Brienne, he discovered that Tyrion had sent four texts and left two voice messages. The first two texts were an incomprehensible string of emojis, the next two had enough words sprinkled in for him to decipher that Tyrion would very much appreciate Jaime taking rather more care for his safety. The voice messages were even more explicit and obscene, making Jaime grin at the familiar sound of Tyrion’s inventive invective. Fuck, it’s been nearly a year since I heard his voice.
“Tyrion has opinions,” Jaime told Brienne. He considered trying to call his brother back, but the poor reception would probably reduce any message to static and scattered words. I’m safe and well and stuck in an isolated cabin with a hot woman and plenty of emergency supplies, Jaime texted. Send condoms. He pressed send, and then stood with his phone over his head. It vibrated almost immediately. Tyrion’s not in court today, I suppose.
U R fucking someone not related to us? Tyrion had sent. My prayers are answered. Who is it? Send pics.
“Do you mind if I take a picture of you?” Jaime asked Brienne, who was waving her own phone above her head and periodically checking it. “For my brother. I suspect he believes I’m making you up.”
“Okay,” she said distractedly, studying her phone again. “I’ve got one bar, but nothing’s coming through. I hope they’re all alright.”
Jaime snapped her and sent the picture to Tyrion, captioned Brienne Tarth.
You’re too old for her, Tyrion replied promptly. Is she even legal? She looks like a strapping teenage milkmaid.
Try strapping shepherd, Jaime typed. And yes, she’s an adult. And I know I’m too old for her but she seems to like me.
Strapping shepherd with a brain injury, then. How long is she stuck with you?
Couple of days, until they clear the road to Evenfall, Jaime answered.
Send her my sympathies, Tyrion sent. Gtg, client’s here.
Jaime sent his brother a thumb-up emoji and turned his phone off. “Tyrion says hello,” he told Brienne. “No news from your family?”
She bit her lip. “No, and I texted Dad and Gall and they both went through.”
“Gall might be flying his drone, and your dad might be driving,” Jaime suggested. “Try Alys.”
Brienne nodded. “Good idea.” She tapped at her phone and held it over her head again. It chirped almost immediately. She read the message and smiled. “Alys is trying to work out how to send us supplies by drone. Dad is stuck on a phone-conference with the council, and Gall is using the truck to pick up stuff for the food bank. All well. They think the road might even be clear tomorrow.”
“Good,” Jaime said, trying not to sound glum at the prospect of the outside world intruding again. She misses her family. She’s worried about them. Don’t be such a selfish asshole.
Brienne smiled. “Yes. We can get you set up in the barn and you can see if it suits.” She put her phone in her pocket and took his hand. “And if it doesn’t, we can work out something that does. Maybe if we work on meditation, and you start doing some yoga with me, it might help enough with your anxiety enough for you –”
Jaime snorted. He pulled his hand free and stepped down to the bonnet of the truck. “You’ll fix me, you think?” He jumped down to the ground. “So you can send me off to my old life with a clean conscience?”
Brienne climbed down as well. “Actually, I was thinking that you might be able to shelter in the cottage when the weather’s bad.” She put her hands in her pockets. “And I don’t think I’ll fix you, no, because that’s not how it works.” She shrugged. “And because I only have part of a degree. I just think I might be able to help you learn some skills that might make some things in your life a little bit easier.”
“Because they make some things in my life a little bit easier –”
He scowled at her. “Why do you care? I didn’t ask you to rescue me, and I’m not asking you now, either!”
“Because you’re hot, and funny, and only irritating sometimes,” Brienne snapped. “And the first time I was able to come since it happened was dreaming you were fucking me and the second was this afternoon. And, entirely selfishly I grant you, I’d prefer more orgasms to you getting yourself unnecessarily blown off a cliff!”
“Oh, please, you don’t expect me to believe that,” Jaime scoffed. “I’ll fall for the idea that you haven’t exactly been spoiled for choice among the rustic natives of bucolic Tarth, but not that the owner of such an expansive collection of porno novels hasn’t had a single wank in –”
“I hear them laughing at me.” Brienne’s voice was quiet and steady and devastatingly sincere. “When I try. All I can think of is them looking at me, and laughing about how ugly I am, and everyone seeing that video.”
Jaime stared at her, raking his fingers through his hair. I am a fucking asshole to the infinite degree. “Brienne.”
“I know you’re using me as a warm body to get off with,” Brienne went on in the same soft, even tone. She gave him a small smile. “That’s actually kind of hotter than me thinking only a man who loved me for my personality could want to kiss me. You make me feel good. You make me laugh. You have shit taste in music, which I have some hopes of educating you out of. You give really good hugs, and you cook great eggs. Any one of those reasons would be enough for me to want you to find a way to stay on Tarth and not die.”
Using her. Jaime shook his head. I’m an asshole, but does she really think I’m that much of an asshole? “I’m not using you –”
“I said with, not to,” Brienne interrupted. “Did you miss me saying I found it hot? Did I mention that you make me feel good?” She took a small step towards him, hands still firmly in her pockets. “I know you didn’t ask me to rescue you. And I know you didn’t want to kiss me out of gratitude.”
“Fuck, no, gratitude had nothing to do with it!”
She smiled. “Then come here and kiss me again.”
So he did.