Winterfell became like a ghost town when all of the Dothraki, Unsullied, and northern troops left. The wind blew through the castle in gusts with the faint screams and moans of ghosts, giving the halls a cold and eerie atmosphere. It would be unpleasant to Jaime if he didn't have Brienne for company.
He spent his mornings in the training yard. With every new day, it took Brienne a little longer to beat him and he found himself on his back with her training sword at his throat less and less. Slowly but surely his fighting instincts so keyed to his right hand were changing to match the movements of his left. He was improving.
Podrick was also seeing improvement in his fighting with the axe as his new weapon. He still had a tendency to swing it around like he was chopping down wood, but as he grew stronger, his swings became more controlled. Jaime was hopeful they could knight him in time for his first battle. He had done enough heroics to earn it, he just needed the fighting skills to match.
Jaime abandoned any pretense of sleeping in the same room as his brother the night the king left. The pad on the floor offered no cushion and he tended to shiver through the frigid nights as even the fireplace wasn't enough to keep the room warm. It was simply too cold up north to sleep without a warm body in the same bed. He imagined that the only way his brother tolerated it was to get so drunk that he couldn't even feel the cold.
Evenings had quickly become his favorite time of the day. It was fortunate that neither he nor Brienne had duties that extended into the night…yet. He was of low enough status that he expected the Lady Sansa to set him for guard duty on the castle walls, but he was still yet 'too weak' by the Maester's estimates to be of much use to anybody. As loathe as he was to be viewed as weak, in this respect he would take advantage of it for as long as he could manage.
Every night he familiarized himself with Brienne's body and her with his body. His favorite parts were the scars. The ones he wasn't familiar with, he asked the story about. Granted, the story wasn't usually interesting, most of them having been earned in the training yard. He asked about a long, pale gash split between her forearm and her upper arm on the right.
"I was sneaking out of my room at night by tying the bedsheets together. As I was climbing down, one of the knots came undone and I fell the rest of the way. I hit my arm on a tree branch and not only did I tear it open, but I broke it in half. I was so afraid that I'd never pick up a sword again that my father felt like my fear was punishment enough for trying to sneak out. I certainly never tried that again."
Jaime laughed so hard, he rolled away from her and onto his back.
"It's not that funny," Brienne scoffed.
"I'm having difficulty reconciling that Brienne with you. The lawful Brienne, ever upright and stalwart, not willing to waver on her principles, who will always do right no matter the circumstances…defying her lord father by sneaking out of the castle." He burst into a fresh wave of laughter.
She scowled and swatted at him, but he could see the barest hint of a smile on her face.
They had yet to make love. Jaime wished for nothing more, but he refused in light of the circumstances. Not only would it be unfair to saddle Brienne with a bastard, but the end of the world wasn't the best time to raise a child either. He contented himself with bringing her to climax through other means.
"Do you think I don't know how sex works?" Brienne had asked him after coming down from her high. Her eyes were half-lidded and she lay sprawled on her back with her skin aglow. He never thought she looked so beautiful.
"Hmm?" Jaime had lain back on his side of the bed and looked over at her in confusion.
"You won't sheathe yourself in me. Why?"
"You want me to steal your virtue?" Jaime asked, his eyes wide in surprise. She had pleaded with him, but he had chalked it up to being in the throes of passion. "My lady, I didn't realize you were so wanton. What would your septa think?"
She sighed in exasperation and rolled her eyes at him. "I suppose it's my fault for expecting you to take this seriously," she said, deliberately turning over so her back was to him.
"Brienne, I could not be more serious," Jaime said. His voice was low and lacked the usual mocking tone. "I would never disgrace you with a bastard. You deserve far better than that."
"There are ways around that," she said, her eyes were determined and she had a stubborn jut to her jaw. It was more often than naught the expression she wore as they battled in the training yard and it always made his blood run hot with excitement.
"You would drink moon tea?" He said and for an instant he saw uncertainty. It was there for a moment. He simply shook his head. "Even so, this world loves nothing more than to disparage a woman for the death of her virtue out of wedlock, like it's the only thing worth having. You are a hero and a knight and I would have you remembered for that."
She huffed. He knew she didn't do things to be remembered by in the history books. However, he did. Jaime could still see the disappointingly empty pages lain out in front of him from when he had reassumed his post as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. It felt like all of the Kingsguard from ages past were judging him for failing to uphold their legacy; a Kingsguard who was appointed the command post because he was family, not because he had earned it. His position as a Kingsguard had never felt so hollow as when he came back from captivity. All of his boyhood dreams to follow the code of the knight and be remembered in the pages of the Kingsguard were seemingly torn to shreds like a flag ripped from its pole by the wind.
When Brienne continued to give him the cold shoulder, he leaned over and whispered into her ear, "Don't think for a moment that I will never claim your maidenhead." She turned then with a question in her eyes. "When all of this is over, I will marry you, and I shall ravish you every day I have you."
A rosy blush blossomed on her cheeks, but she narrowed her eyes at him. "You seem awfully certain that you can do with me what you will."
"I would never presume such, my lady. I make proclamations with the caveat that your consent is a part of the deal."
"Don't you ever forget it," she replied and closed the space between them to kiss him again.
A few days later Jaime found himself shifting logs again for the fires of Winterfell. Even with the other soldiers gone, there was still plenty to do and to survive the winter required everyone to pitch in. He was halfway through the wood, when the guard shouted from the top of the wall. The whole yard stopped to stare up at him, then another guard rushed into the main castle.
Jaime returned to carrying wood.
"Ser Jaime." He turned to see Lady Sansa staring down at him from the balcony above. "Accompany me to the ramparts."
Brienne was just behind Sansa and he quirked a puzzled eyebrow at her, but she remained unmoved. He stumped up the steps carefully to avoid slipping on the ice that liked to accumulate. Even in his new, thick winter clothes, the cold seeped right through the fur and set his limbs atremble if he stopped moving for even a moment, so he was pleased when Lady Sansa immediately turned on her heel and set out on the rampart with both him and Brienne in tow.
They peered out over the wall and Jaime felt his breath freeze in his chest. An army was marching toward Winterfell, large enough that the line of men and horses snaked out of sight, disappearing in the cold. He could just distinguish colors of red and gold, but was that…blue?
"My men inform me that the banners are Lannister and Tully. Any idea what might be going on?"
"I left a garrison at Riverrun when I took it. After the Freys were destroyed, Edmure Tully took back the castle. I was so certain he had my men slaughtered. My sister would never trust the loyalty of your uncle to send him, not unless she was desperate." Disquiet fell over him. She may yet be that desperate, but there's no way that Tully would raise arms against his niece.
They waited for the army to arrive. Jaime forgot the cold as he mulled over the possibilities of what this was and fervently hoped it wasn't yet more bad news. At some point, Tyrion joined them.
A party of six broke from the main body and galloped their horses to the gate. Only the Tully banner was represented. One of the men in the center threw back his hood and shouted, "I be lookin' for that cunt Jaime fookin' Lannister! Seen 'im around?"
"You know, Ser Bronn, I bother to use your honorific. Could you not at least use mine?"
"You're the only fookin' reason I'm in this mess."
"You stayed for the gold."
"I haven't bloody got it either! Nor my castle!"
"I'm not exactly in a position to give you either anymore," Jaime replied.
"Ser Bronn, you blaggard! I have gold. Abandon my brother for me. Double what he paid, just like I said."
"You better throw in that fookin' castle too."
"When Daenerys is queen, I'll set you up with a nice big castle."
"In the south. I don't want to deal with anymore of this cold than I have to."
"Are you done here?" Edmure Tully snapped at the sellsword, but as was usual for Bronn, he paid the lord no attention. The Lord of Riverrun peered skyward at them and shouted, "Niece! This sellsword, Ser Bronn of the Blackwater, delivered your message of dire need. I have rallied my banners and come to your aid."
Sansa smiled softly down at her uncle. "We sent you ravens, uncle."
"I am sorry, I must not have received them since my castle was until recently under Lannister occupation," he replied, sparing a moment to glare at Jaime.
"We thank you, uncle, for your support," Sansa replied. She turned to the guard. "Open the gate." Next she said to the Steward, "Please prepare rooms for my uncle the Lord Tully, Ser Bronn of the Blackwater, and for as many of their troops as you can."
"Yes, my lady." The older man acquiesced with a bow.
They went down to the yard where the Tully and Lannister armies had already started to file in. Bronn made a big show of rubbing his hands together and stomping his feet. "This place is bloody well cold enough of freeze a man's balls off! Did you make it here all by yourself?"
"Yes," Jaime said and was pleased at the way Bronn gaped at him.
"That sounds about as mad as your fookin' sister."
Jaime quirked an eyebrow at him and said, "It was harrowing. Now…about my sister."
"I ain't sayin' nothing until I have a proper meal and a tankard of ale."
"It's the sourest piss you ever could drink," Tyrion piped up.
"At this point, I would drink it even if it was piss straight from a horse. As long as it warms me."
Jaime turned to see Edmure Tully march purposefully over him with a thunderous expression. He stood there respectfully for him. Lord Tully had a large enough wind up that Jaime could have sidestepped the punch, but he took it full on in the face, and even then it only staggered him. He heard a distinctive crack and when he reached up to touch his nose, a wellspring of blood began dribbling down his face.
"Uncle, what are you doing?"
"It's alright. I deserved that," Jaime said, though he did step back when Edmure made to grab him.
Bronn stepped between them and had a hand on the Tully's breastplate to stop him in his tracks. "That move was so obviously telegraphed a blind man coulda seen that comin'. You hit him because he let you."
"Uncle, what is the meaning of this?" Sansa stormed over to them. There was a redness to her cheeks that didn't have anything to do with the cutting wind.
"The Kingslayer threatened to catapult my son over Riverrun's walls if I didn't surrender the castle to him."
"Yes, uncle, we know," Sansa replied. "I realize you weren't here, but Ser Jaime Lannister has been given a full pardon on all of his crimes. Call him the Kingslayer no longer."
"What?" Edmure gaped at his niece and Bronn stared at her in shock, then leaned around to where Jaime was still trying to stop the bleeding.
"I must say, you've done well for yerself here."
"Come inside and warm yourself by the fire. All will be explained. Lady Brienne, would you please fetch the maester for Ser Jaime?"
"I don't need a maester," Jaime said. He grimaced at the taste of copper on his tongue, but he could tell his nose had stopped leaking. "I'd like some water to wash my face though."
"Very well," Sansa replied and sent a young maid to grab the bowl of water. "Ser Jaime, Lord Tyrion, I would like your presence at the meeting. You may be able to provide valuable insight regarding your sister."
They retired to a private room. Sansa ordered food and drinks be brought for her uncle and Bronn.
"Now, Ser Bronn of the Blackwater, what news do you have to report?" Sansa asked.
Bronn turned to Jaime and Tyrion. "Your sister's gone fookin' mad. She lost it when you escaped. Had every man who was on your trail butchered like pigs. I hightailed it out of there and into the city. I know when a deal's gone south. She was gonna be lookin' for me next."
"She refuses to increase supplies to the city as well. There's a riot on her door every day. She sent out a squad to disperse the crowd and they were absolutely torn to shreds, so she had archers fire on the crowd from the top o' the wall. When that didn't work, she ordered jars of Wildfire be thrown onto the crowd. The bodies burned for days, but she just let them lie out there in front of the door as a warning. So everyone wants to flee the city. She won't be queen of fookin' nothing if the city starves to death. I left about the city about a week after you did."
Jaime cocked his head. "You took your time getting here."
"I brought an army with me. Your army! Why didn't you pick them up on the way north?"
"Because, as you might have guessed, Lord Tully and I did not exactly part on the most favorable of terms," Jaime said, sparing Edmure a glance who clinched his jaw and his fists all at once.
"You threatened my child!"
"My job was to take Riverrun bloodlessly. My idle threat accomplished that."
"Uncle! We've been over this. Ser Jaime has been pardoned of every crime he has committed," Sansa said.
"Why would you do that?"
"My broth – my cousin pardoned Ser Jaime. We need all the help we can get. He is confident that Ser Jaime will be an asset."
"Your cousin? Are you referring to Lord Robin Arryn of the Eyrie?"
"No, my cousin, Jon Snow, was never actually a bastard. He is the legitimate son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen. My brother Bran, who is the Three-eyed Raven and Samwell Tarly were able to independently verify that."
Edmure could only stare with his mouth gaping. Bronn was considerably less interested in the news and started to dig into the food that a servant set in front of his face, wolfing it down like a starved dog. Sansa wrinkled her nose delicately at the sellsword's manners, but said nothing.
"Jon's real name is Aemon Targaryen. He is now referred to as King Aemon and is the rightful heir to the Seven Kingdoms."
Edmure continued to make gasping noises as he tried to search for the words and then he glanced around and said, "Where is his grace? I need to make my pledge of loyalty."
"King Aemon with the North and Daenerys Targaryen's army marched to Last Hearth to halt the Night King and his army of the undead. They left only five days past and likely won't reach Last Hearth for at least another week."*
"Shall I march my troops to join the King then?"
Sansa seemed stunned that he was asking her, and she looked around the table until her eyes settled on Jaime with a question in her eyes.
"Actually, Lord Edmure, the king left us with a garrison of only five hundred. Should the Night King get around the King's army, we will be left woefully undefended. It's best that you stay here. When you set up camp outside the wall, make sure to keep a fresh rotation of guards going throughout the night. We can ill afford thousands of men being beset by the undead."
Edmure's face became like stone. "I'm not listening to a word you have to say, Kingslayer!"
"Uncle, you will respect Ser Jaime by addressing him formally. I know nothing of war and I shall defer to him in this respect," Sansa said. "Now, I shall have the servants draw you and Ser Bronn a bath. I am glad you could make it uncle. We need all the help we can get."
When they exited the chambers, Sansa slowed her pace so that it matched Jaime's. "Thank you for your input, Ser. I may know politics and how to deal with Cersei, but war will forever elude my grasp. With most everyone of high rank with Jo- Aemon, your insight will be invaluable."
"I am at your service, my Lady," Jaime replied.
"You still have some blood on your face. Are you sure you don't need a maester?"
"It's already stopped bleeding, but thank you," Jaime said and they parted ways as he headed once more to Brienne's room. Brienne followed. Within the safety of Winterfell, Sansa insisted that she did not need someone to dog her every step, so Brienne only hovered at her side when greeting guests.
As soon as the door was closed, Brienne said, "Threatened to catapult his baby over the wall?"
"I was never going to. Maybe grab up some other baby, but never his. He had to believe it through," Jaime said. It was the first thing he said that really made him feel like the man his father had always wanted him to be, but whereas Lord Tywin would actually catapult an enemy's baby, Jaime knew he could never do it. Harming an innocent child for the sins of his parents was monstrous and he was also certain Brienne would never look at him the same way again.
"I wish there had been another way, but you did achieve your goals. It's hard to criticize, knowing that," Brienne said with a small smile.
Jaime washed the blood from his face and toweled off, then looked over at her. "What did I do to deserve you?"
She snorted. "Nothing. Some of us get what we deserve and some of us don't. Be thankful that what you apparently deserved was someone to love you."
He shuddered. "Indeed. I'm sure there's more than just Edmure here who still thinks I deserve to have my head cut off and the Lannister line extinguished."
"Those people are fools. Just keep doing what you're doing. Eventually, they'll see the man that I see." She leaned in for a kiss and he happily met her.
It was a challenge to keep his hands off Brienne. He was afraid in these heated moments that he would grant both of their desires and take her virtue in a frenzy, so he willed himself to keep his hands firmly on her hips. At one point, Jaime moved away from her lips and kissed up her jawline to her ears and nibbled at them.
She moaned and swayed and then suddenly asked against his ear, "What will we do after?"
"Well…we have to…knock Cersei off her throne," Jaime said, wincing even as he said his own sister's name. "With your consent, we'll get married and I'll help you provide that heir for Tarth."
"You would marry? I am under the impression that you had an aversion to the thought."
"Not when it's with the woman I love," he said with a grin.
Author's Note: Yep, the end. I'll be the first to say that the ending is sloppy and rushed, but...I didn't have anything else to write after this chapter. Furthermore, I'm participating in National Novel Writing Month and I didn't want this story to languish for a month while I worked on that. My NaNoWriMo project is another GoT fic. I intend to start posting it when November is done.
Thank you, everyone, for reading this fic! It was great fun hearing your thoughts and I'm glad I could expand on a piece of story that was unlikely to get much consideration in the show.