Jaime Lannister always imagined dying in the arms of the woman he loved. He'd always thought this. However, he always imagined that woman to be his beloved sister, Cersei. He remembered his time away from her the first time; at Harrenhal, when he hand had been freshly sliced from his arm, when the world was dark and he believed his last day was fast approaching. He remembered how he longed to have her close, to smell her hair and feel the warmth between her legs one last time. He had thought that, if he were to die, he should have been dying in her arms, and not with a beast of Tarth.
But oh, how long ago that was. How far he had come, indeed. Breaking away from Cersei should have broken his heart, and whilst it had hurt him, it didn't break him. If anything, he felt as if he could breathe again. Her hold on him no longer choked him, and for the first time in a long time, he could take a breath without it clogging his airways. Cersei's threat on his life may have actually saved him – for the time being, at least.
Jaime had never been afraid of death. Even when he killed his King all those years ago, and the prospect of death loomed close, it hadn't fazed him. In fact, he smiled in the face of death as a point of mockery. Death would always win, but that didn't mean he had to pleasure death with fear. He wouldn't allow such a pleasure for the unknown.
So when he rode for North, for Winterfell, he felt little fear. Instead he felt determination, anticipation, Hells, maybe even a flicker of excitement. He hadn't visited Winterfell since the beginning on the war with the Starks… since he threw Brandon Stark from the tower. Maybe he was a fool, but he simply couldn't help it; he was fighting for the better, true side, and he knew it. Even if he were killed upon walking through the gates, at least he knew he would die a better man than the last time he visited. It wasn't like he didn't deserve it, after all.
So imagine his surprise when he laid his eyes on Brienne of Tarth, alive and well, in the great hall. Imagine his disbelief when she stood before him, her back stiff with pride as she defended his life. And imagine the ache, an ache he couldn't identify, when he heard her say that she would fight willingly beside him. The ache pulled him down, like he were chained, and he couldn't stop staring at the back of her head. Why wouldn't she look at him? She had just saved his life, and she wouldn't look him in the eye. Why?
For the rest of the day, he had felt heavy. The Lady's chains pulled him down, and the ache in his chest grew the more he walked. Cersei had choked him, time and time again, with her words and her hands and her beauty, but this was different. Lady Brienne, the tall, strong, loyal Lady Brienne, had him breathless. After reuniting with Tyrion, his dearest brother, his words were lost on him when he had Lady Brienne in his sights from the tower of Winterfell. And the ache grew, and Seven Hells, he wished she would look up at him.
But to be close to her again, oh, may the Gods have mercy. Her eyes had always transfixed him, those blue sapphires piercing, staring right into his soul. He almost wanted to laugh at the coolness of them, so serious all of the time. He wondered if she ever allowed herself to just… relax.
"We have never had a conversation last this last without you insulting me, not once!" she'd shouted, men all around her fighting, practicing their skills, and not looking up. They respected her; they didn't dare look up. Lucky, really, as he didn't want them to see the shock, and dismay, on his own expression.
"You want me to insult you?" he asked, almost angry himself.
"Good!" he looked away, sucking in a breath, and returned his gaze to her. She wasn't meeting his eyes, and he realised her was making her uncomfortable. It hurt him more he anticipated. He was ashamed to he made her feel that way, and after how he had treated her in the past, how could he blame her?
Jaime shuffled uncomfortable beside her, his body angled toward her. He frowned, unable to gather his words in an orderly manner.
"I came to Winterfell because…" he began, but trailed off. Where was he going with this? Why had he come here? To fight on the right side. Brienne was the right side. She had always been on the right side, but he had been far too blind to bloody see it. And then he felt her staring at him, staring with those continuously confused eyes, and despite himself, he wanted to chuckle at her. He swallowed the urge - hard. "I'm not the fighter I used to be," he began, and at last, he sounded exhausted. "but I would be honoured to serve under your command… if you'll have me."
She continued to stare at him, her confusion turning into something unreadable, and suddenly Jaime's heart began to pound. She continued to stare with that stupid confusion in those beautiful eyes, and he almost wanted to shake her into telling him: Of course, ser Jaime, it would be my greatest honour!
She didn't. Instead, she muttered something and left Jaime there, and for the first time since Harrenhal, he felt completely and utterly lost.
The night had approached, and news had spread that the dead would arrive before sunrise. Jaime had literally hours to live, with no one but his brother by his side. He felt hopeless, and yet the fear remained at bay once more. They spoke about shit, about things that no longer mattered, and with the wine in his hand and his brother nearby, he could at least try to feel at him. Never in all his years had he imagined to spend his final hours in the Great Hall of Winterfell.
He'd expected his mind to wonder to Cersei. He even tried to encourage it. He tried to imagine himself nestled between her legs, moving fast, hard, trying to please her in the only way he knew how. He tried to stir the desire and pleasure she had once bestowed to him, but nothing came. Instead, he stared into the flames, wondering who would even try to have his back in this impending battle. Maybe Brienne had only said those words to secure his life…
She walked in then, just as he was about to let a trickle of wine down his through to a toast of Tyrion's. He stood, maybe a little too hastily, and he didn't miss Tyrion's knowing expression. But he couldn't find it in him to be annoyed. She, Lady Brienne of Tarth, strode toward them with such confidence with her squire; she actually made him feel like a little boy ogling at a girl in the courtyard.
Seven Hells, pull it together! He told himself. He was grateful when Tyrion raised his voice, inviting the pair to join them. And when he continued to offer wine to an all to eager Pod, he felt himself relax. She amused him, he had to admit. So serious, even on the eve of their death. Like a glass of wine would hinder their judgement, when there was no judgement when fighting the death. He almost laughed.
But he didn't want to frighten her off once more, so instead…
"You really think any of us are going to sleep tonight?" he asked as he returned to the fire with a chair in tow. He gestured his good hand, as gentlemanly as he could, and said, "Join us."
He looked at him, her eyes debating in the flickered light of the flames. "Alright," she said, and looked to Tyrion, who was already pouring the wine. "Just a bit."
More joined them, but he barely registered their faces. He was busy memorising her face. She was something else, it was true. The strong features of her face were so sharp they could cut like a knife. But nothing was sharper than her eyes. The blue gave her away, and he wondered if she hated herself for being so readable. The anger, the annoyance, Hells, even the worry, was so clear on her face. When the wildling spoke, telling an absurd story, he felt himself smirk when he saw how uncomfortable she was. It was just unfathomable that, a woman as strong, confident and loyal, Brienne could be undone so easily in the words of a potential suitor.
He cringed at the thought of this Wildling being her suitor.
And then the Wildling said something that, as much as he hated to admit it, hit and twisted his heart in a way very unexpected. They were discussing the tradition on knighthood, and his words had him freeze at mid-pour of his next wine.
"I'm no King, but if I were, I would knight you ten times over."
He would Knight her? Absurd! But a thought came to him, and he realised that if there were one way he could prove himself to Brienne of Tarth, it would be this.
"You don't need a King: any Knight can make another Knight." He said the words before he could stop himself. And when her puzzled eyes met his, and his brother angled awkwardly to look back at him, he placed down his cup and looked back with a newfound confidence he had not felt for a long time. "I'll prove it."
He unsheathed his sword and moved to the back of their audience. The sound of the metal pierced his ears, full of purpose that, for once, did not involve death. He looked down, and said, "Kneel, Lady Brienne."
When he looked up, she scoffed at him. It was maddening. When, oh when, would she begin to take him seriously? Did she not understand how much she had changed him? He was no longer the man she had held captive all those years ago. He would never be that man again.
"Do you want to be a Knight or not?" His tone came across angrier than he had wanted, but she had to understand. She looked up again, and the stupid smile was wiped from her face. He stared at her, hard, and said "Kneel."
An exchange he did not understand passed between her and Pod, like they were having a silent conversation. No, I was as if she were asking him permission. He didn't miss the faintest of nods from the young squire, and when Brienne returned her blue, blue gaze, he also nodded in encouragement.
Something changed in the following moments between them. When she knelt before him, he saw a woman of such beauty it almost took his breath away. But it was more than that. He saw hope in her eyes, so strong and overpowering it was as if he were kneeling to her command. It was now that he understand just how much this woman, this incredible, brave, selfless woman, wanted to be something that had been denied all her life. She would not be laughed at and she would not be teased. The men in this room knew only respect, for she was no more deserving of Knighthood than the next man dreaming of such.
And he, Jaime Lannister, the Kingslayer, was giving it to her.
"In the name of the warrior, I charge you to be brave." He touched his blade to her right shoulder, "In the name of the father, I charge you to be just." Then touched it to her left. "In the name of the mother, I charge you to defend the innocent." He returned the blade to her right shoulder, and the tears in her eyes made the blue in her irises swim. "Arise, Brienne of Tarth, a Knight of the Seven Kingdoms."
When she rose, he stared at her. He forgot about the impending battle. He forgot about the fellow men in the room. He forgot about Cersei. All he saw was Brienne, now a Knight, who was staring back with a joy in her eyes that had him speechless. He couldn't look away. He saw her for who she really was in the clearest fashion, and his heart pounded, almost hurting him. She was brave and she was just and she was so much fucking more.
It wasn't until the Wildling began to clap, loud and clear, that he finally tore his eyes away. Tyrion's booming voice congratulated her, and the smiled she projected would never leave him. He had never seen her smile, so to be the one who made her smile was an honour in itself.
Cersei could have given him all the pleasure and gold and affection in the world for the rest of his days, but that would never compare to this moment. This was not only her moment, but his, too. It was when he saw her smile that he finally knew love had no bounds. He loved his Lady, no, Ser Brienne, and he would continue to love her until his final moments. He would never be able to show her such love, such adoration, but he hoped that his gesture would be enough for her to understand.
All but Jaime and Brienne remained a short while later. Tyrion had stumbled away, Pod in tow, and slowly the others began to shrink back into the shadows from which they came. Jaime was grateful. He needed this time alone with her, for it was the last chance he would ever get.
He cleared his throat. "Today, out on the field-"
"I would be honoured if you fought by my side, Ser Jaime." She said instantly, taking his gaze with hers. "Truly."
"Please," he murmured, smiling gently. "It's just Jaime, between you and me."
"I…" she began after a moment. "I was cruel to you today. What you have done for me, what you just did… my behaviour before was unforgivable." She looked away, clearly ashamed.
"No," he whispered. "I have been cruel to you all too much, it was only fair to be resentful."
"Why?" she asked, her eyes big and round and oh so beautiful. "Why did you Knight me?"
He shrugged, grinning. It felt good to grin; it had been a long time. "Because I wanted to." He leaned back in his chair, and it creaked with his weight. "And because I have not met anyone more worthy of the honour than you, Brienne. I mean that. You are true, just, and so brave it's frightening. I admire you and I wish, in another life, things could have been different."
A moment passed. "Another life? I don't understand."
He finally laughed. "Of course you don't; you never do!" he stood up fast, his head spinning slightly, and he moved closer to her. "You changed me in ways you will never understand. I am not the man whom you held captive all that time ago. I regret that you saw that man. I am who I am because of you, Brienne of Tarth, and I will be forever in your debt." He knelt before her, taking her hands in his, which was warm, so warm. "I wish we could have been in another life. I wish I could have Knighted you the moment I saw your first fight. I wish I hadn't been in love with my dreaded sister for so fucking long." He sighed into her hands. "I wish tonight was not my last night with you, for I have so much more to give."
A moment passed, and she said nothing. Deflated, he pulled away, gently. He didn't meet her eye. She stood silently, and he could feel her gaze on him. The chains were back, pulling him down to her, and there was nothing he could do to stop it.
"I wish we had been in another life, too." She murmured, and finally, he met her gaze once more. There was something there in those sapphires; Lust? Love? Heartache? They swam together so much that he couldn't tell. But he couldn't stop himself. He moved toward her, took her face in his hands, and kissed her.
It wasn't practiced or hungry or lustful like those he had shared with his sister. It was awkward, armour against armour, her lips unmoving for a brief moment. But he coaxed her to moved, breathing heavily, and she allowed him to guide her. It was so different that his heart felt like it would burst through his chest out of his armour. And the more she allowed him to guide her, the more he wished they had started they day all over again. He wanted to kiss her forever. He wanted to kiss her everywhere. He wanted to take her right there, in the Great Hall of Winterfell, just to prove to her how beautiful he thought she was.
The more she returned his kiss, the more his resolve began to crumble. He wanted to teach her so many things, please her in so many ways. And when they sank to the cool floor, a tangle of lips and limbs, the horn began to sound.
Jaime pulled away, panting, and Brienne was short for breath herself.
They looked at one another, carefully gaging one another, and finally Jaime licked his lips. "Maybe we will meet in another life, Ser Brienne,"
"Seven Hells, I hope we do, Jaime." She whispered back. They stood together, taking one more moment to remember each other. And then Brienne marched towards the doors, and Jaime followed his commander without a single trace of hesitation.
He would not fear death. And, if he stayed close enough, he would die in the arms of the woman he loved, after all.