Summary: As Jaime and Brienne flee from the Brotherhood with Podrick Payne, feelings and issues work themselves out in unexpected ways. Rated Mature for language and sexual situations.
A/N: It's my first fic for the pairing and fandom, so I would love any feedback you can offer. Constructive criticism welcome!
Jaime's eyes snap open as soon as he hears the first soft whimpers out of the sleeping figure beside him. He hadn't been asleep, not truly. He had ,after all, promised to keep watch over young Podrick Payne for the night.
He volunteered for the job, despite his own very real exhaustion, for the poor wench had clearly been stretched so far beyond her physical and emotional limits, that she'd seemed likely to collapse at any moment. Whether it be into unconsciousness or into sobs, Jaime had not felt particularly well equipped to deal with either, and so as soon as they'd stumbled across the little alcove between the rocks and laid the unconscious form of Podrick Payne beneath some blankets, he'd demanded that she too get some sleep.
Stubborn wench that she is, she had tried to protest, asking "What if Pod-" but Jaime cut her off.
He quickly assured her that no further harm would come to the boy this night, ushered her over to a blanket of her own and refused to hear any more about it.
For the next few minutes, Brienne had propped herself up on her elbows and stared down at the sleeping lad, quite still for a time.
Jaime kept his green eyes on her as she gazed at the boy and suddenly, she was not so still. Though he was a good bit away from her, sitting on the other side of the fire, he detected the slight shaking of her shoulders. She was turned away, her back to him so he could not see her face, but a few angry swipes of her hand up to her cheeks told him she was crying.
Not knowing what to do or say, he'd watched her in rather uncomfortable silence until she settled down beside the lad and fell asleep.
Whether the tears she shed were for the unconscious squire before her, with the angry hangman's welts around his neck, or for the Hunt knight they'd not been able to save from the Brotherhood, or for very nearly dragging Jaime to his death as well, he cannot not say.
Knowing the wench and her sickeningly honorable sensibilities, it was likely all three and more. Hells, she probably is still torn up inside about Lady Catelyn as well, filled with guilt over what the foolish girl would undoubtedly deem a great betrayal.
Stupid, soft wench. The Stark woman who had inspired such loyalty in her was long gone. All that remained in her was rage, hate, and vengeance wrapped up in a shell of a body, a body which was probably ordering the Brotherhood to track them down and bring them back to the noose at this very moment.
Though any sane man could tell that Catelyn Tully was well and truly gone, Jaime had glimpsed that flash of self-loathing in those astonishing blue eyes as Brienne cut her way through a dozen fierce Brothers, keeping Pod and Jaime behind her and refusing to let the onslaught of blades get near them.
He'd done his best with his ever -mproving left hand, but it had been her blade that got them out, that held off the onslaught of pursuers as Jaime helped the half-conscious squire onto a horse.
He'd seen the look of horror that washed over Brienne's homely features as she'd slashed out with her steel at the reanimated corpse of the woman she'd sworn to serve and protect, shouting at her not to touch them, desperate and fearful and never loosening her grip on her sword.
The wench had barely spoken to him since they'd made their escape. They'd briefly discussed Pod's condition, when, hours into their ride, they'd finally slowed their fleeing horses to a halt, sure that, at least for the moment, any pursuers were far behind.
They both took a look at his wounds and agreed he would likely would live. They did their best to get some water down his throat, and were on their way again, riding quickly and quietly as the sky darkened.
Once they stopped for the night, at a little alcove between the rocks, there had been the brief exchange about who would keep watch, and that was it.
She'd met his eyes only once since they fought their way to the horses and made their escape, and that was with considerable effort on his part to catch hers.
In the fleeting moment he'd managed to grab hold of her gaze, he witnessed her large blue eyes swimming with pain, guilt, shame and a number of less discernable emotions. She'd determinedly refused to look at him since, and he'd given up trying to get her to, unprepared as he was to form any words of comfort.
He supposed in the morning, he'd have to attempt to talk to her about it, though the thought brought him no great pleasure. As far as he was concerned, he bore no ill feeling toward the wench for her attempt to lead him into a trap.
He'd been shocked and furious as the realization of her treachery dawned on him and he realized he was trapped among a slew of men eager to see his head removed from his body and impaled upon a spike.
But in the end, she'd fought just as fiercely to keep them away from him as she did the boy, and had not shown the slightest inkling of concern for herself.
He'd seen the utter relief on her expression when they'd assessed the boy's condition and agreed Pod would live. He had seen her gazing down at him with an expression that was utterly adoring and damn near maternal.
It was clear the wench loved her little squire deeply, and Jaime Lannister was more familiar than anyone of the things one will do for love.
She'd had no choice, that much was clear, and he could not fault her for doing what she had to in order to save the boy's life. Hell, there was a time where he'd burn the world to the ground for Cersei without a tenth of the guilt Brienne was going through.
And to top it all off, it was the quest he sent her on that put her and the lad in such danger, that left them both with those horrible red welts on their necks and the poor wench's face hideously scarred.
Brienne had made only choice possible and she'd gotten him out of there in the end. He held no grudge.
If only conveying that message swiftly and bluntly could be done with any sort of ease. Relax, wench, all's forgiven. Fancy some swordplay? I've improved my form with this hand enough to take you, I'll bet.
Not bloody likely.
The way she carried herself, as though her shoulders were breaking under the weight of her guilt, the way her blue eyes stared despondently out across the land as they'd urged their horses forward, as if she were a thousand miles away in a place of utter darkness, the way she avoided his gaze as though she could not bear to look at him, all led him to believe any conversation about recent events would be long and messy and full of emotions he was not adequately prepared to deal with. .
Just thinking about it had exhausted his already weary mind and Pod seemed to be sleeping soundly, so he figured it couldn't hurt to simply lie down for a while, just to rest his eyes.
Fighting one-handed through a horde of angry men determined to see him hang and then riding hard all day to escape them had taken its toll on his body. He laid out a bedroll a few feet away from Brienne and the boy and laid on his back, staring up at the stars visible through a gap in the rocks.
He's just about to drift off, when the wench begins to whimper in her sleep, startling him wide awake.
"Brienne," he hisses. "What is it?"
She starts toss about, the urgency of her whimpers and moans increasing.
"Pod!" she screams, thrashing wildly. "No, Pod, please! Leave him be! He's just a boy! You can't do this! Please, My Lady. Please."
Jaime is sitting up now, staring down at her as she cries out desperately in her sleep. He hears movement on her other side, and sees that young Podrick Payne is attempting to sit up as well.
"Ser...I mean...M-my Lady? Are you-" the boy asks, blinking sleep out of his eyes. He looks worried and Jaime can't blame him.
Their girl, the maiden who has always proven herself capable of remaining cool under the most perilous and dire of circumstances, is in such obvious distress that it's puzzling to them both.
"Please," Brienne cries with a sob, and Jaime is horrified to realize tears are leaking down her broad face as she tosses about in a tangle of blankets. "Please, don't hurt him!"
"It's alright, wench," Jaime says, voice firm and rather loud, hoping to penetrate the nightmare she's facing. "The lad is fine. You saved him. He's even awake. Settle down."
She continues to thrash and Pod struggles to rise from his bed, eager to help his Lady. Jaime glances up to see the boy's weak arms trembling in the effort of supporting his weight as he attempts to come to her aid..
"'S'alright, boy. Save your strength," Jaime says quietly. "It's just a nightmare."
More loudly, he calls down to Brienne, his voice reverberating off the rock faces around them, "The lad is fine, Brienne. Sleep soundly," but she continues to writhe anxiously, lost in a world of despair inside her own head.
Cautiously, he moves towards her and reaches down, putting his hand on her muscular arm, just below the shoulder, and squeezing gently.
Leaning down towards her ear, he quietly assures her, "Pod is fine, Brienne. He's here. We're well away from Stoneheart and the Brotherhood. We're all safe. You needn't worry, lass."
The touch on her arm seems to calm her. She stops thrashing about, though she is still whimpering softly, her face contorting in obvious distress.
"Relax, wench," Jaime sooths and he begins to stroke her upper arm softly, back and forth between her shoulder and her elbow, gently easing her into a stiller sleep.
He continues to rub her arm for a few minutes, gently repeating calming words until her breathing slows and her features are once again peaceful.
Assured that whatever dark dreams were plaguing her guilty conscience have been driven off, he makes to go back to his blanket, intending to catch a bit of proper sleep before dawn, now that the boy has proven himself well enough to wake up and stir.
He has just about managed to lie back down, when Brienne cries out once more.
"Hyle! Hyle, I'm... sorry. I didn't mean for...I'm so sorry...I tried...I..."
Jaime sits up once more, staring over at Brienne who is starting to toss again. He hesitates for a moment, then sighs.
Only one thing for it, if any of us want to be rested enough for the long journey awaiting us in the morn, he thinks.
Picking up his blanket, he crosses the short distance between them and lays it down beside her. He places a hand on her arm once again, and finds that she falls still almost immediately. He lowers himself down beside her, softly moving his clumsy left hand up and down her arm until her low cries begin to subside.
He yawns widely, hoping this new arrangement might permit him a few hours rest. Almost of its' own accord, he finds his hand slipping passed the relative safety of her arm and snaking across her hard, muscular stomach. As it settles somewhere just above her navel, she falls completely still and silent.
A flicker of smile crossed his features, making his mouth twitch. She'll most likely murder me over this in the morning, he thinks, as he slowly drifts off into a surprisingly comfortable sleep.
"Jaime. Jaime. Jaime."
He's vaguely aware of the voice calling his name, but he had been in a deep and pleasant sleep that he was loathe to come out of. As consciousness pulls him into waking, he becomes unpleasantly aware of the pre-dawn chill in the air, and much more pleasantly aware of the warm body pressed against him.
Stretching slightly for a moment, he then pulls the figure closer, eager for the warmth it's providing. Sleepily, still half-conscious, really, he starts to move the hand that had been resting on her waist upwards, vaguely thinking that there's surely a breast up there that could use a good squee-
"JAIME. What. Are. You. Doing?" hisses the voice more sharply.
Realization of where he is and who he is with begins to dawn on him.
What the blazes was I thinking?
He begins to loosen his grip on the large-bodied wench on his own, but apparently he isn't moving fast enough, for he's suddenly jolted fully into consciousness by the hard jab of an elbow into his ribs.
"Ouch! Bloody hell, wench," he scowls, clutching the spot where she'd jabbed him and sitting up.
"What the...what were you...w..?" she stutters, sitting up and staring at him with suspicious accusation in her large blue eyes.
A wave of embarrassment washes over him as he recalls his sleep-deprived decision to hold her close to stave off her nightmares.
"You were...you were... having...bad dreams," he explains lamely, cursing himself internally for sounding like a sad little village's saddest idiot.
Then he curses himself again for caring enough to feel embarrassed. He's a Lannister, for gods' sakes.
Brienne is staring at him in disbelief, accusation still in her eyes. "Bad dreams." she repeats dubiously, with an expression that very clearly reads "I've never heard such a load of shit in all my life."
His embarrassment quickly turns to annoyance and defensive anger as he looks at her disbelieving and mistrustful expression. Like I'd have the slightest interest in touching you, you great brute of a woman, he thinks, scathingly.
"It's true," he snaps. "You were crying out like a bloody banshee and neither me nor your injured squire would've gotten a moment's rest if I hadn't done it. It was the only thing to shut up your bloody moaning. Ask him yourself!"
Jaime rises to his feet grumpily, pointing at Pod, who is sitting up under his blankets.
The boy flushes hard at once upon being brought into it. He looks as though he'd quite like to sink into the rock and never be looked at again.
Brienne, who had been focused on staring warily at Jaime, snaps her head around and cries out, "Pod!" She too, is on her feet in an instant, rushing to his side. "You're awake! How do you feel?"
"I...fine, m'lady. A bit sore, but fine. And...and it..it's true, what Ser Jaime says, My Lady. You were talking in your sleep and everything." Pod adds apologetically, bowing his head.
Her back is to him, but he can almost hear the sound of her jaw dropping. A hand slaps over her mouth and he sees a red flush creep up the back of her neck.
"Oh...I," she says, struggling for words and Jaime feels what is probably a very immature amount of satisfaction at her embarrassment.
"I mean, it's..it's alright. I used to have awful dreams too, after King Stannis attacked King's Landing...awful ones..about wildlife and Tyrion...and," Pod stumbles before trailing off, his boyish face a bright shade of red as he seems to realize he isn't helping to ease his Lady's embarrassment.
Brienne slowly turns around and he can feel her eyes on him, but finds today he no longer cares to meet them. Not looking at either of her or the boy, he strides over to the fire, which had died out in the night, and begins to work at getting it going again.
"I suppose broth is in order this morning," he says, reaching into a bag of supplies. "Unlikely you'll be swallowing solid food for a while, young Payne," he says, struggling keeping his voice even and cheerful.
He pulls an onion out the bag and begins to slice it with rather more fervor than truly necessary. That, combined with the awkwardness of his golden hand and unskilled left one, ensures that he is making a proper mess of things, but he carries on determinedly.
He hears her footsteps approaching but he continues to chop without looking up at her. He hears a small noise, as if she is about to speak, but then she is quiet again, though she continues to stand over him.
What do you want, wench? he thinks to himself in frustration, though he refuses to look up at her..
He's frustrated with his hand for being a clumsy piece of shit, and with the wench for assuming the worst of him and looking at him with such mistrustful, accusing blue eyes, and more than anything else, he's frustrated, and disgusted with himself for caring about her bloody opinion of him.
Why should it matter what the wench thinks, anyway? True, he had assumed after Harrenhal and Oathkeeper and their escape from the Brotherhood, that she would trust him with her bloody life as he trusted her with his and not jump to stupid conclusions after he...after he...cozied up to her in the middle of the night unasked...while she was asleep.
As a particularly harsh wave of anger washes over him, he slices down with his knife and nicks his finger.
He curses loudly, his exclamation echoing off the cave walls as he brings the finger up to his mouth to suck at the small cut.
Good plan, Lannister, he thinks, Go ahead and lose your other fucking hand over your wounded feelings about a giant of wench and her scornful opinions of you. Brilliant idea.
"Are you alright?" Brienne asks in alarm, squatting down next to him, attempting to take his cut hand in her large ones. He moves it out of her grasp and grunts "Fine," without looking at her.
He feels her staring at him for a long moment before she reaches out to pick up some of his unevenly chopped pieces of onion.
"I...I could do this, if you like," she says timidly.
She then moves from squatting to kneeling beside him, and reaches out a gentle, cautious hand towards the knife. He can feel her eyes searching his face, but he only stares down at the onion for a moment before thrusting the hilt of the knife into her hand.
"Be my guest," he says shortly, getting to his feet. He reaches into the bag and dumped a small armful of potatoes and carrots at her feet before striding out to the mouth of their alcove
What the hell is wrong with him? As he kicks half-heartedly at a rock, a self-deprecating laugh passes his lips.
Why is he so bloody annoyed by the stupid wench's reaction? There isn't an ounce of logic to it and that annoys him thoroughly.
He'd been more than willing to forgive her leading him into a death trap, and yet now here he is, almost boiling with anger and something suspiciously like hurt over her reaction to him holding her.
His feelings are hurt.
It's blatantly obvious but very painful to his ego to acknowledge. He knows he's always had shit for honor, but this naive and noble young wench with her silly ideals about knighthood have been so tied to his likely futile quest to redeem himself in some way that the accusation in her eyes stings.
She is the one person in all of Westeros who had shown signs of really seeing who he was, who he wants to be and actually believing him capable of regaining some semblance of honor.
That she could believe he was...taking advantage was a bit like a knife to the gut.
Get over it, Lannister. Another few days and you'll be in Lannister territory, and it'll be safe for you to part company. She'll continue on the futile quest you've set her on and you'll go back to your duties as Lord Commander of the kingsguard and none of it'll mean a damn thing.
He stays out there for a while, freezing his arse off as he sits on a cold rock and watches the sunrise moodily. He knows he should be inside, packing up their things to prepare to ride out, saddling the horses or finding some other way of making himself useful, but he doesn't do so.
Instead he sits and sulks like some chastised bloody child and waits until the call for breakfast comes.
"Jaime," she says softly, standing behind him. "There's...there is some hot broth inside."
"Is there?" he says flatly.
Enough time has passed that he's ready to stare her in the face, and he does, careful to keep no expression there.
Brienne is not doing the same. He reads a full bloody saga in those eyes of hers, those astonishly blue eyes; confusion and guilt chief among them.
"Y-yes," she says, "It's not much, but it'll keep us going for a while. It'll be another long ride again, I expect."
She offers a tentative smile, quite tight though he catches a glimpse of prominent front teeth between her wide lips.
Still more miffed than he cares to admit, even to himself, he refuses to return it.
As he looks up at her without returning it, hurt and confusion knot her features.
Good, he thinks pettily.
Still, he can't bring himself to keep looking at the sad look on her face; a look that reminds him at once of how young, and good, and pure she is and how old and bitter and cruel he has become.
"You'd...you'd better go eat. We've put out the fire, so it'll be getting cold soon," she says in a small voice.
"Right" he says, getting to his feet and walking back into the little alcove, feeling like an utter bastard.
A/n: Well, there you have it. Chapter One. I have most of it written and you can probably expect five or six chapters in total. I promise Jaime will be less of a little bitch in the ones to come :P
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