Jaime's mind is reeling, dancing circles about itself. Day in, day out, he sees the same bloody scenery, the same bloody people, the same bloody hand missing.
At least he left that stinking thing back in Harrenhal.
Just thinking about the smell makes him want to bring up the meagre breakfast their traveling companions had to spare.
Because Jaime won't consider those men companions for as long as they bear the banner of a flayed man. While Jaime understood that flaying is just a twisted version of a family tradition for this godforsaken clan, he never quite understood it that they decided to make that their banner. As a young boy, he always believed that you had to pick a strong heraldic animal, like a lion. Or a wolf. Or a stag. Because he believed that those would be the goal you'd strive after, to be and become a lion, just as strong, as intimidating, awe-inspiring, fierce, mighty.
But you can't really strive to become a flayed man, right? And even striving to flay men is even too blood-thirsty to Jaime's liking, and he is a child of war and questionable morale already.
There are the Tyrells of course, who have a golden rose for a banner, which is not much better than a flayed man, because roses get stomped on, at least that is what he ended up doing often enough when still a child. But roses have thorns, and they bloom. So it fits the Tyrells.
But Jaime believes that a strong family has a strong heraldic animal.
That is the true deal.
But he is hardly a lion now, and no one will make his banner flap in the wind, that much is for certain. Well, once they reach King's Landing, he will get to see lions again, even if they stand next to stags, when in fact it has always been just about the lions.
Jaime lets out a grunt as the world spins yet again into green swirls as he glances at the leaves up in the canopy brushing past him.
He is used to that colour by now. He hasn't seen much other than green and brown ever since the wench stomped her giant feet into his life.
Jaime whirls his head around, white flashes blurring into green ones, white-green ones blurring into brown ones, until sapphire is thrown into the mix, and somehow this grounds him so that he can finally focus on the wench, who is apparently riding her horse next to his, looking at him with her plank-face.
"Stop what?" he asks with a grimace.
"You're making yourself dizzy by looking up into the sunlight. I won't scoop you up once you fall off your horse because you fainted like a bloody woman," she retorts.
"Tough love," he mewls mockingly.
"Just stop it from now on, focus on what's ahead of us," she says before she spurs her horse to speed up a bit.
Already to do the opposite of what Brienne says, his eyes drift to the canopy again.
As if he would do what the stupid wench wants.
Jaime tries to think himself back to King's Landing, to the gardens, to his family, to Cersei.
He remembers he always wanted to kiss her in the gardens, if he didn't want to make love to her, but she refused each time, finding the place too much in the open, too dangerous. And Jaime knows how disappointed he had felt, because he hated her chambers, which stank of Robert, just as he hated the secret hiding places where they did what they did.
He wanted to get lost in the green, the rustling of leaves, the odour of flowers in the air.
But he didn't.
Because she didn't let him.
Maybe Brienne is right, and he should focus on what is ahead of him. King's Landing is ahead of him, his family, Cersei, and the gardens she never walked in with him, unless it was for some formal conversation, but glancing at the canopy above him makes these things a lot more vivid. How the green dances, it's tantalising.
The wench shall be damned. He will glance at the green for as long as he wants. She doesn't get to tell him what to do. No one does other than himself.
Well, Cersei, sometimes, but she's not here to tell him that he can't look at the green now either.
Jaime tears his head back around to the ground.
The maimed man blinks ahead to see Qyburn now riding his horse next to the wench's, making Jaime frown. Brienne usually makes sure that he stays ten feet away from her at all times. One night when they made camp, she said that she wouldn't wonder if the man did not cut her up in her sleep to see what's inside only because he had an air of curiosity.
She reluctantly accepted the ointments and medicine from him to treat her wounds, but that was about it, and that was already due to Jaime barking a command at her that he'd leave her in a ditch to die if she got an infection solely from refusing treatment.
"I didn't jump into a bear pit for nothing, at least I won't let you make it be for nothing, understand?" is all he had to say.
And the wench had understood indeed, and accepted the treatment at last. That is one of the few upsides. Now that she feels indebted to him, the wench got far better at listening to his commands, at least when it comes to things about herself.
Of course she is too much of a bullhead to do whatever Jaime says.
That woman is incapable of yielding.
"Are you alright, my lady?" he hears Qyburn ask quietly.
"I am fine, thank you," she replies, her voice as tight as her muscles. Jaime tilts his head, studying her posture. When she rode next to him, she sat upright like a longbow, but now she is hunched over on the horse, as though she was about to take a nap on its back.
"Do you need to take a rest by any chance?" Qyburn goes on.
From ahead of them one of the companions curses, "We're just one hour from the next town. Can't she make it until there?"
"She can make it all the way to King's Landing without taking a rest. Just as she has no trouble to get into a brawl with the next man to call that into question," Brienne hisses back. The man ducks his head back around, speeding up to put a bit more distance between her and him.
Jaime has to hold back a small chuckle. The wench clearly takes offence in people questioning her abilities, but it's even worse when this is done by talking about her instead of with her, as though only a man could affirm her status. So that makes two mistakes for the fellow who seemingly just earned himself her hatred for the rest of his life.
However, Jaime can't marvel at this for long when he has to reconsider what just happened.
The wench is not alright.
And he doesn't like that.
As already said, he didn't jump down a bear pit to have her not alright now.
Qyburn steals another glance at her before riding up to the other companions, leaving Brienne to herself.
Jaime spurs his horse to take the chainless Maester's spot.
"Will you throw up?" he asks sarcastically. "Because if you do, I can only give you the advice not to spew on the horse's back. They don't like that."
He actually wanted to ask her in all earnest if she was alright, but somehow he always ends up making words a tease when about her.
"I won't," she replies through pursed lips.
"Maybe this is just the payback for always treating me so badly," he goes on teasing.
Why is he?
"We won't ever know," she exhales.
"You'll have Qyburn check you out once we get to the town," he orders.
At last no tease.
He really has to get used to proper conversation again. Or else the wench will believe that everything he says is a lie. She is too dull at times to see through a tease and Jaime doesn't like the thought that she will take him for a liar again.
For whatever the reason that is now.
She is so easy to provoke that it's really too tempting.
When Brienne only gives a nod, he realises that she must really be anything but alright. She usually fights back at least once. And even if she doesn't, she sets her jaw, but her features are sluggish, not straight and fierce as he knows them to be.
Jaime rides his horse next to hers in all silence thereafter, making sure that the wench doesn't decide to keel over at last. Because sure as the Seven Hells won't he scoop her up once she decides to faint like a bloody woman. For that she is too damn heavy.
At last, they reach the small settlement. They spot the only tavern of the town with ease.
Three rooms are still free.
"So? Who'll be spooning with the Maester? Not me," Jaime remarks with a grin. In the end, one of the companions shares rooms with the Maester, the others share with each other, and Brienne and Jaime are stuck in a room as well, though Jaime gives nothing much on it. He slept inches from her ugly face for felt eternities. The prospect of a bed is so much more tempting than weird glances from other people – or her awkward discomfort over the matter.
They make their way to the small room, and Jaime has to try hard not to burst out laughing once it dawns on him that they'll have to share a bed like newly-weds.
Brienne shuffles into the room after him – and after her Qyburn, upon Jaime's insistence. The two take a seat face-to-face, or face-to-plank, seemingly ignoring the prospect of sharing a bed with him.
"I need to have a look at your shoulder, my lady," Qyburn says. Brienne lets out a small grunt as she clumsily doffs her cape and pulls down her cotton tunic over her shoulder to reveal the bandage covering the marks the bear left on her. He does quick work to remove the linen. If it hurts, the wench knows better than to let it show.
"Hm, this looks inflamed, I fear," Qyburn grimaces, testing the wounds. "You might develop an infection after all."
"For what do we keep you around if you don't manage to bypass an infection?" Jaime grunts. "And in any case, you treated my stump without such trouble."
"And I already told you that you were apparently very lucky that there was no infection," the Maester tells him. Jaime can't help but let out a strangled laughter at this.
Right, he is lucky that he didn't drop dead after Locke decided to cut off his hand. Because that was all in all a very lucky time for him.
"I reckon one good aspect was that your hand was cut off with a sword, a clean cut," Qyburn goes on. "With her, there are ragged wounds from an animal's paw. And they have stuff on their paws that can cause infection a lot easier."
"For that you were supposed to clean it out properly," Jaime tells him angrily.
"Cleaning the wound and treating it with ointments is no safe guarantee for an instant recovery, Ser," Qyburn argues.
"You are good for nothing, I hope someone told you by now," Jaime grunts. "No wonder they took your chains."
"This is only inflamed for now, which is surely the reason for the lady's jadedness," the Maester replies. "I will clean the wounds carefully another time and apply a different ointment that might serve better to the cause. I am sure we can get this under control."
"You better do," Jaime narrows his eyes at him, as he turns on the heel, starting to pace.
"Will you stop that?" her voice rings out. Jaime frowns.
"You pace around like a lion in a cage from the circus. If you need to walk, walk outside, if you want to lie down, lie down, but don't do that," she goes on. "It's irritating."
She doesn't like to have someone walk behind her back. That is something years of having no one to have her back have forged into her body. When Jaime paces behind her, she expects an enemy there, if unconsciously, and Brienne is too tired to constantly check.
Jaime exhales, debating with himself if he wants to pick the fight, but then decides against it and plops down on the olive-chequered bed sheets, which are rougher against his skin than he imagined them to be.
"Thank you," she says with a grimace as Qyburn goes on with cleansing the wounds. Brienne can't help a few hisses and growls as he does his work a lot more thoroughly this time and Jaime finds his shoulders flinching each time.
Empathy – he hates this thing.
After felt eternities, the ordeal is over and Brienne gets dressed again – and Jaime finds it a bit easier to breathe in turn.
"You should drink plenty, and rest as much as you can," he tells her as he stuffs his instruments and little vials back into his pouch. "But you should also eat something to regain your strengths."
She suddenly lets out a soft mewl. Jaime reckons she just wanted to do what he wanted to do as well, and that was to just plop down on the bed and sleep.
"Alright," she exhales. "Thank you."
"I will have a look at the wounds the next morn before we set out. Infections still kill too many people, and it doesn't matter how strong the body is. The infection is always stronger," he says before he leaves.
"Well, I would say we should just force whatever stew they brew down our throats and then do what the Maester said and sleep," Jaime suggests. Brienne exhales once she sees Jaime getting up, gesturing at her to tag along, which she does wordlessly. They make their way downstairs to the tavern. Gladly, the companions are not around, or else Brienne may have decided to tear one man's face off after all. Jaime orders something to eat as she finds themselves a small table in the corner furthest away from the door. Jaime reckons that this is born out of instinct. In case someone comes in, you have enough time to draw your sword and attack.
"I'm still debating with myself if they will serve rat or weasel. What do you think?" Jaime asks, tapping his fingers on the rough wooden table absently.
"Tastes all more or less like chicken in the end," Brienne shrugs.
"You've eaten weasel?" Jaime makes a face.
"You've eaten weasel already," she shrugs.
"What? Oh, don't say that one time back when… oh Gods," Jaime grunts, thinking back to travelling with only Brienne, and he was forced to eat whatever she served. She never told him what it was, no matter how many times he asked. At some point he thought she took pleasure in it, the silly goose.
"Some merry tale to tell once in the Red Keep. I reckon I might be the first Lannister who's eaten a weasel," Jaime makes a face.
"It all has its advantages, if only some story to tell," Brienne shrugs her shoulders, but winces at the pull on her still tender flesh.
"Here are you servings, you two," a young girl with white cap on her head says as she puts down to bowls of stew along with two cups of wine.
"Uhm, do you have some water, too?" Brienne asks.
"Oh, sorry, no water to drink, really. The water from our well's made some people sick lately, so now we only use it for washing and so on. If you want to drink, it's either wine, stronger wine, or beer," the girl says.
"Alright, thank you anyway," Brienne says. The girl heads off.
"Well, if they only serve wine, my brother would surely like it here," Jaime chuckles to himself. He takes his cup and holds it out to Brienne, "I'd say we cheer at last to our passage to King's Landing."
Brienne clinks her cup against his once before taking a swig, grunting at the strong taste. She will be dizzy after one cup already, by the Gods.
Jaime starts to poke his spoon into the soup which has a few olive strands in it from some vegetable he doesn't dare to identify, "Could smell worse. And definitely better than anything you ever cooked for me."
"If you think you insult me by bad-mouthing about my cooking skills, you are plainly mistaken. I care little about the taste of it," Brienne argues. "Or cooking in general."
Just like she doesn't care about pleasing a man with her cooking skills.
Or to please any man at all.
Jaime chuckles to himself, before he takes a spoonful, "Well, it tastes not much better than the shit you made."
Brienne debates with herself if she can eat that without spitting it right into the bowl, but she knows better than to exhaust her body. She needs the strength. And dying from infection is most definitely no option. She still has things to do. People to avenge. Shadows to kill.
So she sips some of the broth, despite the fact that her stomach is revolting against it.
"Well, at least some people seem to be cheery," Jaime shrugs, looking at the men chatting and singing, rolling dice and cursing at each other.
"They are just drunk," she argues with a sigh. "And stupid."
"True again, but as my brother would say, he is happy because he is drunk. Wine makes you forget how full of shit this world is," Jaime shrugs. He means to say something else when her eyes glance ahead and she straightens up in her seat. Jaime follows the trail of her sapphire eyes until he sees the source of her growing discomfort, since one of the intoxicated men stumbles over to their table, and apparently sits down next to Brienne on the bench.
"Hello there, fellas, it's always nice to see new faces around here," he greets them. Jaime can see Brienne growing stiffer with every second passing. He tilts his head at the man, who goes on cheerily.
"So, fellas, where do ye come from?" he says with a lull.
"From the woods," Jaime replies promptly.
"And where are ye heading to?" the stranger asks.
"Into the woods again," Jaime says.
"Hm, secretive folks. You know that this makes ye suspicious?" the man tilts his head.
"Suspicious? We are just having meal here," Jaime argues, now honestly starting to be annoyed. The man tears his attention to Brienne, suddenly clapping her on the shoulder, "Now, now, fella, ye look all sour. No need to worry, I'm just tryin' to get to know the new folks in town."
Brienne snaps his hand away from him, trying to control her breathing as pain explodes on her inflamed skin.
"Ay, are ye alright?" the man looks at her with huge eyes. "I didn't take ye for one of the fragile ones."
"She's injured, and you just clapped her right on the wound. Applause for you, fella," Jaime retorts angrily.
"Oh, no offence, I didn't know… now wait! Ye ain't a fella?" he stares daggers at Brienne, who only shakes her head. "The Seven Hells shall be damned. Hey! Carl! Imagine that! That's a wench!"
And for some reason the hairs in Jaime's neck stand upright now. The word 'wench' doesn't sound alright when it comes out of other people's mouths.
But before he can say anything nasty at the fella in turn, his fella Carl walks up to glance at Brienne as though she was some animal from the circus.
"I think you were right about it earlier," Jaime mutters to Brienne, who only gives a tight nod.
"Well, as lovely as this gathering is, we would politely ask you to grant us some space. We are exhausted from the long ride here, and we are to retire to our room soon," Jaime says in a louder voice.
"No, no, we gotta have some fun with ye! We get visitors so rarely! Here, here, have some more wine. T'is good stuff," the fella says, pouring their cups full to the rim. "I insist."
Jaime already means to say something when Brienne picks up the cup, brings it to her lips and drains it in a few gulps, clanking the cup down on the table, "Thanks for the serving, so now? If you were so kind to leave us to our meal?"
"Oh, c'mon, we are just trying to get acquainted," the man argues vehemently. "Especially with a hard-drinking, man-like wench. I've never seen a breed like you."
"While I have seen so many like you," she exhales.
Jaime chuckles amused. The wench surely has good comebacks if she sets her mind on it.
"Why don't we play a game?" Carl argues.
"We are not interested," Brienne tells him promptly. Gods, the wine makes her sluggish, just like the fever from her wounds.
"Oh, c'mon," the fella insists.
"I think you heard the lady. Why don't you just gather your few remaining wits and drown them in the next cup of wine, hm?" Jaime tells him in a cheery voice that is actually heavy-laden with venom.
"Ay, we are just trying to make conversation," the fella argues. "What's your name?"
"I'm Get and she is Lost," Jaime retorts. "Get. Lost."
"Oh, t'is a shame. We could have so much fun together," the fella goes on, unimpressed. Jaime is that short before backhanding him when suddenly the man flies off the bench and crashes to the ground. Brienne is to her feet at once, towering above him, her arm shaking from flipping him over and the subsequent pain it must cause her, "You dare touch me anywhere one more time, and I will make it my personal obligation to ensure that you don't touch anything or anyone in a long, long time."
"Hey! It was just a tease," the man argues.
"Geez, what's wrong with this woman?" Carl makes a face.
"Do you want to find out?" she snarls.
"Oh, I like a challenge, I think we all do," Carl says sniggering.
"That's no fight you want to pick, trust me," Jaime warns him, though he would already like to take a swing at them, too. "I've been there. I had bruises for three weeks. So you'd do better to gather the fella on the ground and just leave us be. We will go to our chambers now, so you can go on drinking and brawling or whatever it is that you do here."
"She's your bitch?" Carl asks. "How much for her? I got some dragons. I've never had a wench like that, I'd pay some pretty penny for a night of fun with such a beast."
It takes Brienne about three seconds to send the man flying.
"Anyone else who wants to try his luck?" she growls, turning to the men who gathered around them, who then seem to be mice in the end after all. Brienne pushes past them, biting back the pain pulsating in her shoulder as she does until she gets to the door and leaves the tavern. Jaime gets up as well, "Told you."
He hurries after Brienne, leaving the men stunned. Jaime finds the wench making her way out of town.
"Wench! Wench! Now stop!" he curses as he rushes after her. "Brienne!"
He catches up to her at last, though she keeps going, if a little slower.
He tends to forget that she actually listens to her name more often than to his, let's say, nickname.
"Do you want to lecture me about how I shouldn't have done that? He grabbed me on the inside of my thigh," she growls.
"No, I hoped you'd beat them all up," Jaime argues. "But that doesn't mean you have to run off into the woods headlessly. Because you seem to have a certain tendency to do just that."
"I won't go back there," she argues.
"So what? Will you just head into the woods again?" he argues. "Or try to make it to King's Landing by foot?"
"I need some fresh air. You can just as well go back, I don't care," she argues through gritted teeth, fighting back the dizziness in her head as the wine catches up with her at last.
"So that you keel over and drown in a puddle or so, yeah, no, I don't think so," Jaime huffs.
They reach the outskirt of the woods. Brienne simply lets herself sink against one of the trees, tilting her head up to the green leaves that are now a cool kind of green as darkness settles around them. They seem almost blue, but just almost.
The moss is surprisingly soft against her back, and it glows almost unnaturally bright in the light of the rising moon.
Jaime studies her. Sometimes he tends to forget that Brienne can't just look past these things. Most women would be done with shoving a man who dared to advance a little too far, but for Brienne, it's much more, or so reckons. Though at some point he can't help but wonder what he would do, were he a woman. Well, if he was a woman, he'd be Cersei… well, he would have been, but what would Cersei be with a hand missing? How would she react to something like that?
At some point Jaime starts to wonder if he would still be Cersei.
He just hopes he wouldn't morph into being Brienne by any chance. For that he is still too good-looking, no matter the rags, no matter the missing hand.
"You don't seriously want to sleep out in the woods, do you? The bed is not at all that bad, I tried it," Jaime argues.
"No, I don't want to stay here all night. I just want to calm down so that I can go back in there without starting a brawl," she replies through pursed lips. "I don't want the wound to get any worse."
"Is it possible that you finally said something smart at last?" Jaime snorts. "I think this might be the vanguard of the nearing apocalypse."
"I still have things to do. Dying is a luxury I don't have," she replies. "I know that now."
"Because you want to hunt shadows," he grimaces.
"No, the one man the one shadow belongs to. You can't kill a shadow, but you can kill a man. Men bleed, that I know for certain," she replies determinedly.
And at some point Jaime can only admire this devotion, this undying will, really. That was something he saw cast on his face only at a very young age, when his head was still stuffed with ideals and dreams of knighthood, like a scarecrow's head is filled with straw, but he learned by now that true knights the way they are depicted in the books and tales don't exist. They are either not living up to the old codices, or even if they are… happen to be wenches, dressing up in men's mail.
This world is messed up, simple as that.
Everything is at disorder, out of tune.
The only thing that seems to remain stable are the rustling of the green leaves, though those will die, too, once Winter comes and takes all the green away, all the colour away.
The only colour that will remain is white.
In fact blue will remain, thinking about it.
And for some reason, Jaime can't help but smile at the thought, at that bit of certainty.
The maimed man lets out a sigh as he sits down next to her on one of the mossy stones sitting between the tree's roots. The wench will be the death of him, that much is for certain. He could be wrapped up in slightly cosy sheets now, and dream of the green gardens of King's Landing, but instead Jaime finds himself seated next to her as she tries to stop being a berserk and tear the tavern apart.
Though at some point he really would like to see that, that is if she were in good health. Jaime can still recall how she took those Stark men apart – and how he could do nothing but to stare. He never saw a beast like her before, and he never saw one fight like one, too, but not just with brute force, but also with the swiftness of a cat, the smartness of a fox, and the cold-bloodedness of a lion. And all Jaime could do back then was to stare.
Just thinking about the cold blood makes his boil hot for some damned reason.
Isn't green supposed to be a calming colour?
"So… no blood feast tonight," Jaime grimaces.
"No blood feast," she exhales.
"I guess I should've just said that we are wedded or so, then they maybe would have left you in peace," he admits before he can think about it. Brienne blinks at him, "I can defend myself. You don't have to spin such lies for the matter. Thank you."
"You know how I mean it," he grimaces. "I didn't know the fella with the face of a pig was up to something until you sent him flying, which was impressive, by the way."
"I wanted to flip him further," she grimaces, grinding her teeth.
"You sent pigs flying. I would call that a success," he grins, thinking about it.
Because Brienne apparently does the impossible, or at least what others say is impossible for her. It's not just that she doesn't meet social expectations, she leaps over them, stomps on them, tears them down.
Jaime, by contrast, is used to meeting expectations in almost all fields of his life. Well, that was until he lost his hand, before he was marked as Kingslayer, of course.
He was the prodigious child his father wanted him to be. He was strong, good-looking, brave, smart, even if not book-smart, he hates reading with all his meagre heart, he trained hard, and bore the family name with pride.
He didn't meet his father's expectations with pursuing a knight's life, but as a knight, he met those expectations, if Jaime didn't surpass them. Because he used to be formidable with the sword, if not the best in the world. Jaime really lived up to the old codices, held them close to his heart, and dreamed of being the knight from the tales, believing that this would actually be an expectation he could meet.
But then the Kingsguard came and that brought about expectations Jaime just kept away from, had to deceive in favour of his loved ones, and retreated into a realm of no expectations, which was eventually Cersei's bedchamber. Because that was one of those liminal spaces without expectations, because it was forbidden and hidden. And ever since he was marked as Kingslayer, Jaime found himself unable to meet certain expectations, or being ignorant of them.
Yet, he always took those expectations for granted, took their existence as given, unshakable pillars carrying the world entire. But not so Brienne. She seems to point he sword at any expectation coming her way. She is a Woman of War. Jaime never met a woman who is so willing to wrestle with the whole world.
And at some point he is really impressed with that, because he wished he could also tear down expectations, those giant monuments, those dark tombs that only serve as a measure for many things that shouldn't be measured, as a way to separate, to judge.
Because the problem with expectations is that they come from people other than yourself, so that a wolf dares to judge a lion. That is the dilemma of expectations, but Brienne annihilates all these expectations, those other-induced measures – and Jaime doesn't know how. He knows why, but not how.
Though the price seemingly is that you live a life alone, so that you aren't measured at all. And Jaime can't really say if he is willing to pay that price.
And he is by no means certain if the price is worth it in Brienne's case.
"It shouldn't affect me anymore, I know that," she says, pulling Jaime out of his thoughts, back to the darkening green leaves and the sapphires in her eyes. "I've had it all before. I have had just such a conversation so often that for a moment I always think I suffer from a déjà-vu."
"There are too many stupid people in the world. I give you that much. They are all just so interchangeable," Jaime shrugs. "But I get it."
"You get what?" she grimaces.
"That it affects you. I'd take offence in it, too," Jaime tells her. "Just because it happens often, doesn't mean that it's suddenly more right or less wrong."
Brienne leans more against the tree trunk, letting those words sink in.
To think that this man advised her not long ago to let the men rape her and think of Renly seems oddly far away now.
"And still, I give them any reason to feel proven right," she can't help but say.
"What? That you are stronger than them? If the doubted that for more than two seconds, they are even stupider than I thought," Jaime argues.
"Exactly, they expected a beast – and a beast raged," she sighs. "The only thing they never see coming is that even if they think they can pay a few dragons for a wrestle, they won't manage to wrestle me down, ever."
"That's right. The only one who can is me," Jaime grins.
"You don't wrestle me down," she huffs.
"Of course I can," he argues.
"I give you that you'd have it easier now that my wound is infected, but then again, you miss a hand, so you wouldn't wrestle me down, no," Brienne shakes her head.
"Is that a challenge?" he grins.
"That is no challenge. That is an observation," she argues.
"I would say that you think this an expectation," Jaime argues. "You expect me to be unable to wrestle you down."
"What? What does it matter? Observation, expectation? You can't and won't wrestle me down, just forget about it," she argues, shaking her head.
She doesn't know what to make of his teases most of the time.
And sometimes his mind seems some other place, and even though Brienne knows where that place is, since it is the place they are heading to, she can't figure out the dreamy expression he sports then, glancing at the leaves to take him away, if only inside his head. Brienne only dreams away to a place where she is accepted as a knight, where she avenges Renly, or where Renly is not dead, but she doesn't dream herself away through green canopies to be anywhere else but at this very spot. She looks ahead to where she is heading to.
Jaime's grin grows further, thinking about it. Maybe that is indeed an expectation he can destroy, tear down.
His body moves before his mind catches up to it and he towers over her, her sapphires shining back at him even when he casts his shadow upon her. Brienne looks at him, stunned for a moment, but then Jaime can feel her leg hooking under his and flipping him off to the right side. He sees green flashes before his eyes before the wench has her good arm holstered against his chest, bringing sapphire blue to the mix of colours, "The next time you try, I will really fight back."
But that only gets Jaime's blood singing louder in his ears, like it did back when he fought her by the bridge – and she would have lost, had Locke's men not interrupted him.
Maybe he is no blue blood but green blood.
The green blood trying to wrestle down expectations cursing through everyone's veins.
The green blood tearing the expectations away that he dreamed of earlier the day, when trying to get lost in the sunbeams raining through the canopy - to land back in the gardens where he never touched anyone. Because he is touching someone now - and she is up for a fight.
Brienne means to withdraw from him with a grunt, but he keeps going, wrestles her somehow to the ground again, his heart singing the same song his blood does.
Gods, is he foolish, is he green.
But with every time he hears her thudding, with every rustle of the leaves, he feels expectations crumbling, collapsing, and it might be one of the sweetest sounds he has heard in a lifetime.
Brienne tells him to stop, but he doesn't. Jaime has to tear down that expectation.
He has to prove maybe not people wrong, but her wrong.
"Say, where did the fella touch you, wench? Hm?" Jaime grins darkly, his face only inches from hers as he managed to get atop of her mere seconds before. He squeezes her fleshy thigh once, making her shriek, then growl, and flip him over brutally this time. For a moment Jaime thinks he is seeing stars, but then decides that green leaves are much more interesting.
"Don't do that ever again," she warns him.
"I told you, I'm strong enough to wrestle you down," he grins, looking like a lion, a green lion, flashing his teeth.
"You're not," she argues, but he charges again.
At some point he should be glad that everyone seems to live in the tavern, or else a maimed man wrestling with a wench would upset people a lot, but even if they had all watched on, gathered about them, Jaime would have given a damn and go on fighting, because he wants this expectation to come down at once. He wants to wreck at least one expectation, just this one. Because he knows he can without sacrifice.
"Give up," he growls, one of her arms pinned, the other trying desperately to find leverage by his shoulder, but Jaime knows how to turn so that she doesn't get a chance to. "Give up, wench, or else I will have to play dirty and attack your shoulder at last."
She is flushed against him, heated up by fury and anger and irritation and all those things Jaime only saw in such purity united in this wench.
"Do it!" she dares him.
Of course she does.
"I won't ever yield to anyone or anything," she says, gritting her teeth, but that is when Jaime nudges her hand from his shoulder, leans forward, and claims her lips, wrestles their mouths together – because expectations shall be damned, shall crumble and fall, just like armours shall shatter to pieces and leave nothing but green leaves that turn brown by the edges behind.
He consumes her lips, sucks the air of fire out of her, feels his green blood pulsating in his veins as the expectations become ruins with every of Brienne's moves stilling, becoming smaller and smaller. He presses his body against hers, though he doesn't put pressure on her wound, of course.
He is not that much of an arse, at least no longer.
Jaime can feel her bucking against him slightly as some of her strength returns to her, but Jaime holds her in place, finding strength from the green blood alone.
Because if he wrestles her down, wrestles her expectation down that Jaime can't, then he destroys a measure to part them, judge them. Because if he tears this monument down, they are inches from each other, no expectation between them, just green above them.
"I told you. I'm strong enough."
"Shut your mouth."
Jaime presses against her until she lies completely still, and not once does the word 'plank' cross his mind, just like Cersei doesn't, or anything else he envisioned above the canopy. He keeps kissing her to the point that he is motionless as well, both lying in the ruins of expectations wrestled to the ground on dry leaves, and a single green one that flies down from the tree to land on Jaime's back.
"We should better head back inside."
"Then get off of me. You are too damn heavy."
Jaime's laughter rolls like thunder. He offers his hand to her to help her up.
Of course she doesn't take it and only swats the palm away with a smacking sound.
They walk back to the tavern, and once they enter, all eyes are on them, but Brienne has to growl once for them to bow their heads and go back to their game.
Those pigs seemingly learned from their flight, or rather their fall.
Jaime waves at them mockingly before they disappear upstairs over to their room. Both strip out of their clothes down to their sleeping wear before climbing into the straw-filled bed.
Brienne grunts for a long while, seemingly still trying to take the loss of control.
Jaime grins to himself as she has her back to him.
"Oh, c'mon, stop pouting."
"Not a word. To anyone. Ever."
"Of that you can be certain. You really think I'd want anyone to know?"
"Good. That better stays that way."
"Ay, my lady."
At last her grunts die out as she starts to drift off to sleep, and Jaime, the green lion he is now, can't help the feral, cunning grin as he snakes his arm around her and pulls her close to him – and in fact she doesn't push him back.
Not that she'd ever admit it. If Jaime were to ask her the next morn, she'd say it was the fever, the infection, the inflammation. And he would do the same. His finger ghosts over the curve of her hip once, where her shirt pulled up to reveal fleshy freckled skin underneath, and reveal a small bruise that formed there, like the outline of his thumb.
A green bruise.
Jaime chuckles to himself as he pulls her close to him, feeling her closer to him than ever, after they left the ruins of this one expectation back on dry leaves, under a green canopy.