Outside, anyone within a dozen feet was staring at the tent. Some had tried to pretend they couldn't hear muffled shouting and then a suspicious silence followed by the unmistakable sounds of sex-cries. Others listened shamelessly, quite enjoying the entertainment of it. More than a few golden dragons exchanged hands as various bets were won and lost.

Podrick couldn't keep from grinning. He had meddled, and gods preserve him if Brienne ever found out, but it had worked out in the end. He beamed down at where he was scouring rust spots off his lady's chest-plate.

He'd known ever since Jaime had given him to Brienne as her squire that something was between them. Jaime's instructions to him had been, "No matter what happens— even if she gives you a direct order that conflicts— you are to protect her at all costs. Do you understand? Take care of her, Pod."

Unspoken had been the addendum, because I cannot, but Podrick had understood it was there.

And so he'd done the best he could at just that. As time passed, and he grew more and more fond of his lady— she was the elder sister he'd never known he needed— he grew to realize there was far more to her than most people saw. More, perhaps, than even Jaime was aware of.

That discussion Podrick had with Bronn, back at Riverrun, had quite opened his eyes as what the particular nature of their something was. Not just warrior-bonds between soldiers, nor mutual gratitude and respect for people who had saved each other repeatedly. No, once Bronn had pointed out how they looked at each other, it was as plain as the nose on his face.

But it wasn't that they wanted to fuck, or rather, not only that. No, they looked at each other as if the other were a miracle that happened to them, every single day. And underlying it all was an awful terror that something would happen to the other. Her reaction to his death, and then news that he still lived, had convinced him that something had to be done. How could he take care of her, as directed, when Jaime himself was the reason for her suffering?

It had taken a full day for Podrick to convince Brienne to go back for him. She was stubborn as an ox, his lady, and would refuse to do anything if she felt pressured. He had to make her think it was her own idea. Once she got the bit between her teeth, however, it was the work of a few minutes only for her to inform the king and queen that she had to return to King's Landing and would catch them up before they reached Winterfell. They'd headed back down the King road within the hour, leaving Clegane hurling insults after them for being stupid.

Stupid, maybe. Undoubtedly. But wasn't it also stupid to pretend you didn't love someone? Wasn't it stupid to miss out on the little scraps of joy you could find in life, especially now, when death seemed so likely?

Probably it had been wrong, strictly speaking, to reveal to Jaime the extent of Brienne's reaction to his death. And perhaps it was not completely a squirely thing to try always to wake first and leave them in bed together in the morning, and to absent himself any time Jaime wanted to use the liniment excuse.

But it had worked, had it not? They were in there, tussling and shouting and sounding very happy indeed.

Pod looked up and peered north, toward where the dead were marching across the Gift toward them. They'd likely only have a few months left, if that, but at least his lady and her love would have that much time together.

Clegane ambled up and began booting dirt over the fire. It had gotten late, and was time for sleep. Another carnal sound issued from the tent. Clegane glanced up, shook his head, and kicked one last clod of dirt for good measure.

"You'll not want to go back in there tonight, boy," Clegane said with a smirk. "Might as well come bunk with me."

"Oh, uh," said Podrick. He'd caught sight of the camp followers that he'd made the acquaintance of, a few weeks ago. Jaime had been kind enough to introduce them, and ever since, he had made a habit of spending some time in their company. They were nice girls, but he did have to argue to get them to take the coins he offered.

Clegane barked out a laugh. "Go, enjoy," he said.

So Podrick went, and enjoyed.