Chapter 1 - Facing Demons
Jaime paced the room for most of an hour, stopping at different points to gaze either out of one of the small windows, at the fire in the hearth, or at Brienne sleeping peacefully underneath the furs of their bed. He was still naked, but his agitated state and his pacing had been keeping him warm, along with the fire. He took time to put more wood on it, just like Brienne had been telling him for weeks. He smiled remembering the first time they had discussed it, as he was attempting to seduce her. After two more trips between the fireplace and the window, he walked back over to the bed and sat next to her sleeping form. Gazing at her face, he marveled at how peaceful she looked. Her cheeks were flushed from the fire's warmth. Her eyelashes were absurdly long and made her look almost childlike. He also noted that they got lighter towards the ends. Her lips, slightly parted in sleep, beckoned to him and he ached to wake her and once again make her his, but now was not the time. He had too much on his mind; too much that he needed to tell her.
He tenderly reached out and moved a few of her messy curls away from her forehead. He briefly wondered what her hair would look like if she grew it out. He would have to ask her one day.
"Bree," he whispered, running his fingers down her neck and over her bared shoulder. She sighed softly in her sleep and turned towards him, curling herself around his backside where he sat on the edge of the bed. She settled and her rhythmic breathing started again.
Jaime leaned down and pressed soft kisses against her neck. "Brienne, love, wake up." He stroked her back.
Brienne began to squirm and mumble incoherently. Jaime continued rubbing her back and shoulder until finally her eyes slowly cracked open. She blinked her heavy lids a few times, trying to get her bearings. She looked from the fireplace to their small dining table in the corner and finally focused on his face. He smiled sadly at her.
Brienne, still trying to focus, drew her brows together in concern. "Jaime?" her voice was husky from sleep. It made something stir in his loins. "Are you alright? What is it?"
Her worry for him flooded her senses and she quickly sat up, looking him over for any ailments. Finally she let her hand come to rest on his thigh.
"Are you hurt?"
Jaime snickered quietly and looked down at her hand on his leg. He intertwined his fingers with hers and brought it up to his lips, placing a long kiss on her palm.
"Only in spirit."
She sat up straighter and searched his face again. "Tell me."
Jaime sighed and crawled over her, laying down again as she rolled back over to face him. Pulling the furs up over him, Brienne propped herself up on her elbow, ready to let him unload whatever was burdening him. He smiled up at her from the pillow, reached up with his right arm and tenderly ran his stump down her chest. It always fascinated him that she was never repulsed by that ruined part of him. She simply accepted it as part of him, and Brienne did accept him as he was, flaws and all. It warmed his heart.
As if responding to his thoughts, she reached for his limb and brought it up to her lips and placed a tender kiss on his jagged scars where his hand used to be. Jaime took in a deep breath and puffed the air out from his cheeks.
"I have to leave, Brienne." He said. "I have to go to King's Landing and put my demons to rest if I'm ever going to be at peace…if I'm ever going to be able to be at peace with you."
"They're going to destroy that city," she answered quietly. "You know they will."
He looked down to where she still held onto his ruined right arm and nodded. "I know. I know." His voice was barely a whisper. He looked back up into her eyes.
"I have to do this, though. I want rid of those parts of me once and for all. You stood up before the entire Stark household and their allies and said I was a man of honor…that you would fight beside me. I want to be that man Brienne. I want to be the man you see."
She smiled at him but sadness tinged her blue eyes. She reached to gently stroke his face with the back of her hand.
"To me you are, Jaime, but I do understand your feeling this way. I've spent most of my life fighting off those who thought that I was nothing…a creature to be discarded and mocked…to be thought of as not deserving of love or acceptance. Continually trying to prove yourself to others becomes so tiring after a while."
Tears shone in his eyes. "What did I ever do to deserve you? You wonderful warrior goddess who sees past all of my faults and loves me so fiercely in spite of them?"
Her own tears fell as she raised his stump up to his eye level. "This. You did this for me. Just as I see you, you also see me. You saw past everything everyone else did, and you didn't cast me aside like all the others."
Jaime let out a cry and pulled her down to him, holding her so tight against him he could scarcely breathe. "No one will ever hurt you again, I swear it." He spoke into her hair. He squeezed his eyes shut in an attempt to quench his tears. "Which is another reason I have to go."
Brienne rested her head underneath his chin and stroked his chest, attempting to both soothe him and encourage him to continue. He did.
"Cersei knows of our connection. I saw it in her eyes at the Dragonpit. She voiced her suspicions to me in the past…made threats. I can't have her coming after you trying to do you harm. I walked away from her, something she won't forget. Bronn's untimely arrival at the tavern that night proved that. The only way I can put this to rest is to face her and tell her I'm rid of her for good. Otherwise she will never stop sending assassins or armies. When you and Sansa gave me that news earlier, that she had evened the sides, it cut me to my core. I can't have her come out of this untouched and still in power."
"Jaime, if you go to her, she will hurt you or worse, have that lumbering monstrosity of a bodyguard tear you to pieces."
"I know, I hadn't quite thought that far," he chuckled, attempting to lighten the morose cloud that hung over them. Brienne looked up at him.
"Jaime, you could die attempting this. I can't bear the thought of losing you, not now." Fresh tears welled in her eyes. "At least let me go with you to protect you."
"No." he said bluntly. "It is absolutely imperative you stay here where you're safe. I will not have you put in harms' way. I will not let her get her hands on you or cause you pain."
"I'm not afraid of her."
Jaime smiled at her. "You're not afraid of anything, my love."
"Except losing you."
"Believe me, that's not my plan either."
"Jaime, you just said you didn't have a solid plan for when you get to King's Landing," Brienne exclaimed.
"Tyrion will help me, he's the clever one. I'll catch up with him at Daenerys' camp outside the city."
Brienne rolled onto her back and put her hand to her forehead. "Jaime it's so dangerous. Did the two of you suddenly forget that your sister sent someone to assassinate you both?"
"Bree, I'm not going back to beg her forgiveness. I'm going back to put an end to my own torment and guilt. Whether or not I try to deny it, I've helped her become the monster she is today." He pressed himself up against her and rested his face in the crook of her shoulder, draping his arm over her stomach and pulling her close.
"I pushed a child out of a tower window, crippled him for life, for Cersei." He spat, his voice full of hatred. "I murdered my cousin with my own hands, trying to get back to Cersei. I would have killed every man, woman, and child in Riverrun, for Cersei….if not for you showing me that there was another way…an honorable way. She's hateful, and I can't let her hate take a hold of me anymore than it already has. I need to rid myself of it."
Brienne lay quiet, horrified at the confession he just made to her, here alone in the dark. It was not unlike a confession he had made to her once before, in what seemed ages ago in a bathtub in Harrenhal. After hearing it, she realized there was no arguing with him. They could go round and round like this all night and all the next day and it wouldn't change anything. She sighed in defeat.
"Alright, Jaime," she said softly. He loved it when she used his name. No titles, no nicknames…just Jaime. "But please, come back to me. Even if you have to defy the gods…come back to me." She kissed him deeply.
Jaime's face suddenly lit up, his eyes alive with thought. "Bree, will you do something for me?"
Her brows knitted together in puzzlement but she trusted him, even now. "Of course, Jaime, anything."
He shot up from the bed and began hurriedly dressing. "Get dressed, it's cold outside."
She looked at him as if he were mad. "What? We're going outside? Now?"
He pulled on his boots. "Yes, hurry up. Trust me."
Brienne sat for a few moments wondering if he really had lost his mind, but eventually rose and began to pull on her pants and tunic. Once Jaime had finished, he walked to her and kissed her quickly.
"There's something I need to do. Meet me in the courtyard when you're dressed." He ran out the door.
"Father, Smith, Warrior. Mother, Maiden, Crone, Stranger. I am hers (his) and she (he) is mine, from this day, until the end of my days."
They spoke the words quietly in unison, standing under the weirwood tree in the Winterfell Godswood. Samwell Tarly, still dazed from being awoken at such an ungodly hour, wrapped the white silken ribbon around their joined hands. The snow was gently falling, creating a quiet stillness all around. It made them feel like the only people in the world.
"In my position as maester, bearing witness before the old gods and the new, I hereby pronounce you husband and wife," Sam said. Tears rolled down Brienne's face as Jaime tenderly took her cheek in his hand and kissed her. He pressed his forehead to hers and wrapped his right arm around her waist, pulling her close to him.
"Now I really have something to stay alive for, and to come back to." He smiled and kissed her again.
"You better keep that promise, Jaime Lannister," she said, her voice shaking. "If you die on me I will hunt you down and kill you again."
They made love one more time before he left, both of them clinging to each other afterwards. Jaime lay on top of Brienne, once again memorizing every little nuance of her face, not knowing when or if he would see it again. Brienne softly ran her fingers through his hair and stroked his back with the other hand.
"I love you, Jaime," she whispered, as if afraid to say it out loud. Tears welled in his eyes and eventually a few fell down onto her face.
"I love you, too, Bree," he said back to her and kissed her gently. He suddenly lifted his head again. "Oh, excuse me, I mean wife." He broke out into a grin. She laughed softly. He lowered his head again until their foreheads were touching.
"Thank you," Jaime whispered.
"For what?" Brienne replied.
"Everything. For marrying me, for believing in me, for allowing me to see myself the way you see me. Most importantly, for understanding that in order to fully become that man, I need to face my demons and put them to rest once and for all, to right my wrongs."
She reached up and stroked his cheek with the back of her hand. He closed his eyes and leaned into it.
"I want you to be comfortable with who you are, Jaime, and if that means you have to face those parts of yourself that you'd rather shut away, then I admire you for it. I know what it feels like to have things haunt you." The image of Renly Baratheon came to her mind, unbidden. "I'm just afraid for you."
"I promise I will do my best to come back to you." He sighed and looked down at her collarbone. "But if something does happen to me, take comfort that I left this world loving you, and only you."
She walked him out to the courtyard and helped him saddle and equip his horse. Dressed in nothing but her robe, she hugged herself and shivered. He slowly put his arms around her and hugged her tightly. This was more difficult than he ever thought it would be. He felt his resolve slipping, but he knew what he had to do, for both of them. When he pulled back, she took his face in her hands, her eyes shining with tears yet again. He reached up and took her hand in his, gently stroking it with his thumb in an attempt to comfort her. He finally removed her hand from his face and pressed it against his chest, splaying her fingers out so her palm was flat against him. He held her hand hard against where his heart was.
"It's yours," he whispered. "It will always be yours."
She let out a sob and the tears now flowed freely. He kissed her deeply, savoring the taste and feel of her. When they finally pulled apart, he looked deeply into her eyes.
"Promise me you'll wait for me, Bree."
She sniffed and nodded. "Forever."
He kissed her forehead and then her hands. "Go back inside, I'll see you soon."
He stepped back from her and mounted his horse. He couldn't resist reaching for her hand once more and leaned down to kiss her knuckles. Sitting up again he stroked the fourth finger on her left hand.
"We need to get you a proper ring when this is all over." He was crying now too. She laughed and shook her head. Leave it to Jaime to try to lighten the mood.
"I love you, wife," he said, his voice thick with emotion, and then he was gone.