A/N: Hi guys! Sorry there was a rather large gap between chapters here. Since I last updated, I've moved to a different state and started a new job so things have been a little hectic.
Also, endings are hard! It's sad to say goodbye to this story, but hopefully I'll come up with some more J/B ideas soon!
A big thanks to the folks over at JaimeBrienne dot org for giving me the little push needed to get this finished.
As predicted, they regroup with Jaime's forces by midday the next day. Jaime had been more than a little reluctant to leave their camp. With only a couple of hours of actual rest, he'd been surprised to wake up ready for another tryst with Brienne.
But his wench, so eager to have him inside her in the dark of night, had allowed him only a couple of less-than-satisfying kisses before she'd squirmed out of his grasp, hissing, "I think Pod's awake. We ought to move out quickly."
They'd risen quickly, prepared a quick breakfast, during which she cast him secretive glances and he made bawdy allusions to their nighttime activities that had her glaring and mouthing at him to shut up. (Things like "Would you mind passing me my sword, Brienne? I know I can trust you to handle it with utmost care. Oh, don't worry, my lady, I can slip it into the scabbard myself...You know I am capable of doing that quite well." "Are you prepared for the riding ahead of us, my lady? I know you've been doing a lot of that lately, I do hope you'll not be too tired." ... Yes, he was quite the verbal genius.)
Then they'd set off, riding briskly for five or six hours until they reached the Lannister camp.
There is quite a bit of uproar upon their arrival. He gets the sense that he's been presumed dead and that irritates him.
After briefly meeting with his higher-ranking men and rudely telling them to mind their own business when they inquired after his whereabouts, Jaime firmly dismisses them and goes to find Pod in their makeshift training yard, wanting to make good on his promise to spar with him.
The lad is engaged in fierce combat with a tall squire of some Tyrell bannerman and Jaime watches for a while, leaning up against a post and observing their sparring session. The lad is larger than Pod, but slower. But they are both so clearly boys, miles behind where Jaime was at their age.
As he watches, he feels a vague horror at the realization that this half-trained youth was all that stood between his brother and a violent death on the Blackwater. He's surprised the poor lad hadn't been hacked to pieces.
The match is relatively even. The other squire is at least half a foot taller and much broader, but Pod is quick and sure-footed. Pod manages to dodge or block many of the other boy's blows, but when the strong opponent does manage to hit him, it is always hard.
Jaime finds himself wincing every time he sees Pod take a heavy blow and feels odd surges of pride arise in him when Pod lands a successful strike of his own. He had only known the lad a short while. He had not expected to feel any sort of affection for him, but he supposes that is what it is.
Bloody wench must be rubbing off on him.
Just as Jaime fears Pod may lose, the boy manages to get a leg behind his larger foe and trip him. He falls with a heavy thud and Pod cries out with delight.
"Yield!" he says fiercely, putting his practice sword to the youth's throat.
Jaime lets out a cheer and barks, "Well fought, young Payne! I hope there was a bit of coin involved!"
"No, Ser," Pod says, blushing. Jaime claps him on the shoulder as the lad says, "My...my lady says it is not wise to gamble."
Jaime looks up to see Brienne smiling over at them with that horsey grin he's come to love.
"Pfft," Jaime says, shaking his head. "Now there's a pitfall to squiring for a woman! Bloody sticks in the mud, the lot of them. With a sword hand as fine as that, you ought not heed the wench's grumbling and take a risk. If you take care of a few more like you did this one," he says, inclining his head to the squire who is getting to his feet, "you'll have a heavy coinpurse by the end of the day."
Jaime looks at Brienne and sees, as he expected, that her smile has turned into a scowl and he laughs heartily.
"Have a drink lad," he says, passing him a waterskin. "Then let us have a bit of sparring, if you're up for it."
Pod's face lights up, and Jaime smiles, walking over to find a practice sword of his own.
They get started at once and Jaime is pleased that he's at least gotten good enough with his useless left hand that he can take on a twelve year old. The lad has it in him to be a decent swordsman someday, but he is not there yet.
"You ought to mix it up a bit more, boy," he says as he blocks a blow from Pod he could have seen miles away. "You swing the same way every time. Predictable."
"He has a strong arm," Brienne says sharply from the sidelines where she's watching. "He has come very far since the day we met."
Jaime rolls his eyes. "Don't coddle the lad, wench." He lands a hard blow on the boy's upper arm before turning to meet her eyes. As expected, she looks outraged.
"I'm not coddling him!" she cries. "I'm just saying, he has the makings of a-"
"Yes, yes, a fine swordsman," Jaime says dismissively. "I'm not contesting that, wench, but he'll get there faster with fair criticism, not gentle mothering."
"I'm not- I'm- that is-" she sputters, furious.
"Would you be half the swordswoman you are if your Master-at-arms had held back from telling you when your moves were repetitive?"
"No- I- you are- just-"
"Let me fight him as I see fit, without your interference," Jaime says, blocking a powerful swing from Pod. "You'll have him to yourself soon enough and you can train him your way." Then he turns back to Pod and says "As I was saying, lad, swinging from the shoulder like that again and again is no good it's-"
"Fine," she snaps. "Pod, you're doing very well. I'm going...I'm going to...away."
He sees her storm off out of the corner of his eye and grins, "Women."
Pod grins back for a moment before remembering his loyalties and masking it.
Jaime laughs and they fight on until they're both thirsty and starved.
It's getting dark by the time they wrap up and go to find Brienne. She gives Jaime a rather scornful look before asking Pod how it went.
"It was a fine match, my lady!" Pod says, eyes shining with delight. "Ser Jaime taught me this maneuver- it was- I can't remember what he called it, but you do - this- with your foot and - swing like this and it's really forceful! I nearly knocked him over!"
Pod's excitement seems to melt her like a spring sun and she gives Jaime a reluctant smile. As Pod runs off to fill up a bowl with some stew, she turns to him.
"Thank you," she says. "For doing that. It- it meant a lot to him."
Jaime waves a dismissive hand, "It was nice to see what the lad who has served both my brother and my wench is made of." He likes the way her cheeks color when he calls her his wench. " And he's made of quite a bit, it turns out. Lad's got a surprising amount of skill and stamina."
"Yes," she agrees. "And no small amount of courage."
Jaime nods, then glances about for a moment to see who is around before sidling close to her. "So," he says, "I believe they're setting up quite the nice tent for their commander this eve. I daresay it will be more comfortable than our cave."
Her eyes widen in shock. "Jaime! We- I hope you're not suggesting that- we can't-"
"And why not? If you're to be around another night, there's no way I'm letting you spend it anywhere but my bed."
She looks around in horror, shushing him, but there is no one within earshot. He takes her hand, "Brienne. It's all right. You are a high-born lady. No one will think it unseemly if you are given a comfortable place to rest away from the rest of the soldiers."
He does not say it, but he knows no one would ever believe the handsome kingslayer has any interest in a woman like Brienne. Even maimed as he is, he is beautiful to behold, and she is not. They make a strange, unbelievable pair, but he wants her gentle hands and those big blue eyes with him tonight, and he will have them.
"Come now," he says, glancing around again before planting a quick kiss on her cheek, "You're leaving me in the morning. It's our last chance, my lady, and there is so much more I have to teach you."
He whispers the words into her ear, and she shudders, goosebumps rising on her neck.
"But...but...what about Po-"
"Your lad will be fine. Allow him the chance to have some fun with lads his own age. You'll have a long and lonely road ahead of you soon enough. Let him enjoy himself. And allow yourself the same courtesy."
He sees the tension leave her shoulders and knows he's won.
"Good," he says, kissing her ear. "Now let's get some food. Your boy demonstrated more than enough skill to help me work up an appetite."
Their second night together is just as full of tenderness and pleasure as the one before, and it is enough to make Jaime wish they could keep the pattern going. There is much to be said for a soft bed, and he feels much more capable and smooth surrounded by soft pillows and blankets rather than by pointed rocks that jab at his back.
There is a bit less desperation in their movements than there had been the previous night, for it had left them both very fulfilled. He finds himself worrying much less about lasting than he had the night before, and he takes things slow. He tastes the flesh between her thighs and loves the way she moves herself against his mouth, always wanting more. He shows her how to take him in her hand, how to run her fingers along his cock until it's hard and dripping. She does her best to keep quiet, but there are moments where she can't help crying out his name and can only muffle it by pressing her mouth against his flesh to dull the sounds.
It is another night without much sleep, but he wouldn't have it any other way. He falls asleep with his lips pressed against the top of her head, her arm draped around him, her warmth enveloping him and he wishes he could stop time here.
When he wakes, she is already up, pulling on her boots.
"What are you doing, wench?" he mumbles, wincing at the sunlight pouring into the tent.
"We ought to head out early," she says, her back to him. "We must cover a lot of distance by dark."
"Mmmm...don't have to...could stay another-"
"No, Jaime," she says firmly, turning to him. He forces himself to open his green eyes all the way to meet hers. "I have to go." She bites her lip. "I have to go now, or I might never leave."
She looks pained as she turns away again, and he knows the feeling. It's too nice. Too comfortable. She's right.
"Alright then," he says, getting up and stretching. "You get yourself ready. I'll track down that squire of yours and have someone send in some hot food for us all. That is, if he's able to stomach any food after the night he's had. I hear one of the lads nicked a barrel of ale and-" he breaks off, chortling at her horrified expression.
"He'll be alright. There's some good boys among the squires. They'll have looked after him," he reassures her, heading out of the tent.
And by look after him, I mean they probably thumped his back a bit as he puked up all the ale they encouraged him to drink, laughing like a bunch of jackanapes.
He's surprised at just how true his guessis. He turns the corner around a couple of small tents to find a bleary-looking Pod being sick near a water barrel.
Trying not to laugh, Jaime pats his back until he's emptied himself of ale.
"First experience with heavy drinking?" he asks, smiling.
Pod, looking extremely miserable, only nods.
"A hard lesson to learn. Most have to learn it time and time again. As well you know, having served my little brother so loyally. Come on, lad. Let's get some food into you. Brienne is waiting in my tent. Think it's all out? I'll never hear the end of it if you get sick in front of her."
"Ser?" he asks, eyes wide. "You- you won't tell her, will you? I don't think...I think she-"
"Are you mad, boy? I'd be in far worse trouble than you if she knew the extent of what you got up to last night. My lips are sealed."
They head off to the tent, Pod's steps a bit wobbly. He seems to have found his stride a bit better by the time they make it back, which is a relief to them both. Jaime lifts the flap and allows Pod to walk in first.
He decides to ride out with them part of the way. He just can't let her go yet, and he wants the chance to say goodbye to her without his men leering on. They don't say much as they trot down the road. Hard to know what to say.
They reach a place in the road where they must turn, and Jaime, who had been in the lead, slows down.
"Well. I suppose I'd better head back. My men will have moved out by now. Have to catch them and get to fixing all those problems caused by incompetents in my absence."
Brienne and Pod have stopped as well. She's staring at him, her eyes wide and bright blue against the cloudless, sunny sky. She nods slowly and doesn't do much to hide the sorrow on her face. It's hard to see. He thinks about just saying 'good luck, then' and riding off to avoid dealing with his own growing despair.
No. They will say their goodbyes, as hard as they might be.
He may never see her again and he wants her to know that he cares. As absurd as it is that this wench, who he once considered knocking on the head with an oar to be rid of, has become so very important to him, it is so.
"Pod," he says abruptly. "I require a word with Brienne, if you don't mind."
"Of-of course not, Ser. I'll...I'll just watch the horses," from the blush creeping up the lad's neck, Jaime has a feeling they have not been as discreet in their affections as either of them would like to believe.
He dismounts and looks up at Brienne, still on her mare. He cannot interpret everything that's going on in her expression, but she looks somewhat hesitant, and he cannot allow that. He's not eager for goodbyes either, but he will not rob them of this last chance to...to...
Well, it won't matter what if the stubborn wench won't even get off her bloody mount.
He strides over to her horse and takes its' reins, softly saying, "Come, Brienne."
She gives a slight nod and climbs down from the horse with a surprising amount of grace for a woman so large.
They walk off the path and into the woods some. Jaime, leading, walks for longer than is really necessary for privacy, because he's not sure what to say.
After another minute or two, they come to the top of a small hill overlooking some woodlands interspersed with a few small farms. The sun is shining brightly in the clear sky today, and Jaime scowls at it. It ought to be miserable and dark and drizzling to adequately reflect his mood.
He turns to look at Brienne, who is intently inspecting her boots, chewing on her lip.
He watches her for a long moment, searching for the right words and knowing there are none to be found. Their time together is slipping through his fingers like water scooped from a stream and no amount of desperate clutching can hold onto it.
His chest constricts as he looks at her and takes in all the scars she's gained since he sent her out of King's Landing with a sword and a letter from a boy hideous marks Biter left on her cheek, the rope burns on her neck that have not faded...
He feels a wave of panic rise up within him as he wonders what she'll look like the next time he sees her or if he'll even see her again.
It's hell out there, and by her brazen defiance of the expectations for her gender, she is sure to bring down an excess of hatred and scorn wherever she goes. There are men who will try to hurt her, just for who and what she is. While her abilities continue to impress him every time he sees her fight, he knows there are so many countless scenarios that could lead her to a terrible end.
He clenches his hand into a fist, his jaw tight.
He cannot stop her from going, but he wishes he could.
She finally stops staring at her feet and looks up to face him, her stunning blue eyes large and full of sadness.
"Jaime...I-" she begins, but he strides forward, closing the gap between them and clutches her shoulders hard.
"Take care of yourself, Brienne, alright?" he says hoarsely, giving her a little shake to convey the urgency he feels. "Look after yourself, and the boy. Be vigilant, be strong. Get it done, and then come back to me. Don't let this be-" he crushes his mouth against hers, hard and desperate, grazing against her lips with his tongue but pulling back quickly, intent on not getting wrapped up in the taste of her so he can complete his message.
"Don't let that be the last time I taste your lips."
She looks at him, still full of pain and sorrow for a moment. Then, she smiles a surprisingly mischievous smile and says, "You have my word."
She leans forward and presses a soft kiss to his lips before pulling back and jutting out her jaw at him defiantly, raising an eyebrow. "See? Unlike you, Kingslayer, I keep my promises."
His mouth drops open in surprise and a bit of outrage, but then he laughs. "You know what I meant, you bloody cheeky wench." He says, and swats her on the upper arm. "Now get out of here, before I have you shackled and dragged around as my personal camp follower. Go on-"
He reaches up to shove her back towards the trail, but she catches his hand in hers and she's not smiling cheekily anymore. She's solemn and serious. She holds his hand for a moment, looking into his eyes as tears fill her own.
Without warning, she throws her arms around his neck, pressing her face into it and murmuring, "I really do promise, Jaime. I do," and he feels the wetness of her tears on his shoulder and holds her tight around her thick waist, pressing kisses into her hair.
Finally, it becomes too much, and he removes his hold on her. He brings his hands, real and golden, up to her shoulders and gently pushes her off him.
"We should get back. I'll hold you to it."
She nods, and he turns back towards the trail.
They reach the horses in a couple of minutes and find Pod watching a couple of sparrows chase each other through an oak tree.
He helps her onto her horse, though the gods know she doesn't need him to.
"Be safe, my lady, until we meet again," he says, placing a hand on her thigh and looking up at the broad, homely face he's going to miss more than he can comprehend.
"And you, Ser," she says tightly.
He can't bear to look at her any longer, so he turns to Pod and strides over to his small horse.
He holds out his hand to the lad and says, "Take care of her, Pod. Get the wench back to me safely and there'll be a knighthood waiting for you on your return."
Pod accepts his handshake with wide eyes and stutters, "Y-yes, Ser. I- I will."
"There's a good lad," he says, and gives Pod's horse a smack on the rear to get it going.
They meet each other's eyes for a moment as her horse follows after Pod, but not another word passes between them.
Jaime watches them go for a long time, waiting until they're out of sight before turning back to his own horse. The loss weighs heavy on him already, and he doesn't think the fear in his gut will ever go away.
But there's something else, too, amidst the worry and loss.
He realizes it's something he's not felt in a long, long time.
Hope. A fool's hope, maybe, but it's there all the same.
The world might be going to hell and with war ravaging all the corners of the seven kingdoms it might be senseless to believe he'll ever set eyes on her again, but she had given him her word.
Oaths have not meant much to him for a long time, but If there's a single person in all of Westeros- or the bloody world- that can be trusted to keep a promise, it is the Maid of...well, it's Brienne of Tarth.
Smiling, he gets on his horse and heads back to his men and his duty.
There it is. It was not easy to send them their separate ways, but I trust Brienne to keep her promise!
I just want to give a huge, huge thank you to everyone who has stuck with the story and given me such kind encouragement along the way. You are a beautiful community of shippers and it's so nice to have people who understand these characters so well and feel as much affection for them as I do.
Hopefully I will contribute more and read all of your excellent fics in the future!
Less than two months til Season Three!