Sansa heaves a heavy sigh as she listens to the latest stream of bickering from her travel companions. Resigned to the fact that they will not be going anywhere for a while, she sits down on a large boulder and shaking her head.
"You are the most stubborn wench I've ever had the misfortune to meet!"
"I'm not being stubborn, Lannister, I am being practical. It stands to reason that if one bridge is burnt, the next bridge down may very well be. I do not wish to add miles to our journey on a futile quest. Besides, the nearest alleged bridge is in a village rumored to be lawless and dangerous! I will not bring Sansa near such a place."
Jaime and Brienne are both standing at the bank of a large river scowling at each other as they attempt to deal with the latest of many obstacles they've encountered on the journey North.
"And your plan is better, is it?" spits the Kingslayer scornfully. "With the recent thaw, finding a place shallow enough to cross within a hundred leagues would be as likely as Stannis Baratheon opening a brothel and giving free mead to everyone."
Jaime looks rather triumphant at his analogy, but Brienne opens her mouth to speak again. Groaning, Jaime cuts her off before she can even get started on a counterpoint.
"Though if you are thick enough to attempt it and sink to the bottom in all that armor of yours, we'll be rid of your pig-headed stubbornness and free to make sensible decisions for once. There's a thought!" Jaime says, dramatically allowing his features to light up as though he's had a wondrous epiphany. "Perhaps we should go with your plan, after all, wen-"
With a garbled noise of exasperated rage, Brienne brings up a large hand to shove him hard in the chest. Jaime, basking in the glory of what he probably thought was a hilarious retort, is caught off guard.
He stumbles backwards and trips over a tree root, falling gracelessly on his rear end.
Brienne, towering over him, looks more smug than Sansa has ever seen her.
Trying not to laugh out loud, Sansa looks around the clearing until her eyes find the rest of their party.
Ser Hyle, standing by their horses, gives a derisive snort before rolling his eyes and taking a swig from his wineskin.
Podrick Payne, who had grown tired of their arguing minutes before, had wandered downstream a bit.
Glancing down the bank, Sansa can see him attempting to skip rocks across the river. The water is moving a bit too fast, however and there isn't much skipping actually occurring.
Still, Pod seems to be of the opinion that failing at skipping stones is a preferable alternative to listening to yet another Jaime-Brienne row, and Sansa cannot blame him.
Shaking her head, amused and annoyed all at once, Sansa reaches into her bag.
She pulls out the red and blue yarn she has been knitting into a scarf for Brienne and sets to work on it as the argument rages on. Jaime is still sitting in the dirt where he fell and Brienne has made no move to help him up.
"Oh, very mature, my lady," Jaime scowls, getting to his feet and brushing off some dirt from his trousers. "Tell me, are all the ladies of the Sapphire Isle so well-trained in the arts of courtesy or are you just an exceptional case?"
"I have manners enough for those that deserve them, Ser. Unfortunately, you could provoke even the gentlest fawn in the forest to anger," Brienne says flatly, not looking remotely apologetic for knocking him on his arse.
Jaime guffaws quite a bit at that, "You think of yourself as a 'gentle fawn', do you, wench? You've got to be the biggest bloody fawn I ever saw-"
Brienne rips at her straggly blonde hair in frustration, "No, idiot, I was just trying to s- stop changing the subject! The river. I stand by what I said. The best course of action is to-"
Sansa decides this is a good point to stop listening.
If the past few moons spent in their company are any indication, this bickering is liable to go on for quite some time. Eventually, they'll come to some sort of compromise that doesn't really please either of them and the party will be free to move on.
Then Jaime and Brienne will glare daggers at each other for a few hours before forgetting all about it, perhaps even being friendly towards each other for a few hours- until the next inevitable disagreement comes around and the cycle begins all over again.
Hyle Hunt catches Sansa's eye and he gives an even more exaggerated eye roll than the one before. She smiles sympathetically and turns away, seeing him take another long swig from his wine flask before she does.
Hyle had once confessed to her that he sometimes plays a drinking game with himself, where he takes a drink every time the words "wench" "kingslayer" and "stubborn" are used in an argument between Jaime and Brienne.
There are other words and rules to it, though she cannot remember them all. He drains his drink if physical blows are exchanged. She wonders if Brienne's shove counted and glances over to see one flask abandoned at his feet.
By the sound of things, he'll be cross-eyed and stumbling by the time Jaime and Brienne are through with their debate.
They really are quite ridiculous, Sansa thinks, knitting at a steady pace and trying to watch the birds flitting through the trees rather than her arguing companions.
They are such a pair of overgrown children. Petty, immature and repetitive. Worse than Arya and Bran had ever been.
It really grates on the nerves, and judging by Hyle and Pod's reactions, she is not alone in thinking so.
It's nearly enough to make Sansa wish she was back in the Va-
It is definitely not quite that bad. She is overwhelmingly grateful for the rescue. She can still hardly get her head around the fact that she is headed home.
The headaches from their spats are a very small price to pay to be headed North again.
In fact, there are times when their bickering is rather sweet.
Sansa had long ago come to the -initially shocking- realization that this pair, so very mismatched and belligerent on the surface, actually have anextraordinarily deep affection for one another, even if neither would dare to openly admit it.
There is this incredible trust between them that had been quite startling to Sansa at first.
After spending so much time in a world where no one trusted anyone, where backstabbing and corruption were a daily part of life, it had been such an unfamiliar and pleasant surprise to realize how deep their bond went.
They may come close to throttling each other at least once day, but Brienne trusts Jaime with her life and he trusts Brienne with his.
More often than not, Sansa feels, their incessant bickering is just an expression of the held-in feelings they are both struggling with.
This, unfortunately, is not one of those times.
This argument lacks the built-up tension Sansa has observed in previous spats between them, which had been full of subtle words and glances that revealed their deep, more-than-friends feelings for each other went.
(Revealed to Sansa, an least. She is quite certain that they were both entirely oblivious to the fact that their feelings are reciprocated. In fact, sometimes they act like such fools that she's not even sure they realize their own feelings).
However, there is no fiercely hidden adoration beneath this "how to cross the river" argument.
Right now, they are just angry.
Sitting on her boulder, Sansa considers how strange it is, that she should be here in the wilds with this motley group of people:
A brave, kind giant of a woman who had risked everything to fulfil a promise to Sansa's mother, even after Catelyn's death.
The stammering young squire of Tyrion Lannister who now follows Brienne with utmost loyalty and devotion.
A hedge knight with a crude sense of humor who had once served Randyll Tarly and
was here for reasons she still did not really understand.
And Jaime Lannister, who had killed her father's men and was brother to the woman who wanted Sansa dead more than anyone else in the Seven Kingdoms.
Stranger still, that she is happy with them.
Sansa would not have expected it- would not have dreamed it, that first day they'd sprung her from the Vale, but this odd collection of people have been the closest thing she's had to a family since the day Joffrey demanded her father's head and her entire world had come crumbling down.
Though the dangers on the road are plentiful, she feels safer now than she has in many years, and though they press further North, into ever-deepening snows, she feels warmer with each passing day.
As the scent of Northern pines strengthens each day and the chill of the winter winds enters her bones, it is becoming harder recall her life as a prisoner in King's Landing and the Vale. She is so very thankful for that.
But it had been real. It had all been real and terrible and she'd still be there, if not for these four people who had all been strangers or near-strangers to her not long ago.
A quick glance at Jaime and Brienne shows her that they are still shouting insults at each other, so Sansa allows herself to slip inside her head, thinking back to the day they'd rescued her and she began her arduous journey home.