Summary: Jaime and Brienne act like fools, and a visitor arrives at Casterly Rock.

Chapter Twelve

Brienne's teeth were chattering, her whole body periodically succumbing to violent shudders as she sat beside him on the cold cliff.

They were sitting beneath a thick blanket in dry clothes, but her hair was still soaked from being submerged beneath the frigid coastal waters off Casterly Rock. There were tiny ice crystals frozen into the straggly blonde strands, which had grown quite a bit since she'd come to the Rock all those months ago and was now past her chin. Jaime hugged the blanket closer, also shaking like a leaf but unable to stop himself from grinning like a boy.

Jaime was still amazed he'd convinced her to do it at all. It was a mad notion, even for him but he'd woke up one morning with the idea in his head, and he couldn't shake it.

Perhaps he had dreamed of those summer days, so many years ago, when he and Cersei would leap from the cliffs, hand in hand, clutching each other tightly as they plunged into the sea below.

He did not recall having such a dream, but it was one that came to him often in the dark of night and it may have been what got him longing to make the jump once again.

Though it was bitterly cold at the Rock now, he felt that if any resident of the castle would be bold enough to face the biting waters, it was Brienne of Tarth.

So he'd gone to seek her decided it would be best to simply invite her out for a ride, waiting until they reached the cliffs to pose the mad idea of jumping off them to the sensible wench.

He'd packed up a blanket and some spare clothes, seeking out some mens' garb large enough for Brienne, and walked down to the training yard to ask her.

The boys had looked downright mutinous when he'd sauntered across the yard and said,

"I hate to say it, lads, but I must steal away your lady-at-arms today. I take comfort in the fact that she has taught you much these past moons. You will doubtless have much that can be practiced without her here. Work hard, so she will be impressed by your efforts when I return her to you."

They knew better than to argue with their lord, but if looks could kill, he'd have been deader than the wights rumored to roam beyond the wall.

"What is it, Jaime?" Brienne had asked as he led her off the field by her sleeve. "Is anything wr-"

"Not at all," he said, gesturing up at the clear blue sky. "Just thought it would be a fine day for a ride. But by the looks of them, your lads think it a fine day to gut me with their training-swords for stealing you away. Possessive little buggers, aren't they?"

"A bit," she smiled, her eyes sparkling in the sunlight.

Suddenly Jaime felt himself growing strangely shy. "You needn't come, of course, if you'd prefer to stay with them. But I would be glad of the compa-"

"I'll come," she interrupted, so eagerly that Jaime broke into a grin. She blushed. "Sorry I just- I could use the break, to be honesty. They are such sweet lads, and they work so hard but...well, their enthusiasm can be a bit exhausting," she admitted, smiling fondly.

"It's hard work being utterly adored, eh wench? I knew all about that feeling, once," he smirked, leading the way to the stables.

It was a crisp, clear, sunny day with the occasional gust of wind biting at them.

They rode for a while, side by side and at a brisk but steady pace.

As they made their way across the lands surrounding the Rock, Brienne filled him in on the boys' progress in the yard and Jaime complained about a particularly irksome old lord who'd been staying at the castle.

Brienne's laughter rang out as Jaime spouted off a lengthy list of the various items that had ended up in Lord Wexford's beard last night while the ruddy-faced bannerman furiously spewed his many grievances while trying to shovel food into his mouth. Jaime enjoyed the sound so much he began to add ever more ridiculous items to his list until Brienne caught on and chastised him, laughing still.

After a time, they reached the cliffs. Jaime hopped off his horse and walked towards the edge. Brienne was still sitting atop hers, serenely taking in the view, the clear blue of the sky making her eyes appear brighter than ever.

"What do you say, wench?" he grinned. "Fancy a swim?"

She snorted. "Mmm, that would be a relaxing dip alright."

"I'm serious. I want to swim. Get down here," Jaime said, delight washing over him when her eyes widened like saucers.

"Jaime," she said, shaking her head. "I know you find Lord Wexford tedious, but there are alternatives to suicide..."

He barked with laughter. "I never pegged you for such dramatics, Brienne! It'll be bloody cold, to be sure, but I've got spare clothes in my saddlebag. We'll live. Come down from that horse, would you?"

He walked over to her horse and held a hand out to help her down. She took it warily.

"Right, so we won't freeze to death. What of the surety of bashing our heads open on the rocks below? Do you have a solution for that, my lord?"

"Relax," he said, leading her over to the edge. "Look down. No rocks here. This spot is safe, I promise you. My sister and I used to do this as children, right from this very place. Trust me, wench, never a head was bashed. Surely a brave warrior such as yourself would not balk at doing something children do?"

Brienne stood on her toes to glance over the edge of the cliff, not wanting to go any closer. They were high up, that was for certain. "That's right," she said shakily. "There you have it. It's something children do and we are a man and woman grown. There's no need for us to-""

"Where's your sense of adventure?" he grinned slinging an arm over her shoulder. "Come, my lady. I'll be wasting away from boredom for a bloody week after this. Have a bit lof fun with me, before I succumb to the tedium of dealing with the new batch of lords arriving. Give me a fond memory to smile at instead of being sick while I watch Wexford slurping bits of crab out of that beard. Please?""

She looked hesitant, but he could tell he was wearing her down.

"You've really done this before?" she asked.

"Yes. Many times."

She did not respond, just eyed the cliffs warily.

"Come on," he said. "We'll do it together. I'll be right beside you, all the way to the bottom. Please?"

"Alright," she sighed heavily. "I'll do it."

"Excellent!" he cried, unslinging his arm from her shoulder and starting to pull of his boots. "Shed your boots, then. They'll weigh you down and it's a bit of a swim to get to the best path back up to the top."

Brienne obliged, looking rather pale. Jaime removed his boots and was done well before her. He walked up to the edge and turned back to face her. "Off with them, now. You're stalling, wench!"

"I'm not!" she protested, scowling and kicking off her second boot. Slowly she walked up to join him, glancing down at the waters below and looking rather ill.

"This. This is. Utter madness."

"No it's not," he said, seizing her hand in his and holding it tight, for she showed signs of wanting to retreat.

He felt a sudden pang, as he clutched her hand in his, as childhood memories came swirling to the surface. He'd held Cersei, like this, when they were children . Or rather, she'd held him, scathingly calling him 'coward' when he'd expressed his misgivings before the first time they'd leapt.

They were young then, their lives whole and unshattered by war and politics and the ambitions of so many people desperately vying for power. Perhaps his sister had never really been innocent, but she'd seemed it then, as they lay in the fields and swam in the sea together, before the world had swallowed them, forcing them to be pieces in a game Jaime had never wanted to play.

"Let's do it then," Brienne said, her steady resolved, voice shaking him out of his reverie. "Quick. Before I lose my nerve."

They counted to three and jumped.

His thoughts of Cersei were left at the top of the rocks as he and Brienne went plunging towards the icy waters. The fall seemed impossibly long, and his heart was in his throat.

He was shouting and so was Brienne and then they hit the water and all thoughts other than 'fuck, that's cold' were wiped from his mind as they fell into the frigid sea.

They were heavier than he and Cersei had been the last time they'd done this and thus went deeper beneath the surface.

T he shock of the cold almost made him let go of Brienne's hand, but he managed to hold on. They kicked towards the surface, her strength propelling them back up to the desperately needed air.

When they emerged from the icy depths, he heard Brienne gasping for air beside them for a few moments.

When Brienne had finally caught her breath enough to speak, she let out such a stream of such unintelligible nonsense interspersed with slightly hysterical giggles that Jaime nearly swallowed half the sea from laughing.

"GODS THAT'S...F-FREEZING! Hahaha! I can't believe I actually...haha...what did you make me do?...It's so COLD! Seven hells!"

They treaded the water for a while, Brienne spouting words of disbelief and incredulous laughter and Jaime chuckling at her fondly.

"Bit chillier than the sapphire waters of Tarth at midsummer, eh?"

"A BIT bloody chillier!" she gasped, her teeth chattering as she laughed.

"Did you just say bloody?" Jaime asked. "Never hear you use that word, wench! My bad habits must be rubbing off on you." He reached over to tousle her soaking hair affectionately for a moment, before pushing down to dunk her under the water.

She came up sputtering and swinging, clouting him on the ear hard enough to make him use words much worse than 'bloody'.

Laughing and shivering, they wrestled in the surf for a bit longer, splashing freezing water at each other and trying to shove each other under.

When Jaime noticed the bits of ice starting to crystalize in her stringy blonde hair, he reluctantly put a stop to it.

"Alright. Let's get out before we freeze to death."

They swam back to the rocks, Jaime leading them to the exit point he remembered from childhood.

Brienne got out first, and reached down to help him out of the water. He could not help but scowl at the discovery of yet another task made infuriatingly difficult by the lack of a hand. But as she pulled him up onto the rocks, she gave him such a warm (if tooth-chattery) smile than his annoyance dissipated.

"Race you to the top?" Brienne asked, quirking an eyebrow.

"You've already seen you have an unfair advantage at this...but I'll agree to being inevitably bested by you on the grounds that I may actuallyturn into an icicle if we don't move fast. Losing to you yet again ranks above frigid death, if not by much."

They scrambled over rocks and up the cliffs to where their horses and spare clothes were waiting. Jaime got the sense Brienne was holding back slightly as she went, though she still managed to beat him to the top.

When he arrived, he found her recklessly combing through his saddlebag, tossing clothes and food and waterskins out onto the rocks.

"Which of these clothes are meant for me?" she asked, bouncing on her toes in an effort to keep warm. "Hurry up, Jaime, I'm absolutely freezing!"

"Gods, look at the mess you're making," he laughed, crouching down to find the clothes he'd intended for her, which she'd already strewn across the ground. He thrust them into her arms, chuckling. "Here, you mad wench."

She took them from him gratefully, and dashed behind a large gray boulder to change.

She came out when Jaime was still awkwardly attempting to lace up the top of his tunic one-handed. It was going just as badly as it always did when he had to dress himself. He felt a wave of embarrassment at being caught in the struggle and cursed himself for not finding a boulder to hide behind as she had.

Brienne approached shyly, biting her lip. "Would you- would like some help?"

She asked so tentatively, so unassumingly that Jaime could not help but give a brief nod.

She stepped forward and reached for the laces at his chest.

She began to tie them, her eyes determinedly focused on her task.

Jaime turned his head to the side, trying to concentrate on the swell of the sea instead of how the accidental grazing on her fingertips across his chest felt as she worked on his laces. He hoped the sea was loud enough to mask the thundering of his heart in his chest.

This was foolish. He had servants help him dress every day. She was just tying some bloody laces. This was nothing.

And yet the gooseflesh all over his body could not be explained by the cold alone.

Brienne did not so much as glance away from the laces until she was done, and he was grateful she seemed to be making short work of the task.

But then she finished and her eyes flickered up to his face just as he was turning back from staring out at the sea.

Her impossibly blue eyes met his stormy green ones and they locked. Her hands were still pressed softly against his chest, her mouth slightly ajar. Jaime's breath caught in his throat and he felt more like he was drowning right then than he ever did when they were down in the sea below.

They had only the slightest fragment of time to contemplate the intensity of the moment before a loudly cawing sea gull swooped down near their heads, making them jump apart like two adolescents caught kissing behind the stables.

She dropped her hands immediately and the connection was broken.

Both slightly more red-faced than could be attributed to the cold, they stepped apart. With a slight grunt, Jaime turned and walked over to pick up the other items Brienne had tossed out of the saddlebag in her desperation to find dry clothes.

"Your poor septas must have had their hands full, trying to teach you how to be neat and tidy like a good maiden should," he smiled, picking up a parcel of food he'd taken from the kitchens that Brienne had thrown aside.

Brienne stepped up behind him to help, "Sorry," she said, grinning at the scattered clothing and food she'd thrown to the ground. "I was cold."

"You don't say," Jaime smirked, breathing a slight sigh of relief at the return to normalcy after that...incident.

He picked up a bit of dried venison from beside a rock and held it up. "Hungry?"

"Starving," she said.

And so Jaime had grabbed the thick blanket he'd brought along, as well as the venison and two loaves of bread, and there they sat, side by side beneath it, watching the gulls diving into the grey sea.

As they sat beside each other, Jaime could feel her shuddering against him every so often. He found himself overcome with the urge to wrap an arm around her shoulder, or perhaps the small of her back, to pull her close and provide her with a bit of extra warmth. No. That would be...overfamiliar.

Instead, he leaned his arm against hers, his side against her side, in the hopes of transferring some body heat to the shivering wench. It seemed to be helping, but he was troubled by the persistent desire to be touching more of her. He tried to distract himself from the desire with chatter. He started with some basic mindless gossip intended to fill the silence, but somewhere along the line it took a deeper and highly unexpected turn.

He found himself talking to her of his father, and his furious reaction upon learning of Jaime and Cersei jumping from the cliffs. Brienne had been rather appalled at Tywin's decision to scold children for simply being children and Jaime had smiled at her naivety.

He went on to tell her other truths about Tywin, words he'd never spoken aloud or ever fully acknowledged to himself. He talked of his father's appalling treatment of Tyrion, and how Jaime had done his best to give his stunted brother the love the motherless child was receiving from nowhere else.

He even found himself bitterly recounting the collapse of his relationship with his father after his handless return to King's Landing. Brienne listened quietly, pushing her arm back against him a little harder whenever his voice cracked with emotion. She said little as he spoke, seeming to realize he had to get the words out now that he'd begun.

When he'd finished, he felt a rush of embarrassment. "Gods, I really talked your bloody ears off there, didn't I? Sorry, Brienne. I did not mea-"

"Don't be," she interrupted, reaching over to squeeze his hand gently. "Such things are not easy to say, Jaime, but I am glad you felt you could say them to me. I cannot imagine how difficult it must have been to be raised by such a man. But... take comfort in the fact that you've managed to become a good man in spite of it."

Jaime felt a curious lump rise in his throat at her words. Wanting it to go away, he forced himself to scoff, "There aren't many in Westeros would go so far as to call me that."

She shrugged, gazing at him with soft blue eyes. "Well, I would. You are a good man, Jaime."

As he had so many times before, Jaime found himself having to look away. He glanced at the sun, which was high in the sky.

"I- I supposed we'd better start heading back now," he said, hating the almost strangled quality of his voice. "I'm meant to be dining with some daughter of Lord Wexford this eve. Tywin's orders. Seems to think dangling the marriage carrot will make Wexford offer more soldiers to Tommen. Maybe you should just shove me off this cliff now," he groaned. "Save me from the slow torture."

Brienne looked at him slightly uncomfortably and offered a weak smile, "I hear Lady Jayla of Wexford has a...has a wonderful singing voice. They say that it puts the songbirds to shame. Perhaps it won't be so bad."

Jaime snorted at her pitiful attempt to say something positive. "Easy for you to say. You'll be down there laughing your head off with your bloody Ser Devon and his mates, while I have to listen to the same damn songs I've heard a thousand times before and try to come up with something pleasant to say about them just like I have a thousand times before."

Brienne cringed at his scathing tone for a moment, but seemed determined to say something encouraging.

"They come from a very beautiful part of the kingdom. Talk about that. Perhaps- perhaps it will not be so bad," she repeated.

"Trust me, it will be," Jaime said. "It always is."

Without thinking, a new set of words came tumbling from his lips, "Gods wench, I ought to just marry you and free myself of all the bloody headaches."

He knew the instant he said it that it was the wrong thing to say.

Brienne stiffened and turned around sharply to face him. He could not discern the look on her face, only that it was definitely not good and he found himself scrambling desperately to cover his foolish words.

"That was- that was a jape," he said quickly, cursing himself for saying something that made her so clearly uncomfortable. "I was only joking."

To his surprise, for a moment she looked even less happy than before and Jaime felt blind panic stirring up inside him.

Could he really have caused such a dent in their friendship with one offhand comment? He didn't mean..he'd only could he fix-

But then Brienne was quietly saying, "I know. Of course it was."

Then she shrugged, and gave a small laugh that may have sounded a bit forced.

"You know, that's not actually the least romantic proposal I've ever received, so no harm," she laughed again though the smile did not meet her eyes.

Jaime took a moment to comprehend the meaning of her words. When he did, he found himself starting to frown...though he could not say whether it was the idea of there being proposals at all or the fact that they must have been utterly pitiful if they were worse than that that bothered him more.

Just as he thought he was beginning to get a handle on it, to the point where he could respond with something that wasn't offensive or foolish, Brienne was nudging him on the back and getting to her feet.

"Come on, we'd better get you back to Lady Wexford," she said briskly, making her way over to her horse and jumping onto it. Her voice still sounded...different, though Jaime could not place exactly what the difference was. "I'll race you back to the castle!"

Then she had put her heels to her mare's sides and was galloping off before Jaime could even pick up the blanket.

It was a close race. One minute Jaime was ahead, and the next minute she was overtaking him.

They shouted abuse at each other as they passed, laughing and scowling in turn. Jaime urged his steed on, though he found he did not care overmuch whether or not he won.

He was happy enough to see that Brienne's laughter was finally reaching her eyes and whatever damage he'd caused with that bloody marriage comment seemed to have been minimal. He was still not sure what had made him say such an absurd thing but he'd be happy enough never to have to think about it again.

He pushed the thoughts from his mind and hurried to catch up with Brienne, who was currently ahead.

He desperately attempted to get his horse to pick up speed, gripping tightly with his legs, hissing words of encouragement to the beast.

"Ha!" he cried as he pulled ahead. "Almost there now! Looks like even with a head start you're going to be eating my dust, wench!"

"I wouldn't be so sure, Lannister," she called from behind him.

Jaime looked up to see a sentry on the wall, and signaled for him to open the gates. It was always more fun to have the gate as their finish line, even if they ended up scaring the wits out of whatever servants were in the yard as they galloped inside.

As they thundered forward, Jaime saw the iron gates being pulled open.

He felt a surge of joy as he approached, knowing he was going to beat her. It was such fun to gloat and watch her face screw up in annoyance.

Then she was level with him, and just as they crossed over the threshold, she pulled ahead.

Damn her.

They burst into the courtyard and indeed startled a number of residents of the Rock, including a pair of scullery maids who gave each other darkly significant looks.

"Ha! What was that you said about eating dust, Jaime? Was it that you really enjoy it? You must, as you seem to do it so often," Brienne laughed, turning her horse around to face him. Jaime barked with laughter.

"Not so fast, wench. Don't go getting too cocky. This one was a tie," Jaime said. It wasn't. He knew that. But it was fun to see her anger when she knew she was right and he was clearly wrong.

She scoffed derisively. "A tie? In your wildest dreams, perhaps. I was the clear victor."

"Not this time," Jaime said. "We were neck and neck."

"Yes, we were. Until the end," she insisted. "When I clearly won."

Jaime looked around the yard to where a stableboy was watching them, open-mouthed and holding a pitchfork. "You there, lad! You were watching! Tell us who won and tell us true! And before you do, remember that as your Lord, I could always have you execut-"

"JAIME," Brienne scolded in outrage before he could finish. She jumped off her horse and moved over towards the horrified looking boy. "He was only joking, sweetling. The Lord of the Rock is a very bad loser with an even worse sense of humor."

She patted him on the shoulder and nudged him away gently.

Then she rounded on Jaime, half-outraged, half-laughing, "You are an awful man," she said, shaking her head. "That poor boy doesn't understand your horrific humor, you know. Few people do."

"He'll be alright," Jaime laughed, dismounting as well. "He may need to change his breeches, but he'll be alright."

Brienne shook her head, crossing her arms over her flat chest and raising an eyebrow.

"Well? Now that you've successfully traumatized a child, are you ready to admit defeat?"

"How hard will you hit me if I say no?" Jaime asked.

Brienned chewed her lip contemplatively and shrugged. "Half-strength?"

Jaime laughed, throwing his arms up in defeat. "That's still too bloody hard. Very well, wench. You've won. This time."

He chuckled at the smug, self-satisfied expression on her homely face and the sparkle of victory dancing in her eyes.

"Well, well, well," came a voice to his left. A voice he had not heard in quite some time. Jaime's jaw dropped as he whirled around. The voice went on to say,

"I must say, that is the quickest I've ever seen my dear brother laugh after facing a defeat. Usually he sulks for days... utterly inconsolable. It's quite funny. You must be something very special, my lady, for him to concede defeat with a smile on his face."

Jaime watched with disbelieving eyes as Tyrion Lannister approached from across the yard, a clear smirk on his battle-scarred face.

"Tyrion?" Jaime gasped.

"Do you know any other dwarves that would call your sulking funny to your face?"

"What are you doing here?" Jaime asked, still rather shocked.

"I had intended to visit my poor, maimed brother to save him from his loneliness. Though now that I see you, I'm not so certain there's a need," he smirked, then turned to Brienne. "Who is this marvelous rider?"

Jaime knew from the look on his face that Tyrion was well aware of who Brienne was. What the imp was knew about her, however, Jaime could scarcely guess. His brother was hard to read at the best of times.

"Brienne of Tarth," Brienne blushed, her curtsy looking quite clumsy and awkward in the mens' garb Jaime had given her. "It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance. I've heard much about you."

"All lies, if my brother is the one who has shared the tales," Tyrion joked and Brienne smiled weakly. "I've heard much about you too, my lady." In an undertone intended for only Jaime's ears, he added, "Though not from my dear brother."

Jaime suppressed a groan at the loaded statement. A part of him dreaded finding out the meaning behind his brother's words, though he surely would, and soon.

Tyrion clapped his hands together, smiling. "I look forward to learning all about your fair island home, as well as the training of the lads of the Rock, which I hear you have taken charge of. You certainly look strong enough for the job, my lady and I have no doubt you possess the skill as well. In fact, I hope to send my squire Podrick to the yard, if you can take on another lad while I'm here. He's a courageous boy and I owe him my life for his valor on the battlefield, but he could certainly use refinement."

"It would be my pleasure," Brienne smiled. "The lads will be glad of the challenge that comes with facing a new opponent. We begin an hour past dawn."

"Then he shall meet you in the morning," Tyrion said, still smiling.

"Wonderful. I- well, I suppose you and Jaim- Lord Lannister have much to talk about. I shall take my leave of you, if it please you," Brienne said, looking back and forth between them, clearly eager to be given permission to go from one of them, and quickly.

"I can't say it does," Tyrion said, before Jaime could answer. "But you are right in your assessment that we have much to discuss. I do look forward to seeing more of you while I am here though, my lady."

"Likewise," Brienne said, bowing her head and all but dashing out of sight.

When she was well and gone, Tyrion turned to him. "Well, my dear brother. I must say I rather expected to arrive and find you sulking in some dark corner of the castle. Your first letters after arriving at the Rock were such sad, bitter things. Instead, after travelling leagues to see you at my first opportunity, I find myself waiting hours while you gallop about the countryside having a grand old time."

"I wasn't- we were just-" Jaime struggled, hating the way Tyrion grinned so bloody knowingly at him.

What was there to grin knowingly about anyway?

He didn't know anything.

He'd just arrived.

And there was nothing to know.

"Stop stammering at me and offer me something to drink. And eat." Tyrion said. "Father would burst a vein in his forehead if he knew the sort of hospitality you show your guests."

Jaime scowled at his brother and followed as Tyrion waddled towards the great hall, talking about how bloody starving he was, about the weather on the journey, about the strangeness of being back at the Rock after being so long away, about his longing to visit the library... and everything but Brienne of Tarth.

Jaime knew his brother far too well to allow himself to relax. He had not even begun to hear Tyrion's opinion on the matter, but he would.

And he got the feeling he might have to outdrink the imp if he was going to be in any way capable of dealing with the conversation when it inevitably came.

Notes: Thank you so much for all the overwhelming support! Sorry this chapter took a while to get up, but I hope you enjoy it!

What do you think? What's Jaime in for now that his sharp-minded little brother has arrived on the scene?