Home is Wherever I'm with You

"I will leave it up to you, Lady Brienne, where you would like to stay while you are here," Lord Commander Snow says, walking them through the snowy courtyard of Castle Black. "If you would prefer the company of women, you may stay with the wildling women who have graciously offered their services here. You have doubtless heard unpleasant tales about the Free Folk, but I can assure you they will treat you well and look after you with a surprising degree of kindness, if you let them."

Brienne nods and Jaime feels a slight pang at the idea of her sleeping somewhere not near him. They've never done anything but sleep beside each other, but the hulking wench is warm in this frigid place and Jaime can't quite fathom having her elsewhere after all their long days on the road and nights curled up side-by-side.

"If you would prefer to stay close to- to Ser Jaime," Jon says, faltering at the mention of Jaime's name, trying to keep the note of distaste out of his voice and not entirely succeeding. "You may do so."

Lord Snow had been forced to offer thanks and gratitude to Jaime for the safe return of Sansa Stark to the North, as well as for his courage in their most recent battle against the wights, but that did not mean he'd yet learned to like Jaime. For once, they decided to let Brienne do most of the talking, and she was striding alongside the Lord Commander while Jaime followed behind them.

Sansa Stark had traveled with Jaime a long time and had vouched for him with considerable eloquence. When they returned her to Jon, the Stark girl spoken so highly of Jaime to her half-brother that Jaime found himself unexpectedly touched by her words.

Sansa insisted to Jon that Jaime was a changed man and ought to be treated with respect. She got Jon's word on that before she had returned to Winterfell to begin repairing her ancestral home.

Thus far, Snow was complying with her wishes, but was not entirely unable to hold back some of old hatred he held for Lannisters. Jaime could perhaps have done a better job of holding his tongue and keeping some of his snarkier comments to himself, but generally he thought he'd been doing a good job of not stepping on any toes.

"If you choose to sleep among the men of the watch, rest assured that you will be given the respect worthy of a highborn woman such as yourself. As the heroine who returned my sister to her place as heir to Winterfell, I do not expect you should have any trouble," says Jon, looking intently at Brienne.

"From what I've seen you do with a sword, I know you are capable of defending yourself, my lady, but if any man here gives you trouble, I expect you inform me at once so I can deal with it appropriately," says Jon, and though Jaime doesn't much like the boy, he appreciates his commitment and obvious sincerity.

Not that they need the boy's assurance. If any of those crows dared try anything unsavory towards the wench, Jaime would leave them crippled in ways far worse than his own maiming.

Jaime, Brienne and Jon walk through the courtyard towards a group of men who are repairing a wall. Jaime's mouth drops open when he realizes the crew of black brothers and wildlings are being aided in their endeavor by a bloody giant.

The massive creature is larger than Jaime could have even imagined based on the tales, and a glance at Brienne tells him he is just as surprised as he is.

"How goes it, Tormund?" Jon calls as they pass.

"Me balls are about t' freeze clean off, but we're gettin' there!" calls a man who is no giant but is certainly a hulking, brutish sort of fellow.

"Another hour and you must take some rest," Jon says. Jaime can sense he is uncomfortable with giving this man orders, but is determined to do so. Perhaps to lighten the command, Snow adds, "I'll not have the bears of the North coming down on the wall because I let your balls freeze off. I've got problems enough with white walkers."

The wildling had been rolling his eyes at Jon's command, but when he says that thing about the bear, the wildling throws his head back and lets out a hearty booming laugh that echoes through the yard.

"Alright. Alright. We'll break soon enough, my Lord Comma-" the wildling trails off when he takes sight of Brienne.

"Praise the gods!" he cries, doing a double-take. "What in the seven hells is that?"

Jaime's fist is clenching at once, and he takes a step towards the man. He feels Brienne reach out stop him, but he slips out of her grasp.

"Why that's a woman, innit? Like no woman I've ever seen, even up here in the wilds! Look at the size of 'er! Have you brought a girl up to keep poor Wun-Wun here warm?" the wildling asks, full of mirth, patting the giant on the thigh. "'e has been workin' hard for you, Sn-"

Jaime's golden hand connects with the man's face before he can finish his sentence. Though he's built like a tower, the surprise and the weight of the golden fist send him toppling over onto his arse.

Jaime looks down at him with a bit of satisfaction for the briefest of moments.

Then the giant's hand flies out, backhanding him halfway across the yard. Jaime's head smashes into a wall of ice and he crumples in a heap.

He's blinking dazzedly about, too stunned to really comprehend what has happened, when Brienne rushes to his side, crouching beside him.

"Jaime!" she cries. "Are you alright?"

"Fine," he says, reaching up to his temple, which is gushing blood. He feels the cut and knows it's not too deep, just very messy.

"Thank the gods," she breathes. Then she frowns and hits him on the arm. "You complete idiot!"

"Idiot?" he grunts, annoyed. "Wench, I just got thrown across a bloody yard by a giant defending your-"

"You mean you just acted like the same impulsive arse you always do!" she says, and Jaime knows she's incredibly frustrated because Brienne never resorts to even mild cursing unless he's done something exceptionally stupid.

She's pressing her sleeve to his temple though, one of her hands resting on his stomach, and her touch is so warm and gentle that he can't manage to be as annoyed with her for her lack of appreciation as she is with him for his impulsive behavior.

"Typical bloody wench," he grins, and maybe he's woozier than he realized because he reaches up to stroke her cheek, making her freeze in place. "Always scorning my acts of chivalry. Wounds the heart."

"Acts of stupidity, you mean," she says, pulling her face out of his grasp. "Jaime, If you mean to stay here and do some good in the war against these unholy wights, you can't go around being rude to the Lord Commander and hitting his men! You're so insolent," she says, clearly exasperated.

"And you're a bloody nag," he mutters.

The argument would have undoubtedly escalated, had Jon not come over a moment later.

"Lannister," he says. "I know Tormund's remarks were not kind, and I have told him as much. He will not speak of your lady so again." Both Jaime and Brienne's heads snap up at his use of the phrase 'your lady' but neither one makes to correct him. Jaime risks a quick glance at Brienne though and sees her blushing furiously.

"However, I must ask you not assault my men in retaliation for improprietous speech. There are many wildlings among us, and smallfolk as well. They are made from a cruder cloth and are not versed in their courtesies. If they ever do anything physical to offend the Lady of Tarth- (which I can assure you they will not) you have my full permission to retaliate. However, I must ask for some leniency in your responses to anything uncouth they might say."

Jaime blinks at him, feeling a bit too light-headed to have taken in all Snow has said. He hears Brienne huffing beside him, waiting for Jaime to responded, spewing apologies. When Jaime does not make to give one she says,

"Of course, Lord Commander. We will make sure to conduct ourselves properly with all those in your service from now on," Brienne says, looking sharply at Jaime with a won't we look until he nods in agreement.

"Thank you, my lady. Ser," Jon adds, and if Jaime didn't know any better, he might say he detected a note of amusement in the boy's tone. He hopes it's not over the fact that he is very clearly whipped. Because he isn't.

Jon lays a hand on Brienne's arm. "Now, I was intending to show you where you might sleep while you stay with us, my lady, but it appears I am needed elsewhere. Urgent business. I will show you to your quarters after dinner. Feel free to walk about as you please, but do avoid causing trouble if you can."

Jon gives them a brief smile and then departs with two of his men who are standing off to the side, looking impatient.

Inside castle black, Jaime sits on a bench while Brienne leans over him, dabbing at the cut on his temple with a wet cloth. She shakes her head as she cleans the wound, looking like a judgmental septa. Jaime would be annoyed if he wasn't amused, or if her hands weren't so gentle.

"It's not that bad," Brienne says with a sigh, squinting at his cut. "But it could have been a lot worse. What on earth were you thinking?"

"I was thinking that I shouldn't let some bloody scoundrel say foul things about the woman I've spent the past year traveling with," Jaime says, scowling. He's ashamed to admit it even to himself, but her chastisement hurts a little. He was only sticking up for her. "I suppose next time I should just let anyone say whatever they bloody like about you?"

Brienne peers at him through her incredible blue eyes and he's pleased to see her expression turning from sharp to tender almost at once. "You really should, Jaime. They're only words. It's- it's not that I don't appreciate your...your noble attempts to defend my honor. But words are wind, Jaime. They cannot hurt me."

Jaime doesn't believe that's true. He knows her well enough to know how sensitive she is. She bares insult well. Her skin is thick. She's strong as an ox and the bravest person he knows, but he's seen that there's fragility beneath all the scars and armor and it makes him ache to think of her fretting over her size or her freckles or her ruined cheek when he spends half their time together trying not to drown in her eyes.

"As you wish," he shrugs, attempting to sound indifferent. He immediately feels guilty when she starts to frown.

"I am grateful, Jaime," she says. She's still cleaning his wound with one hand, but she grips his hand in her other one, surprising him. Her eyes so full of sincerity it almost hurts to look at her when she says, "Do not mistake me. It is very kind of you, to come to my defense all the time. But it isn't wise. I just want you to be careful. That giant could have killed you today," she says, and she looks genuinely shaken at the thought.

"I'm fine, wench," he mutters, embarrassed by her concern.

"Yes, you are," she concedes, finishing up with his wound and taking the rag away from his forehead. "Try to keep it that way. Please."

Then she leans in, and Jaime barely has a second to wonder at what she's doing before her chapped lips press gentle kiss to the cut on his temple.

When she pulls back, she looks just as stunned as he is. But unlike him, she looks horrfied as well as stunned.

Jaime cannot stop the incredulous grin that's plastered all over his face.

"What was that?"

"Nothing!" Brienne says at once. Her face is burning so red he can almost feel the heat radiating off it.

"It wasn't nothing," he replies, positively beaming with mirth. "You kissed me!"

"I didn't!" Brienne says and he bursts out laughing, because it's an absolutely ridiculous denial of something that just happened.

"Wench, I may have had the daylights nearly knocked out of me, but I'm not that rattled. I know a kiss when I receive one, though it's been some time since I have. You bloody kissed me!"

Brienne looks so entirely humiliated that he ought to feel guilty for tormenting her about it. It was an utterly sweet gesture, really. He can still feel his skin tingling at the place where her lips brushed against his skin, right at the corner of his brow.

He just can't get over the impulsivity of the gesture from a girl who is normally so bloody in-control of herself.

"I didn't mean anything by it! It was- it was only to- to make it better," Brienne stutters weakly, not meeting his eyes. "Your cut."

Jaime still hasn't wiped the grin off his face, and he knows he should because this is actual torture for the shy maid.

But he's just so bloody amused.

"You know that doesn't actually work, don't you?" Jaime asks, raising an eyebrow at her.

"Of course I do!" she snaps, flinging the rag at his chest furiously and jumping to her feet. "You can bandage your own head up. I'm going to- to look around the castle."

She turns around and storms away before Jaime can find the words to stop her.

Jaime misses her.

It's only been a few hours, but he wants to see her again. She'd gone just when the conversation was getting good.

He's been wandering about the castle looking for her to no avail and he really wants to find her again.

True, Jaime would really love to continue teasing her, but it's more than that.

Her innocent kiss and her out-of-proportion reaction had triggered something in him.

He'd wondered, on occasion, if there might be something more to them than just two trusting friends on a mission to fulfil an oath together.

He'd always convinced himself it could not be. The wench cared for him, of course, but she'd also cared for Renly- would have died for him, but never expected anything in return. She cared for Sansa Stark and Podrick Payne too and would have lain down her life for them at a moments notice.

She'd proven herself willing to do the same for him, but Jaime had little reason to believe her feelings for him ran deeper than they did for anyone else who'd proven themselves worthy of her undying loyalty.

We're friends.

He repeated it a thousand times in his head as they journied North, trying to shake the part of himself that wanted more because he was convinced she never would.

What if we're not just friends? What if she does want more?

This time when he asks it of himself, it doesn't seem quite so ridiculous.

Her embarrassment at performing that little affectionate gesture and her annoyance at his teasing suggested that perhaps Jaime was not the only one in this partnership who'd been bottling up feelings for fear of overstepping a line.

Brienne had taken the tiniest step over the line with her sweet and unnecessary kiss. And then she'd gone fleeing in the opposite direction.

Jaime aimed to find out where he might not be able to track her down and tug her bodily across the line and into his arms. He was not going to dance about it any longer. He was going to find the wench and figure out where they stood.

Jaime spends some time searching for her throughout the castle, before he realizes where she must be.

The top of the wall. Of course.

She'd seen it once already and had been so astounded she had not wanted to come down at all.

Jaime had eventually dragged her down by the hand, telling her he was not losing the only hand left to him to frostbite but he knew she had not yet had her fill.

He makes the long climb to the top and finds her standing up there, staring off the edge at the setting sun.

"Evening, my lady!" he says brightly.

She turns to him, her angry expression doing little to make her prettier.

"What are you doing here?" she demand sharply.

"Oh, I'm sorry. Is this your wall? I didn't realize I required your permission to walk upon it. Truly, my lady, I apologize," he says theatrically and Brienne predictably glares even harder and turns away without a word.

"How long have you been up here, wench? You're going to start losing body parts if you're not careful," he says, poking her nose with a finger to feel how cold it is. She slaps his hand away at once and Jaime lets out a little bark of a laugh.

"You're not still embarrassed about that kiss are you?" he asks cheerfully, pointing to the wound on his forehead where she kissed.

She cringes and reddens and he knows she is. He oughtn't continue teasing her like this, not when he loves her so bloody much and she's been incredibly good to him.

But it's funny, so he does.

"You need not be ashamed, my lady! It was a fine decision," Jaime says, placing a hand on her arm. "Really, you've got healing powers in those lips. I feel better already."

"Go away," she says, almost pleading as she pulls her arm out of his grasp, her humiliation plain. Then, so quietly he's not sure if she's talking to him or herself, she says. "I didn't mean to do that."

"Didn't mean to?" he asks, raising his eyebrows and smirking. "How did it happen then? Stumbled, did you? Funny, I thought you looked rather sure footed at the time, but perhaps it was the head wound."

"Shut up," she moans.

"I accidentally kiss people all the time. Dead clumsy that way," Jaime says, leaning in close to her and grinning. She gives a violent shove and starts to walk away, down the length of the wall.

He jogs up behind her, trying to catch with her long strides. When he gets close enough, he jumps around in front of her, cutting off her attempted escape.

"Perhaps you ought to kiss it again, my lady," he says, tapping his wound. "That was quite a blow good old Wun-Wun gave me. I'm not sure the healing magic was powerful enough the first time."

"Jaime," she says, so dangerously low that he feels a faint glimmer of fear. "If you don't get out of the way, I'm going to throw you over this wall."

What's life without a bit of risk? Knowing he's pushing it, Jaime decides to continue.

"I think you'd better kiss it, Brienne. Really. I could have died. You said it yourself. I may not be out of danger yet."

"You look fine," she scowls. "Fine enough to act like your usual horrible self."

Jaime steps closer, planting himself in front of her. She takes a step back, and he follows pinning her between him and the wall. He stands close enough that she can't turn away without brushing up against him, which she seems very reluctant to do.

"What if I wasn't fine? What if I fell under a terrible curse, like the maidens in the tales, and the only way to save me was a kiss. Not on the forehead," he adds, his voice low and deep. "Right here." He taps at his lips, stepping even closer to her. "Would you do it?"

Her eyes widen and she puts a hand up to his chest to shove him away.

"Jaime, I think you really ought to get your head examined. You're being completely... You need to go see Maester Tarly."

"Answer the question," he says firmly.

"What question?" she cries in frustration, trying to back up and connecting with the solid icy wall. "All I heard was a smattering of nonsense about tales-"

"My question, Brienne, is would you kiss me if my life was on the line? If the brush of your lips was the only way to keep me from an endless sleep. Or perhaps even a painful death. Would you do it?"

He's truly tormenting her. The agony he sees on her features right now may be worse than when she'd been fighting a bear with a wooden sword.

He knows he is being truly cruel right now and he feels a little bad about it, but mostly he's just loving the blush on her cheeks and the bundle of nerves she's become. Because it means he's stumbled upon a truth about her feelings, and it's a glorious relief.

Brienne makes no move to respond, just gapes at him looking furious and confused and embarrassed all at once.

"Would you?" he presses.

She's breathing hard. He can tell by the frosty puffs of air rapidly crystallizing in the air around her and though her furs are thick, he can make out the rise and fall of her ribs.

"You're asking me," she says slowly, as if she still cannot believe it's happening. "If a magic spell was cast upon you and the only way I could save your life was by kissing you, would I do it?" she asks in utter disbelief. Her eyes are wider than they were the first time they saw a white walker.

"Yes."

"Jaime this entire conversation is ridiculous. Life's not a story," she says. Then adds, "You remind me of that often enough. I don't se the point in...when it wouldn't- when it couldn't-"

"Just answer the question, wench," he prods, delighting in watching her flounder.

"But there's is no scenario where this would ever-"

"Answer," he says. They're closer than than they've been since the Bloody Mummers tied them face to face on a horse. He'd been in agony then, after losing his hand, but now the only agony is in his breeches, which are starting to get rather tight from their proximity.

"Gods, you're so annoying!" Brienne cries looking like she wants to hit him and take off running, not looking back until she reaches the sands of Dorne.

"Answer."

"Ugh. Alright. If, by some ridiculous stretch of the imagination, your life was in danger and kis- and that was the only thing that could save you- well, yes. Of course I would."

Brienne looks defiant and determined and completely humiliated all at once, and Jaime wants to kiss her hard and end her torment and make her forget everything but the feel of his lips on hers.

But he doesn't. He takes a little step forward and rests his hand on her waist.

"Fair enough. And what if there wasn't some spell?" he asks, so low and throaty that she has to lean closer to hear him over the wind, her eyes wide. "Would you ever kiss me just because I wanted you to?" he tightens his grip on her waist ever so slightly, intentionally keeping his tone as seductive as he knows how. He's only ever had one person to test his prowess on, but before the loss of his hand it had always been enough to win Cersei over, no matter how reluctant she was to let him take her.

Right now, all he wants is a kiss and he's sure the voice and hands on her hips will win her over soon enough. From the way Brienne has been trembling at their closeness, Jaime sure his sultry tones will have her longing for his lips at once.

He's wrong though.

Her eyes narrow at his words, hurt and suspicion written all over her homely features. She starts to turn from him, saying,

"And why in seven hells would you ever want me to?"

He feels a pang then at her utter refusal to believe Jaime could want her. He knows why she's full of doubt, but it annoys him that the world has made her feel that way.

He catches her on the chin before she can fully turn away, and gently turns her back to face him. Her hands come up to his chest to push him away again, but she freezes when he says, clear and steady, "Kiss me, Brienne."

She exhales hard, her warm breath hitting his chin as she searches his face, looking for the mockery and cruelty and malice that simply aren't there.

He holds her gaze. Her eyes are filled with mistrust and confusion, so he does what he can to convey all the desire and sincerity he feels in his own expression. It isn't hard, because he sincerely wants her to do it.

It's not working. As hard as he's trying to convince her that he truly wants her, he can still see the disbelief all over her face.

She's been hurt before, he knows.

She's never said it in so many words, but she's alluded to it and he's heard enough rumors about Renly's camp and met enough pricks like Ronnet Connington to understand where all her doubt and panic are coming from.

She does not- cannot- seem to fathom that he could possibly desire her.

"Kiss me," he repeats, a low, deep demand. He brings his hand up to her jaw, forcing her to look at him and understand how much he truly wants it.

That he does want to feel her big lips against his, to run his fingers through her matted, frozen hair and pull her hard against him and never let her go. He wants it more than anything else in the bloody Seven Kingdoms.

He wants it and probably always has, even if it's taken his muddled head a long time to figure it out. He took his time coming to realization. He thinks perhaps Sansa Stark and Podrick Payne figured out his feelings before he ever did.

But now, standing on this wall, hundreds of feet below a world drowning in winter, he sees it clearly.

He needs her to see it too.

Her mouth falls ever so slightly open and moves the hand on her jawline back to tangle it in her lanky blonde hair, tugging her the tiniest bit closer.

It takes all he can do not to bring her lips crashing up against his.

Their proximity, her ragged breaths and the heat between them has sent a rush of blood straight to his cock and he wants nothing more than to press his whole body up against hers and find his way beneath her furs and touch the parts of her he hasn't seen since they took a bath together so long ago.

He bore his soul to her that day, ripped his chest open and showed her all there was to see. She listened, and caught him when he fell in arms that were as gentle as they were strong.

She's learned all there is to know about him since then, the good parts and the ugly parts and he's fairly certain that against the odds, she's come to love them all.

As much as Jaime wants to close the gap between their mouths, he wants her to be the one to do it even more.

"I said, kiss me, wench," he says, and though he's half embarrassed by how much it sounds like begging, it just might be convincing her of his sincerity.

Brienne's brow knits in consternation. Her fingers are gripping the collar of his furs, clenching and unclenching as though she's torn between shoving him violently away and pulling him to meet her full, wide lips.

Kiss me, wench, he thinks desperately, or I'm going to kiss you.

Just as his patience is wearing thin, just as he's about to tug her mouth up to his fiercely to prove that he wants her kiss from the bottom of his wretched bloody heart, Brienne begins to lean forward. She brings her mouth towards him slowly, the total fear she's feeling blatant in her large blue eyes.

Jaime longs to meet her tantalizingly slow movement towards him, desperate for the feel of her lips on his, but he wills himself to stay still and let her come to him.

When she finally gets there, her kiss is feather light and impossibly gentle.

It lasts only a moment before she pulls back swiftly.

She breathes raggedly, have terrified, have invigorated, looking like she's just experienced the most intense kiss known to man.

She is petrified, looking at him as though she's expecting to see disgust on his face any moment now, expecting him to push her away or wipe his mouth in horror.

Jaime can't help but smile at the intensity of her reaction, because thought it was quite pleasant, it was barely a kiss, and certainly nothing to get anyone hot and bothered.

But it was big step for her, he knows, and he's glad he let her be the one to kiss him.

Jaime knows without a doubt that the soft brush of lip against lip was Brienne's very first kiss and he feels a strange sort of pride about it.

Pride that his shy wench found the courage to do it and an even deeper pride in the fact that she was willing to bestow her first kiss on a man like him.

"My thanks, my lady," he says quietly to ease her fears. He offers her a kind smile that isn't full of his previous delighted mockery and slips his hand into hers to give it a little squeeze.

Her shoulders sag with relief. She shows the faintest flicker of a smile in return and at once Jaime is in dire need of giving her a good and properkiss.

He steps closer, backing her up against the icy wall once more, pressing himself into her.

"Might I return the favor?" he asks.

Her hair is covered in a flurry the snowflakes that have begun to fall and Jaime reaches forward to brush an icy strand of it behind her ear, brushing fingertips across her freckled cheek as he does.

Brienne opens her mouth to speak, or maybe she's just shocked at the tenderness of his caress.

Either way, she chooses not to speak and merely gives a sharp nod.

Jaime doesn't waste another moment after receiving her the nod of approval.

He kisses her fiercely, with force and passion, lips and teeth and tongue all vying to learn all there is to know about Brienne's wide mouth and prominent teeth. He runs his tongue along her bottom lip, and the moment she parts them just a little, he delves deeper into her, the hand he has tangled in her hair keeping her close.

Jaime knows by the way she's clutching painfully into his arms and back, and the gasps and moans she's unable to hold back, that these unfamiliar sensations are incredibly intense for Brienne. It's understandable, given how quickly he's chosen to deepen the kiss but if he's being honest, this is just as intense for him as it is for the inexperienced maiden.

How peculiar it is, to have his mouth on someone's who isn't Cersei.

The man he'd once been would never have even imagined kissing anyone besides his beautiful sister could be anything close to pleasing, but as Brienne starts to tentatively flick her tongue against his and gently run her fingers through his golden hair Jaime feels more than just pleased.

As she rolls her hips against his, brushing against his hardening cock, her growing need for heat and friction blatantly apparent, Jaime realizes he feels home.

Here, in the frigid, frozen North, on top of the icy wall that is the only thing standing between Westeros and utter destruction, Jaime feels a deeper sense of belonging than he ever has.

Kissing this broad, homely wench at the top of the world, Jaime feels the kind of rightness and contentment he hasn't felt since before Tyrion was born, back when he still had a mother and a belief in a future of proud knighthood and daring adventure.

There are tiny icicles forming in his hair now and he hasn't had a decent meal in what feels like a lifetime, but he's here with Brienne, who saved his life and saved his soul. She's gasping against his lips and pulling him closer with her incredibly strong arms and whenever they pull away to catch their breath she whispers Jaime.

As freezing as the wintery world around them is, Jaime feels warm right down to his core now that he's in her arms.

And there is no place he'd rather be.

The End

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