When Brienne woke curled up among the roots of the chestnut tree, she felt Jaime behind her, his handless arm thrown over her body. She didn't move for fear of waking him. He was as exhausted as she was.
Finally she tried carefully to get out from under him, but he pulled her in closer. Snuggled against her back. She breathed as heavily as he did, his breath tickling her skin.
She started when he suddenly said, 'Where are you going? It's still raining out there, and it approaches nightfall.'
'Jaime! I thought you slept... let go of me.'
'You may as well stay and rest with me. We may as well make the most of the time we have left. We'll be in King's Landing soon enough. Half a day at most.'
She pulled away from him with irritation, turned and face him. 'We're so close? How do you know?'
'You think I don't know my own land? This is the border to King's Landing.'
She said nothing. The enormity of those two words lay heavy on them both. King's Landing; a deal to be made, an obligation to fulfill - a sister with which to rekindle an old, perverted, flame...
Brienne lost the strength she'd had in her knees and lay back down, letting the mulch of the earth cushion her cheek. He moved closer until his face was mere inches from hers. His bandaged arm trapped awkwardly between them.
'I confess, I thought I'd be happier to be back. Though perhaps you will be happy to relieve yourself of your burden?'
'Maybe -' she almost whispered.
They fell into silence, their eyes searching each other.
She couldn't look at him any more. It pained her deeply. She shut her eyes to the world, but was betrayed by tears that squeezed through her eyelashes and down across her face.
A course thumb brushed gently against her skin. Her eyes fluttered her open and he was there, looking intently at her. After a moment more caressing her face, he leaned in and kissed her.
She pulled away, heart racing. She was so confused. What was this?
She didn't have time to think before he moved to kiss her again, and this time, she found herself kissing back. Her lips opened to his and he moved until his upper body was over hers, pushing her down into the ground as his tongue slipped between her lips.
She panicked. A flash of a memory she begged lay dormant, gripped her, and she shoved him away and scrabbled to her feet.
He held up his hand in apology.
'I - I'm sorry! I didn't mean to ...well if I hurt you... I'm sorry.'
'The fault lies not with you,' she said, her heart full of bitter regret. 'I - I...' she turned away, spotted the blackened ashes of their campfire. 'The fire has gone out,' she said woodenly, 'I will rebuild it.'
She began to move around collecting kindling. He raised himself up and looked at her, his face full of concern. Eventually she knelt by his side to relight the fire, and he said her name gently before reaching out to touch her. She stopped what she was doing, her arms still full of semi-dry twigs, but she would not look at him.
'Before, I took you by surprise I think. My intention was not to harm you... Quite the opposite.'
He swallowed and crooked his neck so he was in her eyeline.
'Brienne, I've never met anyone like you. You make me feel...' he struggled to find the word, and came up blank. 'You're not in thrall to me, you're my equal. No, you're so much better than that, so much better than me in so many ways.' He shook his head. None of this was coming out right, 'When I was apart from you, I felt wretched. The thought of anyone hurting you made me want to wring necks with my bare hands. Makes me want to...' he said correcting his tense. His head drooped. He was failing miserably to express what he felt, 'Brienne, it's simple, I suppose. I think I lov-'
'Stop! Don't say any more. I can't hear it. I don't want to. In exactly one day all this will be over. You'll never think of me again.'
She put down the kindling slowly and turned to face him, her cheeks flushed, eyes bright.
'Jaime, don't say what you can't unsay. At least spare me that pain. For both you and I have felt pain enough for many a lifetime -'
He put his hand on her shoulder.
'Stay with me, in King's Landing.'
'Don't be ridiculous. How can I be a part of your life?'
'Fine, I'll go with you.'
She rolled her eyes, 'Jaime, enough!'
He gripped her shoulder hard. Angry at her because he wanted things to be different. Everything.
'We can't have what we want,' she lifted a shaking hand and drew the back of it across his handsome face, 'No matter how unfair that seems. Some years it rains all summer, and that's the way it's meant to be.'
He moved in close to her, until she was consumed by him, his scent - his fierce need for her.
'Let me make love to you, Brienne-'
'No! Say nothing more! I cannot give you what you want.'
Suddenly her armor felt like it was dragging her down to suffocate among the roots, in the dark earth with the worms. She struggled to her feet.
'Where are you going?' he called after her.
'I need air!'
She stumbled out from under the tree and into the storm. He scrabbled to follow, tossing aside the blanket, his bare torso heaving with the effort of getting to his feet.
He followed her into the field where she stood swaying like a rootless tree.
'Brienne! Brienne! Come on out of the rain! The lightning - it's dangerous!'
Even his warning was shouted over the crash of thunder and beating torrential rain.
She turned to face him, water running in rivulets off her severely cropped hair.
'I want you so badly. Don't you understand?'
He slipped and slid to her side where he pulled her into his arms, and rested his forehead against hers as he gasped for breath. Her hands clutched at his smooth, wet hips.
'Jaime,' she whispered, 'you turn me inside out.'
'And you, I -'
'But we can't change this...'
They stood there like that; two willows in the storm as it raged around them, the rain pinging on the metal of her breastplate.
'You'll visit me?'
She shook her head, 'Don't ask that of me...'
He snorted a laugh, 'Then what? Is this is how we must say goodbye? Two sopping halves never to be whole?'
She nodded gently, 'Yes.'
He turned away, swore into the rain.
She stood, waiting for him to calm down, but he did not. He turned and strode towards her, fiercely pulling her into his arms. Her armor clunked clumsily against his chest. He kissed her long, hard, and passionately, and she responded hungrily until eventually they remembered to breathe and the kiss became two soft tongues finding ways to stay close to one another.
She held him close, allowing her lips to tell him everything; how he healed her every moment he was with her, how it was his face that took her to a different place when she couldn't bare to stay in her body, how she didn't mind dying if he was stood there by her side... She told him he was the most beautiful man she'd ever seen, and for weeks now she'd loved him beyond all reason. She told him the fact that he loved her too was almost too much for her heart to contain.
They came apart, panting, and rested on one another.
His cheek against hers, his lips tickled her ear, 'Let us walk on through the night,' he said. 'If I rest now with you under that tree I will want to lay with you, and you me. We must away from here.'
She nodded, he took her face in his one good hand, 'You're beautiful,' he said, eyes searching hers. Then he turned away.
Momentarily she forgot to breathe. Her heart pounded as the rain poured into her eyes and mouth. She stood dumbstruck until his same hand found one of hers and pulled her forwards, slipping and sliding and pulling her across the field beside him, all the way to King's Landing - the place where all dreams went to end.