A/N: In the same universe as A Lion Still Has Claws and And Time Marches On, between the two chronologically.
Now that nightmares visit Brienne less frequently, she usually sleeps long and hard as she did in childhood. The sudden, insistent touch of little hands shaking at her arm is enough to startle her from sleep quickly, though.
She struggles to an upright position, disentangling herself from Jaime, asleep with his arms wrapped around her and his chest pressed against her back. He rolls over onto his other side with a faint moan of distaste, but doesn't wake.
Joanna hovers at the edge of their bed in her nightshift—her prettiest one, with the black lace working on its front. She's six years old today and nearly exploding with excitement. Unfortunately, it's still dark outside, and no time for any sort of exploding whatsoever.
"Joanna, it's not yet morning. You need to go back to bed."
"It's almost dawn. I saw the sunset starting."
She runs to the window, clambering up onto a wooden chest, and pushes the shutters further open.
A fine line of pale orange does indeed run along the horizon. Brienne sighs.
She can't allow Joanna to drag them out of bed whenever she wants, even if it is her name day. They'd never get a moment's rest again. Of course, now Alys is starting to walk and talk that'll be next to impossible anyway.
"Let us sleep just a while longer."
Joanna descends from her perch, looking pleadingly at her mother.
"If I'm going to start learning the sword today, I'll need to get up early."
Brienne laughs. Joanna is very much her father's daughter. At times, they seem to be constitutionally incapable of patience.
"Neither one of us will thank you for such an early start to the day, I'll promise you that. And besides, we can't train properly until it's light out. You need to rest and eat a good breakfast, not fling yourself out of bed as soon as possible."
Joanna frowns, considering the proposal.
"But I'm not tired!"
Brienne pictures the amount of havoc Joanna could create in a few unsupervised hours, and she doesn't feel like getting up to watch her just yet. She decides indulging her daughter just a little bit can't hurt once a year.
"You can climb in with us if you like."
Her new offer is answered with a beaming smile. At last, compliance.
Joanna hurries to the foot of the bed, pulling the blankets up over her and burrowing in like a little mole. She scrabbles up the center of the bed, her feet cold against Brienne's legs. Finally, her head pops up in the center of the bed, shoulder-length curls all tangled from her tunneling.
She and Jaime made an exceptional-looking child, Brienne thinks. Joanna is not pretty, with a broad nose and freckles scattered haphazardly around her face, but she has wide, blue-green ocean eyes and hair like a lion's mane, her body growing tall and sturdy.
As Joanna shifts around, trying to wedge herself comfortably between her parents, she finally manages to nudge Jaime out of sleep. He lifts his head from the pillow, blinking owlishly.
"It appears someone has invaded our bed, Brienne. Should I chase her off?"
"No," Joanna instructs him. Her voice is firm, as if she's the parent telling off her child. Brienne smiles to herself. "Mother said I could sleep in here. I wanted to go outside and use my sword, but she said it was too early."
Jaime yawns hugely. "Thank the gods your mother has some good sense, Joanna." He sits up, sliding his long legs out from under the blankets. He winces when his bare feet hit the cold stone floor.
"Where are you going?" Brienne asks.
"To fetch the baby. If we already have to put up with one bedmate, we'd best get the whole family in here."
Jaime often calls Alys that, 'the baby.' He did the same when Joanna was as small, barely more than a year old. She knows he loves their children, but he sometimes holds himself at a distance. He has gotten better about that with Joanna, as she grows older. When she was an infant, Jaime would fret whenever he held her, even if she was quiet and docile. He had never held any of Cersei's children.
She thinks that Jaime, who grew up afraid of his father and watched his sister over-indulge their children, worries over his own ability as a parent. They had waited a long time to make a child together, both of them wondering if they were suited to it. Brienne has found that her hands care for her daughters just as well as for a broadsword.
Sometimes, she thinks of that conversation with Lady Catelyn, years ago. Brienne is older and wiser now. She carries her share of grief, but also joy, and perhaps she, too, has a woman's courage all her own. Sometimes, she wishes her girls could have met Lady Catelyn, but she is twice dead now, and long since gone.
Joanna capitalizes on her father's absence, wriggling into the newly-vacated side of the bed. She sits bolt upright, her arms tucked tight around her knees, her feet fluttering excitedly beneath the sheets.
When Jaime returns, he has a sleeping Alys balanced carefully on his hip. Her fair hair sticks up in messy tufts, and she's sucking her thumb.
When he sees Joanna in his spot, he laughs.
"Didn't take you long to steal my place, did it?"
Steadying Alys with his good hand, he smacks playfully at Joanna with his stump.
"Away with you, or I'll sit on you."
Giggling, Joanna dodges his blow. Clambering over to the side, she climbs onto Brienne's lap, nestling her head against her mother's neck. Her hair, soft as silk, brushes the scars on Brienne's cheek. Next to them, Jaime tugs Alys's hand from her mouth for what must be the thousandth time, muttering what sounds suspiciously like a curse under his breath.
"Aren't you forgetting what today is?" Brienne asks, her voice light and teasing. Joanna bounces in her lap, expecting name day congratulations from her father.
Jaime looks up, grinning.
"I certainly did not forget. Even if Joanna here hadn't been chattering on about it all week, I know what I smelled wafting up from the kitchens last night."
"Ginger cake!" Joanna shouts. It's her favorite, and only served on special occasions, because the curls of dried ginger used for flavoring are expensive.
"Exactly. Happy name day, Joanna. May your year be as filled with cake and swordplay as today promises to be."