Brienne held him awkwardly, very aware of the fever-hot press of his skin against hers. The muscle against her hands was slick with water. His filthy hair brushed her mouth as she bent over him, and she could smell him: sweat and musk and the iron tang of blood. His skin, where it wasn't water-damp, was dirty, and smeared with mud.
'Help for Ser Jaime!' she called, louder, because she couldn't bear to call him Kingslayer again. She still heard his raspy voice whispering, 'Jaime. My name is Jaime.'
No one came. She shifted her feet in the water, tried to change her grip on him and almost lost him. His head lolled against her breast and his body sagged and nearly slipped beneath the water.
Brienne heard boot steps approaching, and a jolt of relief went through her like a crossbow bolt. 'Please!' she cried, as they entered the baths: Two of them, two guards by their dress- leather armor over chainmail hauberks, swords at their hips. No one she was familiar with from the journey here, and she thanked the gods for that. 'Ser Jaime needs help from the bath. He is ill,' she said. She had changed her grip again to catch him, and now he was lying fully against her, with his face against her upper chest. His hair tickled her neck and she felt the scrape of his beard.
It was an awkward position, made more awkward by the fact that they were both naked.
Brienne stared at the guards, wondering why they didn't move to help.
'It looks like you have him well in hand,' one of the men said finally.
The other laughed. 'Don't you know what to do with a naked man?' he asked. 'My lady?' The last was a mocking addition. Brienne flinched. 'He fell,' she said.
'I'm sure he did,' the first guard said. 'It doesn't look like he'll give you much of a fight.'
'Kingslayer,' the other said. 'He doesn't look like so much now, does he?'
He put his hand on his sword, and the contemplative look on his face made all of Brienne's muscles jump.
'You will not,' she said. 'He is under the protection of the Lord of Harrenhal.'
'Lord Skinpeeler,' the first man said. He laughed, but the other took his hand off his sword.
'Get out,' Brienne hissed.
The first man winked at her. 'Want to be alone, to finish what you started,' he said. 'Alec and me, we understand.' He took the second guard's arm.
When they turned and walked out, Brienne was almost grateful. 'Bastards,' she whispered.
Residual shudders went through her, her body wanted a fight now.
Jaime was too heavy. His skin burned her but she was afraid to put him down. Instead she sat. He slumped heavily against her when she lowered him to half lying across her lap. His stump was in the water, the bandage soaked. His good hand flopped limply too.
'Ser Jaime,' Brienne said. He didn't move. She lifted the arm that wasn't supporting his weight, touched his face. The skin seared her fingers- he was burning up.
His hair was too long, dull with dirt and oil. It hung over his face, the tips dripping bathwater. She stroked it back from his forehead unconsciously, and he pressed into her touch.
'Jaime,' he whispered. 'Jaime.'
'Jaime,' she agreed, to quiet him. 'Be easy, Jaime. I have you.'
They stayed like that for a few moments, while Brienne collected herself. She had him for now, but what was she going to do with him? She didn't think she could get him out of the bath by herself. And even if she could, she could not get him dressed, get him outside or up to his room.
He stirred in her arms, and Brienne put her hand to his forehead. 'You are too hot,' she said. 'Your wound has fevered you.'
He didn't answer.
Brienne shivered. Even though most of her was in the warm bathwater, she felt cold.
'What shall we do?' she asked.
He made a small, soft sound in his throat then, and turned his face against her breast.
Brienne froze. She felt the touch acutely, as if she had never felt anything before : the flow of his hot breath over her skin, the roughness of his beard brushing her, the edge of his teeth inside the soft wetness of his mouth.
Suddenly there was a new level of discomfort to holding him, a new awkwardness.
'You'd love to know what it feels like to be a woman.' She remembered him speaking those words.
And, 'I'm strong enough.'
Not now, she thought. Not strong enough now.
He had promised to fling her down and overpower her, but he couldn't even hold himself up.
And yet, his good hand moved in the water, curled toward her and caught her shoulder.
'Cersei,' he said.
His voice was different. It sent a shock through her, and Brienne actually flinched. She had never heard a tone like that before. Jaime's voice promised things she had never even imagined. It stroked her like fur, and she shuddered.
'No,' she said.
She caught his chin in her free hand, feeling the rasp of his beard in her fingers, and pulled his face from her breast. His eyes turned up to hers. Green, shot with gold, bright with fever-heat, and unseeing.
'Jaime,' Brienne said, into that empty look. 'No.'
With those fever-glittering eyes, he smiled. 'You've told me no before,' he said, still in that same voice, 'but you've never meant it.' He pressed into her, and she felt him.
For an instant she thought of Locke's men, thought of rape and her muscles clenched to fight. But this was Jaime.
She let go of his chin and caught a handful of his hair. 'Jaime,' she warned him. 'Kingslayer. I may not have my sword, but I can still beat you in a fair fight.'
He shuddered and dropped his face to her neck. 'Burn them all,' he whispered.
She heard him sob once.
'You're sick,' Brienne said. 'Gods, Jaime, you are sick.'
He needed a maester. He needed something. She struggled to her feet, still holding him, and managed to drag him up with her. When he found his own feet and tried to stand, it almost made them both fall. He staggered and tried to pull away from her, but she hooked an arm around his neck.
'Don't,' she said. 'Don't fight me.'
'Brienne?' he whispered.
'We're in the baths,' she said. 'You fell.'
'I don't…' his voice trailed off and she saw that the fever had taken him again. He might as well be blind. His green eyes saw nothing here.
Brienne dragged him away from the edge of the bath, nearly pitching them both backwards again. If he fell in the water, she wasn't sure she could lift him out again. They bumped up against a wall, and she sagged against it gratefully. Jaime felt twice as heavy in her arms. He muttered words she couldn't understand, called out for his sister, for his father, for his brother Tyrion.
When he said her own name, Brienne jerked her eyes back to his face instead of staring over his head at the doorway. His were still glazed and clouded, seeing some other place.
'Sapphires,' he said. 'Her weight in sapphires if you don't touch her.
Don't touch her!'
The last was a vicious hiss.
'I'll kill you,' he said then. 'Bastard, seven hells take you, Locke, I will cut your heart out and feed it to the crows. My hand.'
He whimpered, a sound she had never wanted to hear Jaime Lannister make, even when she hated him. 'My hand,' he said again. He lifted his stump to eye level, and she saw the muscles in his arms flex as he tried to move fingers that weren't there. When he screamed, she put her hands over her mouth in reflexive horror. He slipped out of her arms, and she tried and failed to catch him. They both ended up on their knees. Brienne wrapped her arms around Jaime before he could fall the rest of the way to the floor.
'Jaime,' she said. 'Jaime, Jaime, Jaime. Hush. Be quiet now.'
'My hand,' he said again.
'I know,' she said. 'It is a terrible, terrible thing that they did to you.'
'I want…' but he didn't say what he wanted.
She rocked him gently back and forth. 'I know,' she said.
'Please?' he asked her.
'No,' she said.
'It hurts,' he said again.
He stared at his stump, the soaking bandage stained with fresh blood. 'He offered me milk of the poppy,' he said after a moment.
'Who did?' Brienne asked, slightly thrown.
'Qyburn.' As if she should know who that was.
'Did you take it?'
'No. I just screamed.'
'You should have taken it.' Maybe milk of the poppy would have eased his fever. 'You should be in bed,' she said.
'I was dirty,' he protested.
'You're still dirty,' Brienne said.
Why am I conversing with him? She wondered. He was still fevered, still ill. He needed help, not talk.
He shifted against her, and Brienne wondered if she should try to get him to stand. Maybe they could make it to his room.
'Can you-' she started.
Then Jaime turned his head, and he was too close. Brienne stared into his eyes, deep green with flecks of gold and amber, mesmerizing. She was frozen. She saw the change come over Jaime's expression. He put his good hand into her hair, and the pressure of his hand drew her head downward. They were already too near for her to save herself, and she had time for only a quick gasp before Jaime Lannister lifted his mouth the last inch and kissed her.
Brienne had never kissed a man, nor been kissed by him.
She didn't know how to react to Jaime's lips on hers, fever-hot, his tongue in her mouth, his hand clenched in her hair. She tasted blood in her mouth and knew it was his. From when they had beaten him earlier, perhaps, or maybe he had bitten himself when they tended his wound. It tasted of metal and salt. Part of her was horrified, but the other part… The other part was drowning.
No, she thought. I can't… You can't…
She pushed him back, hard, both hands on his chest, and he went. He was breathing heavily, his pupils dilated and his teeth bared.
'No,' she said aloud. 'No.'
Jaime closed his mouth and then his eyes. She saw a shudder go through him, and then he slumped sideways, all his strength gone. As reluctant as she was to touch him- afraid of him or afraid of herself- Brienne reached out and caught him before he could strike his head on the floor. This time he was truly limp, unconscious, she thought.
This never happened, she thought. I can never think of this again.
A sound from the doorway jerked her head up, and her hand itched for her sword. But the man there wore a maester's robe, grey and enveloping.
'My lady,' he said.
He was smaller than her, and smaller than Jaime, but he moved forward, reached down and lifted Jaime easily.
'He is ill,' Brienne said.
The maester looked at her, and there was nothing in his eyes that made her self-conscious of her nakedness. 'Yes,' he said.
'Will you help him?' Brienne asked.
'Yes,' he said again.
'You are Qyburn,' Brienne said.
'I am,' the maester answered.
Then he turned and carried Jaime out of the baths.
When they were both gone, Brienne rose. She realized how cold she was, and reached for her clothes. Ragged and dirty as they were, they were better than no covering at all.