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a safe place to rest

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It was clear that Lady Dustin had made every effort to prepare a comfortable room for her Queen.  A roaring fire had already been set up by the time Sansa was ready to retire for the night, and next to it the servants had arranged a neat stack of firewood for when it began to burn itself out. Heavy velvet drapes covered the windows, protecting the room from the viciously cold drafts that come with the winter winds, and the carpet was so plush Brienne could feel her feet sink into it as she stepped closer to the bed.  The bed itself was massive, and the top of it was covered with thick furs and blankets, piled up in innumerable layers.  

It looked cozy and warm, but Barrow Hall was a Northern castle, and they were deep into a long winter.  The room could have had a damn dragon in it and it still would have been cold.   

"Oh, look at the size of that bed," said Sansa. "For once you won't have to pick between sleeping with your legs curled up around you or dangled over the edge."  

"I'm not meant to be sleeping," said Brienne. "I'm meant to be protecting you."  

"You should sleep," said Sansa. "Barrow Hall is as safe a place as any, and there's a whole night shift of freshly rested men out there guarding every corner. I'll need you at my side during the day, and I'd rather you weren't exhausted." 

"Yes, your Grace," said Brienne, although she knew sleep would not come easy to her even if she tried.  

Sansa turned around and gestured at her back, and Brienne obligingly reached for the ties of her gown. The first few times she'd been asked to help Sansa undress she'd fumbled with the laces for ages, but she'd gotten better at it over time. The dark gray dress Sansa had worn that day was an older one, one that Brienne had helped her take off many times before, and the thick wool felt familiar under her hands. It took her less than a minute to get Sansa out of it, and then she turned, giving Sansa some privacy as she took off her chemise and slipped under the covers of the bed.  

"Come, Brienne," said Sansa, and Brienne turned back around to see her patting the pillow beside her. "There's plenty of room for both of us."  

Brienne cleared her throat. "I'm fine, your Grace. I can sleep on the floor." There was no other furniture in the room, but she'd slept upright in chairs before, or laid out on benches, or all sorts of far worse places out in the countryside.  The thick carpets of their current room looked as if they would rank quite highly in terms of comfort.    

"The North is too cold for that sort of behavior," said Sansa. She beckoned Brienne to the bed again.  

Brienne hesitated for a moment. It seemed deeply improper, even if it were common enough to share beds in the depths of winter, when people where willing to do all sorts of things to keep the blood from freezing in their veins. Ladies slept curled up between their servants all the time. At least, that was what she had been told; Brienne had spent much of her time alone over the years, caught somewhere in the empty space between the way women lived and the way men did. 

Still, Brienne was just a knight. Sansa Stark was Queen of the North, and she would always be Queen in Brienne's heart even if in no one else's. 

"Brienne," Sansa said, her tone more imploring than commanding, but Brienne still caved in the face of her third request. After all, it wasn't her place to decide was proper or not.  

Brienne stripped quickly, aware that Sansa was watching her, peeling off the thick layers that unfortunately did very little to keep out the chill, and by the end she was less nervous about Sansa seeing her than she was about being bare-skinned in the cold night air. Over the years she'd become accustomed to sleeping in her clothes, and it felt strange to fully undressed.  Once everything was off, placed in a neat pile on the floor by her boots, she wasted no time in sliding into the bed. It was a relief to pull the heavy blankets over herself, and she could feel them start to trap the heat of her body as soon as she was settled.  

She left what she felt was an appropriate amount of space between her and Sansa, but it was only a moment before Sansa turned over and then shifted herself backwards until they were pressed together.  Her soft, sweet smelling hair brushed up against Brienne's face, and Brienne inhaled sharply without meaning to.  

"Your Grace-" started Brienne, and Sansa cut her off.  

"You don't have to address me like that when we're alone," she said.  

Brienne wasn't sure there was any other title or name she wanted to call her by. Back when she'd scoured the Seven Kingdoms searching for her she'd always thought of her as Sansa, just to keep her separate from all the other Stark ladies who occupied her mind, but these days it felt far too familiar to say out loud.  

"As you wish," she said, willing herself to relax into the mattress, as difficult a task as that was with Sansa pressed firmly against her.  

The woman she'd found was so different from the Sansa she'd been expecting that at first Brienne had nearly accused the Northerners of lying to her, but on second look there was no denying that she'd found the right person. No one who had ever laid eyes on Catelyn Stark could deny that Sansa was her blood relation. But Catelyn had always described her daughter as sweet, soft, and beautiful - all things most mothers believed about their daughters, but in Sansa's case even less biased sources had backed up Catelyn's judgment of her, although some of them had been less affectionate in how they phrased those descriptions.  All the people she'd spoken with had agreed, the girl she was looking for was indeed beautiful, but even more importantly she was soft; too soft, perhaps, for the circumstances she'd been born into.    

But the Sansa she'd found wasn't soft at all, and there wasn't a trace of naivety in her. Her mouth had been set in a hard, mistrusting line as Brienne had attempted to explain the promise she'd made to her mother.  She was unmistakably beautiful, though, even in her harshness. 

Sansa shifted, turning over again so that she and Brienne were facing each other, and let her head rest on Brienne's shoulder, so close to her breast that Brienne was certain she must be able to hear Brienne's heart pounding in her chest.  The heat of Sansa's skin was disorienting, and Brienne was certain she hadn't been this warm since winter had started.  

"I'm sorry," said Sansa, turning her head so that her nose was pressed into the curve of Brienne's neck. "We can even move back to our own edges of the bed, if you'd rather."  

Brienne hesitated, uncertain if she actually appreciated being given the opportunity to shy away. Then she wrapped her arms around Sansa, holding her close, keeping them embraced. Sansa responded in kind, wrapping her arms around Brienne and opening her mouth to press a hard, wet kiss to Brienne's neck.  Her tongue was searingly hot as she swept it against Breinne's skin. 

Brienne reached for Sansa's hair, tilting her head back so that she could kiss her on the mouth, warm and insistent against her own. As lovely as it felt she instantly she felt she'd gone too far, been to presumptuous.  So she moved her mouth lower to kiss Sansa's neck instead, feeling the smooth, warm skin underneath her mouth.  

After that first meeting she'd realized the softness and the sweetness people had seen in Sansa when she was younger were still in her. The only difference was that now Sansa took greater care in hiding those qualities. Still, over time, she'd let Brienne see them, and now she was letting her revel in them.  

"Oh, Brienne," said Sansa, the satisfaction in her voice sending ripples of pleasure through Brienne as well. She had spent so many years of her life looking for Sansa, and then guarding her, protecting her. All she wanted was for her to be happy.  

Brienne rolled over onto her back, pulling Sansa on top of her as she did.  Their legs got caught up together and Brienne shifted without thinking, trying to ease into the mattress.  Sansa moaned as Brienne's thigh shifted between her legs, and Brienne went still. She could feel the heat of Sansa's core pressing against her skin, and as Sansa bore her weight down on Brienne's thigh she could feel the slick warmth of Sansa's arousal.  

Brienne slid a hand between them, pressing her fingers gently into the wet heat, and Sansa cried out. "Deeper," she said, and she didn't give Brienne a chance to comply before she rolled her hips, pressing herself further against Brienne's hand.  

The blankets and heavy furs had slipped off them, pooling to either side of them as Sansa raised her torso to let her weight press her down harder against Brienne's thigh.  She was shuddering, and Brienne didn't think it was from the cold.  Even uncovered Brienne's body felt blazing hot, so hot that she could feel the sweat building along her hairline.  

Brienne had never done anything like this before. She knew that some preferred their own sex over the opposite - that had been an unavoidable discovery during her years in service to Renly - and her fantasies of late had confirmed her own inclinations. But she'd never had any opportunity to work out what it would be like in practice. She touched Sansa the way she usually touched herself, unsure of anything better to do, and she sighed in satisfaction as Sansa eagerly pressed herself against her.  

"Brienne," she said, gasping as she wound her fingers through Brienne's short hair, "That feels so good, Brienne."  

Brienne smiled, grateful that her inexperience wasn't causing her to disappoint her Queen. She had never considered herself particularly imaginative, and still she was astounded by how much better reality could be than anything she could have thought up on her own.  Her own mind never could have come up with how pleasant it would feel to have Sansa writhing on top of her, weighing her down, or how sweet she could smell, or the way her hair shone like polished copper even in the weak light of the fire.  She certainly never would have imagined how slick and wet Sansa could get, sliding between Brienne's thigh and her stroking fingers as she got closer and closer to the peak of her pleasure.  

"Brienne," she said again, and Brienne had lost count of the number of times Sansa had called out her name that night. But her voice was lower this time, and Brienne could feel the tremors pulsing through her as her muscles tightened. 

Her cries dimmed down to a low, satisfied moan as Brienne continued stroking her, slower now that her tremors were subsiding.  Sansa sighed and slumped down, reaching out to drag her knuckles gently between Brienne's legs, and Brienne gasped as pleasure coursed through her. Such a strong reaction to such a light touch seemed beyond belief, but there was no denying it as her hips bucked up against Sansa's hand.  

Sansa laughed, and Brienne had been so focused on Sansa earlier that she didn't realize how wet she'd gotten until Sansa's delicate fingers slipped inside her.  And maybe it was the fact that it was Sansa touching her, or maybe it was just the normal happiness that came from being touched by another person, she didn't have enough experience to say either way, but the difference between Sansa's fingers inside her and her own was like night and day.  

She brought her hand, still slick from being inside Sansa, to her mouth in a desperate attempt to stifle her urge to cry out.  Sansa, resting on her side, curled her small body around her, their legs still intertwined as she began to move her hand faster and harder between Brienne's legs.  

The best Brienne had ever managed in her own attempts to pleasure herself had been a pleasant if mild form of stress relief.  A way to clear her head after a long day that worked some days and not others.  She had never, not once, sparked anything even close to the kind of pleasure Sansa was dragging out of her now.  She could see now why people would offer up their lives in search of this sort of feeling, even murder and kill and start wars for it. 

It didn't take long before she tightened around Sansa's hand, catching her lip between her teeth to stop herself from coming too loudly, but the warmth in her limbs lingered long after her climax.  Sansa nestled against her, just as warm and satisfied as Brienne was if Brienne was any judge of her mood. 

"The entire purpose of me being in your bedchambers is to protect you," said Brienne, stroking Sansa's hair. "This largely defeats that purpose."  

"Perhaps," said Sansa. "But I can't remember the last time I felt as safe as I do right now."