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The Lion, the Wench and the Wintry (re)Mix

Chapter Text

I want to feel free like the first days of summer
I long for love like the newness of spring
Just as the snow falls and the cold pulls me under
I want to feel evergreen

***

Jaime Lannister felt an emotional cocktail of disgust and relief as he drove towards the historic Winterfell resort. Relief because he had finally freed himself from Cersei’s lies and deceit. She had never loved anything in him but her own reflection. The incestuous relationship with his twin had been their dirty little secret for half their lives. The disgust came from knowing he should have ended it years ago, that it never should have happened. Now that the relationship was over, Jaime felt in need of a cleanse. Two weeks off from work for Christmas and New Year’s had been on the books for several months now, but instead of spending time with Cersei as originally planned, Jaime was now going as far north as possible—the opposite direction of his twin.

He was trying desperately to remember what he had been like before their relationship had went too far. Positive, hopeful, brave. “I wanted to be like the knights of old—The Sword of the Morning and Barristan the Bold—but my relationship with Cersei turned me into the Smiling Knight instead,” Jaime thought with loathing as he made his way up the King’s Road.

Pine, spruce, and cedar further populated his vision as he pressed on towards his destination. The view of the evergreen trees and freshly lain snow as he moved forward was so beautiful that Jaime cracked his windows a bit, just to get a breath of the fresh, clean air. Inhaling deeply, the crispness of the cold air and the bright scent of pine awakened his lungs and mind. The sun was retreating, but Winterfell’s gates were in sight. Two weeks of seclusion with rest, relaxation, the resort spa, and hot springs were just what the Maester ordered. Detoxing from Cersei would feel like a fresh start.

***

“Your room is ready, Mr. Lannister,” called the young front desk clerk, Josmyn Peckledon.

“Thank you, good ser,” Jaime replied, feeling much more cheerful than he had in a long while. The bellhop, Podrick, grabbed up his bags and led him to the elevator.

“This way, Mr. Lannister,” Podrick said before Jaime could object to him taking his things. No matter though. He was on vacation, right? Let the eager lad do his job. Room service and a long night’s rest would be a great start to his vacation. Hopefully time away would give him the opportunity for renewal he desperately needed.

***

Oh to live all year round
To feel a heartbeat when my feet hit the ground
To not feel lost when hope can be found
All around

Chapter Text

Brienne O. Tarth couldn’t get away from the office quick enough. Randyll Tarly had been breathing down her neck for too long. She had met his demands and turned all of her editing projects in well before their deadlines, and yet he just wouldn’t leave her alone. His misogynistic attitude kept her befuddled. Why would a man like that choose to be the senior editor of a romance publishing house?

Heartsbane Books was the premiere romance publisher in Westeros where she worked as a junior editor. Despite his gruff demeanor, Tarly knew how to pick the right stories. “It’s only too bad he can’t seem to take any cues from the kinder, gentler men in the books he publishes,” Brienne thought. Brienne hopped in her car, ready to get home and get started on her vacation. She flipped on the radio and a gentle Christmas tune filled her stereo.

Trains with our names on them
Ribbons and bows
Holiday lights and a fire that glows
A reindeer for Dad, he’s kept all these years
Mom knit the stars, each year they appear

All these Christmas memories
Decorating the tree
Oh, this season, it’s my favorite time to be
Home by the fire
And warm with the love you bring

Brienne sighed as she thought of the handmade decorations her mother had made for the family. Though her mother, brother, and sisters had long passed on, she and her father still put up their ornaments and stockings in their memories. Not this year though. Selwyn Tarth had decided to spend Christmas on another senior singles cruise, this time on The Yuletide Yacht.

“Brienne, I hope you’re not too disappointed,” her father had said. She was, but of course couldn’t let him know. She knew her father had been grievously lonely since her mother passed, then her siblings afterward. She would miss her father’s rich baritone echoing through Evenfall Hall, singing along with the Christmas records he dusted off every year.

The stockings are hung on the mantle with care
The smell of sweet sugar and pine fill the air
Dad sings with Bing, “Silent Night”
Mom tells us kids, “It’s time to sleep tight.”

But these Christmas memories
Decorating the tree
Oh, this season, it’s my favorite time to be
Home by the fire
And warm with the love you bring

“Why is the radio reading my mind?!” Brienne thought with chagrin. The irony cut deeper than a sword. But such was her lot, she supposed. She sighed, pulling a hand through her short, tousled hair. Brienne contemplated stopping at the liquor store to pick up a large bottle of her favorite Crannogmen Gold whiskey. The libation at least would bring a little cheer to her holiday.

Just the time away from work would be welcome, but spending two weeks at home on the couch, watching and re-watching her favorite Christmas movies and sipping cocoa (spiked with the whiskey) in her bathrobe didn’t sound like much of a way to spend her Christmas vacation. Still, with her father away, no other relatives, and her friends all out of town, what was a girl to do? Brienne contemplated adding a trip to the grocery store on her way home for an assortment of frozen entrees for her meals, when her cell phone interrupted her thoughts. “Sansa Stark” flashed on her phone’s display. Confused, as she’d thought Sansa had left last weekend for the holiday, Brienne answered, putting the phone on speaker.

“Brienne? What are you doing?” Sansa asked, the phone crackling a bit. Cell phone reception was spotty in certain areas in the North.

“Contemplating an exciting and lively holiday spent with TV dinners and a bottle of whiskey,” Brienne quipped, her voice dripping in sarcasm.

“Well, I hate to tear you away from all that excitement, but I’ve got another suggestion, if you’re open to it,” Sansa replied, ignoring Brienne’s remarks.

“Fire away.” Brienne rolled her eyes.

“Come up here. Mom heard that you’d be by yourself for the holiday and decided that simply wouldn’t do.”

“I don’t want to impose…” Brienne started.

“Nonsense. You’re basically family. Pack your bags and get up here now! You’ll be staying in an all-inclusive suite as our guest.” Sansa hung up before Brienne could object further.

“Well, I suppose a change of scenery and some fresh, cold air wouldn’t hurt…” Brienne turned the car around and made for home. It would be a Christmas at Winterfell for her.

 

Chapter Text

Jaime II

 

The first night of his stay at Winterfell was a peaceful one. Jaime slept better than he had in a long while. The bed was big enough for him to stretch all the way out and then some. The bedding was heavy and warm, which he appreciated, bundling him up against the chill of the northern night. Not wanting to leave his blanket cocoon to venture out to the dining room, Jaime phoned for room service. He ordered one of those full Northern breakfasts he had heard so much about.

 

The meal was hearty and delicious, comprised of eggs, bacon, toast with butter, a strange type of sausage that he did not want to question because it was delicious, and large cup of dark coffee, piping hot.

 

Jaime munched on a piece of toast while reading Winterfell’s “Gazette,” the flyer of activities and events happening at the resort that came along with his breakfast.

 

“Holiday mixer—drinks, live band, and more, starting at 7pm tonight,” Jaime read aloud. Though it would mean actually having to leave his bed, it sounded interesting. “A nice drink and some good music wouldn’t go amiss,” he told no one in particular. Jaime considered the idea that talking to himself might just be a sign that he needed to get out and interact with more people.

 

Jaime finished his breakfast and pulled himself out of bed. The snow had stopped and it was bright and sunny. A walk in the winter chill might be a good way to start the—Jaime checked his watch—afternoon. He’d slept later than intended. Oh well. What did it matter? He was on vacation! No need to adhere to a strict schedule. Jaime pulled on his winter gear and made his way outdoors.

 

***

 

Brienne II

 

Brienne stood in the crisp afternoon air and inhaled deeply, getting a lungful of the winter chill. It was invigorating. A jaunt on one of the trails outside of the resort gave her the energy boost she’d needed. But now the cold was drifting from crisp and invigorating to biting and bitter.

 

Brienne turned around and began to make her way back to her room. In the distance, she spotted another person coming down the trail. The midday sun was bright, so she raised her hand to shield her eyes. It was a man. Tall, blond, and bearded, wrapped in a deep crimson coat. As he approached, his features became clearer, and Brienne felt the cold pierce her lungs again as she drew in a gasp.

 

This had to be the most gorgeous man she had ever seen. He was wearing a winter hat, but the sunshine glanced off the golden locks peeking out from beneath the cap. A shudder racked Brienne’s body. Surely that was from the cold, right? It had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that she had just spotted the Warrior himself walking towards her on the trail. Nope. Nothing. Nothing at all.

 

“Bracing cold today, right?” the man asked jovially as he passed. “I see you’re shivering!” Brienne felt her face warm in spite of the frigid temperatures.

 

“Yes! I was just heading back indoors. I’ve had my fill of winter’s chill for the day,” Brienne replied, studying the handsome stranger a bit closer. His eyes were emerald green. They flashed as he smiled. His beard was thick, but neatly groomed. It looked soft and she had to stifle the urge to stroke it. They were of a height, though Brienne was slightly taller. Brienne had to force herself to stop gawking before she made a fool of herself in front of the beautiful stranger.

 

“You-you m-m-might not to want to linger too long. It’s only getting c-c-colder,” Brienne stammered, choking on her own tongue. This was a frustrating game she was playing—“Am I Cold or Am I Really This Awkward?” The absurdly handsome man just smiled.

 

“Don’t worry, I won’t.” He chuckled, but pulled his coat a little tighter. “Tell me your name,” he inquired eagerly, offering his gloved hand. Brienne felt her face grow impossibly hotter in the frigid temperatures. She shook his extended hand.

 

“Brienne,” she replied, shocked she was able to speak her own name. “What’s yours?”

 

“Jaime. My name’s Jaime.”

 

***

 

Jaime III

 

The Great Hall was decked out in holiday decor. Tastefully festooned with evergreen trees, garland, and twinkle lights all around, the hall felt more like the love child of a holiday special and a spacious, dark jazz bar rather than a massive dining hall in a historic castle stronghold.

 

Jaime Lannister had decked himself out for the occasion as well, wearing a dark gray, glen plaid jacket and vest over a white button up shirt. He had decided against a tie, not wanting to appear too formal for a simple holiday mixer. Ordering his favorite Crannogmen Gold, neat, he took a seat at the bar, listening to the band and watching the hall. Resort guests had already begun mingling, chatting with drinks in hand and nibbling on the hors d'oeuvres that servers were peddling about the hall.

 

Winter days are moving in

Picking out a tree again

It's you I'm thinking of

 

Everything in red and green

Along those city streets

It's you I'm thinking of

 

Peering over his Crannogmen Gold, his eyes searched room for another set of eyes, the bluest he’d ever seen. Brienne. Her name was Brienne. There was nothing about Brienne’s appearance to commend her to most men, but there were no men like Jaime. Only Jaime. Brienne was the tallest woman he’d ever met, an inch taller than he was, with eyes as pretty and deep as the ocean. She was Cersei’s polar opposite, at least in terms of appearance. Jaime Lannister was not a man for rebound dating—shoot, he’d only been with Cersei his entire life, no opportunity, but the idea didn’t appeal to his sensibilities—nor did the idea of using another woman as a “palate cleanser.” But there was something about Brienne that he could not escape.

 

December days

Make me feel this way

Hope you feel the same

 

Nobody wants to be lonely on Christmas

Nobody wants to be blue

You are the one on the top of my wish list

After all, it's a holiday made for two

 

The singer crooned into his microphone, his voice smooth like butter. Jaime scanned the room again for Brienne. Maybe tonight he could get to know her a little better. It would be nice not to spend all of his time at Winterfell alone. She had seemed amiable enough. Jaime took another sip of his whiskey and spotted her across the room in the soft blue light from the stage, chatting with a red headed girl and laughing.

 

Houses hung with Christmas lights

Sing along with silent night

It's you I'm thinking of

 

Boys and girls and Santa Claus

Wreath hung on the City Hall

It's you I'm thinking of

 

December days

Make me feel this way

Hope you feel the same

 

“In this light, she could almost be a beauty,” Jaime thought as he drew in a quick breath. She was wearing the classic “little black dress.” It was simple, yet elegant, hitting a bit higher than her knee. Her legs went on for days. Her hair had not been visible earlier beneath her winter cap, save for a soft blonde lock peeking out from the edge. Her hair was short and styled in a bob. It suited her well. Brienne’s lips were full and stretched into a broad, toothy smile as her generous guffaw reverberated from across the room. Whatever conversation she was having with her ginger friend must’ve been hilarious. Her laugh was a deep, rich alto, just like her speaking voice. The unbridled joy in it was music to his ears. It was that music that drew him like a pied piper across the hall.

 

Nobody wants to be lonely on Christmas

Nobody wants to be blue

You are the one on the top of my wish list

After all, it's a holiday made for two

 

“Hello again,” Jaime nodded to Brienne, raising his glass. Brienne’s eyes widened as he approached. Jaime was used to women ogling him, but the way she did it, she actually seemed a bit embarrassed. There was a sweet innocence about her embarrassed look, as she blushed and smiled.

 

“Hello, Jaime, right?” Brienne responded, shaking his hand. “Nice to see you were able to make it back after your walk in the arctic tundra.”  

 

“I’m glad to see you did as well,” he replied, holding her hand a bit longer than he should have. Brienne blushed a deeper shade of crimson as he smiled at her.

 

“I’m Sansa,” her friend interjected, smiling and reaching out to shake his hand. “Happy to meet you, Jaime. I’m sorry to dash off, but I must make sure the kitchen sends out another round of hors d'oeuvres. There’s a larger crowd than we expected tonight. I’ll leave you two to enjoy yourselves. Brienne, we’ll catch up later.” Sansa gave Brienne a knowing look, raising an eyebrow and grinning. She spun around and hurried off in the direction of the kitchen.

 

“I see you have an inside connection,” Jaime commented as he finished his whiskey, placing the empty glass on a tray.

 

“Sansa and I have been friends for years,” Brienne replied. “Her family invited me to come up for the holidays, since my father would be away on a trip this year.”

 

“Well, that’s quite nice. You came here because your family was away. I came here to get away from my family,” Jaime snarked.

 

“That bad, eh?” Brienne questioned, raising an eyebrow.

 

“You don’t know the half of it,” Jaime sighed. Why had he even mentioned his family? Something about this woman was disarming. She wasn’t even trying! “But I don’t know why I even brought them up; I’m here to enjoy myself. Would you care to have a drink with me, Brienne? No sense in the two of us spending a lovely evening alone.” Brienne reddened again. How many different shades of crimson could this woman turn? He wanted to spend the evening finding out.

 

“I would like that,” Brienne nodded as he led them to a small table in the corner of the hall. The band played on, a gentle beat pouring from the sound system that made him forcibly suppress the urge to sway and spin his leggy companion around the dance floor. Perhaps she’d be interested in that a bit later.

 

Jaime signaled for a waiter as he pulled Brienne’s chair out for her.

 

“Brienne, please tell me a little more about yourself.”

 

There's mistletoe

And you never know

What the night might have in store

 

Girl, I confess

Ever since we met

You're the present I've been waiting on

 

Chapter Text

Brienne III

 

Brienne stretched out her full length,relishing the fact that her bed was large enough to allow her to do so. The pillows and blankets made for a cozy nest and she was loathe to emerge from its warmth and comfort.

 

But if she didn’t emerge, how was she to bump into Jaime Lannister again?

 

Brienne had spent the evening talking with Jaime over drinks. As it turned out, they shared more in common than just their drink of choice, Crannogmen Gold. Their interests in swords, history and mythology, the historical alternate universe Kingsguard series White is the New Black, among other things gave them plenty of fodder for an evening’s conversation. In fact, Brienne couldn’t remember the last time she’d spent such an enjoyable evening.

 

Brienne had enjoyed his company and he seemed to enjoy hers just as much. It was a connection she could not have predicted making. She’d expected to spend her time with Sansa and the other Starks or enjoy some quiet time on her own. Jaime though…he was…unexpected. Brienne’s face reddened at the thought of him.

 

She never would have guessed in a million years that she’d have ever spent an evening with a man like him. It wasn’t just that he was handsome beyond all reason. It wasn’t that he had gorgeous, thick hair and a beard made for stroking. It wasn’t the way his taut muscles moved beneath his sport coat and button down shirt…

 

Brienne attempted to shake the image of him from her mind. No. It definitely wasn’t that. Any of that.

 

Okay, maybe it was a little.

 

But no, his looks were just a nice bonus. Jaime seemed to be a genuinely kind person. Most men either ignored her or were cruel to her, save for her father and the Starks. Brienne had heard more savage words directed at her appearance in her lifetime than was lawful. Jaime’s gaze went past her face and straight into her soul. Brienne was not accustomed to that experience. It was disarming.

 

She couldn’t allow herself to be this attracted to someone she had only just met. That was a fast track to heartbreak. Renly had taught her that a handsome face and a bit of kindness might be simply be anyone had to offer. And yet, that hadn’t stopped her from loving him.

 

Jaime was kind and handsome, and that was really all she knew of him. It could all be an act. And yet, she just couldn’t help herself.

 

There had to be a way to distract herself from him the rest of the trip.

 

Or you could just get to know him better.

 

No, no, NO!

 

This simply would not do. Brienne extricated herself from the bed, dressed, and made her way to breakfast. There was only one way to rid Jaime Lannister from her mind. It was a recipe that involved a hearty breakfast, black coffee, and walk about the Winterfell grounds.

 

***

 

“Good morning, Brienne,” a voice drawled behind her causing her to sputter into her coffee mid-sip.

 

“Jaime?” Brienne turned to see her new friend, freshly showered, smelling of cologne, his hair and beard looking luscious.

 

“May I join you?” He seated himself across from her and began digging into his overstuffed omelet, full of Dornish Dragon Peppers, onions, mushrooms, sausage, and pepper jack cheese.

 

“You take your omelet the way I do,” Brienne smiled as she sipped her coffee.

 

“Do I?” Jaime replied, a bit of cheese and omelet stuck to his beard.

 

Brienne couldn’t stifle the chuckle before it slipped out. How could a bit of food stuck in his beard make Jaime that much more attractive?

 

“What is it?” Jaime grinned, but they were interrupted.

 

“Brienne!” Robb Stark walked over to their table and pulled his surrogate sister from her seat into a hug. “It’s good to see you. I’ve not gotten to say hello since you arrived.”

 

“It’s great to see you too,” Brienne replied, clapping him on the back and placing her hands on his shoulders.

 

“Come here, I need to show you something,” Robb said and pulled her away, throwing a sidelong glance in Jaime’s direction.

 

This is the weather I've been longing for,

Together we'll be nice and warm,

Oh baby baby just an ounce of time,

The memory would last for life,

 

If maybe we get just a lil' bit closer, oh

 

And no one's here to stop us,

Just a little bit oh, oh

 

Just tell me that we'll just stay

(You're mine, you're mine)

All this Christmas,

(You're mine, you're mine)

Underneath the mistletoe

(You're mine, you're mine)

Ooh...

(You're mine, you're mine)

 

***

 

Jaime IV

 

Jaime looked on, frustrated at Brienne being suddenly removed from his company. What did that guy want with Brienne?

 

Brienne was nowhere to be seen the rest of the morning. Where had she gotten to? Jaime had finished his breakfast alone and retreated back to his room for his winter coat and hat. The blue sweater she’d been wearing only served to deepen those endless pools that were her eyes. She’d grinned at him before that guy had pulled her away. He was going to invite her for a walk and maybe a game or two of pool or cards in the lounge. He’d have to catch her before that young pup tried to make a move on her. Jaime noticed that look the interloper had thrown at him. He looked familiar. Where had he seen him before?

 

Jaime took a walk out in the cold to clear his head. Brienne was also fond of a chilly walk. Perhaps he’d run into her again? Her presence had been such a gift the night before. He’d hoped his time at the resort to be filled with solitude. He’d not expected to be charmed by the most unconventional of women. It wasn’t wise to get involved with someone else so soon after putting things to rest with Cersei. But a friend? Jaime could stand to have a friend. Hells, how many real friends did he have? His brother, cousin Addam. Everything else was lost in the black hole that had been his relationship with Cersei.

 

Jaime inhaled the frosty air, and upon exhaling, imagined the fog he released was also the toxic fumes of his relationship with his sister. As he went to take in another breath, he gasped as he caught a glimpse of Brienne across the courtyard. Jaime turned on his heel and made a B-Line towards her, thinking the “B” in B-Line now stood for Brienne.

 

This the season I give you love,

You are I think the reason I can give enough,

Girl it's like you came under the Christmas tree,

You're such a special gift to me,

 

If maybe we get just a lil' bit closer, oh

 

“Brienne!” Jaime called as he jogged up to her.

 

“Oh!” Brienne’s cheeks reddened again, not from the cold. “It’s nice to see you again, Jaime. I’m sorry I was pulled away this morning. I—” Brienne’s eyes widened and her jaw dropped.

 

Jaime turned to look for whatever had startled Brienne. A pack, a literal pack of direwolves was running straight toward them. Instinctively, Jaime pulled Brienne to him, slipping his arms around her as the wolf pack stampeded past. Jaime felt himself burning, in spite of the bitter cold.

 

“Brienne! Brienne! I need your help! The direwolves escaped their enclosure!” Arya Stark grabbed Brienne’s arm as she ran past. Brienne gave Jaime a confused look and followed after Arya, attempting to round up the rogue direwolves. Jaime started after her to help, but a hearty growl from one of the wolves had him slowly backing away, hands up.

 

And no one's here to stop us,

Just a little bit oh, oh

 

Just tell me that we'll just stay

(You're mine, you're mine)

All this Christmas,

(You're mine, you're mine)

Underneath the mistletoe

(You're mine, you're mine)

Ooh...

(You're mine, you're mine)

 

Jaime had retreated indoors. He was sipping a mug of hot coffee and flipping through his phone when he saw Brienne enter the lounge, stamping snow from her boots. Fresh flakes clung to the tufts of soft blonde hair peeking out from beneath her hat. She was breathtaking, even bundled up against the cold.

 

“Brienne!” Jaime waved to her from his spot at the lounge bar. He stood, and pulled out the chair next to him. Brienne hesistated, then smiled and joined him.

 

“I see you survived the direwolves,” Jaime noted as he took her coat. He waved for the bartender to pour another cup of coffee for Brienne. “I started to help, but…”

 

“I saw! Nymeria didn’t hurt you, did she?” Brienne asked, a look of concern crossing her deep blue eyes. “She’s very protective of her pack.”

 

“No, not at all, save for my pride,” Jaime laughed. “Now tell me, how did you become The Direwolf Whisperer?” The bartender slid a steaming mug of coffee in front of Brienne.

 

“You remember me mentioning my friendship with Sansa and her family last night?” Brienne asked, sipping her coffee.

 

Jaime nodded, sipping his own.

 

“Arya is her sister. She’s in charge of the direwolves and runs demonstrations of classical swordplay for the resort. I’ve never seen her have so much trouble with the direwolves before though. It was rather unusual.”

 

“And the guy from earlier is…” Jaime started.

 

“Her brother, Robb. He’s an assistant director under his father and mother. I’m not sure what exactly he wanted to show me this morning. We started off and then he got called away.”

 

Brienne took another sip of her coffee. "The Starks have become a second family to me, so I've been around the wolves for quite some time. They are beautiful to observe, but let's just say they jack up the insurance price for this place."

 

Jaime laughed. He felt slightly better at the situation, but still. It was odd that whenever he started to spend time with Brienne a Stark pulled her away.

 

“Oye, Lannister,” called the barkeep.

 

Jaime looked at the young man, and then up where he had gestured with the stub of a finger. There hanging above them was a bit of green.

 

Mistletoe.

 

How in the world had he missed it? He’d not sat there intentionally, but the coincidence was too real.

 

Brienne had looked up with him, then their eyes met. Hers were a blue so dark and deep, he thought he might not emerge. Jaime felt his mouth go dry and he swallowed hard.

 

“Brienne O. Tarth!” came a husky female voice from the door.

 

“Cat!” Brienne turned at once to see the small, yet imposing figure of Catelyn Stark standing in the doorway. Catelyn pulled Brienne into a tight hug.

 

“Brienne, I’m sorry to interrupt your afternoon coffee, but I’d like to have a word with you. Come with me.”

 

Without waiting for an answer, she turned on her heel and strode away.

 

Brienne looked apologetically at Jaime.

 

“See you later?” she said, and followed after.

 

Oh, yeah..

Am I askin' for too much,

I mean I know it's Christmas,

It's all about givin' baby,

Yeah, ooh...

 

Jaime wasn’t sure if he were relieved to be out of a potentially awkward situation or frustrated by the third interruption by a Stark in as many hours. Something just didn’t feel right.

 

“Theon?” Jaime called towards the bartender. “More coffee, please. I need to think.”

 

At least no one would stop him from enjoying his coffee.

 

Chapter Text

Brienne IV

 

Catelyn Stark could move quickly for a woman of her stature. Even with her long legs, Brienne had to power walk to match her pace. 

 

“What is it, Catelyn?” Brienne asked when she finally caught up.

 

“Not here, Brienne. We’ll talk in my office,” she replied, her green eyes flashing. Catelyn had a look about her that could turn water to ice. It chilled Brienne down to the bone. 

 

Entering the office, Catelyn first went to the sideboard, turning on the coffee maker. As the pot began brewing, Catelyn turned to face Brienne. 

 

“Brienne, do you know that man at the bar?” Catelyn asked, her mouth growing very thin.

 

“Jaime? I met him yesterday when I was on a walk, then we talked all evening at the mixer. We had a nice time. He was a perfect gentleman...why?” Brienne’s brow furrowed in worry. 

 

“Don’t you know who he is? He’s Jaime Lannister,” Catelyn spoke his last name with venom. 

 

“No…not that Jaime,” Brienne gasped. But of course! How could she have been so dense? She’d even heard Theon say his last name at the bar. It just hadn’t registered with her due to Jaime’s proximity and their precarious position under the mistletoe. 

 

Brienne had heard tales of the Lannister family. By all accounts they were ruthless in business, manipulating and maneuvering in perhaps a less than scrupulous manner. She should have known. The mane of golden hair. His famed good looks. (Although “good” didn’t seem to do Jaime justice). She swallowed hard.

 

“Coffee?” Catelyn asked. Brienne nodded and took the offered cup from her surrogate mother’s hands. 

 

“But he seemed so…so…genuine.” Brienne sipped her coffee before speaking. “We talked for hours last night. And he even made a snarky remark about coming here to get away from his family.” 

 

Catelyn eyed Brienne over her coffee mug. 

 

“Did he now? That is interesting.” Catelyn sipped her coffee. “Still, I would urge you to use caution with him, Brienne. The Lannisters are notorious and if he’s anything like his father, he’s not someone to be trusted.” 

 

“Catelyn, I don’t get that feeling from him. I mean, I only just met him, but I didn’t get the feeling that he was ever being disingenuous with me when we talked or spent time together” Brienne shook her head. “I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for now.”

 

“Brienne, you know I love you as if you were my own daughter.” Catelyn reached across the desk and laid a hand on Brienne’s. “I’ve only got your best interests at heart. You’re an adult and must make your own decisions, but I don’t want you to be mixed up with the wrong crowd or to get your heart broken.” 

 

Brienne felt her face redden at that last bit. Brienne had a snowball’s chance in all seven hells of ever attracting a man with Jaime’s level of handsome, but still—he could break her heart just the same. She knew that pain all too well. 

 

“Thanks for your concern, Catelyn.” Brienne squeezed her hand in return. “I appreciate it.” Brienne finished her coffee and stood up. 

 

“Of course, dear.” Catelyn gave her a warm look. “Just do be careful, will you?

 

“Of course,” Brienne turned on her heel and walked out of the office. 



***



Brienne knew Catelyn meant well. She really did. But did she need to jump to all of these conclusions? And did she need to enlist the help of her entire family in “Operation: Clam Jam?!” It was not like anything remotely like that was ever going to happen, but it definitely would NOT happen if she never got a chance to spend time alone with Jaime. Three Starks had interfered with her time with Jaime today. Hopefully, Catelyn would let this go and call off her “direwolves,” so to speak. Brienne breathed a heavy sigh. She needed to think. Maybe some time with a book in one of the large, soft, squashy armchairs would help. She made her way down the corridor, searching for the lounge. 

 

When she found it, Brienne curled herself up in one of the armchairs near the fire and grabbed a book from the side table. Catelyn was great about stocking Heartsbane Books at the resort. Brienne happened to grab one of their more recent publications, a holiday-themed collection, full of sweet short stories, perfect for a cozy evening in— Yuletide is Coming . Brienne nestled deeper into the armchair and flipped it open to the first story. The snow falling outside, created a picturesque backdrop for her fireside reading. 

 

Softly they fall, where do they go?

(Purple snowflakes)

Cover the ground, without a sound

(Gentle snowflakes)

Fall from the sky, before your eyes

(It's so thrilling)

Blankets of white, brighten the night

(Such a feeling)

 

They seem to say, that our love is

Here to stay

We'll be cozy and warm

Until summer flowers bloom

 

***

 

Jaime V

 

Jaime had been sipping coffee for a while at the bar, Brienne’s absurdly long and muscular legs running through his mind. He’d nearly found out what it would be like to kiss those full, supple lips of hers. If she had wanted him to, anyway. She may not have. He had no idea. But it was something that he couldn’t deny—he, Jaime Lannister, was decidedly attracted to Brienne O. Tarth. It was unexplainable, but there it was. 

 

When he’d pulled her close during the direwolf stampede, the feel of her body against his, even with the extra layers, was almost too much. He’d been grateful for those extra layers between them. Otherwise, he might have found himself in an embarrassing situation that even the bitter northern cold had not managed to defeat. 

 

He didn’t want to rush into anything, but he only had a limited amount of time to spend with Brienne. He wanted to at least nail down a solid friendship with her. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d had such an enjoyable evening just talking with another person. He stood up and stretched, tossed a few dollars in Theon’s tip jar, and looked around the room. The lounge was vast. An old fashioned solid oak bar and barstools, some billiard and card tables, a roaring fireplace, and an isolated reading nook near that fireplace, walled off from the rest of the room. 

 

Jaime considered returning to his room, and started toward the exit near the reading nook. A pair of long legs stretched out from an armchair and a head of light blonde, tousled hair peeked out above the back of the chair. 

 

Brienne. 

 

Here in our midst, we're surely blessed

(Chestnuts roasting)

Over the heat, gee, ain't life sweet?

(Tootsies toasting)

Drifting on air, without a care

(Purple snowflakes)

Cover the ground, without a sound

(Love the snowflakes)

 

I'm sure as snowflakes

Fall from the gloom

I will always remember this night

Here with you

Yeah, snowflakes

Pretty purple snowflakes

Snowflakes

Pretty purple snowflakes

 

Jaime walked as quickly as decency would allow, making another B-line for Brienne, taking the armchair across from her. 

 

“Good book?” he asked. Brienne jumped, having been engrossed in the novel. Jaime couldn’t help but grin. 

 

“Jaime! That’s the second time you’ve startled me today,” Brienne said before sitting up straight and running her fingers through her hair. 

 

“And yes, this is actually an anthology put out by my publisher. I was co-editor for this one,” she handed him the book. 

 

Jaime looked at the cover and smiled. “I see why the Starks chose this one. ‘Winter is coming,’ are the ancient words of their house, if I remember correctly. Good pun.” 

 

Brienne laughed in a now-familiar deep, rich tone. He wanted to make her laugh like that all the time. 

 

“It’s true,” Brienne nodded. “Catelyn is always kind enough to keep copies of Heartsbane books stocked on the resort for guest use. I think she found it funny that I suggested this title, but it was really only fitting, as the stories in this anthology take place in the north.” 

 

“I suppose the cold can make for a romantic setting,” Jaime mused, stroking his beard. “Lots of opportunities for cuddling and mistletoe.” 

 

Brienne’s cheeks turned pink at that statement. 

 

Careful . Jaime internally facepalmed himself. He shouldn’t be mentioning mistletoe after the afternoon’s near mishap. 

 

“Old tropes, but they work,” Brienne replied, blushing further, but smiling. 

 

Here in our midst, we're surely blessed

(Chestnuts roasting)

Over the heat, gee, ain't life sweet?

(Tootsies toasting)

Drifting on air, without a care

(Purple snowflakes)

Cover the ground, without a sound

(Lovely snowflakes)

 

I'm sure as snowflakes

Fall from the gloom

I will always remember this night

Here with you

 

“Do you have a favorite trope?” Jaime heard himself say the words, but for the life of him, he couldn’t understand what made him utter them. 

 

“A few,” Brienne replied. “But so many people are surprised to hear that I have favorites. That because I’m an editor at the top romance publishing house in Westeros, people assume that I don’t even think about romantic things outside of a ‘work’ context. Or that I should be happy for any kind of romantic attention at all, wanted or not.” 

 

“Why would anyone think that?” Jaime asked, truly befuddled. Brienne was a wonderful person, and even through their limited interactions, he could tell that she was genuine and kind. And she must be someone special for the Starks to have opened their arms to her in such a way. Northerners were not easily won over by outsiders. 

 

“Jaime. Seriously. You must know what I mean,” Brienne said, her facing growing dark and her eyes filled with sadness. 

 

“I truly don’t,” Jaime replied, furrowing his brow.

 

Brienne sighed. 

 

“People have a hard time imagining that the ugliest girl alive would dare to entertain romantic thoughts,” Brienne replied, crossing her arms and sinking back into her chair. 

 

“But…how could anyone ever think that about you?” Jaime replied.. “If I’m being honest, you’re the first person I’ve ever met that doesn’t have a hidden agenda. You’re kind. You’re sincere. How could anyone find that unattractive?”

 

And there it went. He’d just said out loud what he’d been thinking since the moment he met her. Brienne met his gaze, looking as shocked as he felt. 

 

“Jaime, we just met. You hardly know me,” Brienne started.

 

“But I’ve been around you long enough to know those things are true. Am I wrong?” Jaime replied, leaning forward. 

 

Brienne looked pensive, leaning forward, resting her elbows on her knees, their faces inches apart. 

 

“No, you’re not. Those are qualities to which I aspire. But most people don’t take the time to find out,” she replied. 

 

“I’d be honored to do so, if you’ll have me. Would you join me for dinner?” Jaime asked, standing and offering his hand. 

 

Brienne studied his hand, then looked up at him as she took it. 

 

“I would. I would like that very much,” she replied.

 

Jaime offered his arm and the two of them made their way to the dining hall. 

 

Yeah, I say, snowflakes

Pretty purple snowflakes

Snowflakes (snowflakes)

Pretty purple snowflakes

snowflakes are falling

(Pretty purple snowflakes) falling, falling

(Snowflakes) and I

Got you here in my arm

(Snowflakes)

(Pretty purple snowflakes)

(Snowflakes)

(Pretty purple snowflakes)