They didn't sleep right away, despite how badly everyone needed it. They had to remove the dead first, throw them onto massive pyres and say their prayers. Brienne had kept Pod and Jaime safe and so she was in a strange mindset, simultaneously joyously relieved and so, so exhausted, Jaime's panicked face and the dead's rotting flesh flashing before her eyes with equal frequency.
In that sense, having work to do was a blessing. By the time most of Winterfell had been cleared, her eyes were gritty with exhaustion, and the cut on her side had bled through three sets of bandages. She bathed as quickly as she could and then stumbled on her way up to her room, barking her knee on the stair and biting back a curse.
"This is what it takes to lay Brienne of Tarth low? I must say, I'm impressed."
The not-quite-gentle tone would have been familiar even had she been locked away for a century. She took Jaime's offered hand, noted his own deep exhaustion. "Where are you sleeping, then?"
"Nowhere, yet," Jaime said. "In truth, I was looking for you."
He didn't ask her, and maybe that was for the best; she might have said no, then, or at least remembered that she ought to. But he didn't ask. He looked at her, and sighed a little, and then said, "Lead the way, my lady."
Not Ser Brienne, then. Perhaps it had never happened; perhaps she'd only dreamed it. Almost everything that had happened in the last few days had that unreal quality to it.
She walked to her room, and he followed. She opened the door for him, and he passed through it without hesitation. He unbuckled his sword and lay it on a side table. She shut the door and turned to face him. None of it felt real, a movement of two bodies cast in gold, pawns on a chess board.
He took one step towards her, then two. He reached out and touched her hip, his thumb pressing into the rough linen tunic she'd put on after her bath. His hand was warm, his fingers still a little pruned. She felt herself shiver as he stepped still closer, his chest touching hers, her breasts peaking against him.
"Ser Brienne," he said, a ragged whisper.
A bolt of desperation struck her. "Ser Jaime."
He closed his eyes and let a breath out. His shoulders fell back, a pliant expression she'd never seen on him before, as he leaned in and up and kissed her.
She'd thought about it, of course, the sort of imagining you do when you're alone on the ground in the dark. She had never - she had never hoped for it. He was strong against her, but she was stronger. She held him close when his knees began to fail him, kissed him back as best as she could and bore them both back towards the bed. She felt his golden hand against her hip, cold and too heavy, a moment before he pulled away and whispered again, "Brienne. Brienne," and dropped to his knees.
She fell backwards out of surprise more than anything else, her lips tingling from his kisses as she sat down on the bed. She was achingly aware of every mistake she'd made during the battle, every bruise, every scrape. But that was being overwhelmed, like the tide coming in, by Jaime's hand pushing her knees apart.
She wasn't an idiot. She knew what men and women did. But -
"Kiss me more," she whispered, not a request. "Get up, and kiss me more."
"Oh, I plan to." He sat back on his heels. Exquisite balance, she thought, to move that way when he only had one hand with which to steady himself. "But I was hoping, first...Brienne." He bit his lip; his hair fell in his eyes. He was so beautiful, she thought, as helpless before her affection as he had been her anger.
He leaned forward again and kissed her knee, her thigh. He gazed up at her as he pressed her thighs apart with his shoulders, his lips sliding hot and slow towards her core.
"See, this way you can just kick me if you don't like it." His lips brushed against her inner thigh with every word. She'd never felt so exposed.
"I don't know if - oh. Oh."
He raised an eyebrow like he was telling a joke they were both in on, a smile curling his lips even as he opened his mouth and - used his tongue. She had to look away as she felt it, wet and soft and warm, parting her and exploring. Tasting. If he was pursuing a goal, he'd decided to be lazy about it. He dragged his tongue up and down her, pressed it inside, and when she gasped, he laughed a little, warm air against her.
It was too much, too intimate. She felt like she was melting and like she might explode, all at once. She reached out to push his head away, to say 'Thank you, but no'. Then she found herself gasping and clutching his head when he slid a finger inside her.
"No, don't; this is good," he said when the loud, wet noises coming from between her legs made her close her eyes in embarrassment. "It's all messy nonsense, Ser Brienne, like getting your blood up during a fight, sweat dripping down your...back." Her did something with his finger, moved it in a way that had her gasping in spite of herself, her hips bucking off the bed.
And she found herself suddenly shameless, needy. "Say it again."
"Say what, my lady?"
"Call me -"
"Ah. My apologies, Ser Brienne."
She felt herself clench around him. It was worse than bloodlust, this need, rising in her and making her mad. She wanted to drag him up to her, to fuck him, with a strength and furor that astonished her. She was throbbing around his hand. Her thighs were flushed and red, her breath coming in gasps. She needed it so badly.
He fucked her, with his hand and his mouth, sucking and licking and teasing. He bit her thigh and laughed against her hip, warm and comfortable, when she swore at him. And then he said, "Do you want to finish?"
"I - what?"
"Your peak, Brienne." He stretched her, strong fingers flexing. It made her gasp, thrusting her hips down against him in spite of herself. "Do you want it, or not?"
She did. But she wanted - she reached down and touched his temple. "I want you, too."
"You'll have me, too," he said, just a little mockingly. He pressed his thumb against her, his mouth working - playing, because he was smiling up at her, and then she gasped and cried out, feeling so close to something she wanted so badly, and he wasn't smiling anymore. He used his tongue and his fingers in glorious concert, and then -
Yes, she thought.
"Brienne. Let me hear you."
She was bright red and she knew she looked ridiculous, but she couldn't tell him no just then. "Yes, yes. Yes. Oh, please - Jaime - yes."
And then she was shaking, crashing against the beautiful feeling she'd only experienced a few times previous. It was heightened here, vulnerable as she was with Jaime touching her. She felt like she might be going mad, heart racing, clenching around him. He drove her further, whispering he name, licking her and making her moan every time she thought she might be finished. When she finally really was finished, she had to close her eyes, her heart racing.
At first, as she came down from it, she thought the shaking was her own legs. Then she looked down and saw that it was Jaime, his head bowed over her thighs. Crying.
"Jaime. Are you all right? Are you - can I help?" She stroked his hair - awkward, clumsy. But then so was he, clinging to her and doing his best to choke down sobs.
When he'd gotten himself a bit more under control, he raised his head to look at her, tears glinting in the dark blue of his eyes. "I'm fine. Well, I've never done this before, with anyone else but Cersei. You knew that." His fingers twitched against her thigh, a quick compulsive movement. "Turns out it's a bit overwhelming."
It felt like the first time she'd won a fight against one of the boys on Tarth, like when she'd knocked Loras Tyrell into the dirt. It felt good, natural and simple, to pull him up and press him back against the pillows, to angle his head back while she kissed him, framing his body so that he couldn't easily move away.
She kissed his lips and the tracks of tears on his cheeks, and when his hand trembled against her jaw, she turned her head and kissed the palm of it. When he gasped in a sob, she kissed his arm, too, just above the point where the skin began to show cauterization scars. She pulled his shirt off and kissed him as he lay against her, entirely bare. And then, while he stared, she took her tunic off.
"I know. Beaten up." Long cuts against her ribs, bruises everywhere. He was beat up too, for that matter, but he wore it better. He wore everything better.
But she didn't feel ugly when he looked at her then. She felt alive, moving over him, bending down to kiss him. He'd speculated to her face about what it might be like to bed someone monstrously tall more times than she could count, but apparently all that thought hadn't really translated to reality for him. She used her body to shield him the way she might a fellow fighter at war, and he gazed up at her with stupefied awe, his tears finally drying.
And - "Oh, fuck," she said, foolish in spite of herself. He laughed at her, of course, but she didn't really care. Straddling his hips as she was, she could feel his cock, hard and unmistakable against her leg.
"I'll beg if you like," he said, smiling crookedly at her.
She thought he might like it, actually. Maybe. She couldn't think such complex thoughts; she only wanted more, and she wanted it right then. She kissed him again, moving on his lap, wanting him to fuck her and utterly incapable of expressing it. She was so wet, all over his legs and her own, shameless - or so she thought, until he moved to play with her breasts and she was suddenly overwhelmed.
"There's hardly even anything there!"
He didn't look away from her chest. "Bad form, Ser Brienne. You're new to being a knight, but I assure you, lying is considered beneath the station." Rough fingers scraped over her nipples, then pinched her skin. It hurt, but in exactly the right way; she shivered and moved again, instinctively rougher, rubbing herself against his thigh.
"Do you want me to fuck you?"
He had that tone again, casually conversational. Teasing, she realized, trying to get her blood hot, as though she wasn't already in danger of boiling over.
"Brienne, I asked you a question."
He pinched her hard enough to bruise, and she felt - it was as though he'd lit her on fire. She cried out, arched her back in spite of herself, and then when she saw his eyes follow her greedily - as if he liked it, as if he wanted to keep looking at her - he watched her like she was a woman, and she couldn't help but be honest. She said, "Yes. Please, Jaime, yes."
She kissed him as he pressed inside her. It was easy; "You're so ready for me, so open," he whispered, and she felt herself stretching, sweet and impossibly good, until she'd settled in his lap with him sheathed inside her.
"Brienne," he breathed. His eyes were wet again, just a little. It was a comfort to her: it meant she wasn't the only fool in the room.
"Jaime," she said, confirmation and plea, and they began to move together.
It wasn't like riding a horse. But it was a bit like fighting, the push and pull, the way he'd watch her to communicate his desires and anticipate her next move. She'd wanted him back on the bridge, a nasty shock that had only seemed nastier in retrospect, during that awful time with the Bolton men. Over time it had deepened, changed, but it had never faded. She wanted him even now, as she actively took him. She wanted forever and she only had however long it took before war came to them again.
"You're beautiful," he breathed. "You're perfect, I want - here. Here." A thumb against her, his arm hooked around her hip to press her down. She saw his frustration in that moment, the place where he might have used his other hand to hold her to him. But they made it work. He clutched her close and made her peak again, and then he pulled out and spilled on the bed, groaning as his entire body shook.
She watched realization settle in this time, the way he shook a bit. He didn't cry, but he avoided her gaze, glancing between the bed and the door as though -
"Jaime. No. No." She pulled him down to the mattress, put an arm and then a leg over him so that he was pinned. "Damn you," she said, and kissed him.
He still tasted like her; his cheeks were wet against her skin. He was beautiful, she thought, though he looked so much older than when she'd first met him that he might as well have been a different person.
No. A treacherous thought. He'd only changed the part of himself he listened to. That was all.
"You know, it's funny," Jaime said against her shoulder. "I thought we'd both be dead now. You for sure, with all your nobility. Me, protecting you."
"You're quite self-sacrificing in your imagination."
He huffed a laugh. "Yes. Or perhaps I just didn't want to experience your rejection."
"My - you can't be serious."
"I'd have done anything you asked!"
But of course she realized it was a lie even as she said it. He tensed beneath her, and she knew they were both thinking of King's Landing, where she'd shouted at him to make his sister see sense, and where he'd turned away from her.
Finally, he murmured, "If that were true, I wouldn't be here at all."
She couldn't answer that. She lay there with him, holding him, until his warmth suffused her and she drifted into sleep.
Only a few hours passed before she woke, her side burning, the scabbed-over cuts once again letting blood. Jaime was soothing her before she even woke up enough to realize what was happening - he pressed a cloth against the cuts and kissed her collarbone, whispering her name until she regained her senses. When she said, "Thank you, I'm all right," he kissed her neck, then her jaw, and then her lips, soft and exploratory movements. Were she a bit more gullible, she might think he was only trying to soothe her - but she wasn't the only person this tenderness was new to, nor was she the only one who needed comfort.
She took him in her mouth later on that night, first letting him guide her and then pinning his hips when he got cheeky. He laughed at the ceiling, a wild joyous noise that sounded nothing like the dead.
Cersei would try to send them to their deaths; Brienne thought it likely she'd succeed. But when she and Jaime again fell into a deep, healing sleep, it was with her lying behind him, kissing his neck as he relaxed, trusting her to watch over them both. She drifted off with a hand wrapped around his right arm: mutilated, yes, and weaker than it once had been, but growing stronger every day.