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Till Morning Comes

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She wakes up, and the bed is empty, and she remembers. Oh, yes, he just left. Brienne closes her eyes before the tears can fall again, she has cried enough for one night, she has cried enough for one lifetime. Outside is still dark and cold and he's gone. He's dead, he's gone to die and she couldn't stop him. Hateful man, he called himself. He hates himself so much he'd rather die a traitor than live an honourable man, that's the most hateful thing about him. She sleeps again.

She wakes up, and she's still wearing the robe. The bottom was soaked where it brushed the snow outside in the courtyard, and her legs are cold where it rested on them. She stands from the bed, avoids looking at his empty side, and strips hurriedly. She doesn't bother with clothes for bed anymore but she guesses she will again after today. No point in it now, there is nobody to reach for her in the middle of the night and press hungry kisses to her skin, nobody to radiate warmth against her and raise goosebumps with his wet breath against her neck. She burrows inside the furs and sleeps again.

She wakes up, and his side of the bed is cold. That hasn't taken long. Not in Winterfell, of course, where coldness seeps everywhere even with the fire blazing in the hearth. She takes her hand back and presses it against her chest, where something has broken and she only has one night to patch it up before she goes back to her duty and her Lady and a lifetime of cold beds. The prospect is now more daunting for having known warmth, but she can't regret it, not when she was so happy for the duration. She can still be happy in her dreams, at least. And she can still be sad in this room, she can't show the jagged edges he's left behind outside, can't risk their pity and scorn. She closes her eyes and sleeps again.

She wakes up, and the door is open. There is faint light coming from the corridor and streaming through the window. The sun is rising, weak and grey as it always is this far up north, and it's cold, and Jaime's not in her bed. He's in her room, though, standing awkwardly inside as if unsure of his reception now.

Brienne sits up in a rush. "You were gone."

He closes the door after himself.

"Yes," he says, a rough whisper. "I was." No excuses, no explanations. He knows what he's done. He looks at her and she can see the pain and grief on his face, the lines that were not there the day before. He's come back, but it has cost him dearly, and maybe the price has been too high but he's paid it. She can't stay angry or sad, not when he's here now.

"Why come back?"

Why leave in the first place? But she won't ask that, she knows why he left. Or she thought she did, she doesn't, anymore.

He takes off his cloak and hangs it from the hook on the door, checking with her with a look to see if he's still allowed. He sags when Brienne nods sharply, and removes the rest of his clothes, slipping into bed with her, close but not touching. Hesitant like their first night together when they were learning to navigate their new intimacy.

"Because I'm really not a good man, and I want to be selfish just this once. I don't deserve you, but I'll keep you anyway if you still want me."

She wants to argue but knows there's no point, he'll believe what he wants to believe about himself, now she has time to convince him otherwise. She opens her arms and he burrows against her chest, his face wet, his hand and feet are cold. She doesn't mind, just closes her eyes and sleeps again.

She wakes up, it's still not morning and he's looking at her from the other side of the bed not even pretending to sleep. He smiles when he sees her looking and presses his hand against her chest. Her heart beats strongly, her pulse against his fingers and nothing's broken in there, after all, just a bit bruised but it will heal in no time. She has the cure in her bed. She leans forward and kisses his mouth.

"You stayed."

"You asked me to." He leans forward and kisses her again, softly, sweetly. "Nobody else ever did. She threatened me if I left, but didn't just ask me to stay."

She hears what he's not saying. You loved me enough to ask, I loved you enough to live. "I will always ask," she vows. I will always love you, she hopes he hears.

"Then I will always stay, for as long as you have me."

It will be a long time.

She kisses him again, they close their eyes, and they sleep till morning comes.