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The Cold Light of Day

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Brienne realizes she's made a mistake as soon as she opens her eyes in her dim room in Winterfell.

The fire has gone out, just a few embers remaining, and the room's freezing except for the sweltering cocoon of their bodies under the furs, still naked and now uncomfortably dirty after the previous night's activities. It didn't feel like a mistake last night, still pleasantly warm from the wine and the conversation in the main hall, the companionship and closeness she has so rarely enjoyed. Not when Jaime looked at her like no man has ever done, eyes dark and intent on her, dropping to her mouth and further down, his own mouth slightly parted on her exhale. Not when he started pulling her clothes out, his hand on her skin as hot as his breath on her mouth, his touch a brand trailing fire over her body.

At the time it had felt good, it had felt inevitable after so many years of shared history and trust, after all the things he had already given her, her sword and quest and knighthood, it had been inexorable that he would also give her this, this moment Brienne knew she wouldn't want to share with anyone else but had never dreamed would be hers.

She sighs, and next to her Jaime grumbles something in his sleep and turns to her, seeking more contact and heat.

Brienne stills, afraid to even breathe too loudly for fear of waking him up, afraid that he'll open his eyes and she'll see the same regret in them she saw right before falling asleep.

Afraid Jaime will just leave her there and take more than just the warmth with him but certain that he will.

She doesn't know how long it takes for him to stir, for his breathing to change and his body to tense, signaling his awakening, but she knows she doesn't want to see the look on his face when he opens his eyes to her presence next to him. Brienne forces her muscles to relax and slams her eyes shut, regulating her breathing, and waits.

As if not seeing him leave will make it hurt less when he does.

She's so attuned to him she can feel the hitch in his breathing when his eyes finally open, and counts the heartbeats until Jaime moves away from her. Why wouldn't he? In the years since they trekked down the Riverlands together, Jaime has changed but little, hair darker and beard whiter, but still the most handsome man she's ever known. Brienne hasn't changed at all, except to acquire more scars and muscles, she's no prettier or more lady-like, and now, without the blurring qualities of alcohol, he must realize this.

It's an effort to keep still the longer he doesn't move, Brienne feels his eyes on her, intent and sharp as always, can't help the way her face feels hot under his focused gaze and hopes the dimness of the room hides her blush from him. There's a whisper of sound, of movement, and she almost lets out a sigh of relief that he's finally leaving before she feels a touch, soft and barely there, pulling back a strand of hair from her face and ghosting over her cheek.

"I know you're awake, my lady," he says, voice hushed in the quiet room. "I'd hoped you'd be past blushing now." There's no use pretending anymore, Brienne opens her eyes to look at him, but instead of the regretful expression she was expecting to see, Jaime's eyes are soft and fond, a smile curling his lips. "Good morning, Brienne," he says, and leans forward to press his lips against hers.

Her reaction is more instinct than conscious, she tenses and presses her hand against his naked torso, keeping him there, feels how his muscles so relaxed before coil under her touch and the smile falls from his face, expression shuttering.

If she thought she'd made a mistake before, that's nothing to the one she's made now.

"Oh," Jaime says, voice still no louder than a whisper and bitter enough she can taste it in the back of her throat. "You were not being shy, you were giving me time to leave." He pulls back then, getting up from the bed completely uncaring of his nudity and the cold air surrounding them.

He casts about for his clothes, bends to pick his breaches from where they fell in their rush to the bed. There, barely visible in the shadowed room, Brienne sees the faint marks her fingers left on his hips and buttocks, urging him on the night before during their second, or maybe third, frenzied coupling. This is what finally breaks her stillness.

"Jaime," she calls, and he stops and turns to look at her. "I don't want you to leave, I thought--" she trails off, taking a deep breath. "You regret it, last night, I saw your face, you regret bedding me."

For a moment none of them move or even breathe, just stare at each other in that tense lull, then Jaime moves to the other side of the small room and clumsily places a log in the hearth and revives the fire. It doesn't give warmth, not yet, but it's easier to see each other. He drops his breaches and turns back to the bed, slipping between the furs but not close enough to touch her.

His face is serious but not blank like before, eyes roving over her features as if trying to read her thoughts. Finally he closes his eyes on a slow blink and moves a bit closer, his body cold and leeching off the heat from hers. She shivers, but doesn't move away.

"My lady," he begins, opening his eyes once more. There is regret in them, but they are still looking at her fondly. "Brienne. I regret not what we did last night, but how it came to pass."

She frowns. "What do you mean?" Was it bad? She had no experience, and would have doubted it was good for him had he not been so enthusiastic to keep going until they were exhausted and sore.

"I forgot, in my eagerness, that you're not just a knight but a high born lady, and you deserved to be treated as one."

Her frown deepens. "You didn't hurt me, not the way--" she stops and bites her lips, remembering the night before.

It didn't hurt, not the way her septa had always made her believe sex hurt, not past the uncomfortable first push which soon faded into awkward fullness, one that dissolved into pleasure with his kisses and controlled moves. No, pain is not the prominent memory from last night, and it brings the flush back to her cheeks and neck. Jaime lifts his hand from under the cover and cups her face, thumb resting on her cheek. He must be able to feel the heat on her skin.

"I might not have hurt you, but I dishonoured you, and for that I am sorry."

Is that what worries him? "Jaime, you didn't," she protests. It has not even crossed her mind, at least not when she's conscious of it, that Jaime or any other man would want to marry her. She had not even believed one would want to bed her. Her dreams and hopes from when she was a child have long been left behind, discarded once faced with the cruelty of the world beyond her shores. Brienne has learned to never expect from the world more than it will give her. "I know I'm no prize--"

He moves his hand and presses his fingers to her lips, silencing her. "You are a prize, Brienne, and I allowed the wine to give me courage but strip me of my good sense." His voice is firm and stern, but still nothing more than a breath, as if his words could not survive beyond their little island of heat in the frozen north. "You are a highborn lady as much as a knight, and I should not have forgotten that fact. I should have not taken you to bed before I made you mine in the eyes of the Seven." Her mouth falls open in surprise, voice completely lost, and in the ensuing silence Jaime pulls his fingers away from her.

This time Brienne's the one to surge closer and press her mouth against his, clumsy and eager, her heart thumping against her ribcage. "You don't have to." She's already given herself to him, and will continue to do so for as long as he wants her if he looks at her like this.

"I do," Jaime insists, pressing their foreheads together, his breath trickling her face, his hand holding the back of her neck to keep her there. "I could not, before." And he means with his sister, while he wore the white cloak which he has also left behind. She's not here, and Brienne is, and she knows there will always be some part of him that belongs to Cersei, but he's offering her everything else. It might not be all, but it's more than even Jaime knows. "I can now, if you would have me."

It's more than enough, for now.

Brienne presses her answer against his lips.