She stood between two grassy hills. A holdfast to the south, a large oak to the north. She had been here once before she was sure of it. The sun was setting and the horizon seemed hazy. It was summer, and even north of the Crownlands, the day was hot and humid. Brienne turned in place, catching a glint of sunlight from the oak.
There was a rustle of leaves and brush, a snap of a twig, and she spun, Oathkeeper suddenly in her hands as she prepared to defend herself. But as quickly as she tensed, she relaxed. His gold hair was cropped short like she remembered it, his smile just as sharp and cynical. He wore his red leathers and gold armor, eyes flashing green. Brienne straightened, Oathkeeper mystically gone from her grasp.
“I'm dreaming,” she muttered, mostly to herself. He looked around, taking in the sight.
“Are you?” he asked her drolly. “Odd dream.”
“You’ve both your hands,” she reasoned, gesturing to the solid, hands of flesh which rested on his hips. With a smirk, Jaime held them out before him as if he’d never seen them.
“So I do.”
“Where are we?” She asked, turning around to get her bearings better.
“In your bed at Winterfell.” She shot him a look, completely unimpressed. Even in her dreams he was a mouthy trial. He laughed and waved her off, coming to stand right beside her. As he pointed to the middle distance, a crowd of red and gold tents appeared. “Don't you remember? This is where you lied.”
“Pennytree,” she answered. “You were camped here….But why am I dreaming of it?”
Jaime shrugged, “Perhaps you’ve forgotten something.” He began walking south toward the fort.
“Where are you going?” She called after him. Jaime spun on his heel with a smile.
“To save Sansa Stark from the Hound. Remember?”
She reached out, “No. We didn’t return—”
He shakes his head, “No, we didn’t. What happened, Brienne?”
“A squire.” She whispered. “A squire from Heart’s Home with a message for your sister.”
“Lord Corbray selling out dear Petyr. Sansa was in the Vale. You lied.”
Brienne recoiled, withdrawing her hand. “I lied to her. Not to you. I told you true right away. I could not lie to you.”
Jaime smiled. “You could not kill me,” he corrected.
“No. I broke my oath.”
“You were not honorbound to a vengeful wraith,” he reminded her. “Not that it mattered much in the end, did it? Little Arya took care of that problem.”
“A fortnight after Gendry went south.” She shook her head. “Why am I dreaming this? I know this tale already.”
“But you missed something. Where did we go Brienne? Where did we go from Pennytree?”
“Fairmarket. We were trying to avoid the Brotherhood. And then we went to the Bloody Gates. And then on to Ironoaks. We had to be sure she was there.”
“Then you sent me away.”
“I sent you to Jon Snow. To the last of her kin.”
“There was Edmure Tully.”
“Ah, ah, ah, remember? We thought Lady Stoneheart walked the Trident. No way to keep Sansa safe with that half-life on the prowl. Besides, the Starks belong in Winterfell not Riverrun.”
“You still sent me far from you. A battle and two wars away.” She felt a hand on her ruined cheek.
“There was little to be helped. You didn't know Littlefinger as I did.”
“I could have protected you.”
He smiled sadly at her. “None of that now, Brienne. We did what we had to do.”
“You used to be angrier.”
But Jaime only laughed, “This is your dream, wench! And besides, we had our night together.”
“It wasn’t enough.”
He pressed forward, “It never is.” His arm roped around her waist. “Do you remember how I held you? Do you remember what I said?”
The tears slipped, unbidden, “Yes.” He knocked his forehead to hers and she had to shut her eyes to him.
“You have to think Brienne. You have to remember. Sansa needs you.”
“I fell at the Bloody Gates.” He turned and pointed, and suddenly they were where he said. “There. Three bolts to my torso as we fled.”
“I wept when your brother sent word.”
He put an arm around her shoulders, “I know. Where did you first see him, Brienne?”
“At Ironoaks. I wanted to kill him.”
“Not with Sansa Stark in your arms. She fainted, remember? What did you think of him?” The scene materialized in front of them, just as it had all those years ago, Brienne staring down the bastard who had murdered her love and Jon Snow contemptuously informing him how everything was going to go. They clapped him in irons and Jon sent Brienne away to take care of Sansa. Derron came with.
“That he was not as beautiful as you.”
He laughed. “He wasn’t alone, Brienne. Who was with Harry the Heir?”
The hazy background cleared as another figure appeared. “A woman.”
“A child. A little girl of five or six years, maybe.” She turned, watching herself carry Sansa off to a maester and the scene changed again. They were in the Eyrie on the day of the executions. Petyr Baelish was begging Sansa for his life, shouting that he loved her. For a man who had done so much damage to the living, he was certainly undignified in death. Jon Snow raised Longclaw, and Baelish’s head rolled. There was no sound from the onlookers. Brienne turned her head, taking them all in as Harry Hardyng was brought to the block and Jon began the sentencing.
“She was there.”
“The woman?” Jaime clarified.
“The girl. She watched the whole thing from an outcropping. A little girl. Where was her mother?”
“Why would she weep?”
Jaime kissed her marred cheek, nuzzling there, and his heat was almost real. Almost.
“Why would you?” he whispered.
Brienne lifted her gaze to the little girl again, her wild blonde curls tossed in the gusts. She was staring right back, blue eyes hard and hateful, accusing. But not at Brienne. The knight whirled around, searching for the target. Not Brienne, but Sansa. The young queen looked up, seeing through Brienne, seeing the burning hatred in such a little body. She turned again looking for the girl, desperate to find her, comfort her, take her away before Harry’s head could hit the ground. She turned and she turned, and slowly everyone vanished into nothing. She couldn’t find the girl.
All she could see was stone.
Brienne woke violently, thrashing about in her bed as she clawed her way up through layers of sleep. She was on her feet and in a dressing robe immediately, flying through her chamber’s door and out into the chilled corridors of the Great Keep. She stalked down to the lord’s chambers, calling out to Lucan and Derron to open the doors for her. Jon was a half a day’s ride away according to his last raven and the queen never slept well when they were separated. Brienne expected to find her bent over some embroidery project in the solar. She tore through the room wildly, finding it empty. She burst into the bedchamber finding more of the same. No one. Nothing. Empty.
“Where is the queen?” she bellowed, stomping out into the solar to face the Durwells. “Where is Sansa Stark?”