Title: A Room in Harrenhal
Specs: Game of Thrones, Jaime/Brienne, 2200 words
Brienne threw open the shutters. The night was cool, and this far above the yards and stables of Harrenhal the air smelled sweet. She leaned out, feeling the ends of her hair, still damp, flutter against her cheeks. She looked above the twisted, melted buildings; above the stunted trees; above the bent and ruined towers; she looked up at the night sky, at a thousand stars that shone brightly overhead, not even a wisp of cloud to hide them.
For a few blessed seconds, Brienne's mind was blank. She forgot about the death of her king, and of her time in the Riverlands, and of her journey with the Kingslayer. She forgot about their capture. She forgot about ropes around her arms and wrists, men dragging her into the darkness under looming trees, evil words whispered into her ears and hot, fetid breath against her cheek, a squeeze, a pinch.
The peace was broken by a knock at the door.
The only sign that the knock startled Brienne was a slight tensing of her shoulders, her fingers curling for a sword hilt that wasn't there. She wore only freshly-washed smallclothes and a loose linen tunic; her feet were bare against the clean rushes laid out on the floor. Her sword had been locked up in the armory - belying Bolton's claim that she was there as his guest and not his prisoner - but Brienne had found a dusty cudgel in the empty bureau. She grabbed it now and went to the door.
"Who is it?" she said, keeping her voice brusque and impersonal. If it were one of Bolton's men, she had some faith they would not attack her outright, but she still made sure to give no offense, implied or otherwise. Bolton's eyes had been flat and strange, and Brienne had been reminded of nothing more than the glimpse she'd had of her king's murderer, that fell, dark wraith.
But it was not one of Bolton's men at her door, nor Bolton himself. "Just open the door," she heard in tired tones, that voice a now-familiar rumble. Lannister.
Brienne unbarred the door, sliding down the lock that slid up into a notch above - though that metal was pitted and brittle, and she doubted whether either the lock or the bar would withstand a real assault. Lannister stood waiting, and he pushed past her into the room before she could even ask what he wanted. As tired as he was, his eyes still flashed on the cudgel in her hand, and his lips quirked. "I thought we'd firmly established that I was no threat to you, and that was before I lost my hand."
She shut the door, secured it. "Your hands were tied then," she said quietly, not liking the self-pity in his voice. Not only had he been restrained when they sparred on the bridge, he had been weakened, having been a prisoner for long months prior. Brienne could take no pride in that victory, especially considering what came after. She replaced the cudgel on the rough table beside the bed, then sat upon the mattress - thin and filled with straw, still a more comfortable place to sleep than she had known in quite some time. She tucked one bare leg beneath her, the other stretched out; aware of Lannister's gaze, determined to act as though she were not. He had already seen all there was to see, and she would not pretend to be ashamed.
"Guards, the Kingslayer!" she yelled, catching him before he collapsed into the water. He was lighter than she might have guessed, his body warm against hers. Brienne thought he had fainted dead away, but his eyelids fluttered. "Jaime, my name is Jaime," he said in barely more than a whisper, and then his face fell slack.
But the guards didn't come. Had they left the two of them alone in the baths? After a few moments, Brienne became aware that she was still holding Lannister, arms around him, clasping him like a babe to her breast. She lowered him until he sat again, carefully maneuvered him so that his back rested against solid stone. Lannister's eyes were closed, his body limp, and Brienne was afraid he would slip into the water, so she sat beside him, one arm around his shoulders, holding him upright. She propped his right arm against his right leg as best she could, keeping the bandaged wrist out of the water.
His head lolled to the side, resting against her shoulder. She let it remain there, his breath a somehow-comforting constant against her skin. Brienne was loathe to move him; he needed the rest. With her other hand, tentatively, she brushed a lock of hair from his face. Then she rested her fingertips under his jaw, feeling his heartbeat; it was steady, slowing even as she counted the beats. When she reached thirty, Brienne carefully withdrew the arm around his shoulders. He didn't seem to be going anywhere, so she slid through the water back to her corner, retrieving the soap and brush. She turned back, pushing her feet along the bottom; Lannister hadn't moved an inch, but his eyes were open now, staring at her.
Brienne paused for a moment, suddenly awkward. She had always been bigger than other girls her age even when she was a child, but after her thirteenth name day, she had grown a truly monstrous amount in barely a year. Each night in bed, it seemed she lay tied to a rack, aches deep in her bones, her skin stretching taut. She still bore faint lines around her hips and shoulders from that time. The next few years had been the worst of her life; she bore the legacy of them still, in so many different ways. The way others treated her, the snide looks and whispered comments, never seemed too far from her mind; it was something else that struck her now, a sensation deeply familiar and yet terribly strange all at the same time: it seemed that she wore her body like a suit of armor. There was a hollow ache in her stomach, her legs and arms were longer than they ought to be, and she didn't feel in control of her movements.
She had not been awkward ten minutes ago, when she stood nude before the Kingslayer; she had been too affronted to feel awkward. And neither had she felt awkward as she had held him in her arms; she had been too worried to feel awkward. But now, his gaze steady upon her, the water swirling warm around them both, it was all she could do to sit beside him, and not climb out and flee. Not since she had joined Renly's Kingsguard had she felt so out-of-sorts, so vulnerable.
"My lady," he murmured, and something thrummed in her stomach, like a harp string being plucked.
"How do you feel?" she asked. Lannister only smiled faintly, eyes dropping closed again. She set the brush down outside the tub, dunked the soap into the water, and worked up a lather between her hands. A part of her felt it was terribly impertinent to take such liberties, but the truth could not be denied: he was filthy. Brienne started with his shoulders and the tops of his arms, working the lather into his skin, seeing the dirt break up; she scooped up water and poured it over him, rinsing the now-brown suds away, then began again. A third lather, and she took up the brush.
"Merciful Mother," he moaned as she scrubbed his back. Brienne paused, afraid the brush was too rough, that she was hurting him, but Lannister only roused himself, scooting forward and leaning over his knees, exposing his back to her. She waited for him to call her a washerwoman, or a wench, or both, but he only sighed as she took to scrubbing him again. She grew tired of stretching, so she shifted, sitting behind him, her legs to either side of his body. Up and down she drew the brush, and the long-accumulated filth washed away, revealing new, pink skin.
Brienne found herself murmuring to him as though he were a child she bathed. "Here, now," she said, pushing his shoulders down, toward her body. "I've got you." He had to move his legs out and forward to keep from running into her, and then she finally had him floating. Taking care not to get his face underwater, she washed his hair.
Lannister seemed content to let her do this. She would have thought him to rebel, to be too proud; but perhaps they were beyond such considerations, the two of them. If their positions were reversed, would she have minded his hands roaming over her body, fingers pressing into her flesh, nails scraping gently over her skin? Or would she have been like this, utterly relaxed, exposed?
"Wash your own face," she said, putting the soap on his chest. "I don't want to get soap in your eyes." A chuff of laughter, the first she had heard since they had taken his hand; Lannister dunked his head back under water, then sat up again. He was very close to her, his back flush against her chest. She bore his weight for him.
Lannister sat on the bed beside her, in loose trousers, an open shirt, feet bare. His chest was white, with scars here and there even whiter still. His muscles had melted away some during his months of captivity, but he still seemed plenty robust to her.
"Ki--" she started, and she thought she caught herself before he noticed. "Jaime," she began again, but before she could try and ask him what he wanted for a second time, he sighed and lay down upon her bed, scant inches away from her. With his left hand, he drew a finger down her thigh, from knee to the hem of her tunic. Goosebumps blossomed.
"I daresay your legs are longer than the Mountain's." His hand still rested against her bare thigh, and Brienne could not look at his face.
"They are my legs," she said primly. "I cannot change them."
"Nor should you." Lannister shifted his weight, settling into the mattress. "Your bed is more comfortable than mine," he said, his eyes closed, his face serene. "The floor melted in my room along with the walls, and no matter where I lay, I find myself rolling. Not terribly conducive to sleep." Then he lapsed into silence, and Brienne did not know what to say.
Some time later, Lannister shivered, and she rose and drew the shutters. His legs were hanging off the bed, and his short right arm, resting over his stomach, filled her with a deep sadness. Without thinking about it, because if she thought she knew she would not be able to do it, Brienne put an arm under his back, another under a knee, and she hauled him up fully onto the bed. "I can do it," he protested, but he never opened his eyes, and he didn't fight her one whit. There was a blanket at the top of the bed, thin, roughspun wool, and Brienne draped it over him. She was halfway to the door when she heard him stir behind her.
"Where are you going?" he asked, voice somehow bereft, a tone she had never thought to hear from him. Brienne paused, that thrum in her stomach again.
"Locking the door," she answered, and she drew the bolt down, then thrust it up into the wall loudly again. Back to the bed, and she carefully climbed in beside him, doing her best not to jostle him. With his left hand he drew the blanket aside enough that the invitation was clear, and Brienne laid her body next to his, drawing the blanket over her hip. His hand smoothed down the back of her thigh, came to rest behind her knee, one finger drawing a lazy circle there. She brought her own hand up, smoothing back his hair, fingers combing gently through his beard once; then she left her hand on his chest, feeling it rise and fall in slow movements until she was sure he was asleep. She had planned then to move, to roll over and face away at the very least, but his body was too warm beside hers, and the mattress seemed to swallow her up. Her last thought before sleep claimed her was that Lady Catelyn would never have predicted such a thing as this.