Mar. 8th, 2013

ladytp: (Anne)
Jaime

Jaime still wasn’t sure if going back to King’s Landing was a good idea. Could Tyrion truly forgive me? They had parted on such bad terms, Tyrion wanting to hurt him by lying about Joffrey. Despite Jaime’s own concerns there was nonetheless something bigger at stake. He actually cared about the North and wanted Sansa to find peace in her lands. He chose to suppress his old scepticism, which still occasionally raised its head, and resigned to do his part as well as he could, no matter what the consequences would be.

The other members of the delegation were selected in due course; the Lord Commander Jon Snow, Howland Reed, Alysanne Mormont and a young man from the new offshoot of House Karstark, House Thenn, called Artus. Only two men-at-arms were chosen to accompany them, as they intended to travel speedily as a small team.

Sansa invited Jaime and Sandor to her rooms and revealed to them Jon’s secret, feeling it to be important for Jaime to know what he was riding into. For a man who prided himself on not being surprised by anything or anyone, Jaime was for once truly shocked. Rhaegar Targaryen’s son! Suddenly the trip sounded much more interesting than before. Sandor kept his thoughts on the matter to himself, only muttering how Rhaegar had been a much better prince than Robert had credited him. The others in the group were not told, and once again Jaime took Sansa’s trust in them to heart.

The preparations for the journey were initiated and ravens were sent flying between Winterfell and King’s Landing, clearing the way for the talks. The delegation was due to leave in two weeks’ time.

Knowing the outcome of his journey to be uncertain, Jaime spent his remaining time in Winterfell in a heightened state of awareness. He was surprised how in only few short months he felt more at home there than he ever had in King’s Landing. He also found his thoughts repeatedly turning to Sandor, who had become an integral part of his life, a centre point of his existence. Jaime’s eyes followed him when they were training, looked for him in a crowded hall and rested on him in the shadows of their room.

The last straw for him was the day at the baths. In a training session that was harder than usual he and Sandor had challenged the new northern guards with all the tricks they had, attacking and provoking them at full force. At the end of the session everyone was exhausted, panting and sweating, but they were both secretly proud of their charges’ considerably improved prowess at arms.

The separate baths for men and women near the Guest House consisted of rooms where the bathers could enjoy the abundant warm water from hot springs flowing into large stone pools. Jaime and Sandor had been there several times before, and although Jaime could never resist sidelong glances at Sandor’s formidable physique, his approaching departure made that time different.

As Sandor discarded his sweaty tunic and breeches on the floor, Jaime observed his solid frame with acute intensity. Sandor’s was a strong warrior’s body, telling the story of his profession through the many scars that covered it. Jaime scrutinised it as he would examine a work of art, a thing of beauty and purpose. He, who had previously been drawn only to a curve of hip and breast, a flow of golden hair and a flash of green eyes, was now fascinated by a defined shape of muscles, a curtain of dark hair and dark pools of hard grey.  Jaime had seen Sandor’s nakedness many times in his dreams; in disturbing, sensual dreams, from which he woke up hard and wanting, only release by his own hand easing his unspoken desire.

No other men had the same effect on him. He had made new friends with his easy charm, confident manners and his reputation as the Kingslayer and the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. Sharing stories with them across a tankard of ale was pleasant enough, but there it stopped. Jaime wondered how Renly and Loras had found each other; how had they known? Their relationship had been one of the worst kept secrets in Westeros, but nobody seemed to have really cared. Men knew those things happened, and women – well, women were not supposed to think of those matters.

Jaime knew himself to be a subject of interest to Winterfell’s womenfolk. None of that was new to him; all his life he had known that if he desired female company, all he had to do was ask. As before, none of the women who batted their eyelids at him, swayed their hips in his direction or - in the case of the wildlings - walked up to him and asked bluntly if he wanted to fuck, interested him. No, he knew better, it was a different touch he longed for… How he had ended up in a situation which was as disturbing as it was impossible, he didn’t know, but was helpless to escape it nonetheless.

Jaime tried to keep his thoughts to himself, but that day in the dimly lit, steamy chamber he let his eyes drift to Sandor, who was scrubbing himself. His manhood lay heavy against his thigh and Jaime felt a stirring at the sight of it. He quickly averted his eyes. Stupid fool! He turned, pressed his face against his hand and rubbed it wearily, angry at himself for getting careless. When he lifted his head he saw Sandor looking at him searchingly. Bloody hells!

Jaime left abruptly, walking to their room quietly cursing the whole way. The sooner he left for King’s Landing, the better.

----------

Jaime lay in his bed, chest heaving, trying to catch his breath. He had stroked himself in an attempt to release the pressure, but instead of bringing sweet relief he felt now even tenser. He contemplated whether he should accept one of the offers – maybe from a wildling woman. It would be straightforward and simple, and likely very different to his experiences with Cersei. Maybe he could even forget his foolishness about Sandor.

Had he noticed? After all that had transpired between them, he must have realised Jaime’s predicament. Yet if he did, he never raised it, nor seemed uncomfortable around him. Sandor’s position as Sansa’s sworn shield would have secured him his own room now, but he didn’t seem to be in a hurry to do anything about it.

Like Jaime, Sandor had slowly started to establish new friendships. In King’s Landing Jaime had rarely seen him in the company of others, but whether that was because of his reputation or his general unapproachability, he couldn’t say. Here his rage had diminished and the wall, although still there, had lowered to some extent and seemed to allow people through more often than before.

Sandor still spent most of his time with Jaime. What did it mean? Could he read anything into it? If Sandor still thought about Sansa, the situation was as Jaime had predicted, their respective positions unequivocally separating them no matter how much regard they held for each other. To Jaime’s amusement, wildling women had approached Sandor as well, curious about his reputation and skills. Wildlings didn’t seem to set as great a store in a fair face as southron ladies did. To his knowledge Sandor had not accepted any of the offers – but who knew?

Jaime heard footsteps approaching and hastily covered himself, tying the laces of his breeches. The door squeaked and Sandor walked in. It was unusual for either of them to be in their room at that time of day. Normally the room was only used for sleeping, their duties keeping them elsewhere at other times.

Jaime heard Sandor’s bed creaking as he sat on it. For a while neither of them spoke.

“You left the baths in a hurry.” It was not a question but a statement. Jaime wasn’t sure if he was supposed to respond, so he didn’t.

After a while Sandor sighed. “What is it with you and your bloody moping around? You have done it for days now. Nervous about getting back to King’s Landing? Or is it…something else?”

Jaime sat up. “Would you be happy about returning? Not knowing whether once you get there they will chop off your head, throw you into the black cells – or put you up in Casterly Rock as the Warden of the West? Or send you back here with your tail between your legs?”

He pressed his thumb and forefinger against the bridge of his nose. “Nonetheless, I am ready to take whatever I am given.”

“Yet this is not about that, is it?” Sandor pierced him with his eyes. His long hair was still wet from the baths and lay glistening beside his face. He was dressed in clean clothes, specially made to fit him by Winterfell’s sewing women.

Sandor’s words hung heavily in the air between them. Jaime knew he had to respond.

“No, it is not just that,” he finally uttered. Sandor shifted and stood up, walking to the window overlooking the courtyard.

“I told you once I am not sure I could give you what you want, whatever it is. But bloody hells, lion! Is there something I could do to stop you sulking? Within reason.”

Jaime thought of all the things he could say, knowing he couldn’t say any of them. Then an idea entered his head.

“Years ago in King’s Landing Maester Pycelle had an apprentice from across the Narrow Sea. A bright lad, curious about everything, especially the ways of healing. He could treat men with his bare hands, granting them a quicker recovery after hard exertion. He claimed it was nothing unusual, that anyone could do it, but those he treated swore his hands made a difference.” Jaime had been one of those himself, noticing how the usual tensions and aches had miraculously disappeared after the apprentice had treated him.

“So what did he do? And what of it?” Sandor turned back to face him.

“He just…rubbed men’s shoulders and backs, sometimes even arms and thighs. He didn’t do it gently. Not at all, sometimes it hurt like hells! Afterwards it felt better though. For example, I suppose you expect to be hurting tomorrow after the hard training today?” Jaime realised as he was talking that maybe there was something he could do for Sandor after all.

“Aye, but that’s only to be expected. Hard work always does it.” Sandor frowned.

“Let me try to treat you as he did. He showed me how, and it might do you some good. Just your shoulders, and you can keep your tunic on.” To Jaime’s surprise Sandor nodded.

Jaime tried to remember the apprentice’s instructions; he had to press strongly but consistently, gently but firmly. ‘It is not a lover’s touch, press harder!’ the lad had shouted. Jaime winced at the irony as he put his hand on Sandor’s shoulder.

Initially Jaime felt his muscles tighten, but as he kept kneading and sliding his hand over the knotted muscles, alternating between the sides, he sensed how Sandor gradually relaxed. Besides the sheer touch of him under his hand, Jaime marvelled at how he could feel individual bundles of muscle. He had seen enough wounded men to have gathered an understanding of what lay under the skin – but to sense it responding to a simple touch was something he had not experienced before.

Eventually he tired, his own muscles starting to protest. As so many times before, he cursed the loss of his hand. It was no good, he knew, as he reluctantly stopped and motioned Sandor to stand up. He did so and flexed his arms.

“You will notice it better tomorrow. Let me know if you can feel any difference to what you would normally expect,” Jaime instructed. Sandor touched his arms, appearing doubtful. Jaime could see his scepticism but ignored it.

Jaime felt the sensation of Sandor’s skin on his fingertips for a long time afterwards, but whether that was a relief or an additional burden, he couldn’t decide.

----------

The next day Sandor commented to Jaime how well he had recovered from their exertions. Jaime felt vindicated and could not help grinning, glad that an act which had given him so much had also proven beneficial to Sandor.

That same evening Jaime massaged him again, gradually getting more skilled in the technique. After he slid his hand under Sandor’s collar, while kneading the powerful cords in his neck, Sandor stopped him, removed his tunic with one fluid movement and sat bare-chested for the rest of the session. Jaime closed his eyes and felt Sandor’s warm skin under his hand. If that was all he was going to get, he was grateful.

Hence Jaime was surprised when the next evening, Sandor stood up after he had finished and asked if Jaime wanted him to give it a try. He accepted, somewhat baffled, and instructed Sandor in how to get started.

He was clumsy in the beginning, his hands being more used to hurting and killing than soothing and healing. Jaime had to grimace as Sandor crushed his bare shoulders with forceful strokes, but eventually he started to control himself better and Jaime started to feel the calming effect of his touch. He let his chin fall against his chest and absorbed the sensations; the pressure of Sandor’s fingers, the feeling of his calloused palms sliding against his skin, the sweet tingling radiating all over his body. With a jolt he realised that Sandor had stopped.

“Did it work? Didn’t break any bones, did I?” he asked and looked at Jaime expectantly.

Jaime smiled. “No bones broken.” He stretched his arms, continuing, “…I think.”

Later that evening they returned from the Great Hall, where several cups had been raised to the success of the upcoming trip. As they were lying in their beds, Sandor surprised Jaime once again.

“Can’t recall when I would ever have been touched like that. Mayhap my mother did, don’t remember it. Whores certainly never wanted any more contact than necessary. Many men laid their hands on me with the intent of killing me -” he turned and Jaime could see his teeth flash in the semi-darkness as he sneered “- but they didn’t last long and I killed them first.”

“Craving of skin,” Jaime muttered before he checked himself. What the hells am I talking about? Cersei had used to say so; how besides hunger for food and thirst for drink there was yet another need that was equally strong for all human beings. He had felt that with Cersei once, the urgent desire to feel her warm touch against his naked skin…a long time ago, when both of them had been different people.

He understood then that it didn’t really matter whether it was a man or a woman; the yearning for human touch was stronger than what could be explained by lust alone.

“I suppose so. Yet as with so many other cravings, not everyone can fulfil it. Many go without,” Sandor grunted and turned, pulling his blanket tighter around him as a sign of the end of discussion. Once again Jaime felt for a man who had lived his life without experiencing another person’s skin against his own. Had he started to recognise what he had been missing?

----------

Without further discussion massages became a routine part of their evenings, Jaime seeing Sandor’s hunger from the way he readied himself for his ministrations. His uneasiness from the first few times gave way to complete relaxation as he lay on the bed on his stomach, powerful arms raised above his head. Jaime used his one hand and occasionally his elbows to work through the knots in his back and shoulders, awed by his solidity and strength. Jaime was astonished and humbled when he realised that he was the first person to tenderly lay his hands on Sandor since his childhood. That Sandor should allow it, and gradually shed the protective layers he had accumulated over the years to respond and react to his touch, never ceased to amaze Jaime. The way Sandor closed his eyes and sighed told Jaime all he needed to know about how he felt, much more than words could have expressed.

They never voiced what was between them. Some things in life can lie dormant and it is possible to pretend they don’t exist as long as they are not mentioned. Naming something makes it real. Naming requires that there is a label that can be applied to an act, a thought, a desire.

Jaime knew there were epithets that other people could apply to what had happened between them, but he didn’t agree with any of them. He had always refused to accept the conventional moulds people had wanted him to fit into. He had resisted them with Cersei and was determined to do that with Sandor.

So they continued, not acknowledging what needed no acknowledgement, only acceptance.

----------

Jaime met Sansa alone for the last time before the trip the evening before his departure. After some probing Sansa admitted she wanted him to come back - but she immediately apologised and told him that whatever made him happy was what she wished for him too. If it was Casterly Rock, she would accept it and only want him to be content.

Jaime was touched and assured Sansa he truly wanted to return, but with so much uncertainty couldn’t make any promises. As he departed, Sansa stood on her toes and kissed his cheek. After a peck on one side, she kissed him again on the other cheek, and when Jaime turned his face towards her, Sansa slowly and tentatively pressed her lips to his. The kiss was soft, lacking passion that burns, but expressing compassion and affection.

Jaime responded to it against his will, as he didn’t want to sully the only pure cause in his life. Yet she was soft and warm and something in her resonated with Jaime so he couldn’t help himself and kissed her back gently.

“Thank you for everything, my proud lion. Look after yourself,” Sansa whispered, holding his face between her hands.

“I try, she-wolf of the North. You take care of yourself too. Knock back all those horse-faced suitors, none of them are worthy of you,” Jaime laughed, hoping to lighten the mood.

“I will. After your honourable brother, who indeed could measure up to him,” Sansa smirked, but then became serious again.

“I will look after Sandor as well. When you come back, we both will be here waiting for you.” Before saying it might be the other way around, Jaime suddenly realised that Sansa knew exactly what she was saying. So he swallowed his words and chastely kissed Sansa’s cheek once more, bowed and left.

----------

It was the morning of his departure.

Jaime had packed, dressed and was ready to go. He and Sandor were almost leaving the room when Sandor stopped.

“This is it then, lion. Never been good at farewells, so let’s get it over with.”

Jaime watched him. He hadn’t planned any big goodbyes, but then an irrational thought formed in his head. Bloody hells, what do I have to lose?

“This is it, dog. And as there is a real possibility that I may not come back, I might as well try to pull the oldest trick in the world on you,” he declared. Sandor stared at him uncomprehending.

“If I had a dragon for every time I heard my fellow soldiers telling a girl that they were leaving and didn’t know if they would ever come back, and would they grant them a beautiful memory to hold on to…” Comprehension lit Sandor’s face, and he frowned. Before he could say anything Jaime rushed ahead, recklessly.

“A kiss, that’s all. Just for curiosity’s sake. What say you?” Jaime glared at him challengingly, almost stunned by the audacity of his own suggestion. I may never see him again. The worst he can do is decline.

Sandor scowled, but then shrugged his shoulders. “Aye, why not. As long as you don’t go telling anyone about it.”

Jaime was surprised – he hadn’t really expected him to accept.

“I gather you have not kissed a man before?”

“Can’t say I have kissed many women either. Whores want extra coin, if they agree at all.”

“Well…” Jaime was unsure what to do next. He was a tall man but still shorter than Sandor. He felt ridiculous about having to look up for a kiss, but the situation was his own doing, he had suggested it. So he approached Sandor gingerly, extended his hand to hold him from the back of his neck, pulling his face closer to his own. When their lips met he had the curious sensation of soft lips on one side and hard scar on the other, Sandor’s beard tickling him.

Jaime pressed his lips tentatively harder and opened them slightly, just a little. He felt Sandor’s mouth, which had been tense and rigid, softening a bit, allowing him to nibble gently on his bottom lip. Jaime felt dizzy at the sensation, Sandor’s passive response thrilling him. He recognised the kiss being more than a simply farewell kiss. For him it was a representation of so much he wanted to convey to Sandor. For Sandor, he wasn’t sure. Jaime had an impression of the situation being one more experience he had never had before; of someone wanting to kiss him.

After their lips parted, Sandor looked at him with hooded eyes. Jaime could have made a jape of the situation – but didn’t. He coughed instead.

“You see, nothing into it.”

Jaime moved ahead, opened the door and later couldn’t have told how he found his way to the Great Hall to meet up with his traveling companions. 

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