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Author: bratanimus
Title: In Your Own Words
Fandom: Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire
Pairing: Jaime/Brienne
Word Count: 7,853
Rating & Warnings: M for drug and alcohol use, language, sex
Summary: Oral exams always seem to begin with the instruction, “In your own words, please describe …” But out of school, Jaime can’t find the words to define his relationship with Brienne.
Author’s Note: Modern American college AU. This is a continuation of my story, Words with Letters in Between. Many thanks to my beta, MrsTater!




In Your Own Words


Colored lights swirl and flicker in the dark, and tiny flashes of artificial starlight rove over the faces and bodies of glistening dancers. The music thrums and pumps, cradling everyone in hands of sound and thumping them together without shame or formal introduction. Perfumed fog wraps itself through limbs and underneath shirts, mingling with the smell of beer and sweat. Boys with boys, girls with girls, all are free within the cavernous space that is Club Babel to reach and fling and kick and grasp, to shout, to kiss, to be.

Jaime, mesmerized, watches the dancers. He envies their alcohol-fueled freedom, each person a sovereign nation unto himself or herself, accountable to no one behind these black double doors. This is Switzerland. This is an off-shore account, anonymous, untraceable. This is where riches lie, beds strewn with rubies and sapphires, cool and sharp against your naked, trembling back.

Stop. Money is his father’s language, not his, though Tywin would never be quite so poetic about this place. Jaime takes a swig of beer and squeezes his eyes shut, trying to find his own words. Oral exams always seem to begin with the instruction, “In your own words, please describe …” But the professors don’t want his words; they want him to spout what’s in the book. And Tywin doesn’t want Jaime’s real thoughts; he wants his own parroted back to him.

How did Tyrion find his inner reason? How does he continually dare to voice it?

See what’s in front of you, not what you want to see, he always says with his eyebrows raised in that insufferable waiting way.

So Jaime looks again.

The expressions on the faces around him look transported, like the saints in those paintings in his art history class; and yet Jaime can’t shut out the word abomination, because he’s heard it on Tywin’s lips about “the gays” so many times. But once—when he didn’t know his eldest son was listening—Tywin said the word in reference to Tyrion. Jaime tried not to speak to his father again after he’d heard the slur against his brother, but that didn’t turn out well. He’d had to learn how to wear the proper face, and there is no relief for that. Parrots only know how to squawk what they’ve been taught.

Weekend Bacchanals probably aren’t enough for anyone here, Jaime realizes, and everyone gets tired of wearing the wrong face during the school or work week. He can relate to that, now. He spots Will in the center of the crowd, dancing with a new fellow who’s got the prettiest head of hair Jaime’s ever seen on a boy. His lips form a thin line as he sighs heavily through his nostrils; he might not have a ride home tonight.

His ruined hand throbs in its cast, so he sets his Dogfish Head on the bar while he hitches up the sling a bit higher so his fingers are above the level of his heart. He is grateful to be in Greensboro, an hour away from Durham, where everything happened.

He’s grateful to be as stoned as he is.

Casting his gaze about, Jaime spots a long and lean blond guy leaning with his back to him against the black concrete wall; there’s a girl talking to him. The boy’s fitted t-shirt glows a brilliant white under the disco ball and black light, and the roving colored lights peppering his broad shoulders make him look almost angelic.

From here, Jaime muses, he could almost be looking at himself from behind, golden-haired and perfect, and the high twists that thought into a fabulous fantasy about watching himself trying to score with someone who’s not Cersei. His cock stirs guiltily; but he’s free now, isn’t he? The way they’d left it at spring break, they’re done. She can’t say a word without shaming him in some way. She hates his grades, his lack of ambition, his mangled hand. She’s getting married and living with Robert in the heady wonderland of D.C., and down the rabbit hole she goes. Bye bye, Alice, he thinks with a thrill of fear, of possibility. Good luck with the cats and the caterpillars and the queens.

Jaime takes a few swallows of his beer and brings his attention back to the blond boy against the wall. Nearby stand a couple of tall women he recognizes from Duke’s women’s basketball team. If they see him here they will question him ceaselessly because everyone wonders about him already, since he’s never dated anyone at school. No matter; if they’re not out, they won’t dare threaten to out him. Besides, the accusation wouldn’t take much to disprove, if it came to that. Although wouldn’t Father’s face be hilarious if rumors of his offspring’s homosexuality were written up in the Herald-Sun? Jaime drinks again, a grim smile on his lips as he ponders what the lives of people who aren’t famous might be like.

Trade down. The thought occurs out of nowhere, and he has a sudden, gut-wrenching wish to leave school, to leave the country, to go somewhere far away in search of the modern day equivalent of dragons and maidens in distress. Though what use he could be to them anymore he’s not sure. Money is power, his father’s voice hisses, and he remembers why he can’t leave.

The petite girl standing in front of the pale-haired guy is pretty, her long brown hair cut with bangs; she wears bright red lipstick and her wide brown eyes gaze up at the boy like he’s her savior. Jaime feels a smile beginning in the corners of his lips; he takes another sip of beer to hide it. At the same moment the guy lifts his beer to his own lips; his arm is muscular but slim and hairless in the androgynous way some gay men seem to like. That girl is barking up the wrong tree, Jaime thinks, amused. Because he’s stoned, the scene seems to play out very slowly, and he stares, intrigued, wondering when the girl will realize.

Then she stands on tiptoe, wraps her hand around the guy’s neck to pull his face toward hers, and kisses him.

To his credit, the boy returns the kiss briefly, then peels her fingers from his neck and bends down to speak directly into her ear over the noise of the music. The girl’s face falls almost comically, and Jaime laughs out loud. Poor girl.

He downs the rest of his beer and turns to order another from the well-coiffed, muscular bartender, who winks at Jaime and serves him at once. Jaime slides a five over the bar top and turns back to watch the continuing drama. The girl tilts her head quizzically and says something with brows knit. The boy turns aside, gesturing to the female basketball players behind him, and … it’s not a boy.

It’s Brienne.

Jaime chokes and spends the next minute coughing into his forearm, his beer sloshing around inside the bottle.

It is Brienne, who first got his attention by clocking him in the head with a frisbee. Who punched Hyle Hunt in the face at that party. Who went with Jaime to the archery range, after he returned her clothes washed clean of the blood and folded the next afternoon, and who earned the nickname “wench” then and there for beating him too soundly on her first try. Brienne, who’s been watching him so strangely ever since a week before spring break, when Hyle and his buddies changed Jaime’s life forever.

His feet have carried him over to her without his quite giving them leave to do so, and now he’s standing nose-to-nose with her. She uncoils from her slouch, and she’s taller than him in her clunky black boots, and he thinks of the twin he could’ve had, another brother perhaps, or a sister, someone who didn’t watch him with the squint of judgment in her eyes and an ugly smirk on her pretty lips. Brienne’s lips are full of honesty, he thinks with a silly sense of wonder. And then he muses, Honesty tastes nice. And then, Stop this. And then, But here she is.

“Hello, wench,” he says in a low voice, confident that she can at least read his lips if she cannot hear him over the din of bass and drums.

“You need a nickname, Jaime,” she replies, her voice almost as low and husky as his. She doesn’t want to call him Golden Boy, like everyone on his team does; she says she’s waiting for him to do something of worth. She’s certain he could.

If she only knew.

Brienne’s two friends eye him, but he ignores them and regards just her, and the moment stretches itself long like putty in a child’s hands, and the scented smoke in the air smells like Paris and her eyes are bluer than the waters of Jamaica and dear God he is stoned.

“Come upstairs,” he says, turning his back and never doubting that she’ll follow.

They climb the black wooden stairs to the second floor bar where it’s quieter. There are bathrooms labeled Men and Womyn, and of course there’s a line waiting for the latter. Jaime wonders why the striking dark-skinned transgendered woman wearing the slim-fitting silver dress doesn’t just use the men’s; but then he decides not to judge, because she’s probably worked hard to wear her own face.

“Drink?” he offers as they reach the bar and Brienne slides her empty bottle across to the short bartender who could be a clone of Elvis Costello.

As she leans with one elbow on the edge of the glass tiled surface, pale blue uplighting makes Brienne’s fair skin practically glow. Her eyes glimmer like sapphires in the rain.

Things are getting weird here, thinks Jaime, while time and distance continue to toy with him and he leans in too closely to her to speak into her ear. “Manhattan?” he offers. She smells good. He backs away.

But she leans in to reply. “Beer before liquor, never sicker.” With her response her lips brush his ear, and his body responds as though he were a cat and she’s found the perfect spot to scratch; he’s aroused and attentive all at once. She leans in again and he is curiously electrified; he turns his head to feel her breath on his cheek, soft and warm. “Just one more beer. I drove.”

He steps forward and orders, setting his own drink on the bar while he fishes in his pocket for anther five. He drops the bills and they both squat to retrieve them. Brienne hands them to him, their fingers brushing, and it feels intimate in the darkness under the lip of the bar, protected even, like the forts of blankets and tablecloths he made with Tyrion when his brother was still a toddler, like the downy duvet that buried him happily in his sister’s bed before it all went wrong.

Brienne stands first but he remains kneeling at her feet, and the act of kneeling makes words like penitent and supplicant scurry through his thoughts. He stares at her boots, with their silver studs on the sides like the Lone Ranger, and he wonders if that would make him Tonto by default, were they to run off together tonight to find something of worth for him to do with his one hand.

He stands and resolves not to speak until he can gather his thoughts into some semblance of normality. The bartender hands Brienne her beer, appraising her height like everyone, Jaime has noticed, does. Jaime grabs his and they cross to the balcony that overlooks the dance floor. Will and his new friend are kissing—very sweetly, actually, as lights flower their faces with color—while dancers jump and gyrate around them. They look like the stars of a teen movie, happily ever after, camera out, roll credits.

“I rode with Will,” says Jaime, pointing. “He seems to have met someone.”

“That’s why I drove myself,” says Brienne. “If Mags or Lana hook up with people, I don’t want to feel trapped here. It’s no fun feeling like a third wheel.”

Jaime thinks of Cersei and Robert, of how he can’t even sit next to her anymore when he goes home; that place is Robert’s now. I am a sovereign nation, he thinks, and he feels suddenly unmoored, as though by definition he still has to be attached to Cersei somehow, the way he’d supposedly held onto her foot when she was born, as if she herself had coaxed him out of their mother’s birth canal like some goddess.

But he and Cersei are a mythology that has been disproven, which sounds exactly like something Tyrion would say, and he’d be right.

Jaime realizes he’s looking at Brienne’s boots again, and now he’s thinking of how he grabbed her bare foot and tried to pull her off his chair to go and kick Hyle Hunt’s ass after that party.

If only they had.

If only.

“Are you all right?” asks Brienne, looking at him square on with that strange expression. “I mean, how are you?” She glances at his hand.

“Oh. Ah.” Jaime shrugs. “It’s coming along. Another surgery or two and I might hold a pencil again.”

But not a bow and arrow, or a gun, not a sword or the reins of a spirited horse, not the steering wheel of a racecar.

Certainly not a basketball.

The headlines had rearranged themselves in his dyslexic brain as usual, but he hadn’t needed his friend Paula to translate that olGdenyBo ttAkced; ugRby Tame Supsectde really meant that no one on the rugby team would go to jail. They’d be kicked off the team and expelled from Duke University because their wealthy daddies would make sure that that was all that would happen, despite all the efforts of Jaime’s wealthy daddy and his team of lawyers. Perhaps money wasn’t power after all.

So Hyle Hunt and two of his buddies are no longer at Duke, which is fine for him and for Brienne, who had become the object of their harassment. Jaime broke Hyle’s nose, busted his lip, and knocked out a tooth by the time it was all said and done, and the other two shitheads didn’t fare much better. Jaime suffered a black eye, a bruised jaw, and a couple of cracked ribs. But rugby cleats can rip a man’s flesh apart, and medical science can do only so much.

He sips his beer and looks at Brienne, who still regards him intently. He’s about to bristle, but it’s not pity in her eyes, and it’s certainly not disgust. Her eyes are wide, watching him with interest and…something else.

See what’s in front of you, not what you want to see.

He shifts, uncomfortable, trying to come up with a quip or something to defuse the moment, which feels absurdly significant in his drugged state. He shouldn’t have smoked up with Will in the car before they came in and then again in the men’s room, but he’s kicked cocaine and he needs something. It’s all too much right now, and coke would only make it more so.

Brienne’s long, slim fingers wrapped around her sweating beer bottle capture his attention, and he stares for what seems like about five minutes. He wants to kiss her fingers, lick the condensation from each one, before tasting the honesty of her mouth.

Quickly, guiltily, as though she can somehow read his thoughts through his eyes, Jaime turns to lean on the balcony and watch the dancers. Will and his new friend are talking now; Will’s hands are on the guy’s chest while his hands grip Will’s hips. It looks so simple.

“Want to get out of here?” blurts Jaime.

His heart begins to pound.

After a pause, without looking at him, Brienne nods and quietly says yeah, though he cannot hear her over the music. She continues to sip her beer slowly, and Jaime looks at her fingers, her neck, the blue-veined skin within the V of her shirt. She’s watching her friends downstairs, and he follows her gaze: one of them seems to have found a friend, too, a girl with cropped black hair, and the other is talking to the cute brunette who kissed Brienne a few minutes ago.

It suddenly occurs to him that he ought to ask: “Are you gay?”

Brienne shoots him a look, and his heartbeat quickens. “It’d be easier if I were, wouldn’t it?”

Easier for whom? he wonders.

He leans his good elbow on the balcony, again a bit too close to her, and cocks his gaze upward at her towering form. God, she’s tall. He wants to grasp her hipbone to feel how sturdy she really is.

She leans down to speak into his ear. “I’m not gay.” She backs away and leans against a graffiti-covered column, and he’s at once grateful for and confused by the space she’s put between them.

“What a coincidence,” he says, grinning over his thundering pulse. “Neither am I.”

Brienne smiles down at him, then covers her mouth with her fingers as if their shared smiles were an unexpected development. She chugs her beer, coughs a little, and then finishes it more slowly. He watches and imagines movie credits rolling over the two of them, him and Brienne, a new story.

“Ready?” she asks.

With his nod, Brienne takes their two empty beer bottles back to the bar, then follows him downstairs. She goes to say goodbye to her friends while Jaime waves to get Will’s attention. Will and his friend dance their way over to him.

“I’m taking off,” he says. “Brienne’s giving me a ride.”

“Is she now?” Will raises his eyebrows, unable to resist an insinuation. “It’s about time. For both of you.”

“I’m not a virgin,” Jaime retorts for the twentieth time. Will can’t stand it that Jaime won’t spill the beans about his “mysterious love life.”

“Whatever,” says Will. “This is Luke. He’s from Winston-Salem. He works at a bank.”

Jaime awkwardly shakes hands with his left. Luke can’t seem to help ogling him.

“Will’s a good guy, even if he is a crap basketball player,” says Jaime, and Will grins, his dark features making his eyes all the brighter. “Have fun.”

He catches Brienne’s eye and the two make their way toward the double doors. Jaime glances back to see the pretty brunette watching Brienne leave, and he can’t help but feel a wave of satisfaction that it’s his shoulder that Brienne’s bumps against as they exit together.

They walk up a few blocks, Jaime’s ears ringing in the sudden silence. Their strides are the same length, he notices, and her legs look strong beneath the fabric of her skinny jeans. Nice ass, too. He forces himself to look ahead and count his steps from one circle of streetlamp light to the next. He’s not staggering, but his footsteps still feel strangely light and long from the effects of the weed, and it seems to take forever to reach Brienne’s Pilot parked next to the sidewalk.

“The Waffle House?” she asks as she opens his door.

“Sure,” says Jaime.

With effort he buckles up, realizing, as Brienne slides in behind the wheel, that this is the very first time he’s been alone in a car with a girl who isn’t Cersei.

Brienne must have been to Greensboro before, because she knows the way to the all-night diner. They’re both quiet during the ride; perhaps she’s feeling as strange about this as he is.

When they arrive, they have to wait for a booth. They tower together near the glass door and long windows overlooking the parking lot, and the patrons and waitress stare at them. He’s used to stares, particularly when he’s with Cersei, because they share the same good looks. Brienne, however, does not. With such similar coloring she could be a Lannister cousin, although her features are broad where Cersei’s are refined and delicate.

But Brienne’s presence commands attention. She’s huge, taller than him. Muscular for a girl. With her short hair she could almost be mistaken for a man; hell, Jaime did mistake her for a man tonight. And yet there’s something about her…a magnetism, or some internal light. Something he cannot name.

“What?” says Brienne, and Jaime realizes he’s been staring again.

He inhales to retort while his befuddled brain tries to invent some joke, but the red-haired waitress calls them over to a table she’s wiping down. The man in work boots and unwashed jeans who has vacated the booth approaches Jaime and Brienne on his way out. He makes no disguise of his curiosity.

“You’re a long, tall drink of water,” he says with a condescending grin to Brienne.

Girls are supposed to say thank you, no matter what; Cersei told Jaime it’s the quickest way to cut this sort of anonymous harassment short. But Brienne just looks at the man.

“You’d be prettier if you smiled.” The man is missing a tooth on one side of his mouth, and his plain, ruddy face bears evidence of a hard life.

“My appearance should be of no concern to you,” says Brienne wearily, as though she’s said it a thousand times before. She goes and slides into the red padded booth, signaling an end to the interaction.

Jaime smells alcohol on the man’s breath, so he remains standing, though there’s not much he could do with only his left arm.

“Pretty boy,” the man mutters, turning his mean, bloodshot gaze on Jaime. “You’re pretty enough for the both of you.”

“For the three of us, I’d imagine.”

“Get outta here, Don,” the waitress calls good-naturedly. The man turns back to her and for a moment he wavers. She smiles and pops her chewing gum. “Go on. See ya tomorrow night?”

“Okay, Peggy,” he says with a wave. He glares at Jaime before he exits and ambles on foot across the parking lot and down the street.

Jaime and Brienne order coffee and waffles, and as Peggy the waitress pours she says to him, “Wait a minute! I know you! You’re…hang on, I’ve seen you before, you’re—”

“I’m no one,” says Jaime. Can he not be famous for one night? “I’ve just got one of those faces. Everyone says I remind them of someone.”

“No!” she says in a high-pitched squeal. Her pink lipstick matches her dangly earrings, which clash frightfully with her red hair. “You’re that Lannister kid who plays for the Blue Devils! You are, aren’t you?”

“He is,” says Brienne quietly. The couple behind her has turned to watch. “We’re just grabbing a bite before we head back, so—”

“I was so sorry to hear about what happened to you, hon,” the waitress goes on, leaning down conspiratorially and gracing them both with a view of her freckled cleavage. She tsk-tsks over his hand in its cast and sling. “Those rugby players are nothing but trouble, I’ve always said.”

Jaime shrugs and tries to reply, but she continues. “And you, poor thing, trying to defend a girl’s honor. Was that true? I read it in People magazine, so you never know. Is it true?”

Brienne sits up taller. She doesn’t know, or at least she hasn’t asked.

“Well,” says Jaime. He clears his throat and scans the diner. Everyone has stopped talking and watches them now. A couple of people are texting furiously on their iPhones. One person snaps a photo. In a low voice he recites what the lawyers told him to say. “I shouldn’t have gone there alone, on a Saturday night. There was probably a … a better way to deal with it.” He clenches his jaw.

“I knew it!” shrieks Peggy, standing up and fanning herself dramatically with one red-nailed hand. “You’re like a knight in shining armor, aren’t you? Tell me,” she whispers, leaning down again. “Who’s the girl?”

Jaime looks at Brienne, opens his mouth, and closes it again, while the waitress continues to prod him to confess and Brienne stares at him. Slowly a deep red flush blossoms on Brienne’s cheeks. She goes to pick up her coffee cup but her hands are shaking, so she places them in her lap.

Jaime looks down at the yellow table and feels his own cheeks warm.

“Wait,” says Peggy, turning toward Brienne. “It’s not—is it you? Oh. My. God. You’re Tarth. The Blue Amazon. I watch the ladies’ games, too, you know. Oh my lord, I can’t believe it. This is like a fairy tale come true right here.” Peggy fans her face with both hands now, laughing delightedly and smacking her chewing gum.

“Order up!” the burly cook calls from the kitchen window, and Peggy turns to retrieve two plates of hash browns for another table, talking to herself and whoever else will listen.

Jaime and Brienne sit in silence, and slowly the din in the restaurant grows again as people continue the conversations they’d stopped while eavesdropping.

“So. Is it true?” asks Brienne.

“You heard the lady,” says Jaime, trying to ignore his throbbing hand, his hammering chest. “A fairy tale come true.”

See what’s in front of you.

There’s a weighty pause as Brienne watches him with an expression of wonder and worry on her face. “Oh, Jaime.” Her voice hitches on his name and she clamps her lips together. But her eyes moisten, and she keeps looking, and he will not glance away this time.

Now there’s no mistake that they are in this together. On some level he must’ve known when he drove alone to the rugby house what would happen, what he might lose.

He never thought what he might gain.

He watches, almost as in a dream, as Brienne reaches across the table and catches his good hand in her own, squeezes it hard, and it feels so very right.

“Here ya go, sweethearts,” says Peggy. Jaime and Brienne snatch their hands back as the waitress places their plates of waffles between them on the Formica table.

They eat in silence. He cuts the large waffle with his fork, glad that he didn’t order the breakfast steak and need Brienne to cut it for him. It’s strange how things can change in a moment, he muses as he chews. In one moment I lost my hand. In another I won the fair maiden’s. I think. Is that what’s happening here?

He looks up at Brienne to find her watching him. “What was Hyle saying about me?”

Jaime swallows, then takes a long breath. He shakes his head as he wipes his lips with a paper napkin. “You don’t want to know.”

Her eyes bore into his. “Tell me.”

He returns her gaze, pausing briefly but knowing that he’ll tell her, because he’d do anything for her, after all. He’s already done it, though he didn’t know why at the time; and he’d do it again.

“He—” Jaime glances around to make sure no one is listening. In a low voice he goes on. “He and a couple of the rugby guys made a bet about who could get you into bed first.” A familiar rage wells in his chest and throat as he remembers the night that Will, who’d been dating one of the other players, told him. He’d never felt such anger, and such fear when Will hinted that Hyle might try to force her if the game went on too long. “He thinks he’s the fucking king of the world.”

“And you’re the kingslayer, is that it?” She sounds almost angry, but her glance at his injured hand tells him why she’s upset.

He doesn’t have the energy to feel defensive. “Someone had to be.”

The waitress brings a few more packaged pats of butter and drops them in a little plastic bowl on their table. They watch each other until she’s moved on, and the air between them changes again.

“Kingslayer,” Brienne whispers.

He cocks his head. “I like it. Wench.”

They smile at each other, and the moment is what it ought to be, with no jokes or pulling away, and it’s terrifying and wonderful.

Now is the moment when we should kiss, he thinks, startled by the revelation. And Brienne, eyes wide and vulnerable, looks like she knows it, too. If this were a movie and there weren’t people with smartphones all around them, he’d lean right across the table and wrap his fingers around the back of her neck. She’d kiss him back, and her mouth would taste like the truth. The camera pans out, the credits roll.

Then Peggy comes to top up their coffees and the opportunity, if there ever was one, passes. But a surge of hope rises in his chest. It’ll come back, he knows. We are a fairy tale, and fairy tales don’t die.

It’s been right in front of him all along.

The ride home is somehow companionable and fraught with significance, even though they only talk about odd things. She talks about the music she plays on the stereo through her iPhone, and Jaime misunderstands when she tells him the title of an Irish song, “The Isle of Man,” thinking she said something like, “My wife’s a man.”

After a hearty laugh over that, things relax a bit. They discuss their shared dislike of political posturing. They bemoan balancing the rigors of athletic training with the requirements of class work. Brienne avoids asking about his rehabilitation, perhaps waiting for him to bring it up; but he’s far from ready to think about that, and at two in the morning his high is wearing off and he needs one of the painkillers for his hand. To distract himself from the growing discomfort, he tries to imagine what his good hand on her thigh might feel like.

When they exit onto 15-501 he realizes his time is running out, and he doesn’t want to go home. He briefly spins out a scenario in which he spends the night with Brienne and yes, the thought scares him…but it excites him, too. Should he feel guilty for wanting someone that he can actually have?

“Are you dating anyone?” he asks before he can think twice about it.

Brienne laughs, a throaty chuckle that coaxes a smile from Jaime’s lips. “As if.”

“Married?”

As he’d hoped, she laughs again, and her face lights up. He cannot stop staring. “Nope. But my father sent me here with express instructions to get my M.R.S. degree. This being the middle ages and all.”

“You don’t want to be a wife?” God, where did that come from?

“Um.” Brienne clears her throat. “It’s—it’s not that. It’s just…I’m not particularly what one might call wifey material. At baseline.”

“Are you more the man in the relationship?”

She pauses, and he senses her hackles rising. “Probably.”

“What a coincidence. So am I.”

But as she gives him a sidelong glance, he wonders if that’s precisely true. Cersei has called the shots all along. Would he even know how to make a pass at a girl, now that he’s free to do so?

Brienne turns onto Roxboro Road and they are quiet again as she makes her way to his street, and he wants to beg her not to take him home, not yet, painkillers in the bathroom cabinet be damned.

They turn onto his street and there, lurking on the sidewalk, are the paparazzi, and Jaime has never been so glad to see them in his entire life.

“Keep driving,” he says, and she does.

She goes straight to her house a few blocks away and parallel parks alongside the sidewalk. The street is on a little hill, so that her house looks down on it from slightly above. He remembers hearing that her father has money, too, and thinks that maybe, like Jaime, she doesn’t have roommates. The house is small; the windows are dark. The last of the daffodils are wilting near the porch, but roses bloom on the fence. A white picket fence.

Brienne turns off the engine and holds the keys in her hand for a second too long as she looks straight ahead.

“You can stay the night,” she says, and she exits the car before he can reply. She crosses around the car and opens his door, just like a gentleman, and he doesn’t protest because it is indeed awkward to flip the door handle and push the heavy door open against gravity with only his left hand.

He unfolds himself from the car and stands uphill of her, feeling a bit strange to be the taller one for once. As she shuts the door the street light makes a halo of her pale hair and casts her face in shadow. She could be a man. Strangely, it’s not a repellent thought. In fact, it’s a strange turn on, thinking that he’s got a secret treasure here, a stealth woman. My wife’s a man. He can’t help but smile. Perhaps he should wonder what’s wrong with him, but he doesn’t.

They ascend the slate path to her wooden porch, on which stand a white painted metal table and two chairs with red cushions on them. A few burned down candles adorn the table’s surface and he imagines, with a moment of fleeting jealousy, Brienne sitting here with some other man sharing a bottle of wine.

As if, she’d said. He hangs onto that thought. Though if she knew about him, she’d have every right to throw him out right now.

She turns on an orange table lamp just inside the front door and moves aside so he can enter. The living room is small, and sparsely but tastefully decorated. There’s a plush blue rug on the hardwood floor, and a long white sofa with a blue blanket thrown over it. Next to it is a square orange chair, and those two pieces of furniture face the windows and flatscreen television opposite. Between the sofa and TV, a coffee table in pale wood holds outdoors-themed magazines and textbooks and this morning’s white coffee mug. The plaster walls are pale grey-blue, and minimalist art graces the walls—ink drawings on white paper set in vividly colored frames. There are flowers on the white painted mantel over the empty fireplace, and a mirror. An old framed photo of a bride and groom stands next to the bouquet: her parents, Jaime guesses.

“I’ve got some sweats and a t-shirt you can wear to sleep in, if you want,” says Brienne as she disappears into the kitchen, flipping on the wall switch as she goes. “Actually, they’re the ones you loaned me the night I punched Hyle Hunt in the face at your house.”

She’s framed in the kitchen doorway, and her face disappears for a moment as she opens a cabinet and retrieves two wine glasses. She grabs a wine bottle from the countertop, turns off the kitchen light switch with her elbow, and returns to set everything on the coffee table.

“The couch is pretty comfy,” she says. “I’ve fallen asleep here more times than I care to count.”

She pours the wine, handing him his glass without asking if he wants some, which he does.

“Sometimes it gets lonely and I stay up too late watching TV,” she babbles, “and next thing I know I’m waking up with a crick in my neck.”

He knows the feeling.

“Have a seat,” she says as she crosses to turn on the stereo in the cabinet under the flatscreen.

Jaime sits as music, low and melodious, floats into the air. He sips his wine, a complex Bordeaux, and thinks he’s never really appreciated how curvy Brienne is. Silhouetted in the dim light of the little orange lamp, she tilts her glass to her lips and looks positively Amazonian, statuesque in the best sense of the word, and he wonders how he’s never noticed that before.

She sits next to him. “What about you?”

He quirks his eyebrows in question.

“Are you…dating anyone?”

He swallows. This will make it real. “Hardly.”

She squints. “For real?”

“For real.”

“Never?”

Her look of incredulity is almost funny, except that he needs to say it out loud and he is afraid.

“There was someone for a long time. Not here. Back home. But she…wasn’t right for me.”

“Ah.” Brienne looks down at her glass, raises it and drinks, looks at him. “I’m sorry.”

He drinks, sets his glass on the table, looks at her. “I’m not.”

She watches him intently as though she’s trying to read something on his face. At last she sets down her wine glass and places one hand on the back of his neck, fingers the long golden strands there. Her hand trembles and he is grateful for that because his whole body is vibrating with fear and expectation.

She rises on one knee, resting her other hand on his jaw, testing her progress in his eyes. He’s thinking yes, and she must be able to hear it because she presses her lips to his, and he falls into truth and wisdom and love, all the things the goddess had promised him, that he had to seek in another tale entirely, and here it is. Here she is.

His hand finds her hipbone and squeezes, and she’s sturdy and strong and he wants her. It’s so simple. A fairy tale come true.

Jaime tugs her hip toward him, and she obliges by shifting so that she’s straddling him, still with her hands on his face, and she kisses him as though she needs to devour him. He returns her kisses hungrily, reveling in the taste of wine, the dangerous and new feel of her tongue inside his mouth, of his inside hers. The heat between her legs crushes into his, and he doesn’t think he’s ever been this hard. But then her breasts press into his injured hand and he hisses with an involuntary jerk backward.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” Brienne sputters, her hands hovering over his cast, unsure what to do.

“No, no, it’s okay, I’m fine,” he says quickly. “Just—let’s—”

He lowers himself onto his back and tugs at the strap on his sling. She helps him to take it off, and he raises his arm onto a pillow above his head.

She lowers herself onto him again, and when they kiss she grinds her pelvis into his. They’re both trembling now, lips quivering and barely touching for a moment, then crushing together desperately, and he groans with longing. He doesn’t care if she’s a virgin, like they all say, much less that he doesn’t have a condom. This is his escape, she can take him wherever she likes after this.

Her hand creeps up under his grey t-shirt, traces his ribs, squeezes his pectoral muscle roughly. Then her other hand reaches for the button of his jeans. She sits back and looks at him for approval, and he nods. Please yes oh yes.

As she unzips him, he pulls upward on her shirt. She removes it for him, but wraps her arm across her chest and her ivory bra. He gently takes her wrist and pulls her arm aside, then runs his finger along the bottom edge of lace, scuffs his thumb over her nipple through the thin fabric. She watches him, her eyes now the dark blue of the ocean at dusk.

“Beautiful,” he says.

It might not be a word anyone else would use to describe Brienne, but it’s his word, and it feels true, and at last he’s found it.

She huffs and looks away, a flush radiating across her cheeks. Suddenly he understands how inexperienced she really is.

He pulls her by the forearm so that she’s closer to him, and he reaches around to unhook her bra. “Beautiful,” he repeats in her ear, and she responds by sucking on his neck and jaw until he wants to rip the bra strap from her shoulder.

At last the damned thing is off, and he gropes her small, firm breasts as enthusiastically as though he were a fifteen-year-old virgin himself, but she doesn’t seem to mind. Finally she yanks upward on his shirt, pulling it over his head and gingerly sliding it over his ruined hand.

It occurs to him that not once had Cersei ever ridden him; it was always Jaime on top, in the supposed dominant position. Yet in hindsight he knows that somehow she orchestrated each of their encounters, for what reason now he couldn’t fathom. He fucked her willingly, to be sure; but he never felt that he’d been the one in control.

Now, with Brienne doing every bit of the work, he feels somehow that he is very much in control, that his very act of surrender to her is a conscious choice to trust the right person for once, that to give over to her strange sweetness is the most selfish and self-affirming thing he’s ever done in his whole stupid life.

He kicks off his shoes while she slides his jeans down over his hips and legs, and when the jeans lie on the floor she removes his socks, too. She unzips her boots, peels off her socks, and steps out of her jeans.

Her underwear is flowery. Jaime smiles.

“Hang on,” she says with an adorable—and unexpectedly girlish—duck of her head.

She goes through the other doorway into her bedroom and he hears another light switch flip on and a cabinet door open and shut; her bathroom must be through her bedroom. When she returns she has an unopened box of condoms.

“Um. Do you know how to do these?” she asks.

He nods slowly. “I do. But tell me something first.”

She straddles him with the box in her hand and he groans with desire, practically losing his thought.

“Yes?” she smiles.

His hand settles possessively on her hip again. “That girl in the club. Why’d you kiss her back?”

Brienne flushes again, and it’s the prettiest thing he thinks he’s ever seen.

“No sense in being rude,” she starts. “She was nice enough.”

Jaime looks at her askance.

“I mean—God, I don’t know, Jaime, it was just—”

“Never mind,” he says, worried he’s idiotically ruined the mood. “It’s no big deal.”

“No, I’ll tell you. It’s…been a while since I’ve kissed anyone.”

“Kissed?”

She nods, and the pink in her cheeks deepens to red. “Kissed.”

He looks at her carefully. “We’ll go slow, then.”

Brienne stands and removes her underwear, then pulls Jaime’s boxers off. She sits on him again, and his heart slams inside his chest as her warm, wet flesh, pressed dangerously close to his, nearly makes him come at once. He bites his lip and digs his fingers into her hip, and she gasps with pleasure, pressing against him as though she cannot help it. Quickly she opens the box and tears open a condom wrapper, handing the prophylactic to Jaime. He rolls it down over his shaft, pleased to discover that this is one more thing he can do easily one-handed.

He looks at her. “You control it. Whenever you want.”

Balancing herself with a hand on either side of his torso, with excruciating deliberateness she lowers herself onto him, and he’s thankful she’s going so slowly because he’s never been so hard, so ready.

She moves, and he moves with her, and it’s luxurious torture the way she draws it out. Her lips press together, and he realizes it’s probably painful right now, so he holds her hip still for a minute. She breathes in and out through pursed lips, looks at him, laughs a little. He reaches up and wraps his fingers around her neck to pull her to him, and they kiss, slow and deep, and he feels her body relaxing bit by bit. She begins to move again.

Jaime remembers how many sessions of lovemaking it took before he was able to bring Cersei to climax, so he doesn’t exactly expect to be able to perform a miracle with Brienne, a virgin taking her first lover. Her last, he thinks, and he wonders briefly when, exactly, he became so domesticated, but he doesn’t care.

Their bodies fit together perfectly as they grind and slide together, and gradually he realizes that she has indeed found a movement that she seems to prefer right now, so he goes with it, trying to maximize their bodies’ contact as she presses into him again and again. They both shake with longing, bodies slick with sweat, and he tastes the salt on her upper lip as he pulls on it with his lips and tongue.

Suddenly Brienne cries out softly, a gorgeous and erotic sound Jaime never expected to hear from her, and he feels her muscles clenching around him as she comes. That’s all it takes to send him over the edge, and in a second he’s buried his face in her shoulder, trying to control his own sounds of pleasure and his bucking hips.

Afterwards, she tugs the end of the blanket over their two bodies and rests her head on his chest, and he wraps his arm around her shoulders; it’s the very picture of post-coital ecstasy as they shudder and try to recover from what they’ve just done, and Jaime feels impossibly, overwhelmingly satisfied.

“Not bad, kingslayer,” she murmurs in a sleepy voice.

He chuckles. “Not bad at all, wench.”

She raises her head with that vulnerable look in her eyes and he smiles. She smiles back.

“We’ll be more comfortable if we sleep in my actual bed.”

“I thought I was sleeping out here on this comfy couch.”

“I think we’re past all that, don’t you?” she says, replacing her head on his shoulder.

“Perhaps,” he agrees, glad that they are, and feeling like quite the glutton because he knows he’ll want her again shortly and she’ll be right next to him, hopefully wanting him, too.

A sharp pain shoots into his fingers, making him hiss in pain: his arm has fallen asleep. Brienne helps him to reposition it, then props herself up on her elbow to look at him. Her expression is open, exposed, and Jaime feels much the same, though he’s certain his face doesn’t show it as plainly as hers.

Without preamble, she says, “So. You and me.” It seems like a question.

In your own words, please describe …

He could spin her a bedtime story, a sweet tale that has the usual dangers and losses, but with the inevitable happy ending that reassures everyone that all is where it’s supposed to be in the world. But that would be cheesy, and probably too much too soon, so he just shakes his head with a smile, keeping his words to himself again.

For now.

THE END

Comments

bratanimus
May. 2nd, 2014 01:21 pm (UTC)
I've been meaning to congratulate you on being the one and only reader of/commenter on my LJ, hee hee. There should be a prize for that. Does fanfic count? ;)

Seriously, THANK YOU so much. Given the recent turmoil in your RL, I truly didn't expect or wish for you to come back and review this, and I deeply appreciate your doing so despite your MANY distractions and obligations. You are FAR too kind. :D

I loved what you said: It's such a contrast to his relationship with Cersei, where that twin reflects back only the characteristics he despises most about himself. This is it in a nutshell, isn't it? This is what we al love about Jaime, that he's finally starting to see the Cersei reflection as the unhealthy one it is and now seeks a better one, and a better self. (OMG, I'm now thinking of that Justin Tiberlake song, Mirrors, lol.)

I appreciate all the bits you quoted back to me, including the "disproven mythology" one, which Jaime sort of wants to credit to Tyrion even though he thought of it himself. I think Jaime in this AU 'verse doesn't give himself a whole lot of credit, mostly because he hasn't found his true self yet. In canon there are certainly many more sides to him: his arrogance, a sense of entitlement, the feeling of isolation and all-consuming grief that comes with the loss of being disfigured, etc. It's hard to do more than hint at those aspects when writing such short pieces of fanfic. But I'm glad that his shifting tones rang true to you, and that the haze/clarity moments didn't feel forced.

Thank you again for your thoughtful feedback. As always, it's so valuable to me to know that you, a writer I esteem so greatly, see such worth in my work. I'm bowled over. ♥
gilpin25
May. 2nd, 2014 10:01 pm (UTC)
Hee, I was going to comment on AO3 but it's not so easy to highlight individual lines etc there when you ramble on as I am wont to do. Besides, I get individual chat here. ;) And Justin Timberlake song recs; oh my goodness, YES!:D

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Preludes & Nocturnes

These are your words, so claim them, leave your bairns not to be orphaned, you wrote those.

~ The Lacuna, by Barbara Kingsolver

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