Brienne took a sip of her drink and grimaced a little. It was some fruity concoction she’d let Sansa order for her. The taste was pleasant enough but the lingering stickiness of sugar in her mouth made her feel like she needed a long drink of water.
She surveyed the rest of the bar from a high table in the corner of the room. Sansa had left her to go to the bathroom. It was a pretty typical Friday night for them. Even though Sansa was her boss, Brienne felt closer to her than most people in the world and their standing happy hour Friday night was something Brienne found herself looking forward to.
She saw a group of men enter the bar, a truly ragtag bunch. A little man, no taller than 2 or 3 feet with bow legs and mop of golden curly hair led the group, gesturing wildly and seemingly already inebriated. Behind him trailed a tall man with angry scars curving over one side of his face, only half covered by long black hair that he’d pulled back into a low bun and a slightly smaller man, slender with a nose that had obviously been broken a few times. He seemed as jovial as the small man in front of him which only emphasized the angry expression on the giant man’s face. The door half shut behind them before being flung open by one of the most beautiful men Brienne had ever seen. Golden hair and tanned skin, even from a distance Brienne could tell he had a physique to die for.
Brienne looked away and rolled her eyes. Hot or no, he was probably a dick. Men like him always were.
The boisterous group approached the bar, the little man clambering up onto a stool and demanding a round of drinks for everyone in the bar. It was early yet—only around 8—so the crowd hadn’t truly gathered, only a dozen or so folks scattered about. The bartender only raised his eyebrows but steadily began making drinks.
The jukebox next to her spluttered and started to make a guttering noise. She rolled her eyes. This happened every week. Getting up from her chair she stood in front of the ancient thing and gripped it, lifting it off the ground and tilting it forward and then side to side. The guttering stopped and Bob Dylan continued warbling from the speakers. She could feel the eyes of some of the men on her and when she went back to her seat, the beautiful man was staring at her. She blushed and looked away.
Sansa returned and slid back into her chair across from Brienne. Even as tall as she was, she had to do a little hop to reach the top of the seat while Brienne’s legs almost reached the floor despite the height of the chairs.
“Free round of drinks,” Brienne said, gesturing to the small man who had turned his attention back to his friends, regaling them with some apparently wildly funny story.
Sansa went off to order them drinks and one of the men from the loud group approached her. The beautiful one.
“Hi there,” he said with a flirtatious grin. Brienne regarded him, stone-faced. He was even more handsome up close and she hated the way her stomach flipped in response to his nearness.
She was used to this. Men approaching her in an attempt to get closer to Sansa. She wasn’t particularly in the mood to indulge him. “My friend will be back in a moment if you’d like to talk to her.”
The man blinked a few times. “Maybe I want to talk to you.”
Brienne snorted—an ugly sound. She thought she should perhaps be embarrassed but she knew she wouldn’t impress this man, her pale hair and even paler skin paired with her height did not recommend her to men that looked like him. He looked a little miffed at her dismissal and Sansa returned, sliding elegantly between him and the table and passing Brienne another drink, this time a vodka soda which was definitely more in her wheelhouse.
“This man wants to talk to you,” Brienne announced, taking a loud slurp of her drink through the straw and looking pointedly away.
Sansa turned to him, smiling brightly even though it didn’t reach her eyes. Brienne knew Sansa was just as distrustful of handsome men as she was, her history with handsome men both dark and painful. “Can I help you?” she asked, her voice a quick chirp.
“I’m Jaime Lannister,” he said, smiling warily as he stuck out his hand to shake Sansa’s. He also reached out to shake Brienne’s and she reluctantly shook it once. “Hell of a grip,” he said, his grin turning more flirtatious.
“I’m Sansa and this is Brienne,” Sansa said in that solicitous way of hers that was simultaneously friendly and dismissive.
‘Well, Sansa and Brienne, would you like to come join us for a round of drinks? My brother is entirely too willing to make an ass of himself in public but having two beautiful women around can sometimes reign in his more ridiculous impulses.”
Brienne and Sansa exchanged a look before Sansa turned around to get a good look at the rowdy group of men. She turned back to Brienne and shrugged. She was more adventurous and definitely more social than Brienne. “You’ll buy us drinks?”
“Absolutely,” Jaime said, not taking his eyes off Brienne when she stood. She was used to it. People liked to stare, not used to a woman of her height.
It turned out that Jaime’s brother—Tyrion—was even more raucous in the presence of women. “You have to try this drink. I just invented it!” he insisted, his words crisp even though Brienne could tell he was drunk by the way his eyes shone. “Pod! Another round of Lannister Specials.”
“Coming right up!” the bartender called from down the line, already prepping glasses.
“So you’re brothers?” Sansa asked looking between Tyrion and Jaime.
Tyrion smiled wryly, “I know. Shocking right? He got all the looks and I got all the brains so I like to think we’re even.”
“No need to be rude,” Jaime said, kicking lightly at the stool his brother sat on and making him rock unsteadily.
“If you shake me too much I will puke, and when I puke, I’ll puke on you,” Tyrion threatened.
“No puking in the bar,” the bartender said sternly.
The big scarred man laughed, a low rumble, and then asked, “What are two girls like you doing in a bar like this?”
It was a fair question, the Red Keep was a dirty, cramped place, mostly lit by the neon lights of the signs in the window and a couple lights over the pool tables at the far end of the bar.
“We work just down the street,” Brienne answered shortly. She was no good at this, small talk.
“We like to come here for happy hour,” Sansa added. Brienne noticed she was eyeballing the scarred man with curiosity, directing her questions at him. “We’ve never seen you here before. Do you normally go somewhere else? My name’s Sansa by the way.”
“Sandor,” he said, lifting his drink. “This one,” he said, gesturing with his bottle to Tyrion, “demanded a bar crawl. This is our fourth place.”
That explained how drunk Tyrion was. “Bar crawl?” Brienne asked incredulously, it sounded more the purview of frat boys than the men in front of her.
“Bad day,” the man with the broken nose—Bronn—said with a shrug.
“Awful day,” Tyrion corrected.
“Oh what happened?” Sansa said, suddenly all concern. She was too nice for her own good.
Brienne was drawn away from the group conversation by Jaime leaning closer to her and asking, “So what do you do for a living?”
“I work with Sansa,” she said before beginning to turn back to her friend.
“I gathered,” he said with a laugh. “What do you do working for her?”
Maybe it was the several drinks or maybe it was the spell of Jaime’s gorgeous green eyes but she found herself answering with more detail than she intended. “I’m her assistant. She runs a small graphic design and printing firm down the street, Gray Wolf Graphics. I manage orders, run the phones, work the printers.”
“Do you do any design work?” he asked.
“Some,” she replied shortly, embarrassed that she had said so much. Then again, he looked genuinely interested. She reminded herself of all the other men she had thought were interested, only to end the night asking for Sansa or Margaery's number.
“You’re a tough nut to crack. Anyone ever tell you that before?” he asked. He sounded like he was teasing her, but that was too close to flirtation for Brienne’s comfort.
“Yes,” she said simply before she turned back to the group once more. She heard Jaime’s laughter to her right and for once the laughter directed at her didn’t sound unkind.
The rest of the evening was comfortable and Brienne had to admit she actually had a little fun. They played an overly competitive game of darts—Bronn won and no one was surprised. A couple of rounds of pool—Sansa crushed the rest of the group and everyone was surprised. Tyrion demanded her and Sansa’s phone number announcing that this had been the best bar they had gone to all night and that they should make it a standing event. Brienne wasn’t sure if they’d actually ever see each other again but they left the bar with smiles and jovial goodbyes.
Monday came as it always did, uninspiring and slow. Only a few orders trickled in which Brienne passed to Sansa to begin proofing as she found herself elbow deep in the printer trying to fix one of the belts that had a habit of slipping off.
The bell on the door tinkled and she pulled herself up, her right hand covered in ink and her face already too sweaty for 11 AM on a Monday morning.
Jaime Lannister stood on the old gray carpet of the entrance, looking entirely out of place in his camel peacoat and crisp white button down.
“Mr. Lannister,” Brienne said, unsurprised yet disappointed by the skip in her stomach at the sight of him. She rubbed the back of her hand over her forehead, hoping to remove the worst of the sweat.
“Brienne,” he said with a wide smile, his eyes tracking up from her feet to her reddening face. “It’s good to see you again.”
“Can I help you with something?” she said. His gaze made her feel exposed and she tried not to shift on her feet.
“You have some ink—” he said with an aborted gesture at her face. His eyebrows drew together in a frown and he pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket and swiped it across her cheekbone. “There. Much better.”
Brienne sucked in a breath. “Are you here to talk to Sansa? I can see if she’s available.”
Jaime pursed his lips, looking momentarily frustrated. “Yes, actually. I’d like to speak with her.”
Brienne wiped the ink off her hands with a couple of kleenexes and then knocked on Sansa’s office door. “Come in,” she called.
Brienne opened the door. “Jaime Lannister is here. He wants to talk to you.”
Sansa stood from her desk. “Does he want us to design something for him?”
“I don’t think so. I think he just wants to talk to you.”
Sansa looked confused for a moment before her lips curved into a sly smile. “Right. Tyrion said he might stop by. Send him in.”
Too shocked to ask why she was in contact with Tyrion, she ushered Jaime into the office and shut the door before going back to her work with the printer.
About thirty minutes passed before Jaime reappeared, a giant smile on his face.
Sansa must have said yes, Brienne thought as she screwed the shell of the printer back on.
“It was good to see you, Brienne,” he said again, repeating his greeting from earlier, this time more forcefully.
“Likewise,” she said back from her seat on the floor, politeness winning out over her nerves.
“Talk to you soon,” he said waving happily at her.
She washed her hands in the bathroom and then went into Sansa’s office. “So when’s your date?”
“With Jaime?” Even as she asked, she felt her heart clench in jealousy. Why was it always Sansa? When would someone finally be interested in her ?
“Oh we don’t have a date,” Sansa said simply, before passing her some printed mock-ups.
“Well then what was he here for?” she asked, confused.
“He just had some questions for me,” Sansa replied cryptically.
Not sure what that meant, Brienne returned to her desk and got back to work, putting the odd exchange from her mind.
The next day flowers had appeared on her desk when she came back from lunch. She stared at the bouquet of white blushed roses and pulled out the card.
It was great seeing you yesterday - Jaime
She indulged herself for a moment, pretending that the flowers were for her before calling through the open office door, “Sansa! There are flowers here!”
Sansa came out, munching on an apple. “Oh that’s nice. They’re very pretty. Are they from Jaime?”
Brienned nodded. Her throat felt tight as she watched Sansa caress one of the petals.
“Why don’t you call him and thank him?”
Brienne wished bitterly that she wasn’t Sansa’s assistant and didn’t have to thank the man she was attracted to for sending flowers to another woman. “Sure. Would you like me to put these in your office?”
Sansa gave her a confused look. “Why would you do that? Leave them out here.”
After Sansa went back into her office, Brienne pulled herself together. She was a grown women. She’d experienced rejection before. It was pointless to be jealous.
She picked up the phone and dialed the number Jaime had scrawled on the card.
“Hello?” he said when he answered.
“Hello, Mr. Lannister—”
“You know, you can call me Jaime,” he said with that infuriating flirtatious tone of his that did all sorts of funny things to her stomach.
“We got your flowers,” she said, ignoring him and the blush that spread across her cheeks. “Sansa wanted me to call and thank you.”
“Sansa wanted you to,” Jaime repeated slowly. If Brienne didn’t know better, he sounded confused.
“She said they were very beautiful.”
“And what did you think?” Jaime asked.
Brienne wasn’t sure why he’d care but answered anyway. “They are very pretty, but if you’re looking for my advice, Sansa prefers daisies.”
“Right,” Jaime said, sounding disappointed.
“But she did like these,” Brienne hurried to assure him.
“Thanks for calling, Brienne. I’m glad you got the flowers,” he said before hanging up.
Brienne stared at the phone for entirely too long before getting back to work.
The steady flow of gifts didn’t stop. Monday it was flowers then Wednesday it was fresh cookies, Thursday was muffins and Friday was a succulent for Sansa’s desk. Every time Sansa would take one look at the gift and tell Brienne to do whatever she wanted with it, a pretty harsh response even by Brienne’s standards. If a guy was trying to woo Brienne that hard—not that anyone ever would—and she wasn’t interested, she would at least have the decency to let him down easy.
Then again, maybe Sansa had and Jaime wasn’t taking the hint? That seemed more likely than her soft-hearted friend dragging the poor man along.
Sansa had arranged another round of drinks with Tyrion at the RK and was pleased at the potential new addition to their Friday night tradition. “He said he’d also bring Sandor if he’s not busy. And Jaime, of course,” she said as they locked up for the night.
At her wit’s end, Brienne snapped, “You know, if you’re not interested in the man, you could at least tell him.”
“But I am interested,” Sansa objected. “I’m just trying to take things slow. Feel him out, you know?”
Brienne gaped at her. Sansa was a sweetheart but she could be shockingly dense sometimes. “I think it’s pretty obvious he’s interested too.”
“Do you think so? I mean we didn’t get to talk much…” Sansa said, a little bit of the insecurity from her previous relationships showing through.
“Sansa,” Brienne said, all frustration gone from her voice, “You’re gorgeous, brilliant. A man would be crazy not to be interested.”
“Yeah!” Sansa said, squaring her shoulders and tossing her hair back. “You’re right!”
Brienne gripped her shoulder in a show of support before they set off for the RK. They were the first ones there, unsurprising since they worked so close and Tyrion had to come from his law firm across town. They ordered their drinks and took a seat at one of the larger tables, chatting about the week and some of their more annoying clients
Jaime arrived first, dressed in delicious looking jeans and a soft black sweater. Brienne swallowed hard and excused herself from the table, hoping to allow Sansa the time to hash things out with Jaime without her around.
Unfortunately, she was just settling in the bar to order another drink and chat with Pod—the nice young bartender—when Jaime appeared at her elbow. “Would you like a drink?” she asked him, feeling a little overwhelmed by how close he was to her when he came up on the bar stool. So close that their thighs brushed. “I can bring it back to the table if you tell me what you’d like.”
“It’s fine. I’ll order one,” he said.
“What about Sansa?” Brienne asked.
“I think she’ll be just fine by herself,” Jaime replied quizzically. “How’s your week been?”
“Well, somebody has been sending an insane amount of gifts to the office so it’s been a bit strange,” Brienne said. It was an attempt to tease Jaime, show some good humor. If he was going to date one of her best friends, then she would at least like to be on good terms with him.
Jaime rewarded her with a brilliant grin.
“My personal favorite was the cactus. Truly inspired,” she said, a laugh chasing the words from her mouth.
Jaime laughed too. “I had to get creative. Baked goods and flowers can only go so far.”
“Those muffins were delicious though. Sansa had lemon poppyseed and couldn’t stop gushing about it for the rest of the day,” Brienne said. She wasn’t lying. The muffins were to die for and she knew she’d be making the trek across town to the bakery at some point in the future, if not to satisfy Sansa’s craving then her own.
“What kind did you have? I’m partial to the apple cinnamon,” he said as he took his drink from Pod. Whiskey sour.
“I had the blueberry almond. Though we split an apple cinnamon the next day and it was very good,” Brienne said. Pod delivered her drink as well and she stood to return to the table. If Jaime wasn’t going to take the opportunity to be alone with Sansa then it wasn’t worth avoiding the table.
Sandor and Tyrion had arrived by the time they returned. It turned out Tyrion was just as boisterous sober as he was drunk and even more articulate, reveling in their uproarious laughter. Sansa challenged Sandor to another round of pool so the two of them went off to the tables, leaving Tyrion, Jaime, and Brienne behind.
“So Brienne of the beautiful blue eyes, how did you meet Sansa?” Tyrion said, well into his third drink and getting steadily friendlier.
Brienne blushed. Her eyes were the only thing people ever complimented. She wished they didn’t stand out so much in her plain face.
“I interned with her mother when I was in college and when Sansa started her own company, she needed someone to help. Her mother recommended me and we’ve been friends ever since,” Brienne said, thinking back on how nice it had been working for Catelyn and the way the woman had basically adopted her. Brienne didn’t have any family left so she treasured every relationship she had.
“Tyrion—you’re a lawyer. And Jaime—what do you do?” Brienne asked, realizing she didn’t actually know much about him other than that he was related to Tyrion and loved showering women with gifts.
“Architect,” he said.
Brienne hummed. She wondered if Sansa knew what Jaime did. She had taken several architecture classes as part of her design degree and would probably be interested in discussing that with him.
Tyrion grumbled something unintelligible as he rolled his eyes and slid off his seat to wander over to the pool tables, joining Sansa and Sandor.
“Would you maybe want to get dinner with me tomorrow?” Jaime asked, shocking Brienne enough that she inhaled the sip of vodka soda she had in her mouth.
She coughed into her hand and said, “It would probably be good to talk if you want some help convincing Sansa to go out with you. She said she likes you but doesn’t want to move too fast.”
Jaime stared at her, pale and unblinking.
“I have to admit, you’re a lot nicer than the other men who try to pump me for information about her. You actually seem to care and not just want to get into her pants. I’m glad to help. I just want her to be happy.”
Jaime looked conflicted for a moment, like he was considering his words carefully before he spoke. “You’re altogether too kind, you know that Brienne?” he said, leaning closer to her. Her gaze flicked to his lips and then back to his eyes as she tried to keep her breath steady. He was too godsdamn handsome.
“Why don’t you text me a place where you and Sansa get dinner a lot? Somewhere you both like. We can meet there and talk.”
Brienne nodded, her breath caught in her throat as he took her too big hand in his—wow, his hands were just as big as hers—and scribbled his number across the sensitive inner skin of her wrist. “I can do that,” she choked out, her cheeks flaming.
Jaime smiled at her and it was somehow mischievous. Her trailed his fingers along her palm and then stood. “Let’s go join the others. Next round on me,” he said.
She stood up, her knees far too weak and trailed him to the bar.
It was then she knew she was in trouble.
The five of them wrapped up the evening around midnight, shuffling from the bar in varying degrees of drunkenness. The men were waiting with Brienne and Sansa as they called a cab when a man burst from the RK and smirked at the group of them.
“You’re a pretty one,” he said to Sansa approaching her. He yanked her against him with a hand on her arm and another hand reaching for her ass. Brienne saw red, grabbing the man and slamming him into the ground, one knee in his back and his arm twisted behind him.
He scrabbled against the sidewalk and Brienne pressed his face into the concrete. “Apologize,” she hissed through gritted teeth, pushing her knee harder into his back until he wheezed.
“I’m sorry,” he said breathlessly and Brienne released him.
“Bugger off,” she spat, standing up and turning back to Sansa to make sure she was alright. Tyrion and Sandor were already by her side, the small man holding her hands and Sandor running his hand down her back. She looked fine if a little shaken.
Brienne watched as the man hurried off and then caught Jaime’s eye. He looked a little flushed but that was probably the drink or maybe an effect of the cold weather. She saw his Adam’s apple bob up at down as he swallowed thickly. “Holy shit,” he breathed, his words a puff of condensation in the air.
Brienne shrugged and called a cab, ushering Sansa into the backseat and sliding in behind her. She waved at the men through the window and took her friend home.
Brienne tossed on a long olive green tunic dress over leggings and sandals. She brushed past the mirror refusing to examine her outfit and her homely looks. Staring at herself wouldn’t change how her shoulders were too broad, her waist too thick, and her face too pale. She knew Sansa would harass her to wear a little more make-up but it always made her feel like a clown.
She walked the three blocks from her apartment to the little Braavosi restaurant that she and Sansa often went to when Sansa’s sister Arya was in town. As nervous as she was, she’d told Jaime she would help him and she would. She always kept her word.
Jaime was already waiting for her at a table, bottle of wine between their plates and a smile gracing his face. “Brienne! I’m glad you made it,” he said standing up and placing a hand on her elbow as he leaned in to kiss her cheek.
She jerked away just as his lips made contact, her heart racing. “Thank you for inviting me,” she said, proud she didn't stutter, and sat, smoothing down her tunic in her lap.
“Would you like some wine?” he asked, picking up the bottle and offering it to her.
“That would be nice,” she said and pushed her glass toward him. A little drink might make her feel less awkward, make her less aware of the way the light glinted off of Jaime’s hair and made his eyes look greener.
“So...last night,” he began. Brienne shifted in her seat. Had she done something? “You really took that creep down. Where’d you learn that?”
“I wrestled in high school,” Brienne said, not mentioning the self defense classes she taught. And the boxing classes she attended.
“Fascinating,” he said and he looked like he actually meant it. “I imagine you were quite good.”
“I won regionals a few years in a row,” she said with a shrug, uncomfortable bragging but not wanting to lie. She had been good.
The waiter approached the table and Jaime had her order for them both, deferring to her knowledge of the menu. When he left, Brienne her returned attention to Jaime, “So—Sansa—has she seemed receptive to your advances?”
Jaime clenched his jaw and seemed ready to speak but they were interrupted by a woman’s voice, “Brienne! Fancy seeing you here!”
Brienne turned and saw Sansa, dressed in a beautiful blue long-sleeved dress, standing next to Sandor of all people. “What are you doing here?”
She looked back at Sandor with a small smirk. “Well, I took your advice and asked Sandor out. He wanted to take me out to my favorite restaurant so here we are!”
Brienne’s eyebrows went up but she swallowed her questions and smiled at Sansa. “That’s great! I hope you have a nice time!”
Sansa looked between her and Jaime. “You too Brienne,” she said meaningfully before dragging Sandor off by the elbow.
Brienne whirled back to Jaime and took his hand that was resting on the table. “I’m so sorry. I had no idea. Honestly,” she said, feeling terribly bad that Jaime had to see that. It must be awful to try so hard and be rejected.
Jaime rolled his eyes. “For gods sake woman, I’m not interested in Sansa! You are the densest person I’ve ever met. I’m interested in you. ”
Brienne dropped his hand and blinked at him as the waiter placed their dishes in front of them. “I—”
“Yes, you. What else do I have to do? More flowers? I sent you a godsdamn cactus. A cactus!”
Jaime’s hand was clenched in his napkin and Brienne could not stop staring at him.
“Men are never interested in me,” Brienne said when Jaime finally stopped talking, still huffing in frustration.
“Their loss,” Jaime said vehemently. He leaned across the table and said in a low voice, “I’d love for you to try that wrestling move on me.”
Brienne blushed, but Jaime kept going, “All I’m asking is for an honest date. You, me, conversation, and then maybe another date if you decide you like me.”
“I already like you,” Brienne said, the words bursting from her against her better judgment. Jaime’s perpetual smirk turned slightly predatory.
“Is that so?”
“Don’t let it go to your head,” Brienne said as she crossed her arms over her chest.
“I wouldn’t dream of it."
“So is this our first date then?” Brienne asked, finally digging into her swiftly cooling dinner.
“Nope, doesn’t count because you didn’t think it was a date,” Jaime pointed out after a hearty sip of wine.
“So then what’s our first date going to be?” Brienne said. She felt a smile break out over her face at the possibility.
“Whatever you want it to be,” Jaime said and he smiled back at her.