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Once in the dream of a night

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Jaime approaches the site of the annual King's Landing Preparatory School Plant Sale with both hands in his pockets and a fair amount of reluctance in the rest of him. It's a beautiful day; he should be spending it in the fresh air, ideally with a bat or a ball in his hand--not stuck in some stuffy greenhouse in the middle of nowhere. Even if it is, as he's been told repeatedly, historically significant.

"Coach Lannister," Olenna greets him as he nears her. Despite the fact that she's the principal and therefore his boss, it still never quite ceases to amaze him, the authority she can muster when armed only with a pen, a folding table, a cashbox, and five-foot-nothing of icy judgment. "You realize this is going to involve getting those pretty hands of yours dirty, right?"

He grits his teeth and resists the impulse to show her his palms, which are calloused, dammit. From weights and from baseball bats and from doing things. "I'm prepared, yes."

"Given that I doubt you've discovered a sudden passion for horticulture," she says, looking at him over the tops of her glasses, "I'm going to assume I need to mark these hours down as community service credit for someone."

"Myrcella Baratheon, please."

She arches an eyebrow at him. Everyone employed by the school has had a run-in with Cersei or Robert at one time or another, and Olenna more than most. She knows exactly whose child Myrcella isn't.

But Myrcella had begged him to be here--"Please, Uncle Jaime, you know that I can't graduate without parental community service hours"--and so here he is. Ready to make up for half a semester's worth of hours in one go. "Cersei and Robert are…" Drunk, he doesn't say; he pastes on a smile instead, as charming as he can make it. "They're not feeling well. Myrcella asked me to step in and I happily agreed."

His charming smile has exactly the effect it always has on Olenna, which is to say, none at all. Honestly, she should be thanking him for sparing them all Cersei's arguments as to why the community service requirement shouldn't apply to their family. Then again, maybe being denied the opportunity to argue with Cersei only annoys her more. "I'm sure you did," Olenna says, and fuck if Jaime knows how she can get so much innuendo into one phrase. He's not even completely sure what all she's innuend-ing, which makes it even worse.

He's not going to bite. "Just show me what to do, please."

She sweeps past him into the greenhouse. It is an impressive structure, which he's been told has been in the Tyrell family for generations, hence Olenna's donation of the space for use by the school and nearby community. Jaime covertly admires the wrought iron ribs that frame the glass and the rose vines that twine up both the inside and the outside, all of it bearing signs of painstaking maintenance. Maybe this won't be so bad after all. At which point he follows Olenna through the door and sees… oh gods.

Of course. Of course the one person already there is Brienne Tarth, who looks over at him with surprise that quickly shifts into her typical mix of wariness and barely-restrained loathing.

"I'm bringing you an assistant, my dear, though I'm sorry I couldn't do better for you," Olenna tells her, patting her arm in a great show of sympathy. "Do let me know if he becomes unbearable." Then she turns back to Jaime. "Brienne will explain what to do. You two are the entire shift, so I'll take any last-minute orders outside while you get through as much of the list as you can. Try not to kill anything." And with that, she's gone again, sailing by in a cloud of expensive perfume and disdain.

Watching her go, Jaime makes another attempt at a smile. "She secretly loves me."

"Good afternoon, Coach Lannister," is all Brienne--Coach Tarth--says by way of response.

He guesses he should have known better. "Coach Tarth," he answers, as politely as he can. It doesn't matter how politely they start; it's never where they seem to end, at least not when they meet like this.

"Here's the deal: vegetables over there, fruits there, flowers there," Brienne says, focusing his attention as she points with one long finger. Then she taps the pile of papers in front of her. "Orders are on these papers, and we're putting everything in these." She holds up a shallow cardboard box. "If it takes more than one box, we number them. Then tape the order to the box afterward. Got it?"

"Yes, I think I can grasp the complexities," he tells her, half-defensive and half trying to convince himself that he means it as a shared joke.

As usual, she responds to the half that he wishes she wouldn't. "I'm sorry if you feel like this work is beneath you," she snaps, "but some of us do need to keep our jobs to pay our rent."

It's the second time in ten minutes he's been unjustly accused of snobbery. And though he may have a wealthy family, he hasn't taken a penny from them in years, and he draws the same paycheck she does. "I'm sorry you're determined to take absolutely everything I say in the worst possible way," he fires back. "Look, I'm here to fulfill the community service requirement on behalf of my niece, all right? I've got four hours to fill, so let's just get it over with."

"Fine," she bites out.

"Fine." He snatches a stack of papers from her, and she shoves earbuds in her ears and pointedly taps a few times on her phone; he barely catches the words Fuck You Playlist on the screen before she turns the phone away from his view. He tries to focus on the order in front of him, only he's so annoyed that it takes him longer than it should to make sense out of the words on the page. He just stands there, staring at it and getting increasingly frustrated and embarrassed in the humid late afternoon heat of the greenhouse, until she looks over at him and pulls out one earbud.

"Don't…" she starts, and he braces himself for another salvo. "Don't stress too much about the accuracy," she goes on. Her voice is gruff, but there's no edge to it. "There are people double-checking them in the morning. We're just supposed to do our best."

He's made it a point to be open with his students about his dyslexia, but he's not sure whether that's made its way to her or not. He's been open with her about it, himself, come to that, but of course she wouldn't remember. Either way, he appreciates the reassurance. He nods--wordless, because he's learned his lesson--and she nods back and puts her earbud back in. He takes a cleansing breath and turns his attention back to the page in front of him.

It's mostly, miraculously peaceful after that, just the monotony of three dark opal basil, two bush beans, three neon calendula, what the fuck is calendula, and the tiny, tinny noises barely audible through her earbuds. He thinks he can just make out the sound of The Wights, one of his favorite bands, and catches himself mouthing the lyrics before she looks over at him through narrowed eyes and he clamps his mouth shut.

After he finishes the stack in front of him, they drift into filling the same orders at the same time; it's more efficient than trying to cram multiple boxes at once into their small workspace, and she seems to be good at finding the vegetables, while he's getting familiar with the fruits and flowers. Her music prevents them from needing to talk, which is a genius move, really, and one he wishes he'd thought of weeks ago. There's a dicey moment where his fingers accidentally brush hers and she snatches her hand away like his is covered in poison, but she doesn't abandon their shared workstation even at that, just places her veggies a little more cautiously, her eyes resolutely trained on the pots in front of her.

All in all, it's as close to comfortable as he's ever felt around her, and if things were normal, it would be an encouraging first step to a better relationship with a respected colleague. The problem is that things aren't normal, and it's far from the first step, because he's been having dreams about her for almost as long as he can remember.

The first time it had happened, he'd been thirteen. His mother had died in a car accident six months before. Grief had turned his father from distant to outright unreachable, and his little brother had been inconsolable over the fact that his mother had been turned around to look at him in the back seat when the crash had happened. Everything at Jaime's house had been tears and loss and blame, and he'd gone to the sept and prayed to the Warrior: please, give me strength. Two nights later, after he'd cried himself to sleep, she'd appeared in his dreaming mind: a gangly stranger, maybe a few years younger than he was, with countless freckles and eyes like the Sunset Sea. Eyes that had been wary at first, then had grown slowly sympathetic as he'd poured out all his woes to her. Despite their apparent age difference, he'd ended the dream sobbing his pain and confusion into her broad shoulder, while she'd petted the back of his head like he was a stray animal of questionable origins. He'd woken up feeling… not healed, exactly, not at all like everything was fixed, but with the ground under his feet feeling firm enough that he could face another day, at least.

He'd expected that to be the end of it--a one-time visit from some deity-in-training. But she'd shown up again several months later, and this time, they'd been on a beach he'd never seen, and she had been the one crying. As soon as she'd spotted him, she'd quickly rubbed her fist across her eyes and looked away. He'd sat down next to her on a driftwood log and prodded her gently, reminding her that she'd seen him cry and was honor-bound to return the favor, and besides, none of this was real anyway, so she might as well tell him what was wrong. She'd told him that the kids at her school had been calling her giant and monster and shoving her around. He'd been opening his mouth to tell her that he'd find some interdimensional way to make them pay when she'd informed him that she'd finally knocked them all down herself, and she was as frustrated at the injustice of her suspension as at the kids themselves.

In retrospect, he thinks he'd fallen a little bit in love with her right then.

It had gone on like that for years. He could never predict or control it, though for a while, during a particularly difficult time in college, he'd experimented with everything from lucid dreaming to hallucinogens to try to reach her. He'd tried to see if she existed in the real world, too, but some kind of cosmic rule seemed to dictate that he never remembered her name when he woke up. And while looking for "tall blonde woman freckles amazing legs" had yielded some intriguing results, it hadn't brought him any closer to his true goal either. When she did appear, sometimes it seemed to be because one or both of them needed something; other times there didn't appear to be any reason for it at all, just the two of them in some shifting watercolor dreamscape, talking.

He'd used to think that having her in his dreams was a gift from the gods. Now, sneaking glances at her as they work, he wonders what he'd done to earn this kind of punishment, the kind where he's standing barely an arm's length from the woman who's been in his mind for most of his life, and she wants nothing to do with him. She's wearing a tank top and leggings that end about halfway down her well-toned calves, and between all the skin and lines of muscle that are exposed and all the rest that's only enhanced by the form-fitting clothes, he has to keep his jaw clenched to hold in a whimper. The worst part is that he knows she's not doing it on purpose; everything she's wearing is purely practical. It's his depraved brain that persists in dwelling on how he wants to peel every stitch of it off of her.

As she closes her eyes and stretches her neck, he can see the sweat glistening in the hollow at the base of her throat. The ends of her ponytail are just the littlest bit damp where they drag along her upper back. She's got streaks of dirt on her arm, her shoulder, along her cheekbone and the side of her nose. He wants to trace them so badly that he can almost feel them already against the pads of his fingers, the tiny bites of grit over her smooth skin.

It would be bad enough--he would want her badly enough--if the dreams had confined themselves to conversations. But eventually, there had come the dreams where they'd talked significantly less. Dreams where he'd find her in athletic shorts and a sports bra and nothing else, or wearing some kind of evening dress with a slit that ran high enough up her thigh to make him want to fall to his knees. The first time it had happened, he'd apologized profusely; she'd just blushed and grinned and said, "So this is your fantasy, huh? Good thing this isn't real, or it would be really awkward," and looked down at her sleek blue one-piece bathing suit with a rueful laugh. He'd felt bad about it right up until the next time, when he'd found himself in an unbuttoned shirt and shorts that barely made it halfway down his thighs. "Really?" he'd asked her, smirking, and she'd turned fiery red and punched him in the shoulder. That had been the first time he'd kissed her, pulling her in close so he could feel her against all his bared skin.

The first time he'd dreamed about fucking her, they'd had to remove all the armor they were wearing first. A few months after that, he'd started the dream already inside her, thrusting up helplessly and straining against the ropes that kept him bound to a luxuriously large bed. "Is this my fantasy or yours?" he'd asked, panting, watching the bright halo of her hair as she moved above him, as fearless as the Warrior and as glorious as the Maiden. She'd only laughed and shrugged and ridden him harder.

He'd found himself dating less and less, which he knew on some level probably wasn't the healthiest thing to do. But she felt so real, even though he always woke up alone, and he couldn't help comparing every woman he met to her.

Then one day, the woman he'd met had been her, and it had been all downhill from there.

As he's watching her, her eyes snap open; he tries to look away, but it's too late. She yanks her earbuds out. "What are you staring at?"

"Nothing. I--" He starts to reach out for a smear of dirt, then thinks better of it and drops his hand. "Nothing. You've got some dirt on your face, is all."

"Well, so do you, golden boy, and you don't see me making a big deal out of it." She scrubs at her cheek with her wrist--which is also dirty--and the gesture reminds him so much of that second dream of her that he almost laughs. Sometimes it just strikes him as so absurd, knowing her but not knowing her. Not having her know him.

He'd been six months into a new job coaching baseball and teaching history at King's Landing Prep when he'd heard that they'd hired a female lacrosse coach. He'd raised an eyebrow and hadn't thought much beyond that until he'd turned around one day in the faculty lounge and seen… her. Miles of legs. Acres of arms. And still, millions of freckles and eyes like the Sunset Sea. It was indisputably her, and he'd been so stunned that he'd blurted out, "What in the hells are you doing here?"--not the ideal opening line, in retrospect--and she'd fired back, "Oh, so you think that because I'm a woman, I don't deserve to be here?" and that had been it. The end of any hope he'd had for an even friendly relationship with the woman of his literal dreams.

Oh, he's tried. He's tried several times, in the few months since. But it always seems to end in arguments or in her ducking away like she can barely stand to be in his presence, and she never gives any indication that she knows him at all beyond their semi-regular shouting matches, though his desperate brain has tried to fabricate some evidence more than once. At first, meeting her seemed to reduce the dreams to brief snatches of sensation: a hand on his shoulder, a fleeting press of her mouth, the shape of her nipple against his palm. Just enough to taunt him with flashes of memory every time he saw her. But recently he'd had an extremely vivid, extremely detailed one that had necessitated avoiding her for a full week to prevent himself from saying or doing some unspecified thing that he'd regret.

He glances at the clock high up on one of the windows. He's shocked to see that it's been nearly four hours already. The light that's filtering through the glass around them now is turning the bright gold of early sunset, the leaves on the trees nearby waving in an evening breeze. He's suddenly seized with a sort of panic that their time together is almost over; this is the longest he's ever spent with her in the waking world, and he's not quite ready to let go of that yet. Even if the only way they've lasted this long is by not speaking to each other.

"Good progress," she says, nodding to the tables full of completed orders next to them. There's genuine satisfaction in her tone; she'd told him once that she loved to cross things off a list.

"Mmm," he agrees, afraid to break the fragile peace with too many different letters. "I think we're leaving the morning shift in really good shape."

It's her turn to look at the clock. "Wow, seven-thirty already?"

"Time flies, huh?" he says. He keeps his expression and voice deliberately neutral, and it seems to work, somehow; an infinitesimal fraction of a smile actually curves her mouth as she takes in their work again. "You know," he goes on, dazzled by the way the light plays off her skin, "we don't make a bad team after all, Tarth."

To his utter amazement, her cheeks go a little pinker under the flush from the heat, and her smile expands a perceptible amount. "Maybe we--" she starts, and his heart has just seized up at the word we when there's a stronger swirl of wind outside, and the door to the greenhouse swings shut with a loud bang, making them both jump.

Brienne takes a step back. "I'll go--the plants shouldn't--" she stammers a little, and walks away from him quickly, toward the door. He watches her fingers close around the handle.

Say something, Jaime, he nearly shouts in his own mind. Something good. Something--

The door handle rattles under her hand, but doesn't move. She tries again. Still nothing.

"Is it--"

"It's… stuck," she says. "Or locked. Or something." She rattles harder.

Without thinking, he moves toward her. "Let me try."

"I know how to operate a door handle," she growls at him, "and I bet I bench more than you, so I don't need your help. I'm telling you, it's locked."

He can't argue with her about the bench-pressing thing--he's seen her in the gym after hours--so he glances over her shoulder to where Olenna had been earlier, holding court outside.

The chair is empty, the table cleared, the cashbox gone.

"Olenna's long gone," Brienne says, forehead against the glass. "She had a meeting at five-thirty. There's a key. We were supposed to lock up."

He closes his eyes. He already knows the answer, but. "I don't suppose the key is in here somewhere?"

Brienne only sighs. "In a lockbox next to the door. Outside."

Jaime pulls his phone out of his pocket, but of course--of fucking course--there's no signal, out here in the boondocks as they are. He can feel something like panic start in his chest. Being stuck with her for a few hours without having to talk is one thing, but if it's much longer than that, he's entirely sure that they'll come out of this with her never speaking to him again, in his dreams or out of them. "How did the door even get closed?" he asks, and all right, maybe he sounds slightly accusatory, but panic. "It was open when Olenna left us in here."

"How the hell should I know? I was standing next to you the whole time," Brienne answers, sounding a little panicked, herself. "Do you think I did it with my magical powers?"

"Oh, have you got those?" he can't help firing back. "Then we're saved."

"I don't need magic to shove a trowel up your ass," she tells him, and that's it--he grabs a nearby shovel and drops into a batting stance near the stupid locked door. He takes a couple of practice swings, finding his stroke. "What are you doing?"

"I'm getting us out of here."

"This is a historical structure, you can't just smash your way out," she says, aghast, like he'd suggested putting a baby in a trebuchet. "I thought history was your specialty. Besides, Olenna will make you wish you were dead, you know that."

"Well then what's your game plan, coach?" He lets the head of the shovel drop to the ground, the reverberating noise of it barely enough to take the edge off his frustration.

She looks around, then up. Above them, there's a window cracked open along the roof. "There," she says triumphantly. "If you get on my shoulders, maybe you can get some rope up there and we can climb out."

He looks up, too, dubious. There's a large decorative rail just outside the window, though it doesn't seem like it would be enough to support either of their weight. Also, "I'm not getting on your shoulders," he tells her firmly. There is no way he's putting his dick in close proximity to her head, even if their escape route depends on it. He'll rot here and become compost for all these plants first.

"Why not?" she demands. "What, do you think I can't handle it because I'm a delicate--"

"You're taller," he interrupts. Resolutely ignoring how much of that height comes from her legs, which quality will be neutralized what with how they'll be wrapped around his shoulders. "Besides, you're the one who grew up climbing cliffs, you're used to this. You get on my shoulders."

She glares at him, but he can tell he's got her. "Fine." She stalks over to the corner, where there's a slender coil of rope. He casts around for a way to help; he briefly considers just hopping up on a table instead, but all the ones nearby are just flimsy card tables that can only hold the weight of the plants resting on them, and he knows that's a disaster in waiting. He sees a three-step ladder perched against one wall and drags it over underneath the window.

"Why can't they have a real ladder?" Brienne complains, and Jaime points, wordlessly, to one that's propped up against the back of the greenhouse. Outside. Brienne groans. Jaime positions himself in front of the stepladder and braces his hands on his knees.

"Come on."

Brienne hesitates. "I…" He can see her flushing again.

"Do you think I'm too delicate?" he demands, impatient to get it over with. "I spend half my kids' practices in a crouch while teenagers throw projectiles at me. I can handle you, Tarth."

He can see the stubborn set to her jaw. She climbs up the stepladder, then braces one hand on his shoulder and hooks her leg over the other one. He staggers a little, but finds his balance and holds steady as she swings her other leg over. With more effort than he wants to admit, he straightens up the last few inches.

He's been so busy trying to keep his crotch away from her head that he hadn't considered what it would be like to have hers so close to his. He can feel the heat of it, only a few inches from the back of his neck. He can feel all the muscles of her thighs, too: her quads against his hands as he steadies her, her hamstrings against his shoulders as she shifts to maintain her balance.

He can also feel himself getting hard, which doesn't exactly do wonders for his concentration. This is a terrible, terrible idea.

Oblivious, Brienne is swinging the rope carefully, lining up her shot. She throws, and the rope bounces off the inside pane of the window, flopping down to smack Jaime on the top of the head.

"Ow!"

"Sorry," she says, absentmindedly petting the place where it had landed, obviously too focused on her next attempt to pay attention to what she's doing. It feels so good to have her touch him voluntarily that his entire scalp tingles. Then she's taking aim again. This time, miraculously, she manages to get the rope hooked around the railing, and catches the trailing end.

"Nice," he says, admiring despite himself. She makes a little victorious noise, then pulls lightly on the rope, testing it. The motion makes the muscles of her ass flex behind his shoulders. He holds in a whimper.

Brienne pulls harder on the rope. It holds, still, and Jaime leans forward enough to brace his hands on his knees again, giving her a steadier platform. Maybe she'll pull this off after all. She pulls herself up for one arm-length, then two, before the rail bends and one of her legs flails out to compensate and she kicks Jaime in the head and they both go down on the floor in a tangle of limbs and rope.

As scenarios involving Brienne and rope go, it's not one of Jaime's favorites. At least she's landed with her head on his stomach so he's not worrying about her having cracked her skull open. She levers herself up on an elbow, face red.

"Are you all right?" she asks.

"I'm fine," he answers quickly, though he's not entirely sure about that, but he just wants to take that worried look off her face. It doesn't work, though; she crawls up his body and touches his temple, and he flinches at the sudden stinging pain. She snatches her fingers away. He notices, gratefully, that at least there's no blood on them. "It's just a scratch, right?"

"Any pain in your neck?" she asks him, and before he can crack a joke, she goes on, "I'm serious. Or your back? Anything?"

"I'm all right." He creaks himself to a sitting position to prove it. She puts two fingers under his chin and tips it up; he squints up at the fading light of the sky through the roof and tries to keep his wayward fantasies in check. "I'm all right, Tarth," he repeats. She ignores him, as usual, her fingers surprisingly gentle on his forehead as she inspects him. Her mouth is so close to his cheekbone that he can feel her anxious breaths.

"I think it's just going to bruise," she says, and then seems to remember herself and pulls back. "I'm sorry," she tells him, though there's something almost stubborn behind it.

He knows her well enough--he hopes--to know when she's covering for something. "Hoping for a heroic scar, myself," he answers, and sure enough, that gets a slight twist of a smile out of her. Satisfaction swells in his chest. Finally. He clambers carefully to his feet and offers her his hand. She looks at it for a few seconds with narrowed eyes, then grips it and hauls herself upright.

As soon as she puts weight on her left ankle, she gasps, tipping forward until she almost smacks her head on his shoulder.

"Hey!" he says, alarmed.

"It's not bad," she says, putting her foot on the ground again, testing it. "Just surprised me, is all."

"Do you want to sit for a minute?" he says--very carefully, lest she do exactly the opposite. The Brienne he knows doesn't like to admit weakness or be told what to do.

He can see her tighten her jaw, and for a second, he's worried. Then she nods once and eases down onto the top of the stepladder.

And then, almost immediately, she stands up again. So much for being careful.

"What are you doing?" he demands, exasperated--he can see her wince as she puts weight on her foot.

"I've got a first-aid kit in my backpack," she tells him, starting to limp past him.

"I'll get it, then. Gods. You really are the most stubborn woman I've ever met." With her injury, he's much faster; he grabs the plain blue backpack from where she'd slung it on one of the tables and brings it back to the stepladder. "Sit," he commands.

Her eyes flash. "I'm not a dog, Coach Lannister."

It's his turn to wince as his own voice plays back in his head. "You're right. That was disrespectful and I apologize."

She blinks, and her mouth opens slightly. "I…" He can almost see her brain scrambling for purchase.

He takes a deep breath. "Please sit," he tries this time, in the polite, soothing tone he uses for angry parents who insist on knowing why their kids aren't starting this year.

"Is that how you talk to pissed-off parents?" she asks, her mouth quirking.

He laughs a little and spreads his hands out at his sides. "Should have known you'd be able to spot that one. Look, I've got some basic sports first aid training, all right? Same as I'm sure you do. Just sit down and I'll take a look and then you can go back to not speaking to me, or kicking me in the head, whatever you'd like to do."

She narrows her eyes at him a little, but the guilt trip works; she plunks herself back down on the ladder and crosses her arms over her chest. Once again, Jaime can't help but notice that even with her ass on the top step, her feet reach the floor easily. And it's not a short ladder. He tries not to consider in too much detail just how far he knows those legs could wrap around him.

He sits on the ground in front of her--even in the service of such a good cause, he's not sure his knees are up to the challenge of the concrete floor--and draws her foot into his lap. He's attempting professional distance, he really is, but even just touching the heel of her shoe feels like a significant moment. He can count on one hand the times that he's touched her before today: once he'd accidentally brushed her fingers when they'd both reached for the coffee creamer at the same time; once she'd knocked into him with her shoulder as she'd been stomping off after an argument; once he'd come around a corner of the hallway and smacked directly into her, sending her game notebook flying and provoking a ten-minute heated discussion as to who more direly needed to watch where they were going. Touching her deliberately is new, and he has to laugh at himself for the thrill that just this simple thing gives him.

No matter how much he wants to linger over it, he unlaces her shoe efficiently and slides it off her foot, along with her sock. Her skin bears the faint pattern of the texture of the cloth--tiny dots and a few lines--and it's flushed with warmth. Her toes are long, the nails unpainted. Something about the exposure of it makes him feel simultaneously tender and light-headed. He holds her heel in one hand and uses two fingers of the other to press gently around her ankle bone.

"Does any of this hurt?" he asks, testing the area.

"No," she answers, her voice tight.

He glances up at her. He can see her gritting her teeth. "You know, this only works if you're honest with me." That's not strictly true; he can see some mild swelling, so he can extrapolate that there's some pain, too. But he wants there to be honesty between them about something.

When he presses in next, she winces a little. "Okay, that kind of hurts."

He gives the spot the tiniest stroke with one fingertip. "Sorry." He keeps poking and pressing and rotating, with periodic interjections from her, until he's fairly sure that it's nothing more than a sprain. Then he rests her heel on his knee, looks up, and pronounces, "Well, Tarth, I think you're gonna live."

She crooks half of a dry smile at him. "That's an enormous relief, thank you."

"Happy to offer my expertise." As he reaches for the compression bandage in her pack, he can hear her snort, but it isn't followed by any further retort. Encouraged, he starts wrapping the bandage around her foot--just about the only reason he'd ever voluntarily cover up any of her skin. The steady round and round of the bandage is almost hypnotic, and when he's done, he secures the fabric and runs his hand up the back of her calf without thinking.

His intent had been to soothe her, but it has exactly the opposite effect: her calf muscle goes rigid under his touch, and when he looks up at her, her face is blotchy red and her hands are curled tightly around the front edge of the ladder. His breath catches in his throat.

He tries not to think about how if this was a dream, she'd ask him to slide his hand up further. Beg for him to touch her, or demand it. Neither of them satisfied until he could feel for himself how wet she was through her leggings.

He watches her throat move as she swallows. "Thank you."

"You're welcome." If he keeps looking at her, at the way her eyes are standing out like bursts of blue flame, he's going to kiss her and fuck everything up. He grabs for the instant ice pack instead, and shakes it much, much more vigorously than necessary. In the interest of their mutual safety, he briefly considers pressing it over his cock; reason prevails, though, and he drapes it over her ankle instead.

"You're the one with the head wound," she protests.

"Nothing in there worth damaging," he tells her, still reeling, his mouth moving without much intervention from his brain.

"Don't do that," she says sharply. "I know you're not stupid enough to believe that you're stupid. And you've got swelling coming up here." She reaches down and traces a finger lightly around the sore spot on his head. He does have a slight headache, and it feels like her fingers are spreading a cool balm in their wake. It's a struggle to keep his eyelids from fluttering shut. "We share the ice pack--I get it for fifteen minutes, you get it for fifteen," she informs him firmly.

He sighs. The pack will lose effectiveness more quickly that way, being used constantly instead of with breaks, but he knows that set of her jaw. "All right. You go first." Maybe if he provides enough distraction, she'll forget about switching with him. "And you should elevate that, too."

"Elevate this," he can hear her grumbling as he turns away to find them something to sit on, but it sounds like the familiar shape of her smile, and he smiles, too.

The peace holds while he drags over folding chairs, and she sets herself up close enough to rest her injured foot on the edge of one of the tables. The length of her leg and the height of the table makes for a fascinating angle, a path he wants to trace all the way down until he's between her thighs.

She's injured, Jaime, get it together, he scolds himself, but she catches him looking anyway.

"What?" she asks, running a hand self-consciously along her thigh, thoroughly scattering whatever amount of it he'd managed to assemble. "I'm elevating."

"I never said you weren't," he answers, as calmly as he can. Not at all as if he's having a desperate sexual crisis.

"Well, good," is all she says, which doesn't exactly invite a heart-to-heart conversation. Her fingertips are drumming on top of that same thigh now, and Jaime has to look away before he embarrasses either of them.

The silence stretches between them, so complete that he's pretty sure he can hear the plants breathing. His stomach growls. Brienne snickers, and nods toward her backpack again. "I've got granola bars in my bag."

"I've got almonds and a few miniature oranges," he remembers suddenly. She starts to lever herself upright, and he glares.

"I know you're not going to ruin my excellent bandaging work, Tarth."

She groans and gently kicks the table leg with her uninjured foot. "Fine. But you're taking the ice pack when you get back."

He makes a noncommittal noise, then retrieves the food and their water bottles, laying out portions for each of them on a couple of the spare cardboard trays they've been packing the plants in. The sunlight is fading quickly, but he can still see well enough to make sure she gets the peanut butter granola bar, her favorite. "I hope this hasn't disrupted any plans you had for the evening," he offers, too casually, as he's arranging the food.

"Oh, yes, you just assume I don't have plans," she says, bone-dry and cutting, and he turns to her with a raised eyebrow.

"I thought we had a truce going here."

"Well, that's two very bold assumptions, then," she tells him haughtily, and he can't help it; he laughs. After a few seconds, she starts laughing, too, a cackle that could nearly crack the glass and set them free if he let it. He knows that laugh, and hearing it like this sets something in his chest vibrating like the clapper of a bell. He knows her, and this is killing him.

But at least they're not fighting anymore, and on a whim, he clips one of the roses that are winding their way up the greenhouse walls--a broad, barely-blush-colored one that makes him think of her skin--and lays it along the side of her tray.

"All right, I didn't have plans," she admits as he's working, "Did you?"

He considers lying to her to try to seem cool and unattainable, then decides what the hell and shoots his shot. "No. No plans." He places the tray on her lap with a flourish, rose and all. "Your meal, my lady."

It's a pretty suave move if he says so himself, but she blinks and looks away, flushing bright red. He's used to the blush, but the crease between her eyebrows looks genuinely pained. "What's wrong?" he asks. "Is your ankle getting worse?"

"No, no." She waves a hand. "Thank you, but I just. I… I have a thing about roses, is all."

The memory flashes into his mind: her crying as much with rage as with hurt, telling him about some asshole who'd thrown a rose at her feet after pretending he was going to ask her to prom. "Shit, I can't believe I forgot about that." His heart seizes when he realizes what he's said, but she doesn't seem to notice, just waves her hand again and gives a small laugh.

"No, it's fine, I just--" And just when he thinks he's in the clear, those bright eyes focus in on him again, laser-sharp. "Wait. How did you know about that?"

"I--" He has absolutely no plausible alternative story, until a name pops into his mind and he grabs on to it like a rescue buoy. "Olenna. Olenna told me you were allergic."

"What would make her think that?" Brienne asks, her tone dripping with suspicion.

Jaime shrugs and makes a laugh-adjacent noise. "You know, principals know everything. Goes with the job. Here." He grabs the rose--ow, thorns--and tosses it toward a dark corner. "Never happened."

Brienne looks at him very carefully for another long moment, then turns her attention to the tray in her lap.

Jaime collapses back into his chair, weak with relief.

It's oddly satisfying to watch her take a bite of the granola bar, to watch her blunt, chewed-down thumbnail dig into the thin skin of the orange, releasing its fragrance into the air. He hates to see her injured, and it's comforting to feel like he can actually be useful to her in the real world for once.

"Are you sure you're going to be all right in here?" he asks after a minute, more out of a desire to hear her voice than anything else. Now that he's gotten a hint of it, he's starting to crave it. "If you're allergic, I mean," he explains when she gives him a quizzical look.

"Oh." She drops her gaze to her food again. "It's… to tell you the truth, it's not an allergy. Not really."

Jaime holds his breath. "Yeah?" he says quietly, when she doesn't elaborate. He knows the whole story, of course, but he wants her to tell him. He wants her to trust him, even though she's got very little reason to, at least as far as she knows. But it could be a real first step, it could be--

"I had a bad experience with roses in high school," she says to her orange as she segments it carefully. "Just some asshole boy being cruel."

"Ah. I'm so sorry to hear that." And though he's sorry that it happened, he's not sorry at all that she'd confessed it to him. Triumph and hope rushes through him, and he has to duck his head to hide his smile.

Unfortunately, she happens to be reaching out to offer him a slice of orange at the same time, and he doesn't hide quite quickly enough. "It's not funny." The words are sharp and bright with hurt, and Jaime curses himself for the millionth time, his smile vanishing like he's turned off a light switch. "I should have known you'd just use this against me."

"I'm not," he says, desperate, scrabbling for some explanation. "I wouldn't."

"At least I'm not the one who dated my step-sister," she sneers at him, and his jaw drops and his whole body goes absolutely numb.

"How did you know that?" he demands. The words sound like they're coming from somewhere very far away.

Her jaw clenches; he's not sure she'd meant to say what she had, but they're in it now. "How did you know about the rose thing?" she retorts. Jaime's pulse is starting to pound, loud as a drumbeat inside his head.

"I told you--"

She lets her leg drop to the ground, sets her tray aside, and rises to her feet. He knows he should tell her to sit back down again, to be careful of her injury. He knows it wouldn't do any good if he did, especially not now, when she's all spear-point intensity. "Just say it," she insists. One hand is clenched into a fist, the fingers of the other twisting in the hem of her tank top. "Say what you're not telling me."

She can't mean what he thinks she does. She can't. But her eyes are burning blue--wide with shock, lit up with something halfway between frustration and hope--and so familiar, so beloved, and he's never been able to refuse her when she truly wants something from him. He stands, too, because if he's going to do this, he's going to look her in those eyes while he does it. "I dreamed of you, all right?" he tells her, and damn the consequences.

She doesn't respond at first. It leaves him in tortured silence, his own words echoing in his ears, terrified that he's just taken a baseball bat to one of the foundations of his life and it's now lying in shards at his feet.

Then, so softly that he can barely hear it, she whispers, "Gods. It is you. It's really you."

He's dreamed those words, literally, so many times that he finds himself unable to fit them into his reality. He's just staring at her, trying to tell if the shine in her eyes is tears or just the reflection of the windows, when she throws herself against him, arms coming around him and clutching tightly.

He's been so careful for so long to hold himself away from her that at first all he can do is stand there and absorb the shock; he wonders if this is how the plants around them will feel when they suddenly find themselves rooted in rich soil and bathed in sunlight. He wraps himself around her like a climbing vine, pulling her even closer, breathing her in. Just as it always has in his dreams, his chin fits perfectly into the spot where her neck meets her shoulder. Unlike in his dreams, where his senses beyond sight and touch are often fuzzy or absent entirely, he can smell her: sweat and fresh dirt and green things. Vital things. Real things. The backs of his eyes are burning, and when she draws breath in and out, he can feel the tremble in it.

"I looked for you," he says into the skin of her neck. He runs a hand down her back, savoring each swell of muscle and bump of bone under her thin tank top. "I wanted so much for you to be real."

"I used to wake up missing you so much that it felt like there was a hole in my chest." She shudders with a laugh and holds him tighter. "All that, and we've done nothing but yell at each other for weeks."

"Since you already hated me, I didn't think that telling you I had dreams about you would improve the situation," he says wryly.

"I never hated you," she says, indignantly enough to make him chuckle. She sinks her fingers into his hair, fingernails raking softly along his scalp. "It was just that I'd lived my whole life with the hope of meeting you, so I was crushed when I finally did and you immediately found me wanting. I thought the Warrior was punishing me somehow; I couldn't stand it, so I just tried to avoid you as much as possible."

Stunned, he angles his torso back, enough that he can look her in the face. "Wanting? How could I possibly…" He can't even finish the sentence. "I was surprised, like anyone would be when the woman of his dreams suddenly showed up in the flesh at his workplace."

He can see the blush spread over her face again. "Well, that seems obvious now," she says. "At the time, it seemed… less clear. And I may have… overcompensated."

"You think?" he can't resist asking, and she laughs, sheepish. But he's still stuck on her revelation. "Found you wanting," he repeats. Derisively. Disbelievingly. Wanting is certainly a word he could apply to this situation, though he's not sure this is the right moment for it. However, it doesn't entirely matter whether he confesses it or not, since the way she's pressed up against him is making it obvious anyway.

She makes a small, amused noise, and glances quickly down and back up. "Hmmm. Speaking of wanting."

He lets his head fall forward into the graceful slope of her neck, laughing at himself. "Sorry. Involuntary reaction. I can--" He starts to pull away, but she only lets him get as far as straightening up before she catches his face between her hands.

"I think we're a little beyond that, don't you?" Her eyes look huge in the near-darkness, and she's got her bottom lip caught between her teeth. The other half of her mouth is curled up.

It's a fair point, given that they've fucked in a variety of positions and dreamscape locations over the years. Still. He trails his forefinger down one of the tendrils of hair that are curling softly in front of her ear. "This is different, though."

"Not completely different." There's mischief in her expression. "There was that one time, in the forest."

"Mmm." His cock twitches at the memory. The meadow grass had felt like a pillow against the back of his neck as she'd knelt over his face, her ecstatic cries echoing through the trees. He lets his fingers drift along the line of her neck, his thumb stroking her jaw. "I remember that time very well."

"Me too." She shakes her head a little, the same wonder he feels reflected in her eyes. "This feels too good to be true," she murmurs. "It's been torture, having you so close and having to pretend like we were strangers. Not being able to tell you about my day, or hear about yours. Not being able to touch you. Gods."

He makes a sort of strangled, sympathetic sound in his throat, half-laugh and half-groan. "I know. I can't tell you how well I know."

Then she says, "Jaime," and oh, it sounds even better than he'd hoped for on her lips. Her smile blooms, quick and delighted. "I've been waiting a long time to say that."

He laughs. "I'm glad to hear that, Brienne." The word comes out teasing and affectionate, but it thrills him, too. He's called her that in his mind since the first day he'd met her--called her that in his dreams, too, probably, though he doesn't remember--and it feels so damn good to say it to her out loud. To know beyond a doubt that she wants to hear it from him.

She makes a face at the teasing, but it's only a second or two before the curve of her mouth goes soft and slack. Her lips part and he can feel the swell and ebb of her chest against his, a tantalizing hint of contact. She reaches up to trace his cheekbone, and then his lips, with gentle, deliberate fingers. Fingers that are faintly scented with orange and are probably still covered in dirt, but he couldn't care less; he has to concentrate on keeping his tongue from darting out to taste them. Her eyes go slowly hotter, more intent, like each one is its own small sun and he's straining toward them. His breath tangles in his lungs. When she speaks, her voice is low. "Jaime. Can I kiss you?"

"Yes," he groans immediately. "Gods, yes, how many languages do you want it in, yes--" He's still talking when she presses her lips to his.

It's their first kiss and their hundredth, which means his head automatically tilts to the angle that aligns them best, and he rises up a little on his toes without hardly thinking about it; he curls his tongue along the inside of her upper lip in the way he knows makes her shiver. He'd always woken up from his dreams thinking of how real she'd felt, but now he realizes he hadn't known what he was missing: the faint flavor of peanut butter that's lingering somewhere in her mouth, the sharp scent of rosemary from where she'd ended up with a little sap smeared on her neck, the heat of her pressed all along his body. The awareness that she's not going to fade away from him, that he'll wake up for the rest of his tomorrows and know that she's not just a dream and never has been. That she knows things about him that he's never told anybody else, and she's still kissing him.

It's all overwhelming, pouring through his veins like a flood, making him dizzy. She pulls just far enough away to pant into his mouth, "Jaime, I can't believe--I never knew--" and then she kisses him again, desperately, like she's trying to anchor him in space with her limbs and lips and tongue. Her hand slips down between his legs to give him a long, purposeful stroke, and he gasps.

"Sorry," she says, with a breathless chuckle as she releases him. "Reflex."

"I like your reflexes." He catches her hand and thrusts gently against it, letting her see how much he likes it. She hums appreciatively and caresses him again, then starts unbuttoning his pants.

Well. "Does this seem too fast?" he can't help asking. Which is maybe ridiculous, when she's been an eager participant in some of his dirtiest fantasies already, as well as directing more than a few of her own. Again, though, knowing beyond the shadow of a doubt that she exists outside of his brain changes some things.

It's her turn to make enough space between them that they can look at each other. "Is it too fast for you?" Her pupils are blown wide and dark but her expression is earnest; she's really asking.

He considers the polite, guarded lie, the cautious path. Then he decides that they're well past that. "I want everything you're willing to give," he tells her, heart hammering against his sternum.

She nods--decisively, like she does so many things. "It's been more than long enough. I want you," she tells him, and surges forward to kiss him again.

Her tongue sweeps into his mouth, and he slides his hand up underneath the hem of her shirt to splay over her lower back as she strains against him. Being surrounded by her like this is like walking out into a summer afternoon after being inside all day, all his senses absorbing as much as they can before they hit overload and blur together into bliss. Then she shifts even closer to him, shuffling a little, and pitches forward again with a small cry.

"What?" he asks, concerned, before he realizes she's got her injured foot hovering up off the ground. "Shit," he hisses, "I'm sorry." He'd completely forgotten about it, which makes him a huge asshole, and--

"I forgot, too," she tells him, "don't you dare feel guilty about this." She leans in and gives him a hard kiss.

"Okay," he says. "So... are we tabling this for now?" As he says it, he nuzzles his way around to her neck. He doesn't mean to undercut anything he's saying--he'd sooner cut off his hand than hurt her--but she just smells so good, he can't get enough.

"Tabling," she says, "what a good idea," and then limps back far enough that she can hop up on one of the sturdier wooden tables. She grins at him, feet dangling nearly to the floor but not quite, and he makes an inarticulate noise that gets lost in her mouth as he dives in for another kiss.

After that, with the heat of her pressed against his stomach, it's too much temptation; a minute or two of kissing and he's already got his fingers at the waistband of her leggings. "Can I?" he asks, and her only answer is to yank them down along with her underwear, wiggling in a highly distracting way until she's got them near her knees.

"Olenna can never find out about this," she says, making a slightly guilty face as she sits bare-assed on the edge of the table.

"Please stop talking about Olenna," he begs, and she laughs as he kisses her down onto the table, cradling the back of her head with his hand until he leaves it resting in amongst the plants and he can work his way down her body. He pulls the shoe off her uninjured foot and drags her leggings after it, leaving one leg entirely bare and the other one with a cotton-lycra blend dangling off her injured ankle like a flag.

He takes a second to assess his options; his eye catches on a stack of soft foam rectangles meant to ease the strain of gardening on knees. He seizes one of them and sets it on the floor before sinking down on it, bringing his eyes level with Brienne's cunt.

He hooks her legs over his shoulders, careful not to jostle her ankle, and leans in. She smells even better there: musky, mingling with the plant scents.

"Do you think anyone can see us?" Brienne asks, sounding breathless.

Jaime looks around; technically he's pretty sure they're below the line of the windows, and it's fully dark now, except for where a sliver of moon is continuing to rise. There are a few solar lanterns strung with fairy lights dangling from various spots on the roof.

"I'm not sure," he admits.

Brienne hesitates. Jaime can nearly taste her already; saliva is pooling underneath his tongue. "Okay, nope, I don't care, just put your mouth on me, now," she commands, and he huffs out a sigh of relief and obeys.

She moans almost as soon as he touches her, a long, drawn-out noise that sounds like it's stretching over all the years between their first dream-world meeting and this moment. He feels exactly the same way, and he devours her eagerly, using every trick he can remember from their times together. She does like it when he uses his nose to nudge her clit, she likes it when he hooks his hands over her thighs and pulls her closer so that he can bury his tongue even deeper inside her, and she makes a keening sort of sound when he scrapes his beard against her inner thigh. Each confirmation seems to shore up the foundation that's been crucial to his life for so long, and when she finally comes apart against him, sweet and hot against his mouth, all he can think is that he knew it, he fucking knew it.

He leaves her legs dangling weakly and climbs up on the table to straddle her, not caring that the plywood creaks, only caring that he can kiss her, feel her arms go around him and her hands splay over his back. He braces himself on one hand and slips the other one down to palm her breast, drinking in her soft sigh as her nipple puckers into his touch. He rocks his hips gently against her stomach, lightheaded at the friction against his cock.

"Jaime," she says after a minute, "your knees," and she's right; his knees suck from years of catching. It normally embarrasses him a bit--he's well aware that he's not getting any younger--but right now he just feels comfortingly seen and known, and it makes him ache in ways that have nothing to do with his advancing age. He lets himself linger in one last kiss, then clambers backward off the table, catching hold of one of her hands as he does and using it to pull her upright again. The moonlight softens her into bright hair and luminous skin and the light in her eyes.

"I love you," he tells her. "Have I ever told you that before?"

She shakes her head slowly, eyes wide and her mouth curling up at the edges. "I don't think so." She laughs a little. "I feel like I'd remember."

He laughs, too. "I thought it a thousand times. I just couldn't say it because--well."

"Because I wasn't real," she finishes.

He nods. "I mean, you were, obviously, I just--"

"I love you too," she says, all in a rush, and then she laughs again. "Sorry. I interrupted."

"You--" His heart doesn't seem to want to stay in his chest. "You can interrupt me with that anytime you want."

She beams at him, delighted. "Okay, then." She leans in to kiss him--slow, almost delicate, her tongue teasing. "I love you," she murmurs, the words tipping from her mouth right into his. "I think I learned what love meant from loving you."

And as much as he wants to find out what else she'll say if he lets her, he needs to kiss her for that, he has no choice. His hands slide up her thighs to clench on her hips while she hooks her ankles together behind his back. She loves him, and she's right here, and all he can think is that he wants to be closer to her, as close as possible--so when she nudges him backward a little, a whine slips out of his throat before he can stop it.

"Don't look like that." She laughs, but it's warm with affection; she kisses his forehead, his cheekbone, the bridge of his nose. "It's just that, seeing as I do love you, I also really, really want you to fuck me, but there's a serious splinter risk happening here, so--"

"Oh." The word flows out of him on a tide of overwhelming relief. "Right, right, of course." He steps back enough to let her ease down off the table, steadying her with one hand while she catches her balance. She's still got her leggings hanging off one ankle, and her legs are long and pale in the near-dark.

"This is easier in dreams when shit like this just… disappears," she says, shaking her leggings a little ruefully, and objectively, he knows she's probably right, but--

"I wouldn't trade this for any dream," he tells her, and she clutches his hand tighter and nods toward one of the corners.

"I saw some blankets over there."

He presses a kiss to her temple and hurries over to the blankets, returning to her with an armful. He's not sure what they're for, exactly, but they don't smell like manure or mildew, so he figures they should be safe enough to use. Under Brienne's anticipatory eye, he spreads a few out on the floor, with one set off to the side as a top cover if they need it.

When he's done, he holds his hand out to her with a bow. "My lady." Her laugh is low and throaty, wrapping around him, warming him so much that he can't imagine ever needing a blanket again.

The nest he's made them isn't exactly a feather mattress, and after she's tugged him down onto it, his joints and cartilage protest as he kneels up to strip off his shirt,. But with Brienne stretched out next to him, tracing each inch of revealed skin with avid eyes, it's difficult to care.

"You're still wearing your shirt," he points out to her, grinning.

She snorts. "Pushy. Is this your dream or mine?" she asks, a long-running joke. She reaches down, though, and shimmies that torturously stretchy fabric over her head, leaving him to drink in the sight of her: the faint shadows of muscle over her abdomen; the long, tempting line that runs from her sternum to her bellybutton; the peaks of her breasts that put every single one of the Tyrell's roses to shame.

He shakes his head. "It sure feels like mine."

She nods, appraising. "You're probably right. If it was mine, you'd be naked by now."

He laughs so loud that he probably startles at least one begonia. "As you command." He obeys as quickly as possible, taking a few seconds to gently work the last of her leggings off her ankle, and then lowers himself down next to her.

"Condoms?" he asks her, running his fingertips over the line of her collarbone, down along the length of her arm. She shivers.

"I didn't bring any. Did you?"

He wrinkles his nose. "I wasn't even expecting to see you, much less… this." She leans forward to suck a few kisses over his chest. Her pelvis is close enough to his that he can feel the hair between her legs tickling his cock. "We can do other things," he says, though he wants to be inside her so badly that his whole body is aching with it.

She laughs low, the hum of it right over his heart. "Like what? Play catch? Do you have a deck of cards in your backpack?" She scrapes her teeth over his ribs, and he groans.

"Whatever," he says. "We can do whatever you want, just let me touch you."

She makes a thoughtful noise. Her hand--her beautifully large hand--drifts down again to wrap around his cock, and it feels so good that his vision fades out for a second.

"Have you been with anybody lately?" she asks.

With her hand on him, he can barely form words. "No," he gasps. "No, no, not for years. I--I couldn't stop comparing them all to you." He sinks his own fingers into her hair.

She stops moving at that. He tenses, worried he's said something wrong, but after a second, she straightens out enough to kiss him, all while she grips him even more firmly down below.. His spine arches toward her of its own accord. "Same for me," she says against his mouth; he can feel the curve of her smile. It seems like it should be impossible for his knees to go weak when he's lying down, but they do. "And I'm on birth control," she goes on. "So." She hooks one leg over his hip, opening herself to him, lining him up until he can feel her, slick against his cock. "No condom?"

"No condom," he agrees, thanking all the gods for it, and tilts his hips toward her.

She's tight, and it takes a little bit of doing; he has to withdraw a few times before sinking back in, one delicious inch at a time. When he's all the way inside her, he pauses. He strokes his hand over her hip, watches the light and shadows play in her eyes.

"This won't be the last time, right?" Her teeth are sunk into her bottom lip again. He's been so used to seeing her shuttered up tight in the real world, guarded for reasons he knows all too well, that the sudden nakedness in her expression shakes him even more than the feeling of all her bare skin pressed against him.

"Are you kidding?" he answers. "I hope this won't be the last time tonight." It's not at all what he meant to say--in his mind, it had been considerably more smooth and romantic--but she gives him a smile that feels like a beam of light piercing the middle of his chest, and the happiness might actually kill him but he can't think of a better way to go.

The side-by-side position isn't the easiest, but it seems like the wisest, given her ankle and his knees, and he wants to try them all anyway. He wants her towering above him and writhing underneath him, wants to watch the sinuous line of her vertebrae as he fucks her from behind. Things he's done a dozen times, things he's never done. And for now, what he wants is this, rocking into her over and over again, feeling her skin growing slicker against his as their bodies move together, hearing the needy noises she makes when a particularly hard thrust makes her lips go slack.

"I love you," she tells him, fingers tangled tightly in the hair near the base of his neck, pulling hard enough to spill tiny sparks of pleasure down his spine. The concrete is unforgiving beneath his hip, nothing like the sweet softness of a dream; he closes his eyes and drives even more deeply inside her.

"Brienne." The reality of her name on his lips and his cock in her cunt is almost too much pleasure. It's like coming home, like discovering an entirely new world. "Brienne. I love you. I've loved you my whole life." It's glorious freedom to be able to say it, just as much as to be able to feel her hot and wet around him. She moans and clenches the muscles of her cunt, pulling an answering groan out of his throat. He wants to keep doing this forever, but it's too much and it's been too long; she's urging him on, yes yes fuck yes, twining her leg tighter around his, and she's warm and alive and real and with him and he kisses her hard as he pours himself into her.

As soon as he can move, he reaches down, his softening cock still inside her; he plays his fingers over her clit and murmurs filthy promises for the future until she shudders and shakes and comes for him again. While she's recovering, he drags himself upright long enough to add to their cocoon with a few more of the kneeling pads tucked under the blankets as pillows, then curls up with her underneath the top blanket. His entire body feels golden and glowing; he won't be surprised if he wakes up in the morning and all the plants around them are as tall as midsummer. She smells like sweat and greenery, and he can't help darting his tongue out to lick the line of her throat. She giggles--he knows already that he'll never get tired of that sound--and shoves him away, then promptly drags him in close again. Above them, he can see a sky full of stars through the glass.

"Do you know what we've never done?" he asks. His cheek is pillowed on her chest, her fingers tracing the bumps of his spine.

"Gone to a lacrosse game? Traveled together? Gone on an actual date?" she answers, more quickly than he'd expected. He huffs a laugh.

"Have you been making a list?"

Silence, then, "Maybe."

He laughs again, and kisses the side of her breast. "I want to do every one of those things, believe me. But what I was thinking is that we've never slept together. Not really."

"Oh." She sounds surprised, like it's a new realization for her too. Then, "You're right." She tucks one of her calves over his. He sighs and adjusts his head more comfortably against her. "What happened to 'this won't be the only time tonight'?" Her voice is low and teasing.

"You kicked me in the head earlier," he points out, with as much fake affront as he can get into it when his eyelids feel like they weigh ten pounds each. "And before that, you drove me crazy by refusing to talk to me for weeks and then showing up here looking like an outdoor magazine shoot."

That gets a real laugh out of her. "I'm pretty sure you're the only one who'd describe my fashion sense that way, but I'm taking the compliment." After a pause, she admits, "And for the record, you were driving me crazy, too, with your polo shirts and your perfectly-fitted slacks. I thought it was only fair to return the favor."

Well, that's very intriguing. "Did you?" There's just enough of a challenge implied in it that he starts to reconsider how tired he really is; he lets one hand trail down the side of her waist, and nudges his thigh gently against her cunt. She shivers and chuckles and catches his hand, bringing it to her lips for a kiss before settling it over her hip, their fingers still tangled together.

"Go to sleep, Jaime." She stretches out her free hand toward her phone, lying on the ground next to her. "I'll set my alarm."

"I'm getting very mixed messages here." But he's happy enough to just drift, listening to her tap at her phone. Just a few seconds, and then it's quiet, broken only by her breathing and the faint sound of crickets chirping outside. He closes his eyes and curls his fingers more tightly around hers. "You'll still be here in the morning, right?"

"I sure as hell hope so." He can hear her smile, but she sounds fervent, too, like she'll make it true by saying it.

He smiles back, her skin warm underneath his lips. When he falls asleep, he doesn't dream at all.

* * * * * * *

"Well, this was certainly not on your list of assignments." Olenna's voice cuts into Jaime's sleep like a guillotine. He has half a bleary second to hope, hopelessly, that he's dreaming, before he opens his eyes and sees her glaring down at him.

At them, actually, since Brienne is still curled up next to him, horizon blue eyes blinking owlishly. She's so sleep-rumpled and tempting and close that he'd ordinarily be desperate to press her back into the blankets. As it is, though, he sees her eyes widen in horror, and his balls are currently occupied with scrambling to get inside his body, probably into the space left vacant by his dignity. "Olenna, I--"

"I'm not interested in any details, Coach Lannister," she says briskly. "What I am interested in is you two making yourselves presentable before the morning shift gets here in eleven minutes, and then marching yourselves directly to the administrative office, where you can fill out the disclosure paperwork for this relationship of yours." Jaime can practically see the derisive air-quotes hovering around the world.

"I'm--" Brienne starts, clutching the blanket up to her chin with one hand while scrabbling for her phone with the other. When she looks at the screen--the blank screen--she squeezes her eyes shut for a second. "It's dead. Olenna, I swear, I--"

Olenna holds up a hand of her own. "Eleven minutes, Brienne."

"Yes, ma'am," Brienne answers. Her face is so red that it's nearly purple. Jaime, for his part, is holding his breath, hardly able to believe they're going to get out of this so easily. Another reason he should have started involving Brienne in his interactions with Olenna months ago, obviously.

Sure enough, Olenna spins sharply on her heel and stalks toward the--blessedly open--door. In the doorway, she pauses. "I suppose that now that you've finally sorted this out, it will be sufficient to keep you two from being at each other's throats all the time? It would be nice to have some peace at last."

"Yes, ma'am," Brienne repeats before Jaime can get any words out.

"Good." Olenna turns to give them one last, narrow-eyed look. "I wish you luck, my dear." And with that, she's out the door.

"She was talking to me, at the end there," Jaime informs Brienne, giddy with the relief of waking up with the love of his life next to him, as well as the relief of having not been immediately fired thanks to their boss finding him naked in her family greenhouse with said love of his life.

"Ha," Brienne scoffs. She's wiggling underneath the blankets, probably working on her leggings. He drops her tank top on top of her, then leans to the side to retrieve his own clothes. Within a couple of minutes, they're as presentable as they're going to get. Jaime spends a good few seconds rubbing at a spot of dirt on his forearm before he realizes that it's a mark left by Brienne's teeth. He grins at her as she sits up next to him, then leans in to kiss her, morning breath and all.

"Jaime," she murmurs against his mouth, vaguely protesting, and yet her lips seem to be saying something different at the same time, as does her tongue, sliding hungrily against his. When she finally lets him go, he's half-dizzy, and entirely happy.

His dreams had never involved morning breath. He'll take this every time.

After they've folded the blankets into their backpacks for later washing, he climbs to his feet and offers her his hand. She takes it and lets him tug her up after him.

"How's the ankle?" he asks.

She sets her weight on it, testing. "Much better, actually." She touches his temple. "How's your head?"

"Spinning," he says, smiling at her, and she blushes and rolls her eyes in the way that's as familiar to him as his own face in the mirror. He hefts his backpack and squeezes her hand. "All right. We'll head to the office first, obviously, so Olenna doesn't put my head on a pike. But after that, where should we go?"

Her answering smile is as wide and bright as the sky above them. "Anywhere," she says. "Everywhere."

"Let's get going, then," he answers, and pulls her with him out into the world.