Jaime was late for work but no one would have guessed by the way he took his time - strutting to the elevator, flirting with Catelyn's secretary as he passed - as if he had even a moment to spare. He was non-nonplussed about being late because he was always late. Catelyn had talked to him about it countless times but the truth was he was their most successful campaign manager. The others knew how to sell soda to sneakers to books to porn. They couldn't sell a politician to save their life, however, so Jaime stayed. The primary was nearing after all.
The client was Robb Stark, Catelyn's own son. While it was not unheard of for family members to be involved in campaigns Catelyn as ever the professional. She put Jaime in charge and gave him a team of four to bring his slogans to life in Photoshop. Out of the four Jaime got along well enough with three. There was Cleos who was not the type to think outside of the box but had rather brilliant technical skills. Renly and Loras came as a pair, in all senses of the word, and could not be stopped. Catelyn had not approved of their fraternizing but could not bring herself to split them up since they worked so well together. The three looked up to Jaime while still working well as a team of equals. It would have been perfect if not for the fourth.
Jaime often thought that Brienne worked behind the scenes in advertising because she never could in front of the camera. Her hair was blonde but that's where the standard attractive traits ended. She was too tall, tall masculine, too harsh, too serious, and frankly, too boring. Jaime had barely exchanged four words with her the entire time they had been working on the Stark campaign. It came as a shock considering she was close friends with Renly and Loras outside of the office. Now that was an odd bunch. Jaime wondered what they even had in common; they probably exhausted all topics in half an hour at the bar and called it a night. She was good, though, and he had always thought so. He just would have preferred it be just him and the boys at this point.
Jaime walked into the conference room where his team had been set up for the last month. Cleos, Renly, and Loras were nowhere to be found. Brienne was seated at the head of the table, her feet propped up in a chair parallel to her's.
"Mrs. Stark's waiting for you," she said with a hint of disdain. "She needs to see us."
Well, make that fourteen words.
Catelyn had been running Stark Advertising since her husband, Ned, passed away and left the company to her. What had been a small, but profitable, company now represented over fifty clients. She definitely had an eye for what would work and what would flop. While she never designed herself she was a hands-on boss, making rounds each day to see what everyone was working on. Catelyn may have resented Jaime for his attitude and Jaime may have disliked Catelyn solely on principle because she was his boss, but he did have respect for the woman.
Catelyn's office was void of any personal touches save for the photograph of her family - her, Ned, and their children - that hung on the wall behind her desk. Catelyn was seated and, thus, blocking the photo when Jaime and Brienne came in.
"Robb wishes to see what you have prepared," she said without preamble.
"It isn't all finished yet," Jaime said.
Brienne scoffed but put on a mask of complete apathy when Jaime turned to her.
"That doesn't matter. Robb will be on the road again by the end of the week. He wants to have an idea of what he's working with."
"Alright. When will he be coming in?"
"He won't be."
"I don't understand. Will I be making a house call?" Jaime laughed until he noticed that Catelyn was serious. "Oh, so I am. Where's he staying?"
"He's currently relaxing at his beach house in Atlantic City. I want you and Brienne to take a company car, drive down, and show Robb how the campaign is looking. Maybe he can make a few changes since nothing is set in stone."
Catelyn glared at Jaime as she spoke and then went back to her paperwork, dismissing them. Brienne left without a question but Jaime was not one to give up so easily.
"Why Brienne? Cleos knows more about the campaign. Mainly because he actually talks to me."
"You're taking Brienne and that's final," Catelyn said never once looking up. "Now close the door on your way out."
Catelyn hardly ever closed her door. Jaime left before she truly became cross and brought up his constant tardiness or something worse.
Brienne was waiting for him in the conference room once again. She had packed the prototype signs Loras had printed into a large manila folder. She had her laptop bag strung across one shoulder and already had keys to one of Stark Advertising's cars.
"Come on Lannister," she ordered. "If we take the Jersey Turnpike we'll be there in about three hours."
"Three hours cooped up in a car alone with you. That's exactly how I wanted to spend my day."
In his defence Jaime did not sound the least bit sarcastic (although he was), but Brienne could see right through him. She tossed the keys at his head but he ducked in time.
"Just for that you get to drive."
Brienne was dull. She didn't turn on the radio, so Jaime had no idea what type of music she listened to. She didn't talk, so he had no idea what else she might be interested in. She didn't even offer her opinion on the campaign when he asked.
"I'm sensing that you want to be here even less than I do."
"It would appear that way," Brienne muttered. "Could you keep both hands on the wheel? I'd like to make it to Atlantic City alive."
"You're a backseat driver, aren't you?" Jaime asked. He put his hands at ten and two, though.
"I'm not in the backseat Lannister."
"You could call me Jaime. It is my name after all."
"You don't bother learning most women's names. Why should I bother remembering yours?"
"Oh, so you're one of those." Jaime smiled. He wished he could see Brienne's reaction when he wasn't offended by her remark but he didn't want to be scolded for not keeping his eyes on the road.
"One of what?"
Confusion. Good. He could work with that.
"Most people in the office see me flirt with Jeyne each morning and decline invitations to office get togethers in lieu of attending my families' infamous parties and whatever else you lot attempt to dig up on me - and you assume I'm some stuck-up, promiscuous asshole. Well, stuck-up and asshole may be true. Promiscuous? No. Then again, even if I were, it isn't any of your business."
"Cat's secretary. Now who's forgetting names?"
"I know who it is," Brienne snapped. "Don't look so smug, Lannister."
She went to turn on the radio and Jaime rejoiced. That was until he realized it was simply static.
An attempt to convince Brienne in driving was immediately shot down. Jaime pulled over at a rest stop on the side of the road instead and stretched in the parking lot. He noticed Brienne was trying desperately to watch without being caught so he decided to give her a show. She wasn't as dumb as she looked, though, and left shaking her head.
She returned ten minutes later with hoagies for lunch and some coffee for the both of them. She set his cup on the hood of the car without a word.
"You are too gracious my lady," Jaime said. He didn't bother to stop touching his toes and spoke the words more to the ground than to Brienne.
"That's not very nice. I was only thanking you."
"You're not helping to disprove that you're an asshole."
"I was completely straight with you. I am an asshole. A funny, lovable asshole but an asshole none-the-less."
"I don't think you're funny."
"So you do think I'm lovable then?" Jaime stood up and took a sip of his coffee. It was perfect but that wasn't completely a surprise. "If it makes us even I don't think you're interesting in the least but I'm still trying to make conversation. Otherwise this trip will be more painful than it has to be."
"You don't care about what I think at work. Why would you care what I think now?"
"Because I've found I'm more likely to get in a girl's pants if I pretend to listen," Jaime joked.
For a second it looked like Brienne might have thrown her coffee in Jaime's face, but she held herself back.
"It always comes down to comments about my looks with guys like you," she said quietly. She tossed her cup in the trash and got back into the car before Jaime could respond.
"Okay, so you're not sexy."
Twenty miles later and that was the best Jaime could come up with.
Brienne laughed. It was the first time he had ever seen her laugh or smile. She looked good. She should laugh more often, he thought.
"You should stick to flirting with Jeyne."
"I wasn't finished but since you find my apology hilarious, I'll stop."
Brienne was silent for a minute before she pulled out the manila folder with the mock-up signs. "I think these are nowhere near ready. It's mostly your fault for being late, taking two hour lunches, and gossiping with the rest of the team."
"Men don't gossip." Brienne glared at him and Jaime wished he could bring the smile back. "But thank you. For being honest."
"Uh, you're welcome," Brienne said. She was taken aback slightly - and treading cautiously.
"And when I said you weren't sexy I just meant that you aren't ugly."
"Shut up. You're ruining the moment."
She was smiling again. Jaime couldn't say why it mattered, but he didn't mind shutting up then.
Three hours didn't seem so long after that. Brienne found a classical station and they listened to the likes of Bach and bounced ideas off of each other. By the time they pulled up in front of Robb's beach house they had an entirely new pitch constructed.
Robb met them on the porch and ushered them into the sitting room. "Can I get either of you something to drink?" he asked.
"No, thank you," Brienne said. The epitome of politeness.
Jaime was, naturally, the complete opposite.
"I doubt you have what I drink. Shall we?"
Robb poured himself a whiskey and sat down across from Brienne. He addressed her when he spoke. "Mom says you have a few designs to run by me."
Brienne showed what they had prepared and the changes they were planning to make. Robb agreed with most of them and offered his opinion throughout. Jaime remained quiet, handing Brienne the signs as needed, and watched in fascination.
Usually when he sensed a client didn't like him, Jaime would play it straight forward and charm the pants off of them anyway. He would have done the same with Robb, but Brienne seemed to have transformed. She was talking animatedly and, more importantly, passionately. She was also smiling again.
"Thank you for taking the time to come down," Robb said once the presentation had finished. "I trust you guys to have all that done by the time I'm back in the city. Now, I have some spare rooms, if you'd like to spend the night. I'd hate to make you do all that driving for one meeting."
Jaime would have loved to accept the offer. Another three hours behind the wheel was the last thing he wanted to do. Brienne answered before he could accept.
"No thank you, Mr. Stark. You gave us a lot to get started on and we should get back."
"Speak for yourself," Jaime said as he approached the mini-bar. Robb may not carry the top name brands but alcohol was alcohol and Jaime needed copious amounts.
"Shut up and give me the keys Lannister."
It was the closest to an apology that Jaime would ever get. Well, it was more like a truce. He decided he could work with it so he said his goodbyes and tossed the keys to Brienne. She caught them easily and grinned. Jaime wouldn't have asked for more.
"So, as long as I've done my math right, we'll be home around four. That is a bit early for dinner, sadly."
Jaime watched Brienne and frowned when she showed no signs of hearing him. She was focused on the road and intensely so.
"Then again," he continued, "by the time we stop at the office, check in, and all that jazz it would be closer to five. I could call and book a table for then."
"If you think I'm interested in what you're doing for dinner, I suppose I have to tell you I'm not."
"You should be since I intend to dine with you."
Brienne glanced over at him; she almost looked disappointed. "I thought you didn't sleep around," she said.
She sounded disappointed as well.
"I don't. I'm asking you out. Saying yes doesn't mean the night's going to end in sex. In fact, I hope it doesn't."
"Because I'm not sexy."
"No, that's not why." For the first time Jaime could remember he cursed himself for not thinking before he spoke. "What I meant was I don't want it to be a one time thing, so we should work up to it."
"You're not really interested in me. You said I was boring."
"That was before."
"Exactly. You were interested then. Why would you be now?"
"That's because you never talked to me, and I'll be the first to admit I didn't pull my weight either. Brienne, please say yes. I'll change all your previous perceptions of me if you give me a chance."
Jaime winked then and Brienne rolled her eyes.
"Okay, fine. Just one dinner... and don't you go looking all smug again."
"I wouldn't dream of it my lady."
They stopped at the same rest stop and Brienne bought more coffee before Jaime could protest.
"Now I owe you two coffees."
"Well, if this dinner works out then that'll be two coffee dates," Brienne said. She no longer sounded so harsh but there was still a teasing tone.
"I like the sound of that. I'll have to figure out how you take your coffee before then since you still remember how I take mine."
"I don't know what you mean. I guessed."
"What I mean is I can't believe you remembered coffee orders from when you were an intern. Or was it just mine you remembered?"
"Okay Lannister. You don't have to prove you do remember women anymore," Brienne said. She was blushing.
"It was just mine."
"I know Renly and Loras' too."
"Don't count. They're your friends."
"I'm sorry. I'll stop."
Brienne stared at Jaime and he couldn't fault her for her disbelief. He rarely was sincere, but there was definitely something about her. Of course he'd still tease - she did fight back and that was fantastic in its own right - but he knew now when to stop.
"I idolized you back then," Brienne admitted. "I wanted to get on your good side and maybe get a recommendation to stay on. Instead it was like you never saw me. In the end it was Renly who hired me."
"You know Sam Tarly?"
Brienne looked confused. "Uh, yeah. He's amazing with fonts, but what does he..."
"It was between you and him. I only had one spot open."
"You chose him because he's sexier."
Brienne started laughing at her own joke and Jaime couldn't help but join in.
The waitress led Jaime through the maze of tables. He had returned to the office to finish noting all the changes they had made to the campaign. He insisted Brienne go home since it was about time he did his share of the work. She couldn't argue with that so she left, promising to meet him at the restaurant. Once all that was done Jaime had rushed home and changed before getting there.
The table was in the far back, next to a window, and one of the seats was already occupied. Jaime almost couldn't believe his eyes.
Brienne's short hair was held back with a silver head band that twinkled under the lights. Her make-up was still minimal with just a hint of blush on her pale cheeks. She was wearing a dark blue dress and, although she looked uncomfortable and out of her element, it was stunning. She was stunning.
Jaime thanked the waitress and took his seat across from Brienne. "Hello."
Brienne stopped fidgeting and smiled. "Hello Jaime."