The first time they assign her a honeypot mission, Brienne laughs so hard she snorts all the water she was drinking over the brief a startled secretary has handed her, quickly grabbing some tissues to try and dry it. She doesn't believe they have seriously considered her for this mission and laughs at what is surely a clerical mistake.
Her Quartermaster looks at her, his eyebrow arched in that infuriating way that never fails to make her hot under the collar, and Brienne slides the thin folder in his direction so he can have a laugh as well. Seven knows he needs it after the last mission.
"Maybe you should take this one, J," she says, focused on his face while he's skimming the brief. She catalogues every tick and expression, putting them away inside the vault she keeps deep in her heart for those difficult moments when death is more likely than success, knowing his face is certainly the last thing she'll want to see. She sees the way his dark blond eyebrows lift on his forehead until they are obscured by his golden curls, his green eyes wide and amused, his perfect lips ticking up on the corners, a faint flush staining his sharp cheeks.
He looks up at her, and he's trying not to laugh. "I'm retired, Tarth," he replies, sliding the folder back to her with his one good hand while he waves the fingers of his prosthetic at her.
"Not retired enough, you're still here," she retorts, challenging, arching up one of her eyebrows. The secretary's looking between the two of them like they are a vial of widfire about to explode and takes a couple of steps back. She's obviously new, and won't last long in the position if she doesn't grow some spine and learns to recognize friendly banter.
"Someone has to keep you alive, Tarth. It's a rotten job, but someone has to do it."
Brienne opens her mouth for another retort, it dies before passing her lips at the sound of a throat clearing. They turn as one, chagrined, to their boss. They had forgotten her presence in the room.
"If you two are quite finished with your double act," Lady O says, the disapproving expression on her wizened face failing to mask her amusement. "You will see you haven't been assigned this mission by mistake."
Brienne picks up the folder again, opening it and reading the whole thing this time. She had stopped before when she read it was a honeypot, but now she finishes the damned thing. She feels her stomach clench, unease washing over her. Her mark has a cache of wildfire he's flogging past the Wall and a penchant for big and strong women. It doesn't matter that she's ugly and never anyone's type, Brienne is definitely big and strong, and has learned how to alter her features with make-up and prosthetics well enough to pass for a normal looking, if bland, woman, though she dislikes the effort it takes for what amounts to a lie. It's good enough for missions, though her height and build made it impossible for her to be unremarkable.
"Absolutely not," Jaime is saying, and Brienne can understand the feeling, though she's surprised by his vehemence. She doesn't want to do this, but she knows it's part of some missions. She just believed it wasn't a part that would ever be assigned to her. Shows what she knows. "Send Targaryen or Stark, they are very adept at seduction. That's not a mission for Tarth." He sounds adamant and almost offended at the suggestion, nothing of the previous good mood in his tone.
Brienne bristles at that, her face flushed in humiliation. "Because of course, nobody is going to be attracted to me? Who am I going to seduce?" she says, unable to keep the bitterness in her voice.
He turns to her, eyes wide. "Wench, that's not--"
"Quartermaster, as you have so aptly mentioned before, you're retired," Lady O cuts in, her voice several degrees colder than before, any trace of amusement gone. "And I am the boss. If I assign a mission to Tarth, it's because the mission is for her."
He opens his mouth to protest again, but Brienne speaks over him. "Understood," she says, swallowing past the lump in her throat. "When am I to depart?"
Lady O sighs, her expression softening when she looks at Brienne. "You leave in the morning, all information is in the brief. Get equipped and get some rest." Brienne nods, knowing she's been dismissed. Jaime doesn't move, glaring silently at the old woman. "Tarth," Lady O says before she can leave her office. "You have to get invited to his house and plant the bugs, you don't have to sleep with him if you don't want to. Get some of those Sevendamned pills from medical and use them if you prefer."
Brienne nods once, and with a last look at Jaime, who's not even looking at her, gets out of the office. The moment the door latches, she can hear raised voices coming from inside. She's tempted to stay and try to listen, but Lady O's secretary is staring at her from her desk, and Brienne forces herself to walk away.
She goes straight to the gym and changes into her workout clothes. She has some spare energy to burn if she doesn't want to strangle her Quartermaster when she goes to pick up her equipment.
She puts on her headphones, tapes her hands and goes to the sandbag to practice some of her kickboxing movements. She can perfectly imagine Jaime's face in place of the bag, his smug mouth and glittering eyes, and how he believes her too ugly for a seduction. She wants to punch him for real, wants to curl into a small ball of misery and cry.
She's been working for Westero's Special Intelligence Service for the past year, and it's the job she had never known she wanted. She was training for the Police Department in the Riverlands two years before when she crossed paths with Jaime Lannister and had become irreparably entangled in his mission. He had lost his hand and his active agent status during that time, saving her from rape at the hands of the gang he was pursuing. He had kept his life and finished his mission after that only because of Brienne and sheer spite, as she kept egging him on when she saw him falter until they had captured or killed every single member of the Bloody Mummers.
He had recruited her for the SIS afterwards, and they had, somehow, become friends during the year it took for her to finish her training and get ready to step into the job. He had been going through surgeries for his missing hand, getting the highly experimental prosthetic he had now, and finishing an engineering degree that got put aside when he got recruited by the agency. He stepped into the role of Quartermaster at the same time as Brienne started working there, something she has never believed was a coincidence. He had been ready for retirement after his maiming, but they are as stubborn as each other, and they are a great team.
Falling in love with him had been as unplanned as becoming a spy, and twice as painful as any bullet wound. She knows what she looks like, knows what he looks like, and needs no reminders of what an impossibility the two of them together would be. But sometimes he looks at her in such a way she forgets he's unattainable, sometimes he says something that could be interpreted as flirting if he was speaking to someone else, sometimes he brushes his good hand against hers and smiles when passing her equipment, and then spend the entire mission in her ear, guiding her to safety when needed and keeping a funny stream of comments when she's bored. It makes her hope, foolishly, only for him to dash those hopes as cruelly as he's done today.
Brienne does a roundhouse kick that has the bag swinging wildly and turns to find Jaime there, staring at her with that frown on his face that means he's lost the argument with Lady O.
"I have your things, come to my office once you've changed clothes, I want to go home and I have to equip you first," he says, and Brienne is startled to realize she has been at it for the past two hours. Two hours in which he has probably been waiting for her in his office.
"I'll be there in ten," she says, refusing to feel guilty. He's the reason she's in the gym, after all. And he could have delegated to someone else, but he insists on always giving her the equipment in person. Same as he insists on being the primary Quartermaster for her missions, delegating only in P when he's forced to rest by Lady O.
The Quartermaster section is almost empty, except for the few people on shift or running missions. It is late, and she feels very tired. She enters his office after a quick knock, Jaime is sitting on his desk, a small box in his hand.
"Is that my gun?" she asks, and Jaime nods, handing her the box. Inside there's a sleek pistol, a Bronn Semi 3P, the latest model to replace the one she lost in the previous mission. It fits perfectly in her hand, and the moment she touches the grip she hears a soft hum and sees a green light flash.
"It's coded to your palmprint so it can't be used against you," he says, something hard in his voice. Brienne fights the urge to rub her side where a bullet wound is still a bit tender from her last mission. She had been shot with her own gun, a rookie mistake, and could still hear how Jaime's voice had turned deadly quiet in her ear the moment she had screamed, the urgency of his tone as he commanded emergency services and first responders to converge on her location while she fought for her life, and how he got Brandon Stark to hack into every single camera available to ascertain her condition. "There is also the usual earpiece, with GPS tracker, and the new generation bugs you have to plant, almost invisible and with a greater range than the previous ones. You have enough to cover a normal sized house, try to also get some on him or his wallet." He hands her another, smaller box "I've also taken the liberty to obtaining the pills from medical," he gives her a serious look. "Use them. I tried, but have been unable to convince Lady O to assign the mission to someone else."
Brienne feels her hackles rise again. "Thanks for your confidence in my abilities," she says snidely, narrowing her eyes at him. "Of course it's not my abilities you doubt, but my appeal. Don't worry, J, with enough make-up even I can seduce a Wildling."
He sighs, long suffering, his lips pursed. "It's not about that, you stubborn wench. I never said you couldn't do it, haven't you said before you dislike them?" he says, and he doesn't have the right to sound so annoyed, not with the way he has hurt her.
It's easy for him to say it's not about her looks, but she knows the truth; she's ugly, and she can't allow herself to forget it. She was selected for the job because of her physical abilities, because there is nobody stronger or better trained than her, and she excels with weapons. But she had been very close to being dismissed because of her looks, Councilman Tarly had tried to have her fired the moment he saw her, though apparently, he had been trying for years to get all women dismissed from the SIS, the misogynistic asshole.
"I don't choose my missions any more than you used to, Lannister. Have you forgotten already? You must have been very popular with the honeypots with those pretty looks, did you like them then?" she says, and the moment the words are out of her mouth she regrets them. Jaime flinches, his hands clenched by his side, but he says nothing.
He doesn't need to, the hurt in his eyes say more than enough.
Nobody, with possibly the exception of Melissandre, likes honeypots. And she knows Jaime is not an exception. They have spoken about it, about how it made him feel dirty and no better than a whore to have to sleep with women, and the occasional man, for the mission. It had been required of him in the service of Her Majesty, his twin sister. And his first lover, he had confessed during his feverish days in the Riverlands when they met; he had left his life and dreams for her when she told him to join her in King's Landing as she married the King. In exchange, she had been the one to get him the position in the SIS, never close enough to her for more than a few days, and almost never alone together. She had also been the one who had volunteered him in the first instance for the missions he despised the most. Jaime had never understood how his sister could say to love him and then do something like that, and it had driven a wedge between them, one that was still there wider than ever.
Brienne has forgotten, her own insecurities have blinded her, of course, he doesn't want her in that mission, not if they always made him feel that way.
"Jaime," she begins, an apology on her lips.
It's too late now, though. He's closed off, his eyes like two chips of ice where they contemplate her. He picks up one last item from his desk and hands it to her, making sure their hands don't touch at all.
"These are your travel papers, Tarth," he says, and his voice is a cold as the Wall and twice as remote. "You fly straight to Winterfell and from there travel by train to Eastwatch where you have reserved a hotel and a tour of the Wall. Your Wilding is a guide of the Wall, so you'll have plenty of time to seduce him. Enjoy your mission."
He gets down from his desk and heads to the door. "P will be your primary Quartermaster for the duration," he says, and that's when she knows she's really fucked up. He's never allowed any other Quartermaster as primary. "Goodnight, Tarth. Get some rest," he adds, his voice soft and it's that last bit what almost makes her cry.
"Goodnight, J," she says, getting out before she can see the misery in her expression. "I'm sorry."
He doesn't reply, just closes the door after her.
Jaime closes the door to his office and presses his forehead against it, taking deep breaths to try and regain his calm
Fuck Olenna Tyrell for being the most stubborn bitch in the Seven Kingdoms, and fuck Brienne Tarth for good measure. What does he care if she wants to sleep with a Wilding for a mission? What is it to him what she does with her body? Maybe she wants to get rid of that pesky virginity he got maimed for? Maybe her type is treasonous wilding instead of incestuous cripple and Jaime's been too infatuated to realize before?
He sighs, the fight completely gone from him. Olenna has accused him of being jealous the moment Brienne was out of her office, and Jaime hadn't even been able to refute the truth of it.
He's jealous, has been blazing with it the moment Olenna had said the mission was real and Brienne is exactly the mark's type, but it's more than that. He knows these kinds of missions are necessary for their line of work, knows sometimes sacrifices have to be made for the greater good, he had just hoped Brienne would never need to make that sacrifice, would never feel dirty and used in such a way. In this Jaime has always been quite happy that Brienne isn't considered typically attractive.
He refuses to call her ugly, though objectively Jaime knows that's what she is.
To him, she's nothing short of perfect. She has the most beautiful eyes, a shade of blue only found in the waters surrounding the island which name she carries, lips that are big and lush and Jaime wants to kiss continuously. She has countless freckles, and he has spent many a night wondering how far down do her blushes travel. And her body is a work of art; she's tall and broad and muscled in all the right places, with legs for miles and thighs thick and strong enough to strangle a man. Jaime would happily die between them if given half a chance. She has broader shoulders than Jaime and her arms are corded with muscle, though she has no breasts to speak of and little to no waist. But she's magnificent, and in his eyes, beautiful.
That's the reason Jaime had failed to understand why she was so angry as to spend two hours hitting the bags. He knows she's insecure and touchy about her looks and sometimes he attributes her lack of response to his flirting to this. Other times he believes it's because she can't possibly care for a retired cripple.
He had believed she knew him better than to assume that from him, he had obviously been wrong. You must have been very popular with the honeypots with those pretty looks, did you like them then? He still can feel the words like a punch to the gut, can feel the hands and mouths of so many marks. It had always made him nauseous, afterwards, had made him want to submerge himself in the hottest water available and scrub himself raw. Not even being covered in blood and other fluids made him feel as dirty as sleeping with a mark did, and he had only done it when it was strictly necessary. Those little pills he has provided Brienne with have been his best friends for years, odourless and tasteless and knocking out a person in two seconds flat.
He just wanted to spare Brienne the whole experience, but he can see how his intervening with Olenna and insisting the mission be assigned to someone else could be interpreted by someone as touchy as Brienne as him not believing her capable.
He sighs, there is nothing he can do now, and he's still angry with her.
Tomorrow, he'll take over her mission as soon as she lands in Winterfell and they will talk, and both of them will apologize, but for tonight he's going home to get some rest.
He's going to need it.