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Idiots in Love

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IdiotsinLove

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"Hello, my name is Brienne," she said, trying to suppress the need to faint. "And I am romantically challenged."

"Hello Brienne!" replied the rest of the support group, most of them giving her supportive smiles. From the tales she had already listened to in this session, Brienne knew she wasn't the only one with romantic problems; Sam was terrified of women, Gilly had a weird relationship with her father, Podrick stammered, Penny was scared her dwarfism would prevent her from finding love, Jeyne had an evil psycho from hell for an ex, Hot Pie loved biscuits more than other humans, Edd seemed to have a sense of humour bypass, and Tormund... well... Tormund just seemed a bit too self-confident. Consequently, this group of misfits had all come to the support group looking for answers from the luminescent Daenerys, who presided over them all like an all knowing love goddess.

"So, Brienne..." Daenerys said, when Brienne herself couldn't find the words. "Why are you here with us today? What do you need to get off your chest?"

Brienne blushed and bit her lip, two sure signs that she was feeling nervous and a little overwhelmed. However, she momentarily let herself be possessed by Maria von Trapp as she struggled to find the words.

I have confidence in sunshine, I have confidence in rain...

"I am here, because, like you all, I have found it very difficult to find love."

Daenerys smiled at her kindly. "And why do you think that is?"

Without wasting a second, Brienne pointed at her face. "I'm ugly."

While the rest of the group nodded understandingly, Daenerys fixed her with a disapproving look. "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder..."

Brienne tried not to roll her eyes in the face of this regulation hottie, but it was difficult. "That's why, I suppose, when I get a bit of self-confidence, I'll suddenly become a Victoria Secrets Angel? No, I am ugly, and it has shaped my life considerably."

"How so?" asked Sam, and for a moment Brienne recognised a kindred spirit.

There were too many examples to list as to how her ugliness had exposed other people's innate desire to be cruel. "I was bullied at school. I had an entire group of boys bet on who could take my virginity. My prom date asked me out as a joke, and then threw a flower at my feet in the middle of the dance." Brienne took a deep breath, trying to steady herself. "It means I don't like attention; I distrust it when people look at me for too long."

"In a romantic or non-romantic context?" asked Daenerys.

"Both," admitted Brienne, "but the former is worse. To me, it seems that people are always cruel and ask questions later, so that's why I find it so hard to talk to people, I guess."

Daenerys smiled at her. "But you are here, aren't you? You are talking to us now."

Brienne gave her a pained look, not wanting to appear condescending. "Yes, but... this is terrifying. I never talk to people, not outside my dad and his never ending train of girlfriends, I suppose. With anyone else, I think they are going to be like Bryen Caron, Humfrey Wagstaff, Hyle Hunt or, god forbid, Ron Connington. They all lied to me and snickered behind my back, and that's why I find it so hard to talk to people, to talk to men. I don't trust that anyone likes me - I am ugly, as I keep being reminded - and I find it very hard to think that any man is being honest and serious with me when, in the past, all of them have laughed, jeered, and mocked me. Part of me hopes it is just me being irrational, but the evidence I have had throughout my life appears to suggest otherwise."

"But what about male friends?" Penny asked. "Or colleagues? Surely there has been one man in your life that has been trustworthy?"

Brienne tried not to laugh. "My dad, I suppose, but even he has spent the years entertaining his multitude of disposable girlfriends rather than with me. And male friends? The thought would terrify me!"

"What about work?" Gilly asked. "Have you met anyone there?"

Brienne sighed. She did not really want to be bringing up her unemployment, but she felt she did not have any other choice. "I'm between jobs at the moment."

"Oh?" asked Daenerys. "What did you previously do?"

"I am a chocolatier," she admitted. "I used to work for Renly Baratheon at Fury Chocolates before... before..."

Before he died in a car accident, she thought. And my heart was broken into fifty million pieces.

Brienne had expected that after that confession, the support group would be able to move onto another topic, but Hot Pie just looked at her incredulously. "Fury Chocolates were among the best in the world!" he exclaimed, "and all because of Mr Baratheon's mysterious hermit chocolate maker who lived in the mountains. Did you know Renly's secret? Because, since he died, the whole chocolate world has desperately been trying to identify his chocolate maker. He was a revolutionary."

"Yeah, I do know," Brienne declared, even as her cheeks went red. "Renly's chocolatier was me."

A silence rang around the room, so loud it hurt Brienne's ears. Eventually, it was broken by Hot Pie gawping at her. "You? Are you trying to tell us that you invented the stag chocolate, the best-selling luxury confectionary item of the last fifteen years?"

Brienne nodded and tried to downplay how proud she felt of her achievement. "It wasn't that hard. It's all about the delicacy of the piping..."

"How did you keep this a secret?" asked Tormund disbelievingly. "I know shit all about fancy chocolates, and even I have heard all about the stag! How is your name not on every billboard in the country?"

"Because of Renly," said Brienne sincerely, emotion pulling at her voice. "He met me at the Paris Chocolate Convention when I was fresh out of Chocolate School..."

"There's such a thing as Chocolate School?" inquired Sam, suddenly intensely interested.

"Yes," nodded Brienne, "but only in France and Belgium. I went to Paris for my training, but once I was there, I found I wasn't cut out for the competition. It was all about self-promoting, self-advertising, and schmoozing rather than actual talent, everything I was terrible at! Eventually, in my desperation to get a job, I exhibited some of my chocolates at the Paris Chocolate Convention and... that was where Renly found me."

Beautiful, lovely, friendly, trusting... and very gay Renly... found me.

"And he offered you a job?" asked Gilly.

Brienne nodded again. "He told me he was setting up a shop in London, mainly as competition to the Lannister Chocolate Empire, and he needed someone with an eye for the trends in chocolate making just like me. I agreed to help him develop his line on one condition."

"Which was?" questioned Daenerys.

"That no one would ever know I was his chocolatier," she admitted. "I couldn't deal with the attention..."

"But it would have been positive attention," said Daenerys gently. "Surely that would have been a good thing?"

Brienne suddenly felt a little breathless. "God no! How would I ever truly know it was positive? Like Connington and Hunt, everyone who tried my chocolates could have been secretly laughing at me or, even worse, could come and say how much they hated my chocolates to my face. No, it was much better I was anonymous. It was Renly that came up with the plan; he spread the rumour that I was a mysterious hermit monk who lived in the mountains and made chocolates in their spare time. In reality, I made the chocolates at home and delivered them to his shop; he just told everyone I was the delivery girl."

Hot Pie looked half-elated and half-flabbergasted. "And you kept this up for ten years?"

"Yes," said Brienne, giving him a sad smile. "Until Renly was killed in a hit and run accident six months ago. As no one knew I was his secret chocolatier, I just waited in the shadows at his funeral, crying for the only man who had ever been kind to me."

And the only man I have ever, and will ever, love.

Although a heavy sympathetic silence followed Brienne's confession, Daenerys eventually broke it. "And now you are looking for a new job?"

Brienne tried not to let the terror show in her face. "Yes. That's mostly why I've come here. I don't have enough money for a therapist, so I needed somewhere to talk about my total inability to talk to people. I sent around my CV, you see, to all the chocolatiers in London, hoping someone would take me on and... I got a response. I have an interview tomorrow."

There was an excited clap from the support group then, but Brienne greatly struggled to share their enthusiasm. "Where is it?" asked Hot Pie. "Lannister Chocolates?"

Brienne looked at him dismissively. "No, I would never work for those cutthroats. It's at a small company called Red & Gold Chocolates."

Hot Pie let out a little snort. "Oh dear. I didn't even know they were still open! They're still relying on old Lannister recipes from ten years ago, aren't they?"

Brienne wanted to object, but in truth she knew Hot Pie was right. "Maybe I can help shake up their range?"

"If anyone can do it," grinned Hot Pie. "It is Renly's mysterious hermit."

At that statement, Brienne sighed. "But I actually have to get through the job interview tomorrow... which I am beyond shit at."

Daenerys gave her a kind smile. "Don't worry. Just go with a mantra in your head that reassures you that you are capable of anything. Also, make sure you do things to relax both before and after. It will be hard, I am sure but, as the alternative is continued unemployment, you have to find the strength from somewhere."

I do, Brienne thought. Renly would want me to move on and keep making chocolate...

As the room then moved on to Edd's problems, Brienne once more went back to trying to channel Maria von Trapp.

I have confidence in confidence alone... and as you can see, I have confidence in me!

Chapter Text

IdiotsinLove

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By the time she had arrived at the front door of the Red & Gold Chocolates artisan factory, Brienne had sung through all of Maria von Trapp's solo numbers from The Sound of Music in her head, but still felt sick to her stomach.

Maybe I could try the duets, she thought to herself as she lifted her hand to knock on the front door. Although I'm not sure my Captain von Trapp is any good.

As it turned out, neither was her ability to knock on a front door. Instead of confidently striding in like she was entitled to this job, Brienne just stood there on the threshold like an idiot with her fist hovering inches from the wood.

Maybe this was a bad idea, came a little voice. You are terrible at job interviews... you won't get the job anyway, so why even bother?

Instantly knowing the voice was right, Brienne dropped her hand and began to retreat, walking backwards down the stairs. She was a few yards away when she heard the door swing open behind her and a cheery voice ring across the space.

"Ah! Are you Brienne Tarth here for the job interview? We've been waiting for you."

Brienne turned around and gave the honey-coloured haired woman a fake smile. Sighing inwardly, she knew it was too late to run now.

I have confidence in sunshine...

 Biting down on her fear, Brienne let herself be led inside. As the woman began to chat, Brienne clutched onto her handbag in an attempt to hide the fact that her hands were shaking.

"My name is Margaery Tyrell," said the woman, picking up a clipboard when they passed a desk. "And I will be processing your interview and application today."

"Thank you," replied Brienne, not really knowing what else to say.

"Now, if you come with me, I can take your passport and utilities bill for the paperwork before the interview."

"Great," said Brienne awkwardly, thinking one word answers were better than nothing.

Following Margaery, Brienne ended up on the factory floor which, rather bizarrely, had a photocopier in the corner. As Margaery busied herself getting everything scanned, Brienne looked over at the other workers, who were busy decorating the latest batch of chocolates. The first was a pretty young woman with long red hair artlessly contained in a hair net. She was carefully drawing a pattern onto one of the chocolates, but Brienne thought she was doing it so slowly it would be less arty than awkward. In contrast, the man with violently red hair was almost squashing his chocolate as he tried to pipe a shape onto it with a heavy-handed technique. In spite of his workaday approach to his art, at least he was doing better than the third person, a man who was asleep in the corner, miles away from doing anything that approached making chocolate.

When Margaery saw Brienne was looking across at the workers, she spoke, pointing at each of them in turn, "oh, that's Sansa, Addam, and Bronn. Hopefully they'll be your colleagues soon."

Even though Sansa gave Brienne a polite wave and hello, Addam snorted. "She'll have to get through Sir Grumpalump first."

Brienne felt herself stiffen. Surely Addam was referring to whomever would be conducting her interview, and the thought of him being known as Sir Grumpalump made her feel physically sick.

"Who is he talking about?" Brienne asked, as Margaery straightened up the photocopies, even though she feared she knew the answer.

"Oh, don't worry," replied Margaery with a laugh. "He's talking about Jaime."

"Jaime?" inquired Brienne.

"Jaime Lannister. He's the boss here."

Brienne's blood ran cold; Renly had always been highly distrustful of the Lannisters. Their chocolate company was slowly working out how to bridge the gap between artisan and commercial and being totally ruthless about it too. As their brand had expanded under the tutelage of Tywin Lannister, many smaller shops had shut up, all in time for Tywin to acquire their carcasses. Given their reputation, Brienne knew in her heart of hearts that she did not really want to work for a Lannister, even if it was only a minor one.

But I need the damn money, she thought.

"Oh," said Brienne, trying to keep the disappointment out of her voice. "I didn't realise Lannisters worked at anywhere other than at Lannister Chocolates."

Addam snorted. "Well, if you fall out with your father and decide you want to give him the middle finger, I suppose going to set up a rival chocolate company is one way to really piss Tywin off."

"Jaime is Tywin's son?" gawped Brienne. She knew there was an abundance of Lannisters, but the only child of Tywin's she'd ever heard explicitly mentioned by Renly was Cersei, his daughter, who was supposedly always scheming to be recognised as her father's heir.

Margaery nodded. "Yeah, not that he'd like you mentioning it mind. He's trying to build his own brand here at Red & Gold Chocolates. That's where you come in, I suppose."

And I suppose I would make a deal with the devil (or a Lannister) if he lets me develop my own line of chocolates, thought Brienne.

"That sounds interesting... as long as I get the job of course."

Margaery smiled at her sympathetically. "I'm sure you will, just don't let Jaime intimidate you in there."

"Intimidate me," said Brienne nervously, "how would he intimidate me?"

Sansa shrugged as she finally finished the chocolate she was decorating. "Oh, it's just his natural state is to be rude and ask questions letter. He doesn't really mean it, though; I think he can't help himself."

"And he's one for inappropriate jokes," added Addam.

At the mention of inappropriate jokes, Bronn woke up. "What about inappropriate jokes?"

"We're just saying Jaime always makes them," said Addam.

Bronn nodded sagely, "oh yes, Jaime loves an inappropriate joke, especially in the most awkward of social situations."

"Especially incest jokes," interjected Sansa. "Am I the only one who has noticed that? He makes incest jokes all the time."

There was a mumble of agreement at that statement, before Margaery laughed. "Yeah... he makes inappropriate incest jokes at any chance he gets. We're not really sure why though."

If Margaery, Sansa, Addam, and Bronn's intention had been to soothe her, they had failed spectacularly in their task because Brienne felt quite the opposite. Talking to men terrified her at the best of times, but a Lannister who was rude and made inappropriate jokes about incest sounded like a monster. Consequently, Brienne was somewhat thankful when Margaery handed her passport and utility bill back to her and beckoned her to follow.

"I will just take you to his office where the interview will be conducted. It should take no longer than forty minutes and, if you are successful in getting the role, Mr Lannister has asked that you start on Monday. Would that work for you?"

"Yes," replied Brienne briefly, knowing her diary had absolutely nothing in it at all, so much so that she barely bothered keeping a diary. "That sounds fine to me."

"Brilliant," smiled Margaery as she led her into a little room with an uncomfortable looking chair. "Now, if you just sit here, I will let Mr Lannister know you have arrived."

As Margaery walked away, Brienne looked up at the big clock on the wall, noting it was 9.50am, and therefore her interview wouldn't start for another ten minutes.

Great, she thought darkly, ten more minutes to panic. Hopefully he'll invite me in early to put me out of my misery.

Actually, maybe not. I don't really want to talk to a rude, inappropriate joke making demon.

Once Brienne was sat in her seat, Margaery went to a door on the other side of the room. It was surrounded by two big windows that were impossible to see through because the blinds behind them were pulled down. Brienne assumed that must be Jaime Lannister's office. Her suspicions were confirmed when Margaery knocked on the door and then pushed it open slightly. "Mr Lannister, Brienne Tarth is here for her interview. Shall I send her in?"

As Mr Lannister was evidently sitting a long way from the door, Brienne's couldn't hear his response to Margaery's question. Instead, the noise that came from within sounded little more than a deep rumble, the type of growl a mating lion would make. However, although it was a mystery to Brienne, Margaery clearly understood whatever he had said, as she closed the door before turning back to her potential new colleague.

"Mr Lannister is not quite ready to see you yet, so if you just wait here, that would be great. If you need me, I'll be back on the factory floor with the others."

"Thank you," said Brienne as Margaery gave her a quick smile and then left. Once she was gone, Brienne took off her coat and began smoothing down her dress, noting that when she had sat down, it had ridden up above her knees.

Bloody dress, she thought angrily. I should have worn something else.

The problem was, though, that she didn't have anything else. Years of pretending to be a reclusive chocolate-making hermit who lived in the mountains had meant her wardrobe did not really extend to much more than the same tracksuit in a variety of different colours. She had bought this particular dress for her dad's retirement party several years ago and, even though she did not really like it because of the amount of leg it revealed, it was the only thing she had.

I look awful, she told herself. Who in their right mind would employ me?

Lost in a pit of self-loathing, Brienne was only pulled out of it by a sudden metallic rustling sound. Looking up, Brienne noticed that two of the slats in the blinds in Mr Lannister's office were parted, revealing a pair of startling green eyes. The second she saw him and held onto his gaze, the green pair went very wide and then the blind sharply closed, the metallic ringing sound the only evidence that he had ever been looking.

What was that all about? she thought confusedly, her heartbeat quickening.

Brienne had to wait to find out, however, as even though Mr Lannister seemed un-busy enough to stare at her through blinds, he was too busy to invite her into his office and start the interview. It meant that she had to remain stuck on her chair, feeling watched, panicked, and a little sick.

I have confidence in... oh fuck, I've forgotten the words.

Her agony came to an end quite promptly the second the clock struck ten, as the door to the office swung open. However, instead of feeling relieved, her terror only doubled as it turned out that there was one crucial detail that Margaery, Sansa, Addam, and Bronn had kept back about Mr Lannister:

He was the most gorgeous man in existence.

Tall, with a graceful, lithe body, he leant against the door frame like a model in Italian Vogue, his golden hair shining in the light. Even when he had just been peering at her through the blinds, Brienne had thought his green eyes were very noticeable, but in the light of the waiting room they seemed to pop. As he was so unbelievably beautiful, Brienne expected him to say something graceful that matched his appearance.

Instead, he settled for, "you. Interview. Now."

Brienne got to her feet, smoothing her skirt nervously. "Thank you very much for this opportunity Mr Lannister, I..."

However, he succeeded in silencing her instantly by saying, "you sound like a tavern wench if you talk too much. Please don't, I have a headache."

Brienne's heart sank; there was no way in hell she was getting this job.


It seemed to take an eternity to get from the holding pen into Jaime's office but, once she was inside, Brienne almost wished she wasn't. The office was dark and depressing, lined with mahogany and had a strange dusty smell. All the furniture was heavy wood and plush leather, like something out of a Victorian gentleman's wet dream. As Mr Lannister clearly never opened the blinds, Brienne wondered fleetingly if he was a vampire, especially considering the portrait of a green-eyed ancestor that hung on the wall behind him. Taking her coat off, Brienne could not help but watch him as he stalked across the room and sat behind the desk. She couldn't help noticing there was something elegantly feline about him. The sight of this delicately beautiful man was making Brienne's heart hammer wildly, but she could not quite put her finger on the cause.

It's just because I'm having an interview and I'm nervous.

Once she had steadied herself, Brienne took the seat opposite Mr Lannister and fixed him with what she hoped was a charming smile. The longer she held it, her cheeks began to hurt, especially as she struggled to find the words. Time ticked on and, to her disappointment, nothing came out.

Say something! her brain screamed, even as her mouth remained mute and uncooperative.

Eventually, it was him who broke the silence. "Are you going to say something, wench? Or are you just going to stare at me all day."

Brienne blushed furiously; she had hoped this despicable man wouldn't notice that she found him strangely attractive. "Sorry, Mr Lannister, but my name is not wench. It is Brienne Tarth."

Oooooh, where did that feistiness come from? she thought proudly, even as Mr Lannister let out a huff of breath.

"And my name is not Mr Lannister. That's my father," he replied tartly, before leaning over towards his drawer and pulling out a clipboard. To Brienne's horror, she noticed that it was full of questions for her, questions that she would have to find answers to while looking at Jaime Lannister's despicably beautiful face.

Oh crap.

 Once he had the clipboard settled in front of him, Mr Lannister reached out for a pen with his left hand. It was only then that Brienne noticed the right was a prosthetic. Too busy mulling on the fact that this physically perfect specimen seemed to have a slight flaw, she totally missed his first question.

"Sorry? What?"

"Wench, it pays to listen to your potential boss," he said smartly. "I'll repeat again. Do you like chocolate?"

Phew, thought Brienne. An easy one.

 "Yes, I love chocolate," she smiled, relief washing over her for the first time since she entered Red & Gold Chocolates. "It all started when I was a little girl. My mother died young, you see, and to try and take my mind off it, my father sent me to a cookery class. One week we made our own chocolates and I was hooked. I loved the delicacy of it, the way that the sweet and the bitter intertwine to make something so perfectly luxurious and smooth. I love the way that chocolate can be a tiny piece of sweetness on an otherwise bad day, how it melts in your mouth with the slightest bit of warmth, how it..."

Mr Lannister watched Brienne quite intently as she gave him her answer, right until she was interrupted by the phone that sat on his desk. As it rung, Brienne almost thought it sounded obnoxious. As they both looked down at it, and Brienne could clearly make out the name of the caller on the Caller ID: Cersei.

 Expecting Mr Lannister to answer it, Brienne shut her mouth, stopping her nonsensical ramble on what she loved about chocolate - stupid, why would he want to hear about that anyway - but to her surprise, he just kept staring at the receiver, a sheen of sweat appearing on his perfect brow.

"You can answer it if you want," Brienne suggested helpfully. "I don't mind."

"I know I could, if I wanted to," he spat in response.

"Okay," she said meekly, trying to keep her eyes on him instead of drawing into herself and staring at her hands. How was this going so badly?

However, her resolute gaze seemed to have the opposite effect than what she intended, as Mr Lannister just kept staring at the phone, tugging at his collar with one hand. Wondering whether he was nervous, Brienne considered answering it for him, but then she remembered that doing that would be impossibly rude. Also, she had a mortal fear of telephones.

The tension snapped the second Mr Lannister looked up from the receiver and at her. Almost overcome by how impossibly green his eyes were, Brienne nearly jumped out of her skin when he picked up the phone and slammed it back down again, his expression like thunder. The silence was both a relief and tension-filled.

"Honestly, I wouldn't have minded..."

"Thank you for your time, wench," he announced. "You can go now."

Oh, thought Brienne disappointedly, I didn't even get to finish my answer to the first question. Surely, I wasn't that bad?

Even though she could have kicked herself at losing such a great opportunity, Brienne did not try and fight back against Mr Lannister as she had found the whole experience so mortifying that she just wanted to flee from the room back to the safety of her flat. Putting her coat on, she shuffled back towards the door, making her escape as quickly as possible.

"Thank you for the opportunity, Mr Lannister, even if..."

"Margaery will complete the paperwork," he barked. "You will start on Monday."

If Brienne was prone to fainting, she would have immediately fallen on the floor.

"What?"

"Are you deaf as well as too talkative, wench?" he asked mockingly. "You. Start. On. Monday. See you at nine."

In three paces he was suddenly across the room and standing beside her. With his good hand, he opened the door for her. Although Mr Lannister didn't say anything, she could tell by his expression that he wanted her to get out right this fucking second.

She complied without another word.


Brienne was in such a daze about her very strange job interview with Mr Lannister, that she took the paperwork from Margaery with only a polite nod and a half-hearted acknowledgement of her new colleague's congratulations. Feeling a little weird and light-headed, Brienne almost floated all the way to the bus stop, her heart hammering in her chest.

What the hell was all that about? she thought, even though she put Mr Lannister's behaviour as being yet another mystery about the male species she did not understand. Knowing she would need some help to unpack everything that had happened in the interview, Brienne resolved to talk it out with everybody at the next support group meeting.

Although I'm not even sure Daenerys Targaryen herself would be able to understand the mystery that is Jaime Lannister.

It was only when she was halfway home on the bus that Brienne was free enough of thoughts of the abominably beautiful Jaime Lannister to look down at the paperwork Margaery had given her. She decided to peruse it quickly, hoping to find instructions on developing a new line of chocolates. However, she was to be in for a shock when she looked at the first page.

Job Description: Head of Sales

  This role consists of:

  • Liaising with pre-existing Red & Gold customers and facilitating purchases.
  • Exploring potential customer bases and retail zones to expand Red & Gold Chocolates sales.
  • Advertising and promoting the brand to chocolatiers in London and further afield.
  • Working on ways to increase the prominence of Red & Gold Chocolates in a highly competitive market.

Reading those words, Brienne thought she might have a heart attack.

Head of Sales? she thought desperately. I can't be Head of Sales! I hate talking to people!

Oh god, I've not even had my first day and I've got to work out how to resign.

I've got to look Jaime Lannister in the eye and resign.

Oh fuck.

Chapter Text

IdiotsinLove

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"So," said Jon, beginning the session by giving Jaime one of those barely perceptible smiles of his. "What would you like to talk about today?"

Jaime sighed. The answer was too simple. "The wench."

"Who?" asked Jon, furrowing as a brow as he jotted that down.

"The wench," repeated Jaime, playing with his prosthetic hand. "Well, I think her name is actually Brenda... no wait, Bridget... or maybe Brienne... but whatever it is I'll call her the wench here."

"The wench," said Jon slowly, appraising his longest-standing patient carefully. "And why do you want to talk about her?"

Jaime shrugged. "She came in to Red & Gold Chocolates yesterday for a job interview as our new Head of Sales and I was... err... rude."

Jon looked at him so knowingly that Jaime almost felt guilty. "In what way?"

Despite Jon's evident disapproval, Jaime couldn't help but smile. "I called her wench for one... it amused me at least."

"Ah, back to inappropriate jokes again I see."

Jaime suddenly felt a little defensive. "You wouldn't think it was inappropriate if you saw her with your own eyes. She was this great big giantess with massive shoulders and arms that looked like they could snap me in half, and these legs that went on for several miles. And she was wearing this teeny-tiny dress that enabled me to see how freckly she was... and to top it all off, she was the most obnoxiously ugly woman you've ever seen in your life, with these bloody sapphires stuck in her head for eyes. It was almost funny how comically incongruent it all was."

Jon nodded slowly, writing that down. Jaime knew he was a fairly recently qualified therapist, but, unlike the hundreds of previous therapists Jaime had had, there was something about Jon's dour manner than made him surprisingly easy to talk to, especially about controversial things like being a no-good, waste-of-space sister-fucker. After a few moments of consideration, Jon looked back up at his patient. "So, was this a pre-meditated rude nickname? Or did you just come up with it on the spot?"

"What do you mean?"

Jon thought about how to rephrase his question. "Did you see her, ruminate on it for a while, come up with the nickname and then say it out loud? Or did it just come out as you were talking?"

Jaime thought back to the day before. He had been in his office with the blinds closed; a hangover from his days with Cersei, he supposed, as the fear of being caught had always meant he hated the feeling of being watched. In the darkness, he had just been minding his own business, when Margaery had come barging in, telling him that the wench had arrived for her interview. Once his HR lady-come-chocolatier had left, Jaime had found himself panicking; he hated conducting job interviews, because it just reminded him of how much he hated being the one scrutinised himself. After breaking with his father and sister, Jaime had done the rounds of every chocolate company in London, trying to find a job, but everyone just looked at him with disdain because his surname was Lannister, and the last thing he wanted was for someone else to have that experience, to feel judged by Jaime Lannister of all people.

I don't want anyone else to feel judged, he thought. And that's what I made the wench feel.

"It just came out," said Jaime honestly, remembering how he had watched her with rising panic through the blinds before she turned and looked at him with those astonishing blue eyes of hers. She hadn't been the wench then, only after she spoke.

"Why did you think that was?" asked Jon. "Why that word?"

"She was talking," Jaime answered, putting the pieces together slowly. "Actually, I'd say she was babbling rather than talking. She wanted to thank me for the opportunity, like working for me is some sort of good thing. And then I called her wench."

"Mmm," said Jon, mulling that over. "Do you think that was why you were rude to her? Because she had the temerity to say she would like to have the opportunity to work for you, and you didn't want to hear it?"

"Maybe..." replied Jaime non-committedly, knowing that wasn't the whole truth.

"Do you think you are a bad boss?"

"No," said Jaime, "but I don't think I'm a good boss either. How can I be? I spent years being my father and sister's lapdog, doing anything they wanted. I don't have the capacity to be a good leader, because they always made it clear I was nothing like my father, and was only made for bending and scraping. I was the stupidest Lannister."

"And yet five years ago, you broke with your father and sister and built up your own business from the ashes..."

"My own failing business," replied Jaime, knowing full well that if the new Head of Sales was a bust, Red & Gold Chocolates was going to sink faster than the Titanic, taking all their jobs with it.

"Your own business," corrected Jon, "and you found the strength and courage to leave your toxic relationship with your sister. I'd say both of those things were not stupid decisions."

Jaime nodded sourly. "Yeah, but I only left because Tyrion told me that Cersei was a lying whore who had been fucking Lancel and Osmund Kettleblack and the entire cast of Moon Boy for all he knew."

"Discovery of Cersei's infidelity was the catalyst, yes," conceded Jon, "but you had been spotting the cracks in the relationship for a long time, you told me yourself. After you lost your hand in the car accident, you stopped sleeping with Cersei..."

"But that was only because I disgusted her, not because I wanted her any less."

"Yes, but it was you that evaluated your relationship, Jaime, and you that ended it. We've been working on this for some time now; you have acknowledged the strength of the hold Cersei had on you and you have conceded that your love for her twisted you into something you are not. Don't let it poison every aspect of your life. You are a good boss; you can be a good boss. Let this woman express her gratitude to you. It's okay."

Jaime looked down at his hands, flesh and artificial alike. His family had done such a good job at smashing him to pieces that he sometimes struggled to remember he had spent five years putting himself back together.

"So," said Jon, getting back on topic. "Did you call this woman wench in the context of rejecting her gratitude?"

Jaime thought about it again. "No. I claimed I had a headache and said she sounded like a tavern wench if she talked too much."

After a pause, Jon said, "an interesting turn of phrase. Why tavern wench?"

"I don't quite get what you mean."

"Well," interjected Jon, trying again. "Why don't you try describing a tavern wench to me? What image comes to your mind?"

A little confused by the question, Jaime nevertheless did what he was asked. "You know, the types of women who serve you beer at Oktoberfest. Young, buxom, low cut dresses...blonde."

"I see," said Jon levelly. "And you decided to give this woman a nickname that refers to a highly sexualised cultural stereotype."

"No, I..."

"Are you attracted to her?"

Now that was a ridiculous suggestion.

"No," spluttered Jaime, outraged at the thought. He had spent half his life in awe of Cersei Lannister, one of the most beautiful women in the world. How could he go from her to the wench? The wench was a huge, ugly, shambling thing who was simultaneously in possession of the most arresting eyes in all of creation. The suggestion was preposterous.

"I'm not attracted to the wench!" he insisted. "She just came at me with those arms, those stupidly long legs, and those huge blue eyes and I just wondered what it would be like if... if... oh god, I'm attracted to her, aren't I?"

Jon smiled at him. "Well, would it be so wrong if you are?"

"Yes!" thundered Jaime, horrified, just as images of the wench throwing him down on his office desk and taking him flooded his mind. "She's now my employee, and I was impossibly rude to her!"

"I don't know, you could probably move on from calling her wench if you played your cards right," said Jon gently, a smile dancing on his lips.

"No I couldn't," replied Jaime, suddenly shame-faced, "because that wasn't the only way I was rude to her."

"How else were you rude?"

In spite of himself, Jaime went violently red. "During the interview, Cersei phoned in one of her attempts to soliloquise on the theme that I was her other half, no doubt. I didn't want to talk to her, couldn't talk to her in front of..."

Those blue eyes...

"That's reasonable," declared Jon. "Your sister has been a poisonous influence in your life; it is only right to want to distance her from what you have at Red & Gold. However, it is how you dealt with the situation in front of a woman you are attracted to that is important."

"I'm not attracted..." Jaime tried to feebly protest.

Jon gave him a kind smile. "In all the time you have been coming for sessions with me, do you know how many people other than yourself you have discussed with me?"

"No," replied Jaime honestly.

"Six," answered Jon. "Your father, your mother, your sister, your brother, and Arthur Dayne, your favourite action movie hero. The wench makes six. I think bringing her up with me means she means something to you, even if only in a small way. And being attracted to her is not something to be ashamed of; you are not Cersei's toy anymore. You can have your own life separate from her, which includes being attracted to people that are not her."

"I suppose," said Jaime slowly, his mind's eye filled with images of the wench's blue eyes. "But what do I do about it? Do I ask her out? Do I...?"

Jon laughed gently. "Easy cowboy, let's take things a step at a time. So you are attracted to this woman, but you were also abominably rude to her. Taking steps towards self-improvement is all important, so I think I want to give you a small task in regards to her for you to complete before we next see each other."

Jaime felt a knot grow at the pit of his stomach. Jon's small tasks were always terrifying. "What is it?"

"I want you to apologise to the wench for your behaviour and try to make her feel comfortable about working for your company."

"But..."

"A Lannister never apologises," finished Jon. "I know that was your father's saying, but you don't have to live by his life lessons anymore. By breaking from him, you demonstrated to yourself and the world that you aren't willing to wilt in his shadow any longer. You are your own man, complete without anyone else. In this situation, the healthy thing to do would be to make amends with the wench by apologising, and we'll discuss how well you do next week."

Jaime sighed. He knew Jon's tasks always helped, but the thought of being so vulnerable in the sight of her all-knowing blue eyes made him very nervous. "Alright," he conceded. "I'll apologise to her."

"Excellent," replied Jon with a smile.

Jaime laughed darkly. "As long as she hasn't resigned come Monday."

Chapter Text

IdiotsinLove

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As is turned out, Jon's "small task" wasn't particularly small at all; it was huge, terrifying, and involved Jaime prostrating himself in front of a giant blonde wench he was supposedly attracted to.

Lannisters don't apologise, came Tywin Lannister's voice over and over again on Sunday, as Jaime paced up and down his flat trying to come up with the best way to say sorry to her when he finally had to face her on Monday morning. In the end, he decided to jot down some ideas in his awful left-handed scrawl.

Wench, I'm sorry I was rude. It's just that your legs are really long, and they scare me.

Dearest Miss Brienne Tarth, by troth I am mightily sorry if I happened to offend. It displeases me most heartily to think of you in any discomfort on my account, so please allow me to tell you how ardently I admire you for tolerating my lack of good manners. Yours sincerely, Mr Jaime Lannister

I'm sorry. My sister fucked me up in all sorts of ways. I don't know how to be normal.

In the end, Jaime thought they were all such dreadful explanations for why he had behaved like such a dickhead, that he decided the best thing to do was to rely on the fact he had very nice eyes and just wing it come Monday morning. Hopefully, the wench would like it if he smiled politely.

And anyway, maybe I was so rude that she might have resigned.

Jaime felt confident in his plan until he actually turned up at Red & Gold Chocolates for the first day of the week and was confronted by the wench in all her glory. While Margaery, Sansa, Addam, and Bronn were in their overalls making chocolate, she came striding onto the factory floor wearing a sapphire blue power suit that brought out her eyes, topped off with a beret. Swallowing madly to keep his mouth moist, Jaime gave her a broad smile. From her startled reaction, he suddenly feared he might look a little demented.

Oh fuck, he thought madly. I shouldn't have relied on how ludicrously good looking I am.

 Searching around for something to say, Jaime kept staring down at the samples box he was carrying in his hand, the one he would give her to take to all the luxury chocolate shops in London in an attempt to promote the failing Red & Gold Chocolates brand. Even though he knew he had to apologise, Jaime felt he couldn't do it right that second, because all his employees were staring at him instead of making chocolates, and the wench just looked very confused. Luckily, she saved him from himself.

"Good morning, Mr Lannister," she said gently, her startling blue eyes doe-like. "I am here for my first day of work."

"I see," he said tartly, not quite looking her as he thrust the samples box into her hand. "And what did I tell you? I am not Mr Lannister, that is my father. Jaime, my name is Jaime."

The wench went a very pretty pink colour at that admonishment and it just made Jaime realise that he was being harsh and a little rude.

Apologise to her, he thought. Do what Jon told you! Apologise, man!

"Wench, I..."

Bringing the samples box down by her side, the wench fixed him with a firm look. "If your name is not Mr Lannister, mine is not wench. My name is Brienne. Call me Brienne."

Jaime could almost feel the shifty looks that Margaery and Sansa were giving each other behind his back, and it made him desperately hope that the ground would swallow him up. Not able to take Brienne's condemning gaze anymore, he turned around to look at Sansa.

"Tell Miss Tarth what she has to do," he snapped harshly. "I need to go and... make some phone calls in my office."

Without another word, Jaime swept past Brienne, trying not to trip over the intense blue of her eyes as he did so.

Fuck, Jon was right, he thought. I am attracted to her... and I was rude to her, again!

How the hell do I make this right?


Jaime spent the rest of the day hiding in his office pretending to phone people and genuinely trying to work out what assets Red & Gold Chocolates had so, if it came to it, he could stave off bankruptcy for a bit longer. Six people’s jobs relied on the company, including his own, and it would make him sick to his stomach to think of failing them.

Even though he found himself distracted from the pressing issue of apologising to the wench by his money issues, Jaime kept the blinds of his office open so he could see her if she walked past. At around forty thirty she did just that, striding onto the factory floor to return the samples box to Sansa. Fifteen minutes later she walked back past, heading towards the front door to make her escape.

This is only a small task, Jaime told himself. You can do this, Lannister!

As Brienne had much longer legs than him, Jaime discovered she was almost halfway down the street before he managed to catch up, and he was a little out of breath when he did so.

"Wait! Brienne! One moment!"

On hearing her name, Brienne skidded to a halt before looking around to find the source of the noise. When she saw it was him, her blue eyes went very wide. "Jaime?"

Now's the time, he thought when he drew level with her, now's the time to apologise.

"WenchIamverysorryIwasrudetoyouinthejobinterviewandagainthismorning. Isometimesdonotreallyhavecontrolofwhatcomesoutofmymouth. SoIamsorryifIoffendedyouinanywayandIhopeyouwillenjoyworkingformeandforthecompany."

For the first time since he had met her, Brienne relaxed very slightly, even though Jaime was sure his words had come out so fast they weren't exactly intelligible. To his surprise, however, she replied in the same rushed tone.

"ThankyouJaimeIwasreallynervousmyselfandwasworriedIhadupsetyousoIamgladyouapologisedithasmademefeelverywelcome."

"IamverygladyoufeelwelcomethatsallIwant."

"GreatIamveryhappy."

"GreatIamveryhappytoo."

Jaime took a breath, getting control of himself once more. "I suppose I will see you tomorrow then."

"Yes."

"Okay."

"Goodbye."

You are still being rude, he thought suddenly. You are staring at her. At least shake her hand or something; make it professional.

However, Jaime was sure that when his father had taught him the art of the suave handshake, it did not involve lunging forward and violently grabbing the wench's hand and shaking it until it nearly fell off. He was also sure there was a limit to how long one could hold on, and he was sure it was definitely shorter than the twenty-five seconds he had been clinging on.

Let go, damnit! he chastised himself. You're being rude again!

Okay, if you are not going to let go, at least make it look part of some well thought out plan. Like, lean in and kiss her cheek or something.

He leant in, she tilted, and then due to some weird aligning of the planets he totally missed her cheek and ended up with his lips planted on hers. Even though the sensation was very pleasant, Jaime couldn't help but panic.

Oh fuck, I'm sure this counts as being rude! Especially after Me Too!

Brienne, however, seemed to disagree as, quite suddenly, her arms were around his neck. Thinking it would be impolite to do anything else, Jaime put his hands on her hips and pulled her close to him, feeling the great muscled expanse of her body pressed against his. At the sudden contact with this warm, blonde wench, he realised he wanted more and drew her bottom lip in between his, sucking until she made a contented little mewling sound. Once he realised that her big hands were in his hair, pulling at it and ruffling it up, Jaime felt no qualms in teasing her mouth open with his tongue and plundering the warm depths with everything he had. With his hand roving all over her, Brienne responded in an instant and pushed back against him. It all felt so right, like they were having a messy, unskilled sword fight with their tongues.

It was only when he heard a group of teenage boys snicker as they walked past that Jaime realised he was being very, very rude and broke the kiss instantly.

"Iwillseeyoutomorrowatworkthankyouforacceptingmyapology," he said quickly.

"ThankyouforapologisingandyesIwillseeyoutomorrowIamlookingforwardtoit," she replied, her eyes bright.

Not being able to look at her a moment longer, Jaime turned on his heel and ran away back into Red & Gold Chocolates, trying to keep his hammering heart and his semi under control.

Bloody hell, he groaned, leaning back against the inside of his office door. I think Jon will count that "small task" as an utter and entire failure!

Chapter Text

IdiotsinLove

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After Mr Lannister went running back into Red & Gold Chocolates, Brienne remained standing in the street, absolutely stunned. Bringing her fingers up to her lips, she tentatively touched them, just to make sure that the tingling session she felt was the product of them being swollen from kissing, not just her fevered imagination.

He kissed me! she though, amazed. And I kissed him!

It had not been what she was expecting for her first kiss; Brienne thought that if a man ever took pity on her and kissed her, it would be a sloppy, unexciting affair, born more of the feeling that she had to kiss someone rather than any real need to kiss that person in particular. But with Mr Lannister? As they had kissed, Brienne had felt like she was dancing on air, weightless and blissfully unaware of anything around her but the feel of his warm body against hers, his arms holding her close.  They had moved together as easily as if they were dancing, twirling in time as well as Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. It had been like something from the movies, with fireworks and starlight, choreographed against a swelling score with an entire string section.

It had also been very strange, and Brienne did not entirely know what to make of it.

Things were not helped the following morning when she arrived at Red & Gold Chocolates. Shaking herself off from the rain that saturated her coat, Brienne stood just inside the front door, trying to straighten herself up before entering the factory floor. However, her plan to appear something more than dishevelled was interrupted the instant she arrived, as the door to Mr Lannister's office swung open and he was suddenly standing in front of her, his green eyes wide.

He was wearing a red tie and a patched jacket and was looking so handsome that Brienne nearly exploded with panic.

"Good morning Brienne," he said, a smile dancing at the corner of his lips.

"Good morning Jaime," she responded, wanting to ask him whether they should kiss again but not having the courage.

Rooting around for words to fill the silence, Brienne made to inquire as to his opinions about the terrible weather they were having but, before she could say anything, Mr Lannister had hurriedly retreated back behind his office door and pulled up the blinds, obscuring himself from her view. Consequently, Brienne had no choice but to go onto the factory floor to find Sansa and the samples box, even though her chest sank with disappointment.

After her weird morning encounter with Mr Lannister, Brienne had to go back out into the storm armed with the samples box and try to sell Red & Gold Chocolates to various uninterested customers all the while trying not to think of the feeling of Mr Lannister's lips on hers. "Why would I buy Red & Gold?" said Oberyn Martell incredulously, after Brienne had spent twenty five minutes outside his shop in the rain working up the courage to go inside.

Brienne thought about it for a moment; she had tried Red & Gold chocolates and they were good, solid comfort food that reminded her of home. She attempted to put that feeling into words. "Red & Gold Chocolates are a high quality brand that offer luxurious taste while bringing traditional recipes and the old-timey charm of chocolate right to your front door. They would be a great addition to the selection you offer here."

Oberyn outright snorted at that.  "By traditional recipes I assume you mean Tywin Lannister's old recipes from ten years ago. It is the Old Lion who rules the roost, and even though Jaime might pretend he can get out from under his shadow, he can't. He's his father's mirror image, unable to carve his own path. That's evident by the fact that he is still relying on recipes that Lannister Chocolates were using years ago, but from which Tywin and Cersei have moved on. Did you know, they're now moving into molten gold chocolate and chocolate mud? What is Red & Gold doing that is new or avant-garde?"

If Brienne had the courage, she would have told Oberyn Martell that molten gold chocolate and chocolate mud were passing fads that put aesthetics over taste, and it was Jaime's chocolate that really honoured the glorious bliss of feeling that sweet flavour melting all over your tongue. However, as Oberyn was looking at her so dismissively, Brienne wanted to do nothing more than run away, so she decided to end the conversation. "Thank you for your time, Mr Martell. I hope you change your mind."

To her disappointment, as she made her way around London's vast selection of chocolate shops, Brienne found she got a similar reaction to Red & Gold from Asha Greyjoy at her chocolate shop, Randyll Tarly at his cafe, and even from Khal Drogo at his luxurious living store. And every single time it was the same complaint; Red & Gold Chocolate is too traditional and had never escaped Tywin Lannister's shadow. Therefore, in the end, Brienne only made a sale to their last regular customer, Olenna Tyrell. Margaery's grandmother ran a stylish little tea shop called Highgarden in the midst of Covent Garden; the type of establishment Red & Gold should be aspiring to sell to. However, Brienne thought that Olenna did not buy from her for any love of Jaime's chocolates, but only because she was doing her granddaughter a favour.

Consequently, in contrast to the beginning of the day when she had been full of high spirits due to the thoughts of Mr Lannister, by the time she returned to the factory, Brienne felt utterly defeated. Why couldn't anybody see that Red & Gold Chocolates were good, as long as you saw beyond the lack of a fancy wrapper?

What would I do? she asked herself. What would Renly's mysterious mountain hermit chocolatier do to make Red & Gold Chocolates the premier brand in the country?

 Brienne was busy deeply ruminating on that conundrum when Mr Lannister's office door again swung open, in the exact same way as it had that morning. Caught like a deer in the headlines, Brienne found herself staring at Jaime with wide eyes - taking in the sight of his suit and his smile and his kissable lips - until he broke the tension.

"See you tomorrow Brienne," he said, his voice low.

"See you tomorrow, Jaime."

The second she had given him his answer, Mr Lannister then slammed the door shut and closed the blinds so she couldn't see him. With all thought of chocolate knocked out of her head by his appearance, Brienne found herself trying to put together what on earth was going on.

Maybe I was bad kisser, she thought, panicked. Or maybe I was so good he's intimidated by my sheer talent.

  ... Oh god, don't be ridiculous. It's more likely to be that I was terrible. He wouldn't want to kiss me again.

 But what if I want to kiss him again?


If Brienne had hopes to kiss Mr Lannister once more, she got no closer to achieving that goal over the next couple of days, not when their interactions were limited to perfunctory good mornings, goodbyes, and the percussive slamming of his office door.

"Good morning Brienne."

"Good morning Jaime."

SLAM. *Close blinds*

"See you tomorrow Brienne."

"See you tomorrow Jaime."

SLAM. *Close blinds*

"Good morning Brienne."

"Good morning Jaime."

SLAM. *Close blinds*

"See you tomorrow Brienne."

"See you tomorrow Jaime."

SLAM. *Close blinds*

Unable to understand how they could go from kissing in the street to barely saying two words to each other, Brienne tried scrabbling around for answers and decided her best bet - at least until she got to her support group on Friday - was to ask her new colleagues.

"Is he always this weird?" replied Bronn to her question, laughing as he did so. "Yes, Brienne, yes he is. Left to his own devices, he's a misanthropic hermit who loves hiding in his office all day. You're lucky you get any sort of greeting at all."

"Aww," interjected Sansa as she mixed up a bowl of praline, "I think you're being a little harsh, Bronn. Jaime can be sweetie when he wants to be it's just... he rarely wants to be."

"I mean there was that time he paid your bill when you dented the door on your car, Sansa," said Margaery.

Sansa nodded, "and the time he bought you a bunch of flowers after you dog died."

"Deep down, Jaime is a nice guy," concluded Addam sagely. "I've known him since we were kids; I was one of the few people that his father would permit being his friend. What you've got to remember about our boss is that Tywin fucked all his kids up, Jaime, Cersei, and Tyrion alike. He turned Tyrion into a vindictive little psycho who wants revenge on everyone and everything, and Cersei into a power-hungry schemer who puts the Lannister name before anything else. Only Jaime came out halfway normal, and even then, it's left him with a slight distrust of anyone who isn't family."

He trusted me, thought Brienne distantly. When we kissed, he trusted me. I could feel it.

Even if he hasn't wanted to speak more than a single sentence to me since.


All things considered, Brienne was immensely relieved when Friday rolled around and she was able to go to her support group and talk about Jaime with people who were going through similar experiences to her, as well as a qualified expert in the form of Daenerys.

"Hello, my name is Brienne, and I am romantically challenged."

"Hello Brienne!" came the chirpy response from the rest of the group. Only Edd was not smiling (but Brienne was not sure whether he was capableof smiling), while Tormund was waggling his eyebrows at her. Brienne just tried to nod politely in response.

"It's lovely to see you again Brienne," smiled Daenerys. "Now, what would you like to talk about? Perhaps how your job interview went?"

"Oh yeah," replied Brienne, suddenly remembering that it was the interview that she had been panicking about during the last session, not that Jaime Lannister had put his lips on her lips, held her close to him, and turned her entire world upside down. "I can talk about that first."

"How did it go?" asked Daenerys.

"Fine," she lied, glossing over how impossibly rude Jaime had been to her. "Can I talk about something else now?"

Daenerys looked a bit taken aback at that. "Of course, you can talk about anything you want to in here. We are all here to support you."

Having bottled it up for days, Brienne's confession came out in a rush. "I had my first kiss this week."

There were a few gasps and then a round of applause. Gilly even squeaked, "oh, how lovely!"

"Did you enjoy it?" asked Daenerys, narrowing her eyes in an attempt to read Brienne's almost unreadable expression.

"Oh yes!" replied Brienne, wanting to reassure her. "It was..."

Wonderful. Romantic. Beautiful. Everything I've ever dreamed of. Ovary exploding bliss.

"Nice."

"Nice is a good start," conceded Daenerys, nodding at her gently. "Was it with someone you have known a long time?"

"No..." said Brienne slowly. "I met him on Friday."

"F...f...f...Friday?" stammered Pod. "That was quick."

"It was," agreed Brienne.

While the members of the support group were all nodding along happily to Brienne's story, Daenerys looked a little confused. "Friday? The same day you had your job interview?"

"Yes."

"Was he one of the other candidates for the job?" asked Daenerys, intrigued.

"No... he... he... Jaime... is my new boss."

There was a collective gasp at that, and then everyone started to voice their opinions.

"Oh, was it love at first sight?" asked Sam.

"Ha!" trumpeted Tormund, "he didn't waste his time, did he!"

"Brienne, you must be careful," instructed Jeyne Poole. "Ever since the Me Too movement brought to light the power inequalities in boss-employee relationships, some companies have banned them so you must be on your guard. This man might be trying to exploit you!"

Although Brienne knew that Jeyne was only trying to watch out for her, she suddenly felt very defensive of Jaime. "He isn't trying to exploit me... I mean... it didn't feel exploitative. It felt good and warm, and I tingled all over. That's what it's supposed to be like, isn't it? When you kiss someone?"

Daenerys nodded. "Yes, that is was kissing someone you like is meant to feel like."

"Good," said Brienne, instantly relieved. "Because I was worried I had done something wrong."

"Why is that?" Daenerys asked softly.

"Well, ever since we kissed, he's barely spoken to me," said Brienne, immensely glad to be airing her feelings. "At first, I thought it might be because Jaime only kissed me as an apology, and that kissing people you've been rude to in job interviews might be a Red & Gold company policy or something. So I thought about it a bit, but then I realised that in all the years I was employed by Renly, he never kissed me, so maybe Jaime genuinely likes me. But then I remembered that Renly was gay, and if he had needed to apologise to a male employee, he might have kissed them, but not me because he wasn't into women and he definitely wasn't into me. So, maybe it is Red & Gold company policy and Jaime was just being polite."

Daenerys gave her a look that made Brienne feel like a lost toddler. "I assure you it wasn't company policy. If Jaime kissed you, it was because he wanted to kiss you, no other reason. Companies don't tend to mandate their bosses kissing their employees; in fact, as Jeyne said, it is normally quite the reverse."

That just made Brienne even more confused. "But he can't like me!"

"Why is that?" asked Daenerys.

Brienne thought the answer was so obvious that she almost rolled her eyes as she said it. "Because I am ugly, and he is beautiful. Why would he ever want to like me?"

"Beauty is in the eye of the holder, Brienne," smiled Daenerys, using the well-worn adage as if it were a universal truth. "And surely if he kissed you, that might be some evidence that Jaime likes you... at least a little bit."

Brienne opened and closed her mouth for a moment, trying to find the words to counter that logic. Eventually, she found her line of argument. "But then, can men truly like women they've only known a short while? I mean, my housemate Shae kisses men she's just met all the time, but that's because I think she's actually an escort, and not because she actually likes them... oh my god, does Jaime think I'm a prostitute?"

As Daenerys smiled at her, Brienne could tell that the group leader was trying to suppress a laugh. "No, Brienne, I don't think Jaime thinks you are a prostitute. Actually, I think you are trying to find reasons why this kiss is proof that he doesn't like you, whereas, to me, it seems you should take his kissing you as evidence that he does like you, that he is in some way attracted to you."

"Jaime is attracted to me?" stammered Brienne, disbelievingly.

"Probably, yes," confirmed Daenerys. "Now the important question is are you attracted to him?"

Thinking of her green-eyed, blond haired lion, Brienne knew the answer in an instant. "Of course I am! But what do I do about it? Do I ask him out? Do I kiss him again? Do I...?"

Daenerys let out a friendly laugh. "Well... one step at a time. Before you go leaping into this brave new world, I think it is important to take a step back and consider what you want and whether you are ready for this."

"I am ready for this," insisted Brienne, even as she knew her nerves were rising and therefore it was not quite true. "I am ready to kiss him again!"

"Okay," said Daenerys gently. "That's good to know. But this is only your second session; if you want, I think it would be good to unpack some of your core assumptions about your self-worth that will put you in the best possible place to be ready for this over the next few weeks."

"You do?"

Daenerys nodded. "I do. And everyone else here agrees to help and support you along this journey, don't you guys?"

The resulting cheer made Brienne feel supported and comforted in a way she hadn't since Jaime's kiss. It also gave her a spark of confidence that she had never felt before.

I will be ready for it, she thought. If Jaime wants me, and I want him, I will be brave and make it happen. 

At least, I'll try...

I'll give it a go...

Or... maybe I will just work out the quickest and easiest way to run away from him when I next see him.

Chapter Text

IdiotsinLove

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"You kissed her?" asked Jon incredulously, almost dropping his notebook. "The wench? You kissed the wench?"

Jaime sighed as he felt himself blush. "I mean... at the time... it felt like the only sensible thing to do."

At that declaration, Jon looked as if he were trying to suppress an amused smile. "Did it? Could you try to explain that thought process to me? How did you get from apologising to kissing her?"

"Erm..." said Jaime, trying to re-experience the journey in his mind. "Well, I chased her out of Red & Gold Chocolates after she went to go home on her first day. When I caught up with her, she kinda..." He remembered the moment so clearly it almost took his breath away, "she kinda looked at me with her eyes."

"Well, that's what people generally look at you with," smirked Jon. "Their eyes."

Jaime tried to continue to explain it in a way that would make sense now he was not standing in front of the wench but in Jon's minimalist office. "I mean, her eyes are really blue, like someone's wedged a couple of sapphires in her eye sockets. And then she dared to look at me with them and... I just sort of... panicked."

"Panicked?" repeated Jon, almost surprised by the word choice. "What sort of form did this panic take?"

When he thought about it, Jaime felt thoroughly ashamed of himself. "Verbal diarrhoea," he admitted. "I tried to apologise, and I just found I couldn't stop the words coming out. I was embarrassed, I think, so I just kept talking. And then, because I had set the pace of the conversation, she started talking back at the rate of knots."

"Did she accept your apology?"

Jaime nodded, blushing at the memory. "She did but... very quickly."

"What do you mean?" asked Jon carefully. "That it didn't take you long to persuade her?"

"It didn't take me long to persuade her," he conceded, remembering how Brienne had quite sweetly said she was worried she had upset him and, therefore, his apology made her feel welcome. "But it wasn't just that; she actually accepted my apology very quickly as she spoke at like three hundred miles an hour. But it was still really sweet and sincere... once I worked out what she had actually said."

"Right..."

"So then I decided to shake her hand," declared Jaime. "You know... in a professional way. Anything else would have been rude."

"Of course," nodded Jon, "that would be appropriate."

"But it wasn't appropriate," replied Jaime, pulling at his collar in an attempt to cool down, "because I somehow managed to make it very, very rude. My father taught me the perfect handshake should last no longer than eight seconds, and I'm pretty sure I held onto her hand for at least four and a half hours."

"Why did it last so long, do you think?" asked Jon.

"Well, I've already told you about the Heart-of-the-Ocean-Eyes problem, but then her hand was also really warm and as she wasn't letting go either, I decided that perhaps the professional way to say goodbye was to kiss her cheek but... I kind of missed her cheek."

"Oh."

"And then..."

I was falling and dizzy and didn't know how to cope, because she's the first woman I've kissed who I didn't flatshare with in my mother's womb for nine months.

"Then I kissed her."

Jon nodded and wrote that down. "With tongues?"

Jaime suddenly found himself coughing and had to reach for his glass of water to regain control of his own esophagus. "That's a bit of a personal question, isn't it?"

"I'm your therapist," replied Jon wryly. "It's my job to ask personal questions."

Jaime just shrugged at that statement and took another sip of water, unable to dispute Jon's assertion. Knowing he had no choice but to reply, he answered Jon's question. "Yes, it was with tongues, and we only stopped when we got heckled by some passing teenagers."

Jon's eyes went very wide at that confession. "I assume you have realised that the wench is the first woman you've kissed..."

"Since Cersei five years ago, yeah, I know."

Her son Joffrey was unconscious in hospital and I took her in the broom cupboard next to his ward, he thought bitterly. It made me realise how low I had sunk and I needed to climb out of that hole.

"So," said Jon slowly, "do you think that the wench is somewhat important, at least in terms of your personal growth?"

"I suppose," said Jaime hesitantly, "but it was just a kiss, wasn't it?"

"Only you know that," smiled Jon. "Would you want it to be something more?"

"I..." Jaime thought about the wench for a moment; her innocent blue eyes, her long legs, her polite demeanour. If he was honest with himself, he knew very little about her beyond that she liked chocolate and that a raging fire had ignited when they kissed. "I don't know," he concluded, confused. "I've only known her a week."

"Well, would you like to get to know her better?"

"I suppose," replied Jaime, realising he wondered what her favourite colour was, and whether chocolate tasted different to her depended on her mood. "But I don't really know how. She's my employee and she spends all her day outside of the office trying to promote our brand. The only chance I get to see her is when she comes to pick up the samples box in the morning, and then the ten minutes she loiters around talking to my other employees at the end of the day."

"You at least have a window of opportunity then," smiled Jon. "I think it would be good for you if I set you another small task."

Jaime stiffened in his chair. "What is it this time?"

"Nothing too major," said Jon reassuringly, holding up his hands. "I just want you to spend a little bit of time with the wench outside work; maybe offer to walk her to the bus stop, or grab her some coffee before work. It doesn't have to be anything too dramatic, but don't you think it would be nice to be able to talk to the second woman you've ever kissed without contracting verbal diarrhoea?"

Jaime found himself nodding along even before Jon had finished speaking. "Yes, that would be nice."

"Great!" smiled Jon, "then that is your task for this week."

Just at that moment, the clock that hung on the wall chimed to tell them both that the hour was up, and Jaime's session was over.

"Wow," sighed Jaime, letting out a puff of air, "that went quickly."

"Time flies when you are having fun," replied Jon with a laugh. Getting to his feet, Jaime went to collect his jacket and his bag, but before he departed Jon stopped him. "Oh, one more thing."

"Yes?"

"You never did tell me; is the wench's name Brenda, Bridget, or Brienne?" Jaime's mind's eye was suddenly dominated by a pair of startled sapphire eyes.

"Brienne," he said gently. "Her name is Brienne."


On Monday morning, Jaime was committed to putting all his effort into completing Jon's small task, but it seemed the universe was conspiring against him. Although he took the tube to work, he waited at the nearby bus stop, hoping to catch Brienne as she got off so they could walk to Red & Gold Chocolates together just like Jon suggested. However, that particular day, Brienne had decided to cycle to work, so Jaime even missed the opportunity to say good morning to her then promptly shut his office door in her face. To make things worse, he had also noticed that some days, Brienne came back to the factory to pick up her lunch around noon. In anticipation, Jaime made her a coffee. That turned out to be a mistake as, when she never appeared, he was immensely disappointed.

As Brienne had not made an appearance and brightened up his day, Jaime's mood darkened somewhat, which was unfortunate as he had to spend the afternoon filling out Health and Safety forms as to the state of the factory for the Council. There was so much printing and photocopying to do that Jaime had to keep walking backwards and forwards between his office and the factory floor, where the printer stood in the corner next to the photocopier. As the work was fiendishly nitty, Jaime entirely missed Brienne re-entering Red & Gold Chocolates at the end of the day, and then nearly had a heart attack when he discovered she was wearing that stupidly cute beret again, happily chatting to Margaery and Sansa.

"Sandor wants to take me to some fancy French restaurant for our date this weekend," Sansa was saying as she undid her apron and went to hang it on a hook.

"Urgh," interjected Margaery, "that sounds way too much for my tastes."

"That's what I said," replied Sansa, "but apparently the chef is really famous, and it takes ages to get a hold of a reservation, so I'll feel a bit guilty if I don't go."

At Sansa's statement, Brienne's mouth formed such a perfect little shocked "O" that Jaime couldn't help but look. "Are you talking about Un bon restaurant?"

Her question made Jaime stare even harder.

I know she said she liked chocolate in her interview, he thought, but I wasn't aware she knows her food too!

However, it soon became very clear that while his wench knew her five-star Michelin restaurants from her Starbucks, Sansa did not, as she just narrowed her eyes confusedly at Brienne. "Maybe. What is Un bon restaurant?"

"Un bon restaurant is only the premiere haute cuisine restaurant in London," Brienne said excitedly. "It was set up by Wyman Manderly, you know, the celebrity chef who is famous for his commitment to bringing French cuisine to the UK, even putting a twist on the traditional British Steak and Kidney pie! No one knows what his secret ingredient is, but his food is so amazing, you have to wait months to get a reservation."

In spite of his commitment to politeness, at his wench's praise of Wyman Manderly's cooking, Jaime couldn't help but scoff. Wyman Manderly and his Aunt Genna had spent years in a battle over being the best haute cuisine chef in the city and, as Genna was one of the few relatives he was still in touch with, he decided to defend her honour to the hilt. "No it's not," he said firmly, his voice carrying so loudly across the room that all his employees turned to look at him. "Un meilleur restaurant is the best haute cuisine restaurant in the city, and I won't hear a word against it!"

At his abrupt tone, Brienne went pale and bit her lip, leaving Jaime feeling a little guilty. He had not meant to trash her food knowledge, only suggest an alternative.

Damnit, I've been rude again, he thought. Maybe I should kiss her?

Unfortunately, Jaime was prevented from striding across the room and sticking his tongue down her throat when she supplied him with a follow up question. "Why? Have you been there before?"

Aware that what he was about to say could be construed as being hip and cool, Jaime attempted to complete the image by leaning back on the photocopier in a suave and sophisticated manner. However, he misjudged the lean by about a foot and was halfway down to the floor before he managed to recover himself and stand up to his full height. Dusting himself off (and trying to ignore Addam and Bronn's snickering), he said casually, "yeah, I know the owner."

Brienne's blue eyes went wide with awe. "That's cool."

"Yeah," Jaime said again, before taking a deep breath that filled his lungs almost to capacity. If he wanted to complete Jon's "little task", perhaps now was the perfect opportunity. 

"AndIcangetthetwoofusareservationonFridayeveningateighto'clockifyouwouldbeinterestedingoingandspendingsometimewithme."

It was out his mouth before he had time to think about what he was saying.

Please say yes, wench, he thought. Please, please, please!

As Margaery, Sansa, Bronn, and Addam all exchanged shocked looks at his request, Brienne kept her ever-widening eyes fixed on him. Jaime suspected if he didn't drown in them by the time he got his answer, he might instantly die the second she rejected him. To his immense joy, however, as it turned out, his wench was not so cruel.

"Thankyouthatwouldbeveryniceshallwemeetattherestaurant?"

Overcome with relief that she had agreed to go with him (and that he had taken a step towards completing Jon's "small task"), Jaime then tried to thank her, but instead just ended up giving her a command. "YeswearblueIlikeyouinblue."

Not expecting that order, Brienne's eyebrows raised almost imperceptibly before she answered him. "IfyouaretellingmewhattowearIwilltellyouwhattowear. Youwillbewearingyourmaroonsuitwiththelittlepocketsquareasitgoeswithyoureyes."

"Okaythatsoundsgood," he replied, trying (and failing) to suppress the ludicrously hot blush that had exploded all over his face at the thought that his wench knew his wardrobe intimately enough to make a request.

Matching him in the blushing stakes, Brienne then squeaked, "soundsgreatIamlookingforwardtoit."

"Metoo," he replied, which only succeeded in reminding him of the erstwhile campaign for women's rights in the office. Overwhelmed with images of himself being locked up for life with Harvey Weinstein after indecently asking his wench to go to a restaurant with him, Jaime was suddenly horrified by the idea that he was taking liberties with Brienne, so much so that he dashed away from the factory floor and back into his office without even nod farewell.

At least my speedy exit meant I couldn't see Addam and Bronn smirking, he thought, trying to put a positive spin on the situation.

But it also means I won't see Brienne until tomorrow, and I didn't even say goodbye.

My wench.

Chapter Text

IdiotsinLove

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Oh god, thought Brienne nervously on Friday night. Why the hell did I say yes to this?

On what planet is going to dinner with my boss a good idea?

Pacing up and down, she looked at herself in the mirror, smoothing the skirt of her dress as she did so. When Jaime had requested blue, she had gone into a mild panic because the only blue items of clothing she had in her wardrobe were Margaret Thatcher-inspired power suits that she had bought for job interviews to make herself feel strong. She did not have anything even remotely feminine, pretty, and blue to wear.

Well, except for the dress.

Several years ago, her dad had had a 1920s themed birthday party, and Brienne had bought a sparkly blue flapper style-dress in an attempt to fit in. Although it had technically been fancy dress, Brienne had discovered that there was something about the loose fitting cut that turned the brutal lines of her body into something almost angular and strangely Art Deco. Once she had slipped into the dress, Brienne topped off the look with a diamante headband and some dark eyeliner, hoping he did not think she appeared too bold.

Because I'm not bold, she thought. I'm terrified.


I'm so fucking glad I'm hot, thought Jaime as he put the finishing touches to his rigorous hair routine just before he left the house. Because if I wasn't, I would have absolutely nothing going for me, and my wench would have laughed me out of town when I asked her to go for dinner with me.

Sister-fucker, man without honour, homewrecker.

God, don't think about Cersei. She'll just ruin everything.

In thinking about Cersei, Jaime looked down at his dark grey shirt which he was wearing under his maroon suit jacket. To his horror, he discovered he was developing dark sweat patches under his arms due to the overwhelming terror he was feeling at having to go on a dinner date with his wench and expose himself to her. Jaime didn't like doing that, and he definitely didn't like looking nervous while doing that.

I can't change my shirt! he panicked. It's the only colour that goes with the jacket, and she wanted me wearing this!

Unless... unless...


What do you even talk about over dinner? Brienne thought desperately as she tried to do her hair. I refuse to discuss work, because I haven't even sold any chocolate for him yet because I'm such a shitty saleswoman!

But if I don't talk about work, what do I talk about?

Oh god, I can't be ugly and mute! What will he think of me then?

To her disappointment, Brienne had not had time to go to her support group that evening between work and the date-slash-dinner-slash-utterly casual meeting with a sex god, so she had not been able to spit ball some conversation ideas before her baptism of fire. Trying to take a different approach, Brienne had then considered asking her housemate Shae what to talk about on a first date. However, she had then remembered that Shae was some kind of high class courtesan, and so probably didn't know a huge amount about talking to men, especially men who would never need any romantic help like Jaime. In the absence of any other ideas, Brienne charged back to her bed and picked up her phone, searching for the only friend who she could ever rely upon to tell her the utmost truth:

Google, what do I talk about on a first date with a man?

As she waited for Google to answer her question, Jaime came to her mind, and Brienne was suddenly struck by how much of a man he was. Tall, lithe, and handsome, with this almost overwhelming masculine scent, what was he even doing asking her out?

Oh god, maybe I shouldn't go. Why would someone who looks like him want me?

Luckily, before she could really consider that eventuality, Google came up with the goods. Not wasting any time, she dug around in her bedside drawer for the flashcards she had bought for Chocolate School but never used and began to write Google's suggestions down on each one. It was just so when she was finally faced with his gorgeous eyes, she would have something to say. Slipping them into her clutch bag, Brienne knew she could not wait much longer.

It's time to go if I want to catch the bus in time, she thought, before touching up her hair once more. Seized with panic, Brienne tried to calm herself down by channelling Julie Andrews.

A Chocolate factory owner with really nice green eyes, what's so fearsome about that?

Because as you can see, I have confidence in me!


I am a fucking genius, thought Jaime as he arrived at Un meilleur restaurant, briefcase in hand. An absolute genius.

Putting his plan into action, Jaime went to talk to the maître d'. Luckily for him, she was a young woman with dark hair whose eyes went big the second she saw him. "Hi, my name is Jaime Lannister and my Aunt Genna is head chef here. Could I possibly go and have a chat with her before I take my seat?"

"Sure," the woman mumbled, clearly a bit overawed. Jaime had never quite understood that reaction he got from most women and some men; he was as nervous and unsure inside as the next person, so why did people look at him like he was terrifying?"

"Thank you," was all he could think of saying, as the maître d' led him through to the kitchen. Unsurprisingly, he heard his Aunt Genna before he saw her.

"No, not good enough," she was snapping at her sous chef. "There's so much oil on this the US wants to invade. Do it again." When Jaime turned the corner, Aunt Genna was looking a little crossly at the sous chef, who was running away from her very fast. Her expression changed the instant she saw her nephew. "Jaime, love! What are you doing here?"

"Hi Aunt Genna," he smiled, pecking her on the cheek. "I am here for dinner."

Aunt Genna raised both of her perfectly sculpted eyebrows at him. "Oooh. Are you here with a lady friend? Or a gentleman friend? I don't have any issues either way..."

"I'm here with a lady friend," he answered, before rapidly changing his mind. "Actually, she's not a lady friend. She's just a friend... no, she's not really a friend, she's just a lady... a lady employee of mine... who might be a friend one day... and maybe a lady friend... if... if... I remember how to not be rude."

Aunt Genna let out a snort of laughter and patted him on the back. "Someone as handsome as you can get away with being rude if you smile prettily. Just show her your dimples; she'll be putty in your hand."

"Dimples," nodded Jaime, taking her advice. "Okay. I've got it."

"Great," laughed Genna, clearly enjoying his nervousness. "Do you want me to send a bottle of house red to your table as a compliment from the chef?"

"Yes please."

I'm going to need all the help from alcohol I can get.

 After his agreement, Genna gave him another smile. "I'm really sorry, but I do have to get back to work unless there's anything else I..."

"Oh, yeah," replied Jaime, holding up his briefcase. "Is there anywhere I can put this? Possibly some place that has a mirror? It's just got some stuff I need in case... in case it all goes horribly wrong."

Aunt Genna shook her head affectionately, bemused at his antics. "Of course. There's a little office you can use. Come with me."


Breathe, Brienne told herself as she approached the entrance to Un meilleur restaurant. It's important to breathe... that's what my mindfulness app told me anyway.

I know this restaurant is ludicrously posh and out of your price range, but you're here with him so you might have a good time.

... If you don't die of shock halfway through the evening.

Once she was inside the restaurant, a cloakroom attendant took her coat and then led her to the maître d', a dark haired woman who gave her a snotty expression. "Excuse me," said Brienne a little timidly. "I believe I have a..."

Date waiting for me at a table?

"I believe I have a ... man-person waiting for me at a table."

The woman looked at her a little sceptically before asking, "what name is the table reserved under?"

"Err... Jaime Lannister I think."

Her eyes went very wide at that. "You are here with the hot blond? You?"

Brienne deflated like a balloon. Of course it was impossible for this woman to believe that she was here with Jaime, of course. Seeing it as a reminder of how she should not be construing her dinner with Jaime as a date under any circumstances, Brienne tried to rationalise it. "Yes although... it's nothing like that. He's just my boss, I'm just an employee. We're just... hanging."

The maître d' looked ameliorated at that statement. "Oh, that makes more sense. Now, if you would like to follow me, I'll take you to the table."

I need to go home, thought Brienne, panic overwhelming her. Nobody would believe that Jaime and I are here romantically... why would he ever want me?


I've got it bad, thought Jaime, as he watched Brienne follow the maître d' across the restaurant towards their table. She was wearing the most beautiful blue dress, patterned with suns and starbursts, and it made her look so strong and solid that Jaime felt his mouth go a bit dry. He had been staring at her so long that by the time she took the seat opposite him, Jaime had forgotten how words worked. Gazing at him with those stupid sapphires of hers, Brienne had fallen silent too, and he momentarily wondered if she would think it rude if they just looked at each other all evening. However, the maître d' interrupted.

"My name is Pia, and I will be your host for this evening. I will return shortly with the drinks menu for you."

After flicking her eyes between the pair of them, Pia then turned around and made her way back across the restaurant, leaving them perfectly alone together. If Jaime felt sick before, now he was under the burning heat of her blue eyes he was totally lost.

Oh god... Oh god... Oh god. Oh god. Ohgodohgodohogod...


Say something! Brienne's brain shouted at her.

Just say something! You might look hideous, but maybe you would be able to charm him with your personality! SAY SOMETHING GODDAMN YOU!


Fuck, speak, Jaime. Stop staring. Speak! What are you doing you utter weirdo?

YOU'RE BEING RUDE THAT'S WHAT YOU ARE DOING!

It's alright for her to stay silent because she knows I'm happy just to drown in her eyes, but YOU HAVE TO SPEAK.


An age passed. Two ages. A meteorite fell and wiped out all the dinosaurs, the Ancient Egyptian civilisation that lasted five thousand years rose and fell, and Neil Armstrong took one small leap for man and one giant leap for mankind, and Brienne still had not found the words to say to Jaime.

And seemingly, neither had he.


Oh god, thought Jaime suddenly. I'm sweating, I've got sweat patches. Oh god! Oh god!

The disaster of his own making eventually provided him with his opening line.

"I'm sweating, I'll be back in a minute."


"Has he done a runner?" asked Pia, when she came back a moment later with the drink’s menu and a bottle of wine.

"No," replied Brienne, a little tersely, "he's just gone to the..."

Actually, she had no idea where he had gone, so Pia just looked at her like she was a mad woman.


What did I tell you? Jaime thought to himself. You're a genius, an utter genius.

Having got an identical dark grey shirt free of sweat patches from his briefcase in Aunt Genna's office, he switched it for his saturated one and put his maroon jacket back on top.

Perfect, he thought. She won't be able to resist this once you learn how to GODDAMN SPEAK.

When he felt suited and booted once more, Jaime left Aunt Genna's office and made his way across the restaurant, he was relieved to see that Pia had come back with the menu and the wine. The second Brienne saw him, she smiled. "Perhaps Mr Lannister should taste the wine," Brienne was saying to Pia, "because I never feel particularly comfortable doing it."

Jaime felt a tidal wave of relief wash over him; she was finally giving him the opportunity to play Superman.

It was just a shame he knew shit about wine.


Wow, Brienne thought as she watched Jaime swirl the wine around, testing its taste and fragrance. He knows so much about wine; he's so sophisticated, so handsome, so self-assured. God, Pia's surprise was only natural. Why on earth is here with me?


Keep swirling it around, Jaime told himself madly. And then maybe she'll think you know something about wine.

"Mmm," he nodded, pretending to taste some beautiful undertone when he took a sip.

"What do you think?" asked Pia.

With Pia's judgemental eyes on him as he was pretending to know the difference between wine and Ribena, Jaime felt himself start to sweat once more. "It tastes... very red."

Pia narrowed her eyes at him. "That's very astute of you, Mr Lannister. Will this suit?"

"Yes please, as long as my we... Brienne is happy with that?"

His wench blushed when he looked at her. "Yes, that's... fine with me... if that's alright with... the restaurant."

"Of course," smiled Pia. "Compliments of the chef."

Thank god for Aunt Genna, Jaime thought. She'd do a better job at chatting up my wench than I ever could.

Taking a moment's break from the wench's irradiating eyes to watch Pia get some wine glasses, Jaime was horrified to discover they were no bigger than contact lenses. Feeling a horrible dread that he might have to spend the rest of the evening chugging wine out of tiny glasses like a total moron, Jaime asked, "do you have bigger glasses?"

Pia shook her head. "No. We pride ourselves on high quality minimalist dining here. This is the biggest we do."

"Oh," replied Jaime, getting the sweats once more. "Oh okay..."

To his surprise, Brienne then piped up. "Unless you just want to give us two bottles of wine?"

Is she implying we drink straight out of the bottle? thought Jaime, his mouth dropping open. Is she actually the woman of my dreams?


Oh god, why did you say that? He's now going to think you are an unsophisticated Neanderthal.

 However, Jaime then looked up at Pia and smiled at her. "Yes. Two bottles sound good. We need all the wine."

"All the wine," agreed Brienne, trying to hide her relief.

All the goddamn wine.


Once Pia came back with a second bottle, Jaime and Brienne uncorked their wine together and both drank directly from the source, like they were teenage binge-drinkers in the park on a Friday night.

Please work, Compliments of the Chef Wine,  Jaime thought desperately. Please help me make this less awkward.


Dear Jesus, God, or any other sky deities that may be listening, please take pity on me and help me charm my boss, prayed Brienne as she joined Jaime in swigging down her wine like she was an eighteenth century pirate on the rum.

Oh no, she suddenly thought. I've drunk too much wine. I'll need to piss in a minute.


With the wine, came more sweat patches, so once he had downed half the bottle, Jaime slammed it down on the table and gave Brienne what he hoped was a charming smile. "Err... I'll be back in a minute."

Her blue eyes went very wide. "Where are you going?"

Scrambling around for the right words, he eventually settled on "fashion emergency", before running as quickly as he could to change his shirt. Trying to ignore her slightly disappointed look, he dashed to Aunt Genna's office, grabbing his briefcase and wrenching it open. Just as he did so, all the lights went out, meaning he couldn't see anything further than his own nose.

Damnit! he thought. Can I not just catch a break tonight?

Even with the lights out, he knew he couldn't continue to sit in front of Brienne covered in sweat patches, so he grabbed his third grey shirt of the evening. Shoving it on as quick as he could, he stored his briefcase safely away before running to the door, just as the lights came back on.


Good, he's gone, thought Brienne, reaching down for her clutch bag to grab her flashcards. It will give me time to work out what to say to him.

Just as she managed to get her hands on them, all the lights in the restaurant went out. There were some squawks of surprise and a little bit of outrage, but Brienne just found herself hoping that Jaime would find his way back.

"Calm down everyone!" came Pia's voice. "We are just checking the fuse box. I am sure the lights will be back on in a moment."

She was right, but it meant that Brienne had no time to look at them properly before Jaime came back into her line of sight, grinning wildly at her. When he sat down, he took another swig out of his bottle of wine, but Brienne found herself abandoning her flashcards in favour of asking him a quite pressing question.

"Jaime?"

"Yeah?"

"Have you been wearing a frilly shirt all evening?"


The second she said it, Jaime looked down at his shirt in dread and realised that he must have packed the absolutely hideous frilly grey shirt his Uncle Kevan had got him for Christmas several years ago, because it reminded him of his youth in the seventies.

Oh god, you idiot, he groaned inwardly. This is much worse than sweat patches.

Trying to cover his embarrassment, Jaime smirked, "yeah, of course I have, woman, or are your eyes only stupidly blue because you've got fucking cataracts."

Oh fuck, don't say that...


Brienne's stomach nearly dropped through the floor when Jaime insulted her eyes, which was unfortunate because that meant it bumped into her bladder which was already ludicrously full.

I thought my eyes were my one good feature, she thought sadly, but perhaps not...

Wanting to save the situation, Brienne looked down at her flashcards and read the first question out. "What's the most amazing place you've ever visited on holiday?"

Jaime stiffened slightly. "I've not been on holiday for five years."

Brienne was surprised at that admission. "What? Not even for a weekend away?"

"No," he replied firmly. "Ever since I... split with my family I've had to live off my own means, and I pour most of my money into the company so that means no holiday for me."

"That's a shame," she said. Even though he had just insulted her, part of Brienne wanted to say they should go away to some boring country hotel for the weekend, just for some time away, but she found she couldn't get the words out as Jaime asked her a question.

"What's the most amazing place you've ever visited on holiday?"

It was an easy answer. "I went to the Vatican when I went to Rome with my dad; it was beautiful, I've never seen anything like it."

"Was it the Sistine Chapel you liked?" asked Jaime, taking another gulp of his wine.

Even though Brienne desperately needed to go to the toilet, it was the first time since she had arrived at the restaurant that she found herself talking to Jaime, so she decided to stay. "I liked the Sistine Chapel, but it was too crowded to enjoy properly. In fact, my favourite place was the Borgia Apartments."

"Oh?" replied Jaime, sounding genuinely intrigued. "What are they?"

"They were the rooms built for Pope Alexander VI and his family in the Vatican."

Jaime looked a little confused. "His family? Surely the Pope isn't allowed a family."

"You're quite right," agreed Brienne with a smile, "but Alexander and his children were quite scandalous."

Leaning forward, Jaime fixed her with a pretty grin held up by a pair of dimples. "Oh, why is that?"

"Because all four of Alexander's illegitimate children were born while he was a Cardinal, which was expressly forbidden at the time, and two of his children, Cesare and Lucrezia, were amongst the greatest monsters of their age!"

Jaime tilted his head in interest. "What is it that they were said to have done?"

"Well, Cesare probably murdered his own brother, a brother-in-law, and was the model for Machiavelli's prince, while Lucrezia was said to have a ring that contained a vial of poison that she used against her political enemies."

"Oh," said Jaime raising his eyebrow at the hint of a scandal. "They sound right villains."

"But that's not the worst of it," grinned Brienne, elated that she had drawn him into something approaching a normal conversation, "because it was said that Cesare and Lucrezia conducted an incestuous love affair for over half their lives and it even produced a son, Giovanni. Can you imagine anything quite so dark as sleeping with your own sibling?"

Jaime suddenly went so pale that Brienne thought he was going to faint.

"Jaime... are you feeling alright?"

"YesIcanimagineit," he said, ignoring her question as his words came out in a rush.

"BecauseIwasinanincestuousrelationshipwithmyowntwinsisterforovertwentyyearsandIonlyendeditfiveyearsagoafterIlostmyhandandrealisedshedidnotreallylovemeandthatIcoulddobettersothatiswhyIamonlyincontactwithmyAuntGennaofallmyrelativesbecauseCerseihasturnedthemallagainstmeandsoIlostmyentirefamilybecauseofitsoyesIcanimaginewhatCesareBorgiafelt."

Oh.


Her eyes were so wide and bright that Jaime thought they had swallowed all the light in the room.

Why the hell did you say that? he thought desperately, even though he knew the answer. He wanted her to know something real about him, even if it was that and even if he hadn't intended to tell her quite so soon.

Come, curse me, or kiss me, or call me a liar, wench. Something.

Unfortunately, her answer was not so intense. "I need to go to the toilet," Brienne said, picking up her clutch bag and marching away across the room. Watching her walk away, Jaime's heart sank.

She hates me, he thought, hates and despises me as a sister-fucker. It's only right. I can't have good things.

Not wanting to pollute anymore of her evening, Jaime got to his feet and ran, not even bothering to pick up his briefcase from Aunt Genna's office. Skidding outside, he broke into a sprint, the cold night air hitting the back of his throat as he pelted away from her. Even though it was starting to rain, Jaime thought there would be nothing worse than going back to the restaurant. He did not think he could cope with Brienne returning and looking at him with those condemning blue eyes of hers. She would call him a sister-fucker, like Cesare Borgia, and it would be nothing but the truth.

Although I broke up with my Lucrezia, he thought, I'll never be free of her.

So I can never have Brienne's affection, respect or... one day... her love.


Wanting to give him a moment to allow the awkwardness to disperse, Brienne had decided to go to the toilet just after Jaime's admission so, by the time she came back, he would perhaps feel more comfortable about discussing that part of his life.

I needed the toilet anyway, she told herself.

Or perhaps that was not what she wanted. With the clear mind afforded by an empty bladder, she returned to the table and realised she wanted to distract him from what was obviously a dark part of his life. It was a first date, who wanted to talk about the most painful parts of their past? Furthermore, Brienne did not even know how she felt about his admission, so she did not want to react the wrong way and upset him. Consequently, she tried to come up with other conversation ideas. Flicking through her flashcards, she still found she had football, what was on his bucket list, and extreme sports, and, in his absence, even added a few more to the list.

"Do you want the main menu?" asked Pia when she reappeared ten minutes later. "Or shall I wait until your date comes back, so I can tell you both the specials?"

Brienne nodded, even though she found herself blushing at the use of the word date. "Yes, if you wouldn't mind, could you please wait for Jaime."

When Pia came back five minutes later, Brienne told her Jaime would be back soon... she promised.

Ten minutes after that, she started to get worried.

A full half an hour later, Brienne concluded he must have gone.

Chapter Text

IdiotsinLove

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"So..." said Jon slowly, pinning the facts down. "Let me get this straight; when I set you my small task, which was to spend a little time with Brienne, you decided to go large and take her to a fancy haute cuisine restaurant, where you changed you shirt three times, chugged half a bottle of wine, and then ran away after you accidentally compared yourself to Cesare Borgia?"

"Something like that," replied Jaime, his face pressed into his hands. "It was a complete and utter disaster. She's never going to speak to me again."

And it's all my fault, he added in his head.

"Well, she'll have to," said Jon, his tone measured. "You are her boss after all."

"Yes, but she could just... I don't know... spend all day out selling chocolate or even resign. I wouldn't blame her. I don't know how long she must have waited for me..." And Jaime didn't want to think about how long Brienne must have waited for him, because then the magnitude of his general dickheadedness would hit him like a freight train.

"She could," conceded Jon, "and I think it would be totally legitimate for her to not want to spend any more time with you if she was so inclined."

"It would be," Jaime agreed, even though the thought made him very sad.

"However, you could always try apologising again come Monday," suggested Jon levelly, "it might work?"

"It won't," insisted Jaime. "She's right to hate me. I am a sister-fucker. It would be weird if she wasn't completely disgusted by that."

"You were a sister-fucker," said Jon gently. "Lots of people have baggage in their past; you perhaps just have a little bit more than most. Telling Brienne about Cersei seems to indicate on some level that you wanted her to know... why do you think that is?"

Jaime considered Jon's question for a moment, before he came up with a reason that was nearest to the real answer he could find. "So she would have a chance to reject me, just like I deserve."

Jon's grey eyes suddenly seemed very bright. "But what happens if she doesn't reject you, Jaime? What do you think that means?"

Jaime opened and closed his mouth a couple of times, trying to search for a response Jon might like. "I... she... you... err... does it mean she's insane?"

Jon let out a bark of laughter. "No, it doesn't mean she's insane. Perhaps it just means she is willing to hear your side of the story or wants to give you a chance or... maybe she doesn't think you are quite as bad as you think you are."

Biting his lip, Jaime attempted to prevent the lump rising in his throat. "She wouldn't think that. How could she? I told her I fucked my sister and then ran out on her. Surely, she must think I'm awful?"

Jon shrugged. "You never know until you ask. Why don't you try and apologise on Monday?"

Oh no, thought Jaime, deflating entirely. Not another apology. I'm terrible at those.


As he spent the whole of Sunday in an anxious, contorted mess in anticipation of seeing Brienne, Jaime was actually quite relieved when Monday did roll around. Making sure he was in his smartest hipster suit, Jaime calmed himself by spritzing himself with cologne and brushing his teeth seven times.

You can do this, he told himself. It's quite simple. Just say "I am sorry, Brienne".

To his relief and disappointment (he couldn't decide which), when Jaime arrived at Red & Gold Chocolates, he discovered that Brienne had not arrived. Not wanting to be alone with his worries in his office, he went and stood by the printer on the factory floor and tried to look like he was casually changing the ink cartridges. Luckily for him, his employees were all discussing some crappy fantasy show that he didn't watch that apparently had an even crappier final season.

"I mean, I liked the acting and everything, but why did they waste a whole hour on a Whole New World sequence with the dragons, for everyone just to get split personalities in the last three episodes?" asked Sansa gruffly as she whisked a bowl of cream.

"Tell me about it," laughed Bronn. "And what the fuck was that stupid shit with the sellsword and the crossbow? None of it made sense."

"Well, they killed my favourite character seasons ago when they blew up the temple," added Margaery, "so I gave up with it all years ago."

"At least you guys aren't avid book readers," grumbled Addam. "You don't fully appreciate how stupid it all was until you realise the number of important smaller characters they cut out for the sake of it being easier to understand for non-fantasy fans like soccer mums and NFL players."

When Sansa started squawking that labelling soccer mums non-fantasy fans was sexist and stupid - "you know we owe the entire science fiction genre to Mary Shelley, right?" - the four of them then started bickering about who exactly the target audience of Puzzle of Chairs was and if, therefore, the writers had been trying to big up the fan-service or just subvert expectations. Jaime did not really care, though, and his mind just went back to Brienne.

She's half an hour late for work, he thought worriedly. She's never this late, and she hasn't contacted me to tell her she's sick, so...

Maybe she just doesn't want to face me.

Maybe she's quit.

Oh my god she's quit.

She's quit and I'm never going to see her again and it's all my fault and I'm never going to be able to apologise to her and oh my god I'm such a shit person, why am I even here?

"Everyone," Jaime shouted suddenly, cutting across Sansa's soliloquy on how making all the female characters in Puzzle of Chairs emotionless badass bitches was just as sexist as making them all crying wimps, "I have an announcement to make."

His four employees looked at him curiously, not putting down their bowls and whisks. "What is it?" asked Bronn. "Do you have an opinion on Puzzle of Chairs?"

"No," said Jaime firmly, "I've got to make an announcement about my wen... Brienne."

Sansa and Margaery looked confused at each other. "Is she okay?" inquired the latter.

Not wanting to answer that question, Jaime said, "I'm sorry to say that Miss Tarth has resigned from the company. Although she was a great colleague and employee, she probably thinks it's best if..."

"Sorry I am late!" came a chirpy voice from the doorway. "The buses were all over the place this morning."

Snapping his head around, Jaime found himself looking at Brienne, whose cheeks seemed to be glowing from the exertion from dashing to work. Shucking her coat off, she hung it on a peg, before marching over to Sansa and asking about the location of the samples box.

Sansa stared at her like she was a ghost. "It's next to the paper stack, but I thought that Jaime said..."

Cutting across her, Jaime gave Brienne what he hoped was a regretful smile. "Brienne... you're here! I wasn't expecting..."

She shrugged her shoulders, before going to get the samples box. "Well, I've got chocolates to sell for you, haven't I?" And then she looked him straight in the eye and Jaime had to stop himself falling over. "Red & Gold Chocolates needs to stick it to Lannisters, doesn't it? Especially when your father and sister have been so shitty to you."

There was almost a smile on her face at that declaration and it made Jaime want to cry.

How can you be so good, wench? he thought. How are you so kind? So brave? When I have been so terrible to you?

"Yes, I suppose we do," he said levelly, dropping eye contact because he knew he didn't deserve her smiling at him like that.

After a few moments of silence, Brienne took a few steps forward, so much so that he could see her feet in his peripheral vision. "I'll try my best," she said gently, which made him look up.

"Your best is all I can ask for."

Her smile was so genuinely grateful that Jaime thought she looked like an angel.

"Thank you," she said, moving forward once more. "I'd better get going now... Mrs Tyrell will be waiting."

"Of course," Jaime responded. "Although I would appreciate it if you dropped into my office later to discuss... err... sales."

Brienne nodded. "Okay. I would like that."

"Alright, I will see you then."

After giving him one more smile, Brienne went and picked up her coat, before exiting the factory floor to go and promote Red & Gold Chocolates in the real world. Having watched her go, Jaime could not help but stare at the door through which she had just passed, as if there remained some sort of imprint of her on it. He was staring so long that he was only pulled back to reality when Bronn shouted at him.

"Jaime, for the last time stop staring at the door and tell us what's going on!"

Turning back to face him, Jaime discovered he was met by four very intrigued looking faces. Suddenly feeling very exposed, he snapped, "nothing is going on. Can you please just go back to making chocolate instead of talking about Chairs of Puzzles or whatever it's called. I've got work to do!"


In actual fact, Jaime just spent the rest of the day in his office pretending to do work on his computer, when he was actually writing a big long list on ideas how to best apologise to Brienne.

Wench, I'm sorry I ran out on you. A meteorite hit my house.

Wench, I apologise most profusely. I'm a reprobate sister-fucker, what can I say?

Brienne, why are you being so kind to me? I'm confused.

However, none of it proved any use when there was a knock on the door at half past four. Going to open the door, Jaime's heart did some sort of samba in his chest when he discovered it was Brienne. She just smiled.

"Ah, Miss Tarth, come in," he said, stepping back to allow her entry into the office. As he closed the door behind her, Brienne went and put the samples box on his desk, before he crossed the room once more to stand next to her. When she looked up at him, her blue eyes were shining.

"So," she began, obviously working out the best thing to say. "I went to Mrs Tyrell's tea shop today and..."

"I don't want to talk about sales," he said quickly, cutting across her.

"Really?" she replied with surprise, her blue eyes so big and wide Jaime thought it might be possible for him to swim in them. "What do you want to talk about then?"

"Friday night," he said firmly, which made her start blinking rapidly.

"Oh?" she responded, her voice tiny, small, and defeated sounding. "I'm sorry if I was a disappointment, it's just I..."

Furrowing his brow, he stepped forward in an attempt to be close and reassuring. "You weren't a disappointment, Brienne. You were anything but..."

Confusion clouding her beautiful eyes, Brienne looked at him quite intently. "Why did you leave then?"

"I... I... I..." he began, running his hand through his hair in his nervousness.

Because I told you about Cersei, and you are now disgusted with me, and I don't know if I can cope with that.

"I told you about my sister and my family..." he said eventually, taking careful steps not to expose the extent of his sadness or his guilt. "I've never really told anyone about them, not in the normal run of my life anyway, and it would only be natural if... if..."

"What?" she asked, as if she genuinely didn't know what he was trying to say.

Swallowing, Jaime gave her his answer. "It would only be natural if you were disgusted by it."

Disgusted by me...

Brienne's eyes went wide with surprise. "Why would I be disgusted? You said you ended it five years ago and you lost your entire family for it. I know it must be difficult for you to talk about, and I don't want to intrude where I'm not wanted, but all I thought was that it sounded a terrible thing to go through. And, anyway, who am I to judge you?"

Lost in her eyes, Jaime felt as if she had stripped him bare and was just inspecting him totally naked, yet it wasn't uncomfortable or awkward. Just safe. Just close. It seemed so incongruous in light of what he had done that his apology came out in a splutter. "I am so sorry for treating you the way I did. I just didn't want to sully the rest of your evening with my presence."

At that statement, Brienne went very red and looked down at the floor. "It wouldn't have sullied anything; in fact, I had more questions to ask you about football and extreme sports but... perhaps some other time."

Even though he knew that was her giving him a polite brush off, her saying sweetly that she was thankful for his apology but she never wished to go to dinner with him again, Jaime couldn't help but feel intensely grateful to his wench; for her kindness, her sincerity, and her total lack of judgement. It made him smile. "Some other time."

Nodding, Brienne looked at him briefly before pulling her coat tightly around her. "Well, I suppose I will see you tomorrow."

"Yes," he agreed. "Hopefully the buses won't give you such a problem in the morning."

"With any luck," she grinned.

With the promise of hope hanging in the air, Brienne gave him one more smile before turning away from him, and, not having to look her in the eye, it made it slightly easier for Jaime to speak. "Once again, I really am sorry."

For some reason, at that declaration, Brienne stalled by the door, her left foot not even entirely on the floor. Then, with the grace of a small elephant, she turned around and faced him, locking his green eyes with her blue.

"Jaime?"

"Yes?"

"ThelasttimeyouapologisedtomeyoukissedmeIwaswonderingifitwascompanypolicyorwhetheritwasjustsomethingyoudotoeveryonewhoyouapologiseto."

Jaime gulped before finding the words.

"NoitsnotcompanypolicyorsomethingIdotoeveryoneitwasjustsomethingwedid."

Brienne nodded, as if she was considering her options.

"Ifitupsetyou..." he began.

"IfyouwanttoapologisetomeinthesamewayagainIwouldnotobject."

Oh.

"IcoulddothatifitwouldenableyoutoforgivemeforwhatIdid."

"Okay," she replied, blushing.

"Okay," he said, because he couldn't think of anything else.

Jaime then went to make a step towards her, but Brienne had decided the better plan was to take a run up like a long jumper and, before he really knew what was happening, she had slammed him into the wall and was kissing him furiously, all inexperience, enthusiasm, and tongue. It was enough to make Jaime melt.

Oh, he thought as he wrapped his arms around her waist. It's so much easier to communicate like this.

Like last time, Brienne's hands jumped to his hair, but Jaime was a little more daring and started running his hand all over her, trying to feel more of this adorable giantess that somehow knew about his relationship with his sister yet still wanted him to kiss her. As he ran his tongue experimentally against hers, Brienne let out a little moan and Jaime heard himself responding with a growl before he really knew what was going on.

Then things got totally out of control. Running his hand down her back, he ventured further and squeezed her arse, which made her arch her back and push her chest right into his, so he could feel her breasts through her shirt. Not being able to resist it, Jaime then continued his journey down to the back of her thigh.  Catching it with his hand, he pulled her leg up so that it was scooped around his hip. From there, his body just took over. As he began rocking his hips against hers, Brienne answered by rubbing herself against him in such a way that only one thought crossed Jaime's mind.

Fuck, I'm hard.

Trying to work out what to do about it and wondering whether it would be possible to convince Brienne to enact his fantasy of her taking him on the desk, Jaime was so enraptured with her that it took him a moment to react when they were inevitably interrupted.

"Jaime," came Sansa's voice as she burst into the office. "We've just got a message from... oh."

Brienne jumped off him so quickly it was as if he had burnt her. "Right, Mr Lannister, I'll see you tomorrow," she blurted, going so red Jaime thought she might spontaneously combust.

"Yes, thanks for your update on the sales, Miss Tarth" he said, not quite looking at her. "It was very pleasant."

She gave him a little smile. "It was very pleasant to give it to you. See you tomorrow."

Jaime went to say see you tomorrow to her to, but his brain was so overcome with images of her giving it to him, he just managed to say, "pffft."

After one polite, professional nod totally at odds with her flushed cheeks and swollen lips, Brienne turned on her heel and marched out the office, keeping her eyes down so she did not have to look at Sansa. Once she had gone, Sansa, always keen on a bit of gossip, turned to Jaime instead, her eyes wide.

"What...? How...?... Huh?"

Crossing the room to sit down in his chair (mostly to hide his raging boner), Jaime gave her a stern look. "Don't you have some chocolate to be making or something, Miss Stark?"

She stared at him confusedly. "It's the end of the day."

"Well..." continued Jaime, trying to think of anything he could say to make her go away. "Can you go and tidy up or something, please?"

"But..."

"Please," he said forcefully, which finally convinced Sansa to follow Brienne out of the office. Once she was gone, Jaime took his opportunity and ran across the room, locked the door and closed the blinds, before returning to his chair.

Now, he thought, looking around. Where is my box of tissues?

Chapter Text

IdiotsinLove

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The next day at work, it started; the whispers.

As Brienne walked through the front door of Red & Gold Chocolates, she could hear Sansa, Margaery, Addam, and Bronn all talking as they set up for the day, their voices low. She wondered whether they were talking about Puzzle of Chairs again - she knew that Sansa had a rather active presence on the internet slating it, after all - but then she realised it couldn't be that the second she walked onto the factory floor, as they all just immediately stopped talking.

Oh god, thought Brienne nervously. They're talking about me.

"Good morning," she said stiffly, trying to break the tension.

"Good morning," they replied in union. Stilted, awkward, guilty.

This is not like school, she told herself. Whatever they've got to say about me, it won't be like Connington or those rude boys who made bets. We're all adults now, they're not making fun...

Bronn grinned at Addam.

They are making fun of me, oh god! Maybe it's the way I walk, or my ugly hair, or that I'm too tall. But they're all making fun of me, I know it! I know it! Oh crap... should I resign, should I? I am already terrible at sales, maybe I should just quit.

But then I wouldn't see Jaime anymore...

Desperately trying to keep her head help high, Brienne started looking around for the samples box, so she could get out and away as quickly as possible. However, it was not in any of the normal places, and she started to panic.

"Has anyone seen the samples box?" she asked, her voice quavering.

Sansa appeared at her shoulder. "Is it not by the paper stack? Oh... perhaps you put it somewhere yesterday when you came back? Think about it and try and retrace your steps."

Its location came to her in a heartbeat.

I left it on Jaime's desk last night, she thought, her heartbeat quickening. Just before we kissed... and I didn't pick it up after Sansa came in...

"I don't know," said Brienne, lying outrageously.

"Well," purred Bronn, fixing her with a mocking look. "Did you go anywhere in particular yesterday? Perhaps into a certain blond chocolate factory owner's office?"

At Bronn's snide comment, it suddenly got very, very hot. Feeling as if she were full of molten lava, Brienne was on the precipice of erupting with embarrassment when Bronn and Addam started grinning at her knowingly. Even though Margaery gave the former an admonishing nudge, Brienne was already entirely lost to panic.

Oh my god they all know Jaime and I kissed, Sansa must have told them... and they're going to make fun of me for it, because... just like Connington and the rose... no one in a million years would want me, and especially not Jaime. And they're laughing at me because they think I want Jaime, and they know he doesn't want me.

She tried to slap some sense into herself.

I don't want, Jaime. I don't. Why would an ugly woman like me ever want someone like Jaime? I know it's hopeless... hopeless...

Jaime must be using me for kissing practice or something; he would never really like me that way. Bronn and Addam know him much better than me, and they're laughing at me for thinking that he might ever want me... so he must hate me. I must disgust him.

Oh god, I've made such a fool of myself.

Right at that moment, while Brienne was still burning with embarrassment, the door of the factory floor flew open and Jaime came marching in, his green eyes shining brightly. He was wearing jeans and a jacket over a jumper, making him look wonderfully adorkable in every way. At the sight of him, Brienne's heart did a weird flip, but that was immediately followed by her stomach lurching horribly when she realised that he was holding the samples box in his hand.

Oh god, he's just advertising what happened!

Feeling her colleagues looking at each other behind her, Brienne set her gaze determinedly on the little patch of wall just beyond Jaime's left shoulder. She hoped that would make him (and everyone else) think she was being respectful, and not lustful or desperate, which was what she feared they thought of her. However, there was something about the scene that didn't make sense because, for some reason unbeknownst to Brienne, Jaime was smiling at her like he was happy to see her.

"Good morning, Brienne," he said, his cheeks flushing.

At Jaime's polite greeting, Ron Connington's face flashed into her mind, snarling and mocking. He held out a rose - delicate and beautiful, everything Brienne wasn't - before dropping it on the floor before her.

That's all you'll ever get from me.

Suddenly, Brienne was back in front of Jaime, his green eyes on her as he held out the sales box. Knowing he had just greeted her, Brienne went to reply to him - she really did - but then she realised Sansa, Margaery, Addam, and Bronn were watching her, all seemingly aware of what had happened between her and Jaime.

They're laughing at me. And so is Jaime with his stupidly handsome smile. They're all in on this joke together. 

 A sting of anger and hurt hit her, acutely as it had when Ron Connington had been so horrible to her back at school, and it made her see red. Storming towards Jaime, she fixed him with a firm look.

"Give that here," she said fiercely, before snatching the samples box from his hand and then making to barge past him. In an instant, his smile faltered, but she told herself she didn't care why. Was it because he was confused? Or because his malicious joke had failed? Not wanting to know the answer, she dashed away out of the room and free of the entire factory, choosing to ignore him in favour of going to sell his bloody chocolates to the ungrateful shop owners of London.


The next month was torturous, mainly due to the torrid crescendo of gossip Brienne could sense behind closed doors. The whispering did not stop, and it only got worse when she realised Jaime was in on it too. One day, she had come back from a busy day selling chocolate, when she caught Margaery and Jaime talking, their heads close together. They shut up the instant Brienne rounded to corner. To hide her hurt, Brienne threw herself into her work, making sure her days were filled with dragging the samples box around London in search of anyone who would give Red & Gold Chocolates a chance. However, to her disappointment, she was just met by an almost universal wall of hostility.

"Oh, they're so old-fashioned. My customers are far too trendy for chocolate like that!"

"They're the Lannister Chocolate rip-offs, aren't they?"

"Red & Gold? I thought they went out of business years ago."

For that reason, Brienne was immensely glad that Jaime never called her into his office to talk about the sales again, as she would have nothing to say to him. She might be lucky in flogging a few dozen units here or there during the week, but Red & Gold's only regular customer was Olenna Tyrell, and Brienne wondered how much longer that would last. She knew Olenna only kept ordering from Red & Gold for Margaery's sake and would inevitably one day cut the cord. When that happened, Brienne did not know what she would tell Jaime; she could almost see his disheartened face now. The imagined sight hurt her deeply because, even though he was laughing at her and gossiping behind her back, she still wanted to make him proud.

On the other hand, Brienne was also immensely disappointed that Jaime never called her into his office to talk about the sales again, because the last time he did that, there had been very little talking involved at all. After a brief inquiry on her part, Jaime had allowed her to pin him against the wall and kiss him for all she was worth, but it had inevitably been spoiled by Sansa barging in.

And now he's laughing at me.

Or is he?

I don't know.

He's not really speaking to me... maybe he's embarrassed of me.

Or maybe he's scared?

No, he can't be scared. He's far too good looking for that.

In spite of the fact she suspected Jaime was laughing at her, Brienne still wanted to kiss him again, she really did, but he hadn't done anything bad that he needed to apologise for, so they really didn't have an excuse.

And it's not like he would want to kiss me without the need to apologise, she thought. He's so handsome and nice that he must have attractive women throwing themselves all over him. I bet he's off kissing them instead.

I know Sansa has a boyfriend, but maybe he's kissing Margaery. She's much prettier than me, and always goes into his office to give him updates on the chocolate making.

Or maybe they're in there kissing. Kissing and gossiping. That sounds about right.

Ever since Brienne had snatched the samples box off him, Jaime had not really said more than two words to her and relied on the others to deliver important news to her. As he always kept his office blinds shut, his door locked, and never invited her in, Brienne briefly considered doing something bad so she would have to apologise to him, but then she realised that could just result in him firing her, so she quickly decided against that plan. The shattered silence was all so confusing that Brienne didn't really know what to do about it. She thought about discussing it at her Romantics Anonymous group, but then an announcement was made at the next session that shook her entire conception of what she should even be mentioning in this company.

"Hello, my name is Gilly, and I am romantically challenged."

"Hello Gilly!" came the expected response.

Daenerys smiled at the quiet woman. "So Gilly, what do you want to talk about?"

As her cheeks went red, Gilly reached out for Sam who sat beside her and took his hand. "I just wanted to announce that Sam and I are now boyfriend and girlfriend!" At that announcement, everyone starting cheering and whooping, and it only quietened down when Daenerys raised her hands.

"Congratulations, you two!" she beamed. "Now, Gilly. How do you feel about it?"

"So happy," Gilly replied, giving Sam the dopiest grin in existence. "He's just so kind and listens to me in a way no one else has before. We talk about our problems, and it's just so easy to be together because we click. I can't go a day without speaking to him on the phone, and our relationship is so much more than the physical. It brings me so much joy."

While everyone else was busy congratulating Gilly and Sam, Brienne felt herself deflate. It wasn't that she was jealous, it was just that it cast her own romantic aspirations concerning her boss in a whole new light. Across the job interview, their dinner date, and the two mind-blowingly sublime kisses they had shared, they had barely communicated with actual words at all.

And that's what I suppose love is, Brienne thought. Talking, not kissing or relying on flashcards, and definitely not laughing behind one another's back.

So, when Daenerys turned to Brienne, she did not mention Jaime at all.


After that illuminating session, Brienne finally realised that what she and Jaime had was nothing approaching a romance; at least not the transcendent love Sam and Gilly shared, nor the one-night sexual spark that Shae shared with all her gentlemen callers. Instead, it was a giant misunderstanding born of Jaime's need to apologise to her.

Otherwise he would have kissed me again, or at least tried to talk to me, and he would have definitely not talked behind my back.

Jaime's reluctance to acknowledge her existence made Brienne throw herself harder into her work because, if he refused to recognise her as a woman, he would damn well notice her as a good employee. However, the roof came crashing down on that plan when Brienne made her monthly visit to Olenna Tyrell at Highgarden Tea Shop to register her order.

"I'm sorry Brienne," said Olenna gently, "you know I think both you and Margaery are marvellous, but I cannot buy anymore chocolate. I've still got a whole stack of Red & Gold out back, and none of my customers are interested."

Oh god, thought Brienne desperately, Jaime will hate me even more than he already does if I lose him our only regular customer!

"You must!" insisted Brienne. "Red & Gold Chocolates produce the most wonderful traditional chocolates that are warming to the palate and the heart."

Olenna gave her a sympathetic smile. "Look, I like Red & Gold Chocolates, but I can't keep eating them all myself. I have to think about my business here."

"But you are our last regular customer!" squawked Brienne.

"That's not my fault," said Olenna defensively. "I truly am sorry, Brienne, but I can't buy anymore. They're just not selling, you see. So, if you don't mind, I have to go and finish my accounts for the week."

As Olenna turned away from Brienne to walk into the backroom of Highgarden Tea Shop, Brienne jumped at the first thing she could think of that would make her stop and listen. "What if I told you that Red & Gold Chocolates are in the middle of designing a new range and, if you continue to order with us, Highgarden Tea Shop can be the first to have exclusive access to this new line?"

Her interest piqued, Olenna looked back at Brienne and fixed her with a business-like expression. "And what is so different about this new range?"

Brienne thought on her feet. "It's radical and bold, taking Red & Golds traditional techniques and mixing it with modern flavours."

"And how has Red & Gold managed to do that?"

The words were out of Brienne's mouth before she could stop herself. "Because we have a secret weapon."

"Which is?"

"Renly Baratheon's Hermit Chocolatier."

Oh shit.

Chapter Text

IdiotsinLove

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"Hello, my name is Brienne, and I am romantically challenged."

"Hello Brienne!" came the automatic, chorused response.

Looking around, Brienne's eyes fell on Daenerys, who was smiling at her gently. "So, Brienne, what would you like to talk about today?"

"Erm... I think I am about to lose my job."

There was a collective gasp as Daenerys looked at her concernedly. "Why do you say that?"

Brienne sighed, trying to keep her worries under control, but she found it very difficult given the eight pairs of eyes staring at her expectantly. "So, I told you that I had accidentally been hired for this sales job, didn't I?"

"Yes," said Daenerys gently. "By Jaime if I recall correctly."

"Oh yeah," interrupted Tormund. "The golden prick. You haven't shut up about him."

Even as Penny and Jeyne gave the crazy wildling a scathing look, Daenerys was already intervening. "Thank you for your interjection Tormund, but I think we want to hear Brienne speak."

As everyone turned back to look at her, Brienne tried to find the words. "I was hired by Jaime," she said hesitantly, "and that's partly why I'm worried about my job..."

"Why?" asked Daenerys.

"Because... because... he's been so good to me and I've failed him."

Daenerys furrowed her brow. "In what way?"

So she told them; about Jaime, the aborted dinner, the "apologies", and also that they had barely said a word to each other ever since she snatched the samples box off him a month ago. "I think he's laughing at me," she admitted finally. "Sansa walked in on the second apology and now everyone knows, and ever since then he's avoided me like the plague... but he hasn't been unkind, just... distant."

"Are you sure it isn't you who is being distant?" asked Daenerys, which made Brienne feel like she had hit a brick wall.

"Me... distant?"

"Yes," smiled Daenerys, almost amused by Brienne's surprise. "You. From where I am sitting, it seems that you kissed him and then were a little rude to him. He might be feeling confused and wants to give you space."

Brienne just blinked at her dumbly. "But... why doesn't he speak to me about it?"

"Why don't you speak to him about it?"

That seemed so mind-blowingly stupid that it made Brienne scoff. "Because he's..."

"What?"

The answer seemed so obvious. "He's... handsome, strong, self-assured, confident; he's got himself together," she said slowly. "He's everything I'm not..."

Daenerys gave her a careful smile. "How do you know that?"

"What?" said Brienne, parroting back Daenerys' earlier question.

"That he's self-assured and confident? Can you read his mind?"

Now Brienne was just confused. "I've seen him... with my eyes."

"And your eyes only saw his outside," declared Daenerys confidently, crossing her hands in her lap. "You have no idea if he is hurting or insecure or upset, especially if you don't talk to him. Perhaps he's very good at hiding it. You said he's gossiping about you behind your back, but also that he's been good to you. One of those is something you've experienced - his kindness - the other is something you only suspect based on how he's been behaving. Why don't you try and talk to him about what is going on? That is the only way you will understand his intentions."

Although Brienne knew that was eminently sensible suggestion, the idea of talking to Jaime was fucking terrifying; firstly, because he was handsome and good and so ridiculously out of Brienne's league it was faintly obscene and secondly...

"I can't talk to him!"

"Why?"

Brienne tried to stop herself going red, "because he's going to fire me when he finds out!"

"Finds out what?" said Daenerys concernedly.

"That I have told our only remaining regular customer that we are unveiling a totally fictitious new range!"


When Jaime got back home from work on Friday, he took off his jacket, kicked off his shoes, and then fell face first onto his sofa. It had been an okay day all things considered; Margaery had come into his office and discussed ingredients supplies, then he had spent most of the day doing accounts, but there was still a gnawing ache at the pit of his belly as he still hadn't spoken to Brienne.

For a month.

He wasn't quite sure what he had done to upset her; they had kissed, Sansa had interrupted, and then the next morning Brienne had been as cold as the north wind. Jaime had wanted to ask her what he had done wrong - and then would have offered to apologisein their own way again - but then he realised that if he did question her as to why she was no longer jumping him in his office, he would sound like a really creepy boss out to exploit his lovely, innocent employee.

A really creepy, sister-fucking boss. No wonder why she doesn't want to talk to me.

Feeling a bit sorry for himself, and not really having anyway of getting his emotions off his chest until the next day when he saw Jon, Jaime went to get himself a beer from the fridge. He had just popped the cap and sat back down when the phone rang, so he leant across to pick it up, without looking at the Caller ID.

"Hello?"

"I want you, Jaime," came a familiar, seductive voice. "Robert's gone off on holiday with one of his whores, and the kids are all at friends. Father's out of town, and I just realised that I'm all alone... and I want you. I miss you. You are my other half. Can't you feel it? Even all this time apart, we're meant to be together."

Jaime sighed. "How did you get this number?"

"Doesn't matter. I want you. We're two halves of a whole."

Once, Jaime would have found Cersei's alluring purr too much to resist, but now, after five years apart which he had spent making sure he was a whole person entirely on his own, he just found it repellent. "No we aren't, Cersei."

"Yes, we are," she insisted, the husky seductiveness of her original tone disappearing. "Father would want us to be together... running Lannister Chocolates as a pair, especially as that horrid little Imp spends his days whoring his way round London. The Paris Chocolate Convention is soon, and wouldn't it be perfect if we could show the world a united front? That we are committed to making Lannisters the most pre-eminent luxury chocolate brand in the world, even though Renly's hermit chocolatier is still out there somewhere?"

So this is why she is calling, thought Jaime bitterly. Father is worried that now Renly is dead, the mysterious hermit will up sticks and make chocolates for someone else and wants to make Lannisters an attractive option for him as a potential new employer. And he thinks having the Lannister heir as the jewel in the crown will make everything better, so Cersei has to lure me back.

I t would almost be funny if I wasn't such a fuck up.

"No, Cersei," said Jaime lazily. "I'm not coming back. I'm committed to Red & Gold."

"Which is struggling financially, I hear," she added sharply. "Why keep fighting a losing battle? Why not return to the fold, and be where you truly belong?"

Jaime let out a breath of laughter through his teeth. "Even if Red & Gold Chocolates went bankrupt tomorrow, I still wouldn't come back... not to Father, not to the family, and definitely not to you."

"Why?" she growled, using the tone she always would when she felt possessive and jealous. "Have you got someone else, some ugly bitch who will flutter her eyelashes at you and tell you how special you are? Because that's what you've always craved, Jaime, like an utter weakling; someone to tell you pretty lies. You want some stupid whore who will do that, but don't see the obvious; I am good for you because I tell you the truth."

"And what's the truth?" he asked, even though he knew what it was and that it would only hurt him.

"That you are nothing without me. That you are worthless and..."

Jaime hung up the phone, drunk a sip of his beer, and thought of his wench with blue eyes.


"A f..f..fictitious new range?" asked Pod. "What do you mean?"

Brienne sighed. "I told Olenna Tyrell that Red & Gold Chocolates was unveiling a new range made by Renly's hermit chocolate maker, despite the fact that neither Jaime or any other of his employees have any idea that I told, or indeed how to go about inventing a new range. I just made it up!"

Penny furrowed her brow. "But didn't you say that you were Renly's hermit chocolate maker? If your chocolates are that fabulous, wouldn't Jaime jump at the chance for chocolates made by you?"

Worrying her lip between her teeth, Brienne tried to find a way to explain why that was impossible. "But Jaime can't know... none of them can know."

"Why not?" asked Daenerys.

"Because..."

Because what if Jaime suddenly liked me more once he knew I was the hermit? I sometimes think he likes me just for me, and what if it ruined that?

"Because I can't stand the attention, I've told you before!" Brienne squawked. "There was a reason why Renly told everyone I was just the delivery girl; if people knew that I made those chocolates, my face would be on the cover of every edition of Chocolate Lovers in the country! No! There is no way I could tell him! I like the quiet life far too much!"

"Him?" asked Daenerys gently. "I thought it was the whole world you didn't want to know?"

Brienne tried not to blush. "Of course I don't want anyone to know, but especially not... Jaime. I couldn't stand him thinking I've lied to him."

Not when he is so very good.


When Jaime was halfway through his beer, the phone rang again.

"What do you want, Cersei?"

"Wouldn't you enjoy it if we could go to the Paris Chocolate Convention together? You and me, arm in arm, father's heirs. We would be on the front cover of every copy of Chocolate Lovers, Renly's magical hermit be damned! And then, once the day has finished, you could come back to my room and we could be what we always were to one another..."

"Which was what, exactly?" Jaime asked, thinking he knew the answer for himself - incestuous reprobates.

"Lovers. Brother and Sister. Twins. Two Halves of Whole."

Jaime rolled his eyes. "Cersei, have you been drinking?"

There was a small silence before she said, "yes, what of it?"

"You are mad," he accused her, "mad and drunk. And I wouldn't want to go to the Paris Chocolate Convention with you in a million years."

Cersei made a disgusted sound. "Why not? You'd never get there on your own; Gold & Red just makes shit chocolate."

Even though Jaime knew that Cersei was just spitting out ridiculous insults because she had nothing better to do, it still hurt. "Firstly, it's Red & Gold Chocolates, and secondly, we are planning on going this year."

"Really?" Cersei said, sounding genuinely surprised. "Why on earth would you do that? What news does Gold & Red have to announce that is so ground-breaking it needs to be done at the Paris Chocolate Convention?"

"Because... because..."

Don't say it. Don't say it. Don't say it.

"Red & Gold Chocolates are unveiling a new range."


"So what are you going to do?" asked Gilly. "If you want to keep your job, you are going to have to tell Jaime about the new range and your identity as the hermit chocolatier."

Brienne slumped, putting her head in her hands. "But I told you, I can't. I don't want the attention, and I don't want Jaime looking at me differently either. I just want him to see Brienne Tarth, not this miracle working chocolatier. And I definitely don't want him thinking I've been lying to him all this time. I just don't know what to do!"

There was a pause as everyone in the support group turned to look at each other, searching out an answer in each other's eyes; Tormund was running his hand through his beard, Penny biting her lip, Jeyne looking a little vague and distant, Pod writing his hands. in the end, however, it was Sam who broke the silence.

"I might have an idea..."

Brienne snapped her head up to look at him. "What? What's your idea?"

Sam stole a quick glance at Gilly, who gave him an encouraging squeeze on the shoulder, before he answered Brienne's question. "Well, I suppose if you needed the mysterious hermit chocolatier to make a new range, you would need them to physically be in the factory to teach Jaime's employees how to make the chocolates, correct?"

"Correct," replied Brienne. "And that's the problem. I would need to be there in person to instruct them. It's not just all about writing down a recipe; chocolate is passion, feeling, and good technique. So the hermit will have to be in the room with Sansa, Margaery, Addam, and Bronn for them to be up to her standards, to be able to make chocolates like the ones I made Renly in the privacy of my own home. Is there anything you can suggest that will get me around that physical requirement?"

Sam gave her a little smile. "Does the hermit in the mountains have an internet connection? Could we stage a fake skype call?"


On Monday, Jaime felt a little bit better about the state of his life as he had spoken to his therapist. Jon had reassured him on two fronts; firstly, he had encouraged Jaime to talk to Brienne, and try not to put his own self-hatred in her mouth when searching for a reason as to why they weren't talking, and secondly that, if it was necessary, Red & Gold Chocolates were fully prepared to design a new range because they had a strong and competent boss at the helm.

I'm strong and competent, Jaime told himself as he sat in his office. Strong and competent...

Even though he kept telling himself that he was strong and competent, Jaime stayed hidden in his office with the blinds closed, because was dreading the moment he would have to waltz onto the factory floor and tell Sansa, Margaery, Addam, and Bronn, oh, by the way, we need to invent a new range because I wanted to get one over my bitch of a sister.

When he began to imagine that scenario in his head, it only succeeded in making his stomach roil.

Oh, why am I such a terrible boss? Such a terrible leader? When I tell the four of them, I wouldn't blame them if they all just resigned, leaving just me and Brienne.

... Wait a second, that wouldn't be so bad.

Jaime was just in the process of building himself up to breaking the news of the new range to his employees, when there was a knock on the door that brought him back to reality with a thump. "Margaery, if this is about the supply of coffee cream..."

However, it was not Margaery, as the door opened slightly to reveal a pair of sapphire eyes that could only belong to a certain Head of Sales. "Brienne!" Jaime smiled, amazed to see her coming into his office as if a month hadn't passed without a word. She was brave in a way he never could be. "What are you doing here?"

Slipping inside the room, Brienne shut the door and then came to stand next to him, towering over Jaime like a magnificent, female Colossus of Rhodes. At the sight, Jaime felt his throat go a little dry and did not attempt to stand up, for fear his legs would give way.

"Jaime... I need to apologise to you."

At that declaration, his eyes went very wide because he knew in the context of their relationship what that meant. "What for?" A horrible second passed when he thought she was crying. "Wench, whatever it is..."

"OlennaTyrellcancelledherregularordersoItoldherwearedesigninganewrange."

Her expression was so firmly set on agony that, when Jaime burst out laughing, Brienne did not quite know what to do with her face. "What's so funny?"

"Oh, nothing," he grinned. "It's just that is the exact same thing I promised my crazy sister when she phoned me on Friday."

Brienne suddenly looked very concerned by that news and, in her worry, she reached out to touch his shoulder. As soon as she did so, Jaime's skin was aflame where he could feel the pressure of her fingers through the material of his jacket. "What did she say?" Brienne asked, her eyes bright. "She didn't upset you, did she?"

"No, don't worry, wench," he smiled, touched by her interest in his wellbeing. "I put her in her place by telling her about our fictitious new range... It's perhaps a good idea, it's just I don't know how I am going to tell the others."

At his reassurance, Brienne gave him a small, guilty smile, that just succeeded in demonstrating to Jaime how kind and empathetic she was. To his surprise, she then took a ragged breath. "This is only going to make it worse... but I think you should know."

"Know what?"

Brienne closed her eyes. "I told Olenna Tyrell something else too."

"What?" he asked, almost on tenterhooks.

Removing her hand from his shoulder, Brienne let out a dramatic sigh. "I told her the new range would be designed by Renly's hermit chocolatier... I'm so sorry."

Jaime froze. Up until that moment, Jaime had just been able to convince himself that Red & Gold Chocolates could design their own range, mainly due to careful consoling from Jon and his own repeated adage - I'm strong and competent. But this news? It was too much. Collapsing on himself, Jaime buried his face in his hands. "Oh god. We could manage a new range... but one on par with the hermit chocolatier? It's impossible. And Olenna Tyrell is such a gossip that it will reach my sister in a fortnight, and everyone will laugh at me when they taste my subpar effort... she will laugh at me. Cersei will be proved right... I can't do anything on my own, I am weak, I am a failure without..."

His stream of consciousness was interrupted by a gentle touch on his hands - flesh and artificial alike - that could only belong to Brienne. Kneeling down in front of him, she carefully removed his hands from his face, keeping hold of them once she did so. "Jaime, it will be alright."

"How?" he snorted. "How are we going to find the hermit chocolatier? How am I going to convince him to come and work for Red & Gold, a company that is losing money every minute? How am I going to persuade him to work with me, Tywin Lannister's useless son? It's a farce. He'd never want to..."

In a moment, her fingers were dancing across his cheek. Although she was strong, her touch was gentle. "Don't get upset, please. I didn't do this to hurt you, and I hate that this has made you stressed. It's just... remember my CV?"

In spite of the seriousness of the situation, Jaime couldn't help but retreat from the present moment due to the delicately pleasant sensations her fingers were alighting on his skin. He tried to answer her question in an effort to stay focussed on the situation at hand. "Yes, I remember. You spent ten years working as a delivery girl for Renly Baratheon at Fury Chocolates."

"I did," she whispered, continuing to stroke his cheek. "And Renly told me all his secrets before he died."

At that statement, a bubble of excitement began to brew in Jaime's chest. "All of them? You mean, he had more secrets than just the fact he was sleeping with Loras Tyrell? And he told them to you?"

Brienne nodded, her eyes shining. "Yes. Renly told me all his secrets, including the identity of his hermit chocolatier."

Jaime's mouth opened in shock. This secret was so explosive he feared he would have to hire Brienne a bodyguard, mainly to protect her from his father and sister. "You've known all this time, and you never thought to tell me?"

At that accusation, her expression changed at once and she dropped her hands from his face. "I'm sorry... I just thought it wasn't my place."

"Wench, I'm not criticising you," he said, reaching out and grasping her shoulders in fear he had pushed her away. "It's just I'm surprised that's all. I thought the chocolatier's identity died with Renly."

Brienne shook her head. "No, I know his identity... although he swore me to secrecy."

Jaime did not particularly care to know the name of this chocolatier if he was so dead set on remaining anonymous, but he was tantalised at the prospect that he might consider working for Red & Gold Chocolates. "And you can get in contact with him?"

"Yes," said Brienne firmly, "although it will take a couple of days to organise, as he will want strict anonymity, but I should be able to set up a meeting via skype."

"Anything, anything," muttered Jaime, but Brienne didn't seem to hear. Getting to her feet, she wore a blue smile that at the sight of which Jaime felt a little sad.

"I am sorry I couldn't facilitate a meeting in person," she sniffed, just as Jaime noticed that tears were threatening, "and I'm sorry I lied to Olenna and put the whole business in jeopardy."

"You've got nothing to apologise for," he said ardently, fixing her with a firm gaze that he hoped she found comforting. "You may have just gone and saved this whole wretched company, not put it in jeopardy. And, anyway, I told a similar lie to my sister. Was it Jesus who said something about throwing stones through greenhouse windows?"

"No," she replied, laughing gently. "I believe he said he that is without sin, let him cast the first stone."

Jaime couldn't help but grin broadly at her. "Whatever, wench, my point still stands whatever the metaphor is. I can't blame you for a lie I myself told." Almost without thinking, he reached out and gave her fingers a comforting squeeze. "So don't worry about it."

At the combination of his joke and the touch of their hands, Brienne's eyes became awash with confusion. "Why are you so good to me, Jaime?"

He furrowed his brow at her. Jaime and good were so rarely used in the same sentence that her question shocked him into silence for a few moments. "I don't know if I am good to you, wench. We haven't spoken for a month."

At his slightly accusatory tone, Brienne's cheeks flushed and she dropped her gaze so she did not have to look him the eye. "I didn't mean for that to happen."

"Neither did I," replied Jaime, his voice soft as relief washed over him. "Let's not let it continue, mmm?"

"Okay," she agreed, her smile full of sunshine.

"Okay," he repeated, finding comfort in the echo of her sentiment.

They stood and sat there for a few more moments just smiling and grinning, shaking their heads and breaking and regaining eye contact, before Brienne pointed to the door. "I had better go and find the samples box. If we are going to make a new range here at Red & Gold Chocolates, it is only right that the world knows about it."

"Indeed," said Jaime, nodding.

With one more small, shy smile, Brienne went to turn to leave. However, some feeling deep inside Jaime compelled him to stop her. Even though he knew she had lots of work to do, Jaime couldn't help but reach up and catch her wrist with his good hand. "Wait, one moment."

Her eyes flashed expectantly as she looked back at him. What emotion did he see there? Fear? Nervousness? Apprehension? Excitement?

"What is it?" she asked.

"You said you wanted to apologise," he said, trying to keep his voice level.

"Yes," she agreed, clearly not quite getting what he was saying. "But then you said I had nothing to apologise for."

"Correct," said Jaime slowly, trying to work out the best way to set his request up. "But if you wanted to apologise to me, I wouldn't object."

If Brienne had looked concerned before, now she seemed very, very confused. "But why would I want to apologise?"

Jaime raised an eyebrow at her, even as his stomach flipped with nerves. "I think you and I both know what our apologies entail by now, don't we?"

Perhaps it was the nature of his question, or his clear, even tone, but for some reason, Brienne's mouth fell open in shock. "I... I... I..."

Not letting another second pass, Jaime was up on his feet and kissing her before she could object, drowning in the warmth of her body, the strength of her arms, and the urgent need to have her lips on his. To his immense happiness, Brienne then flung her arms around his neck and kissed him right back, meeting his tongue with hers as she let out a loud, deep moan that went straight to his cock. For an incalculable amount of time, they melted, melded, and mellowed... together, warm and complete and whole.

Just like the creamiest of chocolate made by the hermit chocolatier.

Chapter Text

IdiotsinLove

Lovely banner by lovejb! Thank you so much for this!


The plan was quite simple; Daenerys had paid for the church hall for an extra half an hour, and then the Romantics Anonymous Group decorated the room to look like a cave in the mountains. It was decided that the part of the Hermit Chocolatier would be played by Tormund, because with his unkempt bushy beard, he could well pass for a man who never interacted with another human being for a single day of his life.

"I'll only go along with this on one condition," said Tormund.

"What?" asked Brienne nervously, worried he was going to ask for something dramatic.

"I don't like being called the Hermit Chocolatier. I prefer Chocolate Batman."

Brienne had supressed an eye roll, but in the end agreed to calling him the Chocolate Batman because the alternative was having Jaime know that she was actually Chocolate Batgirl. Even in spite of every that had passed between them, Jaime knowing that about her would be too much.

"Now," Brienne told Tormund firmly over the headset that Sam has provided. "It is your job to look like a Hermit Chocolatier..."

"Chocolate Batman..."

"... Chocolate Batman while wearing Sam's headset. It will allow us - and only us - to directly speak to one another. I will tell the others that it is a strict condition that you have set, do you understand?"

"Yes," Tormund replied. "Will I not be able to talk to the others, then?"

"Under no circumstances," Brienne said quickly. "You'll be able to see them, but not communicate directly. You are basically here to give me moral support and to make a good visual; it is me that is actually going to be giving them instructions. Do you understand?"

"Of course," grunted Tormund. "And do I have to keep this mask on the whole time?"

"Yes," insisted Brienne. "I don't want there to be any cock-ups and for someone to recognise you out on the street. You are playing Chocolate Batman in his Chocolate Batcave. You've got to be convincing; so that requires a mask."

"Okay. I get it."

Once the plan was fully understood by Tormund, Brienne invited all the colleagues into the room, trying to keep her nerves at bay.

I have confidence in sunshine...

As they entered onto the factory floor, Jaime, Margaery, Sansa, Addam, and Bronn adopted a single-file march, reminiscent of Brienne's favourite scene in The Sound of Music, when the von Trapp children met Maria for the first time. However, this time, it was not a cheery novice nun-governess they were meeting, but a socially awkward man wearing a mask who was pretending to be a Chocolate Batman-Hermit. In spite of the weirdness of the situation, all five of Brienne's colleagues looked overawed, even Jaime whom Brienne was convinced could never be ruffled by anything. Once they were all in front of the webcam, Brienne turned to face Tormund. "Sir," she said, thinking that was the best approach to take, "these people are my colleagues who you will be teaching today; this is Margaery, Sansa, Addam, Bronn and... Jaime. They are very excited to work with you."

Brienne had hoped that Tormund's Hermit Chocolatier would be a positive, jolly sort of figure, but instead he just sounded grumpy. "I take it he is that golden prick you keep going on about," scowled Tormund as Brienne said Jaime's name.

Freezing at the sudden realisation that Tormund could now put a face to the Jaime she kept mentioning during their support group sessions, it took some time for Brienne to find the words to respond with. Her hesitation made Jaime look at her curiously.

"What did he just say to you?" he asked.

"Errr... he says he's very much looking forward to working with you all."

"No I didn't," interjected Tormund. "I asked if he was that golden prick you kept talking about in sessions. What does he have that I don't?"

Sighing to herself, Brienne tried to smile at her colleagues. "Right. The hermit has provided recipes for five newly designed chocolates for us to test for the new range. They are all in laminated sheets on the table. He has recommended that you start making them and, through me, he will then advise you on the best techniques to really make them pop. Is that alright?"

"Sounds fine to me," said Bronn, picking up the recipe for the Chocolate Kiss. "How are we going to divide these up?"

As the group began to divvy up the recipes amongst themselves, Brienne caught Jaime's eye and smiled at him. To her utter joy, he smiled back, and it was so unbearably beautiful she found herself blushing. However, she broke their eye contact when Tormund intruded on the moment.

"I think we'd make a good pair you know," he declared down the other end of the line. "So much better than you and golden dick."

"Why's that?" replied Brienne, trying to keep the bitterness out of her voice.

"Because I like big women, and you could learn to like me," he said, his voice gruff. "I know Daenerys often tells us all we are doing ourselves down, but you and I live in the real world, don't we? You must know you have little chance with golden dick, just like I have no chance with Angelina Jolie. People like us must be realistic..."

"That's a very interesting point you've made about the Praline Peak," said Brienne loudly, cutting him off for fear he would say something utterly true about the completely different planets she and Jaime lived on. "Who is making the praline? The hermit has some tips."

When Margaery raised her hand, Brienne went over and gave her some precise advice on the best way to shake the pan as the sugar was melting. She hoped that would force Tormund to shut up for a bit, but Brienne had no such luck. Even as Margaery was asking important questions about making praline, Tormund was prattling on. 

"We could go for a date somewhere nice," he said. "I have some tickets for WWE. Would you be interested?"

Not giving him an answer, Brienne stayed with Margaery for some time, pointedly pretending that Tormund's waffle about dating were actual tips about making chocolate. Even though Margaery had some genuinely good questions to ask that Brienne was only too happy to answer, she found herself repeatedly distracted by Tormund.

"We'd be good for each other."

"Why?" she hissed, when Margaery was too distracted crushing nuts to notice.

"We have no false illusions about the world," he said firmly. "We know that we are both too weird to just trip over someone who could love us... surely it might be a good idea for us to try each other..."

"No," Brienne replied quietly, not wanting to give him any ideas. However, Tormund was not put off and continued pursuing the topic even as Brienne tried to explain the best way to grate ginger to Bronn and how to keep the air bubbles in slowly melting chocolate to Sansa. As the latter struggled, Jaime eventually came over and gave Brienne a small nudge.

"Could I possibly have a go?" he asked, the corners of his lovely eyes crinkling with his smile.

"Tell him no," insisted Tormund. "Tell him that he's only your boss and has no business making chocolate. He should only be supervising..."

At the thought of Tormund barging in on yet another interaction she was having with Jaime, Brienne knew she had had enough of his silly games. Switching the headset off, she took it off her head and put it down next to her, determined not to hear another word. Smiling at Jaime, she said, "of course. Let me help you." As she took the bowl off Sansa, her colleague retreated to the other side of the room with Margaery to help her with the praline, while Brienne stayed with Jaime. Putting the wooden spoon into his good hand, she stood beside him and held his arm, just in order to instruct him.

That's all, Brienne told herself. It's a completely innocent gesture.

"Now," said Brienne, feeling her palm burning where she touched him, "the most important thing is to gently fold the chocolate, not stir it. That way, it stays light and bouncy as air pockets are allowed to develop."

At her instruction, Jaime began to whirl the spoon in the chocolate, trying to recreate what she had told him. "Like this?" he asked.

Shaking her head, Brienne took a tiny step forward in order to reach across and cover his hand with hers, physically teaching him. "You've got the right technique, but it has to be a little gentler."

Jaime looked over his shoulder to smile at her. "Like you, you mean."

At that statement, Brienne blushed so deeply she forgot to reply.


As everybody was so busy preparing the chocolates, it was quiet-but-observant Addam that first noticed something strange was going on. Wanting to turn it into a conspiracy, he went and told Margaery. "I've just noticed something weird about Brienne."

Margaery snorted, turning to look at the new Head of Sales who was currently standing perilously close to their boss as he stirred a bowl of chocolate, one of her hands covering his and the other almost touching his hip. "If it's that she salivates over Jaime, it's not news. We all know they're fucking."

"I don't think they are fucking," muttered Bronn, joining the conversation with a low voice.

From behind Addam, Sansa raised an eyebrow. "Really?" she asked quietly. "But the sexual tension is palpable."

"Yeah," concurred Bronn, "but that's because they're not fucking... but they both want to."

"I just don't get why they don't just go for it," whispered Sansa, glad that Jaime and Brienne were both seemingly distracted by their proximity to one another and the big bowl of chocolate in front of them. "He's been a whole different person since she arrived. Less grumpy. More mellow..."

"Almost optimistic," added Margaery.

"Exactly. So they should just go for it," concluded Sansa. "They're good for each other and it would make them both happy... so I don't understand why they are both skirting around the issue."

At that statement, Margaery set herself up to launch into the same psychobabble theory about traumatic childhoods and self-esteem issues that she had outlined at length several times before, but Addam raised his hand to stop her. "It's not the sexual tension that I've noticed."

"Then what is it?" asked Bronn.

Addam smirked at them all. "It's that Brienne is no longer wearing her headset... but she'sstill explaining to Jaime how to make decent chocolate. Apparently, our Head of Sales doesn't need to communicate with the 'Hermit Chocolatier' to make the world's best chocolate. In fact, he's entirely fucked off the webcam, and she hasn't batted an eyelid."

The realisation of what that meant sank in for all four of them in a moment, but the importance of the news was only given an appropriate vocalisation by Margaery.

"Oh."


After a couple hours of hard work, the samples for the new range were prepared. The five types of chocolate Brienne had designed - the Chocolate Kiss, the Praline Peak, the Honeycomb Heart, the Caramel Petal, and the Ginger Tuile - were all laying out on five different trays ready to sample. As there needed to be a taste test before confirming if these recipes were appropriate for the new range, Brienne had told everyone the hermit had advised her that they should all try the chocolates, to ensure they were welcome to many different palates. With that instruction issued, Bronn, who was standing at the opposite end of the table from Jaime and Brienne, made a lunge for one of the Caramel Petals, but Brienne held up a hand to stop him.

"Wait, Bronn," she insisted. "We can't just shove these chocolates into our mouths. We are the first people to experience the journey we want to take our customers on, so we have to make sure every taste and touch is as soft and sensual to us as it should be for them, because that is what the experience of eating a Red & Gold chocolate should be."

Jaime, who was stood on her right, turned to look at her with a quizzical expression. "Is it?" he asked, biting his lip. "I've never thought of chocolate in that way."

Even though she could feel the blush rising in her cheeks, Brienne found the courage to look Jaime straight in the eye; right into his perfect green gaze. "Of course it is. At its heart, the consuming of chocolate is more than just satisfying hunger. It is about activating all the pleasure receptors in one's brain and is therefore a sensory indulgence for which the journey is just as important as the climax."

Perhaps affected by the exact words Brienne had used to describe the experience of eating chocolate, Jaime took a few moments to respond. "How... how would you take me... I mean... a customer on that journey?"

"It all starts with the Chocolate Kiss," Brienne said gently, picking one up from the tray and taking a bite, the melted chocolate at the centre oozing over her lip. "The instant you put it in your mouth, you understand it has a hard shell that needs to be gently worked open. By beginning this exploration, you become aware there is something sweet, tantalising, and almost sinful inside. Melting it in your mouth, the Chocolate Kiss invites you into its warm insides, making you appreciate what you've been missing all this time. It's just tempting."

At that statement, Jaime let out a long, deep breath, before reaching across and picking up another chocolate, his hand momentarily brushing against Brienne's. Choosing the Praline Peak, he instantly put the tip between his teeth in such a way that Brienne could see the moment it first touched his tongue. The sight of it made her feel hot. "It doesn't build the anticipation like this one though," he purred, sucking as the Praline Peak melted into his mouth. "There is something about this chocolate; the fact it has a hard peak that first draws you in, before you discover a hidden, fleshy softness underneath that you just want to pull further into your mouth and whirl your tongue around."

Watching as he did just that, Brienne squeezed her thighs together as she picked up the next chocolate. "But then, if you try the Honeycomb Heart, you are in for a real problem. Because unlike the Praline Peak, there is no hidden softness. It's just big, thick, and hard and in your mouth, and you are not quite sure if you are capable of taking it... but when you get that first taste you realise that you want it so much... and you start to suck it and, quite unexpectedly, you discover an intense pleasure you didn't know you wanted and you just... surrender to its hardness and let it take you."

Jaime took a step towards her, making Brienne realise how heavily he was breathing. He raised an eyebrow at her and when he began to describe the next chocolate, his tone was strangely soft. "It's got nothing on the Caramel Petal, though. There, the way the folds are arranged means the second your tongue slides across its delicate core, a burst of flavour hits you - unique and special and entirely its own - and the longer you lick it and suck it the more sweetness it releases until it totally overwhelms your mouth."

Looking into his green eyes - which trapped her so completely - Brienne kept her voice low. "And finally, there's the Ginger Tuile. The ginger penetrates the dark chocolate in a way you least expect it, hard and arresting but at the same time, strangely gentle and beguiling. As the experience washes over you, the union of the flavours just builds and builds until suddenly there is just this sublime moment where an overwhelming sensation just explodes inside you, as you realise the ginger has entirely impregnated the chocolate and there is nothing separating them anymore, that you don't want to separate them, that the flavours just belong together... inside each other, entwined."

"Uh huh," said Jaime breathily, looking for the words. "The feeling is almost... orgasmic."

His voice was so low and his eyes so big and dark, that Brienne wanted nothing more than to reach out and touch him, to apologise to him for something she hadn't done in the way that was totally unique to them, tasting him as well as her chocolate on his tongue. However, on that occasion the universe - or, more accurately, their colleagues - conspired against them.

"Ahem," said Bronn exaggeratedly, clearing his throat.

At the sound, Jaime's head snapped around, breaking his eye-contact with Brienne, and as the cord between them had momentarily been pulled so tightly, its severance almost physically hurt. Nevertheless, Brienne's pain subsided when she looked and saw all four of her colleagues were staring at them, not only aware of what exactly had just passed between her and Jaime, but with a hint of amusement at the chocolatey connection that Brienne had been weaving with her words.

"Sorry," mumbled Jaime, "it's just the... err... chocolate is too much to resist."

Brienne nodded in agreement. "Yes, it's... a little overwhelming at times."

Sharing a look with Sansa, Margaery went to say something, a knowing smile on her face. However, Jaime did not let her speak and cut across her, quickly and sharply, his eyes not meeting hers. "I'm going to my office. I just need five minutes alone."

As that declaration surprised her, Brienne turned to look at him, wanting to understand why. Unfortunately for her, she only had a brief glimpse of his flushed face before he marched past her, purposefully not meeting her gaze.

Maybe I should go and apologise to him, she thought, before noticing that Margaery, Sansa, Addam, and Bronn were all looking at her expectantly.

Or maybe I shouldn't... I don't want anyone getting the wrong ideas about us.

Chapter Text

IdiotsinLove

Lovely banner by lovejb! Thank you so much for this!


Ah, coffee, thought Jaime, as he took a sip of Hot Pie's famous blend from his local barista. Leaning back in his chair, Jaime gave himself a moment to simply enjoy a second of peace and quiet in the safety of his own office. It had just gone nine, so he knew it would be at least half an hour before his employees had all arrived and were fully engaged in making chocolates for the new brand, so he took this second to himself to enjoy his coffee.

The new range needs a name, he mused.

Lion Chocolates? No, too Lannister.

Sapphire Chocolates? Better, but not perfect.

Wench Chocolates? Ooooh, best one yet!

He was busy mulling over the name of the new brand (which very imminently needed to be sent off to the packaging designers), when there was a knock at the door. Lost in his thoughts, it made Jaime jump and he ended up spilling half his coffee on his tie.

Shit, thought Jaime, slamming the cup down on his desk, not wanting to ruin his tie any further. Inspecting the tie, it quickly became apparent there was not much he could do; however, he began brushing it in a half-hearted attempt to clean it, before realising that was futile and surrendering to his fate.

"Come in!" he called, trying not to sound too cross at the person who had made him spill coffee down himself. However, on seeing who it was, Jaime's irritation dissolved instantly. On cue, the door swung open and Brienne came striding in, her eyes bright. Today, she was wearing a white dress, a sky blue jacket, and her famous blue beret, which made his heart flutter. Swallowing heavily, Jaime tried to appear cool by smiling at her. "Good morning, Brienne. I'm sorry for my appearance... I just spilt some coffee on myself."

"Oh," she said, her cheeks becoming flushed. "Are you apologising to me?"

"I might be," he replied, biting his lip. "It's quite unbecoming of your boss to be covered in coffee." Jaime did not want to appear to forward, and he didn't want to scare her away, so he left it up to her whether she wanted to interpret that as an apology or an apology.

"Either way, I have come here to apologise to you," she said, smiling gently as she looked down at her watch. "By my estimation, I am three minutes twenty seven seconds late for work, which I don't think is a good showing for your Head of Sales, especially considering we will soon be launching the new range."

The corner of his mouth turned up in a smile as he got to his feet. "Well... if you come over here, I can accept your apology."

In spite of her earlier bravery, Brienne's blush deepened at his response, and it took a few moments for her to regain the courage to take a few tentative steps towards him. His nerves mirroring hers, Jaime's movement forward was equally hesitant, but it was him who opened his arms first, and he found once he did that Brienne was only too willing to bridge the final gap and let him pull her close for a kiss.

It didn't last long, however, as just as he got up on his tiptoes to kiss her, Margaery came barging into the room. "Oh, err... sorry."

Like a startled deer, Brienne leapt away from him, all fawnlike limbs. "No, it's quite alright," she said, blushing madly. "Mr Lannister and I were just discussing sales."

"Sales..." repeated Jaime slowly. "Yes, that's it."

Margaery gave them both such a disbelieving look that Jaime felt himself blush with embarrassment, while Brienne went so maroon that he worried she would never return to her normal colour. However, luckily for them, Margaery was not in the mood to torture them for long, as she quickly changed the subject. "Can I ask you two to come for a meeting on the factory floor? I've got a quick announcement to make to everyone."

"Sure," said Brienne hurriedly, bustling past Margaery as if the morning meeting with the rest of her colleagues on the factory floor had been her plan all along, and not coming to apologise to her boss. Once Brienne had left the room in a storm of embarrassment, Margaery raised a knowing eyebrow at Jaime which made him want to curl up and die.

"Hurry up," he snapped. "Haven't we got a meeting to get to?"

When he and Margaery finally reached the factory floor, they found Sansa, Addam, and Bronn all huddled together whispering conspiratorially, while Brienne was standing over by a bowl of praline, pretending to be very interested in its contents. Smiling at all of them, Margaery shot a look at Jaime and Brienne in turn before beginning her announcement.

"I have something very exciting to tell you all."

"What's that?" asked Jaime, even though he could tell by the looks on Sansa, Addam, and Bronn's faces that they probably already knew. To his relief, Brienne looked as equally clueless as Jaime felt.

At his question, Margaery's smile broadened. "I know this is a bit of a risk but hear me out. You know when I was at Chocolate School, I was taught briefly by Varys, one of the world's best chocolatiers and the head judge of the Parisian Chocolate Convention?"

"Yeah..." said Jaime slowly, a knot of fear growing in his belly.

"Well, while at the cocoa suppliers yesterday, I bumped into him."

Jaime found that a little suspicious - one didn't just bump into Varys - but Margaery looked so immensely pleased with herself that he chose not to question it. "Oh? And what did he have to say for himself?"

"While we were waiting, I told him all about Red & Gold's new range we were developing, and he suggested that we come and showcase it at the Paris Chocolate Convention a week on Saturday. Apparently, some other company has dropped out and he offered us the empty slot. I jumped at the chance."

Jaime could not help but laugh. He knew he had told Cersei that Red & Gold would be showcasing there - mainly just to get her to shut up - but he did not think he would actually have to go through with it. It would be stuffed with the type of posh chocolate people that Jaime hated because they looked down on Red & Gold as a Lannister knock-off. Therefore, even though Jaime thought Red & Gold's new range was spectacular, he was scared of putting it out there and finding the snooty people who mattered people did not agree.

"Oh, Margaery," he smiled in amusement. "We would get laughed out of town. Not only are we still learning how to make the chocolates as the hermit instructed, we are still busy designing the packaging for the new range; how would we even get things ready in time?"

"We could rush through a few prototype boxes," suggested Sansa hurriedly. "As long as you have the range name sent off today, it could all be done. We have at least one batch of each type that will be perfect for the judges at the Convention."

Even though Sansa was obviously optimistic, Jaime did not feel the same, so looked to Brienne for support and reassurance. To his surprise, however, given the way she had dashed out of his office, he found her smiling back at him. "It might be a good opportunity," she said meekly. "If the new range got a good review from Varys and the other judges at the Paris Chocolate Convention... it would do much of our advertising for us."

Jaime knew she was speaking the truth, but he still felt nervous. "But it's such short notice..."

"Don't worry," piped up Sansa suddenly. "I've already done some preliminary research and found both a nice hotel for you and Brienne to stay in, and Eurostar tickets leaving early enough in the morning to get you comfortably into Paris for midday. It's all manageable because, frankly, this opportunity is too good to miss."

Jaime went to respond to that, but Brienne beat him to it. "Hang on, me and Jaime? Why us two?"

Actually, thought Jaime nervously. That's a very good question.

 "Oh," replied Sansa casually to Brienne, "it's just that Jaime is the boss and you are very close with the hermit, and you are Head of Sales. The rest of us just make chocolate... you two are definitely best placed to represent the company as a whole."

At that, Bronn, Addam, and Margaery nodded along in a chorus of agreement. "And anyway," said Bronn seriously, "I've got tickets to the greyhound racing that weekend."

"And I'm going to see Swan Lake at the Royal Ballet," claimed Addam.

"And I'm... getting my roots done," concluded Margaery.

"See," chimed in Sansa, "it's got to be you two."

In his fear, Jaime shot a look at Brienne, who had immediately gone back to decidedly not looking at him. Sighing, Jaime said, "well... I suppose if it would help the company..."

"It will!" grinned Addam.

"And don't you worry about a thing," beamed Sansa. "I'll book your hotel and your train tickets and everything. This will be great for you two... I mean... the company... if you can spend some time together in Paris promoting our new range at the best Chocolate Convention in the world."


"But... but... I can't go!" stammered Brienne, as she stared out at her support group that Friday evening, horrified that she had been roped into going to the city of love with Jaime Lannister of all people. "It will be a nightmare!"

"Why do you think that?" asked Daenerys gently.

Even though she thought it was obvious, Brienne tried to explain to her slightly dim support group leader. "Because at work I am the best version of myself; Brienne Tarth, Head of Sales. If I went to Paris with... with... Jaime, he would see the real me and I don't think I could cope with that."

"You'll have to show him the real you eventually," said Gilly gently. "Now you are in this relationship with him..."

Brienne blanched white. "I am not in a relationship with Jaime. He's just my boss..."

"Who you kiss on the regular," said Edd dourly.

"Those are legitimate apologies," insisted Brienne. "There's nothing going on with me and Jaime."

"There's nothing going on between you and Jaime," said Jeyne Poole disbelievingly, raising an eyebrow at her, "you mean the same boss who you went to dinner with that one time?"

"That was just a boss-employee welcome dinner, that's all!" squawked Brienne, before repeating her mantra, "there's nothing going on with me and Jaime."

Daenerys gave her a concerned expression. "Then why are you so worried about going to Paris with him?"

"Because... because..."

I want there to be something going on with me and Jaime, and if we spent time together in Paris, he would get to know me a little better. And, seeing my ugly face against the beautiful, romantic backdrop in Paris, he would realise that he doesn't want to be with me at all, and that makes me so sad I don't know if I could cope...


"I'm sweating, Jon, just thinking about it!" complained Jaime at their therapy session on Saturday. "I know it's a week away, but spending time with Brienne, proper time with her just makes me feel so nervous!"

"Why do you think that is?" asked Jon levelly, like a good therapist would.

"Because if we went to the Paris Chocolate Convention together, I'd be bringing her into that world."

"What world?"

Jaime sighed. He didn't quite know how to explain. "My father's world. I know that my father and Cersei will be there presenting for Lannister Chocolates, and I don't think I could bear it if Brienne and Cersei came into contact. Brienne is so good, so sweet, that if she saw the woman that I used to let rule my life, she could only hate me... could only despise me, because Cersei is hateful and when I'm with her, so am I."

"But you are not with Cersei anymore," said Jon. "I hate to use an addiction metaphor here, because you cannot be addicted to people, but you've been clean of her for five years. You know what she is like, you are good at sensing and reading Cersei's tricks and games now. In fact, I would say you are much closer to being with Brienne now than with Cersei."

At Jon's statement, Jaime felt a surge of warmth course through him. "With Brienne," he mused. "That would be nice..."

"And it could be possible," insisted Jon. "Just take your opportunities where they come. Here, you have been gifted the time to spend with Brienne doing something you are both passionate about - advertising your chocolate - and enjoying a beautiful city. Perhaps take the chance to really try to communicate her beyond your apologies. Really, truly talk to her, and see how it goes from there."

Jaime raised an eyebrow at Jon. "Is that one of your small tasks?" he joked.

"It could be," smiled Jon. "If you want it to be."

And the strange thing was, in spite of his terror, Jaime knew that he did want it to be.


All things considered, being totally alone with Brienne wasn't quite as terrifying as Jaime had thought once he went with the set goal of trying to communicate with her in a way other than their apologies. On the day of the convention, the pair of them had arranged to meet outside King's Cross St Pancras at half five in the morning, before venturing off to Paris. As expected, Brienne was waiting for him

"Hi," she said timidly when he went to meet her.

"Hi," he replied, giving her a tired smile.

Result! thought Jaime. I suppose this is what Jon would call communicating!

After their introduction, they both blushed a furious crimson red and then turned into the station together. Jaime wanted to say something, but fell into an easy agreement with Brienne in deciding to ignore each other for the next twenty minutes as they made their way into the station proper.

Communication is not just talking, Jaime thought, mostly to reassure himself that he could exist in comfortable silence with Brienne. It's sharing time together too.

Knowing it would be a long journey, once they had gone through passport control, Jaime followed Brienne into WH Smiths, where she bought the third book of the Puzzle of Chairs series by Martin R.R. George, and Jaime got a copy of Hot Magazine. He hoped to find something to say to her, but just kept failing miserably. In fact, he only managed to form the first full sentence shared between them that morning once they were on the train dashing towards Paris, and that was to ask about what she was reading.

"Did you know that Puzzle of Chairs is actually only the title of the first book?" answered Brienne. "It's actually called A Tune of Earth and Wind, it was just the TV showrunners didn't understand what literary themes were and so jumped on Puzzle of Chairs as representative of the political drama they thought the books were about, rather than the magic, the world building..."

"And the fucking plot making sense from what I heard," smirked Jaime, before returning to Hot Magazine's sensationalist account of Arianne Martell's affair with Arys Oakheart.

They spent most of the journey in silence, although for a significant portion of it, Jaime found himself just staring into Brienne's eyes while she smiled at him. They really were the most fabulous blue; he wished he knew more about the subtle differences between shades so he could put an exact name to them - cerulean, cyan, azure...

Sapphire. Never-ending sapphire.

Once they arrived at the Gare du Nord, Jaime got his phone out. "According to Sansa, our hotel is in walking distance; it shouldn't take any longer than fifteen minutes with our suitcases."

Brienne gave him a shy smile. "That's good. The Convention doesn't open until midday, so we should have time to walk there, check out our rooms, get changed all before we even have to be in the general vicinity of the Parisian Chocolate Convention."

Knowing that she was right, Jaime established a slow pace as they journeyed towards the hotel, mostly so he could just exchange tentative grins with Brienne as they walked and watch her pretty blush bloom on her cheeks. The day really was so beautiful and his companion so lovely that, for a moment, Jaime found himself briefly considering the possibility that the shadow that had been in possession of his heart ever since Cersei first got her claws into him was slowly starting to recede, and this could truly be the start of something new.

Of course, he should have known such light-heartedness would not last for long.

L'Ours et la Jeune Fille was a nice but inexpensive hotel that Sansa had found for them not far from the Sacré-Cœur and, as they were soon to learn, was run by a slightly depressed looking man who was wearing a badge labelled Manager: Jorah Mormont. Jaime was surprised by this as his hotel was heaving but, when he and Brienne eventually got to the front of the queue, Jorah just looked at them with sad eyes.

"How can I help you today?" he asked in a weary voice.

"Err..." began Jaime, shooting a quick look at Brienne. "We have two rooms booked under the names Jaime Lannister and Brienne Tarth for one night."

Jorah nodded before turning to his computer and tapping wildly, like one of those actors who was faking computer hacking in a bad spy moving. As Jorah searched, Jaime shot a quick look at Brienne, who smiled at him softly, the corners of her eyes crinkling as she did so. It made a swarm of butterflies take flight in his stomach. He was so lost in her gaze, that he didn't notice Jorah taking a super long time in finding the rooms.

"Erm..." the hotel manager said, furrowing his brow, "there's nothing here booked under a Jaime Lannister or Brienne Tarth. Are there any other names you might have used?"

It has all been going too well, thought Jaime darkly. Something was bound to go wrong.

As Brienne looked positively panic-stricken, Jaime tried to take charge. "Maybe Sansa Stark? It was her who actually booked the rooms."

After a few more seconds of typing, Jorah's confusion was replaced by a conciliatory smile as he found the booking. "Ah yes, here it is. Already pre-paid for as well I see."

Turning his back on the both of them, Jorah then went to the key rack. Jaime wasted no time in shooting Brienne a relieved smile; she squeezed his shoulder in return, which only succeeded in making him feel a little hot. It meant he missed the moment Jorah put the set of keys on the counter.

"Your room is number 301 and is on the third floor just by the lifts. Breakfast is served between six and nine thirty in our restaurant, which is just on your left there, and check out time is at eleven. We have room for suitcase storage..."

However, all other information was lost to Jaime, as Brienne had started loudly squawking at Jorah. "We only have the one room? Sansa said she had booked two."

Seemingly disconcerted at being interrupted, Jorah went back to his computer and checked one more time. "Yes, I'm sorry. Only one room has been booked."

Although seeing Brienne's horror stricken face made Jaime feel a little disappointed that she evidently believed spending the whole time with him would be abhorrent, he did not want her to be upset, so he tried to smooth things over. "Is it possible to book a second room for tonight?" he asked, "it's just we were expecting two rooms."

Jorah shook his head swiftly. "I'm really sorry, but there really is no room at the inn. With the Paris Chocolate Convention being this weekend, we've been absolutely rammed. I'm sorry, but Room 301 is all I can offer you."

Jaime worked his mouth open and closed a couple of times, trying to work out what to say, but Brienne cut across him with a disappointed smile. "Thank you, Monsieur Mormont. We will just have to make do," she said firmly, picking the keys off the table and dashing in the direction of the stairs, all without looking at Jaime once. Hurriedly falling into single file behind her, Jaime couldn't help but think the worst.

Of course she doesn't want to share a room with you, he told himself. Some weird sister-fucker who is not and never has been normal. She probably doesn't trust you... how could she trust you? You probably scare her.

They walked in silence to room 301 and, when they got there, Brienne nervously fumbled around with the keys for a while trying to get them into the room. Jaime just found himself staring at Brienne's back, unsure about what to say. Should he apologise to her because his presence their room had been inflicted on her? Given the circumstance, he would have to make sure it was a genuine apology and not one of their special apologies. Or should he just joke about their unexpected situation? Noting her pained expression, Jaime truly did not know what the best thing to do was.

He had just settled on making some light comment on how far apart their twin beds were when Brienne finally got into the room and hurried inside, yanking her suitcase with her. Trotting in behind her, Jaime had expected she would immediately surge forward and claim one of the beds but, to his surprise, two feet into the room she skidded to a resounding halt, meaning Jaime crashed into her back.

"Brienne, what's the...?"

He never did get to finish his question, however, as Jaime had just spotted what the matter was... and it made his stomach sink.

They weren't just going to be sharing a room.

Sansa bloody Stark had booked them a double bed too.

Chapter Text

IdiotsinLove

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The bed was perfectly serviceable - queensize, with a friendly patterned duvet, and comfy looking pillows - but for Brienne, that wasn't enough. She had a major problem.

IT'S GOT ROOM FOR A JAIME SHAPED MAN TO LAY NEXT TO ME, she screamed internally. I CANNOT SLEEP NEXT TO A JAIME SHAPED MAN!!!

In her shock, Brienne had frozen to the spot, as if her feet were glued to the floor. Unprepared for that reaction, Jaime ended up walking straight into her; however, instead of knocking her over, as he would have done if she was a lesser woman, Jaime nearly tumbled to the floor himself. Just about managing to prevent himself from stacking it, Jaime swerved his head around her shoulder to make his trip seem like a tactical manoeuvre.

"Brienne, what's the...?" Then he saw it too. If he went to sleep on that bed, there was room for a Brienne shaped woman to curl up beside him. Determinedly not looking at him because of what she feared she would see, Brienne bit her lip with worry.

The following silence was so chilly it would have frozen a polar bear's balls off, so Brienne did her utmost to ignore it, staring at everything in the room that wasn't that bed or him. Eventually, she could no longer take the torturous quiet and began opening and closing her mouth, trying to find the words. "I... I... I..."

"I'll sleep on the sofa," volunteered Jaime instantly. "You have the bed."

"But there isn't a sofa."

"Oh."

The silence returned, perhaps even worse now they both knew there was little they could do that evening but get in bed beside each other and cuddle up close.

Maybe I'll apologise first, Brienne thought, then everything will be alright.


You are such a moron, Jaime told himself. Why can't you use your eyes? Of course there isn't a sofa!

Following his stupid suggestion, Brienne had gone back to looking blankly around the room seemingly of the belief that if she stared for long enough, she could make the problem disappear. Jaime, on the other hand, knew there was nothing to be done. When they returned from the convention that evening, they would have to lie side by side in the same bed and try to sleep. Knowing he would find that an impossibility given the close proximity of Brienne's warm, tantalising body, he was already thinking of ways to avoid that terrifying eventuality for as long as possible.

Maybe we could have a late dinner. Maybe we could...

"Which side of the bed do you want?" asked Brienne, her voice little more than a barely audible squeak. Jaime took a moment to think about it.

Well, I read in National Geographic that in heterosexual relationships the man almost always subconsciously selects the side of the bed nearest the door in case he needs to defend his wench. If I take that side, then I can show Brienne how brave I am if we randomly get attacked by a mad axeman in our medium sized Parisian hotel room with the double bed in the middle of the night.

...On the other hand, I think Brienne might be better at dealing with the mad axeman than me, so maybe I should sleep near the window.

"I'll take the side by the door," he said, before instantly regretting his decision. Overthinking his thought process, Jaime was suddenly panicked that Brienne would think that he thought they were in a relationship by selecting that option, given what National Geographic had told him. Seemingly confirming his suspicions, Brienne shot him a complicated look that said so many things, which made Jaime worry that she thought that he thought that she thought that he thought they were in a relationship.

We're not in a relationship, he told himself, we are just a boss and an employee going to a chocolate convention and, due to the machinations of a sneaky colleague, we are going to have to share a bed tonight.

It's no biggie.

No fucking biggie.

"Okay, I'll take the other side," Brienne said quickly, dragging her suitcase over to the side nearest the window. Once she was in place, Brienne knelt down and began to unzip her bag, using the opportunity to rifle through her belongings to find the smart suit she had told him she was going to change into for the convention. However, at the sight of her suitcase, it was not Brienne's sartorial choices that dominated Jaime's sordid, dirty mind, but something far more personal.

She's got underwear in that suitcase.

I bet it is dependable, non-frilly underwear, but oh god BRIENNE'S UNDERWEAR IS IN THAT SUITCASE.


Once Brienne had got together her toiletries bag and the clothes she was going to change into for the convention, she turned back to look at Jaime, who was staring at her if she was some sort of scantily-clad ghost. The intensity of his gaze made her blush.

"Why don't you get unpacked while I get in the shower?" she asked him nervously, trying to deter him from gaping at her so heatedly. It worked as the sound of her voice seemed to pull Jaime back into the room.

"Oh yes, of course wench, I'll do that right now."

As Jaime pulled his suitcase over to his side of the bed, Brienne skirted past him as quickly as she could, and dashed over to the ensuite bathroom, feeling a sense of elated relief once she was able to run inside and lock the door behind her.

Please god, kill me now, she thought desperately. I can't sleep next to Jaime without feeling the violent need to jump him which I am sure he really would not appreciate! We are only here to go to a chocolate convention after all, not to kiss, cuddle, have sex and all those other wonderful things!

Trying to take her mind off her panic, Brienne disrobed as quickly as she could and attempted to comfort herself by getting in the shower and letting the warm water run over her as she lathed the hotel's cheap shower gel into her skin. For a few seconds, it worked, as the feeling made Brienne think of the lazy Sunday afternoons she loved to spend in the bath with a good book. However, it was not to last.

Wait, her brain yelled intrusively. Did I lock the bathroom door?

Too soaked to check, Brienne was forced to continue to shower, painfully aware that if she did not lock it, there was nothing stopping Jaime slipping into the bathroom without her permission, taking his clothes off, and getting into the shower with her. She would try to object, but then he would touch her - on her face, her lips, her neck, her breasts, between her thighs - and her words would run dry as Brienne gave herself to him, to use in whatever way would give him pleasure.

Stop it, Brienne told herself forcefully as she began to get turned on, Jaime would be disgusted with you if he knew you were thinking these things. He is your boss and you are here to go to a chocolate convention. Just because you've apologised to him a couple of times with kisses, it doesn't mean he wants you in that way.

So get it out of your head. Jaime is not getting turned on by the thought of you right now, so don't get turned on by the thought of him.


Do I have time for a wank while she's in the shower? thought Jaime.

Although Brienne would probably be disgusted with him, he couldn't quite shake a fantasy that had started to bloom in his mind the second he heard the shower water running. In it, Brienne had accidentally-on-purpose left the bathroom door unlocked, and without saying a word, he had snuck inside and got into the shower with her. After kissing her all over, he had then fucked her furiously against the bathroom tiles, until there was no need to make apologies anymore.

Stop this, Jaime warned himself. You've shared a couple of kisses, so what? They have been official boss-employee apologies. She wouldn't actually want you, she wouldn't...

In spite of his half-hearted protests, Jaime could not shake the thought of her freckled skin bare and exposed for him, nor her cheeks flushed with desire or her blue eyes burning with want. For a long as he could hear the shower water running, Jaime's brain kept treating him to a fully HD version of this particular fantasy, so much so that he had to get a pillow and put it over his crotch in case Brienne suddenly came charging out of the bathroom.

When she eventually did, he found that she could not meet his eye.

"I'm done," Brienne said briskly, as she began digging around in the drawers until she found the hairdryer. "We've got twenty minutes. Do you want a shower too?"

Gathering the clothes he was going to change into around his crotch, Jaime gave her a pained smile. "Of course, I'll be quick."

"Once you've finished, shall we head off to the convention?"

"Sure, sounds great."

Without another word, Jaime ran into the bathroom, took his clothes off and dived into the shower, urgently needing to deal with his painfully hard erection that had sprung up entirely due to the knowledge that his wench was naked in the shower. As he ran his hand up and down his shaft, Jaime was forever thankful that Brienne was blow-drying her hair, so she couldn't hear the desperate little ah-ah-ah-AH sounds he made at the back of his throat as he worked himself up to his climax.

Ten minutes later, feeling a lot fresher and much less tense, Jaime left the bathroom a new man, wearing a smart maroon suit he always favoured for important business meetings, shiny shoes, and an expensive cologne. Brienne's eyes went wide when she saw him.

"You look nice," she blushed.

"Thanks," Jaime replied with a smile, "so do you."

He was telling nothing but the god's honest truth, as Brienne was wearing a tailored grey suit that made her look like a powerful, sophisticated businesswoman who could take anyone down. Jaime thought the look was pretty gosh darn perfect, especially considering she was about to march into a chocolate convention and would probably have to face down Tywin and Cersei Lannister all in one afternoon.

After a few more moments of staring at each other, Brienne extended her arm to him. "Come on then, shall we go to and advertise Red & Gold's new range?"

Jaime nodded. "I think we should, that's what we are in Paris for, after all."

And without another word, Jaime let Brienne lead him out of the hotel room, purposefully ignoring the bloody terrifying double bed as they went. Feeling strangely comforted with her arm around his, Jaime made a promise to himself.

I don't want to scare her or frighten her with my perverted lusts, he thought. She could do so much better than an old sister-fucker like me. Later on this evening, I will make sure she has to spend as little time in this room with me and practically no time in that bed; I respect her too much to sully her that way.

It's not like she would want to sleep with me anyway, is it?

Chapter Text

IdiotsinLove

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Although the Paris Chocolate Convention was held in a rather non-descript looking conference centre on the Right Bank, there was no doubt that it was the place to be if you were a chocolate maker wishing to get your name out there. Everyone and their mum was in town, with hundreds of stalls laden with treats from the most extravagant, ornate caramels, to minimalist, decorative toffees. For a man who lived and breathed chocolate like Jaime Lannister, it was a paradise.

...Well, it would have been paradise if Jaime did not know that somewhere in the room his father and sister were lurking, waiting to pounce on him the second they caught him in their sights. No doubt they would want to mock his efforts to be independent, to laugh at his new range, and make him feel so thoroughly small that he would give up his dreams of being his own man...

I won't let them get to me, he told himself. I won't, I won't, I won't...

Jaime had not seen his father in five years, not since he had walked out on the family firm and told him to make one of his other children his heir, because Jaime could not and would not continue to try to meet his ruthless expectations. As for Cersei, ever since they had stopped sleeping together, she had tried to get into contact with him, but Jaime had pushed her away. Deep down, he knew their continued estrangement was because in his weakest moments, Cersei's poisonous words would sound as welcoming as the sweetest melody. Given the situation, he was just thankful that he had Brienne with him, especially because she was holding his arm as strong and sturdy as a rock as they entered the room. Jaime felt that if he fell, she would surely catch him.

"Jaime?"

"Mmm?" he replied, unable to come up with anything more eloquent given how rapidly his heart was beating and how his breath was coming in short, panicked spurts.

"You are shaking."

Looking down at the arm she wasn't holding onto, Jaime noticed she was correct. "Oh."

To his surprise, Brienne then touched his face and got him to look at her; her eyes filled with concern and so very blue. "Shall we go and get a little fresh air? It might be a good idea to have a little breather before we go and find our table?"

Unable to find the words, Jaime just nodded. At that subtle tilt of his head, Brienne strengthened her grip on his arm and firmly but gently led him back out the door they had just come through, then around the corner into an alleyway just beside the conference centre. Once there, safely away from prying eyes, Jaime surrendered to the feelings that were slowly overcoming him - terror, dread, and panic at seeing his sister and father again - and it was only because Brienne wrapped her strong arms around him that he did not totally disappear.

"It's okay," she whispered as he trembled against her, "it's okay. I'm here. I won't let them hurt you." Against his better judgement, Jaime clung to her tightly while she rocked him and stroked his hair, finding her touch comforting. Her soothing hands eventually persuaded him down from the height of his panic and, with her gentle coaxing, Jaime managed to regain control of his panting.

"Breathe in," she instructed, "and out. Breathe in... and out."

In... and out, he thought, making a conscious attempt to copy the pace of her breathing that he could hear and feel against his ear and in the subtle expanding and retracting of her chest. In... and out...

Although being cocooned in her arms was intensely pleasant, once the wave of panic had subsided, Jaime's rational brain once again took over, and he forced himself to pull away from her. "I'm sorry... I shouldn't have..."

"Don't worry," said Brienne gently. "My therapist always tells me that sometimes you have to take some time to breathe. It helps with keeping it all in perspective."

Surprised at her confession, Jaime furrowed his brow. "You have a therapist?"

Brienne blushed brilliantly, and in that moment, she looked so innocent that Jaime worried he had accidentally hurt her. "I... yes... I do."

Not wanting her to feel awkward or embarrassed, Jaime swiftly attempted to smooth over the feeling that he was mocking her. "It's nothing to be ashamed of. I see one too. His name is Jon."

As Jaime admitted her into this new intimacy, Brienne's abashed blush was exchanged for a look of surprise and her mouth dropped open accordingly. "Mine is called Daenerys."

"Funny name," he joked, wanting to lighten the mood.

"I know," she grinned. "I should ask her where it comes from."

Jaime let out a huff of laughter and then looked down at the floor, letting an easy silence to bloom between him and Brienne. "Thank you for this but... I am feeling better now. Should we go back inside?"

When he gazed back up at her, Brienne was smiling. "As long as you are happy, we can go back in. We've got chocolates to sell after all."

Telling her yes without words, Jaime extended his arm towards her. When she accepted his invitation and linked her arm with his, Brienne rewarded him with one of her pretty pink blushes and a genuine smile. Feeling her all warm and supportive next to him, Jaime felt calmer than he had in years, and led her back into the convention with a newfound confidence.


When Jaime and Brienne found Red & Gold's table back in the main room, they were greeted by the sight of a huge case containing the sample boxes of the new range. After snaffling a pair of scissors from one of the other tables, Brienne cut through the binding sellotape and released a few of the prototype packages, so they could work out how to best present their wares to the wider public. To Jaime's immense pleasure, she gasped when she saw them.

"Jaime," she squawked. "What have you done?"

He couldn't help but give her a lopsided grin. "What, wench? Don't you like them? Pia thought that sapphire blue would be the best colour for the packaging, with golden calligraphy a reminder of our company name..."

With a fiery blush burning across her freckled skin, Brienne seemed like some sort of all powerful goddess as she stood over him, brandishing one of the boxes at him. "You've called the range Brienne's Chocolates. Why? Why would you do that?"

Jaime had been expecting Brienne to be happy to be honoured in that way, so her expression of thunderstruck annoyance took him by surprise. Desperately trying to ameliorate her and justify himself, he stammered, "I was struggling with a name... and then I realised we wouldn't even have the new range without you. And then Pia suggested the royal blue packaging and I..."

"What?" she snapped, seemingly not understanding what he was trying to say.

Not used to her being so negative towards him, Jaime lifted his hand to pull her into the seat next to him, hoping closeness would console her. "It reminded me of your eyes," he said in all honesty, "and I just... I just... felt like your contribution to our company should be marked in some way."

"But..." Brienne replied, her blush changing from angry to embarrassed, "it's not my range. The hermit chocolatier made it."

"You inspired it," he said firmly, while trying not to let the extent of his emotions bleed through into his words. "I'm sorry if my choice offended you, but I meant it with the best intentions."

Perhaps it was his expression, or perhaps his ardent words, but something evidently softened Brienne's feelings towards him, as she took the seat next to him. "I'm sorry," she mumbled, "I just... struggle sometimes."

"With what?"

"With being seen."

Jaime did not really know how to answer that, so he handed her one of the prototype boxes and gave her what he hoped was a reassuring smile. "Come on. We have to have the chocolates laid out in a presentable manner. It is important that the world gets to see and recognise how wonderful our Brienne range is. You understand that, surely?"

With a small nod, Brienne showed him that she did.

As Jaime only had one hand, the pair of them worked slowly in making sure the five new chocolates - the Chocolate Kiss, the Praline Peak, the Honeycomb Heart, the Caramel Petal, and the Ginger Tuile - were all laid out in a way to best represent their colour, taste, and shape to their potential customers base. Once that was done, they just had to wait for the punters to arrive. At first, business was very slow; most people walked past the Red & Gold stall in search of the heavy hitters. Most probably Lannister Chocolates, thought Jaime bitterly. However, after Brienne called to a few people and charmed them over with sweet words, those early customers tasted what the company had to offer and were then blown away. From there, word of mouth did their job for them.

"When do you think we can expect Varys?" Jaime asked, as another two customers trotted away with boxes of Brienne's Chocolates.

Brienne shrugged. "I don't know. I haven't been to a Paris Chocolate Convention for many years. The last time I was here, the Head Judge took his time."

"I didn't know you had been here before?" said Jaime quizzically, wanting to poke around in his wench's past.

However, Brienne had other ideas, as she clammed up slightly. "Yes... I... it was where I met Renly."

In spite of wanting to ask her what a delivery girl was doing at the premiere Chocolate Convention in the world, and how she met master chocolatier Renly Baratheon, Jaime had to hold his tongue as at that moment, they were interrupted by a customer whose smile did not touch her eyes.

"Well, well, well," she said, her voice dripping with venom. "It seems Red & Gold Chocolates have finally decided to start playing with the big boys."

Once, his twin sister's eyes - which were green and cruel and so like his own - inspired love and devotion in him. Now, Jaime just felt tired, because it reminded him of the years he had spent as her running up and down as her lapdog, exhausting himself for any scrap of affection. As Cersei fixed her gaze on him more firmly, Jaime tried to think of all the advice Jon had given him over the time they had been working together - remembering his own self-worth, that he was his own person, and there were people out there that loved him - but he felt as if he could barely recall any of it now his sister was here in front of him, majestic and terrifying as ever.

Cersei always had a way of reducing him to silence yet, even as Jaime struggled to find the words, Brienne did not have such a problem and jumped into the bearpit to save him. "Yes, Red & Gold Chocolates have a new range. What of it?"

Cersei did not even dignify Brienne with an acknowledgement of her existence. "Don't you think it is time you give this silly game up, Jaime? I hear you only came up with the new range because Olenna Tyrell did not want to buy anymore chocolates off you, and we all know you have no imagination or talent. This Brian brand is only going to lose you money, so why not come back to Lannister Chocolates, where you belong?"

Once again, Jaime found himself rooting around for a defence of himself that he did not have the confidence to make. "I... I... I..."

"Why are you so desperate to have him back at Lannister Chocolates if you think he has no imagination or talent?" interjected Brienne suddenly.

It was that statement which finally made Cersei look at her. "And who are you?"

In the simple act of seeing Brienne, Jaime could tell that Cersei was making her terribly uncomfortable, so then it was his turn to jump in and rescue her. "This is Brienne, one of my employees. She has been vital to developing the new range, because she is helpful and creative and loyal..."

Cersei slammed her hand down on the desk. "I don't give a shit about Brian, Jaime. I am here because it is about time you saw sense. Your business is failing, and you don't have the skills to save it. Without me, you are nothing, so it is time you came back home where you belong. I can help mould you into being the man father wants you to be."

With Cersei towering over him, Jaime was taken back to that first time when they were fourteen years old, when father had yelled at him for being a disappointment as a son, as an an heir, and as a man. Feeling heartbroken and inadequate, Jaime had retreated to his room to cry, hoping for solitude. However, Cersei had not allowed him that scrap of dignity. Marching into his room, she had demanded he suck it up. Being a Lannister is being a winner, she had said. So stop crying. Crying is for losers. When he had finally stopped weeping, Cersei had leant down and kissed him. It was the first of many such kisses, and Jaime often wondered if that was why he had spent so long craving her; the first kiss had been a reward for pushing away his fears, for shutting his emotions out, and locking himself away. Not coping properly, Jaime had gone away inside to avoid the terror that being a Lannister inevitably involved; Cersei's kisses were a reward for his muted silence. Now that he allowed himself to feel, Jaime wondered whether the brush of his lips against hers would comfort him in the same way.

He knew the answer was no immediately, when he felt Brienne reach out to him under the table and entwine her fingers with his, her touch like fire. It soothed him better than Cersei's silencing kisses ever could and gave him the courage to fight back. "If you think I am so useless, why don't you try Red & Gold's new range? You might be pleasantly surprised."

Cersei made a scoffing sound and then lunged for one of the Ginger Tuiles, evidently thinking they would be no better than what Red & Gold usually offered. However, the second the chocolate hit her tongue her green eyes went very wide, making Jaime fear they were about to pop out of their sockets.

"Well?" asked Brienne, a hint of smugness in her voice. "What do you think?"

As the chocolate melted in her mouth, Cersei blinked a few times, looking from Jaime to Brienne and back again. "Excuse me," she announced suddenly. "I just have to go to... speak to someone."

Without another word, Cersei dashed away from them as if she had just seen a ghost, leaving Jaime to just gawp at Brienne, who matched him with an identical expression.

"Well... erm... that was weird," she said.

"Yes," agreed Jaime, "it was."

If it was any other day, Jaime might have worried about what Cersei's sudden departure meant as his sister was known for her schemes. However, in that moment, Jaime did not really care, because Brienne was gazing at him so softly and her fingers were still interlocked with his. If there was a polite way to let go, to break their connection, Jaime did not take it, so the two of them continued to hold hands, even as more customers came over and asked about the chocolate. It meant Brienne had to do all the serving left handed, but she did not seem to mind... as she did not politely let go of his hand either.


A minute became ten, ten minutes an hour, and an hour two, and Jaime and Brienne were still holding hands under the table. Neither commented on it - what could they say? - so instead they talked about the customers, the new range, and how fun it was to be in Paris.

"If we have time later," said Brienne, "I would like to go to the Eiffel Tower. I have never been before."

"I'll take you," promised Jaime ardently, knowing he would take her to every tourist attraction in the city if it meant he did not have to impose himself on her back in that double bed in the hotel room.

"Jaime?"

"Mmm?"

"Do you want to go out for dinner later?" asked Brienne, her cheeks reddening. "I know we have been to a pretentious French restaurant before but, this time it would actually be in France and... well..."

"What?"

She gave him an amused smile. "This time you might stay for the starter."

They continued holding hands as their sample boxes ran out, as more customers came over and inquired about the new range, and as they waited for Varys to make his appearance. Not even the looming presence of Tywin Lannister stopped proceedings, even when he came over and gazed at Brienne as if she was something nasty on the bottom of his shoe. That he was there to intimidate them was confirmed by the arrival of Cersei shortly after, who stood menacingly behind their father, arms folded across her chest.

"Cersei told me I have to try these Brian Chocolates," Father barked, his expression characteristically cold.

"I'm sure Jaime would be very happy for you to try Brienne's Chocolates," Brienne smiled, seemingly trying to fly above his father's hostility. "He has worked very hard on them."

"Mmm," replied Father sceptically, before picking up one of the chocolates. "Jaime has never worked a hard day in his life. He doesn't know the meaning of the word."

Brienne visibly bristled at that statement, even as she blushed. "Oh yes he does. Every day he works tirelessly to keep Red & Gold afloat. He manages the finances single-handedly, he talks to suppliers and distributers and customers as easy as breathing, and he commands the respect and loyalty of all his employees. Just because we don't fear him, it doesn't mean he is a bad boss. In fact, he's a great boss, and we all love him."

"In The Prince, Machiavelli said it is better to be feared than loved," growled Father.

"Yes," conceded Brienne, "but the model for Machiavelli's prince was Cesare Borgia, a cruel tyrant who slept with his sister. Frankly, Jaime is a much better man."

The horrified expression that Cersei gave Brienne almost made Jaime laugh but, knowing this was a tense situation, he instead squeezed her fingers in thanks, eliciting a brilliant smile from her. At that brief interaction, Father raised a solitary, suspicious eyebrow at them both, before popping the chocolate in his mouth. "I think that..."

If he was going to say something rude, it never came out because the moment the chocolate touched his tongue, Tywin Lannister had the exact same reaction as his daughter; his eyes went wide, his cheeks reddened, and he turned around to look at Cersei. Analysing both their expressions, Jaime wondered whether he saw fear flickering across their faces. However, if that was truly what he had been feeling, Father recovered himself as, once he swallowed, he fixed his son with a mildly terrifying glare. "Jaime, given all your hard work at Red & Gold, I think it is about time you came back to Lannister Chocolates and become the man you were meant to be."

"I am the man I am meant to be," replied Jaime, feeling Brienne's support radiating beside him, "and I will never come back to Lannister Chocolates. Never."

At his act of defiance, Father's expression grew cold. "Jaime, I recommend you reconsider this..."

"He is not reconsidering anything," snapped Brienne, seemingly not caring how dangerous it was to cross Tywin Lannister. "Jaime has already told both you and Cersei; he is not returning to your company and that is final."

As quick as a lion, Father's face contorted into a snarl as he went to reply to Brienne but, luckily, at that precise moment a waft of expensive French perfume hit them all, heralding the arrival of Varys. Flanked by his fellow judges Petyr Baelish and Ilyrio Mopatis and a small crowd of chocolate devotees, he shooed Father out of the way in order to reach Red & Gold's table.

"Varys," said Father, his whole demeanour changing as he took on an oily, charming tone the second the man approached. "It is so good to see you. Why don't you come over to the Lannister stall...?"

Varys gave him a saccharine smile. "I am sorry, Tywin, but I have been told I simply must try Red & Gold's chocolates first."

As Jaime was busy staring up at the judges, his father, and Cersei with a dumbfounded expression, it was Brienne who took the initiative. "Of course, Varys," she smiled. "We have the Chocolate Kiss, the Praline Peak, the Honeycomb Heart, the Caramel Petal, and the Ginger Tuile. Take whichever one you want."

While Father and Cersei gawped at Varys while wearing intense expressions, the head judge reached down and picked up one of the Honeycomb Hearts, rolling it in his fingers and smelling it before putting it in his mouth. The moment he did so, the whole scene was transformed as he let out a shocked gasp and made an exaggerated chef's kiss in the air.

"My darlings, I would recognise it anywhere!" he exclaimed; his eyes wide.

Cersei looked at him with concern. "Recognise what?"

"The work of a genius," Varys proclaimed. "Brienne's Chocolates were made by Renly Baratheon's mysterious Hermit Chocolatier! He's back!"

As the newly assembled crowd around them burst into riotous applause, Jaime looked around to see if there was anyone holding up a sign to tell them how to react. However, he stopped searching for an answer when his eyes fell on Brienne, who was giving him a proud smile. And it was at that moment - surrounded by applause and the feel of her fingers interlocked with his - that Jaime knew Red & Gold Chocolates would be saved as every single chocolate shop, tearoom, and patisserie in the western hemisphere wanted an order of the new range, all on the say so of Varys.

And it's all thanks to her, Jaime thought as he drowned in her eyes.

Brienne. Brienne's Chocolates. She has saved us all.

She has saved me.

Chapter Text

IdiotsinLove

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As he sat in the non-descript convention hall, Jaime Lannister wondered if this was, truly, the best of day his life. Not only had his father and sister run away to plot in a corner after Varys had declared Brienne's Chocolates a wonder, but by five o'clock Red & Gold had sold all their sample boxes and made many more pre-orders, and to top it all off, Brienne had not let go of his hand for the whole afternoon, even when they stood up to leave.

"So, shall we make the most of the charms of the city of love this evening?" Brienne asked, smiling at him so brilliantly it made her eyes even more radiant than they already were.

"Sounds perfect," he replied, trying to ignore his hammering heart.

They held hands as they walked out of the convention and made their way to the local Metro Station, and they continued to do so as they got on a train, sat down and started planning their sight-seeing tour of the city. They then held hands as they took a selfie outside the shell of Notre Dame, next to the tomb of the Unknown Warrior under the Arc de Triomphe, and even as they strolled down the Champs-Élysées. They let go for five minutes when they went into a sunglasses shop and Jaime had Brienne take photos of him in every single pair - so he could work out which suited him best - but that did not last long as after Brienne had laughed and called him vain, Jaime had abandoned his quest and taken her hand again.

"You are so rude to me, wench," he smiled.

"And yet you are the one that calls me wench."

He suddenly felt a little nervous. "Don't you like it? Would you rather I called you Brienne?"

To his surprise she let out a little laugh and squeezed his hand. "No, it's fine. I know it is a term of affection."

Even though it was getting dark, Brienne wanted to see the Eiffel Tower, so Jaime took her there, telling her what he could about the history of Paris as they went. "I think it was Napoleon who ordered all the medieval slums in Paris to be knocked down, so they could plan the city along more sensible, centralised designs. That's why it is all laid out like a star, with the nucleus being the Arc de Triomphe."

Brienne happily listened along to his facts about early nineteenth century town planning and, when he had finished, she gave him an affectionate smile. "You know a lot about history, don't you?"

"Yes," confessed Jaime trying not to blush. "Is it incredibly pathetic to admit I spend most of my weekends trawling around England going to look at medieval castles? There is something about knights, their ladies, and the stories of chivalry that have always inspired me."

"It's not pathetic at all," she replied, "we all have to have a passion."

"And what's yours?"

"Making chocolate," she said proudly. "If it was my last day on earth, that is what I would spend my whole time doing."

Jaime raised an eyebrow at her. "I didn't know you made chocolate. Is that why you were at the Paris Chocolate Convention when you met Renly, then? You wanted a taste of the action."

Even though Jaime thought that was a harmless question, Brienne did not seem to agree as, quite suddenly, she went very pale and let go of his hand. "Ooooh, I think there's a lesser spotted night lark over there!" she cried, pointing vaguely out in the direction of the river.

"Where?"

"There," she said, flinging her arm out vaguely. Sensing she had spotted no such thing, Jaime gently put his hand on her arm and then locked their fingers once more.

"Don't worry. I won't ask you anymore about your chocolate making."

Jaime was rewarded with a thankful smile for that promise.

Conscious that he did not want to inflict his presence on her back in that terrifying double bed at the hotel, Jaime checked his watch. It had just gone eight o'clock. Even though he was getting hungry, Jaime thought that if he could tempt Brienne to go up the Eiffel Tower with him, they could waste another hour before actually going in search of dinner. It seemed his plan would be successful as, when they reached the base of the great steel monolith, Brienne insisted that the two of them take a least ten thousand selfies together.

"Do you want to go up?" asked Jaime, trying to sound casual. Unfortunately, his stomach then took the opportunity to let out the loudest rumble, sounding like a pathetically mewling cat.

Brienne dropped her eyes to her belly. "But aren't you hungry?"

"Oh, don't listen to my stomach, he has no idea what's going on," smiled Jaime. "I want to go to see Paris at night from the top of the Eiffel Tower. It would be quite romantic."

At that statement, Brienne went a violent red. "Romantic?"

Jaime tried to back track. "I mean... in a kind of sentimental way. We're only in Paris together once, we should do it while we are here. I did not mean to imply..."

"I know you didn't," Brienne said quickly, papering over the cracks. "Come on, we should get in the queue."

Luckily for Jaime, the queue was fairly long, but it meant that he could hold Brienne's hand and take time in picking out very faint constellations he could see in the sky, giving them fake names. "That one is called the wench's nose," he said, pointing to an awkward little cluster of stars.

"Why?" she laughed.

"Because they are wonky and cute, just like your nose."

At his poor joke, Brienne let out a guffawing giggle that led her to cover her mouth. One day, he would make sure she did not feel the need to do that in front of him. "Well I can see the boss' blinds."

"The boss's blinds?"

"Yeah," she grinned, aiming her finger at a group of stars that made three straight lines. "After my boss says good morning to you, he shuts them immediately."

Jaime pouted at her. "I'm grouchy in the morning before I've had my coffee."

"And what about the afternoon?" she teased. "You do the same thing then too."

"No I do not!"

They spent the rest of their time in the queue leading up the Eiffel tower quibbling about Jaime's behaviour to her at work. "You were so rude to me at my job interview," she laughed.

"Well that was only because the phone rang and it was Cersei, and I didn't want to bring that into your interview."

"You were rude before then too" she claimed, trying to suppress a smirk. "You kept staring at me through the blinds."

"That was only because I was trying to count your freckles," Jaime countered, unintentionally flirtatious.

At the release of something so daringly intimate from his mouth, Brienne stopped partaking in the game and began focussing on climbing up the stairs, even though she kept a hold of his hand. Jaime was in the midst of kicking himself for putting his foot in his mouth, but then he was pulled out of his mounting self-hatred when they reached the viewing platform, and Brienne let out a gasp filled with such breath-taking innocence it made his bitter old heart flutter.

"Look at that," she said breathlessly, gazing out at Paris which was laid out below them as available and as tempting as a naked woman. There was something about the thousands of glittering dots of light that made Jaime think of a freckled expanse of skin, and of tracing his lips across every inch of her inviting warmth.

"Magnificent," agreed Jaime, not peering out at the city but keeping his eyes on his wench.

After a few more minutes of silent staring, Brienne turned to look at him and Jaime felt his gaze falter. "Do you want another selfie?" she asked.

"Sure," replied Jaime, wanting to make her happy. Brienne then engineered the situation so that they were up against the edge of the railing, her arms wrapped around his waist. It reminded him of the moment he had felt intensely safe with her holding him just before the convention started. As Brienne stretched her arm out to take the photo, Jaime was struck with an unsettling thought.

Why is she so kind to me? What have I ever done to justify such kindness?

The questions mounted as they took their time descending the Eiffel Tower together, their fingers still entwined, her leading him carefully but firmly the whole way down.

My whole life, I've never known anything like it. Why now? Why isn't she rejecting me as the broken sister-fucker I am? Why did she let me quake with panic in her arms? Why has she looked straight into the bad and not run away?

When they got back to the ground, Jaime's phone buzzed. Briefly letting go of Brienne's hand, he went to check the notification and discovered that Brienne had already posted several shots of them all over Paris on instagram. His phone was just helpfully informing him that there were lots of people busily liking them, whatever that meant.

Tyrion L:         Who is she J? You're smiling a lot in these photos. It's quite unlike you.

Shae S:            Who is he, Bri? You've been keeping him hidden.

Tyrion L:         @ShaeS The more important question is who are you?

Bronn B:          Are you two going to go to the Moulin Rouge? Or is that too much for your sophisticated tastes.

Addam M:       @BronnB You know full well they are going to be spending their time in the hotel room Sansa "accidentally" booked.

Sansa S:          @AddamM Shut up. It was an accident.

Margaery T:    Have fun lovebirds!

After reading the comments, Jaime stuffed his phone back in his pocket lest he have a panic attack. He wondered whether there was a way to delete what people had said on instagram. Jaime was not very technologically literate, but he did not want other people to keep making untrue aspersions about his and Brienne's relationship; she was much too good to be thought of as little better than his whore.

"Jaime?"

"Yeah?"

"Are you feeling alright? You look pale." asked Brienne, lifting her hand and pressing the back of her fingers to his cheek to check his temperature. It made Jaime blush.

"I'm fine," he said, trying to appear positive. "Just a little hungry."

That admission made her grin. "Well, we had better go and find some food then, shouldn't we?"

Jaime felt a smidgen of relief as he let Brienne lead him away to a very traditional French restaurant, as it was half past nine and he realised he could at least waste two hours on bad service and eating a plate of moules et frites very slowly. The real impossibility of actually eating moules with one hand became apparent when he actually attempted it, and Jaime expected Brienne to laugh at him, but instead she just took her time removing all his little creatures from their shells before returning to her own food.

Why isn't she laughing at me? he thought. Why doesn't she hate me already? This makes no sense.

Instead of anger or hatred, all Jaime got from Brienne over dinner was pleasant conversations about her favourite TV shows, his favourite films, and the fact that he really needed to watch Puzzle of Chairs but then stop at Season 4 before it got weird.

"In Season 5, my favourite character just stares at a candle the whole time," said Brienne, rolling her eyes. "All the fans are outraging because of the shitty ending, but we should have known what was coming right from the moment it outpaced the books."

"Maybe we could watch it together sometime," suggested Jaime. "Bronn knows how to illegally download stuff, so I am sure we could get it without donating any money to the people who ruined your favourite show."

"I would like that," she smiled.

Once they finished their mains, Jaime then bought a slice of Black Forest Gateau, which the two of them shared while Brienne started waxing lyrical on the merits of the book versus the show. "The one thing I will never forgive them for is that there's this romantic relationship in the book that they totally screwed up in the last few episodes," Brienne began.

"Oh, why is that?" asked Jaime, taking a bite of the chocolate cake.

"Because it has a man who has spent years in an abusive relationship falls in love with a woman who respects him for who he is and opens his eyes to the man he could one day be, but then he stupidly goes back to his ex and gets crushed to death by a falling building all in the name of shocking people."

Jaime nearly choked on his chocolate cake. "Why the hell would he do that?"

"Excuse me, Sir James Lancaster would never do that," Brienne insisted. "Him and Brianna of Farth are made for each other. It was just the showrunners decided he should go back to his stupid cousin Carol, because Carol was hot, and Brianna was not. To anyone with half a brain, it all made absolutely no sense anyway, because they tried to play the James-Carol deaths as romantic, but we all know that Carol's one true love was not her cousin, but red wine. Also, it was clear the showrunners did not understand that the James/Brianna relationship was about inverting the Beauty and the Beast story both internally and in terms of gender-swapping."

"If you say so," smiled Jaime, stealing a sliver of extra cake for himself as she got quite worked up about two fictional characters and their romantic relationship.

"I do say so," she squawked, "because Sir James Lancaster is deeply misunderstood..."

Even though he did not really have a clue what she was talking about, Jaime enjoyed hearing her talk about something she was passionate about, as her voice took on inflections and undulations absent in the normal run of conversation that she had with him at work. Part of him wondered if this was closer to how she sounded in bed.

In spite of her excitable mood, the comfortable bubble they had created for themselves was soon shattered when a waiter came over and told them that, if they had finished eating, the restaurant really needed the table, and could they please therefore get out. Feeling a little annoyed at the service, Jaime refused to tip and then took Brienne's hand once more and marched defiantly outside.

Only to discover that it was pissing it down with rain.

"Oh," said Brienne, pulling her jacket around her. "I was hoping we could go for a walk before going back to the hotel..."

"We still can," shrugged Jaime. "It's only a bit of rain."

And I would rather get rained on, soaked through to the bone, catch pneumonia and die than make you feel awkward or weird back in that hotel room.

"Okay," said Brienne gently. "Let's walk."

So they walked. And they walked. And they walked. Brienne's suit jacket changed colour because she was so wet, and her hair stuck to her head in a very thin curtain. Jaime started shivering, so Brienne pulled him close and put an arm around his shoulder.

"Lovely weather, isn't it?" he asked, semi-seriously.

"Oh yes, perfect for a walk," she replied, laughing.

By the time it got to half past eleven, Jaime knew it was going to be increasingly difficult to resist going back to the hotel room, especially as they were both soaking wet, cold, and due to the fact that Brienne had started sneakily leading him back in the direction of their hotel. Although part of him wanted to resist and march her across to the other side of Paris until dawn, Jaime worried that if he really did try to take her somewhere else, Brienne would stop touching him as she was now, and he did not want that.

So, in spite of his reservations, Jaime began to trudge in the direction of the hotel and its very scary double bed.

Praying for a miracle, to his immense relief, Jaime discovered a way out of his predicament. Strangely, his salvation came less than a road away from L'Ours et la Jeune Fille in the form of a smoky little folk club that was still playing music late into the night. "Do you want to go for a drink?" asked Jaime quickly. "I think I could do with some whiskey shots."

"Okay," said Brienne nervously, her eyes moving between him and the floor. "But I warn you, I'm not much of a drinker."

Jaime smiled at her mischievously. "Oh, don't worry. I can teach you."

And so he did. A trayful of shots later, Jaime had Brienne rolling around laughing at his impression of Bronn, so much so she nearly fell off her chair. As he helped her back up, she retorted with an impression of Margaery (or, he assumed it was Margaery because of what she said).

"Have fun lovebirds!"

Oh, thought Jaime, his stomach dropping, she has seen the instagram messages.

And yet she is still here with me.

Against the backdrop of her joyful laughter, Jaime found that revelation sat strangely at the centre of himself. Here was a woman - so full of light and happiness and promise - who was not revolted by the mere thought of being with him romantically. For years, Cersei had told Jaime that no one would ever want him but her, yet here, seemingly, was a living exception.

"What are you staring at?" asked Brienne suddenly, her brows furrowed in confusion. "Do I have something on my face?"

The obvious answer was that he was staring at her, glowing with joy, but Jaime did not want to spook her. However, he did not have an alternative answer, so floundered around for a few seconds until his relief came in the form of a single note, teased, on a violin. The lively little folk band that had been playing in the corner all evening had just lowered the tempo and picked something a little slower, and the sound went straight to Jaime's heart.

"I recognise this song!" Jaime exclaimed, rapidly changing the subject.

"Do you?" replied Brienne, intrigued. "It sounds like an obscure folk song to me."

"It is, but my mother used to sing it to me all the same."

"What is it called?"

At Brienne's question, Jaime got to his feet. Perhaps it was the shots, or perhaps the flood of emotion that had been slowly building all evening, but something compelled Jaime to leave the table and walk towards the dais where the band was playing, picking up the microphone their singer had abandoned when he had gone for his break. Although his new backing band appeared shocked at their new frontman's sudden appearance, they fell into line when Jaime made an announcement.

"It's called Blue Eyes, wench," he smiled. "And this one is for you."

As the accordion and the violin picked out the melody to the beginning of the tune, Jaime just looked at Brienne - who was gazing at him confusedly - feeling it was a thousand times easier to hide behind someone else's words in song than say what he really suffered to her face. Consequently, as Jaime started to sing into the microphone, the words flew out of him as easily as if he did not live every day of his life in a cage of his own making.

"In your big blue eyes

I have lost myself

I am hypnotised

My heart is paralysed

I love you so.

You scare me so.

Is this an evil spell

Or the evil hour?"

As the first verse finished Brienne let out a little laugh, perhaps unsure whether he was being earnest or joking. However, once Jaime started singing again, all worry that he was mocking her seemed to leave her face and, instead, she watched him with wide-eyed wonder and began to sway along to the music.

"I have lost all reason

Longing for your arms

I burn with passion

Let me taste your charms

In your big blue eyes

There is a strange light

They seem to hold

The mysteries of the night."

By the third verse, the accompaniment had got quicker, the music seemingly washed away with the strength of the singer's emotions. Jaime no longer felt self-conscious, because it was just him and Brienne in the restaurant and she was staring at him with her terrible beautiful eyes, as if the rest of the world did not exist.

"I am crazy for you

My blue-eyed beauty

Though I know not

What's in store for me

My passion for you

O Blue Eyes

Inspired this song,

O Blue Eyes!"  

As the vocal line finished, the instrumentalists began a variation on the main theme, but Jaime barely noticed as Brienne was on her feet, applauding.  "Oh Bravo!" she cried as Jaime got down from the dais and made his way back to the table. "I didn't know you could sing!"

"Neither did I," he smirked as he came and stood beside her. "It's just that I found the inspiration from somewhere."

To his surprise, at that suggestion buried in a mountain of obfuscation, Brienne gave him a coy smile and blushed very prettily. "Anywhere in particular?"

The answer was easy.

"You, wench. You."

At his declaration, Brienne licked her lips and Jaime found himself watching, fascinated, as her tongue left a glossy sheen across her flushed lips. Perhaps noticing he was staring, Brienne lifted her hands to Jaime's face, which brought them closer than they had been all evening. It was at that moment Jaime knew he was completely lost, as there was nothing so wonderful as being looked at, truly looked at, by her and to feel her touching him as if he were some precious jewel.

"I think we should go back to our hotel room, don't you?" she said, her voice a little husky.

Under the intensity of his gaze, Jaime knew his resistance had well and truly crumbled.

"Yes, wench. Yes I do."

Chapter Text

IdiotsinLove

Lovely banner by lovejb! Thank you so much for this!


Jaime and Brienne's walk back to the hotel was made up of long silences, blushes, and stolen looks. At the heat of their wordless communication, Brienne felt a deep anticipation welling in her chest, but she did not know what it was leading to. Part of her was hoping that, once they climbed into bed next to each other, Jaime would let her hold him, but the more rational part of her knew that was too wild a dream to ever seriously contemplate.

When they came into the hotel reception, they saw Jorah Mormont was once more on duty, and he gave the pair of them a tired smile. Although Brienne thought they should stop and say something, Jaime was having none of it and instead picked up his pace, causing the two of them to near jog to Room 301. His speed continued once they got to the door as he urgently fumbled at the lock for a few seconds, before finally managing to open the door to slip inside. Brienne followed and once she was inside she turned to shut the door behind her, which clicked loudly as it closed. Not taking her hand off the handle, she took a few steadying breaths.

It doesn't mean anything, she told herself. Just because today was... wonderful, it does not mean he wants you in that way.

Steeling herself, Brienne turned to face him. "Jaime, do you want...?"

She never had time to finish her question, however, because before she had time to think, or breathe, or feel, Jaime had slammed her into the door and was kissing her with everything he had. It took her breath away, because his kiss was not prefaced by an apology; it was just a simple meeting of his lips against hers. While he cupped her face with his hands, Jaime parted his lips and licked at the seam of her mouth, coaxing her to let him in. Boxed in between his arms, Brienne felt so warm and loved and weirdly weak that she instantly surrendered, meeting his tongue with hers and kissing him back furiously, with all the feelings she had long been denying.

I love you, Jaime, she thought. I love you so goddamn much.

As his kisses melted her completely, Brienne was not sure where she got the strength to remove her lips from his in order to tilt his chin up with her hand, revealing the vulnerable expanse of his throat. A flash of confusion crossed his face, but when she began to run her tongue down his jaw and then his neck, stopping to suck at his Adam's Apple just exposed above his collar, all worry left Jaime's face. Although Brienne really had no idea what she was doing, he was letting out satisfied little ah-ah-ah sounds that she could feel vibrating against her lips. Taking his reaction as a positive, Brienne continued, even daring to go lower once she managed to get his top button undone.

From there, it seemed Jaime wanted to help her as, just as she began on his other buttons, he slipped out of his soaked jacket, casually throwing it on the floor. Before long, Brienne had managed to get him out of his shirt and was running her hands up and down his perfectly formed chest, marvelling at the feel of his skin, his muscles, and his chest hair against her fingers. That close, she could smell his totally unique scent and it was all so intensely masculine that Brienne could feel her own body responding to it. Jaime refused to let her have a moment to ruminate on her desire, however, as he began to kiss her again; hard, passionate, and almost painful. Feeling overwhelmed by the sheer heat of his mouth on hers, Brienne struggled to find the strength to explore his utterly beautiful body with her hungry fingertips. Consequently, she decided to step back for a moment to marvel that she, Brienne Tarth, had a semi-naked Jaime Lannister standing in front of her; hers, to kiss and touch and hold.

"Is everything alright?" he asked nervously, biting his lip.

"Of course," she smiled breathlessly. "It's just..."

"What?"

She swallowed. Her next move was dangerous, but Brienne knew it had to be done. Reaching for his prosthetic hand, she removed it carefully before setting it on a nearby cabinet. "You're beautiful," she declared. At the simultaneous compliment and reveal of his shortened forearm, Jaime seemed to withdraw from her slightly, seemingly in disbelief. Not wanting to scare him away, she took his stump in her hand and ran her fingers across its scarred end. "And even the parts you hate are beautiful to me."

Jaime looked genuinely stunned at that statement, and his cheeks bloomed with a pleased blush. "And you are beautiful to me."

"Thank you," she replied, blushing, appreciating the sweet lie while not believing it at the same time. Thinking they did so much better at communicating when they were kissing rather than talking, Brienne pushed her nerves to the side and stepped closer to him once more, but was impeded by Jaime's hand hovering on her collar.

"What are you doing?" she asked, her voice tense.

Jaime looked at her with an affectionate softness in his eyes. "I'm taking your shirt off."

Although the idea was slightly terrifying, Brienne let him, and was rewarded for her bravery shortly after when he began to trace a line of kisses down her neck, across her collarbone and then down the valley of her breasts. In her desperation for him to kiss her there, Brienne quickly removed her bra and Jaime wasted no time in drawing her nipple into his mouth, sucking each of them in turn and flicking them with his tongue.

"Oh god," she moaned as Jaime looked back up at her once more with burning eyes. Smirking, he leant in and kissed her, while grasping one of her breasts with his hand and making her arch against him. His fingers danced around her moist nipple as she called his name, begging for more. "Oh Jaime, please. Please."

She did not have to ask twice. Suddenly, Jaime was on his knees before her, desperately trying to undo her flies, so she jumped to help him, shimmying out of them (along with her underwear) as quickly as she could. Once she was free, Jaime was on her instantly, pulling her leg up onto his shoulder before burying his face between her thighs, kissing her and licking her in a way that it made her almost scream.

"Jaime... urgh... I... please... oh..."

Clearly, using his tongue was not enough to satisfy Jaime, as a few seconds later he put one finger, then two, inside her, crooking them in such a way that it sent her rocking against him, panting for more, as she had to brace herself on his shoulders.

"Oh god Jaime, yes... yes... yes..."

Perhaps Brienne's reaction was caused by the newness of being touched like this for the first time, or that she was being worshipped by a demigod on his knees. There was even the possibility that it was due to Jaime's talent with his tongue. Whatever the reason, Brienne soon felt herself clench around his fingers, coming as she shouted his name, stars in her eyes as she slumped against him. Unable to believe that he had made her feel like this, Brienne let out a little moan as Jaime removed his fingers and mouth from her and stood up for a kiss, his tongue tasting of the intimate thing he had just done to her.

I love him so much, she mused as he kissed her, so very much.

After her orgasm, Brienne felt thoroughly exhausted and boneless, so found it immensely easy to let Jaime direct her over to the double bed that had once seemed so terrifying. Having had Jaime so close, she had no problem in laying back to watch as he pulled off his remaining clothes, nor with parting her legs so she could cradle him between her thighs. Once there, Jaime smiled at her with an innocence she didn't think him capable of. It was especially incongruous because his cock was so conspicuously at attention, hard and straining for her.

For me, she thought with dawning realisation. He wants me.

However, the extraordinary picture of Jaime's desire for her fractured instantly when his eyes suddenly went very wide and he withdrew from the bed, dashing into the bathroom.

"What's the matter?" she called, scared that he had discovered something freakish and wrong with her at this late stage.

To her relief, Brienne's fear subsided when he emerged from the bathroom a moment later, waving a small packet at her.

"Condom," he groaned, before joining her back on the bed once more, ripping it open with his teeth. Brienne could only watch in awe as he rolled the latex up his length, which was an awkward motion with his left hand but still strangely sensual to her. Once he had completed his task, Jaime immediately repositioned himself between her legs once more, eagerness dancing across his face. It could have not been more opposite to what Brienne was feeling; despite the fact that he had made her feel so tremendously good up to this point, the sight of Jaime at this final stage of the dance made her clam up.

How on earth am I meant to fit him inside me?

"Jaime," she whispered, suddenly fearful.

He looked up at her, his green eyes flooded with desire. "What is it?"

"I'm... I'm..."

I'm a virgin, she meant to say. However, it did not quite come out like that.

"You are my first."

At that confession, some of the crazed desire in Jaime's expression lessened to be replaced with an intractable softness. Lessening his grip on her thigh, he drew a small circle with his thumb while giving her an easy smile. "And you are my second," he murmured, before placing a delicate kiss on her jaw. "I promise I'll be gentle, and we won't do anything you don't want. Okay?"

It was the most romantic thing anyone had ever said to her, so happy tears came to her eyes. "Okay," Brienne whispered in the same breath as kissing him again.

Armed with her consent, Jaime scooped his hand under her left knee in order to open her up to him. At his easy repositioning of her, Brienne felt intensely vulnerable, but her nervousness passed when she felt his cock brush against her. That most intimate of touches made her realise that she wasn't alone in this; they were here in this exposed place together and, only by holding onto him would Brienne come through the other side.

Perhaps guessing that she did not want to feel alone, Jaime gazed into her eyes as he entered her, the hairs on his chest brushing against her sensitive nipples as he did so, sending a spasm of sensation through her entire body that made her gasp and tense. Suddenly, Brienne was struck by how hard his intrusive invasion of her body was, and unconsciously tried to push back against him. Sensing her discomfort, Jaime spoke to her gently. "Don't focus on my cock. I am more than just that. Look me in the eye and breathe with me; it will be so much better if you relax. Breathe in... and out..."

In and out... she thought as she looked into his breath-taking eyes and saw nothing but the utmost care and devotion. The fact that they were breathing together in time, lessening her nervousness and oncoming panic, made Brienne's whole body relax. Jaime took that as a sign to withdraw slightly before re-entering more deeply, opening her and stretching her in a way that was both odd and strangely beautiful.

Once he was buried inside her, they stayed still for a moment, gazing into each other’s eyes as if in search of something. As Jaime lifted his hand to run his thumb along her bottom lip, Brienne began to completely relax, just marvelling at the exquisiteness of this man who was hovering above her, his eyes filled with affection. Brienne already thought that nothing in the world could ever be more wonderful than holding Jaime inside her, but then he began to move, retreating and advancing in time with his series of satisfied little gasps that made her head spin.

And then they were falling.

Unsatisfied with just having his cock inside her, Jaime kissed her once more, furious, demanding and unrelenting. In spite of trying to parry his kisses with her own desperate tongue, Brienne barely felt able to keep up, so released her frustrations by putting one hand in his hair, messing up the perfect gold locks, and digging her other into the muscly expanse of his back, feeling his hard, attractive body beneath her fingers.

As she scraped her nails down his skin, Jaime moaned into her mouth and started thrusting harder and faster, causing Brienne pull away from his kiss, unable to bear both sensations at once.  "I never knew it would be so wonderful," she cried, as Jaime sunk his teeth into her shoulder, pounding into her over and over again, hitting some place deep inside her that made her want to scream.

"Brienne," he moaned, looking back up for another kiss, which she granted instantly. "Brienne... Brienne... oh god... you feel so damn good."

Brienne had never suspect she would like to be taken like this, hard, fast, and with him on top, but now she was here, lost in the intense pleasure of the feel of Jaime inside her, she realised what a fool she had been.

This is what it is meant to feel like, she thought in wonder as he advanced inside her again and again and again. Loving someone. Holding someone. Having someone.

Having Jaime inside her just made Brienne ache for him even more, so she poured everything she had into him; her warmth, her kisses, her desperate pleas for more, more, more. He responded in kind, moaning and begging yet taking her body with such force that Brienne just yielded to his desires completely, wanting to please him above all else.

And then it all happened at once. After a few more erratic thrusts, Jaime came, his face contorting with the strength of his release until he slumped against her, sweaty and tired and ridiculously beautiful.

"I am sorry," he whispered into her hair, his voice pained.

"What for?" asked Brienne, genuinely confused.

He looked at her, the nerves showing on his face. "I didn't last long... and you didn't come while I was inside you."

"It's fine," she proclaimed instantly, kissing him. "It's fine."

His expression told her that he was worrying she was lying but, in fact, Brienne was telling him the utmost truth. Yes, she had not come while he was inside her, but Brienne had never felt so connected to someone in her whole life and what Jaime had just given her made her so wondrously happy that she just wanted to sing. That feeling of jubilation continued as they both came down from their high, holding and kissing each other as they did so.

However, eventually the time came for that moment to end. As Jaime withdrew from her, Brienne suddenly felt a supreme sense of loss. Knowing she did not want to let go of him, Brienne rolled over and slung an arm around his chest, even as he removed the condom and threw it in the bin beside the bed. Once that ignoble task was done, Jaime turned to her once more, wrapping his arms around her, resting his head against hers and letting out a low contented sigh.

How is he so wonderful? Brienne thought, as the lay together in a silence that did not feel awkward or strange, just warm and close. How is it possible that one person can make my life so infinitely better?

After a few moments of their joint peace, Brienne wanted to hear her beloved's voice.  

"Jaime," she said gently, running her fingers through his chest hair, marvelling at the steady rhythm of him breathing in and out... in and out...

"Yes?"

Even though she was terrified, Brienne looked up at him, smiling. "Is this it now?"

"What do you mean?" he asked, a touch of concern in his tone.

"Is this the point where we stop pretending?" she said, her voice soft, reaching up to run one finger along the perfect line of his jaw. "Where we stop hiding behind apologies, hand-holding, and talking about chocolate and just admit we love each other?"

Even though she felt Jaime freeze, Brienne knew she had to tell him the truth in the most comforting way she could, so she shuffled up the bed so she could lean on her side, cupping his beautiful face in her hands. "I've never done this before," she admitted. "Before you, I'd never really kissed someone, or held hands, or had sex, or confessed my feelings, but there is something about you that makes me want to do all those things. You've been so kind to me and... treated me like a woman, which I am very thankful for. So I don't care if you are my boss, I want you to be my boyfriend, and I want to be your girlfriend, Jaime, because today has truly been the best day of my life and I want to have days like this every day."

His green eyes went very wide. "Brienne, I..."

"I might be going too fast or too sudden or too whatever, but I don't care," she breathed, hardly able to contain her joy. "My therapist will probably tell me I'm being crazy, but I don't give a crap about that either. I just feel so happy when I'm with you, and even though it scares me sometimes, there are things worth being brave for, aren't there?"

Jaime did not make a sound, even as he swallowed deeply, his Adam's Apple bobbing up and down in his throat. It left her feeling nervous and like she was hanging in suspension, waiting for an answer.

"Jaime," she said again, his name a prayer, "are you going to say something?"

It took a few seconds more for Jaime to find the words, but when he did, they were not what Brienne was expecting.

"The minibar."

"What?"

"The minibar," Jaime repeated, pulling himself away from her and swinging his legs out of the bed. "We haven't paid the minibar bill."

"But we haven't bought anything," Brienne objected, as Jaime started scrabbling around for his clothes, putting his prosthetic hand back on before jumping into his trousers and trying to do up his flies up haphazardly.

"Sometimes they charge automatically," he mumbled, pulling on his shoes and his top almost at the same time, meaning he missed the correct buttonholes on his shirt and doing the whole thing up lopsidedly. "I'm going to go pay now."

"But it's the middle of the night, I don't know if anyone would..."

However, she never got to finish her sentence as Jaime picked up his key, turned on his heel and dashed out the room, slamming the door as he went. His departure was so sudden that Brienne did not really know what to do with herself, other than get out of the double bed and wrap the sheet around her.

"Jaime?" she said into nothingness, into silence, her panic rising.

He's just gone to pay the minibar bill, she told herself. He'll be back in a minute and then he'll give me an answer.

Wanting to try and calm herself down, Brienne shuffled herself over to the window to let some air in. Opening the curtains, she looked out onto their traditional Parisian street and noted that all the other windows were dark. Seemingly, no one else was up at this late hour. After opening one of the smaller windows, Brienne was about to consider going back to the bed and waiting for Jaime, but then her breath caught in her throat and her heart nearly stopped...

Because she saw him.

Not caring that he was half dressed and it was the middle of the night, Jaime Lannister went tearing out of the front doors of L'Ours et la Jeune Fille and charging down the road as if his life depended on it. Brienne watched with mounting horror as he did not let up his pace, not even when he went skidding around the corner, almost into oncoming traffic.

Oh god, she thought, her heart plummeting. He's running away from me.

He's so disgusted by the thought of me wanting him in that way he's physically running down the street like an Olympic sprinter in order to get away from me.

As the tears started to roll down her cheeks, Brienne pulled the sheet tighter around herself.

You ugly fool, she told herself. Why did you have to go and ruin everything by putting all your ridiculous feelings on someone who is blatantly far too good for you?

Why are you so stupid?

Why did you even let yourself believe for half a second that Jaime might care for you when it is obvious that you are not, and never have been, deserving of a single scrap of his love?

And then before she knew it, Brienne was sobbing, with her beautiful day in tatters around her feet.

Chapter Text

IdiotsinLove

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In all the years Jaime had been with Cersei, she had never wanted to snuggle. Even when they had gone on holiday together for a week to Barbados, ostensibly so he could console her over her four-hundredth and seventieth break up with Robert, she had not wanted to hold him, or for him to hold her. Cersei Lannister had much better things to do than give; go to the beach, have a manicure, have phone sex with Lancel behind his back. In contrast, Cersei had demanded lots from Jaime - a night of oral sex, him to suggest to their father that she should be the heir to Lannister Chocolates, to borrow five thousand pounds - but never his arms around her when they came down together from their joint high.

That was what made the aftermath of sex with Brienne so weird. Rolling off her, Jaime had expected her to get out of the bed and go for a shower, with a casual "thanks brah, can you go sleep on the floor now?" It was only going to be a one night thing after all; the thought that the wonderful Brienne Tarth would want anything more from him than the use of his body for a few hours was terrifying, and totally unexpected.

Yet, the second he was no longer inside her, Brienne made a dissatisfied little noise and slung her arm across his chest, locking him against her. She continued to hold him as he took the condom off and threw it in the bin beside the bed, doggedly sticking to him and physically demanding he stay close even as he wriggled around.

What the hell is going on? Jaime thought. Why won't she just let go of me? If she's doing this to be kind, she doesn't need to. I don't need to be let down gently. I know what this is, she doesn't actually want me... I know I'm stupid and pretty and don't have anything more to offer her than that. That's what Cersei told me.

So why won't she just let go?

However, Brienne continued to cling to him and, because he wanted to make her happy, he tried to give her what she needed. Wrapping his arms around her, Jaime rested his head against hers and listened to the satisfied little snuffling sound she made as she pressed her nose into his hair. Their closeness made him feel immensely warm, but also lost and confused. In the silent moments that followed, Jaime started worrying, his heartbeat picking up pace with every second that she continued to hug him. Although he could interpret her actions as sweet and caring, the larger part of him knew she must want something in return for this piece of affection; love like this did not come for free. Would she want a promotion? A pay rise? What about a...?

And yet, in the whole time Jaime had known her, Brienne did not seem to ever want anything from him at all. After he had run out on her during their dinner, she had been almost too understanding, forgiving him instantly even though he had been a dick, and then during the convention, it was her hand in his that gave him the courage to face down his father and sister. It all made no sense. Her general sweetness just left him feeling unsure, vulnerable, and entirely undeserving, even as she held him in her arms, humming with contentment as she touched him. Although he was quite devoted to his worrying, Brienne eventually interrupted with a small smile and some devastating words.

"Is this it now?"

A knot started to tie itself at the centre of Jaime's stomach. "What do you mean?"

"Is this the point where we stop pretending?" she said, running her fingers through his chest hair as if it were spun gold. "Where we stop hiding behind apologies, hand-holding, and talking about chocolate and just admit we love each other?"

I can't admit that, Jaime thought suddenly. I loved Cersei, and that was just broken and sick and made me feel sad. We have something infinitely better.

Due to the overwhelming sense that he was trapped and caged in her grip, Jaime felt unable to say anything so let her speak. To his surprise, Brienne carried on smiling at him dreamily as she shuffled up his body and cupped his face with her hands, looking at him as if he was something truly precious. Her unasked for devotion made him absolutely terrified.

"I've never done this before," Brienne admitted, eyes bright. "Before you, I'd never really kissed someone, or held hands, or had sex, or confessed my feelings, but there is something about you that makes me want to do all those things. You've been so kind to me and... treated me like a woman, which I am very thankful for. So I don't care if you are my boss, I want you to be my boyfriend, and I want to be your girlfriend, Jaime, because today has truly been the best day of my life and I want to have days like this every day."

Panic constricting his throat, Jaime managed to choke out, "Brienne, I..."

"I might be going too fast or too sudden or too whatever, but I don't care," she announced, her words tumbling out of her mouth quicker and quicker with every blushing declaration. It made Jaime's heart race. "My therapist will probably tell me I'm being crazy, but I don't give a crap about that either. I just feel so happy when I'm with you, and even though it scares me sometimes, there are things worth being brave for, aren't there?"

At that moment, with Brienne looking at him expectantly, Jaime felt anything but brave. Here was Brienne - his lovely wench - saying she wanted all sorts of things with him that he could never give her. Cersei had taught him that he shouldn't expect true commitment, and if Brienne wanted that from him, he knew he wouldn't be capable of offering her what she really needed. He would let her down, Jaime knew it, she could do so much better...

"Jaime," she said again, "are you going to say something?"

Although Jaime wanted nothing more than to make her happy, to wrap her in his arms and say he would give her anything she wanted, it felt as if his sister had grabbed his heart and was choking it, his whole body filled with an intractable blackness he could not escape from.

"The minibar," he spluttered, feeling distraction was better that outright rejection.

"What?" she replied, blinking with confusion.

"The minibar," Jaime repeated. "We haven't paid the minibar bill."

And then his legs followed his heart as Jaime scrambled out of the bed, trying desperately to control his breathing as he darted around the room, jumping into his clothes as quickly as he could. Even as he hurried, Jaime could feel Brienne watching him with her beautiful, condemning eyes, so he tried not to look at her lest she stop his escape and tempt him back to bed.

Why is there no air in here? he panicked. Why can't I breathe? Why do I feel like I've run a marathon when all that is happening is that Brienne is just staring at me?

As Jaime ran around the room, Brienne tried to make objections as to why his plan was mad, but he batted them away with mumbled excuses and was out the door before even looking at her one more time. Once free of that oppressive little hotel room, Jaime charged back down to the reception as quickly as he could, darting past Jorah Mormont so fast that the hotel keeper must have thought he had seen The Flash.

Outside, there was cold, damp air that Jaime could suck into his lungs, but his legs would not let him stop running. It was his duty to get away from Brienne, as far away from her as humanly possible, so she couldn't trick him into another relationship where she would manipulate and use him for her own ends, or so he couldn't break and crush her overwhelming loveliness with his bitter old heart.

Most probably the latter, he thought darkly.

Jaime had no idea how long he ran for, but only stopped when he reached an abandoned park and, gasping for breath, he went and sat down on a damp bench, desperately trying to get control of himself even as his hands shook furiously.

In and out... In and out...

As he tried to regularise his breathing by using that old saying, Jaime's mind was suddenly flooded with images of Brienne lying beneath him, as he tried to calm her using the same words. When he had first nestled between her legs, she had been skittishly fearful, yet he had managed to soothe her with kind words and gentle touches. He had seen the fear entwined with desire in Brienne's astonishing eyes but had managed to gentle her based entirely on the fact he knew she trusted him.

She trusts me, he thought sadly. Me, a degenerate sister-fucker who for some reason she thinks she's in love with. Stupid wench, why can't she see what is in front of her eyes? That I'm not worthy, that I don't know what love is, that I'll break her...

He knew that Jon would get stern with him for thinking like this. Jon had spent their sessions with him impressing upon him that he thought Jaime was too caught up in his past, and often missed the little opportunities in life that would allow him to start a new story, to become another person.

I wonder whether this was another one of those moments, he wondered. Brienne offered me a relationship, the possibility of having days like the one we shared together every day for the rest of our lives. How could I ever have something so wonderful? How could I ever be deserving of such a bright new beginning?

Because that would be a new beginning... with the woman I love.

Suddenly, Jaime was on his feet again, his whole body surging with energy.

What the fuck am I doing? he thought madly. I've just charged out of our hotel room after I took her virginity and we had the most amazingly intimate sex of my life. And then afterwards, Brienne wanted nothing more from me than to hold me and tell me she loved me. There was no price, no bargain, just me and her and dreams of the future.

Why did I push her away? Because of Cersei's ghost? Because of my fears?

As a sense of clarity that he had never been in possession of before conquered Jaime's mind, Brienne's words came back to him in a flood of realisation, as if she were a prophet from the heavens and he the local idiot she was trying to convert.

There are things worth being brave for, aren't there?

Yes, wench, he smiled. You are worth being brave for.

You.

Even though his entire body was aching and he was soaked through to the skin because of the rain, Jaime dashed out of the little park and tried to work out where the hell he was in relation to L'Ours et la Jeune Fille, which was a very difficult task considering he had not brought his phone with him. Slowly losing his mind in his need to find her, Jaime ran up and down the same set of Parisian streets multiple times, all of them looking the same in the dark.

I'm coming, wench, he mentally told her. I'm coming for you, and then we'll talk and I'll tell you how scared I am of loving you, but that some things are worth being brave for. You told me that, and I want to work it out, because I love you and you love me. We need to at least try and mend our broken souls together.

Jaime had no idea how long he had spent darting round downtown Paris when he eventually arrived back at L'Ours et la Jeune Fille, and the only indication that any time had passed was that Jorah Mormont was looking a little more tired at the front desk.

As Jaime sped past, Monsieur Mormont let out a suprised gasp then called out to him. "Mr Lannister, if you are looking for..."

"Not now!" Jaime shouted, desperate to get back to Room 301 so he could hold his wench in his arms and tell her he was sorry he was an idiot, but he was an idiot in love, and it made him act crazy. When he was back with Brienne, Jaime would throw himself on her mercy and say that he was sorry and stupid but wanted to try and make things work, because the alternative was living his life without her and there was nothing worse that he could think of.

In his desperation to see Brienne, Jaime clumsily fumbled around with the keys to Room 301 for a few moments before he went charging inside, his heart lighter than it had ever been. There was a chance he could live with and love his wench, free of the weight of both of their pasts. It was too good an opportunity to miss.

"Brienne, I love you too, and I want to... Brienne?"

She wasn't there.

In fact, there was barely any evidence she had ever been in Room 301 at all. The bed, which Jaime had last seen it its rumpled, post-sex state, was now meticulous made, with the duvet folded down and the pillows plumped. All the little items that were noticeably hers were gone, with the bathroom devoid of her toiletries and no sign of her suitcase. Yet the most heart-breaking thing of all was that Brienne had picked up all his belongs that he had left strewn around the room and lined them up neatly on top of his suitcase, as if she wanted to make things easier for him when he left.

It was this last act of care for him that went straight to Jaime's heart, especially when he realised that his midnight flight was the very thing that had finally made what he had expected to transpire come true. Brienne had run away from him, just as he thought she would, but it was entirely his own fault. Crumpling in on himself, Jaime leaned back against the closed door and hugged his legs, shaking as his tears overcame him.

If I wasn't the worst person in the world before, I now definitely am...

...Because I've broken the heart of the best.

Chapter Text

IdiotsinLove

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Jaime had no idea how long he sat on the floor of the empty hotel room, because he wasn't really sat on the floor of the empty hotel room. Unable to bear the thought of Brienne getting dressed, quietly packing her things away, and believing he thought of her as nothing more than a warm body to stick his dick into, Jaime let himself go away inside in a way he had not done in years.

I don't want to own this hand, these legs, this body, he thought, because they ran away from her... they broke her heart.

It was so easy to just step back, to relinquish ownership of his body and of the noise around him. Jaime did not quite know when he had first started doing it, but he thought it must have got worse when he started working at Dragonfire Chocolates at his father's behest. For years, Aerys, known by his mononym and his reputation as the "King of Chocolates" had been surrounded by rumours, and Tywin Lannister had tasked Jaime with going undercover and discovering just how true they were.

And they had been very, very true. He had lost a hand for the trouble.

Burn them... burn them all...

As he was slipping away, Jaime thought of Jon. He had originally contracted the stern faced Northerner only because he felt an overwhelming need to talk to somebody after he left his father and his sister behind, but he would never have believed that Jon thought he had a dissociative disorder.

"What does that mean?" Jaime had asked at one of their first sessions, genuinely perplexed.

"It means," replied Jon patiently, "that to deal with traumatic experiences, you disassociate from your surroundings. This can be perfectly healthy in one-off extremely stressful situations - kidnappings, war, invasive surgery - but when you use it as a regular coping mechanism, it can be a real problem."

Jaime had played with that word - disassociate - in his head, and then said, "oh, what, like going away inside?"

Jon had given him a gentle smile. "I suppose that would be a good way to describe it, yes."

Apparently, going away inside regularly meant Jaime needed significant talking therapy and, with Jon's help, over the years he had learnt how to beat back its lulling embrace. It had been a good four years since Jaime had last had an episode, mostly because Jon had got him to try several techniques that would enable him to stay in the room. The one that worked the best, Jaime found, was trying to focus on the senses and really tune in with his physical environment. What can I see? Taste? Touch?

However, sat in Room 301 surrounded by her absence, Jaime did not want to try and grip onto reality anymore so he just... went.

When he finally returned, there was sunlight peeping through the curtains and his suit was not quite as soaking wet as it had been. Jaime got to his feet confusedly, before shaking himself off and looking at his watch. It was 6.30am. If Brienne had gone back to the Gare du Nord to get a train back to London, she would have already had several hours’ worth to choose from.

She's gone, he thought. She's gone.

And even if I could make it better, I don't deserve her after what I did.

A small voice told him he should change out of his clothes - he was like to catch a chill if he stayed in them - but a louder one responded that he deserved to be cold and miserable for the rest of his life after he had been so terrible to someone so lovely. Listening to the latter, Jaime went in search of his keys and he found them casually thrown on the floor.

He didn't remember doing that.

Not wanting to spend any more time in the oppressive little room in which he had made love to Brienne, Jaime made his way out into the corridor and then downstairs to the lobby. Jorah Mormont had been replaced by an unfamiliar woman who Jaime quickly asked for directions to the nearest bar. After she pointed him down to the little underground cellar to the right, Jaime dashed off with a quick word of thanks.

Until I can see Jon, he thought, I'll deal with it by getting pissed out of my skull.

Barely paying any attention to what was going on, Jaime charged down into the dingy little hotel bar that had hardly any people in it. Not knowing what he wanted, Jaime went over to a table in the corner and slumped on it, pretending to look at the drink’s menu.

Why am I such a terrible person? How could she love me now? How could she want me when I've been so awful to her?

 Sinking further and further into a pit of self-loathing, Jaime was only pulled out of it when a tiny glass was put directly next to his head. Looking up, he saw the unsmiling face of Jorah Mormont who was holding a bottle of Jack Daniel's. Without saying a word, he sat down next to Jaime and started pouring out a shot for both of them. Jaime looked at him quizzically, "it's a bit early for drinking, isn't it?"

Jorah shrugged, before downing his shot. "I know a kindred spirit when I see one."

"What makes you think we're kindred spirits?" Jaime asked, copying the hotel receptionist's early morning descent into alcoholism.

"Well," began Jorah with a smirk, "we're both divorcees who are still hopelessly in love with our wives."

Jaime's throat was burning so magnificently from the whiskey he could barely speak as he tried to explain he and Brienne were not divorcing. "I'm not... I'm not..."

"You're separating then?" asked Jorah, pouring himself another glass. "You turn up expecting separate rooms and end up with a double. You end up having a row and storm out, so she leaves a little while later with tears streaming down her face. You come back; she's gone... I see this all the time in my line of work."

"You do?"

Jorah snorted. "Oh yeah. I'm familiar with how a marriage breaks down. It happened to me too. I thought my wife Lynesse was everything I ever dreamed of when we first met; pretty, talented, a bit of a goer. But once we actually got married, she started going with other people, if you know what I mean, and I realised she never really loved me at all."

"That sucks," replied Jaime, reaching for the whiskey bottle. Jorah gave it to him without complaint.

"Well, at least you don't have that problem," smiled Jorah, leaning back in his chair.

"What problem?" asked Jaime, genuinely confused.

"That your wife doesn't love you," replied Jorah. "It's written all over her face... over both your faces. You've both got it bad."

"Not anymore," said Jaime sadly, pouring another shot and downing it instantly, "I did something bad and stupid, something unforgiveable. If she had any love for me, it's gone now."

Jorah ruminated on that statement for a moment, before declaring, "love doesn't work like that. It's not a simple machine of bad thing equals less love. When I saw your missus leave the hotel, she looked upset, yes, but that was because she loves you, not because she doesn't. If you had a fight, I'm sure you can try to make it better, and, you never know... she might forgive you."

Jaime did not quite understand how he had reached that conclusion; with Cersei, it had always been made clear to him that love was a finite thing that you spent like money with no reliable way of earning more. If Jaime had ever done what he had done to Brienne to his twin, she would have shut him out in the cold for months until she eventually called him back and made him prostrate himself until he was small enough that he was no threat to her.

Brienne was too good to do that to him, so this was surely the end. There was no way for him to win her forgiveness.

"But what I did was so awful," said Jaime sadly. "There's no coming back from that..."

Jorah looked at his drinking buddy confusedly, "but you love her. I can see it in your eyes. Surely trying to fix things is worth it?"

"Yes, but..."

"But what?"

Jaime swallowed, "what if she doesn't forgive me?"

Shaking his head, Jorah gave Jaime a sympathetic smile. "Then at least you tried. I think people only regret the things they don't do in life rather than the things they do. And what could be worse than always wondering if whether you just said sorry things would be different."

Sorry, thought Jaime, putting his shot glass down. Would that ever be enough to make up for what I have done?

Jaime did not know, but his early morning drinking session with a hotel receptionist had at least illuminated one thing for him.

He wanted to try.

Chapter Text

IdiotsinLove

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While waiting on the platform at the Gare du Nord for the Eurostar to come rolling in, Brienne held the handle of her suitcase tightly, trying not to let her mind run away with itself.

Jaime could always turn up at the last minute, begging me not to go and saying it was all a mistake and that he loves me really, she thought, like the romantic lead always does in rom-coms.

And then she remembered.

But I am not a romantic lead... and he is. He could do so much better than me, and he knows it.

We both know it.

Jaime just wanted sex and I was convenient.

Strangely, it was her knowledge of what she truly was that allowed Brienne to hold back the tears. When she was a little girl, her father had always told her every time something bad happened that there was always hope of a brighter tomorrow, always hope that things would get better. Trusting him, she had tried to carry that hope with her during her years as a bullied outcast at school. Unfortunately, it had taken Connington and the prom for Brienne to realise her father was telling her a sweet lie; it was much better to accept hope was something for other people and try and find some other less damaging way to endure life. Due to her years of living in society, Brienne knew the only thing the world valued about a young woman was the way she looked, and, because she was ugly, Brienne was therefore expected to put up with all sorts of abuse and ill-treatment because of it.

Ugly girls could not have anything nice, so Brienne could never have her handsome, lovely boss as her own.

It is just how life is, Brienne thought sadly.

When Jaime inevitably did not come swooping in like a romantic hero before the train pulled in, Brienne let out a little sigh and boarded, taking time to make sure her suitcase was stored in an overhead rack, before taking a seat with barely any leg room and getting her copy of the third book of A Tune of Earth and Wind out, which was imaginatively titled A Brouhaha of Blades. Not wanting to think about Jaime anymore, Brienne turned to the page she had left off at and remembered she had just reached her favourite bit of the books, when Sir James Lancaster turned up at the fighting pit to save Brianna of Farth from a polar bear.

Normally, the story could hold her with rapt attention; the series had not yet finished, so Brienne longed to know whether Sir James would ever entirely escape the clutches of his evil cousin Carol and start a relationship with Brianna, but for some reason, this time it did not seem so compelling. Perhaps it was that she had spent too long on the internet listening to dude bros talking about how the ending offered by Puzzle of Chairs - that Sir James would always return to Carol - made perfect sense, but now Brienne was not nearly so invested in this romance anymore.

In her heart of hearts, Brienne knew her reservations were due to the fact that by pursuing the ending it did, Puzzle of Chairs had revealed what she knew deep down all along; the idea that Sir James and Brianna could look past the superficial and see the beauty within each other was just a stupid fantasy for silly idiots. In the real world, people wanted tits, special effects, and (apparently) incest porn, so that was what the media made for the ignorant masses to consume. Brienne thought that sad state of affairs said much more about the reality of humanity than Martin R.R. George's pretty tale.

Consequently, it seemed to Brienne that it was a case of life imitating art; just as Sir James could never look past Brianna's beastly outside to see her heart within, neither could Jaime for Brienne.

So she closed the book, fed up of stupid stories, and went to sleep.


When Brienne returned to her flat at about 11am on Saturday morning, she was rather surprised to hear a rumble of conversation going on behind the front door. Fumbling around for her keys, she heard an undoubtedly male voice speaking lightly, followed by Shae's familiar titter.

This is quite unlike Shae, thought Brienne. Her Friday night conquests are normally never allowed to stay this long.

Hoping that Shae and her gentleman caller would be in the kitchen or in Shae's bedroom, Brienne was disappointed to find them sitting in the lounge having a chat, meaning she couldn't just sneak past them both to escape to her room where she could hide forever. Instead, she had to act natural when Shae fixed her with a winning smile.

"Hey, Brienne! You're back early."

"Yeah, I am," replied Brienne, not really wanting to talk about the reason why.

"Not much to see in Paris?" asked Shae, genuinely curious.

Brienne went to answer, but she found she was interrupted by Shae's gentleman caller. "Or did you just have enough of looking at my brother's stupidly handsome face?"

Blanching, Brienne snapped her head around to look more closely at the man. He was short - dwarf short - with mismatched eyes and an unsightly scar. Nevertheless, there was something of Jaime in the smug smile he was giving her. Just thinking of her boss made her heart hammer, so she went back to gaze at Shae for a distraction.

"Oh yeah," said Brienne's roommate casually, "Brienne, this is Tyrion, who I suppose is your boy toy's brother."

"He's not my..." began Brienne, but she was cut off by the aforementioned boy toy's brother.

"Pleasure to meet you," smiled Tyrion, cocking an eyebrow at her. With every gesture, the resemblance between Tyrion and Jaime only became stronger and it made Brienne want to run away in the opposite direction very fast. However, there was something about Tyrion's presence in her flat that piqued her interest and, even though Jaime did not return her feelings, Brienne still cared about him, so she felt compelled to ask Tyrion a question.

"I didn't think Jaime was in contact with any of his family, other than his Aunt Genna," said Brienne stiffly, not returning Tyrion's smile. "Why are you here?"

"My brother and I have an interesting relationship," replied Tyrion his smile faltering. "He was my father and sister's lapdog for years, and we fell out after the whole Tysha... never mind. Let's just say we are not antagonistic towards one another and keep in contact on insta at least. And it was through that delightful medium that I was able to get in contact with the delectable Shae here, so I want to thank you for that."

Of course, thought Brienne bitterly. Shae just has to appear on the internet and has men after her instantly, whereas I...

There's no point being jealous.

"Oh," said Brienne, not really thinking that Shae and Tyrion getting it on were anything to do with her. "Well, that's... okay..."

Tyrion gave her a breezy smile. "So where is my brother? Have you totally exhausted him on your romantic break to Paris?"

At Tyrion's comment, Shae let out a little giggle and Brienne felt her stomach swoop. Apparently, the thought that she and Jaime might be doing something romantic together was hilarious to everyone, and it just picked at Brienne's already deeply felt hurt. Anger suddenly flaring, Brienne found she could not keep her temper. "I have no idea where your brother is. Probably still in Paris. So, if you would excuse me, I need to go and unpack."

Her brusque tone clearly startled Tyrion, as his smile vanished from his face in an instant. Realising he had said something wrong, he glanced at Shae guiltily, before turning back to Brienne and opened his mouth to try again. Not really caring to hear it, Brienne picked up her suitcase once more and dashed to her bedroom. Once there, she slammed the door behind her, quickly shimmied into a fresh pair of pyjamas and threw herself into her own bed, burying her face in her pillow.

Only once she was there, cocooned in familiar warmth and the comfort, did Brienne allow herself to cry.


Brienne spent the rest of Saturday in bed and did the same thing on Sunday. The only actual human interaction she had was Shae coming in asking her if she wanted to talk. The answer was always a resounding no. Although her intentions were undoubtedly kind, Shae could never understand what it was like to be ugly Brienne Tarth and have the only person you had ever allowed yourself to be open and intimate with to reject you without a care straight after finishing the deed.

Shae knows a lot about men and would say it is my own fault, Brienne told herself, that I didn't see the signs, that I let myself believe.

I should have known there was nothing to believe in.

Finally leaving her room on Sunday afternoon, Brienne went in search of ice cream, and thankfully found a half-eaten tub of Ben & Jerry's at the bottom of the freezer. After finding a spoon, she went back to her room and scoffed it down while watching old episodes of Catfish on her laptop.

Now that's a show that tells you the truth, thought Brienne in a kind of bitter triumph. Lying, cheating and trying to look more attractive than you are with fake profiles. That's real life.

From Catfish, Brienne then moved onto watching her favourite film - The Sound of Music - for some light entertainment, but she found she had to whizz past the romantic bits between Maria and Captain von Trapp, because she was fed up of being told lies by the media she consumed. In the end, she only noticed how late it was when Shae poked her head round the door and asked her to turn the volume down, because it was late and they both had work in the morning.

Work in the morning, thought Brienne with dread. I have to go and face Jaime.

Unless...

Switching off The Sound of Music, Brienne opened her emails and a word document. Her heart beating rapidly, Brienne got writing, knowing there was only one thing to do to end this crisis. Having typed in her name and address, Brienne thought about the best thing to say.

Dear Mr Lannister,

Please accept this letter as notice of my resignation from the position of Head of Sales at Red & Gold Chocolates.

I think it is probably best that this resignation happens with immediate effect, but if I am required to work a notice period per my employment contract, please let me know.

I have very much enjoyed being part of the Red & Gold team, especially in relation to the development and promotion of the new range, and I wish you and the rest of our colleagues the best of luck with it in the future.

Yours sincerely,

Brienne Tarth

Saving the file as RED & GOLD RESIGNATION LETTER, Brienne attached it to the email she would send to Jaime. She thought it would be quicker this way and so much easier if they never had to face each other again. Brienne could go back to loving him in secret, while Jaime could pretend he had never lain with a beast.

And yet... and yet...

Jaime had wrapped his arm around her waist as they had taken photos around Paris, he had sought comfort in her embrace at the convention, and he had named his new range after her. And above all those things, Jaime had made love to her so passionately that for a moment - a wonderful, transient moment - Brienne had honestly believed it was possible that he could love her back. Therefore, in spite of everything that had happened since, Jaime deserved more than that first impersonal letter.

So she wrote him a second one.

Dear Jaime,

I am very sorry to write to you. I know you must have much more important things to do than listen to me, but I couldn't leave things how they were the other night.

Everything I said to you in our hotel room was true; I do love you, I do want to be with you, but I know that I was being foolish in ever thinking you could reciprocate my feelings. I understand the world. I know what you are and what I am, and that there is no chance we could ever be a pair. You are kind, giving, handsome, and need someone to love you who is deserving of how wonderful you are in turn. I hope you can find that, even though I cannot be the one to give it to you. I want you to be happy, because that is what you deserve above everything else.

I am very sad to be leaving Red & Gold, I have truly loved working there with you and our colleagues. If I had been blessed with good looks and an interesting personality, perhaps I would be able to make it as hard for you to be separated from me as it is for me to be separated from you, but we don't live in that world. Therefore, I have to think of myself. I can't continue to love you and know that you don't love me, and I will never countenance arriving at work every day to drown in everyone's pity. I might not be anything special, but I must at least have my self-respect.

I thank you for everything you have done for me, and I wish you every happiness in the future.

With all my love,

Brienne

Once she had finished writing, Brienne entitled that document DEAR JAIME and attached it to the email alongside her resignation letter. Then, she went to send it.

And found she couldn't.

I'll never see Jaime again...

I'll never...

Not wanting to make the decision immediately, Brienne saved the email to her draft folder, knowing she needed more time before she severed the chord that bound the two of them so finally. Yet she still would not go to work tomorrow; she was not ready to face him. The delaying tactic was remarkably simple. Opening her phone, she sent a message to Margaery, who usually dealt with all with all the personal problems of the employees of Red & Gold.

Brienne:            Hey Margaery, just to let you know, I have come down with the flu. I am very sorry and will hopefully be better tomorrow. Can you let Jaime know? Thanks.

With a click of a button, the message was sent, and Brienne put down her phone and closed her laptop and sunk back into her pillows, waiting for a response. A few minutes later, Margaery obliged.

Margaery:         That's a shame. I'll be sure to log your absence. Did you catch the flu in Paris? Did it effect your time at the convention? And your time with Jaime?

Brienne did not answer that; she did not think her broken heart could bear it.

Chapter Text

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After drinking for a little longer with Jorah Mormont, Jaime went back up to the empty, Brienne-less hotel room and had a shower. He had thought the warm water would finally get rid of the bone-deep cold that had pervaded him since he had fled the bed he shared with Brienne, but after he finished and towelled himself dry, he realised it was a complaint of the soul rather than the body. Even so, he put on a pair of jeans and a jumper, in an attempt to warm himself up. 

As Brienne had lined up all his belongings before she left, it did not take Jaime long to pack his bag and go back down to the lobby to check out. He walked to the station in the damp air, trying not to think of Brienne and the terrible thing he had done to her. Jaime knew he had to make it right, but he did not think phoning her and spilling his guts was the best way to do it; they needed to talk, face to face, in a way where he could explain how much their night together had meant to him, and he was sorry how weak and scared he was, but he would try to be better, try to make it up to her...

...because I love you, Brienne. I am completely, hopelessly, madly in love with you.

Morosely wandering around the Gare du Nord, Jaime kept his eyes open, half-heartedly hoping Brienne had not yet got on the train to London and was waiting for him. Deep down, he knew this was a stupid dream; he had treated her appallingly and she would probably hate him forever, would never want to speak to him again, would...

I have to try, he thought, I have to try to explain. She deserves that at least.

Yet before that scary possibility, there was something Jaime had to do. Once he was aboard the Eurostar, he got his phone out and messaged Jon.

Jaime:              Hey Jon, do you possibly have a spare slot this afternoon for a session?

...

Jon:                  I have. Could you make 4pm?

Jaime:              Yes, that's perfect.

Given how late he got back, when he arrived home, Jaime just had time to dump his suitcase before taking the train to Jon's swish practice in central London. Drinking lots of water to shake off the effects of the whiskey he had drunk that morning, Jaime walked into Jon's office trying to look confident in a way he did not feel. However, once he was sat down and was met by Jon's searching grey eyes, he could no longer keep up the facade.

"I fucked up," he said, his words almost choking him. "I fucked up bad, Jon."

Picking up his notepad, Jon smiled at Jaime levelly. "You are going to have to give me a more detailed explanation than that. How exactly did you fuck up?"

So Jaime told him. Beginning with the train journey to Paris, he detailed the wonderful day he had spent with Brienne; from the awkward tension in the hotel room when they had first arrived, to her being his rock and comforting him at the convention, to their face-off with his father and sister, and then their romantic evening holding hands and wandering around Paris.

"And then..." said Jaime, faltering slightly.

"Yes?"

Jaime swallowed nervously, not wanting to expose Brienne. "We went back to our hotel room and we... we... had sex."

That seemed the best way to describe the meeting of their bodies to his therapist - unemotional, unsentimental, almost scientific - as it did not leave his heart open and vulnerable. If Jaime had said how he really felt, that he had made love to Brienne and felt closer to her than he ever to had to anyone, well, ever, he was scared he would just shatter.

"And how did you feel about that?" asked Jon. "How do you feel about that?"

Jaime examined the subtle difference between Jon's two questions and tried to tease apart his tangled mess of feelings. "During I was... ecstatic. I never seriously thought she would want me, especially after I ran out on our dinner date, but apparently, Brienne forgave me for that. She's good in that way... a way I could never be."

Noticing Jaime had not answered his questions fully, Jon pushed him again. "And how do you feel now?"

The extent of his emotions could all be easily encapsulated in one word: "guilty."

Jon seemed confused by that response. "Why?"

"Because... because..." stammered Jaime, trying to stop the lump blooming in his throat, "once it was over, she would not stop hugging me, and then told me she loved me and wanted to be with me. And I... panicked and ran away."

"Ran away?" questioned Jon, jotting Jaime's answers down in his notebook.

Having to explain that moment of terror to his therapist made all Jaime's hurt over the situation come up again, but he pushed through in order to make a type of confession, so he could unburden his soul. "Yeah. I didn't give her an answer when she asked me if I loved her, because I got dressed and ran out of the hotel. I felt like I couldn't breathe and that I couldn't hear anything other than the sound of my own heartbeat. I needed to get out of there, so I just ran. I don't know how long I was gone for. I ended up in some park somewhere; it was cold and dark, but I managed to get control of myself again."

Jon nodded slowly, "and once you were back in the room, did you then go back to the hotel?"

"Yes," replied Jaime, unable to stop his voice from breaking, "but she was already gone."

"Did you go after her?" Jon asked, seemingly gazing into Jaime's soul with his searching grey eyes.

"No," said Jaime bitterly, "I sat down on the floor and disappeared."

At that answer, Jon narrowed his eyes, before putting his pen down with deliberate precision. "You disassociated? You went away inside?"

Jaime dropped his eyes from Jon's face to look at the back of his prosthetic hand. Overcome by his own guilt and inadequacy, he murmured, "yes, I did. It... seemed like the only thing I could do at the time."

"Why was that?" questioned Jon. "You have spent four years without having an episode, working admirably at processing why you have used disassociating as a way of coping in the past. What was it about this situation that led you back there?"

Jaime thought it was a stupid question with an obvious answer. "I'd just broken her heart... the woman I love; I had just broken Brienne's heart all because I was scared and panicked. In that moment, I was weak, feeble, and the lowest of the low. I just imagined how sad she must have been, and I didn't want to be me anymore. I didn't want to continue to be that arsehole who was so relentlessly undeserving of her love."

"Why do you believe that?"

"What?" replied Jaime, confused.

"That you are undeserving of Brienne," said Jon gently. "She told you that she loved you... she clearly thinks you are deserving of her."

Jaime scoffed derisively, "she's wrong. She's too good for me, far, far too good for me."

"Why do you think that?" replied Jon, asking a variation of the same question he had already asked half-hundred times. It made Jaime irritable, and he almost snapped back at his therapist, fed up of him twisting and turning his feelings into a messy pulp.

"Because I'm not deserving of love, any of it," he said firmly, any other explanation of how his life had played out seeming false and wrong. "For my whole life, I've never been deserving of it. Not once. Not from anyone."

"I think that is a false assumption," Jon countered carefully. "I think that is just your poor self-image talking. I think..."

Jaime rolled his eyes. "Well, you are wrong as well. Nobody has ever loved me properly - not my father, not my sister - doesn't that tell you something about me?"

"What about Tyrion?" said Jon, trying to push back against Jaime's claims.

If Jon had intended it to help alleviate Jaime's mental condition, it fell short, as it just made his stomach sink. "Tyrion loved me, because I protected him from our father when we were kids... but I didn't deserve his affection. I pushed him to alcoholism, I..."

"You know that's not true."

"It is true," insisted Jaime. "He loved me, and I betrayed that love."

"We've spoken about this before..."

"But it doesn't change the facts," snarled Jaime, lashing out like a wounded animal. The reality of the situation was irrefutable, and no endless talking about it would ever change that. "When he was sixteen, he fell in love with this sweet girl from the country - Tysha, her name was - and he was so happy. She was generous, kind, and giving and Tyrion loved her, goddamn it, he really loved her. But according to my father, Tysha was not good enough for a Lannister, a son of Tywin Lannister, and cooked up a scheme to have her framed as a cheat. As Tyrion trusted me the most, it was my job to give him the evidence my father had concocted and... I did."

Jon let out a little breath. "Jaime, I..."

"It broke Tyrion's heart... it destroyed him. I was his big brother, the only person he had ever had faith in, and I betrayed him. I was never worthy of his love... never deserved it."

Clearly not agreeing, Jon furrowed his brow, like a slightly disappointed teacher. "We've discussed this before, Jaime. That was not your fault alone. You were the secondary victim of your father's abuse. We have worked through this in the past and processed through your guilt and found a way for you to apologise to Tyrion. Don't let this new heartbreak open an old grief."

"But it not an old grief; Tyrion didn't forgive me," declared Jaime, his voice growing more impassioned with every word. "We're barely in communication, just an odd message on social media here and there. He doesn't love me anymore, and I deserve that... I deserve that... just like I don't deserve Brienne's love."

Quite suddenly, Jon put his notepad down alongside his pen. "Do not equate these two situations. Your relationship with Tyrion is long and complex, much more than the game of winning and losing love you paint it as. This situation with Brienne is new, blooming, and you can rectify this."

Jaime shook his head in disbelief. "How?"

For the first time that session Jon smiled. "By telling her the truth; about yourself, your fears, and your feelings for her. Real love is revealing yourself completely and allowing yourself to be truly vulnerable with another person. If you want to apologise to Brienne, exposing yourself, heart and soul to her, will be the only way to explain to her why you did what you did, and perhaps enable you to start a relationship on a basis of true, reciprocated understanding of who each other are. By telling her your side, she can tell you hers and it can be the start of something new."

"But how can I?" asked Jaime, the tears finally escaping from his eyes. "I'm... me and she is wonderful. How can I tell her how I feel?"

"She's already explained the workings of her heart, perhaps it is time to reciprocate," replied Jon, with an easy, calm expression.

Jaime wiped his eyes, trying to get control of himself as he told Jon the truth of what sat at the very heart of himself. "But I'm scared."

What Jon said next shook Jaime to his very core.

"Jaime, there are some things worth being brave for, aren't there?"


After his session with Jon, Jaime wanted nothing more than to go home, curl up in a big ball and not think about anything. He felt well and truly exposed, and that Jon had broken down him down into pieces and then slowly built him up again in the space of an hour. In spite of being aware that the time unburdening himself to his therapist helped, Jaime had never quite known how to deal with how tender he felt after a session with Jon. A small part of him wanted to get absolutely wasted, so as to blot out his feelings, but he knew that was a terrible idea. He had to face his problems... he just had to find the courage to do it, to pick up the phone and call Brienne, or to at least come up with what he was going to say on Monday to convey to her how very sorry he was.

There are some things worth being brave for, aren't there?

Whatever his plans were when he got home, they were totally disrupted by the visitor who was waiting for Jaime on his front doorstep.

"Tyrion?" he gasped, the second he laid eyes on his little brother. "What are you doing here?"

Jaime had not seen his brother in five years, not since he broke with his father and Cersei. After the falling out, Jaime had no longer felt compelled to keep their secrets, but instead believed he was honour bound to tell Tyrion the truth about Tysha. It had permanently cost him his brother's love.

Yet, to Jaime's surprise, he did not find disgust or loathing in Tyrion's eyes, but a wariness he did not believe his brother could possess. "I came here to talk."

"About what?" asked Jaime, failing to keep his nerves out of his voice.

"Not here," smiled his brother. "Maybe we could go in for tea."

Knowing Tyrion was talking sense - it was never good to air one's problems on the front doorstep - Jaime led his younger brother into his home and then to the kitchen, where he turned the kettle on. With every step, Tyrion's eyes scanned over every inch of Jaime's home, clearly surprised at how modestly his brother lived. However, he did not say anything until the newly made cup of tea was in his hand and Jaime was standing before him, not quite able to meet his eye.

"Why are you here?" Jaime asked again, taking a sip of his tea to warm his voice. "We haven't seen each other for..."

"A long time," said Tyrion gently, a wistful expression crossing his face. "We should have met up sooner."

Jaime let out a bitter laugh. "How could we? You hate me."

Tyrion's eyes went wide. "No I don't."

"Yes you do."

"No I don't."

"Yes you do."

"No I..." Tyrion suddenly stopped, before letting out an exasperated smile, "why would you think I hate you?"

The answer was easy, "Tysha."

At that single word, Tyrion expression turned grim. "I was angry with you about Tysha, furious even, but in five years I have had time to reflect."

Almost in spite of himself, Jaime's heart soared. "About what?" he asked, his words bleeding with hope.

"Whose fault Tysha was," said Tyrion gently, "and I know it wasn't yours. You only had the ignoble duty of telling me the truth."

In Jaime's opinion, that was an outstanding under-estimation of his role in the Tysha saga. Yes, he was the one who revealed all to Tyrion in the end, but he had also been complicit in the web of lies at the beginning. "I had a hand in it. Father got me to tell you she was a cheating whore, and I never rectified that lie until it was too late..."

"You were in father and Cersei's grip," insisted Tyrion, "and you are not anymore."

At Tyrion's continual insistence that he was an innocent party, Jaime started to get annoyed; Jon had always told him it was important to recognise himself for who he was, and he wanted to take responsibility for his crimes, for his brother to know that he was not the paragon of virtue he was painting him to be. "But I'm still..."

"What?" snapped Tyrion, matching Jaime's tone.

The word came out as easy as falling rain. "Bad, Tyrion... I'm bad."

To that painful confession, Jaime was expecting many reactions - indignant fury, silent dismissal, quick agreement - but not the one he got. Instead of any response that seemed in anyway sane to Jaime, Tyrion threw his bed back and laughed; hearty, uproarious, and unrelenting. As he had been trying to give his brother an explanation as to why their relationship had gone aground, Jaime felt vaguely offended.

"What are you laughing at?" he said huffily, folding his arms across his chest.

"You," laughed Tyrion. "If only you could see how everyone else sees you, you would know that you don't have a bad bone in your body."

That seemed so preposterous that it was Jaime's turn to let out a huff of derisive amusement. "How can you say that?"

"Because it's true," replied Tyrion, his laughter dying when he saw the shocked expression on Jaime's face. Stepping forward, he put a hand on his brother's elbow, fixing him with a firm gaze. "If it weren't for you, I never would have survived my childhood. You were the only one that didn't treat me like a monster. I love you for that. I'll always love you for that."

It suddenly felt as if there was a hand around Jaime's throat, squeezing and squeezing until he could barely breathe. "But you can't love me... you can't. You've hated me ever since the Tysha incident. You haven't seen me, haven't spoken to me..."

"Not because I don't love you," said Tyrion honestly, "I just thought you didn't want to see me."

Now it was Jaime's turn to be shocked. "Why would you think that?"

Tyrion shrugged to cover up a sudden moment of vulnerability, "at first I was angry, so I kept away, but then... I thought my face reminded you of your guilt. I thought you wouldn't want to see me."

His brother's declaration was so incredibly sincere that Jaime couldn't keep the words back. "I love you, Tyrion."

Those simple words broke the foundations of the nervous tension that had been building between them ever since Tyrion entered Jaime's home. Without a shred of shame, Tyrion opened his arms and Jaime crouched down to hug him in an instant. "I love you too, bro," Tyrion said softly. "Let's not leave it five years next time, okay?"

"Okay," sighed Jaime into Tyrion's shoulder, feeling as it a huge bolder had just been lifted off his shoulders. "Okay..."

They stayed like that for a few moments, until they were both overcome by the feeling that it was highly embarrassing to be hugging your brother while you were standing in a medium sized kitchen letting your tea get cold. Pulling back, Jaime gave Tyrion something approaching a teasing smile, "is that why you are here? To tell me you love me?"

At that statement, Tyrion's eyes suddenly went very wide, as if he had just had a lightbulb moment. "That was one of the things, sure, but not everything."

"What else do you want to chat to me about after our five year hiatus?" asked Jaime, taking a swig of his tea.

Tyrion looked at him knowingly. "What the hell did you do to upset Brienne Tarth so badly?"

Oh.

Chapter Text

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At Tyrion's question, Jaime went bright red, but definitely did not answer it. "How... how... how do you know Brienne Tarth?"

Tyrion just smiled at him wryly. "Oh, last night I met this absolutely lovely girl called Shae. Funnily enough, she was posting under your insta pictures. I slid into her DMs, we had a good time, spent the night together, and then this morning I discover she's got a very grumpy giantess flatmate who clearly now hates your guts and doesn't care where you are."

Jaime's stomach fell. "Oh."

"Yeah, oh," agreed Tyrion, taking another sip of tea, "it's all so strange because under the pictures from Paris she was so effusive about you."

Jaime blinked at him, not quite understanding what Tyrion was saying. "What do you mean?"

Tyrion got his phone out and opened his insta. "Under the picture of you at the Eiffel Tower, Brienne posted, fantastic day out with this absolute gem @JaimeLannister. Couldn't ask for someone better to see Paris with. And then under this one of you having dinner, she's put this gent @JaimeLannister took me out for moules et frites. I am so spoiled! It's like you are in an actual relationship."

For some reason, that comment hurt Jaime to the depths of his soul. "We're not in a relationship. She's just my employee."

Tyrion raised an eyebrow at him. "Really? Then why was she so pissed off with you? Did you fire her after taking her out for dinner?"

"No, I..."

"What?"

A little tired of Tyrion's inquisition, Jaime snapped, "we fucked, okay? We went back to our hotel room and fucked, and then I ran out afterwards."

Tyrion's expression instantly betrayed his amusement, "you dog, Jaime. I never took you for a hit it and quit it type. Have you just spent the last five years shagging around since Cersei?"

"No!" cried Jaime, horrified that Tyrion would think that of him. "Brienne... Brienne... was my second."

Tyrion's eyes went wide. "What... like ever?"

 "Ever," replied Jaime, trying and failing to keep the blush out of his cheeks. Tyrion had always been such a womaniser, that it must seem crazy to him that a man could go most of his life only having two women.

"And you still run out on Brienne?" asked Tyrion, agog. "Did you regret having sex with her?"

"No, of course not."

"Then what?"

It sounded so stupid when he said it aloud for Tyrion, in a way it hadn't for Jon; "she said she loved me and wanted to be with me. And... even though I want that too, I got scared and ran away." Where his therapist would turn his words over in his palm and consider each one carefully, Tyrion would call a spade and spade.

"You fucking moron."

"Thanks, little brother," said Jaime, his words accompanied by a huff of bitter laughter, "you make me feel so special."

"I'm not trying to make you feel special, I'm just telling you that you are a fucking moron," Tyrion said again. "You finally free yourself from Cersei's spell and then don't do anything for five years with your newfound freedom, and then the first woman you do get it on with you run out on. I don't understand you sometimes."

Jaime furrowed his brow. "I'm not like you, Tyrion. If I want to sleep with a woman, I need an emotional connection... a real feeling. Otherwise it's just a warm place to stick my dick and feels a bit empty and weird."

"Okay," said Tyrion slowly, wanting to make something of that, "but you said you have feelings for Brienne. So, why did you leave?"

Jaime blinked a few times before answering, "because she said she loved me, Tyrion. She used the L word."

Tyrion clearly wasn't getting it, "and? Don't you love her? Or at least feel you have a chance to love her?"

To Jaime, it just wasn't that simple, so he struggled to explain. "Every time I've loved... it's been sick and dark and wrong. I'll ruin her, if I'm with her... and she's far to good for that."

"Or," said Tyrion slowly, "together, you could make something better than you've ever had before. It would not be dark or wrong or sick, because it's not Cersei. It's your lovely giantess."

Something better, thought Jaime wistfully. Taking Brienne on a date and unashamedly holding her hand. Going to the cinema and putting his jacket over their laps so they could do more than kissing. Saying I love you without thinking there was a price to pay. Getting married and for that to be legal in the eyes of the British Government. To have babies together, with her eyes and his curls. To spend their lives, side by side, without it feeling dirty or wrong. Something better.

"How do I get that?" asked Jaime, honestly having no idea. "How do I persuade her to want that with me?"

"First things first," smiled Tyrion, "you've got to apologise."


Tyrion's ways of apologising were unlike those Jaime had used on Brienne before; there was no kissing or making out, just lots of presents and lots and lots of grovelling. On Tyrion's advice, Jaime bought Brienne a bunch of flowers - twelve dozen red roses - and even wrapped up a box of chocolates that she had helped implement in a big red bow. Making sure he arrived early on Monday morning, he had them all set up in his office, along with the script he had written on Sunday with Tyrion's help.

"Brienne," he murmured to himself, pacing up and down the room, reading the lines off the page that were written in Tyrion's neat cursive. "I am very, very sorry for how I treated you. It's not you, it's me. I ran away because I have never come to this point in a relationship before, where love has not been exchanged for something dirty and demeaning but given freely. I did not know what to do and I panicked. I..."

Mid-flow, there was a sudden knock at the door that made Jaime almost jump out of his skin. Quickly stuffing the paper into the inside of his jacket pocket, Jaime tried to casually lean back against his desk, wanting to appear nonchalant if his wench was about to wander in. "Come in," he called, his voice a little higher and more strained than he had anticipated.

However, to his disappointment (and relief) it was only Margaery. "Jaime," she said seriously. "I've got something..." When her eyes fell on the roses, her expression shifted. "That's a lot of roses."

Clamming up at Margaery's pointed interest, Jaime went on the defensive. "What, aren't I allowed to like roses?"

"No, it's just..." Margaery struggled to find the words, "I got a message from Brienne. She's got the flu and won't be coming in today."

Jaime's stomach did a weird swoop. "Oh."

His limited response made Margaery look at him more carefully, surveying him with her laser-like hazel eyes. "Was she ill in Paris?" she asked gently, clearly wanting to probe the matter.

Jaime couldn't help but think of Brienne - his wench - spread out underneath him, every single blush and freckle on display for him to kiss and caress. She had not been sick then. "No... no... she was fine in Paris."

Margaery's eyes flitted back to the roses before returning to Jaime's face. "She's not... upset or anything, is she?"

"Why would she be upset?" snapped Jaime, knowing full well why she would be upset.

Margaery shrugged. "I don't know. It's just... Sansa booked you a double bed, and now you have twelve dozen roses... I just wondered whether maybe something went wrong?"

The moment he had run out on Brienne suddenly came flooding back - cold, dark, and wet, her blue eyes wide in horror - along with the familiar bile of self-loathing. It made him lash out like a wounded dog. "I don't think it's any of your business, is it, Ms Tyrell?"

Margaery went a little pale. "No, it is not."

"Correct," replied Jaime sharply, "and next time I have to go on a work trip with an employee, could you please tell Ms Stark not to play silly buggers and book two rooms next time?"

Sensing Jaime's icy mood, Margaery nodded. "Of course. I'll tell her right away."

"Good," spat Jaime, barely able to keep his cool. "Now, would you please get out. I've got an important phone call to make and I would like to do it... alone."

To his immense relief, Margaery did not fight him on that point but left the office with a nod and politely closed the door behind her. The second she was gone, Jaime paced around the room to sit at his desk, his hand hovering over his phone.

This "flu" has got to be fake, he thought, Brienne was fine at the weekend. She just doesn't want to talk to me...

She doesn't want to talk to me after what I did...

Jaime sat back, leaning into his chair and moving his hand away from the phone. If Brienne did not want to communicate with him, maybe it was best to wait until she approached him; if he was to apologise, it would help if she were in a receptive mood. Furthermore, he did not want to intrude on her quiet space. Jaime knew what it was like for someone to disturb his peace in his office, what if she was just taking today to gather her thoughts? He did not want to upset her... he wanted her to know he cared about her and her wellbeing, about what she needed...

At that thought, Jon's advice came floating back into his mind.

By telling her the truth; about yourself, your fears, and your feelings for her. Real love is revealing yourself completely and allowing yourself to be truly vulnerable with another person. If you want to apologise to Brienne, exposing yourself, heart and soul to her, will be the only way to explain to her why you did what you did, and perhaps enable you to start a relationship on a basis of true, reciprocated understanding of who each other are. By telling her your side, she can tell you hers and it can be the start of something new...

That poetic evocation of the realities of love was then immediately followed by what Tyrion had called him.

You fucking moron.

His mind was made up in an instant. Picking up his phone, Jaime dialled her number and anxiously waited for the phone to start ringing.

RING RING.

Oh fuck, he thought, it's actually started ringing. I was prepared for this, but at the same time I wasn't...

RING RING.

I need to say something to her. Something persuasive.

RING RING.

Maybe I should get my apology sheet out.

RING RING.

Oh shit, I only have one hand. I can't hold the phone and get my sheet out at the same time.

"Hi, this is Brienne here. I am not able to take your call right now, but if you leave a message, I'll get right back to you." BEEP.

Crap, he thought. Without my notes, I'll have to improvise.

"Oh, erm... hi, wench... err... this is Jai- Mr Lannister, your boss... from Red & Gold Chocolates. Do you remember me? Ha... of course you do. That was a bad joke... um... poor timing. I... err... was just wondering whether you were okay? Margaery told me you had the flu and... um... I thought perhaps you might just be pretending because you didn't want to talk to me. Oh shit, I don't mean to imply you are a liar... I don't think you're a liar. I think you are great... wonderful actually... so, um... if you wouldn't mind calling me back, err... maybe we could talk? About... um... stuff? Or... if you don't want, you can totally ignore me and pretend I don't exist, because... I... err... know I'm full of shit. So. Yeah. Ciao."

Jaime hung up, slamming the receiver down, gasping as if he had just been under water for too long and he was slowly drowning.

Ciao? he thought incredulously. Why did I say ciao? Maybe I should ring her and record another message.

But by the time she'll get the second, Brienne will have already heard that first abomination of a message. The damage is  done.

I'll just have to suck it up.

Knowing there was not much more he could do, Jaime switched on his computer and tried to concentrate on his work. If Brienne wanted to talk, she would phone back. He just had to wait, distracting himself with the accounts, suppliers, and emailing advertisers. Not wanting to think about her, Jaime even powered on through lunch, only stopping to send Tyrion some panicked texts.

Tyrion:             Don't worry, bro. She'll get back to you. She might actually be ill.

It was the thought that Brienne really had gone down with flu that kept Jaime from bubbling over into an all out anxiety attack. He had so hoped her could talk to her face to face about what a fuck up he was, that having another veil of miscommunication between them seemed even harder. Consequently, as the afternoon wore on, he began making plans to call her again if he had not heard from her by the end of the day. Jaime did not want to pressure her, but at the same time, he could not let her build a false picture of his feelings out of the broken jigsaw he had given her.

Around four o'clock, Jaime performed one last sweep of his emails, expecting to find lots of junk mail and a couple of queries about the package design for Brienne's Chocolates from Pia. What he was not anticipating was a newly arrived email from Brienne, entitled Brienne Tarth: Head of Sales. Nervously clicking on it, Jaime's heart fell the moment he opened it and saw what it said.

Dear Mr Lannister,

Please find attached my letter of resignation from the job of Head of Sales. Thank you very much the opportunity; I have very much enjoyed working for your company.

Kind Regards,

Brienne Tarth

Not quite able to believe that his wench wanted to leave Red & Gold, Jaime opened the first attachment with mounting horror, vainly hoping to discover it was all a practical joke. However, the perfunctory letter only confirmed what her email had said; she was leaving Red & Gold Chocolates with immediate effect, unless she had a notice period to work. She had enjoyed working for the company, but that was it. It was over.

I've done this, Jaime thought as he was overwhelmed by a wave of self-loathing, I've pushed her away. Me. She doesn't want to be anywhere near me.

It's only right after what I've done. Only right...

That feeling got even worse when he opened the second attachment:

Dear Jaime,

I am very sorry to write to you. I know you must have much more important things to do than listen to me, but I couldn't leave things how they were the other night.

Everything I said to you in our hotel room was true; I do love you, I do want to be with you, but I know that I was being foolish in ever thinking you could reciprocate my feelings. I understand the world. I know what you are and what I am, and that there is no chance we could ever be a pair. You are kind, giving, handsome, and need someone to love you who is deserving of how wonderful you are in turn. I hope you can find that, even though I cannot be the one to give it to you. I want you to be happy, because that is what you deserve above everything else.

I am very sad to be leaving Red & Gold, I have truly loved working there with you and our colleagues. If I had been blessed with good looks and an interesting personality, perhaps I would be able to make it as hard for you to be separated from me as it is for me to be separated from you, but we don't live in that world. Therefore, I have to think of myself. I can't continue to love you and know that you don't love me, and I will never countenance arriving at work every day to drown in everyone's pity. I might not be anything special, but I must at least have my self-respect.

I thank you for everything you have done for me, and I wish you every happiness in the future.

With all my love,

Brienne

If the first letter had made him realise that his wench wanted to leave him, the second only confirmed that it was entirely his fault. He had treated her appallingly, and now had to live with the consequences for them both. By the time he had finished reading her beautifully composed letter, Jaime was crying so hard that he was barely in the office anymore, and he could feel the pull of going away... of flying away to some place where he was no longer Jaime Lannister, the vile bastard who had broken Brienne Tarth's heart along with her self-worth.

It was all he deserved.

Chapter Text

IdiotsinLove

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Every word of Brienne's letter made Jaime's heartbeat quicken, louder and louder until it sounded like the percussion section of an orchestra at the climax of a symphony, reaching a crescendo with a crash of the cymbals. The noise blocked out all else.

I know you must have much more important things to do than listen to me...

I was being foolish in ever thinking you could reciprocate my feelings...

I want you to be happy, because that is what you deserve above everything else...

With every thump of his heart, Jaime's breathing got faster and all he could see was her condemning blue eyes on the night he ran out on her, growing bigger and bigger until they swallowed everything else.

If I had been blessed with good looks and an interesting personality, perhaps I would be able to make it as hard for you to be separated from me as it is for me to be separated from you...

I can't continue to love you and know that you don't love me...

I might not be anything special, but I must at least have my self-respect...

His vision blurry because of his tears, Jaime had never hated himself more than in that moment. It had been two days since he had last seen Brienne, and while he had been running around like a headless chicken trying to get his shit together, she had been believing this about herself all the time. Jaime was horrified to think that what he had done had made her believe she was unworthy of him, because she was just so goddamn kind and good, and he was nothing special, nothing worth getting upset over.

It was the thought of her sadness that allowed him to hold onto being present in his office - to feel the wooden softness of his desk, to smell the roses, to hear the distant chatter of his employees - because he did not want her to feel that way, even if it was too late to persuade her to keep her job.

I have to talk to her, he thought desperately, I have to make her understand that it is nothing to do with her; she is everything I've ever wanted. It's me that's broken and weak, not her.

But first things first...

After drying his eyes and making sure he looked semi-presentable, Jaime closed his emails and went out to the factory floor to face his employees. Margaery, Sansa, Bronn, and Addam were all bustling around, doing the last bit of chocolate packing for the day while idly chatting. When Jaime entered, they all immediately shut up; clearly, Margaery had told them all he was in a bad mood. Given their tense expressions, Jaime decided to play the character they all thought he was.

"Everyone," he said a little gruffly, "I've got an announcement to make."

To his surprise, that did not warrant a spoken response, and instead Jaime was met by four pairs of searching eyes, leaving him struggling to find the words. "So... erm... I've just got an email from Bri- Ms Tarth. Apparently, she is resigning from the company with immediate effect. I am sure you will all agree that she has been a great colleague and..."

"NO!" squawked Sansa suddenly, "she can't resign! She just can't!"

Jaime bit his lip, wanting to keep his emotions in check. "Well, she has. I am sure we can find another Head of Sales. I'm sure..."

Margaery shook her head. "No we can't! Not one like her!"

Given that she was instrumental in promoting the new line, Jaime had thought that Brienne was a very effective Head of Sales, but not an irreplaceable one. His employees all seemed to vehemently disagree, however, as they were all staring at him with desperate expressions. "We'll just have to reopen the job for applicants," said Jaime, trying to be reassuring, "it will be really easy..."

"The company cannot afford to lose her," announced Addam suddenly, his tone firm. "Red & Gold will go under in a week."

At that statement, Jaime looked at his old friend confusedly. "Why do you think that? She was just our Head of Sales."

"Oh for god's sake," grunted Bronn, interrupting. "Are you really that blind? Or were you just too busy having chocolate dirty talk with Brienne during the session where we were developing the new range to notice that she is Renly Baratheon's Hermit Chocolatier?"

That revelation was so surprising that Jaime did not even have the emotional capacity to deal with the fact that Bronn had just accused him of having chocolate dirty talk with Brienne. Instead, he took a big gulp of air and spluttered, "what? She can't be! There was a man on skype..."

Addam looked at Jaime kindly but a little bit patronisingly. "Yeah, but Brienne took her headset off when she came over to help you make the chocolate, and then the guy on skype fucked off. The rest of the session was all her advice, her tips, showing us that she was the one who designed the chocolates, because she is the Hermit Chocolatier."

Jaime opened and closed his mouth a couple of times, completely and utterly lost. "But why did she tell you guys and not me?"

"She didn't tell us," interjected Sansa, "we just worked it out. I think you were just distracted on that day by..."

Sansa's words trailed off with a hint of an accusation that he and Brienne were a thing, but Jaime barely heard her, because he was still struggling with this latest bombshell.

Not only is my Brienne beautiful, smart, and kind, he thought, but she's talented, beautiful, smart, and kind. How the hell did I not notice?

"Jaime?" came Addam's voice suddenly. "You need to go and talk to her. Like now. Whatever you did in Paris, just persuade her that the company needs her, and she can't quit."

In spite of wanting nothing more than to do just what Addam suggested, Jaime knew he could not; it wouldn't be fair to Brienne. Since reading her letter, Jaime was aware that at most he could apologise and attempt to make Brienne realise that she was wonderful and that she shouldn't feel bad about herself because of what he did, as what had happened between them was utterly and entirely his fault. It was too much to ask that she come back to work for him, perhaps even care for him, to be in a relationship with him, to love him...

"It doesn't matter if she's the Hermit Chocolatier," said Jaime huskily. "This is not about Red & Gold; it's about Brienne and what is best for her. After what happened in Paris... I don't blame her if she doesn't want to work with me anymore. Ultimately, I care most about her happiness, so I won't chase her."

At that declaration, his four employees exchanged shifty looks that made Jaime's stomach roil. It was hard enough talking to Jon about his feelings, let alone Margaery, Sansa, Addam, and Bronn. In the end, perhaps sensing his discomfort, it was Sansa who broke the silence. "Jaime... what happened in Paris?"

With a lump blooming in his throat, he tried to be evasive. "Nothing. Nothing happened in Paris."

Margaery raised an eyebrow at him. "No? Then you just bought all those roses in your office for yourself, did you?"

"No," countered Jaime, his face going red. "I just thought... Brienne might like them because... we... we..." He faltered for a moment, before steeling himself and just announcing the truth. "Let's just say we wouldn't be having this problem right now if Sansa had booked us two sodding rooms instead of one with a double bed!"

Sansa's eyes went very wide at his accusation. "What? Did Brienne freak out about it?"

Running his hand over his face in a poor attempt at hiding, Jaime tried to explain in a way that didn't sound utterly ridiculous. "No, she didn't freak out. freaked out."

"About what? The bed?" prompted Sansa gently. "Did you...? I mean... I don't want to pry, but did you use the bed in the way you've both clearly been wanting to for ages?"

At Sansa's question, Jaime just grimaced, which led to Bronn giving him a knowing smile. "You dirty dog, you did, didn't you? I knew you two were fucking."

"Bronn!" protested Jaime, "can you please not call it that?"

Bronn's smile grew bigger, his tone mocking. "Alright... I knew you two were making love."

Rolling his eyes, Jaime propped himself against the edge of a table, really, really not happy to be talking about this with his employees. "Do we have to discuss this?"

"Yes," replied Addam firmly, "because losing Brienne is about our jobs."

"And more importantly," interjected Margaery, "we are frankly all sick of you two being painfully in love with each other all over the factory and not doing anything about it."

That comment was too much. "In love?" barked Jaime, "how can she be in love with me now? After what I did?"

"WHAT DID YOU DO?" cried his four employees in unison, with such ferocity it almost made Jaime jump.

"I... I... I..." he began, his face growing hotter and hotter with every stutter. "I ran out on her after we had sex because she told me she loved me, and by the time I came back she was gone."

A pause so long, so profound, and so generally awkward followed that statement that Jaime wondered if someone had accidentally turned the volume down on the entire world, and he was now living in a silent movie. Not being able to bear the judgement of his employees, Jaime crossed his arms and looked down at the floor.

God, now they all know I'm horrible too. They'll never respect me again. They'll never...

"Right, I've had enough of this bullshit," announced Bronn. "Addam, get your car keys. We're going out."

Jaime snapped his head up, giving Bronn a surprised look. "You can't just leave! There's still an hour left of work!"

"This is more important than packing a couple of chocolates," declared Bronn. "We've got to get our Hermit Chocolatier back!"

Although he liked the sound of that adventure, in truth, Jaime was still a little unsure. "How are you going to persuade her?" he asked, genuinely curious as to Bronn's plan and generally looking for tips on how to win over a cute giantess after being horrible rude to her.

Bronn let out a little snort. "I'm not going to persuade her. You are. Get your coat."

Even though Bronn clearly thought he was being helpful, Jaime's stomach fell. He wanted to talk to Brienne, he needed to talk to Brienne, he just didn't fancy doing it while Addam was staring at him through his car window. "But..." Jaime said, trying to deter Bronn. "I don't know where she lives..."

"I do!" chirped Margaery suddenly. "She put it on her job application! Let me go find it!"

Without another word, Margaery dashed off looking for the form as Addam went to find his car keys. Sansa started grinning stupidly. "Oh, this is going to be so romantic! I'll go get the roses!"

"Wait..." protested Jaime, but it was too late because she had run off too. Defeated, Jaime turned to look at Bronn who was grinning victoriously. "I hate you; you know?"

"I know," smirked Bronn, "but you will thank me for it one day."


Half an hour later, Jaime found himself sitting in the front passenger’s seat of Addam's car, parked outside Brienne's house. Margaery, Sansa, and Bronn were in the back, along with the one-hundred and forty-four roses and the box of chocolates he had bought Brienne. Feeling horribly watched by his employees, Jaime suddenly realised that this situation was his worst nightmare brought to life. Only the presence of Cersei or his father could have made it worse.

"I can't..." he stammered, staring at Brienne's front door. "I... I... really can't."

Sansa put her hand on his shoulder and gave it an encouraging squeeze. "Of course you can. All you have to do is go and knock on her door and say, Brienne, I love you. I'm sorry. I'm an idiot. Marry me and have my babies."

"I think that's a bit much," said Addam with a deep, resonant chuckle.

"Oh all right," sniped Sansa, "maybe drop the last past, but even so, just go and knock on that door and do what you have to do."

At her encouraging words, Jaime looked out of the window once more, straight at the bright blue front door on the other side of the street. Would it really be that easy to just stroll up to her house and pour out his heart on her welcome mat? He thought of Brienne's eyes - her big blue eyes - and the thousand stories they would tell as he did so. Would she be happy he had come? Sad? Enraged?

"I can't," Jaime said again, this time his voice stronger.

"Why not?" asked Margaery. "You've banged her, why can't you speak to her?"

Blushing, Jaime said, "speaking is harder... people judge you for saying the wrong thing." In spite of himself, his mind drifted to Cersei and the million times she had told him he was stupid and blind and less than for saying something he thought was romantic. "I'm shit with words. I know I'm pretty, that's all I've got going for me, but I suck with actual words. They make me feel naked."

Bronn rolled his eyes. "But you were actually naked with her in Paris. How is this any harder?"

"Because I'm scared, alright!" snapped Jaime, his irritation covering for his vulnerability. "I've never done something like this before! What if she shouts at me?"

There was a moment of silence at that outburst as his four employees exchanged worried glances. However, eventually, Addam broke the silence by giving Jaime a consoling look. "Then she shouts at you," he said kindly. "And you'll take it, and then try to apologise. Nobody is saying this is going to be easy, Jaime. It's just something you have to do."

"I know," he moaned, "but I..." Jaime never finished his sentence, however, as, at that moment, the door of Brienne's house swung open and out she came, fresh-faced and wearing her blue coat and matching beret. Without a second thought, Jaime immediately let out a horrified gasp and adopted the brace position, putting his head between his legs and his hands on his head.

"Get up you lunatic," ordered Bronn, "we're not on a plane that's about to crash!"

Not moving, Jaime ignored him. "Is she gone? What's she doing? Where's she going?"

"I don't know," replied Addam, shaking his head in his amusement. "She's just walking down the road. If you sit up, maybe I'll follow her."

His curiosity and desperation to see her eventually winning over his fear, Jaime straightened up (although remained slouched in his seat), just watching his wench walk down the street. "Go on then, Addam. Drive! We've got to go after her!"

So they did. Like the world's worst spies, Jaime and his employees drove down the road at an absolute snail's pace behind their errant Head of Sales, watching as Brienne continued to march down the road, her head held high.

"She doesn't look like she's got the flu," muttered Margaery.

"That's because she hasn't," said Sansa emphatically, "she just didn't want to face Jaime."

"Because, like her boyfriend, she too is shit at talking," laughed Bronn.

As Addam continued to drive his car at five miles an hour down the road to keep pace with Brienne, Jaime's heart was hammering in his chest. What would he say when he eventually caught up with her? Would it be in a public place? Would he have to apologise in front of the world? His fears were mounting so rapidly, that Jaime only noticed Brienne begin to glance around suspiciously when Addam put his hand on the back of his head and shoved him down once more.

"Ow!" Jaime grumbled. "I thought you didn't want me hiding!"

"Yeah," said Addam tartly, "but it's no good if she spots us!"

The five of them spent the next fifteen minutes in a constant cycle of sneaking and hiding; tailing Brienne, behaving like creepy stalkers, and then ducking every time she turned around until, eventually, she reached her destination. It was a rather rundown looking hall belonging to a local Baptist Church, with faded blue doors and a long drive. As Addam parked up, Jaime could only watch as Brienne disappeared inside.

"What is she doing at a church hall?" asked Jaime. "Is she religious?"

Margaery shrugged. "I don't know, but it doesn't really matter, does it? Just follow her inside and tell her you need to talk."

In spite of himself, Jaime went bright red. "But I can't go and talk about the fact we fucked in a church. We'd both get struck by lightning or something."

"Oh, now you are just making excuses," laughed Addam. "I know you are the least religious and superstitious person on the planet, so just go inside and talk to her."

Noting the expectant faces of his four colleagues, Jaime knew the time had finally arrived. Sighing wearily, he unfastened his seat belt and pushed the door open, swinging his legs out the car as he did so. "I have no idea what I'm doing," he admitted, his fear attempting to throttle him once more. "What if it I fuck it up?"

"Then at least you would have tried," replied Sansa, a warm look in her eyes. "Now go, before you lose her."

Taking one last look at his smiling employees, Jaime got out the car, not missing the opportunity to suck in a big gulp of cold air into his lungs to steel himself. As he began to walk towards the door through which Brienne had disappeared, his old fears began to build up and up inside his head once again, making his chest hurt.

She won't want me.

She won't love me.

She won't forgive me.

How could she? 

But maybe I could make her realise she is brighter than every star in the sky.

All the way along the excruciatingly long walk up the drive, there were a few times when Jaime considered turning around and walking back to Addam's car, giving up on the whole thing entirely, but then he remembered Brienne's letter and the pain that bled out from every word. He could not let her believe all those things about herself, not when they were so monstrously untrue. When he entered the church hall, Jaime discovered there were three doors to choose from. The first was the men's toilet, so there was no way she had gone through there. The second was the ladies, but Jaime thought she would not walk fifteen minutes to a nearby church hall just to have a crap, so he settled on the third option. That door had a little sign on it that he only noticed when he got close enough to read it:

The Romantics Anonymous Support Group with Daenerys Targaryen

A fun, friendly group for the romantically challenged!

All are welcome!

Taking one more deep breath for luck, Jaime pushed the door open and went inside.

Chapter Text

IdiotsinLove

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Even though she was not in the least bit sick, Brienne was determined to spend the whole of Monday in bed hiding under the covers, trying to work out what the best thing to do was. Could she go back to work on Tuesday and just pretend nothing had happened between her and Jaime? Or should she try to talk to him again, even though it was him who needed to give her an answer, him who owed an apology? Not knowing the best course of action, Brienne went and made herself a cup of tea, then returned to the warmth of her bed in order to hide and watch old episodes of America's Next Top Model.

She had just settled back into the covers with her drink, when her phone rang, nearly making her spill her boiling hot tea all over herself. Turning around to look at the offending machine, Brienne nearly choked when she saw the identity of the caller: Jaime Lannister. Frozen with fear, she stared at the ringing box of doom until it stopped, not wanting to answer.

What do I even say? thought Brienne. How do I ever enter that conversation?

A few moments after it had stopped ringing, her phone interrupted her anxious storm of emotions to irritatingly inform her that she had a new voicemail message. Feeling quite sick, Brienne picked up the phone and dialled voicemail, determined to get this over with as quickly as possible. Her stomach only fell further when she heard the dulcet tones of Jaime Lannister.

"Oh, erm... hi, wench... err... this is Jai- Mr Lannister, your boss... from Red & Gold Chocolates. Do you remember me? Ha... of course you do. That was a bad joke... um... poor timing. I... err... was just wondering whether you were okay? Margaery told me you had the flu and... um... I thought perhaps you might just be pretending because you didn't want to talk to me. Oh shit, I don't mean to imply you are a liar... I don't think you're a liar. I think you are great... wonderful actually... so, um... if you wouldn't mind calling me back, err... maybe we could talk? About... um... stuff? Or... if you don't want, you can totally ignore me and pretend I don't exist, because... I... err... know I'm full of shit. So. Yeah. Ciao."

Oh god, she thought as he hung up, her heart hammering at four-hundred miles per hour. He doesn't care for me at all. He just wants me back at work, whatever the cost. He thinks we can just ignore each other, that we can go back to how things were before.

But we can't... we can't...


By the afternoon, Brienne had worked out what to do: she would resign from Red & Gold so she would never need to speak to Jaime again, let alone discuss what had happened between them in Paris. Her decision made, she logged onto her emails and sent the draft letters with a swift click of a button. The second she had done it, Brienne closed her laptop and hid it under her bed, not wanting to be tempted to undo her actions. Then, she went for a bath, determined to wash the feeling of him completely away. Yet, when she closed her eyes, all she could see was Jaime.

He won't be upset if I leave.

He doesn't care.

He can never love me.

Once she was done, Brienne towel dried herself and made another decision; she needed to talk to someone about Jaime. Shae had gone away for a few days, and all Brienne's other friends lived far away, so she settled on going to Daenerys' Monday Romantics Anonymous session. Brienne normally did not go on a Monday, because it was that bit earlier than the Friday slot that made it difficult to work it around her hours. However, given that she was now technically unemployed, Brienne felt free to go to the session in order to unburden her soul. After getting changed, she left the house and did the fifteen minute walk to the church hall with her head down, not wanting to get drawn into any big distractions. She had to work out the best way to explain what had happened between her and Jaime to the group, that would not make her out to be the pathetic freak that she truly was and would not make him look truly horrible. To her, Jaime was lovely, so she did not want the support group to hate him.

When Brienne slipped into the room, she found the whole gang there - Sam, Gilly, Podrick, Penny, Jeyne, Hot Pie, Edd, Tormund and, of course, Daenerys herself - and it was clear the session had just started. Noticing Brienne entering the room, Daenerys smiled at her and gestured to an empty seat next to Podrick, while Edd soliloquised profusely on his problems.

"... it's a male dominated job, sewage draining. It's just me and six other guys wading through shit in our protective clothing, seeing more fatbergs that women. How am I meant to meet a nice girl when I spend all day down in the dark? How am I meant to...?"

Perhaps it was Edd's monotonous tone, perhaps the warm temperature in the room, but for some reason, Brienne suddenly felt a little sleepy, and found herself slipping away into an idle daydream. She was back in the hotel room with the double bed, Jaime knelt before her and kissing her there, his green eyes bright and lustful, his hand on her hip keeping her steady. Brienne was so lost to the ghost of the feelings he had elicited in her that she was only pulled out of her reverie by the sound of the door swinging open, and the firm tap-tap-tap of someone wearing blakeys walking into the room. Regaining her focus, it took her a couple of seconds to realise who had just intruded into her mental oasis and when she did, she leapt to her feet as if her chair was on fire.

Jaime Lannister was smiling at her totally casually as if his presence at the Romantics Anonymous Support Group was an entirely normal affair.

Everyone else seemed to disagree with his view of events, though. When Brienne had jumped out of her seat, Edd's monologue on the trials and tribulations of being a sewage worker ground to a halt, Tormund began looking backwards and forwards between Jaime and Brienne as if he was watching Federer versus Nadal in the Wimbledon final, and Daenerys wore an expression suggesting she was slowly cottoning on to what was going on.

Brienne barely saw any of it, however, as she was too busy staring at Jaime.

How is he so damn beautiful even when he's blushing?

"Ah," intruded Daenerys' voice suddenly, as she crossed the room to get one of the chairs from the stack by the door. "It seems we have a newbie. Why don't you sit in between Jeyne and Penny?"

To Brienne's surprise, Jaime looked a little terrified at the invitation to join the group, which was perhaps pushing him into silence. In an effort to counter his feelings, Brienne's boss simply followed Daenerys' directions as she shuffled a chair in between Jeyne and Penny so he was conveniently position opposite Brienne, and then, when Daenerys suggested it, he sat down.

Yet, even though he looked scared, Jaime never once took his eyes off Brienne.

"Right," said Daenerys, retaking her own seat. "Perhaps it is time to hear from our new member."

"I take it nobody wants to hear about my problems at the sewage plant. Typical," said Edd sullenly, folding his arms across his chest.

"We will come back to you in a moment, Edd," replied Daenerys soothingly, before turning to Brienne. "Maybe you want to sit down? It fosters a feeling of togetherness."

As she had not even noticed she was still standing, Brienne sat down slowly, her eyes still glued on Jaime. What the hell was he doing here? Was it an accident? Or had he come looking for her because she had resigned? Why had he chased her? Was it because he wanted her to take her job back?

Or is it because he wants me? asked a small voice in her head.

Once Brienne was back in her chair, Daenerys turned her luminescent grin to Jaime, who was still too fixated on his Head of Sales to look at the leader of the group properly. "Now," began Daenerys, "why don't you introduce yourself? You have to say, Hello, my name is Daenerys and I am romantically challenged and then the group will respond with a friendly greeting."

Looking a little dazed, Jaime said, "hello, my name is Daenerys and I am romantically challenged."

There was a titter of laughter at his particular form of parrot repetition from everyone else apart from Brienne, who was too busy wading through a quagmire of emotions to be able to actually say anything. The situation was recovered by Daenerys, however, who said smoothly, "no, you've got to use your name. We would like to know who youare."

"Oh," replied Jaime almost absent-mindedly, before clearing his throat and trying again. "Hello, my name is Jaime and I am romantically challenged."

"Hello Jaime," came the reply. Normally, the response would be chirpy and supportive, but this time certain members of the group were shooting suspicious looks at each other, as if it was finally dawning on them that this might be the same Jaime who figured so prominently in Brienne's stories.

"Welcome Jaime," said Daenerys, "now, is there anything in particular you would like to talk about today?"

Brienne could only watch as Jaime faltered for a moment, swallowing in an effort to beat back his nerves. His Adam's Apple - the same spot she had kissed and laved with affection during their one night together - went bobbing up and down in his throat. Eventually, he found the courage to speak. "I would like to talk about one of my employees. Her name is Brienne."

At that announcement, Hot Pie's mouth dropped open, clearly the last one in the room to piece together what was going on. Nobody else moved, however, and instead  remained deadly silent. Only Daenerys broke the tension. "And what would you like to say about her?"

"Well," began Jaime slowly, worrying his lip between his teeth, "I suppose I should start at the beginning. A couple of months ago, Brienne came for a job interview at my chocolate factory as Head of Sales and... I was rude to her."

"Why?" asked Daenerys coaxingly when Jaime's story faltered.

Brienne could only watch, obsessed with the sight in front of her, as Jaime's cheeks went even redder and his breathing became a little heavy. Whatever she expected him to say, it was not what came out of Jaime's mouth next. "Because I was so fucking attracted to her and I didn't know how to cope with it. She was wearing this teeny-tiny dress that allowed me to see all four-hundred miles of her legs which were covered in freckles, and then she has these beautiful blue eyes that make me feel like I'm drowning every time I look at her. And in that moment when she came into my office, I was thinking much more about the possibility that she would just take me on my desk than whatever the hell job I was interviewing her for."

With every word, Jaime's voice became more and more impassioned, rising to a climax like the end of a symphony. Unsure of what to do at such an honest, naked reveal of his emotions, Brienne could only stare at him as he just talked and talked and talked about what had gone on between them. It was a familiar story to her, but it was so strange because it felt distorted from what she had experienced. After all, during the job interview she had worried that he hated her.

"And then I tried to make it up to her," he continued, running his hand through his perfect hair, "but for some reason I was just incapable of just saying sorry like a normal person, and I ending up snogging her so hard that some teenagers ended up heckling us. Don't get me wrong, I don't regret that kiss, not for a moment - it was a fucking amazing kiss - but I do regret not telling you how sorry I am that I was such a shit to you in that interview, Brienne... because I really am sorry."

It was the sudden shift from talking about her as an abstract other to Jaime acknowledging that they were together in the room that really set Brienne's heart racing. At his easy confession about their first kiss, Brienne felt herself getting redder and redder. It was hard enough for her even to think about how much she wanted Jaime, let alone hear it all reflected back at her. As a confusing mess of emotions fought for dominance in her heart, the corners of her mouth tilted up in something resembling a smile, which only seemed to spur him on.

"And that's not all I'm sorry for," he said, his volume increasing. "I am sorry I ran out on you five seconds into our dinner date. I was a coward because I told you about Cersei and thought you would... expected you to hate me for it. I should have realised you are far, far too good for that. You are a much better person than I could ever be. You are kind, non-judgemental, inspirational, and for some reason you also want to believe in the best in me, which I've sometimes thought doesn't exist."

He took another breath, before heading into battle again. "And I'm sorry for not noticing you are the most amazingly talented chocolatier in the world, because apparently I'm easily distracted by you using chocolate to sex talk me in the middle of new range planning meetings."

"God yes, you are dense," muttered Tormund, but everyone just ignored him as Jaime continued with his confession.

"You really are so talented," Jaime proclaimed, smiling at her affectionately, "I thought I was being clever in calling the new range Brienne's Chocolates, but they really are yours. You brought our company back from the brink, and I can't thank you enough."

Embarrassed at his effusiveness, Brienne tried to bat him away. "It was nothing," she mumbled, feeling hot and embarrassed that Jaime knew that she was the Hermit Chocolatier. At that statement, he shook his head firmly.

"It was not nothing," he declared. "Your chocolates were voted the best in the Paris Chocolate Convention, and then you held me in your arms as I had a fucking panic attack about seeing my father and Cersei again. It was only because of your support and the fact that your chocolates are fucking magical that they left us alone. So don't tell me it was nothing, it was not nothing to me."

Brienne thought he was overstating the case somewhat, so she attempted to tell him so. "Jaime, I'm nothing special, I..."

"Don't say that," he interjected, his voice turning into a whine, "not because of what I did. It is me who is at fault, wench, and that's the thing I am sorry for most of all; we went to bed together like I had wanted to do for ages and had the most amazing night and then I..."

"Yes?" Brienne asked, almost on the edge of her seat. For days she had been trying to find a reason as to why things had turned out the way they had and now here was her golden opportunity. Jaime just had to find the courage to explain.

"I ran away," admitted Jaime, choked, "because you said that you love me, and I am so undeserving of your love that I didn't know what to do with it, so I panicked and fled."

At that admission, Jaime looked so tortured that Brienne could only blink at him, totally lost. "You are undeserving of my love?"

"Of course I am undeserving," he spluttered, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. "I'm fucked up, Brienne, whereas you are everything good and noble. You were brave enough to tell me how you felt and then I had another panic attack before giving you some shit excuse about the minibar because I am broken, weak, and bad. Besides the whole Cersei issue, I can barely hold my life together. Panic is my natural state of being, and I have this dissociative disorder that means I can disappear inside myself for hours on end and don'r come back. That's exactly what I did after I came back to the hotel to tell you I love you too, and if you want to be my girlfriend it would make me the happiest man on the planet."

Brienne suddenly felt very, very cold at the thought they may have missed each other by seconds. "You came back to the hotel?"

Jaime looked so immensely hopeful in that moment that Brienne thought her heart would break at the sight. "Yes," he confirmed. "I wanted to tell you that if you can be brave, so can I. I wanted to beg your forgiveness, because I would hate myself forever if I made you feel in anyway bad about yourself, because you truly are the best person I have ever met. I also wanted to say that, even though I'm scared, I do love you and I want to try and make it work. I can't hide it... I'm an absolute mess, but if you think that I can make you happy I will spend the rest of my life trying because I love you so much, and I don't want you to believe the things you wrote about yourself in that letter."

And then, finally, Jaime's declaration drew to a close and he looked at her with impossibly bright eyes. "So... what do you say Brienne? Do you want to give it a go... with me?"

Time slowed.

In the seconds that followed his question, Brienne could barely breathe, because everyone in the room was looking at her, judging her, and waiting for her to say something profound. It made a pit of dread bloom in her stomach as she hated being watched. The situation Brienne found herself in at that moment was so like Connington's fake love confession that Brienne could not stop shrinking in on herself, terrified of coming out of her shell and being hurt again. Jaime made it all sound so simple, but if their time in Paris had taught her anything, it was that love just wasn't enough and sometimes other things got in the way.

"Jaime," she eventually managed to say, her voice hoarse, "we can't."

His face fell so suddenly that Brienne wondered if there would ever be stars in the sky again.

"Oh."

"It's not that I don't love you," she said firmly, "or that you don't love me, but sometimes it's just not enough. You are not the only with problems. I come here every week because I was bullied mercilessly as a child, and I struggle to think I am worth anything at all because I'm so ugly, and I know that the way a woman looks is all that matters about her."

Jaime's eyes went very wide. "That's not true! You're not..."

"I panic too," she continued, pushing through his objections. "After that job interview, I nearly resigned immediately because I thought I had applied to be a chocolatier, but the second I realised the job involved talking to people I was terrified. I hate being looked at, because I feel as if people are laughing at me... they are laughing at me. So when you left after we slept together, I felt as if you were just using me as part of a big joke too..."

"I wasn't, I wasn't!" he said desperately, "I love you. I honestly do!"

There was nothing she could do to stop the tears rolling down her cheeks. "I know that now, but I have spent all weekend thinking the worst of you, and I never want that. If we became a couple, what we happen if it all went wrong and we were both too fucked up to talk to one another? I never want to be in a position where I hate you, because I love you so much that I'm sure it would physically hurt for that to change... but I'm convinced that's what will happened. We're both too broken for anything else."

It was only then that Brienne noticed that her tears were matched in Jaime's eyes.

"I want to try," he sobbed, "it might go wrong yes, but there are some things worth being brave for, aren't there?"

That Jaime used her own words against her - the same phrase that had failed to convince him to stay with her in a double bed in Paris - seemed the last straw. "We aren't brave people, Jaime," she whispered. "We're both cowards. It would never work, and you can't persuade me that it would. I am sorry, but that's how I feel."

At that final, heavy rejection, Jaime expelled a swift gulp of air, as if he had just been punched. Brienne could barely look at him, as it hurt her too much to watch as his heart broke. Consequently, she missed the moment Jaime got to his feet, holding himself up tall in an attempt to regain his dignity.

"I love you, Brienne," he said quietly, "never forget that."

A better woman may have let him go with grace, but Brienne Tarth was not a better woman. As it was her last chance to do so, she leapt out of her seat and threw herself into his arms, kissing him because she had so much to apologise for and no words with which to convey it. Cupping his face with her hands, Brienne could feel the tears on his cheeks, so she kissed him in a desperate attempt to lessen some of his pain. Even if they could not be together, she could at least show him she loved him. Her action seemed to have the wrong effect, however, as when she broke the kiss, Jaime's eyes were full of hope once more.

I have to end it, she thought sadly, it is not fair otherwise.

"Goodbye Jaime," she said, her voice heavy with emotion.

In two words, all hope vanished from his face and was once more replaced by an intractable sadness. "Goodbye Brienne," he croaked, "thank you for... everything."

And then without another word, Jaime turned on his heel and marched from the room, the door swinging dramatically behind him as he went. For a few seconds, Brienne could only watch the empty space beyond which he had disappeared, wondering whether if there was any way to ease this required separation for him and for her. Unfortunately, Brienne couldn't think of one. Heartbreak seemed an inevitability.

It took Jeyne clearing her throat for Brienne to realise it had not just been her and Jaime in the room. Nine pairs of eyes stared up at her confusedly, and she felt she had to push back against them just as hard as she had against Jaime's insistence that they should try to make it work. Wanting to take the spotlight of herself once more, Brienne went back to sit in her seat and tried to stop the tears falling as she growled at them all.

"Isn't it someone else's turn to talk now?"

Chapter Text

IdiotsinLove

Lovely banner by lovejb! Thank you so much for this!


It was a little difficult to see the rest of the support group through the tears that were slowly welling in her eyes, but even so, Brienne refused to be beaten. Keeping her chin up, Brienne stared them down. After Jaime disappeared, the silence was all encompassing, eating into her feelings. Daenerys eventually broke the quiet, poking at a chink in Brienne's armour, twisting with her words to make sure it hurt as much as possible.

"Brienne," said she gently. "Why did you just do that?"

In a poor physical attempt to protect herself, Brienne folded her arms across her chest. "Can we not talk about this, please? It's someone else's turn."

Daenerys smiled at her concernedly, before saying, "but that was quite an extreme reaction... I do think we should discuss it, before you go after him."

Brienne snapped her head around, her eyes wide. "I'm not going after him," she declared, feeling the anger blooming in her belly. "I've said goodbye to him... it is better for both of us that way."

"I really don't think..." began Daenerys, but Brienne cut across her, not wanting to listen.

"I don't want to talk about Jaime," she shouted, her voice ringing around the empty space, "so please, can someone else talk about their problems?"

"I'll go," came a voice.

The whole group turned as one to Gilly, who was smiling gently. Daenerys looked at Brienne one more time but, as her expression was stony, the group leader conceded to her wish. "Okay, Gilly. Go ahead."

"Hello, my name is Gilly," she said, her voice light, "and I am romantically challenged."

"Hello Gilly," came the response, which even Brienne joined in with.

"Gilly," said Daenerys, "what do you wish to talk about today?"

"Oh, not about me," she smiled, "but about one of my friends. I have a friend who works at a chocolate factory who is clearly in love with her boss, and he is deeply in love with her in turn, but because she is scared, she won't do anything about it."

Brienne could barely conceal an eye roll as Daenerys said, "oh that sounds very interesting, Gilly, do tell us more about it."

"Well," continued Gilly, her smile growing, "she goes to a support group, and her boss came in and told her he loved her in what anyone else would see as a very brave thing to do, but she called them both cowards in the next breath, and claimed that was why they couldn't be together. In truth, his declaration reminded me of how Sam told me he loved me, and it won me over."

"It wasn't brave," Brienne objected, even though she knew how much courage it had taken her to tell Jaime how she felt that night in Paris. "It was just..."

"My name is Sam and I was romantically challenged," interjected Sam, steering the conversation away from her pessimism. "Right until the moment I met Gilly, I thought it was never possible for someone to love me; I'm too big, too fat, too cowardly. Yet all the toosare part of me, along with all the good bits. Gilly loves me for both, I think."

"I do," reassured Gilly, before leaning in to kiss her boyfriend on the cheek.

Brienne wasn't having any of it, however. Sam and Gilly's coming together had not involved miscommunication, mental health problems, and a gnawing never-ending fear. With Jaime, it was different, because he was ridiculously out of her league. "But my toos are too many. I'm tall and masculine and big and..."

"Friendly and kind," interrupted Podrick. "You... you... you were bullied yourself, so you would never countenance being unkind to other people. Every session you come here and describe how you fight against your fears... how you face them. You are an inspiration. Who... who... who else here would have continued in a sales job entirely unsuited to them? Six months ago, would you have thought yourself brave enough to go to the Paris Chocolate Convention again?"

No, thought Brienne honestly, but she didn't say it, because she felt slightly overwhelmed by Podrick's praise. "But my past," Brienne exclaimed, old fears bubbling to the surface, "nobody has ever wanted me in the past - not Connington or Hyle - surely Jaime's declaration is all some joke...?"

"The past is only what you make it," declared Jeyne Poole, the queen of dwelling on the past. "Every day I fight against the memories of what Ramsay did, and it's tough, I'll give you that... but there is at least a little hope that things might get better. There's this guy at my work, Theon, who brings me coffee most mornings. Sure, it might mean nothing, but it might mean everything, and I will only know by rolling that dice."

"But I can't," squawked Brienne, the tears coming to her eyes. "I'm not good enough for him, I'm not..."

"That's your fears talking," chimed in Penny, her voice quiet. "I know what it can be like to hate yourself, to limit yourself to what you are on the outside, but in truth there are two versions of you; inner and outer. Sure, you have no control over how the outer you is perceived, but the inner you is entirely under your jurisdiction. If you love and care for her, it will be only too easy for you to see how other people can love you too."

Brienne shook her head, not wanting to listen to such platitudes. "It's easy for us to parrot out lines we've all been told in therapy for years, but there is reality to contend with as well. Jaime and I... just wouldn't work..."

"Why not?" asked Edd. "He loves you. You love him. Can anything be simpler?"

Tormund let out a harrumphing laugh at that, before adding to Edd's observation. "Golden dick is obsessed with you, Brienne. I saw it with my own eyes on the skype call."

"But you said I had no chance with him!" countered Brienne.

Tormund shrugged. "Ah, I was trying to get you myself, but there really is no standing in the way of true love."

"It's not true love!" she objected, hating how everyone was trying to undermine her decision. "True love is built on more than a one off shag in Paris. True love takes honesty, commitment, really having things in common beyond lust."

"You do have things in common!" proclaimed Hot Pie. "Otherwise you wouldn't have had anything to talk about in Paris, which you clearly did. And on top of all that, it seems you are both so insecure that you are a mirror reflection of one another."

Now they had hit on the jackpot, the real reason she and Jaime could not be together. Brienne pursued it with all the energy she could muster. "And as I said to him, that's why we can't be together. Yes, we both came out of our shells to tell each other our feelings, but all things considered, we are too similar and that would ultimately do for us. It would be too much of a risk."

Up until that point, it had only been the misfits, rejects, and freaks of the Romantics Anonymous Support Group who had been batting in support of romantic love but now their watch was ended, it was time for the team leader to come out and unfurl her banner. When she spoke, her tone was soft but sage. "That's what love is, Brienne," she said. "A risk. A roll of the dice. A fifty-fifty chance."

"Most relationships end badly..." Brienne claimed, raising her guard even though she felt her resistance failing her, "even among beautiful people... even among people who don't have the litany of problems that Jaime and I have."

Daenerys gave her a reassuring smile, a type not born from the fact she was a therapist but due to real human empathy. "But some don't end badly. Some broken people who love each other cling one another, holding tight as magnets, in the hope that they can make each other a little better. None of us are perfect, Brienne. None of us are always strong. Yet it is in that weakness and vulnerability that we must find each other."

It seemed such a romantic view of the world, that Brienne thought she had not been living in the same world as Daenerys Targaryen her whole life, who made things happen by merely believing. Her last line of defence was a damning indictment on what she and her beloved were. "Jaime and I aren't just broken, we're fucked up."

Daenerys shrugged, as if it were an inconsequential detail. "Well, be fucked up together. Be brave together. You said you were both cowards, but I don't think that is true. You both overcame huge personal barriers here today in telling each other how you feel. What is one more step?"

"And what would that step be?" Brienne asked, barely able to breath.

"That you go after him," said Daenerys with a smile. "And tell him you panicked."


As the door of swung close behind him, Jaime hoped for a brief moment that Brienne would charge out behind him and beg him to stop, to wait, to talk a little more. Yet even though his poor broken heart sang with hope, Jaime knew it could not be the case. He had shown his hand and he had lost.

At least I tried, he thought sadly. I can never regret that. At least there will be no what-ifs.

It felt very cold when he left the church hall for the outside world. Back in reality, Jaime fully felt the magnitude of what had just happened; she had rejected him not because of what he was, not for his past with his sister, but what his fears had led him to do. Thinking back to that night in Paris, Jaime wondered what would have happened if he had just held her and told her he loved her too.

We might be together now, he mused. She might not think me too broken to be with, even though she loves me.

While Jaime had been in the church hall, Bronn, Addam, Margaery, and Sansa had all got out the car and were all waiting tentatively to make his appearance. Once he got close enough so they could see his expression, Sansa called out, "how did it go?"

He did not have the words. Instead, he just shook his head and pinched the bridge of his nose to stop himself crying. The four of them were around him in an instant.

"Oh, I'm so sorry Jaime," said Sansa soothingly, "I thought this might work."

Margaery's tone was a little more indignant. "I don't understand it; she loves you, you love her. I don't understand it."

"These things happen," added Addam consolingly. "You can't win them all."

"We should go for a beer," proclaimed Bronn. "That makes everything better."

Jaime felt surrounded by their sympathy - warm and close - but even so he still felt overwhelmed by weight of her rejection. He couldn't blame her, all things considered, because he had treated her badly, had not done right by her, had not...

"Jaime! Jaime! Wait!"

He span around the second he heard her voice. Only in his most distant hopes had he truly thought that Brienne would forgive him for what he did in Paris but here was a shining glimmer of hope. The rest of the support group hung by the church hall door, while the Red & Gold employees retreated back towards the car. It meant that, once she ran to him and stood before him, it was just the two of them. Jaime and Brienne.

When they were level, her blue eyes wide, Jaime found his voice. "Yes, Brienne?" She blinked and a tear went rolling down her cheek. He couldn't help but lift his hand to brush it away. The gesture inspired her to speak.

"I'mreallyverysorryIpanickedandIrejectedyoubecauseIwasscaredyouarerightweshouldbothbebraveandtrytobetogetherbecausewebothloveeachotherdoyouagree?"

His answer was simple.

"YesIagreebecauseIloveyousomuchandIwanttobewithyouIthinkweshouldjustbothpanictogether."

"IwanttobewithyoutoobecausebeingapartsoundsmiserableandIwouldlovetopanicwithyou," she replied.

Jaime couldn't help but smile. "Okay."

"Great."

As they stared at each other for a few moments, Brienne's expression began to mirror his own, all big blue eyes and a crooked smile. It made his heart sing. "Brienne."

"Yes?" she replied, her expression tentative.

"Do you want me to apologise?"

She looked a little confused. "What for? You already apologised for Paris in the session."

Jaime couldn't help but laugh at her innocence. "No, I mean apologise, in the way we like to apologise to one another."

"Oh," she replied, her cheeks going a little red. "Yes, that sounds nice."

Jaime did not waste any more time. Bringing up both hands to cup her cheeks, Jaime went up on his tiptoes to kiss her, while she rested her hands on his hips. The second their lips touched, there was a jubilant cheer from both the support group and the Red & Gold employees. It made Brienne pull back instantly, her cheeks red.

Looking at her concernedly, Jaime asked, "what's the matter?"

"Everyone is watching us," said Brienne quietly, close enough so only he could hear. "I don't like being watched."

Not wanting her to feel in any way uncomfortable, Jaime took charge and raised his voice to the gathered crowd. "Excuse me everyone, would you mind turning the other way for a moment? My wench doesn't like being watched."

Although Daenerys instantly threw herself into organising the entirety of the Romantics Anonymous Support group to be facing in precisely the opposite direction from Jaime and Brienne's snog fest, the Red & Gold employees - particularly Bronn - were a little harder to persuade, but, in the end, they too turned their backs allowing Jaime to pull Brienne into his arms.

"I love you," he smiled, enjoying the feel of her against him.

"I love you too," she said back, as easily as singing.

And then, they spent a good fifteen minutes apologising.