There is nothing like always coming second, in heartbreaking, breathtaking ways.
You feel it in the back of your throat, in the straining muscles of your neck, in the way your heart roars into your ears, your rushing blood its messenger, hoping to be killed for the crime of affection, of belief, of trusting one last time, despite every warning sign. There is nothing like it for setting your body, your mind, your faith on fire, for emptying you out onto the ground like a tube of drinkable yogurt and throwing the stripped plastic shell of you in the garbage where you belong. Are you in a landfill somewhere? Is your soul the only thing keeping you out of hell?
The city lights are assaults on your eyes, but you keep walking, keep talking, keep thinking like you'll drown yourself in a haze of sensation. You wish you'd brought your sunglasses, though they'd make you look like a fool. Sunglasses in winter -- everyone would know you for the asshole you were. Everyone is in their winter coats, bundled up against the cold, and for a second, you wonder if you will ever be warm again. If fate will ever be that kind to you, a forgotten relic of a time when things were easy, when people were easy, when you could trust and believe and run headlong into love with both arms open.
People are quick to say you are too trusting for your own good, but scatter when you smirk and remind them you are what she made you. Some yearning part of you that still believes in fairytales and redemption is still her creature, her trusting knight, her sweet boy, whatever she wanted you to be at any turn. You are her reflection, her face in the mirror, her words in action. Isn't that what she told you? The message has twisted within you, twisted you along with it, shattered your posture and your smile, her claim splashed all over you like her disdain.
You'd left her dorm room crying. She had made you cry in the warmth of her room, had closed the door after shoving you out into the hallway, dry eyed all the while. You'd outlived your usefulness. She didn't need you now, not when she had Osmund Kettleblack and God knows how many others. How many others had there been? All through high school, this semester, how many had there been? And you hadn't noticed a single one, stupid Jaime, stupid, trusting, loyal Jaime, a dog groveling at her feet for the barest scraps of affection.
Your tears had frozen on your cheeks, your face a tragic mask of sorrow, and when you wipe your cheeks, little shards of ice pour off you like a waterfall.
One of your gloves falls off as your hand returns to your side and you nearly trip over your own feet reaching for it, ignoring the voice in your head that sounds so achingly like hers when your cold, shaking fingers close around it. Of course you dropped something, of course you look so stupid picking it up, of course it was you who--
"You dropped your other glove." A rough hewn voice says, and your eyes focus on the strangest face you've ever seen, a Picasso piece attached to the body of a hockey player (a type of body you once had, a type of body you once knew well), and something in your heart says "this is someone who won't hurt you".
Something in your heart says here, Jaime, this will be good.
You know better than to listen to your heart.
"I don't think I know you." You say instead, accepting your glove and tugging it over your scarred right hand as quickly as you can. The burns ache when the temperature drops, like the skin is splitting and swelling and screaming all over again. "I don't think I've seen you before. I'd remember, see. I'd know your face."
"I'm Brienne." She says. "Brienne of Tarth." Her shoulders are broad beneath her jacket, straining the fabric. Your mouth waters despite the cold. "I'm, um, well, I'm headed that way. To the CVS. If that's okay." She points beyond you, into the strangely lit half-darkness, the school-owned storefronts gaudy and dripping with colored light and the small businesses hidden by the smokescreen of night. She is asking you to move aside. Asking you to disappear. You know that feeling. You hate that feeling. "I need, uh, a toothbrush. My roommate dropped mine."
"Do you need company?" You find yourself asking. "In, uh, the CVS? I can-- I can help you find the best toothbrush. The best, uh, toothbrush bargain." She always told you you were stupid. You've never felt it so intensely, never wished so desperately for Tyrion's way with words. Maybe then you would be able to explain Brienne's eyes to her in a way she's never heard. "I'm Jaime."
"It's nice to meet you, Jaime." Her smile is crooked, endearingly so, and her cheeks flush, like she's self-conscious about it. You want to tell her that she shouldn't be, that she looks beautiful, but the words shred themselves to pieces in your mouth. You swallow them back and they catch in your throat, balling up, banding together. "I-- I mean, I'd like it. You never know how much danger one's in, in a CVS."
"C'mon then, Brienne. Let's have the night of our lives."
Why were you even heading in the direction you were? Who were you supposed to meet? It's all a blur, and you wonder if you were heading anywhere in particular at all. It would be your style, to run off in a fit of pique, with no destination in mind, with no plan. Your father had always hated you for it. So had Cersei. But you'd never met Brienne, and you'll likely never see her again after you find her a toothbrush, so it better be a fucking good one.