“Do you have anything special planned for tonight, Mr Lannister?” Pia asked.
“Hmm?” Jaime looked up from reading a report, blinking. “Tonight?”
“Today’s the 14th of February,” she said. “It’s Valentine’s Day.”
“Wait!” Tyrion’s assistant, Shae, actually got up from her desk and tried to block his path. “He’s in a meeting!”
“I have to see him,” Jaime said, slipping past her with a smile. “He won’t mind.”
He burst into Tyrion’s office and stopped abruptly. Behind Tyrion, on a giant video screen, a number of very serious people in suits sat around a conference table and eyed him curiously.
“Jaime,” Tyrion said slowly, “have you met the representatives of the Iron Bank?”
Jaime flashed them his best smile. “Good morning, ladies and gentlemen – sorry to intrude. This won’t take a moment.” He turned to Tyrion and lowered his voice. “You didn’t tell me it was Valentine’s Day! What on earth am I supposed to do?”
Tyrion stared at him. “Are you serious? Roses. Chocolates. Dinner at the best restaurant in the city. It’s not rocket science.”
“Not roses,” Jaime said. “And she’s allergic to chocolate.” He’d found that out the hard way.
“Well, a nice card then. Jaime, you’re thirty-four years old. If you can’t arrange something yourself, get Peck or Pia to do it for you – but go away. I’m in a meeting.”
“I’m quite partial to champagne and strawberries,” one of the black-suited women on the screen said.
“Take her out dancing,” Shae said. “That always works for me.”
“I’m afraid all the best restaurants, the Lion d’Or included, were booked out weeks ago.” Pia looked apologetic. “They have no free tables, not even for a Lannister,” she said, correctly interpreting his next words. “And the Lion d’Or is already owned by your uncle Kevan.”
Jaime’s expression fell. Pia took pity on him. “I don’t think Ms Tarth really likes dining in fancy restaurants. Perhaps she’d find a candle-lit home-cooked dinner more romantic?”
“Right.” Jaime straightened his shoulders, considered the extent of his culinary skills. “Do you have any –”
“I’ve printed out some simple, fool-proof recipes for beginners, Mr Lannister,” she said, handing him a tabbed and sticky-noted folder. “Just let me know which one you would like to try and I can order the ingredients to be delivered to your penthouse.”
“Ah, there you are nephew.” Aunt Genna’s voice carried loudly through the corridors. “I’ve been looking for you.”
“I’m a little busy, aunt –”
“Yes, yes, no doubt you’re dithering over what to cook for Ms Tarth tonight. Myself, I’ve always found oysters and caviar a safe bet. But that’s not what I want to talk to you about,” she said, grasping his arm and dragging him into her office.
He sighed, dropping heavily into a chair. Aunt Genna was the head of Legal, with Cersei as her ruthless and ambitious deputy. Every time Jaime did something particularly outrageous, it was Legal who had to smooth over the consequences – he’d been called in to see either his aunt or his sister many times, forced to stand before them while they raked him over the coals.
“If this is about that cunt Connington,” he began, “he got everything he deserved and then some.”
“Oh, that? No, Cersei paid that cowardly worm a visit in the hospital and explained what would happen if he pressed charges. It’s not even about that business with the Dothraki protection racket in Pentos – the archons have calmed down now and have stopped threatening to embargo our ships. It’s about the proxy for your shares.”
“What about it?” he asked. “Tyrion’s my proxy holder and has been for years. I trust him with my vote.”
“There’s no problem,” she said. “The written statement expires soon and you’ll have to provide a new proxy – or else start to attend board meetings in person.”
“Heard you forgot all about Valentine’s Day,” Addam said.
Though Jaime was no longer the head of Security, his enforcement role required him to liaise closely with them on any potential threats. That meant weekly catch-ups with Addam and his men, usually in the form of punishing sparring sessions in the gym.
He had no intention of letting them think he’d gone soft.
“I’ve got it covered,” Jaime retorted. He stretched his arms and shoulders, warming up, and bounced on his toes.
“Uh-huh.” Addam grinned. “Don’t come crying to me when you burn your apartment down.”
“Fuck you,” Jaime laughed. “I’m gonna own Valentine’s like a motherfucking boss.”
They sparred, full contact, no holds barred.
“What happened?” Sansa asked, her wide eyes concerned. “Did someone attack you?”
The Corporate Wellness team meeting was held at a different organic café every month. Today it was a popular vegan place on the waterfront known for its chickpea patties and wide variety of kombuchas.
Jaime prodded at his swollen eye and winced. By tonight it would be spectacularly bruised.
“A lucky shot,” he said with a reckless grin. “You should see the other guy.”
“I saw Marbrand ten minutes ago,” Clegane said with dour relish. “Not a scratch on him.”
Jaime glowered at him. “Don’t you have somewhere else to be?”
“Nope.” Clegane picked up his chickpea and lentil burger and took a huge bite. “Team meeting, remember?”
“Ms Tarth gets back from King’s Landing at 7pm tonight,” Podrick said. “Will that leave you enough time?”
There was a general chorus of agreement.
“You know,” he said, addressing his mismatched team of enforcers, counsellors, alternate practitioners, nutritionists and mindfulness experts, “you could all have just a little more faith in me.”
[Bronn drew him aside after the meeting. “If all else fails, try lingerie,” he said. “Trust me. Go to Alayaya’s Secret and ask for Ros.”]
He dropped into Alayaya’s Secret.
Just in case.
Browsing the racks of lace- and silk-covered confections, soft and slinky to the touch and inspiring all manner of improper thoughts, he bumped into Cersei.
“Cersei! What are you –”
Her red lips curved in a slow, wicked smile. “Dear brother,” she said, “I don’t think you want to know.”
He really, really didn’t.
Cersei took pity on him. “The blue one, I think,” she said, nodding to a plain, sapphire-blue robe the exact colour of Brienne’s eyes. “But if you would like some advice…?” She trailed off, her green eyes glinting.
“You and everyone else today,” he said with a sigh. “Go ahead – why not.”
“Your Ms Tarth doesn’t care for roses or chocolate or champagne, or any of the traditional trappings of romance. And while I’m sure she’ll appreciate you making an effort to cook for her, that’s not what she really wants.”
He eyed her with uneasy fascination. “How do you know what she really wants?”
“Oh please.” Cersei waved her hand dismissively. “The woman is an open book. What Brienne really wants, brother, is a man who will never scoff at her ideas and will support her in everything she does.”
“But that’s – that’s what I do every day. I thought Valentine’s Day was for romance and over the top declarations and sweeping gestures.”
“Well, if you must make a grand sweeping gesture,” she sighed, “make one to match the Oathkeeper Foundation. Make one to match twelve months of working with her ridiculous corporate wellness team and forcing the rest of Lanniscorp to accept it.”
“I didn’t –”
“No, of course you never persuaded Addam Marbrand to take up yoga. And you surely never blackmailed Tyrion into supporting her initiatives at board meetings. It wasn’t you who talked Father into that ridiculous corporate leadership retreat at that eco-friendly lodge in the mountains.”
Jaime coughed. “That wasn’t –”
“Don’t give me that,” she said. “No one else but you could have talked him into it.”
“Well, what do you suggest? How can I top all that with one grand gesture?”
“Jaime.” She sighed. “You’re my brother and I love you. And so I’ll give you a clue: give her a seat at the table.”
He blinked at her.
“And you may as well buy the blue silk robe. Meet her at the door in a towel, though I suppose there’s nothing you can do about the black eye.”
And with that, she left him there in the middle of Alayaya’s Secret, speechless.
2pm – 5pm
He went back to the office and requested a meeting with Aunt Genna.
It escalated to his father’s office.
There was a great deal of glowering disapproval, much talk of Lannisters and legacies and Jaime’s life-long avoidance of responsibility.
Once that was done, there was a great deal of paperwork, and Jaime had to swear on a stack of The Seven-Pointed Stars that he was of sound mind and acting of his own free will, that Brienne was not coercing him or exercising undue influence over him by means of seductive feminine wiles.
“Well, well,” Tywin finally said testily, “so long as you mean to marry her. There’s no denying she has more business sense than you do, no matter her ethics.” He fixed Jaime with a withering stare over the rims of his glasses. “Don’t let her get away, Jaime. There’s no pre-nup in the world that will undo this.”
5.30pm – 6.50pm
Disaster. Absolute disaster.
If he didn’t – quite – manage to burn his apartment down, it was a close-run thing.
He ended up tossing out his burned and blackened attempt at dinner, and simply called in Pentoshi takeout from his and Brienne’s favourite restaurant.
He had just enough time to clean up the kitchen and have a shower.
He met her at the door in a towel, his hair still wet, stray droplets of water running down his chest.
Brienne dropped her bags on the floor with a thump, her eyes going wide and dark. She bit down on her lower lip, made a low sound in her throat, and her hands darted out –
“What happened to your eye?” she asked. “Did someone –”
He cut her off, reaching up to drag her mouth down to his, lifting up on his toes to meet her halfway. They kissed, soft and sweet, until Brienne threaded her hand through his hair and tugged.
“Jaime,” she said, “Jaime –”
He sighed, and pulled back. “Hello, Blue,” he said, grinning. “Welcome home.”
She reached into her bag and pulled out a single red tulip.
“Happy Valentine’s Day, Jaime,” she said with a tremulous smile.
He took it from her, utterly charmed.
Later, after an enthusiastic welcome home – she almost tore the towel away – and after a slower, sweeter welcome featuring the blue silk robe, they sat up in bed, eating cold Pentoshi takeout.
“Here,” Jaime said, handing her a manila folder. “This is my real Valentine’s Day gift.”
She flipped open the cover and slowly read through the dense legal documents.
“Jaime,” she breathed, her eyes going wide, “what does all this –?”
“I’ve signed over all my shares in Lanniscorp to you,” he said. “And my seat on the board of directors.”
“Oh,” she said, her face pale and her eyes very wide. Her mouth began to tremble. She put the cardboard takeout box on the bedside table and very carefully framed his face with her hands.
“Jaime,” she said, her eyes shining like stars, “no one has ever, ever given me a greater gift.”
“It’s yours,” he said simply. “Everything I am, and everything I have – it will always be yours.”