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By the time Jaime leaves for Dorne at the end of the weekend the rumours about him and Cersei are at an intensity they haven’t been at in years.

On Monday night there’s a tweet from the onebodytwosouls account about how thrilled they are to be back in Dorne and how there will be a new video up on Friday.

By Wednesday everyone who cares is convinced that the Lannister twins filmed themselves in a hotel in King’s Landing and that’s what they are going to upload on Friday.

“They’ve never released a sex tape filmed anywhere other than Dorne,” Margaery is quick to point out when they meet up for drinks that night. “But if they really did—”

“They didn’t.” Brienne should just keep her mouth shut but she’s bored and annoyed by this conversation and she knows she owes Margaery a real explanation at some point but it won’t be now. She’s spent the last few days messaging Jaime as he prepares contingency plans while they wait to see what Cersei will do and she is not in the mood for this.

“How do you know?” Margaery’s full attention has snapped to Brienne.

Because he was with me the whole time.

“I don’t,” Brienne lies.

Margaery doesn’t look convinced.

*

Brienne is grateful to escape Margaery’s company for the time being.

It is both a blessing and a curse that Brienne hasn’t caved and told Margaery about Jaime.

On one hand, Margaery is more willing to believe that Brienne’s contact with Jaime has been at least somewhat limited. Brienne knows Margaery suspects many things are going on, but Margaery doesn’t actually know. Not beyond the fact that there’s a video of Brienne and Jaime in Dorne and a picture of them together in King’s Landing...

But on the other hand, Margaery is also fairly certain Jaime is still actively fucking Cersei in between the occasional contact he has had with Brienne. Which means she believes Brienne is casually chatting with and/or secretly dating and/or fucking the guy who she believes filmed himself having sex with his sister who he might be married to over the weekend (Margaery’s working theory about the exact nature of contact between Brienne and Jaime seems to change by the second) and there are times Brienne just wants to set the record straight but she can’t without unraveling the whole thing.

And Brienne isn’t ready to do that.

*

A video does get uploaded on Friday night. Jaime messages her to let her know about it shortly after it is posted. It is a video of Jaime and Cersei in a hotel room. It was filmed over a year ago in a hotel in Dorne.

The title and the description of the video do not say when or where it was filmed, but the implications are there.

Margaery calls her not long after about it and Brienne lets her monologue her theories about the origins of the video while she cooks dinner.

*

By Monday most people who care doubt that the video was filmed in King’s Landing after the awards show.

Unfortunately, they’re doubting it with the sort of attention to detail Brienne associates with solving crimes, not watching porn. She knows Margaery has sent her only the tip of the iceberg of the internet’s amateur detective work. People are disagreeing about the authenticity of the videos implied location, but there are pictures of Jaime in the airport in Dorne the Monday after so everyone assumes he was in King’s Landing over the weekend.

Brienne has also gathered from Margaery’s messages that the hotel video itself is very tame compared to a lot of other stuff they have posted. The set up is as simple as their first video, filmed by a single camera set down on a bedside table facing the bed. Apparently the lack of alternate angles is making it hard to analyze exactly how Jaime’s hairstyle compares to recent pictures of him, especially given how he has been wearing that stupid baseball hat in public so often lately.

Margaery is finding this all very frustrating.

Brienne cannot bring herself to feel bad about that.

*

How are you holding up? Brienne messages Jaime Wednesday night. Interest in the Lannister twins’ maybe-filmed-in-King’s-Landing video has not faded and she hopes he’s doing alright.

Fine. It’s not as bad as I feared it would be. How are you?

I’m good. Brienne replies. Then she adds, My friend might be close to losing her mind over it though.

Has she figured out it was filmed a year ago yet?

Brienne thinks of the manic energy the last dozen messages from Margaery had before she replies, The jury is still out.

*

Jaime is going to stay in Dorne this coming weekend. Brienne knows he doesn’t particularly want to because he has said so repeatedly, but he has some stuff to do on Saturday that has to happen on Saturday and he has a meeting with his lawyers Monday morning so it doesn’t make sense for him to come for a day and a half.

Besides, he adds, it’s probably for the best if I’m not seen in the airport right away.

Brienne knows he’s not wrong, but she still makes a point to tell him how much she’s looking forward to seeing him the weekend after that.

*

It was Myranda’s birthday on Wednesday so a bunch of people are going out for drinks on Saturday to celebrate it and Brienne can’t exactly avoid it so out she goes, to a particularly loud and crowded bar she has no desire to spend time in. She doesn’t know many of the people there and honestly that’s a relief because it means she doesn’t have to try and join the conversation much.

Margaery is there and she keeps trying to casually get Brienne away from the bulk of the party but Brienne remains right where she is and feigns rapturous interest in whatever story Myranda’s friend from college is telling right now.

Brienne knows she’s being stubborn at this point, but she’s not going to give Margaery the opportunity to get anymore information about Jaime out of her tonight.

*

Jaime texts her Monday afternoon to report that his meeting with his lawyers was awful. He isn’t keen to rehash the details, but it was bad.

She texts him a picture of one of the most outrageous artistic renderings of a long-extinct bird from the art gallery and that cheers him up a bit.

*

She and Jaime video chat for over an hour that night and end up playing a long distance game of war to get their minds off things. There are definitely apps for playing card games, but for whatever reason they’ve decided to do it this way, each of them holding the card they turned over from their own deck up to the screen and comparing.

It is both silly and boring until they both flip over a seven and proclaim “WAR” at the same time and when Brienne loses that particular battle (drawing a measly three to Jaime’s five) they have to try and figure out the logistics of how they’re going to keep track of how many cards they actually have in their stacks going forward.

Somewhere in the midst of Jaime asking about the system she’s using to regulate cards she’s lost to him to a separate pile on the table she realizes she’s just watching him and grinning instead of answering his question.

“What?” Jaime asks.

“Nothing.”

But Brienne knows she’s still grinning. She can’t help but appreciate that this on-screen Jaime, who is very seriously trying to figure out how best to play a stupid card game with her from miles away, is for her eyes only.

*

As the week wears on, Brienne finds herself thinking it would be nice to talk to someone about this. About Jaime that is. To be able to have a conversation that includes some version of her saying “I’ve met someone and I think that maybe it’s going really well” that wouldn’t snowball into what that conversation would become. Because the most-likely someone she would have that conversation with is Margaery.

Which is unfortunate.

Because even in her own head, Brienne can’t figure out a way to have that conversation and not have it be about everything. Because truthfully… truthfully…

Because Margaery will know it’s Jaime. Even if Brienne goes out of her way to try and make it sound like it’s not Jaime. Margaery will know. And that means Margaery will know. And if Brienne gives up even the slightest ground now Margaery will ask even more questions. More specific questions.

Questions Brienne isn’t ready to answer.

Because if Brienne admits that she and Jaime are almost dating, Margaery will ask why they aren’t.

And then Margaery will ask the normal questions. Margaery will ask if she likes Jaime and if she sees a future with Jaime and other stuff like that, but Margaery will also ask the other questions. Margaery will ask if Jaime is actually married to Cersei. She will ask if Brienne is really the only other woman Jaime has slept with. She’ll ask about the fuckbet and about evidence. Margaery will ask about the sex. Margaery will ask why they aren’t having sex now. Margaery will want to know everything about everything. And Margaery will ask how much it bothers her that so many people have watched him fuck his sister a gazillion times.

Margaery will ask if it bothers her that Brienne has watched him fuck his sister.

She’ll ask that directly. She’ll want to talk about it. And even the part of Brienne that knows that maybe it would be helpful to talk about that part with someone cannot handle the idea of talking it through with Margaery just yet.

Because even if she gets through that, sooner or later Margaery will ask if Brienne sees herself falling in love with him.

And then, because Margaery is Margaery and she’s always been able to read Brienne like a book, she will know that every day that possibility gets further from being a hypothetical question.

*

It always comes back to this, if Brienne admits she’s met someone, that she likes someone, that she’s (almost) dating someone, Margaery will assume it’s Jaime. And it is. It is Jaime.

And Jaime comes with his history, which Margaery knows enough about to ask more and there are things Brienne knows about Jaime that are relevant to her potentially dating him, but that aren’t public knowledge, so Brienne can’t very well talk her way through the potential pitfalls of dating a man in the process of divorcing his sister when the marriage in question isn’t public knowledge.

Brienne trusts Margaery not to report back to Seven knows exactly where on the internet Margaery has found the people who Really Care about what’s going on with Jaime and Cersei but there are still things that Brienne can’t tell her, just in case.

So Margaery is out.

No matter how many moments Brienne would like to talk to someone about this, it won’t be Margaery. Not yet.

And it won’t be anyone who is friends with Margaery, which rules most of the other options out of contention.

Brienne sighs. She doesn’t even know who she could talk to about something like this.

The therapist she used to talk to is retired (Brienne checked), and she’s put her name on the waitlist of several recommended ones to see if they’re a good fit, but that doesn’t help her right now.

Her work friends are work friends, and not one of them is someone Brienne would go to with a piece of information like “I’m kind of almost potentially dating a famous incest porn star. Can I talk to you about it?” Such questions are on a level of intimacy exactly no one at work qualifies for. That one night out for celebratory drinks with Pod was a fluke. He’s more a work friend once removed and she’s already told him as much as she’s comfortable telling him about the Jaime situation.

And as far as other people in her life she actually talks to on a regular basis, that basically just leaves her dad. And her dad is her dad. Any version of this conversation she’d have with her dad would exclude all mentions of the phrase “incest porn” leaving her talking to him about a guy she’s almost seeing who she really likes and who really likes her. Then her dad would say something like, “So what’s the problem kiddo?” and then she’d be not saying that the guy in question fucked his sister on camera about a thousand times and getting nowhere she hasn’t already been.

Brienne knows she’s on her own on this one.

It’s her decision. It’s been her decision for a long time now. And just like when Jaime first said that he wants to date her but he understands if his situation is a dealbreaker, she has to make that decision on her own.

*

How many videos of them are there? Brienne texts Margaery. She could look it up herself, but for her own sake she’s determined not to go anywhere near the parts of the internet where Jaime and Cersei are being discussed and Margaery has been very good about knowing stuff like this.

And which them are we talking about?

Brienne doesn’t answer. If Margaery thinks Brienne is at all confused about the fact that Margaery knows exactly who Brienne is asking about, she’s not going to clarify further.

A few minutes later Margaery sends her a text that says 603.

Brienne is not proud of the math she does, but if she estimates an average video length of less than ten minutes…

She’s spent more time with Jaime than there are hours of him and Cersei fucking each other on the internet. She’s only known him a few months but she’s spent more time with him than there are hours of him and Cersei fucking each other on the internet over ten years. And it’s not even close. She’s spent so much time with him already.

But those hours of content on the internet are public, and the rest is not.

So.

No matter how much fun she and Jaime have together, no matter how much she wants to kiss him and date him and be with him, no matter how much therapy he has, no matter what, those videos exist and define him to the rest of the world.

*

By Thursday Brienne has come to the conclusion that it’s been too long since she saw Jaime. The last time he was in King’s Landing, Cersei was too and she hasn’t gotten to see him since. And even though the internet seems to have concluded that that video was not filmed in King’s Landing and that Jaime’s lawyers have confirmed that they can conclusively prove that he was nowhere near the hotel they now know Cersei was staying in even without a statement from Brienne, it’s been a stressful couple of weeks.

But he’ll be here on Friday. On Friday she’ll go to work and he’ll fly to King’s Landing and then go to his therapist in the afternoon and then by the time the sun is setting he’ll be here on the couch beside her and they’ll be putting the last two weeks firmly behind them.

*

He calls her when he lands and leaves her a message that she listens to twice over her lunch break. He sounds happier than he has in ages as he’s narrating his journey through the airport to her voicemail.

She texts him back, telling him how much she’s looking forward to seeing him that night.

*

When Jaime shows up at her door that night he looks at least as relieved to see her as she is to see him but he’s nowhere near as talkative as he was on her voicemail when they sit down and decide what food to order.

*

“I don’t regret it,” Jaime says out of nowhere as he’s washing the dishes after they’ve had dinner. “Put me back there as I was and I would do it all again. And I’m not going back to her and it wasn’t healthy for either of us for a long time, shit, maybe the whole time, but I don’t regret it.”

“No one is asking you to.” Brienne says, wondering where this is coming from. She knows Jaime had an appointment with one of his therapists this afternoon. She wonders if something that came up during that is what put him in this particular mood tonight. The Jaime who left her a rambling five minute message after his flight landed is not the one she shared dinner with. He wasn’t unpleasant, but he was more distant than she is used to. Something was bothering him. It seems this is it.

Jaime snorts. “My first therapist and most of the world would disagree.”

“Sounds like he was a shitty therapist.”

“He was. I have better ones now.”

Brienne nods, still watching him wash the dishes.

He falls back into silence as he rinses and dries. She’d offered to help earlier but he’d declined. She’d also offered to leave the kitchen entirely, to give him some space and time and whatever else he needed, but he’d shaken his head and asked her to stay. But only if she wanted to. He was very clear on that point. She didn’t have to stay nearby while he washed the dishes if she didn’t want to.

*

She gathers the last of the containers their food came in from the table.

“I don’t expect you to regret it,” Brienne says as she approaches him and he steps aside without looking at her to let her put them in the trash bag under the sink. “I won’t say I completely understand everything you’ve been through, but I don’t expect you to regret it.”

The glass in his hands is dry. It’s already dry but he’s still drying it, the dish towel in one hand as he rotates the glass in the other.

“I was in love with her.”

“I know.”

“Isn’t that worse?” he asks, his voice is very tight. “Isn’t that the worst part? It was never about the money. The life we had together… for a long time it was everything I ever wanted. I was in love with her.”

“Jaime…”

“I’m not anymore,” he says. “But I was.”

“Jaime,” she says quietly. “What happened today?”

He exhales before he answers, “Cersei called.”

*

“When?” she asks.

“After therapy.”

“What did she say?”

“She wants me to come back home,” he says. He is still drying the glass. “And that she loves me. That’s what she kept saying. She loves me.”

No wonder he’s been quieter than usual since he arrived.

*

“Shit,” he says, “I’m sorry.” He puts the very dry glass down on the counter and takes a shaky breath as he looks up at the ceiling and not anywhere near her. Then he leans forward and braces himself against the counter with both of his hands as he takes another breath. “I’m sorry.”

She takes a step closer and puts her hand on his arm.

“You don’t have to be okay with this,” he says. He’s looking at the sink, but she sees the way his gaze flicks to where her hand is on him and then away again. She brings her other hand to his shoulder and rubs it across his back. She can feel the tension in him thrumming in the muscles beneath his shirt.

“Jaime,” she says. “You know you don’t have to be okay all the time, right?”

He does not speak or nod or shake his head, but the little sound that escapes him…

*

“Hey,” she says as she moves her hand across his back, rubbing steady circles between his shoulder blades. “It’s okay.”

He’s shaking now, still holding himself against the counter with both hands.

“Fuck,” he says, still fighting back tears even though it’s too late, even though he doesn’t need to. “Fuck.”

“Jaime, it’s okay if you’re not okay.”

And then he stops trying to be okay.

*

When he turns to her he does so slowly, as if he’s waiting for her to recoil or step away.

She doesn’t.

She steps forward and hugs him instead.

*

They stand there in the kitchen like that for a long while.

*

“I mean it,” she tells him after he has stopped crying and stepped back. “You don’t have to be okay all the time.”

He nods, looking down at her hand holding his and not at her.

*

“Is it okay if I’m not sure I’ll ever be okay enough?”

“For what?” she asks softly.

He does not answer at first, nor does he look at her for a long while. Eventually he says, “I’m still waiting for you not to be okay with this. With me. With everything.”

“Jaime I…” she does not know how to reassure him because there is a part of her that does not know if she will ever be okay with everything but gods, she wants to be. “I really like you. You know that right?”

He nods.

“I come to King’s Landing for you,” he says quietly. “Every time, that’s why I come here. I like getting to see my therapist in person, but I wouldn’t do it so often if it wasn’t for you. I want to see you, and I want to spend time with you, and I want to be with you, if you’ll have me.”

It’s her turn to nod wordlessly. It’s nothing she didn’t already know, but hearing him say it so plainly makes her hate that she’s still not sure if she’s ready to kiss him.

*

“Look, you don’t have to tell me anything and I know you won’t,” Margaery pauses here to shoot her a look that Brienne probably deserves from across the booth at the bar Brienne reluctantly agreed to meet her at Tuesday evening. “But you need to be careful. Between that video of you two in Dorne and the fact that you two have been photographed together more than once since—”

“I know,” Brienne sighs. She knows Margaery is trying to help but Brienne fucking knows.

“I just need you to understand,” Margaery takes a little sip of her drink here. “I know you’ve met up with him this weekend and I’m sure you’re going to do it again and even if you remain determined not to talk to me about it, I’m not the only one who has noticed.”

Maybe Brienne should tell her, but Brienne isn’t ready so all she says is, “Is that all?”

Margaery maintains her composure but Brienne knows her well enough to know the level of control it is taking for her not to jump at that comment because no, absolutely not. That is not all.

*

The following week Jaime comes straight from his appointment on Friday to her place. She got out of work a little late so he’s waiting in the lobby for her. She wonders if her upstairs neighbour happened to walk by while he was waiting. She wonders who else in their building has noticed him visiting her multiple times a month.

But Jaime smiles at her and says he missed her and she can’t bring herself to care what her neighbours think.

*

It’s warm and dark in her apartment when she realizes they both fell asleep on the couch before the end of the movie. She blinks and reaches for her phone, which then nearly blinds her when she checks the time.

Jaime is fast asleep on her couch and she doesn’t want to wake him.

Jaime is fast asleep on her couch and she is very aware of the part of her that wants to wake him to tell him to come sleep in her bed instead. It’s more comfortable than the couch.

If they were dating... if they were definitely dating and together she would wake him and lead him back to her bed.

But they aren’t. Not yet. But they could be. As soon as she decides she’s ready to be with him, she will be.

She puts her hand on his shoulder and wakes him.

*

Jaime blinks up at her with a sleepy smile, and then stretches like a disgruntled cat before he sits up and says he has no interest in spending the night in the clothes he wore on a plane.

She can’t argue with that, and before she knows what’s happening she’s following him to the door and watching him put on his shoes.

“I’ll call you tomorrow morning,” he says, one hand on the door. “If you want?”

*

By the time she’s changed and gotten ready for bed she’s awake enough to be thinking about Jaime and the whole situation and as she lies in her bed she’s so fucking tired of wanting him and not knowing if everything that comes with him is a dealbreaker.

She wants to kiss him. She wants to invite him back to her room. She wants to say she doesn’t care about what anyone thinks about him or her or the bet. She wants to date him and love him and fuck him and be with him. And she’s so tired of weighing the pros and cons because no matter what she lists and considers it always comes down to how much she likes him and how much she still wants to kiss him.

*

He calls her as soon as he wakes up, judging by how deep his voice is. Brienne pangs with the knowledge they could be having this conversation in person if she’d just been a tiny bit braver the night before.

*

They agree to meet at a place for brunch.

“Do you want to see my art gallery?” Brienne asks when they are both finished.

“When you say yours—”

“The art gallery I work at,” Brienne adds, rolling her eyes just a tiny bit when Jaime grins at her. “For the record, I do not own an art gallery.”

“If you say so.”

“I do,” Brienne says as she waves him off the bill the server brings indicating that it’s her turn. “Do you want to come or not.”

“Of course I want to. Are you sure you want me to come?”

“I wouldn’t ask if I wasn’t.”

Jaime nods, but he still looks a little startled by the prospect.

*

It’s only when they’re leaving the diner together to head to the art gallery that she considers the possibility that someone at work might care who he is in a catastrophic way.

*

It comes down to this. It always seems to come down to this:

She likes Jaime.

She liked him then, on the beach, in the water, on his fucking paddleboard, in her hotel room, in her bed. She liked him so much.

And she likes him now. She likes him more now. Even knowing what she knows. Even knowing it took him over a month to tell her about everything, he still did. Because he likes her and he knew she needed to know and he didn’t want to tell her over a text message. Because he fully expected it to be the end of whatever fun they were still having texting each other and he wanted to give her that out.

But it wasn’t. Because she didn’t know if it was a dealbreaker then, but now…

*

Brienne takes him to a side entrance and holds out her ID badge even though the guard greets her by name before she’s close enough for him to see her identification.

“One guest today?” the guard asks.

“Jaime,” Brienne confirms. “A friend from out of town.”

The guard welcomes Jaime to the art gallery and waves them through. Brienne glances at Jaime as he follows her down the hall.

“I just want to drop something in my office,” she tells him as they continue through the halls.

“Fancy,” Jaime says.

“Don’t get too excited,” Brienne warns him. “I share it with three other people. But it’s Saturday so they won’t be here.”

*

Brienne vows not to go full tour guide on Jaime. Jaime is not an entire class of grade school children to shepherd through the exhibit most relevant to their current art or history unit. She would have been quite happy to point out a few of her favourite pieces and let Jaime read the display cards of whatever he wishes. Jaime is, however, very keen to learn more about just about everything and it is clear from the first room they enter he prefers to have her tell him.

Sometime after his fifteenth question about how the art gallery chooses what pieces to display where and about who writes the descriptions beside each piece he says, “You can tell me to shut up. I know that this is the weekend and that this is your job.”

“You’re not bothering me.”

“Great,” he says, pointing over the plaque in front of a large sculpture of a wave in the middle of the gallery. “Can you tell me about that one?”

*

“I know I’m not allowed to touch the paintings,” Jaime says as they look at a piece with particularly pronounced texture. “But I need you to know how much I want to touch this painting right now.”

Brienne grins before she says, “Follow me.”

*

She takes him back into the basement and takes him to the Touch The Art room. Every other room in the art gallery has rules about not touching the artwork, but in this room guests are invited to touch the art. There are samples of different types of paint on different types of canvas and paper so people can feel the difference. There’s marble and granite and wood and different types of metal used for sculptures. There’s photo paper of different sorts and a variety of frames, from the ornate ones in the classical wing to the more simplistic modern ones, all set up so that everyone can touch as much of the art as they want to.

Jaime looks at her with wide-eyed delight before he heads straight for the bumpiest paint samples to run his fingers across them.

The room is one of her favourites to take people to, and Jaime does not disappoint. Brienne specializes in the kid’s programing, but she’s constantly amused by watching the way adults cautiously approach the exhibits in this room. Beside each is a sign that tells how many times that particular example has had to be replaced because of the damage constant human touch has, along with pictures showing what happens over time. She watches the way Jaime’s fingers trail across the smooth marble cube he’s now exploring.

Someone calls her name and Brienne turns to find Catelyn looking at her.

“I didn’t expect to see you here today,” Catelyn says.

“I’m not working,” Brienne says unnecessarily. “I’m just showing my friend around.” The word boyfriend is so close to the surface she feels it lodge in her throat as she gestures to Jaime.

Catelyn then turns to Jaime to introduce herself but the moment he looks up from the marble she looks like she’s seen a ghost. Catelyn proceeds to stumble her way through an agonizing hello, followed by a hasty excuse and an even swifter retreat.

Brienne waits for her to be out of sight before she allows herself to look at Jaime fully for fear that she will laugh and her boss will hear her.

“Well that’s an interesting piece of information,” Brienne says under her breath.

Jaime laughs and so does she and gods, of all the things she has been trying to be ready for, her boss being familiar with Jaime’s work was not one of them.

*

Once Jaime has touched all of the art in the Touch The Art room to his heart’s content, they aim to go back to the gallery they had left, but get distracted by the signs for one of the special exhibits that warns it contains sexually explicit material.

They both look at each other and race to get their joke out first, both of them variations upon the theme of wondering if the other can handle that sort of thing. The jokes probably aren’t as funny as they think they are, and Brienne is sure that the older couple who walks past them to get in to the exhibit while they laugh thinks they’re terribly immature, but Brienne is so fucking happy that she and Jaime can stand in her art gallery and covertly tease each other about Jaime’s history of creating sexually explicit material that no doubt makes the exhibit look tame.

As Jaime grins at her as they walk through the hallway to the exhibit together it dawns on her that she’s going to kiss him. Soon.

*

In the gift shop they put her staff discount to good use and buy a jungle birds paint by numbers kit that costs way more than it should.

*

They pick up dinner on the way back to her place and someone definitely clocks him because the woman does a cartoon-worthy double-take at the sight of him and averts her eyes as soon as she sees Brienne has noticed her looking and Brienne doesn’t care.

Brienne doesn’t care at all.

*

They sit at her coffee table and use the tiny cheap paint brushes to work together to paint by the assigned numbers. The box says ages six and up, which should probably make them feel a little ashamed of how much they struggle. To be fair, neither of them are adhering to the instructions with any consistency and their progress is further hindered by how distracting it is to have their increasingly paint-covered fingers so close to one another.

Unsurprisingly, Brienne isn’t overly concerned if the colour schemes of their birds exactly match the picture on the box.

She wants to kiss Jaime and she wants to date Jaime and she wants to be with Jaime and he wants all of those things too and it’s up to her to decide when she’s ready for everything that will come with that and fuck it.

Fuck it.

She’s going to kiss him. She’s going to date him. She’s going to be with him.

Not because she knows for certain she is ready, but because she knows she wants to be.

*

She watches him put the touches on the flowers in the corner, his brow furrowed in concentration. He looks up at her and grins and she smiles back and knows she’s ready and she’s already said his name because that’s how ready she is to shift this conversation to what she needs to discuss.

Then her phone buzzes in her pocket and both she and Jaime reach for their phones at the same time.

*

Margaery’s tone is different this time, even in text form. There is no relish, no curiosity, no wry amusement in it.

There’s a new video.

Then she sends a screenshot. Brienne looks at it for just long enough to read the title before she looks over at Jaime.

*

Jaime is sitting beside her on the couch and he is looking at his phone.

He has gone very still.

*

Brienne looks from him to the screenshot Margaery has sent her and back again.

She doesn’t know what to say.

*

Jaime puts his phone face down on the table beside the little cups of paint.

Brienne still doesn’t know what to say.

*

“We had two bedrooms,” Jaime says evenly. “One was for filming.”

From what Brienne saw of the preview on her own phone, the new video wasn’t filmed in the usual bedroom…

“The other bedroom was for us,” Jaime continues. “It was ours.”

“Is that…” she’s seen the title of the video, she’s seen a screenshot. There is no sense pretending otherwise. “Is that really your wedding night?”

“Yes.”

*

She doesn’t need to ask to understand that he didn’t know he was being filmed.

*

“Why would she—”

“We’re eligible for divorce next week,” Jaime says flatly. “Tuesday. We’re eligible for divorce on Tuesday.”

*

Another text from Margaery: Holy shit i can’t believe they’re actually married!

And then another.

And another.

Are you freaking out?! I’m freaking out. I can’t believe he’s fucking married to her and slept with you and you’ve been seeing him holy shit B you gotta tell someone you gotta let me tell someone holy askdjahsjkd
Brienne you have to talk to me.
You have to talk to me about this!
He’s actually married.
Isn’t he?
That video!
Brienne.
Brienennene
Brienne
He is actually married? Isn’t he?

Brienne replies only, Yes.

Margaery stops typing for .2 of a second before:

And you’re sure?
You’re absolutely sure?
The video looks real but it could be a fake.
It could just be the title
Or another publicity stunt
B
How do you know for sure?

Her thumbs tap out her message and click send before she can bring herself to calculate a better answer than the truth: Because he told me.

Brienne knows she’s going to tell Margaery what’s been going on soon, but before she talks to Margaery about everything, she has to talk to Jaime.

Brienne puts her phone face down on the other side of the couch and turns back to Jaime.

*

“If you didn’t know you were being filmed…” Brienne says. The screenshot she saw looks more like the original security footage that someone tried to blackmail them with than any of the videos they have produced over the years. “If you never meant for it to be public, maybe you could get your lawyers involved and get her to take it down?”

Jaime’s laugh is hollow. “Even if I could, who would believe it? One video filmed without my consent when everything else was? No one would believe it. No one would care. And it’s too late anyway. It’s out there. It’s out there and everyone knows we’re married and fuck. Fuck.”

He runs his hands through his hair. Brienne doesn’t know what to say.

*

“The divorce will be public too,” he adds, resigned to his fate. “I thought… I thought I could convince her to do it privately. Like the wedding. I thought… I thought if I… I thought I could… But it’s going to be messy. And it’s going to be public.”

“I’m sorry,” Brienne says. She knows Jaime wanted the divorce to be quick. She knows how much he wanted to get it over with as soon as he could. He and his lawyers have been prepping for months.

“You should be with someone who doesn’t come with this,” he says. “All of this.”

“Hey,” she says. “I like you, remember?”

He sighs, “Even so. This is… a lot. This is too much. I’ll go. I’m sorry I…”

“Jaime,” she says. She’s shifted so she’s sitting right beside him. Her hand is on his shoulder. “Whatever happens next we’ll deal with it.”

“Brienne you don’t have to—”

Brienne puts her hand on the far side of his face and gently turns his head so he’s looking at her instead of his hands.

“Jaime,” she says. “It’s not a dealbreaker.”

Then she kisses him.

*

When she pulls back he’s looking at her like he can’t quite believe what just happened.

Then he reaches for where her hand is still touching his jaw, his fingers grazing hers as he starts to smile.

*

They’ve only just started to kiss again when a series of frantic knocks startles them apart and they both look towards the door.

Brienne is the one who reluctantly pulls herself away from him to get up off the couch and answer the continuing onslaught of knocks.

*

“You knew about this?!” Margaery exclaims as soon as Brienne starts to open the door. “He TOLD you about this!? And you didn’t text me back? What the fuck Brienne? What the FUCK. We need to talk about what’s going on with you and—”

Brienne opens the door further and watches Margaery’s expression change the instant she can see who is sitting on the couch in Brienne’s living room.

“Jaime, this is my friend Margaery,” Brienne says. “Margaery, this is Jaime, my boyfriend.”