Jaime pounded up the stairs, the local evening news blaring through Walder Frey’s door on the floor below reassuring him that he’d made it home on time. He desperately needed a shower and fresh clothes.
The airy apartment was just as Jaime had left it, evidence of a busy week hastily picked up and put away. Laundry was no longer piled haphazardly in front of the washing machine, and the kitchen counters were clean rather than littered with takeout containers and empty sports drink bottles. It hadn’t taken long to clean up; his home was furnished simply with few decorations. One wall was dominated by five massive photographs, capturing his pitching motion from wind-up to release. On bad days he thought about taking them down, but the bad days didn’t come nearly as often anymore.
Jaime shucked off his sweaty running gear and got in the shower. He’d had an early meeting at the stadium and taken his daily run in the late afternoon, when the local high school and college track teams used his favorite path through the park on Visenya's Hill. He hadn’t been in the mood for starstruck boys and aggressively flirting girls, and cut his run short. At least there was one perk to losing his hand—no one asked for an autograph.
Jaime usually ran in the mornings, sometimes alone and sometimes with Brienne. She'd gotten him back in the habit early in their friendship, and now the early morning crowd was used to him and left him alone.
By the time Jaime stepped out of the shower and wrapped a towel around his waist, he was focused on his plans for the evening. Dinner out, then a movie he’d been waiting months to see. He needed to check his phone, make sure plans hadn’t changed, then find a decent shirt to wear. Maybe his green henley, with dark jeans.
He shook his head, ran his hand through his wet hair. This was ridiculous. Brienne wouldn’t care what he was wearing.
As Jaime crossed the living room, he tripped over a sneaker on the rug. Its mate was under the coffee table. Their owner was sprawled on her stomach on the couch, eyes closed, completely relaxed.
“Tired?” Jaime asked. He hadn’t allowed himself to think about it, but until that moment he hadn’t been sure she would show up. Not after last weekend.
Brienne groaned. “I was in Torrhen's Square this morning. I met a prospect’s grandmother for breakfast and watched his team practice. I barely caught my flight, then sprinted to make my connection in Riverrun. My knees were crammed against the seat back for two hours, and now I don’t want to move again. Ever.”
Jaime sat on the coffee table beside her, brushed straw blonde hair off her cheek and tucked it behind her ear. “Then you don’t need to. At least not tonight.”
She rolled over, blinking against the light as she opened her eyes. “Are you sure? You’ve been talking about that movie forever.”
Not forever, but possibly as long as they’d known each other. A year and a half now.
Jaime shrugged. The big-budget film adaptation of one of his favorite novels could wait—he was half-convinced he was going to hate it anyway. “We can get takeout and watch a movie here, and I won’t be offended if you fall asleep halfway through.”
“Thanks.” Her gaze dropped from his wet hair to his naked chest, the towel wrapped low on his hips, and she bit her lip as her cheeks flushed. “Am I early?”
Jaime glanced at the clock on the wall. He hadn’t been expecting her for another half hour. Either her flight had landed early, or she’d come straight here instead of stopping by her apartment first. “A little. I thought you might appreciate if I wasn’t all sweaty from running.”
Brienne smiled. “I do appreciate it, though I probably still smell like the ballfield.”
“Since when do I mind that?” Jaime leaned over and made a show of sniffing her shoulder, making her laugh. Brienne often smelled of cut grass, clay, and oiled leather, as if she’d sprung fully formed from an ivy-covered outfield wall instead of spending her days scouting high school kids for a major league franchise.
Her team polo shirt had ridden up when she turned over, exposing a sliver of flat, toned stomach. Jaime brushed his hand over a spot he knew was ticklish, grinning as she jumped and squawked in protest.
“Get dressed,” she prodded. “No embarrassing the delivery guy.”
“I suspect delivery guys have seen worse than a half-naked former ballplayer,” Jaime pointed out, but he reluctantly got up, and found sweatpants and a T-shirt in his dresser. He pulled the shirt on over his head as he walked back into the living room. “You know, you could answer the door too. You can hand over money and take the bag at the same time.”
Brienne ignored that suggestion. “So you ran with the kids? Did they bother you?”
“The KLU girls asked why my friend wasn’t running with me.” He retrieved a handful of takeout menus from the kitchen, noticing for the first time that Brienne was in most of the snapshots stuck to his fridge. She’d let herself in using the spare key Jaime had given her months ago for emergencies (Tyrion wasn’t exactly reliable), and her small suitcase stood by the front door.
Brienne rolled onto her side and sifted through the menus. “Friend? That’s an upgrade.” They had encountered the same group of girls on an afternoon run about a month ago, when the girls had teased Jaime for needing a bodyguard.
Jaime hesitated, nervous in a way he never was (never had to be) as a teenager. “I said we had a date tonight.”
Brienne froze holding a Tyroshi menu. She hated Tyroshi food. “A date?”
Jaime plucked the menu from her hand and dropped it. She watched it flutter down to the rug. “Dinner, a movie, most people would consider that a date.”
Brienne picked up another menu. Lorathi food. She saved him the trouble and dropped it herself. Jaime wasn’t a fan, though Tyrion was. “We go out all the time,” she reminded Jaime, carefully avoiding his gaze.
They did go out several times a month, sometimes in a group and sometimes just them, but that wasn’t the point. He bit back the retort on the tip of his tongue (That was before we spent last weekend in bed ) in favor of a softer approach. “And tonight we’ll stay in.”
Jaime wasn’t trying to force a serious conversation, but he wouldn’t pretend nothing had changed. Two weeks ago they’d kissed goodnight at his door. Last weekend Brienne had come over on Friday evening and she hadn’t left until Monday morning. She’d been out of town for work since then, and Jaime had made the mistake of talking to his brother about it. Tyrion thought a friend with benefits was just what Jaime needed, but that wasn’t what he wanted. Last weekend Jaime had been so wrapped up in learning all the ways he could make Brienne fall apart that he hadn’t realized until later that they’d never really talked about what it meant.
Brienne finally met his gaze, and Jaime could see a glimpse of the walls that she put up to protect herself, the reserve she’d hidden behind when they first met. “We’ll stay in,” she agreed.
Jaime moved to the couch, rested his hand lightly on her side. “We’ll get Dornish, because you always pretend to look at all the menus and pick Darkstar anyway, and we’ll need two beers each before we’re not practically breathing fire anymore. We’ll watch a movie with explosions and an ending that’s obvious in the first ten minutes, but it won’t matter because we’ll probably fall asleep before it’s half over.”
Brienne was already smiling up at him, leaning into his touch, maybe as relieved as he was to realize that not everything about them had to change.
But some things did, so Jaime continued. “And when we wake up, I intend to kiss you until you can barely remember your name, because I’ve thought of little else all week. How does that sound?”
Brienne bit her lip. “I… I can deal with that.”
Jaime smiled, resisting the urge to kiss her now. Five days apart should have been easy. They'd done it often enough; she traveled frequently for her job. But that was before Jaime knew the taste of Brienne's skin, the strength of her long legs wrapped around his back, the way she moaned his name as they moved together.
Still, he’d promised her dinner, a movie, time to just be together again as they had been before. So Jaime reluctantly pulled away, until Brienne stopped him, her hand gripping his bicep.
“I’m not really that hungry, are you?”
Jaime grinned. “I can think of a few ways to work up an appetite.”
Brienne smiled, her dark blue eyes promising another weekend like the last one, and pulled him into a kiss.