“I will kill him, easy as that. I will kill him, bring his body down Eel Alley and leave it there to rot. That’s it,” Brienne keeps muttering as she paces through her bedroom, her shoulders tight to the point that she fears they will come out of their sockets. She stops in front of the mirror to stare at her own reflection another time. What devil possessed Margaery and Jaime for picking out such a garment? She dared to hope that he’d give her some fancy looking suit, but no, of course…
“A bloody dress. With cleavage. And jewelry. You’re going to regret this, Lannister. Oh, the Seven may protect you once we are back in the gym. I will rip you a new one… and now I’m talking to myself, way to go, Brienne, way to go. Not at all awkward!”
That is when the doorbell rings. Brienne whirls around, almost losing her footing in the bloody high heels – as if there was any point in giving her high heels, she’s freakish tall anyways, what were Margaery and Jaime thinking, again? She catches herself, though, and quickly proceeds to the door and opens, to reveal all of what she expected – a Jaime Lannister you could cut out of a magazine, hair perfectly styled, gelled back, beard neatly trimmed, wearing a pricey black suit with leather applications, crisp white shirt and navy blue skinny tie.
His eyes fall on her, his mouth flexing in a sort of grimace she fails to read – since she fully expected him to flash his snarky grin and bombard her with comments about her awful appearance and how he’s never thought it possible to see her of all people in a dress.
“What?” she blurts out saying.
“I, uhm… sorry, I was… Doesn’t matter. I see that you actually put on Margaery’s choice?” he replies, and for a moment Brienne dares to believe that he is about as nervous as she is, but then she reminds herself that this is Jaime.
And Jaime is never nervous.
“Now you don’t mean to tell me that I would have been allowed to wear something else, do you?” she gapes at him.
He can’t mean that, right?
“No, evening wear’s required. I told you. I’m just glad you didn’t play the bullheaded one again and shredded Margaery’s dress in favor of… some camouflage pants and a worn shirt with holes in it,” Jaime tells her.
“Because I totally would have,” she rolls her eyes.
“Do I have to remind you of that family dinner I invited you to?” he chuckles.
“You didn’t say ‘dinner’, you said ‘party’. I didn’t know your clan. You said it was outside, and I didn’t know that this required me to show up with a stupid dress. I thought this was casual. You are to blame for not giving me all required information,” Brienne pouts.
“In either case, I’m glad you stuck to the rules for once,” Jaime grins. Brienne licks her lips, hating the suety taste of the lipstick.
“Before we go, we have to get over something, though,” Brienne declares.
“And what would that be?”
“You better laugh it up right now. It won’t look good in the picture if you keep having laugh flashes,” Brienne says, gesticulating.
Let it wash over you – something she’s told herself since the boys back on Tarth started calling her names and she was too weak and shy to fight back (which was before she learned how to fight with her fists… and feet). At some point the childish mantra then became a strange kind of guideline to call to mind during moments such as these.
“Nothing to laugh up about,” he says simply, which leaves Brienne blinking at him, “I beg your pardon?”
“… Blue’s a good color on you, is all I’m saying. You should wear that more often. It suits you,” he replies. The words linger in the air like the overly expensive perfume Margaery gave her to put on for the premiere, scatter around like jolted birds.
Jaime is not acting like his usual self.
Or well, he is probably just having some more fun at her expenses. He likes that sort of thing. And tonight is probably an even bigger event for him because he gets to see Brienne squirming and sweating nervously… with audience.
He knows how to make her – and she hates him for it.
But now that she looks at him, he looks almost sheepish.
But leave it to Jaime Lannister to pull that off – he is an actor after all, right? It’s his job to be able to sell such expressions.
“We… we should get going, the driver’s waiting and actually impatient, even though he gets paid for just that,” he adds, and again, Brienne can’t help but think that he really does seem nervous.
Brienne’s jaw drops for a moment, but then gathers herself again. He probably didn’t mean it like that.
He never does.
That’s part of the unwritten contract.
That he doesn’t mean it and that she doesn’t take things too seriously.
She snaps out of the thought at once, however, grabs that useless silver clutch that Margaery insisted she was supposed to take instead of her favorite brown leather shoulder bag because… Brienne mentally blurted out at the second Margaery listed the reasons that made this glittery… piece of cloth much more appropriate for this occasion despite the very obvious fact that it has zero use, zero space to hold anything other than the suety lipstick – and Brienne has no intention to spend any more time on that stupid make-up than she did anyways…
“Did you forget something?” he asks. Brienne whirls her head around, “No, ugh… just… I just remembered something. Let’s just get over with this.”
“You don’t even try to sound enthusiastic, do you?” he huffs, amused.
“That was not part of the deal,” she reminds him. Jaime chuckles to himself as he exits, holding the door open for Brienne in a rather dramatic manner, to which she rolls her eyes yet again.
Brienne knows she shouldn’t be surprised by the fancy limousine, but she still finds herself impressed for a moment. Yet, Brienne nearly throws a tantrum when she tries to maneuver her tall body into the car, which is way too low, and all that with high heels and a stupid long dress. The blonde woman almost lets out a shriek once she feels a hand on the dress, only to realize that Jaime helps to hold it so that it doesn’t entangle itself any further.
“Thanks,” she mutter begrudgingly. He only winks at her before closing the door and getting in on the other side.
“Remind me again what that movie’s called?” Brienne asks nervously, trying to focus on what is to come. If what Jaime implied is true, she may have to answer questions. So she should know at least the key data to make not the absolutely greatest fool of herself.
“The Long Night.”
“What’s the movie about?” she asks.
Brienne fares better if she can mentally brace herself for the situation. Knowing facts means tiny bits of certainty, and she needs a lot of certainty – because the satin blue dress ripped everything else away from her.
“You’ll watch it, you know?” he snorts, amused.
“Just give me the basic information already,” Brienne rolls her eyes, folding her arms over her flat chest.
… She is still glad that she could take Margaery out of the “taping” and whatever else it is that people do to make the cleavage appear more womanly.
“It’s set in a fictional world where it’s either summer or winter. The winters are unforgiving, cold, mysterious, dark. Creatures from the former days are rumored to roam around during the season, though no one has ever survived to tell so for certain. The good-looking, charming protagonist, who happens to be me, is actually the anti-hero of that tale. He did some questionable things in the past. No one likes him. No one trusts him. No one wants him. So they send him away on some mission they are sure he won’t succeed in, to get him out of the way. But… things take a different turn from there,” Jaime explains with a smile.
“What’s the character’s name?” Brienne asks, trying not to give away that she finds the premise of that story quite interesting.
“As in wireless-LAN?” she makes a face.
“That was almost funny right there,” he chuckles softly.
Really, only Jaime would ever laugh at her not-funny jokes.
“Is there anything else I should know?” Brienne asks, wrapping her big hands tighter around the stupid clutch – and it is at this moment that it dawns on her that the name is actually true in that she clutches it so tightly that her knuckles turn white.
Why did she ever agree to this?
“Not really,” he shrugs.
Brienne somehow had dared to hope that this would reassure her more than it does. Because… it actually doesn’t reassure her at all.
She still feels a strong urge to jump out of the driving car.
“I do wonder, did you ever watch one of the shows or movies I starred in?” Jaime asks, pulling Brienne out of her thoughts.
“Why?” she asks, snapping her head back around to him.
“I just wonder,” she shrugs.
“Why?” Brienne insists.
“Well, you are the one person who’s always going to criticize me without mincing words,” Jaime tells her, which only leaves her frowning once more, “So?”
“That means you are the only person I know and trust not to tell me shit about my performance,” he goes on to explain.
Jaime is really acting queer tonight. Brienne can’t put her finger on it, but something is off.
“What does it matter what I think of your performance? I have zero knowledge of the matter. My opinion is not objective,” Brienne argues.
“But it’s no lie,” he argues, suddenly very serious in his tone.
“Why are you asking me such things all of a sudden?” Brienne questions, somewhat flustered.
She is used to him jesting and making comments. To have Jaime talking seriously is outlandish – because then she thinks he means something, but has no clue if he does after all.
That man is a constant confusion for her.
Does he mean it?
What does it mean if he means it and what does it mean if he doesn’t?
And what does it matter anyways?
“Well, Cersei keeps saying that I’m good in whatever movie I play in – because she is seemingly convinced that it’s only because of my looks or so, but I know as a matter of fact that she, at best, watched that thing in passing. Preferably over a glass of wine, or a bottle,” he huffs. “Tyrion likes to tease me about it because we both know how much of a disgrace such a profession is to Father. He likes to rip every damn movie to shreds because of the plot or the scenery or because you can see where they used CGI effects. We never speak about… my parts.”
While Brienne only saw Tywin once or twice, and didn’t talk to him at all, Tyrion and Jaime gave her some faint idea about the man. Tyrion told her that Tywin was more than outraged to find out that Jaime sought out a career as an actor instead of choosing a profession for the family company – and actually followed through with it all the way.
These days, he seems to be somewhat calm about it because Jaime also does modelling jobs that they can make use of for the company, just like Jaime’s popularity is helpful for their PR, or so Tyrion said.
And to tell the truth, Brienne’s always admired Jaime for it. There are quite a few who give in to such pressure. She herself was more than tempted to do what her father would have wanted of her. Just like she took her time to realize what she even wanted for a job, or a life more generally – because she wanted to please everyone.
“You have critics, don’t you? They give you feedback,” Brienne argues uncertainly.
“And they get paid. That either means it’s white-washed or they want to make it a scandal. It’s the same folks that keep spreading the rumors about Cersei and me. Am I supposed to give a bat’s shit on that, you tell me?” he argues.
“Okay…,” Brienne breathes, not knowing how to reply to that.
She never even thought about that, to be honest.
“You and I both know that you are the only friend I’ve managed to keep over the years,” he goes on.
“There’s Bronn,” Brienne argues, tilting her head.
Why is the car so hot? She feels like she is melting, merging with the leather of the seat.
“Bronn is Tyrion’s friend foremost. And he is way too much like Tyrion anyways. And if he doesn't feel like it, he is gone and away. So yeah, you are the only friend I have to tell me if I sucked in a movie or not,” Jaime replies. “And that’s why your opinion… is actually one of the few that matter.”
“… You never said something in that direction before,” Brienne can’t help but remark.
Why does he blurt out with something like that on such an occasion? Couldn’t he choose… any other day that doesn’t leave her exposed, in a stupid blue dress and with suety lipstick on her lips that seems to seal them when she actually wants to speak.
“I continuously ask you if you’ve seen the newest movie or show I was part of, and you always say that you did not and will not,” Jaime argues sternly, with a bit of blame in his voice.
“Because you want to boast about it – and I’m not up for that,” Brienne huffs.
He won’t play the blame-game here, not tonight.
“See? That is the thing. You thought I was going to boast about it. But did you know for certain?” he then asks in the kind of voice that comes as a total surprise for Brienne.
She thought he would be laughing and smiling and making jokes at her expenses, not start a serious conversation.
They never have serious conversations in the first place.
“You did that the first five times you’ve asked me for it. I think it’s then safe to assume it being a habit,” Brienne replies.
“Habits change, you know, or rather, people can change,” he says in a quieter voice, glancing out the car window for a moment.
Is he sad, really?
If only Brienne could tell for certain.
“And some don’t. You are incorrigible, I accepted that, just like you and I both know that I’m the same,” Brienne argues.
Isn’t that one of the unifying features of their friendship? That they accepted the fact that they can’t change the other – and don’t even try to? That they accept each other for who they are?
“Right,” he snorts.
“What now? Are you going to be pissed off for the rest of the evening now or what’s the matter?” Brienne can’t help but say.
He is not the one forced to do something that’s against his very nature. She dared to hope that he’d at least make some effort to encourage her, and not to push her in the role of having to encourage him in turn.
That was definitely not part of the deal.
“As if, wench,” Jaime huffs.
“You won’t call me that once we exit the car, or else I will smack you in front of the entire audience,” Brienne warns him.
“I know how to behave in public, that’s part of my job,” Jaime rolls his eyes.
“Sometimes I wished some of that work ethic carried over into your personal life as well,” Brienne fumes, hugging her arms, even if she feels hot – and not cold.
But that gives her security for some odd reason.
“I keep work and personal life strictly apart. I pretend to be someone else during my job enough. I think it’s just fair that I get to be who I am when the cameras are out,” Jaime replies, and again, it seems like he is really offended.
He is usually never offended.
What is going on here?
“Just don’t call me ‘wench’,” Brienne insists stubbornly.
“For as long as you keep saying ‘Jaime’ and not ‘Lannister’, we should be good to go,” he shrugs his shoulders.
“This is a nightmare,” Brienne leans her head back.
She knew this was a bad idea.
Now it seems like they will argue for the rest of the night, and that is then mingled with going to a premiere, with cameras and people staring at her… in that bloody dress!
Those are the Seven Hells, she is sure of it.
“You are driving in a fancy limousine, wear a pricey dress, even pricier jewelry, are going to be in magazines and newspapers and online articles, have five-star food, meet celebrities and feel like a star. You know, most people actually dream of these kinds of things for all their lives,” Jaime points out to her.
“Well, I’m not most other people,” Brienne huffs. “As you should know.”
“That I know, but sometimes I do wonder what it’d take to make you happy about something,” he says in a quieter voice that leaves Brienne swaying again.
Does he really mean that?
“I like to train. I like my job. I like my life the way it is with the people in it. I don’t need red carpets and the like as matters of fulfilment. And I still don’t see how it’s favorable to have one’s privacy constantly violated by people who, most of the time, actually want you harm by discovering one of your darkest secrets to sell at a good price. Isn’t that the entire reason why I’m here right now? Because this keeps happening to you?” Brienne replies.
After all, as he said, she is “perfect for that occasion” to defuse the arguments that persist about him and Cersei.
“You take the fun out of things,” he exhales with a weary smile.
“I just don’t know why you put up with that. I don’t know if I’d do it,” Brienne argues.
Because she really doesn’t.
“That’s because I apparently like my job enough to see past that. You accept to be bruised all over from training, too, don’t you? Because you love to train,” Jaime explains. “Doing the things you love often means sacrifice. That sucks, but… that’s the way it is, I suppose.”
“Are you sure you’re alright?” Brienne can’t help but ask.
He is really acting different from his usual self.
He blinks at her, his features flexing, but then he puts on his cocky smile, which seems unnaturally hollow right now, “I won’t be the one who’s about to hurl out of anxiety of having my picture taken.”
“Way to motivate someone whom you ‘need’ to function tonight,” Brienne snorts.
“Piety is none of my most prominent features,” he exhales.
“Newsflash,” she huffs.
“Speaking of flash…”
Brienne’s heart almost stops once she realizes that the car has stopped, and that lights flash from the other side. Cameras. People. People with cameras.
“No, no, no.”
Abort the mission!
“Yes, yes, yes. The longer you wait, the more attention you get. I will get out of the car first and lend you a hand,” Jaime argues, his voice way too calm to her liking.
“I don’t need your help,” Brienne replies almost automatically.
“That still doesn’t mean you cannot accept it,” he points out to her.
With that he opens the door and the white flashes of light creep their way into the limousine.
And while Brienne wouldn’t ever admit it out loud, Jaime’s hand reaching back inside to help her out of the car is the only thing that gives her a faint shimmer of security at this very second. She clutches on to his hand more desperately than she should.
And more desperately than she usually would.
She won’t ever see the end of it, but at this point, Brienne cannot even care.
She is too scared.
Once Brienne is out of the car, she feels like she is drowning in the flashes of white light. And all Brienne wants to do is to jump back into the car and tell the driver to speed away the fastest he can.
“This was such a bad idea.”
But Jaime doesn’t let go of her wrist until she stands next to him, either sensing that she is that close to running off, or just being up for a tease again, she doesn’t know. She just knows that eventually, his hand lets go of her wrist, and then rests on her back, on the space where the shoulder blades end. The touch is almost not there, but still firm as he guides her further down the red carpet.
Brienne can feel the gooseflesh all over her body – and prays to the Seven that Jaime doesn’t realize.
This is not right.
She is not the person to stand in the spotlight.
What was Jaime thinking?
And what was she thinking for ever agreeing to this in the first place?
She dares to steal a glance at Jaime, who couldn’t be any more relaxed than he is at this very second, judging by his posture, and the godforsaken beautiful smile that she just wants to punch out of his handsome face right now.
She can hear people yelling his name, begging him to come closer for an interview, and Brienne is more than tempted to tell him to stay right where he is, but she doesn’t, in fact she can’t. Her mouth doesn’t move, only her feet do as he guides her over to the interviewers.
Brienne sends another silent prayer to the Seven that they may spare her more shame.
“… How are you, Sir?” one of the interviewers asks.
“Splendid, thank you. How are you?” Jaime replies casually, smiling into the camera, offering a wink here and there.
He makes it seem so effortless – while Brienne has to make any effort not to just run away and hide behind one of the limousines.
“Good, thanks. I’m here for The Raven. Can I ask you some questions for our magazine?”
“Sure you can, I just can’t guarantee that I will always come up with the right answer,” she can hear Jaime say. Brienne blinks.
His voice sounds so different from the one she knows. Brienne can’t even pinpoint what it is that’s so queer about it, but when he makes those sarcastic comments when around her, they seem… different… are different.
As though the voice he uses on her and the voice he uses in public belong to two different people.
“Concerning the latest rumors published by the Northern Telegraph, you and your sister…”
“Ah, see, here we have one of those questions that I fear I can’t give you a satisfactory answer to, sorry to disappoint you, but I did warn you in advance,” Jaime replies with an easy smile, though Brienne can tell that this is not easy. She can feel his hand flexing against her back, earning her yet another shiver.
Stupid dress with a way too lowly cut-out back.
“Is there anything else you want to ask in that direction? Because then I fear I have to move on. It’d be a pity not to give any satisfactory answers at all, right?” Jaime goes on, smiling brightly – though everyone knows this is an actual threat.
“No, no, it’s… Who is your plus one tonight?” the man asks instead, seemingly having gotten the message.
“This is Brienne of Tarth,” Jaime declares, pushing her a bit closer, and Brienne finds herself trying to somehow maintain as much distance as possible, bending her body back, probably looking like a longbow, but she is past the point to care.
“Judging by your name, are you of royal blood by any chance, ma’am?” the man with the black microphone asks, holding the stick closer to her face – to the point that Brienne has to suppress any urge to just smack the thing like a mosquito.
“I… uhm…,” she stammers.
Why doesn’t her brain operate right now?
This is easy enough.
This is not even about Jaime or the movie or vital information.
This is about her name!
“She does have royal ancestors. Tarth is an old royal house in the Stormlands, if not one of the oldest,” Jaime jumps in, his voice calm and even. “While I don’t know exactly, there are good chances the Tarths go about as far back as does the Lannister clan. And that surely means something.”
“And in what relationship do you two stand?” the reporter then asks, and Brienne can’t help but gape.
She thought they’d ask about him and Cersei.
It never dawned on her that they’d assume that she and Jaime…
Are people crazy?
“In a very good one. Aren’t we going to talk about the movie?” Jaime argues, feigning confusion. “Because I thought this was actually the main purpose of this event?”
She has to give him that much, he really knows how to act.
“Did you already see anything of the movie, ma’am?” the reporter asks.
Why does he keep asking her questions?!
“I did… not. I am… I’m looking forward to seeing it tonight, though,” Brienne finally manages to say, her jaws merely moving apart.
“We didn’t want to spoil the surprise,” Jaime adds.
“How did you get to know each other?”
“I don’t think that this was part of the movie, and I should know, I’ve been casted as the protagonist,” Jaime huffs. “Well, it was nice talking to you, Sir.”
He moves further down the line of reporters and photographers as if nothing ever happened, and Brienne still has no clue what to make of any of this.
Most of the time, Jaime manages to bypass it that Brienne has to say more than ‘hello’ and her name, but sometimes it’s not done with that. Actually, most of the time it’s not done with that. People keep asking about her relationship to Jaime, and try to poke holes into him about him and Cersei. It amazes Brienne how smoothly Jaime manages to maneuver out of each and every moment with a nice smile and a positive attitude.
If only he finally quitted making ambiguous implications in regards to their relationship, though.
Instead of stating the facts that they are just friends, he keeps saying that she is “a very special friend”, “the one woman who’s put up with him over the last couple of years”, or his “rock”, as if he was trying to fuel the rumors about them now in turn, if only to lead away from that weird stuff about him and Cersei.
“Could you finally quit to make implications about you and I?” Brienne hisses in a low voice as they are ordered to take a step back for more photographs.
“What implications?” he asks innocently.
“You know exactly what I’m talking about,” she mutters.
“You think too much. If you think too much, you make that awkward face again. Smile – or else that’ll be the pic on the front page, and who’d want a sour-looking Amazon there, hm?” he replies with an easy smile. Brienne tries her best to keep up the façade, even if she is boiling right now.
“This was never part of the deal. I’m not here so you can make me your and Cersei’s shield,” Brienne mutters.
“Well, in fact that was not my intention,” he replies, before calling out louder. “Oh, it seems like we have to head inside. Last interview for now. First come, first serve. Oh, you over there seem to be the most eager.”
Jaime approaches the black-haired man. Brienne doesn’t even bother as the reporter runs through the same questions again. The microphone reads KLN, so King’s Landing News.
Brienne tries to think of the movie and the good things Jaime pointed out to her. The food and the atmosphere.
Maybe she is just being too harsh on him and should really try to loosen up some.
Maybe it won’t be the almost bad anymore once she starts considering it… not the worst?
Ugh, she hates this.
“… Well, if you must know, yes, I brought my girlfriend with me tonight…”
Brienne’s mouth falls open as a small uproar goes through the rows of reporters and photographers, until they disappear behind a wall of white flashes of light, momentarily blinding Brienne.
Jaime didn’t, did he?
And she can’t punch him right now because that’s nothing she’d risk to have all over the papers.
Why did he?
She really will have to kill him, or so it seems.