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I’m sorry, the screen reads.

Jaime’s left thumb hovers on the send button.

His brother’s name is already selected. He just has to send the damned thing, turn the phone off and then – well, he has a plan here, doesn’t he?

Hell, it’s even raining, badly, and no one’s around, which makes the night even more perfect for his purposes, being that he’s fucking done and honestly, while the one reason he hasn’t sent the damned text and moved on with it is that he knows Tyrion would miss him.

Still –

In the long run, he’d only gain from it. Jaime knows that he is the only reason his brother still has ties with their father or Cersei, and honestly, if he gives Tyrion a reason to just cut them off completely, he’d pay him a favor.

He looks at his right wrist. Bare, in all senses.

Sometimes he still feels a hand there.

Not tonight.

He breathes once, twice, thrice, then presses the damned send button.

The moment the message is through, he turns off the phone completely. He considers throwing it in the trash, but it does have numbers on it that shouldn’t be shared with anyone who doesn’t own some kind of financial empire or wouldn’t want to talk with Scotland Yard’s chief inspector, who would not appreciate anyone finding his number.

He shakes his head, opens its back with only his left, takes out the battery and somehow he manages to finally tear the sim card out of its cradle. Good. He throws it in the river, then shrugs and throws the pieces of the phone in its wake.

Good luck putting it back together.

Well, that’s done. He’s not going to do anything so pathetic as writing down suicide notes or anything – that was it.

He doesn’t even bother zipping up his jacket – with one hand it’s too much work – and curls his fingers along the rails.

The river is dark below him, but it’s summer. It’s not even cold, it’s just horribly rainy. The water should be warm, he thinks, and once he was a fairly good swimmer, but like this?

He doubts his survival instinct will win this specific war. He kind of wishes he had found a way to at least shave or trim his hair before doing this, but it’d have required going to a barber’s or something and he’s not letting anyone he doesn’t know near him with scissors or a razor, and so he’ll go to his death looking horrible, but never mind that.

After all, who’d care?

He breathes in again. He just has to jump over the rails. Cannot be too hard, for someone who lost a hand because he had to try and catch a patented psychopath whose modus operandi was flaying women, cutting off a limb or two and rape them before killing them, and managed to get himself caught because he went after him alone, and by the time the others caught up with them the damage was done.

“Someone’s having a bad day, huh?”

What?

Jaime momentarily gives up on his task to turn towards his right where some woman has just stopped. Shorter than him, though not by much. Red hair, red dress, red make-up, red coat – a bit of an overkill if you ask him.

“And how is that your fucking business?” He spits. “Leave.”

“My, my,” she tuts, “maybe a bad month is better. Or maybe – some really bad six months, hm?”

For a moment, he wants to tell her to fuck off again, but then –

How the hell would you know?”

The woman snorts. “While knowing things is my line of work, I also do read the news, Mr. Lannister. You look a bit under the weather, but you’re still a favorite subject of many tabloids, never mind newspapers.”

He groans – of course, what was he even expecting? He’s – sadly – enough tabloid pictures material that people would know who he is.

“Well, I did. And all things considered, I decided it’s time to take a permanent leave from this mortal coil. Are you going to or are you just going to film me while I do it and sell it to the highest paying trash magazine?”

My, my,” she goes on, insufferably, “you really are having a bad time. Enough to take a permanent leave, though? That’s kind of drastic.”

“And how is that your bloody business? But yes, it’s bad enough. It was bad before, it was retroactively horrible, actually, and now it’s worse, and I have no reason to keep on being miserable any further.”

She still doesn’t leave. Damn it.

“It’s quite drastic, though, Mr. Lannister. Tides do turn in life. It would be quite a pity to waste yours just because of… a bad time.”

If only it was a bad time.

“Listen, Mrs. – what’s your name even?”

“You can call me Melisandre,” she replies amiably. “It’s the name most people know me by, anyhow.”

“Very well, Mrs. Melisandre –”

“That’d be Miss, if –”

Fine, fine, Miss. Thing is, it’s not just my current problem, which is a fairly big one, because

as you might know, police work is hard to pull off without a hand, and as far as my family’s concerned, not looking like you just walked out of an Armani photoshoot where you come from is seen as a capital offence, but never mind that. Thing is, my current problem brought out to the light a whole crapload of other problems I somehow always pretended did not exist, which made me realize I about wasted thirty and some years on this bloody planet and given my prospects I don’t think I’m so keen to spend another fifty miserable ones on it. Now, are you leaving or not?”

“You’re still taller and stronger than me,” she says, “I don’t think I could hold you back, if you jumped. But you’re not doing it, are you?”

“I don’t want to do it in front of you!”

“I can assure you that it would not give me nightmares,” she says, smirking. “I have seen worse. My line of work is of some interest, and I have seen a lot of things. However, what I think is, that a part of you really doesn’t want to jump.”

“How is what I think your goddamned business?”

“You didn’t deny it, though, did you?”

… Shit. He didn’t. What the hell –

“And, honestly, you’re quite an open book. It’s not the hand,” she goes on, and how can she know, “it’s that you don’t have that many people who care about you and the ones who should actually don’t, for the most part, and I have a feeling you somehow convinced yourself no one could or will. Didn’t you?”

What.

The.

Hell.

He grasps the rail tighter. “May I know, Miss, what in the everloving fuck is your line of work?”

He doesn’t like any line of work that might make someone understand exactly what’s his goddamned problem here.

She smiles. “I read futures. And I read people.”

“Oh, bullshit. Everyone knows you can’t read the future, it’s all psychology. Which I think might absolutely be the case here, for –”

“Mr. Lannister, in my case, it’s definitely not psychology. That said, I have a feeling that you do deserve a break from the real world. And maybe I know what you need, which is not a swift termination of your life.”

“I’m not doing anything you suggest, lady.”

“And who says you have to do anything?” She smirks, and then –

Then her hands start glowing red.

Under the goddamned rain.

What –

I have to do it,” she says. “Take it as a gift. And if, after, you feel like paying your debts, as your family is rumored to always do, well… even witches have rents to pay.”

Witches?”

“You will… come back, the moment you realize that life is worth living. No dumb prophecies or curses or anything, it’s so old news by now. Have fun,” she says, and then Melisandre’s burning fingers touch Jaime’s forehead.

 

 

Then he screams, and then everything goes completely, utterly dark.

 

 

--

He opens his eyes.

All right, he’s not dead.

His eyes are also – at a level with the street. What the –

He stands up.

And then he falls right back down, and what the hell

He – he doesn’t have legs anymore.

As he stands up, he realizes he’s standing on paws, and three rather than four, and – honest, what the hell, he thinks as he stumbles towards the nearest puddle of water and looks down at it and –

No.

It can’t have happened.

That red woman can’t have turned him into a bloody cat now, can she, except that she apparently did, and he’s a sorry excuse for one – he’s thin, he doesn’t have his right front paw – of course –, his fur is brittle and dull and torn away in a few places, and he looks as horrible as he felt when he was about to jump.

Jaime tries to remember the last time he saw this happen in some crappy Disney movie that Tyrion probably wanted to see and he can’t recall it, but fuck’s sake, really? On top of everything else, now he has to find out witches exist and magic exists and they can turn you into cats, and now what the hell is he even going to do? His old clothes are pooled next to the bridge, but he hadn’t brought a wallet or anything with so no one is going to recognize them, and like this he can’t find any balance, and he doubts that every damned other wild cat in this city will be amenable to let him survive in their territory without killing him first.

And he has three legs, he can’t fucking run.

Damn her. Damn her to hell and back.

He falls back down on the ground, feeling too weak to support himself.

He sighs.

A wholly pitiful meow escapes his mouth.

He’s entirely horrified at it, but it’s apparently the only sound he’s capable of making, and then –

“What is this,” a female voice says from somewhere behind him, and then someone kneels down in front of him.

It’s a woman, all right, he had noticed that. She’s under an umbrella, and she’s wearing what looks like jeans and a men’s coat, and in the horrible streetlight he can only see that she has a pair of fairly lovely blue eyes that somehow seem familiar except that he can’t place them, and the moment she assesses his situation they go slightly wider and fill up with – pity? Concern?

“Look at this,” she mutters, “I can’t believe people would just leave their pets out like this. And without a leg.” She huffs, then obviously does some math with her eyes closed, and –

“Look at me, now I feel like an idiot because I’m talking to a cat, but – I should probably bring you home if I don’t want to find you dead tomorrow, shouldn’t I?” She asks, softly, her hands reaching out for him.

For a moment he wants to recoil because the idea of a total stranger touching him especially when he’s barely let anyone even come close in the last six months makes him want to hurl, then he realizes that it’s basically at least granted food and shelter for now and he’d be an idiot to do it when whoever this woman is, she’s saving his hide now. He doesn’t want to die mauled by other wild cats, for fuck’s sake.

He lets her pick him up.

She’s, admittedly, way gentler than he’d have imagined – she makes sure she’s not touching the scarring over where his right front leg should be, and she’s warm, that’s for sure, and it’s a relief to be out of the rain.

He closes his eyes for a moment, or so he thinks, and when he opens them again she’s fumbling with her keys and opening what’s presumably the front door to her building. She takes the stairs up until the third floor – he noticed the elevator being out of order – and then opens what finally looks like her apartment’s door. She kicks it closed, turning on the light and muttering something about needing a pillow.

He’s, finally, deposited with care on a soft, green pillow on her equally green sofa as she takes a good look at him, and he takes a good look at her.

Well, she isn’t a pretty sight, objectively – the eyes are indeed very pretty, large and blue with long eyelashes and a worried look to them that makes him almost curl up on himself because who has looked at him like that, recently?, but they’re about the only thing she has going for her in that sense. Her nose definitely was broken more than once, her straw-colored hair tied back in a messy ponytail is nothing to write home about, the splotch of freckles on both her cheeks is not what people consider attractive, her lips look soft but they’re large and don’t really seem to match with the rest of her face and on top of that when she stands up and goes to the kitchen he realizes she’s fucking tall and has broader shoulders than he did, back when he wasn’t a fucking cat.

And she looks familiar.

Shit, where did he see her previously? He couldn’t have forgotten such a woman now, could he? You’d remember someone like that, for bad or good, and maybe he could think if only he wasn’t bloody starving, because of course he hadn’t eaten anything for a day before deciding to jump off a fucking bridge –

Then she comes back in the room with a first aid kit?

What the –

Oh.

Turns out he was bleeding from the small stump of his right leg.

“Sorry about this,” she sighs, “but I don’t think you want to take a trip to the veterinarian for an infection now, do you?”

He doesn’t, and so he stays still as she patches him up. She’s fast and efficient about it, he can’t help noticing, and her pillow is admittedly very comfortable, which is also why he doesn’t recoil either when she runs a hand over his back before grabbing the kit and leaving the room all over again.

Then she comes back with – a plate and a small cup? Suddenly he smells tuna and he’s reminded of how bloody hungry he is.

She places them on the small coffee table in front of the sofa, and then her phone rings. She grabs it from its cradle.

“Dad? Yeah, I’m fine. I ran late because I found a cat in the middle of the street,” she says as she puts the phone in between her ear and her shoulder and then grabs him delicately and moves him from the sofa to the table.

It’s obvious that she’s hoping he’s going to eat and he’s starving, so he does – supermarket-bought tuna has never tastes this good, really – but at the same time he tries to follow the conversation because he really wants to know where he ended up.

“Of course I brought him home,” she goes on as she watches him eating with an approving look, “he doesn’t even have a leg. I know, right? Who abandons their cat in the middle of the street when he can’t even move properly? People are terrible. What? Well, I guess I’ll keep him,” she says. “He didn’t have a collar or any identification,” she shrugs. “And I kind of always wanted a cat. I guess it was destiny.”

For a moment, he thinks what, and then he realizes that he’s being a goddamned fucking idiot – where would he even go? If she wants to keep him while he figures out how in the everloving hell he’s going to become human again, he’s not going to complain. At least he wouldn’t have to fend for himself, which would be damn fucking hard in his conditions.

“I think he was mistreated, actually,” she goes on. “He’s too thin. Then again, it’s not as if I have that much to spend my money on, right?” She snorts. “Dad, I know, but that’s not the point. All right, I’ll call you tomorrow. Have a good night,” she says, and she’s smiling as she closes the call even if her eyes are sad.

Such pretty eyes shouldn’t be sad, he thinks, and then he wonders where the hell it came from.

“Wow, you’re done already?”

… He did finish the entire can she had obviously poured on his plate. He moves to the cup of water, fuck if he’s not thirsty, and then she comes back with another portion of tuna in the same plate. He goes slower with it, and he doesn’t really feel like moving when she starts tentatively running her hand over his back, straightening his fur.

Hells, it’s… soothing?

He doesn’t dwell further on it and finishes his fish – right. Now he does feel like… not like a human being, but like he’s not absolutely bloody miserable.

“Well, at least we know you’ve got an appetite,” she says, but she sounds amused. “Right. I don’t have anything suited,” she says under her breath. “Guess I’ll buy something tomorrow. For now…”

She leaves the room, comes back with an old sweater of hers, puts it on the pillow and then picks him up again, gently, and deposits him back there.

“I hope it’s comfortable enough,” she says, and then, “Shit, I’m talking to a cat. Well, I guess it was just a matter of time.”

Why does she sound like she’s not at all surprised?

She sits next to him on the sofa, checks her phone, then sighs and makes a call.

“Sansa? Yeah, sorry for the lateness. I was wondering, until when is your boyfriends’s shop open? No, because I found this cat in the middle of the street and I think I’m keeping him. Sure, I’ll remember to not call him boyfriend in front of him, not that I couldn’t take him if he punched me for that. Damn, did you say six thirty? Because I just got a text that I might have to do overtime tomorrow and I wouldn’t finish before seven. Of course it’s not paid, do you think Cersei Lannister would spare the money even when she can afford them?”

Wait a moment

Of course, he thinks, berating himself, of course he had seen her before. If she works for Cersei she most definitely hangs around his sister’s office, which means the he must have seen her there at least in the background.

“Oh, he would? Okay, I’ll be there. Right. I’ll see you tomorrow at seven fifteen then.”

Seven? Regular employees are out at five and overtime is over at six, what the fuck? Jaime knew his sister is the wet dream of any serious union representative for how she treats her employees at least, but two hours of unpaid overtime? The hell?

He has a feeling he knows why Tyrion left them to their business and bought himself a damned vineyard in Italy and he’s now opening a new branch just to sell it in the UK, but he said he’s not coming back and he understands why.

She closes the call, stretching her back, then checks the time and obviously decides she should turn in and go to bed.

Fair point. It’s late.

She looks at him, running her hand over his head again. “Well, I see you’re settling in nicely. Tomorrow it’ll be better. And I should find you a name already,” she sighs, and then walks out of the living room and into the hallway.

Yeah, and I should find out yours, he thinks, but it’s going to be for tomorrow. He’s tired, he decides, and he closes his eyes as he curls up on himself on the pillow, which is indeed comfortable.

--

The next day, she’s gone when he wakes up, but there’s a plate of tuna on the table along with water.

The table was also moved so that it’s next to the sofa, so he can actually walk to get there – good, he thinks, and proceeds to eat.

When he’s done, he decides that he really should take a look around, as much as he can handle, anyway – walking without one damned leg is hard, fuck’s sake. He does manage to get off the sofa, though, and while he can hardly jump on chairs or the likes, he gets around enough to find out that the house only has two more rooms – hers and a guest’s –, a kitchen and a bathroom, that she obviously likes blue since that’s the color of her bedcovers, that she most probably liked Blind Guardian or she wouldn’t have a poster hung up in front of her bed (good taste, for that matter), that she reads a lot because her room and the living room have a lot of bookshelves, which he obviously cannot look at because he can’t fucking jump until he gets a grip on moving properly, and walking is already bloody complicated. Still, he can see that the shelves also have a few trophies on them, obviously some high school sports event. He figures he’ll pay attention to it when he can move more freely.

He doesn’t know how long it takes him, but obviously not enough, and by the time the clock on the wall reads midday, he’s bored out of his mind and has managed to climb back on the sofa somehow.

And she’s not even coming home soon because of course, the overtime.

He goes back to sleep – he might as well catch up on it.

--

“But look at that,” someone else who’s not her says, waking him up. It’s another woman, definitely younger than his current host, with bright red hair and a lovely pair of blue eyes that’s, Jaime decides, not as pretty as his host’s, and who is helping her carry a few bags of… cat stuff, he supposes. “Who even treats their cats like that?”

“No idea, but see why I’m keeping him?”

“Fair,” the other girl says. “Well, I’m sure you’ll have him back on his feet in no time. So, litter box, basket, that’d be in your bag – Sandor said to just put them in one place where you sure you won’t move them. So he gets adjusted to the routine and so on.”

Sandor has to be the boyfriend with the pet shop, Jaime figures.

“He can just stay here,” his host says, “who’d even mind?” She puts a basket out of her bag – it’s all cushioned in green, he notices, and then she puts the litter box next to it – right. Well. Can’t avoid that embarrassment, he figures.

The other girl puts some food out of her bags, then moves next to him.

“But look at that, he has eyes like emeralds.”

The hell?

“I know,” the woman says. “I noticed yesterday.”

“Does he have a name?” the girl asks, and moves his hand as if to pet him, and he hisses and draws back – he has a limit, all right?

“Huh,” the girl goes on, “guess he doesn’t like strangers other than you.”

“Well,” the woman says, “he doesn’t have – that’d be the right hand if he was a man, no?”

You don’t know half of it.

“Yeah. So?”

“So – well. Bedivere?”

“Bedi-what? No, wait. Oh God, don’t tell me, my brother’s into that stuff – that’s some Arthurian thing, isn’t it?”

“One of the knights of the Round Table,” the woman goes on. “Uh, he was without a hand. It sounded appropriate.”

“Brienne, you’re such a nerd,” the girl says affectionately, and –

Wait. So her name’s Brienne and she’s into Arthurian legends?

… Look at that. So am I, he thinks, or better, so he was. Because he doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing now, but – he can’t help thinking he does like her thinking. At least if he has to answer to some other name it’s a proper one, not one of those horrendous cat names he hears around.

“But look at him,” Brienne goes on. “Fine, there’s no hand or leg or whatever and he’s kind of looking bad off, but I can see there’s resilience in there. Knights are perfectly good characters to name animals after, Sansa.”

Okay, so the other girl is Sansa. Good, at least he won’t go insane wondering how the hell they’re named.

“Whatever, if he hasn’t eaten since this morning we should probably feed him,” Sansa says, and puts some cat food in the bowl he had eaten from this morning.

The moment he smells the stuff, he kind of wants to hurl – can cats hurl? – because it’s really fucking disgusting and it looks soft in the way the worst baby food is and he feels like his dignity is being strapped from him, but – honestly. They’re feeding him. He can’t really look at gift horses in the mouth and he’s supposed to be a damned cat for the time being, he’ll just – take a breath and play along.

He leans down and tries to eat the thing. The flavor is terrible, but maybe if he just ignores it –

He tries to swallow.

The moment he does, it comes right back up and he throws up on the floor, good thing there wasn’t a rug under it.

“Wait, what was that,” Brienne says, sounding hella worried. What?

“Well, seems like he doesn’t like it,” Sansa shrugs. “It said it was the best quality, though.”

“Maybe he’s allergic to something in it? I should call a vet. Still, he didn’t mind the tuna yesterday. I guess I’ll just give him the last can.”

Yes please, Jaime thinks, feeling kind of fucking pathetic, but that shit was just – no.

Five minutes later, she’s back with the usual tuna and he doesn’t throw that up, thankfully.

“Well,” Sansa says, “I guess he’s good with real food. Whatever, I’ll bring Sandor back the unopened bag.”

“Thanks. He can keep the money, though, it won’t really change anything.”

“Are you sure? He wouldn’t mind –”

“Please, he even was open overtime because I couldn’t come before he closed, that’d be the least.”

“Fine,” Sansa agrees. “Wait, let me take a picture, he said he wanted to see how the situation was.”

Jaime doesn’t push his luck and lets Sansa take a pick of his pathetic cat-self eating the damned tuna, and then she tells Brienne goodbye and leaves.

Brienne lets him eat as she cleans up the floor, and then she kneels next to him, gently running a hand along his back again as he finishes up, and – listen, she’s different, all right? He kind of likes how rough her fingers are and how careful they are at the same time, it’s not – petting just because he looks cute or something, especially since he does not look cute right now.

Later, he finds out that the basket is indeed comfortable – for a cat anyway – and that Brienne has apparently a certain weakness for chick-flicks since she ends up watching a fairly ridiculous romantic comedy before going to bed, but she does seem to enjoy it, and well, he figures that everyone can have bad taste in something.

--

The next morning, he wakes up to a bowl of cat crunchies, which are not as terribly disgusting as the food from yesterday even if not ideal, so he eats them if only to calm down his stomach.

And now he can actually think about his goddamned situation.

So, at least he has a roof over his head. But he can’t go anywhere, not in his conditions, he sure as hell can’t contact his brother nor find out if anyone’s looking for him, and ah, right, he’s not going back to himself until he realizes that life is worth living, whatever the everloving fuck that means.

Well, shit. He’ll just wait and see how things shape up for now, and he curses Melisandre before going to sleep all over again.

--

Brienne comes back around six – so no overtime, he supposes – and she’s carrying fairly damned heavy food bags.

“I think you’ll appreciate a lot of this more than cat food,” she says, sounding amused, and then delivers them in the kitchen. He doesn’t follow her there but just stays outside – hell, he walked around a bit before and how all his fucking legs are hurting. He doesn’t know what kind of pitiful look he sends her, but she leans down to pick him up and bring him over to the sofa and he resigns himself to admit that yes, it feels nice if she’s scratching behind his ears.

She calls her father again, tells him that the cat looks well enough and she’s going to bring him to a vet in a few days – shit, yeah, he’ll have to endure that, too – and that work is what it is and hopefully there’ll be a promotion for her somewhere down the line since the overtime isn’t paid. She tells him that no, there are no men on the horizon either, rolling her eyes, and when the call is over she heads to the kitchen.

Some half hour later, he’s presented with a bowl of minced beef, which not completely raw but more on that side, and – wait, she actually bothered to cook just to feed him?

He tentatively leans down and eats it and damn, all right, that’s plenty better than both tuna cans or that disgusting cat food, and he eats the entire thing because scratch it, it’s delicious, and when he looks up at her she’s smiling and well, okay, fine, she’s not attractive, but she does have a very nice smile when it reaches her eyes.

“I’d say this one was a win,” she says, and then goes back to the kitchen to supposedly have her dinner.

He trails along, stumbling until he reaches her chair. He manages to climb on the next one and she looks delighted to have him there, as she eats –

Wow. Microwaved pre-cooked tandoori chicken?

Why would she cook for a damned cat but not for herself?

Anyway, she makes quick work of it, and then she brings him back to the living room when she realizes he’s exhausted all his strength climbing the chair before, and Jaime figures that there’s worse options than watching some other harmless rom-com on stretched next to her on the sofa while she runs her hand along his back. Admittedly, he never thought Notting Hill was anything special but she seems to enjoy it, so what the hell. He’s warm, he’s eaten, he has a place to sleep – he could be worse off.

--

The vet trip is less terrible than he’d have feared – he gets some vaccinations, for a moment he goes way tense when the man start discussing castration but Brienne shakes her head and says that she’ll just make sure he doesn’t run into any female cats, thank fuck or he’d have bitten the man’s hand off – and he learns that she actually sings along to Blind Guardian while driving.

She also has a nice voice, he can’t help noticing. Too bad it doesn’t match her face, he figures.

It’s a Thursday.

On Friday, she comes home looking sort of agitated – but in the good way – and calls Sansa and asks her if she can please come over. Yes, now. And can she bring the make-up kit?

Sansa is there some twenty minutes later – she obviously lives close.

“So,” she asks, “what’s the hurry?”

“Uh, I told you there was that colleague – Hyle Hunt?”

“Wait, the one who has the desk in front of yours? You did.”

“He – uhm, he might have asked me out for the third time. I – I might have said yes?”

Oh,” Sansa says, sounding delighted, “I told you that he probably wasn’t faking at the second time. And why would he? I mean –”

“Sansa, please, I think it’s obvious –”

“Oh, fine, so you don’t look like a top model or whatever, but assuming no one would want to date you is just ridiculous and Renly Baratheon was gay.”

“I know –”

“And Connington was a right fucking asshole, as Sandor would put it. Didn’t this guy get you flowers?”

“A few times.”

“Wow, ever the gentleman. So, what it is that you need?”

“Well, I – I was going to cook something for the cat, and then I’d take a shower, and – listen, I don’t date. Just, have a look in my closet and pick the most decent things I have, how about that?”

“You – cook for the cat?”

“He liked the minced meat yesterday.”

“Oh, dear, I just hope this works out for you, but if it doesn’t, you’re starting on the old cat lady path very strongly, Brienne.”

“It’s not like it costs me time, does it?”

Sansa shrugs and says that of course she will look through her closet.

Jaime doesn’t really have much of an opinion on the situation and has no idea of who’s this Hunt guy, but Brienne looks like a nice person and hey, everyone deserves nice things in their life, especially nice people who work for his bloody sister.

He’s, admittedly, surprised when instead of more of yesterday’s beef Brienne shows up with a plate full of finely cut and minced chicken breast and some green stuff next to it. He tries the green stuff, which is almost as disgusting as the cat food the first day, and instead he finishes the minced chicken without batting an eyelid.

Sansa is just staring at the scene.

“Brienne, you should’ve called this one Guinevere or something, not like a knight. I mean, that’s princess-level behavior.”

“He’s not hurting anyone by liking nice food,” Brienne replies, and Jaime kind of wants to die in embarrassment, but hey, it was good food, all right?

“Never mind your soon to be spoiled cat, follow me. I think I have just the attire. And I brought the good make-up kit.”

They disappear inside Brienne’s room and he resolutely doesn’t follow – like hell he’s going to be a creep and watch her take off his clothes, honestly – and when they finally walk out…

Well. All right. The blue pantsuit Sansa found her is a fine cut and suits Brienne more than a dress would have, the blue flats give it an extra feminine touch, and the light but expertly applied make-up does fit the entire picture. She doesn’t look like some cinema star and she never will, but it’s obvious that she put an effort in looking nicer and at least she does – she’s not looking ridiculous or like she’s overdoing it.

“Believe me,” Sansa says, “you look great.”

“If you say so,” Brienne sort-of-agrees, and then looks at the time. “Oh, damn, the meeting’s in half an hour. I just –”

“Sure, I’ll go downstairs with you. Don’t have too much fun and tell me everything, all right?”

Brienne nods and they both leave, going down the stairs and locking the door behind them.

Well, at least one of them will have a nice evening, Jaime thinks, resigned to more hours of bloody boredom, as he curls against the old sweater she has left in the basket where he’s supposed to sleep.

--

That is, until he’s woken up by the door slamming and someone crying.

What the –

He tries to stand, as much as he can, right as the light turns on and he’s greeted by the sight of Brienne in tears, her light mascara running over her cheeks as she sobs without control. She goes to sit on the sofa and calls someone – most probably Sansa.

“Next time please stop me from accepting,” she says without even saying hi.

What

“It was a bet with some of the other assholes in the office.”

Okay, what the hell?

“How do I know? He went to the bathroom and his cellphone was on the table and it started ringing, and it was turned towards me and I saw the notification. They have a bloody Whatsapp conversation about it. Him, Connington and a few others. The notification was about them owing him a substantial amount of money since he could confirm them that he had it in the bag.”

She sobs harder, then shakes her head. “I should have known,” she tells Sansa. “Just – I’m taking a day off from everything tomorrow, and – next time just dissuade me. Please, just do. All right. Yeah, goodnight.”

She closes the call, and then she breaks down crying all over again, grabbing one of the pillows and burying her face in it.

Fuck’s sake, Jaime thinks, who even is such an asshole? It’s not as if he ever was the politest of men, but who the hell asks someone out on a bet? Like, who the fuck does that?

Especially someone as nice as she is? Right, fine, she’s ugly, whatever, but she also is a decent person who’ll cook food for their bloody cat and who sounds as excited as he used to when singing along to Somewhere Far Beyond and who obviously doesn’t have that many friends or much of a social life. You really have to be complete jerk to do such a thing, damn it.

Not that he can call Cersei and tell her to fire this guy, whoever he is.

Ah, fuck that. He jumps off the basket and stumbles his way over to where she’s sitting – at least he’s getting adjusted to this whole ‘having three legs’ business – and gets on the sofa, and then tentatively licks her hand, currently grasping at the pillow.

She lets it go for a moment, and then she looks at him with a face that –

Honest, he doesn’t even know. Who ever looks this happy at seeing their damned cat?

“Hey,” she says, “guess I woke you up. Sorry about that.”

As if – he’d be dead if she hadn’t picked him up.

He doesn’t know if he’s moving out of some cat instinct or something when he jumps in her lap and curls against her stomach, wondering at how inappropriate this technically is since he’s a man, damn it, but then she moves her arms around him, stroking his back as she cries slightly less harder, and whatever it is, it’s obviously making her feel better, so he doesn’t move until she does and brings him back to the basket, and kisses him on his forehead before leaving?

Well then. He figures she appreciated the gesture.

--

The next day, she blocks a number after not replying to some five calls. Jaime figures it’s the asshole in question. Then she goes around the house only wearing old, comfortable clothes, and obviously decides that she has to pour her anger into some kind of outlet.

That’d be, watching YouTube videos on how to cook for cats, and that’s how he ends up with a small pie of tuna, chicken and salmon, shit, and he eats the entire thing happily not just because it’s obviously cheering her up to see him appreciate it but also because it’s damned good. If she can cook like this for regular people, too, that Hunt is a damned idiot for asking her out just on a bet, Jaime thinks.

Sansa drops by during the evening – probably to check that Brienne isn’t doing anything stupid.

When she walks in on him eating the second chicken/tuna/salmon pie and salad – hey, it tasted definitely better than whatever was that green shit from before – she looks completely dumbfounded.

“Brienne, I think you’re taking this cat thing a bit too seriously.”

“I needed to distract myself,” Brienne replies sheepishly.

“Yeah, and you’re spoiling him so much that he’s not going to want anything else.”

“That was a treat,” Brienne says. “And at least I did distract myself.”

“Fine,” Sansa agrees, “but – you know you deserve better than that asshole, don’t you?”

“I know,” she sighs, “but I’m just – I’m done for now. Really. If I fall for it again – let’s just not.”

Sansa doesn’t look too convinced, and she’s probably right because when later Brienne ends up watching some other romcom about a guy who finds out his apartment is haunted and that it’s the previous owner’s ghost he only can see and ends up finally kissing the girl after a whole lot of drama, memory loss and equally corny shit (though Jaime admits that it wasn’t bad, for its genre) and she breaks down in tears again at the end, it’s obvious she’s not over this guy.

Jaime would like to tell her to just stop watching romcoms, they’re obviously not good for her, but instead he climbs into her lap again and lets her hands card through his fur, and listen, it’s nice, all right? He can’t remember the last time anyone touched him in any way that wasn’t some doctor or nurse or physiotherapist in the entire year before he tried to jump off a bridge, and patience if this is hardly ideal, but he never was the kind of person who shied away from it and it’s a nice break from the previous year or so. If not more.

At least it’s obviously giving her some measure of comfort and it’s the least he owes her.

--

“Shit,” Sansa’s boyfriend – what was his name, Sandor – says as he walks inside Brienne’s house and takes a look at Jaime, who’s currently curled on the sofa, “how long has it been since you found him? Three weeks?”

Jaime looks at the man. Well, all right, he can see why Sansa is so sure Brienne’s face won’t be an obstacle on the quest to find her true love, given that her guy has half of his face burned off and it’s not the kind of scar that goes away without at least twenty surgeries.

Brienne nods. “So, what do you say?”

“Well, if you keep on feeding him the fancy shit Sansa told me you’re wasting time cooking for him when you could just give him whatever other cats eat he’ll be at his peak in no time. In comparison to that picture she sent me, it looks like a whole new fucking cat,” he grudgingly admits.

Oh, really? Jaime’s fairly sure he’d be gloating if he still was a human, but after all the man’s probably right – he’s stronger, he can walk properly around without feeling like crashing to the ground every other moment, he knows he put on some weight and her food is – fancy, whatever, but it’s excellent, for how much cat food can be.

“Look at that little shit, he’s preening,” Sandor snorts. “You’ve got yourself a damned princess.”

“That’s what Sansa said,” Brienne confirms, sounding – fond?

Sandor reaches out, probably to pet him, but like hell he’s going to let just anyone do it, period – he hisses and bares his teeth and Sandor moves back, his hands held up.

“Fine, fine, got it. A princess with claws who only likes her knight or something.”

“He’s not that terrible,” Brienne says, coming closer and picking him up.

He goes along with it – she is an entirely different world, when it comes to not letting just anyone do it.

“Look at that,” Sandor snorts, “he does seem to like you. Well, good find. Anyway, he looks like he’s way past being on the mend. Another month or so and he’ll be like new, not counting the leg.”

“Thanks,” she tells him.

“Anytime. And don’t spoil him too much. How did you name him, again?”

“Bedivere.”

“Like the Round Table knight?”

“Sansa thought it was fairly ridiculous.”

Sandor snorts. “Well, I named my bloody dog Kay back in the day, I can’t get on your case. Have a nice day,” he says as he leaves, and Brienne scratches behind his ears gently before putting him back in the basket.

Then her father calls her, and asks if he can see a picture of the infamous cat, and Brienne takes one and sends it over, and Jaime can hear the that cat is bloody gorgeous regardless of being on the mend even if she hasn’t put her father on speaker.

Well then, what can he say, he can appreciate a compliment.

She closes the call with a smile on her face, then looks back at him and shrugs.

“Well, Sansa says I should try using my Instagram,” she mutters, and – wait, is she putting him on Instagram?

Ah, well, whatever. It’s not like he cares.

Except that in the next hour the phone keeps on ringing and when he looks behind her shoulder as she checks her notifications he sees that his picture – actually, two, the one from when she found him and the one from today next to each other – has… some seven hundred likes.

What the fuck?

The comment section is full of gems such as oh my god that cat has emeralds instead of eyes how precious, you’re a champ and he’s too, look at the cutie, best wishes to Sir Bedivere then!, and a whole bunch of other equally ridiculous things. Brienne looks pleased at seeing that, though, her hand still casually scratching behind his ears.

All right then.

Shit, he spent half of his life with his face on the cover of dumb tabloids and now he’s some kind of cat Instagram sensation?

He hopes that it’s not what Melisandre meant with needing to find out life is worth living because being an Instagram sensation never was in his plans for his future, far or not.

--

Then it happens that after almost a month of sleeping without a single problem – for once – and assuming that maybe being a cat spared him from nightmares, he wakes up one night after relieving every other damned moment of what that psychopath Ramsay Bolton did to his hand, and of course everything feels fucking wrong because the body he wakes up in is not his body and it’s not him,

(same as he always felt like his body wasn’t just the same anymore after he lost the damned hand itself)

not at all, and he still can feel phantom pain where his nonexistent leg should be, and if he was human he’d probably be trying to not break down in tears, but he’s not human now and –

Fuck it.

He jumps off the basket, walks through the hallway and into Brienne’s room and jumps on her bed. She’s sleeping lightly, but she stirs when she notices the extra weight next to her.

“What –” She says, and then notices him just perching there like a goddamned idiot before just moving and curling against her side, and patience if him not really being a cat makes him feel like he’s taking fucking advantage, but then she runs a hand all over his back very slowly, carding through his newly re-growing fur and letting him curl up closer to her, and –

Shit. Shit, he doesn’t know what it says about him that he calms down immediately, but he’s going to think about it tomorrow. Not now. Now he closes his eyes and lets her pet him until she’s fallen back asleep and he follows.

--

The next evening, she comes back at seven thirty looking both dead tired and like she wants to murder someone, which translates into another fifteen minutes of YouTube videos and savage slicing of freshly bought fish, at the end of which Jaime enjoys another finely cooked fish pie. Which – on one side it’s only good news as far as he’s concerned, but on the other… she doesn’t look well. And he doesn’t like not seeing her well, if anything because after a month of living in her house and having her around whenever she’s not working he’s seen enough to know she deserves plenty better than working for Cersei and feeling sad while watching romcoms that she assumes will never turn into real life for her, or people betting on whether they get to fuck her or not.

Still, he can’t ask now, can he, and that’s when the doorbell rings.

Brienne goes to open it and Jaime can see her back becoming immediately rigid when she sees the man outside it.

“Hyle,” she says through gritted teeth, “I thought I made it clear I wasn’t interested in your apologies.”

“That’s not why I came,” the man sighs, having the grace of looking halfway sorry. Jaime takes a good look at him. Tall, though not overtly so, long-ish brown hair, a reasonable good-looking face with a short beard, your typical fairly attractive guy that you meet in the gym at ridiculous times in the morning. In short, nothing bloody special, or at least nothing so special to make her feel that horribly.

Then he hands her a folder. “The boss said you forgot to bring this home.”

What?” Brienne reaches out and takes the folder. “That’s for Monday morning. I didn’t forget it.”

“Well, she said you forgot it.”

Oh.

Oh.

“Hyle,” Brienne says, “I did unpaid since I started working there. I’m not working from home. Not on a weekend.”

“She also said I wasn’t supposed to bring it back,” he goes on, sort of apologetically.

Brienne rolls her eyes and shrugs. “Fine. Fine, whatever. Now, will you leave already?”

“Brienne, listen –”

“I don’t want to hear it.”

“But –” The man goes on, and Jaime’s about done. He walks out of the door and purposefully scratches under the man’s tailored pants, hard enough to draw blood, and he probably manages given how the man screams.

What – shit, I’m bleeding!”

“There’s the NHS just behind the corner,” Brienne says, picking Jaime up. “You can go on your own.”

And then she closes the door in the asshole’s face.

“Why, thank you,” she tells him, sounding amused. “I think you might get an extra nice dinner out of this.”

If I ever turn back, you’re definitely getting a promotion out of this, he thinks, and watches her sigh and turn on her laptop and spend the rest of the evening doing Cersei’s dumb accounting work. He spends the evening curled on her legs and she occasionally runs her fingers through his fur or feeds him a crunchie after she goes to get them, and fuck, she spends the entire weekend going through that folder.

Jaime hasn’t held any nice feeling for his sister for a long time by now, but if he had realized this is how she treats her employees, he’d have paid an anonymous call to some union rep a long time ago.

--

“Brienne, you haven’t had a break in two weeks,” Sansa protests when she drops by the next day. “Come on, it’s just a movie. You’ll be home by midnight.”

“I wish, but – you haven’t seen how it is over there,” Brienne sighs.

“Why, what happened?”

“Well, Mrs. Lannister, she’s never been particularly patient or cared much for the other employees, but – she’s been downright frightening since her brother showed up a week ago or so.”

“What, her twin?”

“No, Tyrion.”

“Wait, the one who moved to Italy?”

“Yes, but – seems like he received a worrying message from Jaime Lannister about a month ago and he hasn’t replied or been seen since. Calling him doesn’t work, his phone isn’t traceable and he hasn’t been home since then, but no one has a clue of where he ended up.”

Wait, Jaime thinks, fuck, in the midst of this entire madness he had forgotten that he did send Tyrion that text.

Of course he’d be worried shitless.

“Cersei thinks that he’s pulling some kind of practical joke on them and hasn’t even assumed that she’d go look for him, Tyrion was livid and screamed a few – fairly horrible things at her before saying that he was going to the police and she could forget he wouldn’t, and since then – well. I have a feeling she’s just taking it out on us. And – in a couple of weeks, there’ll be that promotion announcement.”

“Oh. You mean -”

“It’s four of us running for it, but I think I have good chances. I don’t want to risk it now, you know? Or I’d have spent five years sacrificing overtime there for nothing.”

“For nothing?”

Brienne snorts, her hand going to Jaime’s head as he nestles against her leg.

“At least if it’s not working out with men, I want my career to be something I find some satisfaction in.”

“You sound like Sandor when I brought Lady over to his shop, but keep on telling yourself that,” Sansa says sympathetically, and goes to the cinema on her own.

Brienne sighs and turns back to her laptop and her accounting Excel spreadsheets.

And meanwhile Jaime doesn’t know if he should feel relieved that at least Tyrion gives enough of a shit to look for him, like a total bastard because he sent that text and then disappeared, or somewhat saddened because of course Cersei is not even thinking of looking for him.

He curls closer against Brienne’s leg – who’s even going to fault him, anyway?

--

“So, how are things?” Sansa has come on Tuesday night directly with Chinese food, some apple pie and a couple bottles of root beer and she’s forced Brienne to eat properly, which Jaime is fairly grateful for given that he has eaten his usual gourmet food and she’s about had pre-heated meals while sitting on the sofa. Shit, her only distraction has been checking the usual shitload of Instagram comments to his latest updated picture, it can’t be healthy.

“Terrible,” Brienne admits. “It doesn’t really look like Jaime Lannister’s playing a practical prank on anyone, his brother is worried shitless and Cersei – I don’t know. I mean, it was obvious they were on the rocks those few times he came to visit her at work after that whole horrid story with Ramsay Bolton, but towards the end he kind of really seemed like he was going through a very rough time. I can believe his brother is worried.”

Shit, shit, someone who only ever saw him at a distance understood that he was feeling like utter shit and his own bloody sister couldn’t seem to give a fuck beyond telling him to get over himself and come work for the company? He goes rigid at that, and Brienne feels it, since he was perching on her leg.

He’s not surprised when she immediately moves her hand to his back, petting it slowly. Good. Whatever, he doesn’t even care anymore, it feels nice and he’s not denying it.

“And they haven’t found anything?”

“No. It’s like, he disappeared. Honestly, it’s just – I mean, it’s not like I knew him or anything, but at least he said hi and goodbye whenever he walked in and before he headed into her private office, and given what happened to him – that was just horrible.”

“I know,” Sansa shudders. “How much of a psycho do you have to be to flay someone’s hand before cutting it off?”

“It’s just – I told you, he did show up, and – it really did look like he wasn’t getting much help about it. Or any. And with his sister not really caring, or not seeming to… I just hope he hasn’t done anything stupid.”

I was about to, Jaime thinks, and I’m right fucking here, except that he can’t do much about it, and – and she really does sound concerned for a perfect stranger, which is just – of course she is. He’s lived with her for this long, it’s not surprising whatsoever.

“Me, too,” Sansa agrees. “When is the promotion announcement?”

“Next Monday. God, I just hope it goes through, but – I think I have good chances.”

“Aren’t you the person with top productivity in your department? I’m sure it’s going to be you. I mean, other than that, you’re good and you know it, and they know it.”

“I just hope it falls through. It’d be double the paycheck.”

“So what, you could feed your cat duck comfit?”

Brienne laughs at that, shaking her head and looking down at him fondly. “Maybe but no, I was thinking of paying my dad a nice vacation since I can’t remember the last time he went.”

“Never change,” Sansa says fondly, “and stop spoiling that cat.”

“If I don’t spoil him what would people on Instagram say?”

“Wait, it got worse?”

“The last picture has five thousand likes.”

“Oh, dear, next time he’s going to turn into a meme,” Sansa groans, but it’s obvious that it’s all in good faith.

And meanwhile Jaime can only think, she understood it and she didn’t even know me.

--

She spends the next weekend working as well, when it’s not to make his goddamned food. She does take some time for a few movies, at least, and Jaime decides that The Shop Around the Corner is definitely a better choice than most of the modern shit he’s had to wade through since she brought him home, not that he’d mind. Again, romcoms are a small price to pay for everything she’s given him, and if only he understood how to fucking go back now that’d be grand.

Thing is – he has realized by now that he’d rather be alive than dead.

He should have turned a long time ago, for that matter, and he still hasn’t.

Fuck Melisandre, the not-so-teenage-witch, he thinks for the umpteenth time.

And then on Monday evening she comes back looking so gloomy that for a moment he thinks her father died or something, and given that he seems to be the only family she has, that’d be a low blow.

Actually, it’s worse than gloomy, because usually she greets him and makes some noise, today she just, leaves her purse on the nearest chair, moves to the sofa, drops her head in her hands and just – stays there. Without moving or saying a thing.

What the fuck. He’s been here long enough to know that the poor woman doesn’t deserve any more blows thrown her way, even if she seems to be able to take them fairly well. No one would resist working for his sister for five goddamned years if they weren’t.

And then her cellphone rings.

“Dad?” She picks up, and it’s obvious that she’s trying to not cry. “Oh, no. I didn’t get it.”

Wait, the bloody promotion. “Who got it? Miss Merryweather,” Brienne sighs. “Yes, I know she had the least qualifications in between all of us, but she was better for the company image or something of the kind, or so we were told. I think my boss has a thing for her or whatever. Anyway, that’s – at least I won’t have to do overtime for a while now. No, really, I’m okay. I know, I worked hard for it, but sometimes you just have to deal with it. Yeah, maybe next time. Sure. Sure, I will. Goodnight.” She gets through the call with an admirable aplomb, and then the moment she closes it she bursts out in tears.

“Fuck,” she says, and wait, since when she’s swearing now? “Fuck, of course she picked her, why am I even surprised. Why did I even think I had any hopes,” she sobs, softly enough that he can hear her just because he’s standing right next to her. He bumps his head against her hand and she starts crying harder.

“Look at me,” she says, “I’m thirty in six months, I’m talking to my bloody cat who’s at least better company than most people I meet, I worked my ass off since I left uni and I don’t even get paid overtime, where the hell did I go wrong,” she blurts, and Jaime has a feeling that she got a beer or something to drink before coming up because her breath smells a bit of alcohol. “Fuck,” she says again, “sometimes – sometimes I just – what’s the bloody point?”

And at that his blood runs cold, because –

Wasn’t this exactly what he was thinking the night he decided to just jump and be done with it?

And okay, whatever, he’s pushing his late thirties, he can’t do his job properly anymore, he’s been a wreck for a while physically and before then, he had been one mentally because he had realized too late that his sister never really gave a damn about what he wanted for himself and that spending most of his life attached to her hip meant he didn’t have that many other relationships with anyone bar Tyrion, and throwing yourself into catching serial killers was how he dealt with ignoring anything else going on in his life or how fucking sad it was that he didn’t really have anything to come home to that wasn’t his job. Of course he’d be there wondering what was the bloody point and half of it he brought on himself, but – but she deserves goddamn better.

She doesn’t deserve his sister thinking she can give up her life to work, she doesn’t deserve people overlooking her skills, she definitely deserves enjoying her free time instead of wasting it in the fucking accounting department, she deserves to spoil herself and not just her damned cat (as much as he’s enjoyed his turn at being spoiled), she surely doesn’t deserve to be passed over for that vapid idiot that was Taena Merryweather, not that Cersei ever saw substance beyond appearance. Most of all she doesn’t deserve idiots like Hunt presuming they can be arses to her just because she’s not beautiful the way most people assume beautiful people are. Which is bullshit, because what if she doesn’t have the looks? She has a lot more going for her – she’s smart, she’s resourceful, if her high school trophies and pictures on the bookshelves don’t lie (and he doubts it) she must have gone through a lot of effort to win all of them while playing in all-male teams, and fuck it all, she doesn’t deserve crying because of his bloody sister, nor thinking her life has no bloody point when at least she’d deserve a turning point worthy of her fucking corny romcoms.

(Because of course she’d watch them, she did tell him once figuring he wouldn’t understand her, and of course she likes to think one of them might be her life one day even if she knows it’s not going to happen.)

She – she actually deserves some guy who’s not an asshole and wouldn’t be with her out of some perverse sense of sadism and who’d spoil her in return, if she still wants one anyway, and if only he wasn’t a bloody cat he would tell her that, and then if she’d let him he’d show her exactly how much he means it and maybe he’d kiss her proper, goddamn –

What has he just thought?

He goes still for a moment, enough that she turns towards him with a worried expression, obviously wondering if something’s wrong, and her eyes meet his and she looks concerned, and a tiny bit scared because of course if something’s wrong with him when he – well, the cat, but never mind – has been about the one thing that’s kept her from overthinking her own issues, he thinks (not counting Sansa but he doubts it was the same) of course she’d hate losing him, wouldn’t she –

Except that he’s fairly sure he likes what he sees, and what he’s seen, and if only he could tell her how much she made his own life better (or that he owes it to her in the first place), if only

 

Suddenly, he thinks he hears someone who’s not her saying, you got it, finally, and then –

 

And then fuck it, everything is hurting and his entire body is thrumming with pain and he can only see a weird green light, so strong that for a second he thinks he’ll go blind, and shit what is this is he dying or what

 

He opens his eyes.

He takes a breath.

He’s sitting on her sofa, wearing absolutely nothing, and he has two legs again, fuck, finally, and sadly still just one hand, but never mind it. He grabs the infamous green pillow to cover himself lest this becomes really horribly awkward, and then he raises his head and looks at Brienne and –

She’s blinking and sort of shaking her head as if she can’t really compute that her cat turned into a naked man she actually sort of knows.

“Well,” he says when he realizes that she’s not going to speak first, “I imagine this is fucking awkward.”

“I – Mr. Lannister?” She whispers, looking completely out of her depth.

“Given that I’ve been here for a damned month and some, I think you can call me Jaime, but I didn’t mind the other one. You have good taste in books,” he says, but he realizes at once that being witty won’t be what helps him here.

“But – how – this just – you were a cat!”

“About that,” he says, “listen, this is insane, I know it is, but – a month and some ago, I was about to jump off a bridge.”

What?”

“I was. Never mind. Long story. I sent my brother that goodbye text, threw my phone in the river and so on. And I was about to do it, except that this ridiculous woman dressed in red shows up, starts asking personal questions, tells me she’s a fucking witch and tells me she’s going to pay me a favor and I’d go back to myself when I, uh, realized that life was worth living, and then she touched me or something and when I woke up I was a cat, I didn’t have a bloody leg and I’d have probably fucking died if you hadn’t brought me here. And I know it’s ridiculous, shit, I wouldn’t believe myself either if someone told me, but you’ve just seen me turning now, didn’t you?”

“Shit. I – yeah. I did. I can’t go and deny it. So – oh, oh, fuck, all this time you were –”

“Myself. I mean, my mind was always the same.”

He can see all blood literally draining from her face because she stands up abruptly.

“Shit,” she says, “shit, shit, shit, I’m so sorry, I – we slept in the same bed, what –”

“That was my fault,” he admits, and how does he get to stop looking that bloody panicked? She looks like she’s going to faint, but then again she realized she spent a month cuddling up with her boss’s twin brother while posting pictures of his cat self on Instagram, of course she feels like shit. “And – listen, don’t do that.”

“Don’t do what?”

“Freak out. It’s okay. And you shouldn’t be apologizing. You did save my life,” he says, “really, and – I wasn’t doing nothing I didn’t want.”

“Wait, what?”

“Brienne, believe me, there was a reason why I never even let your friend get close. It was because I didn’t want her touching me and I didn’t care for it. And there was a reason why I scratched your not so charming co-worker.”

“Oh. He – he still has bandages.”

“Good, because he deserved worse,” he says, and she looks at him in utter surprise, and this is not the kind of speech he wants to make when he’s naked and only has a pillow covering his front and doesn’t even have a right hand to do something while the left holds the pillow up. “Right. Listen, will you hear me out a minute?”

“All – all right,” she tells him, still looking completely freaked out.

“That asshole deserved me scratching his damned face, and believe me, I’d have done it if I could have jumped. There was – that shit was horrible, and I wouldn’t want it to happen to my worst enemy, never mind the bloody nicest person I’ve ever ran into in my life.”

“I’m not – I’m making this up, am I not?”

“No,” he says. “No, you’re not. And you are the goddamned nicest person I’ve ran into. Do you think I know many people who go around their neighborhood rescuing crippled cats and cooking them food, wanting a promotion to pay their parents a vacation and who’ll fucking worry about someone they’ve never even talked to when their own twin doesn’t?”

“I – thank you?” She says, tentatively, and she’s sort of smiling now, but nowhere near as surely as he’d like.

“You’re welcome. With that out of the way, I’ll also call that guy a fucking idiot because if he only wanted to go out with you for a bet then he doesn’t know that you might only need to work on the bloody romcoms, because other than that, you’ve got only things going for yourself, not against. Not that there’s anything wrong with the romcoms, but from my point of view, it looked like a spectacular exercise in masochism.”

She does snort a bit at that. “I told you once, didn’t I? It’s nice to think it happens to some people in some reality. Not that I thought it was ever going to happen to me, not after him anyway. But thanks about the rest.”

“Good, because this is the embarrassing moment when I tell you that you don’t have to settle for the first idiot who comes your way and that you deserve leagues better than that, which is apparently what made me turn back, and I know I should be wearing clothes for this, but you can’t just have everything now.”

“What made you turn back?”

He shrugs. “Well, I did go back to my charming self the moment I thought I’d have liked to tell you how much you made my life better,” he says, fully realizing that as much as he can try to sound charming it really fails when he’s not wearing anything.

I made your life better,” she says, sounding as if she really finds it hard to believe.

“Well, for one I wouldn’t even be alive if you hadn’t taken pity on me,” he replies, “as we established. But – shit, seriously, I was about to jump from a bridge because like this I’m stuck to office jobs, my sister only seems to give a fuck about my well-being if I do what she wants, the rest of my family is pretty much the same and I couldn’t just – see any decent future ahead. Too bad about Cersei, that since me and her were attached at the hip until I went off to the academy the whole thing fucked me up badly enough. How do you think she compares against someone who about puts everyone else first, cats included? By the way, you need to work on that.”

“What, putting other people first?”

“Your ginger friend has a point. Anyhow, when you went and said exactly the same things I was thinking before I attempted to jump off a damned bridge, I thought that it was a bloody travesty that someone as amazing as you are would even go there, and I did want to maul that asshole for fucking with you and I kind of still want to, and I just – shit, not talking for one month isn’t helping here, but – I’m just saying, unless you’re utterly creeped out and want me out of your life as soon as I find something to wear, I’d be more than amenable to show you what’s the bloody point.”

She stares at him for a long, long moment, obviously trying to process it, not that he can fault her – he’s not been exactly forthcoming but he’s already putting most of his efforts in staying goddamn upright and he hasn’t said a word for this long, give him a break.

You would be more than amenable,” she finally says, sounding absolutely not convinced of it.

“And why not? If you’re about to say some bullshit about being out of your league, don’t even go there. My entire immediate family bar my brother thinks I’m out of their league and I was that bad off also because he fucked off to Italy, which was a very good life decision for him but left me with interacting with them or with people at work. We like the same things, romcoms notwithstanding. And I don’t give a fuck about how people look, if that’s what matters to you.” He could also tell her that he is attracted to her in all honesty, and he is, because there’s a lot to like – her eyes, her legs, her goddamned hands just to start with – but he has a feeling that she wouldn’t believe him, or not at this point at least. That said – “Even if I feel obliged to say, there’s really nothing wrong with you.”

“Christ,” she says, “if I hadn’t seen that I wouldn’t buy any of this, but – really?”

Really. For one, I think I owe you a lot of nice dinners out. And possibly another cat, I guess, since it’s kind of a pity you should lose your Instagram cred. I should also probably say that I didn’t sleep in your bed out of being creepy but because it was a really damned bad moment, so –”

“I cried all over you more than once,” she says, shaking her head. “I – I wasn’t even going there.”

“That’s a relief to hear, but – I meant it. Unless you’re not interested, of course, I’m not that terrible or desperate –”

“What if I’d like to get to know you first? Like – like this. Not – well, like –”

“Oh, I think that can be absolutely arranged,” he grins, and moves slightly closer to where she’s standing. “I’m absolutely looking forward to it.” He’s delighted as he sees her tentatively smiling back, and he wants to kiss her but obviously he just has one damned hand and he’s using it to keep the pillow in place, and she’s looking at him sort of expectantly, and –

Ah, fuck it.

“You’ll have to excuse me for being inappropriate but I do need that hand if we want to do the whole horribly cheesy romcom moment thing. So, you mind if –” He moves his hand slightly, and she goes completely red in the face, but –

“Yes, uh, I mean, no, I don’t mind –”

“Good,” he says, letting the pillow fall and taking the last step closer. She’s just slightly taller than he is, which he hadn’t taken into account given that he’s had a somewhat skewed view of her height until now, but it’s plenty fine – hell, he does like that she’s broader than he is in the first place. So he moves his good hand behind her neck and bends her head downwards ever so slightly, and she’s fairly rigid when he kisses her as he had expected, but he when he puts a bit more strength in it and she tentatively opens up he goes for it properly – no tongue, not yet, he only uses it to trace her bottom lip before caressing her lips with his own again, moving back slightly and then diving back in, and by the time he decided he’s made his point her cheeks are even more flushed, her eyes are bright blue and she does look as happy as her precious romcom protagonists do when they finally get the kiss of their life, so he figures he’s not doing badly here.

Now if only he wasn’t naked this’d be ten times less awkward, but –

“I – maybe I could lend you some of my clothes and you could call your brother and we could, uh, straighten things out?” She asks, and good thing one of them brought it up. “But – I think I’m looking forward to – getting to know you.”

“Great, because I really am, too. By the way, how do you fancy a first row to the next Blind Guardian gig that comes our way?”

She’s full-on grinning as she says she’d fancy it a lot more than a dinner out.

Jaime thinks that maybe he should try to find the goddamned red woman and help her out with the rent, after all.

 

Three months later

 

Admittedly, he did dress up for this.

But it’d have been a pity if he hadn’t, he thinks as he walks inside his sister’s office wearing his nicest green suit.

It’s an open-air kind of office, and also structured in a way that would make anyone feel like Big Brother was watching them since everyone has desks near each other without cubicles, so there’s no privacy, and Cersei’s is to the side and slightly higher than the others, you have to walk a few steps to get there. She also has a private room next door, but she usually stays there to terrorize the employees. The heads of department have desks nearer her – he can see Taena Merryweather diligently typing on her computer, and he doesn’t recognize the others, but that’s not the point.

The point is Cersei immediately standing up the moment he sees him come in.

Where the hell were you,” she asks him walking right up in his face. “I knew you were pulling some kind of elaborate prank on everyone, you couldn’t really be dead or anything so ridiculous as what Tyrion was implying, but –”

“I was taking a break,” he cuts her off. “Nice of you to actually, you know, call me.”

“You were being absolutely unreasonable –”

“Actually, I was being suicidal, but never mind that,” he whispers, just so that not the entire room hears. “That said, I wasn’t here to talk to you.”

“… You weren’t? Then what are you here for?”

“Picking up my girlfriend.”

He doesn’t whisper, not to say that.

The entire room goes silent at once and Cersei looks downright not amused.

“Your girlfriend. And since when do you have one?”

“You’d know if you ever bothered calling,” he replies. “And I wouldn’t want us to be late for dinner, so if you mind letting me through –”

“I’m ready,” Brienne says, from behind Cersei, and damn but Cersei does look as if she can’t process it when she moves to stand at his side. She hasn’t dressed up in one of her usual pantsuits – she’s wearing jeans and an old leather jacket he knows belonged to her father, and she’s actually not following the dress code, which Cersei hadn’t somehow noticed until now.

“What? Her?” Cersei asks, as if she cannot really put two and two together.

“Her,” Jaime says. “We – happened to meet each other a few months ago. No, I didn’t know she was working for you. And yes, it’s going swimmingly. So, shall we?” He asks.

“Just one thing first,” Brienne says, very calmly. Then she takes a letter from her bag and hands it over to Cersei.

“What’s that?”

“I’m resigning.”

The entire room falls silent all over again.

Excuse me?”

“I’m resigning. I gave the personnel office the notice a month ago and it’s all set, but since I know that you never look at those papers, I took the liberty to bring you a copy because according to company rules you should know and I wouldn’t want you to not be notified.”

“Miss Tarth, you cannot –”

“I can. I didn’t sign for life, you obviously don’t need me that much or you’d at least have given me a few benefits in five years and I’ll be very glad to look over the accounting for the British branch of your brother’s business from next week. At least he would pay me overtime if I needed to do it and I could have a life outside working. I’m sure Miss Merryweather will have things under control while you interview a replacement. Well, I’m done,” she says, and she sounds so firm that Cersei can’t obviously find any argument, because she says nothing as Jaime slips his hand into hers and they head out.

That is, until they pass in front of Hyle Hunt’s desk, and then Jaime has to smirk and turn to look at him.

“You don’t know what you’re missing,” he tells him cheerfully, and then they head out of the room and into the elevator, though he can’t resist kissing her just as the doors close, and she kisses back without even blinking while the rest of the room gapes at them.

And what if he’s going for a lot of grand gestures lately? It’s entirely worth it.

--

“So, are you feeling relieved?” He asks her later, when they’re back from the restaurant and stumbling into her apartment – he kind of never left, and she never told him that she wanted him to go.

“You can’t imagine how much,” she says. “I had been wanting to do that for two years.”

“I can entirely imagine why,” he agrees. “And go lie down if you’re tired, I’ll feed the cat.”

“Are you sure?”

“There’s the beef from yesterday in the fridge, I think I can fucking handle it.”

“Fine, fine, go ahead.”

He snorts as he grabs the meat and puts it in the small plate – a moment later, the cat immediately walks inside the kitchen and starts nibbling at it.

She got him at a shelter some two weeks after he stopped being one of the damned things, and Jaime hadn’t protested because she did like having a cat and honest, after a month and some like that, he thinks he knows how to be around one. And this one is – well, it has four legs but looks pretty much like he did when he was one, all golden, luscious fur and green brilliant eyes, and of course he’s named Sir Bedivere, too, but he figured that went unsaid. He scratches behind his ears and the cat purrs fairly happily before going back to his food – okay, fine, he’s cute, nothing to add.

He leaves the cat to his dinner and goes to the bedroom, where he kicks off his shoes and changes into more comfortable clothes (hers, in theory, but they’ve been his since she lent them to him when he turned back into a human) and then joins her on the couch.

“Hey, it’s my turn tonight.”

“Fine, which Die Hard will it be?”

“The first. You have to expand your horizons, all right?”

“At least Bruce Willis is hot,” she jokes, but it’s fine – he has pretty much done the same when it came to her turns to pick the movie.

He starts the movie, good thing it’s on Netflix so he doesn’t have to stand up and grab a dvd.

He’s not going to tell a soul that some twenty minutes into it he purposefully lowers his head down so that it’s on her thigh.

She lets out a small laugh as he hears the couch dip – right, the real cat has jumped on it and moved on her other side.

“I don’t know which one out of you is worse,” she says, but then she goes back to watching the movie, her left hand moving downwards to Jaime’s hair and carding through it so very gently.

He’s fairly sure she’s doing the same with the cat on the other side, and he should probably find it weird that he likes it this much still, but she assured him that she thinks it’s adorable, not weird, and he sighs in contentment while she runs her fingers along the back of his neck.

It feels so nice that he’s not even remotely annoyed at the prospect of going back to work next week, and patience if it’s mostly a desk job and he only gets to do routine interrogations – he’ll live, and he’s gained enough to come back home to that he doesn’t really mind the office job prospect anymore.

 

Four months later

 

“Miss Asshai, we’re good.”

Melisandre, who had been ready to part with her check with this month’s rent neatly written on, and who knows her landlord – he doesn’t trust her line of work and he thinks she’s some kind of scam who wants to steal money off kids who read too much Harry Potter – is somehow surprised.

“Mr. Myopatis, not that I’m not glad of it, but how are we good? I haven’t paid this month.”

You didn’t. However, some blonde gentleman who apparently recognized you from somewhere and saw you walking in here three days ago gave me another check with a year’s worth of paid rent, and also said to give you this,” Myopatis says as he hands her a note. “So, we’re good for the next twelve months. Have a nice evening.”

He leaves her standing on the doorstep, her own envelope clutched in between her fingers.

What

She tears her check into pieces, then opens the note – it’s written in a chicken-scratch penmanship, but not enough to be unreadable.

 

Well, it looks I did find out that life is worth living, so while your methods are frankly questionable, it seems like I have to thank you for it and a Lannister always pays his debts. Enjoy your rent-free year, it was the least I owed you.

JL

 

Oh, she thinks, so it did work out in the end, she realizes, grinning to herself. After all, her rent is covered, the man is obviously happy and everything worked out.

She needs to start considering using that cat-turning spell more often, if these are the results it yields.

 

End.