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burning up like a fever

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Brienne was on her fourth cup of tea when the knocking on her door started.

She had been expecting it a little. Her phone had practically vibrated itself to death, Jaime’s name and face lighting up her screen with text and missed calls and facetime attempts.

Honestly, one day away from work and he’d completely lost his mind.

“A moment please,” she croaked out. Her voice was scratchy and fragile, raw from coughing. She dipped into her bathroom before answering the door, taking hopeless inventory of what a mess she looked, as though there was anything she could really do about it.

Her hair was in its usual state of disarray, a battle she had long given up on. But her face was ghostly pale, her lips nearly white and chapped despite the endless water she’d been drinking. A thin layer of sweat covered her hairline and she could feel it dripping down the back of her neck too.

A slight blush rose in her cheeks when she realized that the shirt she’d pulled out of her hamper was actually one of Jaime’s t-shirts that he’d left there, and she wondered if she could dash back to her room to change but his knocking persisted so she decided it was best just to bite the bullet and let him in.

“So you are alive,” Jaime said as she pulled the door open. Brienne watched as his eyes raked up from her bare feet, to her bicycle shorts-clad legs, resting with a brief smile on his Bloody Gate band tee stretched across her shoulders. “I was beginning to doubt.”

Brienne just rolled her eyes. “Sorry I haven’t been around to entertain you today.”

Jaime shrugged, sidling past her, and for the first time she noticed the large paper bag in his hand. She spotted a pack of cough drops peeking out of the top.

“Gods, you made this mess in a day?”

If she hadn’t felt so abysmal she might have been embarassed. She’d been holed up in her apartment for three days, and the signs were starting to show. Tissues scattered all over the couch, a few trickling down onto the carpet or the coffee table. Pots used to make soup left uncleaned in the sink. Cushions pulled from the back of the couch to make room for napping.

“One day I’ve been gone from work,” she bristled. “But I’ve been sick all weekend. And not all of us have a housekeeper to clean up our messes for us.”

“You’ve been sick all weekend?” Jaime asked.

“Yes.” She thought perhaps he would drop the bag in her kitchen and be on his way but he looked to be unpacking . “So if you don’t feel like getting laid up for three days straight, I would suggest leaving.”

But he didn’t. Instead, he dropped the bag on the counter and continued unloading. Three gatorades, two boxes of tea, day & nighttime medicine, what looked to be a box of popsicles, several packs of tissues, a seemingly endless supply of cough drops, jell-o and chocolate pudding. And, she saw as he fished it out of the very bottom, two cans of soup.

She watched silently as Jaime puttered around her kitchen, putting things in their respective cupboards or inside her fridge.

“Go, sit,” he said without looking at her. He filled the kettle and put it on the stovetop. “Relax, hack up a lung, whatever you were doing before I arrived.”

“Piss off,” Brienne grumbled. But she did turn around, making her way back to the couch. A little self consciously, she gathered all the tissues into a pile so she didn’t have to sit in the nest she’d made of them.

“Shouldn’t you be at work?” she called back into the kitchen a moment later. It was only 1pm, yet here Jaime was in jeans and a t-shirt, making himself at home in her kitchen.

“She-wolf let me take a half day,” he said. She-wolf. That’s what he always called their boss, Catelyn Stark. She didn’t know the exact history between the families but she knew there was bad blood between Starks and the Lannisters. And yet, Jaime stayed working under her, even when offered the helm of the Lannister Corporation.

“She says you’re to stop checking your email as well,” Jaime continued.

“I’m positive she didn’t say that.”

It absolutely did not sound like something Catelyn “She-Wolf” Stark would say. It did sound suspiciously Jaime-like, though.

He didn’t bother denying it, letting silence wash over them, only the sound of the kettle heating up on the stove filling the air between them. Brienne heard the sink turn on and after a bit of clanging, she realized he must have been washing the dishes piled up in her sink.

“You don’t have to do the washing up,” she protested weakly. But it was nice. Perhaps it was the illness addling her brain, but she felt a soft heat warming her chest at the thought.  

Someone has to,” Jaime teased.

“You could just lend me your housekeeper. Perhaps your valet as well. Maybe your personal chef too, I’ve had such trouble finding one with a Michelin star.”

His hand popped out of the doorway to the kitchen, his middle finger waggling at her.

***

Brienne wasn’t sure exactly when she’d fallen asleep, but she knew it was sometime between the second and third cup of tea Jaime brought her.

And when she woke up, she thought for a moment she might have been somewhere different. She could spy a spotless kitchen through the doorway. The tissues that had been piled around her she found deposited in the empty paper bag he’d brought her care package in, a fresh box of tissues propped next to it. The dirty clothes that had been scattered across her floor were gone, the windows were opened and she could smell chicken broth wafting its way out from the kitchen.

“Hey you’re up,” Jaime said, walking into the living room. He had a washcloth in his hand that Brienne eyed curiously before he knelt down in front of where she was laying on the couch. She realized then that he’d thrown a light quilt over her as she slept, and she felt her face heat not from fever but from the blush staining her cheeks.

“You sweat like a pig when you’re sick,” he said, ruining it.

“Is it so unfathomable for you to just be plainly nice to me for a day?”

“I’m plenty nice to you,” Jaime smirked. He reached the hand with the washcloth up to her brow and she felt her eyes flutter closed at the shock of the wet, cool, cloth touching her skin. It was refreshing and unsettling all at once.

“You look good in my shirt,” he said softly. For a moment she thought perhaps she had hallucinated it, but when she peeled her eyes open, she found his darting away from her face, a blush creeping up his neck.

“Thank you.”

She said it mainly because she didn’t know what else to say. She wasn’t even sure what she was thanking him for. Cleaning her apartment? Complimenting the shirt? Making her tea? The gentle way his fingers pressed into her forehead as he wiped her brow?

When Brienne tallied it all up she felt the scales tip out of her favor. She wanted him to know she truly was grateful, even if she was deeply uncomfortable with whatever the intent behind the gesture was.

“I do appreciate all this Jaime,” she said earnestly.

He brought his eyes back to hers, not even trying to hide the smile twitching in the corner of his mouth.

“Next time don’t wait three days to tell me you’re sick.”

Or what? She wanted to say. But she wasn’t quite sure she was ready to hear the answer.

“There,” Jaime said, pulling the cloth away from her, falling back on his heels. “Not so terrible letting someone take care of you for a change, is it?”

He didn’t even give her a chance to answer before he was walking down the hall, no doubt dropping the cloth in the hamper where he’d put all the rest of her dirty laundry. Then he was back, falling into the couch next to her, pulling her legs over his own lap, clicking the TV on.

No , Brienne supposed. Not so terrible.