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legal problems, love at first sight, and other annoyances

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It’s never a good day when a wrench is thrown in one’s plans—one’s life’s plan, even—and it is even worse when said wrench is wench-shaped. That’s such an archaic word, wench, but it just comes to Jaime, unbidden, when he sees the lawyer Tyrion has sent to help sort out the trading permits for his wine. As it turns out, it’s one thing to open an orchard where one plants grapes, and another to make alcoholic beverages with said grapes with the intent of selling them. This doesn’t even take into account that he’s a Westerosi producing said beverage in Pentos, seeking to export it back to his home country.

This is where the lawyer comes in. She comes to him, walking with ease between grapevines towards the bungalow where he’s having breakfast, and he nearly chokes on his coffee.

She’s tall, taller than him, maybe, with legs at least a mile long wrapped in loose trousers that swish with every step, and wide angular shoulders and arms that are taut with dormant strength. He notices the shoulders and arms because she wears a loose off-white sleeveless cotton blouse. The bright sunlight streaming from the wide windows reflects on the pale fine hair covering the freckled skin, the same way it bounces off her equally pale eyelashes making each lash an individual sunbeam.

Speaking of her lashes, they frame a pair of blue eyes.

And speaking of archaic words, there must be one that describes that colour better than just blue. He can’t think of any, right now.

He thinks this creature must have just broken him. He is transfixed by the sight of her figure. He sees her blink as if in slow-motion, the way her lashes just very gently move down and up and the sunlight ripples in her irises like clouds passing over open sea.

“Mr Lannister!”

He starts. By some miracle, the coffee mug he’s been holding aloft for the past few seconds is only mildly jostled, leaving his pants and dignity intact. “I’m sorry?”

The wench frowns. “I was only saying,”—she sighs—“my name is Brienne Tarth. I specialize in trade laws, specifically international trade. I believe you’re expecting me.” She still frowns. He wonders how many freckles are hidden in the folds between her eyebrows.

Relax. He needs to relax. He leans back in the wicker chair, ignoring the protesting creak it makes as he does so, taking his time to put his coffee mug down. He plasters on the trademark Lannister Face, and he says, “Ah, yes. Ms Tarth. You took me by surprise. I expected…” What, exactly, he’s not sure. He searches her face. Gods, but her nose must have been broken thrice and her lips are as plump as they are wide. How unbecoming. “Different.” That didn’t sound grammatically sound, in hindsight. In an attempt to put that embarrassing sentence behind them, he continues, “You said Tarth. Are you descended from the lords who used to hold the island?”

“Yes.”

“Hmm.”

She shifts her weight from one foot to another. At last, she gestures at the empty chair across from him. “May I?”

Oh, but he’s an idiot. He’s been gaping up at her and he’s forgotten to offer her the chair. “Of course.” Then, because he can’t not, “My lady.”

“We don’t have lords and ladies anymore.” She sits, and now her eyes are level with his.

“We don’t. Tea? Coffee? Grape juice? It’s pressed fresh, daily. Unfermented, unless you don’t think we need our faculties for this.”

The blush—which he had assumed until now was naturally part of her complexion, rosy and freckled—deepens, suffusing down her neck and to her collarbones, disappearing under the tied ribbons on her collar. “I’ll have water, thank you. Cold, if you have it.”

He stands up to get the water. The wench has been here for two minutes, tops, and already she makes him all jittery and unsteady. His face is warm, and here he thought he’s developed enough melanin to withstand summer in Pentos. He splashes water on his face before filling a glass and taking it back to her.

“Thank you, Mr Lannister.” She sips politely and he can see the angles of her shoulders slope down as her throat bobs, once. She sets down the glass. There is a drop of water hanging from the too plump bottom lip. It glistens like a taunt.

His mouth is dry. He could use a drink. “Jaime,” he says, “My name is Jaime. Mr Lannister would be my father, the Prime Minister.”

The wench— Brienne— barks out a laugh before she catches herself and bites her lip.

Stop looking at her lips. Jaime looks up. Oh gods, her eyes just changed colours again.

“I’m sorry. It’s just—that rhymed, did you realize?” Her voice is warmer when she smiles.

His eyes go back to her mouth and he realizes that those lips are not at all unbecoming, when curved into a smile. It’s horrible. He likes her better when she’s unlovely. No. He doesn’t like her. You don’t like someone you’ve only shared air with for five minutes. “I didn’t, I’m afraid.” He quirks his mouth into what he knows is his self-deprecating smile. “My sister did always say that I’m the stupidest Lannister.”

The smile vanishes— no, something protests from inside him. “That isn’t a very nice thing to say.”

He has excuses on his lips, ready as they have been for the past forty years or so, since the first time he understood that Cersei would require it from him. She’s joking, is one, or I am, though. Did you know that I never finished university? He’s ready to deploy one or the other when he sees the concern in Brienne’s blue, blue eyes and realizes that he no longer has to. After all, isn’t this why he is across the Narrow Sea, running his own small enterprise away from all that his family, Cersei primary among them, try to impose on him? He smiles again, this time, tentative. “No, I suppose it isn’t.”

“I don’t think someone stupid would have made all this,” she says, gesturing to the vineyard outside the window. “Or decide to export to Westeros. The market is growing bored of Arbor Gold, making this an excellent move.”

He finds himself without words, again. “Thank you,” he manages, after a while.

“You’re welcome. Of course, it’s my job to sort the permit out for you. We would need these documents to start with.” She pulls out a printed list from a folder and holds it out for him.

He takes it, noticing the absence of ring and the graceful bend to her fingers, and are those calluses? How curious. “I...” He pauses, looking for the right words, but something tells him it doesn’t matter what words he uses, just like how it hadn’t mattered if he flew to Pentos or sailed on his yacht or swam across the channel, as long as it is to Pentos, since that had felt right. “I think you should try the wine. And no, it isn’t because you’re going to help me export it, but because...” He is unpractised, he has never dated properly, and he is old and world-weary and she is young and wide-eyed and his heart screams it doesn’t matter. “Because I think I like you, Ms. Tarth. I want to take you out to dinner. Here. I’ll cook. And we’ll drink the wine I made.”

Her eyes are wide. Her blush has spread to the angle of her shoulders. “Oh.”

“Yes. And lest I do not make myself clear, this is a date. If you’ll give me a chance, Ms Tarth.”

She licks her lips, quickly, capturing that droplet of water that had persistently hung there. “Brienne,” she says, her voice rough and low. “You can call me Brienne.”