“You barely posted anything,” Margaery complains once their appetizers have been placed in front of them. “You got to spend a week in the sun ogling hot people in swimwear and I had to work.”
“I took pictures,” Brienne replies. “I just didn’t post most of them.” She’d posted two. Two is enough.
“Let me see,” Margaery demands.
Brienne hands over her phone without hesitation. The most scandalous thing on there is her work email with a number of unread messages she’s not going to face until tomorrow. If Margaery wants to scroll through the pictures of sunsets and the beach Brienne spent the last week at, she can be her guest.
“How many drinks with tiny umbrellas did you have?” Margaery asks.
“Enough.” She took a few pictures of the most instagram worthy ones to prove it. Margaery nods in approval as she skims past a fluorescent green one Brienne had consumed on her second day. It had looked better than it tasted, but she doesn’t tell Margaery that.
Brienne returns to eating her salad, wanting to finish it before her main course arrives.
Across from her, Margaery is showing no such urgency, ignoring her own appetizer in favour of continuing to skim through Brienne’s phone. She must be near the end of the week now. Brienne hadn’t taken that many pictures.
“Ooo what did you win?” Margaery asks, turning her wrist to show Brienne a close up of a ribbon.
“The paddleboard jousting tournament.”
“The what now?”
“You stand on a paddleboard but instead of a regular paddle it’s one with big foam pads on the end. You use it to try and knock the other people into the water before they do the same to you.”
“And you won?”
“Sometimes. There was a mini-tournament every afternoon.”
Margaery seems satisfied with this and keeps scrolling through her pictures as Brienne eats, occasionally asking questions about where Brienne was or how hot that beach goer in the background is.
“Wait. You beat Jaime Lannister at paddleboard jousting?!”
“Who?” She’d beaten Jaime at paddleboard jousting. She hadn’t known his last name.
“Jaime Lannister,” Margaery repeats, turning Brienne’s phone around to face her again, showing her the picture of her and Jaime and the guy who came in third that day standing on the podium on the shore. “The porn star.”
“He’s a porn star?”
“Um, yes?” Margaery says. “How do you not know this? He's huge.”
Brienne chokes on her water.
“Gods Brienne, get your mind out of the gutter. This is a family establishment. I meant he’s hugely popular,” Margaery amends with a smirk. “Not that he isn’t also—”
“Margaery!” Brienne says with a glance around the busy restaurant.
“I can’t believe you met Jaime Lannister. He and his twin are super famous.”
“Yeah, his twin sister. Do you really not know about this?”
“Why would I know about this?” Brienne counters.
“Because they’re hugely popular? Even people who don’t know anything about porn know they’re the twincest couple.” Brienne feels a jolt of disgust and it must show on her face because Margaery continues. “And yes, that means exactly what you think it means.”
“Isn’t that illegal?”
“Here it is. That’s why they moved to Dorne when they started releasing their sex tapes.”
“Ew.” Brienne puts down her fork. Her disgust is now a solid thing in her stomach.
“Yes, well. That’s part of the appeal.”
“How do you know about all this?” she asks.
“I had a girlfriend for a while who was really into them,” Margaery says, like everyone has an ex who was into niche porn. “But even before she told me more than I wanted to know, I knew who they were. I swear everyone knows about the Lannister twins featuring the self-appointed queen Cersei and Mr. I’ve-never-fucked-anybody-but-my-sister.”
“I didn’t,” Brienne says. “And that’s bullshit. He’s slept with other people.”
“Nope,” Margaery says. “Just his twin. It’s like, a porn legend. When they first started getting really popular there was a cash reward for anyone other than his twin who could prove they fucked him. Spoiler warning: no one could do it.”
“That doesn’t mean he never slept with anyone else,” Brienne says. “Just that no one tried to win a gross bet.”
“Trust me on this,” Margaery says with a wary sigh. “As someone who’s seen more of Jaime Lannister than you have. Dude’s in love with his sister. They’ve made a fortune banging each other. He’s spent years turning down all sorts of offers to expand his horizons. They’ve never even done a group scene.”
Brienne does not argue.
Margaery only mentions Jaime once more, after they’ve paid and are saying their goodbyes on the sidewalk out front.
“I can’t believe you beat Jaime Lannister at such a stupid sport,” she laughs. “You had a more exciting vacation than you thought!”
When Brienne gets home she does not google ‘Jaime Lannister’.
She’s spent the last 90 minutes convincing herself not to.
Margaery told her enough already. Too much. Brienne doesn’t need to add whatever the internet will tell her to the things she already wishes she didn’t know.
Less than twenty minutes later Brienne opens a private browser window.
It’s not that Brienne doesn’t believe Margaery. She does. But she still wants to know…
It takes less than two seconds to confirm that Jaime is a porn star. A famous one. A very famous one. He doesn’t have an official twitter account, but his twin sister Cersei does. Or rather, their website does.
(Brienne isn’t going to visit their website.)
Their website is onesoultwobodies.com.
(Brienne is absolutely not going to visit their website.)
Everything Margaery told her is true. Jaime is infamous for his incestuous sex tapes and for the fact that he’s apparently never had sex with anyone else. (Margaery was right about the reward for anyone who could pull him away from his sister. She was wrong about it being a thing of the past. The account offering a reward is still active and updating regularly.)
There’s an article about him and his twin from five years ago. Apparently once upon a time someone had compromising security footage of them. Instead of caving to the blackmail, they filmed and released their own sex tape and the rest is history.
There’s a screenshot of the security footage (It’s embedded in the article. Brienne does not go looking for it.) It’s black and white and grainy. Brienne can barely tell it’s two people, much less who they are or what they’re doing.
By contrast, the screenshot of Jaime and his twin from that first sex tape, even cropped as it is, leaves no room for doubt.
Brienne closes the tab.
And clears her browsing history.
Then she closes her laptop and tries to put the whole thing behind her.
She takes a long shower but she’s still mulling it over. She doesn’t want to be, but she is. The guy she spent half of her vacation pummelling with a foam jousting lance fucks his sister. On camera. A lot. That much is indisputable. She didn’t know it at the time, but she knows it now. The stuff about him never being with anyone else is obviously bullshit, but it’s a huge part of his porn persona. She saw enough comments to know that love it or hate it, people are invested in his perceived commitment to his twin. She doesn’t want to be thinking about all of this as she rinses conditioner out of her hair, but she is.
She doesn’t want to be thinking of Jaime at all.
By the time Brienne has dried off and climbed into bed she has landed resolutely on not giving a fuck and she is determined to stay there.
So she fucked Jaime Lannister on vacation.
Once Brienne is awake enough to use her phone the following morning, she books an appointment at the health clinic for later in the week. She and Jaime used condoms, obviously. (Margaery had sprinkled an assortment of condoms into Brienne’s luggage when she was milling around the place while Brienne packed. Brienne had rolled her eyes and insisted she wouldn’t need them, but Margaery had just grinned and added some packets of lube for good measure.) Brienne was planning to go get tested anyway but the matter feels more pressing knowing what she now knows about her vacation fling.
It’s not fair. Other people are allowed to indulge in casual vacation sex without finding out that the guy does incest porn after they get back home. Other people have that luxury. But not Brienne. Nope.
Brienne sighs and pours herself a generous cup of coffee. Nothing about Jaime had screamed porn star at the time. Not that she is hyper-familiar with porn stars as a whole, but it’s not like she’s never seen porn before. She’s got an internet connection just like everyone else. And it’s not the porn part that’s throwing her off. If she found out he did porn that would be one thing. Finding out that he does incest porn is another. She doesn’t care about the porn. If she found out Hyle had been hooking up with his sister that would be an issue too.
But she remembers the screenshots of Jaime and his sister she had the misfortune of seeing the night before and has to put her coffee down for a moment. The lurch of visceral disgust feels nothing at all like how it felt as she and Jaime laughed their way back to her room that afternoon, his hair still damp from when she’d sent him toppling into the ocean.
Maybe that’s the worst part, Brienne thinks. That she doesn’t even get to enjoy the memories without knowing what she now knows.
Because now she knows.
(Jaime fucks his sister.)
(Jaime fucks his sister on camera.)
(Jaime is famous for fucking his sister on camera.)
(Gods, there were people on that beach that must have recognized him. Margaery did. People on that beach must have known who he was…)
Brienne pulls out her phone and forces herself to read the news instead of thinking about Jaime Lannister anymore because somehow the news is the far less depressing option.
She heads into the art gallery a little early and answers the emails she pointedly ignored for over a week and does not think about Jaime Lannister at all.
Brienne gets a text from Jaime in the middle of the afternoon asking how her first day back at work is going.
She stares at it for what must be a minute before leaving it unanswered. This is the first text he has sent her since they were both at the same resort.
And she does not know how to reply without asking if he’s back at work this week too.
(She does reply, hours later, against her better judgement. She says work went fine. Just a usual day at the art gallery. Jaime does not reply before she goes to bed.)
When she wakes up there’s a message from Jaime waiting for her.
Her thoughts stray back to Jaime over the next few days as she falls back into her usual routine. Not as often as she feared, but still far more than she would like.
Because Jaime fucks his sister for the world to see.
Because he’s famous for fucking only his sister.
Even though that is not true.
It’s obviously not true.
And even though a lot of people are overly concerned with proving he has sex with other people, he didn’t hesitate to accept her invitation back to her room.
She’s trying not to question why.
(She’s really trying not to question why.)
Brienne does her laundry and goes to work and watches Netflix and draws in her sketchbook and works out and does not think about Jaime as she does any of it.
She does not think about him until he texts her while she’s at the grocery store. He’s sent her a link to a video called “Paddle Board Jousting Fails” saying it reminds him of her.
This one she replies to without thinking.
And so does he, and then they’re playfully describing the other’s more spectacular falls as they lament getting rained out of what would have been the tie-breaking rematch of paddle jousting mortal kombat the whole time Brienne is waiting in line to pay.
It’s not until Brienne has bagged her groceries to walk the two blocks home that the strangeness of this kicks in with full force.
Because Jaime is Jaime Lannister: Incest Porn Star.
And he’s still texting her.
And she doesn’t know why.
Here’s the thing.
Brienne can’t figure out why he had sex with her. Or why he’s still texting her. But that, she can only conclude, is connected to the first point. But she can’t figure it out.
Nothing about this makes sense.
When Brienne checks her phone there’s another message from Jaime: Found another sport for our next round of mortal kombat
Jaime has sent her a picture of the most elaborate inflatable water obstacle course she’s ever seen. It looks like a floating maze of bouncy castles. It makes paddleboard jousting look like a dignified activity.
She texts him back that she could absolutely take him.
Brienne is watering the three small plants on her windowsill and she can’t figure out why Jaime had sex with her.
(She’s thinking about Jaime again. She can’t help it.)
Because she slept with a man who has sex with his sister. And is so famous doing only that that people are offering a prize for anyone else who can fuck him.
Because she has experience with people placing bets on her sex life.
And she hates (she HATES) that she’s found herself in the position to win such a bet. Even accidentally. Even knowing that not in a million years would she ever do so, it still weighs on her to know she could. She hates that she’s already assessed what were just a series of casual messages between them as evidence and concluded that there is enough. The texts from him after the first time, the pictures he sent on the second and third day…
(Did Jaime think she would? Does Jaime think she will? Is Jaime over there waiting for her to claim her prize?)
Brienne is in public when she gets Margaery’s text: Your boyfriend uploaded another video!
Then Margaery helpfully provides the title and Brienne puts her phone away and tries not to turn any redder as she waits for her takeout to be ready.
Was she a calculated risk? Was that it? That people wouldn’t believe he would have sex with her so even if there was a reasonable amount of proof that he did no one would believe her? Did he trust that she wouldn’t tell anyone, that she wouldn’t try and claim the money? Did he want her to? She had mentioned that this vacation was a fluke, far out of her usual price range…
Why did he have sex with her? Why was he so casual about it? As if a bunch of weirdos on the internet hadn’t pooled an alarming sum of money together for anyone but his sister who could prove they fucked him?
How could he not suspect her as having an ulterior motive?
That must be why he is still texting her.
That must be it.
On Friday Brienne goes to the clinic for her appointment and asks for a full STI screening. She’ll have the results in about a week. Then that will be that. She’ll never have to think about Jaime again.
Except that he messaged her a picture of a sunset last night saying it reminds him of the one they saw from the beach.
And Margaery cheerfully sent her the title of another video on his website the day before.
And she has no idea why this is happening to her.
Jaime obviously has sex with people other than his twin. This is a fact. Brienne knows this. She is absolute proof. And she can’t be the only one.
Brienne has stopped correcting Margaery when she mentions the bullshit legend. She doesn’t want to draw any attention to any part of this whatsoever. Surely Margaery will stop finding this all so amusing soon and Brienne will be able to stop thinking about it at all.
But Margaery is still joking that Brienne should have summoned her to that beach the moment she found out Jaime was there so the two of them could have doubled their odds of being able to claim the fuck bounty on him.
“Imagine,” Margaery laughs about it, again. “Imagine!”
Brienne absolutely, resolutely, does not go to onesoultwobodies.com.
(She does go to twitter and see what people are saying about him.)
(The total cash prize for the fuckbet has gone up since she first looked it up.)
Margaery sends her a link to something called “Best of Tywin Lannister reacts to Wholesome Home Videos”. It’s a youtube link, so Brienne figures it’s safer than some of the other things Margaery has been sending her. She knows she probably shouldn’t watch it but it’s just clips from a late night sketch show Brienne remembers being vaguely popular when she was in high school.
The title card comes up in formal cursive writing and then there’s a woman in convincing old man makeup sitting behind the biggest desk Brienne has ever seen looking stern. She introduces herself as Tywin Lannister, CEO of Lannister Corp and proud father of three children.
“Speaking of,” the fake Tywin says. “I have just received a home video from my two oldest!”
The sketch doesn’t show the home video, but the Tywin does a first rate spit-take as loud moaning comes from his computer screen.
It seems this bit became an ongoing segment. There are six of these cut together, always the same woman as Tywin, always the set up of Tywin being excited to have received another wholesome home video from his twins, always a spit take or similar when obscene sounds come from his computer screen.
Brienne follows the links to a couple of related videos, enough to conclude that Jaime and Cersei were running jokes with the late night crowd for at least a year.
Margaery was right about them being famous beyond their particular niche. Gods, for a while there Jaime and Cersei were practically household names.
Brienne forces herself to close the app and do anything other than watch more old clips of Jaime and Cersei jokes.
But now she’s got another unpleasant question to fixate on:
Did everyone on that beach know exactly who he was?
Her STI test results come back negative across the board.
That should be the end of it. She should box up even the thought of Jaime Lannister and tuck it away in her brain with the other things she’d rather forget and leave it there to collect dust.
(She ends up texting with Jaime that night.)
Brienne hates that she is still thinking about him as she’s on her way home from work the following day. That she can’t stop wondering. Can’t stop trying to figure it out, like a puzzle with no solution.
Because he’s a porn star.
Because he has sex with his twin.
Because there’s a prize for fucking him.
Because apparently no one else can.
But that can’t be right.
Because she did.
So other people must have as well.
But it’s been almost ten years since that prize went into effect. And no one, not a single person, has come forward to claim it.
Nothing about this makes sense.
So she’s still thinking about it.
Because she had liked Jaime.
Those few days… Brienne had really really liked Jaime.
Brienne had liked Jaime.
She had liked the Jaime who she first saw in a bright yellow life jacket and a dorky helmet that they made them all wear during the jousting sessions for safety reasons. She had liked the Jaime who became her jousting nemesis from the moment they’d first met in battle and exchanged a few goofy jabs of their foam paddles and neither of them fell into the water so he’d grinned and said “Finally, a worthy adversary.”
She’d liked him then. And she liked him more the next day. And the day after that.
And what’s worse is she thinks she likes the Jaime that’s still texting her now.
She knows she shouldn’t because he must be texting her for a reason. She’s just texting back until she can figure out what it is.
But every time they chat it is so fucking normal. Normal and playful and friendly and he never gives any hint as to why he’s still texting her. Granted, her experience with casual sex is limited but even so, nothing about this makes sense. It’s gotten to the point where at least once a day she takes out her phone and types out a long message that boils down to “WHAT DO YOU WANT?!” that she doesn’t send.
Because the Jaime who texts and asks if her work day was as stressful as she feared it would be and the Jaime whose website uploaded a video of him rimming his sister in the shower for a number of paying subscribers she would rather not think about are the same person and Brienne is really struggling to reconcile that.
Margaery convinces Brienne to join her for movie night at her place on Saturday. Brienne regrets this decision within half an hour of arriving when Margaery announces that they’re long overdue for a porn night. Sansa and Myranda agree that watching a cheesy porn parody is exactly what they’re in the mood for this evening.
Margaery fires off title options, each more eye-roll worthy than the last. Before long they’ve settled on The Long Knight, a parody so lazy it didn’t even bother to punch up the title.
This isn’t the first porn night Brienne has been to, but it's the first one in a while and maybe it’s just because lately the kinds of porn she’s been forced to think about have been so specific that she finds herself deeply relieved by the film that Margaery cues up for them to watch.
The plot is terrible and the production values are worse and the porn itself is nothing to write home about. It’s just thoroughly average gay porn. Before long Brienne finds herself joining in on the running commentary and the questioning the motivations of the protagonist and laughing at the special effects and wondering how the next sex scene could be any more uninspired than the last.
After 72 minutes that they will never get back have passed and they conclude that it was, at best, a loose adaptation of the source text, Brienne no longer regrets agreeing to attend.
At least until Brienne stops chatting with Sansa about Sansa’s new job enough to notice which website Margaery has pulled up.
Brienne catches Margaery’s eye after she has mirrored her laptop to the TV screen but either Margaery does not notice her expression or she does not care.
“Oh c’mon,” Margaery laughs when Brienne protests in what Brienne hopes is a light and playful way. “It’s porn night! We have to watch at least one with your boyfriend in it!”
Brienne feels the eyes of everyone in the room find her as several people ask what that’s supposed to mean and she quietly protests that he’s not her boyfriend.
“Brienne met a porn star on vacation!” Margaery announces.
Brienne would have given almost anything to not have that piece of information be shared, but she does her best to laugh and say it was nothing. Not a big deal. A chance encounter with some guy on the beach. Nothing worth mentioning. (Please don’t mention it ever again.)
“Regardless,” Margaery says, making sure everyone has some wine in their glass. “Thanks to you, everyone else in this room is a mere two degrees of separation from the man we’re about to watch have sex. And that deserves a toast.”
Brienne hasn’t figured out how to escape this without drawing suspicion so she just sits there and watches Margaery click on the oldest video on the site.
“He’s much hotter than anyone in the last movie,” Myranda says approvingly in the moment before the video starts to play, having concluded this from the thumbnail image. “And so is she.”
It’s a much simpler thing. No attempt at plot. Just two people in a hotel room. Cersei is the one holding the camera as she comes around a corner and says Jaime’s name. The way Jaime smiles at her when he turns to look at her is so intimate Brienne has to look away.
When she looks back Jaime is still smiling at the person holding the camera.
The Jaime on screen is younger than the one Brienne met a few weeks ago. Ten years younger if the post date is correct. His hair is longer and his green eyes shine with joy when Cersei says his name again and steps closer to him.
“I meant what I said. You’re the only one I want in my bed,” Cersei says from behind the camera. “And I don’t care if they know. Let them all know. You’re the one I want. You’re the one I love.”
Jaime is smiling.
Jaime is smiling when he tells her to put the camera away and when Cersei says no, no she wants to leave it out and running, Jaime smiles more.
“I want them to know,” Cersei says again. “I want them to see. Everything.”
Then the camera angle gets wonky, mostly a closeup of Jaime’s shirt as he surges forward. And it’s obvious they are kissing and Brienne almost wishes she didn’t have to imagine it as surely that is worse than seeing it, but after a short while Cersei regains control of the camera enough to get both of their faces back in frame as they separate enough to speak.
“I love you,” he says, looking only at her.
“And I love you,” she replies.
This time when they kiss it is right there on screen for the world to see.
(Brienne was wrong about imagining it being worse.)
Cersei looks very much like Jaime.
It is a special kind of hell to have to sit here and watch the guy she hooked up with make out with someone else while Myranda provides less than insightful commentary about how hot they both are. To Brienne’s right Margaery is biting her lip as she grins but says nothing.
Brienne knew something like this must be coming, but it is still awful when Jaime pulls back and murmurs, “Sweet sister” between kisses.
“Sweet Sister?!” Myranda shrieks, and everyone but Brienne bursts out laughing.
“At least you weren’t the only one who didn’t know,” Margaery says as she leans over to stage whisper in Brienne’s ear, as on screen the camera gets set on the nightstand before the twins continue undressing on their way to the bed.
Sansa has collapsed into giggles as she watches Myranda, “How did you not know about this?! Even I knew about this.”
On the couch to the left Myranda looks shocked and scandalized but she hasn’t taken her eyes off the TV. “They aren’t—Please tell me they aren’t actually— Oh gods— MARGAERY— they can’t actually be—what the fuck! What the FUCK. WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK. ARE WE WATCHING— oh my gods please tell you’re joking and they’re not actually— EWWWWWWWWWWWW!”
Sansa is now laughing so hard she’s crying with mirth.
(Cersei says “Fuck me harder” and Jaime happily obliges.)
Margaery cheerfully fills Myranda in on the details as Jaime and Cersei fuck with abandon and Myranda watches with equal parts horror and fascination. Once upon a time there was security footage that prompted the Lannister twins to flee to Dorne and release their own sex tape. The sex tape they are now watching. He’s famous for only ever fucking his twin.
None of it is new information to Brienne, but it hits differently as she tries very hard to ignore the noises Cersei makes when Jaime makes her come.
Sansa is the one who pulls out her phone to look up the details of the fuckbet once a sated Cersei has reached across her brother’s body to turn off the camera with a wicked grin.
Myranda is still beside herself as she commandeers the laptop and scrolls through the plentiful assortment of other videos as Sansa and Margaery discuss the current amount of money up for grabs for the person who fucks Jaime Lannister and is willing to admit it.
“Prom night?!” Myranda gasps turning back to look at them.
“It’s not their actual prom night,” Margaery says as she divvies up the rest of the wine into their glasses. “They’re just roleplaying it.”
“No,” Sansa says firmly, before Myranda can click on it. “Absolutely not. I draw the line somewhere before there.”
“Fine,” Myranda says and for a whole second Brienne allows herself to believe that the worst is over.
But then Myranda clicks on another video and then joins in the ongoing discussion, adding her own pros and cons of fucking Jaime as Brienne tries not to pay attention to what her friends are saying or what is happening on the TV.
The Jaime on screen looks so much like the one Brienne spent a few days with that it makes her stomach clench.
(“He is hot though,” Myranda reasons.)
His hair is shorter than the Jaime she was with, but that is the Jaime she fucked. When was this filmed? The post date is four days ago. He could have gotten a haircut and then filmed this…
(“I think I’d fuck him? I can’t be sure, but if the opportunity presented itself...”)
Jaime is urging Cersei to sit on his face.
(“It wouldn’t though. That’s the whole thing. He’s only into her.”)
Cersei undoes his pants before she obliges, making sure the camera has a good view of his hard cock as she rides her brother’s face.
(“But if it did… I’d probably do it. Even if I felt weird about it. It’s like a public service.”)
Cersei calls him “Brother” and Jaime’s hands visibly grip her ass tighter as she moans in response to whatever it is his tongue is doing at that moment.
(“And it’s so much money!” Margaery adds with a laugh. “And it looks like he knows what he’s doing.”)
Cersei throws her head back as she comes, her golden hair catching the light the same way Jaime’s did at sunset back on that beach.
(“—but you’d have to be willing to admit you had sex with him,” Sansa argues. “And you’d have to be able to prove it.”)
Jaime and Cersei are just getting started and Brienne can’t sit here and listen to her friends joke about the shame of fucking him while Cersei moves to position herself over Jaime’s cock.
It would be easier just to leave, but she flees to the bathroom instead. After a few minutes in which she aggressively convinces herself to calm down enough to leave through internal narration that still isn’t loud enough to drown out the sounds of her friends voices and Jaime and Cersei fucking, she goes to Margaery’s room to collect her jacket.
“What was that about?” Margaery asks. “You feeling okay?”
Brienne flinches but does not turn around, and does not stop reaching under Sansa’s stuff to locate her jacket, “What was what about?”
“You ran out of there and now you’re in here getting your stuff without saying anything.”
Brienne takes a breath and wishes her heart wasn’t still racing, “People are pooling together a cash prize for the person who has sex with him. Does that sound familiar?”
“Oh,” Margaery says, her expression suddenly soft. “I didn’t think.”
“Yeah.” Brienne says, her jacket finally in hand. Margaery knows about the bet. Brienne doesn’t need to explain.
This is about a third of the reason she’s upset, but when she was in the bathroom she concluded that this is enough of a reason to be upset that this is what she’d say if someone asked. And she is upset about the fuck bounty as an idea and not just because she was once the target of a similar bet on a much smaller scale. She’s much more upset that she could win this particular bet and she’s upset that Jaime fucks his sister and she’s upset that apparently almost everyone knew that before she did and she’s upset that he is currently fucking his sister as Sansa and Myranda shriek with disgust and she’s upset that she still, somehow, stupidly, likes him.
“I’m sorry,” Margaery says. “I should have thought…”
“Yeah well,” Brienne says. With any luck Margaery will feel bad enough to make some excuse for Brienne to slip out of here without any more attention being drawn to anything and then they can never talk about Jaime ever again.
“I am sorry,” Margaery says. “But it’s not the same as what happened to you. And I hope you can see that.”
“It’s not that different,” Brienne mumbles.
“He’s a porn star.”
“He’s still a person.”
“He’s the one who chose to make his sex life public,” Margaery says. “He—”
“Does anyone deserve that?” Brienne asks quietly.
“If it makes you feel any better, no one is ever going to be in the position to win that particular bet. People have been trying for years and no one’s even come close to claiming the fuck bounty. So it’s just a hypothetical question. Like ‘What superpower would you like to have?’. But instead it’s, ‘Would you have sex with a really hot guy who fucks his sister for a lot of money?”
Brienne tries to find something to say to respond to that but her throat is tight and her heart is beating too quickly and she’s thinking about Jaime wearing that stupid helmet they had to wear when they were jousting and—
“Oh my gods,” Margaery says.
Brienne shakes her head, hoping it’s not too late to stop this.
“Oh. My. G—”
“No.” It is definitely too late to stop this but Brienne is still trying.
“You did though,” Margaery says quiet and thoughtful, and Brienne knows it’s far too late, Margaery knows, she knows and she’s going to say it and then she does: “You had sex with Jaime Lannister.”
Margaery closes the door to her bedroom and turns back to Brienne.
“They’ll think we’re fucking,” Brienne says automatically, a old joke from when they were roommates in first year. One that has been repeated at least a thousand times between them by now.
“Sansa won’t,” Margaery replies without missing a beat. “And don’t change the subject. You fucked Jaime Lannister on vacation and didn’t tell me?”
“I didn’t know who he was,” Brienne says, defensive and miserable all at once.
“I told you who he was!” Margaery exclaims. “And you didn’t say anything!”
“What was I supposed to do? Announce I’d hooked up with him right after you told me he fucks his sister?”
“Yes! And if you couldn’t do that you’ve had plenty of opportunities since.”
“Maybe I didn’t want to talk about it. Maybe I still don’t want to talk about it.”
Margaery rolls her eyes, “Yes, because you’re clearly handling it so well on your own.”
Brienne eyes the closed door with more than half a mind to leave. But in the silence they can hear Sansa and Myranda cheering and shouting and Brienne feels her face flush.
She stays where she is.
“I’m going to ask you a question you’re not going to like,” Margaery says. “But I’m me and I want to know: Can you prove it?”
“You’re right. I don’t like the question.”
“Oh. My. Fucking. Gods.” Margaery says. “Brienne!”
Brienne shakes her head once but she does not look at Margaery.
Margaery does not ask about proof again.
Margaery does, however, ask about everything else. Or at least, she tries to, rattling off at least twelve overlapping questions in rapid succession until Brienne stops her and reminds her that there are still two people watching porn in her living room.
“Right,” Margaery says. “Okay. I’m going to tell them you have a headache and you’re going to stay here for the night. And then I am getting rid of them. And then you are going to tell me everything.”
Another great shout of revulsion followed by fits of giggles comes from the other room as Margaery slips back out into the hall and closes the bedroom door behind her.
Brienne sits on the bed to wait for Margaery to come back and hates that this is the least worst option right now.
After she has survived her interrogation Brienne leaves Margaery’s place and checks her phone. No wonder she’s exhausted. She should have been asleep hours ago. Brienne almost regrets not taking Margaery up on her offer to actually spend the night, but the idea of waking up to a Margaery who has been refreshed by sleep and is ready for round two of questioning is a worse fate than a dismal journey home at 2am.
Brienne’s eyes are burning and she feels like she’s been in a fight and she has no idea how she feels about anything. She has no idea whether she feels better or worse knowing that Margaery knows. She has no idea how she’s supposed to get the images of Jaime and Cersei out of her head. And she hates that she wants to text Jaime right now.
But she wants to text Jaime right now. It’s what they do. Almost every day. It’s so much a part of her day now that she misses it when it’s not there. And she doesn’t know how she feels about that either. But she knows how she feels about texting Jaime and right now she wants to.
But she doesn’t. Because the fact that she just had the night she had and she wants to text Jaime feels wrong. So wrong.
He’ll be awake though, she’s almost certain of it. The time difference isn’t on her side but he often sends her a message or a link to something this late at night for her to wake up to. But it is late. He’s probably at home. With Cersei.
Brienne hates herself for thinking it. She hates herself for knowing that. She hates her brain for providing some very vivid images to go with the thought.
Brienne is halfway home when she pulls out her phone and texts Jaime.
He replies right away: You’re up late. Everything ok?
Brienne replies and then so does he and then they’re just chatting like neither of them is famous for fucking their twin as she walks the rest of the way home.
At least Margaery doesn’t know about this, Brienne thinks as she plugs in her phone and tells Jaime she’s going to bed.
Because Brienne told Margaery enough, but she didn’t tell her everything.
Like the fact that she’s still in contact with Jaime.
Brienne didn’t mention that.
Brienne has twelve messages from Margaery waiting for her when she wakes up and she is deeply relieved that she did not stay the night. At least this way she can pretend she slept in and safely ignore Margaery’s offers to talk about it further and her follow-up questions for the time being.
(She does respond to Jaime though.)
Monday brings work and routine and a solid excuse to not engage with Margaery’s insistence on trying to continue to discuss this development. Margaery also has to work all day, which means she has something other than pondering all of the possible implications of Brienne sleeping with Jaime to do with her time.
She still texts Brienne about it throughout the week, because of course she does, but the frequency mercifully drops off when they are both at work.
At least she’s stopped sending her screenshots of whatever Jaime and Cersei’s latest video is.
Brienne almost walks into a mailbox because she was trying to find the exact right gif to send back to Jaime. She ends up stopped on the sidewalk to fire back her reply.
Everything about this would be so much easier if texting with Jaime wasn’t so enjoyable. The only other casual hookup she has to compare the experience with was nothing like this. She still gets the occasional booty text from the guy, even though she has indicated that she is very much not interested in having their one night stand be a reoccurring event.
Hells, even Hyle still sends her a mediocre dick pic once and awhile, as if she has forgotten he both has, and is, a dick.
But Jaime isn’t sending her unsolicited dick pics and he’s still over in Dorne so it’s not as if a booty call is even an option. Which it wouldn’t be in any case. Nothing about their ongoing conversation has been sexual.
Which makes sense.
(Nothing about this makes sense.)
Jaime keeps on texting her like everything is normal. Like Brienne didn’t watch him and his sister fuck each other with a handful of friends the other night. Like everything is fine and friendly and they can tease each other about their questionable taste in TV shows and send each other links to songs they like and check in with each other to see how the other’s day went and then send each other videos of sports even more ridiculous than paddleboard jousting and suggest that be their next form of combat.
How was your morning? Brienne keeps thinking about texting, Did you fuck your sister yet today?
She doesn’t send it. She doesn’t send anything of the sort.
But he must be texting her for a reason. She knows this. He must be waiting to see what she does, if she tries to bait him to provide more proof of what they got up to at that resort. He must be waiting to see if she claims the bet (the prize has gone up again. She suspects Myranda chipped in.) Whatever the precise reason, Brienne is certain there is one.
Maybe she should just tell him she knows about the porn so he can stop pretending and tell her.
It’s not until Friday that Margaery sends a link. It’s not to onesoultwobodies.com though so Brienne hazards a glance at it when she’s alone at work.
It’s a tweet from their official account that just says, “Happy Birthday my love.” The picture though. The picture is of Jaime and Cersei standing facing each other and smiling. Behind them and between them is an official looking man and Brienne does not need to scroll down and see the replies to think what everyone else is thinking.
Brienne just doesn’t think about it. She doesn’t think about it all day. Her schedule is back to back school tour groups this week and that is enough to keep her thoughts from straying to the question that filled the comments of the birthday tweet.
Margaery, for what it’s worth, shows considerable restraint and does not send her a follow up message until much later that night:
Do you think they’re actually married???
Maybe, Brienne texts back before she tosses her phone to the other side of the couch determined to watch Netflix and not think about it. But probably, she finds herself thinking, Probably.
“Did he say anything about being married?” Margaery asks. “When you met him?”
There’s implication in the way Margaery said ‘met’ which Brienne is determined to ignore. “No.”
Margaery had invited her out for drinks, wanting to go out dancing but not wanting to do it alone, which is a moot point because they both know Sansa will show up before long. Margaery had also dropped some deeply unsubtle hints about finding Brienne someone. It was obvious bait to lull Brienne into a false sense of security that Margaery was ready to leave the whole Jaime situation behind, but Brienne had agreed.
Brienne had agreed for a few reasons, but the fact that she keeps almost texting Jaime to wish him a happy birthday was one of them. Jaime hadn’t told her when his birthday was, so if she wishes him a happy birthday he will know she’s seen the tweet, and therefore knows about his sister, about this part of his life he didn’t mention, and then maybe he will actually tell her why the fuck he is still texting her almost a month later.
“But you think it’s true?” Margaery says, jarring Brienne from her less than pleasant thoughts.
Brienne kind of shrugs, kind of grimaces, kind of wants to die, “It’s legal in Dorne. Being consenting adults is the only legal requirement for marriage there.”
“Do you think it’s recent?” Margaery asks, clearly zooming in and examining the potential wedding photograph on her phone again. “I think his hair is longer than it was in that picture with you. Lemme see your phone again so I can confirm.”
“Absolutely not,” Brienne says. Margaery will never see that photo or the contents of her phone ever again.
“I just want to see,” Margaery says.
“Fine,” she huffs. “I don’t know why you’re being like this. I’ve seen Jaime from every angle imaginable, including that picture of him on that podium with you. I just want to see if I can tell when that picture was taken. No one on the internet has been able to figure it out.”
“No,” Brienne says. “And it won’t prove anything either way.”
Margaery lets it drop.
“Hypothetically—” Margaery starts, two drinks later.
“You didn’t even let me ask the question.”
“I don’t need to.”
“The cash prize has gone up by over 50k since that tweet went out.”
“I don’t care. I wouldn’t. I won’t. Even if I could.”
“How high would it have to go?” Margaery asks. “For you to consider it. Hypothetically.”
“It’s not about the money.”
“It’s a lot of money.”
“It’s not about the money,” Brienne says again, a warning in tone. “You know that.”
Margaery drops it.
A message from Jaime pops up on her phone where it rests face up on the table and Brienne turns off the screen as discreetly as she can.
Brienne does check the message though, when Sansa shows up and Margaery wanders over to the bar with her to order another round.
I’m going to be in King’s Landing next weekend, the text from Jaime says. Want to get a coffee or something?
Brienne’s brain seems to disconnect from her body. She reads the message again, slowly. Just to make sure the message is from Jaime and is those words in that order.
Brienne absolutely does not have the ability to figure out how she’ll respond to that while she’s out with Margaery and at least one drink past sober so she doesn’t.
She puts her phone away and tries not to think about it at all.
Sansa and Margaery return to their booth and with Sansa there they talk about all sorts of things that have nothing to do with incest porn stars that Brienne definitely fucked and may or may not still be contact with. The incest porn star who is going to be in King’s Landing next weekend and has just texted her to ask if she wants to meet up for coffee.
Jaime. Jaime Lannister.
Who might be married to his twin sister.
That porn star.
Who asked her out for coffee.
Brienne is definitely not sober enough for this so she promises herself she won’t reply tonight.
But fuck, is she ever thinking about it.
Margaery and Sansa take to the dance floor shortly thereafter and Brienne is more than happy to sit at their table in peace for as long as she can. Margaery had ordered her something fun and Brienne takes little sips, annoyed to find herself comparing it to the better drinks she had while she was on vacation.
She mulls over the message on her phone from Jaime while she flicks through the specialty drinks menu without seeing it. The message that says he’s coming to King’s Landing next weekend. The message that says he wants to get coffee with her.
The message she’s going to have to respond to.
Sooner or later.
She doesn’t want to be thinking about the tweet from their official account, but she is. The happy birthday message, the photograph that looks so much like a wedding she finds it hard to imagine it being something else…
Brienne is on the cusp of leaving or responding to Jaime’s message when Margaery is beside her once again and Brienne pockets her phone in a hurry.
“Come dance with me,” Margaery says as she offers her hand.
Sansa is on the other side of the dance floor at the bar for the moment. She’s acquired a glass of water and she’s watching them and smiling at them between sips as Brienne lets herself be led onto the dance floor.
“At least tell me how the sex was,” Margaery says.
“Not a chance.”
“C’mon! I’ve never slept with a porn star before!”
“At least tell me this,” Margaery says leaning in close even though the music is loud and Sansa is well out of earshot. “Would you have fucked him even if you knew who he was?”
“I don’t know,” Brienne says while the more honest part of her thinks, Yes.
When she gets home late that night she scrolls back through a couple weeks worth of her messages with Jaime but there’s nothing in there that wasn’t there before. He must want to talk to her about it in person. Whatever it is. That must be it. Seven knows he hasn’t made himself clear as they’ve been chatting about everything but why he fucked her and why he’s still texting her and the bet and everything.
Brienne is so desperate she almost calls Margaery to ask for advice.
In the end Brienne agrees to meet him for coffee.
She picks the most generic chain coffee shop and picks a location that isn’t the one closest to her apartment or to work and then obsesses about exactly what Jaime doesn’t want to discuss in a format she could take screenshots of.
Brienne almost cancels every time she remembers what she agreed to. It would be so easy to make an excuse. It would be so easy to say she’s out of town, that she has to work, that she’s seeing someone, that she has to do literally anything other than meet up with him. Because every time she remembers that she has agreed to meet up with him she realizes this can only be a mistake.
Because she is Brienne and Jaime is Jaime Lannister: Incest Porn Star Extraordinaire and she knows that now. She’s known that for weeks but now she’s going to walk into a coffee shop and see him again and the Jaime she’s seen do things with his sister she’d rather not have seen and the Jaime she spent her vacation with are going to merge into the same man beyond a shadow of a doubt and she is not looking forward to that.
On Wednesday night Margaery sends her a link to a discussion thread where multiple people are valiantly investigating whether Jaime and Cersei are actually married through any means they can think of. Margaery’s commentary is the addition of the magnifying glass and the eyes emoji.
Meanwhile Jaime is texting her, asking about her day.
When she says she has to go to bed he says goodnight and says he’s looking forward to seeing her in a few days.
Brienne finds herself looking forward to it in the moments when she isn’t dreading it.
At least once every conversation with Jaime she thinks about texting him some variation of “I know who you are” but she can’t figure out a way to phrase it that doesn’t sound like a threat.
And Jaime hasn’t said anything about it so she doesn’t feel like she should, somehow? Not when she’s going to see him in person in a few days. He must have a reason for wanting to see her in person. Something he can’t tell her over text. Something that won’t immediately be proof. Because if he mentions in text that she could win the bet, he would be handing her definitive proof that she could use to win it. The fact that he hasn’t brought it up yet…
This is the only thing she can think of. That Jaime thinks she doesn’t think she has quite enough proof. Or Jaime thinks that she thinks it isn’t enough proof. Or he’s still waiting to see what she’ll do. Or he still thinks she doesn’t know about him or the porn or the bet and he’s still trying to feel it out, not wanting to say something that could point her right towards it?
Brienne hates that all of these trains of thought are familiar.
By the time the day actually comes and Brienne finds herself opening the door to the agreed upon coffee shop at the agreed upon time she feels strangely calm.
This is it. She is about to see him again. She will hear him say whatever it is he can’t leave evidence of. This will be the end of it.
This is the end of whatever this was.
Jaime smiles and gives a little wave when he sees her.
As Brienne makes her way to the table near the window where he is waiting for her she notices the way both the man at the counter and the woman in the corner are looking at Jaime with what can only be recognition.
“I’m not going to try and claim the prize,” Brienne says before she’s even sat down. “If that’s what you’re worried about.”
Jaime’s easy smile morphs to startled bafflement in a heartbeat, “What?”
“That’s why you’re here right?” she says quietly as she sits to not draw any more attention to herself or to him. “To make sure I don’t? To make sure I don’t have enough proof?”
“Brienne, if you want we can go to the nearest hotel and you can film us doing whatever you want and—”
“No! I don’t want to film us doing anything. I don’t even—” Brienne looks around again, suddenly deeply aware that at least two other people in this coffee shop know exactly who Jaime is. “I don’t want to have this conversation here.”
“But you do want to have it?” Jaime asks sincerely. “We don’t need to… I’ll never contact you again if that’s what you want.”
“I want to talk to you,” Brienne says, forcing herself not to look around the coffee shop as she does so. “But not here.”
After a brief moment of consideration and calculation, Brienne decides to take him back to her apartment. It’s not that far and it’s the most private place they could be.
Seeing him made her certain: she wants to know what he wants to say to her.
But whatever it is she doesn’t want to talk about it anywhere in sight of the woman who hasn’t stopped staring at him or the guy at the counter who looks ready to punch him.
It’s not a long walk back to her place but Brienne is very aware of it. She’s trying to be normal about this, but she’s never been good at this sort of thing. Not that she has any experience with this sort of thing. Taking an infamous porn star back to her apartment to have a discussion she isn’t comfortable having in public. She’s never done that before.
“How was your flight?” she asks. That’s a safe thing to ask about. Innocuous even.
“Fine,” he says. He adds a little more detail, telling her about the slight delay, probably just to fill time.
She glances over at him a bit more than necessary. He looks good. He looks like Jaime.
He looks like the man she watched fuck his sister.
“How have you been?” he asks.
They text almost every day. Usually fairly extensively. He knows how she’s been.
“I’ve been good,” she says.
She hopes the couple on the other side of the crosswalk is looking at them because they are both tall.
She resolutely does not look to her right when they walk past a hotel, his offer still ringing in her ears.
There are still three blocks to walk when she asks why he’s in town.
“I have some stuff to take care of,” he says. “And I saw my therapist in-person yesterday afternoon. That was good.”
“You have a therapist?” Brienne asks.
“Two,” he replies.
Brienne nods and wishes she’d ordered a coffee to go to have something to do with her hands and a ready made excuse not to speak because she has no idea what to say.
Brienne is grateful when they turn the last corner and she sees her building. Once they are inside she and Jaime will be out of sight of the any number of people who potentially know exactly who he is.
There is only a single person in the lobby collecting his mail, a guy Brienne knows by sight but does not know his name. He gets on the elevator with them without glancing away from the envelopes he’s shuffling through.
When he looks up to push the button for his floor he catches sight of Jaime. He turns an impressive shade of purplish red Brienne wouldn’t have believed human skin was possible to achieve.
Jaime, to his credit, makes no visible sign he’s noticed the other man’s reaction to him. Brienne is trying to follow Jaime’s lead, pointedly watching the number above the door increase by one every five seconds, waiting for it to finally hit her floor.
She and Jaime are standing far enough apart that it is, perhaps, feasible that the other man in the elevator can’t assume they are together.
But then the elevator stops on her floor and she and Jaime get off the elevator together, so there goes that idea.
Jaime catches her eye once the elevator door has closed behind them and the hallway in front of them is empty. “Sorry about that. Usually they’re less…”
She nods, as if she has any frame of reference for what people might usually be like in his presence when they recognize him. She’s spared having to figure out what to say to him when they reach her door and she’s able to stop and say, “This is me.”
She unlocks the door and leads Jaime Lannister: Incest Porn Star, into her apartment and gestures for him to have a seat at the small kitchen table and starts to offer him a drink even though he still has his drink from the coffee shop, but what comes out her of mouth is the only question she can find the words for:
“‘Why?” Jaime repeats.
“Why did you have sex with me?”
Jaime looks confused to be answering this question first, “Because I liked you.”
“Does there need to be more? I liked you and you invited me back to your room.”
“There are hundreds of people who want to fuck you to win money,” Brienne says, hoping to keep the strain from her voice. “You must have thought…”
“Did you expect me to try and claim the money?” she asks, looking at the scratch on her kitchen table and not at him. “Did you think no one would believe me if I said anything?”
“Brienne, I wasn’t thinking about that stupid fuckbet when I agreed to come back to your room.”
“Why not?” That bet has existed for almost as long as Jaime has been doing what he does for a living. How could he not have suspected?
“Okay,” he says. “Okay look, I’ve gotten pretty good at reading when people recognize me. And you didn’t seem to.”
“Okay,” Jaime says, relaxing a little. “But even if you knew exactly who I was and you were sent there by my father or Petyr Baelish to seduce me and or you just wanted to win the money and you’d set up a dozen hidden cameras in your hotel room, so what? What’s the worst thing that could have happened?”
“What’s the worst thing that could have happened?” Brienne echoes in disbelief.
“Yeah,” Jaime says. “Let’s say you filmed it and released it and won that stupid bet. So what?”
“Other than the fact that it’s illegal and cruel?!”
“I guess,” Jaime shrugs like that’s hardly a consideration at all.
“I would never do that. To anyone,” Brienne says, suddenly hating the fact that Jaime might not understand this about her. “Jaime I wouldn’t do that to you.”
“And now I know that for certain,” Jaime says. “But I didn’t think you would.”
“But you…You made sure I had enough proof,” Brienne says, hating the way her voice does a thing on the last word, but if that was a test she wants to know. “The texts… the pictures…”
“Brienne I wasn’t thinking about the stupid bet. I was texting you because I wanted to see you again before you went back home.”
“Because you liked me.”
“Because I liked you,” Jaime agrees. “I still like you!”
Brienne falls silent as she tries to digest that.
“You don’t believe me,” he says flatly.
“Do you blame me?” she says. “People don’t generally just like me. And you had every reason not to trust me.”
“I did. I do.”
“It’s…” this conversation might be a mistake but at least there aren’t witnesses, “You don’t have to explain.”
“I think I do,” Jaime says helplessly, as if this isn’t going at all as he hoped. “If you think I was only texting you all this time because I was worried about some stupid bet. I saw you rushing to make sure you made it to the guy with the clipboard in time to sign up for that ridiculous competition the second day I competed and you looked so ready to beat the rest of us into the waves and I liked that about you. But I knew I liked you when you knocked me off my paddleboard and you asked if I was okay before you laughed.”
Brienne says, “Oh.”
Jaime sighs and takes a sip of his coffee like he’s regrouping, “I didn’t come here because I was worried about the bet. I haven’t been talking to you all this time because of a bet. I didn’t… I didn’t even know you knew about it. Or about me. About the porn.”
“I didn’t. Not at first. Not when we… I didn’t know then.”
Jaime nods and moves his thumb back and forth across the plastic ridge of the lid of his coffee a few times before he asks, “When did you find out?”
“The day after I got back.”
Jaime looks at her like he can’t make it add up, “That was weeks ago.”
“You’ve known the whole time we’ve been texting?”
“Why… why didn’t you say anything?”
He is quiet for a moment. “I didn’t. But I should have. That’s why I’m here. I was going to tell you. I came here to tell you. Because I didn’t know you knew. But I knew you should know.”
“You don’t need to tell me anything,” she says quietly. “You don’t have to explain.”
“Yes I do,” Jaime says. “Because we’ve been texting for over a month and I like you but you should know— before I even think about asking you out you need to know. I need to tell you. I should have told you already—”
“Jaime it’s okay. I already know. I know.”
“But I still haven’t… I need to tell you. I came here to tell you.”
Brienne braces herself and nods once, giving him permission to tell her what she already knows.
“My twin sister and I made porn together for years,” Jaime says. “We’re famous for it.”
Hearing him say it so bluntly is still surprising somehow. Everything about this is surprising. Jaime is sitting at her kitchen table. That’s surprising. Jaime likes her. Jaime is here because he likes her enough to feel guilty for not telling her about the porn sooner. That’s surprising. Jaime likes her enough to have kept texting her all this time, enough to want to ask her out. That’s surprising.
Jaime does incest porn. Did incest porn, if his use of the past tense is accurate. And Jaime likes her.
And she likes Jaime.
Having him sitting in front of her makes it so fucking obvious:
She still likes Jaime.
“For what it’s worth, I’m sorry,” Jaime says, his tone serious. “For everything. I should have told you before we had sex.”
“I didn’t tell you about my job.”
Jaime looks pained. “You work in an art gallery.”
“Yes, well,” she replies. “I still didn’t tell you.”
“I should have told you.”
“Yeah maybe,” Brienne sighs.
“I like you and I like talking with you and I’d like to keep doing that. Because I want to ask you out. But I did a lot of incest porn,” Jaime says. “It’s okay if that’s a dealbreaker.”
“Are you… Are you still making incest porn?” This is the first time Brienne has said the phrase ‘incest porn’ out loud and she does not enjoy the experience. Seven knows she still is struggling to piece together how that phrase is now actively relevant to her life.
“No,” Jaime says. “I’m not.”
She has so many questions but all of them feel too personal or too much or too something so she asks if he wants a glass of water as she stands up to get herself one to give herself something to do while she tries to let whatever this conversation is settle into something she knows how to respond to.
Because Jaime is sitting here at her kitchen table and he wants to ask her out but he understands the fact that he made a lot of incest porn could be a dealbreaker. Should be a dealbreaker. He seems to expect it to be a dealbreaker. He came here to give her the information she needed to end this before it went any further. To break up in person even though they were never actually dating in the first place.
The thing is… the thing is…
Brienne is not sure that is what she wants.
She glances at Jaime, who is still sitting at her kitchen table, still obviously trying not to watch her too closely as she fills two glasses with water. He is still waiting for this to be over. He came all the way here to tell her, to apologize, to let her end this once and for all.
And he would understand if she did.
She thought that was what she wanted. She had convinced herself that was what she was ready for this conversation to be. Closure, one way or another. That whatever strangeness had started when they met on that beach in their matching helmets and life jackets would be over. And that would be for the better.
She hadn’t expected... In her head, every time she had tried to mentally prepare for this conversation it had always come down to her reassuring him she had no interest in trying to claim the prize for fucking him, that his reputation for fucking his sister and only his sister would remain safely intact, leaving him to go back to his life and she could go back to hers like none of this ever happened. Then they would never speak to each other again.
That is what she was ready for.
She is not ready for this.
“You can ask me anything,” he says when she returns to the table and places two glasses of water down on it. “Whatever it is you want to ask me, just ask. If anyone deserves to, it’s you.”
“Are you married?”
“Only in Dorne,” Jaime says with a weary sort of sigh. “And even there we’re separated. For almost a year now.”
“Why didn’t you tell anyone?”
“About the marriage?”
“The marriage was just for us,” he says. “It was nice to have something that was just ours. After a while it got so… there wasn’t a lot of us left that was just for us.”
“So why is she posting pictures of it now? And there are still new videos being uploaded…“
“Cersei is… She’s not happy I mean to go through with the divorce when I can,” Jaime says. “And the videos were filmed before we separated. I didn’t… We haven’t filmed anything in months. Have you… Did you…” Jaime swallows instead of finishing the question.
“My friend showed me a couple of them,” Brienne confirms.
Jaime nods and glances away before he looks at her again, “I wanted to tell you. I came here to tell you.”
Brienne understands his meaning. He wanted to tell her before she had to see for herself.
“Why is the bet still going on?” Brienne asks. Of the questions that have been haunting her since she found out about the bet, this is one she keeps circling back to.
“You didn’t claim the prize.”
She scoffs, “Just because I didn’t, doesn’t mean someone else wouldn’t.”
“So far you’re the only one who can.”
“You can’t be serious.”
“Just you,” he says. “Sorry.”
“It’s okay if all of this is too much. I understand,” Jaime says. He means it too. All Brienne has to do is say it’s too much and he’d nod and thank her for her time and never bother her again. Brienne doesn’t like the thought of that.
She exhales. “Is it okay if I don’t know if it’s a dealbreaker yet?”
Jaime looks at her and for the first time since they sat down at this table she sees the unmistakable flicker of hope in his eyes, “Yeah,” he says. “That’s very okay.”
“Okay,” she says.
“Are you hungry?” she asks, glad to be able to move the conversation elsewhere.
He smiles. “Starving.”
They order take out. Brienne is the one who answers the door when it arrives. Jaime doesn’t turn to face the door. Brienne notices when she sees him wait for the door to close before he turns around to face her before coming over to help her carry the food to the table.
They fire up Netflix before they eat. Brienne is half-ready to spend the next hour or so arguing with him over what to watch (they have had several passionate discussions about what was so bad it was good, and what was so good it was bad over the last few weeks) but right there in the “Watch it Again” category is all of her questionable faves right there in front of him.
“The Princess Bride!” he exclaims. “I watched that about a thousand times as a kid.”
“So did I.”
“I wore out my VHS,” he laughs at the memory. “My dad was so relieved, but my aunt bought me another copy less than a week later.”
Brienne points to the bookshelf beside her TV. “My dad bought me the Blu-ray for my birthday last year. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I haven’t had a working bluray player in years.”
They decide within a few minutes of the movie starting that quoting along is both allowed and encouraged.
It hits her every so often as the movie plays that the man sitting on the other side of her couch used to fuck his sister on camera.
And she fucked him on vacation under the assumption she would never see him again.
And now he’s in her apartment, quoting all of her favourite lines along with the movie with her.
And he used to fuck his sister on camera.
There is a rational part of Brienne that knows that should be a dealbreaker. A non-starter. That should have ended it before it began.
The thing is… well… maybe it should be but she’s not sure it is.
Because then they laugh at the movie or their eerily accurate recitation of it, she glances over at him and finds he’s glancing back at her and smiling.
It’s really fucking obvious in this moment that he’s not here because of the bet or because of what she could do to ruin his reputation or anything.
Jaime likes her.
And she likes him.
Brienne wonders if it has to be more complicated than that.
Jaime starts to tidy the containers from their food into the plastic bag even though she tells him that isn’t necessary before he heads towards the front door to put on his shoes.
“It was nice to see you,” Brienne says, and she means it. She unequivocally means it.
“Yeah,” Jaime says. “I would.. I would like to do it again sometime.”
He smiles at her and says goodnight, and she finds she’s still smiling when she closes the door behind him and returns to the couch.
She wants to see him again.
Maybe it doesn’t have to be more complicated than that.
Brienne collects her phone from the kitchen table and checks it for the first time since she and Jaime first got back to her place.
Margaery had texted her sometime around when the rodents of unusual size were on screen.
It’s a picture of Jaime in the King’s Landing airport taken a couple of days ago.
The internet is already speculating and Margaery has some Thoughts that she would like to discuss at length.
Margaery is, entirely predictably, speculating wildly in at least six different directions and it seems like a good idea to shut it down as quickly as possible because Brienne does not like the direction Margaery is headed and the icon indicates that she is still typing and showing no signs of stopping.
It’s nothing, Brienne texts. He mentioned he would be in the city.
Margaery stops typing for about half a second before the next message comes through.
Wait. WAIT. He had your number all this time?!
The speed of the following messages is impressive. Margaery seems not to be typing so much as telepathically unleashing her outrage directly into her phone.
WHAT THE FUCK BRIENNE.
WTF WTF WTF WTFFFFFFFF
how could you not tell me
wtfwtfwtfwtfwtf im FURIOUS
BRIENNE I KNOW YOU’RE THERE.
Are you going to see him??!?!
Please tell me you’re going to see him
B you have to meet up with him
TELL ME YOU ARE GOING TO SEE HIM
Margaery is still typing and Brienne knows she’s made a mistake and she knows she will keep up this deluge of messages until she responds or until Margaery comes and knocks the door down to demand answers so Brienne takes a breath and starts to reply.
Margaery did not ask if she had already met up with him, and Brienne has no further plans to meet up with Jaime while he is in King’s Landing, so Brienne is not lying when she texts back simply, “No.”
Brienne spends her Sunday bouncing between text conversations with Margaery and Jaime, which means she spends her Sunday triple checking which name is at the top of the conversation before she hits send while doing the stuff she neglected to do during the week. It’s not like she and Jaime are discussing anything of particular interest specifically, but Brienne has been very careful to continue to keep Margaery under the impression that she and Jaime have no plans to meet up while he is in King’s Landing.
What Brienne really means, of course, is that they have no further plans to meet up while he is in King’s Landing. But during the frantic conversation she and Margaery had the night before, Margaery had assumed that she and Jaime hadn’t already met up, and Brienne did nothing to correct that assumption.
Brienne has also left Margaery with the impression that the communication between herself and Jaime is limited. Almost non-existent. Nothing to write home about.
Brienne can tell Margaery is still annoyed she failed to mention that Jaime had her number. (“This isn’t over!” Margaery keeps texting. “You gave him your number and you WILL tell me how that happened one day.”) But all in all, it could be much worse.
Jaime flies back to Dorne the next day. He texts Brienne when he lands. It’s a few hours into her workday though, so their conversation is brief.
Later that evening they text like they have been for weeks, only this time, for the first time, Brienne spends exactly zero energy wondering what Jaime’s motives are.
Texting with Jaime is the same as it’s been, because they’re talking and checking in with each other and arguing about which movie they most want to erase from all of history and sending each other youtube videos of the worst activities they can find to playfully threaten to challenge the other to it and everything else.
But also it’s better, because Jaime knows she knows about the porn and his sister and the bet, and he knows that Brienne isn’t sure yet if that will be a dealbreaker.
And Brienne knows he likes her. He’s texting her because he wants to and he likes her. So he is.
It is like it was before, but so much better.
Brienne finds they text back and forth at least twice as often as they used to.
On the other hand, Margaery is treating Brienne with increasing suspicion. Even when Margaery is texting her about anything else, Brienne can’t help but assume that she is just biding her time, waiting to mount her next attack for information she feels Brienne is withholding.
Brienne would feel bad about it, but so far she has been right every single time. Margaery isn’t going to let this drop. She didn’t let it drop when all she knew was that Brienne had beaten Jaime at a stupid made-up sport; she certainly isn’t going to let it drop now that she knows that a) Brienne had sex with him and b) she is still in some small degree of contact with him (as far as Margaery knows).
And without fail, the picture Margaery sends of the puppy her brother recently adopted is followed up by a carefully worded enquiry about Brienne’s weekend plans.
Brienne answers honestly. She’s got nothing of note on this weekend, save a meet up with a work friend on Sunday afternoon.
(Jaime is in Dorne this weekend. Brienne doesn’t tell Margaery that. As far as Margaery knows, Brienne doesn’t know where Jaime is at all.)
Would she date a man who used to do incest porn?
This is what Brienne finds herself asking herself over and over and over. Every day. Multiple times a day.
Would she date a man who used to do incest porn?
This is not a hypothetical question. Brienne has to decide if Jaime’s history of incest porn is a dealbreaker for her. Margaery would have no shortage of opinions on the matter but Brienne doesn’t want them.
Brienne knows she’s the only one who can make this decision, but so far she doesn’t know.
It isn’t long before Jaime is in the city again for a few days. This time it’s in the middle of the week and she has to work but she invites him over to her apartment for dinner on Wednesday.
Brienne hopes no one recognizes him in the elevator when she buzzes him up.
When she opens the door he steps inside and hands her a box.
“A Super Nintendo Classic?” she asks.
“Yeah,” he says. “It’s a hacked one.”
“Okay,” Brienne says, looking down at the box and then back at him, feeling like she’s missing something.
“It has Mortal Kombat on it,” Jaime explains.
Then Brienne grins.
There had been more than a few Mortal Kombat jokes exchanged between them while they were out on the water trying to balance on their paddleboards while wailing on each other with the big foam-covered sticks, and there had been many more since. Just about every time one of them sends photographic evidence of some particularly ridiculous activity, the other responds to the challenge accordingly.
Brienne’s trying to remember what stupid activity had been suggested the last time one of them invoked Mortal Kombat. Frisbee golf maybe? Or lawn bowling?
Whatever it was, it wasn’t actual Mortal Kombat.
She’s not sad he brought it though.
She’s not sad about it at all.
Once they get the thing hooked up it becomes clear that the wires on the controllers are impractically short. They have to sit side by side on the coffee table to reach so suddenly they are two not-small people sitting on a not-large coffee table.
Plus, it turns out they both suck at Mortal Kombat.
But they laugh a lot.
A lot a lot.
Almost as much as they laughed out on their paddleboards.
Then they switch to rotating through the bountiful assortment of games and the level of friendly sabotage between the two of them escalates until she nearly shoves Jaime off the coffee table. She has to grab him to keep him from actually falling over and then they’re laughing harder and then there’s a moment where she’s pretty sure they’re both thinking about the last time she knocked him over and where that led not long after.
When they eventually turn off the console after discovering that they are apparently terrible at every video game ever made, Jaime is not remotely bitter that he was more terrible than her at most of them. He’s grinning at her as they migrate to opposite sides of the couch and he makes a joke about it being for safety reasons. There’s no bitterness in his tone whatsoever.
She likes that about him. She liked that about him from the beginning. From their first wobbly bout on those paddleboards, the challenge between them was always friendly even when they were taking it too seriously in the moment and as soon as the competition was over it was just over. Jaime doesn’t hold grudges or gloat or demand a rematch or sulk about it. Win or lose, he always just looks like he had a great time and he’s already looking forward to getting to do it again.
Gods, she likes that about him a lot.
Jaime stays until almost midnight and then texts her when he gets back to his hotel to say goodnight.
Brienne once again finds herself mulling things over as she tidies up her apartment the following morning before heading to work.
She knows the incest porn thing is more than enough to be a valid dealbreaker. Exactly no one would judge her for that being the case, including Jaime. It’s obvious he’s still waiting for her to say that it’s not something she wants to get involved with.
And he won’t hold it against her. If she texted him now and told him it was a dealbreaker he would understand completely. He would be kind and generous and thank her for being honest with him. Fuck, he would thank her for being thoughtful enough to take the time to fully consider it.
And all of that? That makes the incest porn less of a dealbreaker. Because he’s not assuming she’ll be okay with it, with him, with anything.
Brienne sighs and puts the controllers beside the tiny Nintendo under her TV.
“Who are you texting?”
Brienne looks up. It’s Tuesday and she’d been alone in the break room after a particularly rowdy tour with a group of third graders when she’d started texting him. She hadn’t noticed her supervisor had joined her. “Just a friend. Why?”
“You’ve been grinning at your phone for five minutes straight,” Catelyn replies.
Jaime had dragged up pictures of “extreme ironing” and had been sending them to her at regular intervals, trying to convince her this should be something they try. Brienne was pointing out that surely they could find something slightly less stupid to be competitive about that didn’t involve scaling a mountain or jumping off a cliff with a tiny ironing board and iron.
Later that night Brienne finds herself circling the familiar paths once again.
Hyle orchestrated the bet on her. That was a Dealbreaker. That was devastating in ways she still talks about with the therapist she checks in with from time to time. (She’s probably overdue for a conversation with her, come to think of it.) But that was a dealbreaker and she knew right away. As soon as she found out, it was over. She couldn’t even look at Hyle and consider moving that relationship in any direction that wasn’t her getting as far away from him as possible.
And when she found out about Jaime’s history… well. She went home that first night and looked up enough to confirm what Margaery told her was true, but when Jaime texted her, she texted him back.
And she keeps texting him back…
Tormund was a different story, and a much less dramatic one. He liked her a lot more than she liked him and when she finally agreed to go out with him she found that he definitely liked her a lot more than she liked him.
And that was that. She didn’t like him all that much. So she didn’t go out with him again.
Dealbreaker feels like the wrong term to apply to that situation but Brienne supposes that is what it was.
She didn’t like Tormund enough to date him. That was the dealbreaker.
Brienne still likes Jaime.
Brienne still likes Jaime a lot.
But then Brienne tries to think about what it could actually be like. To date Jaime. To actually date Jaime. To be in a relationship with Jaime. And every time she lets herself think about it she falters because he’s famous. Infamous really. And people will find out.
Hells, just Margaery finding out would be more than Brienne is ready to handle right now.
Is that the dealbreaker? That she isn’t ready to handle the storm that comes with him?
Brienne doesn’t know.
Brienne wakes up to a text from Margaery. It’s a screenshot of the title of the latest video uploaded to onesoultwobodies.com.
Rationally, she knows those eight words in that order should be a dealbreaker.
It’s another two weekends before Jaime is back in town. He doesn’t make a point to explain why he’s in the city. He has another therapy session Friday afternoon, but beyond that it’s very clear he’s coming because he wants to see her.
“Your upstairs neighbour is a fan,” Jaime says as he steps into her apartment and closes the door behind him.
“He must be a big fan,” Brienne agrees. “He can’t even look me in the eyes anymore.”
“Sorry about that.”
“Don’t be,” Brienne says. That particular upstairs neighbour was never her favourite person to run into around the building. Him avoiding her as much as possible is a great side effect of Jaime visiting once in a while.
“Does it bother you?” Brienne asks once they are settled in her apartment. Jaime has brought coffee and muffins and he places them on the table. “The elevator guy?”
“No.” He looks over at her. “Does it bother you?”
She thinks about it.
“It doesn’t bother me exactly,” she says. “But I do notice when someone is looking at you like…”
“Like they’ve seen me do unspeakable things?”
“Yeah. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be,” he says. “You don’t have to be sorry. And you don’t have to be okay with it. With any of it.”
“I know I don’t,” she says. “It’s just… weird. To know why someone is looking at you like that.”
He nods once as he gestures for her to pick a muffin first, “It takes some getting used to.”
She takes the chocolate chip muffin. “Are you used to it?”
“Yes,” he says. When she doesn’t reply for a while he keeps talking. “The ones who are embarrassed to know who I am just want to be ignored, and the ones that have something to say about it lack originality. I haven’t heard new material from anyone in years.”
“People hate you,” Brienne says. It feels like a simple way to say it, but it’s true. People hate him. People who don’t know him hate him. She doesn’t know how he deals with that.
“At least they hate me for something that’s true. Was true,” Jaime amends before his expression shifts. “It will always be true. Even if it’s not true anymore. I will always be the guy in those videos.”
“I guess I just can’t imagine any of that part of my life being public,” Brienne says. “That’s all.”
“It’s not all public,” Jaime says.
She knows he’s right. Part of his relationship with Cersei is so public and well-documented that he’s recognized on the street for it, but the rest of it… It’s not all public. He’s mentioned the lawyers he’s meeting with more often to prepare for the divorce a few times now. Even the fact that they got married isn’t public, though Margaery is still keeping her posted on the internet’s obsession with finding out.
“I don’t want you to feel like you have to tell me anything,” Brienne says, hoping this makes sense. “But I don’t want you to feel like you can’t.”
Jaime nods and then takes a sip of his coffee.
If Jaime was still making incest porn that would certainly be a dealbreaker.
If Jaime was still with Cersei that would be a dealbreaker.
But he’s not.
Right now he’s here in her apartment.
And when he’s not here, he’s not with Cersei.
He has an apartment in Dorne. He has therapy appointments. He’s looking into programs that start in the fall. He goes grocery shopping and does his laundry and he goes for a run most mornings. He does any number of normal things that aren’t fucking his sister on camera and then uploading the videos to the internet.
But he did spend ten years doing that.
Brienne is painfully aware that Jaime spent ten years doing that.
It’s late and Jaime is about to go back to his hotel. He’s not sure when he will be back in the city, but he assures her it will be soon. His shoes are on but neither of them are rushing to open the door and send him on his way.
He looks especially beautiful in the soft light that bleeds from the other room and she wants to kiss him.
He’s looking at her like he knows and he’s right there with her and he smiles at her and then all she can see is the look on his face when he looked at Cersei. The sound he made when he came. The way Cersei called him the other half of her soul. The way thousands and thousands of people have watched that happen…
Maybe that’s the dealbreaker.
She wishes him a good night as she opens the door for him, unable to hold his gaze any longer.
The memory of the afternoon they spent together in Dorne has been boxed up in her memories. Brienne tries not to touch it. She fails sometimes, hating that she finds herself gravitating towards it late at night as she’s chasing an orgasm that will let her fall asleep. She hates that she remembers their time together most vividly right before she comes.
What she hates even more is that she’s not sure if the little groan she remembers him making right before he came is something she remembers from that afternoon or something she later watched.
That alone could be the dealbreaker.
Margaery has been over at her place for over an hour and she hasn’t mentioned Jaime once. This must be a new record. Brienne should give her a ribbon. But then Brienne reaches for her phone but it’s not where she left it. She reaches around where she’s sitting for about ten seconds before she turns to Margaery.
Brienne rolls her eyes and holds out her hand. “Give it back.”
“Give what back?” Margaery replies in what would be a very convincing projection of innocence and polite curiosity if Brienne didn’t know better.
“My phone.” Brienne has been waiting for Margaery to try this. She’s almost disappointed Margaery’s best effort is so pathetic.
Margaery sighs and holds it out for Brienne to take, “Someone texted you. But you have the option to hide names and contents enabled, so I didn’t even get to see that.”
Brienne makes no effort to not look smug about this.
She does check the message. It’s from her dad. She tells Margaery this, just to make sure she knows there is nothing to be gained from trying to look at her phone.
(She doesn’t mention the messages from Jaime. She’ll reply to those when Margaery is anywhere else.)
Jaime is over again. Brienne is aware of how much she finds herself looking forward to this when she knows he will be in the city over a weekend. They’re in her apartment sharing another meal they ordered in. They don’t talk about why she keeps inviting him over. They don’t talk about why they order food in instead of going out. They both know why.
Jaime fucked his sister.
That should be the dealbreaker.
There doesn’t need to be anything else.
(So far it isn’t doesn’t seem to be a dealbreaker...)
Jaime had said he was going to be coming to see his therapist who was based in King’s Landing every other week going forward, but he seems to be aiming for every week, because Brienne wakes up to a message from him saying that he’ll be in the city the following weekend. His appointment is Friday afternoon as usual, but he’ll be around until Sunday.
She texts him back: I have plans Friday night, but otherwise I’m free.
Fun plans at least? he replies. She had spent a considerable amount of time lamenting a particularly awful event she had been dragged to the week before to him, so she can’t fault the question.
Movie night at a friend's place, she answers.
What kind of movie night?
The kind where we watch a movie that got a theatrical run. Then Brienne adds, My friend promised we wouldn’t watch anything you star in this time.
That’s kind of her.
Brienne grins because she can hear exactly how Jaime would say that before he replies, She’s been suspiciously nice to me since she saw a picture of you in King’s Landing. In-between interrogating me about you of course.
What did you tell her?
Not much. She’s very annoyed about it too. Just you wait, when I show up at her place on Friday she’ll have laid out a 14 step plan to get me to talk.
About what? he replies.
Am I that interesting?
Brienne snorts before she texts her reply: In a word? Yes. Trust me. If she knew any more than she currently does she would stake out my apartment. She would follow me around. She would become a world-class hacker just to read our messages. I love her a lot, but she’s definitely capable of ruining my life over less. And yours probably.
Then she adds a few emojis to convey that she’s not actually concerned that Margaery is going to burn the world to the ground in her quest for details.
Jaime replies with a laughing emoji and wishes her good luck with that.
Friday night rolls around and Brienne is on her way to Margaery’s when she gets a text from Jaime that just says Have fun(?) at movie night!
Sansa, Myranda, and Margaery are already there when Brienne arrives. They greet her with warm familiarity that feels sincere enough that Brienne is about 94% certain Margaery has not ‘accidentally’ let it slip that Brienne’s interactions with Jaime were far more than Brienne let them believe. Then Sansa smiles at her and Brienne’s certainty level goes down to about 71% because Myranda couldn’t pokerface her way through this if she knew Brienne had fucked the man she’d watched fuck his sister, but Sansa probably could.
Brienne sighs and takes a seat on the couch with Margaery and hopes for the best.
Brienne is happy to let the conversation flow mostly around her for the next hour or so. Sansa’s new job is both stressful and interesting and Myranda has enough dramatic dating stories to keep them all entertained. There’s a slight gap in conversation where Myranda has relinquished the floor and asked if anyone has any notable hookup stories to add.
Brienne is certain Margaery is going to say something vague or cryptically pointed in her direction, but she doesn’t.
Then Sansa asks what movie they want to watch and the topic of notable hookups fades without anyone putting up a fight to keep it going.
The movie that ends up getting chosen is not good. It is, in fact, quite bad, and Brienne, unfortunately knows this before the movie starts because she and Jaime had watched it together a few days ago. They had spent most of the runtime texting each other in increasing confusion and anger that the movie dared to be as awful as it was.
The problem is that the movie popped up on Netflix so recently that Brienne doesn’t want to mention she’s already seen it. She is not known for being particularly urgent about her movie watching habits so if she says she’s already seen it, everyone will ask why. And she doesn’t want to give Margaery any ammunition to question her about anything.
Tonight Margaery has been on her best behaviour so far, and Brienne would like that to continue for as long as possible.
Here’s the thing:
The movie is TERRIBLE.
It was terrible the first time. It is worse the second time. It’s been on less than ten minutes when she pulls out her phone and texts Jaime, You will not fucking believe what movie they picked.
Jaime is beside himself, texting back immediately to laugh at her pain and then ask which part she’s at.
By twenty minutes into the movie Brienne is texting Jaime at a near-constant rate.
I hate you so much right now.
I hate everyone who is not currently watching this movie.
I hate myself. I hate everything.
You could always suggest they switch back to porn? Jaime replies.
But Brienne is smiling. She wonders if it’s weird that she and Jaime are at a place where they can joke about her and her friends watching porn of him fucking his sister, but here they are. But then the movie introduces the talking dog and Brienne has other things to worry about as she angrily texts Jaime about the stupid dog that she’s going to have to listen to for the next hour and a half.
If Brienne was paying more attention to the people in the room she would have noticed that Myranda, Sansa, and Margaery only manage to hang in there for slightly longer than she and Jaime lasted before they realize how terrible the movie is and their attention starts to drift.
But Brienne is too busy texting with Jaime to notice the warning signs.
“Are you texting with him right now?!” Margaery demands.
“Who?” Myranda asks.
Brienne switches to her email and then replies, “No.”
“Who?” Sansa asks.
“No one,” Brienne says. Her phone is face down on her thigh. She is determined not to pick it up until Margaery has stopped looking at her like that.
Brienne shifts more snuggly into the corner of the couch and checks to make sure that the window behind her isn’t picking up any reflections before she resumes texting Jaime.
He’s asked if the terrible movie has killed her.
Fuck off. She replies.
Jaime asks if he should put on the movie and watch it again in solidarity. Brienne points out that if he is serious about it he would have asked that an hour ago, not when the movie is almost over.
When the credits finally roll Brienne lingers just long enough to listen to most of the post-movie debrief, but not long enough for Margaery to ask her any of the questions Brienne can sense lying in wait.
She texts back and forth with Jaime as she walks home and ignores the message Margaery sends that Brienne knows is bait.
Brienne manages to sleep in later then she usually does the next day. Sunlight is already streaming in through the window she rolls over and checks the time. She blames being over at Margaery’s, but she knows the fact that she texted with Jaime for over an hour after she got home is also a factor.
When Jaime texts her to ask if him coming over at two as they planned is still okay, she texts back and suggests they meet at the park instead.
It’s too nice a day to spend it all indoors.
When Brienne arrives at the park Jaime waves her over to where he stands under the shade of a tree on the grassy hill. He’s wearing a blue baseball hat that does not suit him and sunglasses she’s never seen him wear.
There are some fancy food trucks parked on the northern side of the park so they head in that direction first before wandering back to the big hill. They are far from the only people enjoying the warm day, but it is easy enough to find a section of grass to sit on far enough away from other people to afford them at least relative privacy.
He asks about her work and she regales him with a story from a particularly disastrous tour she gave several days before. He seems to enjoy it, laughing in all the right places, asking if all of her tours end up like that. She assures him that at least some of her tours run more smoothly.
She still does not quite know how to return these sorts of questions to him. The only job of his she knows about is not one she is keen to discuss out here in the park. And in any case, he is not… he is not doing that any more. And she’s not even sure how he thought of it at the time. Or how he thinks of it now. She still doesn’t know if ‘job’ is even part of how he categorizes that part of that relationship.
There is a lot Brienne doesn’t know about that relationship, but she’s working to be okay with not knowing. She’s barely mentioned Hyle or Tormund to Jaime. Granted, neither of those were anywhere near as serious or as public or as taboo as what Jaime and his sister were.
She still… She still struggles with it sometimes. That Jaime, the Jaime sitting beside her in the shade of this tree eating his crepe, is the Jaime that is world famous for twincest porn. She still feels what she considers is an appropriate amount of disgust towards the fact that the only other person he has ever had sex with is his sister. There are still times she feels like that should be enough to make her not like him anymore.
The thing is, she still likes him, as least as much as she likes the Jaime she spent part of an afternoon battling for paddleboard jousting bragging rights and the other part of an afternoon fucking. The Jaime she met on vacation is still the Jaime she gets to talk to every day.
“That hat is terrible,” she says, unable to contain it anymore.
“You think so?” he asks lightly. “You should have seen the other options in the gift shop.”
“Why were you buying a hat from a gift shop to begin with?” she replies before she realizes that she knows exactly why he hastily bought a hideous baseball hat before coming to meet her in the park. “Never mind.”
She can’t see his eyes because he’s still wearing the sunglasses as well as the stupid hat but she wishes she could.
They’ve been in the park for hours and she wants to tell him he can take the ridiculous hat off. That if she really had a problem with him she would have said so by now, stopped talking to him by now, stopped wanting to see him. She knew… she knew when she invited him to the park there might be people around.
And she wants to kiss him.
She still doesn’t know if his history is the dealbreaker it maybe should be, but she knows she wants to kiss him.
She won’t though. Not here in the park. Not yet.
But she wants to.
This would be a thoroughly enjoyable date, except for the fact that neither of them are calling it that. Brienne knows the only reason they aren’t calling it that is because she doesn’t know if she wants to date Jaime.
But whatever exactly today is, it is thoroughly enjoyable.
It’s enjoyable enough that once they’ve had their fill of the park they walk back to her place because they aren’t ready to say goodbye yet and hanging out in her apartment feels much lower stakes than going back to his hotel room together.
They meet up again the next day. It looks like it’s going to rain so this time Jaime comes over to her place as he usually does. He arrives five minutes after the rain starts, looking like a drowned rat and she laughs and offers to find him something dry to wear.
Jaime may have fucked his sister and she may have watched it and maybe that’s a dealbreaker but right now he’s sitting on her couch and he’s wearing her clothes and Brienne really really wants to kiss him.
(She wants to do a lot more than kiss him.)
Each message she receives from Margaery over the course of the week comes with a surge of adrenaline Brienne is not ready for. Until she opens the message, each one is potentially Margaery throwing proof that she and Jaime were in a park together over the weekend. There were people there. More people than she and Jaime have ever been around. Someone could easily have recognized him. She’s waiting for the beginning of the end…
But Margaery just texts her about normal non-incest porn star things.
The next time Jaime texts saying he will be in the city she suggests they meet up at her place.
“Can I talk to you about something?” Jaime asks once they are back in her apartment the following Friday afternoon.
“Of course,” Brienne says as she sets her shoes aside and turns to look at him.
She’s waiting for him to take his shoes off and follow her into the apartment so they can sit on the couch and talk about whatever it is, but he is making no move to do so. He’s just standing there by the door with his shoes still on.
“Okay,” he says. “Okay.”
Then he hesitates for long enough for Brienne to wonder if it is okay at all before he starts to speak.
“I can be your friend however you want. We can meet up here or wherever you want and stay out of most public places if that makes you more comfortable. We can go back to not seeing each other in person and just texting once and a while. We can stop talking altogether if that’s what you decide you want. But if… if you ever decide that you want to be with me, I don’t want to have to hide. And I don’t mean I want it to be public the way Cersei and I became public or anything.” He takes a breath. “But I can’t be in another relationship that has to be a secret.”
“Okay.” Brienne nods, not quite knowing what to say to him. “That makes sense.” She doesn’t know everything, but she’s gathered enough from the things Jaime has said that he and Cersei were some degree of together long before they released their first video. Brienne watches him for a moment as he shifts back and forth where he stands.
“It’s just… sometimes it seems like… or maybe I just hope it seems like maybe you want to kiss me,” he says. “And that’s great and I want you to but I just… I can’t be in a relationship that I have to hide.”
“I’ve never done this before,” he adds quietly. “Sorry.”
“You don’t have to apologize,” she says, the tone of his voice is a lot, and the look on his face even more so. Fuck, he doesn’t have to apologize for having needs and boundaries. Fucking hells.
Jaime nods once, like he doesn’t believe her. His shoes are still on. He’s barely stepped off the doormat. He’s waiting for her to tell him to leave.
“I would never ask you to keep it a secret,” Brienne says, wondering when she became the one of them with a potential secret to keep. “If we… If we ever… Okay. Part of why I haven’t… I want to kiss you. Sometimes I really want to kiss you but I don’t because it wouldn’t be fair to you. Because I still don’t know if—”
“It’s okay,” he says quickly. “I understand. I do.”
“I want to be ready,” Brienne says, hoping she’s making sense. “So I won’t… I won’t kiss you unless I’m sure.”
“Brienne, it’s okay. I know this whole situation is… complicated.”
She nods. It is complicated. She wishes it wasn’t, but it is.
“Thank you for telling me,” Brienne says. “Any other boundaries I should know about?”
“If we ever have sex again,” Jaime says. “I don’t want to film it and put it on the internet.”
Brienne is just getting home from work on Monday when Margaery sends her a picture of Jaime in the King’s Landing International Airport and a long string of the eyes emoji.
Brienne chooses not to reply.
That picture could have been taken at any time, and she’s determined not to give Margaery the satisfaction of getting a reaction from her.
Brienne certainly won’t be pointing out that she knows it’s from the weekend before last because Jaime is wearing her shirt in the picture.
It’s just a shirt. An old blue flannel shirt that Brienne doesn’t even wear that often. And when she does wear it, she wears it around the house, not when she’s with Margaery. It’s a generic men’s shirt. Hundreds of thousands of people must have a shirt that looks just like it. It is a thoroughly unremarkable, unrecognizable shirt.
There is no way Margaery recognizes it. There’s no way.
And even if, by some chance, Margaery does recognize the shirt as one Brienne has, there’s no way she could logically conclude that Jaime couldn’t also have the same shirt. It’s a thoroughly unremarkable, unrecognizable shirt.
It will be fine.
(Brienne refuses to let herself lose sleep over it because of how fine it will be.)
When Brienne’s alarm goes off the next morning, there are no messages from Margaery waiting for her. There are a couple of messages from Jaime though (there usually are). She responds to him and then gets ready for work.
Her Tuesday unfolds without any further inquiries from Margaery.
So does her Wednesday.
And her Thursday…
It takes five days before Brienne comes to the tentative conclusion that Margaery doesn’t suspect anything about the shirt. Margaery hasn’t mentioned that picture of Jaime at the airport again (and why would she? Brienne finds herself arguing with herself in the shower, it’s just a picture of Jaime at the airport. He travels! So what! Margaery has no reason to believe it has anything to do with her) and she hasn’t mentioned the shirt specifically even once (why would she?! Brienne thinks pointedly as she rinses the conditioner out of her hair, It’s so generic a shirt it would be outrageous if she did. There’s no way in any of the seven hells that Margaery remembers Brienne has a shirt like that. And if she did notice, she would have said something by now….)
Jaime isn’t in the city that weekend. There’s a tiny part of Brienne that is glad that no one will photograph him in the airport but most of her is just a little disappointed that she won’t get to see him.
The next time Jaime comes over she suggests they walk to her favourite local restaurant and pick up food there. Brienne knows that if she ever wants to actually date him she’ll have to be willing to be seen in public with him far more often than they have been. Nothing bad happened that one time they went to the park, but she is still nervous about the prospect.
The restaurant in question does pick-up but not delivery and Brienne is glad Jaime doesn’t ask why they haven’t ordered from there before as he puts on his baseball hat and she locks up before they head towards the elevator.
They’ve walked less than two blocks before a man hisses, “Your father must be so proud,” under his breath as they wait for the light to change.
“Very original,” Jaime drawls before Brienne has even fully registered what is happening. “You’re the first person who has ever said that to me. Congratulations.”
The light changes and the man shoves his way between them without a further glance at either one of them.
Jaime is utterly unfazed by this encounter, promptly picking up their conversation exactly where they left it, asking for the notable stories from her week.
She provides him the highlights from her recent art gallery tours as requested (a kid had shown up in a dinosaur costume thinking he was going to the museum) while trying not to dwell on how pointed that stranger’s abhorrence of Jaime had been.
They get to the restaurant and back without anyone else saying anything to Jaime beyond asking what he’d like to order. Brienne does notice a couple on the way back who lean in closer to one another and say something that Brienne can’t hear as she and Jaime walk by, so they possibly (probably) recognized him, but no one says anything to him and even that couple could have been talking about something else.
The food is delicious, as it always is. Jaime seems to be enjoying it even more than her and she’s telling him about exactly how she managed to break her nose playing dodgeball of all things when she was a kid and he’s laughing and she’s not thinking about the guy at the crosswalk at all.
“This is really good,” he says between bites, gesturing to his meal with his fork for emphasis. “Really fucking good.”
“It’s my favourite for a reason,” she agrees. “We’ll have to go back some time.”
He grins. “I’d like that.”
But even after Jaime has gone back to his hotel for the night Brienne finds herself thinking about the man at the crosswalk wondering how normal an occurrence that was for Jaime.
He’s mentioned… he’s said that people say things to him and he’s used to it, but knowing that is true and seeing how routine it is for him are two different things.
They decide to go see a movie. Brienne figures that is about as low risk as they can get. It’s sitting in the dark with strangers. No one will notice him. Hells, they buy their tickets beforehand so they won’t even be lingering in the lobby on their way in. Brienne has thought this through and weighed the risks.
They’ve been there all of four minutes before:
“Your father must be real proud of the way you take it up the ass, sister-fucker.”
“Ah yes, I won many golden cock awards for my performance in those,” Jaime says with casual disinterest as he turns around to see who is speaking to him. “So glad you enjoyed them.”
Brienne turns to look. The man who they find is already turning redder than his shirt as he snarls back at Jaime, “Listen here you inbred piece of incest-loving shit—”
“As much as I love the attention I receive from my adoring public, I do have previous commitments,” Jaime says. His smile is sharp. “Please forward all well-wishes to our website for a discount off your next month’s subscription. It’s obvious you know the address.”
They’re seated in the theatre waiting for the previews to start, and several handfuls deep into the popcorn they’re sharing when Jaime shifts a little closer and asks, “You okay?”
She has no idea, not really. All she can think to answer is, “Are you?”
The lights dim and the first trailer starts at a near-deafening volume and saves either of them from answering.
“Can’t wait to see how fucked up the kids you have with your sister are!” a woman shouts at him as she and Jaime are walking down the street together after the movie.
“Always nice to meet a fan.” Jaime replies.
It isn’t constant, the whole Jaime being recognized thing. It’s not constant but it is definitely more often than Brienne would have thought based her assumptions. People recognize Jaime. More often than she would expect.
She knows she should expect it. He and Cersei were a public joke, a shock porn meme, and have one of the most profitable private subscription sites on the planet.
But even so, it is strange to think about just how many people take one look at Jaime and know who he is and what he’s done.
Brienne tries not to let it rattle her, but she keeps thinking about it.
Even when he’s wearing his ugly baseball hat people recognize him.
In her apartment it’s easy to imagine it isn’t a big deal. It’s almost a non-issue. So Jaime made porn with his sister. So what? He doesn’t do it anymore. He told her about it (not at first, but he did tell her). He’s in therapy. He’s figuring his shit out. And he likes her. And she likes him. Fuck, does she ever like him.
On the rare occasions when they have been out in public together it feels much more complicated. People look at him sometimes and she knows exactly why they are looking at him like that. And then she remembers everything and she wonders if she could really handle everything that would come with actually being in a relationship with him. Because people would know exactly who he was and what he used to do, what his sister is still uploading videos of him doing. And on top of that there’s the fuckbet that way too many people know about and people will speculate that she’s only with him because of it and—
And she hates that she even cares. She feels like she shouldn’t care, that she shouldn’t give a fuck, but she hates the idea of a bunch of assholes on twitter assuming she’s just trying to win the fuckbet. Because she already knows what they’ll say about her. About her looks, and about Jaime, and about how unbelievable it is that someone like him is interested in her of all people if it ever comes out that they are together. Or were together. Or any variation of that. And what’s even worse is that she thought and wondered all of the things the internet will speculate about in that time before she knew why Jaime was still texting her, and that feels shitty too.
Brienne is on lunch at work and is chatting with Jaime as he is once again on his way to a meeting with his lawyers. When he gets there he messages that he’ll talk to her when he’s done so she switches apps and absentmindedly scrolls through her feed. Nothing catches her eye until she sees that Sansa has posted a #throwbackthursday photo of herself, Margaery, and Brienne from when they went on an ill-fated camping trip five years earlier.
They’re standing in front of the campfire, Margaery in the middle with Sansa and Brienne on either side of her.
Brienne is wearing her blue flannel shirt.
Brienne checks on that particular post at least twenty times in the next ten minutes.
Margaery has liked the post. Which means she has seen the post. But she hasn’t commented. She hasn’t commented and that’s not like her.
And she hasn’t messaged Brienne anything either.
Brienne spends the rest of her day torn between waiting for Margaery to call her the fuck out and convincing herself that she’s overreacting.
It’s still just a blue flannel shirt. It’s entirely possible, even likely, that Margaery hasn’t connected these two dots. The picture of Jaime in the airport is over two weeks old in any case. Since then onesoultwobodies.com has uploaded two more videos and there've been pictures of him leaving a grocery store in Dorne. If Margaery still cares about what Jaime is up to (which Brienne is not naive enough to hope she does not) there are more current and scandalous things for her to focus on.
But when her phone vibrates her heart beats faster until she unlocks her phone and sees that the message is from Jaime asking if she’s still on for Saturday.
Margaery has been strangely quiet lately. It’s been over two weeks since she last mentioned, alluded to, or provided screenshots of Jaime-relevant information.
She’s texted Brienne a handful of times, but the conversations have been brief.
Brienne is trying not to read into it too much.
There’s another movie night at Margaery’s this month but Brienne can’t attend. She has a work thing and she isn’t exactly overflowing with regret that she won’t be there.
But when the time comes, Brienne resists the urge to text them to ask what movie they end up watching.
Her dad calls the following evening. She’s got a load of laundry going downstairs and she’s in the middle of cooking dinner but she answers anyway. It’s been a while since they caught up.
She hears about his shop and his garden and his ongoing battle with the squirrels. He asks her about work, about her apartment, if she’s bothered to get a new toaster yet. Then he says, “A buddy of mine at work, he has a son who’s about your age.”
“Now just hear me out—”
“I’m not interested.”
“He’s a good kid. Man, I mean. He’s a good man. I’m not saying you have to marry the guy, but if you want I could pass along your phone number—”
“No thank you.” She’s keeping her tone light as she asks a question meant to divert him back to the squirrel situation to no avail. Her dad is still listing all of the virtues of this man. Who is good. Very good. According to her dad.
“Dad,” Brienne says sternly enough to quiet him. “I’ve met someone. Okay?”
“Oh!” he says. She pretends not to be at least a little insulted by the shock in his voice. “Care to tell me about him?”
“Not even a little something?” he asks.
“I met someone. It isn’t anything yet.”
“But you met someone.”
“Yes.” She can hear him smiling and refuses to join him.
“Who makes you happy.”
“Who you like.”
“And they like you.”
Brienne’s laundry cycle only had 13 minutes left but she endures another 25 minutes on the phone with her dad. He lets them talk about other things, but he keeps dropping in little questions about the person she has met throughout.
Brienne is vague on the details when she answers, leaving most of them out entirely. She doesn’t even give her dad Jaime’s name. Her dad isn’t a tech wizard by any extent of the imagination but he knows how to use google and she shudders to think at what he would see if he got curious and googled “Jaime Lannister.”
Gods. She’d have to tell her dad eventually. If… well. If. If it happened and it went well there’s a version of this that includes her introducing Jaime to her dad at some point. And if that happens she’d have to tell her dad what Jaime used to do for a living (which would be bad) so he doesn’t find out on his own (which would be worse).
Brienne sighs and tries not to think about it. She has about a million things to worry about before she starts trying to figure out how she’d tell her dad about Jaime’s history. It’s not like she introduced Hyle or Tormund to her dad and she and Jaime aren’t even dating yet.
They are almost dating. Brienne is not blind to this fact. They are certainly engaging in dating behaviours, they just aren’t allowing themselves to call them dates. Or to do any of the things people might do if they were definitely dating. Like kissing for example. There hasn’t been any of that, which is unfortunate because every time she sees him she wants to kiss him more than the last time she saw him.
But she can’t kiss him until she knows if she wants to date him. And she does want to date him, she knows enough to know that. But if she dates him that means everything that will come with that and she doesn’t know if she can handle that. So she hasn’t kissed him since they were in Dorne.
Brienne is aware that the only thing stopping them from dating and kissing and fucking and everything else is her saying she’s ready to do all of those things with him.
And it should be easy. She hates that it’s not easy. She likes him so much and they have so much fun together and when they’re alone in her apartment and he’s looking at her and she’s looking at him there are moments she wants nothing more than to be with him and not give a fuck what happens next.
But then she thinks about what happens next. About Margaery and Cersei and the fuckbet and her dad and everyone who looks at them when they walk down the street just a little too close together and everyone on the internet and it’s all so overwhelming all she can do is put the decision off because it’s too much to consider all at once.
She and Jaime meet at a coffee shop and no one says anything to him. No one looks at him in the ways that put her on edge. He still draws attention in the ‘holy shit he’s beautiful’ way as they order, but Brienne is pretty sure no one in there knows who he is and she lets herself relax when they sit down at a table in the corner.
It’s nice, normal even.
They stay there for over two hours before they go back to her place.
When they are back in the safety of her apartment he says, “Just so you know, Cersei and I were nominated for some awards this week.”
“Adult entertainment awards,” he adds, in case that could possibly be unclear.
“I figured,” she says, not unkindly. She’s mostly amused that he seems to have considered that she might have thought they could have been nominated for some other type of award.
“Yeah,” he says as he runs his hand through his hair. “I just don’t want you to be caught off guard. If it comes up.”
Margaery had told her about the award nominations earlier in the week, but she appreciates him telling her all the same.
“Do you have to go accept them?” Brienne asks. “If you win?”
“No,” Jaime says. “Cersei and I never went to any of the ceremonies. They’ll just mail her the trophy if we win at the end of next month. It’s nothing, really. We’ve been nominated for a bunch of them over the years. I just wanted to tell you before someone says something about it to me while you’re around.”
He says it so casually she’s certain people have already said things to him about it.
“You weren’t lying when you said there’d be a line,” Jaime says as he removes his baseball hat to push his hair back off his forehead. They have once again ventured beyond the confines of her apartment in search of food, this time seeking ice cream. She’d mentioned a place down by the waterfront that is famous for its extravagant milkshakes and now here they are, standing in a line that stretches around the corner of the block.
“I told you it was a thing,” Brienne says. Between the particularly hot day and the constant presence of these ice cream creations on instagram, it’s not surprising other people had the same idea, “At least we’re in the shade. Though I suppose you’re used to warmer weather.”
“I am now,” he says, as he takes off his sunglasses and tucks them into the neck hole of his shirt. “But it was definitely an adjustment.”
“How long does it take?” she jokes. She still finds the heat here in King’s Landing to be stifling in ways she never found the summers on Tarth.
“A while,” he says. “How long have you been in King’s Landing?”
She tells him about coming here for school after high school, about moving around doing internships for a year after she graduated and eventually winding up in King’s Landing a few years ago. He’s just asking her about where else she’s lived when someone shouts, “Hey Lannister!”
There’s a fraction of a second before Brienne understands exactly what is about to happen in front of the dozens of people lining up for gourmet milkshakes but by then it’s too late.
“Lannister!” the man exclaims far louder than necessary. “I almost didn’t recognize you with your clothes on and without your sister’s mouth around your dick.”
Brienne doesn’t know what she should do. She doesn’t want to acknowledge she’s heard anything. She doesn’t want to make this worse. She doesn’t know what Jaime wants her to do...
There are so many people around.
Jaime turns and looks right at the guy and says, “Always nice to meet a fan.”
Brienne turns to look before her better judgement can kick in. The guy in question looks like he’s ready to punch him. Brienne doesn’t know how Jaime can be so calm in the face of someone who was looking for a reaction they didn’t get and are now looking for something else.
“Do you have any further insights you wish to share?” Jaime asks the man. “Or have you said your piece?”
“No thank you,” Jaime says, just as breezily before he turns away from the man and back to Brienne. “Where were we?”
There are whispers in the line around them. Most people just shift their weight and look away, politely ignoring whatever that was, but Brienne is aware of more than one person looking at Jaime with dawning recognition and she clocks at least two people taking a picture of him.
Jaime doesn’t lean in when he asks if she wants to leave. He shifts and then stays a few feet away from her. A distance of plausible deniability that they just happened to be in line next to each other. That they aren’t together in any meaningful capacity.
She hates that part of her appreciates Jaime’s efforts when she notices someone else taking a picture of him.
They don’t leave.
That would draw more attention to Jaime. And to her. If they leave together it will be obvious they are here together and that what the man said was true and that would be worse. That would be worse than just waiting a few more minutes to get to the front of this line and leaving like nothing happened at all.
Even so, Brienne spends their wait in line in a state of simmering anxiety anticipating Margaery’s inevitable text. It might not come today, but it will come, and Brienne is dreading it. She isn’t ready for Margaery to know.
She hides her anxiety from Jaime as best she can. Jaime puts his sunglasses back on and pulls the brim of his baseball hat lower. Once they get to the front of the line they take their milkshakes to go and she’s pretty sure no one else recognizes him after that.
But someone already did and it’s only a matter of time before someone posts a picture somewhere Margaery will find it.
Brienne wonders if it’s too much to hope for that she won’t be in frame.
By the time Brienne gets back to her apartment that evening she’s not thinking about the people in line at the milkshake place. She’s thinking about Jaime and about how much she’d wanted to kiss him when he walked her back to her apartment just now. She’s thinking about how much she wanted to kiss him and invite him up and—
After milkshakes they’d gone for a walk and stumbled across an actual honest-to-Seven frisbee golf course spread out amongst a park. They weren’t sure which of them had pulled out their phone looking for the location of the nearest dollar store first, but they both claimed it was them. Either way, within minutes they were walking back towards the park with brisk and purposeful strides with matching frisbees in hand.
They had made idiots of themselves with their cheap frisbees, having to let the people who had come with proper flying discs play through as they apologized for their less than blistering pace through the course. She’s still giddy thinking about Jaime’s last tee-off, where even after a thoughtful analysis of the wind conditions his frisbee had curved right into the path of a very excited border collie.
She and Jaime have a great time together. They always have a great time together but he fucked his sister.
He fucked his sister. Dealbreaker.
He fucked his sister on camera. Dealbreaker.
He is outrageously recognizable for fucking his sister on camera for the better part of the last ten years. Dealbreaker.
He’s married. To his sister. (Technically separated. Soon-to-be divorced from his sister. But still. Married. To his sister.) Dealbreaker.
He didn’t tell her about any of this before they had sex. Dealbreaker.
There’s a crowd-funded cash prize for anyone who isn’t his sister who can prove they fucked him. Dealbreaker.
Which he also didn’t tell her about.
And she could win.
And she hates that she knows she could win.
Dealbreaker. So many dealbreakers.
When she dares to list it out and looks at the list and can’t believe there’s any doubt.
But there is.
Even with the true things people sneer at him in the street that she doesn’t know how to ignore…
There are so many times it doesn’t feel like a dealbreaker.
She still takes refuge during the hours they spend at her apartment together. In her apartment it is so much easier for him to just be Jaime in her mind.
She knows he is Jaime Lannister: Twincest Porn Star. She knows he will always be Jaime Lannister. She knows. She knows this better than anyone. But when they get overly competitive during a round of Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots, a game that she picked up on a whim because Jaime would love it, it’s so easy to enjoy getting to spend time with him and not worry about everything else.
When his little red plastic robot manages to knock the head from her own blue robot to bring the end to round 16 Brienne checks her phone and then instantly regrets it because everything else always comes crashing back.
“You okay?” Jaime asks a few minutes later. They’ve taken a break from the robot boxing matches (his idea, not hers), retreating back to sitting on the couch instead of being hunched over the coffee table.
“Yeah. Yeah I’m fine.” And she is. The text wasn’t even from Margaery. It was, however, a casual Look How High The Prize Money Has Gotten message from Myranda in the group chat about the fuckbet.
Myranda’s only mentioned the incest porn viewing extravaganza a couple of times since it happened, both of which were casual and not at all directed at Brienne so she decided it was easier to not try and figure out how to ask her to stop without drawing attention to herself. Myranda and Sansa don’t know about the similar bet she survived, and Brienne wants to keep it that way.
To her credit, Margaery doesn’t let the subject go anywhere. She promptly provides the latest puppy video from her brother to change the topic before Brienne has to figure out how to respond.
“If you want me to go so you can deal with whatever happened with whoever messaged you, I will,” Jaime says a few minutes later. “It’s not a big deal.”
“Nothing happened,” Brienne replies reflexively.
“Okay,” Jaime says. “You just... you checked your phone and now you keep picking it up like you’ve got something urgent to deal with but then putting it down.”
“It’s not urgent.”
“But it is something.”
Brienne sighs a little as she puts her phone back on the couch. “My friend texted our group chat another screenshot of the prize money for fucking you. That’s all.”
“Oh,” Jaime sounds relieved, almost bored.
“It really doesn’t bother you?” Brienne asks.
“No.” Jaime shrugs. “It’s just a stupid bet.”
Brienne tries to adopt the same breezy tone. “Yeah.”
Jaime is frowning at her a little, like he can’t quite figure something out. “Brienne.”
“It’s okay if it bothers you that I fucked my sister so publicly that people bet on it.”
“It’s not that.”
“But it is something.”
Brienne allows herself to nod once. It is definitely something.
“Okay,” Brienne says, “I just… Okay. When I was in college there was a bet like that. It wasn’t as… it wasn’t as public, but the set up was the same.” He’s looking at her now and she knows that he knows the rest. She was always a terrible liar, always tipping her hand, always wearing her heart on her sleeve, and there’s no way he hasn’t put it together, but she’s going to tell him anyway. “My first boyfriend won.”
Jaime’s jaw visibly clenches and it takes a few beats before he is able to speak. “People did that to you?”
Brienne is grateful that it is anger in his voice and not pity.
“Yeah,” she says. “It was a long time ago. I mean, it was awful. I won’t pretend it wasn’t. But it was a long time ago. But when… when this bet about you comes up…I just… I know what it’s like to be the target of something like that. That’s all.”
“People did that to you?” Jaime asks again. “Your boyfriend did that to you?”
“It’s all right.” She doesn’t really want to get into it. She’s put it behind her, as much as she can, she’s put it behind her.
“Nothing about this is all right,” Jaime says. “How could anyone—”
Jaime falls silent and seethes. He looks like he wants to hunt down and punch everyone involved. Brienne knows the feeling.
“I didn’t tell you to upset you. But how you feel right now? That’s how I feel every time I’m reminded about the bet on you. And I know you don’t care about it and I know I’ll never claim it. But there are times I really hate knowing I could win.”
Jaime sits with that for a moment, before he sticks his face in his hands and drags his fingers roughly through his hair, “Fuck. I… Fuck. I should never have put you in this position without telling you about everything first.”
“It isn’t. Fuck. I’m sorry.”
“It isn’t okay,” he says again. “Fuck. I just… We were having so much fun and I liked you so much but that isn’t an excuse for not telling you.”
“I don’t hold it against you,” Brienne says, and when he looks over at her like he doesn’t believe her she continues. “I don’t. It was a casual hook up. I’m not an expert, but I’m pretty sure the whole point of those is to have some sex in the moment without disclosing every single thing about your past or worrying about ever having to talk to the other person again.”
“Yeah,” Jaime exhales. “We fucked up.”
Brienne feels herself smile. “We definitely fucked up.”
It is much later than either of them assumed and Jaime has a flight to catch tomorrow morning and Brienne has to work tomorrow.
“I should be back in King’s Landing soon,” Jaime says as he is putting on his shoes to leave. “Maybe not next weekend, but definitely the one after that.”
“I’ll see you then.”
Anything you want to tell me?
Brienne’s stomach does a weird clenchy swooping thing that she does not enjoy when she sees Margaery’s text.
There are many things Brienne does not want to tell her.
But it’s the middle of Tuesday and yeah Brienne is on lunch but she is at work so she can definitely leave the message unread for the foreseeable future and hope Margaery forgets about whatever prompted this particular message.
Before Brienne returns her phone to her pocket another message from Margaery shows up.
This one is a photo.
It’s a photo of her and Jaime standing outside the milkshake place. They don’t look together together, but it is unmistakably Brienne standing there not too far from Jaime, and there’s no way she’ll be able to pretend otherwise.
She knew this was coming. She knew there was no way this wasn’t coming. That doesn’t make it easier to deal with so she just doesn’t. She puts her phone down.
Are you sure you don’t have something to tell me? Margaery asks again. You know you can tell me anything.
We met up. Brienne replies. There’s no sense denying it now. Margaery knows they met up.
Tell. Me. Everything.
Margaery is very keen to meet up with Brienne that week. As soon as possible. Brienne manages to put it off for a couple of days, but Thursday after work she goes straight to Margaery’s place where she agreed to meet with her. Margaery promised food and booze, both of which Brienne will need to get through whatever conversation is bound to follow.
Margaery doesn’t even wait long enough for the door to close behind Brienne before she says, “You didn’t tell me you were meeting him.”
“It was a last minute thing,” Brienne says, which is almost true. Mostly true even. The last time she met Jaime it was a quick last minute thing before she went to work and he went to the airport. She can shuffle some details around and talk about meeting him like it was an isolated incident.
An isolated, casual, incident.
Certainly not part of a pattern.
Brienne must say “It wasn’t a big deal,” a hundred times over the course of dinner. Eventually Margaery asks to see her phone and Brienne says no.
“I want to see how he brought it up!” Margaery says. “That’s all.”
“He was in town and not far from the art gallery. Then it just happened.”
Margaery thinks it was just milkshakes. Just once. That’s it. Margaery doesn’t mention the shirt at all. So it’s just the milkshakes Brienne has to deal with.
Brienne is very careful to keep her story straight. She’s not lying, not precisely, she’s just leaving certain details out. They met up that day. For milkshakes. Because Jaime had never even heard of the place. They went after she finished work. (She had had to drop by the art gallery that Saturday morning.) It wasn’t a date. She is very clear on that point. It wasn’t a date.
Margaery wants to know more. Margaery wants to know everything.
Brienne tells her as little as possible.
Brienne spends considerable time and energy over the next week and a half telling Margaery as little as possible and allows herself to enjoy how much that must be annoying the fuck out of Margaery.
The next time Jaime is in the city their plan is to go down to the waterfront and walk along the path there. But when the time rolls around it is raining. Hard. Jaime texts her before she’s left asking if she wants to change plans or cancel entirely on account of the weather, but she doesn’t. It’s been over two weeks since he was in the city and she wants to see him.
She is the one who suggests going out for lunch instead of inviting him over like usual.
It’s a weird enough time that wherever they go won’t be super crowded. It will be fine.
They pick a place near the hotel he’s staying at and meet there. Like people do. People do this even if they aren’t dating one another. It’s normal. No one seems to be eyeing him when they are taken to their table. It’s a casual place, but he still takes off his baseball hat once they are seated.
Brienne gives the restaurant another glance before she looks at him. Across from her, Jaime’s watching her like he’s waiting for something to go wrong, but when she smiles at him he smiles back and then all she can think of is how good it is to see him.
After they’ve ordered Brienne goes to wash her hands before their food arrives. She’s just reaching for a paper towel when their waitress sidles into the restroom behind her.
“I’ve been debating saying something since you arrived,” the waitress says. “My friend in the kitchen… he uh, well he recognized the person you’re having lunch with and uh… if it was me… I’d want to know.”
Brienne nods mutely, too numb to do anything else. She knows what horrible piece of information she is about to be told.
“There is a door at the back I can let you through,” the waitress says once she has said her piece. “I can go make an excuse for you.”
“That won’t be necessary,” Brienne says, trying to sound more confident than she feels. “I’ll stay.”
“If you change your mind, ask me for more breadsticks. I’ll get you out of there in a flash.”
“You okay?” Jaime asks when she sits back down. Brienne once again laments her inability to hide anything.
Brienne checks to make sure their waitress is on the other side of the restaurant before she answers, “Our waitress found out who you are and felt the need to warn me.”
“Oh,” Jaime says thoughtfully. “I didn’t notice she recognized me.”
“Someone told her after we sat down.”
“Do you want to leave?” Jaime asks. “We can leave. You can leave.”
“We don’t have to leave.”
“I’m sure,” Brienne says as she picks up her menu. “What are you having?”
Their waitress meaningfully offers her more breadsticks twice throughout the meal.
Brienne politely declines both times.
It’s just lunch. At a weird time. They could be friends. They could be family. They could be anyone. They don’t look like they’re dating, necessarily. And technically they aren’t dating. Because she hasn’t decided if that’s something she can do. But she wants to sit here and have lunch with Jaime. She knows she wants to do that.
And she finds she doesn’t care if the waitress is still looking at her oddly for it.
Brienne does care, however, about the possibility that anyone in this place could take a picture of them together and put it online where people will see it. The people who care about Jaime and his sister and the bet, and Margaery specifically.
Brienne is not ready for another conversation with Margaery about being seen with Jaime.
She’d weighed the risks before she suggested eating at a restaurant. She’d weighed the risks and she hates that she’s recalculating them over and over as they sit here.
Maybe that’s the dealbreaker. That she doesn’t know if she’ll ever be able to be somewhere like this with Jaime and not care if the person who just walked into the restaurant is going to post a picture of them where anyone could find it.
After Jaime has flown back to Dorne in time for the meetings he has Monday afternoon, Brienne is not proud that she spends a few minutes looking to see if Jaime was photographed in King’s Landing at all over the course of his last trip.
People are talking about him and Cersei. The fuckbet prize money continues to creep upwards, as does the interest in their potential marriage that Cersei teased and that no one has been able to officially confirm.
But no one seems to know or care that he was King’s Landing over the weekend.
Brienne tells herself to relax.
Brienne continues to tell herself to relax as the week goes on and Margaery does not text her anything about Jaime at all.
If someone had cared enough about them being in that restaurant to take a picture, it would already be online. Which means Margaery would have already seen it. Which means Margaery would have either flooded her phone with messages or else come and knocked her door down.
But Margaery has done nothing but message the group chat about organizing another movie night next month and Brienne is steadfastly refusing to read into that.
Brienne is almost sort of used to the snide remarks, but the few times someone has come up to Jaime and proclaimed his and Cersei’s love story as the most romantic thing they’ve ever heard Brienne finds herself being thrown for a loop all over again.
It helps that Jaime too, seems to find those interactions harder to navigate. He gives a polite but non-committal ‘thank you’ and takes longer to bounce back to wherever they were in their conversation before they were interrupted.
Today a stranger spends several very long minutes trying to get him to confirm he and Cersei are married until Jaime manages to extract himself from the situation.
“I’m sorry,” he says to her once they are well out of earshot of that particular stranger. He spends a lot of time apologizing for what people say to him when they’re out in public and he seems even more desperate to apologize when the person talking to him is a genuine fan.
“Are you okay?” She knows it must be hard to hear how romantic the relationship he is in the process of formally ending is, as if it’s still going on. As if what happens on that website is the entirety of who they are to each other.
Jaime shrugs. “I’m used to it.”
“That’s a hell of a thing to be used to.”
“Gotta keep my therapists busy.”
A week later a video of her and Jaime paddleboard-jousting surfaces online. They’re only in the tail end of it but there they are. It was filmed by someone on the beach that day who clearly didn’t know who Jaime was. They had uploaded it a few days after they had gotten back from Dorne, but no one had noticed or cared that some random person had uploaded poorly shot paddleboard jousting. Sometime in the last day and a half someone had seen it and reposted it, asking if that was indeed Jaime Lannister: Twincest Porn Star, getting his ass knocked into the ocean.
It hadn’t taken long for the corner of the internet that really cares about such things to realize that the person standing beside but not too closely beside Jaime when he was pictured in King’s Landing a few weeks back looked very much like the person on the other paddleboard.
Brienne is sitting alone in her apartment when she finally summons the courage to watch the video. She sinks further into the couch when there’s a clear enough shot of her to be recognizable.
She puts her phone down and says only, “Fuck.”
Margaery promises to keep Brienne informed about any notable developments now that Brienne is a Topic Of Conversation online (Margaery assures her that so far it hasn’t traveled beyond those who Really Care, thank fuck). At times like this Brienne appreciates that Margaery is so in the loop with the Jaime and Cersei corner of the internet because it means that Brienne feels like she can ignore it as much as possible instead of driving herself mad worrying about it. So Brienne knows just enough to know that the people who care to speculate don’t know who she is, but they now know she has been seen with Jaime in Dorne and later in King’s Landing.
And Brienne knows that if anything else surfaces, Margaery will tell her.
Beyond that, Brienne doesn’t want to know.
When Brienne wakes up to another link to the paddleboard jousting video she assumes Margaery’s brain has short circuited and she’s sent it again by mistake. She almost makes fun of her for it before she checks who sent it.
Did you see this? Jaime asks.
I know it’s us, Brienne replies. Half the internet knows it’s them. Margaery knows it’s them. She fears her dad is a few wayward clicks or conversations with friends away from knowing it’s them.
But did you watch it?
She’s seen just enough to know it undeniably him and undeniably her about to engage is foam jousting mortal kombat.
He sends her a link with a timestamp but she doesn’t watch it.
She has no intention of watching any more proof.
The next time Jaime comes over they’re on her couch together. They had migrated there from the table after they finished with dinner with the intention to watch a movie, but they’d ended up talking instead.
“Hey wait,” he says. “Did you ever watch that video of us?”
She doesn’t bother to lie. “I saw a little of it, but that’s it.”
He’s already pulled out his phone and scooched over so she can easily see the video when he pulls it up.
The battle is not as long as it felt at the time and it is far from a glorious spectator sport. The two of them trying to maintain their balance as they poke and whack at each other with their foam paddles is far more comedy of errors than mortal kombat. They look ridiculous in their matching helmets and lifejackets, but even as shot from a distance, they are obviously having a blast.
When the Brienne-on-screen manages to best Jaime and he flails his way down to the water with a mighty splash, both she and Jaime on the couch laugh without hesitation. His windmilling arms and ungraceful splat are almost as good as she remembers them being.
On the video she watches him bob to the surface while she waits for him to confirm he is okay before she takes his permission to laugh.
Brienne watches herself cackle as Jaime swims towards her paddleboard and rests his arms on it to look up at her. The Jaime on screen is facing away from the camera but she remembers how he was watching her in that moment.
The video ends abruptly, but when Brienne looks up the Jaime beside her on the couch is smiling at her just like the Jaime in the water had been back in Dorne.
The desire to kiss him is so strong she has to get up off the couch to make sure she doesn’t.
On Wednesday Margaery sends her a link and Brienne opens it with the jolt of dread she’s come to associate with links from her. It is a post with a picture of Jaime, but it’s a picture of Jaime in Dorne with two fans who were very excited to meet him, if the caption underneath is anything to go by.
Brienne, against her better judgement, reads the comments.
On Thursday afternoon Brienne is trying to get 27 eight year olds to at least get most of the art supplies they’re using to create their masterpieces on to the rubber duckies the art gallery has supplied, but by the time the teachers chaperone the hoard of little artists back to their bus, both Brienne and the entirety of Workshop Room C are a mess of glitter, half-dried glue and mangled pipe cleaners.
And she loves her job, she really does, even when it’s 28 chaotic junior artists at their most inspired wreaking the type of havoc no drop sheet could contain, but there are times she wishes it was a little easier to clean up afterwards.
As she starts to fold the drop paper on the nearest table in on itself (to hopefully stop the further spread of glitter) she finds herself wishing she had an evening with Jaime to look forward to tonight.
When Workshop Room C is finally back in order enough to be used by the next group and Brienne has washed her hands at least four times she checks her work email for any updates she should have before she leaves for the weekend. There’s nothing urgent, but there is a message from Pod.
Pod had interned at her gallery last year while he was completing his degree. She’d written him a glowing letter of recommendation a little while ago, so she assumed the email was letting her know that he’d written down her contact information on an application again, but instead it is an all caps “I GOT THE JOB!” that greets her when she opens the email.
He’s offered to treat her to a drink to thank her for all of her help. And after the afternoon she’s had, a drink she doesn’t have to pay for sounds like a fantastic idea.
Pod has shaved the beard he’d been trying out when he interned for her, but otherwise he looks the same, and he waves her over to the table he’s staked out in the bar they agreed to meet at. Brienne congratulates him again on the job he’s just gotten as she sits down across from him and he thanks her profusely for everything she did to help him get it.
“You did that yourself,” she says. Pod had been fantastic to work with when he interned at the gallery, and the kids had loved him. “I didn’t say anything that wasn’t true.”
He’s grateful anyway, and he asks her what she’d like to drink before they start talking about when the job starts and when he’ll be moving so he’s there and settled before it starts.
“The only thing is,” Pod says a few drinks and a celebratory plate of nachos later. “I wish it wasn’t so far away.”
“I thought you’d wanted to travel?” Brienne asks. He’d talked about it a lot when they worked together, and most of his applications had been for foreign gallery jobs.
“I do,” Pod says. “I just wish I won’t be so far from my girlfriend. We haven’t been dating that long and...”
“Yeah,” she agrees. “That’s hard. The distance thing is hard.” She doesn’t mean to sound so experienced, and gods know the distance thing is the least of her worries with Jaime, but she must sound like she knows what she’s talking about because Pod looks at her curiously.
She doesn’t mean to start talking about it, but she does. She can commiserate with Pod about the challenges of being in the early stages of something where physical distance is a factor without getting into everything else that’s making her particular situation difficult.
And even being careful and dancing around what really makes her situation with Jaime so complicated, it’s so nice to be able to talk about Jaime with someone.
“How long have you and your boyfriend been together?” Pod asks after he’s been subjected to a rambling list of the things she likes the most about Jaime.
She’s sober enough to correct him (because Jaime is not her boyfriend), but drunk enough to answer when Pod asks, “Why not?”
She’s still careful when she answers, but it’s easy enough to distill it to the key points without getting into the specifics. “He’s only a year out of a terrible relationship and still working through the divorce, and his work situation is less than ideal. Plus, he lives far away,” she tacks on at the end, though that’s not really a factor, just a minor inconvenience.
“Lots of people have had bad relationships and bad jobs,” Pod replies with the easy confidence of someone who would never guess what details Brienne is hiding behind those euphemisms.
“Yeah,” Brienne says as she finishes the last little bit of her beer, determined not to point out that Jaime might just take the prize in both categories.
“And it seems like you like him,” Pod replies.
“I do,” she sighs as she puts her empty glass back down on the table. “I really fucking do.”
On Friday Jaime is back at her place after spending the week in Dorne. He’s been the one to suggest staying in at her place today. He’d texted her when he got out of therapy that afternoon requesting they not go anywhere tonight. She’d offered him the option to reschedule if he didn’t want to be around people tonight.
He’d responded to clarify that he wanted to be around her tonight, just not anyone else and he looks so grateful to see her when she opens her door that she has to resist grabbing his hand to pull him into her apartment faster.
They order food and he is quiet and grateful when they pick a movie without much discussion and he sinks into the couch beside her like he’s been waiting to exhale all week.
Brienne pauses the movie when she gets the message that their food is here. When she returns and places the containers on the coffee table in front of them Jaime is frowning at his phone.
“You okay?” she asks.
“Yeah,” he says. “Just emails.”
“What kind of emails?”
He looks at her, “Do you really want to know?”
“Only if you want to tell me.”
He considers it for a moment before he says, “For a while there it wasn’t unheard of for people to get in contact to me about the bet, offering to split the prize money with me if I agreed to fuck them.”
“Oh,” Brienne says. She hadn’t considered that people would have been pursuing the prize so aggressively.
“Yeah,” Jaime sighs. “Anyway. It tapered off for quite a while, only the odd proposition. But ever since… well recently there have been a lot more.”
Since he’s been photographed in King’s Landing on several different occasions. Since the pictures of them showed up online. Since the cash prize for fucking him has tripled in the last two months...
“This one person emailed me four separate times,” Jaime continues. “Each time they increased my cut. Now they’re only asking for 10% of the prize.”
It would be amusing if it wasn’t for the way Jaime was talking about it. “Something tells me they’d do it for free.”
“This person would,” Jaime confirms. “But some of them... take this guy for example. He emailed me with an unsolicited offer to fuck me for some portion of the cash prize. Fine. Whatever. Him and about three dozen people did the same thing that week. When I didn’t reply he sent me another message ranting about how I should count myself lucky that anyone would even consider fucking me and how he wouldn’t do it for a billion dollars while also maybe threatening to kill me? I didn’t read the whole thing but that felt like where it was going.”
“Charming,” Brienne says, thinking that Myranda and Jaime could compare notes on most horrifying rejection follow-up messages.
“Quite,” Jaime agrees, then he sighs and looks over at her on the other side of the couch. “It doesn’t actually bother me that much. I just delete them. It’s not a big deal.”
“It’s still… It can bother you,” Brienne says. “It would bother me.”
“I’ve been dealing with this for the last ten years,” he says. “You wouldn’t believe some of the offers I’ve gotten.” From someone else that might sound like bragging, but from Jaime it just comes out sounding tired.
Brienne can imagine. And more than that, she’s had Margaery around to fill her in on some of the high profile offers Jaime has gotten publicly over the last ten years to try and lure him away from Cersei.
Jaime groans and swipes at his phone.
“Another one?” Brienne asks.
“I’m assuming,” Jaime says. “I didn’t even open it. Delete.”
It strikes her then, in a tangible way it hasn’t before, that Jaime spent ten years ignoring and rejecting every kind of offer made to him.
But he said yes to hers.
“When you asked,” Jaime says, as if he’s read her mind. “It wasn’t anything like this.” He gestures over his phone in vague annoyance to drive home his point.
Brienne feels her face getting warm. “I didn’t offer to split any prize money with you.”
“No,” he smiles at her. “You didn’t.”
“I still won’t.”
“Good.” His expression is warm and grateful and achingly inviting and Brienne has to remind herself that she hasn’t figured out if she can commit to kissing him yet.
But gods, if she knew for certain that she was ready to be with him, she would be kissing him so much right now.
They mostly hide in her apartment that weekend, but on Sunday they go for a walk.
A woman comes up to Jaime and hands him her card.
The time when Jaime isn’t in town passes how her time used to before she met him. She goes to work, she goes grocery shopping and works out and draws in her sketchbook sometimes and does her laundry and sees a friend or two when they can coordinate their schedules and goes for long runs and does all the normal things she did before.
The only real difference is that now she texts with Jaime a bunch in-between all those things.
And she supposes that texting with a porn star is a notable change in her routine (she knows Margaery would see it that way) but it just feels normal now.
More than normal.
It feels good.
But then he’s back in King’s Landing and she watches yet another person come up to Jaime and hand him their card like she’s not standing right there beside him.
And that does not feel good.
Every time it happens Jaime looks like he wants to do more than politely take the card without a word, but he doesn’t.
And why would he? They aren’t together. They aren’t even dating, technically. If he jumped down some stranger’s throat about how rude it was to proposition a guy while he’s already out with someone, they could hardly retain the plausible deniability of them being casually out in public like it doesn’t mean anything. Because the people sneering at him or handing him their numbers know who he is and about the bet and they would absolutely share what they learned with the other people who care.
The last time he was in the city he’d politely declined someone’s offer of their number and that person had gone off on him in ways that had Jaime apologizing to Brienne for several blocks and she doesn’t want a repeat of that experience any more than he does.
So when it happens (and as the fuckbet cash prize goes up, so does the frequency of the offers) and Jaime just pockets the cards and receipts with numbers hastily scribbled on them without a word and then throws them away when they’re out of sight, Brienne understands.
Brienne understands. She does. But watching Jaime be propositioned is hardly her idea of a good time.
But spending time with Jaime is her idea of a good time. Today they go to a board game cafe and spend the afternoon competing over the most outrageous games they pull off the shelf.
And beating Jaime at truth or dare jenga is worth having to deal with a rude comment about how Jaime is an abomination (they both roll their eyes once the man has left. Even Brienne has heard that one enough to be numb to it by now) and a woman glancing at Brienne and then back to Jaime before sliding him a napkin with “60/40, call me” on it.
Jaime is meeting with his lawyers in Dorne today. The way he always pluralizes it makes her picture the promo image of one of those lawyer shows with an impossibly beautiful team of people in suits. He texts her on his way there, dreading it, and he texts her once the meeting is over to lament the horror.
There’s another picture of Jaime making the rounds online before the end of the week. He’s at the airport again, but he is in King’s Landing. It was probably taken the last time he was here, but it’s difficult to say for sure, and she’s not going to ask Jaime. It doesn’t matter. It’s just a picture of him in the airport.
(Brienne skims the post Margaery sent just enough to know that even though the picture is just of him at the airport, people are speculating.)
That night another video goes up online on onesoultwobodies.com and the title alone is enough to have twitter buzzing about what’s going on with the Lannister twins.
Brienne turns off her phone and leaves it in the kitchen so she won’t be tempted to check it when she should be sleeping.
She and Jaime end up video chatting over breakfast because he wanted to show her the cool birds that are nesting on his balcony.
While they are admiring the baby birds he says he’s sorry about the video Cersei uploaded.
“You don’t have to apologize for it,” she says.
“I feel like I do.”
“Jaime, when was the last time you filmed one of those videos?”
She watches him think about it before he answers, “More than a year ago.”
“Okay,” she says. “And you know I know that right? I know that nothing that gets posted is recent. I know you aren’t filming them when you’re back in Dorne.”
“Yeah,” Jaime says. “But I did film them. All of them.”
“I know,” she says. “I also know you're not the one choosing to post them now.”
“I don’t have the legal authority to stop her,” he says. “If I could I—”
“Jaime I know.” She knows about the delicate line Jaime is trying to walk until he and Cersei are formally divorced. She doesn’t know everything, but she is not blind to the way Jaime is clearly afraid of how much worse Cersei could make this for him. Brienne knows and she’s honestly not sure why he feels the need to apologize for it. “It’s just a video of you having sex with her. There are hundreds like it.”
“People are talking,” he says.
“People have been talking about you for years,” she points out, finding it hard to believe some basic twitter chatter about yet another video of him fucking his sister is enough to rattle him.
“They have,” he says. “But now they’re talking about you. And you didn’t sign up for this.”
An unspoken ‘yet’ hangs in space between them so they go back to talking about the baby birds.
“You going to be in King’s Landing next weekend?” Brienne asks after she has begrudgingly admitted to herself that she can’t spend her whole day virtually hanging out with Jaime on his balcony in Dorne.
“Yeah. I have an appointment Friday afternoon.”
“You can come over afterwards,” Brienne says. “See you then?”
Jaime smiles and says, “Can’t wait.”
He sends her updates about the baby birds at least twice a day.
“Is it okay if we meet up a little later tomorrow?” Jaime asks. It’s Friday night and they’re sitting in her apartment after dinner. “My brother wants to meet up and tomorrow afternoon is the only time he’s free.”
“You have a brother?” Brienne asks before she quickly adds that yes, of course it’s okay. He can spend the whole day with him if he wants. But she’s still surprised that they’ve been talking for months and this is the first she’s heard of his brother, though, as she thinks of it, they haven’t really discussed his family. Not beyond his sister, who looms so large in the space of soon-to-be ex-wife and sister and business partner all at once. (The word ‘dealbreaker’ once again lurches to the forefront of her mind and she pushes it aside.)
“I have a brother,” Jaime confirms. His expression indicates that he knows Brienne was thinking about his family history but he doesn’t mention it.
“Older or younger?”
“Younger,” he says, then he sighs. “We’ve barely spoken since he was a teenager. He was fifteen when Cersei and I… Well. He was fifteen when it happened and I can’t imagine that made high school any easier for him.”
“No,” Brienne agrees as a pang of empathy for Jaime’s younger brother twinges in her chest. “I guess not.”
“I messaged him months ago, asking if he wanted to meet up sometime. When he didn’t reply I assumed he didn’t want to see me. And I get it. He has every reason to never talk to me again.”
“But you’re seeing him tomorrow?”
“He messaged me today to ask if I was free tomorrow,” Jaime says. “I’m still not sure why.”
“He wants to see you,” she says. “That’s probably a good thing.”
He nods but doesn’t reply. Brienne doesn’t know what to say.
“I’m dreading it,” he admits as he puts his drink back down on the table. “But I owe him an apology at the very least. And it will be good to see him. I haven’t seen him in ten years. Gods.”
Jaime seems determined not to think about it any further because then he asks, “Do you have any siblings?”
“I had a brother,” she says, sorry that this question will not steer them away from uncomfortable sibling stories. “He died when I was a kid.”
“Shit,” Jaime says. “I’m sorry.”
“Yeah me too.”
She tells him stories about Galladon and he tells her stories about Tyrion and everything about this is so normal and it’s easy to keep him talking about his brother until she realizes he hasn’t mentioned his sister once since they started talking about their siblings.
Brienne doesn’t want to be wondering about Cersei as they sit here on her couch exchanging stories about their brothers, but she can’t help but wonder what it was like for him to grow up with the person he would one day…
Her phone vibrates and usually she would ignore it but it’s her dad and if something is wrong—
“It’s my dad,” she says apologetically.
Jaime doesn’t need her explanation. He just stops his story about Tyrion’s eighth birthday mid-sentence and tells her to answer it.
She picks up the phone. It takes all of two seconds to know that this isn’t an emergency phone call. She relaxes and asks her dad why he’s calling.
Her dad has already told her one story that wasn’t urgent enough to warrant an unprompted phone call when he catches on to her lack of interest in this conversation.
“Bad time?” he asks.
“Kind of,” she admits. “I have someone over. That’s all.”
“Someone?” her dad asks. “A certain someone?”
“Maybe,” Brienne says. Fuck, she’s always been the worst liar. “Yes.”
“When can I meet this mysterious someone?”
“Fine fine,” he says. “Can I at least know his name?”
“Will he be there when I come visit next time?”
“I don’t know.”
“I don’t want to interrogate the guy. I just want to meet him. Whenever you’re ready for me to.”
“Well I’m not,” Brienne says as quietly as possible, wondering if it’s too late to take the phone call into her bedroom so Jaime isn’t sitting right there.
But then she glances over at Jaime and knows it’s too late.
When she hangs up Jaime is watching her.
“Everything okay?” he asks. She can only assume he worked out enough of the context from her side of the conversation to know the gist of it. That she has mentioned him, in some form, to her dad.
“Everything’s fine,” she says. She knows she’s probably still a little pinker than she wants to be, but she pretends she’s not as she asks him what happened next at Tyrion’s ill-fated birthday party.
The next day Brienne is out running errands when she realizes somewhere in the city Jaime is meeting up with his brother for the first time in ten years. She hopes it’s going okay.
“How did it go?” Brienne asks when they meet up outside his hotel afterwards.
“Better than I expected,” Jaime says. “He doesn’t hate my breathing guts. Not completely at least.”
“I’ll split the winnings 50/50,” a dark-haired woman says to Jaime. Brienne didn’t see where she came from, but now this person is standing beside him like she was invited to this conversation. “I’m good for it.”
“The best offer I’ve gotten this week is my cut being 97% and I still turned them down,” Jaime drawls.
The woman is too stunned to do more than look pissed off before she abruptly leaves and walks back into the hotel lobby without another word.
“As I was saying,” Jaime continues. “It went better than I expected.” He glances over his shoulder to where the dark-haired woman has met up with two other people. One of them is already holding up their phone to take a picture of Jaime. “Let’s continue this conversation as we walk?”
As they walk back to her place Jaime tells her a little more about his meeting with Tyrion.
“I’d tried to get in touch with him shortly after Cersei and I separated,” Jaime says. “For obvious reasons, he didn’t believe me and didn’t respond. Even today the first thing he said to me was to ask if it was true.”
“What did he say when you told him it was?”
“He said he never thought he’d live to see the day,” Jaime says. “Which is fair. More than fair, really.”
“Did you find out why he reached out when he did?” she asks.
“He mentioned he saw some of the pictures of me in King’s Landing,” he says. “I think that’s why he agreed to meet with me at all. For once there was photographic proof that I wasn’t with Cersei.”
He says it like this observation could be a joke, but there’s too much truth in it for it to be remotely funny. Not when he sounds so resigned to it.
“Tyrion still might never talk to me again but he didn’t completely rule it out. So that’s something. And at least I got to apologize to him for the hells I put him through,” Jaime says before he changes the subject.
Neither of them have the energy to cook or to brave a restaurant so they go straight back to her place and order in and pick something to watch far faster than they usually do.
They’re near the end of the movie when one of their phones buzzes.
When Brienne glances down to see if it was hers, she sees his phone on the couch between them lit up with a message from Tyrion.
Jaime frowns and picks up his phone. Then he swears under his breath.
Brienne is now fully watching him and not the movie because whatever the message was it wasn’t good. His phone keeps buzzing with incoming messages as he keeps typing and replying and then he looks at her and says “I’m sorry I’ve got to take this” as he stands to answer the incoming call.
Brienne wonders what has happened to have Jaime in her kitchen taking an urgent phone call but then her own phone buzzes with a text message.
Margaery has sent her a link.
Jaime and Cersei won an award tonight. The awards ceremony was in King’s Landing.
And Cersei was there to accept it.
There’s no video of it online yet. What there is the post Margaery sent her that includes highlights from Cersei’s acceptance speech. The pull quote is this:
“My beloved Jaime couldn’t be here tonight, but I assure you he’s looking forward to celebrating this with me. Once we’re back in Dorne of course.”
Jaime comes back from the kitchen and stands facing the couch without coming any closer.
“Uh,” he says when Brienne turns to look at him. “Something’s happened.”
When Jaime doesn’t continue Brienne asks, “The awards ceremony?”
“My friend texted me,” Brienne explains.
“So you saw what Cersei said?” Jaime asks. His voice is flat and hollow. “When she won?”
“Part of it.”
Jaime seems reluctant to rejoin her on the couch, so Brienne stands and joins him near the edge of the kitchen.
“If we have sex in King’s Landing we could be arrested for it,” he says before she asks. “If someone decides to press charges against us.”
“Would someone do that?” Brienne asks. Jaime and his sister are famous for what they did, but surely it’s old news now.
“My father would,” Jaime answers without hesitation. “And I wouldn’t put it past Baelish either. He’s a big porn producer,” he adds for Brienne’s benefit. “He tried to sign us after the first video. We didn’t sign with him. Or anyone for that matter. But we made his simulated step-sibling porn line far less valuable and he’s never forgiven us for that.”
“But you didn’t have sex in King’s Landing,” Brienne says. But then she realizes they did. There is already a tape of him and Cersei having sex in King’s Landing, she realizes. That’s why they left in the first place. “Not recently I mean.”
“The statute of limitations on pressing charges for incest between consenting adults is five years,” Jaime says. “I had my lawyers triple-check before I got on the plane to come see you the first time.”
“Your father would really try and have you arrested?”
“Without a doubt. He’d do it through someone else so he never has to acknowledge us as his children, but according to Tyrion he would take any opportunity to remove Cersei and me from the equation if he thought it would work without damaging himself any more in the process.” Jaime sighs. “Fifteen years in prison would certainly do that.”
“Fifteen years?” Somehow she’d never considered the potential legal consequences of what Jaime and Cersei did. With all the time she’s spent thinking about the ramifications of his incest porn, she’d never thought about that.
“That’s the maximum sentence. Who knows what they would actually try and do given Cersei and my history.”
Brienne is still wrapping her head around the possibility of fifteen years in prison when she loops back to, “But you didn’t have sex with her in King’s Landing this weekend. No matter what Cersei implies.”
“No,” Jaime agrees. “I didn’t have sex with her in King’s Landing this weekend.”
“Does she have videos of you in hotel rooms?” Brienne asks a little while later. She’s convinced him to come sit back down on the couch with her but he is still a bundle of tension and that must be why. “Is that what you’re worried about?”
Jaime exhales and then nods. “I don’t know if she would actually try and pass one of them off as us in King’s Landing but if she does… if people believe it…”
Arrested. At worst fifteen years in prison. The possibility of a public trial to prove the location of the filmed encounter. At the very least certain difficulty visiting King’s Landing whenever he chooses until the whole thing is sorted out.
“Why?” Brienne asks. “Why now?” She can’t imagine a reason Cersei would do such a thing. Surely Cersei is putting herself at risk by implying what she’s implying?
“She knows I’ve been spending a lot of time in King’s Landing recently,” Jaime says. “And she knows I’ve been seeing you.”
Brienne’s mouth has gone dry, “She knows about me?”
He nods, “She said something in passing when the lawyers had us sit down together.”
“Oh.” She tries to take this piece of information in stride, but it sits terribly. Just another complication she has no idea how to handle.
Brienne’s phone is buzzing, but whatever Margaery is saying, it can wait. “So what happens now?”
“Tyrion is trying to find out which hotel she is staying in. He has connections all over the place. He’s like my father that way,” Jaime says. “And if I know where she’s staying I can make sure I’m not seen anywhere near there until she’s back in Dorne.”
“Okay.” That sounds reasonable. Information is good. If Jaime can figure out where Cersei is right now he can stay away from her. And it is obvious he doesn’t want to be anywhere near Cersei right now.
“I’m not going to say anything publicly to contradict her,” he adds apologetically. “If I were to try and contradict her… it will just look like I’m trying to make sure we have plausible deniability and she might…”
Brienne knows they’re closer to talking about something they’ve never discussed before.
“We have a deal,” Jaime says quietly, finally. “Cersei and I.”
“What kind of deal?” She trusts Jaime. She does. Even now she does not suspect him of anything awful, but she still does not like the sound of this deal because of the way it sounds like it has cost him too much already.
“Cersei is… Cersei is… Cersei can be difficult,” he finally says. “The last thing I want to do right now is upset her. Not when we’re so close to being eligible for divorce and I thought…”
“We both stay quiet about the separation,” he says. “That was the deal. The marriage was private. The divorce will be private. That’s the deal.”
“And she gets to keep uploading videos?” Brienne asks. That must be part of the deal. His promise not to contradict the version of them she’s still selling to whoever will buy it in exchange for the promise of a quick divorce when the time comes.
“Yes. They were filmed with intent to release,” he says it like an apology. “It wasn’t worth the fight to try and stop her. I didn’t think she’d come here and imply that we—” He puts his head in his hands and groans.
“Fuck,” he says. “Fuck fuck fuck.”
“Stay here tonight,” Brienne says.
Jaime lifts his head out of his hands to look at her.
“You’re already here,” she reasons. “So stay here. That way no one will see you go anywhere.”
“I can’t impose on you like that—”
“You’re not imposing, I’m offering. Stay here tonight,” she says. “There are security cameras in the lobby. There will be footage of you arriving here well before the awards. And if you stay there will be security footage of you leaving tomorrow. You’ll have an alibi, no matter what your sister tries to say happened.”
“But you’ll be my alibi,” he replies quietly.
“Stay,” she says.
He looks at her for a long second before he says, “Okay.”
She gathers sheets and a blanket and a pillow and sets him up on the couch. He looks almost painfully grateful for the makeshift bed.
“It’s nothing,” she says. But she knows it’s not.
Okay. A few quick notes:
a) I am not caught up on comments. Forgive me. My goal was to get the last chapter up by end of day today and here it is.
b) There is a Jaime POV companion fic. It is not Jaime’s POV of the events of this fic and it isn’t super long, but it will surface soon.
c) Finally, before the last strands of dominoes fall, I just want to say thank you giving a fic with this premise a chance. It’s been a surreal experience posting this fic that I had long ago resigned to the ‘I will never finish or post it, but it was a good try’ category. This fic was hard to write and hard to post and I’ve been constantly blown away by the number of people who came along for the ride and how many feelings everyone is having about it, so thank you for that!
By the time Jaime leaves for Dorne at the end of the weekend the rumours about him and Cersei are at an intensity they haven’t been at in years.
On Monday night there’s a tweet from the onebodytwosouls account about how thrilled they are to be back in Dorne and how there will be a new video up on Friday.
By Wednesday everyone who cares is convinced that the Lannister twins filmed themselves in a hotel in King’s Landing and that’s what they are going to upload on Friday.
“They’ve never released a sex tape filmed anywhere other than Dorne,” Margaery is quick to point out when they meet up for drinks that night. “But if they really did—”
“They didn’t.” Brienne should just keep her mouth shut but she’s bored and annoyed by this conversation and she knows she owes Margaery a real explanation at some point but it won’t be now. She’s spent the last few days messaging Jaime as he prepares contingency plans while they wait to see what Cersei will do and she is not in the mood for this.
“How do you know?” Margaery’s full attention has snapped to Brienne.
Because he was with me the whole time.
“I don’t,” Brienne lies.
Margaery doesn’t look convinced.
Brienne is grateful to escape Margaery’s company for the time being.
It is both a blessing and a curse that Brienne hasn’t caved and told Margaery about Jaime.
On one hand, Margaery is more willing to believe that Brienne’s contact with Jaime has been at least somewhat limited. Brienne knows Margaery suspects many things are going on, but Margaery doesn’t actually know. Not beyond the fact that there’s a video of Brienne and Jaime in Dorne and a picture of them together in King’s Landing...
But on the other hand, Margaery is also fairly certain Jaime is still actively fucking Cersei in between the occasional contact he has had with Brienne. Which means she believes Brienne is casually chatting with and/or secretly dating and/or fucking the guy who she believes filmed himself having sex with his sister who he might be married to over the weekend (Margaery’s working theory about the exact nature of contact between Brienne and Jaime seems to change by the second) and there are times Brienne just wants to set the record straight but she can’t without unraveling the whole thing.
And Brienne isn’t ready to do that.
A video does get uploaded on Friday night. Jaime messages her to let her know about it shortly after it is posted. It is a video of Jaime and Cersei in a hotel room. It was filmed over a year ago in a hotel in Dorne.
The title and the description of the video do not say when or where it was filmed, but the implications are there.
Margaery calls her not long after about it and Brienne lets her monologue her theories about the origins of the video while she cooks dinner.
By Monday most people who care doubt that the video was filmed in King’s Landing after the awards show.
Unfortunately, they’re doubting it with the sort of attention to detail Brienne associates with solving crimes, not watching porn. She knows Margaery has sent her only the tip of the iceberg of the internet’s amateur detective work. People are disagreeing about the authenticity of the videos implied location, but there are pictures of Jaime in the airport in Dorne the Monday after so everyone assumes he was in King’s Landing over the weekend.
Brienne has also gathered from Margaery’s messages that the hotel video itself is very tame compared to a lot of other stuff they have posted. The set up is as simple as their first video, filmed by a single camera set down on a bedside table facing the bed. Apparently the lack of alternate angles is making it hard to analyze exactly how Jaime’s hairstyle compares to recent pictures of him, especially given how he has been wearing that stupid baseball hat in public so often lately.
Margaery is finding this all very frustrating.
Brienne cannot bring herself to feel bad about that.
How are you holding up? Brienne messages Jaime Wednesday night. Interest in the Lannister twins’ maybe-filmed-in-King’s-Landing video has not faded and she hopes he’s doing alright.
Fine. It’s not as bad as I feared it would be. How are you?
I’m good. Brienne replies. Then she adds, My friend might be close to losing her mind over it though.
Has she figured out it was filmed a year ago yet?
Brienne thinks of the manic energy the last dozen messages from Margaery had before she replies, The jury is still out.
Jaime is going to stay in Dorne this coming weekend. Brienne knows he doesn’t particularly want to because he has said so repeatedly, but he has some stuff to do on Saturday that has to happen on Saturday and he has a meeting with his lawyers Monday morning so it doesn’t make sense for him to come for a day and a half.
Besides, he adds, it’s probably for the best if I’m not seen in the airport right away.
Brienne knows he’s not wrong, but she still makes a point to tell him how much she’s looking forward to seeing him the weekend after that.
It was Myranda’s birthday on Wednesday so a bunch of people are going out for drinks on Saturday to celebrate it and Brienne can’t exactly avoid it so out she goes, to a particularly loud and crowded bar she has no desire to spend time in. She doesn’t know many of the people there and honestly that’s a relief because it means she doesn’t have to try and join the conversation much.
Margaery is there and she keeps trying to casually get Brienne away from the bulk of the party but Brienne remains right where she is and feigns rapturous interest in whatever story Myranda’s friend from college is telling right now.
Brienne knows she’s being stubborn at this point, but she’s not going to give Margaery the opportunity to get anymore information about Jaime out of her tonight.
Jaime texts her Monday afternoon to report that his meeting with his lawyers was awful. He isn’t keen to rehash the details, but it was bad.
She texts him a picture of one of the most outrageous artistic renderings of a long-extinct bird from the art gallery and that cheers him up a bit.
She and Jaime video chat for over an hour that night and end up playing a long distance game of war to get their minds off things. There are definitely apps for playing card games, but for whatever reason they’ve decided to do it this way, each of them holding the card they turned over from their own deck up to the screen and comparing.
It is both silly and boring until they both flip over a seven and proclaim “WAR” at the same time and when Brienne loses that particular battle (drawing a measly three to Jaime’s five) they have to try and figure out the logistics of how they’re going to keep track of how many cards they actually have in their stacks going forward.
Somewhere in the midst of Jaime asking about the system she’s using to regulate cards she’s lost to him to a separate pile on the table she realizes she’s just watching him and grinning instead of answering his question.
“What?” Jaime asks.
But Brienne knows she’s still grinning. She can’t help but appreciate that this on-screen Jaime, who is very seriously trying to figure out how best to play a stupid card game with her from miles away, is for her eyes only.
As the week wears on, Brienne finds herself thinking it would be nice to talk to someone about this. About Jaime that is. To be able to have a conversation that includes some version of her saying “I’ve met someone and I think that maybe it’s going really well” that wouldn’t snowball into what that conversation would become. Because the most-likely someone she would have that conversation with is Margaery.
Which is unfortunate.
Because even in her own head, Brienne can’t figure out a way to have that conversation and not have it be about everything. Because truthfully… truthfully…
Because Margaery will know it’s Jaime. Even if Brienne goes out of her way to try and make it sound like it’s not Jaime. Margaery will know. And that means Margaery will know. And if Brienne gives up even the slightest ground now Margaery will ask even more questions. More specific questions.
Questions Brienne isn’t ready to answer.
Because if Brienne admits that she and Jaime are almost dating, Margaery will ask why they aren’t.
And then Margaery will ask the normal questions. Margaery will ask if she likes Jaime and if she sees a future with Jaime and other stuff like that, but Margaery will also ask the other questions. Margaery will ask if Jaime is actually married to Cersei. She will ask if Brienne is really the only other woman Jaime has slept with. She’ll ask about the fuckbet and about evidence. Margaery will ask about the sex. Margaery will ask why they aren’t having sex now. Margaery will want to know everything about everything. And Margaery will ask how much it bothers her that so many people have watched him fuck his sister a gazillion times.
Margaery will ask if it bothers her that Brienne has watched him fuck his sister.
She’ll ask that directly. She’ll want to talk about it. And even the part of Brienne that knows that maybe it would be helpful to talk about that part with someone cannot handle the idea of talking it through with Margaery just yet.
Because even if she gets through that, sooner or later Margaery will ask if Brienne sees herself falling in love with him.
And then, because Margaery is Margaery and she’s always been able to read Brienne like a book, she will know that every day that possibility gets further from being a hypothetical question.
It always comes back to this, if Brienne admits she’s met someone, that she likes someone, that she’s (almost) dating someone, Margaery will assume it’s Jaime. And it is. It is Jaime.
And Jaime comes with his history, which Margaery knows enough about to ask more and there are things Brienne knows about Jaime that are relevant to her potentially dating him, but that aren’t public knowledge, so Brienne can’t very well talk her way through the potential pitfalls of dating a man in the process of divorcing his sister when the marriage in question isn’t public knowledge.
Brienne trusts Margaery not to report back to Seven knows exactly where on the internet Margaery has found the people who Really Care about what’s going on with Jaime and Cersei but there are still things that Brienne can’t tell her, just in case.
So Margaery is out.
No matter how many moments Brienne would like to talk to someone about this, it won’t be Margaery. Not yet.
And it won’t be anyone who is friends with Margaery, which rules most of the other options out of contention.
Brienne sighs. She doesn’t even know who she could talk to about something like this.
The therapist she used to talk to is retired (Brienne checked), and she’s put her name on the waitlist of several recommended ones to see if they’re a good fit, but that doesn’t help her right now.
Her work friends are work friends, and not one of them is someone Brienne would go to with a piece of information like “I’m kind of almost potentially dating a famous incest porn star. Can I talk to you about it?” Such questions are on a level of intimacy exactly no one at work qualifies for. That one night out for celebratory drinks with Pod was a fluke. He’s more a work friend once removed and she’s already told him as much as she’s comfortable telling him about the Jaime situation.
And as far as other people in her life she actually talks to on a regular basis, that basically just leaves her dad. And her dad is her dad. Any version of this conversation she’d have with her dad would exclude all mentions of the phrase “incest porn” leaving her talking to him about a guy she’s almost seeing who she really likes and who really likes her. Then her dad would say something like, “So what’s the problem kiddo?” and then she’d be not saying that the guy in question fucked his sister on camera about a thousand times and getting nowhere she hasn’t already been.
Brienne knows she’s on her own on this one.
It’s her decision. It’s been her decision for a long time now. And just like when Jaime first said that he wants to date her but he understands if his situation is a dealbreaker, she has to make that decision on her own.
How many videos of them are there? Brienne texts Margaery. She could look it up herself, but for her own sake she’s determined not to go anywhere near the parts of the internet where Jaime and Cersei are being discussed and Margaery has been very good about knowing stuff like this.
And which them are we talking about?
Brienne doesn’t answer. If Margaery thinks Brienne is at all confused about the fact that Margaery knows exactly who Brienne is asking about, she’s not going to clarify further.
A few minutes later Margaery sends her a text that says 603.
Brienne is not proud of the math she does, but if she estimates an average video length of less than ten minutes…
She’s spent more time with Jaime than there are hours of him and Cersei fucking each other on the internet. She’s only known him a few months but she’s spent more time with him than there are hours of him and Cersei fucking each other on the internet over ten years. And it’s not even close. She’s spent so much time with him already.
But those hours of content on the internet are public, and the rest is not.
No matter how much fun she and Jaime have together, no matter how much she wants to kiss him and date him and be with him, no matter how much therapy he has, no matter what, those videos exist and define him to the rest of the world.
By Thursday Brienne has come to the conclusion that it’s been too long since she saw Jaime. The last time he was in King’s Landing, Cersei was too and she hasn’t gotten to see him since. And even though the internet seems to have concluded that that video was not filmed in King’s Landing and that Jaime’s lawyers have confirmed that they can conclusively prove that he was nowhere near the hotel they now know Cersei was staying in even without a statement from Brienne, it’s been a stressful couple of weeks.
But he’ll be here on Friday. On Friday she’ll go to work and he’ll fly to King’s Landing and then go to his therapist in the afternoon and then by the time the sun is setting he’ll be here on the couch beside her and they’ll be putting the last two weeks firmly behind them.
He calls her when he lands and leaves her a message that she listens to twice over her lunch break. He sounds happier than he has in ages as he’s narrating his journey through the airport to her voicemail.
She texts him back, telling him how much she’s looking forward to seeing him that night.
When Jaime shows up at her door that night he looks at least as relieved to see her as she is to see him but he’s nowhere near as talkative as he was on her voicemail when they sit down and decide what food to order.
“I don’t regret it,” Jaime says out of nowhere as he’s washing the dishes after they’ve had dinner. “Put me back there as I was and I would do it all again. And I’m not going back to her and it wasn’t healthy for either of us for a long time, shit, maybe the whole time, but I don’t regret it.”
“No one is asking you to.” Brienne says, wondering where this is coming from. She knows Jaime had an appointment with one of his therapists this afternoon. She wonders if something that came up during that is what put him in this particular mood tonight. The Jaime who left her a rambling five minute message after his flight landed is not the one she shared dinner with. He wasn’t unpleasant, but he was more distant than she is used to. Something was bothering him. It seems this is it.
Jaime snorts. “My first therapist and most of the world would disagree.”
“Sounds like he was a shitty therapist.”
“He was. I have better ones now.”
Brienne nods, still watching him wash the dishes.
He falls back into silence as he rinses and dries. She’d offered to help earlier but he’d declined. She’d also offered to leave the kitchen entirely, to give him some space and time and whatever else he needed, but he’d shaken his head and asked her to stay. But only if she wanted to. He was very clear on that point. She didn’t have to stay nearby while he washed the dishes if she didn’t want to.
She gathers the last of the containers their food came in from the table.
“I don’t expect you to regret it,” Brienne says as she approaches him and he steps aside without looking at her to let her put them in the trash bag under the sink. “I won’t say I completely understand everything you’ve been through, but I don’t expect you to regret it.”
The glass in his hands is dry. It’s already dry but he’s still drying it, the dish towel in one hand as he rotates the glass in the other.
“I was in love with her.”
“Isn’t that worse?” he asks, his voice is very tight. “Isn’t that the worst part? It was never about the money. The life we had together… for a long time it was everything I ever wanted. I was in love with her.”
“I’m not anymore,” he says. “But I was.”
“Jaime,” she says quietly. “What happened today?”
He exhales before he answers, “Cersei called.”
“When?” she asks.
“What did she say?”
“She wants me to come back home,” he says. He is still drying the glass. “And that she loves me. That’s what she kept saying. She loves me.”
No wonder he’s been quieter than usual since he arrived.
“Shit,” he says, “I’m sorry.” He puts the very dry glass down on the counter and takes a shaky breath as he looks up at the ceiling and not anywhere near her. Then he leans forward and braces himself against the counter with both of his hands as he takes another breath. “I’m sorry.”
She takes a step closer and puts her hand on his arm.
“You don’t have to be okay with this,” he says. He’s looking at the sink, but she sees the way his gaze flicks to where her hand is on him and then away again. She brings her other hand to his shoulder and rubs it across his back. She can feel the tension in him thrumming in the muscles beneath his shirt.
“Jaime,” she says. “You know you don’t have to be okay all the time, right?”
He does not speak or nod or shake his head, but the little sound that escapes him…
“Hey,” she says as she moves her hand across his back, rubbing steady circles between his shoulder blades. “It’s okay.”
He’s shaking now, still holding himself against the counter with both hands.
“Fuck,” he says, still fighting back tears even though it’s too late, even though he doesn’t need to. “Fuck.”
“Jaime, it’s okay if you’re not okay.”
And then he stops trying to be okay.
When he turns to her he does so slowly, as if he’s waiting for her to recoil or step away.
She steps forward and hugs him instead.
They stand there in the kitchen like that for a long while.
“I mean it,” she tells him after he has stopped crying and stepped back. “You don’t have to be okay all the time.”
He nods, looking down at her hand holding his and not at her.
“Is it okay if I’m not sure I’ll ever be okay enough?”
“For what?” she asks softly.
He does not answer at first, nor does he look at her for a long while. Eventually he says, “I’m still waiting for you not to be okay with this. With me. With everything.”
“Jaime I…” she does not know how to reassure him because there is a part of her that does not know if she will ever be okay with everything but gods, she wants to be. “I really like you. You know that right?”
“I come to King’s Landing for you,” he says quietly. “Every time, that’s why I come here. I like getting to see my therapist in person, but I wouldn’t do it so often if it wasn’t for you. I want to see you, and I want to spend time with you, and I want to be with you, if you’ll have me.”
It’s her turn to nod wordlessly. It’s nothing she didn’t already know, but hearing him say it so plainly makes her hate that she’s still not sure if she’s ready to kiss him.
“Look, you don’t have to tell me anything and I know you won’t,” Margaery pauses here to shoot her a look that Brienne probably deserves from across the booth at the bar Brienne reluctantly agreed to meet her at Tuesday evening. “But you need to be careful. Between that video of you two in Dorne and the fact that you two have been photographed together more than once since—”
“I know,” Brienne sighs. She knows Margaery is trying to help but Brienne fucking knows.
“I just need you to understand,” Margaery takes a little sip of her drink here. “I know you’ve met up with him this weekend and I’m sure you’re going to do it again and even if you remain determined not to talk to me about it, I’m not the only one who has noticed.”
Maybe Brienne should tell her, but Brienne isn’t ready so all she says is, “Is that all?”
Margaery maintains her composure but Brienne knows her well enough to know the level of control it is taking for her not to jump at that comment because no, absolutely not. That is not all.
The following week Jaime comes straight from his appointment on Friday to her place. She got out of work a little late so he’s waiting in the lobby for her. She wonders if her upstairs neighbour happened to walk by while he was waiting. She wonders who else in their building has noticed him visiting her multiple times a month.
But Jaime smiles at her and says he missed her and she can’t bring herself to care what her neighbours think.
It’s warm and dark in her apartment when she realizes they both fell asleep on the couch before the end of the movie. She blinks and reaches for her phone, which then nearly blinds her when she checks the time.
Jaime is fast asleep on her couch and she doesn’t want to wake him.
Jaime is fast asleep on her couch and she is very aware of the part of her that wants to wake him to tell him to come sleep in her bed instead. It’s more comfortable than the couch.
If they were dating... if they were definitely dating and together she would wake him and lead him back to her bed.
But they aren’t. Not yet. But they could be. As soon as she decides she’s ready to be with him, she will be.
She puts her hand on his shoulder and wakes him.
Jaime blinks up at her with a sleepy smile, and then stretches like a disgruntled cat before he sits up and says he has no interest in spending the night in the clothes he wore on a plane.
She can’t argue with that, and before she knows what’s happening she’s following him to the door and watching him put on his shoes.
“I’ll call you tomorrow morning,” he says, one hand on the door. “If you want?”
By the time she’s changed and gotten ready for bed she’s awake enough to be thinking about Jaime and the whole situation and as she lies in her bed she’s so fucking tired of wanting him and not knowing if everything that comes with him is a dealbreaker.
She wants to kiss him. She wants to invite him back to her room. She wants to say she doesn’t care about what anyone thinks about him or her or the bet. She wants to date him and love him and fuck him and be with him. And she’s so tired of weighing the pros and cons because no matter what she lists and considers it always comes down to how much she likes him and how much she still wants to kiss him.
He calls her as soon as he wakes up, judging by how deep his voice is. Brienne pangs with the knowledge they could be having this conversation in person if she’d just been a tiny bit braver the night before.
They agree to meet at a place for brunch.
“Do you want to see my art gallery?” Brienne asks when they are both finished.
“When you say yours—”
“The art gallery I work at,” Brienne adds, rolling her eyes just a tiny bit when Jaime grins at her. “For the record, I do not own an art gallery.”
“If you say so.”
“I do,” Brienne says as she waves him off the bill the server brings indicating that it’s her turn. “Do you want to come or not.”
“Of course I want to. Are you sure you want me to come?”
“I wouldn’t ask if I wasn’t.”
Jaime nods, but he still looks a little startled by the prospect.
It’s only when they’re leaving the diner together to head to the art gallery that she considers the possibility that someone at work might care who he is in a catastrophic way.
It comes down to this. It always seems to come down to this:
She likes Jaime.
She liked him then, on the beach, in the water, on his fucking paddleboard, in her hotel room, in her bed. She liked him so much.
And she likes him now. She likes him more now. Even knowing what she knows. Even knowing it took him over a month to tell her about everything, he still did. Because he likes her and he knew she needed to know and he didn’t want to tell her over a text message. Because he fully expected it to be the end of whatever fun they were still having texting each other and he wanted to give her that out.
But it wasn’t. Because she didn’t know if it was a dealbreaker then, but now…
Brienne takes him to a side entrance and holds out her ID badge even though the guard greets her by name before she’s close enough for him to see her identification.
“One guest today?” the guard asks.
“Jaime,” Brienne confirms. “A friend from out of town.”
The guard welcomes Jaime to the art gallery and waves them through. Brienne glances at Jaime as he follows her down the hall.
“I just want to drop something in my office,” she tells him as they continue through the halls.
“Fancy,” Jaime says.
“Don’t get too excited,” Brienne warns him. “I share it with three other people. But it’s Saturday so they won’t be here.”
Brienne vows not to go full tour guide on Jaime. Jaime is not an entire class of grade school children to shepherd through the exhibit most relevant to their current art or history unit. She would have been quite happy to point out a few of her favourite pieces and let Jaime read the display cards of whatever he wishes. Jaime is, however, very keen to learn more about just about everything and it is clear from the first room they enter he prefers to have her tell him.
Sometime after his fifteenth question about how the art gallery chooses what pieces to display where and about who writes the descriptions beside each piece he says, “You can tell me to shut up. I know that this is the weekend and that this is your job.”
“You’re not bothering me.”
“Great,” he says, pointing over the plaque in front of a large sculpture of a wave in the middle of the gallery. “Can you tell me about that one?”
“I know I’m not allowed to touch the paintings,” Jaime says as they look at a piece with particularly pronounced texture. “But I need you to know how much I want to touch this painting right now.”
Brienne grins before she says, “Follow me.”
She takes him back into the basement and takes him to the Touch The Art room. Every other room in the art gallery has rules about not touching the artwork, but in this room guests are invited to touch the art. There are samples of different types of paint on different types of canvas and paper so people can feel the difference. There’s marble and granite and wood and different types of metal used for sculptures. There’s photo paper of different sorts and a variety of frames, from the ornate ones in the classical wing to the more simplistic modern ones, all set up so that everyone can touch as much of the art as they want to.
Jaime looks at her with wide-eyed delight before he heads straight for the bumpiest paint samples to run his fingers across them.
The room is one of her favourites to take people to, and Jaime does not disappoint. Brienne specializes in the kid’s programing, but she’s constantly amused by watching the way adults cautiously approach the exhibits in this room. Beside each is a sign that tells how many times that particular example has had to be replaced because of the damage constant human touch has, along with pictures showing what happens over time. She watches the way Jaime’s fingers trail across the smooth marble cube he’s now exploring.
Someone calls her name and Brienne turns to find Catelyn looking at her.
“I didn’t expect to see you here today,” Catelyn says.
“I’m not working,” Brienne says unnecessarily. “I’m just showing my friend around.” The word boyfriend is so close to the surface she feels it lodge in her throat as she gestures to Jaime.
Catelyn then turns to Jaime to introduce herself but the moment he looks up from the marble she looks like she’s seen a ghost. Catelyn proceeds to stumble her way through an agonizing hello, followed by a hasty excuse and an even swifter retreat.
Brienne waits for her to be out of sight before she allows herself to look at Jaime fully for fear that she will laugh and her boss will hear her.
“Well that’s an interesting piece of information,” Brienne says under her breath.
Jaime laughs and so does she and gods, of all the things she has been trying to be ready for, her boss being familiar with Jaime’s work was not one of them.
Once Jaime has touched all of the art in the Touch The Art room to his heart’s content, they aim to go back to the gallery they had left, but get distracted by the signs for one of the special exhibits that warns it contains sexually explicit material.
They both look at each other and race to get their joke out first, both of them variations upon the theme of wondering if the other can handle that sort of thing. The jokes probably aren’t as funny as they think they are, and Brienne is sure that the older couple who walks past them to get in to the exhibit while they laugh thinks they’re terribly immature, but Brienne is so fucking happy that she and Jaime can stand in her art gallery and covertly tease each other about Jaime’s history of creating sexually explicit material that no doubt makes the exhibit look tame.
As Jaime grins at her as they walk through the hallway to the exhibit together it dawns on her that she’s going to kiss him. Soon.
In the gift shop they put her staff discount to good use and buy a jungle birds paint by numbers kit that costs way more than it should.
They pick up dinner on the way back to her place and someone definitely clocks him because the woman does a cartoon-worthy double-take at the sight of him and averts her eyes as soon as she sees Brienne has noticed her looking and Brienne doesn’t care.
Brienne doesn’t care at all.
They sit at her coffee table and use the tiny cheap paint brushes to work together to paint by the assigned numbers. The box says ages six and up, which should probably make them feel a little ashamed of how much they struggle. To be fair, neither of them are adhering to the instructions with any consistency and their progress is further hindered by how distracting it is to have their increasingly paint-covered fingers so close to one another.
Unsurprisingly, Brienne isn’t overly concerned if the colour schemes of their birds exactly match the picture on the box.
She wants to kiss Jaime and she wants to date Jaime and she wants to be with Jaime and he wants all of those things too and it’s up to her to decide when she’s ready for everything that will come with that and fuck it.
She’s going to kiss him. She’s going to date him. She’s going to be with him.
Not because she knows for certain she is ready, but because she knows she wants to be.
She watches him put the touches on the flowers in the corner, his brow furrowed in concentration. He looks up at her and grins and she smiles back and knows she’s ready and she’s already said his name because that’s how ready she is to shift this conversation to what she needs to discuss.
Then her phone buzzes in her pocket and both she and Jaime reach for their phones at the same time.
Margaery’s tone is different this time, even in text form. There is no relish, no curiosity, no wry amusement in it.
There’s a new video.
Then she sends a screenshot. Brienne looks at it for just long enough to read the title before she looks over at Jaime.
Jaime is sitting beside her on the couch and he is looking at his phone.
He has gone very still.
Brienne looks from him to the screenshot Margaery has sent her and back again.
She doesn’t know what to say.
Jaime puts his phone face down on the table beside the little cups of paint.
Brienne still doesn’t know what to say.
“We had two bedrooms,” Jaime says evenly. “One was for filming.”
From what Brienne saw of the preview on her own phone, the new video wasn’t filmed in the usual bedroom…
“The other bedroom was for us,” Jaime continues. “It was ours.”
“Is that…” she’s seen the title of the video, she’s seen a screenshot. There is no sense pretending otherwise. “Is that really your wedding night?”
She doesn’t need to ask to understand that he didn’t know he was being filmed.
“Why would she—”
“We’re eligible for divorce next week,” Jaime says flatly. “Tuesday. We’re eligible for divorce on Tuesday.”
Another text from Margaery: Holy shit i can’t believe they’re actually married!
And then another.
Are you freaking out?! I’m freaking out. I can’t believe he’s fucking married to her and slept with you and you’ve been seeing him holy shit B you gotta tell someone you gotta let me tell someone holy askdjahsjkd
Brienne you have to talk to me.
You have to talk to me about this!
He’s actually married.
He is actually married? Isn’t he?
Brienne replies only, Yes.
Margaery stops typing for .2 of a second before:
And you’re sure?
You’re absolutely sure?
The video looks real but it could be a fake.
It could just be the title
Or another publicity stunt
How do you know for sure?
Her thumbs tap out her message and click send before she can bring herself to calculate a better answer than the truth: Because he told me.
Brienne knows she’s going to tell Margaery what’s been going on soon, but before she talks to Margaery about everything, she has to talk to Jaime.
Brienne puts her phone face down on the other side of the couch and turns back to Jaime.
“If you didn’t know you were being filmed…” Brienne says. The screenshot she saw looks more like the original security footage that someone tried to blackmail them with than any of the videos they have produced over the years. “If you never meant for it to be public, maybe you could get your lawyers involved and get her to take it down?”
Jaime’s laugh is hollow. “Even if I could, who would believe it? One video filmed without my consent when everything else was? No one would believe it. No one would care. And it’s too late anyway. It’s out there. It’s out there and everyone knows we’re married and fuck. Fuck.”
He runs his hands through his hair. Brienne doesn’t know what to say.
“The divorce will be public too,” he adds, resigned to his fate. “I thought… I thought I could convince her to do it privately. Like the wedding. I thought… I thought if I… I thought I could… But it’s going to be messy. And it’s going to be public.”
“I’m sorry,” Brienne says. She knows Jaime wanted the divorce to be quick. She knows how much he wanted to get it over with as soon as he could. He and his lawyers have been prepping for months.
“You should be with someone who doesn’t come with this,” he says. “All of this.”
“Hey,” she says. “I like you, remember?”
He sighs, “Even so. This is… a lot. This is too much. I’ll go. I’m sorry I…”
“Jaime,” she says. She’s shifted so she’s sitting right beside him. Her hand is on his shoulder. “Whatever happens next we’ll deal with it.”
“Brienne you don’t have to—”
Brienne puts her hand on the far side of his face and gently turns his head so he’s looking at her instead of his hands.
“Jaime,” she says. “It’s not a dealbreaker.”
Then she kisses him.
When she pulls back he’s looking at her like he can’t quite believe what just happened.
Then he reaches for where her hand is still touching his jaw, his fingers grazing hers as he starts to smile.
They’ve only just started to kiss again when a series of frantic knocks startles them apart and they both look towards the door.
Brienne is the one who reluctantly pulls herself away from him to get up off the couch and answer the continuing onslaught of knocks.
“You knew about this?!” Margaery exclaims as soon as Brienne starts to open the door. “He TOLD you about this!? And you didn’t text me back? What the fuck Brienne? What the FUCK. We need to talk about what’s going on with you and—”
Brienne opens the door further and watches Margaery’s expression change the instant she can see who is sitting on the couch in Brienne’s living room.
“Jaime, this is my friend Margaery,” Brienne says. “Margaery, this is Jaime, my boyfriend.”