Brienne walks into her first period class to find it empty except for three students. It takes her a moment to realize why. It’s prom day. Half of the seniors skip class on the pretence of having to get ready. The other half skip because everyone else is skipping. She’s a junior, but this is a grade twelve level class. Of course no one is here.
Well, almost no one. The two kids who attended so infrequently Brienne is surprised to discover they’re still registered for the class are here. And so is Jaime Lannister.
Brienne sighs and takes her seat. If she’d thought ahead she would have brought a book to read or her history notes to study to kill the hour before her next class.
The teacher comes in and seems surprised there are so many of them here. He’s got makeup tests for two of them, but it’s obvious he didn’t expect anyone else to show up. He looks from Brienne to Jaime like he’s apologizing for the fact that he can’t tell them to leave now that he’s seen that they’re here.
After weighing his options, he has the two other students go into the adjacent office to write their test.
“That way you can talk if you want to,” he says. Like she and Jaime have said more than 20 words to each other all semester. She’d just as soon sit in the class room in perfect silence while the others wrote the test than talk with Jaime Lannister. Hells, she’d take the test again to not have to spend an hour alone with Jaime Lannister. But Jaime has already shrugged his agreement and the other students have already picked up their bags and headed for the office, so what choice does she have?
Brienne digs through her bag for something to occupy the hour. She doesn’t have any homework with her to do, and her exams aren’t soon enough that she’s carrying notes around yet. She’s got her math textbook (not riveting reading material) and a novel she has to return to her English teacher in the afternoon, which she loathed. She’d rather read the math text book cover to cover than reread a single word of that book again.
“He said we could talk,” Jaime says after ten very quiet, very long minutes.
Brienne looks up from the piece of paper she had been aimlessly doodling on. “Do we have anything to talk about?”
She doesn’t ask this to be rude. It’s a genuine question.
“I don’t know. I guess not?” Jaime is still looking at her. “We could find something to talk about.”
“Like what?” They haven’t talked about anything before. Why would they start now?
He shrugs. “It was just an idea. We’re stuck here for another 45 minutes and you’ve already filled a whole page with spirals.”
She flips her sheet over. The back is also covered in spirals. Jaime grins.
“Why are you even here?” she asks. “Shouldn’t you be using prom as an excuse to skip like everyone else?”
He frowns. “I’m not going to waste any more time than necessary on prom. I don’t even want to go”
“So don’t go.”
He looks at her like he hadn’t considered this possibility. “Are you going?”
“It’s not my prom,” she says. “But I wouldn’t go anyway. Not my idea of a good time.”
“You’re not graduating this year?” he asks, somehow genuinely surprised to learn this piece of information in the last week of school.
“This is a grade twelve math class, isn’t it?” he says, looking around the room for clues as if he might have gotten that information wrong for the entirety of the semester.
“I’m taking some grade twelve credits this year.”
“Oh. Right,” he says. “I just thought…” That she was one of the many people in his grade that he didn’t talk to. Brienne doesn’t resent him for it. It’s fucking high school. She also talks to as few people as she can manage. She just has to survive one more year and then she’s gone. He’s almost already gone. Even she knows that he’s leaving for college at the start of the summer.
The silence between them returns.
She can hear the clock on the wall ticking away the seconds.
“They’re going to elect me prom king,” he says exactly forty-three minutes and four seconds later. He’s beautiful and popular, of course he’s in the running for prom king without even trying to be. She’s not sure why he sounds so morose about it. Then he adds, “To make us dance together,” and things click into place.
Even she’s overheard people talking about the plan to elect the Lannister twins as prom king and queen to make them dance together. That’s the tradition here: the prom king and queen open the dance floor by dancing together. Not with their dates, or with a partner of their choosing. Together. Because of course high school values tradition over consent. Rumours about the Lannister twins being too close predate Brienne’s transfer to the school in the middle of last year. Brienne never gave either the rumours or the Lannisters much thought. She didn’t have to. They were a year above her and they hadn’t had any classes with either of them until this semester, and because of their teacher’s insistence on seating the students alphabetically by last name, she and Jaime were not in range of each other, which was fine by her.
Besides, socially she exists on a whole other plane of existence than Jaime and Cersei. They are basically high school royalty. News of them travels fast and far. Everyone in the school knows that Cersei is going to prom with Robert. The rumours about the popular twins are just the kind of thing that happen when bored teenagers are kept in an enclosed space for too long. Like the rumour about the swimming pool in the basement and the secret hatch to the roof where students used to go to get high and fuck. Like the dozen or so other legends that seem to live in the halls without a whisper of truth. Still, she can see why it’s bugging him. An obviously fake rumour is one thing, but having to dance with his sister at prom couldn’t be his ideal night.
“I don’t want to go,” he says again.
“So don’t go,” she repeats. “It’s just prom. Don’t go. Do anything else instead. Rob a bank. Flee the town. Who cares?”
The bell rings so Brienne gathers her things and heads towards her history class without looking back at where Jaime is still sitting at his desk.
The rest of Brienne’s classes are grade eleven classes and therefore much more populated. By the time she’s leaving her last class of the day she barely registers that the halls are less crowded than they usually are.
She goes home. She has a snack. She makes a noble effort towards studying for her upcoming exams before she gives up for the night.
She’s weighing her options between making dinner and having a shower when the doorbell rings.
Jaime Lannister is standing on her doorstep in a fancy suit.
“What are you doing here?” Brienne asks, dumbfounded by the sight of him.
“I’m not going,” he says.
“What?” She knows she’s gawking at him in his suit but she can’t seem to stop.
“To prom. I’m not going.”
“Okay?” she says. He’s certainly dressed like he’s going. And if he’s not that doesn’t explain what he’s doing on her doorstep.
“Don’t go with me,” he says. “I’m not going. You’re not going. Let’s not go to prom together.”
“I…what?” she says, waiting for the punchline.
“I’m not going to prom. You’re not going to prom,” Jaime says, “so let’s not go together.”
She glances in both directions, waiting for people to leap out from behind the bushes to reveal the joke, to reveal that she’s the joke (she is always the joke), but no one does.
There is just Jaime. Just Jaime standing on her front porch dressed in his fancy suit asking her not to go to prom with him.
She waits as long as she can before she asks, “You’re serious?”
“Why wouldn’t I be?”
Because he’s Jaime Lannister? Because she’s Brienne Tarth? Because high school? Just because?
“How did you get here?” Brienne asks instead, looking into the street for a car she doesn’t recognize but all she sees is her neighbour’s obnoxiously loud truck parked where it always is.
“You walked?” She doesn’t know where he lives exactly but she knows it’s on the other side of town.
“Ran mostly,” he corrects. “Speaking of, I’m not sure I’m up to rob a bank in these shoes. The traction is terrible.”
“I have a car,” she hears herself say. “We could flee town if you want.”
She’s already sorry she said anything. She and Jaime aren’t friends. They’re half a step above acquaintances. Probably. If that. They have barely interacted beyond their conversation that morning that he apparently took to heart.
“Never mind,” she says quickly.
“No, I want to,” he says. And now he’s smiling at her. Fuck was she ever not ready for him to just casually smile at her. “Definitely.”
She doesn’t question it. She doesn’t think about it. She just grabs her keys from the bowl in the front hall, scribbles a note for her dad so he won't worry, and then goes outside to where Jaime is waiting for her.
If she had more time to think about what was happening she might be embarrassed about offering Jaime Lannister a ride in her car, because her car is an ancient minivan, but it’s too late for that so she walks around to the driver’s side as Jaime climbs into the passenger seat.
“You can say it,” Brienne says once she has pulled out of the driveway and down to the end of her street and neither of them have said anything and she’s already terrified they’re going to sit here in awkward silence for ten minutes and then even more awkwardly realize this was a mistake.
“Say what?” he asks.
“‘Nice ride’ maybe. Or ’Sweet minivan,’” she suggests with generous doses of sarcasm in his potential dialogue. She knows he and his sister each got a brand new car for their birthday. The whole school was talking about it for weeks, so she figures they may as well get the laugh over the discrepancy between their modes of transportation out of the way upfront. “Maybe ‘Is that a cassette deck?’ if you feel like it.”
“It’s a nice minivan,” he says.
Brienne rolls her eyes. “It’s burgundy.”
“Burgundy is a nice colour.”
“Maybe 15 years ago, but I have my serious doubts.”
“Hey,” Jaime says. “This gorgeous specimen of a minivan is currently my prom getaway vehicle.” He pats the dashboard reassuringly and stage whispers words of affirmation until they’re both laughing and Brienne is no longer worried about them making a single awkward lap of the block before realizing this was a mistake.
“So how’d you end up with the van?” he asks. “Did it call out to you on a used car lot like a three-legged puppy or something?”
“Nah. My dad passed it down to me after I got my license.”
“That’s nice of him.”
“He was glad to be rid of it,” she says. “I spent most of my life telling him he could ditch the van, but he never did.”
“My parents always wanted a big family. They couldn’t plan for all those kids without a minivan so, behold the minivan.” She gestures to their surroundings as dramatically as she can with one hand and Jaime snorts in appreciation.
“But you’re an only child?” Jaime asks and she nods because that’s easier than the real answer. “What happened to the van plan?”
“My mom died.” She’s not sure why she told him the truth. She doesn’t want to bring something that heavy into the van here with them. She doesn’t know why she did. It’s been years since it happened but it’s still hard to talk about her mom, so mostly she just doesn’t. It’s so much easier to just let everyone assume her parents are divorced. Lots of people’s parents are divorced. Hers aren’t, but lots of her classmates live with only one of their parents.
“It was a long time ago,” she says in a way that she hopes indicates that she’s fine and they don’t need to talk about it at all any further. It is just one of those things.
“I’m still sorry,” he says with quiet sincerity.
Brienne doesn’t want to talk about her dead mom so she just nods and focuses extra hard watching the cars whiz by while she’s at a light waiting to turn right. Surely by the time she’s waited to make the turn enough seconds will have passed to let any other topic come up.
But then Jaime says, “My mom died when I was a kid too.”
Brienne hadn’t known that about him. She knew he and his siblings lived with his dad. She wasn’t even sure how she’d come to know that, but it was common knowledge at the school. She’d always assumed his parents were divorced.
“I’m sorry.” She feels like she should have something better to say, but she doesn’t.
“It’s okay,” he says. “I don’t… I don’t want to talk about it or anything.”
“Yeah.” She exhales and relaxes her grip on the steering wheel a little. “Me neither.”
“Mind if I turn on the radio?” he asks.
He fiddles with the dial first, and then rotates through her presets, stopping on the third one with a nod of approval.
“You didn’t grow up around here.” Jaime says when the station takes an ad break and he turns it back down low.
It’s not a question, but she answers anyway. “No.”
“I would have remembered if we went to grade school together,” he says with a little smile. “You stand out in a crowded hallway, Brienne.”
She blushes. She’s been a head taller than her classmates for almost as long as she can remember and it has not made her life any easier. “I moved here last year.”
“I did a project on the Island of Tarth in the second grade,” he says as if he’s announcing that he scored the championship-winning touchdown or has recently been nominated for a Nobel prize.
She grins in spite of herself. “Ah, so you’re an expert then.”
“It was mostly about swimming and how to avoid the shark infested waters while also swimming, because people on Tarth like to swim. Do you like to swim?”
“The waters aren’t shark-infested—”
“Sounds like you like swimming,” Jaime replies as he looks over at her. “And that I am in fact an expert on Tarth.”
They’re stopped at a red light so she has no reason not to glance over at him before she admits, “I love swimming.”
Jaime cheers and she tells him not to let it go to his head and then the car behind them honks its horn because the light has turned green again.
“Do you miss it?” Jaime asks after they’re moving again.
“Yeah. And Tarth”
“Of course.” She misses the island every day. The sun sparkling on the water. The water. There was so much water. She misses the sound most of all. Lying in her bed at night with the window open so she could hear the ocean. She misses that almost as much as she misses her mother and her brother.
“Why’d you move?”
She shrugs and drums her fingers absentmindedly on the steering wheel. “Money.” But she doesn’t want to dwell on that so she adds, “So where are we headed, Jaime?”
“Anywhere but here.”
“That we can do,” she replies and then takes the next left.
“Did you grow up here?” she asks.
“Mostly,” Jaime says, the previously light tone of his voice darkening. “Yeah.”
Brienne’s only been here a year and a half, but she already wants to leave. It’s so different from her hometown, where she could walk everywhere. Here it feels like anywhere worth going requires a car to get there, and the list of places she wants to go to is not long. She can’t imagine what it would have been like to be a kid trapped here. She says something to that effect to Jaime after she merges onto the highway.
Jaime agrees, saying how much he’s looking forward to getting out of here for college, but then he sighs. “I guess it wasn’t so bad. My family owns property out west. My father always calls it ‘The Estate,’” Jaime sneers. “So it could be worse. At least I didn’t grow up in that museum.”
“That bad, huh?”
“At least you’re leaving soon.” She’s aiming for reassuring but some of her jealousy seeps in too. He’s out of here in a matter of weeks while she’s still stuck here for a whole other year.
“Yeah,” he replies, but he doesn’t sound super thrilled about that either so when he changes the topic she’s more than happy to follow him.
They pull into a rest stop on the side of the highway and Jaime offers to pay for gas, but she refuses. He takes this in stride, but he does insist on dragging her into the gas station store by the wrist and demanding to know her top five road trip snacks and drinks. She picks a small bag of twizzlers and a drink, but Jaime looks at her modest choices and then questions her about her favourite flavours of potato chips, and what candy she likes, and which chocolate bar she always wishes a vending machine would accidentally give her two of for the price of one and by the time they’re heading back to the van it is with three bags full of road trip provisions.
Back on the road they start to make a dent in the rations. He opens the bag of twizzlers for her and then puts a stick of liquorice in her right hand as she keeps her left on the wheel.
It goes like this for a while, with him seemingly determined to sample one of everything they bought and wanting her to join him on this taste adventure. She gamely tries most of the snacks and politely declines some of the more disgusting artificially flavoured foods he offers her, but when he tells her she’s got to try the concoction of a slushy he made before it melts completely she holds out her hand to accept the offered cup with curiosity instead of fear.
The slushy is almost horrifyingly sweet, but it’s also weirdly delicious.
When she tells Jaime that it wasn’t nearly as gross as she expected as she holds the cup back to him he leans over and sucks a long sip from the straw while she’s still holding it.
“You can have the rest,” he says with a grin.
“You’re so thoughtful,” she says, laying the sarcasm on thick as she puts what remains of the slushy in the cupholder on his side of the console between them. (She reaches for it before long, and Jaime only teases her for it a little.)
And it’s nice. It’s nice to be driving and consuming a ridiculous assortment of snacks with someone with no real destination in mind. She wonders if this is what her dad had in mind when he gave her the van. When she was a kid he’d always been so hopeful she’d be able to fill it with friends, the crowd of siblings she didn’t have, and he’d be able to take them all on adventures together.
It didn’t happen when she was a kid, and it hadn’t happened when she was old enough to drive the van either. Hells, she and her dad had taken the back seats out to move a bookshelf months ago and she’d had no reason to put the seats back in so she just didn’t. Instead all that is back there is the towels they’d used to protect the bookshelf along with the emergency kit her dad had given her when he’d given her the keys.
But then a particularly good song comes on and Jaime turns it up a few notches so they can properly sing along, and the van feels a lot fuller than it ever did before.
By now the election results for the prom high court must have been announced which means that in all likelihood Brienne is sitting here with Jaime Lannister: Prom King. If he’d gone he’d be wearing a plastic crown and being forced to dance with his sister right now to open the dance floor for the amusement of his classmates instead of sitting in the passenger seat of her minivan as the lines on the highway guide them further and further away from what they’re escaping from.
After the sun has set and they’ve grown weary of the snacks, with the exception of the water bottles Brienne had wisely insisted they buy, they slide into slower conversation as the radio fills the companionable moments of quiet between them.
“The rumours. They’re true,” Jaime says, breaking one of the longer silences between them.
“What rumours?” The radio is quiet, but the lull of the road and how long she’s been driving make her assume she missed something.
“The rumours,” he says. “The ones about me and Cersei.”
Her stomach lurches with horror. With disgust. “Oh.”
She’s afraid to ask for clarification. Because if she asks he might tell her and even now she wants it not to be true. There’s only one rumour that he could possibly be talking about like this. She’s got both hands on the steering wheel and is watching the road with an intensity she hasn’t used since her driving test. But she has to say something, so she says “Oh” again.
“Why did you tell me that?” She can’t fathom a reason Jaime fucking Lannister would sit here in her fucking minivan and tell her it’s true he fucked his—
“Because,” he says. He glances at her from the passenger seat. His feet are propped up on the dash and he would look the picture of summer road trip vibes if it wasn’t for what he is saying. “Because it’s true.”
“I don’t know what to say.”
He shrugs, then turns so he’s looking out the window. “So don’t say anything.”
She doesn’t say anything.
“Does anyone else know?” She doesn’t remember choosing to speak, but she did.
Jaime scoffs. “No.”
“Why?” she asks. She doesn’t know why she asks it. She doesn’t know why he told her. He doesn’t know why she’s still asking about it. She doesn’t know why he’s skipping prom or why they’re in her shitty minivan together or why they were having such a good time until he told her that—
“Why doesn’t anyone else know?” he repeats back to her in disbelief. “Or why did we—”
“The second one,” she interrupts. It’s pretty fucking obvious why no one else knows. She wishes she didn’t know.
He sighs. “Is there a reason that would make it okay?”
“I don’t know.” She thinks about it. She hates that she’s thinking about it. She hates how much effort she’s putting into forcing the image of him and his sister together out of her head and that it’s not working. “I guess not.”
“I was in love with her,” he says to the passenger-side window. “If that matters.”
She chances a glance at him.
She has no idea if that matters.
The silence between them is less comfortable now. She thinks maybe Jaime dozes off for a while there, but she’s not certain.
She listens to the radio and drives.
“Get off at the next exit so we can switch,” Jaime says. “If you want.”
She’s yawned at least three times in the last few minutes so it’s probably a good idea. She hadn’t planned for this trip to be as long as it has already been, and they haven’t even turned around yet so she gets off the highway at the next exit and pulls into the first parking lot she sees.
Once they have switched spots, Brienne pushes the passenger seat back as far as it will go so she can stretch out her legs before she puts the seat back. Jaime’s already figured out how to get the van in gear and has pulled out of the parking lot, so it’s not like he needs any help. Besides, she isn’t going to fall asleep, she’s just going to give her brain a break from having to focus on the road.
She wakes up when the minivan comes to a full stop and the engine is turned off.
“Where are we?” she asks as she blinks against the small but blinding light that’s clicked on overhead.
“I dunno,” Jaime replies as he opens his door. “Some lake. Lets go check it out.”
The summer air is warm, even in the middle of the night, as they walk towards the edge of the lake. There’s a skeletal silhouette of a playground visible much further down the shore to their left, and the lake is calm. Even without the roar of waves Brienne associates with the ocean, her heart twinges with homesickness with every gentle lap the lake makes against the rocks.
As soon as they’re within ten feet of the lake Jaime strips down without hesitation, unbuttoning his shirt and casting it aside before he continues towards the shore as he undoes his belt. He hops out of his pants without breaking stride as Brienne averts her eyes to the stars above as soon as she catches a glimpse of his bare ass. She hears the splashes he makes as he runs out into the water.
“C’mon,” he says again as he wades further out. He’s in the lake up to his waist now so Brienne figures it’s safe to look at him. “The water’s fine! I’ve had baths colder than this.”
“You have not,” Brienne counters but she takes a few steps towards the lake anyway.
She takes off her shoes and then peels off her socks and tucks them into her shoes. She’ll put her feet in, just walk in the shallows. She’s not going to swim.
“It’s dark,” Jaime adds from where he’s now treading water some twenty feet from the shore. “If that’s what you’re worried about. And I won’t look. I’ll turn around and everything.” He demonstrates by twirling so he’s facing the opposite shore.
“I…” Brienne would be lying if she denied that being a factor. Jaime’s body would be at home sculpted in marble on display at a museum and sold in gift shops as magnets. Hers is a mismatch of things people go out of their way to avoid, a dozen varieties of Before pictures blended together. But even so, the water calls to her. How long has it been since she got to go swimming? It would have been before she moved, back when the ocean was her second home.
Her feet are in the lake. The water feels warmer than it has any right to. She could leave her underwear on, but then she’d have to drive the whole way back without them and she’s not about to sit in the van for another five or six hours without underwear.
Brienne sighs. Jaime is already naked. Naked in that shameless way she will never be when she’s naked. Or clothed for that matter. If she was half as beautiful as him she might feel comfortable undressing at the drop of a hat. She’s not sure what she thought she was signing up for when she suggested a drive, but whatever it was it had not included a naked Jaime in a lake.
“I know it’s not the ocean,” Jaime says, “but it’s better than nothing.”
Brienne can’t argue with that. She takes a deep breath and pulls off her shirt.
She undresses and Jaime doesn’t turn around. She watches the back of his head as he treads water facing the opposite shore. He keeps talking though. And she keeps replying. And all the while he knows… He knows she’s undressing behind him.
It is dark though. Very dark. She is grateful for this as she summons her courage and removes the last of her clothes and rushes into the water, afraid that the noise will make Jaime turn around before she can get her body below the surface.
He doesn’t turn around. He’s still treading water a little ways out, facing the other way as she lies flat on her stomach on the surface of the shallow water and swims out towards him.
He doesn’t turn around until Brienne splashes him hello.
They splash at each other for a while, shouting and laughing in a way Brienne hasn’t in a long time.
Eventually they call a truce and as Brienne treads water under the stars across from Jaime, she finds herself wondering if she’ll ever stop thinking of Tarth as home.
Now that Brienne’s in the water, she doesn’t want to leave, and Jaime is in no hurry to stop swimming.
They talk about this and that. She tells him about the first time she camped out alone. He tells her about the only time he went to summer camp as a kid, a camp he failed to mention to his father was a rock band camp.
It’s well into the early morning, so she can’t help how hard she’s giggling at every description of his stage persona and outfit and his father’s discomfort at having to sit through the final concert when he came to pick him up at the end of the week.
Each burst of laughter carries across the lake and bounces back at them but mostly they keep their voices down, as if even the trees shouldn’t overhear the fun they’re having.
They stay in the lake for a long time.
When they’re cold enough to head back to shore, it’s very dark and Brienne’s too tired to care so she just walks out of the water before she remembers to be self-conscious.
“There are towels in the van,” she says to explain why she isn’t rushing to pull her clothes over her wet and naked body as shivers. “We can dry off at least.”
She holds her clothes in front of her with determined casualness. She’s not quite looking over at Jaime as he collects the scattered pieces of his prom suit, and he’s not quite looking back at her, as if they’re both very aware of their naked proximity to each other on the land in a way they weren’t when they were in the water.
They walk back to the van together, keeping their distance a little and not saying much beyond the occasional expletive when the breeze hits their wet skin. She digs the key out of the pocket of her shorts in the bundle of clothes she’s holding to open the hatch and once they are warmer and drier with towels wrapped firmly around their bodies it is much easier to speak.
Once they are dressed they talk about what to do next. They’re both too tired to try and drive all the way back home tonight, and it’s so late that trying to find a motel seems stupid and futile, so they opt to sleep in her van.
They bunch his suit jacket and the shirt she had flung behind the driver’s seat weeks ago into makeshift pillows and there’s a single blanket that she digs out of the the emergency kit that they end up agreeing to share because they’re both too stubborn to accept it when the other person graciously insists they don’t need it.
It’s not exactly comfortable lying on the floor of the back of her minivan, but it’s a whole lot better than being propped up in the front seats and it’s not exactly cold but she is wearing shorts and her hair is still damp from the lake so she is grateful for her half of the blanket covering them both.
It’s so late that they both fall asleep before long anyway.
They wake with the sun, bleary-eyed and fuzzy-headed from being conscious so soon after they dozed off.
Part of Brienne wants to swim again, but she’s hungry and while they still have an impressive stash of snacks left from yesterday, she needs something more substantial than junk food for breakfast and she’s going to need caffeine for the drive home. When she suggests finding somewhere that will serve them coffee Jaime looks like it’s the greatest idea he’s ever heard.
They roll into the first diner they come across not long after. Jaime is wearing pieces of his prom suit, all of which look like they were ripped from his body with haste and then thrown to the ground. Her clothes aren’t in much better shape after spending quality time on the muddy shore of the lake. They both look rumpled and like they slept very little.
“I remember my prom,” the waitress says fondly as she shows them to a booth in the corner and places menus in front of them. “Prom night rather.”
Brienne feels herself flushing at the assumption the woman is making about them as Jaime asks for coffee for them both. As if she and Jaime Lannister would ever have the kind of prom night the woman is imagining. It’s not like she can blame her though. Under the unforgiving fluorescent lighting she and Jaime look even more disheveled than she thought. They don’t look like they slept in their clothes in the back of a van. They look like they spent the night fucking in the woods. Not that she has any idea what that state looks like, but she can only imagine that she and Jaime are very close to it.
“Sure thing,” the woman says. “I’ll be back to take your orders as soon as you’re ready.”
If Jaime is alarmed by the assumptions the woman is making about them he doesn’t mention it.
They alternate between easy conversation and comfortable silence as the radio plays when they begin the journey home in earnest. They’re both fucking tired so they switch drivers every hour, but before long they need caffeine reinforcement. Jaime’s driving at the time so he pulls into the next rest stop so they can get another coffee, but they change their minds and head for the picnic area and crawl into the back of the van to sleep for a couple of hours instead. She leaves the hatch open to let the breeze in so they don’t melt, which is successful enough to make it pleasantly cool in the back of the van. They’re too tired to fight about blanket chivalry, lying down close enough to share without mentioning it as Jaime spreads the blanket over them both.
When Brienne wakes from her nap Jaime is already up. He’s sitting on a picnic bench on the grass behind where her van is parked and when she extracts herself from the van and sits down across from him he smiles at her.
His prom outfit is thoroughly disheveled and his hair looks exactly like he rolled out of the trunk of a van and he still wears it so well she can barely look at him in the full light of day.
That doesn’t stop her from agreeing to return to the picnic bench after they’ve acquired caffeinated beverages and sitting there with him in the afternoon sun until long after their paper cups are empty.
“Where do you want me to drop you off?” Brienne asks when they’re back on familiar roads.
In the passenger seat Jaime seems startled by the question, a long “uhh” precedes his answer of “My place I guess?”
She nods and tells him to give directions as necessary, and when he tells which light to turn at she can’t help but think about how strange it is to be driving towards a specific location with Jaime.
He points out the giant mansion of a house on a street full of other similarly monstrously sized homes and she stops in front of it. If this is his family’s quaint house, she can’t fathom what ‘The Estate’ Jaime hates so much is like.
Jaime turns around in his seat to reach into the back of the van to grab his balled-up suit jacket before he sits back down and looks right at her. “Thank you for not going to prom with me, Brienne.”
“I hope your family isn’t too mad you didn’t go,” she replies. She almost said ‘your sister’ but she caught herself before she did. She’s still not sure what to do with what Jaime told her about him and his twin and how he used to feel about her and what that must have been like with all the rumours at school and everything, but she certainly doesn’t want to bring it up now.
He shrugs. “It doesn’t matter if they’re mad. And my sister is gone for the weekend anyway so…”
“Right,” Brienne says. She’d forgotten all about the post-prom camping weekend that she’d heard people talking about. Now that she’s thinking about it, she’s pretty sure that the Lannisters had rented some massive cabin somewhere for it. A massive cabin that Jaime didn’t go to and instead spent the night in the back of her ancient minivan with her.
“Anyway, thanks again,” Jaime says before he gets out of her van. But then he puts his arms on the open passenger side window and leans down so he can look at her again. “I’ll see you around.”
But when he grins and steps away from the car to watch as she drives off, Brienne knows he won’t.
In a few weeks he won’t be around to see.
Brienne tells no one about their impromptu road trip, not even when speculation about where Jaime Lannister: Missing Prom King had been that night is at its peak. No one would believe her if she did tell them, and she doesn’t want to share it anyway. She barely lets herself dwell on it, as though if she thinks about it too much the memories will wear out. So she tucks that night away, like a particularly pleasant dream she once had, or a favourite book from her childhood, or like something else as impossible as Jaime choosing to spend his prom night with her.
A year passes.
And if during that year Brienne comes to the tragic conclusion that she’s at least a little in love with Jaime fucking Lannister, there’s not much she can do about it. Having a crush on him was practically a rite of passage at their school, so of course she goes through it the year after he’s graduated. It’s inconvenient, but she manages.
Then it’s prom night again. Hers this time. She’s not going. Why would she? Still, as she allows herself to enjoy the relief that comes with knowing she’s not subjecting herself to the horrors of prom, she lets herself think back to this night last year. The two of them on the road, in the lake, in the back of her van, in the diner, on the road, on the road, on the road. It hadn’t been her prom night then, but it feels like hers now.
The doorbell rings.
Jaime is on her doorstep wearing a suit and looking at her like they planned this, which they haven’t. Of course they haven’t. They haven’t seen each other in a year. They haven’t spoken in a year. His hair is longer than she remembers it being. He is more beautiful than she remembers him being. She’s more in love with him than she remembers being.
“Apparently it’s prom night again,” he says instead of hello. “You going?”
“No,” she says. Her heart is racing because he’s here in front of her. She knows she’s staring at him, openly drinking in the sight of him. She never thought she’d see him again. She never allowed herself to hope she’d see him again.
“Me neither,” he says with a little grin. “Want to get out of here?”
She knows she’s smiling now but she can’t help it. “Yes.”
He smiles. He smiles like he was afraid she was going to say no.
“To that lake again?” Brienne asks.
“No,” he says. “To the ocean.”
“That will take—”
“Days,” he says. “Yeah, I know. Wanna go?”
Brienne does. She absolutely does.