Note: This was supposed to be a Jaime/Brienne college AU drabble...

Definitely failed on that, but hopefully this fic will be fun for you guys anyway!

The Higher Education of Brienne of Tarth

Brienne decides that someone up there has to be screwing with her. There's no other way that this vile, arrogant human being could end up in so many of her classes.

There's no other way two people who could barely stand each other would end up being forced to work together on so many assignments. This was college, for god's sake. She thought this forced collaboration stuff was supposed to end in high school.

Clearly, there had been some malicious divine intervention at work here.

There's no other way she would be forced to endure such cruel taunts and japes, the kind of rude and immature things she thought she'd heard the end of with her high school graduation.

By her junior year, she realizes she hasn't gone a single semester without having that vicious jerk in at least one of her courses. Though she'd never done a thing but glare at him when he talked over the professor, it seemed as though from day one, Jaime Lannister was determined to make her life a frustrating, confusing mess.

In Comparative Literature during her freshman year, they get randomly paired up for a presentation.

Jaime misses every single one of their scheduled appointments, and she ends up doing all the work herself.

On the day of their presentation, she is filled with disgust at what a doormat she is, because she gives him note cards with a deep analysis of Edgar Allen Poe's greatest works and a brief run through of what she came up with.

Even though he saunters into the lecture hall two minute before they're supposed to get up in front of the class, he doesn't look remotely stressed, but her heart is pounding and her palms are sweaty.

Of course, he reads the notes she prepared beautifully, even ad-libing a few charming jokes, while Brienne stammers through the notes she wrote and drops her index cards and endures the stifled giggles of their classmates and his arrogant smirk.

In Psych 101, he obnoxiously psychoanalyzes her during every class. Most of his assessments are intentionally ridiculous ("Ah, gender identity disorder! This explains so much about you and your clothing choices!) but some are so astutely accurate she has to turn away so he won't see the tears in her eyes and has to grit her teeth to keep them from falling.

In Chem Lab during sophomore year, he blows things up on purpose. When the T.A. turns around in horror to demand an explanation, Jaime shakes his head sadly and says "The poor girl can't help having such clumsy, enormous hands!" and Brienne has to breathe deeply and count to ten in order to avoid plunging a test tube into his neck.

The semester after that is Intro to Moral Philosophy, which is all about class discussions. Brienne really loves the course, but rarely participates. She's never been great at forming eloquent words on the spot. She's an attentive listener and takes it all in. But she never joins in, because she feels slow and awkward whenever she talks in front of a large group, and she likes to take her time to plan what she says.

But when, Jaime, who usually sits there looking haughty and bored, pipes up one day mid-semester and says something that is just soblatantly wrong, she finds herself speaking up to set him straight, fury wrought across her plain features.

He spits something biting back at her, and before they know it, they've entered such a heated debate that the rest of their class can only watch, stiffling awkward giggles at the intensity.

The professor lets it go on for longer than usual, perhaps because he's always graded her papers with comments like, "A + work, Ms. Tarth- Your writing never ceases to amaze me- I only wish you would share some of these thoughts with your peers during discussions." Eventually though, he cuts them off and starts to call on other people.

Jaime approaches her after class, his jaw set, seeming determined to continue the conversation.

"Look, Tarth, I see what you were trying to say back there, but you're living in a bloody fantasy world if you think that wishy-washy philosophy has any real world weight!"

His eyes are sparkling with annoyance and passion and a part of her wants to spit back at him, but she notices people staring at them and thinks back to all the horrible things he's said to her and she just wants this conversation to end. A guy like that will never change, no matter what argument she gives him.

"You just view the world in such a black and white way. Real life doesn't work like that. Real people don't work like that! You're so...you're so...naive, is the polite word for it," Jaime was saying as he jogs backwards down the hall, trying to keep ahead of her.

"If you don't get out of the way, I'm going to knock you out with my economics textbook," she says flatly, holding him up to show him the size of it.

He looks her up and down, and takes a step back. She's taller than him. Not by much, perhaps, but he also knows she's in the boxing club and gives her muscular arms a glance as well.

"Fine. Stay ignorant," he says, looking almost disappointed.

He turns around and heads in the opposite direction.

In Studio Art the following semester, he scowls at his shitty painting, throwing down his brush and says "This blasted thing is even uglier than you." and laughs his head off when she overturns a can of blue paint on his head, making her angrier than ever.

"Okay. I deserved that. I definitely deserved that," he says, still chuckling as he wipes paint off his face and out of his hair. Then he glances at her still life and says, "You know, you're a pretty good artist. I like the way you shaded that bit there. It really makes it jump off the page."

Brienne grunts and turns her back on him.

In Medieval Studies, first semester of junior year, Jaime overhears her telling Renly Baratheon that she collects swords and is quite good at using them.

He looks utterly overjoyed and asks her what her favorite type to wield is, his gorgeous green eyes sparkling with what looks like delight.

She thinks he must be messing with her. That this is some new, twisted ploy to ruin her life.

But when the professor explains their assignment, Jaime throws his hand up to claim her as a partner.

He announces loudly, without so much as consulting her, that they will be choreographing an authentic medieval sword fight together. The professor claps her hands in delight and marks it down before Brienne can even comprehend what is happening, or deal with the absurdity of the idea that this haughty asshole could have such an unconventional hobby.

When they meet later that week to practice, Brienne is so confused by him choosing her, as well as actually showing up on time for their appointment for once, that she is a lot more forceful with her blade than is strictly necessary.

She hits hard enough that she knows he'll be bruised, but though he mutters 'ouch' often, there's a sort of joyful glint in those emerald eyes she hasn't seen before.

They get an A on the assignment and the professor asks them to come back next semester for a repeat performance for her new class.

In Wine and Beer Appreciation, (which she only signed up for because Renly goaded her into it, promising it would be awesome), Jaime makes his way over to her during the very first class.

She's standing on her own because Renly and Loras are off giggling in a corner together, already tipsy from pre-gaming in their apartment.

She feels awkward as hell because she doesn't know anyone besides them, and she's embarrassed that she actually put effort into her outfit tonight and Renly's barely even looked at her.

"What are you doing?" she asks Jaime suspiciously when he comes up to her holding two glasses of an ambery, locally-brewed craft beer and hands her one.

He shrugs. "Don't know anyone else in this class. My drunk of a little brother made me sign up, and had to drop it at the last minute."

They stand together awkwardly, sipping their beers.

Jaime says he thinks they should go more dramatic for their sword-fight they are planning for this semester's Medieval Studies class, and suggests getting together to practice soon.

She agrees though she doesn't meet his eyes as she does. It's become more difficult than ever to be around him, now that he's toned down his insults and is almost...nice to her sometimes.

She's not sure which of them is more surprised when he glances over at her during a pause in their professor's discussion of hops and mumbles, "That sweater's nice. Really brings out the color of your eyes."

She drops her glass to the floor in shock at his words, but his eyes widen like saucers as soon as he realizes what he's said.

They both bend down to pick up the shattered pieces and she mutters, "Thanks," not sure if she's thanking him for the compliment or helping her pick up the glass.

He shrugs, not looking up from the pieces of glass he's collecting.

They get together a couple of times to practice for their sword demonstration and Brienne has to admit that he is really, really good at it. Without a doubt the best she's ever sparred with.

She finds herself looking forward to the practices more and more each time. Usually they end up powering through their choreographed moves pretty quickly and just smashing their swords together for a few hours afterwards.

Sometimes they take breaks to hydrate, and they talk about the coolest swords they've seen, or compare notes on their favorite historical warriors.

When she goes on a tirade about Boudica, he rolls his eyes a lot, but he smiles as he does it. It's a weird smile, one she's never seen him wear before. It's not mocking or cruel. It's almost...fond.

When she notices, she trails off from her recounting of a fierce battle, embarrassed.

"Sorry, I'm rambling," she blushes.

"No," he says firmly. "Keep going."

So she does.

One day after practice as they're packing up their gear, he says, "You know, we should get together to spar once in awhile, even after this performance is over. Ever since Arthur Dayne graduated there's been no one worth fighting at this school. You've got quite a bit of skill."

Reddening, she mumbles a "Yeah...okay" that is blatantly noncommittal, turning her back to him and stuffing her sweaty clothes into a gym bag.

When she finds the courage to look up again, she sees Jaime frowning at her. When he notices her looking back, he shrugs and mutters, "Well, bye then." before striding out of the gym.

Brienne watches him go, surprised by the intense longing that tugs at her, at the screaming desire to tell him to wait, that she does want to spar with him, that she'll do it any time, any day.

When Sansa somehow convinces her to come to the party her sorority is throwing, Brienne feels nothing but dread. Those sweet blue eyes of hers could make even the hardest heart agree to anything though and Brienne is about as soft-hearted as they come.

She's managed to avoid the frat and sorority types since moving out of the dorms after freshman year, and she loathes the thought of re-entering that vicious world.

The night of the party, though she feels like she's plunging into a pool full of ravenous sharks, Brienne shows up, wearing the most flattering blue dress she managed to find, which is not nearly flattering enough to make her feel like anything but an ungainly tall freak.

All the other girls are wearing flowery little sundresses, their flowing locks shining. Brienne's short hair hangs lankily on the sides of her head. It's a waking nightmare.

She scans the room, praying that there will be someone here who isn't a frat boy or sorority girl that she can talk to. To her relief, she spots Renly and Loras in a corner of one of the rooms.

They spot her and smile, then invite her over to join a confusing drinking game. She spends the first part of the night pretending to drink shitty beer while the rest of them get loaded. By the time she joins, everyone is drunk enough not to police her alcohol intake.

She looks around the room every so often and feels her stomach plummet when she sees Hyle Hunt, Edmund Ambrose and Big Ben standing in a corner, flirting with some of Sansa's sisters.

Memories of her freshman year and the cruel game those boys had decided to play with her while pledging to some obnoxious frat come flooding back, and she finds herself no longer pretending to drink with Renly and Loras.

She downs a beer quickly and crushes the red solo cup in her fist (pretending its Hyle's head...Hyle who'd seemed the kindest of the lot, but had turned out to be just as much of a jerk as the others). Tossing the mangled plastic aside, she reaches for another beer.

After a while, she breaks from the game to get some air (and because Renly and Loras are playing footsie under the table and keep accidentally dragging her into it). She goes into the backyard and sits under an oak tree in the dark part of the backyard, as far away from the noisy party as she can get, enjoying the night air and the quiet.

She leans against the tree, lost in sleepy, mildly inebriated thoughts.

She snaps out of it when she hears a string of curses from across the yard. She looks up to see the silhouettes of two guys standing in the yard, both clutching their noses after clearly having hit each other in the face.

One of them recovers faster than the other, and moves to punch the other again. But two other male figures come forward and tackle him to the ground before he can do anything. He attempts to get up, but they each kick him a few times in the ribs until he concedes defeat and slumps to the ground.

"What the hell are you doing?" Brienne shouts, hurrying across the yard to them. It's so dark that she can't tell who it is until she's only a few feet away. Her heart stops for a moment.

It's them. Hyle, Ben and Edmund. They look up at her, dazed and drunk, and start to chuckle as realization of who she is dawns on them.

"Evening, beauty," Edmund laughs, pulling Hyle to his feet. "Good call, spending the night out hear rather than forcing anyone to have to look at you."

"Shuddup, Ed," she hears Hyle mumble. He's got a white sleeve pressed to his nose, and even in the low light she can see blood spreading across it.

Supporting Hyle between them, they turn to go back inside.

Brienne is torn between running after them to give them a piece of her mind (and maybe fist) and helping the poor wretch who is lying out in the grass.

Her compassion beats out her fury and she walks over to check on the figure who is groaning, facedown on the dewy lawn.

"Are...are you alright?" she asks, placing a gentle hand on his shoulder and turning him over.

"Jaime?" she asks, utterly shocked.

He blinks dazedly up at her, blood leaking out of the corner of his mouth. "Bri...Brienne?" he begins to laugh, somewhat hoarsely. "Well this is...ironic."

"Ironic...what?" she asks, not understanding anything about this. She shakes her head. "Can you sit up? Do you need me to get someo-"

"No," he says, reaching up to clutch her arm, and pulling himself into an upright position. His eyes seemed dazed. She gets a whiff of whiskey on his breath and knows it's not just from the punch. "Just... stay here."

His lips is bleeding heavily and he might have a black eye. She can't tell in the light.

"I should probably go look for something to treat-"

"No- not yet. Stay," he says, gripping her tighter.

"Alright," she says, still so baffled she can hardly think straight. "Jaime what was...what happened?"

As far as she knew, Jaime didn't even know those guys. She couldn't think of a reason for them to be fighting.

He'd probably gone and said something characteristically obnoxious to them. She probably shouldn't even be pitying him as much as she was right now. He probably deserved it...

"Nothing," he mutters. "Those little shits just needed to learn a fucking lesson."

Brienne lets out a shocked laugh before she can stop herself. She didn't mean to laugh, but if he'd intended to teach a lesson she was not quite sure it had been learned. She could hear Ben and Ed laughing even from here.

Jaime scowled at her laughter. "I'm sor-" she began, but he was already shoving her away so he could get to his feet.

"Whatever. That's the last time I bloody stick my neck out for your honor," he mutters scathingly and begins to stumble and sway his way across the yard.

Brienne's jaw drops.

By the time she discerns the meaning of what he's said, Jaime is halfway across the yard and back to the house, limping all the way.

"Jaime, wait!" she says, jogging to catch up to him. He is moving slowly and it doesn't take long. "Did you just say...was that fight about me?"

He shrugs and looks away and she has her answer. She finds herself feeling sick with embarrassment.

"What did you...what did you hear?" she stammers. "What were they saying?" How did he know?

Jaime whirls around to face her, green eyes flashing angrily. Perhaps he sees the panic and shame in her expression, because his expression softens almost at once.

"Nothing, Brienne. Just some tiny men saying things to stroke their own egos. Not worth repeating."

He looks sad and disgusted and lost and younger than he is.

"Oh," she says softly, at a loss for words.

"You've had to put up with a lot of shit from jerks, haven't you?" he says quietly, his expression sadder than she's ever seen it.

She opens and closes her mouth, unable to form a response.

"And I've been chief among them," of course he mutters bitterly. "I'm sorry."

"Er- it's alright," Brienne says, because he's bleeding and so sincere and has just utterly had his ass kicked and it was for her.

She doesn't have the heart to tell him she's cried herself to sleep at least once a semester because of something he's said. "It's alright," she repeats.

"It's not," he says, reaching out to grasp her forearm tightly. "But I'm sorry, just the same."

Brienne shrugs her hulking shoulders awkwardly. "You've...you've been loads nicer lately. Anyway, you should really let me take a look at that cut."

"It's fine," he mumbles.

"It's not," she says, reaching out to graze her fingers across his split lip and surprising them both. He flinches. "Sorry. But you really should wash it out, at least. " She'd moved her fingertips away from his lip when he'd flinched, but now they are resting on his chin, just below his soft pink lips. She realizes it and drops them with a start.

"Fine," he concedes. "Will you...will you help me find a bathroom. My head's bloody spinning."

"Sure," she says. They walk to the house and find that the number of partiers has doubled since she was last inside. They weave through the crowds, and Jaime slips his hand into hers to keep them together as she leads the way. She nearly jumps out of her skin when she first feels it, and immediately starts willing her palms not to sweat, before realizing he's probably too drunk and sore to even notice.

They find an upstairs bathroom and Brienne locates a first aid kit while Jaime sits on the rim of the bathtub, dabbing at his cut with a pieces of toilet paper and blinking down at all the blood that's coming off on it.

Brienne dabs at it with a cotton swab and some alcohol, and when his strong hands grip at her shoulders when he's feels the sting, she finds herself wondering what it would feel like to have those hands on other parts of her body.

It's the alcohol, she tries to tell herself.

You've had two beers, and watching Jaime get the shit kicked out of you sobered you up quick enough.

"Thankss f'r bein' m' nurse," he mumbles when she's done, patting her knee as she crouches beside him.

She blushes again. "Well, thanks for...beating up some assholes for me," she says weakly, getting to her feet.

"For trying to, you mean," he says bitterly, taking the hand she offers to help him up. He nearly falls into her even though she'd pulled him up carefully and she knows he's drunker than she even realized.

"How much have you had to drink tonight, Jaime?" she asks, biting her lip.

"Dunno," he mumbles. "Got off the phone with my dad at 7:30. Pretty steadily since then," he says. She sees a lot of pain in those green eyes that are usually haughty or arrogant or amused, and doesn't know what to say. Now is not the time to ask, she thinks, but a part of her wonders what has him so upset, and wonders what it would be like to lay beside him under a layer of blankets as he whispered his secrets to her in the dark. She wonders what it would be like to hold him against her and whisper that to him that it's alright.

She wonders when she became so utterly insane.

This is Jaime Lannister, she's thinking about. The guy who tormented her for two years straight. The guy who went out of his way to make her life hell.

The guy who saved a seat for her in Poli Sci last week and seemed almost hurt when she'd done a horrible job of pretending not to see him and slunk into a seat beside Sam Tarly.

The guy who had just tried to fight three dudes because they'd presumably said the same horrible stuff about her they always had and he'd overheard them and thought she was worth fighting for.

It's too much.

This is ridiculous.

Her feelings for Renly had been pathetic enough, considering his obviously incompatible orientation, but this was almost worse. She had no reason to believe Jaime wasn't into women, and every reason to believe he could never, ever be interested in a woman like her.

"I'd better walk you home," she says briskly, tugging him out the bathroom door and into the hallway where at least three couples are making out. One of them stumbles into a bedroom, the girl giggling shrilly.

"I can...I can get there myself. You don't have to leave the party on account of-"

"Trust me, I'm happy for any excuse to get the hell out of here," she says.

Jaime looks at her and even though he's wasted, can probably see how much she means it.

"Not my scene either," he mutters, stumbling as they walk through the crowded hallway. "Still, you live in the other direction. You don't need to-"

"Your apartment's not far. I really don't mind," she says. "Consider it a thank you for your noble attempt to teach them a lesson."

She smiles at him, and he smiles back.

"Alright."

She leads him carefully down the steps and out the front door, waving at a surprised Sansa Stark as she goes.

They walk in companionable silence, with Jaime leaning on her for support. For once, she's grateful for how big and strong she is because he's having a lot of difficulty keeping upright.

Suddenly he stops and she almost trips.

"Wait...wait this isn't... right. If you drop me off, that means you've got to make your way home all alone," he says, as if he's just put the pieces of a very complex puzzle together.

"Um, yes," she says, perplexed. "We've covered this, Jaime. It's alright. I don't live that far, and I can take care of myself."

He chuckles softly, leaning into her, his breath grazing across her neck, making goosebumps rise on her flesh despite the warmth of the night.

"Mmmm," he mumbles into the nape of her neck, his lips moving against her skin. "I don't doubt that. Still...not very chivalrous of me..."

"I think you've filled your chivalry quota for the night," she says, edging away from him somewhat stiffly. He's too close. His soft cologne smells too good. His golden hair is too soft as it brushes against her skin.

They fall quiet again and walk the next few blocks to his place. She knows where it is, because she picked him up there once so they could work on a project, which is convenient because she's not sure he'd be able to lead the way on his own.

She helps him up the stairs to his apartment and they reach his door. He fumbles with the keys and she takes over for him.

When she finishes, he reaches out for her arm again, gripping her tightly, "Hey...what classes are you taking next semester?"

"Oh," she says, startled. "I haven't really decided yet. Maybe some sort of bio course...I've been hearing good stuff about forensics...why?"

He shrugs. "Wanna make sure we've got some of the same classes...it'd be almost weird if we didn't, at this point? It'll be our last year afterall."

She can't believe these mumbles she's hearing. She doesn't even know how to respond.

"That's a nice dress," he says, and reaches out to tug at the thin strap absentmindedly, making her jump about a foot. "Blue..."

"Thanks," she mutters, taking a step back. "Um, you'd better get to bed. We're supposed to meet at 10 tomorrow to rehearse our fight. We can push it back though, if you want. You'll probably need sleep, after-"

"No," he says firmly, the most cognizant he's been all night. "I'll be there."

"Okay. Goodnight, Jaime."

"Night, Brienne," he says, and stumbles in the door.

She walks away, down the stairs and onto the empty streets. The loudest sound is the pounding of her own heart.

After they perform for the Medieval Studies class and the professor dismisses them, they move into the hallway, both grinning widely.

"That was wicked," Jaime grins. "A bloody standing ovation. I wasn't expecting that."

"Me either," Brienne gushes. "I think that went better than any of our practices ever! And the way that room projected the sound was incredible. It was all just so...fluid."

"I know. Brilliant." Jaime says, holding up his hand for a high five.

After a few moments of cheesy grinning, the delight starts to fade and awkwardness starts to sink in once again, and Brienne's instincts to flee start kicking in.

"Well, I guess I'll see-"

"Wait," Jaime says, before she can finish. "What are you doing right now?"

"Um. Standing in a hallway, talking to-"

"No, you bloody..." he says, half-angry, half-amused. "I mean, do you have any plans for the rest of the day?"

"I..." she says, hardly daring to believe where he's going with this.

Say yes. Say you've got to...you've got to...to...

"No. Not really," her mouth says, betraying her brain.

"Oh," he says, pleasantly surprised. "Well, do you want to grab a coffee or something? To celebrate? My treat."

Brienne's words stick in her throat and all she can do is nod in agreement.

This can't be happening.

But it is.

Jaime is smiling broadly and leading the way out the building and her heart is pounding harder in her chest than it ever has before.

This is nice. Brienne can't help but think as she licks a little bit of whipped cream off her straw and hopes she hasn't dribbled any on her chin because Jaime seems to be staring pretty hard in that general direction right now and she can't think of any other reason he would be.

That's a step up from the old Jaime at least, who would have guffawed at her inability to eat like anything other than the beast she was.

Embarrassed, she grabs a napkin and dabs blindly at the corners of her mouth, though when she glances down at it, it's clean.

This is really nice. She's never done this before. Gone for coffee with a boy. She knows it's only friendly, knows it doesn't mean anything more, but even the judgmental looks she gets from the barista can't bring her down.

The girl who'd sneeringly made their drinks might be as baffled as Brienne is about why such a gorgeous man would be here with an ugly, hulking girl like her, but he is and that's all that really matters.

Jaime wanted her here, and she knows that even if it doesn't mean anything like...like that, it also isn't a cruel joke or anything ill-intentioned.

Jaime, for whatever reason, has decided he likes her. He's here with her and he's happy about it. They're talking and joking like friends.

It's nice.

And it ought to be enough for her, but somehow she finds herself wishing to play footsie with him under the table like Loras and Renly are always doing, wants him to reach across the table and take her hands in his and stare into her eyes with his gorgeous green ones like they do in the movies and she hates herself for not being satisfied with what she has.

Which is nice.

Jaime tells her hilarious stories about his little brother's antics that make her almost snort whipped cream all over the place.

He tells her about the museums he went to in Europe during his study abroad, and the swords he got to see there.

She tells him what classes she's signed up for for next semester, and he fist pumps when he realizes they have two of the same classes.

She tells him about the time she beat the crap out of Big Ben in front of the entire girls' dance team and Jaime laughs so hard that tears leak out of his green eyes and the other patrons stare at them.

"That's just...I can't even...Oh what I wouldn't give to have witnessed that!" he laughs, wiping away some tears. Then he quiets down and shakes his head. "Bloody foolish of me to bother trying to defend you, eh? You're clearly entirely capable of looking after yourself."

Brienne blushes. "I...well, yes. But I appreciate the gesture all the same."

They smile at each other for a minute, Brienne's blush creeping all the way down her neck. Eventually the fond look they're exchanging reaches an awkward length, and they look away at the same time, taking sips of their drinks. She can feel Jaime tapping his foot under the table.

He insists on walking her home. She got him home the other night, he says, and if he was less wasted, he would have protested a lot more about that.

If you were less wasted, she'd said, I wouldn't have felt such a need to do it. If I hadn't you would've probably curled up under a parked car.

Still, he'd insisted, it isn't fair. He needs to even the score.

Brienne agreed because he looked so determined, and because she's never been walked home before and wants to know what it's like, even if this wasn't a real date or anything.

When they get to her doorway, there's another awkward pause.

"Well, um, thanks for the coffee," she said in a rush.

"No problem. Thanks for joining me."

More silence. Jaime seemed to be staring right past her, at the door she had her back to.

"Uh, didn't you say you had a really cool antique broadsword? Something your dad inherited?"

"Oh. Yeah. Yeah I did," she says, a little confused at him bringing it up.

"Is it...do you have it here?"

"Yeah, it's hanging up in my room."

Jaime waits, looking expectant, but she's not sure what he's expecting. Then he gives a slightly impatient sigh and asks,

"Can I see it?"

"Oh! Uh, sure. Yeah. Come in," Brienne says, turning the key and leading him inside.

It's only after she's already opened the door to her bedroom that she realizes what a mess it is, and cringes in shame. He follows right behind her though, and there's no time to do anything about it.

She notices a pair of underwear...the only pink thing she owns, lying on the floor next to the hamper. She lets out a squeak and kicks them under her dresser.

She knows from the twitching of his lips that Jaime noticed and is terribly amused, but he's kind enough not to say anything about it.

Instead, he glances at the cork board hanging above her bed, and the kid's drawing tacked up to it.

"Me and Brienne?" Jaime says, reading the childish scrawl and looking at the picture that depicts an impossibly tall blonde stick figure and a little boy, both of whom are holding swords.

"Oh," she smiles. "I do one of those Big Sisters programs where you mentor kids. Pod's this sweet boy I work with. We take fencing lessons together on Saturdays at the Y."

"Oh," Jaime says, smiling. "Well, he's certainly got a good partner to learn with, though I hope you're a bit kinder to him than you are to me when we fight. You know, you're not supposed to actually hit me when we're doing a demonstration," he says, gesturing to the spot on her arm where she'd whacked him with a raised eyebrow.

"Sorry. You left it wide open. I got...carried away," she says, grinning sheepishly.

"It's alright. Now, let's see this sword of yours."

She takes the sword off the wall, and holds it out to Jaime.

Just before she's about to place it in his hands, she panics and pulls it back a little. "Be really, really careful with it," she says, because its her most prized possession.

"Don't worry. I know how to treat a priceless sword," he laughs. She hands it over.

He stares at it admiringly for a long time, not saying a word.

She lets him for a while, because sometimes there's nothing so nice as having silence as you examine a beautiful sword, but eventually she cracks and starts talking about its' history, filling him in on all the battles and owners the steel had seen.

When she finishes, he says, "That is seriously cool. I'll have to show you my favorite sword sometime. Its' history isn't as rich as this, but it is a bit prettier."

She scowls at that comment and tries to snatch it back.

"What?" he cries, holding it out of her reach. "I'm just being honest. This is a fantastic blade... I'm just saying, mine is a bit more ornate...doesn't make it bet-."

"Whatever," she says stiffly. "Give it back so I can put it away."

"Okay," he says, moving it towards her.

Then, with a brief flash of a wicked grin, he lets it drop about three inches. He catches it right away, and there was never a danger of it falling, but Brienne's eyes nearly pop out of her head.

Jaime laughs, and she hits him hard in the arm.

"Not funny. Give it back."

She reaches for it, and he moves it out of her reach. She makes another grab for it and he moves it behind his back.

Before long, they are wrestling for it, and Brienne is mostly angry, but can't help being a little bit amused by his infectious chuckling.

When she wrenches it out of his grasp at last, she lets out a sigh of relief, holding it behind her back so he can't get to it, breathing hard from exertion.

His body is pressed flush against hers, still trying to reach for the sword, and she reaches up with her free hand to push him back by his chest.

But then his lips are pressed hard against hers and both of his hands are on the sides of her face, fingers running through her hair and she drops the sword with a thundering clang.

"No!" she shouts in horror.

"Fuck!" Jaime shouts, jumping up and holding his foot, which the steel had fallen on.

"Are you alright?" she asks.

"Is THAT alright?" he asks, bending down to inspect the sword.

She bends down beside him and checks out the blade thorougly.

"Yes," she breathes. "Yes. I think its fine. Yes. It's fine."

She slides it across the floor away from them and turns to face him.

"Why did you...why did you-" she stammers, because she can't even begin to say the word kiss or comprehend that it had actually just happened.

Jaime shrugs.

"Because I've wanted to for ages...probably from the moment you yelled at me in front of our entire philosophy class... though I still think you were wrong about that stuff," he says. Then he looks down, almost embarrassed. "I had to do it. I'm sorry, if I was out of line. I know I should have ask-"

He doesn't finish his sentence, because she's seized him by the collar of his shirt and pulled him towards her. Their mouths meet and then she's kissing him desperately and clumsily, because she's got next to no experience with this, but he doesn't seem to mind because after a brief moment of surprise he's kissing her back with just as much fervor and enthusiasm.

They kiss for ages on her bedroom floor and Brienne could never have imagined there were so many ways to kiss and be kissed. She learns how good teeth can feel biting at her bottom lip, and what it's like for tongues to meet and graze across teeth. She learns that they can be soft or hard, gentle or violent, tender or ferocious, and she thinks that each one is fantastic and she wants to spend the rest of her days finding out what combinations they can come in.

He sucks at her neck and bites at it, and she groans beneath his mouth and realizes he must be leaving marks. Then she laughs because she's having lunch with Renly and Loras tomorrow and they will probably lose their shit when they see their shy, virginal friend covered in hickies.

Jaime pulls back when he hears her giggling, and looks mildly offended, asking "What's so funny?"

But she just shakes her head and dives at his neck so that at least she won't be the only one being interrogated and getting shit tomorrow.

After a while, when she's lying on top of him trailing kisses along his neck and sucking at his collarbone, Jaime gives her a little push off of him.

"Look, Brienne," he says, gasping for breath. "This is...this is incredible but I...I need to take a break here. Um. Cool down a bit."

He glances down at his crotch briefly and Brienne's eyes widen as she realizes what he's saying. Her confusion turns to softness as she realizes what a gentleman he's being, or trying to be.

He must be aware of how inexperienced she is, and he's right in thinking that as lovely as all this kissing is, she's not ready to move past it just yet.

He seems content with waiting, but she allows herself a bref flicker of a look at his pants and notices a very obvious bulge there. She feels a wave of giddiness wash over her.

"Okay," she says, smiling softly, still marveling at the fact that the Jaime who had made her sob herself to sleep her first week of college is with her in her room right now, being considerate and kind and panting hotly. "That's fine. D'you..do you want to go, um, watch TV or something?"

"Yeah," he says, breathing raggedly. "Yeah okay."

They sit on the couch, watching some shitty sitcom. His arm is around the small of her back, his hand resting on her hip. Jaime makes bitchy, sarcastic comments at every other line, but Brienne can't concentrate on a word the characters or Jaime is saying. She's still too overwhelmed with feeling at the fact that she just made out on her bedroom floor with Jaime Lannister for half an hour. And that they're cuddling on the couch now.

It can't be real.

And yet the slow circles he's tracing on her hipbone are more real than the beating of her own heart.

When the first commercial break comes on, Jaime says, "Oh, fuck it," and turns to her, pushing his lips up against hers. His tongue darts forward before she even has the chance to react and he's pushing her backwards with one hand so he's laying on top of her on the couch.

He does his best to keep his crotch from grinding against her too much, but he's not always successful. Every time it does, she jumps and blushes but tries to just keep going.

A small part of it is intimidating but mostly she's just awed to realize that he is attracted to her. Jaime Lannister is making out with her and doing his best not to grind his erection against her thighs, because he's trying to be respectful as they kiss each other madly and sloppily and lovingly.

They fall asleep on the couch together to the sounds of Jaime trash talking TV shows, and wake up smiling.

They go for breakfast at the local diner that morning, and Jaime steals food off her plate and laughs when she slaps his hand away.

After that, they decide to 'study' for their Poli-Sci final together and pages are literally ripped out of her textbook as they roll around on top of it, kissing hungrily, not learning a damn thing.

Renly laughs his head off when he sees the hickies, but congratulates her and threatens Jaime with bodily harm if he doesn't do right by her.

Sansa mutters something about her strange taste but hugs her happily just the same.

The following week, Jaime invites her to visit him at Lake Casterly this summer. She agrees to spend a week there are their vacation home and spends her last weeks of school daydreaming about swimming in the lake with him and getting to know his brother Tyrion around a roaring campfire. He agrees to come visit her where she's living this summer, interning at a historical museum and she thinks the big city will be less lonely and intimidating with him by her side.

Exam results come in and she gets her first B ever in political science, and blames it all on Jaime. He shrugs unapologetically and shows her his C+.

She's always taken a cab to the airport to fly back home, but this time Jaime drives her. They spend so much time kissing in the departures lounge that she almost misses her flight and when she's on the plane she starts tallying the number of days until she goes to his lakehouse.

43.

Jaime is so busy doing the same in his head, that he almost crashes his car on the way home. He texts her about it, and she receives the message when they land. She lets out such a loud, shocked laugh that she startles the old man sitting beside her.

"Be careful, idiot." she writes back and hits send.

She's just about to slip her phone back into her bag, when she pulls it out again to write another message.

"I miss you."

The End

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