Chapter 1: The Consulting Detective
The obnoxious jangling of his telephone shattered Brynden Tully’s concentration. He glared at the device like it’d personally insulted his mother before tossing aside the grainy black-and-white photos.
Who in the
would be calling this early? It’s hardly past 8 in the morning.
Fishing around in a drawer, he clamped a cigar between his teeth and snagged the receiver up. “Brynden Tully.”
“Mr. Tully?” The voice on the other end was soft, a woman. No, a girl. It sounded vaguely familiar, but he couldn’t place it.
“Yeah doll, that’s what I said.”
“Right, I’m sorry. This is Mya Stone...we met last month?”
Brynden had to bite back a chuckle. We met. What a quaint way of saying ‘We tracked down a cannibalistic serial killer who nearly skinned a man alive .’ “Mya, yeah. ‘Course I remember you. How’ve you been? How’s Greyjoy?”
“Oh, I’m fine. Theon’s....he’s doing ok.” The hesitation in her voice spoke volumes, but Brynden didn’t press the matter.
“Good, good. What can I do for you, Miss Mya?”
“Well, last month before...everything, Theon gave me a list, and he said you’d helped him prepare it. I was wondering...can we meet sometime? To discuss it?”
That damn list. Damn near got myself locked up six different times putting it together, and did Bob Baratheon even so much as get off his fat ass and say ‘Thank you for tracking down the kids I’m too lazy and forgetful to look after?’ ‘Course not! Brynden shifted his still-unlit cigar to the other side of his mouth, chastising himself. It wasn’t the girl’s fault her father was an ungrateful Grade-A asshole. “Yeah, I remember that list. Tell ya what - what’s your schedule look like today?”
“I’ve got class up until noon, then I’m at the Lantern from 12:30 to 5, and then Theon was going to come get me and I think he wanted to go out to Carla’s for dinner. Said something about pot roast. But that might not be till later.”
“I’m not too far from the Lantern , remember, so why don’t you stop by after work then? Say 5:30?”
He could hear the smile in the girl’s voice; it was infectious. “5:30 then, and thank you...I know it’s short notice.”
“The best things are.” After he’d hung up, he turned back to the black-and-whites. They showed two different couples in various states of undress and such, and Brynden wondered how to handle this particularly...delicate case. Some weeks ago a woman had come to him asking him to look into her husband, who she was sure was having an affair. God, she was one hell of a dame, too...legs up to her eyeballs and she knew it. Brynden smiled faintly, recalling how not an hour after she’d sauntered out of his office, all the right parts wiggling, her husband had strolled in and demanded he look into his wife, who he was sure was having an affair. Turns out they were both right and the kicker, he mused, was that they were having their respective affairs with the same person.
Brynden shuffled the pictures, knocking the edges into true against the edge of his desk and tucking them away into a file folder. A few phone calls later, and it was done. The husband and wife had ‘accidentally’ coinciding appointments tomorrow afternoon, and Brynden figured they’d figure it all out then. Hopefully, anyway. Hate to think a pair that good-looking is that dense.
The case had reaffirmed his desire to never wed, though. Too messy. There were no benefits to marriage that he could see; none whatsoever. All a wife would bring him was someone hogging the blankets at night and someone who’d nag him whenever he left the dishes from dinner until the next morning. His brother had made the case for companionship when he was younger, someone who’d always be there, and who would help him carry on the family name.
Brynden smiled as he recalled that particular conversation. There was no need for him to carry on the family name, not when Edmure, then three or four, was toddling around the lawn at Riverrun covered in mud. And companionship. Brynden had never had a hard time finding that , not even during the war. Why, even now, if he wanted some companionship, or, hell, be honest, he told himself. If he wanted to fuck he had a neighbor who was more than acquiescing to his requests.
Finally lighting his cigar, he cracked his office’s dingy window and looked over the streets. It was the week after Thanksgiving and by God if Christmas hadn’t descended on Kingsport with a vengeance. Normally Brynden didn’t mind, but this year it was hard to get into any sort of festive spirit. And my poor Cat ... Brynden made a note to call his niece that afternoon. It had been hardly a month since Hoster’s death, and nearly three since Ned’s. The strain of it was wearing on Catelyn, he knew. He saw how she would press her lips together during family dinners when her eyes would fall on Ned’s empty chair, or when she would linger on old family photos lining the hallway. She’s got Edmure though, they’re good for each other right now. If only Lysa... The bitter taste in Brynden’s mouth wasn’t from his cigar, he knew. Lysa was a damn fool, and he’d told her as much when he called her to tell her of her father’s death. She’d refused to come down from her damn mountain, tucking herself and her boy away up in the thin, cold air. You can’t pick your family, but how bad do I want to just boot her dense ass off that damn mountain?
He shook himself out of his stupor, looking down on the still-quiet street running outside his office. The streetlights all had evergreen boughs wrapped around them, and down the way he could see employees at Bloomie’s setting up their window display, all brightly-wrapped gifts and ornaments. The sight of it made his gorge rise a hair, and he turned away from the window, settling back in his creaky chair and pulling another case file towards him.
The day passed quickly, and before Brynden knew it, his clock was clicking over to 5:27, and he could hear footsteps climbing the creaky stairs outside his office. He scrubbed a hand over his face, feeling stubble on his chin and wishing he’d had a chance to run home and make himself look at least somewhat presentable.
“Enter!” he called at the tentative knock, and the door squeaked open. Brynden stood and extended a hand to Mya as she entered. She shook it, and he saw how tired she looked despite her bright smile. He pulled her close and pecked her cheek. “Good to see ya, Mya.”
“You too, Mr. Tully.” She sat when he beckoned her to a chair, but waved off the cup of coffee he offered.
“Alright then, we can be quick about this if Greyjoy’s taking you out. Carla’s is always worth it.” He winked at her and moved back around his desk, propping his elbows up on it. “So, this list.”
Mya pulled it out of her clutch and offered it to him. When he unfolded it he saw how worn it was along the crease-lines, how some of the printing was a little smudged. Mya’d been looking at this list a lot, then. He didn’t blame her - if he’d found out he had a baseball team’s worth of siblings, and all he had were their names he’d look at them too. She tucked a lock of glossy black hair behind her ear, folding her hands nervously and biting her lip in a way that reminded Brynden of his great-niece Sansa. “I haven’t had time to start looking at all...”
“No worries. Where’d you want to start here?”
Mya leaned forward, perched on the edge of her chair, and pointed to a name right under hers. “There. Gendry Waters. He’s the next oldest after me, and after him Edric Storm. Theon knows him, I think, or knows of him.”
Brynden nodded. “Eddy Storm’s the one bast-...the one illegitimate child Bob claimed, and that was only because he had to.”
“Well, it’s a bit of a messy story...” Brynden leaned back in his chair. “You know his brother, Stannis, right? The District Attorney?” At her nod, he went on. “He got married maybe ten, twelve years ago, after Bob and Cersei Lannister got hitched and she’d had that squalling little shi- son, Joff. Anyway, I’m not going to bore you with the details, but Bob was caught with the bride’s sister in the limousine meant for Stannis and Selyse. There was a huge blow-up, massive really. Selyse’s sister was supposed to marry some other fella, and it took a pretty hefty sum of money for that to still happen, let me tell you. And anyway, nine months after Stannis and Selyse get married, along comes Edric. Since there was so much publicity about the whole thing, like I said, Bob had to admit it was his, take care of him, all that jazz.” He studied the girl, watched her reaction. Her pretty face looked troubled on top of tired now, but she was trying to hide it. “But anyway, this Gendry. He won’t be that hard to find.” Brynden dug around for a piece of scratch paper and scribbled an address on it quickly. “There. He started working at a car factory ‘bout a year or so ago, but that’s not the address for that. That’s a gym he goes to to box. Kid’s pretty good. I try to catch his Friday night fights when I can.”
Mya’s deep blue eyes locked on his, and there was surprise there. “You- you know him? Personally? What’s he like?”
Brynden held up a hand. “Hold up, sweetheart. I’ve never talked to him, just keep tabs on him, like I do all Bob’s kids in the city. I can tell you though, he seems like a nice kid. Quiet, keeps to himself. Mean left hook though, let me tell you. He’s a southpaw, which helps his boxing.”
Mya smiled faintly. “I’m left-handed too.”
“You ever box?” Brynden met her shy smile. “If not you should think about it - keep Theon in line, y’know what I mean?”
Mya laughed, covering her mouth with a slender hand. “Oh no, I have other ways of doing that.” Her cheeks blazed suddenly, and her hand fell away. “I didn’t mean like - I mean, we- I don’t- oh heavens.”
Brynden chuckled as she got more and more flustered. “I’m not about to sit here and judge you two for what you do, so long as it doesn’t come across my desk, got it?” She nodded mutely. “Alright. Go check out that gym, but take your boy there with you. Place like that’s nowhere for a pretty little thing like you to be by yourself.” Mya’s dark eyebrows arched, and Brynden realized his error. She’d stared down Ramsay Bolton’s corpse and house of horrors as stoic as any soldier he’d seen in the war, and it had only been in the back seat of his car taking an unconscious Theon to the hospital that she had put any sound to the tears coursing down her face, his head in her lap. He cleared his throat. “Not that you couldn’t handle them, I’m sure. But you know how Theon gets...” he trailed off lamely.
Mya nodded graciously, her smile more mirthful and amused now. “That I do.” She stood, toying with the buttons on her thick wool coat. “I’ll go and see him, Mr. Tully. Thank you for this.” She held up the scrap of paper before it vanished into her pocket, and here she paused. “What about Edric? Do you think it’s a good idea to see him? How do I explain all this?”
Brynden shook his head as he placed his hand on her shoulder, ushering her to the door. “I can’t tell you, sweetheart. That’s something you’ll have to work out on your own. You’re a bright girl though, and I know you’ll come up with something.”
Mya nodded, but hesitated at the door. She looked up at him again with those guileless blue eyes, suddenly looking much younger than her nineteen years. “Would you do this, if it were your family, your brothers and sisters?”
Brynden nodded without hesitation. “Absolutely I would. At the end of the day, what’ve you got if not for family?” He patted her shoulder. “Go on, go have a nice dinner at Carla’s. You tell her I sent you, and see if she doesn’t slip in a free slice of pie for the both of you. And tell Theon I said hello, will you?” Mya nodded, and then blinked as if she’d suddenly remembered something. Fishing in her small bag, she held out a rolled up bill. Brynden shook his head before he’d even seen the denomination. “This is on the house, didn’t Theon tell you?”
“He did, but...” Mya paused, biting her lip again. “I don’t feel right not paying you. Please, I’ve been saving my wages from the paper ever since Theon told me to come see you.”
Brynden folded her hand around the bills and pushed it towards her again, smiling patiently. “And I wouldn’t feel right taking it. Keep it, and save it for when you’re done with school. As far as payment goes...” He tapped a finger against his grizzled chin. “Save me a dance at Robb and Roslin’s wedding?”
“That’s not till June, though.”
“Good, it’ll give me some time to practice.”
Mya smiled then, genuinely, and Brynden could see how Theon could’ve fallen so hard for her. “Alright then, a dance. Thank you again, Mr. Tully. I’ll be in touch.”
“Any time, Miss Mya.”
Later that night Brynden parked his clunky, beloved Ford in front of Barristan Selmy’s small, neat Cape Cod on the outskirts of Kingsport. A dusting of snow coated the bricks and the walkway, and the rose bushes lining the sidewalk and driveway were all tucked snugly under burlap sacks for the long winter ahead. They were something of a quiet obsession of Selmy’s, his roses. He’d received some press several years back when he’d created a new breed of bloom he’d called the Ashara- a fragrant, delicate rose that always blossomed in a rich violet color. Brynden had asked him once where he came up with the name, and Selmy had just cleared his throat gruffly and changed the subject.
Brynden popped the trunk and fished out a wooden crate with no small amount of effort, patting the trunk once he’d shut it and grinning at the sight of Maege Mormont’s battered old Tin Lizzy. She’d tried to paint the old truck herself, a deep evergreen, but it hadn’t held up well and chunks of black were visible through the finish. He made a mental note to rib her about it. He liked Maege Mormont - built like a barrel, she had a wide, lined face that smiled easily and a thick wiry mane of steel-gray hair. She was also the definition of a bearcat, fierce and protective. Brynden had heard a story about an unfortunate fellow who’d made a joke about the fact that Maege had five daughters and nary a husband in sight. By the time Maege was done with him, it was six weeks before he could speak, and dentists never were able to make his teeth look right again.
There was a second car next to Maege’s, a sleek little Fiat that he didn’t recognize. Selmy must’ve found a new fourth, Brynden mused as he jabbed the doorbell. Hurry it up, old man, it’s cold out here. Almost as if it’d heard him, the door swung open to reveal Maege. “Brynden! What’re you doing out there, y’old coot? Come on in here, Barry’s just getting the table set up.” She eyed his crate. “Whadaya got there?”
“Payment.” Brynden awkwardly shucked his coat off while Maege watched, amused. “I owe Selmy a favor.”
“What kind of favor?”
Brynden chuckled. “Oh, I could tell you, Maege, but then I’d have to kill you and then we’d have to find a new fourth for our poker games and you know what a beast that can be.” The crate and the beautiful, if not slightly dusty bottles of whiskey in it were Selmy’s price for keeping quiet about Asha Greyjoy’s role in taking down Ramsay Bolton, which he’d wheedled out of Brynden after several weeks of pressing. Normally, Selmy was as much of a stickler for the law as Brynden’s nephew Robb, but there had been nothing normal about that little party.
“Tully! It’s about damn time you got here, man, I was about to call Jeor and see if he wanted to drive down and take your place.” Barristan Selmy grinned from one side of a poker table set up in his conservatory. Wyman Manderly guffawed around a cigar and once again Brynden was amazed his chair didn’t just give out completely under his impressive bulk. How in the deepest level of Hell is that Fiat able to hold him?
“The day that he leaves his post’ll be the day Tully here gets hitched.” He said.
Brynden pulled a face and set the crate on Selmy’s side table. “How is the old bear doing, anyway?”
Maege leaned back in her chair as Barristan cracked the crate open, whistling low at its contents. “As well as ever. Still loving the cold, keeping an eye on the Snow boy.” She accepted a tumbler of whiskey as Barristan poured, quirking a dark eyebrow at Brynden, who just shook his head slightly. “Hasn’t heard from Jorah though, not in a month or so.”
“Where is he now, anyway? Did he ever say?” Selmy sat at the last empty chair and started shuffling cards in a practiced, repetitive motion.
Mage shrugged. “Last we heard he was in Switzerland.”
Brynden listened, filing away useful bits of information in case he needed them later. Jorah Mormont, Maege’s nephew, had fled the country some years earlier after getting in deep with loan sharks and trying to embezzle money to cover his debts. Kid has a good heart, but his head’s just all sorts of messed up. Ned Stark and the IRS had gotten wise to him, but before they could collar him for anything Jorah had skipped town, and kept his head down. Brynden remembered a somewhat frantic midnight phone call he’d gotten from Jorah a few months after he had vanished, and he remembered asking why, why had he done it?
Another pretty face, he remembered. Jorah had gotten himself a high-class dame of a wife, one with tastes more expensive than he could afford. Everything he’d done, he said, had been to keep her happy and what thanks did he get? His trophy wife had left him in Genoa, gone off to warm some Italian prince’s bed. Women.
Selmy was talking again, asking him a question, and Brynden had to shake himself out of his stupor. “Sorry, come again?”
“I was asking how Catelyn’s doing. Is she back from Winterfell yet?” Selmy took a long pull of whiskey and started dealing out cards.
“Oh yeah, she is.” Brynden nodded. “Came back awhile ago - the kids had to get back to school and she wanted them to get back into some sort of normalcy. She’s...ah, I’m not going to bullshit you, Selmy, she wants to find who did Ned. And she’s getting more and more irritated you haven’t found him yet.”
Maege and Manderly’s eyes flicked back and forth between the two men, and Selmy sat back in his chair, arranging his cards and sighing. “It’s a tough case. I should never’ve given it to the boys, to be honest. I’m considering throwing it back to Dondarrion and Thoros. Call.”
“What? Why?” Brynden glanced at his cards and sighed inwardly. Nothing good, just a pair of fours, a nine, seven, and a suicide king. Nevertheless, it was too early to fold and he tossed a chip into the pot. “Call.”
“They’re too close to it. It’s Stark’s father, for God’s sake. I don’t know what I was thinking, giving it to him and Greyjoy. And now, it’s been sitting cold for how many weeks because Theon ran off and damn near got himself killed? Which, by the way, he and I are not done discussing-”
“Selmy, calm your tits.” Brynden said patiently. “Those boys have been through one hell of an ordeal, yes, but if you take this case away from them, it’s not going to do any good. Robb and Theon won’t let it go cold. You know they’ll keep looking for Ned and Bob’s killer till the day they die, if need be.” He settled back in his chair, flipping a poker chip in his fingers. “Don’t take this away from Robb, Barristan. It’s an outlet for him, and God knows he needs that right now.”
“I gotta agree with Bryn,” Maege said, working a cigarette out of the pack in her pocket. “If anyone deserves to catch that son of a bitch, it’s Robb, don’t you think? Hell, Jeor said if that Snow kid could come down and help he would, but he can’t spare him. Shame, really.” She slid a pile of chips into the middle of the table. “Raise ya fifty.”
When his turn came again Brynden tossed down his nine and seven and picked up a pair of aces. Better. Glancing around the table, he saw Maege run a thick hand through her hair and smiled internally. Everyone’s got a tell, and Maegie’s got nothing in that hand. Selmy was drumming his fingers against the back of his cards, something he always did when he had a good hand, but Manderly...he was a hard read. His gaze caught Brynden, and he thought he saw the smallest tightening in the corners of his eyes, but he couldn’t tell. Well, two pair isn’t that bad.
“If they can’t figure this one out...” Selmy took a pull of his whiskey. “I don’t want it haunting the kid.”
“It’s going to haunt him anyway, Selmy,” Manderly spoke up. “They’re good at their jobs, the both of them. Let them keep this one.” He looked down at his cards again and sighed. “I fold.”
It was after midnight before they finished, and Brynden thumbed through his winnings as Selmy gathered the empty whiskey tumblers. Maege and Wyman Manderly had left, and the room seemed quiet without them, smaller. Setting the glasses down with a small clink, Selmy leaned against the side table, folding his arms across his chest. “If I give this case back to Robb and Theon, will you help them if they need it?”
Brynden leaned against the table next to him, giving a small smile. “Barristan, how long have we known each other?”
Selmy shrugged. “Thirty years now? Thirty-five?”
“Most of our adult lives. How many times in those thirty-odd years have you come to me for help?” Selmy thought, his thick white brows furrowing, and shook his head. Brynden chuckled. “Not that it matters. I’ve done it every single time, and I’m not about to stop. Especially with this case, understand?”
“You know you would’ve made a hell of a copper, right?” Selmy gave him a crooked grin, his shoulder bumping Brynden’s before taking the tumblers into the kitchen.
“Nah,” Brynden dug around in a drawer where he knew Selmy kept his humidor and pulled out two Cubans. “Too many rules. I like running my own ship, Selmy, you know that.”
He heard Selmy chuckle from the kitchen. “Don’t I. I’m still amazed I haven’t come into the stationhouse to find you locked up some morning.”
“Give me time, Selmy, give me time.” Brynden lit the first cigar and handed the second one to Selmy as he returned. “Go get some fresh glasses. There’s no need to let that whiskey go to waste. You have no idea what I had to do to get it.”
Selmy chuckled, raising his eyebrows. “Thirty-five years, Brynden. I can imagine exactly what you had to do to get it.”
Chapter 2: Back to Normal
“Are you ready for this?” Robb asked, not bothering to hide the faint note of concern in his voice as he reached over to straighten Theon’s tie. “It can wait, y’know...”
“Who do you think you are, my mother?” Theon batted his friend’s hands away irritably. “I’m ready. More than ready...I’ve been ready for a couple weeks now. Can we just get out of the damn car?”
Robb snorted, but clapped a friendly hand on Theon’s shoulder all the same. “Sure thing, Greyjoy. Whatever you say.”
Shucking Robb’s hand off, Theon slid out of the Rolls and made for the ivy-covered building ahead of him. He heard the car door slam behind him and smiled to himself. It was good to be back in the swing of things, relatively speaking. He was still far too skinny, according to Mya and Doc Luwin, and his scars...well, he avoided acknowledging them altogether, but by the way Mya stared at them when she thought he wasn’t looking, he knew how bad they must be.
But Selmy had given them back Ned and Robert’s case, along with the promise of Brynden Tully’s assistance, should they need it, and that plus Mya in his bed most nights to help with the worst of the nightmares was enough for him. Pulling the warped wooden door open for Robb, he followed his partner into the cool, dark halls of Queenscrown’s journalism department.
“You really think he’s gonna give us anything?” Robb asked, just a touch too loud, his voice echoing along the hushed hallway. Theon elbowed him in the side, giving an apologetic grin and a wink to a passing co-ed, a pretty little blonde thing. She smiled back at him boldly, flicking her bobbed hair like she was born to it, and he eyed her speculatively. Now it was Robb’s turn to throw an elbow, hissing, “Jesus, undress her with your eyes a little more, why don’t ya?”
Theon glanced over his shoulder, giving the blonde a final once-over. From behind, he saw her ass was disappointing...couldn’t hold a candle to Mya’s, in his opinion. “Shut it, Stark. A man can look, can’t he? Now listen, this Lannister is different from the others, but he is a Lannister. I doubt he’ll just hand us his family on a silver platter. We’ve got to pay attention.”
Robb nodded. “Listen to what he’s not saying just as much as what he is. I know how this works. How do you wanna do this?”
“Well...” Theon hesitated, unsure what interview technique would work best. Tyrion Lannister was a clever man, with a sharp wit and a sharper tongue. They wanted to stay on his good side, for sure, and also there was Mya to consider. The man the papers called the Imp happened to be one of her professors, and he didn’t want to screw anything up for her. “Let’s just have a friendly chat with him. Nothing serious, no good cop, bad cop, none of that.”
“Whatever you say, pal,” Robb said, stopping in front of the correct door. The gilded letters spelling out “Prof. Tyrion Lannister” were chipped and fading on the frosted glass window, little flakes drifting down even as he rapped once on the glass. “Professor Lannister? It’s-”
The door opened abruptly before Robb could continue. “I know who it is. Do you think I want everyone in the hall knowing I have two of Kingsport’s finest visiting me?” Tyrion Lannister ushered them into his office, gesturing at two wingback chairs set before the wide expanse of his desk. “Have a seat. And please, we’re all men here...call me Tyrion.”
“Fine. Tyrion.” Robb assumed his stern “detective” voice, and Theon sighed inwardly. They’d get nowhere like this, but he couldn’t step on his partner’s toes, so he said nothing. “I think you know why we’re here-”
“Well of course I do, Detective Stark,” the small man said wryly, picking up a tumbler of what looked to be whiskey and taking a sip. “We did discuss it briefly on the telephone, if you recall. Would either of you care for a drink?”
“A drink?” Robb said, incredulous. “You’ve got some nerve, Lannister! We’re sworn to uphold the law!” Theon thought he might’ve broken a rib holding back a snicker. There was a case of Asha’s finest hooch in the trunk of the Rolls right now, and Robb had had a nip off his flask not a quarter of an hour past.
Despite Robb’s belligerent tone, Tyrion simply looked amused. “Yes, yes, the Volstead Act. Which prohibits the production, transport and sale of liquor, but, quite conveniently, says nothing about owning or consuming it. As I’m sure you knew, of course.” He tilted his glass at them in a small salute before draining it. “Luckily for me, I owned this bottle of single malt long before the dries came into power. Are you sure neither of you will have a drink? I won’t tell if you won’t, I assure you.”
“No, thanks, we’re good.” Theon didn’t appreciate the older man’s smug tone, but he kept his own nice and even, hoping Robb would take the hint. “Prof-, Tyrion,” he corrected. “I gotta tell you, I sure appreciate what you did for Mya, after...everything. That was a big break for her, that article in the paper.”
Tyrion waved the thanks off airily. “It was well-written, thoroughly researched, and sorely needed.” He peered at Theon over the the rim of his glass, mismatched eyes unreadable. “You may or may not know this, Detectives, but I have a soft spot in my heart for, shall we say, the less fortunate women of this city. Those girls deserved a eulogy, and Miss Stone gave them a fitting one. I was in a position to make the truth known, and merely did my part.”
Sure, a soft spot in your heart and a hard one in your pants... Theon struggled to keep from smirking; Tyrion Lannister’s penchant for whores was far from a well-kept secret. But he’d said something there... “Very admirable. The truth is what we’re after, too, and we’re hoping you’re in a position to help again.”
“I’ll do what I can, of course,” he said, setting his tumbler down and steepling his hands under his chin. His gaze sharpened, and Theon got the distinct and uncomfortable feeling that Tyrion Lannister had just turned the full force of his well-known intellect on them. “But I’m afraid you won’t find the answers you’re looking for with me.”
“What I want to know is, how much do you know about the mayoral succession?” Theon had never been so nervous during a routine questioning before...he was dancing around what he really wanted to ask, and it was nerve-wracking.
“In general theory, quite a bit,” Lannister said, shrugging one shoulder. “The deputy mayor takes on the full responsibilities of the office if the mayor is unable to fulfill those duties, for whatever reason. Including, but not limited to, death.”
“And in specific practice?” Theon heard Robb shift in the seat next to him, and he prayed neither of their faces looked too eager.
“Ah, well, therein lies the rub...” Tyrion Lannister replied, tapping his chin with one stubby finger. “General theory is all well and good, but I’m afraid I don’t have much more insight into the actual day-to-day workings of the office than any other fine citizen of Kingsport.” His secretive half-smile let them know that wasn’t entirely true, and Theon decided to press his luck.
“C’mon now, Prof, don’t run that line of bull on me. Your pop, your brother and your sister are all part of the system...I think you know plenty. Mya told me-”
“What Miss Stone told you was no more than what half the well connected people in this city already know. I’m afraid you won’t get anything more than that from me.”
“So the edict Bob Baratheon signed mere days before his death-”
“Highly irregular, but within the laws of our city, as far as I know.” Tyrion shrugged again, looking bored now. “Although I’m not a law professor...you may want to check with Stannis Baratheon on that one. If you can get access to the edict, that is. As far as I know, it’s under lock and key.”
Robb stood suddenly, and Theon could tell by the stiff way he held himself that he was furious. “We’re the law, Lannister. There’s not a lock in this city that’ll keep me from finding my father’s killer, and you can tell your whole damn family that.”
Tyrion raised an eyebrow sardonically, clearly not offended, but Theon stood and grabbed his partner by the elbow all the same. “Alright, thanks for your time, I think that’ll do it. Come on , Stark.” He gave a sharp tug, breathing a sigh of relief when Robb followed him to the door.
The car ride back to the stationhouse was silent, so silent Theon was sure he could hear Robb’s teeth grinding. When they finally parked, Robb went to open his door, and Theon threw a hand out, pushing him back to his seat. “Hold your horses, pal. Since when do you, of all people, go around threatening-”
“That wasn’t a threat,” Robb said darkly. “It was a promise.”
Theon rolled his eyes. He wanted to catch Ned’s killer just as much as Robb, but there was no point in broadcasting their every move to the Lannisters, and that was a lame line, besides. “C’mon, let’s go fill out some paperwork...I know how that always cheers you up.” Robb snorted, but he gave in to Theon’s gentle nudge and slid out of the car willingly.
A few hours later, they were mostly caught up on paperwork, and both ready to tear each other’s head off. After Robb, of all people, threw a half-full coffee mug at Lancel Lannister, who’d had the impudence to walk too loudly, Selmy sent them both packing with a warning to get their attitudes adjusted before they came in on Monday.
“What’ve you got planned tonight, Stark?” Theon asked as they made their way to the car. Robb’s heavy sigh made Theon chuckle. “That much fun, eh?”
“I swear to God, Roslin has so many siblings and cousins and nieces and nephews...it’s somebody’s birthday about every other fucking day.” They hopped into the Rolls, and Robb went on, lighting up a cigarette and taking a long drag as Theon pulled out of the lot. “But tonight. Oh, tonight’s special . It’s Walder’s birthday tonight.”
“They’re all fuckin’ named Walder. Which one is it this time?”
“Black Walder,” Robb replied, scowling. Theon knew who he meant. Roslin’s half-brother, in truth, and a hothead like many of the Frey’s, his nickname stemmed from his dark hair and darker moods. He’d been picked up a few times, nothing major, but Theon knew Robb had a special dislike for the man based on how he treated Roslin. “That abusive cocksucker.”
Theon raised an eyebrow at his friend’s language. “Well, he gives you any trouble, you just go on and pistol whip him and we’ll think of an excuse later. Now, I’m taking Mya over to Carla’s, and then I don’t know what all after that, so I’ll take you home to get the Caddy.” However, he did have an expectation of “what all” entailed, and from Robb’s snort, he guessed his friend had figured that out.
“You want to go where ?! ”
Mya giggled at him, reaching over and closing his mouth with a finger under his chin. “Don’t speak with your mouth full, Detective. I don’t want to see chewed-up apple pie, thanks very much. And is it really that bad of a place?”
Theon washed down his last bite of pie with a big gulp of milk, wishing it were whiskey or even beer. He just wanted to go back to his place and get busy all night...was that so much to ask? “Bad? Well...no, it’s not that it’s bad . It’s just not really a place where you see a whole lotta women. Or cops, for that matter. It’s not, strictly speaking, legal, y’see.”
The look Mya gave him was withering. “Oh, I see. And that matters so much to you now, yeah?”
He really didn’t have a comeback for that, so he just threw a few bills onto the table and stood with a sigh. “C’mon then, let’s go watch two sweaty men beat the piss outta each other.”
“Hey now, one of those sweaty men is my little half-brother,” Mya said, knocking him lightly in the ribs when he held the door for her. “So hopefully he beats the piss out of the other guy.”
“Oh, doll...” Theon shook his head ruefully. “Haven’t you ever seen a boxing match?”
Mya bit the corner of her lip, a nervous tell. “I heard one on the radio once...”
Theon rubbed the back of his neck, sighing again as he started the Rolls up. Sometimes he forgot that Mya had grown up without any men around. He’d grown up in a man’s world on Pyke, and even when he’d been fostered out, the motherly influence of Catelyn Stark had only extended so far. He knew how bloody and brutal a boxing match could be, and he also happened to know the joint Brynden Tully had directed Mya to was bare-knuckle only on Fridays. “Well, this’ll be interesting.” And probably bloody...
When they pulled up to the place, a dingy old dance hall that had seen better days, Mya flipped open her little notebook, glancing at a page, then back at the decrepit building doubtfully. “Theon...are you sure this is the spot? The address was-”
“Sure as shootin’. Trust me, you want to see your boy box, this is the place. Oi! Hold up a second there...” He slid closer, reaching around Mya and pulling shut the door she’d just opened, ignoring her indignant huff. “What’s the plan, dove?”
“P-plan?” Mya blinked at him, curling one of her hands around the back of his neck and in his hair in a way he was sure was subconscious, although no less sexy for all that. Theon let his hand rest high on her thigh, thumb fiddling with the hem of her skirt, and wondered if she’d be up for a quickie before they went in. “I don’t really... I mean, I hadn’t really thought about it. I don’t think I can just walk up to him and introduce myself as his sister, y’know?” Her eyes widened with a sudden thought. “Oh! What if he doesn’t even know, Theon? Who his father is, I mean.”
“He probably doesn’t, if you think about it. How would he? Did Bryn say he’d been in contact with the kid?” Mya shook her head wordlessly, a distant look in her deep blue eyes, and Theon resigned himself to the fact he wasn’t getting laid in the immediate future. He knew that look...she was trying to come to a decision. “So whaddya wanna do?” He asked, pressing a kiss against her hairline.
“I think just...see him, for now,” she replied hesitantly, toying with his hair. “I don’t know, what do you think?”
“I think whatever you wanna do is just fine, sweetheart.” Family was not a subject Theon felt even remotely qualified to offer advice on. “C’mon, let’s get in there before we miss the fight.”
The old dance hall was spacious with high ceilings that still held a hint of the gold paint that had once gilded them, but it was so crowded that it felt smaller, more oppressive, than it really was. Mya was clutching Theon’s arm tightly as they made their way through the crowd, currently cheering on a pair of flyweights who were dancing around each other without landing any serious blows. He hadn’t seen another woman since they’d entered the place, and he disliked some of the looks she was getting.
“Let’s get closer,” Mya said, speaking loudly enough to be heard over the crowd. “I can’t tell what they look like!”
The press of men was tighter around the ring, but there was a small set of wooden bleachers set up on the far side and they made it there with a minimum amount of shoving. The flyweights were finishing up their final round by the time Theon and Mya found a spot to stand at the top of the bleachers.
Mya wrapped an arm around Theon’s waist, staring wide-eyed at the ring as the two boxers stood, chests heaving and gleaming with sweat, beside the referee. The bout had gone to a decision...Theon was surprised they even had judges in this place, and he strained to see the table, wondering how legit the operation was. When he’d seen the table though, he had to laugh. One of the men was a Frey, identifiable by the weasley features that Roslin had been so lucky not to inherit, and the other two were small-time fight fixers well-known to Theon.
“The fight’s fixed,” he whispered in Mya’s ear. She cocked her head towards him slightly, but never took her eyes off the ring.
“How do you know? So who’s going to win?”
Theon tucked a stray curl behind Mya’s ear, letting his fingers linger a moment to hear her breath catch as it always did. It never failed to get his blood pumping, and tonight was no exception. “I don’t know,” he told her, letting a hand rest on the small of her back. “But the judges are con men. There’s no fair fights here, doll.”
Mya said something, but her voice was lost as the ref raised the hand of the man on the left, and the crowd roared. The boxers’ respective trainers hustled them out of the ring and two more men were brought in. There was none of the tradition and ceremony one saw in the big matches...these fights were where fighters made a name, and gamblers made a few bucks.
The two new fighters were oddly mismatched to Theon’s eyes, and Mya noticed it too. “Ohh, look how much bigger that fella is,” she said, pointing, as the crowd settled down. “That doesn’t seem right...”
“Like I said, no fair fights. They’re not even wearing gloves, d’you see?” He eyed the two men, fingering the cash in his pocket. A little extra never hurt, but if the fights were rigged, it was hardly a safe bet. Ah, fuck it, why not? “Wanna put a little cash down, doll?” He let his lips graze her ear, and Mya shivered, tucking herself against him tighter. “Who do ya like?”
“The smaller one,” she said at once, elbowing him lightly when he chuckled. “He looks quick on his feet, and...muscle-y.” Theon had to admit, the kid, for he was definitely younger than Theon himself, did have a light bounce to his step and more muscles than Charles Atlas. “But I thought you said the fights were fixed?”
Theon shrugged, flagging down one of the boys taking bets with a sharp whistle. “Yeah, but if you don’t know the fix, it’s the same difference anyway.” He peeled a ten off the roll of bills in his pocket and handed it to the kid. “What’re the odds on the shrimp?”
The boy’s eyes widened at the ten, but he tucked it away and made a note in his little notebook. “5 to 1,” he said. “What’s yer name?”
“Greyjoy,” he said, grinning sharply as the kid paled and scampered off, heading for the judges’ table. Nobody wanted to cross a Greyjoy, especially not one making a bet of that size, but before the kid could make it through the crowd, the bell was ringing and the fight was on.
The smaller boxer came out swinging, darting in to pepper the larger man’s torso with a flurry of punches, his taped-up fists flying almost too fast to see. Before he could bob back out, though, the other man took a step back and landed an upper cut that sent him reeling. Theon felt Mya slip a hand under his jacket and grab hold of his shirt, bunching the fabric in her fist and pulling him closer. The rest of the round was a brutal slog of haymakers and ropework, and both men were dripping with sweat and bent over their knees when the bell rang.
As the fighters returned to their respective corners, Mya finally tore her eyes away from the ring and tilted her face up to his. Theon was surprised at the way her eyes were darkened and the breathiness of her voice when she spoke. “Now what? Who’s winning? Do they keep going?”
“Oh yeah, they keep going,” he replied, letting his hand drift down a bit on her back and smiling crookedly at her sharp little intake of breath. “Now, our guy, he’s a lefty, see how he leads with his right, then comes across with his left?” He pointed at the smaller man, who was ghosting punches at his trainer’s fists as a helper dumped water over his head, drenching his hair and running over the muscles of his back in little rivulets. Mya nodded, returning her gaze to the ring at his gesture. Watching the way the kid shook his head, drops of water glinting as they flew from his shaggy, black hair, Theon got a sneaking suspicion he knew why she was all a-flutter, but it didn’t bother him any. Well, not much . Anything that got her in the mood was completely fine with him.
Shifting to stand behind Mya, he wrapped an arm around her shoulders and pressed his lips against her dark hair. The way she arched her back at his kiss fit her hips against his perfectly, and she wrapped one hot hand around his wrist, clutching tightly. The bell rang for the second round to start, and again, the smaller boxer came out swinging, this time with a ferocious haymaker that landed with a meaty thud on the other fighter’s cheekbone. It was a solid punch, and the bigger man went to a knee, but only for a moment.
Theon felt Mya’s gasp, her slender fingers digging into his arm, and he pressed against her, already half-hard from the feel of her ass pushing back on him. Vaguely, Theon was aware of the second round going on in front of them, but with the way Mya was grinding against him, it was hard to concentrate on much else. He brushed her hair over one shoulder, letting his lips trail down her neck and enjoying the corresponding whimper that earned him. The bleachers were so closely packed, he didn’t think anyone could tell what they were up to...not that he cared. If he’d’ve thought she would let him, he would’ve dragged her under the bleachers and taken her right there.
He was in the middle of imagining that particular scene, and nearly busting his zipper, when the crowd’s volume began to ramp up. Theon raised his head, and saw that the smaller man had his opponent on the ropes, and was really laying into him, landing punch after methodical punch, steady as a blacksmith beating on an anvil. Mya bounced on her toes, cheering with the crowd, and Theon jerked away before he ruined his pants like some over-eager school boy. The boxer landed a final jab to the bigger man, who crumpled to the mat, motionless for the ref’s ten count.
Mya turned to him, wrapping her arms around his neck and clinging tight. “We won, we won!” She was chanting, as if she’d gotten the KO herself. She planted a kiss on him, dragging his lower lip through her teeth and molding her body to his, and Theon resolved to bring her to the fights at every possible opportunity.
After a long moment, he pulled away laughing, one hand sliding down to cup her ass. “So we did, doll. Hot damn, we did! Sixty bucks we won...now let’s find that kid and get paid so we can get outta here, whaddya say?”
“God yes,” Mya said throatily, tucking a finger under his waistband and practically pulling him down the bleachers.
They found the little number runner at the bottom of the bleachers, looking morose. Theon knew that $10 bet had probably hit his bookie hard, and was probably one of the bigger bets in the room. “Pony up, chum,” he said with a shark’s smile. “Name’s Greyjoy, in case you forgot.”
“Yeah, yeah,” the boy said glumly, counting out six crumpled $10’s into Theon’s outstretched palm.
“Hey, kid,” Mya said, not even bothering to remove her fingers from Theon’s waistband. “Who were the fighters, anyway? We never did hear their names.”
“Big fella was some palooka from up North...last name’a Umber. Your lucky winner there,” his mouth turned down in a sour frown, “he’s local. Gendry’s his name, Gendry Waters. Goes by the Bull in the ring, on account of he’s so stubborn and hard-headed, like a bull.”
Theon and Mya’s eyes met over the boy, both of them bursting into near-hysterical laughter, and he pulled a face at them and ran away. “Your brother’s a good-lookin’ kid,” Theon teased, letting Mya pull him towards the door. “What was the word you used? Muscle-y ?”
“You shush,” she replied, still laughing, a pink stain rising in her cheeks. “Can you believe that was him the whole time? And he won! He’s good, isn’t he?”
“He won us sixty bucks, didn’t he?” He said as they made their way to the Rolls. “Good enough for me.” The night was damp and misty, the scent of the bay omnipresent, and somehow Theon knew high tide was rolling in, knew, even though he’d been gone from the water longer than he’d been there. But then Mya’s hands were tugging his shirt out from his pants and sliding up underneath, hot against his bare skin, and everything else was forgotten.
Theon peeled his suit jacket off as they stumbled up to the car, one of his legs wedged between Mya’s as he pinned her to the car door. Her fingers were working at the buttons of his shirt, and he’d pushed the neckline of her cardigan down far enough that he could nibble at her collarbone, anticipating the way it made her hips cant into his. She’d got his shirt undone all the way down to his navel when a raucous burst of laughter from across the street startled them both. Theon had his service revolver half out of the holster before Mya covered his hand with hers, gently stopping him from drawing.
“It’s fine, Theon, it’s all fine. They’re just drunk,” she said, pulling his hand away from the gun and back to her waist. “Please,” Mya pulled his head down to hers, whispering against his lips. “Don’t stop...”
Groaning, Theon ground his hips against hers, fumbling around behind her to try and get the door open. “Sweet Jesus...I couldn’t stop if you put a gun to my head, I tell you...” He finally found the door handle and pulled her away just long enough to wrench the door open and toss her in the back seat. He paused just long enough to shrug out of his shoulder holster and deposit it on the front seat before covering her body with his.
Their lovemaking since his ordeal and consequent hospital stay had mostly been gentle and tentative, the two of them finding a rhythm that allowed his healing body to feel only pleasure and no pain. But tonight Theon couldn’t’ve been gentle if he’d tried, not that he was trying, and the way Mya’s nails were digging into his shoulders, it seemed she felt the same. They didn’t bother with undressing; Theon shoved her skirt up around her hips while she got his fly down and worked a hand into his boxers, stroking his cock with a firmer hand than he was used to.
“Please,” Mya said again, and that was all it took for Theon. Her silky underthings tore easily, and then he was sinking into her, filling her with one hard thrust. The sensation was overwhelmingly right; the way her back arched, hips jolting up to meet his, her legs locking around his back as they crashed against each other. Their lips met, the kiss fierce and deep, neither of them yielding to the other.
After some time, he couldn’t even say how long, she pulled away gasping, her hips snapping against his insistently as she raked a hand down his back, hard enough to draw blood. Theon was frustrated by the layers of clothes still between them...he wanted to feel her body on his, skin to skin, but he couldn’t be bothered to pause long enough to pull them off.
Mya moaned his name, followed by a string of the filthiest words he’d ever heard pass her lips, making him lose his easy rhythm and slam into her stutteringly. The harsh cry she gave threatened to send him over the edge, but he managed to hang on long enough to feel her body shudder around him. It was a familiar sensation by now, but it never failed to bring him off, and tonight was no exception. Theon sat back slightly, so close, tilting Mya’s hips until he found just the right angle, his grip leaving angry, red marks against the whiteness of her skin. Goddamn, control yourself, Greyjoy, she’ll have bruises all over ... The unbidden thought of his mark on her was altogether too much, though, and he spent himself inside her with a low groan.
Some minutes later, when he’d finally collapsed atop her, drowsy and content, he felt Mya’s lips brush the top of his head. “Theon?” Her breath was warm in his hair, and he could hear a hint of laughter in her voice.
“You’re smushing me,” she informed him pertly, “and, uh...we’re making a bit of a mess...”
Theon propped himself up on an elbow, balancing on the narrow seat. “Sorry, dove, you knocked me for a loop. And we’re not making any more of a mess than Robb and Ros do back here.” He grinned down at her, the tips of their noses touching, but she didn’t return the smile. “What, what’s wrong? Need me to move?”
He made as if to get up, but she pulled him back down. “No, stay. But we are making more of a mess than them...Robb and Roslin always use a rubber.” The faint reproach in her voice irked him, though he couldn’t say why...she did have a point.
Theon sighed, burying his face in her hair rather than responding. He hated the damn things, but it wasn’t as if they weren’t plentiful...he kept the car stocked at all times. And he most definitely did not want to contemplate what not using them might lead to. “You’re right,” he said, sighing again. “I just can’t help myself, Mya, I swear-”
“Alright, alright,” she interrupted him, running a hand through his hair and ruffling it affectionately. “Just...try, won’t you, Detective?”
Chapter 3: Long Term Investing
Mya glanced at the clock ticking merrily away on her desk and sighed, blowing a strand of hair out of her face and struggling to pull a stocking up, slipping on a shoe in the same move. She grabbed her coat, doing up the buttons with one hand and stuffing books and a mostly-finished essay in her bag with the other while Roslin looked on from the confines of her bed. “What’s the hurry?”
“I’ve got to run to the bank before class, and then you know I’ve got work, and Theon’s picking me up straight from there and-” Mya paused mid-sentence, gripping a barrette in her teeth and looking at Roslin as her face fell. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” Roslin said in her ‘Something’s wrong’ voice, patent pending. “You’re going to Theon’s tonight? Again?” There was something slightly accusatory in her tone, and Mya sighed, prying open the barrette with her teeth and pulling her hair back. “You know how it’s starting to look, right?”
“ I can’t help it, Roslin. You know what he went through, and it helps him to have someone there. I know how bad it looks, but honestly, I don’t care.” Mya slung her bag over her shoulder, touching the roll of bills in her coat pocket to ensure it was still there. Theon had given her half the winnings from the fights last Friday, and she had it in her head to start a savings account with them. Theon, she was sure, had already spent his half in his head on cigarettes, Chinese food, and rubbers. It was the biggest amount of money she’d had on her in some time and she felt conspicuous, as if anyone could read the amount on her forehead. But that was neither here nor there at the moment. “Why?”
Roslin shrugged, picking at a loose thread on her bedspread and avoiding Mya’s gaze. “Since not all of can spend every night with their boyfriends it just gets...I don’t know, dull. I mean, I almost had to talk to Eloise Hedgen for fun last week, Mya. Do you have any idea how embarrassing that would’ve been? And the dorm makes weird noises at night.”
Mya paused, chewing on the inside of her lip and fighting off the urge to rub her temples. She’d woken up with a headache, not for the first time lately, but she knew the gesture would only come across as being irritated which she wasn’t. “I’m sorry, Rosie, I just...I don’t know what else to do.”
“Stay here a night or two.” Roslin answered, drawing her knees to her chest. “Or go out to dinner with me for a change, or come study with me, go see a movie, anything. Come look at flowers for the wedding with me, maybe. I know how much you want to help Theon but don’t forget he’s not the only person on the face of the earth, yeah? You’ve got other friends.”
Mya’s shoulders slumped. She’s right. I can’t remember the last time just the two of us did anything together . “Do you want to come to the bank with me?” She offered feebly.
Roslin arched an eyebrow. “I’d rather go to a math class. Let’s go out tonight, yeah? There’s this new place down on Harwell that one of my stepsisters told me has these cheesesteaks, and I’ve never had one but they sound di vine but they’re super-messy so I don’t want to go there with Robb because I don’t want him seeing me eat like some sort of bovine creature all covered with cheese and onions and-”
Mya laughed as Roslin ramped up into another one of her long-winded tirades and held up a hand. “Fine, fine. We’ll go tonight and you can wallow in cheese and onions and I won’t think any less of you, alright? Now I’ve got to scram if I want to get to the bank but I’ll have Theon drop me off here tonight, alright?”
“Pinky promise?” Roslin stuck out her little finger, and Mya grinned, hooking hers around it.
Mya was pacing the stone steps in front of the bank long before it opened, one hand tucked firmly around the bills in her pocket and an eye on the clock over the doors. Come on , some of us have places to go! Finally, the doors creaked open just after nine and she took the steps up two at a time, surprising the security guard still unlocking the bank.
The lobby was enormous, far bigger than it looked from the inside, but Mya hardly had time to admire it as she hurried up to the first teller she saw raise their little gate. “I need to open a savings account, and I’m in something of a hurry, so...”
The teller, a short, bald man with glinting eyes, smiled widely at her. “Then we’ll make it quick. Just fill out these forms, and then these, and I’ll also need a form of valid I.D. and know that there is a one-dollar fee for opening an account-”
“Alright, fine, fine.” Mya grabbed the forms, scribbling whatever information they asked for and glancing up at the clock as it slowly ticked the morning away. Her first class started at ten, and with it getting so close to the end of the semester and finals, she couldn’t afford to waste time lollygagging around in a bank. Finally she shoved the paper back at the teller, followed by the thirty dollars Theon had given her, drumming her fingers impatiently on the counter while the man looked them over minutely. His thick, dark eyebrows arched for a split second, and he pulled open a drawer underneath the counter. Mya heard him rifling through other files and she dared to glance at the clock again. “Sir, I really need you to hurry it up, please, I’ve got to get back to class in twenty minutes and-”
“Ahhh, here we are.” The teller straightened with a single piece of paper. “Now, Miss Stone, would you like to combine this account with your pre-existing one?”
“Your other account. One you’ve had open here for...oh, quite some time by the looks of it.”
Mya shook her head, feeling a lock of hair slip loose from her barrette and tucking it behind her ear impatiently. “You must be mistaken, I don’t have another account.” She had a piddling little birthday money account up in Eyrie’s lone bank, but she was sure that wasn’t what he was talking about. There couldn’t be more than nine dollars in there anyway.
“You are Mya Kathryn Stone, right?”
“Yes.” She drummed faster.
“Date of birth February second, 1905?”
“ Yes , but I didn’t even live here until two years ago.”
“Well, Miss Stone, someone’s been looking out for you then. An account was opened in your name on March 15th, 1905 and has been sitting pretty ever since.”
Mya’s curiosity got the better of her. “How pretty?”
One thick brow quirked, the teller scribbled down a number and slid it across the counter. “That pretty.”
Mya seized the scrap of paper with both hands, eyes widening. She suddenly felt flushed and feverish all over, unable draw breath. The floor tilted beneath her and distantly she was aware of the teller calling her name but she couldn’t respond. She felt hands on her arms, lowering her to the ground, and someone shoved a paper cup of water in her palm. Drinking it gratefully, she fumbled with the buttons on her thick coat, wrenching it open and feeling immediate relief. There’s over a thousand dollars in that account . Her head spun and throbbed as she tried to process that, and she blinked rather numbly at the teller as he knelt in front of her.
“Are you alright, Miss Stone?”
She nodded, not trusting herself to speak for a full minute and painfully aware she’d garnered the attention of every teller and banker in the building so far. “I just got a little warm, is all.”
“Completely understandable,” the teller said, offering her a hand up.
She let him pull her up, still staring at the scrap of paper in her hand, now crumpled with sweat. “Who...who did this?”
The teller glanced at another man Mya hadn’t noticed before, a small, pert man. He looked nearly prim, she thought distantly, with his neat little suit and his neat little moustache. He looked at her appraisingly, idly fingering a cufflink. “Why don’t you come back another time, miss, when you have awhile to talk, and we can discuss this account.”
“I- I’m sorry, who’re you?”
Even the man’s little smile was neat, perfunctory and even. “Petyr Baelish. I’m the president of this bank, and I’ll be glad to give you whatever information you need on this. However, I believe you said you had somewhere to be at ten, and I’d hate for you to be late on my account.” He glanced at his pocketwatch, raising an eyebrow. “Now, are you in need of a ride? It’d be unfortunate for you to have another...episode on the sidewalk. I’d be more than happy to call you a cab.”
“No.” Mya shook her head firmly. It was bad enough she’d swooned like some sort of corset-wearing Victorian ninny in the middle of the bank, but she refused to allow herself to be carted off like an invalid. “No, I’m fine. I’m sorry about the trouble.” She ran a hand over her face, annoyed at how it trembled. “Um, just set up a separate account for now. I’ll come back when I have time to discuss all this.” In roughly ten or fifteen years.
Brushing past the teller and Baelish, she hurried outside, grasping the railing and sucking in the cold November air until she felt her heart slow down. Her face was still burning as she straightened and started hoofing it back to campus. It wasn’t until she slunk into the lecture hall, ten minutes late, that she realized she was still gripping the scrap of paper. She glanced down at it again and felt her head swim alarmingly. Tucking the paper away resolutely, she drew out her notes and turned her brain, sluggish and wormy though it felt, to her professor. The bank just made a mistake. They had to have. There’s no one looking out for me.
“Rough day?” Theon grinned at her as she slid into the Rolls, immediately curling up against his side and letting her eyes shut.
“No- yes. Definitely yes.” Mya wrapped an arm across his stomach as he accelerated, inhaling the familiar scent of his aftershave. “All I want to do is crawl in bed and...aw, shoot.” She straightened. “I need you to take me home.”
“That’s where we’re going, dove.” Theon explained patiently.
“No, no, my home.” Mya sighed and unclipped her barrette, running a hand through her hair. “I promised Roslin I’d stay at the dorms tonight and go out with her.”
“Oh.” The single syllable dropped heavy in the car, and Mya buried her face between Theon’s shoulder and the seat back.
“Not you too, please not you too.” Her history professor had let it be known to her that he was displeased she was late, and the lecture she’d gotten from him had set off a domino effect of her being late for everything for the remainder of the day. If she had one more person give her a disappointed look Mya swore she was going to scream.
“Hey, hey, knock that off.” He twisted around, wrapping an arm around her shoulders and dislodging her. “I can explain lipstick on my collar to the maids at home, but not smeared up my back. Now, not me what?”
“Roslin was just kvetching because she and I haven’t spent any time together because I’ve been so tied up with school and work and...well, you.”
“You’re my girl. You’re supposed to be tied up with me.” Theon tapped his fingers on the steering wheel. “In fact, there’s something we could try...I’ve got some rope in the trunk...”
“I’m serious.” Mya knocked him in the ribs. “I promised her, and I don’t want to leave her alone with Eloise Hedgen again tonight.”
“But it’s ok to leave me alone?”
Mya felt her frustration welling up in her, bitter and roiling in her stomach. “Theon, I’ve spent 6 out of the past 7 nights with you for the past month . It’s only one more.” She looked up at him in the glow of a red light, not liking the way his jaw was tensed. “Don’t be upset. You’ll be just fine, I promise.” He swallowed, and Mya wondered if he was remembering the last spat they’d had, the night before Ramsay Bolton had gotten a hold of him. She looped her fingers through his, planting a kiss on his palm. “Are you mad?”
“Nah, not mad.” Theon glanced at her, some unreadable expression in his eyes. “I’ve just...” he trailed off, muttering unintelligibly.
“What?” Mya tilted her head.
Theon heaved a sigh. “I’m used to you being there when I wake up, is all.”
“Oh...” Mya didn’t know what to say, and he seemed determined to not look at her. She squeezed his hand and tucked herself back against his shoulder. “So’ve I, Theon, but it’s really just one night. Tomorrow night I’m all yours. I swear it.” He gave her a sideways glance, clearly not pleased, and Mya tentatively extended her little finger. “Pinkie promise? You can borrow my octopus if you want.”
Theon finally chuckled at that, easing the car into park near the back entrance of her dorm. “Alright, doll.” He looped his pinkie around hers and drew her hand close, kissing her fingertips. “Go off and practice your Charleston with Ros.”
Mya laughed, relieved. She hated, absolutely hated , leaving Theon in a foul mood. “We’re going out for cheesesteaks, darling, not dancing.”
Theon groaned at the mention of food. “Go on then, scram before I decide to come with you.” He drew her close and kissed her, briefly touching his forehead to hers. “Tomorrow?”
“I pinkie promised.” Mya pecked him again, gathered up her bag, and slid out of the car before he convinced her to stay. She leaned down, peering back into the car.“Be good without me, Detective!”
Theon gave her a roguish wink and raced the engine, and as he sped off Mya wrapped her arms across her stomach, smiling. It wasn’t till his taillights had disappeared around the corner that she realized she hadn’t told him about the bank that morning. Ah well, there’s always tomorrow , she told herself as she waved to Mrs. Darry and started trotting up the stairs. Roslin looked surprised as Mya entered, dumping her bag at the foot of her bed.
“Well, are we getting cheesesteaks, or not?”
Roslin grinned and grabbed her coat. “You’re paying.”
“It’s the least you can do for ignoring me for the last month like you have!” Roslin wrapped an arm around Mya’s waist and pushed her down the hallway she’d just come from, laughing at her roommate’s spluttering denials. “Oh, shut your gob, Stone.”
A short time later the girls sat giggling in a corner booth at a no-name diner, half-devoured cheesecakes steaming in front of them. “He was so confused when he found out my dad had named about a dozen of my brothers after himself, God bless ‘em” Roslin picked a wad of cheese-covered onions off her sandwich and popped them straight into her mouth. “He eventually just started referring to them as The Walder, in collective.”
Mya grinned, prying a mushroom out of her own sandwich and twirling the long chain of cheese that came off with it. “And he’s marrying into The Walder, then?”
“Well, either way, he said he’s just marrying me, not any of the Walders or Waldas or anyone else.” Roslin nodded perfunctorily.
Mya snorted. “Or so he thinks.”
“What’s that supposed to mean? It’s not like we’re moving in with my dad again after the wedding. No sir.” Roslin shook her head firmly. “We’ll get our own place and never speak to any of them again. Speaking of which, you and Theon aren’t allowed to be all handsy and necking at my wedding, got it?”
“What? Roslin, the wedding’s not till June. It’s far too early for you to be worrying about that. And anyway, Theon and I know how to behave ourselves.”
Roslin clapped a hand over her mouth, snorting with laughter. “Oh you do not! One of the Walders was at the fights on Friday, missy. He knows Theon, and he told me this weekend that there was some dame who was all but on her knees in front of him during the middleweight fights. Now, I’m hoping that was you, but knowing Theon...”
“Ugh, shut your gob!” Mya could feel her cheeks burning. “Yes, that was me but I was not on my knees and I resent the implications that I-”
“Alright, alright, keep your panties on, I know you weren’t.” Roslin held up her hands. “Just...at the wedding, like I said, behave.”
“Of course we will.” Mya was miffed that Roslin even felt the need to say anything, especially given the fact that she and Robb were just as adventurous. “Say, did I tell you I’ve already got another dance partner lined up for your reception?”
Roslin leaned forward conspiratorially, brown eyes sparkling. “No! Who? Is it Jory? Oh, please tell me it’s Jory! I still think you and he would have the cutest little babies!”
“What? No! Jeepers, Roslin, just drop Jory already. He’s been making eyes at Rickon’s nanny for months now anyway, haven’t you noticed? Anyway, it’s Robb’s uncle Brynden. He’s helping me out with a few things and asked me to save him one.”
“What’s he helping you with?” Roslin took another enormous bite out of her sandwich. Mya quickly outlined her work with Brynden, and Roslin’s eyes widened. “You’ve got a brother?!”
“Several, as a matter of fact. Two here in the city, at least. And one of them’s a darn good fighter.”
“Oh Mya...” Her roommate sat back in the booth, a stunned expression on her face. “You didn’t say a word ! About any of this! I thought we were friends.”
“I know, I’m sorry. It just all sort of slipped my mind. But I’m hoping to actually figure out a way to talk to him and get to know him. Edric too, but that might be harder...” Mya fought off the urge to show Roslin her list. For some reason, she didn’t want to share those precious names with anyone she didn’t have to. “Anyway, I’m just hoping he doesn’t think I’m some sort of nutso tracking him across the state or anything like that.”
“Oooh, can I come with you when you meet him? Please?” Roslin had clasped her hands before her chest, sitting bolt upright. “It’d be just like in the books! Oh, the only way it could be better is if one of you had amnesia! Hey, how about some pie?”
Mya laughed and flagged down the waitress. “Absolutely not to coming with. I don’t even know if I’m going to do it yet, or how, or anything. But yes to the pie. Absolutely yes to the pie.”
“So what does he look like? Did you talk to him? Did Theon talk to him? Oh my God, you can’t let that happen, it’d be a disaster!” Roslin paused with a forkful of strawberry rhubarb pie halfway to her mouth, and Mya laughed.
“I didn’t talk to him, no. We left straight after his fight. As for what he looks like...” Mya thought for a moment, playing with the dollop of whipped cream on top of her own piece. Gendry’s face, from what little she could see of had rung a faint bell in her memory but she couldn’t quite place it. “Like me, I suppose. Only he looked like he’d been hit by the milktruck whereas I don’t. At least I hope I don’t.”
“Nah,” Roslin grinned around a mouthful of pie. “Just tired. Must be all those late nights with your boy.”
“Hey, I’m here tonight, aren’t I?” Mya jabbed her fork at Roslin. “And my boy isn’t very happy about it.”
“Oh, poo on him.”
The two ate in companionable silence for awhile, and Mya was still turning Gendry’s face over in her mind trying to think where she’d seen it before. The answer came just as Roslin was nibbling her last bit of crust. “Renly!”
“Renly Baratheon. That’s who he looks like!” It made sense; Renly was their unwitting uncle, after all. “He looks like my editor’s husband.” That won’t be distracting at all...
Later that night as Mya was undressing for bed, Roslin suddenly seized her around the waist. “What on Earth happened to you?!”
“Huh? Oh...” Mya glanced down and grinned somewhat sheepishly. Her sides from rib to hip were a mass of bruises in various states of fading, remnants from her and Theon’s tussle in the back seat of the Rolls the Friday previous. “That’s nothing, really. Looks worse than it is.”
“Did Theon do that? Mya!” Roslin’s face was a mix of anger and indignation. “I know he’s a boil on the ass of society but I never thought’d he’d do something like this!”
Mya couldn’t help but laugh. “Relax, would you? He didn’t hurt me, we just got a bit...eager Friday night, and that backseat is small.” She didn’t think she could bear to admit to Roslin that a driving force being the intensity of Friday night came from the visions of sweaty, muscle-bound men beating the tar out of each other. One of which was your brother , for Pete’s sake . She felt her cheeks start to burn again as she remembered Theon’s snarky grin at that, but at the same time it hadn’t kept him from tossing her in the back seat like a sack of rice. Nevertheless, Mya knew he’d give her endless grief for that. Tugging her nightgown over her head, she curled up in bed, wrapping her arms around her stuffed purple octopus. “Honest. He’d never hurt me, Roslin.”
Roslin gave her a dubious look as she burrowed under her own blankets. “Whatever you say. I just hope you cleaned out the back of the car when you were done. That’s Robb’s and my spot. You two get the front seat, yeah?”
The front seat, Theon’s bed, the movie theatre down on Gold Road, Theon’s bathtub, Mama’s kitchen table, Mama’s couch and guest room...I suppose we can give them the back seat . Mya smiled to herself as she reached up and flicked off her bedside light.
Chapter 4: The Lions At Home
“Stop crying, you fat baby! You’re worse than a girl,
About to set his glass of Pinot down, Jaime Lannister reconsidered and raised the glass to his lips, draining it in one go. God above, we’re not even done with the soup course yet ... He detested most children, and made no exception for one of his own, though he’d never in a million years acknowledge that particular fact to anyone besides Cersei or Tyrion. Myrcella and pudgy little Tommen were tolerable, but Joffrey...well, Joff was a bastard, all right, in more ways than one.
“You leave him alone, Joff!” Myrcella piped up. She took her younger brother’s hand, squeezing tightly. “Boots was his favorite kitten!”
“Then he shouldn’t’ve let it play out in the yard alone,” Joffrey sneered, turning to face Tommen. “You’ve got nobody to blame but yourself, you know. It’s all your fault Boots died.” Tommen burst into a fresh bout of tears, sobbing into his soup bowl.
Jaime glanced across the table at his brother, Tyrion, whose fingers were twitching around his own similarly empty wine glass. Family dinners...always so entertaining, he thought dryly as they shared a rueful smile. Tyrion’s eyes flicked over to Cersei, seated at the foot of the table, and Jaime’s gaze followed his brother’s. His face was indecipherable, and Jaime wondered what he saw when he looked at their sister; Tyrion and Cersei were alike in some ways, in Jaime’s opinion, but the two of them had little love for each other.
Cersei was busy signing a document held out to her by one of the servants, one curling wisp of blonde hair falling from her immaculately pinned-up braids. Objectively, Jaime could see the exhaustion and worry lining her face, but she looked just as beautiful to him as she always did. He was just contemplating whether he might take the risk of staying the night with her when his father’s brusque voice interrupted his thoughts.
“That’s enough, all of you. If you can’t behave appropriately, you will go eat in the nursery.” The three children gaped at their grandfather, none of them, not even Tommen, had used the nursery in years. He stared back at them coolly. “Go. Now.”
Tommen and Myrcella rose and went at once, and Jaime saw the older girl put an affectionate arm around her little brother as they left the room. Joff, however, leaned back in his seat, chin lifting in indignation. “I’m not a child, Grandfather, and I’m not going to eat in any nursery. I can’t help it Tommen’s such a baby.”
All three of the Lannister siblings froze, and Jaime saw Tyrion smirk out of the corner of his eye. He was sure his own face wore the same expression, though he knew his father hated it. But Tywin’s full attention was now on Joffrey.
“You will go, or I’ll have Sandor remove you,” Tywin told his grandson, glancing pointedly at the doorway. Joff’s jaw set stubbornly, but before he could open his mouth, Tywin was calling out. “Clegane? Remove my grandson, if you would.”
Joffrey stood quickly as his huge bodyguard entered the room. “I’m going ,” he whined, waving Clegane off when he came closer. “I’ve got a date tonight anyway.”
“With the Stark girl?” Cersei spoke for the first time since they’d sat to eat, her voice low and musical. “Again, darling?” She tilted her face up, waiting for a kiss from her son. Jaime wondered, not for the first time, how she could favor him so much when he was such a little shit.
“Yes, Mother, again,” Joff said impatiently, stooping to kiss her cheek on his way out the door. “She’s the only girl with any class or breeding at my school, you know that. Good night.” He strode out of the room, Clegane following after silently.
Watching them go, Jaime was struck by complete absurdity of Clegane’s position. He’d fought with the man in the Great War, and had never seen a better fighter, save maybe himself. They’d been two of the youngest men in their regiment, and Jaime had been the youngest officer by far, but that was as far as the similarities went. Well, that and their shared propensity for killing. Before he could further ponder the oddity of such a man, made for violence, as a glorified driver, or the unexpected turns his own life had taken, his brother spoke, commanding his attention.
“I had some interesting visitors during my office hours yesterday,” Tyrion said, carefully casual.
Jaime heard the underlying message in his tone, but Cersei apparently missed it. “Nobody cares about your whores, brother.” She cast a sly glance at their father, going on. “Unless you married one of them, that is.”
Tyrion waved a hand, seemingly brushing off the snide comment, but his eyes were hard when he spoke again. “No, no, those came later...the visitors during office hours were two young detectives, Stark and Greyjoy. Astute young men, and quite motivated to solve the Baratheon/Stark double homicide.”
“ Greyjoy ?” Cersei’s mouth, so lovely, formed a little moue of distaste. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it were them who’d done it. They hated Robert and Ned after that raid on Pyke.” Jaime almost laughed out loud at that; only Cersei could so convincingly blame someone else for something she’d done.
“Please, don’t play that game with me,” Tyrion put on a wounded tone, but Jaime could see the amusement in his eyes. Their father was sitting ramrod straight in his seat at the head of the table, taking in his children’s pettiness. “We’re all family here...there’s no need for that. I am on your side, you know.”
“Then why are the police sniffing around you, little brother?” Cersei spat the words out with all the venom she could, a not inconsiderable amount. “Why did they even think to go to you, anyway?”
Jaime raised one eyebrow at his father, whose lips pressed together in a thin line. As usual, Cersei had said what they were all thinking. Tyrion got on well with his brother, and had a casual affection for his niece and younger nephew, but it was a well-publicized fact that he often butted heads with his powerful father and sister. If the cops suspected any Lannisters in the deaths of Eddard Stark and Robert Baratheon, it certainly wouldn’t be Tyrion. So why were they talking to him?
When he answered, Tyrion was as insouciant as ever, but Jaime sensed an uneasiness to him that hadn’t been there before. “Ah, I’d been having a casual discussion with one of my students, an apt girl, you’d like her,” he nodded once at Jaime, “and she was wondering about how the mayor’s successor was chosen. I may’ve mentioned...the abnormality of the edict naming you as mayor over the deputy mayor.” He waved the wineglass in his hand airily, and for a moment, Jaime was sure Cersei would reach across the table and slap him.
“And?” She hissed. “How does an off-the-cuff remark to whatever little co-ed you’re fucking bring those two cowboys in?”
“That’s where you’re mistaken, sister,” Tyrion said, a crooked smile pulling up one corner of his mouth. “I only fuck whores, if you recall. But the problem is that Miss Stone happens to be seeing Detective Greyjoy. Not long after we spoke, I saw them together at the Policeman’s Ball. She must’ve brought it up to him.”
The name Stone was pinging faintly in Jaime’s mind, but he couldn’t put a finger on where he’d heard it before. Just as he thought he’d gotten it, his father spoke, and the thought fled. “This is the Greyjoy that ran into Roose Bolton’s boy? The one that’s half a Stark?”
Tyrion nodded, chuckling. “That’s the one. Unless you happen to know another Greyjoy who’s not a criminal.”
“Oh, please,” Cersei said, snapping her fingers for more wine. “He’s as crooked as they come, I’m sure of it. They’re all criminals, the lot of ‘em.” She held her glass out to be filled, ignoring the girl pouring. “Now what was this girl’s name, the one you just happened to mention the edict to?” Before he could answer, she went on, building up a head of steam now. “I can’t believe you would be so completely moronic! Although I should expect it by now, you’ve always hated me, you can’t stand that I-”
“That’s enough, you two.” Tywin spoke curtly, but all three of his children could see the cold anger in his eyes. “Tyrion, you would be wise to do nothing to upset this family’s current upward trend, or you might wish you hadn’t. A professor’s salary is all well and good, for a man that lives like a professor.”
“Which I most assuredly do not,” Tyrion replied lightly. “Yes, yes, we’re quite clear. Now, if you’ll all excuse me, I think I’m quite through for the evening.” Draining his second, or maybe third, glass of wine, Tyrion called out. “Bronn! Bring the car around, we’re leaving.” He hopped down from the chair he was perched on, and Jaime saw their father look away, as he always did. He hated to be reminded of his youngest son’s small stature.
“I’ll walk you out,” Jaime rose as well, tossing his napkin over the remainders of his overdone steak. The chef who served the Mayor’s mansion was terrible, but he’d been one of Robert’s favorites, and was, regrettably, proving harder to get rid of than Baratheon himself had been. He was curious about this girl, Stone. He still couldn’t place the name, and it was like to drive him mad.
As she so often did, Cersei seemed to be reading his mind. “I want that girl’s name,” she said, putting a hand out as Tyrion passed her. She didn’t quite touch him, though, couldn’t bring herself to, and he just laughed. “Her name , damnit!” She always has hated being laughed at , Jaime thought, pausing in the doorway.
“Mya, Mya Stone. Smart as a whip, with about as much political savvy as my friend Bronn here,” Tyrion said, nodding to the man who’d somehow managed to come within a foot of Jaime without him hearing. “From some backwater podunk...Eyrie, I believe.”
Jaime and Cersei placed the name at the same time, judging by the way her lips pressed together bloodlessly. “One of his bastards thinks she can make trouble for us, hmm?” Cersei stood left the room abruptly, tossing her napkin over her plate with the same annoyed flick of the wrist that Jaime had. He knew she liked her steak rare, just as he did, and he made a mental note to call and get a table at the Blue Room for the next evening.
Tywin followed his daughter while Jaime and Tyrion made their way to the front hall, a monstrously heavy set of French doors and a hideous stag’s head dominating the entryway. Bronn went out to pull the car around, and Tyrion took advantage of the opportunity.
“So my student is one of Bob’s byblows? How many did the damn lecher have?”
Jaime shrugged, loosening his tie and unbuttoning the top button of his shirt. It’d been a long day, and he much as he enjoyed his brother’s company, he craved his sister’s more. “More than a dozen, including your inquisitive little girl reporter, a boxer down in the Hook, and of course, little Eddy.”
Tyrion nodded, “Eddy’s a good boy, from what I’ve heard. And Mya is a delightful student, I-”
“Oh, is that why you decided to send her my way?” Jaime had finally recalled why the name Mya Stone had sounded so familiar, and now that he’d dredged up a face to go along with the name, he could see Robert written all over the girl’s features. She had the Baratheon eyes, a deep blue, and that coal-black hair they all had. “Because I’ll tell you, I don’t appreciate being lied to, Tyrion, especially by someone as unskilled as her. I have better things to do with my time than deal with curious students who think they’re hard-boiled reporters.”
Tyrion laughed, pulling his pocket watch out and checking the time with an impatient tsk. “What on Earth is taking Bronn so long? And I’m sorry about that...I never told her to lie, but I suppose I didn’t exactly tell her not to either. But didn’t you read her front-page article, the one about those poor girls that Bolton got to? She’s going to be quite the investigative reporter some day, you mark my words. Get on her good side now, and she’ll be more apt to swallow whatever gilded nonsense you spew for Cersei and Father.” Just as he went to check his watch again, they heard his car pull around, and Tyrion grinned at Jaime. “I think I’ll leave you with that, brother. Give my regards to our sweet sister, won’t you?”
Jaime pulled the door open for his brother, smiling despite himself. He could never stay mad at Tyrion for long. “I think I’ll pass on that...she’s already in a foul mood as is, thanks to you.”
Waddling out, Tyrion winked at him. “If you can’t put her back in a good mood, you’re not worth your salt as a twin, brother. Good night.”
Three hours later, Jaime had proven his worth a time or two, and lay sated beside his sister, lazily unpinning her golden braids. “So you said Baelish rang you up yesterday? What about, did he say?”
“He only said there’d been some recent activity on a dormant account that he thought might interest me. His ambition is so blatant it’s almost refreshing, you know?” Cersei sat up abruptly, pushing his hands away disdainfully; she’d never been one for cuddling or laying idle. “It’s got to be one of the bastards’ accounts.”
“It’s got to be this Stone,” Jaime replied, plumping the pillow behind his head and stretching out with a grin. He knew Cersei wanted him to stay, even if she acted otherwise. “It all adds up. Think about it. Lancel tells us about that list that was in Ned Stark’s personal papers, which he found on whose desk, if you recall?”
“Greyjoy’s,” Cersei said, her lovely jade eyes narrowing like a cat’s. “And that piece of scum is seeing the bastard girl...of course. But why on Earth did it take her so long to get to the bank?”
Jaime shrugged. “Maybe he didn’t tell her right away...or didn’t even know what the list was. Besides,” he pulled Cersei back down to lay by his side, one finger traveling the length of her bare stomach and looping around her navel. “They have been awfully busy as of late: almost being killed by Bolton, writing front page articles, interviewing Tyrion...”
“Tyrion...” Cersei’s lovely face was marred by a slight grimace, but her back arched all the same, and Jaime grinned. “Can you please not bring him up when you’re doing that ?”
Sliding down just a bit, he kissed her throat lightly, just to hear that impatient sound she made when she wanted more than he gave her. “Would you rather we talk about Greyjoy and your late husband’s bastard? Or perhaps about you and Father’s scheming? You do realize I need to know what the two of you are planning, if I’m to be an effective mouthpiece, yes?”
“I’d rather not talk at all...but I can always send you home, you know,” Cersei said, the threat rendered meaningless by the breathless quality of her voice.
Jaime thought briefly about his cold, sparse apartment, no more than a block away. It was no more a home to him than the previous apartment had been, nor the one before that. He let his lips part to taste his sister’s perfect skin. “I am home,” he told her.
Chapter 5: The Family Stump
If you had any sense in your head you’d be going home right now, not wandering off to the slums to harangue your younger brother,
Mya scolded herself as she fiddled with a glove. Her afternoon classes had been called off, thank God, due to a hazing prank pulled by one of the men’s colleges that included flushing cherry bombs down every toilet in the journalism department. Mya had decided to take advantage of a free Tuesday afternoon to check out the gym Gendry boxed at and maybe introduce herself...
as what though?
She tugged a wool hat over her ears as she let the dormitory door shut after her, eyes watering in the stiff, salty wind blowing through the city off the bay.
Ugh, just go upstairs. This is no kind of weather for man or beast.
“You’re not a man or a beast though,” she muttered to herself, stuffing her hands deep in her pockets as she trotted to a waiting cab. “You’re a girl, and an idiot one at that.”
After a short, speedy ride during which Mya resigned herself to the fact that her driver was more apt to run over a stop sign than obey it, she was deposited at a 5-way intersection in a glum, grey section of town. It wasn’t as bad as Flea Bottom, but the way the wind whipped down the streets made Mya miss the snug warmth of her dorm and the neatly manicured hedges at Queenscrown. Just get this over with.
The name on the sign swinging over the gym’s door was too smudged and dirty for Mya to read it properly, but through the equally smudged windows she could see figures moving, darting in and out, bobbing and weaving. Distantly she remembered Brynden Tully telling her she should really bring Theon with her, but she shushed his voice in her conscience. They’d never take her seriously if she went in there on her fella’s arm. And anyway, it wouldn’t take that long.
Squaring her shoulders, Mya stepped off the curb and crossed the street, thankful for the blast of warm air that enveloped her as she pulled open the gym door. Glancing around the expansive room, she swallowed hard. Maybe I should’ve brought him ... much like the Fright night fights, there wasn’t another woman in sight, just dozens of men and boys batting at each other with bulbous, tattered boxing gloves taped on their hands.
“Hey, you lost, sweetheart?” A particularly large side of beef separated himself from a clump of fighters, tossing a towel over his shoulder and looking her over, grinning widely. “I’d sure be glad to take you wherever you need to go.” As he stood before Mya, she realized she didn’t even come up to this man’s shoulder. She brought herself up to her full height anyway, setting her jaw stubbornly.
“I’m looking for Gendry Waters.” God, but her voice sounded pipsqueaky in the cavern of the gym. She cleared her throat and tried again. “Does he train here?”
“The Bull? Yeah, why, what’s a pretty little thing like you doing looking for an s.o.b. like him though?” The man was staring rather openly at her chest, and Mya pulled her coat shut quickly. “What’d he do, forget to leave you cab fare on the dresser this morning?” He chuckled rather brashly at his own humor and Mya’s cheeks blazed.
“Absolutely not! I’m with the Lantern , and I’m doing a special interest piece on local athletes.” She’d been rehearsing the lie in her head the entire cab ride over and while she thought it came out alright, you never knew. Plus, as Theon was so fond of pointing out, Mya was a terrible liar. She bored her eyes into the lunk’s, daring him to challenge her, and eventually he ran a hand over his sweaty, square face. “And I have my own cab fare, thank you very much.”
“Alright sweetheart, just keep your bloomers on. Or not. Guarantee you you’d get more of a response around here without ‘em. Anyway, wait here.” Giving her one more lecherous look, the boxer strode off into the throng of fighters. Finding a rickety-looking wooden chair, Mya perched on the end of it and wondered for the hundredth time if this was even a good idea or not. It’s too late now. You’ve made your bed, now snuggle up in it.
“You lookin’ for me?” Mya started and stood quickly. Gendry stood before her, thick black brows knitted together. Any evidence of his fight last Friday had gone from his face save for a faint puffiness around an eye, and the resemblance to Renly was even stronger now. He was broader across the shoulder than Renly though, and decidedly firmer around the midsection. Gendry shifted his weight, waiting for Mya to answer, and she noted how he looked fast as a whip even standing still. His eyebrows raised a fraction of an inch. “Miss?”
“Yes, sorry.” Mya yanked her thoughts away from his shoulders and extended her hand. “Mya Stone, with the Lantern . Do you have some time?”
“Uhhh...” Gendry grasped it briefly, then ran his hand over his dark head, causing his hair to spike up a bit. “Yeah, I suppose I can spare a few. What’d you need again?”
“Just have a few questions. I’m working on a story on local sports stars, and your name came up.” Mya gave him what she hoped was a charming smile. “It won’t take long, I promise.”
“Better not.” Gendry sighed. “Alright, give me ten minutes to clean up. You mind if we grab somethin’ to eat? I’ve gotta get to work before long.”
“Not at all. In fact, it’ll be my treat. For your time, and such.” Mya smiled. “I’ll wait.”
Forty minutes later Mya stared at the mountain of food before Gendry and wondered if she wasn’t in over her head. They’d walked to a small, grimy greasy spoon where Gendry was apparently a frequent visitor, and a buxom waitress with gobs of red hair piled on her head had known his order almost before they sat down.
“ Four eggs over medium with steak, white toast dry, short stack, bacon, ham, home fries, orange juice, and an egg cream, right?” She’d slid all the plates onto the table, glancing back at her order pad before setting a small dish in front of Mya. “And a bowl of fruit for the lady.”
“So,” Gendry poked a piece of toast into an egg yolk and took a bite of it. “who brought my name up? And sorry for having breakfast so late - I work second shift, y’know, so afternoons are my mornings.”
Mya waved off his apology, spearing a piece of cantaloupe. “Actually...you were my idea, after your fight on Friday.”
Gendry laughed, chasing his toast down with a swig of orange juice. “ You were at the fights? How’d you even make it in the door? That’s a rough crowd, that is.”
“It wasn’t like I was there by myself or anything. I had my fella with me. Sort of had to, really. If I went there by myself and he found out about it he’d throw me in the clink.” Mya fished in her pocket for the little notepad she kept in there. She had no questions written down for Gendry, but if she’d put up the ruse of being a legitimate reporter, may as well carry through with it. “So...tell me about you.”
Gendry shrugged, sliding a chunk of steak on his fork with some home fries. “Not much to tell, really. Box, work, sleep, shit.” He paused, glancing up her with a guilty expression. “Sorry ‘bout that. I’m not around girls much...well, not...” He gestured with his fork at her. “Not girls like you. Classy and shi-...stuff.”
“What’d you do before you boxed? And which automotive factory do you work for?” Mya asked around a mouthful of melon.
“Before I-” Gendry shot her another look, slightly suspicious this time. “How’d you know I work in a car factory?”
Bullfrogs . Mya’s mind raced frantically. “Um, the grease. Under your nails, there.” She nodded at his left hand where, fortunately, there was in fact grease smudged under his broad nails. “But anyway, you were saying before you boxed...?”
“Warn’t much going on. Just my ma and me. We had a flat over one of the gyms closer down by the river, and I used to spend time at it after school while my ma was at work and...” Gendry shrugged. “The coaches took a liking to me and started teaching me how to spar.”
Mya tilted her head, resting her chin on her hand. It was surreal, she thought, listening to Gendry speak. She’d wanted a brother or sister her entire life, and now if the list in her purse was accurate she had more than she knew what to do with. “How old were you when you started?”
“Eight. And I just kept at it and kept at it. It’s good for you, helps clear your mind. I’ve needed it a lot lately.” Gendry offered her a pancake, and she shook her head.
Gendry’s face tightened then, and he set his fork down. “Few years back my ma came down sick. Doctor said it was from working in the textile mills - the cotton dust ruined her lungs and she couldn’t work, couldn’t bring in money. So I quit school, warn’t doing anything for me anyway, and took up working at the Ford factory not far from here. Money wasn’t great, but it kept a roof over our heads.”
“How is she now? Is it better now that she’s not working?”
“She died, three months back.” Gendry’s hands were resting on the tabletop, and he suddenly looked like a boy. “Just me now.”
“Oh...” Mya breathed, and she had to beat down the urge to fling her arms around this boy, her baby brother, and comfort him. She settled for reaching across the table and squeezing his hand. “I’m sorry.”
Gendry smiled grimly. “So’m I. But there’s nothing to be done for it now, yeah? She wouldn’t want me to mope around feeling bad for myself, so I don’t. I box.” He glanced down at her notepad. “Aren’t you supposed to be taking notes? For your article?”
“Hmm? Oh!” Mya jolted upright, glancing down at her blank page and smiling a little sheepishly. “That’s just for show. I’ve got it all up here.” She tapped her temple.
“Right.” Gendry bolted down the last of his egg cream and one last bite of ham and glanced at the clock on the wall. “Ah jeez, I’ve got to get to the plant. D’you have enough for your story?”
“No!” Mya cried out almost too loud, and nearly clapped a hand over her mouth as Gendry raised an eyebrow at her. “I mean...no. Can we meet again? Soon?”
“I...suppose...” Gendry was looking at her as if he expected her to grow a second head. “You got a phone?”
Mya scrawled down her number at the Lantern on a napkin and handed it over. “Call me and we can set something up, yeah?”
“Yeah, sure.” Gendry tucked it away and gave her a second, closer look. “This might sound strange, but do we know each other? You just seem familiar.”
“No, I think I’d remember meeting you.” Mya smiled and threw a few bills down on the table. “I get that a lot, though.”
“Aww, for Chrissake! It’s 4th and ten, how hard is it to get the damn ball across the line!”
The next night Theon was sprawled out on his sofa, shirt unbuttoned and one arm tossed lazily over his head as he yelled at the college football game on the radio. Mya glanced over her shoulder, lips quirking in a smile as she tossed a few more dried herbs into a saucepan. “It’s just a game, Theon.”
“Maybe to you,” came the response. “But I’ve got a lot riding on this game.”
Mya turned back to the pan, rolling her eyes and stirring the contents. “Come over here then, I need a mouth.” She heard the couch creak as he peeled himself off it, padding barefoot across the floor and wrapping his arms around her waist.
“‘s that so?”
“Mmhmm,” Mya held up a spoonful of marinara sauce. “Taste.” She craned her neck around as he did so, waiting expectantly. “Well?”
Theon nodded and pecked her cheek. “Not bad, dove. Why’re you cooking for me again? I’ve been thinking about cheesesteaks all week, no thanks to you.”
“Because you’re still too skinny.” Mya set the spoon down and turned to face him, wrapping her arms around his neck. “You need to stop living off bar nuts during the day, yeah?”
He grumbled a bit. “Nothin’ wrong with bar nuts...”
Mya smiled and wiggled out of his grasp, swatting at him with a stained, threadbare dishcloth. “Set the table, would you? It’s almost done.”
“Set the...what?” Theon gaped at her, eyebrows knit together. “It’s the woman’s job to do that.”
“The woman’s cooking, now shush and do it, would you?” She giggled as he grumbled again, but did as she asked. He’s almost housebroken. Almost. Mya dished out fresh pasta and sauce, and sliced a hot, crusty roll of Italian bread, juggling several bowls as she turned towards the small table, smiling at what she saw. Theon’s plates were mismatche;, and one was chipped, and he’d put out coffee mugs instead of water glasses, but he looked pretty proud of himself as he jammed two unequal tapers into tarnished old candleholder and lit them with the tip of his cigarette. He glanced up and caught her smile.
Mya shook her head, still smiling. “Sit. Eat.”
Theon obeyed, sopping up sauce with a heel of bread and taking a huge bite. “So I’s finkin’,” he managed to get out, and Mya sighed. He swallowed with some difficulty before he went on. “Sorry. I was thinking, if you want tomorrow I’ll take you down to see your brother’s gym so you can meet him, talk to him, all that jazz.”
“Oh, I already did that.” Mya answered breezily. “Parmesan?”
Theon’s brows knitted together and for a moment the only sound was the tinny noise of the halftime show on the radio. “What do you mean, you already did?”
“I mean I hopped in a cab and went down there and talked to Gendry. He was nice. We had breakfast. Well, lunch really.”
“You went down to the Hook by yourself?” Theon looked incredulous. “ Jesus, Mya, I thought you knew better than go to wandering around places like that.”
“What?” Mya was nonplussed. “It’s not dangerous, nothing bad happened. And anyway, I didn’t want to bug you. I know things are picking up again at work and-”
“It’s not so busy I couldn’t spare a few hours, or if worst came to worst I’d send Robb, but I do not want you toddling around this city, especially places like that, on your own, do you understand? I thought you were smarter than that.” The candlelight flickering in his eyes made them seem darker than they were, and suddenly the sound of the football game seemed loud and intrusive in the small house. For a moment Mya didn’t respond and when she did, her voice was quiet and tight.
“Fine.” Her head was pounding again, much as it had been all week. Her appetite had suddenly fled as well, leaving a thick, bitter nauseous feeling in its wake. “I’ve got a lot of studying to do tonight. Enjoy your dinner.” She stood and tossed her napkin on the table, scooping up her bag and carrying it into the bedroom. Presently she heard Theon push back from the table, floorboards creaking as he followed her.
“That’s not what I meant, and you know it.” When Mya glanced up he was leaning against the doorjam, shirt still hanging open and arms crossed across his chest. “Last time I went somewhere I wasn’t supposed to on my own...” Theon smiled wryly. “It went poorly and if something like that happened to you I’d-” He shook his head. Mya felt her irritation loosen somewhat, but it still itched under her skin. “Come back to dinner.”
“Nothing like that will happen to me, Theon. Was the Magna Carta signed in 1215 or 1265? I can never remember.” She tapped her pen against her history text, suddenly not able to look at him. She remembered all too well what’d happened. Another roll of nausea came over her at the thought, and she swallowed hard as she flipped through her text.
“The- what? Fuck me running Mya, I don’t even know what that is. Just come back and finish dinner. You make one hell of a red sauce, y’know.”
“I’m not hungry.” Mya’s stomach let out an unexpected grumble in spite of its roiling, and she glared at it as Theon laughed. “Alright, fine.” She slid off the bed and brushed past him, jumping a bit as he smacked her bottom lightly. “But you’re doing the dishes.”
“Please,” Theon scoffed. “That’s the wife’s job.”
Mya glanced up as she sat, raising her eyebrows. “Then get yourself a wife instead of a lowly girlfriend.”
“But I like my lowly girlfriend. She doesn’t nag after me to pick up my socks or put the toilet seat down.” He winked at her across the table. “Now pass the parmesan, will ya?”
Late that night, or maybe early the next morning, Mya lay awake, running her fingers idly through Theon’s hair. He was sleeping, thank God, his head tucked firmly under her chin and an arm draped across her stomach. She’d only remembered as he’d drifted off that she again hadn’t told him about her small fortune, and wondered what was keeping her from doing so. You can trust him, y’know. You have to trust him, or this’ll never work. She sighed, resting her lips against his silky dark hair. Find out what you can from Mr. Tully and the bank manager first. Make sure it’s not a mistake. And take him with you next time you go to see Gendry. You don’t need him worrying about you on top of everything else. Mya smiled in spite of herself. It might be good for them to meet.
Theon groaned in his sleep, fingers tightening on the curve of her waist, and Mya’s thoughts broke off. She waited to see if he would relax again, but his breath caught, and another groan tore from his throat. No, please God no... she’d hoped he could get through one night, just one, without a nightmare. Apparently it wouldn’t be this night.
Mya shifted beside him resting her lips against the shell of his ear. “Hush now,” she whispered. “You’re alright, Theon. He’s dead, love.” She knew better than to try and wake him once the nightmare had taken hold. She’d tried it once in the beginning, and it had nearly proven fatal. Theon had lunged upright as she’d shaken him and in one fluid move, had her pinned on her back, those long, thin fingers she loved so much clamped around her throat. It had taken a lifetime for him to fully awaken, even after her nails had drawn blood along his arms. Her vision had started to go grey by the time he’d jolted awake, and the look of horror that had crossed his face when he realized what he’d nearly done still lingered behind her eyes. That had been the first time Theon had suggested, haltingly, she stop staying over.
“Not on your life, mister.” She’d told him, and had placed a finger over his lips to stop his protests. “I promised I’d always help you get back to sleep, didn’t I?”
“I almost killed you, Mya. God, I almost-” His voice breaking, Theon had slid away from her in the rumpled blankets. He sat on the edge of the bed, seemingly afraid to even touch her or even look at her. Mya had laid her hand over his, feeling how clammy it was when she laced her fingers through his.
“But you didn’t. And you won’t. I won’t let you.” She’d looked at him then, at the scared, defeated posture, and had felt tears prick behind her eyes. How do I fix this? Without another word she’d wrapped her arms gingerly around his middle, resting her cheek against his back. “I won’t let you.” He’d shaken his head wearily then, but hadn’t argued with her anymore. Not that night, or any others.
And not this one either . Mya kept her lips to his ear, holding him tight and waiting for the worst to pass.
Chapter 6: All Work and No Play
Dawn was breaking cool and crisp over the small guesthouse by the river, but Theon had been up for hours already. The nightmare that had woken him was long gone, but he’d been unable to fall back asleep, even after Mya had done her best to wear him out. She’d slipped right back into sleep afterwards, his oversized pajama top still rucked up almost to her chin. He traced the curves of her body with his fingertips, smiling at the way she shivered and pressed closer to him. She’d added a few pounds since tennis had ended, he realized...nothing major, just a little extra curviness. Truth be told, he rather liked it, even if women’s styles tended to a more boyish figure.
Mya murmured something unintelligible in her sleep, pulling the covers half-way off Theon as she squirmed and made herself more comfortable. Watching her sleep, he was struck again, as sometimes happened quite unexpectedly, by just how Baratheon she looked. Those lovely blue eyes were closed, but he could see it written across her features, the resemblance to Robert and Renly, and even Stannis. And that boy, too...her half-brother, Gendry. How in the H ell did he grow up in Kingsport, and not get mistaken for a Baratheon daily?
But the thought of Gendry brought back Mya’s casual confession of last night, that she’d simply gone down to the Hook, of all places, and seen him herself. The Hook was no Flea Bottom, but it wasn’t the safe college campus of Queenscrown, either, and it made his blood boil all over again to think that she’d been traipsing around down there all alone. Theon shifted beneath her, working an arm free and rubbing a particularly itchy bit of scar tissue just beneath his collarbone, trying not to imagine Mya alone and helpless in some ratty gym across town while he shot the shit with Robb, totally unaware.
Clenching his jaw irritably, he fought off the urge to shake her awake and give her another stern talking-to. It wouldn’t do a lick of good, and besides, Mya can defend herself pretty damn well, he told himself. Remember the shot to the pills she gave you the second time you met? Rather than wake her, Theon slipped out from under her gently and got up, the warped hardwood floor icy beneath his feet. His mind was a roiling mess, as disturbed as the bay in a hard nor’easter, and he needed something to distract him. If he were Robb, he’d probably be grabbing some fishing gear right about now...
Theon wasn’t about to get the fishing poles out, but the thought did spark an idea in his mind, and he threw some clothes and shoes on, hoping Robb was awake. The big house was mostly dark, but even as he made his way up the path, hands shoved in his pockets to keep them warm, lights were blinking on upstairs and down. Rather than track mud across the marble of the front entryway, Theon went around to the back and slipped in the kitchen door. Various housemaids and servants were bustling around busily, and the old cast iron oven was already heating the kitchen up to an almost intolerable degree.
Snitching a warm biscuit from the basket on the kitchen table, he made his way through the kitchen, dodging a smack upside the head from fat, old Jeyne, the cook.
“Get outta here, you!” She scolded, pointing her rolling pin at him accusingly for a moment before going back to her pie crust. “Those are for the children! I gotta million things to do today, and no patience for your skinny ass.”
Theon grabbed two more, stuffing the rest of the first one into his mouth whole. “‘S’fer me an’ Robb...gotta work early. ‘Fanks, Jeynie, light of my life.” He grinned at her crookedly, the effect somewhat ruined by the half-chewed biscuit. “Angel, doll...”
Jeyne just snorted once and pointed again. “Out.”
He bumped one of the swinging double doors leading out into the house with a hip, holding it open with his body as Kyra, one of the maids came through. They’d had a casual thing going on for ages, and the haughty sniff she gave him as she brushed by didn’t stop her from snaking a hand out and giving his cock a squeeze through his pants.
“Kyra.” He choked out a greeting, batting her hand away and making for the stairs. Once, not that long ago, he would’ve pulled her into a handy linen closet and had his way with her, but he was on a mission this morning. Theon adjusted his pants irritably, taking the stairs two at a time and bursting into Robb’s room without so much as a rap on the door. He laughed aloud at the way his friend scrambled to cover up, clearly having a little early morning solo fun.
“Goddamnit, Greyjoy!” Robb rolled onto his side, putting his back to the door and yanking his ratty tartan quilt up hastily, but not before Theon caught a glimpse of his lily-white ass. “Ever heard of knocking?”
Theon flopped down on the neatly made bed next to Robb’s, ignoring the indignant huff coming from under the other boy’s quilt. “Knocking’s for chumps. What’s the matter, Ros ain’t puttin’ out enough for ya?” He plumped up the pillow under his head and shifted a bit on the narrow bed. He’d shared this room once, too. He, Robb and Jon had spent hours playing together as boys, Robb serving as a buffer between his half-brother and his foster brother. And now Robb was the only one left. Clearly he’s enjoying his privacy , Theon thought wryly. “You can go ahead and finish, I’ll wait. Wouldn’t want ya to get backed up or anything...”
Robb chucked a pillow at him, sitting up as he did so. “I’m fine , and I’m not doing anything with you sitting right there, you ass. Roslin is...” He gestured at his lap, blushing furiously and immediately backpedaling. “I shouldn’t’ve told you that...”
It took Theon a second to decipher the meaning behind the vague gesture, but when he caught on, he couldn’t help but laugh. “Aunt Flo’s visiting? What, her mouth ain’t good enough?”
“Shut up, Theon,” Robb said, not without a small measure of affection. “Now what’s so important that you’re up before me?”
“Oh you’re up alright,” Theon said, snickering at the way Robb blushed again. He decided to lay off, for now, though. “I just wanted to see if you wanted to play a little catch, work out some kinks...you know it helps me think.”
Running a hand through his messy curls, Robb grinned. “You got it. Now get the fuck out for a minute, would ya?”
“Alright, alright,” Theon said, tossing one of his filched biscuits at Robb as he made for the door. “Just hurry it up. I’ll get the ball and gloves.”
A scant fifteen minutes later, they were tossing a ball back and forth on Riverrun’s gently sloping back lawn. Theon had had to fend off both Arya and little Rickon, one with a promise of another pint of moonshine, and the other with the promise of sweet rolls in the kitchen, but he was determined to have Robb to himself this morning. He wasn’t one for regrets or nostalgia, but lately Theon had been feeling as though they were on the brink of some great change, and that things would never be the same afterwards. He supposed it had to do with the girls, and just growing up, but it was unsettling all the same.
They fell into a familiar rhythm, the solid smack of ball on leather the only sound beyond the ever-present rush of the river. They were a well-oiled machine in this, as in most other things, and when Robb drew back as if on a pitcher’s mound, Theon sank into a crouch without a word.
They’d been unstoppable in high school, Robb the hotshot pitcher with an uncanny ability to pick off base runners trying to steal, and so, of course, Theon was his catcher. In fact, Theon was about the only one who could catch for Robb, they soon discovered, courtesy of Patrek Mallister’s broken nose. Coach Cassel swore he was the scrawniest catcher he’d ever fielded, but he was the only one who could hang on to Robb’s curveball and didn’t flinch away from his blistering fastball, so the job was his. Despite his size, or maybe because of it, Theon soon garnered a reputation as a top-notch catcher, if a bit of a dirty player. He’d stand in the path of the biggest, burliest first baseman barreling down on home plate and never blink, and always slid spikes-up.
Theon had always felt at ease on the diamond, just him and Robb working in tandem to strike out whatever batter stepped into the box. That easy teamwork had carried over into their working life as well; there wasn’t a case they hadn’t closed, sooner or later. Until now... Theon fired the ball back to Robb with perhaps more heat behind it than was strictly necessary. He just couldn’t see anything they’d missed...the case was as cold as it could be, and they had no new information to go on. Not that they’d ever had much information in the first place...
Instead of sending the ball back to him, Robb pulled his glove off and tossed it onto the nearby patio, waving Theon over. “I’m not getting any brilliant flashes of inspiration here...what about you?”
“Only that we’ve got nothing to go on. Less than nothing, since all those witnesses were so damned unhelpful.”
Robb frowned. “They were scared, is what they were. I’d bet my life on it.”
“Understandably,” Theon replied, giving his friend a push towards the house. “Especially if it was Lannister men. Common folks don’t get involved in the games of politicians and crooks.”
“My father was neither!” Robb rounded on him, poking a finger in his chest adamantly. “He was sworn to protect-”
Theon batted Robb’s hand away, slinging an arm around his shoulders. “C’mon, you think I don’t know that? You know what I meant.”
After a tense moment, Robb’s shoulders sagged. “I know. It’s just so damn frustrating. If those people know something, they should’ve told us! It’s the honorable thing to do.”
...honorable? These fucking Starks and their honor... Theon disguised his snort with a cough, shaking his head. “I tell ya what, let’s go back and talk to a few of ‘em again. Maybe a little time and distance will loosen some lips.”
“Where to next?” Theon drummed his fingers on the steering wheel of the Rolls as Robb riffled through their case notes. “And I’m starved, let’s get something to eat.” So far they’d spoken to an elderly couple who were, most likely, telling the truth about remembering nothing, and a tubby little food critic who could tell them, in mouth-watering detail, about each course of the dinner he’d eaten that night, but had a suspicious lack of memory concerning the assassination that had taken place just as his dessert was being delivered.
“Might as well go talk to the waitstaff then,” Robb said. “We can get a bite while we’re there. I already called, and the girl who was waiting on Dad and Bob is working today.”
Fifteen minutes later, they’d managed to bypass most of the downtown traffic, pulling up in front of a dingy little restaurant called “Mama’s”. “Honestly,” Theon said, shaking his head as he got out of the car. “The goddamn mayor of the city and the police chief, eating in a joint like this?”
Robb just shrugged, his expression distant. Theon knew he was imagining that night, playing it over in his mind yet again. “You know how Bob was.” Holding the door for a young mother coming out with two squalling brats in tow, he glanced up at the sign. “He always said this place had the best tiramisu in town.” And some sweet young thing to ogle while he had it... Theon kept that thought to himself, though. He could tell Robb was in no mood for it.
A tired-looking waitress sat them in a shadowy booth near the back of the restaurant, nodding wordlessly when Robb consulted his notepad and asked for Daisy, the girl who’d been his father and Bob’s waitress that night.
No more than a minute or two later, the girl came over, toying with the menus in her hands nervously. Theon remembered her from their previous questioning; a plain-looking girl with dishwater blonde hair and the most godawful lopsided tits he’d ever seen. “Detectives, you asked for me special? Are you gonna eat, or...?” She trailed off, biting her lower lip. “I told you, I don’t remember nothin’...”
There was an awkward pause, and Theon realized he was waiting for Robb to jump in and soothe her worries, ever the chivalrous ‘good cop’, but Robb was just staring dully around the restaurant. Theon did his best to fill the void. “Daisy, doll, we’re gonna eat the kitchen right outta business. And maybe ask you just a few little questions, if you don’t mind. You don’t mind, do you?” He flashed her a crooked grin, and pulled the menus from her hands gently. “What’s good here, anyway?”
She gaped at him, clearly unused to much in the way of masculine charm. “Well, uh...the lasagna, I guess. And the mayor always liked our tiramisu...” She offered him a shy smile when he nodded encouragingly. “But it’s all real good, if you like Italian.”
“We love Italian,” Theon declared. He glanced at Robb, who was staring at the menu in his hands as if it were, in fact, written in Italian and completely indecipherable. “We’ll both have lasagna, and tiramisu after.” He lowered his voice slightly and leaned forward, smiling just for her. “And you wouldn’t happen to have any red wine to go with it, would you? Italian food’s always better with wine.”
Daisy’s cheeks flushed slightly, and she covered her mouth with a hand, a tiny giggle escaping. “We might...I can check, if you promise you won’t arrest me for it.”
“Scout’s honor,” he said, holding his hand up with a grin.
She bustled off, considerably more lively than she had been previously, and Theon turned to Robb. “Alright there, pal?”
“You were never a Scout...” Robb had a slightly dazed look to him, and Theon wondered if maybe coming to the restaurant wasn’t a bad idea.
“She doesn’t know that. Listen, you wanna talk to this girl downtown or something? I mean, you don’t look so hot...”
Robb sighed, shaking his head. “Nah, I’m fine. It’s just...being here, y’know? Where it happened.”
“I know,” Theon said. He didn’t know what else there was to say, but Robb gave him a weary smile, so he left it at that.
They sat in companionable silence until Daisy came back, bearing a basket of steaming garlic bread and a dusty bottle with a peeling label. “The lasagna’ll be right out, but...” She smiled, more boldly this time, handing the bottle to Theon. “Look what I found.”
“Perfect, sweetheart,” Theon took the bottle and a corkscrew from her, ignoring Robb’s muffled snort. “Now, when you come back with the lasagna, bring another glass for yourself, yeah?”
By the time the lasagna came, Theon and Robb had each had a glass of wine, and were starting on their second. Daisy was balancing two plates and a single wine glass on a tray, and she slid the whole lot onto the table with a shy smile. “Careful of the plates, they’re hot.”
Theon gave his partner a kick under the table, and Robb scooted over to make room for the girl, smiling at her and patting the bench seat. “Sit and have a drink with us, Daisy. We don’t bite...well, I don’t.” He jerked his chin at Theon with a wink. “Can’t speak for this lout, though.”
Daisy slid into the seat with an audible sigh of relief. “I don’t even care...this is the first chance I’ve had to sit down all day.” She took the glass of wine Theon poured her and gestured to their plates. “Go on, eat.”
Theon didn’t have to be told twice...he dug in with relish, shrugging when Robb gave a slightly incredulous laugh at the size of his bite. Swallowing with some difficulty, he grinned at Daisy. “You’re right, that is fantastic . Robb, try it.”
Obediently, Robb took a bite, eyes closing with pleasure almost immediately. “Oh wow...” He mumbled. “‘S’good...”
The table was silent for some time, as Robb and Theon ate and Daisy drank. When her glass was empty, Theon refilled it, ignoring her feeble protest. “Just a bit more, there you go...” He watched her take a small sip, and wondered how to begin, now that they’d got her a little more relaxed. Thankfully, she gave them the perfect segue herself.
“The mayor always got lasagna, too...said it was better than his own dead mother’s, even.”
“Did he come here often?” Theon asked her, keeping his tone casual.
Daisy nodded, glancing at Robb. “At least once a week. He dragged your pops along whenever he could, but mostly he came for her.” She nodded once at someone behind Theon, and he resisted the urge to turn around and look. “Julia.”
From the expression on Robb’s face, the girl was either hideous, or entirely unsuitable. “But...she can’t be more than eighteen!” Theon snorted, but shoveled another bite of lasagna into his mouth when Robb shot him a glare. “Were they...?”
Daisy laughed, but it was a humorless sound, miles away from her earlier giggling. “Look at her belly...what do you think? She ain’t married, y’know, and not like to be now.”
Dying of curiosity now, Theon gave in and turned slightly in his seat. He spotted the girl at once, her ill-fitting dress and protruding belly dead giveaways. She was, indeed, young...Robb was being generous with eighteen, he decided. But he could see the appeal; she was beautiful, in the way that young, carefree girls often are, and there was a easy quality to her laughter as she took an order that reminded Theon of Bob himself. Even the way she ran a hand over her gently curving belly was sensuous and attractive; a vivid image of her repeating the gesture, dressed in nothing but her stockings, overtook his senses for a moment, and Theon had blink a few times to clear his head. Goddamn, Greyjoy, get ahold of yourself...she’s pregnant, for Christssake. He ignored the part of his brain, which sounded far too much like his sister, telling him that was what he’d been fantasizing about.
She glanced up and gave him a brilliant smile, obviously used to men’s eyes lingering. He returned the smile with a wink, and turned back to his tablemates. “Okay, so good ol’ Bob had a piece on the si- Ow!” He scowled at Robb, reaching down to rub his shin. “What?!”
“A little tact, maybe, Detective Greyjoy?” There was the Robb Stark he knew and loved, finally.
“Sorry.” Theon put on a front of sullen apology, not hard to do with the way his shin was smarting. “Anyway, while interesting, I don’t really think Julia caused the shootings.” Daisy sighed, a drawn look coming over her face. Theon and Robb hadn’t interviewed any witnesses the night of the shootings, but he’d written Dondarrion’s description of her in his notebook. “White w/shock and spattered in blood. Waitress apron soaked thru, tried to staunch mayor’s wounds.” Judging by her expression, she was reliving that terrible moment, and Theon felt an unexpected sense of remorse for dragging it back to the forefront of her mind. The feeling passed quickly though, and he went on. “Daisy, I know we talked to you before, but do you remember anything about that night that you didn’t tell us? Maybe that you forgot, or it didn’t seem important...?”
She shrugged listlessly, looking into her glass of wine as if she could find the answers he wanted there. “I don’t think so. I told you how their car backfired, right? The shooters, I mean.”
Robb put an arm around her shoulders lightly, exchanging a glance with Theon. “You sure did, and that was good, that you remembered that. Can you think about when they came in the door, after you heard the backfire?” Daisy sniffled, and Theon tried in vain to keep from clenching his jaw in irritation, but Robb went on. “I remember you told us they all had masks on, and they were, let’s see...” he flipped his notepad open, even though Theon knew he had the description memorized. “Medium height, not fat or skinny, all wearing black suits. Is there anything else you remember about them? How did they sound, when they yelled? Drunk, maybe, or stuffy, like with a cold...” A note of despair had entered his voice, and Theon could practically see him willing her to remember something new.
Shaking her head slowly, Daisy finished her glass of wine before answering. “No, I don’t-” Breaking off in the middle of her train of thought, she set the glass down, her eyes wide. “I did just think of something. They didn’t sound drunk, but one of them...he talked funny.”
“Talked funny how?” Robb asked her. He didn’t sound hopeful.
She thought a moment. “His S’s sounded funny. Like, a whaddya call it...a stutter? No. A lisp? Is that what you mean?”
Well hot damn...that’s more than we knew this morning, Theon told himself. The faint smile playing on Robb’s lips told him his partner was thinking the same thing, or near enough. “That’s helpful, Daisy, it really is.” Theon reached across the table and patted her hand. “You did good.”
“Really?” She was dubious, but a tiny smile crept back onto her face.
Robb squeezed her once around the shoulders before letting her go. “Really. Now, I’d ask you if you want another glass of wine, but I see your boss over there giving us quite the evil eye...”
Wrinkling her nose, the girl slid out of the booth at once. “That old fart. But I need this job, so I better not. I’ll go get your tiramisu now, how ‘bout that?”
“Perfect!” Theon said, interrupting his partner. As soon as she’d gone, he held his hands up against Robb’s glare. “Hey, I like tiramisu!”
“I want to let Selmy know about this, see if anyone’s collared anybody with a lisp recently, get ahold of Uncle Bryn-”
“Robb, we will. I promise. Just let me enjoy my tiramisu, will ya?”
Chapter 7: Three Men in a Boat
Brynden’s apartment was never meant to hold more than one or two people at any given time. He’d specifically made sure of that when he selected it so many years ago. It was small, it was a little dingy (although he did keep it spotless, mostly), and there was an annoyingly appetizing smell coming from the deli downstairs more often than not, but dammit, it was his home and no one was going to change that. He wouldn’t be so irked, he supposed, if the postage-stamp sized living room weren’t currently filled with files, scattered papers, trench coats, empty soup bowls from the deli downstairs, his nephew Robb, and the Greyjoy boy.
“Budge over there, nephew.” Brynden set his mug of coffee down on his scarred old coffee table, easing his old bones onto the sagging couch. “And for God’s sake, Greyjoy, I know you weren’t raised in a barn. Get your Goddamn feet off my furniture, would ya?”
Theon scowled but did as he was told, instead slouching in Brynden’s armchair and rubbing his forehead wearily. For that, Brynden decided, he couldn’t fault the boy. He and Robb had come straight from the stationhouse, each laden with boxes of files, folders, and anything they could get their hands on regarding their double-homicide case, and now it was just past midnight. Brynden was supposed to have dinner with Selmy tonight and shoot the shit a bit, but the excitement in Robb’s voice when he’d called that afternoon had goaded Brynden into letting his nephew and Theon commandeer his evening instead. Theon glared over his shoulder at the wall behind him, where a rhythmic pounding was keeping the beat of Brynden’s neighbor’s nocturnal activities, punctuated with an occasional groan or muffled word. “They at least know how to fuckin’ entertain themselves.”
“God almighty, shut your gob, Theon.” Robb glared from the couch, bunching up the wrapper from his sandwich and tossing it on the table. “Every time you open that hole in your face you’re bitching about not getting your knob worked enough. Can’t you focus for thirty fucking seconds? And on something other than getting your face between Mya’s thighs?”
Brynden raise a hand as Theon’s mouth snapped open to retort, stopping him before the two boys had a brawl right then and there. “Alright, enough of that nonsense. You two are here for my help, aren’t ya?” They both nodded sullenly, and Brynden couldn’t help but remember all the times he’d seen Cat scolding the boys when they were younger. They’d gotten the same looks then; Robb’s cheeks always flushed, and Theon’s jaw always set hard enough that Brynden could see the muscles there bunched like cords. “Alright, then none of this bickering or I’ll throw you both out on your asses, got it? Now, it’s late, I’m tired, and that pastrami’s set fire to my innards in a way I don’t think God ever intended. Tell me again what we’ve got.”
Theon rifled through a stack of files wedged between his thigh and the chair’s arm. “Nothin,” he said, tossing one to the ground. “Nothin, a whole shit load of nothin’, nothin’, and a waitress with lopsided tits who said the shooter ‘talked funny’.”
“Talked funny?” Brynden raised a woolly eyebrow.
“Said he had a lisp. And that’s it. That’s all she remembered.” Robb sounded forlorn now, all the anger leeched out of him. “All I’ve got to find my father’s killer is a set of lopsided tits and a lisp.” He leaned forward, burying his face in his hands. “This is a nightmare.” Robb looked up, his Tully-blue eyes suspiciously bright. “How the fuck am I supposed to do this?”
“You’re not.” Theon leaned forward, nudging Robb’s foot with his own. “You remember what I said the night this all went down?”
“That cold hard steel and bullets would solve this.” Brynden raised his eyebrows at Robb’s response, glancing at Theon. The other boy’s cheeks may’ve tinged pink at the memory, but that also could’ve been the neon hotel light flashing across the road. Theon gave a begrudging nod, and went on.
“Yeah, that, but you remember what else? I said we’d find who did this. Not you. Now knock it off with this ‘I’ business. Don’t you remember when Selmy had that twinkle-toes motivational bullshit-spewer came in last year? Tossing around all that ‘There is no I in team’?”
Robb raised an eyebrow. “You snuck out of that meeting after half an hour to dally around with that blond gal from dispatch.”
“I think what Greyjoy’s saying, inarticulately,” Brynden broke in, “is that you’re not on your own, Robby.” He wondered, not for the first time, if maybe Selmy shouldn’t have given them this case. He’d had a point - Theon and Robb were far too close to it, too emotionally connected. He knew from experience it was one thing to know the grisly details of a stranger’s death, but when it was someone you cared about, someone you loved and had shared your life with, it was a whole different ballgame. “Just keep that in mind, yeah?”
Robb’s mouth tightened and he nodded after a minute. “Yeah.” He glared at the wall behind Theon as well when the rhythmic banging started to quicken and reach a crescendo. “Jesus, aren’t they done yet?”
“Obviously not.” Theon’s crooked grin quirked across his face. “Not all men can be such speed demons as yourself, Stark.”
Robb chucked his balled-up sandwich wrapper at Theon. “At least Roslin’s never had to fake it.”
“Neither has Mya!”
“Maybe not, but just ask Kyra about that time you-”
“Children!” Brynden snapped. “Alright, it’s twelve-thirty now. I’ll give you another hour and a half and then both of you gotta beat it. I need my beauty sleep.”
Theon rolled his eyes and snorted, but reached for another file nonetheless while Robb raked his hand through his hair, taking a gulp out of Brynden’s mug of coffee. He grimaced. “God, Uncle, whadaya filter this through, your dirty socks?”
Brynden scoffed. “ ‘course not. I used last week’s underwear.”
Hours later Brynden jolted awake, momentarily confused. Why was he on the couch? He scrubbed a hand across his face, trying to remember...ah. The boys hadn’t left. In the harsh light spilling in from the street, he could see Robb sprawled face-down on the couch, one leg dangling over the edge and the other stretched across Brynden’s lap. His face was mashed against a crumpled piece of paper, some useless affidavit or another. Well, useless now the way he’s drooling on it. Next to him slumped in the armchair, Theon’s head had lolled back, mouth agape, and he had one hand tucked firmly in his pants.
Brynden stretched, rubbing a hand across his mouth. When he sat up he bit back a groan at the way his back popped and snapped - he was long past the age where he could sleep on anything but his comfortably lumpy mattress. He eased himself out from under Robb’s leg, smiling as his nephew shifted and mumbled something unintelligible in his sleep. Gathering up the long-cold remains of their dinner, Brynden chucked it in the garbage and glanced at the clock over his stove. Five-thirty. It’s gonna be a long fucking day, Tully. Stretching again, he smacked Theon upside the head as he passed the armchair. “Up with you, Greyjoy. Take Stark home and brush his teeth, then you two have to get back to the office.”
Theon batted at his hand, still asleep. “Ten more minutes, dove.”
Brynden arched an eyebrow and leaned in close to Theon’s ear, dropping his voice to a whisper. “C’mon, Theon, you’re stealing all the covers, baby.”
Theon started, sleep-crusted eyes popping open. “Wha- What the fuck?!” Quicker than Brynden would’ve thought possible, he leapt up out of the chair, spilling a pile of papers onto the floor. “Jesus, what’re you doing?”
Brynden thought he was going to bust a gut laughing. Robb jerked out of his own sound sleep, blinking blearily. “Whuzgoinon?”
Theon scowled. “Your uncle thinks he’s a real funny guy, apparently.”
“Aw, come on, dove,” Brynden smirked. He crossed to his small kitchen, setting some fresh coffee on to percolate. “You were about to get all nice and snuggly with me.”
“Fuck you.” Theon pushed past him as he stood, stretching and scratching as he poured himself a cup of coffee. “You woke me up from one hell of a dream, Tully.”
Brynden chuckled, gathering up papers and shoving them haphazardly back into folders and envelopes. “I bet you were. Robert! Up with you now!” He seized his still-dozing nephew by the waist of his pants and dumped him bodily on the floor. “Go home, both of you. Your ugly mugs are the last ones I want to see this early in the morning.”
By the time the sun swung high over Kingsport, Brynden was well into his second pot of coffee and halfway through his first cigar. The tinny sound of Christmas music was leaking through his walls from the dentist office next door, and something about it made the fillings in his own molars twinge. He glared at the wall and considered grumping on over there to voice his displeasure with hearing ‘Good King Wenceslas’ for the fourth time in an hour, but as he stood, wincing at the knots still in his back leftover from last night on the couch, there was a tentative knock on the door. Clamping his cigar between his teeth, he yanked the door open and adjusted his suspenders. “Yeah, whadaya- oh. Mya, what’re you doing here?”
The girl stood before him, clutching her little beaded handbag. Brynden had never understood purses - what would a woman need she couldn’t keep in her pockets? He gave himself a mental shake. That was neither here nor there. Mya fidgeted with the clasp on her purse, looking up at him expectantly with those big baby blues of hers. For God’s sake, Tully, you leave your manners in the pisser this morning? “Sorry, kiddo, come on in.” He stood aside as she stepped past him. Resting a hand on her shoulder, he showed her to one of the rickety armchairs before his desk. “What can I do for you?”
The girl looked a bit distraught, he noticed. She was working her lower lip through her teeth, opening and closing the clasp on her purse as she did so. Finally, Mya reached in and pulled out a scrap of paper, sliding it across to him. “I need to find out where that came from.”
Brynden pulled the paper towards him, noticing how worn it was. The girl’s fidgety when she’s balled up about something. Remember how she’d worn her list damn near in half? He glanced down at the scrap and felt his bushy eyebrows launch clear off his forehead in surprise. “Eleven hundred and twenty-four dollars?”
“And sixty-three cents.” Mya nodded. “It’s mine, apparently, and I want to know where it came from.”
“Hold on, sweetheart, take a step or two back and tell me where you found this out.” Brynden had a hunch where the money had come from, but he wanted to hear what Mya had to say first.
The girl crossed one leg over the other, her slender fingers finally leaving her purse clasp. “I went down to the bank the other day to open a savings account with the money that Theon and I won-” She paused, chewing on her lip and Brynden quirked an eyebrow, wondering what exactly they’d been up to when she went on. “Anyway, when I went there they said I had an account already, and that’s how much they said was in it.”
Brynden leaned forward. “And then what happened?”
Mya flushed, her cheeks bright red against her otherwise wan complexion. “I...it’s so embarrassing. I was so surprised by the whole thing and...I fainted. Right there in the lobby.” She covered her face with a hand. “I was mortified, Mr. Tully! Everyone was staring at me!”
“Ah, that’s nothing to be ashamed of, sweetheart.” Brynden waved a hand. “One time when I was a little older than you I woke up stark naked tied to a-...” He trailed off. Probably not the thing she wants to hear right now. “Nevermind all that. Go on.”
“So then the bank president said he wanted to talk to me about the account, which is just unusual, don’t you think?” Mya looked across the desk with him, eyes widening slightly.
Unusual doesn’t even start to cover it. “Did he give you a name?”
“Paul...no, not that. Something with a P. Petyr! That’s it. Petyr something.”
“Yes! Do you know him?” Mya sat forward in her chair, eyes bright.
Brynden debated how to answer that. He’d heard of Baelish more in passing and second-hand stories from his nieces. They’d gone to the same boarding school as Petyr when they were young, and the boy had formed a close attachment with Cat and Lysa, even going so far as to spend holidays at Riverrun. Nowadays, though, Petyr was a sly, cunning man. He smiled and slid from one alliance to the next, working his fingers into everybody’s pies. No matter what was happening in Kingsport, Petyr Baelish always seemed to come out on top.
“Mr. Tully?” Mya was looking closely at him. “Are you alright?”
“Huh? Yes! Yes.” Brynden gave himself a sturdy shake. “And as to your other, I don’t know Petyr that well, but...” He tapped the scrap of paper she’d given him. “I have a few ideas on this.”
Mya raised her eyebrows when he didn’t continue. “Such as?”
Brynden shifted, leaning back in his chair. “I could tell you now, but have no proof, or I could do a little digging, ruffle up some feathers, and see what concrete proof I can come up with.”
“Find something concrete.” Mya replied without hesitation. “I don’t want to...I mean, I’d rather just know the facts and not have any speculation.”
Brynden nodded - he didn’t make a habit out of feeding bad information to paying customers. Or non-paying customers, as the case may be.
“Highs,” Maege Mormont said, chalking up her pool cue.
“Low.” Selmy grinned at Brynden, who grumbled and bit down on his unlit cigar. Figures he’d stick me in the middle. He knows I hate the middle.
“Fine, you assholes. Middle.” He nodded at Maege. “You break.”
Later that week, the three of them had gathered at a favorite spot of Maege’s, a smoky old honky tonk called Grizzly’s. It had been a barrel house at one point, Brynden knew, but the official story was that they’d dried up years ago. As far as the unofficial story, well, he wasn’t at liberty to speak about that. Not with the Chief of Police racking up pool balls three inches to his left.
“You should’ve brought Manderly,” Maege was lighting one cigarette with the end of another. “I hate playing Cutthroat.”
“That’s because you always clear out your own balls for us.” Brynden chuckled and nodded at the stout woman. “Go on then, break.”
True to form, by the time Maege’s breaking shot settled, she’d pocketed three of her five stripes. “Goddammit! Selmy, you’d better by God scratch or you’re gonna find your pool cue gone straight up your-”
“Easy there, Maegie.” Selmy lined up a shot, his polished cue sliding easily between his fingers. “I call two ball, left middle pocket.” He drew back and with a flick of his wrist, the cobalt blue billiards ball slid smoothly across the green felt, landing with a slight clatter in the left middle pocket. “Say, Bryn, you talk to your nephew lately?”
“Talked to him? Little bastard drooled all over my couch Tuesday night. He and Greyjoy were up till damn near two going over their case. I tell ya, Selmy, Robb’s about to have an episode. Give ‘im another week or two and he’ll be hanging every man he comes across with a lisp.”
Maege snickered as Brynden scratched, sending the cueball sailing in neatly after the eight ball. That only narrows it down three quarters of the dewdrops in this city.”
It was nearly eleven by the time Selmy and Maege left. Brynden kept shooting idly, trying a few trick shots while he let his mind wind down from the night. He’d been turning Robb and Theon’s case over and over in his mind, but he had nothing new. He’d had nothing new for days, and it was really starting to irritate him. It made him feel downright helpless, and that was a feeling he’d never accepted, not even during the worst of the war. And yet here he was, wanting to give up on the whole thing. No, that’s not an option. You swore to Robb you’d help him, and there’s Cat too. She’s counting on you.
The tonk was largely empty now, save for a handful of chumps slumped around a sticky bar table at the other end of the room. A thick cloud of cigarette smoke hung over them, barely budging despite the ceiling fan creaking overhead. They burst into laughter just as Brynden tried to jump the nine-ball over the cue, and the tip of his stick dug into the table. He scowled at their backs and rubbed his finger over the felt. Hopefully the owner wouldn’t notice, or at least wouldn’t pin it on him. You’re done tonight, anyway. May as well pack it in.
He began idly shooting the rest of the balls into pockets at random, snippets of their conversation drifting over. “So then he says, he says ‘Tho whath a nithe girl like you doin’ in a plathe like thith?’, gets the girl just covered in spit, and gets all cheesed off when she stormed off! I mean, can you believe him? He didn’t even have to have to chat her up, she was a Goddamned hooker.”
“Yeah,” a second man butted in, “but even a Goddamned hooker turned him down. Can’t really blame her though, would you want that slobbering all over you?” They all laughed, and Brynden’s brows knit together.
What’re the odds? If Brynden had been feeling more generous, or more reckless, he’d’ve shouldered his way straight into that bunch and asked them who they were talking about, maybe bought them a round. But they were already drunk, and all were packing. The last thing he wanted to do was get into a bar fight tonight. Drumming his fingers on the warped bartop, he glanced around for the owner. Probably three sheets to the wind out back already. Brynden sighed and cinched his coat shut, glancing back at the group of men to see if he could place any of them. Three fat, one medium, no distinguishing marks...save for the cleft palate on the skinny one. Buncha hoodlums, more like than not, but they could be worth pumping when they’re sobered up. Better stop back here tomorrow, see if the barkeep’s around or if anything interesting’s going on. His mind still racing, Brynden turned up his collar and pushed open the door to the honky tonk, striding into the night.
Chapter 8: Like Cats and Dogs
Jaime Lannister was good at his job. In fact, he excelled at it as he did most things: with very little thought or effort. But today...today was testing not only his patience, but the easy talent he had for selling half-truths and almost-lies as if they were pure fact.
“No comment means no comment, Alla,” Jaime tried to keep a teasing tone in his voice, clenching and unclenching a gold fountain pen in one hand. “You know our policy.”
“Not even off the record?” He could almost hear the pout on Alla Tyrell’s bee-stung lips. The word nepotism floated through his mind, but the girl was too damn good at her job for that. Yes, she was a Tyrell, a cousin to the Tyrells that owned The Lantern and some of the other dailies in town, but she was the premier gossip reporter in town for a reason. “C’mon, Jaime,” she wheedled. “I can already confirm it with ten other sources. But I’d like a confirmation or denial from her office, or at least some scoop from an ‘inside source’...”
“Which you’re not going to get, of course. Now, is there anything else I can do for you this morning?”
An impatient sigh drifted down the line, but she was chipper as ever when she replied. “Well, what about you, Mister Kingsport’s Most Eligible Bachelor? Seeing anyone at the moment?”
Jaime groaned. He hated that title, and that question. “You’d know if I were, darling. Now, I’ve got work to do, and you’ve got your little column to write. Goodbye, Alla.”
She was still nattering away when he set the telephone back in the receiver and pushed away from his desk angrily. So that was why Cersei hadn’t wanted to go out to the Blue Room last night. He’d wondered if she were angry with him for some imagined slight, but he’d never suspected this. And to find out from Alla fucking Tyrell, of all people... Jaime’s stride lengthened, his polished wingtips making an unholy racket in the hushed warren of halls within City Hall.
There were constituents in the waiting room outside Cersei’s office, as there always were. Jaime smiled and nodded at them all, winking at a shy little girl who buried her face in her mother’s considerable bosom. He didn’t bother sitting; though lovely with their gold and crimson silk upholstery, the chairs in this room were uncomfortable as all hell. When she’d had the room redone after Robert’s death, Cersei had spared no expense to make it beautiful, yet subtly unwelcoming. Bob got a little too close to the people, so Cersei holds them at arm’s length...
When the door to her office opened, Jaime held it open for the men coming out. He recognized a few in the bunch, Randyll Tarly and Jason Mallister both muttering their thanks as they passed. Jaime turned and offered an apologetic smile to the room as he slipped through the door after the group had gone. “So sorry, friends. I require just a moment of my sister’s time.” Nobody said a word as he quietly shut the door behind him.
Cersei’s head was down as she spoke, eyes flying over a document in front of her. “Jaime, I’m bus-”
Slamming his hands down on her desk, Jaime brushed the papers aside. “Who the fuck is Osney Kettleblack?”
Cersei leaned back in her chair, cool green eyes taking him in. He remembered, too late as always, how it amused her to see him agitated; her lips quirked up in a brief smile. The smile didn’t reach her eyes however, and Jaime knew his sister, his lover, well enough to see the slightest hint of fear there. “Would you be quiet?” She hissed. “I hardly think this is either the time or the place for...personal matters.”
Straightening, he ran a hand through his hair, smoothing it back from where it had fallen into his eyes. “You’re wrong, then. I just got off the horn with Alla Tyrell,” Cersei’s lips pressed together in a thin line. She’d always hated the flippant tone of the Tyrell girl’s columns, but had grown downright paranoid about her in the past few weeks. Not without cause, evidently, Jaime was coming to realize. “She wanted a confirmation or denial, either on or off the record, that you were out at the Blue Room last night with this...Kettleblack.” He spit the name out distastefully, scarcely able to believe he was having this conversation.
“That’s against policy, as she well knows!” Cersei snapped, narrowing her eyes. “That hateful little bitch...besides, she’ll run it anyways, I’m sure she has plenty of witnesses.”
“Ten, she said. I’m shocked it’s not twenty. You were at the Blue Room, for God’s sake!” Jaime was trying to keep his voice down, but he saw the way his sister’s eyes cut to the door. He couldn’t bring himself to care, but he lowered his voice, if only to keep her happy. “So tell me, who is this Osney Kettleblack?”
“A...security consultant of Baelish’s,” she started, holding up a hand when he opened his mouth incredulously. “Let me explain, will you?”
Cersei motioned to a chair in front of her desk, but Jaime refused to let her treat him like just another supplicant to be dealt with. “I’ll stand,” he said, crossing his arms over his chest.
“Fine,” she laughed humorlessly. Her laughter cut him to the quick, as only Cersei was able to do, but Jaime kept his face impassive. “Do what you like. It was Petyr’s suggestion that I be seen out with someone...other than you.”
“He said that? What does he know? I’ll kill him, the slimy bastard.” Jaime had never much cared about Petyr Baelish one way or another, but at the moment, he would gladly snap his neck bare-handed.
“Oh please, relax, brother. He didn’t say it in so many words, but I had been thinking the same thing, to be honest.” Cersei fiddled with the pen in front of her, lining it up with the edge of the blotter on her desk. “We were safe when Robert was alive, but now...” She raised her face to him, finally, and her eyes were bright. Jaime knew she could cry at a moment’s notice, but he believed, had to believe, that this was real. “People will talk, Jaime. It’s different for you, you’re a man...”
He saw her logic, but it did nothing to assuage his anger. “I don’t trust Baelish. And who exactly is this Kettleblack? You’re a Lannister and-”
Cersei laughed. “Now you sound like Father. Like I said, he’s a security consultant for Petyr’s bank. Ex-Pinkerton.”
Jaime hated the thought of him more and more with every word she spoke. “Ex-Pinkerton? They don’t let go of their men very easily...did he retire?” He held out a faint hope that the man was old and grey and paunchy around the middle. Cersei’s coy smile smashed that hope immediately.
“He’s hardly old enough to retire...I don’t think he has a single grey hair.” Bitch, Jaime thought bitterly. Not a week past she’d found a few strands of grey on his brush, and she’d been teasing him about it ever since. But this was too far... “In any case, I don’t even know if I’ll see him again.” She pursed her lips in annoyance. “He was very pushy. You know how I hate that.”
“Did you fuck him?”
Cersei went pale, the blood draining from her face, and Jaime saw a flicker of something he couldn’t identify cross her lovely features before the rage began. That scared him far more than her anger. He’d always loved Cersei when she was angry, loved her passionate, righteous fury, but that unknown expression...that was something to fear.
“Get. Out.” She yanked one of her desk drawers open, the wine bottles within tinkling. He wondered just how many she had in there. Her eyes bored into him, daring him to say something.
“With pleasure.” He knew where to find the answers he needed anyway. He just had to get there first. Jaime strode to the door, pausing with his hand on the handle. “You’ve got a room full of people out there...do try and control yourself until evening,” he said, jerking his chin at the glass she was pouring for herself.
With an inarticulate sound of rage, Cersei grabbed a jade paperweight from her desk and hurled it at him. Laughing despite himself, Jaime caught it handily and slipped it into the pocket of his trousers as he left the office. The people in the waiting room all looked up expectantly at him, and he pasted on a brilliant smile for them.
It felt strange to Jaime to be away from City Hall in the middle of the day. Even as angry as he was at Cersei, he couldn’t help but worry that something would crop up while he was out, and all hell would break loose. Shaking his head at his own foolishness, Jaime loosened his tie slightly as he pulled up at the rear of the mayor’s mansion. An hour or two won’t hurt anyone, and besides, you haven’t got a chance of putting out today’s fire anyway.
Rolling the window down, Jaime whistled at one of the gardeners pulling up weeds in a nearby flower bed. The man sat back on his heels, but didn’t come over, clearly annoyed at being pulled from his task. “What can I do for you, sir?” He asked, not looking like he was about to do anything other than go back to weeding.
“Is Clegane here?”
The gardener snorted. “No. He never comes back here when the boy’s at school.”
Jaime’s hands tightened on the steering wheel. Getting a straight answer was like pulling teeth with the help sometimes. “Any idea where he might be, then?”
“Racetrack, maybe? Or one’a them barrelhouses y’hear about...” The gardener shrugged, bending to go back to his task. “He’s not much for talkin’, that one.”
“Tell me something I don’t know,” Jaime muttered, rolling up his window as he pulled back out into the street. He figured he’d start at the racetrack and hope for the best. If Sandor wasn’t there, he’d hit a few of the speakeasies he knew about, but there were far too many in a city of Kingsport’s size to ever hope to find him that way.
Midday traffic was light, and Jaime made it to the racetrack in less than a half an hour. For a Thursday afternoon in late fall, there were a ridiculous number of cars in the dirt parking lot. Parking in the far back to avoid any dings to the Phantom, he scanned the lot as he strode towards the entrance. He’d hoped to catch a glimpse of Clegane’s black truck, but quickly realized there were just too many black trucks. The man himself would be far easier to find, Jaime told himself as he paid his quarter and went through a rusted turnstile, brushing his cream-colored wool pants off distastefully.
Sure enough, no more than two races had gone by before Jaime spotted him, towering above the rest of the unsavory crowd by a foot. Sandor Clegane was a young man still, younger than Jaime by a few years, but everything about the man screamed ‘danger’. The size of him alone was enough to give most men pause, well over six feet tall and heavily muscled. And if that wasn’t enough, the dark expression he wore and the hideous burn that covered half his face usually was. And his looks were actually far more inviting than his personality, in Jaime’s eyes.
Snagging a packet of peanuts from a dirty kid in a dirtier cap, Jaime made his way to Sandor’s side. “Peanut?” He said, offering the twist of butcher paper to the scowling man.
“Whadda you want?” Sandor didn’t take his eyes off the track, even though there was no race going at the moment. Jaime was silent a moment. He trusted the man, perhaps more than anyone else besides his brother Tyrion, but this was a delicate matter, or it could be. Surely the man had his suspicions about the nature of Jaime and Cersei’s relationship, but such suspicions were best left unconfirmed and tenuous. Clegane’s rasping voice broke through his thoughts. “Well? You got something to say, or you just gonna stand there like a fucking mute?”
“So that’s a ‘no’ on the peanut, then?” Jaime shook the little packet once, drawing it back when he got the distinct impression Sandor was about to slap it out of his hand. “Fine. More for me. I have a question for you, Clegane.”
“Spit it out. I’ve got two hours before I’ve got to pick the little shit up, and I’d rather not spend it all with you.”
“Charming as always, Sandor,” Jaime said dryly.
“Fuck off. What do you want?”
“Did you know about my sister’s...date last night?” Jaime flung a peanut shell down irritably. He hated how petty he sounded.
“Yes,” came the curt reply.
Jaime waited a moment, but no further answer was forthcoming. “Well?” He finally said.
“Well what? Jealous, are we?” Sandor finally glanced at him, a twitch of his lips the only thing that gave away his amusement.
“Hardly,” Jaime said breezily. “Just curious, is all. I’ve never heard of him, and Cersei says he’s ex-Pinkerton, but-”
Sandor snorted, finally taking a few of Jaime’s peanuts. “Maybe, but he’s not as straight-laced as the Pinkerton men I’ve come across. Got brass balls, that one does.”
“She said he was pushy. I would hope that if he tried anything, you would-”
“I would what, Lannister?” A new race was about to start, and Sandor glanced at his betting slip briefly. “You think your sister would take me out on her date? That’s fucking rich.”
“You live there, don’t you? If he tried to force his way in, or-” Jaime waited as the bell rang, signifying the start of the race, and the crowd roared to its feet. The two men watched the race in a pocket of silence as the horses thundered around the track, the number 8 horse pulling away at the last second to win by a nose. “Well, any luck?” He asked, leaning over to get a look at Sandor’s slip.
“Shit luck, like always,” Clegane said, crumpling the thin paper into a ball and dropping it. “And to answer the question you’re trying to ask me: no, they didn’t fuck. Unless they did it in the parking lot of the Blue Room or-”
“That’s quite enough, thank you,” Jaime frowned. He’d hoped he wasn’t so easy to read as all that, but Sandor Clegane seemed to have a hound’s instinct for reading fear on people, and he wasn’t past exploiting it when the mood struck him. “Did he come in?”
Sandor shook his head, leaning back against a rail. “Walked her to the door, tried to get fresh, and she gave him a nice slap for his troubles. Caught him right across the face with a ring too, gave him a scratch from here to here,” he drew a three-inch line across his unburnt cheekbone. “Kettleblack just laughed it off, though. Think it threw your sister for a loop.”
Or got her hot and bothered, more likely, Jaime thought sourly. Cersei’d always had a taste for conflict, for rough play and rougher sexplay. “How is it you know all this, anyway? Were you sitting up waiting for her?”
“I was up, but not waiting for her. She told me over a...glass of wine.” His slight hesitation made Jaime think it’d probably been more like a bottle, but the image of Sandor and Cersei having a drink together was too bizarre to dwell on.
“Did you get a look at him?” Jaime asked.
“Sure. When he came to pick her up,” Sandor said, maddeningly vague.
“Well? What did he look like?”
At that question, Sandor grinned, an ugly sight. “Nothing like you, Lannister. Your complete opposite, in fact. Black hair, beak of a nose...big, though,” he nodded thoughtfully. “Not so big as me, or you, but a big man. Drove the flashiest goddamn Caddy I’ve ever seen.”
All of a sudden, Jaime was weary of the whole damn thing. It was times like this he wished the war had never ended; in the Army, there were no secrets, nothing to hide. You shot at men, tried to kill them if you could, and avoided being killed yourself. Simple, really. Unbidden, he saw a blonde girl, smiling and holding a hand out to him in the sunlight, fields and fields of green grass and golden haystacks stretching out behind her hazily, as far as the eye could see. That never happened, he told himself roughly, shaking his head. He handed the packet of peanuts to Sandor, brushing his hands off and turning to go. “Don’t be late to pick up my nephew, Clegane.”
All he got in reply was a grunt, but Jaime was already gone. Shoving through the crowd, he made his way to the Phantom. Frowning at the red dirt caking on his wingtips, as well as on the wheels of the car, Jaime decided to go home, throw on some old sailing clothes and wash the damn thing until it gleamed. City Hall could run without him for one day, and if it couldn’t, well, too damn bad.
There was an accident involving a milk truck and a trolley on the way back across town, allowing Jaime ample time to sit and think. By the time he’d pulled into the driveway of his modest rented cottage, its sole positive attribute being its nearness to the mayor’s mansion, his thoughts were the darkest they’d been all day. It was the work of a few moments to change into some frayed chinos and a threadbare old Kingsport Country Club sweater, run a bucket of sudsy water and grab a few chamois cloths. But in those few moments, he’d envisioned his twin, the only woman he’d ever loved, spreading her legs for everyone from her fat, dead husband to Sandor Clegane.
He’d wondered idly about Cersei and Sandor once or twice, seeing as how the man was fiercely loyal to her and happened to live under her roof, but he’d never seriously entertained the notion. Now, it was all he could do to keep the images from repeating in his mind, over and over. When Jaime wasn’t imagining Sandor pumping away as Cersei’s long, lean legs wrapped around his hips, he was seeing her riding a tall, dark man with indistinct features in the back of a flashy Cadillac coupe, golden head thrown back in ecstasy. He scrubbed viciously at the bumper of his own car as if he could wash these things he saw from his mind. Eventually, the Phantom was sparkling in the late afternoon sun, and Jaime was exhausted, but somehow he knew even sleep would bring him no peace.
Chapter 9: Good Deeds
Theon scrubbed a hand through his hair, eyeing the entrance to Brynden Tully’s office. When the older man had called him at home last night and asked him to stop by tomorrow, he’d specifically said to come alone. Theon misliked the sound of that, almost as much as he hated to leave Robb alone, even for an hour or two. Just that morning, Robb had tore into Lancel Lannister for dropping a case file and not rearranging all the papers just so. Theon could understand the impulse, obviously, but it was so unlike Robb that it made him a bit worried. He climbed out of the Rolls anyway, pulling his trenchcoat closer and thinking maybe it was time to get out the thick wool peacoat the Starks had gotten him two Christmases past.
“Just get it over with. You’ve got bigger problems at the moment,” he told himself, mounting the rickety stairs to Brynden’s office two at a time. He knocked once, then went on in, not bothering to wait for a reply. “Bryn?”
Brynden Tully was seated at his desk, fiddling irritably with a bulky tabletop radio. “Damn dentist office downstairs is drivin’ me up a wall with all that Christmas music. Go on, have a seat, boy.”
Theon did so, trying not to grit his teeth at the word ‘boy’. He supposed to an old geezer like Tully, he still seemed like a boy. “Christmas music already? Christ Almighty, Robb’d lose his ever-lovin’ mind. He told Rickon off for singing “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” last night.” Far from getting the laugh he’d thought that would, Brynden just looked at him solemnly.
“That’s one of the things I wanted to talk to you about, actually. He’s wound tight, Theon, and he’s gonna snap if you don’t find something soon.” Flicking the radio off altogether, Brynden leaned forward in his chair, pinning Theon with his gaze. “You gotta make sure that doesn’t happen. Robb’s always been there for you, now you need to be there for him, you understand?”
“What makes you think I’m not?” Theon tried to keep his voice calm, but he could hear the indignation in it, and he was sure Brynden could too.
“Did I say you weren’t?” Brynden studied him silently a moment, then sighed. “You’re going to have to choose eventually, you know.”
“Choose?” Fear drew one cold finger down Theon’s spine. He was playing dumb, but he knew exactly what Tully meant. He should’ve known that the private investigator would suss it out sooner or later.
The look Brynden gave him was withering. “I don’t know how you’ve managed to keep it from Robb this long, unless he’s in complete denial...you’re just damn lucky Selmy doesn’t know.”
The cold finger of fear had turned into an icy hand gripping his heart. Brynden could ruin him with a word in Selmy’s ear, could send him to prison for a very, very long time. What exactly does he know, though? Because half the cops on the force are dirty, really, Theon told himself. He ignored the little voice that answered back, Not like you, pal. Not like you at all. That voice sounded an awful lot like Robb, but he squashed it ruthlessly. Brynden was watching him, waiting for some reply. “Know what, exactly?”
“Spare me, Greyjoy. You ain’t exactly subtle, makin’ booze runs in that Rolls, you know.” Brynden shook his head as he patted his breast pocket, pulling out a rather chewed-up looking cigar. “Now if that’s all it was, it would be one thing. But somehow I don’t think it is.”
“You’ve got no proof,” Theon started, but his words sounded weak, even to him. Squaring his shoulders, he went on. “I’m a goddamn good cop, and-”
“Yes, you are. But you’re dirty,” Brynden said, holding up a hand when Theon pushed himself to his feet. “Sit. You’re not the only one, I know. The force is crawling with dirty cops. Now, running booze...” He shrugged, chomping on his unlit cigar. “I don’t give two shits about Prohibition, and nor does anyone else really. ‘Cept maybe some of the G-men. You’ll want to be lookin’ out for them...I hear they’re gonna start crackin’ down on barrel houses and rum runners around Kingsport soon. But you sit there and tell me with a straight face that that’s all it is with you, and I’ll call you a damn good liar.”
Theon’s jaw clenched involuntarily, and he could feel a vein pulsing in his forehead. “You don’t know anything about it, old man, so don’t presume to lecture me. My family...” He shook his head, groping for words. “Robb is more a brother to me than my own ever were, but... Oh forget it, you couldn’t understand.”
“You’re right, I don’t,” Brynden said. His expression was stern and unyielding, but Theon thought he caught a glimpse of pity in his eyes. That was worse than all the rest; he’d only ever wanted respect, but all he ever seemed to get was scorn and pity. “You call Robb your brother...he trusts you unconditionally, and this is how you repay that trust?”
“It’s got nothing to do with Robb!” Theon protested. “Our cases are clean, I don’t bring him into it at all!” That wasn’t the complete truth, but clearly Brynden didn’t know the depths of his involvement with his family, or this discussion would be going much differently. “My family...they aren’t people you can just walk away from. It’s not that simple.”
“You use the Stark family auto to run illegal booze, Greyjoy. How on Earth is that not bringing my nephew into it?” Brynden shook his shaggy head, disapproval rolling off of him in waves. “And what about your gal? Mya? Did you think at all before bringing her into this?”
That was more than Theon could take. Some of the things he’d done, things that were in his nightmares when Ramsay Bolton took a break for a night, were to protect Mya, and he wasn’t about to let Brynden Tully pile on the guilt. “You can stop right there, Tully. I do what I have to do, understand? And Mya and Robb are safe that way.”
“However you justify it to yourself, son, it still doesn’t make it right. I’m sure there are ways-”
“I’m not your fucking son,” Theon said. “And doing the right thing is more Robb’s area of expertise than mine. Are we done here?” As soon as he’d asked, though, he regretted it. Should’ve just got up and walked out...that’s what Asha would’ve done.
“Just about,” Brynden replied. “Theon, listen...I’m the last person to tell anyone what to do. You could ask my brother that, if he were still alive. But if you’re gonna put those two on the line like that, the least you could do is give a little back, you get me? Do somethin’ nice for those two once in a while, show ‘em their trust in you isn’t for nothin’. And think very hard about what kind of life you want, Greyjoy.”
Theon blinked, taken slightly aback. He’d never thought about it quite like that before. He supposed Brynden was right about the first...he could stand to pay a little more attention to Robb and Mya. Especially Robb, in his current state. He rubbed the back of his neck thoughtfully; Theon knew he was a shit friend, mostly, but if he couldn’t step up when Robb needed him to, then what good was he? He liked to think he treated Mya better, but all the same, he resolved to do something nice for her...what that something was, he had no idea, but he’d figure it out.
“Alright, I’d better get back,” he said, feeling awkward as he stood and stuck a hand out. For a moment, he thought Brynden wasn’t going to take it, but then he did, his grip strong for a man of his age.
“You’ve got it in you to be a good man, Greyjoy. Just don’t let those two down.”
“Tell me again what we’re doing here?” Theon said, purposely ignoring the pencil jabbing him in the back of the head.
Robb sighed, reaching over and snatching the pencil out of his sister’s hand. “Knock it off, Arya. We’re here to talk to Bran’s class about being detectives. Well, I’m going to talk, you’re going to...I don’t know, not give them any ideas.”
“I told them Theon was the best shot in the whole city, maybe he can show them his gun,” Bran piped up from the back seat. “Miss Smith, my teacher, didn’t believe me, though. She said she heard Jaime Lannister is the best shot in three counties.” He practically shouted the last part as the rest of them exited the Rolls, Robb going around to unload his chair from the trunk.
Theon knew when he was being goaded, but it still rankled. “That’s bullshi-” He broke off when Robb shot him a glance, tossing his half-smoked Lucky to the ground in disgust. “Jaime Lannister my ass... Let’s go meet this teacher of yours.”
Arya left them as soon as they entered the school building, cheerfully kicking Theon in the shins as she went. The halls were crowded and noisy, but Bran wheeled himself through them with such self-assurance that the press of children parted for him easily. The sights and sounds brought back a host of memories, and when Robb nudged him with a shoulder, smiling, Theon realized he wasn’t the only one. They’d become fast friends when they were around the same ages as these kids.
However, Theon’s memories were surely less happy than Robb’s; he’d fought often and viciously, and had gotten caned more than he cared to remember. Almost never when he’d lived at home, though.. And isn’t it funny, you still think of Pyke as home? Theon shook his head, but the thought lingered, unwelcome. His worst fights hadn’t come until he’d been taken in by the Starks and been forced to switch schools. At that point, defending his family name had become a point of pride, and he fought as dirty as one would expect a Greyjoy to, but he never had to fight the same boy twice.
As he followed Bran and Robb into a sunny classroom at the end of the hall, Theon set aside those memories...no use thinking on them now. Blinking, he watched Robb introduce himself to a lovely young woman at the front of the room. Evidently Miss Smith was not the withered old crone he’d been expecting.
Stepping forward, he elbowed Robb aside with a cocky grin. “Detective Theon Greyjoy, miss. It’s a pleasure.”
The look she gave him as she tucked a stray wisp of auburn hair back into her bun was somewhere between disdainful and amused. “You can call me Myranda, Detective Greyjoy. And you lot are late. Let me get the children settled, and we’ll begin.” Turning to face the orderly lines of desks, she smiled far more brightly than she had for either him or Robb, and clapped her hands twice. “Good morning, class,” she sang out.
“Good morning, Miss Smith,” the class replied as one.
“As you all can see, we have two very special guests today. Bran’s brother, Detective Stark, and his partner, Detective Greyjoy. They’re here today to tell you a bit about what they do as part of our study of different careers. Please give them your full attention.” She rapped her knuckles on a desk in the first row, where a weasley-looking redhead was yawning, before stepping aside to lean on one of the window sills. “That means you too, Mr. Frey. Detectives, whenever you’re ready.”
Theon let Robb take the lead, chiming in with a comment every now and then when he noticed the kids’ attention starting to wane. It was a fairly dry presentation, but it wasn’t as if they could tell ten-year-olds about shooting Ramsay Bolton dead or charming a waitress with lopsided tits over a bottle of illegal wine. By the time Robb finished speaking, he thought most of the kids were probably deciding to go into investment banking rather than live the boring life of a detective.
“Well, that’s that,” Theon said, cutting Robb off mid-sentence before he could put the entire class to sleep. “Right, thanks for having us, we’ll be on our way, then.”
The look Bran shot him was full of annoyance, and Theon remembered he was supposed to’ve shown the class his gun. Before he could do anything though, Miss Smith laughed, a lovely, musical sound. “Aren’t you going to let them ask you any questions, Detective? I’m sure there are one or two...”
Before she’d even finished speaking, half the kids had their hands in the air. Theon and Robb exchanged a uneasy glance, and Robb pointed at one little girl who was waving her hand around as if she were drowning. “Yes, you?”
“Can we see your guns?” She grinned at them, revealing a gap between her two front teeth Theon was sure was large enough to park the Rolls in. “Please?”
“Now, Julia, I don’t think-”
“Sure!” Theon unholstered his police issue .38 and held it up, winking at Julia.
Robb rolled his eyes, but got his out as well. “Detective Greyjoy’s the best shot on the force, kids.”
“In the whole da-...the whole city,” Theon corrected, glancing over at the teacher. Myranda , he reminded himself.
“Can we see you shoot?” The little Frey boy in the front row leaned forward eagerly. “C’mon, shoot one of them birds out on the playground!” He pointed out the window, where there were, in fact, an awful lot of crows perched atop the swings. Theon could make that shot with his eyes closed.
“I’m sure Detective Greyjoy doesn’t go around shooting innocent birds as a matter of habit, Walder Frey.” Miss Smith stepped forward, standing beside Robb. “And besides, it’s time for you to go to music class. Now, what do we say to the detectives?”
“Thaaaank you, detectives,” the class intoned.
Their teacher nodded once and gestured to the door. “Very good. Line up please, and maybe the detectives will walk with us to music. You may speak to them quietly , and one at a time, in the halls.”
The line formed up with a minimum of pushing and shoving, and soon they were marching down the hall in relatively quiet fashion. Robb went to the front of the line to speak with a shy little boy who’d looked almost afraid to raise his hand, but Theon hung back. He didn’t have half the patience for children that Robb did, especially not when there was a beautiful dame around.
“So, Myranda...how long have you been a teacher?” A little girl in the line next to them giggled, poking the girl in front of her, but Theon ignored them.
“Two years,” Myranda replied. “And how long have you been a detective? You seem very young to have made that rank already.”
“I would be the youngest ever, except...” He gestured to Robb with a grin. “Babyface there. We’ve been at it about a year now.” Theon was gratified to see Myranda arch an eyebrow, clearly impressed. Before he could go on, however, he felt a tug at his sleeve.
“Theon?” They’d come up next to Bran’s place in the neat line of students, he saw. “Hey, Theon...I forgot to ask you earlier, but Mother wanted you to call and let her know if you and Mya would be coming for dinner tonight. Roslin’s coming, I think...”
It was often hard to be mad at Bran, but seeing the amused dismissal on Myranda Smith’s face, Theon somehow managed it. I could strangle the little ... Taking a deep breath, he reminded himself of Brynden Tully’s words, and of Mya’s lovely blue eyes. Baratheon eyes. The thought popped into his head, and he grinned, suddenly seeing an opportunity.
“Yeah, we’ll be there, kid. I’ll call her once I get back to my desk.” He turned back to Myranda, smiling. “I’ve got a question for you, Miss Smith. Do you know a boy named Edric Storm?”
“Edric? I do, yes.” Myranda smiled warmly at Bran as the last of her students were ushered into the music room. Bran craned his neck around in his wheelchair, looking earnestly up at Theon.
“Don’t forget to call-”
“Yeah, yeah, I’ll call your ma, Bran, don’t worry. Go on now, you’re gonna be late.” Theon gave Myranda another charming smile, but it didn’t seem to have quite the effect he’d hoped it would. “So...tell me about Edric. What sort of kid is he?”
“May I ask why you’re so curious?” Myranda’s gaze was slightly suspicious as they started back down the hall.
“Asking for a friend.” It was the easiest, least complicated answer Theon could come up with.
Suspicion gave way to dubiousness, but Myranda nodded. “A friend. I see. Well, Edric’s a good boy, a natural leader. I taught him last year, and he was always the first to volunteer, always wound up being the group leader. Sometimes it got to be a little much. He got a little uppity with some of his classmates, but they were quick to bring him back down.” She smiled to herself a little. “Do you want to see him? His class is in phys ed right now, I believe.”
Better and better, Theon thought. How much would Mya love it if he did all the legwork in finding another one of her brothers? He felt his lips curl up slightly, imaging just how grateful she’d be. Next to him Myranda cleared her throat, a delicate little cough, and he jerked himself out of fantasies of Mya’s hands and lips wandering his body, the soft feel of her under him. “Right, yeah, sure, let’s take a peek at ‘im.”
“Detective...” Robb’s voice sounded a little too loudly in the hallway. Theon glanced over and saw Robb tap his watch. “We’ve got to get back.”
“Yeah, I know, just give me a minute, will ya?” Theon tried to soften his tone. “Selmy’s not expecting us back till after lunch. Once we’re done here we’ll swing by Carla’s, yeah? I’ll pay.”
Robb blinked, clearly caught off guard. “You’ll pay? You feeling alright?”
Theon scowled and tossed Robb the keys to the Rolls. “Go warm ‘er up but don’t you dare take that car out of park.” Shaking his head, Robb wrapped his wool coat around himself and headed down the hallway. Theon offered his arm to Myranda, only to have the teacher shake her head, amused, and cross her arms firmly across her chest.
“This way, Detective Greyjoy.” The two of them headed down hallway after hallway, finally stopping before the doors to a large gymnasium. “Normally they have this class outside, but it’s been so cold lately they’re doing indoor exercises.” Myranda nodded towards a group of boys playing a game of basketball. “There’s your Edric.”
Theon spotted him straight away - a taller boy than the others, broader in the shoulder and seemingly more muscular, he had the same coal-black hair as Mya and Gendry, and Theon could only assume the same brilliant blue eyes. He could see what Myranda meant about the boy being a natural leader - he was calling out orders to his teammates, pointing here and there. While they watched, he made a daring shot from near the half-court line, whooping when the ball sank neatly through the hoop. Theon was impressed - he’d never been fond of phys ed, but he could appreciate raw talent. “He’s good.”
“And smart, and popular.” Myranda agreed. “The little girls in his class love him, too. He takes after his father, though I’m not sure he ever really had much interaction with him. He’s well looked after, though, and seems happy.”
Theon wasn’t surprised that she’d heard Edric’s history; many people had. He watched the boy play for a few moments longer, trying to take in as many details about him as he could to give back to Mya that night. After some time the phys ed teacher blew a whistle shortly, and the boys all gathered around him. Theon straightened, and jammed his hands in his coat pockets, trying one last time to regain a few points with this dame. “Well, I’d best be off before Robb gets antsy. Thank you, Myranda, for your time and help.”
The smile he got in return was no warmer than the air outside. “Miss Smith, Detective. And don’t forget to call Bran’s mother.” Raising her eyebrows slightly, she turned and headed back to her classroom.
Can’t win ‘em all, Greyjoy. Theon pushed the door open and headed towards the Rolls, jerking his head at Robb for him to get out of the driver’s seat. Can’t win ‘em all.
Chapter 10: Crossed Wires
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Though April showers may come your way,
They bring the flowers that bloom in May.
So if it's raining, have no regrets ...
Mya trailed off as the tinny music piping out of the ancient radio on Roslin’s dresser was interrupted by a patch of static, humming the tune as she turned her head this way and that in the mirror. Grabbing a few pins off her desk, she futzed with her hair a bit. Her mood had gone from dour and grim to as good as could be the past few days, and she had no idea why. The pressure of school and work hadn’t let up in the slightest, she was still exhausted and not even the weather had given way. If anything, it was more stubborn than anything else. Other than a few dirty flurries spiraling down, any of the snowfall Mya had been hoping for had remained merely that - hopes.
Floating out of her chair, she waltz to her closet and started rifling through it, holding up a few items to herself. Black’s too funeral, white’s too virginal, red’s too trampy, and anyway, Theon likes that one...yellow makes me look like a summer squash, especially lately...hm. Purple it is. Holding the dress to her chest, she danced around the dorm as the radio signal cleared up.
And where you see clouds upon the hills,
You soon will see crowds of daffodils,
So keep on looking for a bluebird, and listenin’ for his song,
Whenever April showers come along.
“Good grief, what’s gotten into you?” Roslin’s voice interrupted Mya’s waltz, and she jerked to a halt.
“Oh! I...I didn’t hear you, Rosie.” Mya’s cheeks were blazing and she folded her dress over her arms, trying to pretend she hadn’t been singing along to the radio and dancing around in her underwear like a loon. “Class get out early?”
Her roommate nodded, dumping a stack of books on her dresser and shrugging off her coat. “Where’re you going, getting all dressed up? Theon taking you somewhere nice for once?”
“No,” Mya returned to the mirror, fluffing a lackluster little curl out from behind her ear. “I’m not going out with him, not till tonight anyway. I’m meeting with Gendry again in a half hour or so.”
“Ooh!” Roslin squealed, clapping her hands together. Mya had the brief, absurd image of her roommate in a tiny vest and fez with little cymbals glued to her hands, and shook her head . “Can I come with?”
“No! He doesn’t know I’m his sister, Roslin. He thinks I’m just a reporter still, and if I bring you along he might get suspicious. You just...stay here, alright? Or go out with Robb.”
“ Fine, ” Roslin huffed. She pointed to the chair in front of the small, cluttered vanity they shared. “Sit, your hair looks a fright.” Mya sat obediently, letting Roslin twist her dark locks back, raking her fingers through them. “Honestly, I don’t know what you’d do without me sometimes.” Roslin tsked and clipped the sides back with a set of filigree barrettes. “There, much better. And make sure you wear a sweater over that dress; it’s cold outside.”
“Yes, Mother.” Mya chimed.
Pulling a wool hat over her ears, Mya buttoned up her coat as she left the warmth of her dormitory. She’d promised Theon she would meet Gendry somewhere ‘safer’, this time, going so far as to submit a list of locations for his perusal. He wasn’t able to go with her, though, and Mya’d felt a small twinge of regret when he’d told her that over the phone.
“Tell ya what,” Theon’d said. Over the phone Mya could hear the creak of his chair at the precinct as he leaned back in it. “Assuming you ever actually tell this boy who you are, we’ll all three of us go out for dinner sometime, yeah?”
“That’d be nice,” Mya smiled as she twisted the phone cord around her finger. “Listen, I’ve got to run or else I’m going to be late, but I’ll see you tonight?”
“As always. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”
“Please.” She laughed. “And don’t lean back in your chair like that. You’re going to bust your head open.”
“How did you-”
Mya’d hung up the phone, laughing, and still smiling as she pushed open the door to a cafe near campus. A bell on the door chimed softly as she scanned the small space, tugging her hat off. Gendry had arrived before her and stuck out like a sore thumb - his corduroy jacket did nothing to hide his broad shoulders, and his thick hands twisted his newsboy cap nervously as he sat at a corner table. He waved tentatively when Mya saw him, and she smiled. “Good to see you again.”
“You too, Miss Stone.” He stood half-way as she sat down, nodding a waitress over.
“Have any trouble finding the place?”
“Not really, no. But I tell ya, this is a long way from the greasy spoon we went to before, yeah?” Gendry glanced around, and Mya let herself laugh a little. She supposed he had a point. The cafe was filled with co-eds, secretaries on their lunches, muted conversation, and the sharp scent of evergreens lining the windows. It was about as far from the dingy, grease-scented diner they’d gone to as one could get. Mya and Roslin frequented this place, though, and she’d thought her brother might like it.
“They’ve got the best hot chocolate here. They put fresh whipped cream and a cinnamon stick in it...it’s delicious. Go on, and get yourself some. My treat.” Mya slipped out of her coat and sat down, resting her chin on her hand. God, but he looks like Renly. If those two ever meet...
“Y’know, I should really be the one paying for all this, Miss Stone.” Gendry didn’t seem to know what to do with his hands once he’d set down his cap. “‘s only proper.”
“Please, I’m the one who asked you here. So how’re things going at the car factory? Must be busy right now.”
Gendry shook his head. “Not as busy as they’d like. They’re, uh...they’re talkin’ about cutting back. If they do I don’t know what I’m gonna do. Never really been good at anything else, ‘cept boxing, and I’m not good enough to make a career out of that.”
“Yes you are,” Mya touched his arm briefly. “You’ve just got to get your name out there.”
“I suppose.” Gendry nodded at their waitress as she set mugs of steaming hot chocolate down on the table. “This little write-up should help with that, I hope.”
“Little-? Oh! Yes.” Mya laughed a bit nervously. Keep it together Stone, otherwise he’s going to see through you like cellophane. “It can’t hurt.” Gendry sipped at his hot chocolate, looking at her over the edge of his mug. Mya thought she saw a twinge of...something there. Distrust? She swallowed hard and plowed on. “So, on that note, tell me...you said you grew up at the gyms, pretty much. Who would you say was your biggest influence? What’d your mother think?”
Gendry shrugged, his gaze still guarded. “‘s hard to say, as far as my biggest influence. And as for my ma...she trusted me not to get myself into any trouble. What about you? What do your folks think of what you do?”
“My folks?” Mya’s stomach twisted, and suddenly her hot chocolate didn’t taste so good anymore. “My mother’s fine with it. Proud, actually. She never finished high school - she met my father when she was fifteen, and I came along the next year. She couldn’t go back after that.”
“And your dad?”
It was Mya’s turn to shrug and grow guarded. Her ‘interview’ was being turned on its head, something she hadn’t prepared for. Sitting back in her wrought-iron chair, she crossed her arms carefully over her chest and tried to regain control of the situation. “I never knew him, and I doubt he’d’ve been able to pick me out of a line-up.”
“No?” Gendry matched her posture, only his arms strained at the sleeves of his jacket, biceps bulging. Mya swallowed uneasily, but before she could think on it any longer the bell on the door jingled merrily, and her unease blossomed into irritation. Roslin and one of their other classmates had burst laughing through the door, cheeks rosy from the cold. She glanced over, her smile growing at seeing Mya. She said something to her classmate and separated from her side, making her way over to their small table.
“Hiya, Mya,” Roslin’s grin was positively shit-eating, as Theon would say, her doe eyes flicking back and forth. “Who’s your buddy here?”
Mya’s teeth were grinding together so hard she wouldn’t be surprised to feel one of them crack. “Roslin, this is Gendry Waters. I’m writing a piece on him, remember? We talked about it just this morning.”
Roslin gave Gendry a long, searching once-over. “Pleased.” Without waiting for a response, she turned back to Mya. “I’m glad I ran into you - Theon called not five minutes after you left. He made me promise I’d tell you he called, and you know how he gets. So clingy, that one. Anyway, I’ll leave you two be.” Airily blowing a kiss at Mya, Roslin sauntered back across the small cafe.
Mya sighed. “Sorry about that.”
“Not a problem,” Gendry replied in a tone that said anything but. “When did you say this article was going to run?”
“Um.” Mya jerked her gaze away from Roslin. “A few weeks, I believe? It’s sort of small potatoes.”
Gendry smiled at her then, and something about it made Mya’s insides threaten to spill out. “I think you’re bullshitting me, Miss Stone.”
“What?” Mya's stomach contracted nastily, giving an unsettling lurch.
“I got a little curious about your story the other day, gave the Lantern a jingle. They had no idea what I was talking about.”
In an instant Mya felt hollow, filled with molten shame, and ice-cold all at once. “Gendry, I can explain-”
“It’s a bit late for that, Miss Stone. Now, I don’t know what your deal is here but I was hoping you’d’ve come clean with me. Maybe you really like boxing. Maybe you’re bored. If you’re tired of your police officer friend and you’re lookin’ for a little side dish, though, I can promise you you barked up the wrong tree. I know what the other fellas at my gym are like with girls and all, but I’m not one of them.” His blue eyes, so familiar, were icy cold. “Now, I don’t know much about my father, but I do know he treated my ma like dirt, had a handful of other girls at the same time, till he eventually just stopped comin’ around. You have any idea how much that hurt her?”
“I’m not done yet. Now, I promised myself when I was young I wouldn’t get involved in anything like that, no matter how tempting it was, and I mean to keep to that. You wanna screw around, you find someone else to do it with. Shoulda known better than to think-...” he shook his head. “The pretty ones are always the worst and you, Miss Stone, are no exception.” Gendry pushed back from the table and stood abruptly, jerking his battered cap over his dark hair. “Don’t call me again, you understand?” Without another word he stalked through the door, leaving Mya to gape after him.
What...what just...I...did he just say I was pretty ? But...no.... Mya’s thoughts tumbled feebly over one another as the waitress made another pass, dropping a bill on the table and raising her eyebrows just judgmentally enough to make Mya scowl. “That wasn’t what it sounded like.”
“Whatever you say, honey.”
Mya stood, dazed and feeling sick. Dropping a dollar on the table, she tugged her coat on and made her way to the door. She’d hardly put her hand on the knob when she distantly heard the staccato beat of Roslin’s heels coming after her. “Mya, sweetie, what’s wrong? What happened?”
“I hardly know.” Mya stepped outside, tucking her hands in her pockets without really feeling the cold. “One minute he was asking about my parents and the next he...I think he thought I was making a move on him!”
“Oh honey...” Roslin wrapped an arm around Mya’s shoulders, guiding her to a bus stop bench. “He’s not completely off-base. Women of a certain...flavor...they do seem to follow after boys like him. My brother told me so. He probably just got the wrong read of you.” Mya just made a miserable-sounding noise, blinking furiously and annoyed at her own tears. “Y’know, you really should’ve just come clean with him from the start.”
“Oh don’t start , Roslin!” Mya stood abruptly, wrapping her arms around her middle. “I understand, alright? I know I should’ve told him who I was and now I’ll never get the chance and...” She slumped back down on the same bench she’d just leapt up from, pressing a hand over her mouth. “And now I’ll never get to.”
After a minute she felt her roommate’s hand, scarcely bigger than a child’s, rest on her shoulder. “It’s alright. Just, I don’t know, give him some time to calm down, and then explain things to him.”
Mya dashed a hand angrily across her cheeks. “Assuming he even lets me get a word in edgewise.”
“He will.” Roslin’s hand was rubbing up and down her back slowly, soothingly. Mya’d seen her do the same thing to Robb when he was particularly worked up over something, but had never appreciated how well it worked. “He’s just thick-skulled. You of all people should know how men are like that, yeah? Now come on, I’m still starving. Let’s go for some of those cheesesteaks.”
“Alright...” Mya fished her winter hat out of her pocket. “We gotta make it quick though. I’ve got a ton of stuff to do for Professor Lannister and I can’t do it tomorrow because I’m working and Theon’s coming for me as soon as he’s done at work tonight.”
Roslin looped her arm through Mya’s and tugged her away from the bus stop. “The two of you, I swear to God. You spend more time necking than Robb and I do.”
“We do not! That’s not all we do, Roslin. I do my homework there, and we’ve played chess, and sometimes we just-”
“Alright, that’s enough. I can fill in the blanks, thank you.”
Later that evening Mya lay sprawled on her narrow dorm bed, one arm wrapped around her stuffed octopus as she read over an essay she was due to hand in the next day. She couldn’t focus though - all she saw every time she blinked was the disappointed, cold look on Gendry’s face as he’d stalked out. Finally she tossed the essay on her desk, flipping on her back and pressing the heels of her hands over her eyes. Her headache had been kind enough to dissipate for the afternoon, but now, in the quiet of the dorm, it came roaring back with a vengeance. Every heartbeat sent a new wave of thick pressure coursing through her head, and she wondered briefly if she was about to be sick.
Lannister’s going to think you’re on the sauce if you hand in that essay as it is. And knowing him he’ll probably ask you if you’ve gotten that damn edict yet, or solved Ned Stark’s murder, or solved the Travelling Salesman problem or wiped out the memory of the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition while he’s at it.
Hugging the octopus to her chest, Mya toyed with a tentacle. Odds are Jaime Lannister doesn’t even remember you. If you can get in there when he’s not around... Mya bit her lip. Jaime Lannister was known for working long hours, completely devoted to making sure his sister’s image lost none of its luster. He has to go home sometime, though, doesn’t he? He can’t live at City Hall. .. oh be real, Stone. What’re you going to do, hide in a janitor’s closet till everyone’s gone home? Would you listen to yourself? This is the kind of idea Roslin would come up with.
A sudden knock on her half-opened door startled Mya out of her half-baked fantasy. “Come in.”
“You coming, or...?” Theon, of all people, poked his head in. There was a dusting of snow melting in his hair and Mya wondered distantly if the weather had finally broken. "I been out there for ten minutes."
“Theon, what’re you doing up here?!” Mya struggled to sit up, arms tangled in her octopus’s tentacles. “Mrs. Darry’s gonna skin you alive!”
Theon waved off her concern, coming the rest of the way into the dorm and glancing around, keeping his hands behind his back. “She saw me come in, dove. I told her I’d only be five minutes. So, this is where you live? It’s so small . ”
Setting the octopus aside, Mya slid off the bed, glancing around the cluttered dorm and nudging a pair of Roslin’s underwear under the bed. She smiled tiredly, looping her arms around his neck. “You wonder why I spend so much time at your place?”
“Ouch.” Theon chuckled, still keeping his arms firmly behind his back. “And here I thought it was my charm and wit you couldn’t get enough of.”
“That too.” Mya looked up at him, brows knitted together. “You don’t have a hug for your girl?”
“I’ve got something even better than that.”
“Theon.” Mya rolled her eyes and took a step back. “Just because Mrs. Darry let you up here doesn’t mean we can-”
Theon raised an eyebrow and with a small flourish, whipped his hand from behind his back. Wrapped in green tissue was a bouquet of forget-me-nots, a handful of delicate primroses, and several pale purple orchids and a few sprigs of baby’s breath tucked in among the blossoms. “Believe it or not, I do think of things other than getting you in bed.”
Mya gasped, plucking the flowers from his hand and wrapping herself around him in a long hug. “They’re beautiful! But...why?”
“Just thought you’d like them.” Theon shrugged, looking pleased with himself. “I know you’ve been busy with school and your lit-...your job, and...” he shrugged again. “You got a vase in here? The florist said they needed water.”
“Of course they need water.” Mya dug through first her desk, then Roslin’s, frowning. “We don’t have a vase.” She buried her nose in the fragrant flowers, inhaling their soft, sweet scent. “God, they’re gorgeous. Tell you what, you probably have a vase at your place - can I bring them with me tonight?”
“Sure. Just make sure you take them with next time you come back here. I can’t have flowers just sitting around. Robb’ll think I’ve gone soft.”
“Of course I will. Just let me get my books together.” Mya glanced over her shoulder. “And I don’t think anyone would accuse you of going soft.”
By the time Theon turned the Rolls into the crushed shell driveway of Riverrun, the light flakes of snow that had gathered in Theon’s hair had grown to a steady fall, gleaming in the beams of the headlights. Mya climbed out of the car, stooping to gather her flowers and books, and inhaled deeply. The air had the crisp, cold scent that usually preceded a whopper of a snowstorm, but she wasn’t holding her breath. The dead grass wasn’t even covered yet.
Kicking off her shoes just inside the door, Mya padded across the small kitchen and started digging through Theon’s cabinets. “Honestly...” she sighed.
“What?” Theon tossed his coat over a kitchen chair, shutting the door behind him.
“I don’t think you have a single matched set of anything in here.” Mya poked through a few chipped mugs, a juice glass that looked like it’d been snagged straight out of Catelyn Stark’s china cupboard, and 5 mismatched plates before finding a tall glass that looked like it’d hold her flowers.
“Why would I? The only person I ever have over is you, and maybe Robb every so often.”
Such a bachelor, Mya thought, smiling to herself. I wonder if Gendry lives like this. The unbidden thought hit her hard, feeling like a punch to the gut. Her smile faded quickly, and she busied herself with arranging the flowers. Her eyes welled up and she swore softly, trying to blink back her tears without Theon noticing. He noticed anyway.
“Hey, what’s wrong? It’s just a few glasses, doll, but if it means that much to you I’ll get a matched set.” He was looking at her a bit askance, clearly uneasy. He hated when women cried, and Mya was no exception, lover or not.
“No, it’s...” Mya took a steadying breath and was relieved to feel some of the tears subside. “I met with Gendry again today, remember?”
“Yeah, I was going to ask how that went. I’m guessing not well?”
Leaning against the counter, Mya recounted her disastrous meeting with Gendry. Theon’s eyebrows raised, and she thought he bit back a laugh towards the end but to his credit, his expression stayed mostly somber. “Ah, Mya.” He sighed, rubbing the back of his neck. “C’mon.” Theon held out an arm and once Mya’d folded herself into his embrace, he stroked her hair. “As much as I hate to say it, Ros might be onto something. Just give him a little time, and he’ll come around. And then once finds out who you are I bet he’ll feel like the biggest ass around.”
“But I don’t want him to feel like an ass,” Mya mumbled against his chest. “I want him to feel like my brother.”
“Part of being a brother is feeling like an ass.” Theon replied. When Mya pulled away, raising an eyebrow, he grinned crookedly. “So says Robb. I, personally, couldn’t be an ass if I tried.”
Mya laughed at that; she couldn’t help it. “You’re such a liar.”
“Not to you, dove.” Theon pressed his lips to her part. “Not to you.” They stayed like that for awhile, Mya turning her thoughts over in her head while Theon stroke her hair. She only realized she was growing drowsy when Theon nudged her with a shoulder. “You fallin’ asleep on me?”
“Hm? No, of course not!” Mya gave herself a sturdy shake to try and wipe away evidence that she had, in fact, been dozing on him. “God, I can’t sleep yet. I haven’t even made a dent in my homework.”
“And,” Theon puffed out his chest just a little. “I haven’t even told you about the best part of your day yet.”
Mya raised an eyebrow. She was quite ready for this day to just end already, but the look on Theon’s face was so eager, so boyish, she gave in and smiled tiredly. “Go on, then.”
“You know how me and Robb went and talked to Bran’s class today? Well, he’s at the same school as one Edric Storm. Took a peek at the kid myself, and he looks just like your old man.” Theon grinned widely, clearly proud of himself and expecting a similar reaction from her.
Mya stood on her toes and wrapped her arms around Theon’s neck, smiling against his collar. Of all the names on her list, Edric Storm was probably the easiest to find, but she knew for Theon to take the time to help her like this was out of character for him, a real effort. “Tell me about him. Everything.”
Theon tugged her over to the sofa in front of his usually-cold fireplaces, cording up a few old newspapers and tossing them in among the logs. Striking a match, he tossed it in and nursed a few healthy flames before stretching out on the sofa, head in Mya’s lap and feet dangling over the opposite armrest. Mya stroked his hair off his forehead, letting the warmth of the fire wash over her as the snow began to swirl outside, and Theon told her of her brother long into the night.
Having a few issues with formatting. That aside, I am open for (reasonable) requests while my beloved Bluebright is on vacation for the 4th of July. Leave what you'd like to see in the comments and if it's feasible and won't spoil our story here, I'll see what I can do!
Chapter 11: Intruder
Beneath their usual table at the Blue Room, the mayor of Kingsport was sliding one stockinged foot up the inside of her brother’s leg. They’d danced, they’d had champagne and steak, then danced some more, and clearly Cersei wasn’t ready to call it a night. Jaime stood abruptly and offered his sister an arm, their smiles a matched set.
“Shall we?” He asked, not bothering to read the bill that had been set at their table. Someone from his sister’s office would take care of it tomorrow.
“We shall,” Cersei replied, pulling him along to the coat check.
Jaime tried not to laugh at the way her toe tapped impatiently as they received their coats, merely helping her into her floor-length mink with a grin. Cersei ran a hand down her own arm, eyes half closed in pleasure, and wrapped the luxurious coat closer around herself. Jaime knew she’d just gotten her furs out of storage for the winter, and this mink was her favorite by far. He shrugged into his own overcoat and swept the door of the restaurant open for her, chuckling at the way she pulled the collar up against the bite of the crisp fall night.
The valet had already pulled the Phantom around, holding the passenger door open for Cersei as Jaime went around to the driver’s side. The instant they pulled away, Cersei slid over, slim, cool fingers tangling in his hair. “We can’t go to the mansion,” she said, tucking her other hand under his coat and suit jacket. He could feel her palm resting over his heart. “Myrcella has some of her little school friends over.”
“To the office, then?” He made the necessary turn without waiting for his sister’s reply. It was the only choice, really. Cersei flat-out refused to come to his place, and they’d tried parking once right before Jaime had been shipped off to the War, but it hadn’t ended well. Luckily for them, the man who’d caught them had been a nobody, a nameless bum. He was the first man Jaime’d killed, but not the last, and they’d learned a valuable lesson about being more discreet.
Traffic going into the city was light, thankfully, as Cersei’s hand slid down the front of his shirt and pulled it from his trousers. She loved to tease him as he drove and tonight was no exception. By the time he’d parked behind City Hall, she was nibbling on his neck and stroking him through his pants, her mink slipping down to reveal one creamy shoulder.
Logically, Jaime knew this was a risk...there were almost definitely night watchmen and janitors in the building, but he couldn’t bring himself to care. This was the first time they’d been alone in almost a week, since he’d confronted her about Kettleblack, and he wanted her badly, wanted to claim her for his own again. When they were together, when he was deep inside her, it was like the war had never happened, Robert had never existed, and nothing had ever changed. I wonder if it’s like that for her? Once upon a time, he would’ve known how she felt instinctively, but it seemed that time had passed.
Roughly, Jaime pulled his sister onto his lap, ignoring her small gasp. Cersei struggled against him, but her protests were belied by the way her hips ground against his. Jaime pushed the mink off her shoulders and buried his face in the curve of her neck, relishing her soft exhale as she began to give in. He worked a hand under her dress, up past the tops of her stockings, and groaned when he found that she’d skipped her usual silk underthings that morning, and was wet for him already.
“Jesus, Jaime!” Her hips rolled against his hand once, but Cersei pulled away, face flushed. “Not here! What’re you thinking?”
“I’m thinking I want you,” Jaime said, gripping her ass with his free hand and driving a finger into her wet heat. “Now.”
She rocked on him, digging her nails into his shoulder. “Stop it!” She hissed, digging into the meat of his shoulder further. He hoped she wasn’t ruining his shirt, it was his favorite one. “Let’s get out of the car at least...” Cersei twisted out of his grasp, pushing him towards the driver’s-side door.
Too impatient to argue, he gave in, as he always did. Jaime got out, offering a hand to his sister, who was adjusting her dress and wrapping herself back in her mink. She smiled at him and took the proffered hand, pulling him along behind her towards City Hall. Unaccountably, Jaime was reminded of a time, years ago, before the war, at their summer home in the West. They’d spent the whole day on a secluded beach, just swimming and sunbathing, caught up in each other. She’d given him a such a smile on that day, and he’d picked her up and swung her over his shoulder as he ran into the surf. She’d laughed and dunked his head under the water playfully...somehow, though, he knew if he tried to pick her up now, she’d smack him until he put her down. Yes, well, you’re grown now...get over it.
Jaime was drawn out of his reverie by the sudden intrusion of a hand in his pocket. Cersei laughed at the startled noise he made and jingled his keyring once. “What were you thinking about? You had a funny look on your face.”
“You,” he said, pushing her hair over one shoulder and kissing her neck as she fumbled with the keys, molding his body to hers in the small doorway. “It’s the heavy one on the end...”
Finally, the door was open, and Cersei pulled him into the hushed entryway, their shoes echoing on the polished marble floor. A few scattered lights had been left on on the floor above them, and she seemed to glow in the dim light. “Your office or mine?” She whispered, already making for the stairs.
“Yours,” he replied instantly, picturing the sorry state of his desk. Concentration had been hard to come by the past week, when all he could think of was a life without Cersei.
They made their way to her private office quickly, and Cersei switched on her desk lamp while Jaime locked the door, their own familiar rituals of intimacy. For a moment, they simply stared at each other from across the room, until Cersei shrugged out of her fur, letting it fall to the floor. She was perfect and beautiful, the only thing he’d ever wanted, and Jaime crossed the room in two quick strides, standing between her legs and pushing her dress up as she sat back on her desk. Their fingers flew over each other’s clothing, their mouths crashing together when Cersei ripped the knot out of his bow tie and yanked his head to hers.
“Please,” she murmured, nipping at his bottom lip. “Please, Jaime...I need you.”
His pants were already around his ankles, and when she hooked her legs around his waist, drawing him close, Jaime pulled her hips closer and sank into her with a low groan. The satisfied purr she made against his ear was as familiar to him as his own name, and it made his pulse race to hear it. Her desk, a sturdy old thing left over from Robert’s time, creaked loudly when he gave a particularly hard thrust, and Jaime couldn’t help but grin when Cersei’s nails dug into his back, even as she laughed. This was what he wanted, the Cersei that nobody else saw...
He pulled back slightly, wanting to see her face. The way her eyes gleamed, half-hooded, as she smiled at him lazily was enough to take his breath away. “God, I love y-”
A resounding CRASH broke the hush of the dark building, interrupting Jaime’s hushed declaration. The flush that stained Cersei’s cheeks suddenly fled as her face went white with fear. For a second, Jaime thought his heart had stopped entirely, and then it came roaring back, pounding wildly against his ribs.
“Go!” Cersei hissed, “go see!” She pushed him away, scrambling off the desk and groping for her fur on the floor. “Please, Jaime!”
“Alright, I’m going...” Doing up his pants and shirt hurriedly, Jaime slipped out of the office, glancing back at his sister, whose hands were clenched together so hard her knuckles were white. “Lock the door after me.”
“Wait!” Cersei pulled a drawer open and drew out a small, gold-plated pistol. Jaime recognized it as a gift she’d gotten years ago from some well-meaning, but clueless, crony of his father’s. “Just in case,” she said, tossing him the weapon. Jaime caught it handily, tucking it into the waistband of his pants as he eased the door shut behind him.
The anteroom to Cersei’s office was dark, but he could see a faint sliver of light coming from under the door. Slowly, Jaime made his way out into the hall, where it was clear the light, and noise, were coming from his own office down the hall. What the fuck ? He pulled the small gun from his waistband as he crept towards the open door and heard the tinkling of broken glass and a muttered “Damn it!” To his intense surprise, it was a woman’s voice...so much for the theory of a clumsy night watchman or cleaning man.
Drawing one deep breath, Jaime stepped into the room and raised the gun in a smooth motion, the word “Freeze” dying on his lips. A young, dark-haired woman, only slightly older than his nephew, was on her knees, staring up at him with the bluest eyes he’d ever seen, shards of the hideous vase she’d evidently knocked over still in her hands. She looked incredibly familiar, but Jaime never forgot a name... His cock throbbed uncomfortably against the zipper of his pants, and Jaime took it as a reminder to take care of business and get back to Cersei.
“And who might you be?” Jaime said, careful to keep his voice quiet. No sense in attracting the watchman until he knew exactly what was going on here.
The girl’s chin poked out slightly, as if she were annoyed, but there was a quaver in her voice when she answered. “Mya Stone. We’ve met before, you know...” Her eyes flicked from the gun to the door before meeting his, and then he remembered.
“You,” Jaime stepped closer and Mya scooted back, but didn’t rise. “The little... journalist . ” His tone was meant to remind her of her lie the first time they’d met, and the way she flinched let him know it’d hit the mark. “You’re a student of my brother’s, aren’t you?” And Bob Baratheon’s first bastard child...though she looks more like Renly, to be fair. Jaime had been doing a little looking into his dead brother-in-law’s numerous illegitimate children, and he knew this girl had been born years before Bob and Cersei’s marriage. He wondered if she knew...she had to know something , to be in his office in the middle of the night.
“Y-yes,” she said, still crouching with pieces of the shattered vase in her cupped hands. She bit the corner of her bottom lip, the tip of her tongue poking out briefly, clearly a nervous habit. “I...” He raised an eyebrow at her, and she fell silent, clearly thinking better of whatever she’d been about to say.
The girl, Mya, licked her lips again, and for half a second, Jaime was tempted beyond reason. She’s already on her knees...and she’d probably jump at the chance to make this all just go away . He tried to imagine the scenario, but her glossy black hair turned to gold in his mind’s eye, and he knew it was useless.
Chuckling at himself, Jaime reached down and hauled the girl up by an elbow, directing her into a chair. “You might as well get off your knees. I hated that vase anyway, and I’m not going to make you suck my cock, though you might wish I had by the time this is over.”
Mya’s cheeks blazed with what he assumed was embarrassment, but all she said was, “I highly doubt that.”
Jaime leaned on his desk casually, reaching around to pick up his telephone from under a pile of loose papers. He smirked at the way the girl’s eyes, so blue and wide, were quite pointedly trying to settle anywhere but on his crotch. “Now, I’m sure Barristan Selmy will want to hear all about this,” he said, toying with the receiver. “It’s a good thing I have his home number.”
By the way she blanched, Jaime could see she knew exactly who Selmy was. “No,” she said, “W-wait...” She dropped the pieces of the vase to the floor as she put a hand over his on the telephone, and her palm was damp and clammy with nerves.
“Whatever for?” Jaime was amused. Did she think she could somehow buy his silence, or was she considering offering freely what he’d considered taking before?
“I know I’m in trouble, but...” Mya bit her lip, her eyes pleading. “Please don’t call him. It’s just...” Her fingers tightened around his, pushing the receiver back onto the cradle. “You can’t call him.”
Jaime studied the girl’s face, considering. Something was pinging at the back of his mind... Think! What else do you know about this girl? What’d Tyrion say? Something about a boyfriend... He smiled, cat-like. “Ohhh. You don’t want to get your friend Greyjoy in trouble, do you?” Jaime wondered if the Greyjoy boy had put her up to this, in order to get information about Bob and Ned’s murders. If so, she broke into the wrong office , Jaime thought wryly.
To her credit, Mya didn’t flinch, although he could see the worry in her eyes. “He had nothing to do with this...he has no idea I’m here.” She swallowed hard, finally pulling her hand away from his when Jaime nodded for her to go on. “I was...I...thought you might have information about me and my...siblings.” The way her eyes flicked up and to the right told Jaime that was at least partially a lie, but he let it go. He wanted to keep her talking, and he wasn’t concerned with what she might’ve seen. Anything of any real importance was in the safe in the wall, and she didn’t strike him as a safecracker by any means. “Please, if you call Theon,” she hesitated, “Detective Greyjoy, I mean, he’ll come get me. There’s no need to wake Mr. Selmy...”
“And there’s no need for you to go to jail then, correct?” Jaime laughed at the stricken look that came across the girl’s face then. It was clear she hadn’t fully contemplated the consequences of getting caught. “Very well, I’ll call up your detective. What’s his home number?” He saw her hesitation, and grinned. “I could just ring up Riverrun’s main line, if you like?”
“500RVR,” Mya reeled off at once.
She looked pained as Jaime repeated the exchange to an operator and waited, the line ringing and ringing. After twenty rings or so, the operator asked if he wanted a different number. “No, I’ll wait...let it ring,” he told her. After another ten, someone finally picked up.
“Who the fuck is this, and what the fuck do you want?” The voice on the other end of the line was scratchy and rough, but didn’t have any of the tell-tale dreaminess of being dragged out of sleep. “It better be important, or so help me God...”
“Oh, it is Detective Greyjoy,” Jaime winked at Mya, who was worrying the corner of her lip again. “I require an immediate police presence here at City Hall, I’m afraid.”
“Call your local precinct, buddy. Or call HQ, I really don’t give a rat’s ass.” A weariness had crept into the other man’s voice, and Jaime could sense he was a heartbeat away from hanging up.
“I don’t think you’d like that much, Greyjoy. You see, I’ve got something,” he coughed softly, watching Mya carefully. “Excuse me, someone, rather, here who belongs to you. Now, I’ll see you shortly, yes?” Jaime disconnected the call before Theon could respond and went around his desk to sit, propping his feet up with a more casual air than he felt. “Now,” he told Mya, “we wait.”
A scant twenty minutes later, they heard the echo of footsteps on marble, and Jaime and Mya’s eyes met over the desk. She looked resigned to her fate. He made sure to keep the little pistol in plain sight, and when Theon Greyjoy slipped into the room, cocked it with exaggerated precision.
“Mya?!” Greyjoy didn’t take his eyes off the gun in Jaime’s hands for one second, cocking his own with a practiced motion and easing further into the room. “What in the fuck is going on here? What’d he do to you? I’ll take you in for this, Lannister-”
Jaime set his weapon down and stood, eager to be finished and return to Cersei. She must be losing her mind right about now... “Oh no, Detective, it’s not me you’ll be taking in. I caught Miss Stone here in my office after hours, going through my private files. I do believe that’s called breaking and entering?”
Theon slowly lowered his gun. “You’ve got to be joking...” Jaime just looked at him and smiled, cutting his eyes to Mya after a moment. Theon got the hint. “Mya, doll?”
The girl turned in her seat, but she couldn’t even raise her head to look him in the eye. “Theon, I...I just needed...” She trailed off helplessly, casting him an unreadable look.
The detective stiffened, holstering his gun. “Stand up. Now.” The tension in the room was palpable, and Jaime had the distinct impression that these were two people who were about to either have a knock-down, drag-out fight, or fuck each other senseless. “Mya Stone, you’re under arrest. Turn around, put your hands on the desk in front of you.”
Impressively enough, Theon didn’t hesitate, but followed what Jaime assumed was standard operating procedure and began frisking his girlfriend. When his hands ran up her ribcage, however, the process became anything but standard. Jaime saw the way Mya arched her back, saw how Theon pressed back against her...it was enough to get him hard all over again.
He watched, feeling an illicit thrill, as the young detective ran a rough hand through Mya’s hair, then stooped and hiked her skirt up, running both hands up her stockinged legs and lingering just a moment too long on the insides of her thighs. Jaime’s pulse quickened as Theon rose and smoothed Mya’s skirt back down, one hand gripping her hip in a way that was aggressive and blatantly sexual. When he pulled the handcuffs from his back pocket and pressed his hips into her, holding her steady while he pulled her hands back, finally, there was hesitation.
Jaime coughed once, the best he could manage under the circumstances. The look Theon shot him was full of venom; Jaime Lannister feared no man, but in that moment he was sure if Greyjoy’d had his weapon to hand, he’d’ve been a dead man. “You got somethin’ to say, pretty boy?” Theon snarled.
“No, no, by all means, take your time...” He said, holding up his hands. Jaime couldn’t keep the amusement from his voice, but he supposed it was more appropriate than arousal. For a moment, he wondered if he couldn’t convince them to just go ahead and fulfill their baser urges right there on his desk, but decided against it. “But some of us would like to go home and get some rest tonight.”
“Fuck off, Lannister,” came the reply. But Theon snapped the cuffs on Mya all the same, taking her by the elbow and directing her to the door with a curt “March.” Without looking back, he told Jaime, “Someone will call in the morning to get your statement.” The anger in his voice was plain to hear.
Surprising himself, Jaime shrugged. “Ah, as to that...I find I’m somewhat undecided now. I’d really not rather be inconvenienced...” He didn’t miss the way both Mya and Theon’s backs stiffened, and Theon turned to look at him. Who knew, maybe it would come in handy to have a Greyjoy owe him a favor. “Why don’t I call you on your private line tomorrow, and we can discuss further consequences?”
“Fine,” Theon snapped. “But don’t call before noon, you pompous prick.” Jaime just laughed...pompous was far from the worst thing he’d been called in his life. “Mya, go.” He pushed her out the door, not ungently, and heeled it shut behind them.
As soon as Jaime heard them heading down the stairs, their shoes making a racket in the hush of the building, he left his office and made his way back to Cersei’s, careful to stay in the shadows. As soon as he opened her door, however, he knew something was wrong. The desk lamp had been left on, but the room was empty.
“Cersei?” Jaime looked around, feeling like a fool. Unless she was hiding in the closet, she was gone. He crossed to the desk, and saw that the lamp had been left on to highlight a scrap of paper on the blotter.
Called Sandor, you were taking too long. Call me when you’re through, and don’t forget to lock my office up. -C
“God damn it!” Jaime slammed his fist down onto the desk. He’d managed to keep his cool for far longer than he would’ve thought possible, but this was the last straw. Images flashed through his mind, of Cersei and Sandor drinking wine together, in bed together, fucking in that hideous black truck Sandor drove... “Fuck fuck fuck !”
Jaime’s anger, which he’d kept tamped down even when Mya Stone’s clumsy attempt at burglary had ruined his night, flared hot and bright. He wanted to break something, to scream and yell, and above all, to hurt someone...to hurt Cersei. He crumpled the note and hurled it in the trash, his pulse roaring in his ears.
A car horn blared, a short, staccato blast. Jaime crossed to the window and twitched the shades open a hair. The Rolls the Greyjoy shit and his Stark pal drove around in was rocking slightly, and even as Jaime watched, the windows began to fog up. Well, someone’s getting some tonight... And suddenly, he knew what to do, how to really hurt Cersei.
Slamming the door to Cersei’s office after him, Jaime practically ran down the hall back to his office. “Where is it, where is it?” He had a very particular filing system, but in the past week it’d been shot to hell, and the slim manila folder he was looking for wasn’t distinct-looking on the outside. Its contents, however...
Jaime finally came up with the correct folder, yanking it out from under a pile of press releases and old Lantern s. He flicked it open, and saw the bank statements he’d been looking for, detailing the accounts Bob Baratheon had set up for his illegitimate children. He hadn’t had time to sort through it completely, but it was an interesting tidbit of information that Cersei would be loath to see in Mya Stone’s hands, he had no doubt. Shrugging into his woolen overcoat, he made for the rear entrance of the building, unaccountably eager to hand over the file and just get the hell out of there.
The Rolls was rocking at an impressive rate when Jaime strode up and rapped twice on the fogged-up driver’s-side window. He didn’t wait for an answer, but merely popped the door open and leaned his head in. “Is this part of the standard operating procedure for arrests now?” As expected as it was, the sight of the Stone girl squirming on Greyjoy’s lap, with her skirt hiked up high enough to expose her entire ass, was still incredibly arousing. Then he noticed the cuffs, and he had to laugh, though it was was a sound devoid of all humor. “Oh, you’ve at least kept the handcuffs on her, I see...”
Before he could go on, or even draw a breath, Theon had somehow managed to draw his pistol and level it at Jaime’s head, while also managing to keep one hand low on Mya, who’d frozen. “Shut the door, get in your car and drive away. Now.” The barrel of the gun was inches from his forehead, but Jaime ignored it. Theon’s teeth were bared in a feral grin, but Jaime couldn’t help but notice Mya’s quiet gasp, her face hidden against her lover’s neck, nor the way her hips jerked and began to move again. Finally, he’d seen enough.
“No need for that, Detective. I just wanted to leave your girl there with something to make her criminal endeavors a bit more worthwhile,” Jaime said, tossing the slim manila envelope on the seat. When he spoke again, it was to Mya, who still had her face hidden. “It’s not what you wanted, Miss Stone, but you may find it interesting, nonetheless. Not as interesting as all this, to be sure, but do let me know what you think.”
Walking to his own Rolls, gleaming like quicksilver in the moonlight, Jaime laughed as a sharp cry came from the auto behind him. He hoped they quit fucking long enough to take a look at the file sometime in the next few days, because he couldn’t wait to see Cersei’s reaction when she realized that Bob’s little secret was out.
Chapter 12: Taking A Toll
By the time Theon parked the Rolls, Mya was quite ready to crawl under a rock and die. Not even the resounding warm ache inside her leftover from her and Theon’s delirious lovemaking could erase the mortifying shame of being caught by Jaime Lannister.
How could you be so
She resisted the urge to bury her face against Theon’s chest. He hadn’t said much since he’d pulled out of the parking lot, and had just idly stroked her hair as they’d driven. Mya knew he was upset with her, he’d said as much as he’d led her rather roughly down the back stairs of City Hall, and when she’d tried to apologize in the car he’d merely told her to stop, that they’d talk about it later.
Well, it’s later . Mya raised her head off Theon’s chest as he flicked the car off and settled back against the seat. Her stomach twisted anxiously as he gazed at her. She tried to take a deep breath, only to have it stick in the middle of her chest. “Theon, I’m sorry about all of this. I know it was stupid and a bad idea and I just want to forget it ever happened, yeah?”
“You lied to me, Mya.” Theon was quiet, more somber than she’d seen him in months. There was disappointment in his tone, and Mya felt at once feverish. She’d rather he raved and yelled than give her the look he was now. At the same time though, she felt a flash of indignation.
“And how many people have you lied to?” The words bolted out of her mouth before she could stop them. In the instant after she saw they’d surprised Theon just as much as they had her. He straightened slightly and opened the car door. His jaw set firmly, and his eyes were hard. Mya felt a coldness spread over her back, dripping down from her shoulders. She’d seen that look before, and it never preceded anything good.
“This isn’t about me.” He climbed out, his shirt still hanging open, and reached past her to grab the manilla envelope Jaime Lannister had tossed at them. “Come on, unless you want to freeze to death out here.”
The inside of Theon’s home seemed colder than the outside once he’d shut the door. He dropped the manila envelope on his small, scarred table and rubbed a hand over his face. Sinking wearily onto one of the kitchen chairs, he held out an arm to Mya. “C’mere.” Mya slid obligingly onto his lap. “I don’t want to fight, not tonight. Just tell me how you did it. And why you didn’t tell me.”
Mya rested her head on his shoulder, rubbing a hand across her stomach. It twisted, roiling with a steady, strong ache. She closed her eyes, trying to breathe deep. “I went to City Hall just before it closed. It wasn’t busy and I just hid in a closet.” She swallowed thickly. “And fell asleep.” Theon snorted, but motioned for her to go on. “There’s not much beyond it. When I woke up everyone was gone. It was easy to avoid the nightwatchman and find Jaime’s office and...you know the rest.” she trailed off feebly, tucking her face against his throat. Normally his warm, familiar scent soothed all her worries away but right now it was making her palms sweat, and not in a good way. “And I didn’t tell you because you would’ve told me it was a bad idea and not to do it.”
“It was a bad idea and you shouldn’t have done it.” Theon’s tone had taken on a petulance she wasn’t sure she liked. “If he’d called anyone else but me, even Robb, you’d be in the slammer right now with your back against the wall.”
“I know that, Theon.” Mya was tired and wanted little more than to lie down, sleep, and pretend this whole thing had never happened. “And I didn’t lie to you, Theon. I really wasn’t feeling well earlier. I’m still not.”
“You were feeling fine after we got back to the car.” Theon nudged her side. “Downright bouncy, if memory serves.”
“I wasn’t and I’m still not.” Mya replied a bit sharper than she’d intended. “God, Theon, I’ve really put my foot in it this time. Jaime Lannister’s gonna ruin my career before I even properly have one.”
“He could, but he won’t.” When Mya opened her mouth to object, Theon planted a finger over it. “He said he’d call me in the morning and...fuck, it is the morning. You just let me handle him.”
Mya felt that same prickle of indignation again. She knew Theon liked to play the big protective man role, strutting around with his chest puffed out, but she wasn’t about to let herself be labelled as some meek little ninny who did stupid things like get caught breaking into City Hall in the middle of the night, and then caught again not an hour later in flagrante delicto with the same officer who was supposedly arresting her. “No, Theon, it’s my mess. I made it and I’ll clean it up. I don’t need you to do that for me.”
Theon sighed and muttered something about stubborn headstrong women not knowing when a good thing was being offered. “I already said I don’t want to fight with you, didn’t I? Now, let’s just look in this envelope and see what was worth interrupting us, and then we can try and get some sleep.” He reached across the table and patted her rump. “Scoot off there, dove. My leg’s falling asleep.”
Mya rose, trying not to let her consternation show on her face, and curled up on the sofa instead. Theon tipped the envelope, leafing through a sheaf of papers. While Mya watched, his eyebrows drew closer and closer together, fingers flipping pages back and forth. Tugging a blanket off the back of the couch, she hugged it close and drew her knees up to her chest. “What is it?” Theon didn’t answer for so long she thought he hadn’t heard her. “Theon? Come on, Detective, the sun’s nearly up and your girl’s exhausted.”
Slowly, deliberately, Theon tapped the edges of the papers back into true. “My girl.” He said quietly, almost to himself. Oh Lord, what now? Mya was half-tempted to just go to bed and let him stew over whatever he was upset about this time. He leaned back in his kitchen chair, the wood creaking slightly as he rested one ankle on the opposite knee. “Anything you may’ve forgotten to tell me, dove?”
Mya rubbed her eyes, not in the mood for games. “Can give me a hint as to what you’re on about?”
“Oh, I can give you a hint. In fact,” Theon rifled through the papers again, “I can give you one thousand, one hundred and twenty-four reasons. And sixty-three cents.”
Oh for God’s sake. Mya groaned. “I’m sorry, love, I meant to tell you about that but I just-...wait, what’s my nest egg doing in Jaime Lannister’s hands?”
“Let’s forget Jaime Lannister for a minute, yeah?” Theon was pacing now, jerking a Lucky out of his pack and lighting it with a match lit off his thumbnail. “Mya, I thought we didn’t have any secrets.”
“We don’t, Theon, I’ve just had a lot on my mind and I just forgot.” Mya rubbed the bridge of her nose.
“Just like you forgot to tell me you were going down to the Hook and you forgot to tell me about your little excursion tonight?”
Mya stared at him, slightly aghast. Where was all this coming from? “Yes, Theon, like I forgot all that other stuff!” Suddenly tired of the whole thing, she stood abruptly. “Forget it, I’m going to-” Oh no. The simple, sudden act of rising to her feet had proven too great a change in altitude for her stomach. All at once she felt feverish and woozy, and her stomach heaved violently. She clapped a hand over her mouth and brushed past Theon, ignoring his confused look and brushing off his hand as he reached out for her. She rushed to the bathroom, slamming the door behind her and falling gracelessly to her knees, retching violently. Distantly she heard the front door of the house creak open, banging against the kitchen wall. After an interminable amount of time, her body had wrung itself out, leaving her flushed and dizzy. She tugged at the handle, sitting back and leaning her forehead against the cool porcelain of the sink for a moment before tugging herself to her feet. And I don’t even feel better. Cupping her hand, Mya filled it with cool water and drank, swishing it around briefly. “Theon?” There was no response. “Theon, c’mon...”
Pushing the door open, Mya found the kitchen and main rom empty and the front door wide open. Wrapping her arms around herself, she stepped onto the porch. Theon was there, leaning on the porch railing, cigarette between the long fingers of his left hand. Hesitantly, Mya took a step towards him. “Theon?”
He raised his head, glancing at her over his shoulder. “You done?”
“I hope so.”
“Good.” Theon turned to face her then, and she saw his face looked as wan as she felt. “I can’t stand upchucking. Not the sight, the smell, even the sound.”
“And here I thought we didn’t have any secrets.”
Theon glanced over the railing. “My dinner’s in those bushes down there, thanks to you. Want to see what I had, or can that remain a secret?”
“Knowing you you had bar nuts and hooch out of your trunk.” When Theon didn’t smile Mya chewed the inside of her cheek. “I don’t understand why you’re so upset.”
“I’m upset because this isn’t you, Mya, not all this sneaking around and half-truths and bullshit.” Theon flicked ash off the end of his cigarette, his breath a mix of smoke and steam.
“For God’s sake, fine!” Mya’s exasperation was starting to simmer again. “I won’t do it again, alright?”
“No, it’s not alright. I’ve told you everything, Mya. Every Goddamn thing I’ve done, things I haven’t told another soul, not even Robb, because I trust you. And now I’m wondering if that isn’t a mistake.”
“It was just one thing, Theon! A mistake, and I’ve told you fifty times now I won’t do it again.”
“That’s all it takes is one thing. Trust me, Mya, I’ve been there. I know. I just...” Chucking the spent remains of one cigarette over the porch railing, Theon immediately lit another and inhaled deeply. “Nevermind. Fuck it.”
“No, say it.” Mya didn’t even feel the cold anymore. She didn’t feel anything.
Theon sighed, raking a hand through his hair. “I’m supposed to be the crooked one here, not you. And I know you wouldn’t’ve even thought about doing what you did if you didn’t know me.”
Even though Mya recognized what he was trying to say, the recognition only pinged as a distant bell in her mind, and she snorted. “Yes, because everything I do revolves around you, Theon.”
Theon pulled his cigarette from between his lips and jabbed it at her. “Just stop right there. That’s not what I meant and you know it.”
“Then what did you mean?”
“I hate that this is the influence I’m having on you. You’re better than this. If I wanted a dame who was as dirty as I was, I could find one in about half a minute, and you know that too. But you’re the one honest thing I’ve got and I don’t want to see that ruined.”
Theon’s words were sticking deep into Mya and she kept her eyes focused on the worn porch floor. She knew if she looked at him her anger and irritation would wash away and she wasn’t done with it yet. “Please, I haven’t been honest since that night I came back from Pyke. I’ve been lying to people left and right since then, and almost entirely to keep your neck safe.”
“I know that.” Theon was quiet now. The sky over them was starting to lighten the slightest amount, but all it did was make Mya feel the full brunt of her exhaustion. “You’ve lied for me, but never to me. Don’t start now.”
Something about Theon’s tone made Mya’s eyes sting unexpectedly, and she dashed a hand across her cheeks hurriedly. That would be the only thing that could make this night worse. His face was somber when she looked at him, an expression she hadn’t seen on him in weeks. She sighed heavily, running a hand through her hair. “I won’t.”
Theon smiled faintly, straightening and tucking a lock of hair behind her ear. “There’s a good girl. Go get some sleep, yeah? You look like shit.”
“Always the charmer, you.” Suddenly the night was cold again, and Mya rubbed her arms. “Are you coming with?”
“In a bit.” He pecked her forehead. “And brush. I don’t want to kiss a girl that tastes like vomit.”
Once in Theon’s bedroom, Mya tugged her earrings out, dropping them on the bedside table she’d claimed as her own before crossing the room and rooting around in one of Theon’s drawers. She pulled out an old pajama top of his, wrapping herself in the worn cotton. Their bed was soft and warm when she crawled into it, wrapping her arms around Theon’s pillow. Stay awake until he comes. It won’t be that long, he’s as beat as you are. Much as she tried to keep them open though, her eyes closed and a heavy, dreamless sleep fell over her. At some point she was vaguely aware of Theon’s weight on the mattress, his arm snaking around her waist and tugging her close against him. She smiled a bit, and burrowed further under the blankets.
“Just be quick about this, alright?” Theon drummed his fingers impatiently against the steering wheel before Mya’d even had a chance to get out of the car. “I got something I wanna take a look at at home.
“I won’t be long.” Mya played with the fingers of her gloves. “I just want to apologize to him, and that’ll be that.” They’d both slept till past noon when Theon had poked her awake, suggesting he take her down to the gym. Mya suspected it was an attempt to make up for their spat the night previous, so she’d smiled and told him of course. And now here he is, booting you out of the car before it’s even stopped. “Just give me five minutes, alright?”
“I’ll give you six if you give me a kiss first.” Theon grinned. Mya laughed and obliged, slipping out of the car and into the sharp winter cold.
The inside of the gym was far less full this time. Only a handful of boxers roamed about, and a few skinny boys no older than Arya shadowed punches at each other in one of the rings. She didn’t see Gendry anywhere, and after a minute turned to leave. You’re not going to have another chance to fix this, and he’s never going to know-
“Can I help yo-...oh. It’s you.” Mya turned at the voice behind her, her heart in her throat and her queasiness of yesterday roaring back. Gendry was standing in a darkened doorway, a canvas duffle bag slung over his shoulder. His expression was stony at best. “I thought I told you not to contact me again.”
Mya glanced towards the door. Apparently feeling too antsy in the car, Theon was pacing the sidewalk, his brows furrowed in some unknown thought as he lit a cigarette. His taut body language screamed ‘impatience’, so she decided to just get on with it. Squaring her shoulders, she looked at Gendry full-on. “You did. But you need to let me explain what happened, why I wasn’t completely up front with you.”
Gendry crossed his arms across his chest and again Mya was keenly aware that he could crush her skull like a grape before Theon could so much as get the door open. “I don’t think I need to hear your explanation, Miss Stone. I’ve got to be at work in half an hour or I’ll lose my spot.” He went to brush past her, but Mya grabbed his arm. He looked down at her somewhat incredulously as her nails, bitten nearly to the quick, dug into the sleeve of his coat. “Miss Stone-”
“Let me do this, Gendry, and then think of me what you will but you have to let me say my piece.” Mya let her blue eyes bore into Gendry’s, and her grip loosened only when he nodded once, reluctantly. “Thank you. First off, I’m not after you for any illicit purposes. I would never do that, not to you. So just put that idea straight out of your head right now. You said your father treated your mother like dirt, that he had other women all over the place. I knew that already. I know a lot of things about you already because...” Her throat suddenly went dry as sandpaper, and she swallowed thickly. “My mother was one of the other girls. I’m your sister, Gendry.”
Gedry’s thick black brows furrowed and he jerked his arm out of Mya’s grasp. “There’s something seriously wrong with you, lady. Now, you stop spewing your garbage all over the place or I’m gonna make sure there’s a spot for you up at the nuthouse in Bitterbridge, you hear me?”
“There’s nothing wrong with me, Gendry, I’m telling you the truth!” Mya fished through her bag, coming up with her now-tattered list, taped in half a dozen places. “Here! This is a list of all of us, Gendry. All of us bastards.” She thrust it at him, feeling a small thrill of victory when he finally took it, blue eyes still dubious. He scanned it, brow furrowing further.
“Who...who did this? How did they find this out?”
Mya shook her head. “A friend. I’ll introduce him to you later if you want.”
“This is unreal, y’know.” Gendry raked a hand through his dark hair. “You’re telling me I have...what, almost twenty brothers and sisters? Some of them here in the city, even? And that my father was the Mayor ? How’m I supposed to believe any of this?” He looked completely unmoored, a feeling Mya understood more and more every day.
“I know it’s a shock, Gendry. Trust me, I was just as floored.” Mya gave him a quick, tentative smile that he didn’t return. “I know I should’ve told you about this right away, but I...” she shrugged. “I couldn’t. I didn’t know how. I didn’t think you’d trust me. Not that I’d blame you.”
“Jeepers” Gendry said softly under his breath, folding the paper up again. The childlike epitaph sounded odd coming from his mouth, and in such a place. “And I thought you just wanted to get me into the sack. Gosh, Mi-...Mya, I’m sorry. I feel like such an ass.”
Mya’s lips quirked as she remembered what Theon’d said to her about brothers and asses. “It’s ok. Really. Listen, you have to get to work, but if it’s alright, I’d like to have dinner with you sometime. And Theon, my fella, he wants to meet you.”
“Your police officer?” Gendry gave her a sharp look and when she nodded, he lifted his chin. “Alright. I suppose I have to make sure he’s treating my sister alright. Never had to do that before.”
“He treats me just fine, don’t you worry. But if you want to give him the third degree a little, I won’t stand in your way. Now go on, get.” Mya stood on her toes and pecked her brother’s cheek, causing a few catcalls across the gym. “I’ll call you.”
Gendry’s cheeks blazed pink and he rubbed the back of his neck looking almost embarrassed. “Oh, uh, before I forget. You may wanna watch your back at work.”
Mya’s stomach fluttered and not in a good way. “Why?”
“Your boss seemed a little less than impressed when I talked to them. They, uh...they might give you a talking-to.”
The fluttering condensed into a boulder and for a second Mya wondered if she wasn’t about to be sick again. Nevertheless, she hitched a smile on her face. “Don’t you worry about it. I’ll tell them it was nothing but a big ol’ misunderstanding, yeah?”
“You sure?” Gendry’s face was full of contriteness and worry.
“Absolutely!” Mya nodded and bit the inside of her cheek to keep from throwing her lunch up all over Gendry’s shoes. “I’ve got to run, and you’ve got work. Now scram!”
That evening Mya again wrapped herself in one of Theon’s shirts and curled up on his sofa, surrounded by her schoolbooks. Theon had laid out the papers Jaime Lannister had given them on his table and the floor surrounding it and was pacing, examining them minutely. Mya had tried to ask what he was looking for, and he’d actually had the nerve to absently hold up a finger and shush her. She bit her tongue after that, figuring she could use the quiet.
Outside, the sun dipped below the trees surrounding Riverrun casting spindly black shadows on the twilit snow when Theon suddenly stalked into their room. Mya watched idly over the edge of a book as he jabbed the rotor on the phone next to the bed. “Arya, get Robb...no, I’m not going to say ‘please’...Arya, just get your Goddamn brother on the Goddamn phone before I snap you like a twig, yeah?...thank you.” Mya raised her eyebrows when he glanced across the cottage at her, and he had the grace to look slightly abashed, but only for a moment. “Robb. Get down here.”
It seemed like he’d no sooner hung up the phone than Robb was bursting through the door, snow dusting his auburn hair and shoulders. He glanced at Mya with a slight, tense smile, not noticing as she pulled a blanket up over her bare legs. “Theon, what’s so important?”
Theon ushered him over to the spread of papers, grabbing one off a stack and jabbing it at him. “Here. Look at that.”
Robb’s eyes scanned the paper, his brows furrowing. “A funds transfer? This is what you called me away from the Notre Dame game for? For fuck’s sake, Theon, this is the one chance I’ve had to relax and not listen to Roslin go on and on about the damn wedding for once or think as much about this case.”
“I know, and I’m sorry, but just look. There are three accounts listed here - two of them are from two kids in Lannisport, twins by the look of it. Now, they had regular deposits in there of gradually decreasing amounts, until they just flat-out stopped a few years back. And then on August 28th, all the money from both of these accounts was pulled and put into an account under the name of Vargo Hoat.”
Robb rubbed his eyes. “I’m still not seeing-”
“The accounts belonged to two of Bob’s bastards. I’m guessing he’s the one that started those accounts and kept filling them for awhile, but your uncle’s looking into that, isn’t he, Mya?” Mya hardly had time to nod before Theon plowed on. “And the date, August 28th. That’s the day after your dad and Bob were killed, and the day that Cersei Lannister officially took office. Now, as part of that, she gained access to all Bob’s financial records, all his dealings, public and private, and God knows what else. She would’ve found out about these accounts, if she didn’t know about them already.”
Something about Robb’s demeanor changed then. He stiffened, his spine ramrod straight. His eyes narrowed slightly, lips pulling back and Mya was unaccountably reminded of a time when she’d gone to a zoo near Eyrie and had seen a wolf stalking a rabbit. “Are you saying she used two kids’ live savings to pay off this Hoat fellow to kill her husband and my father?”
“That’s what I’m saying.” Theon’s grey eyes were boring into Robb’s blue ones now. It wasn’t the first time Mya had seen such an intense look pass between them, and it wouldn’t be the last. Suddenly Robb broke it, shaking his head.
“But where did you get that info?”
This time that clear grey gaze flicked over to Mya, and she felt her cheeks blaze. “They were given to us. To Mya and me.” He cleared his throat. “By Jaime Lannister.”
“ Jaime Lannister? ” Robb was incredulous now, looking back and forth between the two of them. “How in the fuck do you know this wasn’t faked? And how did you even get these? Don’t fucking waste my time with this kind of nonsense, Greyjoy, I’m not in the mood.” He shook his head, disgusted. “And really, if you’re going to, do better than some story about surprise bank accounts set up by Bob Baratheon.”
“It’s not fake.” Mya spoke up, straightening on the sofa. “The accounts are real, Robb. I have one, my brothers both have one. These twins, I’m sure, are as real as their money.”
“Even if it is true, we’d have to get Jaime Lannister to testify to that fact in court, under oath, and against his own family to boot. We’d have better luck of my father and Bob rising from the dead.” Robb’s body was taut as a wire.
“Maybe not. Listen, Robb, let’s just check this guy out, yeah? It’s the first real lead we’ve had since August. There’s a lot more where this came from, too. I’d be you Petyr Baelish had his hands all over this transaction, and you know what kind of guy he is.” Theon offered Robb his cigarette. The younger boy snatched it up almost angrily, sucking on it like his life depended on it, but didn’t respond. “Let’s go to Selmy tomorrow, yeah? Get his say on this. And if this winds up going to trial...” Theon scrubbed a hand through his hair, glancing again at Mya. “We’ll figure something out.”
Robb followed Theon’s gaze. “We’re running this one by the books, Theon. I swear to God, if this whole thing comes undone on a technicality...”
“It won’t. You have my word.” Theon responded.
“Sure, the promise of a Greyjoy.” Robb snorted. Mya saw a look of indignant, righteous anger flash over Theon’s face but before he could reply, Robb sighed. “Alright, alright. We’ll go to Selmy in the morning. Now, can I go catch the last quarter of the game, or is there anything else?”
“No,” Theon replied quietly. “No, get out of here.”
Robb left then, closing the door behind him firmly. Theon stared at the door for a long moment, looking almost lost, until Mya uncurled herself from the couch and went to him, lacing her fingers through his. “What is it?”
“I just thought...” Theon shook his head. “You heard what he said, right? About the promise of a Greyjoy? Christ.” He threw the butt of his cigarette in the fireplace, scowling at it. “You’d think that after fifteen years he’d trust me.”
“Oh, Theon.” Mya sighed, resting her head on his shoulder. “He does trust you. He’s just wound up right now, yeah? He probably didn’t even realize he was saying it. After this whole thing is done, and you nail the killer, he’ll be back to his normal self. Just you wait.”
“He better be.” Theon grumbled. “Or else he and I are gonna have words.”
“Hush.” Standing on her toes, Mya went to kiss him, but he pulled away.
“None of that now. I don’t want to catch whatever bug you’ve got.” Some of the gloom lifted off Theon’s face and he grinned crookedly down at her.
“Alright, fine.” Mya took a step back, willing to do whatever it took to keep Theon’s mood high. “You’re going to be begging for my kisses in less than ten minutes though, buster.”
“Oh, be real.” His grin was growing, and he tugged her towards their room. “I could go at least fifteen. Now, you’re not about to blow chunks all over the place again, are you?”
“No! For crying out loud, Theon, that was once. ” Mya laughed and let him pull her. Once that he knows of. He doesn’t know you were up 4 more times during the night and again this morning. “Now come on, you said you could go fifteen minutes without begging. Clock starts now.”
Chapter 13: A Dish Best Served Cold
The game changes in life-changing ways.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
“Vargo Hoat?” Barristan Selmy asked, slightly incredulous, as he glanced at the papers Theon had slapped onto his desk. “He’s a two-bit thug, barely worth mentioning, if I remember right. Vicious, but- Wait, what exactly is this?” Selmy pushed his glasses down from their perch atop his head and peered closer. “A funds transfer?”
“That’s right. From an account that Robert Baratheon himself started, and made deposits into. The transfer, however, was initiated after his death. The day after, to be exact. By his wife...our new mayor.” Theon knew he shouldn’t be grinning, that it was what Ned Stark would’ve called “inappropriate and unprofessional”, but he just couldn’t help it. They needed to bring Hoat in and shake him down, get him to turn on the Lannisters, but that document, a mimeograph of the original, which was still tucked away at Theon’s cottage, was solid-gold proof that they’d had a hand in Ned and Bob’s deaths. “It’s enough to bring Hoat in, don’cha think?”
Selmy pursed his lips together thoughtfully, and Theon felt Robb stiffen in the seat beside him. They’d already decided, together, that they were going after Hoat whether Selmy approved or not, but it would be nice to have it be officially sanctioned. After a moment of deliberation, Selmy nodded. “Yep, bring his ass in. And boys?” Theon and Robb paused on their way out of the office, looking back. “Good job.”
Two hours later, after a fruitless search of the Hook and half of Flea Bottom, the tension in the Rolls was rising fast. Robb had chain-smoked half a pack of Theon’s Luckies, his own cheap Red Apples long gone. “So, what, we’re just gonna drive around and look in every godforsaken winesink and blind pig in this town? We need a plan, Theon.”
“Well what do you suggest, Stark?” Theon eyeballed a couple of working girls crossing in front of them at a light. One of them, a brunette whose hair was similar to Roslin’s, had legs for days, and a saucy smile that he loved the looks of.
Suddenly, Robb leaned over Theon and laid on the horn, startling the girls into a quicker pace. “Get a move on, will ya?” He shouted, his cigarette dangling precariously from his lips. “Chop chop!”
“Jesus...” Theon snatched the butt out of his friends mouth and took a drag. “Calm down, pal. Just admire the view, why don’t ya?” He winked at the brunette with the legs, laughing when she flipped him the bird. “Doesn’t that girl kinda remind you of Ros a little?”
“That whore?” Robb looked belligerent for a moment, and Theon hoped he hadn’t pushed his friend too far, but then he snorted and took his cigarette back. “Aside from her apparent low tolerance for you, not really. Maybe her hair, a little. Roslin’s legs are better than that, though,” he concluded loyally.
“Oh really?” Theon laughed. “I may have to verify that myself, y’know. Get a nice close look...”
Fending off Robb’s jab to the ribs, Theon made a quick left and headed for the next spot on their list, a dump, but one that served lots of grain alcohol and sacramental wine on the cheap. He used to supply them, until the new owners got cheap.
“Oi, Greyjoy! We ain’t seen you in-” Theon cut off the bartender with a glare, but Robb was too busy scanning the decrepit room to notice. The way he was searching, no.. . hunting , with sharp eyes and stiff, ram-rod-straight back, reminded Theon of nothing so much as a wolf stalking its prey. But, like the rest of the spots they’d visited, this joint was full of scum, just not the particular scum they were looking for.
Robb stormed out and Theon followed shortly after, only pausing to flash a mugshot of Hoat at the bartender. “Call me if you see him...there’s a reward. And don’t let him know we’re lookin’ for him.”
Sliding into the Rolls beside Robb, Theon sat for a moment without starting the car. “Robb...buddy, we’re gonna find him. If not today, then tomorrow, or the day after. You just gotta relax-”
“Relax?!” Theon noted the way his friend’s hands balled into fists, a tendon in his neck straining. They needed to find Hoat soon, or Robb was going to lose it completely. “I just...I can’t fucking relax , so just drive, will ya?”
Wordlessly, Theon tossed the rest of his pack of Luckies in Robb’s lap and started the car. It wouldn’t do any good to argue with him, and they did have a few hours left on their shift anyway. The silence in the car was unusual, but by no means uncomfortable...they knew each other far too well for that. The next spot on their list, a nameless speakeasy of particularly ill repute, was little more than a smoking shell when they pulled up to the curb in front of it.
“Damn...” Theon said, raising an eyebrow. “I hadn’t heard about this, had you?” Incredibly, he hadn’t, although he wasn’t surprised in the least. The owners had been trying to move in on Euron’s rum-running business, or so he’d heard; privately, Theon was just grateful he hadn’t been called upon to take part in the destruction.
Robb scrubbed a hand through his hair, curls sticking up haphazardly. “Nope. Where to next?” Theon could practically feel the frustration and anger rolling off his friend in waves. “Say, you know where we haven’t looked...”
It was only a matter of time until he went there , Theon told himself, keeping his expression carefully calm. “Yeah, I already talked to my sister, she’s keepin’ an eye out for us.” When there was no reply, he took his eyes off the road for a second to glance over at Robb, offering up a small smile. “I bet her a ten-spot we’d find him first.” He’d done no such thing, but he’d say anything to lighten the mood at the moment.
Robb snorted. “You would, Greyjoy. Well, in that case, what about Delany’s?”
“Delany’s it is, pal.”
Delany’s, a decent-sized ‘dance hall’ covering for a full bar in the basement, was hopping by the time they got there, although Theon knew the bar would be far less crowded than the dance floor. Robb shoved his way through the crowds, leaving Theon to follow in his wake for once. At least he’s not flashing his badge around, that’d clear this place out in a hot second. The band transitioned from an up-tempo jazz number to a slow, sultry piece, and as couples split up and re-formed, streaming on and off the dance floor, he saw a man rise from a stool at the back of the room and slip into the door beside him.
Clearly, Robb saw the same thing, because he changed course, making a beeline for the door. The stairway behind the door was rickety and dark, with only a single bare bulb lighting the way down. It made for a rather intimidating entrance, and also, they discovered presently, meant that anyone entering the bar was blinded upon leaving the stairs and coming into the well-lit main room.
The man that had been sitting by the door upstairs was now behind the bar, speaking in hushed tones with the bartender, a round little man whose eyes seemed locked on Robb and Theon. He nodded once at the man yammering in his ear, then jerked his head, clearly beckoning them forward.
Bellying up to the bar, Theon waved away a proffered drink and slid the bowl of bar nuts over to Robb. “We’re not here for a raid, buddy, we just-”
“I know what yer here for,” the man said, his voice surprisingly deep for such a small man. “Might be I could tell ya where to find it, too.” The way his lips quirked made it clear the ‘it’ he was speaking of, was, in fact, a ‘him’. “For a price...”
Theon opened his mouth to tell the man to fuck off with his ‘price’, but before he could even get the words out, Robb reached over, plucked a fiver right out of his pocket, casual as you please, and slapped it on the bar. “Start talking.”
“Five skins?” The bartender snorted, but snatched the bill up all the same. “What you’re lookin’ for might be in one’a the back rooms...if nobody’s beat ya there.”
Robb was on his feet and moving towards the few private rooms in the back in the blink of an eye, his stiff-legged gait again reminding Theon of nothing so much as a wolf stalking its prey. So much for subtlety, Theon thought as he followed after, shouldering past one of the many patrons who’d evidently picked up the vibe and were making for the stairs.
The first room they came to was empty, the door propped open with a brick. It was larger than he’d expected, and belatedly, Theon realized it may’ve been prudent to ask just how many men Hoat had with him. He doubted they’d’ve gotten a straight answer, but still...
“Steady there, Robb,” he hissed, putting a hand on his partner’s shoulder and pulling him back from the next door. “We don’t know how many there are, y’know.”
Robb shrugged him off irritably, and Theon had a sudden realization that this was what he must seem like to Robb more often than not. It would’ve made him laugh if the situation weren’t so serious. “I don’t give a shit how many there are.” He glanced back briefly before pulling his gun from its holster. “Don’t get in my way, Theon. Just...don’t.” Before Theon could reply, Robb had turned the handle and was through the doorway. “Shit! I...ah...carry on, folks.”
Craning his neck to peer over Robb’s shoulder, Theon got a glimpse of a few couples in various states of undress, none of whom resembled Hoat in the slightest, and snickered. “A little private party, huh?” Robb was backing up in a hurry, pushing him back into the hallway, and Theon wrapped an arm around his shoulders, trying to lighten the mood. “Oi, what’s the hurry, Stark? I like the looks of that redhead...”
“If you concentrate long enough for us to collar Hoat,” Robb said, pushing Theon’s arm off with a finger, “I’ll pay for you to spend the whole damn night with that redheaded whore you like down at Asha’s.”
Theon blinked. How does he know about Roz, for fuck’s sake? “Mya might not like that too much, y’know...”
“Just shut the fuck up, Theon, will ya?” Robb was whispering now, as they approached the last door in the hallway.
Taking the hint, he shut the fuck up, damn near holding his breath as he drew his own weapon and followed Robb closely. He could hear his own pulse pounding in his ears, and suddenly Theon felt a spike of fear deep in his gut as Robb put his hand on the door knob. They’re going to start shooting as soon as we crack that door... But when the door swung open, the only thing that came out of it was the tinny sounds of a cheap radio and a buzz of low conversation that ground to a halt.
“Nobody move!” Robb went through the door with his gun out, and Theon followed him in, searching for the one ugly face they wanted to see. Goddamnit, there’s too many of them... He spotted Hoat almost immediately, sitting at a round poker table near the back of the room, but the man had cronies and cheap broads all around him. To his immense surprise, though, Hoat stood and held his hands up, smiling wetly.
“Detectiveth, I wondered when you’d get here.” His voice, soft and lispy, with a trace of an unidentifiable accent, gave Theon the heebie jeebies. “Everyone elthe, get out.” The cronies and women all looked at him and each other uncertainly. “Go on, thcram!”
Watching silently, Robb and Theon stepped aside as the group began to stream out the door. When the last man had gone, Robb kicked the door shut behind him, never taking his eyes or his gun off Hoat. “What was that all about, then? Don’t want your crew to see you get taken in?”
“Hardly,” the man replied, sitting back down. “Why don’t you two come have a theat? I have a buthineth propothal for you.”
Theon stayed exactly where he was, although he felt Robb take a step in Hoat’s direction. “Robb, don’t-”
“Shut it, Greyjoy.” Robb’s voice was calm, although Theon noticed how particularly he pronounced his ‘s’. “What makes you think I’d ever do business with you, Hoat?”
“For thtarters, I’ve got inthide dirt on people thome in real high placeth.” Theon didn’t know if he imagined it, but it seemed as though Hoat’s eyes flicked over to him briefly. He shoved the thought from his mind, concentrating on the man’s slippery words. “Dirt that could get you a real nice promotion, I’m thure.”
“That’s it? You’re offering me information?” The scorn in Robb’s voice was plain to hear. “I don’t give a shit about a promotion, and I already have all the information I need to link you to the assassination of my father and Robert Baratheon, which is the only information I care about.” Theon could’ve pistol-whipped Robb right then and there, for giving up that little tidbit so soon in the game, but Hoat just smiled at them.
“Of courth you do. But don’t you want to know about the dirty little thecrets clother to home?” Theon’s heart felt like it was trying to beat its way right out of his chest, and it was getting hard to breathe. If fucking Hoat of all people spilled his secret to Robb... “Like the fact that Robert Baratheon and your dear old Popth had thome thkeletons in the clothet?”
Robb didn’t reply, but he didn’t have to say a word for Theon to know he was pissed. Everyone and their brother knew that Bob Baratheon had been something of a shitstain of a human being, with his drinking and womanizing and the occasional domestic assault thrown in for kicks, but to speak poorly of Ned Stark to his son was ill advised, at best. This could end up worse than Hoat revealing Theon’s secret, and that was saying something.
“You’d better just shut it, Hoat...” Theon warned.
Robb held a hand up, cutting him off. “No, I want to hear this.” His voice was calm, but Theon saw the way his hand was shaking.
“Your father wath gettin’ a little too big for his britcheth, for one. Which ith why my...” Hoat paused, appearing to consider his words carefully. “ Former employer needed him gone. But the honorable Ned Thtark wath dirtier than motht people knew.”
“You got any examples, Hoat, or are you just gonna keep givin’ us vague answers that don’t really mean anything?” Theon was tired of this game, and he wanted to get cuffs on the man before Robb had an aneurysm.
Licking his slobbery lips, Hoat appeared to deliberate a moment. “Well, I wanted to thee what it wath worth to ya, but fine, if you’re gonna be like that. I have it on good authority he wath thelling info to the newthpapers to help pay for all that fancy private thchool tuition...” Theon rolled his eyes, but Robb simply looked troubled. Things probably were a bit tight now that all four of the younger Starks were in school, but that was a lame piece of dirt, all things considered. “Not to mention the new bundle of joy on the way.”
“I...what?” Robb scrubbed a hand through his curls, obviously confused. “My mother’s not...I don’t even think she can ...” He trailed off, clearly uncomfortable contemplating his mother’s reproductive capabilities.
Privately, Theon thought he was being a bit naive; Catelyn Stark was far from old, with a restrained beauty that just got better with age and hips made for bearing children. She could pop another couple out easy, but he’s right...she doesn’t have that look to her, and she’d be showing by now. He’d been around for three of Cat’s five pregnancies, and while he hadn’t paid much attention in the lead-up to Arya’s birth, Bran and Rickon had been a different matter. The extra curves she’d developed, the way her auburn hair had seemed to... shine , oh he remembered all right. Not to mention her incredibly intense mood swings... Theon didn’t think he’d’ve missed it happening again, even if he wasn’t living in the big house any longer. A laugh brought his attention back to the situation at hand, and he frowned at the way Hoat was smiling.
“Who thaid anything about your mother, Thtark? Your popth already had one bathtard, why would another thurprithe you? Why do you think he wath alwayth having dinner at Mama’th?”
Theon knew what was going to happen next, maybe even before Robb himself. He saw the way his friend’s stance shifted, the way his shoulders set, anticipating the rebound of the pistol, but there was nothing he could do to stop him. The shot was incredibly loud in the confines of the enclosed room, and a faint, acrid smell filled the air. Hoat was looking at them incredulously, and for half a second, Theon wondered if Robb had somehow missed . But then Hoat stumbled, grabbing the back of a chair for support as he fell to the floor, and Theon saw the bloom of red spreading across his grubby white dinner jacket.
Robb turned to him then, eyes wide with shock in a too-pale face. “I...fuck, Theon, I just couldn’t listen to him say...those things. You know my father-” His lips set in a thin line as he tried to control his emotions, but whatever Theon’s personal feelings about Ned Stark, which were more complicated than he’d like to admit, now was not the time to get into it. “Theon, what’m’I gonna do?”
The fear in Robb’s voice went right through Theon, made him feel like they were little kids again, having just done something horribly wrong and about to get a whipping... And that’s when it came to him. Quick as a flash, Theon grabbed one of the straight-backed chairs in the room and shoved it under the doorknob. “I...have an idea,” he said, testing that the chair would hold the door before crossing the room to kneel beside Hoat.
“That’s never a good sign...” Robb went a curious shade of gray as Theon nudged open Hoat’s jacket and began rummaging around in his pockets. “Jesus. Can’t you make him stop...twitching?”
Ah...here we go, Theon smiled to himself when he felt the outline of a small gun in the inside pocket of the dinner jacket. “No,” he told Robb, rising to his feet with the revolver. “Not unless you want me to shoot him again. Now, you’re gonna have to hold still, pal...this is gonna hurt a little. Not too bad, though, he carries a little pea-shooter, of all things.” Theon could hear people screaming out in the bar, and the pounding of running feet from the dance hall above as he leveled the gun at his best friend.
To his credit, Robb didn’t flinch away, although he looked more confused than ever. “P-please, Theon, humor me, and explain.”
“Hoat shot first, and you killed him in self-defense. But you’ve gotta take a bullet...there’s no way he would’ve missed at this close of range. Do you get it? Now just hold still and I’ll put it right through your shoulder...minimal damage, minimal pain. Unless you’d rather take it in the leg?”
“No, I...whatever you think is best,” Robb said faintly. He squeezed his eyes closed, swaying slightly on his feet, and again Theon was reminded of when they would wait for their punishment as boys. Can you do it, Greyjoy? What if you miss? Theon ignored the little voice of doubt and squeezed the trigger, groaning when Robb flinched in the exact same moment.
“Goddamnit, I told you not to move...” he said under his breath, tossing the gun in Hoat’s general direction and going to Robb. “Robby, can you hear me, buddy? Fuck, c’mon, wake up, it’s not that bad.” Someone was pounding on the door now, the chair beneath the handle rocking precariously, but Theon was completely focused on putting pressure on the wound on Robb’s shoulder. Finally, after what seemed like hours, but was probably thirty seconds, there came a weak cough, and Robb’s eyes slitted open, his face a mask of pain.
“You...cunt, that wasn’t through and through.”
The hospital was quiet this time of day, it seemed...all the nurses were gathered around chatting over paper cups of coffee, affording Theon a prime opportunity to give them all a once-over. Incredibly, though, he wasn’t particularly interested in trying to imagine one or more of them playing naughty nurse with him.
Robb had flinched, and he’d fucked up...that was all he could think about. His best friend was in surgery right now to have a bullet pulled out of his shoulder that he’d put there. Him, Theon Greyjoy, the best shot in the damn force. You should’ve known he would flinch, you should’ve anticipated it... Loosening his tie, Theon unbuttoned the top two buttons of his shirt, his fingers unconsciously going to the thick rope of scar just below his collarbone. God, but he hated being back in this hospital.
Irritably, he turned to his left, where Roslin was sitting, unusually quiet. “Tell me again why Mya couldn’t come?”
Ros lifted her head, staring at him blankly for a moment. She didn’t answer right away, and Theon saw the exact moment when she noticed how he was rubbing his scar, saw how her expression softened slightly. He pulled his hand away, gripping the arm of his chair to keep himself from repeating the gesture. He didn’t want her pity, or anyone else’s, either.
“She’s in class...I asked Mrs. Darry to tell her what’s happened as soon as she gets home, though. I’m sure she’ll come right down.” Roslin’s tone was unaccountably kind, and Theon thought he must look like a complete mess if she, of all people, was being nice to him. When she pried his fingers from around the arm of his chair and squeezed his hand, telling him, “I’m glad you were with him, Theon,” he figured this all had to be some sort of dream.
A few hours later, after Robb had come out of surgery, woken up and then fallen back asleep, and Mya and Catelyn had dragged Roslin out by the hair, Theon finally let himself breathe easy again. Robb was fine, he was going to be able to go home as soon as he woke up again, and- A knock at the door interrupted his train of thought.
“Greyjoy. How is he?” Stannis Baratheon looked about as tired as Theon felt, and Theon wondered why the hell it’d taken him so long to get up here and ream their asses out.
“He’ll be fine...just a flesh wound. But I think even you have to agree that he was justified?”
“Perhaps.” The sour look on the district attorney’s face told Theon there was more to it than that. “But without Hoat, there’s no case against his employers. And no justice for my brother or Ned Stark.”
As anyone in the right circles of Kingsport’s society knew, there was no love lost between Robert and Stannis Baratheon, but if there was one thing Stannis did love, it was justice. Luckily, Theon had a trump card up his sleeve.
“Hoat would’ve been the cherry on top, but we’ve still got the paper trail that proves-”
“ Had the paper trail, you mean.” Stannis rubbed a hand over his balding head, clearly frustrated. “That’s what I came up here to tell you...while you were all up here with him,” he gestured at Robb, “someone broke into your cottage at Riverrun. It’s been completely tossed, and everything relating to this case is gone.”
“The mimeograph!” Theon protested. “In the top drawer of my desk back at the office, I left it-”
Shaking his head, Stannis scowled. “That’s what Selmy said, but we looked...it’s gone, too. Why the fuck didn’t you keep those files in Selmy’s safe at the precinct, Greyjoy? If I could prosecute you...”
The older man went on, but for the first time in a long time, Theon was speechless. His home...as small a bachelor pad as it might be, it was still his home, and to think that someone had just waltzed in and trashed it, taking his own personal... Oh fuck me, what about the shit from Tyrell? Theon felt like he was going to be sick all over Stannis Baratheon’s neatly polished shoes. And not just any someone ... you know exactly who it was.
“Goddamn Lannisters,” he spit out bitterly. “They can rot in Hell.” It was all he could think to say.
Stannis snorted. “We can only hope, as they won’t be rotting in jail any time soon, thanks to you. And no one’s seen Jaime Lannister in damn near four days... Give Stark my regards when he wakes up.” And with that, he was gone, slamming the door behind him.
Three weeks later, Theon could still hear that door slamming shut every time Robb kicked the passenger side door of the Rolls shut, his right arm still encased in a sling. They’d both been placed on leave after the “incident” with Hoat and the burglary of Theon’s place, though Robb’s had been paid, and Theon’s, well...hadn’t. Not that he cared about that, really - he made more in a night or two of running booze for Asha than he did in a whole week at the force. It was just the point of it that rankled him. Ah, fucking forget it, you’re back to work now.
It was Friday afternoon, and he and Robb had taken a late lunch at a little diner down by the docks, going back and forth as to whether they’d been back long enough to play hooky for the rest of the day and take the Grey Wind out. Theon had been forced to concede that it was a tad cold to go sailing, as well as dangerous when one of them was down one usable arm, so here they were, back at the precinct.
“Would you not kick the damn door, for fuck’s sake? You still have one good arm - use it.” Theon patted the hood of the Rolls, glaring half-heartedly at Robb’s muffled snort. It was just beginning to snow, the first snowfall of the year, and he couldn’t stay mad at him when he was grinning like an idiot with those huge, fluffy snowflakes caught in his hair. “You ass.”
“Takes one to know one, Greyjoy,” came the expected reply as made their way to their desks. Robb tossed a wave at Lancel Lannister, who was on the telephone but gesturing wildly at them. When the wave didn’t seem to appease him, Theon raised an eyebrow, a silent question.
“Your gal, Detective Greyjoy,” Lancel said, putting a hand over the telephone’s receiver. “She c-came in, all worked up...” His mouth worked silently for a moment as his eyes slid away from Theon, his nerves getting the best of him. Women were completely out of his comfort zone, obviously. “I put her in the back interrogation room. For privacy. She didn’t want any c-coffee or anything, but I-”
The tow-headed boy was still talking, but Theon was already gone. Mya was just another line on his list of things to worry about at the moment, what with the lingering sickness she’d had for weeks now, but that morning he’d set her to searching his house for Mace Tyrell’s papers. It’d been weeks since the house had been robbed, but he’d hidden the papers away before everything that’d happened with Ramsay, and like he’d told Mya that morning, he had too many hiding spots for him to remember where in the Hell he’d put them. She’d promised to look for them until her doctor’s appointment at noon, and he was hoping she’d found them, although it didn’t sound like it based on Lannister’s description.
The way she was slumped in the chair when he blew through the door of the interrogation room, her head resting on folded arms, didn’t bode well either. “Mya, doll? Lannister said you looked worked up...” The way she was looking at him as she stood, lower lip caught between her teeth nervously, made his palms sweat. “...you didn’t find the papers, did you? Fuck, this is bad.”
“Wh-what? The papers?” Mya blinked once, and Theon could see her a vein jumping in her neck. Goddamn, but she’s nervous, look at her pulse ... “Oh, no, I did find those! I’m sorry, I...no, you’d stuffed them under a loose floorboard by the picture window.” A ghost of a smile crossed her face then, and a faint blush rose in her cheeks. “Along with a couple of...interesting magazines.”
Theon was loose-kneed with relief, but he managed to cross the room and pull her into a tight hug. “Thank the fucking Drowned God for that. And don’t you worry about those magazines, they’re art ...y’know, a study of the human form and all that shit.” Planting a kiss along her part, Theon recovered from his relief long enough to feel how shaky Mya still was, nearly trembling in his arms. “Alright, alright, I’ll give them back to Robb, if you really hate them that much...”
Mya pulled away slightly, just far enough for him to catch the way her eyes rolled. “I refuse to believe those belong to Robb, Detective. Anyway, that’s not why I came down here...” The faint look of amusement she’d worn fled as quickly as it’d come, and Theon was confused. “I went to my doctor’s appointment today.”
“Well I’d hope so, you only waited long enough to make the damn thing.” A thought crossed his mind, and Theon took a shallow breath. “You don’t have, what’s that thing Ros said? Mono-sawhatsis? Oh God, you’re not contagious, are you? I’m not good at being sick...”
The withering look that earned him shut him up quickly. “If I were contagious, you’d have it by now, don’t you think? No, I don’t have mononucleosis.” Mya took a deep breath, and when she continued speaking, her crisp, lecturing tone had turned soft and wavery. Theon wasn’t sure he liked it any better. “I...Theon, I’m...”
He wanted to kiss her then, kiss her until she felt better, until she curled her fingers in his hair and moaned against his lips, but he wasn’t about to take his chances on getting sick. “Go on, dove, just spit it out. You’re what?”
Loose threads? Where? Check back soon for our next installment!